Sword Art Online 09 — Alicization Beginning

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Sword Art Online Volume 9
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Sword Art Online 9
Alicization Beginning
Kawahara Reki
BeginnerXP & Pryun
I/II/Interlude I
Chapter 1 part 1/2/6
Chapter 1 part 3/4/5
Project Hosted at
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
concrete example, Kirito didn
t meet a girl...... err no, that wasn
t the
case; how far the straight fantasy ball using the net game context could
go, about NPC, or in the other words,
AI, which hadn
t been touched up
close until now, how could I focus on that, I want to expand the
wrapping cloth to the limit of the «VRMMO stuff» using those things.
When thinking about how to have the story unfold later, it made me
feel like working har
der on the next volumes!
Then the next, while it might belatedly, I want to talk about the
animation adaptation of this
Sword Art Online
. As I started writing at
the end of 2001, and was silently serializing
the following year
at the corner of th
e web novel world, I thought about the day that it
would become an anime...... I remember the time that I said
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
This is Kawahara Reki. I have now delivered
the first volume of
Sword Art Online 9 Alicization Beginning
Since the release of volume 8 last year, it had been half a year of
vacant. During that time, under various circumstances many things
happened, so first off, I have to apologize for the
wait. I
m sorry! I
ll do
my best next time!
......Then, I feel like I should talk about this book
s content, now...
what should I write...... While I would like to avoid spoiling things for
those who look ahead and read the afterword first, no matter how
I put
it, it
d still be a spoiler storm! So I decided to put a warning line. Please
note that beyond the line would be the Dark Territory! Ha...... now let
start with the spoilers......
Spoiler Line
Volume 7 which has Asuna as the main cha
racter, and volume 8
which is a compilation of side stories, both took place before Kirito
s new journey in volume 9. Although he traversed from the
virtual game worlds of SAO, ALO, to GGO, the world this time is at last,
prohibitively «Difficult ne
w game», as he has to challenge it from level
1. ......Although that was how it should be...... but he was able to use
various sword skills right off the bat, please put it as love and
As the writer myself, I tried many new things in the wor
ld which
made an appearance in this volume, the «Underworld». To give a
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Chapter 1
(Alicization Beginning End)
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Chapter 1
After following the small path and exiting back to the main road
again, the fine weather until now started to decline as some small black
clouds sprung out from the east.
The breeze is a
bit humid now. We better go before it
s too late.
s right. Let
s hurry.
I nodded in response to Eugeo, the leather string of the cloth
wrapped branch of Gigas Cedar was firmly tied to my back. The
thunderous roar from the far distance away
resonated with the
heaviness of the branch, and my mind trembled slightly.
A pair, two swords.
Is that a hint, a sign of something in the future?
t I bury this parcel in the depths of this forest?
moment of thought made me stop moving.
what is the reason that I
fear it will be necessary? I don
t get it at all.
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Alicization Beginning
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After I returned the Blue Rose Sword to Eugeo, I used both hands
to offer the black branch to elder Garitta.
Just wait a little bit.
As he said that, the
elder took out a thick cloth from his bosom,
before carefully wrapping the branch in my hands with it. In addition,
he tied it up with a leather string.
Now it
s good. When you arrive at the capital Centoria, bring this
branch to the north seventh ward,
and give it to an artisan named
Sadre, who set up his shop there. He will be able to make a powerful
sword from it. It certainly wouldn
t be inferior to that beautiful blue
silver sword.
Really, Garitta
jii!? That would be great, as I was worried
about the future as we only have one sword even though there
re two
of us. Right, Kirito?
Eugeo said in a happy voice, I replied with
s right,
as I
nodded while smiling. But I could feel that the jet black branch in my
open arms became slightly he
avier as I rejoiced.
To both of us, who were bowing our heads repeatedly, the elder
gave a smile.
s just my farewell gift. Be careful on the way. Because
nowadays, there are not only good Gods reigning in this world. ......I
stay here to watch thi
s tree for a little bit. Farewell Eugeo and the
young traveler.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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off from here. Cut it in a single blade strike, many strikes may damage
The elder used his hand to chop at the part about one meter and
twenty centimeters from the tip, before taking several steps backward.
Eugeo and I exchanged glances
with each other and nodded. After
taking his boxed
lunch, I also stepped back.
When the Blue Rose Sword was drawn out of the scabbard, it
shone brightly with a light blue under the sunlight, the elder beside me
whispered a faint sigh.
Perhaps everything
would have changed if I
had that sword when I was young,
I thought this kind of regret
probably echoed within his mind, but glancing at his calm face, I
t read his mind at all.
Although Eugeo had set up his sword, he didn
t move at all. The
of the sword shaking slightly probably due to the hesitation in his
The branch which was as thick as the wrist, perhaps he doesn
have the confidence that he could sever it in one hit?
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quietly. Thin ivy had started to clamber over its jet black bark, in a far
distant future, I thought it would decay and return to the earth.
......What is the matter with the Gigas Cedar, Garitta
The elder didn
t answer
s question but walked toward the
top of the fallen trunk. We chased after him in a hurry, but were
greeted by a maze which was created from the branches of the Gigas
Cedar and the other trees intertwined together. When I looked
carefully, the black b
ranches of the Gigas Cedar, no matter how thin
they were, there was not a single one which had been damaged,
although some had pierced into the ground or the rocks. Their
toughness was really astonishing.
We got some scratch wounds on our bare arms as we
through the branches, and before long, we arrived next to elder Garitta
who looked invigorating as he stood still. While using his palm to wipe
the sweat off his forehead, Eugeo said in a grumble,
What is here, exactly?
What the
elder pointed at, was the topmost point of the fallen
Gigas Cedar, its treetop extended straight out. It was a small branch
which hadn
t grow yet, its length was considerably long, the tip was
tapered sharply like a rapier.
s with this branch?
my question, the elder stretched his gnarled right hand and
stroked the part of the treetop which was about five centimeters thick.
In all of the branches of Gigas Cedar, this is the one which had
inhaled the most blessing from Solus. Now, use that sword
and cut it
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Eugeo pulled the Blue Rose Sword out from the scabbard on his
left waist slightly, then he turned and looked
at me.
More than anything, his...... it
s thanks to my friend. His name is
Kirito. He
s really a ridiculous guy.
I hurriedly lowered my head while thinking
What the heck is
with that introduction.
Elder Garitta walked to me before giving me a
g look with his sharp eyes
and gave a broad smile
So you
re the rumored «Vector
s lost child», huh. I see..... such a
variable companion.
It was the first time I ever heard something like that, while I tilted
my head trying to figure ou
t the meaning of his words, the elder
pointed his left hand toward the forest and continued speaking,
Now, I
m sorry that I interfered with your long awaited
departure, but I would like you to come with me for a little while. As I
need you to do somethin
Err. Kirito, it
s okay, right?
I nodded as I didn
t have any particular reason to deny the
request. The elder smiled again, before beckoning us as he stepped on
the narrow path into the forest.
Even though I only commuted along this path daily f
or a week, I
sensed a deep emotion that felt like nostalgia, as we walked for about
twenty minutes, before we arrived at the large clearing.
The ruler of the forest, which stood tall as if it could reach the
heaven across the long centuries of time, now l
ay with its great body
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Part 6
The weather was wonderful the next morning.
While feeling the weight of the boxed
lunch Selka made for us in
our right hands, Eugeo and I walked toward the south, along a road we
t come back on for a long time.
we arrived at the junction which lead to the narrow path
toward the forest where Gigas Cedar once stood, I saw an old man
standing there. The deeply wrinkled face was covered with a white
moustache, his backbone was straight, the glint in his eyes looked l
it could penetrate through me.
As soon as he saw the elder, Eugeo smiled happily and started
jii! I
m glad you are here. I didn
t get to meet you
I remembered when I had heard that name. He was surely the
predecessor of the «Gigas Cedar cutting duty».
A tender smile floated under the moustache of the the elder
Garitta as he placed his hands on Eugeo
s shoulders.
Eugeo, you certainly managed to cu
t down the Gigas Cedar,
which I could only make a cut about a finger deep...... Could you tell me
how you did it?
It was this sword and......
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Then... what is your oath?
t that certain... Eugeo and I will go save Alice together and
bring your sister back to this village. I assure you...
I paused for a while, and then said the following words,
Because I
m the Swordsman Kirito.
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Sword Art Online Volume 9
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I turned around and stared at Selka
s face as she sat right beside
...What is it?
I reached my hand out at Selka
s puzzled looking face and
apologized to Asuna and Yui dee
p inside my heart. I then said sorry to
Selka herself, brought my face closer and placed my lips on the pure
white forehead under her headband.
s body jerked suddenly, and she didn
t move. After 3
seconds, my face left Selka, and her cheeks were flu
shed so red it
reached her ears as she stared directly at me.
Wha... what, did you just do...?
I guess... it
s most likely something like the «Oath of a
I tried to find a decent excuse as I gritted my teeth once I realized
something insi
de my heart.
As I did something that the real me definitely wouldn
t do, I
m the
real me. If I were a cloned FluctLight, I would have stopped
automatically several millimeters away from Selka
s forehead.
As I was thinking about this, Selka continued to look at my face
and used her right hand to touch her forehead before sighing,
An oath... that might be your country
s tradition, but, if it wasn
the forehead but the... there might be Integrity Knights f
lying over now.
s something against the Taboo Index.
There was a part in the middle I didn
t hear, but I didn
t bother to
ask. Selka shook her head again, showing a slight smile on her face, and
asked me.
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together with Eugeo and me, so her System Control Authority should
have increased.
However, this wasn
t a question of talent. She challenged what
sort of person she was and got her
answer. This itself would grant her
a power stronger than anything else. Believing in oneself would be the
greatest strength that could be created from a human
s soul.
s about time for me to try and find the answer to a question that
was delayed by a
certain will.
My consciousness
This me who is called Kirito or Kirigaya
Kazuto, what exactly am I? Am I a Fluctlight residing inside a living
brain, a «real me»? Or am I a «clone» taken from the real me by the STL
and preserved in some medium?
nly one way to check.
Eugeo, Selka and the other people of Underworld, their Fluctlights
would never break the «Taboo Index» and the «Empire Fundamental
Law» But even if I could break through the taboo in this world, it
t mean that I wasn
t an arti
ficial Fluctlight. I didn
t know the
clauses of the Taboo Index... in other words these rules were not
written into my soul.
On the other hand, I had to check if I could use my will to break
the one rule... morals I had always abided by throughout my enti
re life
till now. I went through all sorts of thoughts during the past few days,
but this was still rather difficult. Using the sword to hurt the villagers
or stealing were definitely not within the boundary, but if it was just
badmouthing someone just to
check, it would be rather unreliable.
Right now, I could only rely on this.
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now he can smile so happily and decide to look for nee
sama. I t
father must be rather happy to see him like this, because Eugeo never
forgot about nee
...Is that so...
Selka nodded, lifted her head to look at the full moon outside the
window, and continued.
For me... actually, I didn
t go over to the
cave just to copy nee
sama and touch the land of the darkness. I knew I couldn
t do that.
Even though I knew... I still felt, even if it was just a little, I wanted to
get closer to nee
sama. I wanted to get the nearest to her as I could...
until I reached
a place I couldn
t advance forwards, and then from
there on, I
ll realize clearly... that I can
t replace Alice nee
I pondered about the meaning of Selka
s words, and shook my
head slightly.
No, you
re amazing. Ordinary girls would have
immediately went
back once they reached the bridge outside the village or the path in the
forest or the entrance of the cave. But you kept walking deep into the
dark cave and found the goblin scouts. You did something only you
could do.
Only I... could
Selka widened her eyes and tilted her head. I nodded at her.
re not a substitute for Alice, Selka. You definitely have
something only you have. You just need to nurture this talent.
In fact, I believe that from now on, Selka
s sacred arts
improve greatly. That
s because she sent the goblin squad retreating
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Really, even if it was a celebration, you drank too much, Kirito.
Here, water.
I immediately gulped down the icy cold well water Selka handed
over, and my mind was finally clear as I breathed out for a long
moment. No
matter how much beer I drank in Aincrad or Alfheim, I
t get drunk, but it seemed that the beer in Underworld was the
real deal. I thought that I should take note of this and I looked up at the
girl who was standing beside me, looking worried.
s, is there something?
I didn
t know what expression Selka saw on me as she was
startled. I hurriedly lowered my head.
Well... sorry. Aren
t you going to talk to Eugeo more?
Still in her best clothes, Selka
s face immediately blushed a cherry
What are you saying all of a sudden?
Because, tomorrow morning, you
ll...no, I
ll have to apologize
first. Sorry that things developed such that it looks like I
m taking
Eugeo out of the village. If that guy continued to cut wood in this village,
e he might, well... form a family with you or something, Selka...
Selka sighed hard and sat down beside me.
Really, you, what are you saying...
She just looked extremely surprised as she shook her head
several times, and continued,
...Well, never m
Anyway, once Eugeo leaves the village, I
definitely feel lonely... but, I
m happy too. Ever since Alice nee
had gone, Eugeo lived his days as if he had given up on everything and
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horizontally from above. I watched the iron blade get crushed easily
and asked myself.
Eugeo must have used a wooden stick to practice the sword skill
countless times once he got home. He properly discovered the
existence of «Slant
» during that practice, for there was no foreign sense
of it being a last minute thing in that action just now. The united
movement of Eugeo and the Blue Rose Sword dancing even had a sense
of elegance to it.
As he continues to practice and learn more swo
rd skills and even
go through the hellish test of the battlefield, what level of a swordsman
would he become? If...if I really have to fight him for real one day, could
I actually last in front of him...?
The villagers watched this clean decisive victory
nobody expected
and cheered loudly. I clapped enthusiastically amongst them, and yet
felt cold sweat flowing down my back.
The Jink father and son combo looked stunned as they backed away,
and the music immediately rang. The atmosphere of the celebration
was a lot more intense before, ending only when the church bell at the
tower rang to signal that it was 10.
I drank another 3 mugs of apple cider before finally forgetting the
uneasiness that came for no reason, joined in the dance again with a
drunken feeling, and was basically dragged by Selka back to
the church in the end. At the entrance, Eugeo, who was smiling wryly,
agreed to go off together with me tomorrow morning before leaving,
and I finally managed to get back to my own room and colla
psed on my
back onto the bed.
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As several hundred villagers held their breaths as they watched,
Gasupht raised his right hand up high, yelled BEGIN! and swung it
Just as I expected, Jink immediately rushed forward as he yelled
out crudely, swinging down right from the front, and one might doubt
if he would really swing until just inches away with that momentum
At that moment, I gasped lightly. Jin
s sword changed direction
greatly in the air. He looked like he was going to swing from the top,
but was actually swinging horizontally from the right. This was just an
elementary feint, but if Eugeo followed my suggestion and got ready to
use the «Horiz
ontal» to aim at Jink
s sword, it would be difficult for him
to take on a horizontal swing with a horizontal swing, and may cause a
miss before he gets hit by the opponent...
The shout that was somewhat lacking in spirit as compared to
interrupted my thoughts immediately.
The skill Eugeo used wasn
t «Horizontal».
He raised his sword on the right shoulder and looked like he was
getting ready. The blade let out a slightly thick blue light. He looked
like he was going to shake the earth
as he stepped forward before
drawing a sharp diagonal 45 degree arc in the air. This was... a skill I
never taught him, the diagonal slash «Slant».
Eugeo, who was a moment late in his activation, let his sword
move at lightning speed and hacked at Jink
sword that was swinging
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villagers saw the Blue Rose Sword that was letting out a beautiful light
as it shone under the bonfires.
It seemed that Jink was overwhelmed by the pressure of the
s sword. His head tilted back slightly before returning to its
nal position immediately. The young guard
s face showed more
anger, and he pointed at Eugeo with his left hand before saying
Eugeo didn
t wait for him to finish shouting as he answered with
a determined attitude.
This sword
I got it from the cave in the north. Right now, it
belongs to me!
The villagers immediately started muttering, and Jink couldn
t say
anything. I thought that he wo
uld ask Eugeo to prove his ownership,
but Jink didn
t seem to have that intention. Most likely, in this world
where theft didn
t exist, declaring one
s ownership would clearly
determine that it
belonged to him or her
and doubting and asking this
may be s
ome violation of right.
I didn
t know if this guess of mine was correct or not, but Jink
t continue as he spat twice on his own hands before raising his
own sword up high.
On the other side, Eugeo wielded the sword with his right hand
only and
pointed the tip at the opponent
s eyes. He moved his left arm
and leg back, keeping his center of gravity low.
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showed that he didn
t know how to deal with this, and he heaved a sigh
of relief as he saw me before whispering,
what should I do, Kirito? Things seemed to have gotten quite
s pointless to apologize at this point. Forget about that. Are
really going to slash at each other in this duel?
No way? We
re using swords, but it
s only until the attack is
inches from each other.
Fuun... but if this sword doesn
t stop while it attacks the enemy,
the opponent will probably die. Listen, don
aim for Jink himself, but at
his sword. Just charge at the side of the sword at the abdomen and use
a «Horizontal» to end this.
Re, really?
Absolutely, I promise.
I pat Eugeo on the back and nodded over at Jink and his old dad
who were glaring at m
e with suspicious looks before retreating into
the crowd.
On the podium, chief Gasupht clapped and shouted. SILENCE!
even though it wasn
t planned, we
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Fm, then how are you going to prove this? How are you going to
prove that you
re stronger than Eugeo?
Jink and his father immed
iately flushed red. This time, it was his
father who raged and closed in on Gasupht.
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I had a good impression on the wilted
leaf colored short hair and
stern look with the simple
looking longsword hanging on the waist.
This person was the guard of this village stationed at the sentry in the
The young man seemed to be facin
g off against Eugeo on the
podium as he roared crudely,
The one who walked out as he yelled was a middle
aged man who
had similar hair color and facial build, but had a bulging tummy.
s that?
I brought my face over to Selka to ask. Selka pondered for a while
and answered.
s the ex guard
san and his son, the current
guard captain. They
re the most skilled family in the village, but also
the most annoying family here.
I see...
Just when I was about to consider what to do next, chief Gasupht
listened to Jink and his father
s opin
ion before raising his hand as he
looked like he was trying to counsel them.
But Jink, you
ve only been through 6 years of being a guard.
According to the rules, you can only join the swords tournament of
Zakkaria in another 4 years.
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something. His father and the two young men beside him
most likely
s elder brothers
t look too happy either.
This time, vil
lage chief Gasupht was the one who controlled the
crowd, raising a hand to make the villagers quieten down and giving
the same stern looking as he spoke.
Eugeo, are you
On saying upto this point, he stroked his beard, and continued.
...No, I won
sk you for the reason. The Church has decreed that
you have the right to choose your next Sacred Task. Alright, as an elder
of Zakkaria, I recognize Orick
s son Eugeo
s new Sacred Task to be a
swordsman. If you
re willing, you can leave the village to prac
tice your
sword skills.
Hoo...hh. I sighed for a long while.
In that case, I can finally see the core of this world with my own
eyes. If Eugeo became a farmer, I would have definitely intended to
head to the capital alone, but since I had no knowledge o
r money for
travelling, I might end up having to spend countless months or even
years if I were to walk aimlessly. On thinking about how these few days
of hard work had finally paid off, my shoulders immediately relaxed a
The villagers seemed to have
accepted the chief
s decision as,
though they hesitated somewhat at first, they started clapping. But
before their claps got louder, a sharp roar broke the night sky.
A large young man split the wall of people and leapt to the front
of the
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follow his father to farm, herd the cattle, brew wine or be a merchant,
he can choose whatever path he wants!
I felt my urge to dance quickly cooling off.
It was not the time to hold girls
hands and flutter around. I
should have given Eugeo the final push earlier on. It would be wasted if
he said something like I want to grow wheat or something.
I held my bre
ath as I watched Eugeo on the podium. He lowered
his head in a bothered manner, grabbing his hair with his right hand
and gripping and loosening his left. I might as well rush to the podium,
grab his shoulder and yell that we
re going to the capital
as I
thought about that, a small voice rang beside me.
Eugeo...intends to leave the village, I guess...
It was Selka, who had stood beside me without me knowing. Her
mouth curled into a smile showing a mix of loneliness and delight.
Is, is that so?
Un, that
s right. What else is there to hesitate about?
Eugeo seemed to have heard her voice as he used his left hand to
grab tightly onto the Blue Rose Sword at his waist. He lifted his head to
look first at the village chief, and then around at the vil
lagers before
saying in a loud and clear voice.
I want
to become a swordsman. I want to join the guards of
Zakkaria town and refine my skills. One day, I
ll head to the capital.
After a moment of silence, there was a commotion amongst the
villagers, b
ut this time it didn
t look friendly. The adults were all
frowning, gathered together and were seemingly talking about
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The villagers raised their mugs of ale and cider that were meant
to cool off their heated bodies after dancing and cheered to toast back
at the village chief. Everyone then went quiet and the village chief
looked around before saying again,
greatest wish of our forefathers in Rulid village is finally
fulfilled! The demonic tree that took Terraria and Solus from the lush
southern land has been cut down! We will have a new place to grow
wheat, beans and rear livestock!
s brilliant vo
ice was again covered. The village chief
raised his hands to wait for everyone to quieten down before he
The young man who accomplished this feat
s son, Eugeo,
come here!
The village chief waved to a corner of the plaza, and over ther
Eugeo looked tense as he stood up. The slight short and shout man
beside him should be his father, Orick
san. He did not resemble Eugeo
at all other than the hair color, and there was no pride on his face so he
looked somewhat flustered.
