Chapter 2: Some People Take Forever in Character Creation
The bed slides out excruciatingly slow and I bolt from it as soon as my head clears the scanner.
The clerk gives an ‘ok’ gesture as he compiles the data on the scanner’s screen.
“Great! Jun, let’s go back to the front and register your character. Mister, can we rent two VRMMO sets for 2 hours?”
Hm? Why two sets? When I ask Masaki while we walk to the cubicles in the front he explains that in VRMMOs, since your consciousness goes into the game he can’t help me create a character without going into the game himself.
Ok, so … login screen, input the scan data code … yes, link and save data to the screenname. No way do I want to ‘lose’ it and have to redo the entire scanner horror.
Generate default character base … whoa.
So this is virtual reality. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s like being in your own body, but dialing back your senses somehow. Is the missing sensation air resistance? It feels like those kinds of physics are linked to restrictions in your range of motion instead of how it works in the real world, but I wouldn’t have thought that missing such things would be so disorienting.
Now server selection. Hm? The server Masaki told me to join isn’t here?
A small ringing caught my attention and I reach out and touch the blinking icon that just popped up.
“Yo Jun, register me as a friend so I can come help.”
Masaki’s voice came out of the icon when I activated it.
With a little bit of trouble I figure out how to add him as a friend. Once Masaki is confirmed as a friend the chat turns into a friend-chat, allowing me to activate video-chat options. Another notification pops up shortly after asking me if I would allow my friend to teleport to my character creation instance. After I accept, a fantastic sci-fi scene unfolds as Masaki’s digital body materializes before me.
“Alright, now you can select the Nethra server.”
Oh, it’s true. Now the Nethra server is added to the list. How come?
“Hehehe. That’s actually an event server. It’s not open to anyone but the top 10 parties on each server. It’s full of really tough mobs and supposed to have instances with great rare drops. I added your screenname to my party. I’ll have to confirm your character name when you’re done making the character, but you’re now a member of [Killing Machines]!”
“Ignoring the lame party name, starting on a special server is too advanced for a non-gamer, especially a level 1 right?”
“Nono, it’s all according to plan.”
He didn’t refute the ‘lame name’ part. It seems they’re planning on power-leveling me here and debuting me as a member(temp) of their party to catch the other parties off guard during the event. It appears to be competitive somehow. I don’t bother asking about the details. I’m sure it’ll be over my head.
We’re stuck at ‘Class’ now.
“Ugh, I don’t know which class would be best if we want you to be an all-rounder. Something half-vanguard like so a warrior or stalker maybe. You did a lot of kendo right? But your archery skills from helping out at the kyudo club would make a really broken hunter class too. Hm. Let’s skip this for now and do stat-calibration. Maybe we’ll figure it out once we see how that goes.”
I kind of get what he’s talking about, but I kind of don’t get what he’s talking about. I skip the ‘Class’ selection and click on the ‘Stat-Calibration’ icon on the Character Creation timeline, confirming that I did in fact understand that I was skipping a step.
A series of tests, not unlike school physicals, popped up one after another, though a few weird ones like a punching machine and stone throwing were mixed in. The last one was a spar with a holographic person. I will call him Training-Dummy-kun. The test is paused while waiting for me to select a weapon but there’s no katana.
Before I can decide Masaki looked up suddenly.
“Hey Jun, I’m gonna have a friend join us to help.”
“’kay. From the party?”
“Yeah. Hey, Sei-chan, got a moment?”
Hm, so using Friend Chat means you have to talk out loud. So Friend Chat isn’t telepathy but more like a phone conversation.
While I go ahead with the last stat calibration Masaki finishes his one-sided (from my point of view) conversation. Ah, a longsword is just awkward to use in place of a katana … but I manage without too much trouble. Wait wait, materializing a second Training-Dummy-kun without warning is cheating!
As my spar-turned-brawl continued, the system randomly adding more Training-Dummy-kuns as it went along, another sci-fi scene unfolds as a man teleports in next to Masaki. So “Sei-chan” is a man1?
