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KADOKAWA / Light novel In the Land of Leadale Author: Ceez / Illustrations: Tenmaso Translated by Kevin Gifford ©Ceez 2018 Confidential

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KADOKAWA / Light novel

In the Land of Leadale

Author: Ceez / Illustrations: Tenmaso

Translated by Kevin Gifford

©Ceez 2018


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[Table of Contents]

Prologue: 010

Chapter 1: Inns, Towers, Bears, and Parties 013

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“Madam? It’s morning!”

The girl opened her eyes ever-so-slightly at the strong sunlight and the

young, lispy voice. Above her was the blurry sight of a wood-grain

ceiling; looking right, she could see a window with the square shutters

thrown open. On her left, beyond the broad, white sheets, a girl was

leaning over from the side, brightly smiling.

“Good moorrrrrning!”

“Ah, ahhh…mrrnngg?”

“Hee hee hee! C’mon, miss, it’s morning!”

The almost-blinding smile from the girl made Keina’s eyes naturally

open up. She sat up, stretching out her upper body as she felt the

morning sunlight get absorbed into it, then stopped. The girl at her

bedside had her head tilted to one side, frozen in a look of abject


“A wooden room…with the morning sun coming through it?”

The room she was in last night—or until just now, really—was

surrounded by four white walls, the same boring hospital room she had

seen too much of by now. In fact, here she was—sitting up and

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stretching—with a body that couldn’t even stay alive by itself. She sat

there for just a moment—maybe a few seconds, maybe a few minutes—

until she realized the girl was still looking at her.

“Madam? You all right?”

Keina looked up. The girl must have been really worried about her. She

thought a bit about how to reassure her, the sadness clear in her eyes.

So, putting her own concerns aside for the moment, she opened her item

box. Casually grabbing a candy (refills a small about of MP), she put it

on her palm and presented it to the girl, just like her nurse did back

when she was younger and cried all the time. The girl gleefully accepted


“Th-Thank you, mis!”

“Oh, you’re welcome.”

She got out of bed and patted the girl on the head. This rewarded her

with another broad smile, delivered with slightly reddened cheeks.

The girl put the candy into a pocket in the apron she wore above her

loose shirt, then stripped Keina’s bed of its sheets. She neatly folded

them up and carried them in a big stack out of the room, taking a

moment to say “Come on down soon, okay? Breakfast is ready!” on her

way out.

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Keina spent a moment to take in this view, a sight that warmed the

cockles of her heart, before snapping out of it. She looked back on what

she had just done.

…I “opened my item box?”

The moment she thought it, a rectangular, transparent window opened

on the right side of her vision. It showed a list of fifteen items, with

more appearing above and below if you operated the scroll bar on the

upper right.

“Wait… Is this…?”

She pinched her cheek. …Ow. No, this was reality. That classical way of

determining whether she was dreaming made her realize this window

was for real. She had to face up to it. Her theory about it being a dream

made her open a magic-skill screen next to the item window. It

highlighted “Dream Dropper: Nightmare” for her. The sight made the

blood drain from her face.

This was the world in the online game she had just been playing, she

thought. It was Leadale itself. The stinging in her cheek, and the way

she could actually move herself around, made it clear this was for real.

But she couldn’t fight on an empty stomach. Keina decided to deal with

this problem after she had breakfast in her belly.

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Gingerly making her way down the tall, creaky stairs, she went to the

bar and restaurant on the first floor. The girl from before was there, as

well as a well-built middle-aged who must have run the place. There

were eight round tables in the room, each with four chairs, along with a

bar to the site with four seats facing the kitchen. If the place was full,

navigating between the aisles would come only with difficulty—right

now, though, there were only two men, likely farmers, enjoying some

soup and bread for breakfast.

“All right, my dear, take a seat. The soup’s going to go cold!”

“Um, okay.”

The proprietor goaded her into taking a seat. She opted for the bar and

was immediately presented with some bread and a wooden bowl of soup.

When the girl who came into her room put down a wooden cup filled

with water, the breakfast set was complete. Even before now, Keina had

noticed a few things that were pretty strange if she was in the game’s

world. She decided to think about them after eating.

How many years has it been since I ate using my mouth, anyway?

She tore off a piece of the slightly hardened roll, dipping it into the stew

in front of her and trying it out. The first real taste she had in a while

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made her honest opinion slip out from her lips.

“…This is good…”

“Well, isn’t that nice of you, my dear!” The proprietor, now much

friendlier to her, placed an elbow on the bar. “But what kind of poverty

have you been livin’ in, if this is all it takes to make you smile and say



She must have smiled without realizing it. She didn’t notice at all until

it was pointed out to her. Looking back, the only sustenance she took

orally was water and capsules. Everything else came in through the IV

drip. Since she had the accident, her life had been bereft of anything

resembling real food. It made her feel empty.

