This part, like the previous one, covers a small portion of the sixth volume of the original Re:Zero series. I ended up preferring the short format to post these up. I want to keep pumping out scenes and letting them hang clean so as I push forward I can reread some parts and feel that I don’t have that much to touch when I finally get to HTML the latest raw. Not much of anything happens in this one, but I kept giggling through it even when rereading it, which is good enough for me.
GPT-3 worked its magic. I had to prompt them travellers being gathered around the campfire, and I knew that Otto would pop up, but the remaining characters are all due to GPT-3’s magic. Plenty of great dialogue came verbatim from good ol’ AI too.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
The two suspiciously aerodynamic ground dragons that came with Anastasia’s chosen carriage are making you fly through the open countryside in the dark, which is only breached in isles by the glowing, magical crystals that this fantasy world uses as nighttime illumination. You guess that these crystals that apparently are gathered from mines in some areas are the convenient substitutes for electricity in most concerns that would otherwise require the lightning stuff. Funny how the universe balances its dimensions. In any case, ground dragons also have a blessing or some shit that creates a bubble of spacetime that makes it so the extreme air that going so far produces doesn’t blow the drivers out of the driver’s seat, which would have made these noble creatures obsolete. This fantasy world’s Darwinism had made it so ground dragons were better at everything than dumb horses, except at crushing unsuspecting children’s skulls with a back kick just because the damn child wanted to pet a horsey. Good riddance as far as you are concerned.
Screaming the whole ride, you try to forget the pain in your ass by focusing on a certain aching part of your brain, but it’s not helping. You barely give a shit what’s happening anymore; you just want to get off this fucking thing.
“Rem, I can’t tell much about anything, but this isn’t the same route we followed last time, I don’t think!”
“It isn’t! This is a dangerous route that you don’t want to be caught in if you are riding a slower carriage, because many monsters can run about that fast!”
“Are there any other dangers to worry about along this route, apart from being torn apart by monsters if you stop!?”
“None! People call it Flugel Road, because of a large tree that this Flugel sage planted some hundreds of years in the past and it grew so big!”
“A dumb name!”
At one point, Rem decides to slow down the ground dragons. It seems that she has noticed in the distance a couple of figures standing near the path, and that are signaling for the carriage. Rem lets go of the reins with one hand to slide it into whatever part of her maid costume could possible hide her enormous flail, as she eyes suspiciously those approaching figures. You sit straighter, although you could hardly do more.
It’s two men wearing outfits that would generally belong to travelling merchants. They don’t behave threateningly.
“Good night! We are flagging down passing carriages in order to share information with each other. The road is a bit more perilous than usual tonight, I’m afraid.”
“Just our fucking luck”, you say.
“If you both will come, you can park your carriage a bit further down this open field and join us.”
You are surprised that Rem agrees so readily. She maneuvers the carriage so it approaches a large group of carriages gathered as in a camp. Numerous figures are mostly sitting around a campfire, and some of their ground dragons are curled up and sleeping. You both disembark and walk towards the gathering.
You whisper in Rem’s likely delicious ear.
“Are you sure we can waste our time?”
“We need to know if there are dangers ahead that could cost us more than the minutes we’ll waste here.”
That sounds reasonable, you think. That’s why Rem is in charge, as well as for most other reasons.
After a quick look at the area, you realize a lot of carriages belong to merchants, although there are some travellers. There’s also a family obviously of travellers, with the mother and two young children huddled on one side while the father speaks to a merchant.
You approach the campfire, but you don’t get too close. Some of these people must be desperate if this area is as bad as it sounds, particularly at night. Apart from a couple of caravan guards who look like discount soldiers, most of the people at this camp do not wear any armors, just traveling clothes.
Rem speaks to the camp at large.
“We’re coming from Lugunica, straight to lord Roswaal’s domain. We heard there were problems on the road. What exactly happened?”
“Who are you?” a woman asks.
“My name is Rem, and this is my bodyguard, Natsuki Subaru. We both serve lord Roswaal.”
You nod nervously. Don’t test my supposed profession, you ask in your mind.
“I’m Liliana”, the woman who spoke first says. “We’re travelling to the Alania territory. We have important documents to deliver. I wanted to use a knight or a royal courier, but they wouldn’t take this road.”
