Chapter 23:

LEVEL 23: Adam Fantasy—A Paradox of Longing Toward the Faraway Sky

CREO: Game of Creation

Jaunty orchestral music accompanied the appearance of the ugliest creature I’d ever seen. The creature took a swing at Wei Fang, who made no attempt to dodge—because he couldn’t. A health bar appeared next to him, along with a magic bar. The creature stood, lightly moving back and forth like a boxer, waiting for Wei to strike.

Adam, did you seriously make a turn-based RPG CREO?

Yup. It’s my masterpiece—there’s over 10 hours’ worth of content, not including side quests.

That’s insane, we’ll be here forever!

Nope, it’s a survival CREO. He’s done the first time he dies. Points are determined by his completion percentage. He’d need to beat the final boss and do all the side quests, including collecting all 356 gems scattered throughout the map to get 100%. I was speechless. Wei took out some of the early monsters with ease (he even got XP), but he struggled as soon as he got to the first mini-boss—a giant living tree, swinging its branches and roots around and releasing poison spores.

“Hero! You’ve saved our village from the evil that has plagued us for centuries! Take this enchanted item with you on your journey. You will need it when you reach the kingdom of Eleftheria.” The little white, mushroom looking villager said after Wei defeated the mini-boss.

What’s the ‘sacred key of the forest spirits?’

If he gets there, you’ll see, it’s story stuff.

When did you find the time to do this?

You’ll see soon that we don’t really ever sleep. My physical body gets tired, but unless I’m super exhausted, my consciousness just goes into the virtual world when I sleep. I’ve been working on this for months now, plus Lucy helps with the story and Teo designed some monsters. It’s still a work in progress.

After about 2 and a half hours, Wei had formed a party with 3 other adventurers and fought his way into the castle of the wicked king Thull, who had captured the forest priestess Catelina, who apparently was also the princess of Eleftheria, but was kidnapped by bandits as a child and… it goes on.

At 19% complete, after the princess was whisked off by the shadow knights, Wei—who appeared to be way too invested by this point and was thus off his game—was finally defeated by the arch shadow knight Raltrick. I estimated it was around where disc 1 would’ve ended had it been one of the old games Adam was basing this off of.

I thought everyone in the audience would be bored out of their minds, but there was a collective groan of disappointment when Wei lost—there were even a few people who cried when the princess was taken. Wei seemed frozen in shock and awe after he lost, and his adventure was over before it could properly finish.

Next was his world—pretty lackluster by comparison. It was set in a city alley at night, rain pouring down and collecting in puddles reflecting the neon lights of a Chinese city. Very cyberpunk noir. Adam stood alone, soon drenched by the rain. A pair of white lights flashed on him before a motor revved and something sped at him, barely giving him time to dodge roll out of the way.

The enemy wasn’t quite a motorbike, or a car… A spark of lightning made it clear—a mechanical dragon, running on wheels, its eyes headlights, and it even breathed fire using a blowtorch at its mouth. The thing shifted and lurched with its various mechanical parts, revving up to strike once more. Adam was ready this time and jumped on the thing’s back, striking it with a fiery fist… to no effect. The thing bucked and squealed as it tried to knock Adam off. Spikes shot up from its back, narrowly missing Adam, even slicing off a lock of hair. Needless to say, he jumped off. The dragon sped toward him, but that’s exactly what Adam wanted, springing out of the way at the last second before the beast ran straight into a wall. Adam didn’t waste time—blasting the neon sign above the dragon, causing it to crash down on it in a flurry of sparks. The dragon tried to move, but was trapped under the rubble. Wei stepped out from the building across the street, looking beat.

“Strike me down.” He said, arms outstretched.


“I’m done. You really are superhuman.” Adam backed away, looking disturbed. Wei drew a knife from his robes and ended himself.

The stadium erupted into the loudest cheers I’d ever heard. Kuu appeared and held up Adam’s hand in triumph (despite Adam struggling with all his might to break free from its grip).

“Congratulations, Team KAI! You will proceed to the International CREO Championship Finals against Team Upstart! Furthermore…” A gold trophy shaped like a star with the CREO logo on it appeared on a pedestal in front of Adam. “Your CREO world broke the record for the largest CREO map ever used in competition. Congratulations, Adam! The possibilities of what an artificial human can do are endless!” Adam looked ready to strangle Kuu, but Teo and Lucy reached the stage and held him back. Wei strode past Adam, his head down.

“Why’d you do that?” Adam asked.

