A/N: O. fic. Details and Disclaimers are down below.
"Next time you look down on me, Gaijin, and I'll rip your eyes out," a guy with red hair gave my stomach a final kick before he and his friends left me on the roof. I lay on the cold concrete, trying to catch my breath before forcing myself up. As I lay there, I bounced the hated word in my head: Gaijin.
Gaijin is a term in Japanese that refers to foreigners. Simply being born in Japan doesn't mean that you're exempted from the title; you must be Japanese, born both in blood and on the island. Generally, there are two types of people that fall into the Gaijin category: tourists and immigrants. Tourists are treated as semi-royalty by the travel agencies and companies associated with them: it's business after all. Most (if not all) tourist agencies in Japan tightly regulates where the tourists can go, and steers clear of the 'anti-Gaijin' areas that exists throughout Japan. The second category belongs to the immigrants. I fall into this category, as I was born in South Korea.
I finally felt okay enough to force myself up, and drag my body slowly towards my home. Ever since my status of Gaijin, I've been shunned by students, teachers, and parents alike. It was only about 2 years ago that I started getting jumped during lunch, or after-school like what happened to me just now. I pushed the creeping memories from the past away; I would endure this pain for the very few I could call 'friend.'
I arrived in front of my door without further incident. Using the Virtual desktop projected through the Neuro-Linker, I pulled up the keypad and entered the passcode for the door. With the green light above the door handle flashing, I opened the door into my apartment. What greeted me was the pristine, clean floors, furniture, and a message from my mom:
Working late again tonight. I got you something from the store downstairs for dinner. Finish your homework first before playing any games!
As I swiped the message to the trash bin, I grabbed a change of clothes from my room and took a hot shower, trying to relax the sore muscles from the beating earlier. As I took a long, soothing shower to relax my muscles, I finally managed to get my body out of the shower, change, and roam into the kitchen. I was surprised to find a sealed package for chicken pot pie. My mom usually prepared a Korean dish for me to eat, but was wondering why today was different, of all days. I shrugged the thought away and microwaved, then consumed it.
Umesato Junior High School had an exam system where the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years would all take their quarter, mid-term, and final exams in rotation so that the libraries and study halls doesn't get overcrowded. Luckily, this week was the end of the 1st year's midterm so I was also excused from my one club activity: Kendo. After cleaning the container and utensils, I sat down at my comfortable couch before 'Direct Linking' to the home server. As the Neuro-Linker whirred in activation, I felt my consciousness slip from reality to the virtual world.
Depending on your position in society, a person had limited artistic license in creating their avatar. As a 7th grade Junior High School student, I had a lot of artistic freedom. My avatar had legs from a bull, a ridiculously muscular upper body, a cobra for a tail, and the head of a horned goat. I carried a great-sword with the avatar as well to finish that enraged, demonic look. It's not an original design, as I stumbled upon this creature in an old VRMMORPG called 'Sword Art Online.' The creature was a boss in the game called "The GleamEyes."
My close friend Haru told me that I was very hard to approach with this avatar. He even went as far as to tell me the avatar, in addition to my foreign status, may be the reason why I get targeted. I told him that, if that is the case, I'll only keep the avatar. Haru didn't argue with me too much about it, as he knew and was involved in the reason why I attracted so much unwanted attention, but enough about that. It was time for my favorite game.
I stepped into the school grounds early and double-tapped the notification screen that popped up on my virtual desktop. As soon as a student walks into the compound, each student had to confirm their attendance. I walked into the school grounds, changed into the indoor shoes, and found myself in the library's dive-study area. When I secured my bag in the locker, I sat down on the comfortable chair and whispered the words 'direct link,' and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I was greeted by a large, sunny garden: the school local-net.
The school's local-net virtual server was a "Reality Reproduction Type": objects in the virtual world (like cups) were the same 'size' as the objects in the real world. Due to the varying styles of the avatars, the school's regulation stated that your avatar has to be the same height as your real life body. So, the health department took physical measurements of your body for this and medical purposes, and the data was automatically synched with your Neuro-Linker. The student would then have to synch the data with his or her avatar.
