Author's Note: A sweet fight right off the bat. Also, there's the appearance of another new character. This is definitely the longest chapter I've written in a long time! Take it away, Disclaimer!
Disclaimer: Angelglory does not own ".hack/" But he does own the new characters, such as Suma and Eterni. They've just been altered to fit the ".hack/" world.
Chapter 4: The Apprentice of Affection
White. All around was a white room that continued on forever. The Twin Blade, Suma, stood lost in the vastness.
And before him lay an odd scene. A fragment of something that ceased to continue. A woman held a man in her arms, the man lying on the ground dead. The woman had large wings sprouting from her back. But yet, neither of them had faces. Mere mannequins of what they should be.
"What…what is this place?" Suma mumbled.
Follow the light, and you will surely be taken.
Deny the light, and you will surely be stolen.
What will you do? Escape slips from your grasp.
You must take yourself to end it.
These words didn't make any sense. What did they mean? Suma stood there, staring at the faceless dolls that lay before him, trying to comprehend these words.
It was then that something began to happen.
A distortion in reality came into existence. Red as blood, an object began rising from the floor. Several more objects rose up from the floor after it. They seemed to be connecting to each other, taking the form of something.
Finally, in its completion, it revealed itself. A crimson red bracelet hovered before him now, with what seemed to be three large wings protruding from it.
Suma stared at this object as it floated in front of him. It closely resembled Kite's glowing bracelet… but why? Was there some sort of connection? Subconsciously, the Twin Blade began to raise his right hand. He reached for the red bracelet, as if he longed for it. In turn, the bracelet slowly moved towards him.
As the two met, everything faded from sight and the white room was replaced with darkness.
The group of players all stared at the Magic Portal, as it became more solid with every passing second.
Kite tightened his grip on his blades and shifted into a fighting stance. BlackRose glanced at her partner quickly then took her own stance.
River stumbled a few steps back, while he nervously held his staff in his hands.
Everyone else cautiously fell into fighting stances. An overwhelming feeling of danger pulsed out from the portal.
The Magic Portal suddenly activated and the seal began to release. River stepped back some more, his body trembling. Just stay back and heal, he thought.
"Now!" Kite shouted as he leaned forward and burst into a sprint.
He reached the portal just as it completely released; he swung down hard at whatever it was that emerged.
There was a heavy impact as two blades clashed fiercely. As Kite looked up at what he was fighting with, a moment of shock beyond reason streaked across his face.
He saw another Kite staring back at him. The other Kite had patches all over its clothes, an unnatural shadow covered its right eye, and an emotionless expression was painted on its face. It had a pair of monstrous blades with three edges projecting from both of them.
It had blocked Kite's attack effortlessly with only one blade. The DotHacker applied more force, trying to push the other him back. But it remained still, unfazed by Kite's added strength.
Suddenly, it moved its blade and caught one of Kite's weapons in between two of its edges. It yanked Kite's blade from his hand, throwing the weapon across the room. It then retaliated with a swift kick to the Twin Blade's stomach. After, it smashed its other blade into his jaw. The force of the assault sent the dotHacker spiraling into the ground next to BlackRose.
"Kite! Are you okay?" BlackRose shouted, kneeling down next to the Twin Blade.
Kite coughed harshly as he tried to catch his breath. "I'm all right. But that thing is incredibly powerful," he replied.
River scurried towards Kite and BlackRose. "Don't worry, I'll heal you," he said.
The other Kite watched the Wavemaster for a moment, and then it instantaneously darted towards the Fountain of Youth.
It tackled River and pinned him against the wall with its left blade through his right shoulder. The Wavemaster cried out in pain as he felt the blade sinking into his flesh and piercing his shoulder bone. The fake Kite then raised its right blade up into the air, preparing to rend River's head from his shoulders.
"River!" Eterni lunged at the other Kite. "Brandish!" She swung her axe full force at it, but only to have the blow blocked by its right blade.
