Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – Akira = Akira

* ding-dang-dong-dang…! *

       The sound of bell resounded inside a classroom-like space in the fantasy world.

       I, from my window seat, is watching the scenery outside the class. I can see clouds beside or below me, it’s as though I’m on the sky. In fact, this school is really located in a floating city.

       Inside the classroom, are the first year students of E-class — my classmates.  Everyone is dressed in a clattering full body armor like a knight, a leather armor like a warrior, or robe and cone-shaped hat like that of a wizard.

       Because of my magic-related job, I wore a deep indigo hooded robe myself.

       Though there’s no dress code since we are inside the game now, the school uniforms were still distributed as equipment at the beginning of new term.

       The VRMMORPG Unlimited World (a.k.a UW) is the centerpiece of this Heisei Academy.

       I just logged in to UW from my home and now is waiting for the class to begin.

       In the game setting, the players are supposed to be students of the magic academy of the floating city Tiruna, located high in the sky of the center of the world.

       Inside such an incredible school, we take normal lessons’ just like a normal high school student would. It’s amazing how I could reach the school from home in 0 minute.

       There real school buildings weren’t needed. With the effective utilization of cyber space technology, the student could attend the school from anywhere in Japan. The school textbooks were turned into in-game item, as e-books.

       Paperless, borderless, and objectless. The teacher said that it’s the kind of education system in the future. Various experiments have been conducted by the school in this subject.

       The capital to operate the school, originally came from the association of game-related companies.

       The game industry collaborated with the education industry, in exploring the new possibilities of game. While on the other hand, the education industry was trying to survive in this declining birthrate society by blending with games.

       From the general public’s perspective, it seems to be that kind of symbiotic mutualism relationship.

       Well, I personally don’t care about such difficult things. It’s all good as long as I could enjoy an interesting game.

       The ordinary high school activities (classes) are held inside this space (game). But we’re free to act when it’s over. Doing quest or raising level, it’ just like a common online game after the school ended.

       One month has passed since I entered the school, and I’ve gotten accustomed with this system.

“Takashiro-kun, can I have a moment?”

     The class rep Maeda-san, came over and called out to me.

“Hmm? Is there something you need from me?”

       Because UW system works around the body motions, your game character will be reflecting your real appearance.

       There’s serious atmosphere around Maeda-san, but she’s perfect example of a Japanese beauty. You can edit the hair color and hairstyle freely in this game, but it seems Maeda-san didn’t do it.

She is really a serious person.

       Oh well, I didn’t mess around with my hair color myself. There was no special reason, I simply didn’t feel like to do it.

“Takashiro-kun’s level seems to be much lower that the class average, are you perhaps having trouble in raising levels?'”

       My current character level is 4, and my job is Crest Artist.

“Huh? Oh, please wait a moment!”

       I called the system window and turned on the simplified status display from the configuration setting.

【Kotomi Maeda (1-E) 】

【Level 18 Scholar (no status icon) 】

       In addition, I looked around the classroom. Everyone is roughly level 15 or so.

Oh, there’s quite a level gap already!

“I don’t mean to rush you…. but if it’s possible, I hope you can catch up with us soon and cooperate with the class mission. If you want, I can help you raising level.”

       Soon after enrollment, the first large-scale event for all first year students — Class Competition Mission, was triggered and it’s still ongoing until now.

       The content is to get into transit island where monster outbreak occurred, and defeat the boss. This is a race mission that ends when students from any class defeats the boss. There’s also an in-game bonus for all the winning class members.

       Maeda-san is the class leader as well as the mission leader, who have to put everyone in class together.

I don’t want to raise my level as much as possible, though….

       I got an email from Akira shortly before the entrance ceremony. He said that he had an accident and his school admission would be delayed because he needed to be hospitalized.

       “I wish I could bring the VR terminal in home to the hospital….” he said.

       Well, the size is big, we go inside it like a tanning machine. It would be quite difficult to bring such a thing to a hospital.

       Akira told me to enjoy the game ahead, without him. But we’ve made a promise to play it together, so I will keep waiting for him without raising my level as much as possible.

       The initial stage of online game is the most fumbling and exciting point. I would like to share such moments together with Akira. You could say because he’s my best friend.

I feel bad to Maeda-san, but I have my own circumstances here….

       She didn’t become mission leader because she wanted it. Because the result of her entrance examination was good, she was appointed as the class representative.

       Going by the flow, since she was the class leader (representative), she was also appointed as this mission leader.

       This is her first online game and she doesn’t have much experience. Even so, she is still doing her best. I want to give her my cooperation but….

“Oh, don’t worry! There’s nothing wrong with the game. I will try hard to catch up with the rest of class.”

       ….in the end, all I could is giving her such an excuse.

        While Maeda-san was looking at me worriedly, a voice came from a seat a little away from mine

“Kotomi~! Hey, Kotomi~!”

【Yuuna Yano (1-E) 】

【Level 24 Paladin (no status icon) 】

Uwaah, so high! Could it be she’s the highest level student (player) in this class? The class ace?

