Tournament: Mikage vs Asuna

The White Storm vs the Flash in a battle that is bound to stretch the limits of the damage capabilities of the combat system. Come for the epic fights, stay to Yui company while her mom competes!

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    This is the duel that Asuna has been looking at ever since the brackets came out. Mikage has a reputation, after all. Asuna is going to be pretty happy there is a damage dampener, that's for sure. But despite that, she's still excited, still smiling, and her daughter is still in the stands, in their usual spot. Front row seats for the girl. But with Asuna in the ring, a guest is on lap duty. Baroness Wake has met Yui at the Links a few times and is a sponsor. So she's here, holding the little Lander as they wait for the fight to being.

    Asuna focuses her mind on the moment, taking a few steps, going through her strategy, and quelling any butterflies that come with a fight like this. Before there is any fighting, of course, she will bow to Mikage and offer a friendly greeting, "Hey! I've heard a ton about you. It appears we have something of a similar approach. It should be fun! OH! I tend to get really focused when dueling. Sorry if I don't say a lot!"

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Night has fallen across the Arena, with the sun still leaving the faintest hint of an orange glow on the horizon. The entire area is lit by magical lamps, casting long shadows in some places. However, the sands are brightly lit, illuminating the action for those in attendance.

There is a moment before the official introduction are done that Mikage stands on the sands, her white lynx companion, Rama at her side. She is crouched, ruffling the cat's large ears.

When Asuna approaches, Miki raises her head and offers a shy sort of smile. It is a stark contrast to her fierce nature in battle. "I could say the same about you. I've been looking forward to this match." Rama gives a resounding 'yowl' in response to this, as if he had to get a word in edge-wise. "Don't worry too much about talking. Just fight with all your heart. That's all that matters to me."

That is when the magically-enhanced voice of an announcer pipes up. "We have a special match for you all tonight! In one corner, we have Mikage, the White Storm, a Were-Fang Ranger with her lynx companion, Rama! Let's give them both a hand!"
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    Asuna, rather taken by the moment, was ready to have a full conversation. She had been reaching out to offer a hand to the feline and then the announcer's voice booms in. She shrugs apologetically and says, "After the duel!"

    And the most embarrassing part of the duel comes for Asuna with her announcement. "And her opponent, Asuna, the Flash, wielder of Lambent Light!"

    Asuna steps away, knowing it is time to get to it. She thinks of Soujiro's advice and thinks of her own focus. A breath in, a breath out. Eyes narrow. She has a way of turning herself to ice. Then she turns to face Mikage. The battle begins.

    The first move is outright, full-on attack. The Flash is known for her speed, and in this moment, she gains the initiative. There is little doubt left that she means to keep it as long as possible. At range she lets lose the dark scythe and then she gets in close, striking rapidly with her rapier.

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The dark scythe seems to vanish into a bit of shadow that Mikage summons with the swish of her hand, seemingly pulling it from the edge of the arena where the lights don't quite reach. It seems to linger around her feet like a pool of inky blackness, moving with her as the rapier slashes come in close.

There is a hiss of sound as one of the blades slices into her side, leaving a glowing red line behind. In that same instant, the Ranger is forced to dart away from further blows, drawing her bow. Rama, on the other hand, moves around to flank Asuna, as if he were readying an attack.

However, the attack from the lynx doesn't come, at least not yet. Instead, an aura of magic begins to form along Mikage's arms, flickering with radiant energy. It channels up into her bow, running along the Elemental Machine wiring. "Fast." She comments, high praise.

"Let's see if this slows you down." A quick shot is fired from the bow, sailing through the air towards Asuna. However, it seems to explode a moment before striking, empowered by that strange aura. It is like the full force of a storm had been condensed into a small space, forcing lightning and shards of ice outwards.
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    Having a good opening is what Asuna was hoping for. She's admittedly a bit uncertain of what that totally ador... vicious cat is up to. Then she sees the glow, and feels the power of the Dawnbreaker used against her. It's not the attack she expected, admittedly, but it throws her off, for the moment seeming to limit her options in the most troublesome of ways.


    She's terse, but that's the first word she has spoken in any duel thus far. Clearly she's already set to enjoy herself. If she can just, you know, not get torn apart by leaving an opening somewhere.

