“Klein’s a better samurai than anyone.” Black eyes were hard. Hurting. “He came in on Opening Day, and he kept his guild together. They’re alive because he believed in them and he led them. That’s what a samurai should be.” He shook his head, slow and final. “I’m just a beater. Fuurinkazan doesn’t need that kind of trouble with the other clearers.”
“You’re not trouble!” You idiot!
Black eyes narrowed. “Check your guild messages and tell me that. Heathcliff doesn’t want his people wasting time on players who’ll never make the cut for the Knights.”
That stung. Mostly because it was true. She’d argued with the rest of the guild that clearers needed to spend time helping the mid-levels get stronger. With more monsters like Pollista popping up on cleared levels, Kayaba could effectively cut them off from new recruits if they didn’t. And they were only halfway through the game. If they couldn’t replace clearers lost to high-level monsters, they would all die.
She hadn’t mentioned the plan Lisbeth and Argo – and others – were working on. Heathcliff was focused on beating the game. What Kirito had called a Dungeon Bypass was not what her commander had in mind.
We need to make sure we have enough clearers, Asuna had argued instead. The KoB are good, but we can’t depend on clearing the game by ourselves.
Heathcliff had frowned at that, but didn’t argue. Still, he preferred not to deal with non-clearers. No one on his own level had ever come close to beating him in a duel. Why would any lesser players be any more interesting?
He’s never dueled Kirito.
The Black Swordsman almost never dueled. Heathcliff drew his sword to play to the crowd; Kirito didn’t pull so much as a throwing pike unless….
Unless he means to kill.
Asuna stood deliberately straight, and sniffed. “Well, I took a day off, so it doesn’t matter what my guild messages might say.”
Kirito took a step away from the stove. “You took a day off?”
“It’s Christmas,” Asuna said firmly. “I’m bringing Yui a present. What did you get her?”
Guys. “Well, you can’t show up looking like that.” She advanced on him, a speculative gleam in her eye. “What did you do to those poor feathers, take a comb to them? Stay still.”
Eyes wide, Kirito froze.