Play Dead

Chapter 6: "Legend Rising"

His breathing grew uneven as he leaned closer into her. Hoshi froze in place, though her expression was calm and a soft smile lay on her face as his lips nearly brushed hers.

"I'm—sorry," Tsukasa stammered, suddenly his face was further from hers. Hoshi didn't know how to respond. All she did know was she wished he wasn't sorry for nearly kissing her.

"Why?" was all she could muster.

Tsukasa paused. He had no idea why he was sorry for kissing someone he did have feelings for. "There's something I saw," he blurted.

"Hmm?" Hoshi was unsure if she were questioning what he'd just said, or why he'd changed the subject.

"There was this plaque, and it pulled me in and... there was a forest, with..." Tsukasa trailed off, certain he would regret his words. Hoshi watched him as he spoke, blinking in disarray. "A sleeping girl." Hoshi gasped, staring past him.

"What is that?" She shot to her feet, grabbing her ring blade and holding it in front of her body in defense.

"We have to run," Tsukasa ordered as he backed from the glossy-gold, orb-like creature. It made deep, howling noises much like a whale as it hovered closer to them. They hopped out of the window, though the creature easily slid through and caught up. Turning to face it, Hoshi held out her blade again. "Hoshi!" The creature shot out a long, thin tentacle and shoved her out of the way.

"H-Hey," she shouted, though it shot directly into Tsukasa's chest. "No!" Spiking to the creature, she sliced the tentacle in half, but it was too late. Something she couldn't explain was happening to Tsukasa. He toppled over, laying still on the ground. "No, Tsukasa!" As the orb bellowed, Hoshi charged to it. Two bystanders stopped to see what was going on, being sure to hide.

"Hyyyahh!" Leaping into the air, Hoshi managed to slice it in two, though it quickly threaded itself back together and shot at her once more. A pain ripped through her shoulder as she was knocked down. Still cautious, she held her hand out in front of herself as a surge of energy burned up her arm and shot from her hand. A bright light exploded from her, and she didn't even know how she managed to do it—the creature howled and faded to grey, disintegrating.

"Whoa!" uttered one of the bystanders.

"How in did she do that?"

Hoshi stared at her hand as the light died down into a small orb. The orb shrunk in her palm until it was gone. "Huh?" her arm shook, but the burning sensation was dulling. "How did...?" She could hear someone shifting in the snow near her. Tsukasa limped beside her, using his staff for support. "You're all right!" Running to his side, she held him up.

"What happened?" Tsukasa rubbed his head. Everything was in a fog. Hoshi stared at him, but exhaled and smiled. "It's so cold," he shuddered.

"Don't worry about it..." Hoshi noticed how the cold was suddenly affecting him, and decided there was only one explanation. "I took care of it."

Over the next week or two, the rumors of two spirits within the game spread like wildfire.

"Some say they have incredible powers beyond any other player."

"No way."

"Hey, there she is! C'mon!" People swarmed Hoshi as she entered Mac Anu.

"S'cuse me, coming through..." Mimiru weaved her way from the crowd and made it to Hoshi. "Look at this! You and Tsukasa become spirits living in The World and you become famous in a snap!"

Hoshi and Mimiru left to Dun Loireag to find someplace a bit less hectic to speak.

"You know I hear C.C. Corp is inventing some new goggles that log you out automatically every 24 hours, after everything that's happened."

"That's a good idea," Hoshi nodded. "We wouldn't want people dieing just to become legends, now would we?" Mimiru snickered though stopped almost immediately after.

"I keep hearing that some people saw you shoot some awesome power from your hand? Is it true?"

"Yeah, it is. It hurt pretty bad, though, but it came in real handy when Tsukasa was in trouble the day the real him died... I don't even know how it happened." She glanced at her palms, recalling the pain.

"Do you think you're capable of more?" Mimiru leaned against the wooden gate by the cliff, peering at the setting sun.

"I'm not sure... I suppose I'll just have to find out..."

"Hey, why aren't you with Tsukasa?"

"Oh, that's right! He's out gathering supplies to fix up our home."

"Wow, a home? You guys are already living together?" Mimiru laughed aloud, hopping from the fence.

"No," Hoshi sighed. "Nothing has even happened between us, Mimiru."

"Do you want something to happen?" She hopped around like a child. Hoshi stuck her tongue out at Mimiru, then vanished.

