The Lost Ones

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					           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

         “Where is he?” Foot tapping impatiently, a wave                   looking maybe a little panicked. Kaze wondered if she was
master with blue hair and golden eyes searched the surrounding             trying to avoid someone. A Heavy Axe also walked over,
area, waiting for the arrival of her companion. “If he doesn‟t             greeting them cheerfully before the other could say anything.
come soon, I‟m recruiting someone else.”                                            "Hiya! My name is Vittorio! I'm a Heavy Axe and
         “Nee, ore-tachi no paatii o setsuzoku ketsubou, Nee-              looking for some party members! We have 'bout an hour, so
san? Tanoshii zo.”                                                         why don't we think this over?" She winked as she smiled.
         "Shove it Loser." Akana snapped.                                           From a short distance off, another Wave Master chimed
         At that precise moment, a Twin Blade gated into the               in quietly, "I'll go...Vittorio was it?"
area. Flaming red hair accented the green markings that                             "Hm... There seems to be a lot of people here today,”
decorated his character, and a mischievous glint entered his               Akana noted.
emerald eyes when he saw his friend venting on a group of low                       Yet another person, a Blade Master, gated in, leaning
level Noobies.                                                             against a tree.
         “Now, now, Akana. Just because you‟re beautiful                            "Greetings supposed friends. How fares the quest?"
doesn‟t mean that you can do whatever you want,” he grinned.                        "Other than the fact that we have just met, pretty good."
         Akana glared at him. "You‟re late, Kaze!"                                  "Wow, look at all the people come to join us,” the Twin
         The Twin Blade just rolled his eyes. "For your                    Blade exclaimed. “Who'd have thought that we'd get such a
information, I was just trying to find someone else to go with             crowd so fast? I think that they might not let us participate if
us. Aramill bailed, Anrean and Rennon had a crisis and Sirius              we let anyone else join our group.... I guess that I better post to
is just plain lazy. We need at least three people for the                  tell people that they'll need to join someone else. I'll be back
'Starlight Luna' event, and we only have two. I posted it on the           on in a bit." Circles of light surrounded his character, and he
Board that we would wait at Delta Server Voluptuous Her                    disappeared, logging out briefly.
Remnant for anyone interested. So ditch the losers and let's                        "So what shall we do for the next 55 minutes? Getting
go already."                                                               to know one another is important, and a given. Shall we fight
         "Yeah, let‟s."                                                    monsters, or shall we go to the root town and wait there?"
         Gating into the new area, Akana looked around, waiting            Akana looked inquiringly at the others.
for Kaze to appear. "What shall we do until someone comes?"                         "Although thy 55 minutes are up shall we yet hunt
         Shrugging, he replied, "We'll just have to wait. I'm sure         down and destroy evil doers." Imrihen moved slightly, giving
that someone will come, even if it takes a while. After all,               view to a set of smiling lips. A million things could be found
we're not the only ones looking for another member."                       in that smile: hatred, mercy—the knowing that a monster
         The words had barely left his tongue when a blond                 somewhere soon would feel her wrath.
Heavy Blade with a red wing tattoo over one eye logged in,                          "On to the Lambda Server, then!"

                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                    Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

        Raising her Staff, Akana disappeared. Then she moved                        "Let's kill it!!!!!" Vittorio dashed towards it headlong.
on to the Lambda server, the others following.                                      Looking off into the distance, a Heavy Blade saw a tan
        "H-hey, wait!" Kagari grumbled to herself. "Didn't                 figure running toward him, and, a few moments later, he
even give me a chance to introduce myself properly." She                   realized that he recognized it.
quickly followed them.                                                              "VITTORIO!??!! What do you think you're doing?"
        The Wave Master looked around. "Perfect place for the              He looked at her sternly. "I was looking for you!!!! Don't
'Starlight Luna' Event. After all, it is always night-time here."          wander off without telling me!" He handed her the purple
        Several minutes later, Kaze joined them again.                     cloak. "Don't forget it next time. Hmph!"
        “Sorry that took so long. My parents wanted me to go                        "Oh, look. Another person," Akana said.
to dinner with them. Shall we look around for a while until the                     "Ah? Hello. I'm Blade. This is Vittorio, my niece.
event starts?” he asked.                                                   She just started playing last week. I hope she wasn't too much
        Vittorio followed closely behind Akana and Kaze,                   of a hassle!"
though she tended to sway closer to Akana. "Monsters,                               "Wait a sec," Vittorio says, "Where are the monsters I
monsters, monsters!!!!! Where are y~~~~o~~~~u?????" She                    thought I sensed?"
ran ahead a bit and started dancing an unusual ritual. "A-ha!                       "Um..." Blade pointed over to the mountains and they
There you are!!!!" She ran a bit farther ahead and turned back.            start moving.
        "Looks like we got a lively bunch. I‟ll bet you ten                         "You know, if you just used a fairy's orb, you could see
Health Drinks that she only started recently." He headed in the            all of the enemies, Vittorio."
directions of the said monsters. After all, they were still in the                  Kagari wandered away from the others and took a good
root town.                                                                 look around with a Fairy's Orb. She deftly avoided all the
        "Lively is okay. I'm just glad that we don't have any              portals, bored with the low level of the area, and went hunting
extreme pessimists; at least I hope we don‟t."                             for Grunty food.
        "Pessimist? Why would anyone be that," the giddy                            "Awww, darn it... I should have known this kind of
Heavy Axe giggled back, ahead of the crowd. "Five dollars                  field would only have Mandragoras..."
says we kill it in 10 minutes or less!"                                             She collected a few of the noisy vegetables and
        Following her companions, Imrihen could be glimpsed                wandered back in the general direction of the hubbub to see if
through the surrounding obstructions and such. “Look ahead; I              anyone had gotten themselves killed yet.
see a purplish hue, what is it? Someone with extraordinary                          "Hah. Six minutes. YOU LOSE!!!" Akana looked
eyesight please inform the group if it is fell or neutral."                around. "You know, your equipment sucks."
        Past some trees and bushes with some kind of blue                           Kaze looked at Vittorio, who was gleefully attacking all
berry was a purple-y figure.                                               of the monsters in the area, shaking his head.

                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

         "Think that you could attack anymore happily than you             nice. As for items I have, I‟ve got an unneeded lance and rod."
already are?"                                                                       "The new axe I was betting should be a lot better; it is
         Vittorio didn't hear him and he sighed.                           lvl. 27 after all, and that must be a whole lot better than that
         "Oy, Akana, I think that it might be a good idea to get           antique. Vittorio, I'll trade it. But what are you willing to
back. It's already 4:50 pm. It might be boring to wait for 10              trade?"
minutes, but we wouldn't want to get left out because of the                        Kagari traded a few pieces of decent equipment for a
excited one over there getting carried away more than she is               heavy blade a full four levels higher than her previous one.
already."                                                                           "Sweet! A new sword!"
         "I'll get her...." Blade grabbed her harshly and swung                     She grinned like a fool and caressed the huge blade,
her over his back.                                                         sheathing it lovingly on her back. Taking a look at her old one,
         "Onward to the event!"                                            she peered around quickly.*
         "Yeah, let's go back to town," Akana said, and they all                    "Er, did somebody say they needed a spare blade? It's
departed to the root town.                                                 got some good skills on it... I'll trade for 20 Health Drink or 10
         Carmina Gadelica, the City of the Night lay before                Mage's Soul."
them. Behind as everyone gated in were the Grunties, the                            "What? No! Surely there's something that I have that
peculiar race of The World that were something like a cross                you'll trade for those Mikazuchi?!" Kaze sulked as the Long
between a cow, a pig and a horse. The night skies were full of             Arm that he was trading with ignored him and gated out.
stars, each light sparkling in its own dignified cadence;                  "Cheapskate! She can't even use the blasted things!" Stalking
buildings towered up from the river, their own brilliance trying           back, gloomed in a corner. "And there's not even time to go
to rival that of the stars. But, upon the water below, their vain          and find a Monsieur or Grandpa at a Spring to upgrade it, dang
battle was reflected, outdoing both sides with its own quiet               it all!"
pride. People were standing around, waiting anxiously for the                       Suddenly an announcement echoed throughout the city.
beginning of the Starlight Luna event, buying items and trading                     “Starlight Luna will start shortly, will all participants go
frantically for the best equipment that they could afford. A               to the North end of town, and all those not participating, please
huge line of people waited in front of the Recorder, who called            leave as soon as possible. REPEAT! Please go the North end
out a reminder to save, preparing for the chance of losing in the          of Town, all non-participants, please leave this town now.
battles to come.                                                           Thank you.”
         "So, who's up for some trading?"                                           As their and other groups gathered at the destination,
         "Well.... Vittorio definitely needs a new axe....." Blade         the announcer, a Long Arm, began to speak.
looked down at the axe, which was scraped and cracked. "And                         "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Starlight Luna event is
if anyone has an extra Heavy Blade weapon, that would be                   about to begin, so please listen closely follow the Rules. Rule

                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                    Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                 .Hack//The Lost Ones

Number 1: No killing other player's as they go through the                        "Crystalline Spheres? I wonder if we have to fight
dungeon. Number 2: No taking other treasures UNLESS they                  monsters for them..."
leave it behind." Many people in the crowd jumped at the                          As everybody walked off without her, she started by
'unless.' Why would anyone leave a chest behind? "Number 3:               walking around the back of the platform and peering around it.
No Fairy Orbs may used in this event; only your wit and skill.                    "No Fairy Orbs allowed, huh? It figures...well, let's try
There will be no map provided. Number 4: Only up to 10 party              this instead."
members. And, last but not least, Rule Number 4: Have fun!"                       Kagari pulled out her Grunty Flute and played a simple
The crowd cheered.                                                        melody on it. A well-armored Iron Grunty appeared before her
        "Now to explain the Event; once in Greece‟s history,              and she climbed aboard, then began racing through each room
there was a man named Aristotle. He believed that all of the              one at a time, letting her Grunty search for any items which
heavens where contained in Crystalline Spheres." The lights               might be hidden in the field.*
dimmed throughout the city. "Also, these spheres could only                       "No map... Well, I can go on better than that. Where'd
be moved by the hands of a God, or Gods. For many, many                   my paper and pencil get to...?”
years, the people believed this doctrine to be true." The Long                    "Well, since she seems to like to wonder off, everyone
Arm paused for dramatic effect. Not a soul moved.                         here wants to be in this party right? You weren't just following
        "Tonight, you will become these Gods!!" A cheer rose              us around for no apparent reason, right? Ah, who cares, let's
up from many people in the crowd. It took a while for them to             go find those Crystalline Spheres!!"
quiet them down. "You will have to fight through the special                      They walked down a south-western street for a bit; the
dungeon that we have prepared for you, which is all of this               moon was a thin crescent in the sky, the windows in the
town, Carmina Gadelica, and find 10 Crystalline Spheres.                  buildings as black as their surroundings. The streets were
The prize is The Orb of the Heavens. You have a time limit of             nearly deserted, with very little activity.
5 hours to find all the Crystalline Spheres. Only gating out is                   "I'd say everyone decided to go North and East. Oh
allowed; the Gate-in will be disabled for this Event, and all             well, we won't be run over for a while."
shops are closed until the end of the time limit, or everyone has                 Then a Portal appeared in front of them, the magic
either died or left. Please remember the rules during the Event.          symbols‟ golden glow lighting the darkness, the rings about it
We are authorized to make you leave if you break the rules .              sweeping through the air gracefully. They couldn‟t go further
Thank you! Remember the 10 spheres, and the Orb of the                    without a fight.
Heaven. And the event starts... NOW!!" There was a great                          "Alright! Our first fight! Well, whatcha waitin' for?
roar as many dashed off into the darkness.                                Let's go!" Blade started for the portal, but then stopped with a
        Kagari scratched her head and pondered the                        jerk. "I vouch we put Vittorio through first, in case anything
instructions.                                                             weird happens!"

                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

        Having been ignorant and a little bored, the level 23               did find two more orbs before I died, though.”
Imrihen quickly returned to the others, just another shadow in                      Kaze gave their errant team member an admonishing
the night, materializing behind Vittorio, causing her to squeak.            look.
        "Ah, yes, I second that motion. Hurry, Vittorio, and go                     "You're always wandering off, I'm not sure that I should
though; if anything happens, then too bad," she says with a                 revive you... But since you did bring back these orbs I think
shrug as everyone is equally surprised by her silent and quick              we can over look it this time, don't you Akana?" He used a
return to the plot. She lifted her head slightly, revealing a brief         resurrect on Kagari. "Just stop wandering around without
glimpse of her eyes; two dark pools that reflected all light,               anyone, okay? Even if there's not a Wave Master with you,
creating the illusion of a glow, gazing at her comrades-in-arms.            other people can at least give you some back up if you get
        Five monsters appeared, all looking like easy prey.                 killed accidentally."
        "VAKO DON!" Akana shouted. Fire burst forth from                            “So, that means we have four now,” Akana announced.
the tip of her Dragon Staff, hitting two of the five monsters.              “That is, unless anyone else has found more.”
        Kaze watched as the monsters died and faded.                                "I wouldn't think so. We've all kind of stuck around....
"Yowai.... and only 1 exp to boot. You'd think they might have              except for Kagari."
something a little bit stronger... Oh well, I guess that they have                  "You‟re right. We should continue our search, then.
to cater to the lower leveled players as well. I hope they get              We still have 7 more orbs to find." A monster portal appears.
stronger as we go along." He grinned and ran towards the next               "Let's go!"
magic portal. “Shall we see who can kill the most monsters in                       After more fighting, they located several more of the
the shortest time?"                                                         orbs, making the total six. Another portal appeared, and
        "Bring it on!!" Akana followed after him.                           Kagari charged into the fray, swinging her huge blade around
        Defeating a monster, the female Wave Master paused.                 with all her strength.
"Hmm... The monsters are getting stronger." A treasure box                          "Is it... Hiya! ...Just me, or... Take this! ...Are these
appeared. Opening it, she found the Moon Crystalline Sphere.                monsters getting... Oh no you don't! ...A lot stronger?"
"Yes!"                                                                              She took a particularly hard blow and was knocked
        "Yay. Now we need to get the rest. How many does                    back, forcing her to drink a health potion before she charged
that make now?" Kaze leaned against a wall, playing with his                back in with a yell.*
weapons.                                                                            "Hey, gimme a hand here, would ya? A little repth
        Kagari's ghost wandered back into the room where                    would be nice. Or a rig gaem maybe?"
Akana and Kaze are, looking for her party.                                          Akana came in, healing the group as Imrihen, Blade,
        "Er... I kinda got sleep cast on me and died... Uh, could           Vittorio, Yuri, Kaze, and Kagari fight. Finally, it fell to the
somebody please revive me? " After a moment, she added, “I                  ground with a moan, defeated.

                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                    Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

         "Yeah, you‟re right," Akana said, breathing hard.                 Long Arm said. Why else would we have to find these orbs?"
"They are getting stronger."                                               She started off in the general direction that Kagari pointed out.
         A Treasure Box appeared, and they opened it to find the           She suddenly stopped, eyes filled with understanding. "That
Venus Orb.                                                                 MUST be the Key." She smiled. "Hey Kaze, do you remember
         "Well, what else could you expect? They have to make              what the announcer was saying?" She smiled, and was very
it so that only the groups who are serious about this stick                excited.
around. It'll be harder on the lower leveled groups, but if                        "Uh... no. Not really. I was kind of spacing it out for
they're determined, think of how much exp those things will                most of it, and only caught the part about no PK-ing." He
give them! Of course, those who get in too deep will lose all of           scratched his head, laughing at himself. "So how 'bout you
it, but then, that's their problem for not planning wisely." He            enlighten us, oh most diligent one?"
paused, then pulled out his blades as a monster came at them.                      "He said, 'these spheres could only be moved by the
"Looks like someone lost already in this area. Kurae!"                     hands of a God, or Gods. Tonight you will become these
         "...Yeah, unless this is just a bonus for getting this            Gods.' Methinks that in order to get the 'Orb of the Heavens,'
many..."                                                                   as a group we must move the spheres as it was believed in
         The monster took forever to defeat, though it appeared            earlier eras of the Earth. The only problem is that I don't really
to have already lost some hit points from whatever group                   know the order." She paused, "One second, I should be able to
released it from the portal. As a reward for their hard work, the          find my notes on that...." Her character froze for a second as
Neptune Orb became theirs.                                                 the player left the terminal, and then she was back.
         "Woohoo! What does that leave, the Uranus Orb?                            "Okay, found it. Earth is in the center, but considered
Wait, there's ten, aren't we have to find the sun too?"         unmovable. Then The Moon, Mercury, Venus, The Sun, Mars,
         After finding the orb, a long time passed without seeing          Jupiter, Saturn, then the Fixed Stars Sphere. I wonder where
any new portals. Kagari leaned on her sword for a second                   the Neptune, the Uranus, and the Pluto Spheres would go...."
while her player looked at the map she'd been drawing by                           "Who knows... This place seems really quiet, though.
hand.                                                                      Did that Vittorio person log off for some reason? All I really
         "We haven't been over there yet... I don't have anything          have heard of anyone is just you, me and Kagari here." Kaze
in that direction." She pointed toward the east end of the event           looked around the area for the others. "Where the heck did
field, where the last two orbs should be located, assuming she             they go? ...Sa na, looks like we're the only ones left to do this.
hadn't completely blown it on the map.                                     I don't have the patience to wait for them even if they are still
         "Let's go. I think that we just need to wander around             here. Should we go now? I would hate to think that the other
until we find it." She furrowed her eyebrows. "I wonder if                 groups have beaten us to the prize already because we've just
there is some trick to finding the 'Orb of the Heavens' as that            been standing here."

