Right Here Baking for You

What starts as a simple dinner of sushi and a salad escalates into a buffet of emotional confessions and a dessert of acceptance and sincere affection.

Mac Anu - Main Square

    Okay, technically Asuna is not, in fact, oceans apart from the person who is on her mind. She is, however, slowly going insane. Klein has no doubt received several random chims over the past week or so. The chims aren't so weird, but the lack of clear purpose in them is a bit odd.

    Asuna is usually either cooking for someone, off fighting a monster or ten, trying (and failing) to train Tomoe how to be a fierce monster mount, or plotting her next adventure. But not much of that has been happening. Partially, she is tired. Sleeping hasn't come easy as of late. But she's also been distracted. Claiming her freedom was so envigorating and now it's all confusing. And when you get down to it, there wasn't much freedom to claim. Kirito never came around.

    In short, freedom turned out to be another word for nothing left to lose.

    And so she has just been... waiting.

Mac Anu - Main Square

The random chims have been a little odd at times for the self-styled samurai. There wasn't any sort of patherns to them, and at first Klein just treated them goodnaturedly and responded back as soon as he could, even if he has to retreat from monsters. But when several of them had come in the middle of the night where even hardcore grinders would be asleep, Klein started to get a little worried about Asuna's sleep schedule.

It's because of this that the bandana-wearing Scale member is walking back down a well-trodden path to Asuna's place, humming to himself. For once, he isn't coming here for the promise of food like so many of Scale tends to do. In fact, he's actually bringing food!...well, thankfully not food he had cooked himself. He's certain that if he did, the ground he would be walking on would be frozen solid. No, it's a wrapped bundle in his hands, takeout to go.

There's no smoke coming out of the chimney today, but that doesn't stop Klein from peeking over and seeing the vicious (read: adorable) Dire Panda in the stable and knowing his friend is home. Knocking three times on the door, he calls out for her. "Hey Asuna! Hope you like surprise visits, and don't worry, food is on me for once. I bet you get tired cooking pizza for me anyways." Laughing softly, he does his best to hide the unease from showing on his face. Something is still going on that goes beyond bad luck with the color black, and he's here to find out what.
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Tomoe is definitely being fierce. Chewing on some fresh leaves and generally laying so flat that it appears she's trying to transform into a carpet. The monster seems quite content with its lot.

    Inside the home, though, there is the sound of rapid activity. Suspiciously like a person very rapidly trying to put things in order. Which is exactly what is happening! Thank goodness menu dressing is a thing.

    "Oh! I... I will be right there! I just need a moment!"

    Okay, it's not a moment. It's more like a five minute wait. The entire time, there is the sound of things being tidied-up. Eventually, though, the door opens and Asuna is standing there, trying to look completely casual. Which is to say, she looks extremely awkward.

    "Sorry about that, Klein! The place was a bit of a mess. Please come in! And thank you!"

    It will be immediately obvious that the place is spotless. If anything, it is even more severely organized than usual. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

    "I didn't know you were coming, or I'd have cleaned more properly!"
Mac Anu - Main Square

Klein laughs again as he hears movement and backs off from the door as Asuna puts aside a few things...and a few more...and more? What seemed like what anyone would do when surprising and unwelcomed houseguests showed up is taking a bit longer than it should. Nodding to himself that despite himself wishing otherwise, his gut instincts were right yet again.

Seeing Asuna open the door and trying to act casual? The whole situation was starting to remind him of some silly romcom scenes in movies back in the real world. That would be hilarious, but this is Asuna he's talking about here! No way she's usually like this. "It's fine, I knew I should have send you a chim before coming on over, just wanted to surprise you for once."