“Halloooo~! I’ve come to be of service~!”
“Sei-chan” gives a huge, cheesy grin and waves by fluttering his fingers. Oi.
“Yo, Sei-chan. We’re stuck on the character class. Well, we’re finishing up the calibration now. Still.”
“Fumu. So this is your childhood friend… Hya-ho~! What a beauty! Oi oi, with a childhood friend like this, aren’t you well on your way to being popular?”
Who the hell would be into that kind of BL2? Especially not with Masaki. I’m considering going over to hit that “Sei-chan” my sword but I think leaving the lit area would invalidate the test. I’m beginning to realize that this is an endurance match with the system adding a new Training-Dummy-kun every minute. It appears that it would be over if I get hit five times, but I resist the urge to stand there and let them hit me. Two more hits with 5+ opponents won’t take too much longer.
Sure enough, with 6 opponents the fight is over in less than another minute.
It troubles me a little that a grazing blow counted as the final hit. Since I properly returned the hit to that Training-Dummy-kun with a blow that would reach bone versus his barely-knicked-me hit, in kendo I would have triumphed.
“Ooh, good job Jun. I didn’t last past 3. Seimei was done in with just one.”
“Hmmph~! This type of strength measurement is ~useless~ for a mage. Now now, Masa-yan3, introduce me to this peerless beauty!”
The two of them came walking over and I got a good look at “Sei-chan”. Oh? He’s older than I expected. Third year high school or maybe in university already? Well, assuming he hadn’t modified his character build too much. I guess it’s hard to tell if he modified his character at a glance but I know he’s modified it a little bit. At least, I’m hoping he doesn’t have bright orange hair in ‘real’.
If I look hard above his head his character name and class appear … [Seimei-shi4, Dark Mage]? I’m not sure what to think of someone who’d so candidly use the name of such a famous person5. For some reason I’m thinking ‘chuunibyou’6 in the back of my head.
But back up, who’s he calling a ‘peerless beauty’, huh?
I glowered at “Seimei-shi” who just gave a goofy grin and went “Iyaaa~! A beautiful woman’s dirty look is so lovely~!” Masaki stood there laughing like an idiot. What’s so funny?
“Actually Sei-chan, Jun …”
Whatever Masaki was about to say was cut off. His eyes widened as he turned to look at me and, though I can’t be too sure with the virtual face, I think he turned pale. Grabbing me by the scruff of the neck he dragged me off a little bit away from Seimei.
“Oi, Jun. Why is your character a girl?!”
Huh? Involuntarily I pat my chest.
Oh. There’s not much, but there’s something there.
I mean, I haven’t bothered looking at the avatar customizer yet so I haven’t seen myself, and the whole experience of being in a VR body is so weird that I can’t tell if things are off because of the VR or because of other reasons. Masaki, though, should have seen my base avatar from the very beginning, so shouldn’t he have noticed before now?
“No, that … you don’t have much of a chest, and you look the same except your waist and hips.”
“Eh? Seimei said I look like a pretty girl though. There must be SOME difference.”
Masaki is now staring at me in disbelief.
“You … do you not realize how you look to other people?”
Huh? I know that I’m on the effeminate side, but it’s surely not at the level where I could compete with a girl, right?
Um … staring at me without saying anything is making me feel more awkward, y’know?
“Even today at the practice archery meet you had the other schools’ guys mistaking you for a woman.”
“Even if that’s true, they were more interested in the new recruit, Suzuki-san. They were talking about ‘The new girl who joined us today’ …”
“Nonono, what were YOU listening to? They were talking about ‘The new girl who joined us today, substituting on the guys’ team’! That can only be you, right? Though they’re mistaken about the girl part.”
I’m in shock.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of that! If it was really like that wouldn’t I be mercilessly teased all through my life?”
Though I vaguely remember the teasing when we were small, it died down in our middle school years and up through now. Isn’t that because of the situation where boys become more masculine as the go through the transition from middle school to high school?
