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Chapter 1: Just Because It's You(1)

Bone and Blood.

The reason I got hooked on that game and waited for its sequel was simple.

It was a captivating universe.

At first glance, it seemed like your average fantasy world, but the more you dug, the darker and hidden stories you'd uncover.

These elements drew me into that world.

Among them, the most striking was the story related to the hidden mines underground.

A place you could discover while pursuing a quest to track down human traffickers.

There, children were mining magic stones.

Without any protective gear.

Being exposed to unrefined magic stones was a shortcut to mana addiction and a terminal fate.

Yet, those criminals were operating the mines using kidnapped orphans and children sold by slum families as parts.

They even went so far as to efficiently use the bodies of the dead children, selling them elsewhere.

The player is faced with a choice after uncovering all these truths.

To expose these horrendous acts to the world and eradicate them, or to take the bribe from the criminals and keep silent.

Who would choose the latter, you might ask?

That's the charm of this game.

If you eliminate all those mines, naturally, the price of magic stones skyrockets, and the empire plunges into a state of panic.

All modes of transportation using magic stones become difficult to use,

The price of items necessary for progressing in the game soars, and even a few beloved NPCs encountered during quests commit suicide due to economic hardship.

Moreover, the bodies of the children were being used for research into curing mana addiction, so stopping this meant the heroine would later die unable to find a cure.

It was clear which choice was the right one.

Yet, the outcome of making the right choice led to an unsettling and unpleasant conclusion.

This contradiction, the varying outcomes based on the choice, fascinated me.

To that extent, the magic stone mine quest was deeply etched in my mind.

Yes.

That quest was certainly impressive.

It was impressive, but...

"I never wanted to become one of those orphans mining magic stones..."

*****

[ A day in the magic stone mines is incredibly monotonous.

With every issue resolved by a single whip, could anything be more monotonous?

If a slave slacks off?

Whip them.

If a slave throws a tantrum?

Whip them.

If a slave begs for mercy, fearing death if things continue as they are?

Whip them.

So, what's left?

Profit remains.

This approach might not leave any children standing, but children can always be bought with money.

In this miserably hard-to-live empire, there's no shortage of slum dwellers wanting to sell their burdensome children for a bit of coin.

Moreover, there's another benefit to this whipping.

Whip those who don't obey, and sometimes even those who do out of boredom, and you end up with only the quick-witted and sharp elites.

Who would have thought the way to create elite slaves was by beating all the non-elite ones to death?

And the bodies produced in the process? Selling them in the right places turns a tidy profit.

Earning money has never been this easy.]

A diary entry I stumbled upon during a game play flashes through my mind.

I could almost be certain of it right then and there.

The bastard who wrote that must be the one running this place.

"…It really hurts like hell."

My body still throbs all over.

This is no mere normal spanking.

Maybe it's because I'm in a child's body, but if I take any more beatings, it feels like I might actually die.

And fighting back isn't even an option.

It's almost expected, really.

Why would the precious managers here risk contracting an incurable disease?

They're all equipped with top-of-the-line protective gear, complete with self-defense features.

Remembering the in-game market rates, I'm infuriated knowing that the price of one piece of their gear could buy decent protection for all of us.

But I'm not dumb enough to express such rebellious thoughts and get beaten for it. So, I take whatever this indiscernible thing is that's being served and sit down.

Up to this point, I could somewhat endure it.

What really drives me insane is something else.

"Hey… are you okay? You've seemed a bit off since yesterday."

A kid casually takes the seat next to me and asks.

Considering I've possessed this body since yesterday, his reaction makes sense.

He must have been my friend...

"Buzz off before I stab your eyes out with a fork."

...If you think like that, you will be hit right away.

I immediately grabbed his wrist. Sure enough, he was trying to sneak away with that tasteless bread of mine.

The friendly smile on his face vanished in an instant.

He glared at me with a menacing look.

"What? Wanna fight? Go ahead and try. Though, I doubt you'd be able to do much work with your injuries."

When I said that, he just clicked his tongue with a 'tch' and walked away.

This is the way to survive here. Show any weakness, and you'll be stripped of your food and everything else, left to whittle away until death.

To me, fighting skills didn't seem all that important.

After all, if you get injured and can't work properly, you'll just end up whipped to death. Everyone wants to avoid fighting.

"…Ha."

Overcoming a tough situation naturally brings out a sigh.

This was the issue driving me insane.

There's no moment to rest.

Releasing children into this hell made them turn into demons just to survive.

Having to fight not just the overseers but also fellow slaves. It's enough to completely break one's spirit.

'Think positive. Stay positive….'

But dwelling in gloom only diminishes any chance of escape. So, I forcibly pulled myself together.

Actually, there's a silver lining to consider.

'Who would have thought that splurging an extra 50,000 won for the premium edition would pay off here….'

The kind of game package that comes with various in-game items for an extra charge.

As with most games of this sort, it usually ends up feeling like a waste of money. Even as a fan, I hesitated when making the purchase.

But looking back now, there couldn't have been a better decision.

One rare-grade trait option, one legendary-grade trait option.

And even options for a sword and armor.

Though there are some unusable elements like titles or the game soundtrack, the traits alone made it worth it.

The reason I'm able to maintain my sanity, for the most part, is thanks to the ability I gained from that rare trait selection.

Healthy Body (Rare)

You become immune to all status abnormalities except those caused by poison, curses, and magic. You will not tire easily and will always remain in a healthy state.


A trait that wouldn't even warrant a second glance normally, unable to block even a simple sleep spell.

However, now that the game has become reality, nothing could be more precious than this.

Nothing is more critical to me now than immunity to diseases. Without it, I might have already been living on borrowed time.

With the trait screen open, I decided to explore various status windows out of curiosity.

It's convenient to navigate just by thinking about it, but...

This Feature is available after completing the tutorial.


With most features locked, it's practically useless.

I can't even see my status, let alone my name.

But that shouldn't pose much of a problem.

I have other weapons at my disposal.

Legendary grade.

The right to choose a trait that you'd normally only obtain at the very end of the game, along with a reasonably useful sword and armor.

If used wisely, there must be a way out...

'...Hm?'

Lost in thought as I walked back to the mines, I suddenly felt something bump into me.

I took another look at the obstacle blocking my path.

Black hair.

Red eyes, unfocused and dull.

A beautiful girl stood there, seemingly out of place in this wretched atmosphere, her presence at odds with the surroundings.

"Sorry, I was lost in thought and didn't see you there."

I was the first to offer an apology. However, the girl just blankly stared at my face without any change in expression.

I would have understood if she had glared at me, but strangely, I couldn't read any emotion in her gaze.

After an awkward and somewhat bizarre moment of eye contact,

"Why are you standing here? Did you lose your way? If that's the case, follow me. We need to hurry or we'll get beaten."

I was the one who couldn't stand the dreadful silence and spoke up first.

"…Yeah, I guess so."

The girl responded with an inscrutable face, still giving no clue as to what she might be thinking.

After looking at her for a while, a realization hit me.

This is the world inside a game.

Surely, the protagonists of the game must also exist in this world.

Could this uniquely unmatched girl be someone completely unrelated to the original story?

…If this meeting wasn't by chance but by destiny.

If it was predetermined.

"What's your name?"

The girl, with the same vacant expression, opened her mouth to respond.

"Siel."

That was the moment I met my first colleague.

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