Chapter 3:

Chapter 3

System: Overload

Going through those doors, I always felt like coming back into a prison cell despite having a caretaker; she is never home most of the time doing her other job. After all, taking care of me was less a job and more of a favor she did for my older brother, but whenever I told her what she did for a living, she’d always change the subject quickly afterward. Hence, it was mostly just me alone in this big house.

Despite seldom being home, she always makes a mess of the place and leaves without cleaning up after herself. Apparently, in her own words, “it’s to teach me responsibility,” but after the umpteenth time, I felt she was just lazy. Still, I can’t complain about the messes because they were made trying to do something for me; most of the time, it was her home-cooked meals, which I'll admit were leagues better than anything I could cook up.

Today, it seemed like she was not home, but from the look of the living room, she had stopped by for a quick second or hour. The mess was contained only to this area, so I could get on earlier than expected.

— — —

After cleaning up the mess, I made something to eat and then got ready to dive into the game. I had already started downloading the game on the way back from school; it was amazing how well the portable AR device could still connect to the center console from miles away.

Getting up to my bedroom, I took out the plug necessary for the connection to be made to the system. I was always amazed at how such a small thing could take you to another world entirely. Once I had set up all the requirements, I laid down on my bed and started the dive sequence quickly; my vision went black before being relit with the system check menu. Everything was in order, so I started the dive into the world of OverWorld.

Every time you dive into a game, you come in laying on the floor with your eyes closed, almost like you just woke up from a nap. The official reason is, so you don’t experience some kind of mental whiplash from going from a position of lying down to standing upright. Still, no matter how often I experienced it, opening my eyes to a new environment in what seemed like a blink of an eye always felt weird.

Most games start in a tutorial area, usually a blank space with “holograms” hearing a voice explaining the system and menus. But this game was different; the developer seemed to take great care in detailing the tutorial map. The starting room was what appeared to be a cave house; the room was furnished; something about it was oddly familiar. Getting up and off the virtual bed, I took my time searching the small room. There was a cabinet, closet, and storage chest in the room. Sadly though, only the chest had something of use, a 1-Handed Sword on the rusty side but usable. Moving to the door a menu opened on the wood; there were requirements to move through it. What was that requirement? You needed to have the sword in your inventory.

Through the door, my suspicions were confirmed; this was a very dimly lit cave, which was surprising, seeing as the room was lit well, almost as if there had been a window with sunlight pouring through, but there was no such thing. The cave was narrow, with no paths to go in a different direction despite walking for what seemed to me 5 minutes. I had yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I started picking up the pace and sprinting shortly after I saw the light.

Outside the cave was a cliff overlooking a forest. Surveying my surroundings, I found a cabin to my left. Walking toward it, I heard sounds coming from the place, like someone panic-packing their home because a disaster was about to occur. When I raised my fist to knock on the door, I got a system message <<WARNING, PERFORMING THIS ACTION WILL LEAD YOU TO LEAVE THE TUTORIAL. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?>> Even though I was a bit reprehensive about continuing out of fear of missing out on tutorial-specific actions, I went through with my movement. *THUD* *THUD* *THUD* Quickly, the noise from within went silent for a few seconds. I decided to break the silence. “Excuse me! Is anyone th-” The door opened, and a slender arm pulled me in; it happened so fast that I didn't even have time to react.

After that, I found out who was behind the noise, and she didn't look too happy. “What do you think you are doing? Are you trying to get killed?” she questioned me as if I was a madman for even thinking of knocking on her door. Despite being so small, she had quite a bit of strength behind her physique. I was left stunned. “Well, what are you doing just staring? Help me out; they will be here any moment.” she said with a sense of urgency. Her fiery red hair followed behind her as if it moved without gravity, like a campsite's flame burning in the night.

Her Movement was swift, as if she had planned out every step 10 steps ago. Getting up from where I was dragged to ask her some questions, “What exactly am I supposed to do? And who will be here any moment?” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and asked a question of her own, “Where are you from?” a simple question yet had a complex answer. Should I answer truthfully, saying this was a virtual world, or do I go with the simple answer? “I woke up in a cave not far from here.” I decided to go with the simple answer, yet this answer seemed to confound her even more. “What cave? There is no cave around here. If there was, I would know about it, considering I've lived here my whole life.” As the sentence left her mouth, there was a loud banging at the door behind me.

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG* 3 bangs followed by an unknown voice shouting, “We know you’re in there! Come out now or be sentenced to execution by the new king!” It seemed as though the current situation involved some complex politics. As far as I knew, all the nobility was wiped out in reality in the 2050s. After being frozen in shock for a minute, the girl grabbed my wrist and whispered to me, “Go out through the back door. You have no reason to be lumped in with my problems. Quickly now.” She dragged me to the back door, where I was to take my leave. I was shoved through the door; something in me didn't feel right to just leave her alone to fend for herself. After all, I was probably the reason she was found, even if she was just an NPC in a games tutorial who likely won't appear after this, but she felt so human I had to turn around.

