Shin Offline Meeting: Imagine
Translation of Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja nai to Omotta?’s volume 1, chapter 1.
Translation and localization notes are available at the bottom, but try to finish the chapter before that.
While waiting for the assembly to start at the gym, I call out to my friend lined up beside me.
“Announcement: Mr. Me has finally gotten a wife.”
“Oh, how many has it been this year, Nishimura?”
My classmate replies with an exasperated look.
Nishimura is my name in RL.
No, I mean, it’s just my name, that real life bit wasn’t necessary.
Don’t people develop a habit for attaching “in RL” for things in reality after sinking too far into the Internet?
“Oh c’mon, listen, you’ll be shocked, she’s the first.”
“Stop with the obvious lies, you change wives every three months.”
I tried saying so seriously but was mercilessly rejected.
Erm, how about waiting a second before that reply?
You didn’t have to be that blunt, did you?
“No other reaction from you? You’re really married?! Like that.”
“My heart will stop beating from shock if you get a girl, though.”
“I’ll be totally shocked even if you call me up to tell me you got married twenty years later.”
“I can’t deny at all, but isn’t there a nicer way to put that?!”
And my other classmates even joined in with those pretty horrible remarks.
One of them frowns with a puzzled look.
“What’s that supposed to be, anyway, that wife thing.”
“The wives this guy talks about are just the characters he likes.”
“Yep, yep, that ‘mai waifu’ thing.”
“Stop it! You’re hurting me all the more saying that deadpan!”
I hold my head and go through my exaggerated damaged motions.
That said, getting hurt is just an act. It’s not actually that much of a shock.
This is, well, a variant of a sort of worldly wisdom.
Everyone in a typical class in school has something like a “character”, don’t they.
The sportsman from the sports clubs; the bandman who knows lots about music; the class president type with good grades; the deliquents who are a little vulgar; people like those.
But my grades are average among the average, I belong to the Home-Going club, and my hobby’s online gaming. An ordinary high school boy without a single element essential to the socially apt normalfag.
I figured I would put in some effort and try creating a character to survive in the class and as a result—
“Nishimura, you’re seriously such a geek…”
“I’m enjoying life in my own little way, get off my case.”
“Well, introduce me to this waifu of yours next time.”
“He’ll have to find a way to get her out from his monitor first.”
Yes, I became an open geek.
But you see, it’s unexpectedly fun. The geek’s a vital character, so I’m getting along in the class without any need to hold myself back.
That’s right, for example.
“Oh, right, Nishimura, I heard that Jumbo Satou comedian’s doing a live broadcast online, that’s for real?”
“Aah, yep, it’s real. It was on yesterday too.”
“No way, was it good?”
“You would know if you heard it yourself, but it was super boring.”
“Right?! I knew it!”
It seems my existence is irreplaceable for topics like this.
An open geek fulfils the need of “if you want to talk about that topic, talk to this guy”.
A person fine with geeky stuff, someone able to provide that sense of ease.
On the conversation about live broadcasts over the Internet, my classmates continue on, relieved, maybe due to how I naturally replied with a “I saw it”.
“That guy’s only good for that quip of his, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, he gives the same response to everything. That’s jumbo! That’s the one.”
“Must have been a flood of comments there.”
“But it’s scary how it just works out sometimes despite him having no more than that.”
And my other classmates jump onto the conversation. They definitely watched the live broadcast themselves, anyway.
But to avoid getting labelled as a geek by saying anything like that, they intentionally run the conversation through me.
After all, as long as they’re talking to me, proclaiming all things geeky, they will be pardoned from all such talk.
With the excuse that they’re following my lead since I have nothing else to talk about.
“Who cares about some comedian with only one good quip. Aah, I want a girl.”
“Stop it with the tearjerkers, you.”
“If a wife counts, I have one.”
“Stop it with the tearjerkers, Nishimura.”
Of course, normal topics mix in like this too.
There’s no need to hide myself away and there are countless topics in the subculture. Even if I can’t follow along with the normalfag stuff, it’s fine, that’s my character.
I personally think I’ve carved out a pretty nice spot for myself.
My one and only problem——would be the looks I get from the girls, maybe.
And that voice came from diagonally behind us.
“And there they go again with the gross conversations. Geeks are so disgusting. Don’t get any closer to us, seriously.”
I turn my head and there they are, the girls of my class glaring at me with their cold gazes.
The role of the open geek comes with the sporadic calls of “gross” and “annoying” as one may expect. It is a little annoying, but that’s a normal high school girl for you.
That girl’s named Segawa Whatshername if I’m not wrong.
“What is it, Segawa, don’t lump all the geeks together and call them disgusting. There are fancy geeks around the world like those knowledgeable in wine or flowers, you’re being rude to them.”
Segawa’s eyes narrowed even further after I answered out of formality.
“Or rather, you’re the disgusting one, Nishimura.”
“I can’t deny that at all, so stop it!”
“Aah, Nishimura, how sad. Truth hurts, doesn’t it.”
“We know you really are disgusting, but she didn’t have to point out just how disgusting you are, did she?”
“You guys are way worse!”
Well, that’s how it is, I’ll never get a girlfriend or anything.
I’ve gave up myself, honestly. I just need my games, that’s all.
“Still, if she were to just hold back her words, Segawa would be so cute.”
“You heard? Maeda who sits besides her apparently confessed and blew up.”
“Man, what a hero.”
“He’s pretty geeky himself. That’s right, Segawa’s your type, right, Nishimura? See, her face isn’t that bad, she’s petite, and her hair’s even in twin tails.”
My classmates’ whispers prompt me to turn my sight towards the girl from earlier.
“Nn, it’ll be fine if she’s a tsundere, but she’s all tsun… wah…”
My eyes meet with two eyes filled with a truly intense desire to murder.
“…You really do have a death wish, don’t you?”
“I’m so very sorry!”
“F-Forgive Nishimura, please! His only crime is his love for twin tails!”
“So disgusting… can you simply stop breathing in the same air I am?”
There’s no need to go that far, is there?!
My body jerks and my shoulder knocks into a girl from the next class.
“Ah, sorry. You okay?”
“Ah, no, I’m…”
The girl draws back as though afraid and shakes her head from side to side. I can’t really tell with her long fringe and how she still looks downwards despite that, but it seems she’s really scared.
Are geeks that scary?
I guess they are, I’m so sorry for existing near you.
Well, that’s generally how society looks at them.
“The assembly’s starting soon, okay, everyone, quiet dooown.”
The teacher in charge lazily speaks from the front of the class. A female teacher in her early twenties and unmarried. I won’t make any comments on her lack of drive despite her youth, but she, Saitou-sensei, is a perfectly ordinary Japanese Language teacher. Replying with a careless “okay”, the class begins quietening down.
[Good morning, everyone. I am Goshouin, your president. We will now begin the schoolwide assembly.]
And thus, the student council president’s calm voice rang out and began the assembly. Absentmindedly gazing at the president whose beautiful features and confident demeanor got her selected or so the rumours say, I let out a small breath.
Seriously now, I just don’t have any luck with girls in real life.
Seriously, for real, none whatsoever.
But, but still.
The fact that I have a wife is real, through and through.
Calmly looking at the life point bar floating atop my character name, [Rusian], dropping, I operate the keyboard at a comfortable pace.
I hear the groans from monsters overlap each other from the headphones over my ears.
The character I control, Rusian, is running through the far depths of a dungeon with all his might.
Not by himself. With enough monsters pulled along behind him to cover up the screen.
“Aah, damn… this is so annoying.”
One of the monsters stops in its track when I left its detection range as I continue running.
I get it back after circling around the mob of enemies, but that process shaves off more of my life and the bar decreases once again.
Normally, this playstyle would hardly need any effort and I would never make a mistake at a place like this.
But it’s been a stream of mistakes ever since earlier. It would be nice returning to my allies with at least eighty percent of my life remaining, but half of it’s already gone. I’m definitely not concentrating hard enough.
And I know why.
It’s the conversation between my guild members, surging through the chat window at the bottom of the screen.
I blame it all on that. It’s not my fault. I’m not the one at fault.
◆ Ako: And then I got Rusian to come with me to where we first met and confessed there.
◆ Apricot: Finally, huh. I kept wondering when it’ll finally happen, but I never thought you would be the one doing it, Ako.
◆ Schwein: Could you two take any longer? Man, he’s such a sissy, lol.
◆ Ako: But then Rusian refused me once…
◆ Apricot: Seriously? You mean he said no to your confession, Ako? Is he mentally ill or something similar?
◆ Schwein: Hmph, someone on my level would never do that in his position, lol. Can that idiot get any more stupid, lol?
◆ Ako: Unspeakable grief beyond my wildest imagination assailed me there…
Maybe I should just beat down those people mouthing off all they like along with this clump of enemies.
I run at full speed with those dark thoughts towards my allies. Not to kill off the monsters but to stop the chat.
◆ Ako: But Rusian then went like “You don’t have to waste your money on something like that.” when I was going to get ready the enchants for the ring, but after he said that, the ring he gave me cost around 20m and boosted every resistance.
I run within sight of my allies with all my speed before she reveals any more.
My character that used a huge sword in the past now holds the opposite, a huge shield, and begins taking on the enemies’ attacks.
◆ Rusian: C’mon, food’s served, people!
The attacks flood in as I stand still. The life I recovered on the way is scraped off in an instant too, with the bar’s color turning from green to yellow.
◆ Schwein: That grumpy guy acted like all that but he was still all for it, huh, lolol.
◆ Apricot: A male tsundere is good in its own way, huh.
◆ Rusian: Don’t chat when someone lured a mob of monsters for you! C’mon, take them, Schw!
Look at me, aren’t I getting whacked here?! I’ll die, you know?!
◆ Schwein: I don’t wanna hear that from you, grumpy hubby, lol.
That message appeared and my comrade with his large sword, Schw—officially, Schwein—started showering the enemies with attacks.
◆ Rusian: How about I sic all of these enemies onto you, you bastard.
◆ Schwein: Hah, you think these small fries alone can kill this great Schwein?
Why are you acting so big, you wouldn’t even survive with just half of them on you.
◆ Ako: Welcome back, Rusian.
And “mai waifu”, Ako the cleric happily calls out to me.
No, hey, you’re the healer. That’s not a job with enough free time to relax and type in the chat during a battle.
◆ Rusian: That doesn’t matter, heal! Heal, Ako!
I desperately whittle down the enemies, pissed off at my utterly laid-back comrades.
But the bar floating on top of my character continues to be chipped off at a rapid pace.
Passing by yellow, the signal that my life is less than half, it turns to red.
“Hey, hey, hey, heal, c’mon, heal!”
A critical health mark goes up on top of Rusian who I control. He’s at the end of his rope.
◆ Ako: Sorry, Rusian, I’ll be on it right away, so give me a moment!
“How many skills could you have used in the time you spent typing that!”
Several seconds pass as I continue, annoyed, and a rich green effect lit up on the screen.
The healing skill worked fine.
—Right in the middle of the mob of enemies.
◆ Rusian: The heck are you doing?!
◆ Ako: S-sorry, Rusian!
