Editors: Dair, Narane, Foodpenguin, Ari Lepola
It was the year 2138 A.D., and the term DMMO-RPG was not only in existence, but also becoming more common.
Being the acronym for <Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game>
described an interactive game where one was able to play in a virtual world
like it was real life, by connecting a dedicated console to the neuron
nanointerface— an intracerebral nanocomputer network composed from the
quintessence of cyber- and nanotechnology.
It was as though you entered the game for real.
Amidst a myriad of DMMO-RPGs that were developed, there was one title that shined brilliantly.
It was a game that a highly-regarded Japanese developer released twelve years ago in the year 2126.
No matter which DMMO-RPG it was compared to, Yggdrasil was a game that offered an immensely high level of freedom to the players.
The number of classes that formed the basis of the game easily topped 2000 when you added up the normal and high-rank classes.
All classes had a maximum level of 15, meaning a player had to have at least 7 classes or more to reach the overall level cap of 100.
Furthermore, you were able to just have a taste of various classes as long as you satisfied this overall condition. Although it was inefficient, it was possible to have 100 level one professions if you wanted.
In other words, it was a system where it was impossible to have completely identical characters unless you intentionally made them so.
This level of freedom also applied to the visuals. If you used creator tools that were sold separately, you were able to alter appearances of weapons and armor, interior data, character visuals, and detailed settings of a player’s home.
What awaited the players who set off for adventures in such a world was a colossal map. Nine homeworlds consisting of Asgard, Alfheim, Vanaheim, Nidavellir, Midgard, Jotunheim, Niflheim, Helheim, and Muspelheim.
A vast world, innumerable classes, and fully customizable visuals.
It had ignited the artisan spirits of the Japanese players and caused a phenomenon that would later be called ‘visual popularity’.
With such explosive popularity behind it, it had reached a level of acclaim where Yggdrasil and DMMO-RPG were considered as one and the same in Japan.
—Alas, that was a story of a generation past.
A grand round table of obsidian lustre was in the center of the guildhall, surrounded by 41 luxurious seats.
But most of them were vacant.
Only two silhouettes were visible now where all the members once used to sit.
One wore an elaborate, jet-black academic gown adorned with gold and violet edges. The decoration around its neck seemed somewhat excessive, but strangely, it was rather fitting.
However, the head that should have been sitting above the lavish collar was nothing more than a skull, devoid of skin and flesh. There was a dark red glow inside the empty eye sockets, and a dark halo-like object glimmered behind its head.
The other individual sitting in another seat was not a human, either. It was a lump of black goo. Its surface, reminiscent of coal tar, quivered and never maintained a consistent shape even for a second.
The former was an Overlord that ranked top even among the Elder Liches — Magic Casters who had turned into the undead in the pursuit of ultimate magic. The latter was an Elder Black Ooze, a race with powerful acidic abilities that was close to the strongest among the slime types.
Yet, they were not monsters.
They were player characters.
The selectable races in Yggdrasil were divided into three diverse categories: classic, humanoid races such as humans, dwarves and elves; demi-human races with hideous appearances such as goblins, orcs, and ogres, favoured for their physical prowess; and the heteromorphic races who possessed monster abilities and higher stats than any other races, but were given restrictions in various aspects. If you include the high-tier races for these three, the number of all the races reached a total of 700.
Of course, Overlord and Elder Black Ooze were one of the high-tier heteromorphic races that players were able to pick.
Between those two people, the Overlord talked without its mouth moving. Despite being the previous generation’s top DMMO-RPG, it was technologically impossible to change expressions to go with the conversation.
“Wow, it’s been a really long time, ‘Meromero’-sama. Even though it’s the last day for Yggdrasil, I honestly didn’t expect anyone to actually show up.”
“I agree. It’s been so long, ‘Momonga’-sama.”
The Elder Black Ooze replied with a voice of an adult male, but in comparison to the Overlord, there was no trace of what could be called vigor or liveliness.
“This is the first time since you changed your job in real life, so how long has it been? … Hasn’t it been like two years?”
“Ah — that seems about right. Wow~ It’s been that long already… Oh boy, my sense of time is out of whack because I’ve been doing nightly overtime shifts everyday lately.”
“Isn’t that a really dangerous sign? Are you okay?”
“Physically? I’m in complete rags. It’s not so much as to visit a doctor, but I’m almost on the verge of it. I seriously want to run away. Still, I have to earn money to make ends meet, so I’m working for my dear life while being whipped like a slave.”
The Overlord—Momonga tilted his head back and made an irritated gesture.
“Really, it’s unbearable.”
Meromero’s gloomy voice, laden with an incredible sense of reality, flew towards Momonga as if to inflict a follow-up strike.
His complaint in regards to work in the real world accelerated further.
Stories about impudent subordinates, plans that were completely altered overnight, criticism from his superior for failing to meet his quota, days pulling all-nighters due to shitloads of work, abnormal weight increase from his ruined biorhythm, the growing number of drugs with each passing day.
