You know what’s hot? Isekai manga, novels, and anime. You know what I just spent a couple weeks indulging in? Gacha games. You know what I like and cannot get enough of because my brain is messed up like that? TG stories. Now, there are a number of series that meshes isekai and TG concepts together, such as Samayoeru Tensei-sha-tachi no Revival Game, or The Saga of Tanya the Evil, but I could not think of anything that did all three, and I thought that was just terrible. So after going through a number of mobile gacha games, and drawing inspiration from Dragalia Lost in particular, I wound up with a gacha isekai TG story that mingled all three. And I did it without any of that nasty sex, violence, or miscellaneous horrors that I so often gravitate towards.
Random #004: Gacha My Soul for an SSR Waifu
I felt my heart sink to my stomach as that error message appear on my tablet, it’s words were jumbled with arbitrary jargon, but the message was clear. My credit card was declined for my latest purchase of $80 worth of virtual currency, as I had reached my credit limit of $10,000. A limit I wasn’t even a tenth of the way to when I checked my balance earlier this week, before I decided to splurge on Ventures of Radiant: Extreme, a mobile RPG that had steadily become a global sensation over these past few months, and grossed hundreds of millions since launch. When I first downloaded it, I wondered how a free game like this could ever hope to make such a profit, and now that I had spent over $9,000 on the title, I suddenly understood why.
It wasn’t that the game was predatory about its monetization, as it nestled the purchase options behind several menus, and gave players a steady amount of free in-game currency over time. If anything, it was generous, but not enough to satiate my desires. My desires for one specific character who I truly and dearly wanted. A character who immediately earned a place in my upper echelon of waifus with her design alone, and rose to the very top with her personality.
Her name was Isadore Ivalliance, a water-element lance user that, in addition to being an S+ tier powerhouse, was everything I ever wanted in a waifu. An “Ara Ara” type character with a tragic backstory that she hides behind kindness she expresses to those around her, and especially her chosen partner. A thick, busty, and sultry brown skinned woman with wavy hair and an outfit that, while form fitting, left enough to the imagination to prevent her design from just being boring. She was a character highlighted throughout the main story of the game as a supporting character, the love interest of the protagonist, but regrettably she was not one of the freebies given to all new players, being instead locked behind a gacha paywall. Normally the odds of obtaining her were fairly slim, but her appearance rate was recently boosted to 0.627% as part of a recent showcase. Naturally with a number that high, it should have only been a matter of time until I managed to snag her, right? Evidentially not, as my character roster showed, being flushed with rare characters that would make my account quite valuable if I were to sell it, but despite having a nearly complete collection, I still lacked the one character I truly wanted.
It would have been one thing if I had managed to snag her after spending all that money on this game, but no. Instead I had placed myself in an immense amount of debt that I would struggle to make back, and all I have to show for it is a bunch of worthless materials in my phone game. Regret, self-loathing, and thoughts of suicide danced throughout my mind as I blankly stared at the wall in my darkened apartment, my LED clock stating that it was already 3:20 in the morning, meaning that not only did I ruin myself financially, but I would need to get to work in the morning on four hours of sleep at best.
As I wallowed in the melancholy of my moronic actions, I glared down at my tablet and noticed that the payment error message had been replaced with another, one matching Ventures of Radiant: Extreme’s aesthetics and menu design. The message read: “Acquire the Venturer of your choice for 1 Soul!” with buttons below that read accept and decline. I had never heard of such a feature, or any in-game item known as a Soul, but I was too tired and distraught to recognize the serious implications this message represented, and with a sigh I planted my thumb on the accept button. In doing so my screen turned white and I felt a sharp stinging sensation shoot throughout my arm.
