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A note from pyrowind

Just realized that I lost some formatting when I pasted this in from my word processor. Should be fixed now, but if anyone notices sections of text that seem like it's the character's internal thoughts and it isn't italicized, let me know.

Next chapter should be up in a day or two.

Real Fantasy Online wasn’t the first VRMMORPG Mark had ever played, hell, it wasn’t even the fifth. It was, however, the game designed specifically for the latest generation Mind-Link headset. Promising incredible NPC AIs, “More Than Life” realism and “Total Immersion”, it was enough for Mark to splurge and pick up the new headset, along with a one-year subscription to the game. Ordinarily, he loathed pre-orders, but the bonus was intriguing. Instead of the usual bullshit “exclusive” character class, race or the like, it was something that actually seemed interesting for a change.

Right now though, he was making an occasional wince of discomfort as the headset mapped out his nervous system, while he stared into the featureless grey mists that served  for the background. After an indeterminate period of time, the uncontrollable muscle spasms ceased and an odd tingling replaced it. Now that he could finally stand up, Mark looked around slowly, picked a direction and started walking into the mists. After owning so many other virtual consoles, he knew how to speed up the synchronization process. If anyone could have seen him, they would see a masculine figure performing any number of odd actions. From skipping, to leaping, to rolling around on the ground, Mark began mimicking all sorts of physical actions he might need to perform in the game.
    
Right around the time he was trying to perform a handstand, a giggle echoed through the featureless landscape.

“What in the world are you doing?” Came the amused-sounding feminine voice.

Standing up from where he had fallen on the cloudy ground, Mark replied.

“Figured I’d give you a head start in mapping my nervous system.”

The voice snorted. “I’d have done while we reviewed your backstory anyway.”

Mark nodded. “Not a bad way to handle it. So I take it you’re my AI guide to Real Fantasy Online? How do we get started?”

Since there seemed to be no point in standing around, Mark once again resumed his activities, this time going through a martial art kata with an imaginary staff.

The mysterious voice coughed and commented. “You know, I had this whole spiel about being the Goddess of Reincarnation and how you were chosen to live a new life in a new world filled with magic and adventure.”

Mark waved absently. “If you want to, go ahead. I don’t mind.”

“Well, now that the atmosphere has been thoroughly ruined it seems kind of pointless. Since it seems like you’ve done this sort of thing before, any requests?”

“Personally, I’m kinda old-school. I’m partial to message windows, blocks of text and over-complicated formulas for damage and effect calculation.”

The “Goddess of Reincarnation” made a raspberry noise. “Bo-ring, but fine. Let me ask a few questions and we can get started. Would you prefer to be a humanoid, or non-human race?”

“Hmm, humanoid, but not Human.”

“All right, what sort of role do you want your character to fulfill?”

“Let’s see...Last game I was a tanky guardian, but that gets boring over the years. Pure mages tend to end up ridiculous, and I’ve always enjoyed magic. Crafting can be fun, but last time I played a crafter I ended up owning a couple of kingdoms outright. Hmm, haven’t played a control-type in a long time and I don’t usually go the social route...How about something that combines magic and charisma in a primarily supporting class, with non-traditional ways of dealing damage?”

“Hmm, definitely not your first virtual world. All right, since you said you actually like window screens, I’ll give you a list of some races to look over. Pick one, then we’ll select your primary class.”

Suddenly, a light-blue window popped into the air in front of Mark. As he stopped walking and promptly sat down, the window followed, maintaining a comfortable distance. It was filled with a scrolling list of various humanoid races, describing their strengths and weaknesses, along with a column of stats that defined their base attributes. The list was surprisingly short, and Mark asked.

“Did you filter this list of races? There’s a lot less than I expected to see.”

“Yes.” The ‘Goddess’ affirmed. “The ones I showed you have various useful bonuses to the role you described.”

“Hmm. All-right, let’s go with a half-elf Lilin. I should be able to work up a suitable backstory, and that could be a fun combination.”

Half-Elf Lilin (Lilin Male>Incubus, Lilin Female>Succubus): Elves are known for their long lifespans, high agility and affinity for natural magics. Unlike humans, they have a completely adversarial relationship to all of the Demonic races. As such, a cross-breed with one is considered foul at best and any elf that knows of your origin will likely despise you. Lilin are one of the more “human” demons, and have a natural advantage in charming those of the opposite sex. Through usage of targeted quasi-magical pheromones and physically addictive bodily fluids, they can enthrall various beings to their service. They must regularly have intercourse or they will suffer progressive penalties to their Vitality, Strength, and Willpower. As a crossbreed between these races, you will have a shorter lifespan than a pure elf, but mature faster. Your racial traits will be less effective than that of a pure Lilin, but you will be able to abstain for a longer time before suffering from the associated penalties. Both Elves and Demons, upon realizing your origins, will generally be hostile towards you.

 

Race: Half-Elf Incubus
Strength: 7
Endurance: 7
Vitality: 12
Agility: 12
Dexterity: 12
Reflexes: 15
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 9
Focus: 8
Attunement: 1
Aura: 1
Charisma: 12
Influence: 0
Lifespan: 500
Luck: 5



 As Mark studied the list, he noted that the average for most stats appeared to be 10, and was pleased when he discovered that tapping on a stat gave a detailed breakdown of each stat’s effects.

Strength: Overall muscular density. Each point of strength multiplied by ten reflects the number of pounds readily lifted under normal conditions. Attempting more than 3 times this amount can lead to muscle strain.

Endurance: Influences stamina and physical durability. Someone with a strength of 10 and an endurance of 10 can carry a weight of 100 pounds for one hour before becoming exhausted.

Vitality: A measure of the body’s ability to generate red blood cells and ward off infections. Those with a higher vitality have a higher natural regeneration rate and can survive wounds that would kill a person with lower vitality.

Agility: A measure of explosive muscular force. Those with a higher agility can sprint faster and jump higher than those with lower agility. An Olympic athlete would have an agility of around 12.

Dexterity: Indicates fine motor control and is particularly important to archers, craftsman and artists of all sorts. A particularly skilled musician may have a dexterity of around 12.

Reflexes: Indicates the efficiency of the nervous system. 10 is a base number for average reflexes. A fighter jet pilot would have a reflex stat of around 14. Higher numbers create a slow-time effect within the game, allowing the player to react to danger more efficiently.

Intelligence: 10 is considered to be average human intelligence, equating to 100 IQ points. In game, a higher intelligence allows for faster learning of languages, skills and spells, along with amplifying the power of magic.

Wisdom: A hard to define stat that reflects the amount of lore known and/or judgment of the player. A higher wisdom stat allows for a larger mana-pool and affects one’s ability to identify unknown magical items and spells. Also allows for more effective resistance to Charm effects.

Focus: Indicates the amount of control a player has over their various skills and spells and is used for a performance modifier. Some abilities require a high level of focus, which may be trained via mediation, study or maintaining a state of calm on the battlefield. High levels of Focus can ward off many mental status ailments.

Attunement: An attunement number of 0 indicates a complete lack of the ability to cast magic, while 10 indicates a purely instinctive, unconscious level of control. Specific magical attunement can be measured via appraisal at an Adventurer or Mage’s guild. Certain rare resources may be used to forcefully grant Attunement, though not without risk.

Aura: Aura is the fighter’s equivalent to magic, and is often called “Fighting Spirit” or "Soul Force". Through use of aura, many strange and mysterious abilities can be created. Can be trained up to 3 points higher than one’s initial starting value. Those who wish to utilize Aura techniques would be advised to invest in this attribute during character creation.

Charisma: Indicates the general physical appeal of the character. 8 is considered an average value, 10 is fair, and 12 would be considered attractive. Any value higher than 15 is considered extraordinarily handsome/beautiful, while any value lower than 4 is considered hideous.

Influence: Indicates the weight behind one’s words. Varies by region, but always has an effect on how people view you and your actions.

Lifespan: A value of 1 is equivalent to 1 earth year and reflects the number of game-years a character can be expected to live under normal conditions. Some factors may increase or decrease this number.

Luck: A numerical measure of the player’s luck. Good for thieves, treasure hunters and heroes! A value of 10 is considered average for most humanoid races. Some races are innately lucky, while others are innately unlucky.

Mark was actually rather pleased with the level of detail that went into the stats, considering the RFO claimed that there were no levels. A character’s stats were influenced almost entirely by training, race and origin. After he made his race suggestion, he was presented with another list for his starting class. Seeing one entry, he grinned and selected it.

