The Zero Delta Center, if Zekar’s trading district was considered the lighter, the well renown part of the underworld, then the Zero Delta Center is the darker side of it.
Although Zekar was the figurehead of the underworld, all he could do is manage it, there were some parts that even he couldn’t change, and that was the human heart.
Greed, lust, and desire were natural traits that made people human and if Zekar had suppressed these desires then what was the meaning in life for his fellow inhabitants? It was easier to end their sufferings early or rebel against the system that he would have created. If Zekar had suppressed the desires of his people what difference would that make compared to the hypocritical influential rich families on the surface world?
In the end, he accepted that part of humanity if people were free to do what they want to do they wouldn’t feel restrained, he understood that the collective will of the community will still be able to make reasonable decisions based on logic, despite the unsettling crime rates.
And those thoughts were what help create the Zero Delta Center.
Luon stepped into the new zone first time and felt a magical force pass through his body. Although barely noticeable Luon managed to sense the changes.
‘So this is the anti-system barrier,’ Luon thought after he entered the district. After Luon had heard about their destination, he had asked Zekar for more details about it.
From what Luon had learned was that if there were a great place to learn how to use the NG-Arms, then the Zero Delta Center would be precisely that. However, it wasn’t free. When Zekar heard about his request before he did not advertise the Zero Delta Center mainly because of one thing, excessive gambling.
When they arrive at the district, a barrier type of magic will cause the usage and monitoring done by the BMPU to be useless. Because of this, there was a lot of scum around those parts and the easiest way for humans to surpass one another was to steal and gamble. Although Luon and his gang had little to no interest in that, the residents weren’t the same. What Luon wanted access to was the R Zero program.
It was an underground NG-Arms dedicated combat sport that took place within a particular type of Vortex Containers that were connected to the underground network. If Luon did not inform Zekar about his destination beforehand, he would have had to use the public underground Vortex Container, which was a dangerous thing to do.
When newcomers come to the Zero Delta Center for the first time, a few small-time thugs couldn’t help but wait for them to exit before robbing them. Imagine waking up after a good night’s rest to a bunch of weirdos waiting for you to wake up before beating you senseless.
Fortunately, Zekar had a private building inside the Zero Delta Center that was equipped with several Vortex Containers that were connected to the system.
Another frightening thing was the R Zero system itself, it was a training program which provided a week’s worth of training for free in exchange for another week of brutal fights. Since it was all virtual, the damaging aspect of things was fine, however, what made people truly afraid was the reaction of the residents who gambled their savings on newcomers.
If they performed well, then the residents who gambled against them would be out for them, if they performed poorly then the residents who betted their savings on them would be out for their lives. It was a paradox with no solution, even with Zekar supporting him and providing Luon protection, these poor and addicted people couldn’t help but take vengeance with their own hands.
This was the reason why not many had taken this course, to train a chicken for a chicken fight they needed time and resources and someone wanted them dead, the ugly side of humanity would appear before them.
Luon and his friends walked towards the private building Zekar had provided them while receiving the awkward, penetrating stares from their surroundings.
The reaction between their team members were all differed after arriving, Luon sent his gaze about and only thought, ‘These people… don’t they have anything better to do? Simply waiting at the entrance, why couldn’t they get a job? Was it because their hard earned money would only get stolen, so there was no point in working? What luxury, to sit and do nothing is the most unproductive thing to do, however, I won’t judge their way of living, neither will I attempt to change it, unless they go after us that is.’
As Luon simply thought about how inefficient these humans were, Gizmos, on the other hand, was full of smiles as he lightly greeted the inhabitants with a wave of his hand. Bendan was excitedly gazing about as if he was on tour and Tyron was quietly positioned in the back with his guard up.
As they have arrived at the venue, they had met a familiar face. The orc Torgan stood in front of the building as he beckoned Luon and the crew to enter.
“Hello Torgan, aren’t you supposed to be at your shop right now? Why are you here?” Luon asked.
Torgan gave him a wry smile as he said, “Ikka’tor brethren, Zekar told me to look out for you guys in case you get into any trouble. My store wasn’t that popular anyway, so he got one of his trainee managers to replace me in the meantime. He’s also paying me for this service. How could I refuse such a great offer?”
Gizmo nodded as he asked, “Are you familiar with the R Zero System? I’ve only heard about it before but we’ve never seen any of the matches, it would be great if you knew a thing or two about it.”
Torgan laughed and nodded as he said, “Of course I know a bit about it. Zekar got me gathering all the possible information I can get about it yesterday, from the instruction manual to the previous replays, you can see everything you need to know about it inside. Here come inside, it’s better to talk in a more comfortable and private matter.”
Torgan began to guide the group inside the building, it was a three-story building which had bedrooms on the second and third floor and necessary utilities on the first floor.
Torgan got everyone to pick a room to settle their belongings and called everyone to the living room on the first floor.
He then began to explain what the entire process of the R Zero system and how to apply for it.
After logging into the Vortex container that was located in each room, they first appear in the underworld market server. There are no private or local room channels compared to the world above. Instead, there was only one public server where people would vent their desires digitally. In fact, if Luon and the others wanted to, they could access the mature and restricted content found inside of the vortex containers despite not being old enough.
