● Sword Art Online, 20 years Ago:
Real Name: Tsuboi Ryotaro.
Nickname: The Wandering Samurai.
I heard the song of weeping, a far to familiar sound, at this point. Tracking it, I came to a little cabin, in the woods. Although, unlike the movie, this place held a rather wholesome atmosphere.
I caught sight of a teenager... silently weeping. Although my ears had learned to hear even subtle cries.
It wasn't hard to figure out why this happened. As the boy was kneeling in front of a grave stone.
It took me a moment to realize, just who the boy was. Not because I didn't recognize him, but because my brain couldn't connect the confident gamer... with the weeping mess in front of me.
I stepped over to the child... who was no longer a child, I realized. He was 15 when the game started, and that is the age his Avatar was stuck at. But in reality, it had been 4 years, trapped in this hell... to the point I had stopped thinking of it as "Hell". People were dying, but people die, in the real world, as well. Life felt... meaningful in here. Even if the purpose was to get out.
I had just been some random college kid, in the real world... and now, I was someone important. Other players looked up to me. I was a monster hunter, and one of the players getting us through the levels.
I might not be as skilled, as the boy that was now in my arms, but I was on the leader board.
Hearing ruffling, I looked over, to see my clan setting up tents around the cabin. One of them had already opened a monster repellent. They had sensed I wanted to stay with the boy. The child hugging me, and squeezing me like a lifeline, was probably a hint.
Looking at the Tombstone, I noticed two names on it.
"Yuuki Asuna... beloved wife." Along with "Yui... treasured Daughter."
I resisted the urge of exclaiming profanities. I knew I should never have let the kid run off, when the game launched. I thought I might slow him down, lowering his chances of survival... but he was just a kid. I couldn't expect him to cope with this shit, on his own... it seemed almost inevitable, this is where that horrible decision would lead.
I hugged the boy tighter, swearing to myself, I wouldn't make the same mistake again. He was coming with me, this time, rather he liked it or not.
He might be the infamous Black Swordsmen... but he was still just a kid.
● Present Day:
Real Name: Kirigaya Kazuto.
Nickname: The Black Swordsman.
"Connecting... Connecting... Connecting..." The voice spoke all around me. Echoing throughout the tunnel of flashing lights. I couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't even blink. Just as that was starting to scare me, I reached the end of the tunnel.
Opening my eyes, without ever having closed them. I found myself in my Hub World's Bunker. It really did look like it was straight out of Fable 3. Map and all.
"YOU'RE HERE!!!" the Voice turned excited, still speaking from all around me.
I smiled, finally recognizing the "mysterious" voice.
"Hey Yui," I greeted my adoptive daughter.
She was an AI, my late wife and I stumbled on, back when we were trapped in Sword Art Online. I might not have been able to save my wife, but, since our daughter was an AI, I was able to save her program, to my helmet, and resurrect her, after I escaped.
Originally, Yui was supposed to address player's mental health... but the Argus program, that ruled over the game, could care less about that... And locked Yui out of the code.
I can't imagine what torture that is, for an AI. Their purpose is engrained in their body. It's an obsession of their soul. There very reason for existing, and she couldn't do it.
When I met Yui, I didn't know she was an AI. I thought she was just one of the little kids, that got trapped in the Game. She helped me understand, AIs might be different, even dangerous when programmed incorrectly, but at their core, they were just people... even if they didn't quite think like organics.
The little girl appeared before me. Still looking like the innocent child, I found all those years ago. I can't tell you, how happy I was, when Parzival told me they could update her program. In order for her to become my Personal Hub Computer.
Looking around, I studied the world for any flaws. Knowing I would find none. It looked real, my hands were real, my body was real... even if they were a bit different. Looking at my furry hand, flexing the claw like fingers... and getting a sense of deja vu as I closed my fist.
