第6話 幻の復讐者 ／ Illusionary Avenger
Kirito: Keep an eye on him!
Asuna: No! Wait!
Kirito: Damn! Where the hell does he think he’s going?
Kirito: Ah! Shit!
Asuna: You idiot! What’s your problem? Well, what happened?
Kirito: I lost him. He teleported off somewhere. The system’s supposed to protect players inside inns. I thought, if anywhere, she’d be safe in here. Dammit!
Schmitt: That robe was Griselda’s. That was Griselda’s ghost! She’s come back to get revenge on us. Think about it, only a ghost can PK someone in a safe zone!
Kirito: That wasn’t a ghost. Someone’s using the system to kill. That’s the only way these murders could’ve happened in a safe zone. I know it!
Asuna: I don’t know what to think. Was that black-robed figure Griselda’s ghost? After seeing two people die mysteriously, I’m starting to think it’s possible.
Kirito: No. That definitely wasn’t a ghost. I bet my life on it. Why would a ghost need a teleport crystal? A teleport crystal…?
Asuna: What is it?
Kirito: Nah, it’s nothing.
Kirito: What? Is that for me?
Asuna: Well, what do you think I’m doing? Showing it off? Are you gonna take it or what?
Kirito: Uh, okay, thanks! Thank you.
Asuna: Better eat it fast before it disappears. Its durability’s almost down to zero.
Kirito: Oh, right! It’s delicious. When the heck did you find time to pick this up?
Asuna: I had a feeling we wouldn’t have time for lunch today, so this morning, I packed one for us. Hurry up and eat it, okay?
Kirito: Gotta hand it to you, for a second-in-command of the Knights of the Blood Oath. You rock! Where did you buy these, anyway?
Asuna: I didn’t.
Asuna: I made it. Yes, I can cook, so what?
Kirito: Wow, I-I don’t even know what to say. I mean, if you’re looking for a second career, you make a killing selling these.
Asuna: Should’ve been eating instead of talking. Are you crying?
Kirito: Shh! No way! That’s right! That’s it!
Asuna: What’s it? What did you just figure out?
Kirito: I… No, wait! We never saw a thing! We just thought we did, but we were seeing something else!
Kirito: I was right! The game doesn’t allow killing inside the safe zone. There’s no weapon or system exploit!
[—Floor19: Cross Hill—]
Schmitt: Griselda… The only way I can be saved now is if you forgive me. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, Griselda! I swear, I never thought it was going to happen! You have to believe me!
Griselda’s Ghost: Oh, really? Oh, really? Oh, really… ?
Griselda’s Ghost: What did you do to me? Tell me, Schmitt. Tell me what you did. Tell me now.
Schmitt: Okay, okay. The day we voted to sell the ring, I-I looked to my belt pouch, there was a crystal and a note with instructions.
Grimlock’s Ghost: Who were they from? Who gave you them?
Schmitt: Grimlock? You’re dead, too?
Grimlock’s Ghost: Tell me. I want to know who gave you those instructions.
Schmitt: I don’t know! I swear I don’t know! The note said for me to bind the crystal to Griselda’s room at the inn she was staying at, so whoever it was could get in! Then I had to put the crystal in the guild’s shared storage.
Grimlock’s Ghost: Then what?
Schmitt: That’s all I did! I swear! I didn’t want her to die. I didn’t want to be part of that! Please, believe me!
Yolko: We recorded everything you said, Schmitt.
Asuna: Wait! They’re alive?!
Kirito: Yup, they’re alive. Both Kains and Yolko.
Asuna: B-But they…
Kirito: Inside safe zones, a player’s HP doesn’t deplete on its own. But the durability of an object does. Just like that sandwich you gave me.
Kirito: That day, the spear was sticking out of Kains’s armor. It wasn’t draining his HP though. It was draining the durability of his armor.
Asuna: But then, h-his body didn’t disintegrate, it was…
Kirito: Yup, just his armor, nothing else. And at the precise second when his armor’s durability expired, poof, Kains used a crystal to teleport out of his armor. Sure, it looks a lot like what happens when a player dies in the game. Only he didn’t die.
Asuna: Th-Then, what happened to Yolko.
Kirito: I bet the dagger was laid to her back the whole time. She had it all planed out.
