Chapter One - New Game
Let me start my story with an introduction. My name is Ivy Reed. I’m a twenty-one-year-old student, studying to be an elementary school teacher at the local college. I enjoyed helping my younger siblings with their homework and figured teaching kids would be rewarding.
But there was one other thing I enjoyed more: playing video games. And the newest installment of my favorite game series was to be released. All throughout classes of the day, I was antsy to head home.
When the last class ended, I didn’t hesitate. I was desperate to start the download for the game. Who knew how long it would take and I wanted to play as soon as possible.
Rushing into my house, I gave my mother and youngest brother a quick greeting before heading to my bedroom. Didn’t take me too long to get my PC up and running. Once the ‘Steam’ app was running, I began my download only to be disappointed to learn that it would take an hour.
As the game continued to download, I checked on my email only to discover that I had won a contest for an exclusive DLC code. Which I found to be a bit strange since I didn’t remember signing up for any contest.
After some research, I learned that there had been a contest and I was on the list of people who had won the same DLC. Now I only had to wait for the game to finish downloading and have it installed.
Once the download bar reached 100%, I eagerly clicked the green ‘open’ button and watched as ‘Steam’ configured to the PC for the initial startup. And then the game’s opening video began.
All I could feel was excitement build as each character was met until the splash screen faded into view. Quickly pushing on the ‘X’ button on my controller, the screen changed to the main menu.
The usual ‘New Game’, ‘Continue’, ‘Load Game’, ‘Download Shop’, ‘Options’, and ‘Quit Game’ popped up on the screen. I supposed I would need to go to the Download Shop in order to input the DLC code.
There were already a few free DLCs that were available to anyone who had preordered. Naturally, I selected them, but continued to search for where I could use the code. At the very bottom, I discovered an input box.
Looking from my phone to the PC, I entered the numbers carefully. Once I made sure it all matched, I clicked the ‘Enter’ button. But nothing happened. I clicked it again. Nothing.
Abruptly, the screen went black. I rapidly pushed the ‘X’ button before resorting to the mouse. I clicked furiously only to give up after a few seconds. When I was ready to hit ‘Alt’ and ‘Tab’, the screen lit up with a young man at the center.
At the bottom of the screen was a text box that read “Congratulations on winning the exclusive content for ‘Aerone: The Lost Soul’.”
Hitting ‘X’, I continued the dialogue. The 2D character on the screen changed his pose, pointing his index finger skyward.
“You have won the following items: an outfit that will increase all stats, a weapon with increased damage, a companion that increases inventory capacity, rare ingredients and recipes, and the opportunity to play the game firsthand.”
Everything mentioned sounded like a great prize, but the last thing on the list confused me. What did it mean with ‘play the game firsthand’?
Before I could continue the dialogue, the man leaned forward while grinning mischievously. “I hope you’re ready to start your adventure.”
An explosion of light blinded me as I pushed away from my desk. My chair tipped backward and I went with it. Only I didn’t hit the ground. Instead, I felt weightless. As if I was in a perpetual fall.
When the light began to fade, I discover that I was plummeting through blue skies and heading toward the green earth below. As I screamed in horror at my situation, I noticed there was someone falling past me.
While I faced the ground, the man was backward and looking amused at the situation. That was when I recognized the man as the 2D character from earlier. Only he was no longer an avatar on the PC’s monitor.
“What the hell is happening?!” I screamed at him only to be answered with a small wave. Despite his black hair fluttering around his face, I could see he was amused at the situation. “Tell me what’s going on!”
He abruptly threw out his arms, slowing his descent and maneuvering his body underneath mine before holding out his hand for me to take. I desperately grabbed his outstretched hand.
“I already told you that you won the chance to play the game firsthand, so there’s no need to panic. Once we’re on the ground, I’ll walk you through the basics.”
“When we reach the ground, we’ll be dead!” I screamed as loudly as I could through the winds that whipped past us. I finally was able to grab his hand before he pulled me closer to him.
“Everything is fine. Nothing bad is going to happen to you.” He chuckled. “I would never allow it. At least for now.”
