1 Chapter 1: Free At Last?

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Atop the rooftop, a man with raven-black hair perched upon the railing, his gaze fixed upon the city below. Clutched in his hands was a bottle of rum, its amber contents glinting in the light.

His eyes bore a sense of sorrow and emptiness, their gaze fixated on the birds soaring gracefully through the sky. The melodic chirping of the birds filled the air as they darted past the building, seemingly oblivious to the man's presence.

' If only I could be as free as those birds... ' He thought, swallowing the contents of the rum bottle with a heavy sigh. His gaze descended, settling on the crowd below, observing the people as they went about their lives.

' Every day we wake up, eat, work, and work. It's an endless cycle of sorrowful pain. The world makes you believe that you are free, but the truth is that we are all slaves, and we don't have a mind of our own to realize it, ' he thought, continuing to drink the rum. 'And when we work tirelessly for years at their slave job, we finally get to retire, but it's when we are old and can barely move.'

He then poured the remaining contents of the bottle off the building. ' Shit, but I can't blame anyone but myself for choosing a regular life, '

He then climbed down from the railing, throwing the empty bottle aside. With a heavy sigh, he turned and walked back inside, using the door leading down from the rooftop.

Walking down a flight of stairs, his hands tucked inside his pockets, he had a thoughtful expression on his face. Thoughts swirled in his mind as he considered, ' When was the last time I slept? When did I take a day off? '

He came to a stop in front of an iron door. Turning the knob, he swung the door open and stepped inside.

As he opened the door, he found himself in a long white hallway. He continued walking down the corridor, taking several turns, until he eventually arrived at an office.

Beep! Fwosh!

Inside the office, there was a cacophony of noises. People were roaming about, and the room was filled with the sounds of ringing phones, clacking keyboards, and shuffling papers.

" Ron! I need you to start working on these new sketches right away! " a voice shouted as soon as Ron entered the office.

Approaching Ron with a hefty stack of papers was a bald, overweight man wearing a long blue button-up shirt tucked into his black pants. A smug and annoying expression on his face.

" Yes, boss, " I responded meekly as he handed me the stack of papers. Inside my head, I couldn't help but hate my job. ' I work for an anime company as an animator, and it felt like an endless cycle of drawing sketches. I spend hours staring at pieces of paper, and I couldn't even remember the last time I did something for myself. '

I was jolted out of my thoughts as my boss smacked me on the shoulder. " Hey, I know you'll finish it quickly as always," he said with a smile. " After it's finished, you get a day off. " With that, he walked away.

As my boss walked away, I couldn't help but mutter two words under my breath, " Fuck you... "

I approached my desk, setting the stack of papers aside. I took a deep breath, then picked up a sheet from the top of the pile.

' When I was a child, I used to watch anime every single day when it came out. I loved watching the characters fight, and it felt like they were free, doing the things they loved. Now, I'm starting to hate it, as I have to work so hard just to create a few scenes. ' I thought as I began to draw on the piece of paper.

' Let's just finish this, and then I'll finally have a day off, ' I thought to myself as I continued to work on the sketch.

. . . . . . . . .

" Alright, I'll see you guys later, " I waved goodbye to my coworkers and left the building. Now, I was walking home in the night, briefcase in hand. After a while, I reached a crosswalk.

" Hey, would you mind helping an old woman out? " A frail voice came from beside me. I turned to see an elderly woman.

" Sure, " I replied. Suddenly, she grabbed onto my arm and looked up at me with a smile on her face. " This doesn't happen very often, does it? " she asked, raising a brow.

Awkwardly chuckling in response, I said, " I used to have a girlfriend, but we broke up, " the smile on my face disappearing.

" That's sad to hear... " The woman replied with a serious look on her face, " My husband died a year ago, after he died nothing was the same... " The woman said as a sorrowful look on her face as we walked across the stop walk.

" Sorry to hear that... He was probably a good man, " I replied with a sympathetic tone, briefly looking up.

We walked across the crosswalk without exchanging another word, both lost in our own thoughts.

" Thank you, kind sir, " the woman said, waving goodbye to Ron.

Sitting at the bus stop, I took out my phone and opened TikTok to pass the time.

After some time spent scrolling through TikTok, a bus finally arrived. I boarded the bus and took a seat towards the back.

After what seemed like hours on the bus, I arrived at my destination. Stepping off the bus, I found myself in front of a small six story apartment building.

I gazed at the apartment building with a disappointed look in my eyes. "All of this hard work has led me back to this dump," I mused silently. Walking towards the building, I entered and took the elevator to the fifth floor.

Ding!

The elevator doors slid open, and I stepped out onto the fifth floor. I made my way to the end of the hallway, I stopped in front of a door. Digging into my pockets, I grabbed a set of keys, selecting the right one and inserting it into the lock. With a twist, the door opened and walked in.

Inside, I dropped my briefcase near the entrance and didn't bother with bathing. I headed straight for the bed.

. . . . . . . .

Waking up the next morning, I found myself with nothing to do. Usually, I would have been working non-stop. This was something new for me to experience in a long time.

" I don't want to go outside, I'm just going to chill and watch some shows, " I mumbled beneath my breath.

Taking a seat on my couch, I grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. " What to watch, what to watch... " I muttered as I scrolled through the different options.

"Damn, I can't find anything to watch..." I continued scrolling through until... " One Piece? " I muttered, catching sight of the familiar title.

My scrolling stopped as I saw "One Piece." Memories of child flooded back. ' One Piece, huh? I wonder how far they've come by now... It's been years, ' I mused, feeling a sense of nostalgia.

