Again, sorry for all the terrible inaccuracies and whatnot, so thanks if you stuck with me this long! Final chapter!
Disclaimer: I do not own Sword Art Online.
Chapter 6. Dream
The air was warm with the promise of spring, as flower petals began to peek up from the hard soil, sharing their vibrant colors with the world that had waited two seasons to see them again.
Kazuto got changed into his new school uniform that morning, and was presently finishing his breakfast with his cousin as his aunt started up her car. There was excitement wafting through the air, enough to create an atmosphere that was just about bursting with anticipation.
There was still an hour until the opening ceremonies at the school began, and the first day would be solely formalities and speeches before students were released for the latter half of the day. But still, Kazuto felt the need to take it very seriously, and so he finished eating with time to spare.
His family followed his lead and ate quickly before they all got into the car, and his aunt drove them to the hospital. During the peaceful car ride, he rolled down his window and let the morning breeze caress his face, a luxury he had not been able to receive once since heading to the hospital. But he knew that today would be the last day he would ever have to go to this place.
After several minutes of driving, they arrived in the parking lot area to the building, and Kazuto and Suguha each picked up a small bouquet of flowers they had purchased in advance. The three of them entered the hospital in their formal clothing and drew a bit of attention from other people in the large space of the waiting area.
The first person Kazuto spotted was Risa, and he walked over to her before presenting her with his bouquet of yellow and white flowers. She was clearly taken aback.
"K-Kazuto-san," she whispered, flustered. "Don't you think these flowers should be for someone else?"
"I have more." He grinned. "But those are for you, Risa-san. Both Asuna and I felt we needed to repay you somehow after all you've done for us. You pushed for us to be able to go through with the procedures even when we disobeyed you, and I'm certain it wasn't easy to bargain with the higher-ups about such things. So thank you, Risa-san."
It was evident she was rendered speechless by what he said, and he thought he saw a flash of emotion in her eyes that was not due to her glasses. She bowed once in gratitude before motioning Kazuto and his family to follow her.
She led them to a quieter, more secluded area of the hospital's waiting room, where four people stood together. The father, mother, and son all stood up straight and formally, defending their family's reputation for sternness. But as Kazuto approached them, he could tell their eyes were sparkling with pride for the fourth person that stood with them.
When Kazuto saw her, however, he needed to stop walking for a moment just to gaze at her.
Since she had woken up, he had only ever seen her wear those long, white hospital robes that were too large for her. But now she sparkled with a completely new aura.
Dressed in the female version of the very same uniform he wore, even as she leaned slightly sideways onto the cane in her right hand, Asuna looked positively stunning. Her uniform fit very well, although it was clear that she still had some weight to put back on. Her long, chestnut hair cascaded down her back in a shining waterfall, but with a small section braided at the top, the trademark hairstyle she had worn all the time in SAO, but never before in the real world until today.
The two families were silent for a moment as they stood several paces apart, silently looking the others over. Kazuto could see the delight in Asuna's eyes as she caught sight of him and his family, and he was sure Suguha was bouncing with excitement right about now.
But before the pause held out long enough to be considered rude, Kazuto cleared his throat. "Auntie, Sugu, these are Asuna's parents," he nodded toward the pair that stood like a couple of owls who nodded back in return. "And this is her elder brother," Kouichirou too gave a single nod in response before Kazuto rested his eyes upon the final person. "And this... is Asuna."
The three of them then bowed in unison to the Yuuki family.
Next it was Asuna herself who spoke. "Mother, Father, Onii-chan, this is Kiri- Ah, or rather, Kazuto-kun's aunt, his little cousin," she gazed at them both happily as she introduced them with ease, even though she had never met them before in her lfie. "And of course, Kazuto-kun."
The Yuuki family then bowed together in a similar manner to what the Kirigayas had done previously.
Then, the formal atmosphere cracked and shattered to be replaced by a much more easygoing air.
Their parents began to chat about how grateful they were for the other family's support. Kazuto and Suguha stood before Asuna and Kouichirou, who was eyeing Kazuto like a hawk, as if to inspect his little sister's boyfriend to make sure he was worthy.
"Onii-chan," Asuna whispered. "Stop that every time you see him. You'll scare him away!"
"Ah, sorry." He blinked himself out of his hunter mode and Kazuto relaxed.
He embraced Asuna in a light hug, but only briefly, as too long would be inappropriate in this situation. Asuna managed to hug him back a little with her free arm before they pulled apart. Suguha then stepped up to her.
"It's nice to finally meet you, Asuna-san! I'm Suguha!" She flipped her hair over her head as she bowed swiftly. "I've heard almost everything about you from Onii-chan."
