Lucas didn't remember when was the last time he saw Renjun's presence in their shared dorm.
It had been a while since China line ended their promotion in their homeland, but works didn't seem to lessen. In fact, they were getting worse as days passed. Lucas didn't remember when he got a proper, nice 8-hours sleep as he did before in South Korea. Same applied to his fellow members. If he remembered it right, Kun had been busy to release a new Chinese OST, Winwin appeared in a survival show thus rarely spends time home, Renjun had been going forth from Korea and China as apparently, he was occupied with something he didn't spill, and Chenle appeared in quite a lot of both Korean and Chinese variety shows.
Himself? He also appeared on variety shows like Chenle, but he also did a lot of modeling jobs. But his works couldn't be compared to Renjun who kept going by airplanes like every week. Sometimes, Lucas thought Renjun must be sick of riding planes by now.
But he didn't know that the "golden hand" owner doesn't go to Korea as much as he thought. In fact, he rarely came out of his room that made him unnoticeable.
Lucas couldn't remember since when his little Huang Renjun turned into a homebody.
One day when Renjun was away from the dorm and he happened to have a day off, Lucas barged into the younger and Winwin's shared room. He began to dig around and looking for hints. Maybe he was watching movies. Maybe he was drawing his beloved Moomin. Maybe he was practicing his painting skill. Or maybe, he was catching sleep he couldn't get because his busy schedules. He didn't find anything in the end and making a mess instead.
He wanted to conclude his search by "Renjun is just catching his sleep." But then, he found something interesting when he tidied up the messy bed.
A futuristic red sunglasses plugged into nearby electric socket hidden under the pillow.
"Hm? What is this?"
He hid it back and tidied the mess he made. He left the room fast.
He made a right decision though. Renjun returned 30 minutes after he went and locked himself in the room as usual. This is the first time he saw him for that month.
He seemed a little thinner, right?
"Hey, do you know about strange sunglasses in Renjun's room?" Lucas asked, which gained .
The two were spending time in the living room, along with Chenle and Winwin who got a day off in China. Renjun was away to Korea (again) and it seemed like this time will be a quite long trip to their second homeland. The younger left too early. Winwin kept whining that he hasn't seen Renjun's face for months because he rarely came home and he left so early. Chenle laughed at his older brother's funny behavior, while Kun held his head--showing he got a massive headache as if he never got it before. Doesn't he get it everyday in promotion period??
"Glasses? Do you mean 'Amulet'?" Chenle chirped in, clearly interested.
"What is that?" Kun asked.
When the youngest of China line about to explain, a commercial caught his attention. He immediately pointed at it.
A woman in dark purple-colored and light pink highlight half ponytail hair, wearing something similar to Victorian-Era female clothing, fighting against a lot bigger unrecognizable monster with magic powers. Beside her also standing a light blonde braided hair woman, wore green elves outfits, assisted her by attacking from a far. After the two showed to win the impossible battle, a line appeared and a title came out, with their release date after that.
"That game is one of the game released for VRMMORPG. In bet you all know what is VR and what is MMORPG separately," Chenle explained.
"Okay but what the sunglasses have to with this?"
"Normal VR console has hand controller, right? Amulet is an advanced version of VR console. They don't require hand controllers anymore--you can just use your mind and walked inside the fictional world like it was your own body walking inside it! I never really tried it but it seems our beloved Renjun-ge gotten his hands in this holy console first. It's really popular nowadays."
Lucas understood it immediately and kept quiet.
He had another question in his mind but he stayed quite.
It's a question that only Renjun can reply and he didn't need to ask someone else for that.
"Hey, little brother. Can I ask you something?"
Renjun was sitting in the kitchen counter, eating a cup of Korean instant noodle, when Lucas arrived home. He looked really tired, he got even thinner than the last time and it had been a month since he saw him. He didn't understand how their manager could let him go like this.
Despite looking surprised, he still smiled warmly, which gave him a taint of living presence.
"Welcome home," he replied.
"Sorry, I didn't know it's you..." he said again, this time with a slurp.
"It's fine. But at least you are out from your room and I can speak to you without futuristic sunglasses as our mediator."
Lucas put down his training bag and joined the younger in the kitchen. He picked another Korean cup instant noodle, opened the lid, pour the hot water and brought it to the kitchen counter. Sitting beside the Jilin-born boy, he watched him eating in quiet. Wondered whether he should ask about that game or stayed quiet, considering there is nothing happened at all before.
But his curiosity almost killed him. He wanted an explanation more than anything. Did something happened? Renjun isn't a type to play a game in long term, he played but it didn't amuse him as much as Chenle or Jisung. He also preferred to do productive things such as cooking or chatting with someone else. To Lucas, Renjun plays game but he rarely stayed in his room for more than 24 hours just for a stupid game. This is confusing.
"Futuristic sunglasses? Did Win-ge told you?" Renjun asked.
"No. I found it by accident when I want to take something from Win-ge. He said you used it everyday," Lucas replied, slurped his noodle.
"It's a game console. What's interesting about it? I thought you aren't a gamer."
"But it's comfortable."
"That's not a reason."
