Sinon stood out in the open field behind Kirito and huffed. Nothing was spawning. Not even trash mobs. She sat down cross-legged in front of a nearby boulder and looked at the landscape. It was… open, for lack of a better word. It was a wide, grassland area, dotted with flowers and sparsely offset by the occasional hill, if you could call the tiny lumps of dirt on the ground hills. It was sunny, though, which was nice. Sinon leaned back against the rock and watched Kirito scratch his head in bewilderment.
"That's never happened before. Why is literally nothing spawning?"
Sinon had a snappy comment lined up about his face but decided against saying it, considering that they were about to fight a boss together.
"This is so dumb. I used a spawner potion and everything!"
Sinon sighed and sank into the ground, basking in the gentle heat radiating from the virtual sun. She closed her eyes and took in the warmth, having taken going outside IRL for granted. Sinon wouldn't lie, she missed the real world. Before this whole thing had happened, the only thing she went outside for was going to school and to the pool, with therapy occasionally mixed in there somewhere. She decided that when she got out, she'd make a point to go outside more, because hey, the sun feels nice. Her thoughts were dashed, though, by the sound of a frustrated Kirito plunking himself down near her.
"Sheesh, I used like, three potions. Nothing's spawning! Am I too high level? Are you too high level? Are WE too high level? Gah…" Kirito grumbled, throwing his arms to the ground exasperatedly as he fell back against the rock.
Sinon didn't say anything, her body going into a reflexive state of rigidity as Kirito slumped to the ground. A few minutes of mildly uncomfortable silence followed, interrupted by Kirito's voice.
"So… what do you like to do?"
Sinon was mildly perturbed at the sudden noise. "What…?"
"Y'know, back there?"
"You're making even less sense now."
"In the real world, sheesh."
"The real world? Why would I tell you that?"
"Just humor me. Small talk really isn't my strong suit."
"I…" she paused, considering her words as to not overshare. "I guess… I guess I gamed a lot. I have a lot of experience in VR, so that's probably why we're around the same level."
"Gotcha. What'd you play before this?"
"Gun Gale Online."
"GGO, really?" Kirito asked, raising an eyebrow.
"What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing! I just didn't expect that out of you, of all people."
"Why's that, might I ask?" Sinon retorted sharply.
"It's just… with the you that I've seen, well, I just didn't think you'd opt for a high-energy and high-stress game like GGO."
Sinon went silent and pondered her answer. He did have a point, after a quick reflection on her own interactions with him recently.
"Anything else?" Kirito asked, trying to keep the flow of the conversation moving.
"Not really much else," Sinon began. "Although I do read a lot. Mostly just informational stuff though."
"Do you do that for fun?"
"Yeah, what of it?"
"I don't know. I guess you just don't find too many people who read stuff like that for fun."
"Sounds like you need smarter friends."
Kirito forlornly chuckled. "Yeah, friends. I was kind of a loner in the real world. I didn't really talk to anyone at all, save for my sister."
Sinon's expression softened at his words, as she could relate to him. Her only real friend was Kyouji, and even then, they didn't really talk much outside of school, unless it was in a game. "What about you, then? What do you do in all your lonesomeness?"
"Hey, that hurts."
"Just answer the question."
"Sheesh. Well, mostly the same as you, I gamed a lot. I played SAO quite a bit, which probably explains a lot. Other than that, not much, except for going to school."
"I guess we have that in common. I take it you're in high school, correct?"
"Yeah, I'm in my second year. You?"
"I'm in my first year of high school."
"I would say good luck because the first year is one of the hardest, but seeing as we're kinda stuck here, well…"
"Brilliant. Thanks for the sentiment, I suppose."
"Hey! Honest mistake! You would've…"
"I would've what?" Sinon pressed as she turned to look at Kirito. Peering to her right, she saw Kirito on high alert, scanning the area and then suddenly jumping up, senses going off.
"My tracking skill is going haywire. Something's nearby," Kirito warned, kneeling down next to Sinon.
"It can't be that bad, now can it?"
"Shush. It doesn't matter what it is, because all I know is that it's after us."
Sinon rose to her feet and summoned her bow from her menu. "You'd better have a plan, Kirito."
"We should be fine, our levels are high enough. Just stick back behind me. I'll take point and you give suppressive fire, alright?"
Although taken aback at the sudden leadership from Kirito, Sinon nodded and slunk backward, assuming a more stable crouching position. She reached back into her quiver and pulled out with her ring and middle fingers a steel-tipped arrow. As she drew her bow, she pulled back and pointed her pinky and forefinger forward, causing the tip to glow pale silver, marking the newly created high-velocity arrow. She sat in waiting with the partially drawn bow, ready to fire at a moment's notice.
