Season 1, Episode 7
Carrying his unconscious cousin back to her house, then lifting her to gently place her on to the bed, Shun let out a sigh of relief.
Mikoto’s room, the décor, the spacing, the furniture of it even, all served to showcase her gentle beauty and sweet, naïve nature. Childish flowers were sprinkled on the patterned bed sheets and the room had been decorated to a harmonious effect by Mikoto’s magical fingers.
Shun had always spent more than a little time here, homework and lesson plans spread out upon a low study table, as Mikoto went through everything with him. He really would have rather been at home, bashing away at his computer, but Mikoto would not allow it, oh no. With tears in her eyes, Mikoto would come up to Shun and almost forcibly coerce him into studying with her in a vain attempt to improve his failing grades, especially when it came to the maths and sciences.
Now though, with only the dim light filtering in from the window and Mikoto’s light, peaceful breathing, Shun finally felt a sense of calmness wash over him.
Now, he could finally think.
Why did everything happen?
It was unrealistic, unthinkable, that a game character would dash out from the game into real life.
It was impossible.
So then, why did it happen?
If this were a plot in an anime or manga, the truth ought to be revealed pretty soon, and yet –
Suddenly, Shun’s mind went blank.
For a few short moments, his mind just wouldn’t, just refused to work.
Drawing a deep breathe, Shun strove to calm himself down.
This had always happened anyways.
Whenever Shun tried to picture something unrealistic in his mind, this would always happen. His mind would go blank and nothing would move it further past that point.
In other words, Shun was unable to ‘imagine’.
Yes, the inability to imagine. Shun considered it a disability in a world where imagination was necessary.
This comprehension had dawned on him ever since he had developed conscious actions.
A little confusing, no? An explanation was in order.
Let’s say, for example, if one were to imagine oneself turning into a dragon. A normal person would be able to do it within a matter of seconds.
Shun, on the other hand, could not.
Whenever he tried to imagine something out of the ordinary, it was as if he had deliberately run headfirst into a wall, and should he try to forcibly push past that blockage, he would be faced with a vast skyline of nothingness.
This handicap was more pronounced when Shun was a young kid.
He could never play ‘pretend’ with his friends when they were younger, as this required imagination of a certain proportion. He never managed to fully enjoy himself, or to immerse himself in the moment, like the rest of his friends. And then, when he told them of it, they couldn’t understand him – imagination came to them so naturally that soon, he found himself isolated and left out of the hoop.
So it came to be that whenever they played around he would always find himself alone on the bench in the Shrine’s park, crying silent tears, cursing himself for this crushing disability.
Of course, he could watch anime, just like everyone else did. Read manga too, in fact.
However, the fact still stood that these two activities needed one to be able to picture the scenario in their minds and add on a relative amount of emotions into the imagined situation before being able to thoroughly enjoy the following results.
Due to his lack of imagination, Shun had felt this precursor stronger than anyone.
Due to his lack of imagination, Shun did not find these interesting. Not in the least bit.
And then, it appeared.
The holy grail of Shun’s life, the one that saved him from all that crushing loneliness – games.
This was especially the case for that one game, Dragon Bless. A national sensation in the game world, critics called it.
Shun would never forget the almost explosive joy when he first cracked open the box and slipped the gaming disc into the console.
Even though Dragon Bless took place on an imaginary plane, while Shun was playing the game in real life, the game was, in essence, part of Shun’s ‘real’ life.
For the first time in his entire life, Shun could slip through a loophole in his disability and ‘imagine’ the ‘reality’ of the game.
Also, it didn’t hurt that it was the hottest thing of the moment.
He was ecstatic. Really, he was. If he could, he would go on adventures, day after day after day, without ever needing for a stop or a rest.
The moment when, after all members had gathered in the guild hall, the grand, gorgeous musical and atmospheric change; the moment when he was about to step into a land of snow, ready to battle unknown beasts with strange powers; the moment when he stepped into the boss’s dungeon, hands sweating and the suspense sending his heart into palpitations…
He could go on with these forever.
His friends let him back into the ring, now that they finally had a common topic, something all of them were crazy about. His phone rang when people called to tell him of the newest updates, or the secret passage leading into a bonus level.
Things were looking up. He was no longer alone.
