Kumar finishes the setup of the FIVR capsule as soon he can after it arrived. He didn’t do any major research on it but he did enough to know that no one knew much about this game. It was also not possible for leaks as it seems that Torgate kept the programming division separate from their PR people and the CEO definitely wasn’t someone that was going to give its secrets out any time soon. So it was pretty much a whole new world for him to explore. He gets settled in and turns it on, going into the game. He opens his eyes and see nothing but blank space in front of him.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears.

“Elf please.”

“The scan has detected your gender as male. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” A model of himself as an Elf appears after he had selected his race. Although Elves typically tend to have fair flowing hair, the avatar in front of him reflected a hairstyle similar to his own as it had been in reality. Which was fairly short and appeared to have a life of its own regardless of how hard he tried to comb it. Even in reality, he gave up on trying to keep it neat looking as it needed way too much styling gel among other things. And just like in reality, the colour of the hair was black with shades of gray here and there. The eyes were also black (or dark brown depending on who you ask) and the body size was the same as his in reality. It stood at about 178 cm (5’10” for American readers) and while it wasn’t athletic, it did have a hint of muscle showing. The only difference was in the skin tone, which was the usual fair tone of a typical Elf.

“Change the hair colour to white please and the eye colour to emerald green. Also please make the skin tone as dark as possible for an Elf.”

The changes took place immediately. He liked what he saw. The skin tone wasn’t enough to make him look like a Dark Elf but it was probably not an available race. Or at least, not yet if the hidden meaning in the interview he had seen was true. He nods in approval and says, “Yes, just like that. Thank you.”

“Please input your name,” said the voice in his ears again.

“Zareth.”

“Please select your starting city.”

“Zillis please.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

And with that, the scene in front of him changed and opened out to show stone houses in front of him. He can see a large wall made of stone rising up high behind the houses and was obviously in place for defensive purposes. He looked to the right and noticed more houses as well as a tavern further ahead. Turning his head to the left, he noticed yet more houses but he also noticed a fairly large gate that looked like it led out. He did read up enough about the game to know that people couldn’t leave their starting city for an in-game week, which was almost 2 full days in real time, so the gate was useless to him at this point.

Looking behind him, he noticed a fountain there. Further down, he saw a road leading to a statue of some kind in the distance. He also noticed other people logging into the game and popping into existence. He saw some of them flex their fingers and look a little disoriented. It was easy to tell that this was their first VR experience. He kept looking around some more and noticed that unlike all the people that were popping up dressed in robes, there were others who wore different clothing.

“Okay…he told me to meet him in front of the library. No idea where that is so time to follow a rule of thumb in a game when lost. Ask for directions,” he said aloud.

He went up to a lady that looked to be around her early 40s and said, “Hello. My name is Zareth and I am sure you have noticed by now that I am rather new to the city. I was told by a friend of mine to meet him in front of the library. Sadly, I have not been in this wonderful city long enough to find the way on my own. Would such a pretty and kind young lady like yourself be able to assist this poor traveller by showing the way to the library please?”

A blush was seen on her cheeks at the obvious flattery coming from the lips of the young Elf but she could not resist the display of humility he had shown her. She smiled in approval and replied, “My what a polite young lad you are. Quite a sweet tongue as well it would seem. As for the library, I believe I can be of help indeed. If you simply follow the path behind the fountain and head to the west, you will arrive at the statue of the Goddess. That would be our town centre. From there, if you head north, you will see the building that has some steps leading up to its entrance. The building itself looks fairly bland and similar to a house that was built a bit raised but that would be the library.”

“Oh, thank you very much pretty lady! Thank you very much,” says Zareth before bowing to her and running off towards the town centre.

When he reached the town centre, he saw the statue of the Goddess the lady had mentioned. His plan had been to simply run past it to get to the library but upon seeing the statue, he simply had to stop and stare. It was simply beautiful on a breathtaking level. Seeing how intricately carved the gentle smile on the face of the statue was made him feel glad to have entered this world. As he looked at the eyes of the statue, he felt it radiate a kindness that can only be described as a mother looking upon her children. The hair of the Goddess was made to look as if it were a were a cascade flowing down to a bit below the waist. The clothing worn by the Goddess were simple robes similar to what he was wearing now he noticed but somehow, on the statue, it felt like it was a divine robe. “Beautiful,” he couldn’t help whispering out.

A box suddenly popped up near the left side of his field of vision with some words in it.
[For truly admiring the beauty of a statue representing the Goddess, you have pleased her.
You have unlocked the Aesthetics stat.
Aesthetics +10]

“Aesthetics huh. I’ll have to ask Johann more about it when I see him,” he whispers to himself. He bows to the statue as if thanking it before heading north towards where he was told the library was.

**********

Johann couldn’t wait for the capsule to arrive. So much so that even before it was delivered to him, he was pacing outside waiting for it. The technicians that delivered it and was there to help set up couldn’t help but smile as they understood the excitement he was feeling. They were also eager to play the game and was looking forward to the end of their deliveries for the day. He dived in right away as soon as everything was set up.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears.

“Elf,” came a simple reply.

“The scan has detected your gender as male. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” came the next question as his avatar appeared in front of him.

“Change hairstyle to a ponytail. Increase the hair length to reach the waist. Change hair colour to silver white. Skin tone slightly more fair. Set colour of eyes to light hazel. Raise nose tip slightly. Increase length of ears slightly. Change height to 195 centimetres (6’5″),” came the instructions as if it was an expected question. He knew what he wanted.

Satisfied with the changes that was made, “continue,” Johann said.

“Please input your name.”

“Skywind.”