I clutched the man tightly while pressing my face tightly into his chest. With the ground coming closer and closer, I didn’t want to know the exact moment of my untimely death.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, I felt the ground beneath my feet. Pushing away from the man, I staggered backward only to realize that I was standing on the ground of a small field.
“Welcome to Aerone,” the man stated as he held out his arms.
“Aerone?” I questioned. “The world the game takes place in?”
All around me were fragrant flowers of different colors with a thick forest surrounding the meadow. The skies above were clear. It scared me to think I had been falling through it seconds earlier. And yet I was safely on the ground.
“Time for your tutorial,” the man responded to my question. “Save all questions for when I finish explaining everything. Now, if you would, tap the back of your hand.”
Even if I didn’t want to, I figured I needed to follow his instructions. With a small tap, a transparent status screen of the main character popped up. I could see at the top of the screen the different sections: ‘Status’, ‘Companions’, ‘Items’, ‘Abilities’, ‘Equipment’, ‘Skills’, ‘Outfits’, ‘Guide’, and ‘System’.
“Touch the ‘Status’ tab.” The man pointed to the label and I promptly tapped it only to have the screen change to show my full body. “Here you can find your current HP and MP. You’ll also find your general stats.
“Now move over to ‘Companions’ by swiping your hand to the left.”
Following his command again, the screen change to show a box that contained the stranger’s face as well as his name: Bryn Yarrow. It included his profile, level, HP and MP, experience bar, and relationship rank.
“As you meet people, their information will be shown here. Try your best to meet as many people as possible. And gain their trust. You never know who might be needed later,” he stated before pointing to the next tab.
“’Items’ should be easy to figure out. As you collect potions and ingredients, you’ll need to come to this section to use them. All you must do is touch the name of the item and it’ll pop out. Simple enough, right?
“Beside that is ‘Abilities’. As you complete quests and level up, you’ll gain new abilities. Currently, you do not have any.
“When it comes to ‘Equipment’, touch the weapons and armor that you want to use. You won’t notice the change, but it will be highlighted for you to know what you are currently using.
“But when it comes to ‘Outfits’, your outer appearance will change. Some of the costumes will give you status bonus. Much like the one you are currently wearing.”
“Currently wearing?” I questioned while looking downward. It shocked me to see that I was wearing an unusual dress that reminded me of a colorful Lolita dress that was popular with high school girls.
The man then continued with his explanations. “When it comes to ‘Guide’, you’ll find your quests as well as information you learn as the game progresses. And lastly is ‘System’ which you will not be able to access for now.
“Do you have any questions?”
There were so many things I wanted to ask; I didn’t know where to start. After a few moments of thought, I came up the first question.
“How did I end up in the game?” I asked. “I’ve read manga and watched anime that are from the ‘isekai’ trope.”
“I already told you earlier.” He groaned while appearing frustrated. “You won the chance to play the game firsthand. That means you are going to have to complete the game before you are given the option of returning home.”
The man glanced over his shoulder before looking at me again. An amused smirk spread across his face, leaving me feeling a bit uneasy. “Your first companion is here, so I’ll leave you to your introductions.”
Before I could ask any more questions, the odd fellow faded from sight. I was left feeling overwhelmed when I noticed another person rushing toward me, but he didn’t look like any of the game characters I had previously read about.
When he got closer, the man paused and leaned downward, propping his hands on top of his thighs and breathing heavily. I studied his appearance, noting the odd animalistic ears that poked through his reddish-brown hair.
He wore a greenish tunic that reached mid-thigh, a pair of black leather pants that hugged his legs tightly, oversized pair of boots, and a backpack.
Once he looked up at me, I noticed he had gold eyes that appeared to glow in the sunlight. Then there was the tail that poked out from under the tunic. It swished one way then the other in a catlike manner.
If I had to guess, I would say he looked to be late teens or early twenties. He was most likely to be around my age.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he muttered after catching his breath. “Were you collecting the flowers? If you’re done, we can head back to the village. Grandpa wants to speak with you.”