Stairway Leading to Outside
Editors: Vysne, Gingery Klaus, Skythewood
“Aya-chan~~ I don’t want to do this anymore!”
It was difficult to breath with the stench of death around us.
Crying on the ground in front of me was a schoolgirl with blood all over her sailor uniform.
Her face was splattered with blood and her glasses were cracked. The schoolgirl covered in blood hugged the lifeless body of her friend who was alive just moments ago while calling out her name.
And in moments, it turned into a futile scream.
It was like the end of the world. I averted my eyes, but just listening to her anguished voice made me feel depressed as well. That active girl with brown hair was probably Matou Aya.
Maybe she went forward to try to protect her friends. But she took a direct hit from an arrow to her chest. I was close by her, so I could almost hear the skull crunching.
The brown haired girl who had a large arrow pierced through her cheek breathed making a sound like air flowing through a flute, but died soon after. In situations like this, good people who try to save others seem to die first.
It may have been lucky that she didn’t die instantaneously after the arrow pierced her chesthead, but if there was no way to save her, she might as well have died immediately. For us, who didn’t have any doctors or medical supplies, there was no way to save the people who were heavily injured.
I had a scary thought that maybe Sakamoto Ryouma, who died from a cut to the head, felt this way as well. If a pink mixture of brain and blood came out, there was no hope for survival.
I never expected to see such sad sights unfold right in front of me with my very own eyes. I can see a person dying right in front of me, but it doesn’t feel real. It felt like I was watching myself and them from somewhere far away.
Everything looked like someone else’s problems… No, I shook my head. That kind of mindset was no good at all. Wake up. You’re going to get dissociative disorder if you go on like this.
Even a bystander like me was trying to avoid reality. I suppose a half-crazed and crying girl with dishevelled hair who had just lost a friend couldn’t help it either.
No, I had acted coldly from the start and tried not to get involved with them. Unlike them, I chose not to be friendly to anyone because I knew that there would be sacrifices in the future.
Just trying to survive was a chore.
I couldn’t afford to think about others either.
But this group’s leader, Nanashi Shuichi’s charisma shone even brighter despite tragedies like these. He walked over to us, took off his uniform jacket and covered Aya’s corpse with it.
He pulled the blood spattered friend of that girl away from the corpse and hugged her. Nanami teared up as he hugged the despairing girl and squeezed out his voice.
“Sashiki Ena-san, everybody here is feeling the loss as well, but, you need to keep moving forward and survive. Live to the fullest for Matou Aya-san, who died protecting you. Let’s go forward together and we’ll soon reach a safe place. We can’t give up!”
Nanami was charismatic enough to motivate the girl who had just lost her friend to not lose hope and keep going forward. I could almost feel myself getting worked up as well while hearing him say “You need to keep on living!” while at the same time making some half-crying sound and holding Ena’s hands.
Sashiki Ena, who was filled with despair just moments ago, stood up with those words of encouragement, and just like Nanami said, tried to walk forward.
What kind of mind control magic is this. She swallowed everything Nanami had said! That kind of attitude was dangerous as well. In my mind, I just said ‘what a load of shit’.
It was hard for someone like me who was trying my best not to get swept up in anything, but I suppose it was too much for a girl who just lost her friend in a middle of dire crisis like this. Everyone moved according to what Nanami said.
On Nanami Shuichi’s words alone, 60 out of 180 students voluntarily joined this extremely dangerous and battle-oriented group. This was an extremely high percentage. Plus, even a large number of girls who normally wouldn’t want to do something like this were mixed in.
They say people show their true colours in times of crisis, but Nanami’s charisma that brought people together was beyond words. He might as well have a special skill called “Sympathy”.
Though most of the female students who joined the group, were the ones who hung around him. They were called “Nanami Girls”.
There were many girls who couldn’t confess to the overwhelmingly superior vice-president Nanami, and formed a fanclub saying that he belonged to everyone. Still, they were absorbed so deep into him, they voluntarily joined this death march. Those girls had amazing guts.
Excluding myself and the 60 students in the battle group, roughly 120 students and teachers remained in the classrooms. Another 60 students moved without any sense of cohesion and wandered on their own. Right now, there were three groups: Nanami’s battle group, those waiting with the teachers and those scattered on their own.