    A slash of light shows that she's taken a hit, but she expects that she won't be getting quite that lucky in the future. Only a stout defense was enough to keep her from a far worse situation.

    Her response is notably less aggressive this round, but she doesn't let herself fall off the offensive completely, diving into several more quick strikes with her rapier. Pressure is everything to the Flash. If she gives Miki an inch, she'll send Asuna flying a mile.

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There is a moment where that shadow flickers. One moment, Mikage is standing before Asuna, and the next, it is Rama who has seemingly replaced her. It must be some sort of Wave Arte, either that or the pair are just that quick that they can move in the matter of a blink.

The rapier catches one of Rama's forelegs, but the pair have a shared health bar, so it still impacts their condition overall. There is a little growl from the fierce cat, ice rising up from around his fangs and claws. His jaw bites at the offending weapon, claws scrambling at Asuna's arm.

Mikage, on the other hand, seems to act in tandem with her companion. Ice forms along one hand as she holds it at her side, formed into a fist. With a cry of challenge, she slashes that hand forward, the illusion of a large taloned claw forming in the air before it solidifies into large blades of ice that sweep across the arena in Asuna's direction.  
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    Mikage's response of pure offense is like looking in a mirror for Asuna. Granted, it's a mirror with an ENORMOUS ICE BLADES! Asuna could play defense, could give way to pressure. But there's something people who know her well all understand. She sucks at backing down from a challenge. And this feels like a challenge. DPSers get it. It's a sign of respect to meet this all out attack with an all out attack. And so that is exactly what Asuna does.

    Of course, not only does she have those ice blades to deal with. There's Rama. It's funny how, even as the creature mauls her with its own ice-enhanced attack, Asuna can't help but appreciate it. She's in the trade. But mostly ouch. And more of those slashes of light appear.

    Then there is the counter attack. Having at least a measure of what Mikage is about helps. It gives Asuna a chance to launch her own all-out assault in turn. Rapid attacks that first help her blunt some of that damage but then turn into all-out rampage.

    Whether she hears Yui's cheering from the stands is uncertain. It's a voice among many screaming all sorts of things. Maybe her selection of attack styles there was just a coincidence?

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There are moments when two forces of immense power impact one another. This is one of those times. Blow for blow, both women are power-houses on the battlefield.

Once more, the shadows try to help lessen some of the impact, but that doesn't stop the worst of it. Mikage is sent reeling backwards, tumbling partially to the sands and having to scramble to scrape herself back up after the barrage of blows that leave a number of red streaks across her form.

Her mouth is open slightly, a heavy panting breath and a look of absolute thrill and enjoyment. Mikage /relishes/ fights like this. To often people were too afraid to fight with everything they had, especially in tournaments. This feels like like calling to like, and she laughs, rubbing a bit of blood from the corner of her mouth.

"I knew I would like you."

Drawing one of her arrows, Mikage takes only a split-second to fire it off in Asuna's direction before she is moving as well. Unlike the previous arrow-attack, though, this one seems to draw elemental forces from the air as it travels. It gathers them together until it threatens to slam against Asuna with tidal forces.
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    Asuna answers with a grin. Fighting another who thinks the best defense is to flatten an enemy with raw power is certainly a pleasant turn of events. It's incentive to go all out more often. It also gives her new ideas. Her own style isn't as creative in how it works, admittedly, but it sure gets to the point...
        ...bad pun intended.

    So again, she takes the hit. More red lights, more calculations of a sort that yes, this is a good exchange overall. That arrow hurts. It is every bit as painful as she imagined it would be. It's a relief that she doesn't have a cat trying to tear her apart, though. That's a nice respite!

    What is not a nice respite is the way that arrow throws off The Flash's attacks. Even her attempt to pull away does little to reduce just how hard that thing hits. It's more than just pain, it's blunting the speed of her rapier. She is still applying as much pressure as possible, but it's not quite what she wishes it would be.

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With the arrow launched and Mikage in motion, the pair of Ranger and lynx move with remarkable speed once more, leaving little but kicked up sand behind them as they move to try to always keep one step ahead of Asuna's assault of rapier slashes.

However, one of them catches Rama in the back leg, causing the cat to stumble over into the sand and dipping their joined health bar. Rama gives a little threatening growl, then licks at the wound, seemingly distracted.

