No matter how advanced technology may become, there is one annoying problem that will forever plague MMORPG gamers: downloading and installing patches. Even in the year 20XX, Ryouta finds himself impatiently tapping his foot underneath his desk while the hottest game in – well, ever, goes through the process of downloading and installing multiple patches. Version 1.01, version 1.02, version 1.05, version 1.2, version 1.21 – it seems as if the download of patches is endless.
He knows that he can’t really complain. Such an incredible headset only cost him about seventy dollars, but in the early 21st century when virtual reality was first taking off, it easily would have cost an unimaginable sum of money.
After all, the man who invented the breakthrough technology to make this headset—and the components within it—a reality is now the richest, most powerful man in the world.
Yet, not even the famous Jenson Clark is capable of speeding up the internet to a non-annoying speed. One hundred gigabytes per second download and upload for public use is so last decade.
All of the data is being downloaded directly into the headset sitting in front of Ryouta. Unlike the first virtual reality headsets, this “headset” is more like a headband that comfortably wraps around the top of the user’s head. It is completely wireless with all the technological bits being hidden underneath the comfortable and elastic outer layer.
This headset not only has a built-in computer on par with the supercomputers that keep most of the world running properly, but said supercomputer is dedicated entirely to a single game: Fantasy Tales Online.
It might not be the most original sounding name for a video game, but what it accomplishes is something that none others have. It simulates a photorealistic fantasy world that is constantly changing.
“Patching complete. Thank you for your patience. Please place the New Realities Incorporated headset, Fantasy Tales Online Mass Consumer Model, on your head as shown in the on-screen instructions,” a feminine voice speaks from Ryouta’s computer’s speakers. On the screen is a repeating image of a faceless model carefully placing the headband around the top of their head. A warning reads “do not snap the band” underneath the picture.
Ryouta wastes no time in securely placing the headset around his head.
“User detected. Please lie down on a soft surface, such as a bed, to continue with user setup.”
Just as before, the excited Ryouta wastes no time in hurrying over to his bed so that he can lie down on it just as requested. This is standard for virtual reality headsets. Any that are fully-immersive suggests users to rest their bodies on beds for maximum post-immersion comfort.
“Immersing user in five, four, three—”
Here it comes!
Ryouta’s vision is replaced by an all-enveloping darkness. He can move his arms and legs, but not really. There is nothing to move. He is but a floating consciousness in the darkness of virtual reality.
The title of the game comes up in big, gold letters.
Fantasy Tales Online
A floating head pops up in front of him. It looks like one of those mannequin heads seen in malls often wearing hats and oversized shades.
Needless to say, it is fairly unsettling when a pair of eyes and lips appears on it to look directly at Ryouta with.
“Greetings, User TheMemeStruggle. Would you like to use the name of the linked PC user profile as your username, or should I address you differently?” the floating head asks him in the same feminine voice that was coming from his speakers.
“I – uhh, just Ryouta is fine, thanks,” Ryouta says. Being called after what he stupidly named his user profile on his computer just makes him cringe in embarrassment.
It’s even more unsettling when he realizes that he’s speaking out loud without having a mouth.
“Okay, ‘Ryouta’ has been set as User. Before we may continue, please look over the user agreement.” A window with an eternal scrollbar pops up in front of his not-eyes.
There is way too much here for any mortal being to read within a day. No matter how advanced and efficient technology may become, it will never be enough to stop users from agreeing to things that they haven’t actually read. “Alright, I accept.”
“Are you sure, Ryouta? You have only read .03% of the total, legally binding, user agreement.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m good, thanks.”
“Alright,” a big green check mark pops up over the window before it vanishes, “initializing user-system synchronization, time dilation, and mental rewiring. You will be ejected from immersion if trauma is detected during setup. Please stand by.”
Wait, what? Mental rewiring? Trauma? “Hey, what does that mea—” he tries asking a question but finds himself unable to think or “move.” His brain feels like the static channel on a television when the cable goes out.
He finds himself in a café from his childhood. This was his favorite afterschool stop as the cute girl who worked the ice cream part of it would always give him extra fudge on his sundaes.
How can he be here?
Sitting across from him at the booth is a petite girl with blonde twin tails, an oversized sweater, and a spoon between her lips. She looks exactly like some cliché tsundere girl out of an anime.
What’s even worse is that she is his exact type.
“You’re thinking about how trash you are, aren’t you, Onii-chan?” the girl asks. Even her voice is adorably high-pitched.
“Alright, I’m guessing you’re the floating head from before and that you can read my thoughts. Can you please, for the sake of what little dignity I have left, not call me that again? I like it way too much,” Ryouta pleads.
The petite tsundere giggles before popping the spoon out from her mouth. “Correct! Maybe if you read the user agreement then you would have known that I would be scanning your memories and personality to learn all sorts of stuff about you. Don’t worry, none of it is going to the government. Instead, I’m just using the information to become your ideal assistant! Would you like me to change my personality, O-nii-chan?”
“So quick! Alright, fine! It’s not like I wanted to be your dream girl or anything like that, ba—”
“Please don’t finish. My heart can only take so much.”
