I've skipped over Kayaba giving his 'tutorial' since I assume that most readers will be familiar with it at this point (why else are you reading SAO fics?). I'd rather not pad it out with a couple thousand words treading out the same stuff. Likewise, I'm also assuming people are somewhat familiar with One Punch Man and who King is. That and this should take place after King met Caped Baldy and decided to take a more active role in being more heroic than he already is.
"Hey, Kirito! You look pretty good in real life! You're quite my style!"
Klein spied a bitter smile on his black-haired friend's face for an instant before Kirito turned his back to him. His voice carrying a bitter tone even as he shouted back, "Your look suits you ten times better as well."
And with that, Kirito broke into a full sprint, head held low as he ran through alleyway. The brown-haired man watched him dart around a corner and disappear with a complicated expression. He stood around for a few more seconds, his eye lingering on the corner before he dropped a remorseful sigh. It was a shame honestly but ultimately there was no way he could force responsibility of him and his friends onto Kirito. It wouldn't be right to anyway.
He took a moment to scratch at his slightly bearded chin and then to tighten his bandana before turning back towards the plaza. But this wasn't the time to reminisce about what ifs. His friends were probably still in there, confused like everyone else trapped in this death game. The sooner he got to them, the better before they get themselves killed or something.
Keeping that in mind, he backtracked his way out of the alleyways and sped back to the plaza. Hopefully none of them had tried to go out to the fields without the rest of them first. It was a good thing they had agreed to use their usernames from their last game so they could recognise each other. Otherwise he'd have no idea how long it'd take to find each other.
Turning the last corner, he could see the vast majority of players were still in plaza. Out of the ten thousand or so that had been originally teleported in there were… uh… maybe nine thousand or so left? He honestly couldn't really tell but the crowd had definitely gotten smaller. He wouldn't have another chance as he dove in and started to wade through the crowd, bumping and almost shoving his way past panicky and desperate players.
"Dale!" He shouted into the horde of people, his voice barely clawing its way past the thousands of others drowning the Town of Beginnings. "Issin! Kunmittz! Dynamm! Hairy One!"
Swerving his head in the direction he had heard the faint call, Klein began shoving in that direction. That had sounded like… "Issin!"
"Klein!" "Klein! Over here!"
The call was more distinct now as two other voices picked it up. Just over the head of the crowd, he could see a couple hands waving up in the air. That and Dale's large physique made him easy as hell to spot now that he knew where to look. "Dale! Hairy One!"
Klein saw the others soon enough, the three of them grouped up and still waving for him to get closer. Pushing and apologising his way past a group of girls, he caught his foot under someone's leg at the last moment and stumbled. Dale's quick reflexes being the only thing that kept him from faceplanted. "Thanks."
"No problem." Was Dale's gruff reply as the thick man pulled him into their small circle by the arm. "You see Dynamm yet?"
"No not yet." Klein replied, straitening himself back up. "Good to see you guys though."
"Yeah no kidding." Issin breathlessly replied, his friend's eye darting back to spot in the sky where Kayaba Akihiko's avatar had occupied only minutes earlier. Where the bastard had announced this death game of his. "You think this is actually real and not just a hoax or something?"
"I for one hope that it's just a joke gone wrong." Harry quipped. The youngest member of their group then fixed him with a difficult stare. "And Klein?"
"It's Harry One. Yeah I know." Klein finished for him. He's gone over this with a hundred times already but hey, it wasn't his fault that Harry decided that wearing all that fur armour was a good idea. It was like literally running a dungeon with a bear in their party. Stats over looks and all. Heh, actually that probably wasn't a bad idea right now given the circumstances. "So, we just need to find Dynamm then."
"Yeah. Hope he's still in the plaza and didn't run off." Dale said, his head swivelling around, searching the crowd while leveraging his height over pretty much everyone else.
"Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure if he's even in the game." Issin suggested, looking a bit uncomfortable. The skinny man rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.
"What do you mean he's not in the game? He was over at your apartment, wasn't he?" Harry interjected, an incredulous expression upon his face.
"Yeah… well he had something bad for lunch or something cause he was still on the toilet when I dived in." Issin explained, a bit embarrassed himself.
Klein gave him a flabbergasted look, one shared by the others. "So, you're saying he lucked out of this because he was taking a dump."
