Forgotten Japanese singers – Sario Kijima

Welcome to a new occasional feature I’ll be doing on this blog. I’ve been listening to old anime songs I used to like long ago, some of which I loved before and still enjoy now. Every once in a while I’ll glance at the singer/band’s name and wonder what they’re up to now. At first it was just idle curiosity and I didn’t take it any further than that, but eh, if I’m going to do all that rooting around, I might as well share my findings.

Today’s artist: Sario Kijima (貴島サリオ)

Notable anime song(s): In the Night / Watashi ga Soba ni Iru (私がそばにいる), opening and ending themes to Key the Metal Idol OVA respectively.

Sario Kijima was born Saori Inoshita on February 19, 1974 in Handa, Aichi Prefecture. She got her start in show business after being scouted at a talent show. She picked the stage name by rearranging her name Saori to get Sario and mixing characters from the names of popular sumo wrestler Takanohana (the character 貴) and his Fujishima stable (the character 島) to get Kijima.

She made her acting debut with a role in Fuji TV drama “Alphabet 2/3 (アルファベット2/3)” (someone should do a blog about forgotten Japanese dramas) in April 1992 and her singing debut with “Akiramenai de (あきらめないで)” which was used for an Alpen commercial. She released other songs that were used for commercials, events and anime songs while appearing in a total of 5 dramas.

In 1997 she left her agency Pony Canyon and set up her own agency called Dubois. She also changed her name to Sally K briefly before returning to her birth name Saori Inoshita in November of the same year. She changed her singing style to a breathier R & B style and released the “inside” album you see on the right.

After a series of live performances in Shibuya, she stopped performing in 1998 and hasn’t sung professionally since. At the end of her career, her highest position on the Oricon music charts was #46 with Together光の中で (Together Hikari no naka de) in March 1994.

As far as her personal life goes, the internetz tell me she was married to singer-songwriter Yoshimasa Inoue at one point – he produced her “inside” album – and Japanese wikipedia says she is currently married to a graphic designer named Basil Findlay.

I was hoping to dig up more about how Sario Kijima came to sing the Key the Metal Idol themes and what she thought/felt about them, but it seems like this is yet another one of those “powerful agency was able to get her a tie up” situations.

Her music videos are very cute to watch, but her voice is nothing special. I wish she would have tried more ballads like Watashi ga Soba ni Iru, where the slight breathiness of her voice is used to good effect. If you liked the Key the Metal Idol songs, you can try some of her other songs. I spent some time listening to her songs as “research” and liked:

Misty Blue – a very lively, 90s-anime kind of song
Catching My Dream – very generic idol song, wouldn’t feel out of place as an anime opening song
愛が愛であふれてる (Ai ga Ai de afureteru) – rather boring, but reminds me of the Key songs

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! Season 1 anime review

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, most sensibly abbreviated Konosuba is a light novel by Natsume Akatsuki that was adapted to two seasons of anime in 2016-2017. I only watched the first 10-episode season, which was 10 episodes too many and I’m not even sure why I stuck it out that long.

Summary (from Wiki): Following an untimely and embarrassing death, Kazuma Satō, a Japanese teenage shut-in NEET, meets a goddess named Aqua, who offers to reincarnate him in a parallel world with MMORPG elements. Despite being offered a godlike item or ability to use in this new world, Kazuma, following some provocation, chooses Aqua herself to accompany him to the town of Axel, quickly finding her absent-mindedness to be less than beneficial. With Aqua unable to return to the afterlife until the Devil King is defeated, the two form a party and recruit two other members; an explosion-obsessed magician named Megumin and a masochistic paladin named Darkness.

As I mentioned in my last post on Tsuujou Kougeki (I’m not typing the full title out, gimme a break), the trend these days is towards subversions and deconstructions of the “hero goes to another world” genre. In Konosuba the twist is minor – instead of Kazuma becoming overpowered like other heroes are implied to have done, he has to start from level one and work his way up normally. It’s just a minor setback really, because we all know in the long run he’s going to end up rich and powerful anyway. And besides, Aqua has a cheathax that prevents him from dying for real, so he’s essentially immortal. That’s overpowered in and of itself.

What I liked about Konosuba: The world of the game is very bright and colorful. The land is largely peaceful, the people are fairly friendly, the food looks delicious and in general it looks like a nice place to live.

I also like shows that deal with the practical “what are we going to eat and where are we going to sleep” issues of otherworldly life. It’s a big achievement for the team when they finally get upgraded from living in stables to living in a deserted mansion.

It’s interesting to see how a team with such wacky but powerful characters manages to gel and work together to defeat the powerful opponents they occasionally have to face.

What I disliked about Konosuba: The trashy fanservice and perverted unfunny humor. The goddess Aqua doesn’t wear underwear and prances around in a “dress” barely long enough to be called a short top. If you heard that and thought “Woo hoo!” this is the show for you. Otherwise it just gets annoying, not just Aqua but also other characters like Darkness and the succubi.

Darkness is especially annoying because she’s always writhing around thinking perverted things whether the situation calls for it or not. Usually not. And Kazuma uses his stealing skills to steal panties… Ranma 1/2 ended 20 years ago, dude.


There isn’t much progress made towards finding and beating the Demon Lord in season 1. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! is more a slice of perverted life show with occasional battles than an RPG-based action show. It’s a good watch if you find fanservice funny or interesting or enjoy constant innuendo. Fans might say “There’s more to the show than that!” but a week after finishing this show, only the slimy frogs, the battle against Verdia and the Destroyer and the fanservice scenes (succubi, Darkness’s wild imagination, Kazuma’s panty stealing) come to mind when I try to remember anything. This really isn’t my sort of things so I’ll pass on season two. Next!

Thoughts on Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka?

I’ve only read the free sample pages of Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka? provided by Fantasia Books and don’t intend to read any more, but that was enough to form a general opinion. The intention of the free sample is to help the reader decide if they want to read any further, after all, and 70 or so pages of a book is a pretty substantial freebie. This post will contain a few spoilers, so read chapter one and two if you haven’t already.

On to the meat. We all know other world/isekai light novels are all the rage these days. Every other LN features a hero ending up in another world somehow where he somehow becomes overpowered and a chick magnet and all the other otaku fantasy wish fulfillment tropes that the genre is so well-known for. Other world stories are so common these days that’s it’s hard for new books to make a dent – unless they either subvert or deconstruct the genre (getting increasingly common these days) or add some kind of spin or gimmick.

Enter Tsuujou Kougeki – Do You Like Moms Whose Normal Attacks Hit the Whole Enemy Party Twice? The twist here is that the main hero Masato does not go into the game world alone but is accompanied by his doting mom Mamako and it is Mamako, not Masato, who becomes the overpowered hero. It’s pretty funny how he gets so worked up and excited about being the Chosen One… then his mom just walks up and snags the two most powerful weapons in the game. Not only that, but the in-game guidebook suggests there might be other such overpowered mother-son pairs in the MMMMMORPG game. It would be interesting to meet them and see how things go.

So the unexpected swerve is an intriguing one, enough to get even a light novel avoider like me to read it. The problem is, it’s not quite what I expected. I should have smelled a rat when I saw the cutesy, fanservicey picture of Mamako on the cover. What I was expecting was a normal mom, late 30ish early 40ish soccer mom with the dignity and gravitas to match. Putting a regular, realistic everyday person into these kinds of situations is always much funnier and more interesting to me anyway.

Mamako is just annoying. Ditzy, clingy, manipulative, always ready to use tears to control her son if nothing will work. Doesn’t know jack about what’s going on, won’t share what little she does know, won’t listen to common sense advice but charges ahead without a thought in the world. Is this really a woman in her late 30s? How did she survive long enough to breed? The worst part is her fake crying to weasel her way into or out of situations. That’s just plain dirty. The excessive focus on her young appearance and on Masato’s brief moments of attraction to her are just pig-disgusting icing on a pig-disgusting cake.

Masato is no paragon of virtue either. He’s whiny and too cranky and rude towards his mother. I’m sure we can all remember times when we were a little sharper with our moms than we had meant to be, but to snap and snarl at her all chapter long is just… ick. And all that whining and crying just because his mom has better weapons instead of creating a build and learning skills to make the best of what he has. I blame Mamako for bringing him up wrong, that’s what. Plus he’s 15 years old, what can I say?

I didn’t read enough to get to know the loli merchant and the tsundere sage better, but I doubt they’ll be any better than the already-low level established. The tsundere in particular killed my desire to read any more. You know she’s just going to argue with Masato and beat him up all the time but she’s still going to “win” his affection over any better girls in the series anyway. Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

TL;DR – The premise was interesting, but the ditzy personality of the mom and the whiny, cranky personality of her son ruined the whole thing for me. If they make an anime I might try an episode or two, but the interest I had in Tsuujou Kougeki is gone and probably isn’t ever coming back.

 

Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka? Chapter 2 translation

As promised, chapter 2 of Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka? as translated by me. Refer to chapter 1 for a summary of the series and why I’m doing this. For the record I’m only doing the chapters freely provided by Fantasia Books themselves. I’d rather not dip my toes into piracy any further than that. Please don’t repost this anywhere else. If you find any typos or errors, please leave me a comment, thanks.


Chapter 2

It’s just coincidence that they’re all girls. Don’t get the wrong idea. And stop smirking at me.
They had cleared the tutorial. Now at last it was time to start the adventure.

Leaving the Palace of Transportation behind, Masato and Mamako crossed over the sea of floating islands until they arrived at the last island, a small island that was the departure point.

They stepped on the magic circle on the ground and waited to be transported.

“This is where we set off from, right?”

“That’s right. That’s what it says in the guidebook. Hmm, it also says it takes a bit of time for them to make sure it’s safe, so we can read up on the basics while we wait. I’m supposed to read it together with you. Here, look.”

Nudge, nudge.

“Okay, okay. And you’re too close. Don’t stand so close to me.”

He pushed Mamako’s nudging shoulder away and ran his eyes over the information in the guidebook.

Masato and Mamako had been transported into the online game “MMMMMORPG (temporary).”

The main server of the game was under the control of the Cabinet Office with connected local servers managed by the local governments in all 47 prefectures of Japan. The ultimate intention was to create diverse and extensive world, but at present only the Tokyo server was being used to collect test play data through a beta version.

“Whoa, that’s way too many servers. This is gonna be huge!”

