Chapter 1: Awakening

All of a sudden, a truck came rushing by.

Kwang!

Jae Woo's body flew into the air.

A dizziness akin to falling from the sky without a parachute overwhelmed him. His entire body screamed, feeling pain that felt as though his entire body was broken apart. The eyes of his family members becoming ever so distant...

'Ah... shit.'

Jae Woo lost consciousness.

* * *

Upon awakening, the first thing he saw was his little sisters.

"Big brother!"

Their faces trailing with tears.

"Euh."

He was about to ask them why they were crying, but he couldn't open his mouth properly.

"Do you recognize me?" Yura asked.

"Huoh."

'Of course I do. You're my little sister.'

"Big brother! Big brother!" Mina said anxiously.

"Mina."

When they heard him say, "Mina", they were overjoyed and hugged him.

"You finally woke up, big brother."

"What a relief. Seriously, what a huge relief."

He had miraculously come back to life.

* * *

A week had already passed since Jae Woo's awakening.

He was still bedridden, but he didn't have any problems communicating.

Until just now.

"What did you say?" Jae Woo asked.

"You've been in a coma for the last 2 years," the Doctor said.

"Excuse me?"

Jae Woo couldn't believe it.

"It's not true... right?" Jae Woo asked, as he looked at his little sisters.

'Please tell me it's not true!' his eyes seemed to cry out.

His little sisters grabbed his hands.

"Big brother..."

"It's ok. You managed to wake up."

They said, squeezing his hands tightly.

However, their consolation had no effect on him at all.

'2 years?'

It was neither 2 days, 2 weeks, or even 2 months. 2 whole years!

Jae Woo just stared at the ceiling. He couldn't accept this at all.

"..."

But because his little sisters were beside him, holding his hands, Jae Woo was narrowly able to get over his shock.

"What happened to me?" he asked, wanting to ascertain why he'd been in a coma for so long.

"You were hit by a truck," Yura said.

"A truck?"

Once she said 'a truck', Jae Woo recollected an image.

A white truck that had driven onto the sidewalk, the car's light that made him dizzy, and his body, which had frozen in panic!

And the "kwang"!

"Ugh!" Jae Woo shivered and retched.

"Big brother!"

"Are you ok?"

His little sisters came rushing over, but he put a hand up to motion that he was fine.

"What about the driver?" Jae Woo asked, his face ashen.

"They said he died. Right on the scene," Yura replied.

"Apparently, he was asleep at the wheel," Mina added.

"What about compensation?"

Jae Woo was curious about compensation. Compensation for his 2 years in a coma.

"..."

Yura and Mina kept their mouths shut.

"Didn't you hear me?" Jae Woo asked.

"..."

The two couldn't answer easily. If they gave the wrong response, then Jae Woo might go into shock again.

But based on their reactions, Jae Woo could tell what had happened.

'We weren't properly compensated for the accident! Then, my hospital bill...'

"How far are we in debt?" Jae Woo asked. 

Since they weren't properly compensated, they must've taken out a loan to pay for his medical bills.

"We'll tell you next time... You still need to rest," Yura said. 

She sounded really concerned for him.

"It's fine, just tell me," Jae Woo said as softly as he could. 

It was a sign saying that, 'I'm ok, so just tell me.'

"I'm not really sure, but we sold the house," Mina said in lieu of Yura.

"You sold the house!?" Jae Woo's face contorted instantly.

'You know how valuable that house is!'

In his 3rd year of middle school, Jae Woo lost his father in an accident. They'd lost their breadwinner, so things got progressively tougher.

Thus, Jae Woo forwent school and decided to become a pro-gamer to make money.

And it went well.

He used to be the best of the best in 'Warlord', the top virtual reality game for the past 5 years.

He was called the 'Human Dragon' in-game. As in, he was so strong that people compared his skill level to that of a dragon.

Because of that, he'd made a ton of money by selling expensive items and in-game currency.

He'd taken out a lot of loans, but he had managed to buy a two story house.

He'd wanted them to live safely in that house!

But because he'd undergone such a random accident, that house had gone up in smoke.

"Haa," Jae Woo sighed deeply in frustration.

Then, he saw his little sisters looking at him.

"Yura, you're in your senior year, right?" Jae Woo forced himself to smile and changed the subject.

If he kept bringing up the house, then the mood would sour.

