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female The Game's Worst Mechanic

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By the accounts of any fan of high fantasy, the world of Aincrad was beautiful. Lots of green plant life in the grass and trees, large open fields, magic, swords, monsters, and dungeons. And it looked lifelike, an amazing feat for a VR MMO on home computers. That would be a fantastic selling point, players could get lost in the virtual world, if that wasn't literally what was happening. Sword Art Online, on the day of its full launch, had become a death game. All 10,000 players were trapped in the digital mindscape, with the only escape being one player clearing the hundredth floor. And if you die in the game, you die in real life.

One would ordinarily assume clearing the game would not take long, video sites always had full playthroughs up of any game mere days after release, but SAO was proving different. Almost two years after Day Zero, as it had come to be known, the farthest any advance team had gotten was a floor in the 70's range. By this point, a majority of the surviving players had given up on ever escaping, and had begun treating the game world as their ordinary life.

With that said, there were still those fighting to go the distance, beat the boss, and advance. The guilds were the shining example of force in Aincrad, with the top among them the Knights of the Blood Oath. The red-and-white-clad warriors were often seen on the front lines, cutting through the toughest enemies and scoring the sweetest loot drops. Most figured, if anyone would clear the game, it would be one of the Knights. And one of the top guesses was the order's second-in-command, the one known as Flash, Asuna.

However, Asuna wasn't on the front lines today. It wasn't a constant push, there were breaks between the organized strikes, when the officers could go out on their own, so long as they were ready to return on a moment's notice. Taking advantage of her "day off", the brunette swordswoman was going out on a lucrative sidequest.

She wasn't going it alone, though, she had a partner to help her against the tough enemies. Not another guild member, but a solo player she had grown quite fond of, the Black Swordsman, Kirito. His aloof nature had initially caused friction, but as two of SAO's strongest players, they found themselves in each other's company frequently. It didn't take long past that for the two to find common ground, begin respecting each other, and now they were friends.

That wasn't stopping Kirito from expressing displeasure with the excursion, before they had even officially started. "So what's the lame quest you needed my help on?"

The two had only just arrived in a forest on floor 48 to properly begin the quest, and that being Kirito's first sentence rubbed Asuna the wrong way. "You know, if I'm such a burden, you don't have to agree to tag along. I just figured you'd want a chance to get some extra XP, help me get a one-of-a-kind legendary pot."

Upon hearing the prize, Kirito stopped his complaining, and started snickering instead. "Getting started on the 4/20 celebration a little early, aren't we? Gotta get that dank weed before anyone else!" Asuna sighed as he laughed at his own horrible humor, a laugh that went on too long until he finally caught his breath and realized he was the only one that found it funny. "This is why I don't usually tell jokes. Sorry, keep going."

While a part of her should have been annoyed he went for the dumb, low-hanging gag, she recognized that she should have expected that. Kirito was practically raised by the internet, after all, might as well just let it slide. "The quest card says this pot can add special, temporary in-game perks to food when mixed with certain extra ingredients. Things like improved attack power, faster movement speed, good stuff like that. You're the only person that eats my cooking, so you're the only other player that stands to benefit."

"Don't worry, I'll help," Kirito confirmed. "But do you have any leads on location? Forests are kind of big and non-distinct, we could waste the entire day wandering, to say nothing about getting lost and going in circles. The map here sucks," he offered, pulling up the map in front of him to show its total lack of details and landmarks.

"Then we'll just have to get lucky, and be careful not to retrace our steps. We've got the time. I packed lunch, speaking of food. Plenty of drinks too, so we're set for as long as we want to be out."

"You really come better prepared for these things, Asuna. I just keep emergency rations, they work but they taste like crap. I'm lucky to have you making me food." Kirito closed his eyes in a wide smile, which meant he didn't see Asuna blush at the compliment. It was an odd thing to be embarrassed by, considering how far she almost went with him one night on a misunderstanding, but things were kind of weird between them, personal praises like that felt important.

Shaking her head, Asuna cleared her throat to retain control of the moment. "A-anyways, we're wasting time! We need to get searching!" With the thumbs up from Kirito, the two wandered off in direction unknown, hoping they'd succeed and secure the prize.

---------------

Only now, hours later, did Asuna realize she had made a mistake. Not with equipment, or supplies, or navigation, she was actually well-prepared for the mission she undertook. The issue popping up was a matter of timing. While she had recognized that this could be an all-day affair, she didn't think that through, all the implications it brought. The inevitability never crossed her mind as she enjoyed beverages with lunch. As such, she was now dealing with one of SAO's more controversial mechanics: the bladder meter.

