I grit my teeth together, gripping the slab of table in the meeting cave so hard my knuckles whiten on the stone. Across the table, Kirito stands straight, eyes turned into Asuna's glare as she pounds her hand on the table.
"Do you think they are alive? Really? In this game, they are just objects." Asuna gestures to the rest of the guild behind us, livid.
"And unlike us, they respawn when they die!"
I can't help but think the idea of using MPC's as bait makes perfect sense; it was my suggestion in the first place. That way, the deaths of players are decreased.
Even though she flinches as Asuna's words, the girl beside Kirito gives him a nudge with her elbow. While I can't quite see her face, I can see where her long brown hair trails down the front of her red armour...
I turn my eyes away, looking at the map sprawled out before us, planning the next boss raid, the next advance, the next floor until we reach our destination and what lies beyond it.
Hatred boils, but I smooth it over, knowing that if she were here, she would never feel that anger; she would forgive.
And I am trying so hard. So hard to stop hating and start forgiving. But there is still that lingering part of me that just won't let go.
I school my features as hard as the stone around us as Kirito only shrugs, a lazy gesture for someone who couldn't protect the one I loved. I grip the table harder.
"Sorry, but I'm still not cool with that plan." If he hadn't gotten another nudge from his partner, I couldn't have stopped myself from strangling him.
"I am running this operation, okay?" Asuna's voice takes on a cold chill as she spits the words "In case you have forgotten, I am second in command at the Knights of the Bloodoath, Kyo here is my Lieutenant, if you have any problems, take it up with him."
Across the room, the boy only creases his forehead in an examination, but his girl grabs his wrist, twisting it around his back.
"Sorry for the interruption Commander, Lieutenant, I'll escort him out." She says the words without an ounce of feeling and marches him out of the crowd, eyes following her brown cape as she exits.
I press my nails into my palms, so hard that if I could possibly bleed in this game, there would be half red moons imprinted into my skin.
It takes everything in me, all my muscle fibres and will to not go over to Kyo and kiss him and tell him about the last couple of months.
But I shouldn't. I can't. I won't.
I take a big breath, pressure dissolving the further I drag Kirito from the floor boss meeting.
We take an abandoned path that leads out of town and towards the next; brick walls keep the dirt on the path from contaminating the beautiful flower field next to me.
"What were you doing!?" I hiss, flinging Kirito against one of the low walls, which he tumbles over and into the grass below. "I told you to stay unnoticed. Do you know what that actually means!?"
"Ow!" Kirito picks grass out of his hair as I clamber over the wall, taking a seat next to him on the grass, clutching my knees to my chest.
"Well it's your fault, we can't go to the boss fight tomorrow because you made a massive scene. And somehow, I don't think a change in hair colour is going to prevent Kyo from recognising me."
I sigh, twisting the ring on my finger round and round like it has become habit over the time I haven't seen him.
My partner sighs too, lying back on the green grass, his black outfit and sword standing out "well that's sucks for you I guess but I am still going"
"No, you are not. If I am suffering, you have to suffer as well!"
"Just stop mopping and accept your punishment. Maybe since I am kind, let's train here when the boss battle is going on."
"I mean, there is flowers and sunshine and grass, lots of grass, what else could you possibly want?" I list the things off with my fingers as Kirito just rolls his eyes.
I pick a flower from the ground, a daisy. I make a hole with my nail and thread another flower through. I haven't made daisy chains for so long, I have almost forgotten how.
It is like how I have forgotten my parent's faces or how I don't remember what my room looks like, or who I went to school with.
I miss reality the way you miss a good memory; you accept that the things you remember aren't coming back.
But this time it's different, I can't get these things back if I try, If I reach 100 floors if I complete my mission.
When it comes to it, I won't hesitate, because forgetting my uncle's smiles is better than forgetting everything else I know.
When we leave, I throw the chain to the ground and grind my foot into it; killing my childhood and leaving my innocence behind.
It might have been several weeks until the day if the boss fight rolls around. It might have been a week. It might have even been four days.
You can never really tell with this game; one day of levelling and grinding bleeds and blurs into the next until you can't tell when one day ends the other begins.
While I know my comrades die in the battle to reach the next floor, me and Kirito train, trying to forget the fact that we should be there too.
It's midday when we finally decide to take a pause, sitting under the shade of the tree. The bark indents into my bare back, cape ditched back in my inventory.
Kirito leans on the grass in the sun, closing his eyes and soaking it in.
"Everyone in the assault team is working their buts off and where do I find you? Sitting out here and taking a nap! As there is only two of you, you really..."
Asuna stalks up to us, Kyo close on her tail. She sounds exasperated and irritated; rightly so.
I can see a small smile spread in Kirito's lips as he waves the vice commander away, drawling lazily
"But today is Aincrad's nice's and most optimal weather setting, it really would be a shame work today."
I press my lips together to hide a smirk of my own but I freeze as I hear his familiar voice snort "The weather literally never changes here."
"Well, if you come down here and have a try, I'm sure you will understand."
Asuna only rolls her eyes, but takes a seat next to Kirito, gingerly lying down in the grass. Before long, I see her chest rise and fall evenly; she's deep asleep.
My gaze softens, remembering the time we first meet, even if it was only briefly.
"She must be pretty tried if she is knocked out that easily."
Kyo takes a seat beside me and I sit up straighter, not daring to get too close in case I lean my head on his shoulder like I used to.
I took the simple action so much for granted.
"Yeah," he runs his fingers through his bronze hair. "Well, she is practically our leader, and she is so relentless and hasn't been sleeping much lately."
I swallow my jealousy in my next breath, only blankly staring at the field beyond my game visor.
I don't realise I am subconsciously twisting the ring around my finger until Kyo sees it, and the Sakura charm bracelet I still keep on my left wrist.
Kyo's green eyes widen into shock, impossibly pale. "That's impossible!" Shakily, he demands. "Where did you get those!?"
I close my eyes, willing the tears that gather away. I don't want to tell him, I don't want to put him in danger.
I twist the ring until I think it is only a clump of metal a stone's in my hand
"I'm sorry Kyozo."