"Yeah." Yura knew what he was doing and nodded her head.

"It must've been tough keeping up with your studies and taking care of me at the same time. I'm really sorry about that," Jae Woo said.

"You don't need to be sorry!"

His apology only made her eyes water, which made him choke up as well.

"I'm sorry to you too, Mina." His voice broke.

"It's fine, since you're ok." Mina's eyes had turned red as well.

"Don't cry, dummy," Jae Woo said to Mina.

"Bleh. Your eyes are red too, big brother," Mina said, pointing to his eyes.

"I'm just tired," Jae Woo bluffed so that he wouldn't look weak in front of them.

"Yeah, yeah. Of course you are." Mina nodded her head exaggeratedly.

"I'm serious!" Jae Woo insisted.

"Sure, sure!"

He obviously wasn't able to convince them.

"A man's only allowed to cry three times. When they're born, when their parents die, and..." Before he could finish, Mina cut in.

"Right now." Mina smiled, even though her eyes were brimming with tears.

"Yeah, right now." Jae Woo followed suit and smiled.

"They say you're not supposed to cry and then start smiling right after..."

Yura wiped her tears and smiled too.

"Who cares!"

Jae Woo thought that he was truly fortunate to be able to be with his younger sisters like this.

* * *

He spent 2 years on a bed.

His body obviously wouldn't move as it once did, so he needed to undergo physical therapy.

Physical therapy was tough and it went by slowly. And pain continued to follow.

"One more time!" the physical therapist said.

Jae Woo grabbed onto the bars and took a step.

"Ugh!"

His face contorted. Whenever he moved, his body screamed.

Despite that, Jae Woo continued his physical therapy in silence.

Day by day.

'If I manage to walk today, then I'll be able to run tomorrow!'

Jae Woo grit his teeth and concentrated on his physical therapy. Because of that, he was discharged earlier than planned.

"You can leave the hospital now."

"Thank you very much."

Jae Woo and his little sisters took a taxi to their new residence.

He disembarked from the taxi and was supported by his sisters on both sides. They then led him towards their new house.

"This is it." Yura pointed towards the staircase that lead underground.

An unpleasant aroma seeped into his nose.

"Mm."

He'd somewhat expected this, but it was a lot different from the two story house that they'd lived in prior.

First off, it was underground!

Compared to their previous house, where there was abundant sunshine, their current residence was mostly underground. Not only that, but they couldn't really see the sun, due to the tiny windows. 

So it was damp and dark.

There were cobwebs everywhere and it was obvious that the place was infested with cockroaches.

There were only two rooms, yet if three or four people laid down, they'd be cramped. The wallpaper was worn and yellow.

The bathroom was obviously just as small and smelled moist. The washing machine took up at least half the room, let alone the bathtub.

In a few words: it was the worst.

"You pay monthly?"

"Yeah."

How could you charge rent for this!? They even had to pay rent every month.

'Damn it!' Jae Woo cursed automatically. But because his sisters were with him, he refrained from saying it aloud.

"How have you been dividing the rooms?"

"Mina and mom use a room together and I have my own room. So you can start rooming with me," Yura said.

"That's ok. I'll just sleep in the living room."

Yura was a high school senior. She needed to have a room to herself.

He was a guy; he could just sleep in the living room with a blanket underneath him.

It was also better for him; he could search for info, as the computer was in the living room.

"But..."

"Yeah, we're siblings, but it'll be uncomfortable for us both. Well, that's that. Where are my goggles?"

"Here." Mina brought over his virtual reality game goggles.

"I'll tell you if I need anything, so go do what you need to do."

"Ok."

Once his sisters went to their rooms, Jae Woo laid down in the living room and put on his goggles.

And then, he flipped the switch.

Fortunately, the goggles worked properly.

Accessing the virtual world!

A white corridor appeared before him.

There was a single room within. It was a door that would lead to the world of Warlord.

However, the door was boarded up, and there was a single piece of paper attached to it.

Thank you very much for enjoying Warlord.

Since the average player-base numbers less than 100, we have decided to terminate the service.

[Dreamgate, the Warlord team]

"What kind of bullshit is this!?"

It'd only been 2 years, yet the virtual reality game that topped popularity charts for five years straight had gone out of business!?

"Then what about my character!? What about my items!? My money!?"

