Hey, everyone, sorry for the delay... well, this is 12 pages long, so enjoy! Also, if the format is wonky at any part, blame the website... I'll try and catch it all, but... Errare humanum est.

Chapter 8: Noli me tangere (Part 1)

Rumiko paused as she passed an internet café. She was sorely tempted to just nip in for a few minutes and check her email or maybe play The World a little. With a grimace, she pulled herself away and pressed on to the train station. She stopped to buy a rice ball before purchasing her ticket. She really shouldn't, but she was hungry, dammit! A little salmon rice ball wouldn't hurt…

One rice ball and three stops later, Rumiko stepped off onto the platform and walked fifteen minutes to her ordinary, modest house. She opened the front door and announced, "I'm home!" From upstairs, a pounding of feet hurried down the steps and a small girl rushed to Rumiko and hugged her around the knees.

"Welcome home, Mommy!" the little girl cried in happiness.

Rumiko laughed and kneeled down so the two were face to face. Ruffling the girl's hair, she said, "Hello, dear. How was your day?"

Rumiko's small daughter grinned, "Guess what! Guess what! Daddy let me help with lunch!"

"Oh really?" Rumiko said fondly. Another voice sounded from the doorway leading to the kitchen.

"Yep. Moeko was a great help." Rumiko's husband leaned against the doorframe.

"Is that so?" Rumiko turned back to her daughter, "How did you help Daddy?"

"I washed the veggies! An' Daddy said I did such a good job, he let me wash the stuff for dinner, too!" Moeko emphasized by spreading her little arms out to their fullest extent.

"Oh, what a good helpful daughter I have." Rumiko cooed, giving her a hug. While Moeko giggled, her mother asked, "By the way, dear, what's for dinner?"

Her husband came over and hugged them both, and said, "I was thinking of stir-fry. Sound good?"

Rumiko could feel her mouth water, "I swear, I married the world's best cook, Minoru dear."

Her husband laughed, standing up, "I'll go make it now. Say," he said in an excited voice to his daughter, "Why don't you show Mommy what you drew today?"

"Ohhhhh! Yeah! Mommy, Mommy, you hafta come look!" Moeko dragged her mother by the hand to the living room, where a picture was on the floor. "Daddy said I had'ta clean everything up, but I wanted you to look at this!" she picked up a crude crayon drawing of what looked like three people on the grass under a large yellow sun. "See?" Moeko said, "It's me, an' you, an' Daddy!"

"It's lovely." Her mother said, taking the drawing, "Why don't I take it to work with me and hang it up?"

"Yayyyyy!" Moeko squealed with joy, "Mommy's gonna show my pic'tur to everybody!"

Rumiko merely smiled.

After dinner, when Moeko was safely tucked into bed, Rumiko went upstairs to the computer and saw there were a couple new e-mails. She clicked on her Mailer and saw that there were three: one from Shake-chan, one from Nezumi-kun, and a third from CC Corp. Shake-chan was checking up and asking after her family. Rumiko typed off a reply and opened Nezumi-kun's mail. He told her that he had a lead with a player named Wiseman on Morgana-chan. She stared at the name. Wiseman. Didn't she see that on some board or another...? Shaking her head, she typed off a second response to keep her notified and opened the last one.

"Dear Lory,

Thank you for your patronage of The World. We are currently looking into the problem concerning the player Morgana and suspect it may be a bug in the logs. Rest assured that are debug team is working to correct this error at once.

We hope you are enjoying The World.

CC Corp.

If you are unsure as to why you received this e-mail, please contact our customer service. We apologize for any confusion"

Rumiko shook her head. A bug in the logs? Then surely other players would be having this problem… deciding to share this possibility, she logged onto The World.