"Maybe." There was a short pause before Issin's lips then drew up in a nervous smile. "Pretty shitty luck, right?"
Harry and Dale both groaned while Klein just facepalmed. Fixing him with an exasperated stare, Klein demanded. "Are you being serious right now or just making a crappy joke?"
Issin choked back a sudden laugh at about the same time Klein realized what he just said and just sighed. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with him at all.
"But I'm serious. He actually might not have gotten in before the news hit." Issin suddenly added, reverting back to a graver tone. "I hope the idiot doesn't try to take my Nerve Gear off."
"Same. Hope my family doesn't try to as well. It'd suck to have my brain microwaved." Harry added while Dale just grunted his agreement to the sentiment.
Klein just nodded along. He lived alone so… yeah, he just had to hope that delivery guy bringing the pizza he ordered called the police or an ambulance. Or well, he still had friends that knew he was going into Sword Arts Online. They'd probably check up on him at least. Hopefully.
"Oh right." Klein blurted out, gaining his friend's attentions. "We should add each other to the friend's list. That way we can message each other if we get split up."
"Sounds good." Dale agreed, flicking open the menu.
"Yeah." Issin echoed as he opened his own.
Harry nodded along and mimicked their hands but unlike them, nothing popped up. His friend tried a few more times to no success before sheepishly looked to him. "Guys, how do you open the menu?"
"Seriously?" Issin asked, before moving in to coach him in the proper way of opening menus.
"Well it's not like they had a tutorial for this thing." Harry defended himself with as he finally managed to open the menu. And within a minute, because there was a crap ton of people near them to sort through, they had added each other as friends in game. With that done and done, Harry looked up to him, "So, what's the plan Klein?"
"Right." Klein absently nodded. What was the plan? "Well… I picked up a few things from a Kirito, he's a Beta player I met awhile back, and I figure I should probably teach it you guys how the combat works. That and uh… we should probably form a party first as well."
"Beta player?" Issin repeated, sounding intrigued. "You think we could add him to the party as well?"
"Ah…" Klein hesitated for just a moment on what to say before deciding on, "Nah. We got separated when we were teleported in. No idea where he is anymo- "
"Is… is that King!?" A shrill voice screamed out nearby. And by nearby he meant literally right behind him.
Swerving his attention backwards, he saw one of the girls he had went past earlier pointing even further out. His eyes tracing the direction of her pointed finger and he felt his jaw drop as he recognised the tall man she had called out.
Even with the beginner gear looking comical on him; Klein couldn't help but draw a troubled breath upon sight of him. The tall, fit physique. The swept back blond hair. The three scars across his left eye. That serious and calm demeanour, as if this whole mess hadn't phased him in the least.
It… it really was him. The seventh ranked S-Class Hero. The World's Strongest Man.
Just like him, his friends and everyone else near King had their attention glued to the Hero. Further out, he could hear people repeating the original scream. The shouting beginning to almost eclipse the screams of panic and disbelief as more and more players jostled and shifted in the background to catch at sight of him. But even as people battled to be near him, not a single person dared to actually get close to the living legend.
For his part, King remained silent, blue eyes sweeping the crowd. Everywhere his gaze reached them, people stifled their mouths. The ones surrounding King, him and his friends included, had already fallen into a heavy silence while cries of his name were now echoing across the fringes of the crowd.
Then, in a soft, unbroken voice, King spoke. "Calm down."
And just like that, an aura of silence fell upon the crowd as a whole. Those closest to him clamping their mouths shut tight while those further away were spreading his words to the very edges of the crowd. In under a minute, everyone had fallen into silence. Broken only by the occasional whisper that were always quickly hushed by a neighbour.
Klein felt his mouth run dry as he slightly trembled at the display. So, this was the power of the World's Strongest Man. With just two words and sheer presence alone, he had muffled a crowd of thousands and drew all eyes on him.
And then. He heard it. It was faint at first. A soft rumbling barely audible over the game's background music. But with each passing second, it grew louder and louder and louder until it was almost as if someone was beating his own ears like a drum. His trembling turned to outright shaking and he took a hasty step back as the simple animal part of his mind teetered underneath King's dispassionate gaze.
This… this was the King Engine! The rumbling of King's heart as his bloodlust rises and he readies himself for battle.
It was ridiculous. Even in a situation like this, King was still feeling bloodthirsty?
