Chapter 32: Grand Finale; or, Who Cares About The New Plot Twist, I'm Not The Main Character Anymore
Wait, hang on a second. Something feels different today. And I'm not talking about how tomorrow is V-Day, and so every person's thoughts are either 'I hope I get chocolate from my crush!' or, 'I hope I'm the only one to give my crush chocolate!'
No, this is much, much more important. It's the sensation that we're at the end, and I'm almost done being a main character! I can't really describe exactly what it feels like, but it's the opposite of almost two years ago, when I was an NPC and realized I was about to become the MC. My MC status is about to be taken away, and I couldn't be happier! Those peaceful days will finally return.
I don't have to worry about the most beautiful girl in the school and her firm belief that she's in love with me, or a girl entirely too fired up, or my childhood idol friend and her partner, or an annoyingly persistent ninja, or the virtual girls that want me to be their husbands, or my little sister and her friends, or anything! Freedom! It doesn't matter that I'm the most powerful psychic in the world, because the story is over and I'm back to being an NPC.
'Ah! I heard his bed creak. That means that Kazuto's awake, and he's going to come out of his room soon. I just have to time it right so I can accidentally drop my towel right as he's walking out.'
See? I don't even care that my little sister is the biggest brocon and that she's scheming to flash me without letting anyone know her true feelings for me.
Ahh... It's been so long since I've had this wonderful feeling of relief!
"Heheh... Well, Kazuto's dodged every other attempt I've made, so I have to go this far. It's not fair that he hasn't fallen for me yet, but I'm not going to give up because I love him so much and want to marry - eh?"
Sugu stared at me. I blinked once, meeting her eyes. I... guess she hadn't actually expected me to unlock and open my door, because I'd caught her right in the middle of a monologue. A drop of water fell from her hair and splashed on the wood floor, and she slowly looked down at what she was wearing. Or, really, what she wasn't.
"Ah... Ah... Ahhhhhhhhhh!"
She was only wearing a towel, but instead of putting her plan into motion like I'd overheard in her thoughts, my little sister blushed hard. Her face turned bright red and she squeaked before the situation finally clicked in her brain. Once it did, Sugu whirled around and ran down the hallway to her room. The door opened itself before she got there thanks to her psychic powers, and then she slammed it shut and locked the door.
'Noooooo! Kazuto heard me! He heard me and now he knows about my feelings and b-because we're siblings, he'll think it's gross and hate me and... and...'
I sighed. Sugu... Yeah, okay, I'm not going to just leave her like that. I'm not a jerk! Of course I'm going to cheer my little sister up.
'And then he'll go off to college and maybe propose to Yuuna or Asuna and they'll have cute babies together and it'll be all my fault, because I screwed up and said that stuff out loud where he could hear it!' ...If only so that I don't have to deal with my little sister's thoughts for the rest of my life.
So, naturally, I did the best thing I could - I pulled out my phone and texted Yuuna.
It only took ten minutes for my best friend to knock on the door. "Hi hi, Darling," she said with a cheerful wave. "It sounds like you need a maiden's touch!"
I do. Thanks for coming, you two. ...Er, three?
When I texted Yuuna, I had asked her to call Nijika as well. Considering what I was about to tell my sister, I definitely needed the maid idol's strength. What I hadn't expected was the small silver-haired girl standing beside her, hand in hand with Nijika.
"Hello, Kazuto," Nanairo said. "Pardon the intrusion. I was going to have a relaxing day in the lab, but my big sister insisted on having me come along."
"Because it's a nice day out and you were going to spend the entire time hiding in your lab doing research," Nijika said. "You know you need more sunlight, Nanairo."
"I take plenty of supplements!"
"Supplements are not a replacement to spending time outside! They don't take care of those shadows under your eyes when you don't sleep enough, do they?"
'Ughhhh. Nijika has been hanging onto me since she rescued me from those weird psychics. It's interfering with my research into the source and mechanics of their powers... But I don't mind. My big sister is the best big sister in the world, and I love her more than anything.' "Ahem. Regardless," Nanairo said in an endearingly blatant attempt to stop losing an argument with Nijika, "I did want to speak with you about something, so coming along was a good idea."
Sure. What did you want to talk about?