Eugeo wasn
t p
rompted by his father, but by the surrounding
villagers. He walked up to the podium and stood beside the village
chief, and as he faced the plaza, everyone let out the 3rd and loudest
cheer. I clapped loudly with an enthusiasm not losing to them as well.
As according to the rules
The village chief
s voice rang again, and the villagers all kept quiet
and pricked their ears.
Eugeo, who had completed his task fully, shall have the right to
choose his next Sacred Task. He can continue to cut wood in the forest,
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Yeah, me too. I lost my memory...
s just dancing! You
ll learn once you dance around!
She grabbed Eugeo and my hands at the same time and dragged
us up from the chair. Selka dragged us to the center of the plaza despite
our protests and pushed us out. The crowd immediately cheered, and
we were swallowed by the dancing ring.
Luckily, their
dance was rather simple, about the same kind
taught during the sports festival. After changing through 3 dance
partners, I finally managed to imitate them and started dancing. Slowly,
with the simple melody, my movements became a lot more joyous, and
my fe
et got lighter.
The girls who didn
t look like either Easterners or Westerners
had a healthy blush on their faces as they happily laughed. I held their
hands as I danced with them, and had a feeling, wondering whether I
really was a wanderer without memor
ies. It
s really peculiar.
Speaking of which, I once danced in the virtual world as well.
My dance partner was my sister Suguha
s other identity in Alfheim, the
Slyph swordswoman Lyfa. Her smile overlapped with the face of the
girl in front of me now, ca
using my nose to hurt a little.
As I was engrossed in the unexpected homesick feeling, the music
got more intense and faster before stopping suddenly. I looked over at
the band, and found that a burly man with a nice beard stepped on the
podium with all s
orts of instruments around it. He was the village chief
of Rulid village, Selka
s father, Gasupht.
The village chief clapped twice and called out in a baritone.
Everyone, the celebration has arrived at its climax, but listen to
what I have to say for a
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I muttered as I started eating the second skewered meat. If the
thought I had was true, that guy couldn
t just
be someone doing the
introductions, but someone immediately related to the core of this
but I had no way to check this out. If I wanted to get more
information, I had to first leave Rulid village and head to the capital
way down south.
The larg
est obstacle to this plan, the Gigas Cedar was chopped
down. Then, there was only one thing left to do.
After finishing the meat and vegetables on the metal skewer, I
turned to the table and looked at my partner, who was staring at the
ring of villagers,
before saying,
I say, Eugeo...
Un...what is it?
From now on, you...
But before I could continue, a shrill voice came from above our
Ah, there you are! What are you guys doing, the main characters
for this celebration?
I spent quite som
e time to realize that this girl, who was standing
in front of us with her arms folded and her back straightened, was
Selka. She had already undone the 3 braids on her head and had a
headband on. She wasn
t wearing a black nun habit, but a red vest and
a g
colored skirt.
Ah, no...I
m not good at dancing...
Eugeo continued to eat as he tried to look for excuses, and I shook
my right hand.
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line of sight and looked at Eugeo with the Blue Rose Sword han
proudly there.
During the past 5 days, he had had sufficient practice with the
initial basic one handed sword skill
the one
strike horizontal slash
«Horizontal» on the Gigas Cedar.
Just like the randomly named Aincrad
style indicated, this was a
sword skill that existed in the old VRMMO game «Sword Art Online».
I could still understand somewhat why this action could be
replicated. When I went to the VR game that was based around
fights, the world of «Gun Gale Online», I used a few sword skills to
break through tough battles, but in the end, that was just letting the
avatar trace the actions, and there was no light effect or system assist
that caused the sword to accelerate with th
e skill. It
s to be expected
that these weren
t written into the game system.
However, in this other world Underworld, the sword skills all
took effect completely. If I did the play motion and imagined the
actions of the skill, the sword would glow and ac
celerate. I was worried
that I may be the only one who could do it on the first day of training,
but on the second day, Eugeo managed to launch a «Horizontal»
successfully for the first time, proving that any of the residents could
use sword skills as long
as the conditions were met.
The question now would be why such a phenomenon happened.
There shouldn
t be any relationship between the RATH
s technical group and the now
defunct Argus that developed SAO.
If there was, it would be... that
man who introduced me to the strange
group called RATH and was once part of the country
s task force in the
SAO incident...
t tell me...
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was about the same as the apple
cider, but when I drank up, my face
would still feel hot.
Once they knew that the Gigas Cedar was cut down, the village
chief had organized a village council meeting with the more well
known villagers. During that time, it seemed that they had a heated
bate over what to do with the «Giant tree Cutter» Eugeo
and me.
What was scary was that some people even thought that it was a
lot earlier than expected. Basically, it was earlier by about 900 years,
and finishing the mission was a mistake and we had to
be punished.
However, the village chief Gasupht finalized things and decided that no
matter what, the entire village had to organize a party to celebrate and
deal with Eugeo according to the law.
As for what the law was about, I had no idea as well, and I
him. He merely smiled and told me that I would know shortly.
However, after looking at his expression, I knew that at least he
t be told off. I finished up the beer inside my mug, grabbed a
stick of roasted meat with meat sauce dripping from
the plate beside
me, and took a huge bite.
Thinking about it carefully, after I came to this world, everything I
ate tasted bland, like the round buns and the dishes in the church that
were mostly vegetables, so this would be the first time I was eating
something with the word meat in it. Besides the tender beef that was
coated with thick sauce
there was also the fragrance of something
that smelled like meat, which made it really hard to believe that this
was the virtual world. Just this smell alone was
worth the tough battle
against the Gigas Cedar.
However, things would definitely not end just like that. I felt that
it should be that we were finally staring at the starting line. I moved my
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Eugeo and I cried out at the s
ame time as we split up left and right
respectively. The pitch black Gigas Cedar sliced apart the sky that was
gradually becoming orange and slowly, slowly fell down. Its large body
finally collapsed and laid down on the ground. We took the impact that
ridiculously large and were sent flying into the air. Once we have
fallen back and landed on our butts, our lives have dropped by about
50 points.
That really surprised me... there are so many people in this
I received a large mug fill
ed with apple cider from Eugeo as I
At the moment, there were a few clusters of bonfires at the
central plaza of Rulid village, lighting up the faces of the villagers
gathered there. The band beside the fountain was playing with
instruments that
looked like bagpipes and very long flutes. Also, there
were performers in animal skin dancing with the music in a waltz. The
villagers were all clapping and tapping their feet in rhythm as they
danced under the night.
I sat beside a table slightly furthe
r away, and my feet tapped
along with the rhythm. Suddenly, I really felt an urge to jump and
dance with the villagers in the circle, which was really unbelievable.
I think this is the first time I see so many villagers gathered
together. There
s even mo
re people than the prayer festival at the
s Day at the end of the year, definitely.
Eugeo said as he smiled, and I reached out the mug in my right
hand. I had no idea how many times we toasted. The foaming beer that
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The Demonic Cedar Tree, the tyrant of the forest, the steel
Gigas Cedar was finally
or should I say easily, chopped down. It was
just 5 days after Eugeo and I used the Blue Rose Sword to practice the
styled Sword Skills».
The reason was simple. That giant tree was a perfect training
platform. Every time I demonstrated «Horizont
al», Eugeo would
practice it over and over again, and the cut on the trunk continued to
deepen. Once the cut occupied about 80% of the diameter, it happened.
The giant tree took the horizontal slash from Eugeo
s refined
motion and let out an ominous creaking sound that had never
happened before.
Both of us stared at each other in a dumbstruck manner, and then
at the trunk of the Gigas Cedar that extended all the way into sky, and
we froze in shock as we saw the
giant tree fall slowly towards us.
However, at this moment, it didn
t feel like a large tree was falling
towards us, but that the land we were standing on was falling forward.
The tree with a diameter of more than 4m succumbed to gravity as it
lowered it
s head towards us, and the scene was so surreal.
Just 80cm
if I described the distance using the unit in this world,
it would be «80 cen»
the surrounding roots couldn
t endure the
s own heavy weight and burst into coal
like remains. The giant
s final cry was a lot more intense than even 10 bolts of thunder
from heaven as it was said that the sound of destruction even reached
pass the central plaza of the village, all the way to the northernmost
guard sentry post.
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.....But, but, I... want, to be stronger. I won
t allow, the same
mistake, to happen again. Need to take back... what I lost. Kirito... teach
me, the sword skills.
I was really touched inside deep inside my heart, but still
continued to suppress these emotions as I smiled and nodded.
Understood. I
ll teach you the skills I know
but the training
will be tough.
I changed my expression to a mischievous one as I re
ached my
right hand out, and Eugeo
s lips finally relaxed somewhat as he held
onto my hand tightly.
Fine by me. Ahh, really, this is something... I, I, just kept looking
forward to.
Eugeo again lowered his head as two, three beads of water slid
down hi
s face. There was sunlight shining through the gaps between
the leaves. Eugeo stepped forward before I could even be shocked, and
buried his face into my right shoulder, letting out a very weak moan
that spread through the bodies leaned together.
I know. I
ve been waiting for you, Kirito. For six years, in
this forest, I
ve been waiting for you to arrive...
I answered with a random voice and used the right hand wielding
the Blue Rose Sword to pat Eugeo
s back lightly.
...I must have wo
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Most likely, they
would never go against the high
ranked rules that
were ingrained into their consciousness. The highest ranked Axiom
s «Taboo Index»
and the Norlangarth Empire
s «Fundamental
Law» aside, they wouldn
t even go against the «village rules» that this
Rulid village inherited on their own. They couldn
t do it.
Thus, Eugeo could only suppress his urge to look for his
childhood friend, Alice,
who was taken to the capital. He restrained his
heart and continued to swing the axe, facing the giant tree he could
definitely never take down in his lifetime.
But right this moment, he wanted to change his own fate through
his own will. Of course, he s
aid that he wanted me to teach him sword
skills because he had an admiration for them, but more importantly, it
was the greatest hope buried deep within his heart all this while... to
save the captured Alice that he wanted to gain the strength to fight.
t this line revealing his own desire?
Eugeo lowered his head as he trembled. I watched him silently
and kept telling him inside my heart.
Do your best, Eugeo. Don
t give up. Don
t lose to the things
restraining you. Step forward... take the first ste
p forward. Because
re a swordsman.
At this moment
The flax
colored haired boy seemed to hear my words as he lifted
his face up. The beautiful green eyes had an intensity I had never seen
before as they pierced through my eyes. An interrupted trembli
voice continued to come out from between the teeth that grit together,
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crad, style.
Eugeo repeated that again as he nodded.
Such an intriguing name. I have never heard of it before, but this
may be the name of your teacher or the city you used to live in...
Kirito, well... I...
Eugeo suddenly looked down and stammered. But several
seconds later, he lifted his head again as the light of determination
returned to his eyes.
Can you teach me your «Aincrad
style Sword Skills»? I
m not a
soldier, or even a guard of the village... so
it may be against some sort
of rule...
Does the Taboo Index or the Imperial... law have some clauses
like «those who aren
t soldiers can
t learn sword skills»?
I asked calmly. Eugeo bit his lip lightly, and after a while,
s no s
uch clause... but it
s forbidden to have «Many
Sacred Tasks». Normally, those who were tasked to the Sacred Task of
guards or soldiers could learn sword skills. So, if I start learning sword
skills... I might be viewed as giving up on my own Sacred Duty...
s shoulders sank slowly. However, he gripped his fists hard
as his tense muscles trembled slightly.
I seemed to be able to see the binds around his heart. The people
living in this «Underworld»
the «Artificial Fluctlights» that RATH
used some so
rt of means to mass produce
had a unique point that
people like us in the real world didn
t have.
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I guessed so. From what I heard, it seemed that there was a
concept of sword skills existing in this world. I just didn
t know
whether that referred
to the sword skills governed by the system or
not. I placed the sword into the scabbard in my left hand and
cautiously answered.
Ahh... I guess so, yeah.
In that case... your Sacred Task before being taken away by the
god of darkness might be a yeoma
n ...no, maybe you were a sentry
guard in a large city. Only the soldier forces would teach real sword
Eugeo started rattling away, a rare sight at that as his green eyes
were glittering. Upon seeing this, I immediately understood. He was
with woodcutting as his career job, and for six years, had
continued to swing that axe without complaining
but he
undoubtedly had the soul of a swordsman. The admiration for this
thing called a sword and the desire to master the sword skills were
d deep within him.
Eugeo took a step forward, and another before arriving in front of
me, looking straight into my eyes and asking with a trembling voice,
Kirito... your sword skills, what sect does it belong to? Do you
remember, the name of the sect...
I thought for an instant, and then shook my head,
No, I remember. My sword skill is the «Aincrad
s Style».
Of course, this was a name I made up on the spot, but once I have
said it out, I felt that no other name could work. That was because all
my skills were learnt and honed from that floating city.
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Eugeo looked shocked. *Hyun hyun* I swung the sword around
twice to demonstrate to him.
The buns didn
t get softer, but this sword seems to have become
lighter. Well,
take a look.
I faced the Gigas Cedar again and bent my waist down. My right
foot took a step back as I faced the target sideways, using this turning
motion to level the sword in my right hand. As I charged up for a
moment, the blade was covered with a so
ft blue light.
I shouted out simply and stamped hard into the ground. The
System Assist recognized the matching sword skill impression and
caused me to accelerate, giving a slashing hit with tremendous speed
and accuracy. It was the one
sword skill «Horizontal».
The Blue Rose Sword seemed to flash by like horizontal lightning
as it accurately hit with pinpoint precision, causing a tremendous
impact sound. The large trunk of the Gigas Cedar trembled slightly, and
the birds that were perch
ing around its branches all flew away.
I became engrossed with this accomplishment of «Man being one
with the sword» that I hadn
t experienced for a long time, and looked
over at my right arm extending forward. The light blue and clear silver
blade were h
alf embedded into the wooden grain that was glossy with
a metallic black light.
This time, Eugeo
s eyes and even his mouth widened as he
dropped the half
eaten bun onto the moss. However, the boy who was
made a woodcutter for his Sacred Task didn
t seem t
o notice, as he
spoke with a trembling voice,
......Kirito......, was that... a «sword skill» just now?
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opening in the Gigas Ced
s trunk and reached out for the Blue Rose
Sword bundle that was placed there a few days ago.
I held onto the leather cover while half
believing and half
and used all the strength in my body to lift it up.
Immediately, I nearly fell
and hurriedly took two steps back. The
weight that I remembered feeling like a barbell with maximum weight
added, had actually dropped to such an extent that it felt like the
weight was closer to a thick metal bar.
The sword continued to press down on my
wrist heavily.
However, this weight was more of a delightful one, and the feeling
reminded me of my beloved swords at the end of the former Aincrad.
I used my left hand to hold onto the leather cover, undid the
buttons on it, and used the right hand to ho
ld the sword hilt adorned
with beautiful decorations. Eugeo was biting into his bun as he
widened his eyes, and I smiled back at him. *Sharin!!* I drew the sword
with a spine
chilling unsheathing sound.
Unlike a few days ago, the Blue Rose Sword wasn
t th
e least bit
unwieldy as it lay silently in my hand, like a shy and beautiful princess.
The more I looked at it, the more beautiful the sword seemed. Whether
it was the white leather handle with textures that felt like it was
drawing the hand in, the blade
s transparency that seemed to hold a
complex light, or the intricacy of the Rose and its vine
like patterns,
they were all parts that couldn
t be recreated by the weapons made
from polygons that I was familiar with. It was no wonder that Bercouli
in the st
ory wanted to steal it from the dragon.
Oi... oi, Kirito, you can hold that sword?
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Eugeo laughed heartily, taking a large bite and shrugged his
nfortunately, it
s still the same. Speaking of which...why does
it feel like the axe got lighter...?
Who knows?
I said, but I had already predicted this phenomenon the moment I
opened my own «window» in the previous night. That problematic
Object Control Authority, System Control Authority and my maximum
Life had greatly increased.
I could imagine the reason as wel
l. We managed to force the large
goblin group in the cave to retreat
in other words, we finished a high
difficulty mission, and created a «Level up» phenomenon that was
commonly used in normal VRMMOs. I didn
t want to experience it
again, but taking on a
tough battle did bring its rewards.
This morning, I pretended not to know anything as I asked Selka
whether she was the same as well. The sacred arts that had a high rate
of failure last week seemed like they could be used properly as well.
Selka, who nev
er actually took part in the battle, also gained a level up
effect. Most likely, all three of us were treated as party members, and
everyone gained experience. The way I look at it, this should be an
acceptable reason.
s Object Control Authority sho
uld have increased to
around 48 like me. In that case, there was no reason not to try that
I finished the 2 round buns in a few bites and stood up. Eugeo was
still eating slowly as he looked over. I walked towards the large
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Nope. I completely lost consciousness at that time. Did you hear
something, Kirito?
No... just my imagination. Forget about it... then, let
s get to work.
My goal is to g
et in more than 45 times.
I hurriedly chased aside the thoughts in my mind, turned towards
the Gigas Cedar again, holding the axe tightly with both hands while
concentrating on all parts of my body.
The axe I swung out had followed the trajectory I imag
ined and
traced, looking like it was attracted to it as it hit the half moon
core of the trunk.
Today, we ended up finishing the combined 1,000 axe swings 30
minutes earlier than before. That was because both of us weren
t that
tired and didn
t need much rest at all. The number of critical hits
increased from the previous week, and maybe it was just my
imagination, but it was like our naked eyes could see how much we
progressed through the markings on the giant tree.
Eugeo stretched out lazil
y in a satisfied manner, saying that we
should have lunch even though it was early. He sat down on the usual
tree root, and I sat down beside him. Eugeo took out two round buns
from the cloth beside him and handed them to me.
I took one with one hand and
said with a wry smile as I looked at
the bread that was still as hard as stone.
It would be great if this bread could become softer like how the
axe feels lighter.
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world). I didn
t feel, nor did I want to think, that they were all
Was this phenomenon just
an illusion Eugeo and I saw at the
same time?
If that was the case, there was only one thing I couldn
t explain.
When Selka used the sacred arts to transfer my life over to Eugeo and
tried to resuscitate him, I did feel the presence of a 4th person in my
gradually fading consciousness. That person even said: Kirito, Eugeo,
ll be waiting for you at the top of the Central Cathedral.
I couldn
t view that voice as a hallucination created in the midst
of my fading consciousness as well. That
s because I have
never heard
of the term «Central Cathedral» until this moment. Of course, there
naturally wasn
t one in the real world, and even though I have gone
through all sorts of virtual worlds, I had never even heard of that place
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I looked at the axe in my right hand and said to Eugeo, who was
sitting slightly further away.
I say,
Eugeo, do you remember...? In that cave, when you were
slashed by the goblin...you said something strange, right? It
s like you,
Eugeo and Alice and I were friends a long time ago...
Eugeo didn
t answer immediately. He kept quiet for a while as a
light b
reeze blew by, blowing loudly with the trees. A soft voice came
with the tail of the wind and entered my ears.
...I remembered. It should be impossible... but for some reason, I
remembered it clearly. I, Kirito, and Alice were born together in this
ge and grew up together... Alice was standing there the day she
was taken.
...I see.
I nodded and sank deep in thought.
Maybe his memory was all jumbled up in such an extreme
situation. I could possibly explain this using that. Since the thing that
formed Eugeo
s consciousness and personality was the «Fluctlight»
just like mine, it wouldn
t be inexplicable for him to have some
mistakes in his memories at the brink of death.
However, the problem was
in that situation, I had the same
memory confusion
. I watched Eugeo, who was gradually dying there,
and really felt a fresh memory that I actually grew up with him in Rulid
village. Also, I even recalled the blond long
haired girl, Alice, whom I
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Everyone was gathered at the plaza, discussing about whether they
would start a search party. As soon as they caught sights of us, they al
heaved a sigh of relief, just before village chief Gasupht and Sister
Azariya immediately started blasting us with harsh scoldings. Maybe
the adults were more freaked out that a supposedly
impossible thing
like 3 young folks breaking the «Village Rules»
had happened.
However, when I shoved the head of the leader in my left hand
right in front of the adults, everyone
s reactions changed. Ugachi
green eyes that were twice the size of humans, with his
ragged sharp teeth and savage face, stared s
traight at them, and after a
moment of silence, the adults let out screams and consternation
several times louder than before.
After that, Eugeo and Selka were the ones who mainly explained
about the goblin gang camping in the north cave and how they may
have been a scouting squad from the land of darkness. The village chief
and everyone else looked as if they really wanted to treat this as some
sort of childish and outlandish nonsense, but they couldn
t laugh when
they saw the head of the monster sitting
on the stone steps. The
discussion immediately changed to defending the village, and we were
safely released before dragging our tired feet back home.
I let Selka treat the wound on my left shoulder in the church room,
and then collapsed like a pile of mu
d onto the bed, starting to sleep.
The following day, Eugeo and I were allowed off work and enjoyed the
luxury and laziness to continue sleeping. Another night passed, and
this morning arrived. The shoulder pain and the fatigue in my body
had completely di
After having breakfast, I walked with Eugeo to the forest with the
same energetic expression. He finished the first 50 swings
and now.
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Part 5
The percussive clear sound echoed in the high spring skies.
Eugeo finished swinging the axe 50 times, wiped away the sweat
on his forehead and turned around. I put down the canteen with the
Siral water and asked.
How is your wound? Does it hurt anymore?
Un, I managed to recover fully with a day
s rest. But there
s still a
little scar. Also... I don
t know if it
s my imagination, but it seems that
this Dragon Bone Axe became extremely light.
t seem like it. 42 out of 50 strikes hit the core.
On hearing that, Eugeo immediately raised his eyebrows, and
then smiled.
Really? Then I
ll win the bet today.
Not likely.
