Sword Art Online Volume 23 summary (45% done)

Due to popular demand, I'm continuing my summaries of Unital Ring (for now). Due to Twitter's character limits, I decided to first write the summary down on Discord and then post screenshots on Twitter, but since some people prefer a blog post version instead (and I can correct things over time on blog posts when I spot some issue... or when someone points them out), I'll be compiling the summary from Twitter in this post. However, to save myself the agony later, I'll be compiling it part-by-part, rather than the whole thing in one go. If you wish to read the original Tweet thread for the latest bits, 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.

-Gsimenas


Chapter 1


Volume 23 begins with... Sinon describing how much it sucks to be thirsty in UR. The sense of dehydration is so realistic that Sinon honestly wonders whether her real body hasn't dehydrated.

At this point, the grace period has already expired and Sinon is aware that she would lose her account if she died, so she chooses to continue playing UR... in search of water in a barren wasteland.

"To think that I, of all people, would be driven into a corner like this......", she says as she recalls her mistakes.

----------

Six hours ago - 4:50 PM on 27 September, 2026. Sinon was logged into GGO and farming machine mobs in a high difficulty dungeon for rare metal drops.

Although Sinon has been spending more time in ALO, she had no intention of giving up her GGO account, feeling that her Hecate II was a part of her. That's why she was soloing a dungeon for mats to customise her rifle for the next BoB that she wants to win.

Just when she only needed one more piece of metal that had a drop rate of 3%, the floor started shaking violently and her vision was dyed in a rainbow light, forcefully transporting her aboveground.

Sinon found herself in the corner of an unfamiliar city with no one around. Instead of concrete, the buildings were made out of stone, while the roads were made out of bricks rather than asphalt. A sharp contrast from the usual GGO cities.

More GGO players started flowing in soon afterwards, but all of them were dumbfounded by what was going on and she didn't see any familiar faces among them. Not liking the prospect of being surrounded by unfamiliar men, Sinon sneaked into a two-storey building nearby.

The players began looking at the menu and some decided to log out and contact the administrators or look up community sites for posts about the issue, but Sinon had a bad feeling about things and refrained from logging out.

And to Sinon's surprise, the ten players that logged out... had their avatars remain on the spot. So, this wasn't a safe "town", but rather a field map... or more like ruins, since no NPCs were around.

Just then, multiple 80 cm long mishmashes of a centipede and an earwig entered the scene. Although they didn't look like a tough monster... all the GGO players were sitting ducks... She reflexively went for her MP7... but stopped at the last moment. Can't risk drawing in even more of them, in case the five she's seeing aren't the only ones around.

Her MP7 did have a suppressor... but she had stored it away into her storage to reduce the weight of her equipment. Meanwhile, the monsters started eating peoples' napes.

Sinon was expecting the players to last awhile, since the monsters were smallfry while the men were equipped with high-class gear... but they started dying out in just ten seconds.

At that point, Sinon instantly opened up her menu to look at her stats. Gulping when she noticed that she was level 1 with only 200 HP. Stats reset. Not to mention MP, TP, SP bars that weren't present in GGO.

Sinon finally took out her MP7 to save the five players still alive. After a detailed description of how she prepared her MP7 for firing, Sinon realised that the Bullet Circle system wasn't functioning.

Since there were apparently monsters that could jam Bullet Circles, Sinon didn't pay much attention to that and fired out two bursts at one of the monsters, easily killing it. Though it didn't burst into fragments like they usually would in GGO.

At that point, the remaining four monsters began targeting Sinon. Trying to stay calm, Sinon took out a second one, while the remaining three started climbing the wall.

Switching to full-auto, Sinon killed the third one, followed by the fourth. But the fifth one reached the window and attacked with its huge jaw and tail pincer. So, Sinon kicked off from the window and fired again, killing the last monster. 【Sinon reached level 2】.
P.S., Sinon had reached level 107 in GGO just three days ago, so level 2 was a bit disappointing.

Sinon then poked the monster with her MP7's muzzle, before tapping on it with her finger when she was sure it was dead. This brought up the property window: 【Akahara Hasami-mukade (Red-bellied pincer-centipede) carcass Material Weight 5.82】.

Sinon returned her MP7 to its holster to take out her knife... but her beloved survival knife was nowhere to be found... so she picked up a kitchen knife she found in the building. Not much use in a fight, but enough to dissect a carcass. Sinon nearly threw away the knife in horror when she began the dissection, but luckily for her, the game finished the dissection for her. 【Dissection Skill Aquired. Proficiency Reached 1】.

For her troubles, Sinon got several 【Low Quality Centipede Shells】 and 2 x 【Low Quality Centipede Pincers】. Sinon didn't what she could do with them, but decided to store them away anyway, before stepping outside.

Since the remaining players hadn't returned yet, Sinon dissected the other centipedes... before noticing blackish bags where the fice players had died. When she touched one of them, she got a notification that she acquired an AK74M and a Tactical Vest.

Feeling that looting the drops wasn't ethical, Sinon was about to return the items back... but then thought that the players would respawn somewhere and come looking for their items... however, items left lying on the ground would disappear after awhile. So, she decided to pick up the other stuff to give it back later.

Sinon was worried about her storage space after storing all that stuff, but her storage was only 20% full. So, she investigated her inventory and found that all she had in it were the ten items she retrieved from the players and the centipede materials. None of her GGO stuff was there.

Just as Sinon thought how she should keep her Hecate II and MP7 safe until a rollback returned her stuff... she realised that all her ammo was gone too. So, she only had 7 Hecate bullets in her sniper's magazine and about forty MP7 bullets in her spare magazine on her belt.

Thinking that it would be best to team up with the five players against any monsters in the area, Sinon waited for the players to log back in. However, when the first one came back three minutes later, shouting that everyone needed to gather at the center of the ruins... and learnt that his buddies were dead, he accused Sinon of being a PKer before she could explain that they were attacked by monsters. Only then did she realise that her "They're dead, too bad." phrase could be taken as the words of some guy doing an assassin roleplay... whoops... doesn't help that she's currently armed with her MP7.

Sinon tries to tell the guy that she saved them from centipedes, but since she already dissected all of the carcasses, the player doesn't believe her. She wanted to take out the mats as proof, but the player mistook that action for hostility and pointed his rifle at her. Just as Sinon was considering her options to avoid losing her Hecate, a second guy came back with news that GGO wasn't the only game affected... when he noticed the hostile situation and was told that Sinon "murdered" five sitting ducks in an underhanded manner, so he took out his revolver.

While Sinon desperately looked for a way out of the situation, the three remaining players came back. Just as Sinon prayed that at least one of them was calm enough to hold a conversation, Sinon noticed that the centipedes had respawned. But the men hadn't noticed them over the first guy's incessant shouting.

Sinon thus tried to warn them to look behind, but the players just took it for a hackneyed trick... until some shouting from the other players finally clued him in to the more than ten centipedes coming at them. When the five men jumped back in surprise, Sinon decided to use this chance to escape, seeing as the men wouldn't take long to handle the smallfry mobs.

Since the first player shouted about gathering at the center of the ruins when he logged back in, Sinon assumed that there should be a safe zone there... but since she was accused of being a PKer... going to a large gathering of players wasn't the best idea, so she considered going outside the city. But first, she had to lose the overreactive players. So, she found a side road where she could get out of sight and hid herself behind some boxes she found there.

Several moments later, the players caught up to her enough that she could hear them talking about wanting to get their hands on her sniper rifle. On the one hand, Sinon didn't want to lose her Hecate to some lowlifes who abbreviate the word "sniper rifle" to "snarai", on the other hand, Sinon didn't want to become an actual PKer. As she prayed that the guys wouldn't come to her alley... they stopped at her alley.

Sinon kept her hand on the Hecate's bolt handle so she could quickly load it if she had to fight back... but just then, one of the guys shot at one of the boxes with a submachine gun, grazing her hair and combat suit. Sinon just barely restrained herself from reflexively jumping out... and that ended up saving her, as the men concluded she wasn't there, since nobody reacted to their shooting.

After barely getting out of the situation alive, Sinon whispered in her mind that the men would come to regret wasting their ammo like that soon enough, before continuing on deeper into the alley.

-----

And so Sinon made her way out of the city. She encountered more centipedes, spiders and scorpions, but to conserve her ammo, she just avoided them by running away. At this point, she cursed that she didn't switch from an MP7 to a photon sword.

After more than twenty minutes, she reached a tall stone wall. It was a rampart that surrounded the town and it was impossible to climb it. So, Sinon used a stone throw to decided which direction to go in next. In less than a minute, she found a large gate. Before crossing the gate, Sinon weighed whether her choice to leave the town was correct, but all she concluded was that she couldn't go near any other GGO players until the PK misunderstanding was resolved.

Sinon's goal now was to find a safe place to log out. Since the city was crawling with monsters, she had no choice but to seek refuge outside of it. Beyond the rampart, Sinon was surprised by the scope of the field that awaited her. Although GGO boasted large maps itself (the wasteland surrounding SBC Glocken needed five hours to cross on foot, for example), but UR's map was also off-the-charts HD. She was surprised by how clear even the dry land in the horizon and the mountains beyond it looked. A world on the scale of Underworld.

Growing even more interested in logging out to find out what was going on, she surveyed the area (that looks like the Sonoran Desert in Mexico) and realised that she could also use her Hecate's scope to zoom in and look for a safe spot. And thus she spotted a cave near the top of a rocky mountain around 700-800 metres away.

So, she began running towards the mountain, avoiding monsters along the way and safely arrived at her destination. There, she planned out her climbing route and began climbing the ~15 m tall mountain. The trick to climbing in VRMMOs was to climb up fast before a state of exhaustion was incurred by the system. At the 5 m point, she got the message: 【Climbing (登攀) Skill Acquired. Profficiency reached 1】... the abruptness of which caused Sinon to lose her hold. Luckily, she grabbed on to a gap before she could fall down entirely. Even a level 1 skill made it easier for her to climb up the rest of the way safely.

Sinon went deeper inside the cave with her MP7's flashlight to ensure there wasn't a monster nest inside. The cave was 1.5 metres high and 3 metres deep. While there were no monsters inside, she did find a wooden box. Sinon approached it, thinking that it was possibly a treasure chest. But it had a keyhole. Sinon's attempts to open it were in vain.
P.S. Treasure chests in GGO are called "Treasure Boxes" (トレジャーボックス) and can have either digital or physical locks. The former can be opened with a Hacking skill, while the latter with a Picking skill. The latter could also be brute forced by shooting the lock, though it rarely succeeded and either ended up making it impossible to open the chest at all, or destroying its contents.