       Her job is Paladin, which means her role inside the party is as a tanker. Her appearance is quite flashy, and there’s also some kind of a gal atmosphere around her, which is quiet rare nowadays.

       Yeah, in other words, it’s a Gal Paladin. She’s a cute girl with easygoing type character.

“What is it? Yuuna.”

“Just leave Takashiro to his own devices. It’s fine~ You don’t need to worry about him!”

       I heard in order to clear the class mission, there were a lot of student making a party for level raising after the class ended.

       Yano-san seems to have joined various parties and took a tanker role. Taking the enemy’s attacks, her role was to be a shield to protect her allies.

       The party would work out well if the tanker could do its role properly. This is the most important position.

       I heard Yano-san was quite a capable gamer herself. She had abundant experience from various online games.

       Speaking of which, Maeda-san’s job — Scholar, falls into a role of damage-dealer (attacker) inside the party. While my job — Crest Artist, is classified as a supporter role.

“Yuuna, what do you mean by that?”

“Hmm, let’s see…. Maybe it’s hard to believe, but he’s actually a quite famous player in the world of online games. He’s known as the Useless Jobs Meister, Ren. Using unpopular jobs that were underestimated, he climbed into the ranks of top players in various online games, such as Eternal Fantasy, Demon Quest, etc.”

       The topic about what kind of online game we were currently playing popped out when I was chatting with my classmates before, and when I was talking about that, it turned out that she knew about me.

       Your classmate was actually someone you knew inside the online game, and we can talk about it normally inside the classroom. I think that it’s a scene unique to schools where game lovers gather.

       Here, there’s no unwritten law of hiding your identity as a game junkie. This is definitely a comfortable world for gamers.

“On that note, you don’t have to worry about him!”

“Takashiro-kun, is that true?”

“No, I’m not as famous as that. Gaming is just my hobby.”

       I’d like to make the existences that are deemed to be useless to shine. Being influenced by my parents who is baseball lovers — if I liken this to something; it’s like Nomura Revitalization Plan, Tryout, Resurrection, Training Menu to Rise Back, etc. I feel a romance in such stories.

       Because there are not many people challenging unpopular jobs, it’s easy to find the newest discovery. Then again, everything doesn’t always go well.

       Yano-san mentioned some success examples just now, but there’s as much failure examples behind them. Akira, that guy knew it well.

“Here, in UW, he also picked the unpopular job, didn’t he? He must be having some kind of plan in mind…. I’m expecting it! So that’s why I think it’s fine to leave him to his own devices.”

..

       Even here, in UW, there are several broken jobs that are put together into a group called “Bottom Class” (ボンクラーズ?). Standing on the top (bottommost) of such a group is the job I chose — Crest Artist.

       This is a job that specializes in supporting allies and weakening enemies using magic, it doesn’t have any attack magic even though it’s a magic-related occupation, the only weapon that can be equipped is a cane, and its physical strength is really low.

       In regards of offensive abilities, this job is in the lowest position. Even Priest which is a healer role can also equip a hammer as weapon.

       The jobs which have a low physical attack would have a high magical attack without exception. But if you think this job is weak in both fields because it excels in supports, then…. Not really!

       Take Bard for an example. It’s the same support class job that also can strengthen allies and weaken enemies. The difference is Bard’s Cursed Song doesn’t need MP while Crest Artist’s skill consumes MP to weaken the enemies. Other than that, Bard could also equip a bow as weapon and deal a reasonable physical damage with it.

       This is a job with the lowest offensive ability. Good at supporting but still less than the second position in this field. The weakest in solo battle and useless in PT (party) battle. Those are the specification of a job called Crest Artist.

       I have no more doubt. I’m convinced it’s a job with the lowest population. The leader of Bottom Class.

       During the orientation that was held immediately after the entrance ceremony, a second year senior student appeared and then briefly talked about the hierarchy between jobs. Even so, I still dared to choose the leader of Bottom Class without wavering.

       I will remodel this job and make it shine with this hands!

       The game will be meaningless if you couldn’t enjoy it, so don’t bend your own playstyle!

       Ideally, Akira would help me to get this thing together through trial and error. It’s too bad that he isn’t here….

“I don’t really get it, but does this mean I can expect something?”

“Yeah, please wait a little more….”

       I don’t want to raise my level as much as possible until Akira goes to school. But in exchange for that, I’ve been doing a lot of trial and error over the past month.

       In fact, the research on the prospect to remodel the Crest Artist job has produced results to some extent. I can already move to the practical stage at any time.

“Please do as you please, but don’t blame us if you don’t get your turn because we’ve cleared the mission.”

“Yeah, is the mission going well?”

“Everything goes smoothly. Currently, we’ve conquered eight of the ten floors.”

“Compared to the other classes, you can say that our class is the top group.”

Great. In that case, I think I can wait for Akira a little longer

       When I was thinking about such a thing, the door opened and someone entered our class.

“Yeah, yeah. Morning, Game Junkies!”

