Chapter 8 - The Strange Cutting-edge Arcade (1)

"What's your dream, Dae-ha?"

A girl once asked me that. She was a cute girl with two braids, kind, someone who laughed a lot and always worked hard in everything.

"Hmm. After graduating from high school, I will go to a moderately good university and graduate from it."

"And after that?"

"I want to enter a moderately good company and live a diligent life. After that, I will find a kind woman and live happily ever after."

"Huhu. That's a continuation of moderation, and the only time you use the word ‘kind' is when you are looking for a wife."

"Of course. My wife must be a kind woman."

I was comfortable with her. She wasn't pretty, wasn't able to handle people well, nor did she have an outstanding talent. Despite that, being around her, I felt a tranquility that couldn't be expressed with words. She was a gentle girl who always did her best at everything. She was cute and had a good personality, but most of all… She was normal.

"What's your dream?"

"Eh, you will probably laugh at it."

"Huh? No, not really. I don't have the hobby of laughing at others' dreams."

She blushed shyly at my calm words.

"I, I want to become a wonderful mother. And a lovely wife, too."

"…"

"Ahh, Ack! It really is weird!"

"No, no. It suits you really well."

"Really?"

Her question really shook my heart. She wasn't an outstanding beauty, neither did she have any outstanding talent. But, I felt like I could live quietly with her for the rest of my life.

That was my first love. This was probably how it felt to have your heart healed. But my heart was already torn apart once, so it was no different from being a tatter, but regardless of that, I still felt that I could live a peaceful life if I were with her.

-There's something I have to tell you. Come to the rooftop after class.

How can anyone criticize me when I received that letter and realized that she sent it?

"Ah, you, you are here…"

She was waiting on the rooftop. Her face flushed as soon as she discovered me.

"Um. What is it that you wanted to say?" This was the first time I resented my composure even in this kind of situation, but fortunately, that didn't become a problem.

"Uh… Uh… Ah! How do I say it!"

The cute sight of her covering her blushed face with both of her hands was enough to make me faint.

"Are you okay?"

"Ye, yeah… Ah… I'm really nervous now that I'm about to say it. I’ve wanted to tell you this since the first time I saw you."

Since the first time she saw me! If that is the case, then does she also…

"If it's hard for you…"

"No. I can't delay any further. I have to say it today."

She stared at my face so hard to the point I felt like it was burning.

"Uh, uh…"

I looked at her expectantly as she stuttered, and finally, as if she had summoned her determination—

"Uh, won't you call me mom?" She ended up saying that.

"… What?"

"Wow! I said it! I ended up saying it~!"

She got embarrassed like a naive and innocent girl but… unfortunately, my heart and my youth were crumbling from that.

No!

No!

No!

"This can't be true!"

The place I woke up in while screaming wasn't the classroom, but my room. Right, that was something that happened eight months ago. And I was dreaming about something that had happened before. But why did I dream of that?

Pant. Pant. Pant. I took heavy breaths and mumbled, "Ah, a nightmare…"

*

My always pleasant brother looked at me with his two round eyes, "Ah! My little brother. Why is your expression like that early in the morning?"

"I had a crappy dream."

"A nightmare?"

"You can put it that way."

I was walking while grumbling when I discovered bugs flying on the roadside.

"Ah, did it get hit by a car?"

"Yeah."

That was a corpse. There was no way it belonged to a person. It was a dog, and it seemed like it was owned by someone judging from the collar on its neck. The corpse had already started to rot and anyone who saw it would have probably frowned, but instead, I approached it and dug into my bag.

Chiiiik-!

"…?"

"What are you doing? Also, why do you carry pesticide with you?"

Regardless of my brother's confusion, the bugs hovering around the corpse fell as soon as I sprayed the pesticide on them. But this was all meaningless. It would be more helpful if I had cleaned up the corpse and restored the pavement to its usual sight. But obviously, since it isn't an enclosed area, bugs will soon swarm again, so isn't doing that meaningless?

"No. I, well, it just bothered me. Let's go."

"…?"

But I didn't use the pesticide for the larger community. To speak the truth, there was a strictly personal agenda behind it.

"I think I passed a thousand of them long ago… Is there nothing more than that?"

I was able to see titles. Normally I could only see titles on humans but if I concentrated a little, I could see them on animals or plants, and after concentrating a bit more, I could even see the titles of inanimate objects.

On top of that, being able to perform Classification and Materialization was useful in several ways. It was a superb ability if I were to explore it. However, there was only one person whose title I couldn't see. Actually, it would be more proper to say that it was blank.

And that person was…

"Of course it's me."

Right, it was me. I was not able to see my own title. If I had been able to, then I could check the state of my mind or an outline of my future (although it really is just an excessively great outline so it's not of much help) but unfortunately, I couldn't see my own title.

"Study hard then."

"Not that hard though."

"Haha."

Laughing awkwardly, I parted ways with my brother and thought as I headed to my classroom.

"It's regretful that I'm not getting a new title. I was carrying this pesticide just for that."

That's right. I was not able to see my own title, but instead, I could Select the title I want and change it freely. However, usually the titles others had mostly represent their current condition so changing it would be meaningless. But at least for me, it was important.

