Title: Secret Weapon
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Kirito, an OC villain, and a brief appearance by Asuna and friends.
Setting: Aincrad arc, general.
Summary: Kirito doesn't need a sword to defend himself. He has Scoville Units.
Disclaimer: They belong to Reki Kawahara. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word "Spicy" at Fan Flashworks.
As Sword Art Online players went, Rancer didn't look like much. He was in his twenties, on the scrawny side, with rather thin light-brown hair. In the real world, his appearance would have screamed nerd in all the wrong ways. In SAO, Aincrad's fantasy-style clothing just made him look like a hopelessly ill-suited cosplayer. Overall, he gave the most unthreatening appearance of anyone Kirito had ever seen in the game.
But the most vital rule of survival in SAO was that appearances were usually deceptive… and Kirito knew that the odd young man who stood opposite him in a forest clearing was a cold-blooded player-killer.
What Rancer lacked in physical assets, he made up for with ruthless cunning and a pathological disregard for other people's lives, designing meticulous ambushes for his murders. He could have been a brilliant strategist for any guild—but instead of using his keen mind to help others survive, he had turned it toward taking revenge on the kinds of people who once bullied him in real life. He didn't even know his victims offline, but he had killed them just because they reminded him of his past tormentors.
Kirito had unraveled all of this through a careful investigation, getting dangerously close to Rancer in the process. It was nerve-wracking work, assuming the guise of a friend to tease out monstrous truths; but in this last conversation, he felt he had finally gathered enough information to act.
Except that Rancer was onto him now, too.
"All I've ever wanted was just somebody I could trust, you know?" Rancer rambled. His stony face a mask worn over fevered eyes, he paced back and forth like a caged animal in front of the stump where Kirito sat. "Somebody who'd understand what I have to do."
"Uh-huh," Kirito mumbled agreeably—a response that was muffled around the halved fruit he was nonchalantly sucking on.
…Really, he loved these things. Inside their leathery purple rinds, they contained a soft red pulp that was intensely flavorful. Pity there wasn't an equivalent to them in the real world.
"I thought you were somebody like that, Kirito. I thought you'd get it. I thought you'd see that if I stop them here, they'll never be able to treat anybody else in the real world like they treated me."
"Yeah, well." Kirito licked juice from his lips. "Since the players you killed weren't actually the guys who used to pick on you, and you don't even really know if they'd ever hurt anybody… that's kind of a problem."
"I do know! I know they were all just the same!"
"Okay, calm down."
"It's too late for that." Rancer took a step closer. "You don't get it at all…but I'm sure the one thing you know is what I have to do now."
The only movement of the killer's next intended victim was to turn his head and spit out a round black seed.
"Yeah… That's not gonna turn out great for you. Trust me."
Rancer's lips twisted. He reached for the dagger sheathed on his belt.
Kirito's right hand shot up, clutching the other half of the fruit. One squeeze of it sent a stream of watery red juice shooting into Rancer's face.
"Augh! My eyes!"
In hindsight, when Kirito told his friends to wait for his signal, maybe he should have mentioned what the signal would be—but this was good enough. Klein let out a yell as he, Asuna, and Agil came crashing from the underbrush, weapons drawn, to subdue the temporarily blinded and shrieking Rancer.
"…So that fruit you found on Floor Seventeen actually functions as a weapon item," Agil said in amazement, once Rancer lay incapacitated.
Kirito grinned. "Yup. Never thought I'd actually use it as one, though." He abruptly frowned at the crushed rind he had dropped on the ground. "I was gonna eat that. What a waste."
Klein piped up. "How did you even figure out that trick, anyway?"
At that, the tips of Kirito's ears pinkened. He shot a guilty glance at Asuna.
"I am never, ever going to try cooking that firefruit for him again," she ground out, rubbing her left eye as if it stung at the very memory.
2016 Jordanna Morgan