~*~*~*~*~ - game world to real world or vice-versa
* * * - change of scene (real world)
Shinka Keep, the stronghold which housed the Throne of Hidetsugu, the seat of absolute power in all the land. The massive structure was always littered with warriors from all corners of the kingdom, all fighting for the chance to sit on the Throne and power. The great stone halls have been stained with so much blood and the corridors and rooms littered with so many corpses that the Keep had long lost the grandeur and the splendor it once had, replaced with the repulsiveness and horror of a battlefield after a slaughter. There, in the center, was the Hidetsugu Throne Room, where a woman standing in blood-stained black armor sat on the Throne, broadsword at her side and around her several corpses of fools who dared challenge her claim to the throne. The sword was strangely called Stranglehold and she was known as Elena Fairchild.
Elena Fairchild examined the battleground before her. The southern wall was charred, the floor was littered with the bodies of slain opponents and there was a trail of bloodstains from one end of the room to another, dripping down from her sword. Then, the gong rang four times, accompanied by the ominous thick mists that signaled the coming of another challenger. Elena curled her pale lips into a confident smile. She’d been able to send any comers to their ends, dispatched them with unparalleled ease so there was no reason for her to think that her next challenger could possibly be able to knock her from her throne. Shinka Keep was her domain and she looked invincible. She turned her head, long black hair tossing in the cold chill as she appraised her latest victim. It was a petite opponent. Elena smiled viciously and readied her sword. She was not one to underestimate but she was confident of her victory.
“So, what’s your name?” Elena asked as she approached her opponent, broadsword at the ready.
“My name is Leonia.” The girl responded as she readied her weapons, a pair of larger than usual knives. The parts of the blades not stained in blood reflected Elena’s regal beauty. “I’m taking you down.”
“I’ve heard that before.” Elena smiled and a split second later, the duel began.
“Let’s see how good this new guy is.” Yuki muttered to herself as she readied her thumbs for yet another in a long series of seemingly random but actually well-calculated thumb presses.
“Remember, you promised that’ll be your last one for today, Yuki.” A female voice said from near Yuki. The voice was stern but it had a slight slyness in the way the words were spoke.
Yuki let out a sigh with an exaggerated disappointment. “I know Michiko, I know.”
“You’re just saying that again. I can tell you’re not really planning on stopping.”
“You’re quite persistent, aren’t you?” Yuki asked with her eyebrow raised up slightly.
“You had me programmed that way, Yuki. It’s entirely your fault why I’m this way.” Michiko curled her pinkish lips into a smile. “I know you wouldn’t keep me around any other way.”
Yuki smiled as she watched the scene on her wrist-mounted console, the Leviathan. It was yet another in a series of one-on-one network challengers that she’d taken on. In the eight months since the release of the game Shinka Keep for the Leviathan system, Yuki Kurogane had rapidly risen up in the player ranking system. Her in-game avatar ‘Elena Fairchild’ was widely renowned throughout the network of players for the game, though very few people knew who the player behind the character was. The game was the perfect way for her to escape from the mundane life she lived in
Just a few feet away was Yuki’s personal android. The unit, named Michiko, stood in the dorm room, silently observing her mistress. She had hair the color of roasted chestnuts that ran down just a little past her shoulders. Over her well-built, shapely body was an emerald green dress reaching past her knees and tight around her neck, trimmed around the hem, neck and shoulders in light blue and a slit running up almost to the thigh on the left side. Her skin was fair, smooth but to the touch it lacked a truly natural feel to it, like most other series-1 android units. However, though Yuki could easily have afforded the price, she decided to take a series-1 over the series-3 units that others were purchasing because the series-1 seemed to be the most human among the units. Michiko, since her activation, had become Yuki’s main confidante and her personal assistant. However, there were times that Michiko was a little too vocal on the things that she didn’t believe Yuki should have been doing than her mistress would have liked, though never showed it.
Yuki was a quiet girl, nondescript and a rather unnoticeable personage in the student body of the school. She had long, black hair that ran down her back like an ebony cascade. Her skin contrasted her hair, creamy and white, reminiscent of snowfall on
“You’re pretty fast.” Elena said as she looked into her opponent’s eyes. She was trying to drive her broadsword down with enough force to break apart Leonia’s block but it wasn’t working.
The old champion pulled her blade back, took a step back and reassessed the situation. Leonia was faster than anyone else she’d faced before but her lack of armor made for a critical weakness. A single hit would have been lethal but so far, the nymph-like challenger had proven too fast to be hit. A few scratches and close calls here and there were easily matched by several scratches and dents on Elena’s armor – armor which was not as thick or as protective as it appeared. One hit was all she needed and the battle would be over. Her only problem was luring Leonia into that hit. She’d already taken the challenger’s array of aerial attacks by a quick cut to one of her legs, effectively robbing her of her ability to jump over Elena’s head. For the time being, the best strategy seemed to be to hone in on the leg, wear the agile girl to the ground.