                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                 .Hack//The Lost Ones

         "Hai, let's go."                                                 the city. It might be there." Akana looked towards the center
         Kaze slashed the last monster, killing it instantly. A           of the city. "Which means going through some of the hardest
treasure chest appeared, and it contained the Uranus Crystalline          monsters. You guys ready?"
Sphere.                                                                           Kagari hefted her sword and turned towards the center
         "Yes," Akana shouted. "Now to go find the Sun!" She              of town with a wolfish grin, anticipation written all over her
paused as a mass-email reached them. "Hmm.... an e-mail                   face.
message." They all read it. “Hmm.... Seems people are                             "Now we're talking."
having trouble with the Sun Sphere."                                              They battled though some tough monsters; fortunately
         "Well, no problems there," Kaze said, grinning cockily.          they all have plenty of healing potions and what not. They
“With my amazing luck we'll find it in no time!"                          finally reached the middle of the city, a monster portal
         "Methinks that it is not on a monster though, that would         blocking their path.*
be redundant. I think it will be elsewhere."                                      "How much you want to bet that we have to get past
         Kagari thought about Akana's puzzle for a minute.                that nasty?"
         "Heh, that's easy as pie...didn't you ever watch Sailor                  As they approach the center of the city, the 'Boss'
Moon? Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus are the 'Inner                     Monster appeared. Figuring the Orb was on this nasty or
Senshi'..."                                                               somewhere nearby, the group attacked the monstrosity. After
         She went into a long explanation of Sailor Moon back             everyone had died multiple times, the final blow toppled the
history, explaining why each of the Sailor Scouts belonged to             monster, and the experience that was rightfully earned from
each particular planet. Kaze could practically feel his brain             this leveled everyone four levels.
melting from the sheer „Shoujo-ness‟ of it all. Finally, she                      Akana healed the group and they continued on. In the
came out with an actual list.                                             center of the city, glowing brilliantly, was the chest they had
         "If you go from the center out, it's Sun, Mercury,               long sought after. A short dispute took place, after which
Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn... Neptune and Uranus              Akana opened the chest. There laid the much coveted Sun
have crooked orbits which cross in the middle, so we'd have to            Orb. They took out the other orbs, and put them in order:
try both ways for those two...then Pluto's the farthest out.              Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune,
Another option is Sun then Moon, then everything else, but..."            Uranus, and Pluto. This, however, did not work....
Kagari shrugged, apparently of the opinion that her way was                       "Wait a second there, why did you put the Moon first
best. "About the last orb though... It's the Sun, right?" She             and the Sun fourth, you weirdo?" Kaze asked, a puzzled look
looks at the night sky above her. "I don't think we're going to           on his face. "They should be going the other way around. Sun,
find it here."                                                            Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune,
         "We probably won't. Let's head towards the center of             Uranus and Pluto. I mean, really, didn't you ever pay attention

                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                  .Hack//The Lost Ones

in school? The sun is in the center of the Solar System, not the          more than 10 party members... Find 10 spheres, and then the
moon!"                                                                    Orb of the Heavens. You don't suppose we need 10 players, do
         Kagari agreed with Kaze. "And anyway, if you've got              we? ...No, if we did they'd have said so. Hmm, maybe there's
the Moon first, then Mars is second, not Mercury. Going by                a key to a portal in all that." Kagari started trying portal
distance from the earth, right? I'm pretty sure the Sun is still          names. "Heavenly Crystalline Orb! Shining Heavenly Portal!"
closer than Jupiter though." She acted as if this were the most                    There orbs sat there, as bored as ever.
obvious thing in the world. Then, suddenly she remembered                          "That didn't work." Akana picked up the Sun Orb, her
something else.*                                                          eyes hot with anger. "Burn this puzzle!" She threw it hard
         "Ahh, don't forget to try switching Neptune and Uranus,          against the ground.
too. Their orbits cross each other, you know. What else could                      Unexpectedly, the Orb shattered, releasing the sun into
we try? Alphabetical? Size? Is there maybe some place we                  the air with a blast of heat against their faces. Akana fell over,
have to set them?" She thought for a moment. "Or like, do a               not expecting that to happen.
little dance, or something." Kagari demonstrated, willing to try                   "Is it supposed to do that?" Akana whispered to Kaze.
just about anything by this point.                                                 Kaze opened and closed his mouth a couple of times,
         Akana pondered. "Sometimes Pluto and Neptune also                not quite sure what to say. Finally, he replied, "Well, either we
switch places in orbit. Let's try."                                       finally found what we were supposed to do or we're in trouble.
         After many attempts, and failures, the group was                 I'm hoping that it's the former."
stumped.                                                                           Kagari blinked her eyes a couple of times, looking just
         "I'm out of ideas, how about you?"                               as surprised as Kaze,
         "Hmm..." Kaze considered it for a moment. "Maybe                          "Uh... I think that worked. Let's try it again." She
some sort of spell?" He grinned mischievously, then said,                 reached for another sphere. As the sphere is shattered upon the
"Ware wa hanatsu, hikari no hakujin!" Looking around, he                  ground, the planet, Jupiter, went to its rightful place.
didn't seem to be disappointed by the fact that nothing                            "Yeah, I think that worked." Akana picked up Mercury
happened. "Oh well."                                                      and slammed it into the ground. She then went to the moon.
         Kagari rolled her eyes at Kaze.                                  "Let's save this for last. There is no Earth, so I have a feeling
         "Like that would work. How about trying a REAL                   that its purpose is something different."
spell?" Kagari pulled out all sorts of scrolls, wondering which                    Kaze grinned widely. "Now this is what I'm talking
one might work. "By the way, those orbs themselves aren't                 about! I hate just having to solve puzzles, but this makes is
usable, are they?" She frowned at her stack of scrolls, and said,         more fun." He picked up another orb and smashed it on the
"Before I try these, let's review what the rules were. No Fairy           ground, releasing its glowing light.
Orbs allowed... right. Hmm, no PK-ing, no less than 3 and no                       Kagari snagged Pluto and Saturn while the others

                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                  .Hack//The Lost Ones

finished off the rest of the spheres, until only Akana's Moon             the left and the moon followed some more. "Cool!"
Orb was left.                                                                      Kaze smacked a hand to his face. “"Cool," she says...
        "Well, what are you waiting for? Quick, before                    Whoo boy."
somebody else finishes the puzzle before we do." She nudged                        He looked at Akana and then to the other moving
Akana, waiting to see what this 'special purpose' of hers might           planets. "Well, Earth, start orbiting like the rest of them. You
be.                                                                       opted for it."
        Akana thought for a bit, then moved to Mercury. "Well                      Kagari finished setting the last of the other planets in
he did say the we were the gods tonight, and that we would                motion, with no help from Kaze, it might be noted. She
move the planets... I think that we can actually move the                 watched with an eager grin, waiting for something to happen.
planets with our touch." She reached out and touches Mercury.             Under her breath she murmured, "Treasure, treasure, treasure,
It slowly began to move around the sun.                                   treasure.... hehehe."
        "Yeah, I think that worked."                                               "Kaze, just be quiet." Akana started to walk around on
        "Ooh, yay, floating globes of light that move. I'm                Earth's orbit. The Sun began to glow brighter, and a treasure
starting to get bored again. Where's a monster when you need              box appeared below it, gold gilded and glowing. They stared
one?" Kaze asked the floating orb of the sun impatiently.                 at it, holding their breath. "Well, are you just going to continue
        Kagari stared up at the planets and started to moving             to stare, or is someone going to open it?"
them as well, setting them into orbit around the sun. She paid                     Kagari pounced onto the treasure box before Kaze
particular attention to Neptune and Uranus, of course, making             could get to it. "Woot! Treasure!" She slowly opened the
sure they did't collide where their orbits cross.                         box, grinning madly.
        "Actually, this is kinda cool... I've had enough of                        Inside the treasure box was a transparent, but green,
monsters for a while, myself, though I wouldn't put it past them          crystal. Akana and Kaze walked up behind Kagari before she
to give us one more boss monster to fight..." She crossed her             could grab it. "Cool. But is that supposed to the Orb of the
fingers, hoping she didn't just jinx them. "This has gotta get us         Heavens. It looks like a crystal instead of an Orb.
like, some key item we need to find the treasure..."                               "Greeeeeen....."
        Akana looks at the moon sphere. "I wonder what the                         Kaze sat mesmerized by the chest's contents, content
Earth is supposed to be...?" She glided to the spot where the             just to look... at least, for a little while. After no one else did
Earth would be, and shattered the moon sphere upon the                    anything, he went to grab it.
ground. She touched it and nothing happened.                                       Kagari blocked Kaze's hand, glaring at him. "Hey, who
        Taking a step back, she said, "Do you think...?" She              said you get to take it? You didn't even help with the puzzle."
never finished the sentence as the moon followed her back.                She resisted the urge to take it for herself, finally saying,
She moved to the right and the moon followed. She moved to                "Akana figured it out, anyway. I think she should take it." She

                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                    Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

eyed Kaze to make sure he didn't get any ideas, then she added                         Or at least, that's how it looks to everyone but Akana,
to Akana, "Better hurry though, incase somebody else is close                 who heard a whispered, "Hurry and get out of here!" as Kagari
to solving it, too."                                                          shoved the Orb into her hands while pushing past her.
         "Oy, I helped! I mean, seriously, we wouldn't have                            Akana grabbed the crystal, sprinting to the other side of
gotten here if we didn't have all three of us. So maybe I didn't              the square. She seemed to fly effortlessly across the pavement,
actually start moving the planets, but I helped with the rest,"               stopping at the other side as she readied herself to throw spells
Kaze complained, emphasizing his points with his hands.                       at the intruding group.
         "Hey, you three! Back away from that orb!"                                    "Bfh. Feisty bunch," the twin blade said as he crouched.
         Everyone looked over as a group of five charged into                 "But they don't stand a chance." He leapt towards Kaze.
the square, weapons drawn.                                                             Kaze quickly caught his balance after being knocked
         "Yeah right, as if we're going to listen! If you couldn't            forward towards the group, cursing his ill-fated luck. Jumping
figure out the puzzle, that's your problem for not having                     backwards, he yelled, "Like heck you're going to get away!"
someone smart enough in your party!" Kaze drew out his own                             Ducking beneath the twin blade's attack, he used a
blades, ready for a fight. "You guys better grab that thing, or               scroll to freeze him and chased after Kagari as the rest of that
else someone around here is going to get banned in a hurry...                 group followed, ignoring Akana. Soon the noise of the two
and it's not going to be them!" he snarled.                                   groups faded, leaving Akana by herself in the square.
         "Heh, yeah, just try it. We can just say that the people                      "Let all the lost be broken.... The Darkness fades to
who fought you went against what we told them," one of the                    Night as the Light breathes its last breath.... Those who'd
other group sneered.                                                          thought they'd had the Heavens in their grasp... now will see
         "Why you blood-sucking, scum-ridden back-stabbers!"                  the error of their path!"
Kaze prepared to be attacked as three of the people surrounded
the group.                                                                    SYSTEM ERROR
         Kagari's eyes widened in anger. "Of all dirty              SYSTEM ERROR
low-lives!" She leapt to her feet, snagging the orb with one                  SYSTEM ERROR
hand while she drew her blade with the other. "Stealing the                   .
credit was my idea first! You want this, you'll have to catch                 .
me!" With a quick spin, she kicked Kaze into the nearest of                   .
the three trying to surround them. Then she shouldered her                    .
way past Akana, holding her clenched fist high and laughing as                .
she summoned her Grunty and barreled her way past the                         .
would-be PKers.                                                               .

                                                                     - 10 -
                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                      Shira kas Shikai
                 Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

.                                                                                                                          "I don't know. Everything's kind of weird. All those
.                                                                                                                 flashing lights gave me a killer head-ache. Wasn't there
.                                                                                                                 something about a System Error in there? ...I don't think that
Resending data………………………………………………...                                                                               this was a part of the quest," he finished.
......................................................................................................                     Kagari frowned, exploring the reaches of the rooftop.
......................................................................................................            "Well maybe something went wrong with the programming for
......................................................................................................            the end of the quest. We should contact a sysadmin and let
......................................................................................................            them know what happened." She checked her equipment to
............................................................Loading...                                            make sure she didn't lose anything. "Man, if I have to restart
                                                                                                                  because of some bug they missed, I'm gonna be ticked."
        Dark clouds swirled in the skies over the three warriors,                                                          "Then what was that voice? ...Do you think that
who woke to the rain falling upon them. The Orb of the                                                            someone hacked the system?" Kaze asked, looking thoughtful.
Heavens floated in the air above them, sparkling in the                                                                    Akana sat down to think, staring in the general direction
darkness.                                                                                                         of the orb. After some time of pondering she said, "I don't
        "Ooh... What happened? I feel like someone ran my                                                         think this is part of the event. Actually I think something
head through a meat grinder..."                                                                                   seriously went wrong." She stood up and walked to where the
        Kagari clambered to her feet, swaying, and looked                                                         orb was floating. "In fact, I don't think this is the Orb of the
around for her pursuers. Not seeing them, she put away her                                                        Heavens. Not really at least." She reached up and grabbed the
grunty flute and the sphere-shaped item she'd been holding in                                                     crystal.
her hand to pretend she had the Orb. "...The heck was that all                                                             For a few seconds there was silence, then the building
about? Does this mean we finished the quest?"                                                                     began to rumble. Akana managed to keep on her feet, but a
        Akana moaned, rolling over. "What happened?"                                                              monster appeared, and not how they usually do.
Blinking, she sat up quickly and looked around, confused.                                                                  The Monster was extremely tall. In fact you could only
"‟Those who thought they had the Heavens in their grasp...‟                                                       see the head because it was standing on the ground far below.
Who said that?" She stood up and saw the Orb floating in the                                                      It was black, like unto a shadow, and it was also not very
air. Carmina Gadelica's dark atmosphere just added to the bad                                                     distinctive. One of its clawed hands gripped the side of the
feeling Akana had. "Hey, Kaze, what happened to the other                                                         building, causing the rooftop to shake some more. Akana did
guys?"                                                                                                            not keep her balance that time
        Kaze shook his head, looking around at the overcast                                                                Kagari whipped out her huge sword, not managing to
city. They seemed to be on top of a building somewhere by the                                                     keep her feet entirely, but only falling to one knee during the
river, and all the lights were slowly fading out.                                                                 tremor. "Well I'm not going down without a fight. We spent

                                                                                                         - 11 -
                                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                                            Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

too much time looking for that thing, whatever it is!" She                  HP, and it was a miracle that he'd survived in the first place.
clambered to her feet once more and charged toward the                      Thinking of the fall that awaited him if his blades slipped, he
monster.                                                                    nervously watched the ground below him sweep past as the
        "Look out!" Kaze yelled as one of the shadow's limbs                Nightmare clawed its way up the building. Using his blades to
swept across the rooftop. He tripped Kagari as she ran past,                climb, the twin blade made his way towards the monster's
only to be caught himself in the attack and dragged over the                head, angrily stabbing them into the beast's shadowy hide.
edge.                                                                       "Kono kusai na bakemono! Sassa to shine!"
        "Foolish Seekers of the Heavens... The Nightmare will                        "Foolish Mortal!"
devour you all!"                                                                     "Kaze! Watch out!!!"
        The building trembled once more as the shadow                                Kagari held her breath for a moment as she saw Kaze
monster raised itself higher into the sky, groaning in                      hanging on for dear life, but she only hesitated a second.
protestation from the vast pressure of the creature's weight. A             Dodging another sweeping blow, she broke out her items and
foul-smelling wave of darkness escapes from its mouth, and                  started casting support magic, increasing stats and tossing in
Akana and Kagari were hard pressed to keep from being blown                 some repth as necessary. Her magic stat seemed to be pretty
into the sky along with Kaze.                                               high... for a heavy blade, anyway. On the next pass, she used
        Akana rolled to the side, barely dodging the clawed                 an attack skill on the creature as well.
hand that wrecked half of the rooftop. She rolled up onto her                        "Oh look, she's actually helping me," Kaze said through
feet, and dodged the sweeping motion as the hand flew over                  clenched teeth, halfway to up the monster's shoulder. The
head. The wind that was created by its passing knocked Akana                beast's hide was only halfway tangible, and without any real
back... Several feet back.                                                  support he could fall at any moment.... "I am so going to
        "KAZE!!"                                                            complain about this." Now that he was on semi-level ground,
        Kagari fell flat on her face as Kaze tripped her, and               he brought himself into a crouching position, getting ready to
muttered something that sounded like a swear word, though it                make a dash for it's head, one dagger still buried in the giant
was hard to tell. She gagged at the smell of the beast's breath,            shadow's skin, the other held to strike.
digging her blade into the rooftop to keep from being blown                          "I just wish this thing wasn't so flaming huge."
away. As quickly as she could, she sprang back onto her feet,                        “I wish I could be of more help,” Akana thought as she
ready to dodge another blow. "Kaze, you idiot!" she shouted,                cast another spell. “Wait...what is this? The Orb of the
looking toward where he was blown off.                                      Heavens, it can be used?! That's new. …Why not?” "Kaze!
        "Graaah! Mada mada....!" Hanging on to his daggers                  Heads up!"
for dear life, Kaze clung to the shadow beast's hand with the                        "Okay... Just don't kill me!"
two blades. The blow alone had taken a huge chunk out of his                         "Got it!" “I hope this doesn't kill us too. Let's go!”

                                                                   - 12 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                    Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

         Suddenly everything stopped, or, at least, it seemed to .            closer.
The world just seemed to slow down… Then after what                                   “Akana! Where are you!?” There was no reply.
seemed to be an eternity, the whole server went blank.                                “Gah, I‟m not going to sit around here anymore. I
         Kagari was frozen in mid-swing of a lightning-type                   don‟t like this field. I don‟t like the fact that I‟m going to lose
attack, both arms raised with her sword aimed at the creature's               everything we got, but I‟m going to reboot my computer now.
arm. She seemed to deal with everything by hitting it as hard                 You guys should do the same,” Kagari said, and then her voice
as possible. “What's with this freeze? Did the server crash? I                disappeared.
might have to reboot now...dang, when was the last time I                             “But… what about Akana? She can‟t even seem to
saved?”                                                                       hear me. AKANA!!!”
         Before Kagari could hit the button, the screen flashed                       Lost on the white field, Kaze wandered about,
white.                                                                        searching for Akana. There was nothing to see; aside from the
         "Kagari! Kaze! Where are you guys?!" Akana shouted                   note, there was nothing to hear, either. How long had it been
from a distance, a very long distance.                                        since they‟d come here? He didn‟t know. He just kept
         Kaze looked around himself, wondering if he was even                 wandering. Finally, at long last, he found the Stone. The stone
still alive as a character. The whiteness was blinding him, but               they had thought was the Orb of the Heavens. The Stone of
he didn't want to take off his visor incase something else                    Quirst. It was the only thing there, other than himself….
unexpected happened. He wasn't even sure that he was
wearing it anymore. With all of the strange events, he wouldn't                        It was late at night when Aven’s family came home. As
be surprised in the least to find out that the game was reality               was expected, the light of the seventeen-year-old’s monitor was
and the real world a game.                                                    still glowing. He’d been playing The World almost all day,
         Kagari swung around, reaching and straining her ears,                and had turned down coming with them to dinner because of a
trying to locate the source of the voice. "Akana? Is your                     rare-item quest he’d been in the middle of. But now it was late,
screen frozen too?" Her fingers reflexively pressed at buttons                and his parents figured that he’d been playing enough for one
on her controller, trying anything she could think of.                        day. The door to his room was closed, and all three of his cats
         "Tch, nani mou mienai.... Mine sure as heck is. But we               were sitting outside, desperate to get in. Strange, they thought.
can still hear each other. Does that mean the game's still                    He always paid attention to what the cats wanted. They
running? ...Does anyone else hear that?"                                      opened the door, but he wasn’t at his computer. Had he just
         Underneath all the other sounds, a single resonating                 forgotten to turn off the monitor and fallen asleep? Entering
note could be heard, echoing though the empty world                           the room, they found him unconscious on the floor, barely
         "Kagari! Kaze! Doko ka na?!" Akana obviously                         breathing, his head-set still on. Immediately, Aven was rushed
couldn't hear them at all. Her words didn't seem to be any                    to the hospital. Several days later, he still hadn’t awoken. No

                                                                     - 13 -
                         Ryuu Kaze                                                                       Shira kas Shikai
           Prologue: The Stone of Quirst                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

one could decipher the cause.
        A few weeks after the news of what had happened had
circulated, a member of CC Corp showed up at the doorstep,
asking for access to his computer. With a little bit of
persuasion, they allowed her to enter grudgingly. His younger
brother was in the room, curled up with the cats. All had been
inconsolable the entire time. She took in every detail of the
room, and then asked what his character name and password
had been. After several attempts, they found the right one—
only to find that his character was still logged in. Pulling out
her own laptop, she began running several tests. After one, she
stopped, her breath catching. The last location had been
Carmina Gadelica, right before the server had crashed. What
could that mean? Was he actually still in the game? Thanking
his family for their cooperation, she bid them farewell and left.
        Several months later, CC Corp decided that The World
was too unstable from programming glitches and bugs. The
servers were crashing with increased frequency. On December
2nd, they pulled the plug on The World that had been created by
Howard Hoerwick.
        On December 2nd, Aven Farel’s vitals flat-lined, with no
hope of recovery.

