Afternoon. Kirito blinked at golden sunlight, shading his eyes to look around the garden. Except for one bright-combed cockatrice giving him the evil eye from a tree branch, and a few hens and chicks scratching for bugs and seeds, he was alone.
He breathed in a sigh of relief. Stheno’s company had been pleasant, yes. Like talking to another person. But time to himself, when he was safe – that was all too rare. Especially in such peaceful surroundings. You didn’t see Kermes Knotweed and Orchil Irises every day-
He’d laid down to nap near a bunch of simple <<Uncommon Flowers.>> He’d checked that before letting himself sleep; there wasn’t anything much more embarrassing than accidentally rolling over a necessary crafting component. But now, awake-
<<Kermes Knotweed. Orchil Iris. Shaman’s Fingerprints….>>
The plants even looked subtly different. Some dark green leaves now had lighter sage-green patches near the stems, like fingerprints. Others had leathery fronds and the first hints of red buds that said the root-nodules were ripe for harvesting. The irises had dustings of pollen on their flowers he could smell, like hot sunlight on cedar twigs.
The system’s letting my Scan pick up more details. Kirito brushed a finger over one of the Knotweeds, studying it carefully. Why? And why now?
Sitting up, he took off one half-glove to look at Stheno’s ring.
<<Stheno’s Gift: the Cockatrice Feather Ring.
<<Automatic save vs. touch petrification.
<<+10 vs. petrification/paralysis/poison.
<<Col: None. Perm-equipped.>>
So anti-poison and petrification. Nothing about adding bonuses to Scan.
It was the perm-equipped part that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Kirito could think of a half-dozen reasons why he couldn’t take this ring off, and none of them were good.
Well, one might be, the swordsman admitted to himself. If this is just the start of a continuing questline – it might need someone who can’t be petrified.
And so far, Sword Art Online had been fair. Not easy, and definitely not safe, but fair. Kayaba wouldn’t have programmed in a cursed item without a warning to a player of what they were picking up. He hoped.