Arc 1: Chapter 3-3

Theodore stared dumbly at the window. After less than a second, he moved his finger toward it. Upon his touch, it immediately disappeared. He widened his eyes, and his hand made a sign. The window appeared again, just like the windows in Origin. It felt a bit surreal, to have such a window in his house. He kept looking at it, pondering. It disappeared again as he touched it.

He could see it right in front of his eyes, and he had started to accept it, yet a part of his mind kept rejecting this mess. He frowned. He had some new mental illness, or he was simply dreaming. He made a sign, and the window appeared. This whole thing felt so alien. “Shit!” His voice came out strangled.

He looked at the window, and remembered about a novel he had read once, about virtual reality. The possibility of this being real couldn’t be discarded. It didn’t feel like a dream. His eyes stared at the window. He had to either accept or ignore it.

He went to the kitchen and sat on a chair. The window kept following him. He sighed. Someone else, even Eduard, would be excited about this, but he wouldn’t. He felt quite curious, but not excited.

He thought about what it meant for Origin’s windows to appear in real life. Various possibilities flashed through his mind. Whatever was the truth, he knew this was very dangerous. Maybe the pod did something to his mind. He sighed for a second time. He was very annoyed with the current situation. He had played Origin to alleviate his boredom, not to be in real danger. He wanted to know more about this situation, but he felt trying to know would put him in more danger.

He had a sudden thought. Maybe all the players became like him. He grimaced. That seemed appalling. He got up and made some coffee. He liked coffee, and always had it concentrated. Eduard always considered him crazy for that. He smiled, thinking of his friend.

He poured his black coffee in a mug. The smell wafted in the air. It was a cheap brand, but he still liked it. He held the mug and sat on the chair. His mind did its best to ignore Origin’s window in front of him, as he tried to enjoy the taste.

Theodore put the empty mug on the table, thought for a moment, and then reached for his pad. He easily found Eduard’s number and touched the call button. He waited for a full minute, and then sighed. His friend was definitively still playing. He had to ask him about any weird occurrences happening to him. He wondered about how his friend would react in his place.

He thought again about his situation. Getting game powers in reality would entail many things. He preferred considering this a dream, or some mental illness, but he knew he would be just lying to himself. After some time, he only had two plausible possibilities: either the pod did something to his mind, making him have hallucinations, either all of this was real, meaning he could use game systems in reality. He sighed. At least, the idea didn’t seem alien to him anymore.

He felt something was amiss. Why him? A thought struck his mind. As long as one of the two possibilities was true, he was sure someone was manipulating in the shadows, doing this to him. Maybe the perpetrator would try to control him. He didn’t like that. He hated it. He looked around him. He had to know more about the company that made Origin.

He took his pad and made a search. The company’s name was Arason. It was founded twenty years ago. Ten years before reality pods were made. Arason was mostly working on mechanics and robotics, with some side projects completely unrelated to virtual reality. The company had a great success in its fields of work.

After ten years of its foundation, virtual pods appeared for the first time. He opened a new tab and searched for the advent of pods. Theodore wanted to know all the details he could.

Virtual pods were developed by a Russian company. Theodore couldn’t pronounce its name, nor did he bother. At the beginning, only prototypes were made, and after a year, they started selling new versions. There was some opposition from ideologies and religions, but various governments just ignored them and legalized the pods’ commercialization.

Theodore skipped the part about the reaction of religions. To him, that didn’t matter. He scrolled down and skimmed through the remaining content. The pods’ new versions were far too expensive, and it did take relatively long to make them. It would be decades before the pods could be sold to common people. Thus, the Russian company signed some sort of contract he didn’t exactly understand with various other companies. Theodore was never interested in economics. He sighed again, rubbing his eyes then massaging his temple. Dizziness hit him. He was already feeling sleepy again. Something was off with his head tonight. Cheap coffee didn’t have much effect on him anymore. He considered leaving this to the next morning. He looked at his pad. It was still early, seven in the afternoon. He went to the sink in the bathroom and washed his face. He had to get a basic understanding of his situation before sleeping. He had to know in what he was involved.

Getting back to the kitchen, he cursed his luck. He was fairly sure he was in a very bad situation. Novels may portray this as a good thing, but he knew they were wrong.

Sitting on the same chair, he kept skimming through the content of his pad. After the contract, the companies became part of a huge group working on the virtual pods. Virtual learning programs became popular, especially because of the newly implemented time dilatation of three to one. Newly formed companies started making more programs that could work on the pod.

After another year, pods became much cheaper and had easier access. Virtual games started appearing.

