Five years ago.
Players of the longtime DMMO "Yggdrasil" bid farewell as the game shuts down for good. Among them is faithful leader Suzuki Satoru, who plays the character "Momonga" of the Guild [Ainz Ooal Gown].
He is among one of the last to leave the game, staying logged in even to the last minute.
When the clock struck twelve, a miracle happened in a certain place and to certain denizens of a tomb-but that is another story.
In "this" world, Suzuki Satoru woke up, his cheeks wet with tears. Before long, he's taken hold of himself and slept, to face a new day. Reality calls for Suzuki Satoru, even if that reality is as painful as eating glass.
In "that" world, certain events come to pass. Horrible things, wonderful things, depending on the point of view.
Back to this world, Suzuki's grief and loneliness did not last long. For it was announced that Yggdrasil's developers had been secretly working on "Yggdrasil Mk. 2", a reboot of the years-old game, using a brand new engine, and with enhanced game features. They also used a more powerful VR engine from a certain famous company.
Naturally, Suzuki was ecstatic. He entered the game when it launched, and was instantly hooked. Not only was the graphics more realistic, the game engine was also enhanced. The battle system underwent balance changes, though the "shitty devs" never changed their mind about the overpowered World Items.
He was also glad to see that some of his old guildmates, lured by the new game, had also signed up. They even used their old usernames. Together, they renewed [Ainz Ooal Gown], and quickly became one of the top PK guilds in the game. They were also one of the few legendary guilds with a roster of all heteromorphic races, which even in the reboot were discriminated against.
Four years later.
Six players arrive on a grassy hill, carried by [Gate]. One of the robed figures began casting [Widen: Glamour Area] and [Widen: Mass Invisibility II], hiding their forms from sight of other players.
On second glance, these were a strange group of players. While there was an upright humanoid figure in silver plate, its comrades were all different shapes. There were two wobbling figures of living slime, a slouching figure with the head of a goat, a beak-headed player with several wings, and a robed figure with the head of a human skull.
"Scanning complete," announced the goat-head.
"No other undead in range," said the skeleton player.
"How about you, Peroroncino-san?" asked the silver warrior. "See anything?"
The avian player cancelled [Eagle Eye] and nodded his head. "I can see the other groups on the far side. There are... something like five raid groups down there waiting."
The slime whistled. "And to think we came here early..." If one listened closely, it seemed like an elementary schoolgirl was speaking, though the truth was far different. Bukubukuchagama was no longer specced as a specialized tank-instead she was a magic Slime. In her own words, she was going to be a magical slime-girl, who could also cast support magic.
"No doubt there'll be some more incoming before the event starts," said the goat-head, whose full username was Ullbert Alain Odle. He was one of the guild's most powerful spellcasters, having an optimized build that annihilated enemies at the start of combat.
"It is a very important event after all," said one of the slimes. His name was Herohero, and he was one of the few guildmembers who'd changed greatly in the transition to the reboot. Where before he was a monk-type who specialized in melting equipment for an easy PK, now he had levels in ranger and assassin, which made him a good scout-type seeker.
The skeleton, who was Momonga, put his skeletal hands to his face. He cast the [Message] spell, which allowed him to communicate with other friendly players even at a great distabce. "Punitto Moe-san, we've arrived, how are things on your end?"
"We're alright here," replied Punitto Moe. "We're still waiting on Warrior Takemikazuchi's and Ancient One's groups."
"Then, do we have any changes in strategy?" asked Momonga.
"It's too early for that," said Punitto Moe. "For the time being, let's still continue with [Plan A]."
"Ragnarok Cycles" were major events in the rebooted Yggdrasil. Emulating that mythical story about the fall of the Gods, this event pitted players against overwhelmingly high-level World-Class monsters, whose powers required a multitude of players to defeat. At the end, there was a chance for the data crystal left behind to contain a World Item. That, along with the prestige of defeating the monster, made these a must-kill for most players in Yggdrasil.
Unfortunately, only one data crystal could be acquired, and it would go to the guild whose member made the killing blow. As such, the battle against the high-level monster also usually involved epic PvP contests, often pitting a multitude of guilds in a brutal free-for-all. This was intended by the "shitty devs", because one aspect to the rebooted Yggdrasil was the focus on more "epic" PvP, with the intention of mass armies of players doing battle instead of just 1 on 1 or small group affairs.
