Kirito spread his arms as Klein skidded to a snowy halt by them, catching a giggling hatchling as she jumped off. “There you go…. We should get going.”
“Aww.” Klein and Yui both pouted, turning pleading looks on them.
Ack. Not the eyes. “We don’t want Aunt Stheno to worry,” Kirito said firmly. “Getting to her cave is a lot safer in the daylight.”
“He’s right,” Asuna nodded. “We should go. But it was really fun.” She smiled at Klein. “Maybe Fuurinkazan could send your aunt a message when they’re going to be in town.”
“Darn right.” Klein ruffled black hair; if a little cautiously, to keep from getting nipped by an irritated snake. “You’re a cool kid.”
The walk back to Stheno’s Cave was uneventful, outside of the odd skeleton or ice paraelemental mob, and soon they were handing over a sleepy hatchling and her presents to her adoptive aunt. “A wooden drakkensteed,” Stheno murmured, cradling Yui in her arms. “We can make one of these. Rock candy….” She gave Kirito a look askance.
He felt his cheeks flame as Asuna hid a giggle behind her hands. “Why do you think that was me?”
Stheno raised red brows. Started to answer… and changed her mind, shaking her head instead. “We’ll speak after I get this one to bed.” Yui mumbling against her shoulder, the medusa stepped around a frost-edged tree, out of sight.
Listening hard, Kirito caught a sound he hadn’t heard in over a year. Logout.
At least for Yui, SAO was still just a game.
“Are you okay?” Asuna held out an empty hand, eyes creased in worry. “I could walk back with you, if you need more company.”
Slowly, Kirito shook his head. “I’m just going to teleport back to Snow Springs.” They couldn’t teleport into Stheno’s Cave. But anyone on Stheno’s Friends list could use one particular niche in the wall to teleport out. “You should get a good night’s sleep, if you’re going back to the front lines tomorrow.”
Asuna nodded. “It was good to take some time away from the fighting.”
“It was.” Why was it so hard to talk all of a sudden? Just because… Asuna was here. With him. Smiling.