❯ .hack//SIGN – Waking, Dreaming ( Chapter 2 )

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

Images, half memory, half bad dream, floated in the darkness.
People, everywhere, the crowds so thick and claustrophobic that a person could barely breathe. And everyone too caught up in their own affairs to notice a frightened child who’d wandered down the wrong street and gotten lost. Or if they noticed, they were far too preoccupied to care.
She’d learned that a long time ago — never, ever to expect anyone to care. Even her father, wrapped up in his own troubles after her mother’s death, had only shouted at her when she’d finally made her way home, until she had found herself wondering what the point had been in coming back at all.
* * * * *
Three days, it had been now.
Mimiru stared blankly down at the book she was supposed to be reading, currently opened to a random page about halfway through. She could not, at present, quite recall what it was about, nor what the title was; something to do with the history of someplace or other, or… something. Wasn’t it? In theory, she had been reading for the last hour, now, but she couldn’t really say she had been paying attention.
Three days.
She wasn’t worried, of course. It wasn’t as if she was friends with Tsukasa — it wasn’t as if they had ever been friends, not really. The young mage had made it clear, plenty of times, that friendship was a concept in which she had no interest. The girl had always seemed a terribly unhappy person, and Mimiru had tried, for a long time, to get through to her… but it had never worked; one way or another, every conversation had ended in shouting. On Mimiru’s part, at least. Tsukasa, for her part, had never bothered much with shouting; she’d just withdrawn into her shell, and gotten more and more sullen and unfriendly with every passing day. Mimiru, in the end, simply hadn’t had the patience to deal with her; it was hard to feel much sympathy for the girl for very long, when she seemed to put so much effort into being unlikable.
So. Of course she wasn’t worried. Concerned for the welfare of a fellow student who had gone missing, yes, even a fellow student she didn’t like very well. Worried to the point of being unable to think about anything else, no. Difficulty focusing on schoolwork, she assured herself firmly, did not count. When it came to books, her attention span was little more than ten minutes long even on the best of days.
Tsukasa had probably just run off to hide somewhere, anyway. About a month ago she had gotten a limited-travel license, allowing her to go through the Gate alone as long as she stayed in Mac Anu’s vicinity, and it was no secret she didn’t like the city. She was nearly sixteen years old now, and she wasn’t stupid (except, Mimiru had to add to herself, when it came to dealing with other people). She had been getting very good with spells, lately; her teachers might not like her any more than anyone else did, but most of them had to concede she was one of the brighter students they’d had in recent years. Surely she could take care of herself.
Mimiru wasn’t worried about her. Not in the least.
It was with great relief that the girl heard the bells in the school’s clock tower strike five. Time for an hour of weapons practice before dinner, for all the school’s young would-be warriors and defenders of the city. She could do with some activity — a person could only take just so much reading in one afternoon.
Wait a minute. Practice started at five o’clock. Which — oh, hell — meant she was late. That was what too much studying did for you.
Dropping the history book (or whatever it was) on her bedroom floor, Mimiru went out the door at a run, and set off for the practice yard.
* * * * *
Everyone was wrapped up in their own troubles, most of the time. So many people, she could remember, all thinking that they were the centre of the World itself.
Thoughtless classmates, who worried over silly things like looks, or petty quarrels with friends, or restrictive rules at school; what did those matter, when they at least had parents who didn’t hate the sight of them? Stupid teachers, who thought that age was the sole measure of intelligence and that intelligence was the sole measure of worth. A multitude of adults who always knew what was best for you, and by ‘best for you’ meant ‘most convenient for them’.
Hardly anyone ever bothered to look past their own self-centred worlds — ever bothered to think that perhaps, somewhere, there might just be somebody with more problems than they themselves had…
* * * * *
Ow. Ow, ow, OW. Jeez. Wha’ happ…
…Oh.
Right.
Crud.
I’m in trouble, aren’t I?
Upon consideration, Sora thought that perhaps he would keep his eyes closed for now. From the feel of it, his hands and feet were chained to a wall, and he had a sneaking suspicion that should anyone notice he’d woken up, it would not bode well for the immediate future. Besides, his head ached like crazy — his whole body ached, from head to toe. What had hit him, anyway? He remembered–
Light.
