N/A: Thank you to the few people who have been reading and commenting
I do hope you like this chapter
Sachi sighed softly. She blinked her eyes as she looked at the children. There was only a handful of young children, barely enough to make up an orphanage. How could this even be an orphanage in the first time?
Sasha whimpered, she bowed her head while clenching her eyes shut, "We had many children. AI's and young players. I couldn't leave them to defend for themselves, and the young players were traumatized so badly, that I just felt like it was my reasonability to take care of them."
"Why not on the first floor? It would have been safer," Kirito commented thoughtfully.
"We were," Sasha said quietly, "We were on the first floor, for some time, but the army…they…"
Sachi's eyes widened, "They forced you out?"
Sasha shuddered, "Yes. They wanted to turn it into their base, and felt that we, my orphanage, doesn't contribute anything…so they forced us to leave. It was much more difficult to find a place to settle my children, but that's when I found the AI orphanage on the 30th floor. They welcomed us in."
"Are these the only children left?" Kirito asked.
Sasha mutely nodded. She looked down with shame appearing upon her face, she clearly blamed herself for her children to be disappearing.
"Why were the army bothering you on the 30th floor?" Sachi asked softly, placing a hand onto the other female's shoulder, "I…they have no authorial over this level."
Sasha inhaled sharply, "I-It's my fault that t-they're bothering me and my children…"
"You asked for their help," Kirito realized, "When the children began to disappear, you went to them for help?"
"Yes," Sasha admitted quietly, "My children…they haven't died…they're just gone. I needed to find them, all I have left are…"
Sachi looked back at the children. Her eyes softened upon seeing the small group. The small group of children looked so happy. All of them was running back and forth, laughing and giggling. Even little Yui was running about with the other young girl, her long dark hair fluttering along behind her as she went.
"I went to the army b-because I wasn't sure where else to go," Sasha explained quietly, "But they wanted more money from me."
"It's alright," Kirito said, drawing Sachi's attention again, "Sachi and I, we're from the Knights of the Blood Oath, and you have us until we uncover this mystery."
"And return the children to you," Sachi added sweetly.
Sasha stared at the two. Her eyes so wide that they flared red, "R-Really?" she let out shakily, tears beginning to build at the corner of her eyes.
Sachi smiled kindly. She stepped up to Sasha and gently took her hands, "Sasha-san, we will not rest until we've found the children and returned them safely. You have all our time and resources, we're here to investigate their disappears as well as somebody of our own."
"I don't h-have any money to pay you with," Sasha said.
Kirito shook his head, "Think of it as free of charge. We just want to help, in any way we can."
Sasha hiccupped. She let out a broken sob and covered her face, her shoulders hunching up. Sachi gently wrapped her arms around Sasha's shoulders, and gave her a gentle hug, rubbing her back as the woman cried.
Had nobody seriously tried to help the woman?
"Sasha-Sensei?" a small voice said, a tiny hand tugging on Sasha's long black dress.
"Oh, Mina-chan," Sasha hiccupped, wiping her tears away. She smiles down at the little girl fondly.
Mina tilted her head, a thoughtful expression on her face, "Sasha-Sensei, are you alright? Why are you crying?..." she asked, her voice becoming even more quiet with each word, "Is it because Yu-can disappeared yesterday? Like the others?"
Sasha's eyes widened, she quickly crouched down, "I…well…"
"We know Sasha-Sensei," Mina admitted, "We know our friends, our families are going missing everyday…that's why the army was here, isn't it? To find them?"
"Yes," Sasha finally said.
It seems they're not as unaware as originally thought.
"I'm scared," Mina said, biting her bottom lip harshly, "I'm scared. Yu-chan was with me and Kain-kun yesterday, a-and she was there…"
Sasha presses her lips tightly together. She wraps her arms around Mina, pulling her into a tight hug.
"W-What if I disappear next Sasha-Sensei?" Mina mumbled, her own eyes becoming teary, "I don't want to leave. I want to stay, why can't I stay?"
"Mina-chan," Sachi said, "We're here to help. We won't let you, or anybody else disappear."
Mina peered up at Sachi, sniffling, "How? How could you stop me from being t-taken?" she whimpered, "Yu-chan was disappeared during the day yesterday, but Uke-kun disappeared during the night last week! You can't be with us all the time!"
Sachi opened but then shut her mouth. Her hands twisted at her sides.
"We're not going anywhere, Mina-chan," Kirito finally said, leaning down to her level. He gently pets the girl on the head, "Sachi and I, we will stay with you and the others. We will be with you everyday and night, until we have made sure you and your friends won't disappear. Until we have found the others."
"You really believe you c-can find the others?" Mina questioned wetly.
Kirito nodded in determination, "I'm sure of it. Nobody can just disappear, they always leave some sort of trail behind. I'll find the trail, I promise."
Mina hiccupped loudly. She pulled away from Sasha, and rubbed her face with her arms. Her face flushed a pinkish colour, while her fingers twitched against the fabric of her clothes. Her nose was twitching much like that of a cat.
"So don't worry Mina-chan," Kirito said, "I won't let anything happen to you, and I will definitely find both Yu-chan, and Uke-kun, I will bring them and everyone back."
"Okay," Mina said, holding her hand out, "Then if you really mean that, pinkie promise."
Kirito blinked his dark eyes. He smiled, and then wrapped his pinkie around Mina's, nodding his head. The action made Mina smile so widely, and brightly.
"There, if you break it, I'll end you," she said.
Kirito let out a chuckle, and pets her on the head, "I don't intend to break it."
"M-Mina," Sasha gasped.
Sachi chuckled. She shook her head, before turning her own head, when she felt a small hand grab at her sweater. The hand tugged on her sweater, to gain her attention. She turned her head, to find familiar dark eyes gazing up at her.
"Mama," Haru let out, a pout appearing across his lips, "I'm hungry."
Sachi swore, Haru's hair and eyes were much lighter then that. Now, it seemed like both his eyes and hair had become darker, his eyes almost becoming black. Almost, maybe it was something to do with the sun and being out in the sun for a long period of time.
She shook her head, pushing the thoughts away. Sachi then peered around the small area with the few children moving back and forth, she then took Haru's hand.
"It's a good thing I made a big lunch, then," Sachi giggled.
Haru's face brightened up. His eyes becoming much wider, and brighter. It was quite familiar, as if she had seen that keen of food before, but she couldn't place it.
"Yay!" Haru let out. He leaped forward and wrapping his small pudgy arms around Sachi's waist.
Sachi runs her hand through Haru's hair, "Would you like the join us, Sasha-chan?"
"O-Oh my, I can't possibly intrude," Sasha gasped.
Sachi smiled sweetly, "It's perfectly alright. I have quite a few dishes. Why don't we have a picnic?" she suggested.
At the mention of the a picnic, all the children let out squeals of excitement. Throwing their arms up and bouncing on their feet. Sachi smiled at them all, before turning to look at Kirito, and smiling at him.
"Well…if you're happy with us joining, then we'd be more then happy to, um, join," Sasha said after a moment of all the children staring at her. Immediately, the children broke into cheers with wide smiles.
Sachi let out a giggle. She then proceed to open her inventory, going through the list and taking note of the different containers. She let out a soft breath of relief, she had enough to feed the group.
"Sachi, will this help?" Kirito smiled warmly, taking out a white and red checked blanket of his inventory.
Sachi took the blanket. It was rather heavy between her fingers, and looked perfect to hold everyone on it. She smiled brightly, "This is perfect. Thank you Kazuto."
Kirito smiled. He nodded his head, and then caught the eager, excited eyes of Haru. The little boy was staring up at Sachi with a small pout.