Smiling cheerfully, he walks on in and sets down the bundle on the table right away. Undoing the knot on the top, he motions towards the food inside, some fresh sushi rolls of Yamato's more edible fish. "I found someone selling some actual sushi, so I figure we could give it a try. And don't worry, no tomato sauce here, I promise." Even the famous Pizza Samurai gets tired of eating his favorite food all the time. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna would never fall into a romcom stereotype! She looks a bit more like one of those after school specials. She's obviously not been sleeping very well. Bags under the eyes, a slight less agile flow in her motions. The usual grace in her step is still there, just not quite its usual.

    She shuts the door behind her with a sigh of relief. She walks over to the table, looks at the sushi rolls, and smiles.

    "You are really too kind, Klein. It looks so good!"

    So why is she going to the kitchen? She's pulling a few things out and chopping up some vegetables. Yes, she's making a salad in record time. To a normal eye, it's a great salad. Since Klein is not an expert chef, he won't notice a decline in her cutting technique. She's still quick and efficient and in no time, she's pouring out drinks and setting down the salad. It's a simple dressing, a vinaigrette with some citrus notes.

    "There, now I feel like I've done something to be part of this, too!" And she will sit down.

Mac Anu - Main Square

Klein doesn't say anything, still acting like there's nothing wrong that he's noticing. But when it comes to the front lines of the Aincrad tower, you have to learn how to read people and see the differences of them day to day. An awkward slip here, the noticable bags under the eyes? Asuna is doing her best, but it seems she's starting to reach the limits. He might not run a guild in ETO, but Klein still has his sharp mind when it comes to those he's close to.

Klein has been over enough to help out in the kitchen, even if it's not helping with something as simple as cutting up a salad. Setting down plates, a quick setting of the utensils, even some napkins just in case things get messy. And Klein absolutely wouldn't see any differences with how the salad is prepared. Knowing his luck, it would somehow gain the ability to speak as he's cutting some lettace so it could scream in pain. Maybe one day he could make a sandwich. One day.

Klein takes a few different kinds of sushi and places it on his plate and balances it out with some salad, though it's clear there's double the amount of sushi to what fresh greens there are on his plate. He takes a few bites before deciding that perhaps now is the best time to ask the question. "Say, Asuna?...when was the last time you got some proper sleep? And don't say it was just last night, you're clearly not feeling your best." Gone is the loveable goofball that almost every Adventurer sees when they meet Klein. Instead, the red-haired swordsman is looking Asuna from across the table with a serious frown on his face. "I'm...honestly starting to get worried about you, just so you know."
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna takes a bit of everything. Not quite as much as Klein, but she's also a slender woman. She's more speed than power, and her appetite matches that. She does take more of the salad, but she can always grab more sushi.

    "Oh, sleep? Hm. Well, I suppose I didn't sleep well last night. My dreams are so weird. I mean, you know, lately." As in the past several months. And she has the debuff to prove it. Not just the nightmare one now, but an actual lack of sleep debuff.

    "I've taken a bit of a break the past few days. I'm sure I'll get better."

    She's not a terribly good liar to begin with, and Klein knows her. Asuna looks over her plate and starts eating pieces of sushi. "My mother would be so upset if she saw me like this." She laughs softly, her voice changing to mimic her mother, "Asuna! What are you eating!? You will never maintain your waist with that kind of diet. What kind of man will take you into his family!"

Mac Anu - Main Square

Despite the seriousness of the conversation, the sushi Klein brought in certainly is tasty. Either he got lucky or Klein knew the right person to go to get something to eat when Asuna isn't an option. He can't make a pot of tea to save his life, but Klein did know quite a bit on where the best kind of food could be purchased.

Klein can't help but squint a little as Asuna tries to make it not seem such a big issue. Maybe he would have believed it too if he knew for a fact she's already been struggling with lack of sleep for more than a few nights. Taking a moment to do something he should have done months ago, he quickly does an Appraisal. The Sleep Exhaustion status is something he expected, but the one for Nightmares wasn't something he's been expecting. Could Asuna really have been suffering through this for months, and he's only now realizing?

Shows just how good a friend he is not to notice something that obvious.

