Online Communication - Chapter 0.3
Eventually, a week passed without seeing my family. My mother wanted to say something, but in the end she seemed to have chosen to just watch over me. As if to cover up the apology, I have been sending her messages frequently, trying to talk to her even if it is only by text.
Ever since the summer vacation began, I have been looking around for information on the current situation by going to the library during the daytime and going to the shrine when the priest is not around, but I have not been able to get any more information than that kitten. To be honest, I was at a loss.
I was left staring at my cell phone with my head in my hands, hoping that there would be a glimmer of hope, that “things would return to normal over time”.
When are you going to be able to join us? If there’s too much of a gap between our levels, we won’t be able to work together.
It has already been four days since the official launch of an online game called “Ether Frontier,” to which I was invited. I guess my friends who dived into the game at the same time as the summer vacation must be enjoying the world of swords and magic. The email filled with excitement on the first day. Originally, I was going to dive in on the first day and make an excuse that I was ‘addicted to the game and never come out of my room,’ but as I was setting it up to start, I realized a very serious fact.
Yes—this world’s first online game that claims to be fully experiential, “Ether Frontier” cannot change its player gender or physique.
Contact 0.3 “To the World of Swords and Magic”
The reason seems to be that, although safety has been confirmed, the technology does not have sufficient safety margins to determine the extent to which large-scale changes in gender and physical sensation will affect reality in the soil of games, where long-term and prolonged use is expected. They plan to lift the ban in the future after seeing how it progresses, but as long as the passage of time is mandatory due to the circumstances, it is hopelessly unlikely that the update will come at least this year.
Now, the problem here is how to check it. If it is determined only by the personal information at the time of account registration, I am registered as a man, so no problem arises. However, according to the information, the method of identification seemed to be done using headgear, a special device. They use full body photography measurements, simple hormone measurements, and whatnot to identify gender and body size, and it is not easy, though not impossible, to fool either.
I did some research with a sliver of hope, but most of the methods of falsifying and deceiving the measurements that are talked about in various places are eyebrow-raising and I don’t even want to try them. In the meantime, it seems that such misidentification bugs also exist in reality, and although the flow of information is too fast for me to keep up with, they have been discussed on message boards from time to time. If this were to be intentionally recreated, the only methods that would be realistic in comparison would be injections of female or male hormones, or other methods that would be too hard to implement. I don’t know how to get it in the first place, and I’m too afraid of the risk afterwards.
After a few days of worrying about such things, I was unable to come up with a breakthrough, and kept making excuses such as “I’m having trouble creating a character” and “My physical condition is not good.” Naturally, such a half-hearted escape makes them irritated, and I can subtly sense that vibe from the e-mail. I feel a bit like crying.
It seems that we are getting close to the limit of stretching it for good. I almost thought of cutting off all communication and shutting myself up in my room, but considering my previous “criminal record” of being a bit of a pessimist, that would only give my friends a reason to barge in uninhibitedly.
Of course, the first reason came from not wanting to cause worry, but the compromise with the feeling of not wanting to expose them about the current situation was to keep the interaction without showing faces. I wish I had the brains to come up with a better method or the audacity to go out on a limb here, but there’s no use in asking for what you don’t have.
When I first came up with the idea, I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I still felt like I could do something about it. I wonder if momentum can be so deceiving. If we can’t even find a tanuki, we can’t even calculate it. Is there no other choice but to wander around aimlessly in the mountains?
*Tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) is a symbol of good luck and fortune.
I don’t want to force you to do anything, but if you don’t feel so good, why don’t you just tell me? I was worried about you.
This is where Eiji’s guy came in with his message and pulled out his trump card. My mom was poised to watch over me because I haven’t lost touch with my friends. Even if I shut myself away, as long as I have the compensation that I am playing with my friends, my mom won’t press me too hard, which means that it is essential for me to enter VRMMOs for the excuse that I am playing with them.
Hey, are you there? You’re not passed out or something, are you?
That was too much for me to think. I picked up my shaking cell phone as if to chastise me for hanging onto the bed in self-loathing, and typed a reply with my equally shaking hand.
I’m fine. Just had a bit of a self-loathing breakdown.
What the hell
Thus, today became my fateful day. I was at a loss for an answer, so I finally gave up and told them to wait for me because I can log in now. I had already reached the end of my stretch policy anyway, and with no way to escape it, I had to avoid the option of being stepped on.
What to do, then, is to find a way to take advantage of the measurement bug. Do not exploit the bugs, exploit the fact that the bug exists. “When I logged in, I found a bug that made me look like this, hahaha!” How about that? It’s a perfect strategy, just like the leaves on the trees that turn red in the fall and are devoured by insects in preparation for winter.
I put the headgear on my head, biting down on the mysterious feeling that is coming over my chest, and then I take down the visor and lie down on the bed. I had played what’s called “physical games” before, but they were not out of the realm of 3D games that could be viewed in stereoscopic 3D. I wonder what the full sensory experience really will be like?
