Accel World:Volume 1 Chapter 1
On the virtual blackboard’s upper right corner, a yellow message mark flashed.
Haruyuki, who was daydreaming during class, involuntarily shrunk his head and shifted the focus of his eyes.
At that moment, the deep green blackboard that was fully in his sight became half transparent–but the backs of students sitting in rows, and the teacher beyond them became sharp.
The classroom, classmates, and teacher existed in the real world, but the transparent blackboard and the closely packed math formula on it was not so. The numbers and formula that the teacher was writing in mid air were sent to the «Neuro Linker» worn on the back of his neck and directly into his brain as a picture.
The elderly math teacher, in a difficult way, moved his finger that held nothing on the blackboard that only he can see and continued to explain the formula in a subdued tone of voice. That voice too, was not at a volume that can reach Haruyuki’s ears in the real world, the teacher’s Neuro Linker worn around his neck increased the volume and clarity, then sent it to Haruyuki.
When he focused closer again, the blackboard with more math formula than before became solid. So it seemed that the mail he received wasn’t the teacher sending out a compressed homework file. That means, since he was currently separated from the global net, the sender must be a student at the same school.
Some girl who broke the school rules and sent him a good message – that kind of expectation, he threw away long ago in the half year after entering middle school. He deeply thought of just dropping the mail into the garbage box in the lower left corner of his view, but if he did that, he didn't know what would happen to him afterwards.
Not really wanting to, seeing the gap when the teacher turned his back, he moved his right hand up (this movement is not virtually, it’s real world movement) and clicked the mail icon with his finger.
Instantly, Bubibaborobubiro! A sound without character and a graphic with the primary color of a flood hit Haruyuki’s hearing and sight. Continuing, a voice message instead of written words started on the body of the message.
“Pig-kun, this is your command directive for today! (There’s Gyahaha laughter in the background) Two fried noodle buns, one cream melon bun, three strawberry yogurts, bring them within 5 minutes at the start of lunch break to the roof! Being late will mean meat bun punishment! Tattling will mean roasted pork fillet punishment! (Again loud laughter)”
- He turned to the sticky stare he felt on his left face, his concentration solidified after his turn. After looking, without a doubt it’s Araya and his underlings A and B sneer-sent threat.
Recording this kind of mail with sound and sight effects during class of course is impossible, so they must have made this ahead. What a bunch of leisurely people, and what’s this “command directive”, the meaning is doubled, idiots!!
He started abusing them in his mind; saying it out loud or putting it in a mail reply was of course something Haruyuki could not do. If Araya was some kind of cockroach level idiot that won’t go extinct no matter how far periods advance, then Haruyuki who got bullied by him would be a fool that was tied to the wheel.
Actually, if he had a little courage and willingness to take action, then he could use this mail and the tens of pieces of «evidence» that he kept and give it to the school, then they would easily be punished.
However, Haruyuki could not stop thinking of what would happen next.
Even if the Neuro Linker is said to be as common as one per person in the country, and that life is said to be half lived in the virtual network, humans still had a «physical body» as a shackle and continued to exist in a low level setting. We are hungry at every meal time and still go to the toilet, and then - getting hit will hurt, crying while hurt will be miserable like death.
Linker Skill will determine school advancement and promotion, that kind of talk is just some huge network company’s image strategy. What determines a person’s value is after all appearance and physical strength, that kind of primitive parameter.
That was from when the elementary school 5th year student with a weight of over 60kg, during 50 meter runs never managed to go below 10 seconds, and eventually became the 13 year old Haruyuki’s conclusion.
Every morning before school, his mother charged his Neuro Linker with 500 yen for lunch money, but buying buns and juices for Araya's group used up all of that. He had around 7000 yen of allowance savings left, but if he used that he wouldn’t be able to buy the Linker-only game coming out this month.
Haruyuki’s huge body had especially bad fuel consumption, if he skips even one meal, his empty stomach would make him faint, but today he just had to endure it. Also, during lunch break when he can use «Full Dive», there’s a special means left to him.
