It had been about a month after the whole Cubia Ordeal. Haseo, or Ryou Misaki,was sitting at his desk wondering what he was reading. He didn't really know what to think, especially because of the fact that he received an email from the Goddess Aura. The goddess. The AI that resided within the system, governing [The World] from the sea of data. No, that wasn't quite correct anymore. Aura, from what he understood held the system, but did not enforce it. She protected it, but she let the players decide its fate.
Moreover, she had given Ryou the member addresses of the Azure Knights. The ones that had repeatedly gotten in his way, while they were all looking for the same thing: to rid [The World] of AIDA.
Ryou found it a conundrum. What the hell would he do with AIDA destroying AIs? Go out battling like he had always done? Drag them around on quests? Now that he thought about it, there was no more AIDA. Why would Aura entrust them to him? From the front of his computer monitor, he heaved an outward sigh, thinking on what he would do.
…There's really only one thing I can do.
He slipped on his MD2, and logged into [The World R:2] as Haseo.
No one was online. It was a first, but Ryou blamed it on the fact it was a holiday. Yes, it was a holiday. He had been so absorbed into the game that he had forgotten about the outside world. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't touched his computer all week. But… he didn't exactly need to log in daily anymore. Sure, his friends expected him, but he didn't really need to log in everyday. Not to mention people were busy with holidays… Christmas, to be specific.
Why was he online again? Ryou… or rather Haseo sighed. He remembered why. He wanted to check on the others, but of course no one would be on! Even after all of those emails in his inbox, no one was on. He sighed.
The Root Town Mac Anu was nearly deserted. As he walked away from the Chaos Gate, he noted the immense lack of players running around or bartering at the guild-run shops. Not only that, more players seemed to be logging out than logging in. The numbers dropped steadily nationwide, Haseo noted. He wasn't all that surprised, to be honest.
Haseo disliked crowds. Moreover, he really had no relatives he could to relate to, and often disdained being dragged into one-sided conversations where he could only answer with an 'Oh, I see', or a 'Hn.' It was too much of a bother to deal with.
As he checked his member addresses again, he saw that not even Endrance was on. From his knowledge, the lanky effeminate man was a complete hikkikomori, and was dedicated to playing [The World].
His parents must've had to drag him off of his PC. Haseo snorted. On a much closer inspection, he noticed that the mods had changed Mac Anu's scenery into that of a snow touched town, with neon lights strung up against the walls. Instead of the eternal sunset of the town, it was actually night for once. Snowflakes were falling gaily out of the sky, accumulating on the walkways, and actually crunching beneath Haseo's feet.
The mods have way too much time on their hands. He thought to himself as Haseo lifted up his hand to catch a stray flake. He couldn't actually feel the cold atmosphere, but Haseo entered the 'shiver' command. Ryou smirked to himself in his amusement as he watched Haseo shiver slightly, and rub his hands against his arms. It fit the situation, even if no one was there to see it.
…He was bored. Again, he found himself checking to see who was online. The only online icons he found where the Azure Knights.
Well, it's not like they know what Christmas is. Or anything to do with holidays for that matter. Haseo mused to himself. His cursor hovered over Azure Kite's invite icon for minutes. Reluctantly, Haseo closed the screen before heaving a small sigh. It's not like he could do much with them. Maybe.
Nonchalantly, he walked towards the fountain placed in the middle of the Mac Anu, and brushed the digitalized snow off of the stone before taking a seat. Haseo glanced around again, but the root town had remained derelict and empty without so much as a sign of life. The only sound he heard was the splashing of the water rushing against the frozen fountain.
Being in an empty world was a waste of his time. Frustrated, Haseo grumbled to himself as he stood up abruptly. "Screw this, I'm logging ou-"
He stopped mid-sentence when his eyes fell on a familiar patched up figure. The boy flinched as he laid eyes on the zombie-like visage of Azure Kite, in all his patched glory. Something was wrong, in Haseo's mind. It was Azure Kite. Azure Kite. In a Town.
What. What the hell?
"Hey!" He called out. Azure Kite lazily turned towards Haseo, spotting him with one emerald eye beneath this unkempt blue hair and orange hat.
