MMORPG: Rise of the Peerless Pumpkinmancer

Chapter 4: I Miss You Sis
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Chapter 4: I Miss You Sis

Awakening was always the worst. It wasn’t just displeasing, it was downright torturous.

As Jack regained consciousness, his brain instinctively made him draw a deep breath. The cold air invaded his lungs, grating his insides and making him cough continuously. It was a cough so deep it almost made the whole building quake!

His diaphragm kept tremoring as he fought to steady his now-shaking body. He felt as if he would cough his lungs out but knew it would stop after a few minutes. It was always like that.

Such was the curse of deep diving, aka logging on for way too long straight. This was possible because the VR headset was truly magical. It could slow down a human’s bodily functions to their bare minimum, akin to being in stasis.

But, there was only so much that technology could do. Excessive VR diving would confuse the brain into accepting this slowed-down state as the new normal, thus this huge reaction.

Jack freed himself from the device, searching his room with a steady gaze that didn’t fit his weak body. His prison-like tiny gray apartment was separated into two sections.

One side was utterly filled with trash. There were dirty dishes, empty ramen packets, rice grains, and other non-identifiable objects. It didn’t look habitable in the least.

The other side was an extreme contrast and was so clean that it was unbelievable. But Jack barely glanced there. He knew what he was looking for wasn’t there.

Jack rummaged into the trash, not minding the mess one bit, until he finally found what he was looking for. It was an old brick-like cellphone that looked so old yet wasn’t. It was one of those military grades cellphones with close to infinite resistance and battery.

He opened it and that is when came a flurry of notification sounds. There were so many missed calls and text messages. But, they all basically said the same thing in different terms.

“Don’t kill yourself, Jack!”

“Don’t kill yourself, please!”

“Don’t kill yourself, please! Don’t kill yourself, Jack!”

Funny how all of it all came from gaming buddies. They were people he had never met and that he probably would never meet.

That’s when his body began shaking as he felt another coughing fit take over. No, they definitely would never meet. Not with him in this state.

He knew how terrible his exhausted body looked. He probably had more black under the eyes than a damn panda!

He gave a self-deprecating smile as he understood his friends’ worries. He had lost millions upon millions of credits to organize this raid, hence the shitty apartment, and now it had failed.

He had been so close, but now it was too late. He wouldn’t be able to join the pantheon. This was the exclusive beta test of the upcoming update, reserved only for the best players. There had been one last spot remaining, but he had failed to join.

He knew himself that his skills were trash compared to the other top-Rankers. He was better than 99% of the Players, but he had also reached his mastery limit. He knew he could not improve further, unlike them.

This opportunity had been his Hail Mary. Beta test meant more knowledge, and also the possibility of getting new character abilities strong enough to balance his own shortcomings.

He truly had lost too much with that betrayal and that assassination. Still, he would never kill himself, he wouldn’t follow the old man’s path.

He put his phone in do not disturb mode and removed the notifications. Then, he searched his short contact list, pressing the “Odd Job Willy” entry.

For a few instants, the ringing and his irregular breathing were all he heard. But then an excited voice picked up.

“Boss! You’re alive! People on the Net are all saying you killed yourself after that monumental failure.”

“Save it, I have a job for you.” Jack lowly said.

“Hehe, I was hoping you’d call! I heard all about it. Some prick from Abyss Gaze caused all this mess! You want him gone, right? What about the other random players?” Willy asked expectantly.

“You’re wrong. The target is from Death Sentence. They have a new executive eager to prove himself. They’re trying to take down Abyss Gaze as well, forcefully bringing them in the crossfire.” Jack explained.

“B-boss, how do you know?! All clues lead to-“Willy asked utterly confused.

“Exactly. A professional Assassin doesn’t leave clues. You know what to do, I want the culprit to be begging for death.” Jack instructed.

“Yes, Boss! As for payment…” Willy tentatively asked.

“Yes.” This was enough. They both knew what this meant.

Jack decisively ended the call, Fucking pricks from Death Sentence! They were a bunch of elitists with exorbitant rates. They thought themselves hot-shit just because they were the renowned #1 assassin guild.

But, there was a difference between being a strong assassin in-game and being strong IRL. The culprit behind his demise would soon very very painfully come to understand this and so would to true mastermind behind him.

