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Antiva Chronus Online

Side Stories

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a part of Antiva Chronus Online, by Ageha.

Personal stories of ACO players.

RolePlayGateway holds sovereignty over Side Stories, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Side Stories

Personal stories of ACO players.

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Side Stories is a part of Antiva Chronus Online.


Setting

4 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Refa Character Portrait: Kahlan Yuzuriha Character Portrait: Yoshitsune Shineda(AtoobuuO) Character Portrait: Marius
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#, as written by Mat_z6
A roar. Yelling. Blades clashing in the distance. Kahlan Yuzuriha heard it all. Wandering alone for hours in the frozen plains was not pleasant one bit. The cold was harsh and the girl had only her blue armor for warmth. 'It was just like that time.' The frigid cold brought back memories that should have been forgotten. There was no time for that.

Kahlan took off running in the direction of the battle and unsheathed her sword. This didn't sound like a normal battle. Everyone had been wandering about in search of the first boss of the game, she knew that probably more than anyone. She was getting closer. The sounds of battle were gaining in intensity and as Kahlan sprinted across the last ridge, her speculations were confirmed. There in the middle of the frozen valley was a giant humanoid creature. Made entirely of ice, the thing was monstrous in size and his weapon was no different. The great sword it carried matched it size and Kahlan stared in awe at the sight. <<The Moonlit Deathwolf>>. Her gaze was distracted by two-no three players dancing around about the creature. One she did not recognize but two seemed awfully familiar. That red hair was too hard to forget.

"Reefa?"

Kahlan saw as she switched out with the unfamiliar boy. To her horror, the beast threw out it's claws sending the girl flying across the field. From what she saw, the players would not be able to take anymore of this with Reefa inflicted with the <<Frozen>> status. But the minute the icon appeared, it flashed away like it had never happened. A small white ball of fluff appeared on the girls shoulder. Was that.... a fox? Kahlan smiled, relieved.

The fight dragged on but just as Kahlan was to rush in guns (blade) ablazin one of the players that appeared to be Marius drew his dual blades and drove them deep into the frozen ice boss. She watched as the creature reeled back and shattered into millions of glowing pixels. They had done it. Kahlan chuckled, sheathing her sword. Those two had really grown. It only seemed like yesterday when they were running full speed towards the city of Silva they had journeyed together long ago. Deciding to join them, Kahlan descended the slope, her azure dress billowing in the frigid cold. But just as she was about to greet them, the girl was suddenly hit with a wave of tension. This was not the atmosphere of a joyful victory. Did something happen?

"Well, it seems like the fun ended without me. It's been awhile, Marius, Reefa. As soon as I heard your fight, I rushed over here as fast as I could. I'm sorry I couldn't help."

(Okay so I lied... lol Since theres a whole nother section for side stories, I can write Kahlan's back story while still interacting so here I am. Kinda wanted to fight but ahh well!)

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yoshitsune Shineda(AtoobuuO)
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The Sword of Beginning in Durle Town

What Bought Them Together… Was the Sight of a Sword


Shineda continuously slammed the hammer down on the red-hot piece of metal held by a pair of tongs. He had arrived in Durle, bought some supplies and asked the local <<Blacksmith>> if he could use the forge for a price.

The fire burned furiously in the forge behind him, Shineda’s sweat evaporating in the heat. Yet he pounded on and on and on. Each strike he did perfected the sword even more. And with each strike, more memories flooded through his mind.

Kathunk.

“Mama~ Uppy~” a blonde toddler reached up for a blonde lady. The sweetest smile on the most beautiful face that Shineda ever knew, the lady gently picked her son up and cradled him as if he was still a little baby.

“Shinnie~” she cooed out softly, rubbing her nose against his, causing the young Shineda to giggle happily and hug his mother.

“I love mama~” he said with pure innocence and glee, to which his mother replied with equal amounts of love.

“I love you too Shinnie~ So much that even papa might be jealous.” She giggled at her joke, and Shineda’s father, looking far more cheerful and far younger than Shineda could remember, was laughing along too.

Not knowing what the joke was due to his young innocent mind, he just looked around like a young blonde angel, before burping, causing both his parents to burst out laughing even more.


Kathunk.

“Mama?” the young boy called out to his sickly mother, pale and worn out, laying down on a hospital bed.

“You wife is suffering from a malignant tumour inside her head. It’s in its final stage of development.” A doctor explained to Shineda’s father, “We could undergo the procedure, but to perform an operation when her brain is compacted against her skull… the chance of surviving is extremely low, perhaps only 20%. I highly suggest you do not choose that decision.”

“Mama??”

“…Yes Shinnie?” the sick woman replied, smiling weakly at her beloved baby, baby in her eyes that is. She reached over with her bony hand to pat Shineda on the head, her hands and arms filled with wires and tubes.

“Will mama be okay?” he asked, pouting, oblivious of the condition his mother was in. All he knew was that his mother had fallen sick. “I want mama to come back home and play chess with me again.”

“Don’t worry Shinnie, mama will get well and come back home, okay? Promise~” she said gently to her son as her husband sat beside her and clasped her hand.

That was the last day Shineda got to see his mother… until the day of her funeral. During that day, Shineda lost a small piece of his heart, seeing his mother’s peaceful face inside a coffin…


Kathunk.

“Did you hear? That boy doesn’t have a mother.” A boy whispered to another.

“Really? Wow, he must’ve been a bad boy so his mother left him.” The boy whispered back.

Shineda was in a new school, and nobody wanted to be around him. Despite his nice, polite nature, nobody approached him at all. He was ‘The Boy Without a Mother’, ‘The Boy No Mother Ever Wanted’, and several other mean nicknames that the other little boys and girls could think of to explain why he had no mother. None of them every stopped to think that the boy had lost his mother. It went on and on and on, all the way till high school. Shineda never had friends.


Kathunk.

“Hey, look, it’s Shineda! The weakling who doesn’t have anything at all.” One of the seniors called out in a very annoying voice, causing people to look at Shineda. Eventually, he was cornered.

“Hey, Shineda, where’s your phone?” they teased. “Oh right~ He doesn’t have a phone, lame!”

Eventually they gave up, walking off, leaving Shineda standing alone, fists clenched and his heart glowering with anger despite his half-hearted expression.

“I can’t believe the little wimp can’t even stand up to his dad to get him to buy him a phone. Such a twit.” He heard someone say.

On the way back home, he whacked through a tree branch with another tree branch, holding a beautifully maintained ‘Men’ stance. He breathed out before walking onwards, back to his home, back to his stern father.

One person had been watching him the entire time though, unspeaking.


Kathunk.

His father laid in bed, suffering from a stroke. Shineda sat by the bed, several things ready by the side table. A jug of water and a glass, a wet towel, a box of tissues, everything needed to take care of someone in bed.

“S-Shineda…” the man spoke out, reaching out for his son. Immediately, Shineda took his hand.

“I’m here father.” Shineda told him gently, struggling to fight the lump in his throat.

“Shineda…my dear son…I’m sorry if I’ve been very…protective of you. Being so stern with everything…” his father apologized, tears forming around his working eye. “I was just afraid that you would end up having the same problem as your mum…I can’t bear to lose both of you…”

Knowledgeable now, Shineda knew that sometimes tumours grew from too much radiation, causing the cells to mutate… He gripped his father’s hands even tighter, finally realizing that his dad only meant well.

“I sense my time is coming Shineda…I want you to know that I love you…” his voice sunk into a murmur. Shineda shook his head frantically.

“NO DAD! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” he pleaded, tears threatening to spill from his eyes. His father only looked at him with a sad, yet proud glance.

“You’ve grown Shineda…I’m proud to have seen you reach your age…to have experienced you being an obedient and respectful son…Not once have you ever complained what I have done…” his father told him, before he caught a seizure.

“FATHER! FATHER!” Shineda did all he could, but nothing was good enough. Without any knowledge of medical skills, nor the knowledge to drive a car… Shineda had to try and stall until the ambulance arrived… but…

His father drew his last breath… and the last words he spoke before the ambulance’s siren droned were:

“I love you Shinnie… So much that even mama might be jealous.”

His tears fell and the words that he had kept within him so long, that he had never said ever since the death of his mother, he shouted them out in a lament of pain.

“PAPA!!!”


Kathunk.

“Hey, did you hear? He lost his dad.” A girl gossiped with her friend.

“Yea. I heard none of his relatives are willing to take him in. Must be because they’re scared of the extra cost.”

“That’s sad…”

“HEY, wimp!” Shineda turned around just in time to see the senior bully walk up to him. “I heard your dad died. Bet he left you some money didn’t he? Hand it over.”


KACHACK!

Shineda shook his head, wiping his face, wiping away the sweat… Wiping away the tears. He took a look at the sword he was creating only to see that it had been destroyed. Sighing, he squatted down to put his head in his hands while waiting for the broken weapon to shatter into polygons.

While his memory continued.

Shineda had no time for this. He kept his lifeless and dead look in his eyes and face, but nonetheless, his fist was clenched, his muscles rippling and he was just about to let loose a punch that the guy well damned deserved when a girl stepped in.

“I think you should leave him alone. He’s had enough in his mind to think about without you putting all your lameness into him.” The girl told the senior off, causing several ‘Ouch’s’ and ‘Burn’s’ to resound through the crowd that was watching.

When they left, the girl turned around to look at him. Oh… it was the popular brunette Eri… She gave him a sympathetic and apologetic smile.

“Armani Eri, sorry for barging in like this… And sorry if I made you feel like a weakling…” she apologized. “But… just wanted to tell you my family’s willing to take you in if you want.”

Shineda had no idea that this girl’s family would eventually be one that he would come to love with the same amount of love he showed his parents.

He stopped, eyes widening at the memory. He swallowed, a drop of sweat falling to the hot ground underneath and sizzled. He picked up the pieces before they had the chance to disappear, placing them together and into the fire again.

‘That’s right…’ he thought, before saying it out loud. “There’s always someone out there for you. No matter how bleak your situation is.”

He twirled his hammer around before adding even more materials into the smelter, as if hellbent on melting every material item in his inventory. When it was ready, he pulled out a large hunk of red- hot metal, so hot that Shineda’s skin felt like burning, but he pushed onward, placing the metal onto the anvil and slamming his hammer down on it. Unknown to him, in the comfort of his house, the <<Blacksmith>> player was watching this and continued to watch with a very surprised reaction.

With each drop of his hammer, faces of those he held dear to him flashed across his mind.

KATHUNK!

“Mama…”

KATHUNK!

“Papa…”

KATHUNK!

“Eri…”

KATHUNK!

“Uncle, Auntie… no… Dad and mum…”

KATHUNK!

Memories of the battle today flashed in his head. The red haired girl, The Blur… and the blue armored girl.

KATHUNK!!

Faces of different players that Shineda had seen die, that Shineda had saved, all of them appeared before his eyes.

“Everyone…”

The <<Blacksmith>> player smiled and walked off from the window, leaving the boy to go on with his project. He went on for several hours, never slowing down, never stopping for food or drink despite his parched throat and his hunger. His concentration broke through even the most searing of all heats. This was his way of showing this world… This was his way of showing his feelings.

“Everything I have, everything I feel today… Everything I promise, I FORGE INTO YOU!”

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yoshitsune Shineda(AtoobuuO)
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The Sword of Beginning in Durle Town

The Birth of the Town of New Beginnings


“Thank you for letting me use the forge… I didn’t manage to craft anything of use though.” Shineda thanked the <<Blacksmith>>. To his surprise, the player raised a hand and shook his head with a booming laugh.

“It’s fine laddie. No payment needed.” He smiled, and nodded. “I like your spirit though kid. I LOVE IT.”

Shineda smiled back, almost embarrassed. “Thank you, but I think I have something I can give you as payment. Come outside.”

Both players went outside, to the presence of a large crowd around the <<Blacksmith’s>> house. And there… laid a sword of giant proportions… modelled after the sword he clashed against today… the sword of <<The Moonlit Deathwolf>>. He had managed to forge the exact same weapon, after realizing that the materials he received were not meant for normal swords. Every detail was perfect, and through the blade, were inscriptions. A message in fact. A message to all players.

“This is my present to you.” Shineda smiled, waving a hand over the unusable weapon. The <<Blacksmith>> gaped in shock. What in the world?! DID HE FORGE ALL THIS BY HIMSELF?!!

“I-I…” the player could only gape. Shineda motioned for permission, to which the <<Blacksmith>> looked dumbly at him before nodding.

Shineda pushed the weapon by its handle with all his strength, making it stand by its blade sideways. With his hammer shining, he slammed it down, effectively lodging the weapon in place. He looked back at the crowd, then went to the <<Blacksmith>>.

“If a girl with blonde hair comes…wearing blue armor… And anyone else that comes with her… Tell her or them to read this sword.” He whispered quietly to the <<Blacksmith>>, who nodded. He turned to everyone else, who was now reading the inscriptions on the sword.

The inscriptions were:

‘Behold, this is the replica of the sword of <<The Moonlit Deathwolf>>, the First Major Boss that valiant players banded together to fight against.
Together, they defeated this menace and brought the first step into freeing us all.
But today… Today all of us must realize we can fight. We can always fight.
Whether it is your real life or your virtual life, there is nothing stopping you from fighting to create your own destiny. Those of you that cower, some of us share your fear. We are all afraid.
But that one step we take away from our fear… that one faint flicker of hope we have… Take it, and push forward in this world and our lives!
Fight, as these warriors have!
Your dreams, your hopes, your feelings, make those all your strength and survive! Survive in this game and escape this nightmare!


Because...fellow warriors, you are not alone.’


The last part of the inscription seemed to have been made for someone else…or some other players.

Every player that read the inscription seemed to find solace in it. Some even broke down into tears. This was what they had unknowingly needed… a push in the back. A force to drive them onwards through this world.

Through the crowd’s murmuring, Shineda turned to the <<Blacksmith>>. “I know this is asking too much… but could you keep quiet about this? And do you have any weapon that I can take for my own?”

“Of course laddie… and no worries, I have the perfect weapon for you.” And Shineda was given a <<Weapon Type: Katana>> weapon, <<The Crossing Field>>. It looked very simple and almost as if it was just a katana from the real world.

But as Shineda equipped the weapon, its stats seemed to bounce around for a while before settling. “This <<Evolving Item>> weapon adjusts itself based on your current level and your own stats. It balances out your weak points, but also note that in order to do so, it will also give lower stats to your strong points.”

Shineda dipped his head and held the sword close to his heart. “I’ll hold on to it.”

“Heh…name’s Larken. Send me a message if you need anything else.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” Shineda promised, before walking off from Dulre Town. Leaving the giant sword behind, Shineda never managed to witness what happened after his departure. The crowd of players raised their weapons, of all shapes and sizes, types and styles, into the air. All together, they moved as if connected, weapons drawn, raised up like a sea of spines in tempo. In rhythm with beat of their hearts. They were saluting the giant weapon, a sign to show their gratitude to the message, and to the warriors that had taken the first step and delivered them from their lost cause.

And Shineda would never find out until later, that in the few weeks to come, this town would soon be known as the ‘Town of New Beginnings’. A town where players find new hope in this weapon that stood outside of the <<Blacksmith’s>> house and forge. A town where players decide to fight. A town where players began banding together into groups to aid each other in their fight to free themselves… and each other. A town where perhaps the greatest guilds began to rise.

Most of all, this became the town where Shineda renewed his resolve, making it stronger than ever. It also became the town that renewed other people’s resolves as well. It became his link with people, that he had otherwise wanted to evade.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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THE KNIGHT AND THE ONE-WINGED BIRD


As the skill kept wearing away at his senses, Asher thought about how amazing Kanna was when it came to recovery. His mind flipped the pages of the book back to after the fight with Archeron, the first boss they had fought. Asher had carried Kanna to the nearest sign of civilization, and was helped by a random player. They both carried her to a room in an inn. Asher remembered how long he waited.. How painful it was to see Kanna's life in grave danger. She was active, and the hastening of blood flow was dangerous to a newly amputated arm without bandages. There was also the threat of it being infected, and the fact that Kanna would obtain a fatal disease. Asher remembered the pain he had long ago, as well as the happiness and relief of the sight of Kanna's recovery...

The teary-eyed, black armoured swordsman carried the unconscious vermillion warrior to the small town, almost at his mental breaking point. He yelled for help and pleaded with players passing by him. Suddenly, a random man helped Asher carry Kanna to the nearest inn. Fortunately, it wasn't far, but Asher was still nearly going over the edge. His closest friend was close to dying, with her friend nearly breaking down and being useless. Thoughts and images of Kanna's body deteriorating and breaking down into pixels ran through Asher's mind as he and the stranger laid Kanna down on the bed. The stranger tried to comfort and calm down Asher as he cried. After a while, Asher, exhausted from the battle and his panic, began to slip away from consciousness, and the black-armored warrior blended into the darkness of sleep. However, an occasional image of Asher's worst fear haunted him in his sleep. Then, it became black once again.

The stranger had left the two, both sleeping surprisingly peacefully. He paid the fee to obtain a room in the inn, and went out the door.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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The Knight and the One-Winged Bird


The Dry Mountains were, as their name said, desolate. The only sound was the wind, screaming as it blew angrily through the many caves and canyons that appeared amidst the foreboding peaks and dusty steppes. But, that by no means meant that the mountain range was uninhabited. Oh, no, far from it.

Canon grimaced, darting back as, silently, the hulking form of an earthen construct - the level 31 <<Earth Golem>> - lumbered forward, sweeping its gigantic arm down at her from the right side. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem. As she now owned her twin blades, Tempest and Gale, once again, it would have been easy to draw Gale with her right hand and sever the enemy's arm then and there while Tempest could be employed at keeping back the creature's other arm. But, of course, it was hard to use your right hand when you no longer hand a right hand to use.

It was disconcerting. It went against everything she'd become accustomed to over the course of her life. And yet, it couldn't be denied. A part of her was just... gone. There was nothing there, no sensation or feeling where there used to have been a working, functioning limb.

The golem's arm swept through where the vermillion-clad warrior had just been standing, causing the creature to overextend itself. In this moment of weakness, Canon lunged in, stabbing into its side. The special effect of Tempest released a piercing shock of wind directly into the elemental's body through this contact, and, better yet, the air elemental bonus against earth, combined with a lucky critical hit, allowed her to deal some significant damage to the target. And yet, despite the several levels she'd jumped by defeating the boss, and the powerful equipment she'd gained in the process, these enemies were still far higher leveled than herself, with enough HP to make one hitting them impossible for her, no matter how many modifiers she stacked up.

"Tch," Canon muttered, jumping back again as the golem began a counterattack, striking out first with one arm, then the other, forcing her onto the defensive. For such a bulky enemy, it sure was fast... Or, rather, she had gotten slower all of a sudden. Much slower. Her eyes widened as her vision began to become blurry, and a small pulse of red flashed from the small stump terminating just beneath her right shoulder as a grayed out icon below her health bar blinked back to life.

