Chapter 11:

Go Against the Migraine


Who knew that tunnelling would be so much fun?

Like some kind of one-man ant colony, Jason had created his own intricate underground network. The passages were cramped, tight enough for only one person to squeeze through. Along the way, he even found some Iron and Copper veins, too! Sadly, he'd need a pickaxe for that, and he already had to replace his Stone Shovel multiple times for this build without extra resources to spare.

Diligently, he worked away at the dirt in front of him in near total darkness. Behind him was a legion of angry mobs. Spiders, skeletons, even goblins crowded behind him to take a swipe at the foolish Human. But he didn't care.

He already tried hitting some of them, but there was no point. The level of the monsters here was ten times his level at the very least. With his crappy equipment, only zeroes popped up. A lucky crit only dealt only one point of damage. Best to leave them to the cleanup crew.

In a way, the mobs were kinda useful. Sure, they brought with them an ungodly cacophony of growling, rattling and squealing, but they helped him with his task, too! With about 20 or so mobs taking turns to hit him, his avatar was lighting up nonstop with the red damage hue. Like a malfunctioning fluorescent lamp, Jason used the flashes of light that radiated from his body to guide where he went.

Alright, this should do.

In order to make a space big enough to put down a bed and interview Alice, all he needed to do was get the mobs off his back. Making a room would cause the mobs to swarm him, stopping him from doing interior design. That was why he dug out a looping passageway.

Having reached the start of the loop, Jason immediately used the dirt in his inventory to build a wall behind him. This wall broke the mobs’ pathfinding, causing them to chase after him via the long route instead. Now, all he needed to do was to build another dirt wall on the opposite side, and the mobs would forget he even existed.

Taking advantage of the enemies’ AI was a survival skill he learnt the hard way back when he was just a child. Sometimes, escape was the only option when you were ambushed or overwhelmed. Running away didn’t always work, especially in the labyrinthine passages of many AO dungeons. The most effective way to not die was to trap yourself by building makeshift walls. Smart mobs may decide to break through, but thankfully the mobs chasing him had the IQ of tissue paper.

Stuck in a claustrophobic spot, Jason had room to breathe. He began to hollow out the space in front of him, the aesthetic of a small cosy hideout came to mind. Before long, some semblance of a room started to take shape—wooden floor tiles and walls, torches for a homely ambience—it totally didn’t feel like an underground lair anymore. As long as you didn’t look at the ceiling, that was. Jason had run out of wood.

The final element was the bed. Made with his last few pieces of wood and all the cotton he stumbled across, the bed was his pride and joy. Touching it caused him to let out a sigh of victorious relief.

[ Checkpoint Saved ]

Now, if, for whatever reason he were to be kicked out of the game, he would start right here. The onerous journey of making it past Novice Island was a thing of the past. He was tempted to just flop onto the bed, but the wall separating the passageway from his room suddenly crumbled.

“Ah, nice work,” Alice walked in, admiring his humble abode, “You got past the mobs. Pretty smart. For an art student.”

“Big words for someone who didn’t go to uni.”

She shrugged, “Intelligence and wisdom are two very different things.”

“Good to know. I take it you built the decoy house already?”

“Aaand my backup base nearby, too.”

“Cool. So now that we’re safe, you good for the interview?”

She continued looking around the room. There was enough space for her to sit on her massive throne or the pink slime she used for the Chair Glitch, but of all the items to sit on…

…she decided to sit on his bed instead.

“Umm…that’s my bed.”

“What an astute observation, detective.”

“Just sit on one of your rare ass chairs.”

“I want you to sit next to me,” she patted the space right next to her, beckoning for him to have a seat.

“Nah that’s too close.”

“Too close for comfort?” she teased. “No, but seriously, I’d prefer if you interview me like this. It’ll be as if I’m talking directly to your viewers, instead of some generic news segment.”

Maybe she did have some ulterior motive like always, but she had a point. Already tired from a long gaming session, Jason gave in and sat next to her.

He never did notice until now. Her features were rather soft—pink lips, pale skin. Some may even consider her cute. If only they knew how she really looked on the inside.

