A/N: This is post Volume 3 so ENDING SPOILERS BEWARE! It revolves around the ending and a "wedding scene", a side game where you can choose who Haseo "marries" by maxing out their affection level. Shino is a choice along with Yowkow (Alkaid), Atoli, and all the rest of the cast. Japanese phrases and names are used in this so they will be different from the English version. I have also not seen the actual wedding scene, just two pictures so most of it is made up – however I have seen the ending and translated it for the story. So beware of spoilers. It's a long read and I may write another part for it.
Should we make the Twilight Brigade once more….and look for Ovan?
She stared at the cathedral window. It was just CG – but like so many other times, it felt like she was really there… inside Shino the Harvest, staring at the alter and the beautiful window. There were so many unexplained things, why The World was the way it was, and…
Haseo, do what you think is right.
She felt her hands shake as she held the controller. She listened intently for any sign that the doors to the sacred cathedral would open and he would step inside to explain things. She had said she was watching him, but that didn't explain why.
Why she was alone again.
She looked down at Shino's – her – hand and its black glove with silver bands across the fingers. She had changed Shino – herself – the day that Ovan disappeared. Ovan was still missing, but should she change herself – Shino – again? What would be the point?
No one was there to see anyways.
"You're watching…right, Ovan?" she asked, smiling into the empty space around her. She felt tears but were they hers – or Shino's? She didn't know. "If you're watching…"
She dropped her hand, folded it behind her back and turned towards the alter.
That was the day that she left The World.
Rumors sprang on the BBS almost instantly; rumors about the Harvest that looked like the Legendary PKK Terror of Death's girlfriend, and their relationship. Many said that his heart had been changed from a PKK to the pacifist Tsuki no Ki. Others said that his girlfriend had left him heartbroken so he went to the next best thing: the copy PC.
She hadn't entered The World, but she watched the BBS. She knew what was happening in The World, and its players – but she had distanced herself from it all. She let him be with his choice.
Even though it still hurt.
Tabby – the real Tabby – had met with her several times since she had awoken in the hospital. She was grateful that at least one of the old members of the Twilight Brigade came to see her.
"I met him once," she had said. "Haseo, I mean. I found the hospital you were at…and there was a boy there when I came. They said he had been there everyday since you were placed there. I knew it was him without him saying anything…but, I couldn't think of what to say. So I just stood there and watched him walk away."
She wondered what the real Haseo was like. Tabby had described him in detail: sandy hair with a similar hair style to his PC, with red eyes and slender. He was seventeen, like had said and in High School. Even though she knew this…she felt as if she had still lost the idea of who Haseo was.
Maybe she never knew the real Haseo like the others did. Maybe that was why he made the choice he did.
"You should log back in sometime, Shino-san!" Tabby had said – just as energetic as her PC. "I'm not that strong as you are, but we can still have fun in The World together – right? Maybe visit that dungeon that we first tried? Or maybe even a harder one! Oh please, Shino-san? I miss you!"
She declined the offer.
"Why don't you want to come back, Shino-san?" Tabby asked.
"I'm busy with school, Tabby." She answered calmly. "I have so much catching up to do…"
"Liar." Tabby accused playfully, but still serious. "You are just trying to avoid something in The World. Shino-san is too smart to have to play catch-up for so long."
"Is…it because of Haseo?"
She declined the offer and the statement, but they both knew it was true.
They kept in contact with each other by e-mail, sometimes they would call and sometimes they would meet in person. Everyday she checked her e-mail…but, there was nothing from the person she wanted to hear from. No explanation, no 'I'm sorry', nothing.
One e-mail from Tabby contained a link to a thread on the BBS that she had missed. The thread was asking about the mysterious white-classed figure that was no where in the game stats. Duel-Gunner, the form that Haseo had gained.
Does anyone know who the guy is that has that uber form? The one with the daggers that are guns? I saw him in the field in a party today – and wow! He looked so sexy LOL.
She smiled at the post.
They aren't daggers with guns, they are guns with daggers. It's not in the system, so most likely it was rewarded for some special bonus or something. Anyways, the guy is the PKK the Terror of Death.
No way! The Terror of Death was so scary, this guy is sexy! LOL. Well, if it is, who is that girl that's always with him?
That's one of the Tsuki no Ki members. She's been hanging around with the PKK for the last couple months, ha! Most likely she was the one that turned him from being a PKK – go figure.
Yeah, LOL the Tsuki no Ki Strikes Back!
