Mystic Knight Online: Worlds to Sow
Chapter 10: Prying Deeper
May 25, 2025 - Nerima, Potter-Black Apartment
Harry put down the lunch he prepared, a simple curry dish from the website the Shibas recommended, on the table and sat down. He and Sirius alternated on preparing a meal- though unlike Sirius, he actually cooked rather than simply head out, nuke something, or order takeout. Then again, he also didn't have the kinds of spectacular failures that his godfather had in the kitchen and he wasn't going to let the man live down managing to set water, just water, on fire while trying to make tea.
Thankfully, Sirius knew how to use the microwave. He only had to be reminded once about its incompatibility with metal. Thankfully before he tried to cook something with it.
Explaining a fire caused by a microwave that blew itself because of that would have been embarrassing, not to mention the soon to be following inconvenience of having to find a new place to live. Which would likely not have been as nice as the place they had right now.
Not very many places that had nice flats were keen to rent to foreigners, even ones as rich as Sirius was. Not without some costly guarantees at any rate. Harry remembered Keiko saying that it was something of a standing policy among landlords due to far too many times they got burned in the past when a foreign tenant just up and left, rather than settle their bills and accounts beforehand. Not to mention the both real and perceived lack of care for their own residences that the Japanese had that many seemed to believe Westerners lacked.
He pushed those musings out of his head as he took his seat and looked at both men across the table from him. Sirius was, of course, to be expected, given that the two of them shared the apartment. It was Remus who was the less expected one. Well, had he not already known that his godfather's old friend and one of his primary tutors in magic would be here to discuss his progress, that is.
It was merely coincidence that he was here in time for lunch. Much like Mizore keeping up her practice in sneaking up on him and his friends at school or in ALO and often failing at it, was a regular "coincidence" when it happened.
"Well, lunch is served," he said confidently. "It's not to Asuna's level, but I do think it is good enough and don't worry Sirius, I only used the best feces to season it for your refined palate." He scooped out some rice from the rice cooker and spread it on his plate.
"Ah good, so it will have a bit of a nutty flavor," Sirius replied as he scooped some of the curry from the pot and put it on top of the rice that he had quickly put on his plate as soon as Harry had said that the meal was served.
"I take it that this is a running joke between the two of you?" Remus asked drily.
"While I won't admit to buggering it up, I may have miscalculated on the ingredients the first time I tried cooking curry," Harry replied. "The old dog here said it tasted like shit and I said it should, because it was shit. Then again, considering how much time he spends as a dog licking his goolies, I'm surprised he could tell."
"And it still probably tasted better than any attempt by him to cook," Remus noted.
"We only had to deal with one eldritch abomination," Sirius said offhandedly.
"Which tried to get amorous with him while trying to do violence on me like some yandere girlfriend," Harry noted.
"Ah, so he was trying to cook some bangers and mash," Remus replied, ignoring the rude gesture Sirius sent his way. "Also, we're not doing any classes, Harry. Call me Remus. It's not like you call Ryotaro, 'Tsuboi-Sensei', once lessons are done after all."
Harry snorted. "No, I usually call him Klein, just as he calls me 'kid'. Two years having each other's backs off and on in SAO tends to do that. Well, that and mocking his lack of luck with the ladies. If you want, I can tell you a few stories of his failures in that, though half the time he was playing it up anyway. He could flirt with a lady, get slapped the next moment, and then have them laughing with him or at his stories the moment after that. At the same time, despite his failures at getting a date, the ladies liked and trusted him. It also helped that he knows what boundaries are, and whatever god you worship help you if you cross those lines. He was even with me more than once when I had some polite discussions with those gentlemen who needed some encouragement to recognize the boundaries with Keiko. If she didn't do so herself, that is."
"Translation: He had them at sword point and threatened to do violence on them," Sirius chimed in between bites.
"As I said, polite discussions." Harry said, shooting Sirius a look.
"It makes me wonder what an impolite discussion would entail," Remus mused.
