Sword Art Online Volume 21 summary

As some may have known, I ended up working on a summary for volume 21 since December due to popular demand on Twitter. Today, that summary was finally completed. Since some people were interested, I decided to make a compilation of the summary from my Twitter account. For this version, I removed my random reactions (at least I hope I didn't miss anything) from the summary tweets, made a few corrections here and there, and organised the entire text into paragraphs. If you wish to read the original Tweet thread, you can find it here.

Notice: This is a summary, not a proper translation. Even if I ended up making it more like a full-blown retelling than an actual summary.


Translated by Defan here.

Chapter 1

Translated by Defan here.

Chapter 2

Beginning of the chapter translated by Defan here.

Aincrad is rocked by several earthquakes until it begins to crumble. A chunk of land with Kirito and Asuna's log house breaks off Aincrad and starts falling towards the ground.

At this point, Kirito recalls the Ordinal Scale incident: that Prof. Shigemura has recovered the original Aincrad on the old SAO server in Argus's basement and that that Aincrad basically served as Yuuna's grave now. But since that Aincrad isn't quite easy to access, Kirito decides to focus on their log house in ALO as their one true home. In order to protect the log house from crumbling when the chunk of land it's on crashes to the ground, Asuna proposes to use their wings to change its course in a way that the chunk of land falls into a river for a softer landing. The log house island landed on the river, started cracking, and bounced out of the river into a forest.

Just as Kirito attempted to look at what happened to Aincrad while his log house was blocked off by a cloud of dust, the warnings disappeared from the sky... and he suddenly lost the ability to fly... along with Asuna and Alice. Thinking that something happened to voluntary flight, Kirito attempted to call out the assistant flight controller... to no avail... And... Kirito crashlanded into a river curled into a ball, losing half his HP. When the three rose to the surface of the water, Asuna and Kirito lost their elf ears, though Alice maintained her cat ears. All three of them still can't fly, so they decided to swim to the shore.

When the three of them got out of the water and decided to head to check on the log house, Alice noticed that they were still wet. Apparently, in ALO, you dry up within seconds of leaving the water, but not in Unital Ring. Getting a bad feeling, Kirito tried to call out his menu to arm up... but the menu couldn't be summoned. Despite repeating the motion for it several times... and even trying with his other hand. At that point, a newbie tip comes to the rescue: "Tip: To call out the menu window, draw a circle clockwise with your right index and middle finger." That called out a light purple menu. Unlike the square menu in ALO, Unital Ring uses a ring menu. Shows simple icons for the menu options at first, but you can enlarge them to see a text overlay. The options are (staring from the top, clockwise):

So, Kirito of course checks the System option first. This brings up a submenu with: Graphics, Sound, UI.... and yes, a door icon for logging out. Sighs of relief from Kirito and Asuna. Meanwhile, Alice needs a moment to realise that the two were thinking of SAO at that moment. Then Alice brings up Kayaba. She can't understand why someone would want to lock up 10 000 young people into a virtual world to kill each other or be killed by monsters when 10 000s of people die in the real world every day.

At that point, Kirito decided that before checking on the log house, he wanted to find out what happened to the rest of Aincrad. Thus, he was about to send a message to Lisbeth on the 45th Floor through the communication tab... when he realised that he could just call Yui... But while Yui would appear near him, no matter where she was at the time, if he called her in ALO as she was technically his navigation pixie, she wasn't responding to him here. And Alice finally raises the question if they're actually still in Alfheim... based on the fact that ALO has a limited variety of plants and Alice just saw a bunch of trees she never encountered in ALO. Then Asuna chimed in that while Undine territory did have tons of lakes... it certainly didn't have such large rivers.

So, Kirito decided to open up his status window to prove that they're still in ALO... For sure, the window did include the name 【Kirito】... but there was some differences. Starting from the fact that to right of his name he saw a string 【Lv.1】, when ALO doesn't have levels. Below it were 4 coloured bars: HP, MP, TP, SP. The HP bar showed 【98/200】 while all the others were at 【100/100】. After several seconds of staring at Kirito when he read his level, Asuna and Alice checked their own menus. Both found themselves to be level 1 as well. Kirito has a flashback of Andrew/Agil explaining ALO basics in Fairy Dance. MP (mana point) bar is green, TP bar is blue, and SP bar is yellow.

Thinking that there may be some announcement from Ymir, Kirito checked on the Communication tab on his menu. This gave the following options: party, friend, message. Kirito chose the last option and not only did he not find a new message, he found no old messages either. Friend list is just as empty. So, no sending messages to Liz and the gang. At least we still have our stuff, Alice points out. So, Kirito looks into his storage... only to find but two items there. Specifically, two one-handed swords: «Black Welt», the sword created by Lisbeth, and «Holy Sword Excalibur». Everything else was gone without a trace. Asuna got to keep: her rapier and staff (probably Crest of Yggdrasil?). Alice: sword and shield.

Alice proposes the idea that they only got to keep their two most prized possessions each. So, Kirito takes out his sword. Its reliable weight appears on his back... until he realises that the "reliable" weight is a bit too much for a lvl 1... weighs like a huge steel beam now. So, a helpless Kirito waves his hands about trying to latch onto something so he doesn't fall on his behind. That "something" is of course Asuna and Alice.

Specifically, he's grabbing onto their sword belts. While the two girls are screaming, he asks them to wait a bit so that he could correct his posture by lowering his left knee on the ground so he doesn't fall on his behind. When the guy looks up to his HP bar, he notices a weight icon had flashing red: he's overburdened by the weight. Asuna then points out that their stats were reset, so it's only natural that he can't wield his heavy stuff now. Apparently, Unital Ring has 2 weight parameters: equip weight and carry weight. While the latter bar is barely around 30% full, the former is already in the red. Though, that 30% in his inventory is just one sword.

At that moment, Asuna speculates that their skills were also reset... but stopped mid-thought. After staring into blank space lifelessly for a moment, Asuna hurriedly checked on her skills... and sighed in relief. Apparently, while her magic, mixing and other skills disappeared, she at least still had her Rapier skill, with its proficiency and Sword Skills in tact. Asuna was concerned about the possibility of having lost Yuuki's Mother's Rosario. Alice got to keep 1-Handed Sword, with its proficiency in tact. Thus she proposes the idea that only their highest-leveled skill was maintained. At that moment, Kirito realises that Asuna had her Rapier skill leveled higher than her water magic skill. "That's Berserk Healer for you." Asuna remarked that he should stop using that nickname now that she doesn't even have a healing skill anymore.

Anyway, Asuna finally pointed out that Kirito should just put his sword back into his storage if he can't even use it. But, Kirito being Kirito, he just had to continue struggling and attempt to stand up while wielding the sword. Surprisingly, his effort didn't go to waste, since he earned himself a new skill at that point. Reading a window that popped up, Kirito learnt that he acquired the Sturdiness skill and increased it to level 1. Apparently, the skill system in Unital Ring works about the same as in ALO. You acquire/level up skills via fulfilling the requirements for "PI (proficiency) triggers". While Kirito never saw a Sturdiness skill before, he assumes it's the same as "Expanded Storage" from SAO. While Kirito considered bearing the weight of his sword until he leveled the skill enough to just wield his sword properly, he decided to just follow Asuna's instructions and drag and drop the weapon to his storage as he had no idea how long the process would take.

So, the three of them decide to finally head out to the log house. As they began walking, Kirito manipulated his menu to invite Asuna and Alice to his party. Parties at least seem to work in a standard manner so far: HP bars of your party members appear below your own. They still don't know what TP and SP are, seeing as they're still full. So they thought they'd just find out when they decrease. Before going into the crash site of the log house, Kirito checked the map. Naturally, only the parts they've already been to are mapped so far, but at least he figured out they were heading north-east.

After navigating a labyrinth of collapsed trees, the gang found their path blocked by a wall of logs that are twice the size of their height. Can't use their wings, so they'll just have to climb them. This brought back memories of Kazuto playing with Suguha at Kawagoe City's Isanuma Park's field athletics. Just when Kirito climbed up halfway, Asuna finally got the idea to tap on the log that Kirito was standing on. The logs are apparently treated as materials, so they can just be stored in their inventories. Of course, she didn't wait for Kirito to actually get down first... And all the logs were now falling atop him as he fell on his butt... At least the girls managed to pull him out of harms way by the skin of his teeth. Now they got rid of the rest of the logs by storing them in their inventories, though Kirito's carry weight is now 90% used.

Eventually they reached the log house. While it wasn't utterly destroyed by the crash... it wasn't unharmed either. Left wall is broken, the roof is dented, the windows are all broken, while the porch and stairs look like a giant from Jotunheim stepped on them. Though, considering how much the house had actually fallen (10 km), it is still a miracle that it was still standing at all. Alice asks Kirito if the house can be repaired... but Kirito replies that player homes were supposed to be indestructible objects and just taps on the handrails of the porch. To his surprise, unlike ALO, where the property window only indicated that the building was a player home, the window in Unital Ring showed the following:
Top: イトスギの丸太小屋 - Cypress log cabin
Below that: The owners (Asuna and Kirito)
Below that: Durability (coloured bar).

The Durability parameter had the following numbers: 【4713/12500】... and it was still decreasing at a pace of 1 point per 10 seconds. Kirito looked at the time. 27th day, 17:32. If nothing is done, the house would fall apart the next morning at around 6:30. Due to Alice's composedly reminding them to look for a repair button, Kirito looked at the window again and noticed 4 buttons: Info, Trade, Repair, Disassemble. Kirito tried pressing the third button. And he found out that the repairs would require:
💠Elementary level Carpentry skill
💠162 sawed logs
💠75 wooden boards
💠216 iron plates
💠463 iron nails
💠30 flaxseed oil​
💠24 glass plates

Since ALO apparently doesn't have a housing creation system, the three are finally convinced that they're not in ALO anymore. With Alice's encouragement, the two decided to get started on collecting all those materials. Luckily, there were plenty of wood materials around, so they emptied their inventories (including their weapons) to start gathering the stuff. Their inventories can only carry 5-6 logs.

After 20 minutes, they gathered up all the logs around the crash site. 10 piles of 15 logs... 150 in total... still 12 short.... Logs apparently named "aged megurimatsu logs". Asuna thinks that they're quality stuff. Alice remarked that they reminded he of the woods near Rulid. But either way, the logs need to be processed before they can be used... only problem is, they need something to process them with...

Kirito thought about Yui again, but concluded that the navigation pixie system is rendered null and void now, which means they had no way of contacting her. But since Yui's stored on Kazuto's PC, she wasn't in any danger herself. He also offered to log out and check on her, but Asuna rejected the offer, as she wanted Yui to help Liz and Silica if she was still with the girls. Alice just recalled the time she constructed her own log cabin in Rulid after leaving the Central Cathedral. This prompted Kirito to recall that Alice had spent half a year taking care of him there while his Fluctlight was busted.

Anyway, Alice mentioned a tool they could use for the logs based on her experience in Underworld... but they'd need to either make it themselves or buy one... Creating it would need yet another bunch of tools, while they haven't seen any towns nearby where they could buy it. But they eventually figured a regular knife would do the job too. So, Asuna rushed into their house in hopes of finding some of their stuff their... but their house storage was utterly empty... Just as Kirito was about to try and cheer her up, he realised that a sword would work too. The girls reminded him of his shameful sight the last time he tried to equip it, but Kirito assumed that he could just unequip everything else.

So, without further ado, Kirito opened his menu, selected his equipment figure (apparently, this one functions the same as in SAO)... and he pressed the button to unequip all his stuff at once without hesitation.... leaving him in just his boxers... Unfortunately for him though, the sword is still too heavy. And so Kirito realised that when everyone was reset to level zero, people with heavy armour would become unable to move at all, so the game had made an exception and allowed people to keep wearing the stuff they already had on. But since Kirito took his stuff off, that exception no longer applies to him. So, all of his stuff is now heavy as fuck, meaning that he is stuck in boxer mode. At least Kirito leveled up his Sturdiness skill to level 2 in the process... not much of a comfort though. So, after using the button for removing all his stuff again, Kirito is now stuck in his boxers... and he gets scolded by Alice for his dumbassness while he sits in seiza pose.

Kirito tries to take comfort in the fact that he was the only sacrifice. Though, Alice just responds that the girls just would have refrained from logging in until he got them some clothes. Meanwhile, Asuna bursts into laughter. Alice not amused that they're always like this. At this point, Kirito realised that they're not in an RPG, but a survival game. And while Kirito's explaining what a survival game (both real life games and computer game genre) is to Alice, he realises that TP and SP are thirst and hunger. Asuna translates those as Thirst Point and Starve Point. Kirito asses that both of those are temporarily disabled as part of a transition period to allow people to prepare.

Since Kirito urges himself to go forward despite being nearly literally butt naked, Alice reminds Kirito that all the survival stuff was a given in Underworld and that even Dark Territory goblins would laugh at him, seeing as they had both water (river) and food (fruits) around. So, Kirito gets pumped for playing the survival game and even jokes about planning to start a Kirito Empire, hoping that the girls would join in... but Asuna says that protecting the log house is enough for her, while Alice... remarks how such a proclamation doesn't quite suit his current getup.

Chapter 3

Kirito apparently played a survival game on his PC before, so he knows the basics of what you're supposed to do in a survival game at the start, even though he's never played a VR survival game before. Kirito decides to head back to the river. Upon reaching the dry riverbed, Kirito instructs the girls to find the hardest stone they could, about 30 cm in length, preferably long but narrow. Meanwhile, he found himself a rock to use as a workbench. He then picked up a round stone and threw it at the rock, splitting the stone into two down the middle. Unlike most VR games, the stone didn't disappear after breaking. He then investigated the stone by tapping on it to bring up the property window. [Broken Grey Stone Weapon/Material Attack: Smashing 2.18; Durability: 5.44; Heavines: 3.71], surprising Kirito that it even went into decimals.

At that moment, Asuna and Alice returned from their search. Asuna brought a greyish-green stone; Alice - blackish brown. Kirito took both stones to evaluate their weight. Green one slightly heavier, but the black one is harder. Kirito decides to turn the green one into materials first and placed it on the workbench. Holding it in place with his left hand, he took the black one and struck the green one with it. After a moment, the stone split into two. Then he took one of the pieces and hit it with the black one again; he failed this time. Just as he readied for the third strike, Asuna noticed that Kirito resembled a certain something. As she was about to tell him that, she had to suppress her laughter.

At that point, Alice explained that Kirito breaking the stones in his underwear looked like a Neanderthal she saw on TV. She even proposed the idea of him changing his boxers to a fur pelt to complete the look. This breaks Asuna's self-restraint limits and she begins chuckling, followed by Alice right afterwards. In response, Kirito starts protesting... in self-created Neanderthalian... causing the girls to burst into laughter.

Anyway, on his third strike, Kirito managed to split off a fragment of the stone, creating a 3 x 5 cm piece, 1 cm thick. With the black stone, Kirito further processed the stone piece, believing that the system would somewhat understand what he was planning and help him out. Eventually, a flash came from the stone for a moment and Kirito received a system message that he obtained the Stonemasonry skill, raising it to level 1. But Kirito was more interested in his work rather than the skill, so he tapped on the stone, bringing out a window. The window showed: [Crude, sharp, green stone knife; Weapon/Tool; Attack: Slash 7.82; Thrust 5.33; Durability: 10.05; Heaviness: 3.53] So, Kirito succeeded in crafting a knife.

While crude, the knife had better stats than the stone he crafted the knife from. Putting his new knife away, Kirito took the other stone piece and repeated the same process again. After numerous tries, he finally managed to get another decent-sized fragment out of the stone and crafted a second knife out of it. By then, his Stonemasonry skill reached level 3. Third knife came about more quickly. What remained of his stone materials was deemed insufficient for further crafting and dispersed into particles of light. While all three stones were named «Sharp Green Stone Knife», they all slightly (by decimal points) differed in attack power and durability, as well as their appearance, unlike in other VR and non-VR games. Thus, Kirito was a bit surprised that somebody put in the effort of making 3+ different designs for such a low level item. He speculates that whoever is behind the game isn't concerned with profits. Like Kayaba or Kikuoka.

At that point, Kirito wondered if it was possible to upgrade the knives. So, he cut a bundle of grass growing within stone cracks with his knife. While Asuna held one side of it, Kirito coiled the grass around. Once he was done, another flash of light before a window popped up, announcing that he acquired the Weaving skill, raising it to level 1. But Kirito ignored that window and instead tapped on the grass rope to bring out its property window. [Crude Amane Grass Rope; Tool/Material; Durability: 4.10; Heaviness: 0.65]. Kirito then took a knife from his workbench and wrapped the rope around the part for holding it. As he expected, the moment he was done, another flash of light came from it as the two items became merged, even though he hadn't tied the rope in any way.

When he tapped on the item again, he got a window that said: [Crude, sharp, green stone knife with a rope tied around it; Weapon/Tool; Attack: Slash 7.82, Thrust 5.33; Durability: 15.82; Heaviness: 4.18]. Happy that things turned out the way he had expected, he showed the window to the girls. The two looked impressed for like half a minute... until they realised that while the item's durability increased, so did its heaviness. So, instead of clapping for him like Kirito had expected, the girls complained about the whole thing being a pain in the ass. Anyway, after the two girls took up the Weaving skill themselves as well by making some grass ropes of their own, the three took a knife each and headed back to the log house. By then, they already began to see the sunset.