Mage (Mind/Illusion Focus): Mages seek to control the mystic power that pervades the realm, and often have a field that they specialize in at the expense of others. Illusion magic comes in two forms: internal and external. External illusions can be as simple as making an imaginary rock, or as complex as one can imagine. Internal illusions affect the mind itself, and range from simple confusion to implanting false memories. Incubi are naturally talented in charm and concealment magic, and your elven heritage allows for more realistic illusions of natural creatures and objects.

 

Class: Mage
Strength: 5
Endurance: 5
Vitality: 8
Agility: 10
Dexterity: 11
Reflexes: 10
Intelligence: 13
Wisdom: 12
Focus: 15
Attunement: 3
Aura: 0
Charisma: N/A
Influence: N/A
Lifespan: N/A
Luck: N/A



“All right, so you want to be a half-elf incubus with the starting class of mage, specialized in mental and illusion magic right?” The "Goddess" asked.

“Sounds good so far.” Mark replied.

“Great!" Came the cheerful reply. "Next, I’d like you to pick three stats to be your primary, secondary and tertiary focus stats. You’ll get a fixed bonus to each stat you select. You can’t pick Lifespan or Influence, but the others are fair game.”

Mark didn’t have to think about it. “Luck for the primary, Charisma for the secondary and make Focus the tertiary.”

“Interesting choices. Next question. Can I have permission to access your real data to personalize your character, or should I just merge the race and class data for your final stats?”

This time Mark paused for a long moment before replying. “As long as this data is solely used in relation to creating my character, and will not be shared without my explicit permission, granted.”

“One moment please...I will now show you all the relevant stats before performing the merge.”

Race:

Half-Elf Incubus

Class: Mage Personal Data:   Focus Stats:
Strength: 7 Strength: 5 Strength: 6  
Endurance: 7 Endurance: 5 Endurance: 8  
Vitality: 12 Vitality: 8 Vitality: 9  
Agility: 12 Agility: 10 Agility: 11  
Dexterity: 12 Dexterity: 11 Dexterity: 11  
Reflexes: 15 Reflexes: 10 Reflexes: 12  
Intelligence: 10 Intelligence: 13 Intelligence: 19  
Wisdom: 9 Wisdom: 12 Wisdom: N/A  
Focus: 8 Focus: 15 Focus: 12 Tertiary (+3)
Attunement: 1 Attunement: 3 Attunement: N/A  
Aura: 1 Aura: 0 Aura: N/A  
Charisma: 12 Charisma: N/A Charisma: 8 Secondary (+5)
Influence: 0 Influence: N/A Influence: N/A  
Lifespan: 500 Lifespan: N/A Lifespan: 80  
Luck: 5 Luck: N/A Luck: N/A Primary (+10)



Mark paused as he examined what had been determined to be his stats. For the most part he agreed. He knew he wasn’t particularly muscular and certainly couldn’t run a marathon. On the other hand, he’d always been rather nimble and had pretty good reflexes. While the 19 intelligence seemed somewhat excessive, if you went by what an IQ test claimed, he technically had an IQ of 193. Truthfully Mark just figured the combination of being able to read extremely fast and a certain knack for logic puzzles skewed the results. Even if he’d always been able to figure things out quickly, he’d never really thought of himself as a genius, let alone what his IQ implied. In his mind, a real genius was something much more than a number on an IQ test. After all, no matter how intelligent you were, without ambition and passion, it didn’t account for much. Still though, he was curious.

“So how do you get my personal data anyway?” Mark asked.

“Public records, medical reports, academic and internet history for most of it. The Mind-Link can measure of the rest.”

“Hmm, I’m a little concerned at how quickly you can gather that much data, but meh, as long as it’s kept confidential I guess I don’t mind. So, what do my final stats look like?” Mark asked. He wasn't sure how the "merge" was handled, but was curious to see the results.

“Here you go!” Once again, the voice sounded cheerful. “Pretty good for what you’re going for actually.”

Race: Half-Elf Incubus
Class: Illusionist
Strength: 6
Endurance: 6
Vitality: 10
Agility: 12
Dexterity: 12
Reflexes: 14
Intelligence: 19
Wisdom: 11
Focus: 16
Attunement: 3
Aura: 1
Charisma: 15
Influence: 0
Lifespan: 500
Luck: 15



“Looks good to me. Now what? Do I get to design my character’s appearance or is that automatic?” Mark asked.

The omnipresent voice replied. “Your appearance is automatically generated based on your race, stats, gender and origin. The next step is actually where we determine your backstory, initial skills and job. Since you pre-ordered you have the option of crafting a custom backstory for your character. Do you want me to show you a list of relevant pre-created backstories, or did you want to make one up?”

“Nah.” Mark replied. “The whole reason I bothered with paying for early-access was so I could make my own. So how’s this going work anyway?”

“That’s pretty simple actually. You tell me the story of your origin, and I’ll fix it into the world itself. You’re given a large amount of freedom and can even specify the things you learn, people you know and your place in society. If you want to be a king or a prince, you can, but there’s balancing mechanics. I’ll implement to prevent players from becoming too powerful or too crippled. For example: if you want to be a king, you might have to survive multiple assassination attempts without system assistance or perhaps a civil war. On the other hand, if you choose to be a beggar, you might just stumble across the things you need to survive. Remember though, while the system will try to keep you from dying too early, once you do you’ll have to reincarnate into a new character. Well, unless you’re somehow resurrected." The "Goddess" commented. "After you’ve finished telling me your backstory, I’ll play a simulation of the scenario and at certain points give you situations to react to. Based on your answers you’ll receive appropriate skills, jobs, equipment, stats, or allies. Please note this is a one-time opportunity and choose wisely.”

“Neat.” Was Mark’s reply. He paused for a moment then began.
    
“My story starts twenty one years ago, with my mother. She was an only child, an elf with two loving parents. Her father was a skilled ranger, while her mother was an herbalist. She learned a little of each their professions, but it was discovered she had a talent for magic when she was quite young. Despite her parent’s misgivings she was apprenticed to a local mage, where she spent many years learning the magical arts. From time to time, she would return home and listen to her father’s tales of the outside world, and talk to her mother about her various concoctions. She was never as interested in her father’s skills as her mother’s so while she eventually learned the basics of scouting and marksmanship, her skills at at least identifying herbs was far more profound. Magic though, was her true passion. So much so, that she had few friends besides her mentor in the magical arts. Even her teacher was somewhat concerned at her single-minded pursuits.
    
Her greatest talents lie in the fields of Abjuration and Conjuration and she dreamed that one day she would discover the means to perfectly ward against the encroachment of demon-kind. She practiced creating barriers in the forest, attracting or repelling the various monsters and creatures; attempting to find ways to key her wards to the magical signatures of the demon races. Unfortunately, her successes led her to overconfidence. She began to dabble in demonic conjurations to test her theories, and her early successes in sealing and warding certain lesser demons led her to believe she would be safe against more powerful varieties. More, she felt the key to understanding how to protect against demons lie with the demons themselves. She thought that if she understood demonic magic, perhaps she could find ways to defend against it. Sadly, this became the mistake that led to me and my sister’s birth.
    
One night, she stole away from the village to test a summoning she found amongst her teacher’s tomes. It claimed to be able to call and bind a demon to the caster’s will, and allow them to place a demand upon them in exchange for a price. With her skill, it wasn’t hard for her to complete the summoning. However, her lack of knowledge led her to mistake the nature of the demon she summoned. She ensured the demon was a mage, and sought to make a exchange for knowledge of demonic magic. She thought her wards would protect her, and perhaps they would have against most demons. If she hadn’t summoned a demon of lust, an Incubus, she almost certainly would have been able to banish the demon, even if her demand was left unmet. The demon agreed to her exchange for magical knowledge, displaying a grimoire, but the price was something she hadn’t anticipated. Being a maiden, and without experience in seduction, she fell for the temptations offered and laid with the Incubus. Unintentionally, she broke the ward the bound the demon, but was unaware of her mistake.
    
When she returned to the village, her body bore his magical taint, and the village was aware that a demon had descended nearby. Her mentor, unbeknownst to her, had scryed upon the scene and knew what had happened. Whether it was mercy or cruelty, he let her flee the village before informing the elders what had transpired. Perhaps it would have been a hopeless flight, but for the fact that her father was the one to discover her traces and led the other rangers away from her presence. She fled, deep into the woods where few would dare venture alone. Only her skills with wards kept her safe from harm until she found her way to a small clearing with a stream running though it.

