The Bear and the Quest
□ Ray Starling
Royal Capital, Altea
Before the main street’s fountain
A short while had passed after my encounter with Liliana, which ended with me receiving my first quest. Now, at long last, I finally arrived at the water fountain in the main street, the meeting location that had been arranged by my brother.
Incidentally, when I took a glance at the details for the quest I had automatically obtained, its objective was to find Liliana’s little sister. However, it appeared that its degree of difficulty, ranked “5”, usually required a party of individuals leveled 51 and above.
Without a doubt, that was beyond my reach. To begin with, why was it that such a quest was being given out to people who barely started playing the game?
For the time being, let’s discuss that with my brother. With that in mind, I had rushed over to this fountain, but…
In front of said fountain…
『Welcome Little Brother』
…Was written in a sign board, held by a nearly two-meter-tall… “bear costume” that ridiculously stood there.
“…The hell’s that?”
Nope, no way, it couldn’t possible… oh no.
This was the correct meeting place.
There shouldn’t have been many people who would be waiting for their younger brothers.
Since the person didn’t know their brother’s character name, nor they couldn’t possibly use his real name, I could understand why they would write “Little Brother” in the sign board.
“Why a costume?”
A lot of courage would be needed to begin a conversation with that.
Rather, I didn’t know whether they were NPCs or Players, but there were a lot of kids gathered for that animal costume; they were on top of the bear’s head and lap, dangling from its arm and splendidly hugging it.
At this rate I wasn’t going to make any progress, so I readied myself and decided to talk with the bear.
“Excuse me, could I ask you a question…?”
『Yeah, beary sure.』
Drop that “beary” stuff.
“Are you Mukudori Shuuichi-san… err, are you my older brother?”
“Indeed. Sup, Reiji.”
…Ah, I had really wanted to be wrong.
“I’m glad we’ve managed to meet here. Then, shall we go?”
The bear… err, my brother, Mukudori Shuuichi, said that and stood up. A moment later, after looking at all the children that had gathered all around him, he used his storage bag, which looked completely different than mine—I mean, it was a pocket affixed to the belly part of the costume—and took out sweets from there, distributing them to the kids.
Are you pretending to be the good old Doraemon? Then you should’ve used a cat costume, or at most a tanuki one.
“Bear-san, thank youu!”
Having received the sweets, the children happily cheered while leaving the place.
Consequently, only my brother and I remained here. He then began walking towards some specific place, talking with me in the meantime.
『First of all, let’s introduce ourselves. My name here is ‘Shuu Starling’.』
“And mine is Ray Starling. I guess we chose something pretty similar, huh.”
Since it was fairly simple to use the English translation for our family name, during the creation of a character 80% of the time we would end up with “Starling” as its surname.
『So, what are you going to do? Looks like your ＜Embryo＞ hasn’t hatched yet. Want me to show you around the town? While we’re at it, we could arrange some equipment for you. I will lend you some money for that—free of interest, of course.』
“Ahh, that’s right…”
I talked to my brother about the quest I had received earlier.
“Ohoo, a quest from that Liliana? I have never received it.”
“I mean, why would she give such a quest to someone like me, a level 0?”
『That’s because of how realistic this world is. A lot of the quests here are generated accidentally. It’s not like there are specific events that will trigger a quest—rather, it’s because of completely incidental events that a quest is created. What happens a lot is people aiming for a quest but never receiving it, or conversely, they end up with a quest they didn’t mean to generate. Well, you made a nice debut in this game… so, were you also able to feel the realism of this world’s inhabitants?』
“Yeah, so much that even now I’m filled with paranoia, wondering whether the person I’m talking to is really my brother, or just some NPC pretending to be him.”
“Of course I’m your beary brother. Please bearive me.”
“Drop the bear tic already.”
I knew the person inside the costume, so whenever I thought about who was saying all those bear puns, an indescribable feeling welled up inside me.
『Hahaha. By the way, that Liliana is a contender for the most, or second most popular person in the Kingdom. There’s even a fan club full of players and tians.』
“There are fan clubs here… oh right, what are ‘tians’?”
『Those individuals who aren’t players. Well, it’s fine to just use the generic ‘NPCs’ for them.』
“Oohh… in other words, there are even NPC members in the club?”
『You see, according to the admins, the tians apparently have ‘the same level of thought and individuality as a real human.’ It’s beary common.』
Really, it was scary just how advanced this game was.
