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QUARANTINE (Another Birth)

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"We had gotten only so far by doing what we could do acording to the circumstances. We had done everything with the belief that we were right. Some things had troubled us along the way, but our path had led us here, regardless."
— Akira Hayami —


.hack//Another Birth vol.4//QUARANTINE (.hack//Another Birth もうひとつの誕生 Vol.4 絶対包囲) is the fourth and final book in the .hack//Another Birth novel series.

ChaptersEdit

The Entrustment of HopeEdit

Akira sits at home depressed. So far all of the evidence she's gathered has pointed to one horrible conclusion, Mia the strange cat PC is in actuality Macha, the sixth Phase of the Cursed Wave and her enemy. Unsure of what to do, she calls Mayumi on the phone to talk things over. Mayumi tells her that with everything she's seen, it seems unavoidable that Mia is Macha. However she reminds her that the true enemy is neither Macha nor Mia, but whatever entity is controlling the Cursed Wave. After talking to her Akira reminisces about everything she's accomplished in the three months since she started playing "The World".

Later, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Lios announcing a meeting in Omega Server's Root Town Lia Fail. She warps to Lia Fail, but finds the Root Town is so corrupted that it's impossible to play there. Helba helps out by creating a mirror server that simulates Omega Server, and everybody warps there instead. BlackRose notices that the new version of Lia Fail is modeled after Helba's base Net Slum. Wiseman explains that they've changed their strategy to combat the Cursed Wave. This new strategy, nicknamed "Operation Orca" will use a vaccine program to drive the Cursed Wave to a location where it can be safely battled. Kite explains that the strategy is based on the way orcas, or killer whales hunt their prey. To help out, Lios has brought in several of his subordinates to assist in the program. He tells Kite that strange data has been discovered in Ω Bigoted Snowflake's Capsule. After forming a party, Kite, BlackRose, and Balmung go to investigate. Entering the dungeon, they locate and battle a Data Bug, giving Lios the opportunity to obtain some data from it.

In the real world, Akira is busy studying for final exams. However her plans change, when she hears about a recent data error that caused many hospitals to experience problems. Her parent's leave to check on Fumikazu, leaving Akira alone to take care of her little brother Kouta.

BlackRose logs into "The World" to talk to Kite. He tells her that the hospital Orca was in, Niizato University Hospital was one of the places affected by the problems. Luckily Orca was fine, but it only proves that they need to defeat the Cursed Wave, and quickly. As they talk they are approached by Spiritas one of the Wandering AIs from Net Slum. He tells them to travel to Σ Screaming Wind Sand's Fate Castle to find another one of Harald's mysterious rooms. They travel to the dungeon, and sure enough find themselves in one of the strange rooms. This time the room contains a small hill, with a tree growing on top. Standing under the tree is a woman holding a parasol. BlackRose recognizes the scene as the hill where Harald learned of Emma Wielants death, however in this case it's Emma waiting on the hill and not him. Kite and BlackRose hear another one of Harald's notes and another Epitaph fragment.

When they return to Fort Ouph the run into Elk who is busy searching for Mia. BlackRose suggests that he join up with their group to help search, and invites him to help with Operation Orca. Happy to have help finding Mia Elk accepts her offer. Kite is also glad to have Elk on the team, even though Elk is still unaware of what's actually occurring in "The World".

Only later does BlackRose realize that if Mia actually is Macha, then Elk may wind up becoming her enemy.

Mia's True CharacterEdit

Akira finishes her finals, which turn out quite poorly. She also loses her spot as a starting player on the tennis team to Natori. However neither of these things bother her quite as much as the thought that Mia will be her next opponent. She talks to Asaoka at school and tells her everything that happened since her fight against Fidchell, Asaoka asks if she can tell Hagiya, and Akira tells her it's ok.