After some hesitation while looking at her MP7, Sinon decided not to take the risk with a brute force option. She did at least want to try picking the lock, but her lockpicking toolset was gone and instead all she had were the men's guns and centipede mats... and that's when she had an idea. She took out one of the Low Quality Centipede Pincers... with sharp tips. She stuffed one of the tips into the keyhole. While not as good as her locking tools, the pincer was sufficient for fiddling with the lock. As she did so, 【Lockpicking (解錠) Skill Acquired. Proficiency reached 1】.

After three minutes of fiddling, Sinon raised her lockpicking proficiency to 2 just as he heard a snap in the lock... and her pincer exhausted its durability. Inside she found: a handful of coins, a worn leather bag, and a blue, rusty key. She picked up the only silver coin in the bunch and investigated it. Didn't seem like GGO's credits or ALO's Yrd. The number 100 was written on one side, and two tree leaves on the back side. When she tapped on it, she saw the property window: 【100 El Silver Coin Coin Weight 0.1】.

Sinon stored the coins into her storage and then picked up the rusty key with a flower engraving on the handle. Sinon tried gaining info from its property window: 【Bronze Key Tool Weight 0.72】, but nothing of use in it. She stashed the key and then investigated the leather bag. Since it was rather heavy, Sinon got her expectations up for some gold coins or a magic item, but what she found was... a pachinko ball-sized, black lead sphere that didn't seem to have any value... and the bag was full of them. When she tapped on one of them: 【Crude Musket Bullet Weapon/Bullet Attack:Piercing 28.42 Weight 3.67】.

Just as she was about to throw away the bullets in disappointment... she suddenly recalled that she had never heard of such a gun category in GGO. And in GGO's setting, NPC could only make optical guns, as they lost the knowledge on creating live ammo guns, so those could only be salvaged from ruins. But even the oldest guns that have been salvaged from city ruins were at least from the 20th century. Not to mention that muskets have to be reloaded for each shot, so they'd be hardly useful even against the weakest monsters.

After deciding to store away the bullets after all, Sinon leaned against the wall. It was now 6:00 PM. She wanted to log out and find out what was going on since there were no monsters in the cave. But first, she decided to rest up. While thinking about what she'd eat when she logged out, Sinon.... fell asleep...

----------

Sinon was awakened by a noise that sounded like countless bells ringing in the distance. After a moment of confusion, she realised that she fell asleep in-game.... and the time was now 9:55 PM... so she had slept for slightly over THREE hours. Since she didn't awake in her own bed, Sinon concluded that the sleep logout function wasn't working here... though she also concluded that she would have slept for an entire eight hours if she had been in her own bed, so she was at least a bit lucky.

When she stepped outside to investigate the sound that awoke her... and found an aurora... and then heard a voice that sounded like it belonged to an innocent girl... and a wise sage at the same time, say the following phrase from v21: [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].

Just as Sinon was about to investigate where the aurora was pointing exactly... but she couldn't manage to finish doing so, as the moment the aurora suddenly disappeared, the was assailed by a great weight on her back... and Sinon realised that the weight came from her MP7 that seemed like a kitten in weight a mere second ago... but now felt like a lion was trampling her. But it didn't end there. Even when she removed the MP7, the weight didn't disappear. She realised that her favourite combat suit (officially named 《Sniper's Jacket》 (スナイパーズジャケット)) was exceeding her weight limit as well. After stashing away the jacket, as well as her boots and muffler, finally felt lighter.

So now, Sinon was only in her underwear. Since she couldn't use her gear anymore, she stashed them away into her storage. By then, Sinon that she was feeling thirsty. And her small water flask was missing, just like her survival knife. For a moment, Sinon thought that it was no big deal and she could just rough it out like in any other game, but then she noticed that her TP meter was decreasing (her SP bar was also decreasing, but not as quickly), so Sinon quickly realised what TP stood for. The bar was decreasing at a speed of 1% per minute.

Sinon had to find some water... in a pretty barren wasteland. What's more, all she had on her was her underwear and a belt... as well as the rusty kitchen knife she picked up in the city.... but she did have something else in her storage. She found five entries in her inventory with bag icons: 【Elkamyno's Mementos】, 【Stocks's Mementos】, 【練練 (Renren)'s Mementos】, 【Mishoka's Mementos】, and 【増岡一郎 (Masuoka Ichirou)'s Mementos】.

Sinon was repulsed by the idea of touching items she had picked up just to hold on for the players, but her concerns about that couldn't win against the throat-stabbing sensation of her thirst. So, she went through them looking for stuff even a level 2 could equip. While the five players had looked pretty well-equipped, she hoped that at least one of them was an AGI build player... and she found one. The player named Stocks's bundle included a weapon called 《Belatrix SL2》 (laser gun) and a set of armour called 《Weasel Suit》 (yellowish-brown combat suit), both of which just barely fit under her weight limit. While Sinon did have concerns about how much the Weasel Suit exposed and optical guns weren't to her liking, it was better than running around in her underwear with a kitchen knife. Also, bullet count isn't displayed on the player's UI in UR, so she had to inspect the energy gauge on the gun itself (63% charged).


And so, Sinon set out in search for water.

-------


End of Flashback


Back in the present - past 10 PM that same day. In that one hour, Sinon had no luck finding any water. Her TP bar was below 20% now and it was already hard to bear. And so, Sinon concluded that she had made three great mistakes: 1) taking the items of the centipede victims out of merch; 2) falling asleep in the cave, rather than logging out; 3) deciding to go further away from the ruins instead of returning to them when she left the cave. By the time she realised that there should be a well or something in the ruins where she could stock up on water, her TP bar was already below 50%, so it was impossible to turn back.

Although she had acquired something of a 《Night Vision》 skill, with only the stars giving light, she couldn't make out stuff in the shadows, so she had to take great detours around rocks where monsters could be hiding.

But just when she was only a hundred meters away from the rocky mountain she was aiming for... her eyes and ears caught sight/sound of something and she immediately bent over. She saw a tiny light at the base of the mountain. Something was reflecting the light of the stars... which was likely a water source. While her ears caught a thunder-like roar. The kind of sound that cliched large monsters... or even field boss-class monsters would make.

All she had to use as a weapon was the Belatrix SL2 handgun... but her TP bar was nearly at the 10% mark, so she no longer had the time to find a different water source. So, her options were to either to die from dehydration... or take her chances with what lay beyond the mountain. And she remembered a line she once told Dyne in GGO: "At least in-game, have the guts to die facing a muzzle." So, if she was doomed to die either way, she decided to die fighting, rather than dehydrate to death.

In order to at least see what the monster looked like, Sinon took out her MP7's flashlight and equipped it on her handgun... and she basically used up the remainder of her weight capacity for it. Since the light couldn't reach an entire hundred metres away, Sinon carefully closed in around the rock. When she was only 50 metres away from the rock, she noticed water running down along it... which only made her sensation of thirst worse. Her TP bar was only at 8% by now.

At that point, she found the source of the roar. A large shadow was going counter-clockwise along the base of the rock. As if protecting its turf. She had to do something if she wanted to drink some of that water. Sinon considered opening fire on it to draw the monster away from the water for at least a minute, so she could at least get a bit to drink.

Thinking that she wanted to see Kirito and co's faces when she told them how she managed to solve at least some of her problems here, Sinon resolved to survive and took her handgun into both hands. Meanwhile, a large monster appeared from beyond the rock. Sinon planned to light up her flashlight, find some good place to shoot in three seconds, and fire...

But just before she could hit the switch for the flashlight, she heard a large-caliber live ammo gun firing. The monster now roared in anger. Straining her eyes, Sinon noticed blood-like damage effects on various spots of the monster's body. Then Sinon noticed several orange flashes from a slightly high hill to her right. A moment later, the light effect of the monster's left flank being hit lit it up, allowing Sinon to see what it looked like: a dinosaur.

Apparently, Sinon lives in Bunkyō Ward, Yushima, 4-chome (文京区湯島四丁目) and she goes to a nearby art gallery and museum at times. At the museum, she happened to see a dinosaur exposition, even if she had no real interest in them. The Deinocheirus from that exposition looked just like the monster she faced now. But unlike the dinosaur at the exposition, this one didn't have feathers. Instead, it had armour-like skin. 5 metres tall, 10 metres long.

The dinosaur faced its attackers and rushed off after them, causing tremors each time it kicked off the ground. The attackers were protected by a rather steep cliff, making it hard to run up, but the people on the hill quieted down for some reason, instead of unleashing a third or fourth simultaneous volley. As Sinon looked on bewildered, the dinosaur rammed the cliff with its head, creating radial cracks in it. Then it went back a bit and rammed again. At this point, the third volley finally came, but it seemed its back was well-armoured, so the monster didn't stagger this time.

The dinosaur roared as it kicked off the ground and slammed the cliff again with great force. The cracks reached all the way up to the top of the cliff, causing a lump of it to fall down.

Sinon strained her eyes at the 10 metre high slope, noticing that a guy was falling along with the lump. At that point, Sinon gave up on her plan to sneak up to the spring during the commotion and jumped out of her hideout. While she didn't know who the guys were, she concluded that cooperating with them was her best chance of getting rid of the dinosaur to get some water.

She approached the cliff from the south. The players atop the cliff fired a fourth volley, but they were apparently running low on ammo. The dinosaur paid them no heed as it swung to slash the falling player with its claws. So, Sinon drew its attention with a shout and her flashlight. As the dinosaur was momentarily stunned by the light, she fired at its yellow eyes with her handgun. The yellow laser pierced its right eye, causing it to let out a shrill roar as it crashed into the slope. More of the earth and bolders fell down as a red cursor appeared above the dinosaur's head that looked like something between a crocodile and a bird, but Sinon didn't have the time to read its name.

Having turned off her light, Sinon rushed over to the collapsed player, pushing away a large boulder that had fallen on his left leg with a bodyslam. Just as Sinon extended her hand to the guy... her eyes flew open in surprise. For that "player" wasn't even a human. While it could be considered humanoid, GGO didn't have avatars like that. On the ground there was a 《birdman》 with brown feathers all over its body and a bird of prey head. More birdlike than even ALO's harpy monsters. But it was wearing armour made out of cloth and leather... and held an unrefined rifle in its right hand. Sinon guessed that it was neither a player, nor a monster... but an NPC.