Mikage, however, puts herself between her companion and Asuna, blasting back with a flare of elemental energy. It feels like being blasted in the face with gale-force winds. The movement is sudden, like creating a brick wall of air to halt further damage. Even if Rama shares her health bar, she is /very/ protective of the feline, that much is obvious.

With a snarl of challenge, her lip curls, eyes flashing with the hint of a Were Fang shift. So far, she has only fully shifted once in a fight, and that was more for show than anything else.

With her free hand, there is another slash towards Asuna, this one forming into wind blades which thrust outward, trying to force the Flash back.
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    Asuna really will feel bad about hitting Rama later. But at the moment, she knows this is the last phase. It doesn't take long at all to get there. She has to absorb the hits, knowing this is going to exact one heck of a price.

    And it does.

    The damage that Mikage can do with her storm attacks is more than the stories have warned Asuna about. Sometimes the burnt hand is the only teacher. Or in this case, the frozen, arrow-shot, and wind shredded hand.

    It sends the Flash sprawling backwards, but she rolls to her feet swiftly. Crouching for just a moment to get a bead on her opponent and then she launches herself skyward. That dark scythe appears again in her hands, the weird weapon having no trouble to morph across distances to attack. And then Asuna opens up with Lambent Light, rocketing forward in a blur at Mikage and stabbing again and again with the blade.

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It's almost as if Mikage can sense that something big is coming. Rama gives another yowl, as if this were given in warning. However, the Were Fang is not about to back down. She just gives a feral flash of her teeth, as if welcoming what is about to come to her. Shadows wrap around, causing the impact with Labent Light's strikes to explode with flashes of color like fireworks. Two elemental forces coming together.

When the dust starts to settle, Mikage stands there, having shifted into her full monster form. The Gargoyle shows a fanged grin with blood smeared across her teeth. Her spiked tail twitches behind her, lashing into the sands with a heavy thump.

Asuna has brought out the beast, it seems.

Her chest still heaves from the effort, both fighters down to their last remaining health. The audience is on their feet, knowing that it is only a matter of seconds before one or the other falters.

"Not... Done... Yet." Mikage's voice comes as a growl.

Her bow slashes forward, almost using it as a melee weapon. The blue gem within flares with magical energy. This time, rather than firing an arrow, the force of that same Tsunami is unleashed at point blank range.
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    Asuna was, fortunately, well aware that Mikage's gargoyle form might make an appearance. If she did well, anyway. Yeah, it's every bit as powerful a shape as she heard. But there's something about it happening here, when the end of the fight is imminent, that makes it seem more like an achievement than anything else. The Flash knows she can't hold much longer, in any case.

    She calls upon the defense power of her own summon to protect her. She is no master summoner, but it is enough to take a bit of the edge off of that unexpected bow attack. This one she was not anticipating. But even were she to know, it would be little different.

    Asuna is staggered, and her hp is perilously low. And one more attack comes. Again the dark scythe comes out to reap its greed harvest, and she finishes with one more all-out mauling attack, throwing all she has into this last surge.

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There is a sound in the arena that carries over the roars of cheering. It is a gust of wind that bows through. There is a crackle of electricity that lingers around Mikage and Asuna.

As the attack comes, the scythe is met with a powerful STOMP of a hoof and the sound of a creature that is not quite horse braying. A phantom image of a Divine Beast appears on the battlefield, a powerful Kirin standing before Asuna, staring down at her.

Then, with the next gust of wind, it vanishes, leaving behind Mikage, her form shimmering at the edges as if she had somehow been protected by the spirit of that powerful creature.

It seems that in her Gargoyle form, it is harder to move as quickly as before, and thus her movements are more defensive. Gargoyles protect. Dropping the bow, Mikage's hands move together in front of her, channeling elemental magic that seems to spark and writhe in her fingers.

Then, with a roar and a blast of force, she launches it at Asuna.
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    This is certainly turning into a more defensive end of a rather DPS-intense battle. Asuna sees the strick and uses swift footwork to turn all but the littlest bit of the damage. Unfortunately for her, there's not much hp left in the tank at this point. Her opponent definitely has the edge there.

    She relies on her own tricks, using wave artes to bring about a wall of darkness around her, hoping to twist the battle in her favor one last time with this move.

    Using that screen, she attacks again. Rapid strikes with Lambent Light, testing her foe's defense again.

