It’s been three years since Kuroto disappeared.
As usual, I was spending my days as a doctor at Seito University Hospital, juggling work between the pediatrics department and CR, and treating patients.
Seito University Hospital is said to be the most prestigious university hospital in Japan, with many famous doctors working here.
We have clinical departments for respiratory medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology/endocrinology/metabolism, neurology, hematology, rheumatism and collagens, general and digestive surgery, respiratory surgery, cardiovascular surgery (Hiiro works here), neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, physical rehabilitation, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, ophthalmology, dermatology, urology, otolaryngology, psychology and neurology, radiology, radiotherapy (Taiga used to work here), anesthesiology, emergency medicine, dental and oral surgery, general medicine, pathology, clinical labs, and more.
We also have departments like the endoscopy center, the surgical center, and the regenerative medicine center. We have diagnostic support departments like the nursing department, the pharmaceutical department, and the clinical research and education department. I work here, but there are so many departments that even I don’t have a full grasp of them, and all of them are staffed by a huge number of medical personnel.
The hospital is affiliated with Seito University, so it’s dedicated to three functions: “education”, “clinical work”, and “research”.
Of course, its primary work is in treating patients, but it also supports education to nurture future doctors, and conducts research to develop treatment for unknown diseases.
I aspired to get into Seito University’s School of Medicine because I wanted to study at a place with state-of-the-art medical equipment, facilities, and care, and become a doctor who could directly help patients.
My wish was granted, and I’m currently still working as a pediatrician who treats children.
Unlike other departments, pediatrics deals with younger patients, so we have to take special precautions when dealing with them. We have to put extra effort into making sure our young patients won’t consider a hospital to be a scary place.
My way of interacting with pediatric patients is through video games. Struggling against an illness is often a very tough experience, so I want to do as much as I can to help the kids smile.
Gaming is a specialty of mine, and right now, I am more thankful for that than I could ever be.
Why did I decide to become a pediatrician to begin with, you ask?
It was all because Dr. Kyoutarou had an incredible influence on me.
When I was eight years old, I was in a car accident, and he saved me from the brink of death. Ever since then, I wanted to be a doctor like Dr. Kyoutarou.
Being in good health doesn’t just mean getting physical treatment, but also being able to smile from the bottom of their heart.
Dr. Kyoutarou taught me that, and even now, I’m still motivated by that line of thought.
And, also, there’s more. One must not forget that Seito University Hospital has another important department.
Its name is the Cyberbrain Critical Care Center, informally referred to as CR.
“CR” is an abbreviation for “Cyberbrain Room”.
CR has been spending many years fighting to save human lives from a certain kind of unknown virus.
A computer virus that evolved and started infecting humans — the Bugster virus. Anyone infected develops Bugster Virus Infectious Disease, informally referred to as Game Syndrome, and starts exhibiting various symptoms, such as high fever.
The Bugster virus propagates further when the patient is stressed. Increased stress weakens the patient’s immune system, causing it to have less effectiveness in suppressing the Bugster virus.
When a patient is treated at CR, their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
The idea of eradicating the Bugster virus from the world entirely is so daunting it hurts to even think about, but Game Disease is now curable, and is no longer a life-threatening disease for patients.
That’s all thanks to the Game Syndrome vaccine, which was jointly developed by CR and Genm Corporation. In particular, Kiriya contributed so much to the vaccine’s development that no one else can compare.
Now that the Game Syndrome vaccine exists, we doctors haven’t needed to transform into Kamen Riders as much anymore.
Kamen Riders treat Game Syndrome patients by removing the Bugster virus — that is to say, it was a medical system originally designed to operate on Game Syndrome.
But now, it’s possible to neutralize the Bugster virus within a Game Syndrome patient’s body by administering them the vaccine.1 In other words, we can treat Game Syndrome without needing to directly operate on the patient.
Of course, this only works on currently existing Bugster viruses, since CR has data on them already.
As technology advances, the future of medicine will change as well.
That’s been the case in the past, and always has been.
And I’m sure it still is now.
CR is currently dedicated to one goal.
We aim to research and develop treatment methods to restore the lives of Game Syndrome patients who have disappeared.
Back when I was an intern, I asked Dr. Kyoutarou to set up a press conference, and I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
We posed a question for the modern medical community to consider: can data still be considered to be alive?
Ever since the day of that press conference, we we’ve been barraged with harsh criticism from many different experts.
“The idea of bringing them back to life is just pure theory.” “If you rely on those kinds of wild pipe dreams without any basis, you’re just tormenting everyone who’s lost relatives to the disease.”
Of course, it’s only natural that people would want to think that way.
After all, it’s always like this. Humans tend to want to deny and oppose unprecedented things. Everyone starts off afraid of destroying their own preconceived notions.
But I want to believe it’s possible. No, I do believe it.
Throughout the history of medicine, we’ve found cures for illnesses that were once thought to be incurable.
Even if something is incurable now, we may be able to develop cures for it in the near future.
I’m going to fight to make that happen.
No, not just me.
I have reliable allies who also believe in the future of medicine.
Like Hiiro, who works with me in CR. Or Kiriya. Or Poppy.
We must never forget.
We must never give up.
We have to keep believing.
It might be a bit of an overly emotional way to put it, but as doctors who work in CR, we hold that unwavering belief.
In order to restore the lives of the patients who disappeared, the regenerative medicine center is carrying out the brunt of our research.
The head researcher is Dr. Saiko Yaotome, a doctor renowned for her work in gene therapy, who’s also considered to be the most beautiful female doctor in our hospital.
I was surprised to hear that Dr. Saiko was Michihiko Zaizen’s only daughter, and although she and I started off on a bad note, we’re now on good terms. She used to have a one-sided prejudice against Bugsters for being life-threatening viruses, but now she even works alongside Poppy and Parad. They share our desire to save the lives of those who have disappeared, even if they’re not wearing our white coats. There’s no reason to be fighting them.
According to Kiriya’s information sources, apparently more than half of our hospital’s male employees have hit on Dr. Saiko at some point, but I wonder if that’s really true?
Even not too long ago, Kiriya said to me, “Hey, Emu. You haven’t been hitting on Dr. Saiko, right? And don’t try to lie to me about it, you know that won’t work on me.”…But no, of course I haven’t.
Of course, I do agree that Dr. Saiko is quite a beautiful woman, and I also think any man who actually manages to start dating her should consider himself to be very lucky, but personally, I would say “cute” is more of my type.
Like, say, Poppy.
Oh, uh, don’t read too much into that, okay?
Look, I’m a pediatrician and I work at CR, I don’t have any time or space in my life for a romantic relationship.
But Poppy and I both like playing video games, and we also share the same desire to save lives. We’re already used to being near each other all the time anyway, but if you had to ask me what kind of person I’d want to be with, I really wouldn’t mind if it were a girl like her.
Most of all, I really like Poppy’s voice.