Leaving River stuck to the wall, the fake Kite turned its attention to the Heavy Axeman. The fake slashed and swiped its remaining blade at Eterni with ferocious intent, with the Wingless trying to block the hurricane of strikes as best as she could.
"I shall smite this imposter! Rai Basher!" Piros the Silver White thrust his axe at the fake Kite with amazing speed. But the attack was easily hurdled over.
The fake landed on Piros' axe. It then dashed up the handle and kicked the Axeman in the jaw, causing him to stumble back. About to lop Piros' head right off, an arrow came right towards the fake.
The fake Kite instinctively caught the arrow with its left hand, snapping the arrow in two.
"What? But Charm Arrow should've worked!" Love shouted in a confused manner.
The other Kite now switched its attention to the Archmaster. Jumping off of Piros, it began strolling over to Love, who frantically reached for another arrow.
"Hey, stay back you creep! Go away!" Love shouted as she fumbled for an arrow. But the fake kept stalking towards her.
With the fake distracted by Love, Kite was able to retrieve his other blade and launch a sneak attack. As the other Kite got too close for comfort to the Archmaster, the real Kite slashed at it from behind.
"Staccato!" Kite ripped into the back of his fake, landing many hits and sending it reeling into the air.
BlackRose rushed in, sword stabbing the floor. Building momentum, she pushed down and flipped into the air. "Death Bringer!" The Deadly Flower brought her blade down hard on the fake, slamming it into the hard stone floor.
The other Kite somehow was able to keep the weapon from skewering it by blocking the blade with its boot. BlackRose tried overcoming the fake by breaking through its guard. But it was stubbornly persistent.
The Heavy Blade was growing frustrated. "Damn it, it's not working!" she growled.
Sensing an opening, the fake kicked the sword aside with its free foot. It leapt away into a corner and then just stood there.
Kite suddenly felt a reaction; he looked towards the Bracelet and saw that it was resonating. Glancing back at the other Kite, he saw a similar radiance coming from its right wrist.
Both Kites locked eyes as they raised the right hands, showing their bracelets.
Kite's green and the other red.
BlackRose gazed between the bracelets, completely shocked. "Kite…what's going on? Why does that thing have a bracelet too?"
"Who are you?" the Twin Blade asked his other self.
The fake lowered his hand and his head. An eerie voice boomed out and echoed through out the room.
"The Children need to be cleansed…"
It then fell forward onto the stone floor. A bright light engulfed it, nearly blinding everyone in the room.
As the light died down, someone else was laying on the ground instead of the fake.
By that time, Eterni had gotten River unpinned from the wall and rejoiced the rest of the players. When she saw who was lying there, she gasped and ran over to his side.
The Wingless shook her friend, desperately trying to wake him. "Suma! Suma! Please wake up! Please!"
But The Scythe remained unconscious. Kite was dumbfounded, what he had just witnessed… he didn't know what to think.
All he could do was look at Suma with a deep feeling of concern for the future.
I woke up face down on my keyboard a few days later, my back aching. A day or two had past by since I found that white room. But the thing is… I don't remember anything after that. Had it been a dream?
More like a nightmare…
The more I thought about it, the more I remembered. I recalled a part that definitely was a dream. I was being attacked by a group of shadows. Some kind of monsters, maybe.
I was able to hold my own, until I got hit from behind a dozen times, then almost spilt in two by a shadow's huge sword!
Placing the nightmare aside, I decided to log onto "The World". Only to discover that… I'm still logged on! Crap!
Suma the Scythe abruptly opened his eyes and looked around. He recognized the building structures surrounding him; he was in Mac Anu again. He stretched his arms and cracked his back as he stood up.
He had really been out for all that time?
"So, have you been reading the Board lately?" a girl's voice asked.
"Yeah, but it doesn't make any sense." Another feminine voice replied.
"I know, people getting hurt? What's with that? Is everyone just getting dumber or something?" the first girl ranted.
