Hey guys, Phoenix here.
It's been a pretty rough ride, but I've finally completed the rewrite for Grand Eroge. Took me around half a year and had to be rewritten several times when I decided I didn't like it. So for all the people who keep asking me if I've abandoned the story despite EXPLICITLY STATING MULTIPLE TIMES THAT I WOULD LET YOU GUYS KNOW IF I DID, rejoice! For the story is not dead!
*Insert Black Panther Meme Here*
I'll be straight with y'all; I'm in the last year of my course in medical college, not to mention we just got out of COVID, so I've been swamped for almost the entirety of 2022 and probably will continue to be until mid-2023 ish when I finally complete the course. For reference, I've been starting to college at 7 in the morning and coming home at 8-9 at night, every day except Sunday. That's more hours in a week than a good number of actual JOBS, for crying out loud.
So with this in mind, it's not really hard to see why I've been having trouble writing as of late. When I get home, I'm just dead tired and barely have the energy to do anything more than throw together dinner and finish whatever homework or report I have before falling asleep, sometimes at my desk.
I'll just say it up front; unless a miracle happens, expect 2022 to be barren for me fanfic-wise. Not just for Grand Eroge, but just in general. If I DO manage to update, like right now for instance, that's great! But don't expect it, because it's most likely not going to happen. I'm saying this specifically because lots of people have Review-bombed me through Guest accounts or even through PMs about how I should be 'getting my act together' and updating more. Because of that, I felt the need to clarify that I'm not obligated to write; especially if it'll take away time from things that are vital to my daily life. This is a hobby, not a job. Sure, there are a few people who show support for me by donating money on the place of Patrons, but that's a far cry from an actual job and ironically, they're the ones who seem to understand that the most because they've never complained about my recent inability to update even though they have a greater right to than most.
Anyways, that aside, I'm glad to get the ball rolling for this story!
Fans of the old draft may find that a lot of things are different, and they ARE! To put it simply, I've made this story my own. Eroge Order, which the original draft was heavily based on, has become active again on Questionable Questing after years of being dead so I've decided to establish my own plotline and events instead of adapting Eroge Order's to my own story like in the past. Same goes for the Gamer System, which used to be almost identical to SAO: The Eroge, but has now been changed pretty. I'm not here to steal someone else's story, after all.
Several quality of life changes have been made as well, such as switching the perspective to First Person in order to bring out Ritsuka's character more, although you might not really see it here because it's just the introductory chapter. Also decided to drop the Rating to T since I don't write lemons anyways.
ALSO; Fans of the old draft may want to know that I haven't deleted them, but have instead moved them to another 'story' called Fallen Feathers where I've decided to keep the old drafts of stories that I have decided to discontinue or rewrite. You may view them there at any time if you feel the urge to.
Before we get on with the story, I'd like to profusely thank Superpengy, Captain GIGN, Q-dog-97, Dakota A., ReedRacer, Chris D. and Nico M.; not only for supporting me on the place of Patrons, which was much appreciated, but also for sticking by me all this time even though I was unable to update. If any of you guys want to support me as well, you know where to find my page. Hell, it's like the second result to show up whenever anyone googles my name. Starting from now, I'll also be posting any Chapters I finish there a week early, which seems to be what most people do.
And be sure to read the AN at the end of my chapters. They usually contain a summary and explain some of the things that might not be visible at first glance or might easily be missed.
EDIT: Made a fix so that old readers can Review again.
Chapter 1 - The Time For Flags Has Come
"Ah, Master, you're finally awake." As I gradually returned to the land of the conscious, these were the words that greeted me.
The unfamiliar, though not unpleasant, voice, tinted with a posh British accent that seemed right at home in a Harry Potter movie, snapped me out of my post-awakening dazed state almost immediately, making me squint with an inaudible hiss as the afternoon sun seared my retinas. For a heartbeat, I thought that maybe I'd forgotten to close the blinds before my Sunday nap, but the feeling of grass against my exposed ankles made me realize that I was outdoors, and in response I tried to blink the light out in the hopes of regaining my sense of sight. Seconds later, when my eyes had finally adjusted to the harsh sunlight that had so uncourteous invaded them, I had two simultaneous thoughts.
'Where the hell am I?' and 'Holy shit she's gorgeous.'. That last thought was in reference to the person who had spoken to me. While I was lying against the trunk of a tree, she was kneeling next to me with posture so perfect there was no way I could replicate it for more than thirty seconds. The girl looked to be around my own age, wearing what could only be accurately described as dress armor with accents and designs that brought to mind the image of a knight. With her nearly golden-blonde hair, green eyes and skin that put the models in beauty cream ads to shame, she looked like someone who had walked out of a fairy tale.
So what was a person like that doing near a real-life background character like me, and why were we in some random forest to begin with? I tried desperately to recall how I had gotten into this position, but my mind was drawing a total blank. In fact, there seemed to be something wrong with my memory because I couldn't seem to recall anything that had happened to me recently. Instinctual memories of simple things like my name, age, and details about my family were still intact, but it was almost like there was a mental block preventing me from remembering anything after I had come home from school around a week ago. Retrograde amnesia perhaps? Or something more sinister? Either way, there was a chance that the girl kneeling next to me had some sort of clue as to what had happened.
"Um... yeah." I said lamely, my already poor social skills taking a dive as I struggled with my internal turmoil. Wait a second, what had she called me earlier? "And you are...?"
"Allow me to formally introduce myself." She said, standing and offering a hand which I gratefully accepted, allowing her to pull me to my feet with a surprising amount of strength. "I am Servant Saber, True Name Arturia Pendragon. I have come in response to your call, Master."