Thankfully Klein is knocked out of that dark turn quickly from her impression, and he laughs quietly. "No offense, Asuna, but your mom sounds like she can be an oni to deal with. And hey, while looks are not that important-" Which is rich coming from someone Asuna has likely seen attempt to flirt with beautiful women, be they human or NPC. "-it's the inside that counts much more than that! Someone who's kind, caring, supportive, and also able to call you out if you're doing something stupid and idiotic. A man who can see beyond the surface, that's who'll be more than happy to take you in." Giving the chestnut-haired woman a kind smile, Klein tosses a smaller piece of sushi directly into his mouth, perfectly ruining the moment he was accidently building.

Thinking back for a moment to the more pressing matter, the scruffy redhead was trying to figure out what he knew for an actual Nightmare status effect. There was a few things that sound plausable, but it -was- a few months back now. "Maybe it would help if you can describe them? If only you want to, but it help you if you speak them out loud on what you remember?"
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Klein's build-up is so perfect, too! But honestly, the sushi doesn't ruin it. It just makes it so much more... well, him. She is grinning through it and laughs at the end.

    "You know, I'm afraid mom is rather difficult. She just wants the best for me. To be first in all things, so that my life will be better. The usual thing. Studying, dressing, having the right talents, not wasting my time on childish things."

    Then Klein has to talk about the whole romance side of things. Which gets her smirking just a bit. "I forget... was it the blonde girl who works at the bakery that you were asking out a few months ago or was it that random sylph archer girl? What is on the inside does count, but there's nothing wrong if your dream girl looks pretty too, is there?"

    She pauses there, frowing at herself. She is twirling a lock of hair with her fingers. She very deliberately forces her hands to fold in her lap. She even sits up a bit straighter, too.

    "My nightmares?" she asks softly. "They are silly, really. Often, I dream of my mother. She never let me play video games. I can't imagine how disappointed she must feel. She warned me that VR was the worst and that I needed to keep my mind on the real world. I never put it on before, but I got curious I guess and then... well, this is my first VR session. I imagine by now we're all tied for the longest session ever."

Mac Anu - Main Square

A wistful smile forms on Klein's face as he listens to her complain about her mom. It sounds like the typical story of overbearing parents he has heard several of his friends complain about in the past. "People like your mom are just wanting to make sure you have the best life you can have, but put so much pressure on you that you don't have a normal life outside of the tasks they have you do. Everyone need to be able to live their own lives growing up, but without being set completely free either."

A small blush forms on the samurai's cheeks as some of his antics were brought up, and he nervously laughs while holding a hand out towards Asuna defensively. "I-I mean, being pretty too certainly helps! It's what draws someone's attention to you, but..." Struggling to get the words to form, Klein scratches his chin as he tries to dig himself out of -this- hole. "...well, it's great for shortterm relationships and one night stands, but finding someone that's also beautiful inside? That's what you stay for. I...know i'm not making sense, but it made sense in my head!"

Hearing about the sort of nightmares bothering his chestnut-haired friend can be hard, as something as personal as her mom can never be easy to share. "Honestly, i'm thinking we're doing pretty good, all things considered! You should have seen some of the videos of people trying to be in the early versions of VR for just 24 hours, they were absolute messes." Smiling softly at his own attempt to lighten the mood, he reaches over the table and lays one hand on top of Asuna's own, trying to confort her. "As for your mom? I'm betting my last yen she's worried sick about you and likely regretting how hard she must have pushed you at times. She may not be fighting any monsters, but this is just as hard on her as it is for us."
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna is in a spot where she's being pretty open. Honest. Vulnerable. Not that she knows that, exactly. Her heart and mind are a knotty mess right now. Talk over her mother inevitably strikes a raw nerve with her. Maybe it always will. But in the end, she nods at Klein.

    "I do think it's really important to just live my life. Which, when you think of it, I have been doing now for quite a while. If, perhaps, not exactly in the real world. But how often do you have to fit towering wolves in the real world?"

