Well, Salmon Has to Say It

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    So Kirito has returned! And after a not-at-all-totally-awkward first conversation, the wisest person present (Yui) suggested they do something fun. Thinking that her daughter is a lot wiser than most adults, Asuna agreed. And chimmed Klein to come on back home and join them on a fishing expedition to the local watering hole. It's nearby and pretty safe!

    "I think that's everything!"

    Asuna of course swiftly packed a basket with snacks. And the items she needs to prepare fish for cooking. Sure, they just ate something for lunch, but it's Asuna. One must always be prepared for food.

    She is waiting by the house for Klein to arrive so they can go together. She's even roused Tomoe to make sure the monster gets some exercise. Which worked pretty well, until Tomoe saw her own shadow and reared up to intimidate it.


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Getting a chim from Asuna is nothing unusual nowadays. But reading the message and finding out Kirito's back in the area? Now that's something different and leaves a grin on his face. Plus, with Asuna being the one willing to do the cooking on any fish they catch, that just makes things so much easier for him. No one should have to suffer with his attempts at cooking.

That's just front row seats to disappointment and pity.

Now, the main issue here is the scruffy samurai isn't exactly a fisherman or had any rods on hand, so he had to buy the poles and fishing bait before swinging on by the house in Tolbana. Walking with one of the poles already out and bouncing on his shoulders, he waves a hand in greeting towards Asuna. Tomoe gets a chuckle out of the bandana-wearing man, and a quick roll of the apple towards the dire red panda. "Sorry about that, you won't believe what some people are charging for fishing poles around here! Are we meeting Kirito in town or at the fishing hole?"
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It's been a long day for Kirito.

He's been gone a long time. He's come home to his entire world changed...for better and for worse. Largely playing with Yui, Kirito is somewhat unaware of Klein's arrival and when he steps out, Kirito looks....different.

He seems more hollow. His hair is longer, eyes have bags under them like he's been avoiding sleep or has been in areas that make it difficult or has been using potions to make up for it.

He still wears all black.: Blackshirt, black pants, black shoes. His trench coat has been wrapped around his waist to acclimate to warmer temperatures. He steps outside, fishing rods hooked over his shoulder by a strap where his swords might usually be.He has a box of hooks and bait in a gloved hand as he sees Klein and locks eyes with him. He says nothing at first, as if debating something before he speaks.

"Hey Klein."

He gives Asuna a slight nod. "Hopefully meeting here wil do." And he starts to approach them. "I don't know this area well. Where's a good place?"
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    "There's a place not far from here. West and a bit north. Can't easily miss the lake."

    Asuna looks from Kirito to Klein. "See! He's real!" she declares, laughing a moment then giving Kirito a look that is, well, more than a little concerned.

    Yui is just getting up on Tomoe. Asuna uses a few well-placed prods and pokes to get the monster back under control, then has to move quickly to make sure Yui is secure. The child is a bit over-eager when it comes to riding the dire monster.

    "So... who is going to catch the most fish?" asks Asuna. Yui blurts out quickly, "I am!"

    At least the little Lander is untroubled by anything. The whole complication of adults is beyond her. At least that seems likely. "So you all knew each other for a long time, huh?" asks Yui curiously.

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It really has been a while since the last time he saw the black-haired swordsman, but Klein seeing Kirito now really puts it into perspective that time hasn't been kind. After all, Kirito has always been the kind of guy who finds the best spots for slaying mobs, but seeing him like this? It's a major clue it's not an exaggeration from what he's been hearing.

Still, that doesn't change anything as Klein waves a hand in greeting, a fond smile on his face. "You really had me worried man! Glad you're doing okay, really."

Seeing that Tomoe is back under control and Yui is safe on top of the beast, he chuckles at his adopted daughter's outcry. "Hey, come on! You got to leave some for the rest of us to catch!" Readjusting his pole on his shoulder, he gives a thumbs up to Kirito. "Yeah, for several years now. Kirito's the one who taught me how to use Sword Artes properly, and I been grateful ever since."
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    As the group make their way towards the lake suggested by Asuna, they may notice a rustling coming from a collection of bushes along the side of the path. A monster!? Even if it is though, this group is likely able to handle it easily...