Lory opened her gray eyes and looked around. There were a good number of people walking and chatting around Carmina Gatelica, considering it was prime time on TV. Of course, some could be watching TV on their computers. Lory shook her head; she'd never be able to multitask like that. Just being on the phone and cooking gave her trouble. It was always focus on one thing at a time for her. At the moment, she looked at her Member Address list. Morgana-chan was still listed as online, and in an obviously futile attempt, tried to send a Flashmail to her. As usual, the same message popped up.

The Player you are trying to call is not available. Please try again when the Player is online.

Lory sighed again. This paradox was stupid: it said try again when Morgana-chan's online, but she is online! It said so right next to her name! With another sigh, she picked out two other names on her list.

Ten seconds later, both Shake-chan and Nezumi-kun warped in from the Chaos Gate.

"Hello, Lory-dono." Nezumi softly said, bowing, "Are we going to a dungeon today?"

"Hey Lory-chan." Shake added, "I know some good keywords, if ya want."

The Blademaster smiled, "Thanks guys, I was feeling up to a dungeon." She turned to Shake, "What words are those?"

" : Fleeting, Erstwhile, Popinjay. There's supposed to be a rare item at the Gott Statue." Shake hitched a thumb at the Chaos Gate, "Wanna try that?"

"Sounds good!" Lory said.

"Indeed." The lone male added, and the three went off to the field.

101010101

Zaku-chan warped with Lumen to the next field over. Lumen's bulb lit up for a moment, then dimmed. "Not here, either." The hovering contraption said, "No sign of a player named Morgana."

"It's ok, we'll find her!" Zaku-chan enthusiastically said, "We've only been to 495,342,098 fields so far."

Lumen bobbed in a pleased manner, "You're right; let's keep going. What's the next field?"

"Um…" Zaku-chan got a faraway look in her eyes and said, "Ω: Battle-scarred, Outdated, Ruins." Without another comment, Zaku-chan initiated the warp, but was stopped. In blaring red letters, "PROTECTED FIELD" appeared. Zaku-chan pressed further and harder, but it was no use: she would have to Gate Hack if she wanted entry. She set up the gate hack menu, but instead of the usual crossbar, there were about a dozen bars set up like some electronic Christmas ornament. Flipping through them, Zaku-chan made notes as to what Virus Cores were needed. Three X's, five Z's, two U's, three K's, four A's, an S, four Y's, a whopping seven V's, a G, two R's, three Q's, and… the last one made her stop. An ampersand? That & symbol… That wasn't an English letter… Whoever heard of an ampersand Virus Core? Nonetheless, this was very interesting. Of course, Morgana most likely wasn't there – what player could, which that strong a Protection? Still, Helba should know about it.

"What is it? Why aren't we moving?" Lumen asked. 'Oh, right. Whoops', Zaku-chan had forgot about Lumen. "We can't go in." she replied, unusually serious.

"What do you mean? Of course you can."

The broken girl shook her fractured head, "There's a really strong Protection, and I don't have any of the necessary Virus Cores."

"Oh…" Lumen drooped in midair, scant inches from the ground.

"I think we should tell Helba." Zaku-chan smiled, even though she had no mouth, "Let's go!"

"Okay!" Together, the two AIs warped directly to the Net Slums, their home and Paradise. Zaku-chan ran as well as she could, though wobbled occasionally because of her fragmented feet. "Helba!" she cried, "Helba, I found something interesting!"

"Yes? What is it, Zaku-chan?" a light voice sounded from a nearby alley. It was Helba.

"Oh, there you are." The girl rushed over, "There's a really weird Protected area. I don't think Morgana could be there, but it's really weird!"

"How so?" Helba asked thoughtfully.

"Well, the gate hacking thingy – it has twelve bar things!" she emphasized this by waving her arms around, "And one of the Virus Cores is strange, too – it's and ampersand Virus Core. It had a & and everything!"

"An ampersand? That is interesting." Helba mused, "What were the others?"

"Oh, just normal ones." The girl shrugged. "Here's the list." A ping told Helba that she got an email.

"I shall call the bearer of the Bracelet at once. You are dismissed, thank you."

