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« BtF - Part XI

Before the Fire
Written by: FedeTkd
Published:
Part XII: Hero

None »



Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, February 17th, 2022

The nine students of Nihago Middle school arrive ten minutes before the start of the match.

Yamato Ovan was already ready on his place, sat down on the floor meditating with his eyes closed and his bokken on the floor in front of him. He just opened them to notice his adversaries had appeared.

The rest of the students were sat in the same square position for the ranking competition, the same as Kirei.

They'd some minutes before the start of the battle, but Kirei rises from his seat when he sees them.

“Glad you could come early. We'll start sooner than we expected.”

“Alright.” The Blue Ronin says. “Give us a short moment.”

Kirei nods his head sits down on the same place.

The nine make a circle.

Tai: “You made a huge gamble with this...”

“Yeah. I'm betting my option to play the Alpha Testing of Sword Art Online, in exchange of staying with you.”

Ikuto: “Well, if I'd the means, I'd bet all with you. You two are to fucking stubborn to be defeated on this.”

The group smiles.

Yamato: “Well aren’t you going to say something?”

“What? me!?”

Yamato: “Yeah.”

Izumi: “Well. You deserve to speak right now.”

Tai: “we're all ears go.”

“Alright.” he sights and then starts. “Thank you all for standing with us now. I'm truly grateful with each and every one of you. Today we'll face our toughest fight so far. We'll also fight for our future to assure it that we ourselves write it. This fight goes for Miya, and his sacrifice to keep us alive. But we shall need you all here, lending your strength to us. Put your hands here.”

He places his hand in front of him closed. Shun is the second one to place it right, then Tai, and rapidly the rest followed doing the same.

“Let's show what we're capable of! Now!”

They all raise their fish at the same time, screaming at the same time Rus, Yamato’s fearsome battle cry.

Both combatants enter the arena, not before the final nod to his friends.

They place themselves once next to the other, as Yamato Ovan grabbed his own bokken. They tab their shinais. They got ready and Kirei pronounced his speech, Shun whispers something to his partner.

“Sakura...she's re reason why you refuse to give up?”

“Yes. It is.”

“Then perhaps...There's something beyond glory and honor.”

Kirei ended his speech and thy approached Yamato ready with is bokken pointing at them, they do the same and get ready in battle position.

For a moment the three of them closed their eyes and breathed slowly waiting and reducing their heartbeat, calming themselves and making the whole world seemed go slower. C

learing their mind, they were getting ready for the battle.

“BEGIN!”

They both open their eyes and advance towards Yamato, as he does the same.

They clash in the middle, Yamato holding his sword vertically as the other two holding him back in the parallel position from the ground, making a power struggle looking eyes and heavy breath.

Shun moves his sword faster leaving his partner to block Yamato, and makes a deep thrust towards his belly, but Ovan manages to parry the blade by moving faster his own and then blocks the Blue Ronin’s strike. However, the Blue Ronin manages to spin on the ground and quickly get up to strike his back. He succeds, hitting Yamato on the back of his knee and making him lose his balance. But, Kirei's best student rapidly recovers and parries for a second time the blade of Shun, turning around and hitting him in the back. But he also recovers quickly and gets next to his friend.

Now the Blue Ronin advances first, but he just clashes swords with Ovan and continues moving. Yamato tries to seize opportunity and strike him, but just behind him, Shun appears and ready to strike him. Yamato canceled out his attack and then defended against Shun’s blade but the strenght still forces him back. Then, the other appeared after circling around his partner and tries to slash Yamato who again defends, but he's left with almost space and almost against a wall. Shun made the same as his friend and was ready to strike. However, their opponent turns around after blocking the Blue Ronin’s strike and rushes against the wall, jumping on it, spinning on the air and end up on the back. With a swift fast slash from his weapon, he hits them both, almost making them fall to the ground.

