Nations in “X-gate online”—basically players with influence—were allowed to construct a stronghold for their guild .
The most popular choice was a castle, but there were no particular restrictions on what appearance it could take .
A rare few took on the shape of shrines and temples, and one particular stronghold was even designed after a coffee shop .
While it’s hard to imagine a coffee shop serving as the heart of a nation, it was something made possible within the game .
And from the innumerous options, the design I chose was a tower .
In no time, I had fallen into a trance and was fully exploiting the customization system .
The tower was redesigned every time our influence expanded . By borrowing the minds of players who had a better eye for art, the “Tower of Mafahl” eventually became one of the most awe-inspiring structures of the game .
“…though it’s abandoned… it’s still so… breathtaking . ”
But as you would expect, after a period of two hundred years, the inside of the tower became layered in dust . Nevertheless, the beautiful designs that decorated the skyscraper’s interior peeked out from under the grime . As I walked straight ahead, a cracked, yet impressive crimson throne came into view .
The shattered windows were once beautiful stained glass .
Poking a finger into a crack that ran along the wall, I recall the joyful memories made in this room .
Everyone was here with me .
Here, we discussed how we would increase our influence . This was the site where we made an oath as guild members and considered our future expeditions .
We made merry deep into the night, drowning ourselves in wine…
…wait a second, why do I recall these memories as if I was there in person? Ruphas was the one who drank wine in-game—not me .
I simply watched through my computer screen, right?
What am I even reminiscing about in the first place?
It was only days ago that I split my territory into two parts . It’s way too soon to start getting nostalgic about anything .
Shoot, there’s a possibility my memories may be merging with Ruphas’s .
I’m going to end up mistaking the game for reality if this continues .
I’m having a hard time distinguishing between the two even now .
“How strange . This should be my first time seeing this in person, but it somehow feels so nostalgic . I feel a sense of security by just being here . ”
Nostalgia wells up in my chest .
It was as if I had returned home after a journey around the world .
A mysterious feeling .
Am I going crazy?
Or is my consciousness really merging with Ruphas’s?
It’s impossible to know right now .
My voice slipped out in surprise .
Here, where none other than myself was permitted entry, a sound resounded through the room .
I directed my line of sight towards the source of the sound .
There, a young girl I didn’t recognize stood before me .
She possessed pale blue hair the color of the sea complimented by her marine blue eyes . Her simple, white clothing lightly wrapped around her smooth, snow white skin . Moreover, her facial features were stunning .
…an unfamiliar face .
At the very least, she wasn’t among guild members I gave permission to step foot on the very highest floor of the tower .
Who is she? And why is she here?
“—Ruphas-sama! Aren’t you Ruphas Mafahl-sama?”
Calling out my name, she ran to me and gripped my hands tightly with her own .
Just the sincere smile plastered across her face was enough to express just how blessed she thought she was to witness my return .
Sadly, I don’t recognize her at all .
“Who… are you?”
“Ho-How cruel! Have you already forgotten me? Forgotten about Dina, your most loyal advisor? I’ve been waiting 200 years in this tower for your return, you know!?”
What is this girl saying?
In place of an advisor, I instead had my guild members . And even then, none of them were named Dina . I never did have a designated advisor to begin with .
Not to even mention a young girl named Dina…
—no, she existed .
That’s right, I remember now .
When I first built the stronghold, I decorated the tower with various ornamental objects, and among them, I faintly recall positioning an NPC with the appearance of a young girl .
Yup, characters were also included in the decorations for a stronghold .
They simply paced aimlessly about the chamber that they were assigned to . Their only purpose was to add more depth to the background, but I had gone out of my way to place one anyways .
It was merely because I had thought a stronghold without even a single mob would be a bit too lonely for my taste . Although I had completely forgotten its existence before long, it seems I had named it something along the lines of “Ruphas’s Advisor” and given it a strange backstory .
However, she had no real offensive powers and frankly, she was just another ornament not even worth taking note of . Before I knew it, she became another part of the background .
And that girl, out of her own free will, chose to spend the span of 200 years of her life waiting for my return?
Regardless of whether I remembered her or not?
She had remained faithful to the role I granted her and continued to stay here, alone?
“Ah, I see… I remember now . Forgive me, Dina . To forget an existence as important as yours… something must be wrong with me . ”
This is not a game .
It struck me how naive my attitude towards this world had been up until now .
If I continued to treat this world as a game, I could ruin the lives of thousands .
Forgetting an NPC in a game would just result in a couple seconds of confusion .
However, doing the same with a person with genuine emotions is an unforgivable insult to their existence .
“I commend you for your services . You have done well to protect this place during my absence, Dina . ”
“I—I am unworthy of such praise!”
I will never again think of her as an “ornament in the shape of a human”, but instead as another individual .
“Um, Ruphas-sama . How were you able to return to this world?”
“Ah . It seems a nation a bit to the west was attempting to summon a hero, but they messed up and returned me from the separate dimension . I owe it to their recklessness that I am able to be here right now . ”
“Levatin… should be the country that lies west from here . They’ve shown signs of preparing to summon heroes before . So that’s what it was…”
According to Dina, they’ve been working hard towards that goal for a while now .
Thank you so much for your efforts .
And—how do I say this—forgive me . For your considerable hardships .