"And I will allow you to continue wondering," Harry said.
Remus snorted, and Harry felt that the man knew full well what he wasn't saying. Taking a bite, he chewed and then swallowed. "So, where am I with regards to magic?" He asked, deciding to get to the purpose of Remus' visit this time.
Remus took a drink of the tea that had been provided. "To be honest, when it comes to the practical aspects of using magic, you're a little further ahead than expected," he said. "Your knowledge of theory can still use some work, though. Considering how we have managed to get you to an acceptable level from what you had covered before your unscheduled trip to Aincrad fairly quickly, it's nothing that a little extra time studying won't fix. Potions, on the other hand, is something we have not been able to cover. Neither Ryotaro, nor I, are qualified to tutor you, let alone teach you, in that subject and you can only learn so much by reading the books. There is a practical element to it that no amount of reading can compensate for. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find someone to help in that regard."
Harry expected as much and nodded. With Mahoutokoro holding classes, any prospective tutors for Potions would likely have gone on to actual jobs and commissions that would keep them occupied until summer break at the earliest. And finding one who was available and willing to tutor a foreigner, even if they would be well compensated for their time, would also be a tall order. Not to mention finding one who was versed in the standards he needed to meet.
"Then let's table that matter for now," he said. "I know you both have been looking, I have had to listen to Klein complain about it enough times in ALO. And no, we never mentioned the subject directly."
Remus nodded. "Too many ears that might be listening," he acknowledged.
"Not even that," Sirius said. "Harry doesn't trust the ones in charge of ALO to not be potentially listening in, or watching." He smirked. "Which, if I know him and Keiko well enough, means that they haven't been using ALO for other things."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Harry said gamely.
"Right," Sirius said with a note of joking sarcasm in his voice. "How long until that project you all took on is ready again?"
"I'd have to ask Kazuto for an update on it, he's been checking it out, but it won't be released until probably July even if he is done with all that and it could be released today," Harry replied. "Anyway, back on topic."
Remus gave Harry a questioning look. "A side project?" He asked.
"Oh, just something that an AI that Kayaba created was doing but left the release of to us as to whether it should be released or not," Harry said as if it was nothing special. "I'll explain later."
"Ah, I see, so you took something- wait a bloody minute," Remus said, giving Harry a sharp look. "What did you say?"
"We have something that Kayaba developed, given to us by an AI to decide what to do with it, and so on," Harry said. "It's not that big a deal, considering that CARDINAL, the AI I mentioned, left whether to release it or not to us. She felt it appropriate that it be left up to us. We did end SAO, after all." They, of course, knew how he and his friends had ended it, but he wasn't going to spell out exactly how they did it.
Both older men knew how he and his friends ended SAO, after all.
"Anyway, with my magical studies being a bit further ahead in most subjects than expected, what's next?" He asked.
"If he's caught up, I have a recommendation," Sirius said
"Oh?" Remus asked. "If this is pranking related, I am afraid that I must regretfully decline for right now. At least while I am tutoring him."
Sirius shook his head. "Not that," he replied. "I can teach him that stuff if he ever wants to know. No, it's something else." He gave Remus a direct look. "If possible, I want to see if he can learn the Patronus Charm."
Both Remus and Harry looked at him.
"The Patronus Charm?" Harry asked. "I've heard of it. Isn't that an advanced one?"
"Very advanced," Remus said. "And difficult as well. Even adults have a hard time casting it, and that is without Dementors around." His gaze sharpened on Sirius. "And I can understand why you would want him to learn it, Sirius, but do you think it is necessary? It's not like we have to worry about dealing with such."
Sirius nodded. "True, but warding off Dementors is only part of it," he said. "There are other uses, like the ability to pass on messages and such. And don't bring up having a phone, Harry, there are places where you can't get coverage, and those signals can be intercepted, I've asked. A Patronus can't. Not to mention, being able to cast it might make some people back in England think twice in their scheming. Someone able to cast even an incomplete one, let alone a corporeal one, at your age would come across as being possibly more capable than he looks."