And now that he was thinking about it; it wasn't just ridiculous but outright crazy. Real life strength didn't translate over to power in Sword Arts Online. Incredible as it may sound, King should be only be as strong as they all were now. A level one player stuck in game where death meant death in real life.
Yet even with his power and abilities made redundant, King didn't look the least diminished. No matter how hard he looked, he couldn't see an iota of fear or distress on him. If anything, the rumbling of the King Engine could only mean he was actually feeling excited for this! The man did fear risking his life in the least.
Klein let out a breath he hadn't known he had been holding. His eyes not letting loose of King for a second. The entire plaza was essentially clear of noise now, thousands of players waiting in anticipation for what King would say next. And even with the lives of ten thousand players resting upon his shoulders, King remained stoically calm as he assessed the crowd. If he had to guess what was running through the mind of a legend like that, it would him considering the best ways to help save as many people as he could like the Hero he was.
"I want everyone to form up and join a party!" This time King shouted above the crowd. His voice loud and clear unlike the almost whisper of before.
Klein hastily nodded his approval. Yeah, it made sense and it was what he was going to do anyway. Safety in numbers and everything. As the plaza scrambled to find people to form parties, he turned back to his friends. "Well we were going to make a party, anyway right?"
"Y… yeah." Issin said, almost reluctantly tearing his eyes away from King who remained in his spot, watching over everyone else. "Still, King. The actual King playing SAO?"
"Yeah. King's actually here." Klein said, a nervous smile pulling on his lips. Even if he was a bit scared of the guy, knowing that they had him here in the game did reassure him a bit. The situation was feeling quite so hopeless anymore either. With a few quick flicks, he formed the party and sent the invites out to his friends.
"Did anyone else hear the King Engine?" Harry asked once he accepted the invite. His friend almost skittish and fidgeting with his hands. "Scared the crap out of me."
"Thought I could see the fires of hell behind him." Dale quietly muttered. The usually stoic man shivered. "No wonder he's the strongest man in the world."
"No kidding." Klein added, feeling a bit of a chill snake up his spine as he sneaked another look at King. The pressure he felt from just being near him? He couldn't even imagine what that'd feel like if he was actually facing King and had his full attention. Turning away, he scanned the party menu and noticed a name missing. "Hey Issin, you going to accept?"
"Hm? Oh right." His friend snapped away from staring at King to quickly join the party. "Sorry. I was just thinking."
"King appearing in SAO and now Issin's thinking." Harry shook his head. "What next? Pigs start flying?"
"I think there was actually a Tiger class monster that was a pig and- "
"Yeah, fuck you guys too." Issin casually brushed them off. "But seriously. Why is King still here? I doubt a little electricity will kill him."
"I'm not sure even he could survive having his brain fried." Klein pointed out. Heroes were still human after all and he was pretty sure humans couldn't survive having their brains turned to mush.
"Have you see the shit S-Class heroes go through though?" Issin shot back. "If they can survive being punched into a mountain, there's no way the Nerve Gear could kill them that easily."
That said, Issin kind of had a point with that. He distinctly remembered seeing on TV Tank Top Master being pummelled through a couple apartment buildings and walk it off like nothing. If that had been a normal person, they'd been splattered on the first wall.
"Isn't it obvious?" Dale joined in. His large friend folding his arms and nudging his head in King's direction. "He could probably survive the electromagnetic pulse easy. So, if he wanted to leave he could just throw himself off a cliff or something. But he hasn't. Now why wouldn't a Hero want to leave a death game like this?"
"Because we're all still here." Harry concluded for him, his voice filling with a new sense of appreciation. "Cause King's a Hero after all."
"Yeah." Klein slowly nodded, glancing back to where King was still silently standing. "He's a Hero. There's no way he could just abandon everyone here."
"Um… excuse me?" a soft voice asked from behind.
"Hm?" Klein turned to find himself face to face with some guy who looked a couple years older than him, his hair a scruffy grey. A small group of other players lined behind him. "Yes?"
"You guys are in a party, right?" Klein nodded, feeling a bit tense at the question. It wasn't like he really minded adding another person to his party but… "Could you tell us how we do that? None of us have played an MMO before so we're all kind of new to this."
"Ah. Sure. That's no problem." Klein reassured them, his shoulders releasing a bit of the tension. Demonstrating with his opening his own menu. "You just need to find this button here then press Create Party." He waited for the guy to do so before continuing. "Then you can send the invites to people close to you. Just look at them and you should see their names."
