Disclaimer: I don't own Sword Art Online or any of its characters. They are all owned by A-1 Pictures, Aniplex USA, and Reki Kawahara.
A/N: I wrote this story as a side project a while ago. Figured I might as well throw it online because why not? It's just sitting on my computer, sequestered in a folder that would never be opened by anyone but me.
Flame it, follow it, critique it, or do nothing at all. I read the comments no matter what they are, and I do try to learn from any mistakes that are pointed out to me.
But this is really meant as a learning experience. At least for the moment, I don't take it too seriously and have no update schedule at all.
I am not a master of the canon universe. I do research, and I try to keep as many details in this story as accurate as possible, but there will be a handful of liberties taken on my part.
I came up with this idea a long time ago, before certain mechanics had been revealed in the later novels. And there were some details and game mechanics that were not explored in the actual canon, that I had to make up here.
"I'm off to practice!" A voice announced suddenly from the other side of his door.
He listened in silence for a moment, as the whir of his computer's fans filled the air.
And then he heard his sister's footsteps get quieter and quieter down the hallway outside his room.
He never answered her.
It was alright though, he figured. That he never acknowledged her.
As far as she knew, he had already linked up and couldn't hear her anyway.
It wasn't that far from the truth.
Standing up, he quietly made his way over to his bed, and powered up his NerveGear.
He'd use that as an excuse if he were ever pressed on it.
This world was wonderful!
Every single time he saw it, it took his breath away.
He could do without the massive crowds of people everywhere, though…
It really was to be expected, he supposed. This wasn't the beta test anymore. There were a lot more people here now that the full game had been released, and it was the day of launch.
Such thoughts filled his head as he ran through the alleys on his way to his destination.
He had his whole day planned out. He needed to start leveling his character as soon as possible. He could already notice how weak and sluggish his new character's body was in comparison to the one he had in the beta.
All of his levels had been rolled back.
He needed that strength back. That speed…
And he needed to make sure that he reclaimed his reputation, and position on the leaderboards.
It was a trivial thing, but he had been one of the beta's top players…
Just then, and he had no idea how it happened, he miscalculated the position of his feet, and his back foot hit the back of his front, as he was running, and he stumbled.
He panicked, but managed to catch himself before tripping outright.
He slowed to a walk, and made sure his face didn't show any of the inner turmoil he was currently experiencing. Playing it off as if nothing had happened.
He had almost publicly embarrassed himself in front of a street of people.
He glanced, surreptitiously, at the people around him, as he continued on…
Thank kami, nobody spared him a second glance. Nobody seemed to notice.
That could have been so much worse…
The alley ended, and he made a right turn onto an even more crowded street, where he continued at a more sedate pace.
Still internally mortified, he didn't dare start running again. Not yet.
And nobody on the street paid him any attention.
He was just another player minding his own business.
He only started running again after his embarrassment had finally died down and he had rounded the next corner, into another alley.
Because he was walking, not running, and didn't stand out, the red haired man on that very same street, never singled him out as a beta tester, and they both continued on their separate ways without ever knowing.
He used his starting Cor to pick up some basic supplies.
Upon signing into the game for the first time as a new player, everyone received five hundred Cor to pick up starting supplies with, with no strings attached.
It wasn't a lot. He figured it to be about fifteen to twenty Boars worth. That is, he'd have to kill that many Boars to get it all back. A feat he could do in a pretty short period of time, provided the hunting grounds weren't infested with new players competing for experience at the time.
Probably less than ten minutes, in fact. Even with his level one character, and starting stats.
Boars were the slimes of this world. They were essentially the weakest monsters known in the game. There were a few weaker ones here and there, like rats and various small insects, but, at the very least, Boars were the weakest monsters that were worth killing. Those other ones, didn't drop enough experience or Cor to be worth the time. Even for new players.
Five hundred Cor was enough for some food, a basic sword, some very basic leather armor, and a few standard supplies for long duration monster grinding, like low tier health potions, and a basic set of tools.
He expected to be gone for a few hours at least.
Since he didn't intend to waste any time coming back to the city if he could at all avoid it, he also picked up some basic cooking supplies.
