Summary: It didn't matter what had gone wrong, because there was a much bigger question to ask: what happens when a self-aware NPC dies?
Rated for swearing and some violence.
Set after chapter 43.
A mix up of the manhua-verse and novel-verse.
Lan's wearing her Red Blood gear. (The stuff she wore when she became the spokesperson of Second Life)
I've had this plotbunny since, like, March last year. Started writing it in August and then it got left again in October/November. Started back on this because of the developments in the manhua and posting it before everything gets shown/explained.
By Dark Ice Dragon
Dammit, dammit, dammit!
Pivoting, Lan kicked off, leaping backwards and just missed being skewered like dango by a gigantic claw. They were being beaten by a giant chicken. Gui and Doll had already flown away, taken down in a number of hits, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of them did as well. All their magic and skills were useless, sliding off shiny feathers like they were water instead and the mob had a weird attack that froze them in place for an agonisingly long minute. Even Kenshin didn't seem to be putting much of a dent in it. And that really, really worried her.
The oversized bird hissed again like an aggravated cat. Lan wasn't going to ask about that - the programmers probably thought it was funny.
She dived out of the way as a smaller version of the chicken ('smaller' meant it was 'only' twenty-foot tall, rather than thirty-foot - and what kind of bird had a lizard's tail anyway?) pecked at where she'd just been, dirt getting thrown up as its beak thudded into the ground.
There were just too many of them. Even when they were able to bring down a smaller one, it respawned a minute later. They couldn't run because they'd been backed up against a cliff-face and were completely surrounded.
The last thing Lan saw was a blue, spike-tipped wing descending towards her.
~ ~ ~
With a groan, Lan shook her head and waited for the bright spots to leave her vision. The only pain she could feel was a massive bruise forming on her forehead and, thankfully, nowhere else. Her legs were feeling a little shaky though, and she wasn't sure about trying to stand just yet.
"Prince? You flew away too?" Gui asked, his brow furrowed in concern. He and Doll were standing a few steps away from where she was, eating something, Doll's face covered in crumbs. There was no-one else there.
Lan nodded, wincing as the motion felt like she'd tried to tip her brain out her skull. She edged off the respawn point when it started glowing under her, soft at first, before strengthening and then flashing once. It was Yulian who materialised, looking slightly dazed. They only had to wait two more seconds for Wolf, but it was a slightly longer period before Lolidragon showed up.
Lolidragon flopped back, arms outspread. "Well," she sighed, "that was fun." She lay there for a few seconds before she sat up and smiled at them. "Let's not explore that area again, hmm?"
They chuckled at that while she got to her feet.
"I don't know about you," Lolidragon continued blithely as she stretched, "but I am starving."
"We'll go eat once Kenshin gets here," Lan reassured her. She was hungry too, but they shouldn't have to wait for too long, no matter how good Kenshin was. Lan wasn't actually sure when they'd last eaten either - she knew that they'd had dinner before they'd decided to go exploring, but that was... some number of hours ago. Wasn't she supposed to wake up soon?
"Eh?" Lolidragon blinked at her before looking around slowly at everyone. "But... he'd flown away before me..." She trailed off, her mouth hanging open as her eyes widened.
At that, Lan's stomach dropped as she realised the same thing. They were at the respawn point because that was where players went when they died. But Kenshin wasn't a player; he was a self-aware NPC - so where did he go when he died?
Uneasily, she said, "We'll wait a couple more minutes - maybe you didn't actually see him fly away." Which was technically true, because Caellus had just disintegrated into bubbles when she'd killed him. Which really wasn't settling her stomach any. No-one had seen Caellus since they'd fought him, but at least she had the plausible deniability that most people didn't go to the Valley of the Wandering Nymphs - and if they did, they flew away soon after due to being distracted. But Kenshin...
They waited for five minutes, then another ten, dread growing within Lan with every passing moment. The glyph stayed dead for the entire time.
"Hmm." Wolf frowned as he rubbed the fur on his cheek. "He couldn't have beaten all of the mobs by himself, could he?" He looked to Lolidragon for confirmation.
She shook her head. "I was only dodging when it was just the two of us; I don't think he could have."
The last Lan had seen, there had been at least four of the smaller chickens; there was no way Lolidragon and Kenshin could have killed all of them by themselves, even if they'd had full health and energy.