Ainz Ooal Gown had already defeated one such monster in a past Ragnarok Cycle. This was the event that boosted them to the Top 4th World Ranked guilds of the new Yggdrasil. The World Item was given to a reluctant Momonga, who was then turned into one of Yggdrasil's "deities".
The Deity system involved the ascension of players to the ranks of the Gods. In order to keep up with increasing player power levels, a rank of "God" was placed above, granting these players World Item-like powers. For instance, the new [God of Thunder] acquired [Mjolnir] and other World items just from becoming a god. These items were exclusive to the god: if a player killed the god for example, the title and items would pass to the winner.
Momonga had become [God of Unlife], a fitting aspect for his dream build. But far from giving him the satisfaction of becoming the pinnacle in the game, he was instead subjected to ungodly amounts of stress. Everywhere he went he had to keep his guard up, looking out for any sudden ambushes. Many were the players who wanted to take the title of god without having to go through a Ragnarok Cycle. The title [God of Magic] for example, had already passed through three guilds.
Were it not for his supportive guildmates, he would have crumbled from the pressure and quit the game. But [Ainz Ooal Gown] looked after its people. Besides, the guildmembers also benefitted from having a member as a god. Each of them were given an additional equipment slot [Soul], had access to basic Runes without even speccing into the relevant class, and had access to the god's personal [Domain] which functioned as a guildbase and a safe area. In honor of their old home, Momonga named the Domain [Nazarick].
Still, Momonga's "Ascension" did not mean they couldn't try for another Deity. The guild had had a vote, and Bukubukuchagama-san was chosen to be the next God, if they won this Ragnarok Cycle. Of course, they all relied on their present God, Momonga, to tip the scales in their favor.
"[Sense Divine]", Momonga muttered. A second later, he sighed, his voice getting slightly depressed, "Aww... they're here."
"Who is it?" asked the silver paladin, Touch Me. One of Momonga's closest friends, he was something of a figure everyone looked up to in Ainz Ooal Gown, being their old Leader before forming the guild. As in the old game, Touch Me handily achieved World Champion level status.
"[God of Interventions], [God of Magic], and [God of Fire]." With each name he uttered, Momonga's shoulders steadily drooped down.
"It's going to be an interesting bloodbath," said Ulbert. In the guild, he was among the bloodthirstiest.
"It's going to be alright, Momonga-san," said Herohero. "With you as Healer and with Punitto Moe-san's strategy, I think we can win this!"
A standard party in Yggdrasil was usually made up of a Tank, Seeker, two Attackers, a Healer and a Wildcard. Momonga, before becoming God had been a Wildcard, but his new class [God of Unlife] had given him unique healing abilities. That was why Bukubukuchagama was now a Wildcard, being able to take hits decently (though not as good as her previous build), cast attack and support magic, and even heal.
Momonga's present party grouping included the fearsome Touch Me, who could function as both a Tank and Attacker. Technically, the group now had three Attackers because of him. Together with Momonga the God, Ulbert, the guild's strongest magic caster and Peroroncino, the long-ranged specialist, this combined to form a group geared for sheer destructive power. This group composition had been chosen by Punitto Moe-san to maximize their strategic goals.
Herohero was put here because of his new Soul equipment [Recycle Stomach] which had the power equal to a World item, and could only be used by him. As long as he was in the party that dealt a deathblow to a monster, he had a chance to turn the normally single data crystal drop into two. Potentially gaining the guild two Deities. Such a power only normally useful for "farming" important components in the overworld was now critical in this battle.
Originally, Peroroncino's real life sister Bukubukuchagama was not to be in the group. But there was uncertainty of the mechanics revolving around the World Monster. Certain unconfirmed reports from other guilds said that the data crystal could only be used by the party that did the killing blow. Other players claimed this was not so, and that it was free to use for anyone in the victorious guild. Because the battle that gave Momonga his crystal had him in the deathblow party, there arose some doubts among [Ainz Ooal Gown]. In the end, Bukubukuchagama was placed in the group for insurance.
The Ragnarok Cycle event was set to start at midnight. Today was one hour before the fact, so there was plenty of time for the situation to change. The party was always on the lookout for players teleporting close to their position. Bukubukuchagama's ability [Soothing Gel] kept their mana up while the casters kept using detection spells.
