第11話 朝露の少女 ／ The Girl of Morning Dew
[—October 24, 2024 Floor 55: Grandzam—]
Heathcliff: I understand the situation. Now, I just have to explain it to the rest of the guild.
Asuna: Also, we’d like a temporary leave of absence from the guild.
Heathcliff: Really? Why?
Asuna: We’re concerned with the current state of the guild. And we need time to think.
Heathcliff: Hmm… Very well. Although, I’m positive you won’t stay away from the battlefield for long.
[—October 25, 2024 Floor 22—]
Asuna: Oh, wow! This view’s amazing!
Kirito: It is pretty awesome. Don’t fall off the balcony. That would really suck.
Asuna: We bought the best house.
Kirito: And now we’re totally broke.
Asuna: It’s worth it though, 'cause we can live in peace here. Kirito, what’s wrong?
Kirito: Well, I was thinking. Does our relationship really exist in this world?
Asuna: I can’t believe you’d say that. I don’t give a damn if this is a virtual world. My feelings for you are real. If I learned anything in the last two years, it’s this — To keep doing the best we can till the very end. And if we make it back to the real world, I promise I’m going to find you again, no matter what. And fall in love with you again.
Asuna: Usually, he’s brash and impulsive. But he can be so naive too, almost like a little kid. Oh my god, is he younger than me? Kirito… I love you. Let’s stay together forever. Good morning, Kirito.
Asuna: D-Did you… hear what I said?
Kirito: No, I didn’t hear a thing. What d’you say?
Asuna: Nothing! Not a thing! Anyway, you wanna go have some fun today?
Kirito: Yeah, you know… Didn’t we have fun yesterday? And the day before, too?
Asuna: So, you’re saying you don’t wanna go have fun today.
Kirito: Wait… I know a place we can go. Come on!
Asuna: Where are we going?
Kirito: You’re just gonna have to wait till we get there to find out.
Asuna: Hey! Carry me on your shoulders.
Asuna: Oh, please. It’s no fun seeing the world from the same height all the time. Besides, with your strength parameter, you won’t break a sweat.
Kirito: Yeah, I mean yes, but… Aren’t you a little old for that though.
Asuna: It doesn’t matter how old I am. Come on! It’s not like anyone’s gonna see us.
Kirito: Okay… Get on!
Asuna: If you turn around, I’m gonna slap you.
Kirito: Are you gonna hop on already or what?
Asuna: Get it up!
Asuna: This is so cool, you can already see the lake from here.
Kirito: No, you can see the lake, I…
Asuna: Okay. If you want, you can ride on my shoulders later. Let’s get a move on, horsey. We’re heading north-northeast!
Asuna: It almost flew over my nose!
Kirito: We got people staring at us now.
Asuna: Our own audience. Come on! Wave back, or he’ll think you’re rude.
Kirito: No, not gonna happen.
Asuna: Do you want me to get off you now?
Kirito: Uh-uh. You’re fine right where you are.
Kirito: I heard this weird rumor in the village yesterday. About how if you go deep enough in the forest, you’ll see… them…
Asuna: Huh? See who?
Asuna: Y-You mean like those in-game astral-type monsters, right?
Kirito: No, not those. Real ghosts. They say the tortured souls of the monsters hunted here… come back to wander the forest at night. We’re almost there.
Asuna: The place the rumor mentions?
Kirito: About a week ago, a carpenter hiked into the forest to get some wood for a project. He stayed so long that before he knew it, it was night. As he walked alone, he caught a glimpse of something white standing by a tree. Was it a monster or something else? The white figure slowly walked towards some trees, then…
Asuna: Hey, look! I wanna get down! I wanna get down!
Kirito: What’s wrong with you?
Asuna: It’s… It’s over there.
Kirito: What are you talking about? You gotta be kidding. Hold on… That’s not a ghost!
Asuna: W-Wait, K-Kirito! Oh, geez…
Asuna: It’s another player.
Kirito: Yeah. But there’s something really strange about her.
Asuna: What do you mean?
Kirito: She doesn’t have a cursor.
Asuna: Maybe it’s some kind of bug.
Kirito: Yeah, maybe it is.
Asuna: What’s a little girl like this doing, playing SAO? I guess we’ll find out when she wakes up. And we can’t just leave her out here till she does. Let’s take her home with us.
Kirito: Yeah, okay.
Kirito: Well, one thing’s for sure. She’s not an NPC. We didn’t have any trouble moving her here.
Asuna: Yeah, that’s true. She can’t be that. If she were, she would’ve given off a warning when you picked her up like other NPCs.
Kirito: You’re right. And she’s definitely not a quest giver either. Our quest log would’ve been updated as soon as we interacted with her. She has to be a player. She’s probably been out there for a while, wandering around, lost. That’s the most likely scenario.
Asuna: Yeah, but… what was she doing out there?
Kirito: Your guess is as good as mine. But she has to have a parent or guardian out there, right?
Asuna: Mm-hm. She had to have logged in with someone from her family. I just hope they’re safe. Hey, do you think she’ll wake up?
Kirito: Yeah, if her body hasn’t disappeared, that means signals are still being transmitted to and from her NerveGear. She’s in some kind of sleep mode. I’m sure she’ll wake up soon. And the sooner the better.
Asuna: Hey, Kirito. I wonder… Did she log into SAO by herself… or with her family? Why has she been all alone here… all this time? Sleep well. Please hurry and wake up tomorrow.
Asuna: K-Kirito, wake up!
Kirito: Good morning… Something wrong?
Asuna: Hurry! Get over here! She woke up. Thank goodness. Do you remember what happened to you?
Asuna: Okay. How about your name?
