This will be the final update of the Rondo series (i.e. dropped), as Yen Press's Sword Art Online Progressive 1 (it's an Amazon.com link) is going to be released on the 24th March. Sorry for the long delay as I was really swamped in deadlines in the first school term of IB year 2. Also, since Progressive 2 and Progressive 3 official translations are coming up in June and October this year respectively, I will not pick up translating the web version of those. I'll try to find time to go through Rainbow Bridge, but right now just read the one on Gsimenas's blog.
Translation by Dennis, proofread and edit by Gsimenas and Pryun.
Rondo of the Transient Sword 26
"…… so, this is the reason you are so careful when strengthening……"
"Yeah…… Though I also feel somewhat sorry for the sword that is going to be broken…… ——However……"
At that point, he looked up at me and Asuna and gave a weak smile.
"……though it is not really my place to say this, but…… you have actually discovered my trick for the fraud. In addition, you noticed it not today …… but three days ago, when you remotely retrieved Asuna-san's Wind Fleuret +4, right……?"
"Ah, well, at that point in time it was still a "it's possible" kind of assumption. When I realised it, the one hour time limit for retaining ownership had almost passed, so I rushed to Asuna's room in the inn and asked her to use the all-item objectify command and……"
At that moment, I felt a glance with a pierce attribute coming from my right, and narrowly avoided the mistake of describing the contents of her storage in detail.
" …and so, the Fleuret returned. Therefore, I confirmed the existence of the fraud…… but the modus operandi, that the trick uses «Quick Change», was determined just the day before yesterday. And, you know, the key to that was actually your name, Nezuha……no, «Nezha»"
As Nezuha, or rather, Nezha, heard me calling him, he took a sharp breath.
He clenched his hands on the table tightly, and lifted his body slightly. However, immediately afterwards, he sat back down and looked at the ground, ashamed.
"………… Can't believe you actually noticed that much………"
"No, that credit goes to the information dealer. Because, your fellows…… the five members of «Legend Braves» all call you Nezuo. Which means…… they don’t know about this either, right? About the origin of the character name Nezu……no, Nezha. "
"Just Nezuha will be alright, that's essentially the intended reading I had in mind when I used it as my name. "
After his introductory remarks, the blacksmith nodded.
"…… Yeah, that's right…… "
哪吒. More correctly, it should be Nezha, or Prince Nezha. (1)
He is a teenage deity from the Ming-dynasty China's fantasy novel «Fengshen Yanyi»(2). He used various «treasured weapons», and flew in the sky on a pair of wheels(3). He is truly a dignified «legend brave» who can very well be compared to the Holy Knight Orlando and the Brave Beowulf.(4)
It is spelled as "Nezha" in Latin alphabets. So, I guess, the only ones who would pronounce it as Nataku are the hardcore mythology lore maniacs. This is especially true in Aincrad, which does not have the luxury of access to a search engine. I became very curious about what kind of brain the information dealer Argo has, but anyway, when I found out the true name of the blacksmith, whom I had always called Nezuha(5), at the conclusion of the report on the «Legend Braves» members that she had sent me, I was enlightened.
At first, he did not aspire to be in the production trade. Although he wanted to be a combatant, for some reason he ended up being a blacksmith. If so, there is a possibility. The possibility that although he was a blacksmith, he had also improved a few of his weapon skills. And after thinking it through, I finally arrived at the conclusion that the key to the weapon swapping trick is likely the purely combat skill mod «Quick Change».
"……«Legend Braves» was originally a team formed in an action game for the NerveGear that was released three months before the commencement of the official service of SAO. "
After taking another sip of the tea, Nezuha continued slowly.
"It was a cheap piece of software that was available only through download -- a simple game which only involved the competition between scores, earned by using swords or axes to slay monsters that flooded the only road on the map……even so, it was still a heavy burden for me. As I could not judge the distance at all, often, when I didn't manage to hit the monster with the random swing of my sword, I took damage from them when they approached me. Because of that……because of my presence, it was pretty impossible for my team's ranking to rise to the top. It's not like I know Orlando and the others very well in real life, so I had thought of leaving the team, or better yet, quitting the game altogether, but……but……"
Nezuha held his fist tight once again, and continued in a quivering voice,
"......since no one said anything about kicking me out of the team, I just took that as an excuse and continued to stay in the team. It wasn’t that I liked the game. It was actually because the whole team had decided that we would go into NerveGear's first……no, the world's first VRMMO game, Sword Art Online, after three months. I……I wanted to have a try at SAO no matter what. However, I was already determined as FNC, and I didn't have the courage to enter the game alone. Guess……that's all because of my overreliance. Even though it is in SAO, as long as I had the chance to join Orlando and the others, even if I can't fight well……wouldn't I get stronger, I thought……"
At his pitiful confession, Asuna and I could only listen silently.
