Fate/Revelation Online - Tales from the Mid-Liners is a recursive fanfiction based off Fate Revelation Online by Daniel_gudman and made with his express permission. It takes place after a number of months in the game, so spoilers may be present from the main fanfic.
Sword Art Online—a game designed by the genius Kayaba Akihiko, where you sought to conquer all one-hundred floors of the world of Aincrad through the use of blades. Made with the latest advances in VR technology and the use of the NerveGear to allow for complete immersion, it allowed you to accomplish any goal or go anywhere with a sword in hand. That was the lure that drew in ten-thousand people from all over Japan…and the lure that trapped ten-thousand people inside at once, no way out except for death or to clear the hundred floors.
It was no longer a game, but reality for those who were trapped inside. With the introduction of the [Thaurmaturgy Patch], the first content expansion that appeared with no prior warning, the realization of mysteries and wonders became possible. In other words, [Magecraft] fell into the hands of those who now existed in this world.
In light of the changes there were those who took to the front lines and sought to clear the floors as fast as possible, venturing into the wild unknowns of the new and mysterious world at the behest of a man whose motives were unknown to the players within the game at this point. Armed with [Spells] and [Swords] they searched for the elusive [Floor Boss] on each floor and waged fierce and blood battle to slay it, moving onto the next floor to do that same. These [Front-Liners] carved a path forward for those left behind to follow at their own leisure.
This is a story about those who came in on the heels of those [Front-Liners], who followed in their tracks. This was a story about those whose purpose was not to advance with the 1% that stood on the top, but to support them and discover what was left untouched off the path that was forged ahead. This was a story about those known as [Mid-Liners]…
And this tale in particular was the meeting of five that took place four months into the game.
1st Floor – Outskirts of Starting City
The wind rolled past the grasslands that surrounded the largest city within the game of [Sword Art Online], the aptly named Starting City. As the breeze whistled through the sea of green that rustled as it bent to its whims, one player in particular could be found away from the path of trampled earth that led to and from the gates.
It was here that Ken Mori, known within this world by the username of [Endel], stood in the face of two [Frenzy Boars] that he had provoked into attacking him. Dressed in light armor, the brown-haired young boy of nine years of age felt confident in facing off against these trash mobs, his eyes not hiding that fact. He had slain at least two-hundred over the course of the month-and-a-half he had been sneaking to this spot every morning after his brother left out, never venturing further to avoid the risk of his brother finding him doing what he expressly forbid instead of staying inside the [Safe Zone], like he was his mother or something.
He was Level 7 already! Higher than those kids in the Church by far (even though it was because that Sasha lady didn't let them experiment with the magic system) and even most of the adults in the city (although that was because the ones who were that level were typically on higher floors)! And he did it all on his own, without anyone else's help (okay, a little help)!
At that level the trash mobs around there only provided a pittance of XP. But they did have their purpose. Because of how simplistic their attack patterns were and how they only reacted when provoked, they allowed him to experiment with the magic system of the game that he had chosen to learn: [Rune Magecraft].
He had heard good things about it from when a [Red-Haired Cactus-Headed Player] appeared in the Center Plaza of the city in an effort to recruit more players into a guild called the [Paladins]. It was supposedly an Art that realized mysteries through the use of a [Magic Foundation] that relied on simple letters and the guild sold a primer of their basic uses and advice from the leader of their guild himself, [The Paladin's Guide to Runes for Beginners] for a single [Col], the currency of the game. So he bought and read it when he was in his room alone, while his brother was busy, learning about this system some of the things that could be done with it.
Just like that, he made up his mind and moved to act. He wouldn't lie if asked; the [Circuit Activation] had hurt more than anything in his life. It was like a hot and arid twister stirred inside him, eroding pathways that were like canyons through his body that were suddenly filled with boiling water. But now look at him.
Even though he was still wielding an outdated [Small Sword] and equipped with [Light Leather Armor], he had earned enough Col from dealing with so many [Fury Boars] that Endel had managed to go through [Consecration] and determined his element was that of [Wind] itself.
Taking a step forward, he readied himself as the first of the [Fury Boars] charged him with a simple and predictable charging skill, which he avoided. There would be a small lag before it could charge again, so he paid it little mind and focused on the other one in front of him. It would serve as his test subject for his experimentation into his own brand of spells after over a month of practicing, the [Runic Lens].
Using [Psychogenesis] he generated his imaginary element. Saying it generated pure wind was wrong, but instead it generated the gases which shifted and formed wind. As it lacked a truly physical form or any damaging properties on its own upon creation, the wind itself held little offensive power at his skill level. However, he had found his own use for it combined with his [Rune Magecraft].
