Morning Dew Girl: Your Contagious Smile

Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

    After the destruction of the orcs and the rescue and evacuation of most of the Landers, it is time to head home. But it begs the question, doesn't it? What to do with a child who has no home. Asuna has heard of the Links, the orphanage organization put together and improved for this kind of situation. Honestly, most people have by now. Stuff like that gets attention. She even said to Klein that she was going to take the girl to one of those, since they seem really good.

    Every time she looks at the child, though, she feels this hollow ache inside. The girl had not stopped crying until just now, when she fell asleep, exhausted. The whole way, she's been in Asuna's arms.

    And Asuna... well, she's been so quiet. She's just walking. And it becomes obvious she isn't going to Fort Ouph or anywhere else known to have an orphanage. She's seeking a ship back to Mac Anu. Or perhaps to Tolbana.

    "She's going to be hungry when she wakes up. And she needs a good place to rest."

    It's the first thing she's said in at least 30 minutes.

Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

After watching Asuna free a Lander child from a chest, it was clear to at least one man that the Flash was enamoured with her. Sure, they could help guide the girl towards one of the Links' orphanages, but there wasn't the feel of true commitment when Asuna brought it up. Whatever happens after Klein had charged ahead in that battle, it left her with a lot to think about.

It was clear when Asuna shattered her weapon to free the same girl resting in her arms that she wasn't thinking like she usually did.

So he followed after Asuna, giving her space and time to think what seems to be troubling her. Plus, no way is he going to leave the woman he loved defenseless and on her own like this! But she has backup blades and...yep, he's getting himself sidetracked. But the redhead has been keeping an eye on his girlfriend, waiting to step in once she starts to open up.

"I can get a campfire going for us, or we can keep pushing on until we get back to my place." It isn't a surprise for anyone that knows Klein just how quickly he would offer his own house to let someone rest, be they Adventurer or Lander. The jovial Scale Samurai is always quick to crack jokes but doesn't hesitate to step up when needed. After a moment's pause, he moves closer to Asuna and wraps one arm around her shoulder, being careful not to jostle the child. " are you feeling?"
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    "A campfire sounds good," Asuna says. Still, she doesn't stop for another ten steps. They are in a rather nondescript portion of the woods, but this area has been relatively tame for a while. Not to mention the two samurai are more than enough to handle just most overland threats that might come there way regardless. Well, Klein is. Asuna right now seems rather ill-equipped to handle much of anything.

    "I'm feeling," is what she says first. The answer is frozen, though. Fine? Not really. Good? Not at all. Confused? That sounds stupid. So she does what does seem right. She fails to answer at all, and then just throws a question out on the table.

    "Klein? What do you feel about Landers?"

    She provides no further context. Her own actions have rarely accorded them much more than minimal respect. Sure, nobody would say she's cruel to them, but she's no candidate for sainthood among them, either.

Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

Conflicting emotions crash into and flow around one another on Asuna's face, and it's clear that what she's feeling can't easily be put into words. The question she does ask him leaves him surprised, but just a little. He can see why she would ask such a thing.

Frowning, Klein looks upwards to the clear sky just above, visible past his bangs. He has to gather his thoughts, and he's certain that his introspections is sure to ruffle the feathers of some Scale members the wrong way. But...yeah, it's Asuna, and she deserves the truth.

"How I feel about them?...they're people. I mean, obviously not like you or me. More..." The words were trying to elude him, but he could say it a bit similar. "...they're of a different world than us, but they still feel, act, have their own lives, you know? Just because we see the world differently doesn't mean that they're just 'set dressing' or 'quest dispensers'. They're still human. Well, you know what I mean!"

Trying to liven up the mood a little, he looks back down and flashes the chestnut-haired girl in his arm a smile. "I was trying to flirt with anyone I could find before I met you, after all!" Looking down at the Lander girl in Asuna's arms for a moment, he lets go of Asuna before moving off the side of the road. Digging a small pit in the dirt, he materalizes some logs and tinder out of his inventory and starts to arrange the logs. Satisifed with his work, he chants a few words and flicks some embers onto the dried grass, starting the fire. "...i'm guessing you saw what happened to her mom, then?" It's not a question, but a statement, trying to prod Asuna not to bottle everything up.
Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

    Asuna seems relieved by Klein's answer. She reached out, desperate for understanding of this conflict and she found it. In fact, as Klein is working, she sheds a few tears. In relief. And for other reasons, a few more tears follow. It's hard for her to understand it exactly, but stress has to go somewhere.