There was nothing remaining of Jae Woo's character, heralded as the strongest character in Warlord.

'Damn, I've lost such a huge source of income!'

Is this what it felt like when your stock no longer had any value?

"Ugh."

Jae Woo grabbed the back of his neck and fainted.

* * *

'Why!?'

Once he awoke, he reassessed his situation.

How did Warlord go bust!? He couldn't believe it.

So, he went on the internet for answers and soon figured out why exactly it had failed.

"Arth..."

Warlord was no longer the most popular game. It had tanked.

But in its stead—Dreamgate, the creators of Warlord—had come out with a new game, Arth, which had become a hit.

"God must've created this game."

That was what Wilson Jacob, a game reviewer known for infrequently complimenting games, had said.

Arth!

That's how amazing the game was.

Even when compared to other virtual reality games, it was exceptionally well designed, and was also considered overwhelmingly fun in comparison.

A masterpiece!

An immortal work!

A virtual reality game worthy of all those titles.

It had been more than a year since its release, yet people were going wild for it worldwide.

The rankers in Arth were celebrities, and they could set the price on good items. 

That's not all!

There were even employees who threw resignation letters in their bosses' faces! School had begun, but the classrooms were empty! Kids would feign illness to avoid going to school!

It was all so they could play Arth.

It was truly the age of Arth.

"To think that such an amazing game came out while I was away." Jae Woo felt like he was a gold miner who'd struck gold.

'Arth. This is a moneymaker!'

It would yield so much more than Warlord. And what if he was successful?

'Our debt or the house won't be a problem. Our lives will change.'

He felt his blood as a pro-gamer begin to boil.

However, Jae Woo didn't immediately install Arth. It was still too early for that.

For now at least...

* * *

The clock pointed at 12:00.

His mother had returned, with sapping shoulders and heavy footsteps.

"Welcome back." Jae Woo had been waiting for his mother.

"Jae Woo!"

Once she saw him, tears began gushing from her eyes.

"Mom."

Jae Woo choked up, seeing how much his mother had aged in 2 years.

They embraced for a while and eventually went to the living room.

"Mom, how's the family doing?"

"You let me worry about that. You worry about yourself first."

"I've finally come back, so don't take everything upon yourself." 

Jae Woo grabbed his mother's hand. 

His mother's hand was rugged, so much so that it was unrecognizable. He could feel how much she'd been through over these past 2 years.

"But you still have to worry about yourself first..."

"Please."

"Hoo, fine. I'll tell you everything."

She began telling him what had happened thus far, and what their situation was like.

His mother had heard from a doctor that patients could wake up from a coma if they underwent medical capsule treatment. 

However, it was an expensive treatment, one that would cost millions of won for just one treatment.

Despite that, his mother had worked hard so that her son could receive that treatment for 2 years. 

Ultimately, they were forced to sell the house, and had accrued over 50 million won in debt. Fortunately, they were indebted to the bank, rather than a private lender.

'Medical capsule treatment... So that's why my physical therapy progressed so much quicker.'

The medical capsule had maintained his muscles and organs, keeping them from critical condition. Because of that, his physical therapy hadn't taken much time.

Jae Woo felt thankful to his mother once more, as she had done everything to ensure that he received the medical capsule treatment.

"Trust me. I'll make a lot of money from now on." He looked fervently at his mother and said with confidence.

When he really started playing Arth, he would be able to amass a ton of money.

After all, Jae Woo was confident that he was better than anyone at virtual reality games.

"Worry about money later. You need to worry about yourself first."

Of course, his mother worried about his health more than money.

"Alright."

"Good."

His mother went to her room and Jae Woo laid down in the living room, and began to think.

Ever since he'd lost his father in his 3rd year of middle school, Jae Woo had been the breadwinner.

Thus, it was his responsibility to provide for his family.

'Isn't that right, dad?'

If he could, he would provide for them immediately.

But...

'With this body... I can't do anything, whether it be taking responsibility or making money.'

Muscles? Ha, he was just skin and bones at this point!

It was clear-cut proof that he wasn't healthy.

'I have to build myself up first.'

There was a certain order to things!

If he wanted to be a pro-gamer again, then he'd have to focus on his health first.

Of course, Jae Woo's primary goal was Arth! Amass a fortune through Arth and turn his life around.

But right now, he had to worry about himself.

He needed to build himself up!

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