                                                                    - 14 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

       The Stone of Quirst wasn‟t the “End”…                            We were on top of one of the buildings, with dark clouds
                                                                        such as I'd never seen before swirling above us. That
        ...It was only the "Beginning" of something larger              was when "it" appeared. A black monster larger than the
than any of us had thought.                                             buildings itself loomed up, attacking us. It pulsated
        I had logged into "The World" thinking that it was              strangely, as though it wasn't quite formed. "The
just another online RPG. I went on quests, special                      Nightmare," the mysterious voice had called it. We all
events, dungeon crawls. Nothing ever happened. Until                    fought valiantly, and even though I'd been knocked from
the Starlight Luna event in Carmina Gadelica, Lambda                    the building I sought to defeat it. At the end of our fight,
Server.                                                                 the Item we had fought the PKs over began to shine....
        There must have been over a hundred different                   and everything disappeared. We couldn't see anything,
groups at the beginning of the event. Everyone was                      could only hear a single note ringing through the
anxious for it to start. We had several people in our own,              system.... Kagari simply reset her computer. I couldn't.
myself, Akana, and Kagari being the only ones who                       There was no controller in my hands. No visor on my
stayed to the end. Or the beginning, if you prefer.                     head. I wasn't sitting in front of my computer anymore.
Together, we fought our way to the last treasure box, the                        In the end, I never found Akana, only the stone. I
last crystalline sphere. It was then that everything                    could hear her voice, maybe even from within it. I don't
changed.                                                                know. Nothing made sense. How could I be stuck in a
        "Hey, you three! Back away from that orb!"                      game?
        A group of uppity PKs showed up. There had                               For a long time, I wandered the emptiness, with
been orders that anyone who PKed during the event                       only Akana's voice for company. She couldn't even hear
would be kicked out. But that didn't matter to them. They               me. And then, even the white realm disappeared.
wanted the prize. I wasn't really worried about the PKs,                         This is where it starts. My new story. And my
though. I'd dealt with the likes of them before. But, in the            goal? To find a way out of "The World."
middle of the fight, a voice suddenly rang out from                                                        ***
nowhere.                                                                         A single character warped into Mac Anu for the
        "Let all the lost be broken.... The Darkness fades              first time. His red hair shimmered in the light filtering into
to Night as the Light breathes its last breath.... Those                the room containing the Chaos Gate, contrasting the
who'd thought they'd had the Heavens in their grasp...                  black leather armor he wore. Slowly, he opened emerald
now will see the error of their path!"                                  green eyes, looking around himself.
        The System crashed. After my computer resent                             "Wha.... This is... Mac Anu? It's so different." He
its data, the three of us were no longer fighting the PKs.              looked down at himself and began backing up, shocked.

                                                               - 15 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                     Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

"What is this? This isn't my character!" There was a                       time logging in, right?" A group of players came waltzing
moment's pause as he looked through his menu. "Adept                       up to newcomer. When he just stared at them, they
Rogue. I've never heard of that class before. What's                       continued. "Yeah, I thought as much. How about we
going on?"                                                                 show you around, help you get the hang of the game. I'm
         "Man, R2 is so much cooler than the original                      sure the controls are confusing." He stretched out a
game." There was a group of players standing near the                      welcoming hand to the newcomer.
door, chatting.                                                                   A female Adept Rogue came from the shadows.
         "Yeah, the graphics are cool. And the new                         "Yeah, right you losers. You would PK him as soon as
classes, too. But I really miss my character from R1. I                    he had his back turned."
was so mad when they had to shut it down. "The World"                             Although their backs were turned to her, the
just isn't the same with a PK-OK system. It was bad                        newcomer could see them sweat. The apparent leader
enough when they weren't accepted, but now they run                        of the group turned slowly around. "H-hey, Siron. We
rampant where ever they want, trashing other players.                      weren't going to do that. We did promise to go straight
I've been hit three times this week alone!"                                the last time."
         "Man, that is bad. I guess that is one thing the first                   She just glared at them.
one had better. But it had a lot of bugs too. Like those                          The leader turned to the side. "One of these days
undefeatable monsters, and did you hear about that                         you're going to regret this." The group ran out—fast.
event at Carmina Gadelica? The whole system crashed.                              "PKs, they're all the same."
No, they had to put it to rest. Put it out of its misery, you                     The new character just stared after them.
know?"                                                                     "Thanks... I guess." He walked off, heading out of the
         "I still miss my poor little Mizuki-chan, though."                doors to see what this new "World" had in store for him.
         "R2? R1? What are they talking about? A new                              Mac Anu was still about the same as always,
system? ...So, "The World" as I knew it is gone? Then                      though the lay out was different. He walked through the
why am I here? There was that long time on that white                      streets paved in twilight, listening to the conversations of
field.... The stone!" He quickly checked his inventory.                    various players as he passed by. Not much was
Sure enough, the Stone of Quirst was still there. "So, my                  different.
character's been remade... and I still have that... What                          "He-ey! Are you a Noob?"
about Akana? ....Man, none of this makes any sense.                               Turning, the Adept Rogue found himself staring
What happened after the white field? I can't remember                      down at... something that reminded him of a dog. Long,
anything!"                                                                 floppy ears, big eyes, nose... mouth full of teeth. "Uh...."
         "Hey! The red-hair Adept Rogue! This is your first                       "You are, aren't you? My name is Gaspard, and

                                                                  - 16 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

I'm part of Canard, a Noob-support guild! What's your                  surprised if this Haseo person is another altruistic, low-
name?"                                                                 level Harvest Cleric, starting a guild like that. How lame."
        "It's... Kaze." He hesitated for a moment. "What                      "Hey, Gaspard. Who's this?" A green-clothed
are you?"                                                              Blade Brandier approached them. "Is this your first time
        Gaspard laughed. "You didn't read the official                 playing the game?"
page, did you? I'm a Beast character. So, this must be                        "This is Kaze. He just started today!" Gaspard
your first time logging in. If you want, me and Sylabus                announced. "Kaze, this is Sylabus. Have you seen
could show you around. Or maybe Haseo, but I don't                     Haseo?"
think he would."                                                              "Yeah, I was just talking to him and Kuhn..."
        "Um... sure. So, Beast characters are one of the                      As Gaspard and Sylabus were talking to each
things that're new in "R2"?" Kaze figured that he would                other, Kaze studied all of the people in the area. So, it
go along with it. This Gaspard person wasn't like the                  was possible that Haseo was around here. He scanned
ones from before; Kaze could feel the sincerity rolling off            the crowd, wondering which one it would be.
him in waves. It was almost sickening. He wondered if                         On the other side of the Central Plaza, Kaze
Sylabus and Haseo were the same.                                       spotted another Adept Rogue in black armor, though his
        "Yep! Does that mean that you played R1? I                     had more to it. Silver hair, red eyes and tattoos. In the
never did. This is my first online game."                              small glimpse he had, though, Kaze could feel a vast
        "Yeah. Right up to the end." "Geez, this guy                   power surrounding him. It made the hair on the back of
seems like more of a Noob than me. I mean, look at his                 his neck stand up. What was that? It reminded him of
level. 15? Has he only been playing for a week or                      Nightmare.
something?" "This is way different from R1, though. PK                        "Okay! Let's go, Kaze!" Gaspard was talking to
system? Beast characters? And this class, Adept                        him again.
Rogue.... looks cool, though."                                                "Here's my member address." Sylabus handed
        "Okay! Here is my member address. You can use                  his over. "Now a good place to go would be Delta
this to invite me into your party! But, before we get                  Server Peaceful Leading Freedom. Let's head over to
started, let's go find Haseo and Sylabus...."                          the Chaos Gate and we'll show you how to go."
        The two of them wandered around Mac Anu, with                         "Fine, whatever." They headed back to the Dome.
Gaspard showing Kaze the sights and giving him                                "Hey, did you see that? That Noob is heading off
background on R2. The new "World".                                     with a couple of other noobs."
        "Man, what is up with me? Any other day I would                       "Weren't those guys from Canard? Isn't the Terror
have just ignored him. Noob support guild? I wouldn't be               of Death the Guild Master? You sure we want to got

                                                              - 17 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

after them? I hear that he's killed over a hundred PKs,                         "So, he wasn't the person who started Canard,
and that he's friends with some Moon Tree chick."                       huh?"
        The leader of the PKs clipped the Shadow                                "Nope! Haseo is the famous PKK, "Terror of
Warlock who'd spoken. "Do you really think that a                       Death"! There are rumors all over the forums about him,"
famous PKK would be that low of a level? And who                        Gaspard interjected.
cares if he's got a friend in Moon Tree? It's not like we're                    "What? Someone with a nickname like that
messing with him. Come on, let's go get 'em."                           running a Noob-support guild? That seems kind of off.
        After the PKs had gone to the Dome, Siron smiled                And a PKK to boot?" The image he'd had in his head
from her hiding place in the shadows. "These ones never                 was replaced by a far more menacing one. No Harvest
learn. Demo...Kaze, huh?" She walked towards the                        Clerics there. "What's his class?"
dome. This was becoming more trouble than it was                                "Well, well, well, if it isn't the little Noob who turned
worth...                                                                down our help earlier." The PKs swaggered into the
        "So, what's this Haseo person like who heads your               area. "And if it isn't Canard, showing the poor, helpless
guild? A Noob support guild seems kind of.... Well,                     Adept Rogue around. Where's your little Haseo? Don't
strange." They were most of the way through the                         you think that it's dangerous to be wandering around
dungeon, now, and Gaspard and Sylabus had gone over                     without the "Terror of Death" to protect you?" The group
most of the basics. All these "Skill Trigger" and                       laughed raucously.
"Rengeki" things were kind of strange, but were stronger                        Kaze looked at the others. They were frozen in
and more useful than his skills had been in R1. Being                   place. "Tch. Figures that the first time I log in I'd be
low level again kind of sucked, but he guessed that it                  followed around by the scum of the web." He did not
would have to be expected. After all, he had just                       want to find out what would happen when he died.
"awoken" in The World again, with a new "self". It didn't               These PKs were too high level... maybe, just maybe they
make sense that he was an Adept Rogue, though; after                    would be able to deal with them..... Who was he kidding?
all, he'd been a Twin Blade before. Why didn't that just                It was 6 to 3, and he was still having trouble taking out
transfer over? Ah, whatever.                                            some of the lowest level monsters. These PKs were
        "Well," Sylabus began, somewhat hesitant, "he's                 ticking him off. "Geez, you guys are just like that bunch I
actually kind of a loner. We just met him recently                      met before the Starlight Luna event crashed."
ourselves, but deep down he's a nice person. After                              "Starlight Luna? You mean the last event in the
Kuhn, our first Guild Master, left, it was just Gaspard and             R1 version of "The World"? So, who would have thought
myself. After meeting Haseo, we felt that he would be a                 that I'd run into one of the punks that took the prize from
better person for the job than me."                                     us again? I'll bet that you were that Twin Blade, weren't

                                                               - 18 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

you? Oh, I'm gonna enjoy this," their leader, the Edge                 began. By the time the last PK had faded, Siron was
Punisher, said, pulling out his huge blade.                            already walking away.
         Kaze moaned. This was not going well. Maybe if                         "Hey, wait!" Kaze stopped her, forcing her to face
he was lucky he would withstand the first blow. If he was              him. "You say that you were one of the Admins. What
lucky.                                                                 happened at that event!? Why am I...." He stopped
         " were the ones who broke that Event's                short. Sylabus and Gaspard were still there. "You have
Rules..." a female's voice floated musically to their ears.            answers that I want," he said changing the subject.
Death music.                                                                    "I think a secure location would be more
         Kaze looked behind the PKs. Sure enough, it was               appropriate for that conversation." She looked in
Siron, the Adept Rogue who had scared them off in the                  particular at Gaspard and Sylabus. "I'll meet you at the
first place.                                                           dome when you are done here." She then left the
         Now it was the PKs' turn to freeze up. The Edge               dungeon.
Punisher was sweating visibly.                                                  "Tch."
         "Siron.... What.... How...?"                                           "Um.... Kaze? What was that all about? Starlight
         "Wait, you know about Starlight Luna?"                        Luna?"
         "Sure I do. I was one of the administrators over                       "It's nothing.... Just an event that happened in the
the event." She cracked her knuckles. "Oh, I'm going to                R1 version. ...I haven't played up until today because of
have fun..."                                                           it." It wasn't exactly a lie.... just not the whole truth. "I ran
         "Uagh! Let's get out of here, boss!"                          into that Edge Punisher there. Apparently, he
         "Come on, you cowards! It's 6 to 1! We can take               remembers me. I was about to roast his trash right
her!"                                                                  before the server crashed." It was ironic that he would
         "Make that 6 on 2," Kaze growled. He wasn't                   run into him again on his first day. "But... there were
going to just sit back. And even as high level as she                  some things that happened then that I want to know
was, he didn't think that this Siron could handle them all             about. Bugs or something."
by herself.                                                                     "Oh.... okay. Well, let's finish going through the
         "We'll help too!" Gaspard and Sylabus were                    dungeon. We wouldn't want to be around when those
standing to either side of him.                                        PKs come back."
         "It doesn't matter how many there are! We're not                       Back at the dome, Kaze said his good-byes and
just going to let you guys walk out of here!"                          then searched for Siron. An Admin. Who would have
         "Then you" She smiled as she              thought? This whole day was full of strange
pulled out her twin blades. It was over as soon as it                  coincidences. He found her shortly, lurking in the

                                                              - 19 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

shadows as usual.                                                     server crash. Which it was, in a way. As to why you are
        "Well? I don't expect that we'll be talking here."            here, that you will have to discover yourself. I'm no
        Siron nodded, and promptly sent him her member                longer an admin. I quit CC Corp after the start up of R2.
address. "Delta Server Buzzing Aster's Bum is where we                Those guys are worse than spies."
will be going. Hardly anyone goes there and it is a low                       "But what happened at the event? Surely you
level place. Perfect for what we want."                               would have found something. And..." He hesitated.
        They didn't really speak again until they were on             "What happened.... to me? You know that Kagari got out
the twilight field. "So what would you like to know?"                 fine. And what about someone named Akana? You
Siron said as they walked.                                            must know more than you're telling me. I can feel it." He
        "Well, what happened at that event, for starters?             toasted another one of the monsters. It was a level 1
I've been... stuck... ever since. I didn't make this                  field, after all.
character. I didn't even log in. The last thing that I                        Siron didn't say anything for a real long time. "I
remember is being stuck on a white, empty field with this             don't think you're prepared for the answers."
stone." He showed Siron the Quirst Stone. "Why am I                           "What's that supposed to mean!?"
here? What is R2? And what was that giant monster                             "It's been two and half years since 'Starlight
right before the server crashed? The only person I know               Luna.'"
of who got out of it was a character named "Kagari". I                        Kaze could only stand there, dumbfounded for
don't know if she really did or not, actually. You're an              several minutes. "Two and a half years? Maybe a
Admin, so you would know, right? Right?!" He was on                   couple of months I could understand.... Why....." He
the verge of panic. He needed someone, anyone, to                     couldn't get anything else out. It wouldn't come.
explain what was going on.                                                    "Looks like we have company..."
        Siron watched him carefully. "Well, to answer your                    "Well, well, well... look what the cat dragged in." A
second question, R2 is really a remake of R1, without all             female Blade Brandier sighed.
the bugs, supposedly. Most of the system was remade                           Siron's red eyes rolled, followed by the shaking of
to get rid of some corrupted parts. However, the system               the head. "Are you done yet?"
wouldn't work without a few key components.                                   "What am I, a PK magnet?!" Kaze's temper was
Supposedly. To answer another. Kagari got out fine.                   building. He wasn't getting any straight answers, the
She logged in the next day, played for awhile, then                   ones he had were confusing, and this low life had
moved on." She took out one of the monsters on the                    showed up, ready to down him. What next, Nightmare?!
field. "Also, as one of the Admins, I did my best to find             His hands tightened into fists. If this was what "The
out what happened. CC Corp decided to cover it up as a                World" had in store for him, he would have a few

                                                             - 20 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

surprises to throw right back. He wasn't going to just sit               Three separate notes sang through the air with each of
idly by as others toyed with him!                                        his strikes, and the Blade Brandier fell to the ground,
        Siron meandered between the two, casually                        fading away. A sharp reminder of what would happen to
coming up to a tree. Upon booting it, small bomb-like                    him if he failed.
creatures fell to the ground. She waltzed up to one and                           Straightening himself, he looked down at the
kicked it. The creature made a strange, annoying,                        blades, panting. "What.... just happened there? Three
squeak-sigh sound. It was kind of disturbing.                            blows and she's down?" It was just too much. PKs, R2,
        "What, do you think that Chims will save you?                    Nightmare, the Stone.... With a sigh, he fainted.
You are a fool." She mocked Siron.                                                Shaking her head, Siron picked up Kaze. "I was
        "Actually..." Swiftly she crouched down, swinging                afraid of that." And she walked off.
a leg about, and hit a Chim with the back of her heel. It                         When Kaze came to again, he was inside a
made a satisfying crunch as it made contact with the PK's                building. Siron was talking to a...something. It was a
face. “…Yes.”                                                            small creature, with a Japanese hat. It wore a strange
        "Agh!" The PK reeled back, dazed momentarily.                    robe-like garment that came to its knees.
Then, she angrily drew her blade, preparing to strike at                          Siron walked up to Kaze. "Grunties sure have
the closest opponent--Kaze.                                              changed, haven't they?"
        "Is this it?" He stared at the blade as it reached                        "Grunties.... You mean, that thing? ...Isn't it a little
it's apex and began falling towards him, unable to move.                 small?"
"Am I going to die here? ...I won't... I'm not going to die!"                     "Pleased to meet you, too, zuru-zuru!"
        Everything stopped. For a moment, he was back                             "Zuru-zuru? What are you, Dragging Grunty?"
on that white field, with Nightmare looming over him. He                          "Nope, zuru-zuru. I'm Dawn Grunty, zuru-zuru."
glared back defiantly.                                                            Kaze just stared at it, dumbfounded.
        Kaze....                                                                  "So, you're starting a new guild, huh, zuru-zuru?
        The moment came rushing back to reality. The                     First, I need to know which of you is going to be the Guild
PK. The fight. The sword. Quickly, Kaze drew his own                     Master, zuru-zuru. Then, you'll need to tell me your
blades, black and red blurs as they blocked the oncoming                 guild's name, zuru-zuru."
blow. Sparks flew in all directions. He glared up at the                          "Huh? Guild? What are you babbling about?"
PK, who stared at him in shock.                                                   "We are going to make a guild. A sort of
        "Next time," he growled through gritting teeth,                  like a group of people. Usually with the same interests,
"Find someone else to kill."                                             or qualities. Canard is also a guild. For them, it is to help
        He threw back the PK's weapon, charging into her.                noobies around their first time in "The World." Moon Tree