There was a rumor thread going around about the Terror of Death's girlfriend. According to the fanarts, she looked like that Harvest! I wonder if he just has a thing for girls that run around in hats and lingerie, ROFL.
She began typing:
She was never his girlfriend – they were just good friends in the same guild. She was in the hospital for a while…and came back for a bit. But she's stopped playing now.
She refreshed the page.
Yeah, the response came. Probably because he's running around with that Tsuki no Ki chick, I mean WTF? How can you be so dense to go after a PC? It's just pixels. But I guess when you're the Emperor of the Arena and you're rewarded with a special class model – it doesn't matter! You can have all the chicks you want LOL.
"But the person that wants to be by his side… doesn't get to be." She whispered to herself.
She didn't post anymore on the BBS after that. She lurked around, but never replied after that. The thread disappeared within the next few days, talking about the new upgrade and what was available in it.
"You know, Shino-san…" Tabby said as they walked down the street. "Haseo was asking about you the other day when I was in his party…."
"He said he saw you post on the BBS," Tabby paused, looking at her as she stopped. "You know Haseo, he tries to come off angry when he's trying to hide how worried he is. He knows you haven't logged in…and I guess, he just wants to know why."
She closed her eyes. "I asked something from him…but he didn't want it. He did what he wanted and turned away."
"Turned away?" Tabby blinked. She smiled, she could see Tabby's PC ears tweaking as if they were inside The World. "Do you mean…Shino-san, did he tell you to go away?"
"I asked if he wanted to recreate the Twilight Brigade….and if he wanted to find Ovan," she whispered. "But, he didn't want it. He ran to Atoli when she ran out of the Cathedral. I'm just honoring what he chose."
"Oh…Shino-san…you, you don't think that he decided to chose his new friends over you, do you?" Tabby's eyes widened. "I'm sure that's not what he meant! Haseo is too dense to do something like that, Shino-san. He probably just wanted to comfort Atoli more than looking for Ovan…I mean, well…"
"I guess I was just holding onto something." She looked up at the sky. "I really…did enjoy just sitting there in fields and talking with him. Even though I was worried about Ovan, I felt at peace…and I felt that I could forget about Ovan – the Twilight Brigade – the Key of the Twilight…everything…"
"But, Haseo is in charge of Canard – isn't he? I shouldn't have asked him to drop that and all his friends just for the chance to sit there for hours and talk." She smiled at Tabby, the same way Shino would when she was trying to hide her pain. "It was a stupid and selfish wish, Tabby. That's why I'm not going to go back to The World. It's selfish."
Tabby didn't agree with her. She knew no one would, but it was her choice. Haseo had made his… the least she could do for him, after all of it, was to respect that choice and not step in the way. She knew that her being there would nag at him, cause him to double back and shunt his friends off to try and make her feel better about his reasons. She didn't want that. She wanted Haseo to be happy…but then she wanted to be happy with Haseo.
She didn't know why she was letting The World R:2 load onto her computer. She didn't understand if it was her own desire to see Haseo again, or if it was because Tabby had finally won out in the end. None the less she placed the headset on and opened her – Shino's – eyes to Mac Anu's beautiful dome. She stood there for what felt like eternity, watching people. A few of them stopped and pointed. She didn't care why.
She turned to find Tabby rushing at her, waving. She smiled and waved back, watching as the PC bent down and caught her breath.
Why did that happen? Why was this game so much like reality? You couldn't do any emotes to do an action like that…it was almost like the real Tabby was Tabby. It was almost as if the real her was the Harvest. She didn't understand it. But, none the less she accepted the invitation.
"Where are we going, Tabby?"
"Where do you want to go, Shino-san?" Tabby gleamed, her ears twitching. "We can go anywhere!"
…To see Haseo.
"Hm? Did you say something, Shino-san?" Tabby asked, leaning forward with her ears perked up.
"No." She said quickly with a smile. "Let's go to a random field…or dungeon, or whatever you want. We can talk, or we can play…I don't mind either."
"Hmm, if we talk, then Shino-san won't talk." Tabby teased. "You'll just stand there and stare out into the sky!" She walked up to the portal with a devilish grin on her face. "Let's go!"
"Where are we going?"
"That's a surprise!"
She didn't pay attention to the area name, because if she did she knew that'd disappoint Tabby. The area loaded – just a simple field with low level monsters. It was night time, the lights were out and the crickets in the game chirping. She opened her eyes and felt it again, that connection with the Harvest that made her feel as if she were Shino inside the game, that The World was her world.
