Chapter 2

A Whole New Way To Play

With their locked into place and everyone ready for the final showdown of the day it was time to get things started. Once plugged in both players were greeted with a selection screen that showed their persona and the different items and spells they had. It was all so new to him compared to how he use to play, but who said change was always a bad thing? Once open they both began dragging their selected items into their inventory and the same went for their spells.

"Heh this is kind of weird coming off of a computer. The interface seems really fluid though." Chase thought to himself as he dragged his selection of items and spells over.

"Hey kid, I hope you're prepared because once I gain the advantage I never give it up." his opponent hissed.

"Sure thing but I wouldn't be too sure about that prediction of yours." he replied as he dragged in his final spell.

Once both were leaded with three items and four spells they were set to fight. Once everything had been filled out the screen closed as a glowing white button appeared. What was all of this, and where were their controllers? What were they suppose to do, control their characters with their minds? Oh well, maybe they would pop up once the game began.

"Rise up my avatar!" both shouted as they hit their respected buttons.

And with that the match began, but not in a way he expected. What grabbed his attention immediately was the glowing white orb in front of him. What was it used for? Well he was about to find out as it began expanding across the arena.

"Gah...what's happening? My arms, legs and head feel kind weird." he thought to himself as the light began to envelope them both.

The last thing he saw was his opponents glowing yellow eyes as a sinister smirk spread across his face before everything went loopy. It was all gone, the arena, the crowd, even his own body, it was almost as if only his mind existed as the colors twisted and warped around him. It was all so weird, but at the same time kind of soothing. He was like a leaf in the wind as the colors continued to warp, thought it didn't last for long. Just when things were getting cozy the environment around him began to change as a large forest materialized in the surrounding area. Ruins stood tall as crows flew through the air.

"Huh, wait hold on, what just happened?" he asked as the world finished forming.

"Player 1, Gaia The Earthbound Phantom has entered the field." he heard as he looked down at the ground.

"Wait, it can't be, the Timberbell Ruins? No, no I must had past out or something." he asked as he turned around.

In the lake behind him though he could see a reflection of his own persona. The black hat, jacket, pants, and boots were all there, the blue eyes, even the large cross box he carried on his back. It couldn't be real right? As he reached up to touch his face though he could feel the flesh on his body, real flesh.

"Player 2, Korman The Demon Slayer has entered the field." as a large beam of light hit the ground.

"So Chase, are you ready for the next level or would you rather quit now and run home before things get messy." he said as he ran his claws over the nearest bolder.

Just looking at his face he could tell that the poor noob was scared out of his mind. For almost a year the academy had been using the newest in Cyber Warrios technology, giving the player full control over their persona's without the need of a controller or even their own body.

"Heh heh hah hah! Are you kidding me, this is like a dream come true for me man! I am Gaia, freaking epic..."

Drooling over the new gameplay was his first mistake for it gave his opponent just enough time to land the first hit. With his armored fist Max wound up and let loose, sending him back towards the edge of the lake. Strangely enough though it didn't hurt, but according to the menu screen that popped up in front of his face he lost almost 20 hit points.

"Heh this may be a practice character but I still have all my own moves. I'll just chip him down piece by piece..." but to his surprise he was stopped by the mighty Gaia who manged to land his own hit.

"Hm...it's a bit weird, but I guess I'll just have to adapt." he said as his opponent jumped up.

"Eighteen damage, but how did he get use to it so fast?"

That answer became very clear though as his enemy fired off a black bolt at him by a mistake.

"Oops, uh sorry!"

It was just all so new to him, but the more time he spent in his persona's body the more his mind began to change. It was amazing, every skill, every technique he had ever come up with was flooding his brain as he stood tall and proud before his opponent. It would take a bit of getting use to but it would all be worth it if it meant he could achieve his goal of getting into the academy.

"Come on I haven't got all day, just die already!" yelled Max as he pulled out his blade.

With all the strength his persona had he threw the blade forward but to his surprise his opponent quickly sidestepped and, with his own blade, began chipping away at his health little by little with a stream of combos.

"Good, there's some damage but it won't be enough. I've gotta use some magic." he thought to himself as he jumped back.