Another friend of mine described it as a device for experiencing dreams that, simply put, were as realistic as possible. I don’t remember many details because I had no idea about difficult theories when they were explaining it to me, and I had to go through it appropriately because it would take a long time if I started talking about it enthusiastically. I started up the software installed on my computer, logged in according to the manual, put the software in standby mode, and finally switched on the headgear.
After a moment of levitation, the area in front of me turned pitch black, and suddenly a flash of light burned my eyes. After a short pause, I opened my eyes to find myself in front of a white altar floating in the blue azure sky. A marble angel holding a scale looking at me with a tender smile. It seems to be higher than the clouds, with a sea of clouds below and stars shining like jewels on the border between sky and space above.
When I lightly move my arms and legs, they seem to move without any discomfort. My sense of touch feels a little bit dull, but it makes sense if you think of it like a realistic dream. I hear that the pain has been greatly alleviated, so that must be the effect. A translucent window suddenly appeared in front of me as I checked my physical condition.
“Welcome to Ether Frontier, we will now begin the creation of your character!”
It seems the game has finally begun. I smile at my boyish nature, which makes me somewhat excited in spite of the seriousness of my personal situation, but inwardly I am relieved to have been saved in this appearance. A game that cannot be enjoyed is nothing but a pain.
“Do you use character appearance data?”
The game allows the use of pre-made modeling data by external software. The gender and physique restrictions only allow for a limited amount of modification and require specialized knowledge, so one would think that only a few people would have made it to—but this is not the case. The non-negative environment seems to have turned off not only male who pretend to be female online, but also females who long for beauty, at least in games, and from the threads I saw, many were playing around with the software even before it started.
For some reason, I also did not want to use my real face as much as possible, so I had some modest data prepared in advance. I thought it would be impossible since it was a male avatar, but with a sliver of hope, I moved my fingers cautiously and selected “Use.” I pull out the appearance data from the computer.
“Detected gender data is different, your avatar is not available.”
However, this system seemed to be ready to carry out its job without reading the atmosphere. Wondering what to do, I searched the menu and moved my finger around, decided to log out and will try to make myself look as mature as possible before entering the system again.
“Do you want to use registered scan data?”
Suddenly a window appeared in front of me, and I clicked the “Yes” button there. It was a terrible mistake on my part.
“Then we will do the character making. First, please decide on a name for your character. Then choose your initial occupation, skills and initial bonuses.”
I tried to get back to the previous selection somehow by trial and error, but it never worked. I regret now that I should have read the instructions properly. I wondered what to do, but I knew that Eiji would get angry if he spent too much time waiting for me. I am a little traumatized by the malice and hostility of his. I am not confident that my heart can withstand the anger directed at me by my friends in my current state, let alone under normal state.
I forced myself to convince myself that my avatar was going to be a female avatar that looked nothing like “reality” anyway, and decided to proceed with the creation process, but things really didn’t go as planned. I chose the name “Sun,” which I had used regularly in other online games, to make it easier for my friends to understand, and chose “Enchanter” as my occupation as planned. I also chose specialized skills and bonuses according to my professional aptitude.
According to information obtained from the wiki, there are currently ten professions in this game: four physical, four magical, and two living. In this context, the physical jobs are attack-specific, all-purpose, long-distance, and exploration. There are two types of magic, which are attack-specific, all-purpose, support and recovery, and support and assistance. The enchanter corresponds to the support and assistance type among them, and is a user of a granting technique that strengthens the equipment or tool themselves, as opposed to the sacred magic of the recovery type that strengthens the person themselves.
This is another specification that is not only unsophisticated but also inferior in combat ability to the support and recovery type priests, making it reputed to be a tough solo job. It was the most unpopular job. However, this is by no means to say that they are useless or that there is no demand for them. The demand for specialized grantors far exceeds the supply due to their usefulness and small number.
Many players wanted to play around with flashy magic and swordsmanship. In addition, there is currently only one character slot, and although there are plans to add more slots, they are still a long way off. No one wants to take on harder jobs.
I was attracted to this profession because I wanted to help Eiji and his team. It makes me happy to be needed by someone. Even if it is a game, it is no different. In fact, I think it is precisely because it is a game that I am able to appreciate such joy without being too self-conscious about it. In reality, all I can do is to stand in the way, so I decided to take up this profession, at least in this virtual world, I can be useful to my friends.
What I learned from the exchange before I was ready to log in was that Eiji is a full-fledged avant-garde swordsman, while his other friend is an all-purpose wizard. They had already formed a guild and secured a priest, and they were waiting for me for the enchanter. I was filled with a sense of regret as I had been delaying my participation, so it was only natural that I should be urged to participate under such circumstances as soon as I joined. With apologies for that, I will contribute as much as I can once my levels catch up.
