"Haru…yuki…kun…"

My tears couldn't stop flowing through my eyes.

"What…happened…? Tell me…!"

I can't think of anything else. I was flustered. No, agitated. No, mad. Yes, specifically, at myself. I should have seen something like this; It's hasn't been that long since the Noumi Incident, and, I, of all people, let it unravel right in front of my eyes. Haru has always been this gullible, but how did I not see through it? What happens next?

"I'm sorry,"

A certain voice, just at the other side of Haru's pure white bed, echoed through the light beige cubicle. My eyes had all its intention to kill, to massacre, and to force my questions upon her, but, it's very safe… no, I'm very sure that she has an ace off her sleeve that she hasn't gotten around to play it. Furthermore, Haru's life is on the line; it's on her hands and I can't do a thing about it.

"I had to do this in order to save your life."

What is she saying? I don't understand, I don't understand it at all.

"Save… my life?" dumbfounded, my voice shook to its very core.

I can't understand it at all. It's only been 15 minutes since this incident, and I know for a fact that Haruyuki-kun is still within the «Unlimited Neutral Zone». In fact, I can't see anything to prove that my life is any danger. In fact, even in «Brain Burst», taking away life is practically impossible, even at its current level. It's always been that way, ever since the «AmuSphere» and the «ALO Incident», way back 20 years ago. So… why...? One thing is sure though: if she has «Haruyuki-kun» by a thread, then I have no choice but to trust her.

"If that's true then," I stood up, wiping away my tears. "Try me, why?"

Chapter 3: The New Black Swordsman

Ever since I was child, I always had the self-perspective of an abandoned older sister. My other sister, now «White Cosmos», also my mentor, and my «parent», and one of the «Originators» of «Brain Burst», established 2 years ago, and now, the un-proclaimed «White King». Just like any other sister, we were glue, stuck to each other during the first days of the «accelerated world». But, ever since that incident, I've always hated her. I wanted to kill her. Even mentioning anything of her, I despise it; I know for a fact that Haruyuki-kun should never know of this woman, ever. I still do blame her, for everything, including my real biological parent's cold shoulder and abandonment towards me. (I can't even call them my parents anymore.) But now, I probably couldn't kill her, with pitiful me I'm probably now. Is it because she's still my sister, or is it because I'm still weak, after all, to think I could merely be shaken by some new wildcard?

"I guess I could tell you right now," she popped a lollipop out of her pocket. "But I'd have to explain it to your, who do you call him again? … «Papa» as well."

«Papa»? How did…?! No, that's not important right now. What was more important was the fact that she knows too much about me. I could see it in her eyes; it's those of a girl who knows everything. In fact, judging from how she said it, it's as if she knew my actual parents will never come here. It was truth anyway: in fact, I doubt they won't even be there when I show them «Haruyuki-kun», the man I love. Furthermore, even from the start, she knew where to find us. Consequently, she might know how to counter even my «Piercing Forms» in «Brain Burst». Essentially, this is bad; I don't have even the slightest idea of this wildcard, not even her «Real Name».

Although, what did she meant by explaining it to «Papa»? I doubt my father, or my biological one, will even believe her. «Papa» was always a busy man, despite being a considerate person over the years, so even the mere mention of him listening to a teenager's delusions would be suicidal. Did she mean about «Haruyuki's condition»? It wouldn't make sense either; it would make more sense telling it to his parents. Furthermore, she mentioned 'explaining it as well', so I doubt she'll tell a lie as a cover-up for «Papa» as well. After all, even I wouldn't underestimate «Papa».

After all, he is Kazuto Kirigaya, CEO of «Neo RECTO Corporation», so if anyone has any more knowledge in «VRMMOs», it's definitely him.

"I don't think you can fool someone like «Papa» that easily." I warned. "I'm telling this as a sort of favor."

"Don't worry," she winked. "Do you think I'd lie to someone like you, and a «hero» like him?"

"A «hero»?" I feigned ignorance, and continued to asked.

"Remember the forgotten «Alicization Project»?" she gave a grin.

"H-How…"

Alicization Project – I know for a fact that «Papa» was the main contributor in what could be said as the biggest USA-Japan conspiracy of its time. Even back on the days of the «AmuSphere», a «Bottom Top AI» was always a tempting research front. I know for a fact that he was lured into «The Underworld» in what seemed to be a successful «human mind duplication technique» with «The Seed» as a base. However, it was also «The Seed» that proclaimed its downfall in popularity, and thus the inevitable dying out of its hype. The main problem could have been simplified with one strong concept that came with it: «Cardinal» was restricting their actions. Because the "VRMMO System" treated them as NPCs, they couldn't gain the ability to override their own taught behavior. So, for someone looking as young as her, it would require her to practically know about the entire past, past beyond the currently established «information clearances» of this modern generation.

"I told you what I know," she responded. "And I know that your life is especially in danger."

"Especially?"

She didn't answer back.

"I see," I nodded.

I doubt it was something only I could hear for myself, so I stopped. After all, she has all her intentions of telling «Papa» about this. But how about «Brain Burst»? Even if she were to tell him that, wouldn't the Brain Burst be not compatible with him, to the point that she won't be able even prove its existence? Then, what would be the point of telling him that? Rather, would he tell him, I mean, it wouldn't be required for her to tell him anything BB-related.

"I guess since you know who «Papa» really is," she jabbered. "Oh, never mind, I think he should be here by right around…"

A knock broke my tension: I had reflexively shrieked a kyaa somewhere, but thankfully I just as instinctively lightly bit my tongue. This girl is definitely getting more and more mysterious the more I talk to her: it's not normal. The only time when this should happen should only be in mystery novels, and I doubt this is a mystery novel or anything of the sort. Either way, it must be «Papa», as she already pointed out, so I guess there's no harm done (and even if there would be, it doesn't matter in this era and place) in instinctively opening the door anyway.

The door revealed a very peculiar man, barring a height quite higher than mine. His face, while his chin was obviously shaved, still retained his sufficiently long bangs, leveled black hair, and his feminine-like complexion, something quite rare for his age. He glanced, then stared at me, then smiled.

"Yuki-chan," he confabulated. "I see you haven't changed one single bit."

"Don't call me that," I pouted. "«Papa»."

I know it can feel quite awkward, but, in reality, I could only consider «Papa» a father, and will always continue to do so. Even when I was just a child, he would always visit me (and my sister, but who cares about her). Even when I was practical kicked out of the house, he was the first one who actually provided a home for me, metaphorical-wise. He was just as considerate as he was as far as I can remember, even during now. I know very well he's busy with the company's new project «RE: ALfheim Online» just within a week of release.

"Don't worry, Yuki-chan," he patted my head. "I've double-checked everything, even «Cardinal's AI». I'm pretty confident of this little guy's release back into the «VRMMO Market». I do remember messaging you to try it out on the «closed beta test» though."

RE: ALfheim Online – Even in the internet, it's receiving great praise, especially with its very famous predecessor, «ALfheim Online», with a very advanced «Cardinal» of its time. Even when a small company «Ymir» was the one maintaining it, the entire system, with its very advanced «Cardinal» system, continued to adapt and even add «campaigns» on its own. In 2030, when the 100th floor was finally completed, with much pain and suffering to boot, requiring 50% of the entire player base to defeat it, the entire «Cardinal» system then suddenly decided to introduce a large campaign, which to everyone's surprise, was both collaborated with «Ymir», who liked the idea of a large campaign for the entirely finished «ALO», and the «Cardinal» system, which, determining the entire player base's capability, introduced the «Yggdrasil Invasion Event». Without warning, each of the remaining clans were forced to fend for themselves, with the invasion of very high level mobs, some even exceeded the original «Level Cap» of 100, arriving from all sides. Finally, in 2035, recognizing the power of «Neuro-Linker» and its incompatibility with «ALO», they finally decided to hold one final event in the form of «Ragnarok». Players watched in awe as the entire World Tree, along with its entire lands covering the area, get disintegrated into nothingness. It was truly an epic end to a long, fruitful «VRMMO», one that I wished I participated at.