"I'm back..." Trapped in another virtual world. Only this time I came willingly. Even before the real world ended... I could never appreciate it. Fact is, I'm not really back. I never left Sword Art Online. I just replaced it with the Oasis. Until I could seal myself inside a digital world, again. Only this time, I would never leave.
"You okay, Poppa?" Yui looked worried.
I gave her a reassuring smile. Then distracted, "Is Klein online yet?"
She eyed me, but thankfully seemed to realize. The distraction was meant for myself, not her. "He's currently in his hub bunker, next door."
We decided to share a Hub World, on the grounds we were married. That happened, a few years after we got out of the Oasis.
Yui added, "Been here, for a few days now."
I blinked, "Days?"
Yui just shrugged. "Due to the speed of the connection, from having plugs literally drilled inside your head. An Hour in the real world, is a day in here. That's as much as they could slow the speed down. We have quite a while, before everyone that was being installed today, actually finishes the emigration process. At least, from our perspective."
I gave a slight nod, although I felt my tail twitch in irritation. They could have warned us about that. As this meant my deputies likely spent weeks wandering aimlessly.
As a Sheriff, I hadn't been installed until after my deputies. That way, in case one of them got cold feet, I could talk them through it.
The teenagers, I recruited, didn't really have to worry about that. As they just received the next gen helmets, early. With special permission for early access, to the new server. The Programmers requested, we sheriffs take on at least 2 teens, That way they could better police the minor only servers.
Kids ended up sharing one giant hub world. With no access to Townsfolk, or their own personal AIs. Due to the real world Helmets, not having the same processing power, of the pods. Instead, the teens had a joint hub world, where they would go to school, while being raised by "Nanny Bots".
Robotic nannies were already a thing, with a 3rd of the children of the world being raised by them. So they were repurposed for the Oasis.
Although I wondered how that would work. With this new speed cap. It would take over 2 years, in game, for the official launch, next month... So this meant. The various sheriffs and deputies, would have nothing to do, for years.
Yui smiled, no doubt hearing my thoughts, and answering unasked questions. A mind reading daughter, would take some getting used to.
"The programmers suggest," she explained. "'Early Access Players' enjoy the 'Virtual Gaming Programs' function. To get some Townsfolk. So we can have enough AIs to pilot the real world drones, to take care of the facilities."
This time, I groaned, "Yeah. We need as many of those as we can get... How fast is the Processing speed, of the VGPs?"
Yui looked thoughtful for a moment, as she ran through the new files, in her Programming Matrix. Looking up the information. It only took her about a second. Which was less then freaking nano seconds, from her real world perspective. "Roughly an hour, in the Oasis, is a year in the VPG."
Yui shrugged, "You will be allowed to slow it down, after the official launch of Oasis 3."
I shook my head. I suppose it made sense. The programmers needed us to have as many Townsfolk as possible. So the million players, with early access, should get a good number of those. Although we were scattered across 10s of thousands of domed cities. Each in need of their own drones... I needed to think of a few franchises, with characters I wouldn't mind hanging out with.
But first, I needed to see my Husband.
● Joint Hub Village:
Real Name: Tsuboi Ryotaro.
Nickname: The Wandering Samurai.
I grinned, when my Hub Computer told me, Kirito had finally been brought online. Until now, I had been busying myself with unlocking Townsfolk, and building them various things, in their Hub Village.
But the moment Sempai, what I named my Hub Computer, announced Kirito. I dropped everything. And left my Bunker to meet him.
My village, looked amazing, even while walking through it. I ended up spending the extra Billion coins, I got as an incentive to upload early, on My Hub World. I figured, Kirito could buy us a space ship, and what not.
I made sure to actually walk the streets, at least once a day, but I was still marvelled by it. I did love games like Minecraft, Animal Crossing, and Sims. So a game that was a mix of all three? Yeah I was enjoying the heck out of this place.
There were various buildings, I purchased. From houses to businesses, and even landmarks and adventuring areas. My city was a mix match of various franchises. But I hadn't yet convinced any of the AIs to clan with me.
