“Do you know how the NervGear works? Why we started the game without pain, but now, when we get hit, we feel it?”
Klein rolled his eyes. “Because Kayaba’s an asshole.”
Kirito’s face was pale. “Kayaba may not have had anything to do with it.”
Issin whistled. “Okay. Try that again with a few more details. You don’t think Kayaba wanted us to feel it when our HP goes down?”
“I’m not sure he had a choice. NervGear works because the brain synthesizes reality from nerve input, it’s not one to one-” Kirito stopped. Made himself take a few breaths. “When they were first putting out FullDive, there were all kinds of scientific articles arguing about how it worked. Or how researchers thought it worked. Some articles went back a few decades. About researchers deliberately inducing phantom limb feelings in people who didn’t have amputations.”
“Phantom limbs,” Klein said blankly. That totally did not make sense – no, wait. It did. “You’re saying our avatars are, what? Phantom body syndrome?”
“Spooky,” Kunimitzz sing-songed.
“In some experiments, they had the subject imagine picking up objects, and used visual tricks so the items moved,” Kirito stated. “Once someone was used to the ‘phantom arm’ – they’d stick a pin where the subject imagined the arm was. And the person felt pain.”
Klein rubbed at the hairs on the back of his neck. That was beyond spooky.
“Those experiments were just for a few hours,” Kirito went on, face grim. “Kayaba’s locked us in. We can’t log out. We’ve been here months. The brain is plastic, it can change with your surroundings. And this is the only reality our brains have.” He flexed half-gloved fingers, and nodded at Issin’s ears. “If sorcery is a random event, if becoming youkai is a quest reward…. Klein. The longer we’re in here, the less – normal – the Otherworld will be. What if we don’t get out soon enough? What’s going to happen to us?”