~ The Day that Ignites Corruption ~
He felt like someone was tailing him. Kail stopped walking, noticing that it had turned quiet. He continued walking, but then stopped abruptly and ran towards the source of sound.
There was no one.
Kail frowned and clicked his tongue. He was sure he felt someone’s presence. How odd to see that it was gone.
He arrived in school. Silently he looked at the school building. His eyes were empty.
School, school, school…
School was useless. It was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. Why did he have the wish to destroy it? He hated this world, so why should he follow this world’s custom? His parents were trash and his friend—no, ex-friend—Hilda was a bitch.
Girls… they were all bitches.
Kail gritted his teeth in anger.
…I want to kill them all…
Then a part of him protested. His parents raised him patiently, paid for his tuition, and provided him a comfortable place to sleep. That was right. They gave him a place he could call home and here he was, fuming like an ungrateful bastard!
…he loved his parents. They meant so much to him. Without them, he was no one….
And not all girls were like that! There still a lot of girls with a pure heart. Alisa, for example. She was the kindest girl Ace had ever met. Hilda on the other hand…
“So what did you two talked about?” Alisa leaned at her best friend, Hilda. Curiosity glowed in her beautiful eyes.
Hilda took the pencil from her mouth and filled the crossword puzzle, “Nothing much.”
“Aw, tell me! I wan’t to know!”
“Just this and that,” Hilda answered vaguely, “nothing worth mentioning.”
Alisa pouted and cupped her chin on the table, cheeks ballooning. “Stingy!”
Hilda lolled her tongue at her, earning a playful pinch on the nose from Alisa.
“Sir, is that what I think it is?” the bespectacled referred to a new machine beside the computer. It looked like a surgery table and full of ominous-looking cable.
“Yes, Vera, it is,” a man in dark blue suit answered, before sipping his melon soda. “With this, we can improve GeaOnline beyond its capability.”
“I take it that he consented to this plan? Using human for the sake of research?”
“He did,” the boss smiled, putting his cup down and moving to the said machine. “The rest of the higher ups ticked him off by complaining how unreal GeaOnline is. Being a VR MMORPG and all, they said that we should put extra effort in it, like implementing 99% pain or whatever it was. What greedy pigs!”
Vera observed him for a while and spoke, “You’ve forgotten your goal, sir.”
“Me? Vera, don’t be silly. Of course I haven’t. With that machine, my wish to create a utopia is one step ahead. That machine is constructed using the latest technology available, allowing us to take sample of emotions from any living beings,” he ran a hand on the metallic surface. “And this sweet baby will grant those pigs their wish, as well as mine. Killing two birds with one stone, right?”
Vera smiled. The plan, which had been stagnant for some time now, finally continued, and she couldn’t help but feel anxious. Now that the foundation had been set, it was time to lay out the bricks…
“We’ll get the boy once you’re ready, sir.”
Between the real world and GeaOnline, Ace chose the latter. The world GeaOnline was like a paradise, where dreams were fulfilled and wish granted. There was no pain, only happiness that never ended.
PKs distorted that happiness, though.
With a sigh, Ace entered Travonka guild room to find Elvaria and QueeN there, chatting hotly.
“Ace!” QueeN quickly beckoned him to come closer, “here, here! Elvaria said zat sie haz fallen in love vith ze vrong guy!”
“I-I wasn’t falling in love!” Elvaria meekly screamed, “…I was just… I adored him, but…”
“What did he do to you?” Ace asked, genuinely interested.
Elvaria bit her lower lip and muttered under her breath, “…he got into a fight with my classmate… to think that I’ve adored someone so brutal like that…”
“Ach, forget ze guy and look vor a new one! He’z not ze only man in zis vorld, Elvaria!”
The elf took a deep sigh, “I… I’ll try…”
“What’s he look like, anyway? If he’s as good as that idol Anza, I can still get the reason why you admired him,” Ace commented, “my sister is one of his fans, but not that fanatic. Girls are all crazy about good-looking boys, right?”
“You got zat right, Ace!” QueeN exclaimed, “biiutivul boys are haven vor our poor souls!”
“I didn’t ask you.”
Elvaria giggled slowly, finding their friendly banter super funny. At this, QueeN and Ace shared a knowing smile.
“…thank you, everyone. You always make me so happy…” Elvaria didn’t look so sad anymore and even managed to form a small smile. “I don’t know if this is a coincidence, but the brute guy looks exactly like you, Ace.”
…the brute guy looks exactly like you, Ace.
…the brute guy looks exactly like you…
…looks exactly like you…
Ace’s eyes widened as he realized who Elvaria was talking about.