Yamato then makes a powerful downwards slash, towards Shun. His partner quickly managed to block him. The tip of the blade was inches from Shun’s face, who in the meantime double kicks him Yamato on the chest, getting up by the momentum and tries the same attack Ovan used, but clashes sword with him again. The now standing Blue Ronin raises his leg and places a kick directly to Ovan’s chest, forcing him back, and then elongates his body with a fast thrust to his chest, forcing him back a second time.

“SHIELD!” Shun screams.

Knowing what that word meant, the Blue Ronin gets down to his left knee and lowers his head. Shun runs and jumps on his back and attacks Yamato from above, forcing him back for a thrid time. After this, Ovan kicks him back, sending him to the ground. He then advances to finish what he started, if Shun hadn't appeared on his way.

The Blue Ronin tries to hit his head with a deep horizontal slash, but Yamato parries it, and proceeds to attack with several fast slashes to his body handing his bokken just with his right hand.

The two fist hits were well placed but the third one was parried by him, and then tried to counterattack, advancing with his right hand to spin and place a hit to his body but Yamato manages to parry the attack and kick his balance leg, sending him to the ground.

Shun appears and holds Yamato back before he can defeat his partner. He jumps towards him with his sword, which is deflected, and then tries a diagonal upwards slash which shares the same fate. Now Yamato advances and he can nearly parry the blade vertically down as it slides across the wooden edge of his shinai, sending him to the ground, Yamato tries to stab him down there, but Shun spins eluding the tip of the sword which stabbed the ground. He spinps the other way around and hits Yamato directly on the face with the back of his shinai, forcing him back and making him bleed. Nervetheless, Yamato looks back at him and removes his sword with both hands, making Shun fly up in the air and smash to the ground.

Now the Blue Ronin advancing towards him, defending his friend on the ground. He makes a powerful slash to hit Yamato’s face, but he blocks, sending the blade the opposite side alongside his and begins to spin to hit his opponent’s left side. This was what he was expecting. The Blue Ronin jumps while he is spinning and uses a technique Miya himself had taugh him: a side kick pointing it directly to Yamato’s face. Yamato is barely able to stop his spin and force his face backwards, as the edge of his foot almost reached Yamato’s chin. Once he lands, he jumps back again spinning on the ground and placing a hard kick directly to Yamato’s forehead with his metatarsus. But Yamato rapidly recover, and even though he was bleeding more, he clutches his left hand and launches a fist to his adversary. The Blue Ronin also attacks the same way with the same hand. They clash their fists on the middle of them two in a power struggle for a brief moment looking to each other eye.

At last, Yamato swings his fist to the air, forcing his adversaries to the same place. He then makes a powerful hit to his left side, but the Blue Ronin parries. Yamato tries the same blow from the opposite side, which he again parries, but the time he spins to strike his left side again, this time faster than the way before and aiming to his head. The Blue Ronin realizes that he may not be able to parry it but even still he makes it a try. Yamato moved faster, and before their blades clashed, Ovan placed a powerful hit directly to his left arm’s forearm, covering his face from the strike. He could feel a "crack" sound inside of his body. The power of the trikes, sending him to the ground roiling on it until him finally stops. Yamato advances to finish him off.

“OVAN!!!”

Shun runs towards him trying to hold him back. They begin fighting, but alone, he couldn't best Yamato.

The Blue Ronin rises the upper his body a bit, but his left forearm hurts a too much. It seemed to be broke, he couldn't continue. They couldn't stop the fight. It'd be equal to surrender to Yamato. He could just see the fight now letting his friend lose, and failing him again. Nothing he could to help him. He looks towards his friend on the floor shouting at him telling him to get up but for some reason his ears were ringing, he couldn't hear anything. While looking at theme, someone with loosen long golden hair appears on the gate alongside his friends.

“Sakura…”

She was with a shining smile on her face, looking at him.

He remembered at that moment she was going to come out of the hospital that day, and would try to get to the dojo and watch the fight. In that moment, he realizesces that even without being able to fight, he wasn't going to lose.

