You fix the helmet on your head, and shudder when the suction pieces attach it firmly against your skull. For a second you're wondering what it'll do to your hairdo, but you're too excited to really give it any thought. A little buzzer goes off and one of the three orange lights turns green. Step one complete. A little voice mutters in your ear that you are to pat yourself down, to give the VR program a thought of your body measurements. A little awkwardly, you start patting yourself down, guided with the soft voice which tells you where to pat next. It takes a couple minutes, but in the end the second buzzer sound and you're rewarded with another green light. Step two, complete. Next, a little wire comes into view and the voice inside your ear asks you to attach it to your chest. It's a bit cold, but after fidgeting with it a little you're able to attach the suction piece to your chest. You wonder what's it for, but then suddenly you're blinded by an immense, bright light.
A little dazed, you hear another buzzer sound and the last green light lights up. “Set-up completed” the voice mutters, before urging you lie down on your bed.
When the VR program starts, a soft buzzing starts filling the room. Probably the fans doing their job. And indeed, after a short starting procedure your field of vision gets crowded with little pop-ups, detailing stuff from a warm first welcome to your current physical status. But more then anything, your eye is drawn to a little window detailing the contents of your true aspirations- playing the game. More then anything, you're eager to jump into the game, to lose yourself to its vastness and detailed surroundings, to lose yourself in its complexity. A bit awkward at first, you soon find out that, even though the pop-ups are pictured in your field of vision only, they have a certain depth to them, and they act as a 'touchscreen' of sorts. You move your hand over them and are surprised how an artificial field makes you think you're brushing against a button that's not existent. You shrug, only amazed by this high level of technology for so long, before you smash the 'start' button. The helmet encapsulating your head rewards you with a swirl of lights, and soon your entire field of vision is swallowed whole by this raging tornado of pearlescent colors.
Suddenly, you find yourself standing on an immense square in the middle of a mud-brick city. There's a whole bunch of people gathered here, and more of them seem to spawn randomly. The beginner's town. Your long awaited entree.
A pop-up scares you out of your thoughts. A quick check up. You pat yourself down again, flex your muscles and say a couple of random commands. You notice how the people surrounding you are forced to do the same, and more then one seems eager to get it done with already. You feel no different. “Look in the light here” The voice speaks, “Now this light here. Good. You're all set to go! Welcome to the world of Esphixia, enjoy your stay”
You smirk, and you look at the other rooks who are still muttering commands and following lights. “Later, noobs!” You shout at them and run off, leaving them jealous and annoyed. God, this feels so real! You run through the alleys and past shops, and even though you know you're one of the first the place is already crowded. It's hard to say who's a real player and who's an NPC, save for the starter's outfit most players wear. The shops are already teeming with activity and you find yourself practically hooked, line and sinker by one of the bakeries. Though all this food is artificial the smell you experience is quite real, and the saliva in your mouth certainly agrees. You shake your head, there's more important stuff to do now!
“Inventory” You command, and are rewarded by a small screen in your view that details your current load-out, as well as your 'backpack'. Nothing much, other then two basic health potions and starter gear. A buckler almost about to break, a dagger which looks more like silverware and an outfit made for the masses. Starter gear. Great. You equip the dagger and buckler, and make sure you place the health potions in your pockets for quick excess. Next you draw up the minimap, and you're rewarded by a small drawing detailing the city you're in now, your location, and a couple of simple training grounds other rooks have discovered already. Perfect. You smirk a last time before you get moving again, off to the training fields. Its time to play.
At the training fields there's an abundance of slimes, giant rats, small boars and other critters. They're all easy leveled, perfect for some target practice. It's a bit crowded, but you managed to lure one of the boars off from the pack for you to engage. A couple other rooks look at you with jealousy filled eyes, though a second later they resume their attempts to separate one as well. You shrug, the critter in front of you is all you care about right now. It snorts, and scrapes the ground with one of his front paws eagerly. Seems like he's fixed on his mark as well. You storm the boar with a mad grin on your face. A couple of quick blows, minor scrapes and a loud victory laugh later your foe lies defeated, and you're rewarded with a small pop-up; gained items. You give it a glance and notice how you've gained some boar meat. Not bad, for a first kill. In your HUD, one of the bars moves as well. Experience, which is now on 20%. Your chest pounding, your smile broadening and your dagger dripping blood, you feel the adrenaline in your system slowly fading. Still, the first fight was a success and you feel like this world is everything you've ever wanted.