Yuuna cleared her throat. "Um, sorry, but can we come in first? It's still a little cold out, Darling." Oh, right. I didn't notice, and Nanairo had that kind of determined expression people get when they're focused on something. I stepped back and held the door open, and the idol beamed at me. "Thanks! We're coming in~."
""Sorry for intruding,"" the Karatachi sisters murmured.
'So this is what Kazuto's house looks like...' Nijika was lost in thought as she looked around. 'I have to memorize exactly what it looks like! M-Maybe I could even go look in his room and find out what kind of decorations he likes. And then I could give him something extra special for his birthday, and he'll love it, and then he'll invite me to his room alone to show it off!
"Take a look, Nijika," Kazuto said as he wrapped his arm around her waist and hugged her. "It's right there, by the wall, so it's the first thing I see when I wake up."
"K-Kazuto!" Nijika squeaked. "That's so romantic..."
"Because it's how I feel about you. I want you to be the first thought in the morning, and the last thought at night."
Nijika giggled and closed her eyes as she stood on her tiptoes, leaning up for a kiss-'
Seriously, what kind of weird delusions did this girl have? And what kind of cheesy lines does she think I'd be saying, anyway?!
"So, about what I had mentioned earlier," Nanairo said. Nijika snapped herself out of her fantasies and refocused on us. "Kazuto Kirigaya. I want you!"
I stared at the young girl as she pointed at me, one hand on her hips and the other leveled proudly at me. Nijika smiled happily when I glanced at her, and Yuuna was suspiciously turned away, her hands over her mouth. It's not working, Yuuna! I can hear the snickers you're trying to hide.
"As a bodyguard." Oh. That does make a little bit more sense. "After all, Nijika can't be with me all the time -"
"Yes I can!"
"Ahem! Like I was saying. That means that you're the perfect candidate to come with us wherever we go and keep us safe," Nanairo said.
I... guess? I wouldn't mind watching you work. The Augma is really neat. But, why me?
Nanairo blinked. "Because of your psychic abilities, of course. Why else?"
"Eh?" Yuuna blinked, her laughter forgotten.
"N-Nanairo! What are you saying? Don't be ridiculous," Nijika said.
How do you even know about that?
"Wait, she's not wrong!?"
Nanairo ignored Nijika's yelp and nodded. "The men who kept me captive mentioned you were a powerful psychic. Naturally, that means you'd be an amazing bodyguard. Besides, I looked at your future career sheet that you turned in. You wanted to go to a college in America, didn't you? That works perfectly for my purposes." She smiled. "All you have to do is promise to stay by my side! And Nijika's as well, because we're the best sisters in the world and we're never going to be apart!"
...You know what? Sure, why not?
It's not like it really matters. I'm going to stop being a main character soon anyway, so it doesn't matter what I agree to. Or if Nanairo and Nijika know about my powers! I could erase their memories but really, that's too much trouble.
"Really? Yay!" Nanairo smiled happily. "A promise is a promise, so you'd better keep it!" 'Should I seal it with a pinky promise?'
"He's... psychic?" Nijika muttered. "Like, able to move a pen with his mind or stuff like that?"
Something like that, yeah.
'I'm looking forward to having you as a bodyguard for our concerts, Darling~.' Yuuna was right, I guess. Since I was agreeing to being their bodyguard, then that probably extended to protecting Yuuna as well. Not that I would ever let anything hurt her if I could help it, of course. "By the way, all that aside, should we talk about why you asked me to come over, Darling?"
Oh, right. Let's go upstairs...
Sugu's door was locked, of course. Yuuna knocked on the door gently. "Honey? Can you open the door?" A muffled denial came from inside. It sounded like Sugu was hugging her pillow on her bed. "Honey..."
It's okay, Yuuna. I can open it.
"Hmm? How are you going to -" *Crunch!* "...Oh. Darling, you should be more gentle." I shrugged at her disappointed look. It's not that big a deal, I can just repair the door and wall with my psychic powers, and breaking it down was faster than trying to use my psychokinesis to unlock the door.
"K-Kazuto!" Sugu yelped as we all walked into her room. She was dressed, at least, so I didn't need to wipe everyone's memories and start this over again. Once we were all inside, I focused and turned back time on the door to twenty-four hours before, when it wasn't damaged. "Hey!"
