Memories Drawn in Wet Sand

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    There are times where it is easy to get so wrapped up in playing that game that one might lose track of just how amazing a place Elder Tale Online is. As something of a wanderer, Asuna has explored a lot of the Fourland Dukedom. And so, when secretly planning a romantic date with Klein, she selected just the right place.

    Getting here isn't very easy, though! Especially when she insists it be a surprise. Which involves covering Klein's eyes and leading him through overgrown grasslands and finally to the sheer side of a coastal cliff.

    "Okay... here we are. Open your eyes!"

    Straight out, the waves break in caps of white. The currents here make for dramatic scenes. Out in the waters, there are many sheer rocks rising from the water in spires. The stones are brown, but a shade so dark they almost look black when they are wet.

    The wind is salty, but has a sweetness to it, flavored by the scores of pink flowers that cover the top of the cliff and carelessly flow down the many cracks that work their way down to the beach below.

    Asuna was of course behind Klein, which gave her a moment to change. She's learned how important the right clothes are. She is wearing a gauzy, flowing dress. It is white with little pink flowers scattered over it. It's thin enough so that Klein can see she wears a bikini under it.

    "We are almost to my favorite place in the Dukedom," she explains.

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

When someone constantly travels the same roads over and over again, they start to slowly lose sight of the beauty that lies around them. Not because nature is wilting away. It's the fact that they have been exposed to the same views for so long, it just blurs in their mind.

Any good traveler, be they Adventurer or Lander, know when to walk off the beaten path and see vistas yet unseen.

For Klein, that's being a bit more difficult for him to do at the moment. His bandana has been tugged directly over his eyes (something about no peeking), so now he's depending entirely on Asuna to lead him onwards to their first proper date.

It's easy to tell that he must be close to the ocean thanks to the salty brine, but everything else, he couldn't hazard a guess at. So with some relief, Klein finally tugs his trusty bandana back up, and his jaw drops as he takes in the view. He was expecting some sort of beach, but this was something new to him. "'d you find this place, Asuna?"

Turning around, he's stunned into silence again as he takes in the vision of beauty before him. Asuna wearing a beautiful dress, surrounded by a field of pink flowers? It really makes him wish cameras were a reality. This is a view he wants to treasure forever.

Klein finds his tongue again as a hint of pink colors his cheeks. "Wait, so this still isn't your favorite place, then? I'm not sure what could beat this view."

The view of the rocky ocean or Asuna herself goes unsaid, but it's clear which is more breathtaking in his mind.
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "I used to wander around on my own a lot. It took me a while to figure out what to do. You know, being stuck here. I found myself really loving this spot."

    Asuna blushes and lowers her eyes suddenly.
    "I used to catch myself daydreaming about having a little cottage in a place like this someday, starting a family, that kind of thing. It's funny, though. I used to try to stop those dreams."

    She moves closer, taking Klein's left arm and hugging herself to it.

    "And here I am, living them, instead."

    Her focus shifts to the cliff then, and she nods at the question. "That's right. This is just the front yard of my favorite place. But of course it's lovely, and it's a critical part of the whole. There's no rush, though. Not anymore."

    The last words are larger than they seem at first. Even to Asuna the full meaning of them takes a moment to acknowledge.

    "With your arms around me and Taka as part of our family, there's no need to go anywhere anymore."

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

Pulling Asuna in closer so he could hug her with both of his arms, Klein's gaze wanders over the oceanfront view in front of him once more. He remembered those early days, stuck in a world that was just meant to be a game. Being lost, confused and always afraid of what could go wrong before he found his footing. Everyone needs a place where they can destress, especially back then. "I mean, you don't exactly have to daydream about that cottege if you wanted to. It would take a month or two, but..."

Building a house is certainly a massive undertaking, but the scruffy samurai isn't exactly the type of guy to say something like that idly.