Shrinking his round body as much as possible, Haruyuki headed toward the second school building that was lined with specialty classrooms. Currently, from physics experiments to home economics cooking, lessons are done with virtual classes making these rooms useless, so not many people came here. Especially at lunch time, there was not a single student to be seen.
On the side of a dusty hallway is the men’s toilet, it’s Haruyuki’s personal hidden sanctuary. He totteringly fled inside, stopped to catch his breath, then looked at the mirror above the washstand.
What was reflected from the foggy glass, as if seen in a TV drama, was a too solid and straight «bullied fat kid».
His unmanageable hair bounced here and there, the curves of his cheeks didn’t have any sharp angles. Around his fat neck, his uniform necktie and silver Neuro Linker ate into it as if he was being hung.
He had to do something about this appearance, he once went on an almost zero food intake and running like crazy kind of forward thinking period. However the result was, during lunch time he collapsed due to anemia, and the worst legend of several female students’ lunch as collateral damage was created.
Afterwards, Haruyuki threw away his real self - at least while he was a student - he decided.
He removed his eyes from the mirror after 0.1 of a second, then went farther inside the room, into a cubicle. He made sure to lock it, then lowered the toilet seat cover and sat on it. He was already used to the plastic cutting into his lower body. He laid his back against the water tank, relaxed, and closed his eyes.
His chanting was like a magic spell to release his soul from his heavy body.
When the Neuro Linker received the voice command, its quantum connection level went up from sight and sound mode to full sense mode, Haruyuki’s feeling of body weight and the squeezing of his stomach from hunger disappeared.
The toilet seat’s hard surface, and his school uniform’s tight fit also disappeared. The joyful sound of students from the far off school yard, the smell of cleaning agents in the toilet, and the door that was right in front of him, melted into darkness. «Full Dive».
Even the sense of gravity was cut, Haruyuki fell into the depth of darkness.
However, soon a soft floating feeling and rainbow light covered his whole body. From the tip of his hands and feet, the «Avatar» used for Full Dive was being formed.
Black hoof-like hands and feet. Plump limbs, the ball-like body with a fresh pink color. He can’t see it himself, but there should be a flat nose in the center of his face, and big ears hanging down. That is, to say in other words, the shape of a pink pig.
The comical avatar shape, with a thump, landed in the middle of an even though education scientist recommended design, it was still a fairy-tale forest.
Huge mushrooms grew everywhere, the strikingly bright sun shone on circular grass field, and in the center a crystal like spring gushed.
At the outer edge, like a huge tree with empty center, many wheels stacked above, those were for conversation and relaxation use, many levels were separated and connected by stairs.
This virtual space is the local network of the Suginami district’s Umesato Middle School that Haruyuki attends.
Those walking or talking in the forest by twos or threes while producing laughter, were mostly non-human. About half were comical animals walking on two legs, the rest were winged (but flightless) fairies, tin plated robots, and robe covered magic users. They were all avatars of Umesato Middle School students or teachers diving in the local network.
The student’s avatar can be freely picked from many source selections, and can be customized. If you have the perseverance, you can even use the provided editor and start a fully original avatar from scratch. Even though it was a middle school student’s skill and sense, the self made black knight that he debuted in April attracted a lot of attention.
- That was just a fleeting moment of glory. Haruyuki sighed and looked down at his current shape. Within the time of an eye blink, Araya got involved with the black knight avatar, so Haruyuki was forced to use this default pig.
Naturally, this pink pig didn't lose in the point of being unique, because no one was willing to pick this self-degrading body. Similar to the real world, Haruyuki shrunk his round body as much as possible while trotting toward a tree.
Then, on the spring's banks, he noticed a remarkably large crowd. While running he looked at them, and slowed his feet without thinking. In the center of the group of students, he saw a rare avatar that was seldom seen.