Soon, their missing guildmates teleported into their positions around the battlefield, and the final standby commands were broadcast. Momonga and several other guild members gave a pep talk to boost their spirits. Momonga of course, didn't mention the piercing feeling in his gut, born from sheer anxiety.
In the meantime, about a dozen more guilds showed up. Down on the plains below, they saw hints of an ongoing battle.
"Wow. They're really fighting," Momonga remarked. He referred to two of the Gods he sensed, who were now raining havoc on their respective enemies down below.
"But it looks like Punitto Moe-san's tactics will actually work," said Peroroncino.
"Hah! The fools fight amongst themselves," Ulbert announced, switching to a role-play stance. Touch Me looked at his guildmate, before looking away and shaking his head.
"[Message] from Punitto Moe-san," Momonga announced. "He says we're to start the disguising now."
The other party members mumbled "Understood," opening their inventory and accessing the item needed for their strategy.
"Eugh! Even if it's just pixels, just using it feels wrong," complained Bukubukuchagama.
[Loki's Tongue] was a divine-class item generally sold to Gods and their guildmates. It allowed one to change outer appearance to something different. A slime, for example, could appear to be an angel. However, no innate abilities would be changed. If the slime were to be attacked, for example, it wouldn't have the angel's [Protection from Darkness], but the slime's [Slime Shield]. The visual effect would be of the angel's form rippling like a mirage.
Conversely, an angel becoming a slime visually could activate [Winged Flight]. The slime would then look eerie, swimming through the air. If it was struck, the slime would not deform, as a slime should, but there'd be a loud clang sound of someone hitting steel plate.
The effect lasted only for an hour, and did not wear off for whatever reason. It could not be detected by magical means. It could not be dispelled by anyone, even a God, unless a World class item were used. It thus allowed a God's allies to carry out deception strategies, such as this one that Punitto Moe planned out with a few of the smart guild members.
"Protect Momonga from being discovered", was the main objective. Then they had to strike hard, and fast, eliminating the World monster before the effect wore off. Along the way, they had to appear as if they were just normal players, and not the world-famous guild Ainz Ooal Gown. Their fame had made the members' appearances common knowledge, enough that certain guilds had already made bounty posters for each of the 41 members. If they attacked in their heteromorphic form, the other players would surely switch focus to them, particularly the [God of Unlife] Momonga-san.
Presently, everyone in Momonga's party applied [Loki's Tongue]. As each cost about 400 thousand gold, and each member had to use one, the costs were therefore exorbitant. If not for the millions deposited in the guild vaults by players like Momonga and Suratan through the Cash Shop, they'd be bankrupt by now.
Now Momonga looked like an average human, though he wore the same ornate robes as his skeletal form. He glanced around at his team-mates.
Standing before Momonga was an elementary school girl in a puffy dress. With blonde twintails. She turned around, examining herself. "Bukubukuchagama-san?" Momonga asked.
"What is it, onii-chan?~ Tee-hee," replied the girl, wagging her brows and twisting her body. Just from her voice, Momonga could tell it was her. They'd all known the player's job as a seiyuu. She had recently branched out from eroge voicework to anime. Momonga, no, Suzuki Satoru, had a complicated look on his face whenever he saw the commercial about the anime on TV, knowing it was his guildmate doing the cutesy voice on the main character.
"Uwah! Nee-san, why did you pick that?" cried the suave-looking gentleman in a long black cape.
"Wow, Peroroncino-san..." His friend looked like a sophisticated Western gentleman, who would not look out of place dancing in a ballroom somewhere.
"Oi, shut up, foolish otouto. What's with that outfit, huh? Gonna star in Castlevania or something? Gonna get whipped by handsome vampire slayers?" Her voice was now deeper, like it belonged to someone older.
"Th-this isn't a vampire outfit, nee-san. It's a world-famous outfit from that classic anime fifty years ago! Remember?" He did a striking pose, making his cape flutter.
Wow, so uncool, was Momonga's thought. Naturally, he kept such thoughts private. While the sibling duo bickered, someone tapped him on the shoulder.