The main issue with using runes was that they needed to be engraved upon a surface as trying to rist a rune upon the world itself without a medium, such as earth or steel, made it easier for the cardinal system to wipe it away unless the prana used was so dense and great that it distorted the world around it. But, Endel wondered what if he used his element as a medium instead. What if he used the gases that formed the wind itself as a buffer against the Cardinal's effects?
So he compressed the gases, making them denser, until they formed a thin lens that was also a canvas, upon which he could engrave the rune. By setting his finger alight with prana and placing it within the lens, he could engrave it with a rune that would remain fixed in place and allow his magical energy to flow through it. Thus, like light through the image of a projector lens, the mystery of the rune could be unleashed and allowing for even the conversion of imaginary elements.
In this case he decided to utilize the rune of cold and stillness, [Isa]. Engraving the simple line into the center of the lens as the second [Fury Boar] prepared to cross the distance and attack him, the rune shimmered and he sent a surge of prana he sent through it. The surging energy flowed into the [Runic Lens: Isa] and came out as a narrow gale of howling hoarfrost that ran over the grass, fanning out the further it went and making it crystalline and brittle as the frozen winds battered against the charging [Fury Boar].
The effort drank deep his reserves, but the mob came to a stop as its HP hit the zero mark and it collapsed while covered in rime. It soon shattered into countless polygons and Endel smiled as the first testing was successful, even though his body burned and his concentration wavered. He definitely couldn't use something like that without refining it.
It was then he heard the squeal of the other [Fury Boar] and recalled there was another one. Spinning on the soles of his feet, he turned to see it charging him. While it wouldn't do much damage, it was probably going to hurt a little, so he braced his sword in a guard position and awaited the impact…which never came, as a brown blur smacked into the boar from the side and ended its linear charge.
With all the recent patches, a lot of things changed. So when what he recognized now as a crossbow bolt pierced its skull and came out the other end, white fragments and pink brain matter left the exit wound with a spout of blood as it fell mid-charge and skidded across the grass. Only after a few moments passed did it shatter into bluish pixels and vanished, leaving no drop behind.
Endel didn't need to guess who it was that stole his kill. He knew already, as there was one crossbow-user he knew personally who would interfere with his affairs. His stomach dropped as he slowly turned to the direction from which the bolt came and his hazel-brown eyes met with forest-green ones. He had been caught red-handed. "Nii-sama…"
Chikashi Mori, or [Endri] to everyone else, stood there with his [Wooden Crossbow] on his shoulder and a frown on his face. He was a young man of seventeen with hair dyed the color of the horizon sun, earth-toned boots, and a full-body cloak, long-sleeved shirt, and trousers that matched his eyes. His displeasure was quite apparent as he rhetorically asked, "Where do I begin to start?"
Forest to the Northwest of Starting City - One Hour Ago
Looking at the time located on his HUD, Endri mentally noted there was a minute left until it was time to move. Once that time passed the [Little Nepents] would be in position as he had considered optimal, following their set patterns every day when originally drawing up a personal map of the forest. As long as no one entered into that part of the forest and Aggro'd them, they would be there.
So, with his [Magic Circuits] already filled from [Generating Od], he flipped the imagery switch in his head to activate [Reinforce Agility] and bolster his legs to increase his [AGI] stat. While he had learned from [Argo's Guide] the basics of using the general spell, he wasn't willing to risk using it on an eye to ensure a hit, nor strengthening the [Wooden Bolt] that he was about to fire when it didn't need to be enhanced any further or laced with a moderately priced poison of some kind. If he missed he could take as many more shots as long as it was done within thirty-seconds, so as to not make deviations to his plans.
Even though the ammunition wasn't as cheap as [Throwing Picks] he at least found it easier to keep himself stocked with basic ammunition once he picked up magecraft beyond the basics of the basics and bought the instructions to make them from the NPC who sold them, since the resources could be found in the forest. As part of unlocking his own particular Art of choice, [Druid Magecraft], he gained an exclusive skill slot irrelevant to his level that couldn't be replaced or exchanged called [Foraging], which let him gather and stock any natural resource in the game, whether an increased rate in drops from mobs by 5% or wood from trees. Although he had to equip a [One-Handed Axe] to do so from the trees and had to switch out on his [Dagger] skill as a result to use said axe, he could harvest the wood easy enough, just like he harvested branches from the [Apple Trees] to make woodchips, and the feathers he needed were dropped from the birds that often picked at the ripe berries of the [Rowan Trees].
