Chapter 2

Facing Reality

As it was being revealed to us after that, the secret was that someone had been following Syd for she was a target of a PKer. Zumoka and her brother had been helping her run away on the 24th floor. Despite the fact I was skeptical at first when they mentioned they had no idea why she was targeted, I was still reminded of my failure to save her. She was still a player trying to run away from death. That girl was near me this whole time, and even today, I still regret not being able to do that. I wasn't strong enough to control my feelings was my sorry excuse.

Floor 11 Taft

We all teleported back to the 11th floor to calm ourselves down from that terrifying event that night. I don't know about the siblings that time, but I was certain that that was Rayden's and my first time witnessing someone's death. Thinking about it now still irks me. Zumoka was mourning for the loss of Syd while her brother was comforting her. Seeing her cry at that inn pained me to the point I actually wanted to punish myself somehow for being stupid. Rayden had not said a word since we came back, and he was lying on the other bed with his back facing us. I was the only one leaning on the wall across the room, being quiet as ever. I remembered noticing the siblings were our levels, which we had leveled a few. We were level 31 then.

"Do you guys know the name of the person who was after Syd?" I asked softly while looking through my menu and equipping my armor from earlier. I took out my sword to switch it to this new katana I had bought.

"Thai." Zunaku replied with the same soft spoken tone as mine.

Mentally saying a thank you to the boy, I closed my eyes and left the room without a single word. Not even one single person followed. My eyes glared at the direction ahead of me with remorse as I soon left the inn and onto the streets. I didn't know where I was going or where to look first, but there were two possible destinations on my mind. The 24th floor again my death. Maybe both. I knew what I was planning to do, yet I still was contemplating with myself. Was it worth killing a player literally? If I did kill him, I would be known as a murderer, a PKer too right? Even now that concept still bothers me. PKers too are living people..But..just murdering people? Wrong.

However, the fact that I kept blaming myself for Syd's death still overwhelmed me. I laugh now, but back then, I wasn't.

I stopped in front of the teleportation portal, I call it, before taking out my own teleport crystal. While staring at it for a few moments, I had begun to feel a bit bothered. I decided to ignore it for the time being before I moved myself to the last floor I went to.

Floor 24..

The entire time, I walked on that same dirt road while having that same feeling inside me. It almost felt like I was in some scary movie. For a split second, I had lowered my guard and I know now that was the last thing I should've done. I had felt an eerie presence behind me, making me immediately turn around and saw a person with a red-hooded coat moving a sword towards me. My eyes opened in fear due to the fact that player had a red cursor. With hesitation, I cried out a meek cry as I managed to dodge it by ducking my head before distancing myself from the assassin. That was then I realized...I had set myself up in a trap and was now surrounded by a bunch of red cursor players. Those crafty bastards had been hiding.

"Looks like we have caught ourselves a beater guys. Your name is Asaya, right?" One of the players spoke as I turned to glare rudely at the assassin.

"I'm not a beater." That term...I've been hearing that everywhere. I was starting to dislike that name now. "I'm looking for someone named Thai. I'm pretty sure one of you is him right?"

I gazed around the circle of PKers with a stoic facial expression, taking a mental note that there were about eight people around me. Not one person said a word afterwards, and it was irritating. It was to the point I was actually losing my patience. My hand released my katana from my side before slashing the air before me and pointed it at the smirking attacker. My eyes darkened, listening as his laugh was getting more annoying.

"Yeah..Keep laughing. I'm going to kill you all anyway if you don't give me an answer."

"Ooooh I'm scared. What do you want, kid?"

I scoffed before staring at the next person who talked, "Excuse me? I don't have time for this. Which one of you is Thai? Why did you killed Syd?"

The more I looked around, the more I thought that I was in a room full of mirrors while the hooded assassin was the one in the mirrors. I was getting annoyed that I gripped onto my katana's hilt tightly before slowly lowering it to my side. "Oh you're friends with that bitch? She's a traitor. She almost killed our leader."

"Haha yeah! But she couldn't! She's so weak!"

"And she's a liar. I'm glad she's dead."

I gazed around to stare at the people talking and laughing with disbelief. Those kind of people I never liked and it makes me angry now just thinking about how much my friend was crying for her. I gritted my teeth in rage while glaring murderously at the person who seemed to be the leader. He was the guy who tried attacking me earlier. At that point, I didn't care anymore. They had crossed the line to me. I sighed heavily and lowered my head.