While not a "realistic" game, SAO did still require its players to keep tabs on their body for more than just health. They needed to sleep, they needed to eat, and most relevant now, they needed to drink and later expel those fluids, like some kind of simulation game. Some players didn't mind the system, others were vocally opposed until they were forced to accept it. Asuna was more in the latter camp, with an added dash of "Akihiko Kayaba is a pervert for programming this". She swore to give him a good punch should they ever meet.

However, that anger was back when the game started. Now, she had grown so accustomed to this medieval world that the pleasures of indoor plumbing had mostly been forgotten, where the best toilets you'd find were slightly clean chamber pots, and the wilderness more often than not took that role. Put simply, Asuna was so desensitized to peeing behind some plants when the need arose that it hardly even registered as something she should be embarrassed about.

Around most people, that is. With people she barely knew, it wasn't much of a hurdle to say she needed a minute to herself. Problem was, Kirito was not someone she barely knew. He was very close to her, so if she admitted a need to whiz, she'd be around the guy she confessed it to for the rest of the day and many more to come. It was a normal human, or rather simulated human, concern, but that didn't make it an okay thing to just throw out there. Very few of her actions could be considered more private.

For now, she'd just keep the matter to herself, it shouldn't be too hard. The bladder system of SAO was a lot more rigid than the real world, exactly the sort of thing one would expect from the programming on a throwaway mechanic. Asuna's meter currently read 80% on an orange bar, a fullness that would prompt serious desperation outside the game, but here only resulted in mild discomfort, a warning without pain, much like every other virtual injury. Besides, other players had reported (and she could confirm) that there was no such thing as leakage, clothes stayed completely dry until the total accident at 100%. It worked slower here too, a lot like the disconnect between day cycles and timers in other games, hours could pass without meaningful change. It was easy to be optimistic.

"I just realized, we're on the 48th floor," Kirito broke the silence to observe. "We should have stopped in to say hi to Lisbeth."

"That's only just occurring to you now," Asuna asked, incredulously. "Well, better late than never, I suppose."

"Hey, I'm not the kind of guy who forgets a woman as soon as she's out of sight!" Not even five seconds later, he snapped his fingers as his face lit up in realization. "That reminds me, I haven't heard from Silica in a while."

"Probably should have expected that kind of social incompetence from a guy who plays an MMO day one," Asuna sighed. "Of course, that doesn't make me much better. Regardless, it's bad manners to go visit a blacksmith before you've even used the weapon they made. Especially a blacksmith you almost got killed to make said weapon."

"I thought it was a fun little adventure. I mean, what's the fun without the sense of peril? And I'm saving the sword for a special occasion, isn't that enough of a compliment?"

Asuna planned to retort with a snark about how little he understood women, but stopped short upon realizing it would reflect poorly on herself. She instead elected to refuse comment, a silence that said plenty. Nevertheless, there was one thing it kept obscured, how happy she was to have the conversation, beyond just enjoying time with a comrade. Despite all the reassurances, there was still a reality-programmed part of her brain reminding her how much she needed to pee, filling the gap of the lost feeling SAO removed. It provided a sense of real desperation that she needed distraction from, as well as from the knowledge that she could turn any spot in this forest into her bathroom.

Well, she got what she asked for, in a shining, twisted example of fate's timing. In a way that could only be described as gamer's instinct, the two's attention locked to the same point in the distance. It was difficult to make out amidst all the trees, but at least two other players suddenly appeared. Whether they were always there or just teleported in, no one could tell, but there was something much more important of note, right on the player tags above their heads, in red font. "Red players," Kirito warned in hushed tones. "Come on!" He grabbed Asuna's shoulder and pulled her down behind some nearby large bushes.

She didn't need the prompting to hide. The game's only punishment for player killing was being branded as such with their always visible nametags turning orange, despite it actually being murder. Granted, neither Asuna nor Kirito thought either of these players could beat them, but it was hardly the smart thing to start fighting now. Not only did they have no idea how many more PKers could be hiding just out of sight, but they also had no insight on motive or possible employers. Not to mention, even in self-defense, killing them would still be killing. Not just in the game, but personal morality.

However, she was ashamed to admit, that wasn't the worry on Asuna's mind. In truth, she had noticed these specific bushes earlier, observing how perfect they would be for her kind of cover in any other situation. Well, she was kneeling behind them now, just too bad she couldn't capitalize on the position. The mental repercussions of needing to go this bad were getting to her, she could just picture herself ripping down her underwear, squatting into total invisibility behind the cover, and letting loose. It was a nice ending to imagine.