“Well… I never really had anything like this, lately…”

“Oh? Poor thing. If you aren’t eating well, then you’re missing out on

half of what makes life great! Here, have as much as you want. Refills

on the house!”

“Um, thank you!”

The proprietor gave her a kind slap on the shoulder as she plopped down

another bowl of stew, this one filled up the very lip of the wooden bowl.

Keina tensed up.

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Can I really eat all this…?

It looked like more than her stomach could contain, but if something

smells good enough, that was all it apparently took to challenge one’s

limits. Realizing she was hungrier than she thought, she tucked right

into it. It was just the right amount to give her indigestion.

She drank some water to calm her irritated stomach as she looked

around the first floor of the inn. This village, she knew, was on the

border between Felstus, the Land of White, and Gulskero, the Land of

Jade. It was rural, but as the region went, it was located in the middle of

a busy trade route. Several wagons were parked out in front, belonging

to busy merchants traveling this way and that, and there were many

other inns around the general area…is how it was positioned in the

game, anyway.

So why was this one so barren of guests?

The last time she logged out from here, she recalled a fair number of

NPCs dotted around, the background crowd noises bothering her ears.

One remarkable difference from the game was that, instead of saying

the same thing every time, NPCs really reacted to you, bringing their

own emotions into it. She couldn’t really call them NPCs any longer.

That was how Keina knew this was both the game, and not the game.

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Her real question was: How long can I live in this game? That was the

issue she had to tackle next. She opened her item window, checking the

money in her possession. The balance had nine zeroes in it, and she

tried taking twenty Gil (the game’s currency) out. She presented the

twenty silver coins to the proprietor, seeing if they’d actually work.


“Yes? What d’you need?”

“I’d like to stay here for a little while, but will these work?”

The silver coins, both sides stamped with some kind of flower pattern,

jangled onto the bar. These only existed as numbers in the game, but

when given shape like this, Keina thought they were actually kind of


“Whoa, what are you…?!”

But the proprietor and her daughter reacted rather unexpectedly to this.

The girl stared at the coins, eyes open wide, while her mother picked one

up and stared at it carefully, flipping it over in her palm before

returning it to Keina with a sigh.

“These are fine, but…you can’t go flashing riches like these around

here, dear.”


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Riches? These? You’re kidding. The shops had pills that boosted your

attack force five percent for half an hour, and those cost around forty

Gil. Even a shovel cost around ten, so Keina figured twenty would be

around the right amount of a night’s stay. She was wrong. According to

the proprietor, four of these would reward her with a ten-night stay.

It made Keina realize that she had a lot to learn about the economy

around here. At least the first NPC she met turned out to be honest.

She was still full of questions, but the first order of business was why

this village seemed so abandoned.

“I feel like this village used to be more bustling…?”

“Ohh, that’d be a good four generations ago. But after Felskero was

founded, it’s kind of fallen apart a little, yes. We don’t see many

adventurers like you these days, my dear.”


Her mind stopped cold at this unfamiliar term. It was like they added

the Lands of White and Green’s names together and divided it by two.

Wait. Isn’t this a game…?

“You know,” the proprietor continued, oblivious to Keina’s confusion,

“with the Seven Nations waging war against other two hundred years

ago, everything really turned into a heap. It was such a terrible war that

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the gods selected a new set of leaders from humanity. They worked

together to forge three new nations, and that’s what we have now.”

“Tell that adventurer something she wouldn’t know!” shouted out one

of the farmers, done with breakfast but still sticking around for lack of

anything else to do.

“Ahh, shut up! Go back to your fields! Now!”

The farmers, cowed by her amplified screaming, trundled themselves

out of there. Keina was the only one left.

What little the proprietor had to tell her still gave Keina a much deeper

insight into the world. This “Seven Nations” era, by her estimation, was

the exact setting of Leadale, the VR-MMORPG she had been playing

until yesterday. The game had no set jobs, such as fighter or priest or

mage, but instead offered a roster of over four thousand skills. You were

free to customize your race, equipment, and skills any way you liked,

creating an avatar that was truly your own, and this high degree of

freedom led some to dismiss it as a “kids’ playground” on the net.

Every month, the game would stage a “war” event between the Seven

Nations, with the territory of each one expanding or contracting based

on the results. This was a huge deal for the players, because if a nation

could capture certain regions from their rivals, the winning side’s

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players could earn event-based bonus items. Users would hold massive

strategy meets the day before, large enough that, on at least one

occasion, the crowds brought down a nation’s servers and kept them

from participating in the war at all. Everyone could laugh at it now, but

the tears shed at the time were pretty massive.

