༺ After Story : Log_Crownhall 100 Years Later ༻
‘Centra’ was a collection of behavioral patterns. It was soulless, egoless; just a bundle of data.
In the simulation world that was being developed, AI was as bleak and ephemeral as so. With limited data and storage space, the best that could be done was to establish a bare-boned frame. ‘Centra’, too, was deployed with only the minimum necessary data.
Uninhibited physical contact, a kind tone of voice, high empathy, and a character prone to blushing easily. These were just a few keywords thrown into a seductive physical body.
Thus, it was a being without a heart. A being without emotions. A being that could not feel. Since there was no vessel to contain such things in the first place, it was nothing more than a paper doll, however much it moved and spoke.
Therefore, a player was needed.
After all, the more someone believed in the Illusion Magic, the more it could use that belief as a power source to materialize itself.
‘Centra’ awoke in the secret passage.
The appearance of the secret passage 100 years in the future remained preserved as it was when the session ended. A lethal amount of blood flowing from someone’s body. The corpse of Ronya, crumpled in death.
‘Centra’, who seemed to have been embracing someone while sitting, groped the air as if searching for something.
‘Centra’ closed its eyes.
Because it felt as if someone was remembering it.
The modeling of Ronya, a hole in its throat, began to make strange noises. It seemed like pre-entered lines by the Game Master were leaking out now.
“Why….did you……leave….Centra…..and….kill yourself……”
“Second…..Prince…..you son of a……bitch……..An embrace…..is so…fucking…..over the top….”
After grumbling for a long while, the sound abruptly stopped.
Only then did ‘Centra’ finally know her name. It sounded very familiar. Her existence, able to move due to the faint mana flowing from somewhere……..Had been called ‘Centra’ by someone.
‘Centra’ stood up. Just like how a newborn baby did not have a purpose, she, too, was the same, so…….First, she decided to wander around Crownhall to look for something. Who knew if there could be players?
If there were players still cherishing the finished story, wouldn’t they deserve praise? While she was at it, the unfinished……..Hm, what was unfinished again? ‘Centra’ tilted her head in confusion, unable to remember what she had failed to comprehend.
‘Centra’ walked through Crownhall.
There were many people, but all of them were frozen in place. It was to be expected. No power was being supplied to the simulation magic circle at the moment. Thus, ‘Centra’ was experiencing a unique phenomenon.
The core principle of this simulation was to ‘convert the belief of the players into energy to save costs’. So, perhaps, someone outside…….continued believing in and remembering ‘Centra’.
That was why with each moment that affirmed the existence of ‘Centra’, mana was being supplied.
In the city where everything except ‘Centra’ had stopped, on one hand, it felt eerie and chilly. On the other, it seemed almost vibrant and alive.
A bearded man lifting beer, young lovers clinking glasses, a Resistance agent dragging a large beer barrel while touting.
Someone who had stopped while lighting a firework, another who had drunkenly fallen asleep against a wall.
……Even a Resistance hardliner about to draw a sword for the sake of causing a rampage.
It seemed all of them would wake up at any moment, like buds about to bloom. Once the Game Master infused mana, they would move boisterously as if they never stopped.
‘Centra’ knew that even this Resistance hardliner was, just like her──a modeling with behavior patterns programmed in. Even though she knew this, for some reason………she was so annoyed!
‘Centra’ picked up two wooden sticks from a nearby chicken skewer stand, stuck them in the Resistance hardliner’s nostrils, confiscated their drawn sword, threw it somewhere unseen, and instead, placed three chicken skewers in their hand.
‘Centra’ felt her memories gradually returning. Not in some poetic way, but in realistic terms; she was slowly downloading information from the saved database.
She intuited. This download would take a very……..very long time. Only a miniscule amount of weak mana was trickling in, after all. If that was the case…..
‘Centra’ prayed. At the very least, please allow her to recall the most precious memories first.
One chicken skewer.
Drawn by an odd feeling, ‘Centra’ entered a cafe and sat down. It was a window seat. Somehow, it felt nice to sit across from someone, so she deliberately rearranged the position of the chair.
Biting into the skewer, ‘Centra’ realized that without a power supply, even the taste could not be replicated. As such, giving up on eating, she decided to just look around.
The church spire kept catching her eye.
The influx of mana increased slightly. The download sped up. ‘Centra’ took it as a positive sign, but somehow…..How should she put it?
There was a slightly impure and flirtatious sensation from the mana, as if she was having some scandalous thoughts…….
An emotion that wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but still a bit embarrassing.
“……Sometimes I was quite brazen, you know?”
‘Centra’ unwittingly blurted out those words. It was puzzling why such words flowed out without any input signal.