Not expecting to get all the materials till it gets dark, Kirito wanted to at least finish up with the logs. So, he started using his knife to remove the bark from the logs. To his surprise, the bark didn't disappear after being peeled off, but he did earn himself the Carpentry skill. As he more or less expected that, Kirito continued processing the logs. Since the system greatly simplified the process as long as he was doing it somewhat right, he finished up with one megurimatsu log in a mere minute, turning it from blackish to ivory white round timber. Apparently, the megurimatsu name comes from the fact that the log has spiral grooves beneath the bark (meguri = going around, matsu = pine tree). Upon checking on the property window of the processed log, he saw that its name was changed to [Sawed Aged Megurimatsu Log]. Since the log house's repair window didn't request specific tree logs, he assumed that these will have to do.

Thus, the three of them began working on the other logs. However, they also need a ton of other stuff, which in turn requires a lot of different equipment, tools, knowledge to produce, thus he wished there were a walkthrough for this. Being the Kirito that he his, he lets his thoughts wander off during his work. One such thought was the idiom for being extremely busy: "wanting even the help of a cat​". He realises that they do have a cat, so "cat" in the idiom should be replaced with "Cait Sith". Luckily, he refrains from sharing his poor pun with the girls.

Anyway, the biggest concern for Kirito was that their knives might not hold out till they finished the job, but 42 minutes later, they did manage to finish with the last log. Kirito was the last one to finish his portion, to his disbelief. At the end, Kirito's knife was at 0.46 durability; Alice's - 0.13 (Asuna's not listed). Coiling the rope around the knives turned out to be a great idea. However, all that work was only for one of the six required materials... and they're still 12 logs (+ some more for crafting planks) short. On the other hand, the 150 that they gathered were felled by the log house's crash, rather than themselves, so they would need an axe or something for the rest.

But it's getting late and the following day is a Monday, which means school tomorrow. Since Asuna's from a family of good upbringing, she can't allow herself to have an all-nighter just before a school day (though Kirito had to bring up the school thing himself, as Asuna didn't think of it at first). To cheer her up, Kirito promised to take care of the remaining resources even if he'd have to go into dogeza to apologise to his own parents for the all-nighter later, so he asks her to trust him. Alice volunteers to help too, as she has no other plans till next evening. However, Asuna's reluctant to force Kirito and Alice to shoulder the entire burden themselves. Kirito was about tell her that everything would be fine, but he realised that if he himself were in Asuna's position, he wouldn't be able to get a wink of sleep during the night.

After considering what to do about the situation until imaginary smoke came out his ears, Kirito asked Asuna how her mother would be aware of her dives. The girl explained that her mother could see her diving from the home server's management screen. While Kyouko wasn't keeping an eye on Asuna like that nowadays, Asuna would be busted if her mother happened to glimpse at the screen while working late into the night. At that point, Kirito promises to take care of it for her, without revealing how exactly. However, he does point out that Asuna will have to log out for dinner time (for half an hour), so he decides to do the same during that time.

As the two gaze at their crumbling log house and Kirito was about to reassure Asuna again, Alice interjected... complaining that she wanted to be able to eat with her machine body too. Koujiro and Higa were apparently working on taste sensors for Alice's body, though that will take time to develop. At that moment, Asuna finally shows a smile as she promises Alice to hold a party at the Dicey Cafe once Alice gains the ability to eat food in the real world. She also promises to make tons of tasty stuff for her then. By then, the sky is dyed in deep purple and stars began appearing here and there. The time is 6:45 PM (Asuna's dinner is at 7:00 PM), so it's about time for the first logout.

But there's one thing they have to take care of before then - stashing their logs somewhere. As the log house is still considered a player home, even if it's steadily decaying away, Kirito assumes that anything in the house's storage would be safe from theft. Thus, he decides to have the logs moved to the log house through several runs via carrying them in their inventory. He also decides to store away the unused bark just in case it proves to be useful. The three also store their now-nonequipable main weapons.

By the time they finish up, it's already 6:55 PM. After making plans to make some new armour (or at least some clothes) while looking at his Boxers-Only avatar, he says goodbye to Asuna and Alice, agreeing to meet up again with them 30 minutes later. At that point, the three press on the log out button via their menus. This brought up a standard warning that it was possible for his avatar to die if he logged out while not being in a safe place, but Kirito concludes that there's no safer place than home. When he presses on the "yes" button to log out, a confirmation window pops. "Would you like to disconnect from Unital Ring?". Thus, for the first time, Kirito learns the name of the survival game that he was dragged into.

Moments later, Kazuto awakes in his room. Logout works fine, despite ALO suddenly being hijacked like that. However, he soon feels something heavy on his stomach... Panicking that he was being restrained, he immediately took off his AmuSphere, only to find... Suguha straddling him on his stomach. He couldn't see her face as it was somewhat dark in the room, but he knew that there was only one person in the world who would do something like that.

Apparently, Suguha came over to call him for dinner. It seems he didn't notice that she was shaking him, so she was about to pull his AmuSphere of him. When Kazuto asked why she hadn't just sent him a message (ALO is connected to outside networks, thus it was possible to surf the net an exchange messages in-game), Suguha revealed that she had tried... twice even, but received no response, so she decided to resort to using force. Suguha also complained that she wished she had been home an hour earlier so she could have joined them on their farming, as Liz had promised to show her a secret good spot. Meanwhile, Kirito realised that the ALO --> UR change was responsible for the unreceived messages.

Just as Kazuto began telling Suguha that something bad happened in ALO and that Sugu was lucky she wasn't there, he recalled that Lisbeth, Silica, and Yui were still inside the game on the 45th Floor of Aincrad. He suddenly jumped up (causing Suguha to fall off) and grabbed his Augma from his desk. The moment it loaded up, he called out for Yui, but received no response from her, so he concluded that she was still in Unital Ring. Although he could forcefully disconnect her via his PC, he did not want to force her out.

At that moment, he realised that unlike in SAO, Unital Ring wasn't isolated from the real world and that the whole transition took place at around 5 PM, so 2 hours earlier. Thus, he presumed that some ALO players would have logged out to take it up with the admins and share info on the Internet. Via his Augma, he was about to access «MMO Today», the largest online game info site... when Suguha struck a daunting pose as she pulled on his shirt, telling him to head down for lunch. She added that their mother made his favourite meal that day.

Unable to refuse after hearing that, Kazuto stood up with his Augma still on. While en route downstairs, he opened a browser on the Augma to check for announcements from Ymir, ALO's admins - none to be found. Then he accessed MMO Today... and the moment he took a glance at the top page, he let out a strange sound... Frozen in place like he had turned into stone, he focused on top news headline: [Large Scale Disorder in 100+ VRMMO worlds]. Thus, Kirito realised that the strange phenomenon wasn't limited to ALO... but rather affected The Seed Nexus in its entirety.

Chapter 4

The chapter begins with a focus on Keiko/Silica. Specifically, the time she met some old friend from elementary school. They went out together for tea and Keiko eventually started talking about ALO. The friend told her that she was being weird out of concern for her. Keiko decided to just smile, refraining from getting into how she feels about VR games, as she learnt how that pushes people away from her - her experience with her parents and counsellor​, who couldn't comprehend how she'd want to play VR games after being stuck in one for 2 years.

Even a lot of the people at the SAO survivor school have vowed to never take up another VR game. But Keiko wasn't one of them, though she couldn't explain to anyone why she still liked VR games. Because she herself wasn't quite sure why she liked them. She just feels that something is drawing her to them. While she would like to know what that "something" is, she wouldn't mind not finding out what it is either. She just wants to continue feeling that something.

This is where Silica's introspection ends and we return to the present with Silica, Lisbeth, Yui, and Pina. Silica's team was currently crafting materials. Yui told them they needed 22 more ropes, 16 hay bundles, and 45 sturdy branches. The three girls were sitting in a circle in a hollow at the bottom of a precipice. Not big enough to be called a cave, but enough to serve as a shelter. Plus, they have water leaking from the cracks in the walls, and a bonfire in the middle. They're located in a dried up wilderness with no water bodies around. So, although the water in their hollow is only dripping at a pace of 1 drop per 2 seconds, beggars can't be choosers.

Three hours have passed since ALO was hijacked by Unital Ring, Aincrad crashlanded, and the game system was changed. It was currently 8 PM. At the time of the sudden change, Silica, Lisbeth and Yui had been in a valley at the edge of the 45th Floor of Aincrad, fighting against snail-type monsters. The monsters were hard but weak, so quite handy for leveling skills. Just when they were about to leave the valley for a break, the earth began to shake. Not realising that Aincrad had begun falling, the girls took flight... and thus crashed into the bottom of the next floor...

Following Yui's instructions, the girls managed to leave the castle. Just as they flew about 100 m away, the castle crashed into the ground a la Tunguska. The shockwave from the impact sent the girls flying into the wilderness. It took 15 minutes for them to realise that they were not in one of the fairy lands and that the girls lost all of their stats, items aside from their main weapons and armour, and wings, while Yui lost her Navigation Pixie abilities. The girls and Pina then began wandering the wilderness to find water and a shelter and thus came across the hollow.

Silica and Lisbeth took turns to log out to take care of bathroom and rehydration issues in the real world. But the girls realised that, like in ALO, their avatars temporarily remained vulnerable when they logged out. There were giant scorpions and sand-coloured wolves prowling the area, so they risked getting their avatars killed if they left them alone unprotected. Especially since they had no idea what the death penalty would be here. Thus, a safe spot for logging out was their primary goal.

Lisbeth being Lisbeth, she accidentally acquired the «Elementary Level Carpentry Skill». The only option in the structure category of her production menu was a «Crude Cabin». At that point, Lisbeth complained that instead of her 48 Floor store in Lindas, all she's getting is a crude cabin.

Anyway, Lisbeth wondered what had happened to Aincrad. Since Yui still had access to the map when Aincrad crashed down, she knew that floors 1-20 were utterly destroyed, while even the floors that avoided that fate were partially destroyed. There were approximately 1,200 players inside Aincrad at the time... and almost all of them died in the crash. Until now, Silica still had a hopes that this whole thing was just a fancy surprise event, but Yui's news eliminated that possibility entirely. Though, she assumes that the players wouldn't be subjected to a gruesome death penalty due to the leniency period in place in the game.

Yui's in her white one-piece dress mode. Apparently, she lost her navigation pixie abilities at the same moment as the other girls lost their flight abilities. She even specifies the exact moment: 27 September, 17:05. She then lists the events that took place at that moment: the disappearance of the hexagonal messages in the sky that had been up for 5 minutes till then; the change in all game systems, including the UI; Yui losing her system access right; Yui being turned from pixie to human. Yui is currently being regarded as an ordinary player - no special rights.

As Silica tried to cheer Yui up, the AI girl revealed that she was a bit happy with the change. Like the other girls, she now could equip weapons and armour, hold items, has a HP bar, and her avatar would die once the HP reached 0. While she doesn't know what would happen if she were to die... for the first time, she gained the same position as everyone else in the group... a player. She does feel a bit scared about losing her HP, but that fear is a new sensation to her, and thus intriguing.

Meanwhile, Silica found Yui's words to be both difficult and easy to understand at the same time. In SAO, ALO, as well as during the Ordinal Scale incident and the war in Underworld, Yui was always merely a bystander in a sense. But in Unital Ring, her human-sized (but still shorter than Silica) avatar had all four UR status bars that could decrease based on the situation. In short, Yui was no longer a bystander, but one of the main characters.

At that point, Lisbeth declared that they had to get a nice weapon and armour for Yui, seeing as Lisbeth and Silica still had theirs from ALO. Thus, the two girls could defend themselves against the scorpions and spiders, while Yui was practically defenseless. Plus, if the game is in a temporary leniency mode as Yui had guessed, it was highly likely that Lisbeth and Silica would lose their ability to wield their ALO gear due to its weight. So, all three of them had to get some weapons and armour ready while they still could... after securing a home for themselves. Lisbeth and Silica are also having a sort of crafting competition, it seems - they're trying to reach their crafting goals faster than the other can.

Anyway, with Silica, Lisbeth, and Yui all working on the ropes, they finally finished the first of their requirements: crafting 60 x «Crude Izura Grass Ropes». When they tapped on the ropes, the property window had a short description below the item's name and durability meter: [A crude rope created by twining izura grass that grows in the wilderness. While sturdy, it is susceptible to moisture. The Basin tribe sometimes cooks it for food]. Silica speculates that this implies ropes made from different kinds of grass would have different abilities.

After closing the window, the girls focused on their next materials: hay bundles and sturdy branches.... but they'd have to go outside to get them. Unlike the usual VRMMORPG, where there was some light outside even at night, Unital Ring nights are as dark as the real thing. Reflexively, Lisbeth attempted to chant a basic ALO spell for a light. Lisbeth's spell, naturally, didn't work. Unital Ring should have spells since there's an MP bar, but it's unclear how to use them. The narration explains that VRMMORPGs usually have 1 of 3 different mechanisms for casting spells:
1) Chanting an incantation (like in ALO)
2) A special gesture with the hands and staff
3) Choosing the spell from a grimoire or a holo-window.

Yui surmised that they needed to find an NPC or something of the sort to learn magic skills. So, they'll have to hold out on spells until then. Silica would have preferred to wait till daybreak for some light... but that would take 6-10 hours (depending on whether the day-night cycle follows ALO's 16 hour or RL's 24 hour intervals) and the leniency mode might very well run out by then, so they couldn't afford to wait. Thus, Silica took a longish branch from the bonfire and tapped on it to bring up its property window: [Thin burning branch; Weapon/materials; Attack: Smash 0.43 Flame 0.37; Durability: 1.44; Weight: 0.69]. The durability is decreasing at a pace of 0.01 per 2 seconds. So, it would only provide light for slightly less than 5 minutes.

Silica asked what's the difference between a torch and a simple branch. So, Yui explained that a torch was a rod with a cloth, soaked in combustion improvers (oil or resin). She also explained that torch is written as 松明 (pine light) because Japanese mostly used pine resin for it. Dumbfounded at the detail of the answer, Lisbeth wondered if Yui looked it up on the net. However, Yui stated that she has no access to outside networks from within the game, so all of that detail came from her main memory.

Stroking Yui's hair, Lisbeth commented on how awesome Yui is even if she isn't a navpixie anymore. Though, Yui didn't quite get how all that trivia would be useful to them when they didn't have any resin or cloths. But Liz thought otherwise. She picked up some of the dry grass and wrapped it around the tip of one of the branches that they had yet to throw into the fire. The moment she finished, the branch flashed. After seeing the property window, Lisbeth clutched her hand in joy. Apparently, grass works as a combustion improver, so Liz just crafted herself a «Crude Torch». After clapping twice as she remarked that Liz's idea was quite bright for her, Silica made her own torch. Once ignited, the torch shined considerably more brightly than a mere branch. After igniting her own torch and taking two steps outside... Lisbeth finally took notice of the "quite bright for her" remark.

The wilderness that the girls were in didn't have any green vegetation, but it was dotted with withered grass (Izura grass) and trees. However, Silica was the only one with a sharp weapon (dagger), so she was in charge of cutting the grass, while Lisbeth focused on breaking branches with her favourite mace. Yui volunteered to hold the torch. Yui walked with the improvised torch to light the way, while Silica looked for the Izura grass, cut the whole bundle of it with her dagger whenever she found some, and then threw it into her storage.

Silica's dagger gets some info. Its name is Easthreader and she got it from Jotunheim in ALO. Originally, it had additional ice damage and stats, as well as a resistance boost, among tons of other special effects. However, all it had now was physical slash damage, while all its other specs were gone. Though, its damage far exceeded that of a simple wooden pole/stick, so she had to make do with what she got. Though, according to Yui, she would no longer be able to equip it once the leniency period expires or if she ever unequips the knife from her equipment figure.

The same applied to Liz's mace, so they'd have to get new weapons for all three of them. However, there was no sign of any stores in the wasteland... and even if they did find one, they had no money. So, at this rate, they'd end up going caveman style with grass clothes and wooden clubs. At that moment, Silica thinks that she should get Lisbeth to change her outfit first so that she could at least get a good laugh out of it for a minute or so.

At that moment, Pina let out a sound from atop Silica's head. It was a warning. Apparently, Silica's been with Pina so long that she can understand Pina-ian down to very subtle nuances: "Multiple somethings approaching; can't tell if they're enemies or not." Silica moved her cat ears and felt like she heard footsteps coming, so she whispered to Yui to put out the fire. When the light went out, it suddenly turned darker, though not entirely dark. She then warned Lisbeth about the danger.

Lisbeth reacted quickly and stopped working on the branches, and silently rushed over to Silica. The blacksmith that it wouldn't be wise to just recklessly ambush whatever was coming, so she pointed to a nearby largish rock to hide there. The footsteps were coming from the northeast - the opposite direction compared to Aincrad's crashsite. Feeling a slight tremble herself, Silica noticed that Yui was shaking. After a moment of surprise that an AI could feel fear too, Silica realised that it was kinda hard not to feel scared in the situation (first time with a HP bar, in pitch darkness, and with something approaching). Plus, Yui was separated from Kirito and Asuna as Silica and Liz had had her help them with some skill levelling... and Yui was refraining from logging out to help the two girls out. So, she attempted to reassure Yui by stating that she and Lisbeth were quite strong.

