第15話 帰還 ／ Return
[—In the dream—]
Kirito: Asuna… Asuna!
Kirito: Oh, Asuna… I’ve turned into the biggest crybaby, haven’t I?
Suguha: Me and him… We look nothing alike.
Suguha: I’m off to practice. I’ll see you later, okay?
Kirito: Good morning, Sugu.
Suguha: Ah… G-Good morning. God, seriously? Instead of lurking, you should’ve said something.
Kirito: Yeah, well… You were practicing and I didn’t wanna bother you.
Suguha: I wasn’t really practicing. I guess it’s just a habit, is all.
Kirito: Oh… At least you’ve been keeping it up. It’s light.
Suguha: What? It’s not light. It’s timber bamboo.
Kirito: Oh, you’re right. I meant like… it’s lighter than I thought. It’s not as heavy as what I’m used to.
Suguha: What the heck’s he comparing it to?
Kirito: Hey, you think maybe we can give it a go?
Suguha: What? You mean a match? Like seriously?
Suguha: A real match with parts and stuff.
Kirito: Hmm… Yeah, on second thought, no contact. I mean, I’d feel like crap if I ended up hurting you. I still got to dig out grandpa’s old gear. How about we spar in the dojo.
Suguha: Whoa, you sound pretty darn confident for someone who’s been asleep for two years. For your information, I was a quarter finalist in the middle-school nationals. Seriously, though. Are you sure you’re feeling up to this? You might wanna take it easy.
Kirito: I’ve been doing rehab in the gym every day, so I think I’m gonna be good to go.
Suguha: What kind of stance is that supposed to be?
Kirito: Don’t you worry about it. This is my own style.
Suguha: Okay. Ready?
Suguha: His head’s wide-open. That’ll be my first strike. Huh? It seems odd stance, but it looks composed.
Suguha: Okay, then…
Suguha: Oh… Oh my god, Are-Are you okay?
Kirito: Okay, okay, you win. You sure are strong, Sugu. You’d mop the floor with Heathcliff.
Suguha: Maybe you should sit down or something.
Kirito: I’m good. Thanks for the match.
Suguha: D-Did I hit you too hard?
Kirito: No, I’m okay! Just years of habit.
Kirito: Let’s see… My footwork was okay, but the attack sucked. I guess I can’t use the sword skills I acquired unless I’ve got the system helping.
Suguha: I have to say, I’m really surprised. I mean, how long have you been practicing behind my back?
Kirito: Oh, you know, it is kind of fun after all. But, you never know, maybe I’ll take it up again.
Suguha: Oh, really? Oh, seriously?
Kirito: Yeah, sure. You wanna be my teacher?
Suguha: Are you kidding? Of course! We’ll train together like we used to.
Kirito: After I build up some more muscle, okay?
Suguha: I’ve been practicing too. Wanna know what?
Suguha: Nope, I’ll keep it a secret.
Kirito: That is so not cool.
Suguha: You go anywhere today?
Kirito: Oh… I don’t know. I guess… the hospital?
Suguha: Oh, you were. That’s nice. Her name’s Asuna, right? You visit her a lot.
Kirito: Uh-huh. As much as I can. It’s the only thing I can do for her. Anyway, Sugu. It’s my turn to make breakfast today. It’ll be ready by the time you finish your shower.
Kirito: It’s been two months since I beat Heathcliff, two months since I beat the death game. When I woke up, I talked to someone from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I told them everything I knew about SAO. And in exchange, they told me where Asuna was. I found out she was nearby in Saitama. Asuna’s family admitted her to Tokorozawa General Hospital. I also found out that besides her, there’s about three hundred other players who haven’t woken up yet. Akihiko Kayaba’s still missing. And people think he’s keeping the players in their comas as part of his plan. SAO isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Asuna…
Mr. Yuki: Kazuto. Sorry I didn’t know you were here. Thank you for coming.
Kirito: Hello, Mr. Yuki. I hope it’s okay I’m here.
Mr. Yuki: Please. You can visit whenever you like. I know it makes her happy.
Mr. Yuki: Oh, I don’t think the two of you have ever met. This is Sugou. He’s our company’s director of R&D.
Sugou: I’m Nobuyuki Sugou. It’s a pleasure.
Kirito: I’m Kazuto Kirigaya.
Sugou: Oh, you’re the Kirito? You’re a right hero. It’s an honor.
Mr. Yuki: Oh, I’m sorry. I know we’re not supposed to talk about what happened inside the SAO server. But he’s my partner’s son, so it’s fine. Besides, I’ve always thought of him as part my family.
Sugou: Um, actually sir, speaking of family, if I may, I’d like to make it official as soon as possible.
