This had to be the worst family gathering I had ever been to.
It’s a good thing it wasn’t really my family.
While the Dojo was quite large it was currently being filled by a small community center worth of people kneeling on pillows while Grampy sat at the front with Takei kneeling just off to his right. I’d have to give them credit. It wasn’t hard to make something like this unbearably painful. Yet, somehow, through all the odds they raised the bar to levels so uncomfortable even the most hard core masochists' would tap out.
From the lack of food and unpleasant stares I figured this was part of some pre-dinner show.
Smile, nod, insert awkward cough and…
“How’s everyone doing tonight?”
“That well huh.”
I turned to Takei who was smiling while I avoided the gaze of Komuro who definitely was not. No indication from either of them, the crowd or the goon standing behind me as to what this was about. I’d say 50/50 chance this was either good or bad but that would only be wishful thinking. No, this was either some sort of public admonishment or some ritual sacrifice.
Well, actually. This was an eroge game after all… Gasp! Orgy!
No! Not a chance! The thought was already stricken from my food deprived brain. It was annoying how out of it I was still having to wait for the dinner I was promised. I hated how weak this body was that it couldn’t even go twelve hours without food without going soft on me. I used to be able to fast twenty four hours without batting an eye. Ugh, perhaps I was just better off muddling my way through on my own. I may be a city boy but I knew enough about hunting and fishing to get by if I was desperate.
A point I was getting ever closer to.
“Here little bro, this is for you.”
“Wh-What?” Fumbling, I nearly dropped some small metal object tossed to me. It was small, fitting into the palm of my hand rather easily. There was a metal chain attached to it that made it familiar. Dangling it in front of my eyes I quirked an eyebrow at the teenage boy who gave me that 2000 yen bill this morning. Of all the things I thought they’d do but to give me an unengraved dog tag was really out there. “Really? You all decided to ship me off to the army?”
The teenage boy, Yasue, if I remember correctly, just chuckled at my question. “Of course not. Although it does seem that way without any explanation.”
“I know you’re a little young to have one of your own but seeing as you’ll be living here now it may be important to begin your training,” Takei explained. Reaching inside the collar of his robe was a similar looking dog tag except his looked a bit discolored with a bluish tint. “These are Magic Plates. They help show the progress of your star attributes and your natural aptitude for magic.”
Star attributes? Magic aptitude?
I was more familiar with the second term as certain characters in the game had specific abilities that they excelled at. It was natural as it gave them specific roles when forming a party. If I remember correctly Hisato’s attributes were… Light and null magic? Yes, that was it. He was one of the first companions you got and served as a healer/tank until I unlocked the Shrine Maiden, Ichika, and her higher attack rating. She was one of the more favorite characters given how… endowed with large magical powers she was.
Plus the fact it was an eroge game meant that Hisato’s purpose as an mule in a harem game was over. Although… There was another reason why Hisato typically stuck around in some parties slightly longer to boost his affinity with the player.
A matter for another time.
It was the other term I couldn't make heads or tails of. Star attributes was a term completely foreign to me. The only stars I saw in the game were calculated after the end of a battle. It typically came when the experience points were tallied and rewards for defeating monsters was given. Completely normal in too numerous games to count. But how they were framing this weird dog tag meant that it might be something completely different.
That being said…
The expecting stares, the tenseness in the room as I dangled this Magical Plate between my fingers. I think I was finally starting to get some idea of why I was called here.
“So if I don’t have an Ice attribute then it's back to the shed I guess. Isn’t that right?” I asked aloud although I looked Grampy in the eyes when I did so. Such a thing would only matter to him and a select few here. Most wouldn’t give a damn what my attributes were.
“That’s… that’s not it at all, Hisato-kun,” Takei replied. “We just want to make sure your talents are properly fostered.”
“Uh huh. So what do I have to do? Say an incantation? Channel magic into it?”
“Nope.” Yasue said. “Just a drop of your blood on it and the Magic Plate will do the rest.”
A drop of blood? Well, at least they were keeping this whole song and dance as cliché as possible. Not that I had a problem with it. I couldn’t channel magic or even knew how to use it. My earlier attempts of simply saying the names of spells from the game had been one of the first things I tried when I got here. Of course it just involved me shouting into the air like an idiot.