However, just when you're about to lose yourself in grinding your skills a big flash lights the evening sky. You look up, but before you can make out any details you feel a soft tugging behind your belly button. With a sudden flash, however, the tugging stops and you find yourself back on the major square where you first began. A bit confused you look around, before a big screen hanging on one of the walls draws your attention.
The screen flashes a couple times, before an angelic looking young man comes into view, bruised and with more then one wound gushing his life fluids. He is panting, the feathers on his white wings are ruffled and you feel a bit scared for whatever beat him to that extent.
“T-this is rear Admiral Tuvanis Muraken, of the holy order of- ghuh!”
The scene shakes ominously, and it isn't until then that you realize that the rear admiral is actually under attack! The camera pans up slightly, and you're able to see multiple explosions filling the background. A couple other angelic looking knights have created a circle around the rear admiral, but they don't look any better then he does. They're about to fall.
“The situation is dire. Dear citizens of Esphixia, we have failed you. For years we have fought the monsters that threaten to destroy our world, but today it seems we've fought to no avail. We make our final stand today, but I fear we only have a few more minutes. With my last powers, i've- gugh! I've opened a portal to the Human world, to allow adventurers into Esphixia. These humans might be able to stem the tide against evil, and win the war we could not...”
The screen tilts again, and a second later the camera seems to fall to the ground. The rear admiral kneels in front of it and points it upward to his face, only to show the incoming meteor, a massive chunk of fiery rock and debree, about to crash into the group of valiant knights. The rear admiral seems to see a reflection of the show behind him in the lens, but before he could fully turn around the meteor hits with a deafening explosion, turning the screen black again.
The crowd gathered, consisting solely of rooks not unlike you, slowly starts muttering and whispering to each other. Most seem scared, some confused and some even pumped. It seems the creators of this game really went all-out.
But then he appears. A lone figured clothed only in black, wearing a white mask resembling a screaming man. The sight alone makes you shudder, even though the person stands on top of the massive screen, all the way on the other side of the square. A camera suddenly sends images to the screen, and the horrifying mask fills the entire screen. In an instant, the muttering voices are silence by the ominous presence. It doesn't seem the man talks, not with that scary mask on, but for some reason you still hear a voice of raw leather seemingly coming from nowhere.
“Humans. The angels lost the fight, and so they turn to humans. Pathetic” The figure speaks, every word sending chills down your spine. “And so what do we have here? Adventurers? No, mere students, middle schoolers, businessmen and the like. No fighters, no warriors. Is this it?”
The sarcastic voice scowls you, and even though fear still lashes at you like a double-tipped whip you feel anger taking over you.
“Who the hell are you to say that?!” someone shouts, and you whole heartily agree.
“Come down here, you pussy”
“I'll beat your ass!”
The figure chuckles, simply brushing away the replies with a flick of his wrist. Instead of continuing his monologue, his left hand crawls up at his mask. For some reason, the idea horrifies you, and you feel your anger quickly fading away. If he makes due with that kind of mask, then who knew what his real face was like? You've got the urge to close your eyes as the bony fingers grab the solid white material, to look away when he slowly removes the thing. But you're unable to, either too curious or scared, and once he removes his mask it's already too late to undo the damage.
A soaring pain curses through your head, and you grab your temples in a pathetic excuse to fight against the pain. Absently, you notice how the entire square is grabbing their head or pulling their hair, but the numbing pain is too strong for you to give trivial things like that any thought. Just looking at his face caused this...? And you didn't even see anything, dammit! Just a glimpse, just a... Slowly but surely the pain starts to fade, and you find yourself leaning heavily on your knees while you pant the pain away.
“Humans. Such frail beings. Be glad I didn't kill you, be glad I at least give you the chance of fighting back. Oh, but please be safe. That soaring pain you felt just now? That was me, taking away your options of logging out of this world. I cursed you, the lot of you. From now on, death will be permanent and you'll never be able to leave this world. That is, until you defeat me. The King of Darkness, Legate Nocturn, the... well, the name doesn't really matter. Ninety Nine floors from here, I house my castle. Between there and here, I'll deploy my many minions to amuse you. Fight them and grow stronger, until one day we will meet again. I look forward to it, Adventurers.”
And with that, the guy disappeared, leaving the crowds on the square confused, horrified and scared. Some were cursing the game's creators, others were just rubbing their temples absently. Utter confusing was the name of the game, and only a couple seemed to have regained their wits. Among them, is you. What do you do?