ToS: Prologue

POV: Ark

I hated my life. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word to use… Dissatisfied, that was a better word, I was greatly dissatisfied with my life.

Most people just wouldn’t get that. They would take one look at my bank account and tell me I had nothing to be dissatisfied with, but they have no idea about what I go through or how I’ve lived my life. Worse yet, even if I tried to explain it to them they wouldn’t understand because most people just don’t want to understand. When people hear billionaire orphan they think of batman, ironman, or whatever and assume that my life must be great, but that’s only how things work in comic books and movies. In reality I’m far from amazing, and I’d trade all my money in a heartbeat for the chance to lead that normal life with parents and friends I see on TV all the time. That sort of life seems infinitely better than mine.

Here’s the sad truth about being a billionaire orphan that always seems to be left out of the comics and movies: you’re alone. I don’t have parents and can only vaguely remember a time when I did, Friends are practically impossible for me to make because I realized everyone around me only cares about the money I inherited, and I can’t even leave my home because if I do I’ll be swarmed by people who want me for some interview or investment that they “need”. I don’t have any real responsibilities or needs since everything from my parent’s companies to my daily allowance is handled by a team of lawyers and financial specialists I’ve never met, and freshly prepared food is just delivered to my estate every day. Honestly the only thing I have to do is keep myself from dying and everything else that matters in my life gets taken care of by someone else, whether I like it or not…

I couldn’t legally do anything to change the way things were until I was twenty five, so while I waited for that fateful day I immersed myself in hobbies. I watched TV and movies, I played all sorts of games, I read practically any fiction I could find, and I swam. From age four to sixteen that was the sort of life I had lived and it was unbearably lonely, but on my sixteenth birthday I bought myself a gift that changed things.

It was a new sort of game system that used dive technology to immerse a person’s mind in a full virtual reality experience, and the game title that was going to be launched with it was a standard fantasy RPG called Legends of Eternia. This system was all bleeding edge tech and wasn’t supposed to hit the market for over a decade, but with one call I had bought the company and one of the system betas that was being exhibited. Within a month of buying and privatizing the company the full dive game system had shifted course and was now being developed as some sort of weapons technology, but I didn’t care as a new dive capsule had been set up in my home and I had thrown myself into the world of Eternia.

I was having the time of my life playing that game, everything looked and felt real so playing Legends of Eternia was basically like living a second life. There I wasn’t a lonely and depressed rich kid, I was a grand hero or vile villain who could experience all sorts of amazing things. To make things even better the Apex Engine that the game ran on had this unique way of changing the setting and giving you a new experience whenever you made a new character, it just sent you a few centuries or so into Eternia’s future. I could even find hints of my prior character’s playthrough if it had made a big enough impact, sometimes I could even leave a well-hidden chest full of equipment for myself with one character and find that same chest with another. I had fallen absolutely in love with the game, and my only complaint with it was that it had a perma-death system that forced you to make a new character and start over if you died. Still even that feature eventually turned into something that I appreciated, after all it gave real weight and risk to my actions in the game.

I happily disregarded the real world and sunk over six years of my life into playing that game, but still there was a part of me that felt empty. I still craved something more, and so I had the developmental team that had come up with the dive system and Legends of Eternia add some things to my system to make the game more personalized. After a month of updates and patchwork where I couldn’t play Legends of Eternia, my dive system and favorite game had been upgraded and personally customized. Now time in-game would seemingly pass at the normal 24 hour cycle despite it only taking an hour for an in-game week to pass if certain conditions were met, during a playthrough I could further customize my character and give them a backstory and a personal history that would be permanently incorporated into my game world, and best of all they had updated the network of A.Is that governed the game and its systems. It was well worth my month of waiting…

After diving back into the world of Eternia I spent a year playing as a heroic paladin while also familiarizing myself with all the new changes and updates to the game. My time as Grifel the paladin had been both my best playthrough of the game and the single best year of my life, but as great as it was it had to come to an end. Eternia’s greatest paladin fell to foe he could never hope to defeat as a mere human: time. I had lived through an entire lifetime as Grifel, but after the death of that character I decided that I hadn’t had nearly enough of Legends of Eternia yet. I had decided to abandon my life in the real world for the manufactured world of Eternia, and I didn’t regret the decision one bit.

I also decided that I would try playing on the opposite side of the spectrum than I had as Grifel, instead of being the reluctant and gruff hero I wanted my next character and playthrough to be more on the dark side. Besides I had always thought it was more fun to play as the villain…

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