Disease: <<Bloodrot.>> This rare condition was one of the most deadly diseases in <<Terra.>> Coming only from having a serious wound dealt by a <<Corrupted>> weapon, its effects were many, and debilitating. Weakness, dizziness, random spurts of pain, even sudden collapses into <<Unconscious>> condition... And if these didn't kill you in battle, the disease eating you from the inside certainly would, if not treated within a week or so. It only got worse as time went on, until eventually the player afflicted by it couldn't function anymore and just died. The most terrible feature of the disease was, however, that ordinary antidote crystals would only serve to delay the inevitable, treating the symptoms temporarily, but failing to rid the player of the disease. Only a rare-class antidote would suffice, and, at this level, that sort of thing was very hard to obtain. In that regard, it was much like <<Dismembered>> condition, which could only be healed by a sufficiently powerful healing crystal, of the sort Canon currently didn't have access to.

Being one of the best alchemists in the game, Canon was more than skilled enough to make those sorts of crystals. But level was a moot point, regardless. To create such a crystal, you'd need materials that were rather hard to get in Terra. Specifically, alchemic reagents that could only be looted from a place in the <<Dry Mountains,>> known as the <<Black Tower.>> Naturally, it was towards that looking structure that she'd been making her way. But entering wasn't so simple as that. This area was far beyond her level to begin with, and the fact that she was fighting with only one limb, while suffering from a fatal disease, no less, only made that worse.

Canon froze, a sudden wave of nausea filling her as the world began to spin. She tried to dodge back, but found her legs giving way beneath her. Desperate, now, she attempted to raise her sword, only to find it slipping from her trembling hands. The golem before her aimed a crushing punch at its suddenly crippled target...

...only to be shattered into pieces in the next instant by a blast of scarlet light.

.....

Asher fought against yet another incoming Earth Golem, using the skill Tempest to get over it and use Assault Slash. The Earth Golem took damage equal to a quarter of his health, and Asher came in for the kill using Tempest Reversal. Suddenly, Asher saw Kanna on the ground, her weapon away from the only hand she had to wield it, and Kanna was somehow unable to dodge.

"Feel your heart beat for the last time..." Asher chanted, and a crackle of lightning was heard from him as scarlet electricity took the form of a spear in his hand. "Critical Heart Break!" The spear was launched, traveling in the speed of lightning. It struck the Golem that was prepared to deal the final blow directly in the chest area. Along with the lucky critical, the Golem all but vanished as it shattered to pixels. Asher landed in a circle of Earth Golems just waiting for him to finish his attack. Asher responded by chanting Icicle Rain, and stunning the Golems with the icicles.

Asher jumped up high and used Assault Slash. Because the Earth Golems were so close to him, the attack hit all of them, and Asher used the opportunity to use Ghost Wolf to get out of the circle, and ran to Kanna. "You alright?" he asked. She obviously wasn't, but he needed to get a response. He looked at Kanna's health bar, seeing the Bloodrot condition. "We need to hurry up..." The concerned Asher muttered, and picked Kanna up before she could react.

.....

Canon's expression of shock changed abruptly to a grimace as, yet again, she found herself rescued by Asher. She hadn't wanted this. Upon discovering her condition, she'd tried not to trouble her partner with it. She'd tried to simply sneak out during the night, to do what she could on her own so as not to make him risk himself for her anymore. And yet, he had found her, had insisted on coming, and now was just positioning himself to save her yet another time! Weak though she knew she was, couldn't she at least do something without his help? Was she really so helpless as to have to rely on him so completely like this?! Why? Why was it that always, every single time, it had to end with her succeeding at something only because of his help? If he hadn't jumped into the fight with the minotaurs and been knocked out, she'd have been surrounded. If he hadn't awakened and attacked the boss, getting hurt in the process, she'd have died. And now, she was too weak to even claim what she needed to heal herself without his assistance! Even with the weapons she now held, and the <<Unique Skill>> that had appeared within her status window the night before... Yet, she couldn't even wield both her swords, or trigger that skill's effects, simply because she just didn't have the necessary number of limbs anymore! And with her body growing weak, she once again found that she was forced to rely on Asher.

As he reached down to pick her up, Canon's eyes flashed with what might have been anger, a piercing light coming into them as she quickly rose on her own. No. She wasn't going to make him carry her, at the very least. Even if she was weak, she hadn't lost a leg yet! Mustering back her strength to overcome the condition afflicting her, she batted back the Voice of Treason's extended arms with the pommel of her blade, and quickly rose on her own shaky legs.

"I'm fine," She replied coldly, planting her sword in the ground, drawing forth her scabbard and planting it beside the weapon, then sliding the blade clumsily into it. Using the sheathed Tempest as a support, of sorts, she managed to overcome the weakness within her trembling body. The frozen enemies behind them wouldn't be able to move for a while, which made finishing them off pointless, as they were no longer a threat.

"Just go," Canon said quietly, and, as quickly as she could, she set off towards the <<Black Tower>> up ahead. Her body was weakening, but her determination was most certainly not. She'd make it. She had to. Just a little longer, now. She just had to last... a little longer...

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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(Another collab post. Sorry for their lengths... ^^;)
THE KNIGHT AND THE ONE-WINGED BIRD

Asher watched as the suddenly enraged Kanna stormed off. "What...?" That's all that came from his mouth as he tried to keep up with her. It was like the day they did the quest that ended with Kanna's dismemberment. She was infuriated with him, and Asher doesn't even know why. Last time, he understood. He put the words so bluntly, Kanna mistook his actual meaning. But now, she was so angry at him for some odd reason. Asher couldn't place his finger on it, and yet he still attempted to as the two former partners went up the castle.

It was a hard battle all the way up. 5 potions were used for health and mana each. Asher was almost at his breaking point, which is rare because he was a black belt. Kanna kept her distance, not in shyness, but in wanting to stay away from what she might think is her source of anger. This issue combined with the facts that Asher is fighting off hordes of enemies and doing the very things Kanna doesn't want- ironically they were for her sake- took a major toll on him.

By the time the party of two reached the top, Asher felt like crying. This was even tougher on him than the test he had to take for his first degree black belt, which was 5 hours worth of workouts, exercises, forms, and no-holds-bared consecutive sparring matches. At least in there, Asher could recover quickly because it was only him. Now, however, Asher is trying to resolve a problem that involved him and a close friend, which kept on resulting in failures. Without a word, Kanna went to the chest and did their supposed "plan" that "they" made. Kanna would get out the necessary crystals and heal herself whilst Asher held off the enemies. Once that was done, Kanna would jump into the fray and eliminate all the enemies. The quest itself proved to be worthwhile in experience, spoils, and in healing Kanna. Little did they knew Asher would be pushed over his breaking point.

The black amoured swordsman and the vermillion one-armed dual-blader (ironically, again) were cornered as enemies spawned at the steps. They were all golems of various elements, but all were unable to cast spells. They made up with their varying weaknesses and strengths, and their high HP points.

The first Golem, the Earth Golem, charged at Asher, who simply side-stepped and dropkicked it down the steps because they were so close. This bought time for Kanna to work and get ready the materials. This also caused damage to some other Golems.

A few minutes later, a Flame Golem came up, slightly damaged from the Earth Golem's fall, charged in and targetted Asher. Before he could move, Kanna's cold words rang in his mind, and they froze his feet. Asher allowed himself to get hit into the wall, but recovers quickly and returned the favor. Asher slammed his fist into the Fire Golem's body whilst simulataneously casting icicle rain into his fist. The result was a spread shot that send the Fire Golem to it's doom, as the spell made frequent critical hits. An Ice Golem showed up, and Asher did the same move, only using Fireball as the spell to slam into the target at point blank.

A Wind Golem showed up then, and it moved quicker than other Golems. It charged at Asher and slammed into him. Asher hopped back on his feet, only to be slammed from behind by the same Golem. Asher rolled and used his only spread shot move, Icicle Rain, again. The Wind Golem expertly dodged the attack and charged at Asher, who ducked and slashed low. The blade caught the Golem by the leg, and it was tripped. The Wind Golem flew (pun intended) threw the air, only to be juggled by Asher's Tempests, Tempest Reversals, and Heavely Tempests.

Her words still rang in his ears throughout the battle. His only way of experessing himself was through his power in his attacks in battle. The Voice of Treason sought with such ferosity, it was nearly impossible to tell that he is in pain inside. If one looked closely, the places where Asher had left still had his tears dropping to the floor.

However, his victory streak didn't last long. With such power and ferociousness, it is all but inevitable that Asher would slip. Midway through the horde, Asher had left himself open and was struck with a critical hit. Luckily for him, the health bar was not empty, and no status effects were inflicted upon him. This had a flip-side though. His mind... It had been overrun by the sense of pain. Even though the game didn't transmit any pain to the player, Asher had been through mental pain, and his brain made those feelings of pain when struck by the Golem's arm, as well as fabricating the pain from previous attacks and the fatigue that Asher had endured.

The Voice of Treason couldn't move. He did not recover midair. No, he let himself drop to a lone corner of the room, one that was fortunately away from the busy and ever-weakening Kanna. Asher didn't even stick his sword into the ground and try to get up. No, he sat there, drowned in his tears. The Voice of Treason sat in the corner, crying as the Golem raised it's arm. It was too far for Kanna to attack and get back, let alone attack the thing without going back. The only thing she could do was try to get Asher get up and keep fighting.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

How long had it been now? The shouts of the enemies charging up from behind, the sounds of battle... All of these things were distant, slowly drowned out by a growing sense of fatigue that rose up from within Canon's very core, threatening to consume her. Her condition was growing worse, she realized, and yet somehow, even as her vision began to grow dim and her mind to slow, it didn't seem like it was happening to her. Everything felt so faraway, as though her heart was elsewhere, no longer paying attention to what was going on around her. It was so hard to stay awake...

But she had to. For just a little longer, she'd have to remain conscious. Her eyes flashed open once again, watching as the small bar before her progressed a little further, the alchemy circle on the floor flashing and blazing with its arcane light as the process continued, slowly transmuting reagents into the desired healing crystal, the one item that, right now, would be able to save her, and to give her back everything she had lost. For that purpose, she'd just have to stay awake a little while longer, until the process was completed...

A dull thud from the corner. The falling of a body? Glancing back slowly, Canon suddenly found it hard to see who it was who had fallen. Was it Asher? She couldn't tell. Her vision was so blurry. It was familiar, somehow. Ah, right, she'd had trouble seeing things back in her real body, hadn't she? She'd spent so long playing the game, she had forgotten. Or had she been playing at all? Right, she'd become trapped here... Ah, she was so tired...

But Asher had fallen over there, hadn't he? Why wasn't he getting up? Surely he wasn't dead, was he? His health bar, displayed in a small "party" box alongside her own, wasn't gray, so he wasn't unconscious either. Then... why wasn't he getting up? That sound... was he crying? Impossible. That... that wasn't possible. During the time she'd known him, he'd never once so much as shown an ounce of fear, nor once had he ever reached a point where he'd reveal it if he was actually saddened to the point of tears. He couldn't have actually been crying, could he? And yet... Why wasn't he getting up? Why were his tears falling?!

If he didn't get up, both of them were going to die. Canon hated to admit it, but right now, she was totally, completely helpless. She couldn't do this by herself. For one last time, she'd have to rely on him. And so, she opened her mouth, took a deep breath, and then spoke the words of truth which symbolized everything she hated about herself.

"Asher... That's not funny, Asher, falling down like that." Canon coughed, but quickly mustered herself, trying to continue. "Why won't you get up? Please. I... I know I've been a burden to you, always having to rely on you. But right now... I can barely move. I can hardly... see. I know. I know it's troublesome, having to keep fighting to protect me. I know I'm a terrible person for making you do this, but right now... I... I c-can't do this by myself! I need to rely on you, for just a little longer! So please, just one last time... Protect me, Asher!"

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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The Knight and the One-Winged Bird

Asher sat there, his mind trying to comprehend what Kanna had just said. A terrible person for making him do what he want? Was she that guilty for relying on him? That was it?

Something snapped inside Asher. It wasn't anger. No, it was his sense of humor. He started to laugh. He kept laughing, rolling to side and countering the attack from the Golem. Then he stopped, coughing a little. "That was it, Kanna?" Asher asked, whilst continuing his fight. There was a new window by his health bar.

LEVEL UP!

Skills Learned:
Survival Tactics: Deception
Critical Moment


His defense was raised, and so was his critical rate. Asher charged in and slammed a Fireball into a Golem, sending it back. "That was just ironic.... You didn't want me to protect you?" Asher jumped back and threw a Critical Heart Break at another attacking Golem. "I never minded the fact that I had to protect you. After all, we are friends, aren't we?" Asher ducked down and went into a stab, making a critical hit and shattering the Golem into pixels. "I told you numerous times, I don't hate having to be your guardian. In fact, I actually like it; it gives me a purpose in this hellhole.

"Don't take me wrong. I'm not near you for the sake of being your knight and making you look weak." Asher jumped up and casted Icicle Rain, spraying a Golem in the face. "I'm here because we stayed together, and promised that we would protect each other. We promised that we would protect the other and both will live through this."

An Ice Golem raised its fist, only to have it melted by a Fireball. "Now, I'm upholding my end of the deal by protecting you and staying alive. Uphold yours by living." Asher said, charging into numerous Golems whilst doing complex motions as he mixed his skills together in one barrage of attacks.




He didn't mind? Canon's eyes widened, the process bar going almost unnoticed beneath her as she listened in surprise. She had known that he felt obligated to protect her, but to think that he enjoyed it... Canon didn't like being in a position where she needed to be protected in the first place, but, if what Asher had just said was true, that meant one thing, at least. He didn't hate her. She'd been so worried, terrified that, through the danger and pain she'd recklessly brought upon both of them, she'd driven Asher to despise her. But... if he didn't hate her, then...

Her mind was beginning to fade, but abruptly, her awareness returned. Asher didn't hate her. That was all the knowledge she needed to understand that she couldn't pass out here. She couldn't die, not to this condition, nor to the injuries she'd already suffered, no matter how severe. She'd live on, and make amends for her mistakes, and maybe, just maybe, she'd be able to become someone who didn't need to be protected after all!

As Asher rushed into the golems, several closed in to surround him. It was a brave attempt to stem the tide of oncoming monsters, but now that he'd been knocked back once, the enemies had already begun to swarm through the door. Although his charge had driven some of them back, there were still plenty in a position to flank him. They weren't just going to relinquish their foothold in the room. No, they'd keep attacking until either all of them or the two who'd burst through their defenses were dead. They had the advantages of numbers and of levels. But, on the other hand...

Canon smirked as the haze faded from her vision, and, opening her stats screen, she saw to her joy that a certain skill's prerequisites had finally been met. Two conditions blinked out of existence around her health bar, and she rose.

"Sever and Transcend," she chanted, and slowly, she reached over her back and drew her swords, Tempest in the left hand as she had become used to... and Gale in the newly-reformed grasp of her right arm. "Sylphae Blade!" She finished as two blades cut forth from their scabbards, a loud hiss that somehow pierced the silence as the weapons flew from their scabbards, then from their hands. In a flash of light, two more blades had materialized - the twin dao swords Canon used as throwing weapons - and had been sent right after the first pair of weapons. In an instant, like a Vermillion bird spreading its wings anew, Canon rose into the air, spreading her arms wide as one by one, countless, nameless weapons from her inventory appeared from throwing weapon slots, forming a small cloud of blades around her.

"Rain coldly across the battlefield, dance brightly across the sky!" Canon chanted, casting another spell, her <<Sylphae Barrage,>> as every last weapon in her inventory was launched forward with tremendous speed. Down below, golems screamed in surprise and pain as they were suddenly struck. Tempest, Gale, and the twin dao swords carved a destructive swathe through the crowd around Asher, before all four collided inside the body of an enemy directly in front of him, ripping the creature apart with the resultant blast of air as all four blades were then sent spinning back to their wielder. An instant later, a shower of random swords of all shapes and sizes tore into the staggering mass, ripping several apart as the blades embedded themselves in the creatures' bodies, turning them into a mass of walking pincushions before the group surrounding Asher at last exploded into scarlet pixels. Her mantle flapping about her, Canon landed by her comrade's side amidst what was now a small field of blades, all planted point-first in the stone floor around the two warriors. Adjusting her grip on her twin falchions, she slowly dropped into a combat stance.

"I never mentioned what my Unique Skill did, did I? I suppose now's as good a time as any to say it. It allows me to wield any number of sword or dagger type weapons simultaneously by equipping them in throwing weapon slots, of which I have an almost limitless number. It allows for seamless switching between countless armaments without ever once having to open the menu and change the equipped gear. It's the ultimate multi-blade fighting style," Canon explained nonchalantly, watching as the enemies slowly regrouped in front of the two. "Perhaps with this many swords, I'll be able to fight without needing you to jump in and save me. And if this isn't enough, I'll just get more. I'll keep adding more and more blades, until I can keep up with you, Asher! So don't worry. I have your flank. You can cut loose as much as you want. With these swords, I'll make sure not a single enemy manages to attack your side!"




Asher whilsted as Kanna attacked with two new skills. She was as graceful as a swan, yet ferocious as a lion. Wither her impplementing of her multi-blade skills, Kanna was unstoppable. "Damn, girl... I'm glad we are friends!" Asher joked and chuckled. His stance dropped to a fighting stance for eskrima sticks-after all, techniques between the two weapons are pretty similar. Suddenly, Asher rushed at the first Golem (Sorry for the godmod bit here), as well as Kanna. By the time they were done, half their health remained, as well as pixels levitating off the ground as their fallen enemies disappeared one by one.




Asher put his hands behind his head as he relaxed whilst walking. "Damn.... That was exciting..." Asher said, "At least we are back together, right?" Asher asked. Truth be told, he was glad that the whole matter had resolved. In fact, Asher somewhat felt... closer to Kanna. Asher smiled at the thought, and walked a tiny bit closer to Kanna. "You know, when I first met you, you were so shy." Asher whispered. "Now you're at least open to me, which is good. I'm glad to be that one who asked if you were okay.... You know?"

The white-haired warrior's face flushed a slight shade of red as Asher moved a little closer, brushing slightly against her newly-regenerated right hand with his sleeve as he did so. It was a movement that didn't need explanation, and yet, although it seemed to her like he was offering his hand, she didn't have the courage to take it. The empty gap between the two of them remained unfilled, and she dropped her head slightly, trying in vain to hide the blush that Asher could have told was there just from experience, anyway.

"I'm... glad... too..." Canon murmured quietly after a short silence, giving a nervous smile up at her comrade before quickly averting her gaze to the ground once again. As far as she'd come toward trusting the Voice of Treason, there were still many things it was hard for her to say, many feelings about which she was too nervous to come clean. It was true. She was grateful beyond belief that Asher had stopped to help her. If he hadn't, then at best, she'd probably still be a level one, too afraid of everything to actually stand up and fight. At worst, she'd have died of disease or starvation long before now. Asher had, without a doubt, saved her just by being the first person to actually reach out to her, a trend he'd continued in their many battles since then. But, wonderful though it was to know that there was a person who would always protect you, no matter what, Canon couldn't help but feel the very opposite from her companion. For all the times he reached out to shield her, she could only feel as though she'd been pushed further and further away from him. By taking on both of their pains, Asher wrought in her just as much guilt as he did gratitude. She wanted to be someone who didn't have to be protected, and yet... was it impossible to bridge that gap? Could someone like her never become like the person who was so important to her? If he really believed in her, why was he always so afraid for her sake?

If he didn't hate her, then what feelings did he hold for her?

