Chapter 0001—Stillbirth

It was a dark room. Only a small window remained open, allowing the chilly breeze to prevent the room from turning all but too stuffy. In the centre of the room, an almost ancient television was on. It was one of those bulky, boxy televisions with a terribly dull display that belonged in a museum. Nowadays, all televisions utilised holographic projectors.

In front of the antique was a single-sized nylon bed. Surprisingly, these foldable beds donned with nylon strips had survived the trial of times.

A teenager lay silently on the bed, his eyes focused on the television. He looked young, probably not even in his twenties, though in fact he was already twenty-two.

The penetrating glare his eyes gave off, they were like razor-sharp blades that struck fear in anyone who crossed its path.

On the television, an advertisement that lasted for a few minutes was playing.

‘A whole new experience!’

‘Can you imagine a game that can bring you a whole new life?’

As the narrator spoke, the scenes quickly switched between mountains, rivers, and the azure sky.

‘The whole new game—Real World. Over a hundred million players have joined in one week, and it continues to rocket!’

‘It’s a game, but what awaits you is no different from your actual life!’

The television showed scenes that looked straight out of movies one after another, and the people spoke as though they were real beings. Yet, the teenager knew they were not cutscenes created specifically for promotional purposes. What the game had managed to achieve was true to its name; it was indeed just like the real world.

Upon that thought, the teen clenched his fists while his eyes radiated an intense emotion—bitterness.

‘Of course, there will always be battles in a game!’ The narrator spoke enthusiastically. ‘Battles are conducted in real time, so you can experience the thrill and excitement of combat, just like in ancient times!’

The scene changed once again. Several men shouted battlecries as they faced the enemy in front of them, a gigantic lizard. One of them held a round shield that gave off a holy aura. The aura expanded to become a barrier that enshrouded his companions, blocking every single acid splash the lizard was spitting at them.

Spotting the chance, a man who held a human-sized claymore charged towards the massive reptile, crimson light radiating from his body.

The teen knew; it was a class called Berserker.

Back on the television, the men cooperated as a team and finally defeated the monster. Everyone was showing a beaming smile.

‘Real World uses the latest technology that logs you into the game with your brainwaves! The era of tapping and clicking is over!’

The advertisement now showed a futuristic helmet that spun around slowly.

‘Real World, the game that brings you a whole new life! Challenges await you!’

It was by no means a short advertisement, yet it was truly a feast for the eyes.

The teenager dejectedly turned off the television.

A hundred million players? The actual number was way beyond that. The game allowed people to experience a different life in the truest sense! Regardless of age and gender, how could one resist such a temptation? The number of players kept increasing exponentially, and that only served to fuel the teen’s bitterness.

His phone made beeps in his pocket. Upon reaching for the device, he had a look to see who was calling and took a deep breath before accepting the incoming call.

‘Hello.’

‘Mr. Yau, it’s me.’ An aged voice reached his ears.

The teen had absolutely no intention of looking down on the old man just because of his old age, for the man whom he was currently speaking to held the fate of the entire gaming industry of the Tenth Eastern City. The teen himself was of considerable standing, but there was no room for arrogance when facing this particular old man.

‘It’s been a week. I’m sure you’ve seen how people have been reacting to the ads, right?’

The teenager said bitterly, ‘This is unfair, there must be something wrong! How can it be a coincidence when the game literally has the same name? This is blatant plagiarism…’

‘Mr. Yau!’ The old man spoke in an indisputable tone. ‘Please, have a good look at reality. They’ve succeeded already, and you’re still preparing for the open beta launch. Who’s the one who failed? What about copyright? You’re the one who’s falling behind on everything! Also, plagiarism? No one cares about that in the business world, just like how history is always rewritten by the victors. No one cares about the ones who failed.’

The old man’s words pierced the teen’s heart like arrows, one after another. The two went silent after that exchange.

After a long while, the old man finally spoke, ‘Mr. Yau, I was on friendly terms with your father. The situation your company is in now… I’m sure you know it better than I do. I’ll get right to the point. I’m willing to purchase your company, and we’ll announce it as a merger to the public. I promise not to fire even a single employee, but…’

The teen gave a wry smile. ‘But I’ll have to step down as Chairman, am I wrong?’

The old man remained silent for a brief moment, then said, ‘Mr. Yau, you should know this already. Your company, apart from the former glory of the name “Jubilant Games”, is worthless to me. I believe the money and conditions I’m offering isn’t something you’d want to refuse.’

The teenager did not utter a word as his mind quickly considered the old man’s offer.

‘With how your company is faring financially… can you even make it past the month?’

As if he could sense the teen’s hesitation, the old man’s words eventually shattered the final barrier in his heart.

‘Fine. I’ll sell it.’

***

The teen boarded a five-decker maglev bus, his eyes staring blankly into the dazzling scenery of the streets.

‘Next stop, Grand Legacy Avenue.’

Hearing the electronic voice from the bus, the teen quickly recovered from his trance and hurriedly got off. He walked at a relatively fast pace that seemed like a jog, but he was actually moving faster than an average person’s sprint. It was amazing how he showed no signs of being short on breath.

Soon after, he took out his staff permit. This chairman permit of his, it would soon become invalid, right?

Tapping his permit against the card reader, he entered the building and headed for the canteen. He opened the door to the canteen without any hesitation and showed no signs of being startled by the hundreds of employees that had gathered there. Of course he wouldn’t, because he was the one who summoned them.

Everyone looked at the young chairman, some showing their admiration, others displaying their disdain… The place was filled with a myriad of emotions.

The teenager then spoke. ‘Hello everyone, I’m Drako Yau, your chairman.

‘I’m sorry about this, but starting from tomorrow, I’ll no longer be your chairman. That’s because Jubilant Games does not belong to the Yau family anymore. I’ve sold it to the chief dIrector of the Tenth Eastern City, but I’ve also been assured that none of you will be fired.’

In a corner, dozens of people, both male and female included, were silently sobbing.

They belonged to the game development department. Only they knew truly how much the chairman had devoted and sacrificed himself for the company. In order to develop ‘Real World’, he had not only obtained loans, but had also sold his luxury cars and apartment to cover for the company’s operating funds.

Just when they were about to announce the open beta of their groundbreaking game with grand ambitions in mind, the ‘Real World’ that now kept running television ads came out of nowhere and ruined everything.

Their ‘Real World’ was different from the advertised version; just the miraculous brainwave technology was enough to shatter everyone’s hopes who worked in Jubilant Games.

Unwilling to admit defeat, they had tried to uncover faults with the brainwave system and potential damages to the human body, but all they learnt was that the technology was a lot more mature and complete than they had imagined. The brainwave technology brought absolutely no harm  to the nervous system at all.

Stillbirth—there were no better words to describe them.


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