It feels like it's been forever… So long since I'd begun this game of death. Heh… It's kind of reminiscent… and pathetic.

I was laying down in the grass. I took in its soft feel brushing my body as I stared at the clouds that blocked the sun's radiance. Of course, it wasn't real. Nothing in this world is. It's all just data. Piles and piles of numbers, letters, and symbols. Everything was just a virtual simulation. And yet, it felt too real.

Too real for a video game.

I ran a hand through my jet black hair. Back in the other world, it must've grown too long. Maybe down to my shoulder blades by now? I smirked at myself. Mom would get so mad…

But Mom wasn't here. Dad wasn't here either. I was alone in this world. Alone in the game of death.

The clouds finally let the sun shine upon the land, and I shielded my dark gray, almost black eyes. Tch… In every other game, I could stare at the sun, no problem. But no… This was programmed to be the most realistic environment anyone had ever seen.

"So real, it wasn't supposed to be game anymore," I said aloud. "We should've taken that seriously…"

I sat up, a strong gust of wind blowing blades of grass through the ripples in my black long sleeve shirt. I caught a few. They seemingly quivered in fear at my deep gaze as the wind let them be free.

"All I want…" I began.

"… Is freedom," a voice finished behind me. "That's what we all want, right, Keaton?"

Chapter 1

Today was the opening day, January 1, 2023. The day we logged into the almost unreal video game of all time. A game that was so realistic, one could easily mistake it for real life without a single thought.

I was about as excited as any gamer would be. I mean, playing a game in a way so that it feels like I'm the character? That's so unbelievably cool! The only downside that was explained was that a player took on their real-world appearance to make it feel like reality, while still being the fun that was a video game.

I spawned in the center of Titan Plaza, which got its name for its size. In the top left of my vision, there stood my HP and MP bar, coupled with my name and level. In-game, I was Keaton: Level 1.

"Welcome to 'Online Legends!'" a female voice announced. "You are the lucky 20,000 players who get to experience a sensation unlike anything ever felt before!"

I took in all of the freshness of the virtual environment. All of the buildings, the feeling of my virtual shoes around my feet, even the feeling of somewhat warm air; I just wanted to stay here. Forever.

I was so stupid to think that.

I watched as fellow players marveled the world known as "Online Legends." It was the revolutionary flame of gaming history. No one wanted to pass up an opportunity to at least get a taste of what the game could give them. But only 20,000 copies of the game existed, and they were sold out in under a 12-hour period. Coincidentally, every copy, save for about 200, was shipped to Japan. I was one of the immediate buyers in Japan. Lucky me!

"Hey, you!" I heard a voice call to me from behind.

I turned, and was faced by a teen who looked about my age. He had weakly spiked maroon hair, green eyes, and wearing a simple brown cloak. Judging from the gigantic rag hat on his head, he was a Wizard, one of the many classes a player can choose.

Me? I chose the Assassin. I always had this knack for high-powered melee attacks. I could be identified by the red scarf on my neck and the dual blades sheathed in black equipped on my back, as well as a belt of throwing knifes.

"Yes? Me?" I asked the Wizard.

"I was wondering if you wanted to party up! I don't know anyone here, and your Assassin abilities could go well with my Wizard!" he said, grinning and holding out a Wood Staff that stood a bit taller than he was.

This guy knew his RPGs. The Melee classes would be the main defense and offense, while the Projectile classes would be back-up, healing and dealing damage from afar. I didn't see any harm in doing so; it was just a game, after all. At the time, at least.

"Sure, why not?" I asked, bringing up the party invite menu. "What's your name?"

"Kyle," the teen replied, grinning childishly.

"Cool. I'm Keaton."

I scrolled down the list of people within the ten meter invite radius. I found Kyle's name, and pressed it. The message that popped up read, "Invite Kyle to your party?" I tapped the "Accept" button. I saw a menu pop up in front of him, and he accepted.

When he did, a mini HP bar with his name came up below mine, labeled "Kyle."

"So, Kyle, what do you want to do? Wanna fight some monsters?" I suggested.

"Yeah!" he replied excitedly.

This guy must've devoted a majority of his life to gaming, because he seemed really pumped. We exited Titan Town, and entered the Luscious Fields, which sprawled for most of the Online Legends map, save for the Wastelands, other towns, and some dungeons scattered throughout.

I scanned the area for an enemy, and my eyes fell on a zombie. Yes, a zombie. It was about two meters tall, with torn white and blue clothing, glowing red eye sockets, and acid dripping green skin. Above it was an icon with a red HP bar, labeled "Lvl. 1 Zombie." It would be an easy target.

I drew my Basic Blades. "Cover me, Kyle."

"Gotcha," he replied, drawing his staff.

I blasted forth at the zombie, and sliced a gaping hole in its chest using my blades like in Shingeki no Kyojin. It stumbled back, startled. However, the wound closed, and the HP bar refilled from three quarters to four fifths. The zombie then leaped at me, trying to bite my neck. I blocked with my swords.

"Kyle!" I shouted.

Kyle pointed his staff at the zombie. "Flames!"

Little spheres of fire emitted from the staff, and slammed into the zombie. It shrieked in pain as it fell onto the floor. I took one of my knives from my belt, and sent it into the zombie's skull. I cringed at the green puss that sputtered out of the injury as the zombie faded away with its HP bar empty.

I slapped Kyle's back playfully. "Great job, man!"

"You did good too! Heh heh!" he replied.

He stretched lightly. "This game is really amazing… I mean, here you can be who you've always wanted to be… Be the Hero who saves the princess in a valiant quest, be some traveling merchant, or the mysterious OP character in an anime. The possibilities are endless."

"Heh… You sound like some person in a movie," I commented, laughing lightly.

"Well, it's true! In MMOs, you can communicate with people worldwide! That's not exactly the case here, b-but still, y-you get it, r-right?" In his excitement, he began stumbling on his words.

I smiled at him. We were gonna get along just fine in this world.

"Why don't we kill some more monsters, build up our gold, and get some new weapons?" I asked. "Maybe along the way we level up. You up to it?"

Kyle scratched his head, chuckling. "I kinda have to take out the trash at my house… Sorry, I'll be right back!"

He slid down the menu, and went to the Settings.

And that moment, right there, was the moment that changed everything. Nothing was the same afterwards.

Nothing.