2 Where It All Began

Everyone has something they like. Some like sports, some prefer music, others prefer reading, some like writing, a few like playing video games all day.

Me? I like studying. I even think everyone should focus on studying instead of wasting their time on sports and stuff. But who am I to say that, right? They can do whatever they want, and I can do whatever I want.

"That's it for today!" A voice echoed throughout the room.

The class had come to an end. Everyone will go home or wherever they usually hang out and waste their time. And I… I will go straight back home and start studying. I am not one of those people who dawdled around.

"Hey, Das, guess who?" A soft voice that sounded right next to me.

Sweet-smelling, soft palms covered my eyes, blocking the view in front of me. It didn't take me much effort to guess who it was. She was my idiot girlfriend.

"Elena, how many times have I told you not to do that!" I growled.

She jumped in front of me swiftly, her long black hair swaying and blue eyes staring at me as she said, "Aw, you are so boring." 

"Don't call me boring." I said as I rolled back my eyes.

I started going out with her two months ago. Should I even call it dating? She literally threatened me to go out with her.

"Let's go home together today, Das." She pleaded.

"Don't want to." I refused her without dragging things out.

"Let's, go, home, together!" This time it felt like an order..

"Okay…" I groaned. 

See? So, we are on our way home right now. She always does this. And for some weird reason, I can't say no to her.

After exiting the school's main gate, I glanced at Elena, who was walking beside me and asked, "You were late again today. What were you doing? You didn't even take a bath today, right?"

"Huh? Do I smell?" She asked with a worried tone.

She started sniffing herself, her cute nose wiggled as she lifted her arms. 

What an idiot.

"You don't smell, but you had a bedhead," I replied.

"Eh? Really? I didn't notice that." She said in a muffled voice. 

"So? Why were you late today?" I prodded. 

"I just woke up late," Her eyes shifted around nervously like she was hiding something from me. 

"Uh Uh. By any chance, you weren't playing games till late at night, right?" I asked, knowing what the answer would be. 

"Haha, of course not, haha!" She hit my arm lightly, laughing as if I had cracked a joke. 

The reaction made it clear; she was playing games till late at night.

"You didn't forget our deal, right?" 

"I haven't! Don't bring that up" Elena played with a strand of her hair, an unknown look in her eyes. 

I term it as 'deal' but it isn't anything serious.

We are in our 3rd semester now. During the 2nd semester, a teacher told me to tutor someone who was in danger of getting expelled. 

That's right, it's exactly as you think, it was Elena. I tutored her for six months and barely saved her from getting expelled. 

One day, out of the blue, she asked me to come meet her, behind the school. At first, I thought she called me to say thanks, but to my surprise and shock… she asked me to go out with her. 

To be honest, it was the first time someone had asked me out. I honestly didn't have any plans to get a girlfriend, but for some reason, I couldn't say no to her.

At first, I tried to reject her by saying, 'I don't have any interest in gamer girls.'

With a serious look on her face, she replied, 'I will stop playing games, so please go out with me.'

Why would anyone go that far? 

So I told her if she minimized the time spent playing games and started studying, only then, I'd go out with her. She accepted that instantly. But she was playing the game till late at night yesterday. 

How am I supposed to take it now?

"Das." She asked.

"Hmm?" I turned to look at her.

"Do you love me?" She asked softly.

"Shut up." I replied.

Do I love her? 

Let's be honest. How can I like a girl who plays games all day? I will never fall for a gamer girl… or, so I thought when I started going out with her but now… I love her.

"Das." She said again.

"Hmm?" I said softly.

"Actually, I was playing a game the whole night yesterday." She said guiltily.

"..."

I know that already. 

Why are you saying it now?

"Hey Das, I know I promised that I would spend less time playing, but…" She took a deep breath and said, "I have been playing the same game for the last couple of weeks." She confessed solemnly.

"I see." I said.

"Please don't break up with me." She said softly.

"...."

Huh? Break up? 

"Listen, Elena...." I said slowly.

How do I clear up the misunderstanding? Wait, maybe if I say that I love her then...

"Elena, I...I...I won't break up with you for that reason, don't worry." I stuttered my way through.

Heh! I should start practicing. 

