- "In that instant, BlackRose took her first steps upon the surface of "The World"."
- — Akira Hayami —
INFECTION is the first novel in the Another Birth series. It contains the story of Akira Hayami and her character in The World, BlackRose, as she tries to free her brother Fumikazu from a coma. It roughly covers the same time frame as the game that shares its name, .hack//INFECTION.
BlackRose Sets Foot on The World
Akira visits her little brother Fumikazu, who has fallen into a coma at the hospital. While visiting him she falls asleep and has a reoccurring nightmare about herself standing in a field of black roses. After waking up she remembers the day that Fumikazu fell into a coma. It occurred after he tried to show her his favorite game, The World. Trying to get his sister interested, Fumikazu tried to convince her to play a Heavy Blade that could support his Wavemaster. When she refused he instead asked her to pick out the keywords he'd use for his next adventure. On a whim Akira chose the keywords "Δ Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground". A few minutes later Akira heard a loud noise from her brother's room. Rushing upstairs she found him unconscious on the floor, his computer displaying a "system error" message. Back in the present, Fumikazu is still in a coma, and Akira believes that The World is responsible for it. Hungry for information that could help her brother, she logs onto The World herself and creates a Heavy Blade character which she names "BlackRose" in honor of her dream.
BlackRose logs into Mac Anu for the very first time. She soon encounters NOVA and his friend Chimney, who teach her the basics of the game. After showing her how to chat, form parties, and move around they part ways with BlackRose, off on another adventure. To BlackRose's shock their next destination is Δ Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground, the same place Fumikazu fell comatose in. In the real world Akira mentions how her mother was hardest hit by Fumikazu's condition, and that she has been too depressed to properly care for the rest of the family. In her stead Akira has started to take on a motherly role, especially when it comes to her youngest brother Kouta. That night BlackRose has her reoccurring dream again, only this time she meets BlackRose, who smiles at her and hands her a golden sword.
Logging into The World for the second time, BlackRose runs into a player named Kite. Desperate to not be seen as a newbie, she tries to put on a tough act, but only succeeds in confusing the Twin Blade. BlackRose decides to travel to the Holy Ground, but is too afraid to go by herself. After meeting Kite again, she convinces him to check it out with her. They enter the area, and find a mysterious church. Entering the church they are attacked by a low level Goblin. Unused to combat BlackRose panics, but Kite easily defeats it. Realizing the charade is up, BlackRose apologizes for acting so mean to Kite, when she's just as big of a newbie as he is. The pair examines the statue at the front of the church, which depicts a young girl bound by eight chains. Kite notices an inscription at the base of the statue but can only make out the words "Skeith, Innis, and Magus".
Without warning, the winged Blademaster Balmung rushes into the cathedral and orders Kite and BlackRose to run away. Before they can react a Headhunter monster appears out of nowhere. Balmung easily kills it, but to everyone's surprise it recovers from the attack as its data warps in a way that defies the systems rules. BlackRose realizes that this is the monster that probably killed her brother and attacks it in a blind rage with no effect. Balmung does his best to protect her, but even his powerful attacks do nothing to the monster. Suddenly a blinding beam of light shoots out of Kite's right arm and hits the monster, causing it to return to normal. Balmung kills it, then turns his attention to Kite whose costume has changed from its original green, to a bright orange. He accuses Kite of being the one responsible for ruining The World and ignores his claims of innocence. BlackRose leaps to Kite's defense and yells at Balmung for attacking somebody that just saved his life. Deflated, Balmung leaves, but warns Kite that if he actually is responsible that he'll personally take him down.
Depressed, Kite tells BlackRose his story. While adventuring with his friend Orca they ran into a strange girl who gave Orca a mysterious book. Without warning, they were attacked by a monster unlike any Orca had ever seen. Though Orca tried to fight it, the monster succeeded in defeating him, and used a strange light to destroy his character. The monster turned its attention towards Kite, but was driven off when a white staff slammed into the ground and teleported Kite out of the area. Kite soon found out that following this event, the real Orca had fallen into a coma. Wanting answers he logged back into The World where he had found BlackRose. When he saw the bugged monster he panicked, but suddenly heard the voice of the girl he'd met. Somehow his character transformed, giving him access to an attack called Data Drain. This attack, the same attack that had destroyed Orca came from a Bracelet that suddenly appeared on his right arm.