Sometimes, monsters dropped raw meat that turned out to be surprisingly good when prepared over a fire. And he didn't need to waste an early skill slot on cooking to do it, too.
All players had the ability to start a fire and cook common ingredients without having to take up the cooking skill.
That meant that he wouldn't have to waste any time running back to town when he got hungry, only to have to run back out into the fields again to continue killing monsters after picking up some food somewhere from a shop.
The NerveGear was powerful. So powerful in fact, that eating in the game eliminated a person's sense of hunger in reality. It tricked the body into thinking that it was full. Which meant that he wouldn't even have to log out to eat anything either.
As long as he ate something in real life once a day to be on the safe side, he was fine with substituting real food with in game meals.
And since in game meals were quicker, he could just take a quick five or ten minute break in the field to cook some of his raw meat over a fire if he was ever hungry, with his basic supplies, and eat that instead.
Eating was XP waste after all.
All of the elite beta testers he had surrounded himself with back then had agreed with that sentiment, too.
None of them had had any respect at all for players that wasted a valuable early game skill slot on such a frivolous and useless skill like Cooking .
And travelling to useless places ate into the time needed for grinding monsters and levelling up.
Efficiency was everything in MMORPG's. The fact that this one happened to be in virtual reality didn't change a thing.
The equipment he picked up was very cheap, as it was all intended to be purchased by new players. But as expected, it wasn't very high quality as a result. Just enough to tide him over until he had more Cor .
But despite the cheapness, buying those cooking supplies had eaten into the last chunk of change that he had left.
He had used up almost all of his money.
Glancing down the open road, he figured that it was about time to get some more…
He was ready to play the game.
It had taken him only about ten minutes to get out of the city and to an empty hunting ground.
It seemed as if most of the players currently in-game were newer, and hadn't decided to start exploring the combat system quite yet.
They would, eventually, but until then, he had almost no competition for good hunting spots.
He had thought initially, that he would have had to go very far out to find an empty hunting ground, but there was nobody else in the area. So he decided to just stay in this one for now.
The lack of people in the area was a fantastic sight for a solo player like him.
Better by far, to be alone surrounded by dozens of monsters, then to have to tolerate another player nearby.
Sharing a hunting ground was XP waste.
Kirito took a deep breath, and sighed. It was time to start grinding.
When a blue light suddenly appeared in front of him, he was able to recognize it for what it was, immediately.
A monster spawn.
Wasting no time at all, his sword glowed red as he activated a Sword Skill , and he lashed out.
His first kill in game, a Dire Wolf, didn't even have the chance to fully form before it had shattered into polygons.
He had spawn killed it.
"Are you kidding me, right now?" Kirito asked, as he stared in disbelief at the player in front of him.
He hated crashers.
He had been grinding for some time by himself now, when all of a sudden, some guy had come up out of nowhere and had stolen his kill.
Crashing was the art of observing a lone player fighting a group of monsters, minding his own business, and figuring to yourself, 'there's room for me here too,' and then arriving unannounced, and immediately aggroing half of the monsters in the area, and effectively halving the experience rate of the player you had just intruded on.
And that player is said to have been crashed.
It bothered him a lot to say the least. Getting crashed...
But normally he wasn't a very confrontational person, so he had decided to simply move a distance away and give up his spot without a word.
It had been annoying, but he had ultimately decided to just take the hit and move on…
Dealing with, and chewing out crashers was XP waste.
Then the guy had followed him.
Like, really followed him. At an unreasonably short distance. He wasn't even trying to be discrete about it.
It was like the guy had taken it upon himself to count just how many hairs were on the back of his avatar's head. He was that close.
The player's antics had finally crossed the threshold of annoyance required for Kirito to spin around and deal with him at that point.
"Something wrong, guy?" The player replied to his earlier question in a lazy tone, while standing less than a foot away from him.
It was an uncomfortably close distance.
"What do you want?" Kirito finally asked, after getting fed up with the situation.
There was a moment of silence.
"Are you coming onto me?" The player asked in exchange.
Kirito's eye twitched.
So that's how it was, then. It was one of those guys. Someone who just messed with people for no reason at all, but their own entertainment.
He had come across a lot of them in the past. Both in other games, and in the beta test of this one.
His go to strategy in dealing with them was to ignore them and leave... most of the time.
