Viewing as Guest
Date Published: August 22nd, 2013
** All characters, places, and situations in this fan fiction are completely fictitious. Royal Road belongs to the original author of LMS, Nam Hi Sung. None of the information used to create this fan fiction is reliable. Warning: contains some mature content. **
“I’m especially interested in the one named Kim Ha Yoon.”
“Ah… did you read her file?”
“Yes, but from her actions in the game, she doesn’t seem like a criminal.”
“She seems like a girl stamped down by life.”
“But what she did…”
“That doesn’t matter in Royal Road. Giving people like her another chance… that’s what HOPE is for. Letting them unfurl their wings and soar…”
No… I’m not… I didn’t…
DEMON! MONSTER! MURDERER!
Her eyes flew open, and she curled into herself, clenching her fists. Again… memories of that time had come to haunt her again. There was no peace, in living or in dreams. No escape.
In the darkness of her cell, she rubbed her wrist absentmindedly. It was almost healed again. The purplish mass of bruises on her arms was slowly fading, though it didn’t matter. The Harpies would be back soon. It was almost the end of the week.
She lay in bed for a little longer, holding the scratchy, ragged blanket to her chin. Another day. Another beating. Harpy One would give her hell today—she’d been punished for a bad set of stitches yesterday, and was looking for something—or someone—to beat.
An earsplitting bell burst out, and the slim girl rose unsteadily to her feet. As she did so, the lights in the main hall flickered on, and the darkness crept away from her cell, revealing a small, oval face and pale complexion. Her dirty, crudely cropped hair maintained its sheen despite years of neglect. Once, she might have even called herself beautiful, but those innocent days were long lost. It was a cursed body, and a cursed soul.
“ROW ONE! OUT!” a harsh voice split the air, and she heard the bzzt of locks being opened and the scraping sounds of the doors.
She shuffled up to her door, and after the buzz of the lock, she pushed the door to the side and stepped out. The others were doing the same, and they lined up before their cells as the jailer marched past. He was a thickset man with a taser strapped to his waist and a metal rod wrapped in his beefy hands. And he wasn’t afraid to use it, either. One whack of that rod would pummel through the flesh and strike bone. It was best to avoid eye contact with him.
The man—the only one in the hall, besides the guards—strode down the length of the cells, then back. He glared at everyone, then bellowed, “BREAKFAST,” as the doors opened to the dining hall, if one could even call it that. She stayed in the shadow of her cell as the others filtered into the dining hall, then scurried after them before the jailer could take notice of her. The end of the line was the safest place, though sometimes there wasn’t much food left. It was better than being shoved aside and getting no food at all.
When it was her turn, the Miss, the homely meal lady, shoveled some gruel into her bowl, and shot her a brief smile. For some reason, the Miss was always kind to her. Maybe it was because she always nodded her head in thanks before taking the gruel, or because she was always at the end. It didn’t matter, but the Miss wasn’t a bad person.
She took her bowl to a table in the corner and made herself as small as possible. There were two others sitting there, but she didn’t look at them, and focused on the morning’s porridge. Tasteless and pasty as always, it squelched down her throat, but it was sustenance. She had considered starving herself before, but the Miss would have noticed and the jailer might have found out. That’d be no good.
After breakfast, there was usually a little "free" time before they were herded into the sewing factory. Tension pooled in her body as she readied herself. Soon—
A mean-faced bitch slammed her palm onto Ha Yoon’s table. There was an ugly gleam in her coal eyes.
“Ya ready, Ha Yoon?” Harpy One grabbed her chin and wrenched it towards her, then planted a slobbery kiss on her lips, laughing. Ha Yoon steadied the sudden motion forward with her palms and focused on a point on the wall over Harpy One’s shoulder.
“Haa, you’re the best, Ha Yoon. It’s gonna get real hot today. Unni’s gonna treat you reaaaaaal good!”
Ha Yoon didn’t reply.
Harpy One’s lips twisted and a sudden strength bruised Ha Yoon’s chin. “Not replying, Ha Yoon? Think you’re better than us, ‘cus of your pretty little face?” The other Harpies twittered, then closed in.
Just then, the dining hall doors slammed open and the jailer’s hoarse yell brought everyone’s attention to the front. Harpy One tched and stepped away.
A neat woman in a business suit looked over them with her piercing eyes. Next to the meaty jailer, she looked tiny and vulnerable, with her hair tied into a bun and her clean suit. Nevertheless, the pride and authority in her demeanor were admirable. A woman like her coming to a place like this had to have a lot of courage.
The woman’s eyes settled on Ha Yoon and the Harpies for a while, then flickered away. She coughed, and said, “My name is Park Sun Ja. I’m here to start a new experimental program at Kang Prison, called HOPE.”
At the sound of that ridiculous name, Harpy One crossed her arms and barked out a bold laugh. It was a dangerous move, with the jailer so near, but she was ignored. The other Harpies followed suit and giggled nervously.
Park Sun Ja’s eyes swept over the Harpies again, but she looked away and addressed the crowd of inmates again. “HOPE is a program that will bring a number of inmates a new technology created by Unicorn Corporation, called capsules. These capsules will link to Royal Road, the first ever Virtual Reality.
Royal Road is hailed as the most realistic game to ever be created. Once inside, all of your senses will be linked to the new world, a place called the Versailles Continent. Your motions and your interactions with other people and monsters will be rendered to a realism of 99%.
We have chosen several test subjects for this program. Those of you who will be participating will be living almost 24 hours a day within Royal Road. Please stand up and come to the front as your name is called. Ahn Yong Hoon, Bae Yae Ra, Choi Yoon Mi, Choi Bo Ra, Geum Sung Woo…” as she listed off the names, the corresponding women stood and shuffled up, looking slightly dazed and confused.
Most of the inmates here had never played a game before, and none had ever played a VRMMORPG. Park Sun Ja’s terminology had flown over all of their heads, and they were scared because all they’d really understood was “test subjects,” which didn’t sound so pleasant. But it was something new, something to break the monotony of prison life, and as people rose to go up front, others felt the twinge of jealousy spring to life within them.
“…Han Ji Min, Hwang Myung Soo…” Harpy One straightened, laughed, and strode up. The other Harpies cheered a little.
“… Kim Ha Yoon…”
Ha Yoon looked up. What? She was chosen? Her? Displeasure seeped into her as she stood unsteadily. This was not good. Even without looking, Ha Yoon could tell that the smirk on the Harpies’ faces had transformed into something far more violent and dangerous. She could feel the heat of their envy and hatred seethe on her back as she stumbled to the front. Harpy One looked momentarily shocked, then rolled her eyes and bared her teeth in a smile. Ha Yoon took a spot as far away from that malicious grin as possible.
“… Shin Yoon Gyung, and Yoon Hye Suk.” Finished, Park Sun Ja turned aside to look at the chosen women. They were an assorted bunch, everyone with different stories to tell, and all of them absolutely wretched.
“Follow me. I’ll take you to the new facility that was installed, the Link Room.” Without further explanation, the imposing and stately woman whirled on her feet and strode away. The bewildered inmates, exactly fifty in number, hastily followed, and several guards materialized out of the darkness to surround them. They may have been chosen, but this was still a prison.
The group, spearheaded by Park Sun Ja, went through halls they’d never seen before. On an average day, all they saw was the dismal insides of their cells, the dank dining hall, and the dimly lit sewing factory. But they were walking through a new hall. It smelled clean, and their grimy shoes squeaked on the shiny floor.
Park Sun Ja stopped in front of a wide door. On the front was a plaque inscribed with the words, “Welcome to Royal Road.”