Hello everyone! Sentinel07 here along with ThisWillBeFun and we are here to bring you Chapter 5 of Curiosity.
Well, Chapter 4's overall reception turned out to be as well as I hoped. Hopefully we will be able to build off of it.
Disclaimer: We don't own Sword Art Online. Otherwise, it likely would have turned out much differently.
With that out of the way, our group is about to tackle their first quest. Let's join them along the way. Hit it!
Chapter 5: Merry Little Group
Floor 1: Outside Horunka Village, 7:00 PM AST
To Kirito, the entrance to the dungeon didn't seem like much. It was little more than a small cave waiting to be discovered, the normal beginning-type place. However, to the girls, this was practically their first time ever venturing within a confined area with hostile enemies. There wouldn't be too much room to run from death here, as all three were aware of. Still, it seemed like a necessary course.
"Well, here we go," Leafa said nervously. "Come on, guys." She began walking slowly towards the hole. Kirito and Silica soon followed behind. However, before Leafa actually set her foot into the actual cave, Kirito came rushing in front of her.
"I think it might be better if I take the lead," he said simply, obviously trying not to offend with his voice, but to no avail.
"Oh, is that so, hero?" Leafa unscathed her sword and put on a more certain face. "How about we both take the lead?"
"You mean just walk side by side?"
"Uh, sure." That wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but then again, she didn't really think of what she really wanted before asking for it. Neverless, she did take her place to the right of her brother as the group continued into the cave. Silica began to follow behind her two elders.
"You know, I think I should be in front, too," Silica blurted while hastily taking a place beside Leafa. "See, now we're all in the front now! No man left behind, right?"
"Not really much of a front row as a straight line now," Kirito mused. "Actually makes me wonder if we might be easier to pick off like this."
"Wh-what do you mean?" Silica asked with a practically horrified expression.
"I mean, we're basically all lined up in single-file for the enemy to pick us off one by one."
"We're not single-file," Leafa corrected indignantly. "Single-file's in a vertical line, we're in a horizontal one."
"Wait, what's horizontal and what's vertical again?" the smallest part member asked.
"Horizontal's left and right, while vertical's up and down," Kirito explained. "And my point still remains. We need to be a bit further apart for combat's sake."
"You're just always trying to get rid of us, huh?" Leafa accused.
"N-no! I just want to make sure you both are safe and all. This is a life or death situation, you know."
"Yeah, we noticed. That's why we're not going to let your little machismo get yourself killed."
Surprisingly, Kirito chuckled a bit. "I didn't know you even knew words like that."
"Well, you never really bothered to talk to me," she grumbled. "So you sure as hell aren't getting rid of me...us now. We're staying right beside you no matter what you say. Right, Silica?" She turned around only to see the smaller girl had actually backed away from the two.
"You know, you two sound like you have some problems to work out, so I'll just stay behind you for now," she explained nervously. "You know, protect the rear and all."
"You sure that's safe?" Leafa asked. "I really think it'd be best if we just-" Suddenly, there was a faint sound within the cave. There weren't many sounds to be heard in it, so the smallest could be easily detected. It sounded like a small rock falling from a wall along with some flapping of wind.
"Quiet," Kirito instructed while whispering. "I think that was a bat."
"A bat?" Silica squeaked. "The flying kind?"
"No, the baseball kind," Leafa whispered back annoyed. "Okay, so these things are going to be moving, right?"
"Yeah," Kirito answered. "They usually appear in swarms as well."
"Swarms...?" Silica's face did not show confidence.
"Don't worry; they don't take away much health at all. They're mainly just annoying and distracting. Just try to kill as many as you can, okay? Both girls nodded their heads and they all kept silent.
There was a small light reflecting off the walls of the tunnel, apparently from a strange crystal that was abundant in the cave. Right now, all they could really see was the next turn, which appeared to be a sharp right. The sound of wind flapping became louder as sounds of screeching became audible as well. The group prepped themselves as the sounds came even closer and shadows began to accumulate near the turn. Shadows gave way to visible forms as a host of small bats revealed themselves while heading straight towards the players.
"Here goes nothing!"