Although Sinon had been about to draw her hand back, she thrust it out again, convinced that a fellow gunman would understand the gesture, even if it was 70% bird. The hawk-like birdman blinked once, before grasping Sinon's hand, who then pulled him up. The birdman was about five centimetres shorter than Sinon. She then tried asking if the birdman could run, but the NPC just responded ℵℵℵℵ in the weird NPC language.

Sinon couldn't understand what it said, but didn't have the time to ask again and began running to the back of the hill, with the birdman following suit. The hill was thirty metres wide and fifteen metres tall, circle-shaped. Sinon was running along it, searching for a way to climb up, when she heard the birdman shouting... and pointing to the cliff with its talons. Sinon couldn't see it all that clearly, but it seemd to be a ladder, so she jumped onto it. The ladder was made on a foundation of stakes, so it wasn't a temporary one, meaning that the birdmen didn't just happen to aim for the dinosaur today, but rather had been attempting attacking it from the hill for awhile now.

Atop the hill, all she saw were small trees, rocks, and sand. Not even a bit of water. And her TP bar was at 4%, assailing her with such a sensation of thirst that she fell to her knees. A moment later, the birdman climbed up as well, so Sinon tried asking it for water out of desperation. But the birdman didn't understand her, nor did it seem to be carrying any flasks... and NPCs didn't have any storage, so all she saw was all it had. So, if Sinon didn't kill the dinosaur in 3 minutes and 10 seconds, she'd die.

Refusing to die, Sinon stood up and ran over to the western side, where she found several more birdmen with their back to her as they aimed their rifles down the cliff, planning a fifth volley. However, Sinon saw that the dinosaur's HP bar was still close to 80%, so a single volley didn't take more than 10% out of it. While the birdmen avoided direct attacks from the dinosaur from the hill, they had to resort to aiming for its armoured back, so they couldn't deal much damage. And looking at their bags, they didn't seem to have much ammo either.

At that moment, Sinon suddenly shouted at the birdmen to wait, startling them. The birdmen suddenly turned around, pointing their guns at her, as they shouted something in their language. Sinon desperately attempted to talk to them that she wanted to help, but it didn't seem any of them were able to understand her. Her TP bar was at 3%.

Just as Sinon was about to give up, the dinosaur slammed the cliff again, causing some of it to crumble again, while the birdmen jumped back. The birdmen shouting brought back Sinon's fighting spirit, as she thought to herself: ""I'll have all the time in the world for despair AFTER I die. For as long as I have even a pixel of TP, I'll continue struggling to live. I will convey my will to the birdmen and defeat the dinosaur with their help. There has to be a way to do that".

At that point, Sinon woudered what would Kirito do. She thought that he wouldn't rely on words at a time like this. He always relied on actions— the brilliance of his sword, filled with his overwhelming willpower, to encourage everyone. Sinon didn't have a sword, but she did have a partner. And she was the only one Sinon could rely on. So, she took out her beloved gun from her storage.

The birdmen were surprised upon seeing her gun. Sinon tried to get them to help her support her gun, but they didn't understand her, tilting their heads in a birdlike manner that almost caused her to laugh. She tried again to get them to help her kill the dinosaur, but the birdmen didn't move. Finally, on her third attempt, the birdman she had rescued jumped in from behind her, placing Hecate's barrel on its right shoulder.


As the birdman supported her rifle, groaning in pain, Sinon hurriedly gripped the gun. Her TP bar is at 2%. While she was exerting herself to move the rifle forward, a red scales icon flashed next to her HP bar, signaling that she was overencumbered. 【Sturdiness (強健) skill acquired. Proficiency raised to 1】. Meanwhile, the birdman also mustered its strength, but it was slowly sinking into the ground due to the weight of the gun and suffering damage.

At that point, the leader-like birdman grabbed the barrel and hoisted it on its left shoulder, making it easier for Sinon to move it and thus the three of them managed to stagger their way to the cliff edge with the rifle. There, the two birdmen squatted down, allowing Sinon to aim down. By that point, the dinosaur had recovered from its ramming and was getting ready to charge again. If it hit the cliff, Sinon would likely fall to the ground with her Hecate. While observing the dinosaur, she also saw that there was a name in katakana listed by its ring-and-pillar shaped HP bar: 《ステロケファロス》 (Sthelocepharos?).

Sinon feared that she wouldn't pierce the shell protecting the dinosaur's head... and that she wouldn't be able to hit it anyway as she could barely move the rifle, so she decided to aim for the body instead. TP bar at 1%, so she didn't have time to aim for the stomach or sides. But before she could put her finger on the trigger, the leader shouted something, which prompted all the other birdmen to lineup with their muskets beside them and fired all at once. Most of them didn't hit the dinosaur... but instead hit the ground next to its legs, forcing it to stand up... and exposing its unarmoured abdomen

Sinon used this opportunity to fire, aiming at where she believed the monster's heart lay. The recoil blew her and the two birdmen assistants backwards, but Sinon was able to witness how her bullet pierced right down the middle of the Sthelocepharos's chest. Just as the trio hit the ground, the dinosaur's HP bar started decreasing at an alarming rate, going from yellow to red, until it eventually stopped at zero.

As the tremor from the monster's collapse reach them, the following window appeared before Sinon: 【Sinon has risen to level 16】. Momentarily astounded by this prompt, Sinon immediately checked on her TP bar, hoping that it had reset due to the level up... but no, it was only 30 seconds away from depleting. With her trembling finger, Sinon returned her rifle to her storage. At that moment, the birdmen all began cheering with their muskets raised.

Sinon didn't have the time to observe them, nor the time to use the ladder, so she rushed over to the cliff and jumped off it, landing atop the relatively soft belly of the dinosaur. Since Kirito taught her that using ukemi decreases fall damage, Sinon had apparently been practicing that in ALO. In the end, she suffered only ~10% HP damage from the fall.

With a blurry vision from the adrenaline, Sinon got started on the two hundred meter dash to the spring... but on the third step, her TP bar ran out.... Assailed by thirst that now felt like a flame was burning her throat, Sinon started having diplopia, so she closed her eyes.

"Is this the end?", preparing for her death, Sinon began talking to her Hecate in her mind. "Even if I lose you as a drop, I'm definitely going to get you back." Falling to the ground, Sinon burst into particles and disappeared... or at least that's what she thought would happen, but all she saw was that HP started decreasing. So, TP falling to zero doesn't kill you right away, but rather just starts chipping away your HP. Eyes wide open, Sinon muttered, "......You could have just told me that from the start."

Since her HP bar was decreasing pretty quickly, Sinon only gained an extra minute or so to resolve her thirst problem. Her vision was still diplopic, so she assumed that this was a special warning effect for imminent death. By the time she rushed over to the spring, 30 seconds had passed and her HP had decreased by half. Swearing that she would turn the admins into swiss cheese if it turned out that the spring was poisonous, Sinon kneeled down beside the spring and scooped up some cold water with her hands and gulped it down in one go. She repeated this process another three times and her TP bar began recovering. However, rejuvenated by the water, Sinon stopped caring about the stats and gave up on scooping the water up, instead deciding to just drink straight from the spring, quenching her thirst like an animal.

As thoughts about never going away from the spring and building a house next to it filled her mind, Sinon continued drinking the water even after her TP bar was utterly full.


Chapter 2


Part 2 switches to Kazuto's perspective in the real world at the SAO Survivors School. The part begins with Kazuto explaining that the school's campus has a very complicated structure due to using a reorganised abandoned school building. As such, there are quite a few hard-to-reach and easy-to-overlook spots there. One such spot is Kazuto and Asuna's secret green zone that was introduced in Cordial Chords. Though, it's apparently no longer as exclusive, since Rika (Lisbeth) didn't take long to catch on to them having a secret spot. Naturally, Keiko (Silica) got notified about the secret spot too. And now, Kazuto brought Argo over there.

"Whoa, this sure is a nice date spoT. You sure you're okay with bringing me along here?"
"Not like I had a choice when you make such a grandiose entrance......"
Took Kazuto a moment to process the date spot comment.
"Wait no, it's not like this is a date spot, so there's no issue with bringing you along here."
"Oh come oN, why so cold when we haven't met in a long while, Kii-boU. Hey, I wouldn't mind a reunion hug, ya knoW?"

Argo's wearing a blackish sailor uniform with a khaki parka and a small daypack. Argo's apparently a bit shorter than Asuna, but ~2 cm taller than Keiko. And Argo's taller than Kazuto remembers her, so despite looking like she was older than him, she was apparently still in her growth spurt in SAO.

Apparently, when Argo came up to Kazuto at the end of v21 tens of minutes ago, she attracted the attention of the male student base with her unusual uniform... in a school where girls are the minority, so Kazuto had to drag her out of the classroom before they got surrounded by the boys, thus having to resort to taking her to the secret spot. But now that they were all alone, he had a different kind of tension to deal with... and so he took his distance away from Argo.

"I...... I'll save it for next time."
"So you're lacking your backbone like always, huH, Kii-bou."
"So what if I am! More importantly...... what're you doing here in the first place?"

As Kazuto observed Argo, he noted that while he wasn't even sure whether she was a guy or a girl at first in SAO, Argo has grown to look more mature in the past 4 years, so now she looked more like a girl and even hesitated to be as casual with her as he had been in SAO.

Argo explained that she transferred to the SAO Survivor School, shocking Kazuto with her statement. Kazuto was surprised that she decided to transfer over now of all times, after two years since SAO was cleared. Especially since she never once contacted him during all that time. He had even had the suspicion that she got herself killed. Smiling, Argo remarked before Kazuto could finish his thought:
"As if I'd ever just kick the bucket like thAT. Not like you tried contacting me yourself, anywayS. With all your connections, Kii-bou, you should been able to easily acquire RL info on me......"

Kazuto thought over that idea. While he didn't know Argo's real name or address, he did know her game handle, so he could have just asked Kikuoka to look up her RL details from a user log. However, Kazuto apparently refrained from looking up anyone he wasn't sure had survived SAO. He was sure that that people who survived the 75th F boss fight had survived, but he wasn't sure if people like Nishida, Kibaou, Nezha, or Mahokl were still alive. And Kazuto was scared of finding out the answer to that... scared of learning that the people he know had not made it back. For the same reason, he had not looked up Argo either.

Just as he was about to give a bow to apologise, Argo nimbly closed the distance between them and stabbed his brow with her index figure, telling him not to apologise, as she herself hadn't contacted him either, despite him going wild in both ALO and GGO without changing his name.