    ... And yet, a purple blur comes flying out of the bushes! It's fast!!


    The monsters are calling people's names now!?

    No wait. That voice is familiar!

    A flying Yuuki barrels into Asuna in what is a harmless tacklehug. Something which requires the highest level of tacklehugging skill to pull off. Clutching and rubbing her face against Asuna, Yuuki happily laments, "Ahhh, it feels like it's been forever!"
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No breaks.

Kirito has the look of someone who's been pushing and pushing and pushing. He's either at his breaking point or mentally suffering from exhaustion and fatigue. Time hasn't been kind. Where others grew comfortable and tried to make their livings for some semblance or normal, Kirito's stayed on the front.

Helping, leading, killing. The kid is nonstop...until now.

"It seems like you've learned if well, if what Asuna's said is true. It's good to see you again." He tells Klein, genuine sincerity there. "Understood." He tells Asuna, before he smiles at Yui. "If you're anything like your mother, you probably will." Kirito even has a little one for Yui to learn with. Practice pole that he never discarded.

He turns to Asuna. "Seven years already?" How long has he been away? He hums. Then there's a purple bolt of speed that tackles Asuna!

Kirito /almost/ acts, but then realizes it's Yuuki. "Yuuki?" He chuckles. "I think it has been forever and a day."
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    Asuna is not ready for the patented Yuuki tacklehug. She never seems to be! Yuuki is the one person who is known to be even faster than the Flash, though. It takes some adjustment, considering she's tacklehugged while on her red panda mount. Tomoe, being a stout, fierce monster mount, doesn't even react to the adventurer's sudden 'attack'. She's too busy watching a flower nearby. If it so much as moves a centimeter closer, she'll be ready to take it down!

    Yui, up in front of Asuna as she is, let's out a startled yelp, and then giggles loudly. Sure, that was... sudden, but Yuuki looks silly and sweet, not scary!

    "Oof! Yuuki! Oh my gosh! How have you been? Why aren't you in the tournament?!"

    Asuna turns to the others, lifting a hand to gesture at the snuggly Yuuki, "This is Yuuki. Obviously. She's a good friend." And a terrifying warrior. "Oh, Yui, this is-" And Yui chirps up, "That's Yuuki! Tacklehug champion!" By now, the child has turned herself enough to join the hug, clinging to Yuuki and laughing. Yes, Asuna has talked about Yuuki before with her.

    All that motion finally gets Tomoe to look around. For a moment the red panda almost rears up, but Asuna's heels dig in, reminding the creature what its supposed to be doing right now.

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Klein is always a little protective when it comes to those he cares about, so when Yuuki does what has to be a subsonic glomp, he had his katana halfway out before realizing they weren't under attack. He's pretty sure hugging isn't a way to lower HP. Sheepishly sheathing his sword again, the samurai coughs softly into a closed fist and waves towards Yuuki. "Hey there! Got to admit, Asuna understated just how quick you are."

Wait, Kirito knows her too?! What was he, chopped liver? Still, it does Klein some good to see a real smile there. He already got an idea forming in his head on just what he can do to help out his friend, but that's gonna be for later.

Stepping closer to Tomoe to make sure it wasn't going to freak out, he knew this was a good chance for some teasing. "Hey, she had to make sure she didn't claim all the glory, i'm sure. I can picture her challenging you like a secret boss though, taking out your opponent in the finals." A hand presses down hard on Tomoe's shoulder, aiding in keeping the panda and everyone else grounded. "We're just going to go fishing today...and I do have a spare rod~"

Well, that spare rod was meant for Kirito, but he brought his own gear with him.
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    Yuuki is hugged from behind! Gah! Surprise attack! Though a nice one, it seems.

    Yuuki turns to look at Yui, giggling and raising a hand to pat the adorable girl on the head, "I don't know who you are little one, but you give good hugs!"

    Yuuki hears her name called and looks towards one of the others. She staaaares at Kirito for a moment, before recoiling a little in shock, "Kirito!? Wow. I barely recognized you!" To be fair, it HAS been a while since the last time the two ran into each other. So it's probably not all because of how terrible he currently looks.