I smiled back, then took the Dragon Bone Axe and used my right
hand to swing it lightly. It really felt like the feeling was a
lot steadier
than I could remember in my memories.
2 nights had passed since the horrific nightmare
like experience
in the cave of the mountain range at the edge.
Eugeo managed to keep his life with the help of Selka
s sacred art.
The sun had already se
t when I carried Eugeo on my right side and the
head of the goblin leader on my left as we returned to Rulid village.
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I asked without letting out my voice, and my left ear felt a soft
breathing. After that, I heard a voice that was so nostalgic that it made
me want to cry.
Kirito, Eugeo... I
ve been waiting for both of you. I
ll continue to
wait... at the top of the Ce
ntral Cathedral...
Her blond hair let out a light like the stars and filled me within.
The overwhelming energy pulsed through all the corners of my body,
and seeped out from my left hand as if it was looking for an exit.
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Eugeo, who witnessed the gobli
ns and took the sword to fight
would definitely do something. He would warn the village chief,
strengthen the guards, and warn the neighboring towns and cities. He
would definitely do that.
And so, I couldn
t let Eugeo die here.
Ahh, but
my life was abo
ut to end.
For some reason, I knew this.
Eugeo still hadn
t opened his eyes. Even after spending all my life, it
t enough to heal his wound and drag him back from the edge of
t...if I continue, Kirito, your Life will...!
s crying seemed to come from afar.
t stop, continue.
Even though I wanted to say this, my mouth
t move, and trying to even sustain my own thoughts became
gradually more difficult.
Is this death? The simulated death of the soul in Underworld...
will the death of the soul kill the physical body in the real world?
caused me to think about this was the cold I couldn
t endure and the
terrifying loneliness...
Suddenly, I felt someone
s hands on my shoulders.
They were warm. It felt like my
body that was frozen in ice was
gradually melting.
know these hands. Hands that were delicate like the feathers of
a bird, yet grabbing onto the future more forcefully than anyone.
......Who, are you......?
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existence of Underworld. If the technicians of RATH were trying to ga
some form of breakthrough by torturing the Fluctlights of the residents,
it seemed that the unexpected intruder, me, was being a form of
interference by helping Eugeo here.
But as for me, just send me to the devil for that. Even if he was a
soul, Eugeo
was still my friend and I would never let him die like this.
As the life transfer continued, my body was surrounded by a
strong chill. I used my gradually fading sight to observe Eugeo. The
wound looked a lot smaller than when the spell started, but it w
completely healed at all, as the blood flowing out didn
t stop in the
Kirito... are
are you still alright...?
Selka panted in pain as she said in an interrupted manner.
No worries... a little more, give Eugeo a little more!
I im
mediately answered, but in fact, my eyes had almost lost all
their sight while my right arm and leg were going numb. The left hand
Selka was holding onto was the only thing throbbing warmly.
Even if I lost my life in this world, it was completely fine. If
I could
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Human Unit
Her voice echoed. *Kiin*
the sharp voice became
then, a blue light pillar appeared, with Selka in the middle.
It was a lot brighter than the grass, incandescent, as it illuminated
all the corners of the large dome a light blue color. I couldn
t help but
narrow my eyes, but this was only fo
r a moment as my left hand that
was held by Selka suddenly had a strange feeling surrounding it, which
caused me to open my eyes wide.
It felt like my entire body disappeared into the light as it flowed
out from my left hand.
Looking closely, my body was
actually creating lots of small
spheres of light, moving from my left hand to Selka
s right hand. I
looked over at where the spheres of light were moving towards, and
the light flowed through Selka
s body, increasing in brightness before
being absorbed in
to Eugeo
s right hand.
Transfer Durability. In other words, it was a sacred art that
transferred one person
s Life over to another. If I opened my window
now, I would be able to find that my value was dropping.
s fine. Just take it all.
I thought sile
ntly in my heart as I exerted
more force into my left hand. Selka, who was acting as the conduit of
the energy and the amplifier, looked as if she was in pain too. I realized
the cruelty of this world again, and how great the price of living was.
Pain, su
ffering, and sorrow. The reason why there was such a
deliberate intent to emphasize these things that weren
t required in
the virtual world was obviously something closely related to the
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I was driven by the emotions rising up within me as I said
Eugeo came to save you, Selka! He risked his life not for Alice,
but for you!
s shoulders jerked again, this time, more than before.
During thi
s time, Eugeo
s life was dropping towards zero. There
were only 2 minutes left, maybe even one. An instant moment of
silence felt so long it was unbearable.
Suddenly, Selka lifted her face. The expressions of fear and
hesitation she had from several secon
ds before was all gone.
s too late for ordinary treatment. We can only try a
dangerous high
ranked sacred art. Kirito, I need your help.
I understand. I
ll do whatever you say.
Give me your left hand.
I immediately reached my left hand out,
and Selka used her right
hand to hold it tightly. Then, she used the left to hold onto Eugeo
right hand, which was lying on the icy surface, tightly.
If the art fails, both you and I may die. Be prepared.
Just let me be the one to die then
ready w
henever you are!
Selka stared straight at me with sturdy eyes, nodded and closed
her eyes before taking a deep breath.
The loud voice echoed through the ice dome.
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The arched body immediately froze. I kicked aside the shattered
ice on the ground and the junk those g
oblins left behind as I dashed
towards Eugeo and put Selka down.
s too late for ordinary treatment... use your sacred arts to save
him, Selka, please!
Selka listened to me as she held her breath and knelt down before
gingerly reaching her right hand
out. She touched the deep wound on
Eugeo, and suddenly moved her hand back.
After a while, Selka shook her head that was tied into three braids
...I can
t...this kind...this kind of wound, my sacred arts... can
As she used her fingers to t
ouch Eugeo, her face went pale.
Eugeo... you
re lying, right... because of me... Eugeo...
Tears trickled down Selka
s face, landing onto the pool of blood
on the ice. She took her hands back and covered her face, letting out a
cry. I felt that it was c
ruel to say this to such a girl, but I yelled.
s shoulders jerked hard for a moment, but immediately
slumped back weakly.
t be like nee
sama... I couldn
t even memorize the
spells nee
sama spent three days to master even after a month. Right
now, what I could only heal are... very small
Eugeo, he...
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s long eyebrows immediately twitched, and the light brown
eyes opened with a blink. It seemed that she couldn
t recognize me
with just the light of
the bristlegrass tossed beside Eugeo as her throat
let out a small cry.
Selka waved her arms and tried to push me aside, and I held her
down before shouting,
On hearing my voice, Selka immediately stopped. She reached her
fingers out tentatively and gently touched my face.
Kirito...is it really you, Kirito...?
Ahh, I came to save you. Are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?
No... Not at all. I
m fine...
s lips curled aside, and then she immediately leaped over to
hug me on the neck.
The slight breathing sound could be heard beside my ear, letting
out a child
like cry
but before that could happen, I carried Selka with
both hands, turned around and started running.
Sorry, cry later! Eugeo
s severely hurt!!
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I took a deep breath, endured the pain that came out from my left
shoulder again, and threw away the sword in my right hand as well as
the head in my left. I turned around an
d ran towards my friend who
had collapsed.
I shouted, but his pale face wasn
t moving at all. I could feel some
slight breathing from the slightly parted lips, but it seemed that it could
stop at any time. The devastating wound
on his abdomen was still
bleeding. I knew that I had to stop it, but I didn
t know how.
I used my stiff right hand to quickly draw a mark and knocked on
s shoulder, looking at the window that appeared with a praying
The life
Durability P
oints, were indicated as
. Also,
the value in the front was dropping at a horrifying rate of one point
every two seconds. In other words, Eugeo
s Life would be at its end in
about 480 seconds
there were approximately 8 minutes left.
...Hang on
ll immediately save you! DON
I yelled again and immediately got up, dashing towards the
wheelbarrow that was left aside.
On the cart, there was Selka, all tied up amidst the wooden
barrels and containers with unknown contents and many weapons
. I
pulled out a knife from a nearby box and quickly cut the rope.
I carried her petite body, laid her down on the wide floor and
quickly checked her, but there was no obvious external wounds. Her
breathing was a lot steadier than Eugeo
s. I grabbed the s
houlders on
her nun habit and shook her with the minimum amount of force.
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That head seem
ed to fly up straight before turning and falling. I
reached my left hand out to grab it, holding it by the decorative feather
that was standing like a plume, raised the head of the leader that was
still bleeding and yelled.
Eugeo, try and hang on for a while.
I muttered deep inside my
heart as I glared at the surrounding group with my utmost killing
intent with both e
yes. The goblins started to panic as they saw their
leader die, each of them looking at each other and letting out panicked
sounds *gii gii*
After a while, one of them, who was standing at the front row,
holding a stick behind its shoulder, walked out.
Gehe, in that case, once I kill you, I, Abuli
sama will become the
next head...
Right now, I didn
t have the time to patiently hear it finish its
words. My left hand gripped the head as I dashed forward, using the
same skill as before to slice that guy f
rom the right rib to the left
shoulder. With a blunt sound, blood splattered next, and the upper
body slid down the sliced off area before landing on the ground.
With that, the remaining goblins seemed to have finally made
their decision. They all screame
d out and rushed towards a corner of
the dome. Several goblins pushed each other and moved through the
exit we didn
t enter from, and soon disappeared without a trace. The
echoes of footsteps and screams gradually faded away and vanished.
The ice
built dom
e entered an icy cold moment of silence, as if the
commotion just now was a lie.
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I gathered my consciousness onto the blade tip of the machete as
Ugachi charged over ferociously. *Kiiiin*. With this sound, everything
else in my sights dis
appeared as radials. It was an accelerating feeling
that I had forgotten for a long time, where my nerves started to feel hot.
in this world, it should be said that my soul was burning.
As I faced the machete swinging down, I took a step forward to
dge it and slashed from the bottom left side, to cut off the right arm
of the enemy near the shoulder. The machete that was swung together
with the giant arm spun, *vuun vuun*, and landed in the midst of the
surrounding goblins, causing lots of screams.
gachi, who had lost both its arms, was showing anger and more
surprise in its yellow eyes as it swayed back. The black liquid that
continued to seep out from its wound landed on the ice and created
...How did this great me lose to an Ium...a mere
Ium brat...
Without waiting for the panting voice to finish, I charged forward
with all I got.
No. My name
s not «Ium»!
I subconsciously said this. At the same time, the toes on the left
foot, the fingertips on the right hand, and the sword tip that reached
the fingertips became as sharp as a whip. The blade shone again, and
this time it was a pale green light. An invisible
hand pushed me hard
from behind as I used the one
handed thrust sword skill, «Sonic Leap».
*Pyun*. As the sound of the ripping air reached my ears, Ugachi
giant head was already flying high into the air.
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with flax
colored hair, and the one holding onto my left was a blond
s right...I believed that the world
would never change. I
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lot of fresh blood at a horrifying rate. Under the light of the gr
ass that
was still held in his left hand, the irregular workings of the organs
inside the wound were laid bare to my eyes.
*Cough*. With a heavy sound, Eugeo
s mouth choked out blood
with bubbles mixed in. The green eyes lost their light as they stared
ght above emptily.
However, Eugeo never stopped trying to stand up. His mouth
breathed out air that had some red mist mixed within, trembling as he
used both hands to support himself off the ground.
s enough...it
I couldn
t help but
say. The pain on Eugeo
s body was not
something that could be compared to mine. It was definitely much
more than what the normal consciousness could endure.
At that moment
the eyes that had lost their focus looked
straight at me, and he blurted out the w
ords that were drenched in
When we were young...we promised...me, Kirito...and Alice,
from the day we were born together, to the time we die together...this
time, I must definitely...protect...I must...
At this moment Eugeo
s arms suddenly l
ost their strength. I
quickly reached out my arms to grab his body. Just when Eugeo
slender yet muscular weight was transferred onto me...
My vision was surrounded by an interrupted white flash, and at
the deep part of the screen, there were vague shado
ws there.
Under the fiery red sunset, I was walking down a path between
the wheat fields. The one holding my right hand was the young boy
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I widened my eyes in shock as I watched Eugeo leap past me to
slash at Ugachi. He continued to swing his right hand wielding the
curved knife wildly and forced the enemy to take two, three steps back.
The goblin was startled at first, but he immediately r
egained his
composure and wielded the machete skilfully with only one hand and
parried away Eugeo
s attacks from left and right. For an instant, I
forgot about my pain and yelled,
However, he continued to yell while l
osing himself and continued
to swing the blade. As expected of someone who
d been swinging that
heavy axe for a long time, every single hit
s speed was eye
popping, but
unfortunately, the motions were too simple. Ugachi first looked like he
was enjoying th
e resistance of a prey as he continued to defend
enthusiastically, and then,
It roared and used his toes to kick
s supporting leg. As Eugeo lost his balance and tripped, it easily
raised its machete
Before my shout reached them, it casually swung horizontally.
Eugeo took a hit to the abdomen and was sent flying far away,
landing right beside me with a blunt sound. I instinctively turned
around, and a sharp pain occurred in my left shoulder like a fl
ash, but
this time, I ignored the pain and nudged over.
s wound was a lot more serious than mine. His upper body
was sliced open horizontally, and the jagged wound was bleeding out a
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called reality referred to real pain, hardship and sorrow. Only those
who could endure these things
that strike them, and overcome them,
could get stronger in that world. The goblin leader, no, Ugachi already
understood this, and I had never thought of this before.
At the front end of my vision, blurred by tears, Ugachi stopped the
bleeding on the slic
ed off left arm and silently watched me. Its eyes
shot out a look of utter vengeance as the surrounding air seemed to
rumble. It put the machete it was biting on into its right hand and
swung it. *Vun*.
...Such humiliation, you
ll never repay that even i
f I dice you up
and devour you alive...however, let
s do this.
Ugachi swirled the machete over its head *Vun, vun* and slowly
closed in. I looked away from him, watching Selka, who was lying after
being tied up tightly. My mind was thinking that I had to
stand up, to
stand and fight, but my body just couldn
t move. It felt like the negative
impression that had developed in me had become a restraint in reality
and bound me...
The heavy footsteps suddenly stopped in front of me. The air was
rumbling, and I
felt that the giant blade was about to be lifted up. It was
too late to either dodge or counter. I gritted my teeth and waited for
the moment I was to be released from this world.
However, after a long while, the blade of the guillotine never
dropped dow
n. *Za zaa
* what replaced it was the sound of the ice
surface being trampled on, and then, there was a familiar voice
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The point of the so
called virtual world was to eliminate all of
s pains and difficulties, ugliness and filth, and achieve an
environment that was clean and comfortable, right? What was the
point of realistically creating such a level of pain and suffering? No
This p
ain was more than it would be realistically. If I had such an injury
in real life, I would probably secrete brain chemicals or end up in a
coma as a defensive mechanism, right? It wasn
t possible for someone
to endure such a level of pain...
Maybe that w
as not it.
I tried hard to look away from my wound and mocked myself
before changing my thoughts.
I, this person called Kirigaya Kazuto, was completely unused to
real pain. In real life, I had never had any severe injuries ever since I
grew up. When I wa
s forced by grandfather to learn kendo, I quickly
gave up. It was tough when I went through recuperation after SAO, but
it was thanks to the most advanced training machines and
supplementary medication that I didn
t have to worry about pain.
Of course, th
ere was nothing much more to be said about the
virtual world. The Nerve Gear and AmuSphere had had a pain
absorption function that could remove them almost completely, and
the level to which it did so was such that I would wonder if it was too
ve. Because of this, damage in battles was just a simple
increase or decrease in Hit Points. Oh yeah, if such pain existed in
Aincrad, I would definitely have been unable to leave the Starting City.
Underworld was a dreamland that was created, and also an
I was uncertain how many days it was before, but I could finally
understand the significance of the words I said to Agil in his shop. The
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I had noticed it the moment that thing declared its name to be «Ugachi».
This wasn
t a battle between player and monster, but two people
wielding weapons trying to kill each other.
Kirito! Are you hit!?
lightly further away, Eugeo used his right hand to hold on to the
curved knife while his left hand held onto the glowing grass to hold off
the goblin
s henchmen.
I wanted to say
s just a scratch
, but my stiff tongue couldn
move like I thought as I
nodded with a trembling voice. As I used one
hand to support myself onto the icy surface as I stood up
A burning feeling came out from the left shoulder, feeling like it
was going to burn through all my nerves. *Saka saka*
appeared in my sight.
I couldn
t help but cry out as my throat let out a
tremendous pain!
It was far more than my pain tolerance could handle. I couldn
t do
anything other than curl myself and pant lightly. Even so, I still tried to
look behind to see the damaged
part of my shoulder. The sleeve on the
tunic was completely ripped off, revealing a large and ugly wound on
the skin. It was more like a wound ripped by a giant claw than a sword
wound. The skin and the flesh under it was completely shaved off as
ed blood continued to spurt out. My left arm was only left with
a numbing hot feeling as my fingertips were unable to move, as though
they didn
t belong to me.
How could this possibly be the virtual world?
I cried out inside my
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sword didn
t glow, and my body didn
t accelerate. The blade missed its
target, and I fell in an awkward manner.
However, why was I able to use a sword skill at this moment?
Was it because this was a real battle? But how d
id the system decide
whether the player was seriously battling...?
As I made this thought, I blinked. In the old SAO, there wasn
much of an opening. I would be still after doing a continuous skill, and
the enemy, having been greatly hurt, would be unabl
e to move for the
time being.
in this world, even with the sword skills, it isn
game. I foolishly forgot about that.
The goblin leader with its left arm sliced off was different from
the polygon monsters, as it did not stop for even a
moment. Its flashing
yellow eyes didn
t show any signs of fear nor emptiness, just
overwhelming hatred inside. The pitch black blood flowed out from the
wound as a scalding roar
And quickly swung the machete in its right hand.
I couldn
dodge the incoming heavy blade that was flying
horizontally in time. The area near the tip grazed my left shoulder, and
the pressure alone sent me flying by more than 2m as my back landed
hard on the icy surface.
At this moment, the goblin leader finally
crouched down and put
the machete in its mouth and used the right hand to grab onto the
sliced off part of the left arm. *Misa misa*
a terrifying sound could be
heard. The goblin leader forcefully crushed the flesh to stop the
bleeding. Its actions obvio
usly weren
t of the standard kind of AI. Yes...
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The second strike that swung from left to right horizontally sliced
the chest plate of the armor and made a light cut on the flesh inside.
The third stri
ke that quickly swung down from the top right side
sliced apart the left arm the enemy raised to defend himself from
slightly below the elbow.
The fresh blood that came out from the sliced off surface was
shown as pitch black under the bluish
white light.
The left arm of the
goblin that flew off, *kurukuru* fell into the lake on the left side, letting
out a heavy splash.
I won!
As I firmly believed this, I was thoroughly shocked.
That attack just now... the three
strike sword skill for
anded swords, «Sharp Nail», wasn
t just an appearance, but in
fact it really happened. In the midst of slashing, the blade let out red
trajectories in the air, and my body was accelerated by an invisible
force. In other words, it was «System Assist» with a
«Light Effect».
In other words, in this world, Underworld, sword skills really
existed. The sword skills were installed into the system of the boosted
Recreation of imagination
t explain this phenomenon. I
almost didn
t realize that the s
kill I released was one. The system
detected my initial motions and let out the sword skill through assist to
correct my actions. If not, such a phenomenon couldn
t have happened.
But if that was the case, there was a new question.
Yesterday, I used the single sword skill «Horizontal» with the
«Blue Rose Sword» in order to cut down the demonic tree Gigas Cedar.
That was an elementary skill that was a lot easier than «Sharp Nail»
just an ordinary swing. However, the system never help
ed me. The
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felt like they were ripped off. My sword hit home, but only shattered
the metallic shoulder armor.
I would have been overwhelmed by force if I stopped. Having
such a thought, I kept my center of gravity low and move
d beside the
enemy, aiming for the opened flank of the abdomen before swinging a
horizontal attack. This time was the same as well. Even though I had
the feeling, I couldn
t break through the simple scale mail, and only
managed to send maybe 5
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left and right. Unlike its appearance, it felt a little dull, but it was a lot
better than the Blue Rose Sword th
at was overly heavy.
The leader glared at me with one eye and closed in on me as it
roared, drawing the large machete at its waist with its right hand. The
pitch black blade had blood that seemed to show signs of rust on it,
giving an abnormal pressure.
Can I beat him
ing this enemy who wasn
t tall, but a lot heavier and more
muscular than me, I panicked for an instant. However, I immediately
gritted my teeth and moved forward. If I didn
t beat this guy and save
Selka, it would became a situation in which I have brought
about the
worst fate to her when I came to this world. Size wasn
t a problem. In
the Former Aincrad, I had had countless battles against enemies 3
times larger than me under the condition that I would really die if I lost.
I shouted, partly directed at the leader and partly directed at
myself as I immediately dashed through the remaining distance.
My left foot took a large step forward, using the sword to slash
down at the left shoulder
of enemy diagonally.
I didn
t underestimate the enemy, but the goblin leader
s reaction
was a lot faster than I had imagined. It ignored my attack pattern and
swung its machete horizontally. I kept my body down and barely
managed to dodge it. I felt that
my some of my hair touched it since it
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But he was a little late. Eugeo and I rushed to the fires and kicked
them over to the water. A large amount of ash scattered around as the
two large bonfire sank into
the black water, leaving behind a *syuuu*
sound as they were extinguished with a cloud of white steam.
The dome was immediately in complete darkness for a moment
and then, a faint bluish
white light scattered the darkness. It was the
light on the bristlegrass that Eugeo was holding with his left hand.
At that moment, two lucky things happened.
