It didn’t matter if it was real love or not. Masashi Takamoto just needed to escape.
■ School’s out
It was the final days of school before the university went on summer vacation, when one of Masashi Takamoto’s professors gave everyone an assignment to visit a sake brewery during the break. The students would have to work in groups and also find someone to drive, as the facility was hard to reach by public transportation.
Sitting alone and off to the side of the lecture hall, Takamoto’s heart sank at the news. Even though it was his third year, he had no friends at all in university. He had been held back a year in high school and had trouble relating to the younger people in his new class, so he kept to himself.
He knew that in order to complete this assignment, all he had to do was approach someone and ask to tag along, but he lacked the courage to do it and just went home.
■ Luna Diana
During the holidays, Takamoto spent every day in his apartment by himself. He never went to the sake brewery and probably never would, and he was even beginning to wonder if he would ever go back to school after the break.
One day, while on the computer, he came across a game called Mabinogi. It was a MMORPG where thousands of players can participate at the same time and interact with each other. All players were anonymous as well, allowing them to express themselves in ways they might not ordinarily do so in real life.
And that’s what Takamoto did. As if emerging from a cocoon, his avatar was a sociable member of this online society and he even quickly met a woman named Luna Diana. After chatting, he realized he had many of the same interests and hobbies as her and found himself beginning to have feelings for her.
They would spend hours together playing music and cooking in their virtual world, and anytime a rare piece of clothing appeared in the item shop, he wouldn’t hesitate to buy it for her to show his affection. He was completely infatuated with Luna Diana and he didn’t care what other avatars thought about it…and it felt wonderful.
■ Six years
Takamoto never did return to school and eventually dropped out all together. He just didn’t see the point of it. Actually, the same lack of motivation was what stopped him from going to high school too, and caused him to be held back.
His parents were furious and forced him to join a temp agency, which he did. He didn’t mind that kind of work so much, especially because nearly all of his wages went towards tokens of affection for Luna Diana. At least it had a purpose.
At this point Takamoto was living in the game. So-called “real life” was just what he did in his downtime.
Their relationship continued for six years, when suddenly, Luna Diana stopped logging on – no goodbyes, no explanations. Takamoto could never know what happened to her either, because he never actually knew the person who was controlling her.
The dream was over, and he was left with nothing.
Takamoto is currently going through rehab for his game dependency and making a lot of progress. “I didn’t care if it was some old guy,” he told Sankei News about the woman he spent six years of earnings on. He always knew that he wasn’t in love with the woman. He had just been in love with loving someone for the first time in a long time.
He can’t really remember the last time he loved or had any other feelings for that matter. He remembers being six years old and running through the hallway dripping wet from a bath, when his father kicked him in his stomach with full force.
The impact knocked him back two meters and he couldn’t stop hiccuping for long after. That wasn’t the only act of violence he received from his father, but it was probably the one that made him believe if he was ever going to get through, he would have to kill off his own emotions.
That’s how he had lived ever since, but it crippled his ability to deal with even minor troubles in his life. Anytime he was faced with adversity, his passionless attitude opted for the path of least resistance.
But now, even though he was mentally scarred at a critical age in his development by abuse, Takamoto refuses to blame his parents or make excuses for his actions. His life after rehab will have to center on facing things head on and finding the reason to live that he had stopped looking for a long time ago.