When Vidar opens his eyes, he is in the virtual reality. He looks around—the large, white oval-shaped room is filled with people, the avatars in all possible shapes and sizes. It’s just a stopgap, really, just a middle-ground between reality and where he actually wants to go.
He licks his lips.
Pushing his glasses higher up his nose (no, he doesn’t know why he picked glasses in the character customization stage), he glances around. It takes his VR machine a few minutes to configure the final settings. He spends the time idly watching people, silently eavesdropping. Somebody won some award in an virtual reality tournament. Somebody fell in the international rankings for a game. Somebody dropped off the virtual reality world after reportedly committing identity fraud.
It’s all idle things which have nothing to do with him, but it’s nice to listen to while he waits. His virtual reality sleep machine is a little older, a little slower then the current generation. But finally, it finishes, and the world goes dark again.
The next time he blinks his eyes open, he’s in an entirely different place.
The sunlight is harsh and bright through the treetops. The forest around him is high, reaching far into the sky. Green grass is on the ground, and he scuffs his foot on it. The grass shifts beneath him, and he grins.
The flowers are beautiful, colorful, and he spends some time just smelling them. Some of them he recognizes as poisonous, and he eats them just to see what will happen.
He’s in a glade of some kind, and in the distance, he can hear a river. The air is fresh, the kind he only really can remember vaguely from when his family stilled lived in the country, in the middle of nowhere. He tilts his head back, breathing it in deeply, feeling it fill his chest to the brim. It’s joyous, everything he wanted.
Well. Not everything, precisely. But there’s still time. No need to rush.
Vidar starts to walk, slowly, over the uneven ground. He bends over low-hanging branches, walks around big rocks with moss growing on them. His hands trail on anything that he can reach, and he’s startled at the reality of it all. He hasn’t used virtual reality since he was a teenager, and he’s forgotten... everything, it seems.
Shaking his head, he laughs softly. His purple eyes glance around over useless glasses, and his long silver hair is in a plait that just reaches his butt. He thought. Well, he thought that he might as well go all out. It’s some kind of elvish character he has, he thinks. The ears are so long they can’t even be hidden by his hair, and his teeth are pointier, too. There are even more of them, he feels as he presses his tongue around his mouth. More teeth than humans have.
He snaps his mouth shut, and almost giggles at the sound the teeth make. Shaking his head again, he settles down against a rock and pulls up his menu.
It glitters into existence before him, transparent and the text large and yellow. He ignores his stat page, his inventory, and instead glances over the quest-list. There’s just the generic starting quest right now; get to the starting village and there will be an award of five gold coins. He doesn’t know how much worth that actually holds, he didn’t really bother to look that up because it’s not what he’s here for.
After perusing the quest-list, he pulls up the map. He zooms out and confirms that he’s in the right area.
The Mugwoods is very low in popularity, from what he’s learned online. The mobs here are too strong for non-professional gamers so newbies can’t level up, and there’s nothing useful here items wise, nothing helpful in the small village that serves as the starting point, no good quest-drops. The professionals don’t come here, and neither does the amateurs just looking for fun.
He swallows. Browsing through the map, he glances over the many names. Some of them are blatantly obvious, like Field of Wolves and others are less so, like Meghuira’s Tree.
Vidar already knows where he’s going, though. That, too, he looked up online. This is a very planned event he’s undertaking; it’s nerve-wracking enough he couldn’t do it without all the planning.
There’s a breathlessness coursing through him, sitting tight in his stomach, as he gets up and starts to walk again, following his map. It takes him across the river, and over a large stretch of the forest. His eyes constantly glance at the map, needing the reassure he’s going the right way. He doesn’t want this to go wrong, doesn’t think he could take it.
But he’s heading the right way, and soon enough, he sees the first hint of the camp.
Thick smoke curls through the air, and he can feel the acrid taste on his tongue. He wets his lips, his stomach swooping like he’s on a plane and it’s passing through an air-bump, that moment where it drops for the briefest second. Rubbing his hands on his pants, he stops and leans his forehead on the nearest tree, fingers scraping on the bark.
Is he really going to do this? What if it goes wrong? What if he doesn’t like it? What if somebody—somebody real—sees? What if...
Fuck. He hits his forehead softly on the tree, feeling the temporary pain echo through him. Groaning quietly, his fingers scramble on the rough bark. He bites his lip, worrying it with his tongue.
He wants this. He wants it so badly, and he doesn’t know how else to get it. This is the safest option he’s found, the easiest way to get a taste and see if he’ll actually enjoy it in reality. If it’s not just some strange fantasy that will freak him out. He just... fuck, he wants it so much that it hurts sometimes.
Inhaling deeply, he holds the breath in. He holds onto the tree until he stops trembling, and then he checks the map once more to make sure that no other player is within range. He hasn’t seen a single player since getting here, but he needs to double-check, needs to be sure.
Nothing. There’s nothing. He breathes, holds it in, lets go of the tree. Through the trees and the bushes and the flowers, he can vaguely see fire and smoke and large figures moving. He breathes again, holds it in until it hurts, and starts to slowly and cautiously walk forward. His feet make hardly a sound on the ground, and he can perfectly hear it when the camp goes quiet.
The grunting ceases. The footsteps stop. The only sound is the fire crackling.