Prompted by the teacher, I stand in front of the class.
This is my first time at this school, my first time seeing the faces of my classmates.
However, this is not my first time experiencing this. I’m used to it.
I moved three times by the time I entered elementary school, and this is my first time moving since becoming a junior high school student. Four times in total. When it comes to transferring schools, I’m somewhat of a veteran.
While receiving many curious looks, I greet everyone.
While showing the moderate level of nervousness appropriate for a fourteen year old, I introduce myself. I talk about my hobbies, list the schools I’ve attended so far, say that I hope to learn about my classmates as soon as possible, and bow as though I was in a hurry.
There was no problem with this. It was neither exceptional nor improper. Just a safe greeting to let me be welcomed into the class. There was no unease.
The students clapped their hands in warm reception, and I showed my bashful side.
As they clapped, I thought to myself, let’s get along for as long as I’m here.
It was in the spring of my fifth year of elementary school that I got a handheld gaming console and software for it.
I think that it was just after I had finished moving for the third time.
As soon as I had opened the cardboard boxes of my father’s luggage, it tumbled out of one of the boxes. I don’t know how it got mixed in with these boxes.
When I first saw it, I didn’t realize it was a handheld gaming console.
After all, it was as big as a lunch box. It was not sleek, but was rather thick, like a stack of books. The sturdy system hit the floor and made a dull thud.
My father soon showed up and told me that it was a machine used for games.
“A game system? This thing?”
“It’s a game that came out before you were born. I see, it’s from a time you don’t really know anything about,” my father said with a strangely sad tone.
“Well, I’m not really interested in that sort of thing.”
I said what I honestly thought.
“For starters, games are played by smelly, creepy, loner nerds.”
My father seemed somewhat hurt by my words, but I didn’t realize how much. For the most part, he showed very little reaction to what I had said.
My little sister passed us both by with a garbage bag in her hands.
“Well, it’s sounds perfectly suited to you.”
“You’re so annoying. Shut up,” I said.
Then, when the noisy unboxing had finished, I stood there with the game system and game for it in my hands. Just as a tide ebbs and flows, leaving fish behind in a tidepool, with the flow of time, I became the new owner of that old gaming console.
My father didn’t say anything about it. Perhaps he had forgotten, or he was simply too busy.
I also forgot.
A few days later, before I went to bed, I remembered the game system and finally took a closer look at it. I turned on the power, but nothing happened. When I did some investigating, I realized that it required batteries. Powered by batteries? I had never heard of such a strange gaming system before.
I went through some drawers in the living room and collected the batteries I needed, then placed them in the system. The mobile gaming system was much heavier with batteries in it.
To my surprise, the game screen was a black and white liquid crystal display.
Well, it should be easier on the eyes at least, I thought.
Even more surprisingly, the screen was not easy on the eyes at all.
The screen moved according to the character, the background blurred and flowed like blotches of ink.
I pressed the start button and the title “Devil Angel GIGA” along with the prologue text scrolled from the bottom to the top, but the words were blurry.
A marvellous train travels between many worlds.
An enormous fortune is said to be hidden somewhere the train travels.
Many believe the rumors of the fortune to be true.
They set out on the train in search of this treasure.
However, no one knows what fate has in store for them.
So now, all alone, you…
I see, that’s me there. I didn’t really care, but the world’s setting was pretty vague.
I started playing the game as the words penetrated my mind.
Then, all of a sudden, outside my window it was sunny and bright.
I had stayed up all night for the first time in my life. I had entered into a trance while I played the game.
In the end I overdid it and had to fight off constant drowsiness in the next day’s classes. I didn’t bring my gaming system to school. Such things stand out too much and I figured I’d look stupid carrying it around.
So I waited for school to finish for the day, then rushed home, lay on my bed, and played the game.
A marvelous world that was violently destroyed.
The hero sets up a party with his friends and they travel inside this massive train.
I fought monsters, interacted with new characters, and was fascinated by the mystery of the train, which was revealed to me little by little.
The story was somewhat strange the more I thought about it. Up to this point, I had never played a game like this. I was the type of person to think that if I had time to spend on such things, I’d want more than this.
Despite this, I became obsessed with playing a game that was over two decades old.
It was on an old generation gaming system that couldn’t even connect to the Internet.
If I didn’t make a save file, I would lose all progress as soon as I turned off the power.
It was a completely closed and ephemeral world. Perhaps I was passionate about it because it was cheap and easy, and because I was able to accomplish something with my own two hands. Even if I couldn’t, all I had to do was save the game, switch it off and take a break from it for a while.
Power off, done.
However, a terrible bug was hidden at the very end of the game. It was a problem that spoiled, in one fell swoop, the exciting story and the struggle up to that point.
The hero and his comrades went to the head of the train and faced off against the train’s creator who turned out to be the god who created the whole world.
The final battle starts because… this god was evil and personified the devil, that is, the enemy of mankind.
The most powerful attack that the hero can use in the game is a deadly skill called the “Secret Dark Soul Absorption Sigil.” The name alone sends shivers down my spine. However, even when he’d get hit by this attack, the god couldn’t be defeated. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get past the boss, and I was getting sick of it. My hit points and defense power were at their highest possible values and the boss was bizarrely strong.
