Disclaimer: the characters in this story such as Kite, BlackRose, etc. don't belong to me; they are property of Bandai.
Dedications: God, my parents, my friends, Bandai for making this great series, and all of you lovely readers!
Special dedication to Goldberry, for writing really awesome .hack fanfiction, thus indirectly encouraging me to write one of my own.
.Hack Quarantine: Fork In The Road
After the two girls had wandered off to their respective chosen paths, the young Twin Blade remaining was left alone, and utterly confused.
When the e-mails had been sent to him, inviting the cerulean-haired boy along to the same place, he'd felt more than just a little weary, but decided to go anyway. Both of the female players had been in the same party with him before, and never expressed dislike of each other, so naturally, he was baffled by their behavior when they first arrived in the area. Figuring it would be too dangerous to wander around the field with the initial tension, the leader of the trio called for his Rocker Grunty to take them to the dungeon right away. It was better to get everything over with before the girls killed one another or whatnot, and he didn't exactly have an endless supply of Resurrects.
However, little did he know that things would actually get worse once the three of them had arrived in the dungeon. It was really just his luck that every single floor had to have a fork in the road for his partners to disagree on, and argue they did. He didn't think too much of it at first, because the disagreements were initially on the mild side, but they soon turned fervent, and became a cause for concern. Fighting the monsters with a divided party was certainly no mean feat; he was honestly surprised that the girls didn't bicker over who should heal his injuries when the battle had ended. But then again, that was probably due to the fact that the Twin Blade was smart enough to heal himself rather than wait until one of them had noticed his lacerations.
After going through each floor being presented with the problem of having two different paths to take and opposing opinions, he was really tired of the whole thing. He knew that each wanted his agreement with her side, but he didn't realize until the last floor of the dungeon that the girls had actually wanted him to choose between them. It was insane – they were both his allies and his friends! He couldn't choose… for whichever one he picked; the other would be hurt and think that he was rejecting her. How funny the world was sometimes… here he was, a boy of mere thirteen years, yet he had so many responsibilities on his shoulders that sometimes, the weight threatened to overwhelm him. Not only did he have to worry about saving his good friend, Yasuhiko, but now he had to deal with being stuck in a love triangle.
Terajima Ryoko. She was a very sweet, kind-mannered girl that was overly polite at times, but his other friends agreed that she was definitely very likable. Many of them thought it was weird that someone like her had chosen to be a Heavy Axewoman – she probably would've made more sense as a Wavemaster – but wonders never ceased. Outside of battle, she lugged around that huge axe like it would make her fall over at any moment, but when she was in a fight, she held her own very well, and only occasionally needed support. She used to need his help frequently, but that time had passed; Ryoko had become stronger now, and he no longer worried about her foolishly rushing into a dangerous situation like a certain unfortunate incident that happened a while back.
But even as much as he liked Ryoko, he also cared a lot about the other girl, with her fiery personality and head of unique pink hair. BlackRose, who had been with him since the very beginning, was the other participant in this love triangle that he'd been unwillingly forced into. He had developed a big crush on her sometime ago, but she'd mentioned being like an older sister to him, so he figured that she didn't like him in the romantic way, and tried to hide his disappointment around her. He felt almost foolish, liking a girl that had treated him nothing more than a partner, going along with him on all the major battles against the phases presumably to look after and protect him. This present situation certainly came as a huge surprise; whoever knew that BlackRose would actually returned his feelings? He had a chance to be with her… the very thought alone thrilled him considerably.
And yet then again, Ryoko had shown interest in him from the very start of their meeting, and showered him with great praise the time that he saved her from being killed by a huge monster in her chosen dungeon. This decision was truly hard for the lone boy to make, and didn't feel the least bit fair to him either. Why did the girls have to make him choose? Regardless of what happened, he still wanted to be friends with both of them. He'd felt a bit hurt earlier, when Elk had decided to leave The World and mope over Mia, thus proving that he didn't care very much for his friends, and his romantic interest was the center of his universe. Well, the azure-haired protagonist did understand those feelings, but he certainly didn't agree with the idea of discarding his allies because of the girl he liked. Maybe if she returned his affections strongly enough, she would understand and let him keep everyone around.
And so, stationed there in the fork in the road, the young teenager was stuck with a hard decision plaguing his thoughts. If he went to the left, the path would lead him to the sweet and angelic Terajima Ryoko; if he decided to venture right, then the passionate and protective BlackRose would be his prize at the end. He stood there for a few moments and stared blankly at the walls, unsure of what to do. Unbidden came the possibility of just leaving both of them there and heading back to the Omega root town, but then the girls might be even angrier at him the next time he asked them to join his party. His lean body trembled a little with apprehension, as he didn't want to hurt either one's feelings, but he did remind himself that they forced him to choose… and so he would comply with their wishes by making a decision. He did tell Balmung in their last e-mail exchange that being honest with a girl was the best, so it was time for him to take his own advice.
