Author's Note: I guess I should say I'm back. I've been a little more than swamped these past months and my writing inspiration pretty much dropped to zero as I tried to sit down in front of my laptop to start typing again. It failed pretty miserably and I just floated around aimlessly, unable to pen my fleeting thoughts into words. Until now, that is.

Ah, Sword Art Online… This story pretty much revitalized me as I was hooked on every word and the more I read, the more I wanted to write a story based on it. And then a To Aru/SAO crossover idea struck me. And… why not?

Of course, there were issues and I decided at the end that the To Aru characters should be normal kids just like Kirito and Asuna. I think this would make the story a lot more interesting and workable. You could consider this a To Aru AU and SAO crossover.

Without further ado, I present to you: Crossing Swords.

**** XXX ****

Escape was impossible till all 100 levels were cleared.

"Dying" in this virtual world would mean actual death.

In this game world, within the gigantic castle of "Aincrad" lay their ultimate fate.

To clear the game, lives would be lost.

Legends would be born.

What happens when a game becomes reality?

To Kamijou Touma, he had only one thing to say:

Such Misfortune…

Chapter 1: World of Swords

Date: November 6th, 2022, Sunday

The day had started out innocuously enough. Kamijou Touma, typical high school student, was frantically making his way to the nearest Argus gaming store to pick up a limited edition copy of the first online VRMMORPG "Sword Art Online". He could have arrived a long time ago but there was that matter of helping an old lady cross the road. Then there was that ball that smacked him in the face and crashed through a window. Or the fact his alarm clock failed to go off. Plus several more unlucky scenarios.

Yes, Kamijou Touma was indeed an unlucky person.

Skidding past the curb wildly, the black-haired teen rounded the corner with gusto as he finally entered the department store. No need to question where the store was located, the huge crowd was a glaring sign.

"Nerve Gear".

That's the name of the hardware that drove this VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) "Sword Art Online". The basic structure of this machine was completely different from the traditional types, be it your computer screen or your handheld devices. No, the Nerve Gear was so much more. The design was simple enough, a helmet that covered your whole head and face.

Inside, there were numerous signal transceivers. By using the electronic signals sent by those transceivers, the gear accessed the user's brain itself. The user didn't use their eyes or ears to see and hear, the signals went directly to their brain. In addition, the machine could access not only sight and sound, but also touch, taste, and smell as well — that is to say, all five senses.

After slipping the Nerve Gear on, locking the strap under your chin, and speaking the initiation command "Link Start", everything else fades away and you're swathed in darkness. As soon as you pass the rainbow colored circle in the middle, you're in another world made entirely of data.

"Virtual Reality". That was what this machine had realized.

Half a year ago, this machine (which started selling in May 2022) successfully created a "Virtual Reality". The electronics company which created the Nerve Gear called the actual act of linking to the virtual reality…

"FullDive"

It was a total seculsion from reality, fitting of the word 'full'. The reason for this is that the Nerve Gear not only sent fake signals to the five senses, it also blocked and rerouted the orders that the brain sent to the body.

This can be called the most basic requirement for moving freely in a virtual reality. If the body received the brain's signals when the user was in FullDive, the moment the user decided they wanted to 'run' their actual body would run into a wall.

Because the Nerve Gear could reroute the commands the brain sent through the spinal cord, one could move freely in the virtual world that mimicked reality unbelievably well. Touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing… the virtual world that Kamijou Touma had experienced during beta testing had been so vivid. It was like leaping into a completely different world. He was hooked; nothing could ever replace this experience. Sword Art Online… SAO… It had made him feel far more alive than ever.

That was why he was here as early as he could to pick up the official release of the game. The initial batch was 10,000, so please… don't let it be sold out! He couldn't have used all his luck to get into Beta Test, right!? The beta test had only recruited 1000 players but it's said that over 100,000 people, over half of the Nerve Gear sold that time, volunteered. When Touma had received that mail, he had been positively overjoyed.

