***Marionette Hold***

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The package was delivered to Yongno's place as they mentioned a few days ago.
Yongno had been looking forward to it, so when the delivery guy showed up, Yongno quickly welcomed him.

“It's 5,000 won.[1]”

“Ah, okay, but this is…?”

“Yeah, the interacting device.”

“Are you sure?”

Feeling bewildered, Yongno stared at the parcel in his hand, which was a lot lighter and smaller than he had expected.
It didn’t seem like it would be enough to carry a device that enabled players to access virtual reality. Would it even be able to hold two books?

“I already expected it since everyone who receives this packet reacts the same…
but no worries.
This is definitely the product, so just follow the instructions.”

“But the size is too…”

“If you feel doubtful, just install and run it.
As you can see, I'm just a delivery guy.”

Despite his remark, Yongno was impressed by the man’s appearance.
He looked gorgeous with his neatly combed hair, chiseled jawline, fair skin, and long eyelashes; it would even be difficult to find someone with comparable looks on TV.
What stood out the most were his eyes.

The delivery guy’s eyes were calm and subtle.
His overall vibe was enough to make Yongno trust his words, even if he was to introduce himself as the youngest research lab director of an academic institution or the president of a large company.
The guy emitted such a faithful and confident aura.

“This is all I need to run the program, right? With no additional devices?” asked Yongno.

The delivery guy replied, “Yes, like I said, just run it to find it out.”

Yongno nodded. He ought to stop annoying the poor delivery guy to satisfy his curiosity. If the thing didn’t work, all he lost was just 5,000 won; it wasn't a huge loss. 

“Then, I'll be on my way.
I still have a lot to deliver,” said the guy.


The guy bade farewell and quickly left as if he felt bothered by Yongno for interrupting his work. 

He still has many left to deliver? Are there also other people around here doing this?

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The thought flashed through Yongno's mind.
However, he quickly disregarded it since extending the online relationship to offline networks was far from being himself.
Instead of having useless thoughts, Yongno closed the front door and opened the box, but all he found inside were just a pair of earphones, a user manual, and a CD.

Is that all? Yongno was dumbfounded. 

They don't even provide a headset? Is it actually possible to access virtual reality using only these devices?

“No way.”

When Yongno heard the words 'virtual reality’ from the unidentified, middle-aged man, the first thing that crossed his mind was a capsule, the cutting-edge coffin that the player laid down flat inside with all kinds of equipment attached to his body.

However, the only electronic device that came in the box was these earphones.
What did they expect him to do with just a pair of hearing devices? Did they want him to just listen to the most realistic sound?

“It's indeed a scam.
Well, it didn't make sense from the beginning.”

The world Yongno lived in had cars running on the road, not in the sky.
No such thing as a space house existed on the moon yet; thousands of unconquered diseases still remained on Earth.
As for virtual reality, it wasn’t just an immersive presentation of an artificial environment itself but was a game made with a simulated experience of the real world.

From Yongno's point of view, virtual reality was likely to require the same level of the most advanced technology applied to the aforementioned things, but…

“The android looked so real…”

Yongno recalled the unbelievable sight he witnessed a week ago.
It was neither an illusion nor a fantasy unless someone had secretly fed him drugs.

An android was indeed an object beyond current technology, but huge advances in scientific discoveries and computer technologies were also necessary to deceive Yongno with such a sight.

Thus, using revolutionary technology to commit a 5,000-won fraud scheme was illogical.
And now that he came to think of it, the earphones and user manual in the box seemed to cost more than that, so this wasn’t even a 5,000-won scam. 

“Well, just as the delivery guy says, I'll figure it out once I run the game.”

Yongno inserted the CD into the CD-ROM drive to install the program, and while he waited he read the user manual that explained the set-up and equipment.
However, Yongno was good with computers, so the information was unnecessary.
What caught his eyes, instead, was the precaution section. 

“D.I.O.(Dynamic Island Online), the fantasy world, comes with a CD and interacting device attached to the earphone …
D.I.O, pronounced as Dee-oh, doesn't require internet, therefore a WAN port is unnecessary, so there's no problem with using it in isolated places––WHAT?”

It didn’t make sense.
How could someone run an online game without using the internet? Yongno felt it was absurd, but he continued reading the user guide.

“D.I.O will run when the included CD and interacting device are linked to the same computer.
However, using a pirated CD or running a copied file from the computer will deny access to D.I.O.
Wearing the connector-attached headphones/earphones improperly or having the audio volume too low may cause an access-denied error.
While D.I.O is running, if someone touches your body, you take off your earphones/headphones, or the computer shuts down, you will be forcefully logged out…
WHAT? How can that be possible when this game uses no internet? And it's possible to access the virtual world just by wearing earphones?”

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Yongno wondered about it for a moment, then he tugged at the earphones to check the interacting device on them.
The size was even smaller than his two fingers.
How could just putting this tiny device on a regular earphone enable virtual reality?

“Ugh, never mind.
If I were to start complaining about it, it could go on endlessly.”

Having decided to just move on, Yongno put the earphones into his ears.
His computer had completed the installation.
Yongno ran the program, then a messenger window popped up on the right side of the monitor with a rounded icon that said [Connect] on it. 

