Alfheim, December 2025
The narrow alley, which wasn’t shown on the map of Alne’s back streets, split left and right, the stairs went up and down until it reached a door at the garden of a private house we passed previously.
It was an unremarkable rounded wooden door, it actually lead people to think of it as a decorative object, which could not be opened. Leafa put a small copper key from her pouch into the key hole, and turned it, causing a clear Clink unlocking sound. The key was added to our storage without my knowledge when Tonkii carried us through the tunnel for the first time. So it could be said that it was impossible to open the door from the Alne side.
I grabbed the iron hoops and pulled, the wooden door slid open in the middle to the left and right, revealing the interior descending stairs. Once the line of all seven people went past, and Klein, who was at the end of the line, closed the door, it automatically locked itself again.
“Uwahh……What are these steps for?”
Lisbeth, who came here for the first time, couldn’t help but exclaim loudly. The descending stairs which was the floor of the tunnel had a diameter of around two meters, it was illuminated by the small lamps on the wall, emitting a pallid phosphorescent light, and the length of the stairs seemed to continue into the limit of resolution.
“Hmm, it is like part of the Aincrad’s labyrinth tower zone.”
The answer came from Asuna who was at the start of the line and had already stepped down the stairs; Lis, Silica, and Klein’s faces showed surprise at the same time. I made a wry smile, then stressed my gratitude toward this tunnel.
“Well, if you think about going to Jötunheimr using the normal route, first you have to find the stairway dungeon, which is located on the unknown location on the Alne plateau, advance inside while fighting the monsters, and lastly, defeat the boss guarding the place. One party would still require at least two hours to do that, but this route only takes five minutes! If I was Leafa, I’d start a business here collecting toll of a thousand Yrd per entry.”
“Hey, Onii-chan, exiting here without Tonkii will drop you to an unavoidable death at the large underground hollow in the middle of Jötunheimr though.”
Leafa said while making a tired face, she was always too straight.
At the very center of the large underground world, Jötunheimr was a big bottomless hole with a diameter of around 1.5 kilometers, it had been given names like «Deep Central Hollow» or «Great Void». The holy sword Excaliber was sealed within the air maze inside the upside down pyramid, which protruded from the canopy right above that void. The exit of the stairs we were running down was close to the air maze, and was also located high up in the sky over the void, jumping over will certainly result in going down that bottomless pit and to our deaths, returning to the save point above the ground with no question asked.
Ahem, I cleared my throat and said with a strict face.
“Well, for that reason, let’s take each step with appreciation and without complaining, gentlemen.”
“It wasn’t you who made this though”
Sinon who was walking in front of me immediately responded. Still as cool and straight as ever, I should express the gratitude for this retort properly.
Saying thanks, and at the same time grabbing hold of the light blue tail swaying in front of me to substitute a hand shake.
Suddenly, the wildcat archer made a loud scream and jumped. She turned around, and skillfully ran back up, but I pulled my face back with ease before both her claws could make a scratch.
The triangular ears and tail unique to the Cait Sith race were of course organs human don’t have, however, they could sense the feeling using an unknown mechanism. Being grabbed hard by a player who wasn’t aware of the fact would cause a «super weird feeling»——Silica’s explanation——for that reason, the reaction was always very amusing.
“You, the next time you do this I’ll shoot a fire arrow straight up your nostril!”
Hmph! In front of Sinon who turned around quickly; Leafa, Lis, Silica, Asuna, with Yui sitting on her shoulder all shook their heads in a flawlessly synchronized motion. Klein who was behind them groaned in admiration, “You just don’t know fear, huh.”
Just under the expected five minutes, as the party was passing through the outer crust of Alfheim via the tunnel stairs, a dim white light could be seen at the end of the tunnel.
At the same time, the coldness of the virtual atmosphere increased with each step. The sparkling ice crystals started glittering in front of their faces.
After a few seconds, we were finally out of the crust, our vision caught sight of the bird’s eye view of Jötunheimr. The stairs which were carved into the thick tree root continued on in midair for about fifteen more meters before it ended.
Sinon and Silica, the two cats who saw Jötunheimr for the first time raised their voices at the same time. Even the small dragon Pina on Silica’s head flapped its wings energetically.
Spread below the eyes and covered in the massive amount of snow and ice was the beautiful and harsh world of eternal night. Illumination came from the huge ice crystals protruding from the canopy surrounding us, which refracted a small amount of light from the ground above. Other light sources were from the yellow-green or purple-blue burning bonfires at the castle and fortress of the evil-god tribes scattered here and there on the surface. The height from the ground to the center of the canopy could reach one kilometer, the countless numbers of evil-gods on the field couldn’t be seen from this height. And right below was the huge bottomless pit, inhaling all light, the «Void».
Returning the gaze from below back to the front, it was a terrific scene difficult to describe with words.
The countless roots crept about——the roots of the world tree stood tall above Alfheim ground—— it seemed like they were supporting the thin blue ice block protruding sharply from the canopy, which was our destination, the «Aerial Dungeon», that was shaped like an inverted pyramid. Its base was three hundred meters on each side, and its height was about the same. The myriad of rooms and passages which had been dug inside the ice could be seen from this distance, as well as the huge shadow hovering there.
Finally, my vision moved to the sharp tip at the bottom of the inverted pyramid.
Even with the increased night vision of the Spriggan race’s special trait, it was still hard to see the shining gold light which blinked briefly. At the depth of that shining light resided the strongest incentive, ALO’s strongest legendary class weapon, the «Holy Sword Excaliber», was sealed there.
After the general status confirmation had been completed, Asuna then held her right hand up and started reciting the smooth spell words. At that moment, the body of all members were wrapped in a thin blue light, and a small icon lit up under the HP gauge at the upper left of their vision. Immediately, the chill went away as if we wore a first class down jacket. It was the freeze resistance boost supporting spell.
Leafa nodded after hearing Asuna voice, her right fingers were applied to her lips and she whistled a high pitch.
Several seconds later, Kwooo―……n, a distant cry mixed with the sound of the wind slowly approached. Contrasting the dark void background, a white shade could be seen ascending.
From the side of the body, it looked like a spatulated fish, or a flat rice paddle, with four pairs, eight fins resembling white wings stretched out. Hanging from the lower side of the body were numerous ivy-like tentacles. Its head had three black eyes on each of the three sides, and an extended long nose. The evil-god which «emergence» from the elephant-jellyfish into this strange yet beautiful form, was Tonkii.
From Asuna’s shoulder, Yui called out with all her voice, the strange evil-god cried Oo―n once again. It ascended in a spiral movement after flapping its strong wings. With its shape becoming larger, the four new comers retraced their steps back up the stairs.
“It’s alright, this guy is herbivorous.”
After I said that, Leafa turned around and grinned.
“But, the other day I gave him fish I brought from above ground, he ate them all in one bite though.”
Klein and the others took another step back, but the narrow stairs had no more room for them to retreat. Once Tonkii was right in front of us, it stretched its long nose from its face which still resembled an elephant’s, and with its bushy haired tip —— stroked Klein’s standing hair.
I pushed the back of Katana user who made an odd sound without mercy.
“Hurry, go ride on its back.”
“E…Even you say that, I, not riding American cars and flying elephants was the last will of my grandfather……”
“The other day at the Dicey Café, your grandfather just gave me handmade dried persimmons, didn’t he? It was delicious too, please bring me more next time!”
I pushed his back again after saying that, Klein fearfully stepped on Tonkii’s shoulder and moved to its flat back. Subsequently was Sinon, who had no fear as usual, followed by the animal lover Silica who seemed to have included Tonkii into her target. Lisbeth said in an unexpected girly voice “Yokkorasho!” while following, then Leafa and Asuna who weren’t first timers jumped on, lastly me, lightly scratching the base of Tonkii’s nose before jumping onto the back of the evil-god class monster, which had a total length of more than ten meters.
“Alright, Tonkii, please bring us to the dungeon entrance!”
Leafa who sat right behind its neck shouted, Tonkii raised its long nose and cried again, then slowly flapped its eight wings to move forward.
For me, this was the fifth time riding on the back of «Tonkii», the flight type evil-god, including when we were just playing around . Even if I didn’t mention it, I thought about it every time. It was——
“……Hey, what happens if we fall from here?”
That, was what I thought, frankly asked by Lisbeth who sat right behind me.
That’s right. It was the principle of Jötunheimr that all the fairy tribes couldn’t fly here, and damage would be applied upon falling from a high altitude. Depending on the skill value, damage would occur when falling from over ten meters, and falling from more than thirty meters would certainly lead to instant death.
However, Tonkii’s current flight altitude was in the region of a thousand meters. There was no need to think about what would happen if we fell from this height. Of course there were some safety measures —— like grabbing the tentacles below its belly —— but I’d rather not have to do so.
While everyone seemed to have the similar concern in their minds; only Leafa, the «Speed Holic» who sat in front, along with Yui who moved to sit on her head, and Pina who was embraced by Silica, were feeling comfortable.
The one who answered Lis’ question was Asuna who sat stickily beside her. With a somewhat stiff expression, she looked at me and smiled, then said,
“There was a person who climbed the pillar connecting to the next layer in the old Aincrad and fell down, I’m sure that person would experiment falling from here in the future too.”
“……Falling from this height, aren’t cats more suitable for that?”
The two felines immediately made a serious look and shook their heads repeatedly.
During the exchange, Tonkii was still flapping its four pairs of wings, slowly gliding through the air. Up ahead was the terrace entrance to the aerial dungeon made out of ice, the entrance was located at the top side of the inverted pyramid. Hopefully it’ll be a safe ride until the end——
I secretly wished that. At that moment,
Without any warning, Tonkii folded all its wings into sharp angles and broke into a rapid dive.
Was the loud yell by the two men.
The high scream by the girls group.
That was Leafa.
Both my hands desperately grabbed at the hair, which grew thickly on its wide back, to withstand the rushing wind pressure. The diving angle seemed to be almost vertical, the ground below progressively approaching. But why did it suddenly do this? Every ride up till now was always a slow patrol course between the tree root stairs and the ice terrace.
Was it tired of being used as a taxi? Or did the fish Leafa gave it before weigh heavily in its stomach?
While thinking about things which wouldn’t be beneficial to my health, the details of the ground covered in ice and snow was getting much higher precision. It seemed Tonkii was aiming for the southern border of the huge pit, the «Void». Yes, it was the place where Leafa and I once fought with the Undine raid party trying to kill Tonkii.
Immediately after that, the sudden decelerating G caused our bodies to bend over and stick to the evil-god’s back. Tonkii spread out its folded wings, applying the brakes to the nose dive. At least it looked like it didn’t want to litter the ground with its luggage. I lifted up my body while exhaling in relief.
I looked downwards from Tonkii’s back once it started cruising horizontally again, the altitude was already at about fifty meters. Now the state of the ground was clearly visible, like a high detailed aviation photo. Dead trees with sharp icicles hanging. Frozen rivers and lakes. then——
Leafa who sat on Tonkii’s head raised her voice sharply and stretched her body. She then pointed to a spot on the ground as she squeezed out her voice that sounded almost like a scream.
“O..Onii-chan, look there!!”
Hearing that, the other five and I gazed to the front left, in the direction Leafa pointed her finger.
Suddenly a dazzling flash effect burst up, and shot into my eyes which was accustomed to the dim light. Then, a bass sound followed after a slight delay. Based on this, it was a large scale attack spell, no doubt about it.
Tonkii made a sad Krrru―n cry. The reason for the cry was found shortly,
The attack was focused on the manjū-like body sitting over the long tentacles, with the long nose and big ears of an elephant, it was a large jellyfish monster. The same type as Tonkii before undergoing «emergence», no doubt about it.
Then, the attack was from a large scale raid party with more than thirty members. With colorful hair color and the varying body sizes, it seemed to be a force of mixed races. If looking at just that, it could be said that it was just the normal «Evil-god hunt party». But what Leafa saw which we didn’t, was the fact that it was not only the players that attacked the elephant-jellyfish.
With the height of about six or seven times that of the Gnome’s, while having the form of a human, it had four arms and three faces lined up vertically. Its skin color was like pallid steel, its dull red eyes had the reminiscence of burning coal.
It was the same as the humanoid evil-god monster which tried to kill Tonkii the first time we met. Each of its arms held a steel-like crude sword, the blunt blades repeatedly slammed into the elephant-jellyfish’s back. Its hard shell cracked and the bodily fluid gushed out while the players continued firing spells, arrows, and sword skills into those cracks.
“What’s……going on there? Did someone tame that humanoid evil-god?”
Asuna whispered as she panted. Silica shook her head vigorously and answered,
“That’s impossible! The tame success rate on evil-god class monsters, even with maximum skill and full equipment boosts is still 0.00%!”
Klein stroked his bristling red hair while groaning.
“That was, how to say it……«Hitch a ride» is the term? Attacking the elephant-jellyfish along with those attacks from the four arms and taking credit of the final blow at the end……”
“But I wonder about the hate control in that situation.”
Sinon commented calmly despite her eyebrows drawing tightly together. Certainly it was as Sinon said, for the evil-god’s action patterns, it would be no surprise if it turned its attention to the players if they fired a spell or skill nearby, even if they did not cause any damage.
Unable to understand the reason, we bit our lips while looking at the scene, finally the large body of the elephant-jellyfish evil-god trembled and fell down on its side to the snowy field. At that point, the iron swords and the large spells rushed on——
The elephant-jellyfish screamed in agony before its body turned into a large amount of polygon pieces and scattered away.
Kwoooo…… Tonkii made a sad sound again. Leafa, who sat on its head, was trembling, and on her head, Yui also faced downward with a sad expression.
Unable to find any words to comfort Leafa and Yui, my glance remained fixed on the raid party down below.
Suddenly, my eyes widened in surprise.
The four armed giant that was not under tame, incitement, or dazed state, raised its foot and roared in victory; the several dozen players also lightly made a guts pose, then both sides started to move to claim the new target.
“W..Why don’t they fight each other!?”
A hoarse voice leaked from Asuna who was beside me, she then seemed to notice something and lifted her face,
She pointed at the hill on the far right side. The battle effect also flickered violently from there. I focused my eyes and could see the large group of players, this time with the assistance of two humanoid evil-gods. It looked like they were hunting the alligator type evil-god with many legs.
“What the heck is going on here……?”
To Klein’s confused question, Lisbeth murmured in a low voice,
“……Maybe it was what Asuna said above just now, the new slaughter type quest in Jötunheimr……? The assistance from the humanoid evil-gods to exterminate the animal type evil-gods……it seemed……”
Upon hearing that, all of them inhaled at the same time.
It was probably so. If it was during the quest, it was possible to have a joint force with specific mobs. But what was the reason for the quest reward being related to the «Holy Sword Excaliber»? That sword was sealed inside the humanoid evil-god’s stronghold, which means, one couldn’t get it without defeating those humanoids……
Thinking up to this point, I looked up due to the reflection from the big ice pyramid above.
However, that was not where the source of light was. Because at the furthest end of Tonkii’s back, where no one sat, particles of light appeared without a sound, and condensed —— to produce a human shape.
The long garment in the shape of robe. The wavy blond hair flowing from the back to the feet. The lady with elegance and a transcendental beautiful face.
But a word surged out of my mouth, and at the same time, Klein’s, who had quickly turned around, which wasn’t supposed to be said to a woman.
However, that could be forgivable. The height of the lady was, based on our estimation, more than three meters.
Fortunately, the first words from the mysterious huge lady to us sounded like she didn’t appear to be hurt by our words, her serene expression remained as she opened her lips. The flowing voice, unlike that of a player’s, was tinged with a solemn effect.
“I am «Queen of the Lake» Urðr.”
The huge blond onee-san continued talking to us.