“Servers…? Makki, are they talking about wait staff at a restaurant? I don’t see any diners around here.”

“Nah, a server is what a game runs on, not a waiter.”

“Oh, really? I’m pretty sure waiters are called servers too, though. I see, so they play games too, huh?”

“You don’t get it at all, it’s… Never mind, it’s too much trouble to explain.”

Getting the concepts down was more important. He continued to read the guidebook.

The Tokyo server currently running featured a standard fantasy world with a landscaped modeled after Europe. It was mainly based on the Mediterranean coastal region, where many buildings and streets from the Middle Ages still remained. The rate of time passage in the game world was the same as for the real world. Since they were transported here in the afternoon, that meant…

“Oh, it’s starting.”

The magic circle under their feet suddenly glowed with a fierce light. When the light faded away, they saw a city with stone paving and white walls spread out before them, basking in the light of the afternoon sun as a pleasant sea breeze blew by.

Mamako’s reaction: “Oh my! It feels like we’re abroad!”

“Abroad? Oh yeah, I guess you don’t know anything about fantasy games or other worlds so of course you’d be surprised. Well whatever, let’s keep moving.”

The name of the first world, which was also the starting point, was the Karsan Kingdom. Pressing on from the magic circle transfer point, they passed under an imposing gate and found themselves in the Kingdom’s capital of the Karsan Kingdom, a broad, sprawling castle town with a white castle in the middle.

It was a peaceful, charming place with buildings of white mud walls with tiled roofs. Even the sound of horse-drawn carriages rattling boldly through the streets was oddly relaxing. If you settled down here, you might get so comfortable you wouldn’t bother going adventuring any more. And that city spread around as far as the eye could see…

“Ooh! I see lots of shops down that street! Let’s go see!” *dash*

“No, first we have to walk around and get familiar with the town and then… aaand she’s gone! And with such speed! Is she… no, are all women that fast in this game?!”

Mamako learned a new skill: ‘Window Shopping Soul’ – Allows you to visit several shops at top speed.

Just kidding. There’s no such skill, of course.

On the very next street was a bustling area full of noise, activity and argument. The stall keepers lining the street called out loudly to attract customers.

“Hey there, young lady! That’s a funny outfit you’ve got there. You from out of town? Come check out my stuff. You’re such a cutie I’ll give you a huge discount!”

“Oh my, he called me a young lady! My son’s a teenager, you know!”

“You don’t have to tell him all that. … Sheesh. Uh, hi.”

“…Huh? That’s your son? You’re married with kids?”

“That’s right. But we’re buddies right now. He let me join his party. Isn’t that great?”

“A mother and son party? …Umm?”

“You didn’t have to tell him that either! See, now you froze his AI! Keep walking!”

“Yes, sir!”

By way of apology Masato shouldered their luggage and walked forward, pushing Mamako along as she stopped to greet every calling shopkeeper along the way. They looked for all the world like a mother and her son touring an open air market in another country, but it was clear that this wasn’t the sort of place you visited on an ordinary trip.

“We’re in a fantasy RPG…”

There were stores selling swords and spears and shield and armor. People decked out in weapons and armor walking around like it was the most ordinary thing in the world. There was even a young girl who looked like a wizard running past wearing a short robe with fluttering sleeves.

(This is a real fantasy… wow… I’m really inside a game…)

It had taken a while but the full impact of the situation finally hit him and he couldn’t help grinning.

Mamako cast a sidelong glance at him.

“Makki! Stop leering at that girl’s bottom! You look like a pervert.”

“Wrong-o! That’s not what I’m so happy about!”

“Tee hee. I was just teasing. Don’t worry, I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re my son, after all. I can read your mind.”

“Can you now? So what was I just thinking?”

“You’re… really, really happy to be walking around with your mom!”

Heh heh, take that! Is the confident air Mamako gave off as she gave her diagnosis.

Masato couldn’t help but snicker. She didn’t have a clue. Like hell he’d be thinking that.

“You’re so off it’s not even funny. No way I’d be so happy about a walk with you. You don’t understand a teenage boy’s feelings at all. Too bad, Mom, you fail as a mother.”

“Sniff… that’s the second most painful thing I’ve ever heard in my life…” Sniff, sniff.

“Stop! Please! Don’t start! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said that! I’m sorry, okay?”

He was bowing before her before he knew it. From his lowly apologetic state he ventured a tiny peek at his revered mother’s countenance.

She was grinning cheerfully. That’s right, there was a huge, deliberate grin on that too-young face.

“Tee hee, looks like it worked. I think I’ll use those words as Mommy’s Magic Medicine from now on.”

“A mental attack that only works on son heroes… how fiendish…”

Looks like it will take some time for Masato to fully recover from the effects of this latest blunder. In the meantime…

“What now? We’ve walked around for a bit. Where are we supposed to go now?”

“Heh heh. Leave it to Mommy. I’ll lead the way.”

“Lead the way? You’ve never played an RPG in your life!”

“Sure, but we’ll be fine. Because I’ve got this!”

She pulled out the guidebook with a flourish. Ah, I see. We’ll be fine as long as we have this, right?

“We need to make preparations for our adventure. Which means, first we have to…”

“Get a party together. Right, Mom?”

“Correct. It says here in the book that we should first get some companions. So… ah, here we are. This is the spot.”

Mamako led the way proudly to a large building on a corner of the business district. It looked like an ordinary terraced cafe at first sight, but he could tell from the hard faces and the weapons and armor of the customers going in and out that it wasn’t the place for a leisurely cup of tea. The adventurers on the terrace gave them the once over with merciless eyes, and there was a clearly aggressive mood in the air.

The word on the signboard over the building said “Adventurers’ Guild.” That said it all.

“No babysitting or hand holding, eh? Heh, bring it on!”

“Oh my! You always say nothing but “Okay” and “Yeah,” now look at you trying to act all cool. I’ve learned something new about my son today.”

“Sh-shut up! Don’t start rating everything I say. I won’t be able to talk any more.”

“Tee hee, sorry Makki. Now could you hand me one of my swords?”

“Huh? Uh, sure, but…”

He had no idea what she was up to, but… He fumbled around in the leather bag and handed over Altura, the Holy Sword of the Great Ocean.

“Yah!”

She swung her sword at the guild building.

Mamako attacked!

“…Eh?”

With the flash of the dark blue sword, water flowed out…

“Hey…”

…and turned into droplets…

“Waitaminnit–”

…which shot out like bullets.

Bam bam bam bam! The high-speed water barrage slammed into the guild. With a loud groaning and crumbling sound, the bullet-riddled walls and pillars came tumbling down. It took a few seconds after the attack for the sound of adventurers screaming to become audible.

…And a little longer after that for the stunned Masato to regain his senses.

“Uh, Mom? What the heck was that?”

“The guidebook says you have to come on strong at first so everyone takes you seriously.”

“Uh, I’m pretty sure that’s not what they meant… Oh man, we’re in for it now…”

The front of the guild building was half destroyed. But the bigger issue was the safety of the adventurers on the terrace. If anyone was hurt by Mamako’s attack…

(Won’t we be penalized for PKing or at least trying to?)

PK – Player Kill. Killing other players. Players who did that were always punished appropriately. You could never get off with just an apology.

There was movement within the building as Masato stood there ashen-faced. Someone came out from the ruins of the broken door and headed towards them. It was a woman. She was dressed like an office worker with long black hair and a composed expression…

…and blood slowly dripping down her forehead.

“Welcome to the Adventurers’ Guild, travelers. I am the receptionist SHIRASE. Please come this way if you are looking for companions on your adventure.”

With blood still dripping down her forehead, this person who called herself SHIRASE politely and leisurely beckoned them to the half-destroyed counter, where she sat down.

“Aren’t you Ms. Shira…”

“I am quite certain I introduced myself as the receptionist SHIRASE. If you have a problem, I have several things I could select and bring over that no son would ever want his mother to see. What do you say?”

Eep!

“I-I’ve never seen you before, Ms. SHIRASE the receptionist! It-it’s so nice to meet you! Hello!”

The woman behind the broken receptionist counter was SHIRASE. She looked exactly like Ms. Shirase… actually she was Ms. Shirase, but she’s really SHIRASE and not Ms. Shirase, got it?

“Pleased to meet you. Welcome to the Adventurers’ Guild.”

Uh-oh.

“Thanks for having us. Umm, are you all right? You’ve been bleeding for the past little while.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s just a little act I put on. Besides, I’m just an object, not a PC or an NPC, so there’s no PK penalty for hitting me. And the fact that you were able to destroy the building is just a bug so don’t worry about that either.”

“Oh, I see. Phew… Lucky break, eh Mom?”

“Huh? Y…yes? Umm, it means that when you fight an object the NEC PC wins in a PK battle, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Let’s leave it at that. Well done.”

An object was just an object, not a character. A PC was a player character, an NPC was a non-player character. These were all terms Mamako would have to learn by herself later on.

“Let me introduce you the adventurers we have registered here at the guild. Please take a look.”

SHIRASE held out some documents to them. It was a sheaf of thick parchment paper. There were at least 100 pages.

“W-why do you have so many?”

“This is only a tenth of the total. There’s no limit to the number of people you have have in a party so the character department went crazy making as many characters as possible to give you plenty of choice. We’re planning to add even more in future.”

“Whoa, seriously? And these are all NPCs?”

“There are some test players too. But they’re very few so they’re relatively rare.”

“This feels like pulling for a rare character in an online game.”

“The first floor of the building is currently under repair. Please use a private room on the second floor to go through the profiles. I’ll bring you some more later so feel free to take your time.”

The second floor had been spared the carnage that had befallen the first floor. They made their way to a private room further inside. Masato threw the documents onto a table with a thump and took a seat across from Mamako.

To calm the pleasant nervousness he felt, he took a deep breath of the cool breeze flowing in through the window and then set to work.

“Here’s where I come in. I’m the MMORPG expert so I’ll do the party member selection. That okay with you, Mom?”

“Of course. I can’t wait to see who you pick, Makki. I hope they’re all really nice girls.”

“G-Girls? What makes you think I’m gonna pick girls?”

“You are, aren’t you? After all, you want people you can live and travel and grow together with, right? It’s pretty much the same as picking a girlfriend or a wife.”

