- "It all starts here..."
- — BlackRose —
.hack//Another Birth vol.3//OUTBREAK (.hack//Another Birth もうひとつの誕生 Vol.3 侵食汚染) is the third book in the .hack//Another Birth novel series. It continues the story of Akira Hayami and her character "BlackRose" as they battle against the Cursed Wave in an attempt to bring back Akira's brother Fumikazu from his coma. Meanwhile in the real world Akira experiences problems dealing with an overly determined admirer named Hagiya. The events in this novel roughly follow the same timeframe as the game that shares its name, .hack//OUTBREAK.
After the Network Crisis
With her Father trapped in Minato Mirai, Akira and her Mother desperately try to get in contact with him. Unfortunately with the phone lines down, and the news stations throwing out rumor after rumor it's impossible for them to get any real information on him. Eventually Akira's Father manages to call them, and arrives at their house unharmed. While telling his story he mentions a young girl and a man in a Hawaiian shirt that he saw during the disaster. Trying to lighten the mood, he asks Akira if she has a boyfriend yet, causing her to run upstairs in embarrassment.
At school she learns from Shouko and Miho that right before the incident at Minato Mirai, "The World" suffered a crash. This also coincided with her, Mistral, and Kite's victory over Magus. She wonders if by attacking Magus, she inadvertently caused the disaster in the real world. Unable to get any responses to her e-mails, she logs onto the BBS and notices a post about a missing player named Sieg. She remembers that Sieg was a powerful player that Fumikazu befriended in "The World", and wonders what happened to him. Still concerned over their recent fight, she sends an e-mail to Kite saying that she'll continue to support him then logs into "The World".
In the newly corrupted Carmina Gadelica BlackRose notices Kite looking depressed. She goes to talk to him, and he asks her if they've been doing the right thing. After all, every time they move, it seems something bad always happens. Perhaps Balmung was right after all, and they really are just a dangerous group of hackers. Unsure of how to deal with a depressed Kite, BlackRose tries to cheer him up, but winds up yelling at him instead. Not wanting to ruin her relationship with him she logs out. In the real world Akira thinks about the situation, and realizes that she'd always seen Kite as a sort of superhuman person who never had either fears or doubts. Of course he got depressed, even she got depressed after fighting Magus! Akira realizes that she'll have to apologize, and decides to log back into "The World". When she gets back online she notices an e-mail from Mistral, asking to arrange a real life meeting. BlackRose wonders why she'd want to do something like that, but agrees to meet her later in Saitama City.
BlackRose invites Kite to meet her at Δ Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground. When he arrives she finally tells him about Fumikazu. Kite realizes that his friend Orca isn't the only person that needs to be helped. He says that they need to keep working hard together, for both Kazu and Orca's sakes. Glad that he's snapped out of his depression, BlackRose goes off to see her brother.
A few days later, BlackRose receives an e-mail from CC Corporation announcing the reopening of Sigma Server. BlackRose travels to Fort Ouph, Sigma Server's Root Town and finds that it's just as corrupted as Carmina Gadelica. She finds Kite feeding a baby Grunty at the Grunty farm. He tells her that after she left, he investigated an area mentioned on the BBS. At the bottom he found another strange room, as well as two items. Another note from Harald Hoerwick, the original programmer of "The World", and a new epitaph fragment. The note talks about something called "Morganna Mode Gone", and "The Ultimate AI". BlackRose wonders just what this Ultimate AI is, and what relation it has to "The World" or the current events. While she thinks, they are approached by Wiseman. He tells Kite that if "The World" actually is based on the Epitaph of Twilight, then he will probably have to fight the remaining five Phases of the Cursed Wave as well as Cubia before he'll see any results. Wiseman gives Kite a Virus Core, saying that it should assist him in his quest before leaving.