We have to talk, Sugu. There's something important that you need to know.
Nijika and Yuuna sat down on the bed. Nijika carefully pulled my little sister into a hug and wrapped her arms around Sugu's waist. Once I saw that, I knew it was safe to proceed.
Sugu... I'm sorry it's taken so long to tell you this, but... there wasn't ever a good time. We... aren't actually brother and sister. We're really cousins, and Mom adopted me when we were both babies.
Sugu went very, very still. 'We're... not... brother and sister? So... not blood related...? Then that means!'
Then she tried to jump directly at me. Fortunately, I'd been able to ask Nijika to do exactly one thing, and that one thing was, 'Hug my little sister while I tell her something important'. I definitely didn't want a repeat of what happened the first time Sugu learned that I was her cousin, and Nijika's super strength was able to keep my sister in place.
Huh? What happened the first time? Look, I had to erase everyone's memory of that incident, but I couldn't erase mine. Trust me when I say, you really don't want to know.
Anyway... Sorry, for not telling you sooner.
Sugu struggled against Nijika's grasp for a few more seconds. Then, she blinked and stopped trying to jump onto me, and I relaxed a little bit. I think that meant it was okay... My little sister took a deep breath, and then smiled at me. "So what?" she asked. "It doesn't change anything. You're still my big brother, Kazuto. That's what matters, right?" 'And if we're not really brother and sister, then that means I have an even better chance! This is the best news ever!'
Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Sugu. Now, let's get ready for school, okay?
Yuuna and the Karatachi sisters waited for me and Sugu to get dressed properly. After that, we all walked to school together.
"Oops! Sorry, Kazuto, I didn't mean to bump you."
"You should be more careful, Nijika," Nanairo scolded her big sister.
Sugu looked at the two girls and pouted. "Don't you think you're getting a little too close to him?" She wasn't wrong. Nanairo and Nijika were practically clinging to me, to the point that Nijika had occasionally stepped right in front of me while we were walking.
"I think you're right, honey," Yuuna said.
Thank you, Yuuna.
"Of course," the idol added with a giggle, "he is their new bodyguard, so naturally he can't go too far away from them."
"Bodyguard?!" Sugu gasped. "Kazuto, what is she talking about?"
...Thank you, Yuuna...
'This is too much fun, Darling~. Now I know why Kana is such an imp all the time!' Great. Now Yuuna's having fun at my expense. "Here, Darling. You look like you could use a lozenge. It'll definitely cheer you up!"
I just sighed and accepted the little wrapped candy. I'm almost done with being a main character. As long as I remind myself of that, I can ignore everything else.
"Oh? Master, good morning."
I looked over at the distant greeting. Shino and Keiko were walking together down the street and waved at us, so we waited for them to catch up. Keiko stopped in front of me and smiled. "Good morning, Kazuto," she said.
Good morning, Keiko, Shino.
"You can call me - eh?" Keiko blinked, and then her cheeks went very red. 'H-He called me by my name! He's never done that before... Wow, that's a little embarrassing, now that he actually did it. It feels like we're getting closer... Once I'm in high school, I'll definitely have the courage to ask him to be my boyfriend!'
Sugu looked back and forth between us, her eyes wide. 'Hm? When did they get to be on a first-name basis?! Keiko is getting too close to my big brother! I knew it, she has a crush on him!' I would argue with Sugu's interpretation of things, but she's actually right for once. "Oh, Shino, did you manage to finish the math homework last night?"
"I did," Shino said. "...You're going to ask to copy it, aren't you?"
Sugu smiled and scratched her cheek. "Sorry! But please?"
After Shino sighed and agreed, Keiko smiled weakly. "Do you think I could borrow your notes too?" When Shino turned to stare at her, Keiko folded her arms. "I was busy making talismans for the shrine! It's not my fault."
The argument about doing their homework properly started after that point. Yuuna and Nijika looked at each other and smiled, while Nanairo watched them bicker with confusion. 'Is it really that hard to finish work? I never had much of a problem when I was still in school...'
Not everyone's a genius, Professor Rainbow.
Eventually we reached the intersection that split between taking a turn for the high school and going straight to go to the middle school - all the middle school girls waved goodbye when we reached the intersection, though they didn't stop their conversation about the tests they had coming up. I was actually proud of Sugu. She only complained in her thoughts about not going to high school with me once on the rest of the way!