I love it when she sings, of course, but I also mean her casual laughter, her “pi-pu-pe-po-panic~!” whenever she’s flustered, and even her yelling that sometimes gets so shrill that I want to cover my ears. When I say I like her voice, I mean everything about it.
But I’ve never told anyone about this, and I have no plans to do so anytime soon.
…Well. Um. I think I accidentally went off topic, so anyway, Dr. Saiko’s research team is currently working with the internal data from the God Maximum Mighty X Gashat, which Kuroto left behind.
It’s hard to believe even now, but Kiriya, who had once been a Bugster, is now a normal living human being again.
We have no doubt that Kuroto’s God Maximum Mighty X Gashat had something to do with this.
Now that Kiriya’s got his original body back, he’s living his second life…well, I don’t know if that’s the right way to put it, but anyway, he’s starting his life all over again.
In short, we may be able to find a cure for those who have disappeared.
So I believe in medicine.
I believe in the future.
I finished my work in pediatrics for the day, and headed to CR.
Kiriya was the main CR member in charge of assisting the regenerative medicine center, so I wanted to ask him about how things were going there.
I had just started climbing the spiral staircase leading to the office when Poppy’s high-pitched voice pierced through my eardrums.
“Huuuuuuuuuh!? Dr. Saiko asked you out on a date!?”
Huh? A date!? With whom!?
I rushed up the stairs to find Poppy, Hiiro, and Kiriya all in the office.
Poppy was in her usual yellow costume with a colorful polka dot skirt.
Hiiro was in his light blue blouse, striped tie, and white coat.
Kiriya was in his in-your-face Hawaiian shirt, jeans, and white coat.
All of them were drinking coffee, each with their own preferred tastes.
Kiriya’s coffee cup had a number of empty sugar and creamer containers rolling around it. As usual, he was taking his coffee with abnormal levels of sweetness.
I feel like he shouldn’t even be drinking coffee in the first place if he hates the taste that much…
“Pediatrician. Are you done for the day?”
Hiiro was addressing me as “pediatrician” now. He had a longtime habit of addressing people by their profession or title.
I wasn’t an intern anymore, so it made sense, but I still hadn’t gotten used to it…there was something that felt a bit off about it.
“Okay, but did someone say Dr. Saiko asked someone out on a date…?” I asked everyone in the room.
Kiriya raised his hand, with a very proud attitude.
“Huh? Kiriya, was it you?”
“Hey, Emu, why d’you look so surprised? Didn’t you ever think about why I didn’t go back to working at the Medical Examiner’s Office?”2
“Um…because at CR, you can do things that only you can do?”
“Don’t be stupid, it’s because Dr. Saiko is around here.”
“Huuuuuh? Really!? So you and Dr. Saiko are like that now!? I’m in a pi-pu-pe-po-panic~!”
As usual, Kiriya was a fantastic liar.
Kiriya didn’t actually want to go out with Dr. Saiko for real, so this was his way of saying “when a beautiful woman asks me out, as a man, I want to show proper courtesy and go along with the ride for now.”
But if he wanted to play this game, I might as well get on board.
“I mean, I don’t wanna waste my chances at happiness by spending every single day with a medical idiot and a game idiot.”
“Are you calling me a medical idiot?!”
“Wait, by ‘game idiot’, do you mean me!?”
Hiiro and Poppy reacted on the spot.
“See, the fact you’re answering like that means you acknowledge it.”
I could almost hear the sound of Kiriya’s sharp response piercing right through Hiiro and Poppy’s hearts.
Whenever this happens, the only thing you can do is just ignore him. It’s impossible to beat Kiriya in a game of words.
“Well, as far as idiots go, we’ve also got a certain other doctor in the running. I can’t believe he actually up and went all the way to America,” said Kiriya, taking another sip of his overly sweet coffee.
“Don’t lump me in with the practitioner,” said Hiiro, irritably.
Since Taiga had been given special approval to run a clinic as a Game Syndrome specialist, Hiiro had stopped calling him an “unlicensed doctor” and was now referring to him as a “practitioner”.
That said, I was also thrown off by what Taiga was doing.
He’d taken temporary leave from the Hanaya Game Syndrome Clinic, and had gone all the way down to America to meet Nico.
Word on the Internet was that Nico had been tearing her way through game tournaments in America, one after another, and had made tons of money. Well, it was only natural when she was as good as she was, and I give my condolences to anyone who had to be put up against her.
But then. Nico had apparently gotten herself too caught up in the gaming life, and now she had a cold.
I’d had my own experience with that back when I was in high school, so I knew exactly what had happened there. When you get too into a game, the adrenaline keeps you going, and before you know it, you’ve stayed up all night and haven’t eaten enough. The end result is that, of course, your body wears down.
And then. After only a single phone call from Nico, Taiga decided to head to America.
Taiga’s excuse was that she needed treatment at home, but going all the way to America just to treat a cold isn’t exactly a rational thing to do.
Of course, a cold still counts as a dangerous illness, and she made the right call in getting a doctor to help her, but surely there must be many other excellent doctors in America, right? There was no reason for her to ask Taiga in particular.
Well, in the end, maybe Nico just really wanted Taiga to be her doctor again, and Taiga just really wanted to be Nico’s doctor again.
As always, they’re still getting along, and that’s what’s important.
Kiriya was using Taiga and Nico to make the conversation all about romance.
“Well, I can’t let Dr. Salt-and-Pepper Head get ahead of me. As far as the romance race goes, I’ve got a huge lead on all of you right now.”
“While I have no particular intention of competing with you, if you believe I only ever spend my days in the operating room, you would be quite mistaken.”
Hiiro followed up by pulling out a small box from his bag.
Looking at it more closely, it seemed to be a ring box.
Brimming with curiosity, Poppy rushed over to see what Hiiro was holding.
“Is that a ring!? What’s that for!?”
“I’m keeping it for Saki.”
Saki? Wait, that means…
“If we get far enough in Game Syndrome regenerative medicine development, and if we manage to bring back all of the patients who disappeared…including Saki…I plan on proposing to her.”
It was apparently enough of a shock to Poppy that her face was bright red.
I was also standing there with my jaw dropped for a while.
But for some reason, Kiriya didn’t seem to be surprised at all.
Wait, he’d already figured this out beforehand, hadn’t he?
That’s why he brought up the romance topic to begin with…
“Well, well, well, the good doctor actually said that with a straight face.”
“And what is so strange about that? If there’s someone you want to be with for the rest of your life, procuring a ring is the obvious next step. I’ve been consumed with guilt about Saki for all this time. The feeling of guilt for having caused her illness, the regret that I never bothered to look her right in the eye, and my arrogance in taking her presence for granted. But no more. My heart is firm in my decision, and I have no shame in being open about it.”
You could say it was surprising, but you could also say it was very much like Hiiro to say something like that.
Ever since we’d first met, Hiiro had always been the kind of person who would say exactly what he thought.
