❯ .hack//SIGN – A Single Step ( Prologue )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: .hack//SIGN and its characters were created by project .hack. They belong to Bandai and CyberConnect 2, and are used here without permission.

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Lost Ground

Zero: A Single Step

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Three years ago

It was raining the day Mimiru arrived in Mac Anu for the first time, and the weather did nothing to brighten the young girl’s spirits. Her family had sent her to attend one of the city’s many boarding schools; she was not at all happy about this, but arguing had gotten her nowhere.

Now, Mimiru, don’t be childish.

Childish! Her chin jutted out indignantly at the memory. She wasn’t being childish, that was just the point; she wanted to travel on the trading routes with her father and her brother, and be just as grown-up as they were, and what was so childish about that? She could be every bit as much help as her older brother could, of that much she was sure, but just because he was a few years her senior he was allowed to travel, and she was going to be stuck in some stupid classroom for years and years. It wasn’t fair.

And so she was in no mood to appreciate that she was, at least, visiting a city she had never seen before, and a beautiful one at that, if currently somewhat damp. Even in the chill grey weather, there was an austere elegance to the stone buildings, worlds apart from the huts and tents which sprawled over Dun Loireag’s hills and islands. But the walls surrounding the school grounds were a far cry from Gate travel and open roads, and as far as she was concerned, that was all that mattered at present.

Wandering towards the dormitory halls, she stared moodily up at the cloudy sky, and as a result nearly collided with another student walking in the opposite direction. Only at the last minute did she happen to glance down; letting out a startled yelp, she screeched to a halt just in time, took an involuntary step backwards, promptly stumbled on a loose rock, and fell over.

This display of astounding grace was met with a short, scornful laugh. « Oi. Watch where you’re going, next time. »

Mimiru scrambled to her feet, her face bright red. « Jeez. It was an accident — not like you were paying any attention either. You practically ran into me, too. »

To this the other girl said nothing, but merely shrugged, rolled her eyes and continued on her way.

« Hey! » Mimiru started after her, her voice rising. « That’s not very polite, you know. Least you could do is say sorry. » But the other girl did not even look back, and Mimiru trailed to a halt after a few steps. It wasn’t that important, after all, even if it hadn’t helped her mood much. Some people were rude. Such was life.

Still, she thought she would try to avoid the girl in the future. At least she would be easy to remember; despite the fact that she could not have been much older than Mimiru — maybe thirteen at most — her short-cropped hair had been a uniform shade of silver-grey.

Shaking her head, Mimiru continued on to her dormitory.

* * * * *

Across the city, a young woman with blue-green hair stood in the arched entryway to the keep of the Crimson Knights of Mac Anu, taking shelter from the rain.

« You’re really leaving, then, » she said quietly.

The words were addressed to a tall, athletic-looking man, still youthful but several years her elder — perhaps in his mid twenties, to her mid-to-late teens. He smiled ruefully and inclined his head. « Should’ve known I couldn’t slip past you, Lady. »

« You would have left without saying goodbye? »

He grimaced guiltily. « Now, it’s not really goodbye, is it? » he asked. « It’s not like I won’t be passing through town now and again, you know. I’ll stop in and say hello, we’ll pack food and take a day or two to go wandering outside the city, just the two of us, just like old times. And if you ever need me– »

Anyone who did not know the girl well might have completely missed the hurt, angry edge that underscored her soft tone. « I do need you. I can’t keep all this up by myself. »

He shook his head. « You’re stronger than you know, Lady, » he told her firmly. « You’ll be fine. And you won’t be alone, you’ve got a lot of good people in the Knights. »

What he did not add was: And I don’t agree with any of them. But you’re the ruler of this city, not I — as you yourself have gotten very quick to point out, recently. It’s time you started sorting things out for yourself. You’ve had me staring over your shoulder for long enough.

She was silent for a moment, and then said, with what was for her unusual force, « But I don’t want you to leave. »

His smile grew sorrowful, and he said gently, « The World won’t halt in its tracks because you will it, milady. »

Her breath caught in her throat, and she stiffened as if struck. « I– »

« Lady, » he cut her off, gently chiding, « I told you a long time ago that I wouldn’t stay forever. I’m a wanderer. I never even meant to stay this long. But my leaving, » he reached out, tilted her chin up so that she looked into his face, « is no reflection on you. » He paused, and added, « Actually, that’s not exactly true. I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t know you could survive without me. You’ll be all right, milady. You don’t need my help anymore. » I hope.

