“You two look a lot better.”
Kirito let Klein drag him into another quick hug, noting how the guild leader looked a little less strained around the eyes. Part of that had to be the fact that Klein had obviously acquired some hot water and soap of his own; still damp, his mop of unruly red had been semi-tamed by a pale blue scrunchie. “You smell better, too,” Kirito teased. Caught Asuna’s sudden glance down, and covered her eyes. And his own. “Just one problem.”
“Legs,” Asuna managed, caught between a shriek and a giggle.
“Hairy legs.” Kirito almost stifled a snicker. “Brain bleach. Please.”
“Oi! Some thanks I get.” But Klein grinned as he pulled on dark red scrubs. “The docs are scraping stuff together as fast as they can, but it looks like a lot of guys are going to be feeling a draft tonight. Some people would rather stick with paper and sheets than wear another guild’s colors.” He shrugged. “Can’t say I blame them.”
Kirito nodded, remembering how fast he’d ditched the Knights’ white and red. It was one thing to be offered the chance to join a guild. That spectacle Heathcliff – Kayaba – had made of their duel….
It’s over, he reminded himself, checking where Agil, Argo, and anyone else he knew were standing in their ward. He didn’t have to look for Asuna. She was a light he could have found with his eyes closed; warm and breathing and alive.
Yet if it was over, why were Agil and Fuurinkazan standing guard?
Asuna braced herself, and gestured Agil and Argo over. “We need to talk to everyone in the last raid. We need to tell them, we don’t know why we’re still….” She swallowed.
“Yeah,” Agil said heavily. “Argo has a few ideas about that.”
“So do you.” Argo glanced at the axe-wielder, obviously intrigued. “I like yours better.”
Agil shrugged. “Hey, we could both be right.”
“There is that,” Argo nodded.
Kirito shivered, chilled. “You know why Kayaba-?” He couldn’t say it.
Agil blew out a slow breath, and herded them toward the little circle of quiet Fuurinkazan had created around Asuna’s bed. “Wish we had a door we could shut…. First thing you two need to know? Not your fault you’re still breathing. He set you up.”