Shocked that she's already found somebody with the same problem as her, Akira promises to play with Kite again and logs off. While caring for Fumikazu's pet prairie dog Hana she thinks about the incident with Kite. She decides that her best bet is to join up with him, and she sends him an e-mail saying that she believes his story.
A Bolt from the Blue
At the hospital Akira tells Fumikazu about her encounter with Kite. Later she finds that Kite has responded to her e-mail and tries to log onto The World. However she finds that she's too frightened to even consider logging on for a while. The next day, after waking up she realizes that she's stopped having her reoccurring dream. At school she eats lunch with her friends Risa, Shouko, Miho, and Shouko's boyfriend Yuuji. Yuuji and Shouko discuss some rumors that have been spreading throughout The World, and are surprised when Akira asks them for more information. Akira lies to them and says that she'd never consider playing a game like The World, she just wanted to know what they were talking about. Risa, Akira's childhood friend and teammate on the school's tennis team talks to Akira about the upcoming team assignments. She says that she thinks Akira has a chance at becoming first string, though Akira believes she won't stand a chance against the upperclassmen.
To Akira's surprise the assignments are announced at that days tennis practice. Their team captain, a girl named Koura announces that Akira will be their first string in singles matches. Shocked, Akira takes her uniform from her friend Asaoka, another upperclassmen. Asaoka tells her that she deserves the position, since she's the hardest worker on the team. That night, her family is so happy for Akira, that she is reminded of the way things were before Fumikazu was hospitalized. However she also feels guilty, believing that she's been spending more time focused on tennis and less time trying to help her brother. With this in mind she logs onto The World again.
In Mac Anu, BlackRose has another encounter with NOVA and Chimney. They decide to take her to the Holy Ground, but BlackRose manages to dissuade them. Instead they travel to Δ Expansive Haunted Sea of Sand, where BlackRose learns the basics of combat and adventuring in The World. After parting ways with them BlackRose realizes that she can't accomplish very much at such a low level, and over the next few days goes on solo adventures to raise her level. Scouring the BBS she comes across a post mentioning a strange girl and monster on Theta Server. Noticing the connection to Kite's story, she e-mails Kite and invites him to explore Theta Server with her. Kite responds with a yes, so the two make plans to meet up.
While waiting for Kite, BlackRose explores Theta Server's Root Town Dun Loireag. It is here that she first encounters a Grunty. After a long wait, Kite finally appears and the two make preparations to travel to Θ Quiet Eternal White Devil. Kite asks if he can bring along a third person, and while BlackRose is hesitant about getting other people involved, she agrees to let Kite's friend come. While they wait for Kite's friend, Kite tells BlackRose about his investigations. To BlackRose's surprise he tells her that he went to Δ Expansive Haunted Sea of Sand as well. However, unlike when BlackRose went there, Kite's adventure turned out much different. He had found the area completely corrupted, with an NPC telling players that the area was off limits. At the bottom of the dungeon he encountered another Data Bug, as well as another player who helped him defeat it. He then talks about the player he invited to join them. He is a Heavy Axeman named Piros that Kite helped out in a dungeon. Apparently Piros had stupidly challenged a powerful monster to a fight, and Kite was forced to rescue him. BlackRose asks if Piros knows about the problems in The World, and when Kite admits that he doesn't BlackRose tells him he shouldn't involve other people in their problems. Kite admits that she's right, but says that he believes he needs companions who can help him out.