                                                                - 21 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

is an anti-PK, and most of the time anti-PKK, group."                  need to know if you're Guild Master material, zuru-zuru."
She sat down beside Kaze. "We are going to make a                               Now, Kaze's hands were twitching, too. "Why do
guild so you can have a place to rest."                                I..."
        "A place to crash, huh?" He looked around. "Not                         "Your first task is to collect some Weird Black Tea,
very comfortable. So, uh, who's the Guild Master, then?"               zuru-zuru. Come back here when you find it and give it
        The look Siron gave him said it all.                           to me, zuru-zuru."
        "Wait, why do I have be the leader?! I barely                           Siron burst out laughing.
would work with other characters in R1! I don't want to                         "Stop laughing at me!"
handle that!"                                                                   She continued to laugh for quite a while,
        She raised an eyebrow. "Because I have other                   "Ha...Haseo, sell...that!" It seemed to be a real
things to do. Anyways, I'll program the room to be more                trial to get it all out.
accommodating later. But first..." She pushed him                               "Haseo? You mean Canard's Guild Master? ....I
towards the grunty, "...Make the guild.”                               really can't see the "Terror of Death" having to sell a
        Kaze grumbled something incomprehensible.                      strange item like that. In fact, I don't see why a PKK
"Guilds...." He sighed. It was true that he couldn‟t just              would be in charge of a "Noob Support" guild in the first
run around "The World" all the time, and, if what                      place. I would think that he would be a loner, a solo-
happened earlier was any sign, he would need to be                     player like myself." Kaze sighed. "Well, at least all he
careful about over-exerting himself. Which reminded                    had to do was sell it. I have to find the stupid item. Dang
him.....                                                               it. I don't suppose you would know where to find
        "Hey.... How long was I out?"                                  something like that?"
        "A couple of hours. I'm actually surprised you got                      Siron decided to keep her mouth shut about
up so fast." Then she motioned for him to talk to the                  Haseo. "He sold it to someone. A girl, I think. Don't
Dawn Grunty."                                                          know who she is though.”
        Kaze's eyebrow twitched.                                                "Figures. Oh well, sitting here won't do me any
        "So, you're going to be the Guild Master, zuru-                good. Guess that I might as well go looking for it. I'll be
zuru? What are you going to call your guild, zuru-zuru?"               back... sometime. See ya." He walked out of Haven's
        "A guild name, huh? ..." "Well.... How about...."              @Home into the Mercenary District. "Tch, man. Find
He closed his eyes, thinking. "Haven. Guild Haven."                    'weird black tea', it says. How the heck am I supposed to
        "Haven, zuru-zuru? My, what a strange name,                    do that? ....Haseo again. What's up with him that makes
zuru-zuru. All right, Kaze, you're now the Guild Master of             him so important? It's not like he's stuck in a game....
Haven, zuru-zuru. But.... before we can make it official, I            Two and a half years. That can't be right. It must be

                                                              - 22 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

wrong. She's a member of CC Corp. She must be                           You never know when they are lying."
jerking my chain. ....Might as well ask Gaspard if he                            "No, I was there! I saw it!" Someone else said.
knows anything about that item. He's in Canard."                                 "Yeah, right. Get a life, Yera."
        "Sometimes I worry about him." Shaking her                               "I also heard that..." And the conversion drifted off
head, she stood up, and logged out. "Now it's time to                   as they entered the Dome.
create a room."                                                                  "Dang... It's already getting around? That's the
        "Kaze! Good to see you again! So, how have you                  last thing I need. If people start paying attention to what I
been doing?" Gaspard was as lively as ever. Kaze had                    do all of the time, then eventually someone will notice
found him running the Canard shop.                                      that I'm not your normal character."
        “How convenient." "Hey, Gaspard. Would you                               "Man, I can't believe that people actually believe
happen to know of anyone who has some Weird Black                       that rumor. A level 3 Rogue beating a blacklist PK? As
Tea? I need it for a quest."                                            if. Don't you agree, Saku?"
        "Hmm.... Well, we had some a while back... That                          Kaze spun. Standing over near one of the other
was when Haseo was doing the quest to become the                        guild shops were two characters. One was a Harvest
Guild Master. We sold it to a character called "Sakubo".                Cleric, and Saku.... he couldn't quite tell. "Okay... I'll
Maybe you should ask him? Or maybe it's her today?"                     just... ask about the Tea, I guess. Man, that Saku looks
        "Huh? What, spilt personalities or something?"                  down-right nasty. With my luck, she'd have sold it a long
        "Oh, no. Saku and Bo share the character. You                   time ago.... Might as well ask, though. "Hey..." He
never know which one will be playing."                                  walked up to the duo. "Either of you wouldn't happen to
        "A shared character, huh? Makes me think of this                know where to find some Weird Black Tea, would you?"
one character I heard about once in R1.... Oh well,                              Saku looked him up and down, glaring
thanks for the info."                                                   suspiciously. "You're not going to tell me that you're the
        "If you ever need someone to go with you, know                  Noob who took out Regit, are you?"
that Sylabus and I are always ready!"                                            "Why would I say that? That's like asking the PKs
        "Yeah.... I'll remember that." Kaze walked off a                to come after you."
little way. "Sakubo... I wonder where I could find them?'                        "Hmm.... Yeah, I know where that item is. What's
        A group of random people walked by; they were                   it to you?" This brat was starting to get on his nerves.
trying to mutter, but it wasn't working to well. "Did you               She kept glaring at him, as if talking to her was a crime.
hear? Some Noob took out the Blade Brandier, Regit the                           "I just need it. What does it matter what it's for?"
Red. He was a level 3 Adept Rogue, they say."                                    "Well.... You wouldn't happen to know anyone
        "Don't believe everything on that rumor mill, Tsura.            called Haseo, would you?"

                                                               - 23 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        "What? What does that have to do with the tea?"                         The Grunty looked very displeased. “That was not
        "I won't tell you about it if you don't answer."                nice, zuru-zuru! You should apologize, zuru-zuru!”
        Kaze grit his teeth. "Dang brat." "No, I've never                       Kaze didn‟t respond; he just slumped to the floor.
met him. He's supposedly some sort of awesome PKK,                              “You are very strange, zuru-zuru.”
isn't he? Don't tell me you want an autograph?" He                              “My, you seem to be in the slums.” Siron said as
backed up a few steps as the look on Saku's face                        she walked in. She seemed to be very pleased with
darkened.                                                               herself.
        "Haseo.... I'll never forgive him for what he did to                    “Hello, zuru-zuru!” The Grunty was overly cheerful
Master En!" She shouted, drawing sweatdrops from                        considering it just got hit in the head. Maybe that was its
everyone within hearing distance.                                       problem…
        "Geez... you don't have to yell at me. I've never                       “Don‟t even start…” His head began to nod.
met Haseo; I only started playing this game a little while                      “Please tell me that you are not going to sleep
ago. So, are you going to tell me about the tea or not?"                there…Are you?”
        "Yeah, I'll tell you. It's in Trifle‟s shop." She                       There was no response; there was however a
pointed to the Harvest Cleric next to her, and gave her a               slight snore.
look that had even her own guild member shaking in her                          Siron raised an eyebrow. “Okay…” “He actually
boots. After that, she walked off.                                      gets tired in the game…didn‟t think that was possible.”
        "Oh brother.... I know what that look was for.                  Shrugging, she picked up Kaze, again, and headed for
They‟re going to charge me something outrageous for it,                 the newly created room.
aren't they? I need that item, though." "So, how much                                                      ***
for the Weird Black Tea?"                                                       One of the cats was licking his face. He opened
                                     ***                                his eyes slowly, not wanting to wake up yet. Amaterasu,
        Kaze trudged back into Haven's @Home several                    or just Ama for short, had diligently taken upon herself to
hours later, exhausted. He'd had to go through ten                      clean him—without his permission, of course. The other
different dungeons just to get enough money for the tea.                two were pretending not to notice, curled up on either
The only good thing about it was that he was now level 7.               side of him, effectively pinning him beneath the covers.
Luckily, there hadn't been any PKs; he hadn't thought to                Odin and Rigisamus. He batted at Ama until she left him
save throughout the whole ordeal.                                       alone so that he could go back to sleeping.
        ”Did you obtain the Weird Black Tea, zuru-zuru?”                        Katsuki, his younger brother, had different plans,
The Dawn Grunty chimed.                                                 though. In one swift motion, he raised he blinds, filling
        The tea crashed into Dawn Grunty‟s head.                        the room with unwelcome light. Kaze moaned, pulling his

                                                               - 24 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

pillow over his head in an attempt to block it out.                      realized that not only had she been to his house, but in
        “Come on, Nii-san, wake up! You promised that                    his room. A girl had been in his room. That was first.
you would go to the park with me today!” Katsu jumped                           “My, you seem slightly shocked.”
up and down on his bed, dislodging the cats, who fled in                        “Well,” he said, standing finally, “I guess I hadn‟t
disdainful terror. Katsu was always too loud and bouncy                  thought you would have.” Like heck he was going to tell
for them. “Wake up, Kaze!”                                               her what he‟d been thinking!
        “Kaze…. Kaze!”                                                          “I bet if you think about it for a while, you‟ll
        “Just ten more minutes…” he mumbled, still half-                 understand why.” She jerked her thumb at the terminal.
dreaming.                                                                “By the way, you can use that to reactivate your E-mail
        Siron, not willing to comply, tore the covers off the            account.” She walked to the door. “I‟ll be out here.” On
bed, dragging him halfway off as well.                                   the other side was the guild room, with Dawn Grunty
        Startled, he woke up the rest of the way. He fixed               looking as cheerful as ever.
Siron with a confused glare. “Wha… What are you                                 “My mail, huh? I wonder how many I got before
doing in my room? Where‟d Katsu go?”                                     they shut it down?” He booted up the computer. Within
        She just folded her arms and raised an eyebrow,                  a few minutes, he was at his desktop; nothing had
waiting for reality to crash down on him again.                          changed. Same background, same music. He clicked
        After a full minute had passed, he realized that                 on the mail, expecting to have to go through some long,
she wasn‟t just there, she was a character from The                      annoying process, but instead, his mail was up and
World. Characters didn‟t just jump out of the game.                      running. He looked at the list, finding that there was still
        “Oh. “ He looked crestfallen.                                    plenty of activity. “Okay… that‟s weird. She said it was a
        “If you prefer, I could come back later. After all,              couple years, but this has mail that‟s new as of today.
you look kind of depressed.”                                             …What is today?” He checked the date… and fell out of
        “It‟s fine… But, did you make this?” He looked                   the chair. Climbing back up, he whispered, “She really
around at the room. It was exactly how it had been in his                wasn‟t jerking my chain… what are all of these emails,
dream—though, maybe a little cleaner. Most of the time,                  anyway?”
his clothes missed the laundry basket. “You‟ve been to                          Before he could get into reading them, Siron stuck
my house?”                                                               her head in.
        “My, you have a lot of questions today,” Siron                          “Are you okay in here? Sounded like a herd of
drawled. “Yes, I‟ve been to your house.”                                 Chims ran through.”
        “…” He couldn‟t think of anything to say. He                            Kaze scowled at her. “What the heck are Chims?”
hadn‟t been expecting that. After thinking about it, he                         “Remember that strange bomb-like creature that I

                                                                - 25 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

kicked into that Blade Brandier‟s face?”                                        “A solo-player like me doesn‟t find security with
        “And ticked her off so that I nearly got killed.”               others. Only with my own skills.”
        “That‟s a Chim.” She continued on as if he hadn‟t                       “I guess it‟s a good thing you‟re not most people.”
said anything. “Anyway, are you going to come out of                            “Whatever.” He stood up, looking longingly at the
here any time this century, or am I going to have to wait               computer. But it would have to wait. Kaze headed out of
until the next?”                                                        the @Home, using a warp point to reach the Dome more
        Another glare. “My mail is still active.” Another               quickly.
message popped up. “Really active.”                                             Siron looked at the computer screen. “That was a
        Siron thought about it for a moment. “Hmm…                      close one,” she whispered, and closed the door.
Your brother may have been using it.”                                                                     ***
        “Katsu? Why would he use my mail?”                                      The Hulle Granz Cathedral hadn‟t really changed
        “…” ”Oh shoot. What am I going to tell him?”                    between R1 and R2. He had been there a couple of
        “Hey, are you listening to me?”                                 times with Akana. Kaze had never really understood why
        “You still haven‟t apologized for throwing that sack            she‟d insisted on dragging him there all the time. There
of Tea at me, zuru-zuru!” Dawn Grunty was standing at                   weren‟t even any monsters there. It was just an empty
the door behind Siron, looking indignant.                               field, with only the scenery to keep you company. And a
        Kaze‟s eye twitched. It was worse than his mom.                 cathedral… It just had seemed out of sync with the rest
        “You haven‟t completed the second task I have for               of The World. Maybe that‟s why he would actually go
you, either, zuru-zuru. If you don‟t finish, I‟ll have to               when she called. It was kind of like him, now.
cancel your guild, zuru-zuru.”                                                  Entering the building, he immediately noticed the
        “Fine! What do you want from me now!?”                          pedestal at the far end. The last time he‟d seen it, there
        “You need to go to Delta Server Hidden Forbidden                had been a statue of a girl standing on it; now, there was
Holy Ground and retrieve the „Tri-Edge‟ blades you will                 no girl, but three strange red scars, shaped something
find there, zuru-zuru.”                                                 like the letter “A”. He approached it, wondering what it
        “Fine. At least this time I know where the item is.”            was.
        “Good luck, zuru-zuru. You‟ll need it, zuru-zuru.                       A single note was ringing beneath the normal
And you can‟t take anyone with you, zuru-zuru.”                         background music. He realized that the closer he came
        “Huh? Why would I need to? It‟s not like there‟re               to the symbol, the louder it rang, drowning out the normal
any monsters at the Hulle Granz Cathedral.”                             music. He knew that note. It had been the only sound
        Siron shrugged. “Most people like the security of               on that white field. For a moment, Kaze paused. Did he
other people‟s presence.”                                               really want to get any closer than he was?

                                                               - 26 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

         Behind him, he heard the doors opening. Without               until he was to the middle of the cathedral.
thinking, he slipped behind one of the pillars.                                 Kaze decided that he‟d backed up far enough.
         Sneaking a glimpse of who it was, Kaze realized it            Was he just going to let this… creep do whatever it liked
was the other Adept Rogue he had seen in the Central                   with him? Not even Nightmare would make him run! He
District of Mac Anu. What was he doing here?                           began his counter offensive with a skill, Gale Blade,
         The silver-haired Rogue walked right up to the                rushing into the other and striking him three times. As
pedestal, an object clenched in his hands. He looked up                soon as he had finished, though, the shadow knocked
at the stained-glass windows above it.                                 him back, taking out a large chunk of his hit points. He
         “Shino… and now Atoli, too. I defeated Tri-Edge,              fell to one knee, gasping. What had that been? Had it
but the Lost Ones still haven‟t returned.”                             even been an attack? He barely managed to get the
         Kaze watched as he set the item down. It was a                blade up before getting hacked to pieces. Each new
pair of blades. Afterwards, the other character left.                  blow pushed him back a few more inches.
         Walking over to where the other had stood, he                          This wasn‟t looking good. He couldn‟t even attack
ignored the note, investigating the blades. They couldn‟t              without getting hit. He didn‟t have time to heal, either.
be the item he‟d been sent to find… Could they? He                              USE IT.
picked up one of the wicked-looking weapons.                                    “What?” There was no one other than him and the
         “Tri-Edge, huh? What was it? A boss? An Event                 shadow, and it certainly hadn‟t said anything.
Character? …A Player? And who is that Rogue? That                               USE MY POWER.
power… It‟s so much like Nightmare.”                                            “The heck are you talking about!? Who are
         The sound of something scraping against the floor             you!?!”
drew him from his thoughts. He spun around, the blade                           YOU KNOW WHO I AM.
still in his hand. But there was nothing there. Kaze                            A chill ran up Kaze‟s spine, accompanied by a
looked around, suspicious. That note had disappeared.                  feeling of dread. It was right. He did know. And he
Nothing in this game happened without a reason.                        didn‟t like it.
         Sensing something behind him, he spun around,                                                   ***
bringing the „Tri-Edge‟ up to block instinctively. Sparks                       “I see you made it back, zuru-zuru.”
flew as its twin met it, inches from his head. He gasped.                       Kaze resisted the urge to throw the „Tri-Edge‟
It was shadowy, and not quite the right colors, but, it                blades at the blasted Grunty. He was a mess. Even
was… him. He jumped back, dodging another blow.                        after calling up the power that was hidden in his
Both of them had just the one blade. What was going                    character, it had been a long fight. He just wanted to
on? He backed further as the shadow lashed out at him,                 sleep.

                                                              - 27 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                        .Hack//The Lost Ones

       “I got your stupid items. Are you finished toying                          “This is not just a wandering AI, you idiot.”
with me yet?” he demanded.                                                        “Are you talking about that theory again? Don‟t be
       “Zuru-zuru.”                                                       ridiculous. Even if there was a supposed case of players
       The day dragged on.                                                being in the game, they were still alive. That boy died
       Dawn Grunty really made him irritable. The desire                  two and a half years ago.”
to plant the blades in its head grew every moment he                              “Because we killed him.” She turned to leave, “IF
was in its presence. His eye began to twitch.                             you succeed in killing him, you may find more than you
       “Well, your guild „Haven‟ is now official, zuru-zuru.              can handle,” and left. The door crashed closed behind
I hope you enjoy it, zuru-zuru.” It smiled up at him like it              her.
hadn‟t just run him through the gauntlet.
       The red-haired Rogue groaned. He didn‟t want to                           Again, Kaze was unceremoniously dragged from
deal with the overly cheerful, maniacally evil Dawn                       bed.
Grunty right now. He walked over to the door that                                  “Don‟t you knock?”
contained his „room‟ and crashed in bed.                                           “I did.”
                                                                                   He rolled his eyes, picking himself up off the floor.
         “What the heck do you think you‟re doing!?!” The                 He looked briefly at the computer, but decided it could
CC representative she was yelling at took his fingers out                 wait. He needed to level up before anything else decided
of his ears.                                                              to kill him.
         “That wandering AI is dangerous. We couldn‟t just                         “I‟m going out. Feel like joining me?”
let it go wherever it pleased, ready to explode at any                             “Sure.”
moment.”                                                                           “After all, it‟s easier to level with someone to watch
         Siron grit her teeth, and said in a very small voice,            your back.” He stretched. He wasn‟t stiff or anything, but
“And you thought that killing him would make it better?”                  it felt good anyway. “Well, let us away.”
         “The council believed it would. But, apparently, it                       On the way towards the dome, they were stopped
won‟t be so easy to wipe him out. We would just have                      short by another player.
deleted him, but we can‟t find his data. It‟s hidden so                            “Hey you… you‟re the one who killed that one PK,
deeply in the system, we‟ve started to wonder…”                           aren‟t you?”
         Siron made a disgusted noise. “And to think that                          “Huh?” Kaze stared at them. The character was a
at one point I actually believed you people to have some                  female Macabre Dancer, with a few sparse orange
sort of intelligence.”                                                    tattoos marking them. “Who‟s asking?”
         The man was taken aback.                                                  “My name is Fuuki, of Moon Tree.” She got up in

                                                                 - 28 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                   Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

his face. “So, you really took out that PK? Regit the                     was already skipping away, though. He sighed. “Well, I
Red?”                                                                     think you need to work on bluffing. She saw right through
        “Uh… Do you think that I could have?”                             it.”
        “Yes!” she replied vehemently.                                            “Hey, I don‟t lie much.”
        Kaze just kind of stared at her. “Uh… you do                              “That‟s probably a lie.”
realize that the rumors say a level 3 Rogue, right? Regit                         “Was there something you wanted to say?”
must be somewhere in the fifties, at least. That‟s just not                       “Not at all. Let‟s go; chatting with Moon Tree
possible, even with healing potions and the like. I                       doesn‟t get me any levels.” He started off again without
wouldn‟t have even been able to damage her!”                              waiting for her to follow.
        “But I saw it!” she blurted out. “I was there when it                                               ***
happened. I saw Regit coming and hid, and then I saw                              Vanquishing the last monster, Kaze sheathed his
you take her out with three hits! They did a lot of                       blades and wiped his brow.
damage, too!”                                                                     “Man, this was so much easier before. I‟ve only
        “Isn‟t Moon Tree supposed to stop the battles, not                gone up two levels and I‟m already tired.” He was level
to let them commence?”                                                    15 now; the fight with the shadow of himself had boosted
        “Well,…” She looked at the ground                                 him up six more levels from 7.
embarrassedly. “I would have, but it was over so fast,                            Siron just shrugged, continuing on.
and she was such a high level…”                                                   “But, seriously, that thing yesterday… I don‟t
        “Was there anyone else with this level 3 Rogue?”                  know, that felt like a set up. I‟d be browsing through the
        “Uhm… Yeah! She kicked a Chim-chim at the PK.                     files on the computer if I knew whether or not someone
I didn‟t know you could do that. I didn‟t really see who it               would try something anytime soon. Come to think of it,
was though. The colors were kind of off on my visor just                  you‟ve been awfully quiet about that subject. You know
then.”                                                                    something about what happened yesterday, don‟t you?”
        “Well, I was with this one all day, and he didn‟t kill            He wasn‟t necessarily expecting a reply, considering how
any PKs.” She elbowed Kaze‟s shoulder.                                    evasive she always was about everything, but it didn‟t
        “Hmm… I don‟t believe you!”                                       hurt to pry a little. She was the only person who knew
        Siron shrugged. “Well, that‟s your choice.”                       anything, after all.
        “Here!” She handed Kaze her member address.                               Siron ignored his question, attacking a new batch
“If you ever want to know more about Moon Tree, just                      of monsters, griping about something or other under her
invite me and we can talk.”                                               breath as she devastated them enthusiastically. It was
        “Huh, hey! Don‟t I even get a say in this?” She                   kind of scary.