Kenshin wasn't answering her PMs either. He didn't normally, but sometimes he did, and she had to be getting to the annoying stage already, so why wasn't he PMing her to at least tell her to shut up?
"Maybe he logged off before he flew away?" Doll suggested, her hands fiddling with her staff.
"Maybe," Lan hedged. It sounded plausible enough. "We'll wait for a little longer. If he doesn't show up or PM any of us soon, we'll go to get something to eat." It felt like a betrayal saying that, but they had to make sure that they kept the number of people who knew about Kenshin and Sunshine down to a minimum.
After the allotted time came and went, Odd Squad left to fill their stomachs. Lan followed after them, her feet dragging, hoping the respawn point would even throw up a tiny spark before she left.
* * *
The cave walls around him were wet, trickling water from somewhere up high above his head. It was familiar; he knew every overturned stone in front of him but... something was wrong.
He was not supposed to be here...?
But then, where was he meant to be?
No answer revealed itself. After some amount of time passed, he decided to continue wandering the cave.
Maybe he would find his answer doing that.
* * *
-'Kenshin!'- Lan called. -'Kenshin!'- She'd been doing that ever since she'd logged in, but she hadn't received a response yet.
If he'd survived fighting the giant chickens, then he would have had plenty time to get back to Infinite City while she'd been logged out. Maybe he was just ignoring her. But he would have come to her by now, at least to tell her to stop. He couldn't have just disappeared though. He couldn't be lost either - he didn't have her lack of direction. She'd thought about it throughout the day, but she had no idea where he could have gone.
Someone put their hand on Lan's shoulder, drawing her attention.
Turning around, she saw that it was Lolidragon and Sunshine standing behind her. Lolidragon had a comforting smile on her face, and Sunshine was carrying his carpet, rolled up and held securely under his arm.
"You think you know where he is?" she asked, hopeful. Sunshine didn't bring out his carpet for nothing, but where were they thinking of going that would need the carpet as transportation?
They both nodded. "When a player dies, they go to the closest respawn point," Lolidragon explained. Yeah, she knew that, but Lan kept quiet, wanting to know what Lolidragon would add. "But when an NPC dies, they don't go anywhere because they usually die in the place where they're supposed to be."
Where they're supposed to be? Kenshin was supposed to be with her, right? As her pet. But if NPCs didn't normally leave the area that they'd been put in...
Kenshin was originally from the Ghost Cave.
All the air in Lan's lungs came out at once, relief flooding her. That would explain why he wasn't answering her PMs, and why he hadn't come back to Infinite City: he was in the Eastern Continent. ... But why had he ended up there? Shouldn't he have respawned next to her?
Think about that later. Right now, they needed to get to the Eastern Continent and pick him up.
Lan's elation dimmed a little as another thought occurred to her: what was she going to tell the others?
Lolidragon saw her hesitation, and reached forward again, tugging her towards Sunshine before she could say anything. "It'll be fiiine," Lolidragon said cheerily. "I'll give 'em an explanation when they ask."
It didn't reassure her much; look at what Doll said the last time she'd left. "I'm not-"
"Sunshine," Lolidragon interrupted her with a roll of her eyes, "just take her already."
He was smiling a little at their antics but Lan could see the little worried crease between his eyebrows. He hesitated, glancing between the two of them, waiting to see who would give the final order.
Lan looked down and shook her head, berating herself. She really shouldn't be worrying about the others right now - Lolidragon would sort things out, and even if things did end up more complicated than before, they would at least have Kenshin back. That was what mattered. It would all work out eventually.
"All right, Sunshine," she said, squaring her shoulders, "let's go."
Sunshine's smile grew until he beamed, bright as the real sun. "Okay!" In one smooth movement, he unfurled the carpet, flicked it, and then let it go. It stayed there, hovering a few feet above the ground.
Without another thought, Lan jumped up and landed on the fabric. Sunshine's smile turned amused as he made the carpet hover lower so that it fluttered against the ground, and then he walked on to it.
She huffed in embarrassment at that. Whoops. Lan turned to Lolidragon, who smiled at them, waving.
"You'd better get back quick!" Lolidragon warned them, raising an eyebrow.
