Of the Inexpressable Future (Yuuki)

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Of the Inexpressable Future (Yuuki)
Date of Cutscene: 21 October 2015
Location: Alfheim Online - Floating Castle Aincrad
Synopsis: In celebration, the Sleeping Knights and Asuna journey to see the proof of their victory. What's revealed there however makes it clear... this was never just about a video game fight.
Cast of Characters: 9, Yuuki Konno

Is it really possible for a single group to kill a floor boss? Yuuki and the Sleeping Knights would have never reached this moment if it weren't for the help given by the Gatecrashers. She owes them quite a lot for the way they handled that raider guild, cutting through them to give the Sleeping Knights a chance to reach the boss room. Iron Wolf and Iron Lily for holding and then breaking the line. Kirito for breaking their spirit. Mistral for charging in and stopping their casters, and Silverbloom and Kagura for the song magic and buffs that gave the edge to all of them.

Most of all though, they owe Asuna. Asuna who discovered the guild spies, Asuna who called her friends. She guided them, taught them, shared her experience with taking on powerful bosses, and in the end spotted the tricks to both the boss's ultimate defense and weak point. Yuuki may have scored the killing blow, she might have technically been the leader of the Knights, but she's only the heart of the team. This day, Asuna led them to the victory.

It's been a year now since the Sleeping Knights had someone they could rely on to guide them, not simply to lead them. Yuuki's acted as the leader, but she knows she lacks the patience and thoughtful kindness of their previous leader, Aiko. Not that Asuna could lead them in truth, but she's the guide they've missed ever since Aiko left. And Yuuki, more than any other of the Sleeping Knights, has desperately missed being with Aiko. No real surprise Yuuki chose Asuna to join their group, to help them achieve their dream. Aiko's dream. In so many ways, Asuna resembles Aiko.

"Leave it to me, neechan!" Yuuki had insisted. It's common enough for Japanese girls to politely address older girls as oneesan, or big sister. In the heat of battle however, Yuuki had inadvertently spoken as if to her real sister. A tiny slip, but the closeness implied by the endearment is even more intimate than when she'd tacklehugged Asuna to the ground in celebration of their victory.

The victory party had been nice, just the seven of them, but even that had its bittersweet moments. Asuna had asked to join the Sleeping Knights, only to learn that the guild would be disbanded, probably before spring. They'd decided this would be their last big thing, one triumphal moment to remember before life forced them to separate. Even then Asuna suspected she'd pressed too closely on something that was obviously a sore topic, retreating from that discussion with careful apologies. Rather than dwell on the awkwardness, she offered to bring the group to see what they'd fought so hard for. To see the Monument of Heroes where their names would all be etched as the champions of the 27th floor.

The offer brought Yuuki out of her brooding silence, bringing an actual smile to her as well. That would be nice, yes. Proof of a major victory, of a goal achieved. Even Jun's suggestion of pictures was welcome. Yuuki hardly needed to be dragged by the hand, but she allowed herself to be dragged regardless.

Standing in front of the monument, staring up at it for the first time since their victory, Yuuki finally felt it to be truth. "We really did it." she states in awe, unshed tears glimmering in her eyes. Not sorrow but a complex blend of joy and melancholy as she finally allowes herself to accept it. "There they are. Our names..." she says, almost in disbelief. Jun took the memorial picture to an assortment of smiles, cheesy grins, and victorious finger-salutes.

Then Yuuki turned back to the monument, returning to her hidden thoughts. "We did it, didn't we Yuuki?" asked Asuna, sharing the moment but not the thoughts running nonstop through the younger girl's head. Yuuki nodded, then speaks. "I finally did it, neechan." she says, looking up at the monument. The term brings a smile to Asuna. "You're saying it again." she says, clearly not upset at the affectionate term. Yuuki looks over in startled surprise. She hasn't realized it. Really, she hadn't been speaking to anyone actually present, except perhaps in spirit. She'd been speaking to herself, or perhaps more literally to her sister.

Clapping hands to her mouth, Yuuki's struck speechless. How could she explain? Aiko, her life... all of it? She couldn't even tell Asuna the truth, that she'd been speaking to Aiko. If that came out, then so would everything. Aiko, the secret of the Sleeping Knights, and what's likely to happen as spring comes. It's all... it's all too much.

Asuna's unaware of course, even as she explains that it makes her happy that Yuuki would call her a big sister. She only realizes when she looks, seeing tears running freely down Yuuki's cheeks, hands clasped firmly over her mouth to hold in the words that would devastate them both. Even as Asuna moves to comfort the younger girl, Yuuki backs away, then turns and opens the game menu. Without an explanation, without even a word, Yuuki logs out of the game, vanishing from sight.