"Want to help set up the blanket?" he asked, playfully flicking the child on the forehead.
Haru giggled himself, "Yeah!" he squealed loudly. He wrapped his arms around Kirito's arm, "I do Papa!"
Kirito flushed a little, but smiled kindly down at the little boy, "What about you Yui?"
Yui turned away from the bunch of flowers which had caught her attention. Her eyes caught the sunlight, and glowed. She grinned widely, and ran up to him, "Me too Papa!"
Sachi hummed. Watching as eventually all the children moved towards Kirito, it was pretty amusing to watch. To watch Kirito handle a group of 5 children, setting up the blanket and finding different stones to weight it down. Kirito also didn't seem like he had no problems answering any of the children's questions.
"They're all so precious to me," Sasha said quietly, stepping up to Sachi's side. She twisted her arms in front of herself.
Sachi hummed, "All children are."
"To think they're all trapped in his death game, and there is nothing I can do," Sasha mumbled quietly.
Sachi blinked. She looked to Sasha, and gently squeezes her hands, "We're all doing what we can. I promise, I'll bring back your children. I'll find out what and who are taking them."
"Thank you," Sasha sniffed, "What was Akihiko Kayaba thinking."
Sachi's eyes softened, "I'm sure he didn't think about the fact young children would log on…he probably wasn't thinking of that danger…"
"He should have," Sasha snapped, "He should have expected young innocent lives would have been just excited as everyone else…"
It was quiet between the two females. Sachi gently hugged Sasha once more. She understood. There was nothing else she could say. Nothing else she could promise her. They would find the children, bring them back safety, and leave the game.
Sachi knew that sooner or later, they will defeat this game. They just needed time.
"He's really sweet with the children," Sasha finally said.
Sachi blinked, breaking out of thought. She spun her head around, and felt her heart skip a beat upon seeing Kirito with the children.
"Oh? Yes, Kazuto's always kind and sweet. Our friend, Silica-chan is rather young too, and he's always there to help her if she needs it," Sachi said.
Sasha smiled. She closed her eyes briefly, "I see. He'll make a great husband, and father someday."
Opening her mouth, but then shutting it. Sachi blinked owlishly. She stared at Kirito thoughtfully, watching as he chuckled, laughed and smiled at the excited children. It would seem they've only just found out that Kirito was the Black Swordsmen. They were reacting in the same way they had reacted upon finding out Sachi was the White Arrow.
"A good husband?" Sachi repeated quietly.
Sasha's lips pulled into a wider grin, "Yes. He cares a lot for the children. Whoever becomes his wife, will be a very lucky woman. I'm almost jealous."
Sachi was quiet. She pressed her lips tightly together, her eyes unmoving as they observed Kirito. It hadn't really crossed her mind before. Kirito had become her best friend, her dearest friend and it felt surreal to know that one day, he'll grow older and marry some woman. Would they still be friends?
When they leave Sword Art Online, would they keep contact and still be friends?
Sachi hadn't thought about that. She hadn't thought about what it would be like on the outside world, without Kirito, and the others. Without her dear friends that had helped her to become who she was.
Who had prevented her from giving up and dying.
Swallowing thickly, Sachi looked away with a meek smile appearing on her lips, "I suppose so. Kazuto is one of the kindest people I know. Whoever he chooses to make his wife, will be lucky to have him," she said.
Sasha looked at Sachi, "…" it looked like she was about to say something, but whatever it was died in her throat.
"Mama!" Yui yelled, waving over to Sachi.
Sachi waved in return. The smile on her face grow from meek into a beautiful one upon seeing Haru sitting comfortably in Kirito's lap. She then quickly made her way over to them, lightly tugging on Sasha's hand to get the woman to follow.
"Mama! Are you hungry too?" Yui smiled cutely.
Sachi sat down next to her. She smiled at Yui, and gently ran her hand through her long black hair, "Yes. I'm very hungry."
Yui laughed, "Papa are you hungry too? I want the same of Papa!"
"Are you sure? After your fainting spell, I don't want you to push yourself," Kirito said, "You too Haru. Both you and Yui, have only just woken up."
Haru hummed. He leant his head back against Kirito's chest, and peered up at him, "But I'm hungry!"
Kirito chuckled. He tingled Haru's sides, making the little boy giggle even more, "Me too. I'm hungry too."
"Mama," Yui groaned, leaning against Sachi's side, "I'm dying from hunger!"
Sachi giggled, "I'm sure you can wait a little longer."
Yui pouted. She grumbled, but cuddled further to Sachi's side, her long hair dancing down her body like a waterfall and pooling around her hips across the blanket.
"I'm assuming you all don't like spicy food," Sachi said, smiling down at the children who stared back with wide eyes.
Upon getting a few nods, Sachi opened her menu. She took out three containers, and held them out to the children.
"Take these, they're Oyakodon," she said.
One of the smallest boys, Gin, gasped loudly, "O-Oyakodon? Really?" he asked, peeling the lid off and peeking inside.
"It's really Oyakodon," Kain gapped, "I thought we couldn't get those in here?"
Sasha chuckled, "I believe we have to thank Sachi-san. It would seem she was able to create the dish in SAO," she said.
"Thank you," Mina said, smiling up at Sachi, "T-Thank you Sachi-chan."
Feeling her cheeks heat up, Sachi smiled and bowed her head a little, "It's no problem. I hope you enjoy it. I know it is one of Kazuto's favourites."
"Oyakodon," Kirito mumbled quietly with a pout.
"Sorry Kazuto," Sachi giggled, "I don't have anymore containers. I only have one left, and that's for Haru-chan."
Haru giggled widely. The smile on his face adorable, and his eyes sparkled as he gleefully took the smaller container.
"Hey Haru," Kirito said, looking down at the little boy, "You'll share some of that with Papa, right?"
Haru hummed loudly, "Um! Nope!" he squealed out once again when Kirito tingled him.
Sachi watched the pair fondly. She then shook her head and took out a container that had a red liquid within. She carefully held it out to Kirito with a sweet smile appearing on her lips.
"But I made you Tantanmen. It's extra spicy," she said.
Immediately Kirito's eyes widened, "Whoa! Tantanmen? Seriously?" he gapped, taking the container, "It really has the noodles."
Yui pouted, "Papa? What is Tanmen?"
"Tantanmen," Kirito corrected, poking her on the nose, "It's a spicy meal. Originally a Sichuanese dish but welcomed in by Japan. Basically it's spicy sauce, minced fried beef, chilli peppers, chilli oil, Sichuan pepper, and noodles. It is a really delicious flavourful and punchy dish."
Yui's eyes widened, "I wanna try!"
Kirito hummed, "Are you sure?"
"I can handle it Papa!" Yui squealed, "I like spicy food too!"
Kirito smirked. He put a hand to his chin and clicked his tongue, "Fair play," he winked, bringing a little bit to Yui's mouth.
Yui gleefully took it with a loud 'yum'. Her eyes sparkled, and she grinned, "It's so good!"
"You really do take after your Papa," Mina giggled.
Yui hummed, "Spicy food is good."
Sachi hummed thoughtfully. She put a finger to her chin, before going through her menu, and choosing a container, "Try this one Yui-chan. It's pretty spicy, I made it for Papa but I'm sure he wouldn't mind you having it."
Yui's eyes widened further. She took the container carefully, and peered inside, "What is it?"
"Yakitori with rice," Sachi smiled.
"Yakori?" Yui mumbled cutely.
Kirito let out a soft chuckle, "Yakitori. They're grilled meat on skewers," he explained.
