Buddha, what a mess. Argo shared some rations with Kirito as they mulled over Stheno’s story. The background info before Sword Art Online had started said humans and youkai were enemies. Some of the game fluff had given reasons why. But this was different.
It’s like talking to someone who was actually there. Who saw everyone they loved… die.
Someone who’d had the power to take one night of terrifying vengeance. Stheno hadn’t tried to gloss over how she’d infiltrated the heart of each army’s arcane corps, armed with an enchantment of look at me and her own terrible gaze.
And special squads of stealthy, strong youkai to follow her. Armed with sledgehammers.
“That’s why you hide as just another monster, isn’t it?” Argo asked, after Stheno fell silent. “The Five Nations are still looking for you.”
“They were always looking for me,” the medusa said quietly. “That is half the reason my mortal kin were slain, in hopes that death would slay me, too…. You truly must be from another world. I am Stheno the Fierce, yes. But I am also Stheno of the True Sight.”
Kirito looked up from the blissful hen in his lap, fingers still scratching through glossy feathers. “You’re a seer.”
The medusa inclined her head.
Kirito drew a deliberate breath. “Then how-?”
“I do not See every possible future,” Stheno said levelly. “Who could? I See what I know to ask of. And even then, I see not a future, but – paths. Options, taken and untaken. The Karrnathi wizards have ways to cloud divination. And they were clever. They did not cast a curse. Instead, they twisted the malevolence already clinging to the mountains’ bones. Amplified it. And struck.” Obsidian lenses glinted as she shook her head. “Now only the minotaurs dare dwell in the Swiftwater Pass, where the bones of my mortal children lie. The Walls of Storm are abandoned, save for those youkai who can resist the venom within the very earth.”
“Which means the Alliance can’t cross them, either,” Argo pointed out.
“They cannot settle them,” Stheno corrected her. “But adventurers and armies have recourse to the power of their gods, who can bring forth clean water from the very air. The Five Nations of Galifar can attack us, if they choose.” Her voice sank. “And sooner or later, they will.”