Perhaps the greatest blow to her was the fact that the grimoire she acquired seemed useless, requiring the bloodline of a demon to bind it and learn its secrets. Alone, unable to return to her tribe, she struggled to survive. She set up ward after powerful ward, keeping monsters away from the clearing, and discovered something else. She was pregnant. Fortunately, many of her needs could be handled via conjuration, and the herb lore she learned from her mother kept her healthy. The skills her father taught her brought her food, and in time she gave birth to me and my sister: Marcus and Tayla Allbright. She could sense the presence of my father’s blood within me, but my sister seemed pure.
    
For a time she debated whether it was better off to abandon me, but...I was her child after all. So she raised the two of us, deep in the woods, all on her own. Tayla was a normal, healthy elven child, bright, agile, and without a speck of magical talent. I was always more frail than my sister, but when my father’s tome reacted to me, it was clear I was destined to follow the path of magic, like my mother before me.”

Mark paused for a moment. “Quick question, what’s the growth rate for Elves like, compared to my racial status?”

The voice of the “Goddess” replied. “Elves mature normally until about the age of 10, then physically mature at a rate of 10 years to one compared to a human growth rate. Being a half-blood, you’d mature normally until about 15, then age at a rate of 5 years to one. As a side note, your racial characteristics would kick in around puberty, so you should find a way to work that in.”

“Got it.” Mark pondered for a minute then nodded. “Let’s see...Right. My sister and I were always close, though our interests differed. She was always one to climb trees and stalk various small animals, where I was insistent on learning magic. It wasn’t until my mother caught me reading the grimoire that she received from my father that she began to teach me."

Mark briefly paused before instructing "I'm not going to specifically denote what spells it has, but they should consist of illusion and mental magics that an incubus would find useful. In any case," he continued, "I showed no talent in the fields of magic my mother understood, but seemed to display an almost instinctive grasp of magic related to illusions. As such, my mother couldn’t really teach me directly, but bestowed the principals of magic on me. She eventually revealed my origins to me, as a lesson on hubris. While I wasn’t horribly bothered by my origins, at the same time I was blind of the ramifications. That was, at least until I turned fourteen. That year I grew ill and seemed to grow progressively weaker over time. Strange thoughts assailed me, and my mother, for the first time left the clearing and placed me in the care of my “little” sister. By now it was clear she hadn’t inherited the traits of my father, as she matured at a rate befitting an elf; no one would believe we were the same age.


Several days later, my mother returned. However, she wasn’t alone. She was accompanied by a beastkin girl, a slave she had purchased from a nearby village. What followed was perhaps the single most embarrassing conversation of my life. My mother shooed my sister out of the house and explained in detail what an incubus needed to do to survive. The girl she brought with her had apparently already been told and what followed, well, it doesn’t need to be said. Terra was the name of the slave, and while she served as my...food, she had talents of her own. She was actually a talented Rogue, and served to teach my sister her various skills, while I focused on my magic. For several years, all was fairly peaceful, but as fate would have it, nothing lasts forever. A powerful monster broke through the wards my mother had placed, and she along with Terra served to distract it while I was ordered to flee with my sister. It is at this point my story resumes, and what follows is yet to be known.”

*Clap Clap Clap* Came the sound of enthusiastic applause. “Ooh, I like it! There’s a lot of things I can do with that sort of backstory. I’ll start playing back what I’ve come up with, and there’ll be a few points where I’ll have you make some sort of decision. Or maybe do some training. Here we go!”

What followed was something that seemed to be a cross between a movie and a memory as Mark watched the events he had described. He learned his mother was named Alyssa, and her father was one of the Royal Scouts. Alyssa’s mother was indeed a talented herbalist and was famed as a healer. Mark watched was Alyssa studied for decades, perfecting her arts, along with the fateful summoning that led to his character’s conception. It wasn’t until his character’s early childhood that things slowed down. When he watched himself walk into his mother’s study, Mark suddenly dropped into a first-person perspective as he opened a drawer. Within was a black, leather-bound book with a golden magical circle on its cover. He felt a compulsion to pick up the book and open it and when Mark did, a voice echoed in his mind.

{Greetings to one who bears my blood. My name is Fidelus, Archmage of the Mind. If you seek to learn my secrets, this tome shall be your guide. Be warned, my path is that of light and shadow, of truth and falsehood. Those who seek to follow my path must forswear other branches of magic as my teachings will conflict with other schools of thought. You may choose to follow my path, and learn all I have to offer, but as my blood I will permit you to learn my lesser spells should you wish to seek you own path. What do you choose?}

The scene froze at that point and Mark laughed.

“A few minor spells or the full teachings of an Archmage? Yeah, I’ll go all in.”

When the scene resumed a slightly amused mental voice replied to his choice.

{You won’t regret it. I can see you have the aptitude, but little foundation. Interesting, your mind is rather unusual. You should be but a mere child, but the complexity of your thoughts is as if an older being inhabits this body. How curious...}

“Well, you’re not wrong.” Mark replied. “So, where do we begin?”

With his reply, Mark stepped back out of first person view to watch as his child-self began reading the book, only to be discovered by his “mother”. She scolded him and tried to take the book away, only to see it vanish into an eye-shaped tattoo on the back of his hand. Mark couldn’t help but chuckle as his kid-self tried to explain about the “talking” book. The scene continued and Mark watched as his mother taught him the basics of mana control, begrudgingly admitting the book was an "inheritance" from his Father. She carefully watched as his child-self caused the grimoire to reappear and had him read out what was written inside. It was obvious that she was worried that her son could read a demonic spellbook, but when he showed no aptitude for casting any of the types of magic she knew, she had Mark read out the information that had appeared in the book.

The first spell was simple, but at the same time profound. It described how to channel mana to create an illusory object. There was a detailed explanation of how the magic worked, the chant needed to invoke the spell, and “advanced” instruction for how to chantlessly perform the magic. She seemed stunned at the idea of casting a spell without an accompanying chant, and a hint of her old fervor for magic lit her expression. She eventually succeeded in casting the spell as it was outlined, and Mark saw several scenes of her frowning and muttering as she tried to cast the spell without the chant unsuccessfully. Eventually, she allowed him to cast the first spell from within the grimoire. Mark, having been practicing in secret, flawlessly cast the spell, duplicating an old clay goblet on the table. A wild grin lit Alyssa’s face for a moment before she sternly scolded him, saying that he was supposed to do it without using the chant. Days passed before he finally managed it and when he proudly demonstrated it to his mother she hugged him fiercely. Afterwards she told him that from now on, whenever he practiced magic he needed to make a point of figuring out how to do it without the chant, even if it was harder.

While the practice montage played before him, Mark felt a surge of information enter his mind. He suddenly knew what it felt like to reach within his own mana pool and draw on it to cast a spell. As the scene of him creating the illusory goblet replayed, he also realized how it worked. By forming a perfect mental image of the goblet, drawing on his mana-pool, then pushing the sight of it in front of him, it would appear. As the understanding coalesced, he heard the voice of Fidelus in a somewhat lecturing tone.

{In the case of a magus focusing on illusions, two things are required to excel: First, a profound grasp of the situation you find yourself in. Second, the ability to implement your illusions without the target's awareness. Chantless casting is an essential tool in your arsenal. While most schools of magic may have a differing opinion, casting magic doesn’t strictly require chanting. Chanting is a crutch, and by relying on it, you cripple your own abilities. While sometimes a crutch is needed, always remember that true mastery requires a fundamental understanding. Chants can be forgotten, silenced or interrupted, but once you truly comprehend the nature of a spell, it can never be taken from you. Next, I will discuss the art of misdirection....}

As his perspective changed back to that of an observer, the voice of Fidelus faded. After a moment, Mark found himself once more watching the film-like scene playing before him, only to be interrupted by a series of windows appearing in his view.

 

Unique Item Gained: Grimoire of Fildelus. Soul-bound to character Marcus Allbright.

 

Grimoire of Fidelus: The spell-book of a deceased Archmage, it has been enchanted with a fragment of his consciousness. Grants access to a specialized field of illusion magic. Fidelus will slowly reveal new chants, theories of magic and general information, acting as a mentor. Before Fidelus will reveal new spells, his acolyte must demonstrate true mastery of certain prerequisite magics.

 

Advanced Class Unlocked: Willbender. By choosing to abandon your affinity for other branches of magic, you have embarked on the path of the Archmage Fidelus. Willbenders gain access to various forms of Illusion and Mind magic. While difficult to master and lacking in most forms of direct offense, a Willbender’s spells are incredibly adaptable.

