14. Taking the First Step

    (Helen’s POV)

    If there was one thing that would describe me at my core, then I would say its dancing. Watching people dance is something truly special to me because it’s not just about moving in a cool or beautiful way, but rather expressing something that can’t be put into words. It’s that same feeling someone would get after looking at a piece of art, or listening to music. That feeling, that you can’t quite name? I would get that same feeling watching someone dance.

    It really, captivated me.

    Since I was young I put a lot of effort into learning how to dance. It started with me dancing along to children’s songs on TV. You know, those ones with the mascot characters moving with those clumsy movements? At first my parents thought it was cute, but then it became astonishment when I started to copy more complicated dance moves from the occasional music video. I don’t want to brag, but I was damn good at dancing. My parents took notice of my talent and enrolled me into dance classes, where I learned many different styles, from ballet, jazz, and even tap dancing! It was my world, my everything.

    Which is why I was crushed when it was taken away from me.

    But now I have a chance. A chance to take back what was stolen from me. A chance to fill my world with color again. A chance to live my life without this stupid disability, and for that, I’m willing to do anything.

    *****

    “User confirmed. Name: Helen Aden. Connecting now.”

    “…This place is?” Opening her eyes, Helen found herself in what could only be described as a blank space. The walls and floor were completely white but for some reason she could still differentiate them. After observing the area she then focused on the person standing in front of her. It was a beautiful woman with long blonde hair and large angel wings. As if sensing her gaze the woman opened her eyes and spoke.

    “Welcome, astralite.” 

    “Yeah, uh, hi. Who are you?” Helen eyed the figure with suspicion.

    “I am Stellaria, and I am here to assist you with creating your character.” The woman bowed ever so slightly. “You, Helen, have been designated as a HPAP participant, so before we begin, I suggest that you get accustomed to your body in the virtual space first.”

    “My… body?” At first, Helen didn’t understand what Stellaria meant, but once she did she began to get excited. She looked down at her legs, and finally took notice of the fact that she was sitting in a familiar looking wheelchair. Seeing the same pair of immobile legs she had for years, Helen froze up, thinking for a moment that her disability had somehow carried over to the virtual world. No, there’s no way it did! Calm down me! Just do what Simon says, ‘take it one step at a time’. 

    At first, there was no reaction. She tried to remember what it felt like to walk, but it had been simply too long and the feeling had become unfamiliar to her. She then tried to force her muscles to move, and even used her hands to forcefully shift them, but they were just as unresponsive as they were in real life. Nonononono it can’t be like this. It WON’T be like this. This has to work. Or else… Or else…… 

    Tears fell on Helen’s legs as she continually failed to move them. Seeing this, Stellaria was about to say something when she was interrupted by a small, yet firm voice. “Hey, angel lady, can you… play a song?”

    “What sort of song would you like?” Stellaria asked.

    “Heh. Give me a bop.” Wiping away her tears, Helen revealed a daring smile. 

    “…Understood.” Stellaria snapped her fingers, and music began to fill the room. 

    Closing her eyes, Helen immersed herself in the music. It started with a snap of the fingers, which led to a head bobbing motion. Come on, me. This is it. Your chance to start again. All those years spent dancing, there’s no way I would forget them, and there’s even less of a chance that my body would. Those countless hours spent practicing, those shining moments when I danced… Let’s show that my efforts weren’t for nothing!

    Then it happened. It was a small, miniscule movement, but just a bit, by a tiny little bit, her pinky toe moved in accordance to the beat of the music. Helen focused on this movement, and slowly spread out her control, and soon her foot was tapping to the beat. This continued until she was even able to lift up her thigh into an intense stomp that seemed to carry years worth of frustration. Following this motion, she didn’t hesitate and threw herself off the wheelchair. Not even sparing a moment to regain her balance Helen directly took one step, then another, and then… she began to dance. 

    Mom and dad would always joke that I learned to dance before I could walk… and now I might have to agree! Her movements had no resemblance of elegance or grace, but rather took on a frenzied feel as she expressed her pent up grievances and resentment. This intense dance didn’t last long as the music soon ended, and once it did she fell to her knees.

    “Haha… Hahaha… HAHAHA, HAHAHA! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Tears fell endlessly from her eyes, but even they couldn’t cover her radiant smile. After years of suffering silently, she finally regained the thing she lost, and there was nothing else she could ask for.

    Throughout all of this Stellaria remained still, watching over Helen silently. It was half a minute later when Helen finally stirred, picking herself off of the ground and standing with her own two feet.

    “Heh… *sniff* Sorry for the wait, let’s get this thing started!” 

    *****

    “So this is Wuuly… not bad for a starting town.” A tall man covered in verdant scales appeared in a flash of light, then stepped out of a plaza containing four pillars. His amber eyes scanned the area around him, finding a ring of small houses with sharp triangle roofs. All of them had a thick layer of snow resting on them and the moment he stepped out of the invisible barrier he was hit with the sharp cold air that covered the town. 

    “Sheesh, I wish my tutorial gave me a coat or something.” Rubbing his arms the  tall man searched for a nearby shop. He passed by a window and saw a reflection of himself, and grinned. Of course, this man was actually Helen who had chosen to play as a male dragonkin. She had chosen this form as she found it had the most robust physical body. I absolutely refuse to have a physically weak character! It’s enough that I have a weak body in real life, no need for it to follow me here. At first she had a slight apprehension to choosing a male body, but after learning that Simon was playing as a girl all of her hesitation was thrown away. In the end she made a ‘devilishly handsome’ character and named Zeilan, after all of her characters she made in other games. 

