“Feather-tufts aren’t like that. They’re a graft invented by House Vadalis for their use and sale, and they have hardly any magic at all. They’re more a living tattoo than anything else.” Black eyes managed to glance at Asuna. “The technique ended up in Aincrad when a minor member of the House went rogue. He thought of an interesting use for it.”
“Connlan!” Cocoa sloshed in Tae’s mug as she shot upright. “Connlan of Swiftwater Pass. I know that story!”
“You said Connlan was a Moonsword.” Harry One gave her a curious look. “The dragonmarked Houses are from Galifar.”
And the Five Nations didn’t have Moonswords, Asuna knew. They killed them instead.
“And they say they don’t have sorcerers,” Tae said firmly. “But they’re born with magic, which means every once in a while someone is born a sorcerer. The House just kills anyone who manifests that power. Only Connlan’s showed up late, and he ran for Aincrad. Vincent saved him.” She hesitated. “That’s the story my family told me. I only saw him a few times, when he came into Snow Springs for supplies. I was just a kid.” She glanced at Kirito. “But I remember the feathers.”
Feathers. Because the world around Kirito just refused to make sense sometimes. “Why would you get feathers that don’t do anything?” Asuna demanded.
Finally, a glimmer of light in dark eyes. “Because Vincent said the ravens would go for your head. And the Compendium’s wrong.”
“Wrong?” Asuna said in disbelief. Caerulus checked every tome he had. There were scrolls cross-referenced to almost every book, with notes like “accurate”, “wrong”, “out of date”, and “what was the writer smoking?” And she’d definitely read the notes on the Compendium.
“Not wrong. More – incomplete.” Kirito rewrapped his fingers around hot cocoa. “Cockatrice bites have petrifying venom. True. You can’t get petrified just by touching a feather. That’s… mostly true. But if you watch flocks for a long while, when they’re happy and when they think danger’s coming…. If they’re angry, or scared, a cockatrice can chew on its own feathers, and they’ll carry the venom to the next thing they touch.” He looked up at her. “A graft is part of your body. But it also counts as a magical item. Which means you can equip certain things onto it.”