Back then, he would say things that got me upset, and we got into a lot of fights about it. Hiiro would never back down for any reason.
That is, unless it had to do with Saki…
There was only ever one time when Hiiro did something he didn’t actually want to do.
It was when Masamune Dan came forward as Kamen Rider Chronos.
The idea of fighting Hiiro made my heart hurt. I’m still not even sure I made the right decision back then.
But that was how I learned what Hiiro really meant whenever he said “don’t get too emotionally invested in the patient.”
Doctors sometimes have to make some very cruel decisions.
For example, if a large-scale accident or disaster happens, a huge number of patients may be in critical condition and need to be transported. Of course, any doctor would want to save all of them, but there might not be enough manpower and equipment, and the inevitable result is that they have to pick which patients to prioritize, which means that another patient may not be reached in time…
When I confronted Hiiro, I ended up prioritizing the patients who were actually in front of me. I had no intention of giving up on Saki, but I still ended up interfering with Hiiro’s desire to save Saki.
Right now, Hiiro and I are back on the same good terms we used to be on, and I think it’s because, in our heart of hearts, we acknowledged that neither of us was completely in the wrong.
After overcoming all of those hardships, Hiiro eventually got to reunite with Saki.
From what I heard, it wasn’t for very long, but Hiiro was able to get his feelings across and bring Saki’s smile back.
And so, Hiiro was back to being straightforward about everything — regardless of whether it was about medical treatment, or about Saki.
Seeing all of this, Poppy had a gentle smile on her face.
“Oh, that’s just like you, Hiiro…I’m sure Saki will love it.”
Yeah, I agree. She’d definitely love it.
I couldn’t help but smile.
“I’ll save some seats for you all when we get married.”
“Married! Huh? Wait, wait, Hiiro! When you get married, don’t you get to read a letter about thanking your parents for raising you!?3 Oh no! If I see Hiiro and the director taking a real photo together, I’m gonna cry for real!!!”
“Yeah, I bet I’ll get all teary-eyed, too.”
“Seriously? I wonder if I’d cry. I don’t think I would.”
“Kiriya, you’re so cold,” I said.
“I mean, I don’t know all that much about the good doctor’s family.”
Well, that’s true.
I’d worked with Hiiro and the director here in the hospital, but it was only as part of my job, so I had no idea what kind of relationship they have as father and son.
“Hiiro’s family…” muttered Poppy.
All three of us turned to look at Hiiro.
Hiiro could sense what we all wanted to ask, and started talking.
“We’re just another average family. The Kagami family has consisted of multiple generations of doctors, dating back to my great-grandfather. My immediate family consists of my father, mother, and me, and I have no siblings. My father made a name for himself through many successful surgeries in cancer removal and organ transplantation, and had even been said to have ‘divine hands’, but he showed no sign of that at home, and would try to make us laugh with his jokes. That said, while my mother would always laugh, I never did.”
“Oh, I see,” I said. “Well, I don’t know if I would call that an ‘average family’, but…”
On the other hand, Kiriya was raising both of his eyebrows in concern.
“…I bet he was on the verge of tears if he couldn’t make his own son cry.”
Poppy was hounding Hiiro with curiosity.
“What about your mom!? What about her?”
“My mother was known as a miracle veterinarian and saved the lives of many animals who were considered beyond hope. She worked to maintain not only their physical but also their mental health. She claimed she could talk to animals, but I don’t know about that.”
Even Hiiro’s mom was on par with her son and husband with how high-level she was…
“My paternal uncle is the director of a large hospital in the United States. My maternal uncle is a professor at a renowned German medical school, and his son is currently a military doctor in a conflict zone.”
“Okay, that’s enough. That’s too much. At this point, your family is just unfair,” interrupted Kiriya.
“Hiiro’s family seems almost impossible to believe,” I said.
“But the good doctor wouldn’t have it in him to lie, so it’s gotta be the truth.”
“Well, it makes sense for someone like Hiiro to come from that kind of family, doesn’t it? Okay, what about your family, Kiriya?” said Poppy.
I have to admit I’m curious about Kiriya’s family, too.
On that one Christmas day, when Kiriya was hit with a Game Over and disappeared, we couldn’t tell any of his friends or relatives about it. At the time, we were directed to not publicly reveal the existence of the Bugster virus as something that could endanger and extinguish the human body, but mostly, I just really didn’t want to think about the fact that Kiriya had died. If a doctor announced that to his relatives, it would mean solidifying it as fact.
“You’re asking about my family? I don’t mind talking about it, but just so you know, it’ll give the good doctor’s family a run for its money,” said Kiriya, looking ready to start up a conversation.
Huh? If Kiriya can say his family is on par with Hiiro’s, then what on earth…
“My family all works for the police. My dad works as a counselor for the Metropolitan Police Department. My mom’s in the FBI. My older brother’s in the CIA, and my younger sister’s in NASA.”
“Oh, you’re pulling my leg,” I said, cutting him off. I’d probably looked a little cold as I said it.
“Man, you couldn’t even roll with it for a bit?”
“Of course I can’t. First of all, NASA’s not a part of the police.”
“Come on, Kiriya! You actually had me going there for a second! Tell us the truth!”
“The truth is…my parents are adventurers who travel all around the world.”
“I say no thank you to any more of your jokes.”
“Okay, what if I told you they’re chefs?”
“That ‘what if’ absolutely gives it away,” I said.
“Fine, fine. You got me. They’re hermits who collect rock salt from cow butts in Hawaii.”
“I don’t even know where to start with that one,” I said.
Kiriya paused for a moment before breaking out into a smile.
He wasn’t laughing, and it wasn’t a satisfied smile as much as he was “smirking” at us.
“Well, yeah, if I had that kind of family, I’d probably be living a completely different life.”
…If I’d grown up in a different family, I wonder how different my own life would be.
If I were to put it in video game terms, everyone’s family sets their base stats when they’re born. By inheriting the blood of their family, they start a game called “life”.
Naturally, those stats will determine their thinking patterns and abilities.
If Kiriya had really been born to Hawaiian hermits who collect rock salt from cow butts, Kiriya probably wouldn’t have become an examiner. He’d probably go delinquent and wouldn’t bother putting any effort into his studies.
“Okay, so, what about you, Emu!?”
Poppy suddenly turned to look at me, her eyes wide.
“Huh? What about me?”
“Oh. My family’s…normal.”
“What do you mean by ‘normal’? That’s hardly an answer.”
Hiiro was scrutinizing me as if he were searching for a patient’s affected area. His eyes were staring into me like X-rays, and it was as if everything in my chest were exposed.
…Well, I’m cornered.
…Compared to Hiiro’s and Kiriya’s families, mine isn’t as fun to talk about.
“My parents were both ordinary office workers,” I said.
“‘Were’? What’s with the past tense?” said Hiiro, sharp as ever.
