A/N: Here's an all new fanfiction from yours truly. Hopefully my writing kills haven't diminished too much since I last posted something on . Anyways, this is a SAO fic featuring Kirito/Kazuto, Sinon/ Shino Asada and Asuna Yuuki. Might add Lisbeth in as well to make a lil harem. But main pairing is Kirito x Sinon. A poor swordsman gets twix, and gets to eat both...if you get what I mean. But in the mean time, enjoy this drama romance fic from moi! This fic also takes place a month after Kazuto saves Shino.

PS, there is some original light novel content I am merely borrowing for use in my fic, so original writer Reki Kawahara, don't sue me please. I'm just a poor college dropout! (Subsequent chapters will be likely shorter than this because this has inserted text unless I get really inspired)

Chapter I

It was finally over. «Death Gun» was finally uncovered, the reality of the situation of the real world deaths was brought to light. In the end, it wasn't a supernatural power that had killed the four damned souls. The two from the BoB (Bullet of Bullets) tournament. The two from the last. The true deaths occurred from heart failure, or more specifically, caused by a drug, succinylcholine.

Just after the conclusion of the Third BoB contest with both Kirito and Sinon winning with a double suicide using a plasma grenade, Shino was attacked by Shinkawa whom she'd thought had been her only friend and was actually one of the two perpetrators whom had killed people in the real world. Before the maniac could inject the toxin into Shino, Kazuto came to her rescue and saving her life. Several days passed and soon Shino Asada became friends with Kirito/Kazuto's circle of friends.


Feeling troubled and weak, Sinon dejectedly rested her forehead on her kneecap. She felt Kirito close in and say in a soft voice,

"You don't have to be so hard on yourself."


Sinon sighed and waited for Kirito to continue.

"I didn't notice that that guy was hiding nearby too. If our roles were reversed, I would be the one who took the stun bullet—you would save me at that point too, right, Sinon?"

That voice was ever so steady—

Yet it made Sinon feel extremely hurt deep inside. She forcefully closed her eyes and muttered to herself.

This was a person she originally viewed as a rival... This enemy who she thought she could fight against actually said such encouraging words. Her failure, weakness were all seen by him... Right now, he just looked like he was appeasing a kid.

And what made Sinon unable to bear with this or even forgive herself was that while she felt extremely humiliated, she had a huge urge to accept his comfort.

Once she told her fears and pains that were tormenting her, and reach her hand out to this boy who's one meter away... That enigmatic lightsaber warrior who had such sincerity inside, would definitely comfort this Sinon in the game... The real Shino with all his earnesty and words. Maybe she could even get this «redemption» of that post office robbery incident 5 years ago from him.

If she did that, the other icy cold-like sniper Sinon may completely vanish. But speaking of which, how could she say her true thoughts to someone she just met yesterday—and doesn't even know his real appearance. Sinon had never said her true thoughts to even Shinkawa Kyouji, who was her friend for more than half a year.

As she was anxious, powerless, puzzled and messed up, the girl could only continue to hug her own knees.

Just like that, after a few seconds...

Kirito's voice finally rang again. "...I'm going then. Just rest here first, Sinon. Actually, I was really hoping that you could log out... but you can't do so during the tournament..."


Sinon lifted her face up instinctively. Kirito had already used the stone wall to support his body and checked the remaining amount of energy in the lightsaber.

"...You intend to fight... alone... against that Death Gun...?"

Once Sinon finished asking in a hoarse voice, the other person nodded slightly but firmly.

"Yeah. That guy is really strong. Even without the power of that black handgun, his equipment and stats were already a headache. Most importantly, the player's own ability was rather unique too. To be honest, it should be hard to take him down before the black handgun is fired. We were able to escape just now, but half of it was because it was a miracle. If we get aimed at by him... I don't have the confidence to face him courageously. I might even leave you and run away... so I can't take the risk of having you follow me."


Sinon originally thought that this lightsaber warrior was absolutely confident in his own abilities, so she couldn't help but look at his face after hearing this unexpected declaration. At this moment, a glint appeared in the black eyes, showing the insecurity he never had.