And... what feelings did she hold for him? His hand... She wanted so badly to reach out and take it. But she couldn't reach. He was still too far above her for her to do something like that. But he'd done something similar before, hadn't he? Then... how did he feel about her, exactly?

You embraced me back in the cavern, didn't you...? What did that mean, and.... why can't I stop thinking about it...? Canon's blush deepened, unseen.

Why did you have to hug me like that, Asher...?

End Sidestory

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Character Portrait: Refa Character Portrait: Yoshitsune Shineda(AtoobuuO)
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The Mystic Fencer Born


Shineda and Tatsu, the duo formed since Christmas, were practically inseparable. Wherever there was one, there would be the other half. Along with this David and Goliath team was Refa. The three came together after their chanced encounter against <<Santa>>, and eventually traveled together.

Everything had been quite different for Shineda of course. Much to his chagrin, Refa insisted on entering towns and staying the night in the comfort of rented rooms and refreshing baths in the morning. Well, girls had to be girls.

It was a new way of living for the past few weeks, since he has been accustomed to the wilderness and his trusty tent. He had to admit though, it was a nice change, although Shineda wasn't fond of it, not even once. He after all... hated being looked at like a hero. The cloak didn't do any good either, now that he had company around, but the ability to make himself undetectable was priceless and he was unwilling to part with it. Guilds had been charging forward the frontlines, the major solo frontliners such as Refa and Shineda seemingly fallen behind and slowing down in terms of fighting. It was getting increasingly difficult, he would admit it, and he greatly appreciated the powerful presences of both Refa and Tatsu.

OnyenNaito, as Tatsu was known, was a rather powerful <<Player>> despite his small stature and low levels. The OnyenNaito focused on turbo-quick attacks, amazing dodging capabilities and the magical aspects of his abilities, chaining together powerful spell combos, became a being known as the <<Mystic Fencer>>. This meant that the 3-man team became even more well known, hosting the <<Shadow>>, <<Flaming Spirit>> and <<Mystic Fencer>>. The three of them capable of bringing down <<Bosses>> together.

Despite this possible feat, Shineda and Tatsu took more time into being with each other and training Tatsu's level to be on par with Shineda's, resulting in the defeat of two <<Bosses>> at the hands of Tatsu, courtesy to both Shineda and Refa granting Tatsu access to the finishing blow. However, with the other <<Boss>> battles, Tatsu was not given the chance to deal the last blow, since everyone was clambering for it, and the <<Last Hit Rewards>>. This meant that Tatsu had spent even more time with Shineda and Refa. While close with Refa, Tatsu was the closest to Shineda and generally never left his side.

The <<Shadow>>, as Shineda was called, rarely appeared in battle alongside the other two, but would suddenly pop up from nowhere to deal a beautiful flurry of strikes before disappearing into the heat of the battle again, giving the enigmatic <<Player>> his title.

Shineda's appearance hadn't changed much and PKs began to fear the sight of a shadowy cloak and a plain Katana, fearing the <<Shadow>> that dealt justice with the chilling touch of his blade. Indeed, Shineda had shied away from the mainstream front line battles to deal with the uprising PK threat, tracking certain individuals based on his instincts and usually saving someone in the process. Of course, this meant that the <<Shadow>> appeared late for <<Boss>> fights and would generally seemed worn out, especially from running around preventing deaths caused unnecessarily by PKs, perhaps seven to twelve times a day. He was tired all the time.

But the day when Tatsu dealt a powerful succession of spells on his first <<Boss>>, was the day the <<Mystic Fencer>> was born. And forever, people who witnessed the fight would remember the sequence of how it took place and how he won.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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The Morning After...
Time: Day After Christmas





Two violet eyes slowly opened, their vision blurred as their owner's head seemed to spin, a dull throb rushing through her skull every time her heart beat. She grimaced, and would have shut her eyes to the suddenly painful light slipping between the curtains, had she not noticed something. Namely, that her face was currently pressed against something soft, firm, and pinkish, with a band of white wrapping half of it, and black framing it on either side. Huh... that white thing almost looked like a sarashi, and the black could have been the collar of something, but then that would mean she was lying on top of someone, wouldn't that? Specifically, a certain, well-known someone.

At that thought, Canon's eyes darted fully open, and she gawked in astonishment to find that she was, indeed, looking right at the sleeping form of her beloved partner, against whom she'd been snuggled closely, resting her head on his chest. The memory of the past night was nothing but a blur, and, after the point where she had run away from the party, she could remember very little. She'd... gotten drunk, she thought, but she couldn't recall what came after that. She faintly remembered being carried up some stairs, and placed in a bed, and something about her clothes disappearing...

Letting out a quiet cry of surprise, she threw herself backward, sending the bedsheets that had covered her falling to the ground as she hastily stood, blushing an impressive shade of red. She managed to get a good enough look at herself to determine that, although her haori had been removed - if she remembered correctly, one felt hot when one was drunk, so she'd probably taken it off to keep from overheating - she was still, in fact, fully clothed, as was her partner. From that she could determine that they hadn't, as she had feared, gotten horribly drunk and done something lewd. On the other hand, though, she couldn't remember exactly what she - who most definitely been intoxicated - had done. And, judging by the fact that she'd awakened half-unclothed in her guardian's bed, she had a feeling that whatever it was had been terribly shameful.

Unfortunately, this was as far as her train of thought got before she realized several things in quick succession. Firstly, her vision was blurry, and her head spinning, as though the world was doing some sort of demented dance beneath her feet. Secondly, her legs felt weak, as though she was walking on a pair of twigs. And, thirdly, the sudden motion of jumping up from bed had suddenly caught up with her, a tremendous, surging headache roaring through her head. Oh. Right. This must have been what a "hangover" felt like. The sensation seemed astonishingly similar to falling over, which was probably because, she realized, she WAS falling over... right toward where Asher had been lying. Trying to right herself only resulted in failure, which meant... she was going to land right on top of him.

She just hoped he'd awakened when she climbed out of bed. If he hadn't, then he was in for a rude wake-up call.

(And so begins the brief and lulzy tale of Canon's hangover.)

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That Awkward Moment
Time: Morning after the Christmas Santa Clause fight; Asher and Kanna's inn room; 9:00 A.M.


A health bar depleted into zero. A sword stuck out of the dark-clothed male's back, sending out red pixels into the air. "Why?" The silver haired male asked the white haired Vermillion Sparrow.

"You... You..." She had tears in her eyes, her voice trembled. Her health bar was near rock bottom as well, but it was still somewhat full. "You told me you didn't hate me.... You told me you didn't mind me being around..."

"I..." Asher can't explain the feeling inside him. Then again, his mind was confused at what Kanna had said as well. "I never... meant... that..."

"You never meant what?!" Kanna shouted, her tone now didn't tremble, but it wasw so full of rage. "Your compliments? The fact that you didn't hate me?! What?"

"Not that Kanna... S-something just..." Asher's eyes welled up with tears. His only memory was shouting at Kanna that he never liked her from the start. At least, not like that. Then things happened, and the two went into a duel and...

Asher's thoughts were interupted as he felt numbness in his lower body. Asher didn't even have to looke; he knew that his virtual avatar was being broken down into red pixels. The sword slid out of his wound, and Asher just lifelessly fell to his side, despite still somewhat living. Kanna realize what she had done. Tears start to stream as she tried everything: potions, first aid skills, healing spells... Everything. However, what was done can't be undone. In her desperation, she pulled off a Juliet: If he dies, I will die too.


The Vermillion Sparrow raised her blade, and with the last skill pop-up, <<Stab>>, the sword was brought down.

"AH!" Asher woke up with a start. First off, he felt an object, probably human sized, land on him. Second, he was dreaming about Kanna committing suicide. Why? Asher wondered. Then he looked down. "Oh, shit!" He nearly jumped, but then calmed himself. On his chest was Kanna, probably down because of a hangover. Asher heard from certain people what a hangover felt like, and Asher just pitied the people who suffered from it.

Asher sighed, then asked the drunken bird "You alright?" He waited for her answer, then carefully moved his arm out from under Kanna (which he felt sliding up her back in the process, causing him to blush for an odd reason), then grabbed the battle in the bedside table, thinking it was water.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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The Morning After...
Time: Day After Christmas





When Canon's head finally stopped spinning, she found herself looking up into a familiar face, that, even for a person less timid than her, would probably have been close enough to her own to be rather embarrassing. The knowledge that he was now nearly cradling her in his arms, and that they'd been sleeping in the same bed over the past night - in her case in only her yukata - only made things worse. Much, much worse, especially considering how, in the back of her mind, a little voice was telling her to just admit how much she was enjoying this situation despite how awful she felt. To be held like this, to be close to her companion like this... wasn't that what she'd always wanted? That didn't make it any less embarrassing to admit this fact, however. Canon found her blush deepening as she tried and failed to avert her eyes from the face that took up the entirety of her view. Trying to distract herself from these realizations - which was rather difficult, especially considering the fact that she could feel Asher's arm running up her back as he tried to disentangle himself from her - she realized she should probably apologize for falling on top of him like that.

"S-sorry..." She mumbled quietly, rubbing her agonized head. "C-could you not make so much noise? I don't feel good..." This was perhaps the understatement of the century. It felt like her strength stat had been dropped down to negative levels, and her head was pounding with each beating of her heart, as though her brain was trying to explode out of her skull. The world seemed like it was spinning, and her vision was blurry. She felt nauseous. Even if she hadn't consumed overly much alcohol the previous night, Canon evidently had almost no tolerance for alcohol, and the fact that she was a rather small individual to begin with really didn't help much. Still, she tried her best to give a slight, nervous smile, not wanting Asher to be too worried about her.

If this is what it always feels like after you drink something alcoholic, I'll be a teetotaler for the rest of my life...

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"S-sorry... C-could you not make so much noise? I don't feel good..." Kanna mumbled, rubbing her head. Her mind was probably weak from the alchohol, as it's evident that Kanna was currently having a hangover. asher could only nod in response. He was surprised; many girls- hangover or none- would've screamed "PERVERT!" and proceeed to flail their arms and they tried to escape from the person they slept with. Whatever Kanna drank, it must've been strong stuff.... Asher thought. Then again, it might just be her first drink...

Sleepily, Asher took the bottle and drank it. His throat was somewhat dry, and he needed that morning breath out of his mouth. There was a problem, however. First, Asher's sense of taste does't work in the mornings, so Asher couldn't taste what eh was drinking. Second, the Voice of Treason was drinking Doom Equis, the finest drink of Latveria. Yeah. He was unknowingly following the same fate as Kanna Suzaku last night. Asher practicallt downed the whole bottle in two seconds flat.

Slowly, the world around him began to distort. Asher's head began to spin, and Kanna's face somehow moved forward and backward, alternating directions. His mind began to be transported into the typical world of a drunk. Sadly, Asher was still in the same position- right under Kanna. Inappropriate thoughts rushed into the mind of the newly made drunk as he grinned like a dumbass. "'eeeeeeeyyyyyyy..... Kanna-chaaaan?" Asher called to get the Vermillion Sparrow's attention. "I raily dun' like zis pozizion berry mooch... Ya knew?" Asher's tone started to slur gradually with each passing word. His words, even without the slur, were pronounced with different letters. A mischeivous grin entered Asher's face. Probably any diot would know that this drunk was thinking like a pervert. Any girl would probably want to run away now, whether they were in love with this drunk or not.

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"Nel Mezzo Del Cammin Di Nostra Vita..."

Time: Two weeks after the Valentine's Day event, 6:30 in the morning.

Location: South Jungle ~ Vermillion Summit





The scarlet haori of the traveler fluttered in the passing wind as the small shape darted down the darkened, winding forest path, outstripping any mobs she aggroed as she single-mindedly rushed towards her destination. Again, she looked down at the item in her hand, checking the coordinates it contained with the grid of her own minimap, which her other hand was currently holding open and tracing her progress on. The small, rich purple feather glistened in the light streaming through the thick jungle canopy above her. Even without seeing the item's name, she had known exactly what the object she now held was.

<<Vermillion Feather.>> A quest-start item that allowed access to a hidden area at the very center of the South Jungle, a small mount upon which a certain legendary bird made its nest. She had followed this path once before, holding the same item in her hand then as she did now. Using the feather, she had entered the quest area, and done battle with the creature, finally defeating it and claiming its legendary items for her own.

And so, Kanna had been greatly surprised when, on her way back from a small excursion (she was a little too embarrassed to call it a date) with Asher - the two of them had been feeling very tense and high strung after things had come to a head on Valentine's Day, and so had agreed to take a few weeks off from the front lines, relaxing and getting to know each other a little better so that they could work out some of the issues that still stood between them - she had received an unusual PM. She hadn't checked it until she got back to the inn room, but, when she did, her eyes had almost bugged out of her head.

It had been a message from Mr. Ream, the renowned <<Stone Wall.>> Apparently, during a dungeon crawl session, several members of the <<Royal Hawks>> had stumbled across a strange item. Upon examining it, he'd determined that it probably had something to do with her, considering the name and nature of the object. And so, he'd sent her the feather she now held.

Kanna hadn't planned for this. It still seemed too early to face the creature. But, she had no choice. The feather existed on a time limit, meaning the event would close after today, never to be available again. Furthermore, it was a <<Solo Quest,>> an event for which there was only one activation item, meaning only one player could enter the event area. She couldn't bring herself to ask her partner, not wanting to risk his life just because she was too afraid to wager her own, least of all after all the things that had recently come to light about both of them, and the steps forward they'd finally taken in their relationship with one another.

And, although it was perhaps unusual for the shy, cowardly young girl to feel that way... after what she now knew, she had to admit, she felt pretty confident. Asher believed in her. Asher cared. She absolutely couldn't let him down, and, for that reason, she felt as though, even if the odds were even more unbalanced than they already were, it would be impossible for her to lose. After all, she'd made him a promise before she left that night.

Kanna had ultimately decided to do something that pained her greatly. But, as she felt too nervous to ask Asher's permission, she had instead left without telling him, leaving behind a note that he would likely find in his inbox when he woke up. It told him her destination, and her intent, and asked him not to try and stop her.

"As soon as you read this, please come after me. By the time you arrive, the battle should be over, and the area open for entry. If you find me there, then I might need some help making my way back to town. And if I'm gone, then please, don't feel sad for me. Even if I did die today, I'd be satisfied with having told you how I felt, and with the answer you gave me.

Don't worry about me. I've done this once before, and I'll do it again for sure. I'll be fine."


Those were the words she had left for her partner. With that, she had ventured into the Jungle, following the path she had taken long ago, to reach the same destination. And, when she at last reached a thick stone gate built into the side of a cliff, she knew that she could not go back. Raising the feather, she felt it vanish from her hand as several arcane glyphs shone from the thick gray slab, and the stone rolled aside, revealing a hidden path through the cliff face, and into a vast, open space. And yet, there was something distinctly wrong about this area. The last time she had come here, it had been a glen, strewn with thick branches and fallen trees, with a giant nest at the top of a hill in the center of the clearing. Yet now, the old deadwood was completely gone, along with almost half of the forest surrounding the hill. But it wasn't just the trees that were missing. No, even the grass and plants on the ground were gone, leaving a vast, blank landscape, a featureless, dusty field, unchanging save for the large hill rising at its center.

The sun had yet to rise over the forest, and yet, even in the darkness, Kanna could make out something strange. All across the empty field, there were several strange protrusions rising up from the ground, rigid even in the faint breeze that swept the forest. They were far too thin to be standing stones, too firm to be any sort of plant, too straight and uniform in their shape to be tree branches. They might have been tombstones, she supposed, but why would this field have been changed from a bird's nest into a graveyard? It didn't make sense. Yet, somehow, despite the many alterations that had been done to the landscape, Kanna couldn't deny that it all felt somehow... familiar. A sense of dread, the reason for which she did not know, began to well up inside of her. Where was she? Why did she recognize this place? And, foremost on her mind, where, exactly, was the boss she'd come to fight?

All of a sudden, with a tremendous surge of light, the radiant sphere of the sun crested the treetops, and rays of illumination poured into the empty landscape, painting it with a sudden clarity that drove out the dim, shapeless confusion of the early morning and revealed the form of both her surroundings, and her adversary. Kanna's eyes went wide in surprise and sudden horror as she realized exactly where she was, and what - or rather, whom - she was looking at. A gust of wind blew across the landscape, sending a cascade of dust spiraling into the air. All around the edge of the clearing, as though ignited by the sunlight, countless fires sprang up, sending a cloud of ashes and sparks rising up into the sky. And, all around the young warrior, the light gleamed off of countless surfaces of immaculate steel, rising up from the ground all around her.

This clearing was not the boss' den. No, this place was home to something much more fearful, something Kanna had always been too scared to face. The place that the white-haired young warrior now stood... was a field of blades, each one of which she recognized as a weapon she herself had once wielded. There were thousands of them, a complete collection of the very best swords that Kanna - or rather, the Vermillion Sparrow, Canon - had ever used. From the edges of the clearing to the hill itself, the blades were gathered, a disordered mass of countless weapons planted head first in the ground all around her. And, illuminated by the sun rising over its crest and by the fires blazing all around it, the hill of swords seemed to tower over the landscape, just as it had in her dream on Valentine's Day morning. And, just like in the dream, Kanna's eyes fell upon the master of that realm, her scarlet and golden raiment flowing in the wind around her, catching the light and glistening like a star. Slowly, the shape at the very top of the hill turned, drawing a sword from the ground, and gazing mockingly down upon the one who had aspired herself to stand at those heights, the one who had been too scared to face reality, and had run away to this land of blades in the first place.

As eight health bars blinked to life above the Boss' silver-haired head, its name was displayed, plain for Kanna to see. The white-haired warrior gave a gasp of horror, not wanting to believe the true nature of the opponent she'd so carelessly come to do battle with. For before her stood her greatest enemy. Before her stood...

<<Vermillion Sparrow: Canon.>>

...herself.

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Faker

Time: Two weeks after the Valentine's Day event, 6:30 in the morning.

Location: Vermillion Summit ~ Hill of Swords





"I was wondering when you'd show up." The cold, harsh voice of Canon rang out across the burning field, its tone and cadence completely different from the quiet, gentle tones of her lookalike at the base of the hill. At those words alone, Kanna's surprise became even more profound. This double... it was speaking in what was unmistakably her own voice. But how? It shouldn't have been possible, creating a perfect duplicate of a player in this way. No, wait. It was possible. She had proof of that. Hadn't she seen this very thing happen to someone else back on Christmas Day? Yes, that had to be it. The boss was just impersonating her. It would reveal itself presently, if she struck it. And yet... what about all those swords?! Not only was the enemy before her displaying as a player, but all those blades were displayed as the belongings of that player. Not even the most thorough illusion spell programmed into the game could change the registry at that level. Then... what exactly was she looking at?!

"Surprised to see me? Oh, right. I'll bet you were expecting to meet that oversized chicken. Well, you don't have to worry about dealing with that troublesome bossfight. I already killed it," Canon continued, smirking. "It was all too predictable, really. I don't think that thing would have even given you trouble... if you had somebody to hold your hand while you did it."

"W-what?!" This question was the only thing Kanna could find herself able to say. This enemy... it was talking to her, and it seemed to know a lot more about her than she was comfortable with.