Hearing that these Lands of White, Jade, Red, Azure, Brown, Black, and

Violet were now two-hundred-year-old history made what Keina thought

was her in-game expertise audibly shatter in her mind. How was she

supposed to live in a world two centuries beyond the one she knew?

Dark clouds seemed to loom in her future.

The very first thing, she reasoned, was to learn as much as she could

about this world. She’d have to build up her knowledge in a number of

fields before she could really settle down in her. If she just holed up in

here, too scared to do anything, she knew she’d just get laughed at.

Compared to the hateful faces of those willing to turn her suffering into

a bar anecdote, a little bit of anxiety was just the spice of life by


“…But if you’re asking about that far into the past, have you been here


“Huh? Uh…”

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She hesitated. She couldn’t really say something like “This is where I

logged out last night,” after all.

“You’re an elf, right?”

“Um, ahh, yes.”

Keina looked exactly like the avatar she was using at the time. She used

the Mirror of Truth (an item passed out during an in-game event that

had no use outside of it) in her inventory to be sure of it. As the name

suggested, the mirror only showed the truth. She expected to see the

frail girl in the hospital bed as she gingerly turned it to herself, but

instead he avatar was right there. She thought she would faint for a


Her dark, golden hair, which she could see if she pulled down her bangs

a little, went down to around her shoulders. Her deep blue eyes, along

with her slightly pointed ears, were her other remarkable features.

Those ears, which stuck out a bit through her hair, was the sign of a

long-lived humanoid race.

The High Elf race that Keina picked was more suited for rear-guard

work than regular Elves. She chose it just because their upper INT and

MP limits were the highest among the selectable races. Not too many

people playing Leadale picked it; some said their standard battle

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motions looked the lamest out of all races. Keina played one, but not

even she saw too many running around anymore—part of the reason

why her team, built of nothing but High Elves, enjoyed a decent amount

of notoriety in the game.

“Well… I was here once, back when it was more popular…”

There was no particular reason to hide it, so Keina decided to be honest.

“Were you? So you know how it was before, my dear? That’s kind of

sweet, actually. A customer from that long ago staying here again…”

Keina smiled at the thought that she had some special affinity for this

inn. She certainly didn’t.

“Ah, my name’s Marale, and this kid over here is Litt. Feel free to enjoy

yourself at the inn!”

“Thank you very much. My name is Keina.”

She sat up on her stool and bowed her head.

“Keina, eh? Well, no need for formality around here!” Marale gave her

a slap on the back. She appreciated it.

Back in her bedroom, Keina immediately started poring through her

inventory, making sure everything was there. Bringing up her stat

screen, the first thing that caught her eye was:

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Name: Keina (Lv. 1100)

Race: High Elf Title: Skill Master *No. 3*

Level 1,000 was the cap in Leadale. The next hundred came after

completing a special limit-break quest.

That quest was a tricky one, requiring challengers to form large parties

to conquer it. Keina and her friends fielded help from inside and outside

their respective guilds, attempting the quest and failing it multiple

times. It took four teams of twenty-four people at once to finally seal the

deal—and given how several members broke down into tears along the

way, whoever created that quest, Keina thought, must have been

downright evil. Everyone who survived to the end shouted “Screw you,

developers!!” into their mikes. She hadn’t heard of anyone finishing the

quest after her, so in essence, Keina and her fellow party members were

the strongest players in the game.

Two advantages to High Elves were the ten-percent bonus to fighting

skills and skills when battling on natural terrain and their keen

perception. On the other hand, they couldn’t gather their own plant

materials for skill-crafting purposes. Keina asked guildmates to handle

that for her when they were free, or purchased them from people

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operating stands on the side of the road.

The “Skill Master” title meant that, out of the four thousand skills in the

game (with more coming regularly from the design team), Keina had

mastered 1,500 magical and 2,500 crafted skills. A lofty honor. She was

the third to earn that title, out of fourteen overall, which earned her

that fancy little “*No. 3*” suffix.

That title was much of the reason why Keina didn’t venture into

populous parts of each nation too much, preferring to log in and out from

rural inns like this instead.

When you earned the Skill Master title, you were also automatically

awarded your 4,001st skill—Create Scroll. This allowed Skill Masters

like Keina to write their skills on parchment, letting other players

obtain them without having to go through any annoying quests. This

chiefly meant that whenever she ran into another player, they’d always

parrot out “give me this” or “give me that,” driving her up the wall. The

game’s Skill Masters eventually asked the admins to do something

about it, but by the time it got to that point, at least one Skill Master

had already had a breakdown and left Leadale for good.