The goblins surrounding us all screamed out, some covering their
s and some turning their backs. I looked over and saw that even
the goblin leader facing the lake was bending his upper body back and
using his left hand to cover its eyes.
Kirito... this is...?
Eugeo whispered in surprise. I simply answered him.
t likely...these guys are scared of this light. Now
s our chance!
From the weapons placed messily around the lake, I took out a
crude straight sword that looked like a large metal sheet and a curved
knife with a slightly wider volume at the front end. I
put the knife in
s hands.
This knife is used like an axe. Listen, use the bristlegrass
light to
hold them off and chase off the guys closing in.
ll take that one down.
I simply answered and looked at the goblin leader that w
glaring angrily from through the gaps between the fingers covering his
face. I held the straight sword with both hands and quickly swung it
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s similar to the axe. Let
s go... one, two, three!
We were on ice, but Eugeo and I didn
t slip as we ran
at the fastest
speed we could muster. We kept praying that this luck would continue
till the end, and I roared out from the bottom of my abdomen.
Eugeo was slower by a bit as he shouted
sounded like a scream, but it di
d seem to be effective as the 4 goblins
widened their yellowish
green eyes. However, they probably weren
stunned by the shouts, but by the fact that the «Ium brats» lunged at
I ran 10 paces, kept my body down and aimed for the leftmost
goblin and
the one beside it. My right shoulder lunged right over.
Maybe it was the unexpected action and the correction effect of the
difference in size that the two goblins turned twice and skidded off on
the ice. I looked aside, and Eugeo
s hit succeeded beautiful
ly as the
goblins rolled aside like turtle shells rolling.
I continued to charge and accelerated towards the goblin circle.
Likely, these guys didn
t seem to have much response ability as all of
them could only look over blankly without standing up at all
, including
the leader.
Yes. Just stay around like that and don
t move!
I prayed as if I was
scolding them as I ran past the gaps between the goblins and dashed
across the last few meters.
At that moment, the goblin leader, who seemed to have a slightly
higher intelligence than the rest, roared angrily,
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likely be killed, but the fate that awaited Selka would be even crueller. I
t just give up and let it become a part of simulation, absolutely
not. She, like me, was a human
and just a 12
old girl at that.
In that case, what sho
uld I do
s only one choice.
I muttered. Beside me, the frozen body of Eugeo moved.
We have to save Selka no matter what, even if I have to sacrifice my
temporary life.
Of course, it wasn
t that simple. The difference in battle strength
was too
great. While the 30 goblins were all equipped with machetes
and armor equipment, we didn
t even have a stick in hand. But even so,
we had to go. What led to this situation were my careless words in the
first place.
I stared in front and quickly
Listen up. We
re going to save Selka. Don
t move.
Got it.
I immediately heard the response. Just as I expected, the
heart within him was rather strong.
ll count to three, and then we
ll knock down those four at the
front to break
through them. Our sizes are different, and we
definitely succeed if we
re not scared. I
ll take the left, you take the
right, and we
ll throw the fires into the lake. Don
t throw away the lit
grass. Once the flames are out, pick up a sword from the grou
nd and
cover my back. Don
t think of trying to beat them. I
ll use this chance to
deal with the big one.
ve never swung a sword before.
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ve worked
? Or would I have awakened in that forest alone?
Or would I become a bodiless soul that can only watch this world being
Also, in this situation
what would became of the fates of Eugeo
and Selka if they died here?
Unlike me, who had this
«personal medium» that was my brain,
they, Fluctlights who were kept inside some sort of large memory
installation, may disappear completely once they died... that sort of
thing was possible, right?
Oh yeah... Selka, where was she?
I interrupted my thoug
hts and focused on the scene in front of her.
As according to the instructions of the goblin leader, the four
henchmen drew their machetes as they walked over to us, slowly,
carefreely, baring their teeth and cackling, looking like they really
intended to
kill us.
The other goblins, that totalled more than 20, showed excited
expressions, all cackling with delight, *gigi*. Behind them, I finally
found the one I was looking for. I couldn
t see clearly in the darkness,
but Selka, in her black nun habit, was
lying on a crude cart. Her body
was tied up with a straw rope, her eyes closed tightly, but her
expression looked like she should have just passed out.
If I remembered clearly, the goblin leader just now had said that
male «Ium»
possibly referring to hum
t be sold even if
re taken back, so they
ll be killed.
On the other hand, the girl would be sold. They intended to
kidnap Selka, take her back to the land of darkness and sell her as
goods. If this continued without us doing anything, Eug
eo and I would
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A goblin shouted
initially. At this moment, the roar could be heard
from behind, and all the goblins stopped laughing. From amidst the
monsters, there was a goblin that was twice as large as the other
goblins, looking like an officer
This guy was equipped with scal
e mail, and the forehead had a
decorative feather that was of primary colors. The eyes that had a tinge
of red below the feather let out an overwhelming evil and icy cold
intellect that could cause anyone to faint. The goblin leader smirked
and bared
its yellow untidy teeth before saying in a hoarse voice,
We won
t earn much even if we take the male Ium. Too much of a
hassle. Let
s just kill them all and turn them into meat.
To what extent should I accept this term? I was lost.
I should be
able to take away the possibility of real death here,
where my physical body would actually take a fatal blow. These goblins
t possibly hurt my physical body lying in the STL in the real
But even so, I couldn
t assume that this would be the
same as an
ordinary VRMMO and think that it would be just a bad status. That
because, in this world, there were no revival magic or items that
existed for that purpose
other than with the Central area of the
Church. If I got killed by them here, this «K
irito» will most likely meet
his end.
Then, if I died, what would happen to me, the consciousness of
the main body?
Would I have woken up in the Roppongi headquarters of RATH,
and had the operator Higa Takeru hand me a drink while saying
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more depth. In other words, it wouldn
t be strange
for RATH to end
this grand yet arrogant experiment at all.
But the experiment still continued on, which showed that RATH
was still not happy about the current results.
What was lacking?
I kept
thinking about this, and maybe it had something to do with that
«Taboo Index», the rule that Eugeo and the rest couldn
t break.
Anyway, this assumption could explain Eugeo and everyone else
existence. They were different from me in the physical
dimension, but
their souls were all «human», completely the same.
If that was the case, what were these goblins? This strong
hatred that looked like it was about to flow out from the yellow
eyeballs was...?
I didn
t think, and was unwilling to think
that the original form of
their souls were human. Maybe RATH caught a real goblin in real life
and let it use the STL
this fragmented thought flashed in my mind.
The goblin and I stared at each other for less than a second, but it
was enough to terrify
me. As I didn
t know what to do and could only
stand blankly, the goblin in front of me let out a sound, *Giii*
may be a laugh, and stood up.
And then, it spoke.
Oi, look up! What
s going on today? Another 2 white Ium brats
have come running here
At the same time, there were cackles, *gigi*, *gigi*, coming from
all over the dome. From the nearest one, the goblins all raised their
machetes and stood up, giving off hungry looks.
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doubt and surprise, which then changed to a cruel delight and endless
hunger. That was enough to make me tremble li
ke a small insect stuck
in a large spider
s web.
These guys weren
t programs as well.
I realized this clearly in the midst of my overwhelming fear.
These goblins had real souls as well, of a similar nature to Eugeo
and me to a certain extent, intellects
born from Fluctlights.
But why
? Why was there such a thing?
During the approximate 2 days I was released into this world, I
had a rough deduction on what kind of existence Eugeo, Selka and the
other residents were. They were most likely «Artificial Flu
kept inside some artificial medium and not saved in a living person
brain. I couldn
t imagine what kind of medium could preserve a
s soul, but at least it wasn
t hard to imagine that since the STL
could read souls, it should be able to du
plicate them.
It was really a scary thought, but the source of the duplication
was most likely a new
s Fluctlight. They could have duplicated
that thing called the «Original Form of the Soul» endlessly and let them
grow up from babies in this world.
Other than that, there was no other
hypothesis that could explain why the Underworld residents had
Outnumbered the current number of STLs
. What I was
scared about on the first night was that the reason why RATH
challenged god was
to create a real AI, an Artificial Intelligence, and
used human souls as a mould.
This aim was already 90% complete. Eugeo
s foresight had
already far surpassed mine, and his complex emotions already had
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Also, right around the two cluster
s of bonfires, there was a group
of things that looked humanoid but were obviously neither humans
nor wild beasts, and there were more than 30 of them.
Each of them, or it should be said that every single one of them,
t large. The head of the thing
standing was only at my height,
but their bodies with slightly slouched backs were rather muscular,
especially the arms that looked weird and the hands that had sharp
claws on the ends that looked like they could rip anything apart. They
had bright leather
armor on, and their waist had all sorts of fur, bones
and little bags jingling there. Also
even though they were crude, I
could feel power from their crafting machetes.
Their skins were dark grayish
green, and they had some light
bristles growing on the
m. All of them were fully bald, without
exception, and they were growing fur only on the side of the sharp and
pointy ears, like wires. They had no eyebrows, and below the
protruding forehead, there were eyes that were so big that they didn
match their b
ody at all, all giving off a corroded yellow.
They were extremely abnormal
and also things that I had been
used to seeing.
They were the low
level monsters «Goblins» that would definitely
appear in RPGs I was familiar with. Having realized that, I heave
d a
sigh. Goblins were basically monsters used for beginners to train and
gain experience, and their stats were normally very low.
However, this relaxed feeling could only last until the one that
was standing closest to Eugeo and me discovered us and turn
My bones were frozen as well the moment I felt the expression
coming out from the yellow eyes of that guy. Its eyes were showing
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As we continued to
move forward, the smell of burning wood and
the wild stench became thicker. *Gii gii*, the sounds could be heard
with the metallic sounds *gacha* *gacha*. I didn
t know what kind of
people were waiting in front of me, but I could easily imagine that they
t some friendly guys.
Since I don
t even have a knife on my waist at all, I should plan
some strategy before heading forward cautiously...
I whispered to
myself as a game player, but the feeling that it was not the time for this
overwhelmed me. Euge
s face was even grimmer than mine as he
quickly dashed forward with tremendous speed. No matter what, I
t possibly stop him.
Suddenly, there was an orange light swaying on the wall in front
of us. From the reflection, it seemed that it was a
rather large dome
inside. My skin felt a clear prickling sensation at the enemies
there were many of them
a whole lot. I prayed that Selka was fine as
I stepped into the dome space with Eugeo.
I have to look around and take the most suitable o
as fast as
I followed the deduction made in my mind and widened my eyes
to access the situation like a wide
view camera snapping away.
Basically, the round dome was about 50m in diameter. The
ground was covered by a thick layer of ice, b
ut there was a large crack
that opened in the middle, showing the bluish
black surface of water.
The orange light came from two clusters of bonfires. In black
metal cages, *pacha* *pacha*, the firewood was burning away.
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Eugeo and I shouted at the same time as we dashed down the
slippery stone path that had frozen on top.
I was unleashed into the biggest sense of danger
so huge that I
t recall any other situation where I had had a stronger feeling
as it struck my
body like ice, numbing my limbs.
As expected, «Underworld» wasn
t a complete paradise. There
was a pitch black malice wrapped under the thin layer of peace. It
would be illogical otherwise. This world was most likely like a giant
clamp holding down all t
he residents in between. A certain person
spent hundreds of years unscrewing the clamp slowly, watching
whether the residents would unite to resist or feebly get crushed.
Rulid village was most likely one of the closest places to the clamp.
As the «final
moment» continued to approach, the souls of the
residents being annihilated and disappearing would continue to
But I would definitely not allow Selka to become the first one.
That was because I was the one who got her to this cave. I had to make
sure that she would come back safely in order to take responsibility for
getting her fate involved...
Eugeo and I continued to dash at full speed, relying upon the
weak light of the grass. Our breathing became erratic, and whenever
we inhaled, our chests
would feel pain. We nearly slipped a few times,
and the knees and wrists that hit the ice walls would continue to hurt.
It wasn
t hard to imagine that both our «lives» were decreasing.
However, even if it was so, we couldn
t slow down.
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as again reminded that even though there were enemies, there
were no attacking monsters. At least I could assume that the mountain
range at the edge was inside the field area in a VRMMO.
My back that had been tensing up for some reason relaxed at this
and at this moment.
There was a strange sound that came with the wind coming from
the darkness in front of us. Eugeo and I glanced at each other. *Gii*,
*gii*, that sound seemed to be some cry from a certain kind of bird or
wild beast.
Oi... What wa
s that just now?
...Well... It
s the first time I
m hearing this sound... Ah.
What is it this time?
Do you... smell something, Kirito...?
On hearing him say this, I tried hard to smell the incoming wind.
Ahh... something, giving a burnt smell... and...
The burnt
resin smell had a small underlying miasma of beasts in
it. My expression changed the moment I smelled this. This really wasn
a smell that I could bring myself to relax over.
What is this...
Just when I forced out these words, another sound came, and I
and, the long dragged out voice was
undoubtedly the scream of a girl.
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never be able to learn it in their lifetime. I don
t know your aptitude,
Kirito, but it might be impossible for you to learn it immediately...
In other words, if I wanted to use magic...
sacred arts, I had to
practice it countless times to raise my skill level. This really wasn
something that could be mastered instantly. I could only give up for
now and stare at the darkness in front of me.
The moist grey stone path was meandering forwa
rd. Icy cold
wind that could cut the skin blew over at me from the front. I had an
ally with me, but I didn
t even have a wooden stick, let alone a sword,
which really worried me.
I say... Did Selka really come into such a place...?
I couldn
t help mys
elf from muttering. Eugeo silently used the
glowing bristlegrass to light the ground.
The bluish
white ball of light showed a shallow frozen puddle.
The center of the puddle was trampled upon, creating cracks all round.
I tried to step on it, an
d the ice let out a cracking sound as the
cracks became bigger. In other words, there was someone lighter than
me who had just walked on the ice not too long ago.
I see... Guess we
re right then. Really... I don
t know whether
s just reckless or does
t know fear...
I couldn
t help but mutter. On hearing that, Eugeo tilted his head
in a puzzled manner.
Actually, there
s nothing much to be scared about. There
s no
white dragon inside this cave, not even a rat or a bat here.
Is that so...
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The tip of the grass Eugeo grabbed onto let out a bluish
light with a *swoosh*, and the brightness was enough to illuminate
several meters of darkne
ss. Eugeo raised it and stepped into the cave.
My surprise didn
t fade at all as I hurriedly followed him and
walked beside him, asking,
Eugeo... just now, that was?
Eugeo frowned sternly, but obviously showed a delighted
expression as he answered,
This is a sacred art, but it
s just very simple. I learned this by
practising hard in order to get the «Blue Rose Sword» last year.
Sacred art... you know... the System also had the meaning of Lit...
or something like that?
Meaning... not at all.
s a formulaic line. It
s a sentence used to
call god and pray for a miracle. The higher level sacred arts seem to be
a lot longer than the one just now.
I see, so he just treated it as a spell without thinking of it as a form
of language. I nodded awa
y deep inside my heart. However, this spell
really demanded instant effects. The designer of this world was
indubitably a realistic person.
I say... can I use it?
It wasn
t the best situation at the moment, but I still asked with a
thought to try. Eugeo started pondering with uncertainty.
I practised this spell whenever I had free time in my work, and
spent a month to learn this spell. Alice said before that those with
titude would learn it in one day, and those who don
t have it will
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Eugeo turned to me, who was relaxed, and said anxiously.
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Both of us dashed down the remaining few hundred meters left
and stopped at the grassy patch that became gravel. I panted in a
slightly heavy manner and looked up at the scene in front of me in a
dumbstruck manner.
It was no
t the virtual world
the change in area was really too
cut, causing me to think of saying such a thing. There was only a
very narrow buffer zone splitting it, and abruptly, it became a rocky
mountain that was almost vertical. The amazing thing was th
at if I
raised my hand, the places I could touch were covered with thin snow.
I didn
t know how tall it was, but there was pure white light flashing
The snowy mountains extended out to both left and right sides of
where I stood, until I could no l
onger see them. It felt like they wanted
to divide «this side» and «the opposite side» of this world perfectly. If
this world really had a designer, I really wanted to complain that his
design for the boundary was too simple.
Is this...the Mountain range
at the Edge? And on the other side is
the land of darkness...?
I whispered with disbelief. Eugeo nodded.
I was shocked when I came here for the first time. This Mountain
range at the Edge...
...Is so close to us now.
I sighed as I continued and s
ubconsciously tilted my head. It was
a road that had no obstacles, no split paths and a distance that could be
covered in 2.5 hours just by walking faster. It was like
like it was
luring us, luring the residents over to the Taboo area. Or it may be the
her way around, inviting people from the land of darkness to invade...
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with her. And I don
t think things will develop to such an extent. Selka
t possibly commit
such a grave crime.
But Alice did it.
I simply gave an example. With that, Eugeo bit his lips tightly and
shook his head hard to deny it again.
Alice... Alice was special. She was different from everyone else in
the village. Even me... and of cours
e, different from Selka too.
After saying that, he increased his pace as if he didn
t want to
continue talking. I followed him from behind, whispering to that girl
whose name I only knew in my heart,
Alice... what in the world are you?
To the
residents, including Eugeo and Selka, the Taboo Index
t something that could be broken even if they wanted to. It
s like
people in real life being unable to break the laws of physics that states
that they couldn
t fly. This was something that affirmed
observation that «they were still different from me as humans even
though they have real Fluctlights».
However, breaking a powerful Taboo...what kind of existence is this
girl called Alice who could break such a powerful Taboo? Is she a test
player li
ke me using the STL? Or
My feet moved on their own as I tried to piece together all sorts of
thoughts in my mind. At this moment, Eugeo broke the silence.
I see it, Kirito.
I lifted my face, and like he said, at the break of the forest, I could
see g
white rocks lining up.
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No...I guess the Integrity Knight will most probably fly over to
the village tomorrow morning. It was the same six years ago.
see... then, even if it is the worst case scenario, there
s still a
chance to save Selka.
...What are you thinking about, Kirito?
Simple. Today, if we bring Selka away from the village, we might
be able to hide from the Integrity Knight
s pursuit.
Eugeo turned his face forward, remained silent, and whispered,
How is that... possible. What about the Sacred Task...?
I never said that you have to come along, Eugeo.
I deliberately said with a taunting tone.
ll take Selka away. It was
my fault for talking too much, so I
bearing responsibility for this.
On seeing Eugeo
s face from the side showing such a hurt
expression, I felt a sharp pain deep inside. However, this was to shake
his sturdy «Obedient Will». Even thoug
m scolding myself deep
inside for using Selka
s crisis, I had to make sure right this moment
whether the Taboo Index was just a philosophical law or an absolute
rule to the people living in this world.
After that, Eugeo slowly shook his head, several
seconds later.
No... it
s impossible, Kirito. Selka has a Sacred Task too. Even if I
know that the Integrity Knights are out to capture her, I can
t let you go
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No matter how far we moved, the scenery of the river on the right
and the forest on the left never changed. Along the way, we passed by a
lake and a slightly sloped region. It just made me feel like I had entered
the «loop landscape» trap that most RPGs ha
ve. I could no longer hear
the sound of the bell on the tower, and could only deduce the time
from the sun that rose up bit by bit.
Eugeo and I continued to jog down the river, and if it were the me
in the real world, I
d be completely breathless in less
than 30 minutes.
Luckily, the men in this world seemed to have a rather high average
resilience, and I felt that it
s more comforting than tiring to move my
body. I once suggested to Eugeo to go a little faster, but Eugeo said that
if we moved too fast, ou
r life would drop quickly, and we wouldn
t be
able to move if we don
t stop and rest for a long time.
Just like that, we kept running for 2 hours at a suitable speed, but
there was still no sign of the girl in front of us. Speaking of which,
based on the
time now, Selka may have already reached the cave. The
restlessness and anxiety spread through my mouth with a slightly
metallic smell.
I say... Eugeo.
I said as I took note not to mess up my breathing. Eugeo, who was
running on the front side in front of me, turned back to look.
What is it?
This is just for precaution
s sake...but if Selka enters the land of
darkness, will she be taken immediately b
y the Integrity Knight?
At this moment, Eugeo looked like he was searching through his
memory, and immediately denied it.
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Eugeo and I walked towards the north at a speed that wouldn
cause everyone else to feel weird.
The shops were becomi
ng sparse, and once we saw that there
t any more pedestrians, we dashed down the stone steps at a
speed where we were almost going to fall off. After spending about 5
minutes walking towards the bridge above the river, we got past the
eyes of the gua
rd in the sentry post before running out of the village.
Unlike the wheat fields that stretched down the horizon in the
south, the north of the village had a thick forest. A river circled around
the hill that formed Rulid village and headed through the fo
extending out of both the north and south of the village. There was a
small path with thin grass growing on the river bank.
Eugeo kept his eyes on the path that shifted to the riverside,
walked for another 10 steps and stopped. He used his left han
d to stop
me and knelt down, using his right hand to touch some slightly tall
s here...there are some signs that this place has been stepped
He muttered and quickly drew a mark to summon the «Window»
of the grass.
The Life has decreased
by a little. If it were an adult, it would
have been decreased a lot more. A kid definitely came by here before.
s hurry.
I nodded and followed Eugeo, who was becoming faster.
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Eugeo blinked a few time
s, and finally nodded slowly.
Ahh... that did happen before. Why... as for why I didn
t say so...
m not so sure about the reason... but maybe I was worrying that Selka
would try to follow Alice
s footsteps...
s it.
I groaned softly.
I told
Selka last night about Alice touching the land of darkness...
Selka must have gone to the Mountain range at the Edge.
s face immediately turned pale.
s very bad. We have to get her back before the villagers find
out and chase after
her... when did Selka leave?
I don
t know. She was gone when I woke up at 5:30...
