The Call of "The World"
by rkOujirou

Author's note: This is an alternate universe Ranma ½ story that takes place in The World R:2 sometime after the events of .Hack/Roots, the .Hack/G.U. Games, and the Returners anime episode.

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ is not my idea, nor is .Hack/G.U. The only characters I'll claim are any OC's I may add into this story. Just so you know.

Chapter 4

"I wish Nabiki would come home already..."

In the bustling nighttime city of Lumina Cloth, a bored-looking Harvest Cleric in her white and greenish-blue outfit was slumped over the edge of the walkway connecting the Chaos Gate to the Arena. Without anything of interest that she could do on her own, she was left to impatiently wonder where here sister was at the moment.

"Honestly, if she's going out with friends, she could at least let me know," Akane muttered to herself. "I really wanted to go item hunting today..."

"Yo, babe!"

Akane spun around with an irritated look on her face when a male character suddenly placed his hand on her shoulder. As she soon noticed, there wasn't just one, but two men grinning at her, and they were both a bit too close for her comfort.

"Hey, hey! No need to get all upset, baby!" one of them laughed. "We just saw you there and thought maybe you'd like to hang out with us for a while."

"Yeah, we could totally use those healing powers of yours! How 'bout it, sis?" the other one added.

The pair hadn't done much to endear themselves to Akane, but they had managed to use enough of the words she hated with a passion to completely set her off.

"First of all, my name isn't babe, or baby, or sis, you pigs!" the short-tempered Cleric snapped at them. "And second, I wouldn't be caught dead hanging around with scum like you!"

Akane quickly turned around and began storming off in a huff, leaving the two men feeling incredibly annoyed.

"What the heck's her deal?!" one of them fumed.

"My deal is guys like you that treat girls like that in this game!" Akane turned back and yelled at them. "We're just characters here! A bunch of pixels, get it?! Go find a girl to bother in the real world!"

Her verbal tirade seemingly enough to get the men to give up and leave her be, the turquoise-haired character stomped away toward the Chaos Gate. After that little incident, she wasn't feeling very up to waiting in-game for her sister anymore.

"Maybe I should just log out for today..." she sighed, rubbing her head.

Before she got that chance, however, Akane heard a familiar notification sound in her headset.

"A short mail? From who?"

As she looked over the message, she was a bit surprised to see who the sender was.

"Ranma? That newbie?" she wondered aloud, carefully reading over the rest of his message. With several days having passed since she'd given him her member address, she was beginning to think that he'd never actually contact her.

"Hmmm...he wants to meet me in Mac Anu. But..."

Thinking back, Akane remembered her sister's warning to her about the pigtailed Tribal Grappler. As Nabiki had said, getting involved with him could result in her getting caught up in something messy. Then again, Nabiki had also stood her up for some item hunting today. And just what could go so wrong with talking to a newer player anyway, she wondered?

"I couldn't hurt to just see what he wants," she told herself.

Meanwhile, in the Mac Anu Dome, Ranma was lightly tapping his foot against the floor while waiting for his potential teammate to arrive.

"I wonder if this is a good idea..." he said, folding his arms as he leaned back against the dome's wall.

Akane certainly seemed willing to help him out before she logged off right after their first meeting, but their personalities hadn't exactly been meshing well up to that point, which left Ranma legitimately doubting whether he should be asking for her help.

"I really wonder if this is a good idea..." he grumbled to himself again.

After several more minutes of foot tapping and watching some of the other characters in the dome interact, a series of blue rings flashed near the Chaos Gate, and from out of those rings appeared the Harvest Cleric that Ranma had been waiting for.

Akane only had to look around for a brief moment before she spotted the white-clothed Grappler next to the wall.

"Hey there," she smirked as she walked over to him. "How's The World been treating you, newbie?"

Ranma's eye twitched at the use of the "newbie" term.

"Don't call me that!" he growled.

"Yeah, yeah," Akane chuckled with amusement. "So, what's up? Need someone to party with?"

"Nah, that ain't it," Ranma shook his head.

Akane shot him a curious look. "Oh? Why'd you call me here then?"

Ranma was still a bit hesitant about asking her, but he was desperate to find some team members for himself as soon as possible.