Hearing those words is certainly easy enough to do. Processing and understanding the full weight behind them takes a second longer. Raising his eyebrows in surprise, he looks at Asuna's face and focuses on her eyes. "You sure? That's a big step." There's not an ounce of judgement in his voice, just a desire to make sure she has thought this through. "I'm with you all the way, but there's no telling what some members of the Scale Alliance are going to say."
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "Wow, I mean, we just moved in at Tolbana, but.."

    The view is something on a level beyond anything else there is. She has no desire to move at all right now, though. The world is calm, the waves are lovely, the sky is bright, and she's cuddled up in Klein's arms.

    "Well, let's just.. think about it a bit, really. It is a fair ways from the nearest school. I suppose Eas isn't too far away, but the land between here and there is pretty rough. A lot of dire beasts."

    Turning her attention back to the words she said and what she meant, there is a time of silence. Her eyes study the waves for a time as she thinks it through. Before long, her face turns to focus on Klein.

    "I'm sure. Really what else can it be? I love our daughter. I can't imagine how she could come with us out of this place. Most people go through their wholes lives, seeking something. And a lot of them never find it. I have. I won't leave my dreams behind."

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

With a heavy sigh, Klein does have to admit that Asuna has some rather good points there. Plus, this far out from a safe zone may not be the most ideal spot to build a house. Deciding to shelf that idea for now, he nods his head. "You make a fair point. Besides, it's not a good idea to move to a new house again so soon for a young girl."

Smiling softly, he leans down slightly and kisses Asuna gently on the forehead, teasingly keeping his lips just out of reach for her to kiss him back. That very fact just gives more weight to Asuna's claim. He never thought he would honestly be lucky enough to find someone who loves him like Asuna. And now, he's adopted a little girl that would be almost impossible to take back home. It's something he's been trying to keep pushing on to think about later.

" never know with this place. I seen impossible stuff happen here, so just need to be looking for that one chance." How that could help out Taka, that sweet girl that has been sneaking into his heart, he doesn't know. But he won't know until he keeps searching. Just like how Asuna found her way into his heart. "And I love you, more than you know. Too many people focusing on one problem, and it just wears them down. And that's not a way to live."
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "We can wait and see. And keep this place in mind."

    She looks up at Klein after the kiss, bounces on her toes for a moment, and realizes she's just not tall enough. For a moment, she pouts, but then she laughs gently.

    "Maybe there is a way. I just don't want to put my life on hold anymore. I don't want to put all my focus on something that just isn't as important as what we already have."

    A grin, then, and bumps her hip against Klein's.

    "I think it's time to show you the best part!"

    She glides out of Klein's arms with a giggle (a giggle!) She smiles over her shoulder, than strikes a path that first cuts to the left, and then doubles back on itself to the right. There is a turn towards the cliff face, into a cave. A flicker of flame is pulled up by the Flash as she leads the way just a bit farther. It's a short cave, really, but it opens onto the beach suddenly. And the whole way, the cave glitters with amethyst and other crystals, casting the light of Asuna's flame in thousands of directions and forming a mosaic of patterns on the smooth ceiling.

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

Laughing out loud along with Asuna, he nods to himself as he fully understands what Asuna means. Honestly, he's starting to see why some people adjusted so quickly to Elder Tale Online. That doesn't change the fact he wants to go back home, he just now needs to find a way of making sure they can go back. All of them.

This internal promise of his causes him to be hipbumped and stumbling for a moment, causing the mountain bandit of the Three Samurai to burst out another laugh. "Hey, I didn't know you knew a Hip Bump arte!" Chuckling to himself, he follows after Asuna, letting her take the lead on the way to her favorite spot. The trail she takes isn't one well traveled, showing there hasn't been many other travelers here. Which makes what waits for him at the end all the more breathtaking. What must be hundreds of tiny crystals and precious gems catch the light of her flame, giving the cave an otherworldly atmosphere. What was already beautiful to him just shows that Asuna is still the crown jewel of such precious stones, but that might just be personal bias.

