Chapter 1: Rainy Days and Mondays…
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Book 1, Volume 1

Chapter 1

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

"Grrrr... shut up... just 5 more minutes!" Michael grumbled to himself as he reached out to hit the snooze button on his alarm clock.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!

“Don't you dare hit that snooze button and go back to sleep Michael! We don't want to be late for this little brother, so get up, wash up, and be ready to head out in 20 minutes,” Cara loudly said while standing outside his bedroom door.

Yawn...streettchh... and off the bed. “Alright... alright... I'm up.” Michael said as he grabbed the change of clothes he prepared last night and opened the door. He looked straight ahead, “Eh... I could have sworn I heard my big sister huffing and puffing just outside my door a moment ago. Where ever did she go?”

“Very funny little brother...”

“Argh!” Jumping up in the air a little like a small frightened cat while placing a hand over his heart, Michael froze. Then looking down with brown eyes opened wide his body melted into his usual relaxed stance. “Ah, there you are!” He smiled and gently patted Cara's head, ruffling her wavy auburn hair. “You gave me a fright, sneaking up on me like that so early in the morning...”

“It's not surprising that my little brother is so easy to sneak up on,” she said slapping his patting hand away, then looking way up at him. “After all, hill giants may be tall, but they're quite obtuse.”

“Big Sister” Cara and “little brother” Michael had often teased each other in this way: Michael did so to tease his elder sister about her short height of 5ft 2in. And Cara returned the favor to tease him about not only his tall height of over 6ft but his maturity as well. They'd been doing so since Michael's 6th grade of school when he surpassed his older sister's height.

By now their friends were used to it and strangers that heard them just thought they read too much Wuxia. As for how Michael and Cara now felt about calling one another 'Big Sister' and 'little brother' it had changed over the years from being 'terms of teasing' to 'terms of sibling endearment.'

Just then, a door flung open and a little girl rushed out excitedly, then abruptly stopped before bumping into the pair bantering in the hallway. Both brother and sister turned to look at their youngest sibling.

“Morning Rori. You look so cute in that outfit.” Cara smiled, walked over, and gave her a quick hug.

Rori's vibrant blue eyes sparkled like the first day she got her Clankwerk's Art workshop. Soon they would be going to the new Goddess Lokaini Entertainment building where they would enter the virtual “World of Abrynth.” This was a brand new game with technology so far advanced that tech industry giants still didn't know how it worked.

“Morning little gremlin.” Michael lightly chuckled. He looked at Rori's outfit, up and down, then said, “Umm... you do know we're going to a virtual world and not a cosplay convention? Although, that really does look good on you.”

Rori smiled. She had on brown steel-toed leather boots. A pair of black jeans with golden bronze vertical stripes. A black t-shirt that was a bit long and had a steampunk-inspired image of gears on the lower right side.

Around her waist was a large brown leather belly pouch that seemed to be filled with only she knew what. On top of her semi curly bright flaming red hair, she wore a brown leather derby like hat accented with a pair of steampunk goggles. Her handmade necklace, of brown leather with burnt golden chain links, was adorned with her self-made treasure.

That treasure, a gold and bronze clankworks bunny with sapphire blue eyes and a round clock in its belly, hung atop her small developing chest. She looked like she jumped out of a manga or an anime show: Rori, the little red-haired, blue-eyed, steampunk loli. A very cute and soon to be freshman high school girl.

“What are you doing just standing there like a tree? Hurry up and get ready so we can get there before the crowds!” Rori's voice buzzed like a musically charged livewire.

She was about to bulldoze her way past her older siblings, to wait downstairs in the dining area of their family food shop, when she froze, remembering something... something important and rushed back into her room.

A moment later, she reappeared in front of them with an oversized steampunk inspired leather backpack on her back and talking to someone on her cellphone, “What? You're out front of our shop's door, wait just a bit, I'm heading downstairs...” Rori covered the mouthpiece and looking up at Michael “Hurry up, Sadie's here now so we're all waiting on you. Make it quick!”

“No, no, no... you're not early Sadie. Everyone is ready except my big, BIG brother...” Rori's voice trailed out as she went downstairs and out of earshot.

Cara became quiet for a moment, her green eyes looking up at her little brother one more time. Hope this helps him to get over the breakup, it's been hard seeing him so depressed this past month. Thankfully, summer just started this week and school's out for the next couple of months, so he doesn't have to see that rotten cheating girl and that delicate little pretty boy that claimed to be his friend, then betrayed him... garbage, the pair of them. Cara thought to herself, then lightly punched Michael's shoulder.

“Well, if Rori's friend Sadie is here already, then I'm sure my friend Irene isn't that far behind. The floor is all yours, hurry up and meet us in the shop below once you're ready.” Cara said, then disappeared down the stairs.

Michael made his way into the bathroom, set his change of clothes aside, and then stared at himself in the mirror. Muddy brown hair and eyes, plain boring face, a giant height of 6' 3”... well, at least I have a bit of an athletic build thanks to going to Ms. Tsukino's dojo the past 5 years. Michael thought to himself as he looked himself over in the mirror again. He'd been doing that more often than he cared to recall since the breakup about a month ago.

I fell for her during our freshman year. Took nearly a year to get the guts to ask her out during our sophomore year. Was so happy when she said yes. 6 months... 6 months we were together. Bliss. At least I thought so... believed her words... but in the end, guess I just wasn't good looking enough. Michael turned away from the mirror, turned on the shower, and got in.

Valentine huh. Said he was my friend. Ever since I saved him from those bullies our freshman year. They teased him, pushed him, picked on him... called him a 'trap' boy. Delicate, pretty... I didn't know that was the type of guy she truly liked. If only I could be... pretty. But I'm not... just a plain-looking unwanted giant. Michael closed his eyes as the water from the shower washed his tears away.

Can't be what I can't be... pretty... just let it rest. Time to move on. World of Abrynth... a new world, a new life... let's see if it lives up to all the hype. Got to admit, that live 1-hour midnight gameplay Livestream looked amazing. I really am looking forward to spending 8 weeks there. Well, according to the internet, in-game time moves at a 3 to 1 ratio so, 8 weeks in the real world will be 24 weeks in-game. Michael turned off the shower, stepped out and dried himself off. He then ran a quick brush through his hair, dressed and headed to his room.

My best friends Aiden and Thomas said they were lucky enough to get in too. They were so hyped when they told me. A group of various high school club members got together, formed a group and entered their group name into the lottery... and won. A 12 pod room. There was 9 in the group so they raffled off 3 spots. He grabbed his dojo duffle bag, took a quick look around his room, then psyched himself up and headed downstairs to join the others with a painted smile on his face.

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