«RE:ALfheim Online» promises the same thing, but much more. With «Neuro-Linker» and its advanced emotion detection algorithm in place, it was possible for a tantamount of probabilities. Even in its «closed beta test», REAL continued to wow its players through its intensely detailed «Skill Tree» and different emotion detection algorithms. More importantly, it finally implemented what was entirely missing in ALO's prime: «dual skills». Each of the skill requiring a great amount of emotional stimuli and reaction time, it was sure that someone with a «Dual Skill» would be equivalent of being a hero. It didn't matter even if you didn't have a dual skill either: the game bluntly and very seriously promised a whopping 1 billion skills, each with an entirely different set of stimuli, from simple biological process (like the «Lucky Twins» skill) to certain extreme stimuli (like the «Berserker» skill, which required a tremendous amount of anger). They also introduced a «Referral System», which lets the players choose up to 3 of their friends and let them do a "shallow copy" of «REAL» which would be active as long as the "parent" wishes to, and the new interface system, in which he himself promised would give full support to any «AI» currently on the market, plus a few very old ones. Lastly, they have entirely redesigned many areas in the original land, «World Tree», which has now become thrice as huge as the old one. The hype was, and is still, reasonable enough, indeed.

"Well, «Kirito-san»," The voice that I had almost forgotten was here voiced out. "Nice to meet you."

He had quite a surprised expression, which so obviously was shown on his face. Even I was surprised she even knows of it: in fact, most of the info. Regarding the capers of 2022 to 2026 were forgotten by almost everyone. After all, no normal human would be able to agree to an intrusive console such as a «Neuro-Linker» knowing those things.

"Such a nostalgic name," he let out a faint smile. "Brings back memories. So, are you Yuki-chan's friend?"

"Well, «Kirito-san»," she chucked the lollipop stick into a trash bin. "Now that you're here, I guess it's time for an orientation, then."

She sat down, right next to Haruyuki-kun's bed. I saw her flashing through several screens with her lightning fast typing, glancing at several screens before moving on to the next. «Papa» stood right in front of her, as if somehow he was intrigued. I myself continued to stare back at her, without a returning glance at all. It really was as if she somehow trusts us. With all honestly, I feel a little bit uncomfortable with people like her, probably just the same with «Papa» back then when he first offered help.

"There we go,"

She had finally finished. She waved her hand, first towards «Papa», then towards me.

"This is a Temporal Anomaly Patch for the «Neuro-Linker»." She explained. "Simply put into words, since your «Neuro-Linker» is connected to your brain functions, it patches the «Neuro-Linker OS» so that if there are any changes within this timeline, this particular patch will fix them."

She pointed to her own «Neuro-Linker» and continued, "As the software itself came from me, the patch won't be affected by the timeline change. Furthermore, I trust that the «Safety Protocols» for «Neuro-Linker File Passing» successfully sent the files into your «Neuro-Linkers», correct?"

We both nodded. One of the «Neuro-Linker's many safety protocols» included «file passing filters». In particular, the «Neuro-Linker OS» is practically strict on files that you can send over a wireless network, especially to «complete strangers». In fact, «Brain Burst» cannot be sent over a wireless network for that sole reason alone: it contained many algorithms that was used to monitor your inner-most feelings and memories, which was one of the taboos in Neuro-Linker applications. So for a patch to be sent so easily…

"After the patch is applied, then we're going to start," she further explained.

«Papa» seemed to have installed the patch without being killed, so I guess I should too. I felt a bit of hysteria rushing through my veins as I pushed the Yes button that appeared. Unusually though, it only displayed a short progress bar. Unlike «Brain Burst», it didn't (and really shouldn't) display some extravagant notice of an installation complete. However, I do feel a slight vertigo from within me, although I can say that it was almost unnoticeable.

"Good," she let out a short sigh. "Time for a short demo."

Suddenly I felt it. The feeling of dissonance, piercing through my head. I saw an invisible wave passing through my head. It really didn't hurt, but it did made me a bit dizzy.

"«Kirito-san», «Kuroyukihime-san»," she suddenly asked. "What did I first say to «Kirito-san» when I first met him?"

"Guten… no isn't it 'Kirito-san, nice to meet you'?" somehow I understood what the patch did. "Wait, did you just change the timeline?"

"That's correct," she smiled. "Although it wasn't really much, anyway. This time, I told you: 'Guten Tag, «Kirito-san»'."

Somehow, I understood what exactly this particular patch did to our perception. Back in the early 21st century, a man once predicted one of the prevailing theories regarding time travelling: a timeline can be represented by a rotating fan; rotate it fast enough, and it'll look like it was going slowly. Following this principle, the patch did one simple thing to our «Neuro-Linkers»: it synchronized data and memories from the previous timeline rotation with the current timeline rotation, thus essentially making us resistant to timeline anomalies. With us resistant to timeline anomalies, it was certainly possible to keep utmost changes with before and after the change. For a function as useful as that, it was quite effective, but, it does have some rather, disturbing effects, judging from the dissonance I felt on the moment of change. It wasn't exactly something like a headache, but it could be a similar thing as a brain information overload, perhaps?

"Anyway," she started. "At least now I can talk to you, so that in case I get deleted from history you can still remember."

"I see," I questioned, "And I presume that this number right below the current time on my «Neuro-Linker» interface is…?"

She nodded, "It's the divergence meter. As you can see, it measures the deviation from the target timeline."

0.003412%. It definitely meant that someone's been trying to edit the timeline from its "supposed target." I still don't get its significance though. Why would she, I, or even «Papa», for that matter, be interested in changes in the timeline. In fact, why tell it at all? It's not like we can change anything if there would be a culprit that could jump into the past.

"Wait, do you mean…" I gasped.

The Haruyuki-kun lying on the bed, in a state of active comatose, hit an idea upon me. No, rather, she made it easy for me to connect the dots.

"In case any of you didn't get it," she said. "Haruyuki-kun, Kuroyukihime-san's boyfriend, is trapped… or rather I trapped him in 2022, back to the world of SAO, through a certain «Neuro-Linker» item. If he dies there, well, there actually won't be any consequence, but if he does fail in his mission there, that divergence meter will go up to 20%, and instantly disintegrate this entire timeline. Well, it's not that big of a deal anyway, now that you're here…"

Huh?

"Well, I should say rather," she pointed to «Papa». "You're my «backup plan»!"

I'm still not getting any picture here. For now it seems clear to me of «Sapphire Controller's» apparent full intentions. I call it 'apparent' because it's apparently her motivation. She wants to save this timeline, since, apparently, someone managed to jump into 2022 and tried… no, is trying to interfere with the events in Sword Art Online. For one, there is a lot of reasoning involved in avoiding this: for one, if «Kayaba Akihiko» were to be arrested before the final release of «Sword Art Online», it may permanently hamper any «VR progress». If any events in SAO were to be changed, it may as well result in the hero, «Kirito» to not be able to encounter and give a shortcut to «SAO's development», which is also a minus, as it was at the time when a certain someone was trying to transfer «SAO's entire populace» into experimentation by the old «RECTO Corporation». Either way, there should be simply no way to simply intervene in SAO's timeline without permanently taking away VR for good.

"Let's do this," she smiled, taking out an XSB cable out her left pocket.

"What are you…?"

She placed one of the ends in her own XSB cable, and reached out to Kazuto's «Neuro-Linker». I could definitely feel her enthusiasm, as if it was her first time linking with someone else, but that is besides the point. First, she sends a file wirelessly, and then through a linked cable – what is she thnking, exactly?

"Isn't it obvious?" she waved her finger. "I'm going to install «Brain Burst» in Kazuto Kirigaya."

[Part 2]

"That's … impossible." I nodded. "No, the question is 'Why?'"

It goes without saying. In fact, being someone with «Brain Burst», her «parent» should have at least given an idea to her on the basic rules on «Brain Burst», including that basic rule with «Brain Burst» incompatibility. For «Brain Burst» to be successfully installed in the first place, you need to have your «Neuro-Linker» installed since childbirth. Furthermore, the person in question needs to have enough «brain processing capacity» for it. (In reality, one's reaction speed simply becomes an optional feature, especially in this case like this one.) It has been proven so many times that people, especially people like him, can never install «Brain Burst».