Leafa charged up her sword and waited for the creatures to arrive at perfect moment. Once she saw her best opening, she charged straight through the cloud of bats, killing all of them within the center and essentially splitting them in two. The two split clouds then began to rush towards the other two players. Kirito acted quickly and began mowing down the mostly ineffectual enemies with ease. Beside him, Silica was having less luck, flailing her sword around in an attempt to slash the creatures while squirming about. It took some time, but she got rid of her share in due time. This was not without some loss of health, however.
"Silica!" Leafa called out while running over to her friend. She saw a tiny piece of her HP had fallen, about five percent. "Are you alright?"
"Uh, yeah, sure…" she answered with a weak smile. "I'm fine, really. Just roughed up a little is all."
"You have to be more careful, you shouldn't have lost any of the green bar with those things."
Kirito coughed a bit. "First of all, the green bar represents health. Second of all, it really wasn't that much, Su-er, Leafa."
His sister responded with a familiar glare. "Yeah, health. Health as in the thing that guy Kayaba said would kill us once it reaches zero."
"Look, I'm alright, see?" Silica said while spreading her arms out."Nothing to be worried about, so, uh, let's just get moving, okay?" She nervously began to walk to the front , though stopping once she was about five steps ahead and turning around. "Are you two coming…?"
The two siblings didn't answer immediately. Kirito was the first to say something. "You know, as much as I think Leafa's overreacting, I did just notice something."
"We...never got any healing potions."
"WHAT?!" Both girls shouted at the same time.
"That's the stuff that gives you health, right?" Leafa asked her fellow girl, who responded with a quick nod. "Well, that's just perfect." She then turned back towards Kirito. "I thought you were part of testing. How do forget something that big?!"
"Sorry, but a lot's kind of been on my mind recently."
"Apparently staying alive hasn't been one of them!"
"Guys!" Silica yelled to everyone's surprise, even her own. "Are we going to fight each other or are we going to finish this thing?"
Kirito gave another famous sigh. "She's right. This is a beginner's cave, we have nothing to worry about. Let's just...come on." He started walking off with Silica.
"H-hey! Wait up!" Leafa called out while catching up to them. "I thought we agreed not to separate from the line!" And so the three resumed their original positions in their line.
The three continued through the cave carefully, practically jumping at every sound besides their own footsteps. A majority of the walk was rather uneventful. Although, what it lacked in eventfulness, it compensated with sheer length. Needless to say, the cave was long. In fact, there was almost a whole half-hour period of absolutely nothing in the cave. By that time, the atmosphere had gone from suspenseful to just plain boring. The death game was boring them. However, it was about that time that another rumble was heard that caused them all to jump.
"More bats?" Silica asked the two softly.
"Not sure," Kirito answered. "Just keep your guard up."
"Didn't you say the enemies here are easy picking anyway?" Leafa asked.
"Yeah, basically. Why?"
"Then why are we waiting for them to attack? Why don't we just attack them?"
The boy thought a bit. "Because...uh…" He tried to think of something. "You just want to charge ahead?"
"I've been itching ever since those bats. I'm going on ahead."
"W-wait, Leafa!" Too late, she was already dashing towards the sound. "Suguha, don't be an idiot!" He started running after her with Silica following right behind.
"I thought we weren't using real names, Kirito," she yelled back without faulting her pace.
"Leafa, please be reasonable," Silica pleaded.
"I am! I just want to get this-" She stopped as soon as she felt her feet get soaked in water. "Water?" This moment's hesitation was enough to allow the others to catch up.
"Never do that again, alright?" Kirito said calmly. "They have a name for players who just ignore any sort of plan and just goes running off to fight on their own."
"Don't care," his sister interrupted. "I thought I heard the sounds coming from over here, but I don't see or hear anything now."
"Maybe they're hiding."
"There's a thought," Silica said while shivering. "Should we just march ahead then?"
"Wait…" Kirito murmured. "Keep quiet for a sec." They all did so for awhile, until the boy finally decided to bang his sword against the wall. Vibrations resonated along them until small pieces of rock that originally looked to be part of the rocky sides began to fall off. To everyone but Kirito's surprise, the small rocks, about five of them, began move around, revealing tiny crab like creatures within them.