In "The World", BlackRose works to raise her level. While adventuring alone she encounters Mia, who warns her not to get close to her. BlackRose asks her about Elk, and Mia tells her that for his benefit, she has to stay away from him and gates away. She considers telling Elk about this, but decides against it. Later, Wiseman e-mails BlackRose with information on Operation Orca. BlackRose travels to Net Slum for a meeting, and notices that Elk is there as well. Once Kite arrives, Balmung explains the operation. Lios and his men were able to track the Cursed Wave to the area Ω Cruel Vindictive Scars, Kite is to organize a party to travel there and confront the Wave directly. To BlackRose's surprise, Kite forms a party of himself, her, and Elk. They travel to the field, but as soon as they arrive Helba contacts them and says that the moment they entered the area, the Cursed Wave moved to another area Ω Graceful Tempting Fallen Angel. As they fight their way through the dungeon, BlackRose notices that Elk seems to be acting strangely. He tells her he feels like Mia is somewhere in the dungeon. BlackRose wonders what they'll see at the bottom, will it be Mia? Or Macha?

Finally they reach the bottom, Elk rushes into the mist filled portal without taking the time to cast strengthening magic. As BlackRose suspected, Mia is on the other side. Elk rushes to her side, and Mia begins to talk to him. She tells him that she's come to the realization that she only exists inside the system of "The World". As BlackRose watches Mia slowly begins to lose control of her body. Concerned, Kite tries to approach her, but as he gets close Mia apologizes to Elk and begins to transform. Before her very eyes, BlackRose watches as Mia turns into Macha. After completing the transformation Macha turns to Elk, and warps him out of the dungeon. BlackRose contacts him via Flash Mail, and he tells her that he's been locked outside of the dungeon. Suddenly Macha begins to attack, and BlackRose loses her connection to Elk. Kite and BlackRose are forced to fight Mia without a third party member. BlackRose finds it hard to fight against a former friend, but Kite tells her that the creature in front of her is no longer Mia, but Macha. He hangs back to act as a healer, while BlackRose fights Macha directly. Eventually they succeed in data draining, and defeating Macha. As they strike the final blow, Macha fades away revealing Mia, who crumples to the ground.

Kite rushes to Mia's side, and Elk arrives soon afterwards, the protective field over the dungeon having lifted with Macha's defeat. He tries to help Mia with his recovery magic, but it's no use. Mia fades away in front of him. Angry, he storms off, ignoring Kite and BlackRose's calls to wait. Lios' voice breaks the silence and orders them to return to Net Slum, but Kite and BlackRose find themselves unable to look away from the spot where Mia once stood.

Each ResolutionEdit

Kite and BlackRose recover themselves and return to Net Slum. Lios tells them that after Macha's defeat, the Cursed Wave fled back to Ω Cruel Vindictive Scars. He orders them to pursue it and fight it there. Kite invites Balmung to the party, and together they return to the field. BlackRose feels uneasy about fighting both Macha and Tarvos in one night, but is confident that with Balmung on their side again they'll be able to handle anything that comes their way. They reach the bottom of the dungeon, but before they can enter the mist filled portal Lios suddenly contacts them. He tells them that the Cursed Wave was able to resist his vaccine, and destroyed his entire support team. He says that he's suspending the operation and orders them to return to Net Slum immediately. However, before they can escape the segment that Kite is holding suddenly floats out of his character. Looking up, BlackRose sees Aura floating above her. As the segment reaches her body, Aura opens her eyes. However before she can talk to them, Cubia appears and begins to attack. Aura tells them to run away, then flees the scene.

Realizing they can't escape, Kite and his friends prepare for battle. Using the same strategy as their previous battles, they begin to wear down Cubia's HP. During the fight BlackRose notices a strange shadow inside Cubia's core. When she examines it closer she notices a PC that looks almost exactly like Kite floating inside. She has little time to think about it though, and after losing its HP, Cubia makes another retreat.

BlackRose, Kite, and Balmung return to Net Slum where Lios bitterly tells them that all of his subordinates have fallen into comas. Without their help, there's no way they can continue with Operation Orca. Helba appears, and tells him that even with the loss, they still have to continue their fight. She tells Lios that reinforcements have already arrived, and BlackRose watches as a large group of people warp into the area. She recognizes Natsume, Sanjuro, Piros, Terajima Ryoko and Gardenia among their number. She also remembers the names of the other players, Nuke Usagimaru, Rachel, Marlo, and Moonstone as people she's seen on the BBS. Sanjuro tells her that everybody here is a friend of Kite, and they've come to support him in his hour of need. Suddenly a new figure warps in, it's Mistral! Mistral runs over to BlackRose and tells her that she too has decided to help them out. Helba tells Lios that the best way to help his subordinates, is to continue fighting. Lios agrees with this and announces that Operation Orca will resume immediately using a new form of the vaccine program.