She stepped back, shaking his hand off. « Was that the only reason you ever stayed? Because I needed help? »

The man opened his mouth, shut it again, hesitated as his thoughts ran down several different paths which that conversation could take, and then said only, « That wasn’t what I meant at all. »

« No? » She shook her head. There was a long pause, in which the only sound was that of falling rain, and then she said, coldly, « Goodbye, Crim. »

He watched her walk through the rainy courtyard, back to the keep, and it was not until she was out of sight that he murmured under his breath, « Goodbye, Subaru. Be well. »

And then he turned and walked away.

* * * * *

Tsukasa felt nearly invisible as she wandered down the busy central street of Mac Anu, towards the Gate. Earlier in the day she would probably have been stopped by half a dozen city guards by now, all of them wanting to know if she had permission to be out of school — the Crimson Knights saw it as one of their sworn duties to keep the streets clear of inconvenient young people, young people being notorious troublemakers, every one, in the Knights’ minds. But even they stopped short of locking all persons sixteen and under in their classrooms or homes twenty-four hours a day (possibly the young Lady Subaru, barely seventeen years old now, and technically the ruler of the city, had put her foot down about this), and so there were about six hours, from the end of the school day to the evening curfew, when one could walk the streets without being stopped On Suspicion of Being Thirteen Years Old.

Tsukasa rarely bothered with it, in any case. She boarded at her school, and upon becoming a mage-apprentice had been given her own room. It was a very small room, granted, but it was hers, which meant that she could bolt the door and shut out the entire world if she liked. Which she did.

Or which she had done, at least. Not today. Not ever again.

She was tired of it. Tired of unfriendly looks and whispers behind her back. Tired of too many teachers who didn’t bother to hide their satisfaction when their asocial, unlikable, too-intelligent student made mistakes. Tired of never knowing quite what she ought to say or do, to manage this strange and miraculous fitting in which seemed to come naturally to everybody else.

So tired. Of just about everything, really. And tired of hiding from it all. And tired, above all, of being tired.

She was drawing near the Chaos Gate, now. There was a crowd around it, even in today’s cold, grey rain. People going, people coming, people waiting eagerly to greet old friends or returning family, people trying to sell things to them all. A few guards were given the thankless task of trying to keep the crowd in some semblance of order, check that those coming and going had the proper paperwork (the Crimson Knights were very keen on paperwork), and generally keep an eye out for anyone or anything suspicious, such as hordes of marauding goblins, popping out of the Gate. Marauding goblins were unlikely, granted, but you never knew.

It was strange, surreal, almost dreamlike. So easy to blend in with the crowd. So easy to watch and wait until some momentary confusion distracted the guards on duty. So easy, to slip straight past them, on the heels of a legitimate party of travelers.

Gate travel was a tricky and potentially dangerous business. The indescribable ‘pathways’ connecting the various pockets of stability which were scattered through the eternal Chaos were not actually difficult to follow, once you knew how. All it took, though, was one step wrong to be lost forever. And so, there were the Navigators: those who had studied the pathways, and practiced traveling them for years, and made their living guiding others. In Mac Anu, and indeed in most places, it was illegal to travel without one.

Tsukasa’s mother had been a Navigator, quite a good one. And still — all it had taken was one step.

So easy, to walk up to the Gate unnoticed….

Tsukasa herself had learned something of the craft when she was younger. Her mother had taught her, in the hopes her daughter might follow in her footsteps. After losing her, Tsukasa had given up those studies, but now, it seemed, she was going to follow after all. If not quite in the manner that had been intended.

So easy, to step through and vanish. Forever.

* * * * *

In another place, in another city, it was also raining, though here the downpour threatened to turn to sleet and hail long before its end. This was not uncommon, here, but today the weather was even worse than usual. Everyone was staying safely indoors until the storm’s end, who had the good sense and means to do so.

Of course, there were those who had neither.

A young boy, who looked little more than six years of age, had taken refuge in a reasonably well sheltered shop doorway, and was cursing under his breath, shivering as he tried to wring the water from his cloak. It was not going well. At the best of times the worn, shabby cloth provided merely a modicum of warmth, and in its present state it only served to make its wearer even colder than he already was.