"Of course it's normally impossible," Sapphire Controller sighed and shrugged. "But that's if you install it normally."

"Install… it normally?" Definitely the concept piqued my interest. Certainly there wouldn't be any such use in involving adults in the affairs of «Brain Burst» anyway, but, at the very least, if we could bring at least 1 adult to the illogical «accelerated world», then maybe, just maybe, it might be possible for «Brain Burst» to publicly surface, not as some kind of shady game as it seems to be now, but as a true «reincarnation of the retro fighting MMO». But then, what would the creator do now? Would he ban those who were supposed to be incompatible? Destroy the system?

"You already know this," she scratched her head, as if trying to explain. "But I wasn't born with a «Neuro-Linker» on. Shouldn't you have already asked the question of how I installed «Brain Burst» in the first place?"

It did cross my mind, however, there was a good reason to doubt it as well. One, for someone who designed the «Alpha Reverse Stopwatch», it might be possible that your mind could already handle that much processing power, thus being compatible in the first place. Besides, it was also still possible that you manipulatively feinted your reactions in order for me to make the wrong deduction to your character.

"Anyway, what's «Brain Burst»?" Kazuto had already asked. I guess it's too late to even think of retracting from this route.

"«Brain Burst», is a secret program first deployed in 2039," I said, but I could hear myself sighing. "It's a program that allows the user to accelerate 1000x their normal brain speed, which is, of course, applicable with an unlimited number of fields, like brainstorming, even copying a test or excelling in sports. However, most of its use is almost totally limited, along with the number of users you can actually refer, and even the compatibility with the program."

"Eh…" he drawled, but then again, for someone who has a little too much «VRMMO» experience, it shouldn't be surprising to him at all.

"What I can't understand though is what «Sapphire Controller» is suggesting," I continued. ". As you can see, one of the main requirements that the user must have the «Neuro-Linker» since birth. So, it should be impossible to-"

"Oh, it did install…" he quoted, "'Welcome to the accelerated world', is it?"

I was flabbergasted.

"I think I said that I am one of those people who didn't have the «Neuro-Linker» since birth," «Sapphire Controller» explained. "That's because I use a special patch in the «Brain Burst» program that allows you to skip all most of the conditions by fooling the «Neuro-Linker». However, what isn't usually skipped is the brain's processing power capacity. Unfortunately, I was the one from my organization who had the greatest compatibility…"

"Organization?" I mentioned the word.

She nodded, "However, even mentioning the name of my organization requires that you be recruited or have your memories rewritten."

I don't think I'm going to ask any more than that. However, I'm fairly certain that she doesn't have any clear motives, except for the ones she has stated. Why? Simply by telling me her plans, she's setting me up so that I'm able to obstruct them. It's simply logical that either she's baiting me to interfere, or that any motives she has is truly what it is.

She continued, taking a step backwards. "Even the avatar selection process is mostly skipped, but you probably need to undergo the normal process, Kirito-san."

"I see," he simply nodded, and turned to me. "I think you know how this «VRMMO» ticks, right?"

I reluctantly gave a nod. It still felt weird, even though, right before my eyes, for the first time, an actual adult has made it into a game thas was supposed to be compatible only to a few select players. It's probably just a certain illogical gamer-like philosophy, but it's honestly nothing big. Even though he has, in fact, proven the existence of a «reality-changing game» in the «Neuro-Linker», which had permanently severed my relationship with my sister who so happens to also be a «Pioneer» and my «parent», with my real parent's trust with me at an all-time low this time around, I still don't think I'll be returning back there, at the house I had been kicked out of, for a long time.

"Well," I scratched my head, almost forgetting the new «player» right in front of me. "Usually it will take a «night's sleep» in order to actually realize your «avatar», but," I looked back at Haruyuki, "There might not be enough time. After all, he's probably still within the «Unlimited Neutral Zone», which is a real problem for me."

I know well enough that most «Local Neuro-Linker Items» tend to be flexible, too flexible in fact to allow the creation of the weirdest items that, while not really affecting game mechanics, can change several of the «Neuro-Linker functions» in-game even linking. This line of logic originated right from «The Seed», whose items can even emulate game mechanics, to the first «Sword Art Online» and «ALfheim Online», with its highly flexible Navigational Pixie AI interface.

"What exactly are you talking about?"

"Well," she scratched her head. "Remember when we left him in the «Server Room»? Well that room actually changes its actual location once every minute in the «Real World», which is normal so that we could avoid having to deal with an unconscious «Haruyuki»."

She talked about "it", as if I knew. The «Server Room» was the graphical representation of the heart of any «VR» based on «The Seed», represented by a large cubic structure that interposed several meters, which is basically the heart of that world's «Seed». «The Seed» actually has some few functions which keep most «VRMMOs» based on «The Seed» compatible with each other, even back to the Version 1 Seed, several of which involves value conversion, monetary conversion, and interconnectivity, etc. Particularly, their interconnectivity algorithm is practically the one responsible on detecting and managing connections from one «VRMMO» to the next.

"Do you know how «The Seed's interconnectivity» works?" she waved her finger. "Much like how old computers used uPnP on programs they use to detect servers of the same type, «The Seed» practically searches the internet for compatible «VRMMOs» that are compatible with its own, establishing a handshake connection with each other's «Cardinal», which is then used to complete the automatic conversion process. However for a certain quantum VR console back in 2026, where it connected through quantum singularity, a certain threshold caused the permanent linkage of «Kirito's avatar» to «Accel World»."

"How much do you know?" he held a rather serious face. "You even know of the side-jobs I took back in my early years, just what is going on…"

"I can't say I know everything," she replied with a low tone. "But I can say that I did my homework."

"Anyway," I reasoned out. "Even if «Kirito's Data» may be actually linked to «Brain Burst», it doesn't mean that he would retain the same avatar. In fact, I might think that he'd get a different avatar this time."

It wouldn't be possible to tell though, as Brain Burst (and possibly its predecessor, «AA») are the only games to ever have personality-based avatars. Even «REAL», with it's highly advanced «skill system» courtesy of «Papa», wouldn't be able to utilize personality data as much of it is mostly impossible to detect without possibly interfering with the «Neuro-Linker's Data». In fact, I find it highly odd that Brain Burst, of all things has this kind of capacity, something that wasn't supposed to be from the very start.

"I figured as much anyway," she shrugged. "Anyway, Kirito-san, we'll rest for now. At least, for now, Haruyuki-chan has somewhat improved our situation. However, as for where he actually is, I can't tell anyone of you guys just yet, as it might compromise this backup plan."

She slowly opened the door, and left, leaving her fluttering long blue hair's short whisper. It was definitely no time to simply rest; I have no idea what Haru's being put through all this time, but somehow, I don't like it at all. It's like Noumi's Incident all over again – this time I can't do anything. I could try if I had no doubts of her malice, but I couldn't see anything in her eyes. In fact, the very fact that I have no idea what's happening of Haruyuki puts me in a very disadvantageous situation – she could pull the bargaining chip any time. It's the same with «Papa» – back in 2035, even when most of the past were soon to be forgotten, it was agreed that any records of «Sword Art Online» and the «old RECTO Corporation scandal» were to be permanently deleted, and for a good reason: if information that even entertained a speck of abuse, like what happened back in 2022, it would have left with the «Neuro-Linker» at an inherent consumer market disadvantage – she might or she might not know, but basically her saying she knows enough about 2022 puts him and the company at a near dire situation.

"Sorry, «Papa»," I bowed. "I thought that you would help, but…"

He smiled, and patted my head.

"Don't worry about it, Yuki-chan," he replied with a smile. "You did the right thing; I'll take care of this. Besides, it's been a while since I really played a «VRMMO»…"

You can say he was saying the truth, and he was lying. Even when he was CEO, he was still one of Neo RECTO's lead programmers, being responsible for most of REAL's current astounding capabilities seen today, which could easily be seen with his also-just-as-endless hours working within work hours, testing most of the features himself. I've contacted him several times recently, getting home as late as 1 AM, just in order to finish the last test of the skill system, a system which would probably take 5 to 10 years just to explore everything. His effort really is something.