Taking a second to think things over, Endri found it somewhat funny. It was the fact that he felt comfortable in the forest, sitting on the thick lower branch of a tree limb while taking aim with his crossbow at a hive of [Forest Bees]. After all, his last name in real life meant "Forest" and "Death" in Japanese and Latin, and he found himself in a "Forest" while in a "Death Game".
The moment the HUD timer hit zero, he pulled the trigger of the his ranged weapon and the string twanged loudly as it was released from its taut position, sending the bolt traversing empty space and spearing through the hive. It fell to the ground and tripped the trap that the hive served as, spawning four yellow and black [Forest Bees] that sought out the nearest player and didn't switch targets until they were out of range from the spawn location, which was made traversable when strengthened by his current spell. But since he needed them out of the way instead of loitering around his prizes until they vanished, he waited for them to start coming after him before he abandoned his perch and fell to the green below, allowing them to chase him.
As he moved through the forest with a practiced grace his [Stamina] dropped within expected calculations, until he managed to kite the swarming bees into a group of [Little Nepents] and used his enhanced legs to clear them with a jump. The predatory plants preyed on the [Forest Bees], their red lips that drooled with nectar opening and closing, sharp teeth crashing down upon the exoskeletons of the yellow and black insects that spilled inhuman fluids before they broke apart. They would certainly attempt to go after him next, but he had already doubled back to make to where the hive was.
It was there that he found the two drops that appeared whenever a hive was destroyed for a set amount of time, [Honey] and [Beeswax]. Taking them into his inventory, he considered the foraging of this particular point done for the day and prepared to move onto the next spot when he received a PM from a player-run shop owner requesting a delivery of twenty units of [Vulnerary Salve]. It was a unique ointment that he learned to make as part of learning [Druid Magecraft] from the [Wandering Druid NPC] on this floor and could be made from the common resources around the first floor.
While he had enough [Beeswax] with this last one in his inventory, he didn't have enough [Betony] and would need to go to the grasslands around the city to stock up on them. The best spot to collect them just so happened to be where some distance from the gates, near the normally unoccupied central area. It was here that he gathered up bundles of them and where he just so happened to catch his little brother doing exactly what he told him not to and practicing magecraft against trash mobs with his back open to attack from the one behind him.
When they got ready to play the game his parents pulled him aside and told him to look after his brother. Naturally, he rolled his eyes and wondered how much trouble the shrimp could get into playing as some burly Avatar in a game. Then the stakes changed and he had to take things seriously.
Originally he kept himself and the shrimp inside of Starting City so they could wait for the adults on the outside to do something. After two months passed with no luck, it became abundantly clear they were on their own and they couldn't really survive on a pension alone. So Endri took to becoming a [Gatherer] while forbidding his brother from leaving the city, never going too much further than the forest where he just so happened to stumble across an NPC that wasn't there before the 4th floor was cleared and learned his current magecraft of choice.
Taking aim to the point between the [Fury Boar] and Endel as his little brother's admittedly impressive spell ended and his guard was down, he let loose a bolt from his weapon of choice since ranged weapons were enabled and nailed it in the head. Once you got the speed of the charge down and took into account how fast the bolts crossed a certain distance, it was a 50/50 chance of a head shot or nailing its body. But at his level it would be killed in a single shot regardless.
Endel turned to him with a look that was akin to being caught with his hand in the cookie jar before dinner and said, "Nii-sama…"
"Where do I begin to start?" Endri mused aloud, drumming his free fingers against his outer thigh as he stood there in thought on how to practically punish him.
"W-why are you back this early?" Endel asked, with his voice somewhat frail.
"An order for more salve came in and due to the amount and lack of ingredients I had to cut the usual gathering short," he told him, his boots falling upon the grass with soft crunches as he walked forward. "To think you were out doing something like this when I was away…considering that spell you've been doing this a lot, haven't you?"
"I…" Endel trailed off as his brother now stood in front of him, towering over him by a good foot-and-a-half.
"I told you to stay in the city," he said sharply, his green eyes narrowed as he looked down upon his younger brother. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it is out here? What if something happened? Did you ever think about if something went wrong and you died? How sad our parents would be because you went out and nearly got yourself killed? Honestly, if I hadn't taken that shot you would have gotten a tusk to the back."
"I had it under control!" the younger boy argued. "I was in a guard position, so I would have been fine! Besides, you're a hypocrite saying all that when you go out all the time to that forest up north!"
"To support us," Endri stated with his tone bland, despite being annoyed. "For starters you always rush headlong into things without thinking about the consequences. I plan things ahead. I have every inch of that forest mapped out, including every mob spawning point and every resource location, and I always have a way out. My priority is survival when it comes to this world…but you just want to have fun, thinking that this is the game we originally signed up for."
