Without furthur ado, here's the first chapter nn

Chapter 1: Waltzing

Sora was happy. BT actually agreed. Of course, there was no reason she shouldn't, the deal was more then reasonable, but there was always that little risk. Risk of dismissal of the silly request, risk of contempt, risk of spite… a number of small things. Still, Sora was glad nonetheless. He leapt and danced amoung the towering mushrooms that formed a natural circle of a pseudo room in Omega: Towering, Blooming, Hypha.

The email was simplicity itself. BT had said at their previous meeting that she was busy, and Sora decided to take it at face value, rather then assume it was because of undesirable company. In fact, just to make sure, he tailed her, and she indeed logged out. He wasn't surprised when an email came a couple days later:

"Sora,

There is a ring of closely growing mushroom formations northeast of the spawn point at Omega: Towering, Blooming Hypha. Meet me there today at 4:00pm

-BT"

So here he was, gamboling on top of the mushrooms, pausing every now and then to scan the twilit horizon for her familiar shape. It was 3:52, so he was early, but he couldn't help being slightly impatient. He smothered the impulse; nothing would come in being hasty now, even if it was tempting to pester her with an email. He paused in his dancing to sit down and gaze at the simulated sunset, thinking about his reasons for this whole thing. Brown hair that stuck out in sharp spikes, crystal blue eyes that were usually narrowed in a glare. He allowed a private chuckle; she was so adorable when she was mad.

"'Smoke and fools…'" a slightly amused voice called up to him. 1

Without looking away from the scenery, Sora raised a hand in greeting, "Hi, BT. You're early" Sora stood up.

"Five minutes is hardly early." The blonde Wavemaster said, crossing her arms.

"Early enough." Sora leaned his head far, far back, looking up into the apex of the sky. Without warning, he leaned back and plummeted toward the earth, headfirst.

"What-? Oh my God! You idiot!" BT shouted, scrambling out of the way.

"Hyoin" Sora intoned as he neatly flipped in the air and landed on his feet in front of BT. "Did I surprise you? I did, didn't I? Right? Right?" 2

"Just shut up." BT huffed.

"I love you too, BT." Sora rolled his eyes and smiled, "Anyway, let's go in."

"What? The dungeon?" she asked.

"No, silly. There." He stuck a thumb behind him to the circle of fungus.

"Impossible. No one, excuse me, no one normal could get in there. I can't climb up with the caps hanging over like that."

Sora smiled brightly, "Well that's no problem at all! Alley-oop!" with a swift motion, Sora scooped the Wavemaster up and leapt to the top of the mushrooms, then dropped down safely inside the secluded spot.

"You-! I can't believe you! You don't manhandle someone!" BT shouted angrily at him as he set her down, upset that he picked her up.

"Oh c'mon, lighten up" Sora said, smirk still affixed to his features, "It was the only way. Now, are you going to keep your promise, or will I keep this after all?" He took out a Staff of Truth and twirled it around expertly in his hands.

"Ok, ok." BT sighed. It was happening again! She needed to keep her composure. "Look. You put your right hand on my hip and hold my right hand with your left. Got it?"

As Sora followed her instructions, BT was silently surprised that he was cooperating wonderfully. No jokes, no snide remarks, even the smirk disappeared. He actually wanted to learn. Talk about surprises in unexpected places.

"Now, you have to step like you're making a box. Since you're leading it's like this…" she released the hold a moment to show him the steps, "One, two, three. Just like that."

"One, two, three. Simple." Sora said.

"Maybe now it is," BT quipped with a small smile, "But that's correct. A major thing to keep in mind is that what separates a waltz from all other dances is that the music is always in 3/4 time. That is, there are three beats, and you dance with them."

"Thus the 'one, two, three' stuff."

"Correct." BT stated, "So you have to move to that beat. The beat dictates the dance." Sora merely nodded, looking at his feet. BT continued, "However, though there are three beats, you don't count them out like you would with normal numbers. It's 'One. Two. Threee, One. Two. Threee, One. Two. Threee' – and so on." BT clapped her hands to the beat. 3

"So the third note carries over to the next sequence." Sora concluded.

"Correct. I hope you're taking notes, this will be on the test."

"What? A test? But – oh." Sora gave something between a grin and a grimace when he saw BT's amused smile, "Darn it, BT." He smiled, "Keep going."

