At some point- he wasn't sure when- he realized that he'd stopped being cautious around the other.
"You know, I always thought you looked a bit like a piñata." Haseo informed his companion conversationally as he strolled leisurely through the grassy plains of The World, arms crossed casually behind his head. The wide open field was devoid of the usual number of monsters that would have otherwise inhabited such a large amount of space, and so Haseo was allowing himself to walk through it without his customary guard up. "…that, or maybe a patchy scarecrow." He added, pursing his lips off to the side slightly in a contemplative gesture that was completely just for show.
Next to him, from where he was idly floating along at his side, Azure Kite turned his head minutely so that he could fix his full gaze upon Haseo's unusually cheerful face. The steely, sharp edge of his stare seemed to suggest that the AI had not taken this recent revelation in all together good spirits. In the single eye that was visible, Haseo observed that the cornea and iris had nearly contracted to the size of something comparable to a pin-head. He wasn't sure if this was because the AI was annoyed, or because his attention was so greatly provoked.
Hehe. Provoked. Speaking of that, Haseo decided that it'd be productive of himself to do some more of that.
"…and I'm pretty sure that it's the pants that do it, too." Haseo continued, reaching out with a single hand and deftly capturing the orangey brown fabric of the zombie like figure's pants between his forefinger and thumb. Said colorful fabric was subjected to a few playful tugs, which caused the AI to retaliate by irritably slapping the boy's hand away. Haseo just grinned, evidently feeling somehow pleased with himself in spite of the other's reaction. In retaliation, Kite lowered his head slightly and narrowed his one eyed stare.
"I think your clothes also make you look smaller then you really are." He continued, ignoring the way the other outright paused in his levitation, remaining frozen in the air a few inches above the ground as he stared at Haseo in something that was most likely astonishment. Feeling the need to explain himself and justify his opinion, Haseo also came to a stop, turning back slightly as he watched the object of his teasing. "Well, see, when I really think about it, I realize that you're actually almost the same height as me." He elaborated further when he failed to get anything more then a wordless stare in response. "You're always kind of slumped in the air, and your hat- which looks like a mushroom, by the way- doesn't help much. In fact, I'd say your clothes pretty much seem to swallow you up on a regular basis."
The AI in question, after a short period of simply staring hard, let out a rasping kind of noise which Haseo took to be the equivalent of a sigh.
…Which Haseo found to be unexpectedly hilarious, because he'd truly never before considered the notion of Azure Kite sighing in anything, let alone that of exasperation. In company with the sigh came the gesture of Azure Kite shooting the black armored PC a dry look, his eye hooding slightly. The green pin prick staring at him grew somewhat larger, probably signaling that the AI had calmed down to some degree.
A moment passed, one that mostly consisted of a silent staring contest, before the AI turned abruptly and moved his gaze instead to something beyond Haseo's left shoulder. Kite's chin tilted up, enough so that Haseo could see the partly opened mouth peek up from over the top of high collar incasing the boy's neck. Azure Kite's expression could only be described as… inquisitive.
Haseo blinked and, turning around to follow the path of the other's line of sight, came to rest his eyes upon something that he could confidently say he wasn't familiar with. Physically, it appeared to be an animal of small stature, barely coming up to Haseo's knees. Its appearance bore an odd resemblance to that of a toy monkey, with a fat, round body covered in yellowy green fur. However, a set of two long, skinny tails stretched out from its hind end, and its face had a questionable likeness to that of a widely grinning fox.
Haseo didn't remember anything like this appearing in The World before.
"…what the hell?" He said eloquently, furrowing his brow and bringing his arms up to rest on his hips. Beside him, Azure Kite stopped down slightly to stare at the miniature creature with apparent fascination. "Aah…" The zombie breathed lowly, seemingly in comprehension of something. Haseo dismissed this as unimportant due to the fact that he hadn't a hope of ever understanding the message behind it.