But even he had a threshold of tolerance. If they kept at it, he'd use his other strategy.
Kirito pinched the bridge of his nose.
He knew the routine, and didn't want any part of it.
There were two types of crashers, in his experience. New players who genuinely see some lone player apparently being surrounded and attacked from all sides, and deciding to intervene, thinking they are being helpful, and the trolls, who do it deliberately just to try to be as annoying as possible to everyone.
He couldn't convince himself to truly hate the new players that did it. Even when they had the balls to crash him, steal half his kills, and then ask questions like 'are you okay?' Or when they demanded to be thanked for doing so.
They pissed him right off, no doubt, when they did that, but he couldn't truly hate them because they were new, and truly didn't seem to understand what they were doing.
But the trolls…
The ones who did it on purpose…
"You can have this spot, I don't care," Kirito began through gritted teeth. "Even though there is nobody anywhere around us, and you could have chosen literally any other spot in the area... you can have the exact square foot of land that I've been standing on if you really want. But I'm going to go over there if you're over here," Kirito stated with narrowed eyes as he pointed some distance away.
"So don't follow me," Kirito finally turned around and started walking.
'If he does one more thing…' he thought to himself. Things would get messy.
He arrived at his new spot and glanced back in the direction of the other player. Seeing the player fighting his own Dire Wolf for once, while facing the opposite direction made him sigh in relief. It would seem that he had gotten the message across.
Sometimes, very rarely, you could reason with a troll.
You usually had to reason with a sword in your hand and a violent underlying threat, but sometimes… you could do it.
Kirito travelled a bit further out anyways. Just to be on the safe side. The greater the distance between the two of them, in his opinion, the better.
A few more wolves suddenly spawned in the plains in front of him, and he immediately engaged the closest one.
His aim was a bit off on the first skill he unleashed, putting its HP into the red, rather than one-shotting it. He had aimed for one of its weak points, but it had twisted just a tiny amount to avoid the critical hit, totally by chance at the last instant.
'No problem,' he thought. It happened sometimes, he'd just finish it off with his follow up swing…
The monster shattered before his sword connected.
For just a moment though, he had seen it. A throwing knife, buried hilt deep into the forehead of the wolf.
He didn't get the XP for that kill.
On higher leveled monsters later on in the game, even those just a few levels higher than the wolf he had just fought, experience and rewards were usually scaled between all attacking players if they weren't in a party already when it died. With the person who had dealt out the most damage typically getting the biggest chunk.
A similar idea applied to monster drops.
But on monsters as weak as this one, basically everything went to the person who landed the killing blow.
It was just too weak a monster for the experience and drop sharing system to be used on. They were meant to be one shot by any decently skilled level one player.
Kirito took a deep breath, and glanced up towards the sky and considered his situation for a moment.
He decided right then.
Yes, in fact, he was willing to spend the rest of the day as a red player.
His kill had been stolen for the last time.
It was time to implement his other strategy for dealing with trolls.
"You mad bro?!" The player shouted with a cheerful grin plastered on his face, as another sliver of his health was shaved off by another furious, glancing blow.
Kirito thought about it for a moment.
Yeah he was pretty mad.
Well… irritated anyways.
'But what is up with his confidence?' Kirito thought to himself, remarkably composed. The crasher had yet to do any damage to him.
If he were being honest though, the guy had turned out to be surprisingly good.
He had clearly anticipated Kirito's violent and immediate response to his actions, and had managed to block the first strike.
And then Kirito's cursor had immediately changed from green to orange.
There were three known types of cursors a player could have, two of which, were nearly indistinguishable.
All players started with green cursors. If they attacked another player, or committed any action deemed a crime in game, they would change to orange.
If that crime happened to be killing a green player however, you would get a special orange cursor that looked no different from a normal one. But had different conditions for getting rid of it.
Kirito's cursor was the normal orange variant at the moment, and it'd return to normal after some time had passed if he walked away now... but they both knew that that wasn't happening.
This was a fight to the finish.
He was going to kill this guy.
Tolerating a belligerent player was XP waste.
Kirito had experienced both ends of PKing in the beta, and knew that he'd have to spend the rest of the day, in all likelihood, as an orange player for doing this. But his cursor would revert back to green by tomorrow.