The casualties of the battle group, including Matou Aya who just died, were six. Furthermore, those injured so heavily that they couldn’t go any further, were four. Countless had minor injuries. All of the students who died from the arrows that came flying after they had stepped on a trap or roasted from a fireball had all been girls.
The ones who walked at the front of the battle group were the female students who didn’t seem to be very strong. If this was what the leader of battle group, Nanami Shuichi, did intentionally, he was a great manipulator. But he wasn’t the one responsible.
The one who planned this was the glasses guy close to Nanami Shuichi, Jinguchi Tsukasa. I wanted to nickname him “Deceitful Four-Eyes” since long ago, but he had finally shown his true colours.
His combed over hair that was perfectly split at a 7:3 ratio, high prescription glasses with a silver frame, and white gloves which came from who knows where. The fact his gloves were still white was evidence that he was making the others do the dirty work.
He was ranked 3rd in the first years’ cumulative grades and he was part of the Student Council’s Enforcement Group. He had always stuck close to Nanami, and right now was no different.
He was short, and wasn’t as handsome as Nanami, but he was still fairly decent looking. His expressions were soft and he always smiled warmly. Just from how he spoke and acted, people would think he’s a regular model student, but in reality he was rotten to the very core. His leering was not because he was squinting due to bad eyesight, but because of his personality.
To put it nicely, he was a Planner, Thinker or Strategist. In reality, Jinguchi was a sucker fish that used vice-president Nanami’s charisma to steal everything good for himself behind Nanami’s back.
The very fact he didn’t even blink despite people dying in front of him made me wonder if he wasn’t just cold but a psychopath. Whoever said that in times of crisis, people show their true colour couldn’t have been more right.
That scheming four-eyes, Jinguchi, had many bad rumours about him. Some said that he cornered the student he didn’t like into expulsion, while others said that he took advantage of some of the girls around Nanami.
There wasn’t any evidence, but there’s a saying that a chimney without fire wouldn’t have smoke coming out of it. It sounded exactly like something that scheming four-eyes would do. The only thing that Jinguchi did was take in the situations around him and lick his lips.
In his cold and calculating sight, there were only those who were useful to him and those who weren’t. There was no way I would miss him placing the weaker students at the front as a meatshield for any traps.
However, I couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t a bad decision either. In emergencies like this, those kind of decisions were inevitable. So far, the group was fine, so I couldn’t do anything about it. Looking at it positively, he was skilled in personnel management, and looking negatively, he was cruel.
A passionate leader and scheming four-eyes. It was a perfect combination to control a group, but I didn’t want to get involved in any of that.
“Hey, that’s an obvious trap! Look around your feet carefully and avoid them.”
“Ah! I’m sorry.”
There was a female student who was about to walk into a danger. I just couldn’t let her die and warned her. Somehow, Jinguchi, who was in the middle of the group, keeping an eye on everyone, spoke to me in his small, but resonating voice.
“Shinjo-kun, don’t go too far forward. Your role is to stand ready for monsters.”
“But this is…”
“I was entrusted with distributing the roles. Are you going to be the one standing in the front instead of her?”
“Don’t make that kind of expression, I’m joking. It’ll go smoothly if everybody fulfills their role. If you think you can give commands better than me, I’m open to switching roles.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I can do that.”
I wasn’t such a generous guy as to voluntarily step into a dangerous role and step on a trap and knew I couldn’t take over in place of Jinguchi as well. Whipped by his cold stare, I pleaded with the girls standing in the front with torches, who were essentially tasked with stepping on traps, to “Take a look around your feet to see if there’s something strange. Your life depends on it.” and hung back.
There wasn’t anything more I could do. It was just as Jinguchi had said, I didn’t want to risk myself for someone I didn’t even know.
It seems I was to be part of the group fighting monsters at the back with Kujo Kumiko and Seki, so it didn’t seem we were expendable yet. I don’t think he would pay much attention to someone from Class F, but it would be annoying if that scheming four-eyes marked me out. I decided I would lay low.
Ah, damn it!
I told that girl it was dangerous, but that careless girl was impaled at the stomach with a blade coming out the floor. It might not have been immediate death, but it was only a matter of time.
The girl who was caught by the trap was screaming in pain and threw up something like blood and the contents of her stomach, but others only tried to avoid her instead of helping. It was dangerous to touch the blades in that trap and they were now exhausted from all of the previous traps. It was clear in their eyes that they knew it was too late for her even if they tried to help her.