Harry nodded. Despite damn near everyone outside the magical world having a cell phone, he knew that there were places where they couldn't get a signal. Hell, he had experienced that a couple of times when a call dropped on those occasions he took Tokyo's Tube. They were rare, but it did happen at times. And there was the fact that a cell phone call could be intercepted. Kazuto had basically said that a cell phone, once you peeled away all the bells, whistles and the fact that it was essentially a handheld computer, was more or less a glorified two-way radio.
And he knew that radio signals could be intercepted and listened in on by those who knew what they were doing.
"Let's put it on the table for later, something to work toward, then," Harry said. "I might be capable of it already, I might not, but it does give a nice goal other than get caught up and then get to where I would need to be so I meet basic standards."
Remus nodded. "That makes sense, and I would need to find someone or something that can duplicate a Dementor's aura, no matter how minorly anyway," he said. "After all, casting the spell is one thing, casting it in the situation is was designed for is a different one entirely."
Harry nodded. "Makes sense," he said. "Anyway, anything else we need to cover?"
Remus looked thoughtful for a moment before shaking his head. "If I think of any after this, I will let you know during our next session," he said.
"Well, with all that out of the way, I do have a question to ask," Harry said.
"What is it?" Sirius asked.
"I've been thinking a little," Harry said. "Don't worry, I didn't hurt myself this time and the fire was easily put out."
"Explains the smell of smoke around you," Sirius joked.
Harry snorted. "Well, I was wondering," he began. "We're going to be getting to summer soon enough and do you think it would be possible to invite Ron and Hermione over for a couple of weeks?"
"I wouldn't have a problem with it, but I do have a question," Sirius replied. "How are they going to get here? I don't know about Hermione, but I do know that the Weasleys can't exactly afford to come here even if they only sent Ron. Also, where are they going to stay and how will you handle the language issue? That, and you need to make sure their families are fine with it anyway."
"We'll have to clear it with their families, first," Harry agreed. "But I do seem to have funds that I am not using that would be happier if I, you know, actually used them. So if cost is a matter, I can defray that. As for putting them up, we can ask around, even ask the Shibas if they know of any places that are used to foreign tourists that we can make reservations at."
"Might be a bit of a problem with the short notice, though." Sirius noted, bringing up how arranging such things in Japan normally went. Reservations were very much a thing in Japan, the sooner they were made, the better. "Which means that the cost will go up."
Harry nodded. Asuna had told him as much when he was bringing up taking Keiko out last month. Granted, he had planned on staying in the Furinkan district and going to a few places where he was known, but it was good manners even then. Especially when it was an anniversary celebration masquerading as a date.
Two or so more years and we can formalize the marriage with family or guardian permission, four without it, he reminded himself. And those are minimums, not how long it will probably be. It was an old gripe by now for both of them, and one they could do little about but to bear with it. And it wasn't as if the restrictions and limitations they had were unreasonable, either.
Just because the two of them had to grow up quickly in SAO and were independently wealthy, they weren't adults. Besides, Keiko needed to reconnect with her family, along with certain activities being reasonably prohibited in the real world. Harry would be the last to argue over the importance of a loving family, given that he knew full well how much it sucked not having one. As for the current prohibitions, it wasn't as if they both hadn't already known that they would have to hold off on certain activities when they cleared SAO, regardless of whether they would admit to such or not.
June 1, 2025 - England - Hogwarts
Albus turned from looking out on the Hogwarts grounds from the window of his office when he heard Fawkes flame in. He saw the phoenix's two companions, a man and a woman, let go of Fawke's tail feathers, looking around in bemusement, and taking surreptitious looks over themselves, much to the old wizard's amusement, as memories many decades old came to him.
Using phoenix fire to travel long distances was disconcerting and one had a tendency to check to make sure that they hadn't been set on fire or burned even with prior warning at first.