Jason frowned, “Hmm…”

“Hmm?” playfully, she tilted her head, trying to understand why he was still so calm even though he was so close to her. But she was the one who started to fluster as Jason leaned in slowly.

Alice struggled to keep her composure. Her eyes darted left and right. The smile she was putting on started to quiver. Why was he on the offensive?! Was this it? Was she going to lose her first ki—

“Sorry, lighting looked off.”

He got off the bed, adjusting the position of the torches in the room. Alice let out a long, hard exhale, realising it was just a misunderstanding.

As he sat back down, he stared at her face even harder.

“That’s odd. Why did your face turn redder?”

“Y-Yeah…something’s wrong with your lighting.”

Rearranging the torches once more, he sat back down.

“Hmm…I think this is about as good as it can get. Shame, if we had a makeup artist, I think we could solve the issue. I’m really struggling to capture your beauty with this lighting. Might need to touch up a little in post, sorry.”

“Huh?! Umm…okay!”

The phrase “capture your beauty” kept repeating in her head like an echo. She didn’t understand everything else that he said. As for Jason, he simply couldn’t figure out why there was so much red and pink saturation on her face.

“Alright. You good to go?”

Taking several deep breaths, Alice calmed herself down. “Whew…you got this,” she whispered to herself. “Yup, ask away, Jason.”

“Introduce yourself to me.”

“I go by many names—the Devil of Maniavolution, PvPrincess, God of Aksara…but my real name is SakurAlice.”

That’s more like it.

The smug attitude that she always had was on full display. This was the Alice that he wanted on camera.

“Wow Alice, that’s a lot of titles! How long have you been playing Maniavolution?”

“Actually, before Maniavolution, I was already playing AO since launch. That was 2050. But then the Hysteria update happened in '57, so I left.

Maniavolution popped a few weeks after the Hysteria update so…eight years now?”

“Did you play on and off? What other games do you play?”

“Nope. Never played anything else. If you combine both my playtimes in AO and Maniavolution, I’ve easily raked in over five-digit hours. Never regretted that one bit.”

You need therapy.

“You’ve been in Maniavolution for nearly its entire lifespan. Could you explain what it’s like to the viewers who know nothing about it?”


He didn’t expect such a sadistic laugh.

“Sorry! Sorry! Gosh…where do I start? There are no rules on this server. No mods, no updates. As long as you didn’t trigger the anti-cheat, you could do absolutely anything and everything you want! So come and join. I’ll be waiting for you~”

“Ahem,” Jason coughed. “Moving swiftly on. What, or who is Black Hat?”

“Criminal org. They use this server for shady deals and stuff. Drugs, snuff videos, CP—all those nasty things.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

“Look, Jason. I’m just a gamer. I’m not a mod. I’m not an admin. I’m just here to have fun. As long as this server is up and running, anybody could do whatever the hell they want. Leave the crime fighting to the FBI or something. Or you I guess, Mr Exposè.”

“Right. Since you’ve been around since practically the beginning, when and how did Black Hat come into the picture?”

“Okay! History time! BH came into the server sometime in 2060. Nobody knows who’s behind it or how they came in. Before I knew it, everyone started talking about BH like the boogeyman.

I mean, hackers are pretty common here. If they’re not griefing other players like me, then they’re probably sharing shady links, stealing passwords and stuff. But BH’s different. They even pay some of the old players to work for them, keeping new players out. That’s how hardcore they are with their business.”

“And you’ve never been approached by them before?”

“If I didn’t already know them, I kill everyone I come across. Those that I didn’t kill outright, I remember them. And out of those people…”

She closed her eyes, squinting, thinking really hard about everyone she knew on the server.

“Okay, lemme rephrase that. Do you recall interacting with any particularly suspicious individuals here?”


Jason was shocked. She let out a scream of pure agony out of nowhere. This didn’t seem like her usual persona or troll behaviour, she seemed genuinely in pain.

Player avatars were not capable of displaying this kind of pain.

“Alice? Alice?!” she held her shoulders, stopping her from collapsing.


Taylor J
Dhamas Tri (dmz)