“Yes, Toki, why don’t you show your cousin yours since you’ve recently had yours done,” Takei suggested.
In the back of the room, the little heiress had blended in well. Likely she was too young to participate in this meeting and was only here to observe. She didn’t appear too happy about me being here but slowly stood up from her pillow and walked around the crowd to the front.
“Yes Father,” she obeyed, pulling her blueish plate out in a similar manner. “Look well, rude boy. My Star attributes are well above someone our age.”
The first thing I noticed when I touched her plate was how cold it was. Like it had just been taken out of the freezer. If I was feeling stupid and let my curiosity get the better of me I’d think it be interesting to stick my tongue to it to see if it would stick. Thankfully I had something even better to tide my interest.
Ah! Now this was making a little more sense. I recognized these traits from the Love Hero Chronicles character screens. These were the more detailed stats that affected damage, health, spell cost, and other defenses. However there didn’t seem to be any indication of level though or any indication that it was a factor besides these strange black stars. Besides that… the number underneath Toki’s name was strange too.
The magic attributes made sense. Ice and water magic were the abilities Toki used in battle. Mainly area of effect spells and sword attacks which made her popular when fighting against bosses with minions. From the grade next to the magic type it was clear it was the overall strength of the affinity. This was in the game too and was used as an additional means to reduce spell cost with the corresponding element.
“So I assume these stars are important?”
Yasue nodded. “Yes. As you can see, Toki’s ability is 0.60. When she reaches an overall average of 1 with her ten attributes one of those stars will turn gold. A person’s strength is measured by how many stars they have. For reference, the average untrained person typically has 1 star once they reach the peak of adulthood.”
So there weren’t levels but these stars to determine level? That wasn’t good. With the normal leveling system I could determine the overall capability of the monsters in the world. Without it I was essentially going in blind.
“How many stars does someone need to graduate from the magic academy in Tokyo?” I asked knowing the stir it would cause with everyone here. Only the best could go study there and even those with money couldn’t just buy their way in on a school that placed ability above everything.
I won’t go into who didn’t appear pleased with that ambition being revealed.
“You need 1 star before you turn fifteen to enter and to graduate your party must reach the bottom level of the dungeon located underneath the academy. Typically they need three stars to do this, although I’ve seen a lucky few pass with 2 and some have 4 by the end of the final year.” Yasue briefly flashed his Plate, showing two gold stars contrasting the pale bluish-white. “Since I reached 2 stars by the end of my first year I’m on track to reach 4 stars by the time I graduate.”
3 stars huh? That I could measure. The monsters at the bottom of the academy dungeon were part of the first game's finale. Monsters at the lowest stage were level 30. Possibly this meant each star represented ten levels. It made sense considering there were ten stars in total meaning getting all the attributes to ten would make you level 100 – the supposed max level the fourth game was supposed to have.
So if the average person managed to get 1 star by the time they were around twenty years old and Toki was ten years old now, she was above the curve when it came to her stats. Likely ramping up when she achieved physical maturity.
I still had a lot of questions on the stats themselves and the subtle nuances they must have had without the restrictions of a simple program. It seemed that it would have to wait as people seemed more antsy about seeing just how I would measure up to the little princess.
“Well, I guess there are worse places than the shed,” I muttered, handing back Toki’s Plate. You can imagine I was actually eager for this in spite of Takei’s naïve bullshit about fostering my talents. Biting into the edge of my thumb until the skin tore and a small red bead began to form. I simply wiped it across the metal and watched as the red streak quickly began to move. It was like the blood was evaporating while the metal began to glimmer. “Ah! Shit!”
A curse slipped out when that glimmer suddenly lit up like a 1000 watt light bulb. It illuminated the room and seemed to blind everyone else. Thankfully it only lasted a few moments and as my spotty vision began to focus I could see the faint yellow tint my Magical Plate had taken now.
Yup. No Ice magic like I thought. I would admit that it was a slight disappointment that my sudden possession of Hisato didn’t change his magic affinity but I couldn’t deny that there wasn’t any effect at all.
