**Author’s Note: Please note that this story will involve changes in the point of view of the character on a regular basis. It will still maintain a narrative type of writing for the most part but that might change in the future. As for this chapter in particular, it might be a little on the boring side as it’s only giving a glimpse of the background of those that can be considered as the core/starting cast of the story. I’m also trying my best not to reveal too much about the characters themselves. Now that that bit is out of the way, enjoy~ **
Kaori had just finished watching the interview with the CEO of Torgate on VRTV and was excited. She really liked the idea of there being very little limitations of how the character can grow. She did have some ideas she wanted to try out and started to sketch and write up a blueprint of her own character. She knew from the research she did that the game limited you to only one class for balance purposes but it didn’t say anything about the profession classes. In fact, there was very little information about professions and how they worked altogether. ‘So if the biggest limits to characters are what we set…does that mean I can learn more than one of the production professions? I’ll have to look into that when the game starts,’ she thinks as she continues to plan her character out.

While she was working on the blueprint for her character, she received a notification that sister, Yuri, had come online. She was really close to her sister in terms of bonds but they were currently living in different cities. Kaori had graduated from the University of Tokyo as an architect. Due to both her high grades and level of persistence, she had already landed a job in an architectural company at the young age of 26. This is the reason that Kaori was living in Tokyo, Japan while Yuri was still living in Nagano, Japan with their parents. That didn’t really have an effect on the bonds the two sisters shared though. So, she didn’t hesitate to open a line to her sister to talk.

Kaori: “Yuuuuu-chan! You’re finally on! I thought I was going to become an old lady before I can talk to you again!”

Yuri: “I already told you about the upcoming competition just yesterday Onee-chan. Don’t tell me you forgot already?”

“Of course not…sort of. I was just excited…and distracted…,” Kaori replied. And she really hadn’t forgotten about the Bushido competition her sister always entered. She was just a bit (very) excited about Celestial Realms. Coming from a family of Bushido practitioners, she herself knew how to use most swords. She was not as good as her sister though when it came to using the Bushido style. But what she lacked in finesse, she made up with brute strength. So styles that emphasized the use of power was her strong points. She herself had also entered some tournaments but this was before finding the styles that were more suited to her. And both her sister and their parents never let her forget tournament dates.

Kaori: “See, I just found out about a game called Celestial Realms that’s coming out soon. It’s so much better than the stuff they have now. Training in the game is like training in real life too. So if you improve in the game, the same follows when you’re not in the game. So this means we can have a lot of sparring sessions even if we’re both not at the dojo. So, have you heard anything about it there yet Yu-chan?”

**********

Yuri had been training most of the day for an upcoming competition. She had just come out of the shower and had gone online to check her emails when her sister had pounced. Or at least she would have gotten pounced on if they hadn’t been living in different cities. Yuri knew she was doted on by her sister and tried her best not to become spoiled by it. The same mentality of not wanting to be spoiled is what made her train diligently even while having a talent for Bushido. She was the younger sibling by 4 years but had earned the right to be the heir to the family dojo. This worked out well as Yuri loved Bushido while Kaori was more of a free spirit. So while the elder sister had gone off to become an architect, the younger one kept training and was winning tournaments repeatedly.

The amount of training Yuri would do on a regular day would easily shock most people in the world today. The amount of training she would do also made her estranged from others around her age for most of her life. As such, she had very few friends. This also meant that gossip and news about the world was not a large concern. So when her sister asked her if she knew about Celestial Realms, she could only reply, “Celestial Realms? No, I didn’t even know what it was until now. I thought it was a movie that some of the kids in the dojo was talking about.”

Kaori: “No, no, no! It’s a game that has a fantasy setting and has stuff like monsters and magic and stuff but other than that, a lot of it is a mystery right now. It’s coming out in 2 months. I already ordered a capsule for you too so you don’t need to bug dad about it.”

Yuri: “Oh, 2 months is good. That won’t interfere with the competition. Can you tell me anything else about it onee-chan?”

Kaori: “Well, I don’t know too much about it either.  I know what the starting races are and which cities are the starter ones but that’s it so far. I think we should start in Zillis though since it’s a city more about trade and doesn’t have restrictions on what race the person is. I’m planning to be a half-elf if the game lets me, so it’s the perfect city to start in for me. It also has a wide variety of profession facilities for me to play around with.”

Yuri: “Ok, I’ll start there. I think I’ll be a half-elf too if they let me. If not, I guess I’ll just go as a human. But before we do anything else, you must promise to spar me at least once onee-chan! You haven’t visited in over 3 months already and probably won’t be coming back here yet.”

