CAPS – Chapter 11: Anew

Shen boarded the metro with a smile on his face. He had not known what to expect before the meeting, but Laaysa had given him her full support.

As he walked home, he noticed a little message play out above his character level icon.

Skill: Talking to Girls Level 0 reached!

Shen blinked. Even talking to girls was a skill. Wait a minute. It just reached Level 0? What was it before?!

Shen sighed. He had plenty of experience talking to girls in DR worlds, but it was another story for the real world. It looked like his DR experience didn’t count towards his level in physical reality.

As he got off at his station and made his way home, he thought about what he needed to do next. The first thing was to earn income. He had a little over 500 credits in savings in his bank. He had no idea how he was going to build up the funds that his company needed to get started, but he knew he had to start saving. And he needed to get a job. At the moment his only income came from NEC, the monthly payout he received from the government. NEC was an acronym for Necessary Economic Compensation, which everyone received regardless of their employment status. It was a little over 1000 credits a month. It was barely enough to live on, but Shen managed.

It never really bothered him before to be poor. Other than his monthly rent and utilities, he did not have many expenses. He ate cheap food, though it was not necessarily the healthiest. The SenseDrive was the most expensive thing he owned, and it had been paid for with money he made from in-game funds.

Back when Constellationwas still the most popular DR game, he was able to sell in-game gold to online currency transaction companies. The rate they offered was low, but for the amount he was able to collect, it earned him several hundred credits extra every month. He could have made a lot more if he was focused on gathering gold, but he only transferred as much as he needed to buy some extra accessories for the SenseDrive. Most of his time was spent in the game after all, and he would rather spend his gold on game items than in the real world.

Constellationhad been a relatively low-cost game to play. It charged an inexpensive subscription of 20 credits a month. Later, when Colossus released Edenfel, he tried the new game as did most Constellationplayers. Edenfel offered better graphics and near-real sensory experiences. On top of that, the in-game money was tied directly to real money. So theoretically, a player could earn real money by converting in-game money out. But the game was designed to make that difficult to put into practice. Shen quickly found that Edenfelwas very expensive to play, and it was impossible to keep up with the people who could afford the best items with real money. To make matters worse, his SenseDrive, which was a few years old by then, didn’t support all the new features. He went back to Constellationand never looked back.

But things were different now. He needed money to build his company. If he could find a job, he’d be able to earn much more than what NEC provided. He did not yet know what costs came with starting a company, but he was certain there would be expenses.

He decided he would get a job straight away. When he got home, he went onto his SenseDrive console and began to search online job boards. He quickly realized he wasn’t qualified for much. He wanted to work for game companies, but he had none of the requisite skills. He knew he was Level 0 in all of them like his Talking to Girls Skillwithout having to find out through his system.

He was a math major, but even the most basic AI could easily compute the math he knew. The only jobs he seemed qualified for were in the service industry. Nonetheless, he wanted to join a game company where he could learn new skills that would be beneficial to his own company.

He researched how to write a cover letter and a resume since he had never done it before. Then he began to fill out his applications. He started by applying for the jobs that he wanted. The dream jobs—game designer, beta tester, he even applied for an AI controller job, though he knew little about dealing with professional artificial intelligence.

Then he spent the rest of the night applying for entry-level jobs in the game industry. He had only one criteria to determine if he would apply for the job—it had to be a job at a company related to DR worlds.

It was early morning by the time he decided to give it a rest. His level icon blinked as he stood from his chair and stretched.

Skill: Job Search, Level 3 reached!

“Ugh,” Shen said, running his hand through his hair.

Most jobs he applied to only paid only 15 credits an hour. That was not enough. How else could he save more money? He looked around. The thought popped into his head even though he didn’t like. But it was what needed to be done.

He had to move out.

There were three reasons for this. One was the rent, although cheap for a private room, it was a luxury he could no longer afford. Every penny counted now. Second, if he were going to start working, he’d be busy during the day and only be able to search for Armont on weekends or at night—when his current landlady forbid him to play.

It was a Sunday, and he guessed he’d have interviews through the next week. His monthly rent was expiring in a few days, and his contract allowed both he and his landlady to cancel at any time—she had demanded it to be that way so that she could threaten to kick him out at the end of the month anytime he did something that she disliked.

Shen decided he would move out. He immediately began packing. He did not own much and was able to put most of it into an old suitcase that he had not used since he first moved there. He sent his landlady a message informing her that he was leaving. Then he booked a spot at the nearest capsule hostel and registered for a month. The capsule hostel was a shared space and had little privacy other than the capsule where a person slept, but the monthly rent was only 300 credits, and therefore it would save him another 200 credits a month.

He locked his door, placed his keys in an envelope, and dropped it in his landlady’s mailbox, then he left.

It was a strange feeling to leave his little apartment complex. He had lived there for several years. But as the morning sun began to peak past the high rises of the city, he felt a warm sensation growing in his chest. He was starting his life anew, and it seemed that his future with brightly lit with new possibilities.

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