A minute of eerie silence swept over the grassland, punctuated by rustling vegetation and bird calls.
Sinon didn't get a chance to respond before a powerful gust of wind blew her backward, almost knocking her over. When she recovered, she saw a large, bird-like creature with two female human heads, talons, and wings.
"Shit, it's the Harpy Sisters!"
Quickly raising her arm and taking aim, Sinon fired off the high-velocity arrow, which impacted the creature in the chest with a mighty thwack, causing it to screech out in pain. Its health bar near its head depleted about a quarter of one of the two health bars, and Sinon's mana bar depleted about a fifth of the way. The arrow impacted the harpy quite hard and staggered it backward in the air, leaving an opening for Kirito to approach with his sword.
Dashing forward, Kirito performed a quick «Jump Slash» followed immediately by a «Sonic Leap», dealing about another quarter of one health bar. As a result of the combo sword skills, however, Kirito was left vulnerable, and Sinon quickly executed a combo of her own. She drew another arrow the same way she created the high-velocity arrow, but she added another Sagitta Forma with the other hand, combining the effects of a high-velocity arrow and an explosive arrow. The arrow glowed a swirling orange and silver, and she released the bowstring and let the arrow fly. It struck true in the monster's chest once again, but this time creating an explosion, damaging the harpy more and disorienting it.
Kirito used the force of the explosion to propel himself backward and reset himself for his next attack. As Kirito charged in, however, the siamese harpy had other ideas. It had also recovered from Sinon's attack, and it swooped down to scratch Kirito with its talons. Kirito saw this and rolled to the side, slashing at the creature's talons with his sword, earning him a screech of pain from the birdwomen. Quickly, Kirito stood up and began to charge in once again, but was blown back by gale-force winds from the monster's wings.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kirito saw back and fire another arrow. This arrow was considerably slower than the last two, and as it sailed through the air, it cut through the wind and crashed into the harpy. Contrary to the previous two special arrows, this one hit much harder, sending the harpy reeling and falling to the ground. With that, Kirito executed a «Forward Revolution», slashing three times as he dashed forward to meet the monster, then following up with a «Horizontal Square». The two's combined efforts completely depleted the first health bar and a fifth of the second and final health bar.
Sinon sprinted forward and used the last of her mana to shoot two arrows arcing over Kirito which split in mid-air into three more arrows, effectively pinning the harpy to the ground. However, the harpy had one wing that was free and used it to launch razor-sharp feathers at Sinon. Seeing this, Kirito quickly leaped over in front of Sinon and spun in a circle, slashing as he went, completing a «Dreidel». The feathers were quickly slashed out of the air, and the final few that remained Kirito simply cut down as they came.
As Kirito was shielding her from harpy feathers, she began raining down a barrage of standard arrows toward the downed harpy. Several of them missed, but a large majority stuck the monster, eliciting a gut-wrenching screech of pain. With only half of its final health bar left, the harpy exploded a final burst of energy and erected itself with a burst of wind, pushing against Sinon and Kirito.
Seeing as the monster was on its last stretch of health, Sinon summoned a mana crystal and replenished half of her expended mana. Drawing back again, Sinon shouted to Kirito to move forward, and the boy charged forward sword raised. Her arrow glowed bright orange and dark green, and she sent it flying. The heavy arrow pierced through the wind, and when it landed, the arrow exploded in a brilliant shade of orange and yellow. The explosion, combined with the weight of the heavy arrow, caused the harpy to stagger backward even farther than before.
Using the stagger, Kirito took the chance to charge forward and perform a «Vorpal Strike», sending him forward quickly, stabbing into the creature's stomach. Quickly from there, Kirito performed a final «Vertical Square», finishing off the creature as it shone a bright blue-white before exploding into blue polygons with a shrill dying scream.
Kirito was winded, and he fell backward onto his butt, breathing heavily. Seeing this, Sinon walked over to him, reflecting upon the battle. They had done quite well as a pair, so she wasn't worried about the upcoming boss fight.
"You did well. I'm impressed."
"Yeah, thanks. You're a damn good shot, too."
Kirito stood up and looked at the bluenette Cait Sith. "I think we worked well together, I don't know about you."
"I agree. We didn't say very much to each other, yet we still had a lot of coordination. This'll be fine."
"I think so too. By the way, how does the bow work? I haven't talked to anyone who uses a bow and I've been curious about that from the start of the game. D'ya think you could show me?"