In this season, dawn is around 5. It
s impossible to walk in the
forest if she leaves earlier. In that case, 3 hours...
Eugeo looked up at the sky and continued,
When Alice and I went to the cave, we spent less than 5 hours on
our feet while we
re kids. Selka
s most likely halfway there. I don
know if we can catch up if we chase after her now...
Got to be fast. Let
s move.
I said anxiously, and Eugeo nodded
No time to get ready. Luckily, we will be moving down the river,
so there
s no need to worry about water. Alright... this way.
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Ya, Kirito. Good morning.
Morning, Eugeo.
I saw Eugeo, who was smiling at me like yesterday, and simply
greeted him before continuing,
Are you re
sting the entire day too, Eugeo?
s right, yeah. That
s why I want to bring you around the
village, Kirito.
s good, but before that, I need your help. Selka has gone
missing since morning... I want to go around to look...
Eugeo wi
dened his green eyes, and then frowned worriedly.
She left the church without telling Sister Azariya anything?
Seemed so. The Sister even said that this is the first time such a
thing happened. Eugeo, do you know where Selka may have gone?
she could be, huh? Even if you ask me...
I told some things about Alice to Selka last night, so I want to see
if there is any place she might have memories with Alice...
At this moment, I finally realized, at a moment so late it amazed
me, the truth b
ehind the anxiety inside my heart.
What, is there something wrong, Kirito?
t tell me...
Hey, Eugeo. You didn
t tell Selka the reason
Alice was taken away by the Integrity Knight when she asked you,
right? Why?
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We bought two days worth of food yesterday and stored them
last night because the sh
ops in the village are all on break.
Ahh... I see.
At this moment, my lacking imagination reached its limit.
...She must have had something urgent going on. She
ll definitely
come back.
ll be good if that were the case...
Sister Azariya continued to frown in a worried manner, but still
sighed lightly in the end.
Then, we
ll wait
till noon. If she still hasn
t come back, I
ll look
for the people at the village council to discuss this. Sorry for bothering
you. I still have
to prepare for worship, so I
ll take my leave then.
Well... I
ll go around nearby to look.
After watching the Sister nod, bow and leave, I poured away the
water in the tray, all the while having a bad feeling about this. I
remembered that I was a lit
tle worried when I talked to Selka
yesterday, but I couldn
t remember what it was about. What did I say
to cause Selka to go missing?
I finished the worship with anxiety in my heart, comforted the
kids who were continuously asking where Selka nee
chan wen
t to,
finished my breakfast, and the girl still hadn
t came back. I hurriedly
cleared up the utensils for breakfast and walked out of the front door
of the church.
I didn
t agree with Eugeo to meet here, but as the bell rang at 8, I
could still see the fl
colored hair walking into the plaza from the
road in the north. I surged out, and ran towards him.
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she nodded and answered
. My heart was really shocked to
see her stern lips curl
ed up more than usual.
Then... Sister, is there something...?
I asked tentatively. The Sister blinked hesitantly and simply said,
Selka is missing.
san, do you know anything? Selka seemed to be very close
to you...
Was she
suspecting that I did something to Selka? I felt very
embarrassed for a moment, but immediately felt that was not the case.
In this world which had the absolute law, the Taboo Index that no one
could break, the Sister probably didn
t even think of a huge c
rime like
kidnapping a girl. In other words, she felt that Selka disappeared on
her own, and simply wanted to ask if I knew where she went.
Well... no, I
ve never heard anything... it
s a rest day today, right?
Did she go home?
I racked my still
brain as I said this, but the Sister
immediately shook her head.
Selka has never gone home ever since she came to this church
two years ago. Even if she did, she would have told me so without
hiding anything. She went off without even attending worship
morning. Even though
s no rule that forbids her from doing
Then... did she go off to buy something? How are the ingredients
for breakfast prepared?
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Part 4
*Klang*. The 5:30 bell rang, and I opened my eyes at that moment,
thinking that I should do what I could do at this moment as I got off the
neat bed.
I opened the
window to the north, stretched my back, and took a
deep breath full of cold air dyed with the color of dawn. I took a few
deep breaths, and the sleepiness remaining within the back of my head
disappeared completely.
I pricked my ears to listen, and the k
ids in the room opposite the
corridor had woken up as well. I quickly changed my clothes so that I
had the chance to wash myself at the well before them.
My «Initial Equipment», the tunic and cotton pants, showed no
signs of obvious stains, but Eugeo said
that their lives would quickly
drop if I don
t wash them. If that was the case, it was about time for me
to consider changing my clothes. I would discuss this with Eugeo
thought as I walked out of the back door and arrived at the well.
I took a few scoops of water from the pail and poured it into the
tray, and as I bent down to wash my face, someone quickly approached
me from behind.
s most likely Selka
, I thought as I lifted myself up,
wiping off the water on my hands as I turned aro
Ahh...morning, Sister.
Standing over there was Sister Azariya, who was in a habit, which
t show any sign of sloppiness. I hurriedly lowered my head, and
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Well... I think it
s that, they went into a
certain cave at the top of
the river and passed through the Mountain range at the Edge, and her
hand touched the land of the darkness, so that
s what I heard...
...I see... she went through the Mountain range at the Edge...
Selka seemed to be ponderin
g about something, but she soon
nodded and continued,
s a rest day to tomorrow, but prayer time is the same as usual.
Remember to wake up. I don
t want to wake you up.
I, I
ll try.
For an instant, Selka smiled, and then opened the door before
I heard her footsteps move further away before lying down on the
bed. I really wanted to get some information on this mysterious girl
called Alice, but Selka, who was only 5 or 6 back then, really didn
have any memories, as expected. What I know i
s that Eugeo
s feelings
for Alice are really great.
I closed my eyes and tried to recall the profile of that girl called
But my mind definitely couldn
t picture her face, as a golden light
flashed through my eyes.
The next morning, I was painful
ly made aware of how little I
actually thought that through.
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Ah...no, no, of course not... I just have this kind of feeling... an,
anyway, I
m me, and not others... that
s why I feel that you just need to
do what you can do, Selka.
This is yet another clichéd line. Selka pondered for a while, and
then nodded h
er head.
...Yeah. I... might be unable to face the fact that I have nee
straight in the eye...
As I watched her say such words with a determined attitude, I
really felt guilty since I will take Eugeo away from her. Just when I was
thinking hard, t
he bell tower above us rang out a melody.
Ah... it
s 9 now. I should go back to my room. Oh yes...is that all
you want to hear, Kirito?
Selka tilted her head as she asked this, and I answered with
s enough
Is that so. I
ll go back then.
Selka got up from the bed and headed to the door, but after
several steps, she stopped and turned,
I say... Kirito. Do you also know why nee
sama was taken away
by the Integrity Knight?
Eh... ahh. What about it?
I don
t know at all. Father wouldn
t say anything... I once asked
Eugeo a long time ago, but he wouldn
t tell me. Then, what
s the
I hesitated for a slight moment, but once I remembered that
reason, I just can
t help but say it.
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same. That
s why I left home and moved to the church. Even when I
came here... it
s the same with Sis
ter Azariya. I just feel when she
teaching me sacred arts that she would say that nee
sama just needed
one time before being able to learn it
but Eugeo
s not like that... but
he continued to avoid me. Perhaps he would think of nee
sama when
he sees me.
All of this... it
s not my fault! I can
t even remember nee
s face...!
The petite profile under the thin nightgown jerked, and to be
honest, my heart was greatly touched. This may be because up till now,
in a corner of my mind, I always thought tha
t this world was going
through some simulation, and even though Selka and the rest may not
be programs, they were all temporary existences. I looked at this 12
old girl that continued to cry, and didn
t know what to do as my
body stiffened. Selka used
her right hand to wipe the tears off her eyes.
...Sorry. I got too agitated.
No... it
s fine. Well, if you feel like crying, I guess it
s best to just
cry it out.
Why am I saying such things? Even though I felt this way, this line
that seemed to be
from some popular idol drama in Japan in the 21st
century caused Selka to smile as she nodded honestly.
...Un, yeah. I am feeling somewhat happy. It
s been awhile since I
cried in front of others.
Heh. You
re rather amazing, Selka. I was crying in
front of others
at your age, you know.
My mind remembered the times I cried in front of Asuna and
Suguha as I said this. Selka widened her eyes and looked at me,
Well...Kirito, have you regained your memories?
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Fluctlight. During the past 6 years, he
s been gravely hurt by the
troubles bothering him.
I have to go to the capital. I again strengthened this thought in me.
s not just for myself as I want to let Eugeo leave the village to meet
Alice and let both of them reunite. This idea continued to remain inside
my mind without being able to scatter away. In that case, I have to cut
down the Gigas Cedar...
...Hey, what
are you thinking about?
s words dragged me back from my thoughts. I lifted my face
and said to her,
Nothing... just thinking about something. Like you said, Eugeo
really treated Alice dearly.
Just when I said those words in my heart, Selka
s fa
ce seemed to
tremble. The beautiful eyebrows and large eyes showed a lonely
I... see. Just as I expected.
As she dropped her shoulders and whispered such words, even a
blockhead like me realized it.
Selka... do you like Eugeo?
Wha... w
hat are you saying?
Her eyebrows curled up to show a protesting look, but her face
was already so red it reached the neck. I thought she would lower her
head, but she said while looking slightly tense.
s just that, I can
t take it... whether it w
as father or mother,
even when they never said so, they kept sighing when they compared
me to nee
sama when she
s not around, and the other adults are the
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up several years ago... as if Alice nee
s room never existed... that
why, I tho
ught everyone forgot about Alice nee
sama... so Eugeo...
What do you mean he forgot? Eugeo really missed Alice. Because
of that... if he didn
t have his Sacred Task, he may have rushed to the
On hearing my words, Selka remained silent for a w
hile, and then
Is that so... then, the reason Eugeo never smiles anymore was
because what happened to Alice nee
Eugeo... never smiles?
Ehh. When nee
sama was in that village, he was always smiling.
It was really rare to not see him
smile. I was very young back then, but
I still remember clearly... however, after nee
sama went, I almost never
saw Eugeo
s smiling face. Also... on his rest days, if he wasn
t cooped up
at home, he would head to the forest, being alone all the time...
I continued to listen as I thought inside my heart. It
s true that
s someone who does things in a calm manner, but he doesn
give off an introverted aura. He was smiling quite a bit when he was
talking to me when we went to the forest, were returnin
g back to the
village, and even during rest time.
The reason why he couldn
t show his smile to Selka and the
villagers is most likely
guilt. Alice, who was beloved and given lofty
expectations towards, was taken away, and perhaps he had such guilt
at be
ing unable to do anything...? He wouldn
t blame himself in front of
me, an outsider when I don
t know anything, so maybe that
s why.
If that
s the case, Eugeo
s soul is definitely not created by a
program. He has a real consciousness and soul like me... a
nd the
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Selka received the glass of water I returned and said with a very
fast speed,
If you have anything to ask me, please hurry. It
s forbidden for
me to enter a boy
s room after bathing, but the guest room doesn
count. H
owever, Sister Azariya will scold me if she knows about it.
m really sorry. I
ll just ask then. Actually...I want to hear
about your sister.
Suddenly, the slender shoulders under the white nightgown
trembled slightly.
...I don
t have an one
As in right now? I heard about it from Eugeo, about your sister,
Before I could even finish speaking, Selka lifted her head, which
surprised me slightly.
From Eugeo? He told you about Alice nee
sama? Until where?
Ah...un, well...
Alice studied sacred arts in this church...and six
years ago, she was taken to the capital by the Integrity Knight...
...I see...
Selka sighed slightly and lowered her head, whispering as she
...Eugeo, he still hasn
t forgotten... about
Alice nee
Everyone in the village...whether it
s father, mother, Sister, all of
them wouldn
t say anything about Alice nee
sama. Her room was tidied
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Selka didn
t show any change in expression as she took up the last
glass placed on the table beside her and handed it over to me.
Oh, thanks.
I received the drink and sat beside
Selka before drinking up the
icy cold well water. It felt like the water was entering my thirsty body
as it seeped to the tip of my limbs drop by drop. This feeling caused me
to exclaim,
nectar, nectar!
Nectar? What
s that?
After that, Selka til
ted her head while looking like she didn
understand. Damn it, this term doesn
t exist in this world. I panicked
when I realized this.
Errm... it
s something that can be said to be tasty, a water that
feels like it heals once someone drinks from it...
or something like that.
Fmm... like an elixir?
Wha, what
s that?
The priest
holy water of blessing. You may not have seen
it before, but just a small bottle of that thing can immediately recover
any life that
s reduced by injuries or illnes
Since there
s such a thing, why did the virus cause so many
deaths? I thought about this, but realized that it
s better not to ask this
and remained silent. At least this world ruled by this amazingly
Axiom Church isn
t a paradise lik
e I thought, and that
s how it is.
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At the same time, a sound could be heard from the door leading
the changing room, causing me to recover.
Arre, is anyone inside?
I realized that it
s Selka, and hurriedly stood up.
Ah, well, it
s me
Kirito. Sorry, I
ll get out immediately.
U...un. Take your time. Remember to remove the stopper of the
k when you go out and turn off the lamp. Good bye then...I
ll be
going back to my room, so good night.
Realizing that Selka was about to leave, I suddenly called her to
stop her from behind the door.
Ah...Selka. I have something to ask you. Are you fre
e tonight?
Selka suddenly stopped and remained silent for a while in a
seemingly hesitant manner, but finally said in a barely audible voice,
...A little can do. The kids in my room should be sleeping, so I
wait in your room.
She walked over in sm
all steps without waiting for my answer. I
hurriedly got out from the tank, removed the stopper at the bottom of
the tank, turned off the lamp and walked towards the changing room.
Even if I didn
t wipe myself with a towel, the water droplets would dry
quickly. I put on some home clothes and returned to the peaceful
corridor before climbing up the stairs.
I opened the door to the guest room, and Selka, who was moving
her legs as she sat on the side of the bed, lifted her head. Unlike last
night, she wa
s wearing a cotton nightgown, and her brown hair was
tied in three tails.
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can discover the real identity of RATH
which has lots of financial
power that doesn
t match its size and visibility
the mysterious
organization. This was the first and last chance for me.
No... this may be, another, excuse...
I dipped my mouth into the water, let out bubbles and said this.
Or maybe, I
m simply driven by my desire as a VRMMO player. I
am driven by this absolutely foolish and immature desire to «clear»
this «world»
this w
orld that doesn
t have any manual, and barge
through using my own knowledge and instincts, refine my sword skills
and beat lots of amazing guys to head for the goal to be the strongest.
Being strong in the virtual world, to put it simply, is a false
ssion created by the values of the parameters, and I thought of
this many times in the past. When Heathcliff broke through my highest
level dual
wielding sword skill, when I collapsed in front of the Fairy
King Oberon in a very ugly state, and when I was p
ursued by Death
Gun and wondering whether I should run away when I
m at my wits
end, I gritted my teeth all the time and swore that I wouldn
t make the
same mistake the next time.
But at the same time, the flames burning inside me seemed like
they wanted
to devour me in fire. That Blue Rose Sword that I can
wield, how many people can easily wield it in this world? How strong
are the Integrity Knights that protect the law and the Dark Knights of
the dark world? What kind of guys are the ones at the top po
sitions of
the Axiom Church in this world...?
I subconsciously waved my right hand to break the water surface,
and the water that flew hit the wall in front of me and let out a slight
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The bath hall of the Rulid church was built with a lar
ge bronze
water tank that had burnt tiles under it and had a furnace built outside
the wall to add firewood to heat the water. It really reminded me of the
middle ages bathhouses in Europe. I have no idea whether it
s designed
as such by the creator of thi
s world or an outcome of a self
through simulation of several hundred years.
After dinner, the two females Sister Azariya and Selka used it, and
after that, I entered with the other 4 boys. After some ruckus, the kids
finally left. However, there was no dirt in this container full of bath
water. I used both hands to raise the trans
parent liquid and splash it
hard at my head before letting out a delayed sound. Ufuee~
At this point, I
ve been in this world for about 33 hours.
The FLA acceleration rate as I dive is unknown, so I can
t deduce
how much actual time has passed. If it
f equal rate
the same rate
as reality, and if I
m missing, my family members and Asuna will be
On thinking about this, the anxiety rose up my throat, causing me
to be unable to relax in the bath and frantically thought of a way to
leave this
place. But on the other hand, I really wanted to find out other
mysteries in this world.
I, who was able to keep the memories of Kirigaya Kazuto as I
arrived in this world, can only think that there
s something abnormal
going on. That
s because my own act
ions alone will cause a drastic
deviation in the simulation test. The researchers probably don
t want
to see me corrupt this grand experiment that has lasted for at least 300
In other words, the moment I encountered such a shocking crisis,
I may ha
ve encountered a once in a thousand chance as well. That is, I
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probably could do it if I raised my Authority level to 45, but I couldn
find any way.
If this world used an ordinary VRMMORPG system, I will have to
continuously practice or beat monsters to gain experience. I really
have no idea
if I have enough time to try out the former, and I haven
found a monster yet. If I met a situation of
Getting a rare item but not
at a level high enough to equip it
, the normal response was to gain
experience here by working here. However, I
m only le
ft with despair if
I can
t find a way to raise my experience.
The MMO game is most interesting when there
s no clearing
website and the player has to start from the beginning and test
everything out
s what the heavy users would say, and they
definitely not say this once they returned to reality. As I
thinking about this, Eugeo finished his 50 swings, wiped his sweat
away and turned around.
How about it, Kirito? Do you still want to swing the axe?
Ahh... my pain has subsided somewhat.
I staggered up with my feet and reached my right hand out to
grab the Dragon Bone Axe. It was really a lot lighter than the Blue Rose
Well, let
s pray that swinging the axe will increase that parameter.
I thought as I wielded the axe and took it ba
ck by pulling it behind.
Uahhh...this is absolutely paradise...
I soaked my body that was still not used to the fatigue and soaked
myself inside the warm water and couldn
t help but say that out.
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decreased slightly may be because I just swung it wildly. I then looked
The next line is
[Object Control Authoriy: 38]
. Below it
is the line
[System Control Authority: 1]
These are the only things. Th
e required experience value in an
RPG, level, status indicator; there wasn
t anything there at all. I bit my
lips and repeated them.
Un... Object Control Authority... this...
The term gave me a feeling that it should be a numerical
parameter related to
the tool. However, I had no idea how big the
parameter 38 here.
I sighed and looked up to see the back of Eugeo swinging the axe
diligently. As I watched him, I suddenly had an idea, so I removed my
own window and tried to check out the information on th
e Blue Rose
Sword. I undid the rope knot slightly, showed a bit of the hilt, drew a
mark and tapped it lightly.
The window that appeared showed the life value 197700 that
could match the Gigas Cedar and also the thing I wanted to see. Below
the life value
, there
s a
[Class 45 Object]
indicated there. There
was a very high chance that this had something to do with the Control
Authority I just saw. My Authority
s 38, far less than 45.
I removed the window of the sword and tied the bag up before
sitting besi
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Since the sword exists in this world, there should be someone in
this world who can wield it at will and equip it. Eugeo and I just don
have the necessary conditions in this s
In that case, what would the conditions be? Class? Level? Status?
What exactly is it, and how should I start investigating...
On thinking about this, I opened my mouth slightly. It was due to
the shock of my own slow
Of course,
I just needed to open my status window to check it.
Yesterday, I summoned a «window» on Eugeo
s round bun... and I tried
to turn off the lamp in the church
s room; I didn
t think of that at all.
How stupid.
I reached my left hand out and drew the command
mark from
before. I pondered and tapped the back of my right hand. Just as I
expected, there was a ring and a purple rectangle appearing in my
Unlike the bread
s window, there were many lines of words here.
I subconsciously started to search the
key, but I just couldn
t find it no
matter what.
First, there
s the line
at the top. Unit
ID; this caused me a chill, but now
s not the time to dig deep into this. I
kept the alphanumerical values in mind, since it should be a serial
umber commonly used in this world.
Below it is the
that could also be seen on the bread
and the Gigas Cedar, the «Life» Eugeo talked about. The indicated value
. Normally speaking, the left side is the current value
while the righ
t side is the maximum value. The reason why it
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Both of us stared at the tree again. The Blue Rose Sword hit the
top of the opening at a slight angle, bounced off and stabbed into the
But I think your footwork
t bad...
I wanted to say that Eugeo was a little indecisive, but after seeing
him looking like a kid being lectured, I could only forget about it and
seem to give up as I picked up the white leather scabbard that was
lying on the moss. Eugeo drew the
Blue Rose Sword and cautiously put
it back into the scabbard in my hand. He then put it inside the leather
bag, tied the rope up and put it not too far away.
Fuu, Eugeo exhaled and took up the Dragon Bone Axe beside the
Gigas Cedar before shouting,
hh, this axe feels as light as a feather
alright, we dilly
dallied enough just now. Got to work hard for the afternoon.
Ahh... sorry for making you do such a thing with me, Eugeo...
On hearing my apology, the youth turned around and gave an
innocent smile. That smile can only be described as honest.
s fine Kirito. I
m happy about that too. Then... I
ll start with 50
KON KON. The rhythmic sounds came as the axe was swung.
looked away from Eugeo, walked towards the Blue Rose Sword that
was laid down and stroked the leather jacket.
I was definitely thinking in the right direction there. If I used this
sword, the Gigas Cedar can definitely be toppled. However, it
s just li
what Eugeo said. If I swing it wildly, there
ll be quite the price to pay.
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But at the final moment, the left foot supporting his whole body
weight slipped slightly. The sword that was swung, hacked a V sign at
the top, a
nd let out a deep sound and stopped. Eugeo then fell back in
the opposite way, as I did, and hit the back of the thick trunk before
O, oi, are you alright?