"...Even you are scared of that guy?"

On hearing Sinon's question, Kirito placed the lightsaber back onto the belt pouch and gave a bitter smile.

"Yeah, of course. If it was the old me... even if I knew that I could die, I would fight him with all I've got. But... I have a lot of things I want to protect now. So I can't die, I really don't want to die..."

"Something.. to protect...?"

"Yup. No matter whether it's the virtual world... or the real world."

He must be talking about the bonds with some people. Kirito was different from Sinon. He had lots of friends who felt the same as him. The girl felt a sharp pain inside her heart, and her words rushed out,

"...Then you might as well just hide here, right? We can't automatically log out in BoB, but we can leave when it's just us and someone else. Once we commit suicide to let the 3rd person win, the tournament will be over."

On hearing that, Kirito widened his eyes, but immediately smiled, said 'I see', and shook his head. Sinon already expected that he would have such a response.

"There is that method. But... I can't do that. Death Gun should be hiding somewhere and recovering his HP. If we let him go until the tournament ends, who knows how many people he will kill..."

"...I see."

"—You're really strong."

Even though he said that he had something he wanted to protect, he didn't lose any of his courage of risking his life to fight against the Death God. And I don't have these two things anymore.

Sinon could only smile weakly, thinking of what would happen to her once she left this battlefield.

Sinon had already lost all her courage once she faced that black handgun that Death Gun raised on the streets in the ruins. She cried many times as she escaped and couldn't even control her separate identity, the Hecate. The ice sniper Sinon was on the brink of disappearance.

If she continued to hide in the cave like this, she would never believe in her own ability again. Her heart would shrink, her fingers would stiffen, and it's unlikely that she would ever hit something again.

Forget about overcoming that memory, the real her in the real world would always worry about whether that man would appear from the shadows of the night streets or the gaps between the door. That would be the virtual and real worlds waiting for Sinon/Shino.


Sinon looked away from Kirito and said softly,

"I'm... not running away."


"I'm not running away. I've decided not to hide around. I want to go out and fight that guy."

Kirito frowned, bent his upper body over to Sinon and whispered, "You can't Sinon. Once you get hit by that guy...you may really die. I'm not just a complete melee-type player, I also have defensive skills. You're different. Your predicament would be far more dangerous than mine if that invisible man attacks."

Sinon shut her mouth for the moment, but soon after, spoke up and concluded. "It doesn't matter even if I die."


Kirito widened his eyes again, and Sinon said slowly, "...Just now... I was really scared. Really scared that I would end up dying like that. I got weaker than how I was 5 years ago... I even embarrassed myself by screaming... I can't take this. If this lingers on anymore, I might as well die!"

"...It's normal to be scared. Who's not afraid of death?"

"I'm sick of being scared. I'm sick of living in fear... I'm sick of it— I'm not going to ask you to accompany me, I can fight on my own."

After saying that, Sinon's weak arm started to exert force and got ready to get up. However, that arm was grabbed by Kirito beside her. He asked softly with a nervous voice, "You're saying that you want to fight alone and die alone...?"

"...That's right. This is likely my fate..."

She made a cardinal sin, but wasn't punished for it. Thus, that man would come back to give her the punishment. Death Gun wasn't a dead soul—but a cause and effect. This was already decided.

"Let go of me... I've got to go..."

Sinon tried to shake off Kirito's hand again, but he grabbed her with even more force.

The black eyes were sparkling. Those small and beautiful lips exploded with such intense words that didn't fit the perfect appearance at all, "...You're wrong. No one will die alone. Once someone dies, his position in someone's heart will vanish too. My heart already has your existence, Sinon!"

"It's not like I asked you to remember me... I, I never hoped to have a relationship with anyone!"

"But haven't we made contact with each other?"

Kirito raised Sinon's hand and moved it in front of her.

At this moment, the intense emotions that were suppressed inside Sinon's icy heart suddenly exploded. She gritted her teeth and used that other hand to grab Kirito's collar. "Then..."