Too bad she still had reality to answer to. Or rather, in-game reality. The surely loud sound of her splashing liquids on the hard soil would not only attract attention from the players they were hiding from, but it would also defeat the purpose of hiding the need from Kirito in the first place, not to mention in a place where he was in a better position to watch the ensuing show. He had taught her to be afraid of dying, how ironic that him seeing that would leave her wishing for death.

Why was she struggling so much now? She just checked her stats a little bit ago, where she was sitting at an acceptable 80%. It couldn't have possibly changed drastically in that short time, it had to all be in her mind. Just for confirmation, she pulled open her menu and took a peek at the meters. Things like hunger and thirst were still holding steady, but the bladder meter was now crimson red, the white text in front clearly reading a new number. "90%," she whisper-called in disbelief.

Understandable, given her situation, but she had forgotten that she was supposed to be quiet. She remembered the split second after making noise, and covered her mouth in what could be considered an attempt to stop the sound from getting out, for all the good that'd do. "What was that noise," she heard one of them say from behind her wall of greenery. Unable to see, she could just imagine a classic question mark appearing above their head, coming over to check and discovering the guild leader in her handicapped state.

Theoretically, Asuna may be able to fend off the attackers should it come to that, but it wouldn't be pretty. Aside from what would surely be a half-cooked attempt at non-lethal combat, her skill would be further masked by the painful urge to soak her clothing, a combination sure to end with a wet Asuna, at the minimum. Maybe Kirito could turn the tides in her favor, but there would have to be a tide first, a golden one.

"Who cares," a different voice offered, must have been the other guy they noticed. "What part of 'Black SwordsMAN' do you not get? Some girl doesn't change our task, dumbass."

"Yeah, but he's been spotted a lot with that Blood Oath chick. 'Esuna', or something."

"And? Can you tell me what a high-ranking Knight of the Blood Oath would be doing in this forest?"

There was a long silence before the first guy answered, very hesitantly and weak. "They're...on a date?"

The other one, Asuna had lost track, was in stunned silence, closing it out with a grumble. "Alright, come on. You're clearly not well." The sound of someone being forcibly dragged echoed low to the ground. "Let's just find this guy before you start eating crayons or something."

Asuna and Kirito stayed quiet as the shuffling grew more distant, hardly even breathing, until they were sure the intruders had left. They stood up and cautiously walked out into the open, looking around to ensure there were no more lurkers. "Gotta be real, didn't see that coming," Kirito finally spoke, bringing an end to the empty, awkward lull. "So, 90% what?"

After the fear of being discovered, Asuna had forgotten why she had called out before. The discomfort in her abdomen was still there, no way she could ignore that, but the connection was lost. "Huh?"

"You just suddenly shouted out '90%'. What was that all about?"

And the awkwardness was back. The questioning was all it took to link the dots, as Asuna remembered why her little problem was so worrisome. She was extremely desperate, sure to lose control unfortunately very soon, and she had made the permanent mistake of giving a verbal hint to the only person she was keeping silent from. If he knew, there'd be no reason to keep holding it, but letting that knowledge slip was even worse. Possibly. "O-oh, it was...nothing! Yeah, nothing! Don't even worry about it!"

Even as she was saying it, with the most forced smile ever produced by humanity and sweat rolling down her face, she knew there was no way Kirito would believe her. She was so unconvincing in her lies, absolutely no one could take her at her word. As she was looked over suspiciously, Asuna was already bracing herself to reveal the truth. It had to be better than having an public accident at her age, she kept going back and forth on which end would be more humiliating.

Occupied with the debate, at a lull where she wasn't expecting a response, Kirito shrugged. "Alright, fine. Let's get back to the search."

That was the last response she would have expected, to the point she actually couldn't believe that was the response. It just wasn't possible that he actually believed her, no one could be that naive, that stupid. The only explanation was that he was purposefully respecting her privacy, but even that seemed a little unbelievable for the historically dense and thoughtless Kirito. Well, he had previously mentioned off-hand that he had a sister, maybe he was conditioned to leave girls alone when they said nothing was wrong.

Problem was, despite being aware of something wrong with Asuna, he still wanted to stay on the quest path. There was that Kirito thickness. She needed some kind of way out, and to her credit, she could think as quickly as she could fight, even in the heat of a battle like this. "Didn't you hear those guys? There are PKers actively looking for you, part of a Red guild it looks like, wouldn't it be way smarter to return to town and stay low until the hunt blows over?"

"It's not like you to lose your nerve like that, Asuna, not over something this small. They don't have the element of surprise anymore, and they probably can't even scratch us at our levels. Besides, the longer we wait, the more likely that someone else will complete the quest."