Endel shook his head. "That's not true!"
"Whatever," Endri huffed as he walked past his little brother and plucked a [Betony] out of the grass, the purple flowers of the herb shaking as he lifted it. "This is the last one I needed. Let's go back now."
Heat gathered in the younger boy's face as he gritted his teeth. His brother was always like this since they got in the game, demanding he stayed in one place with nothing to do, like he was some helpless little kid. With his sword shaking in his grip, he cried, "I don't want to just stay in one place all the time!"
"Well, you think I like being promoted to the role of a parent and having to watch out for you?" Endri countered. "When we get back I'm taking all of your equipment and leaving you with the woman in the Church who watches over the rest of the kids when I go out, since I can't trust you not to leave home on your own anymore."
"I hate you!" Endel yelled without thinking, his eyes stinging. He was getting stronger and independent, yet his brother was going to push him to go be with a bunch of little kids like he couldn't take care of himself. "You used to be cool!"
He stopped walking at that. There was silence for a moment, until he spoke in a voice that was more somber than before. "Neither one of us is satisfied with how things turned out. But I can't play the role of a 'Cool Big-Bro' here. Not when the stakes are so high.
"Now…" Glancing over his shoulder at his younger brother, his eyes narrowed to the point they felt like daggers being pressed against his skin. "Let's. Go."
The tone left no room for argument and nothing his little brother said would sway him. Endel fell in line, following his brother into Starting City. The small place they stayed at was a two-bedroom apartment on a second floor they rented after Endri started earning Col from his gathering from the forest.
Since the taste engine made most food bland, [Honey] was appreciated. Even though it was somewhat of a luxury item for the people who received just enough Col to live from the [Mutual Aid Society], which was a subsidiary of the [Aincrad Liberation Force], some would occasionally splurge and there were other [Mid-Liners] and [Front-Liners] who would buy it.
With the patches that made wounds bleed his [Vulnerary Salve] provided a means of stopping the bleeding and healing the wounds that didn't waste prana by using the [Cure] spell to make fake flesh. While how long it took to completely patch up the wounds depended on how deep they were, the salve clung to the flesh and stopped bleeding instantly like a bandage. Considering that pain was present and concentration wavered when under too much of it, making it difficult to use any spell if things were bad enough, it was an alternative means of healing that was sought out by many.
A few shopkeepers had sought out the recipe for it. As it was only learned from the [Wandering Druid NPC] in this floor and the magecraft taught by the NPC wasn't as commonplace yet, he could still get some mileage out of it. Since anyone of an appropriate level would normally go to the higher floors to gather or explore, rather than checking every inch of the northwestern forest, he could provide it for an ample fee until the knowledge stopped being exclusive to him, after which he would sell it to an Information Broker and go from there.
No sooner than they go through the door, Endel ran straight into his room and locked the door. While meaningless, as he could open it because he was the one who rented it, Endri found it just as well since it kept his little brother out of the way as he started on the salve to sell. It would take a bit of time to make and cool, after which he would take it to the shop and restock on ammunition and supplies. Then he would sit down and lay out the new ground rules with the stubborn nine-year old…
Of course, if he had known how upset his brother truly was then maybe he would have also thought about the fact that there was a window in his room. One that Endel could open and climb down to the ground-level since, after all, if he hung off the ledge the ten-foot drop became a six-foot one that didn't so much hurt.
Thus he was blissfully unaware that the young boy had run off towards the gates…
Outside the Gate of Starting City
Yasumi Sakata, known to all but one within this world as [Aoili], stood with Starting City to her back and the grasslands surrounding it to her front, expanding as far as her amethyst-eyes could see. The sixteen year old student wearing a black [Heavy Wool Cloak] with the hood down, allowing her onyx-colored hair to dance in the light breeze, hadn't been back after she had set up shop on a higher floor to take advantage of the resources they presented, so she had felt somewhat nostalgic while there. To think it had been a little over four months since [Aincrad] became her reality was something she had trouble believing…or rather how quickly she adapted compared to so many others, including a dear friend named Yumina, who she hadn't seen since the end of the first month.
She looked back at Starting City, knowing that the person within [Aincrad] she treasured the most was there. Probably in the same room they stayed in during for that first month, now supported on the pension provided by the [Mutual Aid Society]. It hurt, not seeing despite coming all this way to restock before she went about her business.
She thought to blame it on the time and distance between them playing a major factor. As one who held down multiple jobs, one being an [Amulet Crafter], and because of the latest challenges on the floors, her time and resources were fairly sparse. If she wasn't working then she was researching and experimenting to further her craft.