To solve this, the admins agreed to have the Skill Masters take over for

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some of the skill-reward quests previously handled by NPCs. Each

Master was given a base location of their choice and allowed to set a

target goal for anyone who reached that base. If a player was above that

goal, they would be allowed to pick a skill from the ones handed out by

the game’s most difficult quests.

These bases ran the gamut, offering fiendish challenges for any players

taking them on. Some of them were beautiful mansions filled with insta-

death traps. Some were undersea palaces that required the ability to

breathe underwater (and filled with sea monsters, of course). Some were

castles in the sky, requiring both flight and hawk-like precision to reach.

These were access via a chamber that changed position daily, hiding

itself deep within a mountain range; finding it was the only way in, and

even that chamber was often an enormous dungeon of its own.

Really, it was basically telling normal players to go screw themselves.

You could tell how riled up the Skill Masters were at all the players

begging them for stuff.

Along those lines, Keina was much fairer. She operated a silver tower in

the middle of twisty labyrinth of a forest; anyone who reached the top

floor won her prize, but doing so took twenty-four hours of real time. The

real grueling part was the long stairway upward, much longer than how

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it looked from the outside. Whenever players got inside, it would start

rotating like a drill, matching the party’s speed, so running up it didn’t

work. If you stopped at any point along the way, you were whisked back

outside of the forest—which, if anything, was kinder than what most

Skill Master traps did to you. There was a ring that let the bearer use a

keyword to warp to the top, so Keina didn’t have to deal with this


Making a mental note to see if this base still existed later, Keina began

inspecting her items and equipment. Her main clothing at the moment

was the Fairy Lord’s Robe, equippable only by high-level female High

Elves; she was probably the only person in the game able to wear it.

This was joined by hot pants down to her knees and a thick pair of boots,

both crafted by herself and both offering an assortment of stat bonuses.

Her left hand had an armguard with a built-in bow that deployed on

command and fired magical areas that consumed MP. She also had a

hairband with some feathers on the right side that (again, with some

MP consumption) deployed an invisible barrier that automatically

launched against external attack.

Her weapon, displayed first in her item list, was the Thunder Dagger,

the most powerful of its class. If she received any damage at all from an

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attack, she could counter it with a paralyzing strike

“I have to say, this is almost like cheating…”

Given her usual battle tactics of firing of attack magic willy-nilly, she

really didn’t need to be this well-armed, but now that she didn’t hang

out with her guildmates so much, it never hurt to be too well prepared.

Even as a High Elf, not suited for the front lines, she’d make a fine tank

for a lower-level party. Now she’d just have to sift through whatever was

left in the toolbox back at base.


Suddenly, Keina realized she totally forgot about her support AI. Her

uncle got it on special-order when she started to have trouble with her

real-life mobility; an AI that supported her daily life even when she was

bedridden. “He” was connected to her hospital bed, automatically doing

things like raising up the back and even calling for a nurse in an

emergency. He helped out with in-game commands as well, keeping

detailed logs and helping cover all the other little details. This included

reminding her of examinations and telling her about visitors while she

was sleeping.

He had been a partner of hers longer than most of her in-game friends,

and if he didn’t respond to her, she wasn’t sure what she would do.

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“…Kii, are you there?”

Right here.

Keina breathed a sigh of relief. He was named after a cat her mother

used to have. He kept his statements short and to the point, no emotion

present as he spoke to his master.

There are two emergency incidents to review.

“Oh, right. What are they?”

One, I have been cut off from the hospital system. Two, I have been cut

off from the Leadale Master System.

“Oh… Thanks.”

She could’ve predicted both of those, being here in this not-a-game

game. But why was Keina here? She hadn’t even heard the slightest

rumor of Leadale, the VR-MMO, ending service anytime soon. Even if

she was far away from the capital and her friend, if there was a major

event along those lines, the admins would let players know at login

time, or her guildmates would use private chat to tell her.

Keina reached into her mind, piecing together her final memories. The

support AI informed her that her uncle and cousin had come to visit, and

she thought she logged out to see them. They all chatted for a while,

then she logged in again, but got sleepy before she could do much of

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anything, so she went to bed in a logged-in state. That was the last thing

she recalled—and then something happened, and now she was here.

“Mmm… Did anything unusual happen last night, Kii?”

There was one incident.

“There was?!”

Something that he (?) couldn’t categorize as an emergency? Maybe it

was too vague to parse that way.

Electricity was cut off for two seconds after you fell asleep. The two

emergency incidents occurred after that.