"Sure," Sinon said as she unslung her bow. She nocked an arrow and gestured toward her bow hand.
"Remember how I had a bunch of different arrows that I shot?"
"Each one has a specific Sagitta Forma, or a form I do with my hand to make it. For example, if I do this," she said as she nocked the arrow with her middle and ring fingers, pointing her index and pinky forward, "it'll make a high-velocity arrow." The arrow backed up her claim by glowing a bright silver color.
"There are a ton of these, but there are six basic ones. There's high-velocity, concussive, explosive, smoke, heavy, and multi. Each one is pretty self-explanatory, so I'm not going to worry about that."
Kirito looked at her, clear fascination in his eyes.
"That's cool! I saw that you shot a heavy arrow combined with an explosive one earlier though, how'd you do that? Did you like, nock two arrows or something?"
Sinon shook her head and directed his attention to her hand that was holding her bow. "I can combine two arrows by doing the Sagitta Forma up where I hold the bow. So if I do this," she said, forming an explosive Sagitta Forma with her left and a heavy Sagitta Forma with her right, nocking hand, "it'll make a heavy explosive arrow."
"Does which hand you do either one matter?"
"Nope. It's just whichever one I think of first, I guess."
"Gotcha," Kirito mused,
"Going forward, as I level up arrows by using them more, I can unlock a higher tier version of them. The only one that I've managed to level up is the high-velocity arrow, and it becomes a piercing arrow."
"But you still used the high-velocity arrow."
"Right. That's because I don't lose usage of the lower tier arrows. They're still going to be viable later down the road because as I continue to use it and accumulate skill points, I can level up the high-velocity arrow to be faster, do more damage, whatever."
"The downside to the higher-tier piercing arrow, though, is that it requires a two-hand Sagitta Forma to cast, meaning that I can't combine it with anything else.
"Wow. That's a lot to take in."
"Yeah, I know. I had to take a second to process all of it too. It's quite a unique system though, I've never seen anything like it," Sinon said as she looked down at her bow.
"That's true. Although I guess with a VR game like this, there's a lot you can do with abilities and stuff."
"Yeah, and it's amazing that things like this can be programmed into a game."
"That's true. On that note, should we head back to the city? I got some drops from that harpy thing that I wanna sell."
"Sure," Sinon said. "I need to restock on arrows, too."
"Sounds like a plan."
With that, the two headed back to Swilvane, making light banter as they walked. Eventually, the got tired of walking, so the pair decided to begin flying. However, as Kirito summoned his flight controller, Sinon stopped him.
"Wait, you're still using the flight controller?"
"Yeah? What do you mean by 'still?'"
"I can fly without one. Have seriously you not learned how to do that yet?"
"Wh- hey!" Kirito protested at her tease.
"Here, let me show you. Seems like I have to teach you everything."
Kirito sighed and summoned his wings.
"So, remember how you kind of had to… feel wings materialize on your back to actually summon them?"
"It's the same thing with flying, except you're feeling those 'muscles' flap. Like this," Sinon instructed as she lifted herself off the ground.
"Oh. It's that easy? Jeez," Kirito said as he shifted his concentration to the wings on his back. He began by flexing his shoulder blades, and he felt something he had never felt before twitch. Pursuing that line of feeling, Kirito experimented with what he had, and eventually, he voluntarily made his wings twitch without the flight controller.
"Hey, I'm getting it!"
"But you're not flying yet. Keep trying."
"Okay." Willing his translucent wings to move, their movements became stronger and stronger, eventually getting to the point where he lifted off the ground.
"I got it! I got it!"
"Nice. Now try to land."
Shit. That's kind of important, isn't it? Kirito willed his wings to slow down, and lo and behold, he was able to gently bring himself to the ground again.
"Wow. That's super cool!"
"That it is. Shall we fly back now?"
"Sure. I gotta get used to this anyhow."
At that, the two lifted off the ground and flew off toward Swilvane, with Kirito lagging behind noticeably as he struggled to speed up. Sinon laughed to herself as she watched a player with his skill level struggle and flounder, a sight that very few got to see.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to chapter five of Nighthawk! That'll be the last chapter for a while, as I'll be off the grid for a while.
I created a system for the bows, and that's explained after the harpy fight if you couldn't tell. I also redid the sword skill system, because I don't really like how it works in the games and the anime. That'll be covered later. Both systems will be expanded upon as the story goes on, and I'm excited to flex my creative muscles a bit and make them stronger! This was also practice for writing fight scenes, and I hope it went well.
Other than that, see you guys in a few months! I'll be back then with a fiery passion since I won't be able to write anything for a while.