In a void of darkness more expansive than his eyes could see, Clyde stood, confused. One moment, he was on his way to basketball practice, the next, he found himself… somewhere else. Someone or something floated in the air, a yard from him, eyes red in the darkness. Eight inches tall, dressed in a suit and tie, the thing housed metallic, bat-like wings on its back. Pointed nose, a shark-like grin, blue skin, and pointed ears, Clyde felt his soul melt. A slight, reddish radiation outlined its body. It spoke in what seemed to be a humorous tone.
"Hello Clyde, today is your lucky day. Or at least, our lucky day and boy do I have quite a bit to tell you. Or force onto you depending on the perspective." He smiled in the way that friendly neighbors greeted each other. That finally brought out the panic stored in the young man. But he couldn’t move. He couldn’t run.
"What’s going on—who are you? Why are you—"
The thing interrupted Clyde. "Look, I’d love to sit here and listen to the overdone human whining. This would be like my… thirtieth time? So, listen up, mortal, you’re going to be an obedient dog and maybe I’ll cut you some slack. Do you like doggy treats?"
Rage flowed into Clyde’s veins. Normally he was slow to anger, but this just wasn’t the time to hold back. "Fuck you," he snarled, his voice not even a shout. "I don’t know what’s going on, what you’re doing to me—not sure if this is just some vivid dream, but I’m not going to sit here and listen to some bat thing in a tie berate me."
"You call that berating, mortal? Ha. Thicken your skin because you’re going to listen and obey. Unless, you know, I go with killing you and all."
"Well, you’re just going to have to kill me," Clyde said. "I’m not going to sit here and take shit from some Pinocchio-wannabe. Go back to Tinkerbell and Neverland."
The shark-like smile of knife-sharp teeth didn’t fade from the thing. He floated right in front of the defiant young man’s face then turned and pointed forward to the void. Clyde gave him a confused look. That’s when a giant video-like image appeared. An image of pure nightmare. It revealed every friend and family member he had dying in gruesome ways. Some were thrown into massive grinders, others chopped into pieces by building-sized knives, burned by lava, and the list went on. All shown at the same time. Clyde fell onto his knees, breathing rapidly, hands shaking, focus falling from his eyes. His body felt cold; his heart quivered with extreme depression.
"It hasn’t happened yet," the thing said. "But if you don’t stop wasting my time, I’ll kill them all. I’ll make you have a front-row seat to each death, then when it's all said and done, create evidence that will lead the police right to you." He let out a dark, unsettling laugh for a moment then shifted back to his composed state. "Don’t give me a reason, Clyde. I’m simply conveying what the masters want. But, if you want everyone around you to die, naively believing that this is some dream, then be my guest."
Clyde looked at him, terror within his soul. He took a deep breath, composed himself, then stood. "What do they want with me? A random college student."
"Who knows? Simply listen. Intake."
The dark scenery began to flicker like dying lightbulbs.
"You are about to join a game," the thing said. "And I am somewhat of your guide, for now. Just call me Mortem." The scenery flickered faster with dim light. "I will be taking you to a world called Satovia. You are the Stone. Somewhere in this world is the Viper. Kill it and I set you back in your timeline."
"Let me guess, there is more to it than that," Clyde said then folded his arms.
"You’re catching on," Mortem said then clapped. "But if you fail, well, let’s just say kapeesh for Planet Earth. Isn’t this fun?" He winked. Clyde choked down his fear and anger. The flickering stopped, and one infinitely large, bright green light briefly covered everything. That’s when he noticed they were somewhere unreal. Also... that was not how one used capiche. He'd keep that to himself.
Clyde looked around, but the people… if they could be called people… were on the other side of the street, ignoring him.
"Don’t worry, you can’t be seen right now. I haven’t finished the transfer."
Clyde took a moment to process everything. He seemed to be somehow in a world that was, in fact, an anime. The city, the people—all of it looked like a seriously high-quality Japanese animation.
Clyde would love to deny this experience, but he knew he had just stepped out of his house, ready to go about with his usual routine. Shit, if he was here, that meant he’d not only be missing practice, but also the chance to get in some last-minute studying for his exam in the morning. His perfect score would be ruined. He’d lose the number one spot at his college. He’d—
"Tsk, tsk, Clyde. Impressive world, is it not?"
"What’s going on?" Clyde asked, his heart pounding. He knew how to keep calm on the outside, but inside, the young man was terrified.
"Kill the Viper. If you want to go home. If you want to save your pathetic little planet. Kill it."
"I still need answers," Clyde said.
"Well too bad, you’re stuck figuring that out on your own. Oh, and you’ll never know when the Viper will appear. Could be a few months from now, a year, who knows. What you need to do is simply live in this city. Increase your level, find rare items, gain abilities, fight enemies and bosses, so on."
"You’re speaking game talk to me," Clyde said. "And what’s this have to do with a viper? God, I hope you’re not sending me to kill a snake, because I don’t like snakes."
Mortem stared at him then shook his head. "Human, take this time to focus and access your stat page. The knowledge to do so has been implanted in your mind. Right now, you can say you’re in the anime world. This place, Satovia, is real; every person here has a consciousness, a life, a trope, so on. But they act exactly like the character archetypes you’ve seen in the shows. No one made those up. It’s a secret to your world, of course. Just remember one thing, if you trigger the wrong trope, hurt someone’s feelings to the point of their mind breaking or creating something like a yandere, well, whatever happens is on you."
"This is crazy—send me back," Clyde snarled. "Find someone else suited for this."
"That choice isn’t yours, mortal," Mortem said, his voice dark. "Remember what I said. Kapeesh."
Clyde swallowed, sensing the intensity in that voice. He couldn’t chance it. He’d just have to defeat this Viper and hope that this mystical dickhead of a being kept his word.
"Access your stats page, so we can continue."
Clyde focused. Within his mind, a prompt appeared. It looked like something one would see from a freaking computer game.
Type: Main character/ Stone.
-Athlete: 10% bonus to speed and will. [Passive.]
Main character stuff.
Clyde willed the window to vanish, overwhelmed at what he saw. He had so many questions but decided to ask the most important.
"What should I do and where do I go from here?"
"We have a place prepared for you," Mortem said. "It will appear in your inventory. Access that the same way you do your stat page. As for now, you will go attend classes at Sato Academy. Will the map to appear in your vision. You also have the option to simply follow an arrow with a countdown of meters until your destination is reached. Starting money will be in your inventory; however, you will be responsible for earning more through quests, selling items, or whatever method you see fit."
"Is there a manual for all of this?" Clyde asked, annoyed.
"Do you need a manual to learn to walk? Just don’t give up and your world will be fine."
Clyde shuddered internally, doing his best not to widen his eyes. He willed his inventory to appear.
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