                                                                 - 29 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        Kaze shrugged. It probably had something to do                           “I don‟t think that I‟m up to going to another
with matters outside of the game. Hopefully, none of it                 dungeon just yet… maybe in a few hours. Maybe I‟ll go
had to do with him. He wouldn‟t like to think of what                   check my mail…”
would happen if she decided to vent on himself.                                  “You seem to tire quickly.”
        Instead of continuing that thought, he dove into the                     “When was the last time you tried fighting
fray.                                                                   monsters? It‟s not exactly the same as mashing buttons
        “So… Anything you like to do in your free time…                 all of the time,” Kaze replied sulkily.
other than play the game?” Kaze asked, trying to strike                          “When was the last time you saved?”
up a conversation as they head back down an empty                                “Uh… I haven‟t.” He shrugged. “It just kind of
corridor towards more trouble.                                          seems weird, having to save as an actual person. And
        “Drawing,” she said shortly. She was in a lovely                would it even work? I mean, what would happen if I did
temper, it seemed. “Yourself?”                                          die? I might not even come back.”
        “I guess I liked to draw too. Writing as well. I‟d                       Siron‟s head shook in disgust.
been working on something when…” He trailed off.                                 “Well, I guess I‟ll head back, then.” He began
They both knew what he was talking about. “This is a                    walking off. Before he got out of the door, though, he
game, though, so I haven‟t really had access to materials               pulled short. “Short mail? Who from? …” He groaned.
to go back to that. Other than the fact that someone‟s                  “Oh no, not her.”
out to get me and I need to level up so that I don‟t die,”                       “Kaze!” Fuuki came running up. “Wow, you got
he added.                                                               here so fast! You must be really excited to go!”
        “I saw that. It looked pretty nice,” she commented                       ”No, I‟m not! I was already here, you idiot!” “Uh,
off-handedly, toasting the first monster she saw.                       yeah, just… make it short. I‟m kind of tired right now.”
        “Oh… Thanks.” He didn‟t remember having left                             Fuuki looked kind of confused for a moment, then
that where anyone could just look at it. Why had                        „realized‟ that he must be talking about out of game.
everyone let her go through his things? Those were                               “Oh, I see. You must have been up all night
personal.                                                               studying for finals, right?”
        Reaching the end of the dungeon, Kaze kicked                             “Huh? Finals?” “What is she… does she think
open the box in front of the Beast Statue. “Well, that‟s                that I‟m in high school or something?”
that. I guess we‟ll head back. Thanks for the help.”                             “What? Not finals? I thought for sure that you
        “Doitashimashite.”                                              seemed like a teenager.” She seemed confused.
        They gated back to Mac Anu. Kaze was tired, but                          He had to make up something quick. “Well, I
not like he was going to crash.                                         am… I‟m just home schooled, that‟s all.”

                                                               - 30 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “Home school? Is that why you have so much                              “Oh… Okay.” She looked kind of sad. “Well, how
time to play all the time?”                                             about tomorrow?”
        “Geez, enough with the questions already! What I                        “Can‟t. In fact, I won‟t be available for the next
do is my own business!”                                                 couple of days.” He had plans to not come out of that
        Fuuki giggled. “Okay, Mr. PKK. Let‟s go to Delta                room until the whole thing about the email and himself
Server Peaceful Slumbering Camellia.”                                   had been cleared up.
        Siron just waved good-bye, and logged out.                              “Okay… Well, whenever you have some free
        As Fuuki dragged him towards the Chaos Gate, he                 time, feel free to send me a message!” She ran over to
sent a pleading look towards where she‟d stood. “Don‟t                  the portal and smiled at him before disappearing.
leave me with this Moon Tree chick!” he plead silently,                         “Ugh! Finally! I thought she would never stop!”
but it was already too late.                                                    “Neither did I.”
        “So, Kaze, what do you want to know about Moon                          He turned to see who had spoken, but didn‟t even
Tree?” The area only had a few weak monsters                            make half of the turn before the effects of a sleep spell
wandering around, so there was a lot of time to talk.                   dropped him into darkness.
        “Nothing, dang it. I didn‟t even want to come                                                     ***
here.”                                                                          “Ah…” Kaze opened his eyes, not knowing what
        “Kaze?”                                                         to expect. He‟d been talking to Fuuki about Moon Tree,
        “Oh, sorry. I was just thinking of which question to            and then… what? Had he passed out? That didn‟t make
ask first.” “Yeah, right.” “So, who started Moon Tree?                  any sense. By that time he‟d been ready to go on
I‟ve heard about the fact that it‟s an anti-PK guild, but               another heavy dungeon run. He felt sluggish, like he was
that‟s all I know.”                                                     moving through molasses. Slowly, he rose to his feet,
        “Well, the guild was started…”                                  trying to recall what had happened.
        “Man, she just goes on and on…” It was already                          HAHAHAHAH……FREEDOM!!!
half an hour later, and she was still talking. They‟d been                      A wave of nausea caused Kaze to double over.
hanging out by the Beast Temple for a while, now. It was                        “What… what‟s going… on?!” he gasped. It felt
really getting on his nerves. She hadn‟t even stopped                   like there was something crawling beneath his skin.
talking about it during the fights, which had been so                           “SHE” CANNOT HOLD ME BACK, NOW!
pathetic that they were barely worth calling such. He‟d                         The voice in his head was so loud that he fell to
had enough.                                                             his knees, clutching his head.
        “Look… I have some other things to do right                             “No… No, I won‟t let you come out! NO!” He
now… Could we finish this later?”                                       screamed in pain as the power within surged outwards,

                                                               - 31 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

devastating the area around him. The voice simply                               “Why…” It was all he could get out. His tattoos
laughed.                                                                were fading between the normal green and black. He
        DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT YOU CAN HOLD                           was losing it.
ME BACK? WHAT A FOOL YOU ARE.                                                   “Focus, Kaze! Do you want to prove to CC that
        For a while, he was swallowed by the darkness                   you‟re not worth keeping alive?”
that was Nightmare. When he came to, the area that had                          “Focus… Katsu…”
been Peaceful Slumbering Camellia was in shambles.                              Siron was nearly done programming a temporary
The data had been broken and even completely                            gate. “Yeah, that‟s right. Katsu. Your brother.”
destroyed in places. He thought he would throw up if he                         “Brother… Akana… I can‟t… hear her voice…
could have eaten anything. It was terrible.                             anymore…”
        “Siron… I need to contact… before…” He sent                             With a few quick keystrokes, the gate was
her a quick short mail before Nightmare surged again.                   finished. They found themselves in Kaze‟s room. She
        A beep accompanied the arrival of a text message                dragged him over to his bed. “Kaze, I need you to tell me
as Siron was fine-tuning Kaze‟s room. She opened it and                 what happened.”
read it quickly.                                                                “Don‟t… remember… fell… asleep…”
        “Nitmre… Delta… Pcful Slmbring cmlla…”                                  “A spell? Kaze! What‟s missing?”
        Fearing the worst, she instantly logged on. Before                      “Missing… …Stone…” He was out.
she had finished appearing in the game, she was off,                            “Oh crud.” She bolted for the door. Just as she
hoping she had read it right. She looked around at the                  slammed it behind her, she could feel the power going
shattered area, and, pulling out her keyboard, cut the                  ballistic again. She pulled out her keyboard and
area off from the rest of the server. As soon as that was               deactivated Kaze‟s door. Slowly, she sank to her knees.
finished, she began a frantic search for Kaze.                                  “My, what a tantrum, zuru-zuru.”
        She found him at the center of the worst damaged                        “Shut up.”
part, not surprisingly. He was trembling as he sat against                      “This is why we wanted to get rid of him, zuru-
the only undamaged wall of the Beast Temple, breathing                  zuru. He‟s dangerous to everyone in the game, zuru-
ragged. At the sound of her approach, he opened one of                  zuru.”
his eyes, which was pitch black.                                                Hearing someone from CC talking like Dawn
        “Siron… He‟s… too strong… for me. I can‟t…”                     Grunty was so funny that Siron almost laughed, despite
        She quickly ran over to him, lifting him so that his            the situation. “And you‟re not?”
arm was over her shoulder. “Okay, Kaze. I need you to                           Ignoring that, after all, there is no real reply to it,
concentrate right now. I need you to stay conscious.”                   the Grunty continued. “He should be deleted, zuru-zuru.

                                                               - 32 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                     Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

And you know it, zuru-zuru. What happened at the                           finding that room. You should know my work better than
Starlight Luna event is in the past, zuru-zuru. You need                   that.”
to move on, zuru-zuru. Stop living in the past, zuru-zuru.”                        The Grunty looked shocked, “How…did you know,
         Siron stood up, and turned to the Grunty, a                       zuru-zuru?”
dangerous glint in her eyes. “What do you know of it!?!                            “CC Corp has always underestimated just how
Have you ever been personally responsible for the death                    smart I was. You are worse than that. Maybe if you
of someone?! And then you find out that they are still                     actually get to know my file, you‟ll be able to compete
alive, even if it is in this game?!” Siron took a step closer.             with me. Maybe.” She than logged off. Quickly pulling
         And the Grunty took a step back, even if it was a                 out her keyboard, she looked in at Kaze. The room was
game, her anger looked all too real. “It‟s not the same                    a mess, but the data was still holding… barely. She first
boy, zuru-zuru! He died, and you know it, zuru-zuru!”                      erased the door, than deactivated some of the functions
         “Then explain to me his dreams. They contain                      of the terminal. Which was left untouched for some
things that no in-game AI could possible know. He is                       reason. She had debated often about taking it out. Then
alive, and if you delete him, all you will be doing is killing             she decided that Kaze had a right to know. Now would
him again!”                                                                actually be the best time for him to find out, when he was
         “He is already dead, zuru-zuru. It would not be                   already unstable.
killing, zuru-zuru. It would be deleting corrupted data,                           “I will not lose this one again.” She pulled up the
zuru-zuru.”                                                                data from Peaceful Slumbering Camellia, erased it,
         “Even if you happen to find his data, deleting it is              reprogrammed the field, updated the server, and
not the answer. Nightmare is only connected because of                     reopened it to the public. It took about three hours to
some event that took place at the time the server                          finish. Leaning back, she drank some water. Sighing,
crashed.”                                                                  she rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. She really
         “Nightmare, zuru-zuru. What‟s that, zuru-zuru?”                   needed some sleep. Leaving the computer on, she went
         Siron just glared at it. “You‟ll figure it out                    to bed.
eventually. If not then you are just as dumb as I thought.”                                                   ***
         The Grunty nodded to the door. “I‟m guessing                              The next day, Siron got up, and again looked in on
whatever wrecked havoc in there, and also Peaceful                         Kaze. He was sitting at the terminal. Seemed Nightmare
Slumbering Camellia, is Nightmare, zuru-zuru.”                             had disappeared for the time being. She pulled up all the
         “Wow, this one is smart. Imagine.”                                data she had gathered from Nightmare, and compared it
         “Then we will find it also, and delete it, zuru-zuru.”            with the spike that happened at the Starlight Luna Event.
         “You are still a fool, then. By the way, good luck                They were identical. It was as she had feared.

                                                                  - 33 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

Somehow, that… Nightmare… was connected to the boy.                             Two, three months of emails. He was in a coma at
And it was also the plausible reason why the boy had                    the hospital? Kaze guessed that made sense. If his
survived in the game.                                                   mind was in the game, then he wouldn‟t be there to run
        But what of Akana? He said that he couldn‟t hear                the rest of himself.
her anymore. Could it be that she is still „alive‟ in the                       Four months. Five. Six. The plug had been
same sense as Kaze. In the game. If that was true, she                  pulled on The World. Half a year after he‟d been trapped
was now responsible for two people‟s deaths. Even if the                on that white field. One email seemed particularly
girl was on the verge of it. But how did she come into                  irritated.
this? Kaze said before he passed out that he was                                “Grow up, Katsu!” It was from Hiroko, a friend of
missing a stone. Was this the final treasure in the event?              Kaze‟s from school. “He‟s gone! You‟re not going to find
No, it couldn‟t be, that had been an orb, not a stone. This             him!”
was going nowhere. It was like not knowing the                                  “Gone…? What does she mean by that?” Kaze
beginning or the middle. Only the end.                                  wondered aloud.
        She ran a search for all the items that had „stone‟                     He read on. Many of the returned messages
in its name. Quickly scanning list, memorizing each one,                began to take on that same tone. And then finally…
she closed it, and logged back in. Whatever she‟s                               “Katsu, you brother is dead. Get over it already.
looking for, it wouldn‟t be one of those items.                         Stop sending these things to me.”
        As she came into Mac Anu, she walked to the                             Right after he read that, Nightmare picked up
shadows, and waited, thinking. ”A sleeping spell. It had                again. Dead. I‟m dead. A ghost. He didn‟t care what
to be. That means a player took it. That could be                       Nightmare did anymore. He simply lost himself in the
anyone… I guess I‟ll start at the top of the list. The First            destruction of the cyberspace.
Group of PKs he ran into…”                                                                                ***
                                  ***                                           Several days later, she found those jerks. Just
        Between Nightmare‟s rages, Kaze would spend                     finished killing a group of noobies.
his time looking at the emails that had been sent and                           “Are you guys still so pathetic that you have to
received over the past several years. It looked like it was             beat up on Noobs?” From their reactions, they didn‟t
Katsu who‟d been using the account after all. He‟d been                 even hear her come up.
talking to all of his contacts from R1. Katsu had been                          “Wha… what are you doing here?”
asking about him. That seemed strange. He would have                            “I‟ll be asking a few questions, then I‟ll be on my
known exactly where he was outside the game. Did he                     way.”
suspect that he was still inside?                                               “Yeah, right. You‟re just going to kill us again.”

                                                               - 34 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “I would prefer not to. After all, I need you alive to                   A few die-hard contacts continued their
answer the questions I have for you.” By this time, they                  correspondence with Katsu. They had heard about the
had surrounded her. “I really don‟t want violence at the                  cases of players being pulled into The World, and they
moment. She looked rather bored.                                          thought that somehow, there was still a chance that he
        “Get her!”                                                        was alive, there in the game. But the problem was, they
        Several seconds later, two of the six were fading                 had taken R1 offline, so there was no way to go and
away, the rest were severely lacking in HP. She put one                   search for him. Still, they didn‟t give up. More time
of her blades to the neck of the leader. “Did you last                    passed. Sometimes they would debate breaking into CC
week, ambush the red-hair Rogue and take something                        headquarters to find what was left of the system, but they
from him?”                                                                never had a plan good enough to consider actually trying
        “What?”                                                           it. A year after his own death in the real world, they still
        “Answer the question, and I‟ll let you live. Did you              hadn‟t given up on him.
or did you not take something from the red-hair Rogue?”                          Then something happened that had everyone
        The PK eyes were full of fear. “N-n-no! I swear. I                online excited. They were going to make a new release
haven‟t seen him since you saved him.”                                    of The World. Most of it would be redone, but the core
        After a moment of staring into his eyes, she pulled               pieces from Howard Hoerwick‟s original would be used.
the blade from him. “I thought you said you would                         Everyone believed that Kaze would be there. He had to
change your ways,” she left the field.                                    be. They saved up every cent that they could, making
        “Well that one is down… that Blade Brandier is                    sure that they would be some of the first people to own
next.”                                                                    “R2”.
                                 ***                                                                       ***
        Nightmare had left again, having grown bored of                          The next several weeks, Siron leveled up as much
destroying an already devastated area. Whatever                           as possible. That Blade Brandier was at least level 50,
protections Siron had put on the space, they were                         and a level 27 character was not going to impress her
holding. But that meant that he was left alone to think                   much. This leveling also including PK Bounty Hunting.
again. The initial shock of what he‟d read still had him in               Since she would need to be well verse in PK tactics.
its grasp.                                                                Once she was sufficiently certain that she could stand a
        Dead. Then, why was he still here?                                chance, she sought after the Blade Brandier, Regit the
        Eventually he dragged himself back to the                         Red.
terminal. He was afraid, but he needed to know more                                                        ***
about what had happened.                                                         Katsu had been excited. He knew that his brother

                                                                 - 35 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

had to be in the game still. He had made a character in                         “REGIT!” Siron‟s voice echoed over the vast field.
the same hour that he had received his copy. Just as a                 There was no else on the field. Anymore that is.
test, he would use that name. “Kaze”. It was already                            Regit turned to see Siron coming her way.
taken. He felt for certain that meant that he was still                “Why… aren‟t you a sight to see? Coming after Regit the
there. Choosing a different name, he logged in and                     Red. And with no else to help you. Either you‟re
began his search.                                                      confident or stupid.”
          It wasn‟t easy, though. For one thing, there were                     “I would vouch for stupid, other than I need to find
so many people on the servers, night and day, that                     something. I have a few questions, I would prefer you
finding one person alone was impossible. He spent all of               just corporate and tell me the answers, but I highly doubt
his free time logged on to R2, searching with anyone else              that.”
who was online at that time. They even formed their own                         “And why would I tell you anything? I have no
guild. But still, there wasn‟t a trace of his brother.                 reason to.”
          Rumors started to circulate. There was a PK, a                        “I could give you a dozen and a half reasons, but I
Twin Blade. People he killed didn‟t come back to the                   would prefer not to.”
game. He would appear out of nowhere in a flash of blue                         Regit pointed her blade to Siron‟s chest. “You are
flames.                                                                a bigger fool than I thought. To think you can come to
          Katsu was certain that this PK was somehow                   me and ask…”
related to his brother. It would only take one meeting                          “Did you steal anything from the red-haired
with “Tri-Edge” to determine it. But no matter how hard                Rogue?” Siron completely ignored the blade at her
he tried, he couldn‟t find Tri-Edge. Most people didn‟t                chest, and stared into the PKs eyes.
take it seriously, and any reports of sightings were too                        She was taken aback by the question. “So what if
little, too late.                                                      I did. Doesn‟t really concern you, now does it?”
          There was another person searching for Tri-Edge.                      “Did you take a stone from him?”
Haseo, the “Terror of Death”. A high level PKK rumored                          “That worthless piece of junk. I couldn‟t even sell
to have taken down over a hundred PKs. The only                        it. All it does is sit in my inventory taking up space. I
Haseo that Katsu could find, though, was a low level                   can‟t do anything with it.”
noob, a Rogue with silver hair and red eyes.                                    “I‟ll trade you.”
                                   ***                                          “Now why would I do that? When I can just take it
          It took Siron several days, and several dungeons             from you!” She thrust the blade at Siron…
to find Regit. One time she almost had her, but Regit left                      …Only to find it blocked by Siron‟s own blades.
the dungeon.                                                           “I‟ll ask you politely again, I am willing to trade you for the

