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[PP - F02 - PT] Strawberry Shortcakes


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Koga watched as the girl took her first bite of the soup, waiting to see what her reaction would be. He could only hope that she didn't hate it, at least. Evidently though, Koga's real concern should have been the temperature of the soup, for as soon the soup was in Kasumi's mouth, she wriggled gently on the bed, a sign of her discomfort. Oddly, it brought a small amused grin to Koga's mouth, obscured by the fact that he leaned down to grab the second of the packages, not that he had his answer. Not bad soup.

As Kasumi asked her question, Koga unscrewed the second wood canister. A slightly sweet, earthy scent wafted out from it, accompanied by warm steam wavering through the air. The sweet scent subtly contrasted the strange expression on Koga's face as he poured out the golden liquid into small teacups. Not quite a frown, but not a grin either. Some strange muscular contortion wrought half the mans face upward, with the corner of his mouth lifting upwards and a raised brow, while the other half appeared to frown, and the brow knitted in concentration.

"Well...she's a trouble-maker, I'll tell you that much," he said, offering the filled teacup to Kasumi. "It's jasmine," he informed her before continuing. "Stubborn too. Probably why she causes me so much trouble," a slight, mirthful laugh. "Once she sets her mind on something, it'll be the Rapture before someone convinces her otherwise." Koga took a sip from his own cup as he thought further on a good description of his sister, both the good and the bad. "It's a good thing and a bad thing, I guess," the man eventually said passively, knowing full well he tended to be the same, although he didn't say as much. "She's crazy smart though, and good at pretty much anything she puts her mind too. She plays a mean sax, but don't tell her I told you that, she might kill me." Another chuckle followed by another sip of tea. "At the end of the day though, she is really caring. She's just...really, really bad at expressing it. And you can always count on her to have your back. She's good about things like that." As Koga finished, he found himself staring into the gently rippling surface of his tea, tinting the clay interior of the cup a soft yellow color. There was a lot he left out, things he didn't really feel like going over right now, but he felt that he got the important things out. Stubborn, smart, talented, caring and loyal. Yeah, that sounded like Aki for the most part.

Looking up Koga went on, "she's actually in SAO too, so maybe you'll get to meet her someday. What about you? Any siblings?"

@Kasumi

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Listening intently as she nursed the bowl with both hands, the heat through the wood still obvious despite its thickness. Taking bites after a soft exhalation on each spoonful, and leaving the object on her lap as she accepts the tea from Koga. A gentle yet heavy inhale as she takes the scent in to appreciate it, breathing out before taking a sip. "I know someone like that, difficult and yet..." Another sip carefully as to not scold her tongue, allowing the golden liquid to settle. "They are more caring than they allow themselves to believe." She was of course referring to Setsuna.

That same polite grin from her as it could be sensed that honest happiness that oozed out of her pores. "Maybe I will." Another bite of the soup carefully, spinning the spoon as she grew accustomed to the taste as well. It wasn't quite what the day had in store, but even still, it was nice. "I don't have any brothers or sisters, just a cousin. He's difficult and hard to understand at times. But he cares and takes everything so personally and directly. He tries so hard to protect and defend everyone around him, I love him for it, and yet I can't help but notice that it's stressing him out."

In a cave on floor 21, the breaking of roots is interrupted by a solid sneeze.

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Koga finished off his tea as he let Kasumi have her turn at talking about her family. The man gently set the cup down beside him on the floor, before returning to tending his soup, satisfied that, at this point, it wouldn't burn him too harshly.

When was the last time had actually just sat down with someone and...conversed? Like normal people? Christmas where he and Yukiro had barge in on NIGHT? And even then, questions about the mysterious AI that resided with his friend had plagued him. Had it really been that long since he'd last just sat down with someone and enjoyed a conversation?

"You seem to attract some very caring people to yourself. I'd say you're a pretty lucky person for that." the man said with a playful chuckle, as his spoon returned to the bowl. "Er, not to say you're not caring, yourself," Koga amended, worrying he might've implied that Kasumi was not, which couldn't have been further from the truth from what Koga could tell.