"But," Canon kept on talking, as though unaware of the astonishment of the girl gaping up at her. "I think things would have been different if you tried to fight it on your own. Since you - or rather, I - last did battle with that avian pest, you've gotten so much... weaker."

"Who are you?" Kanna asked, reaching for her sword. "Or rather... what are you? How do you know about me?!"

"Who am I? Right, that's a question I suppose it's natural for you to ask. Considering that you've become so pathetic ever since you were trapped here, I guess you probably wouldn't recognize the person you once wanted to become. Nowadays, you're too busy kissing the feet of that opportunist Asher, aren't you? Always hiding in his shadow, relying on him to do what you can't... To have stooped to such a low... It's really pathetic. You know that, right?" Canon laughed coldly. "What happened to you, Kanna Suzaku? To think we used to be one and the same, looking at you as you are now... You're a disgrace to that face, to that body, to the very name 'Canon!'" The Vermillion Sparrow pointed the sword in her hand, a vicious, serrated longsword, down at her lookalike, and began to stride down the hill towards her enemy, who stood paralyzed by disbelief and fear, and ever-growing despair.

"What happened to the creator whose ideals I was meant to embody?!" She cried, her question piercing to Kanna's very heart. "Leaning on a random person you don't even know just because you're scared?! Guilt-tripping him into staying with you, into protecting you from the things you're too weak to stand up against? Doing whatever he wants, or rather, doing whatever you have to to keep him wrapped around your finger, so that you'll never have to do anything yourself? Or rather, because you can't do anything yourself! And then even going so far as to delude yourself into thinking you 'loved' him just so you wouldn't feel guilty about selling yourself, about manipulating someone as innocent as him into risking his life to save you... To think someone like you ever thought that she was 'strong.' You're nothing but a cowardly, conniving whore!" With those words, Canon swept out her hand, hurling the sword she held towards her lookalike. Drawing one of her own weapons - a featureless, heavy black broadsword with a high defense rating - Kanna frantically batted away the thrown blade, terrified by the memory of the dream she could now recall all too clearly. This situation, it was a nothing short of a scene from her worst nightmares!

"Fortunately for me, I won't have to look at you tarnishing my appearance and name any longer, you faker. Today, I'm going to put an end to all of your lies, and to your worthless life. This time, your little puppet won't be here to save you. In fact, I doubt he'll even come to look for a body. Without you to worry about, his life will be so much easier, and now that you've run away, maybe he'll finally realize how little you actually cared. By the end of today, he'll know what the real you is like: just a coward, too weak to even face reality. That's why you created me, isn't it?! You wanted someone to look up to, an idol you controlled. You wanted a role model who would encourage you to do whatever you felt like, to give you the courage you didn't have. You wanted a puppet, and when you realized that you could never become like what you envisioned me, you decided you'd just throw out those old dreams and worship somebody else! What, since you couldn't control your idol through strength, you decided you'd settle for seduction? You really are shameless, you know that?" Canon picked up another sword. She was at the bottom of the hill, now, and closing the distance between them quickly. Kanna unconsciously stepped back. "No..." She muttered to herself, yet she was unable to say more, for her attempts at protest were drowned out both by her fear and by the words of the matching voice in front of her.

"Don't try to deny it. You know the truth just as well as I do! It's just I'm the only one who's willing to admit it! That's the difference between us, and I think it's high time I made that difference so obvious that even you can understand it!" Sweeping down her hand, Canon opened up a menu just as any player might, and, selecting several options, caused Kanna to abruptly find herself surrounded by a ray of light. When this light cleared, she looked down at her sword... only to see her own reflection within its edge, and gasp.

The reflection was, like it had been on Valentine's Day, not that of Canon. Rather, she was once again her real self, a fact that was plainly obvious despite the <<Oni Queen's Kimono>> she still wore. But even worse was the fact that the name displayed below her HP bar had also changed. <<Kanna.>> She was no longer her avatar, not even in name. Rather, that title had been stolen by the enemy who now faced her. This enemy... it couldn't be said to be a boss. It couldn't even be said to be an NPC. Rather, the foe she now faced was Canon, the avatar she had always dreamed of becoming. It was her own idealized self.

Canon laughed, a shrill, cold, mocking and derisive sound that brought back memories of her real life, and of the people who had mocked her. "So, this is what you really look like, is it, Faker?! Hahaha... I can almost understand you deluding yourself into thinking you were me, now. You're so pathetic, I almost feel sorry for you. I can only imagine what he must have thought, seeing you like this. But, don't worry. You'll never have to worry about how unnatural you look, ever again. Because, Suzaku Kanna... I'm going to kill you, and show you once and for all how weak you really are!"

"Y-you... You're wrong...!" Kanna gasped. She was scared out of her wits, now. Canon... Canon was so far above herself it wasn't even funny. And worse yet, she knew everything about her, knew exactly how weak Kanna was. She could never hope to argue with the truth Canon was throwing at her, let alone fight her. She was just a shut-in, a coward who had run away from everything. And yet, she couldn't run away anymore, no matter how much she wanted to. She wanted to cry out for help, but she knew that nobody, not even Asher, could or would save her from herself. She was alone again, like she'd always been, betrayed by everything and everyone. Even her own dreams had now turned against her. She'd even turned against herself. And yet, there was one thing she couldn't accept, even as her heart filled with despair. Even if everything she'd ever dreamed of, everything she'd ever believed in, was a lie, there was one feeling of which she could not let go.

"Oh, really? Then let's see you prove it. You don't even have one thing worth living for, do you? Everything you believe in is just a lie, a fantasy, a delusion that you've borrowed to fool yourself into thinking you're at all 'special,' or 'important!'" Canon jeered.

"N-no! There's definitely one thing I have that isn't fake. I... I really do love Asher! No matter what, that's-"

"Wrong. That, too, is just a fake! All your so-called 'feelings' are is an excuse, a justification you gave yourself to seduce that boy into protecting you!"

"W-what...?" Tears were beginning to form in Kanna's eyes. And yet, despite the overwhelming doubt beginning to build within her as her beliefs were brutally trashed in her very own voice... those droplets never fell. Slowly, her open mouth closed, forming into a grim line as her wide eyes narrowed, and her knuckled whitened, her grasp tightening around the hilt of her sword. "You..." She said quietly, her previous fear and despair slowly being drowned out by another emotion, one that those who knew her probably never would have expected to appear in her voice. And yet, the light of anger in her eyes couldn't be denied as she slowly, instinctively, stopped backpedaling and dropped into a battle stance. "You're... LYING!" She roared at last, hate filling her voice as she went to a point of despair and desperate anger that brought her beyond the ability to speak, or to reason.

"Oh?" Canon laughed. "We'll see about that, faker. Let's see which of our ideals is stronger, then! The strength I possess, or your blind faith- no, your servile, pathetic obsession with that boy!" The Vermillion Sparrow lunged forward with this, raising her own sword, a red-bladed rapier made of a material that closely resembled rubies. Kanna raised her own blade, the black broadsword she had drawn on instinct, to block, but swiftly began to backpedal.

That sword... I remember it! Its item name is <<Ruby Fang,>> and its ability is to release a torrent of fire to break weapons that block it! I can't defend directly! With these thoughts, Kanna darted to the side, glancing the passing blade of Canon's rapier off of the edge of her own broadsword as she stepped in, sweeping her weapon upward even as the flames erupted from the sword stabbing past her, incinerating the ground where she'd just stood. Sliding her blade up the thin edge of the burning rapier, she forced the smaller weapon downward whilst at the same time hacking upward at her enemy's head. Idly, she realized that despite their status as <<Players,>> neither herself nor Canon were activating actual <<Sword Skills.>> No, it could better have been said that they could not do so in this battle. To use the knowledge of battle prepared for them by the system, and not the power of their own ideals and beliefs to fight, would have gone against the entire purpose of their struggle to prove their strength.

Canon ducked, leaning as far back as she could whilst at the same time using the downward momentum of her deflected blade to drop into a crouch, Kanna's dark blade passing just over her as, at the same time, the Vermillion Sparrow rose again, spinning about and reversing the momentum of her slash to sweep upward at Kanna's back as she rose. The pale warrior, too, pivoted, her scarlet haori rippling out behind her as she, on instinct, raised her sword to block, only to realize too late that she'd done exactly as her enemy intended. The <<Ruby Fang>> connected with her own broadsword, and, with a tremendous explosion of heat and flames, the weapon shattered in her hands, the resultant shock sending her flying backward, crashing to the ground amidst several blades.

"Rain coldly across the battlefield," Canon chanted, her booming voice ringing across the Hill of Swords as she declared her spell. "Dance brightly across the sky! SYLPHAE BARRAGE ~ HIGH END!" Kanna's violet eyes shot open, only to see the blades planted in the ground all around her rising suddenly into the air, then plunging down in a deadly steel rain towards her. Frantically, she flung herself to the side, rolling out of the way as, with a tremendous impact, at least a dozen swords drove themselves into the earth where she had just lain. A cloud of dust exploded upward into the sky, blinding Kanna for a moment as she frantically drew another sword. However, no sooner had she done this than Canon leaped through the smoke, <<Ruby Fang>> stabbing forward again and again, forcing Kanna to continuously retreat to avoid being impaled. With a roar of triumph, Canon abruptly accelerated, lunging forward much faster than she had before, and forcing Kanna to hurl her sword into the oncoming scarlet blade, then jump away, only barely escaping the explosion as another of her swords was destroyed.

"Did you really think your strength was on the same level as mine?! Those blades are weaker than you are!" Canon taunted, stepping forth from the flames and sweeping up her rapier, releasing another torrent of blazing, howling magic and forcing Kanna to roll to the left to avoid it as it swept overhead, knocking several of Canon's planted swords into the air. Snapping her fingers, Canon continued the effects of the spell she'd already cast, the duration of which was evidently several times longer than Kanna's own spell, sending these projectiles streaking towards her fleeing target from behind. This time, Kanna wasn't able to escape unscathed, as a razor-sharp scimitar grazed against her shoulder, only inches away from striking her head. She was unable to resist crying out, both in pain and surprise. It seemed that Canon had not only altered her avatar to the form of her real body, but had even removed the system's usual suppression of pain from injuries! But she had no time to think about such things, for her enemy was already continuing her attack, raising the familiar shapes of the black and white dao swords from amidst the field of swords, then sending them spinning towards her target. "I told you! Your strength is no longer anywhere close to my own! Don't equate a warrior like me to a coward like you, mongrel!"

Frantically, Kanna drew her own twin daos, and, crossing her arms before her, slashed upward twice simultaneously, batting aside both of the incoming projectiles and sending them spiraling away from her, crashing into the ground and firmly embedding themselves there at some distance from their target. "Cheeky dog..." Canon hissed angrily, lifting her hand over her head. Instantly, as though called by the gesture, countless swords rose from the ground behind her, pointing themselves at Kanna as she stood, gasping for breath and slowly returning to a combat stance. "You dare level those inferior imitations of my own blades against me?! So you continue attempting to copy my strength, even when you've already realized that is something a coward like you will never attain...? You're even more pathetic that I thought, faker!" Sweeping down her hand, Canon released her active spell, sending a cascade of swords hurling one after the other from the cloud of blades behind her. Kanna frantically raised her own twin daos, slashing again and again at the incoming projectiles and beating them aside just as fast as they came. And yet, she quickly began to give ground, stepping backward under the weight of the unending shower of swords as the Sparrow brought more and more powerful weapons to bear, while her own daos grew swiftly weaker and weaker. The incoming shots grew faster, and soon, Kanna began to slip up. A sickle-sword carved across her left side, while a longsword grazed along her right forearm, and a sai planted one of its three blades in her ankle. "Don't tell me you're getting scared already! I'm just getting started!" With this roar, Canon laid hold of a weapon beside her and threw it with all her might, a greatsword that struck Kanna's crossed blades head on. With a tremendous flash of light, the two daos shattered into pixels, their owner flying backward beneath the staggering impact and rolling several times before slowly coming to a stop. Gasping for breath, Kanna slowly tried to rise, almost unable to move beneath the overwhelming pain of her unsupressed wounds. So this... this was what being injured in battle really felt like. This... she couldn't handle this. She was scared, she wanted to run, to flee anywhere, to any place that might offer safety. Yet, immobilized by her pain, she found herself kneeling, unable to move as she stared with blank terror at the ground. No, that wasn't entirely true. Normally, not even pain would have been enough to stop her from moving, nor would her terror at her own impending mortality stay her hand. Rather, it was dawning realization that bound her. Had everything been a lie? Had even her feelings, how she held Asher in the highest possible esteem, just been a means of compensating for her own insecurities? Had she just been manipulating him the entire time, pretending to care about him when in reality she was just using him as a human shield? Maybe... Maybe Canon was right. Maybe Asher would be better off with her dead. He'd finally be able to do what he wanted, instead of living just for her. Maybe... neither of them had ever really loved each other. Kanna had just been borrowing his strength, borrowing his feelings, because if she didn't, she'd surely be unable to face herself, and what she had become.

"I think I've proven my point," Canon said smugly as her spell ended, only one sword remaining out of the innumerable projectiles she'd called up. Catching this weapon, she gazed contemplatively down at it while she continued speaking. "You understand now, don't you? The truth of your existence... You're nothing but a dreamer, a fake who assumes she's strong just because she's following in the footsteps of someone far greater than herself. Content to live in another's shadow your whole life, trying to imitate those you admire just because you don't have any redeeming qualities in yourself. Bound by your own worthlessness for your whole life, you're willing to do anything just to have somebody give you orders, to have somebody shield you from the truth of your life, because you're too scared to do anything for yourself. Haven't you realized yet? That's all you are. A faker, living on borrowed strength, believing in borrowed feelings, and guiding yourself with borrowed ideals, none of which you ever deserved! This is the truth of your existence, what you've denied for all this time!"

The small yet formidable silhouette stood calmly amidst the fallen blades, her taunting voice the only sound audible across the desolate battlefield, her vermillion raiment flowing in the violent wind kicked up by her last storm of attacks, her violet eyes focused upon the jet black, serrated blade of the second sword in her hand. The wind swept across the battlefield as, in the distance, the light of the rising sun burned its way through the smoky clouds. And then, slowly, that oh-so-familiar shape turned to face Kanna... and, with a disgusted, twisted sneer, raised her sword and hurled it straight at the frightened, weak girl before her, who, affixed by her despair, found herself unable to even rise and defend herself as the blade streaked across the empty space between them. With a horrible, numb feeling, Kanna realized that she'd been struck, gazing down with unseeing eyes at the hilt of the weapon protruding from her gut as she doubled over and then, carried by the force of the impact, collapsed backward. With a terrible sense of weightlessness, she found herself plummeting downward once again, collapsing onto the hard, burnt earth beneath her. Blinking back tears, Kanna looked up only to see that vermillion shape stepping into view above her. Violet eyes burning with disgust, Canon looked with spite and hatred down upon her weak and helpless creator, who cowered before her.

It's happening again. This is exactly what I dreamed of, Kanna realized. Of course I lost. This whole situation... I already saw the ending back then. Canon is right, just like she was then. I'm just a faker. But... I can't believe it... Did I never really love Asher...?

"Did you actually think you were 'strong?' That you were special? That you were anything at all?" Canon said, her words identical to those she'd spoken in Kanna's dream as, just as she had then, she began to close in upon her immobilized victim, who, pinned to the earth by the sword driven through her chest, was in too much pain to even try resisting. "Did you honestly believe that you could ever be anything to him? Don't make me laugh. We both know you're just a burden. He's just too nice to say it. But even he, once he finds out - and he will find out - about what you really are, about how you're a pathetic wreck of a human being, about how you're a fake who's been lying to him all this time because you're too weak to face reality, won't be willing to put up with you. Surely even you understand that, don't you?!" Canon called, her words piercing Kanna's heart just as the blade had pierced her body. She opened her mouth, but, like always, found herself with nothing to say. She wanted to protest, to cry out against Canon's lies, but it was hard to do when the one speaking to you was your own self, giving voice to all of your deepest doubts and fears.

No... that can't be. I... I love him, don't I? Whenever he was hurt or in danger, I always felt like his life was the most important thing, even moreso than myself. If I wanted to hide behind him, why did I always struggle so hard to protect him? That time, I gave up my arm just to save him. If I really didn't care, then why...?

Canon, meanwhile, continued to walk forward, undeterred, until she stood directly over Kanna's fallen body. Reaching downward, she grasped Kanna by the throat with one hand, and took up the hilt of the sword impaling her with the other. "This relationship of yours, the closeness you desire... could you even call that love at all? Clinging on so desperately to a person so far above yourself, crawling hopelessly toward a dream you yourself already know the tragic ending of... That's just selfish naivete! You just thought he loved you because of how happy he looked whenever he saved you, just loved him because he was willing to do what you were too weak or too scared to! If the only way you're going to live is on borrowed strength and borrowed feelings, then you should just die now and save those around you the trouble of carrying your burdens for you! That's right... You'd be better off dead." Canon sneered, dragging her victim by the throat up to look into her eyes as she spat her words into her helpless victim's face. Then, letting go of her creator's limp body, Canon wrenched the sword from within her gut in a shower of scarlet pixels, and, drawing it back, prepared to finish off her immobile victim.

She's... wrong, Kanna thought, the numbness receding from her consciousness as the same righteous indignation began to fill her thoughts. She's wrong. She's definitely wrong. I don't feel that way at all! I have a reason to live. I believe in Asher, who believes in me. I'm not the poor man's substitute for him, or for my idealized self, Canon. I'm my own person, with my own feelings! And Asher... I never asked him to help me. He helped me because... because...

"I love you Kanna Suzaku. If I lost you, I wouldn't have my own reason to live..."


With the memory of those words, Kanna's hand slowly began to move. Twitching slightly, she raised her weak arm, agonized by pain, up towards her enemy in a final, desperate grasp. "You agree, don't you?!" Canon cried angrily, giving a final smirk as she prepared to deal her coup de grace, a finishing blow both to Kanna's body and to her heart. And yet, Kanna no longer cared what that liar, no, that lie had to say. As the pale warrior's health bar depleted into the red, her foe crowed triumphantly, and opened her mouth to speak, drawing back from her fallen victim. But no sounds came forth from her mouth said for a cry of surprise as she found her hand caught by a steely, steadfast grip as, using her opponent as a lever, Kanna Suzaku slowly hauled herself back to her feet.

"Thine are the fangs that call destruction
Thine the hand that binds the winds!"

"W-what?!" Canon cried out in surprise, but her words were drowned out by the determined, roaring voice of the spellcaster as Kanna slowly stood, releasing her most powerful spell as a sudden explosion of pressure erupted between them, picking up Canon and sending her flying head over heels like a ragdoll, crashing through several of her own blades before finally coming to a stop at the base of the hill. Rising to her feet, Canon gave a cry of rage.

"Impossible! How are you still standing?! With how many wounds I dealt you, you should be in shock by now! You still refuse to face reality and just give up...?! I told you, you're-"

"You're wrong," Kanna said simply, gritting her teeth and forcing the words out against the overwhelming, blinding pain wracking her body. "'The one we both hate the most is the same.' That's what you were going to say, isn't it?"

"You..." Canon began, but once again found herself cut off.