Asuna was standing by the entrance gate to our school when we walked up. "Good morning, everyone," she said with a beautiful smile.
"Morning, honey!" Yuuna smiled and went for the hug. "How's it going?"
With both of the Princesses hugging in front of the school, naturally a crowd of students started to gossip and whisper. "It's the Princesses!" "And the Prince is right there, too..." "They're so beautiful!" "Who, the Princesses, or the Prince?" "I mean, all of them, right?"
"Rika's already hard at work moving some materials for the teachers. They promised we could use one of the Home Ec rooms after school if we helped clean the chemistry room," Asuna said. "Everything's all set up."
"Great!" Yuuna said. "Oh, but Darling, you're not allowed to come. It has to be a surprise!" 'So no peeping on our thoughts either, got it?'
Fine, fine. I guess I'll go home early with Sugu.
Asuna smiled at me. "Say hello to the girls for me, will you? And tell them that I'll definitely be logging in so we can go on a quest later, okay? We were talking about it yesterday." 'I'll pour my feelings into the chocolate. He'll know how much I love him!'
Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake to leave Asuna's memories alone when she was deciding she was in love with me, but there really wasn't anything I could do. Anyway, it didn't matter that much in the long run, so it's fine.
"I've been meaning to ask," Kotone said. "What's with the eyepatch?"
Saori cackled. "Ku ku ku! You see, this eyepatch seals my forbidden right eye, the Eye of Shining Justice. Without it, my power would be too great for the human realm!"
I leaned my head to the side and dodged Saori's flailing as she twisted her body into weird poses, used to it at this point. It was a regular occurrence these days.
After all, the school day was totally, perfectly normal - if there wasn't any other sign that the story was coming to an end, then that was the best one. I got to coast through the day, dodging Strea's usual good morning hug and lunchtime hug and goodbye hug.
A notification popped up on my Augma display. Before I could tap it open, Yui flew around my head in her little pixie form. "Papa! You got an email from Yuuki."
Okay, what does it say?
"Let me see... Oh! She says she has enough necromancer points now, and that she needs your help with a huge project."
I have no idea what Yuuki could be talking about... I guess I'll go see what's going on.
"Understood!" Yui gave me a cute little salute. "I'll email her back right away."
In that case, I'd better get going. Let her know I'll be outside the gate school.
"I will, Papa."
I grabbed my bag and headed out the door. I briefly considered swinging by the cooking room to say goodbye to the girls, but I decided against it for a few reasons. For one, I'd already been banned to whatever they were making was a surprise. And second...
'I wonder if I can convince Darling to dress up in a cute skirt for White Day? I have to make sure this is the best possible then, so he has no choice!'
'Rika keeps talking about sharing rivals... Has she figured out I'm in love with him?!'
'Why does Asuna keep looking at me like that? There's nothing weird about wanting to share Kazuto! ...But the way my stomach feels when I think about him... It's the same as Asuna...'
'Nya hah hah! My journalism instincts smell a scoop! I have to pay attention to Rika and A-chan a little bit closer for a bit.'
Yeah, I don't want to get anywhere near that. Judging by the ominous aura coming from down the hall and the skittish looks some of the other students were giving the closed door, I would have noticed that even without my psychic powers.
When I got to the middle school after a quick teleport to the nearby alleyway (and I even appeared in the alleyway without running into any bullies or thugs or muggers!) Shino was standing outside the gate waiting patiently. She smiled when she saw me, with that particular Shino-specific smile that didn't really show too much on her face but you knew she was happy. "Master, good to see you again."
Yuuki sent me an email to come help out. And, Asuna and the others were busy in the Home Ec room, so I was told I wasn't allowed.
"No boys allowed, huh?" Shino grinned. "Don't look too forward to tomorrow, Master."
Give me a break, I wasn't...
"Suuuure you weren't." Shino shook her head. "That aside, Yuuki and the others are waiting for us up on the school roof, so let's hurry." I had a feeling it was going to be the roof. If it wasn't there, then it probably would have been in their classroom or the gym.