"We'll try to," Lan promised. It shouldn't take them that long - the flight there was relatively short (especially compared to the boat ride), and while the Ghost Cave was massive, it was at least only one specific place to look, rather than trying to find a person in the whole of Second Life.
With that goodbye, the carpet rose up and they started speeding towards the east.
* * *
This... was not going as well as Lan had thought it would go. They'd found the cave easily enough, and it hadn't changed much since the last time she'd been there. The walls were still humongously tall, the moss actually seemed to have spread more, and there were puddles all over the place.
They hadn't seen a hint to Kenshin yet.
But, it was still early; they had only been searching for a couple of hours now. The really annoying thing was that they couldn't avoid the mobs. It seemed like she and Sunshine would only take a couple of steps from the last fight and they'd stumble into another one. Ugh. It was making her edgy and uneasy, considering what had happened the last time she'd been in a massive fight. And this time, it was Sunshine who was with her, which didn't help her state of mind.
Lan didn't understand why Kenshin hadn't been waiting for them at the entrance, or why he still wasn't answering her PMs, but the cave was huge, so maybe he'd respawned on the other side or something. She hoped.
She frowned down the passage she and Sunshine were standing in. Even though she'd spent days here before, it was completely unfamiliar to her. Lan could barely tell the difference between where they were going and where they'd just been. They could have gone in a circle ten times already and she wouldn't have known.
Hopefully, when they found Kenshin, he would be able to lead them out again.
* * *
There were two demons and an angel in front of him. They had passed by him, not knowing he was there, chatting between themselves easily, laughter sprinkling between them.
"But, obviously, he hadn't seen her behind him, right?" That was the angel, dressed in a mix of blues and greens, his violet hair fluttering. He was a little bit in front of the other two, walking backwards.
"And no-one was going to tell him either," the silver-haired demon chimed in, smirking at the howling third.
The voices were fading as the trio got further away and he tuned their conversation out. He should have attacked them. That was what he normally did. But... he had hesitated this time and he was not sure why. Which did not make sense to him; if they had seen him first, they would have attacked, he knew that. For what reason, he did not know. Yet something whispered that there was not such a big need to kill the others now. Not in actual words, but, just, a knowledge that was that there and did not need to be expressed so explicitly.
Frowning, he turned away, continuing back to his wandering.
* * *
Okay, Lan could easily admit that she and Sunshine were completely and utterly lost. No doubt about it. They'd spent the last two days inside the cave, because they couldn't find their way back out again. Which was getting really problematic, because she hadn't brought potions with her -of any kind- so she was running low on health and everything else without a chance to stock up on her non-existent supply. There just never seemed to be that much time in between fights for her health and energy to replenish itself.
One good thing that was coming from this, Lan supposed, was that she was gaining a few levels from all the fighting. She had to look on the good side of the situation or else she was going to go insane. Definitely not a lot of good drops though. She was getting tired of seeing the same ghost over and over again as well - it seemed like there were only two types of mobs here: ghosts and giant rats. For every rat they fought, they had to go through twenty ghosts before it. Lan was very sure of this; she'd counted.
They still hadn't found Kenshin, and Lan was fairly sure they were starting to delve into the bowels of the cave, nearing where Sunshine had been trapped.
Maybe that was where Kenshin had gone; they were well on the way to have searched everywhere else twice. Unless they'd been in the same area about eight times already. It was a goal, at least - not that you could say they were heading for it deliberately.
Wiping the sweat from her forehead, Lan glanced around the cavern. They'd hit another fork and, as per usual, she didn't recognise it. Frowning, she stared at each path carefully. One of them seemed darker than the others, the ground wetter, the walls grimy. Bosses in caves were always in the worst kept area, weren't they? Either because they liked it like that, or to dissuade people from coming near them. Or it was just appropriate.
Sunshine was also looking down the same path, eyes distant. Lan was a little worried about him; he hadn't said much since they'd arrived, and he wasn't smiling as often, wasn't asking as many questions. Not that he could ask that much in this setting anyway, Lan conceded; there wasn't much here apart from rocks, water, and the greenery that sprouted through the cracks. They had still yet to find the yawning caverns that she and Kenshin had traversed over to get to Sunshine, but maybe there was more than one route that they could take there.