“Please select your starting city.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

The avatar disappears into thin air and the scene before him opens up to show him standing in front of a fountain. He looked around and noticed houses to each of the sides and a castle rising up past the fountain. The castle itself was fairly large even though it had no guard towers on the sides. What it did have was an even larger wall behind it that made the castle seem small in comparison.

He spotted four guards near the castle entrance, all standing on guard and watching for possible trouble from all the figures popping out around the fountain. Two of them were wearing heavy full plate armour and held a tower shield in their left hand and off to the side while a long sword can be seen hanging at their waist with the right hand on top of the pommel. The other two guards were dressed in chain mail and were holding a halberd each. It didn’t look like they were going to let just anyone inside. Not that he had a reason to go there yet. He needed to find the library though so he asked one of them. Instead of replying, they simply pointed behind him at a building. The building looked like a regular house but elevated and with stairs leading to its entrance. He nodded his thanks just as silently and headed towards the library.

He decided to sit on one of the steps while waiting for Kumar to get here. He noticed the building across had a sign that showed an axe and sword crossing in front of a shield. ‘That’s probably the Barracks. And if I know Kumar, he probably named his character Zareth. It’ll be easy to meet up with him in between my research since he’ll probably spend some time training there.’ he mused while waiting.

As he was looking around at people passing by while thinking, he noticed a half-elf pass by heading towards the statue. ‘That might have been a better choice for Zareth if he still wanted to look somewhat like an Elf and not sacrifice his strength by being a full blooded Elf. Too late now though probably.’ he thought. He looked up at the statue and noticed an Elf with an unusually dark skin tone that was half way to being a Dark Elf bow to the statue and head towards his way. A smile appeared on his face as he knew it can only be his friend coming this way.

He greeted Zareth as he came closer with a wave. “Yo, paying your respects to the Goddess are you?” he asked.

Zareth: “Considering that she had given me a new stat and gave 10 points worth of it, yea, figured it was a good idea to say thanks. Any clue what use it has in this game? The others are kind of obvious as they’re the same from other games. Well…other than the ever mysterious Luck.”

Skywind: “Aesthetics eh. My guess is it’s used with the production skills. For example, when you make something like a sculpture or add a design to the pommel of your sword, maybe it will give bonuses. To be honest, there was very little information out there about this game. Didn’t really expect a stat like Aesthetics to exist really. Speaking of which, I better check my stats. I’m pretty sure Elves get a boost to Intelligence but not sure what else. Open Status Window.”

Name: Skywind   Gender: Male

Race: Elf            Class: Novice

Title: None

Fame: 0

Health: 80           Health regen: 0.08/s

Mana: 120            Mana regen: 0.12/s

Stamina: 80          Stamina regen: 0.8/s

Strength: 8          Dexterity: 10

Agility: 11          Vitality: 8

Intelligence: 12     Wisdom: 10

Luck: 10             Charisma: 11

Equipment:
Plain Robes

He noticed that Zareth had done the same and checked his status.

He wasn’t really surprised to hear Zareth say, “Looks like Elves sacrifice Strength and Vitality to gain a boost to Intelligence and a bit to Agility and Charisma. I might have my work cut out for me but it doesn’t seem too big a hurdle.”

“Are you really sure you want to be a Warrior class while being an Elf? I noticed a Half-elf earlier so you could have easily went with that or Human instead. I went with Elf mostly for the boost in Intelligence.”

“Meh, don’t sweat it. I don’t regret trying to be a Warrior as an Elf even one bit. Plus, you said that a stat like strength can be raised by working out properly right? I might have to put a bit more effort than the other races but that’s ok. I get the feeling that I’ll enjoy the game more like this anyway.”

“That’s true…so I guess you’re going to head to the training centre? It’s just across the street in those Barracks over there so maybe I’ll stop by and check how you’re doing every now and then.”

“That’s the plan. I’m still not sure what weapon I want to use so I’ll have to try them out.  I’ll see you later Sky.”

With that, they parted ways for the time being. He had a lot of work to do to learn how magic works in this world. Luckily, stress relief was just across the street.
**********

The delivery company had the technicians unload and install the capsule. Since she didn’t know much about electronics, she felt it was better to let them set it up and tip them nicely for the service. She was going to grab her purse when one of the workers came up to her with a sheet of paper and a pen in his hand.

“Please Miss Maria, would you be able to autograph this piece of paper for me? I always loved the songs you wrote regardless of which singer or band had picked one up to sing. The lyrics always went so well with the melody and never failed to put me in a good mood. So please, if it’s not too much trouble, would you be able to autograph this?”

That surprised her a bit as most people these days rarely checked who wrote the music and always would just cheer for the singer or band. They were already helping her a lot by setting the capsule up so she smiled and took the pen and paper to autograph it.

“Oh, thank you so much! You have just made my day. Thank you,” the worker said while looking as if he had just won the lottery. Being appreciated for your hard work regardless of your appearance really did feel pleasant. She could even hear them saying things like, “And you guys didn’t believe me when I told you it was her.” and “Lets hang it up in the truck as a lucky charm!” followed up by, “No way, it’s mine!”

She had to hold back from laughing at the silliness. Mostly because she really wanted to try and start the game that promised to be so exciting. The world in front of her faded into black after she turned the device on. “Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” she heard.

“I want to be an Orc.”

“The scan has detected your gender as female. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” A model of a female Orc appeared in front of her eyes. The skin of the Orc was a bit darker than forest green and the face looked pretty fierce in a snarl that showed some sharp teeth in the mouth. Although it did look rather fierce, she couldn’t help but find the black ponytail sticking out behind to be cute.

“Oh nice, that looks almost like how I want it. Add a scar just below the left eye and make it taller.”