I would have never imagined I would fall into this state. 

How admirable I was six months ago, and how deplorable I am right now.

"Really?!" She exclaimed as she closed her distance to me.

I made some distance between us and said, "Yeah."

"Thanks, I really love you!" She said.

She hugged me tightly, snuggling close to my arm, a smile lighting up her face. How can she say I love you with such a straight face?!

"Das," She looked at me, biting her soft bottom lip. 

"Hmm?"

"Can I ask you to do something?"

"Yeah, sure"

What will she ask? Go home together again? Go on a date? Maybe she wants some money? Or maybe she needs help with the study? As long as she wants, there's nothing I can't do.

"There is a VR game I am playing since a month, and I want you to play that VR game with me"

I take that back, there is something I can't do.

"VR game? You mean that virtual reality game where you put a helmet on your head and dive into the VR world?"

They have been getting more and more famous lately.

"It's not a helmet, it's called dive gear," She laughed. 

"Yeah… that," I raised my eyebrow and said, "Why do you want me to play that?" 

She knows very well how much I hate games.

They are a distraction, nothing else.

"It's awesome, it's like the real world, you can do anything you want there, it's even more amazing than the real world," She pulled on my hand, eyes gleaming with excitement. 

"Okay, okay, I get it, now stop jumping."

"So, will you play it?"

"Is it safe? I mean didn't something happen with the world's first VR game, they were trapped in the game or something?" I vaguely remembered reading about it.

I lost count of how many times I tried to search about it again, but nothing came up. It was like all the information about it was deleted.

There have been many riots because of the VR tragedy of thirty years ago. 

"Yeah, that was 30 years ago. It's okay now, there are lots of VR games in the market. It's totally safe now." She assured me. 

"Well, if you say so," I said dubiously. 

"By the way, Das." She matched my pace and said, "If by any chance I got trapped in a VR game, will you come to save me?"

"If you are trapped doesn't that mean no one can log in from outside?" I commented, in a deadpan manner. 

I got punched in the back. 

Did I say anything to make her angry?

I mean, I know what she wanted me to say, but I am a logical person.

"Tch!" She clicked her tongue and said, "You are not romantic at all" 

She was pouting, her pink lips pushed out in a cute 'O'. 

"Well, I mean, I can't come and save you but I will wait for you to wake up, even if it takes forever."

She suddenly hugged me, her sweet scent clinging to my body. 

Did I say something to make her happy? Though I replied logically this time too.

"So?" She pointed her gaze at me.

"Hmm?"

"Will you play it with me?"

"Well, if that's what you want then, sure," I reluctantly gave in. I couldn't say no to her how much ever I tried after all. 

"Thank you! I love you so much!" She beamed again. 

If that's what she wants me to do then I really don't mind playing the game. 

"So, what's the game's name?"

"Len World Online"

"Oh--!"

My headache as if someone had punched my brain. And why do I feel like I know this game?

I started searching for it on the internet. Damn, there are so many VR games. 

Let's see.. here it is; Len World Online. Hey, isn't that a bit...

"It's expensive" 

"Yeah it is, but this one is perfect"

"Is that so?"

"Definitely," She said with a serious look.

Only if she was this serious about studying.

I bought the game with express delivery.

"Now, time to buy VR Gear"

"The game doesn't give one?"

"Of course not. You need to buy it separately. VR gear and the game has nothing to do with each other"

They should sell combos instead, but I can see the reason why there isn't.

The VR gear companies compete with each other. If the game becomes exclusive for any VR gear, it can either become a hit or a flop.

I searched for VR gears. There are too many with different price ranges, not that money was a problem for me.

"Which one is better?" I nudged her and said, "Help me out"

"Here, this one is Zek VR-3.2, I have the same"

"Okay, then, I will buy the same--!" I announced.

"What happened?" Elena asked, as I had suddenly paused.

"They also seem to have an upgraded version, Zek VR-4.0" I said.

"What? Did they release the new one already? Weird, there wasn't any announcement about it." She said confused.

"Looks like it." I said.

"So, you're going to buy that one?" She asked.

"Well it's triple the price of the one you have but yeah, I will buy this one." I said.