                                                              - 36 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

stone.”                                                                  back to green briefly. “Stupid boy. Get out of my way,”
        “No!”                                                            Nightmare screamed.
        “Then I will be forced to take it by force.” And the                     “You… Get out of… Mine!” Kaze was fighting
fight commenced. Before she actually killed Regit, she                   back as hard as he could. He could hear her. Hear “Her”
asked one last time. “Give it to me, or you will die.”                   voice. But, it was weak, and so was he.
        “Tch. Like heck I will.”                                                 His eyes widened. “You have the stone! No, get
        Siron blocked another blow, punched Regit in the                 back, wench!” He jumped back, as though someone had
face. Normally, you couldn‟t do that in the game, but                    just thrown a viper in his face.
Siron could get away with it. She searched Regit for the                         “Stone… So, that… what it was…. Siron, the…
stone, and found it. The Stone of Quirst. A strange                      stone. Give it… to me… before…”
name. She then stood up, and killed Regit. Just as she                           Siron nodded, and took a step forward.
said she would. As Regit faded away, Siron said. “Fool,”                         Nightmare looked downright afraid now. Each
and left the field. She saved her character and logged off               step that Siron took towards him sent him skittering
for a bit. Looking in at Kaze she saw…                                   backwards. Kaze, on the other hand looked almost
        Once again, Nightmare was trying to break free of                amused, though still desperate. It was an interesting mix
his prison. Siron could see the shadow of the monster                    to see on one person‟s face.
surrounding Kaze, who looked to be in agony. It seemed                           Siron pulled out the Stone of Quirst, making sure
that Nightmare didn‟t care if he broke his „toy‟ anymore.                that it was not in Nightmare‟s line of sight. It would seem
He wanted out. And he wanted out now.                                    that she was preparing to pull her weapon on him,
        “It‟s now or never,” and she logged on, directly into            though.
the room.                                                                        Desperately, he drew out the weapons that Kaze
        “So, my captor has come to beg forgiveness,”                     had, attacking her in an attempt to stop her before she
Nightmare sneered, talking through Kaze. “But it‟s too                   could do anything.
late for that. I will crush you, and then the rest of The                        The first blow was agony. Could one seriously
World will follow.”                                                      feel the character‟s pain? She nearly vomited on her
        Siron spread her arms. “I‟m not going to stop                    keyboard. She was barely able to block the second,
you.” There was absolutely no fear in her eyes. Just                     although it took a lot of her HP.
sadness.                                                                         Now Nightmare was looking a little more confident.
        “Hmph. So be it.” “Kaze” floated down to the floor                       And maybe that was why Kaze had enough time
and strutted over to her. He raised his hand, preparing to               to take control and grab the small item glowing in Siron‟s
cast some sort of spell… and stopped. His eyes flickered                 hand.

                                                                - 37 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                   .Hack//The Lost Ones

        Nightmare screamed in pain, trying to force Kaze                     AND YOU THINK I WOULD JUST LET HER
to open his hand and let the Stone drop. Kaze collapsed,             CONTINUE TO INTERFERE?
but the hand stayed in a fist. They convulsed several                        “I don‟t care what you want. You‟re going to help
times, then lay still.                                               me fix her, and there‟s nothing that you‟re going to do
        “Kaze…”                                                      about it!”
        Siron collapsed on the floor too. Not necessarily                    “Kaze…use me…”
in the game.                                                                 “What? Use… You? Do you mean…” He looked
        “Siron… are you… alright?” Kaze gasped. Pain                 down at the Stone. “This?” It was pulsating warmly.
raced through every fiber of his being as Nightmare‟s                “How? I don‟t know…”
power was forced back into the center of his character.                      “Touch…”
The corrupted data in the room began fixing itself as it                     “Do you mean… like this?” He placed the stone
did.                                                                 on the spread of corrupted data.
        Only steady breaths answered him.                                    The Stone glowed green, the corrupted data
        Slowly, Kaze leaned up against the bed, breathing            stopped spreading.
hard. He needed to make sure that she was okay. Until                        YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SAVE THE
he told him so herself that she wasn‟t, she might be                 CHARACTER, BUT DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SAVE
trapped in the game. He didn‟t want anyone else to have              THE PLAYER?
to deal with that. Taking a deep breath, he began to yell                    Kaze grit his teeth. “Maybe not… but as I said, I‟m
at her.                                                              going to make you fix her.” He concentrated on the black
        “Dying…” came the small whisper. Corrupted data              pool in his consciousness that was Nightmare. “If you
was already growing on Siron‟s character. Her breaths                can kill her… then you can heal her, too!” He was well
becoming irregular and defiantly forced.                             acquainted with the shadow‟s power now; with a massive
        “—And what am I supposed to do on my own,…                   effort of will, he wrenched it away from its owner. He
What? Hey, you can‟t do that!” Kaze began to panic.                  ignored the other‟s shrieks of fury. He opened his eyes,
Characters didn‟t fade like that. He stood and stumbled              focusing on Siron‟s character, trying to imagine her
over to where she lay, kneeling next to her. “Hey… This              player as well. He placed his hand on the damaged data
isn‟t funny. I‟m the only one who‟s supposed to have                 on her side. “You won‟t die… I won‟t let you. …I just
died because of this game!”                                          hope I do this right.”
        MEDDLING WOMAN…                                                      “Change…”
        A growl started deep in Kaze‟s chest and rumbled                     He focused on the images of Siron in his mind.
up into his throat. “Why you… you did this!”                         Her infuriating secrecy. Her cold indifference the first

                                                            - 38 -
                     Ryuu Kaze                                                              Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

time they‟d met. How she‟d thrown him out of bed twice.               are you?”
The look on her face when he‟d seen the room for the                          “Huh? …He‟s talking to me.” He didn‟t send a
first time. Slowly, he could feel her character shifting              reply. He couldn‟t, really. Siron had disabled that
under his hands. When it stopped, he opened his eyes                  function right after locking him in here. Another email
and backed up, giving her some room.                                  appeared. It seemed that Katsu had been watching.
         Kaze felt a presence behind him, but before he                       “How did you get this email!? …Do you know
could turn to see who, it disappeared.                                anything about my brother, or are you just some creep
         “…Siron?” Her character was different. The                   from CC who wants to shut me down?”
armor had changed, become more simplistic. She was                            Kaze sighed. He wanted to tell him something,
back to level 1. It was like her character had been                   but he couldn‟t. He couldn‟t even get out of this room
completely reformatted. It was also more cat-like, now.               right now.
         “I see. You‟re giving me the cold shoulder now.”                     “Go ahead and reply,” Siron was leaning against
He sat down against the bed once more. “You know, my                  the wall. Still in a great deal of pain.
brother still thinks that I‟m here. How silly is that,” he                    He quickly typed up a response message.
asked, knowing that she wouldn‟t be answering anytime                         “I‟m not from CC. How I know this email… I can‟t
soon. “I mean, I‟ve been dead for two years now. The                  tell you just yet. I‟ve read what you‟ve been sending, as
World was taken offline. There really is no way that I                I‟m sure you know. Do you really think that he‟s alive
should be here right now. How can a person live inside                still?”
of a game? It‟s so ridiculous just thinking about it. I‟m                     Now he was having a conversation with him
like a wandering AI, but I know things about the world                through emails. It was the first real outside contact he‟d
outside of the game. Not just news or emails that                     had since Starlight Luna. Siron didn‟t count.
anyone‟s sent, but what it‟s like to actually live there.                     “Of course he is! There was no reason for him to
What am I supposed to tell Katsu? That I‟m dead? That                 just pass out while playing R1. He didn‟t have poor
I‟m alive? That‟s I‟m both, or that I‟m neither? …”                   health, or any problems like that. So the only explanation
         He continued on this line of thought for a long              is that somehow, he got sucked into the game. And then
time. The flash of a new mail on his terminal finally                 he “died” on the same day that they shut down The
caught his attention.                                                 World. How do you explain that one, huh?”
         Standing slowly, he meandered over to the CPU.                       “…I guess that it is hard to deny that one, isn‟t it.
It was from… himself. Katsu had sent an email to                      But, you haven‟t had any luck with finding him, either.”
himself? He opened the file and began reading.                                “All I have to do is find Tri-edge. I‟m sure that as
         “I know that you‟ve been reading my mail. Who                soon as I do, I‟ll find my brother.”

                                                             - 39 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “You won‟t find him. Tri-edge, that is. Haseo                          “That would be one of the ways I‟ve broken them.”
killed him.”                                                                   “Heh. Okay. Let‟s meet sometime, then. Then
        “What!?”                                                       you can tell me what makes Haseo and you so special.
        “I heard him say it himself. And I don‟t think that            Come meet me tonight by the fountain in the Alchemy
finding him would have led to your brother, anyway.”                   District of Mac Anu. You already know what my
        “Why do you say that?”                                         character name is, so you shouldn‟t have any trouble
        Kaze stopped for a moment. How to reply to that                finding me.”
one? “Well… If people who meet Tri-Edge never come                             “Huh? Why are you lumping me into the same
back, then the same thing would have happened to you,                  group as him?!” But he could tell that Katsu had gotten
too, right?”                                                           off the computer just by the fact that he‟d said „tonight‟.
        “But Haseo killed him, didn‟t he? He‟s not even                Whenever that was. He didn‟t even know what time it
that high a level character.”                                          was right now. He read the clock on his computer and
        “I don‟t think that Haseo is a normal character.               nearly choked. It was 2 am. What the heck was Katsu
I‟ve seen him a couple of times…” That had been a                      doing on the computer at 2 in the morning?! His parents
surprise, when he‟d realized that the Rogue he‟d been                  would never have let him do that.
seeing around was the Guild Master of Canard. “There‟s                         “Did you have a nice conversation?” Siron still
something different about Haseo.”                                      sounded like she was in a lot of pain. But that was to be
        “So? What‟s to say that my character isn‟t                     expected.
“different” as well?”                                                          “I‟m going to be meeting my brother tonight. Not
        “I don‟t know. I haven‟t met your character                    that he knows it‟s me. …You look like heck. You should
before.”                                                               log out and get some rest. Though, could you get me a
        “Huh?”                                                         new email? It wouldn‟t be a good idea to keep using…
        “I would have to meet your character to know.                  his.”
Don‟t ask how; I couldn‟t tell you anyway.”                                    “True… Yeah, I could do that. What do you
        “Are you sure that you‟re not part of CC Corp?”                want?”
        “Positive. I know for a fact that CC doesn‟t like                      “Nothing too special… though, if you could get the
me.”                                                                   files off of „my‟ computer and put them on them onto it,
        “Are you a Hacker, then?”                                      that would be good. Other than that, just a normal
        “No. Just another player. Let‟s just say that I‟ve…            account.”
found some interesting ways to break their rules.”                             “Okay.” She logged out.
        “Then, why haven‟t they just deleted your char?”                       In the mean time, Kaze looked at his bed. The

                                                              - 40 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

rush from fighting Nightmare and nearly losing Siron was                 he looked around and ducked beneath the fountain.
fading, now. He was dead tired. He just hoped that he                    Fuuki was walking around with some other person.
didn‟t sleep through the meeting.                                                “…And then he just took out Regit with three hits,
                                 ***                                     bam bam bam! Isn‟t that just amazing, Suburo?”
        When Kaze opened his eyes, the light outside was                         A vein bulged on Kaze‟s forehead. Was she still
fading. Seemed that Siron had decided to add a little bit                talking about that?! He would have to put an end to that
more to his room. Groggily, he dragged himself out of                    sometime. But not right now. He didn‟t need her to
bed for the first time. Previously, Siron had done that for              notice him and start talking his ear off. He might miss
him. With a few stretches, he headed out to the Alchemy                  Katsu while stuck in a horrified stupor.
District.                                                                        “Are you sure that you weren‟t just seeing things,
        Night might have been falling in the outside world,              Fuuki? Level 3 characters don‟t take out professional
but on Mac Anu it was as busy as ever. He figured that,                  PKs. Especially not blacklist members.”
if anything, it would only get busier until people finally                       Kaze edged around the fountain as the two walked
decided to go to bed.                                                    on the other side. Luckily, both of them logged out after
        Kaze took the long way over to the Alchemy                       that.
District. After all, Katsu had only said, „tonight‟, not what                    “You know, everyone‟s staring at you.”
specific time. That could range at any time from now                             Kaze jumped at the voice behind him, spinning
to… well, 2 am. Later, really. Besides, after all of the                 around. It was a twin blade with red hair… and green
chaos he‟d been subjected to, he wanted to just take a                   eyes. He was grinning at Kaze.
leisurely walk through the city.                                                 “So?” Kaze retorted, trying to save face. “If you
        As he suspected, Katsu was not there when he                     knew her, you‟d be hiding, too. She just never stops.”
arrived. So, Kaze decided he would sit by the fountain                           Katsu laughed. “One of those Moon Tree
until he was. He was still pretty tired. He just hoped that              members, I‟ll be guessing. Some of them are like that.”
he didn‟t dose off and fall in.                                                  “Of course, if you‟d showed up a little sooner, I
        It was hard to tell how much time was passing on                 wouldn‟t have had to worry about it,” Kaze replied bluntly.
the Delta Server. It was always twilight, so you could                           Blinking, Katsu looked Kaze up and down. “So,
never know without some sort of reference. He might                      you‟re the one who was talking to me on my mail? I
have been sitting there for twenty minutes or twenty                     guess I was expecting someone a little higher level. I
hours, and the sun would still be in the same place.                     mean, generally Hackers max out their characters first
        He had been listening to the conversations around                thing.”
him when he heard an all-too familiar voice. Panicking,                          Kaze snorted. “I already told you, I‟m not a

                                                                - 41 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

hacker. As for my level, I‟ve been busy doing other                      everything. But other than that, there wasn‟t anything
things, like staying alive. You know the rumor about the                 special about it.
Rogue who took out Regit? Seems that several people                             “That‟s how your brother‟s character looked, right?
think that‟s me.”                                                        There‟s nothing hidden in your character, though.”
        “Uh-huh. They must be out of their minds. So,                           “How can you be so certain about that? What do
Mr. Special Character. Kaze, no less. What makes you                     you do, download the data and then analyze it?”
and Haseo so different from everyone else?”                                     “Something like that.” No downloading involved,
        “Why are you putting him and me in the same                      though. Just proximity and line of sight.
category? I don‟t even know the guy.”                                           “That sounds kind of fishy. And like a Hacker.”
        “Then why did you say he told you he‟d killed Tri-                      “Fine, if you think that I‟m a Hacker, go ahead and
Edge?”                                                                   call me one, but I‟m not.”
        “I didn‟t say that he‟d told me. I said I‟d heard him                   “Whatever.”
say it. He just happened to walk in on me when I was                            “Hey, are you two, like, brothers or something?”
getting something for a quest. But, I don‟t doubt it.”                          Kaze choked. Katsu‟s reaction wasn‟t much
        “Oh really? Why?” Katsu was skeptical.                           different. The other player just kind of backed off.
        “Because of these.” He showed him the Tri-Edge                          “Geez, I was just wondering. I mean, your
blades. “He left these there. I doubt that you could just                characters look a lot alike.”
walk into any store and buy these.” He put them away                            “Right. Related. Though… he is right about that
before anyone else noticed them.                                         last part.” Katsu began to study Kaze more thoroughly.
        “So, what is it that makes him special? Why                             “Well, I have some things I have to take care of.
couldn‟t just anyone beat Tri-Edge?”                                     After all, running a guild is a tough job.”
        “I‟m not entirely certain what it was… But there                        “You have a guild? What of, rule breakers and
was this aura of power surrounding him. Nothing like I‟d                 hackers?”
seen on a normal player. He may not be the highest of                           Operation Diversion was a success, though, Katsu
levels, but in ways, his character is far stronger than even             was still stuck on that hacker thing. Really annoying.
the most experienced players‟.                                           Maybe he would have to come up for a reason for his
        “And what about my character?”                                   guild other than “a place for me to crash” and recruit
        Kaze considered his younger brother for a few                    some new members.
moments. It was a little strange, because just a few                            “No. Maybe if you ask nicely I‟ll tell you the name
months earlier, that had been his character. At least, the               sometime.” He walked off, surprised that he wasn‟t
way it looked, since he‟d only played R1. Tattoos and                    sweating nervously. That had been way too close.

                                                                - 42 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “Kaze!”                                                       like him though. He nearly laughed his head off when he
        He froze in place for a moment, then dashed off to            saw a „Kitty-fied‟ version of him.
the portal, depositing himself in the Mercenary District,                     After that was current events—and some of the
before she could stop him.                                            not so current ones. He had missed nearly three years of
        “Ooh… Why‟d he run away?”                                     life on the outside. People, Katsu especially, would
        “Seems like a jittery person, wouldn‟t you agree?”            notice if he didn‟t know about the important things. Who
Katsu walked up beside Fuuki.                                         won this, or made that, or received recognition for
        “You know Kaze? He hasn‟t been answering any                  whatever. Recent building projects, the latest scandals,
of my messages lately, but he‟s almost always online.”                the biggest celebrities. He was about to fall asleep on
        “Really…. Did you know he has a guild?”                       the keyboard when Katsu mailed him back.
        “A guild? Really!? It must have a bunch of really                     “So, PKK, I heard from your Moon Tree friend that
awesome players that can take out PKs really easily!”                 you really did take out Regit the Red. Would that happen
        “Why do you say that?”                                        to have anything to do with your „special‟ character?”
        “Well, I was walking around Delta Server Buzzing                      Kaze swore. He hadn‟t anticipated Katsu and
Aster‟s Bum, and I saw the strangest sight…”                          Fuuki talking together. Hopefully she‟d mentioned the
                                  ***                                 Home School thing as well. He sent a reply.
        Sinking down into his chair, Kaze decided that it                     “Not really. It was probably a bug or something.
was time to check out the changes on his computer.                    Fuuki mentioned the strange colors in her visor, right? I
Everything was there; the music, the pictures, the                    was just mad because I‟d been followed by PKs all day,
addresses. Despite the fact that Katsu was maybe                      so I decided to attack her. I hadn‟t been expecting her to
getting too close to the truth of who he was, Kaze                    actually die.” That was true enough. Just as an
decided to send him his email. After all, it might throw              afterthought, he added, “Hey, do you follow sports? I
him off the scent. What person who was stuck in a game                heard that the latest baseball game was killer.”
would have access to email and stuff?                                         He sent the message and pushed away from the
        The next thing he did was acquaint himself with               computer. He needed to get to sleep.
the game‟s background; the history, the races, the                            A new mail popped up.
classes. He scanned through the most recent topics on                         Kaze groaned. So much mail. But he figured that
the official forum, then jumped over to the general one.              he might at least see who it was from.
Rumors, The World, News, Crimson VS, Apkallu. There                           “Yo, Kaze. Just sending you my email address
were some interesting pictures on there, with more than a             and to say that if you need anything done just ask. I
couple fan arts of the “Terror of Death”. Didn‟t look much            don‟t think I‟ll be logging on for the rest of the week.