I waved my hand and reached for my Contacts List, walking through the pearl white medical corridors. With a feign reluctance, I reached for each of the current «Nega Nubulus» members.

"Chiyuri-san," she uttered. "Takumu, Fuuko."

"Yes, Master." A low-toned voice responded to the call. "You called?"

"Sacchan?"

Her voice hinted a worried face. I knew it from the start, how Fuuko would always needlessly worry about me. Doesn't she know who I am, the living traitor of the entire «accelerated world», one of the Seven Kings of Pure Color, Black Lotus? I didn't wanna worry her, not even from the start, but then, it's really impossible to not keep everything a secret, is it?

"K-Kuroyuukihime-san…" Chiyuri's voice shook. "How is…"

I never took notice of Chiyuri-san that much, that is, until the «Noumi Incident». How she worries about Haruyuki-kun is rather superb, even I'm a bit surprised at how quick the word would get to her. I'm somewhat a bit jealous of Chiyuri's standing before Haruyuki. Even back as childhood friends, they've always been stuck to each other like glue. Even I never really had someone who stuck to me… all this time, in real life. But I guess I have «Papa», so it's fine.

"I'm currently calling an Emergency Legion Meeting," I declared. "It's to discuss the current situation with the wildcard «Sapphire Controller» and its intentions."

There's going back now, me.

"Wait, «Sapphire Controller»?" Fuuko asked. It was far too obvious that no one knows a thing about our enemy. "It's the first I've heard of the name in the «accelerated world»."

"Indeed," I gave a sigh. "Most players would even

"You're not the only one," I scratched my head. "I promised to myself that anything like the Noumi Incident will never happen again…"

"No, it's not entirely your fault either, Master," Takumu responded. "Everything had happened too suddenly. And besides, if anyone's to blame, it's us. I and even Noumi used a tactic like this on you before, haven't I? A pre-ordained attack on our Legion using our Real Life identities was surely one of our true weaknesses. I should have put enough precautions to ensure anything like this would never happen again."

It takes guts to take on responsibilities for actions beyond control, but, there's still some things we can't control. I doubt enough warnings will give us traction over incidents like this. A link is only as strong as its weakest link, after all. Surely, being the supporter of this team, Takumu might as well say that everything's his fault, but I cannot overlook my own faults. I was foolish to somehow allow «Sapphire Controller» to step on a line that only people you trust should cross, even for just a mere second.

"But," he continued. "I still think we might have an advantage by this time, unlike with Noumi's case. After all, her plan of attack is highly dependent on our knowledge of us. She might not know everything."

"I know it in her eyes," I lowered my voice. "She's not some plain idiot on the street; if ever, I'd think she's someone who knows everything. Even from the start, she knew of «Silver Crow» and his true RL name; she also knew of me, the «Black King», or identities, and even things that I keep to myself. "

A slight paused turned over, just before Takumu replied, "I don't have proof. But risks like this are the only way to move forward. Am I right, Master?"

"Taku's right, you know!" Chiyu blurted out. "And besides, if we're going to deal with this, we'll have to form a battle plan, yes?"

"Sacchan," Fuuko's soft voice covered my ears. "Always remember that we're also here for you. After all, what other use do I have?"

"Everyone…" my voice died out.

I passed right from the corridors into the main room. The rather surprisingly pale white room, serried with people from all over Suginami. Despite relatively small compared to some other hospitals in Akiba and others, I find this hospital considerably crowded, even when I was hospitalized. Finally finding my destination, both in RL, and in Brain Burst, I sat down in one of the considerably stiff turquoise seats right before an elevator.

"We'll discuss it over at «Brain Burst»," I declared. "Everyone ready?"

I stared at the passing crowd around me. By the time this «game» would finally be over, I hope any information about «Brain Burst» would never leave our eyes into the public. Just even the thought of all the «social consequences», it would be too grand: for one, just the idea of an application that messes with your memories disturbs me, even to this day. In fact, I don't think that the «government» can ever cover up a revelation like this, even with a «major information clearance», as what happened with the «Sword Art Online Incident».

"Let's go," I closed my eyes. "«Burst Link»!"

With the tick of the clock, I transformed into the respectable «Black Lotus».

[Part 3]

The breeze of the wind pierced my eyes, or at least, would have, if I was using my «Spectator Avatar». The scattered red stone columns, combined with the fresh rusty whirls, definitely indicated that it was the «Wilderness» stage. The swish of the swirling grass would have definitely been soothing, if not for the dust that came with it, and the absurdly weird rock formation I'm currently standing on.

"I said we were going to do a «Battle Royale» as a discussion point," I scratched my head. "I really hope they were able to get the «password» on time."

Much like in other online fighting games (if there is), «Brain Burst» currently allows the use of a password in order to accept a duel. It's usually used in "reservation-style" duels, popular way back 6 years ago, especially when «Brain Burst» was at its crucial young moments. I still remember «Purple Thorn» back in the day, bashing away at our 50:50 win ratio, to the point we had to reserve duels to each other for each revenge match. How things change in such a short time…

The blade in my hand swayed with all its might, piercing right through the odd rock formation known as a «Hospital». The bright blue sky, however it might look ever unreal, felt just as real to me… no, it felt more real than reality. That's right: «Accel World» will always be my new reality.

"As expected of «Black Lotus»."

A familiar voice came far, right just beyond the horizon. With my «avatar», I certainly have a certain eye for familiar characters. It was one whom I've barely seen, past the recent «Territorial Battles» of the recently reestablished «Nega Nebulus».

"I see you haven't changed a bit," I gave a hint of a frown. "«Sky Raker»."

A wheelchair drove her through the parading rock formations with a blazing speed that would beat even the modern cars. Since, with the «Wilderness» stage, there is undoubtedly very few of «Enemies» due to a lack of «respawn points», it can be quite convenient. Then again, if the stage would be something like a «Rainforest», THEN would it be a problem for her.

"I'm here with «Lime Bell», Master."

I turned around, and glanced at the rather mildly surprised «Cyan Pile», together with «Lime Bell».

"I guess we're all technically complete, then…" I sighed; there was a time when «Nega Nebulas» was full of members – I guess that too, is past.

"Yes, we are," Sky Raker's voice came as a whisper through the windy breeze. "Well, would you like me to fetch the «Elements»? I'm sure they would-"

"No," I quickly responded. "I don't think it's time yet… and besides…"

I stopped midway, looking far back into Tokyo. The «Elements», which I could basically say were my best friends, and the sub-leaders of «Nega Nebulus», were always by my side whenever I needed them. In fact, even when I was branded a traitor, they still stuck up to me down until the last moment. «Sky Raker», «Ardor Maiden», «Aqua Current», and «Graphite Edge» – represents each of their respective elements, thus the famous name all throughout «Nega Nebulus». I could meet them anytime soon, but, there would be no way to save those three from the «Unlimited Neutral Zone» without a «rescue party». Even then, I couldn't have the courage to meet Fuuko, not until recently, because of my weakness…

"I see then."

What seemed to be an aerial burst sent a slingshot up through the 4 floors of the entire hospital-like rock formation. It was «Sky Raker», using her «Incarnate System» Movement Boost, which she always seemed fond of.

"So," a thud followed – it's quite a miracle that wheelchair can withstand a g-force like that. "«Black Lotus», what is there to discuss anyway? I don't think this is something that can simply be thrown aside, with it being an Emergency and all…"

I nodded, "It's about her: «Sapphire Controller». While I don't think we'll be able to brief everyone in the 3 minutes we have, I still think you all have the right to know what exactly is going on."

I slashed away at the nearby rock pillar, perfectly slicing it with a height just enough so that I could actually sit.

"As you know," I cleared my throat. "Haruyuki is currently at a coma, due to a custom «Neuro-Linker Item» called an «Alpha Reverse Stopwatch». I don't really know it's details, but it's said to have 2 uses: it can accelerate a person by 1000x over at «Brain Burst», and now, it's being used as an interface from «Brain Burst» to a past game, around 24 years from our current time."