It was impossible to survive if you became heavily injured. Knowing you might be next, the safety of others was already included in thought process. This group’s compassion had already dried up. Everyone simply dragged their tired legs and walked forward in a search of a safe route without traps.
I kept trying to convince myself that what the Nanami and Jinguchi combo was doing wasn’t a bad decision. Even if there were some casualties, we would all die unless we continued forward. If the command of the group were to fall to me, maybe we could go forward with fewer casualties… However I didn’t have the courage to say that.
In situations like this, where a single wrong step could mean death from a trap or a monster, the sheer fact this amount of people were working together as a group was only possible due to Nanami’s charisma. Every time a girl or boy who was deemed useless got sent forward and was killed by a booby trap, I thought it was a distasteful method, but I didn’t want to be the one who complains all the time. I simply held it in.
Nanami, who was keeping the group together, and Jinguchi, who was commanding everyone at the centre, were all doing the right things for the group.
Forward, let’s go forward, let’s all go forward. If we stop, it was only going to get worse and the casualties would continue to increase.
The only possibility was to go forward despite the dangers.
Plus, if someone needed to be expandable, using the weak ones who were no good for combat was not wrong in theory either….
But the strangest thing was that those students who didn’t have an inkling of courage in their heart all went forward to die whenever Nanami or Jinguchi told them to. If it was me, I would have run away the moment they told me to stand at the front.
Don’t they understand the danger they’re in right now? Or perhaps they truly didn’t understand. That sent a chill down my back.
Perhaps my assessment that he was using the useless ones as expendables wasn’t wrong. Was Jinguchi sending the ones that were clueless and would die anyways to the front on purpose? For the weak hearted students, it might be easier to act as ordered than to defy the group in this stressful situation.
Manipulating group dynamics like this to send people to death, I could almost feel the deceptiveness of people like Mao Zedong or Pol Pot leading a group of guerillas. It made me afraid whether those two who were controlling the group were really highschool students.
They were Machiavellian and not the best, but next to the best choice. Still, their method was so political, I truly despised them. Even if they were right, there was no way to wash this bad taste from my mouth.
I probably wasn’t the only one who thought this way. But there wasn’t a better alternative so far. The others were probably keeping quiet because they didn’t have a better plan in their minds.
“Seki, did you memorize the path we have taken and the locations of the traps?”
“Yea, I’ve remembered it all.”
I walked beside Seki and confirmed with him. Smartphones would be useless without electricity soon and I didn’t bring a notepad either, there was only memorization.
“There’s another monster.”
“I don’t want to fight anymore…”
Despite letting out a weak and tear-filled voice, Seki fought on with his knife. He was more courageous than I gave him credit for. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your share of monsters. I managed to get my hands on a pretty useful weapon in the form of a battle axe. I pumped myself up to swing my arms and cut the pig faced monster.
I slashed at the pig’s shoulder and its thick veins spurted blood. I slashed horizontally at the screaming orc that was standing still like an idiot. Its guts spilled out and the screaming orc collapsed in its own pool of blood.
The pig’s blood was red, so it was hard to bear, but I delivered a blow to its head just in case. Its head exploded and pink mixture of fat, blood and brain became visible. The pig’s blood was still better than a goblin’s sticky green blood.
I started getting used to killing creatures in shape of humans. I didn’t feel anything about killing something with my own hands nor the screams of the monsters that I killed. It was a simple slaughter. I couldn’t feel anything about people dying in front of me, so there was no hesitation in killing the pigs either.
Kumiko tied a short sword to the end of her mop and was using it as a spear. She was stabbing away at the orcs and goblins headed this way. She wasn’t fighting for anyone but her comrades. It was a good fighting strategy.
“It’s about time they stopped coming.”
“Kumiko, now’s not the time for jokes.”
“I’m alright, but this spear won’t hold out.”
“If it’s the short sword at the tip, you can just replace it with new one.”
Since goblins dropped it, she could just grab one off the ground.
“No, it’s the binding that’s the problem.”
“Ah, like I thought.”
Kumiko used the fabric from ribbons that girls used to tie their hair back to help make the spear. It had low durability despite her careful usage and there was no replacement if it broke.
“Can’t you use something other than a spear?”
“Not like I can’t use it, but nothing too heavy.”
