Random Encounter

Jul 10, 2023

He first saw the ghost on the edge of Parker’s Wood. It was a low-level field notable only for the high appearance rate of Giant Owls, Bol Spiders, and Splatter Slugs, so the slender figure was the last thing he’d been expecting. Gin was standing a ways off, and at first he’d been certain it was a visual glitch. When he saw it a second time, he decided it might be a person. At least the shape of one, slinking deeper into the forest, cutting in and out of sight.

It wasn’t strange for there to be other players around, but the way it moved didn’t look like any player he’d ever seen. It stumbled, grasped at the branches, and sometimes seemed to slip through them entirely.

“What the hell are you staring at? Is it one of those exploding slugs?”

From between the corpses of a dozen Bol Spiders, their round bodies still as statues, Gin’s elven companion Lala looked up at him. The points of her indisputably elf-like ears poked through her white hair, tied in a long braid that hung all the way down her back. Around her thighs hung thin white strips of Gormu leather, each one decorated with a small plate of silver. When she crouched, they rustled about like a pleated skirt, the tiny mirrors catching the light and scattering it around her.

“Ah, no, it was…” When he looked up again, whatever he had seen was gone. “Nothing, I guess.”

“Then quit staring into space like an idiot and help me harvest these things.” Lala prodded one of the giant bodies with the tip of her halberd. “Eeegh… I suppose these things are pretty scary when they’re coming at you, but seriously, when you look at them like this, they really are just bags of snot, aren’t they? Tough buggers, though. Don’t you think?” She looked up at him, waiting for an answer.

No, not she. He.

Despite what his senses told him, the elf kneeling down in front of him wasn’t really a girl. Or an elf for that matter.

In reality, Lala was a twenty-three-year-old university student called Hamada. And Hamada was very definitely not a girl. But then, it wasn’t like Gin was really a knight or called Gin, or could have killed anything like a Bol Spider in reality.

But then this wasn’t reality. This was Infinity Saga Online, or ISO; The game that Gin devoted practically half his waking life to.

“I suppose they are,” he turned his back on the distant grove and faced the field of dead spiders. “It’d be nice if they had better drops though.”

“Can’t be helped.”

From where she was sitting, Lala flicked the blade of her halberd away. She twisted the pole deftly with both hands and it collapsed into three equally sized sections which she folded and stored away in a box-like pouch that hung from her waist. “Come on; help me harvest these ugly bastards.”

Thoughts of the ghost temporarily forgotten, Gin knelt in front of one of the disgusting dead heaps, carefully laying his weapon, a giant zweihänder, in close reach on the ground beside him.

The sword’s name was Claw. Not that it mattered. Besides being large, there wasn’t much going for it. It looked expensive, but you definitely wouldn’t have thought it was a unique item. That huge blade was just a big chuck of metal that tapered toward the end, and the cross guard was a simple bronze tablet. The only real point of interest was a pale emerald embedded in the pommel. Back when Gin had first gotten his hands on it, before The Fall, the gem glowed whenever there were monsters around. So, like Sting, but tweaked enough to avoid copyright infringement. Nowadays it didn’t do much of anything.

He shrugged off the leather pack he was wearing and swung it to his feet. From inside, Gin fished out one of the thick glass urns he’d been carrying about since they started this quest. With a suction-tight pop, he wriggled the cork lid free. Screwing up his face a little, Gin plunged his hand into one of the Bol Spider’s corpses and let the goopy purple gore inside seep into the jar. When he brought it back up, the viscera clung to his arm like mucus.

A pale blue notification window popped up for a few seconds in the corner of his vision.

Material harvested: Bol Spider Jelly x 1

“This is disgusting. Who thought anybody would enjoy doing this?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s kind of interesting in a way. At least there’s no smell.”

“Don’t even mention it. If there was a simulated smell to match this I think I’d puke in my helmet.”

“Well that’s a pleasant thought.”

After Gin resealed the jar, he looked back at the Bol Spider. It was already starting to darken. After a while it would turn entirely black, and after that if he tapped it with his finger, the Bol Spider would crumble into ash. This one was done; the game wouldn’t let him take any more resources from this corpse. He got up and moved over to start harvesting another. There were a lot to get through.

The two of them worked in silence, moving from spider to spider, until finally Gin squeezed the cork back onto the last of his jars.

“Just let me harvest this last booger and we can—” Lala began, but stopped abruptly.

Gin groaned. “And we can what?

The voice that answered was not Lala’s.