Then control your character instead of typing that!
Just as I resigned myself to death, a speech bubble appeared on the robed male character standing behind Ako.
◆ Apricot: Hahaha, there’s no need to worry. Behold, this is the power of a staff enhanced with a hundred and fifty thousand yen of cash along with the one-use cash magic booster with a price tag of three hundred yen each that comes with an extra one when you buy them as a set of ten!
◆ Rusian: What’s with those cash items that are totally exploiting the users?!
That’s such a waste! Stop it!
Though that thought did come to mind, the magic activated without any chance to stop it.
An explosion with a special effect, unique to cash items, more impressive than the usual ones, a grand sound effect, and an absurd amount of damage assails the screen.
◆ Ako: Amazing, Master, the monsters are like trash!
◆ Apricot: Ha-ha-ha, this is the power of the legendary staff!
Or the power of money; that’s one nasty legend.
But with cash items adding even more power onto the cash staff that had enough firepower on its own, the meteorites crashing down onto the field magnificently crush the mob of monsters.
◆ Apricot: Fu-fu-fu, there’s no feeling better in this game than knowing that you can one-hit kill.
◆ Rusian: Woah, you can one-hit kill the monsters here?
Knowing how many attacks to kill an enemy, regardless of the RNG, was a factor in maximizing the efficiency of hunting monsters, all the more so if it only took one hit.
But it’s no ordinary feat to achieve that in a hunting ground of a decent difficulty.
He, Apricot-shi, the master of my guild, “Alley Cats”, is in a class of his own as a heavy cash spending warrior, surpassing even those people in the hardcore guilds.
Honestly, my heart hurts just witnessing it. It’s not my money dropping, but it still hurts as though I’m the one losing it.
◆ Apricot: Naturally. Cash items aren’t just for show. Get it through your head, each of those meteorites earlier had thirty sticks of umaibou in it.
◆ Rusian: Thirty sticks with each costing ten yen…
◆ Schwein: So that barrage earlier’s worth more than Rusian? lol
◆ Rusian: I’m not that cheap, am I?
A green light envelops my character while we speak.
The long-awaited healing magic’s effect. My life bar safely returns to green.
◆ Ako: I’m sorry, I got delayed since I was talking.
A female character wearing white clothes and bowing her head repeatedly. My wife, Ako.
It’s all good since I didn’t die in the end, but she just isn’t improving much. Despite how it’s been almost a year since she started the game.
◆ Rusian: Before that, how about not focusing on the chat while we’re hunting?
◆ Schwein: It would be a great loss if I’m the one dying, but who cares about Rusian?
◆ Apricot: Shouldn’t you show your forgiving side as a good husband? Try letting her take her time the next time.
Ako’s character gladly claps her hands together at the irresponsible words from the pair.
◆ Ako: I see. Then, Rusian, take it easy!
◆ Rusian: Don’t take it easy! Be quick with the heals!
Aah, seriously, geez.
It would be so much more relaxing with a somewhat decent healer.
◆ Schwein: Hey, Rusian, dontcha think using those words on your own wife’s going too far?
◆ Apricot: Indeed, this would count as domestic.
◆ Rusian: I’m the one suffering here! Also, domestic just refers to things related to a household!
And I’m even getting told off like this by becoming a little angry! They’re going too easy on her just because we’re married!
◆ Rusian: Anyway, I’ll be bringing in the enemies a few more times later. Ako, you don’t have to try too hard, just keep me alive, please.
◆ Ako: Okaaay, I’ll try my best.
Ako happily answered.
Right before I left, a light ‘pikon ♪’ sounded out with my chat window opening.
◆ Ako: Thanks, Rusian.
Along with another line.
◆ Ako: I love you.
In short, I couldn’t refuse.
I can’t marry anymore because I got a trauma from proposing to a GIRL! She pressed on with enough enthusiasm to push aside my appeal and I ended up folding like a coward.
I got a wife in the game.
◆ Rusian: Aah, I’m beat…
◆ Apricot: Rusian, your EXP went up?
◆ Rusian: Well, I guess.
We returned to the city together and are now gathered in the cafe we took over for our usual meeting spot.
Furniture with fancy wood patterns and a peaceful BGM. It’s one of my favorite shops with its nice mood.
As though it’s only natural, Ako sits right beside my character, Rusian, who is sitting on one of the chairs placed in that shop.
◆ Ako: Good work. I’m so sorry for getting you killed over and over again, Rusian.
Ako’s character shows a chat bubble while her head bobs up and down.
What was written in the bubble was what Ako had said. Naturally, the bubble appearing allowed everyone around to see those same words.
◆ Apricot: Indeed, it was more dangerous than usual today, wasn’t it?
◆ Ako: W-Well…
A upbeat “pikon ♪” sound effect ring out after I banged out my words. A new window opens up on my game screen at the same time.
What appeared was whisper chat from Ako.
Whisper, WIS, TELL; those are what people call the conversation window between two people, invisible to others. Unlike chat with speech bubbles, there’s no need to worry about someone else overhearing a conversation here.
Ako often sends whisper chat messages over even when we’re with everyone else.
◆ Ako: Well, I wanted to talk to you more, Rusian, so…
“And there she goes again…”
My great friend, Ako, who I had known for nearly a year in the game.
This is my wife.
I can point out the problems with that myself, but she really is my wife.
It must have been roughly a year since we first met. We came to know each other after I gave some simple advice to Ako who totally looked like a beginner. Things like how to log out and such, I think. Beginners not knowing how to end the game are actually pretty common. It’s nothing rare.
But it seemed the girl, as a complete beginner, got utterly attached to me like how a chick thinks the first thing it sees is its parent.
That was right after my suicidal charge at Nekohime, when I left my guild and played as a sad solo player; I somehow ended up looking after Ako and before I knew it, we turned out like this.
◆ Rusian: But Ako, we’re already married, so you don’t really have to whisper, right? There’s no need to keep it between us, you can just say it in public.
Replying so via whisper, I then received Ako’s reply after a short while.
◆ Ako: I’m now… talking directly… into… your heart…
◆ Rusian: Heey, Akoo?
◆ Ako: …It’s not the same… as when I chat with… the guild members… take good care of your wife… of your wife… of your wife…
◆ Rusian: Listen to me here.
Well, she goes at her own pace. But it’s true how I don’t get bored with her around.
Whether she has a problem, finds something interesting, developed an interest in something, or has a topic to talk about, she’ll tell me about it. That’s the type of “girl character” she is.
Not a “girl”, but a “girl character”.
I don’t know about the person in her.
To be frank, I believe that person could very well be male.
Rather, I believe there aren’t any girls in online games.
No, I am aware they do exist somewhere in this vast world of online games, you know? Maybe there’s even one around me, right? Sure, there’s that exceeding low chance Ako’s a girl, right? But that’s of no concern to me. I’m “Rusian” in the game and Ako’s “Ako”. Not a female, but a “female character”.
Games and RL are different. Utterly unrelated. That’s why it’s a “male character” and a “female character” here, not a male and a female. That’s how I’m thinking about it.
It’s best for the both of us, and our mental health too.
—After all, there’s no chance of me seriously confessing to someone who’s a male inside.
◆ Schwein: Still, Rusian, you must be getting slow if you’re almost dying with just that few of them, lol.
Or so Schw proudly proclaimed upon coming back from accounting for the items we gathered.
He does go on about his greatness and all, but he’s a diligent guy who handles the distribution of the items after we finish hunting. That serious other side of him that appears every now and then is surprisingly cute.
◆ Rusian: Man, big words there, how about you try taking my place?
◆ Schwein: Ah, you’re going there? You’re really going there? Just watch and learn, I’ll pull them all in next time.
Hmph, Schwein said as he went with a fired-up motion.
And Ako goes enthusiastically clapping at that.
◆ Ako: main tank here! now we can won!
◆ Schwein: No, I use swords, though.
◆ Rusian: Ako, you’re really going to talk like that?
Yep. No way a girl who says stuff like this exist.
Anyway, online games and reality are different, I don’t really care.
“Well, guess that’s it.”
I received my share of the loot from the hunt this time and let out a breath.
Go on, die all you like; LA isn’t newbie-friendly enough to say that. EXP falls on and on as the death penalty. We defeated all those monsters today, but the death penalties took all the EXP those gave. All I got was the money.
Not that I care too much about what I got since my goal was to play with everyone, though.
◆ Apricot: Still, the two of you were certainly stuck together today.
Master spoke with his sight pointed towards our characters.
◆ Rusian: Stuck together? Weren’t we the same as always?
◆ Apricot: If that’s normal, then all the more it proves how lovey-dovey you are, right? It’s been almost a year since we met, but the two of you have always gotten along great. It went full circle.
Master nods on the screen. Stop it, it’s seriously embarrassing if you start talking about love in a game’s marriage.
◆ Rusian: That’s not it, seriously.
◆ Schwein: What are you being all humble for? Hmph, you damned normalfag.
Done with distributing the gold, Schwein talked with his sword raised.
What’s he going on about? I have no idea how is marrying in-game supposed to qualify for that.
◆ Rusian: What are you talking about, it’s just winning at online life at most.
◆ Schwein: That’s true… no, hold on. I would be closer to one, huh. I mean, someone even confessed to me IRL the other day.
◆ Apricot: Oh, now that’s something.
◆ Rusian: Seriously?! Schw, don’t tell me you’re actually some hot dude?!
Man, I’m jealous. He got it way better than I do.
Damn it, hot guys should just go die—
◆ Ako: Aargh, Schw-chan, you should just go die.
◆ Rusian: Eh?
◆ Schwein: A-Ako?
Ako’s getting unusually heated up by my side.
And she’s going on without any concern for our confusion.
◆ Ako: Why don’t those normalfags winning at life just all die? Why stay in this game if they’re getting confessed to, they might as well get out from the game, just having them around makes me feel depressed. Aah, can’t those types of people just go extinct? They aren’t any good for the world, fufufufufufufufufu
◆ Rusian: Ako, calm down, calm down!
◆ Schwein: I rejected, I turned it down! I don’t care about something like romance!
◆ Ako: fuhi fuhi fuhihihihi
◆ Rusian: Come back to us!
I coax Ako into calming down.
Yep, well, sure, my wife does get weird at times.
◆ Rusian: I hate them as much as you do, but don’t let that out on our comrades.
◆ Ako: Y-Yes, I’m sorry.
Ako curtly lowers her head.
◆ Schwein: I’m no different, though, lol.
◆ Apricot: I totally understand what you mean.
We came to an outstanding agreement.
Why are we all uniting in our jealousy against those socially apt normalfags? This guild’s way too twisted.
But that’s exactly why we get along, they’re all good people. We may be just a guild of four, but it’s thanks to these guys that I’m enjoying this game.
◆ Apricot: In that sense, you’re the closest, aren’t you, Ako, Rusian?
◆ Ako: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, listen to me!
Ako jumped to her feet.
The character turns to face me before letting out a chat message with her two hands pressed down on her chest as though appealing to me.
◆ Ako: Rusian rejected my confessions filled with love time and time again. my lifespan was already mach from stress!