No.

Not with all was on at risk. Not after all what they had gone through.

Shun is barely keeping his fight against Yamato, who was slowly overpowering him, as he was pressed to a corner.

“SHUUUUUUUN!”

The shout coming from his partner on the ground. His distraction gives opportunity for Yamato to attack him the same way he did to his partner. But Shun eludes, spinning on the ground and getting up seconds afterwards, and faces Yamato again advancing at him. His partner tosses Shun something form the ground, and catches it in midair: the Blue Ronin’s shinai on his left hand.

Shun was dual wielding, surprising most of the audience of the battle.

Still this doesn't let Yamato down who starts the assault, slashing with his sword vertically. Shun blocks with his left and gets down thrusting with his other blade. Yamato avoids the strike moving his entire body and passing inches from the tip of the shinai, getting to Shun’s right flank and now trying a horizontal attack against his adversaries head. Shun rolls on the ground and gets back up.

Yamato changes his stance, to now hold his sword ready to perform iaido as Shun places his left sword in front of him and the other close to his chest, both pointing to his adversary. They begin to walk in circles trying to find each other weak spot. Finally Shun advances, spinning and slashing with both swords at the same time, forcing Yamato to change his stance and block both blades begging the third power struggle of the battle. Slowly, Yamato seems to hold the upper hand, but finally Shun parts quicker than him and the strength of the slash forces Yamato to leave his back opened. He advances, spinning for a second time and slashing Yamato with both swords on his back sending him to the ground. Yamato places his left hand to the ground and then the back of his neck, making the fall softer and rolling back up. Shun advances, and lowers both swords at the same time towards Yamato who blocks him and then forces the Green Ronin back. The attacker now slashes vertically but he blocks with both swords placed in X position. Still he quickly changed his attack, turning 360º at high speed, using the same move he used to brake the arm of his partner, but this time, to the right. Lance sees it coming however, and places his own Shinai blocking it. Both swords clash, a crack sound was herd and they end up distanced from each other.

Lance took a look to what was left of his sword; he'd lost his advantage and now is left looking to a smiling Yamato a meter and a half from him. Shun keeps his calm and throws the handle of his sword from his right hand to the ground, grabbing his partner’s shinai with both hands and rising it next to the right side his face. Yamato does the same. They briefly stare to each other, directly to the eye.

That was it.

All or nothing.

Shun attacks first, directly the blade towards the belly of Yamato, but he blocks placing his sword in the middle of the way. He counters by using the momentum given to his sword by the first swing, rising his blade and attacking the same way he defended, but this time diagonally to Shun’s neck. Neverthless, he blocks the blade with his shinai, and he also uses the momentum given to him, raising the sword and attacking vertically to Yamato’s had. Ovan blocks again, but Shun spins next to Yamato’s left, trying to reach his back. Yamato does the same. He lowers his sword attacking directly to Yamato’s belly if he hadn't parried again the blow, and now rises his sword attacking Shun’s head, who deflects the attack rising his sword in horizontal position, and continues the impulse he had attacking Yamato’s face, who's forced to duck under the blade, passing inches from the top of his head. Yamato rises, getting ready and passing next to Shun’s back, as he did the same as they got ready their blades for one more strike. They turn and strongly hit each other’s temple.

Shun fall to the ground, as so does his shinai.

Ending the battle as Yamato was left holding his bokken, leaving the entire audience in absolute silence.

The Blue Ronin is left looking to his partner shocked to see him on the ground again, accompanied by the sight of his friends, both impressed by the great battle he had given, and the defeat he had suffered. Shun barely can rise the upper part of his body up. They look back at Yamato, who was on his right knee resting placing his sword top the ground, helping him to stand on his knees.

Yamato Ovan: “Well fought...Both of you...”

Yamato fall to the ground the same as his adversaries

Shun: “Imposible…”

He looks to his partner who is as impressed as him.