Now, however… he had a great sense of foreboding. Beta Testers had the additional benefit of being able to pre-order the game but the purchase of the Nerve Gear had already used up months of allowance and he had not been able to afford the pre-order. He had just managed to scrap enough together to buy the actual game this month.

"So… many…" he wheezed, panting as he squeezed through the hordes of people clamouring at the gates. "Just a little…"

"SOLD OUT!"

"EH!?" Kamijou Touma's eyes went wide. "No way…" the crowd began to thin rapidly as groans and moans filled the air as Touma fell to his knees. "Months of saving… skipping lunch and only having bread… all for naught…" he moaned, feeling like a hand was grasping his heart painfully. Would he have to wait for the second release, which had not even been announced yet? To experience that vibrant world again? That world where he could just leave everything behind? "Such misfortune…" he lamented, the words feeling hollow escaping his lips. A looming shadow over him made him look up silently.

"Are you an idiot or something?" the brown-haired girl before him muttered, a hand placed on her waist in annoyance.

"Ah… Biri Biri?" Touma blinked, momentarily shaken out of his reverie. "What are you doing here?"

"It's Misaka Mikoto you jerk!" Mikoto scowled as she tapped her feet impatiently. "Get up! You look pathetic sprawled over the floor." She held up a plastic bag as Touma complied with an overbearing sigh, his eyes widening at the logo.

"Argus? You bought SAO!" Touma's jaw fell open in incredulity.

Mikoto's cheeks reddened, "Y-yeah! So what? A girl can't play MMO's?" She shook her head, pressing her finger to Touma's chest accusingly. "You're here to buy one too, aren't you? But…" an eyelid shut with a smirk, "It seems you missed you chance."

"Yeah, yeah," Touma gave a snort. "Enjoy my misery won't you. Geez." Sighing, he turned to leave.

"H-Hey! No need to take it so seriously," Mikoto ran in front of him, looking mildly apologetic. "I was just joking. Aren't you an easygoing sort of guy?"

"I was supposed to be here much earlier but things happened…" Touma rubbed his face wearily. "Still, I guess I shouldn't be so curt to you. Want to grab a drink? Service doesn't start till 1pm and its only 10am."

"Eh?" Mikoto's face reddened but the depressed Touma was facing away to notice such a glaring detail. "You mean like… a da…da…"

"Da…?" Touma turned to face the sputtering girl curiously.

"Nothing!" Mikoto yelped, shaking her head furiously. "Umm… ok! Where to?"

"Hm, Joseph's is close by so let's head there. The coffee there is excellent," Touma relaxed somewhat, "Come on."

**** XXX ****

"I still can't believe you came here to buy SAO," Touma shook his head in disbelief as he leaned back in his head with a sigh. "How did you get past the massive crowd?"

"Oh, my dad's a major shareholder of Argus Holdings," Mikoto replied offhandedly, "The staff recognized me and dragged me in."

"… Rich people," Touma rolled his eyes jokingly. "This commoner Kamijou Touma can only bow his head in defeat."

Mikoto picked up the box curiously. "VMMORPG, Sword Art Online… is it that good? You were a beta tester, right? I heard from your mom."

"Yeah…" Touma's eyes glazed over somewhat. "It was amazing, you know. Everything was just so real… so vivid. It's really like being in another world where a single sword can determine your fate… Or so a guy said before." He laughed lightly.

"Wow…" Mikoto looked thoughtful as she glanced down at the small box with a decidedly fascinated expression this time. "So I just inside this CD into the Nerve Gear and it installs the program immediately?"

"Yep," Touma nodded, "The Nerve Gear can process so much data at once it's unbelievable. Installation only takes a minute at most and then you're able to access SAO's online servers after using 'FullDive'. I envy you the experience… the official release should be even better than the beta…" he smiled wistfully.

"Geez, you're making feel bad," Mikoto muttered, tossing the box over to Touma lazily. "Here."

"Eh?" Touma looked blankly at the box in his hand.