BlackRose realizes that unlike Kite, she doesn't possess a Bracelet, and that she could never defeat a Data Bug. Changing the subject, Kite asks BlackRose what she knows about protected areas. Remembering some of her conversations with Yuuji, BlackRose tells him that they're areas that can't be accessed from the Chaos Gate. Kite begins to elaborate on the protected areas, but is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Piros. Ignoring Piros' obnoxiously long greeting, BlackRose whispers to Kite that he should finish what he was going to say, but Kite tells her that it's easier to show her, then to tell her. He selects an area from the word list, and they warp to the field without any trouble. Kite seems surprised by this. Piros does as well, and mentions that the area is supposed to be protected. Kite sends a whisper to BlackRose, saying that even if it had been protected, he would have been able to get past it.
BlackRose, Kite, and Piros explore the field and dungeon, which have been corrupted so badly that bits and pieces of the game's raw code are visible. Piros' odd personality quickly gets on BlackRose's nerves, and her attitude grows even worse when their search turns up fruitless.
Bullying and the White Room
Curious about the field she explored, BlackRose sends an e-mail to the player who posted its coordinates. Later she travels back to Dun Loireag for another meeting with Kite. Arriving early she explores the city some more, and eventually decides to try her hand at raising a Grunty. A short time later she returns to the Chaos Gate, only to find Kite waiting with another player. He introduces his friend, a Twin Blade named Natsume to BlackRose, and tells her that she'll be accompanying them on their adventure this time. BlackRose begins to wonder exactly how many friends Kite has, but her thoughts are interrupted when a Wavemaster named Elk comes running up to Kite. Kite briefly asks him about a player named Mia before switching to private chat to talk with him. After they finish talking Kite apologizes and says that he has to go with Elk, and he'll have to postpone their exploration for the day. BlackRose is angry about being ditched, but decides to invite Natsume to a party. The two travel to Θ Sinking Someone's Scaffold and spend some time exploring the field and dungeon there. BlackRose soon warms up to Natsume, who tells her about how she first met Kite. Apparently Kite helped her complete a dungeon that was too hard for her. At the bottom they found a rare weapon known as the Spiral Edge, which Kite let Natsume keep. BlackRose realizes that it's just in Kite's nature to help others, and that's why he's made so many friends. After adventuring, Natsume and BlackRose part ways and log off.
Unfortunately Akira soon begins experiencing problems in the real world. Her teammates on the Tennis team begin to ignore her and start being especially hard on her during practice. They also begin doing other things, like forgetting to give Akira messages from Risa, or refusing her help during cleanup. When Akira finds that her locker has been vandalized, she realizes that she's being targeted by somebody, but she can't understand why.
Meanwhile, in The World BlackRose receives a response to her e-mail. The creator of the BBS post, a player named Marin tells her that the area words on her post were changed to a different area. After teaming up with Kite, BlackRose prepares to warp to the real area at Θ Cursed Despaired Paradise, but finds that it has been protected. BlackRose reminds Kite that he said he could bypass the protection, but Kite tells her that the ability he uses to do it, Gate Hacking requires an object known as a Virus Core. Since he lacks the proper Virus Cores, they'll have to wait before they can explore the area.
At school, Akira's problems only get worse. She nearly loses it after she is forced to clean up the entire practice area by herself, but Risa quickly finds out about it and comes to help her out. After they return to the locker room, Akira overhears some of the upperclassmen talking about her. They say that with Captain Koura around so much, that it's hard to target Akira, and that they should switch targets to Asaoka instead. Akira realizes that the reason she's been targeted is that she was made first string in singles. Though she wants to retaliate, Akira decides to follow some of her father's advice, and continue trying to do her best at practice. However, the stress of juggling both her duties as a tennis player, and her investigation in The World begins to wear down on her. Arriving home she finds an e-mail from Kite, saying that he finally located the Virus Core he needed.
In The World, BlackRose meets up with Kite, who has predictably brought along yet another friend, this time a Wavemaster named Mistral. Mistral cheerfully greets BlackRose, but her personality reminds BlackRose too much of her teammates, and causes her to instantly dislike her. Mistral attempts to lighten up the mood, but BlackRose refuses to buy any of it. Sensing the tension between them, Kite butts in and begins using his Bracelet to Gate Hack through the protection. BlackRose asks him where he learned how to Gate Hack, and Kite tells her that a strange catlike player named Mia taught him. To BlackRose's surprise, Mistral has already heard about Mia, which causes BlackRose to suspect that Kite doesn't entirely trust her yet.