Lisbeth shared her own words of encouragement by saying that she'd give them a strike with her mace... while holding her mace like a baseball bat. Silica was about to retort that a "strike" is when you miss the ball, but midway through her sentence, she heard a hoarse voice nearby. Not a monster groan; rather, a human voice. However, she couldn't understand a thing they were saying. Not because she couldn't hear it well enough, but because it was clearly not Japanese. Nor any other language she knew of.

The unusual speech is rendered as a string of ℵ characters in the text:
Voice 1: ℵℵℵℵℵ、ℵℵℵℵ
Voice 2: ℵℵ、ℵℵℵℵℵ.

Silica describes the speech as bizarrely distorted and more like some incantation rather than words. Upon hearing the second voice, Silica stopped breathing and hugged Yui tighter. Lisbeth readied her mace. The multiple footsteps came from the right... passed right beside the rock.... and began fading away to the left. Though, the girls didn't let their guard down, feeling that this could just be a feint and they would suddenly turn back and attack from the other side. Seeing as if the voices belonged to NPCs or monsters, the game system could have made them aware of the girls' presence.

Silica continued watching her surroundings from all sides as the footsteps continued fading. Once they were far enough, Silica carefully peeked out... and saw 3 people walking through the wilderness. Didn't seem to be players: the three men were wearing simple cloth and leather armour, wielding large torches in their left hands, as well as spears and axes in their right. Their greatly exposed skin was greyish brown, while their braids reached all the way down to their waist. The men continued walking straight while keeping watch on their surroundings. They were heading towards a high cliff/precipice that traversed the wasteland from east to west... right where Silica and co. had left their bonfire...

For a moment, Silica regretted not having doused the fire. Apparently, it was a pain in the ass to get it lit (hitting tons of different stones to get a spark), so they left the fire up as they didn't want to go through all of that again. The men undoubtedly noticed that fire. While Silica didn't care about the fire itself... they had left their 60 grass ropes at their shelter. So, if the men destroyed or took the materials for themselves, the girls' chance of building a decent shelter before the leniency period expired would go down considerably. Lisbeth seemed to get the same idea as well, as she whispered "the ropes...". So, Silica was stuck with a dilemma: prioritise safety and stay hidden, or pursue the men to protect their ropes. So, Silica thought... what would the «Black Swordsman» do?

Silica concluded that Kirito wouldn't just stand there doing nothing. While he wouldn't go so far as to launch a preemptive attack, he would attempt to make contact and protect what needed protection... and enjoy the situation. Considering that Unital Ring was just a game, despite all the changes and their stats being reset. She could still log out and she wouldn't actually die if her HP reached 0 since she was using an AmuSphere. Plus, she still had her equipment and Dagger skill. So, she decided to act, asking Yui to stay put. Giving Yui one last hug, Silica made eye contact with Lisbeth and both gave a nod. Silica jumped out and began running first, followed by Lisbeth. The two headed towards the light from the men's torches.

By the time Silica caught sight of the men again, the three were already at their shelter, peeking inside with their weapons at the ready. The moment Silica went within 10 metres of the men, they suddenly stood up. The spear guy gave a sharp shout as he turned around, while the two axemen jumped to his left and right. Based on his clothing and accessories, the spearman was the leader. All three of them had facepaint. When only 5 metres remained, Silica stopped and shouted that they had no intention to fight, while returning her dagger to its scabbard. Lisbeth also lowered her mace, saying that all they wanted was to keep their ropes. But the men's expression didn't change.

One of them stepped forward and once again shouted something. It sounded half like electric noise rather than an actual language, so the girls couldn't understand them even one bit. The men didn't seem to understand them either. So, Silica was convinced that they were NPCs. One of the axemen groaned something and the spearman nodded. The latter readied his spear again and began closing the distance. Just as Silica was basically resigned to this turning into a battle... Yui suddenly asked them to keep their conversation going a bit more. The little girl had left her hiding place and followed after them, to Silica's shock.

While Silica was sure that she and Lisbeth would just respawn somewhere or just be disconnected from the game if they died at worst, she wasn't quite sure the same applied to Yui. Anything could happen if the former pixie died if she became a player because of some bug. Fearing the worst, Silica resolved for a preemptive attack. But just as she was about to grab the haft of her dagger... Yui once again raised her voice. She explained that the men were talking in some variation of the JA language set for The Seed. So, they were speaking in Japanese. But with several layers of filters on top. Yui declared that with some more samples, she could decode what they were saying.

While finding Yui's words a bit hard to understand, Silica did grasp that the part that the men were speaking Japanese and they just couldn't hear them properly. So, she reflexively brought her hands forward and shouted that they didn't want to fight. Even Pina joined in. The spearman suddenly looked at Pina and shouted something in gibberish again. The two axemen responded in gibberish in turn. But their hostility didn't go anywhere. Instead, they continued slowly closing in. Eventually, Lisbeth told Silica to escape with Yui when the moment comes. Nodding, Silica prepared to run away with Yui, forgetting about the ropes, as the girl was far more valuable than some materials. But just as Silica was about to finish counting to 3...

Yui suddenly said something in the exact same gibberish as the men. The spearman was taken aback and started blinking. From 100% hostility, his expression changed to 50% bewilderment. The man turned to his comrades and said something. Silica only understood that it was a question. On the other hand, Yui responded to him. The conversation continued for sometime, until, to Silica's surprise, the men lowered their weapons and gave smiles of relief. Yui then stepped in front of the two girls and turned around. She explained that everything was fine now. The men were warriors from that Basin tribe mentioned earlier. They lived in the plateau to the north.

They saw the crash of Aincrad and had come to investigate. They had assumed that the girls were demons in disguise, but when Yui explained that the three of them were just lost, the men were satisfied with the explanation. Lisbeth took insult to being called a demon. "As if demons would be this cute.", she said. On the other hand, Silica retorted that Lisbeth was definitely as greedy as a demon though, but pretended not to have said anything when Lisbeth asked her about that.

During their dialogue, the spearman stepped inside the hollow, pointed at the ropes and said something while looking at Silica. Yui translated that he was asking if the girls had made the ropes. Thus, Silica nodded. Then the man asked if the girls knew the proper way to eat them. After exchanging glances, Silica and Lisbeth shook their heads. So, the man said that they'd teach them and thus ordered the girls to follow the men.

The spearman beckoned them with his hands, before he and his comrades turned back towards where they had come from. Lisbeth remarked with some modified idiom. The original would literally mean "If you've eaten some poison, might as well get a plateful" (since you're going to die anyway, there's no point in holding back now). Silica picked up all sixty ropes from the hollow. They had to stop their material gathering, but depending on where this would go, they might no longer need a shelter. Praying that this would turn into an even bigger mess, Silica and co. chased after the Basin people and began walking to the northeast.

Chapter 5

This chapter begins with Kazuto having dinner with Suguha. The guy is eating is favourite dish - brown stew chicken with mushrooms. The reason for this is because it's similar to the Ragout Rabbit stew Asuna had made for him in Aincrad... though he didn't tell his aunt or Suguha about that. Apparently, that's not the only dish that he began to love because of Asuna. Same applies to his other favourite dishes: teriyaki and mayonaise hamburgers, shio ramen, and honey pies.

Anyway, having sent out an email before the dinner, Kauzto finished eating without his Augma... since Midori was apparently strict about table manners despite being the editor-in-chief for an IT magazine. By that time, it was already 7:22 PM (3 minutes till his meeting with the girls), so after thanking his mother/aunt for the meal, he headed upstairs.

Suguha was about to head for a bath, but Kazuto caught her by the nape and told her to bring her AmuSphere to his room. Without explaining anything, he turned her around and gave her a push, telling her to hurry. Once Suguha brought her AmuSphere, Kazuto doubled checked whether she had her respawn point set to the log house, and whether her last logout was from there. When she confirmed that, Kazuto said he'd explain what's going on inside the game, telling her to go into the game at once.

Suguha was surprised that he wanted her to dive from his room, but after taking a look around, she didn't see anywhere to dive from anyway. So, Kazuto told her that she could take half the bed. As she was too shocked to say anything, he sat her down and put the AmuSphere on her. ust then, Suguha's phone rang. She received a message from Nagata (Recon)... and then noticed that he's been spamming her with messages and calls for awhile now. Since Kazuto already had a hunch on what the messages were about, he told her that something important was up and they had to go into the game. When the two both lay on the bed, he looked at the time on the AmuSphere (7:24:47) and decided to dive on the count of five.

By the time Kirito found himself back in Unital Ring, the white-dressed Undine ) and the golden-armoured Cait Sith were already there. Just before the two could say a thing, their gaze moved to the right as Leafa spawned in at that point (2 seconds after Kirito). The two expressed relief that Leafa was alright... leaving the out-of-the-loop Leafa confused. And then she saw Kirito in his undies. Anyway, Leafa had come to UR with her light armour and her longsword, both of which weren't weighing her down yet, so the leniency mode was still in effect. Leafa's ears were also changed to human ones, but the change to her appearance was so minimal that she hadn't even noticed. At that point, Kirito asked her if anything felt different with the login sequence. Apparently, some strange ring appeared then. This proved Kirito's suspicions, since he himself saw the same thing when he converted his account to GGO and so he explained that it was a «conversion ring». In other words, Leafa's account was forcibly converted into Unital Ring.

Shocked, Leafa remarked that they were still in Kirito and Asuna's log cabin... and then she noticed all the damage to it. After the narration detailed the extent of it, Asuna explained that they were no longer in ALO and that the log house and Aincrad had been transferred to a new world. After Leafa was informed of what the others knew, Kirito explained that she was the only one with a(n equipable) sword among them, so they were counting on her. At that point, Leafa remarked that Kirito dragged her there as they needed a bodyguard, though Kirito claimed that wasn't the only reason for it.

Leafa asked what kind of monsters spawned in the area. Alice replied that they hadn't seen any monsters, but did hear some distant roars in the forest. Then Leafa asked about spells and Alice explained that ALO's sacred tongue spellwords didn't work here. At that point, Alice brought up Yui and asked whether Kirito had any luck contacting her. He hadn't - she was still with Liz and Silica.

Since Kirito brought up Aincrad, Leafa immediately asked if they had seen what happened to the castle in the end, but Kirito and co. didn't exactly have the time for that with the whole log house issue on their hands. At that point, Asuna did the math and estimated that Aincrad had fallen about 17 km away from them. Leafa then tried to materialise her wings. Being the speedholic that she was, she found the loss of her wings a bigger blow than the status reset.

Anyway, Leafa realised that their goal was to repair the log house, so she volunteered to help out, as the house was like a second home to her too. Estimating that they had slightly over 10 hours for the repairs, Asuna brought out the property window for the house and showed it to Leafa.

Meanwhile, Kirito opened his own menu to check on his skills. Aside from his One-Handed Sword from ALO (which was currently useless due to the lack of an actual sword to use), he saw the production skills he had already acquired in UR: Stonemasonry (石工スキル), Woodworking (木工スキル), Weaving (紡織スキル), and Sturdiness (強健スキル). All of them were basically near zero. Kirito tapped on the Stonemasonry skill and inspected what items he could craft at that point. The list showed a variety of primitive weapons: stone knife, stone axe, stone spear etc., among which he saw «Stone Sword». If it came down to it, he figured he'd rely on the sword... but didn't really want to equip it while looking looking like a Neanderthal, as he feared that Suguha would burst into laughter, rolling on the floor, upon seeing him wearing a complete Neanderthal set. So he hoped he could skip to a metal weapon instead.

At that moment, he saw a hammer icon next to the names of the stone weapons. Wondering what it meant, he pressed on it, which opened up a Tips window: [Items marked with this icon need to be crafted manually with your hands and tools]. At that point, Kirito wondered if there were items that didn't need to be crafted like that and scrolled through the list. After weapons, he saw stone plates, stone hammers and other stone tools, after which came stone blocks and other stone building materials. All had the hand-crafting icon. Finally, at the bottom, he came across «Stone Cabin», «Stone Hearth», «Stone Furnace for Iron Production», among other things. These had an icon with two tetragons next to them. When Kirito tapped on it, he got another window: [Items marked with this icon can be crafted from the skill window. Please have the necessary materials in your storage for that.]

At that moment, Kirito tapped on the cabin option and got a window with the required materials. He tried pressing the "craft" button. Naturally, he got a window telling him that he didn't have enough materials. Just then, Alice peeked into his window and noticed the furnace option. She wondered whether they could use it to craft the iron plates and nails for the house with it. And some weapons too.

Moments later, Kirito brought up that they would still need to find iron ore to make iron... and that iron ore wouldn't be so easy to come across in such a game, since they wouldn't just grow out in the fields. When Alice wondered where they were going to get some then, Kirito stated that they'd typically be found in mountains and caves. Since there weren't any mountains around, their only option was to find a cave.

At that moment, Kirito trailed off into his thoughts. Apparently, during their adventures in ALO, Kirito learnt that the flawless Alice hated certain things. One of these things were caves. Although Alice was completely fine with artificial dungeons, cave exploring wasn't really her thing. Kirito wondered if this could have anything to do with Alice's sealed memories of her youth.

As Kirito didn't expect to just find a cave out of nowhere, he proposed dealing with the wood materials first, especially since they now had a decent lumberjack with them. Leafa quickly realised that he was talking about her, thus she remarked that she only had a sword, not an axe. But when Kirito started bragging about cutting down the Gigas Cedar with a sword, Leafa agreed to take on the job.

While Kirito was explaining that only the mastermind of the game knew how long Leafa would be able to use her sword, Alice brought Kirito's attention to the game's menu. Apparently, she noticed that the eight icons on it slightly differed in colour shade. The top icon was tinged with red but the following icons gradually got a bluish tinge in a clock-wise manner, until the last one was entirely bluish purple. Since Asuna didn't quite understand what Alice's point was, the Cait Sith explained that all the icons were Zephilia-blue when she had first opened her menu at the time of the crash. The fact that the colour reminded Alice of the Underworld flower is why she remembered such a detail.

But by now, five of the icons had already changed colour... so she theorised that this acted as a timer for the leniency period. Kirito did the math: five icons = 2.5 hours, so 1 icon = 30 min. Meaning, 1.5 hours left. Thus, Alice urged everyone to hurry up with the trees while they still had Leafa's sword. Leafa would fell some trees while the others handled the debarking. But once they rushed out to the porch, they stopped. Since they noticed that it had become awfully dark since the last time they were outside. At that point, Alice stepped outside with an impromptu torch.

Apparently, Alice had returned faster than the others and found two egg-sized stones for starting a fire, thinking that they would be useful when darkness fell. Thinking how actual otherworldians were really something, Kirito asked how she had used the stones. But when Alice explained how she had made some tinder out of dry grass, used the stones near it to cause a spark, lighting the grass on about the tenth attempt, and then used the lit grass to set fire to a tree branch, calling the process simpler than in Underworld... Kirito for once thought that he'd have preferred to have magic. In SAO, he had used lanterns for lighting, but those could be lit up with a press of a button, so not much different from magic. But Unital Ring wasn't going to go as easy on them.

Just as Kirito was about to head out to find his own branch, Alice went over to a large stockpile of them that she had already acquired, and lit them up. At that instant, Leafa remarked that the fire effect was quite realistic, which caused Kirito to compare UR to ALO and SAO - UR had much better graphics than those two. Kirito used an analogy with flat panel displays: it was like comparing HD and 4K video. However, Kirito noted that this clashed with the info he had acquired when he had logged out: how exactly was the game capable of such high resolution when it forcibly converted players from 100s of The Seed games?

By that point, Kirito was forcefully woken from his daydreaming when Leafa slapped him on his back to get him to work already. Midway through Kirito's attempt at thrusting his arm upwards to get psyched for the job, Leafa had already begun slashing away at a tree, causing Kirito to freeze mid-motion. As Asuna and Alice stared at him, he resolved to get some new equipment as soon as they were done with the house, even if he had to pull an all-nighter before a school day.

Since Leafa's long sword was an Ancient Weapon, it didn't even take her 30 sec to chop down a tree with one slash. On the other hand, the debarkers numbered three but had difficulty keeping up with her. After 15 minutes, they already had 3 piles x 10 logs each. With this many of them, Kirito expected to still have some logs to spare after crafting 75 sawed wooden boards. Just then, Kirito realised... that he didn't exactly know how to craft them... As Kirito thought about the process, Asuna stated that they would need at least an oga saw (large Japanese saw) to saw the logs into boards. Asuna had to explain what an oga saw is to Kirito. Just as Kirito thought about crafting a saw, he realised that Japanese saws weren't exactly a thing in the early days, like the Kofun period (i.e. around 250-538 CE), so he wondered what people used before saws.

At that point, Asuna gave a history lesson on saws (causing Kirito to be surprised by the capacity of her brain). Anyway, in the end, Asuna explained that people just used a wedge to split a log, finishing it up with an axe or plane, but this method had a high rate of failure. Aside from the fact that the megurimatsu tree's spherical fiber pattern made it hard to split the tree using this method, they also needed iron to make the wedges. As Asuna and Kirito thought about how complicated it is to produce boards from logs, Leafa came over to them from her workstation beside Alice. Slapping Kirito on the back again, Leafa warned him not to look down on her skills, or her sword «Rísavind».

When Kirito complained that everyone's been slapping him lately, Leafa remarked that seeing his outfit results in the urge to do so... and so she offered Asuna to try it herself.

