The very fact that Aincrad was separated by floors rather than vast, dangerous biomes was a well-deserved sigh of relief. After the first floor’s Boss’ defeat, a portal to the next floor had been opened up – revealing the safe passageway to the next city, where more answers may lie.
What the residents of Sword Art Online found was instead yet another simply city, filled with NPCs eager to trade their wares and services in exchange for coin. Alice had been one of the first to lay her eyes upon the city after the raiding party gave the all-clear. The blonde, Russian female who had been raised in Japan (and hence knew the language as well as any other), gazed upon the now filling streets of Urbus when she had an epiphany; how many people had died out there in the first few fields? What about those that lost their lives when facing the mobs before the Boss? Or even to the Boss himself? Was it really okay for this to happen on every single floor from here onwards? It became apparent to her now that she was going to have to be the one to bring these people back to their senses. A person on the verge of insanity was very dangerous indeed.
As if by cue, the majority of the large group of people began to grow restless with their emotions.
“There’s nothing here…! All of those people died for *this*?!” a male cried, glaring desperate daggers towards one of the many raiders whom had been sent out to kill the Boss. The situation devolved into shouting, shoving and grabbing; every last one of them on the verge of snapping at any moment – their very humanity being put on the line for seemingly no reason.
“Kayaba Akihiko has executed us by keeping us in here! We’re all going to die!”
“That’s enough!” Alice exclaimed, her voice somehow booming over all others and utterly silencing the crowd of desperate people – drawing their gaze upon herself. Brushing a hand through her long, waist-length hair, she sighed aloud before pointing towards the town and speaking up again, “The fact that we’re all here now is because of the people that gaze their lives to progress us just a step further towards freedom! How can you trample all over their pride with this pathetic display?”
“And who are you to tell us what we should be feeling?! What hope do we have if so many people die every time we try to progress!?”
“He’s right! What gives you the right?!”
She bit her lower lip, taking a single step backwards in recoil of their harsh words – though if she didn’t steel her spine now, what hope did they have? If she could convince them to calm down now, then maybe there’d be even more progress tomorrow? Some good news, even? The thought urged her forwards, retaking her step forwards and bracing her hands on either side of her hips – a figure of courage and determination now present before the crowd.
“I am just like the rest of you! I’m scared… The thought of being stuck here until death torments me even now… But! I will not let Kayaba Akihiko divine my fate. The destiny before us is ours to define as we see fit! He is laughing at you all – right this very second, whilst you bicker, squabble and cry over those that have died. If you do not want him to have the last laugh… If you don’t want the dead to have died in vain… Keep pushing forwards, all of you. Even if yet more us die for this cause, then take that to heart and keep your chins high!” she drew her blade, hoisting it into the air – a few of the people in the crowd doing the same to show their support of her argument, “We will not die here! This is not the end! We will be free!” she cried, squeezing her eyes shut to hide the forming of small tears around the corners of either eye; her own words striking home. The crowd cheered and roared, their emotions let loose into the sky as they screamed the fears and troubles away – replacing them with drive and courage for the days to come.
Lowering her sword, she sighed in relief – her form shaking lightly from the nervousness she’d been feeling all throughout her speech. Dropping the blade back into its hilt and turning away from the group, she was the first to start making her way into the heart of Urbus; some people jogging to catch up with her and speak about things like what to do next and such. Apparently, the talk she’d just given automatically set her up for a leader position to some – mainly girls chasing her down the street to get a chance at speaking to her.
“Hm~.” Karasu hummed in wonder, stroking the angle of his chin thoughtfully whilst he watched the Russian wander off with her fan club. Uncrossing his arms from over his chest, he turned a little to glance back at his friend – smirking plainly; an expression he usually held.
“What do you think of her? She’d probably make a good party member.” He gestured her way, though returned his arm to his side quickly – exhaling loudly as he realised his mistake, “That’s right – you don’t really like makin’ friends, right?” he chuckled, slapping Nero’s shoulder roughly.
Karasu and Nero had been together in the game since its release, never leaving one another’s side yet. But now that the area they could wander was expanding and the people were beginning to get the motivation to continue pushing, there might not be much more of a chance to sit still any longer. The idea of running off to help them push through the floors and clear it faster for those too scared or weak to fight was always pressing against the back of the laid-back male’s head, but he had since become an expert at assessing both himself and the situation with a very relaxed approach to it. There was no chance that he, by himself, would have any chances in the front line. Of course, now was the time to make friends and forge alliances – the very act of this being slightly different to what Nero was used to doing. Even if they were going to be doing different things from now onwards, they’d still always be the only best friend they had.
Gesturing with a jab of his thumb over his shoulder, he ushered Nero to follow him whilst he made his way into the town – ‘ooh’ing and ‘ahh’ing at each merchant on the way through, spotting higher-tier gear in each one. “Perhaps it is time to gear up properly…?” he wondered to himself.