Rockman.EXE is not mine. Don't sue.

Us After This
Chapter 9
~by Shimegami-chan

Author's Note: Wah! I'm so sorry, minna-sama. I've been incredibly busy with both schoolwork and WPP lately, and I've barely had time to breathe, much less write. x.x Today I got an Author Alert for the latest chapter of State of Mind, and it was the first fanfic I'd read in nearly a month.

I scribbled this chapter out in linguistics class two weeks ago. ^^;; Sorry for the delay!

By the time Saito and Meiru had visited the Science Labs, the police station, and the Hikari home once again, the sun had set over Akihara-cho and activity on the streets of Densan City had stilled.

Saito, for his part, felt more drained than he had ever been. His brother's body was heavier than he was used to; his innate energy whittled away. It had occured to Saito eventually that Netto's body needed food and sleep--things he wasn't accustomed to supplying. As Meiru unplugged Roll from the house security system and led him next door, Saito was almost too tired to move.

Sakurai-san greeted him with genuine concern, ushering him up to the guest room while offering to cook them a late supper. Meiru followed quietly was her mother fussed. Almost immediately Saito found himself with a full stomach, piled high with pillows and blankets, and dressed in pajamas Meiru had packed from Netto's room.

Meiru hovered in the room, watching Roll, Emdee and Gutsman carry on a heated discussion in her PET. She and Saito had ensured that Emdee had backed up all of Dr. Hikari's files into Rockman's PET, which Saito now carried. The boy held the PET in one hand and Netto's bandanna clutched in the other as though afraid to let go. Roll watched him nervously.

"There's nothing more we can do," Emdee pronounced.

"Well, we can find that Server guy and bring him to the police!" Roll said angrily.

"I was referring to Hikari-san's condition," Emdee replied. "He is in the best of medical care, and I have taken precautions to secure backups of all research. The search in the Real World must be left up to Meiru, Dekao, Yaito, and Netto."

"Netto's in no shape for it," Meiru sighed. "And Rockman..." She turned to look at the Navi.

Saito had fallen asleep sitting up, lips parted slightly, PET and bandanna hugged to his chest. Roll smiled sadly. "He must have been tired."

"Just where is Rockman?" Glyde asked hesitantly.

"De gutsu..."

"You need rest too, Meiru-chan," Roll pressed.

"But, Netto..."

Roll's green eyes glittered with emotion. "Meiru-chan... you go to sleep, and keep an eye on them... I'll do what I can from here. We'll find a way to put everything back to normal."

"Should we tell Dekao-kun and Yaito-chan? About...Saito-kun?"

Both girls' eyes rested on the sleeping boy. "I'm not sure. Maybe Netto should tell them himself."

"If he ever decides to talk to us."

"Then, it's our secret, for now," Roll said finally. "I'll ask--" she lowered her voice "--Rock about it in the morning."

"All right. Good night, Roll."

"Good night, Meiru-chan." Meiru draped a blanket over the sleeping boy and turned off the lights, heading back to her own room.


It was dark.

Hikari Netto had swam in the darkness for some time, intrigued by the way his body slept while he did not.

And so he floated.

The program known as Rockman.EXE, coupled with Saito.BAT, still controlled the computer systems, even though the personality that usually inhabited it had long been unconscious. It was not often that the program's owner had been so overworked that he simply stopped responding, as was the situation.

Netto didn't mind.

Rockman's program interfering with his control was turning into both an incentive for Netto to think as well as an excuse to escape from the happenings outside. The attacks on Meiru and his father had stricken Netto to the core--more so than anything that had ever happened to him in his adventures.

He didn't know how to explain this...this feeling, of dread and anxiety, that had crept inside him throughout the past week. He had never felt such a deep depression before. He knew it was a result of stress and fluctuating emotions, but he couldn't bring himself to be cheerful anymore. Even having Rockman back did nothing, since he couldn't talk to his Navi the way he used to.

He tried to whisper, "Saito-niisan," into the darkness, but no sound left his physical body. Netto thought maybe he should sleep, and pass the long hours that were to come, but his consciousness would not comply.

Sleep was a tool of the body and mind, neither of which belonged to Hikari Netto anymore.


Shi-chan: I finally finished my Japanese copy of EXE 1, so hopefully I'll have the names/suffixes/locations/Saito details down pat now :P The Saito scene and music almost made me cry. ;_;!