“I expect she was going to say something like, and we can go finish this quest.

A calm, smooth, male voice. A stranger. Gin froze in place. The hairs on the back of his neck all stood on end.

Without saying a word, he turned his head slightly and looked over to where Lala had been kneeling. She had collapsed face-first into the Bol Spider corpse she had been harvesting. From the base of her neck, a long wooden shaft had sprouted, its tail fletched with bright blue and yellow feathers.

Bandits. Great.

This really was the last thing he needed.

How many?

The sun was setting in front of him, so Gin couldn’t see their shadows, which was probably the way they’d planned it. He knew there was at least one, since one of them had spoken just now, but the sorts of people who became bandits rarely did this kind of thing on their own.

The calm voice behind him spoke again.

“That jar you’re holding. Throw it over by your friend. And then do the same for the jars in your backpack.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Gin said, still kneeling down. “Do you know how hard it is to harvest this stuff?”

“I do. It’s why we’re taking it from you.”

Gin hated this kind of player. His hand itched just inches over the handle of his zweihänder.

“Don’t even think about it, worm,” the voice said. “If you so much as look at that sword too hard, you’re dead. So go on, be a good boy and throw that jar over there. Then all the rest.”

“And?” Gin asked. “If I do?”

The voice behind him chuckled. “Maybe I’ll let you put that oversized knife of yours back on your pack before I kill you.”


They kind of had him there. When a player died in the game, for the three minutes until they were able to reincarnate, everything they were carrying was free for the taking, including their weapons and armor. The only exception was that anything in their pack was off limits. In the case of a weapon that wouldn’t fit in a normal backpack, so long as it was secured in one of the thick leather carry loops sewn onto the sides of each player’s pack, it couldn’t be poached.

If the bandits were to kill him now, the jars of Bol Spider Jelly he’d already put in his backpack would still be there when he was reincarnated. But to make sure they made at least some profit out of stalking him and Lala, the bandits would probably take their armor and weapons in exchange.

If all they wanted was to make a profit, then they’d probably have had a better time just taking his sword. But that was only if they knew it was a unique item. With no way of telling how much they’d get from stealing their gear, the bandits were probably hoping to fall back on the more reliable profits they could make selling the jelly.

All of which meant this was where the negotiation started.

He glanced over at Lala. “How about you let me put her weapon in my pack too?” he asked. “I mean, give me break here. We’ve been fighting these things for an hour, and if you take all the jelly, we’re going to have to do it again. It was bad enough luring them out in the first place. Doing all that from scratch without weapons would kind of suck.”

“Ugh…” The voice behind him seemed to think about it for a little while. “Whatever, just hurry up. And make sure you keep facing the other direction. And don’t do anything fishy.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Slowly he got to his feet and tossed the jar he’d been holding to one side. Then he edged sideways toward Lala, holding his pack in one hand, until he was standing over her. She really had face-planted into that spider. It looked like some kind of joke; not that he was in the mood to laugh about it now. Keeping all his actions slow and deliberate, he knelt down and unclipped the halberd from her belt.

“Go on then, stick it to your backpack. But throw out that Bol Jelly first,” the voice behind him said.

Gin took two of the four jars he’d harvested out of his leather pack and tossed them over his shoulder one by one.

All of them,” the voice demanded.

“I only have so many hands…” There was a small leather strap near the bottom of his pack, twisted around a copper hook. He moved Lala’s halberd toward the hook until the game figured out what he wanted to do and his hands deftly secured the weapon in place.

Truth be told, he had very little interest in Lala’s weapon. It was true that it was a valuable item, but outside of raids Lala never bothered to equip anything you couldn’t buy in a store. She usually sold any rare drops she earned as soon as she found them. What Gin was really interested in was Lala’s skirt. Or, more to the point, the small reflective shards of silver bolted to the bottom of each leather strip.

They weren’t really mirrors, but they were reflective enough that there wasn’t much difference. At least as far as the game was concerned.

One… Two… Gin counted the tall unclear shapes that wavered in and out of focus. Two bandits. One with a bow, the other probably with some kind of short-range weapon. Not terrible odds.

He reached into his backpack, took out one more of the jars, and threw it over his shoulder.

“The last one too.”

“Why don’t you let me put away my weapon first?” Gin asked, already standing up, firm grip on his pack, moving toward the zweihänder he’d left on the ground just a few meters away.

“Not a chance. Throw out that last jar.”

“Come on. How am I supposed to trust you?”