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Time after time, Asuna's blows hit against the gargoyle's stone skin and the barriers that seem to form with the movement of one arm. With the bow abandoned, Mikage is in a feral sort of stance, her tail lashing.

Rama comes up next to her then, ducking underneath the cover of one wing. It's hard to see what the little cat does in that moment, but he seems to be pawing at the Ranger's side. A few more blows get through, creating cuts of red against Mikage's wings.

Both Mikage and Asuna are tettering at the edge of yellow. The edge of someone calling the match in favor of one or the other.

"You are the best I've faced this year." Mikage's growl comes from beneath her wing. "Perhaps one of the best out there."

A couple of deep, growling breaths, follow. "But..."

That is when Rama leaps out from beneath her wing, slashing out at Asuna's leg. At first, it seems like a truly ineffective attack, the sort of thing that wouldn't do much in the way of real damage. However, just after the blow lands, one might just notice that there is a green liquid that now coats the lynx's claws.

"Thank you, Cyrus..." Mikage whispers.

The cat must have been grabbing a poison vial in that hidden moment. A last, cunning act to turn the tide.
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    All good things have to come to an end. The Flash sees the attack. She recognizes what it is and what it means. Fortunately in this case, poison isn't fatal. She again defends herself as best she can, but some things go outside the reach of evasion, shields, or her own summoned creatures. The poison is certainly clever.

    She ends up on her knees, and not on her back. She doesn't want to give her daughter nightmares here! The Flash looks up at Mikage with a grin. "Got you to the last throw, there! I have to say, your reputation doesn't really do you justice, Mikage."

    She will wait for some healing before she can stand up and offer a hand to her opponent. "Also, sorry about attacking your pet. Not my style and not my aim. I hope you both can forgive me for that one. Though I think Rama got the last laugh."

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When the match is called, Mikage lets out a breath. It's a sign of relief. The match had been remarkably close. Win or lose, though, what mattered most to Mikage was living in the moment and fighting with every ounce of her spirit.

"You are an amazing fighter." She rumbles back, her voice still deepened by the monster form. "I hope we have the chance to fight again." Her ears tuck slightly, an almost shy expression, "Just... maybe with a bit less people."

Mikage really doesn't like the spotlight, despite her performance in tournaments.

"If nothing else, perhaps we can fight together next time." It is an offer of friendship, followed by a casting of one of her own healing spells. She isn't /quite/ as good as the on-staff healers, but it is the effort that counts.

"It was an accident. You were aiming for me, and he does tend to get under foot." Rama blinks at this, then yowls once in response. Mikage doens't so much take the offered hand, as she clasps Asuna's forearm in a more enthusiastic gesture. "We should talk more, too."

Then, releasing the hold, Mikage raises a hand to the audience, playing the part of the victor though on closer inspection, she really doesn't seem to enjoy being in front of such a large crowd. "I hate crowds." She murmurs to Asuna, then starts to make her way off of the sands.
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    Asuna nods, "Next time maybe we can hit a dungeon or ambush an orc raid!" These are her ideas of a fun time. Adventurers are, admittedly, a bit of a weird lot at times. "And once we get clear of all this tournament stuff you can come visit me! Hopefully you like pasta. If so, I have a treat for you."

    She leans down to wave at Rama, "Until next time, mighty warrior!" She seriously has a lot of respect for the creature that dealt the final blow. Not many people get to be knocked out by a poisonous cat. It's a weird claim to fame, but Asuna will take what she can get.

    But with Mikage withdrawing, the Flash can turn her attention back to her #1 priority in life. Properly healed, she darts over to the stands to scoop her daughter right up out of Wake's lap and pulls her into a hug after twirling her around.

    "I heard your cheering! You did great, honey!"

    The child laughs at being spun around. She loves that. But she has to point out, "But I didn't cheer enough! You didn't win."

    The Flash arches an eyebrow. "That's not true at all. You held me up until the last round. Besides, I get to spend the rest of the tournament playing with you! That's better than first place in any contest."

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Sitting next to Wake and Yui was Kirito.

Dessed in all black clothes and armor, enshoruded by a trench coat and with his swords on his back, Kirito's tired eyes had regarded the entire fight with great interest. When the battle had come to an end, he had smiled softly, but nodded once in Mikage's direction.