Kite's friend warp away, leaving Kite, BlackRose, Mistral, and Balmung in Net Slum. Kite decides to switch Balmung out for Mistral, so Balmung leaves to join up with the support group. Having formed a party, Kite and his friends return to Ω Cruel Vindictive Scars. When they reach the bottom of the dungeon, Lios tells them that they've managed to secure the Cursed Wave in one place. Kite and his party enter the portal, and find themselves facing the seventh Phase, Tarvos. Tarvos battles them by using several instant death techniques, and also keeps changing its tolerance levels. However despite its strength, Kite eventually succeeds in Data Draining it, and Tarvos falls.

They return to Lia Fail, but instead of Lios they find several Wandering AIs waiting for them. The AIs, Jin, Sconk, Dorin, and Culhwch speak nonsensically before gating away. Their leader Tartarga thanks Kite for his help and gates away as well. Mistral speculates that Lios went to visit his subordinates in the hospital.

Later that night BlackRose receives an e-mail from Kite. He tells her that Aura just contacted him with another encrypted e-mail. BlackRose asks Kite to forward it to her, and waits for it to arrive.

Beginning of a Long NightEdit

Offline, Akira is frustrated by the scrambled e-mail she receives from Kite. Looking through old game logs she is also mystified by Aura's plea to not fight Cubia. After looking through all of her info, she theorizes that Aura's mother may not be Emma Wielant but Morganna. She sends a text message to Asaoka to see what her opinion is, but she falls asleep before she receives a reply.

The following day, Akira receives a reply from Asaoka and meets her after school. Hagiya arrives first and presses the issue of his confession to Akira, who is still flustered by his presence. She's saved when Asaoka arrives and they begin to discuss The World. Asaoka agrees with Akira's theory and puts out her own theory that Harald wanted to create the ultimate AI as a child, Aura, and made Fragment as an environment for her to be born and raised in. If this is true, then the players are essential to Harald's plans and there would be no purpose in putting them into comas. Asaoka also theorizes that Morganna's role is as the birth mother of Harald and Emma's child. Since Morganna's role is to facilitate Aura's growth, she was likely designed to cease existing once her role is fulfilled; but if Morganna became aware of this fact and took on human traits, her fear of death could have driven her to do everything in her power to stall Aura's growth and maintain her existence. Assuming this, once Harald caught on to Morganna's actions, he panicked and entered the game to speak with Morganna personally. Convinced of this theory, the three turned their attention to Cubia and its role. They decide that it is neither an ally of Aura's nor an ally of Morganna's and that it is linked to Kite's bracelet. Having then run out of topics, they called it a day. Before Akira leaves campus, Hagiya approaches her and offers to spend time with her tomorrow if she has time.

Akira receives an e-mail from Kite, telling her of a useful item at Ω Raging Facing Mirrors Virgin, so she enters The World as BlackRose and meets with him. BlackRose tells Kite about the discussion she had with Asaoka and Hagiya. Kite is unsure about avoiding a fight with Cubia, but considers that something good might come of it. During their conversation, Terajima Ryoko arrives and joins the party since it was her who told Kite about the rare item in the dungeon. In the dungeon, BlackRose and Terajima argue over which path to take, then turn their ire against Kite for being indecisive. They both head back to the Root Town, taking separate paths, and leaving Kite behind. BlackRose spends some time waiting at the Chaos Gate, but gives up, lamenting how little she understands Kite.

Offline, Akira remains irritated at Kite's indecision. At that moment she receives a call from Hagiya, but she ignores it and lets the call go to voice mail. She realizes that she's not so different from Kite since she tends to put off addressing important matters. Learning this, she decides to log back in.

BlackRose searches for and finds Terajima Ryoko to try to clear up any misunderstandings. The two eventually find some common ground by talking about Kite, and BlackRose learns more about Terajima. They both receive an apologetic Flash Mail from Kite at the same time and decide to get back at Kite by surprising him.