 

Title Gained: Fidelus’s Acolyte. You have gained the legacy of a powerful mage. Beware who you reveal his name to, as while some may give you aid, others will seek your downfall.

 

Spell learned: Illusion: Object. Allows the caster to create a realistic illusion of an inanimate object.

 

Ability granted: Chantless Casting. By gaining an innate understanding of the spell being cast, the chant may be omitted. May require more time or mana to cast, spellcasting of any mastered spell cannot be affected by silencing effects.


“Hah, that’s awesome!" Mark fist-pumped the air. A moment later he frowned, then muttered to himself, "That was a pretty neat introduction to the magic system. That sensation of having knowledge appear in your mind is pretty similar to how using an imprint feels.” While Mark pushed that thought to the back of his mind, he grinned a bit at having gained access to an “advanced” class before even technically starting the game. This whole “make your own backstory” bit was proving even more interesting than he thought it would be.

As the scenes flowed on, he watched his “sister” and himself play in the woods. He had to admit, they were both cute kids. Tayla was blond haired and blue-eyed, her long, pointed ears jutting out to the side. Mark’s hair was more of a reddish blond. He was slightly taller than his sister at this age, and he had deep green eyes. He chuckled as his child self constantly lost the games of tag they played, then pranked his sister by sneakily chanting spells that summoned illusory snakes and frogs in revenge. The scenes once again slowed their progression on a particular summer day. While his mother taught his sister archery, he sat in the shade of a tree and studied his grimoire. As he did, the voice of the “Goddess of Reincarnation” echoed in his mind.

“Some mages focus on the size and potency of their magic, while others are more concerned with efficiency and control. Using what you’ve learned, make an illusory animal to reflect your inclinations.”

The scene unfroze and Mark realized he was back in first-person again. This time a wave of sensory data assailed him. He felt the warmth of the summer day, even as the tree he sat beneath shaded him from the sun. An occasional breeze ruffled the pages of his book, bring a refreshing moment of coolness as his perspiration evaporated. His mother was in the distance, correcting Tayla’s posture as she drew back a small bow, and the sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing filled the air. When he looked down at his grimoire, an entry in golden letters caught his eyes.

[When making an illusion of a living being, there are two general routes to take. The first is by focusing on key elements, and having your target fill in the details on their own. In certain scenarios, this is the more effective way. For example, should you try to make an illusion of someone that person is familiar with, any misplaced details can cause the target to question the validity of the illusion. The latter technique is to simply create the most detailed illusion possible. This technique is advantageous when the target has a high willpower or otherwise resists mental manipulation. Remember, visual illusions are a science, while mental illusions are an art. Sometimes one supplements the other, while other times one supplants the other.

At all times, the illusionist should take into consideration the impact and desired outcome of their actions. If, for example, you wanted to create the impression of a monster amongst the trees, you might not need to be too detailed. Fill in the outline, prominent details, and imbue a sense of unease in the target, and their mind will likely do most of your work for you. On the other hand, should you wish to create an image that can undergo detailed scrutiny, the more work you put into your creation, the better the outcome.]

After reading the entry, Mark closed the book and considered. On impulse, he held out his hand and tried to recreate the goblet he’d watched himself make earlier. It was strangely familiar, like he was performing an action he’d done dozens of times before. He could sense an intangible fount of energy within himself, and he grasped onto it. The sensation of touching his mana pool was similar to the last moment of a deep breath, immediately before exhaling. Mentally, he recalled the image of the goblet he had created in the past and released the mana he’d seized. It was decidedly odd, like the first instant of exhaling, but into dozens of threads. At second he "exhaled" he pushed the mental image onto the threads. A moment later it appeared, practically snapping into existence.

It was a plain reddish color, made of a smoothed clay but as he studied it, he noticed that it wasn’t quite as perfect as the real thing. Some areas were slightly blurry, and the grain of the clay wasn’t perfect. On a whim, he imagined a glass mug from his house, releasing the threads of mana he’d been subconsciously holding and repeating the process from before. Oddly, the glass mug seemed more realistic, and he suddenly realized that the perfect symmetry and smoothness of the surface made it easier to accurately reproduce. Ironically, he thought, imperfection was harder to mimic than perfection. As he pondered on what he was supposed to accomplish, he suddenly realized how difficult accurately creating a living creature entirely from illusions would be. Let alone the shapes, colors and textures he’d need to remember, there was the motions and mannerisms of the creature to consider.
    
He kind of understood why using a person’s own perceptions was a form of shortcut. Mark knew that if he wanted to be an effective illusionist in this game, he’d better learn both techniques, but for now he needed to focus on one aspect. Did he want to play on perception? Or did he want to attempt perfection? Either way he figured it would lead him to develop one of his starting skills or abilties. That’s usually how this sort of binary choice worked during a tutorial stage. He just wasn’t sure what the better choice was at this point. After a few minutes consideration, he stood up. Standing, he felt a brief headrush, then walked over to where his “mother” and “sister” were practicing. He waited for Tayla to release her arrow, then groan after once again missing the target.

“Mom, could I ask you a favor?” Mark felt a distinct sense of disconnect at calling what looked like a twenty-something girl ‘mom’, but intellectually understood that an elf that looked twenty was, in this game, probably close to 200 years old.

Aylssa turned and smiled. “What is it honey?”

“I need a small creature to study to practice my illusions.”

When Alyssa frowned, Mark hurriedly explained. “I won’t do anything bad to it, I just need to look at it up close. I want to try to make an illusory creature as realistic as possible, and need to be able to examine it from every angle so I can try to duplicate it.”

“Can’t you already do that?” Tayla asked, lowering her bow. “You tricked me with a snake last week.”

Mark looked at his sister and grinned. “Yeah, but that was with a chant. If I want to do it without chanting the spell I need to understand and imagine it perfectly.”

“Don’t do it mom!” Tayla suddenly exlaimed. “I just know he’s planning on playing another prank on me!”

“Is that true Mark? Are you planning to play a prank on your sister?” Alyssa asked, her voice a cross between amused and chiding.

Mark rolled his eyes. Apparently he had a reputation for being a trickster already.

“Actually, I was thinking about how to help Tayla with her practice.” Mark replied. “Once she gets good enough with her bow I wanted to try to make a moving target for her. If I can make a rabbit or a bird or something, I can work on controlling my illusions while she practices shooting them.”

Tayla and his mother both looked at him for a second before staring at each other.

“That’s...actually a really interesting idea honey. I’ve been feeling bad about having you study all on your own.” Alyssa sighed. “I really wish you didn’t need to use that grimore, but our aptitudes are just too different for me to be a good teacher for you.”

Mark shook his head. “It’s fine, from what I’ve read chantless magic requires that the caster has to their own person insight into how their magic works anyways. Most of the stuff in there is just a rough outline for me to work from.” He smiled “I don’t mind. This way, as I get better, I can help Tayla get better too. You can teach Tayla and tell me what would be good for her to practice against while I try to figure this stuff out and at the same time tell me what my illusions are lacking.”

His mother wore a considering expression on her face, only to be interrupted by Tayla. She looked at Mark with stars in her eyes and exclaimed.

“Really, you mean it!? Brother’s going to help me practice?”

Mark grinned at Tayla. Alright, at least I’ve got an adorable sister. The game gets a point for that. He thought to himself.

“Sure. I just realized that instead of teasing you I might be able give you a challenge. That way when we grow up and go on adventures I’ll be able to make our enemies wet themselves while they run away and you can shoot them in the butt. Then we can both laugh at them.” Mark figured that he might as well get into the spirit of being a kid with his logic. Half the fun of this sort of thing was role-playing your character.

Tayla pouted and complained. “I only peed myself the one time.”

Aylssa gave him a wry look. “Clearly you only have pure intentions and would never prank your sister with magic. I can't imagine why she thought you would.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Really mom, I promise to only use my mystic powers for good.”

Alyssa snorted, but relented. “Let me think for a moment...Ah! I know.”

Slowly, Aylssa began to chant “Ekrom due finisia polem et da krost. Atkeska!

A small runic circle appeared above her outstretched palm, and light began gathering into it. A moment later it coalesced into a tiny bird with rainbow feathers. It was somewhat larger than a humming-bird but seemed incredibly docile as Mark’s mother handed it to him.

“This a Paradise Feather, I hear they’re used as messenger birds in tropical regions. Will that work for you?”

Mark smiled, giving his mother a one-armed hug.

“Perfect. Will it listen to me if I ask it to hover or turn around?”

“Yes. It’ll last for about three hours, so that should give you some time to practice. Be gentle though” She warned. “Conjured creature like that are fragile.”