Yui tilted her head thoughtfully. She looked down at the bright red meat on the stick, she had a total of three of them with a bed of rice underneath. It smelled great, and really did make her stomach growl with want. However, it was the first time she had seen the food and so, she took a slow but careful bite of the skewer.
"Mama!" she let out, a bright grin appearing across her face, "It's so good!"
Sachi giggled at the little girl, "I'm pleased to hear that. I wasn't sure how much of spice you can handle, unlike Kazuto who seems to have a plate of steel."
Kirito's face flushed. He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head from the giggling children.
Haru swallowed a large mouthful of his meal. He stared down at Yui's container with a thoughtful expression upon his round face. He blinked slowly before pouting.
"Yui-Oniisan! I wanna try some!" he finally let out cutely.
Yui frowned, "No. You can't handle it!" she huffed, sticking her nose up.
"I can too!" Haru whined.
Yui sent him a look. She clearly didn't believe he could handle spice like herself, it was written all over her cherry-shaped face. She pushed a loose dark hair out of her face, and snorted loudly.
"You'll cry," she warned.
Haru puffed his cheeks out, "No I won't!"
Sachi leant forward, she gently brushed Haru's cheek, "Are you sure you want to try it? It's very spicy," she said. She had only ever tried giving Haru simple food, food that hardly had any spicy-factors.
He was very unlike Yui. When Sachi had tried to give her something sweet, she had lost interest and became much more interested in Kirito's food. Haru wasn't like that. He was only interested in Yui's food, maybe because she was his older sister.
"I want too!" Haru pouted.
Yui sighed deeply. She looked down at the meat skewer, almost depressingly before she finally held it towards Haru. Yui eyed him, watching as he took a big bite of the meat. He ripped it from the stick with his mouth, and leant back against Kirito, chewing with narrowed eyes.
Every so slowly, Haru chewed less until he swallowed. His face became blank, and his shoulders slowly hunched up. His round eyes glassed over, and tears began to swell at the corner of his eyes. His small body suddenly jerked forward, and he curled his legs and arms up, letting out a cry.
"Haru?" Kirito said worriedly.
Haru's face became pinker and pinker. He then turned towards Kirito, and hide his face into the black sweater Kirito wore.
"It burns!" he finally let out with a sob, tears beginning to run down his round cheeks.
"I told you!" Yui said, hands on her hips, "You can't handle spicy food!"
Sachi blinked. She leant forward worriedly, "Haru-chan, are you alright?"
Haru whined deeply, "It hurts!"
Kirito let out a soft chuckle. He gently petted the little boy on the head, hugging him and rubbing his back.
"There, there," Kirito said.
The dark haired swordsmen then opened up his own menu. He served through his way to many items, searching for a certain thing. It would always amaze Sachi that the male had so many things packed in. It took Kirito a few seconds before he found what he was looking for, and took out a wooden bottle.
"Here, drink this Haru," he said, holding the open bottle to Haru's lips, "It'll make the spiciness go away."
Haru sniffled. His reddish face turning towards the bottle. Haru opened his mouth and allowed Kirito dip the liquid into his mouth. He blinked slowly before making a gasp, and drinking more of the drink with a happy squeal.
Kirito laughed, "Hey. Don't drink to fast, you'll give yourself hiccups."
Sachi smiled. She closed her eyes briefly, Sasha was right. Kirito would make a great father someday.
"What is it?" Sasha finally asked after a few seconds.
Haru pulled away from the now empty bottle. He whipped his mouth, and smiled up at Kirito, to witch Kirito returned.
"Milk. Well, flavoured milk. I maxed out the angry cow quest down on the 10th level, and was rewarded with flavoured milk," Kirito explained, "I was saving it, but Haru needed it."
Haru let out a soft giggle. He then spooned some of the Oyakodon, and then held it up Kirito, as if to feed him.
"Open up Papa!" he said brightly.
Kirito opened his mouth. He allowed Haru to feed him before the broke into laughter.
Yui watched the two thoughtfully, shoving more of the meat into her mouth. The red sauce of the meat splashing around her face as she ate. Sachi then cleaned the sauce from Yui's face with a napkin.
"Oh, Sasha-san?" Sachi said, turning to her new friend, "Have you by any chance, seen a Knight of the Blood Oath around here?"
While they had promised to help find the missing children, the two were still on a mission. On a mission to find the missing member. Thought, something inside Sachi didn't really want to find the fighter, well, not so soon. She wanted to spend more time with the young siblings.
"Other then Kazuto and I, I mean," Sachi added.
Sasha pouted thoughtfully, "A member of the Night of the Blood Oath," she mumbled to herself.
"I remember," Mina suddenly said, "I remember seeing somebody in a white and red armour. Is that what you mean, Sachi-chan?"
"With a red cross!" Kain added, nodding his head in agreement, "It was a man. Like Kazuto-san."
Both Kirito and Sachi shared a look. They had finally found a lead, a lead that could lead them to the missing Night of the Blood Oath.
"Yes," Sachi smiled, "That's exactly right."
Sasha gasped in realization, "Yes. I recall now. He came to our orphanage a while ago, he was asking me about the children. At the time, not many of my children had gone missing. I thought they had got lost and would eventually return to the orphanage. The AI children often does that, they help with quests in the city. If a visitor comes and activates their quests, they wouldn't return for a few days…so I thought nothing of it at first…" she winced, looking down .
"It's not your fault, Sasha-san," Sachi said, putting a comfortingly hand onto Sasha's shoulder, "I understand. It would have seemed normal."
Kirito frowned deeply, he put a hand to chin, "Sasha-san, you said quests? What type of quests?"
"Oh, nothing dangerous," Sasha said quickly, "Like a tour of the city quest, or simple food supplies quests. Things where a player would be rewarded with food."
"Rewarded with eggs," Haru suddenly hummed.
Kirito blinked in surprise, "Eggs?" he asked, looking down at the child sitting on his lap.
Haru nodded his head, "Yup! Eggs, ham, bread!"
"Haru-chan? How do you know that?" Sachi asked.
Haru pouted. He opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, but something faded in his eyes. They darkened a little before he pouted deeply. He huddled further back into Kirito and shrugged.
"I just do, Mama," he mumbled.
Kirito pats Haru on the head again, "It's alright Haru."
"….Haru-chan's right, thought," Sasha said after a moment of silence, "Yes. The AI children did do those sort of quests. It's how we always had a little subscene to live off on. Eventually, all our AI children stopped returning home…and then my player children began to disappear too…"
Kain winced, "My best friend was an AI. We would fulfil simple quests, to get milk and other things for the orphanage. We all did it with the AI's, we would sometimes pair up if no visitor came to them. That man, the man of the Night of Blood Oath said he would bring back Ushio-chan after she didn't return home…" he said softly, "I didn't realize he disappeared too…"
"Ushio-chan isn't gone," Yui said, her voice cutting through the air, "She's still okay. Her data is still in the air."
"Data?" Kain repeated confusingly.
Yui nodded, her long dark hair bouncing, "I can see it. She's still there."
Confusion appeared across Sachi's face, "Yui-chan. What do you mean, you can see it?"
Yui frowned. She tapped a finger to her chin, "I dunno."
"Do you know where the member of the Nights of the Blood Oath, went?" Kirito asked, hoping to take the attention of Yui.
Sasha blinked. She turned her eyes from Yui to Kirito, "Um. I think he went to the dock village, outside the wall. If I recall correctly, he wanted to follow some old rumours about seeing a few suspicious people around the dock village."
"Suspicious people?" Sachi repeated. That sounded like something that should have been disclosed already.
Sasha sighed, "Well, it was just an old rumour. We thought it might have just been one of the guilds, or just misinformation. Nothing happened, and the rumours eventually died out," she explained meekly.
