Things hadn't been this bad since the first few days, when the creator of Sword Art Online declared that each and everyone one of the users playing on the first day were no longer able to return to their families and homes; instead staying here in order to complete the 100-level dungeon. The only way out was to fight, the only way to survive was to fight. The only way to die... Was to fight.
And so people died. People died left. People died right. People died in front of your eyes or behind your back. Generally, it wasn't up to them whether or not they lived - monsters and creatures of all kinds would sap away at your HP bar until it drained entirely, before your very existence snuffed out like a flickering flame on a much too short wick. If the monsters weren't bad enough, your fellow players also had it out for you. Greed was probably the second largest reason why people died in this world. Money, power, fame, equipment - even because some players had simply lost their logical will. Yes, this place was a mad-house and if you weren't part of the psychopaths, you were going to eventually die.
They haven't gone down without a fight however. Banding together, they'd been making significant progress through the dungeon's gauntlet; defeating the boss at each subsequent level. It took another 40 or so levels for things to get bad once more however. Revival, the most popular and possibly strongest Guild in the SAO universe to date had entered with the majority of it's forces, wishing to take down the 50th level Boss with no trouble. Of course, this did not go as planned. Countless died - that is the only concrete truth. Eventually, the great beast fell. But that was only after it had single-handedly destroyed the foundations that held up the majority of people's hopes. The hopes that they'd one day break free of this nightmare.
It was a warm day, the sun gazing brightly down upon the surface of the 50th level's town. This particular town held the single largest Guild structure one could obtain; it was originally going to go to Revival, once they'd take care of the Boss. Suffice it to say, the place isn't as lively as it would have been. Save one room.
Many had gathered to discuss the next floor's Boss and the plan to take it down with no casulaties, only that was the premise of the meeting - what was actually being
'dicussed' were excuses, accusations and all-around emotional argument. It took the slam of a table and the natural strength of a man's voice to settle the crowd, though even then the tension remained thick amongst the air. It didn't take long for another male to step forth, voicing his own opinion.
"To hell with the Boss! I lost almost every single person I'd ever met in that last battle! This is goddamn suicide!" he announced desperately, the ache of loss and fear of death evident in both his words and the windows to his soul that were his quivering eyes.
"Nobody is asking for you to continue fighting." stated a firm, female voice. She stepped forwards from behind a couple of heavily armoured individuals, who both had no idea she had been lingering just beyond. The first feature of the female that everyone would find would be her rich, crimson locks of hair. Radiant, curled to perfection and hugging around her face in a frame. Emerald-green hues stabbed deeply into the male, but not with any form of negativity - but pity and empathy, her thin lips curled downwards in a featured frown. In the fire-lit room, her olive complexion tinted sweetly - a glorious star amidst the chaos of Aincrad.
"Everyone lost something as soon as they logged in for the first time." she began, placing her straight, chinese-styled blade on the center table, "Others have lost loved ones," she continued, turning her eyes elsewhere and meeting the odd person or two as she spoke, "But it is those willing to sacrifice it all that will get us through this. People are counting on us here; whether they be the men and women you see around you now or the people still stuck on the first floor, because they don't have the strength to stand up as strongly as we do."
A hand suddenly came down on Stone's right shoulder, the side opposite of where Rose now stood.
"I have it on good information that this here particular Boss doesn't have any other pet monsters in the room with it, meaning we can surround and defeat it fairly quick." a sly, accented and oddly charming voice snaked through the crowd as he pulled himself from beyond the veil of bodies. The male was dressed sharply, a tailor-made suit and accessories to match; though the gloves he bore weren't very common. Tipping his fedora up a little, he reached into his inner pocket and retrieved a folded piece of paper. Opening it with a flick, he slid it on to the table, next to the map of the current floor. The one which had just been placed down was around five times larger both length and width - not to mention it had a considerable amount of red X's littered about, detailing monster spawns in quantity. The map of the 51st floor however had next to none.
"What's this?" asked an observer, leaning in close to get a better look at the comparison. A gentle chuckle hummed through the suited male's lips, which were curled upwards into a rather sharp smirk. "This here's the 51st floor's map. This - the 50th." he gestured to each accordingly, a generous amount of chatter coming about the listing; many people noticing the significant differences and commenting on it to those standing nearby. "If the maps are any kindah' clue, which they are - you can all see that this floor is less than half as tough as the last. Should 'ave no trouble." he snickered, leaning back and placing a hand atop his hat, pressing it down over his golden hues once more. Rose nodded towards him with a smile, genuinely pleased that he'd actually gone out of his way to help them in the meeting.
"As he said; this Boss is a cake-walk. Of course, whether or not you still wish to fight is entirely up to you - but I plan on taking him down with or without the rest of you!" she exclaimed firmly, swiping her hand through the air decisively, before plucking her sword from the table and reattaching it to her belt, "I've had enough of this world and how it torments us. I'll save you all."
With that, Rose made her way out of the large room - during the hushed whispers. Ever since the death or Revival, there hadn't been any real stand-out figures aside from Stone himself; but Rose was making short work of this, turning heads everywhere she went. Opening the door, she closed it behind herself upon stepping out - giving them a curt good-bye with a single nod of her head. As serious as she seemed to be - her desire to help seemed sincere enough. Already, those that would have otherwise probably avoided the next battle were thinking of joining purely because they'd be helping a person like her. And the reassurance from the sharply dressed male whom had receded back to the rear of the room to observe also caused some sort of inner hope to spark within a select few.