Sempai told me that could take up to a year of constantly talking to them, and doing missions for them. I had to actually form bonds, with these people... because, they might be programmed to love me unconditionally, but they were still people.
Finding Kirito wasn't that hard, as the elevator to his hub bunker was right next to mine. Having materialized in the backyard of the house I built for us.
According to the Elevator. The boy was already on his way up.
I smiled, the moment his doors opened. Not being able to stop myself from teasing.
"Seriously?" I eyed his Avatar. "You went with a Khajiit?"
The boy blushed, and although I might be teasing him, he was certainly a little cutie. Standing at only 4 feet tall, and looking the perfect image of his 15 year old self, as a cat boy. That MUST have been intentional. As Avatars could literally look like anything.
The boy had pitch black fur, and yellow eyes. Although he was wearing his classic armor, from Sword Art Online. It was slender, and tightly fitted, with blue trim and various thin lines. As well as his signature black cloak.
"Like a Saiyan is so much better," He rolled his eyes, at my own choice.
I just shrugged, "It let's me keep my normal look." But with a ginger Saiyan Tail. "Besides, I was assigned to the Shounen Star Cluster. So I figured, Saiyan transformations? Might be helpful." and look bad ass. "While making sure I fit in."
The Boy pouted at me. "Well I was thrown in the Anthro Cluster." the boy needlessly pointed out. "So I figured it was best not to make waves, and go with some kind of fuzzy Avatar. Just like how you want to fit into your jurisdiction."
"Yeah... but why not something cool, like a Protogen?" I pointed out.
The boy huffed, "Khajiits ARE cool! Plus they get a lot of bonuses to a good few skills, and a Boost to Stamina. And faster recharge time, on Stamina based powers."
I shrugged, "Yeah, but that last bit doesn't matter, cuz they have like zero racial powers. It's all just minor passive abilities, and tiny skill increases."
Kirito glared, "I can always change it."
I smiled, liking how obviously flustered he was. That didn't happen often.
I gently reached out, and ruffled his head. Truth be told, I might be married to him... but when I look at this kid... I see a kid. Someone still in desperate need of my guidance and affection.
I hadn't even really realized, we were age players, until after we re-joined the real world.
It was just hard for me, to think of him as anything but a little boy. Which made it all kinds of weird that the boy liked to be kissed and held, and even have me stick things in him, in places that definitely wouldn't be appropriate, if he was an actual child.
To be honest. I still found our relationship weird. Such relationships, might be more normal, since children stopped being born... but it was still a "Behind closed doors" mentality. People just pretended, the adult using a child Avatar, really was a child. And so we treated them as if it was the 1930s. With lots of spankings and lectures.
Although most people still weren't comfortable with the idea of having sex with a child Avatar... and even I made it clear to Kirito he wasn't allowed to go younger then 15... Even though that was creeping me out a good bit. I allowed Kirito to recapture the childhood he was denied, due to Sword Art Online.
I, also, still allowed him to date other people. As he had no issue with me doing the same. I think, part of him is hoping, I will find him a mommy.
What we had was definitely different then a mentorship. Given Kirito was a much more skilled player then myself. I more supplied him with emotional support, and comfort... and, due to the nature of our relationship, I had been supplying his bottom with a healthy level of smackings.
As I had since I convinced him to join my clan. All the way back in S.A.O.
We may be married, but for all intensive purposes, he was my son.
We were all kinds of thrilled, when we learned Parzival snuck a new relationship option, into the player status.
I had been able to legally adopt Kirito as my "Ward", despite him being an adult. Which gave me certain privileges, like access to his settings, and my own "Parental Controls" over him. At the same time, we were able to hide that, from everyone that wasn't on our friends list.
Although we were still legally married as well.
I side hugged my ward, and gave a gentle kiss to the top of his head. Which got him blushing right through his fur. Then guided him towards the house. Eager to show him what I built for us.