"We should go investigate the dock village, then," Kirito said.
Sachi winced, "What if it's a trap? If Fuko-san followed the same rumours, and then disappeared, he could have walked into a trap."
She also didn't want to leave Yui and Haru. They couldn't bring them to the village either. It was much to dangerous, considering children was the ones being targeted.
"True. It could be a trap," Kirito said thoughtfully, "It's probably highly lucky actually."
Yui pouted, she leant towards Sachi. She grabbed onto Sachi's arm, "I don't want Mama and Papa to go. I want them to stay with me."
"Oh, Yui-chan," Sachi gasped, and smiled sweetly. Hugging Yui gently.
"I don't want you to disappear like the others," Yui whimpered.
Haru hummed. He was chewing tiredly on a bun, watching everyone with half-lidded eyes. He slowly puffed out his cheeks, and yawned softly.
"Papa," he whined, "I'm tired."
Kirito smiled kindly. He lifted the little boy in his arms, and gently rubbed his back. Haru was sitting on Kirito's hip with his arms moving to lay numbly over Kirito's shoulders.
"We didn't find anything unusual at the dock village," Sachi sighed, running a brush through Yui's long hair. The young child was sitting in front of her with a dopy smile on her face, Yui's eyes half-lidded as Sachi played with her hair.
Kirito hummed, he carefully shifted the already dozing child in his arms, "It was to be expected thought. Everyone was just as tight lipped as the city. I wasn't expecting anything else," he said with a frown, "But we know that Fuko-san was there, for some time."
Sachi sighed to herself. She closed her eyes briefly, and bites at her bottom lip. What were they supposed to do? Finding Fuko was quickly becoming harder and harder, and at the same time, she know had two children to take care off. Like Kirito had said, she doubted they would be allowed to leave the guild for something like that.
Nobody had recognized either of them. It was like Yui and Haru had appeared from thin air. There was nothing. Sasha didn't recall either seeing them around the 30th floor. None of the children did.
"It's alright, Mama," Yui suddenly said.
Sachi blinked. She broke out of thought, she looked down at the sleepy girl looking up at her. Sachi smiles sweetly, and gently pets the little girl on the head.
"You'll see, everything will be fine," Yui added with a soft yawn, rubbing her eyes. She leant into Sachi, snuggling up to Sachi to sleep.
Kirito sat down next to Sachi on the bed. He held Haru carefully, and smiled down at him, watching as he snored away. A small bubble appearing on his tiny, button up nose. He chuckled, and lightly kisses Haru on the head.
"They're cute," he said softly.
Sachi brushed Yui's hair out of her face, "They are. It's…it's horrible. Horrible to think they're lost, and that nobody is looking for them. How could they have survived all this time? If they wasn't with Sasha-san, then where were they?" she whispered.
"It's alright, it doesn't seem like they had a rough time," Kirito said, "They look to be in a good health."
Sachi carefully placed her hand against Yui's forehead, "Earlier…Yui made that sound," she began before wincing. She could remember how high pitched it was, and how it hurt to hear.
"It was like the sound a computer hard drives makes when it's overheated and beginning to fry," Kirito said thoughtfully.
"Fry?" Sachi repeated meekly.
Kirito sheepishly rubbed the back of his head, "Um. Well, back in the real world, I was basically what you would call a loner. I didn't really talk to anyone, or even…well, let's just say I would lock myself away. Because of this, I throw myself into computers. I was taught myself how to build computers, code and…hack…"
"Hack? You hacked computers?" Sachi asked, trying to keep up.
Once upon a time, she was apart of a computer club. Before her parents decided going to public school was making her condition worse, and pulled her out. That was where she met…well, she got to work with computers but nothing like Kirito. Build computers? Hack, code? Nothing like that.
"Nothing serious!" Kirito yelped, waving his hands.
Sachi let out a soft laugh, "Alright. It's good to know you wasn't some highly criminal hacker."
"Well, I only hacked into the government once, and they were pretty cool about it," Kirito smirked, with a shrug.
"Sure they were," Sachi smiled, shaking her head a little.
Kirito looked down at Haru once more, "Sachi, is it just me, or has Haru and Yui's hair got darker?" he wondered, "I don't remember it being this dark. I swear it was more light raven, like your hair?"
Sachi blinked in surprise. She looked down at Yui and then over to Haru, "Now that you mention it. Their hair is a little darker, not quite black but a mix of black and blue? Something like that. Maybe it was from being under the sun for a long time?"
"Maybe," Kirito mumbled, running his fingers through Haru's hair thoughtfully.
"It was nice of Sasha-san to let us stay here," Sachi said, looking around the room. It was a nice room, and was given to them from Sasha.
The orphanage shouldn't have been difficult to find. It wasn't very standout, but honestly, Sachi should have been able to spot it. The building was wedged between two others, and looked rather small compared to the inside. Sachi didn't understand how she or Kirito had blindly walked past it or how people in the city had ignored it, claiming it didn't exist.
Other then Sachi feeling strange when she entered, it seemed to be completely normal. She didn't understand why it was so difficult to find it.
"I think she felt better having two very high levelled people staying with her," Kirito said honestly, "They're all a much smaller level then us."
The room had many beds inside it. It looked to have been used for the other children that must have disappeared. It was eerie to be inside it. To be in a place that once belonged to somebody else. The stuffed teddy bear sitting on the bed across from them made Sachi's eyes tear up. That bear must have been hugged for comfort way more then once.
"We'll find them," Kirito said, "We will bring all the children back."
Sachi sniffed. She wiped her eyes and forced a watery smile, "Yeah. I hope so."
Later that night, the room was incredibly dark. Shadow moved along the walls like spiders, their long legs spreading across the wooden panels. The moon of the world shined a blue colour, which flittered through the small wooden blinders. Kirito and Sachi had a bed each, with Yui and Haru in the bed between them. Both being small enough to share a bed.
It was quiet. So very silent. Not a sound in the air.
Sachi shifted in the blankets. She sighed as her eyes slid open tiredly. Slowly, she slid up and rubbed her eyes. Her body ached from laying in the same position for such a long time, she had been trying to fall asleep for a long time now but was unable to do so. Peering across to Kirito, Sachi frowned weakly. How could he still fall asleep so easily? In such a room?
She couldn't get comfortable enough in this room. Not when knowing what this room once held.
The young archery welder opened her inventory. She took out one of her small bottles of water, and took a sip. Her twitch twitched, and she sighed deeply once more, pushing her hair out of her face.
Immediately, Sachi turned her head towards the door. She stared for a good few seconds, hearing small squeaking running along the wooden panels of the floor. Somebody was outside the door. Her heart skipped a beat, and Sachi listened as somebody moved down the corridor. The person did not pause, just kept going which encouraged her to climb out of the blankets.
Sachi moved towards the wooden door. She slid it open and peeked out into the dark corridor.
"Mina-chan?" she mumbled quietly, her eyebrows raising in confusion.
Mina was standing at the top of the stair case. It was too dark to really see her face clearly, but Sachi could tell she was in a daze.
A small creak came from behind her. Sachi snapped her head around, and jumped. Her eyes widened, she gasped and took a small step forward.
"Haru-chan? Are you alright?" she asked, "Did you have nightmare?"
The tiny boy stood near her. His face was blanket, and his eyes had a strange glass-like look to them. Sachi stared at him, and when she tried to touch him, electric fizzed through the air and bit at her fingertips. It made her yelp, and pull her hand back.
"Haru?" she let out worriedly.
