A/N: We all know Asuna's birthday is on the 30th but since chapter 30 is supposed to be something else... this is the 29th chapter

Also, yes, imagine, I'm updating... almost an year later but shh

Asuna's birthday was always both a small and big event. Small as in there were hardly any friends of hers, mainly family members. There were rarely any expensive presents, too. Her mother didn't want to pamper Asuna too much and make her spoiled. But it was a big event as her mother always went all out when it came to the party itself. It was always fancy, in a restaurant, with the dress code being just as if not even more fancier.

But now things were different. Lis took the girl for a walk and some shopping in the mall, Silica joined them for some cake, Kirito took her for the afternoon, the two of them going to an aquarium. Then, after a stop at Agil's cafe where everyone was gathered to wish Asuna a happy birthday, the girl had gotten home, having a quiet dinner with her mother and brother.

It didn't seem much but it meant a lot to the girl. Spending the day out with her friends was something she would always love to do. Besides, the real fun began in two days. The group of friends had found a cottage, payed the money and were about to spend there three days and two nights.

(Lis joked that they would go there just to log in ALO and still spend their time online. Kirito kept quiet when she had said that, Asuna noticed. Maybe she had to hide his VR set...)

The day where they went to the cottage couldn't come faster. The girls had packed their luggage, the boys were planning where to go in search of adventures during the day. The rooms were decided (Lis and Asuna in the main bedroom; Sinon, Sugu and Silica in the other; Kirito and Klein in the living room downstairs, together on the small sofa somehow; Agil wasn't coming, being busy with his café - bar), the snacks were bought (mainly Asuna's favourite), Yui's camera was charged.

The day was here and everyone piled up at Asuna's house, waiting for their taxi. Soon, a minivan stopped in front of the group of friends and they began filling its back with their bags, Asuna's mother silently watching from behind the living room curtains.

'Jeez, Lis! Why do you need two suitcases? What are you bringing for a three-day trip?!' Klein complained.

'Nothing much, just some cards, boardgames, my laptop...' She began listing as Klein continued complaining, trying to fit her luggage in the vehicle.

Meanwhile Kirito and Asuna were talking over their plans with Sugu and Sinon, Silica listening to them. Kirito was planning to take Asuna on a date during the second day but of course, the girl didn't know that. Everyone else did and kept quiet, it was a surprise.

It was September but the weather was still somewhat warm and there were hot springs near the chosen cottage so everyone was excited about them, too. Klein especially, even if Lis continued hitting him on the back of his head everytime he began imagining too many things.

Finally, their trip began. The drive was fun at first, until the hype died down a bit and everyone began complaining how cramped it was. After four hours, they were finally there, Klein jumping up and down to losen his joints. Kirito only shook his head as he passed beside him, walking towards the cottage to unlock it (technological mumbo-jumbo, he just had to put his phone near an electrical device installed next to the door).

Then the two boys saw the retreating backs of the girls as they left their luggage in the minivan in favour of exploring the cottage. They sighed as they had to bring all the bags in, enduring the whining of the driver about how slow they were.

Twenty minutes later, everyone was in the living room, Lis and Sugu pretending they totally hadn't left their luggage on purpose. Asuna only giggled innocently, she was the birthday girl, she could get away with it. Everyone was tired from the long drive so it was decided that today was going to be a lazy day. Klein and Lis began fighting over the TV remote, Silica decided to take Yui's camera and walk her around the cottage properly, Sugu decided to explore outside, see where the hotsprings were.

Kirito, sensing he could sneak, pulled out his AmuSphere from his small, black bag, deciding to hide in one of the upstair bedrooms. His plan, unluckily for him, didn't work out.

'Thought you'd try something like this.' Came Asuna's voice behind him. Kirito froze, crouched, slowly turning around with a fake grin.

'I was just going to check on our house, nothing else. I'm not sure I locked it prope-' He noticed the knife in Asuna's right hand and quickly snapped his mouth shut.