Eventually the boy reached this conclusion for himself; with a wary glance over his shoulder at the door, he unwrapped the cloak from his shoulders and spread it on the step to dry. After a moment’s consideration, he shrugged and sat down next to it, cupping his hands over his mouth to warm them.

Watching the rain fall, he pondered his present circumstances. He generally prided himself on his knowledge of his city’s labyrinthine streets, and so it was with great reluctance that he was forced to admit, if only to himself, that he was not entirely sure where he was at present. At another time this would not have bothered him; in and of itself, the discovery of new territory to explore was always cause for celebration. Just now, though, he would have preferred to be tucked cosily away in his latest den — an abandoned shed which was, thanks to the city’s centuries of carelessly haphazard growth, completely inaccessible except by rooftop, and even then was extremely difficult to find if you didn’t already know where it was. The boy would have been the first to admit that as homes went, it wasn’t much to look at, but it suited his needs.

From his present location, however, it was at least an hour’s walk — he peered dubiously at the buildings lining the horizon — an hour’s walk Gateward. Ish. Probably. Less, of course, if he ran the entire way, assuming he didn’t run into trouble or get lost any further… but still long enough for him to drown while on solid ground, and this prospect did not appeal. If he was going to drown, he felt that at least it ought to be somewhere suitably dramatic, like out in the middle of an ocean somewhere. He had never seen an ocean, and while drowning seemed rather a high price to pay for the privilege, he supposed it would still be better than drowning for nothing at all.

So he stayed where he was, but that didn’t mean that he liked it much. After a quarter-hour or so of restless fidgeting, he finally hopped to his feet once more, deciding that he’d had quite enough of sitting still. Venturing into the downpour looked no better an idea than it had ten minutes earlier, but he was sitting in front of a door, and more often than not, doors led to places.

He picked up his cloak and went inside.

A few minutes later, as he was busy wiping the blood of a very recently deceased shopkeeper off of a pair of sharp blades that had been concealed in his sleeves, he reflected that it was funny how often doors led to places in which he wasn’t welcome. Granted, he had caught a glimpse of himself in a shop window and had to admit that ‘drowned rat’ was probably the most favorable description that could currently be applied, but still, was that any excuse to try and throw him out? It wasn’t as if there were any customers he might scare off, not in this weather.

Well, it hardly mattered. He had been lucky; the man hadn’t expected something like him. Very few people ever did, but those few usually proved problematic, and the boy didn’t feel particularly up to dealing with problems just now, on an empty stomach and chilled to the bone.

On which subject…

Ignoring the still-warm body lying on the floor, the boy snapped his knives back into their sheathes and wandered off into the further recesses of the store, peering curiously at the items lining the shelves as he went. Somewhere in this place, with any luck, there would be something to eat.

* * * * *

An hour later, it was still raining. The woman standing outside the shop seemed hardly to notice, however, and when at last she went inside, no water dripped from her dark hair or long cloak.

Her gaze drifted across the room before finally coming to rest on the carnage still strewn on the floor. Her lips thinned, though whether in distaste or mere annoyance was hard to tell; otherwise, she appeared unmoved by the sight. For a moment, she stood very still, head tilted to one side, as though she were listening for something. Then she raised her hand, and a strange creature (if indeed it was a living thing) shimmered into existence at the centre of the room.

It looked a bit like a very large barbell with spherical ends, and had a metallic gold sheen to it. The thing seemed almost to be more liquid than solid, however; its surface rippled and shifted constantly, seemingly stirred by the slightest current of air. It hovered motionless for a moment, and then, without warning, a thin golden tendril shot from its surface and lashed out at something in the shadows behind a row of shelves.

This barely missed a small, scruffy figure, who gave an indignant yelp and shot out from his hiding place, a pair of knives appearing in his hands as he moved.

The woman frowned, as much in startlement as anything. Her Guardian did not, as a general rule, miss.

At a slight wave of her hand it sent a flurry of further shots in the boy’s direction; he dodged each, though by a narrower margin each time. A few times he tried to strike back, but his knives had no effect except to deflect the tendrils momentarily, and his face began to grow tense. Eventually, not taking his eyes off the thing, he managed a slightly out of breath, « Oi, call this stupid thing off, will you? We’ll be here all day, at this rate. »

This was a sufficiently unusual comment, coming from someone in his situation, that the woman actually did send the creature a silent command to desist, if only temporarily.

