Chapter 1:

2037

Everyday is Valentine


I had never found myself looking forward to this day.Bookmark here

February 14th, a day to celebrate lovers in modern times.Bookmark here

A day that had neither hide nor hair to do with a single 35-years-old man that is me.Bookmark here

Normally, I would have my work as an accountant to thank for. Though taxing, it would have completely occupied my mind from silly thoughts such as this. In fact that had been the case for the past four years, having Valentine's Day fall on a weekday.Bookmark here

However, by chance, that was not the case for this year as Valentine's Day of 2037 falls on a Saturday. Bookmark here

There is, of course, the option to take up overtime but do I really want to work extra out of spite for something as small as this?Bookmark here

No, I don't think I will.Bookmark here

Instead, what I am doing right now is lazing around on my bed, playing away with my phone, specifically, a Gacha Game. Bookmark here

I am coming into this thinking everyone knows what a Gacha game is but for clarity's sake: It is where the core mechanic of the game is to expand premium in-game currency for a chance to obtain exotic characters or in-game items of powerful stats or higher likeability.Bookmark here

The genre had been present for quite some time. Incidentally, the one I had been playing, Re:Connect, had its global servers up for a good 16 years and running. Bookmark here

I was there when it first launched 16 years ago and I had been playing ever since on a near-daily basis.Bookmark here

Rather proud of this consistency, I am. At this point, it is no different from daily routines such as brushing your teeth or washing your face.Bookmark here

I say “near-daily” as, of course, there would be outliers. It could be me being swamped with so much work that I could barely rest enough as is or the usual maintenance of the game which at most lasted one entire day. Bookmark here

Although strangely enough, the latest update had been an outlier amongst outliers that caused the game to undergo maintenance for the entirety of last month.Bookmark here

There was a lot of buzz back then surrounding this incident, controversy even, as some players protested in front of the headquarters of the game company when it refused to shed light on what exactly necessitated the lengthy absence of the game other than a simple “Minor Bug Fixes” message.Bookmark here

Personally, I wasn't as affected as I thought I should be. It had as much impact as me having to skip the brushing of my teeth if I ever needed to rush to work on time. Bookmark here

Your whole body would feel wrong but it isn't something that prevents you from basic functions.Bookmark here

When the game did come back online today, it came with a limited Valentine’s Day event which wasn’t any different from past events to justify its month-long hiatus.Bookmark here

A short side story, a new boss, a Valentine’s Day variant of a pre-existing character. You know, the usual. Bookmark here

Unlike those fanatics that went out of their way to protest, I am just happy that I get to listen to the charming and soothing voices of the characters once again. Bookmark here

I am rarely the one to initiate conversations so this is about as much I would hear in terms of human voices on a day-to-day basis.Bookmark here

“(Wonderful work, my Lord. I look forward to our next adventure.)”Bookmark here

Breaking my train of thought was a cutesy response from none other than the game I was playing, notifying me of the end of yet another ”farming spree”.Bookmark here

“You too. I will be in your care then as well.”Bookmark here

Those words escaped my mouth rather absentmindedly. Bookmark here

There was no rhyme or reason, well, not that I could think of, as to why it happened but somehow, it just felt right after hearing her voice and seeing the subtitles.Bookmark here

However, don't you find it strange, talking to your phone out loud when there aren't any living, breathing beings to listen? Bookmark here

CLANG!Bookmark here

Yet another sudden interruption but this time, it didn’t come from my phone.Bookmark here

This time, it came from the kitchen.Bookmark here

The sound of metal reverberated throughout my studio apartment. Bookmark here

It was the ringing of the pots and pans as they were carelessly dropped onto the floor as someone ceaselessly tripped over each and every single one of them.Bookmark here

A studio apartment is actually not that big so from my bed, I could see the rest of the messy room with items haphazardly thrown around rather clearly. Bookmark here

Hey, I'm not that much of a mess myself, I just lacked the time and energy to properly clean…Bookmark here

I can only hope mom does not see this.Bookmark here

Amongst the mess is the kitchen and its assortment of appliances that I rarely even got the chance to use. Bookmark here

And there she was.Bookmark here

Appearing in a space that was previously empty, Bookmark here

A lone figure stood amongst fallen crockery.Bookmark here

Miraculously, a wok had landed itself onto her head, covering most of her facial features. However, it did not hide away all of her hair, leaving a few locks of white and pigmentless sticking out here and there.Bookmark here

To the keenest of eyes out there, you might even glimpse a hint of a pair of pointed ears protruding out from her sides but I know, for certain, that it is there. Bookmark here

She is an Elf after all.Bookmark here

Not just any Elf, though.Bookmark here

She was the reason I started my 16-year-long journey of playing Re:Connect.Bookmark here

I slowly reached out to her with a shaking hand but stopped midair just as I was about to remove the wok from her head.Bookmark here

Should I really continue?Bookmark here

What if the moment we made contact, she disappears?Bookmark here

What if this is just an illusion that I had conjured?Bookmark here

No, this has to be an illusion,Bookmark here

Right?Bookmark here

Indecisive as I was, she was the one to make the first move.Bookmark here

Expertly picking up her 160cm-long lance that seemed absolutely unwieldy for a petite girl such as herself, she pointed it to where I was standing.Bookmark here

