Sword Art Online
After The Incident
Chapter 51 - A Matter of Perspective
The goofy samurai warrior grumbled a little bit on the other end of the phone, audibly going over my offer.
"I don't know Kazuto," he started, mumbling to himself "I know you mean well but… Man, I just don't know if I can trust him. To be perfectly frank I don't know how you can make yourself try and help him here"
"I know Klein" I replied, drying my face with a towel as I stepped into my bathroom.
The fall rain had caught up with me on my way back from my meeting with Shino, having completely soaked me in the process. I had called Klein on the way back in the train to talk to him about the things I discussed with her.
This was, without a doubt in my mind, the best way to resolve our group's little conflict. A lot of emotions was involved, and since I had been a warrior for so long in SAO, this was the best way I knew to resolve squabbles. It was a world of swords after all. Conflict would be resolved with swords.
And that world never truly left me, both on good and bad terms. There was, of course, trauma. Not only had I been held captive in an online experience that could have killed me if I wasn't good enough. But even after I was held captive against my will, one psychopath had been replaced by the next. From Kayaba to Sugou.
But SAO had been my home for two years, nearly three, and it was also the place where I had met the most important people in my life. In some way, SAO was a part of me now. For better and for worse. And when it finally came down to it, I wouldn't want it any other way.
"But I don't see any other way that would be more effective" I continued from earlier, stepping into my room and closing the door behind me "You guys can vent your emotions and frustrations, and ultimately get to resolve this conflict"
A small smirk appeared on my lips as I put Klein on speaker and began tinkering idly with my phone.
"Think of it this way, even if you don't manage to resolve anything, you still get to kick his butt"
A laugh could be heard on the other end of the line, and I could almost imagine a smirk crossing on Klein's face.
"Hmm, that does sound pretty good" He pondered "Who else will be participating?"
"That really depends who I can convince" I stated, opening up my contacts to go through the list "I doubt Rika would give up an opportunity to fight. Keiko too, since she's always ready to help"
I kept going through my list, adding names now and then.
"Andrew will probably do it just for the fun of it. He's probably curious about Kyouji's abilities. I can probably convince most of the people we know."
"Argh dammit you're right" Klein grumbled "Okay fine, I'm in. But you're going to have to throw some of Asuna's delicious sandwiches in on the deal."
"I can probably get something done" I chuckled, happy to have convinced him "Thank you Klein. You won't regret this"
"Yeah yeah, that remains to be seen as of now" Klein replied grumpily "This better be a damn good fight"
"I'm sure it will be. See you later"
I hung up the phone and smirked. It was coming together just as I was hoping it would.
"Good news papa?"
Yui popped up on my computer screen and I nodded, stretching lazily.
"Yep, Klein agreed to it. Now just to call Rika and ask her, and finally call Shino to ask if Kyouji is in as well"
"Ah, that is wonderful to hear"
She smiled her usual smile, but I noticed how it faltered as she kicked her feet absentmindedly, holding her hands on her back.
"Yui, is something wrong?"
She perked up in surprise at my question, before waving her hands in front of her in defense.
"Ah no, not at all papa" she mumbled absentmindedly, her gaze lowered meekly "I uh… I am just having some personal issues, that is all"
I smile gently and sat down in my office chair, looking at my daughter's avatar on the screen.
"You know you can talk to me about anything, right?" I asked her quizzically.
"Yeah, I know…"
She fell silent for a moment before drawing a sigh.
"I recently made a group of friends within ALO. It was some time after Mama allowed me to go out and explore the game on my own."
"That's great, Yui" I said, genuinely proud of her. I wish I could make friends that easily when I was her "age"
"Well yes, but we are having some issues"
"Issues?" I asked "What issues?"
"Well, I mainly act as a frontline battler for our group" She started explaining "My recent addition to the party has shaken up what I would call the composition a little bit. Suddenly we have too much raw power on the frontline without any defense, and people are getting annoyed that the backline isn't being protected enough"
"But that's a simple solution right?" I asked, a little confused "Just ask one of the frontline players to act as a shield bearer for the backline"
"Yes well, that is exactly the issue" she mumbled quietly "None of the frontliners, me included, have any experience with a shield. And at this point, we're so leveled and into the game that none of us feel like bothering to level up another skill tree."
Every single weapon type in ALO had a specific skill and experience tree. The more you used a weapon or combination of gear, the better you would get at using that gear, and the better skills you would get with it. Basic MMO logic.