"Are you below level 50?" he asked.

"Below level 50? Um...yeah..." Akane answered, looking puzzled. "Why?"

"Uh...good," Ranma said, a bit unsure if he was happy or not that she was in the level range he was looking for. "In that case...I, uh...I got a question..."

"And that is...?" Akane asked.

"Would you...join my Arena team?"

The turquoise-haired Cleric blinked several times as she stared at him. "Arena team?"

"Yeah," Ranma nodded. "I wanna enter that Demon Palace Tournament, or whatever."

Mere seconds after the Grappler from Canard made his intentions clear, Akane burst out laughing, not believing what she was hearing.

"What's with that reaction?!" Ranma snarled.

"Are...are you serious?!"

"'Course I am! You think I'm jokin'?"

"There's no way you'll be ready for that yet! You'll get your butt kicked!" Akane poked fun at him. "Why would you want to enter an Arena tournament already?!"

"To get back at Kuno for PK'in me!" he declared strongly.

Akane's laughter abruptly stopped at the mention of Kuno's name. Suddenly, she didn't find this quite so humorous anymore. "Kuno? As in Arena Emperor Kuno?"

"Yeah, that jerk," Ranma grumbled.

The Harvest Cleric had been wondering about Nabiki's warning for a while now, and she distinctly remembered seeing the Demon Palace Emperor, Tatewaki Kuno, hurrying toward the Chaos Gate in the center of Lumina Cloth right before she spoke to her sister that day. Then, once he'd vanished, she found Nabiki walking from the direction of the Icolo guild home.

"Then...maybe Kuno was heading out to PK this guy that day..." Akane thought to herself. "I wonder...did Nabiki have something to do with it...?"

Ranma was starting to get impatient as he watched her contemplate to herself. "Hey...if you don't wanna help, just say so..."

"Huh? Oh...well, tell you what, give me some time to think about it," Akane smiled up at him. "But, for now, wanna come hunt some items with me?"

"Hunt items?" Ranma asked with a funny look.

The Cleric nodded her head enthusiastically. "Come on, it'll be fun! You might even learn something."

He wasn't sure just how "fun" it would be, but if it could help get him a teammate for the Arena then it might be worth the trouble, Ranma figured.

"Fine, I'll go..."

After entering the area words Akane had given him, Ranma and his fellow party member were warped onto a fair-weathered field with the sun setting in the distance. From where they were standing, Ranma could see only one monster, which was a tall, dark creature levitating just off the ground. It had a number of peculiar tribal markings and ornaments on it, making it look like something supernatural that had just wandered out of a remote jungle.

"So, what're we lookin' for here?" Ranma asked the turquoise-haired girl.

"An armor upgrade for me," Akane smiled excitedly, pointing at the monster ahead of them. "See that thing? That type of monster drops it. We'll just kill those for a while, and we'll get some experience while we're at it."

"Okay...we got a plan?"

"Plan? You'll fight them and I'll heal you. Duh."

Ranma shot the Cleric an unsure look. "That simple?"

"Of course, you dolt," Akane snorted. "Now take the lead so it goes after you and not me."

The white-clothed Grappler threw his hands up in the air in resignation and began walking. "Whatever, I'll figure it out."

Step after step, Ranma moved closer to the strange-looking monster with Akane following at a safe distance behind him until finally they got close enough that the monster spotted Ranma and prepared to attack him.

"Alright, here we go!" Ranma grinned, readying for an attack of his own. "Bring it on, ya freak thing!"

To his surprise, though, the monster wasn't moving in to attack. Instead, it remained in place, shaking while a red circle formed on the ground below it.

Ranma tilted his head as he observed the monster's odd behavior. "The heck's it doin'?"

Then, the red circle that had been under the monster turned into several partly overlapping ones that moved along the ground toward Ranma, who stood still, unsure what to make of it.

"Hey, what's this thing?" he looked back at Akane, who again couldn't believe what she was hearing from the novice character.

"Are you an idiot!? Defend!" she yelled.

Unfortunately, Ranma didn't have the time to process that piece of advice. The red circles moved underneath him and stopped, and before he knew it, Ranma was being pelted with bolts of fire.