"Don't give me that stupid look. I'm giving it to you," Mikoto declared as she scooped a piece of sundae into her mouth quietly as her face reddened somewhat, her heart pounding frantically. I finally did it…

"Are you crazy?" Touma pushed the box back, "I may want the game badly, that doesn't mean I'm going to take charity from you."

"That's why I say you're stupid," Mikoto rolled her eyes sarcastically as a faint smile played on her lips, turning the plastic bag to face Touma so he could see the contents… another SAO game installation kit.

"EH!? TWO?" Touma stood up in shock, "But you're only allowed to buy one per person!"

"Really? The staff said I could buy as many as I liked," Mikoto answered in slight bewilderment.

Touma's head fell forward limply with an aggravated sigh and grumble. "The joys of being rich…" he glanced down at the box with trembling hands. "I really shouldn't…"

"Take it," Mikoto pressed the box against Touma's hands stubbornly, "I bought the second copy because I expected something like this to happen to you, anyway. You're an unlucky guy, after all."

"Gee, thanks a lot," Touma scowled playfully as he looked at the box again. "You're really sure?"

"Yes! Argh! Stop making me repeat myself. If you're so grateful, then just take it you owe me a big favour ok?" Mikoto ranted, an eye shutting in annoyance. "So… uwah! Wh-what are you…" her face flushed crimson as Touma grabbed her hand tightly with a touched look.

"Thanks you. I can't thank you enough…" Touma whispered softly.

"Ah. Ah…" Mikoto's head was becoming feverish, "Hand…"

"Huh? Oh!" Touma let go of her hand with an awkward cough and laugh as he scratched his head nervously. "Sorry. I was just so happy that I forgot myself."

"Y-yeah…" Mikoto stammered, holding her recently clasped hand that seemed to be radiating warmth that was not unpleasant. "A-anyway," she coughed once to clear her somewhat raspy voice. "Have you decided on your IGN? I'll add you to my buddy list once I figure out the interface."

"Oh. Just regular Touma will be fine," he chuckled, "Beta Testers had the option to reserve a name in the official server that's tied in to out Nerve Gear serial number, so it's a cool benefit." He held up the box with a delirious smile. "You have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you again."

Mikoto blushed furiously, even as her lips curled into a winsome smile at Touma's childishly overjoyed expression. "Yeah, I know." She murmured as she got up. "Alright, let's go. I'll see you in game then!"

"Heh. Ok. Later then, Biri Biri!" Touma called her nickname with a grin as he waved pleasantly at her in goodbye. Misaka Mikoto had always been a little prickly when he got to know her and 'Biri Biri' had been coined by him on impulse when he swore he could see sparks fly whenever she got mad.

"It's Misaka Mikoto!" she snapped back, though it was also in a light-hearted manner as she waved back while running off towards her home. "Later then!"

They would meet again in a short while in the virtual world to have fun and experience the joy of the Virtual Reality.

None of them would expect that mere hours later, their lives would change forever.

**** XXX ****

The words 'Installation Complete' flashed briefly in green before the Nerve Gear screen before vanishing as Touma glanced impatiently at the clock by his study table. 12.58pm. At 1pm, SAO would officially commence. Sighing, the teen lay down on his bed to plug the Nerve Gear into the power socket and turned the power on. Sliding the helmet over his head comfortably, he locked the strap under his chin tightly as he switched on the Heads Up Display (HUD). The virtual clock ticked silently to 12.59.

Soon…

The moment the clock read 1pm, Touma's mouth opened to utter the command that would send him to that world again. His eyes shut tightly, his heart pounding frantically in excitement as his lips curled into a grin.

"Link… Start!"

The world vanished into darkness for a split second before erupting in a swirl of rainbow colours as Touma felt himself being jerked forward. The first time he had tried this, he had resisted instantly from his reflexes. Now, however, he welcomed the pull wholeheartedly.