The group warps to the field, which is corrupted. As they explore the area's dungeon, BlackRose is surprised at how skilled of a player Mistral is. Her magic proves invaluable as they progress through the dungeon's rooms. At the bottom of the dungeon, they find a doorway shrouded in a strange purple mist. Entering it they suddenly find themselves in a pure white room. At the center of the room is a canopy bed, and strewn throughout it are dozens of blank eyed teddy bears. Without warning, a voice begins echoing throughout the room, and begins to speak about a girl named Aura. BlackRose doesn't quite understand the message, but Kite, however, says that the "Aura" mentioned in the message could be the name of the strange girl that gave him the Bracelet. Continuing their exploration, they find another clue, a tablet containing another strange message.
BlackRose's narration suddenly switches to the past tense. As she says that the room they found, which they later dubbed Harald's Room was their first real encounter with the hidden side of The World. It was at this point that BlackRose realized that her investigation was more than a wild goose chase. Something was actually hiding inside of the game.
Everything Goes Wrong
With all of the time she's spent playing both "The World", and worrying about tennis, Akira realizes that she forgot to study for her midterm exams. As expected she does quite poorly on her exams, which makes her more depressed than ever. Realizing that Risa would get picked on if she were seen with her, Akira begins to avoid her. Akira's friends pick up on her depression, and Shouko and Miho try to cheer her up. Shouko walks home with Akira and tries to get her to talk about her problems, but Akira realizes that these are problems Shouko can't help with. She lies and tells her that everything is fine. During the conversation Shouko mentions that she's been thinking about quitting "The World", due to all of the strange rumors that have been appearing. Akira tells her that's probably a good idea, though she doesn't tell her why.
In "The World", BlackRose is invited by Kite to go to another dungeon. They travel to Δ Buried Pagan Fiery Sands where they meet a player named Linda. Linda tells them that Bob had told her about Kite and his investigation. She says that prior to his disappearance, Orca had been investigating the rumors as well along with Balmung. BlackRose recognizes Balmung's name and remembers their encounter with him at the cathedral. Linda encourages both of them to stop their investigation, for their own safety. But Kite tells her that he has to keep going, for Orca's sake. Sighing, Linda tells him to investigate the area Δ Lonely Silent Great Seal, as it was an area where Orca found a strange room. After giving Kite this location, Linda warps away with the enigmatic words "May the Twilight Dragon's divine protection be with you."
BlackRose and Kite travel to the area Linda mentioned. As expected it is corrupted. While exploring the field they catch a glimpse of The Aerial Fleet, though neither of them know what it is. Entering the dungeon they continue their exploration. At the bottom they find another door marked with mist, and another strange room. However unlike the last room they found, this one appears to have been forcibly deleted by someone. BlackRose discovers an intelligible message, but neither her nor Kite can make sense out of it. Kite suggests that the area may have been deleted by an administrator from CC Corporation. BlackRose wonders why they'd do something like that, after all CC Corporation was responsible for creating "The World", why would they delete their own creation? Unless of course whatever they're dealing with wasn't created by CC Corp. This thought chills BlackRose as she returns to Mac Anu with Kite.
At school, Akira gets her midterms back. As she expected, she did poorly. She gives the results to her parents, but is surprised when they don't get angry. Instead they seem to blame themselves. Akira gets angry at this, as she knows that it's all really her fault, and not theirs. Even Fumikazu's pet prairie dog Hana seems to be out of it, she's begun to eat less and less.
While scanning the BBS BlackRose notices a strange message from a player named Meg. The post says that Meg was going to meet with her friend Alph, but when she tried to warp to the meeting place, she found that the field was protected. Since then she hasn't heard anything from Alph. BlackRose sends Meg an e-mail, asking to meet with her. And after a long wait, Meg responds to arrange the meeting. After inviting Kite, the two travel to Θ Great Distant Fertile Land. Inside the dungeon they find Meg, but to their surprise she's accompanied by a character that looks like an NPC merchant. The merchant quickly warps away, and when BlackRose talks to Meg, Meg refuses to give her any information. She tells her that arranging the meeting was a mistake, and to forget anything ever happened. After saying that, Meg warps away as well. Checking the BBS later, BlackRose notices that her post has been deleted.