Walking slowly in after Asuna as he takes in the full scale of the cave, he lets out a slow whistle that echoes out, followed by a few more notes that changes in tune. He chuckles to himself at that and just takes in the beauty of the cave. "I can see why you wanted to keep this spot all to yourself, Asuna."
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "Hip Bump artes are the most powerful of all my techniques!"

    It's a silly comment, but it's a lovely, silly, playful moment. She turns around to look over the cave once more before leading the way to its opening, where it widens suddenly and spills out onto a sandy beach stretching far to the right and left. The tides, high as they are now, race over the beach and just manage to reach the mouth of the cave with their foam. Here and there, tidal pools remain behind.

    "Well, not to myself anymore."

    She directs her attention to the cave floor and starts searching around. There's a pause and she laughs.

    "Ah-hah! Found it!"

    There is a little box tucked away in the cave. It's half-buried in silt at this point, but with a bit of effort, Asuna can get it free. And then she opens it to reveal a collection of sea shells.

    "It's amazing how many seashells wash up here. You know, when I was a child, I loved seashells so much. My father gave me one once. He bought it somewhere on a business trip. And it looked like this one."

    She selects and holds up a beautiful conch shell. She looks it over and for a time, her expression is gentle and there's a glow of nostalgia in her eyes. "When I first heard that dying could cost memories, I hid this here with the shell in it. I thought maybe, if I forgot about my father, I could return here and find this. And that maybe I'd remember him."

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

It really shows just how much Asuna truly cares, to share such a private and personal spot with him. In most cases, spots like these would have been sold out to information brokers as prime material gathering locations. Just a few moments here, however, and Klein already was determined not to give it up. Something like this would likely be a natural treasure back at home.

So entranced by the lightshow surrounding him, Klein failed to notice the box until Asuna started to pull it from the earth. Holding up his own ball of fire for light, he looks over her should to gaze upon the treasure within. Not treasure as many would see it, but it's certainly is to Asuna.

Smiling softly as Asuna told him about his father, Klein's own thoughts go back to focus on his own dad, and that smile of his turns more brittle. "My dad was always working so hard for me and my mom, doing his best to work overtime to make sure we didn't want for nothing. But we did." Gently, he reaches out to the shell but doesn't try to take it from her. No, he just runs a finger along the edge. "I lost track of how many times he ended up staying overnight in the hospital when I was a kid, working himself so hard he just falls over from exhaustion. Took us years to finally convince him we didn't want things. We wanted him."

That smile of his becomes a bit stronger as he looks from the shell towards the Flash. "Hey, think on the bright side as well. You told me about your father, and me about mine. If something happens, we can always help remind one another, okay?"
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "Fathers are always pushing themselves so hard. To give us everything. But sometimes they forgot that what we want most is them. My father was so often off on business trips. I wish he had stayed home more often. He missed some important things."

    It stirs a memory that clearly isn't the happiest. But it is an important one, nonetheless. In reaction to the memory, Asuna carefully puts the shell away, and returns the box to its place. There's a feeling of care and reverence in the action.

    Yet Asuna doesn't let herself linger long in sad memories. She smiles through it and laughs at Klein's suggestion. "You know, that is.. far easier than repeatedly diving around the coral reef out there in search of just the right shell. But! It wasn't a loss. I had never eaten snail before. Turns out if you make it just right, it's not so bad. And that's what we're going to have for dinner!"

    She waits just a moment, then giggles. She would never fail to give Klein a good meal!

    "I'm kidding! I brought yakisoba and rice. Plus these tidal pools are gems for ingredients. If you like squid or octopus I can even get that."

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

Seems like Asuna understood the pains of having an absent father all too well, and not something he wanted to share in common with her. But now, with Taka...well, that's going to change. Making a note to himself to take her with him sometime, he knows he's doing the right thing.