The little boy had such a blank expression on his face, that it made Sachi want to pull him into a hug and never let go. Haru stood still in front of Sachi, and once Sachi edged to the side, he began to walk forward once more. Sachi stared after him, watching as he entered the corridor and began to make his way towards the staircase.
"Haru?" Sachi repeated.
She moved without thinking. Sachi quickly rushed after him, the feeling of anxiousness filling her. Just what was happening? Where was Haru going? Haru caught up to Mina, and both began to walk together.
It was almost like they was gliding across the ground. Hardly any sound escaping them as they went.
"W-Wait," Sachi let out, stumbling out the orphanage. The cold air of the night sky blasted across her face.
Sachi quickly moved forward. She blocked Haru from continuing walking, and grabbed his shoulders. She ignored the sting of her hands, and held onto him tightly. Sachi stared down into Haru's face. The little boy looked so out of it, in a daze. His eyes that was normally large and wide, were half-lidded with nothing shining in them.
"Haru?" she whimpered, "Haru? Are you alright?"
A hand gently took her shoulder. It made Sachi jump, and she quickly turned her head. She lightly pulled Haru closer to herself as if she was expecting the worse to appear from the shadows.
That wasn't the case.
"I didn't want you to walk off by yourself," Kirito said softly.
"K-Kazuto," Sachi said, "Haru, he's just…I don't know!"
Kirito blinked. He looked down at Haru, and waved his hand in front of the little boy's face. Haru didn't react to the action. Instead he looked unfazed, his eyes unmoving and just staring blankly at nothing in particular.
"It's like he is sleep walking," Kirito said softly.
Sachi swallowed thickly, "S-Sleep walking…"
"My sister used to sleep walk," Kirito stated with a nod of the head, "She didn't look quite like this, but it was similar."
Sachi bites her bottom lip. She gazes at Haru with a heavy heart. Mina had stopped as well, almost like she knew Haru was able to join her on whatever this walk was.
"What should we do?" Sachi asked in a shaky voice, "I…we can't just leave him like this…"
Kirito put a hand to his chin, "We should follow him. That way, we can keep him safe but also, find out where he and Mina are going. Maybe, this is how the children have been going missing."
"A spell?" Sachi wondered.
"Most likely," Kirito said, "Don't worry. I'm sure it'll work out, somehow. Haru will be alright."
It took Sachi a few minutes to fully agree. That seemed like the only way to ensure Haru's safety. She couldn't bare the thought of Haru getting hurt because she had not chosen to follow him. She wouldn't be able to live with herself if she did.
"What about Yui? We can't just leave her behind," Sachi mumbled softly.
"She'll be alright. We can leave her with Sasha-san, and I don't think it'll be for a very long time," Kirito said.
Before Sachi could even utter a reply, the sound of fast feet echoed through the air. The door to the orphanage behind them swung open.
"Papa! Mama!" Yui shrieked loudly.
Kirito jumped. He wasn't expecting the little girl to shoot out the building like a bullet, and rocketed at him.
Yui wrapped her arms around Kirito's arm, and stubbornly glared up at the pair of them, "I'm not staying here! I'm going too!" she snapped, "I'm a big girl! Haru's my little brother! My reasonability!"
Sachi stared at Yui. She wasn't sure if she could feel impressed and relieved upon hearing how much Yui loved her little brother, or if she should feel horrified that Yui was so keen on putting herself in danger.
"Yui, it's very dangerous," Sachi said.
Yui shook her head, "No! I'm coming!"
"Whoa, is this the rebellious phase, that parents fear?" Kirito wondered out loud.
Sachi gave him a look, "She's too young for that."
"You never know," Kirito shrugged.
"I'm going too!" Yui repeated loudly.
Both Kirito and Sachi shared a look. The dark haired swordsmen sighed, and then smiled, he pets Yui on the head. He then turned to Yui fully, and effortlessly lifted the small girl up. Yui sat on his shoulders with a bright smile on her face.
"Like Mama," she said.
"It'll be alright," Kirito chimed sweetly, a kind smile on his lips, "We'll keep her safe."
Sachi tilted her head, before shaking her head, "Alright. Just stay close to us, Yui. No matter what."
Yui wordlessly nodded. Her black hair bouncing.
Breathing in sharply, Sachi returned her attention to Haru. She was unsure of this, but she had to trust herself. Trust Kirito. Haru will be find, they'll intervene before anything dangerous could happen.
Carefully, Sachi released her grip. She stepped back, allowing Haru to be free to move around. Immediately Haru and Mina began to walk once more. They both started down the street, walking away from the city. Nobody else was around, it was completely empty. Not even a single player was up at this hour.
It was like something was luring the two children. Speaking to them in a way that neither Sachi or Kirito could hear.
Eventually, and worriedly, Haru left the grand city of the 30th floor. He was making his way towards the gate of the great wall, and most likely walking towards the dock village outside. The village where they had only been once and it wasn't a great experience either.
The dock village looked just like Sachi remembered. Grey and fish-like. The strong stench of sea-water was in the air. It made Sachi's stomach coil in disgust. She really didn't like sea food, especially the smell of rotting fish was making her feel sick. The village itself just looked slimy over all.
Haru dragged himself further along the pathway. He walked dangerously close to the docks of the village, the heavy water of the sea flushing up the wooden panels. It sprinkled up Haru's legs, and he climbed barefoot over the heavy boulders of the dock edges.
"What if he slips on the seaweed?" Sachi said.
Kirito shook his head, "I'll catch him, but it looks like they're both doing alright. I don't understand, I was so sure there was nothing else beyond the village. Expect, you know, sea-like monsters…" he trailed off with a wince.
"I don't see anything, Papa," Yui said, "No monsters ahead. Just more boulders."
Kirito's lips twisted, "Where is he going?" he mumbled to himself.
Sachi shook her head. She quickly pushed herself forward, and began to climb after Haru. She didn't want him, or Mina, to leave her eye view. Anything could be waiting out there, hiding in the stones and ready to yank them into the sea.
"Are you alright, Yui?" Sachi asked, after helping her onto the boulder.
Yui nodded her head, "I'm alright Mama."
Kirito grunted. His eyes widened, and he let out a soft yelp when his boot slid across the seaweed of the boulder. His body arched backward, and he was barely able to keep himself from falling into the sea. His hands flared out, and he then grabbed onto whatever was the closest.
Sachi let out her own yelp. She found herself being pulled forward, falling back down the boulder. Sea water sprayed all over her body as she landed on her hands and knees. Her nose touching against Kirito's, their eyes staring into one another.
"I-I'm…um, I'm s-sorry," Kirito let out, his face becoming pink.
Sachi nervously blinked. She sheepishly smiled, and eased herself backward. Her hand reaching to rub her nose.
"Mama!" Yui gasped, her face becoming a bright red colour and hands shooting up to cover her eyes, "I'm too young for this!"
Both Sachi and Kirito spun around to look up at the little girl. If it was possible, Kirito's face burned even brighter. He jumped up to his feet, and held his hand down to Sachi with his eyes closed, his other hand picking at his black hair.
"I'm so sorry for…doing that," Kirito said.
Sachi blinked. She allowed herself to be pulled back up, and she dusted her clothes off. A small smile appearing across her lips, "It's alright Kazuto. It didn't hurt."
Kirito put a hand over his face. He mumbled something that Sachi couldn't hear.
"Mama! Papa!" Yui whined loudly, "Haru's gone!"
Immediately the two shot up. Within seconds they were back up onto the boulder, and looking around wildly. Eyes wide with anxiousness, as they tried to spot the little boy or even Mina, but unfortunately they couldn't spot any of them.