    Klein's assessment of Yuuki's speed draws a grin, "Yup! Thanks, ahhhhhhh?" She stares blankly at him for a few moments.

    But then Yuuki is distracted by talk of the tournament, so she looks back at Asuna and grins, "Hmmhmmmhmmmmmm. That's an interesting story! I decided to go do some INTENSE TRAINING before the tournament. So there I was. In the mountains. Alone. For WEEKS. Grinding on the toughest mobs I could find. None could withstand my fury!" Yuuki flexes a still mostly lithe arm.

    "And so I returned, marching triumphantly towards the tournament grounds. Confident that after my INTENSE TRAINING that nothing could stand in my way!"

    Yuuki then tilts her head, "Turned out it was so intense, I'd missed the registration cut off date!" She baps herself on the head with a dumb grin.

    "Annnnyway. Fishing, huh? Never done that with an actual fishing rod before... Could be interesting!" Yuuki looks at the others, "You guys cool with another? I was in the area so thought I'd pop in on Asuna... Didn't realize she had company!"
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This was nice.

To be around friends again. To hear their laughter. God, why was he gone for so long? Kirito sees now what he's been missing.

"-And the best fighter I know. If I remember well enough, we're due for a rematch sometime soon." Because there's no one better than the best, in Kirito's opinion. At the moment, it's Yuuki. Then again, Kirito hasn't checked the boards in a long time. "Likewise, Yuuki. You look good."

He turns his eyes to Asuna for a second before he looks at Klein. "More the merrier, right?" He chuckles softly, a weak thing, before he looks at Tomoe. He approaches the creature, lifting his hand as if to offer it neck scritches. "Where did you find this one, Asuna?"
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    "I tracked her down in the Eastal area," begins Asuna. "My friend Uta and I found her, captured her, and we've been together ever since! She's a great mount. Really reliable. At least when things get serious."

Asuna is really just way too relaxed at times and troubles happen. But not when Yui is nearby. She keeps this beast under strict control. Landers don't respawn.

    "I can't believe you managed to train so much for the tournament that you missed the tournament. Well, I guess it's down to me to win the whole thing, then! We'll see how I do. Mikage is up next."

    The little Lander, who persists with her hug cause hugs are good, says, "I'm Yui!" She looks from Yui to Asuna, "And she's my mama! Is it true that you helped her defeat an entire gnoll raiding party alone?" There's that wide-eyed hero worship on Yui's face in that moment. Yes, she did hear all about that.

    "Oh, and of course you are welcome. Don't worry, the guys will probably catch all the fish, but I'll cook them all up for us!" Asuna doesn't think she wants to see the others try to cook. The results might be scarier than a boss monster.

    "And you don't know Klein? Really?" Asuna is so shocked.

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Klein can't help himself as he hears Yuuki trail off. He facefaults into the ground, a 'poof' of dust flying upwards from the mortally wounded man. Seriously, you could just Inspect him and get his name! Trailing off like that just really rubs the salt into the wound. Groaning, he hops back up brushes off his armor. "...wait, if you haven't used a rod before...ah, the fireball method."

The fishing method of rednecks around the world - blowing up the ocean.

Asuna absolutely did the right thing earlier, getting everyone together for this. Honestly he needed a break too, but seeing his bud starting to visibly relax gets him grinning too. "Pretty sure both of you guys could trounce me in a heartbeat." And he's going to fully admit it too. He's way too rusty for PvP combat right now. "But from what I heard, Tomoe almost gave them a run for their money."

"Just be glad Asuna is the one offering to cook! The last time I tried..." Klein gains a far off look in his eyes, recalling that horrible night vividly before shaking his head to get rid of those memories. "...well, I don't wanna talk about that."

He didn't even want to know how he burn down that cabin.
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    Ohhhh, rematch! Yuuki grins at Kirito, "Yes! A rematch is definitely due. After all, I imagine we've both come a long way since those early days! Just hit me up any time. I'm always ready for a duel! What have you been up to, anyway?"

    Yui then introduces herself and Yuuki nods along, "Ahhh, I see, I see. Your mama. Mmhmm. Hehehe, you heard about that battle, huh? Yeah there were gnolls all over the place and we were dashing about and cutting them down." Yuuki is swinging her arm in earnest in a very not accurate representation of the fight.