“Urk… You’re… not exactly wrong, but… I’m just picking party members. Just party members, okay? Right.”

There’s no doubt his tastes would come into play when sorting by looks and body type, though. Anyway. Back to the documents. Each profile contained the adventurer’s name, class, all stats and a realistically-drawn portrait.

“The most important thing is the battle formation. We’re both physical attackers, so first we need a tank and a healer. A magic attacker and a support character would be nice too. Hmm, but there are crafting classes too. Would be nice to have at least one member who can make items. That makes a party of seven to start with…”

Masato went through the papers, picking out promising prospects based on his criteria and their looks and body types, with a little bit of his personal tastes sprinkled in.

“Oh, this looks good.”

Candidate number one. “Lushella.” 16 years old. Heavy Calvary. A tanking class for taking on enemy attacks. They possessed a skill that allowed them to add part of the damage received to their attack power, meaning they could be useful attackers if the situation called for it.

She was also pretty cute. A slim body encased in steel armor, slender fingers on a sturdy shield, a firm will hidden behind a gallant expression… she looked rather stern, but she also looked like someone with a hidden cute side underneath that tough shell. That promised gap between her looks and the true self was highly enticing.

“Next is… ooh, I found an elf!”

Candidate number two. “Sarite.” 19 years old (in human years). Priest. An expert in healing magic. Also good at purifying undead enemies.

She was dressed in a bright green robe with her fingers gently caressing a pendant with a holy tree motif, looking for all the world like an elegant young lady. A beautiful elf who smiled out of the portrait with a warm, gentle smile.

“Nice. We’re off to a good start. Next… Ooh, she looks like a lively one!”

Candidate number three. “Torino.” 14 years old. Thief. Has skills that grant preemptive attacks or raise the party’s speed. Also has the Unlock skill.

She was clad in a tank top and hot pants, an outfit that was light, easy to move in and above all, revealing. So revealing, in fact, that if she moved the wrong way, you might be able to see something… interesting. Masato wasn’t quite sure where to look.

“Just a little glance will do. Love the skin color, by the way. Well, this should do for starters.”

He put the three profiles side by side and checked them again. A tank, a healer and a supporter. All the essential members needed for combat.

“Right, it’s settled. Let’s go with these. Look them over, Mom.”

“Oh my, what cute little girls. Which one’s your type, Makki?”

“That’s not what I meant by looking them over! And they just happened to be all girls. It’s coincidence, okay?”

“Heh heh. All right, I’ll pretend to buy that.”

With that deliberately understanding act, Mamako clapped her hands together briefly.

“Time for the Mommy Interview, then.”

“The… what?”

Mommy Interview? That’s what she’d said, but…

“I said the Mommy Interview. One of these girls might become your girlfriend. It’s only proper for me to greet them properly. Naturally I want to know what they’re like.”

“Hold it right there! These aren’t potential girlfriends! I chose them as party members!”

“So you’re saying people never ever fall in love with their party members?”

“Uhh… that’s, uh…”

Not completely impossible, and he couldn’t deny that little sliver of hope within him but there was no way he was going to admit that.

“A-anyway! That’s not the problem here! There’s no rule that says party members need my mom’s approval to join anyway, so…”

“Actually that sounds quite interesting, so we have just added a Mommy Check system to the game.”

“WHAAA?!”

SHIRASE appeared, holding additional profiles and cards with Yes and No written on them.

The Mommy Interview system had suddenly been implemented. The furniture in the room was rearranged to make the interview possible. Mamako the interviewer and Masato the onlooker were on one side, there was a table before them and then a chair for the interviewee. Time to get started.

“This is a Mommy Interview so I’ll be asking the questions. Leave it all to me.”

“Oh, fine. Do your worst, Mom. …First person, please.”

Candidate number one, the heavy knight Lushella, entered at his prompting, her voice and expression both stiff and tense.

“Thank you for inviting me.”

“Thanks for coming, young lady. Let’s get right to it. What are your hobbies?”

“Overkilling enemies, ma’am! I like to let enemies attack as much as they want and then return the pain they’ve caused me with interest!”

“What a mentally twisted hobby. What kind of places do you often go to?”

“I like fields where lone enemies weaker than me often spawn, ma’am.”

“In other words you admit to being a bully. Lastly, tell me about your life plans. What would you like to do in future?”

“My chief aim is to learn a skill that reflects so much damage at an enemy that they wipe themselves out, ma’am!”

“What a savage girl. Thank you for your time. My verdict is…”

With an unchanging smile, Mamako…

Raised up the “No” card. Bzzzzt. Fail.

“I’m sorry but I have serious issues with her personality.”

“But everything she said is normal for a tank character!”

Maybe so, but she still failed the Mommy Interview. Too bad. Next person.

Candidate number two: Sarite the beautiful elf priestess with the soothing smile.

“Thank you for coming. Why don’t you tell me about your hobbies, Miss Sarite? How do you normally spend your time?”

“I humbly pray to the gods about three hundred times a day.”

“Let’s see… if you sleep 6 hours a day then you’d have to pray more than once every four minutes to make those numbers. And what kind of places do you frequent?”

“I visit about 20 churches a day in different forests, where I offer my humble prayers.”

“So basically you’re in one church or another 24 hours a day. And what are your plans for the future?”

“I pray that I, together with all people, will someday be ushered into the presence of the great gods.”

“You don’t have a life outside prayer, do you? You’re diligent, I’ll give you that much.”

With a polite, insincere smile, Mamako handed down her verdict.

No. Bzzzzt. Fail.

“W-wait, Mom! How can you fail her?! She’s an elf AND a priestess!”

“That’s the problem. I’m all for freedom of religion, but I don’t know about letting her join. She looks like she’d always be inviting us to strange places, you know? And it’s hard for me to turn down invitations, so… you know?”

“Urghh… Yeah, I kinda get it but…”

The elf would be a little hard for non-religious people to deal with. Too bad. Next!

Candidate number three, the lively thief Torino, blessed with a bouncy personality and an even bouncier body.

” Hiya! ‘Sup!”

“Do you have any hobbies…”

“Duh, stealing! I go like smackeroo and then swipe! Gotcha! Suh-weet!”

“Where do you go often…”

“The Stolen Goods sale center, duh! It’s a total rip off but they’ll totally buy, like, anything!”

“Plans for the future…”

“I’m, like, totally gonna steal all the treasure from the castle someday! Ooh, that would be the coolest! ”

“I see – Thanks – You fail.”

Mamako made up her mind in a flash and held up the No card.

“Let’s go. I’m turning you in to the police.” Grab.

“Eeeeep! Like, she’s totally got my arm! And she stronger than a gorilla, like, seriously?!”

Looks like Mamako was serious about turning Torino in to the cops. Her refusal to overlook evil gave her extra strength.

“Mom, wait! Calm down! Thieves are okay! Sure they steal stuff, but this is a game! It’s just a normal job, okay? This is a game!”

“Just because it’s a game doesn’t mean you can do any bad thing you want. I won’t let anyone get away with such behavior!”

“That’s great, Mom, but that’s not what’s going on here! Listen to me for a change!”

It took 30 minutes to finally convince Mamako .

And that was the end of that.

“Urgh, I can’t believe you failed everyone.”

“You should pick people with more sensible jobs. Like, umm, oh I know! Like a police officer or someone in the Self-Defense Force. How about having someone like that along?”

“This is a fantasy RPG. There are no such jobs! Get it through your head already, this is a game!  Sheesh! Fine, I’ll just choose some other characters, gimme a sec!”

Given Mamako’s strict standards, chances were high that they would end up adding absolutely no one to the party, but nevertheless Masato pored over the applications with renewed fervor. He flipped through the new profiles SHIRASE had brought until…

“Hmm…? This is…”

He stopped unexpectedly and stared fixedly at the document in his hand.

The name of the adventurer was “Wiz.” Female, 15 years old. What’s more, she was a sage. A high level class which could use both black magic, the catch all term for all attacking magic, and white magic, the term for all healing and support magic.

She was a young girl with a deep crimson short jacket and skirt, staring at Masato with a deeply confident expression. Out of the photo, of course.

“Her abilities look great. She’s an all-around fighter, able to attack with magic and support and heal us if she has to.”

“Oh my, that sounds amazing. She looks like a very clever girl. That’s promising.”

Mamako had been looking on from the side and seemed quite intrigued.

“Uh, I take it you don’t have any problem with magic users as a job class?”

“Of course not. I always wanted to be a magician when I was a kid. There was a show about a magical girl on TV when I was young. I loved every minute of it.”

“That’s nice, Mom. That saves us some time. So magic-using classes are okay, which means… Hm?”

A certain point caught his eye.

“Wait, there’s something written in her comments… ‘If you don’t pick me, I’ll cast consecutive Instant Death spells on you!’ Can you believe it? What an idiot!”

“Now now, don’t say that. A sage is amazing. It says here she can use two types of magic. And she’s cute too. I think she looks like a good girl.”

“Huh? Seriously? Well… I guess her features are okay. It’s not like she’s NOT cute or anything…”

“Not your type, eh Makki?”

“Not exactly, but… those eyes… I don’t like those kinds of eyes.”

The eyes in the photo were large and sharply turned up at the corners, making her look like she was glaring at him.

“I can’t stand those eyes. She looks mean. She looks condescending, like she would keep preaching and nagging and just never shut up.”

“Hmm. She does look a bit strong-willed. Like a bit of a tomboy. But maybe she’s really sweet once you get to know her.”

“No way. That never happens with this kind of girl. She might be a sage but I bet she’s dumber than a brick. She’s the kind of “Dragon Spooker” character who would send her party members and the buildings and the very earth flying with a spell and stand there laughing her head off. My hero sense tells me so.”

“Hmm… I guess… If you say so, Makki.”

“I do say so. We’re not having her and that’s final. Bye Wiz. Thanks but no thanks!”

He crumpled her profile up and tossed it away.

He could have sworn he heard a faint “Whaaat?” sound when the balled up paper hit the ground, but it must have been his imagination. Right? Right.

“Moving on… aha, I was looking for a craft.”

Candidate number four. Name, “Porta.” 12 years old. Class: Traveling merchant. Not only could she craft items but she also had really helpful skills like appraisal and store discounts.

Her photo made her look like a cute, gentle girl. Her adorably round eyes gave her face a pure childishness. She seemed like a very nice girl.