As Kirito hurriedly jumped back, he seemed to have caught a glimpse of disappointment on Asuna's face, but he brushed it off as his imagination. Anyway, now being careful not to have his back to any of the girls, Kirito asked what Leafa had in mind with her skills.

Leafa asked Kirito and Asuna to move out of the way, before taking a chuudan (middle) stance with her long sword in both hands. Leafa's long sword is apparently categorised as a bastard sword and could thus use both one-handed, and some two-handed sword Sword Skills. The drawback was that her sword was quite heavy to use as a one-handed sword, but too light and lacking power as a two-handed sword. But it was just the right length and weight for a kendoka like her.

Anyway, Leafa raised her long sword and it lit up green, triggering a Sword Skill, thus confirming their existence (though Kirito had assumed they existed as weapon skills were transferred over from ALO). Leafa used a two-parter two-handed sword Sword Skill named «Cataract». Normally, the skill consisted of two overhead slashes, but Leafa's were so fast that it seemed like both attacks came in a single breath. The slash sunk into the topmost log on the pile. The flash went all the way to the other side. One second later, the log split into two and fell to the ground. Between the two pieces was a long and thin board/plank. Kirito grabbed it before it could fall to the ground.

The board/plank was 2 cm thick and as smooth as a plank treated with a plane. When Kirito tapped on it, the property window named it [Sawed Aged Megurimatsu Board]. This method allowed them to produce the needed materials... but they could only get one per log at this rate. Kirito suggested making something to support the logs so they could be reused, but Leafa told him to just support it by hand. Despite having a bad premonition about this, Kirito complied by raising the log to stand vertically on its ends while he supported it with his hands. Leafa activated another two-handed sword Sword Skill, this time a one-parter «Cascade». The skill sliced through the tree about 2 cm away from the previous cut. Kirito gave a scream, thinking that his hand was chopped off too, but he hadn't actually suffered any damage.

As he was about to let go of the log, Leafa ordered him to hold still and again activated «Cataract» just as its cooldown expired. Followed by «Cascade». Then again «Cataract». After a total of six slashes, what was left of the log broke like glass, having expended its durability. That left them with six boards of different sizes out of it. Seven if you count the very first one. Alice gave Leafa an applause for her splendid work. The Cait Sith claimed that Leafa did a better job at making the boards than Alice herself had during her seclusion in Rulid. As Leafa gave an embarrassed grin, Asuna continued pouring the praise by saying that Kirito probably wouldn't have done the job as accurately as her.

Kirito grumbled in his mind that he had no way of showing off his divine skills as he silently added the boards to his storage. He then picked up the other half of the log and prepared it for the same process. By the time they finished slicing ten logs in such a manner, the time was past 8 PM. Less than one hour till the leniency period expired. By now, they already had 130 boards, but that meant that only 2 of the 6 different kinds of materials had been gathered. The other 4, however, were going to be harder to get. Now they had to do something about the iron materials.

While they could craft a furnace, they'd still need to find ore to make the iron. Ore could be found in caves, but those would naturally have monsters. The stronger kind to boot. After another one of Kirito's internal monologues about how not everyone had their items equipped before the conversion and stuff, we finally get an explanation for Kirito's plan to allow Asuna to secretly play UR overnight.

Kirito had contacted Asuna's brother, Kouichirou. He had apparently promised to show the guy around New Aincrad. During their conversation, Kirito had learnt that Kouichirou secretly had a private channel installed at home (i.e., he can avoid going through the home server). Thus, Kazuto had sent the guy an email via his Augma while he was logged out. This way, Kazuto arranged for Asuna to use Kouichiro's channel to prevent her mother from noticing her Dive. Meanwhile, Asuna apparently (still) can't get used to Kirito calling her brother "Kouichirou-kun". Though, Kouichirou was the one who apparently told him to address him like that. While Asuna felt a bit of guilt for tricking her mother, she said that her "mama" has grown to like their log house herself, so she hopes to have a chat with her sometime and apologise.

With that out of the way, Asuna began to get psyched up for their iron ore hunt... but her proclamation was interrupted midway by another problem. Another beast roar from the forest. But this time it wasn't far off... and was emanating hostility. All four of them prepared their weapons, though Leafa was the only one with a proper sword, while the three indigenes​, as Kirito called themselves, only had crude stone knives.

Another roar, this time even closer. It reminded Kirito of the sound of a motorcycle in idle mode. Due to the bonfire's brightness, they couldn't really see anything beyond the trees. Kirito considered whether they should douse the fire, but he also considered that if their enemy were an animal, the fire might scare them, while it would be impossible to light a new one mid-battle.

A third roar. The sound of branches being trampled coming from the meadow to the north towards, heading towards the west. Already very close. Kirito tried to calm the others down with his speculation that the monster would be some early game stage small fry. So, Asuna wondered if Kirito believed the monster would be on the level of the blue boars from SAO. Kirito instead claimed that it would be something even easier than a boar. Like a wolf, or a fox, or a nutria. The last one earned a question from Alice, as she had no idea what that was, so Kirito was about to explain that it looked like a capybara. But then he realised that Alice wouldn't know what that is either, so he wondered what the big rats with long ears in Underworld were called. But before he could finish his thought, a roar came from the other side of the bonfire.

A moment later, a huge shadow jumped out to the meadow and rushed towards them, causing tremors along the way, until it suddenly stopped and stood up just before reaching the bonfire. The monster was easily over 2 metres-high, with brawny limbs, a round head, blackish brown fur, and bizarrely long and sharp claws and fangs. It wasn't a wolf, or a fox, or a nutria. It was a bear. "Onii-chan, how is that a small fry!", shouted Leafa.

At that point, Kirito finally recalled a teeny tiny detail... that their log house and broken away from Aincrad and crashed ~17 km away from the castle (he compared the distance to Kawagoe and Wako), which was quite far in game terms. Though, Aincrad wasn't guaranteed to have fallen onto the game's starting point either. Either way, it wasn't strange to encounter mid-level monsters in the field.

The bear roared again. The light of the bonfire revealed lightning-like jagged marks on it. Kirito would have wanted to see the monster's official name, but no cursor appeared over it despite the monster obviously targeting them. Thus, Kirito considered whether they should fight or run. All of them were level 1, while the bear could be around level 10 for all they knew. But they didn't have much options for running away either. They would need to either run into the log house, or to the riverbed to the south-west. The house had huge holes, while the river could have other monsters around. Plus, kinda hard to avoid hitting something while running in the dark.

At that moment, one of the pieces of wood in the fire crumbled, creating sparks. As if that were a signal, the bear lowered its paws, scratched the ground, and charged towards them. "Let's fight, Kirito-kun!", shouted Leafa and she prepared her Risavind. Kirito responded by leaving the front to her as he headed for the bear's right flank. Meanwhile, Asuna jumped to the left, while Alice assisted Leafa. At that point, the bear jumped over the fire, landing right in front of Leafa. Having stood up again, the bear looked thrice the size of her.

Without hesitation, the girl charged at the bear and swung her long sword at its right side. As a deep crimson damage effect appeared, so did the bear's red cursor, and its HP bar. The former looked like a revolving ring pierced by a sharp spindle. The HP bar and the monster's name were displayed above and below the ring. The monster's name was written in katakana, rather than in the Latin alphabet. Its name was 【トゲバリホラアナグマ】 (Togebari horaana guma / Togebari Cave Bear).

Just as Kirito finished looking at its cursor, the bear slashed. But Leafa, despite having lost her wings, agilely jumped aside and lunged with her sword again. Another clean hit, but the bear's HP bar was still only down by ~10% so far, despite using a sword that was high-class even among ancient weapons. Angered, the bear spread its paws, making it harder for Leafa to approach it. But at that moment, Asuna resolutely charged at it from behind. Her stone knife buried itself deep in the bear's fur, before she removed it again. The damage was negligible, but it did get the bear's attention. It tried to turn around to chase after Asuna, but it had a hard time actually doing so seeing as it was too big to be nimble.

The moment Kirito felt the bear was distracted, he made eye contact with Alice and both of them kicked off the ground simultaneously, stabbing the bear's flank and back. Just as the two jumped away, Leafa activated the 1-H sword Sword Skill «Vertical Arc», striking the bear's back in a V shape. This time, the monster's HP decreased visibly down to 70%.

Just as Kirito became confident that they would just need to repeat the same tactic three or four times to beat it, the bear... returned to walking on all fours... and jumped towards the forest. For a moment, Kirito thought that it was running away already. But it wasn't. It nimbly turned around and stood up again. Then it spread its arms, raised its face towards the sky, and bent backwards as much as it could. The white lightning marks started shaking. Just as Kirito was midway through warning everyone to watch out, the white bristle ruffled up as if the bear was a porcupine... and the hair was fired away. Hundreds of them.

At that moment, Alice jumped in front of Kirito, crossing her arms. The next moment, they were assailed by the hail of needles. Some hit Kirito at his right shoulder and left foot, making Kirito feel something quite similar to pain: a strong sensation mix of heat and cold.

Kirito's HP suddenly dropped over 70% from just that one attack and the bar turned orange. The three girls had also lost around half of their HP themselves. Kirito took a look at the needles: milky-white with a metallic lustre, 15 cm long and 2 mm thick. Kirito was surprised that the attack did so much damage, but then he realised that he's not even wearing any armour, so he should be glad he even survived the attack at all.

Meanwhile, the bear got down on all fours again, roaring in victory. The needle attack had a rather wide range. Leafa and Asuna both had over 10 of them stuck to their armour. Fearing that they wouldn't last a second attack like that, Kirito ordered everyone to retreat. When Asuna asked where to and Kirito replied that their only option was the house, the girl reminded him about the holes. He decided to worry about that when they got there.

As they couldn't really turn their backs on a bear that's out to get them, Kirito gestured for the girls to keep down as they moved behind a pile of logs they hadn't used yet. As soon as the logs hid him from the bear's sight, he ordered the girls to run. Moments later, the bear crashed into the logs head-first and got buried under the logs. But it didn't die. It just kicked away the logs and continued charging with minimal change to its HP bar. By that time, the girls were already at the porch, so Asuna told him to hurry up. He dashed with utmost effort, jumped over the stairs and into the house, shutting the door behind him. Two seconds later, the bear crashed into the door, causing the house itself to shake.

Before he even finished shouting an order for the girls to help him with the door, they were already pressing against it. Another impact. Almost felt like the door would fall out of its frame. The bear seemed to give up on a frontal assault and moved away to the right. Kirito went to the window to check on it, but it seemed like the bear was waiting for him. With another roar, it charged towards him. Despite Kirito pulling back, the bear still rammed the wall. Asuna checked on the house's property window, confirming that the house was suffering damage to its durability. Fearing that the bear would eventually destroy the house itself, Kirito looked for ways to repel the bear.

However, pretty much everything inside the house had disappeared during the conversion. The only thing left was the home storage chest, which now only had the things they had put in after the conversion. At that moment, Kirito came up with an idea. He looked at the chest, then at the hole in the ceiling, then at the chest again. Kirito then ordered Alice to kneel at a specified point. The girl gave a perplexed look just as the fourth ramming attack came from the bear.

Since they didn't have the time, Alice complied with Kirito's request and got down on her knees. At that point, Kirito climbed up on her right shoulder, before using her as a stepping stone for a jump (to her surprise). Although barely, Kirito managed to reach the beam with his fingertips and climb up. He then ordered Asuna to take out all the logs from the home storage and trade it to Leafa. Due to being used to Kirito's behaviour, Asuna immediately complied without any questions. Upon taking out all the logs, she had to press her hands against the floor to not fall down.

Asuna opened her menu and sent a trade request to Leafa. The moment the logs were transferred to her, she also fell to her knees, moaning that the logs were heavy. Kirito was about to give her the next order, but she had already realised what he was planning and opened her window. Leafa then transferred the logs to Alice, who then sent a trade offer to Kirito. Despite the distance, the two were still in range, so Kirito saw a small window pop up. The range for trade windows in VRMMOs was apparently ~2.5 metres. However, once the request was sent, both parties could move about one more metre without terminating the trade. Kirito thus stood up on the beam without touching the window.

Kirito then grabbed onto the edge of the hole in the ceiling and pulled himself up. Just before Kirito reached the 1 metre extra distance limit, he used one hand to accept the offer, before returning his hand to the beam and sticking out through the hole. The moment he kneeled on the roof, another window appeared: [150 Sawed Aged Megurimatsu Logs Accepted]. At the same moment, the guy was assaulted with extreme weight, ending up crawling on all fours.

At that moment, the bear seemed to notice him as it roared again. It stepped back for another approach run. Kirito could barely see it, but it was about a metre to the right. With a shout, Kirito extended his arms. Ignoring a [Sturdiness proficiency increased to 3] window, Kirito mustered his willpower and slid to the right. The bear roared and began its fifth attack. Ignoring his fear that he'd fall off the roof during the following impact, Kirito operated his menu. He tapped on the option to materialise all the logs. At that moment, 40 cm thick logs started appearing and falling on the roof... before rolling down... and then falling down on the bear. The logs continued appearing non-stop. Eventually, the bear's screams stopped.

Finally, just as the final log appeared and started rolling down... Kirito suddenly heard a fanfare as a blue ring enveloped his body. Once it went above his head and disappeared, he saw a new message window: [Kirito reached level 13] So, Kirito went all the way from level 1 to level 13 with just one bear. Though it took Kirito a moment to realise where the level up came from. At that point, Kirito wondered why he didn't get a loot drop window before the levelup message. He figured that even a monster like that should drop some money and items.

So, he carefully crawled to the edge to look at the meadow. Then he realised why he didn't get any drops. The bear's body was still there, buried under the logs. Apparently, unlike SAO, dead bodies stay behind, rather than crumbling to pieces. Meaning that he had to put in some effort to retrieve the drops from the body. Thinking that the body wouldn't just disappear all of a sudden, Kirito returned to the hole and carefully climbed down. At that moment, Asuna clung to him with the force of a cannonball.

Just as Kirito was about to say that it was all thanks to Asuna's that they won, he realised that the other girls were looking at him, so he corrected himself to say that all of them helped him with the task before the words left his mouth. Having survived the bear attack, the group returned all the logs into their home storage. Then came the question what to do with the bear's corpse. The girls silently looked at Kirito. Kirito momentarily considered that Alice might have experience of handling the bodies of hunted beasts from Underworld, but decided that he needed to take action himself.

While praying that the dissection of one's prey would be handled in just one or two moves without needing to see all the viscera, Kirito thrust his stone knife into the bear below its mandible. Once he made a slash from the chest to the stomach, the corpse flashed and disappeared, leaving a load of objects behind it. [You have acquired the Dissection skill. Proficiency raised to 1] message appeared.

Kirito was left with a blanket-like object (fur), a pink mass (meat), and various other items. Asuna picked up a nearly 10 cm long claw. At that point, Alice asked how the loot rights were handled. When Kirito pointed out that anyone could pick it up, he realised that it could raise problems. Would be problematic during large scale raids where rare items could drop. As such problems didn't matter at the moment, Asuna tossed the claw to Kirito, before saying that they should move the bear's materials into storage and return to gathering the materials for repairs.

When Kirito checked on his menu, there was only one icon left that hadn't changed colours. So, only 30 minutes left. At that point, Leafa asked if Kirito had an idea where to get the iron. Kirito had one - the bear's home.

Chapter 6

The chapter begins with Silica and Lisbeth eating a soup with minced meat... and the grass ropes that they had spent so much time crafting (basically used like pasta). After Lisbeth chewed some of the grass and described the taste (referencing "shirodatsu", some food ingredient Silica did not know about), Silica reluctantly tried some of her own. It didn't really have much of a taste, but it didn't feel all that unusual as food either. The taste seemed familiar to Silica and, after some deeper probing of her memories, she recalled some food she had eaten with her grandfather in Saga prefecture called "niimoji". The two girls got into an argument regarding what the foodstuff is called, until Yui explained they both referred to the same thing - both shirodatsu and niimoji were just dialectal words for "zuiki" (taro stems).

Yui then got into technicalities on what it is and how it's cooked, though she has never tasted it herself. Lisbeth then concluded that since the taste and texture of food in The Seed games comes from real world examples, the taste for the grass they were eating had to come from actual taro stems. The two girls still clung to their dialectal names for the thing though. Silica then tried feeding some of it to Pina on her lap. The dragon apparently didn't mind the taste. Anyway, the three girls + 1 dragon were sitting in a corner of a ~10 m wide circular tent. On a fur rug; kinda like a seat of honour.

The tent had a large (sunken) hearth in the middle, with Bashin adults and children sitting in a ring around it and eating their own meals... made from the 60 pieces of grass ropes that the girls had crafted. The girls had offered the grass to the tribesmen as a sort of lodging fee for their stay. The tribesmen happily accepted it, as they apparently find the grass to be quite a delicacy. When Silica finished emptying her bowl, the spearman from before (now without a spear) came over to her, offering a refill (they were still communicating through Yui, of course). Since Lisbeth whispered that it would be rude to decline, Silica accepted the offer.

The spearman said something with a smile before going towards the hearth. Yui hesitated for a moment to translate what he said. Since, apparently, what he said was... "For a Fellian girl, you sure are a glutton." Of course, Silica took issue with it, seeing as the man was the one to offer a refill. After elbowing Liz for laughing at her, Silica decided to ask what a "Fellian" was. Yui had no entry for it, so she concluded that it was the name of another tribe in this world. At that point, Lisbeth speculated that if there were other tribes, there was the possibility that there were more advanced towns, as big as the Town of Beginnings, somewhere.