The two watched the creature closely as it sat little more then seven feet away from them, returning their blatant stares with its own large, green eyes. Its smile twitched subtly, then it brought one of its hind legs up to scratch at its ear in a rather generic fashion for any animal character.
"…is this supposed to be some kind of new monster that the developers put in recently?" Haseo questioned aloud, lifting an eyebrow up as he observed the furry thing with an unimpressed manner. "…looks kind of weak." He concluded, lifting the side of his mouth up in a smirk. Azure Kite rasped a moan in reply, which Haseo promptly ignored and continued speaking. "Why would the developers put in more low level monsters? It's the high level players that are running out of things to do! Seems like a waste of time."
The thing- whatever it was- simply blinked in response to the words, staring up at Haseo's comparatively towering form with focused intensity. Haseo, noticing this, raised both of his brows upwards, blinking.
"What are you looking aaaAAGH-!?" Haseo began, then broke off into a surprised yell when the AI beside him unexpectedly dived forward, arms outstretched toward the alarmed creature.
At the very least, it could be said that the animal did make an attempt at escape. Letting out a surprisingly shrill cry, the fox-monkey scrambled desperately to turn itself around and jump away. It leapt, but Kite's gloved hands grabbed onto it around the middle of its round body, sinking their fingers into the bristled fur for better grip. Haseo watched in astonishment as the AI landed on his front, arms stretched out over his head and holding onto the flailing animal tightly.
Then, without explanation or seeming reason, the boy began to shake the creature repeatedly.
"Kite!? What the hell are you-," Haseo attempted to begin, but again found himself cut off as the tiny creature fought back by whipping its tails against its assailant's face. The boy let out a surprised yelp, squeezing his eyes shut reflexively. Apparently recognizing its chance, the fox-monkey opened its mouth and latched its teeth into Kite's hand.
There was an enraged shriek from the surprised AI, then the next thing Haseo was aware of was the fact that there was suddenly a fat, angry monkey beast clinging to his chest. Haseo shouted, jumping in surprise, then fell backwards as a ring of golden orbs suddenly appeared from around his PC's midsection and then proceeded to fall to the ground, upon which they bounced a number of times before quickly fading away. "Wha!?" He managed to get out, before the yellow being unlatched itself from his chest and jumped away.
Haseo blinked in confusion as he watched it land in a patch of short grass nearly ten feet away from his fallen form. Tails whipping back and forth angrily, the monkey swung itself around to face the unorganized duo, its fox-like face contorted in rage. Between its tightly clenched teeth, Haseo noticed that a small velvet sack was dangling from a short rope.
…when had that gotten there?
"ARRH!" Haseo started at the sudden roar, whipping his head toward the now standing AI. Kite was growling lowly at the tiny beast, fangs bared and hair sticking up wildly in a disarrayed mess atop his head. His hat lay seemingly forgotten in the grass a few inches away from its owner, having been knocked off when the tails had struck the boy's face.
Had Haseo not been so shocked at the moment, he probably would have taken a minute to laugh his ass off at the sight of what Azure Kite's hair looked like without his hat on.
"What the hell is going-," Haseo started, before finding himself cut off for the third time in a row as Kite launched himself forward with a snarl, triple bladed weapons held in each of his outstretched hands.
The monkey squeaked in sudden fright, fur standing on end in a catlike manner, before abruptly turning a swift tail and fleeing faster then Haseo had ever seen anything do so before.
Then Kite went after him.
'Oh you've got to be kidding…'
Haseo scowled as he watched the rapidly disappearing AI chase after his prey, feeling a prick of irritation at suddenly being left behind. Muttering under his breath crossly, Haseo pushed himself to his feet once again, looking down at himself suspiciously all the while- as if expecting to see some part of his PC having gone missing.
It wasn't until he examined his inventory that he realized that was wrong.