As I recoiled from the pain I dropped my tablet on the couch, and looked at it with concern, not only for shocking me like that, but for the image displayed on the screen. It was rapidly fading away from pure whiteness into a swirling rainbow of sorts that rotated rapidly and had a distinct… depth to it. It was akin to looking at a 3D display, one that convincingly mimicked a sense that this pattern was a hole or sorts. I wondered what it could be for a moment, but quickly decided that it would be best if I just turn off my tablet and go to bed, so I leaned in closer to it… only to find my hand sinking below the confines of the screen, being sucked into impossible space by some unseen force that sucked at my right hand, and with it my arm. Soon enough, my entire body condensed and contorted itself until every part of me, from head to toe, was sucked through a 25 by 17 centimeter frame, and into a dizzying array of colors that I found myself falling through.
I was struck with vertigo from the fall, nausea from the rainbow of shifting colors, a piercing headache from the ringing white noise that assaulted my ears, and wrapped in pain from a burning sensation that began to break out over my body. Needless to say, I was overloaded with deeply uncomfortable sensations that, thankfully, did not persist for long, as I was granted the gift of unconsciousness after only a few horrendous seconds of.
As I woke up, I went from sensory overstimulation to an all-encompassing numbness. Soft lights filled my vision, a comforting quiet graced my ears, and while my body felt like it was still asleep, I could tell that it was draped in an immersive softness. I afforded myself a second to appreciate these dulled sensations after what I had just experienced, and waited until my senses clarified before I was able to recognize the magnitude of my situation, as conveyed through my environment. I was surrounded by stone walls, crafted with the utmost care, illuminated by white crystals that were bound to torch sticks, and bearing assorted decorates such as oil paintings of vivid landscapes, and banners of white and violet. In front of me was a wooden door, along with several pieces of wooden furniture adorning the walls and open areas of what, upon further inspection, appeared to be a bedroom of sorts. From there, I began to look further down at the softness that enveloped me, and found myself wrapped in a warm comforter, which was curious considering that it was the midst of August last I checked.
Part of me wanted to remain drenched in the soft warmness that surrounded my being, but then I remembered the fact that I had to be at work by 9, cast my comforter aside, and jumped out of bed, only to pause and realize that I had no idea where I actually was. But before I could investigate that, I was drawn in by something far more immediately pressing, a sheet of platinum blonde hair that flooded my vision, something starkly different from the short black hair I had all my life. I latched onto a lock with my hands, weaving my fingers through the well maintained strands of silver, but as I did so I quickly realized that my fingers were not my own either. They seemed longer, more slender, had finely maintained nails, and were a discernible brown hue that was a far cry from the paleness what I was accustomed to.
Something was clearly wrong with this situation, and I began to look for a definitive way to answer any and all questions pertaining to my person. I darted my head around the room in search of a mirror, and found a full body mirror that was partially obfuscated by a wardrobe when I investigated the room from the bed. I walked towards it, feeling some unfamiliar shifting as I shuffled myself forward, and gently nudged myself into the frame of the reflective glass, which beared a reflection that left me aghast.
The carefully styled shoulder-length silver hair, sapphire split dress, and assorted pieces of silver armor adorning the arms, legs, and torso, and dark fabrics coating the legs, all wrapped around the body of a curvaceous woman with a plentiful bosom, thick thighs, pronounced hips, and a dark complexion. It was plain as day who I was looking at in the mirror, the very same character who sent me into nearly $10,000 worth of debt, Isadore, standing before me, her 2D design given flesh. Well, I say that, but what I was truly looking at was devoid of many of the intricacies of a human being, those that were ignored or discarded in most works that adopt an anime art style. Such as the lack of defined eye sockets, a small nose, and a uniformity to my pore, vein, and blemish free visage that went against the reality of human faces. Yet, possibly because I was such a goldarn weeaboo, I did not find this to be even remotely uncanny.
As I gawked at my reflection, taking it in for several seconds, I attempted to speak, only to hear Isadore’s voice resonated through the air, specifically her Japanese voice.
“Oh my! Is that really me?”