Ah. Well, yeah, that would probably explain it. Back home, there hadn’t been a lot of actual laws, as such, but there had been a few, and one of them was that everyone left light-magic well alone. Sora remembered someone breaking that rule, once, about four years back — actually, now he thought of it, he seemed to recall hearing it had been one of the Cobalts. The mage had stumbled into the city somehow, and had taken it upon himself to cleanse the place of its Evil Influences…
Sora would have snorted at the memory, if he hadn’t been pretending to be unconscious. You’d’ve had to wipe the entire city out, mister. And then burn the place to the ground. And even then, be real careful about the ashes. The man had been dealt with quickly, but not before he’d managed to do some real damage. Too many of the place’s inhabitants had a… susceptibility to light-magic, for one reason or another. Many of them didn’t like to be within a mile of the stuff, even if it wasn’t aimed at them.
Sora was one of the latter.(1) He had been up on the city rooftops, watching the goings-on with great interest, in the cheerful expectation of seeing the idiot die a slow and painful death. And then the spellcasting had started… and he’d just had the time and presence of mind to get away from the roof’s edge before he had completely collapsed. He had been lucky; quite a lot of people had been killed.
He had been careful to stay well away from the stuff, after that; fortunately, there weren’t all that many people in the World who knew how to cast it. He’d never actually gotten hit by it before. Why was he still alive? It must not have been a very strong spell, he supposed.
Well, about that, he wasn’t going to complain.
Probably not a good idea to stick around here for long, though. He tugged surreptitiously at one hand, intending to test the strength of his bindings…
Something exploded in his wrist. That was what it felt like, at least. His eyes snapped open out of sheer startlement, and he barely bit back a cry.
« Ah, » said an indifferent voice; the speaker was a dark-haired woman, leaning against the room’s far wall. Sora, trying to blink bright spots from his vision, couldn’t see her too well, but he thought perhaps she had been one of the Knights he’d fought. « Well, if you weren’t awake before, you are now. Magi did warn us you wouldn’t be out for long. »
« ‘Ello to you, too, » Sora muttered dizzily. « What just happened, there? »
She ignored him. As she continued to speak, her voice lost its indifference, taking on a note of anger. And hatred. « On which note, I would like to say — the healers say she’ll recover from her wounds, demon, and if any god’ll listen to you, you’d better pray they’re right. You’ve already killed one good friend of mine today, and if you’ve killed another… » Words seemed to fail her; she paused for a moment, shaking her head, and then said only, tightly, « You understand me? »
Sora hesitated; this was a bit much to take in when he’d only been conscious for two minutes, and had a pounding headache besides, but he hazarded a guess. « Um. Magi. Was she the mage with you guys? Glasses, long hair–? »
« I said, » the woman bit out, « do you understand me? »
He hesitated another moment, and then decided not to push his luck. « Uh… yeah. Except who Magi is, but I think I’ve got the general idea, y…es. »
« Good. »
« But, look, what– »
But the woman had already spun on her heel and strode out; a heavy door slammed shut after her, and a moment later came the sound of bars being slid into place. Sora grimaced; somebody really didn’t want him going anywhere, by the sounds. He’d have been flattered by the attention, had he been a little less worried.
Not scared, of course. Just… a little worried.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to try moving again, just now, but he risked turning his head far enough to see his arm. As his vision began to clear, he saw that there were symbols etched into the metal band around his wrist… symbols which looked quite a lot like the funny, old-fashioned characters which mages used when they wrote spell scrolls. He’d never learned to read it, much — he had pestered (well, and threatened) BT into teaching him a little bit, once, and had picked up a little bit out of books, but had quickly decided that it wasn’t worth the time and trouble. Even the best of mages couldn’t cast spells with a slit throat, and as far as Sora was concerned, that was the important thing.
Was there some kind of spell on the chains? He hadn’t thought that sort of thing was possible. Magic could be written down, as in the aforementioned scrolls, but it had to be read aloud in order to work — and even then, it would only work once before the scroll crumbled to dust. And the effects were always fleeting. BT had gone on at great length about ‘the World keeping the Wave in balance’, or something like that. Sora had listened just long enough to get the basic gist, which had been: Try to make magic last for too long, and it will probably kill you.
But — his arm didn’t actually seem to be injured, and yet something had hurt like hell when he’d tried to move. Maybe… maybe the Cobalt Knights knew some tricks that the rest of the World didn’t.
Puzzling over this, he examined the writing for a moment longer. Then his eyes widened. Oh… oh. I don’t think that’s good.
Among the etched symbols was one he recognised — and it was that for the element of light.
