I don't own any of the original materials used & published by the franchise on this material.
I guess I screwed up this time. I mean sure, I wasn't that tech-savvy, but I had the downright knowledge to at least know the obviously large battery connected to the headgear that's covering most of my head.
I even used a little Structural Grasping before wearing the damn thing to study and understand out of curiosity's sake what its original purpose was for.
While I pondered through the mistakes that were being processed through my mind, the giant red-hooded faceless man, floating above the virtual red sky gave his last words to the panicking yet silent audience.
What just happened? He was a genius who stood above all else and shook the world. He was my idol, my hero, my inspiration. So I understood yet accepted the harsh truth presented by the faceless man floating in the sky.
They all had to simply accept those words as it vibrated throughout the plaza.
The man that presented himself in front of everyone and declared his desires just floated there as if he was god. But now, despair drowned me of that man's mechanical announcement as he continued. What 'used to be' my idol now simply stated that he honestly had trapped the lives of the audience at large.
As he answered question after question by himself as if he knew what everyone was going to ask, the entire plaza went silent as he finished and gave his final words.
"...now I have finished the official tutorial for «Sword Art Online»."
"Players… I wish you luck."
At this moment, two players; one with red hair mixed with streaks of white and another with jet black hair moved in different directions, their paths crossing with their own ideals and goals.
Aria of Fate-A Fate/stay night and Sword Art Online Crossover
Chapter 1: Link Start! –Redux-
(Fuyuki City, November 1st, 2022)
It had been several years since the events of the last 5th Grail War. My years of training in the Clock Tower with Rin and Saber paid-off when I finally completed the basics of my 'unique' magecraft.
Fuyuki City had changed quite a bit since we left for our apprenticeship six years ago. After returning, we were able to witness a new scientific breakthrough that had even caught the attention of the modern red magus and olden blue knight, the NerveGear.
It gave me a bit of interest at first since it dwelled in the used to be sci-fi world of virtual reality. Only a few years back you could only hear about these in science fiction movies and novels. The hi-tech item called the NerveGear almost caught my full attention until I looked more carefully into it.
The design and specifications were heavily made for a gaming console. I almost dropped the idea of trying it out because its development was heavily made for games… until Fuji-nee stormed into our house when she heard about our return and instantly forced me to try the thing out.
Apparently, she wanted to try it out herself but was unable to do so due to 'being a proper teacher', so I ended up as her test dummy.
I just arrived for crying out loud.
I only found out later she had asked old man Raiga-ojiisan to get it for her weeks before because of the danger of it being sold out. Her excitement really must have gotten over her head. The faculty found out and scolded her for forgetting to finalize the test results, so she found herself with a boatload of work. She really did want to try it out. On me though.
Sigh, being the princess of the local yakuza really is something else. It's no wonder why she isn't married yet.
When I was about to reject her offer, she began to taunt me, which made me raise an eyebrow.
"Fufufu… it seems that the game allows you to feel like you're in the real world."
Of course that wasn't enough to convince me. So I decided to stop her before she's able to find a way to convince me. "Fujii-nee, you know I'm not the type to just play games. I mean I'm already twenty―"
"…and it's also interestingly called «Sword Art Online»."
"Sword," -Art Online, as I completed Fuji-nee's words in my mind. I now had second thoughts, thinking it might be interesting to try it out after all. She casually handed me the manual and a booklet that came with the device as I eagerly started reading it.
It really did sound interesting though. The name «Sword Art Online» caught my attention and after a careful study of the possible experiences you may encounter in the game, my two girlfriends glared at me as if knowing what I already planned to do before the thought even came up.
"Emiya-kun," the magus dressed in red spoke first, quickly removing me from my train of thought and effectively wiping off the growing smile off my face. It was clear that Rin was mad. It was a habit she developed whenever she argues with someone. The only thing you should remember is when she addresses you formally, then you should prepare for the worst.
"It's fine if you try out a hobby once in a while, but I suggest you shouldn't forget our agreement why we had to return here in Fuyuki City." She finished with an innocently fake smile on her face.
Our agreement? Nothing was coming to my mind except the distracting thought of what «Sword Art Online» would look like. I turned to Saber to try and see what Rin was talking about, but that option was quickly shot down as she looked at me with a disappointed look on her face.
"Fufufu…." the cause of all this snickered as if she knew what we were all talking about.
I don't know what you're thinking but it's clear that you are greatly misunderstanding all this, Fuji-nee.
"I'll just leave this here so that I can leave you three alone." She placed the object of interest on the dining table and left through the front door with what I believed to be completely false assumptions. At the very least she didn't notice why we had to go back here in Fuyuki City yet.
"..." "..." "..."
Silence covered the entire room.
Hm? The usual sound of a clock's ticking was missing.
It looks like I need to do some maintenance tomo- Urk!
My two female partners were still waiting for my reply while my mind drifted off to somewhere else. The magus was starting to lose her temper and popped a vein as she continued to smile, while the knight still kept her normally composed self.
"U-um…" I whimpered trying to break the overwhelming silence.
"Oya? Don't tell me that you've forgotten what we all agreed from before Shirou?" A hint of coldness was added to her innocent looking smile.
I thought deep and hard to remember what she was talking about. I know it was something. But what was it again?
Geez, the image of «Sword Art Online» keeps popping up though. Did Fuji-nee give me some sort of disease or something?
While I was still looking clueless, the knight in front of me cleared her throat.
"Shirou." The King of Knights spoke in a calm and gentle tone. "You should remember our promise before we went back here in Fuyuki." The knight went silent and continued after a moment's pause "… You promised us that you won't do anything that's related to any of your studies in either magecraft or sword training after what happened back in London." She calmly finished the heavy reminder what they were all talking about.
"Ah. Wait…" It honestly slipped my mind. Fujii-nee's excitement might have been contagious. I'm normally not this forgetful especially when it's about that little 'accident' I had back in London. I had to think of an answer quickly. "But, this doesn't count… right?" I hopelessly defended myself against the reminder she just meant.
The two girls instantly gave me a sharp glare.
"You don't think you can fool us do you?" Rin's fake smile disappeared and was replaced with an obviously angry face. "I've seen those things before. They'll just trick your eyes and ears while your body moves."
I almost fell over after hearing that. "U-um, I think you're talking about something else Rin." I was almost confused that the device she was trying to imply was something completely different.
"I don't care what that thing does. To think you'd just brush off our promise like that." This time, her angry voice had a mix of disappointment.
I sighed heavily.
Rin and Saber didn't like my reaction and waited for me to say something. I then composed myself and inhaled a deep breath.
"I admit that I forgot our promise, but that doesn't mean I didn't go against my agreement with the both of you either."
Both of the two girls almost relaxed but they knew I wasn't done yet, so they then steeled themselves.
"…I know that our last um, 'incident' didn't go so well and I don't want to trouble the two of you any more than I should."
That little… okay not-so-little incident last time in London was an event we all agreed not to talk about anytime soon. The fact that it was an event that even I had to force myself to accept had me hold off most of my studies and recuperate. After not doing most of my daily routines during the first few days, it didn't bother me enough so I simply went with the flow– is what I'd like to think.
After not doing anything for nearly a month, I couldn't take the pressure for long. It didn't take long until I had to take action by myself to get over my irritation. In the end, I suddenly found myself sent flying back to my bed when I attempted going back to my normal routines.
So my two girlfriends planned to take more drastic measures. And here we are now, in this dramatic little situation.
"But this and that are completely different," I quickly added to continue my defense.
"Oh? In what way is it 'completely different' then Emiya-kun?" The angry magus crossed her arms and waited what my excuse would be.
This NerveGear was actually a blessing in disguise. I wasn't allowed to do even the most menial tasks, so what more if it's honing my sword skills? I really couldn't do anything about not being allowed to use the simplest Projection or even the slightest Reinforcement. But I can at least use my Structural Analysiswithin the allowed limit.
"Firstly, I'll have to clarify that the device you mentioned earlier is a completely different gaming console. This device however, would allow me to practice my sword skills without putting even the slightest pressure to my body.
It says in the manual that one's conscience is completely immersed in a completely virtual reality to perform the tasks inside the game which they call «Full Dive». This device uses some kind of electronic signal that completely blocks-off the brain from the body's natural senses and in replacement the signals sent by your brain will be processed by the NerveGear, sends it to their network that will then provide the necessary data and sends all those back to trick your brain into processing what's supposed to be bodily movement and other natural sensory features." I paused for a bit to gasp for air. "You don't even have to physically blink to play the game!"
I threw in strange terms (excuses) to both of them as I tried to simplify the explanations despite the fact that they might not actually understand all that. Well, that was what I was aiming for anyway.
The magus went silent for a while and looked towards her servant. They both exchanged glances for a bit as if telepathically confirming whether what they just heard was correct or not.
Rin gave an unbelieving yet confused look as if trying to figure out that what I just said was convincing.
"You are so into this aren't you?" Rin gave me a displeased look and Saber just sat there, not a change in her expression.