"Okay. I don't think Morgana will be there, though. Should we keep looking?"

"No, that's fine. Thank you again." Helba said as she typed out instructions to Wiseman. If anyone would know about Virus Cores, it would be him. After all, she reflected, she wasn't omnipotent.

101010101

Deep in the world, within the plumbless field, a storm was raging, ripping up saplings from the roots, stirring the grass and destroying that, too. Polygons were ripped more. Mixed with the debris of the tempest was a flutter of broken black feathers, originating from the figure in the very eye of this hurricane.

The figure, clothed in purple and with mottled green skin, tore at herself, at her ruffled wings (even her broken one), her hair, at the cloth at her shoulders. It was harder to say whether the wind or her tormented screams were louder; perhaps they were the same sound, after all. Her eyes sometimes rolled uncontrollably around in their sockets, much more wildly than any human could, unfettered by ligaments and muscles; other times, they stopped, quivering slightly, on an unseen point, as if desperately wishing that what she saw was an illusion.

The maelstrom continued. Flotsam composed of field feature ripped from their places swirled within the heart of the digital storm. Fragments of buildings were torn from the floating structures and bashed into the ground, only to be lifted once more. A chaotic scene that seemed to have no end.

10101010101

Subject: Weird Item

Author: JoJo

So I was in a field the other day, when I saw something half buried in the sand. I targeted it, and it said "Virus Core V", and I picked it up. What the heck is this? An event item?

Subject: re: Weird Item

Author: HardG

Sounds interesting! FOOOOOOO!

Subject: re: re: Weird Item

Author: Skizz

HardG, WTF?

Anyway, what did the item look like?

Subject: Appearance

Author: JoJo

Um, like a squat hexagonal prism. It was clear, and a pale kind of computery green.

Subject: re: Appearance

Author: Skizz

Hexagonal prism? Like a crystal?

Subject: re: Weird Item

Author: Mitsumi

Don't touch it! It's a hack item!

Subject: re: re: Appearance

Author: JoJo

Crystal? Sort of…

Is it really a hack item? ;;

Subject: re: Weird Item

Author: Kelly-san

Naw, I had a friend who got a similar item a long time ago – he sold it to a dude named Wiseman for a whole lotta gold:) Not sure if he's still on, though…

Subject: re: re: Weird Item

Author: JoJo

Really? I'll just give it to him. Then it'd be his problem. :)

Subject: me too!

Author: sackofdoorknobs

I got a Virus Core, too! Except mine was a G.

Subject: re: me too!

Author: melonpan

Where did you guys find these?

Subject: Location

Author: JoJo

Um… I wrote it down: : Swirling, Twittering, Jabberwocky

Subject: re: Location

Author: sackofdoorknobs

I was at Delta: Dolorous, Cake-shaped, Garage. Weird keywords, huh? XP It was stuck in a little crack in the ground. It was an Earth-type wasteland field.

Subject: Collection

Author: Sebyon

We should start a collection, because I found a V, too. :) At : Closed, Sun-colored, Tragicomedy.

Subject: watch out!

Author: Mitsumi

You're all gonna get cursed and your PC blocked besides! o-o

Subject: re: watch out!

Author: Sebyon

Stop spreading rumors!

Subject: Profit

Author: JoJo

I dunno about you guys, but I'm selling mine. Then the curse will turn into gold! ;)

Subject: False

Author: Sebyon

There isn't a curse. But I think I'll hold onto mine. It's like a rare item:)

101010101

A party of two, a male Wavemaster and a female Blademaster, were racing through a snowy field, looking for the entryway for the dungeon. The girl paused every now and then to pick White Cherries for her Grunty.

"Those things are so annoying." Her partner said.

The girl shrugged, bracing her sword against her shoulder. "Maybe, but I need them. If only their voices weren't so high-pitched."

"Why don't you just buy them?"

A snort. "Because they're too damn expensive, if I can just get them from the field for free."

The magic user nodded, "Well, that's true. Let's continue."

