Chapter 2 – Methodical Guidance
Step by step, Ling Xiaolu has been lured up the pirate ship!
Edited by Planetes
“I’m sorry, we sincerely apologise for causing you this trouble out of nowhere.”
The man in a suit politely gave Ling Xiaolu a ninety-degree bow, but this was unable to get rid of his grievances.
“May I ask who are you?”
“Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself,” The man tapped a few times on the communication device. Ling Xiaolu received a request to accept the other person’s name card. “I’m the customer service manager of Xinshan, you can call me Ke Ming.”
“Hi Manager Ke. I just want to know why can’t this damn thing come off. Isn’t it supposed to be only a survey?”
“It’s like this, let me give you a basic explanation.” Ke Ming used his hands to simulate a rectangular viewfinder, then extended it outwards. An enlarged virtual projector screen appeared in front of Ling Xiaolu, and numbers and charts were packed densely on it.
“The stats of the combat pets in the game look very random on the surface, but they essentially abide by the laws of the original mathematical formula. This is also to maintain the combat balance in the game.”
“As for every single one of us, we also have a hidden attribute. The problem that has been plaguing us is the mismatch between the player’s attribute and the combat pet’s stats. It results in the engine determining it as a ‘plug-in’, and so these players are barred from entering.”
“After multiple tests, we’ve discovered that only in situations where the compatibility is higher than 92.7%, the players will then be able to successfully pass the check. Hence, we regard the 92.7% as the breakthrough point for registration.”
“Although we found the breakthrough point, there are only so many accounts who are able to achieve this percentage. Up to now, there’s only 37 people who have passed the test, and the highest percentage amongst them is 98.5%.”
“So you’re saying that my compatibility with the system has exceeded 92.7%?” Ling Xiaolu asked.
“It’s not just that.” He tapped the virtual screen, and on the left side of the screen appeared a human outline. On the right was data that Ling Xiaolu did not understand, and a percentage popped up in the middle of the screen, counting rapidly, only stopping when it reached 100.08%.”
“… That’s me?” It took Ling Xiaolu some time before he responded.
“What is 100.08%?”
“It’s the system compatibility percentage I mentioned just now.”
“If it’s according to data, how can it go above 100%? My maths is very good, don’t lie to me.”
Ke Ming sighed, “This is also the thing that has been troubling us.”
“Then may I ask when would you be able to solve this problem?”
“The technical department is currently working hard to investigate the issue, we will definitely try our best to solve it as soon as possible.”
“How long is as soon as possible? One hour? Half a day? One day?”
“As this is also the first time we’ve met this situation, so we’re unable to give you an accurate time that’s needed.” Ke Ming was embarrassed.
“You’ve researched over a year already and still haven’t found the reason why people can’t put on this thing. Then, how long would you need to research on why it can’t be removed?” Ling Xiaolu grabbed his hair in distress, “I don’t want to spend my life wearing this thing.”
“Towards the inconvenience we have caused in your life, we’ll provide the appropriate compensation. I’ve already requested the higher ups in the company to temporarily hire you as an off-staff tester. As long as you’re wearing the device, it can be considered that you’re working, and we will pay your salary accordingly.”
“Then if it can’t be removed for an entire day, doesn’t that mean I can earn a salary for 24 hours?”
“Exactly. Also, in consideration of the peculiarity of your work, your pay is twice the amount of other testers, and overtime will be calculated accordingly. It will also be increased during public holidays as well.”
“However, wearing this, I won’t be able to do anything. I can’t even go out.”
“May I ask, what is your current occupation?”
“A high school student? Or a college student?”
“I’ve just completed the high school graduation exams. When school starts again, I’ll be a first year college student.” Ling Xiaolu was a little dejected. He had managed to get into his ideal school with great effort. What should he do if this thing affected his first day of school?”
“No wonder you’ll purchase a game device at this time. May I ask another question, which college have you been admitted to?”
“Wow,” Ke Ming praised him sincerely. “That’s a very established school with a long history. The school building is nearly 500 years old. Students admitted there are truly outstanding, which major did you get into?”
“Inter-galactic navigation and communication, specialising in superionic material in the Galaxy Institute of Engineering.”
“That’s a really popular major, your results must be very impressive.”
Not everyone could become a manager of customer service. Such targeted flattering was very effective on inexperienced youths like Ling Xiaolu.