It was not something in the default set. A deep black dress studded with transparent gems. Hands holding a black parasol. On the back, black swallowtail butterfly wings with rainbow-colored lines running in them.
A snow white face shaded by long straight hair, it was such a perfect beauty that was hard to believe that it was self made. Haruyuki too couldn’t possibly compete with this kind of design skill that a professional might use.
Leaning her delicate body slovenly on a huge mushroom and listening to the surrounding avatars talk with a listless expression, Haruyuki knew her as the 2nd year student who was also the vice-president of the student council. The surprising thing was that this beauty was an almost perfect replica of her real self, that’s why her offered street name was -.
«Snow Black». «Kuroyukihime».
That kind of existence and himself, their only common point was that they were both Umesato Middle School students, he felt like it was some kind of lie. Looking with virtual view like this made him feel like his tortured self-conscious sense of being a dwarf increase, so he forcibly turned his head to face forward.
His full strength dash destination was a tree set with relaxation rooms. Simply said it is a game corner, of course without a single market software like RPGs or battle games. It’s filled with quiz, puzzle and other educational types, with healthy sports games, but even so, many students filled each corner, making cheering sounds.
They were all in Full Dive from their classroom seat or from the school cafeteria. During that time, their real bodies were left defenseless, playing tricks on someone in a dive is obviously a violation of manners but the only person who cared was Haruyuki. Diving in the local network from the classroom, when he returned, his school uniform pants were removed. That was something that happened to him less than a month after entering school.
Hiding his real body in the toilet, fleeing from people’s eyes in the virtual space, he went up the stairs carved in the tree trunk. The higher up it went, the less popular the games became.
He passed by baseball, basketball, golf, tennis, and what he arrived at after ignoring the soccer floor was the «Virtual Squash Game» corner.
There was not a single student. The reason it was unpopular was clear. Squash is similar to tennis, but where you hit the ball to with a racket was a square space with hard walls on all sides, you silently continue to return a bouncing ball, it’s a very lonely sport.
Normally the game genre Haruyuki liked was FPS where he held a machine gun and ran around a battlefield, there he had skills that were above par even compared to Americans. Of course this is a popular genre even in Japan, but there was no way a school network had that kind of game, also - while in elementary school, he used one handgun to kill most of his male classmates in a game, the next day he suffered terrible bullying that left very painful memories. After that, Haruyuki vowed to never play a game, no matter what genre, with those guys at school again.
He walked to the right side of the empty court and touched the control panel with one hand. He entered his student ID, then his saved level and high score was read out.
During the first school semester, Haruyuki spent most of his lunch periods in this game to waste time. The result was that his score became a shocking number. He was starting to get bored of it, but there was no other place for him to go. His pink right hand with black hoof held tightly onto the racket that floated up from the panel.
After the words ‘Game Start’, a ball dropped from nowhere. He hit it with the racket injecting it with today’s gloom with all of his might.
Leaving only a flash, the ball flew like a laser, hit the floor and front wall and then returned. His reaction was faster than sight, following his brain’s automatically led optimal solution, he moved left one step while hitting a backhand.
The real Haruyuki of course could not do this movement. But this was the electronic world which released him from his raw physical limitations. Recognizing the ball and moving the body was just quantum signal communications between the brain and Neuro Linker.
The ball slowly lost substance and became flashing trajectory paths. Pon Pon effects sounded many times a second, like a machine gun firing. Even so, Haruyuki’s pig body freely jumped around, his racket continuing to twist in all directions.
Shit - I don’t need reality.
His mind should not wonder when challenging the game speed at its limit, but his mind full of resentment still shouted.
Why was shit like real school and classrooms still necessary. Humans can live just in the virtual world, and the adults who actually did that were way too many. In the past, experiments were done where the human consciousness was wholly converted to electronic data, and they built a real different world.
Even so, for learning group living, fostering sentiment, and other idiotic reasons, children were thrown into the cage of reality together. For people like Araya it’s probably fine, they can release stress moderately, and save their allowance. But, for me - beyond this, what can I do.
