313 – [MiraMe] What do you mean it’s a Death Game!?
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"Ugh. What hit me?" Yuri mumbled and then sat up, clutching her head. She blinked away the fatigue and took a look around.

It was still the streaming studio. She could see the VR pod and equipment lying on the ground. The wall monitors were there too, and it looked like nothing had changed.

Except...

"H-Huh?"

Suzume, Shu, and Chihiro weren't there. Instead, there were three familiar, but also unfamiliar girls laying on the ground.

The first had short-cropped purple hair, wearing a tank top and sweatpants.

The second with light brown hair and a white shrine maiden outfit.

And the last was a girl with silky black hair, wearing a plain dress shirt and jeans.

Kuromi, Tsubame, and Rhea.

But not like the avatars. As if they were real people-

Wait.

Yuri reached over to grab her hair and then pulled it back.

A beautiful silver color, shimmering as it fell down. While her clothes were the same, still a basic t-shirt and sweatpants, along with sneakers, judging from how everyone else looked...

"Mm...?"

Yuri glanced over to see Kuromi... No. It had to be Shu right? She watched as the purple-haired girl slowly sat up and shook her head.

"What happened?" Shu blinked and looked over at Yuri. Then she gasped and pointed at her. "Ah! Miya! What happened to- Huh?" She paused and then looked confused. "I said Miya, not Miya. Wait, what? Miya! Miya, Miya, Miya... Am I going crazy?" She looked at Yuri and said, "I-I'm not crazy, am I?"

Yuri frowned and said, "I don't think so Kuromi-" Her eyes widened as well and she clutched her hands to her mouth. After that, she said, "Okay. What the *hell* did Rhea get us into?"

There it was again! She meant to say 'Shu' and 'Chi-chan', but Kuromi and Rhea came out instead. And without skipping a beat, like she always meant to say it.

Shu flinched and said, "N-No way. You're not her. You're Miya." She clutched her head and said, "Did I get sent to another world? Grandfather always said that the origin of our secret arts were from a different realm, but I thought he was joking. Is it time for my tribulation? Is that why I got sent here? IS THAT WHY MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN!?"

Sheer and utter panic.

Yuri quickly waved her hands and said, "C-Calm down! It's me! I don't know what's going on after that white light, but I just woke up like this."

Shu paused and looked over at Yuri. "...You mean that you're not Miya?"

"That's not-" Yuri wrinkled her nose as she heard different words come out. "...It looks like I can't deny it, huh? Well, I guess right now I am Miya, but I wasn't just before waking up."

Shu took a deep breath, calming down. "Okay. So I'm not crazy. And this isn't that scary heart demon thing Grandfather was always saying would happen if we ran away from home."

"...What?"

Shu laughed and waved her hand. "Don't worry about it. Just some scary bedtime stories. But then..." She scratched her head and said, "Are we in VR?"

At that time, Suzume... Tsubame? The girl in the shrine maiden outfit stirred and took a look around. Seeing Yuri and Shu, she blinked and then tilted her head. "...Did we get reincarnated into another world?"

Yuri felt a headache coming on and said, "Please don't joke about that. Considering the scary sci-fi technology Titor's made, it might actually have happened..."

Though the fact that 'Tsubame' said that meant she was probably Suzume.

Shu looked over at Suzume and said, "Quick! What did we have for lunch?"

"Ah?" Suzume tilted her head and said, "You showed me to a cute cafe and treated me to nice sandwiches."

Shu nodded. "Okay. So it's not a fake."

"Fake?"

Yuri sighed and said, "Ignore her. She's just paranoid."

Shu turned back to Yuri and said, "It's really scary! We're in different bodies! What if it's just a pretender? I saw a movie about this, you know? If we aren't careful-"

"Ugh. Would you shut up?" Chihiro winced and slowly sat up, clutching her head. "Why do you have to be so loud, Kuromi?" She froze and quickly blinked. "Kuromi? Why'd I say Kuromi?"

Yuri crossed her arms and said, "Because you got us into a crazy mess by touching Titor's equipment. Idiot."