The model had a scar added below the left eye to give it a bit more of a menacing look. The size went up from her height of 165 cm to 175 cm.

“Make it taller.” Maria said. The model grew another 10 cm and was now standing fairly tall for a female Orc at 185.

“Max recommended height for female Orc reached. Increasing further will have a negative effect on growth. Do you wish to continue?” she heard the voice say.

“No, that’s fine now. Continue.”

“Please input your name.”

‘Ugh, I’m horrible at naming things,’ she thought. She decided to use her own name and said, “Maria.”

“Please select your Starting city.”
Maria let out a sigh as the name was accepted. She was thinking that such a common name was likely to be taken. “What are the choices for the starting city?” She asked.

“You may choose from Lavelle, Lingshan, Zillis, Miraka, or Akir as your starting location.”

“Can you give me more details about each city?”

“Lavelle is the city of Humans and is ruled by a Monarch. Lingshan, the city of Elves is led by their Council of Elders. The city of Zillis is a city where people elect a leader that is also nominated by them. Miraka is the city of Orcs and has no real leader. Akir, the Dwarven city, is led by a Chieftain that is usually decided based on skill and strength.”

“I’ll go with Zillis I think. Doesn’t seem like I’ll get much of a chance of becoming a singer at the starting Orc city.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

Her vision opens out to show a fountain in front of a stone paved path that seemed to be circling around the city. There were some houses beyond the path and behind that was a huge wall that reminded her of the city of Troy. She looked around and noticed players joining the game, some for the very first time she noted. She also noticed the path behind her leading towards a statue that she couldn’t really make out from this distance. Not really knowing what to do, she had just been standing around looking when she noticed an Elf with a dark complexion talking to one of the residents. ‘Poor guy, he must have wanted to be a Dark Elf.’ she thought. After the Elf bowed and ran off, she finally noticed the resident he had been talking to. A sparkle of life entered her eyes as she stared.

Before realizing what she was doing, she had already moved up to the resident and was asking, “Miss, please oh please tell me where you picked up such a beautiful set of clothes. They look so much better than these dull robes.”

Maria didn’t know it but the resident had just received her second surprise of the day and both were in such a short period of time. If this had been any city other than Zillis, the woman would have been scared of an Orc talking to her and had called for the guards but in Zillis, this was not an uncommon thing. She also felt the Orc woman was genuinely curious about her cloths. So she answered truthfully and said, “I actually made these myself. Were you interested in learning how to make clothing by any chance?”

Maria was so excited about knowing that it’s possible to make such beautiful clothing that she was ignoring some boxes that had popped up in the top left corner of her vision. It was an amusing sight for the resident to see an Orc woman nodding her head vigorously as she replied, “Yes please! I would love to learn how they are made. Please teach me master.”

“Ah, unfortunately, I made these only using the basic skills I picked up from my friend at the Tailor shop. She is actually a master at the craft and is the one you should be talking to as she is also licensed to teach others. If you head west past the statue of the Goddess, you will arrive at the production district. Just ask for Laura at the Tailor shop there and let her know that Victoria sent you. She’ll teach you the proper way to make clothes.”

Maria wondered what the wrong way to make clothes were for but a moment before thanking Victoria and running towards the production district. On the way, she stopped by the statue to look at it, somewhat mesmerized by its beauty. “Wow…this is also very beautiful. Beautiful clothes and great works of art.” she remarked while adoring the statue.

“You’re right. I wonder how they came up with the design and how much time was put into making this statue,” said a voice beside her. She looked to her left and jumped in surprise to see a beautiful Half-elven woman nearby. She had been so caught up by the statue’s charm that she hadn’t noticed anyone beside her at all. The woman wasn’t as tall as she was and seemed to be about 162 cm (5’4″) and had blonde hair set into twin ponytails. She even had a beautiful set of deep blue eyes to match and looked like a model. ‘I wonder if I can convince her to become my model later,’ Maria wondered while staring.

“Oh! Sorry! That was very rude of me to comment like that without introducing myself properly. My name is Karen. Nice to meet you. I was waiting for my sister here and also couldn’t help but admire the statue,” the woman named Karen said.

“Oh, no. It’s ok. I’m sorry if I scared you by staring like that. I had just been caught up in admiring the statue and didn’t really see you there. That’s why I got surprised. My name is Maria by the way and I had been on my way to the Tailor shop to learn how to make some of the beautiful clothes I’ve seen. But you’re right that the statue truly is very beautiful. It must have been made by a master sculptor.”

As it looked as if Karen was about to say more, another voice said, “Big sister, this game really does look and feel so real.”

They both turned to see another Half-elf girl that had long black hair going straight down past her waist with some bangs in the front just above her eyebrows. She was shorter than Karen and seemed to be about 156 cm (5’1″) but the surprising part was the flawless skin that made her look so beautiful even while she had a serious expression on her face. Maria was speechless.

Karen on the other hand, pounced and huggled the girl while yelling, “YU-CHAN!” It took the other girl a minute to force her sister off of her.

“Huh…that’s your sister?” Maria asked looking at Karen.

The girl bowed to Maria politely and said, “My name here is Julianne. Nice to meet you. I apologize for my sister’s behaviour.”

Maria: “Ah, my name is Maria. Nice to meet you too.”

Maria quickly grabbed Karen, who looked to be pouting, and pulled her a bit away from Julianne and whispers, “Hey, hey, don’t you think your sister would look great in different clothes? I have a beautiful dress in mind that she can wear. Do you think you can get her to model in it?”

It took a few seconds before what Maria was saying sank in for Karen. As understanding was gained, a glint appeared in her eyes as she nodded while turning to look at Julianne.