"What do you think Saber?" The magus suddenly shot a question to the poor knight. The pressure suddenly shifted towards Saber, who the quick witted magus purposely passed her verdict to.
"Eh? A-ah…" Saber's reaction was interesting. What used to be her calm demeanor was suddenly washed away as the blue knight gave an embarrassing yet cute confused look by looking down at the table to evade eye contact.
Did Rin just made a mistake in an attempt to quickly find a way out? Or is it because my explanation was technology? Or could it be both?
Saber slowly looked at me while she was still clearly in embarrassment. She was still in a bit of a panic since she had to think up of a way to properly question me about the device's use. The King of Knights inhaled a deep breath and paused for a moment.
She courteously cleared her throat and spoke. "I can't fully comprehend the technicality and safety of the device you speak of, but if my understanding is correct Shirou, this device would allow you to continue your practice in swordsmanship while your body won't receive any kind of pressure from it?" She asked for confirmation.
I was almost shocked. As expected of the King of Knights, to recognize the importance of the points given while not being able to grasp the full understanding of the technical details.
"I can't say that it's perfect but yes." I gave her an inconclusive answer. "The brain may receive the experience but the body doesn't. There are many drawbacks but most of them are just psychological feedbacks. The most it could do is that you may feel the lag when trying to replicate what you learned in the game physically."
"But it's better than nothing. At least I'll be mentally prepared and may get to experiment new techniques in this virtual world." I quickly added in the last bit to reinforce my point.
"Hmm…" The servant thought deeply, while me and Rin waited patiently for her decision.
"I may not fully approve of the device's methods but, I do approve of your enthusiasm to your training."
"…and so….?" I tried to confirm her ambiguous answer.
"I believe it is okay for you to use that device." Saber said as she smiled.
YES! Ah- wait, I almost jumped for joy. There's still one more verdict to―
"Go ahead and use it." Rin said while grumbling belatedly in realization that she made a mistake in passing the final judgment to Saber.
I couldn't make it out but I think she said 'you idiot' at the last part.
As I let out a sigh of relief, "Thank you Rin, Saber."
The apparent tsunderelet out an almost unnoticeable 'Hmph!' before both girls gave a small smile in return.
I'm kind of scared of what Rin's smile meant but it looked like all those years of being played by Rin paid-off. I should consider myself lucky that the topic had to be technology.
Believe it or not I now have new found respect for Fuji-nee even if she was the one who had caused this entire commotion.
It took quite a bit of effort to convince both of the girls to at least let me try it out. The smile Rin gave me earlier, had me ended up getting banned from the kitchen for a few days. We ended up having a long argument until Rin was able to successfully force me to surrender. Saber almost didn't join in the argument as long as there was someone who'll have to cook.
It was several days later that I had to wait for the official «Sword Art Online» launch. We used that time to clean and maintain the house in which I did so little contribution to. So, I used that time to research what you could actually do in the virtual world of SAO.
I learned a lot of things during that time. Like who was the genius who created all this, the company who managed it, the mechanics, and all other technical info. I then found a site where the lucky players for the closed beta test shared some info of what the game was like.
Rin made lunch early and left almost immediately because she had to attend a family related business. After I was done with cleaning the plates that Saber and I used for lunch, I headed straight into my room while Saber spent her day training in the dojo.
I'm just glad that Fuji-nee was able to help us set-up an internet connection in our home a couple of days before.
I plugged in the LAN cable and power cord to the bulky looking helmet and finally laid down on the futon.
I powered it on before setting the visor down, I could clearly see at the top left of my vision, the time 13:59 and at the top right was the power indicator.
As the digital clock turned to 14:00, I shouted the phrase "Link Start!"
Now chanting the Aria of Fate, opening the way to a fake reality to more swords, ideals and battles.
I was suddenly thrown into a world of white while quickly passing what appeared to be a tunnel of bright colored effects. Stopping shortly after, system checks popped out from the side confirming that there are no problems. After the options for language, signing in with the account Fuji-nee helped me make before, and the welcome screen, I was suddenly showered in bright blue electronic light.
The brightness caused me to close my eyes. Even though I'm saying that I closed my eyes, it only feels like I was closing them. When I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a marble blue sky indicating that I was not clearly in my room anymore.
I rubbed my eyes with my hands to confirm that they weren't playing tricks on me. Oh, wait it is supposed to trick you. Well, only the brain to be exact. I noticed earlier when I rubbed my eyes that there was a cloth like sensation on both of my hands. When I looked down to my open hands, I saw I had black fingerless gloves on.
I quickly went looking around for a mirror and had finally found one near what seemed to be the plaza.
I was slightly surprised to see that my randomly generated avatar looked kind of cool for one. With sleek white hair and silver eyes― wait. Is this some kind of joke? My avatar resembles 'HIM' of all people. The only difference was that my hair was longer and had a ponytail tied at the back. I swear that there's someone out there messing with me right now.
Other than the face, the fact that the clothes and armor I had on weren't as nice to me either. I was wearing a red long sleeved cotton shirt and a faded black jacket over it, my pants and boots are black with belts as well. I pulled out from the sheath of my initial equipped weapon behind me and saw a curved blade that resembled a cutlass. It wasn't a Chinese Dao saber but it was close.
I really do think that there's someone out there messing with me.
I wasn't really happy but it couldn't be helped since I had just started this game. This may be just a coincidence but this is ridiculous.
I pushed aside my feelings and checked to see the time on my window as it chimed open from the set movement of my hand.
"Hmm, so the time here is the same as in the real world."
I decided to do a little exploring as I could see all the different stores selling various kinds of equipment and other accessories. The city was quite lively. It was filled with all sorts of players roaming around and partying with each other in the busy streets. After stopping my brief survey on the vastly huge «Starting City», I decided to head out and try out some skills. I can explore the city later otherwise I won't be able to finish what I had originally planned to do.
Heading out to the large exit, a small floating message popped out in front of my vision stating I'm headed to the 'Outer Field'. "Wow. This place is pretty amazing. Rin may not like this at first but I can clearly imagine Saber enjoying this world almost immediately." I imagined as I headed out to hunt some monsters.
"I can't wait till they hear this."
My first trip to the outer fields gave me some interesting encounters. What seemed to be blue colored boars, wolves, large rats, and some kind of animal that was supposed to look like a cross between a ferret and a cockroach, were unfortunately extremely weak sparring partners despite their strange size.
During my first few battles, I had a hard time adjusting myself to the conditions set in the game.
My movements were sloppy, and damage was small. Complaints were all I had for the first hour.
But after all that, I somehow enjoyed it. I had to make basic stances which I wasn't used to in order to try out the so called system assisted skills prepared in SAO. It was a good thing that I researched a little about how the game worked from those sites.
It was strange when the weapon would light up in different colors with a charging sound as the system would take over my body and move it systematically. Simple postures were all it needed to create moves that you could train for yourself in days.
"This feels a little unfair if this was possible in the real world." I immediately brought down that thought and continued on. The skills felt too unnatural to me so I tried to find a way to use my own set of skills I learned outside of this game. I tried and tested in adjusting my perception of both my mind and body many times in order to recall the memories of my hard earned experience in the 5th Grail War and training in London.
My experiments didn't exactly go so well. It felt strange as I didn't feel pain on my body as I attempted my next few moves.
Move after move, attack after attack, it took a bit of time and effort before I had finally gotten used to this world. I was able to successfully pull-off some of my skills from the real world. Okay, maybe only about one or two moves to be exact.
"This may take some getting used to."
It was already starting to get dark when I realized fatigue had hit my body.
I opened my menu screen to check on the time. It was now 17:24.
Oh no. Despair suddenly hit me like a fully charged Gändr to the face.
"Saber is going to kill me when I logout." Sadly, I already knew the phrase that 'time quickly passes by when you're having fun' so this didn't help me one bit.
I was going to be late for dinner and I'd be experiencing the wrath of a hungry li- no, a hungry tiger and a lion to be exact, as I corrected my thoughts. Since our return, Fuji-nee has been visiting us like in the old days and continued to eat with everyone.
I immediately went to find the log out button and―
―couldn't find it. "What the- ?"
I couldn't suppress my disbelief. What used to be the logout button was now an empty blank space.
"I'm sure it was here. Is it some sort of malfunction? It's still the first day and all." I let out a sigh of disappointment. "This is troublesome."
I tried calling for a Game Master, according to what everyone called them, and to my surprise there was no answer.
I had to wander around for a bit until I saw another player. I quickly rushed over and asked. "Um excuse me, I think I'm having a problem with the system. It seems the logout button is gone and I can't contact the system administrators. Is there another way to contact the people in charge?" I said all that in a calm and moderate voice.
The person I greeted with questions had dark tanned skin, ruffled hair up to his long beard, a thin chest plate and an axe equipped on his back giving an intimidating appearance. The image he must have been going for looked similar to some sort of barbarian. The player gave a questionable look and smiled right after. He quickly chimed opened his menu screen and gave a surprised look.