After the school's closing ceremonies, Akira bikes to a train station to meet with Hagiya. He offers Akira a Christmas present, but she refuses to accept it; her reason for meeting him was to tell him that she wasn't interested in him, and that he shouldn't be hopeful that she might come around some day. Hagiya accepts her refusal and whispers that he hopes Fumikazu wakes up soon.

Returning home, Akira receives an e-mail from Kite regarding an e-mail from Tartarga. Even though her family is having a party that night, she logs into the world at five o'clock, hoping to take care of business before dinner.

DispositionEdit

BlackRose meets up with Kite, who reports that Tartarga's e-mail told of a wandering AI named Harald looking for Sanctuary. He then muttered the keywords Δ Reincarnated Purgatorial Altar and vanished. BlackRose wants to go to meet with Harald and ask him about the comas, but Kite says that the area is a Protected Area and doesn't have the virus cores to enter. After deciding that they likely can't ask Helba or Lios for help, they realize that they have no choice but to wait for someone to post suspicious areas on the boards. Just then, Mistral gates in and tells them about a thread mentioning such areas. Kite immediately logs out to check the boards. BlackRose asks why Mistral isn't at a Christmas Eve party, and she responds that her husband has guard duty at the Tokyo Mega Float. Mistral asks BlackRose the same question and she tells her that meeting with Harald would be more important. Hearing this, Mistral decides to join their party. Kite returns and says that the thread included clues from all of the Net Slum inhabitants, and that the four areas listed probably had the Virus Cores he needed. All four Data Bugs in the areas are easily Data Drained and defeated, and the necessary Virus Cores are retrieved. Mistral suggests that they all log off and have dinner before meeting with Harald, which Kite and BlackRose agree with.

Akira heads downstairs and notices Kouta sitting alone. He tells her that their dad hasn't returned yet. Akira's mom tells her that Fumikazu's condition has changed and that she was going to the hospital to check it out, leaving Akira to look after Kouta. Akira gets the worried Kouta to eat and go to sleep before logging back into The World, dedicated to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

BlackRose returns first and is shortly joined by Mistral and Kite. They warp to Mac Anu, where Kite uses the four Virus Cores to Gate Hack into Δ Reincarnated Purgatorial Altar. Every enemy encounter in the dungeon was a Data Bug, and the party used up a lot of recovery items. Mistral asks the party to take a break once they reach floor B5, where Kite's PC starts to show signs of unresponsiveness, possibly due to having to use Data Drain so many times consecutively. The dungeon extends to B10, where they finally encounter a mysterious room furnished only by an armchair, a stone monument, and several faceless portraits. A voice comes from the stone monument, declaring himself to be Harald; in response to BlackRose's demands that it do something to fix everything it says, "No. The passage of time is irreversible. Birth or death. Now only these two choices remain." Aura appears in the room, and Kite asks why he shouldn't fight Cubia; she explains that Cubia is the shadow of the bracelet and was born when the bracelet was created. To destroy Cubia would mean to destroy the bracelet. BlackRose becomes worried, knowing that meeting Cubia would mean risking the only tool they have against the Cursed Wave. They are interrupted when Lios tells them that the Wave is moving toward their party. BlackRose is ready to fight Corbenik, thinking that it would be okay to defeat Cubia and lose the bracelet once Corbenik is gone. However, Aura warns them to run away. The enemy approaching them is not Corbenik, as the familiar roar of Cubia indicates. Aura disappears and the stone monument crumbles; the rest of the room also crumbles and the floor collapses, causing the party to fall. Cubia has now grown exponentially larger, and the party lands on one of its roots. Mistral immediately begins casting strengthening spells, and the party fights the Cubia Cores, alternating roles when it switches tolerances. After defeating two Cubia Cores, the party fights with Cubia itself. The battle is easier than the fight with the Cores, but the lower Cubia's HP gets, the more aggressive it becomes. BlackRose runs out of recovery items, but she deals the final blow against Cubia, reducing its HP to zero. Their victory is short-lived as Cubia uses its Sephira Returner skill to completely restore its HP. With no more restorative items left, Kite orders BlackRose to destroy his bracelet, thinking that it will stop Cubia for good. BlackRose resists the order, saying that losing the bracelet means losing their only chance at beating the Wave, but Kite tells her that it's more important to defeat their current threat. BlackRose is unsure of his reasoning and isn't entirely convinced that destroying the bracelet will stop Cubia, but she decides to have faith in Kite's decision and attacks the bracelet.