"Don't worry," she said as they started moving again, both choosing the same path without discussing it, "we'll find him soon." They would. They were not going to leave the cave without him.
Sunshine didn't respond straight away, but after a few seconds he turned to look at her. There was a small smile on his lips, though his eyes were still a little downcast. "I know."
Lan grinned up at him, pushed down her own worry, and they started moving again.
* * *
-'Kenshin?'- That voice again. It was different from the whispers, not just in how it sounded, but it was always clear when it tried to talk to him rather than leaving an indistinct impression in his mind. No knowledge came from the other voice, only a few repeated, nonsensical questions. -'You here?'-
There was a twin 'shick' behind him, pulling him away from his thoughts. Two seconds later, a battle-yell echoed off the walls.
He dodged the strike easily, and he unsheathed his katana at the same time. Just as he was about to attack, yellow light flashed out of the corner of his eye and he jumped backwards. The lightning passed him harmlessly and crashed into a wall.
"I knew he was in here somewhere!" the human thief crowed, twirling her daggers in celebration.
The lynx beast snorted, holding out his staff. It started to spark under his hands. "We've been searching for this guy for days now you idiot," he said, both ears twitching down. "I don't think the amount of crystals you get for his hair tie is worth it."
His hair tie? He wanted to reach up and make sure that it was there, but he could not, not with the others there, on the edge of attacking again. They wanted it? That was familiar to him, being hunted down for such an insignificant item. Why had he ever thought it had stopped?
The lightning on the mage's staff was growing, throwing flickering shadows across the walls until it encased the staff in a solid halo of light. He lunged at the thief, the magic attack roaring harmlessly behind him. Caught off guard, the thief tried to parry, but she was not fast enough. Her daggers did nothing to change the direction of his blade and he plunged his katana in to the human's heart.
The human exploded in to a burst of light, and he turned to face the mage. The mage was staring at him, wide-eyed and quickly backing away, his staff held up as if it was a shield instead.
In a few quick steps, he was equal to him. One slash, and he was alone once more.
He was being hunted again. But he knew of a safe area that he could go, where he would not be found easily.
He didn't know how he knew, but for all the confusion the whispers caused him, they had not been wrong yet about the information they bestowed him.
* * *
It had been a couple more days before Lan and Sunshine were able to find the right area of the cave. Sunshine did more exploring while she had been offline, and when she logged in, she was fine with following Sunshine's lead.
There was a dizzying drop on their left Lan was sure that she wouldn't survive, and she kept a cautious eye out for the roots that were draped along the path. On their right was a steep wall that reached up so high Lan couldn't see where it joined with the ceiling, because she couldn't see that either. The width of the path wasn't dangerously narrow, at least wide enough for four people to walk abreast, but it would still be hard to manoeuvre around easily, if there was a fight here.
They had to be getting closer to the palace though. This was definitely something that she remembered while she was travelling with Kenshin, and again, when they'd freed Sunshine.
A breeze swept in from in front of them and Lan raised her arms to protect her eyes. There was an inhuman screech and Lan ducked out of instinct. A whoosh streaked above her head and Lan's dao was in her hands before she could think.
It was yet another ghost, luckily, on its own. The others that they'd fought before it had looked almost cute at times, all curved lines, while this one seemed bulkier and just bigger than the rest. The bad thing was that it could still hover and fly as much as it wanted, and Lan hadn't realised just how much of an advantage it had over them until she remembered the current terrain.
Teeth bared, revealing a mouth full of jagged fangs, it swooped again, this time diving for Sunshine. Lan's eyes narrowed, her grip on her dao tightening. She dashed forward and jumped, getting the perfect angle and slashed at the monster. Her dao passed through it, but she could feel the resistance as it did and the ghost howled and spun away quickly. Then Lan saw where her jump was going to take her.
She felt her cape being grabbed and then she was hauled back to safer, solid ground. Lan hit the ground with a heavy thump, her neck aching, but that was far better than falling into the abyss.
She'd barely got the wind back in her, had only glanced at Sunshine in thanks, when the damn ghost attacked again, glowing blue as its claws raked forward, missing her as she scrambled out the way. Lan hadn't seen any of the others do that before, and she briefly wondered if that was because this was a higher level mob compared to its brothers and sisters. It could explain why it was by itself.