“Ye fairies who bonded with our kin.”
Kin? I twisted my neck with doubt in my mind. It seemed those words were directed toward us, who were hovering on Tonkii, Is this lady the friend of those animal type evil-gods inhabited in Jötunheimr?, I thought that, but……
At that point I finally realized the huge lady who called herself «Queen of the Lake» in front of me was 100% not human. The skirt of her long blond hair was like tapered, divided, and undulated tentacles; The limbs inside the robe that could be seen were covered by pearly scales. Similar to Tonkii, the strange form of large creature which chose to borrow human appearance —— But even so, I was still impressed.
“To you, my two sisters and I have but one request. Please save this country from the invasion of the «Frost Giant Tribe».”
What I thought while listening to the story was Firstly, this giant lady is «What»?
The color cursor didn’t come out even when focusing on the vision, and it was certainly not the figure from a player’s enchanting spell. Was it a harmless event NPC? Was it a trap set by the aggressive quest Mob? Or was it an avatar controlled by a human GM? I couldn’t make a conclusion.
Then unexpectedly, I felt a modest weight on my left shoulder. And at the same time, in a cute whisper from Yui.
“Papa, that person is an NPC. But it’s a little strange. It seems not to talk based on the fixed response routine like NPC usually do. Its core program is connected to the language engine module.”
“……So, it’s a kind of AI then?”
While thinking about what Yui said, I continued to listen to the lady’s story.
NPC —— the «Queen of the Lake Urðr» turned her pearly sparkling right hand toward the vast underground world and said,
“This «Jötunheimr» was once like your «Alfheim», with the blessings from the world tree Yggdrasil, covered in the beautiful water and greenery. We, the «Rock Giant Tribe» and those beast kin lived together in harmony.”
At the same time as those words, the surrounding scenery covered in snow and ice soundlessly shook and dimmed. Appearing as if it was a layer of illusion, was the scene in Urðr’s story. The world filled with plants, flower fields, and pure water. It could be said it was far richer than the Gnome or Salamander territories up above.
Even more surprising, behind Queen Urðr where the bottomless pit «Great Void» was, in this other world it wasn’t there. Instead, there was a lake filled with sparkling transparent water. The thickly huddled roots of the world tree from the canopy in this world reached the lake without spreading in other directions.
On the summit of the roots over the water surface existed houses made from logs, no, a town was probably more suitable. The scene was similar to the central capital Alne up on the surface.
Urðr lowered her right hand, and the illusory scene disappeared. The chilled ice world of Jötunheimr returned, she looked indifferent, but I might have imagined seeing her with sadness filled eyes, as she continued to speak.
“——In addition, on Jötunheimr’s lower plane, the country of ice «Niflheimr» existed. The land was ruled by the king of frost giant tribe «Þrym», he once transformed into a wolf and did infiltrate this country, then stole the Excaliber, «The sword which cut all of steel and tree», forged by the god of blacksmith Völundr and threw it into «Urðr’s Spring» at the center of this world. The sword severed the thick roots of the world tree, and in that instant, Jötunheimr no longer received the blessings from Yggdrasil.”
This time Urðr lifted her left hand, and the illusory screen regenerated. We could only wordlessly watch the overwhelming scene.
The roots of the world tree which expanded over the surface of the huge lake —— «Urðr’s Spring», shook and floated over the surface, then shrunk toward to canopy. The town which was built atop the roots collapsed all at once.
At the same time, all the leaves of the tree fell, the grass withered, and the light faded. The rivers were frozen, the frost condensed, as a snowstorm raged. The huge amount of water in «Urðr’s Spring» froze momentarily and became the large mass of ice, which was wrapped and pulled up by the roots of the world tree as they retracted back into the sky. The large number of lake inhabiting creatures snapped off the ice mass and fell down. Among them was the elephant-jellyfish type, like the old Tonkii.
The roots of the world tree ascended and reached Jötunheimr’s canopy or Alfheim’s crust before long, and half of the huge ice mass it carried pierced into the canopy. That ice mass was no doubt, set up and honored as the «Inverted Ice Pyramid» in the current Jötunheimr. At the bottom-most of the ice mass, a sharp edged icicle, a glittering golden light could be seen. It was from the sword thrown by the frost giant king Þrym, the sword which severed the connection between the world tree and Jötunheimr, it was, without a doubt, Excaliber.
When all of the water was lost, the once beautiful lake turned to a huge bottomless pit.
Urðr lowered her left hand, causing the illusory screen to disappear. However, this time it didn’t make a large change to the scenery. The most change was the mass of ice in the sky, which had undergone restructuring into the linear dungeon. The existence of Excaliber at the bottom of that pyramid had also been confirmed by Leafa and me with our own eyes too.
“King Þrym’s subordinates, the «Frost Giant Tribe» is preparing a big plan to invade Jötunheimr from Niflheimr, many of us, the «Rock Giant Tribe», had been captured and imprisoned in the various fortresses and castles they had built. The king built the castle «Þrymheimr» in the large mass of ice once called «Urðr’s Spring», and ruled over this land from that castle. No longer having the power we once had, my two younger sisters and I had to escape to the bottom of a certain frozen spring.”
Urðr’s eyelids were half-downcast, she resumed the tale which was probably nearing the end. We had partly forgotten that she was an NPC, and the tale was just an in-game quest, wordlessly listening.
“The frost giant tribe wasn’t satisfied with just that, but also wants to massacre every one of my kin, the beasts living on this land. That way, my power will completely vanish, and it would allow Þrymheimr to float up to the plane above, Alfheim.”
“W-What! If it happens, Alne will be destroyed!”
Klein, who seemed to be deeply immersed into the story, yelled. The non-fixed response routine and partial AI, Queen Urðr nodded at Klein’s words and said,
“King Þrym plans to enclose Alfheim in ice and snow, then continue attacking until reaching the top of the world tree Yggdrasil, where the «Golden Apple» exists, his objective is to obtain that fruit.”
……Something like that exists up there? I thought for a moment, then suddenly realized, near the summit of the world tree, there was an impossibly strong eagle, a named mob, guarding an inaccessible area. It could be possible that the golden apple existed inside.
Urðr gazed at the ground, her eyebrows still bated with sadness.
“Being irritated by being unable to easily destroy my kin, Þrym and the frost giant generals started to use the power of ye fairies. Inviting them to hunt my kin, using Excaliber as a reward. However, it is not possible for Þrym to bestow the sword to others. Once Þrymheimr loses Excaliber, the blessings from Yggdrasil will return to this land, and that castle will melt.”
“Eh……then, then, Excaliber as the reward is all lie!? Is it possible to have a quest like that!?”
The queen generously nodded at Lisbeth’s wild voice and said,
“When the god of blacksmith Völundr forged the sword, he discarded the one in which he slipped when striking with the hammer, which looks just like Excaliber, but it is actually the «Fake Sword Caliburn». Þrym is probably going to give that fake sword as the reward, while it is strong enough, it doesn’t possess the true power of the real one.”
“S-Sly……is it alright for the king to do this……?”
Leafa murmured in confusion. Urðr nodded again and exhaled deeply.
“That cunning is Þrym’s strongest weapon. But he was too impatient in destroying my kin, and committed one mistake. In order to cooperate with the fairy warriors they lured in using the fake reward, almost all of the giant subordinates are down on the ground. So, the defense in the castle is now thin.”
Arriving at this point, I finally realized the future of this quest —— no, this «queen’s request».
The queen of the lake Urðr stretched forth her large arm toward «Þrymheimr» in the air and said,
“Ye fairies, please invade Þrymheimr and remove Excaliber from its «Plinth».”
“……Somehow, that was an amazing tale……”
Was the first thing Asuna murmured after «Queen of the Lake Urðr» melted into shiny water droplets and disappeared. Tonkii ascended again —— this time gradually.
Her words were followed by Sinon’s, who seemed to have recovered her thoughts, talking as she moved her light blue tail,
“This is…a normal quest……right? But isn’t this assignment, the story too great? ……Once all the beast type evil-gods had been annihilated, the frost giants will invade the surface next, did she say this?”
“……Yes, she did.”
I nodded, then twisted my neck while folding my arms.
“But, would the management’s side go that far without any updates or event notices? For any other MMOs, any «Boss Invasion Event» would normally come with at least one week of advance notice though……”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
Then, Yui who sat on my left shoulder flew to hover in the middle of us and said in a volume everyone could hear,
“Well, This might be just a guess, but……”
With a slight pause as if to think about what to say, she then continued,
“——This «ALfheim Online» has one major difference from other standard VRMMOs from «The Seed». That is, the game operation isn’t based on the feature reduced version of the «Cardinal System», but uses the same full specs version as the one used in the old «Sword Art Online».”
That was certainly correct. It wasn’t a story I wanted to remember, but ALO was created by a man whom was possessed by greed, in order to use some of the old SAO players in his illegal research, he copied the whole original SAO server. So the autonomous system operating the world «Cardinal» in ALO has the same capability as the one used in SAO, of course.
Yui looked around at our attentive listening faces, then added,
“The original Cardinal System has a few functions which had been cut out in the shrunk version. One of them is the «Automatic Quest Generation Function». It will collect legends and folklore of the world through the network, and continue to generate infinite amount of quests using proper names and story patterns.”
Klein’s stubbly jaw dropped abruptly as he groaned.
“That means, that disastrous quest from pacific we did in Aincrad was created by system-sama?”
“……I can recall too many of them. At the time we reached the 75th floor, just those listed in the quest database of the information shop exceeded ten thousand……”
At one time, in order to earn the management fund, the guild had to seriously take on many of those quests, the KoB sub-leader said as she shook her head. Silica who was next to her stared to the distance and muttered,
“Also, I could hear this sometimes-myo. It was probably on the 30th floor, the slaughter quest to kill the ogres wearing strange masks and using chainsaws, but no matter how many times they were killed, the next week the quest would pop up on the bulletin board again. What legend did it come from though……”
For quests like those, I too have a lot in my memories, but at this rate, until we reach the ice pyramid, it’d be a meeting to complain about old Aincrad. So, in order the steer the topic back, I cleared my throat and said,
“That said, Yui, is this quest also created by the Cardinal System?”
“Judging from the behavior of the NPC earlier, the probability is high. It might be possible that the automatic quest generator that stopped until now had been restarted from the management’s side.”
Yui continued with a difficult face after she nodded to my question.
“If the story keeps progressing like this, the situation will end up in the worst state. That ice dungeon floats up to Alfheim above, Alne collapses, the evil-god class monsters popping up on the surface…… No, even worse……”
Her lips closed for a moment —— the AI girl then continued with a frightened expression,
“……According to the data in my archive, as ALO has included parts of the Norse mythology in the quest, it’d certainly lead to the so-called «The Last War». Not only do the frost giant tribe from Jötunheimr and Niflheimr invade, but those from the lower plane «Muspellsheimr», the flame giant tribe would also appear, and burn down the world tree…… That is……”
Suguha —— Leafa, who loves legends and mythology, also has those kind of books in her room, said quietly. Immediately her emerald pupils widened and she shouted “But!”.
“Something like that…… The game system shouldn’t be able to completely destroy its own managed maps though……!”
What she said made sense. But Yui gently shook her head.
“……The original Cardinal System has the authority to completely destroy the map. Because, the old Cardinal’s final duty was to destroy the floating castle Aincrad after all.”
This time we sank into complete silence, unable to say anything.
The next person who opened their mouth was Sinon, whom up till now was mostly listening.
“——If that «Ragnarök» really happened and it wasn’t the management side’s intention, isn’t it possible to do a roll back?”
“O……Oh, that’s it, that’s right.”
Klein nodded repeatedly. Simply speaking, «Roll back» was used to overwrite the current situation with backup data. It was mainly done when players gained unexpected benefits due to bugs or programming oversights. In this case, if Alfheim had been turned into scorched earth, although it wouldn’t affect individual player’s exp or items, nobody would want the whole place to be like Salamander territory’s «Burnt Land».
However, for some reason, this time Yui didn’t nod in agreement.
“It would be possible if the management’s side did backup all the data manually and kept the physical media in a separated location…… however, if they used Cardinal’s automatic backup function, depending on the configuration, it could be possible that the roll back would only affect player data and not include the fields.”
Again, all members went silent for two seconds. Klein suddenly shouted “Oh yeah!” then opened the system window. But just after that, he held his head and said “No good!”.
“……What did you do?”
Lisbeth asked while turning to the katana user’s miserable face.
“Well, calling a GM, just wanting to confirm if they know about this situation . But it’s off hours for human support now……”
“End of the year, Sunday, in the morning too……”
I sighed, shook my head, then looked into the sky.
The huge ice pyramid was quite close now. It’s three hundred meters wide on each side, if it pierced up through Alne it would certainly cause a great clamor. While half of its population had migrated to «Yggdrasil City» at the top of the tree, Alne was still the raiding base for the advanced dungeons on Alne plateau, the central trading market for all races, along with its familiar crowded weekend nights, it was the town full of my profound memories.
“……When it comes down to this, there’s nothing but to do it, Onii-chan.”
Leafa held a big medallion hung on her right hand up high.
It was given by «Queen of the Lake Urðr», a cleanly cut large jewel was inlaid in it. But now, more than sixty percent of the cut surface had sunk into pitch black darkness, not reflecting any light.
When the jewel was dyed in total darkness, it meant all of the beast type evil-gods had been completely annihilated without a single one left, and Urðr would be stripped of all her power. At that time, «Frost Giant King Þrym»’s Alfheim invasion would begin.
“……That’s right. Initially we gathered today to raid that castle and get «Excaliber» anyway. It’s in our favor when the defense is currently weakened too.”
I nodded, then opened the system window and operated the equipment figure.
Long swords appeared hanging crossed on my back, one was humbly made by Lisbeth’s equipment shop, and the other was dropped from the 15th floor boss we defeated the other day in the new Aincrad.
Looking at my nostalgic back carrying two swords, Klein smiled from ear to ear and yelled,
“Alright! This is this year’s final big quest! I’ve decided, let’s get on the tomorrow’s front page of MMO Tomorrow!”
The target was somewhat realistic, so this time Lisbeth didn’t make a wry smile. “Oo―!” Everyone said in chorus, Tonkii under our feet moved its wings violently and cried “Krrr―n!”.
The aviation type evil-god increased its ascending speed and crossed the pyramid at once, its big body hovered along the entrance at the top of the pyramid. Leafa, who was the last person, jumped to the ice terrace, stroked Tonkii’s big ear and said,
“Just wait, Tonkii. We’ll surely take your country back!”
She then turned about and pulled the long sword hanging loosely on her waist. At the same time, we took our weapons out too, in front of the big twin ice gates which stood tall in front of us.
Just as Urðr had said, there was no first guardian here like always, and the doors began to open. Exchanging glances with each other, we quickly set up a formation, with the front row being Leafa, Klein, and I; Lis and Silica were in the middle, while on the back row were Asuna and Sinon, we kicked the ice floor to begin running, and broke into the huge castle «Þrymheimr».
In ALO, the upper limit of a party size was, strangely, seven people. The reason why it didn’t use six or eight like most other titles, until now, has never been officially told. That way, the maximum size of a raid party was 7x7 or forty nine people. The currency obtained from the monsters would automatically be distributed by the system function, as manual distribution would be very troublesome to calculate.
Well, from the seven people slot, if filled with only close friends, five would be pretty much fixed. With Asuna, Lis, Silica, Leafa, and I. All were high school students, furthermore, four went to the same school, and two even lived together, so the timing was easy to set.
