After being discharged from the military, I started a YouTube channel where I uploaded gaming-related videos in my room to make a living from management fees and other expenses.
The channel, featuring game reviews and strategy guides without focusing on a specific genre, did better than expected, and I occasionally received work from companies.
This time, a company I had worked with asked me to review an idol simulation game.
To be honest, this kind of game wasn’t to my taste, but I had received so much from the CEO before, so I agreed to do it.
I started the game without much expectation, and the opening video began to play.
The quality of the illustrations and overall video was not bad.
Soon, the video ended, and the start screen appeared.
After a few clicks, the screen quickly changed.
[Chapter 1: General Provisions
Article 1 (Purpose)
This agreement aims to establish the basic terms and conditions regarding the use of the game and related services provided by Raon Haje (hereinafter referred to as the “Company”) between the members and the Company….]
There was nothing special about these terms of service. I checked the agreement as if it was just flowing like water.
[Do you really agree with the terms of service?
Did they really need to ask about the agreement again with a pop-up window?
While thinking about that, I drank a few sips of the sweet and sour sikhye and repeatedly pressed “Enter.”
Anyway, I didn’t know what would happen next then, so I went on to the next step and set my nickname.
[Please enter your nickname.]
I quickly entered the nickname I had used since elementary school.
Welcome, On Raon.]
That was strange.
I entered “Raon,” not “On Raon.”
However, “Raon” or “On Raon” didn’t really matter.
There were many times when someone else had already taken the nickname “Raon,” so I had to add “On” in front of it to make it “Onraon.”
Maybe I overdid it by streaming the newly updated transcendent raid Perkle for five days straight.
Suddenly, I was overcome with sleepiness.
My eyes became so dry that I wanted to take them out and wipe them clean before putting them back in, and they began to close on their own.
Well, it’s not like I have to do this today.
With a thud, the bottle of sikhye resting on my knee fell to the floor, and I slammed my head on the desk.
I woke up immediately.
The sound of my head hitting the desk was so loud that the people around me began to glance at me.
My mind froze for a moment.
People? Looking at me?
In that instant, I realized that I wasn’t in my room, and a chill ran down my spine, driving away any leftover sleepiness.
I quickly stood up and looked around.
Over two hundred computers lined up, the noisy sound of mechanical blue-axis keyboards being typed on, and the smell of cigarettes lingering in the stuffy air.
A PC room.
I had figured out that much, but I still didn’t understand why I was there.
Who, why, and how?
Suddenly, I felt the need to look in the mirror.
Thankfully, my phone was right next to the keyboard.
It bothered me a bit that it was an old model I had used a few years ago, but I didn’t have time to worry about that. I went straight from the lock screen to the camera app, switched to selfie mode, and checked my face.
“Wow, wow… wow…”
It was shocking.
“When did I become this ugly?”
Anyone who heard me might think it was nonsense, but unfortunately, I was dead serious.
Where did the handsome face that wouldn’t be humiliated even if placed between good-looking celebrities go?
Instead, there was a face like this.
Although my facial structure and features were undoubtedly mine, this was too much, even if my face had sagged a bit from exposure to electromagnetic waves.
I felt like I knew why I suddenly wanted to look in the mirror.
No one was paying attention to me, or more precisely, to my appearance, so I unconsciously felt something was off.
It wasn’t oversensitivity, but rather, my face was something you’d want to look at once, twice, and again and again.
Even my garbage-like former company that kept belittling my life, relationships, and skills at every turn didn’t dare touch my appearance.
No more words were needed.
It’s a shame that my face, which my parents worked so hard to make, was ruined by electromagnetic waves.
I really need to cut down on gaming.
My gaming friends, who were also like losers, might laugh and bet on me changing my mind just because I looked in the mirror once.
Honestly, even if that happened, it would be worth it. I would win anyway.
A moment later, I regained some composure and took another look at my face that I wasn’t sure if it was mine or not.
And then, I revised my evaluation to think that this face wasn’t that bad by general standards.
However, there’s not much difference between a one-of-a-kind face and a common one.
This face was about ten notches lower than my original face.
It didn’t make sense that my face got like this because of aging or natural deterioration.
In fact, my face now looked younger than ever since I returned from the military.
I looked so young that I thought the face value of the student wearing a school uniform and playing a game next to me was similar to mine.
Maybe my vision itself had deteriorated, not just my face.
It was nothing more than a hopeful idea, but it would have been nice if it were true.
Why are my eyes like this?
Once deep, clear, and vivid like black obsidian, those black eyes were nowhere to be found.
Instead, deer-like, bright, and transparent brown eyes shook uneasily within the screen.
…I’ve never heard of electromagnetic waves breaking down melanin pigment.
Despite all the new features on this unfamiliar face, the eyes were the only part that looked somewhat like before.