The Basin tribe, as it appears, only had one big tent and 7 small ones, so it wasn't even big enough to be called a village. And they appeared to be nomads, so they didn't stay in one place all the time. Meanwhile, it didn't seem like they'd get info or equipment from this area either. The girls already knew the time limit for the leniency period, as Yui had come to the same conclusion about the menu as Alice. They had less than 30 mins left. By then, the girls needed to get some lighter equipment, or they'd be overburdened by the weight of their current ones. But at this rate, they'd end up having to go out in their underwear... though it apparently wasn't much different from what the Basin women were wearing anyway.

But even if there were some towns around, the girls assumed that monsters could be found on the road. So, despite having 4 hours of leniency, the girls had already been at their wit's end getting materials for a simple shelter, let alone acquiring new equipment. At that moment, Silica remarked that Lisbeth's Blacksmith skill ended up useless to them. "Well, sooorry for leveling my Blacksmith skill more than my Mace skill", pouted Lisbeth. Silica responded by pinching Lisbeth's upper arm, claiming to be relying on her.

While the two continued messing around, the spearman returned with the bowl. As Silica returned to eating, the spearman seemed to ask Lisbeth and Yui whether they wanted a refill too, but they passed. Just as the man was about to go away, Yui suddenly asked him something. The girls couldn't understand what they were saying, but the man returned to the hearth. Apparently, Yui asked the man if their tribe had any spare armour they could lend to them. The girl learnt that the tribe didn't really have anything they didn't need... but were open to the prospect of a trade.

Silica began analysing what they had on them.. realising that they didn't really have anything they'd be willing to put up for trade. However, Yui at that point explained that the tribe wasn't as interested in equipment... as in manpower, or more specifically, extra combat force. The spearman, who was apparently named Tajiru, had told Yui that they had seen another "star" aside from Aincrad fall. It was smaller and fell to the north-east rather than the south like Aincrad. They were planning to go investigate it for demons as well. So, if the girls would assist them on the expedition, they'd be willing to give them weapons and armour.

Of course, nobody knew that the "small star" was just Kirito and Asuna's log house. So, while the girls deduced that the star could just be a fragment of Aincrad, Lisbeth doubted that a fragment could have fallen so far away from the castle itself. Yui explained that it was actually possible, as The Seed VRMMOs' air resistance was set to be higher than in real life. To prevent psychological shocks from great falls, as it could result in the AmuSphere's safeties kicking players out. Thus, even big objects that were in a favourable shape could glide through the air for quite some time. Though, this would require the intervention of a player. Silica brought up the possibility of there being a (part of a) town on that fragment. If so, they could possibly get some equipment or consumables from there. Lisbeth couldn't deny the possibility entirely, but she was more sceptical about it.

Either way, Silica pointed out that there was the possibility of finding some materials that they couldn't get in their current area there. And even if they didn't find anything, they'd at least get equipment for helping out. At that point, Lisbeth pointed out how calculating Silica was. But she still agreed with her viewpoint and asked Yui to tell Tajiru that they'd help. So, Yui went to the guy at the hearth and brought a smile to his face when she told him about their decision. But just as Silica was assured that their negotiation was successful, a shout came from the entrance. Apparently, a taller and burlier than any other Basin.... female warrior... had walked forcefully into the tent.

She was wearing only leather armour on her chest and waist, so she showed more skin than any other female there. The woman walked to the hearth in big steps and shouted like a husky to the spearman. It seemed that the woman outranked the spearman. The woman occasionally looked over at Silica and co, showing clear hostility towards them. Eventually, the spearman nodded. At that moment, Yui rushed back to the girls and explained what was going on.

Apparently, the woman was named «Izelma»... and she was the leader of the camp. And she wanted the girls to show her what they were capable of if they wanted to take part in the scouting mission. Silica had no clue how to do that, while Lisbeth conjectured that this was an event battle.... so, she delegated Silica for the job. Seeing as Lisbeth imported the Blacksmith skill, rather than a weapon skill, from ALO. Silica was nonetheless disheartened that she had to go into battle despite being a level 1... and regretted not farming scorpions and stuff to level up. Anyway, Silica resolved to quickly resign the moment she lost more than 30... make that 20% of her HP, as she gave Pina to Yui. The dragon landed on Yui's head, as Yui wished Silica luck, while Lisbeth gave her a thumbsup.

Silica headed to the centre of the tent, while the Bashin people stepped back to the edge of the tent, leaving only Izelma at the hearth. Upon approaching Izelma, Silica realised just how massive Izelma was. Apparently, she seemed bigger than even Agil. Silica would have preferred to just talk it out, but she had less than 10 minutes left, after which she'd be rendered immobile by her equipment. At that point, she wouldn't even be able to dream of beating Izelma. As Silica stared at Izelma, she realised that the latter didn't have any weapons on her. Just as Silica began to think that Izelma would be going bare-handed, the Basin woman abruptly squatted down... and picked up an unused firewood from a corner of the hearth.

Assuming that Izelma planned to fight with a stick, Silica wondered if she should pick up one herself. However, that wasn't Izelma's intention. Staring at Silica, she bellowed something. Yui translated that Izelma will be throwing the piece of firewood... and she was expecting Silica to slice it into two equal pieces midair. This caused Silica to reflexively ask if that really was all to it. Anyway, the two seemed to communicate through facial expressions at that point, so Izelma threw the firewood, urging Silica to show what she had if she was so self-confident.

Silica's right hand moved self-automatically, extracting her dagger from the sheath on the left side of her waist. At that point, the firewood began to fall, rolling in midair. Silica pulled her dagger to the right side of her waist and slightly twisted her wrist, triggering a Sword Skill. Suddenly taking a breath in, Izelma stepped back.

At that point, Silica unleashed her Sword Skill, «Fad Edge». The narration explained that "Fad" meant "whim". Although the skill was somewhat lacking in precision, Silica was able to manually correct it due to the long time she had spent practicing the skill. The collision sent a shockwave through the tent. The firewood stopped midair for a moment. Just as Silica returned her dagger to its sheath in a flash... the stick split... into five pieces midair without a sound. Meanwhile, before Izelma, with her mouth wide open, could say a thing, a loud cheer came from the audience and the kids rushed over to them. Looking at the children's faces as they shouted something, Silica wished she could learn their language soon.

Chapter 7

The chapter begins at 9:05 PM, 27 September. I.e. the moment that the leniency period expires. At that moment, Kirito, Asuna, Alice, and Leafa were in the log house's living room. At that instant, several things happened. First, a purple-tinged-with-red aurora appeared in the sky. Next came a voice that sounded both innocent like that of a young girl, and as prudent as that of a woman. Kirito also noted that the voice sounded familiar somehow, as if he had heard it before.

[The seeds have sprouted, the branches and leaves have spread, forming a ring gate. Those of you summoned to the land of dying hopes, protect your single life to the end. To the first one to endure the many hardships, survive multiple predicaments, and arrive at the land indicated by the aurora, I/we (?) shall grant thee everything]

The moment the voice from the sky disappeared, the aurora vanished as well. Just as Kirito attempted to contemplate on the meaning of those words, he heard screams behind him. Before Kirito could finish his question on what happened... he sighed. Because the girls hadn't listened to his advice to take off their equipment. And so all three of them were now on the floor with their hands, futilely trying to stand up.

At that point, Alice ordered Kirito to step outside. Having expected this, Kirito just nodded and stepped out to the porch. During that time, Kirito investigated the damage to the house caused by the bear. Although the house was supposed to last at least until ~6 AM by their previous calculations, now it was only ~4 AM. So, only 7 hours left. But at least they managed to find quite a bit of iron ore at the bear's cave. Apparently, the bear used that iron to make those metal needles on its chest.

With an improvised stone axe, they had gathered as much of the ore as they could, though they wouldn't know if that were enough until they processed it. So, the first step to their iron age was to create a furnace. Of course, Kirito complained about wanting clothes, as always. But he had to prioritise getting iron while they still had Leafa's sword. And they had apparently faced some megabat during their adventure. Just as Kirito resolved to get some clothes ASAP, the ladies were done and so Leafa called him back. There, he found the girls standing in a line... and all of them were wearing the same kind of one-piece dress, to his surprise.

Surprised, Kirito asked how the girls had acquired the dresses. Thus, with a 70% proud, 30% guilty expression, Asuna explained that they had crafted cloths from the Amane grass fibres, and then made clothes out of them. As Kirito stood there dumbfounded, Alice added with a smile that they learnt from his personal experience that their ALO equipment would eventually become unusable. So, they made preparations in advance. So, Kirito asked if there was something for him too... but before he could finish his question, Leafa apologised that they had run out of «Amane Grass Coarse Cloths» by the time they finished crafting the three dresses, though she promised they would make something for him too.

Just as Kirito was about to change the topic, Leafa reminded him that he forgot something important: complimenting the ladies on their new outfits, of course! Meanwhile, Asuna wondered if the game had some screenshot function. Since there wasn't any screenshot button, Kirito assumed that there could be an item for taking pictures, like in SAO. The one most disappointed by the lack of a way to take a picture... was apparently Alice.

After a moment, she closed her window and changed the topic to the voice from before. Alice apparently found the voice's manner of speech to be similar to Quinella's. At that point, Kirito realised why the voice sounded familiar to him. Of course, Quinella's already dead, so Kirito concluded that it couldn't actually be her. Though, this did make him think of his "best partner" sacrificing his life to put an end to Quinella, which made him feel a sharp pain in his chest all of a sudden. After taking a deep breath and burying the ache at the bottom of his memories, Kirito returned to the conversation. He proposed dealing with the voice later and instead focus on the house repairs for now.

Kirito began setting up a plan: he would go collect some stones at the riverbed, while the girls would get some firewood from the logs. But before he could finish, he was suddenly assaulted by a intense sense of thirst and couldn't finish speaking. When he looked at his status bars, he noticed that the TP (thirst point) bar was already down by half, while the SP (starve point) bar was down by about 20%. Took him long enough to realise that the game wouldn't go easy on him... Meanwhile, the girls had also felt the same sensation and were thus pressing down their throats and coughing. Kirito concluded that the dry throat sensation came way too quickly compared to the real world. And while it wouldn't have a negative effect on their body, he theorised that if the bar reached 0, their HP would start decreasing. So, change of plans: everyone to the river.

The girls nodded to the proposal unanimously. Kirito, Asuna, and Alice equipped with stone knives; Leafa equipped with a stone axe that they had made for their ore gathering. The noise of the running water only amplified their thirst, so Kirito's plan to make cups before drinking the water gave way to his urge to drink right away and he instead just used his hands to get some water. The four of them continued drinking until they filled their TP bar. 9:15 PM at that point. Kirito planned to confirm how much time they had before thirst became a problem again by refraining from drinking for a while (to see how fast the bar goes down). Meanwhile, the four of them realised that they had caused their chests to become wet due to their drinking, and thus shared an embarrassed grin. Then they began talking about crafting cups and the best way to do so, until Kirito realised that it would be a pain to have to go to the river each time they needed a drink. So, they needed to make a container that they could fill with water, and a bottle to have on hand.

At that point, Alice proposed digging up a well (based on her UW experience). But Kirito thought that a polygon world wouldn't allow changing the landscape like that. Just as he was about to propose to focus on a furnace for now, he heard his stomach grumbling... and suddenly felt a strong sense of hunger. His SP bar was apparently nearly halfway down by now. The girls pressed down on their stomachs, thinking that their stomachs were grumbling too. Leafa even began shouting to distract the others from the grumbling. When Kirito remarked about the silliness of the action by saying that the grumbling was no big deal, Leafa responded that a guy dressed like a caveman wasn't one to talk. As Kirito made his excuse the the girls didn't make any clothes for him, they heard another mysterious sound. This time, it didn't come from their stomachs; rather, it came from the river - a big splash.

When Alice speculated that the sound came from a fish, Leafa immediately decided to catch it. But Kirito stopped her, saying that they weren't sure it actually was a fish yet. As their chatter continued, another splash came... from closer than before. Kirito ordered Alice and Asuna to retreat, while dragging Leafa by the nape with him. He took a torch into his left hand, and his knife into his right. Alice brought another stick and asked Kirito to share his fire.

They continued staring into the water, but they couldn't see through it and no other sound came after several seconds of waiting. The moment Kirito thought that they were safe, a platypus head (around 30 wide x 60 long cm) appeared from the water. Despite quacking like a duck, which didn't really make it look dangerous, the platypus had numerous sharp fangs. Kirito noticed that the platypus didn't have a cursor either and thus speculated the cursor only appears when you actually engage the opponent in combat. So, it was impossible to say if an animal is hostile or harmless through this system. Also, the monster wasn't afraid of their torches either. Suddenly, the platypus, which had only shown its head and bill so far, revealed the rest of its body. But rather than fur, the platypus had scales.

After several moments of standing on all fours, the platypus suddenly stood up. Its hind legs were apparently bigger than its fore legs. And it had a long tail. At that moment, Kirito shouted that it looked like a dinosaur. So, now he's calling it a platysaur. Although it still quacked like a duck, the fangs clearly showed that it was a carnivore. As Kirito prepared for an attack, a reddish lump flew in from the side... right into the platysaur's bill. The platysaur began moving its bill energetically. Having gulped the lump down in an instant, the platysaur opened its bill again. When Kirito turned his gaze to the side, he saw that Asuna was throwing another lump at the monster. Kirito finally realised that lump was actually the Thorn-Bearing Bear's meat.

Having finished the second lump of meat, the platysaur began moving towards Asuna. Quacking and flapping its short arms along the way. It was begging for more, it seems. Doubting that the platysaur would ever be satisfied, as it was twice the size of a large dog (although smaller than the bear), Kirito was about to propose throwing the meat a bit further next time to buy time to escape. But before he could propose that plan, Asuna raised her right hand and whispered that there was a ring metre in front of the platysaur. The metre was already 60% full. Kirito realised what it was - a taming metre.

Before Kirito could complain that taming the monster would present its own problems, Asuna took out a third lump of meat from her storage. This time, she didn't throw it. Instead, she held it in her hand and slowly approached the monster. The platysaur backed away a bit, but its appetite won over - it stood still, moving its head towards Asuna. After sniffing the girl's hand with its nostrils, he took the meat and began chewing. At that point, Asuna glanced at Kirito, at her wit's end. Apparently the metre was full now, but nothing happened, so she asked him what she should do now.

As Kirito considered what to do, Alice shared her own experience from UW: after giving meat to wild dragons to calm them down, she'd use some reins on them. At that moment, Kirito suddenly opened his storage. He seemed to see something strange at the centre of the ring, but decided to ignore it for now and instead took out an Amane grass rope, which he threw to Asuna and ordered her to tie it around the platysaur's neck. Hearing Kirito's command, Asuna gave an expression that showed she was seized by fear. But since she's the only one who sees the metre and would thus be the only one who could attempt to tame the monster, she slowly approached the platysaur.

As she began tying the rope around the platysaur while it chewed on the meat, Asuna noticed that the metre was now shaking. Despite Leafa's encouragement, Asuna was so nervous that the end of the rope slipped from her fingers. Meanwhile, the platysaur finished eating and noticed the rope on its neck. Just as it quacked, Asuna finished tying the rope. At that moment, the platysaur's body flashed, just like when they produced materials. A ring-shaped HP bar and a spindle cursor appeared. The latter was green. Meanwhile, the platysaur rubbed its bill at Asuna's face. Apparently, the taming was a success.

At that moment, Leafa shouted a congrats to Asuna as she began scratching the monster's scales. The platysaur apparently enjoyed it. Kirito wondered what the monster was called, so he looked at the cursor. Beneath the HP bar, he saw the following string: [Nagahashi oo-agame] (long-billed (?) great agame) in katakana. Even Kirito didn't understand what "agame" meant. Kirito attempted to call for Yui, but then he recalled that they were still separated. Then he figured he'd start up a browser... but he realised that it wouldn't work in-game. So, he figured he'd just look it up the next time he logged out... if he still remembered to do so.

So, now that they avoided a battle with the monster, Kirito proposed getting started on carrying the stones. But Alice suggested getting a meal first. At that moment, Kirito's stomach reminded him of its presence with another grumble. After satisfying their empty stomachs and SP bars with cooked bear meat (Kirito was pleasantly surprised that this also recovered (some of?) his HP), the group gathered the stones by the river. Other materials they needed were clay and dry grass.

Kirito wondered where they could get clay, but when he picked up some of the white-ish soil at the riverbank and tapped on it, he got a window that said it was [Coarse grey clay]. Having finished gathering the materials, the group returned to the log house. There, Kirito opened his menu. And at that moment, he once again noticed that the inside of the 8 icon ring was no longer empty. What Kirito saw on his menu was the string 【0000:01:03:24】, where the last number increased at a pace of 1 per second. Thus, it was obvious that it's a timer (day:hour:minutes:seconds).

The girls had noticed the timer too (while making their clothes). While Kirito was doing the math for when the counter began, Alice confidently stated that the timer began counting from the moment the mysterious voice said "give everything" (at 9:05). Kirito wondered what's the point of the timer, while Leafa complained why it couldn't display RL time instead. Since they couldn't make sense of it right now, Kirito proposed prioritising their work for now.

