Chapter 1:

PROLOGUE- Before the Storm


“Man, I wish we could someday live in the world of a game of our choosing”. I am pretty sure that I wasn’t alone in this thought. But after this, I’m sure that no one would ever be thinking the same.

I wish I had time to think about what went wrong if I wasn’t at my limits and already didn’t have a load of grief and anger clouding my already adapting judgement. Wide-defensive stance, Wakizashi in front of my face, trying to hide my heavy breaths, the muddied ground from all the rain making my movements even harder, darkness of the overcast sky and the evening hiding mine and my adversaries’ presence……. Count five people in front, guns trained on me with intent to kill and from expertise alone, I know for a fact that there are at least three moving in to close my escape. A lot of people would panic in this situation, act without thought and end up losing a disposable life. But in my case, one life is all I have.

Let’s go back to where it all began. 2028, approximately 10 years ago…...Life was as normal as it gets, in the company of a mom who I cannot ever ask for anyone better, and a little brother who looked up to me for almost anything. Apart from that it was the cycle of going to school, hanging out with my best friend, sitting through boring classes which I end up passing either way, and gaming the rest of the day away.

And speaking of boring classes, I am moments away from being on the opposite end of a verbal beatdown from Takemoto-sensei. My vision is black, and the only thing I notice is a faint voice.


And the moment he called me by my whole name, I knew that Sensei was about to blow his top.

“Nakamura Akio-san!”

My whole body just went into overdrive instantly, when I suddenly realized that I had dozed off during class. Just before he blew, I apologized on the spot,

“Very sorry for dosing off Sensei, I just had a long night yesterday” I blurted out standing up from my seat with my head bowed down.

Considering his admiration for honesty and my consistent high scores no matter how much of a lazy bum I am, Sensei let me off with a harmless warning.

While I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief, there was someone next to me who was having the time of his life, and I knew that snotty laugh even if I had to spot it blindfolded.

“Man, the rare occasion you get bashed by Takemoto-Sensei never gets old, too bad he doesn’t go as far as he does for the rest of us mere mortals”

Guess I wasn’t the only one who found that to be too loud, as the next thing that blared across the room like an alarm was Sensei’s voice going.


While he went through the same process of apology I did, it was finally me who had the last laugh, more reason we were partners in crime for as long as I remember.

After a long and dragged-out day, which marked the end of school for the day, I rushed to my shoe-locker in the hopes of beating the crowd to cross the road across Shibuya without being trampled to death. And just like us both almost facing Takemoto-sensei’s wrath, we both had the same idea, with me being surprised from behind, arm over my shoulders.

“Akio, you up for game night tonight?”

I am never one to back out from a challenge, especially from the man I have played with and against ever since I learned how to use a mouse and keyboard. I took the window of opportunity to go for a quick tease.

“You sure you want to add another win to my record against you? If that’s the case, I am all down for it”

He fired back, reminding that both of us have a very similar win/loss record against each other, which is true, and suggested that we check out our frequented game store to see if we can grab something new to compete against.

Yeah, yeah, I know, who buys games from stores in 2028, but at the time, We were underage to own a bank card, and mother dearest of both of us who did own one, were against buying us games online, hence we scrounge up what little money we get as an allowance to indulge in our hobby of choice.

Shibuya Crossing, even if we beat the peak time, there is enough people crossing the road to all 4 sides to fill a small army, and with the size of said crossing, it is also the perfect place to advertise and inform, and to both our surprises, in came an advert on the biggest screen you can see from the crossing, for a game that neither of us had heard of. This came as a surprise as we both follow public game announcements religiously and that what the advert promised are too good to be true.

A one-of-a-kind MMO where you can build your own character, design your own abilities, and use any weapon of your design or preference. The game is lamely named “CyberGrounds” by a developer that none has heard of called Arctus. Character building and weapon choice was a given in an MMO, but designing our own abilities has to be a massive over exaggeration.

Entering the game store with enough money to buy one game, the browsing and dilemma of choice began, but that was short-lived as the store manager was also promoting the game we saw earlier, and he was twisting his words in ways to make it more appealing. Turns out the game was only announced and released while we were trying to stay awake in class today, and, I will admit it, I was curious if that said game does live up to its promise……. And so, we did the one thing that might have changed our lives forever.

We handed over our membership cards and paid for the game, and the manager handed us the online codes that gets us access to the game.

“Two online codes for CyberGrounds for Nakamura Akio and Chifuyu Tadashi, hope you have fun” the manager said, seeing us off.

But now, I wish we just stopped back then for just “having fun”.