At that point, Kazuto decided to ask:
"That's a fine point there....... why didn't you come to ALO? You're not the type to chicken out on FullDive machines, right?"
"Who do you take me for, huH?", Argo said with a strained smile, before stuffing her hands into her pockets and starting to sway.
"Hmn~~ well, there are a lot of reasons for that, thougH. Can't say I had no interest in it at alL. When I heard that you can restore your old SAO chars in ALO, I do admit I felt a very strong urge to joiN....... though, ya knoW, I just couldn't find the motivation I had back then to start up my infobroker biz anew, ya seE......"
".......Well, can't say I don't understand that sentiment......"

Kazuto then thought over how he understood the sentiment far too well, actually. Although SAO was a death game where there practically was not a single day where you wouldn't feel fear, despair, unease, and grief, that wasn't all there was to it. The joy from levelling up, excitement upon acquiring a rare drop, the joy of beating a boss...... all of these emotions were genuine, differently from the games he had played before SAO. Though he was loath to admit it, while it did feel fun to play his main game, ALO, without any exaggeration, he still couldn't get as into it as he had in SAO.

Shaking off the momentary sentimentality, Kazuto asked:
"......In that case, where and what have you been doing the past two years?"
"That's simple: studying in my home town, obviouslY"
"............Oh......"

And then Kazuto realised that he himself has basically been doing the exact same thing, if you disregard the extra stuff he got himself into.

"So where is your hometown? And what grade are you in?"
"Two questions, that'll be a thousand cor, kaY."
"Oh, yeah......"
Kazuto was about to reflexively take out a thousand cor coin from his uniform's pocket, but as he stopped himself at the last moment, Argo laughed out joyfully.
"Nyahahaha...... I'm just jokinG. My hometown is in the southwest of Kanagawa and I'm my third year at high schooL."
Kazuto opened the map app in his brain to figure out where would that would be... concluding that it wouldn't exactly be close to Tokyo. So, Argo's one grade above Kazuto and is in the same grade as Asuna and Rika.

When Kazuto asked why did Argo transfer over now of all times, considering that she was only half a year away from graduation, Argo pondered whether she should answer the question, before taking out a business card from her daypack and presenting it to Kazuto.
"Hosaka (帆坂)……Tomo (朋)...... Is that your real name?"
"Well sooorry for having a name that doesn't sound reaL."
"O-oh no, that's not what I meant....... I just didn't expect you to tell me your real name that easily......"
"Now that I've transferred over, I ain't exactly gonna be able to hide it for long."

At that point, Kazuto returned to looking at the card, where he saw her email address, smartphone number... and job title. [MMO Today Writer/Researcher].
"Wha, seriously!?
"Well, yeaH."
"An M-TD writer...... so, some of the articles I've read were written by you then......?"
"PossiblY."
"But, wait, doesn't M-TD focus mainly on news related to The Seed? Can you really write articles without playing?"
"I'm not in charge of specific game titles, but rather general The Seed Nexus news, or hardware and stuff, ya seE. Though, well, I do sometimes make a char to dive iN, but I delete it right after I'm done getting my data, ya seE."

Being an unemployed student, Kazuto began feeling some distance between Argo who already had a as a writer for the biggest media service on VRMMOs, so he wondered if he should stop calling Argo "omae" casually and instead go for "Hosaka-san", but Argo stopped him before he could finish that thought, telling him to still refer to her as always.

She then brought up that Kazuto forgot to give his own name to her. After he gave his name, the two exchanged a handshake. During the handshake, Kazuto blurted out,
".......So you survived."
"Thanks to ya, Kii-boU. Actually, I didn't feel like I'd manage to stay alive till the 100th Floor, ya seE. If ya hadn't cleared the game on the 75th Floor, Kii-bou, I'd probably have kicked the bucket somewhere at some poinT."
"I didn't do it on my own......"

Once the sentimentalities were done, Kazuto returned to the main topic, asking how was Tomo's job as a writer related to her switching schools. But just as she was about to answer, she heard footsteps coming from the only entrance to the secret garden. Seconds later, Asuna holding her smartphone in her right hand rushed in from the entrance. Kazuto had apparently sent her a message while he and Argo were en route to the green zone. Asuna first looked at him, then turned her gaze to Tomo,

"......No way......", she muttered. Her wide-open, hazelnut eyes glittering in the sunlight.
Argo blinked once, before raising her right hand,
"Yo, have ya been welL, Aa-cha......"
But she was unable to finish the thought. Because Asuna rushed over at such a great speed that it was like she possessed by her The Flash persona, and gave her a hearty hug. Kazuto was barely able to catch the smartphone that Asuna dropped.
While burying her face into Tomo's shoulders, Asuna let out a whisper.
"I was sure...... I was sure we'd absolutely meet again one day."
"......Sorry for not contacting ya so long, Aa-chan.", responded Tomo, patting her on the back.


When Asuna finally let go, she asked the same question Kazuto had: what was Argo doing here?

-------

Lunch breaks in the SAO Survivor School lasted 50 minutes, which wasn't enough time for both getting lunch at the cafeteria and talking about the old days, so Kazuto had asked Asuna to bring some lunch for three people in his message to her. She bought baguettes: 1 Camembert​ cheese+ham+roquette(rucola), 1 cream cheese+smoked salmon+tomatoes, and 1 shrimp+avocado+basil, and let Tomo pick first. Apparently, Asuna wants to treat Tomo for helping with The Witch and the Three Treasures quest from The Day Before. Tomo went for the smoked salmon one. Asuna then let Kazuto pick; since he knew that Asuna wanted the one with avocados, he picked the ham and cheese one.

Apparently, Kazuto has a bad habit of forgetting to pay Asuna back for stuff she buys for him, because even after 2 years since SAO... and despite only spending 2 weeks married, he still needs to remind himself that they don't have a shared storage anymore, so he used an app on his smartphone to pay her back before he forgot. He'd usually do it with his Augma, since it's simpler, but forgot to bring it with him.

And just then, Kazuto remembered that they had planned to meet up with Rika and Keiko during the lunch break to discuss what happened to The Seed Nexus the day before. What's more, the meeting was also supposed to be attended by Suguha and Shino, the former from her high school in Oomiya and the latter from her high school in Ueno via the Augma. But being the responsible one in the relationship, Asuna wasn't all that surprised that he forgot about all that and stated that she had already informed everyone that they'd like to postpone the meeting till after school.

At that point, the three got down to eating. After finishing half her baguette, Tomo declared that it was worth transferring schools just for them. As Kazuto commented that the rest of the menu was just as great, he realised that Tomo STILL hadn't answered the question of what she was doing in their school.

Tomo: "Not like the timing is strangE. This school has a first and second term for admissions; today's the day for the second term's enrolmenT."
Kazuto: "Wha, is that how it works?......In that case, they could have organised the school year in semesters, rather than trimesters......"
Tomo: "Then you'd be losing your winter holidays."
Kazuto: "Oh shit, forget what I just said."
Asuna (giggling): "This school only set up a system for transfers this August. So, since they didn't make it in time before the summer holidays, the end of September would be the earliest time she could transfer, it seems. So Argo-san is part of the first batch of transfer students, huh. By the way, even someone who's not a former SAO player can transfer over."
Kazuto: "Heeh... But what kind of student would go out of their way to transfer to this school from a normal one? I do believe it's seen as an isolation facility by society......"
Asuna: "Well you see, being a special vocational school, our school has plenty of practical curriculums, right? And with its credit-based system, you can choose the subjects that you actually have an interest in...... This fact was covered by the media and it seems that the number of people interested in it increased. A transfer student came to my class as well; the girl told me all about that."

Kazuto assumed that Tomo also came to the school for the same reason, but then he remembered that the whole Unital Ring incident began the previous day, while Tomo was a writer about The Seed Nexus, so he began to suspect that her transfer was somehow related to that. When Kazuto attempted to ask Tomo about that, she told him not to rush things, as it would take a long time to explain things and they didn't have enough time during the lunch break for that. So, she asked to join them for the after-school meeting they had planned with the others.

Kazuto then reminisced about Argo in SAO. Apparently, while Argo had been a great contributor to clearing the death game as an info broker, she started devoting herself to behind-the-scenes work starting with the middle floors, so even Kirito suddenly had far fewer chances to meet her. Which meant that while Silica and Lisbeth could have heard of her by name, they weren't likely to have had personal dealings with her. While Suguha and Shino would have had zero contact with her. But since Rika and Keiko only knew Suguha for 1.5 years and Shino for 9 months and yet were like old friends already, he assumed that they'd be able to break the ice with Tomo too. Though, his condition was that she wouldn't tell them anything "strange", leaving what counts as "strange" to her common sense. While Kazuto hoped that Tomo would become good friends with Rika and Keiko, he couldn't shake a bad feeling about the matter.

-----------

After a short homeroom session ended at 3:30 PM, Kazuto rushed out to the second school building, where the Computer Room was located on the northern tip of the 3rd floor. Despite the ostentatious name, there were barely any computers left there, seeing as the room comes from the times when the school was still in use as a regular school and IT lessons were being held there. So, Kazuto and two other boys from his Mechatronics course with whom he had formed a research team had borrowed officially borrowed the room from the school to use as their lab. Each member had a key of their own to their lab, but the other two guys had left for Akihabara to stock up on parts. So, Kazuto decided to use the empty room for their meeting.

Kazuto had hoped to be first, but Rika was already there by the time he arrived. And complained that he was late, even though she herself was just early because their homeroom teacher was on a business trip. Rika had apparently expected that if she'd be just right on time if she took a slow stroll to the room. After casually talking about some ALO stuff... and after Kazuto pondered over the possibility of a The Seed game based in a large school)... Rika prompted Kazuto to unlock the door already by slapping him on the back.

After opening the door, Kazuto put his right hand on his chest and gave a bow:
"After you, Milady Lisbeth."
"No objections there."

Apparently, despite the frequent vacuuming, they still couldn't get rid of the typical old classroom smell in the room. And Rika apparently liked the atmosphere in the room.
"Doesn't this feel like we're in one of those academy anime? Like when a boy and a girl, all alone in an old school building after school...", Rika suddenly pointed at the taken-aback Kazuto with her right index finger, "go into battle with flashy powers."
"What, battles......", Kazuto's shoulders dropped down.
"What did you think we'd do?"