For weapons, the humanoid monsters dropped them for free, but most of them were hunks of metal with rusted and chipped blades that required a considerable amount strength to actually cut anything. Most of them were too cumbersome of a weapon for someone slender like Kumiko.
“It would’ve been better if treasure chests had useful weapons inside them. Well, if it’s you Kumiko, you should ask vice-president Nanami that you’re so buddy-buddy with.”
“Stop it. Treasure chests are too dangerous.”
There were occasionally treasure chests while we were traversing the dungeon. They occasionally contained weapons, but contained gold coins or jewellry more often.
Diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, peridot, lapis lazuli…. For girls, who really liked shiny stuff, they ran towards the treasure chests as if it was a race, but there were traps there as well.
The girl who carelessly opened a treasure chest said “ouch!” and fell on her butt, only to never stand up again. She lost her consciousness and soon passed away with a high fever. I suspected that she was stabbed with some sort of poisonous needle that came out the moment she opened the chest.
The heavily injured or poisoned ones were annoying because it took manpower to take care of them too. I wanted to say it might be better to die, but this was the reality we faced now.
From then on, we didn’t open the treasure chests and simply moved on. Gold and precious jewelry was desirable, but was worth nothing compared to a life.
“Kumiko, don’t get too close to that rat.”
“Eh, it’s just a rat. I’m not scared of something like a ra… kyaa!!”
The rat dived towards Kumiko, bloated its body and exploded with a loud noise. One could think it was just a regular fat rat living in the underground labyrinth but I never expected it to be just a regular rat.
“It’s a monster called “Exploding Rat”. I remember seeing it in a game I can’t remember. It doesn’t deal high damage on its own, but commits suicide to scare people into accidentally stepping on a trap or something.”
“It’s the worst kind of creature.”
Kumiko, who was covered with chunks of meat and innards from the exploding rat, wiped her face with disgusted expression. At a glance, it was just a harmless rat that exploded in front of your face and didn’t do anything else, but the fact even small animals were coming at us with such annoying attacks sapped everyone’s mental strength.
The way the traps were positioned and the patterns of appearing monsters. I felt a deja vu. I wondered where I had seen it before, but a male student to the front made a loud noise.
I wondered if another one lost his mind, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
“Of course! This is the world of “Geno-Real”!”
A slightly chubby student with shaggy hair and a potato like face made a sharp sound while celebrating like a madman. I breathed in deeply at the words of that student, who had been deemed useless and was being used as meat shield for the traps along with the weak girls.
Is that so. Geno-Real….
Was this Genocide Reality’s dungeon?
I was suspicious of that shaggy student because he was saying something like “Status open!” a while back…. but it seems he was a gamer like me.
He was trying to open a status window in case this was a game world.
That was well and good, but to notice that this was similar to Geno-Real in situations like this. Unlike his appearance, he was pretty smart. He was someone to take note of.
“Everyone listen to me, there’s the ‘Door to Hell’”. This world is the world of the game called ‘Genocide Reality’!”
That shaggy hair was explaining away, but people around him were ignoring as if they thought he was crazy. I suppose that was to be expected since high school students these days wouldn’t know of an old game like Genocide Reality.
Even if he tried to grab everyone’s attention, it was obvious that nobody would listen to him. There was a girl who suddenly started laughing and had committed suicide by jumping into a false floor trap , so they all probably thought he went cuck-coo.
I moved up a bit forward to take a look at the “Door to Hell” that shaggy hair pointed at. I looked at the large fissure carefully with a torch and noticed an iron plate with “Entrance to Tartarus” written on top of it.
It seems like it’s the real deal, though I’d still wait a bit more just to make sure….
I put on an inconspicuous expression so others wouldn't notice and let out a deep sigh. “Entrance to Tartarus” also known as “Hell” was the very first of Genocide Reality’s trap.
It might be a stretch to call it a trap because it looks like just a large fissure in the ground, but if you fell in here, it led straight to 10th Floor. It was probably made with the mythology that you would fall for 10 days to reach the bottom of Tartarus, but it was still unreasonable.
At the bottom of the hell, there was fall damage dampening system, so you wouldn’t die from falling. For experienced players, it was a convenient way to get to the 10th floor, but newbies would be attacked by stronger monsters and die.
Since it was a game, there were a lot of people who had died to it. It was a trap for idiots who wanted to fall into a trap or to mercilessly kill off newbies.