“...***...*** *** ** ****.”Bookmark here

She spoke her first words and it sounded similar to the cutesy response I got from my game just moments ago because, well, both of them belong to the very same character.Bookmark here

However, they were meaningless to me. I could, at the very least, recognise that it was Japanese, just like how she would talk in-game but that was about it.Bookmark here

You would think that having listened to her voice lines for such a long time, I should be able to at least pick up on a few Japanese words here and there but that seems to be a rather tall order for someone being held at lance point.Bookmark here

Even so, deep down, I knew her as a character. Bookmark here

So much so that even though she has the physical prowess to decimate hordes of monsters at her current level, she would never put anyone in harm’s way. Bookmark here

That is the kind of character she is.Bookmark here

Knowing she wouldn’t attack me did not help in easing the chills down my spine from the sight of her lance.Bookmark here

She is normally so docile in-game but that didn’t seem to be the case today.Bookmark here

As if the case of materializing and manifesting her existence into the real world could be considered any normal!?Bookmark here

Gradually, I regained my composure enough that I could play the Straight Man for myself but the same thing could not be said about her.Bookmark here

That much is evident from the shaking of her long lance that is even taller than herself.Bookmark here

~~~Bookmark here

“(...You…are not my Lord.)”Bookmark here

Standing before me was a stranger I had never seen before.Bookmark here

Something heavy and metallic is obscuring my vision like a large summer hat but I am more than certain that is the case.Bookmark here

That is because the air around the both of them feels completely different from each other, something I can tell even without relying on the help of the wind spirits.Bookmark here

No, this is something only I can tell after staying with my Lord the longest out of everyone: Bookmark here

This person standing in front of me is not my Lord.Bookmark here

Mere moments ago, I was preparing herbal tea for my Lord and the other guild members but the next moment, I found myself in this foreign room filled with alien objects that I could almost pinpoint their purpose, but at the same time, not.Bookmark here

Judging from the handles protruding from the sides, the item on my head might be a cooking wok of sorts. Its texture suggests it was well-maintained but from its smell, I can conclude that it is more related to how little it was used, if at all.Bookmark here

The stranger approached with an indecisive hand. Bookmark here

Unlike my Lord's hands with palms covered with calluses achieved from tireless training of the sword, the stranger's hand is spotless to a tee, not so different from someone of royal descent that would have nothing to do with labour.Bookmark here

I raised my lance to the stranger without much thought.Bookmark here

Years of combat have allowed me to ascertain without a doubt that this stranger is and will always be, in no way a threat to me. Bookmark here

No, the threat was more fundamental.Bookmark here

Holding the crystal lance bestowed upon me by my father, head priest of our village, would normally calm me down during even the most fearsome of subjugation quests but that was not the case here.Bookmark here

Instead, the dull glimmer emanating from the lance’s blue crystal tip only serves to make my heart sank:Bookmark here

The mana of this place is scarce Bookmark here

And my connection to the wind spirits even scarcer. Bookmark here

This might very well spell the death of a Spirit Arts User such as myself.Bookmark here

In a strange location with an even stranger atmosphere and a stranger never seen before, all of my thoughts eventually converged on one simple conclusion:Bookmark here

I have to find my Lord.Bookmark here

It is my sworn duty to protect my Lord, from dawn to dusk, from the cradle to the grave, and to devote my entire being to his service.Bookmark here

I need to be by his side.Bookmark here

Without a moment more to waste, I located the closest exit out of this area and leapt out of the window, glass and frame broken and all.Bookmark here

I do not know what expressions the stranger in the room made as I took my leave but I will have to come back later after finding my Lord to apologize and clean up after the mess I have made.Bookmark here

Somehow, I am sure he will understand.Bookmark here

Who knows, maybe they might even become friends~Bookmark here

Putting away the happy thoughts for later, I successfully landed myself after breaking out of the window. A brief height of five storeys is not something I can’t come out of unscathed but it would definitely help if I could incorporate some physical enhancements with the help of mana.Bookmark here

Sadly, the concentration of mana in the surroundings would not be sufficient.Bookmark here

Still, that will not stop me from trying to find my Lord.Bookmark here

Brushing past me is the wind that lays dormant and inactive, spiritless even.Bookmark here

But more importantly, more and more people began to come into view which would suggest I am heading in the direction of some form of city centre, which means there is bound to be someone here that has seen or known the whereabouts of my Lord.Bookmark here

However, instead of receiving a definitive answer, all I got were glances and stares of awe and shock.Bookmark here

Yet, it will not halt me in my search for my Lord, even if I have to individually ask millions and billions of people in the process.Bookmark here

Even if there is a chance that the millions and billions I have questioned do not understand a single thing I was saying. Bookmark here

Without me realizing it, the sky had turned dark with thunder clouds concealing even the brightest of the day.Bookmark here

