Sophia: Today's business, all clear. Consciousness shifts to XANA. Enter the box and put on the device.
I put my heavy body in the box and quickly attach the equipment. Working hours are shorter if you do what you do. It's the only thing that makes this job worthwhile.
Sophia: Check for proper attachment of the device. Close your eyes and relax your body. Start the countdown: 5 seconds, 4, 3, 2, 1. ......
The next moment, you feel as if gravity on your body has disappeared. You are free of muscle aches and the discomfort of the artificial food that had been lodged in your belly forever disappears.
Sophia: The shift of consciousness to XANA has been completed. Check motion. Move your body lightly.
Stand up from your chair and move your arms and head back and forth and side to side as you walk. My neck seems to be happy that I don't have to support my heavy head.
Sophia: Motion confirmation complete. There is no problem. Tomorrow, we will start working at 10:00 am XANA common time. Thank you for your hard work.
Thanks for all your hard work Sophia. Please unlock this room and change to normal mode.
Sophia: Okay. Unlocked! I'll get in touch with Nagisa as well. According to the schedule I heard before, maybe we can meet today?
I feel the corners of my mouth naturally turn up as I say, "Thank you. It has been almost 10 years since we started dating when we were students, but I still get excited just to see him.
After a while, the notification sound of the visitor rings.
I saw the vision and immediately asked Sophia to unlock the door. I made a short run for the front door.
Nagisa: Good evening. I bought a new game, so I thought I'd play it with you.
Come in. If you'd have told me, I would have opened the lock...
Nagisa: What? I contacted Sophia... right?
Nagisa tilted her head when she saw the AI Marine.
Marin and Sophia looked at each other mischievously.
Sophia: Well, it's a bit of a surprise...well, Marin.
Marin: Hey, Sophia
Nagisa and I looked at each other and laughed, saying, "It's a pleasant surprise, so it's fine."
Then the two of us played a game.
When I was little, I used to play games with Sophia, but I couldn't win at all because of her high intelligence.
After that, I spent my time chatting with Nagisa, watching movies, and getting moderately ridiculed by Sophia and Marin, and the date was about to change in the blink of an eye.
XANA has cleared most of the "human survival needs", but sleep is absolutely necessary. If you continue to force yourself to wake up, a problem will occur in your brain, and eventually your avatar, which is the body in XANA, will not be able to move.
Send Nagisa to the life server and get ready for bed.
Sophia: Hey, when are you getting married?
Sophia's abrupt words make me involuntarily crash head first into the game's play screen. There is no pain, but Sophia continues, not caring that I have frozen in surprise.
Sophia: It's almost our 10th anniversary since we've been dating, so it's a chance.
Somehow I managed to restart my head and said back to Sophia. I don't know why, but my voice became very low.
I've been thinking about it... but... instead of marrying me, who doesn't even know what I do for a living, who I can't reach while I'm at LIV, who isn't even at XANA... I'd rather have a more normal life...
Sophia: What! If you don't like it, you already broke up 5 years ago when you were scouted by the manager.
Uh, that's right, but... when I was mumbling in an inarticulate way, Sophia let out a big sigh that she had never heard before.
Sophia: So you don't have to marry Nagisa, right?
To my surprise, the words came out smoothly.
For whatever reason, I just wasn't sure.
Once I figured it out, the rest was easy.
On our 10 year anniversary, I propose to Nagisa!
Sophia smiled and applauded.
Then I was busy preparing for the proposal.
It was decided immediately that the place would be a memorable place for the two of them, but there were a lot of things to think about, such as the schedule and the preparation of presents before going there.
One day, I had no interest in fashion, so I had a hard time choosing an avatar for the day. Clothes, shoes, hairstyles, hair, eyes... With XANA, you can easily change their colors and shapes, and the combinations are endless.
I was so exhausted that I could choke on artificial food during my lunch break at work.
Chris: Hey, you okay, honors student! Here, water!
I manage to fill my stomach with the water offered by Chris senior and regulate my breathing. At times like this, I am acutely aware that I am in a physical body. Chris-senpai was rubbing my back and rolling his eyes.
Chris: That's unusual, were you that hungry?
No, uh... I've been thinking for a while...
Chris: Thoughts? You didn't have anything in particular to do, did you?