Touch – Ok

Sight – Ok

Hearing –Ok

Smell – Ok

Taste – Ok

Language – Japanese

Log in: Imagine_Breaker

Password: ******

Character Creation – Beta Test Data Available: Touma

Use? Y/N

Yes.

Confirmed.

WELCOME TO SWORD ART ONLINE!

Another flow of radiant colours and Touma felt his feet touch solid ground. Or what his brain interpreted as solid ground. His eyes opened, his vision clearing in an instant as he took a deep breath. The nostalgic smell of steel and flora greeted him as he flexed his hands, clenching one into a tight fist. "I'm back!" A joyous cry escaped his lips as he flexed his neck next, his lips curling into a grin as he looked up at the bright sun of Aincrad.

He brought up his hand to confirm the data, sliding down to bring up the menu.

Floor 1, The Town of Beginnings. The layout hadn't changed much from the Beta Test, which made navigation all that much easier. First off, the weapons shop. Then he'd have to wait for Biri Biri to contact him. Glancing down at his inventory menu, he acknowledged his starting Col (The currency in SAO) at 500. That would be enough to trade his beginner sword for something more durable and possessing a higher attack stat. Still, his beginner sword could last him for a while. Perhaps a buckler or helmet would be better.

Turning, he broke into a run down the crowded streets. It was truly a sight you'd only see in fantasy, handsome men and beautiful women were all over the street with some already agreeing to party up or trading their initial experiences with each other. SAO was truly another world, since not only were there skills to increase your attack power as a player and the levelling system, there were also production skills like blacksmithing or upgrading and even everyday skills like cooking and fishing. There were so many skills to learn and paths to take that one could say that there were unlimited possibilities to the character you wanted to develop.

"Hm?" Touma came to a stop outside the NPC store curiously as he heard sounds coming from the store already. Beginners wouldn't have gone to this place directly, since there were a multitude of beginner stands outside on the streets. Still, there was not much variety outside in terms of weapons and this shop sold all the basic weapons types, like Pole Arms, Axes or even Spears.

"So what kind of weapon are you looking for, Klein?" a calm, somewhat quiet voice came from the shop's interior from the half-way opened door.

"Hmm, something cool... oh, like this one!" the other voice, whom Touma assumed was Klein, seemed excited. "I'll just get this one, Kirito."

"A Cutlass? Then you have to pump your skill slots to the 'Curved Sword' skill if you intend to stick with weapons of this type," the one called Kirito advised as Touma heard the sound of a trade menu being opened. Indeed, SAO had close to an unlimited number of skills and each skill tree could branch out to a more specialized one or unlock new types of skills to add to your repertoire. However, specialization in a particular weapon was a lot more effective for Solo Players.

In essence, SAO stressed efficiency if you wanted to stay on top of the game.

Touma entered the weapon shop silently, raising a hand in greeting. "Yo. Are you two beta testers?" Kirito? Hmm… that name sounded familiar. Where had he heard it before?

The black haired male before him had an awkward look on his handsome face as he turned to the red-headed individual beside him questioningly. "Umm… yeah…" he replied with a strained smile as the red-hair grinned.

"Yo. You must be a beta tester too. My name's Klein," the redhead greeted, looking like some handsome warrior from the Sengoku period. Well, Touma couldn't complain either. He himself was slightly taller, more muscular and definitely better looking. It was a game, after all. "I'm a beginner, so I'm getting Kirito here to show me the ropes."

Touma couldn't help but feel that the silent Kirito was more of a loner, a Solo Player. Still, he had to admit that Klein's friendliness was very much genuine… and infectious. "Nice to meet you," Touma answered with a smile of his own. "I'm Touma. I'm a beta tester too alright. Don't worry about learning it, I'm sure you'll get the hang of it soon."

"Hmm, us meeting here is like fate, right?" Klein raised a hand in excitement, "How about we party up and stuff? Three people can train faster than two right?"

"Eh?" Kirito's face was hesitant.

"Oh, no," Touma shook his head apologetically, "I'm waiting for my friend to get on. She's new too so I'll have to be her teacher."