"No. I don't agree. The one I hate the most isn't myself, the me of the present. The one I hate... is YOU, Canon, the flawed delusion of my past self! I am not Canon. I am not even the same me as the one who created you. I am Kanna Suzaku, a person with her own feelings, her own strength, and her own ideals! I could accept losing to somebody else... but I absolutely refuse to be defeated by an illusion of my old, incomplete self!" With this declaration, Kanna spread her arms, and, in a flash of light, drew two more swords, curved blades that had served her dutifully since the day she had first come to live for her comrade's sake. Tempest and Gale gleamed brilliantly in the sunlight as Kanna once more assumed a battle stance, despite her almost complete lack of hitpoints, and despite the agony filling her for every second she moved. Despite all of these things, and despite the uncertainty in her heart, Kanna yet stood, willing to keep on fighting for the one feeling in which she would always believe.

"My counterattack begins now."

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Character Portrait: Canon
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The Bladebearer ~ Forging a New Life, Breaking an Old Life

Time: Two weeks after the Valentine's Day event, 6:40 in the morning.

Location: Vermillion Summit ~ Hill of Swords





Canon grimaced with rage, wrenching forth her twin swords from the ground beside her - Kanna recognized <<Ruby Fang,>> as well as a high-end speed-type weapon, a serrated black longsword known as <<Darkwind.>> "Illusion, you say...?!" She hissed angrily, assuming a fighting stance of her own. "You dare call me a fake, to challenge me with my own blades?!" And yet, after this roar of spite and fury, Canon calmed herself, and her old sneer returned to the way it had been. "You're unexpectedly resilient, I'll give you that much," the Vermillion Sparrow said at last. "But I've had enough of this. If you refuse to face reality, and wake up from your delusion, then you can just die dreaming!" With those words, Canon snapped her fingers again, raising up an overwhelming cloud of steel from the field around them, and then instantly collapsing it in from all sides. As a wall of blades engulfed Kanna from all sides, Canon smirked. She was through toying with her enemy. Now, she woul-

Canon's triumph was cut off by a sudden surge of pain - or what approximated it to the AI - tearing through her awareness as, in a shower of scarlet pixels, a black and red falchion pierced cleanly through the center of her chest. She let out a gasp of surprise and twisted her head to look behind her, only to see Kanna there, smirking calmly as she wrenched Tempest forth from her opponent's gut, sending Canon staggering forward as the blade that had held her up was ripped painfully out of her body. Desperately, she spun to slash at her opponent, but her blade was slow from her disorientation at her sudden wound, and cut only thin air as Kanna stepped back, a faint golden glimmer fading from around her as a small object about the size of a pocketwatch disappeared from where it hung at her side. Canon had no time to be incredulous at her enemy's sudden speed, however, for in the next instant, Kanna had jumped forward again, slashing downward with Gale and forcing Canon to block with Darkwind. Frantically, the Vermillion Sparrow tried to counter, lunging up with Ruby Fang, only to have its blade parried by the rising Tempest, shattering her already tremulous balance and sending her staggering into her opponent just as Kanna brought up her leg to deal a half-roundhouse to her opponent's waist, sending Canon rolling backward.

"Tell me, Canon!" Kanna shouted, leaping forward and bringing down first Gale, then Tempest upon her kneeling adversary, who crossed her own blades over her head and blocked as best she could. Yet, Canon was unable to fully disperse the force of each blow's wind-enhanced impact, and found her health bar reduced yet again, even though she had blocked the strikes themselves. With her last three hits alone, Kanna had already taken down one of Canon's health bars.

"Why is it that you want to become strong?!" Kanna continued, leaping back to avoid a sweep from Darkwind, then lunging forward once again and stabbing at Canon's head. The Vermillion Sparrow tried to dodge, but was not quite quick enough, and instead found the blade of Tempest grazing across her left shoulder, sending a spurt of red pixels into the air that was swiftly followed up by a flash of sparks at a horizontal slash from Gale slammed headlong into her defenses, sending her skidding backwards.

"I don't! I AM strong!" Canon roared back, anger seeping back into her voice as she rushed forward, stabbing with Ruby Fang only to find its blade intercepted between the crossed edges of Tempest and Gale, which Kanna then used to wrench the weapon from her enemy's hand, at the same time spinning out of the way to avoid a follow-up with Darkwind. Canon rushed past, then spun about on the ball of her feet, raising her remaining blade to sweep downward at Kanna, who also spun around, using this momentum to lunge upward with Gale, smashing it into Darkwind while at the same time bringing up Tempest to sweep at her opponent. With a tremendous shock, the black edge of the Vermillion Sparrow's sword cracked and shattered into dust, and she was forced to leap back as a scarlet gash appeared across her body, depleting her health yet further.

"I figured you'd give me that half-baked answer!" Kanna called back as she leveled her blades, rushing after her fleeing adversary as Canon frantically raised her empty hands, calling more swords to herself while at the same time chanting the words of her one defensive spell. Tempest and Gale smashed against the surface of a hastily erected Sylphae Ward, and, in the next instant, shattered it completely, the shockwave again sending Canon skidding backward, while Kanna continued her dual slash to bat aside two swords that came streaking towards her. "After all!" Kanna continued, hurling both of her swords at once. "That's the only feeling you have, isn't it?!"

"Shut UP!" Canon bellowed back, drawing a two-handed sword from the earth beside her and sweeping it upward, sending both Tempest and Gale hurtling away, back into the hands of their master, who dropped once more into a ready stance as Canon rushed forward, slashing once, twice, thrice, again and again, raining blows down upon her adversary's defenses. And yet, not once did Kanna falter, nor did her enemy's blade ever reach her.

"You're the one who's simply living in awe of those greater than you!" Kanna continued, undeterred by her enemy's frantic assault as she parried yet another furious blow, then ducking beneath an unbalanced sweep at her head, at the same time bringing up her elbow and slamming in into her enemy's gut, flicking Gale backhanded at the same time to, with the same motion, drive it clean through Canon's body. Spinning with the momentum of the strike, she swept Tempest upward, hacking through the Sparrow's hip and carving through her body until she finally reached the unyielding edge of her own weapon, both of her swords connecting inside Canon's body, triggering both of their special effects and releasing a literal explosion of pressure that tore long, searing gashes into the avatar's form, scarlet spreading across the large part of her upper body as she screamed with imitation pain as she was sent flying several yards by the explosion inside her. And yet, in the next instant, she rose again, fury painted on her face as she swept up her hand, once more raising a curtain of swords to sweep in upon her target, this time from the side. Yet, this attack was abruptly diverted as a blue-trimmed blade came spiraling back to its wielder's hand, colliding with the incoming column of swords and scattering them with a wave of pressure.

"You hated yourself for what you were, and so tried to become something different!" Kanna accused, now beginning to break down her enemy's entire worldview and beliefs, just as Canon had tried to break her in their last clash. "Even though you knew you could never make that dream into a reality, you ignored that fact, denying the truth even when it was right before your eyes! You ran away from the world, convincing yourself you were someone you weren't, simply because you couldn't face your own flaws! Even now, you refuse to acknowledge anything, fooling yourself into thinking you're strong simply because you ignore anything that tells you otherwise!" The girl rushed forward as she shouted these piercing words, darting aside as her opponent frantically showered her location with a storm of Sylphae Arrows, then sweeping up Gale to bat aside her opponent's sword before Canon could raise her extended hand to stabilize the oversized weapon. The two-handed blade was sent spiraling away, and its master had to frantically draw forth a random hand-and-a-half sword from beside her to block a follow-up from Tempest.

"SHUT UP!" Canon screamed again, lashing out wildly with her blade, only for Kanna to dart to the left, raising her own blades to block Canon's next attack as the Sparrow turned her upward sweep into a horizontal cut.

"That's exactly the mistake I made!" Kanna kept up her lecture, twisting her parry into a spinning slash and carving a long scarlet gash across Canon's ankle, sending the enemy stumbling back as the pale warrior followed up with one downward stroke after another, cutting first from one side, then the other, using the continuous shifting in her momentum to give her strikes extra speed and power. "By simply denying the world, I thought I had somehow escaped from it! But that strength you so cherish is nothing but a delusion! If you're the only person who exists in your own little world, then of course you're the strongest there is! And yet, that doesn't alter the fact that you haven't changed anything at all! You're still the same person you were then, with the same flaws!" With a loud crack, the blade in Canon's hands shattered into pieces, forcing her once again to retreat, leaping away and raining down another shower of swords that her nimble adversary easily deflected, cutting down each projectile in turn.

"I TOLD YOU TO SHUT UP!" The Sparrow shrieked, her violet eyes wide with mixed rage and horror. That expression, the despair painted upon her face as she was faced with a truth she did not want to accept, and yet could not deny... Yes, Kanna was fairly certain she herself had worn that very same look of shock during the first part of their engagement. The only difference between them was that she hadn't let her fears and regrets weigh her down. She had a reason to keep fighting. But this specter of her past failures... this worthless wreck of a Human being had no such purpose, she deep down, Canon must have known it.

"Don't compare me to the likes of you, coward! I am a warrior, not some weak little pet who hides behind her betters like you, you shameless MONGREL!" Canon cried, reaching down and frantically drawing forth a pair of swords to match the two her enemy wielded. The original Tempest and Gale gleamed brightly as they were leveled against their replacements.

"No. You're wrong," Kanna replied, shaking her head as she smirked. "You're not a warrior, just a scared little girl! And I... I am no coward. Not anymore!" The pale warrior smirked as she saw her enemy's hands tightening around the hilts of her weapons, beginning to tremble slightly. "Cowardice isn't simply being afraid. Or rather, 'bravery lies not in the absence of fear, but the facing of it.' I admit it. I'm scared half to death, every time I step into a fight. And yet, here I am, still charging forward with sword in hand, risking life and limb for the sake of survival. I used to be too scared to even pick up a blade, but things have changed since then. I have a reason to live now, and I have the courage to back that conviction up!" Kanna smiled. "You're right, Canon. There is a difference between the two of us. And that difference is that I, unlike you, am willing to face my fears instead of just running away from them!"

"Y-you...!" In defiance of her earlier confidence, Canon now actually began to stutter, her words quiet, stifled by the fear she refused to acknowledge, and yet could never escape. To Kanna's surprise, she could even see tears forming in her enemy's eyes, although Canon didn't seem to notice them. Her eyes were staring blankly ahead, perhaps as she underwent the same breakdown of belief and willpower that she had tried unsuccessfully to inflict upon Kanna. And then, as expected... Canon snapped.

"I... I'll... I'll... D-DON'T MOCK ME, YOU MONGREL! I'LL SEND YOU TO HELL!" She shrieked with desperate fury, raising her blades to the sky. All at once, almost every single one of the innumerable swords covering the battlefield, the entire arsenal of original weapons collected by the Vermillion Sparrow, rose into the sky and pointed inward at their target, who stood steadfast at what would soon become ground zero of Canon's largest attack.

"You're too late," Kanna said, smiling calmly. "I've already realized your secret."

"W-what?!" Canon hissed angrily, cutting off her attack for a moment out of an irrepressible, sudden fear of her adversary.. It was this hesitation that was her undoing.

"True, every single one of those blades of yours is probably at least as strong as my very best swords at their current level. I could never hope to match the quality of your legendary collection of blades with my stock of imitations. In that regard, you have me completely beaten. However..." Abruptly, the air around Kanna was suddenly filled with countless swords of her own, almost as numerous as the blades brought to bear by her enemy, and many of them the very same weapons as her foe had already lifted from the field of weapons. Kanna's imitations aimed themselves directly at Canon's original stock of weapons, pointing outward in all directions as she prepared to fire.

"Guided by experience and driven by iron will, these hands of mine will forever forge blades! Connection established. Limits removed. Firing without restraint! Continuous Summoning!" Canon's eyes widened as Kanna began to chant, and with good reason. For, as she finished her spell, the cloud of blades around her - which already nearly equaled the barrage Canon herself was preparing - was suddenly displaced by a tremendous golden glow, rivaling the light of the rising sun. From within this whirling golden field, ripples began to emerge, turning the pool of light around her into something akin to the surface of a tranquil lake in a light rainstorm. And then, from amidst the radiance... emerged a truly staggering number of swords. They were of all shapes and sizes, of all levels and types, ranging from level 6 broadswords - little more than steel clubs - to glistening longswords and falchions, blades of the highest quality. The collection of swords that now presented itself was the entire stock of weapons in Kanna's possession, and, although inferior in quantity to the arsenal of her enemy, was at least three times larger than the Sparrow's total armament.

"Even if my imitations can't surpass those legendary swords you treasure so much, what I lack in firepower, I can make up in sheer quantity!" Kanna continued, smirking. "And while you have to go to all the trouble of drawing the blades you want from the area around you... I can summon any sword I want to my person, at any time I want!" The pale warrior smirked as her enemy's eyes went wide with realization. "That's right..." She said. "All those powerful blades of yours are completely useless to you if you can't even use them! Here I come, Vermillion Sparrow! Let's see if you have enough swords left to stop me!" Canon, frantic now as she realized her enemy's plan, desperately began to chant her spell, but Kanna was already doing the same. At once, two voices called out the same incantation, and with those words of power, the thousands of swords hanging in the air all pushed off, launching towards their wielders' enemies, and towards each other.

"Rain coldly across the battlefield...!" Canon howled.

"Dance brightly across the sky!" Kanna finished. At once, both Blademasters swept down their weapons like hammers of mutual judgement, and, with a tremendous blast of power, innumerable swords streaked towards each other, like the weapons of two unseen armies charging towards mutual destruction. With countless simultaneous impacts of steel against steel, blades connected in mid flight, breaking one another, then shattering in their turn. Imitations were struck down by their progenitors, which were then overwhelmed by the sheer tide of fakes that rained down upon them. All across the field, countless swords rained down, landing point first in the ground in even greater numbers than there had been at the start of the battle. And when at last the clash ended, Kanna stood unharmed, while her opponent knelt amidst the dust, gasping for breath as countless scarlet gashes all across her digital form slowly closed, and her health bars depleted yet further, now reduced to a mere three of their original eight, while Kanna's passive self-regeneration skill had been running for so long since she was last hit, that her health was now back to almost the halfway point. The tide of the battle had clearly turned, and the desperate Sparrow was beginning to realize that all too keenly.

"I think I've proven my point," Kanna said quietly, her voice ringing out across the momentarily silent battlefield as she spoke in a mocking echo of her enemy's own words. "You understand now, don't you? The truth of your existence... You're nothing but a dreamer, a fake who assumes she's strong because she hides away in her own little world, not listening to anyone or anything that tells her otherwise. I know, because I thought exactly the same way once. Always alone, too intoxicated with my imaginary success to realize exactly how far I'd really fallen, I lived in a world of blades, driven always by the single goal of becoming stronger. If I couldn't make my dreams come true in reality, I would just leave reality be, and dream instead, pretending that what I was witnessing was the truth, was the real me, rather than the worthless existence I left behind. I always ran ahead, never realizing that I was living in a fairy tale until I was faced with how hollow my false self really was! But that's as far as the similarities between us go. Unlike you, I regret the mistakes I made. I've acknowledged them as errors, and done my best to correct my faults instead of ignoring them. I've accepted who I am, even if that means having to face all of my own flaws and inadequacies. I've stopped running away. Do you want to know why? It's because someone showed me that strength isn't the only thing that matters, that I don't have to be perfect in order to be a worthwhile person. It's because, even if I'm flawed, there is still at least one person who is willing to look past that, and to help me overcome my own insecurities and my faults. Maybe you're right. Maybe I am clinging to him, or hiding in his shadow. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm not doing so because I have no other choice. I believe in - no, I love Asher, of my own free will, and with all of my own strength! My reason for living isn't something that's borrowed, nor is it an illusion. That's why, no matter how scared I am, or how strong you are... you, who have no reason to live save your own delusions, will lose."

"Shut... UP!" Canon shrieked again. As she rose, Kanna could now see that she really was crying. But, although she supposed she probably should have felt guilty, to her, the person standing before her was not someone she was capable of pitying. The enemy she now fought was her past self, and above all else, she wanted to tear every last scrap of her previous, foolish existence apart, bringing an end to all of the mistakes of her former life with her own hands. And, at any rate, it was rather difficult to pity someone who was currently screaming at the top of her lungs and rushing at you with a pair of swords, trying to carve you into pieces.

"I'M NOT WEAK!" Canon sobbed, frantically sweeping downward with both her swords, only to stagger past her mark as Kanna slipped to the side, striking the Sparrow's Tempest with her own Gale and sending her spinning to the side, at the same time sweeping Tempest towards her enemy's back. "So you continue lying to yourself, even knowing that your dreams can never come true!?" Kanna asked, piercing to the heart of her past self's flawed idealogy yet again as she struck her blow, only to be deflected as Canon spun all the way around, parrying with her own Gale. "I'M NOT WRONG!" Canon cried more strongly, her tears scattering upon the wind as she rose, lunging upward with her Tempest, only to be blocked yet again by Kanna's opposite sword, the shock of the impact sending both of them staggering backward. Yet, in the next instant, the two leaped forward once again, blades raised to clash once again.

"That's the lie I told myself back then! And yet, by ignoring my problems, I only made them worse, and in exchange for running away from my life, I nearly lost it! Don't you understand that you're destroying yourself?!" Kanna shot back, raising her own blades as Canon leaped high into the air, bringing her own weapons high over her head, forgoing all pretense of defense to deal two powerful strikes as she came down upon her target. "SHUT UP AND DIE!" Canon screamed. With a flash of light and sparks, the false Tempest and Gale cut upward, meeting their original counterparts as they descended. The wind screamed furiously across the battlefield, sending dust and blades scattering in all directions. And yet, when this titanic clash was over, and the two warriors passed each other... Tempest and Gale, two of Canon's very finest swords, shattered into tiny pieces, broken by two precise strikes from their inferior counterparts.

The Vermillion Sparrow's strength had just been indisputably surpassed.

To be concluded...

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason)
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Monkey See, Monkey Do
Time: Two weeks after Valentine's Day; meanwhile as Kanna fought Canon
Location: Asher and Kanna's inn


Asher awoke to the unfamiliar sound of silence. "Where's Kanna?" He wondered outloud as he dragged himself out of bed. The Voice of Treason stretched as he got back his senses taken by slumber. He sighed as he went into the bathroom, and practically did everything he usually did in real life. It was one of the few things that Asher did to make sure he didn't forget the basic of things, as well as making suer that he won't have a panic attack after forgetting the simplest of real-life tasks.

Asher then equiped his old <<Japanese Kimono (Tengu Variation)>> Onto his clothes. They were the only kind of armor that was similar to Asher's gi. What is he doing? Practicing martial arts. No black belt would ever want to be away from classes, then come back to realize that they lost all their skills. No, it was too horrible. It's practically an embarressment. Asher sighed as he went into a fighting stance, his feet now on their toes, and his legs bent a little as well as slightly spread out. "Hiya!" Asher shouted as he executed a lotus kick, then followed up with a chop to the neck area. Asher then moved his rear arm to block an imaginary attack, then did a downward-backfist onto the air.

Suddenly, a notification sounded. Asher rolled his eyes as he reequipped his <<Dark Enforcer>> costume, then opened up the notification window. "What now?" Asher grumbled. He then saw practically the most entertaining skill quest not so known to man-the Devil's Eye Blade quest. Asher smiled as he tapped <<Quest Start>> and heard footsteps from outside his room.

