The Dying of Laughter

Alice gently laid Bercouli's body on the ground then looked over at Itsagi who was on his knees leaning over with his right hand over his face laughing and crying at the same time. Alice scans the battle and puts together that Bercouli somehow did the impossible and defeated the Dark God, the gory remains across the barren scape was proof of that. What Alice didn't know was who this disturbed lunatic with the dusty cloak and creepy smiling white mask was.

*Itsagi's mind*

Itsagi looks up to see the barren landscape glitch and faze out his awakened subconscious mind, bringing the memories of the Lost Incident to his conscious mind. The sky was still red, and he was still in the barren landscape but platforms and barrels rose out of the ground like some twisted Donkey Kong Game. At the top was the Two-Headed Giant with Lizbeth in his left upper hand and his oversized club in his right hand.

Gleam-Eyes appeared reaching into barrels hurling his giant sword at Itsagi who got to his feet dodging out of the way leaping up on the platforms trying to get to Lizbeth. He ran holding out his right hand to her. Istagi sprouted his wings leaping up flying past Glean-Eyes in desperation to Lizbeth and the Two Headed Giant.

Itsagi noticed a shadow with red eyes flying parallel to him. He stares at the red eyes as the shadow takes shape into Skull Reaper. His bone-scythe slides out of the shadow and slices Itsagi in half. Istagi snaps awake screaming back where he was a moment ago hearing with Lizbeth calling out to him to save her and like before Gleam-Eyes hurls his swords at him only this time as Itsagi is running and leaping along the platforms his shadow turned into Skull-Reaper emerging from the darkness towering over him. Itsagi looked over his right shoulder with widened eyes of horror.

Skull Reaper's Bone-Scythes come across like scissors and slice Itsagi in half. Itsagi wakes up screaming again where he was a moment ago. It was like he was trapped in a never ending game where no matter how far he got, how high he climbed, or how close he got to Lizbeth he would be killed by Gleam-Eyes, Skull Reaper, crushed by the Two-Headed Giant, or the worst he would watch Lizbeth die in brutally and horrifying ways.

The horrifying one is when the Two-Headed Giant twisted Lizbeth and cracked her open like a crab leg sucking out her innards. Itsagi woke back-up screaming and the cycle started again. This went on, over and over driving him into utter madness. He remembered why when he saw Lizbeth after the Lost Incident why he had resentment toward her.

With his memories back he realized he didn't have resentment toward Lizbeth, no he was angry at his failure to save her. Millions of memories of his death and failure to save her drove him with such despair and madness he wanted to crush his own heart and rip out his own eyes. He could not stand to see another brutal murder of the girl he loved.

*Reality*

Alice just stood there not knowing what to think or make of Itsagi who was clearly experiencing something horrible inside his own head. She didn't even know if he was friend or foe. Alice walked away picking up her sword and calling Ayamori getting ready to hop on her back giving one last glance at Itsagi who was sobbing rocking back and forth.

"I can't take it anymore, I can't take it anymore, I can't take it anymore...Lizbeth…" Itsagi cried out in anger and despair. Alice shook her head. "Kirito…" Itsagi said in shame and anger. Alice suddenly stops then looks over at Itsagi thinking she missed heard him. "Asuna...I can't keep going anymore...make it stop...make it stop…" Itsagi got to his feet staggering forward to the edge of the cliff with a look of overwhelming horror.

Alice watched him about to walk off the cliff when she leapt from Ayamori pulling Itsagi back from the edge, tossing him to the ground. Alice pointed her sword at him. Itsagi was on his knees looking up at her with his right hand clenching his stubbed left arm. He was looking at Alice, but she could tell he was not seeing her.

Itsagi's nightmare glitched in and out. The platforms, Lizbeth, and the SAO bosses fazed in and out of reality with Alice appearing and disappearing before him like a ghost. He could see her, he could see her talking saying something with a sword appearing at his throat but he couldn't hear or make out what she was saying. He was being overwhelmed by the flooding memories of the Lost Incident, overwhelming rage, pain, and hurt.

Itsagi slammed his head repeatedly on the ground. He couldn't stand it anymore, his ego couldn't hold together, his self-image collapsed, and his mind devolved. When Itsagi lifted up his head he saw the hooded-members of Laughing Coffin before him and behind them a path of blood and bodies with Itsagi all alone on a mound of bodies laughing with the shadow of Skull Reaper laughing.