A terrifying warrior and player in every aspect of the term.

He doesn't stand until Asuna picks up Yui and spins her around.

"You did well, Asuna. I haven't seen you fight like that since..." He ponders. "Well, for a long time."
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    Asuna keeps hold of Yui. She tends to be very protective in crowds. Even here. Or maybe especially here, with so many eyes on her. Besides, Yui cuddles are kind of the best.

    "Thanks, Kirito! Sorry I couldn't bring home the win for team Scale, but I gave it my best. I have a few things I'm going to work on, though. Maybe they'll be just what it takes to win next time. There are a lot of duelists still around, too. Plenty of chances to practice, too. Training is the key. And it keeps me out of trouble."

    Yui gives Asuna a curious look. "We are going to play, right?"

    That question pulls Asuna out of her distraction and she laughs sheepishly. "Yes, we will play. And maybe get a surprise for you, too, Yui!"

    The child grins and reaches into her bag. "I have a surprise! Wake gave me this!" And she pulls out one of the cloth dolls. Of Asuna. Which makes the Flash flush with embarrassment.

    "Err, uhhh.. that was so nice of her! I mean... you have a doll of me now!"

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Kirito nods slightly.

"It's okay. Was it high stakes for the alliance?" Kirito asks, apparently he didn't get that impression! "I just thought it was a tournament...guess I should do more homework." He looks at Yui and he proceeds to poke her in the cheek, being casually playful. "We should probably leave....or people are going to swarm you for an autograph or private message."

Kirito then turns his attention to the small cloth doll in Yui's hand that she presents to Asuna. "Oh...I see you have a fan." He smiles softly.
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    "Yeah, it's best to move along. I don't want to have to autograph things. Honestly, why do people want my autograph, exactly?"

    Asuna will never understand some of her fanboys and girls. But some of them are fun and she has to chim on the way out of the area, "Thanks!" "Yeah, it was close." "I know, the cat is super cute, right? I want one, but blue."

    Yui grins at Kirito. With Asuna distracted by chims for a moment, she reaches out to cling to him. "Piggyback ride! Piggyback ride!" She really likes to be as tall as possible. All these adults horde this valuable height currency and she doesn't want to wait forever just to get in on the action!

    "So, you want to hit the cafe, Kirito? Or should we see about going to another place? The cafe has maids." She's teasing him. But it is true. The cafe does have maids.

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"Agreed....I don't like crowds. Too many people."

Kirito admits, looking slightly uncomfortable, even as some people are pointing at him and starting to make their way over to get Kirito's autograph. But Asuna's the FAMOUS ONE dammit! The chatter from the crowd doesn't grab his attention too much, but what does is Yui reaching out to cling to him, the little girl easily grabbing onto the collar of his coat to call to his attention.

"Piggyback...?" Kirito chuckles. "Okay." And if Asuna will allow, Kirito will reach to take Yui from her grasp and put the little girl on his shoulders. "Up!" Kirito smiles, before he looks at Asuna.

"Why would maids...?"

OBLIVIOUS. "Which one has the better food?"
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    "Yeah, why am I not surprised," murmurs Asuna. She helps Yui get up to her new vantage point. The child is pretty used to this now. And considering she's with two of the deadliest fighters in the area, her feelings of security are quite reasonable!

    "Let's go to the cafe, then. Pela is my baking hero. She brings the word artisan baker to life. The melonpan is the best thing I've ever had. In a tie with basically everything else she makes. And her staff are such sweethearts, too. They are a great team."

    Having spent some time in Shibuya she can lead the way easily. And if she should pause to look through the window at jewelry in Atelier Nox for a bit, well, nobody can fault her, right? She isn't all about stabbing people with a sword, after all.

    "Oh, and I almost forgot... here, Yui!" Asuna accesses her inventory and hands over a pair of cloth dolls to her daughter. One of Mikage and the other of Rama. "We always support those who fight with honor and skill." She will pause on the way to buy a special edition one, too. They have Mikage in Gargoyle form now. Those Eas crafters never miss an opportunity!

    "So, Kirito, what are your plans for this week? I'm suddenly freed up except for the tournament events that Yui will definitely want to see. And play times. And cooking. And yeah, I will have time for us to hit dungeons and stuff, honest."

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This child is currently the safest Lander in the entire digital world.