So, he tapped on his skill icon and selected the stone furnace option from his Stonemasonry skill. At that moment, a transparent, light purple furnace appeared in his view, along with another Tips window: [Use your hands to adjust the location of the construction ghost in building mode. Pinch-in to bring it closer, pinch-out to move it away; grip tightly to execute construction. Building mode cannot be canceled.] Basically, draw your fingers together or apart to adjust the distance from the builder for the construction. Moving your hand lets you move the construction to the sides. Form a fist to finalise your choice. And, apparently, the girls can see the "ghost" building too. So, Kirito speculated that the system doesn't allow canceling construction to prevent harassment/abuse with the feature, as other people could see the to-be-constructed building. Kirito wanted to play around with it for awhile, but refrained, fearing that he'd get slapped on the back again.

While they had quite a bit of land around the log house, they needed to plan out where they'd put stuff so that the area didn't end up cramped. So, consulting Asuna, they decided to place the furnace a bit to the west from the house. A white stone furnace appeared exactly where indicated (Kirito leveling up his Stonemasonry skill in the process), causing the ground to shake. The combustion chamber looked kinda like an oven. But Kirito wasn't sure how to use it. At that moment, Asuna's new pet platysaur decided to stuff its face inside to take a sniff. At that point, Kirito remembered that it didn't have a name and thus asked Asuna what name she's going to give it. Asuna said that she's not really good at naming, earning a remark from Kirito that Asuna uses her real name for her avatar... to which she responded that Kirito's is barely one step away from using his real name too. Anyway, Asuna decided to come up with a name eventually. In the meantime, she enjoyed scratching its lower jaw when it came back to her. Kirito speculated that Asuna would look for some meaningful name, instead of just coming up with a random one.

In the meantime, Kirito approached the furnace and found out that tapping on it brought out a management window. All he had to do was move the ingredients to it via the window or directly. So, as a Tips window instructed him, he prepared several sets of iron ore from the bear cave, threw in some firewood into the combustion chamber, and used Alice's stone to ignite a fire. More firewood would need to be added to maintain an adequate temperature in the furnace. As Kirito continued adding more firewood, the metal ore melted and flowed into a rectangle mold. Once it was full, it flashed, disappeared, and once again became full of molten iron. Kirito also got a [Smelting Skill acquired] message.

After about 3 minutes, the fire automatically went out, so Kirito opened the management window one again, finding 4 «Crude Pig Iron Ingots» in the finished products field. Kirito materialised one of them, confirming that they were now cold. After which, he shouted, "The age of iron has come!". The girls weren't all that impressed and just clapped 2-3 times, while the platysaur came to sniff the ingot, before giving a mocking quack.

It took a little over 30 minutes + a hundred and several tens of pieces of firewood to melt all the iron ore. While the firewood wasn't a problem, as they had enough to spare, they weren't used to crafting taking so long in SAO or ALO. While Kirito continued throwing firewood into the furnace, Asuna and the other girls had gone out to the river for more clay. To craft the iron items needed for repairs, Kirito needed to get an anvil and a blacksmith hammer. Kirito began to fear that you'd need an anvil to make an anvil, but the Tips window revealed that a casting mold could be used for that. And this could be crafted with the Stonemasonry skill, using stone, clay, wood, and sand.

With enough materials, Kirito used his skill to craft the casting mold, which he placed next to the furnace. He then used the mold to craft a «Crude Anvil» with some of his ingots + firewood for heat. He also acquired a Casting skill in the process. Now all he needed was a blacksmith hammer, which could also be crafted with Casting. But at that moment, Asuna asked him to take a break from iron work... and craft a «Biscuit Kiln» for pottery instead. "People who study math as a way to take a break from studying English sure are different", Kirito thought as he once again opened his Stonemasonry skill. Crafting a biscuit kiln required quite a bit of materials, but Asuna and the girls had already brought them over from the river. Stuffing his storage with the materials, Kirito constructed the kiln near the log house, as per Asuna's request. It basically looked like a large dog house. Asuna leveled up her Pottery skill while crafting plates, bowls, and cups.

Meanwhile, Kirito returned to his land of ironware. At that point, he checked on his status bars: HP&MP full, TP down by 40%, SP by 20%. He last drank water at 9:15, while now it was 11:15. So, TP decreases at a pace of 10% per 30 min (and SP at half that pace). While thinking that this pace was lax compared to other survival games he's played, Kirito theorised that the pace depended on activity and environment. Meanwhile, he checked on his menu, seeing that the time was 【0000:02:10:45】.

After looking at the timer, Kirito checked his status. UR doesn't have numerical stats like STR or INT. Instead, it had Abilities. While Skills are "techniques that the player builds up", Abilities are "gifted talents". Simply put, Skills are for crafting, Abilities are for combat, it seems. Kirito then pressed a button to examine the details of his Abilities. This opened a new window with four icons displayed in the middle of the screen in a + shape. The top icon was «Strength» (剛力, gouriki, lit. Herculean strength), the right one was «Toughness» (頑強, gankyou), bottom one - «Intelligence» (才知, saichi), and left one - «Agility» (俊敏, shunbin).

Additionally, each icon had 2 lines extending out from it, leading to new icons. For example, «Strength» led to «Bone Shattering» (骨砕き, honekudaki) and «Protection» (堅守, kenshu); meanwhile, «Toughness» led to «Endurance» (忍耐, nintai) and «Poison Resistance» (耐毒, taidoku). Taking on one of these Abilities allowed going for the next Ability in line. Basically, works like a skill tree or something. Also, each ability apparently has 10 ranks. Since Kirito reached level 13 with his bear kill, he now had 12 Ability points stocked up. Though, there's no respec button, so Kirito was conflicted on how he should spend his points. And he thought how easy SAO made it by only giving him a choice between STR and AGI. Anyway, since he's in a four member party, he figured they should think up what role each of them would play and specialise their Abilities accordingly.

In ALO, Kirito was an attacker specialising in physical attacks, Alice was a tank focusing on defence, Leafa was a magic swordswoman, and Asuna was a healer who could also take up a sword (ehm, rapier) when needed. So, Kirito considered specialising in the Strength tree, though the «Toughness» tree also seemed appealing if he wanted to focus on survival. But he figured he should also take up some simple spells so that his MP wouldn't just go to waste. However, he also considered the possibility that the girls might want to take up a different role than in ALO. Since he learnt that the secret to getting along with girls.... was to discuss things with them, he decided not to pick his build on his own, and thus closed the window.

At that point, Kirito realised that he had forgotten what he was actually supposed to do next. It took him a moment to recall that he was supposed to be crafting a blacksmith hammer. With his casting equipment, he crafted a «Crude Iron Hammer Head» out of his ingots, then by attaching a wooden rod to it, he made it into a «Crude Blacksmith Metal Hammer», thus completing his preparations. Then he went to his anvil. Apparently, unlike SAO, you didn't need to heat the ingots before using them for crafting. So, he chose «Thin Iron Plates» and began using his hammer on an ingot. [Blacksmith Skill Acquired].

But Kirito focused on the fact that the activity was much louder than anticipated. He thus realised that the bear was probably drawn in by the noise of Leafa's log slicing before. The girls apparently had the same idea, looking at Kirito with unease. For a moment, Kirito thought that they could just use the log burial plan again if another bear came up, but then he grew concerned that if UR was equipped with the Cardinal System, it could have taken countermeasures against such a tactic. So Kirito decided to find rocks at the river in case said countermeasure only applied to logs. Before he left, Asuna gave him two pots to get some water while he's at it (their TP meter was at half atm). After getting the water, he stuffed the remainder of his storage with rocks.

Meanwhile, the girls crafted 4 cups, 5 bowls, and 6 plates. Kirito took out his water-filled pots and poured some water into the cups (and a bowl for the platysaur). They then began chatting about water. Alice wondered if there's a Sacred Art spell to create water. The problem is - they didn't now how to get magic skills. Alice's solution - learn through usage like all the other skills. As she said that, she thrust her right hand at Kirito's nose, causing him to bend back reflexively, which earned a chuckle from Alice.

Leafa: "Kirito-kun is such a scaredy-cat."
Kirito (thinking): You just don't know how scary Integrity Knight Alice can be!

Anyway, since they had spare clay, Kirito asked the girls to continue crafting pots. The girls would be able to craft large water jugs if they leveled their Pottery skill. Meanwhile, Kirito decided to return to crafting plates and nails. Using a round log slice as a chair, Kirito began hammering away. After 10 strikes, the ingot flashed and transformed into 10 thin plates. He needed 216, so that's 22 ingots (assuming all attempts were successful). Taking into account the nails as well, Kirito calculated that he should have just barely enough ingots.

While hammering, Kirito thought that this activity was much more fun than smelting. Thus, he thought that if he were to become a crafter in the game, he'd like to be a blacksmith, perhaps starting out as Lisbeth's apprentice. Lost in thought, Kirito finished crafting 220 iron plates. Kirito tried lifting all of them together, but the whole bundle together was too heavy for him. After taking out half the rocks in his storage, he was able to lift the plates and began walking to the house to store them.

Meanwhile, the girls were still working on the pottery, intending to unlock the ability to craft large water jugs. He wondered if it wouldn't be more effective for just one of them to unlock the ability, but he figured that the girls were just enjoying making tableware. Kirito arrived at the porch and put the plates down on the floor to open the door. It was nearly midnight, but he didn't feel sleepy, as, at the bottom of his heart, he was enjoying himself in the game. Specifically, finding their way around the world on their own.

If the log house hadn't crashed, he thought that he could have decided to explore the world, rather than setting up a base. Like on his first day in SAO when he rushed out of the Town of Beginnings. Just then, he realised that bears weren't the only thing that the noise could have drawn... "...Who's there!", shouted Alice.

Kirito turned around and saw several torches closing in from the south-western road that led to the river. The party was led by a guy wearing brown armour that looked like leather armour. Since no cursors showed up, he couldn't tell if the people were players, NPCs, or monsters. Despite Alice's shout, the party did not stop. But the guy in the lead (a long sword at his waist) raised his right hand, seemingly to show they weren't hostile. Kirito rushed over, while making sure that he still had his knife at his back. He then shouted at the group to stop.

They totaled 8 people. And all had quite decent equipment, like leather armour and scale armour. This earned admiration from Kirito, seeing as they had nothing but grass dresses and underpants on their side. Meanwhile, the visitors snickered when they saw Kirito. -1 friendship points with Kirito. The leather armoured guy in the lead confirmed that they were players. Raising his arms again, the guy asked Kirito's group to let them rest for awhile, revealing that despite their 5 hours of travelling, Kirito's group was the first band of players they had encountered.

When Kirito asked how they managed to form a party then, he responded to the question with a question, "Didn't you appear from there too?", not making it clear what "There" refers to. So Kirito explained they crashed down along with their house. The leather armour guy gave a dubious expression, but a small, cloth-wearing guy pointed at the crumbling log house, speculating they fell down from Aincrad. A large, scale-armoured guy doubted if that were possible. Kirito guessed that the three guys were the leaders. The small guy had a dagger at his waist, the large guy had a two-handed hammer on his back. Neither looked all that high-grade, but still far more powerful than Kirito and co's knives and stone axe. The dagger guy told the scale armour guy that there was plenty of wreckage scattered around the area with Aincrad, but the land there was hard, so if something fell into the sand or water, it could have survived the crash with less damage.

Asuna picked up on that talk and exclaimed that the guys were likely from ALO, thus she wanted to know if they saw where Aincrad had crashed. The guys had seen Aincrad, but from far away. As Asuna continued to assault the dagger guy with her series of questions, the leather armour guy stopped the dagger guy from continuing, saying that map data was valuable. Alice seemingly wanted to rebuke about the guys being cheapskates, but Leafa stopped her. Meanwhile, Kirito stepped forward and agreed to trade for the map data, asking what they wanted in exchange.

After consulting with his team, the leather armour guy asked for food and a place to spend the night. So, Kirito went back to the girls to talk about the offer, asking Asuna if they had enough bear meat left over. Asuna responded that they had some left over, but among those 8 guys, their own party, and Agah-chan, their supplies would run out after one meal. Kirito asked what if they used the meat to make soup or something, rather than just eating it by itself. Asuna responded that she could make 2 portions out of it, but she couldn't tell how well that would taste without salt or spice. Then Kirito asked if she didn't mind letting those guys stay over for the night. Asuna frowned for a moment, but then nodded that she didn't mind, seeing as it was only for one night. Then she asked the other girls if they were okay with the deal.

The girls (and even the platysaur) were okay with it, so Kirito returned to the men again, saying that they could offer enough food to replenish their SP bar to full, as well as a place to sleep, though they didn't have beds, nor could he guarantee the food's taste. The leader responded that just getting a place to stay without fear of getting assaulted by monsters or NPCs would be enough, seeing as it was very risky to log out in this world.

When Kirito asked what he had in mind with that, the guy explained that ever since that world message, avatars no longer disappeared upon log out, meaning that they would be exposed to danger during that time. So, the guys had come here looking for a safe place to sleep. When Kirito exclaimed that who'd want to play the game if they died in such a stupid way, the guys added a bonus piece of intel that wasn't part of the deal: UR was, in a sense, a recreation of SAO. He explained that the timer showed how long they survived... and that when one of their friends was killed by an NPC, he could no longer log in.

Chapter 8

While the 8 man party chowed down their bear meat stew in joy, Kirito and co. received a map from the leather armour guy. Though, since there was no system for transferring map data, the guy had to redraw the map on paper with charcoal. The map had info on their forest, a river that ran to the south, steep-though-short rocky mountains surrounding the forest and a dry wilderness beyond them. The river branched off to the west at the centre of the wasteland. The party had tried investigating that part of the wasteland, but apparently ran into Silica and co's new friends (the Bashin tribe) when they reached an area with some vegetation (a basin/valley). The guys couldn't talk to the NPCs, so they were attacked and lost 2 of their guys in their escape.

To the south of the basin was a dry plateau; Aincrad crashed right in the middle of it. Linearly, about 10 km away from the edge of the forest. The castle suffered grave damage; lower 20-30 floors were entirely destroyed. The guys didn't encounter any players in the area. Further to the south of Aincrad was a meadow. Aside from being rich in resources (water and food), it also had a large ruins that looked kinda like ALO's capital Alne. Those ruins were apparently the official starting point for players converted from ALO, as well as a temporary respawn point till the rules fully kicked in.

Right after the forced conversion, ~4k players from ALO (incl. ~1k players who died in Aincrad and respawned in the ruins afterwards) were thrown into the ruins without so much as a tutorial, causing a huge stir. Nearly half the players logged out due to either hating the chaos or to gather info, while the other half decided to explore the world. They hunted small beasts, tried out some simple crafts and built some simple bases, before eventually some went farther away from the ruins in search of higher grade materials. The leather armour guy's party was one group of such pioneers. The guys were focused on iron, believing that wood and stone was a waste of time. "It's an ironclad rule to build a base where you can gather iron ore."

Meanwhile, the girls apparently didn't think the info was worth the bear meat. Also, Asuna: "Minus 10 points for the bad pun at the end". Anyway, Asuna and Kirito returned their glances to the map. Asuna assumed that Lisbeth and co. got caught up in Aincrad's crash and respawned in the ruins. The ruins were at least 25 km away. Kirito added that it would be over 30 km if they followed the river. Though, he doubted that Lisbeth and Silica would just wait at the starting point. So, they had practically zero chance of coming across the girls without contacting them in RL first. Asuna arrived at the same conclusion and thus decided to log out and send a message to Liz and Yui with a copy of the map, while Kirito and the girls guarded her body. Leafa was reminded of rotation in ALO by this.

Then the girls and Kirito started talking about how people with lives would be disadvantaged by UR's rules due to school and work. Alice took insult to such comments, as she didn't exactly have the entire day to herself despite not going to school or working at some company.

Kirito: "O-of course. Rath are slave drivers, after all..."
Leafa: "Is that really something you should be saying? Onii-chan, you're planning to apply for a job at Rath, aren't you?"

As Kirito ducked his head at Leafa's retort, Alice gave a meaningful smile.

Since they had nothing to talk about till Asuna got back, Kirito decided to return to his blacksmith work, so he put the map into his storage. Kirito selected nails from the production menu and was about to start work (while trying to look cool)... just as someone called out to him from behind. Turning around, he saw the dagger guy with an empty bowl. Kirito approached the guy to ask what he wanted. The guy claimed that he wanted to thank them for the meal, as they were basically eating bugs and rats before then. He then asked what to do with the tableware, so Kirito told him to leave it on the ground. The guy was then about to leave, but turned around again and asked if Kirito was the guy who was the runner-up in ALO's joint tournament that took place in February. Kirito wondered how to respond, but decided not to make up a fake name and thus confirmed that he was Kirito. The dagger guy's face lit up as he said that he'd been wondering about this since they first met. The guy then asked for a handshake, as he approached Kirito.

Holding back the urge to reject the request, Kirito held out his right hand. The dagger guy held the hand tight with his own right hand, shaking it up and down. Meanwhile, the bowl slipped out from his left hand and broke as it crashed into the ground. Just as the guy shouted an apology, Kirito felt some strange sense coming from his stomach. When he looked down, he saw that the dagger guy was suddenly holding a metal blade... that was thrust into his stomach.