    Then she freezes. As the little girl's words finally register. Yuuki stares at her for a moment.

    Then another moment.

    Then some more moments.

    "WAAAAAH!? YOUR MAMA!?" Yuuki's head darts left and right, looking between Asuna and Yui, "Wha... Wha... Wha... Wha..."

    Yuuki's hand moves to hold her chin in thought, "Mmmm, how long was I in those mountains? Months? ..." She looks at Yui, "... No. Years!?" Yuuki deflates, "Waaaah... Asuna is a mama now..."

    Yuuki perks up again quickly enough, patting Yui on the head, "You better take good care of your mama, yes? She's the best cook around. We can't let such yummy foods slip through our grasp!"

    Then Asuna mentions Klein's name and Yuuki ohhhhs, looking at him critically, a deadly glint in her eyes, "I see. THAT Klein."


    Then he mentions fireballs and Yuuki waves it off, "Nah, magic is for wimps. This one time, I accidentally-I mean totally on purpose-dropped a dagger into the ocean. It killed some giant fish. Wound up with a huge inventory of food. It was super lucky-I mean expert skill!"
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Kirito is happy to give Tomoe the neck scritches. "Thank you for taking care of Asuna and her family, my friend." He whispers almost inaudibly to the creature, smiling at Tomoe with a chuckle and a nod. "The Eastal area? Hm. I've been thinking about finding a new mount, might have to find my own friend - but I doubt it could beat out Tomoe." He scritches the ear there.

He looks then to Klein. "Fireball method? Oh no...we can't do that. We'll scare the fish away." He looks between him and Yuuki. "You should have more confidence in your skills, Klein. You're better than you think you are." Though he turns his attention to Yuuki then.

"Yeah...she is." Asuna's a mama! He looks betwen everyone and he seems to silence for a long moment as he looks between the trio. "Well, best we get the show on the road, yeah? If it gets too dark out, the fish will leave the surface of the water, make it hard to catch 'em."
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    "I didn't give birth to her, silly," points out Asuna. "I adopted her. She's my daughter! Oh, hmm, you know, since everyone here is really close together, feel free to call her Taka. That's what Klein and I always do. She's our little treasure."

    Asuna gives Yui her best mama hug for that. Happy family fuzzies and all that! Yui is still clinging to Yuuki, but not so tightly.

    Tomoe, being a monster, is usually accustomed to rather rougher treatment. Asuna does spoil her when she can, but it's... a balance of control. The monster seems to enjoy the attention that Kirito gives it, though.

    "And of course, it's time to get to it! Last one there is probably not riding a dire panda!"

    Asuna digs in her heels and the panda shoots off ahead. It's shockingly fast for its size. But the lake is not far away, anyway. Even by foot from where they are it's no more than ten minutes at a walk. Tomoe blazes it in much quicker a time, of course!

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Seeing Yuuki freak out over Asuna and Yui has him laughing, but that laughter dies in his throat as the Imp stares him down. He leans back a little and holds up his hands defensively, as if to ward off eye daggers. Speaking of which... "Okay, there's no way just dropping a dagger gets you all of that. There's a story behind that." He can picture Yuuki, dressed up as a captain, hurling daggers at a white whale.

Klein waves a hand goodnaturedly at Kirito, brushing off the praise. "I will when I think I can hold my own against Soujiro. Been fighting too many mobs without Sword Artes. If I ask him for training, though, i'll be in hell." And shows what Klein knows about fishing. Guess he's gotten lucky in the past. "Yeah, let's get going! We're burning daylight as it-whao!"

And Asuna and Yui are off on Tomoe, leaving them in the dust. Glancing aside to the two others left behind, he starts jogging down the road. No need to go full out right now. "If I ever get a mount, I want something I can keep up with if I get kicked off! Like a Grunty!"
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    Yuuki crosses her arms, nodding sagely to Kirito and Klein, "I still haven't been able to find a mount for myself. Finding one that's as fast and cool and strong and cute as me to be a worthy companion has been difficult." With sky high expectations like that, is Yuuki destined to never find such a creature!?