In the real world, Shouko and Akira visit a fast food restaurant. While they eat, Shouko tells Akira that she's been thinking about quitting "The World", but is unsure how her boyfiend Yuuji will react. Akira encourages her to quit, though she avoids telling her about her work as BlackRose, she does say that she believes the game is dangerous. Shouko asks if Fumikazu was hospitalized because of "The World", but Akira lies to her and says his condition isn't related at all to it. Suddenly Akira receives a text message from Mistral. It contains Mistral's real name, Mayumi Kurokawa and asks when Akira will be able to meet her in person. For some reason, the message makes Akira feel uneasy.
She Became Complicated
In Yokohama's Chinatown, Akira meets up with Mayumi Kurokawa, the player behind Mistral. While looking at her, Akira realizes that Mayumi is pregnant. They begin to talk, and Akira soon realizes that the childlike persona Mayumi uses as Mistral, is in fact her real personality, and not just roleplaying. Mayumi tells Akira that she didn't want to reveal her pregnancy online, she wanted to show her in person. Akira asks if Kite knows, and Mayumi says she already told him, but as Mistral not Mayumi. The two spend the day shopping together, but as night begins to fall Mayumi starts getting ready to leave. Before she does she tells Akira the real reason she needed to talk to her. She's decided that because of her pregnancy, she shouldn't be doing dangerous things inside of "The World". Akira is sad that one of her closest friends in "The World" won't be around, but understands that its for the best. The two wave goodbye, and Mayumi boards the train back to her home.
In "The World", BlackRose visits Dun Loireag so she can see the place where she first met Mistral. She reminisces a bit about Mistral, and wonders if Kite and her will be able to handle the rest without her. While wandering around town, she notices Elk looking depressed as well. He tells her that Mia has gone missing, and he hasn't been able to find her anywhere. BlackRose decides to help him look for her, and together they travel to Δ Plenteous Smiling Hypha, one of Elk and Mia's favorite areas. They thoroughly search the dungeon, but find no traces of Mia. BlackRose tries to comfort Elk, but he logs off before she can talk to them, leaving her behind. BlackRose wonders if Mia is even a normal player, and speculates that she might be some type of Wandering AI instead of a player.
Soon afterwards, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Haru, another one of Fumikazu's friends. They became friends after BlackRose saved her from a high level dungeon, though BlackRose has always kept her connection to Kazu a secret. Haru mentions a post she saw on the BBS from a player named Terajima Ryoko. The message was simple "I need somebody to show me the basics of the game", but Haru is sure that Kazu would have responded to it. Together they travel to Σ Cracked Worst Milestone. BlackRose wonders why a newbie like Terajima Ryoko would travel to such a high level area, but decides to get help her out anyway. They enter the dungeon, and soon run into another PC who is also looking for Terajima Ryoko. When he sees Haru's lower level he laughs and tells her that she shouldn't be messing around in such a tough dungeon. His words cause Haru to get depressed, so BlackRose tries to cheer her up. She tells her that when she wants to say something she should just say it. Haru remembers Kazu telling her that his big sister said the same thing, and begins to suspect that BlackRose and Kazu might be related. BlackRose lies to her and says that it was just a coincidence. Soon afterwards they reencounter the rude player, who tells them that Terajima Ryoko already left with "A guy dressed in red". BlackRose and Haru return to Fort Ouph, but afraid that Haru will figure out who she really is, BlackRose finds a reason to log out.
Later BlackRose gets an e-mail from Kite. He tells her that while she was adventuring, he went to Net Slum to talk to Helba. BlackRose gets angry, and e-mails Kite back telling him that he should have invited her. He quickly responds, but to BlackRose's surprise the message had nothing to do with Helba, and simply says "I'm in eighth grade". BlackRose is shocked, the player she's been adventuring with this entire time is the same age as Fumikazu!