The Voice of Treason opened the door to find no one, but began to walk as soon as he heard another sound. The noise led him outside the inn and into the backyard. There was only one person there, and it was a boss only seen by people inside the quest- which was only Asher, obviously.

BOSS: Eliza Lassar
Image
Health: 5 Bars
Attack: ?????
Defense: ?????


"Huh... That's new... Putting a boss in the immediate area of the player's location, even in a town..." Asher muttered and smiled as he unsheathed his sword, <<Blazor Edge Abyssion>>. "Let's see if you can get me out of sleep!" Asher taunted.

As if it was human, the boss smirked and grabbed one of her swords. "Trust me. You won't be disappointed." She responded. The two were in a stand-off, but then, Asher attacked first. "Assault Slash!" Asher yelled, jumping up and then proceeding to slam the sword down onto the boss. However, she was quick and disappeared from sight almost instantaneously, leaving behind a puff of smoke. As Asher looked around for his opponent, Eliza reappeared midair, and with a playful tone, she said:

"Devil's Eye: Plagerism 1 - Assault Slash."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason)
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Monkey See, Monkey Do
Time:
Two weeks after Valentine's Day; meanwhile as Kanna fought Canon
Location: Asher and Kanna's inn


Asher dodged yet another attack from above as Eliza had somehow teleported above the Voice of Treason. Again did the boss use another of Asher’s attacks, this time being yet another <<Assault Slash.>> “Seriously. Is being a copycat the only thing you can do, Eliza?” Asher taunted as he charged in once again. He got in a slash, but it cut only a tiny bit of Eliza’s third health bar (which was now at 50%). Asher was down to 45% of his maximum health, thus allowing him to get a few stat boosts from his passive skills.

“Hm… Do you really want to know?” Eliza asked innocently. Asher smirked and nodded as he brought his sword up in guard. “If you say so~” She said in a cute and playful tone. The boss walked over to Asher, who was confused by her action. Eliza giggled slightly as she put a hand on his face, the skill <<Seduction>> activating, putting Asher in a <<Seduced>> state. He blushed as their faces came so close, only to be pulled away by the force of <<Devil’s Eye: Plagiarism 4 – Tempest Reversal>>. Asher was cut 10 times upward by Eliza’s mimicry of Asher’s skill, then slammed down onto the ground. “Urgh!” Asher grunted in pain- or habit- as his body crashed into the ground. Eliza promptly landed beside him, smiling in a crouch position. “F….uck… you….” Asher muttered.

“How hard?” Eliza laughed again, causing Asher to blush at the sight of her face. What are you doing, Damons? Get it together! a voice inside Asher’s head sounded. You’re in love with Kana Suzaku, not Eliza Lassar! Get up and fight before I make Kenji see that the feminists are invading VRMMORPG’s with the move <<Seduction>>!!!!

How the hell is he even relevant to my current situation-

DON’T QUESTION ME, LITTLE MAN! JUST GET UP!


As Eliza was waiting for something to happen to Asher-with a rather bored face- Asher quickly used his skill <<Windmill>> and got up, only to use <<Tempest>> to keep Eliza into the defensive. “Huh. So you finally awoke, love.” Eliza teased as she calmly blocked Asher’s attacks, a few getting through her defenses.

“Very funny.” Asher muttered before grabbing her head and sending Eliza into the hilt of Asher’s blade. “Oof!”

Asher backed away a little as Eliza used her own skill, <<Dancing Pedals>> to get up and slash the immediate area in a horizontal spin attack. “So are you going to stop screwing around and start fighting me?” Eliza smirked.

Asher let out a little smile, then prepared himself. She’s just toying with me… He thought. She’s not worth entertaining… Asher closed his eyes, and the skill and status window popped up.

<<Cleansing of the Six Senses/Savage Wolf Fury Combo>>


Asher opened his eyes, and smirked. “Here we go…” He warned Eliza, who’s waiting in a fighting stance.

“Hi-ya!” Asher ran around the enemy as lines formed on the ground, forming a lotus shape.

“Oooh… What do we have here?” Eliza wondered out loud, smiling.

“Watch your back.” Asher warned her too late as he slashed from the side, then from another. Is speed became greater and greater until Asher finally dashed through his target, hitting an addition four times in that last his. “Zankou Roueijin!” However, Asher wasn’t done yet. The Voice of Treason jumped into the air and slammed down Eliza into the ground, dealing damage that broke away half a life bar.

“Ow… That hurt…” Eliza groaned. Asher smirked. “You gonna wake up? Or should I wake you up?” However, the smile was gone when Eliza performed <<Devil’s Eye: Plagiarism – Windmill>>, thus knocking Asher back and dropping his life bar to about 5%.
“Ow. That hurt.” Asher grunted.

“Oh well.” Eliza giggled. “You at least put up a good fight. Maybe I should start using my own skills to make it harder.” She smiled as she got into a relaxed fighting stance. “If you want, you can get a free hit.” She taunted. Damn… She’s being a real pain in the ass… And since when did bosses act like this?! Asher thought as he charged in. He slashed at Eliza, who took the hit as promised, but then she grabbed Asher and flipped him to drop his health to 1%, barely anything left. “Well, that was fun…” Eliza sighed as she checked her nails. “Too bad I have to end this duel.”

Asher sighed. Damnit…. I have only one thing left to do then… He thought. Just as the blade of the boss came down, Asher used <<Dropkick>> on the side of the blade, causing the weapon to fly out of the owner’s hand and into her gut. Eliza staggered back from the sudden impact of the sword, and Asher used the opportunity to use <<Roundtrip>>, throwing his sword at the stunned Eliza. Asher sword managed to hit Eliza before hitting her sword still stuck in her abdomen, causing two critical hits to occur.

Asher smirked as he got up, grabbed his sword and the sword in Eliza’s gut, and used Ghost Wolf on her. This caused yet another critical hit from pulling the blade out, and even more damage from using the skill. This removed 1 and a half health bars. What was remaining was 1 ½ health bars for the boss, and a regenerating 5% health for Asher.

“Hm.. Things are getting interesting, now.” Eliza said. “Want to show me more, or are you done?” She taunted.

“Yeah. Look below you.” Asher pointed down, and markings appeared on the ground where Eliza stood. “Huh?!” Eliza tried stepping back, causing Asher to immediately chant.

“Rest in a merciless embrace, and freeze from a hell colder than the devil himself.” Asher said, then pointed at her. “Absolute!” A giant iceberg erupted from the ground, encasing Eliza in ice. She was also now in the <<Frozen>> state. Asher smiled as began to chant, creating various markings in the air using his sword. He held on to Eliza’s sword, for a simple plan he wanted to use. “When the stars no longer exist, and the eternal sun draws near…” Asher chanted for <<Scarlet Sign; Nightless Castle>>, which was promptly executed. Because of its fire element, the spell melted the iceberg- making it perfect for a lightning spell. While the flames were still burning, Asher chanted again.

“Tenkou mitsu tokoro ni wari wa ari! Nomi no hiraku tokoro ni nanji ari! Ideyo, kami no ikazuchi!” Asher chanted in Japanese So… this is how rita Mordio felt like right before owning Dhaos in the arena… Asher mused. Then he threw Eliza’s sword into the air. “Kore owari desu… This is the end for you… Indignant… Judgement!” as soon as the Voice of Treason said “Indignant,” the sword cmae back onto the ground and back to its true owner in a shape of a giant sword, made purely out of electricity. At “Judgement!” the sword blew up, causing a giant electrical field to appear and zap the boss wet from the ice-fire spell combo. Because the boss was wet, the spell gained a massive boost and practically overkilled poor Eliza.

When it was done, Eliza’s body was on the floor. “Nice... job, kid…” She said as Asher approached her. She only had a sliver of health left.

“How are you able to act so…” Asher was beginning to ask the question, but stopped himself because of hoe foolish it was to ask an NPC that. Nevertheless, Eliza still answered.

“Easy; I’m an NPC. I’m just an exclusive enemy for this quest. Once you press <<End Quest>>, I’ll probably go back into my NPC status and act like it. This quest was the only way to act like a human... Which I have been trying to do everytime a person accepts this quest. I’ve been secretly studying how players act, and decided to try it myself.”

“Alright…” Asher was a bit suspicious. The developer had done this a bit too well… Breaking the fourth wall like that… The Voice of Treason thought. “Then what was this quest all about?”

Eliza smiled as she pulled out a window, one strange and never seen by players’ eyes. She pulled out a scroll, and handed it to Asher. “This is a scroll to make a sword named <<Devil’s Eye Blade>>. It allows the player to copy up to five skills from his/her opponent in a one-on-one fight. This is mine, so you can’t have it. But you’ll have the sword itself once you get it… and a whistle to summon me to aid you in battle. After all, I’m supposed to say ‘I’m impressed. You managed to defeat the master of <<The Devil’s Eye Blade: Plagiarism. I’m obliged to give you my weapon and help you when you need it.’ Or something.”

This caused Asher to at least soften up, and laugh at the human-like NPC’s joke. “Fine… Will you still act like this when I do summon you?”

“Probably.”

“You better. I at least have something to show to Canon.” Eliza giggled. Asher sighed as he tapped <<End Quest.>>

“Farewell, The Voice of Treason. I hope that we will meet again. I look forward to battling with you soon.” Eliza recited her automated message, with a smirk on her face. Even Asher knew that the face wasn’t supposed to happen.

Asher sighed as he finally opened his inbox, since he heard a notification pop up mid-battle with Eliza Lassar. First, there was a gift from the developer. “Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da, congratulations on completing this rare quest, etc etc.” Asher mumbled as he skimmed through it quickly. He tapped <<Receive Spoils>>, and obtained a new weapon as well as a unique item, <<Summon Companion: Eliza Lassar>>. Asher didn’t check either of those, however. He went to the other notification, the one that was a note left behind by Kanna earlier.

"As soon as you read this, please come after me. By the time you arrive, the battle should be over, and the area open for entry. If you find me there, then I might need some help making my way back to town. And if I'm gone, then please, don't feel sad for me. Even if I did die today, I'd be satisfied with having told you how I felt, and with the answer you gave me.

Don't worry about me. I've done this once before, and I'll do it again for sure. I'll be fine."


Asher’s eyes widened. Not by the fact that Kanna had plunged herself head-first into danger. No, he trusted her more than that now. It was the fact that he didn’t go to pick her up. “OH CRAP!” Asher yelled. He was probably late; Kanna probably finished her fight, and was probably left alone to fight her way back to town. Asher took out a whistle- a horse whistle- and waited for a horse outside his inn. <<Matsukaze>> rose up, a horse with black skin and white hair. Asher jumped on the horse without hesitation, brought out a map, and commanded the horse to run.
Asher, you fucking dumbass… You just probably left Kanna to die, alone. his mind cursed at his mistake as Asher rode to <<Vermillion Summit.>>

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Canon
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Disillusion ~ The Hill of Swords

Time: Two weeks after the Valentine's Day event, 6:40 in the morning.

Location: Vermillion Summit ~ Hill of Swords





"You... You broke them..." Canon murmured, staring in shock down at the fading blue lights in her hands as the last vestiges of Tempest and Gale vanished from her grasp. Her eyes were wide with disbelief, her heart unable to accept that she'd just been overpowered in such a way. And yet, it could not be denied, no matter how much she wanted to tell herself otherwise. Kanna watched as despair at last took hold of her past self, grimacing slightly. This sight, this enemy... it was pitiful, even to her, who had been exactly the same before she was sealed within this game. This wretched being before her, in her eyes not an AI program, but a real avatar of her past mistakes, was herself, broken as she had been by Humanity, and by the world. This creature had no reason to live save self-indulgence in her own lies, and Kanna had just forced the truth before that delusional entity's eyes, leaving it nowhere else to run to escape from the reality it now faced.

That's right... Before she was sealed here, she hadn't left her room in four years save to bathe or to grab food from outside when nobody else was around. During that time, she hadn't spoken to a single Human being, or had any connection to the real world save her continuing studies in her textbooks and her internet connection. She'd been a lifeness, purposeless entity who could have been said, with some truth, not to have existed in the real world. Seeing the specter of that old self, Kanna could not help but feel revolted at the knowledge that this being she now fought was herself. This childish, cowardly, miserable person, who only wanted to escape from reality, even at the expense of those around her... this was something Kanna never wanted to think about again. And yet, at the same time, she couldn't stop remembering, couldn't put an end to the shame she felt inside. Or, rather, there was only one way to: to give form to her self-hatred, and to crush every last aspect of her delusional, incomplete self of the past with her own hands. In her mind, if she couldn't put an end to all the lies she had fostered, then she could never move on from that time.

"You... I won't be beaten... by a fake... like you...!" Canon hissed, her voice filled with a rage that at least equaled its brokenness and despair. Her tears were still falling, but she didn't seem to notice them. Rather, she was gazing at Kanna, only one remaining thing in her eyes: pure, murderous intent. She had nothing left to live for, had been broken down to the point where coherent thought was no longer possible, so crushed was she beneath the overwhelming weight of her despair. There was only one thing she could yet think of: killing the one who had done this to her. Like a sleeper, rudely awakened, she wanted nothing more than to make the one who had forced her to face reality suffer.

Numbly, with trembling hands, the enemy drew forth a random sword from the ground, and slowly began to walk forward. "I'll kill you..." She growled impotently, and yet she continued her advance. Repeating these words, she quickened her pace. Again she made her threat, and then she began to run, leveling her blade. Focusing her crying eyes solely on her target, she rushed forward at last with all of her speed, raising her sword to attack. "WHY DON'T YOU DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!" She shrieked, her voice filled with despair and hopeless anger as she swept down her sword with redoubled force, clashing with the crossed blades of Tempest and Gale only to draw her weapon back and strike again. Over and over she attacked, charging blindly forward and thrashing back and forth, mindlessly raining desperate attacks upon her adversary.

"DIE! DIE! DIE!" Canon cried in time with her strokes, accelerating with each new attack she dealt. Sparks flashed across the clearing as blades met again and again, the sound of clashing steel ringing out, accompanied by the broken warrior's repeated cries as she continued her assault. Kanna merely stood her ground, deflecting blow after blow in turn, each time chipping off another piece of the sword leveled against her, until at last, the enemy's weapon locking with her own, she swept out both of her own armaments, shattering the weakened blade with ease and sending Canon skidding backward, only to lay hold of two more swords, raising them to continue the pointless battle. "I TOLD YOU TO DIE!" She screamed, letting loose with another shower of blows, only to find both of her new weapons, too, shattered in short order. Her tears were flowing faster now, and yet she didn't seem to notice, instead simply raising a cloud of swords to continue attacking her enemy while she, in the meantime, grasped about her for another sword.

Kanna leaped back, grimacing as the enemy's blades drove themselves into the earth she'd just stood upon. She'd already utilized all of her swords to deflect the last desperate barrage of her enemy, scattering them all across the battlefield. With her own version of Sylphae Barrage's limited range and duration - a flaw her enemy's spell seemed to lack entirely - she was no longer able to deploy the blades in any significant quantities, making countering her enemy's rains of weaponry now a rather difficult task. Her enemy seemed to have noticed this, too, for even as Canon charged, she continued her furious tempest of incoming swords from all sides, forcing Kanna back on the defensive as she darted between the incoming showers of swords as best she could, deflecting those falling weapons she couldn't simply avoid. But this was much easier said than done, as her nimble enemy was hot on her heels, raining down blow after blow upon her adversary.

Kanna grimaced, spinning out of the way of a downward stroke from Canon, bringing up both her blades to bat aside three swords coming in from behind her even as she evaded the first strike. Turning this double-horizontal sweep into a spinning attack, she brought herself about, hacking at her stumbling enemy from behind even as Canon completed her slash, pivoting with her sword already upraised to defend herself. The three blades met with a tremendous flash of light, a wave of pressure sending the Vermillion Sparrow staggering backward as the weapon in her hand shattered once again, regaining her balance at the very top of the Hill of Swords. Canon gave a scream of outrage, directing another hail of blades at her adversary as she raised her arm high above her head, calling for another weapon amidst the field of swords.

"How dare you... How dare you break my blades...! I will not let this happen! I've had enough!" She cried. Kanna's eyes widened in realization and fear as, even through the cloud of oncoming weapons, she saw a lone sword rising up from the other side of the hill, flashing in the sunrise as it was called towards its master's hand. That blade was the very finest weapon in Canon's possession, an evolving weapon of tremendous power. It was the most famous sword of all in the Vermillion Phoenix's collection, a blade she'd gained at the same time as her title and armor: <<Vermillion Talon,>> a sword that not even Tempest and Gale could hope to match. With the tremendous power of that weapon at her disposal, Canon would be able to finish off her much weaker enemy with ease. Kanna absolutely couldn't allow that sword to be drawn, or else she'd die for sure...! And yet, the enemy's incoming storm of weapons would be impossible to penetrate or circumnavigate before it was too late. At least, not unscathed. But, with pain suppression removed, trying to charge through that rain of projectiles would be suicidal. She'd take enough hits to paralyze her with raw pain, even if she managed not to be killed outright. And yet...

She glanced at her health bar, and instantly made her choice. There was simply no other option. She didn't have time to sheathe one of her swords and use the pocketwatch before she was hit anyway, and if she hesitated the enemy would be able to use the Vermillion Talon before Kanna could stop her. And so, steeling herself against the pain to come... Kanna braced herself, and then kicked off, leaping forward with all her might. Swords fell all around her, pelting down like hail as she raised her two blades to defend herself as best she could. But, with her own speed forward and the velocity of the weapons falling towards her, trying to defend against all of the enemy's blades was impossible. Cutting her losses as best she could, Canon simply crossed her blades over her vitals, moving them only slightly to deflect the attacks that would kill her, while simply enduring any grazing blows that she didn't have time to defend against. Swords cut along her arms and legs, beginning to fall faster all the while as she continued her suicidal charge. A rapier impaled her shoulder, while a scimitar drove itself through her gut. She gritted her teeth to choke back the agonized scream that tried to escape from her lips, and charged on. Even as more and more swords began piercing her body, she remained silent, continuing to run up the hill of swords even as her awareness began to fade, pain consuming all five of her senses. Absolute, blinding agony filled every fiber of her being as at least a dozen swords lodged firmly within her, and she found herself able to move no longer. She realized she was falling, unable to stand and continue charging any longer. Her health bar was almost entirely depleted, and, even though she understood in some capacity that she had cleared the attack, her enemy remained firmly out of her reach. And all the while, the dreaded sword came down, down, down, closer to her enemy's grasp. Canon would take hold of that blade at any second, and finish her off.

No. That absolutely could not be allowed to happen. Despite her inability to move any longer - although whether this was because all of her limbs had been inflicted with paralysis by the weapons piercing through them or because she was going into shock from the overwhelming pain assaulting her psyche, she couldn't have said - Kanna refused to give up. Her mana bar... yes, she had just enough strength left. With the last of her power, she held onto Tempest and Gale, raising them weakly before her even as Canon laughed, reaching up to catch Vermillion Talon and bring it down upon her faltering adversary. Then, Kanna murmured three words, and cast her spell.