With a deep tone, he voiced out in a surprising manner. "Huh? That's strange. I swear that―"
"Ah. It looks like I'm not the only one then." I interrupted his surprised expression and gave him an apologetic look. "So chances of calling the Game Masters are out then."
"Hmm… this is troublesome indeed. It may be some sort of bug." The axe wielder guessed by himself.
"A 'bug'? You mean there's an insect in the system?" To the man's surprise, my question somehow made him open his eyes wide.
The dark skinned man suddenly started laughing so hard he had to turn around and bend his body trying to keep his balance, making me a little annoyed.
"Ahaha- haha… ahaha! … So-sorry, No, You got it all wrong." The tall man apologized while still trying hard to recover from his outburst. "A 'system bug' is a sort of―" Suddenly, his explanation was cut short when a loud noise caught our attention.
gong! Gong! gong! Gong!
Our attention was suddenly shifted to the direction where the sound of a large bell meant for churches, rang throughout the vast field as if it was for everyone to hear.
All of a sudden a blue familiar light covered both of us and―
―We suddenly found ourselves in the Central Plaza of «Starting City».
"Forced Teleportation?" The man beside me looked around while I wondered as well.
"I didn't know that there was magic here? It was said in the manual that there's no magic involved." I asked the axe wielding man with a confused look.
I found it unique where no magic in a fantasy like RPG game was the first thing that caught my attention while reading the manual.
"Other than the «Transfer Gates», «Teleport Crystals», and other things similar to the two, there are no other magic related things you can do in this game." The barbarian looking man beside me answered.
It seemed that everyone else had the same problem as us when the chatter started to take place. From the looks of things, there were a lot more being teleported here. It was as if someone was trying to gather everyone―
"Huh? What's that?" The man beside me noticed my reaction as I pointed out to the sky in front of us.
My thoughts earlier were interrupted by what looked to be a blinking red light in the form of a hexagon. I was surprised when the entire area with the words [Warning] and [System Announcement] covered the sky in an instant. I sighed in relief for a bit since our questions would finally be answered, only to find a new shock.
What seemed to look like blood oozed out of the messages and started to give form of a red hooded figure― without any face? My assessment suddenly turned into a question of puzzlement.
"Hey, is that a 'Game Master'?" I asked the axed barbarian beside me.
"Call me Egil," smiling as he replied to me "And to answer your question, I'm not sure myself. He looks like one though."
"Ah forgive me," remembering to introduce myself. "You can call me Sh―"
"Players, I welcome you all to my world." The faceless red hooded man interrupted my introduction and echoed his greeting to everyone around us.
"My… World…?" I repeated those last words from my mouth as it also echoed through my head.
Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
"I am Kayaba Akihiko. Right now, I am the only person who can control this world."
"Wha-! Isn't he- ?" I reflexively looked at Egil, the dark skinned man, who also looked to me for confirmation as well. We both knew who he was. Kayaba Akihiko was the person who invented the NerveGear and the head programmer of SAO.
It seemed both Egil and I had some sort of idea of what's going on, but for me I already had a feeling to where this would all be going to. Let's just hope I'm wrong. This is just a game after all.
"I think that most of you have noticed the fact that the logout button has disappeared from the main menu."
He demonstrated to everyone his window in 'all view mode.'
"This is not a bug,"
"Um Egil-san, what's a 'bug' any―" "Shh…" Egil interrupted my question with a shushing motion so that he could listen to the faceless man floating in the sky. Looks like my question about what a 'bug' is will have to wait.
"…it is however all part of «Sword Art Online»'s system.
This is not a bug,
but is an original feature that's all part of «Sword Art Online»'s system."
Some sort of pressure was covering my entire body. I was getting nervous so I had a bad feeling about this. I tried to find a way to rationalize myself to get rid of this pressure.
"I-is this some sort of special event?" I asked both to myself and of Egil while eying the faceless GM, trying to wash-off any of my guesses.
Egil simply kept quiet so I assumed he didn't know either.
The faceless man continued.
"You cannot log out of your own free will.
...the discontinuation or removal of the NerveGear from the outside is strictly forbidden. If these things are attempted..."
The hooded man paused for a moment.
"…The transceiver in your NerveGear will emit a powerful electromagnetic pulse, destroying your brain and thus ending your life."
"No…." I suddenly froze at the calm declaration of a genius turned madman, assuming what he's actually planning. My face went grim in an instant as he declared ending everyone's life so lightly.
Noise suddenly filled the plaza. Everyone started getting nervous and questioned each other whether this was some ridiculous joke or not. This kind of reaction is normal when somebody just declares an outrageous announcement.
Everyone went silent again as the madman slowly continued.
"To be a little more specific, dislocation from an outside source of electricity for ten minutes, being cut off from the system for more than two hours, or any attempt to unlock, dismantle, or destroy the Nerve Gear.
If any of these conditions are met, the brain destruction sequence will start. These conditions have been made known to the government and the public through mass-media in the outside world.
There have been several cases where the relatives or friends have ignored the warnings and tried to forcefully remove the Nerve Gear."
The voice paused for a moment and continued with his emotionless answer.
"—regretfully 213 players have already retired from Aincrad, and the real world,
The sudden sound of a gun's hammer started to retract itself at the back of my mind.
He just casually stated two hundred and thirteen players have died. I'm going to find this man and I'll beat some sense into him. I then steeled myself, preparing for what's to come.
Like some machine automated to speak, the faceless man continued.
"Players, there is no need to worry about the bodies that you have left on the other side. As of this moment, all TV, radio, and internet media are all repeatedly reporting this situation, including the fact that there have been numerous deaths.
The danger of having your NerveGear taken off has already all but disappeared. In a moment, using the two hours I have given, all of you will be transported to hospitals or similar institutes and be given the best treatment. So you can relax...and concentrate on beating the game."
"Beat the game! How can we play around in a situation like this! This isn't a game anymore!"Somebody nearby shouted those pleading words of reason.
"That guy's right, this isn't a game anymore. This is similar to that death game I've been in before." I added my own words softly to the one who shouted while glaring at the hooded figure in the sky.
Egil noticed my remark. He looked cautious of my emotionless expression.
"However, I ask all of you to understand that «Sword Art Online» is no longer a simple game.
It is a second reality... from now on, any form of revival in the game will no longer work."
"This guy is trying to act like a god." I nonchalantly stated in my mind.
"The moment that your HP reaches 0, your avatar will be permanently deleted, and at the same time—"
"I'll make sure," I continued.
"…the NerveGear will destroy your brain."
"…to kill him." Egil dropped a sweat at my declaration of pure malicious intent as he instinctively eyed me.
"Players, there is only one condition to free yourselves from this game－
Clear the game itself."
I listened intently to the information he was challenging us with.
"You must get to the top of Aincrad, the one hundredth floor, and defeat the final boss that resides there. All players still alive at that time will be immediately logged out of the game. I give you all my word."
"Clear all one hundred floors!..." Everyone around the area panicked at the declaration. Of course it was perfectly natural for that kind of reaction. I even discovered from the sites I visited before that the beta testers barely reached ten percent of the hundred floors in two months.
If only I could trace Caladbolg II and shoot it at his face― wait um, avatar right now. If only.
"Then finally, I will show you evidence that this is the only reality. In your inventories, there will be a gift from me. Please confirm them yourselves."
I instantly chimed opened my item window as I heard his statement. A single item has been added to the top of my recent inventory, a «Mirror».
As this item was materialized into our possessions, nothing happened except the reflection of our avatar's face.
Suddenly, a bright white light engulfed each person, including me, one after another in quick succession. In a matter of seconds the surrounding area was bathed in white light.
The light quickly disappeared, as if nothing happened. No. Something did change but what?
I looked to Egil for questions. I was caught by surprise that rather than the ruffled bearded dark tanned man, I saw a tall bald African-American who looked older than me, had a beard lesser and cleaner than the person I'm currently looking for.
Ah, is he somehow―?
"Um, are you…Egil by any chance?" I asked politely, completely forgetting the tense situation around us.
The African-American looked at me and asked, "Are you that guy with the white hair earlier? I never really got your name."
"Oh, I honestly forgot. I'm sorry my name is S―"
And once again I was cut from my introduction as everyone's attention shifted to the hooded man. This was getting annoying.
"All of you will most probably be wondering 'why.'
Why am I—the creator of both the NerveGear and SAO, Kayaba Akihiko—doing something like this?"
"The reason is because...this situation itself was my purpose in doing this. To create and watch this world is the only reason I have created the NerveGear and SAO. And now, everything has been realized."
His voice showed a bit of emotion compared to his previous mechanical speech. It was already clear to me he had just finished the important words he had to say to everyone. The question everyone was waiting for was given a very selfish answer. To realize his ambitions by forcing everyone to live in another world the man himself created.
I calmed down to gather and organize my thoughts so that I can properly review the information I had received. I suddenly felt something familiar tingling through my body. It felt as if prana was being sent directly to my brain.
Thinking it was just my imagination; I quickly dropped the thought and waited to what the man floating in the red sky had to say.
After a short break, Kayaba's voice now emotionless again, gave his final words to the still frozen audience.
