In the dark room, a cacophony of crushed cans and discarded refuse, the only light source was the computer screen on which a game character danced with death, their fate hanging in the balance like a flickering flame in the darkness.
*click click click*
A discordant rhythm of rapid clicks, grinding teeth and nervous twitches created a symphony of anticipation and dread.
The world's end loomed like a shadow on the horizon, but in the gamer's eyes, there burned a fire brighter than any star. For in this moment, the fate of all creation rested on their fingertips, and they would not waver.
*Click Click Click*
The tick tock of the wall clock seemed indifferently calm alongside the chaotic background noises of spells bursting and swords clashing. As the spells deployed with the rapid clicks of the mouse and the sword struck like lightning flash, the fight seemed to reach it's finale as both the HP bar showed a precarious low.
But the player's bar was a bit higher than the opponent's.
The chapped lips slightly arched upward in a confident smirk. When the finger moved to deploy the saved ultimate, one nervous jerk of the leg kicked some unlucky can lying around.
The leftover drink splashed on the cold feet causing the fingers to pause & eyeballs to move involuntarily to take a glance.
That one second decided the fate. The smirk froze on the face and the pupils widened in disbelief as the sword of the villain descended like a verdict from god upon the pitiful pixel character.
Nothing could stop its descent. Not the urgently used legendary shield artifact nor the attempted evade with the help of one-use time freeze spell. It denied all laws and journeyed. The time felt slow at that second. Even the clock's ticking sounded muffled like underwater.
All the chaotic noise in the room stopped after one earth shattering boom when the sword pierced the ground forming a small crater.
A gasp was heard breaking the silence. The screen showed the sword's tip lodged in the crater. Then slowly red blood dripped along the sword's shiny surface quickly creating a puddle underneath. What depicted as the screen gradually zoomed out was the tragic scene of the game character with a sword lodged through his heart and speared to the ground. The dark brown pupils sagging with dark circles reflected the words :
Yup. That's my voice.
Age : 22
Current job : Unemployed.
Current emotion : Extreme killing intent towards the cola can.
I kicked the cola can sharply where it bounced off the wall and joined the garbage pile.
Yes. This absurd situation where an adult young man is cursing like he has lost his life's earning over a simple game may look overdramatic. But anyone else in my situation may have already smashed the place into pieces in rage.
[ Ashen Butterfly: A Crucible of Choice ]
This is my 107th attempt at this game. Each gameplay spans around a month's time. This game is notorious for its absurd difficulty. Many challenged but most gave up halfway not because they didn't have the spirit to win. But mainly due to the bland storyline. Who would spend years playing a game with a boring story?
Some may ask - Why's the storyline important? You could just skip the story mode. Well.. the point is, you couldn't. Because this is an Otome game whose main focus was the character's interaction and how each other's story intervenes to light up the main character's road to defeating the final villain ensuring peace and prosperity throughout the world, you know, the cliched 'Happy ending'.
The developers made the story play as bland as possible by making the overused trope of a commoner girl with light magic entering the academy, overcoming hardships, on the way collecting all love interests like Pokémon cards and then finally defeating the final boss reaching happy ending.
Seems like a pretty casual game you can play over coffee breaks. But the developers added a twist that a happy ending can only be achieved if all the characters that start in the main character's camp survive till the end. They even made the gameplay absurdly difficult where the characters died like sunfish over even small mistakes. The beauty of this destruction is that you can see how a small error you ignored created a butterfly effect leading to the game's bad ending.
Sometimes I questioned the brain power of the game story writers who came up with such diverse branches of storylines. The threads of fate interconnecting them all seemed god woven as even one small cut collapses the entire network like dominos.
And one notorious sidekick villain character single-handedly contributed to the difficulty of the game. He is the most irredeemable villain that makes you wonder why such a character was included in the main character's camp. Whatever you do to redeem him, he always gets corrupted as a villain early on in the story. Even if you try to change him back after his corruption, he fools us acting like a good little nodding chick but comes back stupidly wielding the knife to assassinate the royals and end up in gallows or got killed in prison like some suicidal sunfish bastard.
So overall this game has so many routes that I spent around 9 years just to reach this finale by analyzing all routes, characters and also somehow keeping the sunfish bastard alive at least until the final battle. I was one move away from clearing the game. If I had deployed that ultimate before the opponent did, it's my guaranteed victory.