    She greatly appreciates Klein's blush and scramble to cover it up. It's fun, putting someone like Klein on the spot. He's really nice and generally fairly smooth. When he's stumbling, though, there's a charm in it. At least, that is where her heard is going.

    "We are doing well, though, like you say. Whether that's making a world to live in or finding someone to care about. Even if for a... one night stand?" She is teasing, of course. After all, putting him on his heels means that she is-

    And then he puts his hand on hers. Her cheeks turn pink immediately. She doesn't pull away, exactly, but she stiffens. It's like a jolt of electricity, that pushes one away without letting one escape. He is saying something about her mother. She forgets why.

    "Well, she always did get the best grades out of me."

    Asuna isn't sure if that even makes sense, exactly. Her eyes are not on Klein's face, as they were in conversation. She's now staring down at his hand. The pink blush grows more vivid, and yet she doesn't pull away.
Mac Anu - Main Square

Nodding his head in agreement, Klein just points a fork towards Asuna. "Exactly! Well, there's the old myths, but there's no telling if there's anything true about those. But I remember those early days, and you opened up a lot since then! Much as we want to go home, you have to admit that being here has done us some good, right?" That's Klein for you, always trying to find the silver lining to any situation, but he knows there's some truth there, even if Asuna might not see it that way.

Klein's blush deepens and he drops that fork before rubbing at the back of his neck. Here he is trying to be cool and dependable and she's teasing him for his flirting habits! "But-that's not-I mean I haven't...hey! This isn't about me! Besides..." Here, Klein bows his head and mumbles. "...it's a good icebreaker?" That sounds weak, even to him. But on the positive side, Asuna certainly must be feeling a little better for catching him so off guard.

Klein is usually pretty good about thinking on his feet, but sometimes he gets so caught up in how he pictures things should go that he misses obvious details right in front of him. Like how he's making Asuna blush! Getting sidetracked by the grade comment, he pulls his hand away. "Moms are usually great about that, especially if they know how to motivate you. My mother used to threaten that she would sing for...me..."

It's a little odd that the redhead trails off at first, but singing is tickling something in his memories. Singing...odd status effects...nightmares... "That's it!" Suddenly snapping his fingers on his right hand together, he points a finger back towards Asuna excitedly. "I think I know how to help you with your nightmares! Well, I can't do anything about it myself, but I remember hearing how people were getting nightmares a few months ago, and someone talented with Songs can help people sleep soundly again! We should try to find Uta soon, she did something amazing with her voice when I was helping to capture a Crowned captain a few days ago."
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Klein's words are this pleasant little hum that goes through the air. Asuna always has trouble focusing when she's distracted like this. She remembers this is how she felt when Ki...

    "That can't be right."

    She shakes her head, then her brain does that amazing trick where it takes all the random noises from the past minute and makes them into words, sentences, and paragraphs. All in a flooding stream of conciousness. The nuance is rather lost in the process, but she does get the idea.

    "So you haven't? And why isn't it about you? Ice?"

    Okay, her brain got everything, yes, but it makes so little sense when it's all crushed together! And anyway, it is suddenly hot in here. Or is it just her cheeks? She does her best to cover this up by stabbing at her salad with a fork. But since Klein's hand is on her right hand that leaves her left and this goes poorly. It takes a few goes to get anything on the fork, really. Her left hand is just not terribly useful.

    Then he's talking about moms and singing and ... hey! Where did that hand go? She was still trying to figure out what she thought about that. She actually looks a bit upset about that, really.

    "My nightmares? We need song? Oh. Uta. Right. Yes. She's nice."

    There's no energy in her tone, though. It's all flat. She gives off a slight sense of irritation, really. It could be lack of sleep, but it's not. It also isn't the fact that her attempt to leave the fork in the bowl and set her left hand down goes a bit too fast and rather astray. Which results in her bringing her hand swiftly down on the handle of the fork and launching it to her left, into the kitchen.