Its claws left deep gouges in the floor - and then exploded.
... No way was she going to let that touch her.
The air rained with bits of gravel and bark, Lan's ability to see decreasing far too much from all the debris. There was a crack as parts of the wall collapsed as its foundation gave way, sending more billowing clouds of dirt spiralling in the air. Her eyes burned and watered, and she coughed as the dust made their way to her lungs. Lan squinted around her, but she could only make out the hazy silhouette of Sunshine.
There was something glowing blue above her and she twisted out of the way, hoping that she wasn't heading straight over the edge. Thankfully, she didn't, though she tripped over a hidden root. The air in her lungs left her painfully again for a second time in as many minutes, but Lan was grateful for that, especially when the ground behind her exploded once more. That was when she felt the bit beneath her feet crumbling, and she scrabbled back to her feet, edging away, hoping she was following the path rather than going across it.
There was even more dust in the air now, so much so that all Lan could do was close her eyes instead and cough as it felt like every particle of dirt was trying to force their way into her lungs. Her sight was useless right now - even if she could open her eyes, they were watering so much that she could only see smudges of brown and green.
Every sound she made seemed harsh and far too loud to her ears, and she could still hear rocks dropping to the ground. But where was Sunshine? He hadn't been hurt, had he? He hadn't flown away, right?
There was a faint noise to her left as stones tumbled against each other, more concentrated than the light hissing fall around her. Definitely footsteps, something which the ghost shouldn't be able to do.
Another howl, making Lan jerk from the sheer volume, but she was beginning to see the pattern in its attack. She peeked out of her smarting eyes, to confirm where the glowing was and then closed them again. Lan could feel the wind swirling around her, maybe taking the dust away, but she didn't check. There was a crackling in the air, something she hadn't noticed before, and she used that to keep track of the mob.
It was directly above her, and it only used its special attack going straight down.
With her head tipped back, Lan could maybe see the blue light through her eyelids and then she waited. It wasn't long before it dived towards her again.
When she thought it was close enough, she swung her dao above her, yelling, "Inferno slash!" The air burned around her, and all she could see was red scorching the back of her eyes, and all she could hear was the roar of fire as it sliced through the ghost.
A screech filled the air.
"Fire arrow!" Sunshine bellowed a second later.
There was another burst of heat and Lan heard multiple impacts upon a far wall to her right. Still wary, she kept her dao raised, straining her ears for another warning.
"Prince? It's okay - it's gone now."
Slowly, she tried to open her eyes. They still hurt, and she couldn't see much. She rubbed at them with an arm and belatedly realised that her wrist guards were not good for trying to clear her eyes. Ugh. She wiped her hands on her cloak and tried again with the heel of her palm. It worked better this time, and she could see slightly better, though her eyes were still watering heavily.
Sunshine was in front of her waiting, dirt only lightly dusting his clothes. Lan didn't want to know what she looked like at the moment. It felt like all of her exposed skin was covered in grime and sweat. The air had settled somewhat, though it was still a little cloudy and she could see the motes still moving from the aftermath of Sunshine's attack. In front of her...
There were two gaping craters, both probably as wide as she was tall, their rims not looking that stable. It was worrying, and as they watched, more of the cracked edge broke away, bounced a little in the crater and then rolled off the edge. The good thing was, there was still a small path that could be walked across, but it didn't look like it would be like that for very long. There were ominous groans murmuring around them, and Lan was beginning to think that it was coming from the ground below them.
If it did crumble away while they were looking for Kenshin, she hoped that the gap left behind would still jumpable.
Lan turned away from the destruction, what-ifs fading from her mind. They'd deal with it if it came up later; they had someone to find in the meantime.
* * *
He walked through the cavern, looking at everything. He knew every path here, knew exactly where they would lead him and what would be there at the end.
But, he had never been here before. He was sure of it. His memories did not cover this, but he could not deny the fact that he was as familiar with this area as he was of where he usually walked. It could maybe explain how he knew of this place without realising. If he remembered everything here without having been here before, then knowing about another area within this one was not a stretch of imagination.
He was curious to see what the safe haven was like. He would find out soon.
