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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:06 am 
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Nighthand shook his head, and did little more than stand in the fairly deserted root town. Hijinx always found some way to make life more interesting for them all, but cookies... He'd have to say cookies were the best idea she'd had in some time.

I mean, the trips to Pandora are.... special, and the random appearance of odd objects isn't bad, but cookies...

Nighthand took his share from the hurried rabbit, watching as she dashed off to wherever it was she was headed. Munching on them, he made his way over to where Nall sat on the damp ground, bereft of his blob-turned-table.

"That was certianly.... interesting. So, where was I? Ah yes, the denizens of the shrine."

Nall perked up. He probably wasn't quite as exhausted as he appeared to be, but of course he wouldn't let on to that when Phoenix or someone else could come along to pester him. If there was one thing Nighthand knew, however, it was that the mere act of being in the shrine had quite the rejuvinating effect.

"It was a long time ago, back before even you were killed by Garaa. I met an odd wavemaster who called himself Kiltran. He spoke to me a couple of times, in the back alleyways and whatnot. He really doesn't look much different from the standard wavemaster, but his wand is an interesting affair of crystal. Anyways, not long after that I met another entity, the SDRP, or Spare Data Recovery Program. He, or it, whatever it is, helped me recover my strength in the tournament in Yamiyo. He's what allowed me to make such a comeback against Seraphim." Nighthand paused, to see if his blademaster ally had any comments.

Nall looked attentive but weary. He let the comment of being killed by Garaa slip by. He didn't need to talk about that situation. Not yet. "Interesting... But what does this have to do with everything else?"

"I'm getting to that. Anyways, shortly after the tournament I decided I needed a break, and ran off. The field I set the keywords for and the one I arrived at were different, however; Arra, keeper of the shrine, had jacked the gate and sent me to the shrine instead. There, I met Arra in person, learned the history of the shrine, and met the Twelve; a group of player-AIs who basically wait and watch, looking for people in need that they can help. In this case, they chose me. They, and their guardian the Seraph, allow me to use their field to rest and recover at a faster pace than elsewhere, as well as use the shrine itself to test and grow my powers. Silverblade as well, he went alone when Royce attacked us on the tower.

"Anyways, a while back I was captured by a hacker and imprisoned on his field, and an AI was planted in my character to try to subvert my powers and give them to the hacker. Arra and I managed to subvert one of his AIs, however, and together we overpowered him and his minions, and broke free. The AI stuck in my head became what you know as Silverblade. I killed the hacker, but his final attack backlashed on Arra. Since she was an AI and not a player, it couldn't kill her, but it locked up her program. Verona, the AI minion of the hacker's that we subverted, took Arra's place as guardian of the shrine. She continues to help me when I need it, same as Arra did. My main goal besides helping you guys with the hackers is to unlock Arra, free her from Gravis' final attack."



Nall raised an eyebrow. The concepts weren't as far fetched as they sounded, and Nall wasn't about to doubt Nighthand. "Ok... So that weird schizophrenia you've got going is actually an AI, Silverblade... And you're stuck with him because of Gravis... And your other AI friend, Arra is locked up?" Nall paused and let the concentration clearly pass accross his face.

"Yup, that's the short version. Basically, I'm taking you there now for two reasons. One, the field has some kind of script in it or program or something that makes your time spent within seem longer. It also improves the restful qualities of the field; it's like a week long vacation crammed into a day, minus all the touristy annoyance. The second reason is I hoped that you, with whatever skills you posess, could help me free Arra, or at the least give me some better idea of what I need to do to free her."

Nall paused for a moment, thinking about how the girl, Arra, was locked up. He finally sighed. "I don't want to get your hopes up, but I could probably do something... I have to see her first, since I don't quite understand what you mean by locked up..." Nall took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He remained that way longer enough that Nighthand was about to prod him but the Blademaster gave a small smile. "Week long vacation in a day? I could certainly use a couple weeks vacation!"

Nighthand grinned. He knew that much already, and knew that Nall would benefit from the stay in the Shrine. Even though he would have to pass the mandatory tests. Nighthand wasn't worried about that, though; if the tests were anything like what he and Silverblade had gone through, Nall would have little trouble. He might even come out of it stronger than before, which would be amazing indeed.

By this time the pair had made it to the chaos gate. Nighthand nodded to Nall, who nodded back; they were ready.