"And then we just press it right?" The player said, already pressing it as he spoke.
"Yeah. Then they should have an invite popup."
"Ah. I see." The man bowed his head in thanks. "Thanks a lot."
"Happy to help." Klein replied with a smile. He shared a curt goodbye with the man before re-joining his friends who had been watching in silence.
"Wow, you're like a pro now Klein." Harry commented.
"Aw, it was just basic stuff you know." Klein replied, a bit embarrassed. It wasn't really anything after all. Redirecting the topic, he nodded his head in King's direction with a sudden epiphany. "You think maybe that's why King hasn't said anything else yet? Because some people don't know how to do the basic functions yet?"
"Probably." Issin mused, agreeing with him. "Some people here probably never played an MMO before.:
As if hearing this, and he probably could actually, King then shouted folded his arms and demanded, "Raise your hand if you were in the Beta!"
Klein saw a few shaky hands raise up over the multitude of heads in the plaza. More of them rising as people once again people passed along what King said through the crowd. Not to mention the noise was dying back down again as people anxiously pressed in to hear what King was going to say next. After a few seconds, he could see maybe a couple hundred hands held up. This out of the thousand players that were in the Beta.
"I want you guys to lead the parties and teach them how to play the game!"
Klein blinked but once again nodded as he comprehended where King was going with this. Getting the experienced players to teach the newer ones made sense. That way there wouldn't be people dying because they didn't know how to use combat arts to kill a basic boar… yeah, this was definitely a good idea.
That said though, the max party size was only six. There was going to be nowhere near enough Beta players to go around, especially if they doubled up in a party or something.
"Everyone else without a Beta player in your party! I want you to follow a party that does!"
Okay, so King could read minds now as well. Sweet.
"Hey Klein." Issin nudged him. "About that Beta player you talked about, did you add him to your friends list? Maybe you could get him to meet up with us."
"Hm? Ah yeah. Good idea." He said even though he knew it was the exact opposite of that. Kirito was probably already at that village he mentioned and he didn't want to try rush there himself when he was still a beginner to the game. And once Kirito started grinding there, the odds of them catching up anytime soon weren't good.
Still, the least he could do was tell him about King being here and how he was organizing everyone in the plaza.
Kirito, just a heads up. King is here. And by King, I mean the Hero King not an actual king. He's managed to calm things down and is trying to organize everyone. I know you probably won't come back but just think about it okay? With everyone working together, it's probably safer and I don't want to see a friend die. Either way though, I wish you the best of luck.
Yeah… the ending sounded a bit tacky but he wasn't sure how to end it in any other good way. Still, he got the point across so without further ado, he sent the message. Back to his party, he said, "I bet he's probably already in a party already."
"Yeah, probably." Issin nodded before sighing and turning to look over the crowd that had split into thousands of small groups. The plaza was pretty much decorated with polka dots made up of player clusters. The parties with Beta players probably being the biggest blobs as other parties clustered around them.
"Didn't hurt to try." Dale added, "We need all the help we can get."
"Then do you think we should get a sixth member? Everyone else seems to be maxed out." Harry then asked, gesturing to all the other parties around them. As he said, all of them seemed to be full parties and were in the midst of introducing themselves to each other as well. Not a single left out player in sight. Pretty amazing actually. If King hadn't been here, he couldn't even imagine the mess this place would have been.
"Don't see anyone else to add though." Issin put his thoughts to words. Looking left to right for an extra player. "Well there's King I guess."
"I guess." Klein absent-mindedly replied as he went up on his toes to scan the crowd. It took a moment for the cogs of his mind to move forward and he dropped back down with a sudden, and maybe stupid, idea. "Wait. King's not in a party yet?"
"Um… I don't think so." Was Issin's hesitant reply.
"Yeah, I haven't seen anyone go up to him or anything." Harry added on before he realized where he was going with this. "You're not thinking of inviting King, right?"
"I… I mean, even if it's King; he still needs a party, right? Since his powers don't work here and all." Klein tried to justify not only to them but himself. The idea wasn't sounding so appealing all of a sudden but still, he didn't feel like he could just dump it either. Like Dale said, they needed all the help they could get. "If you guys don't want to though…"
"Nah, if you think it's a good idea…" Issin trailed off as he shot a jumpy look to King who was busy overseeing the crowd as a whole. "I mean, he does look like he knows what he's doing."