"That was, I don't have any words to- bloody hell," the man said. "Hermione told me about her taking a trip to Japan to meet their friend Harry using a phoenix and what it was like, but I never expected to experience it."
"It was beautiful and frightening," the woman added. "The flames didn't burn, but there was warmth. I don't think I will ever forget this even if I wanted to."
"Indeed, Mister Granger, Madame Granger," Albus said. "It is something that few ever have an opportunity to experience even once in their lives. As you two can now attest, it is quite memorable. Before the trip to Japan, which I accompanied your daughter and Mr. Weasley on as I had business in Japan as well, we did several smaller versions so they would know what to expect." He gestured to two chairs he had quietly summoned for his two guests to sit in.
"How well does it prepare them?" Mr. Granger asked, taking a seat after seating his wife.
"About as well as having only a few experiences, rather than the decades of experience I do would," Albus admitted with a smile. "Then again, I need to get my amusement somehow, and playing the having gone past senile card in my hand only goes so far before it loses its effectiveness."
Both Grangers laughed and Albus allowed a chuckle of his own. He would admit to enjoying the opportunities to pull things like that on his students. What was that term some of the muggleborn students used? Trolling? An interesting term, as he couldn't see how a troll could be used in pranking his students. Or maybe they were using it more along the lines of fishing. Something to muse on for a while and see if he could divine the meaning himself before he asked a muggleborn what it meant in the specific context.
"Headmaster," Mr. Granger began. "I know you wanted to meet with us, you said as much in the letter you sent with Fawkes, but why here and not some place like the Leaky Cauldron? We do know where it is, after all. Emma and I have gone there a couple of times since our first time."
"It's a bit dingy on the surface, but it has atmosphere and the food's quite good," Emma admitted. "And if any of the patrons make a scene, Tom tells them that we're allowed to know about magic since our daughter is a student here. If they get insistent, well, there was that one fellow who learned the hard way that Dan doesn't need a wand to be able to handle himself. Nothing like having your wand taken from your hand and your arm pulled behind you as your face gets friendly with a table to use as an opportunity to learn new things."
"And you have quite the kick as well, Emma, if that one chav having to be carried to their hospital while crying in soprano is anything to go by," Dan complimented. "She played football in Uni." He clarified.
Albus smiled at that. The Leaky Cauldron didn't normally have a rough and tumble sort as patrons, but the occasional ne'er do well did turn up. Far too many wizards underestimated muggles to their detriment.
Still, the fact that they have raised the, admittedly expected, question as to why he had gone through the trouble of arranging a way for them to come to Hogwarts needed to be addressed. "Before you ask, it is not because your daughter is in any trouble," he said.
Both Grangers sighed in relief.
"Then why were we brought here?" Dan asked.
"I would like to wait for the arrival of some other guests first, if you would bear with me," Albus said. "They should be here momentarily." He gave a meaningful look at the fireplace, its flames burning cheerily.
The flames in the fireplace turned green and flared. Both Grangers looked at each other before shrugging. They likely knew what the floo was, either because of their daughter or their own witnessing it in operation at the Leaky Cauldron, or they were simply holding their surprise in check at the timing, Albus surmised. Even he would have shown surprise due to his statement being more metaphorical than predictive had he not had decades of experience in keeping his reactions in check. He faced the fireplace as Arthur Wesley stepped out of them shortly followed by his wife, Molly.
"Arthur, Molly," Albus said, quietly summoning two more chairs. "Welcome and please take a seat."
"Albus," Arthur said as both he and his wife took their seats. "Why did you ask us to come here? Did Fred and George go too far with their pranks?" He then saw the other two there. "Dan! Emma! Why are you two here? How did you get here?"
"Well, the Headmaster asked for us to free up some time to visit and he sent his remarkable phoenix to pick us up," Emma said casually. "Our daughter telling us how travelling that way is was a little understated, if you can believe that."
