Disclaimer: I do not affiliate with Project .hack/ in any way. It does not belong to me. It is licensed by Bandai. The original story of AI Buster was written by Tatsuya Hamazaki.
Author's Note: Ugh...editing this thing to avoid the least amount of document changes after uploading is annoying..."Merci beaucoup" (I'm taking French, which is also why the town's name is French. If someone would please tell me which language the real server towns' names are, I would greatly appreciate it) to everyone who reviewed! Your reviews really helped me continue this fic. Even merely telling me what parts you guys liked helped me. Sorry it took so long. My will to write just comes and goes. Oh…and I'm bumping the rating up to T to be safe. Hope you don't mind.
"This place… This place is…" I started to mumble as we finished warping into this map. Gaudy and tacky were the first words that came to mind, but they were so in such a high degree that I couldn't bring myself to say the words out loud. We were now in a town up in the heavens, held up by the clouds. This place was to act as a sort of 'lobby' or 'waiting room' until the actual event started. The buildings of this town were in many horrendous shades of pink and red. I peered inside one of the shop windows to see an abundant amount of roses and extremely lacy curtains. It was all very sickening for me. 'Why, Hokuto…Why did you drag me along?'
As I glanced at the sign which revealed the town's name, Le Ciel De l'Amour, Hokuto finished the sentence I had neglected to complete. "This place is absolutely gorgeous!" I stared at her with a perplexed look. "Whoever designed this town has good taste!" Rolling my eyes at my monitor, I questioned both Hokuto and the event planner's tastes. She turned to me and said, "So what do we do? We have at least 30 minutes…I want to do something!"
"Well…" I said, walking through the town paths randomly, "…Probably registering for the event should be our main priority before anything else. Some events only allow a certain amount of players to participate. They could allow 16, 32, or even 100 pairs of players to participate. Who knows? None of the ordinary players know until the start of the event, unless it is stated in the event's BBS topic."
Hokuto stared at me questioningly. "But aren't you a…"
I quickly shushed at her to get her to stop talking. "Don't talk about that here. Anyway, that's not my job, so don't ask me." We came across the people managing event registration, sitting at a desk. "Well, here we are. You're the one that dragged me here, Hokuto, so you take care of the registration."
I watched as Hokuto walked up to the two event managers, who were wearing painfully bright colored matching suits. One of them looked up at her and smiled. "Welcome to Le Ciel De l'Amour…" He made a slight pause, presumably to check the list of players. "…We still have a few spots left on the list. Do you want to register for this one-time-only event?" said the man. I noticed a hint of exasperation and tiredness in his voice. If I had to say something over and over, I'd be like that too.
"Yes, please. Sign us up as Albireo and Hokuto," she said with an unusual politeness. Very strange with her, she's usually so loud and annoying. In fact, I don't even believe I have ever heard her say anything polite (to me anyway).
As I pondered over how polite Hokuto really was, the two people seemed to be taking a little longer than they should have. "Excuse us for a moment. We need to discuss something with your partner," the man said to Hokuto. A whispered message suddenly appeared on my chat window. I took off my FMD and read.
Farrion: Excuse me. You work for CC Corporation as Chief Debugger,
do you not? What is your business here?
Albireo: Yes, I am chief debugger of the Cobalt Knight Brigade. Is there
Farrion: Well, we find it strange for another admin to be entering
Albireo: So? There is no rule stating that I can't play as a normal
player. Neither is there a rule against registering for another
There was a somewhat long period of time before a message was sent to me again. Most likely to discuss the ordeal over with the other employees involved in the event.
Farrion: …Fine. But we will have temporarily strip your character
of its administrative privileges, options, etc. They will be
reactivated once the event is over. It's not that we don't trust
you, but we want to make sure.
Albireo: That will be okay with me.
My character's status window automatically opened. I watched as my parameters were toned down to normal levels. As part of the debugging team, we were given parameter increases to give us a sort of edge in PvP battles against hackers and such. I glanced at the game interface and saw that all of my administrative abilities had disappeared. Most likely, my ability to use cheats was gone as well. All this suggested that at least part of the event had something to do with battling a strong monster.
I placed my FMD on my head and my first-person view of Le Ciel (for some reason, I can't say the entire name with grace, thus I decided to shorten it to my advantage) was returned to me. Hokuto was tapping her foot to show her impatience. "Al, what was that about?"
"It's nothing too important," I whispered. Hokuto looked at me with doubt. "Really, it's been taken care of!" What was discussed between employees of the Triple C was none of her business. I heard Hokuto mumble something so incoherent, even the game's message log couldn't pick it up. I wondered what she was thinking. In attempt to break the silence, I asked, "Anyway, what do you want to do next?"