BT, after enjoying her joke, settled back into her "instructor" role. "Right. I have a file of a waltz." Sora received a message that he had a new email. He opened it, and clicked on the music file. Strains of a light song played through the earphones on his FMD.

BT let him listen to it for a moment, then interrupted, "As you can hear, the song follows the three-beat form I was talking about." Sora nodded, eyes averted to a song she could not hear, and his foot tapped to its beat. "Now try the box step again."

It went on for about an hour. Sora managed to learn the steps well. BT stopped the lesson when she said she had to start dinner. "I'll know if you don't practice, so get it down." She said as golden rings encircled her.

"Yeah, yeah." He said. Regardless, he opened the music file again. Since this was the first lesson, BT taught the steps without music, but Sora wanted to learn quickly. After letting the music play for a few measures to get the beat, Sora moved his feet in the box step. "One. Two. Threee, One. Two. Threee," he muttered to himself, trying to keep time. He missteped a number of times, but he kept going to the rest of the song, then pressed "Repeat"; he would get this down.

After he danced through three more renditions, he stopped. It was 5:30, so he'd better start on his homework; math didn't do itself, after all.

Sora saved (more from habit then necessity) and logged out, then removed the FMD from his head. Running a hand through his dark hair, he glanced at the mirror on the door to his room. A young boy stared back with red eyes, a strong chin, and dark green hair. The reflection smiled along with the original. How would BT react if she knew his real age? He was in his last year at elementary school, and 11 years old now. 4 He got up from the desk and dragged his backpack to a space on dominated by the computer, and took out his math homework. Math wasn't too difficult, all you had to do was follow the rules.

An hour later, Sora finished all of his homework. Finally placing down the pencil, he heard his mother call from downstairs, "Hiroshi! Dinner's ready!" 5 "Coming!" he shouted, and pounded down the stairs into the dining room. "Hi mama" he said when he took his seat. 6

"Hello, my little boy." She responded, setting dishes of food on the table, "Get up and set the table, will you? We're having hamburgers, your favorite."

Sora brightened. "Really? Great!" he got up and set dishes onto the table. Since he was only setting places for two, this wasn't hard. He also got the teapot and served himself and his mother tea.

"Thank you, darling." His mother said smiling warmly, "It makes me so happy that my little boy is so helpful."

"No problem, mama." Sora said. After they both said, "Itadakimasu!" 7, they both started eating.

Sora snatched a look toward his mother, then glanced at the other side of the square table; his father used to sit there. It had been four years since the accident, but Sora still felt the emptiness of the missing chair and man, even now.

His father was a man full of life. He was energetic and never too tired to play with Sora. Of course, marriage to a nice Japanese girl quieted him down a bit, but the spark in his eye never went away. Until… a screech, screams, a blinding light, a shove, and a dull thud; and laying there, with a growing pool of red… Sora shook his head; it was no good blaming himself, what's done is done, and Daddy wouldn't have wanted him to be sad.

His mother noticed him staring at the side of the table. "I miss him too, dear. He was a good man." Sora merely nodded. His mother smiled, "How about I tell you that story?"

"Again? I must've heard it a million times now." He groaned.

"Then let's make it a million and one." She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts, "It started when I was a young women, fresh-faced and hopeful." She began, "I went to a college in America, because I wanted to learn more English. I was an English major, but my English was broken, so I had a hard time. I had enough to get along, but I often didn't understand all of what the professors were saying, and I sometimes got lost on campus. Then I met your father." Her eyes got a misty, faraway look, "He was a Business major, but he was very good at explaining things and helped me around campus and with my English. He became my dearest friend." She paused, looking at memories.

"Go on." Sora prompted.

"Oh yes, right. I learned much from him, and I was touched by his kind soul. A year after college, and we got married." She smiled as her face pinkened at the memory, as it always did. "Of course, some of my relations didn't like my marrying a foreigner, but I love him anyway. I met his parents during winter break in his home in Wales. Of course, I was surprised to find out he was Welsh, since he had an American accent." She laughed, "When I found out, I was so surprised, he laughed at the look on my face. Anyway, we got married in the summer, and nearly a year later, we had you, our darling boy."

Sora smiled. He had heard the story many times, but it made his mother happy, so he endured it . "And that's why you speak English to me." He said.