The weakness of wanting to be comforted and the urge to be destroyed created a feeling she never had before, causing her to say these words out from deep within her. Sinon's fiery gaze stared at Kirito's face and screamed,


Her eyes suddenly twisted, and there was something hot flowing down her face. Sinon then noticed that tears were already flowing out from her eyes, dripping. She shook aside the right hand that was being held and forcefully clenched her fist to slam at Kirito's chest. Twice, thrice, she exerted all her strength onto Kirito's body.

"You don't know anything at all... couldn't do anything, so stop acting like you know what's going on! This... this is my battle, only mine! Even if I lose, even if I die, no one has the right to lecture me! Or rather, are you going to bear this responsibility with me? Can you..."

The right hand Sinon was just holding reached out in front of Kirito. This hand once squeezed the trigger of a gun that was dyed in blood and took someone's life. Looking closely at the skin on it, she could only see that this hand that once killed before still had the little black dot that was caused by the gunpowder particles.


Lines of curses awakened from deep within Sinon's memories. In the classroom, she would hear 'Don't touch it, you murderer! You'll stain it with blood' when she accidentally touched other people's personal belongings. Ever since that incident, Sinon never let anyone touch her, not even once.

Sinon used the last of her strength to swing a punch. As the entire island was in a battlefield that wasn't protected, every single time Kirito got punched, his HP would decrease little by little. However, he didn't do anything to evade.


Sinon's tears fell like rain, and she couldn't control them. She immediately lowered her head to prevent others from seeing her crying face, and in the end, her forehead ended up hitting Kirito's chest.

Her left hand was still grabbing onto Kirito's collar, leaning her forehead onto Kirito's chest with all she had, letting out a crying sound from between the gritted teeth. Sinon was crying like a kid, but she found it inexplicable that she actually had the ability to do this. She couldn't remember the last time she cried in front of someone.

Soon after, Kirito placed his hand on her right shoulder. However, Sinon immediately clenched her fist and swept his hand aside.


As she screamed, the imaginary tears continued to float, and they were finally absorbed by Kirito's thin chest.
It was unknown how long they maintained this position—

Sinon's tears finally went dry, and she felt weak all over as if her soul was scattered, and could only rest her entire body on the lightsaber warrior's slender body.

After having exposed the feelings she would definitely not allow herself to reveal, the slight pain that came with it felt extremely soothing. She then continued to put her head on the other person's shoulder and continued to pant.

After a while, Sinon broke the silence.

"...You're really irritating... but at least let me lean on you."

After she said that, Kirito merely answered 'okay'. Sinon then moved her body and laid down horizontally on the legs Kirito stretched out. As she was still embarrassed about letting Kirito see her face, Sinon turned her back to Kirito and saw the bullet scar that was still left on the rear right side of the three-wheeler buggy's rear fender, and the last trace of sunset that crept in from outside the cave.

Her mind was still confused, but it was different from how her mind stopped when she was attacked by Death Gun; it was a seemingly relaxed feeling. Unknowingly, she let out a sentence,

"I... I've killed someone before."

Sinon continued without waiting for Kirito's response,

"Not in the game... but in the real world. I really killed someone. The cause was the robbery that happened in the suburb in the northeast 5 years ago... The news reported that the culprit shot a mailman and died after the gun chamber exploded. But in fact, that wasn't true. I was at the scene. I snatched the culprit's gun and shot him."

"...5 years ago...?"

On hearing Kirito mutter his question, Sinon nodded her head.

"Yes. I was 11 then... maybe I could do that because I was a kid then. I had two broken teeth, two sprains on the arms, a back injury and a dislocation of the right shoulder, but had no other injury. The damage my body took could be healed... but there was a place that couldn't be healed."


"After that, I would vomit or faint once I saw a gun. Even on the TV, in the manga... or a fake pistol won't do. Once I see a guy... my eyes will immediately remember the face of that guy I killed... It was scary. Really scary."


"Yeah. But it's alright in this world. The relapse wouldn't happen... and I even liked..."

