- Night Visitor.
There was no eternal peak.
10 years ago, the throne was guarded by the virtual reality game ‘Fantasia.’ Then a new virtual reality game was released 1 year ago. ‘Valhalla’ was a perfect fantasy that topped Fantasia in every way.
The system, the degree of freedom, action, monsters, NPCs etc. There was a technology difference as Fantasia released bold, new expansions but it lost to Valhalla and Fantasia never managed to get the throne back.
Naturally Fantasia was pushed to the back. The instrument was crucial so many prominent players moved from Fantasia to Valhalla.
It was the same in South Korea. Rubeck who was leader of the Saulabi Guild and a virtual reality BJ, Garam of the ‘Weiss’ Guild and Luanos of the ‘Black Butterfly’ Guild all relocated from Fantasia to Valhalla.
Of course, the top ranked players and their guilds migrated to Valhalla. Valhalla opened its game service two months later. Valhalla succeeded in depriving Fantasia of the majority of its top ranked players.
Fantasia was below water. No matter how hard they played the game, players couldn’t reduce the gap between them and those who started Fantasia from the beginning of the service.
But Valhalla was different. The game had just opened. The advantages were enough. Even if the top ranked players had migrated, they were still starting under the same conditions. If they tried then they could become highly ranked.
The virtual reality game Fantasia had ruled the throne for 10 years so the top ranked players received a lot of admiration and jealousy. Wealth and fame could be enjoyed in the game and in reality. Millions of people around the world played the games so it was close to reality. The top ranked players were stars in reality and their gameplay videos would receive a tremendous amount of hits.
A glamorous life. Players dreaming of that life started Valhalla.
And almost a year after Valhalla was released, Hero Corporation that developed Valhalla successfully acquired Fantasia.
Fantasia naturally went downwards.
* * *
“Hey, wake up.”
Kim Hyun-sung felt a tap and raised his bowed head. He was on a break at his part time job. He was roughly woken up from his dream of a meal so of course he felt bad. Kim Hyun-sung frowned at Park Ji-seok with sleepy eyes.
“What is it? Huh?”
“Emperor Rake’s video! This time it was a raid on the boss of Ajan Labyrinth. The video is free!”
His right pinkie finger twitched. Kim Hyun-sung pressed firmly against his sleepy eyes. The video quality posted on a free website was bad. He couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open and focused.
“Hey, you should pay money instead of looking at free videos.”
“I am familiar with it already. And why should I give money when I won’t get money in return?”
Park Ji-seok complained as he handed earphones to Kim Hyun-sung. Kim Hyun-sung looked at Park Ji-seok’s sparkling eyes and shook his head.
“I won’t watch.”
“Why not? Hey, you are really something. Don’t you want to look at virtual reality games?”
“I don’t want to look. How many minutes do I have left of my break?”
“Wake me up in 10 minutes. I’ll sleep better.”
Kim Hyun-sung turned his head and laid it back down again. Park Ji-seok looked at Kim Hyun-sung and muttered.
“Bizarre. Who isn’t interested in virtual reality games in this era? Why don’t you buy it for fun?”
“My house doesn’t have a capsule. I have no money to buy a capsule or make an account.”
“Then go to a capsule room. It isn’t that much.”
“I am busy working. I never thought about it.”
Kim Hyun-sung didn’t speak any longer and plugged the earphones in his ear. Park Ji-seok didn’t ask Kim Hyun-sung any more questions. The image quality wasn’t great but the sound could be heard from the earphone. Park Ji-seok was watching the video as a hologram emerging from his cell phone.
There was no sound in Kim Hyun-sung’s earphones.
Kim Hyun-sung used the earphones to try and ignore Park Ji-seok. Emperor Rake. The top player in Fantasia, he was still at the pinnacle after relocating to Valhalla. Money and power in reality. The skills of a gamer. In addition, his network.
Most players dreamed of being top ranked in Valhalla. Valhalla’s service had now been open for a year. It was a distance that a newcomer could still reverse. If they played the game efficiently.
But Kim Hyun-sung knew very well. No matter how hard a newcomer worked, they couldn’t reach the players at the peak. Especially if the top player was Emperor Rake.
Kim Hyun-sung was more aware of this fact than anyone else. The feeling was deeply rooted in his bones and heart.
He was Laden.
* * *
King of the Arena. King. Kim Hyun-sung had only been 15 years old when he was given that nickname.
It was just coincidentally started in the game. It was funny and it seemed to catch on.
He didn’t do any raids. The basic cycle of overnight raids meant he couldn’t attend because of school. In addition, there were financial problems. Finally, Kim Hyun-sung turned his gaze towards the arena.
