A/N: Sorry for making you guys wait so long for this chapter. I know I said I would update every Sunday, but I just didn't feel like writing at all for the past month, so none of the chapters got converted to Word docs from my notebook. I don't really have an excuse, so I'm not going to even try. Also, I'm probably going to be really inconsistent with updates for a while, because I start a story, and then get a new idea for another story and start that, until I get another idea for another story. It's a viscous cycle, so I might not update this for a month or so while I work on other stories. To tell the truth, I haven't written anything for this story in months because I keep starting new stuff. Anyways, this is probably the longest single chapter that I've ever written at 3,557 words before the A/N, although it might get broken when I post the second chapter of my Fire Emblem fic, which is thirty pages of a composition book. I hope you guys like this chapter!
Floor 50- Grandzam
"All right! Asuna wants to speak!" Archangel, one of Asuna's top lieutenants yells over the crowd of Knights. Asuna herself stands on a podium in the K.O.B Headquarters while I lean up against the wall behind her and to her left. Once the talking dies down, Asuna begins to speak.
"By now I'm sure all of you heard the rumors that Commander Heathcliff revealed that he was Akihiko Kayaba," she begins. "Well, the rumors are true." As predicted, all hell breaks loose with shouts of 'What the hell?' and 'How could he do this to us?' Asuna waits for them to quiet down again before she continues. "After that, I took control of the K.O.B, as I was the second in command." She pauses for a moment to take a breath and read the notes she wrote down for the speech. "As the commander of our guild, I have taken it upon myself to instate some new rules. First, we've been losing more and more people as we progress through the levels. To prevent more deaths, I am raising the minimum level requirement from fifteen levels above the floor level to twenty. In addition, no member of the guild will leave a safe zone alone. You must have at least one partner with you when you go hunting. We cannot afford to lose any more people. Any questions?" All at once, everyone shakes their heads, and Asuna dismisses them. Once everyone has cleared out, she sighs heavily and turns towards Archangel and I.
"How'd I do?" she asks. Archangel nods approvingly. I push myself off the wall and stand in front of her. Grabbing her by the waist, I pull my wife to me and kiss her.
"You did great," I murmur against her lips. Asuna smiles, relieved, and goes to kiss me again.
"*cough* *cough* Um… still here, you know," Archangel says loudly, ruining our moment. "I'd rather not be scared for life, if you don't mind."
"Oh, shut up, Archangel," Asuna grumbles. "Hold down the fort, okay? Kirito and I have some stuff to do."
"Yeah, okay," he replies with a cheeky grin.
Floor seventy-six: Arget, the next day
"Arget sure is nice," Asuna sighs as she leans into me. "We should relocate the guild up here."
"Yeah, that would be cool," I reply, looking at the beautiful scenery around him. They're in an orchard filled with bright red apples, the best apples that the couple had seen, even on the lower floors.
"Hey, Kirito, would you mind helping me get an apple or two from one of the trees?" she asks, giving me irresistible doe eyes. I sigh.
"Okay. Climb on my back," I answer, squatting down to give her better access to my shoulders. She carefully climbs onto them and I walk over to a tree, allowing Asuna to pluck an apple. The second she does, the tree begins to shake and a face with two health bars above it appears.
"Asuna, get back," Kirito says. Asuna hops off my shoulders and I open my menu, equipping my armor and swords. Asuna equips hers while I guard her, and all the other trees begin to do the same as the first. Legs sprout out of their sides and they start waddling towards us as branches twist down to become arms and hands. "Level ninety? Ha, this'll be easy!" I laugh, until more and more of the trees around us do the same until there are hundreds of them moving towards us as we back up. "…Never mind. Run, Asuna! I've got your back!" The Flash draws her sword and a teleport crystal, and prepares to use it.
"Teleport! Arget!" she yells. Nothing happens. "Something is blocking the crystal!"
"Keep running then! Run as fast as you can!" I reply, swinging at the tees to keep them, and I see that their name is 'Ent'. At the same time, Asuna activates a sword skill that propels her forward and through the Ents coming from the forest around us, clearing a path for me. I run through it before the mobs can recover, and we manage to get to the town before they even realize we're gone. I pause to take a breath and recover from the surprise attack.
"Whew, that was close!" I exclaim, sighing in relief. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine," Asuna answers, panting as she recovers from the use of her sword skill and having run so far so fast.
"By the way, what's that sword skill you used? I've never seen it before. She shrugs.
"Um… Right after I maxed out my one-handed skill, I think," my wife replies cheerily.
"WHAT?" I shout, recoiling backwards and falling on my ass. "There's a limit?"