This situation seemed oddly familiar, and it took me a moment to realize why. This was awfully familiar to my time with The Moonlit Black Cats back in SAO, when we were trying to convince Sachi to use a shield so she could fight on the frontline. She was so scared. And I only realized afterwards that it was because she feared death. She feared the death game.
Though when compared to Yui's situation, that fear was replaced with a feeling of mild annoyance and inconvenience of simply switching a skill tree. She and the other frontliners were intimidated by the amount of time it would take them to get half decent with using a shield and its related skills.
The fact that people no longer had to fear the frontlines was a part of what I had come to fight for though. Originally, all I had been fighting for was myself and my own needs. My need to survive and to win, no matter the cost.
To see my efforts bear fruit, to see Yui be able to enjoy the game and find friendships like I did, made me feel like all of the fighting had been worth it.
"Listen Yui" I smiled quietly and looked back up at her "You like your friends, right? You like playing with them, correct?"
"O-Of course, Papa" She said, a bright, excited smile on her face "I may not have known them for long, but I enjoy spending time with them. And I feel like I can learn a lot about human psyche and emotion from them"
"Well then, why not take up the mantle and volunteer for the job?" I asked with a smirk "I think you could make a badass shield hero."
"Well, I am a sword kind of girl, papa" she mumbled nervously "I do not yet know if I would be a good fit for the job"
"Can't know unless you try" I kept pressing the issue. I hoped for Yui to gain confidence in her own talent and abilities "And no matter what, you know papa will be here to support your decision"
Despite her nervousness she flashed a big, earnest smile at me, hugging her side of the screen lovingly.
"I love you Papa"
"I love you too Yui" I answered her, pressing my hand to the screen "Tell you what, how about we go explore Alfheim together once this whole Kyouji situation is taken care of? Just you, me and Mama?"
"Oh! That sounds wonderful!" She squealed in joy, her little pixie wings sprouting from her back as she began flying around the screen in excitement "A heavy forest area was added with the most recent update! I bet it's got all sorts of treasures and secrets somewhere!"
"Then that's settled" I smirked, pumping my fist enthusiastically "And Yui?"
"If any boys in your group gives you trouble, let me know will ya?"
I snickered a little bit as Yui began blushing dark red, fidgeting on the spot in embarrassment as she yelled at me in disbelief.
"Papa! I-It's nothing like that!"
I couldn't help but laugh a little, all to Yui's even greater dismay. It was moments like this that were most precious to me.
A few days later, everything had been set up perfectly. Mostly everyone had agreed to show up, with the exception of Agil, who needed to stock up in his bar. Turns out that real life is very much a thing outside the virtual world.
Kyouji was standing by my side in my fan made arena in the VR environment I had made, and I smiled over at him as he took a couple of warmup swings with his rapier, a concentrated frown on his face.
"Do you think they'll kick my ass as easily as Klein hopes to?" He asked with a joking tone.
"No, I don't think so" I chuckled, a smile on my face "You're too fast to just roll over. Klein will have to strategize a little bit. If only a little"
He chuckled and nodded, taking a breath before turning towards me.
"Are you sure that this is the best way to settle this?" He asked.
I nodded quietly, walking over and patting his shoulder.
"We're warriors Kyouji" I mumbled, stretching tall as I looked around "This is how we settle things. Words are often nothing next to the feeling of metal against metal"
"Wow, dramatic much?" Kyouji commented with a sarcastic tone "But I guess it's not easy for me to relate. I wasn't caught up in that yearlong nightmare that you guys were… or my brother was…"
I sighed silently, my memories rushing back to me as they had a habit of doing. Red Xaxa had only been a part of my SAO life for a short while. His guild, The Laughing Coffin, was the overall menace, however.
I thought back to the day of the guild raid. How most of the player killers had surrendered without a fight. But a small group of them had broken away from them and the whole thing turned out to be an ambush. The main group were pretending to surrender while Xaxa and his group could sneak around and attack us from behind.
In the end, their ambush had succeeded to a certain extend. They managed to take down two elite players before we managed to get our bearings in the confusion, turn our blades from the captives to the ambushers, overwhelm them, and eventually win. I had cut down two or three people in the chaos, watched their bodies crumble, their life ending with a swing of my blade.