'Wasn't going to grind this new event from yesterday at all, right?' Asuna lifted an eyebrow. She was trying to be stern, she really was, but this was too fun and her lips were pulling into a small smile.

'Well... Yes... But only for a bit. I have nothing to do anyway...'

'Come help us with cooking dinner then, I was about to chop the potatoes. Sinon must have finished her carrots.' Sighing and ruffling his hair, Kirito followed. This was better than being stabbed, he supposed. Not that Asuna was really going to stab him. He just knew how skilled his girlfriend was with sharp objects, especially knives and rapiers.

And so, the first day passed as uneventful as could be. The dinner was praised highly, then the boardgames were pulled out and scattered around the floor. By 11pm everyone was tired so the girls retired to their bedrooms upstairs while Kirito and Klein wrestled with the sofa, trying to turn it into its bed form. It didn't work so they played rock-paper-scissors for it and Kirito ended up sleeping in a small mountain of covers on the ground.

On the next morning Lis, Silica and Klein woke everyone up early, ready to go to the hot springs. Grumpily, everyone got up and dressed, heading out. They were to spend the whole day there, alternating between the actual hot springs and the pools inside, racing and jumping in the cold water.

Eventually though, it was time for Kirito to act on his surprise for Asuna. He asked her if she wanted to eat somewhere else (pool canteen food wasn't good enough for dates) and the two left.

'I'm so jealous...' Sugu sighed.

'Well.' Klein grinned. 'We're on something like a date now, alone, you girls and me.' He winked at the four girls looking at him (some with disgust, some about to burst laughing, some confused). They promptly turned around, talking about going back to the (divided by gender) hot springs. Klein was left alone, tending to his hurt ego.

Meanwhile, Asuna and Kirito were walking around the small town, hand in hand, talking about this and that, pointing out sights, entering shops. Asuna was pleasantly surprised by Kirito's idea to take her on a date here, just the two of them. Maybe she was going to let him log in ALO tonight, just for a bit.

They had lunch in a restaurant next to a lake, viewing the mountains beyond it. Kirito payed the bill, not relenting when Asuna asked to split it. They went to a game center then, Kirito trying to show off his skills on some old games but Asuna easily kicking his butt (though she had the suspicion he let her win). Next, they walked down the market Street, buying some snacks to nibble on as the sky darkened. Kirito even won a plush kitten for Asuna from a game booth.

By this point, their friends were dying of boredom in their cottage so the couple decided to have dinner with them. They didn't hurry much while walking back though. The two rarely had time for such long and nice dates, what with their busy school lives and busy VR lives. It was a nice getaway.

Once they were at the cottage, Asuna was against surprised when it turned out she wouldn't have to cook dinner tonight. Lis, Sinon and Sugu had taken care of that. Klein and Silica had fixed the table and helped here and there.

Once dinner was eaten and the plates were washed (Kirito and Asuna decided to do that as thanks to their friends), it was time for boardgames again.

Klein and Kirito disappeared somewhere after a quick excuse that they'll join the girls later. Fifteen minutes later, there was a yell outside and a sound from something heavy falling. So the girls ran out to the backyard to see Klein under a small heap of fireworks and firecrackers, a bucket next to him.

'What happened here?' Asked Sinon worriedly while Lis, Silica and Sugu tried to hide their laughter behind her.

'Another surprise...' Klein groaned.

'A failed one.' Kirito rolled his eyes but still laughed at his friend's misfortune.

'We can pretend to be surprised.' Silica giggled.

The girls helped with the last preparations and soon enough the sky was being coloured by loud and sparkly explosions. Everyone cheered as they gazed up.

Then, Klein began howling, yelling the lyrics to 'Happy Birthday' as loud as he could. Moments later the others joined, too. Asuna didn't know whether to laugh at the funny picture in front of her or to cry, thanking her friends for everything they've done for her.

This was definitely the best birthday she had had so far.