The main content in Fantasia were raids, war and the arena. There were three. But initially, the arena in Fantasia wasn’t that popular. The continent of Fantasia was too wide and there were countless raids and monsters to catch. Wars also broke out between state and country or estate vs estate. There was a wide variety of content to enjoy besides the arena PVP.
At that time, the arena was the only content Kim Hyun-sung enjoyed in Fantasia. He had no capsule at home so he would go to the capsule room in the neighbourhood and enter the arena. A capsule room cost 10,000 won per hour. It was arduous on the wallet of 15 year old but he could enjoy it to some extent.
Fight, fight and fight again. Every time he connected to Fantasia in the capsule room, Kim Hyun-sung would immediately turn to the arena. He was defeated a few times in the beginning but then his power became overwhelming.
Soon Kim Hyun-sung’s character ‘Laden’ was given the nickname of King.
‘I was crazy.’
It still upset his stomach when he thought about it. Kim Hyun-sung didn’t realize it then but there were countless ways Laden could’ve made money from the game. Editing of high quality footage could raise money if he posted it to the internet.
Laden didn’t do anything like that.
‘The young really is crazy.’
Kim Hyun-sung had that thought. A sickness. Kim Hyun-sung had no words for it at the time. He had been sick. Rather than making money from the game, he had used the skills to mentally feel satisfied. The video of him defeating Casabulo and his arena PVP matches were all placed on free websites.
He would search his name on the portal sites and giggle every time his video had a hit.
“I don’t know why I did that.”
He could only lament about it now. Kim Hyun-sung shuffled back to his studio apartment from the convenience store and placed his bag on the floor. He drank a can of beer and sighed.
Park Ji-seok had been watching Emperor Rake’s raid of the boss in Ajan Labyrinth.
5 years ago. The memories of his 17 year old self. King Laden VS Emperor Rake.
If he could turn back time then Kim Hyun-sung would go back to 5 years ago. And everything started in the ‘Elllehab Jungle.’ No, even if he did. He would never become a member of the Paragon Guild.
He couldn’t help getting wound up at the thoughts. He opened a can of beer as carbonate emerged. He had shaken it a little bit on the way. Kim Hyun-sung placed his mouth to the beer foam and slurped.
‘I can’t beat him.’
He could never win.
Kuoh. He sipped the beer before putting it down again.
It was the same no matter how many times he thought about it. The system couldn’t be broken. No, the system wasn’t the problem. Kim Hyun-sung thought as he watched his computer monitor emitting light.
‘It was Rake.’
It wasn’t only the system. Rake’s skills were top-notched. Laden was at the peak of killing people while Rake was at the peak of blocking the opponent’s attacks. Including the top level items, the result was obvious.
Laden killed while Rake went on raids. The gap between their items was too big. Laden had Tier 4 equipment while Rake had Tier 5 and 6 items and equipment. The difference in specifications meant he didn’t do any damage when hitting him. He was in the same state and he also had skills that recovered stamina. No, there were no skills involved.
His defense was so high that other damage was just ignored. Rake also had strong strength and stamina. There was a pool of his own resilience that could raise stamina.
He only defended and didn’t attack. The 14th type Black Light Sword Ragnar. A monk’s stamina was relatively low and its defense couldn’t withstand the Black Light Sword Ragnar. Just one graze would make 1/100th of his stamina disappear.
It was a complete defeat.
“That’s why I had to quit!”
He complained as he drank the beer can. He couldn’t forget but it was hardly heartbreaking. If he hadn’t deleted his character then he would be playing the game all the time.
The search term ‘Rake’s Ajan Raid’ topped the portal sites. 2nd place was ‘Rake and Ajan Labyrinth.’ Number 3 was ‘Rake.’ 4th was ‘Ajan Labyrinth.’ So the entire Korean portal site was plastered with one player’s name.
“Dammit! I could be playing the game right now.”
Kim Hyun-sung grumbled while drinking beer.
Someone knocked on the door of his studio.
Kim Hyun-sung got up as he heard the knocking. The clock showed that it was 11 p.m. None of his friends would be coming over at this late hour. Kim Hyun-sung was puzzled as he walked towards the door.
“Who is it?”
He asked as he stood in front of the door. There was no answer. What? Kim Hyun-sung looked through the lens on his front door.
The blurry lens showed that someone was standing outside the door. Kim Hyun-sung quickly glanced away from the door. He only drank one can of beer. He was sober. But what did he see? Kim Hyun-sung was momentarily puzzled before looking through the lens again.
He wasn’t mistaken.
A woman was standing in the dim lighting. She had whitish hair and was wearing a well-dressed suit. Kim Hyun-sung hesitated for a brief moment
“….Who are you?”