       Carefree and frank, those are the kind of impressions you would feel from this female teacher of the magic high school. She is our homeroom teacher, Nakada-sensei.

       I was told that she turned 24 years old this year. She’s really the perfect example of an easygoing beautiful older sister character. I also heard she was one of those first generation graduate of this school.

“Though it’s such a pain, today I have an announcement before the class starts.”

Hou~ what is this? The announcement that makes Nakada-sensei keeps smiling.

“We will have one additional player (student) in this class starting from today. I know that the Class Competition Mission is getting closer to the climax, but there will be a lot similar events in the future, so I hope you all can get along. Alright then…. Aoyagi-san, you may come in. You guys, applause!”

*clap-clap-clap-clap*

       The person who entered the classroom, if I expressed her in a word, that would be “beautiful”. She’s a girl with long hair that seems was made of silk, and a cute face like that of an idol. On contrary with her cuteness which gives the impression of a small animal, her chest looks quite big.

How should I put this, she looks like someone without faults….

“My name is Akira Aoyagi. Please treat me well!”

..

       That beautiful girl smiled even though there was still a trace of nervousness on her face. There was nothing out of place. Watching her, I felt like I was going to smile myself, but….

“Eh, wait, whaaaaaaaaaaaat!?”

       I was the only student who was surprised and raising voice inside the classroom.

Akira Aoyagi…. isn’t that the full name of my friend, Akira!?

Could it be, she is…? No, I’m sure it’s just some kind of amazing coincidence that their name are same…. right?

“Hmm…. what’s the matter, Takashiro-kun?”

“No, it’s nothing…….. I was just a little surprised because she has the same name as my acquaintance.”

“Well said, immediately trying to hit on the new beautiful student, huh? You’re surprisingly quick in action. Oh well, Sensei won’t stop you~”

       Smiling teasingly, rather than a teacher, she looked like an aunt from neighborhood. Hearing her words, all students inside the classroom started laughing.

Ugh, it’s a little embarrassing.

“Okay then, the seat next to Takashiro-kun’s is happen to be vacant. You can sit over there, Aoyagi-san!”

       Prompted by Sensei, Aoyagi-san took the seat next to mine.

It’s a little awkward.

Should I apologize about the earlier?

       When I was still contemplating, Aoyagi-san suddenly turned her face to my direction and then called out to me.

“Excuse me, are you perhaps Ren Takashiro-kun?”

“H-How did you know my full name? Don’t tell me you’re the same Akira who often plays online game together with me!?”

       Hearing my reply, Aoyagi-san was smiling from ear to ear.

“Whoa! You’re really Ren!? I did it! I finally got to see you!”

       Losing track of the surrounding because she was too happy, Akira suddenly jumped at me.

I have no experience of being this close with a girl other than my family or relatives….

I know we’re inside a game and these are not our real body, but it’s still make my heart racing.

“Wow!? What’s with this super-fast development? Young people nowadays seems to have an amazing sense of speed with this kind of thing.”

       While Sensei cheered us up, the rest of class was surprised and lost for words. Came back to her sense, Akira apologized to everyone while hiding her embarrassment.

“Eh!? I’m so-so-sorry, everyone…….. It’s because…. I’ve been playing online games with him forever, and this was the first time we met, so I just couldn’t help myself.”

Well yeah, though I believed that Akira was a guy all this time. I mean, she always chose a macho beastman or uncle character as her game avatar.

Still, to not notice it even after playing online games together with her for years…. could it be I’m quite dense? I almost got a heart attack earlier.

Comparing the Akira I’ve played online games with and the beautiful girl next to me, I got the impression that their character matched perfectly. We do what we wanted to do and say what we wanted to say without refrain to each other.

The morning homeroom continued when the class regained its calmness. Then, with a face that showed she was having fun, Aoyagi-san sneakily talked to me again.

“So, just as you can see, I’m actually a girl. Did it surprise, Ren-kun?”

“Yeah, enough to make me get a heart attack….”

“I thought so. I absolutely believed that you’ve never realized it all this time.”

“Ahaha~ But still, to think that Aoyagi-san was actually a girl….”

       When I said so, she puffed her cheeks a little while making a dissatisfying face.

“Don’t be such a stranger! We are friends, aren’t we? Just call me Akira like usual!”

“H-Huh? Is that so? T-Then, Akira…!”

“Good!”

       Satisfied, she made a cute smiling face like a small animal.

Oh, the way she changed her mood easily is really like Akira I knew.

       Sensei spoke to Akira again before leaving the classroom after the homeroom ended.

“Oh right, Aoyagi-san! Since we’re going to do the initial setting for your job in the game after school, please think about your choice in the meantime. I can’t give you orientation time like everyone else, I’m sorry about that.”

“Yes. I understand.”

       During the break time between classes after our shocking reunion, Akira apologized to me for the fact that her school admission was delayed for about a month.

“Sorry for being late, even though I was the one who invited you to go to this school together…. I thought you must be really angry at me….”

“No, I’m not angry, not at all.”