Sinon moved her eyes away, looking at the elegant figure of the Hecate II that was lying on the sand,

"...A few guns. So I felt that if I became the strongest in this world, I would become strong in the real world and could forget about those memories... but... when Death Gun attacked just now... I nearly relapsed... that, that was really scary... Unknowingly, I wasn't the «Sinon» in the game but the me in the real world... so I have to fight with that guy. If I can't beat him... Sinon will vanish."

She hugged her own body tightly.

"Of course I'm scared of death. But... but if I continue to live in fear, I'll be scared even when I'm dead. If I run away without fighting against Death Gun and those memories, I will definitely become weaker than before, and I will never be able to live an ordinary life again. So... so..."

Suddenly, a chilly air struck, causing Sinon to tremble violently. At this moment...


Unknowingly, Kirito started stammering like a weak kid who didn't know what to do,

"I...I killed people before."


Sinon, who was leaning tightly onto Kirito, felt his body tremble for a split moment.

"...I did mention it before, right? That mantle guy and I... Death Gun, we met in another game before."


"That game was called... «Sword Art Online». Have you heard of it... before?"


Sinon already guessed the name of the game, but couldn't help but look up at Kirito's face. The lightsaber warrior leaned his back on the wall of the cave, and his eyes that lost all glow were looking above.

Of course, Sinon knew the name of that game. Or rather, there was not any VRMMO player in all of Japan who would not know about that game. That terrifying game trapped the consciousness of 10,000 people inside the game world for more than 2 years, and even took the lives of 4,000 people.

"...Then, you're..."

"That's right, in terms of internet speak, I'm a so-called «SAO Survivor». That Death Gun is the same too. Both him and I fought each other, and we tried to kill each other."

Kirito's eyes looked like they were looking afar in the distant past, moving about in mid-air.

"That guy was part of a Red guild called «Laughing Coffin». In SAO, we designate colors and call criminals «Orange Players», and thief guilds would be «Orange Guilds»...amongst them, those who revel in killing were called «Red Guilds». Those guilds...had a lot of people who enjoyed killing people."

"Bu-But...in that game, wouldn't it mean real death if your HP becomes zero...?"

"That's right, but they killed because of that reason... To certain players, killing was their greatest pleasure. Laughing Coffin was such a group. They killed other players in unprotected battlefields or mazes, took their money and equipment before killing them mercilessly. Of course, the ordinary players started to be wary of them, but these people still continued to think of new ways to kill, causing the number of victims to continue to rise."


"Thus, the ordinary players finally formed mass-crusades against them...and I was one of them. It was a crusade, but we didn't really need to kill them. We just wanted them to be unable to resist before sending them to jail. We tried all we could to find their base, gathered many high-leveled players who would not have any problems and launched our raid at midnight. However... I don't know how the info was leaked. The enemy had already set traps in the base and waited for us to enter...we finally managed to regroup ourselves, but in this abnormally chaotic battle...I..." Kirito's body trembled violently again. He widened his eyes, and his breathing became harder.

"I personally killed two Laughing Coffin members. One by hacking him on the head with my sword...the other was a stab right in the heart. I only planned to lock them inside jail, but I forgot all about it and just lost myself...no, that was just an excuse. If I really wanted to, I could definitely stop my sword...but I could only continue to swing my sword in fear and anger, and to be honest, I'm no different from those guys. No, in a certain sense, my guilt is greater than them because..."

Kirito forcefully took a deep breath before exhaling, and silently continued, "Because I forced myself to forget what I previously did. I killed another member a long time after I killed those two people...and once I returned back to the real world, I never thought of them. That was until I met Death Gun at the presidential area waiting dome..."

"...Then, Death Gun is part of that group you fought against...«Laughing Coffin»..."

"Yes. He should be one of the members who survived in the raid and was locked up by us. I still remember his presence and how he spoke. Just a little...a little more, and I can remember his name from back then..."

This time, he forcefully closed his eyes and used his right fist to press against his forehead. Sinon, who was lying on Kirito's knees, stared at him for quite a while.

This boy called Kirito was once a player of «Sword Art Online».

He gambled his real life in that world and continued to fight for two years.

Sinon herself could guess this already, but it was still strangely heavy-hearted to hear him say this. She could still remember Kirito's question yesterday from deep inside her ears.