We walked through the rapidly-emptying halls as the other middle school students either went home or hurried to their after-school clubs. It had been a year or two since I'd been in here, so I had to rely on Shino to lead the way. Plus, as an NPC back then, I hadn't needed to go up to the roof for any reason.
So, Shino, what exactly's going on? All I know is what was in the email.
Shino shook her head as we climbed the steps. "Your guess is as good as mine. Yuuki's a wonderful person, but I don't understand her abilities at all. My eyes aren't really used for things like that, you know."
I guess. Speaking of your eyes, are the glasses holding up?
"I could use some different frames. Thanks for offering to buy me some," Shino said with a smile.
I didn't - ugh, whatever. Sure, we can go shopping soon.
Shino giggled. Then, we were at the top of the stairs leading to the roof, and opened up the doors. Yuuki was busy drawing a huge complicated-looking circle on the concrete, with Sugu and Keiko following her orders. Aiko floated above them and watched everything. The girls all looked over when the door opened. Instantly, Sugu's eyes lit up. 'Kyaaa! Kazuto's here! This is the best day ever! It's just like before, and I don't have to worry about losing out on Walking Home With Kazuto time today!' I ignored my sister's thoughts like usual and took a look at the intricate design they had created with chalk.
This is really well done. I didn't know you could draw, Yuuki.
"Eheh, thanks. I called up a spirit of a dead artist just in case, so that's why I'm so good!" Yuuki grinned up at me before she turned back to her work. "We're almost done, so... just wait over there for a second."
I shrugged and took a seat on the nearby bench. The middle school and high school were sister schools, so the layout up here was very similar even if the halls were unfamiliar to me. Shino settled down next to me and pulled out a book; she opened it up to a bookmarked page and swiftly got lost in reading.
In my case, I pulled out my phone and started surfing the net. Nothing super interesting, though I did notice an article about the mercenary company that had turned themselves in and confessed to murders. I nodded, glad that Vassago and the others had finally gotten around to it after I'd forced a compulsion into their minds with my psychic powers. So what if he had ties to organized crime that wouldn't be happy with him confessing? That wasn't my problem. He shouldn't have threatened my girls.
I lowered my phone at Yuuki's exclamation. She dusted her hands off and bounced to her feet. "So we're ready to do this?" Keiko asked. "I think I drew everything right..."
"Mm hm! Are you excited, Big Sis?"
Aiko flew around and smiled happily. "I might miss flying around... but being able to hug you will definitely make up for it, Yuu."
"Eheheh. Love you, Big Sis! Now, let's go!"
Yuuki held her hands out over the chalk circle and scrunched her face up in concentration. She started chanting, and as the words fell from her mouth the circle slowly started to glow.
"Wow..." "Whoa..." Sugu and Keiko mumbled together. I would have expected Keiko to be used to this - she was a shrine maiden in charge of sealing spirits, wasn't she? Shino simply watched things happen, her eyes their normal color.
The light started to get brighter, to the point that I was worried that people down below would notice the glow - and then it died off, leaving the chalk drawing normal again. Yuuki's arms fell and she let out a heavy sigh.
"I'm sorry, Big Sis," Yuuki said. "It was working! I can try again."
"Yuu, you just don't have enough power... It's okay, I promise." Aiko flew down to her younger sister and wrapped her arms around Yuuki in a ghostly hug. "I still love you."
"N-No, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna bring you back!" Yuuki wiped at her eyes and sniffled once before she raised her hands again.
When the ritual failed again, I stood up and walked over. If it's really just a matter of not having the power to force the ritual to succeed, then...
Hey, Yuuki? Mind if I give it a shot?
"H-Huh?" Yuuki looked at me. "I guess... Yeah! You're really strong, I bet it'll work for you!"
So how do I do this? What words do I need to chant?
Yuuki grinned. "Just repeat after me!" I nodded and walked up to the circle. Yuuki paused, and then offered me her hand. "C'mon, let's hold hands so it'll work better!" I nodded and gripped her hand. For a second, I felt Yuuki shiver. 'Whoa... His hand's so soft, but it's also really warm.'
Should I squeeze tighter?
"Huh?" Yuuki shook her head. "No, this is good."
'I bet she doesn't need to hold my brother's hand. Sneaky!'