If only this had not happened, I would be on a carefree adventure with them right now, which is a bit frustrating. With that said, I don’t regret trying to save the kitten, even though it ended up being a big departure from what my heart could tolerate.
Receiving the bonus set of equipment, I open the menu and put it on with my still unsteady hands. For a brief moment, a flash of light enveloped my body, and what had been a hospital gown transformed into a simple coat-type robe in a subdued brown. It was one of the pieces of equipment given to beginners, and it seemed to be common to both men and women, and it was fortunate that the underpants were trouser-type. The fabric also seems to reproduce the soft feel of cotton and is comfortable to the touch.
The weapon is a slender long sword with a blade of about 60 cm, shaped somewhere between a rapier and a dagger. The enchanter, in principle, has no offensive magic, so I am told to fight with this. However, it is said that the enhancement by granting magic affects the original value of the equipment, so the initial equipment is very little. On top of that, if the enchanter specializes in granting magic or enchantment, his status changes to a complete wizard, so it is a masochistic solo-fight character.
I chose the weapon, and a sword appeared, tucked into the waist of my robe. I spun around once, taking advantage of the fact that no one was watching, and the hem of my coat swayed softly. The movements are surprisingly smooth, and this alone showed how much effort had been put into the graphics. When I pulled out my sword to test it, I felt it was quite heavy. With this body, I would have to handle it like a two-handed sword or I would be swung backwards.
“This concludes the making of the character. We will now transfer you to the ‘City of Beginnings’, Esca. In Esca, you can receive tutorial quests through the NPCs, so please take advantage of it. Have a great adventure!”
An announcement appears, and after a short pause, the view suddenly blacks out. I hurriedly check my surroundings and see an icon flashing in the lower right corner indicating loading. I had read in the manual that loading is basically seamless and only occurs during server transfers, but I guess it means that the login server and the play server are separating. For a brief moment during the transfer, I thought back to the sky I saw in that location.
The sky is piercingly blue, and countless sailboats soar through the sky as if slicing through it. I could see them, colloquially known as flying boats or amphibians, spinning its numerous propellers as it takes off from what appeared to be a landing stage at the top of a tower rising in the center of the town.
The game is set on a myriad of floating continents in the azure skies, crowned with a title “Ether Frontier”. The main means of transportation is air travel using flying dragons and airships.
Esca, the city of beginnings, is an early transfer point and a city of flying boats. There are a number of airports in the city, which serve as connecting routes to various places. The image of the city is similar to the Western countries in the medieval and early modern period, with buildings with red brick-roofed standing side by side and cobblestone pavements cut into fan-shaped sections laid out in a regular pattern on the ground. In the center of the city rises an airport, which resembles a huge tower constructed of stone bricks with many flying boats come and go its landing and takeoff points.
Looking up at the ships sailing majestically into the big sky, I bite my lip, a strange feeling welling up in my chest. Flying vehicles are not uncommon in today’s world, and they allow for faster and more comfortable travel. So why does it make me feel so excited?
So it was only natural that I, who had been gazing blankly at the sky for some time while in the transferred state, was late in noticing the gazes of the people around me. I noticed that I had caught the attention of people around me who seemed to be players. A mixture of unusual gazes and smiling gazes stung my body. The game equipment costs as much as a brand-new high-end computer, and the height of this body, which is based on the post-change appearance, is not taller than 130 cm at my best estimate, and she would probably look ten years old if she had her face as it is.
Just before this incident occurred, I had reached my dream height of 170 cm, and I had been so happy inside that I tried not to think about it as if I were trying to escape from reality. But here I was again making another blunder. This game is a little too expensive to give to a child around ten years old, whether they could get it on their own or their parents buy it for them. Even though there are many small players in the age group, it is only natural that a child, who looks like an elementary school student, and a girl, would attract the players’ attention.
I wasn’t that bothered by it because when I went out, I chose to dress inconspicuously and wear men’s clothes as much as possible, and furthermore, I thoroughly avoided the popular crowd. It was probably the first time I had been clearly seen by such a large group of people. I felt embarrassed as if I was being witnessed dressed as a woman. I left the plaza quickly, keeping my face down to hide my hot cheeks.
After walking for a while through the plaza, which was full of people everywhere, I finally arrived at a place that looked like a park filled with only a few people. I checked behind me and was relieved to see that there are no insolent players who would go out of their way to follow a young girl.
Somewhat exhausted, I sat down on a bench and looked up at the sky. At the end of the endless blue sky, I could see what looked like a large continent in the distance. The world I just entered is still very big, and there must be many people in it. I wonder if I will be able to make it if I start out like this—The answer to this question is not yet likely to be answered.
It was not until about 30 minutes later that I realized that I had completely forgotten to tell Eiji that I had logged in.
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