The sixth and seventh slots could still be smoothly filled up, by the company employee Klein, coffee shop and bar master Agil, the senior bureaucrat Chrysheight, or Leafa’s real life friend Recon. Recon was also a high school student, he was part of the olden day’s «Yggdrasil Capturing Operation» and had been recruited by the Sylph lord Sakuya to help with scouting duty. Currently he was a permanent member of the Lord manor staff in Swilvane town, I had played together with him for a brief period of time when Aincrad was over the sky of the Sylph territory.
This time, I was glad the slot was filled with the bow user I met in GGO —— Sinon, however, there was still one unresolved problem for the party.
It was the lack of a mage. The only permanent member who had increased their magic skill was Undine Asuna, and as half was spent on her thin sword skills, her master leveled skills were only for support and recovery purposes. Leafa was also a spell fencer but her spells were only for enfeebling during combat. Then Silica had a little magic but her main focus was on support duty; Lis, of course, had spent more than half of her skills on smithing; Agil also had more than thirty percent on trading skills; then Klein and I had all our skill points focused on physical close combat, the so-called «Brain muscle» type. There was no one capable of casting attack spells.
Occasionally, when Recon, the Sylph dagger wielder with a mysterious build of very high dark magic; or Chrysheight whose freezing attack magic was at the lord class; joined as the seventh slot, the flexibility in combat was much wider. So lacking the fire power of a mage was really our weak point.
But that couldn’t be helped. Because most of us had migrated from SAO —— a world where magic didn’t exist. My one-handed straight sword, Asuna’s thin sword, Lis’ war hammer, Silica’s dagger, Klein’s katana, Agil’s axe, then Leafa’s long sword and Sinon’s bow, were all not just mere weapons, but could be exaggerated into considering them as proof of our existence. At this point, discarding our weapons to raise our magic skill was already impossible. Even knowing it wasn’t efficient, but all we could do was to trust our battle style that focused on physical attack, we managed to come this far with it anyway.
Still, we encountered dangerous situations occasionally.
“This is bad, Onii-chan, that gold one has high physical resistance.”
Leafa at my left side whispered quickly.
Before I could say anything after nodding to Leafa, «That gold one» brandished its extraordinary huge battle axe up high.
“Shock wave attack in two seconds! one, zero!”
Yui who sat on my head exuded a loud voice despite her small body. Following the countdown, the five people from the front and middle rows split up to the left and right, creating a gap. The blade of the axe swung roaring down, and created a shock wave, cut in a straight line, which passed through the gap and hit the wall on the other side violently.
It had already been twenty minutes since we broke into the ice castle «Þrymheimr».
It was just as «Queen of the Lake Urðr» said, the number of the enemies inside the dungeon was quite thin. The encounter rate of the small fry mob was almost zero. Half of the floor’s sub-bosses were also absent. However, the boss defending the hall in front of the stairs to the lower floor was there as expected, it was time to show our overwhelming attack power to the boss which once forced Asuna, Leafa, and I to say “No way―!”.
Nevertheless, we somehow defeated the one-eyed boss on the first floor without twisting our hands, ran through the second floor, and managed to reach the boss room again, however——
What awaited for us there was the giant humanoid with the head of a bull, a large evil-god of the so-called «Minotaur» type. Moreover, there were two of them, the one on the right had its whole body in pitch black, the body of the other one on the left glittered with gold, the weapons they both used were battle axes with blades as large as dining tables.
As the first floor’s Cyclops boss was defeated easily by the icicle in the center of the room, even without magic attacks, I first thought that we were fine, but there was one problem. Apparently, the black one resisted magic, while the gold one would be physical resistant, and thinking that it was fine resulted in an unexpectedly high price to pay.
Then we should defeat the black quickly and after that, attack the gold with carefully set up battle tactics; however, the two bull heads, unexpectedly, seemed to be connected by strong bonds, when the black’s HP decreased, the gold would ignore the hate and come to protect it. During that time, the black behind it would curl up its body, it seemed to be some form of meditation power that could recover its HP.
After they did that once, we concentrated our attacks on the gold while the black was meditating, but as it had high physical resistance, its HP barely decreased. And of course we had problem with our HP, even though we could avoid the instant death attacks, the ranged attack’s splash damage was impossible to avoid; with the healing only by Asuna, it was obvious she wouldn’t be able to support us for long.
“Kirito-kun, at this pace, my MP will only last for about one hundred and fifty seconds!”
I heard Asuna shout from behind me, so I held up my right hand sword in reply.
In such an endurance battle, if the healer’s MP ran out, what awaited the party was total annihilation —— in other words a «Wipe». If someone managed to survive, it was possible to collect and resurrect the Remain Lights one by one, but it would require a lot of time and effort. However, in case of a wipe, of course we would have to restart from the save point in Alne. But the problem was how much time we had left——
As if she could read my concerns, Leafa who was next to me whispered again.
“The medallion is more than seventy percent in darkness now, we won’t have enough time if we «Death warp».”
Nodding, I deeply inhaled and enclosed it in my stomach.
If this was the old Aincrad, I’d issue a withdrawal without a second thought. In that world «Betting on the possibility» was not allowed. But now in ALO, it was no longer a Death Game. Even if the Cardinal System turned the entire Alfheim into a scorched field, it would affect only one thing, which was the «game enjoyment». So in this case, I had to believe in my companions strength.
“Everyone, when it comes down to this, there’s only one thing we can do!”
Avoiding the gold Minotaur’s axe swing and affirming the gauge of the black Minotaur recharging its HP in the back, I shouted,
“This is all-or-nothing, concentrate our attack using Sword Skills on the gold!”
Just that, was the game system that distinguished the former SAO from the others.
In March of this year with the «Aincrad implementation update», the management team had introduced Sword Skills into ALO. However, there were some modifications, one of them was the «Additional damage property». The current high ranked Sword Skills no longer have only pure physical property, but are equipped with magical properties of earth, water, fire, wind, darkness, or holy. Therefore, it would be able to pass through the gold Minotaur’s high physical resistance.
Of course, there were risks involved. Most of the consecutive Sword Skills had a long stun duration after finishing the move. If we took a direct hit from those battle axes in that time period, the HP gauge would be completely reduced to zero. There was a case where the front and middle rows could be instantly eliminated from the horizontal ranged attack as well.
However, everyone understood those risks and nodded immediately.
“Oh yeah! That’s what I’m waiting for!”
Klein, at the right wing, held his beloved katana high above his head. Jumping to my left was Leafa who also set up her long sword at her waist. At my back, Lis and Silica tightened their grip on their weapons in preparation.
“Silica, use «Foam» on the count of three! ——Two, one, now!”
I instructed based on the gold’s action, Silica then shouted,
“Pina, «Bubble Breath»!”
Normally, issuing a command to the pet didn’t ensure one hundred percent success rate regardless of the taming mastery. But I have never seen Pina ignoring Silica’s command before. This time too, the small dragon dancing in the air above Silica opened its mouth and released rainbow colored bubbles.
The bubbles slipped through the air and burst in front of the gold bull’s nose which was preparing its big attack using its battle axe. The bull with weak magic resistance went under a confusion effect for just a second, and stopped its movement.
As a response to my shout —— all the party member’s weapons aside from Asuna’s went into dazzling multi-colored light effects.
Why did the floating castle Aincrad’s creator Kayaba Akihito create the system of «Unique Skills» with such deviated power?
Until now I still couldn’t grasp the real reason behind it.
The skill «Holy Sword» that person possessed could be clear example. Being the leader of the strongest guild Knights of the Blood, the paladin who stood in front of many players with his absolutely unbreakable crossed shield, and those legends would be turned up-side down at the 95th floor, when that man would turn himself into the worst demon king of all RPG last bosses in existence.
In that moment, the «MMORPG with the main story driven by player’s action» would be realized. An Incarnating Radius —— realized world. In order to achieve his purpose of the world creation, it was necessary for him to continue being the absolutely strongest paladin. Even with «Holy Sword» and «Immortality properties», he also had to depend on the irregular power that was the «Over Assist».
But if just the unique skill such as the holy sword were sufficient, it would not be necessary to have an MMO where ‘The Hero was the only one who could confront the demon king’. Of course, it would lead to a difference in the player’s battle power, which wouldn’t be appropriate based on the rules of fairness.
Yet, he still gave «Dual Blades» and probably a few other unique skills to the players.
Those abilities outside of rules resulted in the unequal distribution of the resources, that guy even understood that it could distort how the world would progress along his plan. In fact, during my duel with Heathcliff for Asuna’s withdrawal from the guild, if I didn’t have the «Dual Blades» skill, he could have won without having to use the Over Assist. Recalling that moment of irregularity caused me to realize Heathcliff’s true identity on the 75th floor. By giving me the unique skill, his imagined world —— his story had to end at just three-quarters of the way.
In ALO’s world, in the rare moments that I held two swords, I always had a thought in a corner of my mind, Why?
At the same time, there was also a bit of guilt. Of course, I defeated Heathcliff on the 75th floor —— It was a victory I didn’t regret. If the game hadn’t cleared at that point, the victims of the incident would certainly have increased even further. Among those might be people dear to me. Or perhaps, even myself.
However, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. ‘Was it alright like that?’ and ‘Mustn’t we climb to the 100th floor and fight with the demon king Heathcliff there?’ No, not ‘must’. It was what I wanted to do, it was just my egotism, the worst egotism. That was why I hesitated equipping two swords in Alfheim.
——However, there was no «Unique Skill» in this world. The new management team had verified the enormous number of sword skills and removed some suspicious conditional skills from the system —— rumors said about ten skills were removed.
So I couldn’t use the dual wielding sword skills such as «Double Circular» and «Starburst Stream» anymore. While I could reproduce its movement without System Assist to ninety-nine percent, and I had proven it against both human and monsters, however, it couldn’t be used here. Because my self-made dual wielding skill version, although it could reproduce the technique’s power, it didn’t contain any magical attribute, so it was ineffective against the high physical resistance gold Minotaur.
However, «Using one handed sword skills while equipped with two swords» had one advantage —— as Leafa said «A lead tipped shinai was like terribly cheating a hundred fold».
Being hit by the special move «Bubble Breath» from the little dragon Pina, the gold Minotaur was stunned for about a second, in front of it was me, Klein was on the right, Leafa on the left, and from both sides Lis and Silica were also there, we all charged in at the same time.
Everyone roared, then drew the highest leveled sword skills we learned. Klein’s katana was wrapped with a rampaging flame, Leafa’s long sword created a flashing gale, Silica’s dagger had water spray moving around it, Lis’ mace emitted a groaning lightning flash. In addition to that, from behind, the arrows glowing with its ice arrowhead flew in rapid succession, accurately piercing at the tip of the nose which seemed to be the bull’s vital point.
At the same time, my right handed sword glowed in an orange light, and I assaulted it with all my power.
Five high-speed continuous thrusts then cut downward, upward, before another full force upward cut. The one-handed sword eight combo sword skill «Howling Octave». Its attributes were forty percent physical and sixty percent fire. Within the one-handed sword category, it was in a high tier. So of course, the stun after the move —— the skill delay was also long, however,
With a voiceless yell, my consciousness had detached from my right hand after releasing the attacks. The movement command output from my brain to the AmuSphere was to cut off everything for a moment. My next command was to start transmitting commands to the left hand.
The right hand was on the auto-pilot thanks to the System Assist, it went on with the final upward cut. And, parallel to it, my left hand moved, drawing the sword backward. The blade released bright blue lighting.
The right sword made a deep cut at the exposed abdomen of the bull headed humanoid. Originally, this would impose a delay, causing my avatar to become rigid. However, the parallel activation of the sword skill of the left sword had overwritten the delay. The slash drew a horizontal arc and cleaved at the bull’s right abdomen.
It was not normal for my body, no, my left and right half of the brain to think of separate things at the same time. But here, my consciousness stopped its integration to the sword skill, leaving the right hand’s skill to the System Assist, while concentrating on the left hand.
The sword causing the horizontal cut and buried in the enemy avatar rotated ninety-degrees. I then pushed down on the grip in my hand, the blade jumped up and dissected the enemy vertically from the belly. Once the blade exited, this time I slashed down from above. It was the three hit heavy attack, effective against large type monsters, «Savage Fulcrum». Fifty percent physical and fifty percent ice.
On the verge of finishing the attack from the left hand——
I switched the output from my brain once again.
This timing, if it were too late or too early, could cause the skill to misfire, and cause the avatar to become rigid. The window of error allowed was less than one-tenth of a second. I noticed this skill combination by chance around three months ago, and I wouldn’t want to recall how much I have been practicing since then, but the success rate was still below fifty percent. With feeling and half praying, the sword in my right hand started to move.
Mounted on a short fervor, the blade glowed in light blue. From the vertical cut without a backward motion, then up and down combination, followed by a full powered upper cut. A high speed four hit combo «Vertical Square»——
Up until this point, the total number of hits was already fifteen. Approaching the number of a high rank Dual Blades’ skill. While it continued to be hit, the enemy would be under a delay so there was no need to think about the defense.
When Vertical Square started, the skill delay of my companions were already over.
It was obviously a war cry from Klein, as the second wave of concentrated attacks engulfed the gold Minotaur. The dungeon floor trembled, a large amount of the enemy’s HP gauge was suddenly shaved off.
Just before the final upper slash, I challenged the fourth «Skill Connect» without any hesitation.
This didn’t mean that any one-handed sword skill was suitable to lead in. The movement by the System Assist, and the movement of the non-attack arm, all needed to be in continuous motion to the next skill.
Zgaaan!, a loud burst of sound emitted out, the sword penetrated the enemy’s abdomen. The huge body five times my size was knocked back violently. At that time, the second attacks from Klein and the others were already completed. This time, everyone’s avatar, including mine, was struck by the long skill delay.
The HP gauge of the gold Minotaur stained in deep red and decreased toward the left edge——
Then stopped and was left with only two percent remaining.
A cruel smile emerged from the bull head. The enemy had recovered from the delay, it drew its huge axe back horizontally. That must be a ranged attack using a high speed revolution which would result in an instant death if hit. A “jump back!” command resounded in my awareness, but my body wouldn’t follow. The axe heartlessly shone, the whirling wind occurred at the boss’ feet.
While my spirit screamed sharply, a blue gale ran past from my right side. The rapier held in its right hand released five consecutive thrusts at a speed so high our eyes couldn’t see it. It was the high ranking extreme speed thin sword skill «Neutron». With the damage properties of twenty percent physical and eighty percent holy, the remaining HP of the gold Minotaur, who was readying itself to swing its axe, was silently robbed.
The movement of the evil-god halted. From behind, the black Minotaur which had completed its HP meditation brandished its axe in triumph. However, the partner who had been protecting it up until now was screaming in a high pitched sound —— its huge body blasted in all directions with a stiff sound effect.
The eyes of the black Minotaur widened in surprise, and looked at the seven people who had recovered from their skill delay.
“……Alright, in front, that’s the seat of honor.”
Klein said quickly while baring his teeth.
The katana user finished off the black Minotaur evil-god by stabbing it with his special skill, as if releasing the grudges he had kept up to this moment. Not paying any attention to the drop items on the spot the enemy avatar had burst apart, he turned around and yelled,
“Oi Kiritard! What did ya do just now!?”
That question obviously referred to my usage of one-handed sword skills while equipped with two swords, and explaining in detail would be very troublesome, so I obeyed my inner thoughts and said while giving my most troubled face,
“……Do I have to say it?”
“’Course! After seeing something like that!”
It seemed I had pressed Klein’s curiosity button, and since it was unavoidable, I answered briefly,
“It was a skill outside the system, «Skill Connect».”
Oo―, was the sound which flowed out of Lis, Silica, and Sinon mouth; suddenly Asuna pressed her fingertips to her right temple and growled,
“Um……somehow, I got a strong feeling of Déjà vu……”
“It’s just your imagination.”