She pouts. “Is there any personality that you would like me to use in specific?”
“Just – anything other than what you’re doing now,” Ryouta says, looking away to try and not make eye contact.
“Alright ye’ wee lil’ rascal. How ‘bout this for ah good ole perso-nawl-atay?”
Ryouta immediately snaps his head to look at the girl. She looks the same, but now has the voice of – well, he can’t quite tell what the accent is supposed to be. It is like a horrifying amalgamation between Austrailian, Irish, and what he imagines redheaded farmers smoking corn cob pipes would sound like. “Okay, anything other than that.”
The girl leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. Whereas before she was looking playful, now she’s looking at him as if he’s disgusting! She spits on the floor. “Tch. Why do I have to be stuck helping some loser like you? Like, shouldn’t you be doing something other than playing video games? You’re so gross. I would so rather be like, at the mall right now than helping some trash like y—”
“I’m only a masochist when in the right mood. Alright, if you’re just going to keep on messing with me, just go back to the first personality,” he whines. He cannot believe he just told somebody, even if it’s an artificial intelligence, to act like a tsundere sister for him.
He truly is trash.
“Haiii, Onii-chan! Do I make your heart go doki-doki? Well, I know I do! I mean, I have to monitor your vital signs to make sure that you don’t have a heart attack or wet your bed or anything like that.”
“I thought I signed up to play a fantasy game, not be tormented and reminded why this world is better off without me?” Ryouta’s question causes the girl to suddenly turn serious.
“If you are experiencing suicidal tendencies then please reach out to the nearest self-help line, a therapist, or somebody that you trust and can openly talk to. If you would like, I may schedule an appointment for you at the nearest—”
“No! No, I was just making a joke. I don’t actually want to die or anything,” Ryouta is quick to correct her. However, when he looks at her face again, he sees a taunting smile.
“Haha! You actually fell for that! Silly Onii-chan. Moving on! What would you like my name to be?”
Ryouta just wants to smash his head into the table instead of continuing this skit. “Can I call you Satan?” he asks.
She places both of her hands over her mouth as oversized tears form at the edges of her eyes. “O-Onii-chan! You’re so mean to me!”
Her hurt voice and sad display is enough to cause a change of names. “Alright! Fine, how about, uhh,” he looks her over. Given her appearance and personality, wouldn’t it be best to give her a matchingly-weeaboo name? “…how about Saya? I don’t know, I’m bad with names. Just stop crying!”
She gives a few more convincing sniffles before wiping away her virtual tears. “Saya is cute enough, I guess, baka Onii-chan.” She goes from looking sad and disappointed to bubbly within a second. “Okay! Virtual assistant customization is complete. You may change my properties at any time. Next is avatar customization.”
Ryouta smiles for the first time since he’s been immersed. He’s finally getting somewhere!
And where he is getting is falling into an abyss. He sinks right through the café booth and falls into an endless void only to suddenly stop right in front of a mirror.
There is no reflection at first, but once Saya arrives, a body appears in front of the mirror with the same pale complexion that he has in real life. There are no other discernible features. “Here you go! You can either visualize what you would like your in-game avatar to look like, or you may modify shape it with your own hands. Wait wait, Onii-chan, are you one of those perverts who wants to play the opposite gender?”
“I’m fine with a male character, thanks,” Ryouta says with a sigh. He feels like his hair is going to somehow get even whiter if she keeps this up.
“Alright, here!” Saya says, causing a certain floppy appendage to hang down between his legs. There is a reason why this game is for eighteen and older players only. There is more to its realism than just the graphics and senses.
He may not have a face for himself yet, but Saya can feel the unamused, disappointed expression he wants to show her. “What? All parts of the body are customizable! Geez, it’s not like I’m some pervert like you, Onii-chan.”
Ryouta can only shake off her endearingly-annoying charm and focus on the task at hand. What does he want to look like? That’s pretty tough. He decides to try a few things out.
The pale body turns into a short, green goblin with a single thought. Another thought causes the goblin’s nose to grow longer and floppier, and the opposite thought causes it to go so far back into its head that it caves into his face in a graphical glitch.
“Just so you know, Onii-chan, any appearances deemed immersion-breaking won’t be allowed. You can play around with the editor all you want just to be silly, and I can take screenshots that you can show others if you would like me to, but you have to be serious for your actual avatar!”
That answers several of his questions at once. Wait – he returns the model back into its standard human shape and walks to its front. He looks down at its crotch. “Onii-chan, please don’t tell me that you are going to do what 93.98% of all male players do.”
Oh yeah, he is definitely going to do that.
It drops down to the floor from its sheer length. Then it grows thicker than the model’s legs, and finally shrinks back down to a more realistic size. Alright, he got that out of his system.
He looks over at Saya to see her facepalming with red cheeks.
“You’re the worst, Onii-chan,” Saya says.
“Trust me, I know. Alright, I’ll get serious now. What do you like more, foxes or dogs?” Ryouta asks her.
“Seeing as how my personality is based off of your own, we share the same likes and dislikes. You should know what my answer is with that information, Onii-chan.”