In Dun Loireag, BlackRose goes to feed her Grunty. It suddenly begins to glow, and grows bigger. NOVA and Chimney approach and tell BlackRose that they never thought they'd see her with a Grunty. NOVA talks about some of the rumors that have been spreading throughout the game, especially those concerning the legendary player Orca of the Azure Sea. BlackRose remembers that Fumikazu once told her that Orca and Balmung were part of a legendary team known as the Descendants of Fianna, which would explain why they'd been investigating together. Chimney also mentions Tomonari Kasumi, a player who was recently found in a coma, as well as the rumor that a player committed suicide while playing Fragment, the beta version of "The World". BlackRose tries pressing them for more information, but NOVA tells her that rumors should never be believed, and are best left alone. He suddenly notices a strange player approaching. Looking across the bridge BlackRose is surprised to see a catlike PC walking towards her, she instantly recognizes it as the Mia that Kite, Mistral, and Elk had mentioned.
Approaching BlackRose, Mia invites her to follow her. NOVA and Chimney are against it, but BlackRose tells them she'll be fine and follows Mia on her own. When they reach the Chaos Gate, Mia turns to BlackRose and tells her that she smells like the Bracelet, she casually asks if she knows the Bracelet's owner. Confused, BlackRose wonders how she can smell anything inside of a game, but her thoughts are interrupted when Mia tells her their destination, Δ Bursting Passed Over Aqua Field.
The two warp to Delta Server and enter the field. As soon as they arrive, the area begins to mess up, and BlackRose suddenly finds herself in a strange, ruin filled area. A noise causes BlackRose to turn, and she sees a strange creature holding a Q-Shaped wand materialize behind her. She realizes that this is the monster that attacked Orca, and may have attacked Fumikazu. She prepares for battle, though she realizes without Kite's help she doesn't stand a chance.
BlackRose tries to fight the strange monster, but realizes that it's just an illusion when her sword passes right through it. Looking around she notices Orca and Kite, and realizes that she's seeing the moment where Orca was put into a coma. The creature attacks Orca and crucifies him on its staff before using Data Drain to destroy him. Suddenly the area vanishes, and BlackRose finds that she's been disconnected from "The World". Waiting for her is an e-mail from Mia, saying that she just saw the moment when Kite got his Bracelet. She advises BlackRose to keep what she saw a secret. BlackRose tries to e-mail her back, but finds that all of her mails simply bounce back, as if Mia's address didn't even exist.
In the real world Akira prepares for her first tennis tournament. She realizes that if she doesn't win, that she'll only prove the other girls on the team right. This, combined with the fact that her Dad is watching causes Akira to get very nervous and starts effecting her game. However when she notices Shouko and Miho in the audience Akira begins to calm down, and starts playing better. When Risa starts cheering her on as well Akira realizes that she's been ignoring her friend for no reason, and is able to regain her rhythm. However her opponent soon finds out her weakness, that she's not able to predict feints and takes advantage of that to win the match. The other players on Akira's team also lose their matches, and her school is eliminated from the tournament. However Akira doesn't care, she's repaired her friendship with Risa, and also knows what she needs to work on in tennis.
Online, BlackRose finds an e-mail from Kite that simply says, "I've found it! I've finally found it!" Curious, BlackRose goes to wait for him at the Dun Loireag Chaos Gate, realizing that since he didn't invite her that he probably intends to go to wherever "It" is by himself. She remembers the scene Mia told her, and realizes that Orca had sacrificed himself to save Kite. When Kite finally appears, BlackRose accuses him of trying to go without her. Kite says that it's too dangerous for her to come, since the creature that attacked Orca is probably waiting for him. BlackRose says that even so, she has to help him if she can. Kite finally allows her to join his party, but just when they're about to go, Mistral appears and asks to come to. Kite and BlackRose initially refuse, but when she asks if it has something to do with the room they found earlier, they realize that she has a right to come too. Their party formed, BlackRose, Kite, and Mistral gate hack to Θ Chosen Hopeless Nothingness.