« Thank you, » the boy muttered once the attacks had ceased. « Sheesh. What’d I ever do to you? » Eyeing the Guardian warily, he started to edge almost imperceptibly towards the door as he went on, in a more conciliatory tone, « ‘S not a bad… pet, though. As, er, as overgrown attack doorknobs go. Probably… probably one of the best of those I’ve ever seen, actually, » he added generously, in a tone which contrived to suggest that he had seen hundreds of overgrown attack doorknobs in his short lifetime and thus knew what he was talking about. « What’s its name? »

The woman’s lips thinned. « It is the Guardian. »

« Ah. That’s not very imaginative, » he told her reprovingly, « but I guess it’s appropriate. » He held out a cautious hand towards the creature as he sidled a few inches closer to the door. « Nice Guardian — who’s a good… doorknob, then? Can I pet it? » he added to the woman, as an aside.

As icily as she could manage in the face of this, she told him, « It has killed thousands. »

« Oh. ‘S that a no, then? »

« That is a no. »

The boy hesitated suddenly, tilting his head to one side. « Thousands of what? »

« I beg your pardon? »

« It’s killed thousands of what? Thousands of ants? Thousands of dragons? Ants wouldn’t be as impressive as dragons, really, no offense. I mean, the biting ones are kind of nasty, but– »

« People, » she snapped, a trifle more testily than she had intended. « Thousands of people. »

« Ah. Well, more impressive than ants, at least. » The boy gave the creature a dubious look. « Uh, just out of curiosity… had these thousands of people ever heard of dodging? »

An instant later he sprang backwards, one hand clutching at the left side of his face, where one of the Guardian’s tendrils had opened a shallow gash across his cheekbone. « Ow. What was that for? »

« Making a point, » the woman told him calmly. « You may be a tad quicker than most, child, but that does not make you invincible. » In fact she had to admit, if only to herself, that the boy was amazingly fast. His apparent disregard for her servant’s abilities had annoyed her, and frankly she had intended the shot to put out his eye, not give him a mere scrape which would heal in a few days and probably not even leave a scar. But his reflexes had saved him — and the Guardian had been moving very nearly at the limit of its speed, that time.

« ‘Kay, okay, » the boy mumbled sullenly, glaring at her. « Sorry. Sheesh. »

The woman eyed him with the beginnings of curiosity. The shopkeeper had been a servant of hers, one of many sets of eyes and ears which she had in this city; even she could not be everywhere at once, at least not without a good deal of effort. He had not, she had to admit, been one of her more useful people, but he had been better than most in a fight — she would not have bothered with him at all, otherwise. And now he was dead.

And she could not help but notice that the little boy standing before her had not yet gotten around to cleaning the blood off his hands, though his knives gleamed as if they had been polished very recently.

No normal child, this. Perhaps her visit to this accursed city would not prove the total loss she had first expected. « Tell me. Why is there a dead body on the floor? »

« Dead body? What dead bod… » He followed her gaze, and enlightenment dawned. « Oh. That dead body. Um. » He shrugged. « I’m just here to get in out of the rain, Auntie. Would you believe me if I said he was like that when I got here? »

« No. » Belatedly, her eyebrows shot up. « What did you just call me? »

« Well, you haven’t said your name, » the boy shrugged. « And girls get so touchy about age, I thought it’d be more polite than old lady. » His voice took on a faint edge. « More polite than child, too. I haven’t been a child since I was born, Auntie-Whatsit. What is your name, anyway? »

Someone with such natural talent, she counseled herself, might prove useful. And if he did not, there would be time to kill him later. For now, patience. « Answer my question — child. Why is the shopkeeper dead? »

« I said he was dead when I got here. » The boy shifted uncomfortably under her level gaze, and added, « But if I had to guess, I’d say that prob’ly somebody came along and wanted to get in out’f the rain for a minute or two, and he didn’t like the look of ’em and tried to throw them out, and they killed him. That’s what I’d guess. Was he, uh, somebody you knew? »

« He was a servant of mine, in fact. »

The boy hesitated for just a moment. « …Oh. This is… just another guess, you understand, but you prob’ly ought to hire some cleverer people, Auntie. »

One corner of her mouth twitched upward at this. « Fools have their uses, child. »