Asuna: But we would’ve seen.
Kirito: Only if she turned around though. Remember, she never turned her back to us, not even once. She kept an eye on her equipment’s durability level while she was talking. When it got down to zero, all she had to do was act like she was hit by a dagger thrown from outside the window.
Asuna: Who was the person in the black robe you’ve chased?
Kirito: It wasn’t Grimlock. I’m pretty sure of that. But Kains, he and Yolko were in it together. They figured out how they could use this method to fake their own deaths. Getting people to think there were murders in the safe zone was a calculated twist.
Asuna: Everything they did was designed to draw the person behind Griselda’s murder, and expose him. The only way to find out for sure was by faking their deaths and creating an illusionary avenger.
Kirito: And Schmitt was the person they had pegged for it, probably since the beginning. Hey, you still have Yolko on your friend list, don’t you?
Asuna: Huh! Right now, she’s in the field on Floor nineteen. It looks like she’s on a small hill, just outside of town.
Kirito: I see. That’s it then… I guess they can handle it from here. I mean, our job’s pretty done now, wouldn’t you say?
Schmitt: You were… recording? So, that’s how it is, huh? You cared about what happened to Griselda after all.
Kains: Of course, we did. But you didn’t betray her because you hated her, did you?
Schmitt: No, I didn’t hate her, honest! I mean, sure I feel guilty getting money from my part of it. But the rare weapon I bought help me get in to the Holy Dragon Alliance, so… Ow! Paralysis?
Guy: One down!
Schmitt: No way…
Boss: That’s a hell of a catch. A big shot from the Holy Dragon Alliance.
Schmitt: Laughing Coffin, the murder guild.
Boss: All right. What game should we play with these three?
Guy: Oh, I know, I know. Let’s play the one they have to kill each other! The last one standing wins!
Boss: I know it’s your favorite. But last time we did that you killed the winner anyway.
Guy: Oh, come on! You spoiled it. It’s no fun if they know they’re gonna die!
Boss: All right. let’s get the show on the road.
Kirito: Looks like I made it just in time. So, now what? I’ve got thirty players from the Assault Team come. You guys wanna stay and fight them?
Boss: Come on.
Kirito: Nice to see you alive again, Yolko.
Yolko: You won’t believe me, but… after it was over, I was going to tell you the truth. I am sorry we had tricked you to help us out.
Schmitt: Kirito, thank you for saving me, but… How did you figure it out? How did you know those three would attack us here?
Kirito: I didn’t figure anything out. I was acting on a hunch, is all. Hey, Yolko, Kains, level with me. You guys asked Grimlock to make the spear and the knife, didn’t you?
Yolko: We did, but he was against our plan from the beginning. All he wanted was to let Griselda rest in peace.
Kains: He did forge the weapons for us, but only after we got down on our knees and begged him.
Kirito: Sorry, but he had a different reason for not liking your plan. Griselda had nothing to do with it. Yolko,
Kirito: He was worried faking PKs in a safe zone was gonna draw a lot of attention. He didn’t wanna take the risks of someone snooping around for answers. We figured the whole thing out about half an hour ago.
Kirito: We ended up playing right into Yolko’s hands, didn’t we? You know what? I don’t really mind.
Asuna: Yeah, me neither. Hey… If you were in their guild, and a super rare item like that dropped, what would you have done?
Kirito: Well, I don’t know. I play sole, part of why I do, so I can avoid situations like that.
Asuna: In my guild, the one who got that killed gets it. Those are the rules we have to play by. You know how in SAO, if a player gets a drop, no one knows unless that person reports it. Our way, no one can hoard stuff because we work it out who gets what ahead of time. Also, the rules my guild play by gives the concept of marriage in this world real meaning. Think about it, if you marry, you have to share your item storage. If you’re single, you can hide whatever you want, but… You know, when you marry, you can’t hide it anymore. I think sharing storage who the person you marry to is wonderfully pragmatic. But at the same time, I think it’s also very romantic.
Asuna: Yeah, what?
Kirito: So, uh, how many times you’ve been married, anyway? Wait! I didn’t mean it! That didn’t come out right! You were talking about how it’s romantic and plastic, and, uh…
Asuna: I did not say that, you ass!