I hurriedly ran over to Eugeo, who raised his right hand to show
that he was
alright, but was still frowning. Looking at him like this, I
finally realized the truth that pain also existed in the world.
SAO, ALO, these VRMMO games that existed would send the pain
that should be felt from the brain to the «Pain Absorber» unit to nu
it when the avatar
s damaged. Without this, no one would go through a
physical battle where their hit points are destroyed.
However, it seemed that there was no entertainment mindset
here in this world. Even though the pain finally eased up, my wris
still felt a sharp pain as if I sprained them. If I get severely injured by a
weapon, how painful will that be?
In Underworld, if I am to clash with other people, I
ll have to make
a realization completely different from now. No matter what, I was
r able to imagine the pain of being hacked at by a blade with
weight at all until now.
Eugeo, who is more tolerant to pain than me, used only 30
seconds before his pained expression vanished and he stood up gently
Un, I still can
t do it, Kirito.
Our lives will decreased by a lot
before we actually hit it accurately for once.
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But that
s if we can use the sword well. If it hurts just by
swinging once, and if we keep missing the part we
re aiming at, it
ll be
slower than using an axe.
I can
t do it, but what about you, Eugeo? You should be a lot
stronger. Try swinging it once.
I continued to hassle Eugeo, and though he gave a hesitant look,
he finally said that he
ll try it and faced that tree again.
His hands held onto the Blue
Rose Sword
s hilt that was
entrenched into the large tree and did a prying action. The blade finally
left the bark of the tree, and Eugeo
s upper body swayed. The tip of the
blade landed on the ground, letting out a clear and crisp sound.
It, it
s really
heavy. I can
t do this, Kirito.
If I can do it, you definitely can, Eugeo. The basics are about the
same as swinging an axe. You need to use more of your weight than
when swinging an axe. Don
t just use your wrist
s power. Keep your
body steady.
I ca
t guarantee how much of the words actually reached him.
Eugeo was really someone who
d been using the axe for a long time as
he didn
t even need a moment to understand this. His honest face
became serious as he nodded and bent down to lift the sword.
After moving back slowly to lift the sword, he paused for a while,
and then took a deep breath before quickly swinging the sword with
tremendous speed. The right foot stepped right forward, and this
series of weight lifting skills caused me to be flabberga
sted. A blue trail
was left behind in the air as the tip of the blade charged towards the
center of the cut.
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The blade
s not damaged at all...and it really cut two centimeters
into the Gigas Cedar
s bark...
I endured the pain all over me and stood up, patting away the
dust on my clothes.
This, this i
s just to test the outcome. That Blue Rose Sword far
exceeds the Dragon Bone Axe... in terms of attack power. Try looking at
the life of the Gigas Cedar.
U, un.
Eugeo nodded and again drew the seal before knocking on the
bark. He looked at the window
that popped out..
Wha, what!?
This time, it
s my turn to be shocked.
Just a little? So much was cut into... why... don
t tell me it won
work if it
s not the axe...?
No, that
s not the reason.
Eugeo pulled his hand back and shaked his head.
s that you
re cutting it at the wrong place. If it
s not the bark
but the core that
s hit directly, its life will decrease greatly. That
s what
I feel... and when that happens, my Sacred Task will be ove
Eugeo turned away, giving a complicated expression, and bit his
lips lightly.
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and let go of the sword while my face had an intimate moment with the
moss on the ground.
WAH! Didn
t I say this would happen already?
Eugeo ran towards me, and with his help, I managed to sit down
and spit out the moss in my mouth. Besid
es the face that hit the ground
first, my wrists, waist and knees are all hurting so much I feel like
screaming. The pain would still last for quite a while, but I continued to
squeeze out such words.
...This can
t do... the status
still red...
In the
old SAO, if one equips a weapon that doesn
t have the
required STR, a window will pop out to state this. However, these
words probably never reached Eugeo as it seemed to worry him all the
more. At this moment, I hurriedly add on,
No, that... I just lac
k body strength. Also, is there really a
swordsman that can wield such a monstrous weapon?
I let my shoulders sink, rubbed my right wrist and turned over.
Eugeo followed me and looked behind.
Both of us are stunned.
The Blue Rose Sword, that beautiful
sword that was swinging in
the air is stabbed into half of the Gigas Cedar.
...No way... just one hit can cause...
Eugeo suddenly stood up and said with a hoarse voice while being
speechless for the time being.
He tentatively reached out his right fin
gers to touch the
intersection of the sword and the tree.
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Of co
urse, the basis of the world system is different here, so I can
simply use the same method. However, my impression of the body
movement should work here. Eugeo waited slightly far away from the
tree, and I moved to the left of the cut in the tree trunk,
bent down and
maintained a low sword
drawing posture with the sword that caused
my arms to be worn out just by maintaining it.
s no need to carry out any continuous hits. Just a normal
horizontal swing on the middle right side will do. If I have to
borrow a
name for this sword skill in SAO, it would be «Horizontal». It
s a basic
skill that could be learnt at the beginning of the game.
I adjusted my breathing and moved my weight onto the right foot
before moving the sword back slightly. I lifted my l
eft foot up due to
the inertial weight of the sword. It looked like I
m about to end up
sitting down on my butt, but I have to fight this no matter what until
the sword tip reaches the target. I stamped my right foot on the ground
and shifted my weight to
the left side of my body, converting the
strength in the swinging motion inside the legs and waist from the
hands to the tip of the waist, and I carried out my horizontal swing.
The sword lets out a glow, and even though it doesn
t accelerate
on its own,
my body still traces the posture for a sword skill perfectly.
Let the left foot landing on the ground create a tremor, move the large
and heavy sword and use the inertia that
s not forcing me back yet, and
go forward with the ideal trajectory
However, this could only be used as a demonstration. My legs
were unable to stand firm, and the blade itself hit the tree bark.
*GIIIINNN!!* A sharp sound was heard as the birds on the trees all
flew off. However, I can
t see all this as I couldn
t endure
the feedback
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Or does the Taboo Index has a clause that states that you can
use a sword to chop the Gigas Cedar down?
this, it didn
t mention at all...
Or did the village chief, or the predecessor... Garitta jii
san said
that you can
t use anything other than the Dragon Bone Axe?
No... he didn
t mention... I feel... something like this happened
Eugeo mu
ttered, but still got up to stand in front of the Gigas
Cedar. He drew a seal with his left hand and knocked on the tree trunk,
staring at the window that appeared
Well, 232,315.
Alright. Remember this number.
But Kirito. You can
t possibly wield
that sword properly. You
being unstable just by wielding it now.
Anyway, just watch. You don
t use strength to lift a heavy sword,
you use the center of gravity.
It was a memory from a long time ago, but in the old SAO, I liked
swords with weight.
I preferred the feeling of using one hit to smash an
enemy more than weapons that relied on speed and continuous attacks
to win. As my level increased and my strength stat rose, the weight of
the sword in my hand would continue to decrease. That
s why I
ntinued to change swords
the first time I wielded the swords that
became my last partners felt like how it is right now as I wield the Blue
Rose Sword. Also, the old me had a sword in each hand as I continued
with such manual labor
like intensity.
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The names «Solus» and «Stacia» that Eugeo and Selka often talked
about, the names that often appear in the Sister
s prayers; these should
be a setting in th
is fantasy world, and I didn
t pay too much attention to
that as I made such a decision.
However, with the appearance of a god created weapon or
something like this case, I felt that I have to reconsider this. The gods of
the virtual world
would that me
an the people managing from the
real world or the main process in the server?
This seemed to be a question that can
t be answered no matter
how I think. Even right now, I can only feel that this Axiom Church is an
existence similar to the «Central System»
Anyway, this sword should have quite the high priority level
given by the system, and now we have to compare it with the Gigas
Cedar priority and see which priority level is higher
this outcome
will decide whether I can go to the capital with Eugeo.
Eugeo, can you check on the Life of the Gigas Cedar?
I continued to wield the sword as I said this and Eugeo gave me a
doubtful look.
t tell me, Kirito...you intend to use this sword to hit the Gigas
If you moved it here, is there any ot
her reason why?
s true... but...
I continued to say things to Eugeo, who had his head down, to
convince him not to hesitate.
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I thought that this sword that
s stabbed deep inside the ground
like a pillar would be hard to mov
e with so much resistance, but I just
moved it slightly, and the blade itself slid out from the scabbard
smoothly. Swoosh. With that crisp sound, the sword was drawn, and I
felt a lot of weight from the right shoulder to the wrist. I hurriedly
threw aside
the scabbard in my left hand and used both hands to hold
onto the sword.
The scabbard looked like it was made of metal, but seemed to
have a lot of weight as it stabbed into the ground with a thud. It nearly
hit my left foot, but I didn
t have the time to
back away as I continued
to maintain the sword
s balance.
Luckily, the sword was 3 times lighter once I took off the
scabbard, and I could continue to maintain this for a while. I continued
to look at the blade of the sword in a seemingly attracted manne
s really an inexplicable material. The slightly metallic object
that was only 3.5 cm wide gave off a light blue glow as it reflected the
sunlight shining through the leaves. Looking closely, the blade
reflected off the sunlight with the image surfac
e, and some of the light
seemed to remain on the inside of the blade, giving off a diffused
reflectance. Anyway, it just looks somewhat transparent.
This isn
t an ordinary metal nor silver. It
s different from dragon
bone too, and obviously not glass...
Eugeo said with a slightly awestruck tone,
In other words, this isn
t something made by human hands...
s what I feel. It
s made by a powerful Sacred Arts caster borrowing
the power of god, or something that may be made by a god... such an
item is
called a «Divine Instrumen�t. This Blue Rose Sword is definitely
a Divine Instrument too.
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6 years ago, Alice and I went to the mountain range at the edge
to search for the white dragon, but we didn
t find it. What we saw was
a hill of bones with a blade slash.
Eh...dra , no, did someone
kill the dragon? Who, exactly...?
I don
t know. Maybe some people... were interested in the
treasure. There were a lot of gold and treasures scattered all over the
place. This «Blue Rose Sword» was amongst them as well. Of course, I
t take it as th
e sword was heavy...
and on the way home, we
went through the wrong exit, passed through the mountain range and
entered the dark world. What happened next is just like what you
I see...
I turned my eyes to the hands supporting the sword.
But... this sword, why is it here?
...During summer two years ago, I went to the cave in the north
again and took it out. I moved it for several kilometers every day on my
rest days and hid it inside the forest... until I moved it into the storage
It took me 3 months and as for why I did this...to be honest, I
t know either...
He probably still can
t forget about Alice? Or maybe he wanted to
wield this sword to save her.
Such a thought flashed through my mind, but my respect for this
called Eugeo didn
t allow me to simply say these words. I regained
my momentum and raised the sword, using my right hand to hold onto
the hilt of the sword.
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adventures, but the most famous of them is «Bercouli and the Northern
White Dragon»...
Eugeo suddenly looked far a
way and continued on with a sad
...Simply put. Bercouli went to the mountain range at the edge
and lost his way deep inside the cave, which caused him to fall into the
white dragon
s cave. The white dragon guarding the human world was
a nap and Bercouli took the chance to escape. However,
amongst the pile of treasures that were scattered inside the cave, there
was a sword he wanted to get no matter what. He took the sword
silently and was about to leave, but a blue rose suddenly grew ou
t and
tangled Bercouli. He fell, and the sound woke the white dragon... that
how the story was.
Wha, what happened next?
I can
t help but be attracted by this story, and so I asked. Eugeo
said that it
s a long story as he smiled and continued on wit
h this,
Anyway, a lot of things happened, and Bercouli was finally
forgiven. He put the sword back and escaped to the village. That
really something worth being happy about... but really a boring story. If
only we didn
t have the urge to check whether
it was real during our
The voice seem to have a thick sense of regret, and I finally
realized that the
our childhood
refers to Eugeo and his childhood
friend, the girl called Alice. In this village, the only kids with such
mobility would b
e them.
After a moment of silence, Eugeo continued.
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Mishi mishi. I felt that the joints all over me seemed to be rubbing,
but the package finally started to move. I lifted the part with the ro
knot on it and turned it 90 degrees before letting the bottom end of the
item rest on the ground. I used my left hand to support it with all I had
without letting it fall. My right hand undid the knot of rope tied around
it and moved the leather cover d
Inside it is a long sword that
s so beautiful that even I can
t help
but be amazed by it.
The sword hilt was delicately crafted with silver, and the handle
was carefully wrapped fully with white leather. The Knuckle guard was
decorated with foliage,
and it
s obvious what kind of plant was used.
Whether it
s the top of the handle or the white leather scabbard,
re all covered with a sparkling rose that
s carved out from jade.
It gave off an antique vibe, but didn
t have any stains on it at all.
s like it
s been sleeping all this time without being able to meet its
this sword gave me such a feeling.
This is...?
I lifted my head to ask, and Eugeo, who finally recovered, looked
at that sword with a nostalgic expression and said,
e Rose Sword». I don
t know its real name, but that
s the
name that was used in fairy tales.
Fairy tales...?
Any kid from Rulid village... no, even the adults know this
years ago, amongst the initial pioneers who settled this land, there was
a swordsman named Bercouli. There were many legends about his
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O, oi, are you okay?
On hearing this, Eugeo, who had lost the strength to answer,
simply nodded and tossed
the object he
s been carrying on his
shoulder onto the ground. DONK. With a blunt sound, the moss carpet
had a large dent in it. I handed over the canteen containing the Siral
water over to the panting Eugeo and started to stare at the thing on the
I seemed to have seen it before. It was a long and thin leather
bundle that was 1.2m long. Undoubtedly, this is the packaged item that
was randomly placed inside the hut when Eugeo was putting the
dragon axe aside.
Can I open it?
Be...careful though. If it lands on your leg, you won
t be
just...hurt there.
The panting Eugeo said. I nodded at him and carefully reached my
hand out.
After that, my waist just felt a shock like it
s about to be snapped.
No, even if it
s reality, my w
aist would really dislocate for real.
Seriously, this packaged item is really heavy. I
m holding it with both
hands, but it just won
t budge as it seems to be nailed to the ground or
something like that.
My sister Suguha has been training in the kendo clu
b and is
already monstrously muscular, so I have to say that she
s a lot heavier
than she looks
of course, I can
t say these thoughts of her
without being over
exaggerating, this wrapped item makes me feel like
s like her in that sense. I steadied
my legs again and exerted strength
from my waist to utilize all my power like I was raising dumbbells.
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metal in the East. If there
s anything harder, it
ll be the ones the
Integrity Knights use... the Divine Instruments...
The tail end of these words faded off with the trembling voice, so I
tilted my head and waited for the back part of the content. After about
5 seconds of silence, Eugeo whispered as if he was worried about the
s no axe, but... ther
s a sword.
I mentioned in front of the church that there
s another Divine
Instrument beside the «Clock that Tells the Time», do you remember?
In fact, it
s near this place... and I
m the only one who knows
about this. Duri
ng these six years, I
ve been hiding it from everyone...
do you want to see it, Kirito?
Of, of course! I want to. Please show it to me!
I said with enthusiasm, but Eugeo still looked like he was
hesitating. He soon nodded though, and handed me the axe
Then, please start the afternoon work, Kirito. It
ll take quite
some time to take it out.
Is it far away?
No, it
s just inside the storage shed nearby, but... it
unexpectedly heavy.
s just like what Eugeo said as once I finished the 50th swing, he
finally returned, looking rather tired and his forehead was sweating
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case, there
s only one way, and that
s to find a way to deal with this
overly large cedar.
I turned back to look, and saw E
ugeo pat his pants before
standing up.
Alright, time to get started with our work in the afternoon. I
start first. Can you hand me the axe?
I used my right hand to hold onto the handle of the Dragon Bone
Axe beside me and was about to hand i
t over to Eugeo.
Suddenly, a strong electric shock
feeling flashed in my mind. The
tail end of the thing that was about to escape my palm seemed to be
caught back, so I cautiously thought.
Eugeo did say that an ordinary axe would have its blade easily
attered, which was why they went to the capital to order this large
Dragon Bone axe.
In that case, we just needed a more powerful axe. We
ll use one
with more attack power and durability that required more strength.
I, I say, Eugeo.
I held my breath a
nd asked.
Is there a stronger axe in this village? Even if it
s not in this
village, if it
s in the town of Zakkaria...it
s been three hundred years
since you ordered this axe, right?
But Eugeo just shook his head.
How can there be one? Dragon bone i
s the highest grade material
for weapons. It
s harder than the Damask metal in the south and gem
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I see...
In other words, even if I die here, I won
t return back to the
altar in the church and wake up with a beautiful organ sound. If I die,
ll probably wake up in the STL in real life. No, if that
s not the case, I
be really bothered. The STL
t have the capability to destroy
probably. It should be different from Nerve Gear.
However, trying death should be the final means to leave this
place. The existence of Underworld is already a sure thing inside my
mind, and even if I kn
ow of this, is it really alright for me to leave
without knowing my purpose in this world
my soul
s giving off such
a voice to me from deep inside.
I really want to get sent to the capital and barge into the
headquarters of the Axiom Church or something
and ask all sorts of
questions in my mind to the «Great Priests», but I have no way to do
this. No transport can be taken from town to town, and there really
should be a limit to this lack of play ability. Even that SAO had transfer
gates in almost all the
If this were an ordinary VRMMO, I might consider sending a mail
of complaint to the operator. However, if I can
t do so, I
ll just have to
try my hardest as long as the system allowed me. Yes, I did think this
often during the boss conquest battl
es in Aincrad.
Having finished the second bun, I put the water bottle Eugeo
handed over to me at my mouth, drinking up as I looked up at this
large tree trunk that reached the skies.
I have to get Eugeo to help me if I have to head towards the
capital, b
ut it
s probably impossible to make him give up on his duty
seriously, since that is probably forbidden by the Taboo Index. In that
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However, if a person is sick or wounded, their Life will drop
greatly. If the injuries are too grave, one may die just like that.
However, one can recover Life by using sacre
d arts and medicine, even
though it won
t exceed the maximum value. An old person can
t regain
the Life he had when he
s young no matter how much medication he
takes, and those with wounds too severe can
t recover...
But there
s a spell to do such thing
s, is that right?
Alice said that she was really shocked when she saw this in the
ancient books. She asked this question to Sister Azariya, and only saw
her make a very horrified expression and told her to forget everything
she saw... so I
m not so sure
about the specifics. However, it
s said that
s a spell that can only be used by the Great Priests of the Axiom
Church, and isn
t a spell used for healing or curing illnesses, but
directly affects the life... or something like that. Of course, I
ve ne
seen the specific spell at all or something.
Heh... Great Priest? That means that the monks of the church can
use sacred arts?
Of course. The source of power behind the sacred arts is the
«Sacred Power» God Solus and God Terraria scattered throug
hout the
skies and earth. Large spells require a large amount of Sacred Power. If
s a really powerful spell that can control a human
s life, it won
t be
enough even if all the Sacred Power in this forest is gathered. I suppose
not even Zakkaria town has
a spellcaster that can control such large
Even so; he paused here for a while, and then continued with a
low voice,
And...if Sister Azariya could use that kind of spell, she won
t see
those kids
parents and those parents
kids die like that.
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I felt that Eugeo
s steady voice suddenly had what can be
considered a somber tone, which shocked me. However, th
at feeling
immediately vanished as the boy
s lips slowly showed a smile again.
s why I only treat those as rumors. But during the past 2
or 3 years, there were a lot of new tombstones. Jii
chan said that this
situation is normal.
Speaking of wh
ich, now is the time to ask that question. I
pretended that nothing was up and cautiously asked,
...I say, Eugeo. sacred arts... can they revive people?
He just shoot me a look of disbelief again. Unexpectedly, Eugeo bit
his lips slightly with a seriou
s expression and nodded while looking
like he
s not really certain either.
...Almost everyone in the village doesn
t know of this, but
amongst the highest levels of sacred arts, there
s a spell that can
increase lifespan. That
s what Alice said.
Increase... Life?
Un, all people and items
lives...including yours and mine, can
be added on normally, Kirito. For example, the Life of a human
continues to increase from a baby to a toddler until the adult stage, and
the maximum Life is about 25 yea
rs. After that, it will slowly decrease
and become 0 at around 70, 80 before being called back to Stacia. You
forgot about all this, Kirito?
Ah, ahh.
Of course, this is the first time I
m hearing this as I cautiously
nodded. What Eugeo
s saying is pro
bably that the maximum value of
Hit Points will increase and decrease with age.
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A contagion? But this is the virtual world. No bacteria or virus
can possibly exist here. In other words, the people who died because of
the virus w
ere causing out of some intention by the people controlling
this world or the system. However, why is that so? Most likely, they
want to use some form of calamity on the residents to create some
form of burden on them, but why carry out a simulation of suc
h a
In the end, everything points in one direction. That
s the reason
why this world exists
s not just epidemics though. Recently, there have been a lot of
weird things going on. Stray long
clawed bears, black
furred wolves
attacking people i
n packs, the buds of wheat unable to expand... even
the regular horse carriage travelling from here to Zakkaria may not
show up for months. The reason is said to be... that Goblin tribes
appeared there.
Wha, what did you say?
I blinked a few times.
Goblins... wait, aren
t there knights protecting the boundary of
the country?
Of course they are. The dark tribes that are near the Mountain
range at the Edge should be instantly wiped up by the Integrity Knights.
This is a duty the Integrity Knights ha
ve to fulfill, because those tribes
are guys that are a lot worse than Alice, who only touched a little of the
land of darkness.
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Too hard?