When the onslaught finally stopped, the health-depleted Grappler dropped to his knees as smoke rose up from his shoulders.

"Ul Repth!" Akane called out, hurrying to restore Ranma's health with her healing magic. "That was an attack magic spell! You're supposed to defend against it!"

"Y-ya coulda told me that!" Ranma shouted back at her.

In the midst of their argument, the monster took the chance to begin charging another spell, sending a second wave of fire bolts heading for the Canard guild member.

Not wanting to take that attack again, Ranma quickly got to his feet and began running in the opposite direction to get away from it.

"Hah! Can't hit me if it can't catch me!" he gloated, taunting the casting circle following him by sticking his tongue out at it.

Akane began rubbing her forehead in frustration as she yelled at him again. "Spell circles move faster than you can!"


Looking back at the ground, Ranma found that the spell circle had indeed already caught up to him.

"Wait! No-!"

Ranma's knees buckled as he was laid into by another barrage of the monster's fire bolts.

"Auuugh-!" he yelled, his PC body twitching as it fell to the ground.

"Ul Repth!" Akane grudgingly healed her inexperienced party member again. "You can't stop its magic attacks! Just keep attacking it and it won't be able to cast as often! And if it does cast, defend!"

Becoming annoyed with the creature, a rejuvenated Ranma hopped to his feet again and rushed toward it to unleash an assault of his own.

"Keep attackin' it?! You don't gotta tell me twice!"

Currently on one of The World's cave-like dungeon maps, two male characters, one a Blade Brandier and the other a Shadow Warlock, were making their way through a corridor while on their way to the lowest level of the map.

"Phew. This map sure is long," one of them commented.

"Yeah, no kidding," the other replied. "I wonder how much further we've got to g-"


The pair of came to a stop as they suddenly heard a voice booming throughout the cave.

"Uh...any idea what that was?" the Warlock asked his fellow party member.

Both of them looked closely as a silver-haired male character then came charging out of the darkness in front of them.

"Ranma! Where are you hiding?!"

Not wanting to get in the boy's way, the two of them moved aside and let him run by, watching curiously as he ran in the direction they'd just come from.

"Where does he think he's going? The beast statue is this way, isn't it?" the Brandier wondered aloud.

Now heading back toward the dungeon's starting point, the recently-created character named Ryouga was frantically searching for Ranma and not having any luck thus far.

"Damn it! Everywhere I go these monsters keep attacking me!" he fumed. "And I still can't find Ranma anywhere! Just how big is this world anyway?!"

Coming to a point where the path split, Ryouga took a sharp turn and headed down the corridor to his right.

"I don't care how long it takes! I'll find you, Ranma! Just you wait!"

But then, as he got further down the path, Ryouga spotted something that caught his attention. Standing next to a blue warping platform was a woman with pink pigtails, and she appeared to be waving at him.

"Hi there!" she called out.

Wondering what the woman wanted, Ryouga skidded to a halt as he stopped to talk to her.

"Umm...did you need something?"

"Not really. I'm just bored and wanted someone to talk to. My name is Pi, by the way," she giggled, trying her best to put on a friendly front. "So, what are you in such a hurry for?"

"I'm looking for someone named Ranma!" Ryouga told her. "Have you seen him?"

Pi promptly placed a finger on her cheek, acting as though she were thinking about the question. "You know...I'm sure I just saw a character named Ranma at the last area I was at..."

"You did?!" Ryouga shouted, his hopes quickly rising. "Where was he?! You have to tell me!"

"Hmm...I guess I could give you the area words," Pi smiled. After motioning for the silver-haired character to get closer, she leaned forward and whispered the area words into his ear.

With a fire lit in his belly, Ryouga immediately turned and began running back through the cave. "Alright! Here I come, Ranma!"

"H-hey, wait!" Pi yelled out to no avail as the energetic character disappeared. "Where does he think he's going...hmm?"

To her surprise, the pink-haired woman soon spotted Ryouga running right back toward her. Again sliding to a stop next to the platform, he continued to run in place while looking somewhat confused.

" do I use area words?" he asked.

