My head hurt. It's dark. It's hard to breathe. I tried to groan and pull myself out of it. I tried to open my eyes a little and immediately regretted it. "Oh? Finally awake are we? Have a nice nap?"
I was blind and paralyzed, but knowing who was talking to me started helping me fill in the gaps. Opening my eyes once more, I saw a scene far too familiar to my liking. Cursing again silently to the Dojo's ceiling, I tried to sit up, and instead just winced in place. My head and shoulders still killed me from taking that head strike from Sugu. Even though I was wearing armor, it was still a strong enough strike to knock me out. After the pain passed, I noticed that I wasn't wearing my helmet. My memory was foggy but I could have sworn I was wearing it. Then I noticed the rolled up towel of a pillow under my head. Heh. Say what you will about being a cold-hearted evil deliverer of corporal punishment, you still worry about me with love.
"What's with that smirk? You that happy to be alive brat?"
"It's nothing." I groaned with a shit-eating grin.
"Weird boy." I could almost hear her smile.
"Evil woman." I chuckled.
"Well! Seems like you're okay if you can talk like that." Told you she cared. I smiled a little harder. "How about four out of seven?"
"Please, I only recently graduated from two out of three. I think surviving two rounds with you for a third is plenty for now. Besides, I honestly can't get up yet."
"Aw, and I was looking forward to beating you senseless a fourth time in a row today."
"Ha." I started to come out of it properly now, and managed to sit up. Trying to stand up proved impossible though, so a strong hand grabbed me under my armpit and just hoisted me up. I could never understand where she hides that strength in that short thin old body of hers.
"I suppose that'll be it today then. You've really improved these past months."
Improved huh? On top of the usual drills, warm-ups, and exercises, we've been having two, well, now three, 5-minute matches a day, every day, for 3 months straight. I damn well better have improved. It doesn't sound like much, but when you factor in my general lack of athleticism, endurance, and skill, those 5 minute matches are hell on earth. You try running full blast for 5 minutes straight, wearing 10 pounds of armor, eye sight restricted, ears ringing, and everywhere hurting due to not only exhaustion, but physical blows and bruises.
"It took me a whole month to survive even one match, and another two to survive two. At that trend, it's gonna be another 3 months before I survive three matches with you."
"Nonsense. You're actually improving faster than the results show. You've figured out that blocking my strikes don't work yet, so you've gotten particularly good at deflecting my strikes, and your footwork's pretty good too. A little more arm strength and you'll give me a serious run for my money here. The only issue is your body quits on you first, so we just need to train that more. You're also getting more efficient by not being so wasteful in your movements, and frankly speaking, that's the more difficult thing to learn. Trust me, you're improving more than the results show."
"Heh, you make it sound like I have talent."
"It runs in the family" she whispered cryptically with a wink. "What do you want for dinner?"
"Ah, um..." I was so busy wondering about how much Sugu knew about the SAO incident, or more specifically her brother, or her brother's wife, that I almost missed the question. That and it's hard to think of what you want to eat when you're not hungry. Still, I tried to think about what my mouth wanted. Then a thought of inspiration hit me. "Um... I'm actually in the mood for something extra spicy with soy sauce."
"Hmm, extra spicy soy sauce eh?" I could feel her wicked smile drip with amusement "What about meat and vegetables?"
"Hrm, now that I think about it, chicken wings marinated in spicy soy sauce sounds just right. I leave the vegetables and any other dishes up to you."
"Feelin' a little barbaric tonight?" She smirked.
"Yea yea, I'm a carnivore caveman, rawr." I smiled.
"Heh, alright, I'll go buy some chicken wings and chili then. Pre-heat the oven for me."