"It's nice to finally meet you, Suguha-chan!" Asuna returned the bow. "I've also heard a lot about you from a certain person. If not for your help, he might never have found me in time." Kazuto blushed a little as she said this, but Suguha's and Asuna's faces were also slightly pink at the thought of someone else having talked about them to other people.
"Oh!" Suguha finally seemed to recall the bouquet she was holding. "These are for you." She handed the mix of yellow, pink, red, and white flowers over to Asuna.
"Oh, thank you so much!" Asuna could not contain the small sound of surprise as she accepted the flowers. She held them to her face and breathed in the springlike scent that wreathed around her. "Ah, this reminds me! Onii-chan, please." She hated to hand the bouquet over for him to hold so soon, but she required the use of her free left hand. She reached into her blazer's pocket to retrieve a small trinket, and Suguha's eyes widened in recognition. "It's the charm you sent me!" Asuna announced. "I know it's a part of what made my standing here today possible. So thank you, Suguha-chan."
Asuna opened her left arm to the side, inviting the younger girl in for a hug. Suguha's happy expression quickly turned nervous and she looked around from Kazuto to Asuna to Kouichirou. The three of them chuckled a little before Asuna replied. "It's okay, you can hug me! I won't break so easily!"
But Suguha still gave her cousin an uncertain glance.
"It's fine!" Kazuto grinned and ruffled her hair. "You saw me hugging her just now, right?"
Finally seeming convinced, Suguha took a shy step forward and slowly lifted her arms, placing them loosely around Asuna's shoulders. Asuna wrapped her left arm around Suguha's back as they finally came together. There was a mutual feeling of emotion that washed over the two of them then, as though they were long-lost sisters, and they each laughed lightly as several tears began to fall, their brothers looking on in quiet content.
At last, Suguha stepped back and Asuna let her go, and both of them wiped the tears from their faces while still managing to maintain their smiles.
Then, it was Asuna's mother who spoke up.
"Oh my, we should get going." Kyouko said after glancing at a clock on the wall.
The rest of them agreed as they all began walking toward the exit of the hospital. The secretaries, Risa, and several other members of the staff bowed to them, wishing them well as they saw off one of their most exceptional patients at long last.
When the families had reached the parking lot, they temporarily parted ways as they got into their cars.
"I'll see you at school." Kazuto said to Asuna as her brother helped her into her seat.
"Right. See you soon!" She replied.
As Kazuto sat down and his aunt started the car, he could see that Suguha who sat behind him, could not keep the happy expression from her face.
"So, do you like her?" Kazuto asked teasingly.
"You dummy! What kind of question is that? Of course I like her!"
"I can tell." He and his aunt both chuckled. "She wanted to make sure you understood the extent of her gratitude for all your support."
"M-Me? I didn't do anything..." She blushed, looking down.
"You did more than you think."
Suguha remained silent for the remainder of the ride, and they soon pulled into the school parking lot. It was already half full, and Kazuto was suddenly overcome with a bit of nervousness as he imagined the kind of people he would find inside. These are all of the people who survived SAO, and technically that's thanks to Asuna and I. I wonder what kind of people they are...
He tried not to stereotype the avatars he had seen online for the people they truly belonged to. He also knew that a portion of the older players, like Klein and Agil, would obviously not be attending school. But that doesn't matter, Kazuto thought as the Yuuki's car pulled into the driveway. Because I have the only person I need here with me.
Kouichirou helped Asuna out of the car before the two families began making their way toward the school. Many people had already gathered in the gymnasium, and it was a bit crowded, so Kazuto took extra care to leave Asuna enough space. He knew this could be overwhelming for her and that if she started to feel unwell they would have to leave immediately. But as she gazed around the unfamiliar building and dozens of new faces, the only thing that showed on her face was sheer excitement.
Their group entered the gymnasium to find it full of chairs that were filling up quickly. Normally in such a kind of ceremony, students would have been assigned seats in advance by name, but it was clear that the staff of the school had been busy with various other things until this point and it could not be arranged.
"This seems a bit unorganized, don't you think?" By nature, Kyouko could not keep silent about such a thing and she pushed her glasses further up onto her nose.
"Now, now. It's fine, isn't it dear?" Shouzou said calmly. She gave a little snort of contempt but said nothing more.
They sat in a single row, Asuna and Kazuto somehow managing to get seats beside one another with their respective siblings on their other sides.
"Are you feeling okay?" Kazuto asked as he found her left hand with his right.
"Yes, I'm fine." She reassured with a smile, squeezing his hand. "Neh, Kirito-kun, can you see anyone? Is Liz here? What about Silica-chan?"
"It's bad manners to use your character's name in real life." He warned her. "Here they're Rika and Keiko."
"Ah, I see." She nodded. "But I don't think I'll be able to stop calling you Kirito-kun so easily."