All to be crushed by a freaking cola can.
I deserve to be angry enough to smash this place.
Sighing away all my anger, I stood up rubbing my sleepy eyes.
"I need some caffeine.."
Groping through the cluttering like a zombie, I made my way to the fridge.
I lazily rubbed my growling stomach, appeasing it like a grumpy child.
"Yawn... Should I grab something to eat?"
I opened the fridge wondering if there was anything edible in there. As expected, only a half rotten apple and a lonely can of cola stood there. I grabbed the cola after hesitating whether to throw away the apple or eat the good half of the fruit and finally threw the apple in an arc to the dustbin. Cool. Shot!
After mentally noting myself to go for grocery shopping tomorrow, I made my way back with the pleasant sound of soda popping. The game over screen's still there proudly announcing my pathetic defeat. I chugged my cola like a beer washing away the misery clogging my throat.
"Ha..!" Brrr, that hit the spot.
While I'm illuding myself drunk, a familiar sound perked my ears. After listening to the sound for years, like a Pavlov dog I grabbed the mouse clicking the notification icon. After sipping the last sip and placing the empty can down, I casually read the notification content.
But what I read there made my whole brain freeze. I blankly blinked my eyes thrice. The words processed through my retina was so shocking that it burnt my brain cells making me stupidly stare at the screen. I rubbed my eyes and reread the content.
Congratulations! You are the first person to reach the final battle after clearing almost all routes.
There's one route you missed that has the only happy ending.
Even if you had made that ultimate move and pierced the final Boss's heart, the sidekick of the villain you kept alive would stab you when you were low on HP. So it's a destined bad ending. But as a reward for your effort and time, we decided to directly let you play that hidden route.
So do you want to start the route that can reach a happy ending?
After repeatedly reading it and finally accepting this as reality not a dream, I went through a roller coaster of emotions from surprise and shock to anger, disbelief, suspicion and finally joy. Pure joy like a child finally getting the head pat from his strict father after working hard to get that star sticker from the teacher.
I shed a few happy tears and thanked mother luck who always abused me like a toxic stepmom. I clicked the yes button vigorously and stood up to do a happy little tap dance in my overflowing excitement.
The instant I pushed away the chair and did a weird hula dance, something rolled under my feet. And then the room started tilting.
What just happened?
The first thing I felt was the terrible pain behind my head. I weakly raised my arms to feel a sticky liquid pooling beneath my head. I brought my hand above my blurry eyes. I saw something red.
The next thing I felt was the cold sensation of the floor. My brain took some time to process these sensations. Then I realized.
I slowly turned my head amidst the pain to search for the source. And there it lies, the culprit.
The cola can.
The last one I drank and kept aside.
If it had a face, it'd probably be smirking like a villain now.
I let out an almost manic laugh lying covered in red blood glaring at the red can.
"Mother luck, what did I do to you?"
Breathing and muttering weakly, I turned my head away from the can and stared blankly at the ceiling.
Watching the shadows created through the weak light of the computer screen of my slowly creaking fan, regret pooled my heart.
I didn't get to finish that damn game.
Am I dying?
But why is there no flashbacks like a movie roll?
Truly, I'd lived a life that isn't worth looking back to.
I should have at least eaten that half apple. Hope I don't turn into a hungry ghost.
I let out a mirthless laugh more like a scoff and cleared my thoughts of regret. As always, my emotions gradually numbed in the face of adversities. My eyes once again blanked out to chase the shadows dancing on the ceiling.
All senses felt distant. The pain in my body or the cold chill of the floor seeping my clothes or the ticking of clock and whirring of fan or the sweet taste of drink left in my tongue. Or even the heartbeat that at first felt louder than the tinnitus. It all felt muffled and numb. My eyesight slowly darkened with spots then completely blackened. Hearing fogged and stopped. And my thoughts gradually slowed.
Ha.. I should have cleaned my room, dammit.
Glitching like a malfunctioning robot, my brain squeezed out that one last weak thought and finally shut down completely.
In the dark room which now held the cold corpse, the computer let out a familiar sound breaking the silence. Words filled the bright screen with a cheerful chime.
[ We wish you LUCK player! May you achieve the happy ending~! ^^ ]