—If your bullet can really kill a player in the real world...and he would kill you or someone else close to you if you don't kill him, can you still squeeze the trigger without hesitation in such a situation?

Kirito was a person who went through that. In a certain sense, this was extremely similar to the post office robbery incident where Shino was attacked 5 years ago—


Sinon supported her body and forcefully grabbed Kirito on the shoulders. The boy's eyes looked somewhat lost as if he was looking somewhere distant in the past. However, Sinon still brought her face close to force the other party to look at her, and said with a hoarse voice,

"...I can't judge what you did in the past...and I don't have the right to. So actually, I don't have the right to say this...but please tell me...how did you overcome those memories? How did you beat it? How did you become so strong...?"

This was really a rather cruel and selfish thing to say to someone who just revealed his own guilt. However, Sinon really couldn't stop herself from asking. Though Kirito was so self-loathing that he 'forced himself to forget', she couldn't do that.


Kirito blinked twice, thrice, a few times and stared at Sinon's eyes, and he then shook his head and said,

"...I didn't overcome it."


"Last night, I continued to remember that battle against Laughing Coffin and the 3 people who died under my blade, and I nearly couldn't sleep at all. Those people, when they were about to disappear...their expressions, voices, last words, I guess I wouldn't be able to forget about them..."

"How...how is it..."

Sinon could only mutter blankly, "Then...wha...what am I supposed to do...I...I..."

'—Am I going to be like this for the rest of my life?' This declaration was really too cruel to her.

Was all her hard work wasted? Wouldn't that mean that even if they left this cave, beat Death Gun and win, Shino in the current world would have to continue to live in pain—was that it...?

"However, Sinon—" Kirito moved his right hand and covered one of Sinon's hands that were grabbing his shoulders.

"I feel that it's normal. I lost my sanity and killed with my own two hands, but I got praised instead of being punished. Nobody wanted to judge me, and nobody taught me a way to redeem myself. Up till now, I had never really looked at what I did, and just forced myself to forget. But I was wrong. The fact that I did that, I personally slayed them with these hands of mine...I should accept them directly, consider the significance and seriousness. Right now, I feel that this is the least I could do to compensate within my abilities..."

"...Accepting...and reflecting on them...I can't do that..."

"No matter how you try to distance yourself from it, the past will never disappear, and our memories will never really vanish. Even so...we can only face it head on and work hard so that we can one day accept it."


Sinon's arms lost their strength and she collapsed onto Kirito, who was lying down. She leaned her back and head onto Kirito and looked up at the roof of the cave.

face that memory head on and fight; Sinon didn't think that she could do that. The path Kirito found belonged only to him, and she needed to find another way to settle her own problems. Even though Sinon thought of these, Kirito's words finally broke through one trouble of hers. The sniper girl turned her eyes to the face that was rather pale in that slightly dark place, and then said,

"...«Death Gun»..."


"So that guy under the mantle was a real person after all."

"Of course. He's definitely one of the top players of the ex-«Laughing Coffin». If I can remember his name in SAO, I can find his real name and address in the real world. To be honest, this is the real reason why I came to this world."

"...I see..."

[End Flashback]

"Kirito! Kazuto?"

I was pulled from my daze, feeling a person's hand prodding me on my head and calling my name and my alias. I blinked wearily as I lifted my head up from the counter. I wondered what I'd had been dreaming of when I'd dozed off. The scene had been hazy, but more than familiar. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I expected to see Agil's chocolate skin and large frame. Instead, my gaze was met by Asuna's visage. The girl I met sometime post the discovery we were all trapped in «Sword Art Online». "Mm?"

"Goodness, I'm relieved Kirito-kun is okay," she said, the urgency having left her tone. "I was worried you'd fallen into a coma again." She muttered the last bit; the incident was a touchy subject for the «SAO» survivors whom had been held hostage in the virtual world with the Nerve-Gear.

