“I’m still working on it, and it’s getting a decent response. The feedback isn’t too bad either.”
“Good. That’s a relief then. As you know, you’ve passed the usual job-seeking age. If there’s not much of a chance with this, maybe look for a job related to your major.”
I loved games and drawing and had always dreamed of launching a game of my own. And I wanted to turn that into a profession. I always believed that doing what you love wasn’t just a distant dream.
But reality continued to bear down on my shoulders. While I kept reassuring myself that I hadn’t been at it for long, deep down, I knew the world wouldn’t give me much time.
With a bitter expression, I retreated into my room.
Immediately, the stagnant Unity software screen with a PowerPoint screen greeted me.
“Ah, I need to finish the story. I’ve got all the artwork done, but why can’t I think of a story…”
Drawing has been a hobby since my childhood, and my development skills were decent with my launching experience. But one thing – the story was my Achilles’ heel. No matter how much I racked my brain for weeks, nothing came to me.
This was my last chance to venture into development. I wanted to hire a story planner, but for a job-seeking graduate like me, finding a partner was no easy task.
I tried every way possible, but every time, things fell through at the last moment. In the end, coming up with the story became solely my responsibility.
“…Story, please come to my mind. Why can’t I think of anything? I’d even sell my soul to the devil if it would bring me a story.”
After much contemplation, even if I somehow filled the blank page, the text would soon disappear. Writing like this would doom me. For weeks, I stared at the empty word-processing window, pouring alcohol instead of words.
Eventually, I opened a bottle of soju.
I didn’t want to disappoint my family. My drunk head slumped onto the desk. The poor keyboard, pressed under my forehead, endlessly typed ‘ㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜ’ on the PowerPoint screen, as if crying with me.
[System]: Welcome to the Labyrinth.
In this game, your senses, as well as your overall physical status, are connected to your actual body. You cannot exit the program until you clear it.
A strange voice sounded.
It was as if that mechanical sound came from an invisible speaker.
“Where am I? And who are you?”
Roused halfway from sleep, I lifted my head and looked around in confusion. It felt as though I was alone in a broadcasting room, hearing someone’s voice while doing a night shift.
[System]: Don’t be afraid!
If you carefully clear the quests, you won’t die. Probably?
I was surrounded by wooden planks as if I were in an attic. A place I had never seen before; it immediately sobered me up. Was I kidnapped?
[System]: This game, <Palace of Sin>, projects content that has already been planned and developed within the developer’s subconscious. The reward for completing the game is undoubtedly the complete story that the developer has been longing for.
What on earth is this incomprehensible talk? What’s been completed in my subconscious?
[System]: As you may know, the objective of the game is for a petty thief turned into a maid to safely escape from the imperial palace in extreme conditions. You see the transparent bar below, right? It displays an overall achievement level based on item collection, quest completion, and escape rate.
You can also strategize to turn potential adversaries into allies, one by one.
Although it was unmistakably a mechanical voice, there was a subtle sultriness in the word ‘allies’. I didn’t have a moment to grasp the full meaning.
[System]: Unfortunately, it seems I must leave you now. We probably won’t meet again until you clear the game. Please discover each rule one by one and enjoy the game at your own pace. Well then, good luck.
Why am I having such a bizarre dream? Wanting to escape the eerie feeling, I wished to wake up quickly.
For a while, I rapidly snapped my fingers. However, the dream didn’t break. Usually, such movements would cause an uncomfortable buzzing sensation, shaking me out of a nightmare.
Could it be? Just maybe?
I raised my palms and slapped my cheeks hard. It might be cliché, but it was one of the classic, useful methods to distinguish between dream and reality.
Slap, smack. I tried repeatedly and loudly.
Though I was sure that this wasn’t real. However, the cheek I slapped stung fiercely. That sensation soon spread as a sharp chill throughout my skin.
It hurt. It was so painful it felt like tinnitus in my ears.
In my ringing mind, the words the speaker said earlier resurfaced.
<Palace of Sin>.
That strangely familiar title was the title of the game I had created.
It meant nothing. I just named it on a whim because it sounded cool.
‘The game I made. My game, where I only crafted the framework and left the story aside…’
Though unbelievable, I couldn’t deny it either. Whether or not this was really my game, I eagerly awaited waking up from this unpleasant dream.
Then, from a distance, I saw light. Sunlight streamed in through a window no larger than a palm, illuminating a note on the drawer. The allure was too great to resist approaching.
Steal the most valuable, beautiful, yet crude gem from the continent.
And then, run.
What’s this note about? Do they want me to commit theft as well? Isn’t escaping challenging enough? And that too, the most valuable gem on the continent? I clicked my tongue at the absurd difficulty. After all, this was the game I made.
Curiosity began to eclipse my fear as I wondered if this place was really the <Palace of Sin>. After all, it’s just a dream. Since the dream itself is asserting that this is my game, shouldn’t I experience it until I wake up? It’s a bit strange to feel pain, but I was about to shrug it off.
Just then, I heard a strange noise from the next room. Swallowing hard, I nervously opened the wooden door, held together by shoddy nails.
The moment the gap opened, I was greeted by the thick scent of blood. A man, his head slightly tilted, was tied to a wooden chair. His entire body was covered in deep wounds, making him appear as if he had been bathed in blood.