After checking his supplies just in case more monsters met him before he made it to the end of the dungeon, the Twin Blade took a deep breath, and slowly jogged toward the one that he wanted to be with.
Kite won't choose you… the female player in question thought a bit mournfully as she scoured the area, waiting in a large room that wasn't too far away from the one that housed the Gott Statue. She didn't want to journey any further for fear of running into her competition, and when enough time passed to convince her, she would leave if he didn't show up. There were monsters when she first arrived in the vicinity, but she'd gotten rid of them alone; she had to prove herself to be strong, after all, albeit still flawed as humans naturally were. Endless minutes stretched on by as she strolled about the room restlessly, her heavy weapon carried around as usual, even despite the fact that there was no current need for it.
The pale-haired teenager had liked Kite from the beginning, and thought she made it quite obvious during the time that they spent together, but he could be a little dense sometimes. She was admittedly shy when it came to these kinds of things anyway, so she did occasionally conceal her feelings, or changed the topic somehow before suspicions were cemented. But she couldn't deny the truth to herself, that she did like him, and certainly wouldn't mind meeting him in real life; romance in The World wasn't the most effective, especially considering what Kite had to deal with. If they could meet face-to-face, though, hanging out somewhere together certainly became a possibility, and what a nice thought, just the two of them alone…
Eventually, after spending additional time pacing, she heard shuffling noises, and her head quickly jerked up to identify the newcomer, hoping it wasn't an unwelcome guest, but the one that she was expecting… An orange-tinted hat hiding sky blue tresses made its appearance through the darkness of the doorway, and there he was, the young boy that enticed her with his caring, generous personality and sweet smile. That wasn't on his current expression, however; at present, he looked rather troubled, and although he managed to smile when he saw her, she detected slight unease in his light-shaded eyes. Suddenly, a wave of guilt slammed into her when the older player realized that this decision she and her competition had forced him to make was affecting him more than they thought. It was wrong and selfish of them to assume that he could decide something like this right off the bat, and she instantly felt bad for causing him such distress.
"Kite!" Her heart skipped a beat when she called out his name, though inwardly she cursed herself for acting so childish, like a silly, giggling little schoolgirl.
His smile grew a little bigger, but she could tell that his mind was still preoccupied – he truly was a considerate soul to worry about how everyone felt while first disregarding his own feelings… "H-hey, BlackRose… sorry to keep you waiting."
The pink-haired gamer was already on her over to his position upon his initial arrival, winding up meeting him in the middle, and unable to stop herself, she blurted out, "She isn't around… so does this mean you choose me?"
Kite flushed a little and managed a small nod, to which she responded by flinging her weapon down onto the cold stone floor and threw her arms around his neck, surprising both parties. The younger boy stumbled back a bit from the unexpected spring, but soon recovered and encircled her slender waist as well, his eyes fluttering to a close as he enjoyed the feel of embracing the girl of his affections. The two of them stayed like that for a countless period, just standing there holding each other, marveling at the sensation of finally being able to express dormant secrets that had carefully hibernated for some time. When the parting eventually ensued, the pair blushed just slightly and looked at each other somewhat bashfully, though they were absolutely certain of their feelings for one another.
And all the while the thirteen-year-old continued to retain that sliver of unease in his eyes, as if he was pleased with her bold reaction, but still fretted over the former remaining competitor's well-being. He cared so much about his friends, and she adored that about him, his selflessness and how willing he was to do anything for the greater good, even at the risk of his own health. She wondered how in the world someone like Kite could be single, but reasonably chalked it up to his natural shyness that had probably scared him away from other girls. She did have two years over him, after all, and those simple two years gave her more experience in the world of romance, though she hadn't had the best of boyfriends in the past at her high school.
Glancing away to avoid witnessing the disappointment on his expression that she had helped in causing, BlackRose coughed out her discomfort before inquiring; "You're worried about her… aren't you?"
"Y-yeah…" he answered quietly and hesitantly, as if he were afraid of how she would respond to his concern over the other girl.
"Hey, you don't have to look all nervous like that," she assured him quickly, a small smile curving her lips at his show of timidity, "I'm not gonna get mad at you for being worried about a friend."
"Oh… uh, I was just wondering how Ryoko was doing, that's all…" Kite flushed slightly at the admission, but tension left his facial features and he appeared more at ease now; "I mean, she's alone in some other room, so I hope she isn't in trouble or anything."
"Well… we can go see if she's okay." The Heavy Blade suggested with her tone mild and absent of all former resentment; there was no longer a point in feeling threatened about their mutual ally, and she certainly didn't want to seem cold-hearted.
"BlackRose, wait…" he voiced just as she was turning to head toward the exit.
She reversed the direction and peered at him curiously. "Yeah, Kite? What's up?"