"Ehhhh?" «Lime Bell» was the first to (correctly) respond. "That girl went all her way … to make Haru play a game?"

"Well, Chiyuri-san," I responded. "It really isn't just some game. It's the first «VRMMO» in history and is basically the ancestor of all VRMMO's in history, including this one. After all, even «Brain Burst» came from «The Seed»."

"«The Seed»?" «Cyan Pile» asked. "Wasn't that software simply released as a free software…? I remember back in around 2030 something it being released as a version 2 or something like that… it was on our VR History elective."

"As you see, most history books have told that the first ever «VRMMO» in history was «Alfheim Online»," I explained. "Unfortunately, that's not the case in reality. Back in 2022, using what was the very first VR Console, the «Neuro Gear», 10,000 players were trapped in the first «VRMMO» developed by Argus which had turned into a death game where losing all your HP meant dying IRL, «Sword Art Online». Only months after that, with the collaboration of many companies was the «AmuSphere» developed. Consequently, the actions in that game after it was successfully cleared instigated the scandal in the old «RECTO Corporation», who was hosting «Alfheim Online». Maybe, to most of the people at that time, VR was considered a dangerous effort which was monopolized and abused by too many people, if it wasn't for «The Seed». After all, since «The Seed» was totally free, anonymously published, and non-proprietary, everyone now had the capability to create «VR Games» with the same, if not much more, potentially realistic elements as that of its predecessors, SAO and ALO."

"Wait, Sacchan," «Sky Raker», rolled her wheelchair over. "That doesn't make sense. I don't mind the blackout on the details of the ancestor of the «Neuro-Linker», but what does any of that have anything to do with «Sapphire Controller»."

I paused for a short moment, "«Sapphire Controller»'s end goal is to stop someone from interfering with the past, using Haru as a medium."

"Wait, time travel?" Chiyu's voice trembled. "T-T-That's preposterous…! I mean, the past can be changed? Haru is in 2022?"

"Unfortunately, that much, while unbelievable, is indeed a fact," I replied. "I saw it with my own two eyes as she changed the timeline right before my eyes."

"How…?" «Sky Raker» words trailed off.

"It was through what was called a «Temporal Anomaly Patch» for the Neuro-Linker, allowing me to retain memories from one timeline change to another," I explained. "I honestly don't understand it myself how it exactly works, but what I DO know is that it DOES work."

"Changing the past, eh?" Chiyuri said. "That's just amazing… really, what can you do changing the past? If you were given a way to return to the past and change things, what WOULD you change?"

"I think rather than changing the past," I paused for a short moment. "I think that the reason we don't have the ability to change the past is to avoid that kind of responsibility. We don't have right… we don't have the right at all. Who says we can play God and change the fate of so many people, including mine, and yours?"

Only the silent breeze answered my question.

"I know we have a lot of things that we wish we hadn't done in the past," I said, bowing my head. "Even I did a lot of those things. But who we will be if it weren't for that past?"

"I think I have a say in this, am I not?"

«Sky Raker»'s wheelchair pushed forward, along with her tenacious stature that I've longed to see since «Nega Nebulus» had disbanded. Even after all this time, Fuuko-san, you have never changed at all, not even for me, or for the other «Elements».

"Technology exist to move forward." She said with a firm hand. "Is it that bad if we had the power to turn back time?"

"Yes, it is."

I couldn't say anything after that.

"Haven't we sidetracked far from the topic at hand, Master?" «Cyan Pile» said as an apparent sign of courtesy.

"Yes, we have," I gave a faint smile, which I doubt could be seen in this game. "The basic reason for this meeting is two-fold: one, to inform you of my and Haru's current status, and two, to do a preliminary investigation of the «Accel World». First, we need to find out who her parent is. Second, we need to find out who's her allies. She's already making a move as we speak."

"Making a move?" Chiyu asked.

"She just had a «child." I said in a serious tone. "Just like how Takumu-san managed to install a copy of «Brain Burst» in Chiyuri, she has managed to install a copy of «Brain Burst» in what seems to be impossible feat: she installed «Brain Burst» in the 39-year-old «Kirigaya Kazuto», the un-proclaimed CEO of «Neo RECTO Corporation». I wouldn't believe it until I saw it myself personally: whatever this girl has in plan, we may not be able to stop her."

"Let me ask you, Sacchan," «Sky Raker» pressed forward. "What makes you think that this girl's intentions are truly bad, or not truly good. For all we know she might be actually be doing what she says she's doing."

"That's the point." I frowned. "I don't know; but I don't want any risks either."

The time continued on ticking. As the timer passed through 15 second mark, I turned around, staring back at the seemingly plain, yet wide sky.

"Meeting…" I slowly toned down my voice. "…dismissed."

I couldn't say anything more.

"Kuroyukihime-san…" «Lime Bell's» slowly fading voice resounded through my ears. "Please make sure «Haru»'s in safe hands."

I etched a faint trace of optimism.

"I will, «Chiyuri-san»."

At the very least, I could end the meeting on a high note.

Before I could blink, I was back in the hospital. Time had started once again. Briefly remembering what I just did before the meeting, I glanced back at the room Haru was on. It was almost just a speckle, but I could definitely confirm it was her: «Sapphire Controller». I say that I need to do something, but what CAN I do? I still don't know her true agenda, her end goals, or how she will do those goals. There's also the possibility of her telling the truth, which would definitely mean my end if I took just the wrong step. Plus, involving an adult into the affairs of «Brain Burst», something that's normally impossible to do… there's just too many mysteries surrounding her.

Just as the thought crossed my mind though, just almost beyond the horizon, I could definitely see her, even if it was just a speckle. Her footsteps made a tapping sound with each passing moment, growing louder and louder. Her composure, as calm and composed she was just a moment ago, definitely outshined her unusually childish statue. I can't see any malice in her eyes, nor any mercy, nor compassion either. I only see… determination.

"Yo, Kuroyukihime-san."

"«Sapphire Controller»," I muttered. "How long until you're satisfied… with the situation at hand?"

She scratched her head for a bit, and turned around.

"Until my goal is finished, I guess." I heard it in her voice – a voice that knew sorrow. "It's sad, but the fun times in «Brain Burst», even if you say it's not a game: it was the first time for quite a while that I had a real sense of fun, with the 1 week preparation I had. It was fun to see people playing a «Virtual Reality» game of fighting games with custom avatars with so many special abilities, and then there's that Incarnate System too … people like you should cherish these things: not every world ever got to this point."

"What do you mean by that…?"

A breeze whirled its way from the far end of the corridor, sending chills to my spine.

"I'm saying this era's pretty privileged, you know." She stepped forward, and twirled. "VRs, ARs, even automated cars, and even a central CCTV VR system. There were so many ways for those things to go haywire, or for any of them to not prove any kind of success at all. Yet it did. People like me have seen so many worlds die so many times it's not even funny anymore."

"Worlds… that die?"

"No, I'm not going to go through those," she chuckled. "But, the least you could do is trust me on this one. Let me protect this world."

"Trust has to be earned." I rebutted. "You have done nothing to earn any trust."

"I know." She whispered. "That's why I'm asking. It's okay though, even if you check on me or see my records. You would see nothing of the sort anyway…"

"Nothing?"

30 minutes passed, with the clock passing by 15:00. I carefully sipped a cup of coffee from my surprisingly shaking hand, which I just grabbed from the nurse. I couldn't care less anymore how much coffee I took anymore. To think how little I really know of this world: it would make perfect sense actually; no one in the audience ever really sees the backstage in a theater, not unless he or she is part of that backstage.

"Let's go back."

A certain someone's voice gave away a calm sensation. I couldn't give away a true response.

"I'm in on the watch, you know." I muttered. "Do anything stupid and you won't see the moonlight ever again. If you do know me that well, you should know I can do it. I've even done it to my sister, after all."

"Likewise," «Sapphire Controller» responded. "Stay alive, Kuroyukihime-san. Please don't do anything that you won't even have time to regret later."

I nodded. Until such a time when I can prove her wrong, I need to stay along with her plans. If anything, the long break only served to give that conclusion in my head.