Mark nodded in reply. “Thanks, I’ll be careful. You’re the best mom!”

As Mark walked back to the tree, he heard Tayla complaining about not getting a pretty bird of her own, following by Alyssa scolding her and having her correct her posture. When Mark sat back down, he scrutinized the small bird from every angle, trying to memorize it in detail. Stretching out his other palm, he made a crude duplicate of the creature in a similar fashion as to how he’d made the goblet, then started filling in the details, feather by feather. This sort of method of using magic was fascinating. While Mark had played a couple of games that used mental triggers to activate spells or abilities, he'd never played one that perfectly replicated what he imagined into some form of reality.

He could feel a headache starting from the intense focus, but ignored it as he had the creature stretch out one wing, then the other. He had his illusion copy the motion, then had the conjured creature hover. Replicating the movements only served to increase his headache, but he persisted until he had the motions down. Next, he canceled the illusion and closed his eyes, trying to create the creature from memory alone. As his headache reached migraine levels he wasn’t concerned. In fact, despite the pressure in his skull he felt like he was starting to understand something. His first attempt was a failure, and so was his second, but the third try resulted in a nearly flawless recreation of the stationary Paradise Feather. Finally, as he felt like his head would burst, something clicked and he snapped back into third person view, while several windows appeared in sequence.

Ability Gained: Holographic Memory. By studying an animate or inanimate object, you will be able to perfectly visualize what it looks like from any previously seen angle or movement.

 

Spell Learned: Illusion: Creature. Able to create realistic illusions of living creatures.

 

Bonus Stats Earned: +1 Focus, +1 Wisdom


Mark sighed in relief as he watched his child-self show off his accomplishment. His mother was apparently stunned, while his sister was enthralled with the illusory bird. As the headache vanished, he asked,

“So how does that Holographic Memory ability work anyway?" Mark asked. "I mean, in real life I have a decent memory, but it’s not that good.”

From all around foggy backdrop to the movie playing his “backstory” came the reply. The “Goddess of Reincarnation” sounded proud as she answered.

“Thanks to advancements in neural interface technology, Real Fantasy Online has the ability to actively detect and moderate what memories are being accessed at any given point. All you need to do is initiate the process, and the software will assist with the storage and retrieval process. In other words, while you’re in the game you actually now have a 'Holographic Memory'. Impressive right?”

Mark laughed. “Actually, yeah. That’s both amazing and incredibly useful. Another question, most of these games have some sort of time-dilation effect. What’s the ratio between subjective game time and real time? I feel like I’ve been at this for about 4 hours now.”

“Good question." Came the response. " Generally, it’s 3:1. I’m still testing what your mind can handle, but during the character creation stage we’re now up to 5:1. So far you aren’t showing any mental strain, so we might be able to get it up to 6 or 7:1. If you're in a pocket-realm or or using certain abilities we need to know what your safe maximums are. In the real world, you’ve only been at this for about an hour. Do you want me to set an alert for any specific amount of time? Of course a log-out sequence will initiate whenever your body needs nourishment or needs to perform a biological function.”

“Yeah" Mark replied, "Set an alert for four hours . Next question, how do you handle it when I’m “Logged out” of the game?”

“That depends. " The "Goddess" answered. "In most circumstances, an AI will take over the actions of your character, following the actions you’ve been taking. There’s a bit of a bias to resupplying, resting, training and gathering quest leads. We make every effort to ensure that neither your nor your companions are seriously injured or killed while you’re offline, but if you log out while you're in the middle of a warzone...let’s just say bad things can happen. If you’re in a dedicated instance where no other player can possibly enter, and there's some reasonable justification, time will be frozen while you’re offline.”

Mark nodded. “Basically, be smart when you log out and it should be alright.” Suddenly he grinned. “So what sort of things might happen to an AFK player who chose a backstory about being the heir to a kingdom, bearing legendary weapons and skills, with a harem of sex slaves while in a perfectly safe fortress? You said something about balancing right?”

There was an echoing snort. “You know, someone actually did that. Lets just say...there’s a balance and they were warned. So, ready to get back to it?”

“Right.”

Mark noticed that while he was asking his questions, the projection paused. When it resumed, it was a bit of a montage of his character practicing his illusions, learning to make larger objects, and creatures with more lifelike motions. Like he had implied, he started helping his sister with target practice and Tayla began to develop in a rather skilled archer. By this point, they were both about ten, and went a little deeper into the forest to hunt and gather herbs. His character was examining the bases of trees while his sister scouted ahead. Hearing a scream from the projection, suddenly Mark found himself dropped into his character, darting through the woods towards the sound of his sister’s voice. Just as he passed a pair of large oaks, a scene came into view: There was a large boar-like creature, an arrow sticking out of one eye, while his sister was on the ground, one of her legs bleeding. At that moment, the scene stopped and the "Goddess’s" voice spoke.

“Regardless of your actions, your sister will survive this encounter. How badly she is injured, and how she views you will be affected by your choices. Using what you’ve learned of magic, and your own strategies, figure out how to resolve this scenario.”

As the scene resumed, Mark cursed to himself.

Really? Fuck. All right, I can do this.

He noticed that things seemed to be happening slightly slower, and figured that this was the reflex-based ‘time-dilation’ effect in action. Seeing the boar scraping the ground, clearly readying a charge, Mark acted quickly. Following what seemed to be fragmentary memories, first he balled up all his feelings of consternation and confusion, then reached for his mana pool. At the same time, he pushed it all at the boar. Seeing it stumble slightly, and feeling the drain on his mana pool, he figured something worked and moved to the next step. He immediately tried to memorize the image of his sister, and attempted to replicate it four feet to the right, slightly in front of a tree. Suprisingly, he found that he was able to create a perfect mental picture of Talya in an instant. Huh, must be the [Holograpic Memory]. He thought to himself. As the duplicate image appeared, the boar seemed even more confused. Next, he memorized the look of the forest floor, and imagined in over top of where Tayla actually was. Pushing that image seemed harder, but a moment later she seemed to vanish. Next, he grabbed the irritation he felt at being dumped into this scenario along with the anger from seeing the cute little elf-girl bleeding, balled it up with his mana and practically threw it at the boar.

It roared, then immediately charged at the illusory Tayla, stumbling as it met no resistance before smacking into the tree behind it. It seemed a little dazed, but Mark knew this wasn’t a long-term solution. It bought him a couple of seconds for the next part though as he dug into his own memories. One of his favorite animals as a child were tigers, and to this day he had a clear mental image of them. He shaped that image, making it larger, fiercer, with glowing eyes and bloodied fangs. He once more reached inside himself towards his rapidly dwindling pool of mana, and imagined the image replacing his own form, making himself seem as if he were a tiger charging right towards the stunned boar. He knew he couldn’t mimic the snarling roar it should have, but tried anyway, remembering the sense on atavistic dread he’d felt hearing it as a child, and pushing that at the boar as well when he charged towards it.

The boar turned towards the sound, then almost comically squealed and ran off. Clearly this had all been too much for the creature. Half-blinded, pained, stunned and faced with an enormous predator that radiated threat it gave up on the human that hurt it, and ran for its life. All this takes some time to describe, but in fact took no more than ten seconds or so. As the boar ran off, he let the illusions drop, panting. Not only was Mark winded, the headache he felt might be a  symptom of over-using his magic appeared. As Mark got to where his sister was struggling to her feet he smiled faintly.

“Next time, stick to rabbits okay?” As Mark wryly spoke he felt his legs give out from under him and passed out.

The moment he passed out, Mark dropped back out into the third-person view and witnessed his sister waking him up, and the two of them stumbling back to their house. Once again, he was greeted by another series of windows.

Gained Multiple Spells:

Spell Learned: Mind: Confusion. Causes targets with lower mental resistance than caster’s skill to become confused. Duration varies. Affected by circumstances. Partial mastery.

Spell Learned: Illusion: Camouflage. Make one stationary target appear as part of the background scenery. Partial mastery

Spell Learned: Mind: Rage. Causes targets with lower mental resistance than caster’s skill to become enraged. Duration varies. Affected by circumstances. Partial mastery.

Spell Created: Illusion/Mind: Aspect of the Demonic Tiger. Overlay the appearance and aura of the caster with the illusion of a fierce creature from another world. Partial mastery.

Spell Learned: Mind: Fear. Causes targets with lower mental resistance than caster’s skill to become terrified. Duration varies. Affected by circumstances. Partial mastery.