"Eep!" Silica squealed. "Kill it!" She then swung her dagger-like blade at one of the creatures. It seemed to take away only half of its health, making her have to smack it out of view before it dissolved into pixels.
"Rock Krabbles," Kirito smirked. "Knew it."
"These things are a little more stubborn than the bats," Leafa observed while fighting off a fair share of the horde.. "Still embarrassingly easy."
"Yeah, enjoy the simplicity while it lasts." The boy then took out a pair of Krabbles on his own, only to see more fall from the ceiling. "We should still be able to tear through these things fast."
"Right, tear…" Silica sighed while knocking away and cutting a couple more. "Can't we just run through this like Leafa suggested?"
"Technically, we could," Kirito said, "but we really could use the experience right now."
"Maybe you do," Leafa smirked, "but I think we're doing pretty well already. Silica, let's go!" Without even a verbal or physical agreement, the two girls began slicing through the enemies, not caring which actually died or such. All they had to do was make their way through to the end in one piece.
"W-wait up!" Kirito yelled out while running after his partners. He still tried to kill as many enemies as possible in his pursuit, but that still didn't add up to anything close to the amount he was hoping to get. In fact, he was catching up all that well either. The girls had gotten completely out of his view after another sharp turn. "Will you two just let me catch up?!"
His sprint was actually forced stopped once he ended up bumping straight into his sister's back during the turn. "What are you two staring at? I thought you were just going to rush ahead." Kirito then looked over to where his female partners were staring, only to see the very thing they were looking for: a tiny treasure chest that signified that they had all but completed their mission. Problem was, there was also a giant rock resting suspiciously right next to the thing.
"You think it's a trap?" Leafa asked nervously, without even turning to face her brother.
"Definitely," Kirito agreed. "Probably a mini-boss."
"It's like a less powerful boss enemy."
The boy sighed. He almost made a mental note to stop doing that so frequently, but he knew that wouldn't help anything. "It's a really tough enemy. By the difficulty of this dungeon, I'd say it's about the strength of five regular ones."
"Five enemies?!" Silica blurted. "That does not sound fun. That doesn't sound possible!"
"Come on, you've taken out more than five enemies on your own."
"Yeah, separately! This is just one big monster."
"It'll be fine. We just have to get it over with. You two ready?"
"Yes," Leafa answered while readying her sword into a traditional stance.
Silica sighed. "Yeah, sure, why not?"
"Perfect then!" Kirito practically chirped whilst strolling over to the treasure. "Just have to activate the trap then." Upon reaching about five feet from the chest, the crystals upon the perched rock began to turn from an ethereal blue to a blood red. That was Kirito's sign to sidestep out of the way before the rock dropped on him. The crash caused by the fallen rock caused dust to fill the air as the boy jumped back next to the girls.
"Here goes nothing," Leafa said while giving her first ever scowl at a rock. Said stone began to twitch a bit as it seemed to rise by itself, the appearance of claws starting to reveal themselves. Several crystal pinchers caused the thing to elevate slightly from the ground, revealing themselves to be pretty strong and sharp. The crab's two largest pinchers went sharply into the ground, the light reflecting off of them. The crab's body overall was blue in the color, the water reflecting off it's rock-like appearance. One thing was for sure, it looked mean!
Kirito focused his interface on the creature, getting a name and overall stats.
"The Elegant Marin, Level 4. Not bad." The creature itself wasn't much larger than him, but it certainly looked sturdier, much more than the Krabbles up to this point. Still, Leafa was not in the mood for patience.
"All right, let's get him!"
The three rushed towards the monster, each activating as many Sword Skills as they could muster. As it turned out, the creature's rock shell was for more than just show, as it also protected the thing from regular attacks. Attacking the shell did nothing, making it increasingly obvious that they'd have to attack the more organic parts.
"Go for the legs!" Kirito yelled out. "I'll go for the head."
"Right," Leafa nodded. "Silica, you get the left, I'll get the right. Okay?"
"Okay," the other girl nodded while advancing towards the left pincher. Unfortunately, that happened to be the same leg that had prepared itself for a stomp. Once the pincher crashed onto the ground, a small shockwave was sent out just into Silica's direction. The girl was knocked into the ground and given momentary paralysis. The effects would only last about five seconds, but that was more than enough time for the creature to charge its pincher straight for her chest.