Eventually, the conversation turned one-sided as Meromero’s gripe burst out like a broken dam.
There are a lot of people who avoid talking about reality in the virtual world. The feeling of not wanting to drag the real world into the virtual world was understandable.
However, the two people here did not think that way.
The guild — a team formed, organized and operated by an assembly of players — that they belonged to, Ainz Ooal Gown, had two rules for joining.
First, you have to be a member of society. Secondly, you had to be of a heteromorphic race.
Due to the nature of the guild, there were many cases where complaints about work in real life became the topic, and this was accepted by the guild members. It could be said the conversation these two were having was an everyday scene in Ainz Ooal Gown.
After a good amount of time had passed, the words of grievance from Meromero’s mouth came to a halt.
“… I’m sorry for my endless complaining. I don’t get much chance to vent on the other side.”
Meromero wiggled what appeared to be its head as if to bow. In response to this, Momonga quickly replied.
“It’s okay, Meromero-sama. I was the one who asked you to come, even though you were exhausted.
Compared to earlier, a faint laughter with a bit more vigor was heard from Meromero.
“Thank you very much, Momonga-sama. I’m glad that I logged in and got to meet up.”
“I'm glad to hear you say that."
“… But I'm afraid it’s about time for me to …”
Meromero’s tentacle moved in the air as if it was touching something. He was operating his console.
“Ah, you’re right. It’s gotten very late.”
“I’m sorry, Momonga-sama.”
Momonga sighed softly to conceal the emotions that had risen inside him.
“I see. That’s a shame. … Honestly, fun times fly by so fast.”
“I really want to be with you until the end, but I’m exhausted.”
“You must be worn out. Please, do log out and get some rest.”
“I’m really sorry. … Momon- no, Guildmaster, what will you do?”
“I’m planning to stay online until I’m disconnected when the service ends. There’s still time… who knows, another person might show up.”
“Is that so. … Frankly, I didn’t expect this place to still exist.”
At this sort of moment, it was truly a good thing that there was no ability to show facial expressions. Because if there was, one would have seen his grimace in a single glance. Momonga closed his mouth shut to suppress the sudden surge of emotions, since they would be revealed in his voice.
He had desperately maintained the guild because they had created it together, so it was only natural for him to be overwhelmed with indescribable sentiments when such words were spoken by one of his comrades. But those sentiments were dispelled by what Meromero said next.
“As the guildmaster, you have kept this place going so that we could return any time. Thank you.”
“…We all created this place together. It’s the duty of the guildmaster to maintain and supervise it so that anyone can come back whenever!”
“It was thanks to your presence that we were able to enjoy this game to the fullest. … Next time we meet, it would sure be nice if it was in Yggdrasil II.”
“I’ve yet to hear a rumour about a sequel… but I really hope that happens.”
“Let’s meet again when that time comes! Well then, I’m feeling really really sleepy now, so I’ll log out … I’m glad I got to meet you before the end. Have a good game.”
For a moment, Momonga was left speechless; however, he gave his final words right away.
“I also had a good time thanks to you. Have a good game.”
A smiling emoticon appeared above Meromero’s head with a glint. Since there was no ability to change facial expression in Yggdrasil, players utilized emoticons to express their emotions. Momonga operated his console and selected the same emoticon.
Then, Meromero’s final words were heard.
“Let’s meet again in a different place.”
— The last one of the three guild members who showed up today vanished.
Erasing all trace of the visitor, the silence returned to the guildhall. A silence devoid of memories and emotions.
Looking at the chair that Meromero was sitting in just a few seconds ago, Momonga spat out the words he was going to say at the end.
“While I understand that you’re tired, since today’s the last day for the game and you’re already here, can’t you stay until the very end—?”
Of course, there was no reply. Meromero had already logged out to the real world.
Momonga let out a sigh deep down from of his heart.
He could not bring himself to say those words.
The fact that Meromero was always tired was sufficiently evident by the mood from their brief conversation. But Meromero saw the mail that he sent and showed up today, for the final day in Yggdrasil. He should be thankful for that alone. Wanting more than this would go beyond being shameless to being a nuisance.
Momonga stared at the seat where Meromero was until a while ago, and then he looked around. What he saw were the 39 chairs where his old comrades used to sit. After the quick look around, his eyes returned to Meromero’s seat once again.
“Let’s meet again in a different place…”
Let’s meet again someday.
See you again.
He had heard such phrases time after time. But the instance of them actually keeping their words almost never happened.
Nobody had returned to Yggdrasil.
“Just where and when are we meeting again…”
Momonga’s shoulders shook greatly. Then his true feelings that he had bottled up for a long time burst forth.
“— Don’t joke with me!”
With a furious shout, he slammed his hands on the table. Having judged the action as an attack, the system calculated countless variables such as Momonga’s barehanded damage and the table’s structural defense, and displayed its result where Momonga hit with the number “0”.
“This place is the Grand Underground Grave of Nazarick that we all built together! How can everyone give it up that easily?!”