Leonia smiled as she pulled back as well. She knew that she was wearing down the infamous Elena Fairchild. However, she herself was being worn down. She was weak; one clean hit from Elena would finish the duel in the reigning queen’s favor. Elena had taken to cutting down Leonia’s speed, wearing away at her legs bit by bit. She had to be careful from there on end, her aerial arsenal had been cut down by slight cut on her left hamstring and she could tell Elena was intent on homing in on it like a shark. Circling Fairchild was not a good option for her either, as Elena’s strength was enough to swing the blade Stranglehold almost full circle around her. While Elena recovering from that might have taken time, Leonia doubted she had the speed to avoid a direct, desperate swing like that. It was impossible to get a direct hit on any of Elena’s vulnerable areas either. Armor around the neck and the breastplate took away the obvious areas and taking out Elena’s legs was a negligible strategy. The legs were well protected and a mistake was going to be fatal as a low attack put her in perfect range for a quick decapitation. She decided to risk it.
Leonia dashed forward, blades ready to cut down Elena’s right leg – which had sustained damage from a successful attack earlier – and turn the tide. However, as she closed in, she was met with a sudden upward swing of Stranglehold that she barely managed to avoid. A follow-up to the defensive surprise was soon in coming as the broadsword came down ferociously upon her. She was too surprised to make another move save to block the incoming assault but the impact knocked one of her weapons from her hand. It was clear that Leonia underestimated Elena’s reaction time and the speed by which she could go into offensive rage. Down by one weapon and truly forced into a defensive position for the first time in the duel, she was slowly starting to back away more and more, towards the blasted stones of the northern wall. Elena kept on her attack relentlessly, alternating between high and side attacks. Eventually, Leonia felt no more ground behind her and realized that one more step back and she would fall into the abyss below. She had no other options left to her. A final strike from Elena would knock her back into the abyss. Her one chance was the humiliating act of surrender and that wasn’t a guarantee in itself. Elena had a reputation for refusing those who surrendered to her. Leonia pondered her next move and chose to take the risk. She yielded to Elena.
Yuki took a good look at what transpired. As loathe as it was for her to admit it, ‘Leonia’ was so very close to beating ‘Elena’ that it surprised her. Had she not calculated the timing of that last rush attack correctly, Yuki knew she would have lost. Her opponent had surrendered and that meant she had a choice of accepting it and letting the in-game avatar ‘Leonia’ go free or to refuse it and get rid of the upstart challenger. In a move that she’d never done before and would likely shock those who were keeping an eye on the progress of the duel, Yuki decided to let the upstart live and accepted the surrender. She smiled, as it had been a long time since she’d been challenged by a worthy opponent like ‘Leonia’. To her recollection, the last in-game avatar to have come close to beating ‘Elena’ was an avatar named ‘Tiamat’ and that was far back, almost two months before. She’d accepted his surrender as well, though ‘Tiamat’ never appeared again. Yuki smiled as she disconnected from the Leviathan’s wireless gaming network and relaxed.
“That’s enough for today.” She said as she leaned back and put herself into a supine position on her bed. She had to go back to reality, to where she was just another face in the crowd. She turned to face Michiko, who had closed her eyes and made a low, almost inaudible buzzing noise as she tried to access the network. Yuki smiled, finding it quaint that Michiko couldn’t access it instantly like series-3 units.
“No new messages for today save for the usual junk mail and free body part enhancers.” Michiko said as she opened her eyes and disconnected. “And there’s the usual message from Naga Technologies offering you a discounted series-3 unit if you turn me in for recycling or something.”
“You know I’d never do that. I mean, look at that Kanzaki guy that graduated two years ago. He’s got a series-1 and the software was back from the holographic display days.” She said, remembering one of the first few male students allowed to enroll in Sacred Cross from before. She wasn’t in the school then but she lived a few doors down from the young man and previously had a slight interest in him. “If he can stick it out with a series-1, so can I. Besides, his series-1 isn’t even a production model like you.”
“I know. I met Minako on the network once. She’s very nice, very sweet.” Michiko smiled. She was quite lovely, even though in comparison to series-3 units, she didn’t look human enough.
“So, is there anything on the planner for today or do I get to lounge around all day?” Yuki asked, diverting the topic. She got up and looked out the window, watching the people passing by.
“There’s nothing on the schedule.”
“That’s nice. Michiko, does your hacking module still work?” Yuki asked curiously.
“I’m still experiencing a little bit of incompatibility with it but it’s nothing that’ll get in the way of usual functions. Don’t tell me you want me to hack into the Leviathan network database again!”
“No, I was just asking.” Yuki turned her attentions to her unit, pondering what to do for the day. It was a free day for her but she had nothing to do. She sighed and reached for Michiko’s wrist. She slid open a small panel and pulled out the headphones. “I’m in the mood for a little classical right now.”
“Will it be the usual selection, Yuki?” Michiko asked. Yuki nodded in response. “Bach it is then.”
End Chapter 1