What. The. Fuck?
Fear began to course through my veins. Had I gone insane? No, had I been kidnapped? Was this girl next to me another person who'd been similarly abducted and been tortured to the point where she'd convinced herself she was some kind of genderbent King Arthur in order to cope with what she'd experienced? Or was I in some kind of Hunger Games style battle royale where I'd have to fight against other people and their 'Servants' while a bunch of rich people in animal masks watched on for their own entertainment? Honestly, I really hoped that the second was true despite my own sensibilities since I would feel better if this girl was some kind of specially trained maid as opposed to someone who'd been mentally broken to the point where they permanently turned to fantasy as an escape.
At this point, my heartbeat was so loud that it was nearly drowning out my own frenzied thoughts. As much as I hate to admit it, I was an ordinary person in pretty much all aspects of life; therefore, I was deathly afraid of things that would harm or kill ordinary people. Some called it cowardice, but I just called it common sense. Only those who didn't see the value of their own lives, those who were satisfied with the lives they'd lived, those who were absolutely confident in their strength and chance of survival or those who were just absolutely insane would just throw themselves at something dangerous and life-threatening without a second thought. I was none of these things, and therefore was rightfully terrified to be waking up in a foreign location outside my scope of recognition with a teenage girl my age pretending to be King Arthur.
The only thing I could feel in this moment other than panic was dismay; how could something like this happen to me? I lived life about as safe as one possibly could in this day and age. I didn't talk to strangers even on social media, didn't stray from my guardians, and most certainly never set foot outside after dark without my parents. I was always polite to everyone I met, and no one I knew actually held a grudge against me enough to bother doing more than giving me a shove when we passed each other in the hallways. In theory, I was the last person to be kidnapped for something like this. But in practice… Well, here I was.
'What do I do? What do I do!' I was practically paralyzed by fear; fear for my own life as well as fear of the unknown. But thankfully, I retained enough sense of mind even in my increasingly downward spiral of panic to know that hyperventilating on the spot wasn't going to solve my problems. I needed to find out more about where I was and what was going on before coming up with a way to escape. Regrettably, however, my only source of information was a possibly delusional cosplayer so I couldn't even be sure that anything she told me was actually true. With the way she had dressed and the manner in which she had spoken, I wouldn't have been surprised if she told me that I'd somehow been transported to Medieval Britain.
'Still, I have to try and get something out of her!' I opened my eyes, which I'd shut reflexively due to my panic, trying to think of a way to properly and productively interrogate Arturia when I noticed that at some point during my little episode, time seemed to have come to a halt. Everything around me had completely stopped moving, their colors faded out like an old picture. Even Arturia had frozen in place, not even taking a single breath. I cautiously waved my hand in front of her face, but got no reaction, not even a shift of her pupils.
The panic that I'd manage to swallow down swiftly made its reappearance at this new unexpected and unwanted development. It made me question everything I'd thought of up to this point. Maybe I was the insane one here, because there was no way this was actually happening; things like time manipulation were only within the realm of fiction, not reality. At this rate, a certain blond vampire would show up next and tell me that he'd been real all along. The thought was enough to get a reflexive, nearly hollow chuckle out of me that didn't match my dead-eyed gaze. It was a surefire sign of how rattled I was by this whole experience. Things were just moving too fast, and I was struggling to keep up with it. If it was just a kidnapping, there was at least some hope that I'd be able to escape; hope that had been dashed when the real-life version of 'Za Warudo' had been brought into the picture. If my kidnappers were freaking magicians, then I had zero chance of escaping without obeying their whims. It was an instant Game-Over.
Perhaps ironically, that was when the Window appeared in front of my face with what could only be described as the Minecraft EXP jingle, causing me to reflexively jerk back in surprise, falling onto the grass with a thud. The pop-up was essentially a pane of light, colored a rather nauseating pastel pink with cutesy cursive writing engraved on it. With a small laugh that sounded more hysterical than I was comfortable with, I began to read the rather literally romanticized text on the Window, which was only three tiny sentences.
[Congratulations! You have become 'The Protagonist'! Let's start raising Flags!]
There was a moment where both my mind and body just stalled like an engine, re-reading the text in a daze. Then almost immediately, I nearly exploded with laughter a touch more hysterical than I was comfortable with, practically doubling over on the spot. The relief I felt was palpable, but I still couldn't help but marvel at how downright stupid I'd been.
All this time, I'd been sinking deeper and deeper into a mire of terror as I tried to rationalize what was happening to me without even once thinking about what had happened to be the true answer all along; I was just dreaming. The Gamer-esque Windows popping up in my vision had been the final nail in the coffin. Of course, just to affirm everything, I poked my arm with enough force to at the very least cause pain, only to feel nothing more than the dull sensation of being touched. Of course. I'd just been overthinking it like I usually did, when there had never even been any danger in the first place.
'Can't believe this was all a dream and I didn't realize it…' It was definitely an odd one, I had to admit, but considering that I once dreamed of being sacrificed to a Native American Pineapple God by rat-headed kindergarteners, it wasn't quite the strangest one on my roster. It just had the highest… quality, in a manner of speaking, compared to any dream I'd had in the past. Normally, dreams were pretty hazy and one would at least be dimly aware that something wasn't right, but this one was surprisingly realistic appearance-wise even if it was somewhat off the rails in terms of events.