"Wow, you didn't really customize yourself, Momonga-san?" said the human carrying the voice of Herohero. Momonga almost paled at the sight. He was a human who wouldn't look out of place in the yakuza. He had piercing eyes, arms and bodies bulging with muscles, and wore a sleeveless shirt and pinstriped pants. There was a large scar across his face. Momonga wouldn't be surprised if he actually swaggered, saying "Whatchu lookin' at? Huh?" like the classic yakuza flunkie.
"That's-well, I see you were very creative with yours, Herohero-san..."
Despite his fierce looks, Herohero's voice was as polite as ever. He scratched his head. "Well, I mostly got the appearance from an online site..."
Now Momonga felt a bit ashamed. When he was customizing his [Loki's Tongue] appearance, he wanted to stick to his old form thematically. He tried multiple combinations before settling on the default human setting, saying "Eh, whatever", and setting his clothes to default as well. Now he looked-well, like an ordinary human cosplaying a mage.
A beauty then walked into his vision. "Always so noisy," said the woman.
Silence. Peroroncino, Bukubukuchagama, Momonga and Herohero openly gaped at the sight. For the voice was certainly Ulbert-san's, but the body-
"Why, a woman?" Peroroncino's sister asked weakly.
"Ulbert" was now a woman in a bartender's outfit, with long red hair tied in a loose ponytail over the shoulder. Her, well, his boobs were... large, like two ripe fruits. She had a curvy body, with that salacious charm that most of the time was associated with sultry seductresses. And the face, of course, was not just pretty-it was a beautiful face with Western features. Momonga could safely say he hadn't seen any Japanese woman with this kind of beauty.
"Hm? This? What's wrong with a little cross-dressing?" asked Ulbert. "It's just a little exploration. I'm still completely hetero, thanks very much." Making a tsking sound with his tongue, Ulbert cupped his impressive bust. "Too big. I thought I had the right size when I was customizing... ah well. Maybe later."
When they'd all finally shook off the surprise from the goat-turned-seductress, they turned to the final member, Touch Me-san.
"What," they all said, even the seductress.
Where once stood a valiant knight in silver, there now stood what looked like someone's cruel prank. It was a half-naked muscular man, wearing a brown paper-bag over his head, and wearing boxers. The boxers had heart-shaped prints. There were holes on the mask to show the eyes. The man was completely barefoot. Momonga would not have known this was Touch Me, if not for the sword and shield slung behind his back. Two sets of belts wrapped in an "X" formation around his chest, forming a crude harness for the weapons.
"Hoh. We're certainly an eclectic bunch," Touch Me remarked, looking around as if he were stating the wellness of the weather.
"Oh, I'm having a headache," said the little girl, in a low voice belonging to a woman thrice her age. She sank to the grass like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
The woman formerly known as Ulbert snorted. Peroroncino murmured to Momonga, "Hey, is it just me or is Touch Me-san weirder since the divorce?"
"I don't think now's a good time to discuss those type of things..." Momonga whispered back.
"Touch Me-san," Herohero ventured. "Why do you look like a man... a homeless man?"
"Make no mistake Herohero-san, I am no man," said Touch Me. He lifted his paper bag to show the face beneath. It had two long ears. "I am an elf."
"There's no elf as muscular as you!" Peroroncino shouted. A moment later, he sighed.
"With all this weirdness," said the little girl, "It makes sense our guildmaster's the normal one."
No, it doesn't make sense at all! Why didn't I take more time customizing! I don't want this normal sort of disguise! These were all Momonga's thoughts. Well, it wasn't like it really mattered-it'd disappear after an hour. Momonga rather felt like he was the odd one out, giving him an odd sense of isolation.
"It's almost time," said the bartender. They all looked at their virtual watches, which read: [11:58:55]. Bellriver's precise calculations required that all buffs be cast at thirty seconds before the event started. Once the monster spawned, all spells cast near its perimeter were no longer "hate-free". If they somehow gained the attention of the monster just through casting buffs, their positions would be revealed prematurely by an area spell, making the plan fail.
At thirty seconds, Momonga, Ulbert and Bukubukuchagama began to cast buffs over their party. Additionally, Momonga used a cash item to make all spells cast on his party have [Extend] and [Empower] traits, leaving them to be able to use [Widen] on all the buffs.