Kaori: “Deal! I haven’t been slacking off and have found something that will let me beat you now and can’t wait to try it either. Good luck in the tournament and I’ll see you in the game~”

**********

Johann was scouring the net for information on Celestial Realms. He had always been an avid gamer and was really excited about the game. While there wasn’t a lot of information out there on it, he had managed to find bits and pieces. There was also a lot of information obtained from the interview with the CEO of Torgate. He already knew that he was going to start as an Elf and work towards one of the Magic classes based on the information he had found. He was the type of person to be in the back and toss out spells where it would do the more damage to his enemies.

Outside of his life as a gamer, he was a teacher. He teaches English at a small school in Gothenburg, Sweden. His classes were popular because not only was amusing for the students, since he would conform the lessons to reflect their interests, but also due to him being able to speak the language fluently. He was one of the few professors born in Sweden that was able to speak both languages without much of an accent. This was mostly due to a friend he had made over the internet when he was younger. He would chat with his Canadian friend, Kumar, quite often. They usually talk a lot as they were both gamers and were usually playing the same games.

Sometimes though, especially lately, the chats usually involved him listening to Kumar whine. Like right now.

“I’m so boooored,” the voice of his friend said over the net.

Johann: “Another game that couldn’t keep your interest eh?”

Kumar: “Yea. I’ve lost count of how many that’s been now. They always make it so lame and strongest players are always the ones with big guilds or clans. And these are always filled with so many idiots. All they do is zerg rush* things and never have an actual strategy. Can you believe their tanks don’t know how to use proper skills to hold the monster on them? And their fricking Mages keep getting hit by area attacks that they should even be close to. Of course part of that is from them not knowing how to control their own damage output so they don’t pull hate. So many idiots!”

Johann: “Ok Z, normally I’d ask for more details on your latest escapades, but I’m trying to find more info about Celestial Realms. And don’t you dare tell me you haven’t heard about it.”

Kumar: “I heard about it…but I didn’t really look into it. I mean…I know it’s going to be a VRMMORPG and the setting is fantasy but I stopped there. I was trying out the last failure of a game at the time. Is it any good?”

Johann: “If what I’m reading is right, I think this is going to be a game you’re going to get addicted to. Very little info about it but I think there’ll be a lot of places to explore to start off with. A lot of content also seems to be locked as even among the starting races, they indicated that the ones available at the start were only a few and there were more that can be unlocked. A limit of a player is for the most part, set by the player themselves it seems. The more I read, the more excited I am.”

**********

Kumar had been uninstalling another VRMMORPG that couldn’t keep him interested for longer than a month when he had started complaining to his friend, Johann. He knew he was complaining and also knew that his friend knew it and was thankful for his friend’s patience. He had been doing it out of habit and was therefore surprised when he heard how excited Johann sounded when he was explaining about Celestial Realms. He also became excited as he heard more about it.

He had been looking for a game to get addicted to for a long time. Ever since the older games that had managed to have a magic touch died out, most of them ended up copying some of the older ones and never really improved. So whenever he played one game, it felt no different from any other game that he had played. This led to him being bored for quite a while. He was 32 now and it’s been over 15 years since a game he felt was really good had been released. And now he was out on a personal quest to find a game that can keep him playing for more than just a month or two.

After so many failures though, his expectations had died out though. So even though he had heard about Celestial Realms, he didn’t feel as excited and hadn’t looked into it as much as he used to. Even now, while he feels excited at what he’s hearing, a part of him still doubts that it’ll be the type of game he’s been yearning for.

“I wonder if the game will let me have a pet dragon?” he mused while chatting.

Johann: “Possibly. Their CEO did say that the biggest limitations are the ones we set ourselves. So if you can think of a way to tame a dragon, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to have a pet dragon.”

Kumar: “What about being an Elven Warrior? Elves have always been physically weak in games and made horrible melee fighters.”

Johann: “Based on the information I’ve found, you can be an Elven tank too if you really wanted to. I’m starting as an elf by the way.”

Kumar: “You’re going to be a magic user though right? Do we all start in the same place?”

Johann: “You know me too well. I can never feel satisfied unless I can unleash magical mayhem. As for the starting place, you can pick from 5 different cities. You get to pick from Lavelle, Lingshan, Zillis, Miraka, or Akir. We should start off in Zillis I think. Best place to pick up some production skills.”

Kumar: “Sounds great. Now I can’t wait and the next few months are going to feel so slow. Oh well, might as well pre-order it now.”

**********

Hwang Songmin was a typical middle school kid that gets bullied on a normal basis. Unlike typical kids that would run away and hide in their rooms when they get bullied, he would always take it all with a smile on his face. This was because of a secret that told him that even if he let himself get bullied, he was doing it for the right reasons. This secret was his ability to understand the feelings and emotions of the world around him. He was what can be called an Empath. This ability worked even on animals and trees. He was able to feel the thankfulness of the dog he had saved by taking its place. So even if he was being bullied, he was happy that he was able to protect someone else.

