Requiem had already started later than everyone else. Thanks to his strange dream of a past he couldn’t remember, he’d have to play catch up. Unlike everyone else though, Requiem had Clippy as his companion. She remained invisible to anyone but him, just like the outside. Her artificial intelligence had not only managed to come in with him as a worm, but it now was quickly overriding all of the defensive systems.
They were still being watched though. If Requiem cheated too extravagantly, like by only giving himself the easiest challenges, it would like induce rage. He’d have to have Clippy give him exactly the right level of challenges. They would be at a level that he would be able to complete them quickly, but also feel challenged.
“I’ve got a complete map of the complex.” Clippy immediately displayed it for Requiem.
Requiem looked at it, while making it appear like he wasn’t looking at anything. He didn’t know how closely they were looking at his actions. He imagined that being registered as a human, he wasn’t scrutinized too closely while many of the other robotic types were.
“Can you tell me where my opponents are?”
Although Requiem wouldn’t tell this to Clippy, he was considering meeting up with Miai and using her to aid in his speed. He could explain away a lot more of his luck if he had a second person to blame. He also wanted to avoid the other players, who may choose to attack him and force him to lose.
With the direction in his map, he ran down the darkened hallways. He made sure to occasionally go the wrong way, but only when it wouldn’t cost him too much time. If he moved down the levels too quickly, he’d appear like he was cheating that way too. He had to time it so he was playing only slightly better than the opponents.
He slowed as he came to his first obstacle. The obstacle in front of him was a slime like ball. It bounced excitedly when it saw him, and then slowly started to approach.
“So, how do I destroy it?” Requiem asked Clippy.
“Ah, you just need to use your weapon that you acquired when you… ah…” Her voice drifted off as her expression turned strange.
“Clippy, was I supposed to obtain some kind of weapon out on the hill?” Requiem asked in a voice that was just a bit too calm.
“M-m-master… about that…” Clippy responded nervously.
“Delete all files in the memory core containing the letters B and L.”
“Nooo!” Clippy cried out, jumping down and clinging to Requiem’s leg. “Th-th-that’s my special research material!”
“So, you did leave some saved!” Requiem cried out, his eyes glaring down at her.
“Please, Master… anything but that!”
“If I die today because of a level 1 monster, I destroy the entire genre in my next life!”
“I-it’s okay master! You won’t die! He’s very slow, and you can get past him! There is a treasure chest just down the hall, and the contents include a weapon already superior to the one outside!”
Requiem took a deep breath and then backed up a few steps away from the steadily approaching slime. Looking at the walls and quickly calculating the distance, he ran at full sprint, jumped to the side, and then ran around the wall. As he ran over the slime, it jumped up excitedly to get him, but he had already factored in its potential. It couldn’t jump quite high enough, and he was able to race past the slime without issue.
This was exactly the kind of flashy move that Requiem had been trying to avoid. He couldn’t hide the displeasure on his face that he had to show his nimbleness to the outside world. Hopefully, either he wasn’t being watched by the majority who were focused on the more advanced players, or the other players were just as impressive. If they couldn’t do at least that much, they had no place playing these death games in the first place.
With a sigh, Requiem continued without even giving the slime a second glance. At its speed, it would not be able to catch up to him. He didn’t know what other enemies he would encounter in this scenario, but he hoped they wouldn’t all be this odd.
He continued walking until Clippy appeared in front of him and pointed down a hidden corridor. One couldn’t see it coming from his direction and would have easily walked past it. Of course, Requiem, with his extremely acute eyesight, saw it right away and didn’t need Clippy’s navigation. He walked right passed her and the entrance, only to stop like he thought he had caught something. He looked back, and then made an alarmed noise like he had just noticed the corridor there.
These kinds of little acts were necessary for him to continue the ruse that he was a normal person. It felt phony and just a tad embarrassing to act this way. He went down the secret path to find a treasure chest at the very end of it.
“Wait! Master, about the trap-” She started to say just as Requiem stepped in front of the chest and heard a click.
He leaped back and then spiraled into several back flips. Dozens of darts shot out from the walls, making whistling sounds as they flew. They seemed to follow him back at least ten feet, forcing him to push his senses until he finally avoided every dart and landed harmlessly in a safe zone. His eyes immediately narrowed as he glared at the embarrassed looking Clippy.
“S-s-sorry, master, I tried to warn you!”
“Next time, warn me before I encounter the trap!” Requiem snapped at her.
Of course, he spoke with her through his mind, so his lips didn’t move. Anyone watching would see him glaring down the hall at the chest, which made sense if he had just narrowly avoided a deathly trap. Of course, he no longer could pretend he wasn’t athletic. Any dream of claiming the wall run was a fluke was gone. There was no point crying over it.
He approached the treasure chest one more time and frowned as he looked at the trap on the floor. It was far better concealed than the hallway entrance, but it still wasn’t at a level where Requiem shouldn’t have been able to tell it was there. He had been… eager to get the treasure chest, and thus his senses had skipped over his thorough check. He had to write this up as another strange anomaly.
However, while he could technically blame many of those anomalies on having a strange body prior, he wasn’t technically in that body at the moment. Although his senses were being experienced through the body, he was technically in a simulation, and his computerized mind should have been able to handle every single detail. Yet, even now, he found himself acting irrationally. It was enough to give him pause. He didn’t pause too long though, remembering that this was a competition and every moment counted.
He opened up the chest, where he received a sword and shield combo. Neither was nearly as fancy as the fine alloys of modern warfare. It was a crudely blacksmithed iron sword and shield. It wouldn’t win any awards, but it would deal with an enemy or block a hit if Requiem needed it.
“This weapon will be good until level five.” Clippy explained, eager to make up for her previous mistakes by providing requiem with information.
“Then, direct me to the next exit.”
Clippy began to give Requiem directions. As he had prepared, he made a few false turns and otherwise looked like he was giving his all and wasn’t perfect. He encountered one more enemy, a large rat the size of a dog, and quickly killed it. He wasn’t given any items for the kill. As for treasure chests, the only other one that had been the direction he was heading had already been looted.
Occasionally, as Requiem moved in the dark cavern, he’d hear a shout or scream. It wasn’t long before he reached the stairway to the second level. Fearing that he had taken too direct a path and was revealing everything, he paused for a moment.
“How is progress?” Requiem asked.
“At this point, I have all knowledge of this simulation. Consider it hacked.” Clippy announced proudly, causing Requiem to roll his eyes.
“Then, how many levels must we progress?” Requiem asked.
“There are a total of 50 levels.”
“How far is the farthest opponent?”
“Chreos has reached level eight. The next closest, level six, is Adento.”
“Adento is beating the Dragon android?”
“He seemed to have found a better weapon and was able to get past the minotaur on level 5.”
“Minotaur… a boss I presume? Lovely. We’ve only been in this simulation for twenty minutes. Isn’t their progress a little ridiculous?”
“I think that the map for this dungeon was previously leaked. One player was expelled when he found himself bringing up a digital copy. It stands to reason that everyone else memorized it beforehand.”
“So, cheating got him kicked out of the game?”
“No…” Clippy looked awkwardly. “They just opened up a lava pit under him, and he was burned alive. The man is very much dead.”
“Then, it seems like cheating is allowed as long as you don’t get caught. Can you slow Chreos down without making it look too obvious?”
“He’s a machine.” Clippy snorted. “I can use logical fallacies to confuse him!”
“I don’t care how you do it,” Requiem responded. “Since it seems like everyone else has an advantage, I don’t see any reason to hold back any longer. I suppose it is time to go all out.”