"...now I have finished the official tutorial for «Sword Art Online».
Players…I wish you luck."
The figure started melting back into the dome of messages that filled the sky as if reversing his entrance.
And now in an instant the sky was now back to its sunset setting like in a movie.
Silence stayed for a few minutes when everyone couldn't swallow what had just happened.
Then the silence broke as people started to realize the revelations had ended.
They all panicked, screamed, froze, cried, shivered, collapsed, denied… it was as if every kind of fear was thrown right at them.
While the chaos unraveled itself, I hurriedly left, exiting the plaza. After rushing into what seemed to be an alley way, I stopped at the sound of a man calling my attention.
"HEY!" It was Egil. He had followed me after rushing out of the chaos in the plaza.
The man stopped as he tried to catch his breath for a moment and straightened himself. "I didn't think the Japanese were impolite enough to not introduce themselves." As he said, smiling to remind me of a blunder I had made earlier.
This time I was the one who was surprised. "I-I'm sorry if I couldn't introduce myself properly."
"Don't worry about it. With what happened just now, it's normal to just forget about the minor things." After smiling, Egil suddenly changed to a more serious expression." In the plaza earlier, I could clearly see it from your face the bold declaration you just made was no joke."
"Huh? What do you mean―" I asked as my voice trailed off trying to remember what he meant.
"Are you really going to kill this Kayaba person?"
! What? Did I say my thoughts out loud?
"It'll take a bit of practice if you want to properly hide your thoughts yo." He answered knowing what I would be thinking right now.
Damn. I completely forgot from the spur of the moment that the NerveGear would make proper reactions based on what the mind naturally tells it to do. So the emotions that my brain will process would also show them facially?
"Now that's inconvenient." I bluntly answered while eying him suspiciously. "Haha! I know! I also couldn't believe it myself at first." His smile instantly came back as he proudly puffed out his chest.
Shortly after, he returned to the serious expression he had just a minute ago. "I don't like to pry into other people's personal business too much but I can't just ignore what you said either."
This is bad. I just made a huge mistake back there.
"So, what are you going to do about it?" I asked, still eying him suspiciously.
"It's none of my business what you're planning to do to this Kayaba person. If what you are planning to do clears this game, then I'll help you in any way possible." The tall foreigner still kept his composure and eyed me seriously.
"I'm not against you helping me but why are you doing this?" I asked him, still suspicious of his offer.
Egil breathed slowly and gave his answer. "I just want to see my wife again, as soon as possible."
I was shocked. I was suspicious of the man who simply wanted to see his beloved partner again. I was disappointed in myself. But if I didn't suspect him, what would happen if it was someone who worked with the man who created this world? I simply couldn't trust anyone when he made that announcement earlier.
This guy has been helpful and honest so far, so I'd like to believe he is someone I can trust. I also have people I want to see again. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't take too much risks either. There are just too many possible risks involved.
Egil was still standing there, patiently waiting for my reply.
I took a deep breath hoping I wouldn't regret doing this. "I too have loved ones I want to see again. I have the feeling I can trust you so I'll go with it for now but that doesn't mean risks wouldn't be involved."
"That's alright. We'll just have to plan carefully and be ready for anything."
I sighed lightly and answered. "I don't know about the 'we' part since I usually work better alone."
I'm not lying but I'm not being honest either. I've worked with others in various situations before. When I was in the Clock Tower, I would often ask to participate in various missions with the Enforcers, like hunting heretical magi, dead apostles, and sometimes we'd come into contact with agents of the Church. They weren't exactly the most pleasant sort of people, especially since they think all magi and non-humans are heretics that should be eliminated. But they would reluctantly work together with us when our objectives were the same. Not always but in the end we were all professionals.
Then afterwards, let's just say that there was never a time we ever had cheers and handshakes.
Thoughts of the past aside, Egil just stayed quiet and eyed me with a more serious look than before. I ignored it and decided to continue on, hoping he would back out. "It's not that you're a burden to me or anything like that. It's just that I can't completely guarantee you'll be safe if you go with me."
I looked away to avoid eye contact while my voice silently trailed of at those last few words. It looks like my attempts to dissuade him didn't work. The foreigner crossed his arms, waiting for me to give him what he wants to know. I had the impression that Egil wouldn't let me go unless I give him a convincing answer.
I scratched my head in irritation. "Okay. You win." Egil gave me a brief smile showing his victory then he quickly braced himself for what I was about to say.
I straightened myself as well and revealed my intentions in a stern manner. "There are currently two possible options in getting out of this world; either reach the hundredth floor and clear the game or hunt down, capture or kill Kayaba Akihiko himself. In my opinion the fastest way to do this is to hunt down that guy, make him release all the players and kill him to prevent any further attempts he might try. But I don't expect this to be the easiest way out either."
I lowered the volume of my voice and whispered the continuation to Egil. "He has obviously gone into hiding and may have prepared some sort of defense to go along with it. He mentioned earlier that his objectives were the creation of this world and that he would intervene in it, so it's most likely he installed some kind of surveillance within this system. If that madman wants to intervene in this world, then he won't just sit back and watch. There are too many possible scenarios he could use. Like he could be the final boss or may have joined in among the players."
I paused for a moment and finished in a more moderate voice. "There are just too many possible ways to defend himself from others, both inside SAO or not."
After hearing all these ominous words, surprisingly Egil gave me a smile and said "Well, for one thing, you certainly have thought things through and you're quite honest. I don't know about the killing part but your upfront honesty makes you a rare kind within MMORPG games."
I gave Egil a questionable look on my face.
The foreigner simply laughed. "Haha! You don't have to be so stiff! I don't want to force you if you don't want to party. If it's alright, the least I could do is add you as a friend in my list of contacts. That way we can at least send messages to each other."
I was the one who looked dumbfounded this time. Including me as his friend despite the fact that I just made a bold declaration in finding the mastermind of this mess?
"Is that so? Just so you know I'm also planning to save as many people as possible in this game. I'll use whatever means available to me. There's even a possibility of Kayaba using all ten thousand players against me. Are you sure? You might not be able to see your wife again."
Egil gave a wide grin and said "Don't worry too much will you? I'd rather die fighting rather than just rot away in this world. Also, even though you had that dangerous look in your face back in the plaza, I have the feeling that I can trust you. So just give it up and give me your name already."
I made a strange doubtful look. I thought for a moment and finally gave up. I couldn't help but let out a big sigh.
"Alright you win," I raised my hands in defeat.
Egil opened his window screen as it chimed in, ready to invite me.
"My name is-"
"Huh?" I gave a confused look. Egil tilted his head in curiosity.
I shook my head quickly, ignoring the sound in my head. "I-it's Shirou" I answered. I revealed him my name in the friends' list window.
A «Shirou», popped out in his window while the name «Egil», popped into mine. "Well then," finishing our exchange. "I should get going now. You'll be busy from now on won't you?" Egil asked with a smile.
"Yeah, looks like it," answering him sheepishly. "I just hope my two girlfriends are okay. They must be worried sick by now."
"Oh? I didn't know you're such a player Shirou." The older man gave a crooked grin.
Of course, he didn't mean being a player in this game so I quickly knew what he meant. "Ah. It's more like my two girlfriends are aware of each other's feelings and all three of us are living together."
"Ohh! Living the life I see. And you're still so young. I'm quite envious of you right now, Shirou." I just gave a light 'ahahaha' and turned to the alley beside me. "Make sure to use that knowledge you had during that previous death game you mentioned earlier."
"Wha―" My entire body froze.
"Just give me a message at least once in a while okay?" He reached out his hand, ready for a handshake.
I nodded back with a blank expression on my face and shook his hand. While I was still staring blankly into space, Egil disappeared into the corner towards the plaza.
My eyes blinked rapidly and were finally pulled back to my senses. Just how much of my thoughts leaked out?
I shook my head to concentrate on what I was going to do next. Looks like I really do need to practice more in order to properly hide my thoughts. I soon left towards the outer fields to kill every virtual monster that would appear in front of me.
Five days into the game and I found myself without much progress. I had leveled up quite quickly since I had spent three whole days killing every virtual monster in my path without any sleep. During my first day into this game, I found a village farther out from the fields I was from before. I followed some suspicious looking players who just rushed towards a gap into the forest. Luckily, when I arrived, I found an inn and was able to reserve a room for a whole week.
I was now at «level 10» and I started to notice my EXP didn't move as much anymore and wasn't going any higher.
"Is there some sort of level restriction for each floor? This may be harder than I thought." I muttered, throwing out questions in the air.
Static suddenly attacked my head. I felt pain for the first time since I came into this world.
"Gahhh!-" I screamed, holding my head as if preventing it from splitting apart from the intensifying pain.
What's happening! My avatar is still in the green! Is he going to start randomly killing players! I tried holding my current state of mind despite the overwhelming pain.
"Gua- ahhhgh!" I finally knelt down on the ground, looking up to the sky with one of my eyes closed while the other half open.