"Hold on, there's just one more behind this column." The girl replied. She sauntered over to the remaining White Cherry, but a distant caw stopped her in her tracks. Both looked up to the sky with a simultaneous "huh?"

A black shadow swooped down, and gave another caw. It was a giant bird, about a meter in length. It was entirely black, except for the white collar pattern around its neck, breast, and shoulders. It peered at the two players for a moment, who stared back. Ruffling its shoulder feathers in an avian shrug, it dipped its beak and snapped up a fruit from the White Cherry, swallowing it. As it was picking at the other, the girl shouted, "Hey! Those were mine!" and stomped over.

"Maybe it's a monster?" her friend said.

The bird, when targeted by the blade wielder, was called a Hoodie Crow, which looked at her as if saying "What are you going to do about it?" The girl started to swing her weapon, but the crow spat the Cherry stone the size of a baseball in her face. With a surprised squeak, she fell backward into the snow. Her friend laughed at her, and the Hoodie Crow strutted over to where another pair of Cherries were.

"Oh, no you don't!" the girl cried, springing up, "C'mon! That thing's a monster!"

"Oh, it is...?" the boy asked, then grinned, "Well, let's kill it, then! BiVak Dom!" A blast of flame converged onto the crow, who croaked at the indignity of being attacked. Bold red numbers flashed above it, but it only took away a small sliver of its health. "Uh-oh." The caster muttered. As retaliation, the crow beat its large wings and smacked the girl away, so she plopped back into the powder for a second time. "32" flashed above her PC.

"What the hell?" she exclaimed as her friend healed her, "It has a lot of HP, but it does crap!"

"Maybe it's just one of those endurance monsters. Try physically attacking it."

With an "ok!" she unleashed a Rue Revolver. The attack only lowered the crow's HP by a barely visible amount. The crow cawed with annoyance and, ruffling its feathers, flapped its broad black wings and flew away. Although the pair tried to do some damage, the bird was unperturbed; with a last caw, spat something back down to them before flying above the clouds and disappearing. Only when it vanished from sight did the two look at the parting "gift" of the crow. At first, the girl thought it was another pit, but when she picked it up, it was green and very geometric. "Virus Core Z?" she said aloud, "What the heck is that?"

"Maybe it was an event! A traveling monster… how exciting!" the boy exclaimed.

"Could be…"

1010101

In another snowy field, a soloing Wavemaster was taking her sweet time perambulating through the snow, admiring the scenery – she had long disposed of any monsters that could have disturbed her. She just got off from school, and since she didn't feel like a challenge, she took off on her own in a relatively low level field for her own enjoyment. She went to a random field right away at the Chaos Gate, so she wouldn't have to disappoint some party who needed her otherwise. She sighed as she passed some Cordyceps, bouncing and crying their name with glee. She laughed: Grunty Food always amused her. Those weird Jizo statues were funny, too. They all had straw hats on, just like in that fairy tale. The Wavemaster wondered idly whether there was a giant New Year's mochi somewhere. Judging by the number of "Buddhaguso" statues (as she liked to call them), there must be hundreds hidden in The World!

She stopped in front of one, smiling at its earnest staring eyes, the silly grin…

"Wait a minute…" she murmured aloud. This one didn't have teeth. Instead, the mouth had a small jewel-like object inside. Cautiously, the girl looked at the statue, then raised a hand. "Thank you very much for this humble gift, Buddhaguso-san" she said softly as she took the object from the statue's mouth. Examining it, she saw it was a six-sided polygon. She turned it around in her hand, then placed it in her inventory, where it was labeled mysteriously as "Virus Core U".

The name struck her as familiar, and glancing at another window open to the BBS, saw that other people had gotten the item as well, though different varieties. No one seemed to know what its use were, but one person said a player named Wiseman was buying them for good prices. But… this was most likely a rare item. With a nod, she decided to keep it.

1010101

"I didn't think Virus Cores could be hidden like that."

