REALITY IS WHAT WE PERCEIVE AS TRUTH
"New patch-update again" Li lei falls back on her chair, her neck has been sore for the past few hours that situates her sitting in place, hands on the mouse and keyboard.Refusing to let go until they both turn numb.Positioning her head to lean back she tries to make a rotation to ease the pain.It was not going away.Already disconnected from the screen, the effects of reality have set in place. The world spinning in her vision, a throbbing headache, all around symptoms like that of the flu. But she waited, the only escape that she sees within her sight.Playing inside Athesta was her domain, where she does not feel pain.There, she does what she sees fit.
The shrill sharp sound of her mother's voice cuts her thoughts without a slight effort.The woman held a filled white plastic bag in her hand.Finally.
"Don't thank me, you haven't slept or eaten for days.If you weren't so picky, I wouldn't even have considered take-out."
She paused, setting down the steaming hot carton of rice and lemon chicken in front of Li Lei, on her desk.
"I don't expect much from you anymore, but you can't even take care of yourself.Your room is messy, just like you.What are you doing with your life, Li Lei?You're not giving us a lot of options"
Not expecting her daughter to reply anytime soon, she takes a heaving sigh and exits the room.Within a few minutes beyond the thin walls of the apartment, Li lei was already hearing faint shouts exchanged between both of the only members of her family.Nobody could blame them if she was her parents she would be yelling at herself. It was her mother who still wants to hold onto hopes that one day her daughter would snap out of her face and return to the outside world.They were at their wit's end, she has spent almost most of her life away from the eyes of others.Her own mind lost in a world of surrealistic minute-to-minute action and drama within the virtual community.The only place she certainly felt safe, it was always a mystery as to why she was living and breathing in this world.Always wondering how she could be so bad at everything.
Why are you such a disappointment?
Apparently, she could always do better, that 70 could always have been an 80 or a 90.A perfect score was always "Keep it up".Everything was always better if it was perfect.That perfection that could never be achieved.This was something she would simply have to put her head down and remain quiet.She would simply finish her dinner, and resume playing.Getting to bed and actually attaining some rest was never in her mind.While the world slept she would be pushing harder, keeping that score high, and getting better gears, weapons and completing all the events has to offer. This was all clearly an addiction, but what is the better alternative?
While chewing the tart-sweet yet hint of sour, crispy chicken.Li Lei notices her phone has vibrated several centimeters to the left.Someone has messaged her.
"Xuan Yu, he's back?"
Normally she would start tapping her chat box to reply, but this time her fingers remained still.What would she even say to him, she's upset?Ashamed?Sad maybe?Apologizing was on her mind but maybe it was not enough.Not enough to make it up to him, after all that has happened.It was all just confusing, no way for her to completely rationalize being pissed at him.Sure he got angry but so did she, in fact, he deserves to get angry.Every time that she has backed out of spending free time after school with him, every time she has called him names, putting games before having her own life.Every time that he has forgiven her.What else could she say?
Thinking about it didn't help the case, the sleep deprivation and fasting caught up.She only feels the world confused, hazed, and slightly trembling.Within seconds of getting up, she was on the floor again.Everything turned black.
THE NEXT MORNING
Pork chops, Raw spring onions, few cans of Iced Coffee and a bag of leftover takeout from the previous night. Wrapped in a plastic bag, tied neatly with a bow.Whatever is in that leftover takeout, she is having it.As far as operating any kind of kitchenware Li Lei is familiar only with pressing buttons and seeing what happens.Many times did she end up having to wipe clean the burnt crisps lining the bottom of the pot and chowing down on whatever is left that she could eat.Well, not today.That leftover was hers to claim.Still half asleep from the previous night she shoves it in and presses the magical buttons to heat up her breakfast.
Getting back on the computer, she boots it back up in hopes that since it's morning.There would be good news."Eh?" rubbing her eyes Li lei takes a glance closer at the screen.It wasn't that everything wasn't correct, none of her gears or skills are missing.It was just a message.
Your game has upgraded to Athesta 2.0.
That wasn't there before.Of all the years that she has invested in the game, she is more than aware of the patches and changes. But none directly implicated that it has upgraded the game of all things.Whatever, more than not it could just be an error.Getting back her rank was of utmost priority.Players that she has known have commented on how she has completed every achievement.Necessary or not, she did it.It was the most surreal feeling of achievement, being called an Achievement hunter is an understatement.It's all or nothing.Yet that proud shining Rank 1 status fell within the matter of minutes in a defeat against no other than a player that she has never even come across.It's no surprise, however, the servers are large.Players come and go and often one or two would be able to defeat her with pure luck, but she would always get them back.She always emerged the victor but this man became the stone in her throat the minute he swung his weapon.Going with protocol she challenges him again, and it became apparent that this player is an anomaly.Her first remaining defeat in all of 3 years she has fused herself into the game.None has ever riled up an obsession to regain her status more than this loathing usurper of her throne."He better be on.SYHUA,I swear if you bail...I will show you what it's like to anger me".Sure enough, he was on.But his message to her caught her by surprise.