Tear drops started flowing out of my eyes. "-AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!" The pain started to intensify even more.
-000a00d9*90uia_0000 *-fizzzzsch-* 01100-0-0101**-kchssshhhh-*! 00000100-000100 –1—1000gg0**0j1—0016- -00001020k_k1011 00109^ 89899# -009az 0xh _=4—04: E-0112 *000101010111000
Strange numbers and letters started to appear inside my head. Somehow, it felt like I understood some of those strange combinations despite the overwhelming pain.
*E-tern*a-fere-nce—ct-d. -men-in- *82a*- ER-*-010
"UAAAAAAAAAAAA!GHHHAAaaa- Haaaaaa!" I couldn't scream anymore. The pressure was too great.
S-sys, tem Over… ride… Linked― con-nection, A-Access- accessibility Com-pleted. I unconsciously voiced out in my mind the same words of a machine like voice that spoke at the back of my mind.
A new voice filled my head.
The immense pain suddenly disappeared allowing me to catch my breath.
"GUAHHHhh!–Huaah, huhhh... hahh... huuuh..." I breathed hard, now hands on the ground, trying to take back the air that was stolen from me.
I raised my head, now back on my knees, giving me the chance to comprehend the new voice that was trying to reach me.
"Huh! This voice! Rin!" I shouted surprisingly out in the empty virtual air around me.
I covered my ears only to discover that it was no use. It was as if she shouted directly to my brain.
"Wait! Rin! What's going on? How are you able to communicate with me here?" I shouted out, throwing her questions at the sudden miracle the magus made.
I was so worried! You do realize the trouble I had to go through! We're getting you out of here right now!
"Wait! Rin! Don't! Not yet! I'm not―!" I immediately yelled, stopping her at whatever she was about to attempt.
HAAH! What are you saying! IDIOT!IDIOT!IDIOT! I'm gonna blast you with-
Tohsaka-san, don't panic. How about we listen to what Emiya-kun has to say first?
Huh? Did I just hear some stranger's voice? "Um, Rin, I don't think that was Saber who spoke just now was it?" especially with the formality she just used.
Good day Emiya-kun, Tohsaka-san called us here to relieve you of your predicament. The immense pain you just felt was―
"Wait," I interrupted her "did you say 'we'? Who exactly are you people?" I must look like an idiot talking to myself right now.
That doesn't really matter right n- Oh. Allow us to introduce ourselves then.
A new stranger's voice interrupted as she had a hint of positivity mixed in. I think I heard Rin mutter something while the two unknown voices spoke.
I let out a deep long sigh. "This is going to be a long day."
Two years have passed and approximately 3,000 players have already died.
(Aincrad, Salemburg 61st Floor; October 2024)
After eating at Asuna's house in «Salemburg», we talked for a moment before I left. Suddenly, we overheard a conversation that we just couldn't ignore.
"Hey, have you heard? It seems «The White Swordsman» was spotted around the 45th floor today." A girl that looked like she was still in high school spoke to what seemed to be her guild mates.
We both turned our heads to the gossip spreading itself in front of us.
"…«The White Swordsman»? Are they talking about you Asuna?" I asked the sub-leader of the strongest guild in Aincrad. It was natural for me to assume all this when the beautiful chestnut haired girl in front of me wore mostly white with red patterns and gold trimmings, courtesy of the guild «Knights of Blood». But right now, she wore a white and green tunic since we arrived at her home.
"Huh? I don't think so. I believe they are talking about the person leader mentioned in one of the raid meetings before." She corrected my presumptions when we continued to walk towards the «Transfer Gate». She offered to escort me, which felt a little weird, so that we could chat a bit more.
"So you haven't met «The White Swordsman» before then?" I exclaimed with an astonished look.
"Why are you so curious? Is it because it contrasts with «The Black Swordsman» title you carry?" She teased me as she questioned my ulterior motive. "Let's find a more suitable place to talk. Let's go back to Egil's shop. He may have some info for us."
"Okay. That sounds good. I'll message «Argo the Rat» and ask her what she knows. It may help us and Egil though I may not promise how much she can tell us if the price of the information is too high." I said, opening the message menu as we walked towards the transfer gate.
"Wait. Let me change back to my guild uniform first." She went back towards her home to re-equip her armor.
"Hmm… I do wonder who this «White Swordsman» is."
"I'm not accurately sure, but I heard he cleared at least two different floor bosses by himself before." The rat with painted whiskers spoke in a quiet voice. "It was ridiculous to hear something like that but it was said there were 'witnesses' when they tried following him." Me, Asuna and Argo met in Egil's shop as soon as we met in the 50th floor's transfer gate. Egil gave a disgusted look at me when I went back after his despair of not tasting the S-Rank cooked food made by Asuna and me.
«Argo the Rat» sold all sorts of information and would price it accordingly. She would even sell information of herself if the price was right. I even got her to tell me why she had those whiskers painted on her face. When we arrived, I asked Argo what were the rumors about this «White Swordsman» business. Of course, I had to pay extra so that she could tell me even the inaccurate ones. She normally doesn't give away anything unsure to keep her reputation as an information broker.
"Hi hihihi. Since I've received a nice sum, I'll tell you more." She continued, snickering. She glanced at Egil for a bit and continued to explain to everyone in the room.
I noticed her suspicious act but decided to quickly brush it off, thinking I was just being paranoid.
"He is a solo player like you, Ki-bou. His name started to be known when the scouting team at that time spotted him by himself entering the boss room on the 29th floor. That dungeon was a sealed room type and closed its doors automatically only to leave the scouts outside. After an estimated time of ten minutes, the doors opened and the scouts could clearly see the room had obvious traces of battle."
She paused for to catch her breath for a moment. "The entire room was a mess. They saw traces of sword slashes everywhere, piles of debris that scattered had fallen about and different broken swords on the ground as the weapons shattered into polygons. The one thing they all noticed was that the damage didn't disappear or reconstructed itself by the system. The only 'living thing' they saw was a single man climbing up the stairs to the next floor."
"Wait," I interrupted the informant as I voiced out my opinion, "The damage didn't disappear? That's impossible. Aincrad was set to have the environment as «indestructible» no matter what you do. The only exceptions are either the system registers the attack to have strong damage and add in environmental damage for realism or when a requirement for certain quest events or skills would take place and triggers it to be destroyed as part of the story for effects. But even so, the environment should be able to regenerate itself." Imagining what may have caused those effects while speculating for the first time the information she just revealed.
"Now that you mention it," this time, the chestnut haired girl cutely brought her finger close to her lips while trying to remember something. "That also happened after we had a boss raid meeting for the 49th floor's boss."
"Kirito-kun, remember the part I mentioned earlier? I heard from leader that there was someone who was disappointed with the Boss Strategy Meeting and went to the boss room by himself. I was sent back to the guild at that time to manage in gathering equipment. Nobody wanted to do anything with him as they all thought he was going to commit suicide but some samurai looking guy in red from another guild spoke up. What was his name again?" She stopped, trying to remember who that player was.
There was only one player who came to mind. "That must be Cline, Asuna. Please carry on." I asked her politely to simply just continue.
"Oh, ok. Well they sent two… no three-" "They sent four people, two from WWFM «Fuurinkazan» and two from KOB «Knights of Blood». At this time you were also known as the «Flash», Asuna-shi" The female informant snickered to interrupt the chestnut haired girl.
Asuna was speechless. She pouted angrily and shot back. "If you can finish the story then please continue from here on then." It seems she didn't like how she was interrupted but it can't be helped. I mean Argo IS the informant here.
"If I may, Hihihi." She continued, snickering as she went on. "By the time they caught up to him they thought they were too late only to see the same thing I mentioned earlier."
Wait is this guy serious? He cleared two whole floor bosses by himself in a ridiculously fast time?
"But that's not the only thing about him. From what I know, he isn't a beta tester and he is known as a hero to most of the people he saved. He cleaned the floor when a group of orange playerswanted to do him in. He was seen in almost every floor and defeated who ever dared to cross paths with him, player or monster. For the most part he himself also killed some of those orange players if there were no other choice…" she stopped, pausing for a moment to look at me.
"I'm more surprised you didn't hear about this though, Ki-bou." She finished in a more serious tone completely removing her bright sharp voice.
They all looked at me as all the pure pressure of the topic latched itself onto me.
"U-um," I simply scratched my cheek trying to find an answer.
"Well, it's expected of Kirito-kun to just laze about not caring for the world around him." Asuna successfully broke the concentrated tension from me, but I felt hurt from her statement. "When the leader heard about «The White Swordsman»'s success in the 49th floor's boss he asked us to try and find this player and recruit him. And to everyone's surprise, no such luck. The closest thing we accomplished was every time we arrived at the scene, he was already gone."
"Wait. I think there's something missing from our conversation. Why was he called «The White Swordsman» anyway only when he'd just leave a mess of either swords or debris? Is it his equipment?" I questioned everyone in the room.
