Squatjaw’s Amusement Park of Mystery (2)

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I was filled with tension as I watched Leo and the rest leave the shooting range from a distance.

So far things had gone to plan.
The operation was a success.

There were no objections from the boys.
Perhaps because they were more interested in how I used Kiriko’s unique ability, rather than in winning or losing.

It was for this purpose that I’d dared show off mixing ‘Penetration’ and ‘Explosion’.
By deliberately focusing on mimicking abilities, I’d managed to distract them from the outcome of the confrontation.
In fact, hitting the target itself had nothing to do with what kind of magic bullets were used.

To be precise, it didn’t matter even if I hadn’t gotten it right.

Now all that was left was the author’s reaction.

What was he going to do?

First of all, it was clear that he already had bad feelings about me, and he intended to delete me from this chapter.
In his attempt to maintain the original development.

To change his mind, I had to make two ‘main variables’ move by my side.

The main variables were nothing but:

Leo and his party, The readers.

Once the main character and party became curious about me, the more curious they become, the more essential my existence would become in terms of ‘plausibility’.
Whether he liked it or not, this would remind the author of the importance of my character.

Fortunately, looked like the operation to amplify their doubts had worked.
Seeing how Kiriko’s eyes were fixed in my direction.

Next, the readers.

This was simpler.
If the readers’ reacted to me positively, wouldn’t it be possible to change the author’s mind as well? To the point where he would even want to use me a little more.

Presumably, the readers’ reaction to this confrontation wouldn’t be very bad.
Because I’d be showing them offbeat scenes with some good gags mixed in.

In fact, creating and directing this gameboard had taken a truly enormous amount of work.

From mimicking Cocoa’s ability to move half of the amusement park directly, to small interior settings, to educating everyone in the party one by one.

In order to not make Leo’s party feel something was off, and to lower their vigilance, I even hired ‘troops’ from the character shop and mobilized them as the audience.

Of course, hiring ‘troops’ wasn’t cheap.

I paid a whopping 2000 points for a one-day rental.
Even though they were merely characters with basic stats, without much in the way of taking commands.

‘Well, still, I got around 100 people.’

The problem was that despite all this effort, and even if the readers’ reaction was not too bad, there was no guarantee of survival.

As long as the author remained the final decision maker of the story, no matter the plausibility or fan popularity, the risk of character deletion couldn’t be avoided.

So even after leaving the shooting range, I kept watching the situation like a scared rat.

It’d been about 10 minutes since my fight with Kiriko ended.

If there’s no message from the author, it’s a success.
At least, it can be interpreted as ‘I’ll watch the situation for now’.

However, if even the slightest restrictions came in, the plan had to be completely revised right away.
Because the upcoming confrontations would be tougher than the gunfight. 

But fortunately,

“Phew…”

No message arrived.

Lifting a heavy weight from my heart.

In fact, if it wasn’t for this kind of light mixing of manipulation and subterfuge, it was almost impossible to defeat these guys and survive.

This wasn’t just because these guys had great abilities and were exceptional.

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There was another reason why I had no choice but to plan such a strategy.
Because competing purely on the basis of abilities was by itself detrimental to me, regardless of whether I won or lost.

Simply put, in the first place, I shouldn’t have been able to corner the main character’s party only with my skills.
This is because readers basically always stand on the protagonist’s side while watching the story, and never want to see them be defeated in skills.

In other words, if it wasn’t some playful confrontation where you could laugh it off and ignore the result, it was meaningless to win.
If that happened, the author’s sword would still chop my head off in the end based on the readers’ anger.

‘It’s really vicious.’

Every single aspect of the conditions oozed with malice.
It was difficult to find a path to escape.

But the greater the crisis, the greater the opportunity.

If I could overcome the current situation with my wisdom, I might be able to create an opportunity for a reversal that would’ve been impossible in the past.

‘No, I must make that happen.’

First of all, I had to force the future competitions into a certain flow.