"Oho? Is she like a childhood friend?" Klein suddenly inched closer with an interested look, his eyes actually seeming to sparkle. "How old is she? Is she cute?"

"Uhh…" Touma gave a blank look, shooting Kirito a pleading look. It took a moment but the male finally got it as he tapped Klein on the shoulder with a cough.

"Come on, Klein. Or I'm going to leave you behind," Kirito called out as he left the shop as Klein glanced at him in panic.

"O-oi! Wait for me! See you later, Touma!" Klein shouted as he dashed out of the shop, his earlier questions forgotten. Touma gave a shake of his head with a wry smile.

"You can find all sorts of people here," he muttered dryly under his breath as he opened the selection menu to look through his options. "Hmm, they removed some of the equipment," he mused, noting that two-handed weapons had been removed from the shop entirely. Possibly because you needed to raise single-handed skills to a certain level before you unlocked the two-handed style. He wondered if they had been shifted to the outside towns.

[Friend Request Received – Mikoto]

Touma closed the menu, raising a hand to accept the friend request as he activated the friend trace to find Mikoto's cursor hovering by the Central Plaza where all new players were dumped upon finishing creating their characters.

Well, first thing was to meet up with her.

Dashing down the street, Touma clicked on the friend tracer again so that he could identify Mikoto via the blinking purple light that only a 'friend' could see. Rounding the corner, he paused as he spotted the tall female avatar that Biri Biri had created. The purple cursor flashed once more over her head before fading back to green. Right now, her back was facing while her hands were currently busy doing something…? Walking over silently, Touma faintly cocked an eyebrow as he saw her running her hands up and down her body and lingering on her chest before…

"What… are you doing?" He asked quizzically.

"Uwah!" Mikoto gave a yelp, her face turning a bright shade of red as she whirled around to face Touma. "Who-who are you?" She demanded, her long chestnut coloured hair tossing back dramatically.

"I'm Touma. This is my Player Avatar, you know?" He replied, crossing his arms over his chest as he eyed Mikoto's in-game look. She was taller, sported longer hair and… bigger breasts. "Why are you touching your chest?"

Mikoto gaped at Touma's look for a second before flushing even brighter than a minute ago. "I-I was…"

"Don't tell me… Was having a bigger chest part of your reason for getting SAO?" Touma asked without thinking.

A second passed as Touma realized what exactly had escaped his lips. Mikoto's answer was simple and direct.

"Idiot," Mikoto huffed as Touma nursed his throbbing leg with a decidedly contrite expression. "Of course not!" Though it was added bonus, she added inwardly. "A-anyway! It's my first time in this game, so don't make fun of me!"

"Okok," Touma gave a chuckle as he put down his leg, which had stopped throbbing after a moment. It wasn't supposed to have hurt inside the safe area though… "Anyway, I'll show you around first before we head out to the weapon shop again. Then we can decide what skills you want to allocate your initial skill points to."

"Sounds good," Mikoto agreed, taking a deep breath and letting out a cheerful sigh. "This is so… unreal… everything is really so vivid, so different."

"Isn't it?" Touma's answering grin stretched across his face, "This world is something else entirely. Come on!" Touma held out a hand to Mikoto with a playful wink. "Let's explore this world! Our adventure awaits~"

"Heh," Mikoto grinned back as she took his hand firmly. "I look forward to it."

Ending Notes: While I 'normalized' these characters, I did try to make them as close to their core personalities as possible, albeit with differences as befitting the fact that they no longer have powers, etc. If you don't like the fact that they don't have their powers, then this story isn't for you.

In any case, any constructive criticism would be appreciated as well as things you'd like to see or even suggestions for the upcomming arcs. I look forward to hearing from you guys and hope that you'll help me improve along the way. Thanks for reading and I ask for your patience while I work on the next chapter of 'Of Science and Magics' and 'Crossing Swords'. Until next time, everyone!

Regards,

Stormwolfex