Why did they do it?
Half his mind concentrating on slipping soundlessly through the woods, Kirito stalked that question like a cat eyeing a mouse just out of reach.
Why are they worrying about me?
The world was what it was. You got a bad grade. You broke a wrist. You got trapped in a death game….
You find out your parents aren’t really your parents.
Anyway. Things happened. You dealt with them, or you didn’t. And if you couldn’t deal with them… he’d tried to help Sachi.
And look how well that turned out.
The blind leading the blind. He wouldn’t be here if he could deal with the real world. Real people. Real family.
So Issin had tried to use a game item to make him part of Fuurinkazan’s family. What should he say? Thanks for the thought, but when it comes to people I roll a critical fail every time–
Kirito stopped, one foot still in the air. Set it down. Very gently.
Branch-crunching yards behind him, Klein held up a fist for Fuurinkazan to stop. “What is it?”
Kirito drew a deep breath, testing the air for scents of decay. “Listen.”
“I don’t hear anything-” Klein cut himself off. Glanced at Issin.
“I don’t hear anything, either,” the shaman murmured, drawing closer to his guildmates. “No birds. No mice in the leaves. No insects.”
Kirito nodded, and shifted his fingers to beckon the others’ gazes. “Look down at the ground where you are. Then look ahead of me.”
“The leaves are different.” Kunimittz’s voice was almost a whisper. He bent, and scuffed some of the fallen duff. “They look like fallen leaves. Over there, they look… withered.”
“Ferns over here,” Harry One said tightly. “Should be over there; it’s wet enough. They’re not.”
“No spiderwebs over there, either,” Dale said suddenly. “It’s not the best time to see them, dew’s burned off – but they’re not there.”
Dynamm swallowed. “Over there’s dying, isn’t it?”
“The undead tend to do that.” Kirito kept his voice low. “Take a good look. Remember where this is. An undead can follow you out of the dead zone. But if it’s not aggroed, it usually won’t.” He paused. “Usually.”
“Okay.” Klein took a deep breath; let it sigh out, bracing himself. “So we know it’s in there.”
Kirito flicked a glance at him, and smiled a little. “We can know a lot more than that.” Activating his map, he took two steps back, and carefully started following the edge of the dead zone.