Jack had sacrificed too much for him to simply accept this loss. They had thrown money around IRL to screw up his life. He would counter IRL too and make an example of them so it never happened again.

INFINITE had long stopped being just a game for many. The stakes were too high and the money involved too much. Money corrupted and made the worst in humans come out.

He now realized the mistake he had committed. He has sold everything he owned to finance that raid and driven himself to poverty.

Meanwhile, his enemies had slandered his name to the ground. Many called him a cheater and an exploiter since his mechanical skills were lacking. Jack couldn’t win a fair 1 v 1 anywhere near his level of play if he had to use a dummy tournament account.

All this hadn’t mattered to him. Why would he care about reputation? Why would he care about money? But it had made some fools think of him as an easy target to bully. The ones responsible would regret it and die an agonizing death, but what was the point? He couldn’t help but sigh.

Jack boiled some water, grabbed 2 bowls along with 2 packs of ramen, and headed to the clean side of the apartment. There stood an altar, the kind that was dedicated to deceased loved ones.

In a simple but elegant wooden frame, there was the picture of a youthful young woman. Her long black flowing hair encompassed a cute face with a radiant smile. She was making a peace sign while looking straight at him.

Jack placed a ramen bowl right in front of her: ” Here you go, Sis! It’s your favorite: beef flavor and the perfect temperature!” He spoke in a tone so jovial it would have made one question the setback he had just suffered.

Jack wasn’t crazy. Well, he was in his own way. No one else would sacrifice so much for gaming without being a little crazy.

But, he very well knew that she was dead and that this was nothing more than a framed picture. It was only a memento of the past, a past when he was still happy.

Still, talking to “her” helped him. It served as a kind of therapy. He knew that if he were to consult a professional they would reproach his “self-destructive” tendencies.

“Sis, remember when you told me you wanted me to live until I became number 1 in INFINITE? Today I came very close to joining the Pantheon!” He spoke as if a kid bragging about his achievements.

Yes, he knew she had only said it because it felt like an impossible goal back then. He hadn’t been anywhere close to the Rankings. She had wanted to give him to a reason to live.

Jack was playing INFINITE because of her: it used to be their thing. It had been the distraction they both needed to distract themselves from the old man’s death.

“But, don’t worry. I’m strong and I won’t give up just yet. When the new update comes, I’ll work my magic. I’ll find a way to cheese it as usual! I’ll do it so well that people will think I’m cheating again!”

A moment of silence followed, broken only by the slurping sounds. He finished his favorite chicken ramen in a jiffy before turning to his sister’s bowl:

“Are you full already? It’s fine, I’ll eat it so we don’t waste food!” Anyone seeing this would have considered him insane.

Jack didn’t even like the beef flavor! But every time he ate it, his brain associated the taste with happy memories. Then he would wordlessly smile, a very nostalgic smile, one tinged with sorrow.

“Thanks for the meal, this was great!” Jack patted his skinny belly in satisfaction. He probably should remember to eat more.

He then stared at a gray wall for a few minutes. He had spent the last month tirelessly working on that one raid. He had spent every waking hour fixating on this one goal and now he felt empty.

Now that he had missed this opportunity, he had nothing to do until the new update came. He had the best gear, all his relevant skills were maxed out. He could always amass wealth but what was the point?

No, for a while he was probably better off tending to his broken body. He would actually sleep for once, eat well and get back in shape. This way when the new update came out, probably in a few months, he would be ready to farm 24/7.

He sighed deeply, found his keys, wore the first hoody and jogging pants he could find, and for the first time in forever left his apartment.

The town was as gray and dull as usual. Then again this town, in particular, was extremely boring. Most buildings served as storage and only had safe and cheap going for them.

His current destination was outside the town, a few minutes away if riding a hovercraft or about a 1-hour walk. Right now he had ample time and needed the exercise.

Jack was heading to a park that also served as a natural reserve for a few weird species. No one knew how they got there or how they even existed but no one cared either.

This outing would definitely do him good….

Creator’s Thought

Loneliness is harsh, very harsh. When we are sad we look for comfort. When we are happy we look for someone to share it with. This is how humans are. Sometimes I felt less than human. I felt like a Zombie, a very lonely Zombie.

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