Nobody asked you, lady, you think.
“You people mentioned the road being more perilous than usual tonight. What’s going on?”, Rem asks.
Some of the people gathered look at each other, seemingly unwilling to speak up. A young man who is taking a swig at a bottle does.
“There’s mist up ahead, that’s the problem. There goes another chance to get rid of this damn oil.”
You perk up, and point at the probably drunk young man.
“Holy shit, it’s you! This is a small fantasy world.”
“Huh!?”, Otto says, spilling some alcohol.
Otto looks you over, but he doesn’t recognize you.
“No, you are not as drunk as you think you are, probably. You don’t know me directly, but I’ve met you before in two previous lives.”
“Huh… the third time’s the charm, then”, he says with a frown, slumping back.
“But in any case, what’s the issue with the mist exactly?”
Most of the people present frown, and some chuckle as if they are being polite after hearing a terrible joke. Even Rem is looking at you confused.
“Hey, don’t give me that ‘you don’t know that?’ look, Rem”, you complain. “If anybody would, you should know that I don’t know anything.”
Rem’s face goes all serious, and she speaks in a thin voice.
“Most of the time the mist is just mist. But the problem is that some of the times the mist isn’t just mist.”
“It’s a figure of speech, it isn’t…”, you say, but then you stop short.
The people gathered look at you expectantly.
“What do you mean exactly?”, you ask.
An old man wearing a robe marked with a purple eye speaks up.
“The White Whale, what else!? Are you retarded!?”
You tilt your head.
“The White Whale… is that like a whale in some ocean?”
“Terrific monster, actually”, says a caravan guard in his twenties. “It’s not evil, it’s just a force of nature.”
“A force of nature with a taste for human flesh and human souls”, the purple-eyed old man says.
“Shut up, old man!”
“Make me shut up, Tholter! I’m not afraid of you!”
Another caravan guard with blonde hair and wearing plate mail armor slaps his pal, Tholter, in the back of the head.
“Stop fighting, both of you! We don’t have time for this.”
The blonde man turns to you.
“Sorry about this… this is just a stressful thing for all of us, especially since there’s a chance we might not make it through.”
“Why would a whale be a problem for ground carriages, no matter how capitalized its name is?”, you ask.
The caravan guard laughs.
“Oh, you are not joking! Where are you from? You must have been born yesterday!”
“The White Whale flies. It’s a whale that flies and appears out of nowhere in the mist and then people go missing. Go missing in a special way.”
“They disappear from the world without a trace. Even from people’s memories! You only know they are gone because, for example, units of soldiers suddenly return with fewer numbers, but you don’t know who is missing!” The blonde caravan guard crosses his arms and smiles smugly at you. “And that’s not even the worst thing about the mist or the White Whale.”
You shudder at the thought that such a creature could ever exist.
“What is then?”
“It’s not human. Well, not entirely human. It’s like an animal, with no soul or emotions. Nothing can stop it or reason with it.”
“Well, I don’t know why you expected it to be human. It clearly says in its name that it is a whale, whether flying or not. But it sounds absolutely horrifying. Are you sure you didn’t dream this up in one of your drunken revelries?”
“I did not!”
“Sorry, I don’t really know you that well and you don’t know me either. But if what you’re saying is true, then this danger is very real and we’re in a lot of trouble.”
“We are well aware that the danger is real, you are the one who doesn’t have a clue”, the purple-eyed old man says angrily.
“I guess you’ll have to sleep here until the mist dissipates”, Otto says. “No matter, lord Roswaal’s domains will be there when you reach them.”
“But people that the domain contains won’t, which is the problem”, you say with a nervous voice. “This is bad, isn’t it? I don’t know how it wouldn’t be. So if there’s mist, there’s a flying whale that erases people?”
“Didn’t that blue-haired maid you protect say that most of the time the mist is just mist?”, the old man says. “You need to clean your ears! It might be just mist, or it might hide the White Whale. Why risk it?”
“I need to know when there’s a flying whale!”, you complain.
“Then walk into the mist, idiot, and find out for yourself.”
“No! I’m not going to do that!”
“He’s got a point”, some other man further away from the campfire says. “If I was a flying whale that erased people, I’d probably stay away from the place where I revealed my secret identity.”
“We already established that the monster is not human”, the blonde caravan guard says.