While Aoili sent her a weekly PM as per usual, it went unanswered as all the others had, so it was pretty clear that the wounds from their argument were still festering. The rift between them was too wide a gap to fill at this point with a simple PM, she supposed. While she was sure she would need to visit her in person to make amends, Aoili just couldn't face Yumina after seeing the sheer anger on her face.
That expression was burned into her memory, the words resonating in her heart. Not just because her dear friend was out of line, but because she was right to an extent. Aoili found this world they were imprisoned in somewhere she thrived and was able to find a purpose. At times she wondered…if she was trapped inside without the weight and responsibility of Yumina's life on her shoulders, would she ever want to leave?
Aoili wasn't sure, but at present she still had to do something to push away the myriad of feelings. So she focused on what she could do to remain productive to the joint cause of clearing the game without taking part on the front-lines. And she would continue to do so until she could gather the courage to apologize to Yumina, face-to-face.
As she turned to proceed with the next item on her agenda, in the Lake Region to the northeast of the city, she noticed a young boy running through the gates. Out of the initial thousands of players, kids were some of the rarest ones to actively take part in anything and never usually without some form of supervision or party members to watch out for them. Given that night would come to pass soon, she couldn't help but wonder where he was doing out unattended.
So when the brown-haired youth came to a stop, breathing heavily as though he burned through his [Stamina] meter, she asked. "Are you going out there by yourself? It's dangerous at this time."
"I can…take care of…myself!" the boy claimed between heavy breaths, his eyes narrowed at the young woman. "Why does everyone keep treating me like a child?"
Because you are one, she thought to herself. Still, sensing she hit some kind of sensitive topic she raised her hands in order to pacify him. "Sorry, sorry. It's just that there's maybe another hour of light left and mobs at night are both numerous and tougher than during the daytime, so no one should try to go it alone. Depending on where you plan to go, it can be too dangerous for you to go alone and might need to wait until morning."
With his expression easing out as he took in that tidbit of information he muttered, "Is that so…?"
She nodded. "The forest to the northwest itself is pretty bad since without a decent source of light or magecraft catered to it, you won't be able to see well. Did you bring any [Torch] items with you?"
Looking abashed it shook his head. He didn't exactly run out with anything on him beyond what he already had in his inventory. His first thought was to leave before his brother took away his sword and his freedom. "I don't…so, I just won't go that way!"
"Then you're going to the same place I am?" she asked.
"I guess…?" he said, although it came out as more of a question. "I just go the opposite side of the forest, right?"
Crossing her arms at the sight and tilting her head, she found his expression and question odd for someone who was in such a rush. It left her wondering if he knew what he was getting into. "By any chance, do you not have the map data for that part of the floor?"
He shook his head. "No…"
"Then how will you know where you're going?" Aoili asked. Even though it was clear at this point he didn't plan on this at all, she waited for him to try and say something to defend himself. When he didn't, she kneeled down and touched his shoulder. "It really might be better if you waited inside the city if you're this unprepared."
"I won't go back!" he declared, closing his eyes as the corners started to tear up. "If I do, I won't be able to leave…I don't want to stay there and have someone looking after me like a little kid! I can fight too!"
"So you're not going to go back?" she asked once more for confirmation, to which he made clear he wouldn't and his muscles tensed to run away. It wasn't like she could force him back, but if he ran off like this alone there was a good chance that he wouldn't survive. "Tell me, what level are you?"
"I'm almost Level 8!" the young boy declared with the pride in his voice clear.
She smiled softly at him. "Aren't you strong for your size then? In that case, how about you keep me company to the Lake Region?"
"You want me to party with you?" he asked skeptically. Given she was just telling him to go back, he was more afraid she would try to make him and treat him like a little kid.
"Yep," she told him, extending a party invitation to him. "To be honest, even though I'm a few levels higher it's all from experience given due to me researching with my Art. Combat really isn't my thing, so I wouldn't mind having someone strong to watch my back."
While that was true, she wasn't much of an experienced fighter, she knew how to take care of herself against the weak mobs on the floor. Really it was so she could keep an eye on him and make sure he didn't run off and get himself into any trouble. Even if she didn't know the kid, letting him run off to his death would leave a bad taste in her mouth and, since he was so young and stubborn, this was the only ways she could think of to do it. Hopefully she would also manage to at least figure out why he would be so brash to run out without being ready for what he could run into and discourage doing so in the future.
After a moment of conflict over what to do, Endel accepted the invite into a party with the player known as [Aoili] and the two began to walk towards the northeast...
Part -1 End