Yata's assistant was dumbfounded at the question. "Are you serious?! How did you get to this area if you don't know how to use area words?!"

Ryouga quietly pondered the question for a moment. "Well...I just found myself here, somehow..."

Pi placed a hand over her face, trying hard to keep herself calm and have a pleasant demeanor.

"Okay then, here's what we'll do. First, use this platform to go back to Mac Anu," she explained to him.

"Right!" Ryouga quickly responded. "What's Man Canoe?"

"Mac Anu! It's the town you came here from, you nitwit!" Pi barked at him, starting to lose hold of her composure. "Just wait for me there at the Chaos Gate and I'll show you what to do!"

"Really?! Thanks, you're a big help!" Ryouga said excitedly.

After the novice character had warped back to town, Pi was left to curse her luck at the assignment she'd been given.

"Unbelievable. Master Yata gave me a real bonehead to deal with..." she muttered to herself.

Back at one of the game's field areas, Ranma and Akane found themselves in the midst of battle with two more of the tribal-looking monsters. Confronted with fending off more than one of the creatures at the same time, Ranma focused his attention squarely on the one to his left and advanced on it quickly.

"Take this!"

While the creature began casting a spell, the pigtailed Grappler knocked it back with two consecutive punches and a swift kick from the right. As he'd learned, however, his attacks weren't going to disrupt his target's casting. A string of circles signifying an incoming magic attack soon closed in on him, but he was prepared this time. Curling up, Ranma tightened his defense and rode out the monster's chain of fire bolts as they rained down on him, causing much less damage than they had earlier.

"Hah! I can take it!" the martial artist gloated.

Once the spell had ended, Ranma immediately moved in on the monster again and rocked it with another physical barrage. Two straight punches, a back fist, and two solid kicks finally sent the monster crashing to the ground, depleting what was left of its hit points.

"Behind you! Defend!" Akane called out to him.

Hearing his party member's warning as their first opponent dissipated into the air, Ranma spun around and saw another magic spell heading toward him from the other creature. With little time to spare, he again defended and ate a string of fire bolts, protecting himself from the full power of the attack. Even with the damage reduced though, being the victim of two magic attacks had taken a toll on his health.

"Ul Repth!" Akane shouted, healing the damaged Grappler from afar. "Go!"

Recharged again, Ranma decided to put his skill points to good use.

"Rapid Attack!"

Dashing directly up to the remaining monster, Ranma connected with six vicious, rapid blows that sent the creature reeling backward. Still, damaged though it was, it wasn't out of commission quite yet. With some of its health still remaining, the levitating monster began casting another spell to hit its target with.

"Oh no ya don't!" Ranma snarled at it. "Rapid Attack!"

Before the creature could cast its magic attack, the pigtailed Grappler swiftly closed in and dealt the deciding blows, knocking it down to the ground forcefully as it, too, began to vanish into the air after its defeat.

"Yeah! Showed them who's boss!" the white-clothed character bragged as his other party member strolled over to him. "I think I'm gettin' the hang of this."

"Maybe a little. It's a lot better than you were doing earlier at least," Akane conceded, making sure not to inflate Ranma's ego too much.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Akane noticed something sitting on the ground next to Ranma's foot, and her face immediately lit up as she recognized just what it was.

"Ah! My armor!"

"Huh?" Ranma blinked, watching as the overjoyed Cleric reached down and picked up the garment. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that. Guess one of 'em finally dropped it, huh?"

"Mhmm! And it was totally worth the trouble!" Akane laughed excitedly before looking back at her partner. "You know, for a newbie, you're not all that bad to party with."

The Tribal Grappler's eye twitched at the mention of the term "newbie" again.

"Gee, thanks," Ranma grumbled. "For a total tomboy, you ain't bad to party with either."

"What was that?!" the turquoise-haired girl snapped back at him.


Surprised by a loud voice not belonging to either of them, Ranma and Akane both turned their heads in the direction of the area's setting sun and spotted another character barreling toward them from a short distance away.

"Huh? Who the heck's that?" Ranma wondered aloud.

Having surprisingly little problem recognizing his target's PC character, the silver-haired Ryouga jumped into the air and reached back with his right fist. "Die, Ranma!"