"That's right!"

The rest of the meal was spent in talking about everyday things, how work and school was. When they were done, Sora helped his mother clear the table. She asked him, "Are you done with your homework, sweetheart?"

"I'm done with math, so only a little left." Sora responded, "I want to go to middle school, though, so I can take English."

His mother laughed, "I bet you'll get the highest grades. Just help your classmates, ok?"

"Alright."

Sora walked into his classroom the next morning and sat down in his seat by the window. 8 Almost immediately his friend Matsuo approached him. "Hi, Hiroshi." he said.

Sora looked back from the window and smiled, "What's up, Wiseman?" 9

"Hey, not in school, ok?"

Sora shrugged, "Sorry. Anything new?"

"Yeah!" Matsuo nodded excitedly, "Game Stop just got in a new shipment of Digimon cards! Wanna see?"

"No thanks," Sora waved his hand, "Don't take it the wrong way, but I'm not into cards games."

"You into Long Arms, then?" another student said suddenly behind him.

"No." Sora recited. A "darn it!" was heard in the background as Sora sighed. Sora had refused to tell them his PC on The World for good reason. As such, they always asked him questions, trying to trick him into telling. So far, they still didn't know anything, only that he goes to the Lambda Server. Since all players can access Root Towns, it wasn't a definite hint. 10

Matsuo looked over at the other students. "Never give up, do they?"

"Nope." Sora said, "They still don't know your PC either, right?"

Matsuo grinned, "I set up a dummy account so I could play with them. You should do that, too. It'll get them to stop asking."

Sora shrugged, "Maybe. I don't really feel like playing with them, anyway. It's fun with a little anonymity, right?" he smiled and narrowed his eyes like his PC.

It was Matsuo's turn to grin, "Yeah, an older friend of mine, Kitayama, he goes to Game Stop. He asked me for information last week."

Sora piqued up in interest. "Really?" he asked, "What'd he want?"

"The usual," Matsuo answered, "He got a virus core – S by the way, rather rare."

"So? What'd you do?"

"I offered him a Noble Wine for it, and he was more then willing."

"Didn't he want information?"

Matsuo looked thoughtful, "Well, of course he wanted to know what its use was. Said he found it in a dungeon."

"What did you tell him?"

"Well, I didn't say anything, so he offered me an Angel Chain, so I told him that it was an item without any use."

"Nice way of evading the truth there." Hiroshi grinned.

Matsuo gave back a small smile, "I didn't evade the truth; the price he gave me could only pay for the information I gave. He was satisfied, so he didn't mind the ambiguity."

"'A fair price', right?"

Matsuo smiled more, "Yep, personal policy. A price equal to the service rendered. No more and no less. It's a delicate balance that makes the difference between a good merchant and a bad one."

"Or an informer."

Matsuo waved his hand, "Essentially, a informer is a type of merchant, one that sells information. I mostly deal with trinkets, oddities and, primarily, information in The World."

"Yeah, yeah." Hiroshi said as their homeroom teacher came in.

"You're late, Bear!" a chipper Heavyblade said as a blue Blademaster walked up to her on a grassy plateau in Dun Loireag.

"Sorry, sorry." Bear said, "This old man was working on something in real life. As a student, I'm sure you know how bad deadlines can be." 11

Mimiru frowned slightly as she stood up from the rock she was sitting on. "I'm sorry" she said, "If you really need to work on it, you didn't have to come."

Bear chuckled, "No, it's quite all right. It's important to have a break one in a while. So," he said, getting a little more serious, "is BT here yet?"

Mimiru shook her head, "No. Are you sure it's ok if I'm here?"

Bear waved her off, "I'll be the one responsible if not. Don't worry, she said in her Flash mail that it was something 'interesting', so I think it's safe to include you."

The Heavyblade was still a little unsure. "Well, if you say so."

"Hey, Bear, you didn't tell me the kid would be here."

"Ah, BT." Bear said, turning around as the green Wavemaster walked up to them.

"Should I leave?" Mimiru said.

BT waved it off, "No, it's ok. I just got a very odd request."

"Really?" Bear asked, "From who?"

"Sora."

"Geh." Mimiru made a face, "Him? What'd he want?"

BT smiled at her reaction, and said, "He wanted me to teach him to waltz."