At twenty seconds, they were done. Momonga swallowed, adrenaline flooding his system. He hastily cast a wide [Message]. "Everyone, good luck," he said.
There was a chorus of "Affirmative" from everyone. Their voices gave Momonga strength.
At ten seconds, all his party members nodded to each other. They knew what they had to do. It had been discussed again and again in the weeks leading up to the event. The bartender grinned confidently. The beefcake yakuza cricked his neck. The half-naked hobo rolled his shoulders. The little blonde twintail readied her magical scepter. The caped gentleman narrowed his eyes over the horizon. Momonga took a deep breath, ready to summon any spell from his 2000 strong repertoire.
Everything went dark.
A second later-
"What the heck happened?"
"What's going on?" asked Momonga, looking around at the darkness. It was like he and his party mates stood in the middle of a very dark room. He could vaguely see the others, which was weird because he was supposed to have perfect dark vision.
"Everyone, calm down," came the rumbling voice of Touch Me. "This is probably because of the load on the server. It's a shame but, maybe this time is a bust."
"All that work and preparation..." mumbled Herohero. He was fairly disappointed.
"Oooh, does this mean we get apology tickets?" said Peroroncino. No matter what, Yggdrasil would still have the occasional glitch and problem. Most times it happened to players. The developers awarded these players special items as an apology, and these were usually very rare drops from annoying boss creatures.
"Oh, the light's coming back on."
There was a huge burst of light, and they returned to the world. Momonga breathed a sigh of relief. Then he remembered there was supposed to be a battle, so he cast [Rebounding Bubble] in case of a sudden attack.
"Hm?" Then something strange caught his eye. No, it was more like he was surprised he didn't notice the first time they went out of the dark.
This was no longer the hilltop where they'd prepared. They stood in the middle of some dark forest.
"At least bring us back to our point of departure, shitty devs!" Peroroncino shouted, his voice echoing.
"Geez. And here our plans end in a resounding failure," said Ulbert.
"Everyone..." said Touch Me. "Do not panic." Despite saying that, Momonga could tell there was a hint of urgency in Touch Me's voice, which he'd only ever heard when there was an incoming ambush.
"What do you mean?" The others were confused by Touch Me's manner.
Then Momonga saw it. His UI had disappeared. "Impossible!" he cried. "The UI!" The rest realized then, as well. Their cries ranged from surprised to distressed.
"This is really weird..." Momonga couldn't stop himself from saying that. Panic began to rise like bile to his throat. But then a second later, he felt a rush of something like a cool wind blow through his body, extinguishing that feeling. Though confused by this, Momonga couldn't pay attention to it yet.
Everyone tried the emergency player functions: [Call GM], [Forced System Access], [Log Out] and other macros-
None of it worked. Or rather, without the UI there wasn't anything to show they were actually using those functions.
"The hell is going on," Ulbert rasped.
A thought occured to Momonga. [Message] He can't believe he forgot that important spell. When an enemy forced teleportation on him, immediately after casting defensive spells, Momonga usually cast [Message] to let the guildmembers know about his plight. It had become doubly useful when he'd become a God.
"[Message]" he muttered. The spell worked. A glow surrounded Momonga, getting the others' attention.
"What was that, Momonga-san?" asked Herohero.
"Just a simple [Message]," he said.
"Ah, of course. Why didn't I think of that," said Touch Me.
Would it work? He cast [Message], intended for Punitto Moe.
Nothing. He got the feeling of a dead telecomm line. Not busy, or away, just dead. He tried the rest, in sequence, burning up mana-Tabula, Wish III, Warrior Takemikazuchi, Yamaiko, Nishiki-san, Bellriver, Tigris Euphrates...
No one answered. The other thirty-six guild members were incommunicado. Which was impossible.
"I can't reach anyone on my friends' list too," said Peroroncino.
"Nor mine," said Ulbert.
"Hmph," said Bukubukuchagama. "Anyone else seeing this?" She pointed to a tree trunk, from which she scraped a few pieces of bark with her nails.
The eyes of Momonga's disguised human bulged, and indeed this was a surprising situation. No matter the graphical upgrade, trees in rebooted Yggdrasil were just background props: tactical cover at most, and a mass of refined pixels at the least. He watched Touch Me put bits of bark close to his nose and sniff.