Chihiro laughed and said, "Don't be silly, Mimi. Mimi?" Her eyes widened and she looked at Yuri, only to flinch. "Mimi?! Watafaq?"

"Yeah. Think this is still a laughing matter?"

Chihiro flinched and said, "U-Um... Sorry?"

Yuri rolled her eyes. "Whatever." She looked around and said, "Let's see if we can contact John or something to get us out of here."

Chihiro nodded and started walking towards the console controlling the wall monitors.

Before she could take a single step, Shu grabbed her.

"K-Kuromi?!"

"Nuh-uh. As your Senpai, I'm saying you've done enough."

Suzume put on a stern face and nodded as well. "That is correct. Let Mimi sort it out."

"B-B-But...!" Chihiro looked at Yuri and said, "She doesn't even know how to work a computer!"

"Rude." Yuri rolled her eyes and walked over to the central control computer. "Unlike someone here, I've read all the training materials John gave me."

Chihiro let out a sly smile and said, "Because of your crush?"

"Because I take my job seriously, Rhea. Honestly. You and your NTR fetish..." Yuri mumbled and turned on the computer.

Rhea broke out of Shu's hold and puffed out her chest. "I don't have a NTR fetish. I'm just a deep appreciator of all sorts of culture."

"You mean a complete degenerate."

"That's what I said."

Yuri sighed and then logged into the computer with her username and password. "Sometimes I wake up and ask myself why I even bother with you..."

The MIRAIZ logo splashed across the monitor before a video chat popped up, showing John's face.

[Oh hey! You connected it for me. That helps a lot. Thanks Yuri.]

Shu looked over and said, "Is that Mister John?"

Yuri nodded. "Looks like it."

[Hold on. It'll probably be better if all of you can see me.]

John reached over to fiddle with something off to the side. And then the computer suddenly shut off.

"M-Mimi!" Shu looked panicked.

Yuri held up her hands. "I didn't do anything."

Chihiro put on a smug look and said, "Yeah. Who's the one laughing now?"

"Not Titor, because he's being forced to watch the worst of Anime adaptations and dubs by his wife."

"Eek!"

Chihiro flinched and stumbled onto her butt.

John looked at her. And then he looked up at the other girls. After a brief sweep, he sighed and looked back at Chihiro. "You're the one who turned it on, aren't you?"

"W-Who? Me?" Chihiro let out a nervous laugh. "O-Of course not."

John frowned and said, "Do you even understand what sort of mess you dragged your friends into for that? Look outside the window."

"The window?"

Yuri frowned and walked over to the window. Suzume and Shu did the same.

Outside...

"Holy crap." Shu mumbled and said, "Is this... still Tokyo?"

A completely ruined city. Flames and smoke still active all around. Buildings, collapsed into nothing more than piles of rubble. Blood and corpses lining the ground.

Suzume paled and quickly backed away, hyperventilating. "T-That..."

John saw her reaction and groaned. "The game graphics aren't on, are they? And Titor's planning to ship World Line out like this? We *definitely* need a chat about quality assurance first..."

Yuri gulped and stepped back from the window.

It wouldn't be the first time seeing dead people. When your grandfather and childhood friend were involved with the yakuza, it was inevitable to see a few.

But so many, and with the city like that...

"Is this how people felt after the Americans bombed us...?" Yuri muttered.

John walked over to pat Suzume's shoulder and said, "If it makes you feel better, that's all fake. Those people are just generic models. Realistic, but just sculptures of flesh and blood. ...I'll turn on the cartoon graphics though. It *is* just a bit too much for ordinary high school girls."

Shu looked back and shuddered. "It's still terrifying, Mister John."

"I know. Which is why I'm assigning you all mental health therapy sessions after we're done here and going to yell at Titor for a while. But first..."

Chihiro got up and nervously looked out the window. After that, she flinched and said, "U-U-Um, Mister John."

John turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow. "Now you're being polite?"

"S-Sorry. But..." She glanced out the window and then said, "I-If we die in the game, do we die in real life?"