Three different X-rays were shining right on me.
“No, I didn’t mean anything in particular…”
…Do we really need to keep talking about me?
…Please, can’t we just change the subject?
Those words were right about to escape my mouth when someone barged in and interrupted the conversation, as if God had answered my prayers in my heart.
The director had walked in through the office entrance door.
“Oh, Houjou, I figured you’d be here. I went to the pediatrics department, but they said you were finished with your work today.”
He presented me with a package.
“Apparently, an unidentified drone crash-landed on the roof of our hospital this morning. It had a package addressed to you.”
“To me? Who on earth…”
“It’s from an unknown sender.”
The office was full of an unsettling atmosphere.
An unknown sender. If we were in some kind of police drama, it could potentially be something dangerous, perhaps even a bomb.
I looked over the parcel myself, but even I couldn’t see any indication of who the sender was.
Everyone watched as I tore through the packaging and opened it.
It was a Gashat that I had never seen before.
It had a single-type transparent RG Circuit Board attached to it, and the outer guard casing was painting white with black lines on it. The Gashat label had Mighty on it, colored in black and white like a panda and holding a calligraphy brush, and above him, the name of the game was written: Mighty Novel X.
“Mighty Novel X…?”
“Why is there a Gashat in there…Pediatrician, do you have any idea who the sender might be?”
There aren’t very many people who can make a Gashat.
We immediately came to the conclusion that Kuroto might have made this. Or, in fact, we couldn’t imagine anyone else making it.
Kuroto was talented enough to make a drone autopilot program and set it to deliver a package three years in advance.
But why now of all times? Why wait three years?
If Kuroto had prepared this in advance before he’d disappeared, what would he be trying to accomplish in sending me this Gashat?
Well, thinking about it won’t get me anywhere. The only thing to be done is to go ahead and start up the Gashat.
I’d quietly made that decision in my head, but I was suddenly struck by a fervent sensation all over my body, and a mass of Bugster virus emerged from it.
The mass circulated through the air and accumulated into a humanoid form.
Parad had independently decided to come out from my body.
“Emu. Stop it. It’s dangerous.”
“You were about to start up that Gashat, weren’t you? I’m you, you’re me, and I know exactly what you’re thinking.”
Parad and I were together in body and soul, and our hearts were connected.
Parad had felt what I was about to do through my heart, and had intervened to try and stop me.
“Yeah, Parad’s right! If Kuroto made that, it’s probably a trap!” said Poppy.
Hiiro also seemed to feel the same way as Parad and Poppy.
“He may have disappeared, but he’s not letting us off so easily. This is Kuroto Dan we’re talking about.”
“Yes, it’s just as Hiiro says! There’s no reason to keep following that man’s whims!” said the director, following up.
“You want to be sure, right?” said Kiriya, as if he’d read exactly what I’d been feeling.
“Yes. This Gashat might be…Kuroto leaving his last will in my hands.”
“Last will…?” muttered Parad, trying to confirm my feelings.
“Kuroto used his unparalleled talents to create God Maximum Mighty X. He brought Kiriya’s body back to life. He did this despite the fact he never repented for a single one of his sins. He still managed to achieve a miracle that medicine had yet to accomplish. I want to understand Kuroto’s motives…I want to know what was actually in his heart.”
It wasn’t just me. Everyone had to feel the same way.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll show you I can clear Mighty Novel X, no matter what kind of game it is.”
No one tried to argue against me.
It seemed they all trusted me.
Having made up my mind, I put my finger on the Gashat’s startup switch, the Playing Starter.
I focused my mind and took a single deep breath. The chills in the back of my chest receded a bit, and I could feel a bit of my heartbeat.
I pressed the Playing Starter.
The RG Circuit Board glowed with white light, and audio played from the Gashat’s built-in announcement system, the Directional Sounder.
Mighty Novel X!
Data flowed out from the Gashat’s Area Spreader, generating a specialized Game Area around it. A hologram monitor appeared behind me, displaying a game start-up screen with the same picture that was on the Mighty Novel X label.
A mass of Bugster virus erupted from the Gashat and infected me. The Gashat had probably been loaded with it and set to infect anyone who started it up.
All of my joints were in pain, as if I had a high fever, and my breathing was heavy. I couldn’t stand anymore, and I fell to my knees.
I immediately figured out what was happening. Mighty Novel X had given me Game Syndrome.
“See, we told you!”
Kiriya was the first to run up to me and help me up.
He pulled up the Gamescope from his neck and put the ear cables into his ears, pointed the Scanning Light at me, and pressed the scan button. Since I was infected, he was trying to diagnose what kind of Bugster virus it was.
The words “NO DATA” appeared on the Gamescope’s scan monitor projection.
“It’s a new strain of Bugster virus,” muttered Hiiro, his face still placid.
If it were a variant of Game Syndrome that we already knew about, the Gamescope would have given us a clear diagnostic result, and we could take care of it on the spot with the Game Syndrome vaccine. But with a new Bugster virus, that wasn’t an option.
And then, something happened that even we doctors weren’t prepared for.
Parad, who had been standing in the corner of the office, suddenly also broke out into Game Syndrome and began suffering the same symptoms as me.
Parad couldn’t even make a sound as he stifled and fell unconscious.
What’s going on? I’m the one who was infected with the Bugster virus, not him.
Why did he get involved in this…?
As I was on the verge of losing consciousness, I could hear a bit of Poppy’s voice.
She was worrying over Parad and desperately yelling “are you okay!?”
The next moment, my body felt another shock running through it, as if I’d been electrocuted.
In the same way Parad had emerged earlier, a large mass of Bugster virus came out of my body. It circulated into the air and materialized into a full Bugster.
It was the kind of humanoid Bugster virus that I’d fought many times before, but it was colored differently, with purple lines on black.
I’d never seen a Bugster with those colors before.
My hands acted before my brain, and I pulled out my Gamer Driver and put it on my waist.
Worried, Kiriya tried to stop me.
“Hey, you’re in no condition to do that!”
“We don’t have a vaccine for this Bugster virus, so I have to operate on it!”
“Then I’ll do it. Pediatrician, you stay back.”
“No, I’ll do it. Everyone tried to stop me, but I didn’t listen, so this is my responsibility. Don’t worry, nobody can beat me in a game.”
I pulled out the Mighty Action X Gashat from my lab coat pocket and pressed the Playing Starter.
The RG Circuit Board glowed with pink light, and the startup sound played.
Mighty Action X!
Data came out of the Area Spreader and generated a Game Area around me, and the game startup screen with the stylish Mighty Action X logo appeared as a hologram monitor behind me.
Whenever I start up a game, something in me feels a little more assertive.4
Whenever I play a game, I always get fired up.
I wouldn’t call it a split personality, but you know how some people act differently whenever they start driving a car?
Well, it’s kind of like that.
I get a little more aggressive when I play games.