Stop moving. I’m warning you.”

Is the guy with the bow the one who’s talking? Or is it the other guy?

“Alright, alright.” Gin stopped and reached into his pack with his left hand for the last jar. Before he took it out, he pried open the lid with his thumb.

Now or never.

Gin threw the open jar behind him as hard as he could.

As soon as it left his hand, a spray of jelly shot out in all directions. At the same time, Gin threw himself at the zweihänder. The Bol Spider Jelly hissed and fizzled as it hit the ground and bubbled into a thick, noxious pink cloud. It wouldn’t be enough to kill the bandits, but it was a pretty good distraction.

While the bandits spluttered and coughed, Gin swooped up the zweihänder with both hands and swung his sword right into the middle of the poison cloud, where the bandits were still caught spluttering in the item’s AOE.

Just as he’d counted, there were two of them. One with a bow and the other with a short half-pike. But even if he’d been more or less right about where they were standing, they’d been keeping their distance. Even though Gin’s zweihänder was unreasonably long, the wild slashing cut through nothing but air.

If the bandits were surprised, it was only for a second. The one with the bow jumped out of the gas cloud and loosed another arrow at Gin, but it grazed off the side of his armor and dug harmlessly into the earth behind him.

With the zweihänder already raised from his last swing, Gin kept barreling forward and swept the blade down at the bandit with the bow. It passed right through one arm and halfway into his rib cage. There was a short spray of pixelated red so dark it was practically black.

“What—!” the archer managed to blurt out before his eyes glazed over and he was just left standing there, held up by Claw.

As the first bandit fell away from his sword, Gin reversed his grip and swung outwards, toward the other bandit. Realizing what was going on, the bandit held his half-pike up to ward off the blow, but the zweihänder passed through it as though there were nothing there at all and lodged in the bandit’s shoulder, stopping somewhere close to his middle. He yelped quietly, dropped the broken parts of his spear, and fell to pieces.

Gin lowered his sword until the tip was resting just over the grass. Around him, the poison cloud had more or less vanished, ushered away by the wind. This was one of the reasons Bol Jelly was so valuable. Refined, it could be used to make powerful poisons or potions, and even in its unrefined form just throwing it around was enough to create these kinds of effects.

That was close.

Lala was dead, so he’d have to meet her back in Rosenburg. For now, he’d wait for her body to disappear and gather up the jars he’d thrown around. Even if he’d lost one in the fight, it was better than losing all of them.

And then his entire body went stiff as a board. For a second, Gin had no idea what was happening.

When he looked down, he saw his own reflection staring back up at him in the mirrored edge of a long, thin, silver blade snaking out of his neck.

A third bandit?

A long, drawn-out breath passed his ear. “You should have just played along,” the calm voice from before whispered. “Now look at you.”

And then he was dead.

Gin crumpled. Everything went white for a while, and after what seemed like an eternity, he found himself sitting on a long stone bench in an enormous hall whose ceiling seemed to reach up into the sky. Right in front of him, he could see a large wooden door that towered over everything else. To either side of it, a giant stone statue of a knight stood glaring down at him.

“Crap,” he muttered under his breath.

“Oh, you’re here.”

Gin looked over at Lala, who was sitting beside him. She was wearing a long white robe that hung halfway off one of her shoulders.

His shoulders.

They weren’t the only people here. There were dozens of other adventurers all around them, spread out around the hall. Talking, chatting, laughing, or just standing around. All of them were dressed in the same white robe. Gin was too. He reached around for his backpack—the only material object you were allowed to take with you into the Waiting Hall—and unhooked Lala’s weapon case. He tossed it over to her and she plucked it out of the air with one hand.

“I guess you do love me after all.”

Gin clicked his tongue at her.

“So what happened?” Lala looked at him. Her irises were huge and violet. It annoyed the hell out of him how hard it was to maintain eye contact with the elf.

“We got mugged.” Gin looked away. “Three bandits. I got two of them but there was a third hiding somewhere, I guess.”

“Right.” Her violent eyes were narrowed into thin lines. “And the Bol Spider Jelly? You save any of it?”

Gin shook his head. “No. You?”

“I have two jars in my pack, but there was another three I didn’t have in there yet.” Her eyes narrowed and she craned her neck to one side. “Aaand I’m guessing you probably lost that great big sword of yours.”

Gin gave her what he hoped was a withering look.

They both sighed and looked at their feet. Adventuring was tough.