Verona, I'm ready.
Are you sure you wish to bring him here?
Yes... I know we can trust him, and we both can use the rest. Besides, if he can free Arra... I'm willing to risk him failing the tests.
Even though that means the Seraph would k-
Even though.

There was a pause; perhaps Verona taken aback by the force in Nighthand's thoughts, perhaps for her to confer with the Twelve. Either way, she was back in a moment.

You may come.
Thank you, Verona.

"Soul's Eternal Cry." Nighthand said, and they were whisked away to the shrine.

* * *

Nighthand immediatly recognized where Verona had dropped them in the field. She was keeper of the shrine, so she could if she wished allow them to gate in anywhere. In this case, she dropped them deep in the forest; the same place Arra had placed him so long ago.

The first thing that would come to mind about the field would be it's tranquility. the sky was a deep, vibrant blue, with only a few clouds moving lazily across it's surface. The forest around them was dense and still at first glance, but upon closer inspection was full of life. Small animals moved through the underbrush on their own errands, birds chirped and chittered to each other in the trees above. They stood in a small clearing, enclosed save for one small point. A trail, leading off into the forest.

Nall took in a deep breath of the new air. Suprisingly, he already felt the refreshing qualities of the field. The Blademaster took a few moments to draw it all in before noticing the pathway into the forest. Nall motioned over to the small oppening in the trees. "I take it we go that way?"

"Good guess..." Nighthand started off, leading the way along the familiar path. As they walked, a cool breeze started; with the warm atmosphere and the shaded path, made for a pleasant walk. It may not be the arid desert that Nall loved, but it wasn't bad itself. The pathway gradually widened out and improved, turning from wildlife trail to cobbled road. Gradually, the forest faded off to the sides and they entered into a long clearing. Rubble of buildings littered the sides. Looking ahead, they could see the street widen further and the ruins of a whole town build up; like walking back in time. Something Nall could probably appreciate.

Nighthand knew what was coming next, but it still caught him by surprise. The shift from deserted to occupied was so subtle you felt like the people had been there since the beginning. Looking around him, he saw the town filled with the ghost-like citizens, memories of the people who once filled the town. The speech that he and Silverblade had been given failed to appear; Nighthand realized that perhaps it was his turn to give it.

"These are the people who once filled this place. All that remains now is their memory, looped like a video for all who enter. This was their home away from home, a place they could live a second life and not worry about their real-life troubles. They were watched over, protected by the Twelve and the Seraph from all who would enter with ill intent. This place is kept free of malicious hackers, viruses, and anything else that could cause it's citizens damage. Now, despite the patrons being long gone, it's guardians still keep it safe. I'm not sure, but I believe that the Seraph keeps the field moving constantly; trying to access it without the permission and assistance of it's keepers would fail."

Nall listened to the speech as he watched the ghost like figures move about the ruins, an infinate loop of actions. Nall suddenly realized he'd seen something like this before, however the figures were quite far from ghosts. Nall looked back at Nighthand as he finnished his speach. He then gave a small nod. "The field moving would be a good explanation as to why no one...or I guess I should say, very few people know about this place. Though the more you talk about him, the more this Seraph intrigues me..."

Nighthand smiled. The best was still to come. They took a few steps into the crowd, and the citizens faded away to the nothing from which they came. After a while, they reached the central plaza of the town; the place where Nighthand had met them all to begin with. Fourteen statues stood. A central fountain capped with the soaring image of the Seraph. A tall, asexual creature, it stood easily three times the height of a man. It held a long spear in one arm, it's other raised to the heavens. It's wings spread out behind it; two feathered angelic, two leathery demonic, and two that looked almost mechanical in nature. At it's feet, near the rim of the fountain, was a statue of a young woman. She held no weapon nor had any indication of a player class around her. Spaced evenly in a circle around the pair were twelve statues on small pedestals; one male and one female representing each class.

"This is the plaza of the Seraph. The big winged dude in the center is an image of the Seraph itself. Each of the outer ring statues are the Twelve. The one here..." Nighthand strode to the side of the female statue at the Seraph's feet. "This is Arra." Nighthand studied her features as he always did when he came, despite knowing they wouldn't change. He stood like that a moment, then averted his eyes, moving instead to the pedestal the Seraph's image stood on. The engraving on the pedestal was familiar to him as well.