“Hmm… Not bad. Good support skills and a little sister-type look… Looks like a character with potential I could spend a lot of time leveling up.”

“Oh my, she really is cute. I’ll interview her next, then.”

“You’re gonna do it again, aren’t you…”

Yup, she was.

A twelve-year old girl appeared in front of them.

Name, “Porta.” Class: Traveling merchant.

Traveling merchants were vendors who traveled around the world selling their merchandise instead of sticking to a fixed store. They could be found anywhere, in dungeons, underwater and even in the sky. Their trademark was a large, puffed up shoulder bag.

Porta sat in front of them clutching her bag and looking incredibly nervous.

“P-p-p-p-leased to m-m-meet you!”

“Pleased to meet you too.”

“Relax. You don’t have to be so worked up.”

“O-okay!”

Just being told to relax wasn’t enough to stop her being nervous, but twelve-year old Porta, who was clearly short for her age, looked adorable as she did her best to sit up straight and tidy herself up. Aww.

“Why don’t you tell us about yourself?”

“Okay! My name is Porta! I’m a test player!”

“Sweet, a player! I pulled a rare character!”

“Oh my, you’re a player too? Where is your mother?”

“M-my mother…? Umm, she’s… uh…”

Porta looked a little taken aback by the sudden question. But she quickly raised her head again.

“My mother is taking a little break from the game because of work! I’m traveling alone but I have the permission of the management to do so it’s perfectly fine. There’s absolutely no problem at all!”

“I see. Your mother must be very busy, Porta.”

“Hmm…”

It bothered Masato a bit how strangely desperate she seemed but… if she had permission from management then it must be okay. He decided to let it slide without comment.

“All righty. I’ve got questions too. Ready?”

“Ready!”

Masato put on his best “strict interviewer” expression as he looked at her and posed his question.

“Tell us what you’re good at and why we should let you join our party. You’re a merchant so you must have a good sales pitch, right?”

“Yes! Umm, my job class is a merchant! And one of my basic skills is to get you a discount whenever you sleep at an inn or buy something in a shop!”

“Amazing! You’re like a walking discount coupon!”

“Okay, Mom? I know it’s true but you didn’t have to put it that way.”

“Another basic skill lets me collect all the items party members have and manage the party storage. This lets you hold even more items than you normally would!”

“Hold items? You mean you’re going to carry them? Where?”

“In that bag, right? It looks like a magic item.”

“That’s right. It’s a wonderful piece of equipment, merchant-class only. I got it as a starter bonus!”

She patted the bag she was holding as she showed it to them.

“One of these bags can store up to 300 items! And it doesn’t matter how big or how heavy they are!  You can leave all your luggage to me!”

“How wonderful! What a great storage tool. Vacuum-sealing bags for futons are a joke compared to these.”

“Oh yeah, I remember how sweaty you always get before summer when you try to put our heavy duvets away.”

“So you say but you’ve never even helped me once, Makki.”

“T-that’s not… I’ll help next time, honest!”

Using a vacuum-sealing bag lets you stuff plenty of futons flat inside a closet. A very convenient piece of kit. And completely off-topic, of course.

“Okey-dokey, I can tell a merchant is a very useful party member to have along but that ain’t nearly enough. Your profile says you have some other skills as well.”

“Yes. I also learned the Appraise skill! Now I can tell the name and effect of any item you get right away!  I can tell you the price too! And, and, I’ll be learning lots of item creation skills too! So I can make the items you need!”

“That’s what I wanted to hear. In other words we don’t have to worry about healing and support items when you’re around, right?”

“That’s right. Leave it all to me!”

She bowed smartly and stared straight at them with perfectly clear, sparkling eyes. Nice girl. Really nice girl. He wouldn’t mind being more than party members with her.

But!

“Hmm… Your skills are all nice and good, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? There’s gotta be a catch somewhere. Out with it!”

Masato put on his “mean interviewer” face as he pressed her. But it wasn’t because he wanted to see that slightly upset look on her charming little face again. He would never do something like that.

But Porta declared flatly without averting her pure eyes in the slightest:

“I’m registered as a non-combatant! That means I won’t be able to fight!”

“I see. Then you’re out of the question. We’re trying to increase our fighting power here, so…”

“But, but, I’ll do all the inventory and item creation instead! I’ll do everything I can to help! Just say the word and I’ll do it! I’ll do my very best!”

“Hmm…”

Masato and Porta stared each other down for a while, but she didn’t flinch or look away in the slightest.

She’s a nice girl. A nice girl without a doubt. A very, very nice girl and what’s more, one with great skills. And she was an ultra-rare test player. In other words she was basically perfect.

“That’s enough, isn’t it, Makki? I’ve already made up my mind.”

Mamako was already holding up a “Yes” card. Ding dong, ding dong! Porta passed with flying colors.

“Yeah I guess. I don’t have a problem. Well…”

“Welcome to the family, Porta, as my new daughter-in-law!”

“Thank you! It’s an honor to have you as a mother-in-law!”

Masato got Porta as a wife. Yay, Masato. Enjoy your lolicon honeymoon.

“Very funny, but this is totally wrong! Mom? Hey, Mom! We’re looking for party members! Stop thinking about wives and girlfriends already!”

“Oh, oops, sorry Makki!”

“Glad you get it. Let’s get back to business. Porta, will you join our party?”

“Yes! I’ll do my best to help the team out! Thanks for letting me join!”

Porta the traveling merchant has joined the party.

“Thanks for joining, Porta.”

“Pleased to meet you, uh… Hero! And, uhh, Hero’s Mom!”

“Now now, little Porta. You’re going to be our friend, so you can’t call us that. Call me Mom or Mama.  And you can call Makki, Makki.”

“Oh no you can’t. Call me Masato and nothing else. And by the way my mom’s real name is Mamako.”

“Then I’ll call you Masato and Mama, would that be okay?”

“Sure. And we’re all on the same team so don’t be all nervous or uptight around us. Well I guess you’ll get used to us in a bit. Let’s have a good time together!”

“Yes! I’ll do my very best!”

She balled her little fists up into a fighting pose. Aww, what a cute little creature. Masato was so carried away he couldn’t help tickling her round cheeks.

“Awww~ that tickles!”

“Heh heh heh. You like that, don’t you? Don’t you?”

“Makki…”

“Aaah! Don’t look at me with such pitying eyes!”

Getting carried away by desire in front of his mom was just too risky.

M-moving on…

“We’re off to a good start! Let’s rack up some more members!”

“Yeah. I’m all ready to interview them.”

“You mean ready to fail them all, don’t you? Ugh, I’m tired all of a sudden. Let’s take a break. I’ll ask Ms. SHIRASE if there’s anything to drink…”

As he rose up and walked forward, he heard a crunching sound under his foot. “Huh? Did I step in something?” He looked down to see that he had stepped on the profile he had crumpled up and thrown away.

Right then…

“OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH! What the hell are you doing, you DUMMY?!”

“Huh? Wha… Whaaaa?!”

The paper under his foot suddenly exploded, sending Masato flying back. He hit his head on the desk with a thump. “Gyaah!” That hurt. It was the most painful thing he had ever felt in his life, so painful he almost passed out.

But there were more pressing matters. There was a figure standing there in the middle of the smoke from the explosion. The figure stamped forward deliberately, trembling with anger and stamping down so hard the floor almost cracked.

The smoke finally cleared to reveal a young girl. A young girl wearing a deep red jacked with geometrical patterns embroidered on it. Her large pointy eyes were wide open in fury and there was a clear footprint mark on her cheek.

“What the heck is your problem?! I try to be nice and you think you can walk all over me?! You’d better cut the crap or I’ll smack you with a dozen-hit instant death spell!”

“A dozen-hit spell? Meaning one spell hits twelve times?”

“Duh! It’s a consecutive hit spell so it’s twelve in a row! And why are you asking cool questions at a time like this? Arrgh, you piss me off! You’re gonna pay for making a fool of me! Get over here!”

A dictionary-thick book appeared in Footprint-Girl’s hand. She flipped through the pages and began to cast a spell.

“Supara – Ra – Magia – Pel – Mirrore – Transport!”

There was an instant flash and a sensation of lightness.

.


End of chapter 2 and end of my translations. If you liked it and can read Japanese, you can buy the full book on Amazon now. As for what I actually think of Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka?, you’ll find out whenever I get round to writing my thoughts on it.

Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka? Chapter 1 translation

Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okasan wa Suki desu ka? (Do You Like Moms Whose Regular Attacks Hit the Entire Enemy Party Twice?) is a 2017 light novel written by Inaka Dachima, illustrated by Iida Pochi and published by Fantasia Books. I don’t usually read light novels, but when I came across the description in a Japan Today article, the premise sounded so ridiculous that I just had to read it. Luckily Fantasia Books has provided a free preview of the first two chapters right here.

I read it and it’s… not quite was I was hoping for (more on that in a future post) but I liked it well enough. And I figured since Fantasia Books released the first two chapters for free, they wouldn’t mind too much if I did a quick translation just for fun, would they? They probably would, so let’s just keep this between us. Please don’t repost this anywhere. If you find any typos leave me a comment, thanks. Chapter 2 will be out in a day or two.


Fantasia Books

[Award-winning work] “Do you like moms whose regular attacks hit the whole enemy party twice?” Author: Inaka Dachima
Artist: Iida Pochi

“Do you think you would get along with your mom if you went on an adventure with her?” “Let’s have lots of adventures today, okay Makki?” Masato Ooyoshi’s greatest wish comes true: he gets transported into a game world! But for some reason his doting mother Mamako comes along too! It’s the start of a new adventure comedy, complete with mom in tow!

1

Prologue

Answers from a certain young boy.

Question: Do you get along well with your mother?

We’re okay, I guess.

Q: What do you talk to her about? How much time do you spend talking?

Normal stuff.

Q:  Has your mother said anything recently that made you happy?

Not really.

Q:  Has your mother said anything recently that made you upset?

I really hate me when she calls me by my nickname.

Q: Do you go out shopping with your mother?

No way.

Q: Do you help your mother at home?

In spirit, yeah.

Q: What does she like?

Chores and bargain sales.

Q: What does she hate?

The roaches in the kitchen.

Q: What are her good points?

I’m sure she has has some somewhere.

Q: What are her bad points?

She has a lot of those too.

