Where am I?
Ace's head throbbed as he tried to remember the last thing that had happened to him. Last time, he saw a man disappear in a narrow alley. Panic now overtook Ace as the rumors crossed his mind.
"Are you aware?" A stammering female voice with a cold and even tone echoed around Ace.
Ace's steps stopped. He looked around but found no one. "Who are you? No need to hide!”
"You won't see me because I'm intangible."
"What? So you're one of the ancient magicians who dragged me here?”
"There's no need to be presumptuous. My name is N-101, the NPC that Creator created. Welcome to Erfheim Rebirth.”
“NPCs? Erfheim Rebirth?” Ace frowned.
“Only the Creator can control this world. I'm sure you must be aware of the strange phenomena happening in today's society.”
Digital boxes appear around Ace, showing the dying people starting to disappear. Not just hundreds, but millions. They vanished just like Ace had. In that case, did that mean they were thrown into Erfheim Rebirth? Are they still alive? Wait, if it was true that dying people were thrown into Erfheim, what about his father? Ace felt suffocated at the memory. On the one hand, Ace hopes that his father is still alive, but on the other hand, he doesn't believe it. There couldn't be a virtual world as sophisticated as Hilfheim.
"So, this has something to do with getting rid of the funeral history in Hilfheim?"
Silence for a moment. Then the voice came again. "Right. Everyone who is dying, regardless of age, will be thrown into this game."
"What about me? I was thrown into this world in good condition i—”
“You broke the rules.”
"What?" Ace's body immediately stiffened. Breaking the rules he said? So the reason he was trapped in this place was for breaking the rules? Ace suspects something to do with the missing man. So, by a silly accident, his life was caught between life and death?
“You're afraid I'll leak information about this game? If so, you don't have to worry. Tell your Creator that I won't bother them. So, quickly get me out now. There's no reason for me to be here."
“There are no waivers whatsoever. Creators don't accept negotiations."
"You think I'll just believe it?" Ace laughed blandly, then ruffled his dark blue hair. “Quickly get me out of this place now!”
"It is impossible. This game can't be stopped. Your body and soul have been trapped in the Erhfeim Rebirth portal, which is this place. It's impossible to escape. People's memories of you in the real world will be erased until you finish this game."
“Finishing the game? You're good at saying silly things."
The female voice changed to the roar of the engine. Slowly, the all-white room turned light blue. Holographic translucent screens appeared showing a mountain surrounded by clouds with no flying vehicles. There are no fancy buildings, skyscrapers, airways, or highways. Ace was amazed to see the lake so wide and beautiful with various colors.
“This is Erfheim Rebirth.” The female voice appeared as the monitor's display changed.
Ace gaped as a large beast emerged from behind the mountains. They were taller than a skyscraper, with wings resembling that of a bat. Exactly the giant winged reptile that Ace often saw in mythological books. Ace was horrified as the huge beast spouted fire all around. The forest turned to ashes in an instant.
Ace's shaking hand stupidly touched one of the monitors before it all disappeared. The cold all-white room returned.
Even though he was stunned, Ace dared to say, "What happens if they die in the game?"
“Their souls will be locked up until a player manages to get Lubnej, a dragon ball that can grant wishes, including returning all players to the real world. Lubnej can only be obtained after completing the main mission, namely sealing Apostologia, an immortal dragon controlled by black magicians. Keep in mind that the time in the game is the same as the time in the real world. Your age in the real world will continue to decrease before you finally die.”
"No kidding. I have to see my mother as soon as possible.” Ace shook his head in disbelief. Like a fool, Ace fumbled around the room, hoping to find a door or something that could get him out. He had to get out soon. However, the NPC seemed to have locked him in an infinite space. No matter how far Ace went, there was nothing he could touch. Ace looked at his hands, while sweat started to drip down his hoodie light blue despite the cold air around him.
"You can't get out of this place. Only the Creator has the right to remove players. Good. The time is almost up. The introduction ends here. You have to decide quickly.”