◆ Rusian: I gave the OK in the end, didn’t I?
◆ Ako: It’s about the journey, not the destination!
Ooh, my wife sure can talk.
I have my own ideas if you want to bring that up, though.
◆ Rusian: Right, got it, then let’s reset and start back at our first conversation.
◆ Ako: I wasn’t serious sorry no divorce plz don’t throw me aside!
Ako folded in an instant.
That said, I do like how she’s true to herself.
◆ Schwein: Yep, there’s the problem.
Schw’s bubble showed up as though to cover Ako.
◆ Schwein: Rusian, you said you rejected Ako’s marriage proposal once? Seriously? I know I’m not the best person to say this, but you normally wouldn’t be able to get her to say OK unless you’re earning on the scale of b’s, ya know?
◆ Ako: I-I’m not that amazing…
There Ako was, cowering out of shyness behind the large bubble.
You shouldn’t be getting embarrassed here, really, no one’s praising you. You’re being treated like some gold digger character.
◆ Apricot: I’m curious too. What did you have against it, Rusian? Haven’t you two gotten along great the whole time?
Master joins in the questioning.
Honestly, I would rather not explain.
But it would be rude to not explain when asked. I tap on my keyboard.
◆ Rusian: I don’t hate Ako or anything, just in-game marriage and the like. I mean, it’s a game, you know, a game. It’s not real life or anything.
That was why I rejected her once.
I’m not against it when I think about how Ako simply wants to deepen our ties with that request, but still, I hesitate when it comes to marriage. Well—there was that with Nekohime-san too.
◆ Schwein: Whatcha you mean different from real life? It’s not like you could possibly marry in RL, so you might as well get some experience with that here, Rusian.
◆ Rusian: There are some lines you don’t cross, how about you consider that?!
There are things you can say, and those you can’t!
I have my own delicate points too, you know!
And as though to hold back my argument, Ako’s chat message shows up on the screen.
◆ Ako: Oh, yes, that’s that. I heard from Rusian, but apparently, he confessed to a guy in the past.
◆ Rusian: wha
◆ Schwein: Ooh, lol
◆ Apricot: He did?!
Ah, Ako?! You’re going to say it?! Without any hesitance?!
You’re going to expose your husband’s disgrace without warning?!
◆ Schwein: I didn’t think he was gay, lololol. Don’t worry, I’m not so narrow-minded as to reject you on that, lolol.
◆ Apricot: Indeed, the same goes for me. It’s fine, Rusian, you have no need to worry. We are comrades. Aah, wait, don’t you get anything closer, I’ll kick you out of the guild.
◆ Rusian: How about some mercy, guys?!
Schw and Master spoke while their laughter filled the screen.
Aah, damn it, this is annoying as heck. And you accepting it isn’t making me any more at ease!
◆ Rusian: That’s not it. It’s just, well, look.
◆ Schwein: Look?
◆ Rusian: Well, yeah, that.
◆ Apricot: That?
◆ Rusian: It’s really nothing big.
◆ Schwein: We won’t laugh, go on.
◆ Apricot: It’s fine, don’t worry. Believe in your guild master.
◆ Ako: It’s okay, Rusian, everyone will hear you out.
Master, Schw, and Ako urged me in turn.
Ah, I so do not want to say it. I don’t, but there’s no helping it, huh?
◆ Rusian: It’s just, well, I seriously confessed to a GIRL in the past and got turned down real bad, you see…
◆ Schwein: lolololololol
◆ Apricot: lolololol
◆ Rusian: I knew you would laugh!
And I was laughed at enough to make myself depressed immediately after typing it.
Aaaah, I knew I shouldn’t had said it!
◆ Schwein: This is hardly me, but my stomach’s seriously hurting, lolol it’s hard typing when laugh so much lolol
◆ Apricot: This must be the first time I spewed out my coffee IRL, good job, Rusian, to think you had hidden away something this amazing.
◆ Rusian: Just how funny do the two of you find it?!
◆ Schwein: I mean, you confessed to a GIRL? You can’t even pass that off as some mistake of youth anymore.
◆ Apricot: That would be under memories of spring, huh?
◆ Rusian: Forget it, please!
◆ Schwein: How could we?
◆ Apricot: I’ve already taken screenshots too.
You guys are rotten to the core, aren’t you?!
Return those warm and fuzzy feelings I had when I thought well of you!
◆ Schwein: I’ll save the image as 7.13 Rusian GIRL Confession Incident.
◆ Rusian: That incident didn’t happen today in the first place! Delete it now!
Heck, doesn’t that make it sound like I was confessing that I was a GIRL?!
Still, that hero’s death really did hurt.
My tastes are as normal as they can be, so when it comes to marriage or romance, I do find it important for the other party to be of the other gender. It would be tough whispering words of love with someone who may be male inside.
But still, I gave the OK to marry with Ako due to my fixation on how “games and RL are different”.
The shock I had after seriously confessing to that GIRL on that day two years ago was bad enough for me to leave the guild right after and play solo for close to a year.
There was a single truth that spurred me to regain my footing amidst all that.
“That was… ‘Who cares as long as it’s cute!’, it’s this saying!”
I hold my fist before the screen alone.
That’s how magnificent a truth it is.
Even if the other party’s male IRL and acts as female in the game, who cares as long as that’s cute? I shall love the cuteness within the game. Even if that’s from a GIRL.
Yes, I wasn’t fooled; I was enlightened with this truth in the game!
—Well, I made that compromise in my heart on that rationale. Games and RL are different. Completely unrelated. That’s my current principle.
It would be too unfair if I go, “A GIRL? No way I’m marrying or anything,” by that logic, wouldn’t it? Ako’s Ako, so even if she’s some guy IRL, why should I see that in her?
I overcame that resistance in the end.
And besides, look.
◆ Ako: Rusian, are you mad? Maybe I shouldn’t have told anyone after all?
Pikon; a whisper chat showed up from Ako.
◆ Rusian: Aah, don’t worry about it. I was prepared to made fun of and all.
◆ Ako: Thanks, Rusian.
Upon waiting for a moment after that chat message.
◆ Rusian: I love you.
Right as those words were displayed, multiple heart shapes flew from Ako.
I mean, look, cuteness’s cute after all, right?!
“……C-Calm down, calm down, me. You’ve went through this before, you’ll regret it if you go in too deep…!”
Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.
Breathe deeply and calm your heart down.
That black-haired girl dressed in a white robe sitting beside your character, me. This is an avatar, nothing more than a form of representation in the game, it’s not healthy having your heart beat faster IRL from that.
◆ Apricot: I see, that’s why you hesitated, huh?
Perhaps having settled down after laughing until now, Master spoke while nodding.
I wasn’t that bothered. Who cares about RL? Seriously now, I honestly don’t care much about it.
I mean, sure, I do think it would be nice if it was a female inside. If only it wasn’t a guy in her, I would think Ako as a good girl. If only it wasn’t a guy in her, it would be a nice feeling having some girl fond of you, even if it is in a game. If it wasn’t a guy in her—but it has to be one, thinking about it realistically. As if there could be some girl who would laugh out, “fuhihihihi”.
Even in the one-in-a-million chance it’s a she in her, how could we be in the same age range?
I imagine the girls in my class playing online games… not happening.
Aah, no matter how I think about it, it’s impossible.
◆ Ako: I would be considered a girl, though?
Ako typed that out, perhaps reading the atmosphere.
Hey, what’s with that “would be considered”?
◆ Ako: I’m a Cleric in LA, but I’m a bookworm girl type in real life.
◆ Schwein: Woah, wait, you’ll be breaking the worst taboo in online games if you announce that in open chat.
RL information, not to mention appealing as a girl, certainly would be one of the most disliked actions she could take.
◆ Ako: Is that so?
◆ Rusian: It is, it’s best if you don’t repeat that.
I chide Ako as well while she looks on blankly.
It’s a real relief that this cafe we’re in is deserted despite how we’re in town.
◆ Apricot: Who cares if it’s a taboo. I’ll just reveal I’m totally an actual JK IRL.
Master says while laughing with a snort.
JK in real life—a female high school student. That Master.
This ridiculously heavy cash warrior, guarded fully by cash equipment, who powers up with cash items during battle and wolves down cash recovery item on the verge of death claims to be a female high school student?
◆ Rusian: Master, just no.
Unable to handle how appalling that sounded, I gave a frank riposte.
◆ Apricot: To think I would get treated like this after gathering my courage and stepping on that taboo. On the other hand, it actually feel somewhat good.
◆ Schwein: Master, that’s impossible.
◆ Apricot: Even you, Schwein?
◆ Ako: Master, that can’t be true.
◆ Schwein: The whole world’s against you, huh?
That heavy cash spending can’t be from anything but some single member of society; what female high school student are you talking about? Don’t be silly.
You think a woman who would inadvertently spend more money than a man, usually, could wring out that amount of cash would make even me, a normal male high school student, jealous?
◆ Apricot: Still, I see. I understand your concerns, Rusian.
◆ Rusian: No, I didn’t say a thing, though?
◆ Apricot: Yes, yes, I see everyone is of the same mind.
No one said a thing from the start.
Master continues, casually ignoring my opinion.
◆ Apricot: Well then! Let’s do this!
Huge words appeared above Master’s head.
“Guild Alley Cats… Offline Meeting No. 1 Decided…?”
I blankly read out those words.
By the way, fireworks shot off with that. We’re indoors, though.
◆ Apricot: Applause, please!
◆ Rusian: Master, both that big chat message and fireworks are cash items, aren’t they?
◆ Apricot: Applause, please!
Clap, clap clap; everyone put their hands together without really thinking.
Wait, eh, offline meeting?
By an offline meeting, you mean meeting those online acquaintances offline, or in other words, in RL?
How did that lead to this? Are you saying it for real?
◆ Apricot: I was thinking we had to have some sort of event with the guild a year old. What do you say we take advantage of this opportunity and have our first offline meeting?
◆ Schwein: Even if you ask—it’s decided already, isn’t it?
Master speaks after Schw rips into his chat message.
◆ Apricot: It is!
◆ Schwein: What is this, a dictatorship?!
Master’s Master, these things happen.
Still, well, deciding it is fine and all, but…
◆ Schwein: Nhh… besides, is everyone in?
Schw says with slight irritation.
His mood’s obvious enough even with those words in that chat message.
◆ Ako: By offline meeting, you mean, meeting with everyone?
Ako, somewhat hesitant. I confirmed my suspicions with those words alone. The person behind would be exposed if we were to do some offline message. I know, right?
That said, I’m not much for it either.
I mean, look, I don’t care whether it’s a male or female inside Ako. RL and games are different. That’s an absolute principle for me. That’s why I married her.
But that depends on the prerequisite of me not knowing the truth, doeesn’t it?
If I were to find out my wife’s a GIRL and even the truth behind you on top of that… that level of difficulty may be a little too high for my young self and all.
◆ Rusian: Aren’t we all living at different places? It shouldn’t be too easy to gather everyone, right?
I timidly opposed with a pessimistic viewpoint.
This guild rarely talks about RL. Not wanting to hear about RL if possible—especially in regards to genders—I hadn’t spoken much about it and I don’t recall Ako, Schw, or Master making much effort at approaching that topic.