I shrugged my shoulders and clapped my hand on our healer-sama’s back, whom despite her support duty in the back row, had sneaked in during the battle with the gold Minotaur to deliver the killing blow.
“This is not the time for relaxed talk. Leafa, how much time do we have left?”
After sheathing her long sword in its scabbard behind her waist, Leafa held up the medallion hanging from her neck. From a few steps away, I could see that the light within the jewel was almost completely lost.
“……At the current pace, we still have an hour or two.”
“I see. ——Yui, this dungeon structure has four floors right?”
I continued asking, so the little fairy sitting on my head the whole time responded clearly,
“Yes, the third floor is around seventy percent of the second floor size, the forth floor should be mostly the boss room.”
Stretching my right hand, my fingertips stroked my hair while I quickly considered the situation.
At this moment, in the Jötunheimr field far below us, the players accepting the «Frost Giant Tribe» side’s quest and the hunting of the beast type evil-gods had gained momentum. The number of quest participants would only increase and not decrease. The remaining time was estimated to be around an hour. The battle with the last boss —— probably «King Þrym» himself —— should take about thirty minutes, we wouldn’t be able to move to the third and forth floor within thirty minutes.
If there were a little more time, we could explain the situation to the players on the field, asking for their assistance in revoking the ongoing quest, but at this moment we didn’t have enough time to go back to the ground. The other alternative was to message the fairy lord requesting reinforcements, but organizing a force in the capital city beyond the mountain range, moving it to the Alne plateau, and reaching Jötunheimr from the dungeon stairs, by the time they did them the sun would have set.
In other words, with just seven people, we were in a hopeless situation. —— Or rather, factoring in the failure of «Queen Urðr»’side quest from the Cardinal’s automatic quest generator function, Þrymheimr castle would surface on Alfheim, and trigger the start of a large-scale campaign quest «Ragnarök». The fault was obviously the character who inherited its function from its creator.
“……In that case, I don’t care if it’s the king of the evil-gods or not, we will just «Smash» him for good!”
Lisbeth said that with a slap on my back, the rest of them altogether went “Oo!” in agreement. Where did they get that recklessness from? While thinking that, I strongly nodded.
“——Alright, everyone’s HP and MP have fully recovered right? Then let’s clean up the third floor quickly!”
The combined voice echoed once more, seven people then kicked the floor, and started running, aiming for the boss’ room on the lowest floor, which was visible through the ice.
Just as Yui said, the third floor was clearly narrower than the second floor. It was natural for the lower parts of an upside down pyramid, but this place was quite a narrow and also had a complicated passage. For a normal clearing, we would be confused by the gimmick of the paths, but we had, enshrined on my head, the Navigation Pixie-sama which could give the latest model of an intelligent car navigation system a run for its money.
Our trump card accessed the map data, and with her instructions, we could run through the winding passage at full speed. Even the gimmick puzzles using levers, gears, or stepping switches were cleared without any time used to solve them. If this affair were to be observed from the outside, there would be no mistake for them to think that we were doing a time attack for the fastest clearing.
We ran into the sub-boss twice, but we still reached the boss room of the third floor in only eighteen minutes. What awaited us there had twice the size of the Cyclops and Minotaur from the previous floors, both sides of its long lower body had ten pairs of centipede-like feet, it was clearly the creepy evil giant, but it didn’t have much physical resistance. Of course its attack power was through the roof, so the HP gauge belonging to Klein and me were in the red so many times after being targeted by it. This battle, which made my stomach sore later, when I thought that either of us dying would lead to a wipe, went on for nine minutes.
During that time; Lis, Silica, Sinon, and Pina tried their best to cut down the giant’s feet one by one, I then finished it off with the «Skill Connect» which included multiple sword skills once it was unable to move. With our high spirits, we rushed into the fourth floor to beat King Þrym and his Niflheimr. Once we stepped into the passage leading to the boss room, we stopped, as in front of our eyes —— a scene came into view.
It was a cage made of elongated icicles on the wall’s edge.
Behind the fence caused by the stalactite growing sharply from both the ground and the ceiling, was a single figure. It was not of a giant’s size. As it had collapsed on the ground, its accurate size was difficult to tell, but its body should be about the same height as the Undine Asuna’s.
The skin was as white as the powdery snow lying thick around. The long flowing hair was a deep brown gold. The volume of the chest covered by the clothing that could be seen from her sorry state, it would be best not to say this out loud, as it could easily overwhelm all of our girl members. Both her hands and feet were shackled in the rugged ice.
The unexpected scene caused us to halt and feel worried, then the captive girl’s shoulders made a sudden but subtle shake, as she lifted her face, with the blue chains ringing.
Her pupils were also of the same tea gold, like her hair. Her face, if it was a player avatar, would surely be because of overwhelming luck when it was created, or the account was bought with the large sum of money. However, her face was sublimed with the western European beauty, which was quite rare in this game.
Blinking once, her long eyelashes moved down then up, the girl said in a fine voice,
“Please…… Help me……out of here……”
The katana user was sucked aimlessly toward the ice cage, I grabbed and pulled the bandana tail which dangled from behind his head.
“It’s a trap.”
“That’s a trap.”
The last two were Sinon’s and Lis’s words.
Klein straightened his back and turned around, as he made a subtle expression while scratching his head.
“O-Oh……it’s a trap. ……A trap, right?”
For the katana user on his death bed’s sake, I asked in a small voice, “Yui?”. The pixie on my head promptly replied,
“It’s an NPC. Just like Urðr-san, there is connection to the language engine module. ——But, there is one difference. This person has the HP gauge enabled.”
Normally, the HP gauge of the quest giving NPCs would be disabled to prevent them from taking damage. The exceptions were, when the NPC was the escort quest’s objective, or the NPC was actually——
“It’s a trap.”
“I think it’s a trap.”
Asuna, Silica, and Leafa said at the same time.
His eyebrows made a 八 shape, his eyes widened, and his mouth was pursed; I patted Klein’s shoulder who was stiff in those complex expressions and quickly said,
“Of course it could be possible that it isn’t a trap, but now we don’t have time for trial and error. We need to reach Þrym’s place as early as possible, even if it is a second sooner.”
“O……Oo, hmm, well, that’s right, yeah.”
Klein nodded slightly and moved his glance from the ice cage.
When we ran until just a few steps before reaching the stairs, the voice came again from behind,
——To be honest, I also had the urge to help her, as I didn’t think that NPCs were merely the system’s automatically generated moving objects, but dwellers living in this world. If this was in a normal quest progression, helping that girl, accompanying her, and as the story progressed until the end, hearing her laugh from behind, “Uhahahaha, you fool―”, would still be amusing. However, we were not in the situation to take that unnecessary risk now. Just for this fact Klein would certainly——
The sound of footsteps on the ice which was aligned nicely up to this moment had one which was no longer synchronized.
The tall and thin body of the katana user turned around, his hands clenched and head facing downwards. He said in a low voice from his stubbly bearded mouth,
“……It’s a trap. I understand it’s a trap. ————But, even it’s a trap. Even knowing it’s a trap……”
Then he suddenly lifted his face up, it might have been my imagination but I saw something thin and blur on his eyes.
“Still……no matter what, how could I leave this person behind! Even……even if it leads to the failure of the quest…… leads to Alne’s destruction ……even with all those, I’d still help her here, this is, this is my way of life —— for a bushidō like me!”
He then ran noisily back to the ice cage, as we watched Klein’s back, there were two thoughts ran inside our minds —— namely ——
…………He’s an idiot.
Klein-san’s so cool!
However, which thought had a higher count was a question which will never have an answer.
Klein shouted “I’ll help you right now!” at the captive woman who supported her upper body with her hands, while grabbing his beloved katana with his left hand. At the next moment, he unleashed the iai sword skill «Tsujikaze» (Whirlwind), which destroyed one side of the icicle cage.
The girl rescued from the ice cage suddenly turned into a giant monster and attacked us —— fortunately, there was no ungrateful wretch like that.
With four additional flashes from Klein’s katana, the chain restraining her hands and feet were cut off, and the beautiful girl lifted her face weakly and whispered,
“……Thank you, Fairy Swordsman-sama.”
“Can you stand? Any injuries?”
Squatting down and holding his right hand out, Klein was completely «immersed» in it. Well, during a quest in a VRMMO, being immersed in the story was the right practice. I was the same too, giving it my all in order to fulfill Queen Urðr’s request to stop Giant King Þrym’s ambition, Klein just took one wrong step here. It was wrong, but, how to say it——
“Yes……, I’m fine.”
“The exit is a bit far, could you go back alone, Nee-san?”
To that question, the beautiful girl’s eyes looked downwards.
The «Automatic response/verbalize module engine» of the Cardinal System, to put it simply, was a system to answer ‘B’ if the player said ‘A’, but with extremely complex pattern lists. With the provisioning from advance prediction and learning functions, the NPC connected to the module could make a natural conversation with the player —— of course it was still artificial —— if observed carefully.
That module may have caused some breakthrough, but the automatic response NPC was still far from achieving the human-like «emotion» and unlimited «intelligence» of the little fairy Yui sitting on my head. While it was still a big difference from the fixed response NPC which replied with the same dialog no matter what was said, there were still many cases when the auto-response NPC was unable to understand player’s speech, forcing them to find the «correct question».
I thought this might be the case from the silence of the golden haired beauty, however, unexpectedly, she raised her face and said before Klein could ask a new question.
“……I cannot just flee from the castle like this. In order to reclaim the tribe’s treasure the Giant King Þrym had stole, I crept into this castle, but I was found and caught by the third gate guardian. I couldn’t leave without the treasure. If you would be so kind, would you please allow me to accompany you to Þrym’s room?”
This time, Klein who held the «Man who lives bushidō life» banner was unable to find an immediate response and groaned awkwardly. Watching from several meters away, Asuna, who was next to me whispered quietly,
“Somehow, this is quite suspicious……”
“I think so too……”
I nodded in return, then Klein turned around from the girl, showed his sorry face to me and said,
“……Ah-well——, alright, alright. There’s no choice but to go along until the end. It isn’t 100% sure this is a trap anyway.”
With my answer like that, Klein grinned and declared in high spirits to the beautiful girl.
“Alright, let’s go nee-san! We’re sharing the same destiny, let’s kick Þrym’s butt together!”
“Thank you very much, swordsman-sama!”
At the same time the golden haired beauty clung to Klein’s left arm, as the party leader, a dialog window appeared in my vision asking for the permission to let the NPC join.
“Let’s hope Yui won’t say anything odd―”
While mumbling, I pressed the ‘Yes’ button on the window. On the upper left of my vision, below the mini HP/MP gauge of the party members, an eighth gauge appeared.
The beautiful girl’s name was [Freyja]. It was a name I wasn’t sure I had heard before. Her HP and MP were really high, especially her MP, which had a quite surprising number. She was probably a mage type.
Like this, if she stayed as our companion until the end, she could really be great help, and while I thought so, I glanced at the medallion on Leafa’s neck. The clean cut jewel seemed to be more than ninety percent in darkness now. The remaining time should be around thirty minutes, I inhaled deeply before speaking,
“From the dungeon structure, after descending those stairs it will probably be the boss’ room. The boss is certainly stronger than those we faced so far, we’ll just have to fight with our all. At the start, focus on defense while observing its attack patterns, and counter attack when there’s a chance. Be careful when the boss’ gauge changes to yellow or red as it might change its attack patterns.”
Looking at the nodding party members, I exclaimed in a strengthened tone,
“——Last battle, fly ahead with full throttle!”
With the third shout since the start of the quest; Yui on my head, Pina on Silica’s shoulder, and the golden haired beautiful NPC Freyja also raised their voices in chorus.
The width of the descending stairs increased as we went down, and the decorative objects on the surrounding pillars and statues became more gorgeous at the same time. The «approaching boss room and resulting map data would be larger» tradition from Aincrad was also present here.
Standing at the end of the path were two wolves carved into the massive ice gate. So this was the throne room of King Þrym. Even though we made sure there were no gimmicks in the surroundings, we still approached the gate cautiously.
The gate began opening to both sides automatically once we were about five meters away. The cold air, along with a difficult to explain pressure, came from within. Asuna began re-applying supporting magics, and with Freyja’s help, the maximum HP amount of all members were increased by an unknown buff.
Everyone made eye contact after confirming the numbers of buff icons below our HP/MP gauges. Then, we nodded and rushed in at once.
The interior was an extraordinarily huge space in both horizontal and vertical directions. The wall and floor were blue ice, like the rest of the dungeon. The purple fire swayed eerily on the ice candles. High up on the ceiling were chandeliers of the same color, lined up. But what grabbed our attention was the dazzling reflection from the left and right wall lined along the interior.
Gold. Gold coins and ornaments, swords, armors, shields, sculptures and furniture, all kinds of golden objects were piled up to a scale where it was impossible to count. As the insides of the room sank into darkness, the full extent of the treasure was entirely unfathomable.
“…………How much Yrd are all these worth……?”
Inside the room; Lisbeth, the only person who managed a player shop here murmured in a trance. But what was inside my mind was “With this much, your storage would surely explode!”, of course I didn’t say that to her.
On the right side of the party now standing still, would Klein still able to uphold his bushidō way of life? He walked aimlessly a few steps toward the treasure mountain. And, increased his speed as he approached the treasure——
“……A small bug is flying.”
The low frequency mutter could be heard from the dark open space deep within the room, causing the floor to tremble.
“I hear an annoying buzz. Where is it? I’ll crush the bad bug.”
Boom, the floor trembled. Boom, boom, the trembles approached, it sounded as if it were so heavy that it might break the ice floor.
Once it reached the lighting range, a human shape appeared.
Giant —— wouldn’t be a suitable word. The humanoid evil-god was huge even compared to the bosses we fought in this castle so far. Its height must be at least fifteen meters. Even if I jumped with full force, I wouldn’t be able to reach the knee of those giant tree trunk sized legs.
Its skin color was dull blue, like lead. Dark brown fur coiled around its arms and legs, and I wondered what kind of large animal the fur came from. A single part of the plate armor on its waist had the size of a small boat. While the upper part of the body was bare, the prosperous muscle looked as if it was able to repel any weapons directed at it.
Its muscular chest had its blue beard hung over it. Its head above it sank into a silhouette and we could only see its outline. However, the gold crown on its forehead and the blue and bleak blinking eyes below shone brightly in the dark.
In the old Aincrad, the system limit of the floor height was a hundred meters, the boss room inside the labyrinth zone was also under the same rule, it was unavoidable for all boss monsters to have vertical size in moderation. So up until now, I had no experience in fighting with an enemy which I had to look up to. As I couldn’t fly, how could I fight like this? The best I could do was cutting no higher than its shins.
While I was thinking about various things, the giant giant —— the double expressions are necessary to describe its size —— took another step closer, and laughed like a gong being hit,
“Hu, hu…… the Alfheim bugs? Creeping into this place under Urðr’s seduction? How about this, you small fry. Just tell me where that woman is hiding, and you can take the gold in this room with you, hmm?”
With the enormous body and the crown on its forehead, along with the speech just now, this guy was the «Frost Giant King Þrym», no doubt about it.
It was Klein who faced and replied to the great giant, who was an AI like Urðr and Freyja.
“……Heh, a warrior just needs to eat, sleep, and laugh! Don’t bother trying to tame us with a cheap invitation like that!”
While we made subtle expressions of relief from behind, as in front of us, Klein pulled his beloved katana from its scabbard.
With that signal, the rest of us took out our weapons as well.
They might not be the legendary class equipments, but all of them either carried the name of ancient class weapons, or were carved to a satisfactory level by the master smith Lisbeth. However, the daring smile under the long moustache of the Giant King Þrym didn’t fade due to the light from our weapons. Maybe it was natural, as our weapons to him were just slightly longer than toothpicks to him anyway.