True to routine, by the time we'd finished talking, we'd finished taking off and putting away everything, leaving me to wipe the floors while she goes shopping. Running lengths end to end pressing the damp washcloth on the floor, I let my mind wander. I pondered the significance of the phrase 'it runs in the family', considering my grandparents, and Sugu as well. And had she not inherited the Dojo from her own grandfather? Catching my breath between lengths, I was reminded of the fact that physical exhaustion and strength itself was far different from the virtual world. After taking up kendo for a bit, I had to admit that I was interested to put into practice part of what I knew, but the scale of the world just felt wrong. Afterall, I was the only player in what was meant to be a hugely MMO world. Learning to fly was fun though, as was all the time I spent with Yui guiding me through my own adventures as well as her guiding me to special locations of importance to her, but it was still hardly practical to invest heavily into a video game when I had other priorities.
After preheating the oven, I returned to my room. I smirked at my genius of putting up a sign on the door that read 'Do Not Vacuum Hallway. Small Parts Inside.' The implication being I didn't want screws or such to be sucked from underneath the door. Of course, I had to take care of cleaning the hallway, but it was a small sacrifice to ensure privacy on top of asking Sugu not to go in since I was busy with something and really needed to know where everything was.
Opening my door slowly, I exhaled in slight dismay at the chaos and mess of it all. I was a tidy person, but this too, was a bit of a secrecy defense mechanism. I had random electronics strewn all over the place and wires lying here and there. Despite how it looked like I was tinkering with god knows how many electronics at the same time, the truth was it was all a decoy. Maneuvering around to open my closet doors, I pulled out a long cardboard box meant for Christmas trees, and calmed myself. Steeling my nerves and urges for a moment, I opened the box, revealing a naked 12 year old girl with a detached leg. Focusing on the detached robotic leg helped push the thoughts of lust out of my head.
She was basically finished from head to pelvis, with a large gap where her other leg would go. In the spot where the other leg was supposed to go lay a detached robotic leg missing skin and muscles, as well as a container with all the muscles I'd molded and prepared the last few nights. She was almost done. With a smile on my face, I said aloud,
Hello Kirito. Okaeri.
My eyes refocused on the little webcam apparatus on her shoulder that I found. According to Yui, it was used to allow a hospitalized patient to attend school. When I offered to put it on my shoulder and show her around, she declined, wishing to see it all for the first time with her own eyes, though I did reverse engineer the concept and bought a couple extra combination-webcams, which included speakers and microphones, and placed them around the room for her use. I did actually use the apparatus several times with her basically talking me through procedures in my ear and so she could see what I was seeing. A part of me liked that she waited until I opened the box to say hello, as if she was really in there. Although as I began to pull her body and parts out of the box, she'd begin to speak from my desk. I suspect it was intentional to avoid making me feel uncomfortable about manhandling her.
How was your day?
"It was uneventful, though Sugu actually complimented me on my swordsmanship today."
"Yup, right after she knocked me clean out."
I smiled as she giggled. I did love that giggle.
You're finally calling Sugu-san by her preferred name naturally.
"About that," I say as I began hooking up the muscles I'd molded yesterday into her unfinished leg, "Any idea why Sugu-san insists on being called Sugu instead?"
Can you put me on your shoulder?
"I'm really almost done, can I ask you to wait? I kind of don't want to spoil the surprise."
Muu~ I can see it all anyways. I just want the better view.
I liked the way she pouted. However, I didn't want to put it on since I was almost crawling to attach the piping and connections of the leg. I had to be careful not to spill the coolant while I connected the piping, and while the later work required more precision and concentration, this part could end up really messy if I screwed up.
"And~ that should do it."
I set her nearly finished body on the bed, her newly attached leg still lacking the sensored skin covering it. "All set here!"
With that, I could hear the power in my room drain slightly from the transfer, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary happened. It truly was a silent body. Her eyes slowly blinked open, and supporting herself she slowly sat up.
"Ohayō, Yui" I teasingly and lovingly smiled.
"Ohayō, Kirito." She smiled back.
I blushed and coughed. She was far too sexy naked like that, but clothes, static, and sensitive electronics don't agree with each other. We'd agreed on making her appear a little older, at her request, but she didn't want to be my age either. Still, there was maturity in her that made her appear older at times, and an innocence that made her appear younger. I'm no fool, I knew I was falling in love. But for now, my feelings beyond her being important to me were of no importance. I am her guardian, and I had a purpose to fulfill. Finding my composure, I got to business.