Apparently Zeilan had been lost in thoughts for too long, as a door opened and someone stepped out with an angry expression.

    “Hey, quit with the grinning and that evil face!” A cranky old man wrapped in bundles of fur began yelling at the tall man. 

    “Hm? Sorry old man,” Zeilan scratched his head and responded with a cool expression, “I was just lost in thought for a second. Say, is this your store?”

    “Yes! And I don’t need some hoodlum scaring away the customers!” 

    “Right, right. Do you sell coats?” 

    “Not to a delinquent like you.” 

    “It’s a miracle you even get customers with that attitude.” Sensing the old man’s hostility Zeilan quickly backed off and searched for another place that sold coats. 

    “Hey, hey you with the face! Over here!” A short and stout girl with blue hair called out to Zeilan. Unfortunately he turned around and found no one within his line of sight so he kept walking. “Hey! I’m down here damn it!” 

    “Oh sorry, I didn’t s-”

    “If you finish that line I’m going to bust your kneecaps.”

    “O-okay.” 

    “Listen, you’re looking for a coat yeah? I’m a merchant, I sell things, coats included. I’ll sell it to you for one silver, just do this trade with me quick, okay?” With that a trade window appeared in front of Zeilan.

    “Uh, this isn’t illegal or anything… is it?”

    “No! Just do the trade! Do it now!” 

    “If I get arrested for this…” Zeilan reluctantly accepted the trade while scanning his surroundings for any suspicious people. 

    “You won’t! Thanks! Bye!” The girl left as quickly as she appeared, leaving Zeilan with a shiny new coat. 

    “Weird…” Zeilan’s interest was piqued. From looking at the coat’s effects he knew it was a very good item as its stat boosts easily exceeded the equipment he obtained from his tutorial. “Now why the heck would that girl just trade it for a single silver? She said she was a merchant, maybe this is part of a quest? Hmm… this is way too interesting to leave alone. Time to trail.”

    Zeilan crouched down and a green aura flashed around his feet. “[Fleet of Foot].” He whispered, and then he took off running. The green aura helped to boost his speed and he started to resemble a red comet as he zoomed along the streets. His eyes flashed a yellow color and his pupils became slits as he channeled another ability. “[Dragon Sight] sure is useful. I hope the developers don’t nerf it.” Following the glowing trail that only he could see, he soon came upon a sight that shocked him.

    The trail lead him to the largest building in town where a huge gathering of astralites were crowding around a stage. A gaudily dressed man wearing a monocle stood atop the stage clutching a podium, frantically trying to calm the crowd. “All of you back down immediately! The lord will not be accepting just anyone’s assistance! You must provide multiple records of services you have done for the land – especially so if you are an astralite! Not only that, but you will be rejected if we find your strength is not up to standard, and let me tell you, the commotion you’re raising is not helping your credibility at all.”

    “Over here! I’ve completed five quests!”

    “No wait, I have seven finished, and I already have a commendation from one of the gate guards!”

    “I did four quests, but one of them was from the lord’s steward! I have the papers right here!” 

    To each of the astralites speaking out their accomplishments, the man atop the stage singled them out and indicated for them to proceed towards the large building. Only certain members were chosen, but Zeilan noticed that the ones who were accepted tended to be ones who had connections to the important people in town whether they be simple guards or well-known noblemen. This continued for a while until a certain blue haired girl squeezed her way to the front of the crowd and spoke to the man.

    “Hey Oswald, I’m back!” She grinned fearlessly.

    “Oh, it’s you again,” Oswald frowned in displeasure, “the amount of quests you’ve done is impressive, but your strength isn’t-”

    “Look again baldie. I’ve just reached your standards, haven’t I?”

    Oswald adjusted his monocle and glared at her as if he was trying to bore a hole with his eyes alone. “Tch, so it seems. Fine, you may go through. A word of warning though,” His frown deepened, “If you maintain your flippant attitude you will be promptly kicked out, is that understood?”

    “Of course. I give respect to the people who deserve it… Oswald~.” Thoroughly satisfied the girl was about to head into the large building when a voice suddenly rang out from beside her.

    “Ohh, so that’s what that shady trade was about.” 

    “What the fu-!?”

    “Hello again.” Zeilan grinned.

    “It’s you! Thanks again for that trade. If I missed this opportunity it would’ve sucked.”

    “Wait I’m a little confused. I thought that the trade was for a quest or something. What did it have to do with ‘strength’?”

    “Obviously it’s- wait are you a newbie?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Then it makes sense you wouldn’t know.” Although she wasn’t wearing glasses, the blue haired girl made an action as if she was adjusting some on her face. “My class is merchant, and we gain experience through trades and transactions with other players. I was running around town trying to find someone to buy that coat, and luckily you came along!”

    “Is that so? In that case, you’re welcome.” 

    “Yup yup. Oh hey, let me register you as a friend as thanks. I’ll tell you for free, a friendship with me doesn’t come easy!”

    “Somehow with your attitude I don’t really believe that.” Regardless, Zeilan still added her as a friend, and through that found out her name was Caroline.

    “Say, here’s some friendly advice. A new dungeon was spotted at the foot of Volnus mountain. It’s estimated to have enemies at level twenty, but I got a feeling you’ll be fine. Anyway, gotta go! Talk to you later!” And with that, she left for the large building leaving Zeilan behind.

    “She sort of reminds me of Simon… Well, I should probably get some levels and then check out that dungeon. Heheh, this is going to be fun!” Zeilan left the area, taking the first step to the start of a new and exciting life.






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A/N: Why do things always get so emotional with Helen?

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