At first, Hokuto was freakishly silent; she didn't say a thing. I assumed that she didn't want to do much of anything right now. But soon I realized that my assumption was extremely wrong. I watched as she turned to the section of the town that I least wanted to be in – the event souvenir stands. To be fair to newer players, some items over there were free. But the better items were labeled with atrociously high prices; these were the items I was hoping not to come across. I've dreaded that she would come to this place sooner or later. After regaining my losses from my last 'shopping spree' with Hokuto, I was hoping not to have such a horrible experience happen to my wallet of money again. Sadly though, it appeared that I had fallen into the clichéd phrase, 'History always repeats itself.' I watched as Hokuto walked over…to the stand with the most expensive items; which, unfortunately, were barely affordable for me. I noticed that Hokuto was eyeing a necklace. It was a beautiful one, I have to admit, but it looked like a total budget-killer. "This necklace would look so great on me!
'Maybe if I run off to the other side of town, I won't have to pay,' I thought as I inched away from the area. This did not mean I was ditching her from the event entirely. But my savings were too meager for me to spend on event items. I walked slowly in a somewhat zigzagging pattern as to not give reason for Hokuto to give suspicion. Looking around for a valid place to hide from Hokuto, I spotted a small, secluded, and accessible building over in the corner of town. A perfect spot to hide until the actual event starts. As I slowly swerved over to the shop, people who had seen me earlier with Hokuto and/or noticed that I was moving away from her while she was shopping were openly making comments. They did not understand the dangers of knowing a person like Hokuto…
Xaktor: Hey, isn't that the guy who was making that one girl
cry in Mac Anu?
Caris: Yeah. Oh, look! He's running away from her again! You
Xaktor: Oh? Where is the girl right now?
Caris: Over at the shops…
P1MPM4573R: Looks like all he cares about is his wallet.
mina1968: (censored)! Eh? What was that strange sound?
mina1968: …………What? "Cursing not allowed in major event
channel?" What the (censored) kind of (censored) is that?
P1MPM4573R: Mina, you might want to…
mina1968: Shut up! I say what I want to (censored) say
about those (censored) (censored) at CC Corp! They can
kiss my (censored) for adding such a-
Several ear-splitting noises replaced the curse words in order censor them out for those within earshot. And suddenly, the player was silenced; she could say no more. This usually meant that there was going to be a little argument between the offending player and the staff. An admin appeared in front of her. It was the same one that I had an argument with just a few moments ago. This time though, he had edited his character avatar to give himself a more Grim Reaper-like look. He then spoke out here offense as if he was an actual judge. "mina1968, you are hereby banned from entering The World for 2 weeks and instantly disqualified from today's event. Have a nice day! " He took out a long-arms weapon that resembled a scythe and slashed at the player. Her avatar fragmented as if she was actually going to be deleted. The admin looked like he was having fun banning people.
Albireo: …I've heard of programmer nerds who tend to spice up
their actions with special effects, but that was ridiculous.
Farrion: Let this event be a warning to you all. I see and
hear all evil.
Xaktor: Oh, how scary.
Farrion: How right you are. I can even do this.
Xaktor: …Hey! What did you do to my stats? And my
beautiful avatar! You disfigured it! Are you on crack or
something? Is this how CC Corp employees treat their consumers?
Eventually, he had reached the cursed limit as well, and was kicked out in just the same fashion. This time, the fault lied mostly on the administrator. The one known as Farrion teleported away, presumably to find another victim. I took out a piece of paper, making a note to report the nutcase later. I was about to resume my walk towards my destination until an event announcement.
Attention: Due to several players' misconduct, spaces for
participating in today's event has been opened. Hurry
before event registration closes!
Due to the most recent announcement, people were around me were dashing over to the registration desk in hopes of being able to participate in the event (Heck, I was willing to give the spot I was in; all they had to do was ask). Being in the middle of the crowd, I was being pushed back to the event souvenir stands wave after wave. I struggled to break free, but to no avail. 'Cupid has no mercy on me today, huh?'
As expected, I was brought back to my starting point after the crowd dispersed. The minutes I had wasted walking over to the building in a zigzag manner was completely negated by two players who couldn't clean out their vocabulary. And unfortunately for me, Hokuto was done looking around. She held up two items in front of me. "I'll take these, Al!" One of them was the necklace we spotted a while ago, which had of price of 50,000 G. I cursed to myself. The other was an elegant dress. This was the true budget killer. It alone was priced at 125,000 G. Worst of all, I could afford it, and there was no way I could I hide that from Hokuto, who could see the amount of gold I had in hand (200,000 G) by simply checking my character status, a feature I currently hate. There are times when I question Hokuto's expensive choice in items as a sort of punishment for mistreatment. This is one of those times.
I sat in my seat, hesitant to touch the mouse. Hokuto was looking at me with an expectant smile. I groaned as I gave up. '…Damn, girls really are worth time and money. This one especially…' I sent her the money and watched my 200,000 G drop to a mere 25,000 G. "Geez, I pity your parents. I really do." She apparently ignored my snide comment and went on to buy the items, showing no guilt whatsoever of almost completely spending my gold.
