A/N: Internet poofed on me this morning, drat it. So, extra long post!
Klein scratched his head, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “You think Kayaba was using servers in America?”
Kirito shook his head, confused himself. “He couldn’t have been. They wouldn’t have been fast enough.”
“I know they couldn’t be. Doesn’t change the fact that they were. We’re in America.” Klein nodded toward the door and the nurses beyond. “Or somebody’s set up a heck of a movie set, with nothing labeled in kanji and a horde of actors who speak American.”
“And a guy I know,” Agil put in. “I’ve seen Dr. Jackson before. Man does love his coffee.”
“And my sister’s letters have American postmarks,” Kirito said, half to himself. “But it doesn’t make sense.”
Asuna took a deep breath. “We’ll worry about it making sense later. If we want to be able to move, we need shoes.” She glanced up, eyes full of fire. “And information.”
“Definitely,” Klein agreed. “But before we go hell bent for leather after it, there’s something you two need to know.” He crossed his arms, and gave them a determined look. “You’re alive. Deal with it. If you think you don’t deserve it, that you owe the dead – damn it, pay them back by helping the rest of us find Kayaba. Crazy people happen. It’s like a tsunami. Only a tsunami isn’t after you personally. We were there when Kayaba happened, and we lived. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around. And it hurts. But you’re here.” He spread his hands. “Stay with us, okay? Just take it a day at a time. Get used to living again, without that psycho hanging over our heads.”
Kirito shook his head. “I’m not sure he was crazy.”
“I’m not, either.” Asuna shivered, and looked up at a startled Agil. “Bluebook. You know the name.”
“Yeah,” Agil admitted, shifting on his feet. “Kasumi – my wife and I, we run the Dicey Cafe near the Cheyenne Mountain base. Ran it. Before we went on vacation and – well, wrong time to try out a new game.” He looked stricken. “Oh man. I left her with two years of dishes. She’s going to kill me.”
“For not doing the dishes?” Klein said in disbelief.
Agil shook a finger at Klein. “And this is why you’re not married.” He frowned, obviously thinking hard. “Distraction. I’ve got to bring a distraction when I see her. Flowers – nah, not good enough. Two years! Dishes. Birthdays. Anniversaries – oh, I am so dead. I’ve got to bring something good. Something irresistible. Something… cute….”
Kirito blinked, taken aback by a sudden swarm of evil grins. Why is everybody looking at me?
Asuna gripped his shoulder. “Mine.”
“Even better!” Agil looked like a man spared. “I bring both of you in, Kasumi will feed you and fuss over you. I’m saved!”
Kirito’s eyes widened.
“Yes! Just like that. Plus five Cuteness – she’ll never resist.”
Kirito was blushing. He could feel the burn. And Klein was not helping, the snickering idiot.
Though Klein’s snickers trailed off as he glanced past Kirito’s shoulder. “Schmidt. Nijikaze. What’s up?”
“I think we should be asking you that, no?” The Divine Dragon Alliance’s leader gave them a searching look; brown hair falling in his eyes, hands splayed and obviously empty. “Is everyone back online? That was… a bad fight.”
Kirito took a deliberate breath, and nodded. “It was. And….” He glanced at Asuna. “Real world or not, I think we’ve been dumped into a whole new level.”
Chestnut brows shot up as Asuna thought that over. She nodded, and looked up at Schmidt. “I think we need a boss planning conference.”
“In the real world?” Nijikaze blurted out. Twisted a finger in her hair, as if she still couldn’t believe the contrast between dark brown and new roots of violet, pink, and azure. “Vice-Commander, I – we’re out of the game. We’re safe.”
“We’re out,” Schmidt agreed. Glanced toward the doorway, and passing nurses’ uniforms. “But we’re not safe, are we?”