Snuggly securing himself into his Cloister, Reno slowly strapped himself in with the myriad of odd belts and devices; following Sora’s instructions precisely, he grew more thankful by the minute that Sora was here to help him through this mess of an installation process. Feeling more useless than he had been in a long time, he inwardly smiled that at least Sora didn’t find him annoying and actually helped.

 
“Alrighty, got everything where it needs to be, bud?” squawked Sora through a pair of invisible speakers.

 
“Yeah. What do I do now?” Replied Reno, his heart beating just a bit faster.

 
“Okay, tilt your head up. See those series of flashing lights? Press the one in the middle, the one that looks vaguely like a church. Let the machine do the rest. Just relax. See you inside!”

 
Reno did as he was told. At first, he thought he pressed the wrong button but as soon as he was about to ask for help, the doors closed in on him. Pressing snuggly into the cube chamber like a brick in a wall, Reno initially believed that his legs would be crushed since there was so little room in his Cloister; the space, after all, was just barely large enough for his body. But, just as the doors had entered, Reno’s seat slid back deeper into the cube allowing the doors to shut him in and encase him in pitch darkness, only the tiny blinkering lights keeping him company.

 

 

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“I remember my first time traversing the planes. It was unlike anything I had experienced. Mellow, calm, but somehow also terrifying. The Tesseract was only the beginning, though, since little did I know at the time, my involvement was merely the start of a protracted struggle.”

Sora had said to relax but Reno wasn’t quite sure how that was possible with him wondering how on Earth he was supposed to enter this virtual realm when he wasn’t even sure if he had done things correctly if he needed to do something more— but his thoughts were cut short. Suddenly, at the back of his neck, he felt a soft, warm, sponge-like substance push up against his skin. Then, there was an odd aroma. Abstractly, Reno was aware of his arms and legs sinking deeper into the chair, almost like his body was melting it like a piece of chocolate on a hot day.

 
Reno felt… odd. Like, not quite sleepy but not fully awake, like a part of him was missing. Perceptually, it felt like he was entering a sort of metamorphosis. He had vague recollections that his Cloister was changing; the tiny LED lights which had illuminated part of his chamber were not as numerous as before, they were slowly blinking out of existence. The mysterious aroma, meanwhile, had intensified. Strange noises pervade his senses. Small, barely detectable noises like whispers and the humming of engines mixed with chime bells. Reno wanted to lash out at the noises but he wasn’t sure they were even real.

 
His breathing slowed and intensified. He allowed himself to give way like he had finally unclenched his fist after a fight. He sunk even further into his seat; he didn’t look about him. Reno was in pitch darkness. He, irrationally, was afraid, but didn’t know it. Before he lost his first consciousness, he thought he heard Sora’s voice in his ear telling him to buck up but that could have just been a fanciful imagination.


 

Darkness. It got old fast.

 
When Reno ‘came to’, he hadn’t known where he was; he was positive that he hadn’t left the Cloister, much less the cube, but he left as though he had entered an entirely new place. He couldn’t see the small LED lights of the Cloister cell. Everything was pitch black; no, not pitch black, but a variety of dark colors swirling around like differently weighted liquids in a glass.

 
Gradually, though, things changed. Small at first but eventually the dark colors shifted into brighter hues and from the abyss emerged complexity. Colors congealed and shapes formed from the messy entanglement of visual noise. Then, perhaps several minutes later, a large rectangular shape appeared and only several additional minutes later did Reno dumbly realize that it was a game menu— the start screen.

 
Reno wasn’t sure what to do. The menu was so gargantuan and far away, that it is not as though he could have touched it. But, reno reached out anyways; the longer he spent here the more pissed his team would be at him for lollygagging at the frickin’ start menu.

 

Thankfully, and to his surprise, the menu responded. After “clicking” said menu— which made Reno feel a bit like a Jedi, if he was honest— a veritable whirlwind knocked him back, or what he thought was himself, anyway (it was only at this point that Reno realized he couldn’t see his body— he was incorporeal!).He “landed”, for lack of a better word, before this tall pillar standing alone in a light-green expanse, as though someone had tinted the sun through a colored lens turning all the world one color.

 
Flying toward the pillar, Reno suddenly came to a stop. He still had little control over the situation and it was starting to egg him, though he had grown to accept his lack of control like a toddler accepting the control of adults over his lunch.

 
Another menu appeared. “[Character Creation]”, it read. Neat, Reno intoned, as it would be fantastic to have a body, again. Being a ghost was sort of blase. Reno waved it to begin.
Instantly, several smaller menus materialized. Each directed Reno to create his character body-part by body-part. For a moment, Reno was saddened that he would have to start all over again from the character he had created before his enrollment in Tantgagile, but then he got over it by rationalizing that a new character would help him better conceptualize his time in this virtual world. Besides, his old character was hardly a power-house since he had only been able to log in to Vingaard when he used the school computers or the library’s terminal. A clean slate would drive him to do better with his coursework and probably keep him better organized since his old baggage from his previous exploits wouldn’t remind him of his past blunders and high school hijinks.

 
Now getting a bit back into his prime and gaining a handle on this incorporeal menu hopping, Reno went menu-by-menu and created a character. Because he was building a new character as part of the Academic Version of Vingaard, something which itself was part of an advanced course, some options were already pre-selected; things like Role, for instance, were already selected as “Knight”, Class was “Vassal”. But, as far as weapons went and aesthetics were concerned, Reno was free to choose whatever floated his boat.

 
Knowing that time was of the essence, Reno picked some cosmetic items that he felt were cool. His armor wasn’t in any sense or understanding “postmodern” as Vingaard forces plays to keep their articles of clothing pretty close to historical reality. So, one couldn’t wear armor with an assortment of impractical curved spikes like out of a fantasy role-playing tabletop game of yore. But, one could select a great many small designs to help set them out from the rest.

 
After some browsing, Reno selected a black and red color scheme in part as an illusion to his personal beliefs about political emancipation, but also because he just thought it was a neat look; the colors alternated in horizontal bar-lines throughout his armor about an inch thick; the design twilled down the whole suit of plate-mail based armor and made him look pretty bad-ass. To top it off, Reno selected a red scythe to appear on the back of his right gauntlet and a red hoe to appear on his left gauntlet. There, as far as he was concerned he looked sharp.

 
After finalizing a similar design for his non-warfare wardrobe, a combination of linen and leather articles which to the logic of the game would have to be dyed red and black respectively at a hefty cost (of which, Reno would alter regret splurging for)— armor was only used on important questing and large-scale warfare based encounters. But, he was happy, so Reno set off and “clicked” the [Done] key.

 
Upon clicking the done key, and like a ghost being “busted,” Reno was sucked into the avatar he created, animating its lifeless corpse. Upon opening his eyes, he saw a whole new world.

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