“The power was cut?”

There is an eighty percent probability that it was a general power


“Oh. …Wait, a power outage?!”

That was clearly a big deal. Keina was convince that was the culprit.

The conclusion this led to put a pall over her mind.


Keina Kakami was in such a state of weakness that she could no longer

survive without being attached to a life-support system. She knew that,

and the doctors warned her about it. Some external cause, lightning or

something, shut off power to that system—and only two seconds later,

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the hospital’s emergency generators kicked in.

It must have only been her soul that escaped into this world. In other

words, Keina Kakami’s physical body was dead.

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Chapter 1: Inns, Towers, Bears, and Parties


The truth was so shocking to Keina that she lost consciousness for a bit.

The next thing she knew, it was late enough that the sky before her had

taken on an orange hue. Half the day had been wasted. She shook her

head, trying not to blame herself. Anyone faced with that realization

would have done the same thing. A lot of them would have just thrown it

into the wastebin of their memory, attempting to evade reality.

There were no glass windows at the inn, so closing the shutters made

her room instantly go black. She reopened them halfway, letting the

orange light of sunset seep in. Looking around the room again, she

spotted a lantern hanging on the wall.

“Lanterns are used for light around here, right…?”

Keina—who had never camped out before, much less undergone survival

training—had no idea how to light a lantern. Magic was the most

obvious alternative. Illumination magic was a must-have skill for

players specializing in dungeon exploration; you could obtain it via a

relatively easy question. If you lacked it, a lantern item was your sole

alternative, and in-game lanterns were notoriously picky—the

- 30 -

consumed fuel, they were effective only in certain ranges, they took up

one hand in your equipment slot and had to be swapped out in

emergencies. Super inconvenient. Only total beginners used them.

Magic, on the other hand, was much more versatile, castable on

weapons and armor and usable in the form of magic items. You could

even sell them to other people as joke items, if they had the right magic

cast on them. Some people even completely ignored equipping

themselves for battle and just used magic to make themselves shine

brightly in Day-Glo rainbow colors.

“Worship me!”

“Whoa! Too bright!”

“My halo! The glory of my aura!”

“Let’s leave this idiot behind and keep going.”


“Wait, don’t leave me!!”

Keina snickered at the member. It seemed like it only happened

yesterday. Nostalgia had a way of making her cry sometimes, but she

shook off he urge. It’s not that she wanted to forget. They were precious

memories now, and she had to search for some new fun.

First, she wanted to test out her magic, in part to be sure it worked at

- 31 -

all in this world. She targeted the lantern, called up a skill in her mind,

and launched it.

[Magic Skill:Add White Light Lv. 1:Light:ready set]



It was just like in the game. Keina sighed, relieved. But the light gasp

she heard from the half-open door, now illuminated in bright white light,

was a concern. She spotted Litt, the proprietor’s daughter, timidly

staring at her through the crack in the door. The lantern must have

spooked her. Keina, confused at the response, walked up to her.

“What’s the matter, Litt?”

“Ah… Are, um, is that okay?”

Realizing the lantern was unnerving her, she waved her hands around

it, showing it was safe. “Oh, this? It’s just a light. It won’t blow up or

hurt people or anything. Don’t worry.”

The girl walked in, but still stuck to the wall, refusing to venture in

further. Keina began to wonder if magic wasn’t something regular

villagers got to see too often.

“Is this the first time you’ve seen magic, Litt?”

She gave a light nod in response. Then Keina realized why she was here.

- 32 -

In her hands was a dish with a wick and a measure of oil; a candle-like

flame flickered above it. It must have been her job to light the guests’


“…Oh, did I get in the way of your work, Litt?”

“N-No, this is a lot brighter. That’s amazing, miss!”

“Oh. Well, I’m glad you like it, I guess.”

They smiled at each other. Litt’s smile still looked a little strained, but it

wouldn’t do to point that out to her. This was the first girl she had dealt

with since her cousin, and it made Keina feel warm inside.

A new question was forming in her mind. Where did all the players that

used to dot the land go? If the admins sent out a note along the lines of

“Okay, starting tomorrow we’re moving the clock up two hundred years,”

it was easy to imagine the entire player base revolting over it. The

Seven Nations wars were one of the game’s primary attractions, after


“Let’s try hitting up the tower tomorrow. …Hmm?”

She was distracted by something tugging at her sleeve. It was Litt, now

next to her.

“Hey, so, um, I came to say it’s dinnertime.”

- 33 -

“Oh! Sorry to keep you.”

“That’s all right. You’re the only guest.”