“You’re right, a nice dress would really look a lot better than those plain robes. You said you were on your way to learn how to make them right? I don’t really have any money on me but I was going to pick up Blacksmithing or something so I can make my own weapons and armour. Maybe I can offer my services in exchange?” Karen whispers back.

Maria says aloud, “Oh, we’ll talk about those details later. I really want to see how it’ll look though. Did you want to meet me back here tomorrow for a progress report maybe?”

“I have a better idea. How about we add each other as a friend and when you’re finished, you can just send a message? I might want to commission some things as well later.” Karen says.

“Oh, that’s a good idea,” Maria replies and notices another box pop up.

You have received a request to be registered as a friend by a player named Karen. Accept?

She accepts and uses the time to read the other boxes she had ignored earlier now.

[For truly admiring a beautiful hand-made dress, you have unlocked the Aesthetics stat.
Aesthetics +5]

[For admiring a beautiful work of art, the Goddess has granted a boost to your Aesthetics stat.
Aesthetics +10]

“Huh, I forgot to check my status. Open Status Window.” Maria says out loud.

Name: Maria     Gender: Female

Race: Orc            Class: Novice

Title: None

Fame: 0

Health: 120          Health regen: 0.08/s

Mana: 80             Mana regen: 0.12/s

Stamina: 120         Stamina regen: 0.8/s

Strength: 12         Dexterity: 11

Agility: 11          Vitality: 12

Intelligence: 8      Wisdom: 8

Luck: 10             Charisma: 8

Asthetics: 15

Equipment:
Plain Robes

She closes the boxes and turns back to the two Half-elves before saying, “Ok, I’m more motivated now. I’ll be ready with everything the next time we meet. See you again.” She waves at them and continues on towards the production district to find Laura.

As she arrived in the production district, Maria noticed a lot of different buildings. The building to her right looked like a forge and must be where the Blacksmith guild was. The building on her left, across from the forge was a building that had a bit of an odd smell to it. ‘Must be the Alchemist,’ she though. The building beside the Alchemy store seemed to be a leatherworking guild considering the smell of leather coming from it. Past that was what looked to be the tailor’s guild. Across from the tailor guild was a building that looked to be the carpenter’s guild. In between the forge and the carpenter’s guild was a closed of building, the purpose of which wasn’t clear.

Maria went towards the tailor’s guild without any hesitation.

**********

Kaori had decided to take a week off from work around the same time the FIVR capsule arrived. She had already planned to try and spend as much time as she can with her sister in the game during that week off. Thankfully, she had plenty of paid vacation time left since she had rarely taken a day off before. She hopped into the game as soon as the setup was finished.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears.

“Is it possible to be a Half-elf?” Kaori asked.

“Half-elf race is allowed. Residents in Lavelle or Lingshan will be prejudiced towards you. Is that acceptable?”

“Yes, that’s fine. Wasn’t going to start there any way.”

“The scan has detected your gender as female. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?”

A model of her character popped up in her field of vision. The model had black hair flowing halfway down the back to reflect her. The eyes were different than her own but it retained its dark brown colouring. The height matched hers as well at 162 cm. It had slightly pointed ears and a fair complexion.

“Can you show me how it looks with blonde hair?” Kaori asked.

The colour of the hair was changed to blonde.

“What about a ponytail?”

The hairstyle was changed to a pony tail.

“Not quite right…hmm…try twin ponytails please.”

The hairstyle was changed to twin ponytails coming out.

“Perfect!” Kaori exclaimed.

“Please input your name.”

“I’ll go with Kaori.”

“The name Kaori is not available. Please input another name.”

“Hmm…how about Karen? Hope that’s not taken too.”

“Please select your starting city.”

‘Guess Karen was ok,’ she thought. “Zillis.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

When the vision became clear before Karen’s eyes, she saw a castle in front of her. She saw a large wall behind the castle and noticed it was circling around the city. She looked around and saw other players popping out around the fountain behind her. She also noticed four guards in front of her, protecting the castle entrance. ‘I wonder where I am…I better ask.’ she thought.
Karen walked up to the guards and while maintaining a distance, asked, “Excuse me sirs, but where am I?”

The two guards that were holding spears looked at each other and then at her again. The one on the right said, “You are in the city of Zillis. This is the castle district, located in the north fountain area.”

“Oh! Thank you. I need to meet my sister in the city. Do you have any recommendations on where would be a good place for people to meet?”

“You should head south to the statue of the Goddess. Most people must pass through that area to get to the other districts.”

“Sorry to bother but just one more question. Where is the training centre located in this city?”

“That would be in the Barracks. You will pass by it on your way to the statue. Fairly obvious but just in case, it is located across from the library.”

Karen bowed politely in thanks and headed south towards the statue she saw in the distance. She noted the building with the sign that depicted an axe and a sword crossing in front of a shield as probably being the Barracks. She noticed an elf take a seat on the stairs in front of what looked to be the library.

She had arrived at the town centre and was  walking around the statue to wait at the front when she noticed an Elf with a dark skin tone touch the statue. She noticed that he had whispered something before stepping back and bowing to it. She thought it was odd behaviour but didn’t stop him to ask as he ran past her. As she approached the front of the statue, she understood the reaction she had seen the Elf display. As she was admiring it, she heard a feminine voice nearby say, “Wow…this is also very beautiful. Beautiful clothes and great works of art.”

Understanding what they meant, she replied, “You’re right. I wonder how they came up with the design and how much time was put into making this statue.”

She looked at the boxes that popped up in her field of vision.