The second girl laughed, "I dunno. Could be. But some people are taking it really seriously."
"Yeah, I even heard the Blademaster Army is getting all riled up about it," the first girl pointed out.
"They'll go crazy about anything nowadays. Anyway, how's that little lover boy of yours?" the second girl asked.
The first girl giggled at the comment. "Still asleep. He's been out for a couple of days now."
I've heard that voice somewhere before, Suma thought. But where?
The Scythe poked his head out from behind the corner he was hiding behind. He saw that annoying Archmaster, Love, talking to a female Wavemaster. Love's eyes shifted towards Suma. When she saw him, she gasped slightly and abruptly ended her conversation with her friend.
"Well, uh, anyway, I gotta go for now. See ya!" Love shouted as she dove at Suma, shoving him back around the corner. The Wavemaster shrugged and went on her merry way.
Love looked nervously at the angry Twin Blade. "Suma, how've you been?" she asked.
"Just who was that girl calling me your 'lover boy'?" The Scythe grumbled, crossing his arms.
"Oh, don't mind that. What's more important is that you're awake and still alive!" she exclaimed, the Archmaster's mood instantly changing to cheerful.
Suma stammered a bit. "Whaddya mean 'still alive'?" he asked.
Love smirked, sensing the Twin Blade's curiosity. "Do you realize how many PKers are after you? You'd be mincemeat if it weren't for the Apprentice of Affection taking you back to Root Town all by herself."
Suma was at a loss for words. "Uhh…uh…well…"
"And if I hadn't watched over you while you were snoozing away, you'd be dead and without any of your items! Players can by so cruel," Love continued, placing the back of her right hand against her forehead in an overacting manner.
Suma lowered his head and mumbled something.
The Archmaster leaned in a little bit. "What was that? You have to talk louder," she said, a mischievous smile on her face.
"Thanks…" the Twin Blade grumbled.
"What?" Love asked, pretending not have heard the first time.
"God Damn it! I said thank you!" Suma yelled at the top of his lungs. Every player in the general area jumped at the sudden increase in volume.
"You don't have to so loud! Talk about cranky," the Archmaster complained.
Suma growled and shook his head, hoping to change to conversation, "ANYWAY, do Eterni and River know that I'm alright?"
Love just rolled her eyes. "Of course, silly. They've come by everyday to visit you. Eterni's been worried sick about you, ya know?"
Suma raised an interested eyebrow. "Is that true?"
"She's right, Suma," a voice answered from around the corner of the building, it was Eterni. She crossed her arms with a troubled look on her face. "I really have been worried."
The Twin Blade cleared his throat a little, trying to draw the attention away from his slightly red face. "Well, uh, thanks I-I guess," he stuttered.
Eterni sensed her friend's embarrassment and smiled. A sly smile crept onto Love's face, but she kept to herself.
As Suma looked around, trying to find something to break the awkward silence, he spotted something lingering behind The Wingless. With a curious look on his face, he quietly pointed to the thing hiding behind Eterni.
The Heavy Axeman followed the Scythe's finger, as she looked backward. Eyeing what Suma was pointing to; she stepped out of the way to reveal River. The Wavemaster was caught off guard by Eterni's sudden movements, causing him to gasp a little.
"Oh, hey there River," Suma said upon seeing his other friend standing there.
But The Fountain of Youth just stood there in a daze. His left hand tugged nervously at the bandage cloth around his right shoulder. It seemed like he wanted to say something, but he bit his lower lip and suddenly ran off into the bustling aquatic capital.
"River! Wait a minute!" Eterni called out the Wavemaster. Unable to see him anymore, she turned back to Suma and Love. "Sorry about that… I'll go look for him. See you around, Suma."
And with that, Eterni also dashed into Mac Anu.
Suma scratched the back of his neck and said, "Hmm, wonder what's up with him."
Love had an expression like she knew something about it, but she just coughed and changed the subject, "Ahem, I'm sure it's nothing. Anyway, I think it's time for a debt to be repaid?"