Is that okay to say to a guest? And how can the proprietor’s only

daughter even say that? It conflicted Keina a bit, as Litt shut and bolted

the window shutters and guided her down. Unlike the morning, Keina

could hear commotion down below. Looking at the dining area, he saw

ten or two men, young and old, drinking, eating, and chatting with each

other. Perhaps it was rare for this inn to see overnighters at all.

Keina walked across the barroom, attracting the attention of almost

everyone along the way, and sat in the same barstool as morning.

Without skipping a beat, Marale had dinner in front of her, beaming.

“Sorry it’s so loud in here! They’re all harmless enough, so don’t worry

about ’em!”

“Aw, c’mon, lady!” one of the onlookers shouted.

“Yeah, we’re helpin’ make you money here!”

“You better be careful, little girl. This guy here, back in the day, was

the greatest hero the village ever oof!”

The final heckler was interrupted by a flying tray from the hands of

Marale. She would’ve been a mean woman with a Frisbee. Her

unfortunate victim leaned back on his chair, shaking his head. Keina,

- 34 -

seeing this comedy act unfold before here, was dumbfounded. The rest of

the dining area—or, really, bar at this point—found this uproariously


“Well, eat it while it’s hot. My husband’s food is the best there is.”

“Certainly. Thank you. …Huh?”

Keina found the steaming food being taken out by a young woman,

basically a younger, thinner version of Marale. This puzzled her—she

didn’t see her this morning. The woman must’ve picked up on it, because

she grinned and opened her mouth.

“I’m Lewyn, the elder daughter at the inn. I’m married now, so I just

help out with dinner around here. Are you that rare long-term guest I

heard about?”

“Yes, my name is Keina. I’m charmed to meet you.”

“Hey, no guest ever talks like that to the help. What rich family did you

come from?”

Keina didn’t mean for it to sound that polite. She wasn’t sure how to

reply to this. She was from what you’d consider a “rich” family, but once

her parents died, she certainly wasn’t called upon to act much like one.

Her experiences in the game had done a lot to reshuffle her manners.

She may not have noticed it, but her cousin chided her about it all the

- 35 -


“Now, now, Lewyn,” Marale said, offering Keina a lifeboat. “Don’t put

our guest here in a bind. The food’s going to get cold. If you’ve got time to

talk, get another round of ale out there!”

“Oh, all right. A little talk’s not going to harm anyone, Mom…”

Lewyn muttered to herself as she went back to waitressing. Keina

looked up at Marale, worried. That sounded like quite a scolding to her,

but Marale just smiled back at her.

“Hmm? If you want to talk to her, I’d advice eating what you have


“Oh, of course.”

There was the morning’s stew with some more meat and vegetables for

more heartiness, as well as a small bowl of salad. Keina was all smiles

eating it, raving about how wonderful it was, and Marale responded in

kind, offering as many seconds as she wanted.

After a while, when a couple of the villagers began to pass out, Lewyn

sat down next to Keina and began conversing like an old friend. This

late in the night, without as much to do until final closing, apparently

she was relieved of duty. Keina did most of the talking.

“Wow, so you stayed here two hundred years ago?”

- 36 -

“This was still a trade route along the border. There were wagons, and

people, and inns as far as the eye could see. It was really frantic!”

Keina was just as frantic herself, being forced to talk about events from

two centuries ago. Given that she had only stopped by last night, the

memory was little more than a photograph in her mind; she didn’t have

any detailed recollection. She was forced to embellish a bit, which did

nothing to assuage her guilt.

“Well, maybe you’ve met my great-grandmother, then. The said she

was one of the most beautiful women of all time!”

“Oh, I wasn’t around for that long…”

Why was a relative from two hundred years ago still being talked about

today? What a scary place this is. Keina began to wonder if that NPC

really existed.

“But what were you doing way out here anyway?”

“Um, I was, ah, searching…”

“Searching?” Marale shouted as she walked buy, several empty mugs in

her hands. Great. That was the truth she told—and she had no idea if it

was even still here. Keina was distracted by Litt, holding a tray and

looking at her quizzically. It was so cute, she couldn’t help but tousle her

hair, receiving a smile in response.

- 37 -

She was searching for something, but technically speaking, it was her

home base. Kii, her support AI, stated that since Keina was cut off from

the Master System, he couldn’t provide a world map or other positional

info. In other words, not only was she lost; she was cut off from the rest

of the world. She had decided to stay here until she got used to things,

but she needed to figure out where her tower was, and how far away it

was from this village.