Like the game, Hisato had a large amount of magic. Since he couldn’t deal damage for shit his role as healer using Light magic was supplemented by a higher defense stat. If only he had tits then it would have been likely he would have a more popular character besides being a flirty little goofball. Likely it was this that helped drive my average score up
Yes, in contrast to Hisato who comically got the lowest scores on written tests, my Mental abilities were well above the average person by a factor of two. For this reason I could feel hopeful that things wouldn’t play out as they did in the game for Hisato – now me. Sure I would still go through the motions of the game when I had too but unlike the original Hisato I had no intention of befalling the fate of him when the Hero maxed out his affection.
“Here,” I tossed the Plate to Grampy, who eagerly snatched it. I figured he would be happy about not having to teach me Ice magic. Keeping the Yukihana’s style away from the son of a foreigner and a betrayer.
Oh boy was I wrong.
“What! How is this possible!” Komuro seethed, gripping the Plate until the veins in his hands popped out.
“Oh my! This is–This is absolutely incredible!” Takei praised, leaning over to see my score for himself. I’d admit it wasn’t too shabby considering my score was only 0.15 off from my first star. Perhaps getting into the Magic academy wouldn’t be as hard as I assumed it to be. “To possess Light Magic at all is incredibly rare! To have a B+ rating is truly a blessing to our family.”
“Oh shit,” Yasue muttered, gaping at my Plate as well. “Your mental ability is 2 and your Magic Quantity is 3.5? That’s even higher than mine! Plus you can use Light Magic? This is... insane.”
Now that I think about it I can only think of five characters among the countless main and supporting characters in the entire series that could use Light Magic at all. Of which only three, including Hisato, were able to become party members. It was a form of Magic that gave allies buffs to their abilities and could heal them if they were injured. A valuable member of any party that didn’t have the money to spend on healing items. If I was assuming a greater transition to this world I could guess my abilities were akin to that of a doctor. Perhaps I misjudged my potential worth to the Yukihana family. Maybe not with Grampy but…
“He can use Light Magic.”
“That could really be useful.”
“His score is higher than Lady Toki’s and he is Master Komuro’s grandson.”
“If he becomes stronger then he might be able to improve our family’s standing.”
…He didn’t appear to wholly speak for everyone here. The boons that could be granted from being friendly with a potential ally while they were still weak were invaluable. So while I knew that any favor’s I could curry would be expected to be paid back with interest, it was still a viable asset for my future. While Uncle Takei had some influence, there was always power in numbers.
As my stock seemed to be rising, Toki was taking the news of my talents with mixed results. She likely thought her progress was well above mine, never considering I might be higher than her following our pseudo master-servant banter. She was the heir to the family and if I was brushing off Yasue’s bizarre place in the family ranks, I could assume she wouldn’t be too happy about my power surpassing hers.
Her childish pouting notwithstanding.
Grampy seemed to go quiet. His eyes looked straight ahead with a serious brooding – dwelling on this new revelation. Now that I couldn't be so easily dismissed it would force him to change how I would be dealt with. I was under no illusion that this would mean Grampy would suddenly become my best friend. No, I knew that my prodigious talent would only be more of a threat to him.
So what better way to curb this budding threat?
“Enough!” Komuro’s voice rang out again, silencing the crowd. “It appears that the Yukihana family has a… new resource to use. As such I’ll be personally taking over the boy’s training along with Toki. I call this family meeting to a close now!”
You place yourself in a position to nip it.
I’d think I would rather just join the army than be under the tutelage of the man who would rather I didn’t exist. At least military instructors want trainee’s to succeed. For now though I would use any knowledge I could get on Magic. If Grampy wanted to use me then I would have no qualms about using him back. He would find what I said to Nobuo about people being fragile painfully true once I was strong enough to
Mercifully this painful spectacle ended and food began to roll in. I didn’t even wait for Nobuo or anyone else to escort me out. Just grabbed a tray and took off back to my room. Not unaware of the many eyes that were watching me do so.
Just another facet to this new world I would have to deal with.