Dale just nodded as he usually did, indicating he'd go along with whatever he decided on while Harry just breathed in before adding, "It's your call Klein."
Gee thanks guys. Leave all the hard decisions to him in a game where his decisions could mean life or death for everyone else. No pressure.
"I guess we should then." Klein mumbled, keeping his darker thoughts to himself. Honestly, he wasn't sure if actually should or not or even if it was a good idea. And say he did send him an invite, what if King rejected it? King looked more than just competent, did he even need a party?
But they did need a sixth member and who better than the Hero King himself? Doing his best to not let his worriers overtake him, he came to a decision. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. "Well guys, wish me luck."
If his friends said anything, he couldn't hear them over the thumping of his heart as he stiltedly walked towards King. More than a few players stopping their own conversations to watch him slowly approach King. He was starting to think this was a bad idea. Actually, that was wrong. He was starting to think this was stupidest idea he's ever had. He was going to look real dumb if King just ends up saying no.
It was too late to back out now though. Too many people had noticed and were watching like this some sort of movie with the dramatic conclusion on display. That's to say; bloody everyone decided that watching him going over to King was more important than anything else right now. That wasn't the worst part though because of course these things couldn't be easy for once.
King himself had noticed. How couldn't he with everyone else going silent to stare. It took every bit of courage he could muster to not just break and run away from the Hero's dispassionate gaze.
Ending up just in front of him, Klein looked up and up and up to finally meet King's oppressive glare. As he stared into his eyes, he felt his mind turn to mush under its overwhelming pressure they exuded. For a moment, he forgot completely what he had come here for, the roar of the King Engine overwhelming all other thoughts. All he knew was that he didn't want to be here yet no matter how much he tried, his legs just wouldn't obey.
"Yes?" King spoke and not just that! He gave him a chance, a life line for which he could climb his way back out.
"King… I mean, King sir!" And he screwed it up already. After seeing King's eyes narrow in intense anger at his disrespect, he just closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. Ah ha ha… so this was how he was going to die. Twenty-two and still a bachelor but hey, it wasn't too bad of a life.
"Just King is fine." He heard King say. This about a second after realizing there was no sudden deathblow coming for him and he hadn't just committed suicide by King. "Did you want something?"
"Oh. Uh. Well. Can you… I mean do you… do you want to join our party?" Klein frantically waved his hands protectively in front of him when King narrowed his eyes once again. The excuses spewing out of him like a released pressure valve. "I wasn't trying imply you're weak or anything. I have only the utmost respect for Heroes. I just saw you didn't have a party. Not that you need a party anyway. But still, I was just wondering?"
Klein froze, his arms still stretched out to random directions when the rumbling of the King Engine began to subside. The Hero looking like he was genuinely considering the offer, his hand stroking at his chin as the Hero pondered. "Send me the invite then."
Klein almost laughed out his relief. And just like that, he accepted and this whole thing was settled. Now, he just wanted to slink back to his friends and hope they don't mock him for the rest of his life for looking like an idiot.
"And…" King stared at something above his head, probably his name. "Klein. Thanks."
Klein just nodded at first as his thoughts sprinted double time to keep up. This was his chance to say something cool. To make up for all his screw ups from before and maybe even impress King. "N… No problem."
And so, it was thus, by the end of the hour, where there was once a horde of desperate humanity was now an army of determined players. The thumping of thousands of feet resounding across the Town of Beginnings as they marched out of the gates into the wild, King himself leading the way at the army's helm.
And once the golden plains were in sight, they stopped. Hands fingering their weapons, feet fidgeting nervously as the army awaited a signal that only King could provide. Some final words that would set them on the first step of clearing Sword Arts Online.
"Okay, let's go."
An encouraging speech? Some motivating words? King needed none of these to inspire. By organizing them all into a single force, by forging them all into one blade, by providing hope and leadership where there was none to be found; that was inspiring enough. And it was that in mind, thousands of players charged into the fields, ready to strike down the looming monsters that stood in their way.
Those boars had no idea what hit them.
I hope I got King's character right. It's a bit hard since he no longer has all his powers and is basically just a average person right now. That said, King's master gaming skills should prop him back up soon enough.