.hack//C.S. Chapter 8
The World's logging out function is soon restored. A teetering harvest cleric crossing the bridge with an unsteady gait bumps into Ikaruga. Ikaruga narrows his eyebrows as he glares at the person who interrupted his pleasant sunset.
She bows her head as she says, "So- sorry," and continues walking. Her lack of spirit gives the impression that she'll fall over with just a light push.
The harvest cleric's condition douses Ikaruga's anger. Furthermore, he recognizes her and calls out to her. He even surprises himself by doing so. "Hey, you, weren't you with that black, adept rouge?" The harvest cleric slowly turns around to face Ikaruga. He places his hand upon his face as he tries to remember who she is.
She says, "Ba- Back then…"
Ikaruga cuts the harvest cleric off and grabs her arm. "You, show me your hand." Cracks run along the back of her hand and white graphics are peeling.
The harvest cleric's voice stops as she stiffens.
Ikaruga examines the cracks as he says, "…Your name, what is it?"
The harvest cleric's cheeks turn red. Even though the real sex is unknown, a male P.C. took her by the arm and is asking her her name. She says, "Eh, it's A- Atoli."
Ikaruga releases her and says with a small sigh, "Atoli… I guess you're not that guy." After a small pause, he says, "Atoli is your P.C. name, is your real name Makoto?"
Atoli gives an apologetic expression as she says, "No… they're different."
Ikaruga takes a step back. He got closer to Atoli than he realized. "…My bad. Since I'm apologizing, I know a place that might be able cure your hand. I'll take you there."
He himself wonders where his aggressiveness is coming from. Even though Atoli is the P.C.'s outward appearance and her inner nature is a mystery, he wants to help her.
Atoli says, "But I, need to meet with someone and…"
Ikaruga grasps Atoli's hand to protect the peeling graphics and runs for the dome. "It won't take long. Come on."
Atoli raises her voice midway to the dome, "Ah- that… ;;" but can't break free from Ikaruga's hold.
Ikaruga enters the dome and stops before the gate where he takes a breath and closes his eyes. He continues to hold Atoli's hand with complete disregard to surrounding gazes. …The word for that place, got it. He searches his faint memories as he integrates his consciousness into the system. Good, I'm linked.
Ikaruga says, "I'm beginning the transfer."
Atoli lifts her face, "Eh?" at the same time the transfer effect washes over them and takes them to a night time, beach, field. The pale moon floating above reflects off the ocean's surface. A noise, however, sometimes distorts the moon.
Ikaruga looks around as he mutters to himself. "Looks like I got the word right…"
Atoli can only stand in place as he continues to hold her hand. Even if they've escaped everyone's stares by leaving town, a different type of nervousness overcomes her now that it's just the two of them. That's when Ikaruga finds something and begins walking. Atoli looks and sees a faint light. "That's?"
"There's a small pond over there with healing water."
The light becomes stronger after about 5 minutes and the surface of the pond comes into view. Ikaruga releases her hand once they reach the pond and kneels next to the water so he can peer into its depths. It's shallow and the bottom is in clear view. Down there is the light's source. Making it out is difficult due to its dazzling radiance, but it resembles a thick book.
Ikaruga says, "We're here," and reaches with his arm to bring Atoli next to the pond. He adds, "Submerge your hand, slowly."
Atoli trembles as she eases her hand towards the water. "Al- alright…" She first dips in her fingers and then eases in the rest up to her wrist. There aren't any changes, but the pain doesn't worsen.
She then says, "…The cracks." By the time she notices, most of the peeled sections restored themselves. The few remaining chaps soon close and leave a restored hand.
Ikaruga is more relieved that Atoli at the success.
She pulls out her hand and feels it to double check. There are no more cracks and the numbness vanished.
Ikaruga says, "Good."
Atoli bows on reflex at his voice. She says, "Thank you very much. I'm amazed, there was a place like this." That's when numbness once more assails her hand and, pishii, a cracking sound rings.
Ikaruga grabs Atoli's hand and stares at the cracks running along it. "…Why? That guy properly healed himself before." He then turns towards Atoli and with some confusion in his voice, says, "You're …an avatar user?"
"Ikaruga-san, how do you know of such?"
"Don't return a question with a question. Well?"
Atoli is taken aback, but says, "I was told I hadn't awakened yet. And then I had my epitaph stolen…" She does not mention "who" stole it.
From the circumstance, Ikaruga can infer that the group responsible is the Raven Guild, but doesn't reveal it to Atoli. He releases her hand as he broods over the situation. It was stolen… The cause of the cracks is different. He then shakes his head to clear away the pointless speculation.
He says, "…For wasting your time and not being able to help you, I'm sorry. Since there aren't any chaos gates here, I'll send you to town." He then looks up to the night sky and "converse" with the system.
He and Atoli transfer to the dome in town where she then bows to him and continues to her original destination. Ikaruga sees her off from the dome and returns to the bridge. The sunset hasn't changed.
…Her name is Atoli.
…? Who's Makoto…?
T/N: Okay, there are a few things that aren't explained, mainly, how did he know about Raven Guild? I get the feeling they will be in future chapters. At least, I hope they will. For those of you who've played G.U., how far into the game is this?? I did know that Atoli becomes unable to play with one of her hands, but up till now, I didn't know the reason. Is this still the first disk?? Now, let's see if there are any rumors spreading around about Ikaruga and Atoli next chapter.
 I'm not 100% certain about this part. Ikaruga could either be talking about Atoli or someone else who he saw use the pond. My guess is the latter since that would explain how he knows about this place.
 It sounds a bit odd, but Atoli is using very polite speech here.
9. Cats and Priests>