Silica could only watch in horror as she laid helpless before the incoming claw. The paralysis didn't even allow her to flinch as it charged closer and closer. However, it also caused her to see Kirito quickly speed off with his sword in hand and deflect the incoming pincher. Immediately afterwards, the paralysis wore off, allowing her to blink in wonder at the boy's heroic act.
"So much for the plan!" Leafa cried out while lashing for the crab's center herself. The Elegant Marin was already too occupied with the other two players to notice her coming up as begin slashing up its crustacean face. The monster's health steadily declined until it was almost completely drained, but it still had enough power to raise its other claw. Luckily, Silica was observant enough to notice it and made a hastily charged attack at the incoming claw, repelling it and allowing Leafa to drain its remaining health.
The beast ceased any further movement before shattering into tiny blue pixels. Leafa started to control her breathing some as a window popped up before her. "Huh. Looks like I got some good money. Crab legs, too. Sounds nice…" It looked as if fatigue was finally getting to her. "Is the safe clear now?"
"Looks like it," Kirito observed. "How about we see what's in it? As per common courtesy, I believe the player that wins the final blow deserves to open the chest.
"Whatever…" Leafa sighed as they all walked on over to the now unguarded chest. She tapped on the treasure to open it, only to see the message that popped up afterwards:
"Congratulations! You've won Furry Boots!"
"Seriously?" Leafa asked in a bored monotone. "All this for boots? Furry boots. We fight a giant stone crab, and we get boots?"
"Technically, you're the only person who gets the boots," Kirito corrected. Then he noticed something. "...I just noticed something."
"Wh-what?" Silica asked worriedly.
"We forgot to get teleport crystals…"
"We have to go back the way we came from."
Leafa fell on her knees and gave a loud groan. "Son of a bitch…"
Floor 1: Outside Horunka Village, 9:30 PM AST
"Ugh, that was such a waste of time!" Leafa was still more than a little peeved at how the quest turned out.
"Well, you can look at the bright side. We got some valuable experience," Silica proposed, hoping to put on a positive spin. Still, her friend wasn't really feeling all that positive about it.
"It's quite common for most early dungeons to contain very little. You'll just have to wait until the higher floors, where the difficulty is much greater," Kirito said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"So, to get cooler stuff…."
"Means facing monsters much stronger than that crab," Kirito finished.
"That doesn't really make me feel much better," Leafa groaned. This whole escapade took a little over two hours, and the whole group felt pretty beat for just their first day. They had only just emerged from the cave, seeing the night sky above them.
"Wow, it looks just as pretty as in real life," said Silica with awe. Even Leafa herself was a bit surprised.
"It's funny. I thought with this being a game, everything would be different," Leafa spoke, smiling as she pointed up. "Heck, they've even got the Little Dipper up there."
Kirito looked right there with them, a small hint of a smile forming on his face. "Huh, guess I never really paid that much attention to stuff like that."
"What was that?" asked Silica.
"Ah, looks like Argo finally replied to my message. Took her long enough," Kirito answered. He brought up his status screen, selecting the new message. However, while he expected it to be just a routine reply…
"WARNING! If you get this Kirito, meet me at Horunka Inn, pronto!"
As if emphasizing the need, the word "warning" was spelled out in big red letters. Kirito was more than a bit taken back at it. A warning? It wasn't like Argo to be this forward in a message. What was going on?
"What's wrong, Kirito?" Silica asked, concerned by the grave look on the boy's face. Both she and Leafa bore confused looks on their faces.
"We need to get back to Horunka Village. Argo has something to tell us. Come on!" Eager to hear what this was all about, Kirito immediately began dashing off with the girls not too far back. It wasn't a long distance between the village and the cave, so it only took about ten minutes or so of good running. As they entered the borders of the village, Kirito made a beeline for the inn, not even sparing a word for the girls. It had been a long time since Leafa had actually seen him this agitated. Then again, she really didn't know what made him tick in the first place. Some family members.