The woman, Liliana, intervenes.
“Okay, so we were wrong. There is no flying whale. That doesn’t change the fact that there is still some sort of mist that turns everything into ice and it comes from the mountains.”
“Nobody cares about some other mist!”, you say. “The flying whale is much more interesting.”
“Maybe. But if this mist absorbs heat and causes frost, who knows what that White Whale is capable of?”
“It erases people”, the blonde caravan guard says. “I can tell you that much.”
Gears are turning in your head, but they are just grinding any coherent thought.
“The thing is”, Rem says calmly. “We need help.”
Everyone’s gaze turns to the beautiful blue-haired maid, who is really cute, and she’s holding a pouch that bulges as if it contains plenty of coins.
“Lord Roswaal is a rich and powerful man, and he gave me a significant amount of money to accomplish the tasks he ordered me to fulfill. Returning to his mansion as soon as possible is one of the most important of those tasks.”
“So what!? Are you showing off!?”, the purple-eyed old man says.
“Idiot! She’s making a point!”, someone else answers.
“Indeed I am. Look, we knew that if we ran into trouble on our way back, with the money Lord Roswaal gave me, we can easily solve it.”
“That’s true”, Liliana says. “You can throw the coins at the White Whale to distract it.”
“So you’re saying…”, Otto says, “that you want to give us money to guide you through the mist?”
“It’s more than guiding through the mist. We need to move people”, Rem says.
You stare at Rem confused. Do we need to move people?
“No, thank you”, Otto says, and burps. “I don’t want to be erased. I have oil to complain about.”
“I see. Then, allow me to make the proposal another way. I will pay you… let’s say, triple the amount the market pays for that oil, all of it, if you bring us to his mansion. We’d also need to use your carriage, and those of whoever else comes with us, for transporting humans.”
The purple-eyed old man laughs, and he looks around as if he had never heard a funnier joke in his life.
“I’m serious”, Rem says, and moves forward the bag of coins. It chinks as she gently shakes it. “We have no need for this money, and lord Roswaal is rich. I want to give it to you for the help.”
“Why would a whale fly, though?”, you wonder out loud after some thought. “What kind of incoherent fantasy world is this?”
Rem shoots you a look that is at the same time reproachful and understanding.
“Let’s move past questioning facts of reality, for now at least.”
“I… I’m sorry, Rem”, you whisper.
Rem nods and moves her gaze back to the group.
“You said you need to transport humans, right?”, Otto asks dubitatively. “I think that’s what I heard? Why would you need to transport humans urgently?”
“I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but my lord Roswaal is fond of hosting these celebrations known as the Glorious Races. It’s common knowledge I assume. Anyway, he’s got this… this thing he’s trying to court a lady with, and it involves these races.”
“Aha! Now I get it! He’s betting on the races!”
“Thing is, it involves having to transport out of their village all the villagers at the foot of the hill that leads to the lord’s mansion. And it needs to be done as soon as possible, literally, because otherwise the villagers won’t get to see the lord win his bets.”
“Lord Roswaal is even more eccentric than I thought…”, Otto says.
“So we need humans, people like you”, Rem concludes. “I know it’s terrible to do this to you, in a night like this, but we need to pick the people most useful for our purposes.”
After a bit of silence, the purple-eyed old man speaks.
The declaration makes you jump a bit, as you hadn’t expected or even thought that anyone would actually agree.
“Hm? You disagree with my carriage accompanying you fancy lord pawns to the manor?”
“No, I’m fine with it”, you say after taking a deep breath.
“Then it’s settled. You, young man, come with us.”
Otto turns towards the old man, and lets out a weird noise.
“I thought you agreed to come with us? I don’t like to force people, but-“
Otto accidentally swings his alcohol, which splashes all over Liliana.
“I never agreed to anything!”
“You… You bastard!”
The old man leaps onto Otto, and starts punching him in the face. The young, drunk Otto tries to defend himself, but the purpled-eyed old man seems to have a lot of energy to fight back. All you do is stand back and watch the scene unfold. Even Rem is watching the pair brawl.
“Well…”, you say. “Is there anyone else willing to join? It’s like, the whole pouch thing for the lot of ya.”
Some observations regarding GPT-3’s behavior here.