TwilightEdit

The impact from BlackRose's attack knocks her back as the bracelet shatters. Kite waves his right arm around and cries in pain. Mistral immediately runs to his side as a frozen BlackRose watches both Kite and Cubia's actions. Cubia roars in pain in concert with Kite; as the bracelet transforms and breaks away, so too does Cubia begin to break apart until both have disappeared into a void. BlackRose is discouraged by the loss of their trump card against the Wave, but Kite argues that the enemy has also lost Cubia and that they still have Aura on their side. Helba gates in to tell the party to assemble at the Omega server root town to discuss the final operation.

At the meeting, Kite relays the loss of the bracelet to the rest of the team. Wiseman quotes from the Epitaph of Twilight, as if this too was part of a script. Kite adds to that, saying that Aura's existence gives him the feeling that The World is heading toward daybreak and not dusk; if Harald designed The World based on the Epitaph, he likely had a hopeful outcome in mind rather than a destructive one, so if the loss of the bracelet was preordained, then victory without it should be possible. Kite's plan now is to herd the last of the Wave and attack it with full force. Lios states that a gamble, but also that they have little choice. Everyone agrees to the plan. Balmung requests that they test this strategy out on a Data Bug first, but the Wave approaches them, forcing an immediate fight. The final Phase is Corbenik, a cocoon-shaped enemy. Kite, BlackRose, and Balmung fight it and are surprised by how easily its HP drops. Although the party is damaged by the explosions from Corbenik's seed attack, they easily drop its HP to zero. BlackRose is almost disappointed by how easily Corbenik was defeated, but Balmung warns them to remain on guard. Corbenik's form changes into that of a leaf. In this form, Corbenik's attacks are much more lethal, as its Cruel Exploitation skill is a guaranteed death for one player that also heals Corbenik. Luckily, the party is gradually able to whittle away its health since the skill doesn't restore as much HP as it loses. When Corbenik's HP is down to critical levels, a green membrane forms around it, giving it "Supreme Defense." No attacks or skills can break through the defense. At the sight of their best attacks doing no damage, both Kite and Balmung lose the will to continue fighting. BlackRose rallies them to continue since there is still hope so long as they fight. Suddenly, the voice of Aura calls out from behind them, saying that everyone is with them and fighting as well. This includes Orca and Kazu, who become spheres of light that collide with Corbenik and disappear. This attack causes cracks in its Supreme Defense to appear. BlackRose and Balmung resume their attack against Corbenik, this time having an effect. Kite's attack causes the shield to shatter completely, giving them the opening they needed to defeat Corbenik. However, Corbenik again changed forms, this time into the form of giant purple eyes with yellow irises. BlackRose begins to charge at Corbenik, but Kite tells her to first focus on the spherical Seekers that emerge from the eye. The battle cycles between focusing on damaging the main eye and killing the Seekers that it spawns. Just when they are again at the verge of victory, a loud interference crackles around them. BlackRose worries that Corbenik is about to rebirth itself again, but Helba tells them that the server itself is crashing. However, the interference goes silent, and the area normalizes. Balmung wonders if the server recovered, but Helba replies the opposite: her server is dead. Kite ignores this mystery and focuses on defeating Corbenik, which the party is able to accomplish. Their victory is short-lived, however, as Corbenik unleashes its final attack: Drain Heart. BlackRose is struck by the attack, and she feels pain course throughout her body before falling unconscious.

Moments later, BlackRose regains consciousness in Net Slum. Helba congratulates the team on a job well done. BlackRose learns from Wiseman that Aura had been born, but only after dying and taking Morganna with her first. With their struggle at an end, Kite thanks BlackRose for her support. BlackRose begins to reciprocate, but she is interrupted by a phone call from her dad, telling her that Fumikazu has regained consciousness and to bring Kouta with her to the hospital.