“Well, my back-in timer’s up,” Lala said after a pause. “But we’ve been in here a pretty long while. I was thinking I might just call it quits for tonight. What about you?”

Gin yawed and stretched his arms over his head. “I might try go back. Maybe they left something behind. Maybe that jerk who took my sword is still there.”

“And see if they happened to leave that sword behind?”

“I’d feel bad if I didn’t at least look.”

“You really do love that thing. After the trouble we went through to get it back last time, I thought you’d start taking better care of it.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. I’ll just go have a quick look.”

“Good luck with that. See you tomorrow.”

“See you.”

Lala brought her hand up in front of her then spread her fingers out. A system gesture. A small, translucent blue square of UI appeared in front of her. As she tapped at the ghostly sheet a few times, her body was enveloped in a bright light. A few seconds later the light was gone and Lala along with it. She’d logged out.

Gin folded his arms.

After all that work. Only two bottles of Bol Spider Jelly to show for it. And I lost my sword.

There was no getting around they were going to have to restart the quest from scratch, but that wasn’t such a big deal. He was more upset about losing Claw, despite the fact it was about as impractical a weapon as you could get. It was a gift, after all.

He waited impatiently until he heard the sound of chimes in his head, letting him know his penalty for dying was over. Gin walked past the statues standing guard over the exit and placed his hand on the surface of the door. The same light that had surrounded Lala now surrounded him, and for a second the sound of idle chatter and laughter was sucked out of the air, leaving him in a silent vacuum. Then, like surfacing from underwater, he squinted as bright sunshine and an even more raucous clamor washed over him. He was now standing in the middle of a bustling market place. This was Rosenburg: Gin’s home city in Hyperlia, the world of ISO.

He looked down and was a little surprised to find he was still wearing all his armor. Maybe the bandits had been too busy taking the Jelly? Gin decided not to look this gift horse too carefully in the mouth. And in any case, predictably enough his zweihänder was gone, which unavoidably led him to thinking about the person who had given it to him in the first place. He felt the corners of his face tighten. He didn’t particularly want to be thinking about her right now. There was no point in thinking about people who vanished on you for no good reason.

Maybe I should just forget about that sword. It’s not like I’ll ever see her again anyway.

He might have stood there chewing it over forever if at that moment he hadn’t been brought to reality by something small and blue crashing into his chest.

“Gaph!” The blue thing made a small sound and fell to the ground.

It was another player. She was so small that in the real world he might have confused her for a child, but from the delicate tips of her ears he could tell that she was playing as a fae. For a few seconds she just sat there, looking entirely lost, but without warning she jolted to her feet like she’d been pulled up by an invisible wire. She was maybe two heads shorter than him, so all it did was bring her level with his cuirass.

The sight of her reflection seemed to shock her into a deeper silence, and for another few seconds she just stared in confusion at her own face. Her hair was cut short and colored light blue. It fanned out around her head, and made her pale skin and pink cheeks stand out. She peered at herself with round eyes that were generally the same color as her hair, though the brightness was set a little lower, and the contrast a little higher. It was not, Gin decided, the worst avatar configuration he’d ever seen.

Finally, maybe realizing what was happening, she craned her neck up to look at Gin and jolted backward when she saw his face.

“Uwah!” she yelped. “Ah! S-sorry! I d-didn’t mean to, ah, I didn’t see…”

Gin tried to smile at the fae as helpfully as possible, but after the string of crappy things that had happened in the last half hour, he probably wasn’t doing too good a job of it. He resolved to at least try be helpful. She was still wearing the starter gear for her race and had a look in her eyes like she wasn’t quite taking in everything around her, so probably a newb. Well, there was no point in trying to chat; she probably wouldn’t remember him for longer than it took to bump into the next player.

“There’s usually a lot of players reincarnating in this area. If you walk around spacing out like that, you’re going to run into one of them sooner or later.” He pointed along the edge of the street. “Either look where you’re walking, or stick over there where it’s easier to get through.”

“A-ah!” The fae took a small step backwards, her eyes darting left and right. “Th-thank you!” She bowed stiffly and then looked up at him again.

What more does she want? She understood what I just said, right?

“Ah…” The girl started to say something, then looked sheepishly to one side before bowing again. “S-sorry!” she yelled and dashed off in the direction he had pointed.

Well, that was the last he’d be seeing of her. Rosenburg was big enough you could have at least three or four of these random encounters and never see the player for longer than it took them to walk down the street. Had he been like that when he started playing? Maybe worse. Maybe he’d been a little too hard on her.