Renjun drank the noodle broth and checked if he left any drops behind. After he was done, he drank mineral water from a bottle in front of him. Some seconds passed in silence before Renjun spoke.
"Do you know that sometimes, gems could be found in a land you don't expect at all?"
Lucas stayed quiet.
"In that game, I find comfort I couldn't find in this world. In that world people thought to be a horror place, I was able to create a personality I desired. Also, I was able to see a lot of new things I couldn't see by my own eyes and it's fascinating to see it. That's the gems.
But I do understand my sudden change. I can't help it. Rather than saying I'm addicted to the game itself, it's more like I feel better in that illusion world rather than in this world. I still love singing, I love being an idol. I love my fans. I love NCT members and of course I care about you, Ge. But sometimes, I just want to run away and it turns out I prefer it that way than now...
I'm sorry, Ge. But I don't want to stop what I've been doing now."
"I won't say anything. I have no authority over your life, it's your choice. But you know, I'm worried because you are overplaying that game to the point you got a lot thinner in these past months. If Mark saw this, he would freaked out," Lucas replied.
"Yeah. That's why I didn't bring the thing to Korea," Renjun said.
"You don't want him to know?"
"I can get into a big problem if he knows. Haha, though I bet he will know soon. Chenle knows, right?"
Behind them, the television showed the same commercial movie Lucas saw several days ago. The two stayed quiet as Lucas finished his meal.
"Argent gemstone," Renjun said.
"The character with purple hair in that CM. She has argent-colored eyes. The eyes that charming a lot of players, but also capable to bring them down and become the strongest in that world. She is called "Queen Argent" by the players because of her eye color. No one knows her real name, but Argent sticks to her and people decided to go with that name."
"Don't ever touch this game even once. Once you do it, you won't be able to pull away."
Renjun stood and left the kitchen to return to his room. But not before glancing at Lucas who watched him without saying anything.
He must say, at that time, he thought Renjun is beautiful. He seemed to be showered with sun light even thought it's night. So pretty that made him forgot to breath.
"Anyway, Hyung. It's nice to talk to you after a while. I'm glad I decided to come out.
Thank you... And uhmm....
Please, forgive me...
The younger said, waved his hand a little and went to his room. Vanished from Lucas' vision.
Maybe he didn't realize it at all. Maybe he thought he understood the younger, so he let him be. He did understand that to Renjun, the game has been a significant part of his life and he wasn't able to pull himself out from it. But as if assuring him that everything will be okay, Lucas got a feeling that he should trust the younger's decision rather than stopping him from it.
Maybe he was too blind by his love.
So he failed to notice that Huang Renjun came out from his room in order to say goodbye to him.
As after this, an unthinkable disaster will occurred and it would take half of NCT members in process.
One year after Myria Online game locked their "log out" feature and turned the whole game into a 'survival' game.
"Their conditions are still stable. Seems like they did well in that game."
Lucas heard the doctor gave an explanation to Kun, as he sat in front of a ward believed to be another player's room. The game took like two million players from around the world as they locked all ten servers and didn't let any player came out from the game or they would die. The hospital was too busy to take care a lot of comatose players. This including his members as well--but they were able to be taken care home.
Glad to everyone, Amulet console used battery as their main power source. They could move the body easily if something happened, but when they are at home, it's better to have the console charged and made sure there wouldn't be any major electric cut-off. Getting them off the console or having them ran out of battery mean "kill the player". At least, they don't need to worry about killing them as long as they made sure the battery is full.
His beloved members... His precious little brothers--He couldn't believe out of Dream members, only Haechan and Jaemin survived because Haechan was a step late from joining the disaster game and Jaemin was taking a break from it when the whole tragedy happened. The rest of them is locked inside the malicious game and doesn't show any sign of coming out.
Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, Jaehyun, Winwin, Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Jisung, Chenle.
No one knows what happened inside the game anymore.
No one knows what happened to them.
They only know if they are still breathing, they are alive. And if they are not, then they are dead.
Sometimes, Lucas thought of giving up a lot. He didn't sure whether the members will come back or not. He didn't even sure they would meet each other... There are around 200.000 players in one server. He knew they all signed into the same server, but he couldn't help being pessimistic.
He wondered if Renjun is fine.
His condition seemed to be the worse out of the members--he is malnutrition and had been in coma three months earlier than other members. But he seemed perfectly okay and.. fine.
He should have stopped the younger from falling into his hell. He should do it. He shouldn't believe every single the boy spouted when he met him that night. He should just trust his gut and didn't get swayed--he should just tell Mark everything because he is the only one who can stop this boy's madness!
...because Renjun loves Mark. And Mark returned the love back.
He played the game in order to save him.
Mark played the game in order to save Renjun.
Unlike him, who can only watch his love threw himself and being trapped in the survival game without the courage to stop him...
"Doctor said they will be okay. The sign we saw on Renjun before indeed a sign of them will return soon, nothing needs to be worried," Kun assured, giving him a pat in the head.
He hoped so.
Lucas misses Renjun.
The two Chinese bowed to the doctor, and they went back their dorm.
Waiting for the miracle to happen, as soon as possible. Before Lucas gave up everything and decided to end the things in his own way...