“It’s decent.” His voice and expression had softened a lot.
“It’s now the start of June. There’s still 3 full months before school starts in September. I believe that our technical department will be able to find a way to solve this issue within three months.”
“Then what should I do about my daily routine? You can’t expect me to wear this out in summer.”
“There’s two ways to solve this problem. One, our company can provide someone to deliver your daily necessities to your door. As long as you need it, we can satisfy it. If you prefer shopping yourself online, our company can also fully reimburse you. The only thing is that we’ll feel bad if you’re staying at home the entire time.”
“Then what’s the second option?”
“With the current in-game state of our company, you can resolve all your bodily requirements in the game itself. That means, as long as you maintain your food and drink intake in the game, in reality, you will also be able to receive the corresponding nutrients, and you don’t have to worry about your health.”
“Actually, there’s a small group of players who have already been living long-term in the game. Our engine will periodically monitor the players’ conditions, and until now, there hasn’t been any problems yet.”
“Doesn’t that mean that I’ll be captured as a pet? Is there any way to let me enter the game using the bracelet?”
“I’m sorry, we’re temporarily unable to do so. The engine can only accept a request from one device at a time. As the collar is a special device, it takes priority, and we’re unable to make any adjustments to that.”
The salesperson standing by the side helped to interject, “Actually, the human pets in the game will receive many types of preferential treatments.”
“What sort of preferential treatments?”
“For example,” Manager Ke introduced. “The players don’t have to pay for any expenses in the game. As an unbonded player, the game is completely free. Once the contract is signed, the master will be responsible for the cost of the device, the monthly card, as well as any in-game items.”
“Master?” Ling Xiaolu’s mouth twisted.
“The fees will be handled by the benefactor who sign the spirit contract with you.” Manager Ke cleverly corrected himself.
“Also, what did you say just now? Monthly card and in-game items?”
“For ordinary players, the first 18 levels are free. After that, they will have to purchase a 50 dollar card every month. As for the in-game items, they’re not a necessary purchase. Without them, the game experience will not be affected as well.”
“What sort of charging model is this? It’s a trap!”
“This is something we have learnt from Jingshan Tech from a few hundred years ago. Jingshan Tech was the predecessor of Xinshan, and that was their operating experience for a certain PC online game. It’s a well-established charging model that we’ve done market research on.”
“A PC online game?” Ling Xiaolu exclaimed. “What an ancient term.”
“Yes, it has long disappeared from the scene. In our generation, there’s no longer any old players of PC online games. Today, it’s the VR games that are holding the fort.”
“At the end of the day, there’s only a monetary compensation. It’s as though I’m bargaining with a boss who’s about to become my sugar daddy. Although I’m poor, I’m not at the point where I have to sell my body. I can still afford a monthly card worth 50 dollars.”
“A contract between the master and pet requires both parties to agree on it. Right now, there are very few human-controlled pets in the game, and demand far outstrips supply. The power to decide actually lies in your hand, if you don’t agree to it, no one can force you.”
“Right, upon signing, my right to decisions will then be in the hands of others. Just now, it was said that the ratio is 3:1. The rich players would definitely find all sorts of ways to entrap me.” Ling Xiaolu was not a fool.
“Other than that, a human-controlled pet can learn all the skills available for the pets in the game. This is something that no other players can experience.”
“Oh?” Ling Xiaolu finally was a little interested.
“There’s the exclusive skill that belongs to the undead, the well known corrosion and plague.” The salesperson added.
“What sort of skill is that! Just hearing the name there’s completely no desire to learn it!”
The salesperson was regretful. “Those are two extremely powerful skills. When used, your skin will fester, your body rot, and all players will run away immediately after seeing you.”
“Why would I want that?!!”
Ke Ming shot the salesperson a warning glance, and the sensible salesperson quietly shut his mouth.
Seeing how Ling Xiaolu was still very repelled by the pet status, the experienced Ke Ming suddenly had a brain wave.
“You’re free to decide if you want to play the game using the collar, but if you’re willing to try, our technical department will work with you, and fulfill your in-game requests to the best of their abilities.”
“I know your greatest concern is that you don’t like the status of being a combat pet. Although we’re unable to change this, but our staff will try their best to help you pretend to be an ordinary player, such that even benefactors would not be able to tell.”