“… Jun. You tromp the Judo Club on a regular basis and hold the Student Council in the palm of your hand. Who’s dumb enough to pick a fight with you?”
Wouldn’t that actually make more enemies? No, more importantly, I don’t remember being such a force to be reckoned with!
“I thought you totally knew about this already. Don’t I make fun of you about it all the time?”
“Masaki’s words can never be trusted.”
“Ahem, am I intruding, you two~?”
Seimei coughed *kohon kohon* behind us.
“Aaaah, hang on a sec. Jun, setting your girliness aside for now, you should rescan-“
“You can switch the gender in the avatar customizer, right? I don’t want to get in that box again.”
“Ah… but your player profile will say female… well, I guess you can hide it. It doesn’t feel… weird? Being a girl.”
Feel weird? Oi oi I just changed gender, not species or something.
“I didn’t realize it until now, did I? And I don’t really care about whether people in a game think I’m a boy or girl. I’m more bothered that I apparently look more or less the same as I do in real, but am inexplicably being called a beautiful girl.”
Masaki seems confused that I’m not bothered. I am though? But I can’t check my ‘real’ face right now so I can’t assess the truth behind his claims on my looks. I’ll have to leave it for later.
He sighs and walks back to Seimei.
“Sorry, sorry. Sei-chan, this is my friend I was talking about, Jun.”
“Hi, I’m not much of a gamer so I apologize in advance.”
He’s been speaking words, but I don’t understand them.
“Our relationship isn’t like that, though? More importantly, character class selection.”
Masaki tries to derail Seimei’s train of thought but Seimei smirks at him and says something incomprehensible about tsundere10 being gross when it’s a guy before they both put on serious faces and turned to the issue at hand.
“Jun, your results should have compiled by now. Can you show them?”
Come to think of it, an icon had flashed up a little while ago. I fiddle with it before I figure out how to display the results so the two of them could also see it.
“Hoooh~ these stats are -! I see now why you were so worked up about including her. At level 1 she already has the stats of a level 15, and they’re ~ALL~ rather nice, aren’t they~?”
“Yeah, Jun’s a real-life cheat.”
“… sorry, I don’t get it. What do you mean I’ll be level 15 at level 1?”
“This game bases your character stats on your abilities in ‘real’, but obviously in this world where not many people live active lives it would be unreasonable to throw someone out into a field and tell them to kill monsters. The Stat-Calibration determines whether you have stats that need to be improved and will apply a stat-correction if needed so that you can have a safe level of exertion. Since the game takes into account that some VRMMO players are hikki-neets11 or older people, level 1 is calibrated to be an average person with an improved reaction time.”
Hm, Seimei is serious when he explains things, leaving out his somewhat ~annoying~ tone.
“At level up your stats are increased, though kind of in really small increments. Level 15 is approximately a strong athlete’s abilities. And you hit that level without any stat-correction at level 1.”
“… that seems like it’s cheating. Shouldn’t the Stat-Calibration lower my stats so I’ll start the same as everyone else?”
“Nooope!” Masaki grinned gleefully. “Because the devs thought it would be unfair to cap players’ true abilities, there’s no down-grading correction! And that’s-!”
“- what we’re aiming for~! Yay~!”
Seimei and Masaki grin and do a double high-five. My head hurts.
“Masaki … don’t tell this was your plan all along.”
Masaki only laughs in a carefree manner, ignoring my accusation.
“Nmaa~ Since most of the gameplay comes from the skills you get through level-up, usually the difference in stats don’t matter. Most people start with stats just a few levels above 1, but over 10-level difference~ … kukukuku! ”
I ignore Seimei’s creepy laugh and turn back to the Character Creation timeline, hitting back one step. The virtual space changed from the Stat-Calibration’s testing equipment back to the blank, cyber-styled blue space lit up with a menu listing the different classes.
“Well~ it goes without saying that Jun-kun will do physical damage, huh~…”
“Yeah, it’d be a waste of the stats, so we can ignore all the magic classes.”