As I travelled the virtual dirt path from the portal entrance to the gaming area, girly squeals rang throughout the courtyard. I was at school unusually today, so I was surprised when I heard the squeals. I couldn't help but let my curiosity lead me to the source of the sounds. When I went to the source of the sound, I realized I was in the Student Council area. Clubs have different meeting times throughout the week, and when I heard that the Student Council (the school's most influential group) met on early mornings, I didn't even bother trying to join. I found myself walking up the staircase, and peeking right about the ground line to see what was going on.
There were so many girl avatars on the Student Council lounge area and their attention were focused on one. It wasn't the first time I saw that avatar either: the avatar of the Vice-President, Kuroyukihime. To describe it simply, her avatar had the beauty of her real self, mixed with a pair of black swallowtail butterfly wings, and a customized black dress that didn't come with the system. Kuroyukihime was considered to be one of the smartest people to ever go through our Junior High program and she was consistently first for the 'Most Beautiful Girl,' poll in the underground student polls. I've always felt jealous: she had everything that I wanted. Popularity wasn't the biggest thing, but I wanted to be respected by my peers for what I am. As I allowed my thoughts to run wild with complaints and boyish fantasies, I found myself staring directly at Kuroyukihime's eyes. My train of thought shattered when I realized she was staring back at me. After a few moments of awkwardness, I ran down the stairs and dove into the game room.
When I entered the Squash room, there were 2 names on the leaderboard: mine and Arita Haruyuki. Haru was the one who introduced me to this game and we were the best in the school. It was a little pride thing between the two of us: it was my turn this week to try to knock all his scores off. I managed to do most of it but it was by mere hundreds. I somehow managed to get the top 4 spots, and would have to knock Haru's score before it was his turn.
When the game started, I hit the ball as fast as I could to force the system to the upper levels quicker. I would take it easy around the higher levels to accumulate points and then I would start my battle with the program. It was a slight glitch with the school's local net and the game interface. Since the local net was a "Reality Reproduction Type," my demon avatar had my physical body's proportions. Since my avatar was an overly-jacked looking avatar, the power of it exponentially increased due to the glitch. I used this glitch to my advantage and manipulated the game so that I could gain points quicker.
After 15 minutes of constantly battling in the reaction game, I finally beat Haru's 5th place score and started to push myself. I would post the highest score that even Haru couldn't beat! And I would've expected too, if it wasn't for my other friend shouting behind me, "BAKA!"
Needless to say, I missed from the surprise. The score was literally 200 points from beating my top score. I was devastated; victory was within my grasp!
"So you were here huh…" the girl spoke as she jumped down the spectator's platform and approached my crouched form. She walked toward me while looking at the score board. "Oh no! You were so close to beating your old record! But seriously, you and Haru play this game way too much…"
"Yea well…I tend to like reaction games…" I replied as I approached my friend's avatar. "What you doing here Chiyu?"
"N-n-nothing! I figured you might be late going to your class since you're so enveloped in the game, so I decided to drop by." Chiryu said matter-of-factly. "Class's going to start in 5 minutes, I'll see you at lunch!"
With that, both of us logged off and ran to our appropriate classrooms. Chiryu was the nicest girls I knew, partially because she was the only girl that I managed to talk to. She was a twin sister that I never had and her family took care of me when my mom couldn't. We would talk together along with Haru, about random topics during class. I swear, if we didn't have great multi-tasking ability with our Neuro-Linkers, we probably would've failed out.
Lunch time soon arrived. I quickly grabbed a half-sub and a bottle of water, wolfed it down as fast as I could before disappearing from the cafeteria. I travelled to my usual hiding place: the far end corner of the library and 'direct-linked.' I ran to the game room as fast as I could; surely, I would beat my score this time, right?
As I entered the Squash arena, I checked to see what my high score was before beginning, only to realize that my high score wasn't the highest anymore. The name was marked 'Unknown,' but it had to be someone from this school. I looked at the score in amazement. I found myself spending more and more time in the virtual world and VR games as I got jumped more frequently. This particular game was special to me; it was what established my first bond: Haru. It felt sacrilegious seeing someone else have the top score, let alone beat it by 100 million points.
"Were you the one with the previous high score?" a voice rang out. It had a soothing but superior air about it. As I looked up to see who it was, I rubbed my eyes with my arms to make sure I was seeing straight. The voice belong to that avatar; the avatar that belonged to the Student Council Vice-President, and the frequent winner of the 'Most Beautiful Girl' in the undergroundstudent polls. Before I could break out of my stupor, she spoke again.