I adored him…
…he got into a fight with my classmate…
…to think that I’ve adored someone so brutal like that…
…the brute guy looks exactly like you…
His mind was clouded with fury and veins filled with vengeance. There was no mistaking it. Elvaria… she was… her real world self was…
Ace held his hand with the other. It… the hand… it subconsciously went to Elvaria’s neck, attempting to strangle her to death… thank God he managed to stop it.
“Ace?” Elvaria—or Hilda—tilted her head, “why are you holding your hand like that? Is it bleeding?”
It’s because of you slutty bitch that I’m acting like this! Normally he’d answer something like that, but his anger momentarily robbed him of his ability to speak. He was just… so shocked. So shocked to find that Elvaria, the party member he trusted, was actually Hilda.
He felt betrayed. He felt sick. He felt awful.
“Guys, I… sorry, I remember having homework due tomorrow,” he informed the two without triggering any suspicion. He was really the best when it came to lying. “So, I guess I won’t be able to play with you tonight.”
QueeN pouted, “Aw, Ace, you’re such a spoilsport! Liiv ze homework alone for once! I’ve been dying to hang out vith you guys, questing and stuff!”
He scratched his hair, “Sorry, Tongsis. This homework is really, really important for me. My Math teacher is kind of mad at me for being such an idiot. Well, math isn’t my forte, so…”
QueeN patted him on the back, nodding, “I know, Ace. I feel you. Math ist a curze, vith all zose stupid formulas, calculation…”
“Anyway, I’ll be logging off now. Sorry, guys, and see ya!”
A moment later, Ace was gone, leaving Elvaria and QueeN alone. Turning to face Elvaria, the mage chirped, “Tell me more avout zis brute guy!”
GeaOnline tasted like shit.
Kail threw his helmet aside. It clanged against the wall and fell to the floor. He didn’t care if he couldn’t use it anymore. GeaOnline, real world—they were all shit. Thanks to that bitch, Hilda, everything he saw, hear, feel, transformed into a puddle called disgust.
All the memories they had created so far, were they fake? She was a totally different person from the real world. In GeaOnline, she was meek and shy but it was the other way around in the real world.
Who was the real Hilda, then?
Kail gritted his teeth and hurled a pillow out of anger. Why was he thinking about her, that bitch? She insulted him directly and went so far to spread a vicious slander on him in GeaOnline!
He hated her. He hated her to the point that he’d kill her.
Kail made a mess out of his hair, frustration crashing down at him. He sighed heavily. Thinking would lead nowhere. Taking his jacket, Kail descended to the first floor and took a walk.
Two workers walked in a street somewhere near Kail’s neighborhood, each carrying a small bag. One of them, a bald man in his forties, complained, “…why is it so cold?”
“You’re right. It’s never been so cold before,” his workmate agreed and rubbed his hands. “Say, what’re we going to do again?”
“Ya idiot! Forgetting your job! This is why the boss ain’t so happy about ya! Stop drinking too much!” the baldie shouted.
“S-Sorry, I can’t help it. More importantly, can’t you scream? It’s eight already.”
The baldie sighed, “Sorry, Jo. Got so many things in my mind.”
“Heh, you still owe me a bottle of Brandy, Muro,” Jo snickered.
“Asshole, aren’t ya?” Muro chuckled. He stopped to check his GPS and nodded to Jo. “This park is the place. Hard to imagine in this calm neighborhood, a toddler had been kidnapped.”
“But that’s how the world is now. Crazy stuff happens,” Jo handed him a small CCTV camera. Muro took it with a sigh. “By the way, you should stop sighing and install it.”
“Sorry, man,” Muro took out his equipment, “worried about my daughter’s safety, is all... She’s still four.”
He felt that he was being followed. Again.
Kail turned around, but found none. Who the fuck was that? A stalker? But who? In mangas he read, the stalker would always be armed with a cutter, scissors, or even a kitchen knife. If somehow the MC caught them, they would snap and screaming nonsense about they were the only one for him.
Damn, he didn’t bring anything with him beside his wallet…
He heard footsteps again
Wait, maybe it wasn’t a stalker?
He wasn’t hearing things. There were hasty footsteps following him. Judging by the intensity, it seemed that whoever followed him were more than one people. Clicking his tongue, he needed to shake them off and went back home. It was a mistake to have a night stroll!
Right, there was a small park nearby! He recalled seeing huge pipes that fit for an adult to hide.
He had found the park and quickly located the said pipes. He held his breath as the pursuers getting closer. They chatted for a while, then informed the boss via call, and returned to their HQ, wherever it was.
Once it was quiet, Kail peeked cautiously. Looked like they were gone for good. He crawled out the pipes, but didn’t realize that someone was waiting above it, holding a wooden bat…