"Fly... Sylphae Step," She whispered. With those words, her mana bar depleted to zero, and her body became almost weightless, the air around her solidifying and catching her before she could fall, holding her up as she raised her head. Time seemed to stop as, with painstaking slowness, the enemy finally grasped her sword, taking hold with both hands and bringing it down. "FAREWELL, KANNA!" Canon roared with triumph, preparing to decapitate her enemy. But, to her surprise, as her sword came down, against all odds... Kanna moved. Even though she herself was no longer able to move her body, the spell she had just cast made that irrelevant. Mid-fall, the pale warrior abruptly stopped, and then flew forward, crossing the last of the distance between herself and her adversary. Canon's crow of triumph was cut off in her throat as she realized far too late that the silvery edge of Gale was rising up to meet her as, with the last of her strength, Kanna brought both of the blades before her to bear, slashing upward with her front blade, then casting it aside, laying hold of Tempest with both of her useless arms and, even as her strength failed her, plunging it straight towards her enemy's heart.

A flash of scarlet pixels streaked upward into the sky as a longsword, still clutched firmly in the severed hands that had held it, fell harmlessly to the ground, and a silvery falchion, discarded by its wielder, landed side by side next to it.

Canon's eyes widened in shock as, with a piercing, shattering sound, a black and scarlet blade drove itself straight through her body.

Blood-colored light leaked from the stumps of the Vermillion Sparrow's severed arms, and erupted forth like the radiance of a dying star from her heart as her body began to shatter.

"Goodbye, Canon," Kanna replied quietly as she gasped for breath, staring up with a smile into the shocked faced of her adversary as she let go of the sword impaling the dying Sparrow.

"I... don't... want... to... die..." She gasped pathetically as the two combatants' health bars finished depleting. Kanna's health was reduced to a single point... but her enemy's last bar faded entirely. Canon began to cry, but found her tears halted as her program began to delete itself.

Kanna watched as the imaginary self she had treasured so much began to collapse into light. The Sylphae Step spell that was allowing her to move despite the countless weapons impaling her body was running out of time, but there were still a few seconds left, just as Canon's lingering awareness had just a few more moments before it was destroyed for good. And so, with the very last power within her broken body, Kanna reached out and embraced her defeated adversary, hugging the sobbing, crumbling body of her past self as it vanished into dust.

"It's alright..." She said quietly. "You don't have to be scared anymore. I've found... a reason to live... for both of us. The meaning you wanted for so long... It was right here, all along. A heart, full of love, just like you hoped to have one day. You got your wish in the future. If you didn't, I wouldn't be here either. So it's alright. Don't cry, Canon. Everything's... alright."

Those reassuring words were the last things the false Canon ever heard. Kanna didn't know if her past self had heard them too, and if somewhere, in a different life, in a different world, she'd managed to correct her gravest mistakes at last... but as she had faded into the sunrise against the two warriors had been silhouetted, Canon had shed her very last tear, and for perhaps the first time... she had smiled. Then, crumbling into light, she had finally faded from the world, shattering into the blue digital dust from which her body had been formed. With a quiet clatter, the sword that had been driven through her fell to the ground, bouncing slightly off a rock and driving itself into the side of the hill atop which Kanna now stood, alone, as the pain of her injuries caught up to her. Scarlet pixels leaked from countless wounds, and, glistening in the light of the dawn, countless weapons pierced through her form, impaling her in over a dozen different places. She resembled more a pincushion than she did a triumphant warrior, and yet, even as her spell gave out and her body slumped, her head drooping and her arms hanging limply by her sides, she refused to fall, instead leaning upon some of the swords driven through her legs, planting these in the ground behind her to allow herself to remain upright. It seemed that she wouldn't be keeping her promise to return to Asher. After all, impale wounds did damage over time. With only one health point left, she'd surely be dying at any moment, as, with her pain uninhibited and coursing rampantly through her system, she couldn't even open her inventory to draw forth a healing crystal to save herself. She was weak, and her consciousness was slowly fading underneath the paralyzing agony.

And yet, to her surprise, even as she shut her eyes, silently apologizing to her companion as she prepared for death, the end never came. Instead, two windows flashed open before her, both familiar and both equally unbelievable due to the text displayed upon them.

The first window read simply... "Immortal Object."

The second, even more startling, was a private message, addressed to her by none other than the game master himself.

"Congratulations. Even in the face of everything you ran away from, you, <<Player,>> yet found the willpower to continue living. You have, I trust, acknowledged your mistakes in the past, and come to terms with the self you tried so hard to escape from. You have understood the true purpose of Antiva Chronus Online, and of real life. Because of this, you have earned your freedom. Enclosed is a character bound, one-use, one-of-a-kind item that will instantly log you out, and delete all relevant character data from the server. Rejoice, young lady, for your freedom has finally been granted you."

- Kawakami Yoshihiro


Kanna's eyes went wide at this. She... she could escape? She didn't have to live in this hellish virtual reality anymore? She wouldn't have to risk her life in battle ever again? The Game Master was saving her, and now he was even giving her freedom? It seemed too good to be true. And yet, in another instant, she realized that it was. The message specifically said that she couldn't share this item with anybody else in any way, shape, or form. In short, there was no way for her to use it and escape without at the same time leaving behind something, or rather, someone she couldn't afford to lose. Asher would still be trapped here, even if she ran away. Then, in that case, wouldn't she just be fleeing again, saving herself at the expense of those who cared about her? She'd just be abandoning another cherished thing she was too scared to keep. She'd have learned nothing, and just go back to the way she was before...! She didn't want that. Even if she didn't have to be afraid anymore, she'd have lost her reason for living! There was no purpose in a world, in a life, that didn't have Asher in it. Even if it meant risking herself, she'd gladly face dangers a thousand times more terrifying than this survival game to stay by his side. And so, smiling slightly as her thoughts cleared, the pain that had filled her mind having faded as she stopped taking damage from her wounds... Kanna rejected the gift the GM had sent her, and feebly wrote up her own response.

"Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't leave ACO just yet, no matter how much I might want to. There's someone important to me I can't afford to lose. So, as tempting as your offer is, I think I'll stay a while longer, so I can keep on fighting by that person's side, and escape together with him. Because... the only reason I was able to face myself was because I had someone to believe in me. If I lost that person, I'd lose my only reason to live. There wouldn't be any point in me even having survived.

Thank you for your offer, but I have to decline. Running away is something I simply won't do anymore. But, if it's not too rude of me, could I ask for another favor instead? The changes currently active on my account... I want you to leave them as they are. After going through what I just have, I don't think I could face myself if I had to be someone I'm not for another day longer. I'm scared to be myself after so long, I admit... but that isn't a bad thing. I think everybody is just a little bit scared to be who they really are. Since everybody else has already managed to do so much despite that fear, I want to try, too, and see if maybe, I can be more like who I really am, without feeling ashamed of the self I see in the mirror.

I understand that this will leave my character settings so that, like I do right now, I'll feel the pain of my injuries when I get hurt. But, I think this is alright, too. After all, if I never got hurt by anything, when I get back to reality, I'd probably be overwhelmed by just a little scratch. I want to live like I'm actually alive, even now, so that when the day comes that I can actually live as myself on the other side, I'll be ready.

If I make a last request without being too selfish, could I ask that you leave me as an immortal object, at least until my friend comes to save me? It would be pretty pathetic to die here after all that's happened, and I can't exactly move on my own anymore. So, I guess I'm counting on you.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Kawakami. Although it's sort of weird to say this, if it weren't for you, I'd probably be dead right now. At the very least, I wouldn't be living, as I am now. So... despite all you've done, I still want need to thank you for all that your actions have helped with.

P.S.: Could you give that escape item I sent back to you to the next player who's about to die? I wouldn't want to see it wasted just because I don't need it. Thanks again."


- Suzaku Kanna

Pressing send, she shut the window as well as her eyes, and let her hand fall limply to her side again, the swords driven through it clanking together slightly as she slumped in place, watching the sunset through her eyelids as she stood alone atop the hill of swords, overcome, yet victorious.

She never received a response to her message, yet, her appearance and name never changed from those of her real self, and the <<Immortal Object>> status remained in place, keeping her from succumbing to her wounds as she remained, waiting for the arrival of her companion. Despite all that she had gone through, as she stood still before the dawn, her tattered red mantle flapping quietly in the morning breeze, Kanna smiled. She had no regrets, for she'd crushed those misguided feelings with her own hands. She knew, for perhaps the first time, that her life had meaning, and that one beloved person, somewhere, would come to help her for sure.

And so, she waited patiently, a lone figure standing broken and bowed, yet undefeated, surrounded by blades, iron she had forged with her own hands, atop her own hill of swords...

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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What Happens When a Voice Travels to a Bird
Location: South Jungle
Time: Around Canon's defeat


The Voice of Treason swung again as another <<Wild Lion>> tried to pounce on him. At this time, the <<Blazor Edge Abyssion>> was at about 1/2 it's durability. Asher was at 90% of his health and 75% of his mana. "Come on... How many of you are there..?" Asher complained as he used <<Heavenly Tempest>> to finish the lion off. The Voice of Treason was on foot. Why? Firstly, he had no flying pets. That was useless. Then Asher's horse wasn't able to run through jungles. That's even more useless. The only summon available to Asher was... <<Eliza Lassar>>.

However, he didn't use her. No, it wasn't as fun. Plus he was afraid Eliza might put him into <<Seduction>> again. Asher shivered at the thought and kept running.

Location: Path to the Vermillion Summit
Time: 15 minutes later/ 18:30


Asher coughed. "Damnit. Why did the quest have to be so far from civilization?" Asher asked to particularly no-one. There were still enemies in the path upward, and Asher's evolving weapon was starting to lose durability. "Crap... I was hoping I didn't have to do this..." Asher cursed before opening up his window. He went onto his equipment screen and selected his neweset weapon: The Devil's Eye Blade.

The Devil's Eye Blade

Image
Attack: 2750
Magic Attack: 3000
Description: A blade hated by many humans because of it's unique ability to allow the user to quickly memorize the skills of his/her opponent and use it back at them. While it isn't evil in itself, people still shunned it for being too much of a nuisance when facing it in battle. It can seperate into two seperate swords, and comes with it's own sheathe.
Special Ability: Allows the user to have up to 3-5 slots to copy an opponent's skill- depending on the level of the weapon. The skill must be seen and used in battle by the opponent, and the user must meet necessary requirements to use said skill. It currently cannot copy passive abilities.
Copying more abilities than the sword can handle would result in deleting a previously copied skill.

Asher swung the sword back as he prepared a fighting stance. The target in front of him- a <<skeleton>>- used <<Stampede Slash>> (dashing into the enemy and slashing; fire element). Asher dodged it, memorizing the skill instantly as he did. The Voice of Treason smiled as the sword glowed, and Asher charged at a skeleton further up the path using the same skill. The blade slashed right through the skeleton with ease.

Asher kept running up the path. "How big is this thing...?" He panted as he ran up the path, blocking and dodging the enemies with the little stamina he had left. The Voice of Treason was beyond tired. First, he had to fight a boss in the morning. Second, he had to learn that Kanna had gone to do her quest. It wasn't the fact that she left that annoyed him- it was the battle marathon he had to run. Then again, Asher might've gone off easy. Deducing from Kanna's note, the battle would probably be long and hard for her. Probably a giant boss- much like the final boss of Shadow of the Colosses.

Asher swung at the finaly skeleton of the path. In his wake, Asher left many skeletons and a few piles of bones. Because of his fatigue from his travels adding to the stress of his fight with the exclusive boss, Asher didn't want to start reaping XP by killing off skeletons in this path. No, it would just be too much and The Voice of Treason would pass out.

Asher finally made it to the summit- the <<Vermillion Summit.>> He was dead tired, and his legs felt like jelly. His sword, however, faired better than it's owner. Only a few points of durability were deducted from it's maximum because of Asher's wanting to stay away from fights. Nevertheless, Asher still pushed on. "Kanna? You okay?" He called out. Fatigue affected his vision, and he only saw a lone dark figure in the distance. From Asher's view, it was surrounded by countless blades. He couldn't see whether the figure was a player or not. Asher just ran to the figure until he could see who it is, sword in hand in case that the figure was an enemy.

The Voice of Treason finally got to the figure 5 minutes later. He chanted quietly, and held a fireball. "Kanna...?" He asked the figure. It at least look like her. The figure had silver hair- check. The skin was a bit pinkish- familiar. The health bar even said "Kanna Suza-" Wait! "Kanna?!" Asher exclaimed. He rubbed his eyes and quickly got out a few healing crystals. "What happened?!" Asher asked her. There can't be "Are you okay?". Two swords embedded in your legs? I think "Ow." would be just an underestimate. Not only that, but Kanna's health bar had depleted drastically, still trying to climb it's way back to maximum health.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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Awaited Arrival

Location: Vermillion Summit ~ Hill of Swords





The sound of a distant voice and footsteps rushing up the rocky hill caused the pale warrior to slowly open her heavily lidded eyes, trying in vain to turn her head to face the figure she could just barely see on the edge of her peripheral vision, only to find her attempts to move herself inhibited by a naginata driven through where her collarbone would have been, the realistic physics of the virtual reality engine therefore causing her to be unable to turn easily in that direction, as the weapon pinned her in place. Still, she didn't need to see the newcomer to know who it was. He'd finally come.

"Hey... Asher..." Kanna gasped out. She probably sounded as bad as she looked right now, as her voice was hoarse and weak, seeming very strained - for good reason. She was still recovering from the overwhelming pain she'd suffered during her battle, and the wrongness of feeling countless blades occupying the space where her body should have been, yet not feeling anything else from those regions, could probably have been called a torture in and of itself, even if she was no longer being hurt by her wounds. "I've been... waiting..." She said, smiling feebly as she blinked several times, as though struggling to stay awake. Her hair and cloak fluttered gently in the breeze, which, combined with her once again pale skin, gave her an altogether ghostly or ethereal appearance.

"C-could you... help me... down from here?" She breathed tiredly, giving a wry smile. "I guess I got... a little reckless. I won... but I can't... move anymore. If you could... pull these out of me... Quickly, before..." The "these" she spoke of needed no explanation, considering the dozens of swords that Asher would now be able to clearly see piercing through her body, most going clear through her front and out of her back in a manner that was both pathetic and horrifying to behold. And yet, despite these unimaginable injuries, Kanna was still alive, a mystery which would become clearer to him when he came up close enough to see the small window displayed next to her, evidence of the Game Master's intervention. Yet, once Asher moved closer, the <<Immortal Object>> status faded, and scarlet light abruptly erupted from all across Kanna's body as the many weapons stabbing into her abruptly began to deal damage again. Her eyes widened abruptly, and she gave several pathetic coughs, stifling a scream that only half-formed in her throat, coming out as more of a hoarse gasp as she abruptly slumped, her entire body beginning to tremble as it was suddenly flooded with the same overwhelming agony that she'd only just begun to recover from. Immediately, her health bar began to rapidly deplete as she was continuously damaged over time by several high level weapons. Although her passive recovery abilities had restored her to near 75% health during the time she spent as an <<Immortal Object,>> it was clear that all of the points she'd recovered would be depleted within less that half a minute by her wounds. If Asher didn't pull the swords from her body, and quickly, she'd surely die from her many injuries.

"Help... me..." She gasped, unable to fully choke back a wracking, pathetic sob that entered her voice, wrung from her despite her determination not to cry by the sheer agony of the unsuppressed system effects on her. Kanna could feel each blade piercing her body, the searing agony of being impaled over a dozen times flooding her system and overwhelming her entire psyche with a single, crushing sensation of pain.

She'd won the battle... but at what cost to herself?

Setting

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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Clipped Wings Healed


"Hey... Asher...." Kanna greeted the Voice of Treason in a vioce that was weak. "C-could you... help me... down from here? I guess I got... a little reckless. I won... but I can't... move anymore. If you could... pull these out of me... Quickly, before..." Asher nodded. The sight was just... brutal. Kanna's body had been impaled with a multitude of swords of varying types- all of which that Asher knew had weilded as her throwing weapons before. Asher couldn't help but pity her. Kanna's body was stuck on the pile of swords, unable to move because of the weapons she had.

Asher took his time getting to Kanna. He needed to rest, for he was as tired as well. However, something happened. Several flashes of scarlet appeared in Kanna's body, and the health bar slowly rebuilding itself dropped. Kanna did everything she could to hold back her scream of agony. Asher's eyes widened in horror. "Help... Me..." Kanna pleaded to Asher, the pain of the swords finally getting to her.

Asher didn't even need the request from the Vermillion Sparrow. He would've done it anyway. The only thing to do to the blades were to either break them or pull them out. If Asher tried breaking the swords, there wouldn't be enough time. Judging from Kanna's reaction to the damage done to her, she also somehow felt it- despite the game not beings able to give the player the sense of pain.

The Voice of Treason climbed up the pile of swords and blades, finally reaching the bird with her wings clipped. Immediately, Asher began to chant his only healing spell <<First Aid>> as he reached for the first sword. Asher pulled it out as smoothly as possible, because the game might register an attack from him if the sword moves too much inside the wound. Asher repeated his chants, as well as adding in the occasional healing crystal for Kanna and mana crystal for himself. With every sword taken out, some points of damage were done. If Kanna screamed or whimpered, he'd try to block it out. Those sounds just made the process harder to do. Asher couldn't help but let a teardrop fall from his face. After all, it's his one and only love that was suffering in this death game, and he had to do something about it... And that something still hurt.

With the last sword pulled out, as well as the last healing spell eating up the last of his mana points, Asher threw away the blade. "Oh my God Kanna.... What happened to you?" Asher cried. Literally. He cried and hugged Kanna close, making sure not to hurt her. Asher saw several things when he pulled out the swords: Kanna was somehow her real self, she can now feel pain, and now she had suffered horribly. What's going on here?

Setting

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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Raison D'Etre

Location: Vermillion Summit ~ Hill of Swords





One by one, the blades driven through the pale warrior's body were quickly yet carefully removed, and the agonizing scarlet gashes spread across her form painstakingly sealed. As the last sword - a greatsword that had gone clear through her side and stabbed several inches into the ground behind her - was drawn forth, Kanna collapsed limply forward like a puppet with her strings cut, overwhelming numbness and fatigue taking the place of the paralyzing agony of her now healed injuries. But, even with the wounds to her body treated, her heart and mind still had a long way to go to recovery. She had just come face to face with everything she hated about herself, had been forced to tear apart all of her mistakes and regrets with her own hands, and to suffer as payment for all of her past sins in the process. Even now, she was still only beginning to grasp the shock of it all, as her body twitched and trembled uncontrollably as she lost all pretense of motor coordination in the face of the pain only just banished from her nervous system. Finally, as she felt herself falling weakly into the tight, familiar embrace of the one who had come for her, she could contain herself no longer, and found herself silently sobbing out all of her fear, grief, and pain, giving vent to the despair and the agony that had built up inside her heart and at last letting out the tears she could no longer hold back. She wanted to cling to Asher, fearing that somehow, even his comfort would be taken away from her undeserving grasp. And yet, she found herself unable to move, her body still wracked by spasmodic shivers as her brain tried to recover from the overwhelming surge of terrible sensations that had just assaulted it. And so, she simply pressed herself against her comforter with all the strength she had left, and cried, her simulated tears mingling with his own as they fell to the ground and shattered into azure light.

