I had fallen into darkness deeper than that of the blackest night.
I had lost who I was, lost my purpose, lost my way.
And in doing so, I lost the will to live…
What an odd word, Baron reflected, to describe the state I’m in. Well, I’m comatose, but… it’s just like a permanent Immersion.
Immersion— meaning one was plunged or sunk in as if in a liquid, by the dictionary definition. And yet, it had been used by the Eventide Crescendo to describe those who were trapped in the game, more or less. It was odd how words could be used in such odd connotations, even in an unfunny situation like the one Baron had found himself in. Immersion, as used by those in The World, described those few unfortunate players who had, for some reason or another, had their minds trapped within the game, within their own character data. In the real world, their bodies were supposedly comatose. But life continued in the real world, even if those who formerly lived there weren’t a part of it.
Idly, Baron gave a wry look at no one in particular, wondering how much schoolwork he was missing with an ironic chuckle. The Twin Blade was leaning against a wall in Mac Anu’s alleyway district, staring at the sunset-orange sky above him, reflecting on all that was happening. After the escape from the hackers’ dungeon, he had left the others, feeling a sudden need to be left alone and to ponder what had befallen him lately, so Baron had taken his leave, descending into Mac Anu. The Root Town of the Delta Server was his usual retreat whenever he needed some time to think.
Normally the Twin Blade would have gone to the main bridge spanning the enormous river in the middle of the town, but with his newly-comatose status, he felt uncomfortable around people, especially large crowds. Normally, one would run past other characters, bumping them aside without the least bit worry if they were in the way. No one would notice, maybe be a bit annoyed at the other players running around, but that was it. Baron, on the other hand, would feel every touch as he moved through the crowd, bumping shoulders and being pushed aside. In a real life situation, the Twin Blade would automatically back up and apologize for jostling anyone, even if by accident, and if he did that in the game, it would surely draw attention to himself, something he did not need.
That, and it was always a constant reminder of his comatose state.
Sighing again, Baron wondered why his thoughts always fell back to his current status. The fact that he was continuously reminding himself of the comatose state he had fallen in only served to make that wound that much deeper, to the point where he almost accepted it with a detached calm. The fear, the anger, the disbelief, all of it followed by the crushing feeling of defeat, had cut past the nerves that had supported all his emotions until all that was left was a quiet, empty feeling. There was no sense in dwelling on it, yet the boy simply became drunk on the feeling of helplessness and misery that had started to crowd around him like a metaphorical raincloud. All that was left was to lose himself in gloom, and feeling would be gone.
He heard a mental sigh from Libra. Look at you, you’re a mess. Pick yourself up, do something productive. Just sitting around isn’t going to get you anywhere, and it’s not going to fix the situation you’ve found yourself in!
Baron snapped back, out of sorts at yet another reminder of his condition. What do you know? This is the world you were born in, where everything is real and right to you! For me, this is just a game… a game my mind is trapped in, while real people in the real world worry about my comatose body, and my life is slipping between my fingers because I was a fool! So I don’t want to hear about it!
Libra fell silent, and Baron found himself fuming, the feeling like a burning knife pressing into his skull, but oddly enough, it was strangely refreshing too. It had been something to fill the void and to give him meaning, even in anger. With the realization came understanding, and a mix of guilt and shame came over the Twin Blade as he came to the conclusion that he had acted far out of hand. Swallowing nervously, standing up and brushing off his trousers, feeling the dirt and grime on him from hours of sitting there motionless, shuddering at the state he had let himself get into. Turning, he strode from the alleyway, blinking in the shimmering orange sunset, wondering just how long he had been there. Shaking his head, Baron walked along the river, staring into its flowing waters.
You done yet? If you’re up to yelling, I’d have to say you’re in fit condition to do something.
…There’s nothing I can do about the comatose issue, not now, but there is something else I promised to do in the meantime— I can get back on dealing with the Zodiac.