At school, the culture fest looms ever closer. All club activities are made optional, but Akira continues working hard at tennis practice. However she is forced to take some time off after injuring her ankle. Risa tells Akira that she's been falling asleep in class a lot and that she's afraid Akira's overworking herself. Though the real reason is because of the time she's spent playing "The World", Akira lies and tells Risa that she's just been working extra hard during practice. On the way home Akira runs into Hagiya, who notices her injury and offers to help her get home. When she refuses he gets angry and says he's only trying to help her. Akira tells him that she already rejected him, and that he should mind his own business.
In "The World", BlackRose gets an e-mail from Wiseman. He tells her that a strange amount of data recently appeared at Σ Turbulent Distrusting Ice Wall. Eager to investigate BlackRose meets up with Kite in Fort Ouph. Wiseman also appears with another Virus Core for Kite and decides to join their party too. They warp to the field, and BlackRose is surprised to suddenly hear Helba's voice. She tells them that she'll be ready on her end with a jammer program, but they need to hurry before Lios notices what they're doing. When BlackRose asks what's going on, Wiseman tells her that Kite asked for Helba's assistance when he went to Net Slum, so she created a special program that should help them fight against the "Cursed Wave". They fight their way to the bottom of the dungeon, where they find another mist filled portal. Entering it, they find themselves confronted with Fidchell, another creature from the Epitaph of Twilight.
Helba runs her jammer program, signaling the start of the battle. BlackRose and Kite leap into combat, and begin fighting against Fidchell, who fights by lowering their elemental resistance, then using powerful elemental attacks. During the fight BlackRose is data drained, but like the fight against Skeith, she finds that Kite's "Grace of Twilight" prevents it from doing anything more than cause status effects. BlackRose also notices that Fidchell is able to talk, something the previous Phases were unable to do. After a grueling battle, Kite successfully data drains Fidchell and Wiseman is able to successfully destroy it with a summoning spell. Kite also announces that he obtained another of Aura's segments when he Data Drained Fidchell. As they watch, Fidchell fades away, but not before reading off another message from the Epitaph of Twilight. The message speaks about a great calamity and states that "those who are mourned will never return". BlackRose fears that they've unleashed another disaster, but when they return to Fort Ouph nothing appears to have changed.
BlackRose wonders if "those who are mourned" refers to the coma victims. The thought disturbs her so much that she logs off immediately.
It Broke Bounds
Akira is unable to sleep, still thinking about Fidchell's prophecy. That morning she turns on the TV to find that several disasters, such as power grid failures and traffic light problems popped up all over Japan during the night. She receives an e-mail from Mistral telling her that she knew about their fight yesterday, and that the problems are probably unrelated, but Akira can't shake the feeling that these problems are a direct result of the fight with Fidchell. Kite seems to believe this too, and sends Akira an e-mail talking about the prophecy. They agree to meet in "The World".
BlackRose meets Kite in Fort Ouph, and they begin to talk about Fidchell's prophecy. Kite tells BlackRose that it looks like the corruption from "The World" has begun to spread to other networks as well, and that's probably what caused the problems last night, as well as the incident at Minato Mirai. BlackRose agrees with him, but tries to cheer him up by saying that in comparison to Minato Mirai, the incidents last night were nothing. She asks Kite what he's been doing in "The World", and he tells her that he recently ran into Mia. She seemed to be experiencing some sort of memory problems, as she didn't seem to recognize him at first. BlackRose tells him about her meeting with Elk, and Kite says that he's ran into Elk a few times too, and that he's been desperately searching for Mia for days. BlackRose remembers how she felt when Mistral stopped coming to "The World, and realizes that Elk is probably feeling the same way. She decides to go looking for him and try to cheer him up.