Upon arriving in the field, Kite notices that his Bracelet has begun to shine. Mistral quickly locates the dungeon, and the entire party enters. After reaching the bottom, they find another mist-shrouded door. Mistral suggests that it could be the final boss chamber, so she uses magic to boost everybody's stats. The three enter the portal, and BlackRose realizes they're in the ruin filled area Mia showed her. Floating in the center of the area is a girl in a white dress, Kite recognizes her as Aura, and BlackRose realizes that she's the same girl that the statue in the Cathedral is modeled after. Kite tries to talk to her, but she tells him that he arrived too late. Without warning the staff wielding monster appears behind her, and data drains her. Segmenting her data into three pieces which its sends throughout the system.
BlackRose realizes that the monster's name is "Skeith", the same name that was inscribed on the base of the statue. Following Kite's lead, she begins to fight with Skeith only to find that her attacks are almost ineffective against it. Using its staff, Skeith data drains her, but BlackRose is surprised to find that instead of falling into a coma, she's only been hit with a large number of status effect. She suspects that it's due to Kite's Bracelet, as Mia told her earlier that she sensed the Bracelet on her character. With Kite and BlackRose's physical attacks, and Mistral's magical support the group slowly begins to wear down Skeith, until it suddenly protect breaks. Kite tells BlackRose that he's about to data drain it, so she uses a special attack to distract it so Kite can use his Bracelet. The Data Drain is a success and Skeith is transformed into a rocky creature, which they manage to defeat.
The rocky creature dissolves and is absorbed into the ground. Before they can celebrate too much, the area begins to shake, a strange buzzing sound appears and large treelike objects begin to shoot out of the ground. The noise causes BlackRose to drop her controller, and by the time she recovers it she notices that Kite is staring in shock at the sky. Looking up she sees a humongous creature floating above them. The creature screams at them, and the shock from its voice knocks all three players off their feet. BlackRose loses consciousness.
The Next Stage
Akira regains consciousness and tries to return to "The World". However she finds that the game has been shut down by a system error, and she is unable to log in. She waits for the server to come back up, which takes most of the night. Browsing the BBS she finds several posts detailing what happened. Apparently the players heard a loud scream, or roar, and were then disconnected from the server. While looking at the BBS, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Mistral. Reading the message, BlackRose sees that Mistral saw the entire fight as a special event, and is still clueless about what actually happened. Concerned, BlackRose e-mails Kite, asking if the system crash was related to their fight with Skeith.
At school, Akira listens as Shouko and Miho talk about the system crash. Akira considers telling when what she knows, but realizes that they'd never believe her. They don't even know she's started playing "The World"! The conversation soon turns to Akira's tennis tournament. Akira complains about how she lost, but Risa comes walking up and tells her she did great anyway. Akira realizes that as long as she has her friends on her side, she couldn't care less about the upperclassmen.
BlackRose later arranges to meet with Kite in Dun Loireag. While waiting she is met by NOVA and Chimney, who talk about the server crash. Both of them were online during the crash as well. BlackRose considers telling NOVA the truth about what happened, but decides against involving more people. When Kite arrives, BlackRose says goodbye to her friends, and the two decide to travel back to Θ Chosen Hopeless Nothingness, the area where they fought Skeith. Upon arriving they see the area looks exactly like it did before, except this time Kite's Bracelet isn't shining. Entering the dungeon, they are surprised to find that there aren't any Magic Portals, and that the entire dungeon is completely empty. BlackRose asks Kite if they'll be able to fight the big monster they saw earlier, and Kite admits that they probably can't. Kite asks BlackRose if she's afraid, she lies and says she's not, but admits her real feeling when Kite says that he's terrified. He asks her why she's so insistent on traveling with him, but before she can tell him about Fumikazu Balmung suddenly arrives. He accuses Kite of causing trouble again, when BlackRose tries to defend him, Kite tells her that he's already told Balmung about Orca. Balmung says that even if Kite was a friend of Orca's, that it doesn't change the fact that he causes trouble wherever he goes. Balmung leaves, and BlackRose tells Kite that she really hates him. Kite simply shrugs and says that he has his own reasons for what he does, just like they do. They return to town, where Kite is met by an NPC who announces that he's won a power up campaign. The NPC gives him a special book and disappears. BlackRose realizes she'd never heard of an event like that, and Kite says that it doesn't matter anyway. The book doesn't work.