@Kasumi

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Taking another bite now halfway through the dish, given it had cooled to the point that it could be consumed without worry. Her nerves absent, and with it the fluster had since faded. The sheer complication that was a boy and a girl in a room by themselves was so far from her current thoughts that it held no discomfort. "I'll say so, I am pretty lucky that I found who I did." she of course was referring to Koga as well, here was this guy who thought she was sick, and maybe she was. He rushed off into a nearby town and bought her some 'get well' food. His other comment didn't seem to phase her at all, like a bullet against the side of a battleship or a sheet of steel.

"Don't count yourself short either, Alkor seems like a good guy." Kasumi wasn't too sure who all were his friends, but if they were half as kind as him, then he was equally blessed. The rattle of an empty bowl as the blossom swapped to the cup, taking a look into the ceiling and becoming lost in the boards that made it up. "This place is beautiful, perfect. But the people in here prove that it's in flaws true beauty exists. We're all fortunate that we have each other. I wonder what the world outside of Aincrad will feel like, once we all leave this place. I don't think I'll ever forget you, Koga."

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Koga was, of course, more than a little oblivious to Kasumi's veiled compliment. As far as Koga was concerned, the girl meant she had simply found some other kind friends for herself, which Koga could neither argue, nor begrudge. Would that everyone could be so lucky in their life to surround themselves with kind people who cared for each other.

"Yeah, he is," Koga nodded in reply as he reached over and picked up the bowl from Kasumi's lap, fingers gently brushing her leg through the sheets, and set it down on the ground beside his teacup. "From the sound of it though, he and your cousin would get along swimmingly." Another sly smile as Koga lifted the spoon to his lips again.

"I don't know about perfect," Koga replied, "but you're right that it is beautiful, and that beauty exists in and of flaws." Perfection didn't exist. It simply couldn't. But that wasn't a bad thing. If something, anything, was perfect, what else would there be to strive for? Perhaps that was perfection's flaw.

"I didn't realize I left that much of an impression," Koga said with a playful laugh as he set aside his own bowl as well, and crossing his legs, completely avoiding the subject of their return to realspace. Well, assuming they made it back at all.

@Kasumi

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A bit of a wiggle as Koga moved for the bowl, her skin taking static after the brush beneath the fabric. "I would imagine." She tries to place that thought back in its box, their conversation was going so well that she didn't want to spoil it. But there was a slight redness to her, a sensitivity hard to ignore. "Of course. You hardly know me..." and she pushes in a deep red and begins to rub her thumbs on the ring of the cup. "But you went and found this, and have been working to fix whatever..." gesturing to her blushing face. "This is." A struggled swap to her cup, trying to dismiss how awkward she'd probably just made this. "This is good tea." stupid Kasumi, stupid... tapping the side of her head with a smile and trying to shield her face from view. A round of her hair around her right ear, avoiding Koga's look with her own.

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The flush had faded as their conversation has proceeded, but now it had returned. Admittedly, it wasn't as severe as it had been before, but it was enough for Koga to recognize the return of the red tint. Not enough, however, for him to recognize the cause of the flush was not sickness.

The more that Kasumi spoke though, the redder she got, culminating with a gesture towards her face which resulted in Koga laughing out loud. "Your face definitely doesn't need fixing, I think your face is fine just the way it is," he said with a smile as he leaned forward. "It's the fever I'm worried about." With one arm rest on his knee, leaning closer still to the girl, he reached out with his right hand, and once more pressed the back of his palm to her forehead. "I'm glad you like it," Koga absently replied as he tried to determine if the heat had began to taper off from before. Finally, deciding he had an answer, he took his hand away and sat upright once more. "Well, I think it's going away."