I transformed into a pink-haired warrior proportionally about four heads tall, resembling Mighty Action X‘s protagonist Mighty — Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Level 1.
Time to start the game!
…or so I wanted to say, but a small medical office was no place to play a game.
Fortunately, the Kamen Rider system came with a helpful stage select function, allowing me to change our battle area to a virtual game stage and prevent the real-life surroundings from taking damage.
I hit the Stage Select button on the Finisher Slot Holder that was attached to my left hip.
The Gashat’s preloaded Game Stage selection screen appeared in front of me, offering a number of different options.
The grassy field, the beach, the forest, the mountains, the quarry, the town area…
Since I was dealing with Game Syndrome, I was in the mood for some fresh natural air, so I picked the forest.
The black Bugster virus and I were transferred from the medical office to the forest Game Stage.
The forest was thick with lush trees.
The refreshing natural air circulated around, clearing my head.
The black Bugster virus and I stood face-to-face.
My opponent was groaning something with sounds that didn’t seem to be coherent words.
Well, let’s start off by seeing what my opponent can do.
Try to at least entertain me a little, okay?
I pulled the lever on the Gamer Driver.
Level up! Mighty jump! Mighty kick! Mighty Mighty Action X!
I leveled up into a full-sized pink warrior.
Ex-Aid Action Gamer Level 2.
Level 2 had slightly lower attack stats than Level 1, but in exchange, it had much higher speed. I could run more than 100 kilometers per hour, and I could even jump over a ten-story building.
I could hear Poppy yelling “Emu! Don’t let your guard down!” from behind me.
Apparently, she’d followed me into the Game Stage while I wasn’t looking, and was watching over the battle from under a tree in the distance.
Come on, you know who I am! I’ll show you the power of Genius Gamer M!
“I’ll clear this with no continues!”
I brought out Ex-Aid’s special weapon, the Gashacon Breaker, set it to Hammer Mode, and slammed it against the black Bugster virus.
The ultra-high pressure shockwave dissolved the Bugster virus in an instant!
…or so it should have, but…
…somehow, the “MISS” effect appeared.
Instead of hitting the enemy, the powerful slam recoiled back into my right hand holding the Gashacon Breaker.
What? Why? It shouldn’t have missed.
I threw down another full hit, and I saw the hammer hit the Bugster virus directly on the head.
But I was greeted with yet another “MISS” effect.
The black Bugster virus seemed undeterred, In fact, it went ahead and started laying punches on me, one after another, in a steady beat. I’d been so focused on attacking it that I’d forgotten to put up a defense, and I was blown backwards by the impact.
The Rider Gauge, which displayed how much remaining strength a user had, depleted by half in only an instant, and I was forced to release my transformation.
I reverted to the form of a doctor in a white coat.
Normally, when my game time was interrupted, I’d drop the cocky personality, but it wasn’t time yet. The game wasn’t over yet.
Besides, something was wrong.
Ex-Aid was far too strong to be beaten by this weak of a Bugster virus.
Something like this has happened to me before.
Right, back when I’d fought the dating sim game Bugster, Lovelica from Tokimeki Crisis, hitting him harder didn’t get me any closer to beating the game.
Since the game was part of the dating sim genre, sheer power couldn’t lay a single bit of damage on Lovelica, no matter how high my level or stats were.
In other words, this black Bugster virus was also…
“So that’s it. Mighty Novel X isn’t a game where you fight with sheer power.”
Just then, the black Bugster virus laughed ominously.
This Bugster virus shouldn’t be able to talk! So why…?
“Truly worthy of the title ‘Genius Gamer M’. So you’ve finally begun to figure out the secret behind my game.”
The tone of that voice. That unique way of speaking, full of contempt for others. I know it all too well.
“Judging by your voice, you’re…Genm…?”
“Huuuuuuuh? Why is Kuroto here? It’s a pi-pu-pe-po-panic!!”
Genm should have disappeared a long time ago. Something really was off.
The black Bugster virus bowed, like some kind of gentlemanly magician.
“My name is Kuroto-(bleep).”
He’d apparently given us his name, but…something was strange.
I could hear Genm’s voice up to the “Kuroto” part, but the part after it was cut off by some kind of electronic sound. It was the kind of sound effect you’d hear on TV whenever something wasn’t suitable for airing.
…What is this, some kind of TV show? Yeah, right.
“…There’s some kind of bleep sound after Kuroto’s name.”
“A bleep? What’s that, Emu?”
“Your name’s Poppy ‘Pi’-popapo, I’m amazed you don’t know.5 It’s a sound you play when you need to censor something. It means his name has something even more shocking and explicit than ‘Kuroto Dan Remastered’ or ‘Master Kuroto Dan’, to the point it has to be censored.”
“Huuuuuuh!? What kind of name is that!?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Well, I don’t really care what he’s calling himself. So, as far as Kurotobleep is concerned…uh, well, we’re calling him that for now, okay?”
“As far as Kurotobleep is concerned, we know two things about him right now. One is that he’s the Bugster for Mighty Novel X, which Genm created. That leads to the second thing, which is that…he’s probably programmed to execute Genm’s own line of thought.”
“So we can basically treat him the same way as we would Kuroto himself, right!?”
“Yeah…what do you think, Kurotobleep?”
“I shall leave that to your imagination.”
“What are you trying to do? What do you want?”
Kurotobleep took a deep breath and muttered his answer as if he were an oracle.
“…A novel truth.”
We held our breaths as we waited for him to explain further.
He was always like this. Whenever he got a big head, he’d “reveal” some pointless fact that we didn’t care about and didn’t actually help anything.
Hm? Come on, Kurotobleep, open your mouth, will you?
“…What? What’s your shocking new fact I don’t know yet?”6
“A novel. In other words, to reveal the truth within the story.”
“…Story…Novel…Oh. You mean that kind of novel.”
Kurotobleep was Mighty Novel X‘s Bugster, so since the word “novel” was in the title, it made sense for it to be a story-based game.7
But what did he mean by “the truth within the story”?
“Hey, Kurotobleep. What kind of game are you trying to make me play?”
“To you, the player. First, let me sincerely show my gratitude to you for picking up Mighty Novel X. Since you’re the kind of person who already knows games well enough, I imagine your playstyle won’t involve reading the manual, but for convenience’s sake, let’s start with a tutorial. Mighty Novel X is what you would call a novel game — the kind of game the industry would normally classify as a ‘visual novel’. It’s a sort of game where you can experience the story as if you were reading a novel…”
Kurotobleep started reciting off a horribly long speech.
To put it briefly, he was explaining the rules of Mighty Novel X.
Every so often, he would start going off into some really obnoxious sales pitch, but I let it pass over my head.
“But if you fail to follow this story to its end, you will be exiled from it. Your crystal will drift within the world of the game, and will never be able to return to reality. Knowing the risks of this game, will you still choose to play it?”
At that moment, a hologram monitor with two choices appeared in front of me, as if I were on a game show.