Equipping the rusty sword I had in my inventory, I snuck my way around the cabin house. Once I made my way in front of the cabin, I saw three guards, two with swords and the other with a spear interrogating the girl at the door. I couldn't just rush in because that was a quick way to let my HP fall to zero, but if I waited too long, they would likely take her away. I had no sword training, so I could only rely on my instincts. Two guards were constantly surveying the area behind the third guard talking to the girl. If I wanted the slightest chance of slaying the three guards, I’d have to make a surprise attack when they turned their backs. I cursed myself for not exploring the area more; maybe I could have found something that would help here. Well, hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

The two guards were always covering the others' blind spots. It seemed like they wouldn't let their guard down no matter what. Shifting around behind my little bush cover, thinking what to do seemed to alert one of the guards because he began walking towards me. I started reading my stance for my leaping attack I just needed to wait until the target was within my range just a little more. I had no choice but to initiate a combat encounter in unfavorable conditions; if I wanted any chance at surviving this encounter, I had to take him out in one hit.

Finally, he was within range. I lept from the bush with the sword swinging in an arc. I needed a clean cut on his torso, but my attack fell short. I didn't even scratch him. I was surrounded in what seemed like an instant, but I couldn't back down anymore. All three guards had their focus on me. “Well, well, well, what do we have here.” said one of the guards. “Seems like someone was trying to play the hero.” said the one who was interrogating the girl, who was now on the ground, presumably passed out. “Hero, nothing so selfless I just felt bad because if it weren't for me, she would have been long gone.” I said as I was preparing for my next attack. Luckily it seemed like they had their guard down. I quickly body-checked the guard in front of me to make him fall on his behind, and then I grabbed my sword as I turned around and lunged at the one I had missed before driving my sword into his gut, one down and two to go.

I grabbed the sword of the guard I had just felled because I didn't think the rusty sword could pierce another armor set. While thinking of my next move, the one who I believe was the troop leader began laughing. “HAHAHAHA To think even while you were cornered, you still had not given up hope.” His laughing at the death of his comrade had angered something deep inside, but I had to keep a steady head on myself. That first kill made me notice something that felt missing in my attack, like my body was reaching for something that wasn’t there.

Sensing that my mind was elsewhere, the other guard with a sword came rushing towards me, but I felt weirdly in my element, as if everything was moving in slow motion. The guard started out with a thrust into an upward slash; my body had a mind of its own and moved back to avoid the attack. While his arm was still in the air after his upward slash, I took hold of his wrist, holding the sword, turned around, and brought his arm down on my shoulder. I would be lying if the sound of his elbow bending in the opposite direction it was supposed to go didn't make my stomach churn, but something inside me told me I needed to take hold of a second sword. Having his arm broken did the trick. The guard dropped his sword and began whaling in agony; not being much of a sadist myself, I picked up the fallen sword and took him out of his misery.

The second sword put my mind at ease, and I felt like I no longer had a reason to worry. Yet even still, the leader had a sense of composure, sending my instincts into a frenzy. One side of me wanted to lunge at him now while the other wanted to run away, but I couldn't listen to that side; if I ran away now, what would become of the girl? “To think two of the royal guard could fall so easily to a peasant no less my how far we have fallen.” The leader began talking; his words made me angry, but that was probably his way of trying to get into my head, so I turned the table and tried getting into his “Big talk coming from the one who hasn't even made a move since the start of the battle what happened scared to get killed by a peasant.” He seemed prideful, so I hit him where it hurt his skill.

“Dirty rat, you dare besmirch the 5th battalion leader Roy Rockwell.” My taunting seemed to do the trick; I just needed to push him a little more. “Sorry, who? I only know the members of battalions one through four since everyone else is just a bunch of nobodies.” This finally pushed him over the edge. How did I know? He rushed forward, saying, “Die trash!” his attacks were simple, almost as if he had never used a spear. Move left, move right, move left, move right, that’s all there was to his attacks. After a few seconds of this, I decided to end it. I raised my leg and kicked him back; he stumbled, stopping his barrage of thrusts. I followed up with an attack of my own I knew the name of this attack as well “Blakewood Secret Art: Cross Slash” The attack landed squarely on his chest, killing him in one hit.

After he fell, I ran towards the girl lying on the ground. Luckily, she was still alive and breathing, so I picked her up and carried her inside. She woke up a few moments later and was thankful for what I did for her. I told her not to worry about it and that I was just doing the right thing. While we were talking, my vision began to fade, and my body felt heavy; then I heard a voice <<Welcome, player, to the world of Overworld; since you have defeated the enemies in the area, the system will now take you to the character creation menu where you will decide the appearance of your avatar>> I had completely forgotten I was talking to NPCs this whole time they were so human. As my body was being taken away, I heard the girl say one last thing “Oh hero, may this world's seedlings guide you to the Pillar of Origin. Let us meet in the future once again if the Tribe of Origin permits it.”

Leaving without being able to say goodbye left a bittersweet feeling in my chest, but that last line confirmed that I could see her again, but who was the Tribe of Origin? And what is the Pillar of Origin? These were all questions to be solved in-game. Even though the character creation menu was vast and let you fine-tune your appearance into anything you wanted, I decided to go with my regular old appearance wouldn't want that girl not to remember me after all. Finally, after a 2-hour tutorial, my adventure into the world of Overworld was about to begin.