[For taking the time to appreciate a great work of art depicting the Goddess, you have unlocked the Aesthetics stat.
Aesthetics +10]

[For having a rough grasp of the time and effort that went into the making of this masterpiece, you have learned the Craftsmanship skill.
Craftsmanship increased to Beginner rank 1]

‘Aesthetics and Craftsmanship? Interesting. I think that they will help me out when I make my own equipment. Maybe even more if I decide to build my own house,’ she thought. A few seconds later, she realized there was no reply and turned to look at the person she had responded to. She saw a female Orc with a black ponytail and a scar beneath an eye staring at her. The Orc was fairly tall looking to be 185 cm. She was a little surprised that such a pleasant sounding voice belonged to an Orc instead of an Elf. Then it hit her that she had not even introduced herself before commenting.

“Oh! Sorry! That was very rude of me to comment like that without introducing myself properly. My name is Karen. Nice to meet you. I was waiting for my sister here and also couldn’t help but admire the statue,” the woman named Karen said.

“Oh, no. It’s ok. I’m sorry if I scared you by staring like that. I had just been caught up in admiring the statue and didn’t really see you there. That’s why I got surprised. My name is Maria by the way and I had been on my way to the Tailor shop to learn how to make some of the beautiful clothes I’ve seen. But you’re right that the statue truly is very beautiful. It must have been made by a master sculptor.”

She was going to ask about the clothes when she heard a familiar voice say, “Onee-chan, this game really does look and feel so real.” (**AN: Some people will notice it said Big Sister earlier. This is done on purpose to reflect that people of the same language are hearing things in their own language. This will also only be shown when/if the PoV is from that of the sisters and will be kept to a minimal to prevent confusion.**)

They both turned to see another Half-elf girl that had long black hair going straight down past her waist with some bangs in the front just above her eyebrows. ‘Ah! She kept her appearance almost the same,’ Karen thought as she saw her sister walking up. “YU-CHAN!” she shouted as feeling of joy rose in her chest at seeing her sister again in so long that she couldn’t resist pouncing her and drawing her into a huggle.

She was feeling so happy that she only vaguely heard Maria say something. It didn’t stop her sister from pushing her away to create some space though. She saw her sister bow to Maria and say, “My name here is Julianne. Nice to meet you. I apologize for my sister’s behaviour.” Karen pouted at having been indirectly reprimanded by her younger sister.

“Ah, my name is Maria. Nice to meet you too,” Maria replied.

While she was still pouting, she was suddenly grabbed by Maria and dragged away a bit from her sister. Maria excitedly whispers in her ear, “Hey, hey, don’t you think your sister would look great in different clothes? I have a beautiful dress in mind that she can wear. Do you think you can get her to model in it?”

Her mind was still in surprise mode and it took a while for what was being said to sink in. She looked at her sister and noticed that she was wearing Plain Robes like everyone else and began to understand what Maria was going on about. A glint appeared in her eye as she thought, ‘Oh ho, to dress Yuri up in something beautiful…oh, I can’t help but get excited.’

“You’re right, a nice dress would really look a lot better than those plain robes. You said you were on your way to learn how to make them right? I don’t really have any money on me but I was going to pick up Blacksmithing or something so I can make my own weapons and armour. Maybe I can offer my services in exchange?” Karen whispers back.

Maria says aloud, “Oh, we’ll talk about those details later. I really want to see how it’ll look though. Did you want to meet me back here tomorrow for a progress report maybe?”

“I have a better idea. How about we add each other as a friend and when you’re finished, you can just send a message? I might want to commission some things as well later.” Karen says as she sends a friend request to Maria. ‘Maybe I’ll get her to make me something too later,’ she thought.

[Your friend request has been accepted by Player, Maria.]

She notices that Maria was checking her stats and made a mental note to check hers after they reach the Barracks and before starting the sparring sessions she was sure her sister had in mind.

“Ok, I’m more motivated now. I’ll be ready with everything the next time we meet. See you again.” Maria says as she waves at them before heading down the western patch.

“Ok! We should head to the training centre if we want to spar.” Karen says after Maria had left. She grabs her sister by the hand and drags her up north towards the Barracks.

**********

Yuri’s parents had been surprised when the technicians came with the FIVR capsule to set it up. She realized that she had forgotten about it and told them that it was from Kaori and explained what it was about. Her father thought it was interesting and asked her to let him know if it was something that could be used for training purposes. She wasn’t really sure how it would be since she had never tried any virtual reality game before. But she had promised her sister. So she decided to try it out. It was set up inside her bedroom as that was one of the few places that had room for it.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears shortly after turning the game on.

“I think it was Half-elf,” she replied thinking about what her sister had said.

“The scan has detected your gender as female. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” said the voice as a rendition of how she would look as a Half-elf appeared in front of her.

Since Yuri never really cared much about appearances, she simply said, “it’s fine.”

“Please input your name.”

“Yuri.”

“The name Yuri is not available. Please input another name.”

Yuri was surprised to find her name taken already. It took her about a minute before she said, “Juli.”

“The name Juli is not available. Please input another name. Name recommendation: Julianne.”

“Julianne it is.”

“Please select your starting city.”

“Zillis, thank you.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

Julianne was a bit disoriented when the scenery changed in front of her eyes. She looked around in awe as everything look so alive around her. She even felt small things like a slight breeze and had spotted animals wandering or playing about. She then started to move her arms up and down while flexing her fingers and also tried jumping up and down to try things out. She then jumped forward and backward while swinging her hands up and down in a position that suggested she was swinging a two-handed weapon. She didn’t notice any of the stares she received while doing this though. What she did notice was a window that popped up in the upper left corner of her vision as she got used to moving her body.