"C-Canon..." Kanna stammered this word in between her sobs, trying her hardest to answer her beloved companion's question even despite her almost complete breakdown in his arms. "S-she was there. N-not me, b-but the o-old me!" She said quickly, aware of the fact that she was probably making no sense, yet feeling somehow compelled to force the words out, as though keeping them bottled up any longer would cause her overflowing heart to burst at last. "S-she... s-she turned me into myself. T-tried to make me think I was worthless. S-she even said I was just using you, and t-that there was never anything between us. I... I got mad at her then, a-and I..." Kanna stopped. "I broke her," She confessed at last. "I t-tore down everything the me of the past ever believed in or cared about. I forced her to face all of the mistakes she had ever made. I made her cry, and even then, I kept going. I kept on breaking her and breaking her, and crushing every last bit of the old me until there was nothing left. I... I hated her. I hated the me I used to be. S-so... I broke her. I made her look at everything she had ever run away from, until all she could do was scream and cry and know what a worthless, messed-up wreck she was! B-but that wasn't all. S-she... she tried to kill me. We fought, a-and... I killed her. The person I fought... she was definitely me. The old me. A-and... I killed her. I killed my own self... W-what do I do, Asher? C-Canon... she was pathetic! I don't want to be like that anymore! I don't want to be me anymore, but I have to! If I don't try to be me, I'll just be running away again, a-and... I don't want that...! I have to change, or else I'll be the same as that girl who I killed here on this hill, always lying to myself, trying to run away from the pain only to get hurt worse in the end...! B-but I'm scared... I'm lonely, Asher. I don't want to be alone anymore...! If I'm alone, I'll never change! I'll go back to being the old me, and lose everything... I don't... I just... I don't ever want to feel that way again. Help me... Help me, Asher...! I don't know what I should do. I'm scared. Is it alright... for me to be me like this?" Kanna found herself speaking faster and faster, her voice building from a quiet, tearful reply to a piercing plea. And yet, she couldn't stop herself, for the words coming out of her mouth were streaming forth from her very heart. It was all she could do to speak through her tears, and yet, speak she did, sinking into her companion even as she poured out her heart to him. She wanted him to reassure her again, as he had done before. She wanted him to believe in her, as he had been the very first to do. She just wanted to know that she hadn't been wrong when she had faced down her "stronger" self. She wanted to be sure of her life, and of her reason for living. And, most importantly, she never wanted to feel helpless, hopeless, and alone ever again. It was at that moment that she realized exactly what her desires were: to stay by Asher's side, to live with him, and to love him, as she had for so long, for the rest of her life. Perhaps, only two weeks after confessing her feelings to him, it was still to early to suggest something like that... but nevertheless, Kanna made up her mind then and there. If she could just be assured of Asher's love and kindness for the rest of her life, then she would never have to be afraid of her old self ever again. She'd have... a real raison d'etre.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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Asher nodded as Kanna spoke of what had happened during the time of his fight and while he had been fighting his way to Vermillion Summit. She had gotten into a brutal confrontation with herself, something no one would ever want to do. He listened to every single word, ignoring any noises in the background. The Voice of Treason didn't let go off the hug; Kanna needed it. "Kanna..." Asher whispered as soon as she is done. "You're not alone. I won't leave you, ever. A confrontation with one's self... It's a tough thing to do. Most people had tried to avoid it, and change themselves in other ways." He smiled, and then continued. "Listen to me, Kanna Suzaku. It's not bad that you hated yourself in the past. You are who you are, not were, and never will be, and right now, you are Kanna Suzaku.

"'Act like yourself. If you don't like who you are now, then change it. If it conflicts with who you were, then dissolve what you used to be and be who you are right at this second.' That's what the devloper has been trying to say. He did it through that fight you just had. Canon is you, but she had just changed as well. The one that you fought was just her past self." Asher drew back, and he looked at the Kanna he had seen on Valentine's Day. She still was the same to him; just a new apppearance. It's basically like Minecraft- you can change your skin, but it never impedes on gameplay. There was no "Vee and Canon." In reality, it's just "Asher and Kanna." That's it. People just use the former because they know the two by that name, and names like that should stay as names. They aren't identities of fictional role-models that you look up to.

Of course, now was the subject of Canon's "Kanna has only been using Asher." thing. Asher mentally shook his head, then sighed in reality. In all honesty, I can't say it's bad to make Canon your bitch... After all, she's the past you. The Voice of Treason mentally chuckled. A horrible joke, yes, but at least it was of good intentions... right? "I know you weren't using me. I know you aren't worthless. You never knew that before, but you know it now. At least that knowledge is in your head in this second.

"Oh." Asher smirked. "I can't blame you for killing Canon like that. If anyone says something like that to me, I count on you to teach me your skills so I can do the same thing you did to Canon. Trust me, any person would've reacted the way you did." Asher let out a laugh. He was back to his sense of humor, mainly to lighten the mood.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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Kanna was silent for a moment, her expression unseen beneath her curtains of silvery hair, and hidden also by the tough fabric of Asher's coat, in which her face was buried. Even once Asher had finished speaking, his companion stayed quiet save for the soft sound of her unsteady breath, broken irregularly by sudden hiccups and sobs as she tried to calm herself. Soon, however, the gentle rising and falling of her body began to grow more even, and the shivering of her form in the wake of her nerve-wracking ordeal grew less apparent, until, at last, the fragile girl in Asher's arms ceased trembling. Then, tentatively, weakly, and yet firmly, Kanna slowly raised her tired arms. Unable to fully return her comrade's tight embrace - she could not free her arms from the circle of Asher's own limbs - she instead simply placed her small, pale hands tenderly against her beloved comforter and companion's chest, settling for an awkward sort of half-hug that, despite its unusual level of intimacy for the shy girl, didn't seem to embarrass her overly much, for when she at last raised her face, although her cheeks had turned a rosy red, she was nevertheless smiling wholeheartedly despite the tears that were only just fading from her face. Her expression was a complicated one, equal parts relief, hope, joy, and shy yet unmistakable affection and adoration. Yet somehow, that mesh of uncertain but honest emotions suited her face, bringing forth an image of happiness and beauty that was usually hidden by her standard expression of unease and awkwardness. It could not be denied that, when Kanna Suzaku smiled honestly and with all her heart, she perhaps outshone even the sun rising behind her, bathing her in a celestial glow, as though her relief had transformed her into an angel with the entire dawn for her halo.

"Thank you..." She said quietly, her innocent violet eyes gazing up into the pale, icy orbs of her companion, shining with the tears that still lingered within them. Yet, those tears now seemed more like those of happiness rather than of grief. If Asher still believed in her, if he really thought she could change... then maybe, the girl hoped, she'd be able to meet those expectations. She had already acknowledged the mistakes of her past. Asher was right, though. Those errors she hated so much... she'd changed a great deal since she had first made them. Looking back, she could see plainly where and how she had gone wrong. But, what was more than that, she could learn from those misdoings, and, when she got the chance to live for real again, maybe she could take another try at her life? Maybe, she could still undo the wrongs that had been done. Kanna had no illusions that she could turn back the hand of time, or that somehow, she could ever cleanse her soiled past. But that didn't matter. What had happened before now was already gone. The only things left were the Kanna of now, and the vast future before her, with countless paths her life could still take. And, already, Kanna could see exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She would make a new start from this point, and forge courageously ahead into the reality that awaited her. She wouldn't try to run away into the past, or dwell on doors she had left open, yet could not go back to. Kanna would become a new and better version of herself, to replace the old self she had just laid to rest at long last. And the future she desired... she would make it a reality. Or rather, it could already be said that the future Kanna wanted more than anything else already was her reality. The life she wanted right now... it could already be found in the happiness she felt right now, in the smile on her face, in the warmth of the arms that supported her, and in the love she felt within her heart. None of these things were borrowed, like the joy she had derived from living the life of Canon rather than her own. No... this life was hers, to share with who she wished. And, so long as she could share the life inside her with the precious boy for whom she cared so much, any future was fine with her.

"Then, I'll be me from now on," Kanna said. A blush was beginning to spread upon her cheeks as she realized exactly what it was she intended to do, and yet, she kept on speaking, casting aside even her usual hesitation as she simply smiled up at her companion. It wasn't her normal smile, one of uncertainly and shyness, an expression that asked for the love of others. Rather, it was a true smile, an expression of joy that shared her love freely, and without fear. "Not Canon, not the scared me, or the shy me, or the incomplete me. Just... me. The me of now. But, I'm not very good at this... Saying how I really feel, doing what I really want, living as I really should... I was too scared to do that before. This is... the first time I've ever really tried to be myself, instead of the person everybody else wants me to be, or the person I wished I was. This is going to be hard for me, and... I think it'll take some time for me to get used to it. I'll probably need some help, but... If you're here, then it's alright." Kanna was beginning to sound a little nervous as she drew closer to the moment of decision, especially considering the position they were in. And yet, it was closer to eagerness, or anticipation, than it was to anxiety or doubt. This was something she'd never done before, never even dreamed of doing before. But right now, the Kanna of the present wanted nothing more than to share her heart with Asher, to mark the moment that she began listening to that hidden heart that had gone unknown for so long. And... there was only one way she could think of doing that. Come to think of it, even though they'd both told the other how they felt, they'd forgotten something obvious. Or rather, they'd both realized what it was they hadn't yet done, but had both been too reluctant to actually do it. Kanna had been too shy to make the first move, and Asher hadn't wanted to force her into something that embarrassed her. But now, things were different. The very first thing she resolved to do was to overcome her trepidation and to show how she really felt through the plainest, most direct means she could. Still, she needed time to prepare herself. What she meant to do was simple, but it wasn't something that one could ready themself for in an instant. After all... this was her first time doing this, not just with Asher, but with anyone.

"Hey, Asher... Do you know why I chose the name 'Canon?'" The momentary silence after this question was short-lived. "It's a type of music," Kanna explained quickly. "It starts with a simple melody, but it grows and grows over time as more and more variations on that melody join in. Those extra voices that follow the main line are the reason I told myself that I chose that name: because I wanted to imitate something different than myself. But I don't think that's right anymore. I think the reason why I chose that name is because I wanted to rebuild myself. I started simple, just trying to stick with what I told myself I should be, but then I kept on adding more and more, always changing or tweaking things to be more like my real self. Bit by bit, I grew stronger, more like the real me. Because that's what a canon does... It builds up and grows over time, always changing, expanding, and getting better. You just have to wait a while, and listen to it. So, then, the reason why I managed to make it this far... is because there was always someone by my side, there to listen to me and help me grow. I'm glad... without you, I'd have just stayed as an imitation. But it doesn't have to stop now, does it? If you're always with me, I think I can keep on getting stronger, and becoming more like the actual me. I don't have to be just an imitation anymore. I can be the whole me, the complete me, if I have you." After she managed to get this off her chest, Kanna felt as though she was as prepared as she would ever be.

And so, gently disentangling herself from Asher's grasp enough to take a step back, Kanna kept smiling despite the innocent blush emerging across her cheeks. "Then, please excuse me," She began, speaking suddenly in a stiff manner that made her words seem like she was just meeting the one to whom she spoke, a general tone that was backed up by her next statement, only to be suddenly overturned by the words that followed.

"I am Kanna Suzaku, the me of now. If it's not too much trouble, I'd like to share my heart with you. Please take good care of it." Delivering this polite, indirect confession of renewed affection, Kanna continued the metaphor of re-introduction by leaning forward, looking as though she was trying to bow politely after introducing herself. And yet, the position they were in made that action impossible. But Kanna knew that, and so raised her face instead of lowering it, giving Asher just enough time to understand what she meant by her words and by her actions before she leaned forward the last few inches, closing the gap between them. The same innocent smile continued shining from her face as, tentatively yet unflinchingly, Kanna gently shut her eyes, trusting herself in her entirety to her companion as she pressed her lips against Asher's.

It didn't matter that the world around them, that their very bodies themselves, were virtual, just a collection of data assembled within the minds of two people who were likely miles apart from each other in reality, and, in fact, had never even met each other in the real world. It didn't matter that the person Kanna was kissing, even if he had the mind of her beloved companion, was an artificially generated avatar that didn't actually exist in reality. None of those things were important. Right now, Kanna Suzaku was sharing her lonely, loving heart with Asher Damons, and even if the world around them was fake, even if their bodies weren't real... the feeling she conveyed through that one simple act would surely reach Asher, no matter how far apart they were.

That was all that mattered to Kanna right now. With that knowledge, she could be happy. With that happiness, she could at last let go of the past, and look towards the future.

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Character Portrait: Licht
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Just Another Day

Two days after Valentine's Day, 3:26pm



A lifebar, the visual representation of one’s own health remaining before they perish is the single most important thing to keep your eye on during a fight. This rule has no exceptions, no matter what your level or who you may be engaged with. To be so foolish as to not pay heed to this important part of the Heads Up Display will result in your downfall, and permanent Game-Over.

A partial shade of red was all that was left after only a single stroke of his famed blade, leaving his challenger gasping and startled. The victim of the attack was astonished. How was such a thing possible? He had bought the best armor his level would allow him to equip, and even cast a defensive spell before getting in close. So then, how come he was defeated already? Was this blade that was supposedly forged from Light really so strong? If so, should any one person be able to own it? Such thoughts raced freely through this man’s head until he noticed a single gloved hand approaching him.

He flinched. This was the end, after all. He agreed to a duel, and now he was able to be slain and murdered by the victor. Those were the rules, and he couldn’t change them.

But the hand stopped.

The gloved hand of the Warrior of Light did not move to finish him off, but instead offered him help off his feet. Hesitantly, the young man took the hand and was pulled up off the ground. “Why…?” he asked with only confusion lacing his tone. He was easy picking – money and items that he had owned could have been the Warrior’s.

“The fight’s over.” Came his answer. A casual smile and warm words were all that were sent towards the nameless and confused young man. “I don’t think it even possible for me to hit you again without finishing you off, so we’re done here. I’m afraid that my word is final on this one.” It sounded like he thought the young man would try to continue even after that, but he wasn’t so crazy. So much damage from an attack too fast for him to see – it was only a fool’s choice to attempt to continue a doomed battle, and he was no fool. But he sure felt like one.

Agreeing to the fight’s end, a “Victory” message appeared over the blue headed warrior. “Why are you trying to get this blade anyways? Haven’t you heard how strong the beast is that I killed to get this thing? It’s no simple task.”

“I… wanted to be stronger.” He said, tilting his head away from the Warrior of Light.

“Oh? Stronger? Then why don’t you kill monsters. Seems a lot better than challenging someone who’s known for their strength, no?”

“That’s not….” His voice went quiet for a moment. A few moments, actually. “It wouldn’t impress anyone.” He half-shouted, surprising himself since he did so to a man who spared him instead of killing him. That definitely showed appreciation.

Either way, Licht didn’t seem to respond negatively to it, and instead questioned him curiously. “Impress? Impress who? Well, believe me when I say that this so-called ‘fame’ only gets you spontaneous duel invites from anyone who sees you grinding. It’s not as cool as it sounds.”

“That’s not it!” he snapped, frustrated by the embarrassment and anger he was feeling towards this man who had bested him, talking down on him like he was lesser just because he couldn’t beat him in a duel. It pissed him off! It did……

….didn’t it? Or was that even it at all?

“If you’re going to get angry at me, then I can just take my leave. Not much else for me to do here.” He stated with his eyes closed as he turned away to leave.

The man nearly jumped. “Hey! Umm… if anyone asks, can you not tell them you beat me in a single hit? I know it’s weird to ask… but she’ll think I’m weak and pathetic if….”

Licht stopped, turning his head to look back and raising an eyebrow. “She? I see…”

“I-it’s not like that! I mean…. Not yet… and it probably won’t ever be….”

“Now I do see.” He chuckled and smiled, which heavily contrasted the helpless look on the other’s face. “You wanted to beat me so you would look good to your girl?” he laughed. “That’s the first person I’ve heard with that story.”

“Not that… to protect her.” He said. “If people thought I was strong, then maybe they would stay away from us – her. I don’t want her getting harmed. I promised I would protect her.” The man’s shoulders slumped in defeat. He knew that after word spread around, many would think he was weak and not a threat at all.

“So why are you telling me this? I’m a stranger, you know. A Somewhat famous stranger, but a stranger nonetheless.”
Without looking up, the man replied, “Because I’m about to give up…. I can’t build any reputation around here, so what’s the point in keeping it secret? Besides, I’ve explained my feelings about her to some man who beat me before I did to her herself. Ain’t that just pathetic? Until I can beat someone and get renown, anyone might just walk in and try to hurt her – and I don’t think I can beat people who are strong enough to do that confidently.”

Licht remained quiet for seconds, or minutes – the young man couldn’t tell. He might have been dramatic enough to think it lasted for an hour, or even a day, but eventually, Licht did open his mouth and speak. “You’re pretty stupid, I think.” He spoke nonchalantly, without any hate or anger plaguing his voice. He even threw in a chuckle. “Haven’t you ever watched a superhero movie, like Batman? People who want to protect people they love don’t go and get themselves famous – that’s an easy way to earn enemies. If you want to protect someone, you simply stay off the radar, and stay close to them. And why do you feel so strongly about this anyways? You in head-over-heels for her?”

“No… I mean, protecting her is something I personally want…. But she also asked me to protect her too. That’s why…… that’s why I have to! I promised her I would.”

“Well you’re doing a shit job of it.”

“I…” he lowered his head. “…know.”

“I just gave you the easiest way to protect someone, didn’t I? You’re already off the radar, so what’s left to do?”

“Umm…. I….”

“Am not staying near her to protect her? Damn right you’re not. Instead, you’re challenging people to get famous, while neglecting her. Could you imagine if I was a PK-er? If I thought your inventory might have held items worth stealing? Then what? You would have left her all alone, with no protection whatsoever. Like I said; you’re doing a shit job of it.”

The young man raised his head as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Licht was smiling, as always. “I should go then?”

“I can’t say I’m the best with this kind of stuff, but I can say that talking to me isn’t going to get you any closer to her. Just go and be with her. Did you do this during V-day? I bet you’ve spent all this time fighting instead of being near her. I bet you didn’t even get her chocolates either, right?.” Licht sighed. “I’m taking my leave, and if I catch you without a woman near you today, then I’m telling everyone that
you begged me to spare your life.”

“Ok, ok!” he panicked. “I’ll go!”

Turning sharply, presumably to leave to go meet with the woman he wished to protect, he started darting off. But, before he got too far, he turned and with a smile on his face, waved to Licht. “Thank you!” He disappeared after continuing away.

The grass field that they had fought on was soft and the sunlight was perfect for a nap. Licht smiled to himself as he laid down on the ground behind a tree for cover. “Love is in the air, but it seems I never smell it. I guess I ought to get me a girlfriend one day, or a friend at the very least.” Stretching his limbs, Licht yawned quite loudly, but nobody was around to hear it. He was always alone in the end. He couldn’t tell if it was by choice or just cause, but that was the end of his day every day. “So much work! I guess I earned the day off….”

And then, before he drifted off to sleep, a single but odd thought passed his mind. Or maybe it was a want. Ah, yes, that was it. A want…..

I wonder…. Maybe one day, would anyone return this kindness and allow me to be selfish, just once?

Falling prey to unconsciousness, he spent the rest of the day under the bright sun and the smooth currents of the wind, alone.