“Do we just connect without any login page? Besides, this is…”

Without a second thought, Yongno clicked the [message] button on the messenger and entered random characters using the keyboard.
When he clicked the [send] button, a message appeared on the screen.

/No users online/

“Oh, so this allows me to send a message to the users online…”

Now he was able to roughly grasp the situation.
The program was serious about making an online game that didn’t require an internet connection but just used an earphone that had an interacting device to access a virtual reality.

“Oh, it's already past ten.”

Doing the installation and wondering about many things had taken too much of his time.
Yongno found that the opening time had already passed.
However, it was just three minutes past ten, so the server would be jammed with other users as long as it was accessible.

“Let's just turn it on and see what happens.
First of all, press the connect button…”

/In the beginning, I felt sorrow…/

“What is this?”

A man's voice, close to a whisper, resonated in soft music. Yongno lifted his head again to look at the screen.
On the monitor, the loading bar showed an increase in percentage as time went by.

/For I had nothing that I desired…/

The voice continued.
It sounded masculine, dignified, and thick, even pleasant to Yongno's ears despite him being of the same gender.
However, Yongno had no idea what he was talking about.

/Still, I wish and hope…/

“What the heck is this? Is this the login page?”

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Yongno was perplexed that nothing had actually changed yet, but the voice coming through the earphones continued nonchalantly nonetheless.
The soft music had also turned faster and deeper at some point. 

/Here I am trying to create a new world…/

“What do you want me to do…?” Yongno grumbled as the music reached its climax.

/You shall be free here and now./

As if someone had hit his brain off-switch, Yongno lost consciousness and fell asleep. 


“So, I just finished delivering it to the 413th house, right? Geez, it takes longer than I expected.”

It was true that the delivery was delayed.
Since the opening time of D.I.O.
was ten, the man tried to hand over all of the interacting devices by nine, but still, he had eighty-seven of them left undelivered.

“Why are they so curious…? All they have to do is just turn it on.”

Besides, there were other problems.
Some people resisted paying the 5,000 won for the delivery.
The delivery guy was not obsessed with money but just felt that it wasn't fair that some paid and some didn't.
He even encountered some woman trying to flirt with him because of his attractive appearance.

“I'm tired.
If I can, I just want to throw everything away.”

The moment he murmured, “But I must follow the order anyway…” a paper box suddenly appeared on his left palm.
He didn't pick it up or take it out from somewhere, but it just showed up all of a sudden like magic.
Despite the marvelous trick, the man lifted his other hand apathetically and knocked on the door.


The wall 'opened.' There wasn't a door hidden in the concrete wall, but with a cracking sound, he created a door made of wood, not stone.
If others saw it, they would be doubting whether their brains or visions were functioning properly.
What happened was that unbelievable, but the man remained apathetic as he entered and shut the door.


The wooden entrance became blurry as soon as it closed, then it was literally erased from the bottom upwards and gone without a trace. 

Yongno realized that he was standing in a strange room.
The weird situation struck him dumb. 

“When was I moved to this place? In my memories, the door was definitely locked.”

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He was about to quickly take out his phone and check the time, but he couldn’t find it anywhere.
Not only was his phone missing, his clothes had also been changed.
Everything he had on himself was gone; now he was only wearing clothes made of blue fabric.

“Ahaha! That funny face.” Someone giggled. 


While Yongno became befuddled at the sudden voice, the spatial space before him was split open and a girl with silver hair appeared.
She was a tall and slender beauty.
Yongno was a person who didn’t find any actresses, models, or TV personalities interesting, but even in his eyes, the girl looked overwhelmingly pretty. 

No, instead of using the word 'pretty,' this girl in her late teens could be better described as beautiful or gorgeous.
If modeling agencies or entertainment companies could see her appearance, they would pay millions, no, even billions to sign with her. 

Just a few days ago, Yongno was astonished to see the captivating beauty, Alice, but he was now deeply wondering when this world began to have so many goddess-like ladies around him.

Alice asked, “Haha, even though you all know that you're accessing the program to enter virtual reality, every one of you becomes so dumbstruck. Is it so unbelievable?”

“You sound like you’re saying this place is a virtual world…”

“Correct.” The girl flaunted a refreshing smile.

Yongno touched his body, showing a look of strong distrust on his face.
His body was there; his feet were touching the ground.
Everything felt real as if he was experiencing reality itself. 

Yongno asked, tilting his head, “No way.
Did you kidnap me while I was asleep!?”

“Oh my! You aren't even some dignitaries or big shot.
Do you think you're worthy enough for me to go to the extent of kidnapping you?”

I think so… The words flashed through his head, but Yongno realized that she had no idea about his background.

“Ugh, the world is full of distrust.
Am I supposed to show you evidence?” groaned the girl.


“Yeah, maybe something like this…?”

The moment she dropped that remark, a spatial space opened.
The girl held two blades in her hands.
The blade of the right sword glinted splendidly with a blue tint, whereas the red one on the left looked impressive, as though it would be ablaze with flames at any time.
As if they were made as a pair, both looked exactly the same, except for their colors.
The exquisite design even left Yongno, who knew nothing about blades, in no doubt that these were fine swords.

Around 5 USD ☜

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