“As you can see, I am quite ignorant of the ways of the world in this day and age . I’ve heard that the Demon King is still in good health, though . ”
“That’s right! Immediately after those obnoxious heroes defeated you, the heroes fell apart, the country became divided, and they’ve been beaten to a pulp by the Demon King ever since! How sloppy!”
Ah, yeah . Sorry, Dina . I guess disperse of influence went according to our plan . Rather, the final battle was just a staged event in order to release our influence…
The collapse of Ruphas Mafahl’s rule would signal the dawn of a new era . Various players would begin to expand their influence, aiming to become the new successor to the world .
And the Demon King should have been… the official last boss .
Unlike me, there were definite merits in defeating him . The Demon King had a hundred percent chance of dropping a rare item .
However, countries would never form an alliance to defeat it .
Rather, it would be troubling if an opposing nation defeated the Demon King . In addition, incompetent allies would only drag you down .
But that reasoning only stands if this was still a game .
Which in this case, I haven’t a single clue why humanity would fall apart and lose to the Demon King .
In the first place, to what degree was the game was reflected in this world?
Would an in-game fight with the Demon King influence the history of this world?
Or do the events of this world occur independently of the game?
. . the more I think about it, the more disoriented I get . Just the fact that the game is reflected in this separate reality is already unusual in itself .
What is the relationship between this world and “X-gate online”?
A world resembling X-gate wouldn’t be an adequate explanation for this absurdity .
“Ah, excuse me . I was lost in thought . Dina, would you do me the favor of teaching me about the world I left?”
“Yes, of course! If that will be of use to Ruphas-sama, then gladly!”
With a charming smile spread across her face, Dina replied without the slightest hint of hesitation
Wha—what a good girl… She really puts my heart at ease .
Well, that’s one thing off my checklist . I’ve found something to protect .
It’s simple . Cute girls are precious assets of any world .
It’s natural to want to protect them as a man .
“…first, about the obnoxious heroes that defeated you . Afterwards, each of the seven heroes, as they were called, decided to start their own nations . Four of them have already passed away due to old age, but the other three with longer life spans are still alive today . ”
Those seven heroes were undoubtedly referring to the seven players that stood alongside me as the top ranked players in the game . Each of them was specialized in a different character class and we had conquered numerous boss battles as a party . In other words, they were my former guild members .
…I wonder how they’re all doing .
Could those heroes be players like me?
Or am I wrong?
Of course, I would hope for the former, but I can’t confirm anything without meeting them in person .
So for now, let’s make meeting those three people a goal while traveling this world .
“The Twelve Heavenly Stars are all in good health . However, I only know the whereabouts of six of them . Among those six, two have joined the Demon King to take revenge on the humans you were defeated by . ”
The Twelve Heavenly Stars .
They were what you would call “familiars” .
The class I had chosen had the ability to tame monsters and possessed an inherent skill that gave you a chance of turning a defeated opponent into an ally .
To monster tamers that have little to no offensive power, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say their ability to reel in a strong monster is a matter of life and death .
I… lucked out .
A boss monster that only appeared during an event and a rare monster that almost never made its appearance .
Having tamed these monstrosities of familiars, I proceeded to put 12 of the most powerful monsters under Ruphas’s jurisdiction as her 12 generals . Then, I bestowed upon them the embarrassing title of the Twelve Heavenly Stars .
I thought it would be cool for a ruler to have something like the Four Heavenly Kings under his command .
I, too, had a phase when I thought like that . (TN: the chuunibyou phase :D)
…well, in reality, I was very much interested in things other than monsters as well, but that is a story for another time .
“Joined the Demon King, huh… Goodness . Though I’m fully aware that my weakness is to blame for their actions, it’s still a pathetic way to behave . I will need to quickly scold them . ”
Let’s add one more objective to our travels .
I will collect the Twelve Heavenly Stars and take the responsibility to subdue them . Well, in reality, the thought that the familiars I raised were causing trouble for others made my stomach hurt .
I’ll stop them with brute force if I have to .
“Hmph… Dina, could you mark the current locations of the 3 remaining heroes and The Twelve Heavenly Stars on a map?”
“Yes, certainly . ”
First, I must find out if the three heroes are players like me .
Then, if the Twelve Heavenly Stars are acting stupid, I will stop and recover them .
…Ah, right . We’re also going to need a source of money . For a penniless individual like me, this is top priority . I will need to look for a way to acquire funds for our travels .
“I’ve finished, Ruphas-sama . I’ve marked everything on this map . ”
“Thank you . ”
Accepting the map from Dina, I scanned over the contents .
As for the heroes, the closest one is positioned at a country called Suvell, which is about 1,400 kilometers north from our current location .
The elf hero has taken up residence here .
Furthermore, “The Ram”, Aries, is preparing for the invasion of Suvell in a castle at the foot of the volcano nearby .
…what in hell does this sheep think it’s doing .
Anyways, this should be our first destination .
I’m going to have to stop that sheep before a hole opens in my stomach .
Good grief, what a pain in the ass .
However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited .
Now then, let’s start with looking for a job .
※Some kind of explanation
Magical power in this world
In the world of Midgard, Magical power and Holy power are polar opposite existences . Magical power is closely tied to demons, so it aims to hurt or curse . On the other hand, the holy attribute has a strong association to the heavens, and it focuses more on healing and support .
In simpler terms Magic = Black magic, Holy power = White magic
(TN: In japanese, the word for magic = 魔力 . The first character, 魔 also means ‘has to do with hell’ . So for example, 魔界 means “hell”, or “the world of spirits” . )