The crowd stood in a more absolute silence than the one before.

Kirei: “Tie…”

Kirei rises from his seat.

“I declare this a tie!”

---

“Aghhhhh!”

Sakura Naoto: “Shhh. Be still or it'll hurt more! And you're lucky I know a bit of first aids.”

She takes care of his left arm, wrapping it around long pieces of cloths and bandages. She then gives him a longer cloth, to hang that arm from his neck.

“Thank you Naoto.”

Both of them get to their feet again.

Kirei appears out of the Dojo.

“Well fought both of you.”

They both nod.

Kirei approaches his now former champion.

Kirei: “Well fought. I seem to have underestimated you, I'm sorry. You can go back to Tokyo.”

“Thank you...”

Kirei turns to Shun.

Shun: “Thank you. It has been an honor to study with you, Kirei.”

Kirei: “No. The honor to teach you was mine.”

The Blue Ronin walks towards Yamato, standing with his arms crossed, looking to the inner garden with his arms crossed and a bandage over his forehead, result of the last hit of the battle.

Yamato Ovan: “Is your arm well?”

“It WILL be. Shun hits harder that you do.”

Yamato grins.

“This is yours.” He extends to her a small document from Argus, the company that developed Sword Art Online. “It has your name. You'll have no problem to get to the building of Argus and play. It starts on March 1st. You'll also get a free copy and a NerveGear also.”

He nods his head.

“Hope you find what you seek.”

Ovan: “I hope the same for you.”

This time, the Blue Ronin extends his hand. Yamato grabs it and they share one last hand shake.

He leaves him, but rapidly Shun follows him. He takes a look at his rival, but finally extends his hand at him, sharing a hand shake.

“We haven't yet had proper hand-to-hand match.”

“Train more. And seek me on the game…” he looks towards the Blue Ronin. “Both of you...”

They both prepare to leave, but Yamato calls them back.

“Shun.” He removes something from his neck: a necklace, on the middle it had the figure of Seiryu, the guardian Azure Dragon of Japan of the east.

“This was given that when I became champion at your age. Wear it with more honor that I had.”

Shun nods his head thanking him for it, and puts in on his neck.

They both continue to leave. But the Blue Ronin stops just before.

“Kirei. I got the answer you wanted for you.”

Kirei looks at him.

“I fight to protect my friends. That's my purpose.”

Kirei smiles, after he finally understood what he meant with purpose.

They walk out of the place and are greeted by all their friends, happy and glad they made it out in once piece and could manage to achieve this victory. At last, Sakura is the only one left to congratulate them.

Their friends leave in that moment, going down the stairs.

“I told them to leave. I wanted to speak alone with you two. Shun…”

“No speaking.” He interrupts her, looking back to his partner, who gets down his sight.

“Shun. Thank you for…”

“No...Thank you for your help. I wouldn't have tied with Yamato if it weren't for you.”

“Well, I wouldn't have passed the test, and not go back with you all without you. Thank you…Shun…I”

“Yamatomay want a rematch once we are inside SAO. “ He interrupts him.

The Blue Ronin rises his sight looking to his friend.

“You can be my wingman on that occasion.”

He smiles, understanding where he was getting to.

“BULLSHIT. YOU CAN BE MINE...”

Both of them smile. They afterwards share a hug, starting apart their differences and becoming friends again.

They part, as Shun places his hand on his shoulder.

“We'll always be brothers. In this life and the next.”

“Blood Brothers.”

Shun turns around and looks back to his former girlfriend.

“Sakura, take care of this mad fuck for me, would you?”

“Yeah.” She says while laughing.

Shun leaves the place.

“I'll leave the cheesy lovers to their chatting.”

“Touche!” The Blue Ronin

He leaves the place, as the lovers approach and the couple interlace their fingers, and walk towards the end of the hill of Kirei’s dojo, where a wonderful sight where all the city could be seen.