As the girls called his name, Kirito shook off the dagger guy and jumped away. While taking out his own knife, Kirito checked his HP bar: full -> below 50%. After a moment of surprise that he had suffered so much damage, Kirito realised that he was literally without any armour, while the enemy used a high-quality metal dagger. He would have probably died instantly if it weren't for his level. The dagger guy was just as surprised, as he was expecting an instakill with his attack. Meanwhile, Alice and Leafa jumped in front of Kirito, armed with their knife and axe respectively, calling the guy out for his cowardly move. By that time, a cursor appeared over the dagger guy's head.

The spindle part of it was ruby-red, probably because the dagger guy attacked Kirito. 【Mocri】 (pronounced "Mokuri", or like the word "mockery") was displayed below the HP bar. Kirito hadn't heard of this guy before, but assumed that he could be related to Laughing Coffin. After a moment of staring blankly, Mocri denied this allegation, calling himself "simply a gamer". By then, Mocri's teammates had noticed what happened and rushed over to the scene.

Since the 8 guys were in the same party, all of them now had red cursors above their heads. Kirito wondered if red was for criminals, since Alice and Leafa had green ones, but he concluded that UR didn't have the concept of crime. So, colours merely distinguished friend from foe. The leather armour guy asked Mocri what he was doing, while the other guys looked panicked, so Kirito assumed that Mocri's action was his own idea. But just then, Mocri told Bolan, i.e. the leader, about Kirito ranking second in the tournament. Mocri then added that Kirito already had iron crafts. He feared that if Kirito crafted some weapons or armour, their group would have a hard time dealing with them despite the member count advantage. So, he declared they had to dispose of him while he was still naked. Kirito didn't think his name was all that well know, but he realised that the ALO tournament was basically like GGO's BoB, so ranking second was a pretty big deal. And it wouldn't be strange if a PvPer checked out the names of the tournament participants.

Bolan switched his gaze from Kirito to Mocri and back several times, before saying, "In that case...... we've got no choice." This prompted surprise from Leafa, who stated they had no intention of attacking them at all, while their guy just went and attacked them out of the blue. After searching for the rights words for a moment, Bolan said, "You still don't get it.", in an admonishing tone. The guy claimed that UR isn't a mere survival RPG or a battle royale, but a race, referencing the 9 o'clock announcement. That the first person would get everything. While Bolan didn't really know what "everything" referred to... he expected something as grand as the SAO incident, seeing as players from ALO, Asuka, Lunascape, some "Apode" game, GGO, etc. were forcefully converted to UR. So, he was pretty interested in what "everything" is. When Bolan asked if Kirito wouldn't want to know what that "everything" is, Kirito responded that he wasn't so desperate that he'd kill for it.

Following Kirito's comeback, Bolan suddenly claimed that Kirito was at fault for how things turned out. According to Bolan's logic, everyone in ALO knows that Kirito is strong. Strong guy + good spot + has a house + has iron combination means that if he can fortify his base + get good equipment, no one would be able to oppose him. But right now, he was naked and only had stone weapons. So, according to the guy's logic, now is his only chance to beat him Kirito tried to explain that all they cared about was fixing their house and that they had no interest in being first or anything. But Bolan just reasoned that after Kirito was done with his house, he'd grow interest in finding out the secrets of the world. Bolan then touched his long sword, prompting Alice and Leafa to get into position as well. Even Agah woke up and quacked. However, seemingly confident in their advantage, Bolan continued talking without drawing his sword.

Bolan claimed that they were lucky. In ALO, they were just insignificant small fry, but because of that, the equipment they imported from ALO was light enough to be wearable even after the leniency period expired. He also claimed that other top ALO players at the ruins were stuck with grass clothes and stone weapons just like Kirito's gang. And Bolan's gang decided to take advantage of this turn of events. At this proclamation, the guy loudly drew his sword. Followed by the six guys behind him. Since their equipment was imported from ALO, Kirito realised this was why one attack could cut his HP in half. And he concluded that their stone knives would crumble from such an attack. Despite the overwhelming disadvantage, Kirito didn't want to give up without a fight. The girls were ready for a fight till the very last breath as well.

Feeling their determination, Bolan gave orders to his teammates in a serious tone. Ten and Garth - kill Asuna while she's defenceless; Doan and Meitoh - Alice; Tetsuriki and Chap - Leafa, Bolan and Mocri - Kirito. Meanwhile, Kirito ordered (silently so that only the girls would hear him) Alice and Leafa to avoid parries and instead focus on dodging, waiting for their chance to strike back. Then he ordered Agah to protect Asuna. He wasn't confident that Asuna's pet would listen to his command, but the platysaur quacked clearly in response. Kirito didn't expect Agah to be as powerful as the bear, but since they spawned in the same area, he hoped that Agah would be on the stronger side. Well, at least he's better than a naked Kirito. So, Kirito had no choice but to trust that the platysaur would be able to protect his master well enough against the two well-armoured guys.

And so, the enemy split into two-man teams and the battle began. Kirito would have preferred to lure the guys into the forest, where he'd have less of a disadvantage due to being outnumbered, but he couldn't just leave Asuna behind in her helpless state. Especially since Agah was freshly tamed and he didn't expect its loyalty parameter to be more than the minimum. Which could mean that it'd run away after taking some damage.

Bolan attacked Kirito, forcing shout. This made Kirito suspect that Bolan was just a diversion for Mocri's attack from the side. So, Kirito tried to outplay them in agility, seeing as he was not burdened with armour, unlike them. With some quick turns, Kirito got a stab at Mocri's left flank, dealing 5% HP damage. Kirito thought about using Sword Skills, but he didn't have a skill that would allow him to use SSs with a knife. So, his only choice was to wear down his opponents little by little. Meanwhile, Asuna's attackers were having their hands full with Agah, while Alice and Leafa were faring pretty well themselves. Asuna's already been gone for 10 minutes, so Kirito hoped that she'd be back soon.

Anyway, Mocri went into attack first this time, with Bolan following suit. Kirito decided to jump to the right, hoping to go after Bolan while the guy was busy turning. However, Mocri and Bolan suddenly linked their left hands together and simultaneously pulled their figurative breaks, causing Mocri to make a sudden turn and close in on Kirito. Mocri's blade went for Kirito's stomach, but Kirito intercepted it with his left hand. This resulted in a shallow cut - Kirito's HP at 45%. At that point, Kirito remarked that the two of them must have met before UR. Bolan responded that he, Mocri and Tetsuriki had known each other from ALO, for better or worse.

Since the two guys could make such coordinated moves without even eye contact, Kirito had to give them more credit. At that point, Mocri declared that it was time for them to settle things, since he apparently had an impression of how Kirito fights. Mocri claimed that his "teacher" told him to look at the big picture during a fight, focusing on the opponent's whole body, rather than just a part of it. That way, he could tell what they were going to do, and what they were weak against. Kirito was at a loss at who this "teacher" was, but Bolan nudged Mocri's shoulder and the two decided to finish the fight with some specific technique. Mocri moved to the left; Bolan to the right, forming a 3 m equilateral triangle. Mocri went for a low (gedan) stance; Bolan for an overhead (jodan) stance. Their weapons began to glow. So - Sword Skills!

One hit from either one would spell death for Kirito. But dodging both was kind of a tall order. Meanwhile, Kirito couldn't use Sword Skills, while his knife would break if it hit their weapons or armour. Due to an adrenaline (epinephrine) rush, Kirito started seeing things in slow motion, observing the situation throughout the battlefield. Alice and Leafa were forced into the same triangle positions, with Sword Skills coming from the left and right. Just as Kirito deliberated how they could all avoid certain death, Agah suddenly gave a shrill cry, which overlapped with a guy's scream. The platysaur had apparently bitten one of its attackers. At that moment, both Bolan and Mocri hesitated. The tips of their weapons shook, and their light wavered. At that moment, Kirito kicked off the ground. He didn't think they wouldn't be expecting this, but since he was naked, he figured they'd have thought it was less than 10% likely. And thus, their Sword Skill activation would fall behind by 0.x seconds. This wouldn't be of much significance in PvE, but in PvP... even a split second could make or break the battle.

Bolan activated the 1-H «Vertical» slash from top-right, Mocri activated the dagger «K-9» upward thrust skill from bottom-left. Kirito jumped forward, bending his body like in a Fosbury Flop. The long sword's slash went just above his throat as he bent to his limit, while the dagger strike went just below his back, making a very superficial cut that took 2% of Kirito's HP.

Upon landing (after 2 rolls), Kirito dashed towards one of Leafa's enemies, since Leafa was apparently closer to him than Alice by like 2 metres. So, Kirito stabbed his knife deep into the guy's defenceless back. At that point, Kirito's knife broke (due to prior overuse on the logs). But as the enemy faltered, Leafa used the chance to escape, and was about to head to Alice's aid with Kirito. But, apparently, there was no need for that. Since, at that point, they witnessed Asuna stabbing her knife into one of Alice's opponents' flanks... pretty deeply. Merely 3 seconds ago, Asuna was still leaning against the furnace. So, she had to only take 1 second to figure out what's going on, 1 second to begin dashing, and 1 to reach an enemy 10 metres away.
The price for Asuna's record breaking reaction speed... was her knife breaking due to the violent impact.

Using that chance, Alice escaped, calling out to the others to follow her. The gang began running to the log house. As they stood with their backs against the wall, Agah regrouped with them a bit late, snuggling up to its master with its head. The platysaur had suffered quite a bit of injuries while protecting Asuna. Its green scales were ripped off here and there, and even its bill was full of injuries. Yet it was still filled with resolution (especially when Asuna rubbed its neck).

Although the enemy was momentarily out of it, they got their bearings together quite quickly at Bolan's command and formed a half-circle formation to surround Kirito's gang. 10 metres away, they held their swords and axes at the ready as they slowly closed in. Although some were injured, they all seemed to be still going strong. On the other hand, Kirito's gang was only left with Leafa's stone axe and Alice's stone knife. Odds not really in their favour.

Kirito thought that their only option was to run away, but their enemy would then take over the log house as their own base. And there was the chance that the system would consider it as occupied by them. Escape, or die an honorable death? As Kirito bit his lip while trying to solve this dilemma, something happened. Agah suddenly quacked... in a questioning tone... The next moment, something Kirito couldn't have predicted occurred.

Several figures appeared from the forest. For a moment, Kirito thought it was another bear... but these figures stood on two legs and had humanoid silhouettes. They didn't have torches, so Kirito couldn't make out who they were. They numbered ~7. There was also a childish silhouette behind them. At this point, Bolan's guys noticed the new intruders and quickly turned around, their weapons at the ready. Standing at the front of the newcomers was a tall masculine figure with a spear, who bellowed "ℵℵℵℵ、ℵℵℵℵℵℵℵℵℵ!!". Kirito couldn't grasp what he was saying due to the distorted voice. But his men seemed to understand him and they quickly fanned out to the sides, with axes and curved blades at the ready. Kirito guessed that these were NPCs, just as Bolan shouted that these were the people from the basin. His teammates panicked.

Kirito considered using the NPC's attack to their own advantage by slipping through Bolan's guys and running away, as he figured the NPCs wouldn't take over a player home. But just then... He heard some metal sounds. Behind the NPCs. At first Kirito thought that someone was pounding a gong to call for reinforcements, but then he realised that the pace for the pounding was a bit too fast for that. It sounded less like someone was pounding an instrument, and more like... someone was hammering at an anvil.

At that point, Kirito realised that behind the NPCs were his furnace, casting equipment... and an anvil. And someone was making use of that very anvil. Kirito wondered why would they do that. Was it really a signal for their teammates? Well, at least it got Bolan's guys panicking. Though some didn't want to run away empty handed when they had a chance to craft new weapons and armour if they took over the log house. After a short moment of silence, Bolan gave his order: Tetsuriki, Chap, Doan - suppress the NPCs... but don't attack them first, while the other five assaulted Kirito's gang.

By the time the five of them turned around, the hammering had already stopped... though there was no sign of the NPCs getting reinforcements. The 6-7 of them just stood their with their weapons at the ready. If the NPCs didn't attack, Kirito's gang's situation would still be desperate, as they'd still be dealing with five enemies. At that moment, he suddenly heard a faint sound from the forest to the right.

Bolan and his guys began slowly closing the distance. Kirito assumed they would active their Sword Skills simultaneously when they closed in enough. All Kirito had up his sleeve were the tons of rocks in his storage. He considered using the Avalanche Plan again... but his enemies weren't simple-minded bears this time. Just as Kirito wondered what to do...

"Use this, Papa!"

He suddenly heard a voice from below. As Kirito looked down in shock, he saw a black-haired girl with a white one-piece and leather armour on top, staring right at him. Jet black eyes, like a starry sky. "Yui...!?" "Yui-chan!?", shouted Kirito and Asuna respectively. Just as Kirito was about to hold her up in his arms, Yui stopped him by raising her left hand. Just then... [Yui has requested a trade. Will you accept?], a small window appeared before him.

Shocked by the fact that Yui was able to send a trade offer, despite not even having a storage before, Kirito half-reflexively tapped on the accept button, but this lead to a [Insufficient storage capacity] message. Someone's inventory was still literally filled with rocks. At that point, one of Bolan's guys noticed the light of the trade window and warned the others. This prompted Bolan to order a charge to stop them.

Kirito didn't have the time to manipulate his storage and clean it up. So instead, he opened up his Stonemasonry skill and selected «Stone Furnace for Iron Production» from the producible item list. At that moment, a large, light-purple mass appeared three metres ahead of him. Kirito immediately moved his fingers apart to cause the transparent furnace to move away. Right towards Bolan's guys. Kirito figured that they wouldn't have had any experience in construction in this world, since they had no need to produce their own gear when they just imported their stuff from ALO. He was hoping that this would catch the guys by surprise.

And so it did. The guys started jumping to the side to avoid the ghost furnace. Kirito continued playing around with it for awhile, moving the furnace back and forth, thus prompting Bolan's guys to dodge it. Eventually, one of the guys saw through the cheap trick. After a moment of surprise, Bolan ordered his guys to ignore the ghost furnace, as it wouldn't do anything to them. The guys began dashing towards Kirito's gang again. o, Kirito once again moved the furnace with his hand, placing it midway between him and Bolan's guys. None of the guys were planning to dodge it this time. Instead, they only increased their speed, going straight towards the ghost.

So... just before they could touch the ghost furnace, Kirito squeezed his hand... causing the furnace to appear in material form... A split second later, the guys crashed right into the furnace, and fell to the ground on their backs. Kirito was interested in how much damage they suffered from the collision, but decided to instead use this vital time to go through with the trade. Since Kirito used up the majority of his rocks for the furnace, he could now accept Yui's trade offer. He received 5 items: «High-Grade Metal Chest Armour», «High-Grade Iron Waist Armour», «High-Grade Iron Shin Guard», «High-Grade Iron Gauntlet (Kote)», and «High-Grade Iron Long Sword». Kirito wondered how Yui managed to get all that stuff (still hasn't connected the dots, it seems) for a moment, but pushed that thought aside to equip all that equipment as fast as he used his menu during the Gleam Eyes battle.

The design for the armour wasn't all that elaborate,but the gleam of the steel-blue armour clearly signaled that "high-grade" in the name wasn't just for show.Although Kirito didn't really like metal armour that impeded his movement, hours of walking naked made him appreciate it. Holding onto his scabbard with his left hand, Kirito put his right hand on Yui's head, thanking, and telling her that he would take care of the rest. After exchanging glances with the other girls, Kirito charged towards the enemy.

After taking out his sword from his scabbard, he raised it above his shoulder, activating «Sonic Leap». By that moment, the five guys had finally stood up. Kirito targeted the closest guy, an axe-wielder, who noticed him and was about to shout out something. However, flashing light green, his sword slashed through the guy's left shoulder. The guy was blown away and crashed into the ground with a powerful force, losing over 80% of his HP in that one attack.

Just as Kirito was immobilised by the post-motion rigidity period, Mocri charged in without hesitation. His dagger was glowing yellow - he was using the dagger charge SS, «Rapid Bite». As the guy kicked off the ground, Kirito was released from his rigidity. But he didn't have the time to counter with his own skill, or dodge. So, he allowed Mocri to approach him... and blocked with his sword as the attack aimed for his heart. An anti-SS defence technique that was popularly known as «2h Block». Using this skill against a 2-H Sword Skill would run the risk of breaking the blade, but that wasn't a problem when used against a dagger.

The yellow light effect flickered... and the moment when Kirito thought it died down, he swept the guy's left leg with his right. Mocri lost balance and spread his arms out as he was about to fall. Using this chance, Kirito moved his sword to his left hip. "Payback time!". With that roar, Kirito activated a new Sword Skill. Glowing indigo blue, the blade roared as it slashed horizontally, burying itself deep into Mocri's side. He then twisted the sword 90 degrees inside the guy's body, and slashed upwards through his torso.

Although UR didn't have pain, the feeling of a blade going through his insides wasn't quite pleasant to Mocri. The guy let out a moan. But Kirito didn't think the guy suffered enough for scraping their honest trade attempts, and trying to murder them all. Kirito's skill wasn't over yet. Having moved from the guy's stomach to his chest, the blade made a third attack, burying itself into his chest with explosive force. The 3-parter skill «Savage Fulcrum».