Thinking that perhaps the strange brown color of my eyes was because of contact lenses, I carelessly poked my eyeball with the tip of my fingernail, only to be rewarded with searing pain and tears.
Immediately afterward, I saw something strange through the eye I hadn’t poked.
To be more specific, something like a pop-up window you’d see in a game.
[Due to inappropriate language, a profanity filter penalty has been applied.
(Time remaining 00:59:59)]
[If inappropriate language continues, penalties may increase.
(Time remaining 00:59:57)]
Tears streaming down my face, I clutched my now-closed eye, causing the high school student sitting next to me to scoot their chair away.
In any case, I was lost in my thoughts.
Did I really play too many games? Was that why I was dreaming this ridiculous dream?
However, the ominous feeling that this might not be a dream lingered as I thought about my eye hurting.
Was I Hong Gildong?
Why was I shouting words like “faith,” “hope,” and “love” instead of cursing?
I tried spouting other profanities just in case, but instead of swearing, I shouted fruit names like a madman.
When I tried to stretch my disobedient tongue, the high school student next to me finally murmured something and moved to a different seat.
“Ah shit, am I alone in the PC room?”
I couldn’t understand. What language was that?
He looked Korean, but maybe he’s a returnee from abroad? Judging by his expression and nuance, it seemed like he cursed at me.
I get it. If a seemingly normal guy behaved like this, I would curse too.
After a long deep breath, I finally calmed down and pressed the first speed dial.
The person who held the glorious first speed dial on the phone of a handsome man like me was my housekeeper who had been working at our house for 15 years.
Although, after knowing her for so long, she sometimes treated a rare beauty like me as if I were less than dog poop on the street.
However, there was no contact listed on the speed dial.
It was unbelievable, but at least I remembered the phone number, so I dialed it.
“Hello? Ajumma, it’s me.”
– “You called the wrong number.”
Beep- Beep- Beep- Beep-
The call was instantly disconnected, and I was left dumbfounded.
Why did ajumma not pick up, and why did a curt foreign man answer instead?
When I realized I was merely in a PC room, I felt an incomparable sense of dread.
Haha, what was this really?
Even if I forget my mom and dad’s numbers, I will never forget ajumma’s.
With a foolish-looking face, I confirmed the number was correct and called again.
– “I told you, you have the wrong number.”
Once again, I was met with incomprehensible words and a disconnected call after only a second.
It’s only polite to back off after being rejected twice.
But it was so unbelievable that I called a third time, and the call was cut off immediately, making it apparent that I had been blocked.
I went to the empty address book to contact someone else.
No, actually, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
I had a feeling this would happen even before discovering that this phone was the model I used during my trainee days, which had been out for over five years.
I started fumbling with the phone like a half-crazed person.
However, it was clean and neat.
The album was completely empty, and there wasn’t a single game left of the dozen or so that had been installed on my phone.
The number of friends registered on KakaoTalk was 0.
Strangely, I couldn’t read anything written on my phone.
The only text I could read was:
Even though I’ve bet my life on multiple games, I was not the kind of brat to use a nickname for my messenger profile…
At this point, a cliché that would be hilarious if it was someone else’s life but felt trashy in my own, buzzed around my head like an angry swarm of bees.
Ugh, no way. It couldn’t be.
[Tutorial Quest Arrived!]
“Ah, what a surprise.”
[▶ Quest Description:
You’ve just realized that something is wrong. As expected, you are inside a game. Rest assured, you’re not crazy, and this place will become your undeniable reality. Let’s proceed with the tutorial quest kindly prepared for the clueless you.
▶ Completion Condition:
Proceed with the tutorial and understand the basic game system
▶ Confirmed Reward:
A small amount of experience and money
Would you like to proceed with the quest?
Ah, I could read this properly.
I must have set the phone’s language settings weirdly, I thought as I touched “N.”
Are you kidding me? I refuse. No!
[This quest cannot be refused.
Feeling awkward in many ways, I left the internet café that started to chase out the minors as it was almost 10 PM to, as the game instructed, proceed with the tutorial.
Of course, I didn’t have an ID.
“Ugh, it’s cold.”
Even though I was wearing thick winter clothes, the possessed body was so thin it barely had any fat, so it seemed to feel the cold more than my original body.
Checking the date on my phone, it was the end of February 2017, about 5 years behind my reality.
Shivering, I wandered around looking for a deserted place.
I didn’t know how to proceed with the tutorial, but I didn’t think it was something to do where people could see me.
But strangely, I couldn’t read any of the big letters on the signs or billboards I saw while walking.
The streetscape was undoubtedly Korea, and the letters were definitely Hangul. I felt like a foreigner… or rather, an alien.
I wandered around the unfamiliar streets for a while and finally reached a deserted park when a system window popped up as if it had been waiting.
[The tutorial will begin.]
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