I must confess, I am falling for my best friend.

Well, "best friend" is one way to title us, since we've known each other since we were kids yet haven't seen each other in years. Technically we still haven't seen each other, just our respective avatars but their physical appearances are similar. She is my closest friend in the game, that I cannot dispute, and she's the reason I joined Gun Gale Online in the first place. If it wasn't for her, I would have never met Arfa, Kirito, Asuna, and all my friends.

I can do without Itsuki, for some reason I cannot stand him.

But that's a sidebar, let's stick to my great matter. Kureha, the girl's in-game name, sought to reconnect with me years after her family moved due to her parents' new job and to support her older sister's education. It was a rough start at first, especially when I got lucky and accidentally obtained the rare Artificial Financial Advisor System, Arfa in short (everyone else calls her Rei). Any mention of our past, whether questioned by others or either of us bringing up a memory, seem to freak Kureha out. However, as we ran missions through the world of GGO, our old friendship was renewed and it was like our five-year separation never happened.

Yet to the rest of the gang (and I realize this now) our budding friendship was comparable to the romance of Kirito and Asuna. For weeks, I thought the girls were teasing, but after Kirito asked me about it, I knew it had to be something. Did my old feelings for my friend resurface at that moment of realization? No. It happened a little later, during some downtime while liberating the desert.

Kureha and I were planning to actually meet each other for the first time in years, and those plans were going smoothly until Itsuki spoke his mind about "how we are in the game doesn't reflect how we are in life," and that freaked Kureha out so much she cancelled our plans. I couldn't convince her to not do so, but I did convince her that I didn't care how much she'd changed. Hell, even I changed.

A few hours later, we went to some ruins of a city alone, together. We spent some time leveling, then took a breather to enjoy the view...

"Whoa, check out the view! Even GGO's ruins look beautiful." I take my stance behind the slightly younger girl, letting the light of the setting sun beaming on my face. She's right, for a world in ruins there's a hidden beauty to it. She sighs as she locks her fingers behind her back. "Sunsets can really work some miracles. I never thought I'd say this, but even the wastelands look pretty."


"It's amazing," I say softly.

"I know, right?" Her demeanor quickly changes as she drops her head, her cheeks flushed with blood. "Hey, uh… Sorry for freaking you out earlier."

I decide to play it off. What happened is fresh on my mind but...why bother to remember? "I do not recall what you speak of."

She turns to me in shock. "Huh? You mean you don't remember?" I smirk, which she picks up immediately. "Oh come on! But I guess I deserved that. You saw a weakness and you went for it." She turns back to the sunset, her smile returning. "Can we just stay here and enjoy the view for a bit?"

"I feel like I've seen this view before."

"Oh yeah. We watched it from the roof, didn't we?" She turns back to me, still blushing yet still smiling. "You know, I don't think we would've met again if I hadn't invited you to play."

I shrug. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"Heh. True, true. If I had to choose, though, I'd take this reunion every time! But I'm gonna do my best!"

If there's anything about Kureha, or the real her, Momiji, I know that she hates beating her heart out. We both do, I won't lie, but I am a reserved person by nature. Kureha is not, which is what makes me smile as she realizes what she's done. "Aww, I can say the same."

"Er, wait, did I say that out loud? Just pretend you didn't hear that!"

I cross my arms and raise an eyebrow. "You clearly was going to say something."

"It was nothing," she says as she turns her head proudly. "Jaymes, I'll tell you when the time is right. Until then...it's a secret, hehe."

It was that moment, seeing her standing in the dwindling sunlight that my feelings returned. I had totally forgotten about how my younger self had started to like the younger Momiji as we started to enter our teenage years. I then rationalized that no, I was falling for Kureha, not Momiji. Yet that didn't make sense. Kureha, physically, is based off Momiji, just like my avatar is based off the real me (though comparatively mine is almost an identical twin). In attitude, Momiji acts no differently than how I remember, and despite Itsuki's words, I do not believe she acts differently between worlds. Sure, we might try to have a different personality but the real one bleeds eventually. This might be my first VRMMO but I am no stranger to video games and online personas. Watching and listening to my other friends settled me on my opinion of Kureha, that she isn't different from her real self. Matter of fact, Kureha might just be the real Momiji, without the burden of her true life.