"Listen, I don't know what happened..And I don't want to know the full story." Almost immediately, I charged at the leader with my hands gripped tightly on my weapon's hilt. "But the fact that you killed her and made my best friend cry is unforgivable!"

After that, everything was just chaotic. I couldn't describe the words that I felt during my battle with the eight people. I was too blinded with anger and hatred mixed with my depressed emotions. Swords were clashing, along with struggling grunts. My HP was depleting almost every second, and the sad part was the fact that these guys were at least two levels below me. They were awfully strong, and I started thinking that I wouldn't make it alive.

It almost felt like I was just suppressing them or rather, a beating for PKing someone they know in game. Again, I will never want to see any more people die ever under my watch. Aside that I blamed them for Syd's death and hurting Zumoka, I actually believed that I would risk my life giving a message to stop PKing. I've always hated PKers in games, but in Sword Art Online, that was a different story especially when you're trapped in the game. PKers still kill people for fun, for revenge like these idiots, or other stupid reasons. I realized then I absolutely detested them.

In the end, I was the one left on the ground while the leader and four other people surrounded me in case I would put myself back on my feet and fight back. The other three members was scattered near us, struggling to get up.

"You managed to beat almost half of us, but you're at death's door now." The leader said in a low tone as I heard him shifting his sword. "I'm the one you're looking for. Tell me something, do you have a death wish to fight us?"

At first I couldn't find the right words to say without stuttering over my own words. That person that attacked me earlier really was the one I was looking for, and I knew I should have just killed him when I got the chance. But, that question continues to replay in my mind like a broken record. My reaction was obviously going to be taken to a negative turn due to my emotions. My conflicted feelings caused tears to stream down my face before looking up at Thai with a half smile.

"I might as well. I tried stopping you and that's enough for me. But, I doubt that my death would do much anyway."

My idiotic words made them laugh in amusement as I slowly lowered my head in defeat, crying silently to myself. I was accepting my fate that I was going to die then by that curved blade of Thai's. Really, I didn't mind because no one needed me I had thought. He began to thrust his sword towards me, and within a second later, I heard running before swords clashing was heard. I immediately looked up with a startling face. My body froze after seeing a black coat waving in front of me. I noticed that the person's hair was black, and I immediately thought of Rayden. For a moment, I had thought that it was him but that wasn't the case. It seemed like his appearance made the hooded people freeze, but I couldn't get over the fact that his speed was something I couldn't keep up with. It was as if he had attacked them away from both of us within a heartbeat. I managed to see his face though, and my heart had fallen realizing that it wasn't the hammer wielder.

"Who..?" I murmured softly, having no idea who that guy was. But he had saved me.

Thai and his buddies though looked frightened to the point they looked like cowering chickens. "It's him..!"

"Let's leave, hurry!"

And they did. I had expected the stranger to follow them, but it was too late since they had teleported themselves back to town. At that time, I didn't know who that guy was and how known he was to the game community. He wasn't in any guild, so I had assumed he was a solo player. Despite the slight relief that I was saved, I couldn't help but feel angry at the stranger for saving me. I decided to keep shut while continuing to weep quietly. It was probably the fact that I had wanted to die for Syd dying near me. A moment of silence held between the person and I before I heard him sheath his sword. It brought me back to reality afterwards as I blindly noticed he was crouching down before me to offer a hand.

"Are you okay?" He asked with a worried look.

I looked at him with a disappointed face, "I guess...Why did you save me?"

"I couldn't let a player die." He replied.

I let out a soft chuckle before glancing away from the stranger, "I wouldn't mind dying though. I deserve it, and I'm not really needed."

"That's not true.. Doesn't your best friend need you?" I froze at his question as I had let out a soft gasp.

I had assumed he had been watching my battle the entire time because of those two words. Even if he did, it was hard to believe that some stranger would even stay to watch someone like me take out all my guilt on that PK group. It really took me by surprise, so I was left speechless with my eyes opened in realization. But I refused to let his words get to me. I was persistent, but evidently so was he.

"Well..She has her brother and Rayden.." I shut my lips together, thinking to myself of a reason why I was revealing things to him. The fact that he was the one who saved me was one of the possible reasons, or maybe because he was trying to comfort me. I didn't understand then, but I knew there were too many things in my mind then.

Even when I wanted to scream, I refrained myself not to. He then pulled back his hand before turning to the side and sat down. The look on his face was calm, which made me wonder how he can. It almost reminded me of...