Unsure what they were up against, Ranma and Akane both moved back and out of the way as Ryouga angrily slammed his fist into the ground.

"H-hey! What's the big idea?!" the pigtailed martial artist growled at him.

Although happy that he'd finally found who he was looking for, Ryouga's expression soured as he slowly stood up and glared into the eyes of his target. "'s you! I've looked everywhere for you, sacrificing my own happiness to track you down, and I find you having a good time in this game world with pretty girls?!"

"Pretty girls?" Ranma asked, glancing around at his surroundings. "Who're you talkin' about?"

Taking the comment as a personal insult, Akane raised her fist and smacked her fellow party member upside the head.


"Jerk!" Akane snorted, folding her arms.

Still rubbing his head, the white-clothed Grappler eyed the silver-haired boy closely. "Alright, so who are ya, man?"

"My name is Ryouga Hibiki!" he quickly answered.

Ranma stood there silently, trying to recall if he'd heard the name somewhere before.

"Don't you remember?!" Ryouga growled.

Placing a hand on his chin, the pigtailed character thought hard about the name. In the end, however, he didn't have any recollection of it.

"Nope," he shrugged.

Akane quirked an eyebrow at Ranma's response. "Seriously? He seems really mad at you though..."

Ryouga clenched his fists together, outraged over the lack of care that Ranma was displaying. "I can't believe you! I looked all over the real world for you, Ranma! Then I heard from someone that you were playing this game, so I came here to find you! I even chose the Edge Punisher class when I got here so that I could punish you for all you've done to me!"

"Uh...okay..." Ranma muttered, not caring an awful lot about the boy's ill will toward him. "I still dunno who you are, man..."

"'re an Edge Punisher?" Akane interrupted, looking over at Ryouga. "Why weren't you using your sword to attack then?"

Clearly confused, the silver-haired character blinked several times as he stared back at her. "Sword...?"

"Edge Punishers use broadswords to attack..." Akane explained, giving him a funny look. "You...didn't know?"

Enlightened by this new revelation, Ryouga quietly began feeling around and tinkering with his controls, much to the amusement of his adversary.

"Oh man, is this guy for real?" Ranma laughed.

That laughter would cease, however, when a very large, silver sword with a dark green hilt suddenly materialized in the Edge Punisher's right hand.

"Uh...that's...a big sword..." Ranma cautiously noted.

After examining his simple-looking, yet powerful new weapon for a moment, Ryouga glared over at his foe and continued his assault from where he'd left off. Dashing toward the confident Grappler with his sword raised in the air, Ryouga was eager to exact his revenge, but Ranma was ready to evade the large weapon.

"Swingin' that thing's gotta be slow. There ain't no way he's gonna hit me with that," the Canard guild member thought aloud.

Once Ryouga was within striking distance, Ranma jumped out of the way just as the silver-haired Punisher slammed his sword down into the ground. Unfortunately for Ranma, he wasn't expecting the shock wave that he caught from being too close to the point of impact and was knocked back and to the ground, taking some damage to his health in the process.

"W-what the heck...?!" he stammered.

Ryouga smiled with pleasure at having dealt the first blow. "What's wrong, Ranma?! Get up and fight me!"

"It's part of an Edge Punisher's attack!" Akane called out to her party member, currently choosing to keep her distance from the battle. "They swing slow, but they have a lot of power and can still cause damage even if they barely miss you!"

The shaken Grappler focused his eyes on Ryouga as he got back to his feet. "So that's how it is, huh?"

Ready for some retribution, Ranma sped toward his attacker, who was preparing for another swing of his broadsword. As Ranma closed in, Ryouga swung his blade from left to right, but his nimble opponent evaded it completely by jumping up into the air and followed with a straight kick to the Punisher's face. Briefly stunning the silver-haired boy, Ranma followed up with three punches to Ryouga's chest and abdomen and then threw another kick at his face. Ryouga had finally gotten under control again though, and blocked Ranma's foot with his sword. Then, with his foe stopped in front of him, Ryouga slammed his broadsword down into the ground again. Ranma managed to avoid a direct blow from the large blade, but he again felt the force of the shock wave and took some damage as he was knocked away.