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If she wasn't red before, she was now. Another gentle touch that she unknowingly leans into. There was something amazing to the static that almost made her skin crawl. "I don't know about that." Kasumi hadn't ever thought about it. She was always a center of attention, but it never really dawned on her, it could have been because of beauty. Always assumed that it was because she tried so hard to remain happy, intentionally making other people smile with her actions and make their days brighter. "Is it still there?" a bright red pair of cheeks and wavering doe like eyeballs beneath Koga's fingers as if she was looking through bars in a fence. "I hope so, I don't want to be a burden." her thoughts turned to the time Sam had to carry her home, fainting from the swordfish being decapitated and the water making her seasick. As he'd remove his hand from her head, she'd kind of follow it as the weight had left.

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"No burden at all," Koga promised. It was like she'd said before, the residents of Aincrad were lucky to simply have each other. If they couldn't rely on each other, then what did they really have? Besides, although Koga was loathe to say anything aloud, he was beginning to find this sick version of Kasumi to be rather cute. It wasn't exactly a far-cry from her usual cheery demeanor, just calmer.

"Are you starting to feel any better?" the man asked, noticing that, somehow, Kasumi had gotten even more red than just moments prior. That couldn't possibly be her fever returning, could it? "Do you want me to bring you a damp towel or anything?" Koga wasn't entirely sure if damp, cool towels on the forehead actually did anything, but he recalled his mother and grandmother using such treatment when he or Aki had gotten sick as children. Even if it hadn't actually done anything, it always felt nice.

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Koga was still pushing to work her back to health, riddled with some sickness that seemed to come out of nowhere. Unable to process what this was, something she had possibly caught in her efforts or from one of her foes. "A bit, but I still feel a little warm." she comments rubbing her eyes and trying to break eye contact, it was sinking in that she was uncomfortably staring. A raise of her hands and a dismissive wave of them, "No no, I'll be fine I just need to..." Looking down at the cup of tea and taking the last bit into her face, a bit puffed up as she took more than a sip. Her intentions were to not impose on Koga any, he was already doing loads for her and was desperately trying to prove that she was 'ok'. Confused, worried, a bit flustered. Kasumi would owe him leagues for this, he didn't have to hang out with her or buy her all of this. 

One heavy swallow with an expression that spoke 'see?' like a child trying to present a drawing. Abruptly she twists her head and asks "What do you do for fun?" it was about as smooth as sandpaper on bark, but it was the girl's best attempt.

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Kasumi's insistence that she was fine was unconvincing to say the least. Still, the effort was to be applauded, and as she forced down the tea brought an amused smile to Koga's face, one he tried to suppress, but failed. Seeing as that wasn't working, the man instead elected to lean down and move aside the wooden containers, and the other vessels, and shifted the boxes so he was able to sit a little closer to the girl and lean into the wall a little with his shoulder. Comfortable seats, crates did not make.

Koga didn't miss the sudden head movement that accompanied Kasumi's question though. Had he said or done something that made her uncomfortable? The man mentally kicked himself for his transgression.

"Fun?" Koga repeated, as if the concept was completely foreign to him. "Uh...well, I used to play a lot of video games before SAO. It was kinda my only real way to relax or escape reality for a bit," he recalled, "and I also used to do martial arts. Kenpo and kendo mostly, I even taught for a couple years." The man paused as he thought back to those days, grappling, sparring, sometimes with his sister, and how he'd enjoyed that. "Now though? I mean, fighting is still fun, but a little less so with our lives on the line, ya know?" He threw in a half-hearted chuckle. "I did some other stuff too, surf, skate, dabbled in art on occasion, but yeah, mostly games and martial arts. What about you? You use the Martial Arts skill, if I recall, did you practice in the real world?"