    Yuuki is happily doting on Yui as Asuna mentions she's adopted, "Ahhhh, that makes more sense." Yuuki grins, playfully poking at the child's side, "Aren't you lucky? Finding the best mum in the whole server." Yuuki pauses for a moment, then says, "Probably." Hmmmm. "It'd probably be a tie."

    Waaaah! Suddenly the panda she's on is off and running. Yuuki looks down with wide eyes, "Wow! I didn't think the big girl had this kind of speed in her! Impressive~" Yuuki points forwards, "Onward! To slay some fish!"
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"...Can I call her Yui?"

Kirito asks, a shameful thing perhaps, but he turns to Asuna, as if to ask for her permission. Uncle Kirito has made a request. As Tomoe seems happy with the treatment, Kirito leaves the creature alone and he smiles at Yui. "Hold on tight." He tells her, just as soon as Tomoe blazes off!

He turns his eyes then to Klein. "Soujiro is a dangerous guy. If he offers you trianing, you should accept." He takes a moment to think. "Nothing worth doing is easy. Sometimes, you have to go through hell to find what means the world." He tells him, and then he looks towards where those on the dire panda had rode off. "We better get moving, or we'll be eating dust all day."

He turns to look at Yuuki. "Then maybe we make it a group effort." He smiles just a tad, before he starts to run forward. He wasn't quite as fast as the panda, but he was still pretty speedy!
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    Yui appreciates the attention. She is growing to be a lot less shy. Finding herself the center of attention so often has helped her get more comfortable with adventurers. She grins at Yuuki, "Mama is the best, yes!"

    Asuna has heard Yui say it before. The little girl loves her new parents dearly. It still feels wonderful every time, though. But on the topic of her mount, Asuna says, "You should see Tomoe in a proper forest. She's faster in the trees than on the ground. You would loooove the way we can fight from the back of this powerful lady! It kinda matches the way I've seen you fight, Yuuki. Bouncing around everywhere!" Asuna really does enjoy her dire monster pal. And named her after a mighty samurai warrior. Her own hero, really. Tomoe Gozen!

    Yui, for her part, is so happy when Tomoe is running full speed. But her only contribution to the conversation is a loud, high-pitched, "WHEEEEEEE!!!!!"

    "So since you did all this training, are we going to face off again sometime?" she asks softly. "Not in front of the boys. I prefer we keep women's business between us." She grins, but there is a serious side to this. "As you still just hanging out waiting for people to challenge you from time to time? Oh, and one sec..."

    Kirito asked a question, and he's.. well back over the donkey, to use a certain kind of slang that Asuna only uses with Uta. So she chims back to Kirito, "Of course you can call her Yui! But you and Klein better start running, the girls' team is going to have this lake empty by the time you get here!"

    And that's a total lie, obviously, but they are off Tomoe and setup in record time for some quality fishing! Though Asuna isn't starting yet. She's setting up the camp. Because they are likely to end up out here past dark anyway. The Flash can setup a nice campsite at a ridiculous pace. As she works, Tomoe's focus drifts, but again, Yui is around. Asuna is on top of her game and as soon as the creature growls a bit and seems likely to get a bit unruly, she baps it soundly on the nose.

    "Shutty!" she warns firmly.

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Even as Klein runs with Kirito after the rest of their fishing party, he honestly takes the time to try to think of a good mount for Yuuki that could meet all of her outragous requirements. And in the end... "...the best I can think of is maybe a chibi-style Peko? A lot of people like those birds!"

And yes, he's yelling this ahead at Yuuki while trailing behind. She asked a question, and he's not going to leave Yuuki hanging!

Even as Asuna gives her answer, Klein is right there giving his own. "There's no way I would stop you, Kirito. She's a good girl. How we found her was...not great for her, but she's doing much better now!" The samurai isn't going any deeper into what happened, but an uncharastic frown did form for a second. Thankfully it's gone after a moment, and he gives his friend a quick nod. "You said it. Gotta put in the effort every day, but you got to know when to have fun too." Oh great, they're really losing ground now.