With a Pipon sound, the game level in the side view went up.
The ball suddenly sped up. Its angle of reflection became irregular, it came attacking at a path that was outside of his prediction.
Haruyuki’s reaction slowly started to become late.
More - more acceleration!
The virtual world, real world too, break past all the walls, go to a place with no one -
Cleanly, his racket cut through the air. The ball that became light grazed Haruyuki’s cheek, passed behind him and disappeared. With a miserable and comical sound effect, the words ‘Game Over’ fell down from the ceiling, and bounced in the court.
Without looking at the high score shown, the droopy Haruyuki headed toward the panel to restart the game.
At that time, a sudden voice shook Haruyuki’s holy sanctuary.
“Ah - !! You were hiding in this kind of place!!”
A high pitched yelling sound numbed his ears, no, his brain with a shriek. Startled, Haruyuki with his back tense turned to look, he saw a similar animal type student’s avatar.
Even so, it didn’t have a particle of humor like Haruyuki’s pig. Supple and slender, a purplish silver fur covered cat. An ear and the tip of the tail were tied with a deep blue ribbon. It was not made with polygons from scratch, but many of its parameters had been customized.
Angry colors floated in its golden iris eyes, the cat’s mouth with many small teeth opened wide and shouted again.
“Haru has always been missing during lunch time lately so I was searching! Games are fine, but you don’t have to play this minor one, go play with everyone below!”
“...It’s my choice, leave me alone.”
That was the only thing he could reply with, Haruyuki turned back to the court. However the silver cat extended its neck, took a glance at the Game Over display, then again shouted with a high pitch voice.
“What, what is this... Level 152, Score 2,630,000!? You...”
- Are awesome!
Even if shameful, Haruyuki momentary expected this kind of speech, but the cat unceremoniously betrayed him.
“Are you an idiot!? What were you doing without eating lunch! Disconnect right now!!”
“...No way, there’s still 30 minute of lunch time left. You should go away somewhere.”
“I see, if that is your attitude, then I'll have to use force.”
“Do your worst.”
After his muttered reply, Haruyuki held onto his racket again. The school net avatar doesn’t have «impact determination». On the context of preventing inappropriate conduct, a student cannot touch another student’s avatar. Of course, forcing someone to log out is out of question.
The cat avatar, after extending its small tongue out to the limit for a Be~, shouted.
Instantly, leaving behind a light vortex and bell like sound, the cat disappeared.
The noisy one finally disappeared, he blew a short sigh from his nose while feeling slightly lonely, at that moment.
Bang! A serious kind of attack hit his head and the surrounding view disappeared. From the darkness, pulled by spots of light, he returned to the real world’s scenery.
While feeling his heavy weight, Haruyuki desperately blinked, trying to focus.
Originally a men’s toilet cubicle. However, instead of the blue-grey door in front of him, Haruyuki saw something he wasn't expecting.
Standing imposingly in front of him, was a single female student. The color of her blazer and ribbon showed that she was a similar first year student.
She was small, less than ⅓ of Haruyuki’s weight. Her short-cut fringe was raised on the right side with a blue hairpin. Cat like small contour, disproportionately large eyes burning with anger stared at Haruyuki.
Her left hand held a small basket, and her right hand extended right above Haruyuki’s head, in a small fist. Seeing that, Haruyuki finally understood why he had been suddenly disconnected from Full Dive. The female student had hit his head with that fist, and the shock activated the Neuro Linker’s safety causing an automatic Link Out.
Normally, the safety would activate from shaking the shoulder or a loud shout, but for sensitive girls, if anyone gets within a meter of them, they were set to Link Out. The reason Haruyuki didn’t notice the intruder until he was hit on the head was since he was hiding in a toilet stall, he set his safety level to the lowest.
Surprised and amazed, Haruyuki shouted at the only girl in this school that he can talk to without panicking.