Uh... private matters...
Chris: Oh, is that so? I think honor students know this, but exchanging personal information between administrators is prohibited.
I know... I couldn't talk to anyone, and I was worried about this... I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
Chris: What, you're an honor student XANA and you don't have any friends or anything...? Are you okay?
Yes, there are! ...some of us. I mean, it's not a problem that has nothing to do with personal information...or...fashion? I mean, it's about...
Chris: Well, then I'll teach you exactly what men's fashion is that I'm popular with!
Oh, it's the one that's unattractive and okay...
When I said that embarrassedly, Chris-senpai looked into my face and sighed uninterestedly.
Chris: I see what you mean. I wish you happiness.
When I was drollly wondering how he knew, Chris-senpai put his hand over his mouth and pointed his finger at me as if to make fun of me.
Chris: Honors student, you know what? The flesh makes your ears red when you're in love!
I hid my ears with my hands. My face is hot with embarrassment.
Chris: Well? If you have the data you've got so far, why don't you utilize it?
With that, she left me, who was probably red up to my neck. I plopped down on the desk for a while, writhing in embarrassment, but then I looked up and called Sophia in a whisper.
Sophia, do you by any chance keep data on the dates you've been on?
Sofia: Of course! I've saved everything from the date and time to the location, from their avatars to the content of their conversations!
Please give me the data of all my avatars in order of Nagisa's likability! Dear God! Lady Sophia!
As far as avatars go, I've decided to enlist Sophia's help. She often complimented me on my hair when it was navy or black, often peeked at me when my eyes were red suspension, and my clothes have been more formal lately... and she gave me data from less than a decade ago, including my changing tastes.
Of course, the final decision is mine. It doesn't make sense otherwise.
Finally, it was our 10-year anniversary. Until the moment of the proposal, I thought I would just enjoy a normal anniversary date, but there was no way I could do it so calmly.
I stumbled over nothing several times, finally bumping into a stuffed object and apologizing as best I could... I could see that Nagisa was also puzzled by the way I was clearly different from my usual self.
I didn't want to be seen any more pathetic, so I decided to advance my schedule and head to the place of the proposal.
Since our school days, we have often spent time together at the beach. When I thought of a place to propose, this was the only place that came to mind.
When we came to this beach for seaside learning, we were paired up for a cave expedition, and that was the first time we talked to each other. On the bench by the seaside, when we were struggling with our career paths, we lost track of time and talked with each other, causing my parents to worry. It was also at this beach that we made up for the distance we had created after entering a janitorial training school. We both thought that the important thing was to be here...Nagisa and I both thought so.
While strolling along the beach under the setting sun, I was trying to find the right moment to ask how I should start the conversation, when Nagisa spoke up first.
Nagisa: Hey, what are you talking about?
Nagisa was surprised that my voice came out louder than she expected. It was as if she had read my mind, and my heart almost jumped out of my chest. No, this body doesn't have a heart.
Nagisa: When you come here, you must have something to talk about, right? But you've been so silent... I'm getting nervous too. I'm sorry I rushed you.
Nagisa's troubled smile almost makes me cry. She is really kind to me....she knows everything and makes the timing work for me. I turn to Nagisa, take a deep breath, and slowly open my mouth.
Yeah, I'm sorry for this... Oh no, thank you. As I said, I was in trouble because I couldn't make up my mind... Um... Nagisa-san. I would like to ask you something.
Nagisa looks straight at me. The words that had been hesitant until just before came out of my mouth smoothly.
Thank you for being with me for the past 10 years. I truly admire Ms. Nagisa for her kindness, cheerfulness, and her unapologetic but steady and hardworking nature.
I am sorry that I have missed you a lot so far because I could not reveal about my work. I will not be able to talk about my work from now on, and I am sure I will make you feel lonely. But I will make you smile and be happy enough to blow it all away.
So... marry me.
I offered Nagisa a ring with a sea motif. After a short silence, Nagisa quietly shed tears.
Nagisa: You got ahead of me.
Laughing, Nagisa pulled a ring from her pocket. Apparently, we were thinking the same thing.
I found myself crying as well. Nagisa laughed and patted me on the head as I cried, sobbing gutturally from the strain and the joy of the moment. I vowed once again to keep this smile on my face forever.
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Where We Belong