Yuuki cleared her throat and raised her hands, so I did the same. As she chanted, I repeated everything word for word. It helped being able to read her mind so I knew what was coming next. This time, the sigil burst into light almost immediately, and it got brighter and brighter. I really wasn't sure what was happening at all, but Yuuki's face had such a wide grin that I knew it had to be working.
Finally, we reached the final part of the chant, and the sigil practically lit up the sky. Good thing we did this during the day!
When the light cleared, I blinked my eyes and stared. A girl had appeared in the center of the circle, with long black hair and the middle school uniform. She was a perfect match to Aiko's ghost, and she slowly opened her eyes. "Yuu..." she whispered. "Kazuto! I'm back! You did it!"
She threw herself forward with a joyous laugh, and Yuuki and I wrapped our arms around her automatically to keep her up. "Big Sis!"
"Congratulations!" Sugu and Keiko cheered while clapping.
Beside them, Shino shook her head. 'So much for a normal life...' Sorry, Shino, but you should have given up on that a while ago. "Okay girls, let's go.
"Thank you so much, Kazuto!" Aiko giggled again and leaned up towards my ear. I thought she wanted to whisper something, so I didn't move away.
That was definitely a mistake, because she kissed my cheek.
"That's a little reward, for helping me come back."
"Ahh! Big Sis, that's Kazuto! You can't do that!"
The good news here is that Keiko and Shino had already turned away, so they didn't see it.
'No fair! That's my big brother! Kissing him without asking me permission isn't allowed. But wait, if he's willing to accept kisses like that, then maybe I can convince him to let me kiss his cheek goodnight!'
The bad news is that Sugu definitely saw. ...Well, erasing her memory of that kiss is really just gonna be more trouble than it's worth. So, I should probably just change the subject.
By the way, Asuna said she's going to be ready for whatever quest you're doing tonight. Is Aiko going to play with you?
"Hmm... I don't think so," Aiko said. "I like riding in Yuu's mask a lot. But then again, I did want to try it out for myself." Aiko nodded. "I think not tonight, since I'd have to make a new character, but I'm definitely interested."
"...Can you even ride in my mask anymore?" Yuuki asked.
"I think I can..." Aiko screwed up her face in concentration. It made her look even more like Yuuki than usual. Then, all at once, her body went limp and Aiko floated up into the air as a translucent ghost. "Ah! I can leave my body when I want!"
"That's so cool, Big Sis!"
At least they're having fun.
I opened my eyes in SAO again and tried to sit up. Tried, because arms were wrapped around me and refused to let me leave the bed.
Strea... Kizmel... Let me get up.
"Mmm... I wish to sleep a little longer, my Chosen One," Kizmel purred from next to me. "I had a long day and holding you in my arms is very relaxing."
Oh, fine. She smelled nice, like the forest, so I guess it wouldn't hurt too much. But, that didn't change the fact that there was still a weight on my chest that was a little uncomfortable.
I rolled over (Kizmel was kind enough to let me do that, before she tightened her arms around me again and cuddled up to my back) and stared at my other bed mates. Plural. It wasn't Strea; instead, two pairs of light blue eyes stared back at me. One girl with black hair and the other with white hair were curled up, resting on the pillow.
"Ah, good morning," Premiere said.
"Good morning," Tia echoed.
...Why are you two in my bed?
"Premiere told me this was how lovers act," Tia said. "I wish to be lovers just like her."
Premiere blinked at me. "Kirito, are we lovers?"
...Sure, why not? If it'll make you happy, and stop bothering me.
Premiere and Tia both smiled cutely. "Wonderful," they chorused. Both of the twins scrambled out of the bed after that and ran out the inn door.
I stared at the door as it closed behind them, and then sighed and snuggled back up to Kizmel. She'd let me go when she was ready to move on with the event, and then we could get to grinding.
G-Grinding mobs! Get your minds out of the gutter.
Eventually, Kizmel sighed and sat up. "Oh, very well. Let us head out, my Kirito." Whew, finally.
The two of us headed out of the room. Strea was waiting for us in the diner attached to the bottom of the rooms, and smiled brightly as soon as we walked down the stairs. "Kirito!" she exclaimed, and rushed towards me. 'Maybe I'll get another Norito today! He hasn't given me one since last month. Oh! I know! I'll try to hug him, and then when he dodges I'll make sure my lips are right there! It's foolproof!' Strea, I can still read your thoughts!
