Chapter 1032: The Simple Things

When Darkflame Technologies announced the release of a new Keeper-sponsored game, the reception was… admittedly rather mixed. There had never been a game sponsored by the Keeper that wasn’t a massive, online game meant to be played by the entire universe together. Some even braved the void to try to get a sneak peak at the new world, only to find a nonsensical maze of offices.

Without being able to properly see the game’s content, they were kicked out of the game by the entity managing it. They were forced to wait until the official release one week after the game’s announcement.

As the game servers were going live, there was a small girl sitting at her desk, with black hair and golden eyes. She was curious about the new game, having heard about it frequently in the last week. When she looked outside her window, she saw the seemingly endless sky, distant islands hovering in the air.

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During the events of V-Day, Mara was one of the first to volunteer to move to Fyor, having very few personal connections among the other worlds. In doing so, she was given a rather nice house, a standard service given to deities who accepted the offer. In fact, the house was even better than the one which she had previously owned on Earth. It was only natural that, after V-Day had passed, she chose to remain on Fyor.

Every now and then, Mara would venture out into the other worlds to explore, but she was never an outgoing girl. She had managed to escape from her life of battle, and had no desire to return to such again.

Still, there was a difference between a true battle of life and death, and simply playing a game. That was Mara’s belief, and the reason why she often enjoyed playing the online games released both by the Keeper, as well as other companies. However, she had a requirement for each such game, and that was that she was able to create a new character, without her standard abilities. Only in doing so would she feel the sense of disconnect that would allow her to enjoy the game properly.

The visor on her desk let out a soft ding, notifying her that the new game had been fully installed. With a small smile, she lifted it up, placing it on her head. Unlike most, Mara chose not to have a Virtual avatar of herself, feeling like she had enough of an identity crisis already without any of that. Thus, whenever she played these games, she would always do so herself.

“Log me in to Codex Chaotic, please.” She said in a soft voice, the helmet recognizing the voice command. Her vision went pitch black, and she soon found herself sitting in a small office. There was a blue carpet on the floor, white walls, and a standing, metal capsule positioned just behind her.

In front of Mara, sitting across the desk from her was the entity that she had heard about online, the one that would remove anyone that tried to invade this space. She had silver skin, glowing green eyes, and long, black hair. Mara wasn’t surprised by how young she looked, knowing fully well that her appearance did not mean anything in regards to her actual age.

“Welcome to Codex Chaotic. My name is Cici, and I’ll be helping you set up your new life.” Cici introduced herself with a warm smile. “It’s launch day, so I assume you are not familiar with the procedure here, correct?” She asked, to which Mara nodded her head.

“The first thing you’ll want to do is decide what sort of world you want to live in. At the basic level, you can choose to live in any of the known worlds within the Keeper’s domain. If you are an advanced user, you can choose to mix and match systems from different worlds, or remove systems to create a fully customized experience.”

Mara nodded her head, before pausing and asking a question. “Excuse me, but… if I chose Fyor, how would that work? Void beasts can’t attack Fyor, after all…”

Cici blinked, before smiling wide. “That is an excellent question. However, there are methods to allow a void beast into Fyor. This can happen in three basic methods. First, the void beast identifies the proper coordinates for an individual layer of Fyor, and teleports there just as you would teleport through the void.”

“Secondly, the void beast passes through the Fairy Ring or other standard method of inter-world travel. Finally, there is the option of the void beast possessing someone that is traveling, and then spreading its influence. In truth, the black stone walls of Fyor are not a perfect defense against void beasts. Rather, they only prevent void influences from directly seeping between floors.”

Mara gave a small nod at that, satisfied with the answer. She had only been roughly considering Fyor, but in truth was leaning more towards Deckan. Card magic had always been something that she found interesting, and she wanted to try living as a kitsune for a while. “In that case… can I have my simulation be in Deckan..?”

“Certainly!” Cici accepted the request readily. “Is there anything that you would like to change about the world, to prepare for the life you want to live?”

Mara pursed her lips, nodding. “I’d like it to be the only realm, please. And… only have the card magic.”

Once again, Cici accepted the request without issue. “From my records, kitsune are the only race originally native to Deckan. If you choose to keep this modification, that will be the case, unless you want to have more races present?”

“No, that’s fine. I’d like to be a kitsune, too.” Mara smiled slightly, dipping her head a bit. “Also, I don’t want to be a god, please. Just a normal kitsune.”

Cici appeared to be processing the information, soon following up with additional questions. “Would you like to make any other specifications? For example, any family, friends, an occupation?”

Mara’s eyes widened slightly when she heard her options. “Could I… have a family? A mother, father, and older sister. For my age… I don’t want to be in school, so nineteen and working at the family business selling magic cards.”

Cici’s gaze seemed to turn warmer as she listened to Mara’s requests. “Certainly. Is there anything else that you would like to change?”