Just when Kazuto remarked that everyone was late, Asuna and Keiko entered the room. Tomo wasn't with them and Kazuto hadn't got Tomo's contact details from her, so he began to worry whether Asuna and him had only seen an apparition back in their secret spot, but just then, "Oissu", came a listless greeting from Tomo as she entered through the open door. As Asuna waved her hand to her with a smile, Rika and Keiko meanwhile stared blankly at her in puzzlement.

Looking at them, Tomo prompted Kazuto,
"Hey, hurry up and introduce uS."
"Oh, right...... Liz, Silica, this here is Argo. She transferred over to our school as of today; like us, she's an SAO Survivor and in Aincrad, she was......"

But at this point, Tomo cut into the introduction,
"In Aincrad, I was Kii-bou's Onee-saN."
Rika: "Kii-bou!?"
Keiko: "Onee-san!?"


Kazuto immediately dashed to Tomo,
Kazuto: "Hey, you, didn't I tell you not to say anything strange!"
Tomo: "What is it now, I'm just sharing the truth here, ya knoW?"
Kazuto: "How is any of that true! We had nothing more than a client-trader relationship!"
Tomo: "Hey, that's a mean way to put iT. I've given you special treatment numerous times, Kii......"
Asuna: "How about you leave it at that and let's get back to the topic at hand?"

Asuna then said they could leave Tomo's introduction for after everyone joined the meeting, seeing as they'd have to repeat it to Suguha and Shino anyway. Kazuto turned to Rika and Keiko and asked them to help set up for the meeting... while fumbling his Japanese grammar.

--------------

So, the group took two tables that could seat three people each and made one big table for everyone, with Asuna + Tomo on one side and Rika + Keiko on the other, while Kazuto sat at the head of the table. Then they all put on their Augmas (Tomo's Augma was painted mustard yellow and had a rat icon on the part that goes on the back of the head). The moment they turned them on, a fairy-sized Yui appeared on the table. She greeted all the regular members and then noticed Tomo. Kazuto told her that they'd explain who she was during the meeting, but Yui just blinked once and smiled, recognising Tomo as Argo and thanking her taking care of her papa and mama, before introducing herself.

Naturally, Tomo's jaw dropped at this. When she asked how Yui figured out that she was Argo, Yui replied that she looked up the biometrics for SAO avatars and Tomo's appearance was a 99% match for Argo. Tomo tried to argue back that she had grown in the past two years, but Yui just casually replied that she had already taken height change predictions into account when running the search.
Tomo finally realised that Yui was an AI and, after three seconds of silence, exchanged a virtual hand... er, fingershake with her. At that point, Kazuto had a thought about how Tomo, having an infobroker kind of job in real life too, must be salivating at the prospect of Yui's information gathering capabilities...... and so he made a mental note to watch out for any suspicious part-time job offers from her.

Finally, Yui connected them to Suguha and Shino using an "AR Meeting System" that Yui had developed. It was their first time using it, so he could only be surprised at how it seemed like Suguha and Shino were right there with them. The two girls were just as surprised in turn, looking over the computer room with wide open eyes.

Since Shino was about to stand up from her seat, Kazuto hurriedly stopped her, warning that the Augma was currently overwriting what their eyes were seeing, so they could easily get themselves hurt if they moved. Shino was apparently participating in the meeting from a language lab classroom, so she worried that if anyone else entered the room, it'd seem like she was talking to air.
Suguha frowned at this statement, seeing as she was connecting from the school infirmary, so she worried that it was only a matter of time till someone came in. Apparently, Suguha came up with an excuse to skip out on club practice.

Kazuto worried that she'd get scolded by the third years for that, but Suguha replied that the third years had retired after the August inter-high competition, while she herself was now the vice-president of the club. Kazuto was surprised by this revelation and asked why didn't she tell him about that earlier, as it called for a celebration. Suguha in turn downplayed the significance of the post, but instead called for a grand celebration when she scored some wins in November.

At that point, Keiko asked whether there was someone stronger than Suguha in her club, seeing as she was only the vice-president. Suguha confirmed that there was, though she has both wins and losses against the president, but she uses a slightly custom style during matches...... while the president uses an orthodox one. Kazuto again worried about Suguha becoming the target of bullying if anyone heard what she was saying, but eased up when he concluded that she wouldn't have become vice-president without having popularity. He also resolved himself to go see her fights in November, seeing as he missed out on the August ones due to still being hospitalised at the time.

Anyway, Kazuto decided start off the meeting by introducing Tomo:
"Alrighty, we don't have time, so let's begin the meeting. First off, allow me to introduce this guy...... I mean, this person."
After Kazuto pointed at Tomo and she rose from her seat for a slight bow:
"This person is Hosaka Tomo-san, who just transferred to the Survivor School as of today...... Her SAO alias was Argo the "Rat", her job - an info broker."

The moment Rika and Keiko heard that, they shouted out "Ah! The one from the guidebook!" in tandem, while Suguha and Shino responded, "Guidebook?". Meanwhile, Argo herself just went with a "Nishishi", as if being bashful, before standing up and exchanging handshakes with the four girls...... but since she couldn't actually shake hands with the remote participants, they just gave another social distancing friendly virtual handshake.

Observing the scene, Kazuto worried about the male-female imbalance of the group. There were plenty of guys in the school who were VRMMO game players, so it was an easy matter to recruit some guys to balance out the gender disparity in their group, but Kazuto couldn't get himself to do that.

The reason for that? The fact that he met his 'lifetime best friend' in Underworld, where he spent two years. Kazuto didn't feel like he could make another friend about his age and of the same gender whom he could open up as much as he had with Eugeo...... nor did he want to. "When he lost his life at the end of a fierce battle, I feel like a part of my heart died with him." Kazuto felt that this scar wouldn't heal for the rest of his life.

Sucking in a deep breath to make the pain in his chest go away, Kazuto got back to the main topic, asking how non-ALO players were doing. He asked whether Shino's GGO account was converted into Unital Ring too, and she confirmed that. Kazuto then asked whether she was aware that the avatars remained in the world even when she logged out, and whether her avatar was safe. Shino replied that it was... probably safe, since it was being protected by birdmen. Everyone had figurative question marks appear over their heads, while Shino just shrugged, implying that she didn't get how did that happen herself.


Chapter 3


Part 3 begins with Asuna sitting in a bus heading for Kichijojiekikitaguchi after the meeting. While she felt a warmness in her chest due to the unexpected reunion with Argo, she also felt a rough feeling in her chest too because of her encounter with the other transfer student, Kamura Shikimi. The transfer student had been assigned to the class next door and she had apparently only came to say hi to Asuna because they had once met at an electronics industry group party when they were young children. A party that Asuna didn't even remember. Shikimi was the daughter of the founder of RECT's rival company, "Kamura" (カムラ), the company that created the Augma.

Shikimi herself had maintained a calm attitude throughout their encounter, so it wasn't her attitude or Shikimi's family that had stirred up her heart. Shikimi's uniform designated her as a former student of the high school division (the school has elementary, middle, and high school grades) of the private Eterna​ Girls' Academy (エテルナ女子学院) in Minato Ward. The school that Asuna had attended before being imprisoned in SAO. Asuna had only attended the school till its middle school division, but she did not recall ever seeing a student like Shikimi, despite her unusual family name and striking appearance. Which meant that Shikimi had transferred to the academy from another school... and then transferred to the SAO Survivor School just half a year before her graduation.

Apparently, Shikimi planned to continue her studies abroad after finishing high school and had already obtained her International Baccalaureate certificate and SAT score report. And she had transferred to the Survivor School because America's colleges apparently regarded essays as important as the SAT score and so she decided to try out life at the survivor school to have some pizzazz for her her essay... though Asuna couldn't help thinking that it all seemed to erratic.

Shikimi's uniform got Asuna thinking that Shikimi is what Asuna would have looked like about now if she hadn't become trapped in SAO. Since Asuna still had 9 more stops to go and it looked like she'd need to pull another all-nighter, she decided to use the opportunity to get some rest... but she couldn't fall asleep, because she kept thinking about Shikimi. Asuna had no dissatisfactions with her current circumstances: she was able to meet Kazuto and Yui, whom she trusted and loved from the bottom of her heart, as well as best companions: Rika, Keiko, Shino, Suguha, and others. Compared to Shikimi, who was probably taking an elite course in life without any confrontation with any setbacks, Asuna considered herself happy. All these thoughts were the reason for her stirred heart.

Asuna decided to think about other things instead. Apparently, being an SAO survivor, Asuna was feeling more exhilaration than anxiety and fear about Unital Ring; the you don't get a second chance rule wasn't big enough of a problem to frighten her. Meanwhile, Argo had shared that a lot of companies, including ALO's Ymir, were cooperating to get the matter under control, so the incident would be ending eventually. Asuna's goal for now was to protect their house in the forest and her comrades... and if she has time to spare, maybe even solve some mysteries of this new world.

However, Argo stated that she would not be joining them in UR for the time being. Though, her transfer to the survivor school wasn't completely unrelated to UR, apparently. She claimed that she had an omen that something like UR would happen beforehand and had decided to transfer to the Survivor School to dig out the secrets hidden behind-the-scenes.

Like always, Argo wasn't one to share uncertain information, so she didn't tell them much of anything else. She left investigating UR from the inside to Asuna and the others, while she herself investigated from the outside. Although Asuna hadn't minded the long commute times to her school and back, today she wished that her house had been closer to her school.


Chapter 4


Part 4 begins with Kazuto returning home, where he was met by Suguha, jumping around as she complained that he was late. Kazuto's commute is apparently twice as long as Suguha's; Suguha got back in five minutes, while Kazuto needed six minutes at full speed by bike to travel two kilometres from the Honkawagoe station to his home. After wiping his sweat with a towel and drinking half of a bottle of mineral water that Suguha provided him with, the two rushed up the stairs. The moment Kazuto got changed into a T shirt and shorts in his room, Suguha burst into the room, rushing him to dive into the game... and clearly intending to dive from his room.

Apparently, Suguha wanted to synchronise their dive in case they found themselves in danger when they logged in so that they wouldn't be forced to deal with it alone. Despite Kazuto's protest that Unital Ring doesn't have time acceleration, while Lisbeth and Silica had to already be in-game by then, Suguha hurried him anyway and jumped into his bed with enough force to make the floor creak, so Kazuto had no choice but to join her there. On the count of three, the two both dived in... with Kazuto having a late realisation that Suguha's raised counting arm would hit him on the sides when it fell down.