Yes — Proceed to the next page.
No — Close Mighty Novel X right now.
“…My answer is ‘Yes’.”
“…You chose “Yes”. Of course you did.”
As if I wouldn’t. If there’s a game, I’m going to play it.
I’m Genius Gamer M, after all.
Kurotobleep started yammering on and on about something else, but it all went over my head.
My playstyle doesn’t involve reading the manual.
Tutorials were made to be skipped.
” — Well, we’re at the point where it would be crude of me to continue this tutorial. Turn to the first page of the story! Is it your destiny to clear this game? Or will you reach a game over? Wait and watch! For the ending your destiny has in store! Bwahahahahaha!!!”
“All right, try me. Whatever kind of game it is, I’m the Genius Gamer, I can take it…I’ll be the one to change my and Parad’s destiny!”
If I can get through this game and defeat Kurotobleep, Parad and I will be cured of our Game Syndrome.
I’ll be treating our body with my own hands.
“Then, we shall start our forbidden game, Mighty Novel X.”
With those words, Kurotobleep dissolved into data and vanished from the forest Game Stage.
A breeze blew through the trees, shaking and rustling the leaves.
It sounded like the laughter of the god of death, pointing me towards an ominous destiny.
It was just a feeling.
It was probably just my imagination, though.
We returned to the CR office.
Poppy and I were back from the Game Stage, but nobody was in the office.
I looked through the window into the ward room and saw Parad on the bed, still comatose.
Hiiro and Kiriya were tending to him.
As long as they were there for him, I didn’t have to worry too much about him.
But I had to beat Mighty Novel X as quickly as possible, or else the symptoms would get worse.
“During his tutorial, Kurotobleep said that I’m the protagonist of Mighty Novel X, and that the game world is in our city right here.”
“Yeah. Do you know where a Novel Spot might be around here!?”
“I have a bit of an idea.”
We were on the streets of a quiet residential area in Seito Fourth District.
Sitting on the driver’s seat of the CR emergency motorcycle, I cranked the accelerator.
Poppy was on the back seat, clinging to me with her arms around my waist.
Memory is a strange thing.
I hadn’t visited this town in years, but I still remembered the layout like the back of my hand.
Even the exact route I took to school every day.
The area hadn’t been developed into much of a commercial district, probably because it had so many steep slopes, and most of the area was residential.
There were more single-family homes than there were apartment or condominium buildings, and “Beware of Dog” signs were tacked all over the gates and utility poles. Even the locals would get easily startled when a large dog started barking out of nowhere. Back then, I used to think it was like “a human-eating plant popping out of a clay pipe” the way you’d see in a certain action game.
The slopes were so steep that it took everything out of my thighs on the way to school, and when I came home, it was a downhill slope of hell that made my legs take damage. It was like “a floor that inflicts damage on you when you walk on them”, the way you’d see them in RPGs.
I’ve always loved games since I was a kid, so I’ve often tried to think about reframing things I’ve seen and experienced in gaming terms.
I’d imagine having 100 HP of physical stamina, and if I ate a hamburger I liked, I’d restore 20 HP. When I walked on a road with tiles, I’d try walking on the tiles according to specific rules, aiming for a perfect progression with no mistakes. I’d see someone sitting out in the sun in front of a house, so old I couldn’t even tell if they were an old man or an old lady, and think of them like an NPC who could only say the same thing over and over again. That kind of thing.
People will always tell you that you’ll never make it in the world if your head is full of nothing but video games, but I’ve gotten a lot of good things out of it, too.
I’d apply gaming logic to how I saw the town around me, and it made things very fun to imagine. I wasn’t just taking in things as I saw them in real life, I was coming up with an infinite number of fantasy stories. I liked thinking about games so much, I’d lose track of time. An hour would feel like only five minutes to me.
So, naturally, as I was thinking about all of that, we were already at our destination before I knew it.
I parked the emergency motorcycle, and Poppy and I took off our helmets and got off.
Right in front of us was a metered parking lot with spaces for four cars. In a place like this, it was hard to imagine anyone actually using cars, but there were three cars there. Two were average family cars, and one was a company car from a nearby construction company.
“Emu, is this an important place for you?”
I recognized many of the single-family houses bordering the metered parking lot. I saw the vending machine that I’d probably relied on most often in my entire life, and it was still working.
“I used to live next to this metered parking lot.”
“Huh?…Oh, I see. So your family lives here?”
“Yeah. This is where I grew up.”
“Huuuuuh~…So this is Emu’s hometown…”
Poppy started looking around at each and every thing around the town with a curious expression, trying to make sure she didn’t miss anything. It was an ordinary residential area with nothing particularly interesting about it, but she was taking it all in like some kind of amusement park attraction, just because it happened to be the town I grew up in.
Sometimes, I’ve felt like Poppy has more kindness than any human could possibly have.
Well, she’s not human in the first place, of course.
Naturally, Bugsters are born with nothing but knowledge of their own games, so I imagine everything about the outside world feels new to them.
But that’s not the only reason.
Poppy has a sort of kindness that makes her curious about everything, like when she wanted to know more about Hiiro and Kiriya’s families.
I really liked that about Poppy.
…So, maybe it might not be a bad idea to open up to Poppy.
…Maybe, just maybe, Poppy might accept everything about me.
…about my family.
…about my past.
Those thoughts passed through my mind for a moment, but I quickly shook my head and drowned the thoughts out, as if wiping out a corrupted save file.8
I mentally prepared myself and approached the metered parking lot.
If I’m supposed to be the protagonist of Mighty Novel X, and the cutscenes are supposed to be about me, then there has to be a Novel Spot here.
“…Nothing’s happening,” said Poppy.
“We may need to fulfill certain conditions in order to trigger the cutscene.”
“Kuroto made Mighty Novel X specifically for me, so it’s possible he might have done something to prevent random other people from getting involved with it.”
“Oh! So it’s gotta be something only you can do, and nobody else, right?”
Something I could do, and something nobody else could do.
I pulled out my Gamer Driver and placed it on my waist.
As it turned out, my guess was correct.
Mighty Novel X! Cutscene Start!
A system voice sounded out from nowhere, announcing the start of the event cutscene.
Why had Kuroto sent me this game, and what kind of story was he trying to show me?
Would this story lead me to a destiny of light, or darkness?
Either way, I was ready.
Whatever kind of story it was, I would see it through to the end.
Our surroundings distorted and pixelated into a mosaic.
We were brought into the Mighty Novel X Game Area.
A completely ordinary house.
The white outer walls, and a deep red tiled roof. A house with three rooms and a shared living and kitchen area.
The living room occupied most of the space on the first floor of the house.
Poppy and I were standing there in the room, with a minimal amount of wooden furniture and not a single speck of dust, nor anything much to it.
From the tableware in the kitchen cupboard with clashing designs, to the large, conspicuous wood grain smack in the middle of the tabletop, my old house had been reproduced to precise detail.