* * * * *
« Why do you keep following me around? »
« Me? I am not following you. »
« You sat next to me in class. And across from me at breakfast. And lunch. And now you’re here. I thought I told you to go away. »
« I–uh– » The girl stammered in embarrassment for a few seconds before her shoulders slumped. « All right. I’m kind of following you. »
« I know that. I just said that, only without the ‘kind of’. Why? »
« I — look, I just — I don’t know. It just seems like we kind of… got off on the wrong foot, and I just thought… well… you don’t really seem to have a lot of friends, and… »
She stiffened. « What, you’re feeling sorry for me now? »
« N-no, I didn’t mean it like that, I just– »
« Well, however you meant it, it doesn’t matter. People are stupid. I don’t want friends. And if you’re so set on being my friend, shouldn’t you be stopping to think about what Iwant? » Her lips twisted into a faint, mocking smile. « Bit of a puzzle, that. »
* * * * *
« So, Mimiru. Dare I ask why my best student was late for practice? »
The girl’s face turned slightly red, both at the compliment and the rebuke. « Sorry sir. I… had some studying to do. Er — I got kind of caught up in it, lost track of the time. »
« Really? » The swordmaster’s voice was amiable. « Well, that’s rather good to hear, I suppose, coming from you. What’ve you been studying? »
« Uh… » Mimiru hesitated. For the life of her, she couldn’t recall what that blasted book had been about. « History, » she hazarded, trying not to sound uncertain. « Just doing some reading. »
« Ah. » The man nodded sagely. « What book? »
« I– » She floundered for a moment. « It’s, uh. It’s, um… oh, what’s it called? Can’t think of the title. History of the… um… Founding of, er, the Council of… »
He chuckled, not unkindly. « I hate to tell you, Mimiru, but lying is not your strong suit. Any more than history is. »
She gave up, shoulders slumping, but grinned sheepishly. « Sorry, Bear. »
He tilted his head in acknowledgement, but said nothing more on the subject. Instead he asked, after a moment’s silence, « That young woman who’s gone missing… she’s in your class, isn’t she? »
« Uh– » Mimiru blinked, caught off guard. « Oh. Tsu — Tsukasa? Nn… yeah. Well, sort of. »
His eyebrows rose. « Sort of. »
« Well, she’s — I mean, we’re the same age, we’re in the same year, but she’s with the mages, you know, and she’s… » Mimiru shrugged, a little guiltily. « Well, she’s… smart. Good at studying and everything. » She shot Bear a brief, self-deprecating grin. « Whereas I’m mostly good at hitting stuff. »
He shrugged, and said mildly, « Schoolwork’s as much a question of hard work and practice as it is of talent, Mimiru. Very much like swordplay. Very much like most things, actually. »
She rolled her eyes, heaving an over-dramatic sigh. « Yeah, yeah. Should’ve known not to expect any sympathy from you. »
« You don’t need sympathy, Mimiru, » he told her, a little drily. « You need someone to whack you on the side of the head whenever you start making excuses and feeling sorry for yourself. You’re a bright girl; you’d be a perfectly good student, if you wanted to be. »
The girl skipped to one side, ducking to avoid the good-natured swat Bear had aimed at her ear, and scowled at him. « Well, anyway, » she said hastily. « We’re — Tsukasa and I aren’t in most of the same actual classes, these days. I, uh, don’t… didn’t… don’t know her all that well, honestly. »
« Ah… I see. » He nodded.