He wasn’t really a rich kid but he wasn’t really poor either. He lived in Busan, Korea with his parents. His ability let him know that his parents cared a lot about him and he always tried his best not to worry them. So he never told them about the bullying he received and would always make his explanations on the bruises as vague as possible. If they asked, he would just say that he was hurt trying to help an animal. And though they did worry, they didn’t press him for details as he never gave more of an explanation. His mother suspected since he would bring animals home some time to patch them up but she didn’t say much either as she saw how happy he was to help. His father though, was worried since Songmin never brought other kids home and thought he had no friends.

His father was really worried about the lack of friends for his son and asked around at work for advice. Some of them had similar experiences and could relate to his current situation and told him to try getting him into Virtual Reality games. They told him that it had worked well for their children. So Hwang Songmin’s father did a little research on what good VR games were out there and came upon a lot of news about Celestial Realms. Seeing that it was so popular, he figured it would allow his son to play with many other people and make it easier to make friends. So he pre-ordered it.

His mother did not worry as much as she knew of his abilities. She also knew that he had several paths in life he can take. In her eyes, he was her little Grand Chef. He had originally started helping his mother with the cooking so he can use some of the ingredients to feed the animals he helped but ended up becoming the main chef in the kitchen as he learned more. Since the food always tasted great, his mother didn’t mind letting him take over in the cooking. She also knew what her husband had planned for her son and didn’t tell him that either. She wanted him to have human friends as well and in the future, also settle down with a nice wife. So Hwang Songmins’ days continued with his usual routine of going to school and helping his mother with the cooking without knowing anything about Celestial Realms.

**********

Maria lived in Frankfurt, Germany and worked as a songwriter. She was very good at it too and any singer who sang the songs she wrote, would be near the top of the charts when their single was out. Her ability to sing was just as good as her ability to write songs and she loved it just as much. This always had her friends ask why she didn’t become a professional singer herself. Her answer was that she didn’t want to wear make-up and when she had tried to become a singer, they refused to let her sing unless she had make-up on. So she had refused with the reason that she didn’t want to doll herself up to look attractive to others and prefers to please people with her songs instead. So she made a living writing songs.

That didn’t mean that she still didn’t want to sing for people though. But she didn’t really have a proper stage. She had tried to be a bard or singer in VR games but there were always too many restrictions in them that prevented her from singing her own songs. The system of VR games always made it so that the players could only sing whatever music they found inside the game, most of which were written by game producers and not songwriters. So the songs in the game was always fairly dull and were only used for the boosts they provided.

That was when she saw the interview about Celestial Realms. ‘I wonder if I can write and sing my own songs in this game. If the only limitation for myself is set by myself…that could mean it’s possible I can write and sing my own stuff. I need to look into it,’ she thought.

As she looked up information, she decided that she didn’t want to rely on appearance in order to appeal as a singer in the game. So she picked to be an Orc inside the game. Orcs were considered as ugly after all. Some would consider her as a masochist since Orcs were expected to have the lowest Charisma and a class like a Bard would need high Charisma to be successful. But once Maria’s mind was made up, that was how things were going to be. ‘I also won’t have idiots hitting on me as an Orc,’ she mused as she placed an order.

*********

Rose. That was the nickname people had given her at the orphanage. Beautiful but with thorns. Her parents had died long ago and she had become one of the orphans of Naples, Italy. The city had been devastated from a recent economic collapse. But this was beneficial for Rose. As she grew up, she learned how to tell the true value of goods in order to make a living for herself. She gained this ability due to having an eye for critical details and also a photographic memory. Both of these abilities were a blessing and a curse though. Not being able to forget what she had seen brought many a sleepless night since she had seen how her parents had died. Brutally murdered after they had managed to hide her safely. She didn’t trust people much though and as such, she told no one the details of her abilities.

She was still young but she managed to make a living with the use of her abilities. She had forged documents and moved out of the orphanage as soon as she had made enough money. So no one knew that she lived on her own as she always kept to herself. She started her re-selling business by picking up scraps of discarded things that still had value and selling them to grow her wealth from there. She also tried not to make a lot of money to prevent people from getting suspicious. But she still wanted to get away from living like this somehow. That was when she had heard about Celestial Realms. She didn’t see the interview or find information about it through a gaming website or ad but among some of the websites she used to sell her wares anonymously. There was a lot of interest about Celestial Realms on the website.

What caught her interest was there was already a market forming even before the game was released. People were asking people to help them level even without all that much information out regarding the game. The offers were fairly low though so no one really got a reply. But there was enough interest for her to know that getting the game would be worth it. She knew that as long as the majority of the economy was run by players, she will be able to use her skills to turn a profit. So she placed an order for it with money from her savings.

**AN: Well…here’s chapter 1. I hope I didn’t reveal too much about the characters…then again, I guess they’ll be changing and growing as things go by.