Suma just turned to the Archmaster with a skeptical look. "Dwha?"
Love let out an aggravated sigh and slouched over. "Oh c'mon! Don't think you're getting off without paying me back. You owe me big time!" she barked.
Suma's skeptical gaze just got worse. "You can't frikkin' be serious…" he replied curtly.
"I AM! You're so inconsiderate!" The Apprentice of Affection bellowed. She immediately recovered from her outburst by clearing her throat and letting out a heavy sigh. "All right, here's what gonna happen. You're coming with me to Delta: Lonely Law's Drift and we're going to get me some rare treasure."
The Twin Blade rested his hands on his hips. "What makes you think I'll go with you? I hardly even like you," he commented.
A devious smirk unraveled onto Love's face. "Because if you don't," she approached The Scythe as she spoke, "Then I can't be certain that I'll be able to control my whirlwind of emotions for you." Suma just stared at her with an odd expression. The Archmaster ran her index finger down Suma's coat. "I'll declare my feelings for you to everyone in 'The World'," she remarked with a hint of seduction in her voice and in her eyes.
Suma could tell that Love was joking with him. But still, he had a feeling that she'd actually go that far just to embarrass him. "Let's just get this over with," he grumbled, turning his face away from the giggling Archmaster.
Love returned to her spontaneous emotional self. "Great! To Delta: Lonely Law's Drift!" she shouted joyfully.
Suma received Love's Member Address.
Various rock structures protruded from the ground, and odd statues were scarcely spread throughout the field. It had just started raining when the two players Gated In. Love frowned as she looked up at the dark clouds overhead.
"That's weird, it never rains on this field…" she stated. (X)
"Whatever," muttered Suma, as he grabbed his blades. "Just keep an eye out for monsters, will ya?"
"I'll send a Fairy Orb, then," the Archmaster answered as a small ball of light hovered out from her pocket. The light flew high into the darkened sky. A few moments later, it returned to Love with a message.
The Apprentice of Affection was a little confused by the message, "That's weird, no Magic Portals on the field at all. Wait, there were some all around the entrance, but it looks like someone else activated them before we got here."
Suma suddenly remembered back to when he and Eterni had met River. That field had Magic Portals surrounding the dungeon entrance as well. An unsettling chill ran down Suma's spine.
"Something's up," the Twin Blade replied, "We should leave."
Love waved her hand lazily at The Scythe. "Don't be such a fraidy cat! It's less work for us in the long run. Let's just head for the dungeon, I can hear that treasure calling me!"
As the two reached the dungeon entrance, they came to find a huge armored statue blocking the way inside.
"Hey! Who put this dumb statue here? It's blocking my way to the treasure!" Love shouted, fuming.
Suma just sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. "Someone else who doesn't like you. And I don't think that thing's gonna move for you…"
"I don't care! Let me through, you big meanie!" she snarled as she kicked the statue's shin.
"I'm afraid I can't do that," the statue replied.
Love jumped backwards nearly ten feet. Suma fell on his backside when he heard the inanimate object give a reply. Did the statue just talk back?
"AH! It talks! It's a poltergeist! Make it go away, Suma!" the Archmaster screamed with panic as she flailed her arms about.
Suma regained his composure quickly, as he looked the talking statue over. A sweat drop rolled down his forehead. "That's no statue…"
The Twin Blade pointed up at the suspected statue. "It's a player! It's Asgard the Fortress."
Love was now legitimately confused. "Asgard?"
"Yeah, Asgard the Fortress is a Heavy Axeman player who stands guard at dangerous dungeons to keep low level players from getting themselves killed." Suma answered.
"So, you're heard of me," the statue/player remarked. "I'm not very surprised. I've heard of you as well, Suma the Scythe."
"Yes, you're the Twin Blade who is a big target by a large majority of Player Killers."
The Scythe scratched the back of his head, and chuckled a little. "Well, at least I'm known for something…"
"I've also heard that you're often mistaken for the dotHacker, Kite…" Asgard added.