 

Notice: AI Tayla Allbright’s emotional connection to Player Marcus Allbright has shifted from familial love to idolization. She is now much more willing to comply with requests and it is now much harder to reduce her level of affection.

 

Bonus Stats Earned: +1 Wisdom, +1 Attunement, +2 Luck.


“Holy crap.” Was Mark’s only comment after reading the list of notifications.

“No kidding.” The "Goddess" replied, sounding a little surprised. “Either you or Tayla was supposed to end up maimed by that boar but you managed to pull off a flawless win for the scenario. Usually I wouldn’t award a permanent luck bonus, but your last spell only had a 5% chance of working. Never mind using the fragmentary memories of your training to cast no less three aspects of mental manipulation, you prematurely grasped the basics of illusory camouflage and created a spell that combined both with yet another illusion while unconsciously infusing it with your limited aura stat. I figured you earned some bonus points for the accomplishment.”

Mark grinned. “Nice. Thanks.”

“No need for thanks. The boar was generated to offset you potential advantage in having an AI companion from the beginning. Be glad that you put enough deficits and justifications in your backstory to justify your grimoire or you'd be dealing with a lot more than just that. Now remember, once we’ve finalized creating your character, gaining stat points is much, much more difficult." A *Clap* sound echoed in the mists. "So, now we’re at one point you can learn a job, if you decide to learn how to mix up some medicine for Tayla’s wounds you can pick up Herbalist. That’ll give you passive that gives you a good feeling about beneficial plants, and as you learn recipes and practice you’ll be able to make some useful stuff. If you don’t, Tayla will pick it up instead. There’s another job you can learn from that beastkin slave you talked about if you don’t pick this one.”

“Will Talya learn that one if I pick up Herbalist?” Mark asked, a little surprised at her frank explanation. The last couple of times he’d been making character choices it’d been through method acting rather than a simple Q&A.

“Got it in one.”

“Just curious, why are you telling me this in advance?” Mark asked.

The feminine voice snorted. “Well, now that there’s zero chance Tayla won’t follow you as a companion, I can let you determine her route a bit. There’s still a couple of events that will affect her personality, but it’s pretty much set in stone that she’s your ally.”

Mark was stoked by her answer. He’d hoped that by creating a backstory with a sister, his character would end up with an AI ally from the get-go, but hadn’t explicitly mentioned it in hopes that he’d have less trouble with the “balancing” mechanic. After a minute of consideration, Mark replied.

“Hmm. I think Herbalism’s a better fit for my character. Letting Tayla be mentored by the beastkin Rouge should work out better for her anyway.”

“Right then, ready?”

“Ready.” Mark replied.

A moment later he felt the now familiar sensation of syncing with with his half-elf form, and realized it was just after his mother had finished scolding him and Talya for going into the woods. Tayla was laying on the bed, wincing as their mother carefully cleaned and stitched the wound shut. As she went over towards her collection of her Mark followed, asking quietly.

“Mom?”

“Yes Marcus?” Hearing the somewhat sharp tone made him mentally wince. She was clearly pissed.

“I was wondering...could, could you teach me that?” He deliberately picked a somewhat hesitant approach, trying to play out the role of a ten year-old who was worried about his sister.

Alyssa turned and blinked. “Teach you what?” She asked, sounding a little puzzled.

Mark pointed at the herbs drying. “You’re going to make a healing poultice for sis right? Could you teach me how? If you or her ever gets hurt again I want to be able to help. I know you’re mad right now, but I want to help Tayla get better.”

Alyssa let out a long sigh and ruffled his hair. Bending close she gave him a hug and whispered,

“I’m not really that mad at you. You never really go into the woods unless Tayla drags you along with her. Besides, from what I hear you were quite the little hero. You’ll have to tell me exactly what you did later.”

Raising up and speaking a little more loudly, she continued in a somewhat sterner voice, “Well, if you want to help fix your foolish sister up, I don’t mind. Come here and watch.”

Mark paid close attention as she pointed out which specific herbs to use, and what parts were most useful. After that she had him grind them up with a mortar and pestle before mixing the mixture with a little boiling water and applying it to a compress. Tayla winced and hissed when the compress was applied and Alyssa smugly added that that particular mixture stung like hell if you didn’t use a numbing agent first. While Tayla bitterly complained about skipping that step, he heard a somewhat familiar mental voice.

{Gotta say I’m pretty impressed kid. You managed to work out the basics of emotional projection and concealment magic on the fly. You might actually have some talent for this path. Between your lessons in Herbology, we’ll work on refining your mind magic. Using the emotions you’re feeling is a shortcut, but if you want to make someone feel happy when you’re pissed off, that way won’t work. Make sure you don’t talk to anyone about this either, most people aren’t thrilled to discover a mage that can chantlessly affect their mental state. I’ll show you the associated chants and spell theory so you can get your mother to help you practice, but remember the way you used that magic today, alright?}

After Fidelus made that comment, the time skipped by. Alyssa seriously taught Mark what she knew of being an Herbalist from her mother, along with what she’d had to figure out living on her own. It only took Tayla a couple of days to fully heal with the medicinal poultice, and there was a fairly obvious difference in how she treated her brother. Before, it had been the more traditional sibling competition, and from what Mark had seen, she’d never been much for physical affection. Now, she looked for excuses to hang around her brother, and giving Mark hugs and touching him became much more routine. Mark pretended to be annoyed by it whenever they were around their mother, but when it was just the two of them he made it clear he didn’t mind it at all; even taking the initiative of giving her hugs and telling his sister he loved her, then immediately acting embarrassed when she reciprocated.

Days, and even weeks skipped past as Mark continued to grow, and at this point Tayla’s growth had obviously dramatically slowed. It was at this point that Mark questioned his mother about his and his sister’s different rate of growth and she revealed the truth behind his birth, and why she was so insistent on being careful with magic. Mark acted like he took it to heart, but it was difficult when he knew it was part of a backstory he had personally created. Sometime during the skips between first person “training” and third-person “watching” he received a handful of notifications.

Herbalist requirements met: As the player has no active job, Herbalist will automatically be selected for the default job.

 

Herbalist: This job allows for the creation of various concoctions from various plants and herbs. While not as versatile as the Class: Alchemist, Herbalists can produce a wide range of effects from their creations, including but not limited to: Health, Mana and Stamina recovery potions, as well as status effect curatives and various poisons. Herbalists have a higher chance of discovering useful plants in the wild and gain a bonus to growing all forms of plant life.

 

Multiple Recipies Learned:

Recipe Learned: Healing Poultice. Speeds the recovery of burns, torn flesh and reduces scarring.

Recipe Learned: Boneset Tea. Speeds the healing of broken bones.

Recipe Learned: Feverdrop Tea. Lowers fever and aids in fighting off infectious diseases

Recipe Learned: Emetic. Causes the user to become violently ill. Can be used to cure certain poisons

Recipe Learned: Minor Health Tonic. Immediately accelerates the natural healing process, allowing the equivalent of two weeks natural healing. Reduced stats for 1 hour, increases hunger and fatigue for two days.

Recipe Learned: Minor Stamina Tonic. Immediately recovers a small portion of the user’s stamina. Reduced stats after 1 hour for a period of two hours, overuse can cause dependence.

Recipe Learned: Minor Mana Potion. Immediately recovers a small portion of the user’s mana. Can result in mana poisoning or headache.

Recipe Learned: Bell-blossom Poison. A sticky substance that can can be applied to weapons to poison a target. Highly lethal if directly ingested.

Recipe Learned: Hycanthia Poison. An odorless, tasteless powder that can be mixed with food or beverages. Causes hallucinations in high doses and a numbing effect when used in moderation.


All in all, it wasn’t a ton of recipes, but Mark’s ‘Mother’ wasn’t a professional Herbalist either. She actually taught him how to identify far more plants than she actually knew the use of; confessing she only remembered them because her mother mentioned that they were valuable, edible, or poisonous. Still, Mark was satisfied. He had gained a portable collection of tools he could use to make potions, and a carefully padded hip container that contained his various creations. He also made a point of having a small collections bag with several compartments he could store herbs within on hand at all times. Around the time his character was approaching his 14th birthday, he started to put together a kit of essential travel gear. A solid knife, flint, tinder, a small spool of gut-twine and first-aid supplies along with rope and other useful goods. Since his mother had never been one to explore, his sister was the first to notice what he was doing and she quietly began doing the same. She occasionally made trips into the forest by herself, even succeeding in killing the boar that had injured her years ago. It was a shame Mark couldn’t see Tayla’s stats, because at this point he was really curious.