She shifted uncomfortably, unsure if she had imagined the faintly knowing note in his tone. « You see what? »
« That you don’t know her all that well. » Bear gave the girl an inquiring look. « Why? Was there something else I should have seen? »
« Huh? N-no. » Mimiru groaned inwardly. Transparent as glass, aren’t I? « You just… said it in a funny tone, » she explained lamely. « I thought you thought there was something else. »
« Ah. » He considered this for a moment, and then smiled ruefully. « Well, yes, in fact, » he conceded. « Your teachers were under the impression that the two of you were friends, at one time. Or something like friends, at any rate. »
« You’ve been talking to my teachers? »
« I do work here, and talking is, in fact, something colleagues do on occasion, Mimiru. » There was definitely a dry edge to his voice now. « Some of them, at any rate. And yes, some of your teachers have been a bit worried about you since Tsukasa went missing; they say you’ve been rather more distracted than usual, the last couple of days. They… thought I might be the best person to talk to you about it, though, as — generally speaking — you aren’t exactly friends with any of them. »
« Oh, they put you up to it, huh? » She made a face at him. « Now who’s making excuses? »
« Well, all right, I’ll confess to a certain amount of concern on my own behalf. Distraction isn’t exactly something you want from someone who’s waving a heavy sword around, you know — they might hurt somebody. »
« Gee, thanks, » she muttered. « Okay. So… yeah, I’m a little worried about her. Not enough to lop somebody’s head off by accident, though. I’m not that careless. Anyway, Tsukasa’s — well, she’s kind of — weird. She doesn’t like people very much. Probably just took off, now that she’s allowed to go through the Gate on her own. »
In fact Mimiru was well aware that the young mage had stopped paying much attention to what was allowed and what wasn’t some years ago, but she wasn’t about to tell anyone; it would only get the girl in trouble, if and when the Knights did find her, and Tsukasa had enough trouble to deal with as it was. And it wasn’t as if she knew where the girl had been in the habit of sneaking off to, she told herself, so she wasn’t hiding anything important. Not really. « She’s always been inconsiderate, anyhow, » she added. « She wouldn’t have stopped to think about all the fuss she’d cause, disappearing like this — and she wouldn’t have cared, anyway. She’s probably fine. »
« Let’s hope so, » Bear said soberly. « But in the meantime, the Knights aren’t having a lot of luck in their search. »
« Mm… » Mimiru’s momentary flash of ire at her erstwhile classmate evaporated, and she stared down at her feet. « Yeah. I know. »
« Which brings me to something else I’d meant to discuss with you, as well. If they don’t find her soon, the Knights are going to start calling for volunteers, to help with the search. Nothing dangerous, but — traveling out to the villages, talking to people, trying to find some lead. You’re sixteen now, aren’t you? »
« Yeah, last week… » Mimiru brightened. « Hey, that means I’m old enough to help out, doesn’t it? »
« Well, to an extent, yes. And with permission from the school. »
« …Oh. » Her face fell. « There’s some kind of catch coming up, isn’t there… »
Bear chuckled. « On consideration, your teachers feel it won’t make that much difference to your studies if you miss a few days of class. But they’ll still want you to make up for it, later on. For the look of the thing, if nothing else. »
« All right, all right. » Grimacing, she heaved an over-loud sigh. « I’ll manage, I guess… »
He smiled quietly. « I’m sure you will. »
* * * * *
Anger. Shouting voices.
« Are you always like this? »
« Like what? »
« Selfish. You don’t care about anybody else, do you? »
« Why should I? None of them care much about me, either. »
« You don’t give them the chance! »
« They wouldn’t care anyway. The ones who say they do… they just want to feel better about themselves. Or look better to other people. Haven’t you figured that out by now? »
The girl shook her head. « That’s not true… »
« Why are you still following me around, then? I told you, I don’t want you to. But you don’t give a damn about that, do you? I bet the teachers think you’re just so wonderful, being kind to the little friendless misfit, no? » She shrugged indifferently. « Well, fair enough. They’re never going to think much of you for your academic inclinations, so I guess you’ve got to get by how you can… »
She saw the slap coming, but didn’t bother trying to duck, and it caught her across the face. It hurt, but so what? She’d been hit harder, more times than she could remember.
Too many angry voices… make them stop, she was so tired of listening.
The girl was staring at her, half in hurt shock, half in anger. Her voice, when she spoke, was tight. « You’re horrible. You know that? »
« Sure. Fine. » She shrugged again. « But I’m not wrong, am I? »
« You are. It’s not… people aren’t like that. »
« No? Maybe not everybody. Fine. Maybe there’s somebody, somewhere, who isn’t. But most of the world is. So with that in mind — exactly how long do you think that person’ll survive before someone stabs them in the back? »
* * * * *
A couple of hours spent pondering the situation, and trying to get something even remotely resembling accurate information out of the villagers and the Cobalts. Nearly six hours for a messenger to get from the village back to the Gate, even riding one of the speediest Grunties on the plane. A couple more hours for said messenger to get in to see Lady Subaru. Another six hours to come back.
And then what felt like an eternity spent arguing with the local Knights.
And why, oh, why couldn’t he have asked Subaru for a warrant of some sort? He’d not wanted to involve her in this any more than he had to; there had been an outside chance that merely invoking her name would have been enough… but it hadn’t been, and now the Cobalts were sending one of their own riders to Mac Anu. So there’d be another thirteen, fourteen hours at least, and Crim just hoped the Lady wouldn’t have a change of heart in the interim…
« Kamui won’t be back before tomorrow, sir. The Haven, in the village, has decent rooms; you can stay there. »
It all added up to far too much time in which things could go wrong. Crim was not, by nature, a worrier, but it would be too easy for some vengeful idiot to decide that one sweep of a blade would solve everyone’s problems.