"Everyone is afraid of dying, but they're not planning to give up." He paused as I blinked dumbfounded at how serious his face looked. When his dark eyes looked down at me, I slightly opened my mouth. "Do you believe any of your friends want you to die and leave them behind?"

Those words had saved me. Rather, those words helped me save myself. If it wasn't for that guy saving me from those PKers and comforting me afterwards, then I would have really done something I'd truly regret. He reminded me of that day when we found out we were trapped. I was stupid to have forgotten the reason why Rayden held my hand. I was going to let their biggest fear come to life, and just remembering all those times where the hammer wielder saved me just made me realize something important. I then noticed that the person was giving me a light smile before I gave him a smile of my own. I wiped my eyes with my hand before pushing myself up to sit on my knees beside the player. My hand reached for my katana before that dispersed into thin air.

I let out a heavy sigh as an attempt to calm myself down before curling my hands on my lap, "I'm Asaya..Sorry for involving you into all this.."

"Don't worry about it. I'm Kirito."

"Kirito.." I said softly before looking at him from my hands. "Thanks for saving me."

He gave me hope that day. He made me realize something I was stupid enough to almost forget. The player then handed me a HP potion , which I took gently with a grateful nod before I frowned sadistically. His friendly gesture reminded me of Syd because I knew that that was what I should have done earlier that day instead of ignoring her. It almost made me cry again, but I swiftly shook my head to brush it off.

"I should get going. Will you be okay?" Kirito asked me as he stood up from his spot while I had drank the potion he gave me. I clutched on the bottle tightly, giving him a look of self-confidence before it disappeared into pieces.

I stood up after him before wiping off all the dirt on my kimono outfit, "I'll be fine now. I'm gonna head back to my friends after this."

For some reason, I sounded rather disappointed and I wasn't sure why myself. He was a young kid from the looks of it and despite of him being taller, it felt kind of sad that someone younger than me were giving me words of wisdom.

"That's good. Just remember, they need you as much as you need them."

I frowned deeply again as I glanced to the side. He was right, and I was really grateful for him to be there when I had completely lost it. I did need to be there for Zumoka when she was crying instead of heading to my death. I had to be like Rayden and think positive for once instead of being negative. I needed to be there for them.

Before I knew it, Kirito had started walking away from me. I didn't know why I had hesitated on calling out to him. "Ah..Wait! Kirito...Is there any way for me to repay you for saving me?"

He gave me a gentle smile as he looked back at me, "Just stay alive for your friends."

I remembered him saying, leaving me in a speechless state. That was the first, only, and last time I would see him. It almost felt like Kirito was there to remind me who I am. Staying alive would mean not dying, but being alive is being myself to me. That was something I had been wondering those past three months, and I had forgotten then who I was. I wanted to escape reality by playing this game, so it's just counterproductive to also want to get out of here, you know? That was my mistake then. I should be enjoying this game because this may be the only time this has ever happened. Even now, I'm still trying to enjoy being here and escaping death. I just want to protect my friends always.

I named this day, "The Day of Resuscitated Hope."

After I had calmed down and said a silent farewell to the one who gave me hope, I watched him walk off. Taking out my teleport crystal, I raised it in front of me and recited the words, "Teleport: Taft!"

Floor 11 Taft

When I arrived, the first thing I saw was a person laying on the ground a couple feet from the teleportation portal. I wasn't exactly sure who it was and whether they were just sleeping or lying there for whatever reason I had thought of in my mind. It made me raise a brow in curiosity before slowly and cautiously walk my way to the person. As I got closer and closer to the point I could actually see the person much clearly, I immediately froze right on my tracks and stared at them. They were definitely sleeping in a rather relaxing position with their hands behind their head and lightly snoring. To my surprise, the resting person was Rayden. Now the thought of why was he at a place like this got me wondering until I came up of one thing that lit in my mind. He was waiting for me, but again, I wasn't exactly sure. I thought hard on what I should do, considering the experience I had gone through. I was thinking of either letting him sleep there peacefully, or wake him up because the thought of some person attacking him suddenly bothered me. The second one was what got me motivated to do just that. I silently walked over to the hammer wielder, and poked his shoulder with my foot. There was no response.

"Freakin.." I sighed lightly and folded my arms, glaring down at him. I decided to kick his shoulder hard this time, which actually woke him up.

The moment I saw his red eyes open, I smiled timidly and crouched down with my hand poking his cheek lightly. "This is no place to be sleeping, you know."