Asuna mentioning diving is pretty good in this area, is sounding much more appitizing as she makes note of what is on the menu for today. An odd grimace forces itself on his face at the thought, eyes squinting and a corner of his lips pulling back in disgust. Not even Asuna, she who can make a simple sandwich taste heavenly, could make snails taste-

...oh. She was teasing him.

Dramatically pointing a finger at Asuna, he raises his voice in shocked and goodmannered outrage. "How can you be so cruel?! I never done anything worthy of that to you!" Standing upright, Klein searches through his inventory for a moment before changes for a new outfit. No shirt, just a pair of sturdy red shorts that would work perfectly for swimming trunks. A Klein original. "Just to make sure that won't actually happen, i'll bring back the biggest octopus I can find, alright?"
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    Asuna giggles nervously. She can't help it. Klein's outrage over food simple is too much for her to resist. She wonders, though, at his claim. The biggest octopus? That's bold.

    "Well, as long as you are in that kind of armor, handsome, you should be just fine in these waters."

    She can suppress her giggling! Just not right now. It's too funny.

    "But anyway, if you want to get that going, I'll just get things setup here!"

    Portable grill is just such a thing for her, you know? With casual ease she slips out of her dress, leaving the bikini to guard her modesty. Such as it is. The dress is set gently aside, out of the reach of the sea foam, and she gets to work on a fire. Not like it takes terribly long! Fire artes make it pretty easy to get a few coals lit.

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

Grinning at Asuna's permission to go do some fishing, Klein flexes both of his arms in the classic strongman pose just to give Asuna a little more to look at. "Watch, it'll be a peace of cake!"

With that, Klein heads back out to the mouth of the cave, flashes Asuna a thumbs up before running towards the rocky coastline. With this many hideyholes near shore, finding an octopus should be a walk in the underwater park.

At first, things go quite well, and the only sounds inside the cave is the crashing of the waves with the crackling of the fire. Then--

BWOOM! "Oh come on!"

The sounds of Klein being blasted out of the ocean and onto sandy shores again is sure to draw attention. Climbing back to his feet, Klein gets himself into a ready position as the 8 foot tall Combustion Squid comes ashore to continue the battle. Small pops could be heard from each tentacle, and Klein calls out. "Hey, uh, I found the squid!"
Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

    "Ohhh, squid! I love that! I'll get some water boiling!"

    After taking a fair amount of time quite openly /enjoying/ that little pose, Asuna doesn't look up to see just how big a squid Klein has found. At least not right away.

    "Oh, I was going to say, you have to watch out! This area of the Dukedom is notorious for its dire animal monsters! Some varieties get huge! I ran into a few cephalapods that were almost as big me! Worse yet, they.."

    The waves are really loud and cover what she says for the next few seconds. Now, obviously what Klein found is about twice the size that Asuna was aware of. He is good at hunting and diving!

    Asuna puts on a pot of fresh water and is humming calmly to herself when she finally turns to catch-up with the fight.

    "Oh my god! That squid.. yours is so big!"

    Yes. Yes. That's what she said. Har har.

    And then she drew out her weapon and charged out towards Klein. I mean, sure, he can no doubt handle it, but there's this other thing. That becomes evident a moment later, when a second, then a third, and then a fourth squid joins it.

    They hunt in packs. That was what she was saying earlier, when the waves got too loud. Oh well, Klein knows it now!

Yamato - -26 - -13 - 0

Due to having the sounds of the crashing waves right in front of him and the fire breathing, explosion launching squid taking a lot of attention, he didn't happen to hear a lot of what Asuna was saying. That last part certainly grabbed his attention though, and he whips his head around, face as red as his shorts. "What?!"

...wait, she's talking about the squid. Of course.

Now with Asuna helping him out, it was time to filet this-...wait, why were there another one? And two more?

Realizing that his typical luck was at work here, Klein just sighs. "I hope Taka likes calamari. We're gonna have a lot left over."