The final thrust blew Mocri away. He fell right before Bolan's guys just as they were about to begin running. Mocri's HP bar took a sudden dive.... before running out completely. Kirito thought that the guy's corpse would remain just like the bear's... but what happened next was beyond his expectations. The guy's empty HP bar rotated at high speed as it grew in size, changing into a numeral string. 【0000:03:02:45】. So, Mocri survived 3 hours 2 minutes and 45 seconds since the voice announced the start of the -death-, I mean, survival game... before ultimately dying. The ring of numbers then stopped rotating. Just as it disappeared, the sharp spindle in the centre of the guy's cursor fired downward like a bullet, piercing Mocri's body. The avatar then split into countless rings that later formed several ribbons that went up to the night sky. Finally, a largish black cloth bag fell from the sky. This seemed to be the guy's possessions and equipment.

Having stared at the bag dumbfounded, Bolan raised his head and glared at Kirito. Pointing at Kirito with his long sword, he ordered Tetsuriki and co. to ignore the NPCs and surround Kirito. The guy wanted Kirito's death at the very least by any means. The scale armour guy hesitated for a moment, but responded to the order and turned around Brandishing his two-handed hammer, he and his guys began running. The NPCs meanwhile stayed put.

6 guys left. And they were wary of his Sword Skills now, so Kirito didn't think it would be that easy to dispose of them on his own. But he had to protect the girls behind him. As post-skill rigidity would expose him to danger, Kirito decided to avoid his big skills from now on and instead use regular attacks and single hit skills. The enemies were running in a horizontal line toward him. Kirito readied his sword to intercept them. And as if in response to his action... 2 people rushed out from the NPCs' rear, and silently dashed towards Bolan's guys.

Just as Kirito wondered why the NPCs were attacking now of all times... he realised that those two weren't NPCs. They were wearing plain leather armour, but Kirito recognised their hairstyles... and the small dragon flying overhead one of them. Lisbeth and Silica. Now Kirito connected the dots as to what the hammering was for. Took him long enough to realise that Lisbeth had used his anvil, iron plates and ingots to craft the new gear that Yui brought over to him, using her small body to slip through to Kirito. Running slightly behind Lisbeth, Silica glanced at Kirito, giving him a smile for a moment. Now Kirito had no reason to hold back. At that point, Tetsuriki noticed Silica and Lisbeth rushing at them, and turned around.

Running slightly behind Lisbeth, Silica glanced at Kirito, giving him a smile for a moment. Now Kirito had no reason to hold back. At that point, Tetsuriki noticed Silica and Lisbeth rushing at them, and turned around. The noise suddenly became more profound, changing into a metallic roar. The moment he felt the system assist kicking in, he kicked off the ground with all his might, activating the 1H sword single, heavy hit skill, «Vorpal Strike». With a roar, a bloody-red spear extended from the tip, heading straight for Bolan's chest. The guy attempted to block the attack with his sword a la Kirito... but the deep crimson spear shattered the thick blade as if it were mere glass, and then pierced deeply into the guy's leather chest guard.

With the defeat of the party's leader (Bolan) and sub-leader (Mocri), it didn't take all that long for the rest of the party to crumble. Kirito would have allowed them to escape if they had tried to, but they continued fighting to the last man. He admired their guts... but thought that they would have wiped each other out in order to become that first guy to be granted everything in the end. The last guy standing was Tetsuriki, who couldn't keep up with Silica's acrobatics and eventually died when Silica's «Rapid Bite» hit his medulla oblongata.

With the final eighth bag having dropped, Kirito was at a loss at what to do next. Thank Lisbeth and Silica for their effort? Run over to Asuna, who was embracing Yui in her arms beside the house's wall? Thank Alice and Leafa for their effort? And he was interested in the NPCs. In the end, he decided to prioritise ensuring safety. So, Kirito returned his blade to its scabbard and walked over to Silica. Pina greeted him when he came over.

"Eh... err...... so Pina converted over too.", said Kirito subconsciously. Silica gave him a "Is that really the first thing you're gonna say?" look, but then nodded with a smile. Silica revealed that while Liz imported her beloved mace and blacksmith hammer, Silica only got her dagger, so she assumed that Pina was treated as her second item and brought over with her. Kirito then speculated that the Cait Sith dragonriders came with their dragons. Though Silica commented that dragons ate a lot, so keeping them fed would be a big issue.

At that point, Lisbeth came over with her left hand on her chin, as she looked over Kirito, before commenting that metal armour looked more or less good on him. When Kirito thanked her for crafting the gear and thus saving them, Lisbeth remarked "I'll be expecting your gratitude in material form in the near future." By then, Asuna and the others walked over (Asuna still embracing Yui). Kirito took the chance to stroke Yui's hair and appreciate her lovely smile.

Kirito had a lot of questions. So many that he didn't even know where to begin. So, Alice took over and asked about the NPCs. Lisbeth explained that they were the Basin tribe and they became good friends with them after Silica beat their chief in a one-on-one. This brought to mind yankee (delinquent) manga for Leafa, while Silica tried to deny that she had a one-on-one (though Lisbeth insisted that it was basically the same thing).

Lisbeth then called over the 5 NPCs, who exchanged a few words with each other before slowly coming up. Kirito remarked that they seemed to be like the advanced kinds of AI in SAO. The leader of the party (the spearman) began talking with Yui, who responded in their language, causing Kirito's gang (excluding Silica and Lisbeth) to open their eyes wide in surprise. The conversation continued for awhile before Yui switched back to Japanese. Yui wanted to confirm that Kirito and the girls crash-landed with the house there, as the Basin people came over to investigate what had crashed there. She also explained how they were given equipment in exchange for helping them out in the expedition.

Kirito decided to thank the Basin people and extended his hand to the spearman, thanking him. The guy looked very dubiously at Kirito, before giving a momentary handshake... and immediately pulling his hand back. Just as Kirito decided to take that as establishing a cordial relationship with the NPC, he noticed that something was shining on his leather armour chest piece. Fang-shaped... glass, held by thin leather strings. Surprised, Kirito immediately asked how they got the glass, pointing at their necklaces. The spearman looked at his chest... and with a proud smile lifted the leather strings.

With Yui acting as a translator, Kirito found out that there was some quartz sand, the main ingredient for producing glass, at the plateau beyond the river, while the secondary ingredient - plant and wood ash - could be obtained by burning the plants and trees there. And actually, upon investigating Alice's bonfire, they found some gray lumps of ash there. The furnaces they already had could be repurposed for processing the materials. So, Kirito's second furnace just got a purpose. Additionally, they learnt where to find flax fields to get some flaxseed oil. So, they now knew where to find the rest of the ingredients for house repairs.

As thanks, Asuna shared their bear meat soup with the Basin people. Turns out, Thorn-Bearing Bear meat was a top class delicacy for them, so they were naturally overjoyed at the offer. Once they had their fill, the NPCs headed back to their settlement. Having seen them off, the entire gang heaved a long sigh. The time was now past 1 AM. 3 hours till the log house collapsed.

Lisbeth was happy that they were able to regroup before the house broke down, and she offered to take care of the iron plates and nails while the others gathered the rest of the materials. At that point, Kirito reminded them that they would probably lack some iron ingots, since Lisbeth spent some of their stock on Kirito's new armour and sword.

As Kirito considered going back to the bear's cave or melting his armour, Silica gave a big smile as she pointed at all the bag drops gathered in the centre of the empty field. She proposed melting some of the PK group's armour to get the missing iron. Kirito was surprised by the unusually rational idea. So much so that he exchanged glances with Asuna and the other girls.

Chapter 9

The chapter begins in the SAO Survivor School in the real world from Asuna's perspective. 28 September, Monday, 12:45 PM. About 5 minutes until her fourth period ends and Asuna is fighting back against her sleepiness. The first period at the school begins at 9 AM, which is a great thing when you live far away from school, but, in turn, the classes end later, which isn't all that pleasant when you didn't get enough sleep last night. The text then describes Asuna's complicated route of getting to school. At first, Asuna brushed off Kirito's idea of going to school by motorbike... but she has been giving the idea a more serious thought lately.

Asuna stayed up till 5 AM that morning and only got an hour's worth of sleep. She was so sleepy that she almost missed her first stop on the train, so she put on her Augma to have Yui keep her awake. She also had a Kazuto-ish thought of having Yui pilot her body to school. Although she had to fight her drowsiness during lessons, she did not regret her decision to stay up late, as they managed to finish their house repairs. Their avatars were now lying in the living room of the repaired house. Apparently, people can't waltz into another player's home uninvited (they tested it with Lisbeth before forming a party with her, it seems) even in UR. Though, the house wasn't indestructible. So, Agah and Yui were keeping watch on the house.

So, the gang set some goals - build sturdy walls around the house and get some more tamed monsters to protect the house - before logging out. For that they needed to find more resources and Asuna couldn't wait to get back home and use her AmuSphere... despite the fact that she had aimed to play VRMMOs in moderation before.

As soon as the teacher left, VRMMO playing students formed several groups to exchange info on Unital Ring. Asuna herself planned to meet with Rika, Keiko, and Kazuto in the cafeteria + use the Augma to get in touch with Suguha and Shino to discuss some things with them. Shino had separate accounts in both GGO and ALO, but her main (GGO) account was already converted to Unital Ring. Sinon herself had spent last night staying alive somewhere in UR, which is why they hadn't heard anything from her that night.

UR caused a storm on the Internet and there already was a walkthrough site for the game (that Yui was keeping an eye on). Yui seemed to be regretting that she had no special privileges in UR, but Asuna was actually a bit happy that she was a player now. Since now Asuna would be able to protect Yui, rather than just rely on her for help all the time. Although there was a possibility of her dying now that she had HP, Asuna wouldn't allow anyone to hurt her.

Just as Asuna stood up, about to go to the cafeteria with that resolution in mind... someone came up to her desk... and asked if she was Yuuki Asuna. Asuna looked up, finding a girl student looking at her with a faint smile. Asuna didn't know who she was. And the girl's grey blazer with a navy blue collar definitely wasn't their school's uniform. The girl had glossy black hair that reminded her of the expression "color of a crow with wet feathers​". Her hair was as long as Asuna's. Her skin was snow white. Her face was so cold that it could make you feel a chill.

Asuna confirmed that she was Yuuki and asked who the girl was as she stood up.The girl was about the same height as Asuna and she gave her a slight bow, as she introduced herself as "Kamura Shikimi" (神邑 樒)... a student who had just transferred over that day.


At that point, the story switched to Kazuto's perspective. Kazuto was trying to apply some eye drops to his eye, while fighting back yawns. He was reminded of his daily routine in SAO, when he'd only get 2-3 hours of sleep before going out again. Compared to those days, Kazuto felt that he's become less capable, since one sleepless night was already taking its toll on him.

Finally, lunch break arrived. His classroom was nosier than on a usual Monday, since all the VRMMO players were gossiping about UR, as it still wasn't clear what was going on, while Ymir and other companies only posted that they were investigating things. Though, Kazuto surmised one thing: there was only one man capable of a grand stunt like merging the entire The Seed Nexus - Kayaba Akihiko, the guy who created The Seed and the Cardinal System. Yui was constantly on the look for the guy on the Net, but she's only been able to find some faint traces of him occasionally so far. As Kazuto questioned what Kayaba was after for the umpteenth time, he closed his eyelids.

He then remembered that he still had eye drops in his left hand, and thus was about to raise his head, when... "I'll apply your eye drops for yoU", he heard someone say in front of his desk. With his eyes still closed, Kazuto half-reflexively thanked the person.

Once that was done, Kazuto suddenly had a thought... who was the person who helped him with his eye drops? The voice definitely sounded familiar, but it did not belong to Lisbeth, Silica, or Asuna. At that point, he opened his eyes... And saw a petite female student. The girl wore a blackish sailor uniform with a khaki​ parka on top. The girl's slightly discoloured hair was a short bob. Her face looked familiar.

When Kazuto asked who the girl was, she shrugged in exasperation. "That's so awful of yoU. Here I went out of my way to transfer over, and you don't even remember Big Sis anymorE?" At that point, Kazuto took notice of the girl's particular nasalisation at the end of the sentence. Wait wait wait, Kazuto thought. As the guy assumed a half-rising posture, the girl put on her hood and drew three lines on her cheeks with her fingertips.

"Ah... Aaaaaaaah!?", Kazuto gave a hysteric shout the moment he finally realised who the person was. This attracted attention from the other students, but Kazuto ignored them, as he said,

"A...Argo...!? Why...... How......!?", Kazuto refrained from adding "So you're alive!" at the end, opening and closing his mouth repeatedly. Argo the Rat, the skillful info broker from SAO, gave him a smile as she said, "Long time no seE, Kii-bou."

(To be continued)

Personal Highlights

Chapter 4:
💠More Deban Girls getting... actual deban. Guess abec's influence finally paid off.
💠All those Lisbeth burns. Silica is a beast 😂
💠Silica and Yui development. Though Lisbeth was kinda left out... 😕 Excluding the jokes at her expense.

Chapter 5:
💠Suguha being phonedeaf. Why does she even need a phone at this rate? 😆
💠Alice having developed a cave phobia.
💠Leafa the lumberjack. Guess it runs in the family.
💠Asuna the mini-Yui databank
💠Neanderito slapping back. Like a punching bag, but more slapstick-y. Works wonders with stress, apparently.
💠Kirito hitting off with Asuna's bro.

Chapter 6:
💠Silica ending up a glutton.
💠Lisbeth pushing all the hard work on others
💠Silica the Overachiever

Chapter 7:
💠Girls learning from Kirito's stupidity and preparing dresses for themselves... but not bothering to make anything for Neanderito
💠Honourable Eugeo mention
💠Asuna the Platysaur Tamer. Quack!
💠Best way to take a break from studying English is to study math! 😂
💠Kirito realising that you have to take the opinions of your party members into account when choosing your skills.
💠Kirito being scared of Alice S30
💠Kirito considering becoming Liz's apprentice.

Chapter 8:
💠Kirito badmouthing his future employers.
💠Guy whose name literally sounds like mockery.
💠Eiji v2.0 acrobatics
💠The Flash being... well, a badass (and broken) Flash.
💠Lisbeth, Silica, and Yui saving the day
💠Kirito trolling people with buildings
💠RIP Neanderito. We'll miss making jabs at you.
💠Payback time
💠Vorpal-chan deban
💠Kirito picking the most random first question to ask after reuniting with his friends.
💠Delinquent Silica

Chapter 9:
💠"I'll Protect My Daughter" Daddy Asuna


  1. Thank you so damn much! You're a hero.

  2. This is really help release my intense curiosity what lies beyond Vol 20 (at least I got the general content rather run wild speculation about the story).

  3. thanks for this, it really hypes me up!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. There are two main reasons why I made a detailed summary (more like a retelling to be honest) rather than a proper translation:

      1. Since Yen Press has the license for the book, I'm less likely to get into legal trouble by retelling the story in my own words than by actually translating the book.

      2. When I translate something, I have to be very pedantic. I have to think about how I phrase my sentences to represent the original text as accurately as possible. I have to think about all the little details and nuances, yet I can't have the sentence sounding clunky in English. That takes a great deal of effort to do properly, which requires a lot of time. On the other hand, with retelling, I can cover the same content in my own words. This means that I don't have to stick to the letter and that I don't have to cover all the details that aren't needed to understand the plot (such as location descriptions, all the descriptive adjectives etc.). Basically, I can simplify the text, which greatly reduces the amount of time I need to spend on covering the story.

    2. Well, sorry about that, and I kind of understand how you feel, since I just remember how hard to translate, even by someone who mastering multiple languages like myself (often time when translating, you want to be as perfect & accurate as possible, but you're limited by time you have, and people demand quick & accurate translation, while they can't stop distracting you).

  5. So... basically Unital Ring is the SAO version of Minecraft, isn't it XD?

  6. Will you be doing summaries of the other books in the arc?

    1. Dunno. Depends on how motivated I feel. A detailed summary does take quite a bit of time to do.

    2. I am grateful to you for this traslation. I hope you can translate the remaining future LN in the series, because is frustrating to wait for months and months, years and years, for a fan traslation of a single volumen. THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your hard work.

    3. Just a reminder that this is not a translation; it is a retelling. I covered all of the plot points and most extra details, but it's still not the same thing as reading the book itself.

  7. What the... KAMURA??? Didn't the author said Accel World and SAO is separate series?
    Even though I had expected this after STL got included in AW...

  8. Anda sangat membantu gan, akhirnya saya bisa mengetahui kisah di novel vol 21 sao

  9. thank you for the translation! its help! still need a long time to waiting full version of unital ring (not just a summary) :(

  10. will there be more chapters to this volume? or is volume 22 next thing to read?

    1. No, the vol. ends with Argo. Vol 22 will be released in 10/10/2019.

  11. Esto es increíble la historia me atrapó por completo mis más sinceras felicitaciones espero seguir leyendo más de este grandioso contenido

  12. damn they should have kept lisbeth and silica away from kirito to get some decent char development.now they become harem potatoes

  13. I was looking back through the postings I could find for the Unital Ring books with the release of Volume 24. Anyway, I can tell roughly where it belongs, but where exactly does the third color illustration slip in?

    I was also thinking I might be able to find the relevant illustrations translated, but so far that's been a dud.

    In any case, glad to see you keeping up the good work.

    1. Same place as the last illustration in chapter 8, if you're talking about https://swordartonline.fandom.com/wiki/File:Vol_21_-_006-007.png.