I was actually kind of amazed that my brain was able to cook up a dream this vivid, now that I was over the panic of possibly being kidnapped and becoming a background character in the next season of 'Squid Game'. Hell, even the Gamer set up actually looked about as legit as it ever could've been, which I suppose made sense since dreams were constructed based on our imaginations and memories. I played a ton of videogames and read the original 'The Gamer' Manhwa, not to mention a full library's worth of Gamer fanfics from a ton of different franchises. However, something seemed to be slightly off about this 'System' compared to the knowledge in whatever memories I could access. Especially the way it was presented and the mention of 'Flags', which was unlike any 'The Gamer' spin-off I'd ever heard of… But I digress. I didn't need to think so hard about it when it was all a dream. Obviously, there were going to be a few discrepancies but that didn't really mean I had to waste my time agonizing about it when I was probably going to forget all this like a couple minutes after I woke up.
Shaking my head, I turned my attention back towards the Window, which had actually shifted into another set of words during my period of distraction.
[Welcome to the Tutorial! To begin, please allot your Stat Points!]
Stat Points, huh?
"Well then, lay it on me."
[Stats: (12 points remaining)
… I actually hadn't expected that to work, but almost in response to my words and thoughts, the new Window disappeared and was replaced with a smaller one that looked like a Character Creation Screen. The Stats were listed on the left with small bars next to them, which were all currently empty, and the number 0 at the ends of each bar. On the right were pictures clearly referring to each one of them individually, not unlike the way it was in 'Fallout', with what looked like a chibi version of me doing various things.
Aura was denoted by Chibi Ritsuka speaking at a podium with a glowing... aura, Charm was denoted by Chibi Ritsuka smiling with sparkles all over him, Wisdom was denoted by Chibi Ritsuka seemingly reaching enlightenment through meditation, and Luck was denoted by Chibi Ritsuka... riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a shark tank while juggling three flaming bowling pins. I couldn't help but snicker at that, because there was something about seeing a caricature of me doing such a ridiculous thing that really got to me. When I was a kid, I used to look for those political cartoons that sometimes showed up in newspapers just for a good laugh, and this kind of reminded me of that.
But on the topic of the Stats...
Apart from Luck, none of the attributes that appeared on the screen looked like the ones you'd see in a Standard RPG. Rather, they seemed more like the Social Stats in Persona or a...
"Ha! So that's how it is!" When I woke up, I actually needed to write this down because I don't think I've ever read an actual story centered around someone who had a Gamer ability revolving around Dating Sims and Eroge as opposed to the more traditional and widely used RPG format.
It was admittedly something of a guilty pleasure of mine, but ever since I entered the more hormonal period of my life, which I was getting close to the peak of at the age of 15, the Dating Sim genre had been added to the list of games I would frequent and look forward to the release of. In secret, of course. It was too embarrassing for me to actually admit it to someone, especially my parents. I'm still unsure if it was something to actually be ashamed of, considering I never let it affect what little interaction I had with girls in real life, but I wasn't going to take the chance. I doubt my gaming preferences would ever be relevant for something actually important in my life.
Anyhow, I was something of an expert when it came to Dating Sims and Eroge, especially those within the sub-genre that actually told a story, usually a fantasy tale or sci-fi story that wouldn't seem out of place with an anime adaptation. These games usually had combat elements and tactical gameplay that made them closer to the more widely popular gacha games, which was what partially alleviated my embarrassment towards being a fan of those types of games ("I played it for the plot" was an excellent excuse sometimes). As such, I was well aware of how these 'Stats' worked in general.
Aura, the ability to catch someone's attention with your bearing and words as well as increasing their impact. In terms of game mechanics, what this actually did was provide a buff to success rate of recruiting Heroines to join your cause and increased the chance of them listening to Commands that they didn't like as well as removing the Affection penalty for such an action. Charm, exactly as it sounded, no need for explanation. This Stat increased the flat Affection a Heroine had when you recruited them, increased the rate of Affection gain for all your actions, and provided a small Stat Buff. Wisdom, the ability to recognize how the other party was feeling and pick your words carefully for maximum effect. In-game, this was a Stat that affected the information you could perceive about a Hero; depending on the amount of Points invested, it let you not only find out almost their entire backstory but could even tell you their likes and dislikes as well as their mood. Useful for making the right choices during interactions with a character. And finally Luck, the gift of fortune. The gateway to unlocking tons of hidden events and secret interactions. And Critical Hits. Can't forget the Crits.
Moving on, as for how I wanted to distribute them...
[Stats: (0 Points Remaining)
This was probably the most effective distribution I could come up with, calling upon my longtime experience playing these kinds of games. Aura and Wisdom were worthless in the early Levels of Dating Sims since the Heroines at that point didn't possess any complicated likes or dislikes, had nearly guaranteed recruitment rates and the battles didn't require any complex maneuvers. On the flip side, Charm and Luck were the Stats to go for early on. Charm helped you rack up Affection Bonuses quickly, which in turn made some difficult Boss Fights easier, while Luck opened all sorts of opportunities since some bonus stages were tied to how much of the Stat that you had. Of course, though I wanted to increase my Charm and Luck as much as I could early on, I knew better than to overtly Min-Max my Build. Having zero points in Aura and Wisdom could really punish you even if they weren't that important in the beginning of the Game. Now, I really doubted that I would sleep long enough for my dream to actually continue past what was apparently the Tutorial Stage, but I couldn't help but let my inner munchkin out to play during situations like these.
[Confirm Stat Point Allocation?]
"Yes." I replied, confident in my choices.
As probably the foremost authority on, err, combat-oriented Dating Sims, something I felt an equal mix of pride and shame about, I knew my Build was about as optimal as it came.
[Applying Stat Points…]
A strange feeling passed over me, not unlike lotion being rubbed on my skin, but the sensation was so fleeting that it wasn't difficult to just dismiss it as nothing special. Instead, I tried to remember what came next in these kinds of Tutorials...