The more a product costs, the better it should be. Well in most cases at least. If that's not the case with this VR headset, then I could just buy another one.

I glanced at Elena, only to see her frustrated. 

Maybe she wanted me to use the same gear as her?

"Hey Elena, if you say so then I will buy the same one as you"

"Why? Zek VR-4.0 is best, I also want that one!"

That explains why she looked frustrated.

"Want me to buy you one?" I asked.

"Really?!" She screamed with delight.

"Yeah, if you score full marks in every subject in the next test." I said with a teasing expression.

"That's impossible." She stated.

"Don't say it's impossible, you can do it if you study." I said while smiling.

"Studying is boring!" She groaned.

Did I really fall in love with this girl? I resisted the urge to facepalm. 

Anyway, I bought everything she told me to, even paid in advance and it should come in--

"It will come in 15 days, then we can play together!" She said while fist-pumping into the air. 

"No, it will come tonight, express delivery," I remarked. 

"What? Seriously?!" She asked, surprised.

"Yeah, I had to pay extra though." I smiled.

"Great, then we can play today," I could see the sparkles in her eyes while she said that. 

"By the way, they will come and assemble it for me right?"

"Yep, they will!"

"I see, nice then, see you tomorrow"

I bid her farewell and started walking--

"Wait" She stopped me. 

Did I forget something? Or maybe there is something about the game?

I turned back, and she said, "I will video call you tonight to explain some things"

"Oh, okay....wait! What are you doing? Why are you coming closer?" I said in a panicky manner.

"I am going to kiss you obviously,  please, pretty please, let me kiss you." Her eyes grew wide, and she gave me the innocent-puppy look. 

Hard to refuse that. I didn't think I would be able to control myself. 

"Fine" I gave in.

She closed her distance with me, and leaned up, bringing her face close to mine. Her eyes fluttered close, and I did the same. The next moment, her tender lips brushed against my lips. They were so warm and gentle, like a cloud. She pressed a bit harder, almost making my knees go weak. My hands twitched, aching to grab her head. That's when I felt something soft on my chest. That single touch spread warmth through my shirt.

Kissing her felt so amazing. I was lost in the sensation of her lips and her sweet scent. Soon afterwards, she removed her lips and made some distance between us. When my eyes fell on her face, her cheeks were tinged red with her ears slightly pink.

"Thanks, I will call you tonight. Bye!"

Elena always did this when we kissed. She gets embarrassed and runs away without even looking at my face. 

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

"I'm home!" I said, as I dashed into the house.

"Welcome home, Das. You are quite late today. Were you with Elena?" 

"Yeah"

I was greeted by my mother.

She is in her early fifties, but she looks as beautiful as she was in her thirties. That's...what my dad said.

Her ivory-colored hair and green eyes make her more beautiful. That's what my dad said too.

I took a quick shower and got myself ready.

Dad should be home too…There he is. 

"Hey Dad"

"Hey champ!" We fist-bumped each other.

We started having dinner. I don't have any siblings and that's the reason they dote on me this much, which is annoying.

My mother is an ex-professor, she retired after she married my dad. Now she runs NGOs. And...she is the queen of this country. Well, it's just a ceremonial title at this point.

My dad is a businessman. His company is listed in the top 3 in this country. And that's one of the reasons I don't have any problems with money. At least that's how I want others to think.

"Hey dad, I bought something online today. Did you receive a text from the bank about that?" I asked as I took a large bite.

"Now that you mentioned it, I did receive something like that. What did you buy?" He asked, checking his phone.

"A VR game." I said while eating.

"Say what?" He asked with surprise.

"A VR game"

"A game?"

"Yeah"

"You bought it?"

"Yeah"

"To play?"

"Yeah?"

"Angela, our son said he bought a game. Can you believe it?!"

"Indeed, dear, I can't believe what I am hearing right now!"

Here they go again.

Let me make it clear, they are not shocked about the game, nor are they shocked about the fact that I spent too much money on the game. They are shocked because I bought the game.

Aren't you overreacting? It's not that rare for me to play games. The last time I played any game was… was… nevermind that, more importantly-

Ring~!

I received a text. Who is it? 

