Kirito looked the draconic girl in the eye. “You’re a player. You have as much to lose as any of us.” Black eyes softened. “Maybe more. No one’s going to attack our families in Japan. But if the Five Nations decide to invade Aincrad again….”
Wrapped in Dynamm’s arms, Tae crumpled, tears flowing free.
“Hey,” he whispered. “Hey, it’s going to be okay.”
She tucked her head against his cheek, shivering. “I’ve been so scared.”
Dale blinked, and reddened. “Seriously? You think – but people don’t just go around killing other people! Not when nobody started a fight-” He cut himself off, jaw clenched and grim. “But Tinctoria Village threw us out. We were there to help them. They were marked as friendly NPCs. They could have called for a healer. They could have done something!”
“No, they couldn’t.” Tae scrubbed at her tears. “They don’t… humans don’t h-have shamans. And farmers don’t have strong clerics. They’re all in the cities. If there’s no forest with a druid nearby….” She wrapped a wing around Dynamm, and shuddered.
“Then they don’t have anybody who can treat someone who’s infected,” Issin said heavily. “All they can do is protect themselves.” He eyed Klein. “Guess we should count ourselves lucky all they did was chase us out.”
“I don’t think luck had anything to do with it.” Kirito tapped fingers on one knee, brows drawn down in dark contemplation. “They knew Fuurinkazan was strong enough to kill the monsters attacking their village. And they knew you wouldn’t kill a bakeneko youkai. It doesn’t take a high-functioning program to calculate that trying to kill Klein would go… badly.”
“No shamans. No high-level healers at all?” Kunimittz closed one hand around his other fist, thinking. “And no Moonswords.”
Tae nodded, swallowing her tears. “They’re just legends, now,” she said, voice ragged. “My father says they almost all died driving the daelkyr back to the Plane of Madness. The last one he’d heard of was a medusa, Connlan of Swiftwater Pass. And….” Her shoulders slumped. “The Karrnathi killed them all.”
Dynamm held her. “So Lusliat really is your father?”
“Sometimes.” Her voice was soft, even to Klein’s ears. “Other times he’s just a golem. A… programmed NPC. Is that the right word?”
Klein winced. “That’s got to be awful.” Though he guessed awful didn’t come close. Something that looked like your father, but part of the time it wasn’t… horrific sounded a lot closer.
“That’s not the worst.” Pale, Tae rubbed her hands over each other. “I’ve asked him. If we’re really dying.” She gulped. “He won’t tell me.”