In the game of Cyber Warriors physical attacks were only good for whittling down an opponents health bit by bit, or in other words producing chip damage. If he wanted to win he would have to pull off a massive combo. As the data bits of Max flew everywhere he took the opportunity to use his own race specific spell. Once he saw the symbol he wanted in his head it popped up above him as the earth began to quake around them.

"Rise of the Undead!" he exclaimed with great enthusiasm as the ground began to crack.

As the earth shook it almost caused Max to lose his footing before a series of ghostly moans were heard coming from the crevasse.

"Damn this body, why couldn't I had used my own?" asked Max as he prepared for the attack.

What he didn't expect though was a wave of spirits to fly out from the earth and towards him. Zombies, yeah he expected that but not pure spirits. Oh well it wasn't that big of a dead anyways as he raised his sword to guard. Even with his guard though his health was still taking quite a bit of damage. When finished though he was nearing half health.

"Teh, lucky shot there kid, but you better be care or else you'll lose all your magic." he said with a grin as they both engaged in battle once more.

Meanwhile up top at the highest point in the building Zack up and about as he watched his friend battle it out from the sidelines on the big screen displayed to the far right of the building. Punch after punch he saw his friend throw as the two went all out while he also kept an eye out on their HP meters located under their names. As for the crowd they were really enjoying it, heck some were even placing bets on who would win.

"Come on buddy, just one more win and you're in. You know what you have to do." he thought to himself as he leaned over the railing.

Ever since they were kids both he and Chase were almost like brothers, like two peas in a pod, and even then as he watched his friend duke it out with his enemy it brought him back to a time when he and his bud would fight it out online with other players, the times they would go through each lobby and attempt to win every match. Heck, when the big expansion came out last year they went on their own little adventures in an epic MMO. Though their play styles might had been different they still stuck together to the end. His thoughts were interrupted however by a familiar voice.

"Yoohoo, Zack!" he heard as he looked to his right.

"Huh so she actually did show up." he thought as he saw the girl running towards him.

Long purple hair that reached all the way down her back, beautiful red eyes that shined like the prettiest of jewels, and a nice figure to bring it all together. Yep it was her alright and for some reason she looked rather happy, or happier than usual.

"Heh so you did decide to show today Yuki? I thought you said you would be too busy to even come here." he said as they both gave a little high five.

"Hey I can change things around when I want. So what's going on in your neck of the woods?"

"See for yourself." he told her as he motioned to the screen.

"Oh, so that's the friend you were talking about? The one with glasses?"

"Heh, yes the one with glasses. Yeah he's trying out today and he's fairing pretty well. What do you think?"

Yuki, second year student, high marked fighter with no strikes against her. She was known for her quick and precise attacks that could cripple even the strongest of players. Her persona, Aria of the East, from the Reaper class. She may be a beauty but she's also very strong in the process.

"Wow oof yeah he's pretty good. I'm surprised he's fairing this well with Max. What kind of persona is he using?"

"A Phantom, though he tends to spend his points on spells from sub classes to, you know, mix things up a bit."

"Interesting, maybe one day you could introduce me?"

"As long as you don't glomp him them yeah I don't see why not." he teased.

Back in the virtual world however things weren't looking too hot for Chase. He may had gotten a few hits off on him but there was no doubt that his opponent had a strong defense to back him up and as he hid behind a large bolder he began to think up his usual plan. If what he had planned worked though it would ensure his victory. With another glance at his status screen he noticed his MP bar was already half way gone, but if he played it carefully then that wouldn't be much of a problem.

"Bring the rain."

Using the surrounding forest he began blending into the shadows just as any phantom could. First he needed to use a infliction spell and with its low cost he would barely lose any of his magic. Once the spell entered his mind and he whispered it's name the game was back on.

"Curse of the Earthbounds..."

A thick layer of fog began spreading across the floor of the forest as it spread to almost every part of the map, but just when things seemed to had been looking up the giant rock behind him shattered as he was grabbed from behind and throws against a tree.

"Come on you thought you could really wait it out with me? Big mistake."said Max as he began charging up for another blast.