However, Master speaks.
◆ Apricot: Fufufu, don’t look down on me. I have my guesses based on your reactions in regards to weather changes or topics on local television. Firstly, everyone’s definitely in the Kantou region.
He asserted strongly.
Yep, that’s right, I am in Kantou.
True, we might have all been able to relate whenever it rained, whenever there were earthquakes, and such.
◆ Schwein: Hey, I’m not going to somewhere like Akihabara even if you tell me to.
◆ Rusian: That’s right. It would be tough even if you want an offline meeting in Tokyo.
◆ Apricot: I know. It’s within my expectations that everyone here’s a student.
Hmm, so that’s out of the bag too, huh? Well, I guess I might have mentioned things like how my login times would be irregular due to tests the next week every once in a blue moon.
◆ Rusian: I can’t believe you pay that much attention, Master… it’s kind of scary.
◆ Apricot: That’s natural for a guild master. Don’t worry, by the authority of the master, I say we’ll hold it at the station closest to me.
◆ Ako: That’s tyranny, Master!
◆ Apricot: Say what you will. We will hold it this Sunday! Come to Maegasaki Station on that day if you will.
“That’s so near!”
I unwittingly let that out before the monitor.
Oh, that was a surprise. That’s my closest station too. I can get there by bicycle.
But I doubt anyone aside from Master and I would gather at a station that minor—that might be relaxing in its own way, I guess. He would probably treat me to a meal at least.
I tap the keyboard with my mood somewhat uplifted.
Immediately after pressing the Enter key, bubbles showed up above Ako, Schw, and me at the same time.
◆ Rusian: Your house sure is close, Master. I can go, though.
◆ Schwein: I don’t mind, but that’s never working out.
◆ Ako: I’m okay, but are you sure holding it there?
◆ Rusian: Eh?
◆ Schwein: Eh?
◆ Ako: What’s with that, creepy.
Our three chat messages coincided once more.
◆ Apricot: Right, everyone’s in, then. That’s good to hear.
◆ Schwein: Wait, what… everyone lives this close by?
◆ Schwein: I can’t believe it…
This isn’t some joke?
I vacantly stared on, amazed.
Seriously? We might have even passed by each other at the station or something?
The Internet’s surprisingly small, ain’t it?
◆ Apricot: Right, be sure to come since you said you would, listen?!
◆ Ako: I-I got it. I’m a man of my word too, I’ll take responsibility for what I said!
Those words shows up on the balloon displayed above Ako.
◆ Rusian: Wait, what did you just
◆ Ako: No, that was just a figure of speech!
I heard something really bad. Something real bad.
Aah, I really don’t want to go.
◆ Apricot: Your wife’s coming, so you’re coming too, aren’t you, husband?
◆ Rusian: Aah… got it.
Don’t wanna. I really don’t wanna. I super duper don’t wanna, but there’s no going back, I’ll firm up my resolve.
◆ Apricot: I will naturally go as well, so that makes three of us. You’re coming too, aren’t you, Schwein?
◆ Schwein: No, I’m… aah, we’re doing it? We’re seriously doing it?
◆ Apricot: Well, there’s no need to be so against it, Schwein, just come. We won’t snub you if you don’t, but there’s no point getting left out either, right?
◆ Schwein: Nhh… damn, I get it.
Schw’s shoulders lurched down as he nodded.
Well, he should be fine if he still has the composure to move his character, probably.
◆ Apricot: Then in consideration for you students, we shall gather at 12 noon this Sunday. Leave the arrangements for the store to me. Fufufu, I’m looking forward to it.
◆ Rusian: ‘kaay…
We dejectedly replied to Master’s cheerful words.
We’re really meeting?
Do I really have to meet—with my wife?
And the weekend arrives.
The day of the first offline meeting for the guild, “Alley Cats”.
I don’t know how to set my hair properly like those socially apt male high school students and stood around before the mirror before heading out to our meeting place.
I wonder if it was out of consideration for them or my own nervousness that I arrived somewhat earlier than arranged after several minutes of cycling.
“Well, what will be, will be. Let’s see… I’m here, there.”
I sent a message addressed towards everyone from my phone.
Just got here, contact me when you reach, there.
I scan my surroundings after taking care of that. It’s a small station, but still, there are several people waiting for others as expected of a Sunday.
That flashy guy there? Or that man in a suit? Or maybe that guy with a girl? It could even be that girl with twin tails over there.
And a reply came with a pikon.
Seems everyone’s close by. Apparently, everyone reached.
I-I see. So they’re here. Near here.
So we’re finally going to have to meet? Those comrades who fought by my side for a year?
And my wife.
No, and my wife (male).
Rather, isn’t this situation too strange? Why am I here getting scared meeting my wife who’s male for the first time?
I considered calling, but still, I’m nervous. Let’s just contact everyone for now.
“I’m wearing a white shirt with jeans, light brown shoes. I’m in front of the station at the statue… there.”
I send it while my heart raced.
Replies came shortly after. From all three at the same time.
I wonder whose should I look at first and decided it would be best to make it my wife’s, Ako’s.
Ako’s message goes, “I’m wearing a black coat with a white shirt, white—”.
The sensation of someone patting my back came just as I was about to scroll the screen to read on.
Along with a soft voice.
It was a beautiful voice like the chimes of bells.
Oh, she’s female. That was a female’s voice.
E-Eeehh, there’s a girl in my guild?! Who?!
Or rather, crap, it’s really embarrassing being called by my in-game name!
I’m seriously dead if a classmate sees me here getting called with that Western character name!
“Y-Yes, I would be Rusian…”
I stiffly turn around in trepidation.
Standing there was a girl looking up at me in a slightly frightened manner.
She has black hair that reaches her shoulders and though her face’s hidden away by her somewhat long fringe, I knew I was reflected within her large eyes trembling in unease. She looks more suited to reading a book in some library rather than playing games or going out on a rest day.
She has a black coat on a white blouse along with a white skirt.
“Erm, I-I’m Ako.”
The girl spoke haltingly.
Ako, aah, so she’s Ako. I was wondering if our guild had any girls but to think it’s Ako. What a surprise, so she’s my wife.
—Wait, that’s not it!
Ako’s my wife, isn’t she?!
“Ako? Ako?! Eeehh?!”
Ako? This person? This girl?!
I unconsciously check that mail.
[I’m wearing a black coat with a white shirt, white skirt, and have already arrived.”]
If there aren’t going to be any old guys coming here cross-dressed later on, then it should be this girl.
“…Y-You’re really Ako?”
S-Seriously? She really was female in real life?!
And, woah, she has a ridiculously cute face hidden behind her fringe too, now that I took a closer look. Her facial features looks pretty on her face despite how slender it is; the way she looks up at me with slight timidity, makes her look super cute like a small animal on its guard.
This girl’s supposed to be “my wife”?
The one I laughed with over stupid topics and exchanged silly jokes with day after day?
The one I went hunting monsters with and at times, got hunted by them with?
The one who I got mad at, the one who got mad at me, the one who I spoiled, the one who cried when I neglected her?
And the one who always told me that she loved me—that Ako?
This girl is?
“N-No-no-no, calm down, calm down, me.”
Averting my eyes a little away from Ako who looked up towards me, I silently muttered.
Don’t, keep your cool, me.
Sure she’s your wife, but that’s in the game, this is actually the first time you’re meeting. Right, she’s a girl you’re meeting for the first time. Now, be courteous, you have to react like some gentleman no matter what.
“Erm, nice to meet you, Ako-san, I’m—”
“So this is Rusian… the living Rusian!!”
The girl’s words buried mine.
“What do you mean, living?! You make it sound like I’m normally dead!”
The girl trembled from my inadvertent comeback.
Ah, I messed up—or so I thought for a moment before the girl’s expression relaxed.
“That’s, well, it’s normally through a monitor, so… it’s like a semi-frozen Rusian.”
“Why are you making me sound like some half-frozen sherbet?!”
“I like ice cream when it’s somewhat melted too.”
“How did it lead to that?! I don’t get it!”
Why am you arguing like this with a girl you met for the first time, me?!
Aah, this is Ako! No one else would ignore my words so magnificently!
Perhaps the other side was convinced as well; Ako’s body had loosened up from its stiff tension and she showed a slack smile.
“Wah, it’s Rusian! It’s really Rusian!”
“Please don’t call that name over and over again, really, I’m begging you here.”
Just kill me, I can’t stand the shame of having my online game character’s name called out time after time in front of the station.
I just thought about it, but if a classmate were to see this—
A voice came from my side. A familiar voice.
I looked and saw a twin tailed girl there with an absolutely dumbfounded expression.
It’s my classmate, Segawa.
That Segawa who called me disgusting or annoying without hesitation.
What a disaster. It just has to be her witnessing this?
A strange noise leaked out from my throat as I tried to find appropriate words.
Waaah, I got seen being called by my character’s name in a place teeming with peopleeeeee!
C-Caaaaalm doooown, c-c-calm down, me!
Find some excuse. To live another day in class!
Ako, standing by my side, suddenly sent a look towards Segawa.
“Do you know her?”
Unlike earlier, her gaze now resembles a scary glare.
“E-Erm, I do know her, but…”
Segawa loses her composure with that gaze turned on her.
Well, I know how she feels. She would be troubled if spoken to by a girl in this situation.
No, wait. Still, this is the perfect timing, isn’t it?!
“N-No, no, she’s just a classmate. L-Looks like you caught me in an embarrassing spot, Segawa. Don’t tell anyone in class, alright? Ha-hahaha.”
I speak as though making excuses towards Ako at my side.
With that, behold, it’s the very image of a boyfriend with his pampered girlfriend.
Is it? Is it, really? Am I in the clear?
“I-I-I-I see. So that’s it.”
Segawa faltered as well while paying no attention to my unease and, for some reason, nodded clumsily.
“So you have someone like that too, huh? G-Geez, don’t get this girl mixed up into any of your weird interests, a-ahahahaha.”
“T-That’s true, hahahahaha.”
She laugh, tense as a board, and I follow along in the same manner.
I don’t know why, but we exchange stiff laughter.
“Then, I’ll get going…”
“Y-Yeah. See you.”
Segawa backs off in halting movements. Yay, go on back, please. And please forget about everything too.
I see Segawa off as she steadily backed away and saw someone patting her shoulder from the back.
Segawa stops and turns. It’s naturally within my sight as well; it was a familiar-looking female student wearing our school’s uniform.
I thought she was Segawa’s acquaintance, but she seems at a loss for words too.
Who is she? I know for sure I saw her somewhere.
I considered her being my classmate, but that’s not it. The ribbon isn’t the first-years’ red like ours but the second-years’ blue.
Ako spoke with her usual apprehensive gaze.
Aah, that’s right, that’s it. Of course I saw her before, she’s our student council president. We saw her at the assembly just the other day.
“Ah, t-that’s right, president. Is something the matter?”
Segawa was, naturally enough, stiff when she asked and our senior, the student council president, showed an out-of-place grin for some reason.
“No, that’s wrong.”
She shakes her head with flourish.