She opened the hospital door right in front of me. The scenery remained almost the same, except for the rather calm «Papa», with an expression I've never seen him done before… no I have seen it before. His face refused to give in to sadness, but neither couldn't smile. It was those eyes when I first saw him. I've always wondered what «Papa's past» was, even from when we started living together, as I call it; however, when at the one time I asked about his past and got nothing, not even a decent response, I knew from the get-go that it was also something not worth digging into. Consequently, somehow seeing his face… I… without a doubt we have given «Papa» enough time…

"Are you ready?"

I smiled, trying to ease the gap in his heart.

"Yes," he responded with a faint smile. "Yuki-chan."

"Let me do it." «Sapphire Controller» grabbed a XSB Cable from her pocket, and attached one to her «Neuro-Linker». "After all, I'm responsible for my «Child», right?"

"Child, eh?" he said. "Quite an interesting terminology, don't you think, Yuki-chan?"

I sheepishly replied. "O-Of course, «Papa». I find it quite ironic indeed! But it IS the term for someone referred to «Brain Burst» by a «Parent»."

"I think I'm liking the idea," he moaned to himself. "I wonder if I should implement the same thing."

"Kirito-san," «Sapphire Controller» said. "I'm going to put up a «Direct Link» between me and you. So please beat me until you get to Level 4. If you can that is. You should probably take the time too to study the interface and all."

"Of course," he clenched his fists, grabbed the XSB cable and attached one of the ends to his «Neuro-Linker». Several chants of «Burst Link» followed, one after the other, second per second. It would be a normal scene to see her «Parent» guiding a «Child» up to Level 4 on the get go, but to see it in action is really something indeed. A minute quickly passed by, only for Sapphire Controller to flinch backwards into a couch, yet she continued on.

Knock! Knock!

"Eh?"

I had temporarily ignored the two and faced the door: a visitor, in this situation? Well, I could expect Haruyuki-san's parents to have heard of the situation, but it still hasn't been as long as 2 hours after the incident, so you'd expect someone else. I opened the door with a cautious tone…

"Eh?"

I was wrong. I should have expected someone to cut her classes just to come over here.

"How's Haru?" Chiyuri's squeamish voice was rather nostalgic.

"He's fine," I said with a gentle voice. "However…"

She titled her head, looking at the middle-aged man called Kazuto Kirigaya. She nodded, and suddenly, hearing a mumble, she sidestepped into the room, totally unannounced, totally suiting her usual self. But I could see it for myself: the speckle of sadness wrapped up in her happy eyes.

"So you're that girl, eh?"Chiyuri scratched her head, glancing over at the girl besides «Papa». "I was sure the one that supposedly trapped Haru in some wacky world was some crazy psycho with a bad hairdo… you seem like a good girl."

Chiyuri stared at her eyes, and then, as if feeling satisfied with the scenery she did, turned back to me.

"She's trustable." She said. "With her eyes right now, I can definitely tell she's sincere, without any kind of malice."

"Why?" The words echoed in my heart.

"I've seen people with their evil intents," she shrugged. "Noumi was one of them, and he had eyes that see through nothingness. I don't see it in hers. Besides…"

"She's actually pretty cute." She let out a short giggle. "She's more of an elementary student if you ask me, although the blue hair still strikes me as weird. Is it cosplay, perhaps?"

"Well, I guess-"

Wait, did I just hear myself? Did I just skipped over that small little detail like it wasn't important? No, I don't think it should be possible for someone to have totally blue hair. But I still think I was supposed to be missing an important detail here. Long blue hair almost comparable to her own height, an ahoge that reaches as far as Osaka, and a beauty mark in her right eye. I… can't possibly recognize that stature that can't be mistaken for an elementary school girl, and sailor uniform, reminiscent of early 21st century Japan. Again, the next thoughts that entered my head signified me to stop. Why was that?

I quickly swiped into the «Neuro-Linker» Main Menu, and opened my Web Browser. Searching for the site, .com, I tapped my fingers, and found "Kirigaya Kazuto's" anime list. Just for the record, I'm not too fond of anime myself, having seen little to none anime, and more especially as there was no time in watching frivolous things (and that 2D anime has been considered by many nowadays as something retro), but, something about that girl bothers me, that made me rethink of this: her character was unrealistic, at most. There are only two things I could think about that had such a striking comparison to reality – video games, and anime. However…

"Well, «Kirito-san»," The voice that I had almost forgotten was here voiced out. "Nice to meet you."

He had quite a surprised expression, which so obviously was shown on his face.

It might just be a hypothesis, but, there wouldn't be anything astounding in finding out for sure, right? Of course, if ever I don't find anything, I should probably just find out what video games «Papa» played.

"Eh?" Chiyu stood there, probably dumbfounded by my sudden realization.

"Sorry, Chiyuri-san, I'm just checking things out."

I slowly tapped on the list of finished anime. I was hoping I'll be able to figure out something… all the clues, the hints, and most especially her appearance. At least it could give a clue to her identity. However, the digits 1,240 flashed through my head.

"Eh." My jaw dropped.

1,240 anime, which means that a grand total of possibly 30 years' worth of anime, 50% of which are quite on the early 21st century. Papa's quite the retro anime lover, I could say, but when did he ever start this hobby?! However, could I really find what I should be looking for? I stuffed the window at the side; it ratcheted down into a small rectangular pod.

"Done." She grinned, and puffed her chest.

"Well, that was a bit faster than I expected." I blinked. "«Papa»?"

"A-Ah…" He stared back at «Sapphire Controller» for a short moment, and back at me. I felt a warm sensation, mixed in with the cold breeze.

"As you can see, he's ready."

"Ready?"

I stared back at Chiyuri, who couldn't help but stay just enough to hear of the two's plans. She couldn't even leave the front door in her curiosity. Then again, if I were in her knees, I'd probably do the same thing.

"We're going to go to the Unlimited Neutral Zone on my mark." She smiled, like a child with a new game.

"Unlimited Neutral Zone?" Chiyuri blinked. "Is there a particular reason?"

"Well, for one," she smiled. "Our culprit is also part of this accelerated world."

Kirito glanced at Sapphire Controller, who then returned a glance.

"What do you mean," I scratched my head. "How do you use «Brain Burst» to change the future?"

"Same way I did," she replied with a grey tone. "Well, explanations aside, you use a program within «Brain Burst» that requires basically the engine of the «Seed» version 2 to access past MMOs, but fully explaining the process will just get in the way."

"Ehhhh…" I slipped my tongue. "Sounds unsurprisingly suspicious. But, do I really have a choice other than to believe you? You've pushed me into a corner without even breaking a sweat, as if…"

My mouth stopped.

"I do what I need to do." She replied, with an odd smile on her face. "After all, it's not like I'm killing anyone or anything. In fact, I'm saving the world as you know it. What's wrong with that?"

"I just hope you are…"

"I just hope she is," Chiyuri muttered.

I felt my hopelessness creeping right through my skin. Nothing is just as bad except to let someone I barely know take the best of me, and of all things, in my turf. Is this what Haruyuki felt like during the entire «Noumi Incident»? No, I'm sure he found hope. After all, I love him enough to know he will find a way to not give up, despite how he easily does in the short run. First off, the question remains in my mind: who IS she? Until I can know for sure, I can't do anything.

I heaved a sigh.

"Are you free, Chiyu-san?" I asked.

She nodded, "I want to see this for myself."

We stepped through the unscrupulously ignorant door, without an idea of the future. For once, I have no idea what will be coming next. I slowly took a seat, right in Haruyuki's bed. Chiyuri's steady hands, doing the same, held my hand all throughout this unpredictable ordeal. I instinctively arched a smile.

"Let's do this, Chiyuri-san."

"Let's go!" Sapphire Controller declared. "«Unlimited Burst»!"

As we declared the command sequence, I felt my soul dissolving into nothingness.

[Part 4]

My eyes opened into the same old «Unlimited Neutral Zone» it was always been; the nostalgic breeze soothed my soul. Such memories, I could add, from where, for once, I got a serious battle with the «Yellow Radio», and the nostalgic battle between «Chrome Disaster» and «Silver Crow». Surely, the theme name of «Demonic City» is not some kind of decoration or eye candy, nor is the terrain any better (or worse). Even I might have problems slashing away a building or two.