It was a specialized Game Area, but I could smell the scent of the room I’d lived in from all of the nostalgia. The scent of the cypress wood in the furniture, the smell of leftover food from the wash in the kitchen sink. There was a scent I couldn’t really identify, but it came from the entire house. All of these were blended into what you would call the scent of the Houjou household, filling up the entire interior.
But the scent was not actually being reproduced in the Game Area.
It was a scent that had been deep within the depths of my memory, with a bit of my own biases and exaggerations thrown in.
I left the living room without saying a word, going up the slightly overly steep wooden stairs and heading for the second floor.
Poppy also said nothing as she followed me, probably having figured out what this place was just from my facial expression.
As we went up the stairs, three doors leading to three rooms lay in front of me, as if they led to caves with challenges in them.
The furthest door from the stairs led to the master bedroom. The door next to it led to my father’s study. I had never set foot into them except on rare occasions. They were effectively demon caves for me.
The door closest to the stairs was right within reach. I put my hand on the handle. It felt a bit low from where I stood.
I opened the door to see my longtime bedroom, around ten square meters big.
A bedding set with a simple mattress and duvet on a single bed frame. A fifteen-inch TV. A small window where the sun would shine through and hit the eyes in the afternoon.
And there, at the study desk that I could only barely remember sitting at — a boy was sitting there.
The boy was completely absorbed in writing something on paper, and hadn’t realized we were there.
I approached the boy and looked at what he was writing.
My faded memory slowly came back to me, fitting into place like the answer to a puzzle game.
The words were written in handwriting so messy it looked like ancient hieroglyphs.
dear genm corp
hello how are you
i really like genm corps games
my favrit is mighty action
i came up with a game
please make it
thank you very much
Poppy was standing next to me and looking at the letter, and started muttering in a strained voice.
“Emu…is that you?”
There was more of the same kind of stationery piled up on the side of the desk, and the paper on top had the words “my never before seen GAME” written above a duo of orange and green heroes, alongside something that looked like a red rectangular robot-like figure.
The paper there showed he was clearly capable of using capital letters, so why hadn’t he used any in his letter?9 He was so close, and yet so far.
The boy seemed to notice us after having finished his letter, and he turned to face us.
He didn’t seem to be perturbed by the fact he had sudden visitors.
Well, that made sense. This boy was another character in Mighty Novel X, reproduced as a part of the game in the same way the house was.
“What are you writing?” I asked the boy, with a voice that came out a lot more gently than I thought.
“A fan le-tter. To Gen-m Corp.”
The boy’s mouth was small, and his voice came out from it with a voice so young that it still sounded like it was in shaky handwriting.10
A science fiction B-movie would tell you that talking to your past self would be a taboo, but now that I was actually doing something like that, it didn’t feel so bad. Rather, it was more like a strange sense of embarrassment, like I’d dug up a toy hidden in the back of my closet.
“Do you like games?”
“What kind of games do you like?”
“All of them. But I like ac-tion games.”
That wasn’t how you were supposed to use the word “but”. He really was a child.
“So you’re a fan of Genm Corporation’s games, right?’
“Yeah. So I’m as-king them to make a game I came up with.”
“Do you really think they’ll make it?”
“…I don’t know.”
The question was probably a little too mean, because the younger Emu fell silent.
Poppy, who was standing next to me, hastily followed up.
“I’m sure they’ll make it!”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Hey, Emu, can you tell me what kind of game you came up with?”
“Um, uh, it com-bines action and puzzle games. Each of the player characters use their own powers, and then the town they live in gets hit by enemies, and they go out and beat their enemies.”
The younger Emu still had the lung capacity of a young boy, and he paused between his words to take small breaths, but he spoke about his game ideas with pride.
It was starting to feel like some of his words were written in neater handwriting.11 His pronunciation was clearer whenever he used gaming terms, probably because he was intimately familiar with them.
I could really tell that he liked games, although it was a bit strange to need to make that observation about myself.
“Wow~, that sounds really interesting! I wanna play it too!” said Poppy, with a huge smile on her face.
“But it’s rea-lly hard. You can’t clear it ea-si-ly. You have to get on a robot and use Star Action to turn invincible, and then you can beat the enemies.”
Poppy was looking back at the younger Emu with a gentle smile.
“Really? So you’ll be the strongest when you’re invincible.”
“No. Super strongest.”
I looked back at the illustration on the younger Emu’s fan letter.
Thinking back on it now, most of the Gashats I used as Ex-Aid were based on these ideas.
The orange and green brothers were Mighty Brothers XX.
The red robot was Maximum Mighty X.
“Star Action” was Hyper Invincible.
Kuroto had developed Hyper Invincible from that idea. That’s why I was the only one who could use that Gashat for an unlimited amount of time.
Thinking about it this way, I felt emotionally touched. This fan letter, with all of its crudely drawn characters and pictures, was like a prophecy predicting my own future…
The younger Emu in front of me would probably never believe it if I told him.
Someday, you’ll become the same hero from the game you came up with, and you’ll actually fight in the real world.
Someday, you’ll become a hero who can do things only you can, with the game you came up with.
With those thoughts in mind, I snapped back to my senses.
I’d been drenched in my own incoherent emotions, and had said nothing through all of this time.
The younger Emu looked back at me with a strange expression.
I need to say something… I thought, but I didn’t know what to say to him when he was actually me, so I was wracking my brain searching for words to say.
But then, the boy broke the silence.
He spoke in a casual tone, as if he were discussing tomorrow’s weather, but his words pierced me right through to my core.
“Hey. What do you think I want to be when I grow up?”
Once he finished his sentence, the younger Emu suddenly stopped moving, frozen like a delicate mannequin.
A hologram monitor was projected between us, with three choices on it.
(Doctor) | (Pro Gamer) | (Other)
I sorted out my feelings, took a deep breath, and started talking.
“It’s a decision point.”
“Kurotobleep told us about it earlier, didn’t he? In the world of Mighty Novel X, we’re bystanders, but we’re also the ones who control the game’s destiny. The cutscenes come with decision points, and the story progresses if we choose the right ‘destiny’.”
“Oh, right! So if we want to beat Mighty Novel X, we have to answer little Emu’s question correctly, right?”
“I think so.”
“Emu, you need to answer carefully.”
“…I already know the answer.”
Of course I did. I was the protagonist of this game, after all.
I didn’t remember my childhood all that clearly anymore, but I at least understood this much.
The “Emu” in front of me is my past self. This kid’s life is my own.
When this kid grows up…he’ll be me.
“Emu. When you grow up…”
I was about to say the words, but I suddenly swallowed them.
I knew the answer very well, so why weren’t the words coming out easily?
I wanted to say them, but my body was instinctively rejecting the words for some reason. it was like it was trying to censor the words.
At that moment, I couldn’t understand why this was happening.
No, maybe I was just pretending to not understand.