And while gripping onto Segawa’s shoulders and pushing her towards us, she firmly speaks.
“I am not the president. I am Master. Hmm, I see everyone has safely gathered.”
Looking at the three of us, tilting her heads, in turn, the president smiled.
“I suppose this would be the first time we meet? I am the master of the guild, “Alleycats”, Apricot.”
It felt like the voices in everyone’s hearts harmonized on those words.
“So that’s Rusian and the one clinging to her husband’s Ako, I see.”
“Master, good afternoon.”
I could only nod blankly while Ako greets her in a voice warmer than before.
I felt a sense of discord while looking at the pair.
“Eh, wait, president, you said everyone’s gathered…?”
In my vision
With her shoulders gripped by the president—Master—Segawa freezes up and turns blue as I look on.
“Eh, you’re… Schwein?”
I spoke, dumbfounded.
“Ah, so you’re Schwein-chan?”
Ako says in relief.
“What, you hadn’t told them yet, Schwein?”
Master speaks while laughing.
“D-Don’t call me by that name!”
And Segawa—Schwein—hugged her head as she cowered.
“T-That’s what I should be saying!”
Ignoring Segawa who glared at me in despair, Master spoke with her usual tone filled with confidence.
“Now, let us start our commemorable first offline meeting, Alley Cats.”
Led by Master, we entered a private room she apparently reserved in a restaurant.
It appeared affluent from the outside, obviously prizing itself on not being cheap, and the inside matched up as well with a design reflecting comfort and its owner’s good tastes. I became somewhat nervous, wondering if I had enough money.
But those are just trifles. There’s something more important.
Firstly, it should have been a filthy offline meeting between four men—and in front of me who came with that expectation are three girls. They’re cute in their own ways and could maybe even be called beautiful. If an outsider sees this situation, they may consider this to be an envious situation.
If you were to ask me for my thoughts, honestly, this is awkward. Super awkward.
First, there’s Segawa sitting diagonally in front of me with the table between us. And she’s totally glaring at me. That Segawa who usually call geeks or me disgusting. I’m sure you aren’t in a good mood but neither am I.
Next, we have the president who just ordered in a accustomed manner. We usually look up towards her while she stood on a stage and even from this angle, the impression created from her manner of speech is one of calm and collectedness, one with presence of mind, a cool beauty; I can’t settle down just by having her close by.
And above all else, there’s the girl sitting beside me, clinging tight onto like just like in-game—Ako.
I slowly slid towards my side and separated, and she shortened the distance as though it was only natural.
She turns a bright smile towards me when I glance at her.
Aah, this is Ako. This uncontrollable clump of affection is Ako.
It’s Ako, but… I know, it’s Ako, but.
It’s strange. I mean, it is strange, isn’t it?
Look, this Ako’s cute. She’s Ako but cute.
Silky hair and a petite frame. Her slender features make her seem suited to reading in some library, but when I look at her smile at me, I feel she’s all soft and fluffy.
I feel like I saw here somewhere before, but I can’t recall where at all. I doubt I would forget a girl this cute that easily.
“Hey, hey, Rusian.”
I continue watching her and Ako, for some reason, looked back at me happily before reaching her hands out towards me.
“W-What is it?”
They cling onto me, touching my shoulders, my chest, my cheeks… w-wait, what is she trying?
“Waah, Rusian, you’re alive, aren’t you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
And the words she finally let out were those.
Just what am I in her head?
“Don’t say it like it’s strange for me to be alive.”
Holding Ako’s head back from the front, I push her back.
Ako swayed back with that whimper.
Ah, not good, I acted a little too familiar. I treated her in this manner since Ako was being too Ako, but she is a girl I’m meeting for the first time. She obviously would be against me touching her.
“S-Sorry, are you okay?”
Not to mention how she looks rather like the quiet type; that action was definitely off-limit. Wasn’t that alone enough for her to hate me now?
Ako ignored that anxiety of mine.
“Ehehe… you really are Rusian.”
And gave a happy smile for some reason.
It was the same old routine as in the game; no matter how many times I snub her, she would croon and come over to get pampered like an over-attached cat. She was here in her actual body, not as some game avatar.
Despite Ako acting like she does in the game, my reaction’s completely different from usual. My heart starts beating faster and—wait, no, no, no. What are you doing, having a girl you just met fawn all over you like it’s only natural?
I’m feeling really guilty, as if I’m making use of our relationship in the game.
“Why are you brushing her off so gleefully? You should be the one getting the cold shoulder here.”
Segawa spoke in an exasperated manner with a sigh.
Did you have to say it like that? I do know this is strange myself.
Though Segawa cowered for a moment, likely frightened by my glare, she still kept her eyes on me without averting them.
She sure is annoying. She calls people geeks and all, but she’s an online game geek herself, isn’t she—not that I would point it out on purpose now of all times, though. It wouldn’t kill her to be a bit more gentle.
“? What’s the matter?”
Without meeting Ako’s eyes directed at our exchange, Segawa spoke.
In a soft voice.
“Well, the drinks are here too. First of all… yes, shall we start with self-introductions?”
Engaged in conversation with someone from the store until earlier, the president distributed glasses to us while she spoke.
Dropping my sight onto the glass of juice before my eyes, I let out a breath.
It sounds foolish with our relationships going a year back, but it is our first time meeting in a sense.
Master placed her glass down with a light clink, and stood up from her chair in a gentle and excessively refined manner.
“I am the master of [Alley Cats], Apricot. My job is Law Wizard and as I believe you know, I have confidence in my firepower. I am a second year in Maegasaki High School, my name’s Goshouin Kyou, and I serve the student council as its president. I came here from school today, so do excuse my attire.”
A tone full of confidence. This person’s personality doesn’t change, does it?
“This day, this time would be the first time we meet. However, at the same time, we are close comrades. Why don’t we enjoy that pleasant yet complex relationship to its fullest?”
With that speech that would have fitted a stage, the president gave a slight bow before sitting onto her chair.
Light applause ring out.
“Now then, next.”
Schw swipes her eyes away upon seeing Master’s sight directed at her. Those eyes turn to me—woah, scary, she’s totally glaring at me. It’s not like I’m at fault or anything.
“Go on, Schwein, it’s your turn.”
Segawa staggers onto her feet, giving off the impression that the embarrassment from being called Schwein had exceeded what she could handle.
“I’m… I am Segawa Akane, Maegasaki High School, first year.”
A soft voice unlike her usual self. What, she nervous?
That mumbling isn’t her at all.
A look showed that her face was dyed crimson red.
Looking upwards towards her, I realized she was the type of girl my race of geeks is fond of: her brown hair stopping at her underarms; her petite form, be it her height or anything else; and her sweet appearance.
Sure, it’ll be tough saying your hobby’s online gaming while looking like that, but still, her vehement complaints about geeks being disgusting is another matter entirely.
I don’t know how she took Segawa’s tension, but.
“Yes, I understand how you feel, Schwein, it’s only natural to feel embarrassed calling yourself Schwein before others.”
“Er… erm, Master?”
Master suddenly spoke, nodding as though empathizing with her.
She continues with deep emotion.
“After all, Schwein is German for pig. Hello, I’m Pig, nice to meet you. It must be embarrassing to say something to the tune of that as a maiden.”
“Ye… eh, what?”
Segawa—Schwein—the pig freezes up with her mouth agape.
After a blank of several seconds, her face turns crimson red before she questions Master.
“What, eh, no way, you serious? Pig? Schwein?”
“Indeed. …You mean to say you used it without knowing?”
“Of course I did, who would name themselves pig?! Isn’t it obvious I used it because it sounded cool?!”
“Schw-chan… my condolences…”
She might have already known, but Ako looked downwards with a pitiful expression.
“Wait, Master, why didn’t you tell me?!”
It seems to have been truly outside her expectations as Segawa ended up calling to Master normally.
Ah, looks like she got her energy back.
“I did consider doing so, but I held back, figuring that pointing it out would be all the more embarrassing if you did it without knowing rather than on purpose. My, it is beyond even my expectations that it would be exposed in a place like this…”
“Waah, hold on, stop it!”
Segawa waves her hands in a fluster.
Ignoring her, Master smiled in an excellent mood.
“Come on, Schwein (haha), hurry on and continue your self-introduction.”
“Don’t say that bracket-open, haha, bracket-close out loud! Were you always reading it out like that in front of your monitor?!”
“Hey, Schw-chan, there’s no need to act so modest. No one will mind your usual attitude, why don’t you go, ‘I’m the great Schwein!’, like you always do?”
“Don’t say that out looooooud!”
Segawa crumbled, finished off by Ako’s comment.
I-Is she okay? That was just too much.
“Kuh, kuh, kuh… no need to go that fast from the very start, Schwein. This is usually where all the lol start flying past.”
“Come to think of it, how are those ‘el-oh-el‘ letters people always use read?”
Is she talking about ‘lol’?
True, no one really reads it out or know how to read it despite how often it’s used.
“That’s short for little old lady.”
Master spoke with a know-it-all air. No, that’s definitely wrong.
“That’s not what it means, right? Isn’t that read as laughing out loud?”
“Ooh, as expected of you, Rusian.”
Ako clapped her hands together.
What am I to do with that appreciation? In the first place, was there a right answer?
“Aaah, geez, why are all of you just ignoring me?!”
Slapping the table, Schwein took in a deep breath of air.
“Whew… hah… aah, I’m Schwein. I play a Sword Dancer in LA. If anyone calls me a pig from now on, I’ll cut you into two. Also, you join ‘ol’ to ‘lol’ to lengthen it, but don’t read it literally. I won’t acknowledge anything else. That’s all!”
Segawa says everything she had to say and sits down.
Applause somewhat more lively than before envelops her. Maybe she finally came to terms with it, but her expression appeared to have loosened up though it’s still sour.
“On a side note, I am personally one of those who read it as lawl.”
“No one’s asked you about that.”
“Oh, my apologies.”
The smile Master turned towards Segawa then appeared somewhat gentle.
Did you do that on purpose to return her to normal? If you did, good job, as expected of our guild master.
“Then, next, Rusian.”
Having expected it, I stand straight up.
And clinging onto my arm, Ako follows suit.
Ako looked up at me as though nothing’s out of the ordinary.
She’s cute like an over-attached cat, but we aren’t like that.
“It’s my self-introduction, so go sit down.”
It seems she does listen to reason as always. Ako obediently takes her seat.
“Why are you flirting around?”
“No, it’s not like I’m trying to.”
Wait, this isn’t the time for that.
I took in a deep breath and looked around the trio.
“I’m Rusi… Rusian. In LA, I’m, er… er, I play as an Armor Knight. …Waah, introducing myself with my character name’s seriously embarrassing.”
It wasn’t like I was saying anything important, but the embarrassment still made me choke on my words.
“What are you talking about, your whole existence’s an embarrassment, anyway.”
Segawa disrupts. Normally—no, just a short while ago, those same words would have made me pretty irritated.
I wonder why I didn’t feel anything at all against them now. There was just that sense of comfort that comes with arguing with Schw in-game.