Mourning over my heavy loss of gold, I moved my character over towards a nearby bench as I waited for Hokuto to finish up. To pass the time, I decided to do what most people thought was a useful skill: eavesdrop. I was hoping that I would be able to find a conversation that actually interested me. But alas, many people were either whispering (or talking rather; most were in talk mode) sweet nothings in each other's ears, or making predictions on what will happen during this event (I, for one, was hoping for something a little challenging to make my day at least a little better). One particular conversation between two wavemasters caught my attention. At first, it seemed like a sappy, romantic conversation like the rest, but it eventually escalated into something further.
The male wavemaster, whose slender build and gentle-looking eyes went well together with his nervous voice, spoke first. I noticed a hint of a foreign accent as he spoke. "…You know, we've known each other for almost about a year, and I finally have enough for a flight to Japan and sev-…"
The female, who sounded a lot more outgoing compared to her lover, interrupted him before he could complete his thought. (Kind of like another ditzy wavemaster I know…) "Oh my God, you're finally going to visit? I'm so happy! But first, I have to clean my house and-"
He halted her with his hand. "Um, that's not…the only reason I'm going. Er…here, let me send you a pic to help you understand…" At that moment, I knew what he was planning to do. It was so painfully obvious at that point, I almost felt like laughing out loud. "Well, I believe you have received it…What's your answer?"
The neutral expression on her character's face actually made her reaction of shock more believable. "…Y…You're actually…" The outburst of emotion that came after these words ruined what could have been a touching (yet still a little cheesy) scene. "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! Yes, of course I'll marry you! I have to tell my parents, and my friends, and…"
The male wavemaster sighed. "And I was hoping for a small reception…" Apparently, everyone else noticed this little event and crowded them around to give them congratulations.
I rolled my eyes at the scene and glanced back at the souvenir stand, wondering if Hokuto was finished. She wasn't even there. I thought of this as a perfect chance to escape from this heart decorated hell. But before I could even think about logging out… "Love is a powerful thing, isn't it?" She was standing right behind me with a smile on her face. Hokuto sat down next to me on the bench.
I replied to her with a skeptical tone. "What…between those two over there?"
"Yeah! To be able to maintain a relationship strictly online for so long and then finally deciding to marry? It serves as good inspiration!" One must question what she meant by inspiration. It could have meant inspiration for other couples, or her own personal inspiration for her writing.
"Hmph. It won't last long. Online relationships, especially those that proceed too quickly, like this one, die out pretty quick," I said after switching to whisper mode. I admit that I might have sounded a little cynical with that comment. But learning from others' experiences, I could very well say that this was fact.
Hokuto sounded as if she thought of these words as blasphemy. She was still in talk mode as she spoke. People were starting to notice. "Al! That's just rude! If they get to know each other online while-"
"Hey, put yourself on whisper. I already have enough infamy because of you. Anyway, it's true. It's very easy to 'replace' your true personality online without even knowing it. And when the two people finally meet and get to know each other offline, everything starts falling apart."
For once, Hokuto's voice softened to a quiet, gentle voice. Her face was now showing me a saddened expression. "But…that way of thinking is just so…"
"There is no way relationships built up completely online will never work out. That's just what I think." At this moment, she had a neutral expression. Background noises coming from Hokuto's mic were silenced. The last thing I heard was footsteps. She remained idle for a couple of minutes. 'What happened to cause her to leave so suddenly?' I wondered. Things remained like this until five minutes before the start of the event. 'What is she doing right now? If she doesn't turn up, we'll be disqualified from the event!'
Suddenly, Hokuto blinked and rose up from her seat, taking herself out of her idle state. She replied to my long unanswered statement in a quiet voice, which was also a little shaky for some reason. "If that's what you think…"
Attention all players participating in today's event! Please
go to the teleporter at the center of town to take yourselves
to the first part of today's event.
Her back was turned to me as she walked towards the designated spot. She spoke nothing to me as we walked there, except for one sentence. "Let's get this over with…" This came along with more mumbling that neither I nor her mic could pick up. Hokuto left me and walked towards into the teleport, leaving me confused on what exactly she was feeling at that moment.
Author's Notes: Not exactly my best…One can disregard almost this entire chapter and still understand the story in a whole. Forgive me for the lackluster chapter after a near three month wait. I promise you that I will do better in the next. But I hope you enjoyed it at least a little bit. As always, harsh criticism is appreciated.
On a side note, I'm trying to find the canonical real names of the characters from AI Buster, for I will need them later. (I don't want to get too many complaints, for this will most likely be finished AFTER AI Buster 2 is released). I know Albireo's last name is Watarai. I'm not stupid. And I swear I've seen someone mention Hokuto's real name in a comment somewhere…
Well, time for some event planning…