In Mac Anu, BlackRose overhears some players talking about Elk. Following their directions she finds Elk in an empty alleyway along one of the city's canals. He ignores her for awhile, but eventually begins to talk. He tells her that he started playing "The World" to try and meet people, since he was too shy to make friends in the real world. However even online he found it hard to talk to people and realized he was just as lonely online, as offline. He was just about to quit, when he encountered Mia in Mac Anu. She was hunting an item called Aromatic Grass, which Elk happened to have in his inventory. After giving it to her as a gift, she invited him to go hunt the item with her, and the two quickly became friends. BlackRose realizes that Elk's situation with Mia, is a lot like her situation with Kite. She also realizes that Elk has fallen in love with Mia. Elk grows emotional when he talks about Mia's recent behavior, and he asks BlackRose if she thinks Mia will ever come back. BlackRose tells him that even if she doesn't, he's not alone in "The World", she and Kite are both there for him. Her words seem to cheer Elk up a bit. As she sits with him she remembers her first encounter with Mia, and begins to suspect that her theory about Mia being an AI might not be too far off the mark.
In the real world, Akira's class struggles to finish their haunted house before the culture fest. The day before the festival, Akira is strong armed into staying after school to finish it. Eager to get out of the school for a little bit, she volunteers to go get food for everybody. On her way out she runs into Hagiya, who apologizes for annoying her the other day. He volunteers to help her get the food. Akira isn't too thrilled with his offer, but accepts it when she realizes in order to get the food she'll have to walk around outside at night. While they walk, he asks Akira if she doesn't like him. She tells him that he's wrong, it's not that she dislikes him, it's just that she doesn't want to date anybody at the moment. Hagiya asks if she'll come see his concert during the festival, since he'll be playing a special song just for her. Akira tells him that if she has time, she'll think about it. The next day, while working at the haunted house Hagiya comes to see her. He tells her that several girls have been following him around the festival and won't leave them alone, so Akira hides him until they pass by. Later she goes to his concert with Miho and Risa. To Akira's surprise, Hagiya's band is actually very good. As promised he plays a love song dedicated to her, which embarrasses Akira so much that she leaves the festival early.
Later, BlackRose receives an e-mail from Chimney. He tells her that he and NOVA have decided to chase down some of the rumors floating around on the BBS and look for a mysterious solo player. He invites BlackRose to come with them to Θ Soft Solitary Tri-Pansy to look for her. BlackRose accepts Chimney's invitation, and along with NOVA they warp to the field. Upon arriving they meet another party filled with female players. They ask if they've seen a player named "Gar", and when NOVA tells them they haven't, the girls leave dejectedly. He explains to BlackRose that "Gar" is short for "Gardenia", and that she's the player they came to find. Supposedly she's an incredibly beautiful and powerful solo player. Together they enter the dungeon, Chimney spots some Grunty food, and begins to gather it up but stops when he notices a blonde Long Arm watching him. He recognizes her as Gardenia, but before he can talk to her the group of girls shows up again. Chimney distracts them giving Gardenia a chance to get away. After sending them away, Chimney, NOVA, and BlackRose go talk to Gardenia. She thanks them for their help, and tells them her story. Several months ago a group of players made a "Gardenia fanclub" and since then she's been followed everywhere she goes by that club's members. She seems a little surprised to see BlackRose, and after looking her over she says that she reminds her of a certain player one of her friends is always talking about. Before BlackRose can question her, Gardenia warps away.
Returning to Dun Loireag BlackRose spies Mia off in the distance. NOVA tells BlackRose that she should stay away from Mia, since she's definitely a hacked character. However BlackRose says that she'll be fine and goes to talk with Mia. She greets Mia, who seems confused and doesn't recognize her. Without warning she suddenly tries to grab BlackRose, but is stopped by NOVA who angrily orders her to go away. Frightened, Mia tells BlackRose that she's just looking for Elk, and staggers away.