"My money!" The player shrieked, stupidly patting himself down in a frantic attempt to recover the lost currency. When he failed to uncover what he was looking for on his person he moved on to searching through the grass around his feet, thinking that maybe he'd lost his wallet when the fox-monkey had knocked him down. And it wasn't until after he'd gotten onto his hands and knees and begun to feel around between the grass that he realized he didn't actually know what he as looking for. Was his wallet black, gray, brown, green? Was it even a wallet? What if it was bag, or just a pile of coins?
Then, he had his second realization.
"…my PC doesn't have a wallet."
Furthermore, since when could you lose money by being knocked down? Haseo furrowed his brow together in confusion and slight worry. Had he lost all his money before now and simply hadn't noticed until now? Did his PC have a bug? Had someone somehow taken it?
Haseo's mind abruptly flashed back to the sack he'd seen dangling from the mouth of the fox-monkey moments before it had fled in terror from Kite's blades. …the sack that had appeared after the little monstrosity had nailed him in the chest and made golden circles appear and leap away from his PC.
'…oh… shit…' And now both the fox-monkey and Azure Kite were no where to be seen.
His thoughts were broken when he noticed that his hand had brushed up against something lying amidst the grass. Blinking, Haseo curled his fingers and looted the item into his inventory- or, in other words, picked it up. In his hand Haseo held the forgotten cap that had previously been on top of Azure Kite's head.
Wordlessly, Haseo clasped the end to one of the hat's side flaps and tugged on it.
Haseo stomped a foot against the ground firmly and slammed the mangy looking cap of Azure Kite onto the merchant's business counter with force. "How much can I get for this!?" He demanded, ignoring the crowd of stares he was attracted from the surrounding players.
The merchant tending to the stall of which Haseo had chosen flinched back, giving the boy a fearful look. "A-ahm…?" She stuttered, cat like ears folded against her head in fright. Haseo glared irritably, feeling his bad mood feed considerably from the reactions he was getting while in town. "The hat! What's this hat worth!?" He demanded again, holding said item up in the air in front of the girl's nose and jerking it for emphasis.
The girl took one look at the item and frowned slightly, pressing her lips together. "…I-I'm sorry, but we do no accept damaged items-,"
"Damaged!?" Haseo interrupted, slamming his fist back onto the counter, taking the hat with it. "It's not damaged!" He argued loudly, causing several nearby players to wince in sympathy for the unfortunate vendor.
Said vendor swallowed nervously and hesitantly picked up the discussed object, taking a moment to study it. Haseo sighed, calming slightly as he straightened up and crossed his arms, relieved that they were finally getting somewhere. He watched like a hawk as the girl held the item at several angles, pausing to view it at each one. He frowned, however, when he noticed that she'd begun to shake her head and mutter under her breath the moment she examined the stitches. Snorting, the girl then flipped it over to she could examine the inside of the cap. A second later and she plopped the item back onto the counter in front of him. "…I'm sorry, but no matter what way I look at this, it's damaged beyond all value. Further more, I don't recognize this item from our data banks!" She insisted, crossing her own arms now and glaring at him firmly, as if challenging him to contradict her professional opinion.
Whispers started up around them the second after the girl made her announcement.
"Is he trying to peddle a useless item?"
"Isn't he that player? …who knew he'd try selling worthless items…"
Haseo twitched, then grimaced as he felt a blush spread over his cheeks in real life. "…look…" He ground out slowly, forcing himself to ignore all but the stubborn nuisance in front of his face. "…I'm telling you this is a valuable item."
The girl, narrowing her eyes and puffing her chest out, remained inflexible. "How so?" She responded, lifting her chin up at him.
Haseo, drawing from a last ditch effort, took the leap. "You know about Tri-Edge?" He growled quietly. Immediately, several people around him grimaced at the name, and the old, familiar phrase. The girl frowned in confusion now, and began to look uncomfortable. Haseo hoped this was a good sign. "…this is his. This is Tri-Edge's hat."