It was inconvenient, because orange cursors had consequences to them, but it'd be so worth it, in his opinion, after he finally sent this idiot back to spawn with nothing but a set of baggy clothes and a handful of pocket change.
When a player died, they were sent back to spawn with just a fraction of their Cor and exactly none of their items. Leaving them in their starting gear. Everything else just dropped to the ground. Ready to be picked up by another player.
That was how things worked in the beta. There was really only one rule when things came down to it. Do whatever you want, and PK anyone that says otherwise.
Might makes right in Sword Art Online.
It had actually been a pretty effective system to solve disputes back in the beta.
If it meant that trolls and annoying players would die when they tried anything on a stronger player than them, then that was just fine in his books.
If he didn't kill this guy now, then the next player that this guy tried to annoy would, in all likelihood.
Casually, Kirito batted away another telegraphed and totally readable swing from the other player.
Despite being a bit better than Kirito had originally expected, this fight was not at all close, or even fair.
This player was just barely escaping his attacks now.
Decent at dodging, but that was all he seemed to really be any good at. His offence was lacking to say the least.
'Honestly, who allocates both starting skill slots to offensive skills like that?' Kirito thought to himself.
Blade Throwing , and One Handed Sword ?
It was a common move for newer players who didn't yet understand that that was bad practice, and horribly inefficient. But pretty much nobody else did it. At least that he'd been made aware of.
Grinding out early levels was so much harder without a support skill like Searching, or Hiding.
An alternate offensive skill should only be considered after unlocking more skill slots, at higher levels. You only started out with the two, so you had to be very careful with which ones you picked early on.
Because if you changed your mind, and decided to swap out an old skill for a new one, you would lose all progress with it if you ever tried to switch back later.
There were only a handful of ways to safely store progress with a skill that he knew of, when swapping them out.
Experienced players understood these concepts well.
But after glancing at the massive holes in this player's defence, Kirito was able to see that clearly, this player wasn't very experienced.
Which was a shame. A part of him had actually been impressed at that blade throw from earlier.
Throwing a knife at that range with such accuracy? Even if it was aimed at his wolf...
Not too bad.
This crasher had much to learn though.
The player dodged another sequence of Kirito's Sword Skills , before getting into another blade lock.
The familiar sound of two blades crashing into each other echoed throughout the area, and a set of sparks were produced as they scraped against each other after the impact.
Kirito almost grinned. Didn't he learn his lesson from the last time?
Kirito punched the player in the face with his free hand, and took great satisfaction in wiping that smug smirk right off the guy's face.
That was the third time he had done that.
He changed his mind about the guy, just then. This player was a total newbie at one v one combat. This may even be the first time that this player had experienced violent resistance by someone he had crashed.
You just couldn't win a fight like this, with just defence. Or by trying to dodge everything. Or by trying to get into awkward blade locks that you see all the time in anime.
Kirito's sword glowed a bright violet as he queued up another skill. He fully expected it to be his final move.
To win, you had to attack.
The end of the fight was marked by the sound of shattering glass.
Kirito let out a content sigh. It had been so satisfying, taking all of that guy's gear and money.
He'd almost call it therapeutic.
PKing on lower floors, especially in the early game, could be very lucrative. Players dropped pretty much everything in their inventory when they died. All of their gear, and even most of their money, unless they happened to be in a party at the time.
If they happened to be in a party, their items would be transferred into a shared party inventory instead, which allowed everyone to get their stuff back upon respawning, as long as there was a single surviving party member.
Most players as a result, especially early on, would form these parties due to such clear and obvious advantages.
Especially with PKing being so incentivized early on. When you killed literally any party-less player in the early game, you essentially doubled your assets, as everyone had the same initial wealth.
It wasn't until later on in the game, when players started to specialize, and wealth inequality started to kick into high gear, where there existed some players too poor to kill.
But that player hadn't been in a party.
That player had lost everything he had on him. And Kirito had taken it all.
He smiled. Therapeutic was absolutely, the right word for it.
It was karma, he supposed. It was simply what that player deserved, for trying to annoy him like that. For being a new player trying to look down on someone with more experience...