Nodding, I merely answered, "I was up late again Asuna-san. I was finishing the last of converting my avatar back to «ALO» (Alfheim Online). You know, since the whole investigation concerning «Death Gun» is over. Never really was much of a fan of guns. «GGO» simply isn't my cuppa tea. Shino...er Sinon didn't want to be alone again in that game, so I somehow convinced her to move over to «ALO»." I gave another wide yawn before finishing, "Must have dozed off while waiting for you here. Nothing to worry about." I gave a smile, for reassurance. Really, I was fine, if just a bit tired.

The reddish brown haired girl glared at me. I rolled my eyes subtly. How could she scold me when I was a little sleep deprived? It's not like I was gonna disappear in the blink of an eye. "J-just don't scare me like that again!" She pinched my face as a reminder.

"'S not my fault," I retorted almost inaudibly. Sometimes Asuna-san could get bossy and controlling. But I suppose that's how she's supposed to be now, since we escaped «SAO». "Sorry, didn't mean to give ya a fright," I apologized.

Grinning smugly, Asuna Yuuki took a seat beside me at the bar. Agil returned from the back room; probably restocking the wines, beers and spirits. After all, the Dicey Cafe also doubled as a bar. Rubbing my cheek, I said, "Unnecessary to pinch me Asuna-san. Besides, we should get going on our date before it gets dark." Mentally, I added, 'And the sooner I can help Sinon adjust to «ALO».'

"Yes, let's!" She was beaming happily now and it was far more attractive than that scowl she wore every time she scolded me, which seemed to be happening a lot more. Maybe if she realized I wasn't gonna vanish without her, she'd be less harsh on me. Not that her rants made me like her any less.

Ever since we became a family on the 22nd floor of Aincrad, Asuna wanted to make that a reality; to make Yui a reality. The pixie was the daughter of Asuna-san and myself...well not in the conventional sense. Originally, Yui was a mental health counseling program from «SAO»'s Cardinal System. Now, she was still a daughter to me. I could tell Asuna desperately wanted me to become her real husband and eventually create a real Yui.

Our date consisted of going for a walk in the nearby park, chatting along. We also stopped at a nearby cafe for dinner (sadly not Agil's). Soon enough, it was time to say good bye for the day.

Once I'd returned home, and announced my presence, I was belligerently tackled to the ground by Suguha. She was my imouto (really my cousin, but more like a sister really). "Onii-chan!" There was a slight blush on her cheeks as I sat up. "How did it go? With Asuna-san?"

I smiled, "It went fine. She did chew me out for apparently falling asleep on the counter. Lousy Agil for not waking me up." Suguha giggled as she crawled off of me and I held a hand out to her, helping the both of us to our feet. "We did go out for dinner, so you can tell mom I won't be joining you at the table tonight. I plan to help Sinon adjust to «ALO» since she's only played «GGO»."

"Alright~ Oh, but I might be joining up with you all when supper is finished and the dishes are taken care of," said my little sister. "Of course it's my turn to wash the dishes tonight." She gave a groan and said brightly, "Oh and I'll need to breeze through my homework before I can join with you, Asuna-san and Sinon-san."

Rubbing the back of my head sheepishly, I said, "Well...Asuna-san actually has a bit of work to catch up on, so it's just gonna be Sinon and I for a bit." When Suguha started to frown, I corrected,

"Uh...we're just friends, I promise." I waved my hands back and forth for emphasis.

She smiled and nodded. "Well then, I'll leave you to it, Mr Savior!" I blushed hard at that, not before dashing upstairs to my room. I took off my winter coat and hung it on the back of the chair at my desk and sat on my bed. I lay down and placed the AmuSphere upon my head, hands at my side and legs straight.

I said confidently, "LINK START!"

Appearing on the cobbled streets of Yggdrasil city, I yawned and stretched. It had been quite a while since I'd played «ALO». I spread the fairy wings and kicked off the ground, soaring into the sky. I flew fast and quick, like the «Spriggan» I was.

With a light touch to the ground, I landed in a seemingly abandoned field covered in snow. A couple snow-drops rose above the crisp layer of snow. There was a forest and an unfrozen brook on the other side of the field. Seems the company is keeping the game to real time and seasons. "Wonder why she wanted to meet up here. We're not on any quests here." An hour before I was to meet Asuna for our date, Shino had texted me and told me to meet her some kilometers north of the World tree and west of the «Spriggan» territory.