More prepared for the attack this time around, the Tribal Grappler landed on his feet and immediately bolted forward again. It was time to let Ryouga feel some pain, he decided.

"Let's see how ya like this!" Ranma yelled out at his attacker. "Rapid Attack!"

Watching carefully from afar, Akane was sure that Ryouga would be taken out by Ranma's skill. If he was so new that he didn't even know about what weapon his character class used then he couldn't have been very high-leveled, she figured. But, true though that may have been, Ryouga would show that he wasn't entirely incapable at the moment. As Ranma began unleashing his six strikes in quick succession, Ryouga tightened up his guard and defended against the offensive onslaught, reducing the damage he was taking just as Ranma had been doing against the monsters.

"Oh wow...maybe he's better than I thought," the somewhat impressed Cleric said.

After delivering his last blow, a frustrated Ranma jumped back and out of the way as Ryouga slammed his sword down again, this time unable to catch him with the shock wave. Ryouga was quick to move in for another attack though, and raised his sword in the air to deliver another powerful blow.

"Heh, he just gave me an idea," Ranma thought to himself while laying in wait. "If I sit here and defend while takin' one of his attacks, I can nail him while he's unguarded right after it."

Akane soon noticed what the pigtailed Grappler planned on doing, and quickly tried to warn him not to.

"No, wait! It won't work!"

"Huh?" Ranma mouthed, shooting a confused look in her direction. It was too late to adjust his strategy though.

Ryouga swung his broadsword down viciously at his opponent and broke right through his guard. Taking a direct blow from the heavy weapon, Ranma bounced off the ground and flew back, taking a considerable amount of damage.

"D-dammit!" he groaned, trying to get back to his feet. "What was that...?!"

"Edge Punishers can break through defense because their strikes are so powerful!" Akane shouted.

"What?! Now ya tell me!" Ranma yelled back at her.

After knocking his foe down, Ryouga wasn't going to wait around for him to get back up. He hastily advanced on the fallen Grappler, planning to deliver the finishing blow.

"You're done, Ranma!"

Agitated after taking so many hits from the silver-haired Punisher, Ranma was beginning to lose his cool. When Ryouga closed in and took a horizontal swing directed at his neck, the nimble pigtailed character shot upward and sprung off the top of the broadsword to help shoot himself up into the air. Then, as he began falling from the sky, Ranma angrily reached back and readied to put his assailant down for good.

"Enough of this!" he growled.

Ryouga raised his sword over his head to block Ranma's incoming attack, but it would end up being a costly move. Having just started playing the game, he wasn't aware of how much damage his character had been taking, even while defending. When Ranma's fist came down, it slammed Ryouga's broadsword down into his own face, wiping out what was left of his health points.

Genuinely perplexed as to why he wasn't able to move anymore, the Edge Punisher's body faded to a gray color and collapsed to the ground as his opponent landed on his feet next to him. The battle had gone to Ranma.

"Looks like you managed to win, somehow," Akane teased as she walked over to him.

"Whadya mean somehow? Like there was any doubt I'd beat this guy," Ranma snorted before looking down at the fallen silver-haired character. "Look, I dunno why you're ticked at me, man, but I'm tryin' to get ready to fight another jerk and I ain't got time to deal with ya."

"That's pretty straightforward..." Akane commented.

"Yeah,'s the truth," the Grappler shrugged. "C'mon, let's get outta here."

While Ranma began walking off, Akane knelt down next to Ryouga's character body to give him some friendly advice. "You seem really new, so don't let one loss get you down. Try to learn some more about the game first and then come challenge him again when you're ready. 'Kay?"

With a parting smile, the Cleric in the greenish-blue corset hurried ahead and caught up with her party member.

"What was that all about?' Ranma asked her.

"Nothing important," Akane peered over at him as they walked. " really want to fight against Emperor Kuno, huh?"

The very mention of the pompous Emperor's name put a scowl on the pigtailed character's face. "You got no idea how bad I wanna beat that guy. I still gotta find two team members for that Arena if I wanna fight him again though."

" only need to find one team member," Akane corrected him.