'Stealing my kills…'
It was an unwritten rule amongst experienced players in MMOs everywhere.
You don't do that.
People that did were labelled 'Crashers', and got killed so fast in the beta by front line clearers. They had been ruthless about it too, often humiliating the perpetrators in some fashion first, and giving no warning about it at all.
He had actually been polite to that guy, all things considered, giving him a single chance to leave on his own accord…
Not many elite beta testers would have given him that same chance.
Maybe, that idiot would even learn something from this experience...
He wasn't disturbed again until the sky started turning orange, and the sun was setting.
A part of him expected that guy to show up again to try and bother him, trolls were often repeat offenders, but thankfully he never did.
Kirito had leveled up in the meantime, and was well on his way to level three, now. Not bad for a single day. That PK had given him a good chunk of experience.
He didn't intend to go PKing new players any time soon, though. He rarely PKed at all in the first place. He only really made exceptions in a handful of cases.
The extra experience was nice though…
He had actually left one of his two skill slots open. He had it narrowed down between either Searching or Hiding but he hadn't figured out which to choose yet. Both were very useful, and he would end up with both in the end either way, but he had decided to wait until he had a long term goal decided before picking his second skill.
He eventually decided to make the choice on his way to the quest area he wanted to get to, after dinner.
Sugu was probably getting home from her kendo practice any minute now, he figured. And they'd probably have dinner together immediately after, so he figured that he should probably log out for a bit and check in, to see if he needed to help out with anything...
He let out a sigh.
It had really been a while since they had had any sort of proper conversation.
Ever since he had found out that she was his cousin all those years ago, not his sister, and that he had been adopted, he had really started to put some distance between the two of them. He didn't even realize he had been doing it at first either. It was really only recently that he had noticed how different things were between them now, when compared to how they had been when they were younger...
It made him feel a little guilty, because it was pretty much entirely his fault that things had turned out the way they had.
'Maybe,' he thought, he should start trying to change that...
They were still cousins. Was not being siblings really a reason to pull away, and retreat into his room the way he had?
What was it that she wanted?
She didn't seem to really mind that they had lost touch with each other...
Maybe she just didn't really care that much either way.
Maybe it was just all in his head.
Either way, she had been on his mind a lot recently…
Maybe a family dinner together would do them some good…
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a loud ringing sound echoed across the plains.
It was periodic, and he couldn't quite pinpoint its direction. It was coming from everywhere at once, as far as he could tell.
Before he could determine what it was, he was enveloped by a blue light, and forcefully teleported.
It had absolutely ruined his state of mind.
'Kayaba.' It all made sense. Everything he had said was possible.
A death game, with ten thousand players. If anyone in the world could pull that off, it was Akihiko Kayaba.
The specs of the NerveGear checked out. It had a battery capable of discharging enough power to destroy a brain. Without a doubt.
The system scanned everyone's faces. And it knew everyone's measurements and body types from the calibrations everyone had to perform during the setup.
If you died even once in the game, you died for real.
He had killed someone.
He killed someone. Just a few hours ago.
He was a murderer, now.
He paused for a moment, to let that revelation fully sink in.
Suddenly, the crowd around him started to panic. There were shouts of anger, desperation, and disbelief, all directed at the spot Akihiko Kayaba's giant avatar, had once been.
And the sound dragged him out of his thoughts.
This was real.
A text box suddenly opened in his field of view.
It declared that he was an orange player in a safe zone, and that the city guards would be mobilized if he didn't leave the area immediately.
He had seen the message before in the beta. It was a warning message given out to orange players that tried to enter a city's safe zone.
They weren't allowed in. They couldn't set foot in any main city of any floor without being attacked by guards.
Those guards… they were strong too. And they kept respawning. If he stayed where he was now, he'd die. Without a doubt.
Guards were the only monster in the game that could damage a player in a safe zone, and the only ones that could in turn, be damaged by a player.
Faced with the imminent danger, he forced his emotions to the back of his mind, and he was finally able to look at his situation objectively.
If he hesitated now, he was going to die.
He needed to get out of the city now.
While the crowd was in hysterics, Kirito spun and bolted towards the closest city gate.
AN: I have no beta reader either, so there may be a few errors here and there. Hopefully not too many.