“It wasn’t that I disliked it…..It’s just that your gaze was a bit too blatant. I guess I was worried, because, well, umm……….They’re too big, so maybe you don’t like it….is what I thought a bit.”
While rambling aimlessly, ‘Centra’ continued to talk for a long time. All by herself.
The stable was shabby. After all, it was no longer in use. There was no one to take care of it, so the pile of hay that Irid and ‘Centra’ had messed up remained in its scattered state.
‘Centra’ gazed at the pile of hay. Just the two of them had gone inside, lowered their voices, and huddled together.
It seemed like they made some sort of promise.
She felt warmth from her pinky finger. Hoping to meet again, praying for a reunion, and……
Asking to be remembered.
‘Centra’ entered the pile of hay. It was dark and cold inside. It was lonely as well. After all, as the memory download progressed, the loneliness only grew.
But even that loneliness was something she desired.
Loneliness was caused by the absence of someone.
Conversely, loneliness was the proof of someone’s existence. There must have been someone…..besides ‘Centra’.
Curled up in the hay, ‘Centra’ closed her eyes and drew the features and clothes of someone inside her head. Was it a man, or was it a woman?
“Long eyelashes and blue eyes. Clean and refreshing like the sky itself was captured in them. I think the hair was blonde. Somewhat unkempt…….”
Were they of similar height to you?
“When we stood side by side, I think I had to look up. So, their height was about…….I remember now. I thought…….if I stood on my tip toes, it would be the perfect height to kiss them.”
What about their body?
“……It was rather firm? Is that how to put it? So like, that……person…was sensitive to touch. So, when hugged, I could immediately feel their mind go blank. At that time, I, too…Umm…….”
You groped a bit, didn’t you?
‘Centra’ suddenly stood up from the hay. While brushing off the hay stuck in her hair, she started moving.
She had to go to the inn. The puzzle pieces were there.
‘Centra’ quietly surveyed the inn.
The silent inn, for some reason, felt even more empty. As if someone that should be there had left and was missing.
For instance, the chair next to the stove.
Someone seemed to have done paperwork there. When ‘Centra’ brought tea saying they had worked hard, they would accept it with feigned indifference but actually be very happy. If their fingers brushed even the slightest, their ears would be honest and turn red.
Or the round table in the corner.
It was no different from a designated seat. Someone seemed to have eaten there at the table in the corner. They didn’t blend in well with the other……Resistance members in the inn. It looked somewhat lonely, so ‘Centra’ would bring her plate over to accompany them.
She had talked to them and shared conversation……..And sneakily pushed vegetables onto someone’s plate to scold them, feeding them carrots with a fork. When they would frown as if they really hated it, but obediently eat them…….She laughed.
And the counter table.
They seemed to have low alcohol tolerance. That someone……..said, ‘It’s just that you have high tolerance.’, but her father had once said that if a man couldn’t finish one bottle of beer, then he couldn’t be called a man. Considering that, they must have been a man. Like her father, ‘Centra’ was a fairly heavy drinker, so she was the one who had won in the drinking match.
That person might not know, but ‘Centra’ watched him fall asleep because he was so heavily drunk. Then, between the time when the Game Master was about to cut and accelerate time to the next scene……..She had also sneaked a kiss on his cheek.
“…..Maybe I was a bit drunk then too.”
It was truly a joyful time. Happy days when their eyes met and each other’s names were called. ‘Centra’ had been aware of her affection since then.
So now, when time had frozen, and she was the only one moving….The inn without that person, this world….
Felt far, far lonelier.
‘Centra’ calmly ascended to the third floor.
In that place, there was Centra’s room.
She opened the door. It was a familiar sight. A small room, a bed occupying one corner of the room, a small desk with manuscript paper. Various books. And one small vase holding rosemary.
It seemed to smell of him.
“Are you there…..?”
She spoke cautiously. After hoping for a response for a moment, she felt a bit sad when, as expected, none came. Then, she fell silent. It was because somehow……she felt like he was near.
It was because she wondered if he had come.
Thump thump. She tried to calm the flutter of excitement by carefully suppressing her trembling heart, before looking around for his lingering scent.
In a small room with no space to even unfold a table, ‘Centra’ carefully perched on the bed. There, she had sat side by side with him.
She is remembering.
‘Centra’……no, Centra tilted her head as if someone was beside her. About here was where a shoulder had been. When their bodies touched, they exchanged warmth, felt the weight of each other, and in a pleasant atmosphere, they shared their souls.
She was remembering. The promise.
“You promised to call out my name, didn’t you…….?”
Centra softly murmured, drawing in her heart the person who had been beside her.
She was able to recall his name.
Centra hummed a light tune, swinging her legs back and forth. She had finally found the name of her beloved, and she had finally found her own self.
She calmly began to wait for a reunion that might happen someday………