BlackRose spends the day after the culture fest playing "The World". Lios sends her an e-mail ordering her to report to him but she ignores it. She instead decides to e-mail Elk about her meeting with Mia the previous day. However when she logs into Fort Ouph she is surprised to find Elk and Mia at the Chaos Gate. Showing no signs of her old behavior Mia invites BlackRose to join her party. Elk doesn't seem to want her in the party, but BlackRose realizes that this could be her best chance to get information from Mia. She accepts her invitation and along with Elk they travel to Σ Outpouring Vengeful Sipping Bug. They make their way into the dungeon, and Mia begins to recite words from the Epitaph of Twilight. She talks about a spirit named Plaird who fell in love with a human and became a human herself. At the bottom of the dungeon they are suddenly attacked by a Data Bug. BlackRose realizes that without Kite's Bracelet, there's no way they can defeat it. Right when the monster charges at Elk Mia teleports across the room and kills the Data Bug with a single hit from her sword. As BlackRose watches in shock, she recites more of the Epitaph. She says that when the Cursed Wave came, Plaird was forced to abandon her human form. And it is not known if she was ever able to return. Having finished her recitation, her form begins to shimmer, and she vanishes. Still in shock, Elk and BlackRose return to Fort Ouph and log out.
In the real world, Akira looks at all of the Epitaph fragments, and Harald notes that she and Kite have gathered, having printed them out on sheets of paper. Still unable to make sense of them, she calls Asaoka and asks for help. They meet in a cafe, and Akira hands over the printouts so Asaoka can look them over later.
A few days later, BlackRose receives an e-mail from an unlikely person, Balmung! His e-mail simply asks her to meet him in Fort Ouph. Upon arriving BlackRose is surprised to see Kite waiting for her. He tells her that Balmung has switched over to their side, and that they'll be fighting together now. Balmung appears, and before BlackRose's disbelieving eyes apologizes for his past behavior. Suddenly there is a loud screech. Kite explains that he just received a signal from Aura, asking for him to travel to Λ Merciless Grieving Furnace. Kite invites both BlackRose and Balmung to his party, and together they travel to the field. At the bottom of the dungeon they have another encounter with Aura, and Kite gives up the segment he received from Fidchell. The segment seems to revitalize Aura, but before she can speak to them Cubia makes an appearance. With Cubia looming down on them, Aura disappears and Kite's party is forced to prepare for battle. Without a Wavemaster on their team, Cubia's physical tolerance soon proves to be troublesome. Luckily Balmung shows his skill as an expert player, by switching equipment midcombat so he can cast spells as well as fight. Eventually they manage to wear Cubia down, and it flees the area once again. With Aura gone, Kite and his friends return to Carmina Gadelica. BlackRose tells Kite that it seems like Cubia is intentionally trying to keep them from Aura. Kite agrees, and mentions that Cubia was a lot bigger and stronger than the last time they saw it. He tells them that they'll no longer be able to act on their own anymore. If they want to have a chance of winning, they'll have to get more allies, including Lios. BlackRose is skeptical that Lios will agree to join them, but decides to come up with a plan to bring him together with Helba.
BlackRose remembers a trick her friends has used to set her up with Hagiya. They had lied to her and told her to meet Miho up on the school roof, but when she got up there she only saw Hagiya. BlackRose decides to use a variation on this trick, and posts a message on the BBS asking Helba to meet her in Net Slum. She is sure that Lios will notice the post, and go to check things out himself. After setting her plan in motion, she meets up with Kite, and together they travel to Net Slum. Their plan works perfectly, Lios is waiting for them in Net Slum, and Helba appears shortly afterwards. With the two archrivals together, Kite uses the opportunity to ask for both of their help. Lios is initially against it, but after listening to Kite he agrees to help on one condition. Kite must defeat a Data Bug at Σ Sorrowful Sweltering Arena without using his Bracelet. BlackRose tells him that his request is impossible, but to her surprise Kite agrees with Lios' demand.