So instead I did the unthinkable. She opened her arms, and I let her hug me. My face was squashed against her body, but I'd made sure I could breathe before letting her approach.
Strea's arms closed around my body and then the lovely girl froze. It was almost like her programming locked up entirely - I peeked up at her, and her expression was screaming, 'Huh? What do I do now?' She didn't even react when I hugged her back a little bit.
...Okay even her thoughts have locked up. I'm a little worry I crashed Strea.
"Papa, good morning - Ah! What happened to Strea?" Yui appeared in her child form with a flash of light and stretched. She even yawned despite not needing to do it at all. Once she saw Strea standing there with her arms around me, she gasped and ran over. "Oh no... The hug must have stunned her since she wasn't expecting it at all! Hmm, my research indicates that you successfully tripped a Strea flag, Papa, well done."
That's great, but a little help here?
"Strea, Papa said he'd give you a Norito if you let him go."
Hey, wait, I didn't say -
"Really?" Strea gasped and released me instantly. "Yay! I've been waiting for another Norito." I didn't really have any other option, so I let her lean forward and press her lips to mine. Those brilliant wings of light spread out from Strea's back and wrapped around us as we shared a ki- a Norito.
The door to the inn opened. 'Let's see. Kirito said that his room was - what?!' I glanced over to my left to see Asuna frozen in the doorway. Yuuki and Silica were right behind her.
After a few more seconds of Strea enjoying the mucosal contact, she finally pulled away and smiled at me. Then she turned and waved happily at the girls who had been watching. "Oh! Hi everyone, how was your quest?"
"S-Strea?! You can't just... just kiss him like that!" Asuna exclaimed. Her cheeks had turned red - cute, but really not what I should be focused on right then.
Strea cocked her head. "Huh? I can't? But he's my husband, so what's wrong with that?"
Asuna gasped. "H-H-Husband?"
"Well, if Kirito can be Strea's husband, then he can be mine too!" Yuuki declared. She jumped past Asuna and latched onto my side tightly. "That sounds good, right, Kirito?"
"Yuu... Well, he did help me come back, so I don't mind," Aiko declared. "So me too!"
Huh? What is happening?
"Yuuki, you can't do that, you know I like him too," Silica complained. Then the twin-tailed girl went bright red and gasped. "I-I mean... Um..."
'E-Everyone!?' "...But I found him first!" Asuna complained. "I fell for him first, so it's not fair!"
I think I might have messed up somewhere along the line...
Wait! Wait no, the story can't end now! I haven't fixed this yet! Wait, no, come back! My MC status...!
Too bad, Kazuto. You made this bed, now lie in it.
Most of this was just one last chance for each character to have a main chance in the spotlight – Sugu gets to learn the truth, Nanairo and Nijika get their bodyguard, so on and so forth. Plus, Aiko gets to come back! How does that work? Who cares! It's the end of the story so it doesn't matter.
Probably my favorite part of this was Strea bluescreening when she finally got her hug, though. She's precious.
Anyway… As you can tell, this is the final chapter! Thank you all so much for reading this silly little idea and keeping up with it. And a huge thanks to SaintInfernalNeos for being the beta reader and 'forcing' themselves to read it ahead of time. This story wouldn't be nearly as good without their input!
Thanks to everyone that favorited, followed, or reviewed!
Omake: Sugu Listens To Kazuto
I sat on the bed. My little sister sat on other side of the bed, cross-legged, and stared at me intently. I let out a sigh.
Okay, so let's go over it one last time. We are cousins, but I still consider you my sister. Because that's how we were raised.
"Yup," Sugu said, and nodded.
And that means that even though I know how you feel, nothing's going to change, because you're my sister.
So we're going to be brother and sister, and I won't return your feelings.
"I got it."
I stared at my sister, who had nodded after everything I told her. Then, I sighed again.
And what are you going to name our children?
"Oh!" Sugu smiled happily. "Well, if we have a boy then I'd like to name him Kai, but if it's a girl then we can name her Sakura! Really though, I'd like to have two, one boy and one girl, so that they could have someone their own age to play with."
Great. You weren't listening to a word I said...