"What? Why would he do that?" Mimiru asked incredulously, while Bear silently pondered, arms crossed

BT shrugged, "I don't know why, I think he wants to impress a girl."

Bear looked up. "Did you accept?"

"Yeah. He offered me a Staff of Truth, and he gave me a Vessel of Sky on good faith. So I think it's a small price to pay, correct?"

"Wow, that's a really good deal." Mimiru said, "I guess it'd be nice to be able to give away expensive stuff."

"Because the item was expensive," Bear started.

"Yeah?" Mimiru prompted.

"Well," Bear uncrossed his arms, "Because he gave BT and expensive item, and offered a more expensive item as payment, then it must mean that this is important to Sora, correct?" 12

"I guess." Mimiru said.

"So what's your point?" BT asked, crossing her arms with her wand in the crook of her elbow.

"I don't know." Bear sighed, "I suppose I'm just rationalizing. It just seems like a strange thing for Sora to do."

BT smiled wryly, "He's still the annoying idiot he always was."

"Maybe." Bear said.

"Maybe what? He's a creep!" Mimiru grumbled.

"Nothing. I gotta go."

"But you just got here!"

"Eh, she's calling for me." He paused, then laughed, "She's saying not to put off that article. Well, see you later." Bear logged out in a swirl or golden rings.

"So." Mimiru said after a brief pause, "Know any good dungeons?"

"For you, yes."

1 The phrase BT once used toward Sora was "Only smoke and fools like high places", obviously referring to his habit of standing on structures. I'm reiterating it here. 3

2 He's saying "da ne? Ne?" in Japanese. I'd write it in, but it's awkward for me to write in two languages.

3 This is true. Listen to a waltz and see for yourself. I was in band for three intense years, and this beat was pounded into us when we first played a waltz. I like waltzes. . They're so fun, and the beat makes me want to dance.

4 Ok, I need to explain the Japanese school system, so time for a round of "How Japanese Schools work". Elementary schools have 5 years, with the last having 11 year olds. Middle school has 4 years, spanning ages 12-15. High school lasts three years, with 16-17 year olds. That's why Kite was in "8th grade", but was 14. Got it? Good.

5 Ok, funny/weird story behind my reasons for naming him Hiroshi. I was trying to think of good "fitting" names for the /SIGN characters, and I decided on Hiroshi for Sora, since I thought it "fit" his picture. Shortly afterward, I was looking at the voice actors for /SIGN, and imagine my surprise when I saw that Sora was voice by "Hiroshi"! I laughed at that. Incidentally, the exact same thing happened with my name for Mimiru. It was strange. o.o

6 As with my other .hack fics, bold is English, normal is Japanese.

7 I can't remember the specific translation, but all you guys need to know is that "Itadakimasu" is always said before a meal.

8 Ok, more "How Japanese Schools work". Basically, all the students are sorted into homerooms, and the teachers go to the classes, instead of students going to their teachers' classes. So the students are all in the same class (and seats) for the whole day, with the obvious exception of PE.

9 I also made this up. Not sure if Wiseman is voiced by someone name Matsuo, though. It's such a masculine-sounding name, huh? Like Kintaro or something. XD Also, for those of you who don't know, Wiseman is an elementary school student. XDDD That amuses me to no end. Thusly, I thought it'd be cool if Wiseman was Sora's "friend of a friend" – his connection to Helba. Nifty, eh? 3

10 It's true. In /SIGN, Tsukasa-kun is level 5, and you see him in Carmina Gatelica with Bear in one episode. As for the games, it said in CC sha's email that the servers "were back up".

11 He's saying "ojisan" which can man uncle or a middle aged man. Bear often calls himself this, which I think is cool and funny. Bear Ojisan! XD I love it. As a reminder, he's 47 in /SIGN 3 And 48 here.

12 I imagine him with his hand up in "Bear Explaining Mode", but it's hard to write that in. ;

Hehehe, Mimiru is so cute. n-n So is Sora, for that matter. I hope I captured everyone's personalities. Bear was fun to write for. Now, keep in mind that, aside from a few episodes, I have seen /SIGN in Japanese with subtitles, so I get the dialogue from there, along with the general speech patterns I heard in the Japanese. I hope they are accurate; I think they are.

God, I hate formating. D; Stupid... grumble>

Anyway, please review n.n