What followed after his fierce fury was desolation.
“… No, that’s not it. They didn’t give it up. They simply faced head-on the choice between “reality” and “fantasy”. Ah, it couldn’t be helped, and there were no betrayals. It must’ve been a difficult choice for them…”
Momonga muttered as though persuading himself and stood up from his seat. He walked towards the wall with a single staff hanging on it.
Having the Greek god Herme’s caduceus as its motif, the staff was entwined by seven serpents. Each of the squirming serpents’ mouths held a jewel of a different colour. Its grip had a transparent quality like crystal, and was emitting a bluish white light.
The staff of supreme quality was a ‘guild weapon’ that each guild can possess only one of, and it was an item that could be said to be the symbol of Ainz Ooal Gown.
Originally, guildmasters were supposed to carry it with them, so why was it hanging on the wall in the room as a decoration?
That was because it was an existence that symbolized the guild.
The destruction of a guild weapon signified the dissolution of the guild. That was why guild weapons were stored in the most secure location in many cases, with their powerful abilities never seeing the light of day. Even a prominent guild like Ainz Ooal Gown was no exception. For such a reason, the staff was never handed to Momonga despite it being custom-made for him, and instead was adorned on the wall.
Momonga reached out his hand for the staff, but he stopped halfway. At this very moment — even though Yggdrasil’s service shutdown was near, he felt hesitation towards the act of debasing the glorious memories that they had made together.
The days they spent together adventuring repeatedly in order to create the guild weapon.
Those good old times of dividing up into teams and gathering materials as though it were a contest, arguing over what its appearance should be like, and combining everyone’s suggested idea and making it little by little.
They were the heydays of Ainz Ooal Gown — the times where they were most glorious.
There was a person who went as far as to strain his overworked body to show up. There was even a person who showed up after having a big fight with his wife due to him neglecting time with his family. There was also a person who laughed saying he took paid leave.
There were times where they spent the whole day chattering, getting worked up over idle stories. There were days where they planned their adventures and swept up the treasures. There were times where they went on raids and captured hostile guilds’ castles. There were days when they destroyed every hidden boss monster that they could find. They had found countless undiscovered resources. They had placed various monsters in their base and cleared out invading players.
But now there was no one.
37 out of 41 people have quit, and though the remaining three remained as guild members in name, Momonga could not recall the last time that they’d shown up with the exception of today.
Momonga opened the console and accessed the official data, where he searched for the guild’s ranking. At one point they had stood at Rank 9 out of a little over 800 guilds, but now they had dropped to 29th. Still, this wasn’t so bad in comparison to Rank 48 when they were at their lowest.
The reason why the guild was able to maintain its rank was not due to Momonga’s exploits, but thanks to the items left behind by his old comrades — the relics of the past.
Although it was very much a guild in ruins now, there was a time where it shined.
— The fruit of those times.
Their guild weapon: the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown.
Momonga did not wish to drag the weapon filled with their glorious memories into this time of ruins; however, a contrary feeling was ablaze inside of him.
All this time, Momonga had placed importance on majority vote.
Although he was in the position of a guildmaster, what he actually did was miscellaneous work like contacting people.
That was why, in this moment with nobody around, the thought of wanting to use his authority as the guildmaster crossed his mind for the first time.
“This outfit doesn’t have enough swag.”
Muttering to himself, Momonga started operating his console to equip his avatar with armaments befitting his position as a prominent guildmaster.
Armaments in Yggdrasil were classified according to their data size. The greater the data, the higher the grade of the weapon. Starting from the bottom, the classes were: Lesser, Minor, Medium, Major, Greater, Legacy, Relic, and Legendary. But right now, Momonga was armed to the teeth in the highest class of them all— Divine.
On his fleshless fingers were nine rings, each imbued with different powers. Furthermore, his necklace, gauntlet, boots, cloak, and circlet were all Divine class. Just their prices alone, every one of them were masterpieces of tremendous worth.
A brilliant gown hung from the shoulderpieces, and a rippling dark red aura rose from his feet. Although the aura was turbulent and sinister, it was not Momonga’s skill. He had simply embedded a ‘chaotic aura’ effect into the robe since there was some space left over in its visual data capacity. Touching it was perfectly harmless.
Numerous icons popped up in the corner of Momonga’s field of vision, indicating that his abilities have increased.
Having changed his gear and armed himself from top to toe, Momonga nodded in satisfaction with his current equipment befitting of a guildmaster. Then he reached out his hand and grabbed the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown.
The moment he held the staff in his hand, it spewed out a vortex of dark red aura. Sometimes it formed the face of a human in agony and crumbled away. It was so vivid that it felt as though you could hear their voices of pain.
The supreme staff that he had never held even once after its completion finally fell into the hands of its original owner with the end of Yggdrasil’s online service ahead of him.
Verifying the icons indicating dramatic increases in his stat again, he also felt a slight loneliness.
“Should we get going, symbol of our guild? No, that’s not it — Let us go, symbol of our guild.”