Wait, does that mean he has the personality of a tsundere little sister somewhere in his mind if she’s based off of his? Now he has even more questions which he doubts will ever get answered.
“Dog it is.” Ryouta returns to the task at hand. A pair of pricked ears-pop up on the top of the model’s head, and then a huge, bushy tail sprouts out from just above its rear.
“Wolf ears and tail? That’s an edgy look there, Onii-chan! Just kidding, it’s kind of cute and cool at the same time. Let me guess, you’re going to try and fix the imbalance between animal-themed girls and animal-themed guys?”
Ryouta gives her a thumbs-up. All Saya replies with is another facepalm.
Next thing on the list: be cooler than in real life. The model increases in height to a solid six-foot-three, gains a broad frame perfect for laying some muscles onto it, and grows a much stronger jawline with masculine facial features.
The white skin of the model is replaced by a light complexion, its flat body is filled out by muscles, and as for a certain thing - he decides to go with the upper end of average. Maybe a little bit above average. Alright, like a whole two inches above average. It’s just a game, who cares? It’s not like anybody is going to be seeing it.
No, just two. Three is a bit much.
All that’s left are to finetune some things. He makes sure that the model’s nose looks just like how he wants it to; gives the eyes a soft, red color to them; and places a pair of short, thick eyebrows above his eyes. Hair as white as snow grows down to his waist, and it looks like some of the fluffiest, softest hair he has ever seen! Even he wants to pet it despite it being his hair.
By the end of it, he looks like he’s either trying to seduce girls whom are into masculine bishounen guys out of dating sims where a single, normal girl is pursued by a group of the world’s most attractive men, or he’s trying to attract twinks that want to call him daddy. There is a very thin line between being bishounen and yaoi bait.
Is there even a line in the first place?
He can already tell that he’s going to be getting harassed by his one friend.
As soon as Ryouta even considers saying the words “alright, I’m ready,” he gets teleported into the body that he just sculpted.
He’s finally got a body for the first time since he immersed! “Alright! This is perfect. How do I look?” he asks Saya, turning to face her with his hands on his side.
Saya immediately covers her eyes and turns away. He can see the tips of her ears going red. “Such a lewd Onii-chan! You can’t just shove something like that in my face!”
It’s at this moment that he wishes he had something to throw at her. She’s five feet away from him! Nothing is in her face!
She giggles and uncovers her eyes. “Lookin’ good, Onii-chan! There are some final things to go through to ensure that you have an enjoyable time in Fantasy Tales Online.”
Several floating screens pop up in front of him.
The first one reads, “Do you wish to enable traumatic content?” Ryouta has heard about this. Heavy gore, torture, rape – all of these and more fall under traumatic content, and this is often a cause of controversy within the media. However, because players must willingly opt into this, the defense, “the only ones who experience it are those who consent to it,” is often used.
Ryouta gets enough dark themes from reading and playing other games. He doesn’t need it here, too.
“Please set the slider to the amount of pain you would like to experience,” reads the next window. He pushes the slider around between 0% and 100%. He’d rather not feel what it feels like to have an arm cut off in case that happens, but he feels like setting it at 0% would just be too easy. He sets it at 50%. That way, things should still really hurt if something happens, but not hurt so much that it cripples him.
Ryouta knows that this game tries to be as realistic as possible. That’s why both traumatic content and realistic pain are serious parts of it. The most unrealistic part of the game, aside from the fact that there are all manners of mystical beasts and magic, is that characters never need to use the bathroom. They do need to eat, sleep, and drink though.
The third window shows a map. It shows the entire known world thus far, and he is allowed to choose any spot to spawn at. However, he already decided with his friends where they are all going to spawn at. He chooses a forested region near the coast on the eastern continent. The area has a lot of high ground to look from, so it will be easier for him and his friends to find one another if they utilize that.
“That’s everything, Onii-chan! What would you like to name your avatar?” Saya asks.
Ryouta wastes no time in shouting out his answer. He’s been prepared for this. “Fenrir!”
“’Fenrir’ is taken. Is Fenrir749 acceptable? This is just for technical database things. In-game, you can tell people that your name is whatever you want, including just Fenrir!” Saya explains.
He should have known better. “Yeah, that’s good enough. Is there any way for people to see that I’m actually Fenrir749? It would be embarrassing if somebody sees that.”
“Nope! Purely database stuff. I promise, Onii-chan.”
“Alright, good enough.”
“Oh! One last, last thing. Promise,” Saya says. Ryouta knows that she’s just playing up the part of a cute little sister, and that there is no way she would ever actually forget anything. She’s an AI, after all. “Do you have any feedback regarding the setup process?”
“Not really. I think it’s a lot better than most games’, everything is pretty clear, and it’s uhh, definitely unique. The environment based off of my memories was really nice, thanks for reminding me of that place,” Ryouta says.
“No problem, Onii-chan! Even trash like you deserves some fanservice every now and then. Alright! Are you ready to begin your adventure in Gaia, Fenrir?” Saya asks.
Fenrir gives a thumbs-up.