“What were you doing! This is the men’s toilet! The door was locked... are you an idiot!!”
“You are the idiot.”
Haruyuki’s childhood friend while wearing a skirt climbed over the wall of the men's toilet stall, this strong person is Kurashima Chiyuri, after replying in a sulky voice, she pulled back her right hand and unlocked the door behind her.
With a light movement, she jumped out of the stall. Haruyuki’s eyes narrowed from the sunlight reflected from her chestnut-color hair, Chiyuri finally had a small smile on her face, and added.
“Hey, come out already.”
“...I got it.”
Swallowing his sigh, Haruyuki stood up as the toilet seat cover creaked. While chasing Chiyuri who was heading to the exit, he had another question.
“...How did you know I was here?”
The reply did not come immediately. After poking her head out of the men’s toilet to check outside, Chiyuri slipped into the hallway and tersely said.
“I was on the roof too. So I followed you.”
That means -.
Haruyuki stopped after putting one step into the hallway, and whispered.
Looking like she was trying to find the right words, Chiyuri leaned her back on the far wall, then finally nodded.
“...I won’t say anything more about those guys. Since Haru decided that was fine... I have no choice. But you should eat your lunch. It’s bad for your body.”
With a forced smile, Chiyuri held out the basket in her left hand.
“I made lunch. I can’t guarantee it'll taste good though.”
- So miserable, Haruyuki thought.
His heart trying to find feeling beyond compassion in Chiyuri’s words and actions, was without a doubt pitiful.
Because Chiyuri had a genuine boyfriend. In many ways opposite of Haruyuki, their other childhood friend.
His mouth moved on its own, a strangely flat voice issued, Haruyuki heard it.
“...Remains of what you made for Taku?”
Chiyuri’s face suddenly became cloudy. Unable to stand looking into her eyes with raised eyebrows, Haruyuki looked down at the hallway.
“That’s not true, Ta-kun has school lunch. This... sandwich is made with potato salad, ham and cheese. Haru’s favorite right.”
Haruyuki extended his right hand to push back the white basket that entered his view.
However, the slow real body moved in a different way from his control, the sudden movement knocked the basket from Chiyuri’s hand and fell. Upon hitting the floor the cover opened, from inside the water color cooking paper, one or two triangle cut sandwich fell out and broke apart.
He wanted to apologize on reflex, but the inside of his head became hot and the words he should have spoken could not take shape. He could not raise his head, and stepped back while cowering, then he shouted and turned around.
“I don’t want them!!”
He wanted to log out from this place right now, Haruyuki painfully thought, but of course that’s impossible. He should at least run, but his real body became unbelievably heavy, he could not escape from the small voice behind him.
In the worst mood, he passed the afternoon lessons and home room, and fled out of the classroom.
He pushed the voice in his head aside that told him to wait for Chiyuri at two classrooms next to his, or in front of the school, or on the way home to apologize, and went to his other hidden place, the library.
Originally, the usefulness of places like the library were gone. However, some adults thought that in a school, children need the same paper media books to learn, so with a waste of material and space, brand new hard cover books lined the shelves.
Mostly due to this, he has an important personal space within the school, so he can’t complain. He took two or three hardcover books for camouflage and went into a reading booth near the wall, he pushed his body into a tight chair, and went into Full Dive with a volume barely recognizable by the Linker.
Since it was only a few minutes after classes had ended, the school net was still quiet. He should go right now to hide in his usual place, he quickly passed by the grass field then climbed the tree.
The virtual squash corner of course was devoid of people. Honestly, he did not want to simply hit a ball, he wanted to go into a bloody battle where he can blow away the fuzzy feeling in his chest as soon as possible, but without a global net connection and inside the school where games were not allowed to start, it was impossible.
His empty stomach was also beyond limit, but even so he did not feel like going home right away. If he met Chiyuri on the way home, he had absolutely no idea what expression to make or what words to use. No, apologizing should be fine, but he did not have the confidence that his mouth would follow his intentions.