“Please believe me. There’s a stairway to the surface ahead of us. It’s a safe zone there. I know all about it!”
Putting the raving shaggy hair to a side of my mind, I sighed again while looking at the hole leading to hell. I definitely realized I’ve seen the traps somewhere. It was my lack of attention that I didn’t notice earlier.
But seriously, who would believe that they’re in a game world. Game world, game world…. I repeated it again and again, but it wasn’t realistic. But considering everything matched up to this point, it was logical to assume that this was the case. The shaggy hair was probably right.
I murmured “Status open” as well.
Nothing came out… Well, I guess that was to be expected. Geno-Real was a game that didn’t have quantifiably measurable status.
Around 1987, Genocide Reality was announced in the US, and it was a revolutionary real-time 3D dungeon RPG that broke the conventions of an RPG. Just like the title, Geno-Real emphasized “reality”. So there was no information like a status bar or levels displayed for the character.
If you wanted to know your status, you needed to go to the temple in the city on the surface. Even then, the only thing you would find out was your job and proficiency rankings in the Warrior, Acrobat, Monk and Mage categories.
Since it was a game, there would be quantifiable data somewhere, but to keep a sense of realism, most of information on the character couldn’t be checked. Instead, there were gauges showing health, stamina, mana, hunger, thirst and tiredness.
It was straight forward. If you didn’t eat, drink or sleep, your stamina bar would drop, which would lead to your health bar dropping and you would eventually die. It was probably intentional, but the system worked in real time and didn’t stop. Players would quite literally live, adventure and die in the game.
It was a revolutionary system at the time and could be referred to as the most realistic game. It saw huge success in America and across the world. They began to make sequels of Genocide Reality and soon, there was even a MMO of it.
It left an immortal achievement in the gaming industry, but there was one country it didn’t sell well despite the worldwide boom.
It was Japan.
Of course, Geno-Real was rated highly in Japan as well and there were several games that were translated to Japanese. But just like its name “Genocide”, it was abnormally difficult. In other words, it was a game that you needed to die repeatedly as you played. It was a dungeon filled with unreasonable hordes of monsters that came after you and traps that you would die to if it was the first time that you encountered it.
It was not to say that players elsewhere were particularly better, but in North America, there was a culture that didn’t mind using cheats. If you died, you could reset the game before it autosaved and play from the save point again, or even hack the system to weaken the mobs and boost the player stats. For North Americans, there were many players who played with cheats like that.
There were also versions with lowered difficulty, so many players worldwide enjoyed Geno-Real. There were probably not as many masochistic gamers who played it properly to the end.
But games are serious in Japan. A game so insanely difficult that couldn’t be cleared via ordinary means became a shit game in Japan.
Plus, even though it was world famous, it was still an old game. Thus, it meant unless you were an extreme gaming otaku like me or that shaggy hair, there was nobody here who would know about Geno-Real.
“Should I stay quiet…”
“Is there a problem?”
I had an inconspicuous face on, but as if feeling something was off from the way I was looking at the Hell, Seki came up to me.
He was sharp as always.
For a moment, I thought about spilling the beans to my only friend, but I decided against it. There’s a saying that “words are the source of a disaster”. Nothing would change with Seki knowing about it and it might even put him in a dangerous spot.
It wasn’t wise to tell everyone it’s Geno-Real like that shaggy hair (I should find out what his name was later). Showing off knowledge could involve you into something annoying. Since there are multiple players, this wasn’t the offline version.
There were multiple people here. Perhaps the rules of the MMO version applied here. If so, there were rare items that were limited to the person who found it.
I didn’t want to share this precious information with others yet. I would have felt bad if others died because I hid information, but that shaggy hair would guide other students on that.
I’ll get ahead of others and take all the advantages to survive in this world. I will savour all the cheats.
What is this? I’m starting to get happy.
“What is it, Shinjo-kun? Are you laughing?”
“It’s nothing. Let’s go.”
A cheer broke out from the front of the group. That shaggy hair probably lead everyone to the stair that lead to the surface.
I felt excited at the light that shone through the stairs. Monsters couldn’t go into the city ahead and even players couldn’t commit negative acts towards each other.
I put my hands in my pocket to check the time on smartphone. The time we were in the dungeon was only 3 hours.
Just in that much time, we had such a high number of casualties.
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