---

A blonde kid with his right eye covered with lots of bandages watches them from the distance with a serious look on his face and hate gathered on both his eyes and his soul.

“Just wait…Brother…Just wait.”

“Miya! We're leaving!”

“Sure cousin! Sure…”

He puts on the helmet he holds beneath his right arm and gets up to a motorcycle. They turn it on and begin riding, as he keeps his eyes on his now archenemy…

---

“I like how your hair looks like. Without the horse tail on your back.”

“Really?”

“Yes still, there's something missing.”

He parts his hand from her and gets it inside the pocket of his jacket. He gets out a small little box, giving it. She opens it; it had a long purple ribbon inside.

“I knew you lost it. I wanted to give you something from me to always carry with you.”

“I love it!” She puts it on her head. “How do I look?”

“Beautiful.”

She again takes hold of his hand.

“Look, about Miya…” wanting to reveal the truth to him.

“Yes?”

She looks to his face, and notices he still cared for the boy that almost raped her. She decides…

“He was…a good boy. And I hope he's fine wherever he is.”

“So do I…”he looks down to the ground.

“What's the matter?”

“I couldn't save my oldest friend…I”

“Sh. You rescued me and Shun. That makes you a hero. My hero. You have proven to me once again to me what I think: you are the one that leads stardust to become a new shining star. The one that connects bonds of people, uniting them to get more strength and light the path towards the future.”

“You've also told me this on the lagoon. Sakura, you really believe that?”

“Not only that I believe in it. I guarantee it. Also, on that day, you never told me what you want to be when you grow up”

“Ahh…”

“What's it still a secret?”

The look deep into each other’s eyes.

“No the truth is that I…I…”

He tells him it to the ear, and she cannot control laughing after hearing it.

“That isn't funny!”

“No! far the contrary! I like it! It is a good dream. I know, one day, you'll achieve it. You're capable of anything.”

They hug.

“That's thing is from the past. For now onwards, my only concern is you and you alone. I'll keep you safe from anything. You're the best thing that has ever happened to me. There's something I wanted to tell you on the hospital, but I couldn't.”

They end their hug, as he advances now and kisses her. They share a long kiss showing their felling to each other.

They finish, but keep their foreheads united.

“…I love you, Sakuya Sakura.”

“And I love you, H…”

---

Floor 33, November 2nd, 2024

I finish my drink.

I get up and leave the tavern while everybody’s eyes still laid upon me.

While I walk to the woods, as the evening sun starts to descend, I began thinking back again about almost my forgotten memories of those days.

Hundreds of dawns and nights have passed since that beautiful moment with Sakura on the small hill, looking towards the endless horizon with her by my side speaking my name and telling me that she loved me for the first time.

It still seemed as if it was yesterday.

Yet, many things have happened since it.

The game, the battles, the battles against Belphegor, Sakura and I on a bed for the first time, the battle against Cerdic, the death of Daisuke, of Izumi, the final defeat of Cerdic, the pyre at the outskirts of Camlann, my best friend's death and his girlfriend's, my friend's death by Laughing Coffin, Sakura dying on my arms, when I was reborn as a Gladiator, the death of Craxus, of Ducard, the Gladiator rebellion and many other things.

Yamato Ovan was one of the greatest warriors I've ever faced, both in real life and in Virtual Reality. Still he had fallen months ago, I still don't know how. I but hope he found that fight that so much he sought.

About Miya, his whereabouts are unknown to me. I never knew what truly happened with my life-long friend, and if I could see him just once against, beg for his apologies for what I'd done to him.

But I can but pray that he is alright, wherever he is.

I keep on walking; I have to get soon to the next floors to find Tyrant.

And perhaps, that player, named Mordread…

---

Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, May 14th, 2025

I park my motorbike just in front of the long stair case up to the Dojo of Kirei.

Removing my helmet, I can see some student from Nikaho Middle School, the same school I attended. For what I could see of the city, many things remained the same, and others didn't. The entrance to the arena where I was the Champion was closed and entrance was prohibited.

