Prologue

Prologue

       This happens in the middle of autumn in my third year of middle school. With the end of middle school life drawing near, it feels as though my life is suddenly getting busy.

“Hey, Ren. What are you going to do for high school?” (Akira)

       This string of characters is displayed in the chat window on the monitor. The speaker was a macho beastman character, under the name of Akira.

       He’s my friend who could even be called my best friend. We often hang out together inside this MMORPG, “Eternal Fantasy” (a.k.a EF) and other online games.

“Hmm… well, I will most likely go to a high school around here.” (Ren)

       … and I answered like that.

       My avatar — Ren (I use the name Ren because my real name is Ren Takashiro), is sitting at the top of a rocky mountain where I can get a bird’s eye view of the grand scenery.

       Akira, contrary to his avatar’s appearance, loves beautiful scenery. Often bringing me to his favorite places, it has become our daily routine to leisurely have a random exchange with only the two of us.

       Unlike Akira who was a scenic-maniac, I was busily synthesizing items to raise my skill level in the middle of the conversation.

“Aww, that’s boring…!” (Akira)

“Hmm? Well, right now I’m trying to raise my synthesis skill to level 8 to make a Crimson Hammer. It hurts my wallet if the synthesis fails.” (Ren)

“I’m not talking about that! It’s about high school!” (Akira)

       Akira is also a third-year middle-school student like me.

“What is it about the high school?” (Ren)

“Don’t you think an ordinary high school is boring?” (Akira)

“You think so? I don’t have any problems with going to an ordinary high school, though.” (Ren)

“Look, you know what they say: ‘Don’t be a mass-produced machine’. You’d be better off enjoying your life to the fullest!” (Akira)

“Oh, that sounds like a line from some kind of advertisement….” (Ren)

….a fishy one, though.

“So, how is that related to my high school selection?” (Ren)

“Oh, yeah. I’m thinking of enrolling in Heisei Academy. So, umm…. how about you enroll in that school too?” (Akira)

“Heisei Academy? Oh, that online gaming high school?” (Ren)

“Yup, that one!” (Aira)

I’ve heard that name quite often.

       It’s a school where they incorporate the educational system into online games. Furthermore, it’s not just ordinary MMOs. They are using state-of-the-art VR (Virtual Reality) technology, in other words, it’s a VRMMO.

       They hold class inside the virtual space. It’s a school with the concept of you studying and playing inside the virtual game. It’s truly a dreamland for a gamer.

“But, isn’t it quite expensive?” (Ren)

“It’s not our job to think about that. Moreover, the school also gives credit for your gaming achievements, and that will also help raise your grade in school. It’s a really interesting school, so let’s go together!” (AKira)

“I’m pretty interested but…….” (Ren)

     VRMMO is not something available for home use. I couldn’t help but feel attracted to it as a gamer.

To be honest, I feel excited by simply thinking of what it’s like to attend such a school.

“We’re heavy gamers, aren’t we?” (Akira)

“I guess so.” (Ren)

“In other words, we are game junkies…. or game otaku….” (Akira)

“In the public’s eyes…. I guess, we are.” (Ren)

“Those people are always looking down on us…. we’re not popular….” (Akira)

“Maybe so, but that’s never bothered me. Are you bothered by it, perhaps?” (Ren)

       This is the result of my parents’ influence. “Stick to the things you like!” — they often told me things like that. So even though I kept playing games, my parents never got angry and simply watched with warm eyes.

Well, my father works at a game company after all.

“I don’t care about it that much, usually. But look, we can meet similar people if we enroll in that school, right? Our kindred spirits!” (Akira)

“Yeah, I guess.” (Ren)

“That’s a place for game lovers, it’s our gaming skill that will make us popular at the school. Yeah, even someone like you could be popular! Isn’t that amazing? This is a big turning point for the world.” (AKira)

“Oi, why are you putting yourself up on a pedestal but leaving me out?” (Ren)

Could it be he’s actually a handsome guy?

       Though we have known each other for a long time, I’ve never met him offline or saw his real face.

“Eh? Then, are you popular at school?” (Akira)

“No, but that’s not the point.” (Ren)

       On that matter, there’s no room for denial. If everything stays as is, it seems I will die as a virgin. But, is that such a bad thing? There would be plenty of people like that nowadays. If that’s the price I must pay to be able to live the life I like, it’s not that bad.

However, it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in a real girl.

“Okay, it’s decided then! Let’s enroll in Heisei Academy together!” (Akira)

“Oi wait! It seems like the story just underwent a drastic development without my knowledge.” (Ren)

“Aww, what’s the harm!? I’d like to hang out and play games with you a little more!  Hey~ Hey~ Come on~ Hey!” (Akira)

       In spite of the macho uncle character shown on the monitor, the person behind it appears to be in quite the high spirits, just like a child.

Now I’m worried about whether or not he’s planning something. Oh well, he is a nice guy and it will definitely be fun playing games with him.

       It doesn’t sound bad to go to the same high school as him. Besides, I was only thinking about going to a nearby high school without any specific goal in mind.

“……….. Okay, I will talk to my parents!” (Ren)

“Oh, as expected of my friend! I believe in you!” (Akira)

       With this, the course of my high school has been decided. I took the entrance test at Heisei Academy, and passed. Akira also passed without issue.

       I was looking forward to being able to play a VRMMO in spring. However, the person I made a promise with — Akira, never even appeared until the high school began.