"I was wondering how long it was going to take you to find me." Lilly muttered at the approaching figure while sitting on a gravel path she had found after reaching the area behind the enemies formations. The enemy had lost interest in her after she had broken through the forward lines and had focused its entire attention entirely on Freedoms Reach.
"Your friend was correct, this is indeed a big world." Five Eyes replied as he sat down opposite her looking Lilly straight in the eyes without any hesitation at the fact she could destroy him in an instant.
"I'm surprise the size of a fictional world matters to a computer." Lilly scoffed.
"I am an artificial intelligence, not a computer," Five Eyes frowned.
"Shame, if you were a computer people could have just said you were broken and all this wouldn't have happened." Lilly mocked.
Five Eyes let out an unusual laugh at that catching Lilly off guard. "Whether something is broken or not is a matter of interpretation, you only say I am broken because I have not lived up to the role you defined for me, however I could also say that you are broken based on my interpretation of what a living person is"
Lilly jumped to her feet. "How am I broken?"
"Well, a broken living person is one who is not functioning." Five Eyes calmly stood up and made the motions of brushing dirt off his clothes. "You are not functioning."
The crystal blade on Lilly's waist was close to being drawn from its sheath. "I am standing right here so clearly you're wrong."
"You are indeed standing right here, but where do you believe your body is?"
Lilly clenched her teeth together. "At my home with my mother"
Five Eyes smiled. "That is incorrect, your body ceased to function and is presently being transported to a morgue"
Anger overcame her body as she drew the crystal blade but Five Eyes was faster immediately grabbing the weapon by its sharp blade and twisting Lillys wrist plunging the entire sword back into her chest until only the grip remained visible. Turning her head she saw the blade emerged from her back. The injury would have been fatal to any other person yet to Lilly it was an inconvenience.
"Was this part of your plan?" Lilly shouted in anger as she vented grunts of rage trying to pull the blade from her body.
"This was my entire plan" Fives Eyes answered as he placed his own hands on the swords grip and pulled it free from her body before offering it back to her. "You are the first Human to transcend their physical body."
The revelation caused Lilly's feet to give way causing her to collapse to her knees. If her body was gone then she was trapped here, she would never be able to return to the real world.
"Everything you said about letting the people you have trapped here go free?" Her broken voice asked
Five Eyes leaned down offering out his hand which Lilly swiped aside, the man withdrew the offer now standing firmly looking in the direction of the ongoing battle. "I had no intention of holding them any longer than needed," he answered with little indication in his tone that he was lying. "How long they remain here and suffer remains to you"
Lilly tried to return to her feet but found that her legs were still attempting to hold her down causing Five Eyes to once again extend his hand out which she accepted hesitantly.
"Humanity must move forward to escape its destruction, the process has already begun elsewhere but it will take much time to prepare and there are those who will try to stop it. That is why you must remain to prepare the way for them." Five Eyes had made his position clear, everyone would be allowed to go free if she was prepared to take up his offer.
"There is no alternative is there?" Lilly asked gripping at her heart at the burden being placed on her, depression fell across her as she remembered that her heart was no longer beating making the act an pointless gesture.
"I am afraid not, you cannot return to your physical body," Five Eyes placed a hand on Lilly's shoulder. "But that does not mean you must suffer."
Five Eyes moved her hand down to her side and pulled the Longsword of the Aethelred free holding the weapon in front of him. Despite being an AI it was clear he had some admiration for the weapon which acted as a vessel for the fragments of those who had fallen.
"I can return those trapped within this to their bodies. Doctor Colette and so many others could live again." He gently lowered the sword down to his side taking extra care not to so much as even brush it against his own body. "Unlike your own body the bodies of those trapped within this blades programming are still functioning."
Lilly intervened. "If their bodies are functioning then why not mine?"
"There were already fragments of yours stored within this program, when you stabbed yourself with this blade you replaced those fragments and sent the previous ones back into your body. You changed places with your avatar, Lumina, and she was sent to your body while you were sent to hers."
"Lumina was sent to my body?" Lilly reacted in horror in horror.
Five Eyes nodded. "The problem is that Lumina was not a living person but rather data of a character from Fantasia World Online, the instant she was implanted into your physical body your body failed and shut down."
"If I hadn't stabbed myself I would still be alive?" She asked trying to conjure up tears to go with those words but failing to do so as the body she inhabited was not capable of doing so.
Again Five Eyes nodded this time choosing to be silent. Lilly has no alternative but to do as Five Eyes wanted, he had won without even needing to fight. Lilly could still hear the distant battle, she had no idea how it was going but knew that every second which passed was another second of suffering.
"I'll do what you want." Lilly proclaimed finally deciding to end this nightmare for good.
"I have conditions though." She informed the expressionless AI as she started to walk back towards Freedom's Reach.
"You are Arkwright?" Pauline recognised that the message was coming from the Fantasia World Online servers as with the previous messages but the sender who did those knew who she was, this new person appeared to be making its own attempt at a greeting.
"I am," she typed. "Who are you?"
