Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 1: Mr. Familiar Meets His Maker

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I admit: the way I died was pretty lame. I'm a full-time professional streamer for the popular MMO Born Again Online. I'd never made huge sums, but it was enough to keep me in snacks and ramen, and I built my success on my near-encyclopedic knowledge of the game's many base skills and my ability to apply novel class-building strategies to every run. However, recently I'd felt like I was in a bit of a rut, and a slump in my daily viewer count had me worrying over what to do next. I'd left my apartment with the intention to go out to eat and try to clear my head, when just as I was nearing the sidewalk after crossing the street I had a brainwave. Of course I needed to revisit the Sprite-born! The recent balance patch had drastically improved the proc rate of their pollen attacks, and if you paired that with their underused Second Thought passive skill, you'd theoretically be able to solo most small to medium mobs.

Mind spinning with possibilities, I immediately whirled on my heel and headed back across the street at a fast walk, fully intending to start running the numbers before I rolled a new character and got to work re-invigorating my viewership.

At which point I was hit by a truck and bled out internally several minutes later.

But just because even I think that was a pretty dumb way to die and totally my own fault doesn't mean that I deserved to have my face rubbed in it in the afterlife. Yet that was exactly what was happening.

"Ah ha ha ha, what an idiot!" The person hyukking it up in front of me was a slovenly looking man of indeterminate age wearing a ratty old baseball cap with a team logo I couldn't place and a t-shirt that said "I'm with stupid" and an arrow pointing directly up.

They were, by their own admission, a god. Normally I'd have doubted that particular claim, except for the fact that I'd just died, was evidently a floating orb of light, and they were levitating in the middle of gray nothingness talking to me.

Or, you know, mocking me. "Oh, I've got to rush home to play a video game I've already sunk thousands of hours into! Oh, look, a truck! WHAM! Ah, I can't stop laughing."

"You know, I'm right here," I said. And before you ask, no I don't know how or why a disembodied spirit orb—or whatever I was—would be able to talk.

"And when I think about the irony that if you'd just stuck it out five more years you could have seen that awful game of yours become the first full-immersion virtual world—ah seriously, you're killing me, dude."

"WHAT?!" I screamed. "Like one of those games in light novels where you stick something on your head that talks directly to your brain and then experience the game world directly?!"

"Uh, yeah."

"How is that even possible?! That sort of technology should have been decades out!"

"Normally, yeah, but you died right on the cusp of a major breakthrough in quantum computing that will explode the pants off science as you know it. Sucks to be you, eh?"

I managed an incoherent scream, before lapsing into despairing sobs.

The self-proclaimed god just shrugged. "Well, lucky for you I was on duty instead of that old codger who normally runs the reincarnation side of things. Look, you gave me the best laugh I've had in millennia, so how about I do you a solid and reincarnate you in that game you like so much?"

That shut me up right quick. When I'd mentioned light novels, I hadn't thought I was about to live one's central plot device. "What do you mean? How is that even possible?"

"Weeeell, thing is quantum computing is really…quantum." The self-proclaimed god vaguely waved his hands around.

"Did you just literally hand-wave your way through that explanation?"

He scowled. "Look, you can fit a whole lot more than just a few ones and zeroes in those things, and we've been debating trying it out as an alternate endpoint for souls like yourself since we're having a bit of trouble with overflow. Why is it you folks love breeding so much when you're simultaneously killing off all the good species for reincarnation? Seriously, what did sea turtles ever do to you?"

This was getting off topic. "So what would being reincarnated in the game world entail? Would I keep my memory? Is it the same game I played? Would my knowledge of the game even still be relevant?"

"Yeah, you'd keep your memory. Consider it a perk for making my job easier. And the game won't change much from the version you knew. Well, I mean the dumb computer version would have died off within a year, but the quantum-driven full immersion one is based off a version that's only a few months past when you died. Those die-hard nerds, eh? Never can accept that balance changes are any good."

"But how would this even work? I mean, I don't even have a body anymore…"

"Don't worry about it, it's all very quantum."

I do not think that means what you think it means.

"Look, I'm a software guy, alright? I don't really grok the low-level programming. Talk to the neckbeards in R&D if you really care."

"But I'll have to wait five years before you can reincarnate me?"

"Heck no! Souls have like no sense of time at all; the full immersion version was released a few months ago. Ha, full immersion version. I crack myself up."

Uh, that was super concerning. And not just the lame alliteration. It seemed to me we'd been conversing for maybe five minutes. But if what he said was true, that meant some crazy amount of time could go by while I tried to pick his brain, and all of my ability to brutally exploit—I mean, effectively and responsibly play the game—would vanish in content and balance patches. "Alright, I'll do it! Reincarnate me already!"

"That's the spirit! Ha, that's funny, too! 'Cause you're a spirit! Hey, I'll add myself to your contacts list, 'kay? Gimme a shout if you have any problems. Oh, and I've got just the thing for you! You're going to love it; it'll be like a whole new game." And with a casual wave of his hand following that somewhat worrying proclamation, my vision faded to black.

Maybe he wasn't kidding about the "god" thing.