Kirito rushed forward. He climbed over boulder after boulder, before suddenly dropping. He disappeared from view. A loud thud and scream followed after.
Both females ran in the direction of Kirito. They skidded to a stop, Sachi almost tumbled in after Kirito if Yui didn't grab her with both arms. There was an opening, hidden from view thanks to the heavy and large builders. There was a spiral of steps leading down, and at the base of it was Kirito.
Kirito was sitting at the bottom of stairs. He was rubbing the back of his head, a pinched expression on his face.
"Kazuto? Are you alright?" Sachi called down.
Yui jumped, and throw her arms out, "Papa! Where does it hurt?"
Kirito groaned loudly, "I'm alright but I feel my pride took quite a beating."
Sachi closed her eyes. She sighed deeply, "Oh Kazuto…"
Yui giggled. She then began to climb down the steps eagerly. The stairs was a little slippery, but overall, both Sachi and Yui was able to climb them without much trouble.
"What is this place?" Sachi wondered, looking around nervously.
Kirito chuckled as Yui helped him up. He pets her on the head before he peered around the new area.
"How is this underneath a sea?" he let out, "How did I miss it."
It was like a large dungeon, but the clinging was glass. They could see the great sea above them. Large pillars, with blue flamed candles stuck to the pillars.
"I would have never imagined a dungeon like this would be here…" Sachi mumbled softly.
Yui hummed loudly. She peered up at the glass, before looking ahead of herself, "I don't see Haru…" she whimpered, a frown appearing on her lips.
"Don't worry Yui," Sachi said, taking the little girl's hand, "I'm sure he is ahead of us."
Kirito nodded, "If we keep on going in this direction, I'm sure we'll bump into him."
"I'm not scared," Yui said in determination.
"You're really strong," Sachi smiled down at her. She lightly kisses the girl on the head.
Kirito grinned, "She'll grow up to be a great swordsmen."
"Or an amazing Archer," Sachi chuckled.
Just as they began to rush ahead. Pumping their legs as they went, a herd of large creatures fell from the clinging. They fell to the ground with loud thuds, their large bodies making the ground to tremble. Large, many eyed toes lined up in front of the small group of three.
"I got this," Kirito said, taking out his twin swords.
Yui gasped. Her eyes grow wide, and a bright smile appeared across her face. She giggled loudly, and began to jump up and down, clapping her hands while Kirito effortlessly took on the army of frogs.
"Go Papa!" Yui giggled gleefully.
Sachi smiled. She held her hands over Yui's shoulders, watching in awe as Kirito easily cut through the creatures.
"Man, that was a nice mob!" Kirito grinned, rubbing his arm as he walked back to them.
Yui laughed, throwing her arms up, "Papa! You was so cool!"
"Check this out Yui," Kirito said, opening his menu and summoning something out, "Look at this drop I got."
Sachi stared. Her eyes became wide and her jaw dropped. A strange looking red meat was held in Kirito's hands. It even jingled as Kirito held it out so the little girl could see it.
"What is it, Papa?" Yui questioned.
"Scavenge Toad Meat," Kirito said, "They do say the stranger it is, the better it tastes. Maybe it'll make a great meal? Hey Sachi, think you can cook this?"
Kirito turned to Sachi. He swung the strange meat in front of Sachi's face, the red meat twitching as if it was still alive. It moved a little to close to her face, her mind becoming blank and without thinking, Sachi grabbed the meat. She spun around and threw it as fair as she could, a horrible shudder running down her spin.
"S-Sachi!" Kirito squealed.
Sachi whimpered. Her shoulders hunched up, and she pulled her arms to her sides, "N-Never! I'm never c-cooking that!" she let out.
Kirito gapped. His dark eyes widened before narrowing, he spun around and opened his menu once more. Within seconds, his arms was full of those weird red meat. He turned back to Sachi with determination.
"If you want to play like that! How about now!" he said.
Sachi let out a sound from the back of her throat. She stumbled back, her face becoming green as Kirito quickly followed after her. The little twitching meat becoming closer and closer to her face. Sachi clenched her eyes shut, and then let out a cry, she ran around Kirito and charged forward. Her head was ducked, and arms twisted to her chest as she ran.
"Sachi!" Kirito ran after her, still holding the meat.
Yui blinked. She tilted her head, before running after them.
A few seconds later, Sachi arched herself backward. Her body slid forward, as she held her arms out to prevent herself from slipping on her backside. She blinked wildly, and looked around just as Kirito came up behind her. Unlike Sachi who was able to stop herself in time, Kirito slipped unexpectly and slid along the floor with the meat scattering around them.
"What?" Kirito blinked, "Why do I keep landing on my head?"
Sachi stepped forward carefully, "Ice? How…?"
There was ice. It was everywhere, forming over the stone walls, and glass. It was incredibly freezing as well. It made the surface incredibly slippery.
"Haru!" Yui let out.
Sachi snapped her head up. She blinked owlishly, and let out a breath of relief upon seeing the little boy. Haru was standing in front of them with his back to them, next to Mina. However when Yui tried to run towards him, Kirito had to grab her.
There was so many children. It was mind boggling to see. There was many of them, probably all the children that had disappeared in the past. All the player children, and AI children. They were all in front of them, moving inside the frozen landscape.
"What are they doing?" Sachi asked, taking a daring step forward.
Kirito squirted his eyes, "Are they mining?"
The children was all lined up. Everyone holding either a pickaxe or another tool that was able to break through the frozen water. Their eyes looked exactly like Haru's and Mina's eyes. Like they were under some sort of spell.
The ice was thick. It took them a few seconds to realizes that the ice was not forming over the stoned dungeon. No, the dungeon had somehow changed into ice the further they went in.
"What are they digging for?" Sachi asked, "Are they alright?"
Yui swallowed, "Don't worry Mama. They're alright. They're just in a dream-like state."
"Dream state?" Sachi repeated softly.
Sachi's eyebrows pulled together, and she bites her bottom lip. Her heart skips a beat as Haru moved to take pickaxe that somehow was formed from the ice. It took shape when Haru approached it, and somehow Haru was able to pick it up like it weighted nothing.
In the middle of the area was a strange looking pillar. It wasn't very high, unlike all the other ones. Instead it was mid-waist height, and held an open ball-like object. There was something similar to a black candle burning inside the ball, and the flame was a bright pink colour.
The children were all spread out around the pink flame. All of them mining along the sides of the ice canon, forcing it to expand.
Not just that, but there was also a frozen, ice box near the back of the open area. It was like an ice cage, thick bars appearing on the outside of the box. From this distant, they could see an outline of a figure within the box.
There was somebody inside the box.
"That must be where our missing member is," Kirito said.
Sachi nodded, "Fuko-san! Can you hear me?" she called out, slowly beginning to advance towards the cage, "We're gonna get you out."
The figure within the ice cage suddenly jerked. It's body moved, and a hand grabbed the ice bar.
"Wait! Don't pass the candle!" an unfamiliar voice yelled.
Sachi blinked. She slide to a stop, and turned her head back to look at the burning pink candle in confusion. She stared for a few seconds before running her eyes around the ice carven, looking for something out of place but there was none. Just as she was about to shrug it off, the ground began to shake.
The pink flame burst out. It flared further with anger, flashing up through the air. Flickering back and forth. Ice began to form around the flame, growing in shape and size until it had formed a figure made out of complete ice.
Kirito then shot forward. He pumped his legs as he ran, panting deeply as he went. The swordsmen skidded across the ice, and wrapped his arms around Sachi just in time. Him and Sachi fell to the ground just as something very long, and very sharp slashed at them. Kirito used his black sword to block it the best he could.