Ah, the Zodiac. The group of AIs whose goal was literally to remove the players of The World from the game and seal it off, to claim the existence for themselves alone. Baron wasn’t sure of how they planned to do it, or what effects such a method would have aside from their goal, but whatever it was, there was a reason he had to stop it. That reason, which had only involved several good friends, now encompassed him. The main worry about the Zodiac expelling all character data from The World was not the fact that the players were being removed— that was more of an irritation than a problem. But what happened to those players who were trapped within the game, those who were comatose in the real world? Would their minds be removed as well, restoring their bodies? Would nothing happen due to them being anchored in The World? Or would those minds be cast into oblivion when their data was destroyed, essentially killing them?
That last reason was Baron’s main incentive for removing the Zodiac from The World, with help from one of their own, Libra. His task was to locate and defeat each of the various members, sealing them within Libra’s Zodiac Data until it was all gathered together, at which point the AI said that he would be able to delete them all, though it would be at the cost of his own existence as well. Baron fought on, knowing the difficulty of the task, but so far had only managed to encounter the Gemini and capture them, and since then had been unable to track down even another of the Zodiac. It hadn’t helped that he had been swept up in the Eventide Crescendo in the meantime, then cast into his comatose state.
Things just hadn’t been going well lately.
How are we supposed to track down the Zodiac anyway, Libra? If they know we’re hunting them, as I imagine they’ll suspect with you and the Gemini gone, then they’re bound to go into hiding and continue working on their goal in secret. We won’t be able to find them, if that’s true.
There was a mental sigh from the AI. To be honest… I was at a bit of a loss myself. There’s only one person who could track the rest of the Zodiac, and I doubt he hasn’t been deleted by them yet. There was another sigh, and Baron could sense that Libra was shaking his head in frustration. Even if he hasn’t, they likely still have him under guard…
This was news. Wait, he may still be alive? And you know where he is? Why haven’t you mentioned him sooner? Even if he’s guarded, we’ll just have to bust him free, right?
It’s not as simple as you think… Baron paused near the Mac Anu Bridge at those words, trying to stifle a confused expression lest people wonder what was bothering him. This is a powerful guardian. He was designed with each of the Zodiac’s powers in mind, and can nullify any and all of them. In other words, we’d be reduced to basic players with no spells or skills. Thus, if there was ever a betrayal within our ranks, none of us would be able to rescue Mokutan.
Mokutan— that must have been the man’s name. Baron wondered just what sort of person Mokutan was. Likely the man was an AI as well, since Libra knew him, but plenty of other questions passed through the Twin Blade’s mind as well. What gave him the ability to track the Zodiac members? Was it just some sort of power like the Zodiac possessed? Did he have a lock on their data or something? As he was thinking all of those questions, Libra chuckled softly to himself, some private joke running through his mind.
You’ll see… But since you’re a normal player aside from being comatose, you might be able to do something about this. And with me along, you should be able to access the hidden room where Mokutan is held. If you’re really set on doing this… go to Λ Hidden Moonlit Fort Walls, and go to the Gott Statue room, and I’ll guide you from there.
Baron nodded, drawing a stare or two as people wondered at his motion, but pushed on past the crowds, ignoring the stifling press against him from all sides. Making his way to the Chaos Gate platform and accessing the spinning portal, the Twin Blade selected the server change option he was given, closing his eyes as the golden rings came down to transport him to the Lambda Server. There was a tangible shift— that was the best way Baron could describe it— and when he opened his eyes, the boy found himself within a large city, shrouded in nighttime. The large buildings, shining with an inner light, reminded the Twin Blade of the cities back in the real world, and he felt a momentary twinge of homesickness again. Repressing it, shaking his head, he turned to the Chaos Gate behind him, accessing the keyword menu and typing in the words quickly, leaving again in another burst of golden light.
He didn’t need another heartbreaking reminder.
((OOC: Just slapping this up in pieces as I go along the Main quest, likely to end about the same time as Main does, if not just before))