“In the first place, the pig thing’s way more embarrassing—sorry, won’t mention that again. Erm, I’m in the same high school as president—ah, understood, my bad, Master. Should I be formal due to our positions? …’kay. Erhm, I’m a first year, the name’s Nishimura Hideki. I’m in the Home-Going club and have no special talent of note. My hobbies are, well… online gaming. Nice meeting you.”
Light claps rang out.
How do I say this, it’s like that, you know? Our year together wasn’t just for show. I somehow get what Master and Segawa wants to say just from their glances at me when I was talking.
“Then, lastly, Ako.”
Ako stood up with a soft oof.
Due to her standing up right beside me, those slender legs hidden by her skirt came by my face.
My heart starts beating quicker for a reason different from during that self-introduction.
Next, a sweet fragrance in the air shook my head.
It’s really not the time to point it out, but she’s really a girl, isn’t she?
“Erm, I’m Ako. I’m a Cleric in LA. I’m not very good at games and always cause trouble for others… I’m very sorry.”
It’s fine, no problem, Schw goes.
Well, sure it is for you, your life is rarely ever at stake due to that!
“I’m at Maegasaki High School like everyone else, in the first year.”
“Huh, we’re in the same year?”
“Yes, we actually are.”
So in the end, we’re all in the same school? Isn’t the Internet way too small?
“Sorry, I didn’t know. I’m a first year too and don’t know any girls from the other classes.”
“Ehehe, me too.”
Well, duh. It’s only been months since we enrolled, I wouldn’t have any connections to other classes since I’m not even in any clubs. Ako looks like the quiet type, so she’s probably not the type to form connections either.
Ako continues without showing any concern over those.
“My name is Tamaki Ako. Please call me Ako as you always do.”
“Eh, it’s your real name?”
“Yes. …Is it strange?”
That’s strange, alright.
“Nah, there’s all that about digital literacy, so doing that is… no, well, it’s fine.”
“Hahaha, that’s just like you, Ako.”
Segawa shows a sullen face expressing how she thought that Ako’s naming method was clearly a bad idea while Master laughs in a laid-back tone.
It happened in that warm, tender atmosphere.
“I hadn’t entered any clubs. I have no friends in school either.”
Everything stiffened up as though the world froze over.
E-Erm, Ako-san? What are you saying here?
“I don’t go often, so whenever I do go to school every once in a while, everyone’s wary of me.”
It seems not even Segawa can put together another line against that.
I look towards the pair in hopes for advice on what to do, but their faces had completely turned blue from Ako saying those depressing things with a smile. What are you expecting from us even if you were to confess that now?
“D-Do not mind! I am the student council president, but I have no friends either!”
You’re going to empathize with her on that?!
I was wondering what she would come up with, but Master said that while firmly nodding.
No, no, we don’t need you appealing with something so sad now!
“L-Look, Ako, ain’t we your friends?”
Segawa agreed with a desperate look after that flustered follow-up.
“Yes, indeed! You have more friends now!!”
“You did it, Ako-chan!”
“Hey, stop it!”
Ako giggled at our foolish antics and words.
“Yes, that’s why… I’m truly happy having friends to talk with like this.”
Those words quivered slightly.
I could also sense Ako’s legs and shoulders trembling slightly from her side.
The offline meeting’s making her nervous… she said so in LA too, didn’t she?
“Best regards from now on as well.”
Ako sat back down amidst applause.
The images of my usual guildmembers overlap Ako, Segawa, and the president in my eyes with every word we exchange.
And thus, our offline meeting began.
“What I’m getting at, is that spending money on strengthening my armor’s the same as weakening myself by that much.”
Schw proudly speaks, poking at her coffee cup with a spoon.
“I mean, isn’t it obvious it’s more effective to put those funds into strengthening my weapons? Efficiency in hunting’s just firepower, it’s all on firepower. And throwing several m’s worth of funds into a minor change for armor? That’s nothing more than self-satisfaction. Only an idiot would do that.”
“No, that viewpoint’s far too one-sided.
I snarled at the girl speaking of her own opinion with ragged breathing from the opposite side.
“I know what you’re getting at, firepower’s important. But there are places you definitely can’t hunt at without preparing a certain level of defense and you’ll need to be there if you actually want efficiency. Look at the facts, you can’t hunt at Scion Research Lab with your equipment, can you? And there are so many sword dancers who can hunt there with ease at your level too.”
I seek Schw’s acknowledgement by meeting her eyes.
But the girl casually shrugged her shoulders and snivelled.
“That just means you need the bare minimum, doesn’t it? That’s like saying there’s no point strengthening armor more than needed.”
“There isn’t just one end-goal when it comes to armor and besides, it’s not that easy getting there either. In the first place, if you’re talking about bare minimums, doesn’t that go for weapons too? Your efficiency will barely change even if you switch out a weapon for the next rank’s despite it already being decent. That’s just horrible cost-efficiency.”
“Don’t look down on the importance of weapons. Someone like you who only considers hunting spots with monsters you can finish in one or two hits will only stay in those dull places.”
“What did you say, Mr. Great?”
“I told you not to call me that!”
“Now now, hold on, both of you.”
Master interjects from the side into our never-ending squabble.
“Listen, there’s a simpler and easy to understand way to think about it that’s just perfect. Let me explain. Think about how you can supplement whatever you lack with cash; you can see how your attack and defense will both become the strongest that way.”
“Could you keep your thoughts to yourself, heavy cash warrior? We’re having a conversation for normal players here.”
“Topic: Regarding Master’s mistreatment.”
Master got sliced into two.
“Yes, yes, I have my own thoughts too!”
The next to interject was Ako.
“I believe money spent should be on appearances. It doesn’t matter how strong your equipment is, you just have to let everyone else defeat everything, so I don’t think they actually matter.”
“Seriously, you, stop messing around.”
“I’ll knock you down.”
Ako backs off in fear, glared at by both Schw and myself.
What appearances, idiot, if you have the time to think about your outfit, then how about surviving for even a second more or healing for even a point more?
“Ako-san, do you understand how healing jobs absolutely have to remain alive until the end?”
“Eeh, but Rusian dies before I can do anything…”
“Just pointing this out, but my equipment works just fine as the main tank, you know?!”
Has she been thinking of me in that manner this whole time?!
I gulped down all of my juice.
She doesn’t understand at all, if you’re spending money, it should obviously be on armor, geez.
“Listen here, first of all, you’ll die without good armor. After all, our healer’s super lousy.”
“That, I can’t deny.”
“Indeed, there’s no further room for discussion there.”
“Aah, aah, I can’t hear a thing!”
Starting from discussion regarding the game in that manner, our conversations switched topics whenever we felt like it.
For example, to old stories.
“Ako’s heal that time was killer, don’t you think? I never thought she would ignore Rusian when he’s about to die and send several heals to the enemy.”
“Not to mention how her pinpoint aim for the enemies whose HP I was shaving away.”
That’s from mere days ago. I seriously thought I was done for, then.
“T-That only happened because I was aiming for the decreasing bar.”
Master clapped her hands together when Ako mumbled an excuse.
“Aah, I got it. The spirits of light are to be blamed.”
“Spirits of light?”
Ah, I remember, it’s that thing!
“Ah, from all the way back at the start? Ako didn’t know how to use skills and a NPC told her to borrow power from the spirits of light, so she kept praying to the ‘Spirits’ in the chat!”
Ako waved her hands about as though to chase something away when we brought up that piece of ancient memory.
“T-That’s not it! I mean, that church person talked about how they heal wounds by borrowing power from the spirits of light!”
“You aren’t any better for believing in it…”
Or for example, to RL topics which we hadn’t broached at all previously.
“I’m not much older, my online cash was initially funded by my parents. My parents are over-protective despite effectively neglecting me, you see, they say all sort of comedic things that hardly suit this time period with a straight face, like to choose my friends wisely. It wouldn’t do if I wasn’t at least allowed to sink money into a game I can play at home.”
“Ooh, so you’re some privileged lady from a good family, Master?”
“You give off that feel, you’re so pretty too.”
Master grinned back at Ako who said that with narrowed eyes.
M-Modest? I find that questionable.
“It truly doesn’t apply to me much. Though I am rich, I grew from that initial loan on my own, and my family only owns several companies and schools.”
Hey, you didn’t deny that part about being pretty.
Sure, I don’t find anything of dispute in her words, but there’s definitely no modesty there.
“Still, schools… that means.”
“That includes Maegasaki High School. That is partly why I enrolled there.”
“No way, amazing! It’s like you’re the board chairman’s daughter!”
“I am the board chairman’s daughter.”
“Ooh, that’s amazing. Sounds you can just pump up your grades and stuff. I’m jealous.”
Pump up? Those aren’t stats. Is your brain too deep in online games?”
Schw spoke, exasperated. Shut up, I bet you thought something like that too.
I avert my eyes towards my side with a snort and there Ako is, smiling with a darkness in her eyes.
“Waah… those moneybags with a bright, promised future should just go die…”
“Calm down, Ako, this is Master! Or rather, that disease happens here too?!”
Come back, come back to us; I shake Ako’s shoulders.
Swaying around, Ako’s complexion returned after around ten spins.
“I’m sorry, I lost track of myself.”
“That’s an understatement… besides, don’t you have to pay attention to all sorts of things as the board chairman’s daughter and the student council president?”
“Well, I can’t deny that.”
Master spoke with a wry smile.
“I can’t very well say I started with a personality others felt amiable and there were requirements for my friends too. But do not worry, my eyes opened after starting online games and coming into contact with the online world. I had my parents agree to allow me to make friends as I like by the end of our battle.”
Everyone lets out voices of admiration.
One of those who found truth on the Internet—a successful version of that?
Yep, yep, that’s good, really.
“It was too late, however.”
Everyone’s voice went silent.
“…Hmph. Even without any friends in my friends, I shall fight on alone.”
“Master, let’s fight against the socially apt together!”
“That sounds good, Ako, we are comrades-in-arms.”
Ako and Master’s hands gripped onto each other firmly, crossing the boundaries of school years.
“My stomach’s hurting just from looking at this.”
“I didn’t come this far to see such a handshake…”
Both Schw and I wiped our tears off.
And talking about RL topics were far more fun than expected despite us never having done so. So much that I wonder why we didn’t.
That said, we never would have this opportunity if we did, so all’s well that ends well.
Something came to mind since we were talking about RL.
“Come to think of it, I heard a rumor about you, Segawa… Schw in school the other time.”
“A rumor that you got confessed to. Aren’t you an amazing one?”
I heard that story about Maeda Whatshisname at the schoolwide assembly. I recall Schw personally talking about it too.
“H-Haah? How did that turn into a rumor? This is why all guys are just so…”
“Rather, weren’t you bragging about it in-game? I remember, you know?”
And this is this, huh?
I don’t care much—though I’m not sure about the rest.
“I see, so Schwein is one of those splendid people different from us, is that it? I understand just fine now. —Come on, I need someone to punch a wall!”
Master’s fingers goes snap.
As though in response, Ako posed with her two arms raised into the air.
“Wall punching agent at your service! We’ll punch any wall near you in your place!”
“I rejected! I said I rejected him, didn’t I?!”