BlackRose and Kite return to Fort Ouph where they meet up with Balmung. Together they warp to the field. With Lios following them, they explore the dungeon. At the very bottom they encounter a Data Bug, Lios reminds them that they won't be able to defeat it without using Data Drain, but to BlackRose's surprise it dies just like any other monster when they battle it. Lios is surprised that they actually followed his condition, and Kite reminds him that they've fought other monsters a lot more powerful then that. Lios should know that, since he was spying on their last fight with Cubia. Lios admits that the Data Bug was nothing more than a dummy he had created to test them. Having completed his condition, he agrees to honor his promise and work with Kite and Helba. Helba appears and tells Lios that CC Corp has been working behind his back. The government has succeeded in tracing the recent problems to "The World", and CC Corp has already begun a plan to completely destroy "The World's" servers. Erasing all traces of their guilt and saving their public image. Kite tells Helba that if that happens, the coma victims will remain trapped, and the corruption of the world network will continue, but Helba says that CC Corp doesn't care. All they want to do is protect themselves.
BlackRose realizes that the true battle has just started. But with a system administrator, a powerful hacker, a legendary player, and Kite on her side she finally begins to feel confident that they can succeed.
The Outside and the Inside
Wiseman e-mails BlackRose. He mentions how ironic it is that Lios and Helba have started working together, just like their namesakes in the Epitaph of Twilight. Kite tells BlackRose about a post on the BBS mentioning a field he wants to investigate, but their plans change when Balmung remembers a field that Orca had told him about. According to Orca, the area Σ Resonating False Grasslands contained another one of the strange rooms. They investigate the area, and find the room as well as another Epitaph fragment.
The next day during tennis practice, Asaoka asks Akira to talk to her privately. She asks her if she's investigating the Epitaph of Twilight and "The World" because of the coma victims. Akira decides that she can trust her, and tells her everything, including her information about Fumikazu and her investigation inside of "The World".
Back in "The World", BlackRose attends a meeting in Net Slum involving all parties currently involved in the fight against the Cursed Wave. Wiseman says that their strategy for fighting The Wave has changed a bit. Instead of trying to block off entire fields, their strategy will involve locating, and then cornering The Wave so it can be battled. Wiseman says that as soon as they locate another part of The Wave, he will contact everybody so they can take action. Following the meeting Kite invites BlackRose to join his party, saying that he wants her to meet a friend of his. After following him to town Kite introduces her to Terajima Ryoko, the same player BlackRose had been searching for with Haru! The three travel to Σ Generous Bemused Virgin, where Kite explains that he's helping Terajima Ryoko find some rare items hidden in the dungeon. While exploring the dungeon, BlackRose is surprised to find that instead of regular monsters, almost every enemy they face is a data bug! By the time they finally reach the bottom level, both Kite and BlackRose are exhausted from constantly saving the much weaker Terajima Ryoko. Near the end of the dungeon they encounter a powerful monster, Terajima Ryoko foolishly rushes towards it, and Kite nearly kills himself saving her. After the fight, Terajima Ryoko apologizes. Kite accepts her apology, and takes her to the Gott Statue to get her items. Afterwards BlackRose argues with Kite, saying that with their current operation against the Cursed Wave, they don't have time to be escorting newbies through dungeons. Kite listens to her, and apologizes. BlackRose leaves confused, was she angry because Kite was wasting time, or was it because of the affection he showed to Terajima Ryoko?
In the real world Akira considers writing an apology to Kite. However she decides to scrap that idea when Asaoka calls her, and asks to talk about the Epitaph of Twilight. Traveling to a nearby restaurant she meets up with Asaoka. To Akira's surprise Hagiya is there as well. Asaoka tells her that he saw some of the printouts and immediately recognized them as Epitaph Fragments. Impressed with his knowledge she decided to ask for his help. Hagiya apologizes for getting involved again with Akira's problems, but promises to do what he can to help. Laying out the portions of the Epitaph, he goes on to explain the finer points of the story, as well as the life story of its author Emma Wielant and her connection to Harald Hoerwick, the creator of "The World". Supposedly Harald had fallen in love with Emma, and when she died in a tragic accident he created "The World" using her writings as a reference to create a monument to her. He speculates that he created Aura as the daughter that he and Emma could have had. To be with his daughter, he somehow came up with a way to permanently transfer himself into the game, which would explain why he mysteriously vanished in the real world. Realizing that Hagiya may be able to help, Akira tells him about Fumikazu. Asaoka wonders if Fumikazu somehow achieved the same state as Harald, and enter the world independently of his physical body. In that case, Data Drain may be the way to reach such a state. In Orca's case, he only became comatose after being Data Drained by Skeith.