I chuckled at the thought that One Piece was still ongoing with over 1000 episodes. " Well, looks like I've got quite the binge-watching ahead of me..... "

. . . . . . . .

A few more days later.

" BEAT HIS ASS ACE!!!! " I yelled enthusiastically, my excitement clear as day. A wide smile stretched across my face.

Suddenly, the smile on my face vanished. " Ace! " I exclaimed as I dropped to my knees, my eyes locked on the horrifying sight of Akainu's fist impaling Ace through his chest, with Magu bursting from his fist and scorching Ace's insides.

Suddenly, my phone on the couch began to ring. I picked it up and put it to my ear. " Hello... " I answered.

A sudden loud noise from the phone nearly made me drop it. It was a voice shouting angrily, |

" Whoa, calm down! " I said, slightly pulling the phone away from my ear due to the volume. " I've just been taking a few days off. I'll be back soon. "

" I'm not feeling well, " I whispered, trying to sound convincingly sick.

|| The voice on the other end replied. The call ended, and I stared at my phone for a moment before turning it off.

" Anyway..." I shifted my gaze back to the screen. " ACEEE! " Tears welled up in my eyes as I shook my head in disbelief.

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" BAJRANG GUN! " I screamed at the top of my lungs, leaping into the air. I cocked my arm back and then brought it down dramatically. Nothing happened, but it sure felt cool.

My phone began to ring again, but this time, I chose not to answer. After a while of waiting it out, the ringing finally stopped.

Suddenly, a text message popped up at the top of my screen, flashing | YOU'RE FIRED! | in bold letters.

Even though I had lost my job, I didn't care in the slightest. I flipped through the manga, reading it with a big smile on my face, thinking, ' I'm glad that One Piece continued after all these years. '

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Sitting on my couch, I gazed up at the ceiling, my face displaying a thoughtful expression. ' Since I'm caught up with the series,' I thought to myself, ' I finally have to find a new job. '

Opening up my phone, I scrolled through Google, searching for new jobs. ' No way, ' I thought, ' I'm not going back to my old job or animating again. '

Scrolling through the options, I decided to go for something basic and not too physically demanding. ' A convenience store! ' I thought, feeling like it could be a good fit.

I sent in my application and, to my surprise, got a response within just a few days. It seemed like there wasn't much of an interview process to work at a convenience store, and I was soon hired for the job.

A few days later...

I walked into the store with a smile and clocked in for my shift. I started working, which mostly involved stacking shelves and tending to the register. The majority of my time was spent behind the counter.

A few days at my new job flew by quickly...

" That'll be $7.99, " I said to the woman standing in front of me. She rummaged through her pockets, pulled out her credit card, and inserted it into the machine.

Ding!

I put her items in a bag and handed it to her. " Have a good day, " I said with a friendly wave and a smile.

She left the store, waving goodbye.

Once she was gone, my smile faded, and I let out a deep sigh. " I'm just going to stop smiling, my cheeks are getting stiff, " I took a seat on a stool and started scrolling through my phone.

Ding!

I quickly put my phone back in my pocket and stood up. The person who had just walked in was a hooded figure dressed entirely in black. Their hands were hidden in their hoodie pockets, and unlike the usual customers who browsed for items, they headed straight to the cashier's counter.

" Hi, ca...Can I help you? " I said, my smile faltering as I felt a sense of unease.

The man remained silent, and his pockets started to shuffle. Suddenly, he pulled out a gun and screamed, " Empty all of the money in the register now! "

Sweat dripped down my face, and my heart pounded like a drum. Every bone and cell in my body tensed up. A rush of thoughts flooded my mind in a fraction of a second. ' Am I going to die here? I'm only 28, I've got so much to live for...'

Suddenly, my instincts took over. Without thinking, my arms shot towards the gun, desperately trying to wrestle it away from the intruder.

My mouth hung open in shock, and I thought, ' Why did I do that? ' But I couldn't let go; I clung tightly to the gun, my heart racing with adrenaline.

" Ghhh! Die, motherfucker! " The man screamed and pulled the trigger. Luckily, I managed to move his gun to the side just in time, and the bullet struck the wall instead of hitting me.

" Ghh... " I struggled to pull the gun away, but the man was much stronger than me. The gun slipped from my grasp, and the man, now armed, fired consecutive shots into the cashier area.

I quickly ducked behind the counter, crawling across the floor to safety.

Phew! PhoW!

The bullets collided with the bottles on the wall, shattering them into shards and pieces.

' Shit! I don't wanna die, not now...' I thought urgently as I continued to crawl across the floor, desperately seeking cover.

I struggled to my feet and dashed towards the aisle, but a bullet pierced my knee.

" Ghh, " I screamed in pain, but I pushed through and kept running. I ran as fast as I could, heading towards the door with determination to survive.

" Shit! I'm aliv-- "

But then, suddenly, my entire body started to give way, and my head crashed against the floor. Everything became blurry, and blood obscured my vision.

I felt my intestines twist, and every fiber of my being was consumed by excruciating pain. The world around me turned cold and distant, and all my irrational fears washed away.

Even though I was clearly on the brink of death, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of anger. I had wasted my life on what? Now I was about to die, and I knew exactly where I was headed...

" Oh shit! Sor... " The hooded man's voice trailed off, and a look of shock crossed his face. It seemed he didn't intend for things to escalate like this, and he quickly ran off.

People nearby rushed to my side, screaming for help. Some even pulled out their phones and began recording the chaotic scene.

' Shit... I really did live a pitiful life... ' I thought, the voices of the people around me slowly fading into the distance as I drifted on the edge of death.

The chilling pain I had felt vanished, and everything simply faded away, just like that.....

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To Be Continued.

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