|Author: Resn||Original Source: Kakuyomu|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library|
―The days of an aging society with a declining birthrate are now decades behind us. As generations have changed, the domestic demographic has significantly shrunk from its peak. In addition, the widespread adoption of VR technology has made remote work a common option. As a result, the once critical issue of excessive population density in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area is now a thing of the past.
Amidst all of this, a corporation by the name of NTEC (Neurocommunicating Technology and Entertainment Company) was established in the suburbs of a northern Japanese city that had experienced an influx of people. NTEC was established on the former site of a company called “Arcs VR Technology,” which had previously operated “Worldgate Online” during the early days of VRMMORPG.
NTEC’s first release would be “Destiny Unchain Online,” and as the official launch day neared, news about it spread like wildfire.
One day, a teenage boy appeared with a briefcase in hand before the company. He had recently completed junior high school and was not affiliated with the company in any way. Though he desired to have a more muscular physique, he had a slim build that did not easily put on weight.
Due to having a feminine face that closely resembled his mother’s, the boy even caused a stir when he was required to dress up as a woman during a cultural festival.
His name is Mitsuki Kou, the only son of Mitsuki Amari, the representative of NTEC, and Mitsuki Sora, the lead programmer and hardware designer.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve been called by Mitsuki Sora, my name’s Mitsuki Kou…” He rings the intercom and states his business.
He could hear the sound of busy people scrambling about, so he took a patient wait-and-see attitude, wondering if he would have to wait a little longer.
“Ah, Kou, come in. Director Mitsuki is currently in his usual room, so please come in.”
“Ah, Akane, thank you for your hard work.”
The one who answered was Akane Furuya, who happens to be his father’s assistant. She’s also the mother of the fraternal twins who have been his friends since childhood, and as Kou’s parents are seldom home, she would often look after him as well, and take care of house chores.
He bows to her through the camera, then enters through the unlocked automatic door.
“I’m sorry for coming at such a busy time, when this company is finally starting up in earnest. The first release is today, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s scheduled to begin at noon today, and I’m currently conducting the final equipment check. I apologize for the commotion, okay?”
He switches from the intercom communication to the call mode of the Neural Linkage Device and walks down the busy office corridor, conversing with Akane amidst the bustling activities of the people around them.
Kou is a regular visitor to the Objective Chamber, which is his father’s workroom. As the Chief Technical Officer, Kou’s father is acquainted with most of the NTEC employees, and as a result, Kou can move around without drawing any particular attention.
“And by the way… Kou, congratulations on your recommendation letter being accepted.”
“Haha… did Hijiri and Subaru make noise about that?”
“That’s right. They both said they wanted to go to the same school as you… it’s gotten a bit hard to talk to them about it now.”
“Well… when I get home today I’ll try to bring them something to make it up to them. Anyway, I just arrived, so I’ll see you now.”
After ending the call, he knocks on the door ahead of him. Receiving no response, he enters the room without hesitation, as this is his usual practice.
As he stepped into the familiar room, he saw his father, Mitsuki Sora, staring intently at the display screen and tapping the console with a serious expression… just as he had expected.
Despite nearing his fifties, Kou’s father had a youthful appearance, resembling a man in his mid-twenties. He had grown out his beard to avoid being perceived as young, but Kou felt it didn’t suit him well. Nevertheless, Kou admired his father’s unwavering dedication to his work.
However, this was not the moment to appreciate his father’s commitment to his work from behind his back.
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“Look, Dad, your lunch box. You left it at the front door again.”
“Mmm, I appreciate it, Kou.”
When Kou calls out to him, his father finally notices his presence and slowly takes his gaze away from the display screen.
Seeing the dark circles under his father’s eyes… Kou lets out a sigh.
“Here you go. I also added your favorite sweet egg omelet, Dad, so make sure you eat it. I know it’s the day of the release and you’re busy with work, but if you don’t eat, you’ll collapse, okay?”
As his father muttered with droopy, drowsy eyes, Kou shrugged his shoulders, assuming that he was not fully listening, based on his own experience.
“Mmm, it’s delicious.”
“Thank you very much. I’m trying to learn how to make lunch like a middle-schooler.”
After washing his hands and face, Kou’s father quickly devoured his lunch, pondering how long he had neglected to eat. Meanwhile, Kou responds briefly to the compliment as he pours tea from the teapot into a cup.
Since neither of his parents were able to manage household chores, Kou had naturally taken on the responsibility of making lunch boxes for his family. He was particularly concerned about the health of his absent-minded father who seemed to be oblivious to his surroundings.
Kou is self-consciously aware that he has some degree of father complex. He is going through puberty, and even though he feels pleased when his father praises him, he finds it difficult to be completely open with him.
Despite his reservations, Kou’s father looks at him with kind eyes that seem to see through his thoughts. He compliments the food and expresses how delicious and tasty it is.
“It was thoughtless of me, Kou. I’m sorry for asking such a thing to a student preparing for an entrance exam.”
