[A motel in Suwon Area A]
“First of all, I don’t know why I’m here either.”
Kaita continued his explanation in the motel room full of wires. He was telling the truth, but his audience found him untrustworthy as evidenced by the look on their faces.
Kaita shrugged, feeling somewhat helpless.
“It’s true. I’m too great to be stuck in this shabby past.”
“…Why don’t you free us first?” Kim Suho suggested. He seemed calm as opposed to Shin Jonghak who was still struggling to find his way out of the wires.
After a moment of silence, Kaita nodded. “Fine. But only you.”
Kaita snapped his fingers. Of the countless wires that covered the room, only those that had bound Kim Suho were sucked back into Kaita’s gauntlet.
Kim Suho stood straight and looked around.
The silver wires stretched like a spiderweb.
Under normal circumstances, Kim Suho would’ve easily destroyed these wires… but here, inside virtual reality, he found it difficult to control his magic power.
“…Secondly, you guys were pretty lucky,” Kaita continued, “I’ve lost count of how many damn years I’ve spent in this fake world. But you, you only just got here, no?”
“…What are you talking about? The time of arrival is different for everyone?” Kim Suho asked with a frown.
“That’s right. Apparently the time outside flows much slower than the time inside. It took me two years to figure that out. Other people say this whole situation has something to do with brain science, virtual reality, dimensional systems, blah blah blah… but I really couldn’t care less.”
Kaita sat on his wires. With a smirk, he said, “Would you like to work together?”
“…Work together?” Kim Suho frowned in confusion. That really didn’t sound like something Kaita would say, which led Kim Suho to doubt Kaita’s intentions again.
“Yeah, I just wanna get the fuck out of this place as fast as I can. I’m sick and tired of idiots who’d settle for a fake world. I’d kill them all if I could.”
Immediately, chwaaak—! Kaita withdrew all his wires.
Freed at last, the party took a minute to calm down, then shifted their attention to Kaita and Kim Suho.
Everyone was silent, trying to figure out what to say.
Yoo Yeonha was the first to break the silence.
“We’d have to hear more, but…” She smiled at Kaita and asked, “You’re a member of the Chameleon Troupe, no?”
“…Hm? You shouldn’t mention that name so casually.”
Kaita was obviously disgruntled but Yoo Yeonha didn’t falter. She knew that no matter how heinous the Chameleon Troupe might be, they were fundamentally a group of thieves. And, she could always bring up ‘Black Lotus’ if things took a turn for the worse….
“Anyway, we need more information. About this world and how to escape from it. We’ll cooperate if we find it necessary, is what I’m saying.”
‘The time outside flows much slower than the time inside.’
Thanks to this crucial piece of information, Yoo Yeonha had regained her usual confidence.
Kaita nodded with a smirk.
“Okay, but I’m only gonna say this once, so listen carefully….”
[An office building on the outskirts of Seoul]
Cheok Jungyeong and I left the church. With the two friends(?) we met at the church, we moved to our new base, an abandoned office building near Boss’s nursery.
“Clean this place up, and it’ll be decent enough for us to use for the next couple of days.”
The building had three floors, each about 640 sq ft. It was full of spiderwebs and mold, but I was fully satisfied.
“…It’s too damn filthy to clean properly.”
Cheok Jungyeong, on the other hand, looked irritated.
Believe it or not, he was quite strict about hygiene.
“It’ll only take about an hour.”
“Excuse me… Hyung-nims?”
At that moment, one of our new friends spoke. They had been beaten so badly that if was hard to tell who was who by their faces. But their hairstyles were different, so I had no problem distinguishing them. One had a mohawk and the other had a shag.
“What do you… plan on doing from now on?” Mohawk asked carefully.
“I’m not sure,” I answered softly. As the one responsible for the current situation, I couldn’t be harsh on them.
In my defense, it was Cheok Jungyeong who beat them up, not me.
“What have you two been doing up until now?”
“We were… just trying to survive. Our base is ‘GTA’.”
I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Cheok Jungyeong and I frowned at the same time.
Fortunately, our friends were quick-witted.
“Oh, your ‘base’ refers to the game you were playing when you first got dragged into this world. Our base is ‘Grand Theft Auto’.”
“Hmm… could you explain from the top? From the very beginning?”
“…Ah, of course,” Mohawk answered, “So, about 300 days ago, wait, is it 300? Anyway, we were playing a game at a capsule cafe in Paris….”