"Ah." It was Argo who spoke up first. "It was because of all the people he either saved or defeated. There were times he would answer them in a serious but soft tone. The only thing he would say is that he's «White Swordsman» thus the title." She looked away for a moment as if―
"Wai―t a minute. You speak as if you've already met him, did you Argo?" I asked her speculatively. Everyone looked at Argo waiting for her answer.
"That'll have to cost-" "Sold." I instantly answered and opened the trade window without letting her finish.
Accepting the money, she answered. "Hi hihi. Yes I did." Snickering as she sheepishly rubbed the back of her head.
"I almost forgot to ask. What did he look like anyway?" I knew she would ask for more so I kept my trade window open.
"You have been a very good customer Ki-bou, so I'll add in two bonuses for you. Take it as a favor from me too." To my surprise she didn't ask for payment so I closed my trade window. But I wondered what she meant by taking it as a favor?
"You already know he's ridiculously strong enough to beat a boss by himself but it's not like it's impossible to the point where you can't do it either Ki-bou. So, there are two things you should remember."
I gulped as everyone in the room tried listening intently.
"The first thing you should know is that he is mostly seen around the 45th floor. I trust any of you wouldn't be stupid enough to attack some random player there, so he won't likely just attack you. His face is covered by a r-, um coat with a hoodie on."
"Wait, isn't he named «The White Swordsman»? So is his equipment or clothes white?" This time, Asuna was the one who questioned the rat, noticing the lack of detail the informant left out.
"Unfortunately, you have to see that for yourself. It's possible that the name was created from the outlandish rumors to match up «The Black Swordsman». His equipment always changes whenever there's a witness. So I won't say any more about his attire. Now, secondly and most important of all, I can't guarantee this but he uses mostly swords unusually on all his fights."
"Swords? Did he use different rare swords? What's so strangely important about that? Unless―" I speculated on the implication she meant for 'swords'.
"Hihihi. Close, but you're mistaken Ki-bou. If you're talking about a «Unique Skill» similar to a 'certain player', it's difficult to determine but that's not what I'm talking about."
I dropped a sweat at the implication she meant to the 'certain player' so I continued, "Then what is so important than him having a rare «Unique Skill» that only ten players in the entirety of SAO could ever have?" I grumbled, asking her as if the thought itself was ridiculous.
"He doesn't use «Sword Skills»" she answered simply.
"What?" Me and Asuna voiced out in synchronicity.
"Like I said, he doesn't use―"
"Tha- that's ridiculous!" Asuna yelled at the absurd information revealed. "...and to even defeat floor bosses? That- that's just impossible, right Kirito-kun?"
"I-I don't know either. Argo, you said there were witnesses and you already admitted that you met him. So I'm guessing you're one of those who witnessed his accomplishments then?"
Argo just kept silent to my question giving me a hint that it's all she can tell me.
"Well, I was one." This time the dark skinned store keeper spoke in a worried manner.
Both Asuna and I were in shock. I shortly noticed that Egil had kept quiet during the duration of our conversation.
"Since I trust the both of you," the store keeper continued. "...and Argo here already gave you all the info you needed. She also knows what I'm about to talk about, since both of us are actually friends of his."
"You two are friends with him?" Both me and Asuna spoke in surprise at the same time again.
"Remember when I first met the two of you in the 1st Floor Boss meeting? I felt that you were similar to him, Kirito. After the boss fight when you sacrificed yourself by calling yourself a «Beater» in front of the whole group, he said something similar as well.
He said he'll do whatever is available to him and save everyone trapped in the game, even if he is hated by all ten thousand players of SAO, he'll save everyone even if it kills him. He said something so selfless that even I couldn't believe such a person exists." For the first time since I met the blacksmith of this store, he gave a pleading look.
That… was something I couldn't ever hope to accomplish. I may have stopped the increasing hatred of all the other players to the remaining beta testers, but to confidently declare the attempt of saving everyone in SAO is…
"The reason why both me and Argo here agreed to tell the both of you all this is because we want the two of you to find him, since you've finally gotten word of him. We just think that now would be the right time, I don't know if it's a coincidence or not but we want you two to at least meet and speak with him.
Since it's the two of you, I know that you guys will be alright." He sighed, as if he had finally removed a great burden out of him as he finished his heartfelt request to us.
"But― then why us?" the chestnut haired girl questioned both the tall dark store keeper and the hooded rat.
"You'll find out soon enough." At Egil's last words, we simply nodded in return not knowing the meaning of what he had entrusted us to.
"Do you think I should tell leader about this?" The confused rapier user asked me.
"If you think you should, then do it, but I feel we'd be betraying Egil and Argo." I replied, answering her doubts. After our conversation with Egil and Argo, Asuna and I left for the 45th floor and wandered around aimlessly, not knowing where to go.
We had already been to this floor but we never really got to explore this place much. The place was filled with a dense forest, mixed with giant looking Japanese statues seen from shrines, scattered around randomly. The thing is it was already night time so monsters should be spawning all over the place. But it felt strange when I could only hear system generated crickets for environmental feel chirping all over the place.
"They were only able to give us very vague details." She complained, with an annoyed expression. "Do you think we should eat first? I happen to know a good store in this floor, though I really have never been there before."
"I'm surprised." I stopped at her question with a shock. "You usually scold me for always talking about food. I didn't think you'd be the one to actually bring out the topic- ugh!"
Asuna glared at me, stopping me mid-sentence. I actually don't know why she got mad at me. Unfortunately ever since I was born, I was never really good at conversing with people especially girls. Of course with the exception of my mom and sister, so this is expected.
"Eh, um... well, your food is always great?" I tried hard not to get her angrier as she is now. I really did.
"Hmph!" She stomped forward while pouting. Kirito-kun you idiot.
I could barely hear the last part she had just said. I just don't understand girls at all. While trying to catch up to her, we both heard something from the distance.
"KYAHH! HELP US!"
Asuna stopped and looked at me to confirm what we both clearly heard. We quickly rushed to where the scream was as we pushed our feet from the ground.
We evaded endless numbers of trees and stone pillars as we ran through the dense forest. We had a bad feeling we couldn't make it in time. We found ourselves stopping, only to find a large river blocking our path. We were forced to take a detour to a floating wooden bridge at the east side of the coast.
We could hear more screaming, so we rushed as fast as we could.
"Asuna!" I shouted, hinting her to go ahead of me. She quickly responded as a white flash blazed through my vision, seeing it disappear into the greenery.
I was able to catch up a few seconds later as I saw Asuna holding her «Lambent Light» still sheathed but was standing on guard. I instantly braked and slowed down as I dragged the virtual dirt on my feet, only to stop a bit further in front of the rapier user.
I instinctively held the hilt of my sword ready to draw it if necessary.
I was in awe as both of us were speechless to the sight in front of us.
Shards of blue light scattered around the area in front of us indicating the deaths of 'something' or 'someone' just recently occurred.
As the blue shards slowly dissolved in the virtual air around us, I immediately noticed feminine facial features, indicating that there was a girl sitting down on the ground, while tears were falling down on her face. We saw her staring intensely at the sight of a red hooded man holding a white one handed long sword a few meters in front of her.
The girl mostly seemed to be unharmed. She looked to be more shocked and afraid than hurt. I somehow noticed the hooded man's sword looked a bit similar to my «Eludicator», except its theme completely colored it in shining bluish silver.
We were all silent as sound disappeared around the forest.
The tension around us was too great.
We saw two green cursors indicating that both people in front of us were players.
The hooded man was facing his back at us and shifted his head to the side a bit, revealing his red hair and cold auburn colored eyes. Those eyes, they felt... familiar. I tried to remind myself where I had seen those eyes before. I took a quick glance at the sub-leader of the strongest guild who had a confused yet nervous look on her face.
The hooded man looked at us for a moment. He then walked slowly towards the frightened girl and kneeled quickly but gently in front of her, still keeping his back towards us. The female player seemed to calm down. It looked like the man was talking to her as we couldn't make out what he was saying from his hood covered face.
The girl was around in her teens, having her hair tied to a pony tail and with what looked like mid-level equipment meant for the floor she was in. She was probably a spear user, I concluded in my mind. She must have been with her party members but I don't see anyone else.
We waited and stood still until the girl suddenly shook her head like she was answering to the red hooded swordsman in question. The movement brought me back to the situation at hand. I readied my guard while still holding my trusted weapon on my back. The red man glanced slightly in our direction and returned his sights at the female player in front of him, covering his face again. This time the girl nodded several times as she finally spoke. "No, *sniff* ...it's alright. *sniff*Thank you."
The immense pressure slowly went away as the red hooded swordsman sheathed his white sword and slowly walked away, fading into the darkness of the forest in front of him. It was strange that I couldn't even detect him with my «Tracking» skill after he disappeared into the darkness. He must have mastered his «Hiding» skill to counter anyone who tried to follow him.
We quickly rushed to the girl still sitting there on the ground while she was trying to recover from her paralyzed state by the events we have yet to know about.
"Are you all right? What just happened?" Asuna tried calmly asking her questions of concern.