* * *
At least the scenery was different now, Lan could admit with some relief as she and Sunshine continued on. The craggy walls were beginning to smoothen out, and everything didn't seem to be as wet anymore. The greenery was disappearing too, which Lan was a little disappointed about. That meant the only colour around them was brown, grey, and dark brown. Not exactly a lot of variety.
It had been a while since they'd bumped in to any mobs, which was making her really nervous. Where were they all? Had it been like this the last time? Frowning, Lan tried to think about it carefully. There had been a lot of monsters, yeah, but that had been mostly at the front of the cave, rather than the back. It had been a pretty peaceful walk, up until they crossed the cavern. So hopefully this was just normal.
The path narrowed and smoothened completely until they were walking down a very straight and even path. If they were on the right track, that should be the entrance to Sunshine's palace.
It took them ages walking, but with every step, Lan became surer that they were heading for the right place.
An hour later, she and Sunshine were craning their heads up at the humungous door. Lan laughed a little, seeing the piece that was missing from the jewel. Maybe she should take another piece to Yulian. It wouldn't hurt, right?
They ducked into the room, and then stopped, staring.
Dammit. Where the hell was he? She started poking around the room, checking inside the jars and behind the giant seashell thing, but there wasn't anything there.
Where was he? Why hadn't he been waiting for them? Was he actually here? Or was he...? He couldn't be. No. He wasn't. He wasn't.
Lan turned to Sunshine, her mouth open to say that they should keep looking through the cave, but she froze before she could get a sound out.
Kenshin. At the door. Eyeing them with a blank face.
Lan's own face broke out a huge grin of sheer relief.
"Hey!" She waved and stepped forward.
His eyes cut to her in a heartbeat, the intensity and focus startling her. A second later, his katana was in his hand.
'What?' Lan's eyes widened in shock as she took in the stance Kenshin was in, and she hastily summoned her dao. She nearly wasn't fast enough.
Her back slammed against the wall with a tremendous force, the wind knocked out of her. She'd smacked her head at the same time and she was dazed for a few precious seconds as she tried to sort out what was happening.
Kenshin was attacking her. Why? Was he that pissed off at her for dying?
She struggled to get back to her feet but Kenshin was already out of her vision. Shit.
The air in front of her screamed past, and a red blur bounced back, away from her. Kenshin turned to glare at Sunshine, his katana raised.
What was going on? Kenshin wasn't going to attack Sunshine was he?
It didn't look like it. He wavered as he stared at Sunshine, though his katana didn't budge.
Grunting, Lan pushed herself to her feet, but Sunshine's next words froze her solid.
"Demon Lord," he greeted with a tilt of his head.
Why - why was Sunshine calling him that? And why was Kenshin reacting?
Kenshin nodded curtly, the tip of his katana dipping. "Lantis Ilyushin."
That - it wasn't right. Something was horribly, horribly wrong. Kenshin shouldn't have attacked them, he shouldn't be reacting to Demon Lord, or calling Sunshine by his old name either. But he was, and Lan could only stare at the two of them, the air trapped in her lungs, her stomach deciding that it would stay some couple hundred miles under ground.
Turning his head slightly, Kenshin looked at her through the corner of her eyes, his eyes narrow, and his hand tightened on his hilt. Dammit. There was no way that she'd be able to touch him, let alone beat him. And she didn't want to beat him, or even fight him.
"Wait." Sunshine held up a hand, and waited for Kenshin focus back on him. When he did, Sunshine continued. "Don't attack him."
Kenshin frowned at him.
"He... feels different from the others, doesn't he?" Sunshine asked gently.
She felt different? That didn't make sense to her, but just everything about this situation was off.
Another nod, this one more considering as he eyed her again.
"Demon Lord, please, sheath your katana - you are not in any danger here."
That was definitely true. After a long minute of Kenshin staring at Sunshine, he sheathed his katana, the grate of metal on metal ringing harshly in the room.
Lan waited, hoping that something would start making sense soon. She unsummoned her dao, and after going through a check to see how banged up she was (it was thankfully mostly bruising, the armour protecting her, even though it had jarred her upon impact) she cautiously made her way towards them. Kenshin warily watched her approach, absolutely no recognition in his eyes. His hand wasn't on his hilt, but it wasn't completely relaxed either. His entire body was poised, still expecting an attack.