    "You touched my hand!"

    This is blurted rather defensively. More blushing follows. Smooth, Asuna. Very smooth.
Mac Anu - Main Square

Asuna certainly seems to be not her usual self as Klein rambles on. What she's saying could make a certain amount of sense...if you were an early attempt of making a chatbot. Perhaps Asuna's upbringing never brought up the term of an icebreaker before? No, there's no way that doesn't make sense, she had to know how to make conversations with others with her upper class family. Klein might not notice this at first when he's so excited about having a way to help her, but it's a little hard to miss the fort flying into the kitchen.

He jumps back a little in surprise at the sudden outburst, eyebrows threatening to disappear into his bandana. Thankfully he doesn't tip the chair over. "I-uh...yeah? I mean, you have a lot going on your mind lately and I just wanted to make you feel comfortable." Narrowing his eyes a little in thought, he peers carefully at her face and taking extra note of her blush...though apparently getting the wrong idea from what caused it. "Hmmm...right."

Nodding once to himself, he glances over to the living room to make certain of something first before nodding yet again. "I'm going to be staying here until i'm sure you're feeling better, and don't even think of trying to give me your bed. It's your house and you're clearly not feeling good, and I crashed on couches before!" Standing up from the table, he moves into the kitchen, picks up the fork and goes to get a clean one before returning back to the table. Sure, it's just a game, but the world can be realistic when it wants to be, and who wants to eat with a dirty fork.

"And no, i'm not taking no for an answer either! What kind of person would I be if I didn't make sure you weren't feeling good?"
Mac Anu - Main Square

    "I do?"

    She thinks for a moment. Does she have much on her mind right now? Well, yes, but he doesn't know what's going on in her head right now! She's more than just flustered, at this point. She's totally off anything resembling her game.

    "I mean. Yes, of course, that sounds great."

    Pause. Brain scramble. Wow, those words when misunderstood get really crazy! Her neck and shoulders appear to be blushing now.

    "What about staying in my bed?! This is all so sudden."

    Something is too sudden. Definitely. But since she's barely able to parse all of this at all (if completely incorrectly), she takes away Klein's shovel and takes her turn digging a deep hole.

    "I mean, I only just started to consider.."

    A pause.

    "Consider... well, I mean, yes, you want me to feel good."

    Wait. What?! Feel good.

    "I'm... yes."

    Well, that settles that, then. Can someone blush themselves into a debuff?
Mac Anu - Main Square

Klein scoffs like what he's hearing is the most obvious thing in the world. "You do, and don't try to make it seem like a small issue, that's my job! I mean, you been dealing with nightmares for months now, plus with Kirito being a jerk and disappearing on you, it's a wonder you're doing so well as it is." He nibbles on some of his salad, eating it with far less gusto than his pieces of sushi, but it's still fairly good. Veggies were best with hot cheese and sauce, not in a pile.

Rolling his eyes, Klein cleans up the last of his plate, but takes a few more pieces of sushi from the middle. "Because i'm not going to kick a sick person out of her bed, that's just cruel. It's the most comfortable spot in the house, i'm sure."

Grinning to himself, he starts to work on his second helping. "See? Glad we're on the same page. You know you just have to ask me if you ever need help with something, Asuna. Even if you have to wake me up in the middle of the night and just talk, i'm here for it."

They were, in fact, not on the same page. Perhaps not even in the same book right now.
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna is already thrown off and then he goes and says /that/ name. Ugh. She pushes it away. Then it's a quick return to the words Klein's saying. Something about her bed again. And how it's comfortable.

    "It's comfortable. Plenty of room to sprawl out."

    Why did she say something that stupid? Why can't he just slow down a moment! She takes a drink. Well, her hand and mouth do the drinking thing. Her lungs do the breathing thing. These things are not compatible. The result is that she's left sputtering and choking cause she temporarily forgot how to drink. Eventually, though, she can speak! And she has a lot to say.