Oh no, I need to bring in the clothes before the rain ruins them.Bookmark here

An instinctual thought flashed past my head, further reminding me that I am hard-pressed for time.Bookmark here

All the more reason to find my lord, then~Bookmark here

I quickened my pace and bolted into the pouring streets. Bookmark here

As the raindrops pelted down my face and body mercilessly, the visibility of the environment worsened abruptly.Bookmark here

All of the commuters that were previously touring the area immediately sought shelter under the closest buildings that they could find and before I knew it, there was not a single person in sight. Bookmark here

With the people gone, the oddities that are the carriages without horses became all the more glaring against the backdrop of this already-strange new place. Bookmark here

Although, they do bear striking similarities to vehicles such as the glider that I would make with the help of the wind spirits to cruise my guild, I can at least deduce that they are also vehicles of sorts ridden and controlled by people that are hidden out of sight and away from rain.Bookmark here

HONK!!Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, an ear-piercing screech began to sound off behind me.Bookmark here

Turning around, I was instantaneously blinded by the lights given off by a carriage-without-a-horse.Bookmark here

Having faced off monsters many times bigger and scarier, dealing with this threat even with my sights and hearing overloaded could not be any easier.Bookmark here

I just need to use the lance on my hand to…Bookmark here

Wait, Bookmark here

What if there are people on board?Bookmark here

I’m bound by my principles against injuring or harming people who did nothing wrong in any way shape or form.Bookmark here

My guild members would know what to doBookmark here

My Lord would know exactly what to doBookmark here

But they are all not here nowBookmark here

What should I do, then?Bookmark here

My Lord, what should I do?Bookmark here

The lights became brighter and brighter as the vehicle came closer and closer but my body stood rooted in place with no intention of overcoming its inertia.Bookmark here

Just when I braced myself for impact and applied what little body enhancements that I can muster with the mana available so as to minimize the damage dealt to myself, a figure pushed me out of harm’s way just as the vehicle zoomed past me.Bookmark here

The push wasn’t strong. To say it was weak would be an insult to the word itself but it achieved its intended purpose.Bookmark here

There is only one person who would risk his life for me like this.Bookmark here

It has to be…Bookmark here

“(My Lord…?)”Bookmark here

Rainwater dripping down his unkempt hair, he slowly raised his head.Bookmark here

Instead of being greeted by the same goofy but warm smile my Lord would always make, what surfaced was an unfamiliar countenance.Bookmark here

No, it should not be considered “unfamiliar”.Bookmark here

It was the first face I saw here, in fact.Bookmark here

“***”* *** *** ** **** ***! ** ** ********* ****** ** ** ** * *** *****, *** ** ******* *** **** **** **** *** *** *** ****, *** ***** *** ** **** ** *** *** *******! *********, *** ********* ** *** **** *********** ** *** ***** ***** ******** ******, *** *** *** ***** *********** ** ** ***, * ****** ********. ** ** *** *** ** ***** ***** **** *** ** **** **** ** ***, ** **** **** ***** ** **! **** **** ***** ** ** ** ** ** **** ** ***!”Bookmark here

Clasping his hands on my shoulder, he started to say something in a language unbeknownst to me while shaking me front and back, as if trying to get me to internalize what he is saying.Bookmark here

"Saying" might not be the best word to describe his attempts in getting me to understand. Not with the number of times he raised his voice to a level that even he himself seems to doubt he is capable of.Bookmark here

Yet his expression is not one of anger or blame, but worry and concern, just like father's when I was chosen to serve my Lord.Bookmark here

He paused for a while to catch his breath and as he slowly calmed down, he seemed to realize my inability to understand him.Bookmark here

Fishing out a black tablet the size of his palm that was wrapped with a translucent film, he began clicking away at the tablet in a quick and successive motion.Bookmark here

Once it seemed like he was done, he brought the tablet right beside my face as a voice unlike any known intelligent species I have known began to softly emanate from within:Bookmark here

"(I’m not here to harm you…)"Bookmark here

It was spoken rather inorganically but its contents were very much understandable as it is done in my language.Bookmark here

“(Before I continue, I need you to calm down, take a big breath…)”Bookmark here

Ominously, the black tablet continued. There was this unspeakable form of excitement leaking through the eyes of the stranger that is occasionally obscured by his dripping-wet bangs but I can feel something earth-shattering is coming.Bookmark here

“(You are no longer in your world,)”Bookmark here

Then, where…Bookmark here

“(In fact, this is a world that is completely different from yours with a completely different set of environment and people...)”Bookmark here

Different…Bookmark here

Set of people…?Bookmark here

The black tablet might have mentioned even more things after that but my mind wasn’t there to hear it.Bookmark here

The sounds of raindrops crashing into the ground slowly faded into nothing as the tablet’s final words echoed indefinitely in my head like a dark and empty chamber devoid of any opening.Bookmark here

My Lord…?Bookmark here

[End of 2037]Bookmark here


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Author’s Note: Dialogues with “()” is to denote whenever someone is speaking JapaneseBookmark here

EIV Final

Everyday is Valentine


Cas_Cade
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