The shining phosphorescence from the dark eye sockets glared at us from a very high place, the glance stopped at the eight person who stood there unarmed.
“……Ho, ho. Isn’t that Freyja-dono? Leaving the cage and coming here, does that mean you have already decided to become my bride, hmm?”
Klein suddenly turned around and yelled in a hoarse voice,
“Yes. That woman agreed to be my bride and came to the marriage in this castle. But on the eve before the banquet I caught her with the key to my treasury. So I put her in jail as punishment, hu, hu.”
——The situation became complicated, I tried to rearrange the thoughts in my brain.
The golden haired beauty, whose name was Freyja, had said “in order to reclaim the stolen tribe’s treasure, had crept into this castle.” a while ago. But thinking about it clearly, the castle Þrymheimr floating in midair had no windows and only had one entrance. So she decided to agree to a fake marriage to enter the castle without difficulty, then intruded into the throne room during the night to recover the treasure. But she was caught by the gate guardian and was chained up in prison as the result —— that kind of setting?
If that was the truth, then the possibility of being attacked by her from behind was low. But now the overall plot still couldn’t be pinned together. The quest’s sub-route was still confusing. First of all, of the nine fairy races of Alfheim, which one was Freyja’s «tribe»? And what was her stolen treasure?
Those kind of things should have been asked when she joined the party, but now there was no longer any time; while I was thinking about that, Leafa, who was my left wing vanguard, pulled my sleeve and whispered,
“Hey, Onii-chan. I somehow feel like I read this somewhere…… Þrym and Freyja…… The stolen treasure…… it was, hmmm, I’m certain……”
But before Leafa could finish, Freyja-san shouted with resolution from behind,
“Who would become your wife! Together with these swordsmen, we’ll defeat you and take back the treasure you stole!”
“Nu, hu, hu, those are strong words. As expected from Freyja-dono whose beauty and bravery is heard of even at the end of the nine worlds. However, snapping the noble flower would give me great pleasure…… after smashing these small bugs, I’ll love you deliberately, nuhuhuhuhu……”
As Þrym patted his moustache with his massive hand while issuing his speech, I doubted if this was really the plot written by the automatic quest generator, as the speech was really testing the limits permitted in a game for all ages.
All the girls in the battle formation made similar frowning expressions, as Klein stood in front, clenching his left fist as he shouted,
“Y-Y-You bastard! Watch your mouth! This Klein-sama will never let you lay a finger on Freyja-san!!”
“OuOu, I hear a sound of buzzing wings. Well, I’ll just subjugate you bugs first, as an advance celebration for the entire Jötunheimr becoming mine……”
Thump, the giant king suddenly stepped forward, its large HP gauge appeared on the upper right of my field of vision. Moreover, it was stacked three layers. Cutting that off would be very troublesome.
As the HP gauge of those evil floor bosses in the new Aincrad were invisible in order to frustrate the player’s mind, compared to those bosses, this battle’s pace would be much easier to grasp.
“——Come! Listen to Yui’s instructions and focus on avoiding at the start!”
Immediately after my shout, Þrym raised his huge rock-like right fist high up near the ceiling —— a blue frost storm wrapped its fist, then furiously swung down.
The last battle in Þrymheimr castle —— but probably —— was as expected, a large and fierce battle I had never experienced.
The King Þrym’s early attack patterns were punches from both fists, three continuous stomping using the right foot, an ice breath in a straight line, and twelve ice Dwarf soldiers from the floor.
The most troublesome was the creation of the Dwarves, which was taken care of from the back of the party by Sinon’s bow, cleaning them up in the blink of an eye by piercing their weak points with marvellous accuracy. The rest of the attacks were avoidable after observing its timing once, the counts from Yui also helped the three in the front row continue avoiding direct hits.
Once the defense was in place, it was finally the time to attack, however, this was certainly the hard part. As I had feared, our swords could only reach Þrym’s shins, and the thick fur protecting that area had high physical resistance, like the gold Minotaur. I took a small chance to attack it with a three hit sword skill, risking my HP to do so, but a low delay skill also had low attribute damage. The result was an unpleasant response, like hitting an indestructible object.
A great reassurance in this battle situation was the thunder magic attacks from Freyja-san. I certainly have no choice but to put all of my sincerity into saying “My bad!” to Klein later on. There was poor cooperation due to it being from a NPC, but with each occasional purple shower of lightning from behind, Þrym’s HP was certainly shaved off
We fought hard in the battle for ten minutes before the first HP gauge finally depleted, causing the giant king to make an overpowered roar.
“Pattern changed! Be careful!”
As I shouted, Leafa who was next to me said in a nervous voice,
“This is bad, Onii-chan. Only three lights remain in the medallion. We may have fifteen minutes left.”
Þrym had three HP gauges. However, we took more than ten minutes to deplete one gauge. It could be said that cutting the remaining two gauges within fifteen minutes would be very difficult.
But, for this opponent, the «Skill Connect» wouldn’t work like it did when we were fighting the gold Minotaur. During monster delay —— or to say the delay occurring after its attack, «striking the weak point to create heavy concentrated damage» was needed. However, Þrym was weak to neither sword nor magic, so even if the sword skill connected four times, it wouldn’t be able to make much change to that amount of HP.
As if seeing the moment of my impatience——
Þrym suddenly inhaled a large amount of the air, inflating his chest like a bellows.
An overpowering wind occurred, sucking in the five people in the front and mid rows. It’s bad, this is surely the harbinger of a full force wide area attack. For evading, first of all, the sucking power of the wind magic must be neutralized. While I was thinking this, to my left, Leafa started reciting a spell.
But, there was probably not enough time once I noticed the enemy motion.
“Leafa, everyone, take defense!”
At my call, Leafa suspended the spell, crossed her arms in front and bent her body. All members took the same posture, in that moment,
From Þrym’s mouth, which had sent out a breath in a straight line many times up until this point, released a wide conal diamond dust.
The shining pale wind wrapped around us. The cold which penetrated Asuna’s buff made it feel like our skin was being torn off. Gin, gin, with a sharp sound, the avatars of five people froze at once. I tried to escape, but the thick shell of the ice completely locked my movements. Leafa, Klein, Lis, Silica with Pina being hugged tightly to her chest, and I turned into blue ice sculptures.
At the moment, our HP gauge still haven’t decreased. But we couldn’t feel at ease. As this kind of special skill would increase the damage taken in direct proportion to the time being suspended.
Þrym approached, then lifted up his massive right leg. Bad, pinch, danger. —— as I screamed in my mind, at almost the same time,
With a thick roar, Þrym stomped furiously on the floor. The violent shock wave from it swallowed us while we were still frozen——
Gaching! the frightening sound of breaking echoed throughout the hall, those of us covered in ice shattered. My eyes went dark due to shock. My body slammed hard on the floor while the damage effect light continued on.
At the edge of my vision, the top five of eight HP gauges suddenly turned to a deep red.
While the five vanguards got caught in Þrym’s large-scaled ranged attack, of course the three people in the back row weren’t just watching.
Our HP gauges were taken by nearly eighty percent when suddenly, a soft blue light rained down on us, healing our wounds. It was Asuna’s high ranked full recovery spell. The timing was perfect, which would be impossible to achieve without anticipating the occurrence of the damage and pre-casting the spell in advance.
However, in this game’s large-scaled recovery magics, most of them were of the «Heal over Time» type, which didn’t recovery all the lost HP instantly. So it’d be fatal if we were attacked again while our HP was still recovering.
Þrym stepped forward in order to deliver the final blow to us who finally stood up. The long beard that hung over its throat —— was suddenly pierced by a rapid succession of fire arrows blazing bright red, causing a big explosion. It was Sinon’s two-handed long bow sword skill «Explode Arrow». With ten percent physical, and ninety percent flame damage property striking the frost giant tribe’s weak point, his HP gauge clearly decreased.
Þrym raised an angry voice and changed his direction to target Sinon. The flashy attack on the enemy’s weak point from the back row’s damage dealers caused a massive amount of hate, taking over the hate of the vanguards, resulting in the enemy switching target was a mistake beginners always did; but of course, this wasn’t the case this time. Sinon acted as a decoy, knowing it would likely lead to her death, to buy us time for recovery.
“Sinon, give me thirty seconds!”
While shouting, I gulped down a recovery potion from my pouch. Next to me, the others also poured similar red liquids down their mouths. Pina, Silica’s partner, seemed to have narrowly survived because of its master’s guard skill. In this world, unlike Aincrad, there was a pet resurrection spell, but taking time to do so during a battle would be very difficult.
My vision switched between the irritatingly slowly increasing HP gauge, and the blue Cait Sith’s continuing to avoid Þrym’s fierce attacks. Even though Sinon had come to ALO not long ago, her body control was spectacular. In GGO, as a sniper who forfeited all defensive skills, running away was the only way if an attacker type approached, that experience was probably still with her now.
“……Prepare the attack.”
Removing my eyes off the HP gauge, which had finally came back up to eighty percent, I called my companions. Re-gripping both of my swords, I began to start counting, in that instant——
The sudden voice came from my side, I frighteningly turned my eyes.
Standing right beside me, was the person who was with Asuna just a moment ago, the eight party member —— Freyja.
The mysterious auburn pupils stared at me, and the AI-based NPC said,
“At this rate, defeating Þrym is not possible. My wish is but one, buried somewhere in this room, just my tribe’s treasure. With that returned, I’d regain my true power, and with that, be able to dismiss Þrym.”
I spent a short moment lost in thought.
Then I reached my decision. This wasn’t the first time I feared Freyja-san regaining her full power and then assisting Þrym in attacking us. Also, if this endurance battle dragged on, the probability of quest failure due to insufficient time was high, which would lead to the catastrophe. In that case, I must lean on the remaining possibility.
“Understood. What kind of treasure?”
I quickly asked the NPC, and Freyja then spread her hands about thirty centimeters wide.
“It’s about this big, a golden hammer.”
I stared to Freyja’s face who had just returned the same answer, confused for half a second. At that time, Sinon, who was driven to the rear right wall of the throne room, took splash damage from Þrym’s attack, losing nearly twenty percent of her HP. Not being able to stand letting her to be the only target any more, I quickly said to Klein and Leafa,
“You go ahead to help her! I’ll follow soon!”
The katana user shouted the single word and bolted out while raising a war cry. While listening to the sound effect of the group battle which shortly began, I looked around the vast throne room.
The bunch of shining gold objects were piled high up along the blue ice wall’s edge. How can I search for a single hammer among them? Certainly this might be the standard «searching for item» type of quest, but wasn’t the difficulty too high!?
Perhaps this quest was supposed to be taken by a raid party of thirty people. Without that much manpower, searching for a single item from this mountain of treasures seemed impossible.
With the feeling of wanting to rely on the Navigation Pixie on my head, I called her, to which she shook her head to the side in reply,
“Can’t, Papa. There is no location of the key item in the map data. It was probably randomly placed in the room once we entered. It seems that to discover the location of the item in question and hand it to Freyja-san is the key objective.”
“Is that so……uu……~~n……!”
I concentrated thinking so hard that smoke would have emitted out of my ears, but this time there was no idea coming out. Was there nothing but to bet on the one in ten thousands chance by digging from a nearby mountain of treasures?
At that time, Leafa who struggled in the battle nearby looked at me for a moment and shouted,
“Onii-chan! Use a thunder type skill!”
My eyes widened in shock for a moment, but the next moment, I swung the sword in my right hand.
For me, who learned only the basic illusion spells, there was only one way to produce damage with thunder property.
With a shout, I kicked the ground at full force and jumped. With a mid-air forward somersault, at the same time changing my grip on the sword to a backhand and thrusting my body downward. It was one of the few heavy ranged attacks in one-handed sword category, «Lightning Fall». Thirty percent physical and seventy percent thunder.
With the roar of dry thunder, the sword stabbed into the floor. From the center, blue-purple sparks shot out in all direction. I then lifted my body and quickly turned around, my glance was at the group of surrounding objects which had been mowed down——
I saw it. Deep within the mountain of gold, a purple light blinked briefly in response to the thunder I created. Clenching my teeth, I dashed to the upper left corner of the room. While looking at the huge chair on my right, which should be Þrym’s throne, I made a bodily dive into the mountain of treasure, discarding and throwing away the objects which would be very expensive——
“……Is this it!?”
Several seconds later, rolled out in front of my eyes, I stretched my hand to grab the meager item. It was a small hammer with thin golden handle and a bejewelled platinum head. As I grabbed and lifted it up, I could feel its frightening weight which could easily cause my avatar to sink into the ground. I put more force to lift it, turned around and shouted,
Then, due to a little impatience, I made a long throw using the built up momentum. I wouldn’t be able to complain if this deed raised the NPC attack flag. Fortunately, the golden haired beauty caught the extremely heavy hammer I threw at her splendidly with her thin and slender right hand.
But immediately, her body curled as if being affected by the added weight. The long wavy hair flowed, and her exposed white back trembled slightly.
……Eh, maybe it was the wrong item? Did I somehow pass something bad to her?
I started feeling impatient again —— then I heard Freyja-san’s low whisper,
Pari, a thin spark appeared in the air.
Somehow the odd speech seemed to match a beautiful witch more. Was it an error in the Cardinal’s language engine module? But even so, the voice seemed strange. The sleek and husky voice up until now changed to hoarse and low cracking voice.
PariPari, the sparks became increasingly violent. The golden brown hair floated up softly, and the edges of the thin pure white dress fluttered vigorously.
The third shout that gushed out was completely unlike the previous Freyja-san. The bad feeling was like it came from a different dimension, in front of my widened eyes —— the muscle of the beautiful pure white limbs and back rose up like ropes. At the same time, the white dress was torn off into pieces and disappeared.
In that moment, Klein who was fighting behind the hall turned around by the activation of his secret skill «hyper sense». His eyes began open wide at the stark naked body of Freyja-san. But the next moment, his jaw dropped.
It was no wonder at all. The whole body of Freyja-san, which was clad in a lightning flash, started growing larger. Three meters…… five meters…… and still wouldn’t stop. The arms and legs were sturdy like big trees, the chest had been raised until it had exceeded Þrym’s. The hammer in the right hand had also increased its size in accordance to the owner. In a short time, it had reached such a size that even a Gnome heavy warrior wouldn’t be able to equip it, emitting intense lightning flashes in all directions.
At that point, the phenomenon that gave Klein and I the worst shock happened.
While facing down, from the cheek and jaw that became rugged and strong, appeared a golden brown and long, looong —— beard.
The scream of two men echoed throughout the entire room.
So, now, the imprisoned woman who would walk along the bushidō road with Klein no longer exists in this world. The body raised up with an overwhelming force, the fifteen meters tall giant, no matter how you looked at it, wouldn’t be less than forty years old, it was clearly a nice middle.
The giant old man released a roar that shook the entire hall with its electric shock-like bass, behind the hall, the King Þrym who had stopped moving turned around, then moved his right leg wrapped in the thick leather boots forward.
I fearfully moved my gaze toward the left edge of my vision, confirming at name carved in the bottom-most of the eight HP/MP gauges.
The letters which had formed [Freyja] just a little while ago had already changed shape.
[Thor]. That, was the name of our new companion.
Even for me who was not very knowledgeable in myth and folklore, there were some of which I was somewhat familiar with.
In Norse mythology, the great god Óðinn, clown god Loki, and a well known —— god of thunder Þórr. Armed with the hammer to call thunder, the figure that defeated giants one after another had been the motif in many films and games.