『By the way, about that quest of yours, weren’t there any details about where you should be searching for the kid?』
“Nope, there was nothing. That’s why, without any clues, I don’t even know where I am supposed to be looking for her.”
If anything, the only clue I had was this written note.
『Huumm, can I see that card for a moment?』
“Here it is.”
My brother took the paper and, instead of reading its contents, turned it over to show me its other side.
【To big sis:
There weren’t any rems in the shop, so I’m going to pick some.
Don’t worry, I’m bringing with me an incense to repel insects.
I hope you look forward to it.
“What is this?”
『You were in a hurry, right? She wrote her contact information on the back of her little sister’s note and then gave it to you.』
I hadn’t noticed that until just now. The note was written in the so-called “parchment”, so its backside wasn’t visible from the front.
“What are those ‘rems’?”
『She’s talking about the【Rem Fruit】. It’s one of the high-grade delicacies found around this area. Think of it as a freaking delicious fruit.』
“And since she mentioned ‘pick,’ it means that she went outside to look for those fruits, right?”
Looked like Miliane was a pretty active kid.
『There are two places around here where you can harvest the rem fruits. The first one is the orchard inside this Royal Capital. And just like in the real world, you have to pay a fee to actually harvest the fruits in the orchard. However, to participate there you need to pay 5000 Lirs per basket.』
What, that was the total sum received by the players at the beginning of the game.
『The second location is the ＜Old Loew’s Orchard＞, right outside of the south gates.』
“The ＜Old Loew’s Orchard＞?”
『For a number of reasons, various insect-type monsters began living there and the orchard was abandoned. Even now, a lot of fruit trees still freely grow there, but the place turned into a literal den of monsters.』
“…That’s why there was the mention of an ‘insect repellent incense’, and so on…”
She had way too much energy…
“Damn it, you should’ve gone to the safest one, kid!!”
『It would be hard for a child to have 5000 Lirs with her, you know. Even a single rem, sold at 50 Lirs, is already pretty expensive.』
“But that doesn’t mean she’d…”
『Incidentally, considering that the ＜Old Loew’s Orchard＞ is located near a player’s starting point, they sometimes mistake it as a place for newbies and end up getting beaten to death there. Actually, that place is one of those so-called Trap Dungeons, nicknamed, “Rookie Killer.”』
This was simply the worst.
I just realised it now, but when we met, Liliana was probably already heading towards that old orchard. At that time, she’d said, “then she’s already inside there.” Most likely, the woman was certain that, since I had just crossed the south gates and didn’t see Miliane, her sister had already entered the orchard.
『At any rate, we should prioritize clearing this quest. I have the feeling that it is the kind that will fail after some time has passed.』
『Didn’t I tell you? In this world, not only incidents occur by mere chance, but they are pretty realistic. So… the sense of security that the old generation of games had, where “until the player clears the quest, everything is fine and safe,” doesn’t exist here, at all.』
“But you see——”
『Let me say something as one who has experienced this game since its first day. In the past, there were individuals who actually died—like the sage who was once hailed as a “hero”, one of the captains of the kingdom’s knights, and even a king from this country.』
『Despite that, the world of Infinite Dendrogram continued moving without any problems. Because it is so real.』
I tried imagining it.
What if the kid in the photo were attacked by a monster and then brutally killed?
Obviously, it was unpleasant just by thinking about it. And when I took Liliana into consideration, I grew even more depressed. I knew that they were NPCs, but still…
“This… would feel pretty bad.”
『Right? So let’s complete this quest and lead everyone to a happy ending.』
His face might’ve been hidden inside that bear costume, but I could feel my brother smiling there.
Thus, as a newbie in the ＜Infinite Dendrogram＞ game, I grouped with my brother and, together, we challenged my first quest.
Our objective, the Difficulty 5 Quest: 【Missing Person——Miliane Grandelier】.
Our destination, the Rookie Killer Trap Dungeon, ＜Old Loew’s Orchard＞.
Our aim… towards a happy ending.
1↑『Welcome 弟』 – The “Welcome” was written just like that, in English.
2↑はいはいクマクマ – He ends his phrases with “kuma”. For now, I think I’m keeping “bear” puns, but if people don’t like it I could just use “kuma kuma” anyway.
3↑ドラちゃん気取りか – He uses “Dora-chan” to talk about Doraemon. It’s an endearing nickname used for the cat with the 4D pocket.
ティアン – Tian