That year however, was the year Mark’s “illness” would strike, and to his consternation the “Goddess” decided this was something he should experience, not just watch. He was dropped back into “his” body right as a surge of weakness hit him and he passed out. When he woke up, he was laying in bed with his sister looking on anxiously.

“Big Brother, you’re awake now?” Tayla’s voice came from the side.

Mark tried to sit up, then quickly laid back down, feeling the awkward combination of exhaustion and arousal. Turning to his side, he spoke.

“Yeah, I’m up Tayla. Where’s mom?”

Tayla glanced at him, blushed, then looked back towards the door.

“She said she needed to get something from the beast-kin village to help you and that I should stay here. Are...are you feeling alright?”

Hearing the odd tone in Tayla’s voice made Mark realize something.

She knows I’m part Incubus, or at least suspects something. Hmm, this is a little awkward, I better confirm before saying anything else.

Swallowing, Mark replied. “I’m fine, just...really tired for some reason.”

“Any...anything else?” Seeing that she was peeking back at him with an incredibly red face, Mark sighed.

“I think I know what’s happening.”

“What’s that?” Tayla asked, sounding curious.

“Did mom...ever tell you about our father?”

Seeing her bite her lip and nod Mark couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “Well at least I’m spared that awkward conversation.”

Tayla giggled, then looked serious for a moment. “What do you think is happening?”

Mark sighed again and answered. “Well, our father was an Incubus right? And from what I gather from that spell-book I’ve been studying, I inherited his blood to some degree. That’s why I look older than you even though we’re the same age.” Tayla nodded and he continued, “I think...well Incubi are supposed to wake up to their powers around the time they ah...mature. Oh hell, there’s no good way to say this. I think that I’m so tired because as far as my Incubi half is concerned, I need to feed. It doesn’t help that right now I’m getting the impression that my body is desperately try to attract said ‘food’. I’m guessing that’s why you’re looking away from me.”

Tayla looked back at him, eyes slightly wide and nodded.

Seeing her flushed face, Mark smiled wryly.

“Well, this isn’t awkward at all.” He paused then asked hesitantly. “Um...what’s it like?”

Tayla swallowed, and replied almost involuntarily, staring at Mark with a slightly glazed look in her eyes.

“It’s like you’re even more handsome than ever, and you smell so good and when I think getting closer to you I feel so warm and happy. Just looking at you is making me feel so wet...eeep!”

When she realized what she said, Tayla immediately stood up and took a few steps back. She looked away and took a deep, shuddering breath. In response Mark couldn’t help but laugh.

“Sorry lil’ sis. At least I’m not the only one feeling embarrassed and incredibly horny at right now. You should probably go outside and get some fresh air before we both do something we’d regret afterwards. I don’t think I can really control this at the moment.”

“Right...um. Yeah. I’ll...be back later.”

Seeing Tayla dart out the door Mark could help but chuckle.

“Well, I guess I should see if I can control my racial traits anyway.”

About the same time he said that, he once more heard a familiar voice.

{Again you impress me. Most Incubi, even if they’re only a half, can’t manage to control themselves at all when they first awaken.}

“Ah, Fidelus. Just the disembodied voice I wanted to hear from. Don’t suppose you have any way to teach me how to prevent myself from unintentionally turning my sister into a sex craved manic?”

The ‘voice’ chuckled. {So your complaint is the...unintentional part then?}

“Let’s just stick with me wanting to be able to control my own racial abilities.”

Mark dodged the question, and it was the wry tone of Fidelus showed that he knew it as well.

{Very well. You should notice that one of your senses feels a little different in some way. For most Incubi it’s their sense of taste, or smell, but occasionally it’s your sense of touch. Try to identify what’s different.}

“Hmm, don’t know about taste or touch, but the air seems like there’s a faint, almost invisible pink hue to it and while my sense of smell doesn’t feel different, I can certainly pick up Tayla’s scent more easily than before.”

{Interesting. The Eye of Lust is an uncommon variant. Better for focused control, but inferior at affecting a large area since it’s limited to what you see. Very well. If you see the pink aura around you this should be rather simple. Just like you would with an illusion, simply take hold of your mana, and choose to not see it. It might take some time to disperse, so keep at it until it’s completely gone.}

Following Fidelus’s directions, Mark concentrated and noticed that the non-existent pink mist was slowly dispersing. After several minutes, it had completely vanished. After it did, Mark relaxed, only to curse when it immediately reappeared.

{Unlike your illusions, the pheromones emitted by an Incubus are as natural as breathing. It takes constant effort to suppress the effect. The greater your need to feed, the harder it will be to suppress, and at the moment, your body is starving for its first meal. Unfortunately, suppressing your pheromones does nothing to control your own libido, merely makes it so others don’t feel the same.}

“Oh dammit.” Mark replied, once more concentrating on “not seeing” the pink mist.

Measuring the mental strain and drain on his mana pool Mark muttered. “As long as I don’t loose concentration I should be able to hold it for a few hours at a time.”

{Very good. Now, since your control mechanism is through sight, you can do a couple of things that most Incubi cannot. Try letting your control lapse slightly, but only within a portion of your sight.}

Mark paused, it required a shift in his mental gears to do what Fidelus suggested. In a way it most closely resembled covering the entire room in an illusion, except for a single portion. Interestingly, as soon as he thought of it this way, a corner of the room way immediately had pillar of much darker pink and he felt the burden on maintaining the restriction ease significantly.

It was about then a knock sounded on the door.

“Can...Can I come in?” Came Tayla’s hesitant voice.

“Sure. I’ve been working on controlling the Incubi pheromones, so it shouldn’t be so bad right now.”

As the door creaked open, Tayla sneaked a look his direction. She still blushed, but she also seemed a little less tense. When she came closer Mark smiled and pointed towards the far corner of the room.

“Whatever you do, stay away from that corner. I’ve kinda got everything pushed over there right now.”

Tayla seemed puzzled at Mark’s comment and asked. “What do you mean?”

It was tricky to split his focus, but Mark managed to somehow reply. “Incubi unconsciously emit something that attracts females to them. If I focus, I can somehow control it a bit, but it takes too much effort to suppress it completely in this state. Right now I’m splitting my attention between talking to you, and containing my ah, overwhelming appeal.”

Mark said the last in a sort of wry tone and Tayla giggled. “You can’t be serious.”

Mark raised an eyebrow. “If you don’t believe me, go stand in that corner for a bit. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Tayla rolled her eyes and walked over, clearly disbelieving. Almost the instant she reached the pink column, she froze and turned to look at him. Mark could see her pupils visibly dilate as she moaned and took a couple of involuntary steps back towards him. This, fortunately had the effect of placing her back outside the column of concentrated pheromones. After another couple steps and a few deep breaths, she seemed to regain lucidity.

“That was...intense.” Tayla said after a shuddering breath. “I couldn’t control myself.”

Mark chuckled. “Never doubt brother’s invisible corner of overwhelming appeal.”

Tayla blushed, then giggled. “Ri~ght. Actually I...I wanted to say something. If it gets too bad and you really need to um...just tell me. Mom explained about Incubi before she left. I mean, I love you and if it would help...”

Mark closed his eyes and spoke softly. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer Tayla. I do. I love you, and think you’re very cute, but right now? What you felt standing in that column for a second is what I’m experiencing constantly. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m barely strong enough to sit up right now and that I’m trying very hard to control myself, I’d be screwing you silly, sister or not.”

Mark heard Tayla take a deep breath and softly say. “Mark, if it’s that bad I...”

He cut her off, trying to speak in a measured tone. “Look Tayla, if something like that ever happened between us, I’d hope it was because we wanted it, not because I lost control of myself. I don’t want this part of me to be what’s in control. I hope like hell mom’s finding some way to suppress this and will be back soon, otherwise...Please Tayla, just leave me be for now.”

In a quiet voice, Tayla replied. “Then...do your best. I’ll keep checking on you, but if it looks like you can’t take it any more I’ll get naked and crawl in there no matter what part of you is in control. Incubi can die if they don’t feed you know and I can think of worse things than being your um...food.”

Mark opened his eyes and laughed at the contrast between Talya’s serious tone and beet-red face.

“You better not. Incubi semen supposed to be addictive and if I catch you in my bed I swear I’ll turn you into a perverted sex-addict who can’t live without my cock.” Mark realized he wasn't really talking in character, but at the moment he couldn't really muster the desire to care.

Tayla snorted and walked towards the door, glancing back she cheekily replied. “You wish.”