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Perched precariously on a few uneven boxes playing chair, Koga starts to outline his hobbies. A subtle nod as she clambered a hand against her forehead, checking it for herself and trying to wave the sparks away. "You're an artist!?" her face lights up, something furious. The blossom had always appreciated someone else ability to draw, she could never really do it despite any effort to do so. "I don't like fighting at all." she folds her hands into a tiny pyramid using her fingertips on her lap, slinking atop the covers that were strewn across her legs. "I practice a form of She Quan and Jujutsu, Known as Tenjinmon" Looking toward the Gi hanging on the rack with a bit of discomfort, the customary garb of the art for females. In the same vain it was a bit embarrassing having to wear it, but the goal was to 'distract' your opponents, and it was easy to do so as a woman in such clothing. Moreover, there wasn't much in the way of resistance, her movements wouldn't be hindered by the thing at all either. It's what she knew, and was the easiest choice for her to attempt a go at surviving the game by leaning onto it. "I'd love to see one of your drawings some time." her attempts at redirection, martial arts, were sort of a sore spot.

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"Heh, I'm not really much of an artist," Koga admitted with a chuckle. "Very strong emphasis on 'dabbled'. It's just one of those skills I've always wanted to have." And one he likely never would. Strangely, drawing was just one of the things that Koga had never been very patient with, despite knowing its necessity.

The way quiet, subdued way Kasumi spoke about her training, and the way she stared at her gi, hanging on the wall not too far away, it made Koga wonder if she'd been one of those kids who'd been forced into the practice by their parents. Some loved it, and some hated it, after all, and being forced to continue with something they disliked? Koga could at least relate to that aspect. Even still, "Tenjinmon?" the man repeated curiously, "I don't think I've ever heard of it. I know its not for everyone, but I think being able to defend yourself is still a skill everyone should have." Especially now, in the world they lived in. Safety was only ever guaranteed within safezones, and that was only from mobs. Players? Well, devious methods had been developed.

"Like I said, not much of an artist," Koga said with an awkward smile, allowing the girl to divert their conversation towards something more comfortable. "I think I've got like...one good drawing, maybe. I do have some small games I've made though, if you'd ever be interested in looking at those once we get outta here?" the man suggested instead, as if it were some guarantee.

"Seriously though," he went on, "what are your hobbies and stuff? I can't imagine you take out random guys you meet in the middle of nowhere out for food all the time." He was terrible at jokes. Koga knew it, but he at least felt an effort was warranted, if only to lift the mood some small amount for the sickened girl.

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"Defend." She spoke the word with a break, "It was not made to defend yourself from harm." Fiddling again and ever, so faintly it can be seen: she was squirming as she recalled the sounds of bones breaking. "Tenjinmon is something only taught in one school, from my understanding. No one else I've met knows about it either, so it's no surprise." Lifting her left hand and rounding her ear again, a bit of nervousness cleaned up like wiping a table. The blossom had never spoken about this to anyone, normally just a dismissal, and thankfully not many were that interested to begin with.

She didn't want to lie to Koga, and she couldn't ignore his curiosity

A smile returns to her face as the guy starts to joke and twists the conversation into a cleaner and less, heart-wrenching area. "I like to make things, build things." Instead of destroying them. Remembering the guys katana, Kasumi leans toward one of the crates at Koga's side and pulls out some orange colored wire. Her fingers begin to dance, weaving the bits of cable as she binds it to a small ring, creating a braid. A flash of blue light, a pulse before it shifts to purple and fades. Handing it to Koga a bit flustered with an uncomfortable twitching as she closed in. "A Kashira ornament." defining it, although she assumed he'd know as much. It was metallic and bound close together.

Given (that one trinket I forget)

Edited by Kasumi
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Koga shifted slightly to give the girl more room to reach for whatever it was that she was retrieving. Kasumi pulled a thin orange cord from one of the boxes and he watched, eyes wide with surprise at the speed with which Kasumi twisted and folded the strand into shape, despite having just watched her even more impressive feat with the ring only an hour or two ago. And then it was his turn to feel heat flood his face as she held it out to him in offer.

Koga could feel his ears begin to heat up as he reached out to take the ornament, their hands brushing, fingers to palm. "Uhm, th-thank you," he muttered, staring at the gift, certain his ears had turned cherry red. "It's beautiful."