I saw the name of the sender, it was Elena. I remembered she told me that she will video call me. I completely forgot about that. I should go to my room quickly, or she will get angry.

"Well then, I am going to my room. The delivery will arrive soon."

"Got it!" They both shouted.

I quickly ran into my room and opened my laptop. There were 8 missed calls from Elena. She must be angry. She is scary when she is angry.

I quickly called her, and she answered it in a second. She must have been waiting.

"Idiot, idiot, Das you idiot, big big idiot"

She greeted me like this. I know she is angry, but how can an idiot call me an idiot? I should tell her properly. What if she is angry? It's not like I am afraid of her.

I opened my mouth to scold her and said, "I am sorry, I was talking with my family and didn't realize it."

"I get it. I thought you were ignoring me."

"No, not at all," I said.

"Hehe" She giggled.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing"

"So," I got on the bed and said, "What are the things you want to talk to me about?"

"Yeah that's right, did it arrive yet?"

"Not yet, but I got the text, it should arrive soon"

"I see, so listen here, Das."

"I'm listening. "

"When you log into the game, make sure everything is working perfectly, if there is any problem then login again"

"I see, I see."

Look at her. She is explaining to me like I am some kind of idiot.

"And yes, please select the name carefully, you can't change it once you enter it."

"Oh, is that so? Then I will go with Das."

"Huh?! You will use your real name?"

"Yeah, something is wrong with that?"

"No, but you should use something else."

"Oh? Then what are you using?" I asked.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes!" I replied instantly.

"Well, it's..."

"It's?"

"Reina"

"What?!"

"Reina"

"Why Reina? Oh, wait. Elena, Lena, Reina. That makes sense!"

"So, you should also use something like that"

"I see...but, my name is Das. I can't use anything like that, even if I want to."

"Yeah right, lame"

"Did you just call my name lame?"

"Nope, you must be hearing things"

"You clearly did call my name lame, I heard it"

"I didn't...wait, how about inserting your name as 'Reina's boyfriend'?"

"No thanks"

"Tch!" She clicked her tongue and said, "It is at least better than your lame name"

"Hey, aren't you getting more rude?"

"Well, even if it's lame, I love it. I love you and your lame name"

How can she say such embarrassing things with a straight face-- I took a look, and her face was red as a tomato too. What are you getting embarrassed for? You are the one who said it.

Dammit, I really love her.

"Oh yeah, Das I forgot to tell you, the login style is awesome!"

"Login style?"

"Yeah, you will fall from the sky"

"Yeah right, stop joking"

"I am being serious here"

"For real?"

"For real" She nodded.

"We fall from the sky?"

"Yeah, but it depends on floors but yeah we fell from the sky on the 1st floor,"

"I see, I see"

I grabbed my phone and--

"What are you doing Das?"

"Checking if I can cancel the order now or not."

"Wait, why?!" She smirked and said, "Oh, could it be that you are afraid of heights?"

"Afraid of heights? Me? Of course not--"

"Then why don't you play it?"

She had a smug look on her face. Why did I fall for this girl again? 

Annoying... why am I surrounded by such annoying people?

"And when you log in, wait for me near the fountain. I am going to play it now, I will meet you there."

"Got it."

=====================

"And one more thin--- where did he go?"

Das was gone. His mother called him because the delivery had arrived.

"After one hour there is an emergency maintenance break for two hours. So I guess it will take time to play with him. Well, I should go now. I have to clear that quest before maintenance break."

She hung up the call, and soon after Das came into his room with 4 people.

======================

"Here is okay with you?"

"Yeah"

"We have to assemble it now"

"Okay"

Here it is. It has finally arrived. I should show this to Elena--huh? 

Did she hang up the call? She did say she is going to play that game.

After around 50 minutes, they completed it.

"Done," One of the men said.

"Okay, so I just have to put this helmet--I mean Dive gear on my head and I will--I mean my conscious will go in a virtual world, right?"

"Yeah, exactly."

"I see, thanks."

"You can call us if anything happens." He said as he gave me a business card.

Zek technology gives good customer service and costs a lot of money as well. 

I looked at the VR gear and said, "I should play this game now. Elena must be waiting for me at the fountain."

Here I come, Len World Online!

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