----------

In Unital Ring, Kirito awoke to the sight of a brand new ceiling in place of the large hole that had been there till they repaired the house at 4 AM that morning. As Kirito took a moment to savour the sight, Leafa hit him in the sides as they still had plenty of things that needed to be done. While Kirito was wearing the armour Lisbeth had crafted, Leafa was still in her simple one-piece dress. He looked around the empty living room —— all the furniture had been lost in the forced conversion) —— and couldn't find any other players inside. Asuna was still commuting, but Lisbeth and Silica should have already been there, while Alice and Yui had been taking turns to protect the house while the rest of them were at school.

Just then, Kirito heard a clang outside the window. In panic, Kirito opened the door and rushed outside, where he found two people, one about as tall as him and one as short as a child, dueling with swords. After a moment, he realised that the shorter one who was swing her sword down was his beloved daughter Yui, while the girl with golden hair in braids was the strongest Integrity Knight, Alice.


Just as Kirito was about to come between them reflexively, Leafa stopped him, noting that it just looked like they were having keiko (practicing). Then Kirito noticed that Alice was only fending off Yui's attacks without counterattacking herself. And giving her advice after each attack to boot. Although Kirito nodded to Leafa's comment that it was fine for them to duel, he thought about how he only saw Yui wielding a GM sword once against The Fatal Scythe. But now Yui was treated as a player, so she could hurt herself and lose HP, so he felt anxious seeing her fight.

Yui then entered the basic chuudan (middle) stance and kicked off the ground with a shout. At that point, Kirito noted that most new VRMMO game players tended to swing their swords in two steps: raising their sword and then swinging down. However, Yui's attack combined both steps into one smooth motion, gaining more speed and power for her attack, and thus forcing Alice to take half a step back with her left foot to be able to defend herself. After the attack, Alice praised Yui that it was a rather nice slash. At that point, Kirito began clapping, which drew both of their attention to him, prompting a shy smile from Alice and a frank one from Yui. As Yui began running to him with her sword drawn, Kirito warned her in panic to put her short sword away first. Once she rushed over to him with her sword in its sheath this time, Kirito embraced her and lifted her high into the sky like a child and then sat her down on his left arm.

When Kirito asked Yui why they were practicing, Yui replied that she was preparing for fights and had raised her One-Handed Sword skill's proficiency to 7. Stroking her hair with his left hand, Kirito thought that she had made quite a lot of progress, considering that all his new skills, other than his One-Handed Sword Skill he inherited from ALO at the maximum 1,000 proficiency, were only at 2 or 3 proficiency. He then asked what skills she could use by now; Yui listed ≪Vertical≫, ≪Horizontal≫, and ≪Slant≫ after checking her skill window. In response, Kirito remarked that they were all basic skills and that he'd teach her some coolio skills like Vorpal Strike and Howling Octave when she raised her proficiency more.

However, at that point, Alice rained on his parade by telling him to look at his own skill window. So he opened up his skill overview with the proficiency of each skill displayed next to it. The skill at the very top was of course One-Handed Sword... and Kirito's eyes shot up at seeing that the number for that specific skill was missing a zero - while it was at its max 1,000 value the previous day, it was only at a hundred now. Alice postulated that inherited skill proficiency had also dropped down after the grace period, meaning that high-grade Sword Skills for that weapon were no longer available for use.

When Kirito groaned out a "Seriously......", Leafa checked her own window and shouted out that she was affected as well. As the two siblings were about to hang their heads heartbroken by this revelation, Kirito suddenly recalled that he had been able to use Vorpal Strike in the fight against the PK guys the previous night, despite the grace period having already expired by that point... and Vorpal Strike was quite the high-grade skill.

At that point, Alice urged him to check his Sword Skill list. There, Kirito found: ≪Vertical≫, ≪Horizontal≫, ≪Slant≫, ≪Vertical Arc≫, ≪Horizontal Arc≫, ≪Rage Spike≫, ≪Sonic Leap≫, and ≪Sharp Nail≫ as skills he was currently able to use (the names were bright). Meanwhile the skill afterward, ≪Horizontal Square≫, was grayed out. When he tapped on it, he got a pop-up window saying 【Proficiency required for use: 150】. Setting aside the fact that the number didn't match the one in SAO or ALO, Kirito couldn't find any explanation on why he was able to use the high-grade Vorpal Strike skill. Scrolling down the list, he found Vorpal Strike grayed our far below; the requirement for it was 700. A big difference from his current 100.

When Kirito wondered if he had simply recreated the movements of his skills, rather than activating them, Yui denied this possibility, since his sword did in fact take on a light effect when he had used them, so they had to have been actually triggered as skills. Passing on Yui to Leafa, Kirito went to the centre of the yard, drew out his new iron longsword, and got into position for the skill by lowering his hips, extending his left hand forward and pulling back the sword in his right hand above his shoulder. But despite his repeated attempts, he just couldn't get Vorpal Strike to be triggered.

After the third attempt, Alice remarked that he looked rather lame with his conduct. In response, Kirito responded in a childish slang that he understood that himself, but still made a fourth attempt... and the skill actually triggered this time, causing Kirito to be pulled three metres forward off the ground by his sword, before falling on his chest. As he groaned out like a frog when he crashed into the ground, Alice rushed up to him and offered him a hand.

Once he stood up, Kirito stared at his sword before timidly asking Alice:
Kirito: "Did.... it just trigger? VorSt I mean......"
Alice: "I still can't tolerate the habit you real world youths have of abbreviating everything so randomly."
Kirito: "Srsl soz."
Alice: glare as cold as ice

After the glaring, Alice finally answered that the skill did indeed seem to have been triggered and wondered why. At that point, Yui (in Leafa's embrace) asked her to try it as well. So, Alice drew out a sword that had the same design as Kirito's (which is why Kirito concluded that Lisbeth had crafted it). When Kirito returned to Leafa's side, Alice entered the hasso stance (holding the sword's guard at face level on the right side) with her sword.

Kirito monologued about how Sword Skills from SAO were available in Underworld, where they were called "Secret Moves" (秘奥義, Yen Press's term appears to be "Secret Techniques"), thus it was easy for her to learn a lot of Sword Skills in ALO. However, being of Underworlder upbringing, Alice still preferred single certain-kill slashes over high speed consecutive hit skills, so she chose to activate the high-grade one-hit One-Handed Sword technique ≪Jerryd Blade≫.

Alice then stepped forward with her left foot and thrust up her sword behind her to the right. Normally, this is where a bluish purple light effect on the sword would be triggered, but it didn't. Regardless, Alice still swung down her sword fiercely with a sharp shout. While it was an excellent slash, the Sword Skill itself hadn't been triggered. Alice pulled back her sword and repeated the same motion again, and again, and again. Just as Kirito was about to write his Vorpal Strike off as a bug, Alice's seventh or eighth attempt finally triggered the skill, the slash letting out a sound effect that sounded like someone was crushing a glacier and tracing a bluish purple line in the air.

As Leafa shouted in surprise that the skill had been triggered, Kirito nodded and concluded that it was possible to trigger high-grade Sword Skills even if one didn't have enough skill proficiency for it if one tried long enough. Though, Kirito doubted that they could rely on this in an actual battle when it only had a 10-20% chance of succeeding, especially when they didn't even know why it was possible in the first place. Kirito looked at Yui in Leafa's embrace subconsciously, but since she was just a regular player without system access right now, he figured he had to use his own head for once... but just then, Yui suddenly proposed a hypothesis: perhaps the cause of this phenomenon is related to their location, rather than the player or items.

Kirito wondered if she was implying that some open land gave some special bonuses, but Yui reminded him that it wasn't just some mere open land, turning her gaze to the repaired log house. Finally grasping what Yui was implying, Kirito trotted over to the house and taped on one of the walls. A 【イトスギの丸太小屋】(Cypress Log Cabin) window appeared. Displayed below this line was a list of the owners: Kirito and Asuna. Then came the Durability coloured bar, the numerical value of which was 【12433/12500】 despite the house being repaired just earlier that morning, meaning that buildings in Unital Ring lost durability over time at a pace of 120 points per day for the log house. At the bottom of the window, there were four buttons; from left to right: 【情報】(Information),【取引】(Trade),【修復】(Repair) and【分解】(Dismantle). Resolved to never ever touch the Trade or Dismantle buttons, Kirito tapped on the Information button. Alice, Leafa and Yui also peeked in from the sides.

The window that appeared for them contained a simple description of the house, floor space, storage capacity, defence values for various attributes, as well as a "Special Effects" section below them. Kirito bore into this field and found only one effect displayed: 【Level 1/Blessing of the Forest: In the area within a radius of thirty metres from the centre of the building, the building's owner, players listed as their friends, and party members have a small chance of being able to use attack skills that they do not meet the unlock requirements for】.

Yui's guess apparently hit the jackpot. When Kirito wondered if this Blessing of the Forest was present in ALO, Yui replied that such a system didn't exist there. At that point, Leafa drew attention to the fact that the window said "level 1", implying that there was a "level 2" or "level 3" special effect as well. Though, they had no idea how to unlock them.

Alice: "Why don't you just foster it. Like us."
Kirito: "Foster...... you mean, the house? How?"
Alice: "Like, making more rooms, or reinforcing the construction. Even when I myself constructed a house in a forest close to Rulid, I first began with a shack composed of solely a simple roof and walls, and then made it bigger over time."
Kirito: "O-oh, is that so."

Kirito's answer became a bit awkward, as Alice had cared for him in that very house for a few months. Although he didn't remember much from those days, he did still have some faint memories of being fed with a spoon and being put to sleep in the bed, so he felt as embarrassed as he felt grateful for the help.

Anyways, that's one mystery resolved for Kirito... and one more thing to get done for Leafa, as she was interested in upgrading the house to see what the level 2 or level 3 effects were like. While Kirito nodded to her idea, he himself was a bit reluctant to modify the log house, seeing as he knew better than just about everyone just how much love Asuna had poured into the house ever since their SAO days. On the other hand, Yui saw through his worries:

Yui: "Don't worry, Papa. Mama isn't the kind of person to fuss over appearances; as long as its essence remains the same, I believe she will not have any issues with changing the appearance of our home!"
Kirito: "What exactly is...... its essence?"
Yui: "A place where Papa, Mama, me, Leafa-san, Alice-san, Liz-san, Silica-san, and Sinon-san can rest at ease with all their heart."
Kirito: "...... I see, you're right."
Kirito: nods and rubs Yui's hair again

However, Kirito believed that expending the house itself would come much later, as they had to take care of protecting their plot of land first. Half of the 15 metre-wide open plot in the forest was taken up by the log house in the east, while the western half was filled with all their crafting stations. While they weren't hard to make as long as they had the materials for them, gathering said materials wouldn't be an easy task, so Kirito wanted to protect the entire plot of land, instead of just the log house. While the plot had been protected by Alice, Yui, and Asuna's new pet during their school hours, Kirito didn't expect them to be able to fend off another bear or enemy team attack all by themselves when the entire party had trouble fending off such attacks just the previous night.