Yui: My… My name is… I think my name is… I think… Yui. Yui. That’s it. Yui.
Asuna: That’s a cute name. Nice to meet you. My name’s Asuna. And this is Kirito.
Yui: Auna… Kito…
Asuna: Try to remember. What were you doing in the forest? And do you know where your mom and dad are now?
Yui: I-I don’t know… I-I can’t remember anything.
Asuna: Oh, no.
Kirito: Well, you’re awake. Can I call you Yui?
Kirito: Okay. Then you can call me Kirito. Can you say Kirito?
Kirito: It’s Kirito. Kirito.
Kirito: That’s okay. Maybe it’s a little hard. How about you call me whatever’s easier for you.
Yui: Auna is… Mommy.
Asuna: Okay. I’m Mommy. That works.
Yui: Mommy! Mommy! Daddy!
Asuna: You must be hungry. How about breakfast?
Asuna: Here you go, Yui. This one’s yours.
Kirito: Oh, I don’t know, Yui. This one’s super spicy.
Yui: I want the same one that Daddy has.
Kirito: Okay. If you think you’re ready for it, I won’t stop you. You only live once, right?
Yui: I like it…
Kirito: Wow, you got an iron stomach. We can do a full course of extra-spicy food tonight if you want.
Asuna: Okay, let’s not get carried away. I’m not cooking anything nuclear.
Kirito: You heard the lady?
Yui: You heard the lady?
Asuna: So, what do you think?
Kirito: I don’t know. She’s a blank slate, no memories. It’s really weird.
Asuna: Yeah, I know. It’s like she’s a baby again. I just… I don’t… I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do.
Kirito: I get it. You wanna take care of her. At least, until she gets her memory back.
Asuna: Yeah, but…
Kirito: But it’s a catch-22. We have to get back and clear the game. Otherwise, it’ll take that much longer for Yui to be free of it.
Asuna: I know…
Kirito: For now, we’ll do what we can. Judging by the gear she’s got in her storage, she hasn’t been out in the field much. We’ll check the Town of Beginnings. Maybe there we can find out if she’s got a family.
Kirito: Look. I don’t wanna say “good-bye" to her either.
Asuna: You really don’t?
Kirito: I don’t know what it is. I mean we just met her and all, but having her here, it’s made our little cabin feel like a real home. Don’t you think so?
Kirito: This doesn’t mean we’ll never see her again. But look, if she’s got a family out there, they’re probably worried about her right now.
Asuna: Okay. Once she wakes up, we’ll go to the Town of Beginnings.
Kirito: That place is Army territory. It might be a good idea if we’re going fully equipped ready for anything.
Asuna: Yeah. We’d better be careful.
Yui: Mommy… Daddy…
[—October 31, 2024 Floor1: Town of Beginnings—]
Kirito: It’s been forever since I’ve been back here.
Asuna: Me too. What do you think? Do any of these buildings look familiar?
Yui: I don’t know…
Kirito: Don’t get down about it. The Town of Beginnings is a really big place. So, how about it? Should we start at the central market?
Asuna: Hey, Kirito.
Asuna: Do you know how many players are here right now in the town?
Kirito: Hmm… good question. Last I checked, there were six thousand players still alive in SAO. And about thirty percent of those people including the Army live in the Town of Beginnings. So, maybe a little less than two thousand?
Asuna: Then, doesn’t it seem a little dead around here?
Kirito: You’re right.
Sasha: Leave those children alone!
Guy1: Look. It’s the day-care bitch!
Guy2: We’ve been waiting for you.
Sasha: Leave them alone and let them go!
Guy1: You make it sound like we’re doing something illegal, babycakes. We’re just teaching them how things work around here, making sure they pay the way. It’s all part of the Army’s job, ma’am.
Guy2: That’s right. Everyone’s gotta pay taxes around here.
Sasha: Ginn! Cain! Mina! Are you okay?
Mina: Help me, Sasha! Please! Save us!
Sasha: They just want your money, so give it to them and it’ll be okay!
Ginn: We tried, Teach. But they said it’s not good enough!
Guy3: You know, you deadbeats owe us a hell of a lot of back taxes.
Guy1: You need to drop all the equipment you got right there, including your armor. Come on, honey. Don’t be shy.
Sasha: No way. Let me through or else! Stand aside!
Asuna: You guys are gonna be okay now. Pick up your stuff.
Guy2: What the… ? Whoa… whoa, whoa, whoa. Hey. Who the hell are you?
Guy3: This is Army business, so get the hell out of our way!
Guy1: Hold on, I got this. I guess you’re all new in town here? 'Cause we’re at the Liberation Army, and you do not mess with us!
Asuna: Kirito, take care of Yui.
Asuna: Oh, don’t worry. It’s a safe zone. Your HP won’t deplete, no matter what I do. There’s just a feeling of getting knocked off your feet. Even so, a fight with me is still gonna scare the hell out of you.
Guy1: No, no, don’t! Don’t just stand there, you assholes! Do something!
Ginn: Awesome. That was so awesome!
Cain: I’ve never seen anything like that before! Mina: Yeah, you are so cool!
Sasha: Thank you for helping us out.
Kirito: You see that? Your mom’s crazy strong, isn’t she?
Yui: Their hearts… Everyone’s hearts are…
Asuna: What’s wrong, Yui?
Kirito: Yui, what’s the matter?
Yui: Everyone’s hearts…
Asuna: Yui, did you remember something?
Yui: I… I… I was never here… in this place… I was always alone… in the dark…
Asuna: No, Yui!
Yui: Mommy, I’m scared… Mommy… Daddy…
Kirito: My god… Yui…
Asuna: What was that?