I flinched as those words escaped my mouth, for many reasons, but chiefly how I phrased and worded my confusion, mimicking her established speech patterns, and letting out a Isadore’s signature ‘ara-ara’. I knew it was indeed wrong, it was not something that I would have said before, yet as I awaited for a sense of panic to wash throughout my person, I was instead left looking at my reflection with a degree of unprecedented calmness. I was not supposed to look, sound, or talk like this… but at the same time, it didn’t feel wrong.
My body felt right, it felt normal, it did not feel as foreign and unfamiliar as I thought it did when I first recognized that something was different from what I had known for my entire existence up until now. As I looked back at my new reflection and began to move about my arms and legs, I did so with a great degree of comfort. I began walking away from and towards the mirror, focusing on my reflection and how I was walking, shaking my hips slightly with each step, as if I was adapting to decades of well ingrained muscle memory. When I twirled around a strand of hair, I felt as if I had done so hundreds of times before, but I knew that I hadn’t… at least that’s what I told myself.
Curiosity about the true ramifications of this transformation began to rise in my mind, as I began to look inward and answer the question of who I was. I had memories of a life back on Earth, in my home country, and as a male. I remembered trying out Ventures of Radiant: Extreme when an event was being held to draw in newcomers, getting figuratively sucked into it, before spending an absurd amount of money on the game and, in return, getting literally sucked into it. I could recollect large sections of this life of mine, yet the details were foggy, and became more obscured as I began to prod and pry for affirmation of the wrongness I was so resolute on proving to myself.
While I remembered that I was adept with technology and computers, I could feel my insights slipping away. I could not remember the faces of my parents or friends, I stopped thinking in the language I once knew, and thinking in the tongue I spoke for the first time moments ago. I felt that all of these things could be dismissed if I retained a grasp of the core defining feature of my identity. My name. I dug through the recesses of my mental faculties as far as I could to answer what should be a question I could answer solely based on impulse, and came away with nothing.
The only name I could take ownership of was that of Isadore. It sounded correct, it summarized my identity, and so did everything that came with it. I knew that I should reject these thoughts assaulting my mind, that out of principle I should remain resolute and dismiss whatever my brain, the brain of Isadore, was telling me. And I knew that I should avoid what, when described, sounded like a form of brainwashing, the death of an identity in favor of another. But instead, I found myself fighting against these urges, and criticizing whatever semblance of me desired to cling onto the identity I was rapidly forgetting.
Isadore was a hero. She was raised in a callous environment as a weapon of death, but broke free from those constraints through her force of will, leading an opposition to free her siblings and childhood friends from such an inhuman existence, while redefining herself as a person. She had learned of love, learned to love, attempted to spread affection, kindness, and joy to those around her, and found a true love for herself. She was strong, brave, skilled, and also beautiful. Compared to her, what was I before this?
This other self of mine, what did he have to offer? He was an individual who was susceptible to a socially accepted cruelty, lost his way, and led a life that, based on what little I could recollect, was far less remarkable. As I thought back on him, I did not feel remorse for having lost something, but instead felt a sense of pity, an empathetic desire to help this unfortunate individual and show him all that was light and right, to stand against the forces of evil that plagued that world as a radiant spear of justice. I was not him. Within these past few minutes it became increasingly difficult to see me as him. Instead, I felt as if I was me. Looking at the mirror and digging through my expansive memories, I was me. I was Isadore Ivalliance.
As I had reached the end of this internal crisis, a sense of fatigue flowed throughout my being. I grabbed onto a nearby piece of furniture, clasping my long nails onto the wood and producing a familiar sound. I shut my eyes and slowly raised my head before taking a deep breath and in turn looked back at myself in the mirror, momentarily forgetting what it was I was even doing here, before recalling the past few minutes in perfect clarity.
“Now that I have addressed that… surrealness, I should be off. I’m not sure how long I’ve been asleep, but I don’t want my darling to worry about me!”