"That's fine..." He mumbled, ducking his head shyly; to be honest he liked when she called him Kirito, because he knew when she was using his real name, it was for something important, meaningful. "If you feel sick at any time, let me know right away."
"I will." She agreed. "Thanks, Kirito-kun."
Kazuto continued to look around for a few more minutes, trying to match any of these faces to characters he had used to know. He had already met several people in real life, like Rika and Keiko, but aside from a few others, he was unfamiliar with any of the faces in the room.
However, it was evident that the opposite was true about Asuna and himself. Although they wore the same uniforms as everyone else, they stood out a great deal for some reason. It was probably due to Asuna's memorable long, chestnut hair that drew attention to her, and then when people saw the boy she was sitting with, they would piece things together quickly.
Kazuto heard all sorts of hushed whispers from around them.
"Neh, neh! Isn't that the Black Swordsman?"
"Are you serious? That's Kirito-san, right?"
"He's the one who beat the game isn't he?"
"And next to him is the Flash?"
"What?! No way! That's Asuna-san?"
"Oh my gosh, she's gorgeous!"
"She was the vice captain for the KoB!"
"I remember her! Wasn't she trapped in ALO though?"
"Yeah, I heard about that! But it seems Kirito-san saved her!"
As the voices continued to chat away, Kazuto's and Asuna's faces grew redder and redder from embarrassment.
"They... they know everything about us, don't they?" Asuna whispered.
"It seems so..."
At one point, there was a chorus of both male and female voices mentioning how cute they were together, and they immediately let go of one another's hands. But this only caused more whispers of "Ah! They heard us!", "They're embarrassed! So cute!" and "They're so perfect together!" to rise up.
They knew there was no helping it now, so they returned to holding hands, fighting to keep the blushes from their faces.
At last, announcements for silence began to ring out from the stage and the ceremony began.
The principal of the school gave a brief background on the purpose of the school and details behind its construction. The speeches went on for only about an hour until all students were asked to rise.
Asuna leaned onto her cane as Kazuto supported her and together they stood up along with the hundreds of other students. The order to bow was given, and they all spoke the greeting "Please take care of us!" in unison. After that, they were dismissed for the rest of the day, and the crowd began to disperse.
"I still can't believe I really got to be here today." Asuna murmured as they began to move out of the gymnasium.
"Well believe it, because it's the truth." Kazuto grinned, still tightly holding onto her hand.
"I can't wait to start lessons!" She continued, passionately. "So much has changed in the world since I was last here! I want to learn about everything!"
"Of course we'll study everything together." Kazuto predicted. "And I'll wait for you every morning to walk with you to school, and every afternoon to walk you home."
"I look forward to it!"
Just then, Suguha came bounding up. "Neh, Onii-chan, isn't that the spot?" She said, pointing to a small clearing on the school's campus. There was a tiled floor and several benches and tables outside in the grass, all of which were surrounded by many colorful flowers.
"That's it!" Kazuto said before turning back to Asuna. "Come with me for a minute. There are some people who have been waiting to meet you."
Asuna followed him over to the lunch area, the air alive with chatter and the occasional drifting flower petal.
The first person to approach them was a girl with long, fluffy, brown hair. Kazuto just barely recognized her as one of the regulars at Agil's cafe, but he had never really gotten to talk to her formerly. She had a mature face but was undeniably cute, and she spoke to them in a polite manner.
"Pleased to meet you, Asuna-san, Kirito-san! You'll probably remember me as Yoruko." She presented them with a grateful smile that was exactly like her character's had been.
"Y-Yoruko-san!" Asuna gasped. "I can't believe it!" Kazuto let go of Asuna's left hand so she could shake hands with the other girl.
"Yo!" He raised a hand to her. "It's been a while."
Yoruko bowed politely. "I'll see you both at Agil-san's party this weekend, right?" She checked.
"You will!" He replied.
"Wonderful!" She wished them both goodbye before scurrying off into the crowd.
"What party?" Asuna wondered.
"Ah, guess we've been found out." Kazuto scratched his head sheepishly. "Agil's throwing a get-together at his shop this weekend, and the lot of us were going to surprise you with it, but I guess it's best that you knew in advance anyway. It's the only way you'll be able to meet Agil-san and Klein anyway, since they don't attend this school."
"I see." She tried to sound calm but it did not last long. "I can't wait to meet them!" She gave a little bounce of anticipation. "And Yui-chan, too! My parents said I'm not allowed to dive for at least another week, but I'm dying to see her!"
"I'll let her know." He promised. "And I know for a fact she feels the same way. Every time before I log off, she always hugs me twice and says "that one's for Mama!" and just about squeezes the life out of me." Asuna giggled, imagining Yui hugging him so hard.