"Yes. *sniff* That man just now saved me." She was wiping her tears as she answered the chestnut haired girl. "My group was helping level me up when a group of orange players suddenly ambushed us from all directions."
"Orange players!" Both Asuna and I looked around to see that there were weapons all over the place but they looked like they were drops form players rather than one of the unbelievable statements Argo mentioned before.
She paused for a moment, trying to suppress her fear of the traumatic event she just experienced. "I can't completely recall everything that happened but I do remember we defended ourselves when they ganged up on us."
She breathed slowly, trying to regain her will to continue her explanation. "But by the time that person arrived, it was too late when all five of my friends before me were…" She stopped at that last part because she couldn't voice out that her friends had died right in front of her. "A-anyway, he couldn't save my team mates but he was able to beat all the orange players that attacked us before they got to me. I'm not exactly sure but there were at least 13 of them I think."
Both Asuna and I paused for a moment. We had to evaluate the incident just now and should try to think of a way to cautiously interrogate her for any clues.
I spoke first. "Did he say who he was? That person just now?" I asked her as gently as I could.
The girl went through a painful experience so it was natural she couldn't remember everything well, with what the chaos in front of her revealed. "I couldn't make it out at first but I think he said that he's «The White Swordsman»."
"W-wait. Are you serious? What was so white about him? He was completely covered in red! Well, except for his sword anyway." I gave a suspicious look to the female player. Asuna didn't exactly like my tone of speech, giving me an angry look.
"You need to get some rest first. Do you have other party members or friends nearby?" Asuna quickly pushed me aside, helped her get up and quickly took out a «Teleport Crystal» from her pocket. When the rapier user was about to raise up the crystal in her hand, the girl stopped her.
"It's ok. I still have enough. Thank you for your kindness." The lance using girl said as she gently rejected Asuna's offer.
"Well, if you say so. Will you really be alright? I mean we can at least escort you." she pressed on, still having doubts.
"Ah, no need. B-but thank you again." She breathed slowly for a moment and continued. "It was strange though. When that person attacked the orange players, at first, all I could see was his cold merciless eyes."
"But when the chaos ended and stood right in front of me, something unexpected happened." I gulped readying myself for the rest of the story. "Rather than seeing his heartless expression, he smiled gently to me as if he saw a miracle appear right in front of him."
Eh? I couldn't believe her words. "The first thing he asked me was if I was alright. Then he apologized right after for not being able to save any of my friends. Because of that, I felt the sadness within his smile." She stopped for a moment as if to recall the face of that hooded man.
"He was very kind and gentle but was sad at the same time. I didn't think that a single person like him here in this world would exist. That man told me something very important to me just then. If it wasn't for those words, I wouldn't be able to stand up and talk to you right now." She suppressed her fearful memories as she continued. "I want to at least get by with this on my own. I still have friends in our party. We're meeting up at this floor's «Transfer Gate» later." She gave a reassuring smile to Asuna. "I just don't know how to break it to my teammates.
"It's alright Asuna. It looks like she'll be fine." I whispered, holding the female KoB player's shoulder gently, stopping her.
"We are currently doing a joint investigation on that player. We were hoping you could tell us more about what he did to save you but you don't need to push yourself to answer now." I leaned near Asuna calmly reassuring the lance girl.
The female player just stared at us for a moment. She tried to say something and pondered for a while, whether what would be the right thing to ask.
"Um," She was still unsure so we simply waited patiently. I didn't notice this at first but I think the female player's face had a faint blush on her cheeks. She continued to stutter for a bit and finally decided to speak. "It's kind of out of the blue and may not be related to all this."
"Sure, go ahead and ask." Asuna replied to the girl with a smile on her face.
The lance using female player gave a small 'un' before asking. "A-are you two a couple?"
We both froze at the sudden question. Finally, after a few seconds our eyes widened in surprise after processing the sudden question in our head. Both Asuna and I instantly looked at each other and saw that our faces almost touched each other. I instantly removed my hand on the rapier user's shoulder and distanced myself quickly as both of our faces flushed red.
"W-we're n-not a couple!" Asuna shouted out almost immediately. Uhuhu, she didn't have to deny it so quickly. I cried in my mind, trying to hold off my despair.
"Oh, S-sorry. Hehe. How rude of me," The female lancer apologized as she giggled from our embarrassment. "By the way, to answer your question just now, when he fought those orange players I noticed something strange. I still can't remember very well but I hope this can help you in your investigation." The lance user said as she tried remembering. "At first I think he used some sort of «Throwing» skill and threw that white sword he was holding to one of the players. But that wasn't the strange part."
He 'threw' a sword at a player? I know there were «Throwing» skills from the system since I have them myself, but to throw a sword at a player? The limited ammunition of registered throwing weapons like kunai, shuriken, or other throwing knives may not be enough to take out enemies but it's ridiculous to throw your only weapon at a player. What wasn't strange about that?
"Two swords suddenly appeared in his hands, one was white and one was black. I don't know about you but it was the first time I saw those kinds of weapons before. The strange thing was that I didn't see him use any «Sword Skills» in defeating all those orange players. It felt like he was a natural at using those two weapons."
My jaw almost dropped. I couldn't believe what I just heard.
Apparently the rapier user didn't find that clue to be as amazing as how I saw it.
"I still think he would rather be called «The Red Swordsman» or «The Crimson Player». «Aka Manto(The Red Cape)» is out of the question since he doesn't attack you in toilets but at least something like «The-ridiculously-strong-player-who-I-don't-want-to-mess-with»." I continued to argue with myself why he was nonsensically called «The White Swordsman».
"Give it up for now Kirito-kun. At least we know what he looks like now. The only thing we didn't get to see was his strange skills." The chestnut haired girl tried to reassure me of her answer. Since the female lancer left, we had continued on to search in the direction of where «The White Swordsman» left.
"But there was something off between what that girl said in contrast to Argo's information." She pointed out continuing her evaluation of the event. "That person used a «Throwing» skill but she also stated he didn't use sword skills during his fight just like what Argo said earlier. Do you think that that strange player actually uses «Sword Skills» after all?"
"Hmm, I think there was something Argo mentioning about skills earlier. I just can't put my finger on it." I tried to remember Argo's given information from before.
"There was also one more thing she forgot to mention. I didn't press on because she might not have noticed with all the chaos," She quickly added in more details for argument.
"What was it then?" I eyed her curiously, still trying to remember Argo's important points.
She gave a smart pose and answered. "She didn't mention where or what happened to the two swords that player used after the battle."
"Now that you mention it, I didn't see him carry any of those weapons she mentioned when I arrived. All I saw were the shattered polygons scattered around them. But wouldn't that mean he could've just kept it in his inventory or tossed them aside like the ones on the ground."
"That's what I thought so too." It was only natural to think of that possibility first since you can just keep your weapons hidden inside your inventory. It only takes a couple of seconds to equip or un-equip them from your menu after all. The problem is doing that while in battle leaves you critically vulnerable, unless you have someone to back you up. Since the «The White Swordsman» is a solo player like me, this lowers the chances of him actually doing it.
Nonetheless, Asuna still wasn't convinced with all that. "I'd like to ask her for more details but we didn't exactly ask for her contact address either."
Uhh. All these baseless clues we found isn't making any sense. "I think it's pointless to think too much about all this now. In order to figure out all these ridiculous findings is to ask him ourselves."
"I know what you mean. But I just can't help in wanting to find out more with all these mysterious clues lying around." The chestnut haired girl sighed deeply while keeping her decorum like a noble princess. She must be some kind of princess in the real world. It's hard to think that someone like her is stuck in this death game.
"But Asuna," This time, it was my turn to reassure her. "Don't forget that our real objective is to find him first, then talk to the guy." Asuna relaxed herself and gave me a small smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
While walking down a narrow path, I felt a slight sensation in my stomach. After everything that happened today, this was unavoidable. I chimed open my window to check the time.
"It's starting to get late. We can continue this investigation tomorrow after we get some rest. All the excitement has made me hungry. By the way, you wanna grab something to eat first before we head back, Asuna?"
"Oh! Great timing! Let's head to the place I mentioned before. I heard that the guy there is a genius cook!" As if the pressure from before didn't exist, she excitedly grabbed hold of my hand, while slightly avoiding the «Ethic Code»'s response and dragged me off to the opposite direction we were supposed to head to.
Somehow, her earlier irritation disappeared in an instant when I mentioned food. I just don't understand girls at all.
"How did you know where the place is if you've never went there before?" I asked while we walked quickly to an unknown direction.
"Hihihihi. You are underestimating her, Ki-bou." She answered, imitating who I thought it was. I simply rolled my eyes in response. "Before we continue, I'd like to know one more thing." She eyed me with her gleeful eyes, which were already clear what it meant.
"Alright! Alright! My treat." I surrendered, giving out a sigh of defeat. After that, she just hummed happily while we made our way to the store she meant.
After encountering a few MoBs and hurriedly killed them, we stumbled upon a pathway lit with Asian designed street lamps. We followed the brightly lit stone road until an 'Outer City Border' popped out of the top left side of my vision. "By the way Asuna," I asked her as we hurriedly walked. "What's the name of the store we're headed to anyway?" The question interrupted her excitement.