Ling Xiaolu’s hopes lit up again. “Does that mean that I won’t be captured as a pet?”
Ke Ming did not correct him, and only said, “We will give our utmost effort in ensuring your freedom in the game.”
“Then can I also have a cool pet like that Wind Pterosaur?”
“I’m very sorry, this is something that our technology isn’t able to do. As your identity is a combat pet, the rules of the system states that a combat pet is unable to have another combat pet. However, if you like this sort of combat pet in our new promotional video, I can give you a mini version.”
“It’s what we call a non-combative pet.”
Ling Xiaolu was not very sure of the differences between a combat pet and a non-combative pet. However, Xinshan had been very sincere with the various methods of compensation they had offered, and if he kept harping on it, he would become the unreasonable one.
“Fine, now that the situation is like this, even if I don’t agree, I don’t seem to have any other choices.”
“Are you agreeing to experience the game? That’s really great to hear, and this will be a big help for our research to improve on the device.” Ke Ming was grateful.
“What should I do next?”
“You will need to register. Are you at least 18 years of age?”
“I am, is there a problem?”
“Games like <Spirit Contract> has two ratings in the game rating system, R14 and R18. This means that only players above 14 years of age are allowed to enter the game, but players above the age of 18 can experience the full content of the game.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Appearance wise it will be very different. All the skeletons in the game will be covered with muscles, corpses will turn into gravestones, and there would be no bloody effects to be seen, as well as all overly revealing clothes will be sealed. Underaged accounts will be incorporated into an anti-addiction system, and income will be reduced by half once the player is online for more than 2 hours. After 5 hours, the income will be reduced to 0, and finally they cannot have any sexual activities with other players.”
Ling Xiaolu immediately grasped the keypoint. “You can even have sex with other players?”
“Only when both parties or more consent to it.”
“There can even be more than 2 parties?” He was dumbfounded.
“We’re a very liberal game.” Ke Ming smiled.
The salesperson held up an iris scanner. “If you’ve reached the minimum age requirement, please scan your identity so that we can verify it.”
There was no identity cards in this era. Everyone’s details were stored in the pattern of their irises. The salesperson used the scanner and swiftly scanned Ling Xiaolu’s eye, then his information was all listed in details on the screen —
Name: Ling Xiaolu
Region: Hushuo City
“Please check if the information listed is correct.”
“They’re correct.” Ling Xiaolu confirmed.
“Identity has been confirmed, the device is on. The last step now is to embed the game client.”
Bending down, he retrieved the luxury edition of <The Hidden Dragon> from within the counter. As befitting of a luxury edition, even the packaging was very particular. The concept art was exquisite, looking as though it was made out of glass. Studying the box carefully, there was even a colourful holographic effect on it. The lines of colour all led to a specific location, converging in a spot, and it happened to be the jewel embedded in the eye of the Wind Pterosaur.
“You can now open the box.”
Ling Xiaolu touched the surface of the jewel lightly. That rectangular box slowly rose up to midair, and started to turn clockwise. It started off very slow, then sped up until the eye could not catch its speed.
Just as Ling Xiaolu’s eyes were getting dazzled, a few life-like looking goldfish leapt out from the box, swimming agilely around Ling Xiaolu, and he reached out to grab at them. That goldfish however slipped through the cracks of his fingers, and twisted and tangled up with its companions. Melting into ink, they reshaped into the shape of a dragon, then circled in midair a few times accompanied by a melodious ancient-styled music. After a whistle, it turned into smoke and dispersed, only leaving three floating words in a calligraphic style — East Tianling.
“That was too pretty,” He gave a heartfelt sigh. “It would be great if there wasn’t this thing on my neck.”
The box of the luxury version had already quietly returned to its original position. The originally sealed cover was now open, revealing a pure black interior. In the middle of the box was a gleaming metal chip.
The salesperson carefully took the chip out and inserted it into a slot under the collar. Then, with a touch of his hand, the metal surface was flawless again.
“All preparations have been done. You can now freely immerse yourself in this world that straddles between virtual and reality. I hope you’ll have a good time experiencing this game.”
“We will assign you an exclusive customer service officer to make sure that your progress in the game goes smoothly. If you have any questions, you can ask the officer or contact me directly.” Ke Ming added.
“I have a question right now.”
“Please go ahead.”
Ling Xiaolu pointed at his neck. “Wearing this, how am I going to go home?”