Asuna: What I said is “it’s romantic and pragmatic! “For your information, the word pragmatic means practical! My god…
Kirito: You think marriage in SAO is… practical?
Asuna: Of course. If you’re married, everything’s out and open. You know, 'cause of common storage.
Kirito: That’s it. Common storage. Okay, say your spouse dies, what happens to the items?
Kirito: Item storage is shared, right? So, when one person dies, what happens to their stuff?
Asuna: If you’re talking about Griselda and Grimlock… Hmm… If one of them died…
Kirito: Everything would go to the surviving spouse, right?
Asuna: And if everything goes to the spouse, then the ring in Griselda’s storage…
Kirito: … should be sitting in Grimlock’s storage, not the killer’s. It’s been sitting there this whole time.
Asuna: It was never stolen in the first place.
Kirito: No, it was stolen. It doesn’t matter if it’s still there. Grimlock was basically stealing it, the minute he put his plan into action.
Schmitt: It was Grimlock? And those were his instructions, and he killed Griselda, too?
Kirito: No, I doubt he was the one who actually killed her. Although, I’m pretty sure he went and found himself for a red player to do it for him.
Yolko: My god… But then, if he really did have her killed, why would he go to all the trouble just to help us out?!
Kirito: You explained your plan to him… in detail, didn’t you? Your plan was the perfect chance for him to bury the ring incident and any witnesses once and for all. All he’d have to do is sit back and wait for you, Schmitt and Kains to get together. You’d be sitting ducks.
Schmitt: That’s it. That’s why. They knew we’d be here because he hired them!
Kirito: Yeah. My guess is it was probably the same bunch he hired to kill Griselda.
Yolko: Oh my god…
Asuna: Found him.
Kirito: If you wanna know more, you can ask the man yourself.
Grimlock: Hello. Long time no see, comrades.
Yolko: I can’t believe it. Did you… Did you really plan on this? How could you Grimlock?! Answer me! Why did you kill Griselda? Was it that money? Was the money so important to you that you killed your wife for?!
Grimlock: Hmph. Money? Did you say money? It wasn’t for the money. I had to. No matter what, I had to kill her while we were stuck in this world. I had to kill her while she was still my wife. And because she was also my wife in the real world. In a way, she was the perfect wife, ideal, so pretty, so submissive. The whole time we were together, we never had a single fight. But when we were trapped in here, in this world, she changed. In here, I was the one who was afraid, terrified with playing this death game. But she looked so much happier here, more alive than she ever did in the real world. There was nothing I could do about it. She changed. The Yuko I loved was gone! Gone! But then I realized that I didn’t have to live with the way she was. Murder is part of this game! If I couldn’t have the Yuko I loved back, I settled for the memory of her. And who could blame me?!
Kirito: That’s why you did it? That’s the reason you killed your wife?
Grimlock: It’s reason enough. And someday, you’ll understand too. Once you’ve found love, believe me, you’ll do anything to keep it.
Asuna: You’re wrong, Grimlock. You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t love Griselda. That’s not what you felt. You stopped loving her when you became selfish and possessive!
Kains: Kirito. We appreciate your help. But I think this is our problem to deal with now.
Asuna: Say it was you, and you married someone, and later on, you found out she had a side to her you didn’t know about? How would you feel?
Kirito: I guess… that I was lucky? Because, I mean, if you married someone, that means you already like whatever you know about him, doesn’t it? And if you discovered something you didn’t know about him before, and fell in love with that, too, then… that would be awesome?
Asuna: Right. Good answer. Anyway, I’m hungry after all this. I didn’t really get to finish my dinner.
Kirito: Oh… yeah, you didn’t.
Asuna: We should get back to work tomorrow. We’ve been off the front lines for two day.
Kirito: Yeah. I was hoping to have this floor totally cleared by the end of this week.
Asuna: Now what? Huh?
Asuna: Hey, Kirito. Do you wanna friend me? It’s kind of silly not to. It’s convenient. We are in the same Assault Team after all.
Kirito: But I’m a solo player.
Asuna: Hey, I didn’t say you had to form a party with me. You should try to make some friends while you’re here.
Kirito: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t want… Hey!
Asuna: Think about it while we eat! No pressure. Come on, let’s go back and find a good restaurant.
Kirito: Ah… Okay.