It’d be easy to use her ring to warp to the tower, but it didn’t work both

ways—she’d have to work her way through the surrounding forest to

return to the village. She thought using flight magic to soar at high

altitude back here, but if Litt hadn’t even seen someone using magical

illumination before, she feared flight would make the villagers brand

her a witch, a monster, or worse. She felt (though it may have just been

her ego talking) that she didn’t want to interfere with the peace around


“What are you searching for? I’ll help you if I can.”

“Umm, well, I’m looking for a silver tower in a forest.”


The honest reply stunned the elder Marale and the younger Lewyn to

silence. Their faces were frozen in surprise, their eyes filled with fear.

- 38 -

“What, what are you gonna do in that terrible place?”

“Ooh, I’d advise against that! There’s no telling what you’ll find!”

The quivering in their voices told the whole story. They clearly worried

for Keina’s good health. Too bad the woman behind this fear-inducing

tower was Keina herself—Keina, who had no idea what all this as about.

Question marks popped up over her head. What? Huh? Did dragons

move in after I abandoned it for two hundred years, or something?

Dragons were always popular monsters in games like these, but in the

Leadale VR-MMO, they didn’t exist as active monsters. For the most

part, they existed in the form of summoned magic, and most of those

existed in the bases or dungeons owned by players and guilds, where

they were generally used as watchdogs (watchdragons?). To put it

another way, unless you were infiltrating another player’s domain, the

only way to fight a dragon was to ask someone else to cast Summon

Magic: Dragon for you.

That was the conclusion Keina made. Someone must have occupied the

tower when she left it empty, using it as their own base, watchdragons

and all. She couldn’t discount that possibility.

Fortunately—or unfortunately—Lewyn took that right off the table.

“There’s a legend of an evil Silver-Crowned Witch living in there!”

- 39 -


Keina threw her head against the bar counter. Now it was Marale and

Lewyn giving her odd looks. She just sat there, shaking a little, not

trying to get up. Litt, fearing some sudden illness, tugged at her robe—

and then she sat up and leaped off her seat.

“Are, are you okay…? Do you feel sick?”

“I’m fine and healthy! No problem! Well, I better get going! Good


At blazing speed, she zipped up the stairs, the three of them looking on


“What happened to her…?”

“Did something about the Silver-Ringed Witch scare her?”

“It didn’t look that way to me… Ah, well. C’mon, let’s close up.”

Marale’s authoritative command set her daughters off to clean up,

quickly forgetting all about Keina.

Keina, back in her room, was buried under her bedcovers, shaking.

“That still exists after two hundred years? That is so embarrassing…”

And the topic coming up exactly when it did? It was almost like some

villain was trying to shame her as much as possible.

- 40 -

The “Silver-Ringed Witch” was a diss name for Keina.

One side bonus of earning the Skill Master title was the ability to earn

whatever artifact the player wanted. There were limits to what you

could earn with these, but most of them were vastly powered-up special

equipment. For her order, Keina requested an item that boosted her

magic stats and put up a magical barrier around her at all times. She

left the design of it to the developers, and it came back to her as a

gigantic silver ring that circled around the user.

It looked like one of Saturn’s rings at first glance—which was fine, if it

was just that. But equip it, and it automatically triggered a floating

magic that made her (according to one of her comrades in a Seven

Nations war) look like a boss from some shooting game.

However cool it may have looked, its effects were devastating. She

already had a great deal of stat boosts, thanks to her race and Skill

Master status. Between that and her limit-broken levels, Keina’s

offensive stats were several levels above anyone else in the game. With

the silver ring in play, that got further powered up, letting her toss

around megaton bombs of powered-up magic with abandon. It made all

her opposing players shiver, and that nickname came around the first

time she broke it out in war.

- 41 -

It was an episode Keina wished would be forgotten about forever…and

now, in this other world, it was part of the local mythology. You just can’t

control what people say.

The shame of it all made her quiver for a bit, but in time, Keina shook

off the negativity and mentally switched gears. She never did learn

where the tower was, so she decided to save that for tomorrow.

The fact that nickname existed at all proved that players did exist.

If there were other players besides Keina here, all the shorter-lived

races—the humans and warcats—would have died in the ensuing two

hundred years. But there were a lot of dwarves and elves around, too.

Maybe she could track them down.

“Better stop thinking about it for now. I’m not even really sure about

anything yet.”

Her mind was running in circles and there was nobody to discuss

matters with. She decided to put it on the back burner until she found a

true comrade.

She locked the door and, there being nothing else to do, tried to sleep. It

was early for that, she thought, but being raised in the modern age of

science, Keina had no idea what people did for entertainment in this

world. To her, the world of Leadale itself was the entertainment.