Mustering a lewd grin back Mark replied in a suggestive drawl. “Maybe I do.”

As Tayla’s furiously blushing form exited the room, Mark dropped back into third person once more and took a deep breath as the “Goddess” chuckled.

“You know, I was almost certain you were going to practice your “pheromonal control” on Tayla.”

Mark simply scowled. “Was it actually necessary to make me incredibly horny and helpless then tempt me with loli-elf incest?”

“Well...” The voice drawled. “You did get to experience what it would be like if you go a month without ‘feeding’. I’d say that’s an important lesson. Since you managed to restrain yourself during your first experience of your racial downside, I’d say you’ve earned some rewards.”

Abruptly a series of text-boxes popped up.

Racial Trait Awakened: Pheromonal Attraction. As an Incubus, you naturally emit quasi-magical pheromones to attract the opposite sex and lower their inhibitions. The more an incubus needs to feed, the more intense the attraction.

 

Racial Ability Awakened: Eyes of Lust. All Incubi have the means to control their ability to attract the opposite sex. Yours extends to those within your field of sight. By focusing with your mana and will, you can control the potency and area of influence of your ability.

 

Bonus Stats Earned: +2 Focus, +1 Wisdom

 

Notice: AI Tayla Allbright’s emotional connection to Player Marcus Allbright has shifted from idolization to taboo love. She is aware you find her attractive, and finds you the same. Despite being related, she’d be interested in pursing a sexual relationship with you, and can’t help but have the occasional fantasy


“Oh for fucks sake!” Mark explained upon reading the last notice. “I was just teasing her! I thought that not taking advantage of the little elf-girl was the platonic route.”

The "Goddess" snorted. “Nope. Taking advantage of her would have dropped her back to a wary familial love, but with a willingness to accommodate you if there was no other “food” available. Catching you screwing the cute girl your mother’s bringing home will just pique her interest. Speaking of, did you want to watch and/or participate in any of that, or just take it as a given that a teenage incubus is going to have all sorts of kinky sex with a bunny-eared slave-girl?”

Mark laughed. “While I am incredibly tempted, can I ask you to save the highlights instead? This strikes me as a good point to take a break while my AI substitute fills in for a few pseudo-years.”

“Sure, you’re at about the three hour mark anyway. You’re in an independent instance for the backstory creation, so I can pause and revert any important changes. Any general guidelines?”

Mark thought for a bit. “Yeah. I just realized that dealing with the side effects of being a half-Incubus are a bit more intense than I expected, so if I were still playing, I’d take some time to train my willpower and control. I like the targeted pheromones, less so the uncontrolled arousal. If I were an actual teenage incubus, I’m sure I’d accidentally get the bunny-girl addicted to me and personally I’d try learn what caused it, and whether it can be cured. I’d also spend a few years working on that chantless mind magic until it’s ready to take to the next stage, while trying to improve the scale and number of illusions I can control. As for the sister that apparently wants to jump my bones...If that’s going to happen, I'd like to be aware of it and that won’t be until we’re away from home for good. Other than that, you’ve probably gotten a decent handle on my psych-profile by this point, so feel free to wing it. I’d like to really get started next session, that work for you?”

A chuckle sounded from the mists and the voice replied. “That works. So for your next session we'll get started with the real game”

As Mark logged out of the system, vanishing into a stream of data, a white-robed figure appeared in the fog. She was clearly feminine, and wore a porcelain mask over her face. When she spoke, it was clearly the same tone of the “Goddess of Reincarnation”.

“An interesting human." She commented to herself. "I’m amazed his mind held up so well, that was nearly a week condensed into three hours, though he shouldn't be aware of it. It should be interesting to see how he handles his next ‘session’. ”

After a moment the figure faded back into the mist, eager to continue working on the...backstory of the half-elf incubus named Marcus Allbright.

When Mark took off the headset, there was a distinct sense of disconnect. Everything seemed to be moving incredibly slowly. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to adapt to a distortion in perceived time, but it was certainly the most intense example of “Synch-Sickness” he’d had in years. It was the same reason he had an old analogue clock mounted directed in above his Dive-Bed. As he watched the second hand, ever so slowly ticking to the next position, it seemed to slowly speed up, until each tick once more took a mere second. The whole process only took about ten ticks of the second hand, but seemed much longer.

Eight or nine seconds per second with the meds? That implies parts of my mind was operating at at least 80 times real time. Were they tapping my subconscious mind for additional parallel processing? No...even that should only account for a subjective dilation of 10 times or so. The hell sort of game is RFO playing at!? Ramping up the brain to such a high rate of activity is incredibly dangerous if it isn’t handled properly.

As he carefully got out of bed, he took a long drink of water from the glass he'd placed at his nightstand.

Still, the realism is essentially perfect, and from what I can tell the AI’s handling the NPCs are truly incredible. Ah well, if my brain gets fried, my brain gets fried. No big loss there. He thought to himself wryly.

As Mark got up, he did a series of stretching exercises he’d come up with to re-adapt himself to a body that had been his for only about a quarter of his life. A strange way to put it, but he’d spent about a third of the last 4 years as Mark Thorne, a burly warrior that massed nearly twice his own weight. With a 3:1 rate of perceived time, he’d had 12 years of experience as a burly warrior to 4 years as a slender geek. Figure that half that remaining time was spent asleep, and it was clear why felt the need to adapt more to his real body than his virtual one. That wasn’t even considering the other four “characters” he’d played in various neuro-link VR games. All told, he had nearly 50 years subjective experience in bodies other than his “real” one. Ever since neural interface tech had gone mainstream, it was fairly common for people to spend more of their life living in a virtual world than the real world. At least if you had the money.

Fortunately, he didn’t need to worry about that at the moment. His character stream had been incredibly popular for the last two years, and he’d gotten some good money selling ride-alongs on some of the ridiculous adventures he’d taken part in. Ride-alongs were a relatively new fad. If you had the gear, and a willing player, you could have your Mind-Link Console feed you what another player was experiencing. As a top-ranked Guardian in Adventus Online he’d had plenty of people wanting to share in the thrill of single-handedly charging into an opposing army, and winning.

He’d finally gotten bored of it though. Level 255, broke through all the stat caps, owned 5 of the most powerful pieces of unique gear in the game, and practically invincible unless faced by a 32 man raid team specifically geared to handle his absurd build. Frankly, he was tired of acting as a sort of quasi end-game boss for other players to challenge. Mark was actually looking forward to playing as an entirely different sort of character, someone that didn’t stand out, but controlled things from behind the scenes. He didn’t want some sort of heroic quest to save the world, he wanted to enjoy it. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go full darkside with this character, but he’d be damned if he played another “hero” role. It sounded fun, but role-playing a paladin got old fast. Since he had a hard time thinking of an Incubus, of all races, taking any kind of pure-hearted sort of role it would be a definite change of pace.

Maybe I’ll collect a harem this time round. Mark though to himself while he took a quick shower. Since it seems like I’ve already got the token loli character I guess that just leaves one of each of the beast-kin races, some monster girls, a princess or two...fuck it, way too much work. Too much drama and not enough getting laid.

Speaking of, he reminded himself to put on a condom before the next session. While ejaculating in a VR game didn’t mean you always did in real life, it wasn’t exactly uncommon either, and he didn’t feel like wiping down his Dive-Bed with sanitary wipes. After taking a crap, and fixing himself a sandwich, Mark signed onto his website and made a post, giving his impression of RFO so far, along with making an extremely rare recommendation to order while the “backstory” bonus was still available. The NDA prevented him from saying too much, but he could at least share some vague details. He also replied to a few people asking for ride-alongs, telling them that since he was playing a totally different character he might not be offering the service for a while. He knew that ride-alongs weren’t a feature RFO offered, but saying so directly would be a violation of his non-disclosure agreement. He might not have gotten a beta invite, but there were still some restrictions for the Early Access pass he managed to get.

Ignoring the various complaints, he spent a little time checking RFO posts on a forum he’d long been a member of, and made a single comment noting an incidence of Sych-Sickness lasting for 10 seconds objective and 90 seconds subjective after a 3 hour session. He knew that the people that understood the implications would forward the information appropriately, but it wasn’t so obvious that it would trip any flags. Mark didn’t know what the people at Reality Inc. were playing at, but he knew one thing. If their system was interacting with the human mind at such a deep level, the character class he’d chosen was incredibly dangerous, and not on the game-play level. Feeling like he’d fulfilled his minimum moral duty, Mark went back to his game room, laid back on his Dive-Bed, and put on his headset.

“Mind-Link, engage.”

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