    She rolls out a blanket, then swiftly adds a tent on top of it. Not some little one, but a proper one, that is almost tall enough to stand up in. Or will, once she sets it up. Which does beg the question. She has to set the little girl down, after all. On top of the tent blanket, but also on top of a padded bed. Asuna lowers her as if the child were made of delicate porcelain, and then covers her with a blanket.

    Now.. now she can try to talk about this.

    "I saw it. She was on the side of the wagon. They must have hit here with some kind of DoT, because I stopped the orc. But... Klein, I met her eyes. I saw how scared she was. I wasn't..."

    And it's over.

    Asuna bows her head and breaks down. Her hands are clenched at her sides and she stiffens, but try as she might, there's no stopping it now. The flood has finally broken free.

    "I couldn't save her."

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Soon, the bonfire is crackling happily in the afternoon sunlight, lending a hint of home to the air with it's sound. Klein learned very quickly on trying to speed up a campfire by throwing more fire at it just makes thing worse really quickly. It has to grow into it to reach it's full potential. Unless said campfire is also being used for Klein to attempt cooking, then it's immediately a disaster.

Safely setting up a few small rocks for balance then a small pan out on top of it, the redheaded samurai feels that's as far as he can safely venture. It gives him something to do as his fellow Ronin gathers her courage.

He silently listens as she speaks, and only moves from the campfire once to hug Asuna tightly, trying to comfort her. Rubbing her back in small circles, Klein is just trying to do what feels right, and seeing someone he cares about in so much pain? That's something he can help take care of. "Let it all couldn't save her, but you did everything you could! You said it yourself, she had a DoT you didn't even know about, so...don't beat yourself up for failing to save everyone."

Pulling back slightly and making sure he has Asuna's attention, he motions a hand to the sleeping child. "Focus on those that you did save. A hero that focuses only on their failings and not their successes...well...they destroy themselves in the end. And I don't want that to happen to you." Not that he's speaking from personal experience there. Mainstream media has several examples of those kinds of heroes.
Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

    The first instinct of the Flash is to just bury this emotion. To hide it. Deny it. Run from it. Anything but express it.

    But then Klein is there, holding her, making her feel safe. Safe enough to not hide. If anything, the outburst gets worse. A flood of pain pours out with every tear. It feels like it goes on so long to Asuna. These emotional displays make her so uncomfortable, but Klein has a knack for drawing them out when she needs them most.

    Dispelling her guilt is a magic trick. Asuna wishes she could forgive herself and have it work the way it does when Klein does it for her. She wipes at her eyes, following his focus to the little girl.

    With emotions ragin around her, Asuna shivers, holding on tightly to Klein. "Klein... I..." She shakes her head. Silence. Focus. Still. Let some calm find its way into her.

    "I think I can't do it. I can't just... how could I dump her off somewhere?"

    She knows this is insane. Klein's going to tell her that. Everyone is going to tell her she's insane.

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It's impossible for him to truly understand just what Asuna is feeling right now. He wasn't there, he didn't see someone die while staring them in the eyes, and he's not the one who rescued that person's daughter from a chest meant to protect her. What he can understand that he has to be here for Asuna, to give her the support she needs.

Chuckling softly, he hugs her tightly. He wasn't making fun of her, of course not. He's laughing because he already realized something. "I'm pretty sure you can't, honestly. I think you already made up your mind. If you weren't going to care for her, she could have gone off with the rest of the Landers. Instead...well, i'm already starting to think of what color paint to get for her room."

Glancing back over towards the little girl, he smiles. "Besides...she feels safe with you. I didn't hear a single word of complaint when we left the caravan, did you?" Well, there were plenty of tears, but seeing those little fists holding onto Asuna's armor for dear life made it clear she didn't want to let go.
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    She loves Klein. Asuna absolutely does. With her whole heart. She's not very good at it yet, but she will do her best always. Yet he always surprises her by constantly exceeding her expectations.

    "Oh Klein! Really??"