This was that Leafa told me later, the proper episode in Norse mythology about «Þórr reclaiming the hammer stolen by the giant king Þrym». In that myth, Þórr had disguised himself as the goddess Freyja in order to trick Þrym into a false marriage, the disguise was almost exposed many times during the banquet, but the cunning of Loki had helped them pass through, finally he reclaimed the hammer and proceeded to kill every giant there except Þrym, it was a cruel story I had never known before this. It was probable that the Cardinal System collected the legend, then arranged it to be used as this quest’s sub route.
In other words, if one knew about this episode, once they heard the name Freyja, they would have immediately understood that she was not Þrym’s spy. So I was very thankful for Klein’s intuition and bushidō at the ice cage that helped Freyja out, however —— with Freyja’s «true identity» revealed, I wondered what his state of mind was like right now.
“Nuuu―n…… you despicable giant, your punishment for stealing my treasure «Mjölnir» will be given right now!”
The god of thunder Þórr brandished the huge golden hammer in his right hand, he rushed into battle using the momentum from kicking the thick floor.
The frost king Þrym standing opposite breathed onto both of his hands, creating a battle axe of ice there. Swinging the axe, he shouted in return,
“You small dirty god, you dare trick me! I’ll cut the beard from your face off and send you back to Ásgarðr!”
If we thought about it, Þrym truly believed that the Freyja just now was the real goddess, and was waiting eagerly for the wedding. Even though he was a bad guy, at least he had the right to be angry.
In the center of the open space, the gold moustached and the blue moustached giants shouted and exchanged blows with each other using the golden hammer and the ice battle axe. The impacts that were sent out shook the entire castle. Still not recovering from the shock of Freyja’s change into a giant —— no, into a grandpa, we stood around with eyes wide open in confusion, and before long, Sinon, who already finished recovering her HP, shouted sharply from the back of the room,
“Everyone attack now, while Þórr is the target!”
Yes, that was absolutely correct. There was no guarantee that Þórr would be able to fight until the end. I also swung my sharp swords and raised my voice.
“Alright, full attack! Use sword skills without holding back!”
Then, seven people kicked the floor and approached Þrym from all directions.
Emitting exceptionally intense fighting spirit, with his katana raised high in his battle stance, it seemed there was something glittering at the corner of Klein’s eyes, but as mercy to the warrior I pretended not to see it. Without worrying about the skill delay, we continued using more than three-hit sword skills on both of Þrym’s legs. Asuna also changed from her wand to her rapier without me noticing, her god speed thrusting attack shook the Achilles tendon. Lisbeth beside her repeatedly hit Þrym’s little finger with the mace held in both hands.
Þrym let a growl leak while his body shook, and finally, his left knee hit the floor. A dazzling yellow light effect circled his crown’s perimeter. It was the stun condition.
“Now’s the chance……!”
According to my call, every member released their highest combo attack. Bright light effects covered the bare upper body of Þrym. In addition, from the sky, orange shining arrows poured down like rain.
“Nuuun! Return to the abyss, giant king!”
In the end, Þórr delivered the final blow by slamming the hammer in his right hand at Þrym’s head. The crown broke and flew off, and the boss monster that once seemed like an iron wall collapsed onto the ground with a loud crash.
Its HP gauge had already disappeared. The tip of its limbs and its moustache turned into ice as it made a creaking sound.
Its jet black eye sockets with the blinking blue phosphorescence faded and vanished. At that time, the tangled moustache moved, and a low laugh flowed out,
“Nu huhuhu…… you little bugs can enjoy your triumph now. But let your guard against the æsir down and you’ll see painful experience…… Because they are the true…”
Zumun! the sound of Þórr’s intense stomp exploded, he then tread onto the almost completely frozen Þrym.
A tremendously large scaled End Flame occurred, as the frost giant king turned into countless numbers of ice shards and scattered. Due to the pressure of the effect, we involuntarily held up our hands and took a few steps back, the god of thunder Þórr glared at the scene with his golden eyes from high above.
“…………Hmmm, I give you my thanks, Fairy Warriors. I was also able to wash away the disgrace of my treasure being stolen. ——Now, there must be a reward.”
He then lifted his left hand and touched the handle of the gorgeous giant hammer in his right hand. One of the inlaid jewels came out easily, emitted light and turned into a small, human-sized hammer.
Þórr then dropped the scaled down version of the real golden hammer to Klein.
“«Thunder Hammer Mjölnir», use it well in battle. And —— farewell.”
Þórr held up his right hand and the pale lightning immediately penetrated the wide open space. We closed our eyes reflexively, and when we opened our eyelids, he was no longer there. The member withdrawal dialog floated up, and the eighth HP/MP gauge soundlessly disappeared.
On the spot where Þrym had disappeared, a bunch of drop items rolled down like a waterfall, which then automatically disappeared into the party’s temporary storage.
At the same time, an intense light shone in the boss room, driving away the darkness. Regretfully, the mountain of golden objects by the wall also faded away. Well, all of our storage was almost full, so we couldn’t keep them anyway.
I let out a small breath, then walked to Klein’s side, then placed my hand on his shoulder and said,
“Legendary weapon get, congratulations.”
“…………I don’t have any hammer skills though.”
Gripping the one-handed battle hammer glittering with an aura effect, the katana user who had a sad smile earlier returned to his usual energetic smile.
“Then, I’d be glad to give it to Lis. Ah― but don’t dissolve this into ingots……”
“Wait! No matter how many ingots I can get I won’t do something as wasteful as that anyway!”
Next to Lisbeth who was objecting, Asuna said seriously,
“But Lis, dissolving legendary items seems to yield a lot of Orichalcum ingots.”
“O-Oi! stop talking about dissolving it already!”
Everyone laughed at Klein who shouted while hugging the hammer tightly to his chest——
At that moment,
The ice floor shook violently along with a heavy bass sound at such a high volume that it could shake the core of the body.
Silica screamed with her triangular ears faced down. Sinon next to her, who had her tail bent into an S shape, shouted,
“It……it’s moving!? No, it’s floating……!”
I might be a bit late, but I noticed too.
The giant castle Þrymheimr shuddered like a living thing, and seemed to rise slightly, little by little. Why is this —— no —— could it be, when I thought until this point,
Leafa took a peek at the medallion under her neck then gushed out in a high-pitched voice,
“O……Onii-chan! The quest is still ongoing!!”
Shouted Klein. It was the same feeling I had. With the chief of the frost giant tribe dead, normally the quest would have been completed too —— but, my memory started recalling what «Queen of the Lake Urðr» said when we were asked to do the quest.
Invading Þrymheimr and removing the holy sword Excaliber from the pedestal. Defeating Þrym wasn’t the objective. In other words, Þrym, the formidable enemy, was just one of the hurdles for the quest’s progression——
“L-Last light is flashing now!”
In a voice similar to Leafa’s scream, Yui responded sharply,
“Papa, stairs appeared behind the throne!”
Without sparing any time to reply, I furiously kicked the floor and dashed toward the throne.
As I approached, in the shape of a chair, aside from it being fifteen meters tall as it was for the frost king Þrym’s exclusive use, the throne looked like a small hut. If we weren’t in an emergency, we would try to climb up to the seat, however, I ran to its left side without looking up at all.
When I turned to the throne’s back, just as Yui said, the ice floor had opened, showing a small descending staircase. It was clearly the size one from the frost giant tribe wouldn’t be able to pass, the size was for a human —— no, a single fairy was barely able to pass. While hearing the approaching footsteps of my companions, I plunged into the dim entrance without hesitation.
While running down the spiral staircase skipping three steps at a time, I thought in a corner of my mind. If we failed the quest we received from Urðr —— and at the same time, the large number of the players on the ground were successful in the slaughter quest, the giant ice castle Þrymheimr would float up and surface in the middle of the capital city Alne; however, Þrym, who had the ambition of invading Alfheim was no longer there. Well, the «came back to life as if nothing had happened» line was also not impossible, but I didn’t think the Cardinal System which had always stuck profusely to details would expand the story in such an aggressive manner.
Thinking while running down at full speed, as if she could read my thought, the voice of Leafa came from behind me,
“……Well, Onii-chan. I can’t recall it clearly…… but what if the master of Þrymheimr isn’t Þrym in the real Norse mythology?”
“E……Eh!? But, the name……”
“I think so too. But, in the legend is certainly……Th……Th……”
While Leafa was mumbling, Yui on my head who referred to the outside network immediately replied,
“It’s «Þjazi». In the legend, the one who wants the golden apple that Urðr mentioned was him, not Þrym. And next is the information from within ALO, the request of the problematic slaughter quest came from the biggest castle on Jötunheimr ground, was from an NPC named «Archduke Þjazi».”
“……In other words, the successor was there since the beginning then……”
Perhaps when Þrymheimr floated up into Alne, Þjazi would be in the throne room above, giving out commands like a last boss. But letting the Cardinal’s intention of destroying the capital city and invading the Alne plateau wasn’t on my mind, I didn’t come this far to just surrender here. Rather than not obtaining Excaliber, I wouldn’t be able to face our friend Tonkii. Of course if the sword was there along the way, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab it either……
While I was thinking those various thoughts, the tremor that wrapped around the castle became increasingly violent. Sometimes the change in G force could be felt intensely, it was clear that the castle was piercing the canopy. I held my breath and continued throwing my momentum down the spiral staircase which I didn’t know how far down it went.
“————Papa, five more seconds until we reach the exit!”
I shouted, just as the bright light up ahead entered my field of vision, I jumped ahead at full force.
What was there was a regular ice octahedron, or a hollowed room in the shape of a superimposed upper and lower parts of a pyramid. The so-called «Burial Chamber».
The wall was quite thin, the entire Jötunheimr field could be seen from the lower part of the ice. On the surroundings, fragments of rock and crystal continued falling down from the canopy. The spiral staircase pierced the center of the burial chamber and continued down toward the bottom.
Then, at that point —— was a deep pure golden light.
There is no mistake, when Leafa and I rode on Tonkii’s back to escape from Jötunheimr, this was the same twinkling light we saw inside the bottom of the ice castle. Nearly a year had passed and we finally made it here.
When all seven people came down the staircase, we surrounded «that» in a half circle.
At the very center of the circular floor, a 50cm dimensioned ice cube was enshrined. Something small seemed to be trapped inside. When I stared at it closer, it seemed to be thin and delicate tree roots. The countless number of threads that looked like capillary gathered and huddled thicker toward the single main root.
The main root had a diameter of around five centimeters, however, it was cleanly cut. At the place it was cut was a thin and sharp blade inscribed with the detailed runes —— the sword. The shining golden long sword extended vertically, half of the blade was exposed from the ice plinth. It had a detailed knuckle guard and black leather was tightly knitted around the hilt. Its pommel was shining with a big iridescent jewel.
I once saw the very same sword, no I had grabbed it before.
The man who used ALO as a tool for his own ambition, in order to cut me, tried to create it using the GM’s power. However, that power was transferred to me by the person who had higher authority than him, I generated the sword and gave it to him in order to settle it all.
At that time, I had produced the world’s strongest sword with just a single command, but I had a strong sense of aversion to it. Without the challenge to obtain the sword by proper means, the feeling of borrowing but not returning wouldn’t disappear. Although more than half was by chance, but the time had finally come.
……Sorry for the wait.
As I whispered in my mind, I made a step forward, my right hand grabbed the hilt of the long sword —— the legendary class weapon «Holy Sword Excaliber».
I put all my strength into pulling it out of the pedestal.
However, it felt like the sword and the plinth, no, the entire castle had become a single object, as it didn’t even creak a little. With my left hand helping, both legs firmly planted, mustering all my strength.
But the result was the same. Bad vibes caused a chill to go down my spine.
In ALO, unlike in SAO and GGO; strength, agility and other numerical stats weren’t shown in the system window. The boundary if a certain weapon or armor could be equipped was also vague, from «Easy to handle», «Somewhat challenging», «Body would be swayed», to «Difficult to lift up», changing in non-gradual stages. So among the players, there were many that even though the weapon obtained by sheer luck was so overweight, they still didn’t give up, but wore it, causing their combat power to be lowered as a result.
But even so, the system needed to handle those stats in numerical values, in other words, they were «hidden parameters». The basic value was determined by race and constitution, then applied with boosts from skills and bonuses from magic equipments, and supporting magics could adjust the value even further. Comparing Klein as a Salamander against me as a Spriggan, Klein would have only a slightly higher base value.
But as he loved katana techniques, all his skill and equipment adjustments were based on agility. On the other hand, with the tendency of «loving heavy swords», my adjustment was focused mainly on strength. As a result, among the seven people here, I was without doubt the one with the highest strength. So if I couldn’t pull the sword out with my strength, no one else would be able to either. As everyone seemed to understand this, no one asked for an attempt.
Instead, I could hear voices from behind me,
“Keep at it, Kirito-kun!”
It was Asuna. Then Lis raised her voice saying “Yeah, just a bit more!”. The encouragement from Leafa, Silica, and Klein also came right after that.
Sinon shouted “Show me your willpower!”, Yui said “Papa, keep at it!” with all her little voice, even Pina purred with “Kurururuu!”.
As the person who assembled this party, becoming discouraged here wasn’t an option. I already got the maximum buffs, the rest was just fighting spirit and will power. Rather than thinking the parameter wasn’t high enough, I had to believe that the lock would be released with the multiplication of the input and time, mustering my strength, no, my will power to the limit.
The surroundings in my vision started to white out, a flickering light flew in front of my eyes, if this continued any longer, the AmuSphere would automatically disconnect me due to an abnormality in the brain waves —— at that time,
Piki, with a sharp sound, and at the same time, a faint vibration transmitted to my hands.
I didn’t know whose yell that was. Suddenly a light burst out from the pedestal under my feet, as golden light filled my entire vision.
Immediately after that, a crushing sound which was more profound and exhilarating than any sound effect we had heard up until now ran through our ears. My body fully stretched out —— inside the ice lump which was scattering in all directions, my right hand held the long sword which created a vivid golden track in the air.
Flying significantly behind me were my six companions who were using their hands to extend support to each other. While withstanding the tremendous weight of the sword I was holding, I faced up above, my vision met with everyone overlooking from above. All members of the party started smiling, and released a great joyful atmosphere —— Although I had already assumed so, the next phenomenon happened sooner than expected.
Small tree roots were released from the ice pedestal.
Floating in mid air, it suddenly stretched out, no, it started growing.
The very fine capillary spread downward in succession. The upper section which had been cut off also had new tissue growing upward from the cut wound.
From above, a tremendous roaring sound could be heard. Looking up, the hole which we had ran through and the spiral staircase had been crushed by something rushing down. It was also roots. The one which supported Þrymheimr, the roots of the world tree——
The thick roots rushed into the octagonal room with a blistering pace, the small roots which extended from the plinth touched them, twisted together, and united.
The next moment——
The slight vibration which was felt like a shindo 1 earthquake up until now sent out a shock wave that swallowed the entire Þrymheimr castle.
Klein yelled, as everyone mutually held onto each other firmly, while numerous cracks ran through the surrounding wall almost simultaneously.
The deafeningly loud echo roared continuously. The thick wall of ice, about the size of a carriage separated from each other, dropped to the «Great Void» far below.
“……! The entire Þrymheimr castle had collapsed! Papa, we need to escape!”
Yui on my head screamed in sharp voice. I looked at Asuna’s face on my right and shouted,
“Even saying so, the stairs!”
Yes, the spiral staircase which we used to reach this burial chamber had already been blown off by the rushing world tree’s roots, leaving no trace behind. Even before that, going back the original route would only lead us to the open terrace in the mid air.
“If we could grab the roots……”
Sinon murmured while looking up, she was still calm even in this situation.
I shrugged my shoulders. Surely, the roots of world tree stretched from the ceiling and reached the middle of the chamber, but we were on the circular floor below, which was about ten meters below the capillary. It wasn’t a distance we could reach even with a full force jump.