"Let's get to work."
With that, after we tested all the actuators in her leg, testing the muscles and connectivity, we began the grueling task of connecting the sensors in her skin and weaving coolant pipes and cabling through certain holes in the muscle tissues and gaps where muscles don't cover. Once the setup was ready to accept the new layer, we began attaching patches of epidermis to her leg. Her skin was tricky, because the designs wanted her to bleed if cut. The skin was basically two layers, the inner one with heat sensors and the outer one with touch sensors using hair, and sandwiched between the two layers would be a thin layer of coolant. The interesting effects would be that her body would be warm to touch, would act as an extra form of temperature control, and of course if her outer skin is damaged, she'd bleed realistically. Also, with the temperature triggered color changing coolant, if she's icy cold, she'd literally turn blue. Unfortunately, this liquid middle layer made assembly a potential disaster.
We started with the feet, working on the middle of the foot first before we did the toes. Through a carefully engineered series of skin sheaths, we could allow full range of motion while maintaining sealing integrity, and even offering a way to make believable wrinkles.
While I attached heat sensor and pipe valve connections and melded together the first layer of skin patches, Yui would be testing the heat sensors and calibrating the previous batch of skin I melded. Once we finished the first layer, we began the outer layer, and while I connected and melded the outer skin, Yui would test the tiny coolant valves, and calibrate her touch sensors. It wasn't until I'd just about finished her upper thighs that I became self-conscious about my proximity. Still, she was almost done, and the excitement from that alone overrode any stray thoughts. It's amazing how fast I'd gotten at doing all this. I was woefully unprepared for putting her hands together, and her eyes alone took me the better part of 3 days. I actually ended up remaking her hands since Yui and I agreed that the importance of quality for her hands was too important to ignore, and she designed and made the skin pieces her self, acupuncturing the millions of hair follicle sensors herself and connecting them to a central miniature circuit.
As I finished the last miniature welding, our eyes met. It was done. She was done! But it was too early to celebrate, Yui still needed to calibrate her legs.
"Help me up."
"Eh?" She still needed to- no, that could wait. "Okay, here, arm over my shoulder, and easy... easy..." I helped steady her as it was the first time she was standing. And I'm positive she wasn't done calibrating her legs, unless possibly, she was doing that at the same time.
"Fufu~, you look worried. While discrepancies may exist, I've saved a lot of time by simply mirroring my calibrations from the other leg." Ah. "Can you... help me to the wall?" I looked at the littered mess of a floor, and began sweeping and kicking the junk out of the way as I walked her to the wall, figuring she wanted to steady herself with the wall rather than a somewhat unstable human. Once we got there, she steadied herself against the wall and eventually was standing on her own two feet. She looked ridiculously happy, and a little mischievous. "Can I ask you to go back and stand in front of the bed?"
"Sure?" Did she want a goal of sorts to encourage her to walk? Walk to Da Da? I smiled to myself at the thought. Although once I got to my place and turned around, it suddenly all made sense.
Tackled. She must have really wanted her first running hug. I was thoroughly winded, but I couldn't help but run my hand through her smooth black hair.
"Thank you... Thank you... Thank you..." she quietly wept into my chest. I imagined that if she had tear ducts and mucus glands, I'd have snot and tears all over me. I just silently held her, happy that it was all over with, and happy to grant her wish.
"Ou~ Bozu! Dinner!"
Our eyes met and we both grinned mischievously.
"Coming!" I hollered. Meeting Yui's eager eyes, I skipped asking the obvious question and instead just sat up and began dressing her in a white dress I prepared that was similar to her in-game dress, eventually guiding her out the door as she clung to me. She was okay for the walk, but when it came to the stairs, she held on to me firmly. I assumed the need to cling to me was fear of the stairs, but just in case, I asked in a whisper, "Are you afraid she'll not like you?"
She slowly gazed up and me, and subtly shook her head, "No, it'll be fine. I just hope you're ready."
"Heh, I should be telling that to you."