"So this is the True Accelerated World, eh?"

I looked at my right. My flabbergasted eyes took hold on the Black Swordsman's new form. His form was, as they say, truly as Black as the night sky. His eyes, pearl white, served to counterpart his otherwise oddly slim, yet, surprisingly normal android-like body, filled with circular joints at the shoulders and legs. His coat, shed in a sparkle of blue and green, but mostly black, covered his shirt, which was pure white. There's also her long diamond-black long-sleeved pants, covering his "shoes", 2 pearl-white long lumps of what looks to be ivory.

"That's … surprisingly amazing." I could have sworn me saying it would have made me bit my tongue. "Even the name's overall meaning remained: «Pitch-Night Swordsman»."

"You should have seen how he fights," «Sapphire Controller» giggled. "He's pretty good."

"I wouldn't doubt about it." I replied. "He IS Kirito, «Papa», after all."

"I thought I told you to stop calling me Kirito in-game," he snapped. "You know it was a title I only held a long time ago."

"I don't think it's applicable in this case." I seemed to have smiled, but I wonder if that expression would ever be carried over to my «avatar». "After all, I can't call you «Papa». Not when I'm the «Black King», called by everyone as the «Black Lotus», the greatest traitor in all of the «Accelerated World» for trying to move forward, for practically killing in-game the «Red King» in order to get to the highest Level."

"A «Black King» eh…" he said, stepping forward, "Sounds like a fun place, for you to be so high up this virtual world's ranks."

"Hey, hey," «Lime Bell» came up from behind me and whispered. "What are we supposed to do anyway?"

I honestly have no idea. There should be no point at all. What would there be reason for us to go to the accelerated world? To find the culprit? But that's also practically impossible. After all, in this «Accelerated World» where time continues on a thousand times faster than in real life, even if the culprit were to go here, we'd need to wait for weeks, maybe months, just to get a possible sight of him. There's also the unannounced probability that he's not even around my territory, which means a lot of effort for all of us, just to scout around to find this so-called culprit.

"I don't know yet," I replied to the confused «Lime Bell». "In fact, the fact that we're here doesn't actually make sense."

I quickly turned into «Sapphire Controller», who was apparently quite busy ogling the «Pitch-Night Swordsman»'s long, yet slim pitch-black sword, which had a cylindrical wooden-like hold and luminous edge. In fact, the blade was practically nothing to shame about: I recognize that shine from anywhere, since, after all, it's in my body. Yes, it's the «Hyper Diamond», the strongest material in the entire «Accel World». Suddenly, the imagination of a fight between this new player and «Sapphire Controller» sped through my mind: «Sapphire Controller's body» cracking like a match as she's being sliced by that black sword.

"I suppose you have a «second sword», is that correct?" she questioned, instigating a flash of surprise from «Papa».

"I guess you would know about THAT too," he made a 'hmm' sound, just before spreading his right hand in front, and grasping the air. As if called, the white sword, in a swift breeze, whooshed out of thin air. My eyes blinked at the sight: it had a beautifully crafted pink amethyst at the center of its ivory-like crossed handle, followed a whitish straightly polished two-edged pilar, entirely made of white diamond.

"Wow, it's really beautiful…" Even Chiyuri can see through its brilliance.

"It might as well be almost the same quality as a «Hyper Diamond», only it's as white as a pearl… a Pearl Gem." I supplemented her observation.

"Well," «Sapphire Controller» interrupted. "Shall we go? I think I should have known the new location of the «Server Room»… I knew I left Haruyuki there somewhere."

"Wait, you mean…" «Lime Bell» exclaimed. "… you actually went to the «Server Room»?! Isn't that normally illegal?"

"Ugh," the «Pitch-Night Swordsman» took a step backwards. "Just how much do you know…?"

"Well," she scratched her head. "I needed to go there to connect to the «Seed Net». After all, it's the center of all worlds made from the «Seed» and is the secret behind all «Seed MMO» compatibility."

I quickly recalled the room we were on. It was an odd room indeed, but I think I might have seen a room similar to that long ago. However, I can't recall it; why is that? In fact, where could I have seen something like that in the first place? I've never been on an MMO other than «Brain Burst». Hold that thought: I've been to 1 other MMO with the Seed… «Accel Assault»… Could that be it?

"I guess since we're already here," «Sapphire Controller» turned left, into a door, and started strolling. "We should probably be quick about it. I still need to establish contact with Haruyuki from whatever MMO I put him in. Besides, that boy simply can't be left alone…"

"I have to agree with you on that fact." I nodded. "Geez, falling to your trap so easily…"

"No, no," she grinned, as shown in her face. "Can't you see? I've planned it for this mission. After all, what use am I if I can't even convince the protagonists to go with my plan?"

"Pro….tagonists?" «Lime Bell» raised a tone. "You're not making any sense at all…"

"Of course I won't be," she giggled. "Anyway…"

I arrived within a door, just around the border of the «Suginami» and «Shibuya» area: a very dangerous place indeed, especially as this is the border leading to the territory of the Great Wall, the legion of the «Green King». While it was quite different location from where we were led to, it's probably understanble: after all, if ever a Normal Player were to access the «Server Room» without the added "security" having the location at random places, it would be catastrophic for the server itself. Heck, how do you even call it true security? Here we have a Ms. Know-It-All who happens to know the location of a «Server Room» regardless of time. No MMO will ever be safe from such a person, unless the «Server Room» were to be totally admin-protected, a feat no real MMO does anyway, ever since the advent of VRMMOs.

«Sapphire Controller» first opened the rotating door, leading to a sky-high skyscraper, from which I could guess is probably a commercial one, with its height and quite a front park. I quickly followed, along with the new Level 4 «Pitch-Night Swordsman» and «Lime Bell» into the almost monotonous black-iron pillar, revealing a familiar entrance scenery. The iron shelves and occasional rows of iron benches are a proof of it.

"Here," she pointed at the seemingly normal metallic door. "It should lead into the maze into the «Server Room». We'll need to stay here if we're to ensure Haruyuki's safety."

"Wait, what?" «Lime Bell» was the first to respond properly.

Haruyuki's safety? I have a bad feeling about this.

"It's better," she opened the door and entered into the maze. "If I show you instead."

It didn't take long for us to enter right into the Server Room Door. I could tell from how we traversed this maze though, that the maze remained the same as when we first entered it. I guess it could be a clue that at least the maze is traversable after a first run.

"Here," she opened the final door.

"Woah."

«Lime Bell» gasped at the sight of the spectacular sight. However, for me, it was just a snapshot of the familiar sight moments ago. The same statue-like structure, the same oddly shaped thing, covering the entire room. Endless speckles of light flashed through the cubic structure like fireflies, making it quite a sight to see. The name of "Brain Burst", embedded right at the bottom of it, laid completely untouched, dust accumulating. Right in besides me, «Pitch-Night Swordsman» stood partially dumbfounded, constantly gazing at the rather cramped Server and at «Sapphire Controller».

"Good, it's still the same as ever," «Sapphire Controller» heaved a relieved sigh. "I would be worried if «Haru-chan» would leave Brain Burst forever because of me."

"Leave?" I raised an eyebrow.

I looked down, onto the glossy, black-tiled floor. My eyes widened at the sight of an unconscious «Silver Crow», right below the Server, still grasping at the «Alpha Reverse Stopwatch» he held when we were first lured here. I instinctively crouched, and checked Haru's status. At the least, his «HP» was fine. There isn't any sign of hacking either (not that I expected it; «Brain Burst» is practically hack-proof). Of course, I couldn't even check his pulse (is that even possible in this virtual world?), but at least, if the Real World would indicate, Haruyuki is still alive. But why is he unconscious, and still online in the «Unlimited Neutral Zone»? I do know people who do use the «Unlimited Neutral Zone» to sleep though, but that doesn't really help in this case.