"Aaa…" The moan was induced in such a way that it completely lacked emotion. Haseo's eye twitched. It was unmistakable. Haseo gaped, as he struggled to keep his apprehensions to himself.
What the hell is an AIDA-seeking AI doing in a town?
In the midst of Haseo's internal floundering, the zombie-like AI loomed close to him. Haseo stood very still.
"Aaaah…" Came the moan. Ryou grimaced outside of the game. Was that the only form of speech the AI was capable of?
"…Good evening to you too." He mumbled sarcastically, looking slowly up at the stitched-together avatar of Azure Kite. The text box flashed, much to Haseo's dull interest.
…So he does have another method of communication. But why the hell is it in L33t? What a pain…
"What brings you to the town?" He asked nonchalantly. Azure Kite tilted his head, as if wondering why he would ask such a thing. Haseo shifted uncomfortably. "…To be honest, you don't really look like the type to hang out in a Root Town, if you know what I mean. Is there an AIDA or a bug?" Haseo inquired as he examined the blue-haired AI's gangly and unseemly appearance.
The Azure Knight shook his head.
"…No bugs? Well… it's good to hear, I guess." Haseo shrugged his shoulders before giving a look that asked how he could be in the towns. Or why he was even here in the first place.
7e12e R3n'7 /\/\&nY |laY3r5 r!9h7 N%w. Azure Kite explained. Of course, Haseo could barely make it out. The AI hid his face further below his belted collar, eyes disappearing beneath his wild blue fringe. Haseo pondered his actions, as the next line of garbled l33t appeared on the screen.
l3$s !5 be7te12. N% (r0\/\/|)s n|) n% $7ar!n9.
Damn, I can barely make that text out. Ryou twisted his lips into a scowl as he squinted, glancing back and forth between both lines of text. After a moment of decoding, Haseo frowned before replying. "… 'Less is better'… you dislike getting stared at?"
"…Aah." It sounded like a moan of approval, if such a thing existed. Haseo rubbed his forehead tentatively as he stared at the AI. Had he mentioned that he hated one-sided conversations? Ones in particular where he couldn't understand anything?
"So… what business do you have in a Root town anyway? For items?" Haseo asked doubtfully. The hovering AI shook his head.
Haseo blinked at the horribly butchered text. "Excuse me, but what? I can barely make out what you're saying as it is."
Th3 $!ght5. The line came again, except in less corrupted text.
Haseo exhaled a calm breath to force his temper down. "The sights?" This took Ryou somewhat aback. It- no, Azure Kite actually had depth? "What, you mean the Christmas Mod they put up for the occasion?"
He nodded slightly again before letting out another breathy moan.
"Why?" Haseo asked, feeling childish after the words had left his mouth. Curiously, Azure Kite lifted his head up towards the sky, reaching out for an individual snowflake with his tightly-bandaged hand. Haseo tilted his head. "Because of the snow?"
Pr3t7y, Bu/ c0l|).
"…Cold. Yeah. Snow's supposed to be cold." Haseo retorted absentmindedly, before realizing the Azure Knight could feel. He was cold, for starters. Haseo numbly stared at him in disbelief.
Again, the AI nodded. Ryou raised an eyebrow. Despite Azure Kite's appearance, he seemed like a child with no knowledge of his surroundings. Well, that observation wasn't quite true, but Haseo couldn't find the correct term for it. Now that he thought of it, what did the Azure Knights do on standby? Did they merely wait until they received orders? Suddenly, the reason why Aura had given him their member addresses seemed so much clearer.
She wanted them to have something new, now that AIDA was no longer here. Rubbing his head, Haseo looked back at the Azure Knight.
A low hiss escaped Azure Kite's mouth. Haseo panicked.
"Uh… Azure Kite?" Haseo corrected himself. Azure Kite's monotonous hiss fell silent. Great, he's picky on what I call him. Ryou rolled his eyes, as the clad orange AI stared at him with a mix of expectancy and curiosity. It would've been normal if Azure Kite's eyes weren't permanently widened. It creeped him out, but what could Azure Kite do? It wasn't the AI's fault he had been created that way. Haseo paused before he continued.