Hagiya however, cannot account for why things played out the way they did. If Harald was really concerned with creating a daughter for himself and Emma, why would he be attacking players? Asaoka suggests that perhaps his plan went out of control. His second note, the one about Morganna seems to suggest that something in his plan went wrong, and he was unable to fix it. Perhaps a flaw in Aura's AI. Akira remembers Kite telling her about a so-called "Ultimate AI", and wonders if the Ultimate AI is supposed to be Aura. It also adds to her suspicions that Mia is an AI as well, perhaps a form of Macha. Asaoka tells Akira that the only person who can really explain things is probably Aura, and in order to talk to her she first has to find her final data segment.
After parting ways with Asaoka, Akira and Hagiya start walking home together. Hagiya apologizes for butting into her business again, but Akira tells him that it's alright, he turned out to be a great help. He says that he'll continue supporting her from a distance, so if she needs any help all she has to do is ask him. Akira smiles at him, and says that she's glad to have supporters both in and outside of "The World". After saying goodbye to him, she goes to log on and tell Kite about her discoveries.
BlackRose is eager to tell Kite about her discovery, but when she logs in she remembers the argument she had with him earlier. After getting so upset over Terajima, she isn't sure she'll be able to talk to him. She logs into Fort Ouph, and is discovered by Balmung. After hearing about her problem, Balmung says that he'll talk to Kite and patch things up between them. He rushes off to find Kite, leaving a bewildered BlackRose behind. After a long wait, Kite finally appears. She asks if Balmung told him to come, but he tells her that he hasn't seen Balmung in hours. Balmung arrives a few minutes later, and BlackRose realizes that he just spent the better part of half an hour looking for Kite instead of simply sending him a flash mail. Putting Balmung's odd methods aside she apologizes to Kite for getting upset over Terajima Ryoko. She decides to tell him about her findings. He too is unable to figure out why Harald's plan failed, but tells her that they've already reached the halfway point in their quest. Only four more Phases remain.
In the real world Akira visits Fumikazu at the hospital. While talking to him she notices that his eyes are moving beneath his eyelids. When she questions the nurse about this, she is told that he's probably dreaming.
Back in "The World" BlackRose is invited to join a party with Mia and Elk. They travel to Σ Scattered Her Footsteps to search for Aromatic Grass. BlackRose asks Mia about what she said earlier, but realizes that Mia seems to have no memory of their last encounter. She asks Mia why she collects aromatic grass, and to her surprise Mia tells her that it's because of a reoccurring dream she has. In this dream she's named "Macha", and is given aromatic grass by a player that looks like Elk. BlackRose recognizes the name Macha as one of the Phases of the Cursed Wave, but keeps it to herself. Elk seems depressed that Mia has been dreaming of other guys, but BlackRose cheers him up by reminding him that the guy reminds Mia of Elk, not the other way around. After exploring the field, Elk succeeds in finding some aromatic grass. BlackRose leaves the party, so Elk and Mia can be alone, but decides to e-mail Elk later.