Following that verbal decree, I latched my slender fingers around the door and opened it, revealing a young man standing in the doorframe. Zyrus, a man who I knew all too well, and whose mere presence instilled a calm throughout my being. He was the chosen prince of this kingdom, a brave and resolute figure, wise well beyond his years, and with a finely chiseled body befitting an individual of such esteem. His blonde hair, amethyst eyes, fair complexion, and exquisite regal armor were all sights I remembered seeing thousands of times before, but as he stood there, less than 30 centimeters away from my person, I felt as if I was truly looking at him for the first time, almost ogling the tall and muscular figure before me. I remained in this stupor until Zyrus placed a hand on my back and leaned in close to my person, placing his head against mine and moving his mouth to my ear, softly saying, “I was worried about you.”
A current sparked through my brain as I registered those words, and quickly returned his hug with my own, linking my arms around Zyrus’s body and pushing our breastplates together in a light clang. He took a step back from my sudden burst of affection in order to regain his footing, and looked down at me with a satisfied grin.
“I heard you fainted while training Isa. You haven’t been working yourself too hard, have you?”
“No darling, a lady such as myself must know her limits, and I make certain that I only surpass them when the time is right. There just is no point in working oneself up over nothing. But come to think of it, I’m not really sure why I would have fainted earlier today. Everything was going brilliantly as per usual, and then I found myself in a spare bedroom. How strange.”
“Indeed… but so long as you’re feeling like yourself, there’s nothing to worry about. Come, Solange just finished making dinner, and I’m sure you’re famished after skipping lunch,” Zyrus said before giving a small chuckle, diffusing all animosity or worry that I would have had with some light teasing.
“I’ll have you know that I used to spend weeks feeding on nothing but scraps and berries. I simply appreciate hot meal cooked with love and dedication and hate for good food to go to waste,” I said with a playful huff, breaking away from Zyrus before flashing him a smile to show my appreciation.
“In that case, let’s not keep her waiting. I’m sure everybody will be happy to see you again.”
With that, we began walking side-by-side down the expansive halls of the castle before reaching the familiar sights and sounds of the dining hall. The room, illuminated by crystal chandelier, was home to a large ornate table at the center, with a scattering of smaller tables cast off to the sides, featuring chairs of all shapes and sizes, with occupants equally as diverse. A range of friends, companions, and allies, of all shapes, sizes, species, colors, and creeds, gathered about, conversing with one another in lively discussions, enjoying a vast array of dishes that filled the hall with myriad decadent aromas.
As I stepped foot in this hall, I flinched for a moment. Something about these sights, sounds, and sensations caused my brain to skip a beat, as if I could not keep up with everything I was perceiving, and almost as if I was uncomfortable with such rousing activity. Yet as I recalled the past few months, reminding myself that what I was seeing was nothing new, my sense of calm was reestablished, and I greeted this room with a smirk. As I entered this room with Zyrus, we were greeted with cheers from people whose faces I looked at fondly, memories and experiences flooding to the forefront of my consciousness as I locked eyes with them.
Joyous antics, pulse pounding bouts of combat, heart-to-heart conversations made during our many travels, and standing up to adversity and animosity knowing that we would be able to overcome it all if we remained steadfast and put our faith in one another. I felt tears welling up behind my eyelids as these pleasant memories and strong emotions returned to me, but I kept them at bay, as to not sour the mood of this dinner, or stir confusion and concern in the friends that stood before me.
As I made idle conversation with them, assuring that I was as well as ever, Zyrus grabbed me by the hand, and sat me at the end of the center table, where we sat side by side, placed deliberately so that all within the hall could observe and acknowledge our relationship and closeness of both body and spirit as we dined together. Before looking at the meal that was steaming before me, I cast my vision outward and saw the hall from a whole new angle, showing me nearly every one of my companions, from those I knew intimately, to others who were closer to acquaintances, though I had every intention of forging meaningful bonds with them when the opportunity presented itself to me. For if there was anything that Zyrus and us Venturers believed in, it was the power of bonds, connections, unified goals, and the kinship he endeared us to.