"Do you wish to accelerate further?" She asked as she outstretched her hand. I couldn't reply. Why the hell was she talking to me, the sub-class Korean Gaijin for?
"Come to the lounge tomorrow during lunch." She finished and walked out of the room, leaving a stupid looking, mouth wide-opened me on the floor.
Students were divided into floors and colors; 1st years were congregated on the 3th floor, 2nd years on the 2nd floor, and 3rd years on the 1st floor. The ties or ruffles that we had to wear with our uniform were color coded: green for 1st years, blue for 2nd years, and red for 3rd years. Due to recent renovations, the 2nd floor's cafeteria was dubbed 'the Lounge.' The Lounge had the best kitchen equipment that was currently available on the market and also has a professional chef on duty. This room was used for the school district's weekly meeting and rented out to companies during the weekend. The Lounge itself had an indoor garden that sectioned off the prime 'window tables.' Because of the nice interior, it became an unwritten rule that no 1st years were allowed in there.
Needless to say, a tall, Gaijin-punching bag had no right to be in a lounge like this. All eyes were drawn on me the moment the door clicked shut. Whispers of 'who is that,' and '…he knows by now that first years aren't allowed,' shot through the general crowd. I treaded the Lounge nervously, since the entire karate club was in here (which, by the way, Araya and his gang are a member of). I gave a nervous sigh as I approached the area sectioned off by plants.
When I reached the enclosed area, whispers of 'he's that Gaijin,' and 'isn't he that Korean,' spread through like wildfire. As I stood there, two people with blue ties (2nd years) approached me, asking if I needed something. Before I could even respond, a clear, soothing voice rang out.
"He's here to speak with me. Sorry, but would you guys let him through?" a girl asked. As I looked to the voice's source, my jaw dropped slightly. The waist-length black hair, hazel eyes, the customized black school uniform, and that small mysterious smile. The two students backed off, allowing me to join the waiting 2nd year. I took the chair across from her and sat down.
"Um…" I started. I couldn't finish the question in my head, as the girl sitting in front me pulled out the XSB Cable for 'Direct Wire Connections.' She plugged one end of the terminal on her Neuro-Linker and tried to plug the other end on mine.
Gasps rang throughout the entire lounge. Direct Wired Connection was a very personal method of synchronization and directly connected 2 Neuro-Linkers together. Because of this, direct connection was usually done with family members or couples.
"Just connect it, I'll explain," she commanded. I swallowed the small lump that formed in my throat before nodding and took the terminal from her hands before connecting to mine. A screen that said 'Direct Wired Connection detected,' popped up as the girl sat back down elegantly, leaning on her left elbow.
Sorry for asking this of you...you can use mental communication, right? She asked. I nodded in response.
Sorry for sounding rude but, is this some sort of prank? Why would you want to talk with me? I asked.
Well…it could be a prank, but also as a new opportunity. The girl said as she moved her fingers around her virtual display. She placed her fingers on her Neruo-Linker and flicked her fingers towards me. I'm sending you an application to your Neuro-Linker. If you accept it, your reality will crumble.
In my virtual display, a black swallowtail butterfly flew from her Neuro-Linker to my virtual display. A burning 'B' logo flashed in front of me, then a "Do you wish to execute BB20397?" on my screen. As I was trying to think of what this application might be, the girl continued.
Your foreigner status would never be an issue in this new reality. She told me through the mental connection. A reality where I could interact, live, and go day to day without my Gaijin status hung over my head. Even if it was a virus program, it was too tempting to deny.
Just like that, I nodded and hit the 'Execute' button on the screen. The window burned away and its embers gathered in front of me, forming the same 'B' logo. It exploded and surrounded the girl and me in waves of virtual flames that could only be seen by us. As the flames died down, a «Brain Burst» screen emerged, with an 'installation progress' window. My mouth was slightly agape at the launch of the installation. I tensed as I saw the installation bar creep steadily from 0% all the way to 100%. The 'Brain Burst' and installation screens burned away, leaving a 'Welcome to the Accelerated World' message.
Accelerated world…Brain Burst…what is this program? I asked her.
I'm surprised you took the offer…even I contemplated for 2 minutes before having it installed. I prepared a speech to convince you, which winded up being not needed. She said as she playfully pointed towards me. Before she could continue, we were rudely interrupted.
"This is where you were, you Gaijin bastard!"