Oh right, the Dialogue Section.
[Dialogue Choices: Some interactions with Heroines will force The Protagonist to choose between different Dialogue Options in order to progress. Each Option has its own effect, be it positive or negative, on your Bond with a Heroine so use your wits and Wisdom to make the correct choices and earn their Affection! But be wary, for in certain instances, making the wrong choice may just close off a Route... permanently.]
Just below that ominous statement was Arturia's introductory statement, enclosed in a speech bubble. Three choices were presented to me, each one a different line of dialogue.
[A - Are you perhaps a mentally challenged cosplayer or something? Please stay at least six feet away from me.]
[B - I'm sorry, you're not making any sense. Can you please explain what's going on?]
[C - Oh, I see. Well, my name's Ritsuka Fujimaru. I know I'm a little new to this, but I'll do my best to support you as your Master.]
Well, I could proudly state that I knew for sure which dialogue I was not going to choose. They seemed to be rather generic for a Tutorial of this type, so it didn't take long for me to decide which option to pick. Besides, if there was one lesson that my parents had drilled into me, it was that showing your ignorance in front of others was a mistake nine out of ten times and that it was in my best interest to always remain composed in front of others (even if I usually botched that part when I got really scared). With that in mind, I tapped the panel for Option C. Time unfroze, the colors returning back to the World around me, but to my surprise I couldn't control my body. There was no definite way of describing it, but it was akin to sitting shotgun while someone else was in the driver's seat of a car. Except, you know, the car was my body.
"Oh, I see. Well, my name's Ritsuka Fujimaru." I said, my lips moving without my consent as I flashed an uncharacteristically bright smile towards Arturia that honestly made me want to go hide in a hole from embarrassment. "I know I'm a little new to this, but I'll do my best to support you as your Master."
Honestly, I would've probably said something similar even if I was in control, but it happened to be more than a little disconcerting to witness my body acting of its own accord, like watching a cringe video of myself. I barely managed to imperceptibly reorient myself after regaining control of my body when Arturia flashed a small smile at me in turn. "There's no need to be nervous, Master. As your sword, I shall bring you victory no matter the difficulties we may face."
Time froze once again, and I was rewarded with a new Window appearing in front of my face.
[Arturia Pendragon's Bond has reached Level 1! Arturia Route has been Unlocked! For successfully Unlocking your first Route, you have been awarded a Quest!]
Just as expected. Bond Levels were a staple of Dating Sims, after all. They usually went from one to ten, and sometimes gave cool rewards that came in handy. Of course, being the first Bond Level of the Tutorial Heroine, I wasn't exactly about to get a fucking replica of [Excalibur] or anything; the good stuff usually came at later Levels. I flicked the Message to the side and pulled up the details of the Quest I'd received.
[Tutorial Quest: "To Be A Master"
Description: You have awakened in a strange clearing, with memories frayed and a mysterious power that seems familiar yet foreign at the same time. A powerful enemy approaches with the intent of taking your life, and will stop at nothing to do so. Fortunately, a warrior calling herself your Servant is by your side, and perhaps with her help you might just be able to survive.
Main Objective: Defeat the Boss.
Secret Objectives: ?
Reward: Tutorial Progression.
Secret Rewards: ?
Failure Penalty: Tutorial Lock.
This Quest cannot be Declined.]
'Familiar yet foreign' was certainly an accurate description, but I just chalked it up to the fact that dreams had a way of twisting the reality that they were based on. Not that I really cared. I could leave the overanalyzing to the me of the waking world; right now, I was just going to have as much fun as I could before this dream inevitably ended. A timer appeared in my vision, counting down from five minutes; presumably, indicating the amount of time left before the 'Boss' showed up for its scheduled fight. Nearly giddy with excitement, I turned towards my companion as soon as time unfroze.
"A powerful enemy is approaching soon, and it's our job to deal with it. I can't really fight, so I'll be depending on you to deal with this adversary." Okay, so full disclosure; I was totally ripping off the dialogues from the game.
It may have been a dream, but that didn't mean I magically knew how to talk to the most attractive girl I'd ever met in my life without tripping over myself every time I opened my mouth. Thankfully, she didn't seem to think anything was weird about the wooden-ass dialogue I'd just spewed, and just nodded.
"It will be done, Master." The Hero replied, and I couldn't help but feel like she was giving off an aura of sheer reliability.
Didn't know how or why, but I knew at that very moment that if I asked her to do something, she would do her level best to achieve it and would emerge victorious in the end. Was this how civilians in comic books felt like when Superman came to rescue them? Not gonna lie, I had to hand it to my imagination; this gender-bent version of King Arthur really seemed like the kind of knight in shining armor you'd want to save you when you were in trouble. But that aside, there was one thing I needed to ask before we inevitably got thrust into mortal combat.
"So... Um, what exactly are your abilities? S-someone I looked up to once told me that a good commander needs to know the capabilities of their forces, so I'd appreciate it if you can tell me some more about your… skill set." I asked awkwardly, doing my best to meet her eyes and fighting off the sudden surge of melancholy that appeared when I remembered the very person I'd just referenced.
"They were sad and painful things, but when I look back they become trivial and insignificant. And it's not a lonely life either. After all, I am talking to you."
'Old man Nakamura…' Even within the confines of a dream and with my memories on the fritz, I couldn't help but remember possibly the only person I'd ever looked up to outside of my own parents and the heroes of old tales.
"They were wise to tell you that." Said Arturia, cutting through my silent remembrance, her expression one of approval. "I too made sure to carefully gauge the skills my loyal Knights possessed before entering into major battles. Now listen closely, so you can understand what it means to have the King of Knights as your Servant."
