――The days of an aging society with a declining birthrate are now decades behind us.
Generations have changed, and the domestic demographic is much smaller than it was at its heyday
Furthermore, with the popularization of VR technology, the option of working from home is now common.
For these reasons, the once problematic trend of excessive population density in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area was now becoming a thing of the past.
In the midst of all this, in the suburbs of one of the northern Japanese cities where people had been flowing in, that corporation existed.
The former site of a company called 『Arcs VR Technology』 that used to operate 『Worldgate Online』 in the early days of VRMMORPG.
The new company that was built there is called 『NTEC (Neurocommunicating Technology and Entertainment Company)』 , or commonly known as NTEC.
Prior to the official service of the VRMMORPG 『Destiny Unchain Online,』 the first of its releases, there was suddenly a lot of commotion in the area around the company.
Then one boy, who was not an employee by any stretch of the imagination… someone who had just finished junior high school, appeared with a briefcase in his hand
From his point of view, he would like to have a little more muscle, but he has a slender figure that is not easily fleshed out.
The boy, whose face is feminine and looks like his mother’s, even caused a commotion when he was forced to dress up as a woman during a cultural festival.
His name is 『Mitsuki Kou』
He is the only son of 『Mitsuki Amari,』 the representative of NTEC, and 『Mitsuki Sora,』 the main programmer and hardware designer.
「I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve been called to see Mitsuki Sora, my name is Mitsuki Kou…」
He rings the intercom and states his business.
He could hear the sound of busy people scrambling about, so he took a patient wait-and-see attitude, wondering if he would have to wait a little longer.
『Ah, Kou-kun, come in.
Director Mitsuki is currently in his usual room, so please come in.』
「Ah, Akane-san, thank you for your hard work.」
The person who responded back was Akane Furuya, who is also his father’s assistant.
She is also the mother of the twin sister and brother he has known since childhood, and Kou often helps her with things around their home in place of their parents, who rarely returns home.
He bows to her through the camera, then goes through the unlocked automatic door and enters.
「I’m sorry, at this busy time when this company is finally starting up in earnest.
It’s time for the first release, right?」
『Of course, it will begin at noon today, and I’m in the middle of my last equipment check.
Sorry for the flurry of activity, okay?』
Switching directly from intercom communication to the NLD’s call mode, he walks down the corridor of the office where people are busy moving about, talking to Akane.
He is a frequent visitor to the Objective Chamber, the workroom of his father, the Chief Technical Officer, who knows most of the NTEC employees, so no one pays any particular attention to Kou.
『And by the way… Kou-kun, I’m glad for you for getting the recommendation.』
「Haha… are Hijiri and Subaru in some sort of trouble right now?」
They both said they were going to the same school with Kou-kun, so I was not able to talk to them.』
「Well… when I get home today, I’ll bring you something to eat.
Oh, well, I just got here, so here I am.」
He hangs up the call and knocks on the door in front of him.
Since there was no answer, as usual, he walked in, unconcerned.
When he entered the room, which he knew well, he found that… as expected, his father, Mitsuki Sora, was staring at the display with a serious expression on his face and tapping the console.
His father, a childish-looking man who looks like he’s in his mid-twenties, even though he’s nearing the end of his forties.
He grew out his beard because he didn’t want to be seen as young, but Kou honestly thought it didn’t look good on him.
He was that kind of father… Kou loved the way his father was single-mindedly devoted to his work.
But now is not the time to be admiring the image of his father’s devotion to his work behind his back.
「Look, Dad, your lunch box.
You left it at the front door again.」
「Mmm, I appreciate it, Kou-san.」
When Kou calls out to him, he finally notices his presence and lazily removes his gaze from the display.
Seeing the dark shadows framing the bottom of his eyes… he let out a sigh.
「Here you go.
I also added your favorite sweet egg omelet, Dad, so make sure you eat it.
I know it’s the day of the release and you’re busy with work, but if you don’t eat, you’ll collapse, okay?」
When his father muttered with drowsy, sleepy eyes, Kou shrugged his shoulders, judging from his own experience that he was not listening.
「Un, it’s delicious.」
「Thank you very much.
I’m trying to learn how to be a middle-schooler.」
After washing his hands and face once, my father gobbled up his lunch, wondering how long he neglected to eat.
Kou replies to the compliment in a curt manner while pouring tea from a teapot into a cup.
Since neither of his parents could do any housework, Kou naturally started to make lunch boxes for his family.
This is all because he was concerned about the health of his absentminded father, who was not concerned about his own surroundings.
Kou is also self-consciously aware that he is somewhat of a fathercon… He is in the midst of puberty, and although he is happy when his father praises him, he cannot be honest with him.
But his father, who turns kind eyes on him as if he can see through all that, returns favorable comments about how delicious and tasty the food is.
「I’m a bit of a jerk, Kou.
Sorry for asking such a thing to a student preparing for an entrance exam.」
My first choice was accepted with a recommendation, so it’s just me preparing for enrollment.