-The sentences ‘Screaming the whole ride, you try to forget the pain in your ass by focusing on a certain aching part of your brain, but it’s not helping. You barely give a shit what’s happening anymore; you just want to get off this fucking thing.’ came verbatim from GTP-3. Thank you AI for imitating my narrative style.
-Most of the description of the camp, ‘After a quick look at the area, you realize a lot of carriages belong to merchants, although there are some travellers. There’s also a family obviously of travellers, with the mother and two young children huddled on one side while the father speaks to a merchant. You approach the campfire, but you don’t get too close. Some of these people must be desperate if this area is as bad as it sounds, particularly at night. Apart from a couple of caravan guards who look like discount soldiers, most of the people at this camp do not wear any armors, just traveling clothes’, came from GPT-3, although not verbatim. GPT-3 insisted on having professional soldiers in the camp, which in such a dangerous area would have made sense.
-Otto’s dumbfounded, but generally uncaring response, ‘”Huh… the third time’s the charm, then”, he says with a frown, slumping back.’ is verbatim from GPT-3.
-Except for Otto, all other characters (the caravan guards, Liliana and the purpled-eyed old man) are characters that GPT-3 came up with. I just retouched a bit their general descriptions, and mentioned them properly where necessary. GPT-3 also provided the general ‘feel’ of that nasty old man, which I used to my advantage.
-The following exchange, ‘”Terrific monster, actually”, says a caravan guard in his twenties. “It’s not evil, it’s just a force of nature.” “A force of nature with a taste for human flesh and human souls”, the purple-eyed old man says. “Shut up, old man!” “Make me shut up, Tholter! I’m not afraid of you!”‘ came verbatim from GPT-3 except for the character descriptions. The whole thing about it being a force of nature must have come from an introduction I wrote in the hidden backstory about the whale being so impossible to kill that every kingdom considered it a natural disaster. Somehow the AI put two and two together.
-Maybe my favorite exchange is that of the blonde caravan guard for whom I did have to prompt that whole deal about the mist erasing people, but then GPT-3 came up with ‘ The blonde caravan guard crosses his arms and smiles smugly at you. “And that’s not even the worst thing about the mist or the White Whale. It’s not human. Well, not entirely human. It’s like an animal, with no soul or emotions. Nothing can stop it or reason with it.”‘ After saying the memories erasing mist thing, he adds that the worst part is that a whale is not a human? What an idiot! Such an absurd moment set up plenty of the tone for the rest of the scene, as far as me writing the rest is concerned.
-The phrase ‘”Then walk into the mist, idiot, and find out for yourself.”‘ came verbatim from GPT-3.
-GPT-3 also came up entirely with ‘”If I was a flying whale that erased people, I’d probably stay away from the place where I revealed my secret identity.”‘ Think about that, an AI saying ‘If I was a flying whale that erased people’, after having integrated the words of the backstory and this scene in its neural network.
-Liliana’s idiotic attempt at changing the conversation, ‘”Okay, so we were wrong. There is no flying whale. That doesn’t change the fact that there is still some sort of mist that turns everything into ice and it comes from the mountains.”‘, was verbatim GPT-3, as well as her follow up.
-The following lie coming from Rem, ‘”I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but my lord Roswaal is fond of hosting these celebrations known as the Glorious Races. It’s common knowledge I assume. Anyway, he’s got this… this thing he’s trying to court a lady with, and it involves these races.”‘, is verbatim from GPT-3. What I was most impressed about it is not only that it decided for me whether or not the characters were going to say the truth regarding the Witch’s Cult attack to these people, but that GPT-3 made Rem sound as if she was making it up!
-Rem calling the group in front of her ‘humans’ nonchalantly is great, and it came from GPT-3. Obviously, Rem is not a human, although she mostly looks like one.
-GPT-3 was the one who made the old man join Rem’s plan first. It worked perfectly as far as I’m concerned.
-The whole leaping on Otto for a bit of punching was made by GPT-3, but the AI had decided that Liliana was the one doing it, likely because of Otto splashed her with his alcohol. I think the absurdity of the old man’s action works better.
-Pretty sure that GPT-3 not having produced virtually anything of value in the previous part was simply a bug in the website that works as an intermediary to communicate with GPT-3’s cloud servers. I’m guessing that session wasn’t working with the neural network that has handled all other parts.