Q: “Do you think you would get along with your mom if you went on an adventure together?”

Dunno. We might, I guess.

Chapter 1

I may have forgotten to turn off the gas. Then forget about me and go home already.

“Have you all finished answering the questions? Then collect the sheets and bring them to me, starting from the back.”

Following the directions from the male teacher at the podium, the student in the very last seat started collecting the sheets.

The students were filling out what was known as the “Parent-Child Awareness survey.” It was a booklet printed on high-quality paper, not cheap copier paper. It gave off the air of a very important document, like a question sheet for a nation-wide academic survey.

Which was only natural, since it was that kind of survey. It was a survey being carried out by the Cabinet Office’s Director-General for Policy Planning (Department for Policy on Cohesive Society) to learn more about the current state of the youth. In other words it was a matter of government policy.

“I must say I’m surprised our school was chosen to take this survey. You guys have been chosen to represent the youth of this country, you know. That’s a great honor. You should be proud of yourselves,” the teacher said with some feeling.

His students didn’t quite share his sentiments. Having been kept from going home after school and instead forced to fill out this survey, their feelings were more along the lines of “Honor, my foot!” “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” and “Cut the crap!”

Masato Ooyoshi was one of them.

(I can’t wait to get home and play games. Stop wasting my time, dammit!)

He scratched his head in frustration and sighed deeply.

Okay, now calm down. I’m done filling it out. That’s good enough. I just have to give it to the student collecting them and I’m done. There we go.

All done. Now forget about that and think about MMORPGs. Should I grind like crazy to collect rare items to craft equipment with a 100% success rate or use normal ingredients with a 70% success rate instead? Well, that’s what he wanted to think about, but…

Something was bothering him.

“…What the heck was up with that question?”

He just couldn’t stop thinking about one of the questions.

Q: “Do you think you would get along with your mom if you went on an adventure together?”

That was one of the questions on the survey he had just filled out. A dumb question like that on a government policy survey? Seriously?

“The guy who wrote those questions must’ve been dumb. Real dumb.”

Just when you think Japan is advancing, they pull a stunt like that. It’s enough to make you cry. Well, whatever. It’s all in the past. Time to go home and play all the games I want. Looks like we can go home now. Welp, off I go.

Just then the teacher muttered, looking through the forms.

“…Yup, I knew someone would do it. You weren’t supposed to write your name on the last page of the survey but someone did it anyway. Not gonna say who, though.” Something like that.

“Huh? Did I… No, probably not… Whatever, I just want to play games!”

He felt like the teacher may or may not have been looking at him but he quickly left the classroom anyway.

Several days later, on the weekend…

Masato got home after a half-day of school to find a pair of shoes, a pair of women’s pumps in the entryway.

His mom had several pairs of the same type, but these were neatly lined up in the middle of the entryway so they must belong to a visitor. He could hear cheerful voices from the living room.

“One of Mom’s friends? Should I go say hi?”

Should he take the chance to score some points as a dutiful son? Or would he be better off skipping a pain in the neck duty like greeting his mom’s visitors?

He debated the matter briefly , but his mind and body were both in agreement that the true best course of action would be to play video games in his room. He decided to pass straight by and quietly sneak through to the corridor…

…in his dreams.

“Those footsteps! It’s Makki, I just know it!”

“Urgh…”

The living room door burst open and Mamako Ooyoshi looked out.

The sight of her gave Masato no small deal of shock. Even her own son couldn’t help having some doubts whenever he saw her face.

(Is this… is she really a mom? My mom?)

Why? Because Mamako looked young. Really young. She looked way, way too young for the part.

There wasn’t a single wrinkle at the corners of her smiling eyes and her skin was always smooth and supple. Her long wavy hair was silky smooth, cuticle-free and full of shine and bounce.

She wasn’t his stepmother either, she was a normal housewife and mother pushing forty with a son who was a high-school freshman, but amazingly enough Mamako looked young enough to easily pass for a teenager.

(I’ve heard of rolling back the years but this is ridiculous. What is wrong with this mother of mine?)

Her youth bordered on the level of supernatural phenomenon, which made it all the harder for him to see her as his mother. Honestly she made him a little uncomfortable.

Yeah, that’s it. Uncomfortable. It wasn’t “dislike” or any other clear sense of rejection. She was just hard to deal with, hard to keep the right distance from so he just preferred to keep her at arm’s length. Something like that.

Unfortunately she had no idea of his feelings on the matter.

“Welcome back, Makki!”

With a sweet, lazy smile on her face, Mamako approached confidently, certain that Masato was glad to see her. Close… too close… way too close.

“Okay, okay, you got me. Now gimme some space!”

“Sorry dear. And how was school?”

“Nothing special.”

“Nothing special? Did anything bad happen?”

“Not really.”

“S-so it was just as much fun as ever… yes? Oh, right! Have you had lunch? I’ll make you something if you’re hungry.”

“I’m fine.”

“Fine? ….You don’t want lunch? Did you eat out with a friend? Is that why you’re not hungry?”

“Yeah. And why are you bugging me now? Don’t you have a guest?”

“Oh! Oh no! She’s a very important visitor. Come say hi, Makki. I want her to meet my precious baby boy. Okay?”

“Pass.”

“Pass? …Does ‘pass’ mean you’re coming to say hi?”

“Pass means I’m not coming, don’t play dumb. …Sheesh.”

Who would want do something that annoying? Turning his back on Mamako, Masato made to pass right by the living room. But as he glanced towards the living room, his eyes just happened to meet the gaze of the visitor inside.

“What’s this? It looks like your son is home.”

The visitor didn’t seem like one of Mamako’s friends who had just popped round for a visit. She was a cool, intellectual-looking young lady with black hair and a skirt suit. He thought for a moment she might be an insurance saleswoman but… something told him she didn’t belong to any ordinary organization.

The woman quickly rose and strode over to Masato with light steps, holding out the ID card hanging from her neck: “Survey personnel, Director-General for Policy Planning (Department for Policy on Cohesive Society)”

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Masumi Shirase. This is a visit from the Cabinet Office concerning the survey we recently carried out. But don’t worry, it’s nothing serious. Or should I say… Shi-ras?”

“Uh, h-hi… and what’s with the sudden pun?”

“I’ve been teased about my name since I was little so now I take the lead in making fun of it myself. Don’t take it so… Shi-rasly.”

Looks like she took the wrong turn in trying to overcome her little complex.

Meanwhile Mamako was making another unauthorized approach into Masato’s personal space. She really had no sense of distance, she just assumed her son would be totally fine with it.

“You know, Makki, you know, Miss Shirase’s survey is…”

“Wait, you mean that Parent-Child Awareness survey?”

“Wow, amazing! That’s the one! How did you know?”

“We filled it out at school the other day.”

“Huh… Y-you did? You never said a word about it.”

“I don’t have to tell you everything. And back off a bit.”

He pushed back his mom who was all over him like a pet longing for some affection.

“Are we all done with the survey, Miss Shirase?”

“No it’s not over, just paused since you got up as soon as your son came home. You must really love him.”

“Oh yeah? Too bad I don’t feel the same way.”

“Whaat? You really love me, don’t you Makki? I really…”

“Oh shaddup already. And back off again. And stop calling me that embarrassing name. How many times do I have to tell you? You just never learn.”

“B-but Makki will always be my little Makki. I’ve always called you Makki so I can’t help calling you Makki but if you don’t like being called Makki then I’ll find something else to call you other than Makki…”

“Aaaaah, shut up!”

He moved away from Mamako, who just kept coming closer no matter how often he pushed her away.

“Uh, so, Miss Shirase. You can go ahead with the survey. I think you’ll have your hands full with my mom, though.”

“Very well. Let’s continue, ma’am. However, since the purpose of this survey is to collectively evaluate the separate opinions of parents and their children…”

“You don’t want each side know what the other is thinking so you don’t want me hanging around and eavesdropping, right?”

“That’s right. I just wanted to let you know what was going on first. I take my job very Shi-rasly, you know.”

“Uhh, thank you. Hmm, my mother’s thoughts, huh?”

Being told not to listen in suddenly made him a little curious.

What if they discussed about how his mother really felt about him?

(Okay I guess I am a little curious to hear what she thinks of me.)

But this was an official government survey. There might be a huge problem if the wrong information got out just because Masato listened in on it. Better do as she said.

“All right then. I’ll be locked away in my little room.”

“Thank you for understanding. When we’re done I will Shiras-ly come up and let you know so please stay in your room until then.”

“Gotcha. See ya.”

“Wait, Makki! What should I call you from now?”

“….Whatever.”

Nimbly dodging Mamako as she tried to cling to him, he made his way to his room on the second floor.

After he had left, in the living room… Mamako wiped her tears away with a tissue, blew her nose, wiped away some tears, blew her nose again and used up a whole box of tissues that way while openly lamenting the woes of mothers with sons.

“I know how he feels, on some level. He’s in high school now. It must be embarrassing to be all buddy-buddy with your mom at that age.”

“I’m sure that’s part of it. That’s one of the things we’ve learned through our surveys so far. It’s a general trend so don’t take it too Shiras-ly.”

“I know, but I still want to be his friend anyway. He’s my only son and I’m his only mother.”

“It’s only natural for a mother to want to get along with her son. I have a daughter of my own so I understand how you feel.”

“Oh I see… So you’re a mother too?”

“Yes. I have a five-year old daughter. They’re a bit of a handful at that age.”

“Five years old… Yes, they’re old enough to walk around and talk about all kinds of things. Clinging to your leg and going “Mommy!” and…”

Her face clouded as she remembered her son’s childhood.

“I wish we could go back to that stage but Makki isn’t having any of it. We bought him a computer as a present for getting into high school and he’s been obsessed with online games ever since. We hardly even talk any more.”

“I see. Sounds like you get conversations full of “Nothing,” “Not really,” “Yeah” and “Okay,” but that’s pretty normal for a teenager. Why not just give him a little space, Mamako?”

“I don’t know… I just can’t get it right and…”

“I see. This seems like a stereotypical household with a teenager. It’s almost ideal just how complicated things have become. Hmm…”

Shirase fell into thought for a minute, quietly made a decision and took out a document from her bag.

She placed a document with the heading “MMMMMORPG (temporary name) Registration Form” in front of Mamako.

“Oh! Y-You mean you’ll accept my application?”