He was holding himself too stiff compared to how he normally held himself, an unconscious confidence and 'pride' that was communicated through every step. Here, he was highly strung, as if he was expecting to react to an attack. When she neared, he moved so that he didn't have his back to her.
Lan got to a hopefully reasonable, comfortable distance away from the two of them, but she was at a loss for what to say or do. If Kenshin didn't remember her, then she couldn't act as flippant as she normally did with him, because who knew how he would react to that. How far did the memory loss go? Before he met her? Before he met Sunshine? Before he became aware he was an NPC?
Kenshin didn't recognise her, was reacting to Demon Lord and was calling Sunshine by his old name. Which all pointed to some sort of amnesia, his memories of the last couple of months gone. But that couldn't be right - what kind of NPC developed amnesia?
The same kind that developed self-awareness.
He... he couldn't have it. But that was the only thing that could explain his actions.
"Kenshin...?" she tried again, just to make sure.
As soon as his name left her mouth, his head snapped to her, eyes wider and his lips slightly parted. "You..." Kenshin said the word slowly, roughly, almost like he had never used his voice before. "You are that voice in my head."
Lan's own eyes widened at that. So he had heard her - he just didn't know what it was, or how to reply back. "Yeah."
"I was supposed to bring someone here." He said the statement like a question, his expression conflicted as he looked away from them.
"Yes," Sunshine agreed. "And you did."
Kenshin's eyes flicked to Sunshine's, something passing through them, too quick for Lan to see what it was. They held each other's gaze for a few seconds, before Kenshin looked away again.
"I do not remember," Kenshin said in that same, almost dead tone. He shook his head slowly, his hair ruffling.
"What do you remember?" Sunshine asked him, taking a light step forward, his hands behind his back, a gentle smile on his face.
Kenshin didn't react to the encroaching of his personal space. Lan was fairly sure he would notice straight away if it'd been her who had tried that.
A soft exhalation of breath, and Kenshin suddenly looked lost, something in his expression that said he was just as confused about everything as Lan was.
It suddenly dawned on Lan that Sunshine was the person who probably understood all of this the best, and if they had been in any other situation, she would have been rolling on the floor, laughing until she couldn't breathe any more. There was nothing remotely funny about this situation.
"I am not sure," Kenshin admitted grudgingly. "There are things that I am aware of, knowledge I have that I know that I should not know, and I do not know how I acquired that information, but... that is how it has always been." He paused, his body slowly relaxing. He raised his eyes to stare at Sunshine. "I know that I am hunted by others, for this," -he gestured sharply towards his hair- "and I have vague... recollections of that happening before. I also knew that this was a haven, but I also know that I have never stepped here before."
Lan shook her head at his words. "That's not true," she denied quietly. "You're the one who took me here."
At Kenshin's twitch and sudden turning towards her, Lan belatedly wondered if she should have spoken. It at least distracted her from what else Kenshin had been saying, but not for long.
He opened his mouth, but didn't say anything. His eyebrows drew together as he thought. "I... brought you here?" He jerked his head away, taking a small step back. "I..." He shook his head.
Lan bit her lip, watching him struggle with his memories. What could she do?
Sunshine took another step closer, and while Kenshin looked at him warily, he didn't back away. "It's all right," Sunshine reassured him. "You don't have to rush."
The look that Kenshin sent him was doubtful. Kenshin shook his head again. "I am not rushing; this is not what I expected when I came here."
That Lan could definitely commiserate with.
"Hmm." Sunshine took another half-step towards him. "Do you want to come with us?"
Kenshin's head snapped up, his eyes wide for a second.
"We might be able to help."
Lan fervently hoped so. Lolidragon had to know what could be done to help Kenshin; she was a GM. ... But that didn't necessarily mean that she would be able to do it, not without other people knowing about Kenshin and Sunshine. Yeah, Lan's stomach wasn't going to come back any time soon.
Kenshin was quiet for a while, but eventually, he nodded slowly.
Hope lifted Lan's heart again. They could do this.
The reason why Sunshine wasn't with them in the first fight was because he'd stayed back to be with Fairsky.
No, this isn't the end. :3 Yeah, I know; I've actually done a multipart fic! There should hopefully be at least another part, if not two. I've got three-thousand words done already, but I'm not sure when it'll be finished.