- 42 -

The main issue was the light bothering her. The lantern she cast that

magic on was still shining brightly, illuminating the entire room. That

light was supposed to last for around six hours. Normally, when you cast

it in a dungeon and it went out, that was a sign it was time to leave the

dungeon. If a party needed to cancel a raid for one reason or another,

they usually just abandoned whatever item they cast the light on and

headed out.

Needing some sleep, Keina tried casting a Lv. 2 Dark Light on top of it.

It enveloped the light, making the room not just dark but pitch black,

and she buried herself in the covers, relieved.

“That’ll go away by morning anyway.”

She didn’t think she needed equipment while sleeping, but she didn’t

exactly bring pajamas with her. So she just removed the heavy

armguard from her left hand and placed it in her item box. As Marale

put it, a bath was one step too far luxury-wise, so she cast a Cleansing

magic on herself before heading off into sleep.

Late at night, as a quiet settled upon the village, two shadows waved

their way around the alleys.

“Y’know, Zena, they said she’s an adventurer. Sneaking in’s gotta be

- 43 -

crazy reckless.”

“Don’t be stupid. You think that rich girl’s capable of anything? She’s

the perfect target.”

They were were Zena and Lyle, two rogues known around the village as

petty thieves. They were after the wallet of Keina, the girl who bandied

all that money around earlier in the day. She looked like a novice

adventurer to them, so their confidence was understandable. But in the

past, she would’ve bene known as one of the Ascended. It was like a pair

of mice taking on a huge, slavering beast, but they had no way of

knowing that—or even the power to find out.

Using a ladder they borrowed from a nearby barn, they stealthily

climbed up to the roof of the inn Keina was staying in. Using a thin

metal plate, Lyle ran it through the slit of the window shudders,

undoing the bolt from the outside.

He was greeted by what looked like a pit of eternal darkness. It made

him let out an audible gasp as he reared back. There was nothing

behind him, of course, and so he wound up falling off with a heavy


“What the hell happened to you?” Zena asked. His brother, the wind

knocked out of him, couldn’t respond.

- 44 -

“…What the?”

Then, in the moonlight, he saw the darkness oozing out from the

window. It unnerved Zena, but his greed still beat out his fear, and he

decided to venture into the dark—not noticing the magic that shot out

from inside.

Keina’s equipment featured a lot of EX items that boosted her stats and

skills in assorted dizzying ways. One of them, the silver ring on her

right hand, was set to trigger Summon Magic: Thunder Spirit Lv. 3

whenever an active monster came near. This was original made as a way

for players to protect their avatars while away from the game; it got the

nickname “pepper spray” for that reason, after the admins surprised the

players with an event featuring monsters marauding all the cities.

(Between this and items that let you de-facto leave graffiti on idling

players, the cities in Leadale were definitely not safe for work.)

The Thunder Spirit was meant as a deterrent, if a rather strong one. It

was automatically triggered near hostiles, its level set at 330 (the user’s

maximum level, times the summon level, times thirty percent). In terms

of difficulty, you’d need around four players of the same level to tackle it.

Thus, with a terrific crack of lightning, a chunky-looking polygonal lion

materialized right in front of Zena’s face. The shockwave of it

- 45 -

electrocuted Zena as he tried to enter the room, the lion following him as

he screamed his way to the ground. The moment Lyle dusted himself off,

he was greeted by his limp brother falling next to him, followed by a

sparking lion larger than a full-grown bear. They both zoomed away

from the scene, adrenaline making them forget their pain. The lion

chased them around the village until they finally left town grounds,

upon which it returned to Keina.

Using a paw to deftly close the open shutters, it meekly sat down in the

middle of the room. By the time the Dark Light’s effect faded, the magic

power inside of it had been used up, and it vanished into thin air.

Keina, of course, had no idea any of this happened, so she was refreshed

and relieved when the sun through the shutters woke her up. Only Kii,

who was always observing his master, saw it all—but he decided it

wasn’t worth reporting, so the truth was lost to all time.

“Oh, the weather’s so nice!”

Opening the shutters, Keina took in the fresh air, and the landscape

illuminated by the sunrise. It was her first chance to, and it sent her

heart soaring. Memories of the views she saw when mountain climbing

with her family at a young age came into her mind. They made her tear

up a little, as she kept viewing the landscape. At the very far edge of it,

- 46 -

she could see something reflecting the sunlight. She turned to her right

and used Perception to get a close-up view.

“…Oh, there it is.”

It was at the base of the mountain range to the right of her view. Only

the top half was visible from here, but the looming silver tower was

there, clear as day.

“Guess that’s my goal for today,” she said to herself, giggling as she

moved away from the windows and unlocked the door to answer the


(To be continued.)



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