"~~~The creators of the game made the world, but not the people. They created the Seraph, and it used the world created for it as a playground. The creators realized this, and found that this was not what they wanted. But since the Seraph was such a beautiful creature, they decided not to delete it. Instead, they added to it’s program. This addition caused the Seraph to realize the problems that it had caused. It realized that there was no way that people could live here with it’s play. So it divided.

It split itself into twelve characters. Six were male, six were female. All had a portion of the Seraph’s power. These characters became both the first players of the game, and the template for those who came after. Those twelve are commemorated in this plaza.

It is uncertain, but legend has it that the Seraph program still exists somewhere in the game. The creators loved it too much to completely get rid of it. The twelve original warriors programs still run, helping those that need help. Their names are here, and here alone.~~~

Gott, male Heavy Blade
Zeit, Male Blademaster
Maken, Male Long Arm
Sero, Male Twin Blade
Core, Male Heavy Axe
Kiltran, Male Wavemaster
Kara, Female Long Arm
Kish, Female Heavy Axe
Nera, Female Twin Blade
Arla, Female Wavemaster
Iyal, Female Heavy Blade
Litea, Female Blademaster"


Nighthand paused for a moment. The story wasn't exactly true, he knew. They "game" they referred to was not The World, it was this field and it's secluded life. He said as much to Nall.

Nall listened quiety as Nighthand read, and pointed out the Twelve and the legend to go with them. Though it was the statue of the Seraph that caught his eye. It was as if the statue itself held a weight to it only experience could produce. Nall was probably just overthinking, but he suddenly didn't want to meet the Seraph. He walked forward without saying a word in response to the story. He stopped in front of the girl's statue, Arra's. "It makes me wonder... Even for one such as myself, who has seen more of The World then many could ever imagine... How much is truly out there? How many... places... things... programs... There is so much of this world that I know, yet so much more that is a mystery..." Nall paused, eyes distant. Maybe it was the mystery unfolding... Maybe it was the tranquility of this field... Or maybe it was something else that was here that seemed to pull at Nall. Nighthand clearly noticed that the Blademaster had not been like this since they first met.

Nighthand smiled again, not just for the renewed attitude the place he called home had inspired in his friend and companion. He smiled because he sensed the arrival of other presences, no doubt alerted by Verona that they were here.

A shimmering in the air above the Seraph's image appeared; a sort of distortion that was all the eye could see of the SDRP. Silver chaos rings fell from the sky next to Nighthand, and in the next moment his father had appeared. He was a nondescript man dressed in a traditional japanese yukata, primarily blue.

"Nall, there above the Seraph is the entity I mentioned, the SDRP. He's basically a program that collects the leftover, unused, spare data from around the game and deposits it. Now and then he'll find something useful to me, though he works mostly with my father now. Speaking of, this is my father, Rock." Nighthand nodded to the japanese garbed man. "He's a hacker, though not much of one, but he DID make me that nifty Nightblade you saw earlier." His father smiled and bowed to the blademaster, hands folded in his sleeves. He showed no reaction to Nighthand's light jibe. "Pleased to meet you, I've heard much about you."

At the first sign of light above the statue, Nall's hand was instantly upon the hilt of his weapon. He did not draw it, trusting that Nighthand would alert him if there was a need for it. After the SDRP and Rock were in view, Nall returned to a relaxed position. Paranoia saves lives. Nall nodded towards Nighthands father. "Pleased to meet you as well. Though I have not heard much of you, I have witnessed your work in action and am impressed." Nall gave a glance upwards at the SDRP. He didn't know what to think of it, so left it alone. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"They're just here to present themselves to you... Let you see more of the workings behind my powers. And say hi, really. Verona should be here shortly... For now though, we can head over this way and relax." Nighthand cocked his head off to one side, where a small trail led off into the woods again. He followed it, trusting Rock and Nall to follow him; the SDRP stood watch, though it's physical manifestation had disappeared. It was very good at multitasking, though, so it would have no trouble keeping tabs on them.

Before long, a small pagoda came into view, with a table and some comfortable-looking chairs spread about it. Nighthand climbed the two steps up and took a seat, gesturing for the other two to do the same. Once they were seated, he began.

"Well, there you have the introduction. Now... let's chat. I know you're feeling the restfulness of this place, and it shouldn't be long before you feel fresh. So... ask any questions you wish, make yourself at home."



-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
On Hold: To Be Continued at a Later Date
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

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