She turned and looked around, seeing Tabby running towards the Temple. She quickly raced after her, avoiding the monsters as if they were nothing. They ran down the temple stairs and ended up in the Statue Room, staring up at the statue and its locked treasure.
"Ne, ne this brings back memories doesn't it, Shino-san?" Tabby smiled with her ears twitching.
Don't be like that. We need you. You have a special trait.
Welcome – to The World.
..I don't get you.
She froze instantly and brought herself back from her memories. She looked at her screen, finding that Tabby had disbanded their party. She felt her hands trembling – or were they Shino's? She turned slowly, bringing her eyes up to see who had joined her and Tabby in the Temple. She nearly dropped the controller, and Shino had lost her posture at that moment. He was standing there – his new PC, with different hair and markings and outfit …but he had the same eyes. The ruby eyes she had come to love instead of the cold smooth glasses of an unobtainable man.
"Ehh…I'm sorry, Shino-san…" she heard Tabby's voice. "I was just…you two were so sad and I didn't want to see a falling out again…like, with the Twilight Brigade…"
"…. You're sad?" she blurted out in real life, she was sure she had muted the microphone, but Haseo looked at her deeply with a solemn face on.
As if he was saying: "…Yes."
She felt herself shaking. Shino was shaking. She brought her hands up to her chest, turning around and facing the warp point.
"Shino – wait!"
But she had already warped back to Mac Anu. She had logged out and thrown her face mount on, running off the computer and into the small bedroom in her cramped apartment. She didn't know what to think or what to do now except leave The World. She shouldn't have logged back in; it just made her more vulnerable to the past. She buried her face in her pillow.
Repth! Repth! Shino…oi, pick up your phone! Shino, no…hold on! Please! SHINO!
She woke up screaming, covering her mouth and feeling tears on her face and her wet hair. What was she going to do? What was it supposed to be like when she opened her eyes? Finding him waiting there, holding her like he had and not letting go? She wanted him to drop it all and welcome her back, holding onto her and not letting her go. She wanted him to prove to her that it wasn't Ovan's affection she had been chasing after – that it was his. There was so much she wanted, that she only wanted to cry and hope they would dissolve.
She reached for the phone and flipped it open, scrolling through the calls that she had missed. She found his, labeled 'Haseo'. It was dated more than six months ago. She had been gone more than six months and she expected him to drop it all just for her. She was selfish. She was pathetically selfish. And it hurt.
Eventually she found herself moving back to her computer that she had left running. She sat down in the chair slowly, shaking and reaching out to open ALTIMIT and read through her e-mail. She expected to see an apology e-mail from Tabby, which she did. She responded to it knowing that Tabby meant no harm. She moved to close the e-mail client but stopped when she saw an unread mail that had just come in.
She gulped and opened it, sitting back in her chair and folding her hands together in front of her to try and control her shaking.
Shino. Come to the Grima Raef Cathedral. Please.
She closed the e-mail client, unsure what to do. She sat there shaking and crying. Something inside her told her to go, over and over…maybe it was the Harvest Shino – the real her – that wanted to go. She reached out for the head mount and placed it on, logging into The World R:2 again.
Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground. Grima Raef Cathedral. The place of tragedy and happiness.
Shino opened the doors to the Cathedral, walking along the polished ground with her footsteps echoing. She stood in front of the alter and stared at the mark of Tri-Edge that was carved when she was killed. She looked down at her hands, flexing them to realize that she was still there. Even though she had died…he brought her back, just like he had promised as she watched him from afar. She was back in The World – the place where she had met him and Ovan. The one place she felt like she was at home with.
Her emerald eyes fixed on her right hand. It was the hand that Haseo had held when they stood there after the event. She had stood there before the alter with him, holding hands, in a white dress with white roses up the side and a beautiful veil that framed her head. He had looked at her and she looked back, both smiling and not saying a word. She then wrapped her arms around him, holding onto him as he held onto her. Even though his face and hair had changed – he was still Haseo.
She wondered if it really counted….it was just in-game, after all. A silly wedding event with someone you could choose – of course the man had to choose you. He had chosen her and her PC – Shino – had been dressed in the white wedding gown as he stubbornly stayed in his new form. They left the area and went to the Cathedral and stood there for what seemed like hours – like they did before her PC was killed. Before Shino was killed.
It didn't matter, right? It was just an in-game event. A silly wedding event that people could do for fun to see the female change her outfit and twirl around to pretend to be married. But when he held Shino's hand – it felt like he was holding hers.