Complete and utter. Silence.
The girl gaped stupidly at him, seeming to deflate on the spot. "…e…excuse me…?" She asked quietly, her eyes locked onto Haseo's solemn face.
"I said this is Tri-Edge's hat. As in the hat that he wore on his head when he went around PKing players and turning them into Lost Ones!" Ooh… if Kite ever heard the lies he was sprouting right now… Haseo inwardly shuddered to think what the boy would do to him.
The crowd gave a number of various reactions- most shivered with discomfort, however Haseo noticed that there were a few who seemed to be quite a bit more interested in their conversation then they had been previously.
The girl in front of him, however, looked appalled and upset. "…g…get…"
"Eh?" Haseo goaded, convinced that he was finally getting the results he wanted. The girl shivered, staring at the hat with a slightly curled lip.
"…get…" And then Haseo had to jump back as she suddenly seemed to explode. "GET THAT AWAY FROM MY SHOP!" She hollered, grabbing the brightly colored hat and throwing it fiercely at Haseo's chest. He fumbled, bringing his hands up hurriedly in order to catch it. The girl, meanwhile, had gone red faced. "How dare you bring something like that to this shop?! No- into this TOWN!"
Haseo blinked, truly taken off guard by the reaction, and backed up several paces from the stall. What the hell…? This was Tri-Edge's hat! People should be scrambling over themselves in their hurry to even look at something so legendary, let alone buy it. So what the bleeding blazes was going on here?
…maybe… maybe if he tried another vendor then…
"…and in the end, no one would buy it…" He muttered to himself glumly from where he sat slumped on the railing of the bridge across Mac Anu's water way. Since his failure in the market street, Haseo's posture had degenerated into a sulky slouch that caused his spine to jut out in a way that definitely would have been uncomfortable had it not been his PC's. In a fit of spite toward the venders who had turned his business away, (of which there were many) Haseo currently donned the now infamous hat atop his own head, as if to advertise the fact that he had it, and it WAS valuable enough that he was even bothering to wear it. The fact that the object obviously did not match with his current outfit was painfully clear to him, considering the fact that he'd attracted nothing but open stares since he'd put it on.
To his displeasure, Haseo had quickly discovered that the flaps on either side of his face had the annoying habit of pushing his hair in front of his eyes, and while he might not have been able to feel the actual touch on his forehead, it did get in the way of his vision. Honestly, he didn't understand how Kite could walk around with this thing, let alone that huge collar around his neck. His sight must be so obscured… considering that he only ever had one eye visible at a time. Or, usually, at least.
Haseo stared down at his reflection in the water, observing the deep scowl worn underneath the brightly colored useless garbage on top of his head.
"…if I ever see that fox-monkey again, I'll kill it…" He swore crossly, causing several passersby to look at him funny and pick up their pace in an effort to put distance between themselves and him. Haseo just tuned them out, ignoring them all for the prospect of quietly brooding to himself about his misfortune. "…I need money…" The boy sighed, squeezing his eyes shut and slumping further.
He jumped, however, when a voice suddenly spoke up from behind him. "Why do you need money, Haseo-san?"
Spinning around sharply- and consequentially nearly falling off the rail because of it- Haseo fixed his eyes on the thin, diminutive figure of Shino. Immediately, he could feel a flutter of soft wings beating on the inside of his ribcage in real life. "Sh-Shino? Ah…" Swallowing his awkwardness, Haseo straightened his posture and turned his entire body, slinging his legs over the bridge's wooden walkway. He cleared his throat and locked his gaze with hers properly. Or tried to, at least. Shino's gaze was currently fixed on the hat Haseo had placed upon his head earlier.
Face secretly turning red, the boy quickly jerked the ugly object off his hair and held it behind his back, out of sight. Shino- always the kind soul- just smiled and gently repeated her question, acting as if the fact that Haseo had just been wearing a hat that did not match with his outfit was no real concern.