"Oh good, you finally decided to show up Kaz," said a voice behind me. I whipped around, now facing a familiar face. A «Cait Sith» avatar with powder blue hair strode up to me, a small smile on her face. Two black hair ornaments framed her hair to her cheeks. Her sapphire blue eyes were slitted like a feline's. Today, she was wearing a green winter themed armor. On her back was a blue bow. This was Sinon's «ALO» character, an archer. "About time! What kept you?"

Rubbing the back of my head sheepishly, I asked, "Were you waiting long Shino?" She shook her head, and I continued, "Sorry about my lateness. Some real world stuff kept me. Ya know."

"I guess it's okay, as long as it's you. Anyone else and I'd be pretty mad," replied Sinon as she uncrossed her arms. "Now then..."

"So what did you call me here for?" I asked, stretching. Early February was still cold, but I was glad this armor was cold-resistant.

The «Cait Sith» nudged me, non-verbally telling me to start walking. I glanced over to Sinon a few times, waiting for her to speak what sort of training she wanted to do or whatever was on her mind.

When she said nothing still, I said as I fluttered over the frigid brook, "So, what's bothering you? If it isn't training and adjusting to «ALO», then what is it Sinon?"

"Shino," she said. "Please call me Shino Kazuto-kun."

That surprised me a little; few people still called me by my real name. Asuna, Lisbeth and the others still called me Kirito, the Black Swordsman. I didn't take pride that I was the one to clear «SAO», but the title seemed to make me legendary. I secretly wished people would just know me as Kirigaya, Kazuto.

"Huh? Why?"

I could hear her gulp and open her mouth when she tripped on the middle stone and was about to fall into the river. I noticed this in my peripherals and pushed off from the snowy bank, catching Sinon in my arms. I landed on the other side of the bank and laid the «Cait Sith» underneath a snow covered evergreen. The branches above had kept the ground around the tree's trunk dry. "Careful now," I teased lightly before taking a seat next to her.

A blush appeared on Sinon's cheeks, and they didn't disappear quickly either I noticed. "S-sorry. I wasn't watching my footing and slipped. D-didn't mean to inconvenience you."

"Nah, it's fine," I said, unbridled. "Gonna tell me what's up Sin-er Shino?"

It took a moment for her to stop biting her lips and come out, "Remember back in the cave we hid in during the finals of BoB?" I nodded, allowing her to continue. "W-well...truth to be told, I-I really liked being held by you. C-cuz you're an amazing person." Shino exhaled and said, "You helped me defeat «Death Gun» AND you saved my life. I can never thank you enough for that. And what's more, you've helped me begin healing that wound from five years ago. You understand what I went through and I can sort of relate what happened to you."

I quickly interrupted her and said, "Yeah, but what does that all have to do with what's on your mind?" I'm smart, but girls aren't just something a guy can understand that swiftly. After all, I'm just a guy.

"I know, I know," said Shino tensely. Her cat ears were folded back with nervousness. "S-sorry, I'm just...you know, nervous." Before I could ask what she was nervous about, she said, "When I felt your warmth in that cave, I felt like it was the real you holding me. It...it felt so amazing. And then again in the real world. You know I'd never really tried to make friends in the real world until you came along and meddled. All your friends that you met in «SAO » made me feel so welcome. It made me normal. I...ugh I can't tell you like this." She hugged her knees together. I heard a deep sigh; she was very conflicted.

Trying to comfort her, I pulled an arm around her small form until her face was just about in my chest. It was the only thing that'd rushed to my mind in an instant.

Shino looked up and had a timid smile. She wormed herself up a little and said, "M-maybe this will make things clearer." Her lips connected with mine before I could ask what she'd meant. Now, everything was clear. She kissed me intensely. Momentarily, I forgot about a certain brown haired girl and kissed back, hard. My arms pulled the «Cait Sith» closer. When we broke apart, she said, "I love you stupid."