    "I never did that with him. I mean. The bed. You know? And the nightmares are not great, no, but it's not that serious! I'm going to be fine."

    Says the woman with a stack of debuffs and is at this very moment, rambling like a confused drunk.

    "And.. the middle of the night? I mean, I don't know. But you know, it just occured to me.. I mean, that is."

    Yep. Still blushing. It's so irritating! Not the blushing. I mean yes that is irritating, too. But she's struggling with this stupid mental fog thing from a lack of sleep. It makes her irritable. And everything is confusing.

    "I mean, if there was someone I would have with me like that, yes, but I mean is that what you want? Like, but not a one night thing, right? Or wait, do we ask that?"
Mac Anu - Main Square

Asuna's fumbling is only strengthing his belief that she's getting a cold or a fever even more. He seen his mother think that she was flying while spread out like an eagle on the floor once, and it is starting to fit in with how he's hearing Asuna right now. Stumbling over her words and making a weird kind of sense if you squint hard enough? That sounds right.

But what doesn't sound right to him is Asuna thinking he was suggesting her and Kirito did...that. That was not a landmine he wasn't going to step on! Carefully not saying anything, yet blushing nearly as bad as her now, Klein just focuses on what he can respond to. And then Asuna seems to be suggesting that he was trying to...

Oh dear, it's worse than he thought.

"What?! I-uh...no! Asunaaaa, you need some proper sleep for once..." Sputtering and thrown for a loop, the redheaded samurai just focuses on trying to care for his friend. Besides, no way he's going to give her ideas. Getting back up from the table, he goes to help Asuna stand and, if allowed, tries to lead her towards her bed. "Doing 'that' isn't going to give you the sleep you need, geeze. Come on, we can finish our meal later, a nap is just what you need."

And without meaning to, Klein did end up responding to her question in a rather soft voice. "Besides, you deserve someone better."
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna is, quite simply, off the rails entirely. She notices Klein is blushing. But he's blushing quite a bit around her! She doesn't think she did it this time. She wasn't teasing him. She was serious!

    "Oh, well, I suppose that is true. You probably don't do that when you sleep. I mean, I don't think you do. Do you?"

    She stands up when guided to. She's even more flustered, now, though. She stumbles, you see. Right into him. She can either fall over or grab hold. And she.. grabs hold. Tightly. It's the debuff, she tells herself. That's why she's dizzy, irritated, a bit thick upstairs, and giddy.

    Wait. Giddy?

    "I.. do deserve someone better."

    She shivers a moment. Trembles. Her mind is confused, though. Is Klein saying something against himself? That is enough to upset her in truth.

    "Who could be better than you? Why do you think that about yourself?"

    That is what he meant, right? She got that part right, didn't she? Oh wow, there's that blush, brighter than ever. Can hair blush?
Mac Anu - Main Square

The fact that this is the conversation they're landing on is proof that sleep is exactly what the doctor ordered. Or that Asuna was drinking top quality liquor without sharing. And he was doing his best not to give whatever she was saying too much thought. "No, you certainly don't. It makes it very hard to get some-whao!"

Klein grabs a hold of Asuna as she stumbles into him, holding her around the waist. No way he was going to just drop her! But she was certainly close...and apparently had overheard his comment. At first, he was just going to brush it off, but it wasn't very likely she would remember any of this after some sleep. Asuna clearly wasn't in the right state of mind.

"Well...you're smart, beautiful, charming and one hell of a cook, and that's not even getting started on how you move when you fight! I can't even cook a sandwich to save my life, and i'm none of those things. And that's not even getting started on how good my chances are back in the real world. I'm the kind of guy your father's company would hire for a small position and that's it, so no way I could impress him or your mom." Sure, he's saying what really is just coming to mind, but it's clear he believes every word of it. "I'm positive you'll do better than me, you just got to have faith in yourself!"
Mac Anu - Main Square

    She was, sadly, not drinking anything of the sort. If anything, it might make her more coherent. She cannot argue much about the need for sleep. Not when he's complimenting her.