And he asked again. It was almost midnight. No friends would come over at this time, let alone a woman. Not only that, Kim Hyun-sung didn’t know anyone of the opposite sex with white hair.
The voice was heard from outside the door. Kim Hyun-sung gulped and swallowed his saliva. A slightly husky voice. He looked through his memories but couldn’t remember any woman with a voice like that.
‘No, she said to open but…’
A person he had never seen before. Even if the person was a woman, he had no reason to listen to her words. But he couldn’t just leave it like this. Kim Hyun-sung thought quickly before asking mildly.
“….Why should I open the door when I don’t know who you are?”
“Kim Hyun-sung. Is that right?”
“…That’s…right. No, I asked who you are.”
“I came from Hero Corporation.”
The woman replied. She pulled out a business card and pushed it against the lens. Kim Hyun-sung who was looking through the lens withdrew in surprise.
“Hero Corporation…Hero Corporation?”
He had to ask again. Kim Hyun-sung had heard of Hero Corporation. Hero was the name of the company that serviced Valhalla. Kim Hyun-sung put the chain on his door.
And he opened the door. He looked outside through the slightly opened door. A hand approached.
The woman said. Kim Hyun-sung received a business card. There was a phone number and email written belong the logo of Hero Corporation.
Kim Hyun-sung unknowingly muttered. There was no surname. There was only Alice and three letters written. Perhaps it was an award. Kim Hyun-sung handed the business card back. He didn’t say anything.
“Did you check it?”
Alice asked. No, should he believe this? Kim Hyun-sung looked down at the business card. And then he looked at Alice standing outside the door.
“…No…even if I confirmed it…this…”
“I only want to say one thing.”
Alice’s face appeared in the open gap. Kim Hyun-sung flinched back. Alice’s face was closely approaching. There were no blemishes on the white face and she had gold eyes. And silver hair. Alice had the same visuals as a cosplayer and she smiled.
“If you don’t let me through the door then you’ll be missing out on the biggest opportunity in your life.”
“…The biggest opportunity in my life?”
“Yes. An opportunity.”
Alice said with strength behind her words. No, even if she said so. Kim Hyun-sung’s face was still full of doubts.
“….Ah. I don’t know.”
In the end, Kim Hyun-sung unlocked the chain on his door. The biggest opportunity in his life. He was suspicious but he had already been caught by the woman. However, he could subdue a woman if he wanted.
‘I haven’t cleaned my room.’
Kim Hyun-sung worried about it as Alice entered the room. A man living in a one bedroom studio apartment. He regularly cleaned but he hadn’t gotten rid of the trash yet. Kim Hyun-sung coughed as Alice entered through the door.
It might be his imagination but the smell of flowers seemed to drift through the dark room.
The room was a mess but Alice didn’t seem to mind. Rather, she turned towards Kim Hyun-sung and laughed. Kim Hyun-sung looked Alice in the face. Shiny silver hair and gold eyes.
She looked like a foreigner but her pronunciation seemed Korean. Hyun-sung looked around the room and shrugged. The only chair was the computer chair. Hyun-sung pulled out the chair and coughed.
Alice sat on the chair while Kim Hyun-sung sat on his bed. Then he closed his mouth and gazed at Alice. Well, he could get her a drink. But Kim Hyun-sung only had instant coffee in his house. It was because he didn’t really enjoy coffee.
“…Opportunity. What are you talking about?”
Alice replied in a small voice once the question was asked. Kim Hyun-sung flinched and he trembled.
“5 years ago, that was a famous name that all players knew in Fantasia.”
“….What about it?”
Kim Hyun-sung looked at Alice nervously. Like Alice said, Laden was famous 5 years ago.
And now? People remembered Laden but not a lot of people mentioned the name. If they did mention it, they acted like he was a man from ancient times. A lot had changed in 5 years. Fantasia had declined along with Laden.
“Why didn’t you start the game again after that?”
Kim Hyun-sung bit his lips at Alice’s question.
He was defeated and coolly deleted his character. In fact, he wasn’t cool at all. He kicked his blanket, buried his face in the pillow and cried. Of course he didn’t want to delete. But it was more shameless to continue playing the game after deleting his character. A 17 year old’s mental state was like a piece of glass.
Once he deleted, he simply couldn’t play the game again. No, he didn’t have a capsule so he would find it hard to start Fantasia after everything that happened. After Valhalla was released, there were several times when he thought about starting Valhalla.
But he didn’t start it.
“…Just…that…school came up. My life became too busy. And getting back into the game is a little…”
“Do you know how the other top ranked players at that time is living now?”
“I know very well. Rake is doing well in Valhalla. The other Korean ranked players are also doing well in Valhalla.”