He rubbed his eyes. Maybe he was really just dreaming.

Theodore looked again at the window hovering next to him. He let his head fall on the table. He felt so tired, and didn’t make anymore assumptions. He merely wanted to know the truth about this situation.

The young man remained that way for long minutes, and then lifted his head. He had to know more. The most useless bit of information would be better than nothing. He went back to the tab about Arason.

It was one of the companies making the contract with the Russian one. Arason started concentrating on the pods components, and thanks to its research, the pods became much cheaper and easier to produce, while granting better immersion.

Theodore frowned. Did they change parts of the pod to do something to his mind? If so, why him exactly? He thought of the other possibility, of the game system being transported to reality. That possibility seemed unlikely after reading Arason’s history, but he still left it as possibility. He wondered about how that possibility could be true. Was Origin a real alternate world? This was getting crazy. He made another cup of coffee.

Theodore stared at the log out window, slowly sipping his coffee. He was no different from usual seasoned players. He couldn’t find the reason of him being in such a mess. He was but a normal player in Origin, and a newbie at that.

He opened his mouth, finally finding a clue. “Jorlutgär” His voice came out soft and slightly excited. He had forgotten about his unique class. It was what made him different from other players. It made him unique. The class maybe had a relation to this mess.

The young man went into Origin’s main website. He ignored the videos of the war posted by players. At one side, he saw the words ‘Game Commands’. He touched it. A new tab appeared. Some videos depicting hand signs appeared. He wondered why the game was so heavily focused on hand signs. Wouldn’t just saying the name of the command aloud enough to make it appear?

He carefully checked each command, and he struggled to keep a smile from blossoming on his face. Now he had a mean to know more about his situation.

He got up, flexing his hands. He touched the window still hovering in front of him. It popped out. He wondered about what to check first. He had only found information about how to check inventory, quests and skills. He had no informations about how to check his class.

He went for the skills. He was quite curious about them. With a new hand sign, a window appeared.

Active skills
Artifact smiting; level 1; 0%
Refining fire; level 1; 0%
Locked space; level 1; 0%
Passive skills
Soul mirror; level 1; 0%

Theodore frowned. There was no additional information about them again. His eyebrow then twitched. He had a new window hovering in front of him, and he was already taking it for normal. He wondered why he still didn’t get headaches yet.

He concentrated at the matter at hand. He wanted to use a skill on some object of his house, to see if this was real or hallucinations. He wondered about how to activate skills. Maybe shouting the name would do. He looked at his skill list for a moment, and then decided to try Artifact smiting. Refining fire seemed a bit dangerous.

“Artifact smiting!” He shouted. He waited for a moment, looking all around him. Nothing had happened. He waited for a minute. There was a complete silence. “locked space!” His second shout was met with the same silence. He hesitated for a moment, and then shouted again: “Refining fire!”

Silence again. He felt slightly embarrassed. At least, he was alone at home. He couldn’t let anyone see this sight. His hand went to his pad, and he started looking through various websites and forums, gathering as much informations as possible on the game. Origin’s official website didn’t have much more than the principal game commands. What he was looking for in forums were the discoveries of the players in the game. It was too much to hope for everything, as all players would keep some information away from other, but he would at least find basic things.

As he read through all the information he got, his eyes widened in surprise. His expression slowly morphed into a pensive one. Skills couldn’t be learned on their own in the game. You started without any skill, and you had to study them and train in them the hard way just like in reality, and have the aptitude to use them. Most skills players could use nowadays were ‘Weapon masteries’ and maybe some lesser magic.

Another intriguing thing was the level system. In most games, the more you use a skill, or the more you level up, the more it will upgrade. Origin was different. You could use a skill for the whole day, and you would just be slightly better at it. To upgrade skills, players had to really study them on a deeper level and get better than them. Some players in the forum considered the skills’ level a gauge that measures your real mastery of it.

Looking for answers about how to activate skills, Theodore felt annoyed. He could find nothing that he could use. He always found that while the player was studying and learning the skill from a master, he would learn how to use it. Learning the skill required learning various energy manipulation trainings, and those were the only way to use skills. All skills followed the same logic: nobody could teach you how to activate the punching skill, it was simply natural, as u aquiered it through sweat.
Theodore cursed. His skills came with his class, and they were given freely. He was never taught anything similar to it, thus he didn’t know how to use them. He was now fairly sure his unique class was related to the windows appearing in reality.