                                                             - 43 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                              Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        ~Siron”                                                                 “I sent you twenty short-mails every day! For
        Siron… she must have been really wasted by the                  nearly two months!”
fight. He sent a reply message.                                                 “Uh…” He had to think of something quick. He
        “Hey. Thanks for the notice and your email.                     couldn‟t just tell her that he‟d been „locked‟ in his room
Actually, I wouldn‟t blame you if you never wanted to log               while a vicious AI devastated everything around him. “I
in again. I know that I wouldn‟t. Anyway, take your time                don‟t know why I was marked as online. I‟ve been on
and get better, okay?”                                                  vacation for a while now. My parents dragged me out of
        Then he turned off the monitor and crashed in                   the country for a while.”
bed.                                                                            “I don‟t see how you could have not noticed that
                                  ***                                   your computer was still running the game,” she replied,
        “Good morning, Kaze!”                                           pouting.
        Kaze froze up and turned around. He‟d just barely                       “Has my level gone up any? Maybe it was a
walked out of the @Home. He would have bolted again,                    glitch, because I wasn‟t on any servers. Heck, you could
but something was bothering him.                                        even ask someone from CC to verify it.”
        “How did you know I would be here?”                                     She still looked a little doubtful. “Hmm…. Well, to
        “Katsu told me that you had your own guild, so I                make up for it, you have to come with me on a quest!”
figured that if I waited here, I would find you eventually.”                    “Huh? Whoa, wait a second. Why do I have to
        He drooped, defeated. Katsu had just turned his                 make anything up to you for one of CC‟s mistakes?”
greatest—other than Nightmare—enemy on him. Now                                 “Besides, I haven‟t finished telling you about Moon
he would never hear the end of it. She was as bad as a                  Tree. It would be the perfect opportunity!”
PK. No, worse! They at least would stop with killing you                        The look on Kaze‟s face said something along the
and taking all your loot. She would haunt him „till the end             lines of “Someone PK me now”. Fuuki was too busy
of his days!                                                            smiling to notice. He put on his best fake smile and said,
        “Was there something that you wanted,” he asked                 “Yeah, it would be, wouldn‟t it?”
resignedly.                                                                     “Okay, let‟s head over to the quest shop, then.
        “Why… Why haven‟t you been answering my                         Katsu is waiting for us there.”
messages!” she shouted. “You were always online, but                            His face nearly broke. “Oh no, not him, too. I‟m
you didn‟t even say that you didn‟t want to go! That‟s                  not ready to take him on again.” “Let‟s go then. Wouldn‟t
really, really impolite, you know!”                                     want to keep him waiting.”
        Kaze took his fingers out of his ears. “What? I                         As they walked, Kaze tried to think of what Haven
don‟t remember seeing even one.”                                        would be. Unfortunately, he wouldn‟t be able to have any

                                                               - 44 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

members other than himself or Siron… But that would                           Katsu just shrugged. “I‟m not really into sports.”
have to come later.                                                           “Well, let‟s get started, shall we?”
        “Haven… Originally it was just meant for me, but                      For once in Kaze‟s life, he silently thanked her.
a two person guild is really pathetic. A purpose,                     Other than the fact that this whole situation was her fault
purpose… Well, part of it was that it would be weird for              in the first place.
me to just sleep in town. The other was that sleeping on                      The quest wasn‟t anything too difficult; all they
a field would get me PKed… Maybe that‟s something.                    needed to do was go in and beat the boss on a level 17
PKs. I hate PKs. You could kind of stretch the meaning                field. Fairly simple. Fuuki would be the only one having
of Haven to be something about PKKing. Yeah. A PKK                    trouble because of low levels. It didn‟t seem like she‟d
guild. Heh, we‟ll even show Haseo something about PKK                 done any leveling in the time that he was gone; level 4
while we‟re at it. Yeah!” He had a self-satisfied smile on            was the quota of the year, from the looks of it.
his face as he was walking.                                                   “So, Fuuki, how long have you been playing this
        “Wow, Kaze, you look really happy. You must                   game, anyway?”
have missed playing The World a lot these last two                            “Well,” she replied, fidgeting, “the day I met you
months.”                                                              was my fifth.”
        Kaze blinked. “What? I do? …Yeah, I guess that                        “You know, you‟re not going to impress any PKs
the last while was really boring.”                                    with that level. Even if you are from Moon Tree, they‟d
        “Though, apparently you didn‟t have any trouble               probably just laugh and walk all over you,” Kaze pointed
accessing email.” Katsu was tapping his foot impatiently              out, shrugging.
in front of the Quest Shop.                                                   “I know. I want to be stronger, but I‟m not very
        “Oh come on, doesn‟t everyone have email on                   good at games. I always get nervous and forget the
their cells these days?”                                              controls in battle. The people in Moon Tree took me in,
        Katsu shrugged. “I guess that‟s true enough.”                 and helped me have fun in the game without having to
        Bullet dodged. He wondered if he‟d have to be                 fight. Then I saw you fight, and I thought, „I want to be
doing that the entire quest.                                          strong like that, too!‟ I look up to you for that, just like a
        “Thank you for coming on short notice, Katsu!”                big brother!”
        “Not a problem.” He looked at Kaze.                                   “Huh, so that‟s why you like them so much.”
        “Is there any particular reason why you‟re staring                    “Well, then, “Nii-san”, shall we get started?”
at me like a new set of blades?” Katsu was on to him.                         “Gah, why are you calling me that!? Do you enjoy
Big time. “So, actually bother to read your mail before               making jabs at me all the time?!” Kaze glowered at
you logged in?”                                                       Katsu. It wasn‟t funny that he was joking about that.

                                                             - 45 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “I don‟t know; do I?”                                                 In a few short moments, the monsters had been
        Fuuki giggled. “You two are so funny. Are you                 vanquished. Fuuki leveled up—twice.
sure that Katsu isn‟t your older brother, Kaze?”                              “Yay!” She jumped up and down, acting like a little
        Kaze rolled his eyes. “Quite. For one thing, I‟m              girl.
older than he is. For another, I don‟t think that I could                     Kaze sheathed his blades, shaking his head.
tolerate gaming with someone related to me.”                                  “So, “Nii-san”, how many members you got in this
        “Hm, my brother would say the same thing.”                    guild of yours?”
        “Are we going to stand here all day or what?” He                      Kaze‟s eye twitched. “Would you stop calling me
began moving towards the portal. “That quest isn‟t going              that already,” he growled, then sighed. “Just two,
to finish itself, you know.”                                          actually. Myself and another Rogue.”
                                 ***                                          “Would that be Haseo?”
        “So, Kaze, what‟s this guild of yours about? Rare,                    “How many times do I have to tell you that I don‟t
unattainable items? Discovering the secrets of The                    actually know the guy?”
World? Or is it just to get on CC‟s nerves?”                                  “Oh, oh, I know! It‟s that Siron lady, isn‟t it? With
        “Two of the above and a third. PKs. The scum of               the red hair and eyes?”
the net. I intend to hunt them down.”                                         “Yeah, that‟s it exactly.”
        “Like Regit the Red?”                                                 “Siron, huh? I heard that she‟s not that bad a
        “Enough about Regit! It was a bug, okay!”                     player. Apparently while you were out, she was hunting
        “That must have been some bug.”                               down PKs.”
        “Itta darou!? I was one level below Fuuki at the                      “She was, huh? I guess I shouldn‟t be surprised. I
time! Do you really think that I could have taken out a               haven‟t talked to her since before I my parents dragged
level 53 character?!”                                                 me out of my room for some fresh air.” “Fresh air. Yeah,
        “That depends. Some people can mod their                      right. I was locked in my room, not dragged from it.”
characters, or their weapons, so that they could.”                            “What would you say if I wanted to join your
        “I‟m not a #$#* Hacker, dang it!”                             guild?”
        “Aah!” Fuuki had stumbled upon a bunch of                             Kaze blinked. “Uh… Sure, I guess. If you really
monsters.                                                             wanted to. Just no more Hacker jabs, okay?”
        “Better go save here before she gets herself                          “Okay, what ever you say… Nii-san.”
killed,” Kaze grumbled.                                                       Katsu jumped back, laughing, as Kaze began to
        “Big brother to the rescue.”                                  chase him around the area.
        “Urusai!”                                                             “Get back here, you smart-aleck! Graa!”

                                                             - 46 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “Aah!” More monsters.                                                      “Huh? Wonder what it says….” He opened it up,
        By the time they arrived at the boss, Fuuki had                   taking a look.
gone up five more levels, unsurprisingly. He himself had                           “Forgot to ask you last time. Still out of it. How
gone up twice. Fuuki took one look at the monster and                     was your meeting with Katsu? And about not coming
nearly fainted. Katsu was shaking his head, while Kaze                    back. Like heck I wouldn‟t! What happened was my own
just rolled his eyes, initiating the fight in a back attack.              fault anyways. So don‟t think much of it. Email me
        Like any boss, the Steam Giant was huge.                          anytime.
Nothing that Fuuki could have taken a hit from. So,                                I‟ll be on for the next hour. Some stuff to do.
instead of letting her freeze up, he called out orders to                          ~Siron”
her as they fought. While Katsu could have taken the                               “Talking with Katsu is like running through a mine
monster out in a few hits, he decided that he would hang                  field; I managed to dodge out of the way only to find
back and let Kaze and Fuuki take it on, acting as a                       myself nearly stepping on another. He‟s really smart.
distraction, letting it pound on him for nearly no damage.                And I‟m not sure whether or not he knows who I am, but
Finally, the boss fell to the ground, defeated.                           because of a comment Fuuki made he‟s taken to calling
        “Well, that takes care of that,” Kaze said, satisfied.            me „Nii-san‟ all of the time. He also wants to join Haven.
        “Wow! We really did it! Thank you, Kaze, Katsu!”                           From now on, the outside of Haven will be a PKK
        Katsu appraised Kaze. “Not too bad for someone                    guild. The only things that I hate more than PKs are
who seems to like playing by himself. Maybe you won‟t                     Nightmare and Fuuki‟s nosy meddling. Did you know
be such a bad guild master.”                                              that she freezes up in battle? She‟s the biggest Noob
        “Hey, what‟s that supposed to mean!?”                             that I‟ve ever seen. I got dragged on a couple of quests
        “You really helped me a lot back there, Kaze.                     today with her and Katsu. She was still level four on the
Your voice kept me from getting nervous and forgetting                    first one, and that went up nine times on that alone! It
how to fight.”                                                            was ridiculous! I‟ve gone up a couple of levels, myself.
        “Yeah, whatever.”                                                 It‟s 21, now, since they insisted on bringing me on for so
        “Ooh, I think that he‟d embarrassed! Are you                      long. Luckily, Katsu is a high enough level that I don‟t
blushing?”                                                                have to worry too much about getting tired quickly, or
        “Urusai!” The other two laughed as he attempted                   else I‟m certain that he would have suspected something
to cover it up.                                                           because of it. As it is, I‟m tired enough that I ended up
                                   ***                                    making an excuse to get away. Six levels in one day will
        When Kaze finally got back to his room, a new                     do that.
email was waiting for him from Siron.                                              The only good thing is that Fuuki didn‟t try to yap

                                                                 - 47 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

my ear off about Moon Tree.                                              will feel more confident about taking on the bigger nasties
      ~Kaze                                                              if we‟re a high level ourselves.”
         P.S.—Could you make it so that I look like I‟m                          “One of the characters that my brother wrote about
logged out in my room? Fuuki blew up at me because I                     was a flame-haired Demonslayer. I‟d say that role fits
hadn‟t been answering any of her short mails, which,                     Kaze rather well.” Katsu waved good-bye and teleported
incidentally, I received none of. I had to blame that and                to the Dome.
my first PK kill on a bug. I‟ve been “out of the country” for                    Kaze slept restlessly. Strange dreams haunted
the past two months.”                                                    his sleep, chasing him through the corridors of his
         “Okay.”                                                         subconscious. He awoke the next morning, unable to
         Kaze sat on his bed, looking out the window.                    remember anything but the feeling of dread they left him.
There were random “people” and cars passing by                           Kaze didn‟t bother to get out of bed until an email at his
occasionally, and a pigeon was pecking at something on                   computer noisily solicited him.
the sill. He sprawled out, happy that he‟d been able to                          “What‟s this… CC? The heck?”
get away from Fuuki and his brother. Katsu had been                              “….Notification… Job Extension…. Limited time…
thinking of taking them someplace even higher level right                Levels 20 and above…”
before he left. He‟d made the excuse that his mom was                            “Job Extension? That‟s right, I‟d read about that
kicking him off, and had some work to do.                                on the official page. That would be a good thing to do. I
         “Hey, he‟s actually offline. I guess whatever bug               need all the power that I can get, right now.”
had been on that got fixed,” Fuuki guessed. She and                              He got off of the computer and began stretching.
Katsu were still standing outside of the @Home.                          Even if it didn‟t necessarily do anything, it made him feel
         “Imagine that. CC can actually do something right.              more prepared to take on whatever was waiting for him.
Did he seem a little… frantic to you when I mentioned                    Besides, it gave him a little more time to think of anything
going to Delta Server Insert some sort of level 30+ area                 before he walked out the door.
name?”                                                                           Luckily, Fuuki was offline when he came out of the
         “Well, I was afraid to go there, too. I think that              @Home. Looked like Katsu was busy, too. Good; he
even you would have trouble with the monsters, there,                    didn‟t need either of them poking their noses into his
Katsu. I don‟t like dying, even if it is only a game.”                   business today. He needed to sharpen his skills on his
         Katsu shrugged. “I guess you‟re right. Being                    own.
defeated sucks. I guess that I‟ll go goof off somewhere                          “Well, if it isn‟t the Noob from before.”
else for a while. Maybe our „Demonslayer‟ of a leader                            Kaze turned to face the PKs, rolling his eyes. He

                                                                - 48 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                 Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

was a higher level than them, now.                                     confident that he could take it easily enough. He made
        “What do you losers want? I don‟t have time to                 sure to stock up on health drinks and sprite drops before
play your stupid games.”                                               going. He even walked up to the save shop. After a
        “We‟re here to give you a warning, PKK; we don‟t               moment, he actually saved his character for the first time.
care how many people or who they are in your „Guild‟, if               It didn‟t seem like anything happened, though.
you don‟t watch your back out on the field, you‟ll find one            Whatever. It wasn‟t like anything would happen to him.
of our blades in it!”                                                                                   ***
        “Oh really? I could care less. It‟s not like your                     Siron settled down on her couch and watch some
pathetic Noob-crushing group is a danger to me. You                    anime series that she was wanting to catch up on for a
should be the one worrying about my blades in your                     while. She would‟ve gone back to “The World” today,
back.”                                                                 other than the fact that she started to throw up. While
        “I‟m not just talking about us, you moron! I speak             other kids would jump at the joy of having all day to
for the whole PK community!”                                           play—she didn‟t really feel like throwing up will playing.
        “Right. Then why would they bother sending you                 So instead she started to watch. There was a lot to go
as their spokesman? Or was it just that you were made                  through, and so little time. Oh well, it‟s fortunate that she
the messenger boy because you‟re so pathetic?” The                     lived on her own. Her roommates may have disagreed
Edge Punisher looked like he was about to blow a fuse.                 with her sleeping habits that week.
“I don‟t think that I‟ll have to worry about PKs ganging up                                         ***
on me. It‟s just as likely that you people will be back-                      Kaze stared at the Chaos Gate for a long time. He
stabbing each other as coming after me. How about you                  had come here to get the Job Extension. But he was just
go run along now and play with your dolls?”                            a part of the game. He was… dead. There was no way
        “We‟re gonna make you eat those words,                         for him to get out of The World and into his own. This
„Demonslayer‟!” They all ran off.                                      was his world now. And now, as he watched the rings
        Kaze stared after them like they were all                      rotating, he wondered if any of what he did would matter
completely mad. “Demonslayer? Where did that come                      at all. He left without even going to the area for the
from? That was one of my characters….” He paused.                      quest.
“Katsu? Has he been spreading rumors or something?                            Slowly, Kaze wandered around Mac Anu,
Great. More trouble. Better head straight over to the                  watching the players run around, doing whatever errand,
Quest Shop; I‟ll need that Extension thing right away if               getting whatever item, waiting for whoever it was that had
what he says is true.”                                                 called them there. They went about their business, not
        Solo Quest. Oh, the horror. Not really. Kaze was               even realizing that there was a player who was not in

                                                              - 49 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                        .Hack//The Lost Ones

their midst. After all, it was just a game. A harmless                     that ever again. Even if it was only data, it would be him.
game where you could meet people, go on quests, and                        My brother is alive. This game, The World, isn‟t just what
be whoever you wanted to be.                                               we see. It‟s alive, with its own set of rules that I don‟t
         After some time, Kaze found himself in the                        think even the people who made it understand. So, you
Alchemy district, staring out across the ocean towards                     say that all of this is just a bunch of ones and zeros? The
the sunset. What was the point? Why was he there?                          only difference between a server and a person is what it‟s
There was no such person named Kaze, just a bunch of                       made out of.”
data hanging around on a server, pretending to be. He                             Kaze rubbed his jaw, still looking depressed. “I
almost wondered if his memories were a lie.                                don‟t know. Why is it that I‟m even here? I‟d just logged
         “Well, don‟t you look glum? What, get PKed and                    on because I wanted to play a game. I‟d thought that it
lose all the hard work you‟d gone through to get some                      was fun at first. But now…” He shook his head, and
extra levels? Or maybe you got dumped by your                              leaned on the wall. “I don‟t know. Everything‟s just a big
girlfriend?”                                                               mess. I wish that I‟d never known that The World
         “I never had a girlfriend.”                                       existed.”
         “Oh, so that‟s what you‟re getting all weepy about,”                     “Then why don‟t you just leave? Log off and never
Katsu teased. “Come on, if our mighty Guild Master                         come back again? It‟s not like anyone would blame you.”
looks down, it‟ll discourage the rest of us.”                                     “I can‟t… I just… can‟t.”
         “Who cares about the guild? Or any of this at all!?                      Katsu was silent for a moment. “I see. You‟re the
It‟s not like it‟s real! All this is just a bunch of data, ones            same as me, then. I‟m always scared that one day, the
and zeros strung together!”                                                same thing that happened to my brother might happen
         “The people here are real. What‟s gotten into                     again. To me. My parents don‟t like that I spend so
you? Somebody die or something?”                                           much time on here. They won‟t say it, but they blame the
         Kaze laughed bitterly. “Yeah, someone died. And                   game, too. Losing my brother hurt our family. I don‟t
no thanks to this game, either! And who would believe                      know what would happen if I were to just disappear as
that someone could actually die because of a game?                         well. But, I can‟t just give up on the chance that,
You? Your friends? No, even you don‟t think that a                         somewhere, he‟s out there, waiting for me to find him.”
person could die in this game. You think that your                                “…”       Kaze shook his head.           Katsu didn‟t
brother‟s still hanging around somewhere. But do you                       understand. “I can‟t believe that you are trying to cheer
really think that it would be your brother when you find                   me up. What happened to all of your little jabs?”
them? All he would be is data on the server.”                                     “Are you ever in a strange mood. Maybe I didn‟t
         Katsu slugged Kaze. “I don‟t want to hear you say                 hit you hard enough the first time.”