Sachi shuddered. Her face was pressed to Kirito's chest, and she let out shaky breath of shock. Pure shock. She couldn't believe what had just happened.
A creature of something she hadn't seen before. Never, not during her time in the death game.
The creature was made of complete ice. It's figure was thick, and tall, towering over them with a glowing skull-like face. No eyes, but a large gapping teeth grin on its face. It's arms were long, with long sharp fingers. On its back was long white leather-like wings that looked like they were beginning to fall apart. It held a spear. A spear that towered over the giant, with glowing pink fire at the tip.
It reeled it's head back, and let out an earth shatter screech.
"Yui! You need to get out of here!" Kirito yelled.
Yui stared. She took a step back with unmoving eyes. She doesn't say anything.
Sachi swallowed thickly. She eyed the red sign above the creature, it read 'unknown'. How can it be unknown? There had to be a name! There was always a name!
"What…what do we do?" she whimpered.
Kirito growled, he clenched his teeth, "I'll buy you some time. Once I've distracted it, you have to get out of here, Sachi. Take Yui, and leave!"
"What?" Sachi gasped, "What about you? Haru? The children? Fuko-san?"
Kirito shook his head, "Sachi! Please! I'll catch up!"
Sachi inhaled sharply. She looked back at Yui, and bites her bottom lip. Slowly, she climbs to her feet. Her legs buckled underneath herself, but she ignored it to stand up straight.
"I'm not going anywhere," she stated.
Kirito bristled. His eyes widened, before they narrowed, "Sachi!"
"You said as long as we're together, we'll be fine!" Sachi snapped in return, summoning her trusty bow out, "So I'm putting trust in that!"
The ice creature let out another roar. It arched it's back, and lifted it's spear. Kirito shifted himself, and used both swords to block the attack, crossing his swords in front of himself. Sachi moved behind him, and held her bow in front of the swords to help reinforce the block.
With one swing, both of them went flying like rag dolls.
Sachi grunted. She clenched her teeth as she forced herself up, her heath bar draining quickly. So fast that she couldn't keep up with it. Her eyes scattering around herself as she looked over to Kirito. His heath bar was a little bit in better shape but not by much.
"K-Kazuto," she let out shakily.
One more hit, and they both die!
The creature moved forward. Gliding effortlessly towards them, and looking like it was about to prepare an attack before swiftly pausing.
Yui moved fast. She walked straight past Kirito and Sachi, coming to stand in front of them. Her long dark hair dancing along behind her as she stared up at the ice creature.
"You idiot! Get out of here already!"
"It'll be alright, Papa, Mama," Yui said.
The creature swung it's spear. It flow through the air, and just as it was about crack into Yui head, something blocked it. The force of hitting something like a shield forced the creature back, it's spear twisting backward.
'Immortal Object' appeared above her head.
Yui stared with strange eyes. Slowly she lifted into the air, wind suddenly picking up around her and making her hair dance even more. She held her hand out and a ball of bright red and orange fire formed in the middle of her hand. The ball of fire expanded until it was more then her whole body, it then shot out and formed a long red scythe.
She leaped forward. Yui moved through the air as if she was flying, little orbs of fire began to dance around her body. She swung her scythe, holding it high above her head and then bringing it down on the ice creature's head. The creature tried to block it with it's spear but it could not stand up to Yui's scythe of fire.
The creature let out a scream. It's body burst with fire. Fire swirled around it's body, boxing it in until it disappeared with only fire left. The fire then faded away, leaving only Yui.
As soon as the creature was defeated, all the pickaxes the children held melted away. The children then numbly fell to the ground, laying unconscious. Even Haru fell to the ground, curling up on his side with his eyes closed. Knocked out as the other children did.
Amber of Yui's fire danced around them.
"Yui?" Sachi mumbled softly.
Yui hummed. She smiled back at them, "Papa, Mama, my memories…they've returned."
"I think we need to talk," Kirito said.
Sachi stared at Yui for a good few minutes. Unsure of what to do. She shook her head, and rushed towards Haru. She crouched down next to him, and sighed in relief upon discovering the little boy was still breathing. She then gently picked him up, hugging him tightly as this time, she wasn't stung from touching him.
Haru wrapped his arms around Sachi's shoulders. He snuggled into her, and smiled.
"Mama?" he mumbled, eyes sliding open tiredly.
Sachi let out a shaky laugh, "Oh, Haru. You're alright."
Haru hummed. He tilted his head, before looking around the cavern, and let out a soft yawn. His eyes ran across the knocked out children, before smiling back Sachi.
"Mama found them?" he asked.
Sachi sniffed. She nodded, and lightly kisses Haru on the forehead, "Yes. Yes, we found them."
Haru was silent. He closed his eyes, and held himself up. After a few seconds, his body began to illuminate a soft glow. A glow of white, it sparkled and spread around the room. Each child, AI or player, began to glow too. They then began to disappear through familiar green and pink glass shards. Something similar to a transportation.
Once the last child was transported away, the light faded. Haru let out a soft breath, and then leaned into Sachi's embrace.
"I sent them home. Back to the orphanage," Haru said softly, "I know where to send them, because I saw it. I slept in their beds, so I sent them to their beds."
Sachi gasped. She held Haru in disbelief. How was he able to do that? But yet…Yui was able to defeat such a powerful creature. A creature that could have easily ended both Sachi and Kirito's life. It could have killed them within seconds.
"Haru? Do…do you remember everything from before, now?" Sachi asked.
Haru blinked slowly. He looked down and then nodded, "Yes."
"Kirito-san, Sachi-san," Yui suddenly spoke, "The world called Sword Art Online is controlled by one massive system. Its name is Cardinal. This system, which was designed to function without human maintenance, controls the balance of SAO under its judgement."
"Everything from the AIs of monsters and NPCs, to the drop rates of items and currency is controlled by programs managed by Cardinal. Even the mental health care of players," Yui explained, closing her eyes as she approached the middle pillar.
Yui gently placed her hand on top of the pillar. She sniffed deeply, before smiling and look back at Kirito and Sachi.
"Mental Health Counselling Program – Prototype #1. Code Name: Yui. That's what I am."
Sachi stared in shock, "Y-You're…a program?"
"You're an AI, after all then?" Kirito added painfully. Wincing from his own words.
Yui sniffed once more. She pushed her long dark hair out of her face, "In order for me to effectively interact with players, I was given the ability to emulate emotions."
Big fat tears began to swell at the corner of her eyes. They grow bigger and bigger, before beginning to drip down her cheeks.
"Nothing about me is genuine. Even these tears. I'm sorry, Sachi-san," she hiccupped.
Sachi opened but then shut her mouth. Her shoulders hunched up, and she bites her bottom lip.
"But you lost your memories…" she let out, "I-Is that possible? Can that happen an AI?"
Yui wiped her face, "Two years ago, on the day of the game's official launch, for some reason…Cardinal ordered me to not interact with the players in anyway. Unable to do anything else, I only continued monitoring the mental health of players. The situation was…." She said.
"Players were overwhelmed by negative emotions like fear, despair, and rage. Some were even driven to insanity. I would have gone to help those players immediately…but I was forbidden from interacting with them. I steadily accumulated errors until I broke down," Yui added quietly. Her voice hitching as she spoke.
Yui paused. She pressed her lips into watery smile, "Then one day, I noticed two players with mental parameters that greatly differed from the others. Joy…happiness…tranquillity…but that wasn't all. I just…wanted to get closer to you. I spent my time watching, whenever you were together…I felt your emotions…but then…"
"Sachi-san, your NerveGear glitched out. It wasn't supposed to happen."