Coming to the same conclusion as Kirito, Alice stated a desire to set up a wall around the perimeter. Preferably made out of stone, rather than wood. In response, Kirito complained that he couldn't even imagine how many stones it would take to cover the entire plot of land. Thus, he expressed a regret that Her Holy Eminence Administrator wasn't there, as she could create a steel wall with just the snap of a finger.

Bringing up the god incarnate's name earned him a glare from Alice.
Alice: "Go ahead and ask the Esteemed Supreme Priest to take on such a menial job; you will be turned into a cricket or something for that."
"Is that so; though, I kinda feel like she'd be more than happy to do it if I offered her two or three expensive-ish cakes for it."
ーーIsn't that right, Eugeo.
Kirito called out to his late friend in his mind.

After shaking his head a little at the callout to Eugeo, Kirito remembered Koujiro Rinko's message that Alice had delivered to him the previous day. Namely, 『Expensive cake establishment, 29th at 15:00』. That encrypted message obviously didn't come from Koujiro herself, but he'd have to visit a certain cafe in Ginza the following day at 3 o'clock to find out what that message was for. However, the 29th was a busy work day and travelling from the school in Nishitokyo City to Ginza by public transport would take 80 minutes, so Kazuto wouldn't be able to make it in time unless he skipped some afternoon lessons.

Putting aside the strange timing for the meeting, Kirito and co still needed to construct a wall and, seeing as they didn't have Quinella's superpowers with them, they'd have to gather the materials and build the wall themselves. Luckily, they didn't have to build the wall manually, as buildings could be constructed via the menu. And he did have ≪Crude Stone Wall≫ (粗雑な石の壁) under his Elementary Level Carpentry Skill (初級大工スキル). Although Kirito disliked the adjective "crude", he'd have to deal with it until he built up his skill proficiency.

So, Kirito decided to head to the river to gather some stones and the others agreed with the idea. Kirito wanted to ask Agah to stand guard - even though he wasn't quite sure if it could handle the job - while they were away... but Asuna's pet was nowhere to be seen. Just as he thought that Asuna would be dejected if her new pet had returned to the wild while she was away, he suddenly heard the characteristic quack from the beast behind him. At the southern road that led to the river, he saw the platysaur in question hopping its way towards them. With Silica and Lisbeth in tow.

Upon noticing Kirito and Leafa, Lisbeth and Silica trotted over to them.
Lisbeth (glaring): "Took you long enough, Kirito! Did you stop on the way to eat or something!?
Silica: "Kirito-san has a long commute, so it does take about this long for him."
Agah: Quack
Pina: Kyuih
Kirito (thinking): Which one of them are you even agreeing with.

When Kirito asked where the girls had been, Lisbeth revealed that Agah apparently needed to bathe every now and then or it would start losing HP, so the two had taken Agah along as they went out to gather some stones.

Kirito: "Oh, good job. Though, it sure has some annoying traits for a lizard."
Yui: "Papa, there are quite a few semi-aquatic lizards even in the real world. Varanus mertensi and Tropidophorus baconi are well known for that."
Kirito: "Well, guess we'll have to dig out a well sooner than I thought. We sure have way too many things to do!"

At that point, Kirito checked on the time: it was 5:50 PM at the moment and they couldn't very well play till dawn again this day, so he planned to call it a day at midnight... make that 2 AM, which left them with 8 hours and a bit to get things done. Kirito went just a little bit nostalgic for the SAO days when he could spend the entire day on gaming.

Just as Kirito was about to head off to the river to gather some stones, Leafa proposed reuniting with Sinon as a bigger priority. From a long-term perspective, they would get more stuff done with more people helping out... and have more (wo)manpower in a fight too.

Nodding faintly at Leafa's words, Kirito recalled what Shino had shared with them during their after-school meeting. Apparently, Shino had shocked them with quite a few revelations. One such revelation was that they were able to keep their guns from GGO. Kirito was apparently concerned with how UR was supposed to maintain its consistency when some people were using swords while others were running around with laser guns.

Either way, Kirito figured that Sinon's beloved Hecate II, which he compared to a 30 word-long high-grade spell in ALO in firepower, would prove to be a great asset to their base's defence. Although Sinon lost her spare ammunition in the conversion, he assumed it was possible to acquire new ones in UR, seeing as it allowed bringing the guns with them.

However, there was one big issue with regrouping with Sinon: the fact that they had no idea where they were supposed to look for the birdmen village where Sinon was currently staying at. Silica added that Sinon had not felt the shock from Aincrad's crash, so the GGO players' starting position had to be even farther away than theirs had been.

Lisbeth then opened up her map, showing where ALO players started off, where Aincrad had crashed down at, where the Basin tribe village was located to the north of the crash site, and the log house to the far north-east from there. Lisbeth also remarked that during their entire trip, they had not encountered any of the monsters that Sinon had told them about.

Silica suddenly realised one point that they hadn't mentioned: when they began their trip from the Basin tribe village, they first had to cross a sandy wasteland, but then they gradually transitioned to a meadow, before eventually ending up in their forest after crossing a large river. Since Sinon's area was basically a desert with barely any water around anywhere, Silica presumed that it was highly likely that Sinon was located in the opposite side of the map (relative to the Basin village, I assume).

While Kirito, Leafa and Alice agreed that she did have a point, Kirito reminded her that just because they knew the direction they had to look in didn't help them determine how far away Sinon was. And they couldn't go out looking for her without knowing the distance, seeing as they needed to stock up on sufficient food and water provisions for long-distance travel when they had to worry about their SP and TP bars.

Just then, Kirito suddenly became aware of his own hunger and thirst. Their SP and TP values apparently didn't change while they were logged out, so his SP bar was only down by 20%, while his TP bar was down by 30%. Although they had a river nearby and some leftover bear meat lying around, Kirito thought it would be best to procure a constant supply.

When Kirito brought up that they should cut down some of the forest to have some land for crops, if they could actually do that, Yui remarked that she'd add it to their to-do list. Kirito thus asked what their to-do list currently was. In no particular order, Yui listed: "wall construction", "log house expansion", "producing weapons and armour for everyone", "levelups", "getting more tamed monsters", "well digging", "cropfield cultivation", "reuniting with Sinon-san", and "arriving at the land indicated by the aurora".

Putting the very last order of business on that list aside, all the others were quite high on the priority list. Pulling himself together, Kirito proposed starting off with the wall. Lisbeth nodded at that, stating that that's why they brought all those stones along, and she offered to create one for trial purposes.

So, Lisbeth opened up her menu, went to her Elementary Level Carpentry Skill (初級大工スキル) and selected ≪Stone-Stacked Wall≫ (石積みの壁). This produced a light purple hologram ("ghost object") of the wall, which Lisbeth was about to place at the border between the clearing and the forest, but Kirito fine-tuned the placement to be 15 cm closer to them and turned a bit to the right.

This produced a 1.5 metre-high-and-wide and 30 cm-thick gray stone wall. Kirito concluded that the wall would suffice for warding off smaller monsters, but Alice remarked that it wouldn't be able to stop another Thorn-Bearing Cave Bear (トゲバリホラアナグマ) attack, while players could just climb over it.

With the bear, all they could do was pray they didn't get another one. But to deal with players, Kirito asked Lisbeth how many resources a block of wall required. Lisbeth answered that it used up 30 x ≪Gray Crumbled Rocks≫ (these were the most common find at the river) and 5 x ≪Coarse Gray Clay≫. When Kirito asked how much of it they still had left, Lisbeth answered that she still had around 120 stones and 20 pieces of clay to spare, while Silica had another 100 stones and 15 clay.

This meant they could make another 7 blocks of wall with just their haul. So, Kirito asked Lisbeth to try adding another layer of wall on top of the current one. When Lisbeth tried it out, the hologram wall first attached itself to the right of the existing wall, but when Lisbeth moved it further to the left, the hologram jumped atop of the existing wall. So now they had a three metre-high wall. Although it didn't guarantee absolute protection, only very light players wouldn't be afraid of climbing it.

Of course, they still only covered a fraction of their territory with the wall. The clearing was 15 metres in diameter with a circumference of approximately 47 metres. Kirito calculated that they would need 32 blocks of wall to surround the entire plot with a wall, and double that if they did a two-layered wall, adding up to 64 blocks in total.

Just when Kirito thought he didn't even want to count how many stones they'd need for all that... Asuna came out from the log house.

Asuna: "Sorry, everyone! For taking so long!"
Kirito: "Asuna, good timing! What's 64 times 30!?"
Asuna (Puzzled for a moment): "1920....... What's that for?"
Kirito: "That's the number of stones we need for a wall that would cover the clearing."
Leafa: "Onii-chan, you sure that not being able to make that simple calculation yourself isn't a bad sign?"

----------

The entire group spent the next hour all going to the river, stocking up on as many stones and as much clay as they could, then returning to the clearing, where Kirito and Lisbeth used their Elementary Level Carpentry Skill to produce walls. By the time they finally finished encircling the entire clearing in a three metres-high wall, the sun had already set entirely. They set up a wooden gate at both the south and north ends of the wall, so they needed fewer stones than Asuna had calculated. Still, the group was tired out by the job, though they were equally as glad when it was finished. When Kirito compared their struggle to the Greeks, Asuna retorted that the wall was much smaller than the ones Athens and Corinth had, which prompted Kirito to brag that the wall would become bigger and would soon be on the same level as Athens or Centoria. This earned him a smug remark from Alice about how she was expecting much from him now.

Since they could now cross out one thing on their to-do list, they could now move on to the next one. Leafa immediately voiced her desire for a sword and a set of armour of her own. Kirito couldn't very well reject that idea, seeing as he himself was decked out in full iron armour, Lisbeth and Silica had received leather armour and metal weapons from the Basins, while Yui and Alice at least had a sword for defence... which left only Leafa and Asuna with just grass dresses and stone axes.