"Looking for me?I gave you a second chance, and no.I'm not accepting a rematch."
"That was not even close to a fair match"
"I think it pretty much is a fair match unless a fair match is letting you win."
"You cheeky bastard, why don't we settle this out of three."
"Cute, but nope."
"Don't be a bad sport."
"That rank was mine, of course, I'm mad."
Typing violently, her keyboard was already trembling when a small ping! sneaks its way into her attention.Wondering what it was, she pulls the notification icon up to a strange message in white printed across the screen.
You are invited to join Athesta 2.0 Que.Would you like to join?
Two buttons on the bottom drew her curiosity.She has heard of 2.0 on a community forum but it was more or so an urban legend at most.And the recent demographic of the community forum has turned into more or less the type of netizens who would like to spread fake rumors and news regardless of how ridiculous or stupid it is.After all, it's the damn internet, people can spout whatever the hell they want to mess with others.But the forum for 2.0 has been divided between a hoax and a very enigmatic game that may have some dark ties to recent missing cases.Either way, her mouse cursor flew towards the Accept button.The way she sees it, it could be a different mode the game has installed to make it more interesting.Perhaps a new unexplored dungeon experience.Anything to try to get away from this impasse situation. Within a click, everything went spinning.Despite not having knowledge of recreational drugs she has gotten a good sense that it was a lot like what is happening.It was as if she has entered a madhouse, becoming Alice and falling into Wonderland.But the scene in front was more or less, downtown.In front of a lobby in fact.
She has never ventured into this part of town, never mind inside a building like this.Even though it's not anything out of the ordinary from one's expectation of an office lobby.It was still daylight and hence, working employees.She has no idea how on earth she has gotten here and had only a phone in her hand. At first, she slaps herself, thinking she must have passed out again from a total lack of rest.But it wasn't the case.What's even more out of the case was nobody even glanced up to stare at her.Phones continued to be answered and nobody even knew a young woman dressed in her sleepwear of an oversized hoodie, and sweatpants with messy black hair is there.In the middle of the room.Crap.
Welcome to the Lobby Que, we are awaiting more participants. Please form an alliance with a nearby player.
For a game mode, this is very out of place.even though this is nothing quite new.She has never seen gaming taken this far. This almost seems like a very intense LARP gathering, only without the insane costumes, swordfights and odd mannerisms. Nope, not roleplay.It's pretty clear when the screen to her cellphone is pointing in an odd direction and her entire home screen page has been revised.With a flashing triangle blinking on and off constantly.More than once, she has tried to grab the attention of bystanders.But her words were restrained, held back in pieces. Even when asking for help requires 120% of her courage to spit out two words. Yet still, no one bats an eye.She screamed louder, no reply.Wave her arms, nothing.Is she dreaming?No way would anyone in their sane mind would not be able to hear or see the crazy young lady in the middle of the lobby with sleepwear acting nuts.But to her surprise, it was as if nothing was heard.Rationality flew out the window, and she took off running out of the lobby and into the streets.Even at this hour, Taipei was nevertheless flooded with citizens and tourists, the best view of the city and the worst possible place to be for Li lei.Her legs refused to move, paved into the ground like cement. Unable to move as an attractive woman in black walked right up to her, boyfriend in hand. And through her.
Her mind attempts to process the fact that the woman ghosted through her without glancing behind.No contact, just as if nothing was there."What the hell is going on here" despite saying this in the back pockets of her mind she already pieced together the irrational answer. Xuan Yu wasn't kidding when he told her she had a great imagination, apparently, it wasn't just sarcasm.Thinking this she chuckles but with no less fear than before. This was not a dream, somehow she's trapped. With only a cellphone, a few minutes seems endless. Believing that she was not seen or heard is somewhat comforting but still not safe. Then again as far as she can see, safety is nowhere in sight.Did I fall into a coma and not realize it?I must have.-
A much heavier weight collides with her body. Almost losing her balance, she catches herself in time propping one foot upward.Even after regaining her balance her head hung low."I'm so sorry I wasn't watching -" she stops.She has bumped into someone, finally, she can ask for help.An explanation perhaps.But glancing up to make eye contact nearly had her plummeting to the ground instead.
In her shock, she has completely forgotten that she was shouting.It was him, the only person she ever really imagined would just be admired from afar and never in her life would she even see herself meet in person. But logically there's no reason as to why he would be here, the idol that swept Taiwan by storm.Suen Ye Hua, no doubt he's famous but there's no sense in that he would be here.Perhaps this was a dream, and she's in a coma. Even if this was a coma, it's one that as of now she would prefer not to wake up from.Her face was already red, as awkward as she can be her eyes were fixated on the person in front of her.