“Yes. I believe the Ooyoshi family meets the criteria to participate in this program so we’ll allow you to take part. Please get ready as soon as possible.”

“R-right! What will I need? Oh, Makki will need his shoes! Oh, but first I should tell him about it!”

“I will inform him. That’s my job. This is Shi-ras business, after all.”

“… Or so I said I would, but sometimes I Shiras-ly forget to tell people what they need to know. Shirase here, just trying to show off her playful side.”

“Huh? At least make some sense if you’re gonna pop up behind me!”

Masato suddenly heard a voice behind him as he played an online game in his room. He turned around to see Shirase behind him.

“You should at least knock.”

“I didn’t want to break your concentration, so I used a silent knock.”

More nonsense, of course.

She continued to speak, looking at the screen with cool eyes.

“An MMORPG, huh?”

“Q-quit staring.”

“The 3D animations are very fluid. I bet your PC has both an HDD and an SSD and a good graphics card as well. The case fan has just the right level of loudness. And you’ve got good taste, picking a low input lag monitor.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess? But it’s my mom who bought all these for me. She said some kind person recommended them. Do you know a lot about computers, Ms. Shirase?”

“I stopped going to school for a while because I hated being teased about my name. That’s when I learned a bit about computers. Somehow it felt like only my PC operating systems understood me, so I tried to understand them in return.”

“You really didn’t have to tell me about your embarrassing past, you know.”

“I like to tell people things they Shi-rasly didn’t want to know. That’s the Shirase way. Now back to business.”

“I take it you’re done with the interview?”

“Yes. And I’m here to tell you that you’re going to be living a new life from now on.”

“I… I am?”

Masato was so busy being exasperated by this woman’s nonsensical statements that he let his guard down for a moment, and that’s when she struck! With a swift motion of her arm, Shirase reached forward and pressed the Esc key on his keyboard. The game window closed immediately. Then, leaning on Masato from behind so her breasts squished against the back of his head, she seized control. Opening the browser, she entered the following URL:

www8.cao.go.jp/ksn/mmmmmorpg……

“Ack! H-hey, what are you doing? What kind of site is that?”

“I’ll ask you just one thing. According to the survey we carried out, a lot of online gamers would like to visit a video game world for real. Are you one of those, Masato?”

“W-well I guess I would if I could but, that’s…”

“What would you do if I made it happen right now?”

“Huh? T-that’s…”

Impossible… the word started to form in his throat but he couldn’t get it out.

As soon as she hit the Enter key, a torrent of light burst out from the low input lag monitor. Closing in like a relentless tsunami, it engulfed Masato in a flash and began to drag him into the monitor.

“T-this is… Are you serious?”

“You’d better believe it! It’s exactly what you think!”

“I’m really going into a game woooooooooooooorrrld!”

He stopped trying to resist. Letting go of the desk he had been grabbing for dear life, he let himself go with the flow.

It should have been impossible for him to enter the monitor, but he felt his body begin to slide inside. Just then…

Makki! Wait!

That sounded like Mamako’s voice. Did she run over when she heard him yelling?

It was so bright he couldn’t see clearly. He turned in her direction and whispered.

“Sorry Mom… I’m going away for a bit.”

Why did he apologize? Because he felt bad, that’s why. His dad was away on a job transfer so it was just the two of them. She would be all alone if he went away too. It wouldn’t be right. Part of him didn’t want that to happen.

After all, it’s not like he disliked her or anything, though he would rather die than admit he actually liked her. She was the only mother he had. On some level he wanted to do right by her. He did think about her happiness sometimes, and he did try to fulfill the wishes and expectations she had of him.

It was just hard to express those feelings in words and actions. Something in his heart always held him back. That, and he didn’t really see such a young-looking woman as a mother so he found it hard to deal with Mamako. That was the problem he was dealing with at the moment.

However.

“I’m going to have lots of adventures and get way stronger… then I’ll be able to be more honest with my mom… At least I hope that’s how goes…”

He would be back someday. And then he would be a kinder soul, having overcome all embarrassment. He would love to give her a big hug as he whispered, “I’m home, Mom.”

With such warm thoughts in his mind, Masato crossed the barrier into a world he’d never imagined he could actually enter.

He touched down.

It was a completely different place from the room he had just left. He found himself standing on a stone altar on a corner of an island, one island among many floating through an endless sky.

A magic circle still glowed faintly under his feet.

“Whoa!”

Something small ran by his foot. A lizard. An eight-legged lizard.

The little create breathed out a small burst of fire to threaten Masato then, satisfied with that display of bravado, ran off as fast as its many legs could carry it. There was no such animal in Japan, that was for certain. Or anywhere else on earth, for that matter.

Which meant…

“For real?!”

He had to believe it was real.

So this was the world inside a game? A fantasy game? Really? Really!

And with that, Masato went,

“Hell yeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!”

He’d made it! He really made it! He was in another world! This was unreal!

At long last, at long, long last it was finally time for him to shine!

Just then…

“Aww, Makki. I told you to wait for me but you didn’t. I was so sad.”

“…Huh?”

He turned at the sound of the familiar voice to see a young girl standing behind him.

She was dressed in a lovely shift dress and carrying a large traveling bag so full the zipper wouldn’t close, looking clearly like someone about to set off on a trip. Hey, waitaminnit.

She just looked like a young girl but she wasn’t actually all that young.

After all, this was no ordinary young lady; this was Masato’s mother Mamako.

“Huh… W-what… This isn’t… This can’t be happening…”

“Let’s have lots of adventure together, okay Makki? Tee hee.”

“WHAAAAATTTT THE HELLLLLLLL?!!”

Somehow his mom had joined him on the trip into the game world.

Seriously? Was he imagining things? No, no way, it couldn’t be…

But it was.

“This way, Makki. I’ll show you around.”

“Uh… umm… yah.”

All he could do was start walking. Plodding along automatically as she pulled him by the arm.

They crossed over carefully-placed stone bridges from floating island to floating island until they reached a much larger island.

A solemn-looking palace with a domed-roof building at its center loomed ahead of a road lined with statues of gods. Looks like that’s where Mamako was taking him.

(Okay Masato, calm down. Keep your head on. Think. Get a grip on the situation.)

What on earth was going on here? What kind of situation was this? He could tell from everything around him that he had definitely been transported to a fantasy game world, no two questions there.  But his mom was there too. He had to do something about that. That was the first challenge to overcome. Right, then.

“S-so, uh, Mom? Why are you…?”

“Here we are! We have to do an event here first. Let’s give it our best shot!”

“Wait, what?”

He was too busy being dumbfounded to notice, but it seemed they had arrived at the event flag point at the end of a corridor.

In the middle of the palace, at the center of a large circular hall, an old man sat expectantly on a throne. He had a solid, well-built physique and was dressed in gorgeous finery topped with a robe decorated with gold and silver thread. On his head was a crown festooned with precious jewels. His hair was white as snow. He was the very epitome of a king.

“It’s good to see you. I am the King and the owner of this Palace of Transportation.”

What a booming voice!

He said he was the king so he must be the king. There were no soldiers or courtiers or anyone else around but he was the king.

“I’ve been waiting for you! Thank you so much for coming!”

“Thank you very much. We were very honored to receive your invitation. …Go on, Makki, greet the king.”

“Uh, umm… Hello?”

At Mamako’s prodding he knelt perfunctorily before the throne and bowed his head. Just doing as he was told.

The king looked them over with a warm smile and gently continued.

“Let’s start with introductions. Why don’t you tell me your names?”

“My name is Mamako and this is my son Makki.”

“So you’re Miss Mamako and this Master MySonMakki? Then I’ll register you as such…”

“H-hold on a minute, Mr. King! My name is Masato! Masato, okay?”

“I see. The mother is ‘Mamako’ and the son is ‘Masato.’ Is that correct? Then I will proceed with the registration.”

He slowly raised his hand up. Two window screens appeared in mid-air. A name registration screen appeared in each window and the king entered Masato and Mamako’s names.

“Hang on… that looked like… a new account registration?”

“Correct. For the record you can’t make any changes once you’ve been registered.”

“Why didn’t you tell meeeeeeee?!”

Getting carried away and using your real name for an account. That happens a lot. And you can’t change your username afterwards. Yup, happens all the time. Masato thumped the floor in frustration. Thank goodness the floor was there to bang on.

“Damnit! Nooooooooo!”

Thump! Thump! Thump!

“M-Makki! Please stop banging on the floor! You’ll disturb the people downstairs!”

“Ho ho ho. There’s no one living down there so thump away, young man. Now that the account registration is out of the way, let me give you some basic information. Take this.”

With a light movement of his fingers, the king slid the screen smoothly through the air towards them. On the display were their basic stats.

Masato’s account name was “Masato.” So they did use his real name. And his class was “Ordinary Hero.” His attack and defense stats were there too, along with words like “Combatant” and “Cannot craft.”

He peered at his mother’s screen and as expected her account name was “Mamako.” Her class was “Ordinary Hero’s Mother.” She also had “Combatant” and “Cannot craft” on her screen.

There was a lot he wanted to say about this but first things first.

“Excuse me, my class says ‘Ordinary Hero.’ What does that mean?”

“Ordinary means ordinary.”

The king shut his eyes thoughtfully and smiled gently.

“It means you won’t be saving the world or anything grand like that. You’ll just live an ordinary, friendly, happy life. That’s what you, Ordinary Hero Masato and you, Ordinary Hero’s Mom Mamako, will be aiming for.”

With those kind words explaining their goal, he pointed far off into the distance.

“Now go, Hero!”

Booom!

What a moving, dramatic line!

“All right, let’s do this! …Waitamminit! I can’t just go like that!”

Go where? And do what? It didn’t make any sense at all.

“You can’t?”

“Of course not! Give me a proper explanation! I don’t have a clue what all this is about!”

“Very well. I will explain. Pay close attention.”

The king cleared his throat and continued.

“To put it briefly, this is a test session for a closed beta for an online game that uses special technology I can’t really explain to transport the user’s body into the game itself.”

“Too brief!”

“Test players are usually carefully selected based on the results of a survey carried out, but there have been cases of some unfortunate souls being chosen because they put their names on a survey that was supposed to be anonymous. They were chosen because they made it easy to find them. I’m not going to mention any names, though.”