He shook his head and clapped his hands together. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted.

“Right. Quick corpse run then we call it quits,” he said to himself.

Gin started walking toward the edge of the city.

When he’d gotten to a quiet part of the market, under a wide arch made of white and yellow brick, he ducked out of the way to fix his gear. He put his pack in front of him and took a long knife out. Its black leather scabbard was inlaid with silver ivy, coiling up to the thick blade that was lined with engravings of twisted ivy that wound all the way to the locket. The blade inside was engraved with the same motif. An anelace. It had nowhere near the reach of the zweihänder, and he hadn’t put a whole lot of time into the short blades skill, but it was still an ultra-rare item. It would get him out of any trouble he ran into. He tied the sheath to his belt and heard a small chime to let him know the item had become equipped.

Better not lose this one too.

Gin threw his pack over his shoulder and jogged through the rest of the main square, out of the packed market area all the way up to one of the city gates. Then out into Eastern Fields. Rolling green planes and blue-tinted mountains spread in front of him, their tops hidden by clouds. Nearby, horses packed into a makeshift stable by the edge of the city wall stamped their feet and whinnied for his attention.

He left the road and kept going until he was in the middle of the field, enough that what he was about to do wouldn’t be a bother to any of the other players. When he’d put enough space between him and the tall white walls of Rosenburg, he took a few moments to consult his map and make sure he was lined up right.

Gin eased himself back on his left foot, pressed down, and leaned forward.

Like he’d been was holding his breath too long, his vision started to darken around the edges. He could feel a trembling somewhere at the back of his head—a buildup of pressure.

He pressed down a little more, a little more, and then there was a light pop in his ears, and the world blurred out of focus. Gin was jerked forward in the direction he’d been facing, a silver and black bullet over the empty plains.

Super sprint.

Fundamentally, super sprinting wasn’t a level-locked skill. It was something every player could do right from the start of the game. But even if you could do it from day one, skills like this had to be perfected over time. You had to put points into them. If a brand new player were to try the same thing, they’d only jump forward a few inches. If they did it every day for a week, maybe they’d get up to a meter. Gin had been doing this, on and off, every day for about ten years.

He flew, feet barely touching the ground.

Gin desperately stared forward, jaw clenched, locking his eyes forward, making sure not to look in any other direction. And then like an airplane honing in on a runway, he slowed down, the blurriness evened out, and his feet landed on solid ground again. He trotted forwards, once, twice, and then he stopped. He was standing maybe just a hundred meters away from a dark grove of trees. Parker’s Wood.

He took a deep breath. His stomach churned a little.

Super sprints were useful for getting from one place to another quickly, but they took a lot of getting used to. Even flying in a straight line like that would give you a little virtual sickness. Gin took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a few seconds, waiting for the rolling sensation in his stomach to go away. When he felt the humming in his head start to die down, he opened his eyes and jogged at an easy pace toward the empty field where he and Lala had lured the Bol Spiders.

More or less as he’d been expecting, the Bol Spiders had already turned to dust. There were no signs of a fight having taken place here at all. Not even any discarded drops. It looked like the bandits had taken everything of value, leaving the rest to be digitally decomposed. He looked around to see if there was any sign of the bandits themselves, but they too had cleared out.

Well, that was a waste of time. I should have just logged out with Lala.

Which was exactly what he was about to do, and had just raised his hand to summon the control panel when he heard something coming from the line of trees behind him. Gin quickly drew the anelace and listened intently as he could.

For the third time that day, he saw the ghost.

In the middle of all the business with the bandits, he’d forgotten about it entirely, but there it was. And this time, he could hear a soft, shaky voice from the forest.

“H-hello? Somebody? A-anybody?”

Not knowing what he was looking at, he slowly stepped closer to the grove, through the thick wall of trees, over fallen branches and clusters of decaying leaves.

“H-hello? Is someone there? Hello?” the voice quavered again.

As he rounded a large mossy boulder, he was finally able to see who had been calling out. It was such an odd sight that for a short while he just stood there, unsure what to make of it.

It was a girl.

Not that seeing a girl in itself was strange, but then, this wasn’t just a girl. She was kneeling on the ground, hugging her knees. Her feet were dirty from where it looked like she’d walked through the mud. She had long black hair that came down the entire length of her back and skin so white it seemed almost to glow. In all the time Gin had played this game, he had never seen any character design like her at all.

And strangest of all, she was wearing a hospital gown.