“Wait, the world tree! Don’t be so cold-hearted!”
Lisbeth raised her right fist while yelling, but her opponent was a tree. She wouldn’t even get a single apology from it.
“’Right……if it comes to this, Klein-sama will show you all the Olympic class vertical high jump!”
The katana user stood up abruptly then ran up to one end of the six meters diameter circular disc——
“Ah, idiot, don’t……”
Before I could stop him, his gorgeous jump already happened before my eyes. He could reach around 2.15 meters, it was splendid considering he had a short running start, however, his hand couldn’t reach the root before his body continued on a parabolic curve and dropped heavily onto the center of the floor.
At that moment, It was surely from the shock wave earlier. —— was what everyone tried to think —— while running cracks suddenly appeared on the surrounding walls.
The lower section of the burial chamber, in other words, the lower apex of the Þrymheimr castle had finally separated from its body.
“C……Klein-san you idiot―!”
Came from Silica who was not used to screaming except when her tail was pulled; the rounded disc carrying seven people + one + one pet broke into an endless free fall.
If this were a gag manga, in this scene everyone would just sit around and drink tea as if it were completely normal.
However, dropping in a VRMMO like this was really ultra scary. It might be my daily hobby to fly above the clouds in Alfheim, but that was because of the reliable wings. With flying forbidden, such as in dungeons, a beginner female player could taste terror just by jumping from a five meter height. Even I didn’t like it.
Therefore, the seven of us crawling on the circular ice disc couldn’t help but scream simultaneously.
Surrounding us were the lumps of ice that collapsed at the same time, clashing with each other, as they continued breaking into smaller pieces. Looking up above, the lower part of the giant castle Þrymheimr broke apart from its structure, and each time caused the roots of the world tree to tremble.
Finally, from the edge of the disc, I fearfully took a peek below.
A thousand meters, no, it should be about eight hundred meters from the Jötunheimr ground, the darkness «Great Void» had its mouth open. Of course the disc we were sitting on was rushing toward the center.
“……What is down there?”
A calm mumble came from Sinon, I somehow managed to answer,
“P-Pr-Probably as Urðr-san said, M-M-Maybe it leads to Niflheimr!”
“It would be great if it’s not cold……”
“N-N-Noo, I think it’s super cold! I-I-It’s the hometown of the frost giants after all!”
Having a conversation like that finally helped loosen the constriction in my stomach, while my hands still hugged Excaliber, I asked Leafa to my left,
“Leafa, W-W-What happened to the S-Slaughter quest?”
Then, the Sylph with her pea green ponytail trailing vertically stopped screaming —— or perhaps it was a joyful shout, I have my doubts —— and looked at the medallion on her chest.
“Ah……W-We’ve made it Onii-chan! There is still a single light remaining! I-I’m glad……!”
Leafa made a full smile and jumped to me with open arms, while I stroked her hair and started thinking,
If the world tree had returned to its original shape, Urðr and her kin would have regained their power as well, so they would no longer be hunted by the humanoid evil-gods. In that case, if we continued falling into the Great Void, be it dying during the fall or dying due to crashing upon Niflheimr, our sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain.
There was only one worry, it was «Excaliber» which we used all our power to secure. The quest wasn’t properly completed, as I still couldn’t say I had obtained ownership of it yet. Perhaps, surviving and meeting with Urðr again were the required flags for the clean completion of this quest?
Nevertheless, I spread the system window where Leafa couldn’t see and tried to put Excaliber into the storage. But the sword was repelled from the window, and wouldn’t settle in.
——Well, I already grabbed it once. It’s fine, such a gold sparkling legendary weapon like this isn’t my taste anyway.
I tried to fool myself using the sour grapes theory.
Leafa who was embracing my neck suddenly raised her face.
“…………I hear something.”
I reflected the air off my ears to listen carefully, but all I could hear was the groaning sound of the air. The ground was already much closer now. Falling and breaking into the Void would probably take about sixty more seconds.
Leafa shouted again and stood skillfully on the rounded disc.
“O-Oi, it’s dangerous……”
As I started calling, at that time,
Kuoooo——……n, a cry from the distance reached my ears, I realized.
I turned around and adjusted my vision. Beyond the group of ice lumps surrounding us, from the southern sky, was a small white light. Approaching in a small arc, with its streamlined body like a fish, four pairs of wings, and a long nose——
Leafa shouted with both hands cupped around her mouth. Once again, Kuoo―n returned. Without a doubt, that was the flying evil-god Tonkii who carried us until the entrance of Þrymheimr. Thinking about it, as Tonkii sent us there, coming to pick us up wasn’t strange. And of course we would want it to come too.
“R……Right here right here―!”
Lis shouted while Asuna also waved her hand. Silica raised her face fearfully while still hugging Pina tightly in her chest, Sinon waved her tail in relief.
Klein who was still in the landing pose from his ultra high jump also lifted his face and smiled while putting his right thumb up.
“Heheh……’right, I believed from the start…… this guy would surely come to help……”
That was what I, and probably the other five, shouted in our minds, as he was the same person who had forgotten about Tonkii up until now. Still as admirable as usual, Tonkii gradually glided toward us. There was plenty of time to transfer all the members before the crash.
Because of the numerous scattering ice lumps around us, the closest Tonkii could hover near us still left us with a five meter gap. But with such a gap, even a heavy player would had no problem jumping over.
The first one was Leafa, who jumped casually while humming, and landed splendidly on Tonkii’s back. Then she stretched out her hands with a “Silica-chan!” call.
Silica nodded single-mindedly, as both her hands grabbed Pina’s legs, then running awkwardly before firmly launching out. Pina, which Silica was dangling under, flapped its wings, boosting the flying distance. It was a tamer’s privilege from a flight type pet. She then stopped in Leafa’s embrace safely.
Next was Lisbeth who jumped along with a “Toryaa!” shout, along with Asuna who made a long jump with a fluid form. Sinon was the extreme one, jumping with double forward somersaults and landing near Tonkii’s tail.
Klein turned to me with a stiff expression, I made a gesture telling him, ‘Please feel free to go first.’
“’Right, prepare to be fascinated by my splendid……”
I slapped his back while he was saying that and measuring his timing. Struggling with the running start’s distance, his jump’s distance did not seem to be enough, but Tonkii stretched its nose to catch him in mid air.
Ignoring his yell, I looked downward once more. Beyond the rounded disc made of clear ice, the Great Void had filled entire my field of vision. Facing forward, preparing a short approach run——
At that point, I noticed one terrible fact.
I couldn’t jump.
To be more exact, in my arms was a heavy load —— the «Holy Sword Excaliber», so jumping five meters wouldn’t be possible. Just by standing, my boots already bit into the ice.
Everyone who already moved to the back of Tonkii also noticed the reason I stood still.
Calling voices reached me. Still facing downward, I clenched my teeth from the intense conflict.
These two choices —— embracing Excaliber like this and dieing from the fall, or dropping it and surviving. Is it the coincidence that a player is being tested for greed and obsession at the final five meters distance? Is this also a trap by the Cardinal System……?
A worried call from Yui on my head, I made a slight nod and reply,
I shouted with a bitter smile.
At the next moment, the sword in my right hand was thrown aside.
Suddenly my body became so light it was as if it was a lie. The rotating faint golden light moved toward the edge of my vision.
I made a light run, jumped, and changed my body orientation in mid air. Excaliber was falling slowly, like a feather dropped from the wing of a phoenix, into the immeasurable depth of the great hole.
On Tonkii’s back, once I had made a backward landing, it spread all eight wings wide. Its speed slowed down. Tonkii, that had been falling at the same pace as the rounded disc up until now, began hovering, stopping its descent.
Asuna came to me and tapped my shoulder.
“……Later, someday, we’ll take it back.”
“I’ll perfectly coordinate our journey!”
Yui continued right after Asuna.
“……Ah, that’s right. It’ll surely be waiting somewhere in Niflheimr.”
I muttered, as I said the farewell in my mind to the strongest sword I certainly had held for a short time —— or so it seemed.
In order to prevent that, stepping in front of me, was the blue haired Cait Sith.
Her left hand brought the big long bow down from her shoulder, and her right hand paired it with a silvery thin arrow.
“——Two hundred meters, huh.”
She muttered, then quickly recited a spell. The arrow was wrapped in a white light.
In front of us, who were stunned as we watched, the archer as well as sniper Sinon casually drew the bow to its full extent.
About forty-five degrees below, on the other side was the falling Excaliber, the arrow was released. It flew through the air, leaving a strange silvery line. It was a bow user’s exclusive common spell «Retrieve Arrow». The spell was convenient for pulling something the hand couldn’t reach, however, it was used only for short distances because the thread attached distorted the trajectory of the arrow, thus lowering the homing value down to zero.
Finally understanding Sinon’s intention, I shouted in my mind “No matter the cost.”
It was not possible anyway. Two hundred meters was twice the effective range of the bow made by Lis. No, even if it was within the shooting range, she wasn’t in a condition to aim properly. Her footing was unstable, the surrounding ice was falling, and her target was also falling.
But —— but, but.
The falling golden light over there, and falling alongside it, the silvery arrow seemed to be attracting each other as it moved closer, closer…………
Taan! Their collision caused a light sound.
Sinon pulled the magic thread stretching out from her right hand with all her might. The golden light decelerated, halted, then began to rise. Rotating, and gradually approaching. The small golden light started becoming longer and narrower, taking the shape of a sword.
Two seconds later, the legendary weapon which I had said farewell to, had resided in Sinon’s palm.
Muttering as she held it in her hands, Cait Sith-sama then turned around.
The voices of six people and Yui was in perfect synchronization.
“““Sinon-san, so cool——————!”””
Sinon responded to our praise with a down and up motion using her triangular ears —— as both her hands were holding the sword, she looked at me and shrugged lightly.
“Here you are, there is no need to make that face.”
——I was apparently too careless, it was as if a big “I want that!” was written on my forehead with a black magic pen. Sinon inadvertently stared to the upper left while holding out the sword to me, with a “Here” voice.
A faint déjà vu. About two weeks ago, in the event to decide the strongest in GGO «Bullet of Bullets 3» battle royale tournament’s final round, Sinon had made the very same action. What I received by reflex back then was a one hit kill plasma grenade, Sinon and I stuck together and both died from the bomb immediately after that, leading to the conclusion of the match. People on the net had been trying to interpret that last scene, but it was eerie so there was no further investigation.
But this time, surely the sword wouldn’t explode.
As I said thanks, I held out my hands to receive it —— but the sword was pulled back.
“Before that, promise me one thing.”
Then the blue haired Cait Sith gave a bright smile, it was without a doubt the highest class in ALO —— although with a destructive power equal to ten plasma grenades hidden in it.
——Every time you pull this sword out, make sure you always think of me, alright?”
During the suddenly frozen atmosphere, the golden holy sword «Excaliber» moved from Sinon’s hands to mine. But it was unbelievable, I couldn’t feel its weight at all, instead I felt an imaginary chill and sweat flowing down my back.
“O―o, it’s sure difficult for you, popular-bro.”
From right behind me, Klein said so without reading the atmosphere, I stepped on his foot to make him silent, then said in the calmest voice I could muster,
“……Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind, you have my thanks. Thank you, that shot just now was magnificent.”
Sinon delivered the final blow with her wink, then turned around and moved in the direction of Tonkii’s tail. She then took a stem of mint from the quiver on the right of her waist and held it in her mouth, it seemed to be her way of a quick rest. It was a cool action suiting the live wire sniper, however, I didn’t miss noticing that the tip of her blue tail was wriggling. That was the sign saying she was in laughter. I’ve been had! As I groaned inside my mind, there was nothing I could do about the stabbing glances from the group of girls around me.
But here, the one who gave me a life boat out of that situation was unexpectedly Tonkii.
It made a long cry, while its eight wings flapped powerfully and started ascending. Looking up into the sky, it seemed the largest and final spectacular scene of this quest was about to start.
The whole Þrymheimr castle which had pierced deeply into the center of the canopy in the underground world Jötunheimr finally started falling.
While its lower section had already collapsed leaving no trace behind, it still kept its whole form. The castle we could see from the inverted pyramid up until now had hidden its same sized upper section. In other words, it had the same form as the burial chamber in which Excaliber was sealed in, a regular octahedral form.
It had a length of three hundred meters on each side. So, the distance between the top and bottom apex equaled to 300×√2 or 424.26 meters. The height of the Tokyo Sky Tree’s special view lobby was 450 meters, so the castle’s height was already approaching it. I was glad the dungeon structure didn’t require us to climb up to the top before we could descend to our destination.
While my mind went in circles around calculations and speculations which didn’t matter any more, the great ice castle continued to fall down while making a thunderous roar. The intensity of the wind pressure we had to endure increased along with the collapse. The numerous cracks, like the polar crevasse, spread up from its lowest part, and over time, the few large pieces started to detach from it.
“…………That dungeon, gone after we had adventured in it just once……”
Lis murmured quietly. Silica, who was next to her, hugged Pina tightly and nodded in response.
“It’s a bit waste. There are a lot of rooms we haven’t explored yet……”
“The map completion rate is 37.2 percent.”
Was the supplement from Yui sitting on my head said in a regretful voice.
“That’s luxury talk. ——But I had a lot of fun.”
With both hands on his waist, Klein nodded deeply. And, as if he had noticed something, he turned around and said in a strange voice,
“……Hey Leafa. How to say this, well……about Freyja, she really exists as a real goddess-san right? Aside from that grandpa Þórr?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
Leafa nodded then smiled.
“O―, is that so. Well, I have a chance to meet her somewhere then.”
“……It might be.”
In ALO, Ásgarðr, the place where the æsir lived, didn’t exist, but Leafa was kind enough not to say so. When I thought up to this point, I recalled what Þrym said before Þórr could stop him. It was certainly about the æsir……what did he say though……
I tried to search my memory, but my thoughts were drowned out by the loud agony of death of Þrymheimr castle, which had finally completely collapsed.
As I cruised on Tonkii’s back, the falling groups of large ice lumps looked like it was at a distance I could reach if i stretched my hand. They were swallowed by the big hole directly below, vanishing into the infinite darkness of the «Great Void»——
……No, it wasn’t like that.
I could see a light from the bottom of the hole. Glittering blue and waving, that flickering radiance was, yes, water, the surface of water. Coming from deep beneath the Void which we thought had no bottom, along with another loud sound, a large amount of water was rising in the pit. The still falling ice sank into the surface then immediately melted, becoming part of the water.
Sinon said as her mouth still held the stem of mint while pointing her right hand upward.
My sight followed her lead by reflex, once again, an unbelievable scene happened before my eyes.
The roots of the world tree, which had withered back toward the ceiling, had been released after the vanishing of Þrymheimr, they made a big twist while growing in thickness, as if they were a living creatures. They gathered together and rushed downward as if they were seeking something. It was like a giant had thrown down a pile of wood. In front of us who were watching wordlessly, the roots of world tree had reached and sank down into the surface of the pure water of what was once the Great Void, causing a big wave from it spread out. The mesh of roots covered the wide surface of water immediately until its tips reached the shore.
That scene had two things in common with the illusory scene Queen Urðr had shown us. The world tree that had stopped its movement had its roots, or rather its trunks extended from its gigantic figure, I felt some kind of strong wave being emitted. It was a pure delight, like a traveller who had wandered for a long time in the intense heat of a desert finally putting his mouth in the oasis he had arrived at.
“Look……, the sprouts from the roots…”
I focused my eyes due to Asuna’s whisper, sure enough, from all directions around the roots, small sprouts —— of course the sprouts were as big as us, but they were small when compared to the giant tree —— had shot up, and yellow-green leaves spread one after another.
The wind blew.