But what if I wanted to play a magic class? Well, I don’t actually care either way so I let it go. It’s hard to rebut two serious min-maxers in deep discussion.
“I was thinking Jun should be berserker, dex-based warrior, or crit-scout as vanguard, but if we want another rearguard then a ranger would go well too.”
“So off-tank or dps is the question then~?”
“Hey, y’know if anyone else is going to be on so we can all decide together? Though I’m pretty set on berserker.”
“~I~ say crit-scout! But … um, we may have made a blunder, Masa-yan.”
“The others haven’t come over yet. In fact, most players haven’t. We accepted the event server transfer too soon… today was the [Jormungard] Guild’s player event.”
“WHAT?! Crap, too late, I transferred half a week ago.”
“I transferred yesterday~! *cry* ”
Seimei is the first person I’ve ever seen actually drop into an orz12 pose. I decide to just stand here, reading over the class descriptions while the two hard-core gamers wailed about their bad timing.
Goshdarnit Seimei … grr. There should not be a list of footnotes this long for an English-original novel. I feel like a weeaboo.
(Well, I am one, but that’s beside the point.)
But bokukko, kuudere, riajuu, hikki-neet, etc are all jargon used mostly by otaku/web denizens, and it’s all about the atmosphere, I guess.
Anyway, Seimei is basically personifying himself as a gamer otaku who’s comfortable using those terms in common speech.
Since we will soon be departing from the realm of VRMMO, there won’t be as much slang thrown about.
- “-chan” – the suffix “–chan” is often used for younger women and children (though in general usually for female). It’s rarer use for men is either a sign of endearment, a sign of a close relationship, or used mockingly in the “you got no balls” way. In this case, “Sei-chan” is used to indicate that Masaki is close enough to Seimei to use it without insulting him.
- BL – short for Boys’ Love, aka ghey. Not “gay”, but the romance novel-esque “ghey”. (<- that’s just my opinion)
- “-yan” – playful way of addressing someone
- “-shi” – usually used in formal writing/speech for people the writer/speaker never met. Seimei included it in his character name, reinforcing Jun’s low opinion of his naming choice.
- Abe no Seimei – a legendary and historic court advisor and magician
- chuunibyou – short for “2nd year middle school syndrome”. It’s etymology refers to the rebellious stage that usually hits around middle school where kids try to be “special” to gain attention or make them seem more important/cool/whatever. In general it refers to whenever anyone of any age tries to make themselves seem cooler than they actually are, especially when it borders on delusion. (ex believing/claiming your ancestors are werewolves, training yourself to do a kamehameha because… just in case! Any “mary-sue” type setting, really.) In this case, Jun is wondering if Seimei chose the name “Seimei” because he wants to pretend to be Abe no Seimei or thinks he’s as great as Abe no Seimei.
- bokukko – slang referring to a woman/girl who refers to herself with the masculine pronoun “boku”. AKA a tomboy (though not all tomboys use “boku”
- kuudere – slang referring to someone who appears to have his/her emotions under tight control, but secretly wants to act lovey-dovey with the person he/she likes.
- riajuu – short for “real fulfilled”, it’s a term used for people who are gamers/nerds/neets/etc but have a good romantic relationship. It’s usually used when jealous internet denizens (usually male) accuse others (also usually male) of showing off their real-life relationships on the web. The sense is kind of like feeling betrayed that a gamer bothers/succeeds with real life relationships. Not really healthy, but hey, that’s how it goes on the web. Basically, “riajuu go explode” is “popular guys should just die out”.
- tsundere – people who try to act like they don’t like someone when they really do.
- hikki-neets – short for “hikkikomori NEET”, means a shut-in who’s Not in Education, Employment, or Training. AKA a bum who never leaves his/her house.
- orz – a pose of despair where the person drops to their knees with their hands on the ground. The o is the head, the r the arms, and the z the legs bent in the kneeling pose. orz