"Well well, nice to see you're still alive." Kirito followed the snarky voice to a table in the corner, seeing a hooded figure. He didn't need to guess who it was. He remembered how she was in the beta after all, so he immediately took a seat across from her, not even looking at the girls when they sat down too. Needless to say, Leafa's displeasure at seeing Argo didn't go unnoticed. The girl just smirked and returned to Kirito's attention.
"So, what's it going to cost this time?" asked Kirito, getting raised eyebrows from Leafa and Silica.
"Cost?" Silica asked.
"I'm glad you still remember," said Argo. "Luckily for you though, this one is discounted."
"That's odd. You never do discounts," Kirito replied, unfazed. He seemed like the only one around who wasn't fazed by the brown-haired girl.
"Call it a one-time thing. You're a good guy, and the situation is pretty serious after all."
"How so?" Argo's face hardened before answering, giving Kirito a look he hadn't ever seen from the normally aloof girl.
"A player has been killed. I saw it happen." Everyone's eyes lit up at the news, with Silica even covering part of her face in the process. As for Leafa, hearing the word "killed" in the literal sense brought a tremble to her body, though she did try her best to comfort Silica.
"How? How did it happen so quickly?!" Kirito asked right in Argo's face, who didn't really show much surprise.
"I was off in a nearby forest, when I happened to see two boys, probably on one of the quests. I didn't interact with them, but one of the boys' actions seemed odd, so I tailed them."
"Who was this boy? Any specific details?"
"Well, I'd say he was about your size, Kirito, with brown hair that's a bit longer than yours."
Argo's words brought Kirito back to just before they took up their quest, and he noticed a brown-haired boy taking up the quest he was looking at after they left. The guy didn't exactly seem sure of himself from the brief look Kirito got.
"So, wh-what did he do?" Leafa was the one who asked, but she was afraid to learn the answer.
"He did a monster PK," Argo said plainly. Kirito's eyes widened slightly, his fist tightening a bit. Leafa was confused though.
"A monster PK is when players use neutral monsters to kill others. Obviously, in a normal game, that doesn't mean much, but in this game, well, you already know." Argo took a breath before continuing. "Anyway, after obtaining the quest item, this boy attacked a Little Nepent's fruit, which activated a trap and summoned more monsters. He got away, leaving the other to die."
"That's….that's inhuman." Leafa said in shock. "How could someone leave another to die?"
"Well, the guy isn't exactly sociable. It took me a while, but I think I actually remember him from the beta." That little bit surprised Kirito the most. The boy was a beta tester?
"Argo, who is this guy?" Kirito asked.
"His name's Coper."
The name sounded vaguely familiar to Kirito, though he didn't exactly memorize many names from the beta. However, Coper had gained a reputation for being an especially serious player. The idea that a beta tester would lead a new player to an early grave didn't sit well with Kirito.
"Just as a warning. You and I are both going to need to watch our steps," Argo added.
"How so?" asked Kirito.
"From what I've seen from town and all the way out here, there's already a sizable gap between the newbies and the beta testers. After all, we already know much of the early floors."
Kirito sighed as he gave that some thought. Normally, such a thing wouldn't matter. However, this game was now a matter of life and death, so beta testers would certainly have an upper hand not only at playing, but staying alive.
"Well, I've said everything I needed to say," Argo said as she stood up. "Be grateful that I happened to be in the area when I saw this. Otherwise, who knows what might happen."
"Fair enough," Kirito replied.
"So, that will be 70 col." Argo smirked at him.
"70? I thought this was free!"
"I said discounted, not free. No such thing as free in this game. You should pay more attention."
Kirito sighed as he ended up footing the bill for Argo's "services". Silica didn't have anything to say, but Leafa just looked angry.
After Argo took her payment, she bid farewell to the group, not forgetting to say that the next piece of information would be full price. Kirito just waved her off, but Leafa just pouted.
"I really don't trust that girl that much," she stated bluntly.
"You seem to trust her enough to take her recommendation and actually play a game."
"And look where it got me!" Leafa actually looked embarrassed with her statement. "Sorry, I guess I'm just kind of projecting my blame right now. What are we doing for the night, anyway?"
"Well, we are in an inn…"
Nothing more to be explained there, Kirito went up to the front desk and routinely ordered a hotel room. Naturally, he decided to just pay per night, due to how much the group was likely to be moving around a lot soon.