However, as I looked at all of my companions, I was also met with other memories, that of ‘summoning’ these people, ‘raising their levels’, ‘looking up their stats on a wiki’ and ‘upgrading their skill trees’. Concepts that I understood, yet sounded alien as I reviewed them in my mind, finding no real life equivalent for the ‘Everbryte’ that was used to summon them, the concept of a ‘microtransaction’, let alone things like ‘EXP’. I smiled as I thought about these things, how they must have abstracted the reality before me, gamifying it and in a sense, making everything in it feel less tangible, special, or meaningful by reducing everything to numbers, when the people before me were oh so much more.
Finding myself musing over irrelevant subjects, I shook my head softly and looked down at the hearty stew before me, no doubt made from the freshest ingredients harvested by Nylez. A cascade of flavor washed across my tongue as I took my first bite, and I turned to my darling to see my expression mirrored on his face. Upon sharing in this moment, the two of us began to eat in near unison, relishing our meal together while feeling the need to say very little beyond small comments about assorted things that popped into our heads, or the behavior or our fellows. It was a special kind of closeness, where we had plenty to potentially say, but felt there was little need to do express things verbally, as we both could infer a great deal just by casually glancing back at each other throughout the meal.
While we attempted to restrain our appetites, we both finished our dishes expediently, clanking our silverwear against the ceramic bowls, ending our meal around the same time as most others despite having arrived fashionably late to the festivities. Thanks were being offered for the meals and people were filtering out of the room, returning to their designated chambers, or to take care of assorted activities before parting for the evening. From an open window of this hall I could see that night had already fallen, indicating that Zyrus and I were set to retire for the evening after gathering up our dishes and returning them to the kitchen, where young Finana was already carefully scrubbing away any and all residue from the dishes, humming to herself and nodding at us before we caught Solange in the midst of cleaning her kitchen. We thanked her for the delicious meal personally, only for her to wave away the compliment, being ever the modest type.
Afterwards, the two of us wandered down the halls, still rife with signs of life as people conversed while dispersed from the dining hall. Zyrus and I said our hellos, I eased a few of my concerned companions, all before reaching our destination, a spot that we something of a favorite throughout the castle, as it offered an immaculate look at the kingdom below. A scattering of facilities, dwellings, and altars of power, erected across a lively land mass that was bordered by lush farmlands and watch towers, expanding well into the horizon. Above that laid the sky, flushed with stars and bearing the impeccable brightness provided by a full moon. However, there was one part of this gorgeous image that was sullied, a dark imposing structure several kilometers away, and hidden amongst the mountains. The dormant domain of the Darklettes, which we raided successfully a season ago.
We were convinced it was a non-threat, yet even with immense magical prowess possessed by Chlozo and her fellow magi, we were unable to banish this devilish den from our realm, let alone our skyline. The opposing forces have been quiet as of late, with only stray fiends popping up amongst the countryside, nothing that our appointed guards could not handle expediently. But that was no reason to lay back, grow fat, complacent, and dull over time, so we established universal training regimens to keep our minds and bodies sharp, ready for the next dastardly event that threatened our land. This past day, I fell ill and did not complete my regiment, but as I saw this potential threat erected in the distance, I clenched my fist, promising myself that I would surpass my own expectations as I trained tomorrow and achieve a new normal of excellence in my performance.
As I pondered such matters, my expression must have turned dour, as Zyrus turned to me and asked, “Isa, is everything alright?”
I was quickly pulled out of the bog of my own mind and turned my head to my beloved, shooting him a smile before my reply.
“Never better my darling. I was just thinking about tomorrow’s training, and how I want to surpass my records.”
“Heh. And what happened to limiting oneself?”
“Limits are meant to be expanded and exceeded. I want to be the best I possibly can be, and if that requires a bit more drive and determination, then that’s what I’ll bring! Besides, there’s a difference between pushing yourself to do better bit by bit, and pushing yourself to unconsciousness. We have many limits, but only some of them ought to be eclipsed with regularity!”