He didn’t need to bother looking for them. The top ranked players were already stars in Korea.
Three among them could be considered representatives. The internet BJ and guild master of Saulabi Guild, Rubeck. Garam, guild leader of Weiss. Luanos, guild leader of Black Butterfly. They were considered the top ranking Korean players in Valhalla and their names were also known throughout the world. The top rankers of Valhalla could be considered the new ‘Hallyu Wave.’
“Apart from Alkena, I know that most of them have moved to Valhalla.”
“And Laden. You too.”
Alice said with a warm smile. Kim Hyun-sung firmly shut his mouth and was silent at those words. Kim Hyun-sung still couldn’t believe that Alice was from Hero Corporation and he could figure out her intent from those words.
“…What do you want to say?”
He didn’t feel good talking about 5 years ago. He didn’t want to hear about it. It was natural for Kim Hyun-sung’s voice to rise sharply.
“Come to Valhalla.”
And Alice replied as she beamed at Kim Hyun-sung. Kim Hyun-sung’s irritation went away at the sight of that beautiful smile. He narrowed his eyes as he gazed at Alice.
“….Are game companies recruiting new users like this these days? Valhalla is the best game in the world. Last that I heard, the number of users exceeded 100 million people.”
“King Laden isn’t an ordinary user so I think you are worthy enough to be recruited in this way.”
“Hey, look here. I don’t know what you expect from me…I am obsolete. I became obsolete years ago. I might’ve been called King Laden but that was 5 years ago. Furthermore, didn’t I delete my character after being defeated?”
“It was a fight that couldn’t be won. The difference in specifications was too large. But Kim Hyun-sung ssi. If the you at that time….had a similar level and items to Rake. What do you think would’ve happened?”
“I would win.”
Kim Hyun-sung replied without any hesitation.
“We weren’t at a similar level. Rake was wearing Tier 5 and 6 equipment. I was only wearing Tier 4 items.”
He was confident enough to be called arrogant. But Kim Hyun-sung was convinced. The Tier 4 equipment was the problem. He couldn’t overcome the disparity between items.
“I think so as well. At that time, Kim Hyun-sung’s PVP was unmistakeably at the peak. The opponent is good but not as good as Kim Hyun-sung’s character.”
“…But I gave up. Now Alice ssi is telling me to return.”
“What do you think is the reason for the difference in specifications?”
“…I didn’t go on raids. That’s all. Boss monsters in raids would drop good items.”
He caught Casabulo in a 1: 1 fight. No, it wasn’t only Casabulo. He could catch any humanoid monster in a 1:1 match. He identified the patterns and could respond instantaneously.
But the large monsters were different.
“ㅡIf Kim Hyun-sung starts Valhalla.”
Alice had a smile on her face. She naturally crossed her legs and looked in Kin Hyun-sung’s face.
“We will provide everything possible to make sure Kim Hyun-sung ssi is comfortable while playing.”
“…Excuse me. Even if I want to, I can’t play the game. I need a part time job to eat and my debts…I have no money for a capsule or to register an account…”
“Didn’t I tell you? We will provide everything to ensure a comfortable gameplay.”
Alice pulled out a cell phone as she spoke. A holographic image that only Alice could see flashed in front of her.
“Kim Hyun-sung’s basic living expenses and tuition debts. The rent for this studio. Hero Corporation will cover all of it. And we will also assist with a state of the art capsule and account.”
Kim Hyun-sung’s mouth dropped open at those words.
“Why are you going so far?”
“Kim Hyun-sung debt and living expenses is a grain of sand in the desert compared to Hero Corporation’s profit. And the support…Kim Hyun-sung ssi is Laden.”
Alice laughed as she touched the hologram a few times. Kim Hyun-sung’s cell phone started ringing.
Kim Hyun-sung lifted the cell phone that he had left next to his bed. His expression changed as he looked down at the cell phone. His negative bank account had disappeared. And quite a bit of money was deposited.
“That should be enough for you to live over the next few months. So, what would you like to do? Do you want to start Valhalla?”
“….What do you want from me? I told you that I am obsolete…”
“We hope that Kim Hyun-sung ssi will enjoy Valhalla.”
Alice interrupted Kim Hyun-sung’s words.
“That’s all. Do anything you want in Valhalla. Enjoy PVP like in Fantasia or enjoy raids that you couldn’t then. I didn’t want to say this but Kim Hyun-sung…no, I was a fan of Laden. I hope the famous Laden from Fantasia will return in Valhalla. That is sufficient.”
Alice slowly got up.
“I am confident.”
Alice looked down at Kim Hyun-sung’s face and smiled.
“Laden will be the new icon of Valhalla.”
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