Summary: While being transferred to the Ocean Turtle, he creates a place in his mind for reflection before passing on. In his moment of reflection, three certain avatars appear before him.
When one was about to die, he or she would see his or her life story pass flash past their eyes.
That was Kirigaya Kazuto's thought when he faced Kayaba Akihiko after the seventy-fifth floor boss, just before the duel to the death started.
After his near-death situation in Sword Art Online, Kazuto did not face another deadly situation until what he assumes was his final meeting with Asuna.
Johnny Black had interrupted their meeting, armed with a syringe of Succinulcholine. He had tried to stab Kazuto with the syringe, but only succeeded because Kazuto let his guard down after managing to impale him with the shaft of an umbrella. He did not know anything about what happened in the real world after that, as his heart stopped working.
Now, he was in a white room, dressed in the same black attire as when he went to meet Asuna. With nothing to do, he started contemplating his entire past.
He remembered the time he found out about his parents death, and how he started to shun his younger cousin and his 'family' after that. Thinking back during Sword Art Online and now, he knew that he shouldn't have done it, even though it took many virtual reality games to realize it. Many of the people there are different from how they are in real life; online bullies could be offline victims, poor players could have very good skills and rich players could be bad players. But no matter what, Suguha is still his sister, even if they are cousins in real life. Luckily for him, he had already resolved to mend the bridges between him and Suguha's family after the incident with Sword Art Online.
Then there was the incident with Sword Art Online, where he was one of the many players who were trapped in the game. There he saw what people could do when drastically pressured; people could kill themselves from just being transported to another reality. Some could believe that they are in a game, despite the fact they could die. Not many people would try to escape from it, preferring to adapt to their surroundings. There were so many things he could have done differently, Kazuto realized with a sigh. He could have stayed behind to help the new players like Diabel, but choose not to as he was afraid. The Black Swordsman was a coward actually; he couldn't handle the pressure of holding lives in his hands, choosing to get strong all by himself.
"What a fool I was…" He concluded with a sigh once more, dropping his head. From the corner of his eye, he saw a figure materializing. The figure was draped in black, with a black sword on the right side of his back and a light blue sword on his right. The figure's black hair was shorter than his, but styled exactly the same way. This was his avatar in Sword Art Online, he dawned on that realization.
"Me? A coward? You're one to talk!" The doppelganger spoke to him, anger laced in his voice.
"You acted as if you could clear the hundred floors yourself, leaving Klein behind to satisfy you idea of becoming the best. You could have let his party follow you to become the best, yet you didn't because you hated holding lives in your hands. How can you call me a coward when they're all actions done by you?" He continued, shocking Kazuto to the very core. His avatar was right; he could have helped them, but was too afraid to be responsible of people's lives. He couldn't call his avatar a coward, because it was him that was controlling the avatar.
"Not only are you a coward, you are also weak!" The Black Swordsman accused, jabbing a finger at his chest.
"How can you call me weak? I did everything I could to save as many people as possible!" Kazuto argued back.
"And that's why you are weak. You say you did everything you could, yet four thousand players are dead. You couldn't stomach the fear of responsibility, and left the starting city immediately after the death game started. Heck, you couldn't even save Asuna from death, even though you said you would protect her. It is you who needs protection. You find Silica when you are worried about Suguha, you run to Asuna when you had problems you couldn't tell any guy. You flock to Agil when you were famous since he didn't give a damn about your fame." The face of his avatar was contorted in anger by the time he was done.
"I'm not the coward, you are the one… Think about the other next time you face a tough decision." The avatar's body disappeared as he finished venting his frustration on him. Kazuto was shell-shocked from the blunt explanation of his avatar. He knew he was weak and cowardly, and yet he tries to act like the one in charge, disposing of other when it benefited him. He dropped to his knees, resolving to be more considerate if he was reincarnated.
"My, my… And even after fighting Kayaba, you would have thought twice about fighting Sugou…" Another voice resounded behind him. Kazuto turned around to see another black-clad figure with messy hair. Sharp elven ears replaced the boy's human ones. While his SAO avatar represented his determination, he shaped his Alfheim Online persona to be aloof, mischievous and funny. He was not serious about this game, since it was a way to get Asuna out to the real world. He did not care about training his character or getting any good equipment for this avatar, which was probably why he was angry this time.
"Yeah, what were you thinking? Rushing to climb the World Tree with beginner's equipment? You want to find out how death is like? Or you thought that any equipment could bring you to the world tree?" The Spriggan continued as if reading his mind.
"How did you—"
"Read your mind? I'm you, of course! I'm your avatar in Alfheim Online; you're my controller even though I want to punch you for your recklessness. The Alfs in the game already stated they needed Ancient-class equipment to clear the World Tree. What gave you the idea of passing ninety-five percent of your money to them? You could have gotten the Ancient-Class Equipment for yourself and solo-ed the tower yourself. Even Yui said you could clear it with your speed!" The Spriggan lectured him while flying about the white room.
When Kazuto remained silent, the Spriggan continue while closing his eyes.
"I don't know whether you are suicidal or stupid. I've thought you learned after fighting with Kayaba Akihiko, but apparently picking fights with game creators is a habit hard to kick." Spriggan Kirito joked while flicking Human Kazuto's forehead.
"Lucky for us, it worked out. Compared to Sword Art Online where you used skills against the creator, you didn't made use of the system to fight Sugou, at least. But still, Kayaba had to rescue you in the end, which just shows that it is impossible to transcend past the system of any games." Kazuto's avatar complimented.
"Thanks." Kazuto smiled.