Itsagi then looked to the left to see the fallen members of the ALF, Kirito and the gang with Zekken standing before him, there was a path of light with all their other friends behind him and Lizbeth emerging from the crowd holding out her hand to him. Before the two paths Itsagi saw the back of himself as he was in the ALF, back when he was the Shield Hero of SAO, a Symbol of Peace. To his right he saw himself as he is now, the Laughing Fairy, the Symbol of Evil of ALO.

His mind was conflicted and being torn apart. Who he was hated who he had become. Who he had become hated who he was. He saw both paths laid out before him. A Path of light and a path of darkness. In the path of darkness he saw himself alone, consumed by rage and hate. Down the path of light he was surrounded by love, friendship, and peace.

"Hey! Can you hear me!" Alice slapped him a few times bringing Itsagi back to reality. Getting his consciousness to refocuses. Itsagi looked up at her.

"Alice? Your Alice?" Itsagi said in a tired voice.

"I am, who are you?" Alice pulled her sword away pointing it at the ground.

"I'm...I'm…" Itsagi looked up at her to see Itsagi, the Shield Hero to her right and to her left the Laughing Fairy Itsagi of Laughing Coffin. He saw darkness and light behind Alice with a mound of bodies appearing behind the Laughing Fairy. "I dunno…" Itsagi answered her by removing his mask and sitting it on the ground. He throws off his cloak and sits on his knees before her in his black combat boots, grey cargo pants, black long sleeve shirt, and slick back dark hair. His sword strapped to his waist. Alice sees the scars on his avatar's face in the form of a creepy smile. The soulless look in his eyes and one look Alice knew this man was deeply disturbed. "I dunno who I am anymore without her, without them…I've become so lost..." Itsagi lowered his head.

"Okay, let's start with what's your name?" Alice said in a gentle voice.

"Itsagi...Shinji Itsagi…" he answered her.

"Why are you hear Itsagi?" Alice inquired.

"To help Asuna and Kirito protect Alice and the lives of the Underworlders" Itsagi told her. Alice smiles sweetly at him.

"What happened here, Itsagi?" Alice gently placed her right hand on his left shoulder.

"Bercouli and I fought the Dark God Vector. He had this black stuff that messed with my mind. Bercouli saved me and he was lethally wounded and…" Itsagi put his right hand over his face with his hair falling in front of his face. Alice could see he was struggling with his words. "I'm sorry, I couldn't save him. I wasn't strong enough...I…".

"It's okay, you did what you could. The important thing is Vector has been defeated, even if the cost of victory was too high" Alice looks over at the fallen Bercouli. She looks back at Istagi seeing his injuries and his stubbed arm. "Here let me fix that" Alice uses a system call command to generate Itsagi a new left hand. Then she held both her hands to him and closed and mended his injuries. Once the pain subsided, Itsagi found he could think a little bit more clearly.

"Itsagi you seemed to have an identity crisis going on with not knowing who you are. You also said you don't know who you are without them, I assume you mean Kirito, Asuna, and this Lizbeth. So I ask you, who do you want to be Itsagi?" Alice asked him.

Itsagi looked up at her with her hand held out to him. For a moment in Itsagi's mind he saw Zekken in place of Alice, her hair hiding her face but her right hand held out to him with her angel wings spread.

"Don't give up Itsagi, it's not your time yet" Zekken told him. Itsagi just blinked at her and saw to his right Itsagi, The Shield Hero and to his left he saw the Laughing Fairy Itsagi.

"So who are you Itsagi? And what do you want?" Alice asked him again.

"I'm...I'm…" Itsagi looked up at his avatars and he knew what he wanted and who he wanted. More then anything he wanted to see her. Itsagi held out his right hand to her. Choosing the path he would follow "I want Lizbeth, I want her back!" Itsagi tells her. Then takes her hand with his right hand. Alice smiles.

"Then let's go to Asuna...to Lizbeth" Alice smiles. Itsagi nods as she helps him up off the ground. "Let's save the Underworld!" Alice smiles. Itsagi smirks and laughs, only this time his laugh was filled with hope and love. Not with anger and pain. Itsagi looked to his left and saw the Laughing Fairy laughing in agony as he died in Itsagi's mind disappearing, leaving Istagi with new focus and resolve.