"Everything does," mumbled Ulbert, whose beautiful visage was looking around the forest. "Either this is a very advanced prank by some really shitty devs, or some sort of... I don't know-"
"Oh fuck no," said Peroroncino. His eyes were wide, and he appeared to be pale. "This is... this is almost exactly like the plot in Log Horizon."
"Log what?" asked his sister.
"It's an old anime series from over a hundred years ago... like before all that crap with the Cultural Revolution. The Golden Age of Anime-"
"Get to the point, please," snapped Ulbert.
"Well... sorry, it's just that in that story, there were a group of people playing this VR online game, and one day they were suddenly whisked to their game world, where they'd become very real inhabitants in it."
"Like the plot in Gem Maiden Kuroko?" asked Bukubukuchagama. The name was familiar to Momonga, and he recalled it being a famous children's anime. He also remembered something about its plot when he read about in a magazine.
"Nah, in that one the girl just went into her storybook, right?" said Peroroncino. "In Log Horizon, they went into their game. Like, the game became real, they could eat things, fight things, even..." His voice became hushed. "Even die."
Everyone in the group gulped loudly. "Did they not have rezzes?" asked Ulbert.
"Well... I can't really recall. But it's not the point. The point is if we are indeed, facing a hitherto impossible and fantastical situation like those characters-"
It didn't need to be said. This was a catastrophe of the highest order. And it wasn't like they could complain about the developers-although they probably could, if they had anything to do with it. But far likelier was the thought that this was real, this was happening, Suzuki Satoru was really Momonga-
"Peroroncino-san," he said. "Did they ever come back?"
"Those people in the story... Were they able to get back to their own place?"
The caped gentleman frowned. "Frankly, I don't remember. I just recalled the story because it's one of the Golden Age notables. I wasn't really into the whole 'transported into a different world' concept. Which is ironic, considering..." he indicated himself.
"Then, let us bank on the hope that they did," Momonga said. "It's the least we can do... right?"
"Hrm... That is perhaps the best we can do under the circumstances," said Touch Me. "Less time for panic, and more for managing our situation. In emergencies like these, we must always look to survival."
"Emergency, huh?" Bukubukuchagama wondered. "If it is, it lacks a certain tension... But I agree. It's best we stick together, and maybe we can get back to reality."
"Or we can find a way," Peroroncino ventured. Indeed. There was that chance.
"But what about our bodies?" asked Herohero. The question brought even more silence. It was thought-provoking, and indeed Momonga wondered about the body he left behind. Had his mind transferred into his game avatar? Was he dead? Or comatose? Or did his whole body get sucked into the dive machine, and merged with the data-
Too many theories. And no way to prove them.
"We cannot think about that now," said Touch Me. "Not to be blunt, of course, but there's really nothing we can do for now."
"I understand," said Herohero. "But personally, I'm not complaining. At least this gives me an excuse not to be early for work tomorrow."
"Hmph. An excellent point," said Ulbert. "An extended vacation, and if anyone complains, we can always point to the shitty devs. I just hope they don't get bankrupt from all the heat coming on their heads right about now."
"Ah, but nee-san's fans might get upset," said Peroroncino. His sister shook her head, tossing the twintails over her shoulder, though she said nothing.
"Then, is it alright if I take a vote?" said Momonga.
"Hoh. As expected of our Guildmaster. Always on the ball. Very well, what shall it be?"
"We should promise to stick together for the future, while we're in this strange situation. And if we ever discover a way back, we won't take it until everyone returns together. Does anyone want to add anything?"
"A pact, huh?" asked Ulbert. His eyes glittered. "I like it."
"It's too bad we can't make a magical contract," said Peroroncino.
"Our solemn vows should be enough," said Touch Me. "It would be a despicable human who would abandon his friends." Momonga felt a surge of admiration for his old friend.
"All in favor?" said Bukubukuchagama.
And with that shout, the strange story of a group of members from Ainz Ooal Gown, stuck in a new world, began. Unbeknownst to them, their arrival would herald a great upheaval in this world-but that shall be for later.
So a reader on this site told me that a story of mine reminds him of a light novel series, Overlord. Curious, I read through it all. Then a story idea hooked its way into my mind. Damn it!
So, thanks for reading, there's a second chapter coming, and as always, any feedback is welcome.