“It’s fine. I’ve already been accepted at my first choice school through a recommendation, so I’m just getting ready for enrollment. Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m a lucky man to have such a talented child. Thank you for the meal.”
After finishing his lunch, Kou felt embarrassed by his father’s praise and quickly turned away as his father patted him on the head.
“So, you wanted me to do something for you? Test out the new equipment, right?”
The reason Kou unexpectedly came to NTEC, where his father works, was because he was asked to be a human interface tester for a new VRMMORPG that is being released today…
Kou is often left in the dark about his mother’s activities, as she is frequently on the move and hardly ever around. Similarly, his father is always occupied with work and not often at home. This results in Kou spending a lot of time by himself, but despite feeling lonely at times, he never struggles financially. While he has a particular affection for his mother, Kou is still grateful to both of his parents.
Therefore, Kou usually agrees to requests when asked for a favor. Being a tester for a new product is not new to him as he has done it several times before.
…Except for that one time when his father gave him a bizarre swordsmanship training program to test out, which involved fighting against a powerful AI opponent.
Kou became so frustrated with the program that he continues to occasionally battle the AI for fun, yet he has never managed to defeat it even once. Lately, he has even started to address the AI as “Master.”
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Kou inwardly complains about the AI, known as “Master of Swordsman: Rage,” as he recalls his defeat record, which has recently exceeded four digits.
Putting that aside, Kou accepted the offer once again, hoping that he could be of some assistance.
“I heard you wanted me to test something for the new game… what’s this?”
Kou asks, turning his scowling eyes towards a presence occupying a corner of the room that wasn’t there when he arrived earlier.
In that corner of his father’s workroom, there was a bed shielded by transparent curtains as if it were a sterilization room. The bed was connected to a myriad of cords and tubes, which looked rather mechanical.
Kou surmised that this was probably the newly developed human interface in question. However, it did not resemble a gaming machine in any way. He tried to recall something similar from his knowledge and thought of the use of gel capsules for skin rejuvenation therapy.
“Perhaps this is exactly what you had in mind. This ‘cradle’ is based on a medical gel capsule.”
“Well… this is the first time I’ve seen one in person.”
The device was a cutting-edge medical tool that utilized a gel-filled capsule to apply regenerative therapy to patients, supplying oxygen to the lungs and regenerating the body with universal cells. It was truly an advanced piece of technology.
The regenerative therapy cradle is a cutting-edge technology that only the extremely wealthy can afford. It is not accessible to the average person.
Kou continued to gaze at the unusual device with curiosity, and as his father put on his lab coat and returned to work mode, he placed a hand on Kou’s shoulder.
“Would you mind changing your clothes? Regular clothes won’t do.”
“In that case… Akane, do you mind showing him around?”
“Yes, Chief. This way please, Kou.”
Kou was guided to the changing rooms by Akane, who had been waiting in the room for some time.
“I’ve changed my clothes, but…”
Upon following the instructions and changing into a robe similar to those worn by individuals undergoing regeneration therapy in the capsule, Kou returns to the room appearing uneasy.
“Yeah, good work. Has the client already been downloaded?”
“Hmm… it’s going to take a little longer.”
Before his eyes, a progress bar was unfolding and slowly extending, indicating that a substantial amount of data was being installed into the Neural Linkage Device.
This was unusual in today’s quantum communications era where most data was supposed to be transferred instantaneously.
In other words, the slow progress of the bar indicated that the capacity of the VRMMORPG being installed was exceptionally massive.
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Not only does the game have a large production capacity, but Kou’s father is also the main programmer, and there are other talented individuals on the development team who were involved in creating legendary games that defined the early days of the industry.
Despite being occupied with exams for the past year, Kou considers himself a gamer at heart, and he cannot help but feel excited about the world that awaits him.
“Hm, what, Dad…?”
As Kou approached the capsule, his father unexpectedly called out to him.
“This game… was created for you. So I’ll tell you one thing. When in doubt, always choose what you believe is the right thing to do.”
“For me? What do you mean…?”
Kou tilts his head in confusion as his father gives him an unusually serious stare, leaving him wondering about the reason behind it.
“I’m very sorry that I’ve been so absorbed in my work and neglecting you.”
“Wha, what, Dad? I’m just going to take a full dive into the game for a bit. Isn’t that a bit dramatic?”
While feeling puzzled by his father’s behavior, Kou connects the wires to the input terminal of the Neural Linkage Device in his neck as instructed.
After finishing the connection, Kou lies down on the gel cushion and feels its softness. As he relaxes, the client’s download to his Neural Linkage Device is completed.
“Well… now that the download is finished, I should probably go.”
“Yeah. Go ahead… Kou, I will―”
Sora opened his mouth to say something, but the interface cradle was suddenly blocked and Kou couldn’t hear the rest of it. Despite this, he had a feeling he knew what his father was going to say:
―I will always love you as a father, no matter what you become.