Kite, BlackRose, and Wiseman walked into the Grima Löwe Cathedral, being sent there after picking up some odd signals from the church. Balmung had actually put them onto it, as the code for the Cathedral couldn't be altered, and thus very predictable. However, there were a few lines of code that appeared that stuck out a mile. The admin theorized that it could be some Virus Cores, since they were appearing in strange places. Helba thought the same, so she sent Wiseman to take Kite to the Cathedral to investigate.

"Well, new, unusual code has appeared, and as Helba briefed you, it could be a sign of Virus Cores. After all, they have been proliferating in strange places." Wiseman said, answering BlackRose.

"So you think I could help?" Kite asked.

Wiseman nodded. "As the bearer of the Bracelet, this gives you unusual abilities. Perhaps you may be able to do something" He stopped as they approached the alter. "Do you feel anything?"

Kite closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He tried to remember how Virus Cores felt like, how there was a sort of… buzz in the air when it was in a monster. As if waiting for him, the same feeling came from behind him, in… four different directions. As he turned around and walked to the center, he felt the buzzes coming from four different points.

"Do you have it?" BlackRose asked. Kite nodded, opening his eyes.

"They're four of them. In opposite directions." He said, pointing. He looked around to see if there was anything unusual, but nothing was to be found. BlackRose also helped in the search, checking between pews and on the floor, but her search was fruitless, too.

"I don't see any…" she said.

Kite shook his head. "Neither do I."

Wiseman, however, was looking thoughtfully at the ceiling. Specifically, at the four pendulums that swung regular as clockwork. He opened his mouth as the other two made their comments and said, "It's a shame normal players don't appreciate ceilings." He mused.

"What do you mean?" the Heavyblade asked.

"Well, I mean that graphics are spent on creating three dimensions, but as a friend once told me, people rarely look up, so they miss a lot." He smiled as Kite looked up as well, expression solemn.

"Pendulums" he murmured.

"Eh?"

Kite turned to BlackRose. "The Virus Cores are in the pendulums." He looked back at the swinging orbs, "So I need to get them out somehow."

"Precisely." Wiseman added, smirking as usual.

BlackRose frowned. "But how is Kite going to get up there?" she asked.

"I… don't think I have to." Kite pondered. He raised his right hand, supported it with his left, and squinted. "I think I can Data Drain them from here." The Bracelet appeared, flashy pale blue and green polygons swirling around his wrist. With a "ween" sound, the Bracelet flared, and branches burst forth toward the pendulums. The screen inverted for a moment, but instead of piercing the spheres, the branches wrapped around them chunkily, halting their movement. Kite began to perspire; this had never happened before. Then a hole appeared in the nearest pendulum, and Kite allowed himself a small smile. Unfortunately, instead of the Virus Core coming out like he expected, a long pale something shot out and grabbed Kite, pulling him into the opening. The polygons flickered, and shattered, sucked in with the boy like a black hole.

The remaining two stood stunned – this had only happened within the space of a few moments. Immediately, the pendulums swung again.

Tick-tock…

BlackRose run under that nearest one and called Kite's name over and over again, clearly very frightened. Wiseman, meanwhile, was sending emails to Helba and other assistants. He got a ping back, from Helba, telling him to stay there and see what he could do on-site. In the meantime, she would employ others to find unusual routes that had been taken.

Kite, meanwhile, was cautious. He couldn't see what had pulled him in. Nor could he see anything else, for that matter; it was all dark. After a wary "Hello?" had remained unanswered, he took a few tentative steps in front of him, hopeful that his vision was deceiving him into believing it was a black plane. His theory was proven right when his nose bumped into something. Feeling around, his fingers managed to target a switch. A window appeared when his hit the Action button.

Flip switch? y/n

"What..?" Kite said to himself. It was in English. Quickly opening his Japanese-English dictionary (which he had loaded onto his computer), he looked up "flip" and "switch". Confident that the window was asking him whether he wanted to turn on the switch he had found ("y/n" must have been "Yes/No"), he pressed the "Y" key, making sure to switch to the English case.

