1. A Lucky Cat is Born
“Ding! Player Bai XiaoYu’s iris and fingerprint IDs are set. Full-body scan complete. Bank of Earth bank account bound. Do you wish to continue to Character Customisation now?”
“Yes.” Bai XiaoYu lightly tapped on the “Yes” button in the dialogue box before him. He only saw that everything around him whirled into a blur. When he adjusted his vision, a huge mirror was standing right in front of him. The him in the mirror looked exactly like him in reality except he would definitely not wear the novice equipment he’s wearing now – a white t-shirt with suspender shorts.
“Please adjust your appearance and height, with a difference of up to 50% either way.” The cold voice of the server rang out once more. Beside his reflection in the mirror, there appeared a whole bunch of plus and minus symbols. Bai XiaoYu thought, these are probably used to adjust his appearance. However with the many buttons for adjusting his appearance all tightly packed together, Bai XiaoYu was so overwhelmed that his vision blurred. If he really wanted to adjust each and every minute detail, he’d probably spend more than an hour.
“Do not adjust.” He who hated troubling himself promptly chose not to adjust anything. He had essentially zero friends in real life anyway. Even if someone has seen his real appearance before, no one would even come forward and talk to him.
“Please enter your game ID.” In the blink of an eye, the mirror disappeared. A blank text box and a transparent keyboard materialised in front of him.
Bai XiaoYu didn’t pause for a single moment and instantly entered the username he had chosen before entering the game, “LuckyCat”.
“ID: LuckyCat. The name is available. Confirm?”
“Player Bai XiaoYu. Game ID: LuckyCat. Account created. Do you wish to enter the game?”
“Welcome, LuckyCat,to Asgard Online. The system will send you a random gift. Please check your mailbox. As LuckyCat is using a smart game pod, 800 Earth Dollars will be automatically deducted from the player’s bound bank account every 30 days. When the account’s balance is insufficient, the system will kick the player out of the game. Players can look up their bank balance through the System Menu. Happy gaming!” (Since smart game pods require nutritional solution, the monthly fee is 800 ED. The monthly bill for gaming beds are 300 ED. )
A series of strong and blinding white rays flashed by. Bai XiaoYu had to shut his eyes. When he opened them once more, he found himself standing in the middle of a meadow. To be exact, he stood on a floating oval piece of land that is roughly as large as a football field with only a 10 metres-long bridge leading to a castle on another similar floating island. This should be the Novice Training Camp mentioned in the introduction.
A cool breeze blew around him. XiaoYu shivered. It’s probably because he’s standing in the middle of the sky while wearing such light clothes. The emptiness all around him felt exceedingly eerie and desolate.
It’s not an unusual sight. The game has already been launched for over a year. Other than those who commit suicide to start over again or those who’d just come of age and be legally permitted to play online games, there shouldn’t be any more new players. Naturally, it’s rather improbable for people to appear on this floating Novice Training Camp. It’s not that the other players don’t want to come here, rather they can’t. Once a player completes the Tutorial Quests, they would be immediately teleported to the Newbie Village – only there would the game actually begin – but there are no portals that lead back to here from the village.
Bai XiaoYu rubbed at the non-existent goose bumps on his body –it’s just his mind running wild – then pumped himself up and began walking on the only bridge towards the Novice Training Camp. From today onwards, he must start to learn how to be a professional gamer. He had got to work hard.
In the technologically advanced 23rd century, virtual reality games are something nearly every household and every home has set up. The average white-collar worker might not afford an expensive smart game pod but they are still able to buy a gaming bed. Those with a higher could choose the more comfortable smart game pod. The game company would send professionals to connect the plumbing for nutritional solution. This way, the company can ensure the players’ bodies are not be affected in any way even if they don’t log off for a long time. Due to how expensive the pods are, they’re not very popular.
And our protagonist, Bai XiaoYu, actually shouldn’t be able to afford a game pod.
First, the Bai family can only be considered an ordinary household. In a car accident one year ago, Bai XiaoYu’s parents passed away. In the modern period where smart cars are everywhere vehicle accidents ought to be very rare, unless an A.I. malfunction occurred. It just so happened that that accident occurred because the driver did not send the car’s A.I. in for maintenance on time. It resulted in a malfunction in the system and crashed into the Bai couple who were crossing the road at the time, leaving their only son Bai XiaoYu who’d just entered university.