...At the time Alice started learning the sacred arts, she didn
stay in the church. She only studied till noon, and then handed the
bento over to me before going off to help with housework in the
afternoon. But Selka used the
reasoning that she didn
t have enough
time to study and moved out of the house. It just so happened that Jana
and Algu moved into the church, and the Sister herself definitely
t handle them, so Selka probably also had such a reason for
moving to the
I remember seeing Selka who was seriously taking care of the
children. I can
t tell how tough it was, but for a twelve
old who
has to study and take care of 6 kids, it
s probably not easy.
I see...and I, a «Vector
s lost child» suddenly m
oved there. At
least I shouldn
t bring trouble about for Selka.
I definitely have to wake up at 5.30 from tomorrow on. With such
resolve, I continued the topic just now by saying
now that you say so
The kids other than Selka living in that church al
l lost their
parents? Their parents are dead? How did six people get this at the
same time in such a peaceful village?
On hearing this question, Eugeo looked slightly depressed, and
lowered his head to look at the mossland growing not too far away.
...It happened 3 years ago. There was an epidemic in the village
that was unseen of for almost 100 years, causing 20 people of all ages
to die. Sister Azariya and the pharmacist Ivenda tried all sorts of means,
but couldn
t cure those people with fevers. T
he kids in the church lost
their parents just like that.
This unexpected answer caused me to go silent.
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Un... Sister Azariya was really devastated when Alice was taken
away by the Integrity Knight and said that she wouldn
t take in any
more disciples. However, the village chief Gasupht managed to
convince her and two years ago, the new a
pprentice Selka joined the
church. She
s Alice
s little sister.
Little sister... heh...
If I have to say it, she should be a stern big sister. I remembered
Selka in my mind who gave such an impression as I said this. Since this
Alice is her older sister, she must have loved to take care of others and
been a busybody as well. She should be abl
e to become a good couple
with Eugeo.
I thought about this as I glanced at Eugeo. He seemed to have
thought of something as he frowned.
...As our age difference is 5 years, I haven
t played much with
Selka. When I went over to Alice
s house from time to
time, she often
hid behind her mother or grandmother shyly... her father Gasupht,
everyone and even Sister Azariya all believed that Alice
s little sister
had the talent in sacred arts and were looking forward to it... however...
Selka didn
t have the
talent like her sister
s, right?
On hearing my direct question, Eugeo merely grimaced and
We can
t really say that though. No matter who that person is,
when starting with a Sacred Task, they can
t possibly do it well. It
s the
same for me and
I only managed to wield this large axe properly after
more than 3 years. With perseverance, no matter what kind of Sacred
Task it is, it can finally be mastered one day. It
s just that... for Selka
s only just 12 years old, she
s been working a little
too hard...
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if it
s important, I
ll think of it at some point
. I then shrugged my
shoulders and thanked Eugeo,
Thanks. I
ll take these then. Itadakimasu.
Sorry that the bread is the same as yesterday.
s nothing, it
s nothing.
I opened my mouth to take a large bite. The taste was good
to be honest,
it was still too hard. Eugeo probably felt the same way as
he frowned and tried his best to move his lower jaw.
Both of us continued to spend several minutes eating the first bun
and as we exchanged looks with each other, we gave each other slight
Eugeo drank a gulp of Siral water and looked afar.
...I really want to let you try out Alice
s pie, Kirito... crispy skin,
filled with juicy filling... having it together with freshly squeezed milk,
making me feel that it
s a rare delicacy in this world
As he said this, my tongue inexplicably seem to taste the pie as I
drooled. I hurriedly took a bite off the second bun and asked without
Then, Eugeo. That person... Alice, she was taught sacred arts in
the church, right? To become the suc
cessor to Sister Azariya.
Un, that
s how it was. She was hailed as the first prodigy since
the village was built, and she could use a large number of arts at the
age of ten.
Eugeo said with a proud tone.
Then... the girl learning in the church now c
alled Selka is...
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swing such a heavy axe for an hour like this, I
ll definitely have muscle
pains all over the place and be unable to get up on the second day.
In other words, my current strength now is abo
ut the average
value of a 17, 18 year old young man in this world. Eugeo
s strength far
exceeds mine, as expected of someone who
s been working on this for
7 years.
Luckily, the feeling of the avatar or the imagination power is still
the same or even more
efficient than the VRMMOs I played before.
Besides, having swung the axe several hundred times while being
aware of the weight and trajectory, I finally have the confidence to
wield this axe which needs a tremendous amount of strength.
Also, I
ve done su
ch repeated practices of the same routine
countless times in the old Aincrad, even skipping sleep and meals to do
so, so this might be the area I
m best at. At least I won
t lose to Eugeo in
terms of determination
No...wait. I think I just missed out som
ething important there...
Then, Kirito.
Eugeo tossed me two round buns, which interrupted my train of
thought. I hurriedly reached for them with my hands.
...? What
s wrong? You have a weird expression on your face, you
I finally managed to grasp the end of this trail of thought that was
about to leave me, but the remaining fragment only gave a vague and
puzzling impression that I was thinking of something important. Well,
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Eugeo and I continued to exchange turns swinging the Dragon
Bone Axe hard, and unknowingly, the sun called Solus had already
risen to its noon position.
I continued to move my arms that
were feeling as heavy as lead
and swung the 500th swing deep into the monstrously large tree.
KOONG! The large tree let out sawdust that scattered like sand, which
showed that the extremely large durability value of the tree was
slightly worn out.
t do it. I can
t swing anymore.
I cried out and threw the axe into the ground before lying on the
mossy patch as if my power was short
circuited. I received the water
bottle Eugeo handed over to me and greedily gulped down the sweet
liquid called «S
iral Water»
I still have no idea what language this is.
Eugeo just smiled in a carefree manner as he looked down at me
s like this now before saying with a teacher
like tone,
But you really have quite the talent, Kirito. It
s true. You
managed to
grasp the basics after just two days.
...But I still can
t catch up to you at all, Eugeo...
I sighed and adjusted my sitting position, leaning with the Gigas
Cedar against my back.
As I had been swinging the heavy axe for the entire morning, I
ten a rough grasp of my stats in this world.
I already knew it, but the stats are far inferior to the superhuman
class strength and agility the swordsman Kirito possessed in the old
SAO. Even so, it
s possible that the weak Kirigaya Kazuto in the real
ld was used as reference. If it
s the me in the real world, once I
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In t
he main streets of all the floors in the floating city Aincrad, there
was a bell that indicated the hour.
Sacred arts
and the Axiom Church; these are most likely fake
names for spells and the world
s system. If that
s the case, how can we
explain the «L
and of Darkness» that exist outside this world? Is it a
While I was in deep thought, Eugeo, who was beside me, arrived
in front of what looked like a bread shop and greeted the old lady boss
with an apron before buying four buns. I looked inside the shop, and
saw that a man dressed like a shopkeeper was kneadin
g the bread. The
aroma inside the place floated out through the large window.
In an hour, or maybe 30 minutes, I can buy bread that
s freshly
baked, but being unable to be flexible here is probably part of the
«Sacred Task». Eugeo
s job to reach the fores
t and swing the axe has a
fixed timing that can
t be changed easily. As I can only get him to
accompany me on this trip once he completes the «Sacred Task», my
plan won
t be accomplished that easily.
But no matter what, the system always has loopholes. Ev
someone like me of unknown origin and identity is going to work with
him as an assistant.
We moved through the arch to the south and stepped on the path
passing through the green wheat fields as we headed towards the
forest deep inside. From here, I co
uld clearly see the giant tree Gigas
Cedar that reached the skies.
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and in order to try and coax Eugeo to head to the capital to accomplish
my cruel plan, I have to find out what Eugeo
s Sacred Task is.
...If possible, let me help you out today, Eugeo.
After thinking this through, I said such words, and Eugeo grinned
and nodded.
Of course I
ll gladly bring you along. I thought you
d say so too,
Kirito. Look, I brought money for buns enough for two.
He took out two bronze coins from his shorts, and they let out a
clang on his palm.
Erm, well, I
m really worried about bothering you there.
After seeing me shake my head and hands, Eugeo shrugged and
You don
t have to worry. I earn my pay
from the village
workplace, and there
s nothing I can actually spend it on, so I can only
save up.
Oh, that
s good, really good. In that case, I have money to go to the
capital. My mind started to have such a meaningless thought. Right
now, all that
eft is for Eugeo to finish his Sacred Task and cut down
the giant tree.
My heart is thinking of such a cunning plot, but I showed an
apologetic look. On seeing me like this, Eugeo still maintained his smile
and said,
s go
before walking southwards.
I followed him from
behind and then looked back and up to the bell tower that would
automatically chime every hour.
This was really an amazing world. Even though it created a
realistic rural life, the presence of a VRMMO still couldn
t be shaken off.
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Ahaha. That
s how it is. When I was learning at the church, I wa
always waiting for the noon bell to ring.
Eugeo chuckled as he looked away. I followed his line of sight and
finally saw the clock tower of the church. In the window that
designed as a coin
shaped chamfer, bells of all sizes were all shining
However, even though the bells were ringing, no one could be
seen there.
That bell...how exactly does it ring?
...Really, Kirito, how can you forget about that?
Eugeo said with a stunned yet delighted voice, coughed midway
through, and continued,
s no need for anyone to go ring it. This is the only Divine
Instrument in the village. Every day, it will regularly ring hymns of
praises without missing by a second. Of course, it
s not just Rulid
village that has this. Zakkaria and the other
villages and towns all have
them... ahh, but, it
s not just that it is the only Divine Instrument...
The energetic Eugeo trailed off, which was very rare, and finally
lost his voice at the end, which caused me to frown. However, Eugeo
t look like he
wanted to continue discussing about this as he
clapped his hands lightly and said,
Now, I have something I have to do. What plans do you have
today, Kirito?
I pondered for a while. Though I really want to venture through
the village, I migh
t get into trouble if I was alone. If I can ask Eugeo
about whether there are villagers who went out just like I imagined
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Morning, Eugeo. Well,
s just that...I found that every melody of
the bell
s different for every hour. In other words, the villagers here
uses this to tell the time.
Of course, that
s how it is. The songs of praise for the «Light of
Solus» are divided into 12 rhythms. At e
very half point, there
ll be a
chime. Unfortunately, the sound can
t reach Gigas Cedar, so I can only
check the time through the height of Solus.
I see... so that means there are no clocks in this world.
I carelessly let out these words, and Eugeo til
ted his head slightly.
Clock...? What
s that?
This is bad. Don
t tell me such a term doesn
t exist here? I gave off
a cold sweat inside my heart and tried to explain.
Erm, a clock is...a tool that
s a round plate with numbers on it and
has rotating n
eedles to point the time...
On hearing that, Eugeo
s face unexpectedly gave a shine and
Ahh...that. I saw it in the picture books when I was young. A long
time ago, the center of the capital seemed to have a building called a
«Divine Instrument
of Engraved Time», but people often looked up at
that divine instrument and never got to work seriously, which angered
god, who destroyed that divine instrument with lightning. From then
on, humans could only denote the time through the bell chimes.
, heh...well, I
m always worried about the time when classes
are about to end...
I said such careless things I didn
t think through again, and luckily,
I managed to pass safely this time.
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years of manual labor, having to carry lots of stone slabs. That will
require quite some endurance. B
ut before that, I may be sentenced to
Then, I had better ask Eugeo whether the sacred arts have some
release or revival spells. Just when I
m thinking about this, Selka pokes
her head out from the back door of the church and on seeing me,
shouted a
t me,
Ahh, un...sorry, I
ll come over now.
I hurriedly raised my hand, put the cover of the well and the
basket back and hurriedly returned to the building.
After going through
the solemn worship and the noisy breakfast,
the kids all went out to do cleaning and washing clothes, while Selka
and Sister Azariya headed towards the library to learn the same sacred
arts. To me, who
s basically living here for free, this caused quite so
guilt in me. I harbored such feeling as I walked out of the church
s gate
and headed towards the central plaza for Eugeo to come back.
A few minutes later, a familiar profile with flax
colored hair
appeared from the direction of the disappearing mornin
g glow. Then,
the clock tower behind the church chimed a simple yet elegant melody.
Ahh...I see.
On hearing what I said the moment I met him, Eugeo widened his
eyes in surprise.
Morning, Kirito. What do you mean by
I see
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I was able to wake up in this world with the consciousness of
Kirigaya Kazuto. Whether it
s because of some irregular
incident or a certain person
s will, I
probably exist here to complete a
mission, I guess? I
m not some theorist on life, but on the other hand, I
t deny that every single existence has a certain purpose. If that
the case, why is it that so many people lost their lives in the SAO
Bashaa! I again scooped up another handful of the wells water
and splashed it on my face to interrupt my thoughts. Right now, I have
two courses of action. First, I can investigate if there are any RATH
workers who know how to log out from here, and s
econd, I have to find
a way to the capital in order to discover the purpose I exist in this
The former
s not that complicated to me. I
m not sure about the
FLA rate, but with a RATH technician disguised as a villager, they
probably won
t stay here
for years, even decades. In other words, if
residents who left this place on business trips or holidays do exist, it
means that they
re very likely to be observers.
As for the latter
to be honest, there
s no real good way to go
about with this. Eugeo sa
id before that riding a horse from here to the
capital will take about a week and if we walk by the shortest route, it
take three times the time. If possible, I really want to get a horse, but
s still no way to go about getting one, and I have no
equipment or
funds for the trip. Also, I really lack knowledge about this world, and I
need a guide. I feel that Eugeo
s the best choice, but he has a «Sacred
Task» that he can
t complete in his lifetime.
I might as well break the Taboo Index and get arre
sted by that
knight or something to make things faster. However, I
ll most probably
be taken away to the jail cell directly, and I
ll have to endure a few
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I continued to think as I changed my
clothes, then walked out of
the room.
I walked down the stairs and out of the back door beside the
kitchen. The beautiful sunrise was already over my head. She said that
s still not six yet but how do the residents in this world tell the time?
I can
see anything like a clock, whether it
s in the cafeteria or the
living room.
I lowered my head and stepped onto the stone path. I soon saw a
well chiseled from stone. The kids seemed to have used it already as
the surrounding moss patch was already wet. I
opened the lid, threw
the wooden basket with the rope attached to it down, and a nice
kalakalapon sound could be heard. I pulled the rope and lifted up a full
pail of the wells transparent water into the tray beside me.
I scooped up the wells icy cold wa
ter with my hands to wash my
face and also drank a mouthful of it. At this moment, my sleepiness was
shaken away completely. I think I slept before 9 yesterday, and even
though I woke up early, I should have slept for 8 hours... On thinking
about this, I s
ank into deep thought again.
If this is Underworld, the FLA mechanism is probably still
working. If the rate is three times, my actual sleep time should be less
than 3 hours. If it
s a fantastical idea like what I had yesterday such
that it
s accelerated
to 1000 times, it
ll mean that 8 hours is actually the
equivalent of less than 30 seconds. Can such a short time really cause
the mind to be so awake?
Really, I don
t understand at all. I must get away from here as fast
as possible and check the situation
... However, the soft voice when I
was about to sleep continued to echo in my ears.
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Eh, what?
On hearing me mutter this phrase, Selka gave a surprised
expression. On seeing this, I hurriedly shake my head.
It, it
s nothing. I
ll get changed and
come over. It
s the worship
hall on the first level, right?
Un, even if you
re a guest or a lost child of Vector, you have to
pray to the god of Stacia as long as you stay in the church. Every single
cup of water is a blessing of god
s grace, and we hav
e to be grateful to
this. That
s what Sister told us...
ll continue rattling on and on if this keeps up, so I hurriedly
got off the bed. I flipped this thin shirt, preparing to take off the
pajamas I borrowed, and Selka let out a frantic sound.
ll start in 20 minutes. Don
t be late! You must wash your face
in the well
s water out there!
Patapata, she walked out of the room and quickly closed the door
before vanishing from my sight. This reaction is obviously not
something an NPC can do...I
thought as I took off my shirt and brought
the «Initial Equipment» lying on the chair, the blue short
sleeved tunic
to my head. I brought it up to my nose and sniffed at it, only to find that
s no sweat. As expected, microorganisms and other things l
that can
t be replicated. Maybe defects like stains or holes are
controlled by the durability value called «Life».
On thinking about this, I pulled out the «Window» attached to the
tunic, and the durability was shown as the words [44/45]. Looks like i
t matter for a short time, but if I want to stay in this world for a
long time, I have to find a change of clothes and so I have to find a way
to get items and money.
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Just when I treated it as a sound in my dreams, my shoulder just
felt like it was being nudged by someone, so I nudged my hea
d into the
blanket and grumbled,
Another 10 minutes...no, 5...
No way. It
s already time to wake up.
3 minutes...just 3 minutes will do...
Just as my shoulders continued to shake, a slight sense of
disorientation caused me to lose my sleepine
ss. If it were my younger
sister Suguha waking me up, she wouldn
t be using such a slow action,
but would be yelling, tugging at my hair, pinching my hair, pinching my
nose and doing all sorts of violent acts, or even the devilish act of
pulling away the f
At this moment, I realized that where I am now is neither reality
nor Alfheim, and I poked my face out from the wool blanket. I widened
my eyes slightly and exchanged looks with Selka, who was in a neat
nun habit. This apprentice Sister lowered her
head and looked at me.
s 5.30. The kids have all woken up and washed up. If you don
hurry, you won
t be able to make it for Worship.
...Okay, I
ll come over...
I left aside the warm bed and the peaceful rest without regrets
and sat up. I looked
around, and it
s just like my memory from the
previous night. This is the guest room in the second floor of the Rulid
church. In other words, my body went through the virtual world
Underworld that was created by the Soul Translator. Such an amazing
ence doesn
t look like it
ll end in one night.
So it only seemed like a dream, huh?
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Damn it. Selk
a would definitely not tell me the way to turn off the
light that easily without nagging at me first ...Just when I was panicking,
I finally found a little knob at the base of the lamp. Anyway, let
s try to
turn it first. Kyukyu. With a metallic sound, the
wick tightened, and the
lamp let off a thin trail of smoke before being extinguished. The
moonlight pierced through the window, landing inside the room
covered in darkness, leaving behind a silvery
white line.
I finally managed to clear this highly diffi
cult mission, and I
returned to the bedside, put my pillow in a suitable position and laid
back down. I felt a little cold, so I put on the blanket Selka gave me, and
soon, I just felt like sleeping.
If they
re not humans nor AIs, what are they?
In a
corner of my thoughts, I already had an answer. However, it
felt scary to say it out. Assuming that I
m correct
this developer
called RATH has already extended its arms over to the realm of god.
When compared to this, the process of using the STL to unde
human soul is already at a level where they
re merely playing with the
key to Pandora
s Box with their finger.
I entered dreamland and listened to the voice deep inside my
s not the time to look for an escape. I have to head to
capital. Once I go there, I
ll find the reason why I exist in this world...
I seemed to hear a bell from far away.
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s and my
. During those two years, she continued to
talk to countless players and monitor them, and had managed to build
up a large and amaz
ing database for response. Right now, she
s at a
level where she can be considered
an automatic answering program
and a
real intelligence
However, even Yui isn
t perfect. Sometimes, she would tilt her
head as the database didn
t have the information,
and would
sometimes mistake a human
apparent anger
awkwardness of
trying to hide embarrassment
. For just that moment, she would show
that small
However, Eugeo, Selka and the rest didn
t show such a thing. If all
the villa
gers in Rulid were...AIs the programmers created as boys, girls,
old grannies, adults and so, in a certain sense, the STL has a very
advanced Over
Technology. But in the end, I really can
t imagine it
actually working...
I thought about this, got up from
the bed and let my feet land on
the floor.
There was an old oil lamp at the wall where the top of the bed
was. The orange
yellowish light flickered, giving off a strange burnt
smell. Of course, I never touched such a thing in real life, but the room
and I shared in Alfheim had a similar kind of lamp, so I
subconsciously reached over to touch the surface.
However, there wasn
t any pop
up operating window. I suddenly
thought of something and used both my fingers to draw in a motion
that was not a gest
ure command, but something called the «Stacia
Seal». I then touched the surface of the lamp, and a purple glow
appeared there this time. However, the lamp
s durability was the only
thing shown, there was no button like lights on, lights out.
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Eugeo and the rest aren
t real humans
re players with
restricted memories, I guess? Or are they automatic answering
programs that far exceed what I know...?
On thinking about this, my mind immediately thought of the term
«Artificial Intelligence».
In recent years, AIs, the electronic assistance for password codes,
car navigation, and home electric appliance use, have been greatly
developed. Once they hear a c
ommand given, a character, that
s like a
human or an animal, can correctly operate or obtain the necessary
information. Besides these, there are other AIs, like the NPCs I
familiar with in VR games. Though their main functions are to provide
quests or ev
ent information, they can still answer casual dialogue to a
certain extent. A group of people who believed in having «Moe NPCs»
will always camp beside the beauty
types and talk with them.
Of course, these AIs don
t really have intelligence. Basically put
re just a collection of commands that only know how to answer
certain questions. Thus, if they end up seeing a question that
s not in
the database, the NPC will most likely smile nicely or tilt their heads to
say something like
I don
t understand
what you mean
However, Eugeo never showed anything like this today.
He showed all sorts of natural emotions like
with regards to all my questions and made appropriate
responses. It wasn
t just Eugeo who was like this, as
the Sister Azariya,
Selka and those young kids were all like that. There was no instance
where they showed an expression of
being unable to find the data
As far as I know, amongst the current Artificial Intelligence, the
highest standard is the AI call
ed Yui, the counseling program who was
developed for maintenance in the old SAO, and has now become
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The accumulated exhaustion of the entire day had already
invaded my body and if I closed my eyes, I could sleep quickly.