“Hee hee hee. That’s so silly; I can’t believe anyone would do something so… Huh? It-it can’t be…”

…Or could it? The way the king spoke made it sound like his suspicion was right. Or was he just imagining it? Let’s pretend he was just imagining it.

“Moving on, this game is only at the play-testing stage so it does not have an official title yet. For that reason it’s being called ‘MMMMMORPG (temporary)’ for now.”

“Does that stand for Massively (X5) Multiplayer blah blah blah? Sounds like a parody.”

“It’s a fantasy MMORPG featuring features a lot of potential job classes, divided into Combat and Non-combat classes. You can choose to fight or you can play casually, craft items or just decorate your house. It’s designed to let you play freely any how you want.”

“But I’m already…”

“Indeed. We put you in a class no one had chosen yet in order to collect actual test data. And you can’t change that either. Try not to get too upset.”

“So much for my so-called freedom. So this is what the world is like…”

Completely absurd and endlessly unfair. That’s life.

But it was still an incredible honor to be chosen for a beta test run. And a full-dive test run to boot. He was happy about that, at least. Forcing himself to look on the bright side, Masato rose up.

“Hmm. Okay, I guess I’ve got the basics down. Basically this is an online game.”

“Correct. I’m glad you understood it so quickly. Are you all right as well, Miss Mamako?  Do you understand how this game works?”

“Uhmmm… Uh…”

“Hmm? Do feel free to ask if you have any questions. I’ll tell you what I can.”

The king sounded so warm and inviting that Mamako, who had been looking confused, ventured to ask a question.

“Um…. what’s an… ‘account’?”

“Whaaaat? You don’t even know that?!”

The king and Masato yelled in unison.

“I… uh, see… Let me ask you, Miss Mamako, what do you think an account is?”

“An ‘account’ is, umm, an…”

She sank deep into thought and then finally smiled as if she’d got the answer.

“It’s like ah-ah-ah-ah, right?” she said, counting the ‘ahs’ off on her fingers. Evidently she believed ‘account’ meant counting how many times you said ‘ah’.

Riiiight. That’s how low her level of game knowledge was.

The king turned to Masato, still smiling gently.

“Master Masato, I leave Miss Mamako to you. Good luck.”

“H-hey waitamminit! You can’t just run away! Do something!”

“There is nothing I can do!”

Booom!

“How can you refuse with such bold authority?!”

“Because… I am an NPC! I cannot say anything I am not programmed to say! My job is to provide an initial explanation only! If you want me to train complete newbies then you’d better give me those lines in 10kb or less! Got it, developers?!”

“You’re just programmed data and you think you can order the developers around? What an NPC!”

“By the way, there are both test players and NPCs in this game, but there’s no way to tell them apart. If you really want to know the difference, write down something perverted and make them read it aloud. NPCs will read it out exactly as it is written.”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to know that.”

But hmm, it might be fun to make people say all kinds of things… like you-know-what and you-know-what-else. Not that he would ever do such a thing, of course. Of course.

Moving on.

“That’s enough talking. You can figure the rest out as you play.”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s faster to work things out instead of getting a lecture anyway. Wait… huh?!”

Right before he agreed that he didn’t need any further explanation, Masato realized something with a start.

No, wait, hang on. There was a problem here. A huge one standing right there.

It was Mamako, who had snuck up and was standing right next to him.

“H-hold on a second! You haven’t told me the most important part!”

“Yes, I know what you want to know, Master Masato. Why did your mother come along, right?”

“Yes, that’s it! And don’t skimp on the details!”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”

“What?! Why not?! Because you weren’t given those lines?!”

“No, that’s not it. The reason your mother came along is deeply involved with the true purpose of this game. Any further explanations might reveal the intentions of the administrators and we can’t have that. What we want is for you realize it yourself and to become what we want you to become over the course of your adventure. That’s the ideal result.”

“…Huh? W…what did you just say?”

“Mothers are usually told in advance, but it’s best for the children to stay out of the loop. Just play anyhow you like and find out through your adventure. Now then…”

The king rose up and touched his throne, which disappeared. The stone slab underneath sank into the ground with a heavy groaning noise. There was a spiral staircase inside leading downwards.

“It’s time for the next event. Follow me.”

“Wait! Don’t just skip to the next scene! I need an expla–”

“Just keep quiet and come with me. I’m going to give you a gift that will make even the most jaded, unsatisfied-with-the-current-situation hero gasp in wonder.”

“Don’t try to change the subject!”

“Oh? So you don’t want the starter bonus for making a new account and your first login?”

“What? S-starter bonus?”

Ka-ching! They had him. And he knew it.

No normal human being could resist the delicious starting bonuses all online games meted out to new players. There was no way he could ignore this, no matter how hard he tried. He would take it. He had to take it.

Not even a hero could resist this sweet temptation.

There was another circular room at the bottom of the spiral staircase. There were several doors on the walls, each affixed with a plaque bearing the names of classes like “Holy Knight,” “Wizard,” “Florist” and “Farmer.” One of them was the “Hero” room. Masato followed the king into the room and what he saw blew away all the doubt and misery swirling through his mind in an instant. He swallowed nervously.

Swords. Awesome swords.

“No… way…”

The room was small and made from stones that glowed with a faint light. In the middle was a pile of stones with three swords stuck into it.

A sword that glowed red hot like magma.

A sword that shone deep blue like the depths of the ocean.

A crystal clear, transparent sword.

Even Masato could tell at the glance that they were real and that they were no ordinary swords. They weren’t intimidating just because they were weapons. There’s was something more to it… Something that filled him with a sense of awe, as if in the presence of some extraordinary power.

“I see you can sense something. No wonder you’re a hero.”

“Y-yeah, well…”

“Go on, Master Masato. Pick the one you want. It will be yours.”

“I can really have one?”

“Certainly. They’re actually supposed to be high-level quest rewards, but you can’t get users into a game these days without some nice bonuses. This is just bait, basically.”

“…I kinda wish you hadn’t told me that.”

“People these days are so picky. Why, back in the old days heroes started their adventures with just a wooden stick, and they liked it!”

“Stop living in the NES era, old man.”

“Go ahead, Master Masato. Choose your sword.”

“O-okay…”

He walked confidently over to the transparent sword.

He had no reason for picking that one, but somehow he could just feel it.

(This is the sword for me… I don’t know how I know it, but it’s true.)

The sun. The moon. The stars. Wrapping his hand around the detailed heavenly bodies engraved on the hilt, he held the sword aloft. Although it had been deeply embedded in the stone, it slid out into Masato’s hand without a trace of resistance.

“I see. So you are the hero chosen by the distant heavens.”

“Chosen by the heavens?”

“That sword you’re holding is Firmament, the Holy Sword of the Great Sky. Long, long ago, when the skies of this world were overcast with darkness, this legendary sword cut through all the darkness in a single swing… or so the flavor text says.”

“That last bit was unnecessary. But, well, it seems like a pretty neat sword. It’s hard to get what’s so great about it from hearing that explanation, though.”

“I’ll try to simplify things.”

The king put on his reading glasses with a click, pulled a book out from his robes and flipped through the pages. There was “Official Guidebook” written on the cover.

“Firmament, let’s see… It does double damage against flying monsters at triple the normal critical rate. It’s one of the most powerful event items in the game and can’t be sold. There you go.”

“That was easy to understand all right, but you kinda ruined it. You should roleplay a little harder.”

“No worries. I’ll act properly when the official release rolls around.”

Just because it’s the beta version doesn’t mean you can do anything you want. At least try to get into the act a little… is what Masato thought to himself but he doubted the old man would listen, so he kept his mouth shut.

Anyway.

“How do you feel now, Master Masato? Ready to give the game a try?”

“Uhh… I, uh…”

The king was completely right. He’d hit the nail right on the head. Something inside Masato changed the minute he took hold of the Firmament, the Holy Sword of the Great Sky.

(There’s a sword in my hand.)

The sensation in his hand called out to him. A desire carved in every boy’s, nay, every man’s instincts: to live is to fight. That was the desire that stirred up within him.

What’s more, he had a legendary sword. An ultimate weapon. The whole point of fighting and adventuring was to become the strongest. Why on earth would he throw that glory away? He couldn’t think of a single reason. Not that he tried very hard, though.

“Oh very well… I hate how you suckered me into this, but fine.”

“I know how you feel, but give it up already. Tell yourself this is your destiny as a hero.”

“Hmm… Nah, slapping the hero label on me doesn’t make me feel like one.”

“What are you saying? You have the legendary sword in your hand. Only a hero could have pulled that out. So you must be a hero. A true hero without a doubt.”

“Oh, well, if you put it that way… This is kinda embarrassing…”

Masato was a hero. Without a doubt. A true hero. A hero, they said!

“No need to be shy. You’re a hero. The champion of this world. Now sally forth, our savior!”

“Aww, man, stop it. This just too much!”

Hero. Champion. Savior. A hero and a champion and a savior. A three-in-one combo, sweet!

“I’m just telling the truth. Whether this game ever gets an official release or not will depend on the results of this test run. It all depends on how well you guys do. I hope you will lead this game into a new direction. You’re the only one who can do it.”

“R-really? Well, if I’m the only one who can then I guess I’ll do it.”

“Hee hee, yeah. Makki will do it for sure. He’s my precious baby boy, after all.”

“Yeah, and I’m a precious baby boy too. So of course I… Wait… huh?”

“Can mommy have some swords too? There we go.” Slip, slip.

Mamako pulled out both the fire red sword and the deep blue sword.

Two swords that could only be pulled out by the chosen hero, just like that.

Masato’s happy mood from being flattered by the king vanished in a flash. Huh? What this? What just happened here? Could someone please explain?

“U-umm… Your Highness, could you…”

“I’m sorry. I can’t say any more. As an NPC this is as far as I go. …Oh yes, please give this guidebook to Miss Mamako later on. Farewell.”

And with that final gift, the king scampered away somewhere, leaving them behind.

They went through a door further inside the hero’s room and found themselves in a circular fighting arena. There were no audience seats, just an endless fighting stage out in the middle of nowhere. Looks like a stage for a tutorial battle.

Masato stood in a corner and skimmed through the guidebook. He soon found what he was looking for.

“Terra de Madre” and “Altura.”

Those were the names of the swords Mamako had pulled out.