Not a minute later, two more girls spotted them. Asuna caught their gazes and immediately knew who they were. She could not help from calling out their names instantly.
"A-Asuna!" Rika shouted back before tearing off into a run with Keiko at her side. Kazuto stepped away and watched, amused as Rika screeched to a halt two feet away from Asuna, forcing herself to cancel the hug she surely had in mind when she saw her friend holding onto a cane.
But Asuna dropped that cane and quite literally threw herself forward into Rika's arms, closing the distance between them in an instant.
"Whoa!" Rika caught her hastily. "H-Hey, don't be so reckless!"
But Asuna did not hear her friend's scolding voice. "Liz!" She cried.
Kazuto saw Rika's expression shift from startled and a little panicked to blissful and emotional as she hugged Asuna back. "It's... great to see finally see you again... for real..." She sniffed, failing to contain her tears.
Asuna wept over Rika's shoulder as well, clutching onto her as though to confirm her friend was truly there. They remained that way until a few minutes had passed, and then slowly moved apart.
"Hello, Silica-chan! It's nice to meet you!" Asuna wiped her face and addressed the girl with pigtails who was slightly shorter than she was.
"So you're Asuna-san..." She sounded dazzled, as though she were gazing up at an angel. "I know I'd see you around in the KoB before, but you beat the game together with Kirito-san!" She quickly wrapped her arms around Asuna's torso. "Thank you for all of your hard work!" Asuna did not know what to say in return, so she merely hugged Keiko back.
Once they had finished their tearful reunion, the four of them eagerly talked about things such as what classes they would be taking together, where they lived, and what places they would like to go eat and shop at together.
It was about ten minutes into the conversation when Kazuto realized Asuna was still standing without her cane and he quickly picked it up.
"Well, I guess you don't even really need this anymore." He muttered with a slight grin.
"Ah! I didn't even notice!" She gasped. "I guess I was so happy to see Liz and Silica-chan that my body decided to finish getting back to normal!" They all smiled and laughed a little, fully able to admit it was the case.
They talked for a while longer before Kazuto heard someone calling him from afar.
"Onii-chan! It's almost time to go!" Suguha called out. She had been standing with her mother, talking to a group of girls that appeared to be her age, yet it seemed both Kazuto's aunt and Asuna's family were prepared to leave after having some conversations of their own.
"Thanks!" He called back before returning his attention to Rika and Keiko. "Well, I'll see you guys this weekend right?"
"Yep!" Rika grinned. "Take care of Asuna for me until then." She held out her fist and Kazuto bumped his knuckles against hers.
"Bye, Liz." Asuna gave her best friend one last hug. "I gave you my email, right?"
"You did! I'll message you as soon as I get home!" She promised.
"Me, too!" Keiko added proudly.
They all wished one another farewell as Rika and Keiko left them.
Kazuto and Asuna stood there for a moment longer, surrounded by their fellows players who were now their classmates. They closed their eyes and let the voices around them fade away until it was just the sound of the wind they heard.
"We did it, Kirito-kun." Asuna spoke softly as he reopened his eyes.
"Yeah." He moved closer to her. "Our dream finally came true." He gently placed his hands on her shoulders and silently asked for her consent. She gave a shy nod before lifting her chin.
They kissed lovingly, and it was unlike any of the kisses they had shared before. Unlike the first kiss, it was not uncertain or nervous, but rather passionate and strong, yet still gentle enough to convey every ounce of affection they held within their souls for the other person. Kazuto was sure he heard a chorus of squeals rise up from somewhere around them, but he continued to kiss Asuna for as long as he could.
A moment later, they broke apart, smiling, slightly breathless, but entirely joyful. They gazed into one another's eyes, deep onyx locking with sweet hazel before they shared one last embrace.
"I love you, Asuna." He murmured.
"I love you, too, Kazuto-kun." She breathed.
Finally, they pulled apart.
"Come on." He said. "They're waiting for us."
"Right." She beamed, taking his hand in hers. "Let's go!"
Together they began walking, hand in hand, down the path that would lead to their future, the future where they would make even more of their dreams come true, the future they would face just as they were now: side by side.
A/N: Well I do hope you could enjoy this little untold part of their story!
A few things: again, sorry for all the inaccuracies, medical-wise.
I also thought they revealed Yoruko's real name, but apparently not, which is why I still had to address her as her avatar's name. If anyone has and info on her real name, please let me know!
Also! Some people pointed out that this story should be the first in a set of SAO stories I've written. It would work well to say Side By Side preceded Moments, and The Miracle Of Loving You will take place after that. If you're interested, please give those a read as well!
Thank you all for the support and kind reviews, not just for this story but for all the years I've been writing. If not for readers like you, I never would have made it to my 200th fanfiction, and more.
Thank you! And please review!