Later, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Natsume, inviting her to group with her. BlackRose accepts her invitation and meets Natsume in Mac Anu. She tells BlackRose that she wants to go after the event monster at Δ Hideous Someone's Giant. Natsume also brings along a friend, a Heavy Blade named Sanjuro. After introducing themselves, Natsume leads her party to the field. Upon arriving, BlackRose realizes that she's standing on top of the giant floating fleet she'd seen with Kite a while ago. They enter the dungeon, and make their way to the boss chamber. Inside they fight against the powerful Parasite Dragon, and eventually manage to defeat it. BlackRose realizes that this is the first time in awhile she's actually had a chance to enjoy "The World" as a game.
At the hospital, Akira sits next to Fumikazu and tells him about what has been happening in "The World". She recently received an e-mail promising a way to cure the coma victims. Akira isn't quite sure how somebody found out about her investigation, but she can't afford to pass up a lead like that.
Inside "The World", BlackRose travels to the area mentioned in the e-mail, Θ Soaring Sky Bounded Abyss. The area looks unlike any other she's seen before. There is absolutely nothing there, no scenery, no monsters, just a flat white ground and a featureless sky. Suddenly Kite warps in, he seems surprised to see BlackRose, and when they compare their stories they realize they both received identical e-mails. BlackRose grows uneasy and tries to gate out, but finds that she can't. Suddenly there is a noise in the sky above them, looking up they see several players dressed like NPC Merchants appearing above them. Their leader introduces himself as the system administrator Lios. He says that their recent actions have destabilized "The World" and that they've gone too far. Kite grows angry, and asks Lios why CC Corp hasn't done anything to help the coma victims. Lios brushes his comment aside by saying that hackers are the reason for the comas, and he should be yelling at them, not CC Corp. This angers BlackRose as well, who shouts that blaming hackers won't bring Fumikazu back. Lios ignores her as well, and says that CC Corp is looking for a cure, but before they can progress Kite must delete his character. Since Kite has the power to Data Drain, he poses a danger to the security of "The World".
Summoning a bright light, Lios prepares to delete Kite. But before he can do so a new voice yells for him to stop. A female PC suddenly materializes in the room and confronts Lios. Lios recognizes her as the hacker Helba. Helba tells Lios that even if he had the power to delete Kite, right now the Bracelet could prove to be their only hope. Kite tells Helba that if it will help Orca, he'll gladly give up his PC. But Helba says that such an action won't be necessary. She says that the clues for helping Orca are probably hidden inside the beta version of "The World", Fragment and the poem it was based on, the Epitaph of Twilight. Helba finally manages to convince Lios to let Kite and BlackRose go. The next day, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Lios, saying that from now on she'll be taking orders from him.
Later, while researching the Epitaph of Twilight, Akira discovers that "Lios" is the name of the King of Light mentioned in the poem, while "Helba" is the Queen of the Dark. She feels uneasy, realizing that she was just saved by the "Queen of the Dark".
- In several sections in the English version of this book, the dialog between Kite and BlackRose was reversed, with BlackRose saying Kite's lines, and Kite saying BlackRose's lines. This occurs during BlackRose's initial encounter with Kite, their trip to the Cathedral, and when they reenter the dungeon where they met Skeith.
- While in the novel area Δ Lonely Silent Great Seal was gone to by both Kite and BlackRose in the Games the player is unable to add BlackRose to the party at this part of the story.