With Kirito and Asuna protecting Yui, it's /very/ unlikely anyone would even be brave enough. With the skill and prowess of the other great warriors in this arena, it'd be a tough sell for anyone to so much as try. "Melonpan, huh?" Kirito smiles warmly towards Asuna, a deeper look in his eyes than what he had been recently givng to her by way of his friendliness. "I'll have to give it a try."

As they start to move, Kirito smiles as a Mikage doll is given to Yui. "See, now you have a cool gargoyle." He smiles softly, before he turns to look at Asuna.

"Not much...was considering going back to the front, but I think I'm needed around here for the time being. I was thinking I could try cooking for you." He remarks to her. "But a dungeon sounds nice."
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    "The front can attend to itself for a while. It'll do what it does and be there when you get back to it. We're not going to let you run off again so soon, you know." Asuna is quite firm on this. She's still a really effective bully when she is trying to help a friend.

    "You can't leave yet, Uncle Kirito! We have to go fishing more! I want to learn how to catch big fish! The biggest fish!" Yui tenses a bit, excited at the thought of fishing. And maybe a bit afraid that Kirito is gonna dart off. These front lines sound dangerous and sad!

t"What would you cook for us, Kirito?" asks Asuna. She's curious. "I really love cooking, but if you insist, I'll let you go for it!"

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It's true. The advance teams can do what they always do without Kirito, even if his presence is a massive boost to morale. Kirito's eyes narrow slightly before they relax. Asuna was bullying him, that much was clear, but she was bullying him with all of the best intentions possible. He opens his mouth to speak and Yui speaks, asking him to help her learn to catch big fish.

"...your father would be a better teacher, Yui. He's a bit more fun."

A sadness crosses his features.

He looks at Asuna. "I don't want to overstay my welcome..."

What would he cook? "I don't know. I've never really tried it much before outside of rabbits." He remarks softly. "If you would prefer to cook, I'm happy to let you." He sighs softly.

Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

    "Kirito, there are 100 floors. We are running a marathon, not sprinting. You may be able to respawn, but your spirit can't go at full tilt every day. Whatever has been going on up there has really done some damage." Asuna sighs softly, her eyes downcast.

    "If we keep going at the rate we are, it'll be over ten years before we get there. I can't wait that long to start living. And I have a daughter here. I go nowhere without my little girl."

    In short order, though, they have reached the cafe and are put in the 'regular spot'. Which happens to be the one with the very best view of the display case. Those sweets... their siren's call is impossible to resist.

    Yui has her own things to say, but she's not so serious about everything. "I want Uncle Kirito to take me fishing again. If you don't want to that's okay. It sounds like you are very busy," she says. Her voice is softer. She is suddenly shy, not so comfortable asking for something when Kirito appears (to her) to be less interested.

Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

" that why you didn't tell me."

Kirito looks at Asuna then for a long moment. There's something in his eyes now. A deep seated pain. A pain taht can tear people asunder as he turns to look at Yui. "Yui..." He frowns softly. Lowering his head. "I would love to teach you. Will you go look at the desserts and find which one looks the best? I'll buy it for you." Just enough time for the adults to have a bit of a conversation.

He turns his eyes back to Asuna. "...I thought of you. Every day." Kirito admits. He looks around. Why is he even talking about this?

It doesn't matter anymore.

" this point, getting everyone out of here is all I have." Kirito remarks seriously. "Yui would have to be recovered after the exit. The data is there...but...that's a risk. We're on borrowed time as it is."
Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

    "I didn't tell you because you were gone. Just off to the front lines," says Asuna. She's not angry exactly, but she was obviously hurt. "I don't know what happened. But I eventually moved on. I wanted happiness and I realized that I could have it. While you were away, before I figured these things out, I fought some dark creature. I got cursed. You remember my nightmares? It made them worse. So much worse. I could barely sleep for months. Klein stuck with me every step of the way and made sure I got the healing I needed. I... didn't think I deserved to be cured."

    With Yui out of earshot, Asuna doesn't hold back any secrets. And the child seems to understand that she is meant to take her time. So she ends up getting in a conversation with Shabiru, who chats with the child kindly.

