The prologue is not necessarily the story of one person. Many players in the Kensei Online world had different roots. These are their beginnings.
Nero's Story Edit
- Written by LaviBookman
It has been one month since Kensei Online went live. One month since players have been trapped in a death game. No, calling it a game was inaccurate: Kensei Online is no longer a virtual reality MMORPG. It is more like a gladiator arena, pitting players against pixelated monsters, seeing if the players would fall in a battle against polygonal shapes.
It was estimated that 10,000 players have been trapped in this world. In one month, roughly 2,000 players have died. The realization that if one's HP reaches zero, dying in both the game world and the real world, affected the way players fought. Some even fled in terror fighting slimes, the weakest monsters in the entire game. But not all who fell was from battle: others believed that dying in the real world was a sick, twisted joke placed upon them by the infamous Game Master, and committed suicide, thinking that they would be freed. But even so, there was a third method: players who decided to take things into their own hands, and became player-killers. Murderers. The only source of salvation from this increasingly hated world was to beat the game and its final boss.
In that one month filled with death, there still was an insufficient number of players available to form an army to challenge the first battlefield. An army consisted of ten parties of six people each: larger than what would be necessary for a raiding group to take on a dungeon and its boss. At the latest battlegrounds conference, which took place only fifty players attended. Nero was disappointed. He hoped that there would be five more people: being five men short of the sixty-man requirement would not seriously cripple an army's chances of defeating the battlefield boss, given that there was proper coordination and that participants would not flee at the first sign of trouble.
The first battlefield's stated level was 10, but many players agreed that it would be too dangerous for anyone underneath level 15 to attempt to participate. Nero himself was level 21, more than enough to handle himself in the soon-to-occur battle. Despite being a soldier-type, Nero wore noticeably less armor than the counterparts of his archetype, protected only by a navy-blue breastplate and pauldrons, both trimmed in gold, and a dark cloak colored crimson underneath. He favored wielding a lance, despite the unavailability of mounts at this point of the game. Nero easily stood out from the crowd because he dyed his avatar's hair blue, when character avatars in Kensei Online were heavily based off of their player's real world appearances.
At Nero's side, Siofra, was a player that Nero knew from the real world. The two stuck together since the beginning, protecting each other from the dangers of the wilderness and potential criminals. Siofra was a level 19 soldier-type spear user herself, covering herself with more armor than Nero. But unlike Nero, she was often nervous in the midst of battle. She admitted to fearing death, but Nero reassured her that he will do whatever it takes to make sure the two of them survive this world and return home. What Nero did fear, was the possibility there were not enough players to challenge the battlefields that occur at every tenth level, making it impossible to beat the game. The conquest of the first battlefield is necessary to boost morale and give hope that Kensei Online can be beaten.
The next battlegrounds conference was due to begin in a few minutes in the amphitheatre of Genesis, the starting town of Kensei Online. Siofra was slightly less hesitant about going, since Nero insisted that they at least see the progress being made to prepare for the first battlefield. Players were already getting seated and waiting as Nero and Siofra arrived. The amphitheatre in Genesis was set up more like a theatre, with the stage only partially surrounded by seats for the audience. At the front was the coordinator of the conference, Sarutobi. Sarutobi was one of the increasingly uncommon scout-type players. Information brokers have unanimously agreed that the scouts had a higher death rate than any other archetype in the game. The fact that Sarutobi was standing before the gathered players produced an air of ease and respect towards the coordinator.
Dressed in dark leathers, it was apparent that Sarutobi liked ninjas, even his name indicated as such. Various daggers were strapped to his sides, more than what would normally be used in combat, perhaps as an indication that he specialized in weapon throwing skills. After checking the game clock on his heads-up display, invisible to players other than himself, Sarutobi loudly clapped his hands to call order in the amphitheatre.
"Friends, I have some good news," he began, "as of today, we have the sixty players necessary in order to challenge the battlefield ahead."
Cheers immediately rose, controlling the meeting for several moments before Sarutobi could continue. "My party and I have pushed ahead on our own to gather information about the battlefield that we are about to challenge. The location is called Yester Castle. We have determined that the standard monster army will consist of 60 Goblin Warriors, 20 Goblin Snipers, and the boss Gurkak the Goblin King, numbering the total enemy army size at 81."
Sarutobi paused for a moment to allow that information to sink in before continuing. "We are not entirely sure what tactics the goblins will utilize, but they seemed to be focused on 'suicidal assault' tactics. With proper battlelines, we can most definitely survive with zero deaths."
More cheers echoed through the amphitheatre. In the midst of the din, Sarutobi asked all participants to form parties and to meet at the amphitheatre again tomorrow by 10:30am to move out. They will arrive at the battlefield at 11:00am. Nero felt his heart start pounding with excitement. He turned to Siofra with a smile, only for that smile to be wiped away by Siofra's worried expression.
He placed a hand lightly on Siofra's shoulder and gave her a reassuring hug, despite the anti-harrassment system that is in Kensei Online. Of course, Siofra would ignore it for him.
"It'll be all right. You don't have to go if you don't want to," Nero told her.
"I don't want to go, but I also don't want you to go," Siofra answered. "I'll be alone if you die, Nero."
It took a moment for Nero to remember that he insisted that Siofra call him by his in-game name. Making too many connections to the real world was taboo for a multitude of reasons, so Nero made his friend promise to not call him by his real world name in public. The request was jarring for Siofra, but she agreed anyways.
Nero's smile returned to his face. "It won't be a problem. Sarutobi is an experienced guild leader from an older MMO. He knows how to handle large groups of parties like this one."
Even those words were not enough to put Siofra at ease. Nero couldn't blame her: since this is the first battlefield that the players were challenging, anything could happen. In the unlikely worst case scenario, everyone would die. Even so, Nero cannot sit back and let others risk their lives. He wanted to return to the real world just as much as anyone else, if not more. Sitting back and hiding in Genesis like so many other scared players was unthinkable to him.
"You know I will refuse put down my lance and live peacefully until we die or the game ends," Nero told her. "I have to fight in this battlefield."
His ultimatum ended the conversation and the two didn't speak anymore of the topic for the rest of the day.
The next morning, Siofra decided to come along too, despite her own reservations. As the two went to the amphitheatre, Nero renewed his vow to her: that he would make sure the two of them will survive to the end of the game.