- It’s the same as that time.
In the past, he made Chiyuri cry similar to now, he was starting to remember that time so he tightly closed his eyes. He moved his right hand to the panel and logged in.
He groped for the racket and held it, then turned his body to face the court.
Opening his eyes, he was going to hit the falling ball with the many gloomy feelings -.
Haruyuki’s full body froze.
His level that had just increased a few hours ago, yet now more than 10 levels had been added.
How, the score is stored with the student ID, after an instant of thought, he understood. That time, he was forced to log out because Chiyuri hit his head, the game was kept like that. That means it’s possible that someone continued to play and changed the score. However.
Who else other than himself could make this kind of ridiculous score!?
For Haruyuki’s pride that was on the blink of collapse, his support was his VR game technique under Full Dive. Of course, excluding quiz and board games where your knowledge decided the outcome, for reaction speed types like gun shooting and action race games, he had the conceit that no one else in the school could beat him.
He wasn't showing off. The reason why he did not stand out was that he learned from very bad experiences during elementary school. There was no proof, but as he thought up to this point - who made this squash game’s fearsome score...
At that time.
Behind him, there was a voice. It was female, but wasn't Chiyuri's. A much lower tone, a sound as smooth as silk.
“You made that absurd score?”
He fearfully turned around, standing in front of him was.
A silver-studded dark dress. Staff, or sword like parasol poked the ground. Pure white skin and jet black eyes - «Kuroyukihime».
Even though an avatar, she didn't have a digital feel to her, an extreme beauty tilted slightly, the school’s most famous person moved forward without making a sound.
A slight smile appeared on her red lips, the only place in her body with any color, and Kuroyukihime continued saying.
“Do you want to... «Accelerate» further ahead, boy?”
“If you are interested, come to the school lounge at lunch time tomorrow.”
Leaving just that sentence behind, Kuroyukihime abruptly logged out.
Her avatar was in Haruyuki’s view for less than 10 seconds. Was it a local network server bug? If it wasn't an illusion, then what’s left was something that won’t happen in a thousand years, however, the fearsome score floating in the court was real.
Haruyuki didn’t feel like challenging a new high score anymore, so he ended the dive and continued to sit in the reading booth while spacing out. Inside his ears, the three lines of speech repeated in an infinite loop. Kuroyukihime’s expression was diverse as a middle school female student, but that overwhelming presence mixed with uncomfortable feeling was something no one had, it’s partly why she was ultra popular with not only males, but females as well.
He eventually left school on fluffy legs and headed home, his body mostly on automatic mode. If it wasn’t for his Neuro Linker on sight and sound mode doing traffic prediction navigation, he would have been hit by cars two or three times.
Returning to the empty Kouenji high-rise mansion home, Haruyuki heated up a frozen pizza and ate it with a soda drink. His parents divorced long ago, he was now living with his mother, she won’t be back home till after midnight, and he only sees her for a moment when he gets lunch money from her before going to school.
His empty stomach filled with junk food, Haruyuki returned to his room. Normally, he would check his patrol course in the Global Net, then he would bustle about the battlefields around Europe for a few hours, while his remaining strength would be for homework and then sleep, but just today he didn’t feel like doing anything.
Since too many things happened today, his brain felt heavy like it was swollen. Haruyuki changed his clothes, removed his Neuro Linker and then fell heavily on the bed.
He wanted to say his sleep was very peaceful. But dreams of Araya group’s scorn, Chiyuri’s tears, and Kuroyukihime’s mysterious speech kept repeating, it made him toss and turn.
Do you want to - «Accelerate» further ahead?
Inside his dream, instead of Kuroyukihime’s avatar, it was the real student council vice president’s shape. He should not have seen her other than on the stage of school assembly where she kept a detached and expressionless face, but why in his dream she has a little devil like smile inviting him somewhere, and whispered in Haruyuki’s ear. ‘Come here.’
- First Person Shooting
- Nuts to you!