"I… well, kinda… uh, before we go to check up on Ryoko, I wanna talk to you about something first…"
"Okay, sure." A casual shrug ensued at that, and then the fifteen-year-old stood back casually, waiting patiently for him to continue.
"Uh… the reason why I took so long earlier to come here was because… well, you guys kinda put me in a tough spot." Kite confessed while sheepishly scratching his head, as though almost ashamed to express that concern of his aloud.
"Oh… yeah, I figured that much." Embarrassment settled over her expression as she struggled to do something she wasn't too good at: admitting that she did something wrong and apologizing for it. "Listen, I'm… really sorry about that. I know it was stupid of us to force you into choosing who to go with, and I gotta admit… I'm just as much to blame. B-but hey, just remember that you never told us who you liked either, so what were we supposed to think? I mean, we had to find out somehow, right…?"
"I… I guess so…" still, a frown furrowed his brows. "But I wish you guys had done something else, like maybe just asking me… because this was really awkward for all of us, you know."
"No kidding," BlackRose agreed, nodding in further emphasis of her confirmation.
"W-well, if you really wanna know…" Kite began hesitantly, his cheeks flushing up again, but he continued speaking when she encouraged him with her eyes, "BlackRose… no matter what happened, in whatever situation that came up, I'd choose you over anything. I really would. You're my first friend here, and you've been with me since the beginning… you always volunteer to come along to the places I've need to go, and you're always the first one who cures me if I get hurt in battle… No one's cared about me as much as you have, and I-I'm… glad that you've been such a great friend to me. I really like you for that and many other reasons…"
A little stunned by his admission, she gaped at him silently for a few moments before stammering in an uncharacteristic manner, "Oh, w-wow… um… I-I never knew that, Kite." Realizing how strangely she was acting, the pink-haired teenager quickly reverted to her normal self for familiarity's sake and replied somewhat anxiously, "Geez, all right then, I'll admit that I was stupid before. I'm really sorry… okay? I-I'll… tell Ryoko that I'm sorry, if you want me to…"
He looked at her with a bit of surprise on his face, but slowly shook his head. "It'd be nice if you both apologized to each other… but I'm not gonna force you to make the first move. It wouldn't be fair to you if she didn't say she was sorry too."
"Okay then, I'll try to talk to her about it the first chance we get… how's that?" She compromised, determined to make the uncomfortable situation up to him.
Kite gave her one of his trademark beaming smiles in response, and with all his sincerity, was enough to convince her that he felt very happy that she wanted to try working out the problem for his sake. The Heavy Blade grinned back, and then jerked her head toward the exit in a gesture that suggested the two should leave soon to find their dungeon-bound friend. He nodded in agreement and they both started walking, their pace rather slow to further enjoy being together, just the two of them with each other, shared affections blossoming a newborn relationship. As they approached the doorway that would lead out of the large room, the cerulean-haired boy tentatively took a hold of her hand, startling BlackRose a bit and making her stop, but she merely glanced at him fondly in return.
"There's one more phase left…" he noised quietly as he looked down and folded her single hand between both of his, giving her a gentle squeeze before he lifted his head up once again to forge eye-contact with his new girlfriend. "Do you think we can beat whatever it is, and bring all the people in the real world out of their comas?"
"We will, don't worry!" She insisted passionately, determination in her ruby irises as her expression turned serious just then. "We have to, so we can save everyone and bring everything back to normal…"
"You… uh, will you come with me to fight the last phase, BlackRose?"
"Of course!" BlackRose exclaimed, feigning shock as she continued with a thoroughly truthful statement that brought him vivid memories, "I haven't missed a single one so far, right?"
"That's true," he replied with a small grin, feeling sheepish that he would even doubt that about her. "All right then, we're gonna do this. For everyone… especially your brother, Kazu."
She gave him a sweet smile at the mention, and returned the kind gesture with, "For your friend, Yasuhiko."
He ensued movement all of a suddenly, and before she knew it, he had leaned forward and gently brushed his lips against hers in a shy first kiss, and then withdrew just slightly after that to murmur softly, "And for us."
Author's Note: Waah, and there is my first .hack fic! Oi, my fellow .hack fans, please tell me that I didn't butcher the characters too badly… When entering a new fandom, I'm always afraid of making the characters in my story act too differently from the game. 0 But regardless of that fear factor, let me tell ya, I was hit with some serious sudden inspiration after I saw that dungeon scene with Kite, BlackRose, and Terajima Ryoko, so I just had to write this. As much as I adore Ryoko, I love Kite and BlackRose together more than anything, so I'm sorry to you Ryoko fans out there who wanted her to end up with Kite in this fic. Thank you to all of the readers that took the time to read this fic, and please leave a review to tell me how I did. Kite x BlackRose for life! =)
With love for my fans,