"What is [The World] to you?"
"…" Azure Kite indolently turned his emerald gaze away from Haseo. The Adept Rogue stared expectantly, waiting for an answer when suddenly, the AI logged out right in front of him. Of course it wasn't possible for Azure Kite to actually log out, but when Haseo went to check on his status, he and the other Azure Knights were set to 'Busy'.
Ryou gawked. "Busy? Busy doing what?" He stared at the statuses for a while before logging off, and removing his MD2 and placing it carefully on his desk. Ryou folded his arms and frowned.
"Maybe there was a bug in the system or something." He murmured thoughtfully aloud as he leaned back in his chair, spinning around as he kicked his feet against a corner of his desk. It did make sense. After all, they were the knights of [The World], and keeping it safe was supposed to be their top priority, right? Guiltily, Ryou found himself staring at the screen of his PC. Now that he thought about it, when he first met 'Tri-Edge' Pking his beloved Shino, the whole thing had been a misunderstanding. And back when Ryou had attacked him in Hulle Granz Cathedral, what caused the AI to data drain him? Rubbing his palm uncertainly against his forehead, his train of thought slid to a grinding halt as the doorbell rang.
"Oh great." He nearly swore. Lifting himself out of his chair, Ryou went to the edge of his bedroom and peered out the window. There were cars outside of his house.
"Ryou!" Came his mother's call from downstairs. "Your cousins are here! Come down and say hello!"
"Shit!" Ryou swore. He looked abruptly at his door as he heard his mother's footsteps pad closer. Alarmed, he sprinted over to his MD2, hastily put it on, and logged into [The World]. The door swerved open, revealing his mother's kind but weary face. Not that he could see it. He looked anyway to at give her the sense that she had his attention.
"Ryou!" Came her exasperated voice. "You're playing that MMORPG, again?"
Ryou rolled his eyes as he noted the emphasis on 'again'. "My friends called me to play." He lied. Though, he wasn't exactly lying.
His mother huffed a breath. "You have friends in real life, and your cousins downstairs right now. The game can wait, Ryou."
"Wait." Ryou's voice rose. "Are you implying they aren't real? That the players in an online game aren't real?"
"No, of course not." His mother replied tersely. Ryou imagined a frown on her face. "Your cousins came all this way. Can't you at least come down to say hello?"
"Mom. They're all younger than me." I don't feel like babysitting either.
"Your point? They still came all this way to visit." Ryou internally grimaced. Something said he wasn't going to get out of it, but hell. He might as well get it over with. "Ryou…" His mother's voice had a dangerous tone. He groaned.
"…Fine." He replied bitterly as he ripped the MD2 off of his eyes. It's not like anyone's going to be online anyway… I can only hope they're as well behaved as Bo.
How wrong he was. No sooner than he had come into view, he was jumped by children less than half his age. He had been screamed at, jumped, had his hair tugged, bitten, and slobbered on for nearly an hour before excusing himself back to his room. His mother and father didn't seem to object, so the teenager began stealthily making his way back up the stairs when the youngest had noticed him leaving, and let out a shrill cry. Swearing under his breath, Ryou ran up the stairs skipping tree steps a stride, hoping to outrun the children trailing behind him at the bottom of the stairs.
"Kids! Cookies!" Came his mother's voice. Excitedly, they ran over to the new source of attention as Ryou successfully escaped, and locked his door in triumph. At times like this, he loved his mother.
Ryo found himself staring at the abandoned MD2; he mused on whether to log in again. As he nestled comfortably within the confines of his chair, he checked his mail for any new messages to no avail. He clicked the greeting card tab of his email station, and contemplated on what he would do with them.
He had gotten a lot from the Guild. He had never found a use for them though, except for occasionally sending one or two to Atoli and Silabus. Selecting the standard greeting card, Ryou sent it to the three Azure Knights on a whim. After waiting in front of the PC for a few moments, he shrugged to himself.
"Who knows… maybe they're still bug hunting or something." He thought out loud. "Whatever."
Crashing against his bed, Ryou haphazardly pulled the covers over himself before passing out.