    "There are a lot of things about me you don't know, Klein. I'm not so perfect. I have made a lot of bad choices, and whatever my mother might think, I wasn't always happy."

    She sighs softly. She will settle on her feet, with some help, and then look at Klein seriously. She runs a hand through her hair, trying to compose herself. There is a look of intense focus in her eyes. Klein's seen that look when they fought together.

    "Klein. I am not better than you. It has nothing to do with faith in myself. You lack confidence with gir.. with me. I wish you wouldn't. And honestly, I don't care what my parents think. You say my mother is worried about me? Her disapproval is all I remember."

    She turns away from Klein, letting out a sigh. She doesn't make it to the bed, but settles rather abruptly on her couch, staring down at her hands. Asuna frowns at them, then brings them together.

    "I'm not all that you make me out to be."
Mac Anu - Main Square

When Klein came over to check up on Asuna, he certainly wasn't expecting what was going to be a sushi lunch into...well, whatever this was turning out to be. "Hey, nobody is! Honestly, if you did do things perfectly, i'm certain i'll be even more concerned for you than i'm already am."

He's still going to make sure she's sitting down on the couch properly before sitting down next to her. With someone he's seen dance circles around some of the fastest mobs he knew having trouble standing in their own home, he's not trusting Asuna from not taking a nasty fall. Sure, it's her house and a safe zone, but it's the thought that counts.

"Maybe that's true, but...i'm not all that impressive here myself, you know? I always feel like i'm the blandest of the Three Scale Samurai. There's you still being one of the quickest players around and Soujiro has done some crazy stuff already. I'm still struggling to remake this one attack I saw in a game once."

Wrapping an arm around her, he gives Asuna a gentle squeeze on her shoulder and pulls her in close. It's true that he's not really used to comforting the fairer sex, but it's clear that both of them are in the dumps. "Now then, enough of the pity party, that's not like us! And you're not going to let some stupid nightmares bring you down, and you know why?" Giving her a smile, the same one he often gives when things get dire, he gives her a thumbs up with his left hand.

"Because you got me with you."
Mac Anu - Main Square

    Asuna listens to Klein more carefully. It's hard. She's tired. She never feels herself when she's in emotional situations. It's why she turns to ice in combat. Death doesn't scare her much. Right now, she's also emotionally all over the place.

    Well that last part isn't true. She is emotionally in one place. She just has no idea what to do with it. It took more courage than she had to try once. That ended poorly. Here she is again, and her romance skill is no better than it was. Seemingly, it is far worse for being used so poorly.

    "You are impressive in the way that matters most. I mean, to me. You are a good friend. You are loyal. You are always checking up on me. Nobody else does. But then... why? I mean, I doubt you swing in and see how every member of our alliance is doing."

    She narrows her eyes not in anger, but in focus. It is difficult to cut through and reach clarity. That word tickles her mind. Clarity. What was it someone said to her? It's hard to recall.

    "No pity party, though. Not at all. That's not what this in the least. It's.."

    His smile. That silly, dorky, adorable thumbs up. If there was a pulse racing condition, she'd have to add that to the current list of issues. Has her swallowing always been so loud? It is deafening.

    "I've got you with me."

    A pause. Not for thought. For something else. Exhaustion is like being drunk. It tugs at veiled secrets until the delicate fabric covering them tears away.

    "For as long as I want?"

    A shorter pause.


    What is she saying? The words are out before she even can think of them. Once they take to the air, well, it's much too late to do a thing about them.
Mac Anu - Main Square

For the lather half of his visit here, a lot of Klein's blushes have been due to embarrasment due to either Asuna's teasing or some personal questions that were awkward to even think about. This latest one was a more pleased one, though still a bit of embarrasment mixed in. "Because you're one of my best friends in this crazy life I have? And no, not just because of your amazing pizzas! It's because you really are a great person I have a lot of fun just being around. Everyone else in Scale is great...but they're not you."