"Hmm, It was- Ah, what was it again? Oh! Here we are." She stopped short and pointed to me to what looked like an image of a modern Japanese mansion. It clearly didn't look like an NPC shop for one thing. The design was completely modern and felt similar to our home but this one had a much more serene feel to it.
"Uh, are you sure that's the name of this place?" I pointed out at the large wooden sign board printed with strangely designed English alphabets on it, positioned near the right entrance of the wall.
"That's the only sign out here right?" She said, pointing out to me the obvious.
"I give up. How do you read that anyway? Aa-, Ah― um, nnn… Oh! It's―"
"Oh just get in already! I can't wait to try this place out." She pushed me as I still tried reading the title written on the sign post.
We opened the sliding door and were suddenly welcomed by the aroma of various delicious foods. There were numerous players eating happily, mostly male I noted, as noise of their enjoyment spread throughout the large room.
A small waiter girl greeted us while she busily served food. She was wearing a strangely designed red outfit. It showed her slightly premature curves from her body. The costume revealed most of her skin from her collar bone, around her shoulders and the sides of her waist. I first noticed the girl was wearing some cat ears on her head while her face was younger than most girls I've seen in SAO, she also had brown hair tied in pigtails at each side with some sort of spherical accessory with dangling ribbons.
Wait… I know this girl. I met her before, isn't she―
"Ah. Welcome to Ahnenerbe! Table for t- huh!" The small waiter girl stopped midway just to realize who she just greeted.
"Ki-Kirito onii-chan!" Instantly she dropped the food she was about to serve and hid behind the counter in a split second, with who seemed to be the cook.
Wow. That was fast. She must have increased her AGI quite a lot since then.
The bustling noise suddenly came to a stop as everyone in the room, including Asuna I might add, looked at me.
"E-eh?" Why did they all go silent all of a sudden? Did I do something wrong?
"Uh, um. H-hi Scilica, long time no see?" I raised my hand and greeted her cautiously, unsure if I should have broken the ongoing silence.
"'Kirito onii-chan' huh?" Asuna looked at me with a disappointed look and to make things worse, the other customers glared at me with monstrous eyes, ready to rip me to shreds. I already knew that they couldn't do anything to me since we're within the «Crime Protection Code»'s area, but I couldn't help but fear the thought of something bad happening to me in this situation.
"Ahaha. It seems you're an acquaintance of my employee here. How about you take a seat first?" It was as if he didn't notice the murderous intent converging towards me inside the room, the cook simply offered me and Asuna the seats available at the counter in front of him.
"Welcome to «Ahnenerbe», I'm the owner of this establishment and you can call me «Shirou»."
For first time readers, hello and thank you for reading ch1's fixed version. For those who've read my previous version, thank you for your continuous support. Okay, I didn't expect chapter 1 to be this long. I've mentioned in my previous version that this is my first time to try my hand in writing since I usually draw manga or illust. works. So my previous version was quite messy. Wait, I take back the last part. It was VERY VERY MESSY.
For those who doesn't read or watch SAO, try and enjoy this fanfic as much as you want. Vice versa for those who doesn't know FSN or Type-Moon either.
I'd like to thank as well those who have been helpful in pointing out my mistakes in my previous version. As for those who've read it, you may have noticed I added in the chapter name '-Redux-'which means remix or re-mastered, in it.I'll do my best in the upcoming chapters so I'd like to ask everyone to try and wait patiently for them.
I have posted this in beast's lair and in to see how far this would go. Beast's lair wasn't quite as helpful as I hoped it would be but there were still very important things that were pointed out. So I'm quite as thankful for them than the ones here in ff.n. (I suggest not reading the posts in beast's lair for the moment since most of them were heated arguments at the beginning. It'll just ruin your fun.)
I know I have some issues with my use of grammar. I'm not that confident with it as well. The techniques and skills I used had some issues as well. Like how jarring my execution of scenarios sounded, or the inconsistency of the dialogues and details being pointed out in the story. Those were really helpful advises. But the part about my use of each of the world's lore, I'll be discussing that part later.
I've also made some concept artworks during my spare time. So far, I've only reached to the point of what Shirou's avatar in ALO would look like. I'll post them somewhere and leave a link when I finally get to scan them and when I get proper net connectivity. It sucks to be needy and jobless at the same time. The costumes and weapons of Shirou are completely made up by me to fit the story. Some other things like floor environments, monsters and some costumes (like Scilica's in this chapter) are also made up. Since the author didn't really give much detail for all the floors and items. I hope they are completely acceptable.
Since the release of the anime, I've heard the author is planning to release a new SAO LN named 'Sword Art Online: Progressive'. It'll be a story of what actually happened mostly in the 1st ver. of SAO. For those who didn't notice, this was secretly hinted indirectly by Shino as part of a joke, somewhere in volume 9.
There were some heated discussions from the forums and most of them sounded like flaming to me. So in order to answer those who couldn't wait for the next chapters to release details, I'll be giving out *Spoiler Notes* included in all of my A/Ns. There will sometimes be ranting in them but they are still mostly spoilers for the appropriate chapter. If you'd like to avoid those spoilers then you just have to stop reading before that point on.
So here goes with the spoilers.
First. For those who assume that I'm overshadowing one world with the other, you are completely mistaken. I respect both worlds of SAO and TM. Just like what some of the people in BL advised me, I try to work around and combine them respectfully trying not to make it sound as ridiculous as it should. If you didn't notice the small clues that the characters left, then that's unfortunate. You may have to reread them again and try not to rage yourselves from over-speculations.
I'm not trying to have Shirou outshine or replace Kirito's role in SAO either. Think of it like a 'Shirou just happened to be there' sort of scenario. Of course, it would be boring if Shirou didn't do anything in this crossover now wouldn't it? I'm trying to have both Shirou and Kirito as the main characters without overshadowing each other. There's Kayaba, The Cardinal System, 'normal' players and every other possibility holding both of them down. So just wait patiently till the details just casually reveal themselves in the story.
Second. How far will I go with this fanfic? Simple, as far as the original novels and anime would take me. The current volume of SAO is in volume 10, which is still un-translated as of yet. But that won't stop me so expect ALO, GGO, and UW to be included as well. Also to note, don't expect too much 'baseless ridiculous powers' due to the possibility of magic. In SAO: Progressive, since it'll actually reveal almost every floor, stats, items etc., I'll consider it I can use them. But! I won't wait 3-5 years or maybe even 10 years of painful anticipation for the translations just to continue this fanfic. So I'll apologize now for any inconsistencies from my future releases if SAO: Prog. would come out by then. I'll still continue with the currently released novel's timeline though.
Third. 'Can Shirou use his magecraft in-game? What about the Cardinal System? What about Kayaba?'
Sadly, you'll have to wait in the third chapter for further answers for that. Shirou may not explain it directly so I'll include those in the spoiler notes as well. Chapter 2: Black and White, as I titled it will be part comedy, part character development and for the first time, ass-kicking action. Anyway, chapter 2 will mostly be about the differences and similarities between Shirou and Kirito plus some good old fashioned fight scenes. You'll get the meaning of the chapter's title there.
Fourth. There were some people saying, 'too bad we won't be seeing Saber and Rin in action'. Ha ha ha. XD
You'll be seeing them soon enough, just not now anyways. I'll spoil the fact that the one you'll see first would be Saber in SAO. If you're more of a Rin fan, then sadly you may have to wait until they clear the game of SAO. (I'm a Rin fan myself so I know your pain.)
[-WARNING!-] Rant at 2 o'clock! Skip this part to not ruin your fun.
The time-skip. I know that everyone didn't like the time skip the author made. I know it's a waste as well. I also know that I should use the side stories and material editions the author released rather than the time-skip, but those were still not enough. I will still use them in my own way so just patiently wait for them. I'm not trying to rush the events of SAO as well.
The author didn't exactly describe every story of every floor in the novels now did he? And besides, the upcoming SAO: Prog. the author is planning would take too long for me to use. The events of how Shirou meets all the other characters like Argo and Egil, etc., will be revealed as flashbacks within the story or a compilation of side stories I have planned later on. I'm currently calling it 'Aria of Fate: Extra/Offline' (coming soon).
About the lore of both worlds, people have been ranting in BL that they 'THINK' that I was just randomly throwing made up facts around especially the 'magic can have its way with science at some point' part. While it is true that magic can't just manipulate technology, it still doesn't mean it's not possible. There are several works where magic uses technology and technology uses magic. I'd rather not go into detail into this argument which will result in an excruciatingly long debate and will end up getting off topic. So let's stop here before anyone else complains.
'But isn't this importa-' SHUSH! Zip it! On to the next point before this gets out of hand.
[ALL CLEAR!] Ranting done.
So that's it with the spoilers and time to continue to the next chapter!
I've been busy with finding work and may have to delay chapter 2 next week. It's also a good time for everyone to watch SAO's next ep!
Thanks to everyone from,