Since Lisbeth had a Blacksmith skill from ALO, the technical aspect for producing gear wasn't a problem. However, the problem was getting all that iron ore that would be needed for the crafting. They had used up all the iron from the bear's cave and the PK gang's iron equipment for their house repairs. In order to get more, they'd have to venture back into the bear cave, but its owner could have very well respawned by now and their trick with the logs wasn't likely to work a second time.

So, Kirito asked Yui if the Basins hadn't mentioned where they got their own ore from, but Yui responded that she hadn't asked about that. Kirito cheered Yui up that it was his own fault for not considering to ask about iron ore when they had asked about quartz sand and flax, so he said he'd take care of it somehow. Asuna lifted Yui into her arms and told her to leave it to Kirito as well.

When Yui asked Kirito for specifics on how he planned to get iron ore:
Kirito: "Beating the Thorn-Bearing Cave Bear in a straightforward attack, of course...... Wait, hold on.
Kirito: looks at Silica with Pina on her shoulder
Kirito: "Rather than beating it, it'd be very best if we could tame it. That should stop the respawning too, probably."
Silica (taken aback): "WHAA!? THE BEAR!?"
Kirito (grinning): "Asuna was able to make a platysaur into her pet without even having a Taming skill. I'm sure that you, Silica, could easily do a bear with your Taming skill from ALO......"
Silica: "Unfortunately for you, Kirito-san, I inherited by Dagger skill instead."
Kirito (frankly surprised): "Wha, is that so? So, your Dagger skill was higher-leveled then?"
Silica (pouting): "Kirito-san, it takes a crazy amount of effort to raise the Taming skill to 1000. Even in ALO, the Cait Sith Lord Alicia-san is the only one I know to have maxed her skill."

So, Kirito apologised and looked at Asuna, as her Taming skill was higher-leveled at the present moment. After blinking twice, Asuna remarked that it'd be impossible for her to tame the bear. As Kirito considered how to cajole... er, convince Asuna to do it, Silica declared that if the alternative was to force the job on Asuna, she herself would take it on. Kirito wasn't sure if this declaration came from her because she had some equipment from the Basins, or out of her pride as a tamer.

Before Asuna could say anything, Silica stopped her, claiming that although she hadn't seen the bear herself, it was easier to tame animals than insects or demons. So, she'd do her best to level her Taming skill and domesticate the bear.

Kirito (thinking): I think Silica's got quite the wrong impression of what the bear is like.

Asuna, Leafa and Alice seemed to get the same impression as Kirito, but before any of them could say anything, Kirito stepped forward to praise her for being known as the idol tamer in SAO before she could change her mind. This prompted a sigh from Asuna. Kirito then asked Asuna to teach Silica how to get the Taming skill, mentioning that he had seen some fox-ish monsters that they could use for practice when he was on his way back from the river. Meanwhile, he wanted Lisbeth, Alice and Leafa to help him dig out a well before their TP started causing trouble.

At that point, Lisbeth asked whether it was even possible to dig the ground wherever one pleased, causing Kirito to stop in his tracks. Kirito remembered that most VRMMO games didn't allow players to modify the terrain since map designing would lose its purpose and someone would definitely dig out huge holes in the road just to get on someone's nerves. Although Unital Ring wasn't a normal game in many senses, it probably didn't allow modifying the terrain either... and Kirito recalled having the same thought the previous day too.

Just then, Kirito recalled seeing a well listed on the Elementary Level Carpentry Skill, so he opened up his menu and showed it to Lisbeth and the others. There was an entry for ≪Stone-Stacked Small Well≫ (石積みの小型井戸) on it. When Leafa asked whether all they needed to do was place the well from the menu like with the stone furnace and they'd be done with it, Kirito was surprised that it could be all that easy, seeing as the TP bar would lose its meaning if one could just put down a well anywhere as long as one had the materials for it.

Urged to just give it a try, Kirito looked at the materials needed for the construction project: 300 x stone, 20 x sawed logs, 50 x iron nails, and 1 x iron chain. So, they had no where near having enough materials for it. Stones and logs were one thing, but iron was still an issue. So, Alice stated that iron was their biggest priority now. Since Silica's Taiming would take some time to finish up, Alice proposed fighting against the bear one more time.

However, this wasn't any ordinary game where they didn't have to care whether they died in their attempt or not. After all, if they died, there was no coming back, while all the original games had their data overwritten and their administrators weren't successful with their rollback and reinstall attempts, according to Argo. Even Kirito, apparently called the king of the 3 Ms: muri (irrational), mucha (rash/absurd), mubou (reckless), couldn't help but hesitate going up against the bear in these conditions.

In SAO and ALO, players could buy tons of iron at the starting town. And plenty of monsters dropped so many iron items that Kirito had to dump his surplus at times. Now he wished he could get all that dumped iron back. Kirito believed that they could find more iron deposits than the one in the bear cave, but from a game perspective, he concluded that the forest's difficulty level for gathering iron assumed players could easily take down the bear. Kirito also concluded that it was impossible to procure a stable ore supply from elsewhere, so they couldn't reach their true iron age culture until they were able to handle the bear. That's why Kirito proposed going out to find Sinon.

When he voiced his proposal, everyone looked at him. Even Asuna and Silica, who were discussing the Taming skill a slight distance away. When Asuna asked how exactly was he planning to do that, Kirito speculated that the Basin tribe might know about the birdmen that Sinon was currently with. And he did want to ask them about iron ore anyway, so their village was a good place to start their search. Kirito proposed splitting their group into two teams: Asuna, Silica and Alice would remain at the log house to guard it, while he went with Leafa, Lisbeth and Yui to the village. Alice could understand why he picked Asuna and Silica to stay behind due to the Taming skill stuff, but she asked why she was included in the group too. Kirito replied that he felt more at ease with Alice around to guard the house. Alice couldn't argue against that reasoning, but demanded to be included in the next expedition as she walked over to Asuna and Silica. Placing her hand on Alice's back, Asuna made Kirito promise that they'd be back safe and sound in a tone that reminded Kirito of Asuna's KoB vice commander days. Lisbeth declared that they'd definitely find Sinon, while Yui rushed over to Asuna for a hug.

At that point, Kirito materialised his Black Welt longsword that Lisbeth had crafted for him in ALO but was now too high level for him over his menu... and asked Lisbeth to melt it down. Lisbeth acknowledged that Kirito was free to do what he pleased with the sword since it belonged to him, but she warned him that she couldn't guarantee that she would be able to craft a sword on the same level as Black Welt in Unital Ring. Kirito replied that he understood that, but presumed that he would need to reach level 40 or 50 before he was able to actually wield it. If it meant that the sword would just sit in his storage unused until then, he preferred to put it to use in a way that would benefit everyone.

Lisbeth was about to reach out for the sword but then remembered that it would fall down to the ground and become too heavy to lift if she were to touch it. With his storage window still open, Kirito walked over to the west side of the clearing, where the furnace was, opened the furnace's operation window, and dropped his sword into it. He then put some firewood into the combustion chamber and left the rest to Lisbeth. After grieving for a moment, the blacksmith began her work. The sword resisted the flames for nearly two minutes, unlike the seconds it took for ore, before melted metal finally flowed out into a rectangle mold. Kirito had expected about ten ingots from a single one-handed sword, but it seemed that higher rank gear was worth more ingots in Unital Ring. By the time Kirito gave up on counting the ingots, the process finally stopped. Lisbeth announced the materials they had earned: ≪High-Grade Steel Ingot≫ (高級な鋼のインゴット) x 62, ≪High-Quality Silver Ingot≫ (上質な銀のインゴット) x 18, ≪High-Quality Meteoric Iron Ingot≫ (上質な隕鉄のインゴット) x 9, ≪Mithril Ingot≫ (ミスリルのインゴット) x 6, ≪Blackdragon Steel Ingot≫ (黒竜鋼のインゴット) x 2.

Leafa shouted in awe at how those all sounded like rare metals, while Kirito considered for a moment what would happen if he were to melt Excalibur too... but decided to treat it as a last resort option, seeing as they went through a whole lot of trouble to get that legendary class weapon in the first place. Kirito then asked Lisbeth if she could produce gear for Alice, Asuna and Leafa out of the ingots. Lisbeth had some doubts on whether she would be able to work with the overly high-grade ingots when her Blacksmith skill proficiency had dropped down to 100, but she moved the ingots into her storage and placed the High-Grade Steel Ingots onto the anvil from her menu. She then opened up the crafting window and noticed that her skill level was just barely enough to make weapons out of the steel. So, she started off with Alice by asking if she was okay with a bastard sword. When Alice confirmed this, Lisbeth got to work on the silvery-brown ingots with her hammer. Meanwhile, Kirito prayed that Lisbeth would create some tough swords, just like his late Black Welt.

Personal Highlights


Chapter 2:
💠Argo's real name and profession reveal
💠Same question gets asked over three times and we still don't get a proper answer
💠Argo's onee-san entrance
💠Suguha ditching kendo practice despite being the vice-president of the club
💠Eugeo angst

Chapter 3: N/A

Chapter 4:
💠Yui getting swordfighting lessons from Alice... and even getting praise from her.
💠Kirito crashing face-down into the ground after unexpectedly triggering his Vorpal Strike
💠Kirito annoying Alice with his shitty abrevs
💠Kirito being embarrassed by Alice's nursing of him in UW
💠Kawahara working in a cake timeline reference with some Eugeo angst
💠The platysaur taking after its master by being a bath-o-holic
💠Kirito's sucking at mental calculations and Asuna appearing just in time to save him.
💠Kirito trying to cajole everyone into going along with his crazy idea of taming a Thorn-Bearing Cave Bear
💠Kirito, the king of the 3 Ms
💠Kirito having the guys to sacrifice his main sword for the good of the party

6 comments:

  1. Nice to see another Eugeo's reminder. Don't ever forget him, Kirito...

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  2. Hi, first of all i want to express my gratitude for your work, as someone who is looking forward with desperation for the conclussion of SAO (i admit it is because i want to see kirito and asuna married with children for real jajaja), dying of anxiety for waiting months and years for the volumes to come officialy in english, i will forever be grateful to you. I just want to ask with curiosity if the next part of the summary will be soon upon us, if not it doesnt matter. I just want to know, thank you.

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    Replies
    1. I'm still writing the summary for the next chapter. The summary is not a top priority for me, as I have actual translation projects that need to get done as well. I summarise UR when I find some free time. Follow me on Twitter if you want the latest updates, as I'll only update this blog post when I get an entire chapter done... and some chapters are pretty long.

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  3. Hi, thanks. Por traducir.
    Espero que lo sigas traduciendo

    ReplyDelete