Taking each step one at a time, we slowly made our way down and upon reaching the bottom, she slowly pushed me away and gestured me to go ahead. Assuming she wanted me to introduce her, I went ahead and joined Sugu at the dining table, but instead of sitting in my usual spot, I actually pulled out a different seat at the table as if I was being a gentleman for someone else. As intended, Sugu gets perplexed and asks me, "What's up?"
"I'm just preparing a seat for our guest."
"Eh? We have a guest? Wait, did you invite someone over to dinner and not tell me?"
"Relax, it's a bit of a surprise. I just wanted to introduce you to my friend."
With that, I gestured to the door leading to the hall where the staircase was, and in walked Yui, doing a tiny curtsy, "Hisashiburi, Lyfa-chan."
"Eh?" The statement came as a surprise to both of us. I immediately connected the dots that Sugu's online avatar was named Lyfa, and upon glancing at Sugu to confirm, I saw and knew that what was about to transpire was something I would not belong to. I saw Sugu's mouth move silently, and though I couldn't read lips, I could guess at what she said. She repeated it a little louder this time, and I took a step back as she stood up.
"Eh. Watashi desu. Yui desu."
Suguha was completely paralyzed, her hands raised but not even close to properly covering her face. Tears were freely flowing from her eyes. I'd never seen Sugu, no, anyone, ever be that overwhelmed. And then she turned to me, although it was like she wasn't really seeing me.
I scratched my head awkwardly, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I suppose Yui did try to warn me.
"Remember all those packages? Apparently Grandpa gave Yui a special trust fund of sorts deeply buried away in the net, and with Yui's money, memory, and skills, we created her a new body. Grandpa hid her backup and his research notes in the server in his old room, so I thought you didn't know about her. I'm sorry we kept it a secret for so long." I added feeling guilty for denying this impactful reunion until now. I wondered why Yui didn't tell me she was very well acquainted with Suguha. I was certain Sugu wasn't involved in SAO, but...
Sugu slowly turned to face Yui once more, her legs unsteady, and gently outstretched a hand, beckoning. At that, Yui dashed forward and leapt into a hug. They held each other and collapsed to their knees, sobbing audibly. I felt like such a third wheel, but looking upon these two was rather fulfilling. Yui then caught my eyes and held out a hand, just like Sugu did. A smile on my face, I came over to join the group hug, though once Sugu noticed me and grabbed me into the big bear hug as well, I immediately regretted my decision.
Just as I finally got used to the intense hug, Sugu immediately broke it off and exclaimed, "You know what this means!?" Both Yui and I were still gathering ourselves a little and looked at her with confused expressions as she hurriedly reached for the nearby phone with a victory cheering fist pump. "This calls for a reunion!"
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I know this update took forever. I've been wanting this written just as much as you, but I'm also human just like you with plenty of other past-times, exams, and reports on my to do list. And holiday season is only ideal for writing in theory. I do want to assure everyone who cares about this story that work 'is' progressing. I'm just not really used to it.
I've actually got quite a few bits and pieces written out for the next half of the story trying to work out how I want things to play out, and I've ultimately simplified and added various things and trying things out. I also toyed with the idea of making the events within this story two different chapters with lots of other 'scenes' or filler or details, but this is my final decision. (I hope)
I do offer good news, Chapter 5 shouldn't take me too long to upload to here, soon as I finally decide some other little details to convey the passage of time and development of relationships that I envision. Rather, writing them in the way I want is harder than you think, since too many words can lose impact, and too few may not have enough, and the wrong word choices are just wrong.
... I really need to read and write more.
Anyways, I'll try to finalize chapter 5 soon as I can.
I hope you enjoy my writing and will continue to.
Edit: Added an actual Lunch scene to Chapter 1. I feel it adds a lot of depth to the story especially as this chapter comes into play.
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*** Extra Note *** : I need feedback. Please PM or review me a response to the question below.
How strict are ratings here? Is this still within "Teen" or do I need to bump this up to "M"? Certainly I doubt this needs to go to "MA". This is the 'worst' I intend to go as far as rating stretching (with naked Yui hugging Kirito on the bed), but I can't really imagine writing this part without taking the nudity into account.