Arthur chuckled. Albus knew that the man had been picked up and taken somewhere by Fawkes before, so he could imagine how it being described fell short of the reality. He would also understood why Albus did it that way in this case. With the two being muggles, the normal ways for someone to arrive at Hogwarts wouldn't work, either because some means were closed to them, or, if they managed to find the location, the wards around Hogwarts would turn them away by making them... remember something that they needed to do.
Fawkes bypassed the usual problems of bringing a muggle to Hogwarts a phoenix doesn't care if you are a muggle or not, if it wants to take you somewhere, it will. And it bypassed the wards, which were designed to keep muggles away, they weren't designed for the chance that a muggle happened to be in Hogwarts. The recent visit by Harry Potter and his fiancée after their visit to the Ministry of Magic a few months ago was a case in point.
Not that a muggle couldn't simply get through them by sheer willpower and determination. He had seen a case where the latter happened with his own eyes more than once, after all.
Too many of his fellows tended to disregard muggles and what they were capable of, despite their accomplishments over the last several decades. He would even admit that he was once one of those who would have done the same, until going through a muggle university to get taught the science of chemistry at Nicholas' behest due to its own origins in Alchemy in order to be taught said art by the man. He had learned a great deal when doing so, and kept as current as he could with muggle advancements in chemistry since. Were he able to find the time, he would happily do so again as well.
"Professor?" Dan asked.
"Oh, my apologies," Albus said. "I got lost in thought. It is something that happens when you reach my age."
"No worries," Dan replied. "Even when we are younger, we can get lost in our thoughts. Care to share where your thoughts took you?"
"Perhaps after I explain why I requested the four of you to be here," Albus said. "You see, I received a letter by Harry Potter recently."
"How is he doing?" Molly asked.
"From his letter, he is doing quite well," Albus replied. "He did mention that any of his peers here complaining about how much coursework they receive should do a year of muggle schooling in Japan before they complain about the workload." Albus smiled as everyone chuckled. "Additionally, he asked me about the whether it would be feasible to invite young Hermione and Ronald to Japan for a couple of weeks during the summer. The best time for it would be after his midterms, and he is of the opinion that the last two weeks of July are the best option. And before any of you bring up the cost, he said that he could easily cover the trip and their time there from his own personal funds."
"Personal funds?" Emma asked. "Even with how well off my husband and I are because of our own occupations, international travel is not cheap. Just us going to the Continent with Hermione for a couple of weeks cost us a fair sum."
"Harry never went into details about his finances, but I know that the Potters are quite wealthy by our standards," Albus said. "Moderately so by the standards of the muggle world, but still wealthy enough that he could easily afford to cover the travel expenses of both."
"He shouldn't need to put out like that," Molly said.
"He wouldn't be the only one helping with the expenses in this case," Albus said. "Especially as he is aware that you would have reservations on him footing the bill on his own, as the muggles would say," Albus replied. "As well as the fact that all four of you may have possible objections with regard to allowing your children to go to Japan unaccompanied."
Dan's eyes narrowed. "I take it that he is of the opinion that we should trust him to keep an eye on our children?" He asked. Albus could tell that the man was clearly assuming that Harry felt he could handle it on his own, even if it wasn't said. It was an understandable assumption as well, given that young men were often far more confident in their own abilities to handle a situation than they actually were.
"Actually, he was more of the mind to invite you all, as well," Albus countered. "With his guardian, Sirius, having mentioned in an accompanying letter that he would handle the expenses for any family members who wished to accompany them."
Dan looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. "I see," he said. "This Sirius, it wouldn't happen to be Sirius Black, would it? Hermione did mention that he had been wrongfully imprisoned and that the matter had been cleared up. And I do recall the news saying that he had been exonerated when his case was reexamined and the actual perpetrator of the crime he was imprisoned for was caught."
"Both the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor had some choice words for our Minister of Magic when the full details of the matter were explained to them," Albus said. "And Her Majesty was also certainly not pleased as well. But yes, he was cleared of all charges in the aftermath of it all."