No…he was holding her hand. She was Shino the Harvest, and Shino was part of her. They may have looked nothing alike, but the Shino inside the game was who she really wanted to be – who she really was. Maybe she could go as far as calling it the "Ghost in the Machine", her soul.
That night when Haseo had comforted her after Ovan disappeared… it felt as if he was really standing there, letting her lean up against him. Beyond the graphics and sound effects and detailed scenery…it was like they truly touched. He was seeing a side of her that no one had seen, and she saw a side of him no one thought existed…
She looked up from her hands and turned, looking over her shoulder to find him standing there. His white clothing and gray hair was tinted in an orange light from the window that made him even more attractive. She could tell herself that it was just his PC, just the in-game Haseo, but she knew it was the real him shining through now. Just as it was the real her shining through Shino.
In this world…in The World, everyone could be who they wanted and who they were. The face would change in the game – but the actions and their eyes would always be the same.
"Babies have to watch their mother's face closely," he said out of no where to bring her back from her thoughts. "They can't speak, so they have to watch their mother's face to speak back. Wasn't that how it went?"
She smiled to herself. "A baby can't speak, so instead, he watches his mother's face closely. Are you saying you can't even do what a baby can do?"
He laughed lightly to himself, turning red and looking away. "I guess not."
"That's who you are." She nodded in self-satisfactory. "You can't look into the eyes of anyone."
"Even the person I've wanted to see." He mumbled to himself.
She blinked. She knew he wouldn't have said that if he had thought his microphone wasn't muted. She looked to the side, emerald eyes looking at their reflection in the polished marble floor. After a moment she brought herself to look up at him.
She smiled. "I told you to do what you think is right…Haseo."
"…Yeah.." he looked away then. He always did when he was caught in something. "Atoli…she…Ovan…he told her that, I was only her friend because ….she looked like you. And with everything that happened, we didn't get a chance… so she just thought that…"
"Now that I was back, you would leave her like a used dishrag?" She finished. He looked at her steadily.
"So now what, then, Haseo?" Shino asked, tilting her head and folding her hands behind her back. "Are we going to remake the Twilight Brigade? Are we going to look for Ovan?"
Are you going to leave me alone?
"No." He said shortly. She didn't know what 'no' meant. "I….Ovan…he doesn't need to be looked for anymore. He needs to be in peace."
"….I see." She looked to the side. "So then, you've made your mind up?"
She turned around on her heels and looked up at the beautiful cathedral window. He had chosen to be with his new friends. It was fine, she figured. After all, knowing this she could finally turn away from The World. She could let Shino rest in peace and finally release the Twilight Brigade's burden. She could return to the real world and finish her studies. But…she didn't want to.
Her eyes widened as she felt his gloved hand on her arm. She didn't know how it could happen in a game – it was online, there wasn't an emote for it…but, he did…The World, it wasn't just a game was it? Haseo had said that so many times, she heard the words echo inside her blank mind as she was unable to move. Somehow, someway, they had been connected…maybe it was because he was there when she was killed…
"Just because I don't want to remake the Twilight Brigade….and I don't want to find Ovan…" he stopped for a moment. "It…doesn't mean that I don't want to be with you, Shino…"
"You're a guild master." She said. "You have friends that need your help."
"That's not why I played this game…." He retorted, pulling her around to look at her emerald eyes. "I didn't play this game to join Canard, or to be a guild master – or even to have that stupid Grunty or the steam bike. I didn't play it to become the Emperor of the Arena. And I sure of hell didn't play it to find the Key of the Twilight!"
She bit her lip. "Then why do you play this game, Haseo? Why do you live in The World?"
His face softened and he put both of his hands on her arms. "I played this game….I exist here, in The World…for you, Shino." She stared at him. "I logged in to talk to you…even if you weren't there I logged in just to stand by you. Even after Ovan left and it was just the two of us, I existed here to be with you. You make things beautiful, Shino. Isn't that what you wanted? To make The World a beautiful place for someone?"
He held her close, putting his hands on her back and his head on hers. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him. The thought in the back of her mind nagged at her – it was a game, you shouldn't be able to do that. But she decided that it was The World. The World wasn't another online game, it was another world. Where souls could touch each other through graphics.
She looked down at their hands, unable to tell his black gloves from hers. It was like magic. She closed her emerald eyes and leaned up against him.
Oyasumi, good night;
-san, Ms., used for respect and formality,
Tsuki no Ki, Moon Tree;
Tadaima, I'm home;