"No, I was just kidding! The look on your face, I wish I had…" Asuna starts laughing, unable to continue, and it's several minutes before she can speak. "I wish I had a… haha… a camera. But really, I got it when my one-handed skill hit three thousand."
"Wow, Asuna! That's still pretty incredible. My one-handed is only twenty-five hundred, and my two handed is only twenty-eight hundred. How'd you get it so high?"
"Before you and I met—you know, really met—I stumbled upon a dungeon filled with skill increase scrolls. The mobs there were tough, but after all the skill increases, it got to be pretty easy.
"Then, in the final chamber, there was a mini-boss and a chest. After I beat the boss I got my old rapier and from the chest I got this necklace, which allows me to learn weapon skills thirty percent faster," Asuna explains. Kirito's jaw drops and he begins to drool. "Come to think of it, I could duplicate it for you, seeing as it is jewelry."
"Y-you can? That would be awesome, Asuna!" Kirito agrees. Asuna sends him a duel request, and the winner gets the necklace. Then, Asuna hands Kirito the necklace. Kirito accepts the duel request, and after the duel starts, he forfeits. In this way, Kirito keeps the original, and Asuna gets the copy that the game makes when it's not in her inventory.
"I'm surprised that that hasn't been fixed by the Cardinal," Asuna comments as they equip their necklaces. Just then, the Ents catch up.
"Damn! I didn't think they'd chase us all the way to the town," I curse. I bring up my menu and send a message to Archangel, who is at Grandzam handling the day to day operations of the guild, telling him to get some players together and come help fend off the army of monsters. "Okay, well, I'll take the lead, okay?" Asuna nods.
Charging into the massive group, Kirito waits several seconds until he's surrounded, then activates a sword skill that allows him to hit enemies all around him as he spins in circles. It only lasts a couple seconds, but the Ents are apparently stupid and keep charging into my swords, which leads to many dying. After I finish it, I activate a skill chain and begin spamming sword skills, which the Ents repeatedly run into. When I feel the end-lag of the skill chain begin to take effect, I yell, "Switch!" which makes me leap backwards while Asuna lunges forward and starts doing the same thing. After a while she switches with me again and I leap into the fray, slashing and slicing while I wait for my sword skills to come off of cooldown.
Soon enough, Archangel and several other guild members arrive, weapons at the ready. "Hurry up!" Asuna cries as one of the Ents gets a lucky hit on me. Following her lead, the Knights dive into the army of monsters and form a circle around me and my wife. Using tower shields and halberds, they find off the trees while Asuna gets me to drink a health potion.
"Wow, that hurt," I cough. "Don't let them get a direct hit on you, guys!"
"Yes sir!" they respond, adjusting their grips on their weapons and pushing through the mobs that have encircled us.
"*grunt* I've got more reinforcements on the way, so they should be here in a few minutes," Archangel says as he fends off another attack with his shield. One unlucky player doesn't get his shield up in time and gets thrown backwards into a building. Without missing a beat, I dash forward from my place next to my wife to take his place while Asuna helps him out with health and stamina potions. After several seconds he retakes his place and I head back to stand next to Asuna.
Several hours later most of the Ents are gone, but they have been replaced by other mobs from around the floor in a never ending stream. Our group of players, now numbering close to two hundred, pushed the attacking force out of the town and built barricades to keep them out. "This reminds me of the floor twenty-six boss," Archangel says as he leans over the battlements to watch the opposing force flood towards the town. "I wasn't there, but I was told that this lasted for almost a whole day before the boss appeared. The players were so tired they couldn't fight and it killed half of them before they could try to retaliate."
"I remember that. I wasn't there either—I was hunting scorpions for a rare drop on floor twenty—but Asuna told me about it. She said over fifty players died that day," Kirito replies. "Asuna!"
"What?!" she yells back. I gesture frantically for her to come over. She jogs over to them, confused, and places a hand on her hip in her 'serious' pose. For a split second, I am captivated.
Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I explain our theory to Asuna. "You remember the floor twenty-six boss fight, right?" I ask. Her eyes widen and she nods.
"Yeah. The floor had just opened, and a party was charting the floor when they were attacked by an army of dark elves. They ran back to the town, but the mobs followed them and started attacking the town. Near the end of the day the boss appeared… oh no," she gasps, hands flying up to cover her mouth. "Everyone! Get ready for the boss to appear!"
"What?!" someone asks. Asuna draws her rapier.
