After the incident with the so-called navi relationship specialist, Hector Goodall, Rania had felt composed enough to talk to Amelie for a few minutes. Eventually, however, fatigue and shock took their tole, as well as the bruising and twisting that Goodall had applied to her body. Unable to maintain her consciousness, Rania had fainted, to the surprise of her friend. An ambulance arrived along with the police and took Rania to the hospital.

When Rania awoke, the first face she saw was that of her Grandfather. He was concerned, but no tears marked his face. "I'm sorry Rania... It's cold of me, not to have shed tears. I know it was painful for you. I'm sorry..." he muttered, stroking his granddaughter's forehead with his wrinkled hand.

Rania didn't know her grandfather's condition, but she didn't mind; the sentiment he'd shown was enough. "And I'm sorry I worried you, Sensei," she responded with a cute smile. She couldn't do much more than smile... it felt like she was still under anesthetic. "You couldn't cry because you knew I'd be fine, right? I actually got a lot from this experience. I learned something that made me... very happy..." she sighed cheerfully, then closed her eyes again.

"That's right, Rania. I couldn't cry because I knew that despite the awful things that man had done to you, I'd just be ruining your happiness. I'm happy right along with you..." he comforted her, smiling as she fell back into slumber.

Rania slept for a while longer, then awoke that night. This time it was Amelie waiting with her. Amelie didn't have the gentleness of Rania's grandfather so she simply ran up and hugged her arms around Rania's shoulders. Luckily, Rania was feeling healthier now, so she was able to reciprocate the hug. Feeling slightly smothered by Amelie's boobs, she tapped the armrest of her bed repeatedly to symbolize giving up. Amelie giggled and released her.

"You know, when MeleeMan talked to me, he sounded a lot better! I guess that sickness went away at just the right time, huh?" she asked Rania, taking the seat next to the bed. Rania suspected that the illness leaving may have been related to the counselor incident, but she had no real conclusive evidence. Still, she suspected that Amelie felt the same way. "If GladiatorMan had come back, we'd have a happy ending."

Rania smiled sadly. She was happy that she and MeleeMan had made up, but something told her that GladiatorMan was gone for good. At a time like this, she wanted to suggest that Amelie try to move on... but it wasn't easy to do. "At any rate, thank you for being there. If you weren't, I can't imagine what would have happened."

"Well, thank your navi for letting me be there. After all, he's the one you need to thank the most, right? Why don't I just... set this here... and I'll head back home," she giggled, pressing the PET down into Rania's hand and then skipping off towards the door. "Get well soon, Rania. I need my wrestling dummy back!"

After laughing and waving her friend off, Rania stared intently at her PET. She hadn't really thought up anything good to say to MeleeMan yet and just admitting that she understood how important he was to her would be embarrassing. She didn't think he'd like it either. Slowly, she went to flip the switch, half expecting to see MeleeMan huddled up in his jacket and shivering like he had been earlier.

Contrary to that expectation, MeleeMan was busy trying to learn shogi with Damascus. "Dammit, this game sucks," he finished, throwing over the board and then turning to face Rania. "Look who's awake," he greeted her, giving his usual smirk. Slowly, however, he realized the intense expression on her face... eventually, his own face settled into a contemplative frown as well. "I'll bet you're wondering, huh? About the decision that I had to make. Well, you first. I want to hear what happened to you."

Rania knew that MeleeMan probably felt responsible for what had happened to her, so she laughed it off. "Nah, it's uh... I was stupid for letting that guy into the house. He turned out to be with the Mafia. I think their goal was just to steal you, really," she answered, feeling ashamed for her naivety. "But um... The decision you had to make... I would like to know about it."

MeleeMan nodded, then crossed his arms. He wasn't sure how much he should tell Rania. She seemed to have the idea that the Mafia had just come to abduct him, nothing more... she didn't know that she'd been duped into using a Mafia navi generator service, disguised as an online template. She also didn't know about the run-in with GladiatorMan... he figured that telling her that would only cause more grief for Amelie. Lowering his head, he finally decided what to come out with.

"I'll tell you straight, Rania. They gave me the best offer that they could. A life where I'd get to fight, screw around, and be whatever I wanted to be... and get paid for doing it. Their only condition was that I turn my back on my humanity," he answered, knowing that it was a little weird for a navi to refer to "humanity" to describe a trait of a virtual being. "They wanted me to leave you. I told them I couldn't do it."

Rania's face turned a little red, but she'd come too far to be embarrassed. "Why, MeleeMan? Isn't that what you always wanted?" she asked in a hushed voice, understanding that it was hard for her navi as well.

"Yeah... but no, I guess that's what I had wanted. I don't any more... Now I realize, I guess, that a real man doesn't just live for himself," he finished. "Now your turn. Being honest, we both know I'm the greatest navi, but still..." he sighed seriously, "I've been a bastard some times. I mean, you say it yourself all the time. I didn't really think you'd give a damn whether I was taken or not. Why did you resist so hard?"

The operator's face turned a little more red, but she kept smiling. "I can't say it was the same reason as you, exactly. I mean... living for your navi is a little ridiculous... no, maybe it's not. I think you're worth protecting, MeleeMan. I feel like I need to separate myself from that mindset that a navi is just a tool. I mean, you are a tool sometimes," she laughed, "but you've got feelings and a personality just like a human. It feels silly to say, but I think I care about you like..."



"Oh. Haha, now there's a thought. My little sister, huh?" he guffawed, sitting back down at the shogi board and slapping his knee. Damascus lowered her eyebrows at him distastefully. "Hey, if you're gonna do that, you've got to act a little more womanly!"

"I'll try, MeleeMan. Let's both try to do a little giving," she smiled, feeling refreshed. "What would you like to do tomorrow once I leave the hospital?"

MeleeMan thought about it seriously, tapping his chin with one gloved finger. "Uh, that's a good question. Why don't we use our spending money, then we can surf the net. We'll find something we both want to do."

"Sure... Goodnight," Rania finished, turning over in her bed and resting her cheek against the pillow. It felt nice to relax naturally instead of being pushed into things.

"Night, kid," he finished, staring intently at the shogi board.

((Leaving for Scilabs))