Zyrus let out a small chuckle at my enthusiasm, before lacing his fingers between mine. I let out a quick breath as I felt the heat from our hands mingle, and looked at him with a reddened face.
“I admire your dedication, but the foundation of all success is built around a good night’s sleep. Come along now, my dear.”
My heart went doki doki as we held hands, skipping a beat before increasing its frequency. This was normal, I told myself, knowing these words to be true based on the memories that filled my head, yet a sense of taboo accompanied it, a wonder if what I was doing was truly right, a thought I pegged as a remnant of that other life of mine. I discarded this thought as soon as I identified it, reassuring myself of the joy I felt when I was fawned over by Zyrus, and the love I felt for him I held deep in my heart.
We left the balcony and made out way to our chamber, a deliberately simple dwelling that beared a large bed for the two of us. Without thinking, we began to change out of our armors and shed down to our undergarments, still covering our bodies with a degree of modesty, and never becoming truly naked. As while we had indeed been intimate together many times in the past, we were content with simply being in each other’s company once we pulled away the sheets, and were placed side-by-side on our mattress. We looked inwards at one another, locking our eyes and sharing in a mutual happiness before offering our other half a simple, yet loving, good night, both of us closing our eyes as we remained facing each other.
Zyrus was quick to fall into slumber, likely from physical fatigue and the mental energy he had to invest on my behalf earlier today. Whereas I found myself staying awake, struggling with the thoughts that periodically popped into my head throughout the evening. All of which gravitated around a singular question that persistently pecked away at my mind.
“Am I really Isadore?”
Her memories were as clear as could be, but I knew the manner of how I came to be into this world. How my consciousness originated from another world known as Earth, where I lived my life. And as I was doing that, another Isadore must have been living her life here. What became of that other life I had abandoned? What became of the other Isadore? Was I a mere imposter? Were my feeling sincere and genuine? I thought, therefore I was, yet did that sentiment apply when your mind had been altered, as mine certainly was? I asked and I asked, but I could do nothing to answer these questions. Instead, I found myself making a retort to them, questioning why any of this mattered next to what I was feeling. Happiness. I was happy with where I was, with my status, with those around me, and with my body.
Mayhaps my very existence was an unnatural one, and I was truly an imposter… but that did not change my feelings, the sensations that reverberated through my mind, and the feelings that fluttered amongst my heart. In the event that a disturbance were to be discovered, or that another Isadore appeared before me, it would be appropriate to engage in these quandaries further. But for now, I knew what I wanted, I had an identity I associated with and loved dearly, and I had people all around me whom I loved far more than anyone else I could recollect from my life in another world. I locked my fingers with Zyrus’s as I became tired from such mental deliberations, and quickly found myself drifting off to sleep. As I drifted into unconsciousness, my thoughts were those of hope of the bliss that awaits me the next day, and the day after that, and every day that remained in my life. The life of a hero. The life of a loving woman. The life of Isadore Ivalliance.
Originally I planned on this story being more extensive, long winded, and generally cruel, emphasizing how mind numbing and malicious gahca games could be. But as I was writing it, fleshing out the character of Isadore, drawing loads of inspiration from the Dragalia Lost character Mym, and thinking about how to differentiate this story from my other works, I began gravitating towards a happier ending, and wound up making something that could be considered a straightforward hope filled TG story, if not for the shades of identity death and gradual acceptance. Which, honestly, is what I was going for, as once I reached the mirror scene I recalled the short interactive flash story, Free Will, by Ian Samson, and took my cues from that, building it into something that… I’m actually pretty happy with.
For now anyways, as I’m sure I’ll be looking down on this work in a year or two. It’s a habit common amongst many creators, and while it is most certainly irksome to a degree, it does ultimately encourage me to continuously and constantly improve my craft.