To all who have made it this far, and to those who are joining us for the first time, enjoy.
I woke up.
Now, ordinarily, this would be a common occurrence. But for someone who just celebrated his seventy-sixth birthday, it was quite the achievement. I had lived a good life, though I had never married due to my job. By the time I retired, I was well past my prime and had no desire to find love. So I continued to live, doing the things I loved. Watching the new anime, reading light novels, keeping up with the otaku culture. It might not be what you think an old man should be doing, but I never cared about those kinds of stereotypes. I might not've been the perfect role model, but at least I spent my life as I pleased.
Which made my current situation a bit of a slap to the face.
I sat up, blinking. My joints didn't ache as I moved, a pleasant surprise. My limbs didn't creak softly as I took my first steps. In fact, I felt younger than I had in years. I reached for my glasses, blinking blearily, only to find the nightstand by my bed to be suspiciously absent. I rubbed my eyes, glancing down at where my glasses should've been, only to see an empty floor. An empty floor, viewed with crystal clarity.
I blinked. Twice.
'Did someone give me glasses or something while I slept? That would explain the room. Am I in a hospital?' I glanced about, immediately discounting the theory. This was a small bedroom, not a hospital room. The design seemed Japanese, with bamboo sliding doors and a simple futon rather than a bed. I didn't know how I missed that bit, with the futon being much closer to the ground than my own four-poster bed.
I stumbled towards the dresser beside me, my hands reaching for something. I pulled out a mirror, examining my face. Sharp features, pale skin, black hair. Asian, to be sure. The odd slant of the eyes was my last clue, tipping me off to my new ethnicity.
I sighed, finally accepting the inevitable. I had died in my sleep. I was in an unfamiliar child's body, so I must've been reincarnated. Some god somewhere must be laughing their ass off at the irony of reincarnating me as a Japanese child.
"I'm not a weeaboo." I mumbled automatically. "I'm an otaku."
All of this was spoken in perfect Japanese.
"…Dammit, I really am a weeaboo. Fucking Kami…" I felt dead tired for some reason. I joked, sure, but deep down I knew this feeling of exhaustion. I wasn't meant to be here, in this time. And I doubted I ever would be.
Old memories rose to my mind, familiar despite their strangeness. They were like an old set of keys—they had always been there, all I had to do was reach for them. I hesitantly accepted them, and had the disorienting experience of living someone else's life.
Keirou. Kitsugiru Keirou. That was my new name. Orphaned at three, taken to an orphanage, left for seven years.
I mentally adjusted my age to 'over eighty', slightly amused by the jump. I was surprisingly okay with taking over the kid's life, since the kid didn't really have any dreams or aspirations. He just lived. I, on the other hand, had the benefit of a whole life of work. I was easily one of the best programmers back at my old job, so I should be able to have some sort of head start.
My mind froze as one last detail registered.
Kitsugiru Keirou was born on January 3, 2116.
'Are you kidding me? Here I was thinking that I had some kind of head start! Shit! Why can't it just work like in anime and let me reincarnate in the modern age? Now I have no fucking clue how much programming has changed since I worked at M**ros*ft!'
I groaned, slamming my head against the dresser. Something bounced off the top, hitting me squarely on the head. I grimaced, reaching up to pick it up. Upon investigating, I realized it was a headset of some sort. Memories clicked, and I smiled.
This was the Dive Gear given to me for my tenth birthday, only days ago. I hadn't gotten the chance to try it out yet, being too busy with homework, but now that I had the mind of an adult… well.
My smile became a smirk. The tedious problems that had been hindering young Keirou was hardly a challenge for me. I decided to skip it for now, walking over to my futon next to the wall and picked up a black power cable, which was connected to an outlet. I removed the protective plastic covering on one end of the plug, revealing a plug that was roughly three centimeters across. A silver gleam blended with the liquid glittering of the slippery protective fluid.
I held the cable in one hand and lifted up the hair on the back of my neck with the other. The subdued glint there came from the man-made object embedded in the nape of my neck. With a practiced ease I never before had, I opened the roughly-three-centimeter cover over the data port. The sliding motion exposed the socket hidden beneath it. I pressed the plug home without any hesitation.
I exhaled, closing my eyes. I could feel light moving through my body, as though my blood vessels were filled with radiance. The room hadn't changed, but my field of vision was different now. Several windows popped up within my line of sight, showing me the information flowing into the processor within my brain. I began operating the CPU.
I picked up the helmet that almost covered my entire head as mandated by the computer laws, connected another wire to my neck and linked it to the helmet, then put it over my head. Although it was a full-face helmet, the camera mounted on the outside would transmit its video signal directly to the brain, so my field of vision was still clear.
This helmet included a system that would automatically record everything which went on in the virtual world. As an aside, it would retain footage for a month, automatically deleting it after that. A lot of people wanted to avoid wearing this helmet. It was only natural, since putting it on was something like giving up one's privacy. Yet, almost everyone wore these helmets. It was not just because of the law. It was because it protected people.
The neural nano-interface was a human brain augmentation which allowed it to function as a super high-performance personal computer. It was essential for daily life, but sometimes they were used in crimes as well. Some hackers would use the brains of others as a springboard to commit fraud.
Because of that, helmets like these could prove one's innocence if the wearer was implicated in a crime. One could say this was the safety net of the computing world. In contrast, not having one of these greatly increased the chances that one might be charged when involved in a crime, so only a handful of people chose not to wear them.
I noted the words that said recording had begun, and then operated the console window floating near my hand. I opened several new windows nearby, then brought one of them near my hand and touched it.
I was greeted by a menu screen a moment later, a finely textured wooden wall behind it. It was quite impressive, really. I belatedly realized that these days every game was downloaded from online, reaching out and tapping the 'shop' icon.
Instantly, a gleaming banner stole my attention. I ignored all the thousands of icons, all the beginner games, the anime-based RPGs that I would've loved in my past life. My focus was entirely on a small advertisement.
SYSCON, the world-famous gaming tycoon, has finally released its newest masterpiece in an open beta!
The icon below it was a simple one, a large tree with nine orbs surrounding it. It was the name of the game that made me pause, staring at the ludicrously cheap price.
I tapped it, bringing up an info screen about an immersive gameplay experience and a variety of customizable features. The game was still in its' infancy, so all players would be offered the chance to beta-test new features.
I immediately connected Keirou's bank account, containing seven years of allowance. The smallest bit would do, so I transferred the funds to pay for the purchase. The game started downloading, and I was left to ponder the implications.
There were two possibilities, here. First, I just spent under five dollars on a game that would let me beta new features, something most players would kill for. Or second… I had just bought myself a ticket into the world of Overlord.
Not bad. Not bad at all. It would take time for me to discover which of the explanations fit best, but for now…
I clicked the now-loaded game tile, watching as it took me to an avatar design screen.
It's time to play.
—The world changed.
My cerebral nanomachines began their computations, disrupting my field of vision and taking control of my voluntary nervous system, and everything changed. Countless lines of algorithms swept across my vision, and they vanished in an instant. They seemed to have some significance, but since I knew nothing about them, they were meaningless to me. Definitely a subject for later study.
An empty void extended in all directions—no, there were things sparkling in the darkness like stars—like space. Among them floated a gigantic tree that seemed to encompass everything.
This was my chance. My one shot at getting all I ever wanted. At finding my way into a world that I had full control over.
Sorry, Momonga, I might be crashing your game.
—Please stand by.
Part of my visual field flickered, and as I tilted his head to the side, I could see something. An Avatar creation field.