"I understand your feelings", it's easy for me to say that. Because, even for me, the moment I saw the first PV(6) of SAO on the Internet, I firmly decided in my heart that no matter what, I had to go into that world. Even if I had been determined to have a case of FNC worse than Nezuha's, as long as there was a possibility for me to dive, I would be likely to have logged into SAO.
But I could not express that in words. After all, I abandoned my very first friend in this world, who, in some sense, was in need of help like Nezuha, at the Starting City.
Interpreting my silence in a certain way, Nezuha laughed at himself mockingly for the umpteenth time, and said,
"……In the former game, I used a different name…… a name like Orlando and Cú Chulainn, the name of a hero that is known to everyone. The reason I changed it to Nezha, if I have to say it, is only to please Orlando and the others. I did not use the kind of hero's name like everyone else did, so that at least they would still accept me as their partner. When people ask me where my name came from, I tell them that it is a parody of my real name. Of course, that is a lie. When everyone calls me "Nezuo, Nezuo", I'll think, 'you know, even my name is the name of a hero's' inside my heart. Really……it can't be helped……"
Not only me, even Asuna neither denied nor affirmed Nezuha's self-condemning words at all. Instead, from the depths of the hood that she wore even indoors, Asuna calmly asked,
"However, after SAO became a death game, the situation changed, right? You stopped going out to the fields, and transformed to a crafter. Being a Blacksmith, you are now able to support your teammates even without battling, right. But……why did you begin the strengthening fraud since then? In the first place, whose idea was it to perform strengthening fraud? You? Or maybe Orlando?"
The Godspeed Fencer cut directly into the core of the problem as if displaying her real ability, leaving Nezuha silent for a moment.
The answer that soon came was a surprise.
"Neither me, nor Orlando……nor the other teammates."
" ……Actually, during the first two weeks, I was aiming to become a combatant. In this world, there is a single skill that uses projectile weapons……in that case, wouldn’t I be able to battle even without perception of depth, so……"
At these somewhat unexpected words, I responded in place of Asuna,
"Aha, it's the «Blade Throwing» skill huh. ……but, that's……"
"Yeah……. At the Starting City, I bought as many cheap throwing blades as possible to aid in skill training, but then I found out that I couldn't do anything after the stock was used up……and the stones picked up in the field dealt very little damage, so by no means it can be used as a main skill……as soon as I reached a skill proficiency level of 50, I gave up on it. Moreover, owing to the cooperation and support of everyone from the Braves on my training, they were not able to catch up with the frontliners……"
I presume that the reason that the Legend Braves fell behind at the start dash, was not only due to Nezuha's blade throwing training, but also caused by the ferocious rushing of the original beta testers, including me, but if I said those words now I'll most probably be glared at by Asuna again, so I'll just leave it.
" ……When I announced my decision to give up on the blade throwing skill, the atmosphere became pretty scary. Although no one said it, everyone in the guild probably thought that they were lagging behind as a result of having me in the team. Even though I said I wanted to become a Blacksmith, it would cost a fortune to fund the training of production skills……It become like a situation where everyone was just waiting for someone to say 'We should just leave this guy at the Starting City'. Honestly I should have said it myself……but I just couldn't voice that thought aloud. I was afraid, afraid of living alone……. ——And then, from the corner of the bar where we were chatting, came a man that we originally thought was an NPC. And he said 'If that guy is a Blacksmith with skills in combat, y'know there is a super cool way of earning'"
Asuna and I spontaneously looked at each other. No one had thought that the idea of using quick change to perform strengthening fraud, came from a player outside of the «Legend Braves».
" Wh-who's it, that guy? "
"His name……I don't know. He only explained the way to swap weapons and then immediately left.. Since then, we have never crossed paths. However, he was a person who gave off a somewhat …… strange impression. Both in the manner of speaking……and in the style of dressing. He looked like he was dressed comfortably in an enamel black hooded cloak that looked like a raincoat……"