He grumbled something I couldn't actually make out, and rolled to the other side. I couldn't find anything else to add on as I was staring at him with a blank face. That was until he suddenly got up and stared at me as if he had seen a ghost. It startled me really.

"Where have you been? We've been looking for you!" Rayden snapped at me, causing me to flinch in astonishment. My smile then turned to a deep frown, reminiscing what I had gone through earlier. It wasn't a pleasant memory that's for sure, but that was until I remembered Kirito's conversation with me after my battle.

"I'll uh.." I paused in an uncertain tone before standing back up. "Let's go back. I'll explain there.."

As soon I heard a word of protest from him, I immediately shot him a pleading look before walking back to the inn. That seemed to shut him up. He soon followed me afterwards as we had said nothing to each other until we reached our destination. The siblings were both there, being surprised and relieved that I was back alive. I felt a bit guilty for making all of them worry, and again, I was stupid enough to not realize that sooner. After we had settled in, I explained what happened and where I went to without mentioning my meeting with Kirito. Even now, I don't know why I didn't mention him to the others.

"You..actually fought Thai and other PKers?" Zumoka gasped out softly as I nodded my head solemnly.

I was sitting down on the bed while I wore the bandaged part of my kimono only, along with black plain sweat pants. I considered that outfit as my pajamas in the game, despite that I hated the top. I still think I like the bandaged part better when the kimono is on. The white covers surrounded my legs as I buried my head on top of my bended knees. My long hair loosely fell behind me when I looked up at the green eyed dagger wielder.

"Yeah...I lost though and managed to escape from them." I paused after saying that lie. My eyes closed as I turned my head away from the three, "Though if I see them again, they better run for it."

"Why would you do such a stupid thing?! You could have told us! You almost died!"

Rayden's strong words had startled me. His tone was full of anger, yet it was full of worry for my safety. Just the sound of it was enough to make me look straight at him with a startled face for a few moments before smiling genuinely to myself. The remembrance of Kirito's words of these guys needing me as much as I needed them replayed in my mind.

"I know, and I'm sorry. I was blaming myself for Syd's death.." I paused, reminding myself of what Thai and the other PKers had said to me about her. I actually had thought about finding out what Syd actually did to them, but then I decided not to.

I frowned gravely again, "If I hadn't attacked that skeleton and not doing my job, I would have watched her back."

"It wasn't your fault though, it was mine. I told her I would help her.."

"Technically..My fault too since I agreed to it." Zumoka's little brother added in the same guilty tone as her own.

I shook my head, "Actually it's no one's fault. Death is inevitable...We just need to accept it and move on. Sorry if that sounded harsh.."

Everyone had fallen to silence at my deep words, and really, that must have been the first time I actually got a good look on their faces. Ever since Kirito had confronted and helped me with facing reality, I started feeling a bit happier. To be honest, much more happier than I am now. Right now, it's a bit..Uh, never mind. Zumoka and Rayden were both staring at me with these looks of affliction, mixed with astonishment. The monkey was simply putting on a plain poker face, and if you have been wondering, there was a reason why we all call Zunaku monkey.

"You're okay though right? Zumo?" I asked the girl, staring at her with concerned golden eyes.

She only nodded her head. Before the dagger wielder was about to speak, I unintentionally interrupted her and proceeded on lying down on my side with my back facing them. I could tell she was stammering over her own words as if in hesitation, but I guessed it was due to the fact I had a sudden attitude change. I was usually so mellow and rarely smiling, and now I'm not.

"That's good. Keep it up, you're a strong girl." She was way stronger than me. The last thing I remember hearing before closing my eyes to sleep were the words, "You better not die on me."

Again, I smiled to myself and got mentally emotional again as a tear streamed down my face after recognizing that voice. I promised myself I would live and would never let that depression get to me again. I came back to my old self, but something still bothered me: My other friends. I didn't know whether or not they had survived too but back then, I would just believe and trust them. I would always anticipate the day we would all would be reunited with each other. I never expected that our meeting would be...complicated.

A/N: This was a very difficult chapter for me to write and edit. You had no idea how much I had to change things around! I'm sorry if you-know-who was a bit ooc, I tried. Also, thank you shugokage for reviewing! I appreciate it! It made me all happy actually! XD Thank you! I hope you enjoyed it and review~

Next chapter: The Last of Us

P.S I got the name Resuscitated Hope from the first ending of GoSick. I thought that song would somewhat fit this chapter. ^^;