[Agility increases by 1.]

She dismisses it and looks around again. In front of her, she notices some buildings that look like a carpenter’s shop and tailor’s shop past a water fountain. She notices other buildings that look like places where various things would be made. Even further down, she spots a statue in the distance. As she continues to look around her, she notices a gate leading out and heads towards it. As she tries to go out, the guards stop her and tell her, “Sorry Madam. You don’t seem quite ready to leave the city yet.” A window also pops up in front of her.

[New players are not allowed to venture outside until a week of in-game time has passed.
Time remaining: 7 days]

She was originally planning to meet her sister outside but now that she found out that they won’t let new players out for a week, she had to find somewhere else. She looked around a bit more and noticed the large walls around the gate head south and start curving as if encircling the city. ‘So the city is protected by walls on all sides…it might be better to wait wait in the middle of the town since that would usually have the most traffic,’ she thought. With that thought, she heads past the fountain and heads toward the statue she had seen.

Upon arriving at the statue, she notices her sister, who had a different hair style and colour, talking to some Orc lady. She simply says, “Onee-chan, this game really does look and feel so real.”

A moment later, she gets pounced on by her sister who quickly moves to huggling her. While she was also happy to see her sister, the huggling felt a bit overboard. Either way, she allowed her sister to indulge herself a bit before pushing her off. While she didn’t quite hear what the Orc lady had said, she still felt the need to introduce herself and apologize on her sister’s behalf.

So she bowed politely to the Orc lady and said, “My name here is Julianne. Nice to meet you. I apologize for my sister’s behaviour.”

“Ah, my name is Maria. Nice to meet you too,” the Orc Lady said before pulling her sister away a bit. They were clearly whispering something about her and it was rather obvious but Julianne didn’t worry too much. She knew that her sister would stop anything bad from happening. So she decided to look around instead. She found the statue in the middle to be quite beautiful and felt it was fitting to be in the town centre.

She felt a chill go down her back as she was looking about and then turned and looked in the direction where her sister was talking to Maria. She noticed an odd glint in the eyes of her sister and started to wonder what they were talking about. The bits of the conversation they said aloud didn’t tell her anything at all. If it was important, she will just have to find out later from her sister. While she knew her sister wasn’t very traditional like most women around her age, but she did know that her sister cared about her a lot. That was enough to just wait things out. Her body was starting to get restless though.

Her sister grabs her hand as Maria heads off in the direction of the production district and says, “Ok! We should head to the training centre if we want to spar.” Julianne stops resisting when she hears the word spar.

“Onee-chan, you don’t have to work later today do you?” Julianne asks on the way.

“Nope. I took some days off to try this out. Plus it’s a bit of a lull time with us at this time of year. I hope you didn’t have anything planned for this week.”

“I was going to keep training but if it’s like you said and I can train here, I’ll pretty much be here I guess. Papa wanted to know how effective it was to train here as well. I get the feeling that he wants to try it too but he knows mama will get upset unless he can give a good reason before buying it.”

“So we’re the guinea pigs for this. I think they should both try it too. Mama can learn a lot through this game too.”

“I’ll let them know after a week and see what they say.” Julianne says as they arrive at the Barracks. “So the training centre is in here?”

“Yup. Let’s go!”

Once inside, they were in a room with 3 more doors, two of them with guards in front. Karen points to the unguarded door while looking at one of the guards and asks, “Training centre is that way?”

The guard nods in response just as the unguarded door opens with some people coming out. “Wow…such a huge weapon selection here. We have to come back here after checking the rest of the city out. Too bad that there aren’t any quests here though,” one of people coming out says to his partner as they head out. Karen and Julianne head inside to find several people training by swinging or stabbing with the weapons. There was another room with glass windows that showed an archery range. And off in a separate part of the room they were in, was a large boxed off area where some people were sparring. There were others that were still looking at the weapons and trying to decide what to use. They saw a person that was almost covered fully in armour except the head and looked to be much older that was looking around at everything.

They headed towards the man and her sister said, “Hello sir, my name is Karen. Are you by any chance the instructor here? And would you know if there are any requirements for us to start training here?”

The man nods in greeting and replies, “A good day to you fair ladies. My name is Sir Isaac de Tortalone. I am indeed the instructor here and as for requirements for training, there aren’t any. If you need advice or help, you can come to me to ask but otherwise, you are free to do as you will.”

They both bowed to Instructor Isaac and headed towards the weapon rack. “Are you going to go for the dual-wield style Juli?” Karen asks.

Julianne nods and selects two Short Swords that were about similar in size to a Kodachi but double edged like typical western swords. “They don’t have any Katanas here though.” She remarks.

“Yea, I noticed. It’s a good thing I looked up on how they’re made so I can make them later. Maybe make a nice Tachi or Nodachi as well if I can.” Karen says while picking out a Long Sword and grabbing a Kite shield. “Ok…I’m done. And looks like you’re good as well. Lets go wait by the sparring ring for our turn.”

They head to the boxed-off area and waited for the two people sparring now to finish. Luckily, there weren’t too many others waiting to spar.
**********

With help from his father, Songmin set the capsule to play Celestial Realms up. He was told to relax, make a lot of friends, and enjoy the game. He was reminded that he didn’t need to rush and to play it at his own pace. He thanked his father before climbing into the capsule.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears.

Songmin wasn’t sure what race to pick. So he decided to keep it the same as his and said, “Human.”

“The scan has detected your gender as male. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” as a full sized version of himself appeared in front of him. He knew he wasn’t all that tall for his age as his height of 147 cm was shown in front of him. Not that he cared much. He had short black hair and dark brown eyes. He didn’t exercise a lot but from all the bullying he received, he did develop enough muscles to make him look similar to an athlete.