"Agh, you're too much of a gamer sometimes! There are more important things at stake here!"

"Like what?" He was willing to let Asuna's weird behavior go before, but if she was going to keep drawing attention to it, he would pay attention to it. He was expecting some answer now, and he wouldn't let it go until he had the explanation.

Under the pressure of interrogation, plus the bladder pressure ten times worse, Asuna's mind was racing with excuses. It was dangerous now, she had come down with a status ailment sickness, they had a new mystery on why Kirito was being targeted, any one of them was a possible choice. As she was making the difficult decision on which one would get him off her case, a flashing red notification appeared in the top right corner of her vision, visible only to her. "WARNING: Bladder capacity at 95%. Empty soon," it read. Given the rate of filling she was dealing with, Asuna roughly calculated that she had minutes remaining. She needed that escape, that relief, right now, a process now taking the forefront of her attention. "Like how I'm about to wet myself!" Unfortunately, it was intercepted by her search for a cover-up.

Once more, Asuna felt the regret of her words the instant she spoke them. That was it, her fabrication had fallen flat, all her time spent suffering under her full bladder was for nothing, now that she had just gone and spilled how something was about to spill into her underwear. Not that it was ever not about waiting, it could be said this whole ordeal was about the agonizing wait, but now she was waiting for a response from Kirito. She could only imagine his second-hand shame, his disgust at knowing his friend was pathetic and couldn't even be trusted with her own urine.

She could linger on those unpleasant thoughts, because Kirito was again taking forever to respond. It took so long this time that some sarcastic side of her wondered if his internet connection was lagging. She didn't make the snide remark, not that she would have under the circumstances, before the response she anxiously awaited with bated breath arrived. "That's it?"

Her reply came much quicker. "What do you mean, 'that's it'?! I'm going to have an accident because I've got nowhere to go and no time to make it back to town!"

"What do you mean, 'nowhere to go'? I figured you'd be comfortable with using nature's bathroom by now. I mean, how long have we been in here?"

"I can't do it with you around, because it's weird and you'll think weird things about me and-"

"What makes you think I care?" That simple question shut Asuna up as she had to admit, Kirito had a point. Reflecting on it, the only reason she figured he'd be grossed out by it was because he was a boy, and girls weren't supposed to talk about those kinds of private matters around those of the opposite sex. Not in the real world. But this wasn't the real world, those kinds of unwritten societal rules didn't apply in SAO, Aincrad was a lawless free-for-all.

More importantly, now was not the time to be hung up by modesty, reality be damned. Mostly because the desperation notification hadn't left Asuna's vision, and its live updates allowed her to see the percentage tick from 98 to 99%. Now more than ever, time was of the essence. She threw her hands on the front of her red skirt, pressing the fabric straight against her crotch with all her strength...accomplishing absolutely nothing, but it was hard to deny years of instinct. There was that nice, big bush they were hiding behind, and she was ready to repurpose it. "If you look, even a little peek, I'll kill you." She couldn't afford to wait for an agreement, she bolted behind the hedge within a matter of seconds.

At least this marked the finale to the worst of the torment. She had plenty of experience with this part of the process, she didn't even need to think. It was all about the rush to undress, she lifted her skirt up and revealed her pink and white-striped panties. Just as she gripped the waistband underneath her thumbs, she saw the notification make its final jump, hitting that dreaded 100% and begin dropping as rapidly as it had grown, literally draining from her. The warmth of urine spread across her underwear, and in small streams running down her legs, staining the pure white color of her stockings. She was just a second too late, having a total accident as the torrent of pee poured down in a puddle of deafening splashes spreading in the soil beneath her boots.

It would be easy to give up now, but she had come this far, now was not the time to surrender. She ripped her underwear down her thighs, clearing the path for her to squat down and do her business in peace. She couldn't control the flow, it was running at full strength from the moment it began, but at least now it was directed safely. The yellowed waterfall rushed cleanly into the rapidly expanding ocean directly before her, foaming up and pulsing outwards in violent waves. And it just wasn't stopping.

Not that Asuna particularly minded that. While the descent into suffering of building need was masked by the game, it did no such dulling to the relief. It felt, frankly, incredible, one of the best calls nature had ever made to her. "Ooooooohhhhhhh...hah...ah...mmmmmmm..." She closed her eyes and panted, struggling to catch her breath as she shuddered at the intensity.

