“Lycans can adopt with a Bloodstone, like any youkai,” Stheno said plainly. “But when they bite… what is forced on an unwilling soul is two infections, not one. The first touches only the body, changing mortal blood to one of us. The second – that malevolence is a fragment of the akuma that is the curse itself.” Clawed hands curled and uncurled, as if she would rend that demonic spirit with her bare hands. “When a human will loses the battle to survive, that akuma-shard fuses with their soul. Twists it. Taints it. But if a Moonsword can reach a human before they lose that battle – with enough power, you can pull the akuma from spirit to flesh. And if it can bleed….”
“It can die,” Kirito breathed. Hearing that howl in memory. That scream, that meant he would live, but someone else’s loved one had died.
If only I’d had another way. If only–
Wait. “You said, you.” Kirito blurted out. “I’m not-”
“But you could be.” She gazed at him, resolute. “You have the strength. You have the will.” A quiet smile. “Most of all, you have the heart. How many humans would help a monster stop killing?”
…It wasn’t a bug.
Cardinal hadn’t dumped Sorcery on him by default. If what Stheno said about Moonswords was accurate – the quest had been meant for a fighter who didn’t want to kill. Who didn’t look at a youkai and think monster.
Kirito hugged himself and his sword, trying not to tremble. With fear or rage, he wasn’t sure. Kayaba was killing people. How could the man have written a quest meant to gauge kindness? “Did – did you give me sorcery, Lady Stheno?”
Cobra hoods furled, as Stheno sighed. “I could have,” she said levelly. “I am a youkai lord. I have that power.”
A youkai lord. Kirito tensed, somehow not surprised. No wonder she could pull off a TPK. They’re supposed to be as strong as a raid boss.
“But I did not,” the medusa went on. “I would not force power on anyone.” A soft chuckle, as she ran her fingers over a stray cockatrice feather. “Mind, I may have nudged it a bit. The way your aura was sparking, your power would have surfaced on its own in a few more days. Likely in the midst of a battle. That is far too common, for young sorcerers.” She grimaced. “With the foes now loose in Aincrad, that could have meant your death.” She waved a hand around the garden. “So I let you rest here, where magic breathes in the very air. And waited.”