Therefore, Shun could not deny it when others laughed and called him a ‘Dragon Bless’ addict. The current Shun was only here because of the game. He loved the game and he loved it with all his heart.
And then, this happened.
The heroine that he had always admired, the princess warrior Rosalie, appeared right before his very eyes.
“This isn’t happening. It is – She is a fake!”
Ironically, the first thing that came to mind when he thought of Rosalie was of her, stuffing her mouth with curry, without a heed to the situation she was in.
T-T-That couldn’t be the heroine that he had worshipped, could it?
That was just another blonde bimbo.
Yes, that had to be it.
Somehow though, he couldn’t really convince that niggling doubt in his mind that this Rosalie was a fake.
His mind flashed back to the cut scenes in Dragon Bless. Rosalie was always, in every one of them, evoking some inane conversation, and somehow ending up in a fight. And most of the time, that fight became the start of an adventure.
In other words, her ‘dedication towards her duty’ and her ‘unsuspecting naivety’ – the very same traits that had made her so appealing in the game, now translated to a collective bunch of uselessness and annoyance in the real world.
There really was no choice, was there. Rosalie was here. In the flesh.
The unannounced intruding of people’s drawers, the inane suggestion that they start a correspondence, the use of a toilet, the loud growling of her stomach, the mess she made on her face when she ate the cream puffs – all those were definitely the traits of Rosalie, the clueless, uneducated, guileless princess warrior.
Shun could practically hear his heart break upon such a cruel revelation about his idol.
Breathing in deeply, Shun was about to leave the room when he felt something, or rather, someone, grab his hand.
Lying flat on her back, Mikoto had shot her hand out to grab Shun.
“A-Ah, Miko-nee, you’re awake.”
“Do you love that girl, Shun-chan?”
Shun heart skipped a beat.
“Is she your lover?”
“But, she’s your bride, isn’t she?”
“No! She’s – argh! There’s been some kind of mistake!”
Fumbling through his answer, Shun looked down, only to find Mikoto peeking out at him from under her long lashes.
Something was definitely going on.
“… I see.”
And with that, she released her vice-like grip on Shun’s hand, her relief at Shun’s denial practically palpable.
“Y-You know, I think that someone more put together is better for you, Shun-chan.”
An unintelligible response was the best that Shun could muster then. For some reason, Mikoto was resolutely looking away from him.
“Well, for example, someone who’s known you very well ever since you were a kid. Someone who’s slightly older than you, just that slight bit older – maybe that someone would be perfect for you, Shun-chan.”
What was Miko-nee even talking about all of a sudden?!
Shun was confused. Very much so.
“So, what do you think, Shun-chan?”
“Well, I don’t really know –“
“A-Anyways, whatever it is, that girl is a definite no. A one hundred percent no. Sure, I mean, she’s pretty and all, but she’s still a foreigner, and a lot of problems will arise due to that. W-Well, at least, that’s what I-I think. F-From the point of view of one who’s had more life experience than you, o-of course. Like, I mean to say, if you did date her, and then there will be –“
Mikoto’s ramblings came to an abrupt end.
Yet again, she seemed to have fainted dead away.
Rosalie, on the other hand, was sitting, fingers interlaced, on the floor, intently watching the moving screen on the television.
She’d heard an explanation from Shun regarding the television – something about it being an item that showed things happening in a faraway place. However, that only served to intensify her interest in this strange item.
Upon seeing anything foreign to her, or hearing strange sounds coming from the television, she would give a yelp and start shaking like some forlorn puppy, but never once did she avert her gaze.
“Those bastards! They’re completely unfazed, even when us citizens are working until we drop.”
This was a continuation of that news programme. Today, a debate regarding the increase in tax was the main topic.
The debate involved many fancy terms, none of which Rosalie understood. Still –
“They’re not even human!”
Well, for a news programme, they sure were throwing around some exaggerative comments.
“They’re using the sweat and blood of us normal folk to fill in that huge hole that they’ve dug for themselves in Japan’s economy. It’s a lake of blood, that’s what it is!”
“Indeed, a lake of blood.”
“I second that! A bunch of monsters, they are! Our parliament is being run by a bunch of monsters!”
“Then, the prime minister would be –“
“The prime minister would be the Demon King!”
Seconds later, Shun felt a gust of wind in his face.
Rosalie was gone.