Haseo, on the other hand, grimaced in displeasure at the thought of having to admit what had happened while he'd been in the middle of his periodic, therapeutic 'exploration' of Azure Kite's previously unknown and greatly unexplored 'personality'. (…which was just another way of saying that he'd been in the middle of his scheduled teasing)
"Ah… well…" He sighed, bringing an arm up to scratch his fingers behind his head awkwardly. "…It's kind of difficult to explain…" He said, cheaply attempting to dodge the question. Shino blinked at him, tilting her head with inquisitiveness. Haseo winced, feeling a guilty stab in his chest at lying to her. "It's… well, see… there was this monkey-thing that I came across earlier, and something kind of happened, though I don't actually know what it was…" Haseo broke off, making an almost pained expression due to his embarrassment. Shino, however, had straightened her body in sudden interest, her eyes shinning with comprehension- something that Haseo hadn't been expecting.
"Monkey…? You weren't in that new event field, were you?" She asked, smile gone form her face- her expression was now worrisomely concerned. Haseo blinked in confusion, frowning.
"The one that they put in this morning? Ah… yeah…" His frowned deepened as Shino's expression became grim. "…what? Is losing all your money supposed to be part of the event or something?" He questioned, feeling worry of his own begin to surface. If it was, ooh… this was one event that he was going to complain to CC Corp about. Loudly, too.
Shino shook her head strongly. "No- it… that event is…" She sighed, closing her eyes. Haseo couldn't understand what could be making it so difficult for her to explain. "Didn't you read the BBS about it?" She asked, furrowing her brows together and gnawing gently on her bottom lip, looking generally upset.
"Err… yeah. I read the discussion they were having about the event before it was released. That's how I knew how to get there." Haseo responded uncertainly, feeling his confidence dwindle away swiftly.
"Have you read the BBS since then, though?" Shino asked, with a troubled look on her face. Haseo shook his head to indicate a negative. Shino sighed, closing her eyes as if in vexation. "It was posted almost twenty minuets after the event went live; it's got a glitch in its programming somewhere." She explained. "The monster that the event was supposed to center around began to malfunction for some reason."
Haseo frowned, feeling alarm bells going off inside his head. "…this monster… it wouldn't happen to look like some kind of monkey with a fox head, would it?" He demanded apprehensively, suspecting that the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place at last. To his good fortune, Shino nodded her head in affirmation.
"I don't know what it's called, but some of the players have posted screenshots of it up on the BBS. It has two tails, and smiles, right?" She asked, to which Haseo nodded sharply.
"That little bastard stole my money then ran away when Kite chased it for surprising him." Haseo announced, his expression going back to the sour look he'd had on for most of the day now. Kite… this was all his fault, wasn't it?! If he hadn't randomly grabbed that thing then who's to say that it wouldn't have just walked away on its own? The fact that it hadn't attacked the moment it had seen them indicated that it wasn't an aggressive monster- at least, that was how it seemed.
Shino blinked, giving him a confused look. "Kite?" She repeated slowly, sounding unsure.
"Ah…" Haseo paused, bringing his hand back up behind his head and scratching at his hair once again. "…I guess you haven't really met him yet, have you…" He mumbled, feeling awkwardness at the thought of introducing Kite to the person he had once thought to have been PKed by him. The days in which Haseo believed Kite to be Tri-Edge may have been over, and it was true that he actually managed to somewhat get along with the AI now, but… he was still apprehensive about introducing Kite to any of his usual party members- what would they think when they found out that he, who had spent so much time hating and despising the Azure Knight, was now spending most of his online time in the zombie-like creature's (admittedly rather odd) company? "Er… he's, uh… someone that I know."
"He was with you while you were in the field?" Shino asked, and Haseo was infinitely thankful to hear her gentle, quiet voice not sounding too suspicious. As if it were really just a minor thing, and easily overlooked. At Haseo's nod, she continued speaking. "Did your friend lose his money as well?"