Suma fell flat on his face.
"Personally, I don't see the resemblance. So you can relax."
Asgard was about twice Suma's size. His body was adorned with heavy black armor with red linings. He wore a helmet that was shaped like a bucket, and a part of it protected his nose from harm. In his right hand he brandished a gargantuan axe that looked powerful enough to take down an entire building.
"Are you two done talking? I want that treasure!" Love barked with agitation.
"I'm sorry, but no one can enter this dungeon at this time," Asgard announced.
Love was nearly heart-broken. "W-What? Why? But I want the treasure, so bad. You can't do this to me!" she sobbed.
"Despite this being a low level field, there have been many complaints about it on the Board recently. All the players who've gone here say there's an overpowered monster in the lowest level. So until the Administrators fix the problem, I'm stopping players from putting themselves in danger," the Fortress told the two players, justifying his motives.
Hearing Asgard's explanation, Suma twitched slightly. This dungeon is just like the other one, no doubt about it. He didn't want to face another threat to his health in cyberspace.
But a small smirk crept onto the Twin Blade's face as he glanced at Love. "Why don't you go check to see if the monster is still there?" he asked slyly.
Love opened her mouth to shout a complaint at Suma but Asgard interrupted her. "It would be wise if you both left this field," he said.
The Archmaster looked as through she just got a Game Over. Sighing in defeat, she turned away from the other players. "Let's go, Suma…" she mumbled.
The Twin Blade felt relieved. He didn't have to trudge around with Love anymore…
"…To the treasure!" Love shouted as she suddenly darted past Asgard and into the dungeon.
Asgard was caught off-guard by Love's abrupt mad dash. "Wait, it's too dangerous!" he called out as he chased after the Archmaster.
Suma was now the only one left at the entrance. Slapping his forehead, he growled, "Damn it, I should've just logged off…" as he followed made his way into the dungeon. Little did he realize the red bracelet on his wrist was glowing eerily as he entered.
Love hustled down the hallway with Asgard following close behind. She didn't care how many Players were chasing her, she wanted that treasure, she needed that treasure and she wouldn't let anyone get in the way of that.
"Miss, you have to stop!" Asgard shouted, "It's too dangerous down here!"
"Lay off, you big oaf! You can't stop me!" Love yelled with determination and she picked up her pace and charged into the next the room.
The Fortress grumbled in protest at the girl's disobedience. "You won't get away from me," he muttered as he continued his pursuit of the Archmaster.
A short time afterward, Suma strolled into the hall with aggravation making good friends with him. The Twin Blade grumbled a little with every step. He kept asking himself why he even went into the dungeon. He knew there was something really dangerous at the bottom, yet his virtual body continued moving forward. Something deep down inside him told him to keep going, whether he wanted to or not.
"Why do I always have to listen to my gut?" The Scythe muttered as he continued his way further into the dungeon.
The Apprentice of Affection entered the room with the Gott Statue, smiling triumphantly about her victory. No monster in this dungeon even bothered to appear to futilely try and stop her. The Archmaster skipped happily over to the treasure that lay before the Gott Statue.
"I finally found it," she remarked, overjoyed.
Love opened the treasure chest and looked at what was inside. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Letting it soak in for a second or two, Love suddenly started crying. What she had been searching for wasn't here after all. Had she been lied too? Why wasn't it here? Nearly collapsing against the chest, the Archmaster began sobbing uncontrollably.
"No! Why aren't you here!" she yelled as she hit the empty box with desperate yet weak blows. "It's supposed to be here! Why isn't it here! Why?" she asked no one.
Asgard stood quietly at the room's entrance, watching this spectacle with a look of guilt on his face that hid behind his helmet. Had he not let her through, she wouldn't have found an empty chest.
The Gott Statue eventually deactivated and ceased its floating, tumbling down into the crevice of the room and landing on something. Stirring awake from its slumber, something began moving slowly.