He decided that he wanted to change the colour of his hair as well as his eyes. “Change my hair to dirt brown and I would like my eyes to be hazel.”

“Continue,” he said, satisfied with the changes that took place.

“Please input your name.”

Songmin thought a bit as he wasn’t sure what name to pick. He didn’t want his own name. He said aloud, “Tobi?”

“Please select your starting city.”

“Random please. Any city is ok I guess.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

Tobi looked around him in wonder. He could feel so much of the world around him. There was so much to take in all at once that he felt slightly overwhelmed. He takes a deep breath and then closes his eyes while using only his senses to feel the life around him. He can feel life energy coming from the trees that grew among the houses as well as energy coming from the people and animals around him. He opens his eyes and notices that a window had popped up in the top left corner of his vision.

[Your ability to sense the life energy around you has unlocked the following skills:
Nature Affinity
Sense Life
Empathy]

Not really sure of what the window means, Tobi closes it. As he starts to look around, he sees something like a green blur and notices that it’s an Orc lady that seems to be in some kind of rush when his gaze follows the blur. He notices that some people look confused while others have a look of amusement on their faces. He also hears people saying commands out loud to check their status, skills, or their inventory. He wondered if anyone started with any skills or gained them as they did things like he had but decided not to dwell on it.

As he continued to look around him, he notices some eyes looking out from an alleyway behind what looked to be a tavern. He focused a bit and sensed some animals there looking out at the crowd. He felt them exuding a sense of wonder. As he went closer to get a better look, he notices two dogs and a cat looking out at all the people popping out. They look rather malnourished to Tobi’s eyes. As Tobi approached them, they tensed up as the two dogs let out a low growling sound. He stopped and said aloud, “Open inventory.”

[Bread Rolls  15
Canteen 1L of water]

He took out three of the bread rolls and placed them in front of him. He then took a few steps back and sat down on the ground. The animals sniffed the air from afar cautiously while looking at Tobi. They noticed the food and slowly approaches it while continuing to look at him. The cat and one of the dogs each ate one of the bread rolls he had placed while the other dog kept watch, occasionally sniffing the air. After the two finished eating, they switched to keep watch while the one that had been keeping watch ate the other bread roll.

‘They work well together and display a good sense of teamwork. I really wonder what they’ve been through to be able to set aside their differences to work together like that. What an amazing bond they have between each other.’

They quickly retreated back into the alleyway after they finished eating. The dogs stepped forward a bit and sniffed in his direction once more before running off. He had a feeling that they were marking his scent in some way as the action was familiar to other dogs he had seen in reality.

He got up after they had disappeared into the alleyway and decided to explore the town a bit. As he passed by the front of the tavern, he smelled the scent of cooked food. His curiosity took over and he went inside slowly to take a look to see what was being made. He looked around once he was inside and noticed that there were quite a lot of people sitting around at tables everywhere. They all looked rather tired and hungry as if they had arrived he after a long journey. He spotted one of them talking to a man who was standing behind a desk. He seemed to be the owner of this tavern.

Tobi noticed that no one had spared him much more than a glance and that the owner was busy talking to the traveller to notice him. He peeked inside the kitchen and saw a lady that seemed to be in her early 40s running about. He notices that she’s the only one there and realizes that it’s only one person that has to do all the cooking here. He decided to head to the owner and see if they needed any help as the lady reminded him a bit of his own mother before he started helping. As he approached the owner, he heard a bit of the conversation between him and the traveller.

“What’s taking so long owner? We’re all very hungry from our journey and this is the first time we’ve had to wait for so long to get our food,” the traveller was saying.

“I’m truly sorry sir but as I told your friends, this is the first time we have had so many people come in at once in the past year. We only have one person in the kitchen and she’s also the person in charge of cleaning. We’re doing our best but it’s hard to make so much food so quickly if this many people come in at once. We’ve only had a handful of customers in here a few times this entire year.”

Tobi noticed that the travellers were starting to get impatient and felt they might become violent if nothing is done. So he decides to head towards the kitchen while saying loudly, “Samchon, I’m here. There are so many people here today. I’m going to go help imo in the kitchen ok?”

Inside the kitchen, in a more normal voice, he says, “Help has arrived imo. Let me know what you want me to do to help you out and I’ll do it. I’m always helping eomeoni at home too.”

Neither the owner or his wife understood what was going on but they did know that they needed help. So they both pretended as if he was their nephew as he started helping in the kitchen.

“There you go sir, my nephew has come at last to help. Your food will be here shortly,” says the owner to the traveller. The traveller goes back to his sit with his companions and continues to wait.

Inside the kitchen, even with two people there now, it was still pretty busy. Tobi was also slightly changing the recipes here and there by adding ingredients that would help relieve weariness and removing ingredients that would increase it. Even though the lady had noticed this, she quickly caught on to what he was doing and started doing the same. One by one, the food slowly started heading out to the tables starting with some simple salad dishes that Tobi had made first to help keep the travellers busy with at least eating something while the main dishes were cooking. Around half an hour later, all the main dishes had been served to all the travellers and Tobi was left alone in the kitchen to make dessert while the owner and his wife looked on at the travellers eating. Everything, including desserts, was finished off by the travellers another half hour later with smiles all around.

The travellers each apologized for their earlier behaviour as they paid generously more than the price of the meals and gave compliments on how this had been the best meal they’ve had in their travels so far. The owner and his wife kept apologizing for not being ready in return and thanking them for their generosity while wishing them well. Tobi looked at the window that had popped up earlier while he was still rushing around in the kitchen.