Schw makes haste to extinguish the flames as Ako gripped her hands into fists.
“You turned him down so bluntly because you don’t have much interest in such things, Schw? Or maybe you have someone else you like?”
I somehow asked a privacy-invading question that made me wonder if I was crossing the boundaries. I could never have asked that question normally, but I wonder why, it came out so naturally.
“Nah, that’s… hmm…”
And the one asked, Schw, begins to think of an answer without showing any discomfort despite that.
Segawa isn’t all that stylish. She’s short, or rather, her entire frame’s small. She’s probably not one for femininity. Her twin tails can look either childish or cute depending on the person, and there may be some against it.
Still, at the very least, her facial features more than made up for everything. I can objectively call her cute.
And I wouldn’t say those previous features of hers are unnecessary—or so I think.
“I mean, if I were to get a boyfriend and all, I’ll have to devote time to all that, right?”
Schw quietly spoke after a little brooding.
“Well, yeah, you’ll need that quality time for the both of you.”
“Right? And that means less time for online games, doesn’t it?”
She said something messed up in various ways!
“That really would decrease time for online gaming, wouldn’t it?”
And for some reason, Ako gives her strong approval.
“Yes, that’s it!”
Segawa continues, having gained a sympathizer.
“I mean, you would be totally against that, right?”
“I would be totally against that!”
“Rejecting’s the correct course to take.”
And both Ako and Master agree without needing even a second of consideration.
“You weren’t kidding around, huh…”
To think even I feel like wanting a girl. This group of people are gone as far as they can go.
Schw glared hard at me after I spoke with my amazement on full display.
“What, you have a problem?”
“…No. I know I prefer this compared to you in school.”
“That’s definitely no praise, is it?”
Contrary to her upset words, Schw laughed good-naturedly.
I could never talk like this or say these things with Segawa as my conversation partner, but it’s an easy task with Schw.
Those usually annoying words don’t sting at all.
I’m somewhat amused instead.
And unless I’m mistaken, Schw seems to be enjoying that too.
“Then, let’s turn that thought on its head! How about getting a husband like me in-game too, Schw-chan? You can be together without losing time spent in the game, you see?”
Ako spoke, grasping my hand.
No, Ako and I are married only in-game and that has absolutely no connection to a RL confession. None, not even a smidgen.
“Nn, a boyfriend who I can play online games with, well… nah, still not happening. They would be disgusting and all.
Don’t look at me while saying that, aren’t you the same?
Anyway, we talked about everything. We stayed cooped up in that private room from noon to evening without going to any other stores; the offline meeting was fun in its own little way without even a single moment of boredom.
And by the time the sun sank, we left the shop and returned to the station despite our reluctance to part.
“If only I had the time, I wish we could all have dinner together. My apologies, I could not obtain any further permission from my family.”
“It’s fine, mine would be mad too if I weren’t back in time for dinner.”
Schw ungrudgingly nodded at Master who lowered her head. Aren’t your positions reversed?
“It was really fun. Someday… someday, let’s do this again.”
Leaving the store last, Ako spoke in low spirits, looking like she’s still reluctant to leave.
“No, even if you say that, we’re in the same school, so we can do this anytime, right?”
“I see… I see! That’s right!”
I didn’t think about that at all! Ako’s eyes glittered with that thought.
Indeed; Master speaks while nodding.
“Understood, then shall we establish this as a weekly event?”
“Spare me if we’re having this weekly. I feel like my dark side will be drawn out into my daily life if I were to be dyed in your colors any further.”
“You’re gone too far with that line alone. Calling it your dark side and all.”
“Oops, not good, that was dangerous. Geeks are gross, geeks are gross, geeks are gross, geeks are gross.”
What’s that, some sort of charm?
I enjoyed it to the very end even after we got to the station.
Counter to the tension from when everyone saw each other’s faces, a tender, warm air seemed like it would envelop us forever.
We wait for a good time to part along the wall a short distance from the waves of people streaming past the ticket gates—my mouth was open before I knew it.
“I don’t know how to say this, but sorry.”
The word I got out was one of apology.
“Why are you apologizing, Rusian?”
Ako looks up at me curiously.
“My wife” closes in to a distance within my hands’ reach, one far closer than what could be considered the distance between friends, without any wariness at all.
Right, she was part of the reason too.
“See, honestly, I thought everyone was male.”
“Aah, that, huh?”
Master showed a rare, gentle smile and slowly nodded.
“I even made sure to mention that I was an actual JK in real life, but I see you did not even have the slightest trace of trust in me.”
“Of course I didn’t!”
Who would believe that?!
“You had an amazing face on at the start.”
“I blame you for most of that.”
Schw was a surprise too.
To think she always went on with that arrogance and manly persona.
“Also, I thought it would be a little awkward after we gathered.”
“Can I enter the conversation as the only male? Won’t I be left out? Was that what you thought?”
“Yep, I was completely nervous at the start. But—it was fun.”
Recalling how truly enjoyable this half of the day was, I peered up towards the night skies sunk in darkness.
“See, I thought whatever happens in games should be kept there, whatever happens in real life should be kept there, and that they were completely different. That it’s best to not lump them together, to separate them as much as possible. I mean, someone nice in-game could be the worst in real life, or someone nice in real life could be the worst in-game. I’ve always heard about stories like that.”
It really happens often.
There’s that bunch who are rational in RL but thinks anything goes when in games; or those men who freely flatter others in-game but turn out to be despicable bastards after meeting them; there are too many of such types to count.
“But after actually meeting up like this, I really enjoyed myself. I thought, ‘Aah, my comrades are truly best, both in-game and in real life’.”
Slowly turning down, I bowed to my comrades around me.
“That’s why—sorry for not trusting in all of you at the start. Also, thanks.”
Schw suddenly broke out in laughter at my serious words.
“That’s disgusting! Not to mention gross!”
“Isn’t that too much?!”
She let out those words that ruined mine.
“It’s not. I would react the same no matter whether you tell me that in real life or in-game.”
“I mean, sure, that might be true, but still!”
Damn, I shouldn’t have apologized.
“Bhh… fufufu, hahahahaha.”
“Master, you’re laughing too hard!”
You’re no better than her!
“N-No, no. I won’t fault you for that. I did doubt you, wondering whether you were the type of man to send lewd looks at just any girl when I first saw you too, Rusian. That makes us even.”
Master spoke, looking as though she was holding her laughter in.
What do you take me for, geez.
And Schw pull me to her with the nape of my neck before she spoke with an apathetic look that made chills run down my back.
“If you try acting friendly to me at school too, I won’t show you any mercy, got it? Understood?”
“So you’re continuing that persona at school… u-understood.”
Turning me about, Schw changed her expression to a smile.
Y-You’re close. Your face’s close. Her face really is cute, looking at it from this close. Her face, that is.
My head, in a fluster from being in close proximity with a girl’s smile, was pulled back a jerk.
And something soft envelops the back of my back.
It’s warm, soft, and smells really good.
That pouty voice rings out right above me.
Just what are you doing? Or rather, why are you glaring at Schw so?
“Nah, I won’t be taking your husband even without you threatening me or anything.”
I don’t need him. Schw turned her eyes towards Master after leaving those rude words.
After exchanging wry smiles, the pair walked off towards the ticket gates together.
“Until next time. Feel welcome to call me Master if you see me in school!”
“No, I’ll call you president! Well then, see you!”
They call out a light farewell and continue on into the station.
The pair vanished from our sights before Ako finally released me. While I am relieved, thanks to being released from the discomfort of my half-bent body, it does feel a little regrettable sensing Ako separating from me.
—So, erm, Ako-san, why are you glaring at me?
I stared back in silence and Ako spoke in a small voice.
“Rusian, did you really think I was male?”
“…Sorry, to be honest, I even thought you were some old guy.”
“Why would you?!”
Ako shouted out with the most anger she shown this entire day after I spilled my honest thoughts. It wasn’t very loud as her quiet appearance suggests, but its strength still made me back off.
“I said I was a girl, didn’t I?! Why didn’t you believe me?!”
“That’s, well… it just came to mind and I never reconsidered it.”
“You aren’t reflecting on it now either, are you!”
“I-I’m very sorry.”
B-But, you see. I do think there are some parts where you can’t blame me for thinking so.
No one would normally think their wife’s some cute girl and I have that old trauma too. It’s more comforting on my mental health to assume it’s male too, right?
However, Ako shows no sign of being appeased and even vehemently argues.
“In the first place, Rusian, why did you agree to marry if you thought I was male?”
“That’s, look… I thought that would be fine too.”
“No-no, not in that sense!”
I say to the flustering Ako whose eyes widened.
“I really think of real life and in-game as separate. That’s why even if you’re male outside the game, I thought it would be fine since you’re Ako to me in-game.”
I only thought of this after saying that, but that doesn’t seem much different.
Ako’s probably creeped out—or so I thought.
“Is that… because you love ‘me'”?
M-Must you ask that?
Aware that my face turned red, I avert my eyes from Ako and nod.
Waah, this is ridiculously embarrassing. Why am I being shamed in a place like this?
“Then Rusian, you mean you fell in love with ‘me’, without concern for where I live, how old I am, my face, or even my gender? Just ‘me’?”
“Y-Yes, that’s right.”
That’s essentially correct.
Ako stared hard at me and my timid reply—and gave a fluffy, melted smile.
“Rusian, me too!”
Ako firmly caught hold of my two hands and repeatedly swung them up and down.
Ako’s hands were really warm. And soft.
That warmth spread through my hands as though to melt them, to wrap them up.
“I want to be with you, Rusian, because you’re you too. Even if you weren’t a boy my age living nearby, even if you were completely different from my imagination, I would definitely still love you! This is the truth, please believe me.”
Ako said so with tears in her eyes, it seems she really was glad.
Erm, how should I take that?
Ako would love me even if I was different from the “Rusian” in her mind… does that mean I wasn’t much different from me in her imagination?
And even if I was different, she would still love me—
“No, that’s not it, calm down. Games and real life are different, games and real life are different, games and real life are different…”
I gently released Ako’s hands, telling her that it was nothing.
It really is embarrassing, with people now looking due to our earlier clamor.
“It’s getting late. Let’s go back.”
“But I still…”
“I have to get back. C’mon.”
Ako gave an unsatisfied uhh, but nodded obediently in the end.
“Rusian, see you tomorrow… no, later! I’ll try to not be a burden today!”
“Y-Yeah. Take care on your way back.”
“Yes, then, :wave:!”
“Waving isn’t something you say out loud when going off in real life!”
Ako disappeared into the station, waving her hand non-stop.
Waving back, I wonder if we looked like a pair of close lovers from the side; I sense a few glances and hear some giggles.
Ako and I aren’t like that, this is our first time meeting.
And despite that, it feels like we’re so close—
I wonder what’s this niggling sense of discomfort?
To put it in scale, yes, it’s like I stepped down hard onto an absurdly large landmine.
“I-I should get back quick. Yep, time to go.”
I set off back in a hurry as though averting my eyes from something.
◆ Schwein: Hahaha, Ako’s control is even worse than usual, lol.
