Web小説 「.hack//bullet」


    Billy's eyes were the only thing that shined in the darkness. The full moon was clearly reflected in his brilliant greens. Reiko had just fallen asleep and Billy was keeping watch. A single cloud covered the moon and Billy was shrouded in darkness again. He wondered to himself about Reiko, about where she went when she laid in her bed and what brought her back in the morning. While the others always slept out in the living room Billy liked it best in the corner by her bed, and as a result he felt he was closer to her than Audrey or Laura. It didn't matter that he wasn't always with her because they were together when it mattered, when they were most vulnerable--asleep. He quietly hoped in his little corner every night that Reiko felt even a modicum of the comfort she provided him, the safety and security that allowed him to drift off to sleep every night without a care in the world.
    Their sleep was interrupted by the ringing of her phone. The full moon filled the room, and Reiko rose from her sleep. Thoughts were still fresh in her mind, and the tide of REM sleep had not yet swept them away. She had just seen a dream of the ocean and she was floating through it. She looked down but her body was nowhere to be found. In fact, she didn't need to breathe either. It was as if she had become the ocean itself.
    The phone rang again.
   There was a silence on the other end, but some sounds could be heard. Reiko listened carefully. The time was exactly three in the morning, and Reiko was wide awake. Static steadily increased on the line, until finally, Reiko remembered: You will learn the truth about your brother, Jun Bansyoya. Suddenly, her heart rate rose, and she could feel a lump in her throat. The end of her long journey, her final stop on the road to finding her brother.
   "Jun...?" she said into the void. The name hurdled through the static and into the far beyond, where it turned into electricity and transmitted itself into a message. The static on the line increased, and then she cast her spell again in desperation.
   "Jun! It's me, Jun! Jun!" She pleaded into the void. In her hysteria, the static suddenly cut.
   "I am K." The voice declared itself in the silence of the phone call. "I am calling on behalf of Ms. Bain." It was clearly a man's voice, deep and commanding. It made no errors, no ums or ahs, just the words that were required of him.
   "What's happening?" She nervously asked the voice on the line. "This isn't some game anymore, I need you to tell me what's happening. The world's become obscured and I don't like it. I need you to tell me what's happening, what's going on--I need to know the truth. I can only take so much of this, I'm serious, so please, tell me what's happening." There were tears somewhere but she could not feel them.
   "Thank you for the swift completion of your report," said K, ignoring her question. "However, there has been an error." K said this with a particular tone, emphasis on 'error,' the nature of which was vague, but the gravity of it felt nonetheless.
   "Error? What error? I wrote the report. What's left?"
   "Are you sure you don't know what I'm talking about, Ms. Saeki? Think carefully."
   Reiko did know, but perhaps she didn't even want to admit it to herself--how easily she had overlooked the danger of meeting Tanigami, and how quickly it had come back to haunt her.
   "What? I mean, I... You mean about Mr. Tanigami?" she asked.
   "It is an error," K began, "but it has been dealt with."
   An unusual sort of fear filled Reiko as K's words left the phone's speaker. 'Dealt with.' These were the kinds of words reserved in films for death. The fear of death had settled deep within Reiko. Even still, she found the strength to ask further.
   "What's happened to Mr. Tanigami?"
    K was silent for a while. There was a shuffling on the line, and then he spoke. "You see, Ms. Saeki, Mr. Tanigami requires a replacement. He has become irretrievably lost."
   Irretrievably lost. K spoke the words with the same peculiarity that he applied to 'error.' He wanted Reiko to pay attention to these words in particular, as if to beg her to dwell on them, as if for her to lose herself in them.
    "Irretrievably lost?" Reiko repeated the words.
   "Yes. In fact, that is the nature of the phone call I was supposed to deliver today, before your error. Your brother, too, is irretrievably lost."
   And then Reiko found herself in the ocean again, no legs, no arms, no lungs, no thoughts, just the water and pure existence itself. Irretrievably lost.
   "I see." The words came out of Reiko's mouth mechanically.
   "Your brother is safe, Ms. Saeki. But the way he is now..." K trailed off, but this too was intentional.
   "I see," she said again.
   "This is all I had to report to you. And now, Ms. Saeki, I must tell you something important." There was a pause--whether for dramatic effect or for Reiko's benefit, she didn't know. "You are now no longer Reiko Saeki, but nameless, just like me. You will continue to act as Reiko Saeki, but you will no longer be her. Do you understand?"
   "I understand."
   "That's good. That's very good. Listen: when I cut the line, you will continue to act as Reiko Saeki as usual. You will go to your job at the NAB and wear a name tag that says Reiko Saeki. You will fill out your papers and answer questions as Reiko Saeki. You will come home, and be the master of your three cats, who is named Reiko Saeki. But you, you will never have a name again. From now on, you are only one of many. Do you understand?"
   "I understand."
   "Good. The next time I contact you will be with your next orders," and then the line cut out.
   The full moon was completely covered by clouds now.
   Billy stared at Reiko Saeki, and a woman with no name stared back at Billy.

next ch.54: FAIRY TALE