"Still, they shouldn't have to go through all that trouble," Molly said. "It has to be expensive and I wouldn't want to cause them any hardship, even though they clearly can afford it."
Albus nodded, knowing that Molly was only including Sirius in that statement as a matter of course, not out of concern for him. Sirius was an adult, and anything he did with his money would be on him. It was Harry who she was more concerned about.
"Well, they would need to know whether you all approve and who would be accompanying your children before they can really plan for anything," he said. "As it is, they would be asking various people they know. The Shiba family would be their first choice, as both are well known to them. Harry may also ask the Saotome Family, as they are well acquainted with magic, even if they are all non-magical."
June 6, 2025 - Suginami - Nakano General Hospital
"So, Miss Ayano, last week, we discussed the wedding you had in Sword Art Online in greater detail," Doctor Tatsuyama said. "How did things progress from there?"
Keiko blinked and restrained her urge to bristle as she parsed the question and figured out just what was being implicitly asked. "Doctor Tatsuyama, before I answer that question, I would like to know what purpose this serves," she replied.
The psychologist nodded, as if he expected the response. "I won't press for details, but due to the speculation by your peers, as well as those who observed the steams, being well known, we need to establish just how far things progressed," he said.
Keiko nodded. "I see," she said after a moment. "That it also would satisfy your curiosity, especially as it can direct further questions, is also a consideration." And there goes the thousand yen Harry and I bet from our allowances on which of us would be asked first, She added mentally. "Very well then, we were intimate and yes, that means in that way. And before you ask, we aren't intimate that way now. Not outside the virtual world and not inside it."
She and Harry had both gone over how they would respond to this line of questioning, and they had both decided to be honest. To a reasonable point, of course. If details beyond a certain degree were asked or pressed for, then the psychologist would be told, politely, to go pound sand. Further pressing for details would end up receiving increasingly less polite responses.
"Any reason why?" Doctor Tatsuyama asked.
"Well, here Outside is obvious," Keiko replied. "Doing so could lead to us becoming parents at our ages. That, and the fact that my family and his guardian have told us that it would be appreciated if we refrained from such activity until we got married in the real world. As for the Virtual World, we could probably find a way around any restrictions there, but why would we?" She shrugged. "Of course, even if we did figure out a way, the possibility that whoever is moderating the environment may decide to be voyeuristic is also a concern." She added. "We trust ALO's GMs to a point, but not that far. What we do in private is just that, private."
"And while you were in SAO, that possibility didn't enter your minds?" Came the question she expected.
"We considered it possible," Keiko admitted. "We also couldn't do anything about it if it was the case and had to trust that any services allowing Outside to look in, if there were any, were set up with appropriate levels of discretion. Thankfully, they were. Even the hard line feeds had some privacy settings engaged by default."
"It would have been out of character for him as far as we could tell," Keiko said. "Oh, he could have if he wanted to, but why would he? He doesn't strike me as the type to live vicariously through others, not when he was an active participant in SAO."
Doctor Tatsuyama nodded. "I see," he said after he spent a moment writing down something on a notepad.
Keiko relaxed as her counselor finished writing down his notes for the report he was likely to write later. The question about the degree of intimacy she and Harry had in SAO was expected, if unwelcome. Doctor Tatsuyama kept to his word on not asking for details, so there was that.
An hour later, she was walking toward the exit when she spotted Harry. Sighing, she reached into her pocket to grab her wallet and pull out the thousand yen they bet. He turned and she could see him holding a thousand yen in his hand as well.
The two of them glanced at each other and the money in their hands.
"So, you got asked today as well?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Keiko replied. "You?"
"Same," Harry chuckled. "Did anyone bet on us being asked the same day?"
"Not that I recall."
"So, want to grab something to eat and then head home?" Harry asked.
"Why not?" Keiko replied. "There's a soba place right outside the station and I could use a snack."