« Pssh. » The boy waved a disparaging hand. « Nothing wrong with fools. But there’s interesting and foolish, and then there’s just stupid and foolish. The first one’s okay… second one’s not so good, Auntie. » He had resumed his barely visible sidle towards the door. « What is your name, anyway? »

Little harm in telling him. He could hardly be expected to recognise the name, in any case. « I am called Morganna. »

The boy’s eyebrows rose. « Hah. Like the old lady who stole the Key? »

« I beg your pardon? »

He grinned, shaking his head. « Ah… nothing. ‘S just something from an old story — you haven’t heard it, prob’ly. It’s about– »

« Oh, I’m quite familiar with it, » she interrupted, quietly. « But I must admit, boy… you surprise me. Not many remember my name, now. »

The boy eyed her skeptically. « Ri-ight. Sure. May I say, then, Auntie Morrigan — you’re looking very good for, what — three, four thousand years old? » He snorted. « Exactly how gullible do you think I am? »

She stared at him, faintly incredulous. This… foolish child had guessed who she was — and thought it was some sort of, of joke?

Well. Fools had their uses, indeed.

With some effort she suppressed her temper, and said only, mildly, « It does not much matter to me, child, what you choose to believe. As you have killed my servant– » he opened his mouth to protest, but at a sharp look from her he closed it again and only shrugged, a little sheepishly– « There is little reason for me to remain here. » She paused, and then added, « Stupid he may have been, boy, but he claimed to have information for which I had been searching, for a very long time. Valuable information — and nothing of which he would have left a record. » He would have been careful of that, she knew.

She gave the boy a level stare, and waited.

Curiosity warred with caution in his eyes. « What… what kind of information? »

« The kind of information which is none of your business. »

He made a face at her, but after a moment persisted, « It’s just that I’m good at information, Auntie M. I could, maybe, work f– » He paused for barely a fraction of a second before amending smoothly, « Work with you. Reas’nable rates, » he added hopefully.

For a moment, she considered it — but — no, she decided. He would be far too much a nuisance to take in at present. Anyone whose first questions, when confronted with a monster which had wiped out armies in its day, were What’s its name? and Can I pet it? would never survive — it was a wonder he had lived this long, in this city.

Then again, she thought to herself, you haven’t killed him yet, have you?

Well… she could keep an eye on him, if nothing else. At some point down the road, he might prove useful.

She chuckled, quietly. « I think not, boy. » His face fell, and she went on, « At least, not today. I think, in fact, that I may be… quite close to finding what I was seeking, after all. But another time, perhaps. What is your name? »

He hesitated — understandably. Telling one’s name to an unknown mage was not, generally speaking, a good idea. After a moment’s thought, though, he grinned cheerfully and said, « Skeith. »

He sprang sideways as one of the Guardian’s tendrils shot past at head height, approximately an inch away from his ear, and buried itself in the wall.

« I did tell you, child, » Morganna said levelly. « I do know the old stories. A fine killer you may be, for your age; the Terror of Death, you are not. Your real name, please. »

« Just seeing if you were paying attention, » the boy muttered, but after a long, considering look at the Guardian, he said, grudgingly, « …Sora. »

* * * * *

Gate travel, as has already been indicated, can be a precarious business. The pathways connecting the World’s various planes may not be difficult to follow, if you know how, but one step wrong is all it takes to be lost in Chaos forever.

Unless you’re very, very lucky (or unlucky, if being lost in eternal Chaos sounds like a good time to you) and you fall onto a new path by chance. The odds against this are astronomical, but it has been known to happen.

Or unless — perhaps — there happens to be Someone or Something watching, some unknown Power… and He, She or It pulls you to a new path.

This has never been known to happen, ever, but you do hear stories.

Either way, it’s more likely than not that this new path will be one previously untraveled. There are a lot of unknown pathways out there, threading their way through the Chaos. Far many more than there are known ones. Most of these, unless you already know the way, can only be found by such chance, or such twist of fate.

They lead to places long ago forgotten, or — sometimes — purposely hidden away, forbidden to all, for reasons no longer remembered.

They lead to Lost Ground.

* * * * *

One step, and she was–

Falling.

And then, after a length of time which might have been a few seconds or might have been a year, she wasn’t.

Tsukasa blinked, and felt solid ground under her feet.

Before anything else, she noticed the silence. Few places in Mac Anu were ever quiet, the city being as busy as it was. The dormitories at her school were certainly never quiet; it was one item on a long list of things she hated about them.