I start the game from an overwhelmingly advantageous position. Taunt. The angry opponent makes a comeback and drives me to the very brink of defeat. At the last moment, I somehow barely eke out a slapdash victory. End the act by brushing away cold sweat and saying it’d been dangerous just now.

Giving your opponent a chance to make a comeback was of course a huge risk, but this too was unavoidable.
Because I had to be wary of the main character’s party as well.

The equation was simple.
If they didn’t show their cool sides, it wouldn’t meet the readers’ expectations, and the accumulated resentment would again come back as another threat.

Anyway, the key was to elicit ‘joy’ and ‘surprise’ from the readers, and at the same time give them a ‘not unacceptable defeat’.

“Hoo…”

Of course, I was ready.

All that was left was to implement the plan without any problems.

Then,

“Squatjaw! Shouldn’t you have said something?!”

“Huh?”

Haka, who’d returned from his mission, sneaked up and grumbled at me.

“Why would you shoot something like that without any warning in advance?”

“Something like that?”

“That last shot of yours!”

“Shot… Ah.
My shot?”

“I thought it was a firecracker, and I almost died like an idiot!”

After all, what I’d fired wasn’t just the ‘form’ of a bullet.

The bullet that fused ‘Explosion’ and ‘Penetration’ was the most powerful ammunition that Kiriko could currently use.
Hidden in the bushes and moving in the shadows, this guy must have been terrified when something like that had suddenly flown in.

“But you’re not going to die with just that much, are you?”

“Anyway, it really sounded dangerous.”

I quietly looked into Haka’s grumbling eyes.

This guy was already starting to change his character.
While his weirdness and secretiveness subsided, his chatter and fussiness instead rose up.

How his slitted eyes had subtly widened was the best proof.
His narrowed eyes used to symbolize his ‘secrecy’ and ‘seriousness’.
Whereas right now, I didn’t even think that his eyes were particularly narrow.

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Originally, such changes would come only after he met with Leo and rest a few more times.
A change signifying the character shifting to a ‘gag’ character rather than a ‘secret’ one.

Presumably, his unexpected encounter with a goblin had now brought this change about.

In fact, if we assumed that the initial goal of the character, Haka, had been to introduce the goblins, then it could be said that the reason behind his existence itself had disappeared.

It was unclear what the future consequences of this might be.

The first reason why I’d tried to collect this guy was because I thought that it might buy the author’s favour, by helping him weave the ‘unrecovered rice cakes’ into the storyline.

Even now, that thought had not changed, but the problem was that this guy was facing the danger of deletion without even becoming a ‘rice cake’.

Actually, this guy had only ever directly faced Leo and his party once, and even then, he didn’t really have a great presence.

‘Rather… I wonder if he could become a treasure trove?’

In my opinion, the reason this guy was able to exist without any problems even after going through character settlement was because he was already connected with me.

In other words, he was being protected by my ‘class’.

It was questionable how long the current situation would last.

As the author said, the character has to do something to survive on his own.
If you don’t, you will eventually lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and collapse.

Of course, the initial settings given to this guy didn’t disappear, so he was still usable.
He was still strong, and he was a character with potential.

So, I didn’t mean to just leave this guy alone.
I was thinking of laying a solid groundwork that would at least act as support, so that he could stand on his own two feet.

To do that, it was necessary to create an environment in which the most ‘significant setting’ applied to this guy could be made relevant, and there was only one way to do that.

It was to bring forward the appearance of the goblins, at a large scale.

‘Yeah, the level of risk is no joke.’

For a moment, I naturally imagined the angry face of the author.
It would be like bypassing about 20 volumes of content.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have anything to say even if I ended up being deleted.

“Hmm.”

I shook my head, clearing away my thoughts.

Well, it was just an idea right now.

That was that, and for now, I had to focus on the current situation.

“By the way, what about the others?”

“Chinuavi is doing the final inspection, and the little girl is dragging the time.”

“How much time left?”

“Would it be about 40 minutes?”

The time had come for me to slowly start preparing for the next match.

“You understand your role in the next match?”