The fire red sword was Terra de Madre. The Holy Sword of the Great Mother Earth. It was the life born from the earth when heaven and earth were created. This sword was the source of all life in that world.

The deep blue sword was Altura. The Holy Sword of the Great Mother Ocean. It miraculously stopped a great flood that threatened to swallow the world with a single swing. It was also the symbol of the contract between the earth and the sea when they shared the world between themselves and united it.

So how good were those swords, practically speaking? Wait till you hear the next bit.

Terra de Madre: Hits land monsters for double damage with a tripled critical rate. Hits all enemies. One of the most powerful event items in the game. Cannot be sold.

Altura: Hits aquatic monsters for double damage with a tripled critical rate. Hits all enemies. One of the most powerful event items in the game. Cannot be sold.

As a special note, the phrase “Deals damage depending on the number of enemies” was affixed to the “Hits all enemies” line for each sword. That meant the amount of damage from each attack was fixed in advance and then distributed equally based on the number of enemies. That’s what usually happened when you used that kind of weapon.

“Watch me, Makki! Mommy’s gonna do her best! Hiyah!”

Mamako raised Terra de Madre in her right hand high above her head and swung it down. Countless sword-shaped stones rose up from the ground in an instant and rained down on the clustered group of monsters.

“Gaaaaah!” “Gyaaah!” “Gruhhhh!” “Gwaaaargh!”

The ants, caterpillars, spiders, wolves, bears and other monsters split in two and then poofed into little pieces. And she made it look so easy.

But another group of enemies appeared right away!

“You won’t beat me! I’ve got to look good in front of Makki! Yah!”

Holding Altura horizontally in her left hand, she thrust forward.

Dark blue swords made of water appeared, split into thousands of water drops and pierced the enemies with bullet-like speed.

“Fshaaaa!” “Ggggghhhh!” “Glub glub glub!” “Blublublub…!”

The ultra high-speed barrage filled the monsters with holes. They crumbled and disappeared almost instantaneously. A total wipeout for the second round of monsters and another easy win for Mamako.

But the fight wasn’t over yet. Monsters appeared in the sky!

“Your turn, Makki! Show them what you’ve got! Go, baby, go!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Closing the guidebook, he pulled out Firmament and slashed halfheartedly at the sky. A shockwave flew out from the sword and rose up in pursuit of the enemy. Dancing up into the sky, it scored a direct hit!

“Peep!”

A single, small, sparrow-sized monster fell from the sky and turned to ash.

Masato defeated a monster!

And then he sank to the ground and began to cry.

“Noooo… this is all wrong… this is a mistake, it has to be a mistake…”

“W-what’s wrong, Makki? Are you hurt? Show me!”

“No… That’s not it… That’s not it at all… *sob*”

Sure, Firmament was great and all. Any sword with a slashing attack that homed in on the enemy was definitely awesome. He ought to be confident. He ought to be proud of himself. Right?

But Mamako’s regular attacks hit the whole enemy party, and she could attack twice because she was wielding two swords. Compared to his mom, who had easily defeated dozens of monsters…

(I’m… so pathetic…)

All he could do was cry and sulk himself to sleep. What else was he supposed to do?

Mamako ran over worriedly.

“Come on, cheer up, Makki! That was an amazing attack! I was so surprised when that clear thing went whoosh into the sky! You were really cool, Makki!”

“Please… don’t try to cheer me up. I’m depressed enough as it is; don’t make me feel even worse.”

“That’s not it! I-I wasn’t trying to! C-come on, get up! Let’s finish this tuto… chooto … uhh, what was it again?”

“Choo choo train, Mom.”

“Yes, that’s it! I used to it with my friends. Choo choo, here it comes!”

“Wrong. Mom. All wrong. I don’t see anyone huffing and puffing in a row, do you?”

“O-oh yeah. This isn’t the time to talk about the past. Um, well, that’s enough of this stuff. Let’s move on to the next scene. Okay? I’m sure it gets more fun as we go.”

With that she took his hand and tried to pull him up, but he batted her hand away.

“M… Makki?”

“If you want an adventure so badly you can do it by yourself. Sure there’ll be monsters out in the field, but they’re no match for your firepower. You’ll clear the whole game in no time at all.”

“Fire…power? I’m not on fire anywhere. I’m not a stove, am I?”

“That’s not what I mean by firepower.”

Firepower referred to her attack power. It was an expression that originally referred to the firing of guns and other firearms. Maybe the concept was a little hard for his mom to grasp, but that wasn’t the point.

“Look, just go, okay? Just forget about me.”

“I… I couldn’t possibly…”

Pass. Pass on everything. If he could pass on breathing, he would. He just wanted to fall down like a dead man and let the whole world pass him by, just like a corpse.

“Awww, Makki… What am I supposed to do now? Oh, I know!”

At her wits’ end, Mamako reached for the guidebook he had tossed aside. She flipped through the pages desperately looking for something, anything to cling to.

“There must be some strategy for coping when your hero son doesn’t want to go adventuring with you…”

“No way in hell there’d anything that specific in there. What kind of guidebook is that?”

“Wait, it says here, ‘Your child will be delighted when he finds out you can hit the whole enemy party twice with your regular attacks. He will hug you and beg you to come along on his adventure.’ That’s a lie, isn’t it? You don’t look happy at all!”

“Well… I guess in theory you’d be kind of happy.”

“Y-you would?”

“Well yeah. You’re hitting the whole group with a powerful attack. And not just once but twice. Anyone would beg such an adventurer to join their party. They’d even pay you if they had to.”

“Then why aren’t you happy? Why…”

She feel deep into thought then, having realized something, timidly asked the question.

“Is it… it because… I’m your mom?”

“That’s right. That’s the biggest problem here. Now then.”

Masato pulled himself up and sat across from Mamako.

He forced himself to stay calm and not get angry or yell. This was important.

“I think you owe me an explanation.”

“An e-explanation?”

“Tell me everything. All of it. I want the full story about why we’re here right now. You know something, don’t you? The king said the mothers were usually told, so the developers must have told you something. Right? ”

“That’s, um…”

“It’s weird enough that I’m inside a game, but I don’t mind that part so we’ll let it slide. But this is completely different from what I was hoping for inside a game. And by ‘different’ I mean what the heck are you doing here?”

“Come on, other mothers are always going into game worlds with their sons…”

“Hell no! No way! No way in hell that ever happens! And it would suck if they did! A young man’s fantasy world is a no-parent zone! This is a huge problem!”

“Awww. You’re so mean, Makki. Mommy’s upset.”

She puffed out her cheeks and pretended to pout. Pout, pout. Aww, she’s so cute…

Wait, no! That’s Mom! And she’s almost forty! There’s no way on earth she’s cute! This isn’t the time for that!

“Don’t give me that! Enough sulking, just answer the question!”

“R-right! I’ll tell you everything!”

“Why did you come along and how did we end up like this? Spill it, Mom.”

“B-but they said I didn’t have to explain early on. They said it was better for you to figure things out yourself through various experiences on the journey…”

“Whatever, just start talking. I’m pissed off enough as it is. If you don’t get serious, I’ll…”

“Y-you’ll…”

“I’ll never talk to you again!”

The words were out before he knew he had spoken them. They were words born of irritation.

They were created forcefully and came out forcefully and hit Mamako with that same force, robbing her of all expression.

“Uh… no… I didn’t mean…” By the time he realized what he’d said it was too late.

Large tears began to form in the corners of Mamako’s stunned eyes and then slowly drip down her cheeks.

She looked straight at him as she cried.

“I’m sorry… I don’t know how to explain this. Ms. Shirase seemed to have a lot going on, so I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say.”

“T-that’s okay. It’s okay. You must have your reasons, so…”

“But I will tell you one thing. I would never, ever do anything to hurt or trick you. Please believe that.”

“Okay, Mom, I’ve got it.”

“I just want us to be friends. I thought if we went on an adventure and talked a lot and worked hard together we could get to be really good friends. So… *sniff* so…”

“I get it, I get it already! I get it okay? I get everything!

“So please…”

“…What?”

“Don’t say hurtful things like you’ll never talk to me again. That’s the most painful thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I’m so sad.”

Her tears continued to flow. An endless stream of sad droplets.

He’d really done it now.

He’d made his own mother upset enough to cry. And now he had to watch this sad figure in front of him. There’s nothing more bitter or painful for a child than having to see this.

(What the hell is wrong with me?)

It was nothing to get so excited over. Every child gets their life from their parents, and that life is filled with the desire to make those parents cheerful and happy. Their very soul couldn’t tolerate making them unhappy. There was no way he could bear it. And no way he could ignore it either.

He sat up straight and bowed to the ground, his forehead scraping the ground of the arena.

“Mom, I’m sorry! I was wrong! I didn’t mean it that way! It just came out all wrong, but I didn’t mean it at all, I swear!”

So please forgive me. Please don’t cry. Before he could get the words out… Ruffle, ruffle. He felt someone ruffling his hair. Mamako was ruffling his hair with infinitely tender fingers and a ‘You little rascal’ kind of air about her.

“M…Mom?”

“I love how kind you are and how much you care about my feelings.”

“T-thanks. I’m really sorry I said that.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s okay. Raise your head.”

“Uh, well… okay.”

He raised his head to see his mom, tear streaks still lining her face. They hurt to look at, so he tried to turn away, but…

“Come on. I’ve told you to look people in the face when they’re talking to you.”

“O-okay.”

No helping it, he had to face her.

Mamako looks like she wants to join the party.

“Urgh… I never thought my mom would look at me this way…”

“Makki. Look at me. And listen to what I have to say.”

“S…sure.”

“I want to go on an adventure with you. Will you let me come along?”

Would he let her come along?

There was no room for hesitation. There was only one answer.

“Yeah okay, I guess. It would be great to have your kind of firepower in my party. So I guess you can join the party… I mean, you can come along.”

“Good. Then I will. Let’s give it our best shot, Makki.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure thing, Mom.”

Mamako has joined the party.

“But just one thing, Makki.”

“Hmm? What?”

“I can’t breathe fire or anything. I told you, I’m not a stove.”

“And I told you, that’s not the kind of fire I’m talking about!”

Masato got the feeling that the greatest enemy on this trip… might very well be his mother’s ignorance.


End of Chapter One. If you liked it and can read Japanese, you can buy the full book on Amazon now. Look forward to the next chapter soon. (update: it’s here)

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