And with his fists he unleashed multiple powerful beams of dark energy that only managed to graze his opponents shoulder, but thanks to his dodge roll that's all the damage he took. Even so he couldn't take it lightly, with his health over half way gone he couldn't afford to take any more massive amounts of damage.

"Who said I was hiding?" he said as he grabbed the large wooden cross from his back.

Phase two had begun as he unleashed his next attack, but this one was pretty different.

"What's the deal here? What are you playing at?" he asked.

"Servants of the Underworld." he said softly as the cross began to open up.

From the darkness came the dead as three armored skeleton appeared on the field in front of him. While he may not have had the best physical strength his little goons would keep his opponent busty while he prepared. Still he didn't look all the impressed even as the decaying corpses approached him.

"Really is that all you got? A few tokens to keep me busy?" he said as he cut down each and every one of them.

"Dang, well there goes my plan." replied Chase as he kicked a little pebble towards him.

"That's right now lay down and die in honor!" Max roared as he began throwing punch after punch once again.

His HP was draining and fairly quickly due to the strong punches but instead his eyes weren't focused on his own health bar but instead on his opponents. With only two hundred HP left in his bar though Max's bunches began slowing down due to the strain on his virtual body. True his speed and strength may had been quite the large numbers but the less HP he had the weaker his attacks would get, but that wasn't all.

"Wha-What's going on? Why do I feel so weak?" he thought to himself as he left out a groan.

"Oh yeah, funny thing really. You see that fog on the ground, with each attack it saps more and more of your HP away until your nothing but weak and helpless."

"Damn it, you're tricks won't stop me!" he growled as he tried swinging his sword.

"That's a no go bud, but the good news is you'll have the honor of seeing my special little trick here. Watch and be amazed!" he shouted with much enthusiasm as he jumped back onto the next bolder.

No he couldn't lose, he was the number one player in the school and he wouldn't loose his title to a freshmen noob! With what strength he had left he managed to push himself back to his feet, but that was it. Once he looked at his status screen he saw the bar for his strength and speed had dropped greatly, he was cornered.

"Summons: Guardian of the Underworld!" Chase shouted with much glee as his plan began to come together.

With his hand on his hat he took it off as the bones from his fallen protectors were sucked right into the endless void inside.

"With a sacrifice from my men and the blood of my enemy I summon thee to finish the job and win this game my mighty beast! Rise Hamon Guardian of the Underworld!"

From above the clouds began to grow dark as a beam of light shot from the hat and into the ground. As the ground shook Max tried to keep his balance as the earth below began to crack. First came the loud, monstrous roar, then a golden lighten began to shine through as a boney hand reached up and grabbed the ground. With its master on its shoulder the giant decaying monstrosity rose up from the ground as its one eye focused on its master's target.

"Wait you didn't activate any spell, you used them all up!" he shouted as he tried to run.

"Think special ability dude. We all have one." he replied as his giant pet raised its hand.

There was no hope for him now. No matter how many times he checked on his speed and strength gauge they ceased to refill. His fate was sealed as the hand of victory completely squashed him, shattering him into little bits and bytes.

"Winner: Chase Macalister! Congratulations on your victory." he heard the AI say as a bright light consumed him once more.

Had he really done it? Was his dream finally realized or was it just that, a dream? As the light faded away though he could hear the cheers coming from the audience as he stumbled a bit off the platform. Brown hair, thin glasses, green jacket, yep he was back to normal alright. As his eyes scanned the area he saw his opponent on the other side just staring back at him with such contempt, but that was par for the course when it came to the game.

"I won? I did it? I'm in aren't I? Hah hah hah yes, I'm finally in!" he exclaimed with much happiness as he raised his fist up in victory.

He wasn't the only one there that was full of happiness. Just as he stepped off the platform his main man, his brother from another mother came running at him, fist out. Using his own fist they bumped knuckles before his good buddy put him in a headlock.

"What were you thinking back there huh? Thinking you could trick us all like that? Come on over here!" he shouted as he grounded his knuckles into his friends skull.

"No, not the noogie!" he shouted as he fazed through his friend body.

They weren't the only ones who were happy though, it seemed that even the dean was impressed with his performance. And with the end of that one battle his new life would begin in a world that he could call his own.