…They had been playing ‘Grand Theft Auto XS’ at Capsule de Mars when they suddenly received a system message saying [You have been disconnected from the game]. They immediately lost consciousness, and when they opened their eyes again they were here— Korea in the 2000s. They soon found out that a game-like feature, called ‘privilege’, existed in this world.
However, users’ privileges depended solely on the genre of their base games. And their base was GTA, the worst possible game of all.
“The privileges of the GTA-based users are stealing, mugging, things of that sort. The reason we chased after that sedan was to rob them….”
The two friends were honest.
“So that’s our story. And… what are your bases?” Shag asked.
“Huh? Oh… we’re….”
After a moment of hesitation, I shook my head. Mohawk just told me that his base game had reduced his physical abilities and gave him certain talents called ‘privileges’.
But there was nothing different about the way Cheok Jungyeong moved half an hour ago. He was a little bit slower than usual but by no means weaker.
“I don’t think we have a base. We weren’t playing any games at the time, so our base must be reality, so to say.”
In other words, we came into this world without any limitations, and with full physical strength within ‘the limits of the capsule’.
“Wow…. Oh, but the fact that new players are coming must mean that this is an actual game that’s being hosted somewhere.”
“No, you’re probably wrong about that.”
I shook my head. It was also because of me that each user had a different time of arrival.
When I plugged the flash drive into the capsule, my Stigma must have spread out from me. So those who were around me arrived at a similar time frame as me, and those who were far away from me probably traveled further back in time. Cheok Jungyeong was an exception because he was a member of my party.
But I couldn’t tell them all this, so I decided to change the subject.
“So, there must be a lot of users here, then.”
Mohawk remarked, “Oh, no. The playable area covers half of the Korean Peninsula, but the number of users is only about a thousand or so.”
“Mm. And, are there different factions?”
This time Shag answered, “There are, but only a few are worth noting. There’s the Gladiator Union, made up of players from [Gladiator of the Century], and the Church Union, made up of players from [Holy Magical Battle]. But the strongest is Silver Flash.”
“Yes, he’s terrifying. Nobody knows which game his base is. He uses silver thread as his main weapon and that thread-”
I frowned, and so did Cheok Jungyeong next to me.
“Yes, it’s a thread made of steel,” Shag confirmed.
Cheok Jungyeong and I looked at each other and soon broke into smiles.
“What’s he doing here?”
I stretched myself with a grunt.
The unexpected emergence of an ally—though not exactly reliable—made me feel more comfortable than before.
“Anyway, it’s our first day here,” I continued with a sigh, “So let’s clean this place up.”
Though the building was a mess, I believed an hour would be enough for us to clean this place up.
Right then, Cheok Jungyeong turned his gaze to my right arm and asked, “Can you do it with just one arm?”
“One is more than enough.”
“…And we’re not gonna do anything about Boss?”
Cheok Jungyeong’s voice was filled with worry and sympathy.
With a bitter smile, I held up a broom and a dustpan.
“We have no choice, at least for now. We’ll be extra nice to her when we return.”
We spent the next two hours cleaning the office. It was definitely hard not being able to use one arm, but thanks to the help of our friends, we finished quickly.
“I appreciate your help.”
“No problem. And like we said, you can talk comfortably around us.”
In the meantime, Shag and Mohawk had become our loyal supporters. They seemed to have realized instinctively—or through Cheok Jungyeong—that their chances of survival would be better with us.
“Then, could you go outside and get us something to eat? Maybe a pot and a burner, too. I’m a bit hungry.”
“We’re on it!”
Just like that, the two friends left, and I looked outside the window. It was already dinner time, and the burning glow of the sunset poured in through the window.
It was then that Cheok Jungyeong asked, “So, do you know how to get out of here?”
I nodded with a smile and said, “I do.”
The way to log out was surprisingly simple.
The moment I got dragged into the virtual world, the co-author sent me a message. I just discovered it a bit late because I was unconscious when I first received it.
According to the co-author:
[This is a message from the co-author to you, who I assume will be very confused]
[This is a side arc, a phase in which we take a closer look at Boss’s past.]
[Therefore, the logout feature will be reinstated once you observe at least one of the ‘events’ that Yoo Jinhyuk has prepared for you.]
[Try your best to witness the events.]
And the very first ‘event’ was to take place today.
I read over Yoo Jinhyuk’s message I just received.
=Yoo Jinhyuk’s message=
[Tonight at 9 PM, track down the parents of the girl.]
“After we witness the relationship between Yi Yeonjun and Boss, we’ll be able to return to the outside world.”
The event that Yoo Jinhyuk wants me to see— Once I witness it, this world would cease to exist.