Its outlying fields and forests were a different matter, but even there, there was sound. Birds chirping, small animals chattering, insects buzzing, wind rustling the leaves or the grass.

Here there was nothing. Nothing. Even the cool air was perfectly still.

She stared around herself uncomprehending, faint resentment twingeing in her mind. This hadn’t been supposed to happen — she was supposed to be gone now, swallowed up by the Gate forever. It hadn’t been supposed to spit her back out. Tsukasa was used to feeling unwelcome practically everywhere, but this — this seemed a bit much.

Figures, she thought bitterly. Out of the thousands of people who’ve fallen into Chaos and gotten lost forever, I have to be the one who survives. Hah. Can’t even get that right.

Gradually, however, it began to dawn, through the haze of self-pity, that she was standing somewhere where probably nobody in the known World had ever set foot, at least not in her lifetime. This was Lost Ground.

A moment earlier she had been ready to turn and step straight back into the Gate — surely such an unlikely thing would not happen twice in a row. But… it… wouldn’t hurt to have a look around, first, would it? She wouldn’t get another chance.

Before her stood a tall stone building which looked a little bit like a picture that she had seen, of a cathedral which had supposedly once stood in Mac Anu, honouring some deity or other who had long since fallen out of fashion. Actually, when she stared at it for a few minutes — it looked a lot like that picture. Huge, ornate double doors barred the entrance, and she wondered, in a half-daze, if they were locked.

She walked forward, and gave one of the doors a tentative push.

It swung open, soundlessly.

She went inside.

* * * * *

Every journey, it is sometimes said, begins with a single step. After a fashion this is true, of course… and then again, after a fashion it isn’t. Something causes the first step, even if it’s nothing more tangible than a driving curiosity to see what’s around the next corner. And that itself must have had some cause….

And so on, and so forth — probably back to the beginning of time, if one is determined enough. Likewise, this day was not the true beginning of this story. The trouble, the heart of the trouble, began much, much earlier, at the beginning of the World itself — and perhaps even before that. But it had been long forgotten by mortals, its consequences hidden for many ages; this day was the first time in three millennia that it had left any lasting and visible mark anywhere on the planes of the World, and, as such, it makes as good a place as any to start the story.

That the effect was visible, of course, does not mean that it was widely noticed, or that those few who did notice recognised it for what it was. For the next three years or so, life went on more or less as usual for all concerned.

In Mac Anu, the Crimson Knights, led by Lady Subaru and her new second-in-command — a man called Ginkan, the Silver Knight — continued to rise in power, though it was rumoured that the young Lady had very little idea of what went on behind her back. Crim returned to the city on a number of occasions, but Subaru politely rebuffed his best attempts to speak to her.

A few months after the events described here, the little boy called Sora left his home city in a bit of a hurry, after a rather complicated incident involving an ancient magic ring, some extremely rare poisons, an ill-tempered mage known only as BT, and quite a lot of blackmail. The details are irrelevant at present and it will probably be for the best if they are not recorded here.

By this time he had completely forgotten about his encounter with the strange woman who called herself Morganna — which was a shame, as he might have avoided a good deal of trouble later on had he only taken the matter a little more seriously from the start. Then again, he might not have done; trouble, whatever else one might say about it, was usually interesting, and as far as he was concerned, that was the important thing.

Morganna, however, did not forget about him.

As for Tsukasa…

A few hours after stepping through the Gate with the intention of never seeing daylight again, she returned to Mac Anu, in an even quieter than usual frame of mind, and to all outward appearances, went on with life pretty much as always. Nobody had actually noticed her brief disappearance, and she told no one what she had found.

But once one has been somewhere, through the Gate, it is generally possible to return. More and more often, Tsukasa spent her snatches of free time at the little patch of hidden ground upon which she had stumbled. It was easy to slip away; nobody ever paid her much attention.

Almost nobody. The girl called Mimiru, despite her initial dislike for the young mage, eventually came to suspect that the other girl was a very lonely and unhappy person, and made valiant attempts, on more than one occasion, to strike up a friendship. These were less than successful, but as the only person who even tried, she at least deserves some mention.

And that was that. Life went on. For the time, the World waited.

—————————————————————– ————

A/N: The first few chapters of this have been posted on fanfiction.net, but I thought I’d start putting them up here as well. Hope you enjoy.

.hack//SIGN – Walk By My Side