Unlike the bone freezing cold wind that had endlessly and violently swept over Jötunheimr field up until now, it was a warm spring breeze. At the same time, the intensity of the light in the entire world had increased many fold. I looked up to the sky again, the group of crystals which had been shining dimly were emitting strong white light, each one of them was like a small sun.
The wind and sunlight stroked the ice covering the large field and the thick ice covering small rivers, causing them to melt in succession. Below them, new green leaves sprouted from the black and damp soil. The castles and fortresses in various places that the humanoid evil-gods had constructed were immediately covered in green and decayed away——
Suddenly, Tonkii raised its eight wings, wide ears, and nose, then released a loud howl.
Several seconds later, from various places on the field, Oo―n, Kuooo―n echoes like those came back in reply. Appearing from various fountains and rivers, and of course from the huge lake that the world tree roots had spread over, were beings with manjū-like bodies and long tentacles, the elephant-jellyfish type evil-gods. It wasn’t just that, the many legs alligator type, the two-headed leopard type, many types of the beast evil-gods appeared endlessly on the ground and water’s surface, and the field began to swagger.
No, on this beautiful green field, they were no longer «Evil-gods». They were the peaceful dwellers in this breeze, greenery, and the sunlight —— aside from their size. Those who were bullying them harshly, the humanoid evil-gods couldn’t be found no matter where I looked for them.
Tonkii had lowered its altitude a great deal before I had noticed, visible here and there on the wilderness were small dots of raid parties standing stunned. Looking at them, they might be wondering what had happened. Having taken the quest from the NPC «Archduke Þjazi», and right before they could attain the fruit of their long struggle, their giant companions had disappeared and the field had completely changed, so it was normal to be confused.
This was just what Klein had said after we heard about the quest from Urðr, as we would have to explain in full details to the «MMO Tomorrow» journalist who also served as the information shop for those stunned raid party members; I’d be glad to entrust the duty to him as he wished —— While I was thinking about those irresponsible things, Leafa suddenly sat down.
Stroking the free flowing white hair on Tonkii’s wide back, she whispered,
“……It’s great. Really great, Tonkii. Look, so many of your friends. Right there…… and also over there, so many…………”
Seeing spilling drops of water on her cheeks, even a block head like myself felt something well up in my chest. Immediately Silica embraced Leafa before starting to cry uncontrollably, Asuna and Lis also wiped their eyes. Folding his arms, Klein faced the other way to hide his face, even Sinon repeatedly blinked many times.
Lastly, Yui took off my head and landed on Asuna shoulder before burying her face in her hair. That girl doesn’t let me see her crying face anymore, I wonder who she learned something like that from……
Then, at that moment. I heard a voice.
“I appreciate your excellent accomplishment.”
I turned my startled face to the front.
Over Tonkii’s big head, a figure wrapped in golden light was floating.
It shouldn’t have been more than two hours, but I already felt it was a nostalgic figure, it was, no doubt, the golden haired beauty with the three meter tall body, who had gave us this quest, the «Queen of the Lake Urðr».
However, she wasn’t transparent anymore, this time she clearly had substance. So, she could come out from the fountain she was forced to hide in order to escape Þrym’s hand. The pearly scales visible on her limbs, the tip of her swaying fin shaped hair, along with the light-green long dress covered her body, all glittered dazzlingly under the sunlight.
The turquoise pupils gently narrowed, before Urðr opened her lips again.
“By removing «The sword which cut all of steel and tree» Excaliber, the «Spirit Roots» which had been severed from Yggdrasil could return to their original mother. With the blessings from the tree filling the land once more, Jötunheimr had returned to what it once was. For all these, Ye have my thanks.”
“No……well. For Þrym, without the help from Þórr, I don’t think we could defeat him……”
Urðr nodded her head to what I said.
“I know the power of the Thunder God. However……be careful, Ye Fairies. Even though those æsir are the enemy of the frost giants, they would never be your ally……”
“Erm…… Þrym himself said the same thing, what does that mean……?”
Leafa asked after she stood up and wiped her tears. But the Cardinal’s automatic response engine didn’t recognize that vague question, while Urðr remained silent, her floating figure raised up a little.
“——My sisters also would like to give you their appreciations.”
Together with her words, the right side of Urðr began to vibrate like a water’s surface, then a figure appeared.
Its height was slightly shorter than the elder sister —— but even so, from our perspective, we still had to look up to her. Her hair was of the same gold color but a little shorter. Her long dress was deep blue. Her face, if Urðr was «high class» then her face would be «elegance».
“My name is «Verðandi». Thank you, the fairy warriors. Being able to see the green Jötunheimr once again, Ah, this is like a dream……”
As she whispered in a sweet voice, Verðandi softly waved her right hand. At the same time, various items and Yrd currency roughly dropped in front of us before disappearing into our temporary storage. Its capacity was suitable for the seven people party, however, I felt it would reach its limit soon.
And in addition, a whirlwind occurred to the left of Urðr, and a third silhouette came into view.
Contrasting Verðandi in appearance, it was a figure wearing armor and a helmet. Stretching from both sides of the helmet and boots were long wings. The golden hair was tied finely, the beautiful and brave face shook to the side.
And on this third person, there was a surprising feature. She was the size of a human, no, a fairy, about half as tall as her eldest sister Urðr. Klein made a strange gulping sound from his throat.
“My name is «Skuld»! You have my thanks, warriors!”
She made a short exclamation in a cold and dignified voice, and like her sister, held up her big hand. Once again, a waterfall of reward items occurred. The message area on the right most of my vision finally appeared the blinking ‘reaching full capacity’ warning.
As the two sisters stepped back, Urðr stepped forward once again. If Urðr gave a similar amount of reward, there was no doubt the storage would overflow. In that case, the remaining items would turn into the arbitrary objects piled up on Tonkii’s back —— However, was it good to say it was fortunate? Urðr smiled at me before began speaking,
“——From me, I would be bestowing that sword upon you. But, never throw it into «Urðr’s Spring».”
“Y-Yes, I won’t.”
As I nodded like a child——
The golden long sword I had held tight in both hands, the legendary weapon «Holy Sword Excaliber»’s shape had disappeared. Of course, it was put into my personal storage. At this point I wanted to shout “I got it!!!!!” but as I was no longer a kid, please forgive me for only grasping my right hand in that moment.
The three maidens floated up a little and said in unison.
“Thank you, Fairies. Let us meet again.”
At the same time, in the center of my vision, a system message in an elaborated font appeared. As the ‘Quest Cleared’ message faded, the three bodies began to leave.
Klein suddenly jumped in front and shouted,
“S, S-S-Skuld-san! Your contact address!”
————You, what about Freyja-san!?
————and how is an NPC supposed to have a mail address!?
As I was standing upright, considering which one I should say to him——
Which one should I say?
The two sisters had already disappeared distantly, but the sister of the future Skuld-san turned around, it may have been my imagination, but I saw her make an amused expression, then waved her hand again. Something glittering flowed through the air and dropped into Klein’s hand.
Immediately after that, the goddess of war also vanished, leaving just silence and a gentle breeze.
Before long, Lisbeth shook her head slightly before whispering,
“Klein. Now you have my respect from the bottom of my heart.”
Agreed. Really, I completely agreed.
Our sudden adventure on the morning of 28th December 2025 concluded like this around noon.
“……Well, how about the year-end party after this?”
As I proposed; Asuna, even though looked a little tired, smiled and said,
“I agree too!”
From her shoulder, Yui raised her right hand up straight.
I was a little worried as I decided whether to hold the unexpected year-end party in the room Asuna and I shared in Yggdrasil City, or to gather in the real world.
If it was in ALO, Yui, who played an active role in this quest, would be able to fully participate in the party. But Asuna had to go to Kyoto to visit the head house on her father’s side for a week, starting from the 29th, so if we missed meeting today, I wouldn’t have another chance to meet her until after the year ends.
As Yui, my daughter, said “Real!” after I asked for her opinion, the year-end party would be held from 3:00PM at the café in the Taito district of Okachimachi, the «Dicey Café». We waved farewell to Tonkii after it sent us back up to the tree stairs, and once we reached the central capital Alne, which was still crowded, like before the quest —— even though when Þrymheimr started ascending it caused some slight vibration —— there, we logged out.
The first thing I did after opening my eyes on my bed in the real world was to call Agil to make a reservation, and although he complained “Suddenly asking like this, I won’t have time to prepare the special ingredients.”, but by the time we arrived, there would be plenty of the shop’s special menu’s ‘spare ribs’ and ‘baked beans’, he was such an ideal businessman.
The weather forecast said there would be snow in the evening, so Suguha and I had to use the train to reach the interior of Tokyo instead of my bike. Also, this time we had luggage which were quite large, and it wouldn’t fit in my clunky 125cc’s narrow helmet compartment anyway.
Speaking of Kawagoe city in the Saitama prefecture, to Klein who lived in Tokyo, he would make a face as if it were located at the edge of the world, but it didn’t even take an hour on the Tojo express line to reach Okachimachi. It was past 2PM when we opened the door of Dicey Café, and only Sinon, who had arrived earlier due to her house being extremely nearby, was there.
After I greeted the shopkeeper who was busy preparing food, I opened the hard case I brought. It contained four cameras with movable lenses, and a notebook PC for controlling them.
“……What are these?”
Frowning, Sinon asked, while Suguha helped to install the cameras at the four corners of the shop. They were the mass market web cameras with built-in microphones, but I had remodeled them to have high capacity battery and wireless connection, these four were enough to fully cover the entire room without having to worry about the location of each camera.
Once the cameras were recognized by the notebook PC, I confirmed their movements, then connected them to the high spec stationary machine in my house in Kawagoe. I put on the small head set, then spoke,
“How’s it, Yui?”
『……I can see. I can see clearly, and I hear you, Papa!』
The lovely voice of Yui resounded from both my earphones and the PC speaker.
“OK, try moving slowly first.”
After her reply, the small diameter lens of the closest camera started moving.
Currently Yui should be flying like a little fairy in the pseudo-3D reflection of the Dicey Café. Although the image quality was low and the response time was also bad, she would have much more freedom compared to the passive image from the mobile terminal’s camera up until now.
“……I see, so those cameras and microphones are like Yui’s terminal’s…… sensory organs, right?”
I said nothing to Sinon’s words, while Suguha nodded,
“Yeah. Onii-chan learned that at school, mecha…… mechatoni……”
“Mechatronics.”, that, was me.
“You take that nics course and made these stuff, all just for Yui-chan, right?”
『It was an order from me!』
Ahaha, three people laughed together while sipping their usual hot ginger ale.
“I-It wasn’t just that! Once the camera is more compact, I can attach it to my shoulder or head and bring it anywhere with me……”
“Isn’t that also for Yui?”
Really, there was no way I could object to that.
However, this temporarily named «Audio-visual two-way communication probe» system was still far from complete. In order for Yui to be able to realize the real world like the virtual world, the automatic movement function of the terminal camera and microphones was a requirement, and the sensors were also not enough. Ideally speaking, it would be best to use a self-propelled human type. Of course I couldn’t make it using the equipment from high school, is there any aggressive mechanics-san somewhere out there making a beautiful girl robot……?
While my honest delusion unfolded; Asuna, Klein, Lis, and Silica assembled in that order, while food and drinks were lined up on the two tables which were stuck together. When Agil brought out the spare ribs served on big shining plates, all the members clapped at the shopkeeper. He then took off his apron and sat down, and both non-alcoholic and real champagne were poured into glasses——
“Congratulations for obtaining the «Holy Sword Excaliber» and «Thunder Hammer Mjölnir»! Thanks for the good work in 2025! ——Cheers!”
Everyone said in a big chorus after my lead.
Sinon, who sat on my right, murmured after around one and a half hours, when the feast on the table was almost settled.
“Why was it «Excaliber»?”
“Heh? What do you mean?”
As I tilted my head trying to understand what her question meant, Sinon supplemented while spinning the fork skillfully at the tip of her finger.
“Normally…… it’s usually «calibur» in other fantasy novels or manga, right? As in, «Excalibur».”
“A……Ahh, is that so?”
“Heh, Sinon-san also read those kinds of novels?”
Suguha, who was on the opposite side, asked. Sinon made an awkward smile before replying,
“I was head librarian during middle school. I had read several books about the legend of the King Arthur, I have the feeling that they all used «calibur».”
“Hmmm, maybe it is another thing which was set on the whims of the ALO item set designer……?”
I made an emotionless response, and Asuna who sat on my left made a bitter smile and said,
“It’s certainly based on the legend, just like the fake reward from the earlier quest, wasn’t «Caliburn» also one of them?”
Then, a clear voice of Yui replied from the speakers atop the table.
『The main ones are «Caledfwlch», «Caliburnus», «Calibor», «Collbrande», «Caliburn», «Escalibor», and more.』
“Uwa, so many…”
I was amazed, while I was thinking «calibur» and «caliber» seemed to be a mistake, Sinon continued,
“Well, it might not be a big deal…… but when saying «caliber», I’m a bit anxious because I’ve heard of its other meaning.”
“Heh, what is it?”
“A gun’s barrel diameter, written as «caliber» in English, for example, my Hecate II’s 50 barrel diameter is called «fifty caliber». I realized this after seeing the difference in Excaliber’s spelling.”
Sinon closed her mouth for a moment, then glanced at me before continuing,
“……Then, it turned out to also have another meaning, «A man’s capacity». «A man of high caliber» means «A man who has high capacity» or «A man with high capability».”
“Hehh―, I need to remember that……”
Suguha said in admiration, Sinon then said, “Perhaps it won’t come out in the exams though.” and smiled.
Then, I didn’t know when she heard about it, but Lisbeth on the opposite side of the table grinned and said,
“That means we can’t call the Excaliber owner a cheapskate. And I heard a rumor, that recently a certain someone did a part-time job and earned quite a bit…―”
It was just yesterday that Kikuoka from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications had deposited the cost for assisting in the investigation of the «Death Gun Incident». But it was already spent on various upgrading of parts of Yui’s stationary machine —— then Suguha’s nanocarbon shinai —— was also already pre-ordered, so the balance was immediately in a desolate state.
But I couldn’t pull back here right after I heard about caliber. I slapped my chest before declaring,
“O-Of course, I’ve decided from the start that today’s party is my treat.”
Right after that, the loud sound of applause came from all directions, along with Klein’s whistle.
As I raised my hand in response, I started thinking in my mind,
If I learnt anything about the human’s capability through the experience from the three worlds: SAO, ALO, GGO, it would be just one, «Nothing can be shouldered alone».
No matter in which world, there were many times I was about to be crushed, but somehow managed to continue walking forward with the help of many people. The development of today’s sudden adventure was also a sign of it, wasn’t it?
So surely, my —— no, everyone’s «caliber» was the point inside the full circle made by all my companions holding hands together.
That golden sword was to never be used for my personal gain.
While I decided that in my mind, in order to toast with everyone again, I reached my hand toward the glass on the table.
1. Commonly known as Urd or Urth, one of the three Norns in Norse mythology.
2. The king of Jötunheimr, known as Thrymr or Thrym in plain English.
3. Or Wayland the Smith, is a legendary master blacksmith in Norse mythology.
6. Þjazi (anglicized as Thiazi, Thjazi, Tjasse or Thiassi) was a son of the giant Olvaldi, brother of giants Idi and Gangr, and the father of Skaði. His most notable misdeed was the kidnapping of the goddess Iðunn.
7. Verdandi or Verthandi, meaning “happening” or “present” in old Norse.
8. The latter was written キャリバー (kyaribaa) which was used throughout the entire SAO series as the strongest sword in ALO as well as this story’s title, the first one was written カリバー (karibaa) just like in King Arthur’s sword Excalibur, even native Japanese could be confused with the two thus what they are discussing in this chapter.