“Because I wanted you to win. I want to see the limits of CREO’s technology, and you’re it.” Wei said, halting at the edge of the arena stage. “Let me play the rest of your RPG someday, it was fun.” After Wei’s exit, the crowd stomped and clamored for Adam to speak. Kuu held a microphone out for him.

“Uhh, thanks?”

“What does your victory mean for you and your team? What do have to say, as the symbol of the new world taking shape through the power of technology?” Kuu said.

“That’s all… You’re just…” Adam looked like he was trying to lay into Kuu and CREO, to speak his mind on my behalf, perhaps spill some of their secrets… he just couldn’t—like something in him blocked his voice. He lowered his head and wiped away a tear. Rainwater still dripped from his hair and soaked clothes. “We’re really excited to play in the championship, and we’re gonna win. We’ll show you what we’re made of and no one’s gonna stop us.” Adam said, raising a fist to the roar of the crowd and the flash of the cameras. “No one, not even you.” He said to Kuu after the microphone was taken away.

“That’s not in your programming.” Kuu said, its eyes glowing red for an instant. “There you have it!” Kuu went back to addressing the hysterical crowd. “The grand finale is set! Huh huh!”

Cape Town has the dual spectacles of the ocean and Table Mountain overlooking the city. Walking around with my friends in such a pretty place was a welcome distraction from the… events of the previous day. The shock of losing my body was slowly wearing away, and I started to appreciate finally being home in the physical world.

“Ooh, let’s go on a boat ride!” Adam said, pointing to the nearby wharf.

“You up for it?” Teo asked me.

“Yeah, the nausea wore away overnight, so I think I feel pretty good. Not to mention.” I scooped Adam up and spun him around in the air. “We’re going to the finals!”

“The way it happened sucked, though.” Adam pouted after I put him down. He didn’t mention it, but being unable to speak his mind at the end bothered him more than anything.

“You deserved the win, Adam, just be happy.” Lucy said.

“I’d be happier on a boat.”

“Alright, alright, just so long as we catch our flight.” I said. We never got the chance to sight-see in LianHua, and I missed the re-do match in Croatia and the quarterfinals in New Zealand, so it was nice to finally take advantage of our venue. The mist of the water hit my skin, the sun gleaming over the waves. Reality’s not so bad, I knew that now more than ever.

“The mountain’s beautiful.” Lucy mused.

“Reminds me of Rio.” Teo said.

“The clouds look like a blanket of smoke over the mountain.” Said Adam, leaning a little too far over the railing to not be wearing a life vest.

“According to local legend, the smoke forms when the devil and the ghost of an ancient pirate have a smoking contest over Table Mountain.” Lucy said, the brochure she read it from behind her back.

“Oooh.” We all played along with the spooky story vibe she was going for.

“I bet the devil wins, that’s why the pirate’s soul is stuck there.” I was only kind of talking about the legend.

“But someday the pirate will win. He won’t have his gold, but he’ll be free.” Lucy said.

“Then maybe we can find the gold, save that library.” I teased. Her face turned red. “What’s the deal with it, anyway?”

“My mum worked there for the longest time, before she lost her sight. I spent my childhood reading in there. People haven’t been coming in for some years though, so our local council pulled its funding. It’s a silly thing to do all this for, but I just can’t bear to see it go without a fight.”

“We’re similar in that.” Teo said. “No one seems to care about my hometown. It’s a slum, not somewhere you go on vacation to, or hold tournaments in. Yet there’s magic there—in the people, the music, the art. It gets a bad reputation because when people are desperate, they do stupid things and get into trouble. If they can have an outlet, it might inspire them to make their lives a little better. Maybe I’m just being stupid.”

“I don’t think so.” I said. “Say, tell me about your avatar—I’ve never asked about it.”

“O Encantando. A spirit that lives in the rivers of the jungle, stuck in the world of magic, it lures unsuspecting people toward the river and entraps them in the other world, never to escape.”

“That’s really cool!”

“Thanks. On the other hand, the story probably came from people seeing river dolphins and making up stories about them, so that part’s kinda lame.”

“Thus the gray skin and fins.”


“Glad I got a chance to ask.” Adam patted me on the back. “What’s that for?”

“You’re getting better at being a person. Not there yet, and a little late, but you’re getting there.”

“Shut up.” I shoved him harder than I expected and he almost fell into the water. We all worked together to pull him back up to safety. After a sigh of relief, Adam started laughing, and we all joined him.

“I can’t die yet. Gotta make Adam Fantasy II! I’m thinking more sci-fi elements this time.” We spent the rest of the boat ride brainstorming ideas for his next RPG CREO—it would be a drawn out, all over the place mess—but it would also probably be a masterpiece worthy of the first artificial human and his many talents.