Out in the snowy parts of Mac Anu, Hoshi searched for Tsukasa. She found him gathering up some logs. "Hey!" She called. Tsukasa waved at her. "I'm surprised you're searching here," she glanced at the glistening, snow coated wonderland.

"There's a lot of good places to find wood for the fireplace here," Hoshi reached forward to help him with the logs.

Back in the house, Hoshi gushed. "Wow." All the dust and grime was cleaned away. Curtains were placed on the window and a small bed lingered in the corner, topped with lush blankets and pillows. "You did all of this in just that amount of time? Where did you even find this stuff?" Hoshi fluffed the pillows with her fingers.

Tsukasa shrugged like it was nothing. "There are some other homes around here that had a lot of good stuff. I wonder why they would even bother decorating the homes when players don't use them. But, at least there's a place for us to stay," He smiled over at Hoshi. "You're sure you wouldn't rather me be your neighbor or something?" Hoshi blinked several times, shifting her feet around.

"Ehehe," she coughed. "Uhm, well you already worked so hard on our house. No need to decorate another." She shifted shyly.

"Oh, but I don't have to decor-"

"We'll be roomies!" Hoshi hooked her arm into Tsukasa's and winked, dragging him along. "That'll be more fun!"

Later that night, Hoshi and Tsukasa kicked up another fire. Tsukasa sat cross-legged in front of it, while Hoshi lay on her side, facing him with her head propped on her hand. Tsukasa pondered on things that would be necessary in real life. "Hoshi..." Hoshi set the twig she was fiddling with aside, giving him her attention. "Are you tired?"

"Actually, I am..."

"Me too. But... have you felt hungry at all?"

"Nope. Not since I transitioned," that was the word they agreed on rather than 'died'. That one didn't sit well with Tsukasa. "Food does sound good though. Don't they have places with food here?"

"They do... it's just strange, how we don't really have those necessities anymore. Well, besides becoming tired and needing rest. It's so strange... We don't get hungry, so maybe we can still eat just for the pleasure of it?" Hoshi sat up suddenly, a wide grin spread across her face.

"Which means we can eat all we want and never get fat, right? And, we never get old here... This seems pretty well to me. I wonder if we still need to shower." Suddenly Hoshi was right in front of Tsukasa, only a few inches from his face. She noticed the blush on his cheeks. "Do I smell funny at all?"

"U-uh," Tsukasa stammered, leaning and sniffing her hair. "You smell like apples."

"Really?" Hoshi was astonished. "That's the same as the shampoo I last used before I transitioned. Good thing I'm not one who doesn't shower, or I'd be stuck stinking for the rest of eternity!" They both laughed aloud, then Hoshi leaned to smell Tsukasa.

"Hmmm... it almost smells like vanilla and some sort of flower. That's a rather girly choice of shampoo, but I like it." Tsukasa blushed, though realized he'd never told her, or anyone rather, that he was a girl in his other life.

"Hoshi, I... in my other life I was a girl." Hoshi rose her eyebrows in surprise.

"Really...? Why did you choose a male character?"

"There was a lot of trauma in my life... I just wanted to distance myself from that life in anyway I could. I haven't told anyone but you... It's something that doesn't come up since I don't enjoy talking about my other life. Now that it's gone though, strangely it feels easier... But anyway is that... weird to you?" Hoshi had a thoughtful look.

"Nope. I like that actually. Personally I had never dated anyone, but most guys are confusing jerks it seems... So, a guy with a girl's spirit... I like it. Especially since you're more timid and less obnoxious." Hoshi hadn't realized what she had said. Tsukasa had a raised eyebrow.

"Who said we were dating?" There was a smirk on his face.

"Hmm?" Hoshi tried to look innocent.

"Didn't you hear what you said?" He looked as though he were trying not to laugh.

"Uh... uh... maybe. Probably..." Her head dropped comically. "All right fine. You caught me." Tsukasa giggled.

"You really know how to brighten my days," he said softly. Hoshi gazed at him with a confused look. "Huh? Was I not supposed to say that?"

"Well, I was just recalling how you acted the first time I met you. In a way it's still crazy how you have opened up to me so much since then."

"Hm... well, that was then," Tsukasa inched closer to her face, placing a gentle hand under her chin. Hoshi's heart spluttered, and she stay perfectly still. "This..." His lips gently brushed hers. "Is now," his voice was in a whisper, and that's when a knock was heard at their window.