Honestly, that last part felt cheesy, like something out of a dating sim he played when he was younger. But...it also just felt right, saying it here. He's certainly not loopy like Asuna, and he can tell by how logical her words are that she's really giving it her all to stay focused. It's why he's taking her seriously as she askes two questions, one after another.

Heart thudding in his chest as if he's suddendly the only man in a Tower Boss room, Klein takes in a deep breath as he realizes what Asuna is asking. What she is really asking. Does it feel weird after seeing how her and Kirito used to look at one another? Absolutely. But, Kirito also missed his chance.

And leaving a girl in distress just isn't his style.

"Of course. As long as you want me, i'll be here."

There, he finally said it. It still doesn't seem real what is going on, but...here is a chance for him to find something he never expected to actually find himself. And he's going to regret it the rest of his life if he doesn't take this chance.
Mac Anu - Main Square

    What Klein says gets her emotional in ways that she'd normally struggle to contain. For all her poise and reserve and yes, faux icy exterior, there's a lot of energy used just to keep herself quiet. That bit drops here and there, with certain people. Klein is one of them. Honestly, Uta and Soujiro are the others. Uta because that's her bestie and Soujiro because, well, he's innocent as a child.

    Some part of her senses the answer that is coming. After that first, wonderful build-up, her heart is beating harder. But as it seems to swell, so does her confidence. Not just that he'll say something nice.

    He's going to actually mean it.

    When the answer comes, Asuna finds herself catching her breath. She clearly had been holding it. That doesn't surprise her though. His words. She hoped. If she's honest about it, hoped for a while now.

    She's also crying. In happiness and in relief. Her stress was so intense, it is hard to express it. This is how Klein suddenly finds himself with The Flash's face pressed to his shoulder.

    "I want you to stay with me."

    It's muffled, of course, but she's not whispering. It's what she really wants.

Mac Anu - Main Square

Klein has always been the sort of guy who could be the life of the party, or accidently create one. Jovial, kind and the kind of person who couldn't stand a frown on anyone's lips. Those who see him in battle see a different part of him, an almost mirrored reflection. Serious, commanding and ready to jump in at a moment's notice to save someone's life in this crazy game. And then there's a select few like Soujiro and Asuna who see a much rarer side of him, someone who's thoughtful and self-doubting, almost to a fault. But no matter what side of him, what persona a person meets, they can say one thing that is true for all of them.

A true friend.

So while Klein might still have his doubts about if he's the right person for this or if he's taking advantage of someone in distress, he's not going to let that hold him back. Wrapping both of his hands around Asuna, he holds her in a gentle yet firm grip. Patting his back and smiling down at Asuna, he does his best to be the man she needs.

"Then i'm staying, and i'm not budging a centimeter. I'm staying."

He repeats himself just to make sure Asuna knows he has no intention of leaving, and nothing can move him in this moment.
Mac Anu - Main Square

    More than a friend, really. Asuna's own vortex of self-doubt doesn't have a chance to manifest. Not in this moment. Klein's arms are around her. She feels safe. She feels understood. That l word she dare not voice is floating around in the back of her mind. But that word isn't important. It's the feeling that it attempts to label that is.

    Her tears calm soon. She isn't afraid of anything, right now. And she feels so warm. It's then that she remembers.


    It's a soft whisper, but it carries. And that's not all she has to say. The full quote is so important. Too important to not voice.

    Her voice is dreamy. She's falling asleep. Asuna can let herself relax now. Klein is here and he will be with her.

    "Love... is clarity."

    Those words, fragile as they may be in a sleepy, quiet voice, are her strength. With a little shifting of her body, she makes herself comfortable. A little bit more and things are just right.

    A moment later and her breathing grows softer. She gets more still, and then her body is limp, resting against Klein's as she drifts into sleep.