"You heard me," she snaps. "This is just like floor twenty-six! The boss could appear at any—"
A ground shaking roar splits the air, causing many players to drop their weapons to cover their ears. All at once, the mobs attacking Arget flee. A dragon made entirely of metal scales flies over the city as a name—Alduin, which reminds me of an old game I used to play—and six health bars appear next to its head. It descends and hovers over the players. Without hesitation, I leap onto it and start stabbing it in the neck, but the scales prevent me from doing any major damage.
"His scales are made of metal! Archers, switch to fire arrows so you can melt his armor!" I yell as I leap off of the boss's neck. I activate a sword skill that I picked up a while back while I was still playing solo that covers my swords in a coat of flame. Asuna does something similar, except hers is electric.
When the boss lands, Asuna and I leap at the boss, stabbing and slashing at it. Our weapon buffs cause major damage, and the armor starts to melt off of the boss. Enraged, Alduin swipes at her, but Asuna nimbly twists in the air and avoids both strikes.
"Archers!" she yells as she falls back to the ground. I leap off of the boss as well and take a few steps back as all thirty archers unleash a hail of fire arrows. The arrows barely penetrate the armor, but they do take out a bit of health. The dragon roars again and takes off, spraying the town with frost breath, giving everyone the chilled debuff.
After several minutes of the dragon flying around, I come up with an idea. "Does anyone have lava arrows?" I ask. Several archers, about ten, nod. "Use those to shoot his wings! Everyone who has a shield that's resistant to ice, try to shield the archers. We might be able to make him land!"
The archers nod and retreat into their menus for a few seconds. When they're done, they begin to fire at the dragon soaring above them.
Several minutes later, the dragon crashes into the ground, wings mostly burned away. It stands up and roars, this time spraying fire everywhere. Its attack pattern is changing!" I yell. Next to its health bars a flame and a snowflake appear. "Surround it! If you have a shield, stay in front of it and keep it aggro'd on you!"
Once everyone manages to get into position, the battle continues. The tanks in front had swapped their halberds for spears and kept aggro by poking the boss whenever it tried to turn away. Asuna and I go to town on the dragon's sides with the other players that didn't use shields, and little by little the dragon slows and eventually collapses, unable to move any more. When it finally dies, cheers go up, and many people collapse onto the ground, exhausted from the intense battle. I fall to the ground as well, but Asuna remains standing, a beacon of strength and kindness for any who see her.
Asuna doesn't notice, but I watch her intently from my place on the ground. To me, she couldn't be more beautiful. The sun was at just the right angle to light her hair up and my heart nearly stops. She looks down at him and then lays down with him, smiling happily.
"I love you, Asuna," I murmur. She blushes scarlet and gives him a sideways hug.
"I love you more," she replies. I laugh.
"Impossible," I scoff. I'm interrupted when a player from the Holy Dragon Alliance approaches. Reluctantly I sit up and address the kid.
"U-uh, sir?" the young boy—no older than fourteen, I notice—stammers. "I got the last attacking bonus, and it was a sword, but it's leagues higher level than I can use, so, I uh… I wanted to give it to you." He holds the sword out for me to take it. I stand up and notice the strain on the younger boy's face. I gratefully take the sword, named Omega Ruby, and give it a few test swings.
"It's heavy" I say approvingly. "Hey, I know it isn't much compared to the sword you just gave me, but you can have my old sword." I open up a trade menu, selecting the Elucidator, my trusty sword, and he selects the sword I'm currently holding. We both accept, and I get a notification that Omega Ruby is now mine. "Thanks again, uh…?"
"Just call me Jack," the boy says. I nod and shake his hand.
"We, if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to send me a message."
Jack smiles and walks away, and I equip my new sword, grinning at Asuna. "Looks like we found the mate to your sword that Kayaba was talking about, Asuna," I say, showing the straight sword to her. The blade is a dark crimson and joined to it is an inky black hilt. It's almost the exact opposite of Asuna's blue and white sword, but they feel strangely similar.
"I think that we should ask Lisbeth to check our swords out. I get a funny feeling about our swords."
"Sure! It's been a while since I've talked to Liz anyways," she replies standing up and opening her menu to send a message to Lisbeth. After a second we both lay back down she curls up against my side exhaustedly. She doesn't get to relax for long though, because Klein walks up and squats next to us.
"Hey, uh, we need to activate the next floor, and it's tradition for all the guild leaders to activate it together," he says, rubbing the back of his neck apologetically. Asuna groans and reluctantly stands back up. Even though I'm comfortable here, I decide to get up and follow them up to the teleporter, which is glowing, I assume because we have to interact with it in order to open up the next floor. Asuna taps a panel to the left of the gate and it flashes as a notice pops up in front of me saying that the next floor has been unlocked. Asuna grabs my hand and we teleport there.