Mr. Yuki: This is sudden. Are you sure this is really what you want? I mean you’re still young. You have your whole life ahead of you.
Sugou: Thank you for your concern. But my heart’s set on it. It sounds strange, but even though she’s like this, she’s still beautiful. I’d like to see her in that wedding dress.
Mr. Yuki: You have a point. The sooner we prepare ourselves for the inevitable, the better. Sorry to cut the conversation short. I have a meeting to get to. We can talk more about this later. Kazuto, take care.
Sugou: I heard you and Asuna were lovers in the game. Is that true?
Sugou: That is unfortunate. That’s going to make for one complicated relationship between you and I. In case you’re curious, her father and I were discussing her marriage to me.
Kirito: No way. You can’t do that.
Sugou: You have a point. It’s true we can’t legally marry. But if the Yuki family adopts me, it’ll be as if we are on paper, that is. Just like we’re married. The truth is, she’s always hated me ever since we were kids. Neither my parents nor hers know that. If I proposed and she could speak, I’m pretty sure her answer would be no. For me, this situation is… very favorable.
Kirito: Stop it! Who do you think you were? You can’t take advantage of Asuna like this.
Sugou: Take advantage? Oh please, if anything, I have a right to her. Perhaps I should explain why. Any idea what happened to Argus? They’re the company that developed SAO.
Kirito: I heard they closed it doom.
Sugou: Very good. The lawsuits and damages they had to pay took their toll. The company was forced into bankruptcy. But the maintenance of the SAO servers was given to another company: an electronics manufacture where Asuna’s father, Shozo Yuki, is the CEO, RECTO Progress. And I work for the company’s full-dive technology R&D division. In other words, and without getting into specifics, you could say I’m the one keeping Asuna alive. Now I ask you, is it wrong for me to expect a little compensation for my trouble? I don’t know what kind of promises you made to each other in the game, and I don’t really care. But I don’t ever want to see you here again. Understood? And from now on, stay away from the Yuki family. We’re having the ceremony here on January twenty-sixth, a week from now. Save the date. Even though you’re not welcome here anymore, you should come to the wedding. No need to thank me. Oh, Mr. Hero, you’ve got a room all to yourself now. Say goodbye and get out.
Suguha: Kazuto, the bathroom is all yours! Geez. What’s wrong? Why didn’t you say something? And turn on the heat. It’s freezing in here.
Kirito: Sorry. I just… I wanna be left alone.
Suguha: Hey, how come you didn’t turn the heater on? What’s wrong? Are you okay?
Kirito: Yeah, it’s nothing.
Suguha: Okay, but… you’re freezing. You’re gonna catch a cold. I could run you a hot bath if you want.
Kirito: I’m so hopeless and weak… I didn’t want you to see this. I swore no matter what you’d never see me being such a crybaby.
Suguha: Is it Asuna? Is she okay? Did something happen to her?
Kirito: She’s leaving… somewhere far away… And I’ll never… I’m never gonna see her again…
Suguha: Hey, hang in there, okay? If you really love someone that much, even one thing’s so hopeless, you can’t give up. I know I can’t… and I won’t lie to myself anymore.
Mother: Gosh, I remember it like it was yesterday. Kazuto stood there looking at me and he told me he wanted to know who his real parents were. I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to say. He was only ten but he had the thing. Somehow he logged on to the citizens’ registration network and found the file.
Suguha: That figures. Sounds just like something he’d do.
Mother: I was so stunned, I couldn’t think of a way to deny it. So what do I do instead? I tell him how my big sister and her husband are his real parents. Wow.
Suguha: Mom, I was wondering.
Mother: About what?
Suguha: I guess about the way he’s been since middle school, he’s going to his room and play games online for hours. You think it’s 'cause he found out about his real parents.
Mother: No, not at all. He was always into computers and technology. By the time he was six, he’d already built his own computer out of spare parts. If anything, he’s like that 'cause he’s a huge computer nerd like me. Also he thinks. Well, I’m heading home and get dinner ready. Don’t stay too long, okay, Suguha?
Suguha: Don’t worry. I won’t.
Mother: Happy birthday, kiddo.
Suguha: He’s my cousin, not my big brother. I still have a hard time believing it. My big brother…
Suguha: But… in the end, your heart… In the end, your heart… belongs to her…
Kirito: Come on. Wake up, Sugu. It’s morning. I said you gotta wake up now. Not gonna have time to practice if you don’t wake up.
Suguha: Oh, hey… Morning…
Kirito: Rise and shine! Hi, sleepy!
Suguha: Um, I… Oh my god!!!
Kirito: As weird as ever.
Suguha: Just hang in there, okay?
Kirito: She’s right. Yeah, she’s right.
Kirito: Huh? What the hell? Asuna…