However, if you were to use the weakest weapon called “Hammer,” which could be obtained in the first area of the game, you could easily beat the boss to death. With just a single blow.
According to some information I found online, it was a cheat technique used to bypass bugs that remained in the game.
The Hammer was not a weapon in the first place. It was a generic tool.
There was nothing exciting about a story where the god that created the world could be killed by such an item. It was outrageous. What was the point of the heroine’s painful death and the heated struggle with your rival?
There was no point, I thought to myself.
“He has beriberi,” said Yasuhiko.
The word that came out so suddenly felt very out of place for the situation. We were sitting by the window and drinking some apple juice, having just finished our spaghetti meals in the school cafeteria.
“It’s a disease caused by vitamin deficiencies. Didn’t you learn that in elementary school? You’re supposed to strike his kneecaps with the Hammer. Didn’t you know that?”
“I know that now, but what does beriberi have to do with it?”
Yasuhiko turned to the window, narrowed his eyes and looked out at the schoolyard for a while. It looked as if he was thinking of something profound. Eventually he looked back at me and spoke.
“Because, that’s the only way I can think of where the Hammer makes sense…”
For a while after that, a silly image of the god getting caught in a beriberi examination and being killed instantly was stuck in my head.
Yasuhiko and I were in different classes. It was two weeks after I transferred to the school that I met him.
All the students were paired up to do various tasks for the school closing ceremony before summer vacation.
The two of us were paired together and given the tiresome task of arranging folding chairs in the gymnasium.
The male guidance counselor was directing the work as he stood in the center of the stage, staring over the gymnasium. We finished arranging the chairs in a little over an hour, then the counselor stood in front of each row and, like a surveyor inspecting a machine, measured the distance between rows, then got the nearby students to adjust any chairs that were not in a straight line. It was as though he thought there would be a major catastrophe if something wasn’t perfect.
I pretended to work seriously as I walked between the chairs, but I suddenly felt as though I had recently done this work.
I soon realized.
“It’s like GIGA.”
I unintentionally murmured the name of the game.
In “GIGA” the player has to gather four gems to progress the story. When the player gets the second gem, a scene plays where the hero finds the correct gem in a room with many dummies. This was also a difficult puzzle, since the hero needs to search for clues leading to the gem one at a time.
I thought that the current chair situation was similar to that scene.
After saying that, I thought that it might not be that similar after all. Arranging a huge number of chairs and finding one correct gem are completely different things, I thought.
However, the boy behind me opened his mouth.
“Did you just say GIGA? Were you talking about Devil Angel GIGA?”
I put down the chair I had been holding and looked at him. I didn’t expect to hear that name coming from someone else.
He was a tall student with an intense look. Perhaps it’s better to say he was more of a young man than a boy. He seemed to be at least four inches taller than me.
He broke into a friendly smile that I wouldn’t soon forget and he spoke to me.
“Do you like games? I like them too.”
That was Yasuhiko.
Summer vacation began less than a month after I had transferred to the school.
I passed time at the public library near my house.
I didn’t read books. I found reading to be a waste of time. There were so many more fun things to do in the world.
Personally, I found the concrete blocks in the sidewalks outside the library to be more interesting than the books inside. It was an ideal playground when you moved to new places a lot.
In my first year of elementary school I joined the school soccer team.
I had to quit after I moved, but I got better at ball juggling, which I had learned back then.
With enough space and a ball, you can enjoy it all by yourself. This sort of activity was well suited to my personality.
When it comes to juggling a soccer ball, there’s a certain technique to it which requires a lot of practice. If you can get used to the ball, the technique will come. Your field of view suddenly expands as much as one hundredfold. When this happens, you can juggle well, then you do more juggles, then you have more fun, then you do more juggling, then you can juggle even better. It is an infinite feedback loop.
That evening after the school ceremony, I was out kicking a ball in a public square when a few boys showed up.
I pretended not to notice them and I continued kicking the ball into the air, but I felt them staring at me.
Eventually one of them came up to me and spoke.
“You’re pretty good at that.”
I stepped on the ball and stopped it.
“I’m pretty confident when it comes to juggling a ball.”
“You moved here just before summer vacation, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“We’re in the same class.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right. Nice to meet you.”
I smiled and introduced myself. I tried not to show him my true character.
“If you’re that good, why don’t you join the soccer team?” he asked, but I shook my head.
“I said it before, but I’m only good at juggling the ball. Other than that, I’m useless. So, it’s just a hobby for me.”
That ended the conversation.
“Well, see you. Good luck in your second semester.”
“Yeah, see you.”
I waved and saw them off. There were five of them.
Among them was Yasuhiko.
Suddenly I no longer felt like smiling.
This is a strange story no matter how you look at it. The “Devil Angel GIGA” game that I got from my father was the impetus for me starting to talk with Yasuhiko.
Then, I was invited by Yasuhiko to start the online game The World, I remember this clearly. My fate was completely decided for me while I wasn’t even thinking about what I wanted it to be.
I only found out later that I had been invited to The World.
Why would Yasuhiko invite me?
I thought about it over and over and over. That was unnecessary since I wouldn’t get to ask him directly.
This story begins in the autumn of 2010 when I was in my second year of junior high school, and it ends in the same year. It may go back and forth in time a little, but let’s see how it goes.
Power on, the world begins.