Suma walked into the room and stood next to Asgard. "What's with her?" he asked The Fortress, as he observed Love.
"Some deeper issues, I would assume. It's best to just let her vent," the Heavy Axeman replied.
The Twin Blade just sighed and crossed his arms. "Why am I not surprised?" he thought to himself.
Love continued her crying as she clung to the treasure chest; as if holding might make what she was searching for appear. But unbeknownst to her, two long claw-like legs began emerging from the pit where the Gott Statue had fallen.
However, Asgard and Suma noticed right away. "What the…?" Suma exclaimed.
"It's the monster! Miss, get away from there!" Asgard shouted as he pulled up his axe.
Love sniffled as she looked back at the two players confusedly. "What…?" She turned her gaze towards the beast as it hoisted itself into view. Letting out a terrified scream, the Archmaster tried to scoot away from the monster that had just revealed itself.
The arachnid-like creature had two long claw-like legs as well as several small legs. Its hide was armored by a thick shell as tough as nails and it had two beady eyes on the front of its face.
Striking first, the monster lunged one of its smaller legs at Love. Its claw pierced right through her left leg and stopped her from getting away.
"Damn it! Leave her alone!" Suma yelled as he drew his twin blades.
But before he could do anything, the beast's two largest legs darted forward and pinned the Scythe and the Fortress against the wall. It dug its claw into Asgard's right shoulder while the other claw went straight into Suma's stomach. The Twin Blade coughed up a little blood as he could feel the monster's claw wrenching into him.
"I can't move! It's too strong!" Asgard growled as he tried to break free from the beast's grip.
The monster let out a low hiss as it slowly started to draw Love closer by pulling her by her skewered leg. The Archmaster tried her best to remove the claw from her limb but to no avail. The beast was going to devour her, which would be very bad.
"If that thing has its way, then the game's gonna kill her!" Suma realized.
The Scythe tried to pull the monster's claw from his stomach, but it was to powerful. His surroundings started to swirl and lose focus. He was losing consciousness fast and if he didn't do something about it, he'd be dead too.
The creature continued to pull Love closer to itself. She was close enough that the monster removed its claw from her leg and jabbed it into her left shoulder. The Apprentice of Affection cried out in pain and reached for her shoulder.
"This isn't good, we're all dead if we don't do something. Come on! Think, damn it!" Suma yelled in his mind.
Use the Bracelet.
"Huh? Who was that?"
Suma's right wrist began to glow in an eerie red light and a shimmering bracelet came into form around it. Acting on instinct, the Scythe grasped the beast's claws once again. But this time, the claw began to disintegrate. The creature snarled in protest and it cringed and began flailing.
Free from the monster's grip, Suma lunged ferociously at the monster with his right hand out stretched. Slamming his open palm into the beast's face, Suma forced it back. It withdraw its claw from Love's shoulder, fell into the crevice, and onto the Gott statue.
The monster wailed in pain as it flailed its legs about, breaking the walls around it. Rubble and debris fell onto it, ending its pain.
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAs the dust settled, Suma stood panting before the pile of rocks. He held his stomach with his right hand while his left hung limply at his side. He was glaring a hole through the destruction with a dark look on his face. He was nowconvinced thatThe World was trying to kill its Players. And that pissed him off.
A sharp cry of agony from behind him snapped him back into his head. He turned to see Love sobbing on the ground as she clutched onto her shoulder. Asgard, now able to move, made his way over and gently took the Archmaster into his arms.
"Suma, we have to get back to Root Town as soon as possible and get help for her," he stated.
Suma let out a few more ragged breathes before he nodded and took a Sprite Ocarina from his pocket. Barely managing to play the instrument, a warm light surrounded the three players and warped them back to the field. From there, they returned to Root Town…
I'm very proud of this chapter. I really like how it came out. R 'n' R Please. Thanks!
(X): Love is actually wrong. In the game, on that field, it's always raining. I just changed it to fit the story.