Sachi's eyes widened briefly, "M-My NerveGear? Wait…back then…" she mumbled quietly, remember backing to that day where Kirito and her had faced the great boss. Her throat tightened as she recalled coughing helplessly as her body shook with pure pain.
Haru tightened his arms around her. He gazed at her with mimicked Yui's face of sadness.
Yui breathed in deeply, "I…I felt it. Sachi-san. I felt your pain and fear. I wanted to be there, to help or stop it."
Sachi opened but then shut her mouth, "I died?"
Kirito closed his eyes. He looked away with a grimace, "I-I'm so sorry Sachi…I didn't want you to…"
"After that I felt lost. Broken and cold…" Yui explained.
Haru stepped back from Sachi, "That's when I formed!"
"Haru?" Sachi turned to the little boy.
"Hmm, Kirito-san used the stone of returning souls. Somehow, Haru developed from a mere side program, using the left over data of your death Sachi-san, and became…another AI," Yui said, smiling down at Haru as he came to her side. She took his smaller hand, and squeezed it gently.
"It was asses data, Sachi-san. The data the NerveGear was using to bring you back into the game, and I used it once it was over. I used your old data, to become me. My program was just a side program of teleporting crystals," Haru chimed.
"That's how you was able to teleport the children…" Sachi said thoughtfully.
Haru nodded his head, "Yeah. Now that I remember, I can assess the program again."
"Eventually, we wandered into the fields. We wanted to be close to you. Like Haru, I used some of Sachi-san's data to reinforce myself, so Cardinal couldn't shut down my central data. However, Cardinal broke through and tried to shut me down…" Yui trailed off with a flinch.
Kirito's eyes flickered, "That noise?"
"Yes," Yui nodded her head, "That's why I took some of Kirito-san's data. To build up my inter, central data and to look Cardinal back out."
Haru hummed thoughtfully, "I just took his data because he was my Papa."
Kirito's lips twitched, "Haru…"
Yui hiccupped. More tears began to appear, "I'm sorry," she said shakily, "It's just…we wanted to met you. Once Haru was born, he advanced my data and suddenly…it was all I could think about. I shouldn't be able to, but I did. I just wanted to see meet you, so badly. I'm nothing more than a program."
Sachi shook her head, "No. No you're not. You're just like a human, Yui."
Kirito breathed deeply. He walked towards the two children, and crouched down to their heights, "Yui, you're no longer just a program under the control of the system. Neither of you are. You both should be able to tell us what you want."
Yui blinked her teary eyes, "W-What I want?" she breathed out.
Kirito nodded with a sweet smile, "What do you wish for?"
Yui let out a loud sob. More tears began to wash down her face, "I…I…I want to always be with you!"
"Papa! Mama!" Haru let out, hiccupping deeply. Tears began to build at his eyes too.
Sachi found herself moving. She ran forward, and wrapped her arms around the pair. She pulled them both into her body, and hugged them tightly. Crushing their smaller bodies to hers, "Always! We'll always be together, Yui! Haru!"
Kirito wrapped his arms around the tree of them, "Yeah, you're our children."
Yui smiled. She beamed up at the two before she looked down. Her eyes looked back at the pillar, observing the top of it where the candle was stood.
"It's…it's too late…" she let out shakily, "This is a console that allows GMs emergency access to the system. I used this to defeat the creature…but as a result, it started running a check on my program…."
Haru whimpered. He still had his arms locked at Sachi in return, "I'm a foreign object now…we both are now…" he hiccupped, "We're being punished for disobeying."
"We'll be deleted soon now…" Yui added.
Sachi let out a shaky breath, "That can't be right…" she let with a loud hiccup, her own tears beginning run down her cheeks.
"Can't anything be done? Yui?" Kirito asked.
Yui let out a soft sound. She closed her eyes, "Papa, Mama, t-thank you! Thank you for everything! For teaching us how to be ourselves!" she hiccupped.
"This is goodbye," Haru added in a quiet voice.
Sachi shuddered. Her face heated up with her own fat tears beginning to run down her face. Her hands trembled, she held onto both of the children. She held onto Yui and Haru, holding them tightly, "No! I can't allow this! This is only the beginning! We can live happily, enjoying our days together!"
"Live happily? Together," Haru mumbled, "Haha, that sounds like a nice dream."
Their bodies began to glow. Little small pink, blue, black and white orbs began appear from their bodies. Yui wrapped an arm around Haru's smaller shoulders, she pulled him in tightly. Hugging him tightly. Their faces starting to flicker, glowing even brighter.
"Bye-bye," Haru smiled.
"Don't go!" Kirito cried, grabbing onto Yui's shoulders, "When we're together, we can smile."
Yui smiled even more, "When everyone is together, with you…they can smile. They can just be themselves. Please. Continue to save everyone in my stead and share your happiness with them."
"No! No!" Sachi cried, "If you're not with me, I won't be able to smile!"
A small hand touched Sachi's cheek, "Mama," Haru began, "Smile."
Sachi trembled. Her eyes slide open, and she gasped. Both Yui and Haru's bodies disappeared in beautiful shimmering sparkles. Fading away as if they were nothing. As if they didn't exist.
Something inside Sachi snapped. Her body shook, and pain rushed through her veins. Sachi's legs gave out, and she fell to her knees. A loud shrill of a cry ripped free from her throat, tears began to fall like a waterfall. She was unable to contain them. They kept going.
They're both gone!
Kirito's eyes narrowed, "Cardinal! No! Kayaba! Don't think things will always go your way!" he yelled.
Sachi hiccupped. She covered her face as she sobbed, it was only when she heard little digital-like glitch sounds did she look up. Her red, wet eyes directed to the middle pillar where Kirito stood.
"Kazuto…w-what are you doing?" she asked, slowly getting to her shaky feet. Her heart shuddered in her chest.
"Right now," Kirito began, moving his fingers along the top of the pillar, as he did so an screen appeared above them, "I might be able to use this GM account to bypass the system!"
Sachi sniffed deeply. She looked up at the screen, and frowned. Was he hacking? A bar appeared on the screen, and as it filled, it flashed. Kirito let out a yelp as he stumbled back, falling backward on his backside.
"Kazuto! A-Are you alright?" Sachi gasped.
Kirito shook, he rubbed the back of his head. He then held his hand out to give her something.
"W-What's this?" Sachi asked, looking down at the small object in her hands.
Kirito inhaled sharply, "Before Yui's admin authority was disabled, I freed her main program and converted it into an object."
"Then this is…" Sachi gasped, looking down at the small sparkling object in her hands.
"It's Yui's heart," Kirito said with a smile, "And this is Haru's heart."
Sachi stared. Her chest tightened, and more tears began to once again fall down her face. She held the objects tightly to her chest. Sniffling, and hiccupping.
"They'll always be there with us," she whimpered.
Kirito pets Sachi on the head, "Yes. We'll always be together with them."
Later, the pair was sitting in front of the field of sunflowers. The sun was beginning to set, bathing everyone in a warm sun.
"If the game gets cleared and this world disappears, what would happen to Yui and Haru?" Sachi asked, placing hand on the light blue object hanging against her chest. Her fingers pressing against Yui's heart fondly.
Kirito closed his eyes, "Yui's data is set to store itself in my NerveGear's local memory."
"And Haru's data?" Sachi asked.
The swordsmen, like Sachi, touched the light green object around his neck. It rested against his chest, and smiled brightly.
"Haru will be set to store itself in your NerveGear's local memory…that way they both will always be with us. No matter where we are," he said, "It'll probably be tough getting it to render properly outside of this world, but I'm sure I can them to work."
"We'll be able to see Yui and Haru again someday…"