[You have learned the cooking skill. Due to existing knowledge and the skill displayed while cooking, your cooking skill has been increased to Beginner rank 7.]

He notices the owner and his wife looking his way with questions written all over their faces as to who he was as he closes the window. He quickly bows and says, “I’m sorry for rushing in like that and not introducing myself. I noticed that it was very busy and that help was needed and just jumped in to help without properly asking. I’m really sorry.”

“Um..ah, please don’t misunderstand young one. We’re mostly wondering who you are and why you decided to help without even asking for anything in return,” the owner replies.

Tobi scratched behind his ears lightly in embarrassment and says, “Ah, sorry. My name is Tobi. As for why I just went to help…well…seeing imo working so hard on her own reminded me of my eomeoni at home when I was smaller. And I just felt that it wouldn’t be a good idea if she pushed herself too hard and I didn’t want her getting hurt like my eomeoni had.”

The owner and his wife exchange looks and both nod at the same time. The owner then asks, “Well Tobi, would it be possible to receive your help for the rest of this week? We will pay you for your services and you will also have a place to sleep at stay if you don’t already have one. What do you say?”

Tobi nodded his head as he realizes that this will help him quite a bit later. “Please treat me kindly,” he says while flashing them a bright smile.

**********

Rose had cleared her bedroom up by throwing away unnecessary pieces of furniture out after the box with the capsule had arrived. She had thrown away her bed too, opting to sleep on the floor or in the capsule instead if needed. It was only after that did she had the delivery crew set it up. She waited until the delivery truck had left before locking the doors and windows properly and starting the capsule up.

“Welcome to Celestial Realms. Please select your starting race,” a voice said inside the ears.

“Human.” Rose replied right away. There was not much point in wasting time maximizing for killing efficiency. She was going to use the markets to make her fortune anyways.

“The scan has detected your gender as female. Is there any modifications you wish to make to your character?” An avatar of herself appeared in front of her eyes. It stood at a height of 142 cm and had light brown hair that was tied in a pony tail that reached a bit below her neck. Her brown eyes stared right back at her as she looked.

Since she didn’t care about how it looked, she said, “As is. Continue.”

“Please input your name.”

“Rose.”

“Please select your starting city.”

“Which of the starting cities has a varied economy?”

“That would be the city of Zillis.”

“Zillis then.”

“Thank you for playing Celestial Realms. Please enjoy your time here.”

The world opened up around her to reveal a fountain in front. She raised her arms and flexed the fingers to see how it felt. The feeling was all there indeed. She cautiously took a step forward and noticed that it felt exactly like walking in real life. She took a few more moments getting a feel for her body here before looking at her surroundings.

Looking around, she saw some houses on each side that had signs hanging near the door. One had a sword, one had a shield, and there was even one that had something like grass pictured on it indicating it was a shop that sold herbs. ‘Seems like each house specializes in certain types of goods,’ she thought while looking around.

Past the fountain, she spotted some stalls selling more perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables. It also seemed to be the location for merchants from other places to sell their goods. She continued to look around and noticed players checking their status and skills and so forth. She decided to do the same thing, “open status window.”

Name: Rose      Gender: Female

Race: Human          Class: Novice

Title: None

Fame: 0

Health: 100          Health regen: 0.08/s

Mana: 100            Mana regen: 0.12/s

Stamina: 100         Stamina regen: 0.8/s

Strength: 10         Dexterity: 10

Agility: 10          Vitality: 10

Intelligence: 10     Wisdom: 10

Luck: 10             Charisma: 10

Equipment:
Plain Robes

‘I guess this is the average starting stats for most humans. Nothing special. Guess I’ll check my inventory next. Open inventory,’ she thinks and a window opens up.

[Bread Rolls  15
Canteen 1L of water]

‘Not too much. My guess is it’s enough to last for five days. I can get water from the fountains but I’m going to need to make money if I want to eat. Or do anything in this game I guess. I better check the things around for their prices. I’ll start with the stalls since they probably have the cheapest stuff.’

She browsed through the stalls while making mental notes on the prices offered by each stall. They were mostly selling only fruits and vegetables it looked like. She did notice some empty stalls though. She asked a merchant that was selling some vegetables next to an empty one, “Excuse me miss, but why are some of the stalls empty?”

“Ah, that’s because those are stalls weren’t taken by anyone. We haven’t had any new merchants opening shops in a while really. Plenty of rumours as to why going around, little lass, but nothing that clearly says why.”

“Can anyone use those stalls?”

“Nay lass, you need to get permission from the city to use em. Being a licensed Merchant helps too of course.”

“I see. Thank you miss.”

Rose decided to head towards the indoor shops next to check their wares. She notices a pair of guards in the distance heading closer and looking to be on patrol. She stops to check their gear to see what their quality is. One of the guards seems to have a spear that looks like it’ll break easily if hit in certain spots. The other had one that was better but not by all that much. ‘Either this kingdom isn’t all that rich or they don’t care too much about the city militia.’

She continues toward the weapon shop and overhears part of their conversation on the way.

“I’m telling you Marvin, you need to get a new spear. Yours will break the next time you accidentally hit a training dummy with it. Look at mine, it’s new from the Barracks.”

“Yea, yea. You know I can’t do that so easily. The commander is still pissed off at me. There’s no way is he going to issue me a new one.”

“So the next time you get sent for an extermination run, you’re going to stand there and look at your broken spear while a wolf is attacking you?”

“No. I might have to buy my own.”

Rose quickly memorizes how the guard looks. ‘I feel an opportunity,’ Rose thinks as she picks up her pace and heads over to the weapon store.
**AN: Finally…took some time but here’s the next chapter.