Planning to have Waking to Another Sky chapter 5 up tonight. For now….
A/N: This started as a fantasy AU idea, then effectively became an Eberron crossover AU with Droaam replaced by… heh. SAO and Eberron, definitely not mine.
“So you’ve returned, human.” A dark chuckle, barely louder than the rustle of green silk skirts. “You’re either brave, or foolish.” She halted, almost within reach. “What’s this?”
Gaze carefully on the floor so he just saw the toes of Stheno’s black leather sandals, Kirito offered the obsidian sunglasses in an upturned hand. “You said, whatever gaze you hold turns to stone.” He smiled, though he could almost feel his heart thudding in his chest. “But these hold any gaze. And they’re already stone.”
Delicate as a butterfly’s pricking feet, clawed fingers touched his palm.
This is it. Either I’ve guessed right, or–
Stheno took the dark glasses.
<<The Lonely Gorgon: Quest Complete.>>
His avatar didn’t really breathe. But Kirito felt like gasping anyway. Level gained, experience – he’d look at it later. Stheno wasn’t an enemy, and she was apparently very, very difficult to aggro. She’d still left scores of careless players paralyzed or poisoned, and had carried out at least one TPK on a group that had deliberately attacked her rather than consider her quest.
Given the monsters that roamed the floors of Aincrad, even momentary paralysis was terrifying.
I haven’t been turned, Kirito told himself, as he had every day since the game had become their world. I’m not going to be turned.
I’ll die before I’m turned.
A sobering thought, and not one he planned to share. With anyone. Fuurinkazan, Argo, Asuna – they could decide for themselves what they could bear. He – couldn’t.
The monsters can kill me, but I won’t lose to this world!
“You may look at me.”
Startled, Kirito glanced up. Tensed, waiting for the status effect to strike-
Not human, obviously; scales speckling her face like tiny emerald freckles, cobras in the same verdant hues curling out of long, dark red hair. But that was a friendly face behind dark glasses, and if the smile hinted at fangs in it… well, he’d seen worse.
Sometimes, much worse.
“We don’t see that many humans this far inside Aincrad,” Stheno mused. “What brings you here?”