He made a quick search, and didn’t get too surprised knowing that there was absolutely no talk about the existence of the class system in Origin, let alone a unique class. The young man asked himself again. Why him? Numerous new questions kept appearing through his head. He sighed and decided to forget about skills for now. He knew nothing about them, and didn’t have any worthwhile source of information, thus he had to let it go. He still had to look at his quests and inventory. With another sign of his hand, a new window appeared.

Quest log
Recover the true Jorlutgär’s legacy from Ayleth’s temple in Barda

He didn’t know the last two names, but he understood the main point. He had to clear out some dungeon and take his prize at the end. Theodore smiled wryly. As if it would be that simple. By now he had understood that nothing in this game could be predicted. He shook his head, thinking about how easily he had accepted this fucked up situation. He rubbed his eyes. He was dizzy once again. He still had to check his inventory, as he seemingly had inherited someone’s belongings, and it may hold some clues about this mess.

He made a sign again. A window with numerous slots appeared. He started scrolling down, and his mouth remained open like a fool. He spent minutes scrolling down. He didn’t know how much exactly. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes. He took a deep breath, calming down his mind.

In his inventory were thousands of weapons. One could tell from one glance that they were far more superior to the ones being sold in his starting city, with a craftsmanship he couldn’t even fathom. Most of them were spears, but there were also numerous swords and weapons. He hesitated, and then touched a slot. The air around his hand shimmered, and a sword appeared. He caught it before it could fall down. It was heavy, way too heavy. His hand hit the floor, and pain numbed his senses for a moment. It hurt. He had a bruise with some bleeding. He looked with bewilderment at the weapon. It was but a short sword, but it weighed so much. Instead of lifting it with one hand, he used two, and with wobbly steps, tried to reach a state of balance. He made a sloppy swing, and broke the edge of the table.

His mouth was still open. He struggled to lift the sword, and he put it into the inventory. He had handled numerous swords before, but never one so heavy. He looked at his wrist, and stopped breathing. The bruise in his hand was healing very noticeably. After five second, there was no trace of it anymore on his skin.

He looked at the broken edge of the table, and then at the spot where the sword had fallen. It could only mean one thing: This was real. He wasn’t having hallucinations. His breathing came out ragged. He couldn’t let anyone know for now.

He should have been granted this power by someone, Arason maybe, and for a reason, and he wouldn’t let himself be manipulated. Was Origin a real world? He definitively could let no one know. Some people may get jealous of his situation and try to harm him.

He started regulating his breathing. He had to calm down. He had to think. He tried to think, but failed. His thoughts were in disarray. Nothing seemed to go right. Was Arason watching him? What did they want to do with Origin? He couldn’t calm down.

His pad started ringing. He was receiving a call. He panicked. He looked at the screen. A number he had never seen before. He couldn’t stop his hand from shaking. He answered in a surprisingly steady voice:

“Who is it?”

His question was met with silence for a moment, and then he heard a faint voice:

“It’s me… I mean its Mia. Mia Stanford. We talked today”

She seemed slightly nervous. He calmed down a bit. He looked at his hand. How could it heal like that? A skill? Her voice came again:

“Are you there?”

“Yes. What do you want?” he answered in a monotone voice. His thoughts were muddled with sleep and panic. Too much weirdness.

“My friends and I are going on a trip tomorrow to have fun together. Um, they all wanted you to come along so would you come?”

Theodore sighed. Her friends wouldn’t ask him on their own free will. She was the one persuading them to do that. He noticed he had calmed down a bit. He had to think about his situation. “I am sorry but I think I got somethi—“he tried to say, but she interjected with an unusually slightly heated voice:

“Can’t you just come this once? They all want you to be there”

He tried to think about a way to make her give up, but he was too tired. A break tomorrow maybe would be good for him. He had to get his mind off this mess. With a sigh he said:

“I got some matters to do tomorrow, but if I ever finish early, I will come”

In a slightly cheerful voice and a faint chuckle, she said:

“We’ll be waiting for you then. Call me tomorrow, I’ll tell you the place” After some incomprehensible mumbling, she added “Good night Theodore!”

“Goodnight” He whispered, and then ended the call.

He took her out of his mind, and tried to think of his situation. His mind couldn’t work. He tried again, with the same result. He was pushing his body too hard. For a moment, he considered drinking another mug of coffee, but gave up on the idea and went to his bed. He had to rest. He would think of everything else tomorrow. As he was about to close his eyes, he got a new possibility.

What if he was trapped in virtual reality, with a virtual copy of his world inside of it?

With a chuckle, he made a mental note to think about it tomorrow, and drifted into sleep.

Maybe he was simply nuts.

 


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