    "I understand you wanted to get us out. But I couldn't throw myself at the enemies anymore. I had nearly died so many times. I was beginning to figure I was just done anyway, so why bother, right? Klein convinced me otherwise. He showed me what it's like to be alive again. I'm in love with him, Kirito. And for some reason he's crazy enough to love me back, despite all the hell that I dragged him through on the way."

Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

She's hurt?

She's *hurt*?

Kirito's hand clenches tight. "I'm sorry."

His eyes start to water.

"I left for the front lines because we had a world to save. You didn't want to come with me." Kirito tells her. "I can't remain here pretending to live a peaceful life, knowing that people have families, loved ones, wives, children, husbands, outside of this game. I'm trying to *save* everyone's lives, before we are meant for a fate where we do not remember who we are. One death is all it takes, and we forget that which makes us whole. I'm trying to-"

Kirito takes a slow breath.

"You gave up on me." Kirito tells her. "I was one message away. I could have..."

He looks at the ground. "You gave up on me."

A moment later. "I'm glad you found your happiness...but it came at the sacrifice of me. And now you have a daughter, a beautiful girl, and you're doing better...and I feel as though I lost everything to help everyone. I'm sorry I couldn't help you. I'm sorry I charged ahead. But...I can't play front row seat, Asuna."

He looks at her.

"I *can't*. Because I love you. I can't sleep in the same house, I can't watch it, Asuna. I can't kill myself a thousand times more than I already have."
Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

    "I'm sorry, too," Asuna says softly. "I was afraid. Afraid that if I reached out you'd confirm that I didn't matter. Afraid because you never reached out to me. It was so easy to hear my mother on those lonely nights. Telling me I wasn't good enough. Telling me how I was weak. Cowardly. Stupid. Ugly."

    She puts a hand to her face, trying to conceal tears. "I didn't mean to give up on you, Kirito. I don't want you to go through that, either. I should have said something, I admit it. I failed you."

    She has nothing to say to defend her lack of actions. She can only explain her choices, bad as they were. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room


Kirito was angry, but not at her. He was angry at their situation. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. The world cannot, *should* not be like this. If only he was brave enough. If only he put the world on pause.


Unlike Asuna, tears freely stream down Kirito's face. Her slow rendering tears him apart completely, destroys him on every level that exists in him. "Asuna..." He steps towards her. "You're the only person in this entire world, digital or virtual, that mattered to me. I'm sorry I never took the time. I'm sorry I wasn't there when you needed me. I'm sorry I was a plague in your mind. You're strong, you're beautiful."

He lowers his eyes, droplets hitting the ground.

"The best person I've ever known. I love you, Asuna...I'm sorry I'm not Yui's father." His face fully contorts in his despair, but strength and resolve to speak settles him to continue. "I'm sorry I wasn't...I wasn't worthy of the Angel you are." Because Kirito was never the hero. He was just someone trying to do the right thing.

"I failed you....I can't..."

He looks away from her, turning to put his hands over his eyes to hide his tears. He's come home to a living nightmare.

"...I don't hate you." Hd tells her. "You have every right to hate me...but know...that my heart belongs to you." That even in this pain, this suffering, he loves her. With all of his power, strength,heart, soul, and mind...even amidst his weakness.
Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

    "I wish I could feel worthy of any of that," Asuna says softly. She can't bring herself to look at him. She's not trying to make this harder than it already is. She has none of that cool control that she does in a battle. Fighting is so much easier than this. The worst that can happen is that you die. She's not afraid of that.

    "But I'm not. I'm none of those things, Kirito. Everyone has it wrong. I'm not worth it. All I can hope to do is be a better mom than I have been at anything else." Her doubts creep into every word. She does not speak loudly, and thankfully nobody is nearby to turn this into a rumor or spectacle. "I have no hate for anyone, Kirito. Least of all you. I've made a mess of things for you. I've hurt you. I was too afraid to do the right thing."

Shibuya - Pelapuff Cafe - Main Room

Kirito wants to tell her they can change it. They can fix it. They can just run away together and never look back. They can just....

But the world cannot possibly be so simple.

" were human." Kirito tells her. He looks down, and with tears in his eyes, he starts to walk past her, lifting her hand to put money into it to buy Yui her dessert.

A man of his word.

"You were...are...and always will be worthy. I love you, Asuna." He lifts his eyes enough to look at her...before he starts to walk past her, weeping as his footsteps take him out of there swifter.