Haseo made to shake his head negatively, then paused when he realized that he didn't even know if Kite carried money in the first place. Seeing as how he didn't really know a proper answer to her question, the boy only shook his head with a shrug, in order to express the fact that he really wasn't sure. "I don't know. He ran off before I realized that I had lost my money, so I didn't ask."
Shino 'hmm'ed thoughtfully while idly fidgeting with one of the silver rings that adorned each of her fingers and thumbs, her eyes fixed upon his face. "…The BBS says that other players are having the same problem; they're money vanishes from their inventory sometimes when it attacks them. Someone said that a developer stated that the monster was originally supposed to only take a small amount of money from you, but obviously it's not doing what it should be." Shino smiled sympathetically. "Somehow, it affects your inventory so that it loses all the money you carry, even if you try to collect more afterwards."
"What?!" Haseo screeched in a very unmanly fashion, going rigid. "You mean my PC's stuck like this!?" He shouted, nearly panicking right then and there- very uncharacteristic of him.
Shino backed up slightly, looking startled. "I-I think you'll need to ask CC Corp to fix your PC, unless you know someone else who can fix it for you." She responded, then blinked in mystification as Haseo seemed to perk up at her words. "Haseo-?"
Instantly, Haseo turned around and ran toward the gate out of town, leaving a confused Shino staring after him in his wake.
CC Corp? Yeah right! That would most likely take forever. No… when it came to fixing his PC, Haseo definitely had someone else in mind.
Haseo had observed- on multiple occasions- how Kite would somehow manipulate the data of The World. And on a few choice accounts, he'd even witnessed the AI repairing glitches in the system. Whether or not the zombie would be able to do the same thing with a PC was up for debate, but Haseo was willing to be hopeful if it meant that he could get Kite to fix whatever problem that fox-faced runt had passed on to him.
'And because it's your entire fault in the first place, you won't be able to say no, Kite!'
Admittedly, at first, chasing after Kite and forcing him to repair his PC's malfunction had seemed like a good idea. However, once Haseo had gotten out into the fields to look for the Azure Knight, he came to a stunning realization that pulled an immediate halt onto all his plans.
He didn't actually know where the heck Kite was anymore.
Seeing as how the AI had run off after the damned fox-monkey shortly after all of this had started, it was a fair bet that the Knight could possibly still be in the same field, terrorizing the little beast. …but Haseo had the disquieting suspicion that if Kite had really wanted to catch that thing, it probably wouldn't have lasted very long. So, in all likelihood, Kite had probably already killed the monster and moved on. And considering Kite's ability to travel through the cyber network at free will, Haseo was quite aware that it would be next to impossible for him to locate the AI even if he did randomly select fields and begin searching.
Besides, if what he had come to understand about the other was accurate, then Kite usually spent the majority of his time in that cyberspace of networks and programming while generally not doing anything, so it wasn't likely that he'd be able to find him by just searching anyway.
With this in mind, Haseo checked his member addresses. If he couldn't find Kite by looking for him, then the best option for him to take would be to send a short mail to get the other's attention. Along with Shino, Haseo noticed that Pi, Khun, and Natsume were also lurking around online somewhere. He ignored them, instead zeroing in on Kite's name. A miniature series of trumpets piped victoriously inside his mind as he affirmed that the AI was still online, and- smirking- opened up a fresh short mail so that he could get typing.
Kite, you annoying bastard. Thanks to you harassing that freak monkey thing my PC's got a bug. Come to Mac Anu IMMEDIATELY and fix my PC!
Then, as an afterthought- and added enticement- Haseo quickly added a short addition onto the end.
Also, you left your hat behind. Come and pick it up. I'll be waiting at the gate.
Satisfied with what he saw, Haseo proceeded to send the message, before promptly spinning around on his heel and marching back into town to await Kite's arrival.