I pushed my feelings to the side and smiled, immersing myself in this dream once more. Because that sounded promising.
Even though we technically knew it was coming, the Boss totally took us both by surprise. Probably because it fucking materialized out of thin air a couple meters above our heads. We'd been keeping an eye on our surroundings, especially as the clock counted down to a dangerously low amount of time, but hadn't seen anything. I should've probably realized what was going to happen at that point, but in my defense it was a dream and my brain wasn't operating at full capacity. Fortunately, Arturia had significantly better reflexes than I did, and was able to react in time to the sudden threat. As soon as the shadow appeared above our heads, her vibrant green eyes flicked upwards immediately before she grabbed me with a single arm and kicked off the ground, taking us back a couple meters in the span of a second.
That action had single-handedly saved me from becoming a pancake, because the Boss was none other than a stereotypical Golem the size of a dump truck. It was composed of jagged black rocks, and had an eerily skull-like face with glowing eyes and teeth bared proudly due to its lack of lips. Unlike some interpretations of golems, the Boss wasn't a quadruped that put its weight on massive front feet but was rather more humanoid in nature with two arms and legs. In short, it looked like something out of a nightmare version of 'Real Steel'. The ground had cracked beneath its feet from the weight, and the stone colossus looked faintly disappointed that it hadn't managed to get us with its surprise deployment. On my end, I gasped for breath as Arturia gently set me down. The sudden acceleration had knocked the wind out of me, and I took a moment to compose myself again, ignoring my wildly beating heart.
"Thanks." Seriously, this may have been a dream, but the deer-in-the-headlights feeling that had overtaken me when the golem had spawned directly above my head felt all too real.
I probably would've woken up or something if I had been squashed, but that wasn't an experience I wanted to go through even in the depths of my own imagination, which is why the single word I uttered was surprisingly genuine by conventional standards. My literal knight in shining armor coughed into her fist, her cheeks tinting slightly in embarrassment.
"Your gratitude is misplaced, Master. I am merely doing my duty as your Servant."
[Your Affection with Arturia Pendragon has increased!]
I blinked. Maybe it made sense because this wasn't exactly in the format of an actual Dating Sim, but I honestly didn't think it was possible to gain Affection points through... er, normal interactions that weren't assisted by Dialogues. Of course, I didn't get to think about it for too long because I was in fact standing on a battlefield, not having a picnic. Arturia too turned towards our adversary, a sword made out of pure wind manifesting in her armored hands, and took a stance as the golem let out a guttural noise and clenched its rocky fists.
"Awaiting your orders, Master." Once again, three choices were presented to me as time froze everyone but me in place.
Of course, in a manner befitting a Tutorial, the Dialogue options given to me weren't that difficult to sort through this time around either.
[A - I'll be depending on your strength, Saber! Take it down!]
[B - Let's take him on together!]
[C - We should surrender. There's no way we can win against an enemy like that!]
I just want to put it out there; anyone who chose Option C genuinely thinking it was the right one had to be mentally challenged. That was all that needed to be said in regards to that choice. A and B were a little harder to choose between, but in the end I selected the former because I knew that there was no possible timeline in which I'd be able to help Arturia in any meaningful way against the Boss and I was in no uncertain terms just going to leave it to her completely. Pressing the button caused reality to resume, and once again I found that my body had been removed from my own control.
"I'll be depending on your strength, Saber! Take it down!"
"As you command, Master!" She replied resolutely, taking a firm stance and holding her sword at the ready as the Boss began to run in our direction. "I will not betray the trust you've placed in me!"
[Arturia Pendragon's Bond has reached Level 2! Scan Function has been unlocked!]
Before I could even wonder about what that could mean, my attention was stolen by the sound created when Arturia's sword collided with the golem's outstretched fist. It seemed like while I'd been distracted, she'd intercepted her opponent mid-charge and stopped his momentum with her swing. Neither of them had taken any damage, but I could at least tell from this confrontation that in a battle of pure physical strength, the two of them were closer than what one might assume at first glance. Fortunately, Arturia had more than just muscles in her arsenal, but I couldn't be sure that the Boss didn't have a similar trick up its sleeve. I'd never been in a real fight before, but I played enough video games and read enough light novels to know that sometimes, the difference between victory and defeat depended all on the timing. Using an ability too early or too late could mean your opponent gets an edge that could spell the end.
Therefore, in this battle I needed to activate her abilities in the right sequence in order to gain the highest chance of victory. Perhaps I was a little too invested in this, but I don't think I've ever felt this kind of excitement before. It was like watching, no, being part of a fight straight out of an anime without any of the chronic danger that came with the territory since it was just a dream, even if it was proving to be more elaborate and lengthy than any dream I've ever had before. To me, an average schoolboy who lived an average life... It was nothing short of awesome. Hell, it took everything I had not to fanboy over Arturia's wind sword, which was definitely in the top ten list of the coolest things I'd ever seen. Cool swords aside, that was why I wanted to play my part to perfection; it almost seemed like an obligation at this point since I didn't exactly have anything else to do. So that's why I kept my eyes peeled, and it didn't take me long to realize the Boss's critical weakness. Neither of them had been able to land a solid hit on the other, due to Arturia's sword not being able to slice through the golem's body while it was conversely too stupid to find a way to outmaneuver her, but there had been some nearly obvious cues that I managed to pick up on.