Ranma raised an eyebrow as he glanced over at her. "Huh? Why just one?"

"Because...I decided I'd join up after all," the turquoise-haired Harvest Cleric smiled back at him.

"Whoa, really?" Ranma asked, surprised by the sudden decision. "What made ya change your mind?"

Akane simply shrugged in response. "I just think it might be interesting. That's all."

Canard's Tribal Grappler wasn't entirely sure what convinced Akane to join his Arena team, but he felt satisfied just knowing that half of his search was over.

"Fine by me," he said, sounding relieved. "Guess that's that then. One team member down, one to go!"

Meanwhile, over at the Serpent of Lore, the system administrator and his assistant looked disappointed after having watched the battle between Ranma and Ryouga unfold from beginning to end.

"Hmmm...I had hoped that bringing the two of them together would produce some more...fruitful results," Yata said quietly.

Pi felt the same way. "Maybe they need to mature a bit more before they show us what's in that data of theirs."

"Perhaps, but the other two characters have been in The World for a while now and have not displayed anything unusual either," the man in the maroon robe replied. "I wonder if they just need a little push...or will it take more than that?"

As the two of them began pondering what course of action to take, Pi spotted something on their monitor that immediately grabbed her attention.

"Master Yata-!"

Looking up at the screen, Yata narrowed his eyes when he spotted a familiar pair of faces walking toward the fallen Edge Punisher.

Ryouga, whose PC body was still laying in the middle of the field, was fuming after having lost to Ranma, and Akane's inspirational words hadn't done much to suppress his anger.

"Damn him!" he cried out with rage. "I'm going to find you again, Ranma, and next time I'll defeat you!"

"Rip Maen..."

Hearing a girl's voice nearby, Ryouga was surprised to find that the color had returned to his character and that he could move again. After quickly sitting up, he looked to his right and found two characters staring down at him. One was a pink-haired girl in a black corset, and the other a taller man with a white and blue coat and orange sunglasses.

"Hi there. What's your name?" the girl smiled, kneeling down next to him.

"R-Ryouga..." the confused Edge Punisher replied. "What did you guys do?"

"We revived you, of course," the girl in black chuckled. "I'm Shino, and this is Ovan."

"Shino...and Ovan..." Ryouga gave them curious stares. "Why did you revive me?"

"Just helping out a fellow player," Shino replied happily.

A bit embarrassed at having been assisted by the pair, Ryouga picked himself up off the ground and got back to his feet.

"Ryouga," Ovan got the boy's attention, "why do you hold a grudge against that player who defeated you?"

Caught off guard by the question, Ryouga hesitated for a moment before answering. "It's...none of your business..."

"That may be true," the man with the sunglasses responded. "But tell you remember why you are upset with him?"

"What?! Of course I...remember..." Ryouga slowly replied, looking a bit uncomfortable as he turned away. "I'm leaving..."

"Wait," Ovan said, stopping the novice character before he could go. "That player named Ranma...he has friends here, as well as a guild to support him. He will continue to grow stronger at a much faster rate than you can on your own, meaning you'll never be able to defeat him."

Annoyed, the Edge Punisher looked back over his shoulder and glared at the man. "And...?"

"We can help you, Ryouga," Ovan told him. "We can teach you about The World, and about how to battle. We can provide you with all of the knowledge and skills needed to fight evenly with Ranma."

Ryouga took a moment to carefully ponder the offer before giving Ovan his answer.

"Thanks, but I can do it on my own."

Despite the rejection, Ovan seemed content with the response. "I see. I won't keep you then. However, my offer remains on the table should you change your mind."

Without another word, Ryouga shrugged his shoulders and walked off, leaving the former Twilight Brigade leaders behind.

"He's seems awfully stubborn," Shino giggled as she peered over at the man with the blue scarf. "Will it be okay? Maybe we should have given him our member addresses."

"There is no need," Ovan calmly said to her. "We shouldn't be too forward in this situation."

Feeling at ease, the black-clothed Harvest Cleric folded her hands behind her back and stared off in the direction where Ryouga had wandered.

"I guess you're right..."

End of Chapter 4

A/N: This story has been discontinued.