The results were immediate. A light burst on overhead, and he saw the wall that he had bumped into. Turning around, he saw that it was lucky that he went forward instead of turning around, for after a few meters the ground fell away in a massive void. He took a look around, and found that it looked like a normal room otherwise. There was a carpet on the floor, wallpaper… the bed was in a precarious but oddly stable position of being half tipped into the giant hole, pillow stuck fast to the head but the bedclothes trailing off onto the floor. Opposite the bed was a door. Shrugging, Kite opened it, careful lest there be another fall behind it.

There wasn't. Instead there was a small platform about the size of a tatami mat. In front was a small podium or stand upon which there was a plain green book. Kite opened it to the first page, but it was blank. Picking up the book, he flipped through all of the pages until, near the end, scrawled in black was more English. However, it was still easy. "east", "north", "west" and "south" were written along with cardinal numbers. Obviously directions, and the first word was "walk". He looked at the book again.

"Walk two to the east, three to the north, two to the east, three to the north, six to the west, and south four."

Obviously directions. Scribbling down his translation on a nearby notepad (normally used for field keywords), Kite put a careful foot on the space to the immediate right of the platform. Solid enough. Shifting very carefully, he managed about two paces or so before his foot fell. Pulling his foot back, he looked back to the directions and turned. Kite walked forward three paces into the darkness. It was rather unsettling to have to trust vague directions into the dark. Actually, this sort of thing reminded him of an old game he once played…

Kite toggled his camera so that it faced his back to the south. At the end of four paces, a rattling came from below him. The Twinblade brought up his weapons, stance at the defense. However, a grated floor appeared from nowhere and floated up, with him still on it. An elevator.

When the elevator platform halted through another hole in the floor, the room that greeted Kite was much the same as the first room. The walkable area was much larger, with only one wall consumed by a black emptiness. However, parts of the room looked as if it was hastily dropped or moved from. The grating was in the southwest corner of the room, and looked extremely out of place. To his right, there was a straight ladder-backed chair on the ground, as if someone tipped over backward. Beyond that was a roller desk had been pushed askew from the wall. There were papers spread around as if spilled, and a mess of fountain pens and ink bottles. There was a puddle of black ink on the hardwood floor, soaking into the nearby rug that dominated most of the floor. Kite bent down and looked at the papers. They seemed to be notes of some kind, but they were in English and… something else. German, maybe? But a few papers had some childish doodles superimposing the notes. A cat, a black-haired girl, a man, a sun…. typical pictures a small child might make. There were some doodled shapes as well. On the desk itself was a neat stack of blank paper and a small notepad; this was in Japanese.

"To Fili the White:

If you are reading this, then it means I was successful.

Ever since back then… I can never again have that joy.

Harald… it's too late to ask forgiveness.

I killed you with my own hands.

It doesn't matter anymore.

What happened, happened.

Nothing I do can change that.

You can't put rain back into a cloud.

I have given up on Aura. There are too many bad feelings there.

She was the cause of my madness. But… I was, as well.

There are many others I should mention as well…

But we shall talk when we meet face to face.

I don't mean to abandon you.

I know, better than anyone else, that it's the worse feeling in the world, to be unwanted.

Anyway, to the point.

Your father…

I needed more data to truly make you unique. So I took some data from when he was with me.

He… might not forgive me.

I'm afraid, Fili.

So you might have to be the ambassador between us.

I'm sorry this fell to you.

I need to talk to Mia eventually…

She grew apart, and became her own person.

I want to give her my blessing. But… she might hate me, too.

I shouldn't fear: I have a gift in store for her, as conciliation.

I was very stupid.

But… I don't feel so angry anymore.

Just sad, I guess.

I'll tell you more when we meet.