Mainly, the fact that the Boss prioritized protecting its chest over everything else. Whenever my trusty knight's blade so much as moved an inch towards its torso, the golem immediately hardened itself with a slight glow and would block the strike with its arms. Despite the fact that her strength was enough to create shockwaves and gusts of wind unrelated to her weapon every time she struck, Arturia wasn't able to penetrate the makeshift defensive wall her opponent was throwing up as despite its relative lack of intelligence, the golem was fast enough to react to her strikes and protect itself. But that wouldn't be a problem for long, not if my suspicion was right. After all, didn't golems have cores? Their one weakness in most forms of popular media?
"Arturia, aim for the chest with a stab and release Invisible Air at the exact time it blocks you!" She didn't respond, but nodded in my direction and did exactly what I commanded. The next time she clashed with the golem, the swirling wind of her weapon exploded.
When she'd told me her sword wasn't actually a blade of wind, but actually a sword sheathed in a layer of wind that could be blasted out like an attack, this was the first idea that came to mind; an attack that could break one's guard by literally blowing compressed air point-blank into an enemy. And in execution, it was nothing short of glorious. Hell, I was standing several meters away from them and I was nearly knocked over when a literal typhoon erupted from the point of impact, sending the golem flying while its arms practically disintegrated from taking the brunt of the assault head-on. That sequence of events spelled the end of the fight. With the application of what I assumed was her [Mana Burst], Arturia dashed forwards at an incredible speed and intercepted the golem's torso before it could land on the ground, stabbing into it with a powerful thrust from her now naked blade.
A fatal blow. The Boss froze, and if it had a health bar, I'm sure it would've dropped to zero. Its eyes dimming, the golem disintegrated in a few seconds, leaving nothing but a pile of pebbles behind. As combat had ended, Arturia dismissed her sword back to wherever it had come from, which was an honest shame because I'd wanted to see what kind of image my mind would cook up for the legendary [Excalibur] itself. But I wasn't a greedy person by nature, which is why the thought left my mind as soon as it came; this had been the best dream I'd ever had, and I was quite satisfied with everything I'd experienced. The victor of the battle turned to me, looking quite satisfied with herself.
"The battle is over, Master. We have emerged victorious." With those words, she dispersed into particles of golden light and faded away, signifying the end of this phase of the Tutorial. A shame, really, considering I'd really wanted to compliment her for showing me what was probably the most epic thing I've ever seen even if the actual fight had been less than a minute.
As she did so, my vision abruptly faded into darkness as I presumably began to awaken, everything around me disappearing except for a single pink text box floating in front of me.
[Congratulations! Tutorial Quest: "To Be A Master" has been completed! Please check your Quest Rewards in the Inventory after reading the Report!]
Main Objective: Defeat the Boss. - Completed!
1) Gain Affection with Arturia Pendragon without requiring the use of Dialogues. - Completed!
2) Defeat the Boss without having Arturia take any damage. - Completed!
Reward: Tutorial Progression.
Secret Rewards: Instinct Skill, Avalon Cookie.]
'...So that's it, huh?' I couldn't help but read the Message with a hint of melancholy, yet there was a smile on my face when I swiped it away. My stint as an actual Gamer, albeit a bootleg Dating Sim one, had been really fun; way more than any actual game I'd ever played before. However, it was time to wake up to reality. I doubted I'd ever have another dream like this again, so I'd simply treasure this experience and move on. Which was why…
"Huh?" I was surprised when I didn't wake up on my comfy poster bed with my penguin-patterned blanket wrapped around me like a cocoon.
Instead, I was sitting in some kind of chair with a visor of some kind, akin to a slimmer VR headset. A soft, electronic voice rang in my ears, reminding me of the announcements from my school's PA system albeit lower in volume.
"Master Training Program Complete. Score for Master Candidate Ritsuka Fujimaru: 100%. Score has been added to Chaldea Archives. Please remove the headset safely and have a nice day."
Master Training Program? What in the…
"Gah!" I winced, headset held in one hand while the other was pressed against my temple.
Suddenly, the memories I had been unable to recall flooded my head.
The flier in the subway.
The interview and medical tests.
The Recruiter who'd visited my house and offered me a seven figure salary.
The immediate packing and departure to my new workplace, situated in an unknown arctic location.
The Simulator I'd been instructed to use in order to familiarize myself with the work I was supposed to do in the future.
All these and more returned to my headspace, and I realized that my supposed 'dream' had been nothing of the sort; it was actually a training exercise conducted in a Simulation. But the things I'd experienced there… What was the point of it? What kind of job required training that seemed like something straight out of a videogame? I put the headset down and stood up, wincing as my vision swam.
Answers. I needed to find someone and convince them to let me know what on Earth was going on here, because I was so confused I didn't even know how to put it into words. Fighting off the drowsiness, I stumbled my way towards the visible exit in the corner of the room, the automatic doors opening as I drew close. I was grateful for the fact that I didn't have to fiddle with anything, but it was ultimately meaningless because I only made it two feet past the door before my consciousness gave out.
Leonardo Da Vinci, resident genius and the only active Heroic Spirit summoned by the Organization for the Preservation of Human Order, Finis Chaldea, thus far, was buried up to her neck in reports and diagnostics. Well virtually, anyways, since almost everything in the base was digitized, though by no means did that imply that their bulk was in any way lower. Understandable, considering the First Order would be launched in a couple of hours and she was the most qualified person in Chaldea to be running the show on the technical side of things, but still a pain in the ass. The worst part was that this sort of thing was basically anathema to her. By nature, she was a whimsical inventor who worked on whatever caught her fancy at a given moment. That had been the same back when she, then he, had been alive and only became stronger after incarnating as a Heroic Spirit. Honestly, it was only due to how important this whole operation was that she stayed her tongue and stilled her hands, ignoring her own compulsive urges to work on another project because she knew nothing was going to go horrifically wrong.