These kids don't have an idea what they were missing.

I must admit, I miss it, that roar and the sensation of achieving victory inside of the Arena.

Yet, not as much as I missed people close to me.

I get off the bike and placed the helmet inside the small cabinet bellow the seat. Afterwards, I rush up towards the Dojo eluding other incoming students calling me superior, as if I was an experienced kenjutsu practicing student. After the stream of kids ended, I managed to get to the end of the stairs and get inside the Dojo. Looking inside, I see Kirei and his granddaughter, Sakura Naoto, cleaning the Dojo with a broom. Kirei was with a bokken on his hand. He looked, considerably older and a bit sick. His health didn't seem the best, something not surprising considering his age. Sakura, on the other hand, looked just some years older since we last saw each other. Both of them didn't seem to notice me on the entrance.

I knock two times the wood at the side of the entrance.

He turns around.

“Who's thi…” he drops his bokken to the ground at the same time as Sakura did the same thing with the broom. Both wooden things rebounded with it several times before stopping. They were left without speech, or didn't know what to say.

“Hi Sensei.” I said, giving him foot to speak.

“I thought you dead.”

“Here I stand.” I enter the dojo, leaving my shoes behind. “The same can't be said about others.”

“I heard about your friends and Sakura. I am sorry.” Sakura said

“So I did about Yamato. I'm sorry.”

Sakura just looks to other part of the dojo with teary eye, as Kirei responded to me.

“He sacrificed himself to let others leave. Don't be sorry. Honor his memory.”

I nod my head.

“Please, enter. I think we have a lot to talk about, if you are of a mind…”

---

At the end of my story Kirei leans back, impressed, as Sakura just looked down.

“That was…hard…”

“Tell me about it.” I respond.

“Many things have changed. You aren't the same man you were at three years ago.”

“The same could be said of other players across Japan that were trapped on that hellhole.”

“But a few more than the majority. I can notice it upon your eye, the tensing of the jaw...You know what I think about people looking for blood. If you find it, know you have a choice…”

“Mine is already taken, Kirei.”

I hear steeps coming from the staircase. It seemed too many for a single person.

I look to my back noticing a boy, some years older than me with black hair, holding hands with a girl with dark red hair. Sakura gets up and goes to see them, hugging them both. Kirei followed her, greeting each other.

I get up and placing my left hand on my trousers pocket follows them. As I got near, I recognized both of them.

When they finished talking to each other, both of them turn sight upon me, and realize who I was the second afterwards.

They seemed surprised to see me, I guess.

I speak first.

“I believed myself a troublesome fuck to kill, Blade Master. Or should I call you Ishi?”

“Galant.” He grins.” The same could be said of you.”

“Aw, Ishi, you've never made a formal presentation!” The girl next to him said.

“Ah true. Sorry Asuka. Galant this is Asuka Shizuka. Asuka this is Galant.”

She extends her left hand as I do the same with my right. Upon noticing I was right handed, she quickly changed her hand.

“Your fiancée.” I say looking to Ishi with a grin on my face. I'd seen a golden ring on her ring finger of her left hand.

Asuka: “We have greeted each other, but we have seen, and also Ishi told me a lot about you. As when you tried to kill him...”

I step back for a second.

Ishi: “Wait up. He also helped me to escape!”

“I'm sorry but I did as commanded. It's no balm. but Ducard's dead. I did it myself.”

Asuka’s expression softens as I said this. Wonderful. The last thing I wanted I a tsundere girl trying to hit me, as I did not had many problems. I wonder how the hell this two ended up together…

Ishi: “Fair enough. But what're you doing here?”

“I could as the same to you, I've been student of Kirei before SAO.”

Ishi: “What the…!”

Asuka: “We trained with the old master inside SAO. We were here just passing by the city, maybe buy a house…”

“I just came to pay my respects, for Yamato. I knew him from days training.”