◆ Ako: I’m trying my best, though…
◆ Apricot: There are times when it’s fruitless even with effort, don’t worry about it, Ako.
◆ Schwein: Look at me not care at all, lol. It’s no problem for me, lol.
◆ Rusian: Aah, yeah, don’t worry about it. All that’s happening is my EXP dropping like a rock from the death penalties.
◆ Ako: I’m sorry, Rusiann
◆ Rusian: …I’m kidding, just kidding.
On the night of the offline meeting, we gathered and set out on a hunt as usual, but Ako’s control was clearly worse than always. I pity my character for having to suffer through that.
Still, it’s within the margin of error for Ako’s usual level of control, though that’s not any more comforting. Besides, when I think about Ako—Tamaki-san—in tears beyond the monitor, I feel like I can forgive her.
Despite vindicating myself by saying games and RL are different so often, I find myself tending towards self-gratification.
And upon finishing our hunting and returning to the town, sitting at our usual seats, Ako sat by my side as always.
◆ Ako: Good job, Rusian.
◆ Rusian: Nn, same to you.
It should have our usual pattern, but my heart’s beating faster on its own upon recalling the girl who sat beside me today.
Calm down, calm down, that one’s the RL Ako and this one’s My Wife Ako.
But I was a little surprised we could game normally like this.
After actually meeting up and knowing each other in person, finding out we’re the same age and in the same year, I figured we might not be able to continue calling each other comrades, my wife, or my husband.
We only maintained this comfortable space because we didn’t know each other IRL. By meeting and finding out we weren’t that far apart, a single person’s emotions would be enough to change everything—I had that worry.
And, a bubble showed up atop Master.
◆ Apricot: Well then, it’s about time I take my leave. I have something on from the morning.
◆ Schwein: You mean, at school? Ah… oops.
◆ Apricot: Indeed, that’s correct.
Master nods without showing any concern towards the RL topic that slipped out from Schw.
◆ Apricot: Though I am less busy than everyone may believe as the president, there are busy times as well. Feel welcome to call me Master whenever you see me in school.
◆ Schwein: How shameless a girl do you think I am?!
◆ Rusian: Hey, Schw, your real side’s showing!
◆ Schwein: S-Someone of my magnificent caliber couldn’t possibly do something so ditzy! S-Something so stupid!
◆ Rusian: Calm down! You’re slipping up everywhere!
◆ Apricot: Hahaha, thank you for the laughter before I go to sleep. Now then, let us meet another day.
Saying what she had to say, Master disconnected without further ado.
That person really doesn’t change. Her presence of mind’s amazing.
◆ Ako: I’ll go take a bath and sleep, then.
Those words from Ako make an image of the Tamaki-san I met today taking a shower come to mind—for an instant right before I drown it out.
RL and games are different, RL and games are different.
◆ Rusian: Thanks for today.
◆ Schwein: Make sure you wash all the mud off yourself.
◆ Rusian: She’s not a pig like you, Schwein-san.
◆ Schwein: Don’t call this magnificent specimen a pig! Argh, you’re so annoying!
◆ Rusian: You’re really mixing them up.
◆ Schwein: I-It’s tough doing this after you saw my face!
Well, yeah, duh.
And I can’t stop grinning whenever I think about her face speaking with such swagger.
◆ Ako: Then, good night.
◆ Rusian: Yeaaa
After I saw off Ako, disappearing while waving her hand, Schw suddenly spoke up.
◆ Schwein: Aah, also. I told you earlier, but if you try getting all buddy-buddy with me just because we know each other a bit more now, I’ll seriously kill you, got that?”
◆ Rusian: I can tell that much. I won’t tell anyone and I won’t change my attitude towards you either.
◆ Schwein: Really? I’m counting on you, okay?
Segawa says anxiously, or perhaps unsatisfied.
Her manner of speech’s completely messed up now.
What’s with that, does she have that little trust in me?
◆ Rusian: Games and RL are different. Just because I’m close to Schw in-game doesn’t mean I’ll stick to Segawa IRL.
◆ Schwein: Oh? That’s good, then.
◆ Rusian: Yeah, don’t worry.
After making Rusian do an exaggerated bow, Segawa made Schw shrug his shoulders and a chat message showed up.
◆ Schwein: Why are you trying to say it in such a cool manner, like you understand everything? Gross!
◆ Rusian: Leave me alone!
How should I say this? Those words fit the usual Segawa to a tee.
But still, that, well, didn’t annoy me. At all. I would get pissed if Segawa says that to me, but it’s nothing when I treat it from Schw. It doesn’t just depend on the words but the person, huh.
No, I mean, they are one and the same, though.
◆ Schwein: Also… you better not get too close to Ako either. I would pity her if any strange rumors of her spread.
◆ Rusian: Don’t say it like you pity her if she gets into a rumor related to me… nah, that would be pitiful, yeah.
◆ Schwein: I know, right?
It really wouldn’t be any good for Ako. This is the harsh reality for an open geek.
And after a short pause, Schw goes like the usual Segawa.
◆ Schwein: …I won’t mind supporting you if you intend to date Ako for real, though?
◆ Rusian: I won’t!
I firmly asserted in a fluster.
◆ Rusian: Something like seducing a girl you meet online into becoming your girlfriend just doesn’t happen.
◆ Schwein: But you looked like some e-flirt from the sidelines today.
◆ Rusian: Don’t point that outtttttt!
◆ Schwein: lolol
Schw laughed, likely not saying it seriously, but my mental state was close to vomiting my dinner.
The worst name possible.
The name for trash.
The name of those I hated.
Those named e-flirts carry out one simple task. They would call out to females in-game, flirt with them, flatter them, and pressure them into meeting with them in RL.
Those flirts waste no time in flirting, starting their flirting as soon as they can.
They are the most detested existence within online games.
I’m no flirt, I’m not some flirt!
◆ Schwein: Well, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you come to an understanding with Ako about how much distance you plan to put between the two of you.
◆ Rusian: Will do.
◆ Schwein: Then, I’ll be getting out first, bro.
◆ Rusian: …So you’re keeping that personality?
◆ Schwein: Be quiet, you.
After glaring this way, Schw disappeared.
Still, I certainly need to put some distance between Ako and I, huh?
That clearly wasn’t the atmosphere between friends when we parted earlier.
The desire to say nothing extra and keep the status quo rears its ugly head.
I’m on good terms with Ako. We were like longtime acquaintances when we met just today too.
Shouldn’t it be fine not creating that distance with my words, considering I have no need to do so?
I mean, look, the Ako I actually met was so cute.
Tamaki-san’s face surfaced in my mind, directing an abashed expression at me.
Those are exactly the kinds of thoughts!
That drives men into flirting!
And made me confess to a GIRL!
Ending the game in a hurry, I shut the computer down and leapt into my bed.
Games and RL are different, games and RL are different—I tried going to sleep with that in mind, but all that shows up in my mind is Tamaki-san’s face, peering up at me like an over-attached cat.
Regardless of my attempts at shaking my head to shake that off, it firmly clung on like Ako herself.
Rusian, Rusian, Rusian…
Localization / Translation Notes
Corn snack. Literally “delicious stick”. (more info)
Guy In Real Life. (more info)
“scale of b’s”
Scale of billions.
In Japanese (MMOs), they use k, m, and g for units, translated to kilo, mega, and giga, the matric prefixes.
The equivalent in English would be k, m, and b, but they are kilo, million, and billion instead. (more info)
Joushi kousei. Female high school student. (more info)
“Shin Offline Meeting: Imagine”
From “Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine”. (more info)
“Schwein / Schw / Segawa”
Segawa talks in a manly, arrogant tone when in her Schwein persona.
She addresses herself as oresama and sometimes ends sentences with da ze. (more info)
It’s pretty impossible to translate that with gender-neutral English, so I just upped the arrogance on most of her lines when needed.
On a side note, it’s pronounced shuvein in Japanese and the “schw” in Schw-chan would be just shu.
“mai waifu / my wife”
Localized from 「俺の嫁」 (ore no yome).
While “mai waifu” is usually a good substitute for ore no yome, it usually refers to a fictional character that perhaps exist in the partner’s heart.
But Ako’s considered an actual person in this series.
Hence, I usually translated it to “my wife” in those cases (which happens a lot more). (more info)
Localized from 「オタク」 (otaku).
Otaku effectively refers to people with an obsessive interest with some certain theme, mainly the anime and manga fandom.
In this case, it would be mainly games and the general concept of being one, so I simply went with “geek”. (more info)
“Socially apt / Normalfag / Winning at life”
Localized from 「リア充」 (riajuu).
Riajuu refers to people with a successful real life, formed from the words “ria” (real life) and “juujitsu” (fulfilled).
It’s somewhat different from the usual definition of a “normalfag”, so I added adjectives instead of doing a 1:1 swap. (more info)
The following line(s) / phrase(s) originate from a FFXI player named “Buront”. (more info)
“main tank here! now we can won!”
“my lifespan was already mach from stress!”
“take it easy!”
From the “Yukkuri Shiteitte ne!” meme. (more info)
“gold digger character”
Localized from 「姫プレイ」 (Hime play).
Hime play (hime‘s “princess”) refers to the playstyle of creating female characters and making use of men who instinctively protect them, give them presents, etc.
Localized from 「ｗｗｗ」.
ｗｗｗ is effectively just the Japanese “lol”, originating from the “w” of “warau” (laugh).
The localization is done based on the length, adding an additional “ol” for each set of “www”. (more info)
In the segment in the cafe, it actually went like this:
“Come to think of it, how are those ‘double-u-double-u-double-u‘ letters people always use read?”
“That’s short for world wide web.”
“That’s not what it means, right? Isn’t that read as warau?”
“Also, ‘www’ comes in set of three and is read as terawaro.”
“On a side note, I am personally one of those who read it as dub-dub-dub.”
“—Come on, I need someone to punch a wall!”
“Wall punching agent at your service! We’ll punch any wall near you in your place!”
Localized from 「壁殴り代行始」 (kabe naguri daikou).
This is a meme unique to Japan about hiring someone to hit a wall for you to express your frustration.
The origin appears to be threads about FEZ, an online game, where someone went, “(´・ω・｀) Haa, I ended up hitting the wall again,” in reaction to a series of pathetic updates.
This eventually led to a copypasta about starting up a business for the hitting of walls to spare the troubled from the trouble of hurting themselves or even finding a wall to hit. (more info)
Localized from 「ﾉｼ」 (no shi).
After Tamaki verbalizes no shi, Nishimura points out that it’s not meant to be said out.
“no shi” wouldn’t make any sense unless the reader understands katakana, so I localized it to “:wave:”.
Localized from 「直結厨」 (chokketsu chuu).
Chokketsu means “direct connection”.
This term refers to those who constantly seek “direct connections” with people they meet online, asking them out or getting some direct means of communication.
Naturally, this works a lot better when you’re not operating on a global scale.
They also tend to think with the lower half of their body rather than their top half.
It honestly has a much harsher connotation than “e-flirt”, but there seems to be no real equivalent for it.
The slang term, “player”, may work well, but it doesn’t work at all in a story about online gaming… (more info)
- Translation – Tap