However, Luon and the others were utterly ignorant of this fact as they walked around the plaza aimlessly until they found a map indicating the direction where they needed to go. When the group arrived at their destination, while ignoring the seductive appeal that some women displayed between alleyways, they met a man with an eye mask sleeping at the entrance.
Luon double checked his current position as he asked a random passerby only to receive the confirmation that this was indeed the training facility. Seeing how they were going nowhere as long as the man was sleeping Luon woke him by saying, “Excuse me, is this where we apply for the NG-Arms trading program?”
After saying those words a few seconds pass, and there was no response. The crew looked at each other asking themselves what they should do next? It was at this moment where Bendan responded with a smacking sound as he slammed his hand against the table. The loud noise caused the man’s body to jerk a bit before he removed his eye mask and said, ”What was that for?! Can’t you see that I was busy with something?”
Bendan scoffed as he said, “Busy with something? More like just plain sleeping, why would you want to sleep while in the Vortex Container anyways? There’s no need to sleep in your in virtual reality.”
The man sighs as he despondingly says, “Youngsters these days, don’t understand the charm of sleeping while sleeping. So? What are you guys here for?”
Youngsters? Looking at the man before them Luon could hardly tell their age differences. The man was handsome, it wasn’t the mature, fit male type of attractiveness. He was more of the beautiful androgynous kind if it weren’t the fact that his clothes were outfitted for men they would have thought he was a female.
Looking at him carefully, Luon couldn’t help but ogle for a second, befitting of the golden ratio structure his long black hair was tied back in a knot, revealing more of his face that showed no signs of acne. The man’s heterochromia sapphire blue and crimson red eyes gazed at the group as if waiting for them to say something worthy of his time.
Luon cleared his throat as he said, “We’re here to apply for the NG-Arms R Zero program. This is the right place it not?”
The man looked at Luon as if evaluating him causing Luon to be slightly embarrassed as he had done so himself. The man then replied, “Are you sure about this? Don’t get me wrong, anyone can apply to the program. However, we do not provide protection to people who finish the program. If one of our guests comes to attack you after you have completed the training period, we are not liable for anything that happens.”
Luon nodded in response causing the man to sigh as he said, “Alright then, all you need to do is fill out this entry form if you really want to enter the program, of course, it’s free.”
After saying those words, he gave Luon, Bendan, Tyron, and Gizmo the application through their BMPUs as they signed the holographic application and sent it back to him. After confirming their agreement, the man stood up as he said, “Although it would be only a short while, welcome to the R Zero Program, I am the instructor, Lin Valentine. You can call me Instructor Lin as long as you’re my students. This two-week program is divided between foundation development and practical combat. After a week of learning how to use your NG-Arm you will all enter the arena to fight, to graduate you will need to win 5 times in a row without losing, if you fail to do so, well then you’ll have to stay a bit longer than usual.”
“What? We have to stay even longer? I thought we can just leave after two weeks,” Gizmo exclaimed.
“The program at most is two weeks, however, if you fail to graduate and leave early, then you will be fined half of what a real NG-Arms would have cost. Did you not read the terms of service on the application?” asked Lin.
“Who reads that stuff? I bet you half of what an NG-Arms would cost that nobody actually reads that stuff,” said Gizmo.
“Who would want a bet with something so obviously true? You are now in the program now, and the contract is law binding so if you leave now then your BMPU will wire me the payment. And if you’re too poor then there’s a method to pay in installments,” Lin nonchalantly replied.
“You-” before Gizmo can say any more words Luon stopped him. Luon then said, “It won’t matter as long as we win in the arena, isn’t that right?” Luon asked.
“Yes, that’s right,” Lin confirmed. Seeing how they somewhat accepted the situation, Lin then said, “Follow me, I’ll show you guys your temporary residences if you leave the Vortex Container at any time remember you have half a day to return before you charged for abandonment. Our first class will start after room arrangements are done.”
Lin began to guide the group around the facility as well as settle their rooms, however, as they continued to explore the facility, Luon noticed a particular fact.
‘There’s no one here,’ thought Luon. There was no need for cleaning services since everything was virtual, there was also no need for food unless one wanted to satiate their mentality.
The building was completely void of people, not a single trainee could be seen. After all, who could accept such a crazy condition that one was unable to leave unless they win 5 times in a row without losing in the arena?
Luon looked at the back of his instructor as they walked and he thought, “Is he really a guy? Should I use my Eye of Insight to find out?”
Ultimately Luon decided not to, he thought if he actually did use the skill and found Lin’s true gender it would signify that he was interested in the being named Lin. Luon didn’t care about it, either way, all he wanted to do was learn how to use the NG-Arms more effectively so they can win the tournament more easily.
Soon enough, their first lesson began after the tour. Gathered in an empty courtyard, Lin got everyone to equip their NG-Arms. Lin said, “Alright, the class will begin with understanding how much you know about using NG-Arms and how good you are with it.”
Lin took an imposing pose and beckoned, “It’s been a while since I’ve had an opponent. All of you come at me, let me see your strength.”