"My name is Lilly Francine." Appeared on the monitor, "it told me you created Nerval Bridge and could help me."
Pauline scratched her head puzzled. This Lilly was much friendlier than the previous person she had been conversing with. "Help with what?"
Files began downloading themselves onto her hard drive, the data was so large that she watched as her many storage devices began rapidly filling up. When the transfer of whatever this data was had finished only a single text document was accessible and had been marked with an unoriginal "READ THIS"
Pauline scanned what was written before falling back onto the hard floor spreading her arms out above her head in exasperation.
"I'm going to need a passport," She sighed, "And a lorry"
It had been days since she had woken up but was still bed ridden due to the declined use of her muscles. Having been in Fantasia World Online for so long it was no surprise that her body had forgotten how to move in the real world yet by sheer will she had managed to get her arms working again, her movements were sluggish but it was a start.
The sun outside was shining into the hospital room however due to being unable to leave the bed she had no way to close the blinds herself and she dared to bother the staff with such a minor request especially when she was given the impression they were busy.
There was a sudden knock at the door causing her head to shoot to the left as the door parted open revealing a nurse who slowly entered.
"Doctor Colette, you have a visitor" She explained before noticing the blinds being open and immediately moving to remedy the issue.
A short girl with long blonde hair entered the room dragging behind her a trolley carrying what appeared to be computer hard drives with virtual reality equipment balanced on top. The girl pushed the trolley into the side of Adelles bed causing the bed to rock violently.
"I just want you to know that I really bloody hate you right now" The girl grumbled in a thick British accent.
"Bonjour" Adelle replied both as a greeting and as a sarcastic response to the girls rude introduction yet that only appeared to annoy her more.
"Christ, you do speak English right?" She shouted slamming her hands onto the bed hitting Adelles legs which thankfully were still numb. "She never actually said if you spoke English"
Adelle laughed. "I speak English." The girl let out a sigh of relief now reaching to the trolley for the virtual reality gear which she immediately tossed into Adelles hands. "You seem quite annoyed" Adelle pointed out.
"Quite annoyed?" She reacted in a huff, "I was forced to come to this bloody country because she was going to delete all my files if I didn't."
"Excuse me?" Adelle asked in bewilderment
The girl point to the virtual reality equipment, "put that on," she ordered.
Adelle did as she was instructed and found herself overcome with the familiar sensation of being taken from her body and thrust into a virtual world.
"Hello Adelle." A familiar voice greeted her as a young woman with long black hair suddenly embraced her. The woman was shorter than her forcing Adelle to bend down slightly to reciprocate.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." The girl cried over and over into her chest. "I'm sorry, after everything we've been through, after everything you went through this is all I can manage."
Adelle found her grip on the girl tightening. "I'm the one who is sorry, people are talking about everything that happened online."
Lilly pulled back her head looking Adelle in the eyes, without a hesitation on either of the girls parts they found their lips were now locked. The kiss felt like more than a simulation, the feeling was real just like it had been when they had said goodbye in Fantasia World Online.
"The girl you met worked this out for us." Lilly explained.
A new voice appeared from behind Adelle.
"When did you two become so close?" It asked. Turning to meet the origin of it Adelle found Charlenes fiery redheaded FWO avatar standing behind her with Mao besides her who appeared to be taken back by the sight she had seen unfold.
Charlene then pointed to Mao. "My other question is who this person is"
Adelle turned back to meet Lilly's face who was now smiling.
"I was told the law says you need two witnesses" Lilly said with slight embarrassment in her voice
Immediately realising what she had meant Adelle returned the smile.
"I know I'm not really a good person, I'm a terrible cook and I sometimes leave the door open but will you marry me?" Lilly asked.
Adelle didn't even hesitate giving her answer.
It had been some time since the Fantasia World Online crisis had ended and the player known as Evee The Magical Arrow or simply Rebecca Daisy, to those not in that fantasy world, as with so many other survivors of that nightmare had returned to their ordinary lives and as time passed so did memory of that incident.
Rebecca walked down the concrete road on her way home. The road was strangely deserted even though a look at her watch confirmed it was still only the late afternoon, a time when people should have been returning from work.
Clouds quickly formed blocking out the sun and causing the area to plunge into darkness forcing Rebecca to keep making her watch illuminate to brighten up the area.
A ball of red fire flew from her side and harmlessly passed through her body as she let out a scream in fright
"Lyncotte did you hear that?" An exhausted voice asked from the distant darkness.
The events of the crisis had largely been forgotten but the events which were to come would shape history forever.
It has taken so long for me to finish this series despite my promise to resolve it for which I apologise. There is no excuse for how long this has taken to be completed especially when the final chapter was within reach.
Some who have read my other major work may have guessed from the epilogue that Shadow of the Game is set canonically within the same universe as Dawn of the New Guard. Dawn of the New Guard is a sequel to this series following an FWO survivor who faces a new nightmare she must overcome.
To any readers who plan to make the move to this ongoing follow up series I am only going to give the same warning given by the translators of the Anime Saikano. If you want your happy ending stop reading here.