5. Dreams and Reality
Ikaruga hunts monsters within a forest dungeon the next day. His leisure pace suggests that the previous day’s events were nothing more than a dream.
He looks up at the sound of an agile yet graceful movement, but only sees the spread of branches from various trees blocking out the sky. He releases a small sigh and somehow vanishes from the sea of trees for another [conversation].
Soon after Ikaruga reaches his spot on the bridge, Divine arrives. She says, “Has anything changed since then?”
“Not really.” He then looks towards Divine as he adds, “Ah… there is one.”
Divine presses him with her gaze. “Really, what?”
Ikaruga returns her stare with look of helplessness. “You started pestering me more.”
“I’m worried (`ヘ´)”
Ikaruga’s tone is more him pouting than being angry. “Cat’s fall when they worry too much.”
A moment of silence passes before Divine says, “Hey, is it alright if I ask you about something a bit painful?”
“What? Why are you being so polite…?”
“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
Ikaruga finds himself only able to nod in response to Divine’s sudden seriousness.
Divine says, “After logging out… In other words, your real memories. Do you have any besides those from The World?”
Ikaruga squeezes out the word, “…No.” He then says, “Like I thought, something is… wrong with me.”
Divine wipes away Ikaruga’s anxiety, “That’s… not true,” but she herself isn’t in a position to do so. “… I have to apologize, for us at the C.C. Corporation.”
“You’re, an administrator?”
So he didn’t realize it during my exchange with Haseo. Back then, Divine admitted to being a former employee. “Well, I’m something like one.” She then lowers her head as she adds, “There’s still a lot that isn’t understood, but we are exploring various methods in order to help you.”
Ikaruga says, “I don’t know when it happened, but one day the distinction between the Real and The World became blurred.”
Divine lifts her head upon feeling the resolution backing Ikaruga’s voice. Him speaking his thoughts is rare.
Ikaruga continues, “Back then, I could still log out. I’m positive that was the Real.” His gaze shifts downward as he tries to reel in the distant memories. “…But then, bit by bit, the Real started to fade. I’ve been here, in The World, ever since.”
“Do you remember anything about the Real?”
Ikaruga unclenches his right hand and stares at his palm. “…Right now, The World is the Real for me.” He thought it was strange at first. I was in cyberspace, yet I felt pain while on the net. I became able to feel the breeze blowing through my hair and the freshness of water. My five senses, my very nerves themselves, have been converted into data. There’s got to be an explanation, but what?
Ikaruga lets out a, “…ha”
He clenches his fist as he says, “I… am Ikaruga. There is nothing more than that. I no longer know whether The World is reality or fantasy.” He gaze falls upon the sunset as he gives up on that trail of thought. He mocks himself by saying, “I sometimes think… that this is just a dream. That the real me is just sleeping.”
The thought, There’s nothing I can do about myself who won’t wake up, makes him miserable.
Divine lowers her head and says, “…I’m sorry.”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with you. Even if you apologize… nothing will change.”
Regardless, Divine doesn’t lift her head. Ikaruga sighs and lifts her up. The unexpected act of being brought up to his face makes her stiffen. He looks straight into her eyes and says, “What am I supposed to do if you get depressed? Comforting others isn’t one of my strong points…”
He then speaks a command, but the tone is surprisingly gentle. “That’s why, you don’t have the privilege of getting depressed… Got it?”
Divine gives a resolute nod as she laughs.
Ikaruga and Divine have spent a long time together, but they exist on different time axes. His loneliness will not disappear regardless of how much they talk with each other.
I don’t know if this is a dream or reality, but I’m certain of that feeling.
T/N: I like how short the .hack chapters are. I wouldn’t have been able to finish this one in time if they weren’t. On the flip side, it will take a bit longer for us to see how this story unfolds, but that can also be seen as, we get to enjoy the story longer. Now, some of you may notice a space between the dialogues, that’s intentional. It’s to symbolize a change in the current lead character. Hopefully, Cute Star will also get her own passage to lead. By the way, does Ikaruga remind anyone else of Tsukasa’s situation hack//sign??