A tense silence.

"Well..." John reached up to scratch his hair and said, "It's complicated?"

Yuri jabbed a finger at John and said, "That's not what you're supposed to say! Aren't you supposed to take care of us?"

John held up his hands. "To be fair, I *did* warn you. But don't worry. It's complicated, but you guys won't die in real life if you die here. Though you *will* die. So I wouldn't recommend it if you don't want to feel what it's like to fade away from the mortal coil." He paused. "Though I guess it'd be a once in a lifetime opportunity?"

Yuri swung her arm and said, "Stop joking around!"

John turned to look at her, his face serious. "I'm not. This is a <Death Game>. The normal way to clear it is to kill the boss and make your way to the exit point. Unfortunately, since this is a beta version and one that wasn't meant to be played... there is no exit point or boss. Only death and destruction."

Chihiro crouched on the ground, clutching her head. "I don't wanna die. I'm still a virgin. I can't die...!"

Yuri scoffed and said, "For a girl who carries a gun, you scare pretty easily, Rhea."

"Shut up!" Chihiro glared at Yuri and said, "Not everyone's as strong as you!"

Yuri blinked. "Strong?"

Chihiro started rocking back and forth. "I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die. Oh god, I'm gonna die. It's going to be just like Blade Arts Online. Oh god..."

Shu frowned and looked at John. "What should we do?"

"Have fun."

Shu blinked and slowly said, "...I'm sorry? Have fun?"

John nodded and said, "That's right. Have fun."

A ripple spread throughout the room and then health bars popped up over the girls, along with some words.

Yuri frowned and looked up at her own health bar.

[<Immortal Object> Miya Musashi]

Yuri paused and then gave John a blank stare.

He shrugged. "What? I'm not going to let you girls get mentally scarred." He paused and then said, "But I wasn't joking about this being a Death Game. You were lucky I was here to catch it."

Yuri glared at Chihiro.

Suzume gave Chihiro a disappointed look.

Even Shu looked upset.

Chihiro flinched and lowered her head.

John waved and said, "Anyway, there should be some fun things to do in the console. Some game modes, easter eggs, events... Those sort of things. Give me about an hour and I'll get you guys back out... Ah. It'll probably be nerve-wracking in that wasteland, right? One sec..."

Another ripple spread throughout the room. When it did, the scene outside the window flickered and the ruined city turned back to a normal city. Specifically, Tokyo. Just like in reality.

"There you go. I've loaded a version of Tokyo where you girls can have fun and play around with. Now, I'll be back in about an hour."

With that, John vanished in a puff of golden smoke.

At the same time, a timer started ticking down over each girl's head.

[00:59:59]

Shu blinked and then let out a nervous laugh. "Um. We're... We're fine, right?"

Yuri crossed her arms and said, "If you trust John. But I guess there's one way to test it out."

Shu tilted her head. "What's that?"

Yuri walked over to Chihiro. "Hey. Kid."

Chihiro flinched and then stood up, frowning. "I'm not a- Bwaha!?"

A perfect roundhouse kick. One done at full force to Chihiro's face that should have sent her reeling.

Instead, a splash of golden light erupted, bouncing Yuri's foot back. After that, the <Immortal Object> over Chihiro's head started flashing gold, as if to emphasize that fact.

"Oh good. So we're actually invincible here." Yuri smiled.

Chihiro glared and said, "What was that for!?"

"For getting us into this mess and traumatizing us. And since it looks like this really is just a game..." Before Chihiro could react, Yuri picked Chihiro up and spun her around.

Suzume gasped. "M-Mimi?!"

"O-Oi!" Shu called out. "H-Hold on, Miya!"

"W-What the hell are you-"

Yuri stomped on the ground and then chucked Chihiro at the window.

The sound of shattering glass.

Chihiro screaming.

Car horns blaring as the crowd below gasped.

And then Chihiro's faint voice from down below. "Y-You asshole!"

Yuri let out a deep breath and then smiled. "*God* I've wanted to do that for a while now."

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