    Her hug is tighter, and her kiss rather abrupt. The passion might seem more than just a bit out of place, admittedly. Emotions right now are a bit of a mess. She's smiling more than ever and tears are streaming.

    "Her room... and yes, of course, she didn't. She just clung to me." A pause. Her room. "Klein... I don't know what to say." she looks up into his eyes. Words choke off. Her heart is in her throat.

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Klein is getting a small idea of what Asuna had been going through with the girl in the last hour, but he's not complaining. The kiss is sudden and without warning, but he's quick to return it! Plus, with those tears of joy now streaming down Asuna's face, it only made her look even more beautiful to the wannabe samurai.

Pulling back a little, he just winks at her. "Well, I can try to play to be coy and cool and say that I wasn't using it for anything...yeah, no way I can turn my back on her. But no more kids!" He forcefully points a finger at Asuna...then Klein's face breaks into a grin and he chuckles. "I can't afford to build onto my house just yet, I have to save up some money first!"

He leans in slowly and whispers. "And you don't have to say anything, okay? I'm just that kind of guy, somehow lucky enough to know you." And with that, he kisses Asuna again before pulling away. All of this is instinct, but...he must be doing something right to help Asuna relax.

Besides, there's a little girl here, even if she's fast asleep. Better make sure things don't get too heated.
Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0

    It's hard for Asuna to calm down. Fortunately, Klein finds ways to make her laugh. She so desperately wants to tease him about the kids, but the moment is just so perfect. She doesn't want to change a thing.

    And she's not really sure exactly what they are forming. Most couples get married and then have a kid. Considering how long their relationship had to wait to get properly started, it seems like fate has put its foot down on the gas and rocketed them forward. And they have a child to take care of now.

    Asuna nods at Klein, "We're both lucky." She turns her attention to the child. "And... I have to do everything I can so this little girl will have a wonderful life. She's lost too much already."

    She bites her lip. "She didn't want to give me her name. She doesn't want me to say the name that... well, the name her mother gave her." Asuna looks thoughtful. "But we have to call her something. Until she's okay using her real name again."

    A pause and she finds herself snuggling into Klein's arms. It feels... really comfortable there. "We can figure that out over dinner, maybe. Do you have any thoughts?"

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It lightens his heart to hear Asuna laugh out loud, despite all the emotion and stress she's been through lately. He never considers himself a man of many talents, but this is one talent he's proud to have.

"That's all we can do, right? Though..." Klein trails off, just now realizing this is a massive step forward for the two of them. Needless to say, the coming months were going to be a challenge. "...we'll have to make sure she doesn't stay alone too often. And include her in outings!"

No, Klein isn't already trying to figure out playdates. That's silly talk.

Frowning upon hearing that bit of news, Klein scratches his chin and he looks around their small campsite for inspiration. Nothing is really coming to mind, but thinking back to how the Lander girl was found... " best idea I can think of is Taka. You know, since you pulled her out of a chest? It's a terrible idea, and we should ask her when she wakes up..." Calling her Taka in short of her being their treasure seems like a silly idea, now that he thinks about it...
Aincrad Tower - 3 - -2 - 0


    Asuna thinks about it for a very, very short time. It just feels so good. It immediately feels wonderful to her. "I really like that. She's our treasure."

    Asuna does settle down pretty quickly after this. There is a lot to think about. Unquestionably, so many things to figure out. But there is one thing she does not have to consider. She smiles as she works on their meal. No pizza out where in the woods. But she does make a remarkably good stew with what she has. Plus she has some sweets she baked earlier. Red bean bread is becoming a thing for her. Pela makes the best cakes. Maybe she can find her own niche with delicious bread.

    There's a feeling of calm. Just in knowing that they will rest for the night, then go to Klein's house. And then? Then Klein will help her figure out the next step.

    As for the child, the smell of food does eventually wake her up. She's quiet, but she doesn't cry again. There will be more tears to come. But tonight, by the campfire, she is cuddled between her saviors and eating warm food like her mother would have made.

    She likes being called Taka. Somehow, the use of this new name comforts the child.

    Eventually, when the stars are bright in the sky above, she sleeps in the tent, kept safe and guarded all night long.

    Taka always wanted to sleep in a tent.