-Morgana"

"Morgana..?" Kite said aloud, "This was written by her?" A window appeared, telling him he had "Morgana's Note 01" in his Keyitems. Shrugging it aside for later, the Twinblade looked around the room. Near the center to the east side of the room was a black grand piano that had fallen drunkenly on its side; one leg was ripped or smashed off, the next was halfway cut off. Beyond that was an overturned piano bench. Walking past these, Kite saw a rocking chair on its side to his left. On the west wall there was a bookshelf, but the void to the north ate into it, so only part of it remained. There were spilled books around it, though they were abruptly cut off at the blackness. One book was opened on the floor, as if someone was reading it, a book on the meaning of flowers.

All that was left was a little strip of floor that stretched out into the abyss. Cautiously, Kite walked forward, eyes sweeping around for any sign of danger. His feet scraped against the partial bookcovers that plunged into the nothingness. At the very end of the walkway, there was another scrap of paper. Taking note of how fragments like these could be important, he picked it up, but it had more English. However, it was in quotation marks, so, praying it was a famous quote from somewhere, he did a search and immediately found it. Putting it through an online translator, he got:

"Perhaps him who fights with the monster him you take the worry which becomes the monster with that. If and the hell is looked long for the sake of, you and it looks the hell"

"What...?" Kite murmured to himself, peering into the void from his wooden peninsula while copying the English to translate properly later. For a few moments, nothing happened, and just when Kite thought that he was tense for nothing, a great pink something coalesced into existence. The Twinblade recognized it immediately, and, shocked, said its name aloud.

"C-cobernik..!"

It didn't do anything, just floated in the darkness, seeming to consider the player before it. Then, in a light voice:

"For a rebirth, these are needed." Without another word, it vanished like morning mist. In its place, a shimmering white Chaos Gate appeared. Targeting it, Kite pressed the Action button back to Hidden, Forbidden, Holy Ground.

"Kite!"

Kite found his character back in the Grima Löwe Cathedral. BlackRose ran up to him, obviously worried. Wiseman was more reserved, but with a concerned frown.

"Are you okay? What happened?" she asked hurriedly.

"I…" the Twinblade shook his capped head to clear it, "I was in a room, but it looked like half of it was ripped away."

"You mean like that room with the craters, back then?"

Kite shook his head in dissent this time. "No, it was black. Anyway, there was this… puzzle, and then another room, like the first, but messier. I… also saw Cobernik, who gave me four Virus Cores."

"Virus Cores?" "C-cobernik?" both Wiseman and BlackRose said at the same time. Sharing a glance, BlackRose spoke again.

"You saw Cobernik? What happened? Was there a battle?"

"No, just some English… but I can't read it that well, just something about seeing and a monster…"

"Could you give me a copy?" Wiseman asked, fingering his staff thoughtfully.

"Wiseman, you can speak English?" the pink-haired girl asked, surprised.

"I know a friend who can, quite fluently." He said smoothly, "But a second opinion is necessary. Kite."

"Yes? I can't speak English that well…"

The Wavemaster smiled, "Not you, don't worry. Could you ask Sunaarashi Sanjuuro to translate it? As a teacher, I'm sure he will do an admirable job."

"Oh, yes! I should have thought of that." Kite said, "I'll get right on it. Here." He Flash ailed a copy of the English.

"Well, at least now we have more Virus Cores." BlackRose said, "So we're a few steps closer to getting to the bottom of all this!"

"Nowhere near as dramatic as the Twilight Incident, though" Wiseman laughed.

"That's not funny."

The party left the cathedral and warp out, golden rings shimmering in the soft pre-dawn light. Inside, the pendulums swung much as they did before, as if nothing strange happened.

Tick-tock...

10101010101

Review, please? I shall admit, I incorporated some horror game elements into this. Expect that next chapter, too. Well, I was going to make this one chapter, but it got so long, and you guys are so patient, I decided to make it into two parts! By the way, "Sunaarashi Sanjuuro" is Sanjuro's Japanese screen name. Everyone just shortens it, though.