Don’t worry about it.」
「I’m a lucky man to have such a talented child.
Thank you for the meal.」
After finishing his lunch, Kou was embarrassed by his father’s praise, who patted him on the head, causing him to turn away from his father.
「So, you asked me to do something for you? A tester for a new piece of equipment, was it?」
The reason Kou is here at NTEC, where he works out of the blue, is because he was asked to be a human interface tester for a new VRMMORPG that is being released today…
One thing he never knows is what on earth his mother is up to.
She is always busy flying around and rarely shows her face.
His father, who is also rarely home, is always busy.
Because of his parents, Kou was home alone most of the time… However, although he sometimes felt lonely, he never felt inconvenienced, at least in terms of his financial situation.
Consequently… although he has strong feelings for his mother in particular, Kou at least has a sense of gratitude toward his parents.
For that reason, he generally accepts requests when he is asked to do something for a favor.
Even working as a tester for a new product is something he has done several times.
…Except once, when his father gave him some weird swordsmanship training software to try out and fight a strong AI, he was seriously frustrated.
He was so frustrated that he still occasionally fights at his leisure, but still has never won a single battle.
Recently, he has reopened his mind and started calling the AI 『Shishou.』
That damn AI, 『Master of Swordsman: Rage,』 Kou complained inwardly, remembering his fighting record, which had recently finally reached four digits in losses.
So again, he accepted the offer, hoping that he could be of some help…
「You heard that I’m the tester for the new game… what’s this?」
He turns his scowling eyes to the presence that occupies a corner of the room, a presence that was not there when he came in before.
A corner of my father’s workroom, shielded by transparent curtains as if it were a sterilization room.
Sitting on the other side of the room was a bed connected to a myriad of cords and tubes, which looked rather mechanical.
…This is probably the newly developed human interface in question.
However, it does not look like a gaming machine by any means.
As I recall… I think the use of gel capsules for skin rejuvenation therapy was something like this, Kou thought of the closest thing he could find to his knowledge.
「Perhaps it’s exactly what Kou-san has in mind.
This ‘cradle’ is based on a medical gel capsule.」
「Well… this is the first time I’ve seen one in person.」
A state-of-the-art advanced medical device that rapidly applies regenerative therapy to patients inside a gel-filled capsule that is a pool of universal cells that regenerate the body and even supply oxygen to the lungs.
Naturally, only the very wealthy can benefit from this, and it is not something that the average person can afford to see.
Equipment based on such an unusual machine.
As he gazed at the device with curiosity, his father, who had put on his lab coat and was now back in work mode, puts his hand on his shoulders.
「Can I ask you to go and change your clothes, since regular clothes won’t do.」
「Excuse me then… Akane-san, do you mind showing him around?」
This way please, Kou-kun.」
Prompted by Akane, who had been waiting in the room before long, Kou was led to the changing rooms provided for him.
「I’ve changed my clothes, but…」
After taking off his clothing as instructed and changing into a robe that looks similar to the one worn by those who enter the regeneration therapy capsule, Kou comes back to the room looking restless.
「Yeah, good work.
Has the client already been downloaded?」
「Hmm… it’s going to take a little longer.」
In front of his eyes, a bar is unfolding and slowly extending to indicate that a large amount of data is being installed into the NLD.
That is very unusual for today’s quantum communications, where most data is supposed to be transferred instantaneously.
In other words… that bar, which was not advancing very fast, indicated that the capacity of the VRMMORPG currently being installed was very huge.
In addition to this large production capacity, the development staff includes his father, who participates as the main programmer, and a magnificent group of people who were involved in the legendary games that created the early days of the game.
Even though he has been away for the past year due to exams… Kou, too, is a gamer on the fringes.
Undeniably, he is excited to see what kind of world awaits him.
「Hm, What, Dad…?」
Suddenly, a voice from his father called out to him.
As Kou approached the capsule, Sora unexpectedly stopped him.
「This game… was made for you.
So I’ll tell you one thing.
When in doubt, choose honestly what you think is right for you.」
「For me? What do you mean…?」
His father stares at Kou with an unusually serious expression on his face, causing him to tilt his head to the side and wonder what it is.
「I’m very sorry that I’ve been so distracted with work and neglected you.」
「Wha, what, Dad? I’m just going to take a full dive into the game for a bit, so isn’t that a bit over the top?」
Puzzled by the seriousness of Sora, he connects the wires to the input terminal of the NLD in his neck as instructed.
As he lays there, wrapped in the soft feel of the gel cushion… Just then, the client’s download to NLD is complete.
「Well… then, now that the download is done, I’m going to go.」
Go ahead… Kou-kun, I will――」
Sora was about to say something, but this time the human interface 『cradle』 was blocked and he could not hear the rest of it.
However, Kou somehow had a feeling that he understood what Sora was talking about.
――I will always love you as a father, no matter what you become.
That is exactly what he was going to say…
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