Even though the court case was won in half a year with XiaoYu being paid a large sum as compensation, he was already exhausted through and through. He chose to quit and stayed at home. A very important reason being that tragedy left an emotional scar in him. As soon as he saw an automated vehicle on the road, he’d be terrified that it’d get out of control and crash into him. He also had no living relatives left, and his inherent introverted nature did not make any close friends. Thus there was no one around to counsel and console him. This scar can be considered to be deeply rooted in his heart.
Supermarkets these days all have an online shop. You can just buy any food or necessity you want online and it will be sent straight to your door. And so Bai XiaoYu would not leave the house, not even a single step out the door. Day in, day out he’d be nested in his home playing online games or reading. After all with that compensation money, plus his inheritance from his parents and the government’s monthly allowance of 600 ED, he’d have no issues if he lived frugally.
The of age Bai XiaoYu could already play virtual reality games. When Asgard Online first launched, he thought of buying a gaming bed. At that time, he’d just become an adult legally and was admitted into university. This game felt like it was maturing with him. How could he not be excited?
It’s a pity that the above chain of events happened before he bought one. This led to the days of virtual reality games being pushed back indefinitely.
By now the game has been online for a year. Going in as a new player would burn not only 300 ED monthly, but the cost of buying a gaming bed and the game itself would also be a rather large initial cost. To Bai XiaoYu who planned on huddling in his home for his whole life, wherever he can save he will. Even now with the bank interest and the government’s allowance, he could just about balance out the month’s bills. It’s not possible for him to go to work. At the sight of streets full of automated vehicles, his legs turn into goo. Don’t even bother to mention sitting down. If he accidentally spend too much, it’d lead to his later years having as much food as a mountain after a year of drought. He really wouldn’t know how he should continue living then.
It was the day when he’d head online to buy some food and essentials again. As the reserved XiaoYu disliked interacting too many times with other people, he would buy a month’s supplies in one go. That way, the courier would only come to his door once a month.
Upon opening the webpage, a large bright red banner filled his vision and advertised some sort of celebratory event going on. Bai XiaoYu wasted some time browsing through it. It turned out to be a celebration for the online shop’s 100th anniversary. Those who spend over 100 ED will stand a chance to enter a lucky draw. The prizes had everything from a packet of facial tissues to the grand prize of a smart game pod.
He laughed apathetically. This type of lucky draw had happened before but it seemed like this time the company had put in more capital. They’re actually giving out a smart game pod worth over a few hundred thousand dollars. Just a mere glance would tell you that the chances of winning that were lower than the chances of being hit by a meteorite. To say nothing of Bai XiaoYu whose character has not a single drop of luck. He’d never won anything in the past, not even a packet of tissues.
After he purchased a whole heap of products, he’d been rewarded a few chances to draw from the pot. Of course. He was indifferent about it as well. He simply clicked a few times at the wheel to spin it. As expected, he drew nothing again, not even the packet of tissues. As such, when the wheel stopped for the last time, he had planned to close the webpage as soon as possible and wait for his package. Congratulatory fireworks suddenly burst out and filled the entire page, throwing him into a panic. For a moment, he thought his computer had a virus. It’s only when he calmed down and took a closer look did he feel as though he was just dreaming. The pointer was pointing directly at the grand prize – one (1) smart game pod.
After the workers had left after setting up the game pod and its plumbing, he was still in a daze. This is a beautiful dream, he thought. So when the workers asked him which game’s data did he want installed, he reflexively uttered Asgard Online.
He pinched himself hard. Having proven to himself that it’s not a dream, he carefully caressed the lit up pod with a goofy smile =v=
Though the game pod was expensive, it’s also one of those with a huge investment at the start but negates quite a number of real life expenses while in the pod. After some calculations, a mere 800 ED a month is quite a deal. A gaming bed still requires the player to log off to eat, shower, go to the bathroom etc.
And so Bai XiaoYu decided on the spot to live his life within the game from then on. Other than the 800 ED, he’d have no other expenditures. It’d be roughly the same as before. Not only that, AO had even opened up currency exchange between in-game currency and ED. Who knows? He might even earn money while in the game! (100 coppers = 1 silver, 100 silvers = 1 gold, 100 gold = 1 crystal = 1 ED)
The most important of all was there were no modern automated vehicles in Asgard Online. Bai XiaoYu can freely play anywhere he liked. After all, it’s not an actual solution for him to hide in his house like so for his entire life.
Earth Dollars (ED): While the proper translation is World Dollars, Bank of Earth sounds better than Bank of World.