Venn's eyes snapped wide open as an intense migraine repeatedly assaulted his head, resulting in him abruptly jolting up from his deep slumber.
Holding his forehead, his back arched forward in response to the stinging discomfort that he was feeling, and it took a while until the pain finally subsided.
"Brother, are you alright?" A concerned voice sounded from close by while he was catching his breath.
The instant he heard the voice, his ears perked up and a sense of familiarity gushed over Venn. It had been such a long time since someone had addressed him as a brother, and that took him by surprise.
Tilting his head to the direction where the voice originated, Venn's pupils dilated as he saw his younger sister looking at him intently with a worrisome look.
She was spotting hazel brown hair tied in a ponytail fashion and was clothed in her high school uniform.
Her angelic face that was bathed in the penetrating sunlight shining through the window was a scene that he thought he was never going to ever witness again.
Stunned by the absurdity of the sight before him, Venn's eyes glared at the young beauty that stood beside his bed in complete stupor.
"Rena, aren't you… dead?" Venn uttered, his lips trembling slightly, and his mind extremely confused.
"Dammit! Was all that just a nightmare? But everything seems so real though?" Venn clutched his head with a scowl on his face, painfully in thought.
He had an awfully vivid nightmare about Rena dying from an illness in the future while he could only watch idly by the side, powerless to help.
"There, there… Did you have a nightmare? Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere."
Rena patted Venn's head as gently as she could as she tried to gently comfort him.
She had guessed the possible scenario that might have transpired, particularly from the incomprehensible words that her brother was spewing out immediately after waking up from his sleep.
She felt a little sorry for her brother that he was having a nightmare when he already had so little time to sleep – a result of him overworking himself in three different part time jobs.
Soothed by her gentle smile, Venn unconsciously stretched out his arms and embraced her warm body tightly without saying a single word.
He couldn't understand what had happened, but the painful experience he had in the dream fuelled an urge to keep her close to his side.
Their relationship as siblings had always been close ever since their father had passed away due to an accident.
The only inheritance that was left behind was an awfully cramped apartment that they were currently residing in, and a mountain of debt incurred by their father's medical bills.
And since they only had each other to rely on as their mother abandoned them and their heartless relatives denied to provide any sort of help, they were always on the verge of turning homeless.
As such, it was par for the course that Venn would work himself to the bones in an attempt to struggle for their livelihood.
Ever since he turned sixteen, Venn dropped out of school, and had worked in low-end jobs such as being a delivery guy, a cashier, and many more.
And because he had experienced hardship before, he was particularly stubborn on the matter of not letting Rena get a part time job as well, citing that at least one of them has to study hard in school for a better future in order to escape the poverty cycle.
"Geez, brother! Stop being so mushy!" Although Rena complained about her brother's sudden affection, she reciprocated by gently running her fingers through his fuzzy hair.
Looking at her brother's anxious look, Rena renewed her resolve in getting good grades and enter a top university for the sake of her brother.
The air of silence filled the room for a while until Rena realised the time and burst out with a panicked look on her face. "Ah! I'm genuinely late. I really need to leave for school, like right now!"
With that, Rena immediately rushed out of the room in a panic and grabbed her school bag from the dining chair as swiftly as a raccoon, leaving Venn still in a daze.
"I've prepared breakfast, remember to eat them while it's still warm!" Rena shouted loudly from the living room. "And by the way, there's a call from the Azure corporation this morning about an interview opportunity this afternoon at three."
After leaving the message behind, Rena proceeded to be on her way to school, slamming the door close in a hurry.
Unbeknownst to her, Venn's heart was about to explode from a meltdown. He was experiencing a deja vu moment when he heard about Rena's mentioning the Azure corporation.
"No wonder everything looked so familiar! I've experienced this day before!" Venn roared in anger as his pent-up fury consumed him.
Springing up from his feet, he desperately rushed out of his room as quickly as he could.
He had to reaffirm his suspicion! He had to verify the truth behind all this!
And there it was.
On the dirt-stained wall of their tiny living room, a calendar was hung there, showing the date to be 15 June 2120 – the fateful day that he joined the Azure corporation as an low-rank employee in the game Heaven Descent - the first of its kind virtual reality massive multiplayer game that took the world by storm.
"I've returned back to the past, didn't I?" Venn mumbled to himself with his head hanging down and his fists clenched. "Back to three years ago before everything went to shit!"
Rena was going to die soon from a rare genetic disease that was going to cripple her DNA and she would suffer multiple organ failures as a result.
Unlike in the past, a cure had already been well-developed for this kind of disease, but as her brother, he was unable to earn enough money to fork out sufficient credits no matter how hard he tried.
He could only watch helplessly as her body gradually weakened day by day, and broke down to pieces. It started from her limbs going limp, and then becoming bedridden.
Slowly, as time went by, she would lose her ability to speak as well. It was a cruel thing that nobody should ever experience.
And despite suffering in that condition, Rena would always forcefully squeeze out a smile whenever Venn came by to visit her in the run-down hospital bed until the last moment of her life.
He was unsure if the nightmare he was having this morning was a premonition or if he was given a second chance to go back in time to correct things. Judging from how he could still clearly remember the events that had transpired in his dream, he had a hunch that it was the latter.
But regardless which was the actual truth, one thing was clear – he's going to do whatever it takes to save Rena this time!
Failure isn't an option!