Of course, there was a possibility that something could go wrong if the users intervened, but that was unlikely. I even had Cheok Jungyeong by my side, after all.
"Yes. It's five o'clock now, so we'll just have to wait four more hours."
Cheok Jungyeong nodded nonchalantly and slumped down on the floor next to me.
Even the simple act of sitting down was loud for a giant like him.
Slouched on the floor together, we looked up at the sunset outside the window.
Soon Mohawk and Shag returned with food and a burner.
Later that day, we were chasing Boss’s parents like we had been told to do by Yoo Jinhyuk. Their expensive sedan drove smoothly across the highway and we ran after it. Mohawk and Shag were following us on a motorcycle.
“Look, they’re stopping.”
An hour flew by.
Boss’s parents arrived at a building in Seoul. They drove down to the underground parking lot, and Cheok Jungyeong frowned.
“Do we need to follow them down there?”
“No, let’s not take a risk and watch them from here.”
“But I can’t see them from here.”
“…What good is that for me?”
I calmed Cheok Jungyeong down and opened my eyes wide.
‘Master Sharpshooter’ seemed to work in this world, and I could see through the walls of the building.
Boss’s parents parked their car and took the elevator to the top floor.
The elevator door opened, and there was a man in a robe in the penthouse where they arrived.
I recognized this man right away. I’d seen him many times before— it was Yi Yeonjun.
Boss’s parents approached Yi Yeonjun with a big smile.
—We’re back, Elder.
They bowed to Yi Yeonjun, calling him ‘Elder’.
But at the next moment, Yi Yeonjun, without even a simple greeting, said something very cruel to them.
The parents froze in shock.
But they soon regained their composure and nodded, as if they had heard him say this before as if they had been preparing for this day to come.
I clenched my fists. And my teeth. My heart started racing.
…Soon, I received another message.
=Yoo Jinhyuk’s message=
[At first, the girl’s parents were faithful devotees and benevolent philanthropists.]
[They tried to understand their daughter’s dark powers.]
[But Yi Yeonjun brainwashed them. His lies and schemes led the couple to believe that their daughter’s powers were, in fact, a curse.]
[He ruined her family.]
[And today, Yi Yeonjun ordered the couple to kill their daughter.]
[Yi Yeonjun realized the girl’s huge potential and planned all this just to win her trust.]
[The couple will now try to murder their daughter as instructed, and you’ll soon witness the consequences of their actions.]
[Now, please watch until the end.]
「Nothing is impossible — Yoo Jinhyuk, Investigator」
A cruel story like this wasn’t in my original setting.
—We’ll get rid of her today.
The couple answered, and I swallowed a sigh. The breath traveled down my throat and mingled with rage. I disheveled my hair with trembling hands.
Cheok Jungyeong responded nonchalantly.
With my eyes still fixed on the building, I announced, “Looks like we might have to kill someone.”
Meanwhile, Boss’s parents traveled down to the parking lot and got in their car.
Yi Yeonjun just told them, ‘It’s time to kill that child.’
They would now go back to their daughter to carry out his orders.
“Will you help me?”
“…Sure, why not?”
Cheok Jungyeong nodded casually.
“Really. You’ve always been right. I believe in you.”
At that moment, I saw the couple’s sedan leave the building.
“Let’s follow them.”
We put our hoods on and chased after the car.
The car moved with the roaring sound of the engine.
We ran after it.
A silver wire stretched out from the right side of the road and twisted around the sedan.
It was sudden. We stopped in surprise.
The wire crushed the car and slammed it against the ground.
KWAAANG—! The vehicle, thrown upside down on the ground, exploded.
After the devastating car accident, silence filled the air.
I might have thought this was what actually happened in the past if it wasn’t for what happened next.
Suddenly, a man fell from the sky.
“What the… What’s he doing?”
Cheok Jungyeong chuckled in disbelief.
The Chameleon Troupe’s Seat of Silver, ‘Kaita’ gracefully landed on the destroyed car. With a smile, he withdrew his wire. Then he leaned into the car seat and started whispering….
It was then that Cheok Jungyeong’s thunderous cry rang out.
Startled, Kaita turned to us and widened his eyes. In a daze, he muttered, “Cheok Jungyeong, and… you too, Black?”
Because he called me ‘Black’, I knew this Kaita was from the present era.
“Yup, it’s me. What are you doing here?”
However, as Cheok Jungyeong approached Kaita….
A magic power explosion occurred at Yi Yeonjun’s building which we just left.
This magic power wasn’t pure but made up of multiple magic powers. The sudden explosion caused Cheok Jungyeong and me to look back in surprise.