“My name.” Mara said quickly, realizing that they were almost done. In order to help remove herself from her game personas, there was an online name that she always liked to use. “Maya. I’d like my name to be Maya Conners.”

“Very good.” Cici nodded, standing up and walking around the desk. “If there is nothing else, I believe that we are ready to begin. Just step into this capsule, and you will immediately be sent into your simulated world.”

“Really? There’s nothing else that I need to do, or a wait time?” Mara asked in confusion, Cici shaking her head.

“There are no forms you need to fill out, no special systems you need to interact with. Codex Chaotic is designed to be set up based on as vague or specific parameters as the player wishes.” She answered sincerely, Mara standing up and walking over. There was a pneumatic hiss from the capsule as it opened.

Mara bit her lip gently, walking into the capsule and closing her eyes. The inside was padded, clearly meant for her to relax back against. As she did so, she felt the capsule tilt back, letting her lay down.

The next thing she knew, her eyes snapped open, staring up at a wooden ceiling. She could feel a warm blanket resting on top of her, and something rubbing along her from behind. Turning back, she lifted the blanket to see a black, bushy tail swishing from side to side. It felt entirely natural, causing a smile to emerge on her face. 

Next, she brought her hand up, lightly stroking a finger along one of her large, fox ears. Doing so sent a shiver down her spine, causing her to shudder. Looking off to the side, she saw the clock saying that it was almost seven in the morning, and her eyes widened. Out of sheer reflex, she jumped out of bed, running over to her dresser to look for a change of clothes before she even realized what she was doing.

It was only after she had changed that she noticed her actions, pausing and focusing. When she did, it was as if a movie was being played, memories from her life as Maya Conners.  As Mara, she knew that she could ‘turn off’ those memories if she wanted, and they were specifically kept separate from her memories of the real world, as if there was a force preventing the two from meeting.

When she realized this, she let out a deep sigh of relief, allowing the memories to play for a moment. Afterwards, she began to walk out of her room, and down the stairs of her family’s home. In the kitchen, she saw a taller, mature woman wearing an apron over a long-sleeved shirt and tight jeans. “There you are, Maya. You’ve got the day shift at the store today, remember? I’m just about done with breakfast, so sit down and you can get going once you’ve eaten.”

Maya’s eyes widened as she heard the gentle voice. The moment she saw the woman, a new set of memories played, allowing her to ‘recall’ that this was her mother, Claret. “Okay, mom.” She said in a somewhat emotional tone, making her way to the dining table.

“Is everything alright, Maya?” Claret asked, looking at her daughter in concern. “Are you still drowsy?”

“Yeah, that’s probably it.” Maya nodded her head quickly, lightly slapping her cheek to help her ‘wake up’. Whether in this Keeper’s world or the last, Mara didn’t have any memories of her family. That was why she had asked for one for this simulation. Now, seeing a ‘mother’ who acted so naturally towards her, she had to fight back to stop her eyes from turning wet.

Claret smiled, nodding her head. It didn’t take long to finish the breakfast, two steaming strips of bacon and scrambled eggs with toast. Maya’s stomach practically roared as the dish was presented to her, wasting no time in devouring it. Clearly, her tastes were the same in this game as they were on the outside.

Claret lightly chuckled, returning to the kitchen to cook for herself next. “Michelle should be hungry when you get there, so I went ahead and made something for you to give her. It’s on the counter on the way out.”

When Maya heard that, she quickly nodded her head. As soon as she was done with her breakfast, she hopped up from the table, her tail swishing happily behind her. After getting her shoes, as well as her personal magic deck, she made her way to the door.

Following her mother’s words, Maya saw the card resting on the counter, showing a thick slice of roasted ham, with a side of mashed potatoes covered in brown gravy and steamed carrots. Maya recognized it as their dinner from the night before, when her sister was already gone to work. She grabbed the card and pocketed it, making her way out of the house.

Maya always ran to work, feeling that it was too close to bother taking the transport nodes. Five minutes later, she pushed open the door of the Conners Cards storefront, a bell ringing overhead. “Hello, thank you for visiting Conners– Oh, hey Maya!” A familiar voice called out, a slightly taller kitsune woman with black hair greeting her from behind the counter.

Maya’s smile grew wider and wider as she made her way in. “Hey, Michelle. Mom asked me to bring you something to eat when you get off.” She reached into her pocket, retrieving the card containing Michelle’s dinner and handing it over.

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Michelle’s eyes widened as she saw the card, her stomach immediately betraying her. “Oh, thanks! I was planning to grab something on the way home, but this is so much better. Do you mind taking over for me a little early…?”

Maya giggled lightly, nodding her head. “Sure thing.” She said, already walking around the counter.

“You’re the best!” Michelle declared as she pulled Maya into a hug, before running towards the break room in the back. Maya was left alone in the store, her tail swinging faster and faster. She knew that there was some void incident in this world that she would need to solve, but for the moment she was simply enjoying herself and her simple, family life.

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