Ishi: “I heard about your friends and girlfriend. We're sorry.”

I nod my head as Sakura and Kirei go back to their seats.

“Will you stay?” Sakura asks me.

“No longer Sakura. Right now my only concern is to find Miya, no Mordread, and kill him.”

Kirei: “You and I've often spoken about this. As I once told you, vengeance is a dark path, and you may lose your foot once you are walking on it.”

“Look at me Kirei. I lost my best friend, my other friends, my girlfriend, and my parents as well. Everything was lost after I entered inside the game. My past is ash. I have nothing left, except this path. If this may destroy me, I gladly accept it. I have no other purpose in my life. Nothing to lose and everything to win. Fair gamble to me.”

Kirei: “Nothing, would be your life?”

“There's no life for me without Sakura Sakuya. Just a vague existence.”

Kirei: “Every man is free to make his own choice. I respect yours. But keep it in mind.”

“Are you sure about this?” Ishi speaks to me. “I once searched for the same as you, Vengeance. I found him, but I didn't kill him because I wanted revenge...Know something: it may happen to you what he speaks, as it almost happened to me.”

“You did what was correct. To avenge her death. But for me there is nothing left.” I make a sign towards Asuka. “There's no one I hold to heart left, to balm me.”

“Diana and Kana are still alive. Diana loves you.” Asuka tells me.

I felt to a surprised. How did they know of this? I answer few seconds after thinking about it.

“I know. But she won't find happiness. Not with me at her side. I want to keep her safe, and the best way of doing it is keeping her distanced from me.”

“And what of Diana she loves you!?” Ishi says

“She shouldn't.”

Ishi stops for a moment. But then speaks.

“Yamato gave me the exact same answer to a similar question…”

I look back with the corner of my eye to Sakura looking down.

Not wanting to speak about Ovan, I just change the subject.

“You still don't understand Ishi. You can continue on this path because your days of fighting have finished long past. Mine have but began. I couldn't save my girlfriend, but I now fight so this never happens again to anyone. A day where Mordread is a distant and dark memory, fading by each day.”

“May you find peace once it arrives...”

He extends my hand to me. I extended my hand and shared almost the same handshake I had with Yamato all those years ago.

“Take care of Asuka, and your upcoming daughter or son. You never know when you lose them. Congratulations for your wedding.”

“Thank you. You take care of yourself, I hope you find what you seek...”

“I will. I'm not going to die. Not until she is avenged and rests in peace.” I part from Ishi take a glance on Asuka. “Take care.”

Asuka smiles.

“I will! Good luck!”

I look back to Kirei and Sakura sit down on the small table, waiting for their other two guests. Sakura waved her hand to me with a smile, in sight of wishing me good luck, Kirei looks at me.

“May you find what you seek, Champion of Aincrad.”

“I pray I do so...”

I walk out of the dojo giving a final nod to everyone on the Dojo, leaving this past behind me. I look to the Seiryu necklace on my pocket, which once belonged to my best friend. Kirei negated taking it back with him, stating that it was mine now.

All of them: Shun, Ishi and Yamato where among of the best players I'd ever faced in my journey across Aincrad.

All of them, found peace, somehow.

The peace we all seek, and few of us ever find.

I hope I could reach mine one day…But that day, was long to happen.

There's but one player I heard about that may surpass even our legends. Someone called Kirito, The Black Swordsman or the Twin Swordsman. The player that defeated Kayaba on his own game, and freed us all.

I almost got down through the stairs, when something stopped me.

I look up, and see the place where I was with Sakura when we declared love to each other. I walk to that place and look towards the horizon, which remained beautiful, the same way it was. I close my eyes for a moment, recalling that conversation inside my head and that question Sakura made me…

“…you have never told me what you want to be when you grow up”

“Ahh…”

“What is it still a secret?”

“No the truth is that I…I…”

I open my eyes and speak up.

“I want to be a hero…”

The End

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