"No problem, let's hope you don't need to do it again!" The Spriggan laughed while holding out his hand in a 'High-five'. The human moved to complete the clap, while giving a reply of his own.
"Yeah… Let's hope…"
His hand flew to meet the hand, but merely swiped air.
Thinking about it, why didn't he went to find the most powerful equipment for his character in that game, Kazuto wondered for a moment, aware that the answer was laid out in front of him. He was reckless, never researching on the best class to free Asuna, never looking for allies to help him clear the tree. He only wanted to see Asuna again, and that caused him to become so reckless. If that game was a death game, he would probably have died there…
The next person that appeared was the one he expected, but did not do anything he expected.
Kazuto would have given away his Gun Gale Online character immediately if someone did not tell him that it was a rare model that was given to players who had spent a long time diving into virtual reality games. His character was extremely feminine, passing off as a girl on first glance. To him, this character would represent the side he rejected; his social and logical side, his feminine features and his dark side in SAO. But the way she spoke to him was optimistic, caring and cheerful, unlike the other two avatars.
"We finally meet face to face." His avatar cheerfully greeted him, causing him to gap. Noting the awkward silence, the avatar continued.
"Maybe I should have acted the way you have pictured it…" he placed a finger on his chin while pouting, making him look extremely cute if he was a girl.
Shaking his head from those thoughts, he went to ask.
"Aren't you going to lecture me like the others?" the avatar perked up at his voice.
"Oh I finally got you talking! Ah, about that… would you want me to do it? I don't really have anything against you, so I don't see a reason other than you want me to." The feminine boy chirped.
"Uh?" Confused by his antics, Kazuto could only make a sound.
"Well… most of it had already been addressed by the other two! You see, when fighting Kayaba Akihiko, you told yourself not to use any of the sword skills, but you did not listen to me to remove that skill from your skill list, that made all of us pretty angry. But you did buy some better gear, just that it needed to be better. But you're one who always go on emotions rather than me, which is the only thing I was annoyed with. "He explained with a laugh.
He could not understand why he was so cheerful despite him neglecting the avatar for so long.
"Why… Why are you so happy?"
"Hm? Why? Is it wrong to be happy? I thought you might have wanted a change of pace, you didn't seem to be ready for another scolding." he exhaled. "I also could understand some of your moves. You ended up using a sword skill because of your habits, you rushing to the World Tree immediately because you wanted to see someone again. People would neglect their logical side for love…" He gave a gentle smile to the controller.
"Even against Kanemoto, you wished to protect Asuna. Both of you could have run off in different directions, but there's a fifty percent chance that he would have chased Asuna instead. So you decided to engage in combat with Kanemoto to protect her. I can understand that…" She closed her eyes.
"I think the world would be very boring if we did everything using logic, just like you…"
"It doesn't matter now…" Kazuto sighed, "I died protecting Asuna. She may not believe it for a moment, but she will get over it in time… And I will be forgotten sooner or later…" The feminine avatar shook his head when he finishes that sentence.
"You are not dead… But I'm sorry for what's going to happen next…"
"What do you mean?"
"You are going to wake up soon… In a place neither of us can understand. We can only provide you the skills to survive there, but you need to figure out where you are and how to get back to your reality."
"Thank you very much… Err… how should I address you?"
"You're me, you can think for a name for all of us."
"I was thinking Kiriko for you…" The avatar pouted cutely again at that name.
"I'm a guy, even though I look like a girl…"
"Well… We need to get rid of that feminine look before I can think of another name for you…" Kazuto gave an embarrass laugh. 'Kiriko' joined in for a moment, before telling him.
"Time's up, I guess…" He spoke just a moment before a female's voice boomed.
There were scents in the air.
My fragmented thought had sensed as such just before I woke up.
The air which was flowing into my nasal cavity contained large amounts of information: The sweet scent of flowers, the scent of bright green grasses, the refreshing scent of trees which felt like it could cleanse my chest and the scent of water which stimulated my thirsty throat.
As my consciousness leaned towards awareness, the flood of the sounds information surged into me: The sound of numerous leaves rubbing against each other and the sound of small birds cheerfully twittering away. Below them were the occasionally buzzing sounds from the insects, the faint murmuring sound of a small river from far away.
Where am I? At least it is obviously not my room. Usually, when I wake up, there is always a sunny-like scent of the dry sheet, the groan of the air-con, and the sound of the cars running on the Kawagoe bypass slightly further away, but all of these aren't present. Furthermore — the green light which irregularly brushes my closed eyelids until now isn't the book light I forgot to turn off, but sunlight filtered through the foliage, isn't it?
I pushed aside the desire to return to the deep sleep which still lingered, before finally opening my eyes.
I repeatedly blinked several times due to the sudden shot of numerous swaying beams of lights. As I rubbed my eyes, which were blurred with tears, with the back of my right hand, I slowly raised my upper body.
"…Where am I…?"
Haa… writing this short story felt good… this story was lingering in my mind for the last week. Originally I was planning for Kiriko to slap Kazuto. XD
Then I thought about it logically, he didn't do anything stupid in Gun Gale Online. I started to change the part of Kiriko from extremely violent to the virtual opposite of the previous two avatars, since it suits Kazuto more. Try imagining a Dark Kazuto with guns beating up his controller, the only way I can picture it is when the avatar is extremely angry, which the trio aren't at that point yet.
I was thinking whether to implement this part into my Second Reality story, where the last voice was Monica's. Ultimately, I decided to scrap the idea and let you (The reader) decide who was speaking to him at the end (the words in italics). Review if you want, compliment, criticize, whatever. I just want this story to be enjoyable for you. I hoped I managed to capture Kazuto's personality correctly.