Once I made up my mind, I started to ask Kureha out more often, just the two of us. Initially, it went well...then one day we hung out at my place...


Oh. My. God.

It was not a dream. Technically it's not even real, but it does change the fact that the first thing I see when waking in the morning is Kureha in a pink and white slip dress nightgown and black pantyhose. I fight the urge to retreat and ask why she's here and dressed as such, I quickly remember why. Our "date" extended well past the actual plan, with both of us coming to my room to chill. Since I told Arfa to spend some time with the other girls, I guess she decided not to return to my place, or either she came back late. In any case, the two of us were alone. We ended up talking in length about the last five years for the first time in the month since we've reunited.

I remember her wanting to log out to sleep but "not wanting tonight to truly end." Then she asked if she could spend the night if that was okay with me. Having slept with my AmuSphere on before, I know it is safe to sleep and stay logged in, and quite honestly, I was comfortable. After agreeing, she switched to her current attire and cuddled up to me. I must've been too tired to protest or care then...and I'm glad I was.

Currently she lies with some space between us on her belly, in which I am witness to the avatar's figure. I can't lie, I've oogled before out in the field, but this is different. I'm waking up to...her. Before shit gets weird, I avert my eyes from her bosom to her watery blue eyes. "Good morning."

She smiles. "Morning. Sleep well?"

All things considered… "Yeah. You?"

"Yes. But… Y-You know, it's kind of awkward sleeping next to you like this. There's not a whole lot of room either…" I glare at her silently. "What? What are you looking at me like that for?"

"You fell asleep in my bed. You could have gone anywhere else."

She blushes, but to save face, also rolls her eyes. "I mean, I realize this is your bed, but I fell asleep in it first! Whoever falls asleep first wins? That's how it works, right?"

I reposition myself on the bed, lying on my side. "No. No it doesn't. Besides, we didn't do anything. No one saw us."

"Yeah, you're right," she says with a sigh. "I shouldn't worry about it so much. This is just the virtual world, after all. Besides, when we were little, I remember we used to nap together during the day too…"

I try to bring back those memories and I am surprised how fast I do. After school or during the weekends, at my home or her former one, it would not be rare to find me and Momiji napping together. Of course, as we got older, that obviously happened less often than when we were little kids. Now that I think about it, I haven't had a nap as great as I did with Momiji until today. "Wow, you remember that?"

"Heh, I had kinda forgotten about all that. Oh, that brings back a lot of memories. You've always slept in such weird positions, so you'd kick me in your sleep."

"That's not how I remember it."

"Hmm? You're saying it was me who kicked you?"

"Yes," I say now with a clear image in my head. Yes it was you who did the kicking."

"Th-That can't be right! I'd never kick you in my sleep!"

"The picture Mom took of us says otherwise."

Kureha's face turns pink as strawberry-flavored candy. "Hub?! You even have a PHOTO of me doing that on display in your house?"

"Yep."

"Urgh... I don't believe you! Forget this! No more sleeping next to you! Get out! Now! Out! Out! Out!"

I look at her again in a deadpan manner. "This is my bed, remember?"

She opens her eyes and drops her finger pointing to the door. "Hmm? I'm literally kicking you out right now? Oh, ahaha, ha…" She gets up and slides to the side of the bed, bringing up her menu screen to log out. Before she does, she turns to me, smiling gleefully. "Last night was fun, Joshua. And despite everything that just happened… I think that was the best sleep I had in years. Thanks."

I smile. "You're welcome, Momiji."


Beep

Hearing the notification jingle I opened my menu and look for the message I received. It's from Asuna. Oh no, I wished she had forgotten about this. Yesterday she caught me in a slump and, being the great friend she has become in the last month and a half, wanted to talk to me privately. Sighing regretfully, I open the message.

Hey, I just logged in. Where do you want to meet?

My place, I text back. I'm already here, door is unlocked. Sending the message, I close my menu and return my gaze to back to SBC Glocken. I wonder what Asuna is going to tell me about dealing with Kureha. If anything, it's worth listening to.