“We weren’t warriors when we first came here.” Kirito glanced at her, then at one of the snarling minotaur statues that guarded the entrance to Stheno’s cave. “And surely the Ebon Wolf could not hope to face you.”
“And surely he would not face me,” Stheno said dryly. “Why should he, when he could summon a thousand turned mages and warriors to besiege me instead? I am immortal, not invincible.” The medusa tilted her head, as if he’d said something very odd. “Not warriors? Then how did you escape his minions?”
“Some of us didn’t.” He’d never expected the Town of Beginnings to turn into such a nightmare. Kayaba’s starting tutorial, wererats grabbing a hapless NPC and biting down, before the horrified youkai town guards arrived to chase them off, and seize their terrified, infected victim, and-
Kirito flinched, remembering the sickening pop of mutating flesh and bone as the man had begged to die.
That had been bad enough. But the fear that had swept through the players, as the first unlucky few encountered more lycanthropes, and found out the hard way that Kayaba wasn’t bluffing….
This is our reality, now.
“Some of us didn’t,” Kirito repeated, half to himself. “I was lucky. I knew a little about swords before I was brought here. And I’ve learned more, often due to the kindness of strangers. Many of them youkai strangers.” He met that dark-shaded gaze. “I’m not from anywhere in Galifar. I want to defeat the Ebon Wolf. We all do.”
“We?” Stheno raised an elegant brow, snakes curling. “Survivors of twenty thousand stolen from hearth and home, and you’d have me believe you’re all of one mind?”
A very complex AI. “No, of course not,” Kirito said seriously. “But some of us will fight.” His voice caught in his throat. He took a breath, and made it steady. “It’s the only way we’ll go home.”
Dark lenses shaded her gaze, but he thought her eyes narrowed. “Come with me.”