… Well, there was a small margin of error, but that was close to negligible anyways. However it had been a firm order from the Director, who had become even more of a hardass as of late due to the looming specter of the operation, that she focus on nothing but making sure all the devices necessary for the First Order such as CHALDEAS, SHEBA and so on were running at peak operational capacity. Da Vinci let out a sigh that sounded more like a grumble as she sifted through yet another diagnostic report that told her everything was working as well as it possibly could. Well, except the FATE system, which was still little more than junk no matter how much she had tried to patch it up, but Marisbury seemed to have already planned for that prior to his death so the Heroic Spirit ultimately decided that she would throw her lot in with whatever backup the late Director had in mind. Bottom line? She was craving stimulation, because looking at the same reports over and over again was mind-numbingly boring to a point where it nearly made her want to tear out her immaculate hair.
Hopefully, if the First Order went off without too many hitches, she could relax and work on her personal projects for a while. Since her summoning she had mostly been working on devices meant to help Chaldea's operations in preparation for this event, something she'd done without complaint because of how important it was because whimsical or not, she had answered the call in the first place to help the Human Order. Most of her workload dealt with the preparations anyways, since combat wasn't really a specialty of hers, so her schedule would be lightened immensely once the ball got rolling.
'Just a couple of hours left...' Then she could finally work on making her own superior version of one of modern Humanity's greatest creations, the Roomba, the friend to all shut-ins who dedicated one hundred percent of their concentration towards a single thing.
It was when she had idly begun to go over her designs and possible magical enhancements in her head once more that the tablet beneath her dexterous fingers beeped once, indicative of an alert. Mildly curious, she swiped away from the diagnostic report that had been pulled up and noticed that the message had come from the automated system embedded in the Simulator's Master Training Program. And for the first time in a while, she found herself mildly surprised. Someone had actually gotten a perfect score on the program she had cobbled together at Olga's behest, and to make things even better, it wasn't Kirschtaria Wodime. Da Vinci pulled up the file on the Master Candidate in question, mildly curious as to who was using the Simulator mere hours before the Grand Order operation began in earnest.
"Ritsuka Fujimaru... oh, I see!" His file had little information, but the Servant couldn't help but roll her eyes at the word 'Civilian' slapped across the top of it, which basically was a poorly disguised code for the fact that he wasn't from the Moonlit World and thus was basically Chaldea's equivalent of a Second-Class Citizen.
Honestly, it was a stupid system in all senses, but she supposed the Magi around the base needed to feel superior somehow. At least it wasn't as bad as some of the records she had pulled regarding Seraphix, though that was probably because both Wodime and Olga expressly didn't approve of it even if they couldn't outright forbid it thanks to politics. What was really surprising about Fujimaru's file is that it had actually been highlighted by the Animusphere heiress herself. Highlighted as a 'High Value Asset', a designation that hadn't been given to any other 'Civilian' in the entirety of the organization. The reason for this was readily apparent. Considering that he was an ordinary teenager with no magical background whatsoever, his recorded Master Affinity and Rayshift Affinity were absolutely insane; enough to have made his Recruiter prioritize seeking him out over every other potential Master Candidate vying for the ten slots that were left for public recruitment thanks to their deal with the United Nations, despite his age being undesirably young.
In fact, his Master Affinity was the highest ever recorded, outstripping even the likes of Wodime, who had previously held that record. If she had to guess, the only reason he hadn't been immediately slapped onto Team A despite having no magical knowledge was the fact that he'd only been discovered the day before, and there wasn't enough time before the Grand Order to facilitate the transfer, especially with Team A's rather... eccentric set of personalities. That aside, what were the odds that the highest rated Master Candidate had also scored the highest in the Training Simulation? Wodime's eighty-five percent was nothing in comparison to Fujimaru's one hundred percent, especially considering this was the latter's very first Simulation, meaning he wasn't even fully lucid thanks to the side-effects of using the tech for the first time. The Simulation itself was rather simple, almost ridiculously so; the Master Candidate would be paired up with one of the three admittedly incomplete Spirit Origins they had recorded in the archives, spoils of the former Director's Grail War, and made to conduct a simple combat exercise against a random enemy.
Scoring was stricter, and the area where most people fell short was Servant Compatibility; that is, the favorability score they had with their Simulated Servant. While they were by no means sentient, closer to tricked out Virtual Intelligences instead, a good part of their programming was in responding to their Master's orders and applying favorability scores based on their actions, words and performance. Da Vinci had honestly added this parameter as a joke, but it was downright astonishing to see how poorly every Master Candidate scored in that department. The only people other than Wodime to even get a remotely high Servant Compatibility Rank were the other nine public Master Candidates. Every single Magus bar Kirschtaria was unable to cross the fifty percent mark for Servant Compatibility. Hell, Beryl Gut somehow got a negative Servant Compatibility score, and Da Vinci was pretty sure she'd never even coded negative grading into the program.
And yet this boy, the youngest of all the Master Candidates by a fair margin, had aced it on his first try. Well, it looked like her unspoken wish for stimulation had been answered; falling straight into her lap, no less. The genius couldn't help but display a beautiful smile that would've set off all the alarm bells in the mind of any sane individual. While she might get scolded by Olga for it later, Da Vinci decided that she would very much like to meet this diamond in the rough. Standing up from her seat and stretching even though she knew she didn't really have to as a Servant, the most famous mind of the Renaissance pulled up the security feed on her tablet before blinking in surprise.
"Now isn't that a surprise?" She muttered, the interest in her eyes gleaming as she noticed a certain someone walking towards the Master Candidate's downed body, a concerned look on her face.