Oh, man, if this wasn't some elaborate con, I was so looking forward to actually physically existing in the game that I'd lived and breathed for so long…


I waited in darkness with bated breath for the character creation process to start. What race should I pick? I mean I'd played all of them at one point or another, and they were all pretty fun in their own way. But I'd be living this, you know? Maybe a Jinn-born? They were one of my favorite races, visually speaking, and their primary Strength stat backed up by a secondary Intellect stat meant they were really good at bringing the pain.

Then again, the Strength-prime races weren't reaaaaally my jam. I mean, did I really want to be waving a sword around all the time? I'd never been into physical exertion in meat-space. Maybe a Yakshi-born instead? That would get me primary Intellect, secondary Strength, and their race had some sweet class options right off the bat.

Although, come to think of it: I might have enjoyed Intellect and Strength when my character was just pixels on the screen, but I did tend to die an awful lot in the early levels. Maybe it would be smarter to go with one of the Agility-prime races? I wasn't a huge fan of the Endurance-primes, overall, although I supposed a Leshy-born with its secondary Intellect would be alright. Plus their sort of "my close relatives are trees" look was sure to be awesome in person. I supposed a Wata-born could work; that would get me my primary Intellect with secondary Endurance, which was a solid combo. They did best at support roles, though, which wasn't really my thing. I mean, I'd done it, sure, it wasn't bad, per se, but I just liked being a little more active, you know?

Wasn't this taking an awfully long time? With all this "quantum" or whatever running around, I would have expected loading times to have improved, and there wasn't any visual indication that something was going on at all. Now that I took the time to notice, I felt physically cramped, too. Like I'd been stuffed into a space that was just slightly too small and the walls were pressing in on me from literally every direction.

Uh, I really wish I hadn't thought that. Now I was feeling super claustrophobic, and I tried to lash out with my hands.

Which accomplished absolutely nothing. Oh man oh man oh man, tell me I hadn't just been pranked into some horrible purgatory by that half-rate, so-called god. I started flailing around as best I could and something impacted my face with a sharp CRACK! Huzzah! Light! I was saved! It was just a chink, but there was light there!

I flailed about some more, pressing against the surface in front of me with everything I had, until finally it fractured once, fractured twice, and with the grand mother of all headbutts I finally drove my way out, tumbling head over tail to land at the feet of a giant.

Monstrous hands loomed over me, and before I could desperately scrabble away I found myself hoisted into the air and held up in front of a face that…wait, that was a Sprite-born. I recognized the pointed ears, ethereal beauty, and razzmatazz candy-blue hair. But why were they so big…? Over the shoulder of the giant Sprite-born woman holding me I could see a really duffle-y looking Nix-born, and beyond him was a Spider-born who I swore was the spitting image of one of my alts a year back or so. Shouldn't that be me? But he was just as gigantic as the rest.

Ohhhhhhh no. Oh no oh no oh no. I desperately tried to look down at myself, and when my head barely moved, pat at myself with my hands. Which also barely moved. But I was able to turn my head slightly sideways to see a blobby appendage covered in fuzzy pink…fur? Feathers? I couldn't be sure. I waved my arm. The stubby…thing waved, too. Oh scribble. Flick me sideways, I wasn't one of the playable races. I couldn't even remember what these things were called, but that nauseating pink, the absurdly roly-poly limbs…I was a cosmetic. A flicking cosmetic pet creature! How the flick did that even…?!

Wait, "flick"? "Scribble"? "Duffle-y"? Oh, FLIIIIIIICK! The profanity filter was on?! How did that even work?! That goll-diddlied, udder flicking baloney excuse for a god!

I heard something cheeping in evident distress, and realized it was me.

As I hyperventilated and the world grew dark around me, I heard a feminine voice exclaim, "Oh, she's just adorable! Ray, I'm soooo glad you agreed to let me get one! I love you soooooo much! Who's my widdle fluffy-kins? You are! You are!"

And then all I knew was rising panic and the suffocating feeling of my beak—my flicking beak, I had a beak!—being shoved between two absolutely gargantuan breasts.

I…kind of lost it for a bit. I don't really want to talk about it.

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A note from EO Tenkey

Hey hey, let's get this party started! I'll be publishing an extra chapter or two this week to get the ball rolling, but then I'll be back to my "every Wednesday" schedule because that worked nicely for Not A Manga (though I am shooting to have Mr. Familiar chapters be about 1.5-2 times as long as a normal Not A Manga chapter). I've got an unrelated website eating into my writing time recently, but hopefully once I've got that sorted out I'll be able to start getting some extra chapters into Mr. Familiar. We'll see how it goes! Distractions do tend to arise...

A couple orders of business before you go: if you would like early access to chapters ahead of Royal Road, please take a gander at my Patreon. I use the funds to commission artwork for my stories, which given that it's currently a very...exclusive club means that I almost have enough for a cover for Mr. Familiar with the proceeds from Not A Manga. You can also join my Discord, if that's your thing. It's a pretty quiet server at the moment. I technically also have a Twitter account, but no one to date has ever followed it, so I pretty much never post there. If folks do have an interest, I'd happily remedy that, though.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the new story! Let's see what trouble Mr. Familiar can get himself into!


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EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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