I'm surprised when I see dragons flying everywhere. Not even five seconds later, one of the dragons, a small blue one, decides that my shoulder is a good place to roost. I hear a giggle from behind me, and I turn to see Silica.
"What are you doing here, Silica?" I ask. She shrugs.
"I was in Arget when the Ents started attacking, so I hid until the battle was over," she explains. I nod. "That dragon seems to like you. You should see if you can tame her. Here, let me show you how."
So Silica walks up, grabs my hand and brings it up to the dragon, palm up. At first the dragon ignores it, but then turns towards it and nuzzles my palm. It coos at me, and a notification pops up that has 'Yes or No' buttons. It reads:
Do you want to bond with this dragon? I look at Silica and Asuna, and after getting a reassuring smile from both of them, I tap the yes button. All at once I am overwhelmed by a series of memories that seemingly come from the dragon. Then, just as soon as it starts I's over, and I collapse to the ground, dazed and more than a little confused.
"What just happened?" I ask aloud. Silica giggles.
"Just wait," she says.
'Hello,' a voice says in my head. I spin around, looking for the source and feeling the little dragon dig his claws into my shoulder to stay balanced. Silica giggles again. 'Me. The dragon on your shoulder. I'm talking to you. My name is Faolin.'
"Hello, Faolin," I say, confusing my wife, who I see out of the corner of my eye. Silica smiles happily, and her eyes flicker up to Pina, her dragon.
"Who?" Asuna asks. This time Silica erupts into full out laughter, much to Asuna's dismay.
"Faolin is the dragon on my shoulder," I say. "Can't you hear her?"
"Only you can hear her Kirito, unless she lets others hear her," Silica explains.
"That's… upsetting. How am I supposed to know if they're conspiring against me?" We all laugh.
'I would never do that, Asuna,' Faolin pipes up, projecting her thoughts to the others. Asuna jumps in surprise. 'I know how much Kirito loves you, I wouldn't do anything that hurt you, unless it was to protect Kirito.'
"Hmm… I wonder how this works. Is their A.I like Yui's?" I whisper to myself, my voice too quiet for Asuna and Silica to hear.
'I remember Yui. Am I like her? An… A.I?" Faolin asks me. I nod absentmindedly. 'This is so confusing. Am I even real, if this is just a game?' I don't answer right away. Fortunately, Silica does.
"Of course you're real! You're just as real as anyone!" she tells the dragoness forcefully. From her place on my shoulder, Faolin nods thoughtfully.
'I'm tired,' she says a few minutes later. 'Is it okay if I sleep on your shoulder, Kirito?'
"Why don't you curl up in my arm? It's probably more comfortable for sleeping than my shoulder," I offer. She crawls off my shoulder and rests on my forearm, laying down and falling asleep immediately. Asuna claims my other arm as we go back through the teleport gate to Grandzam so we can go to sleep too.
'Do you want to fly tomorrow?' Faolin asks, waking up for a second.
'Fly? How?' I ask in return. Faolin chuckles.
'I can transform into a bigger dragon. We would need to get a saddle though,' the dragon answers.
"Hell yeah I would!" I yell, startling Asuna.
"What's going on?" she asks. I smile widely.
"Faolin offered to take me flying!" I say excitedly. I see that she looks confused, so I elaborate. "She can transform into a bigger dragon!"
'She can come too, if she wants,' Faolin says. Kirito relays the statement to her, and the Flash's face lights up. She nods excitedly and the three of us walk to Asuna's apartment, wanting it to be tomorrow, but at the same time wanting—and needing—to sleep.
When we get back, Faolin finds the nearest high place and curls up before falling back asleep. Asuna and I stumble to the bed exhausted and we don't even bother to put on our night clothes; instead we take off all our gear and crawl into the bed. As has become the norm, I lay on my back and Asuna curls up next to me with her head resting on my chest. I fall asleep stroking Asuna's hair, completely drained, but excited for tomorrow.
A/N: Well, I hope you like Faolin, because she's going to be a major character for the rest of the story. I'm not quite sure how the whole mental bond thing is going to work outside of SAO, but I'll probably figure it out at some point. I do take suggestions though, so if you have an idea feel free to let me know. Anyways, I had fun writing this chapter, especially the beginning with the army and whatnot. I hope you guys like this, and if you did I would appreciate a review. It always makes my day when someone reviews.
P.S I hope you guys like the shameless self-insert. Don't worry if you don't; he's more of a side character.