And that was because 'it' increases. I'm talking about my Ability when I Equip a title.

"I'm really going crazy."

I've had this doubt since a long while back.

Is this world real?

Do 'I' really exist? 

Is it possible that the world was the result of someone's program and our memories part of a scenario?

Is there any guarantee that the world was not created just a day, an hour, or even three seconds ago?

Normally, this was just a delusion. It was foolish to be doubting something like that. However, I couldn't erase this doubt even though I'm now old enough and a realist. The reason for that was, the world looks just like a game through my eyes.

"Hello."

"Good morning." I shared an apathetic greeting and laid down on my table.

Everyone seemed to be half awake as it was still quite early.

"Why an alien?"

I had always suspected it. Is this world where I exist actually a program made by someone else? The world looked like a game to me. Games weren't just referring to those where there are magicians flying around in the sky shooting fireballs, or swordsmen who exude their aura.

In the first place, Titles or Ability weren't things that should exist in reality. That was why I have always been thinking about it. Could this world be a game made by an existence with transcending scientific skills?

In simple terms, something like Humans Daily Life Online - a game where you lose all the memories from the Outside when you log in and live on Earth, and you get logged out when you die. If it could be explained in this manner, then my ability would roughly make sense too. In other words, I could just think of it as a bug.

If I could see an ability that could only be seen outside of the game through a bug or an error, then I would have been able to convince myself. But an extraterrestrial being had appeared.

No. Something's weird.

Right, I would rather prefer having someone like Morpheus (The one in the movie, The Matrix, who tells Neo that his reality is actually a program) appear in front of me and tell me, "This is a virtual world, kid." I would have been surprised about it but would soon accept it. Ah, but I would still take the blue pill.

Srr.

I raised my head at the noise of someone pulling their chair out.

"Good morning."

"Ah, sorry. Did I wake you up?"

"I was just lying down." I spoke calmly to my partner who was cute today as well.

Her name was Lee Seon-ae. She was one of the people in my daily peaceful life, so I remembered her even without having to see her title.

"Are you tired?"

"Nowadays, life is tiring." I grumbled and lied down again.

Well, the story digressed, but anyway; I could raise my ability by equipping titles.

My currently equipped title was Fly Hunter. There was even an explanation of the title and here's the contents.

Fly Hunter

Strength, Stamina, Vitality +10

You have caught a hundred flies. How unfortunate.

Ah, what's with this description! It makes me feel bad!

"Just who wrote this text?"

"Huh?"

"No, I was speaking to myself."

But the funny thing was, even though I had been catching mosquitoes, cockroaches and other bugs like gold beetles and grasshoppers, only flies gave me a title.

At first (when I was really young), the title I got when I caught flies was Fly Slayer. And the other title I gained when I caught a fly without much thought at an older age, was Fly Hunter. Those titles weren't consistent at all as the first title showed up in English and the other in Korean. But whatever the case, my abilities increased (Fly Slayer increased my Strength, Stamina, and Vitality by 5 each) so I had been exterminating flies to aim for something higher but I couldn't get anything else. It seemed like 'Hunter' was the ultimate rank.

‘But what's a Fly Hunter…'

To be honest, this title wasn't cool at all. But unfortunately, these two are the only titles I have. It seemed like I could get more titles if I killed something else. That was why I had thought about looking for a stray dog, but… I just gave up. That was something I mustn't do at all.

‘Slayer…'

Speaking of which, the title Slayer wasn't anything common. Actually, that was a given as you could only get the title after killing something.

People end up killing all kinds of creatures throughout their lives but their titles refer to the 'condition' that currently represents them so there hasn't been anyone who has shown up with a title like Fly Hunter. No matter how pathetic of a life they had, there was no way that killing a fly or a mosquito could represent their 'condition', right?

I have seen about five or six Slayer titles until now, and the most shocking one among them was Kyung-eun's Human Slayer. But this is the peaceful Republic of Korea we are talking about, so she was the only Human Slayer (there might be more but she's the only one I have seen until now) and the others have probably killed dogs or cats to hold their titles of Dog Slayer and Cat Slayer. Actually, the titles of Dog and Cat Slayer might sound cute compared to Human Slayer, but that was enough to let me know that they weren't in their right minds, so I kept my distance from them.

"Hello Kyung-eun!"

"Yes. Good morning."

I heard a voice full of leisure, but I didn't want to raise my head. It was precisely because I had been thinking about her. Actually, she was the only one around here holding a Slayer title.

"Hello, Dae-ha. Are you tired?"

Why are you talking to me when I'm lying down! She's so different from Seon-ae who is trying to sit down carefully, afraid of being a bother!

"…Um."

But I wasn't able to say anything after raising my head and looking at her. It wasn't that I was astounded at her beauty or something like that, as I didn't really care much about it.

So if I were to describe my current state, rather than astounded, I was more confused. The reason for that was that the Human Slayer title I have been seeing every day and sighing at had disappeared today.

And there were other words replacing it.

Won-il High School

Human Hunter, Lee Kyung-eun.

"…"

Oh, Jesus.

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