“Sure.”

“Great.
You mustn’t be caught.
In a way, your role might be the most important this time too.
Don’t let that tuft-haired kid…”

“Hey, don’t worry.”

Then, leaving Haka behind, I hurriedly accelerated my steps.

40 minutes later.

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– Now, were you all bored with the gunfight last time? That’s why we have a new big event for you! The match everyone has been waiting for! It’s called ‘Run, One Lap around the Park!’

“Wow!”

“Whoo!”

“I’ve been waiting!”

Actually, it wasn’t much of a game.

It was literally just starting from the front door and running through a fixed route.

The rules couldn’t have been simpler than this.

Reach the target before your opponent.

– This challenger is even more cheeky than that cheeky redhead! Introducing, the troublemaker Leo!

There was only one reason why I planned this running race.

Because this was the only way to deal with Leo.

In a situation where you had to compete ability versus ability, it was best to find a way to compete against a part of the ability, not against the ability as a whole.
There was no way for me to compete against electricity, so the only choice for a match was speed.

Following Cocoa’s introduction, the onlookers started booing again.

“Boo!”

“Go away!”

“Who do you think you are, little baby!”

Of course, Leo didn’t care about it.
He just sported his innocent smile as if he was just having fun.

“Let’s get started!”

– And our running champ against that tuft-haired kid! The name everyone has been waiting for! Introducing, Lamborghini Squatjaw!

I slowly approached Leo, who’d been waiting at the starting line.

Leo looked at me and smiled.

“You said that if I win, you’ll tell me about your identity?”

“Yeah, right.”

“Are you sure? I’m not kidding, I’m fast.”

“I know.”

“No, you can’t say you know until you experience it yourself.
As for how fast I am…”

“No? You must be as fast as lightning.”

“… That means you don’t know!”

I couldn’t even smile when I saw Leo’s bewildered expression.
Because I was so tense inside.

It took me a week of grinding just to prepare for this one simple game.
Because my opponent was none other than the ‘protagonist’.

In fact, this race was a battle that would be the starting point for my path of survival.

“But I’m fast too.
Enough to make you nervous.”

“Heh, we’ll see about that.”

“Well, I’ll tell you the long and short of it.
You see, I…”

In an instant, blue sparks flew out of my body.

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Crrrrrackkkkkle –.

“Am as fast as lightning.”

“… What?”

As soon as Leo made that blank expression, I signalled Cocoa to start.

To take the opportunity while this guy was confused.

–  Then ready, steady! Start!

I quickly shot forward.
Swerving left to get out of his sight, I quickly took out a bottle of invisibility potion from my sleeves and swallowed the contents.

“Ugh.
This taste…”

I’d already confirmed that the invisibility potion wouldn’t clash with my [Mimic Acrobat].

I went invisible without hesitation.

And yet,

“Where did you go?”

As if using a booster, Leo rushed past me with a flash of lightning.

So far, it was a success.

I stood still and watched him quietly.

As far as running rules were concerned, there was no need to worry about your opponent.
Just run at your own pace.

But Leo didn’t.
Right now, he seemed more interested in me than the race.

Of course, this was intended.
That guy who used lightning never even considered that he might lose, and if I was already in sight, it didn’t matter.
He’d run by my side and ask me questions.

Soon after,

“I found you, you bastard! How the hell are you using my lightning? Tell me right now!”

The boy ran forward again.

Of course, I wasn’t the one who he’d found.

And soon,

“What! Are you already following me?”

It was Chinuavi disguised as me.

The place where the two of them were running was a path that had nothing to do with the previously specified running route.

The reason Leo followed Chinuavi without any doubt was simple.

Because the existence that he thought was me, was right in front of him.

And therefore,

“… That’s spectacular.”

He couldn’t have imagined that the path would be wrong.

Beyond the road where the two of them ran, an extremely huge castle slowly began to appear.

What I prepared for this one simple game, to defeat that main character, was not so simple.

It was another amusement park, hidden inside a ‘goblin cloth’.

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