BlackRose soon receives an e-mail from Wiseman. The e-mail contains a report from Helba mentioning a large amount of data in the field Σ Chatting Snaring Twins. He tells her to travel to Net Slum as soon as she gets the e-mail, so they can plan their next move. BlackRose travels to Net Slum, where Wiseman, Balmung, Helba, and Lios are waiting for her. After Kite arrives they plan out a method of attack known as "Operation Breakwater". Kite forms a party with BlackRose and Balmung, together they all warp to the field. At the bottom of the dungeon they find a familiar portal filled with purple haze. As they enter it, Helba uses her jammer to quarantine the area. Appearing in the floating ruins, they encounter Gorre, the Fifth Phase. Kite, BlackRose, and Balmung fight against Gorre, which is composed of two identical monsters that share a health bar. One is resistant to magic, one to physical attacks. After a grueling battle, in which BlackRose suffers yet another Data Drain they succeed in Data Draining, and defeating Gorre. Helba announces that everything appears to have gone smoothly, then notes that a large amount of data fled the field when Gorre was destroyed. Kite is struck with a sudden realization, and says that he may have just discovered the true reason why Harald's plan failed.
Meanwhile BlackRose broods. She is now certain that Mia is actually Macha, the sixth Phase. If that is the case, then they will have to fight her as their next opponent.
Thank You, Friends
BlackRose travels to Dun Loireag, and sits in the place where she and Mistral used to talk. Ever since Mistral left, it's become her favorite place to sit and think. While she daydreams NOVA suddenly comes up and begins to talk to her. BlackRose is surprised to see that Chimney is nowhere to be found, and suspects that him and NOVA must have had a fight. While they talk, BlackRose suddenly receives a flash mail from Chimney, asking for her help, and if she can come alone to the Mac Anu bridge. BlackRose decides to check things out, and goes to meet Chimney.
In Mac Anu Chimney introduces her to his friend Tarou, an American who recently arrived in the JP servers. Chimney has been trying to teach him the basics of the game, but so far has had little luck. He hopes that BlackRose, who is now a much more powerful player than him will be able to help Tarou out. BlackRose joins their party, and together they travel to Δ Bursting Passed Over Aqua Field. Chimney and BlackRose show Tarou how to fight, and teach him the intricacies of exploring a dungeon. When they eventually return to Mac Anu Chimney tells Tarou that he can pick the next area they visit tomorrow. The three part ways, and BlackRose uses the opportunity to meet with NOVA again. However he refuses to talk to her about Chimney, and merely tells her that he'll forgive him "when he finally learns".
The next day BlackRose continues adventuring with Chimney and Tarou. After finishing she tries talking to NOVA again. This time he opens up and explains why he's angry with Chimney. According to him, Chimney has been intentionally seeking out Data Bugs and NOVA knows its only a matter of time before he finds one. Though Chimney refuses to believe the BBS rumors, NOVA does and is afraid Chimney will fall into a coma. When he tried confronting him about it, the two had a fight and haven't spoken since.
On their next adventure BlackRose, Tarou, and Chimney travel to Δ Bottomless Fated Judgment. While exploring the field they encounter a Data Bug. Chimney rushes into combat, eager to fight against an "invincible monster". BlackRose realizes that it's up to her to save him. She orders Tarou to return to town and begins to help Chimney fight the Data Bug. She tries to convince him to flee as well, but Chimney doggedly continues fighting, even as they get dangerously close to dying. Suddenly NOVA appears, and begins to help them fight as well. He tells Chimney and BlackRose to flee, but even with Nova and BlackRose yelling at him, Chimney still refuses to run. He tells them that the whole coma thing is just a myth, which causes BlackRose to suddenly scream at him. Her sudden anger shocks Chimney, who finally agrees to run from the Data Bug. The three manage to successfully escape and return to Mac Anu.
Chimney apologizes to NOVA, BlackRose, and Tarou for getting them into danger. NOVA begins to talk privately with BlackRose. He tells her that she seems to have different goals then he does, and that it probably involves the strange rumors that have been floating around the BBS. He tells her that he really can't help with anything like that, but he'll always be around whenever she needs to play the game normally. BlackRose wonders just how much NOVA's figured out, but is glad that when "The World" is finally restored, she'll still have friends to play with.
- See the Characters page.