I turned around to see 3 newcomers that shared the green tie with me. All three students had their shirts pulled out and their green neckties loosened. The center one with the red hair, Araya, and his friends walk up to me. Araya didn't seem to notice the Student Council Vice-President as he ripped me open from the seat and grabbed my tie with his left hand.
"Don't think that because you're a Korean, you think you can just waltz around everywhere!" He spat at me angrily. I gave him a hard stare that matched his in ferocity.
"You are…Araya-kun?" the girl said. When Araya looked at the beauty in front of him, he momentarily froze and nodded dumbly with a stupid grin on his face. "I heard about you from Jinsoo-kun…he was wondering how you made it to a middle school and not a zoo."
"You…you bastard…I'll kill you!" Araya yelled as he cocked his right arm for a punch.
Quickly, shout the command Burst Link! The girl mentally shouted at me.
I brought my arms up in a cross pattern to block the punch. After a few seconds, I realized the strike didn't connect. My surroundings were frozen in a weird blue world. I could clearly see my body starting to block the punch, the maniacal look on Araya, and the surprised looks on everyone else. My eyes finally stopped at Kuroyukihime-senpai's body, which was also frozen in place.
"Please don't stare at my body," the voice asked playfully. "We're still in the range of the social cameras."
I asked what was going on, and what this frozen blue world was. She explained that we've accelerated our brains to 1000 times the normal speed. 1 second in the real world amounted to 1000 seconds, or 16 minutes and 40 seconds in the accelerated world. When she explained this to me, I was shocked. To think a program like this actually existed! She used the current situation as an example.
"…you have more than enough time to calm down to think on your next course of action, which brings me…" She paused for a minute as she took a look at my demonic avatar. "I want you to get hit. Since he's in the view of the social cameras after all…"
Before I made to comment, she led my avatar to stand behind my body. She whispered to my ear, instructing me to jump towards the right side to enhance the effect. I wasn't sure what she was playing at, but she simply patted my shoulder with her hand and wished me good luck. We both shouted 'Burst Out.'
Time seemed to speed up slowly as Araya's fist moved very slowly. As instructed, I made to jump towards the right side, when suddenly the world skipped to normal speed. I took the hit and managed to move towards the right. I slid on top of the table and thought I crashed on something squishy. After I recovered from the light daze, I realized that I landed on top of Kuroyukihime-senpai's legs. When I looked up, her eyes were closed and a small gash on her forehead was dripping blood.
"O-o-oi!You alright?" I shouted as I pushed myself off her.
Don't fret! This is for maximum effect. I know the reason you take Araya's beatings…your friend and you won't have to worry about him anymore. Before I could ask what she was talking about, Kuroyukihime 'fell' on top of me, her head resting on my shoulder. She turned slightly and spoke with her voice. "Good work. I'll be counting on you from now on." Her fingers were making small circles around one of my legs, making me blush.
Kuroyukihime and I were transferred to the nurse's office to be looked at and treated with the body-repairing protein bandages the school had on stock. Kuroyukihime left first as she only had a slight gash on her forehead, but managed to send me a friend invite through the Neuro-Linker before departing. I accepted after my treatment was finished and I attended the rest of my classes without incident. Before walking home, a message notification flashed on my virtual desktop and opened it.
I forgot to mention this, but do not connect to the global net until I see you tomorrow. Under no circumstances are you to use your Neuro-Linker until then.
The message kept playing on the back of my head as I turned off the Neuro-Linker, and walked out of the school grounds. There were two people waiting for me: Chiyuri and Haruyuki. We were in the same school and lived in the same apartment complex, but I couldn't focus on them because one message kept playing back and back.
Welcome, to the accelerated world.
DISCLAIMERS: I DO NOT OWN ANYTHING RELATED TO ACCEL WORLD OR SWORD ART ONLINE. This work is a work of pure fiction; this work does not reflect personal views of the author of this work, or the originator, Kawahara Reki.
Author's Notes (A/N: *FLAME SUIT ON* Hello everyone, thanks for reading! As you could probably tell, this is an OC x Kuroyukihime fic. I'm one of those people that wished for a different protagonist, so instead of wishing for it, I did it. Slight SAO cross-over throughout the series.
I do love the character design of Haru and the synergy amongst his friends, so I will be keeping him in the story and will make more impact as the story progresses.