That is, not the white robes you wore when you went to the Waiting Hall, but an actual light blue hospital gown.

Except that in this world, hospitals didn’t exist.

When she heard Gin come close, she turned to look at him and, seeing the knife in his hands, her eyes grew wide.

“Uh. Oh.” Gin fumbled his words and put the knife away.

The girl kept on looking up at him, not saying anything. Her eyes were twisted around like she had no idea what she was looking at.

“Umm, are you… okay?”

“Okay?” The girl looked at him. It was almost like she was in shock. “Where am I?”

Gin edged a little closer. “What do you mean ‘Where am I’…?”

The girl hugged her knees a little tighter and looked at him with a desperate expression. “I… I just woke up, didn’t I? No, wait… And my parents, they’re going to be worried… But I don’t know where my phone is… I think I lost it… I swear it was just… Am I at least close to Tokyo?”

Gin looked at her blankly for a minute. “Huh?” There was so much in that rambling stream of words he didn’t know where to begin. He narrowed his eyes. Tokyo? Had he stumbled into some kind of prank?

I wonder if maybe she was attacked by those bandits too…

Gin had heard stories of bandits, particularly male bandits like the ones that had attacked him and Lala, telling female players to take off all their gear. Even if the system didn’t usually allow one player to forcefully undress another, that didn’t mean that there weren’t cases of bullying. And even if it was all virtual, it could still be traumatic. Maybe something like that had happened to this girl? Somehow that newb he’d bumped into at the markets at Rosenburg came to mind. Was this girl a new player too?

Still, that hospital gown…

He knelt down, trying to keep a little distance between them.

“Listen, I don’t want to pry, but were you attacked by—”

“N-no, damn it.” She shook her head, holding her hands to her temples. “Why can’t I remember…” She breathed. “Not again…”

Suddenly, the girl looked straight at him. Her eyes fixed him in place. It made him shiver.

“Have we met?” she asked him.

“Met?” Gin shook his head. He’d never met anyone like this before.

She kept staring at him. He was about to ask her again when she blinked and her mouth opened, just a fraction.


He felt his blood freeze.

His head spun. He held out one hand and shook his head. “What did you just—”

There was a terrible sound, like the world itself was groaning. A howl that echoed through the forest, utterly unlike anything Gin had ever heard in the game or out of it. The girl looked up through the trees and into the sky.

The ground shook and he fell back onto his hands.

When he looked up to see what she was looking at, he felt his insides curl up into a tight ball. It fell out of the sky. An oily black darkness. Crashing down like a wave over the two of them.

Gin was thrown backward by a great pressure that left his ears ringing. His body shot head over heels and flew through the forest until he was caught in the trunk of a tree. He fell back to the ground, landing heavily on his side. It was darker than night. It felt as though all color and light was being drained out of the world. From where he landed, Gin could see the girl staring at him with that same terrified expression.

He wanted to call out to her, but his voice didn’t seem to be making any noise. He couldn’t move his arms, his legs. Even his eyes seemed fixed in that one direction.

Then he saw them.

Pushing their way through a thick membrane that was anchored just over her head, Gin saw at first a pale white hand, then an arm, much longer and more slender than could possibly be human, reaching from above through the branches of the trees toward the girl. Then more. Two arms, three, four. They clawed at the air around her until they finally grabbed hold of her hair. Her mouth opened as though to scream, but instead she seemed to lose all the power in her body and fell limp at their touch. Her head slumped to one side. The pale white arms grabbed onto her and slowly began to hoist her from the ground. As they drew her into the shining black ooze they had come from, she looked at him desperately, her mouth moving silently, until he couldn’t see her face at all. Unable to move, he watched her body vanish bit by bit, her head, her arms, her waist, until just one leg remained still in sight, and then just a foot, and then nothing at all.

Gin lay in the forest.

Above him, he could hear the sound of birds. The sun came in at an angle through the trees, drawing complicated shadows over the mossy ground.

Everything was back to normal. But the girl was nowhere to be seen.

Books 1 & 2 Available On Amazon

Want to get ahead of the re-serialized version? Have no faith in my ability to maintain the release schedule? I feel you. Really I do.

Lucky you! The first two books of Infinity Saga Online were originally published as The Ghost, and are available from Amazon. To buy a copy for Kindle or in paperback follow the links below:

🇺🇸 amazon.com
🇯🇵 amazon.co.jp
🇦🇺 amazon.com.au
🇬🇧 amazon.co.uk