A large hourglass floated in front of Ace. Hesitantly Ace looked up.
"I'll give you fifteen seconds. Do you want to join the game and fight your way back into the real world, or do you just sit here waiting to die?”
Ace's blood froze even more. Perfect for all this madness. His heartbeat quickened. Dying slowly in the virtual world is not good at all. He wasn't a fan of online games crazy who would exclaim for joy, not one who yearned for a new world, or whatever. He didn't want to give up his youth to adventure in the virtual world. There is no guarantee that he will succeed. He could be trapped forever with millions of souls and never be able to see his mother again.
However, Ace couldn't stand still like a fool. He had to meet his mother again. Ace has to say that he loves his mother, hoping that her mother can return to how she used to be. After all, maybe his father was trapped in this world. If Ace could find his father and bring him back, maybe his mother would be happy. Maybe they can go back to how they used to be. Maybe—
“Time is up. Make your choice."
Ace closed his eyes, took a deep breath as if making up his mind. His knees were shaking. He couldn't escape. It wouldn't be possible even if he explored this room no matter how far. At least, Ace can still hope.
“I will join the game.” Ace felt his grave was complete after those words were spoken.
A few moments later, the NPC spoke again, “Good decision. I will explain a little about this game. Think of it as a provision for your next trip."
The noise of the engine sounded again before finally disappearing. On the right side of Ace appear three white buttons with different images.
The top button with a human silhouette opens, showing symbols and numbers.
“This button is used to check your profile, status, and skills. You don't have to worry. I've been preparing weapons, armor, and equipment for a while. When you beat certain opponents, you can get clothes and weapons that increase your endurance and increase your strength. Of course, you can upgrade the equipment through the blacksmiths in town.”
"Can it kill other players?"
“You can only do it in the fighting area, not the safe area. If you manage to kill another player, you will be penalized and easily attacked. At the top, you can see the status. The green color means you are safe to roam anywhere. Yellow means you're breaking a rule, red means you're penalized.”
Ace nodded in understanding. Unexpectedly, it turns out that this game has fair rules for ordinary people. However, if you imagine a crazy player slaughtering another player, Ace gets goosebumps instantly.
The second-order button with an image of an open bag, showing small boxes in a row. At the bottom, there is a rectangle that says ED.
“This is your storage. You can store your game, weapons, clothes, and attributes here. You can also sell them to city NPCs or other players. ED is the currency in Erfheim. Every time you complete missions, trade, and hunt, your ED will increase. The higher your level, the higher the pay."
Without waiting for Ace's reply, the NPC opened the last button shaped like a crowd of people. “Finally, you can form alliances and move with groups. You can add other players to your friend list.”
“What about the group hunting results? Who will get the result?”
“If the result is a weapon, clothing, attribute, or rare item, the player who killed last time is entitled to it. Then above your head is a cursor."
Ace looked up. There is a green triangle with three bars below it. The red bar says HP, the blue bar says MP, while the thinnest yellow bar says Exp.
“HP or health points is your health status. If your health points are empty, your character will die. MP or mana point is the amount of magic energy you can use. You can restore HP and MP through potions you get from missions or buy them from NPCs. Exp or experience is the level of experience you get from completing missions or killing opponents. The higher it is, the more skills or abilities you can get.”
The three buttons were closed, as Ace's feelings became increasingly unruly. He couldn't hide his trembling legs and fingers as the hourglass slowly turned around. Time's up. Whether this decision was right or not, Ace wasn't sure.
"Good. The first guide is complete. This is a game portal that connects your original world with Erfheim. This virtual world is like a chessboard wide open. There will be pieces that lose and pieces that survive. If it dies, it dies. Never hesitate and be naive to reach the end.”
Ace reluctantly nodded, reluctant to accept. Either way, he will continue to endure to the end. Perhaps his common sense had been damaged from believing in such a crazy thing.
When the hourglass turned perfectly, Ace felt drowsiness. Slowly his eyes closed, then his mind suddenly went blank and calm. The last thing he heard was the voices of the NPCs.