"Haru-chan?!" «Lime Bell», only lately noticing «Silver Crow», crouched along with me and tried slapping his face.

"As you can see, only his body's totally unconscious," «Sapphire Controller» explained. "After all, I sent his consciousness as an avatar to a past VRMMO."

"You what?" Kirito was the first to respond.

"Ah, it was quite a hard work you know," «Sapphire Controller» said, somehow teasing. "Considering how Einstein's Relativity works in electrical signals, it should have been easy replicating the phenomena for «VR»… instead I got all the mumbo-jumbo about Grandfather Paradox and Multiple Worlds Theory and even hacking into the «Neuro-Linker» by visiting your future selves… ah, I wasn't supposed to say that part."

"Eh? You actually went to the future?" Chiyu's eyes glistened. "So who did Haru marry?!"

A landmine fell on my shoulder.

"C-C-Chiyu…!" My face flustered.

"Eh," a certain guardian's eyes glared at me.

"Geez, you guys," «Sapphire Controller» pouted. "I'm not supposed to tell any of those specific things. I'm here to save the timeline, not destroy it myself!"

I was almost giggling, when almost suddenly, without a single warning, the dizzying feeling struck me again. My vision as well seemed to strain, with a slightly blurry sight of both «Sapphire Controller» and «Papa» crouching in an abrupt earthquake-like vertigo. The feeling of dissonance struck me yet again, as if I've struck on a wrong chord, off by several octaves. I look back at Chiyuri, «Lime Bell», who quickly approached us. A high-pitched tone covered my ears. What was she trying to say? My vision shook; she must be asking words like, "What's happening, guys?" or something like that. However, a few seconds in, a flash of light hit my eyes.

Is this, another one of those changes in the divergence meter? The flash of light slowly disappeared from my eyes, and the annoying buzz swiftly dissipated.

"Chiyuri?"

She was right in front of me. Now, she's gone.

I checked the divergence meter yet again.

"0.00341275%," I spewed the words right out of my mouth, hands shaking. "Is that… how much can this timeline change?!"

"Yes… unfortunately," «Sapphire Controller» nodded. "This is not some child's business, you know. Heck, however Accel World may be important to you, I'm entrusted with the fate of an entire timeline, so please spare me the questions of 'Why?' or 'How?'…"

Fortunately, the timeline change wasn't sufficient enough, but I myself couldn't believe it. In that 0.00000075% change, apparently, the plan accelerated to yesterday, and this time, «Haru»'s been in coma, not just for a day, but for 2 days now. Chiyuri made her visit yesterday as we both got into the same speech in that day as it was hours ago, so it should be obvious that she wouldn't be with us in this campaign. Apparently, I also went and talked to Fuuko-chan on how she couldn't find any information on «Sapphire Controller», an hour before our trip here. Even if they were little, seemingly insignificant changes, if a 0.00000075% change can bring this much to our timeline, what would happen to our timeline when it reaches 1%? 2%? 30%?

"There's no turning back now." «Sapphire Controller» smiled. "Our mission will now commence."

"Mission?"

"We're going to… turn this guy here into Level 9." She smiled, patting «Papa» in the back. "We should be done in 3 days or so."

"Oi, oi … that's just ridiculous."

"… yeah, it is." She smiled back at me. "Even I've never finished it in the one week I had here."

I felt the lack of a clear goal. What are we supposed to do anyway? From what it seems, she had already entailed Haru for the job. However, I can feel a second aura, coming from «Papa». He sounded too silent. I'm not sure what he should actually be saying, but shouldn't he be at the least suspicious of her actions, or at least ask some decent questions? Despite these thoughts rampaging, I best not ask; I think it's still too early for that.

"Well, there's nothing else to do then," «Sapphire Controller» made a grin. "Let's just go back and leave Haru alone…"

"Wait, what?" I stuttered. "You can't just leave Haru in there! Your stupid device caused his avatar to remain here, which means that if someone were to set up an «iEK» area around here…"

"iEK." I couldn't help but mention it. "In other words, "infinite Enemy Kill". There's really nothing else to describe it besides its namesake: unlike in most «VRMMOs», in «Brain Burst», it's possible for enemies to camp in an enemy's spawning point, for one simple, yet fatal reason: the enemy's respawning point is at the same spot where he died."

"I see," «Sapphire Controller» scratched her head. "Well that sucks. Considering I only have real MMO experience… mine won't help in managing Haru's condition at all. As you see, he has no control over his current Brain Burst avatar, which means it's very easy for anyone to set that kind of situation up, despite my set precautions. As you know, I've been informed that the «Server Room» would be the safest way to keep public items (and people) from harm's way, especially because of the main distinction of the «Server Room» as a randomly teleporting room."

"Well it works, but," I reasoned out. "Wouldn't your culprit have known that?"

"Eh," «Papa» made a hmm sound, before nodding. "We'll just have to patrol this area until «Haruyuki» recovers, yes?"

Sapphire Controller made a sigh.

"Here am I thinking this issue be resolved within a day or so." She frowned. "Instead it'll take me 3 years… No worries, guys. I'll take the first 3 months patrol. That should be an equivalent of around… … … 2 hours worth, yes?"

"I'll have everyone else in Nega Nebulus take 3 months each then," I replied.

"There would be potential problems with that, but I'm personally fine with it." she replied, then looked to «Pitch-Night Swordsman». "Would it be fine if «Kirito» took the last patrol? I think he'll be busy with the company in his hands, after all."

"O-Of course," he replied with a hearty laugh. "I'm sure you can handle it, right, «Snow Black Princess»?"

I nodded.

"Thanks, Papa." She smiled. "I feel quite better now, and for more reasons than one. Besides, time gave me enough to think this time, at least in this divergence."

"Oh did I mention one thing?" she suddenly spoke up, and looked down into what Haru held in his hands, the Stopwatch she used. "You'll be able to contact «Haru» using this. You'll need the same «Temporal Patch» in order for the communication to work though, plus the «Stopwatch» needs to be within 10 meters, or else Haru will probably be stuck in the MMO I sent him to. Any other people will not be able to even clearly understand Haru, because of the divergence dissonance between him and all the other people using Brain Burst."

"I don't know if you're telling the truth or not," I clicked my lips. "But I have no other option but to trust you on it, anyway."

"It would be too easy to actually harm you guys, if I had the will to do so," she smiled. "Okay, theoretically it should be easy."

I felt disgusted at this girl's power; It's almost unbelievable, and, in fact, I could probably agree with what she said, if she really is who she really is. But, in the end, the best thing to do is just to follow through her whims until I get the chance. First thing's first, though, that technology: time travel? Speed of Light? Relativity? If I'm to counter this girl I'd need the power of time travel? How do counter a person with such a power?

I promptly leave the room, without an answer in my confused, fizzled mind, into the ever-winding, yet now surprisingly familiar labyrinth. Even though it's only been twice that I've actually strolled into this area. It's probably because of the «Temporal Patch» overriding my memories, making them more coherent on consistent memories. The thing with memories is that they aren't just vague enough to be misinterpreted, they're also accurate enough to be reconstructed by our complicated mind, and yet could fit in 1 or 4 or 10 GB of binary data; it just doesn't make much sense.

I arrived at the final door, leading towards the exit into the bright free breeze. To think, this would start… everything.

"Yuki-chan,"

I instinctively swiveled, yet my hands were opening the closed door.

"I know this is pretty sudden, and I know you wouldn't understand it at first glance, but…" Papa, no, the «Pitch-Night Swordsman» gave away a serious tone. "… I challenge you to a duel."

[End of Chapter 3]


Notes:

Huh, this was already finished eh. Well, I could always get a new part ongoing, but I should probably stop. Sorry guys for all the delays, as it's hard to quite make a clear progress in this chapter without all the dialogue, so I thought to myself, "How can I make it boring?" It took me weeks, no, months, before I just promptly decided, "Ah, whatever."

And so I just went on with the flow and published 2 parts at once.

Oh well, I do at least promise that there will be Yui. And Action in the next chapter. Be sure to look forward to it… when I actually get around finishing it properly this time. 1 chapter per week. 1 chapter per week. AT LEAST 1 part per week...