With a short gesture, the man summoned his weapon into his hand, and laid the sheathed blade across his lap. He fastened the cord to the bottom of the weapon, and smiled gently at it. The orange perfectly complimented the blue ito wrappings of the hilt. Had she known the perfect from just the few brief moments she'd seen the weapon?

Koga turned his head to look at Kasumi. "Well, now I'll definitely never forget you."

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  • 3 months later...

The small little attachment seemed to suit the weapon, and still a bundle of nerves, Kasumi cannot help but smile. It was the strangest sentiment, and it was clear both of them were nervous beyond all compare. The tension so thick one could cut off a piece, and it would clatter to the floor like a dropped plate. The spot it was plucked from still stung with the fleeting burning, as if something was pressed against the flat of her hand. She found a stone in her throat, unable to respond to Koga and his sentiment. A blur of what to say buzzing behind a pair of amber eyes, threatening to have her short circuit again.

Say something

Say anything

Come On!

"That's g-good."

Not That Stupid!

"I m-mean, than-nk you." It was a truly pathetic choking out of words, but at least it was something. It would be painfully clear she had no idea what to say.

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Eyes locked to each other for just a moment as Kasumi gave breath to words, even through obvious nervousness. It wasn't until just then that Koga realized how cringe-worthy his thanks must've been. Also, since when had his ears ever heated up like they just had? Never, so what was going on with him? Was he getting sick too now?

"Y-you're welcome," the man muttered before looking away. 'She gives you a gift, and you're the one saying, 'you're welcome'? Seriously dude?' Koga made as if admiring the piece once more (he really did find it beautiful, but he was a little too deep in his own self-admonishment to take any further serious note) before dismissing the weapon with another gesture, and staring at the floor.

If anyone were to see them right now, they would never believe that they were a couple of battle-hardened warriors who had seen themselves through countless life-or-death battles. No, right now, they were more like the uncertain young adults they'd been in the real world, still figuring their way through life. Funny how just a quiet room and nothing but each other for company can do that, eh?

Koga chewed on the inside of his cheek, and his brow unconsciously furrowed as he tried to sort through the sudden influx of thoughts he was experiencing. Yeah, he was bad at receiving gifts, compliments, whatever, but not that bad. Besides, that's not really what embarrassment feels like...A quick glance at the girl in the bed and away again. 'Right, that's what that felt like.'

"I forgot..."

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"Did you forget something?" Kasumi quips, struggling to keep that sentence together. It could have been that she had taken him away from something important with all of her nonsense. The girl hoped not, but it could have been the case. Fiddling with her hands a bit, just the sense of an almost uncomfortable silence between them. The blossom was completely at a loss of what to do or say, frazzled by the situation. Despite it, she was slightly happy, all things considered. Hands, fingertips sliding together and apart, and she was fixated on the action. A sudden realization causes her eyes to widen a bit. An epiphany: "What do you want to do when you get out of here?" That's right, just keep talking, maybe it won't be so dang weird.

The girl's attention shifts to Koga, which springs a whole new sense of butterflies worming their way around in her stomach.

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"Oh, uh,"

Shit. Koga hadn't realized he'd spoken out loud. "I-it's nothing," he quickly stammered out, passing over his stray thoughts as quickly as possible. Silence followed after again, just as awkward as before. Perhaps more so. Thankfully, Kasumi spoke up, asking a question Koga realized he didn't have an answer to.

"When I get out of here?" Koga repeated, as if perplexed by the question itself. He crossed his arms and drew his eyes to the ceiling as he tried to piece together some sort satisfactory response. "I'll be honest, I've never really though about it," he replies after a couple moments. "I've just kinda been so focused on, well," the man gestured around them, "all this that I don't think I've ever really stopped to ask myself that question." Koga leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees as he stared at nowhere in particular. "I dunno, I guess I'm always just more worried about what's next. Next hunt, next skill, or level, or floor, whatever, I haven't ever considered what's after all of that." A small shrug as Koga looked at the girl in her bed. "What about you? What are you planning when you get out?"

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