That one memory had been one of the most haunting of the time I spent in that death game. I had been quite messed up a good while after that day, and I had never quite been able to let go of that pain. I suppose I could understand Kyouji to some extend in that regard. He must have felt the same way when he lost his brother.
"You may not have been trapped in the death game with the rest of us Kyouji, but you haven't had it easy either" I said softly, shooting him a sympathetic look.
"Come now, I'm sure what I went through is nothing compared to having to fight for your lives for close to three years straight" Kyouji said dismissively, a small, unsure smile on his face.
"Kyouji, you watched your brother die" I said with a frown. "You were forced to watch him wither every single day. That can't have been easy either."
Kyouji frowned a little bit and looked away, a nervous gaze in his eyes.
"I do not know why you are so… so thoughtful and sympathetic when it comes to me, Kazuto" He mumbled quietly, nervousness now turning to confusion "I tried to kill you… hurt your loved ones…"
"I hurt people too Kyouji" I said silently, a frown on my face "Not always intentionally, but I hurt a lot of people. Physically AND emotionally. It's actions I can't take back, but I try to repent for every single day. And I do that by being more understanding and to have more sympathy towards others"
Another memory rushed through my mind. It was right after I had been released from the prison that was Sugous torture. I was finally out of the virtual world, free to breathe real air, feel my own real body basically collapse under its own weight.
Suguha had told me everything that had been going on in the outside world while I was away. How the world could only watch in horror as the ten thousand players trapped in the game got weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner.
And then came the deaths. First it was the desperate parents who had ignored Kayabas warning, and had forcefully removed the Nervegear, resulting in the death of their loved ones. Then came the deaths of those who had failed to survive in SAO. All over the country, more and more people died by the hundreds, faster and faster. Two thousand players died during the first month of the game alone.
The hospitals were overworked, the workers exhausted, many of the country's resources were spent to keep the players alive, and to accommodate for them. Some were even placed in private homes and monitored 24/7 because no hospital in the entirety of Japan could accommodate both them, and all the regular patients at the same time.
And in the middle of the chaos, were the families and loved ones. The poor individuals who could do nothing but visit their trapped family members and hope so desperately that the game would be cleared, and their loved ones would wake up one day. It's almost comparable to when someone falls into a year-long coma. Suguha and my aunt could do nothing but watch as I got weaker every single day.
They had begged for the doctors to feed me more regularly, but resources were stretched thin as it is, and other patients needed help just as much as I did, if not more in some cases. In the worst-case scenario, the doctors couldn't keep the patient alive, and the family was forced to watch their son, their daughter, a mother or a father, wither away and die.
And on my side, not a day went by where I didn't regret how distant I had been towards Suguha and my aunt. All because of some stupid family situation that could have been handled simply by talking things out with one another.
"I feared so much that I would be unable to repent for the things I had done. Every single day I wished that SAO had never happened, that I could go back in time and tell my younger self never to put that Nervegear on and to go and talk to my family, to say sorry…"
I turned towards Kyouji, an analytical and thoughtful look in his eyes.
"You can do the same thing Kyouji. You've made mistakes but I, as well as Sinon, have forgiven you. By accepting this fight and taking the opportunity to get to know my friends, you are already beginning to say sorry, and to repent."
He nodded, a small smile beginning to form cracks in his nervous surface.
"I… You're right. Yeah, you're right" he nodded quietly, poking his finger idly against the point of his rapier "I have a lot to think about but… At least you've managed to lift my spirits. Thank you, Kazuto"
"It's a matter of perspective" I said with a smile, once again patting his shoulder in a friendly gesture "Just don't squander the chance we're giving you."
"Right. Then let's do this."
Hey guys! Thank you ever so much for reading today's update on Sword Art Online: After The Incident.
The periods between each chapter just get longer and longer, don't they? I'm sorry about that. I really am. College is a BITCH, but I'm on the final home stretch now. My final year of college is almost halfway done, and with it comes considerations of what I want to do next, whether that be start working, continue to university, or whatever other options there may be. Not to mention an ass load of homework and final exams.
Please continue to be the lovely, patient motherfuckers that you are. I love all of you, and would love to update more frequently, but I have personal issues, school and social ties and relationships that I need to take care of.
I swear I feel like a broken record at times, always apologizing for the length of time it takes to update, but I feel like you guys deserve an apology nonetheless.
Anyway, thank you one and all for putting up with my bullshit. Another chapter coming soon, maybe, most likely not.
- Dragondemolition -