Her senses were all being overtaken by the unceasing gushing her body was producing. Goosebumps formed on her skin from the chilling pleasure, her ears picked up nothing but the crunching echo of raging rapids crashing against the rocks, she couldn't even focus on anything but the running faucet of her body once she was able to open her eyes. It put most of her senses in a position of total ecstasy, if only the unfortunate reality of smell wasn't bringing it down. This was one instance where she wished SAO put less detail in, in a mechanic she already wished didn't exist. Amazing release didn't change that, though it did make the distaste easier to accept.

It only got worse as her bladder finally neared that 0% she wanted so bad. All the good feelings were fading away, while their undesirable counterparts lingered. Still, she finished, she peed, at least she got the result she wanted. Soon, there wouldn't even be evidence, the liquid drenching the dirt was slowly fading away to reduce strain on the server's resources, leaving no visible proof of what she had done. It would have been a nice consolation, if she had anyone to hide it from.

Or if that consideration was extended to her clothing. Her underwear, looking at it stretched out between her splayed legs, was just as stained as when she wet them. "Ugh, I still have to wear these." She'd rather ditch the undergarments, but no way that was an option right now. Not with a skirt, with someone to see, and no replacement. Wincing, she stood up and pulled the panties back up around her privates.

There was just one aspect she overlooked, and in all fairness, it was an obtuse thing to consider. The clothes all players wore were counted as equipment and armor, regardless of the defense buff offered. As such, whenever they took damage, it reduced the durability of the item. Getting clothes soaked with pee was counted by the system as a form of damage, and since Asuna wasn't in the habit of checking the stats of her panties, she hadn't realized that mild drenching had brought them to the edge of expiration. That tiny extra step, the minuscule wetness clinging to her girlhood now moving to her underwear pushed them over the line.

She didn't see it under her skirt, but she heard the telltale sound of glass shattering, a default sound effect used for the destruction of items. The mass of translucent blue polygons dispersed and flew out, fading into the air. Another notification appeared in her sight: "Your Panties broke!" She was in stunned silence as the implications of what that meant sunk in. Just to make sure she understood, a gust of wind blew past, lifting her skirt and fully exposing her new nudity. She silently thanked every deity from every religion that she was still in hiding when it happened.

While she'd have liked to stay behind the bush and ensure no one would ever see her, should she be caught short again, she recognized that there was no other way out, aside from messaging one of her friends to bring her a spare set of undergarments, and who knew how long that would take. She had to come out and face the humiliation. Still, she wasn't about to let another breeze pull its tricks, and she pressed her left hand to keep the front of her skirt down, with her right hand doing the same for the back.

Bracing herself for all the worst, Asuna left the cover, the sound of footprints prompting Kirito to look again. "Finally, you were taking forev..." His statement stopped short as he saw Asuna's angry face, the contradicting bright blush flush across her cheeks, and the placement of her hands. "What the hell are you doing?"

"We're going back to town right now."

"Really? How badly did things go back there?" Asuna refused to answer, just stared a piercing stab into Kirito's eyes, forcing him into submission. "So...how did you let things get this bad? I figured you'd know how to time and prepare this kind of thing by now."

She wanted to keep quiet and not justify any questions with answers, but she was angry about it, and wanted to get it off her chest. "It wasn't working the same way it always has! My meter kept jumping up super fast, and I didn't have the time to think things through!"

Kirito shrugged. "Maybe you should have thought of that when you kept guzzling down drinks at lunch."

"What does how much I drank have to do with it?"

"They changed the bladder meter calculations, now it's more realistic. It'll go up faster if you drank more."

This was news to Asuna. She knew how the bladder meter worked, she figured it out way back when SAO's hostage taking began, and it wasn't anything like that. "Since when?!"

"One of the recent updates. It was definitely in the patch notes."

She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. She didn't know that bit of useful information, making it her fault that she was now going commando. It ignited a whole new wave of fury, and now she needed to release that too, with only one poor sap around to take it. "Even if you spend your nights reading patch notes, the rest of us have other things to entertain ourselves with! Maybe it would have been nice to tell me when you saw me drinking a bunch, before I had to worry about wetting myself! Or do you like seeing me desperate and about to pee?!"

Kirito just shook his head and sighed as he took the abuse, like a husband resigned to a lecture from a nagging housewife. Asuna kept ragging on, but not forgetting to keep her skirt secured. She continued rambling all the way to Lindarth before angrily marching away, leaving Kirito alone. He watched her leave, drawing the attention of the residential players with her awkward walk, until he realized the calm silence he had been denied for so long had returned, giving him the freedom to voice his thoughts once more. "What is her problem? She gets so angry, and fiery, and loud, and violent...it's a little cute."

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