Poppy was looking at me in confusion.
No, there’s no problem. The answer is obvious.
My choices are “Doctor”, “Pro Gamer”, and “Other”.
My answer is…
“Emu. You’re going to be a doctor when you grow up.”
The boy in front of me blinked slowly.
It was like he was hearing some kind of complicated word for the first time, one that didn’t have to do with games.
Yes. A doctor.
When I was eight years old, I was in a car accident. That was when I first truly felt the fear of the concept of “death”.
Of course, in my head, I’d already known that everyone would eventually die someday. Even in games, it was normal to see characters all the time.
But when I was in that accident, I really felt the idea of death, even in my body.
What happens when people die? Would my body still be in pain? Or would the pain disappear, and would I become a ghost? If I became a ghost, would I still be in this world? Or would I be sent to the other side? Or would I not become a ghost and instead sleep in eternal darkness?
I didn’t know. I was scared of the fact I didn’t know.
And I was even more scared of being forgotten by everyone all over the world and being left alone.
Alone in the darkness, where no one would hear me even if I screamed.
Forever, in the darkness, alone.
That was when I came to understand the fear of death.
And that was also when I learned: in this world, there are real heroes who can save us.
Rescue workers. Nurses. And doctors.
Dr. Kyoutarou, who was a pediatrician at the time, performed the operation that saved me.
He didn’t just save me physically, but he also gave me a game console as a gift.
Thanks to that, I, who was still trapped in my fear of death, was able to smile again.
I admired Dr. Kyoutarou, and I wanted to be a doctor like him.
I wanted to save people who had felt the same way as me.
I wanted to be a hero who rescued people who had been left alone in the eternal darkness, and I wanted to make them smile again.
I looked at the boy in front of me and whispered the words in my heart.
Your dream is to become a doctor.
A short sound effect suddenly played, reverberating throughout the entire Game Area.
It was an unexpected, ominous rhythm, and the melody was in minor key, neither happy nor positive.
The system voice echoed out of nowhere, marking the end of the game.
My head was in a daze, and everything went blank.
It seemed like Poppy was screaming something next to me, but I couldn’t hear anything she was saying at all.
I was suddenly surrounded by darkness.
Poppy and the younger Emu vanished, and the bed, the desk, the TV, and the small window with the shining sun were all gone.
I was standing in complete darkness. I wasn’t even sure if the word “standing” was the right way to describe it.
I certainly didn’t feel like I was standing.
It was literal darkness. Emptiness.
It was like the world of death I’d feared when I was a child.
Eternally in the darkness, alone.
But somehow, I wasn’t scared.
Or, to be more accurate, I didn’t even have time to feel scared.
My consciousness had fizzled out before I could process the destiny I had reached.
- In real life, vaccines are used as preventative measures before viral infection, and it’s generally not a good idea to be vaccinated when you’re already sick because your immune system won’t be in good condition to respond to the vaccine. A more accurate term for antibody-based treatments applied after the patient has already been infected would be “antibody therapy”. Ex-Aid does bring up this term at one point within the series itself, implying that “vaccine” is just a shorthand word used to make it easier for the children’s audience to understand. For the sake of the translation, and because Game Syndrome is already a fictionalized and simplified depiction of illness anyway, I’m using the word in the same way the original text does, but for the sake of everyone’s health, please be careful to not apply this oversimplification in real life.
- The “medical examiner” position is slowly dying out in Japan, and while Tokyo still has a formal Medical Examiner’s Office, other areas will usually hand off the job of forensic medical examination to university hospitals. It’s not uncommon for a medical examiner to also work concurrently with a university, so Kiriya’s position isn’t particularly unusual in the long run.
- A common Japanese wedding tradition is for the bride to read out a letter of gratitude to her parents during the reception. While it’s not a strictly enforced tradition, it’s considered a sentimental and classic thing to do.
- In normal situations, Emu usually speaks to people with the polite form of Japanese, consistent usage of honorifics, and the “boku” (僕) first-person pronoun, but when shifting into his “Genius Gamer M” personality, he stops speaking politely and uses the more assertive “ore” (俺) instead. Likewise, Parad also uses “ore“, which is used to distinguish Emu and Parad throughout the story. Note that while this kind of one-to-one assignment of first-person pronouns to specific characters is standard in fiction for the sake of audience convenience, this isn’t actually the case in real life, where it’s more common to switch pronouns depending on the situation.
- The common stock onomatopoeia for a bleeping noise in Japanese is “pii“, so Emu comments that it’s surprising for someone who’s good at “pa-pi-pu-pe-po” to not know what a “pi” is.
- Kurotobleep says that his intent is “shinjitsu wa noberu” (真実はノベル), meaning “to make the truth into a novel”, but Emu misinterprets the “noberu” part as the verb “述べる” (“to express”), and thus takes Kurotobleep’s statement as “to speak the truth”.
- Emu reasons that since Mighty Novel X‘s title is in English, the word “novel” should be read with its English meaning, and thus would involve a story.
- Originally, Emu’s metaphor is “as if wiping out an adventure log”, which is a reference to an infamous error message from the Dragon Quest series of video games. The message “Regretfully, Adventure Log (number) has vanished” (“おきのどくですが ぼうけんのしょ〇ばんは きえてしまいました”) would display when a save file was corrupted and the game would delete it to prevent further damage to the system. This happened with fairly high frequency in older games, especially Dragon Quest III, and the message is an easily recognizable meme for Japanese gamers in Emu’s generation.
- Emu points out that his younger self had written the word “game” in katakana as “ゲーム”, which is how it’s normally supposed to be written, but in his letter to Genm, he had written it incorrectly in hiragana as “げーむ”.
- Emu comments that his younger self’s voice “sounded like it was still in hiragana“. Normally, adults would use a mixture of hiragana and kanji in writing, with kanji being the subset of Japanese written characters that come from Chinese. There are more than two thousand kanji in standard use, so young children will usually not have learned enough to be considered fully literate in it, and will default to the smaller phonetically-driven hiragana set. As a result, writing something entirely in hiragana is associated with childishness or a lack of worldly experience, and “sounding out” a word without understanding what it means will often be rendered in hiragana.
- Emu comments that his younger self seems to speak with katakana whenever he brings up a gaming-related term, implying that he has stronger awareness of those concepts. When reading the words on the page, the effect is that the game-related words stand out clearly compared to the surrounding hiragana. Since these words would normally be written in katakana and kanji, it implies that the younger Emu is one step closer to using those words properly within sentences compared to everything else. This style of writing is also associated with older video games, especially ones from the time of Emu’s childhood; since memory limitations meant that a full kanji set couldn’t be implemented in the game’s internal fonts, most of the text would be written in hiragana, with important terms highlighted in katakana. My way of replicating the effect is to hyphenate any multi-syllable words young Emu uses, so I hope keen readers will notice which specific words this effect doesn’t apply to.