Days later, Lios reserves a cafe for everyone involved in the final operation. Akira goes there after tennis practice and meets with Mrs. Kurokawa. As the two walk to the cafe, they discuss the final moments of the battle: Elk shielding Kite from the Drain Heart attack and Kite charging alone to attack Corbenik only to strike Aura instead. Akira talks about Fumikazu's fate: being restricted from playing The World until he brings his grades back up. Mrs. Kurokawa tells of how her husband was injured at the Tokyo Mega Float by two young girls and a man in a Hawaiian shirt. The two finally arrive at the cafe; Akira admits that she wasn't interested in an offline meeting with her comrades from The World, but that she would attend to meet with Kite and thank him in person. She anxiously fixes her hair before opening the cafe door.

Another EpilogueEdit

Months later, Akira becomes a high school junior and is selected to be captain of the tennis club. As was the case before, there was much jealousy from her upperclassmen, but Risa prevented a repeat of the previous bullying. With her new responsibilities, Akira stopped playing The World altogether, but she checked her e-mail daily. When she receives an invitation from Kite to investigate an area Aura sent him, she immediately logs in. The e-mail was regarding a life about to be born, and a thread on the boards mentioned seeing a cat-like PC; it was likely Mia. The same e-mail sent to Kite was sent to Elk, and the three formed a party to investigate the area in the e-mail: Ω Hidden Darkside Holy Ground.

Shortly after entering the dungeon, they encounter a small cat-like figure that looked nothing like Mia, but Elk is certain it is Mia and chases after it. The first monster they encounter is a Data Bug. BlackRose immediately turns to run, but Kite reveals that he again has the bracelet, so the two fight to Protect Break the Data Bug so Kite can Data Drain it. Before Kite can explain, Elk continues deeper into the dungeon, and the two have to chase. They exchange Flash Mail messages, and Kite explains that Aura had given him a new bracelet. BlackRose worries that Cubia might also have been created if the bracelet exists, but Kite doesn't believe so. His theory is that Cubia was born because the bracelet was created by an "incomplete" Aura; the new bracelet created by the complete Aura probably didn't trigger the creation of a new Cubia. He also theorizes that Aura knew that Mia would be reborn one day and entrusted the bracelet to Kite for this purpose, and to prove that the bracelet could have a purpose other than as a tool to fight the Wave. At level B5, the party again encounters the cat. Elk asks if it is Mia, and the cat responds with only one word: "Macha." The cat goes deeper into the dungeon and Elk chases after it, with Kite and BlackRose chasing after Elk. Every monster in the dungeon is a Data Bug, which Kite is forced to Data Drain in order to continue. Even though the accumulating infection caused by increased use of the bracelet slows down Kite's movement, Elk doesn't give them any chance to rest. Finally, at level B15, the party encounters a dumbbell-shaped monster called a Dawn Wanderer. It attacks the party, but the monster is easily defeated. However, the creature changes form, gaining armor and a thornier exterior. The cat appeared over the monster and fused with it, replacing the ring in its center. The monster was now the Temptress Lover and was significantly more powerful. Elk lost the will to fight it, leaving BlackRose and Kite to fend for themselves. They too were apprehensive at the thought of possibly killing Mia a second time, and they fought the monster using only normal attacks. The monster was finished off by a PhaRai Don spell by Elk. After the monster's defeat, the familiar figure of Mia descended. Mia rose in a daze, then turned toward Elk and greeted him. When she turned to Kite, she seemed to be fascinated by his bracelet. It became obvious that Mia's memories had been altered; BlackRose guesses that her memory has been reset to just before the Wave began its attack, which would account for why she remembers Elk but not Kite or BlackRose, and likely meant she had no memories of ever being Macha either. Kite eases Elk's concerns and tells him that things will be okay since Elk will still be there for Mia. A cheerful and grateful Elk thanks Kite and tells him that he and Mia will be waiting anytime Kite wants to play in The World. After he and Mia gate out, Kite and BlackRose stand together and gaze at the spot where Mia's rebirth and reunion took place.

CastEdit

TriviaEdit

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