This person was possibly the most affable yet conversely the most difficult to truly connect with in all of Chaldea, something that was really no fault of her own but rather a consequence of her nature. Da Vinci was all too eager to see what fruit this interaction would bear. While she doubted gaining anything truly substantial, perhaps she could get a preview of what kind of person Ritsuka Fujimaru was.
"Fou? Kyuu... Kyuu?" It was that sound, almost like the cry of a small animal, that roused me from my impromptu nap. "Fou! Fou... Fou!"
I groaned and shifted as I felt something lick my cheek, reminding me of my neighbor's dog when it was still just a puppy. Of course, since I wasn't completely tripped out thanks to the Simulator anymore, it took me only a split second to realize that I was on the floor and that what was licking me was probably an actual dog that belonged to one of my new colleagues. I opened my eyes a fraction, only to come face-to-face with something that was unlike any animal I'd ever seen in my entire life. It was small, white and appeared to look like some cross between a squirrel and a puppy. Well, whatever it was, the critter was the cutest animal I'd ever seen. I was kind of worried it might be poisonous or something because I didn't know what species it belonged to, but I prayed that Chaldea wasn't callous enough to let a venomous animal loose on the premises.
"...Um. Since it's neither morning or night, please wake up, Sempai." Said a quiet voice, snapping me out of my impromptu staring contest with the little beast.
The speaker was a nervous-looking lilac-haired girl with lavender eyes who was wearing what looked like a school uniform with a gray hoodie over it, seemingly near my age in terms of appearance. When she noticed my gaze shift to her, she blushed and adjusted her glasses shyly.
Was I looking at a model or something? She seemed almost as strangely attractive as Arturia was back in the Simulation, something I still needed to ask about. She was certainly pretty enough to far outstrip basically every girl I'd ever met in my life.
'Wait a second. She's probably an employee here too!' I nearly jolted upright as the thought passed through my mind and scrambled my hormones, standing up near-instantly.
"Uh, s-sorry about that. My name's Ritsuka Fujimaru. You would be...?"
"That's a hard question to answer suddenly." The cute girl said, which… didn't really make any sense. Was everything about today going to be confusing as hell? "Maybe I'm not important enough for you to know my name?"
I... How was someone even supposed to respond to something like that? No, the better question was; what kind of person would even say something like that in a normal conversation to someone they'd just met? Maybe she was just as socially awkward as I was, but this was something kind of crazy even by my own low standards.
Before I could even begin to formulate a response to that obviously loaded statement, my eyes snapped wide open when I heard a familiar sound as the World froze around me and got coated with an easily recognizable gray hue. I wasn't ashamed to say that my jaw dropped in shock when I saw the familiar speech bubble and options floating in my vision like it was nothing out of the ordinary.
A - [I see. Please get out of my way then. I need to find the person in charge.]
B - [You're the most beautiful girl I've ever met! Why wouldn't you be important enough for me to know your name?! Please forgive this ignorant peasant!]
C - [Well, you're the first person I've met at Chaldea, so I'd say that's important enough for me!]
"No fucking way."
Slowly, my hand went up to my cheek and I pinched down as hard as I could. I felt the pain, but there was no change. Time was still frozen around me and the stylized text obscuring my vision didn't fade. It was probably at that exact moment that I realized my almost painfully normal life had completely gone off the rails in a manner I could've never foreseen.
Because somehow, I had become a real-life Dating Sim Protagonist.
And that's a wrap!
So how was the chapter? Sure, it's not much in the grand scheme of things because it was only the first chapter of a Gamer story, which usually doesn't have much of note besides introducing the System and the general setting, which holds true for this one as well.
Because of that, there also isn't really much to explain here but there are a few things I'd like to mention.
Firstly, Gudako is no longer in this story. She wasn't really much more than a gag character in the original, and since this draft has a more serious tone than that, I deemed her unnecessary. However, she isn't TOTALLY gone; in the future, she will be included in the Omakes because those are usually for comedic purposes.
Secondly, Ritsuka is ACTUALLY an ordinary person in this draft as opposed to a nigh-perfect human being with poor magical abilities. He will be scared, as shown in the beginning of the chapter, he will be a nerd and he will have flaws the overcome over the course of his journey. This was not only made to showcase the more serious tone of this draft but also because I want to stay as true to the original story as possible in this regard (character, I mean). To that end, the "Old Man Namakura" he references is the name I gave for the old war veteran that canon Ritsuka also knew (it's in the wiki, look it up).
Thirdly, I'd like to clarify that the Crypters will still be in this story like in the old draft, even if we're starting at around the time of canon instead of 2 weeks earlier like the old draft. Ritsuka at his best is when he's unprepared and has to face sudden danger head-on, and I'd like to preserve that. The Crypters (except Beryl because fuck him) will still be present like in the old draft, though slightly different than what I had originally intended. Not going to say more on that topic, because I only mentioned it to keep people from panicking that the Crypter bit is gone. His romance with Yu is also being rewritten, also because Eroge Order is back up.
Lastly, I've come up with new Rules when it comes to Heroines and such but I'll expand more on that in Chapter 2. For now, let's just celebrate the fact that I was actually able to complete the rewrite.
P.S. - The Simulator is something that was never really explained in canon, so I just made it a VR headset. They mention canonically that it was heavily upgraded after the Servants came to like it, so it can be changed into the more popular interpretation of it then. Also, for those of you who might not have gotten it, the Dating Sim System hijacked the Training Program in order to give Ritsuka his Tutorial, although nobody realized it because Time Stops when he gets Dialogues and big Messages.
That's all for today, because I'm totally beat. I sincerely hope you guys enjoy the chapter.
SpatialPhoenix here, burning to ashes.