And on that note–
« I want to see the prisoner first. »
« Sir, I’ve told you several times already, that’s really not permissible. I can assure you, once we have heard from Mac Anu, we will hand him over, but meanwhile we’ve only your word that– »
« Only the word, » Crim spoke through gritted teeth, « of the former leader of the Crimson Knights. » Thankfully, the rift which had opened between himself and Subaru Misono(2) in recent years was not common knowledge in these parts. He’d never have gotten away with this in Mac Anu.
On the other hand, he wouldn’t have needed to get away with this in Mac Anu. Crim had seen the Cobalts execute demon-blood before, on a few occasions, usually for nothing worse than thievery, and it wasn’t a sight he cared to see again. The Crimson might have gone downhill a bit in the past few years, yes, but they would have to sink a good way below sea-level before they were that bad.
« I’m sorry, sir, but there are procedures to be followed, here. As soon as– »
« As you’ve heard back from Mac Anu, » Crim echoed wearily. « Look, here’s the thing. I know you people aren’t happy at the thought of being denied first-hand vengeance for your fallen. I can’t say I blame you. » Well, given the ways in which they went about the matter of vengeance, he could, after a fashion, but this probably wasn’t the time to say it. « But I’m supposed to get the kid back to Mac Anu alive, and preferably in one piece. »
« I assure you, sir, that will be the case– »
« Yes, and I’ve only your word for that, haven’t I? What I am trying to get at, here, is that I don’t want to come back tomorrow to find out that he’s unexpectedly died of injuries which, you will probably claim, he sustained in the fight with your men. So I’d like to see, with my own eyes, that he’s not about to fall over dead. You understand me? »
The Knight’s face flushed an angry red, but after a moment’s consideration he said, grudgingly, « I’ll… speak to the commander about it, sir. »
* * * * *
Aw, hell. He really is just a kid, isn’t he? Accounts had varied; the Knights in particular had not been eager to admit that one of their number had been slain by a mere child. But the small, skinny boy chained to the cell’s far wall did not look much more than nine or ten years old.
Something of this thought must have shown on his face, for the Commander of the Knights, after shooting a sidelong glance at him, said shortly, « Don’t let appearances deceive you, sir. The damned thing’s not human, it’s a monster. It killed one of my best men. »
The boy had been staring at the floor, apparently oblivious to their presence, but at this he raised his head. « Oh-hyo — one of your best men? » His voice was hoarse and tired, but it took on a mocking edge. « Aww, thank you. Such a compliment. Really, though, it was nothing… and as for monsters? Pot-meet-kettle, mister. I’m not the one who brought along nine friends to attack somebody half my size. »
The Knight’s face darkened. « Hold your tongue, demon. »
« Hm-mm… » The boy considered this, his brow furrowing. « Would do, » he said eventually. « If I could reach my tongue. Only I can’t, ’cause there’s this little problem with these chains, you remember? Tell you what, though — you let my hands loose, then I’d be happy to hold my tongue. Whyever you wanted me to. Can’t say it makes much sense to me, but hey, I’m just some stupid monster, so what do I know? »
« It means stop talking, » the Knight said stiffly.
« Ohh. » Exaggerated enlightenment dawned on the boy’s face. « Really? You might’ve said — funny way to put it. Huh. » He shrugged, but gingerly, as though the motion was costing him some pain which he did not want to show. « Well, that makes sense, then. Glad we got that sorted out. So. Who’s this guy? » He nodded at Crim, who suddenly found himself subject to an almost worrisomely cynical stare.
After a moment, the boy’s crimson eyes narrowed. « Oi — you’re that fellow from Mac Anu, aren’t you. » It was a statement, not a question. « There’s portraits of you over half the city. »
Crim blinked. « Uh… yes. » It wasn’t that much of an exaggeration, in fact — rather to his chagrin. He hadn’t particularly wanted his face adorning the walls of every public building in the city, but… he’d been a fairly popular leader, during his tenure as Commander of the Crimson Knights.