It takes a few minutes for the samurai to catch up to the rest of the group, and while Asuna is getting the camp ready, Klein is materalizing the rods alongside the lake's edge. It really was beautiful, with the sun reflecting off the mirror smooth surface of the water. Looking closer towards the shore, though, and you can see ripples of fish just underneath, searching for the evening meal. "Right! Everyone should have everything set up now. Just feel free to grab a rod whenever!"
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    As the camp rapidly forms, Yuuki is there and perhaps unsurprisingly has her sword out. She's showing off to Yui, "-and then the Basilisk charged. So I was like, hyah! Hwah! Hah! Bam bam bam!" She makes rapid swishing and stabbing motions with her sword. Before moving it to rest on her shoulder and grinning, "And then the monster went down! Silly thing thought it could eat me for dinner."

    Just in time too as it seems like the fishing rods are set up. Yuuki sheathes the Absolute Sword and then walks over to take a look, "Which is the skill again that's used for fishing?" She picks up one of the rods, scratching her cheek, "Not sure I actually have it... Soooo, this could go bad! Fair warning." Hopefully she doesn't (or does!?) accidently fish up a boss monster or anything.
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Permission to refer to Yui as 'Yui' instead of 'Taka' made Kirito smile. He had only just met the little girl and yet...she was already of supreme importance. Of course, Yui was not his, but instead she was the result of the noble actions of Klein and Asuna, who have taken her as their own. It provides some measure of peace, knowing that to some folks...their actions matter.

THey mean something.

But talk of actions and duty will come later. Now was the time for perhaps a little bit of peace.

He's moving, keeping pace as best as he can. Though he turns his eyes towards Klein with a soft smirk. "Maybe one day, we'll discuss it." He tells him, though they're losing ground...perhaps they'll catch up eventually. When they make it, Kirito slows to a stop and sets down his bait box, pulling out a worm or two to attach to his hook.

Without much a word to anyone, he steps towards the Lake's shore, looking around for a small second.


He smiles at Yuuki as she rather energetically shows off her storytelling ability. "I can't remember a monster that thought that and succeeded, Yuuki." Kirito remarks humorously, but soon enough, he's reeling his rod back and he casts his line.
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    Asuna is the last to actually get to fishing. Normally she'd have a hook in the water by now. But now she's making sure Yui is ready. And the camp has to be perfect. There's a cheery fire crackling away, stools set out around it, and yes, snacks. Because Asuna has developed this odd paranoia about always having food available for Yui at all times.

    Yui strays away from her mother, who is clearly busy, and goes to stand by Klein and Kirito. She has her rod and is watching Kirito put the bait on his hook curiously. The sight of a worm makes her wrinkle her nose and giggle. "Do fish really want to eat those?" she asks, sounding distinctly doubtful. "I can't imagine being that hungry!"

    Asuna will eventually get done. Honestly. But not before she's thoroughly knotted the tether for Tomoe and driven down a few spikes to ensure the monster doesn't stray. She also plops down a bushel of fruit. She's a kind monster handler, after all.

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Yuuki really is a character, as he half-listens to her story about the Basilisk as he finally gets everything ready on his end. He's nowhere as fast as The Flash or Yuuki, but he can be a bit more careful...which seems silly as this is simple fishing on the First Floor, but you never be too cautious! "Hey, I have no clue what skill to use as well. I usually just go for the stabbing method."

That might explain the fire squids he mentioned earlier.

Klein grins as Kirito gets his own line ready, waiting for just the perfect moment. Then, as the hook flies, the bandana-wearing human speaks up. "Oh, and you're sleeping at my place tonight. No buts." He's not gonna let the guy who helped teach him everything he needed to thrive go without at least one decent night of sleep.

"But to fish, worms are like a delicacy for them!" Klein's own rod had sailed out into the lake a few minutes earlier, and with a sudden tug, the fishing pole bends, leaving Klein trying not to get pulled in. "S-see?! Come on...you...fish filet!" The struggle for watery domination goes on for several more, but eventually the samurai manages to tire out the fish, and he leans down to pull up his next meal. "Time to see wh-..."

What Klein managed to fish couldn't fully be seen since it was still mostly under the water, but there's a glowing eye staring right at him and a low row of sharp teeth.

Slowly and carefully, he lowers the line and cuts it with his steel katana. "...well, there's more fish in there!"