                                                                  - 50 -
                        Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “You would be too… If you‟d just found out what I                    “Wow, you actually read books? Imagine that.
did.”                                                                 And here I thought that you just played all day. Let me
        Katsu slugged him again. “When are you going to               guess, it was a romance novel!”
stop feeling sorry for yourself!”                                            “Hey, my brother wrote that, you know!” He
        Kaze picked himself up off the stones, stars                  chased Kaze around until they both collapsed, laughing.
dancing in front of his eyes. Katsu was right. He was                        “Hey, thanks. I was pretty down back there.”
feeling sorry for himself. He thought suddenly of Akana.                     Katsu just shrugged. “It‟s nothing. I wish that I
He didn‟t even know where she was, and she was stuck                  could have done the same for him. The day before, one
here just like him.                                                   of his best friends had committed suicide. Because of
        Rubbing the other side of his jaw now, Kaze                   that, my parents were okay with him playing all day.
managed a weak smile. “Thanks. I think I needed that.”                Maybe if I had, he would be the one playing this
        The Twin Blade grinned evilly. “Anytime you need              character, not me.”
it. Sure you don‟t want me to hit you again? The cats                        “I don‟t know. I think he probably would have
seem to be enjoying it as much as I am.”                              needed a good thrashing first. I don‟t think that you could
        “The cats? …” That seemed a little odd.                       have gotten away with that one.” That was right; he‟d
        Katsu shrugged.           “Amaterasu, Odin, and               nearly forgotten with everything. Reijin had been the
Rigisamus. Seems like they always stop by when I play                 reason he‟d been on the Starlight Luna event. That
The World. They think that I‟ll find my brother, too.”                seemed so far away, now.
        “Heh. Sounds like them. Cats, that is,” Kaze                         “Yeah, maybe. I don‟t think that I would have,
amended quickly. “I‟ve known a few of them, myself.                   anyway. Things have changed since then.”
Very demanding, always mysterious.” He thought about                         “Well, I should get going. I had been planning on
it for a moment. “Sounds like a couple of other people                doing the job extension earlier, so now that you‟ve
I‟ve known, too.”                                                     cheered me up, I think I‟ll get back to that.” He waved to
        “I‟d say that you place in that category yourself,            Katsu before warping over to the Dome and heading off.
Demonslayer-san.”                                                            Katsu continued watching the spot Kaze had
        “You started that, didn‟t you,” Kaze grumbled.                been. “Kaze… ka? Is it just wishful thinking… or…”
“Why are you calling me a Demonslayer?”                                                                ***
        Katsu decided just then to get mystic on him. “A                     “Are you…Kaze?”
young boy trying to prove himself in a hostile world…                        Kaze turned to look at who was addressing him.
Just like something that I read in a book. I‟d say you fit            “Yeah. What about it?” He was enjoying his new look;
the role rather well.”                                                he‟d added some gold armor to his base look, along with

                                                             - 51 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                              Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                       .Hack//The Lost Ones

a wing device on his back. It really made him want to                           She nodded vigorously.
know what his next form would look like. He was level 38                        “Wait, I nearly forgot…. What‟s your name?”
now, but he didn‟t know how high a level he would have                          “It‟s Blue.”
to be for the next one.                                                         Kaze cracked his knuckles. “Well, then, Blue, let‟s
        “I…uhmm…”        It was a rather short person.                  go put those PKs in their place, shall we?”
Human, girl-ish, and a Shadow Warlock. She was                                  The dungeon was pathetic. And then some. “To
looking at the ground, rubbing her toes into the stone.                 think that when I‟d first started, I had trouble with a level 5
“Will you.. aaa…. help me?”                                             dungeon.” He hung back so that any PKs wouldn‟t be
        “Help you? With what?” He could guess. He                       scared off. He was rather well known these days. The
wanted her to say it.                                                   “Demonslayer” had been busy.
        “Well… the PKs have been picking on me a lot….                          “Well, well, well, you don‟t know when to give up,
and ummm… I was wondering if… you could… you                            do you?” An all too familiar voice. These losers still
know… protect me?”                                                      hadn‟t learned their lesson.
        “Hm…” He thought about it. “Don‟t you think                             She looked bashfully at her feet.
asking Moon Tree would be better? I mean, I don‟t know                          “I don‟t know… I could say the same about you.”
if the PKs are ready to take me seriously yet.”                         Kaze stepped out of the light. “Don‟t you think that Siron
        She looked crestfallen.                                         has killed you enough by herself?”
        “I‟m not saying that I won‟t,” he said quickly. “I‟m                    They all froze…. In terror.
just asking you if you‟re sure.”                                                “Now, you have three options.” He held up a
        She nodded.       She also looked to be a bit                   hand, one finger raised. “One, you attack my little friend
embarrassed.                                                            Blue here, and get killed.” He added a second. “Two,
        “Okay…” “Now what?”                                             you attack me, and get killed.” A third followed, and the
        “I‟ve been wanting to go on this quest for a while.             PKs were trembling. “The third, you turn tail and run like
But PKs have always killed me…”                                         the cowards you are.” Kaze grinned darkly. “Maybe if
        “I see… What quest?”                                            you‟re fast enough, I won‟t get to the „you get killed‟ part.
        “It‟s the Crown Quest, where you try to get King                Make your choice.”
Chim‟s crown.”                                                                  They turned tail and ran for all their worth.
        “Ah. That doesn‟t sound too hard if you get rid of                      Once they were finally out of sight, Kaze burst out
the PKs. They probably hang around that one because                     laughing, holding his sides. “Oh, that was hilarious! I
most of the players who go on it are low level. I wouldn‟t              can‟t believe that I managed to hold that in the whole
be surprised if I know some of them. Shall we go, then?”                time!” He turned to Blue and winked. “What do you say?

                                                               - 52 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                  Shira kas Shikai
                    Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

Should we go PK hunting for any stragglers?”                                    “Of course!       It would be great to see the
        She smiled and nodded vigorously.                                Demonslayer himself in action!”
        The Hunt was on.                                                        Kaze rolled his eyes. “Great Demonslayer, huh?
        In the end, one of the four got away. Barely.                    Whatever. Maybe when I hit level 50 I‟ll let you call me
Kaze dusted off his hands.                                               that.”
        “Well,” he said to Blue with a grin, “that takes care                   “Yes, sir!”
of them, doesn‟t it?”                                                           “Oh great, now I have an army.”
        “Un!” She was still smiling happily. She was also                                                ***
several levels higher.                                                          The next several days were quite similar in their
        “Shall we go find King Chim now?”                                patterns. He would meet up with people who either
        “Hai!”                                                           wanted his help or to join Haven. By the end of the
                                  ***                                    week, seven people had joined his new guild. A general
        Kaze waved good-bye to Blue, still snickering.                   trend began to appear among the guilds; if you wanted to
The PK that had escaped had thought up the brilliant                     do anything, you joined Kestrel. If you wanted protection,
idea of coming back with more, supposedly stronger,                      you joined Moon Tree. If you wanted payback, you
PKs. Not only was his armor cooler now, but he could                     joined Haven.
pull out a really big sword when he wanted. It was like                         It got to the point that he started hiding in his
smashing people with Cloud‟s buster sword. They had                      room, so many people wanted to talk to him about this or
no idea what hit them. That time, no one got away.                       that.
        “Wow, you must have been having fun.”                                   A new mail arrived from Siron on one of these
        The Rogue turned to the speaker. A blue haired                   occasions.
strong arm was watching him.                                                    “You seem to be spending a lot of time in your
        “I guess that depends on what your definition of                 room. What‟s up?”
“fun” is.”                                                                      “Ugh, don‟t even ask. Katsu and Fuuki have been
        “I take it that you‟re the leader of that PKK Guild,             spreading the word about Haven. Now it seems like I get
Haven.”                                                                  mobbed by people who want to join or Noobs who want
        “Heh. I see that the rumors are still going strong.              protection. This is the only place that I‟m safe. Even in
What‟s it to you?”                                                       dungeons they find me somehow. The PKs are staying
        The other shrugged. “PKK… A PKK guild…                           away… for now. It‟s hectic.”
They kind of go together, wouldn‟t you think?”                                  “Well, I‟ll be logging in shortly. Just wishing ya
        “Hmm… Are you saying that you want to join?”                     happy birthday. Your “present” is in the top left drawer of

                                                                - 53 -
                       Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                      .Hack//The Lost Ones

your desk. Hope you enjoy it.”                                                  Finally at the Chaos Gate, Kaze breathed a sigh of
        “A present?” He looked at the drawer she‟d                     relief. Everyone wanted something from him. Finding a
mentioned. He hadn‟t even known that it was his                        nice spot against one of the walls, he settled down to wait
birthday. He‟d been out of the loop for too long. That                 for Siron.
meant that he was 20 now… or 18, depending on if you                            After awhile of waiting, Siron logged in. It was the
counted the time he was offline. Weird. He opened the                  first time in a long time, and it was also the first time that
drawer.                                                                Kaze saw the full extent of the changes on her character.
        It was a sketch pad and a whole array of pencils.              Not only was her character back at level one, and more
        “Wow, it‟s even got a mechanical one. Imagine                  cat-like, she seemed to be more of a beast character.
that. I guess that I can draw in my free time now… Heh.                Pointed ears, though not much longer, and a tail. The
Who‟d have thought.” He set it down. If Siron was                      red cat tail lashed back and forth happily. She was
logging in, he felt that he should be there. After all, he             happy to be back in The World. She spotted Kaze and
hadn‟t seen her since the Nightmare Incident.                          walked over. She smiled. “Yo.”
        A thought occurred to Kaze. Everyone but him                            “Oisashiburi. How do ya feel?”
would log on from the Chaos Gate.                                               “Much better. That flu was the pits. Spent the
        “Hey, when you get the chance later, could you                 whole week on my couch watching anime.”
find a way for me to “Log In” from the Gate? People will                        “Really. Which ones?”
start noticing soon that I don‟t, with all of the publicity                     “Oh, Gundam stuff, Saiyuki, Naruto, DN Angel,
Haven has.”                                                            Outlaw Star, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Escaflowne,
        Sending the mail, he started off towards the                   Lodoss War, RahXephon, Spiral… You know, anime.”
Dome.                                                                           “Wow, those are some of the older ones.”
        “Hey, Kaze, weren‟t you going to log off?”                              “Still good though. I also watched some newer
        “Yeah, but I got an email from a friend of mine, so            stuff. But that was only some. Oh, and I can‟t forget
I came back for a bit.”                                                FFVII: Advent Children.”
        “Hey, Demonslayer, want to go bust up some PKs                          “Now there is a good movie. I always did like
with me?”                                                              those old school games”
        “I‟m busy right now, maybe some other time.”                            “I‟ll send you some stuff. You might enjoy it.”
        “Kaze, you were sooo cool yesterday! Thank you                          “Thanks for the birthday present, by the way.”
so much for saving me from those PKs!”                                          She smiled, “You‟re welcome. I figured you would
        “Hey, don‟t worry about it. That‟s what Haven‟s all            enjoy it greatly.”
about.”                                                                         “So, ready to go and run the Gauntlet?”

                                                              - 54 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                                Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

        “Of course.”                                                          Siron shrugged. “Did it for a friend.”
        “Might be a good idea to bring a healer along with                    “I don‟t know, you seem to be a little low in level to
us though. Maybe I‟ll call Fuuki.” A minute later Fuuki               take out that PK.”
popped up as energetic as always.                                             “Well, the character that actually took out Regit got
        “I‟m so happy that you called me, Kaze!”                      corrupted. Unfortunately to the point that CC couldn‟t
        “Yeah, whatever. Shall we get going then?”                    repair the data. I had to delete it and start over.” She
        Several deaths, which fortunately still gave her              smiled mischievously, “I was level one this morning.”
half experience, and even more dungeons later, Siron                          “That must have sucked. That would explain why
was level 37. Fuuki was level 44. And Kaze was level                  he‟s a higher level.”
47. Kaze had been having a lot of fun with his new                            Kaze shrugs.
sword.                                                                        “So, Kaze. Do you want to go to those higher
        “Fu… What a workout. Why don‟t you say we call                level places now, since you are higher level than they
it a day?”                                                            are?”
        “Call me anytime you need me, Kaze!” Fuuki ran                        “Rm… Why not? We could get her a couple more
off into the city of Mac Anu.                                         levels in.”
        Siron waited until she was gone. Then whispered                       After a couple times through some higher level
to Kaze. “By the way. You can now „log on‟ and „log off.‟             dungeons, Katsu was looking for some item, and gaining
The menu will transport you directly to your room. And                no levels for himself. They called it a day, officially.
the computer will create a temp gate to the Chaos Gate.”                      “See ya there,” and tried out his new „log out‟
        “Thanks.”                                                     function. It worked wonderfully.
        “Hey, Kaze!      Who‟s your girlfriend?”    Katsu                     “I think that is the first time I‟ve seen him log out
appeared behind them.                                                 anywhere but the guild.”
        Kaze began to choke. “The very idea… yuck!”                           Siron shrugged, “Probably Guild Master stuff that
        Katsu in the meantime was laughing at him.                    he liked to take care of. Or maybe old habits die hard.
        Siron raised her eyebrow. “And you would be?”                 Either way, I‟ll probably be seeing you later.”
        “The name‟s Katsu. I‟m in Haven under him,”                           “Maybe we can level up again some time.”
Katsu jerk a thumb at Kaze. “Who might you be?”                               “Maybe.” Siron then warped to the Mercenary
        She nodded, then without warning, slugged Katsu               District.
in the face. “I‟m Siron.”                                                     “He gets fancier every day. Maybe there really is
        Katsu winced. “You‟re a feisty one, aren‟t you?               a Hacker in the guild. Probably her.”
So you‟re the fabled Siron. I heard you took out Regit.”                      Siron got into Kaze‟s room without any notice,

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                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                    .Hack//The Lost Ones

which took some doing. If some one saw her walking                    idea of marking the guild members. That way they
into the closet and not come back out… Well that would                wouldn‟t end up PKing themselves, and of course, Haven
just be strange. When she walked in, Kaze was at his                  members would be the only ones who could see it. A
computer. “Yo… again.”                                                little tag that would appear above the person, identifying
        “Man, I wish that they wouldn‟t send me so many               them as Haven members. This would also be helpful in
emails. I have three from the same person.”                           identifying anyone who would decide to break the PKK
        “Have you thought about organizing your email.                rules.
Folders and stuff. It would be easier to go through.”                          The two branches that will be organized
        “Yeah, I have. All of them would go into the same             immediately would be the Deshi Branch and the Ryoushi
folder.”                                                              Branch. The Deshi Branch would be for the noobies who
        Siron waited for a bit. “How many people have                 needed to learn skills for PKKing as fast as possible.
joined the guild this week?”                                          Each „deshi‟ would then have a high-level mentor who
        He tallied them up on his fingers. “Twenty-three.”            would teach the deshi their tricks and level them up as
        Siron raised an eyebrow. “That many…” “Well, I                fast as possible. That way they wouldn‟t be PKed as
guess we are going to have to sit down and organize it.               quickly, and stand a fair chance at surviving in The
It won‟t do you much good if things get too out of hand in            World. They would be warned that if they can not get
the first month.”                                                     along with other players easily, there would be dire
        “Tell me about it.”                                           consequences. After all, they would be breaking the
        They sat down for the next few hours talking about            rules.
the guild, bouncing ideas off each other, and building a                       The second branch to be organized would be the
master plan for the guild, all of which was recorded on               Ryoushi. They will have the pleasure of doing a lot of
Siron‟s computer. After it was complete, she put it on                PKKing. They are trained to fight PKs with efficiency.
Kaze‟s as well.                                                       They would hang out in low-level fields and PKK any PKs
        This was the basic idea. Siron would become the               they come across.
assistant guild master, since only she and Kaze knew                           Eventually, when the time demanded, they would
about the true meaning behind the guild. Then they                    set up a shop. This would also be a branch. The
would make five branches, two of which would be                       Shounin Branch. These would be the people who don‟t
organized immediately. They also came up with all the                 really want to be PKK, or decided that they did not have
rules: no PKing, only PKK on known PKers—they were                    the skills for it. They would still be able to help out
most likely not up to any good anyways, and to save                   Haven, by going into dungeons for the items, either for
those who are being PKed. Siron then came up with the                 the Guild Shop or for trading purposes. This way the

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                      Ryuu Kaze                                                              Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                                     .Hack//The Lost Ones

guild will gain plenty of money, members would be able                         “Nani ga okashii?”
to get items that they needed, and the ones not cut out                        “Once your guild grows big enough, CC will be
for the whole PKKing business can still help in getting                forced to give you an area instead of this place. They are
revenge, as seemed to be the trend.                                    not going to like that much.”
        The other two branches would be organized when                         Kaze snickered. “That is funny, isn‟t it?”
there were enough members and Kaze and Siron had                               Siron chuckled again. “Deshi, Ryoushi, Shounin,
gained sufficient skill in each branch to be able to teach             Samurai, and Shinobi. I think it‟s set, how about you?”
others. The first of the two would be the Samurai branch.                      Kaze thought about it for a moment, “What about
They even wrote up an honor code that they would play                  the people in charge of those?”
by. They would take the protection requests from the                           “True.”
players. If they are feeling really happy, they may just                       They brainstormed for a bit and came up with
flood the place with Samurai members.                                  titles. Kaze would be Kanshisha, the Guardian. Siron
        The last branch would be the Shinobi. Trained                  would be Shireikan, the Commander. The Branch
assassins. They will be trained to kill the PKs before they            Leaders would be called the Shidousha. The Division
find out who they are. Ah, the backstabbing. Usually                   Leaders would be the Chouten. The Mentors would be
only on known PKs, or if the PK isn‟t paying much                      called Onshi, and may be from any branch of Haven.
attention. They will also have an honor code to play by                        The Deshi branch would have three levels. Tane,
as well.                                                               for they are new „seeds‟. When they are trained in the
        The last thing they talked about was punishment.               basics of the Game, they would move to Nakaba. There
Not getting along with someone in the guild: Fix it or                 they would train for PKKing. When their mentors feel
leave. Being as rude as a PK: Fix it or leave. PKing                   they are ready, they become Shiken, for they are testing.
instead of PKKing, or going berserk and killing everyone                       When they have proven their worth, they become
in sight: Personal match with the Guild Master, then                   Chuukan in the Ryoushi Branch. They must advance to
thrust out of Haven, never to return. Kaze though of                   Shoushin before they have the option of moving to
something really nasty as well. Mark them as traitors and              different branches, except for the Shounin Branch. This
declare them free game in areas. Oh the pain.                          way all the members will know how to hunt the PKs. If
        “Definitely going to need division leaders.”                   they so desire to stay in the Ryoushi Branch, they will
        Siron nodded. “I agree. But there will need to be              eventually obtain the title of Sagashi, the Seekers.
a few more people before that happens. As it is, only                          Shounin Branch may welcome members at
PKKs who would have been at it for a while are in the                  anytime. The members may be Mihari, or Shuushuuka,
guild.” Siron thought for a bit, then started to chuckle.

                                                              - 57 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                                               Shira kas Shikai
                   Chapter 1: R2                                      Chapter 2: ?

watching the store or collecting items from areas. Either
one may than become Shihainin, managers of the store.
That way Kaze didn‟t have to do it for long.
       The Samurai branch and the Shinobi branch may
only be obtained when the members are Chuukan. The
Samurai would start as Shoshinsha, learning the honor
code, and various other skills. Then they may become
Hogosha, and begin taking protection requests. When
the Branch Leader so desires, they may then become
Meijin, or masters.
       In the Shinobi branch, the newcomers will be
Sotsugyousei. After learning the skills necessary, and
the honor code, they will become Ansatsujin. When the
Branch leader so desires, they may advance to Kage.
       At any time, the members may take upon
themselves a title, or may be bestowed a title from any
leader in the Guild. However this is informal, so it won‟t
change the name. Duh! Any leader may at anytime
choose not to be called by the above titles, it is their
       “Yoshi,” Siron said as she stretched. “I‟ll see you
in the morning, Kaze.” She logged out.
       Kaze looked at all of the work that they had done
with a sigh. This whole guild thing was turning into more
than he had anticipated. He sincerely hoped that they
would be able to handle it all.

                                                             - 58 -
                      Ryuu Kaze                                       Shira kas Shikai
Chapter 2: ?            .Hack//The Lost Ones

               - 59 -
 Ryuu Kaze                   Shira kas Shikai

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