The red-eyed gaze grew critical. « Huh. Got to tell you, mister, you don’t look much better in real life. And here I always thought it was the painter’s fault. »
The wanderer snorted at this, one corner of his mouth twisting ruefully upwards, but did not deign to respond. Instead he said only, « Sora, isn’t it? »
It was the boy’s turn to blink in startlement. « Well, will you look at that — the monster’s got a name. A repeatable name, at that, » he added, and a crooked, sardonic smile darted across his face. « How ’bout that? Anyway, yeah, that’d be me. »
« Good. The Crimson Knights have sent me to fetch you. They’ve had people looking for you for months. »
For a brief moment, the boy’s face went very still as he considered this, but he quickly relaxed. « Really. Huh. Well, well. » A sudden grin lighting his features, he turned his attention back to the Commander of the Knights. « Aww, and here you were so looking forward to seeing me hang, weren’t you, or was it going to be burned at the stake? There’ve been so many threats today, I’ve lost track… ah, well, but a little town like this wouldn’t want to offend Mac Anu, would it? My oh-so-sincerest condolences, sir, really. So! » The mock sympathy faded from his tone as he addressed Crim once again. « When do we leave, huh? »
* * * * *
After that she’d simply stopped talking at all, when the girl was present, and at last her would-be ‘friend’ had given up and left her alone. She’d been glad of that. Of… course she had.
But the school wasn’t all that large, and stories and rumours spread quickly in small communities. The girl was well-liked among her classmates; for a long time afterwards, Tsukasa had been even less popular than usual. Not that it mattered.
But she did wish she could shake the feeling that everywhere she went, there was always someone, whispering behind her back.
* * * * *
It was late night when Kamui finally arrived in Mac Anu, and it took her some effort not to shiver as she strode down the city’s main street. She was accustomed to Fort Ouph’s near-constant daylight; how people stood the chill darkness on such a regular basis, she would never understand. This place was better, at least, than Gadelica, but that wasn’t saying much.
« Who goes th– »
« Kamui Shibayama, of the Cobalt Knights, » she snapped at the guards on duty outside the keep’s walls. « I’ve been sent to speak to your ruler. » Normally she might have waited until morning, but she was eager to be out of the city, and in a foul temper and no mood to be considerate. The demon had killed one of her friends, and badly injured another — and now they were expected simply to hand him away at the request of Lady Subaru? Over. My. Dead. Body.
She expected some kind of rebuke for her impatience — in fact, was half hoping for one; it would give her an excuse to shout at somebody — but there was only a fraction of a second’s hesitation before one of the guards said, « Certainly. If you’ll follow me, please? »
« Er… » She blinked, momentarily caught off balance. « Of course. Thank you. »
She followed the man into the keep, along twisting passageways to a small waiting room, where he stopped. « Milady, I believe, is in her study. If you will wait, please, I will inform her that you are h– »
But another Knight strode into the room even as he spoke, and cut him off. « It is late; I am sure there’s no need to disturb Lady Subaru. Return to your post; I will speak to — Miss Shibayama, is it? — myself. »
Kamui and the guard both spoke up at once. « Sir, my orders– »
« Commander Ginkan, sir, Lady Subaru was very specific that any– »
« It is two o’clock in the morning, » the man called Ginkan said coldly. « Lady Subaru is a very busy young woman, and deserves to rest without interruption. »
« Sir, » the guard began nervously, « I’m fairly certain that in fact, she said that if– »
Ginkan ignored him. « I am her second in command. I can assure you, Miss… it is Shibayama, yes? »
« Lieutenant Shibayama, in fact, » she said shortly. Strange… she had not given her name but at the gate. Either he had been nearby and heard, or someone had been very quick to inform him…
His faint smile set her teeth on edge. « My apologies. I can assure you, Lieutenant Shibayama, that I am entirely authorised to speak on the Lady’s behalf. What you would say to her, you may say to me. » He glanced back to the other guard, and snapped, « You are dismissed — return to your post. »
The guard hesitated a moment longer before bowing deeply, turning around and walking away.
« Now then, Lieutenant, » Ginkan said, his tone suddenly courteous. « Tell me — what can I do for you? »
——————————————–
Notes:
(1) I don’t know if there’s anything canon that specifies Sora’s Wave element, but in .hack/fragment it’s darkness — which is appropriate, anyway, so I’m going with that.
(2) In the canon .hack universe, Subaru’s real name is Misono Mariko — Misono being her family name. Hence her last name here.

.hack//SIGN – Walk By My Side
.hack//SIGN – Confusion All ‘Round