'I suppose this is our life for now,' he thought to himself after making said financial decision. It wasn't a comforting thought by any means, but at least it meant that they'd have somewhere safe to be for the moment. At least it'd be impossible for player killing in such a safe zone.
The three made their way silently to the hotel room, each carrying an expression that looked to be of equal fatigue and somberness. Apparently, the girls had a similar epiphany to Kirito's. This was how life was going to be for awhile, who knew how long? All that mattered for the moment was that they could rest and live another day. There was a thought. One of the few things that mattered now was staying alive each day. Sure, that was always a goal in the real world as well, but now there was an imminent threat to that goal.
"Well, here we are," Kirito announced with little fanfare, while opening the door to their current room. "This is where we'll be staying for a little while." The room was extremely simplistic, consisting of little more than a small bed that probably only able to hold two people, a small table with a lamp on it, and and a small dresser to store away less necessary inventory items.
"There's only one bed," Silica noted drowsily.
"I noticed. You two can have it."
"What?" Leafa asked. "Why are you being so chivalrous all of a sudden?"
Kirito chuckled a little bit. "Just being a gentleman. Besides, I doubt Mom would approve of co-ed bedding."
"I know my parents wouldn't," Silica smiled weakly while crawling up in the bed, not even bothering to take off her armor. "Goodnight you two."
"Goodnight," the siblings said in perfect synch. They took one surprised look at each other and started to laugh. Silica was already sound asleep, not even tucked in.
"Jinx!" Leafa giggled. "You owe me...something."
"Yeah, soda isn't that much of an option here," Kirito laughed weakly. "Come to think of it, a bunch of things aren't anymore…" The room fell silent for awhile.
"Say, uh...Kazuto? Can I call you that right now?"
"I guess," he sighed while rubbing his left eye sleepily. "It is just the two of us. What is it, Suguha?"
The girl snorted a bit. "Never thought I'd ever hear that question again. You haven't been concerned for me in forever."
"Yeah, sorry about that…" The boy thought of maybe, just maybe explaining his true cause for ignoring Suguha for the past several years. No, this was hardly the time. "It honestly is all my fault. While you were picking up the slack for the both of us, I was just playing my games and locking myself up. Sorry."
"It doesn't matter right now," Leafa concluded. "Look, it's obvious we're gonna have to spend plenty of time together whether we want to or not. Right now, we're both the only people we're familiar with here."
"Yep. It may be a little too soon, but I bet Mom would at least appreciate this time with us together."
"Mom…" Tears started to form up in the girl's eyes, but she tried to keep her voice straight. "She must be so worried right now…" She was starting to have flashbacks to the images displayed by the red colossus that announced their entrapment.
"I know she is." Kirito's voice also didn't have that much stability. "Still, we have tomorrow."
"That's a bit cliche, idiot," she smiled weakly. "You've been playing too many fantasy games. You're starting to sound like one."
"And how would you know what they sound like? You barely even played Fire Emblem."
"Whatever." Silence returned for awhile. "Anyway, we really need to rest for the night. Can you even dream in this game?"
"Never tried," Kirito chuckled. "Guess we'll see."
"Not sure I'd like what I'd dream. Oh, also, Kazuto?"
"How do I...take my armor off?"
The boy gave a nervous laugh. "Just select your armor in the inventory and remove it."
"Right. Uh, thank you, Kazuto. Where are you going to sleep?"
"I guess I was just going to buy some stuff from the counter to sleep on the floor."
"You really don't need to do that for us."
"No, I'm good." He started making his way towards the door. "Just please be ready by the time I get back, okay?"
"R-right. Goodnight, Kazuto."
"Goodnight, Sugu." He then closed the door quietly.
And with that, another chapter in the books. The first quest is completed, but not without some disturbing news. How will everyone handle things from here? I'd say we've got a good idea, but you'll have to wait.
I'm really liking all the good reception so far, so I hope we're able to keep up the pace. Continue to feel free to give your opinions, as well as perhaps your own take on what might happen in the future. Who knows, it might just end up in the story.
Well, I've said my piece. Review and enjoy. I'm Sentinel07, signing out!
And this is the other guy signing in to say hello. ThisWillBeFun, signing out!