However, the confusion that attacked me prevented this.
s going on?
I muttered silently to myself.
In conclusion, everyone in
this village aside from me was an NPC.
From the first moment I met Jink, to the time when I walked past
the villagers in the village, at those moments when I met the old granny
who gave me an apple, the stern yet delicate Sister Azariya, the
apprentice S
ister Selka, the 6 orphaned children; all of them were like
Eugeo, having real emotions like me, able to talk normally and able to
do the delicate movements of the body. Basically, everyone was
like. At least, they
re not like the characters that wou
automatically answer in a VRMMO.
But, this kind of thing isn
t something that can be done.
Right now, there
s only one Soul Translator at the headquarters in
Roppongi, and the company itself was going to roll out 3 machines,
which would make it 4. Th
s what the developer Higa said. Even if we
added in one or two units, it should be impossible to create a Dive
system for enough people to form a village. Even as I was walking and
observing, there were at least 300 villagers in Rulid, and that large ST
experimental machine couldn
t possibly be mass produced. Also, if we
added in the few villages and cities in this world and the people of the
fabled «Capital», even if they invested a lot of money to add new
machines, it should be impossible to secretly
gather thousands of test
...Speaking of which.
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Eugeo and I then left the Sentry Point, and I endured the cautious
and bewildered stares of the villagers as I walked down the main street.
I kept hearing questions like
who is he
, as Eugeo stopped to explain to
everyone. We spent about 30 minutes walking before reaching the
central plaza of this village. On the way, we even met an old lady
carrying a large basket, and she immediately started saying things like
such a poor kid
e moment she saw us and took an apple (or what
looked like it) and stuffed it into my hand, making me feel a slight
sense of guilt.
The sun had almost set below the horizon by the time we reached
the church that was built on the hill and formed a part of
the village.
We knocked on the door, and a Sister appeared, looking like sternness
personified. This is the Sister Azariya I heard of. I looked at her, and
immediately thought of the Minchin
sensei that appeared in the «Little
elled inside my heart. However, the Sister
immediately took me in, which was really not what I expected, and
even served me a meal.
After agreeing to meet tomorrow, I bade farewell to Eugeo and
went in. After getting to know Selka, the oldest, and the oth
er 6 kids
that were younger than her, we sat down at the harmonious dining
table (the dishes laid out were potatoes that looked like fried fish. After
having my meal, I was interrogated by them, and this was all to be
expected. Once I answered all their qu
estions and thoughts that didn
reveal myself, 3 boys invited me to go bathe with them...just like that, I
endured all sorts of trials, and right now, I finally gained release as I
laid on the bed in the guest room
s what had happened up till
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Then, good night
you know how to turn the lamp off, right?
...Ahh. Good night, Selka.
Selka nodded again and moved out of the room in her slightly
oversized habit. I waited for the sound of her footsteps to go further
away before heaving a long sigh.
The place I
m st
aying at was a room on the second level of the
church that was hardly used. It
s about 6 tatamis wide, and the room
itself had a bed made of cast iron, a table set with a chair, a small
bookshelf and a cupboard. I put the wool blanket and the pillow on my
knees onto the bedsheet, put both hands behind my head and laid on
the bed. The lamp above my head let out a creaking sound as it swayed.
What exactly is going on here...
s going on? I muttered these words in my heart and recalled
everything that
happened ever since I was sent into this village.
Eugeo brought me to this village, and we first went to the Guard
Sentry Point near the gate. There was a young man who was of a
similar age as Eugeo over there called Jink, and he gave me suspicious
look a
t first, but after hearing that I was a «Vector
s lost child», he
immediately agreed to let me in.
But as Eugeo was explaining, my eyes were fixed on that simple
long sword on Jink
s waist, and didn
t actually hear about what they
were talking about. I re
ally wanted to borrow that slightly old long
sword from him and try out whether the me in this world
or more
accurately, the virtual swordsman Kirito
s sword skills could still be
used. It couldn
t be helped that I had such an impulse, but I finally
ged to control the urge.
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Part 3
s a pillow and a blanket. If the weather is too cold, please
move further into the house. Morning Prayer is at 6am, and breakfast
starts at 7. You should come along to look, so try to wake up early. Also,
going out after the lights are turned off is forbidden. Please take note of
A simple pillow and wool bl
anket came flying at me with the
words that sounded like a torrent, and I hurriedly reached out to
receive them.
I sat down on the bed, and the person standing in front of me was
a girl that looked twelve. She
s dressed in a black habit with a white
r, and the bright tea
colored hair grew down to the waist. The eyes
that were of the same color as the hair were moving in a lively manner,
but she seemed to change into a completely different person the
moment she started to be in her Sister persona.
girl called Selka was an apprentice Sister staying at the
Church to learn the sacred arts. I didn
t know whether she was also
tasked to look after the other young boys and girls who also stayed in
the church as her tone to me was as sharp as an older sist
er or a
mother. I could only smile and endure this.
Then, is there anything else you don
t understand?
No, no problems. Thank you very much.
On hearing me thank her, Selka
s expression eased slightly, only
to quickly frown again.
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That is Rulid village, right? Where is Eugeo
s house?
What we see is the south gate, my house is near the west gate, s
we can
t see it from here.
Hmm. The highest tower is... Sister...... Azariya
s church?
Yeah, that
s right.
I focused my gaze at the top of the tower, there was a symbol
which was a combination of a cross and a circle.
s somehow... even more
elegant than I had thought. Someone
like me can really stay there?
t worry. Sister Azariya is really great person.
It might not be easy, but if Azariya
san had the same belief in the
intrinsic goodness of other people like Eugeo, then the problem
occur if I gave sensible responses. But, right now I
m the guy who lacks
sensible ideas about this world.
Ideally, if Sister Azariya is the RATH
s resident observer, then the
story would be easy. But perhaps, the staff whose purpose is to observe
t be assigned important roles like the village chief or the sister.
The possibility that he would be one of the very plain villager is higher, I
have to find out by any means possible.
But that
s only if they actually placed an observer in this s
as I worried, Eugeo and I crossed the moss covered stone
bridge which spanned over the narrow waterway, and set foot into
«Rulid village».
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Eugeo should have recalled a certain event in the distant past, as
his voice became weak and trembled.
......Living in the land of darkness are the cursed demi
like goblins and orcs,
along with other terrifying monsters...... also, the
dark knights who ride the black dragons. Of course the Integrity
Knights who are protecting the mountain range have prevented them
from invading, but sometimes, some seem to be able to slip through the
underground caves. But I haven
t seen any yet though. Also, according
to the legend from the Axiom Church...... once every one thousand years,
when the light of Solus weakens, the forces of darkness led by the dark
knights would cross the mountain range an
d start their attacks against
us. In that great war, the guards in the village, the sentinels from all
towns and the imperial army would be led by the Integrity Knights to
fight against the hordes of monsters.
As he tilted his head in doubt, Eugeo asked,
s the tale which even the smallest child in the village knows.
Has Kirito also forgotten about this tale?
Y......Yeah, I felt like I heard about it before though...... just... a bit
different in details, I guess.
I fearfully tried to dodge
his question, Eugeo expression changed
into a smile like he had no doubt, before nodding.
I see...... Perhaps, it could be possible that Kirito didn
t come from
Norlangarth but one of the three other empires.
That may be so.
While I was nodding, I tried to drive him off this dangerous topic
and pointed to the hill which we were now considerably closer to.
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Err, but...... didn
t Eugeo say there are guards at the village? If
there are no thieves
then why is such a job needed?
t it obvious? To protect the village from the forces of
The forces of...... darkness......
Look over there, you see it, right?
We just walked past under the last tree as Eugeo lifted up his
right hand
In front of my eyes were the wheat fields. They were still young,
the green heads which had yet to swell were swaying in the wind. The
scene which was greatly pleasing, in the dusk sunlight looked just like
the sea. The path stretched into the meanderin
g expanse of the fields,
where I saw a small elevated hill far up ahead. When I focused on the
hill which was surrounded by a grove of trees, I saw sand textured
buildings gathered together and there was a noticeably tall tower at
the center. Apparently, t
his seems to be where Eugeo lives, the Rulid
But where Eugeo pointed at was beyond the village
at the
faint pure white line of a mountain range in the far off distance. The
steep mountain ridge which looked like a saw stretched to the left and
right edges of my vision.
That is the «Mountain range at the Edge». On its other side is the
place where the light of Solus can
t reach, the land of darkness. Even at
noon, the sky would be covered by dark clouds, the light from the
heaven is red like b
lood. The ground, the trees, are all black like
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could only be achieved by spending infinite time in the virtual world
which matches the level of the real world
I suddenly lifted my face, I could see the orange light spreading
over the gap in the fores
t ahead of the narrow path. At the gap of the
roadside near the exit, there was a building which seemed to be a
storage hut standing there. Eugeo walked toward it and casually
opened the door. As I took a peek from behind, there were a few
ordinary iron ax
es, a small bladed tool which looked like a machete,
and group of tools such as rope and a bucket, among them, there was
an elongated leather package which I didn
t know the contents of.
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cheerfully talked about various things. About his predecessor, the elder
named Garitta who was adept at using axe; about how he was slightly
unhappy that the children of the same age in the village thought tha
s Sacred Task was easy; while I kept responding to his stories,
my mind still focused on the same thought.
It was the question about what was the purpose of this world,
how it was being operated.
If it is to verify the STL
s «Mnemonic Visual» tec
hnology, then it had
already achieved perfection. As I already sense its indistinguishable from
the reality all too well by now.
Regarding the internal time of this world, at least three hundred
years had been simulated, the terrifying thing is that great
considering the amount of Eugeo
s work could do against the durability
of Gigas Cedar, I think it would continue for close to a thousand years.
While I don
t know what the upper limit the Fluctlight acceleration
function can reach, in the worst c
ase, the person who Dives into this
world with sealed memories could spend the entire life inside. Certainly it
t cause any danger to the muscles in the real world, and as the
memories were blocked until the time the Dive ended, the person would
bably feel like it was just a vague «Long dream»
however, what
would happen to the soul, the Fluctlight which experienced that dream?
The aggregation of light quanta which made up human consciousness,
t it also have a lifespan?
No matter how I t
hink, what had been done to this world is just too
overexerted, unreasonable, and inconsiderate.
By braving such danger, there must be a purpose
but what is
it? At Dicey café, Sinon said, to create just a realistic virtual space, the
AmuSphere would al
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I inadvertently groaned. The figure displayed on the window was
some two hundred and thirty
two thousands, an absurd amount like
Hmmm, it
s about fifty less than when I looked last month,
Indeed, Eugeo also said in a tired tone.
o, this means...... even if I spent a whole year striking it, the
Life of Gigas Cedar would decrease by about six hundred. By the time I
retire, over two hundred thousand would still remain. Now you
understand...... just half a day of slightly less progres
s isn
t a big deal at
all. My opponent isn
t just a tree, but the «Titanic great cedar» after all.
When I heard those words, I realized the origin of the title of the
Giga Scedar. It was a combination of Latin and English. The word didn
cut at Giga, bu
t Gigas Cedar...... the giant cedar.
In other words, to the boy who is standing before me, aside of the
Japanese language he uses fluently, English and other languages are
some kind of spell incantations, the «Sacred Words». Then perhaps he
t realiz
e that he is speaking in Japanese. The Underworld
language...... no, the Norlangarth empire
s language? But wait a sec, just
now he called the bread «Pan». Pan is probably not an English word...... is
it Portuguese? Or Spanish?
As I was having a spree of derailed thoughts, before I noticed,
Eugeo had already finished packing up and said,
Kirito, sorry for the wait. Let
s go back to the village.
After that, while shouldering the Dragon Bone Axe, and carrying the
empty water c
anteen, as we walked back to the village Eugeo
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Eh, we did that many?
Yeah. Five hundred from me, and five hundred from Kirito.
Together with the morning part, striking the Gigas Cedar two thousand
times each
day, that
s my Sacred Task.
Two thousand times......
I looked at the big cut on the jet black great tree again. No matter
how I looked, it wasn
t any deeper than when we had first started.
What an unrewarding job,
while I was astonished, the cheerful
voice of
Eugeo came from behind.
Actually, Kirito has good muscle. Of the last fifty times, you made
a good sound two... three times. Thanks to you, today I had a lot of fun.
No...... but it should have finished a lot faster if Eugeo did it alone.
Sorry, I was supposed to help but instead I was holding you back......
I apologized in embarrassment, but Eugeo just smiled as he shook
his head.
t I tell you I couldn
t cut this tree down within my life span?
Because half of the cut we did today
would recover during the night......
Oh ya, I
ll show you something good. I
m not supposed to open it too
often, though.
While he said that, Eugeo approached the great tree and stretched
his left hand. After he used two fingers to slice the symbol, he st
the black bark of the tree.
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drew power from twisting my waist which was added into the rotating
momentum of my shoulders and passed through my wrists towards
the blade of the axe... and striking into t
he tree
This time I hit the tree bark far away from the cut,
the axe
bounced off after it made an unpleasant sound. However, my hands
t go numb like the first time, it seemed I had completely neglected
the aim because I focused only on the mo
vement of my body.
This time
too, Eugeo sure has more things to laugh at,
I turned my head while
thinking this, but Eugeo made an unexpectedly serious face as he gave
a comment,
Oo...... Kirito, just now wasn
t bad. But, you didn
t watch the axe
as you s
wung. Your gaze must not move off the center of the cut. Try
again before you forget it!
The next one was also crude. But after that, Eugeo still gave
advice here and there as I continued swinging the axe, I forgot how
many times it was before
the axe finally managed to make a high
pitched metallic sound as it struck at the center of the cut, sending off
some small black fragments.
After that I took turns with Eugeo and had a chance to watch fifty
of his excellent axe swings. Then I took the a
xe and made another fifty
We repeated this for some time, and by the time I realized it, the
sun had already reached the horizon, and the clearing was bathed in a
hazy, orange tinted light. As I drank the last gulp from the big water
canteen, Euge
o also finished his last strike, and then said,
Alright...... this makes two thousand.
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with a dull sound, the axe blade hit at a place about five
centimeters away from the cut. Orange sparks scattered while a violent
feedback assaulted my hands. I c
t bear it and dropped the axe,
before putting both wrists, which were numb to the bone, between my
feet and groaning,
Unsightly, looking at me who couldn
t even do a single strike,
Eugeo laughed amusedly. When I
turned my reproachful
glance toward him,
he indicated with his right hand, but still
continued to laugh.
......You don
t have to laugh that much......
Hahaha...... no, sorry sorry. Kirito, you didn
t use force from your
shoulders and waist. Y
ou need to use force from your entire body......
hmm, how should I explain it......
While watching Eugeo repeat a slow swinging movement of the
axe, I belatedly realized my mistake. Perhaps the strict law of physics
and the contraction of the muscle were
not simulated in this world. As
this was a realistic dream created by STL, the most important thing had
to be the power of my imagination.
Finally as the numbness left my hands, I picked up the axe off my
Just watch, this time I will surely hit..
As I grumbled, this time I tried as hard as possible not to be
concerned about the force. I kept focusing on the movement of my
entire body in my consciousness while I made a big and slow drawing
movement. Before entering the motion of the horizonta
l slashing
attack type sword skill, «Horizontal» which I used frequently in SAO, I
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Um, I took half of your lunch. So I should
use my muscle to help
with half of your work too, right?
I felt as if it was my first time offering to help someone to do his
and it was probably so
Eugeo had his mouth slightly
opened, but soon after he hesitantly replied,
Hmm...... well,
although there
s no rules forbidding someone to
help with the Sacred Task...... well, this is unexpectedly difficult. At first
I couldn
t even strike at the right place.
We won
t know until we try, right?
As I grinned, I stretched out my right hand an
d grabbed the
handle of the «Dragon Bone Axe» which Eugeo held out while he still
had a doubtful expression.
The axe was heavy, despite its looks that it was made out of bone,
and weighed down my right hand. I quickly grabbed the leather grip
with both ha
nds and made a small swing to confirm the balance.
Even though I had never used an axe as my main weapon in SAO
and ALO, I should be able to hit a stationary target without any
problem. I stood on the left of the deep cut, then mimicked Eugeo
pose by sp
reading my legs and slightly lowered my waist.
Eugeo still had a doubtful expression, but at the same time he also
looked amused. After I had affirmed that he was far enough away, I
lifted the axe high over my shoulders, then I clenched my teeth and put
as much force as possible into my arms, before sw
inging the axe down,
aiming at the center of the deep cut on the trunk of Giga Scedar.
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I rotated my gaze between Eugeo, who carelessly said it, and the
one quarter cut on the great tree.
......It means, in the past seven years Eugeo spent every day trying
to cut this tree, and you only got this far in that time?
This time Eugeo made roun
d eyes and shook his head in surprise.
No way. If this cut required only seven years, then I
d feel a little
more encouraged. Listen, I
m the seventh generation for this cutting
duty. Ever since Rulid was found on this land, for three hundred years,
generation of the people with cutting duty came here everyday.
Perhaps, the progress when I become a grandfather and pass over the
axe to the eighth generation would be......
Eugeo used his two hands to make a gap about twenty
centimeters wide.
this much, I guess.
I couldn
t even let my breath out anymore.
In a fantasy type MMO, even though the craftsman and miner
production jobs were generally recognized as jobs which required
enduring working single
mindedly, spending a whole life and still
unable to cut down a single tree was just far beyond normal. As this
was the artificial world, it must be someone
s intention to place this
tree here, although for what purpose, I still had no idea at the moment.
But, anyway, I had an itching feeling li
ke something was
crawling down my back.
Partly due to impulse, I said to Eugeo, who stood up and grabbed
the axe after he had rested for three minutes.
Hey, Eugeo...... could you let me try for a bit?
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Taking a handkerchief out of the pocket
of his clothes and wiping
his face, Eugeo titled his head slightly and replied after thinking for a
Yeah, well... it can be said like that. But the tree concerning the
Sacred Task that I have spent seven years trying to cut down is just this
The name of this huge tree is «Gigas Cedar» in the sacred words.
But the elderly in the village call it the evil tree.
......Sacred words? Giga......Scedar......?
Eugeo gave an understanding smile toward me, who was in doubt,
as he pointed s
traight upward to the treetop far overhead.
The reason they call it as such is because it absorbs all of
s blessing from its surrounding ground. So nothing but moss
would live under the branches of this tree, and the trees within range
of its sh
adow wouldn
t grow taller either.
Terraria, while I don
t know what that is, it seems my first
impression after I saw this tree and the clearing isn
t wrong.
I nodded to
encourage him to continue.
The adults in the village want to expand the wheat fiel
ds to this
forest. But it
s futile as long as this tree still stands. So they want to cut
it down, but as expected from the evil tree, its trunk is terribly hard. If
a normal steel axe is used, its blade would break and no longer be
usable in just one hit.
Because of that, they spent a large amount of
money to order this axe, which was carved from an ancient dragon
bone, from the capital, and assigned «Cutting duty» to someone to keep
cutting at it here daily. And that would be me.
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s right hand grabbed the axe by it
s handle which was
bound with black shiny leather, and shouldered it. He then
walked to
the left edge of the one and a half meter cut, spread his legs, lowered
his waist, and tightly clenched his hands on the grip.
The slim body bent, the axe, which was drawn greatly backward,
took a moment to gather the momentum before it sharply
tore the air.
The blade, which looked heavy, cleanly hit at the center of the cut,
a clear high
pitched metallic sound reverberated.
No doubt, this
is the true nature of the strange sound that led me here. A wood cutting
sound, my baseless intuition
was correct.
In front of me, who was observing in admiration, it could be said
Eugeo handled his body perfectly, he repeatedly hit while maintaining
the pace and trajectory beyond the accuracy of a machine. Drawing
back took two seconds, gathering force o
ne second, swinging one
second. His chain of actions were so fluent it was as if the sword skills
also existed in this world.
Exactly fifty times at a pace of four seconds each time, the axe
continued hitting for two hundred seconds, and after the final s
Eugeo pulled the axe out of the deep cut and let out a long breath. He
then set the tool against the trunk and sat on top of the root nearby.
The beads of sweat on his forehead were shining as he caught his
breath. While I was watching him, I though
t swinging that axe must be
more difficult than I had imagined.
I waited for his breathing to settle before asking,
So Eugeo
s work...... no, Sacred Task is «Woodcutter»? Is it
cutting the trees in this forest?
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great if I could meet people from RATH who know of the situation......
As I
thought so, I somehow managed to smile before saying to Eugeo,
Thanks for the food. But I
m sorry I took half of your lunch.
No, don
t worry. I
m quite sick of that Pan anyway.
He replied with a very natural smile as he quickly collected the
lunch wrapping.
Then, sorry but just wait for a while. Until I finish my afternoon
Eugeo said as he stood up with an agile move
ment, I then asked,
Now you mentioned it, Eugeo
s work...... the Sacred Task, what is
Ah, right...... you can
t see from over there.
Eugeo smiled again while beckoning me. I tilted my head as I
stood up and walked around the trunk of the great tree behind him.
Then, being struck by another surprise, my mouth was left wide
On the trunk of the huge tree, which was as black as a dark night,
there was a cut about twenty percent or more into its diameter
around a meter deep. The black wood inside was reminiscent of coal,
the thick layers of the annual tree rings were glossy l
ike metal.
My gaze moved down from the cut, to an axe set against the trunk.
Although its simple single
edged shape wasn
t used for battle, the very
large axe blade and the long handle were both made from the same
white material. As I stared at it
s mysterious radiance, like it
was a stainless steel matte finish, I somehow felt it was carved from a
single lump of the raw material.
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Eugeo made rounded eyes again, before wiping his mouth and
shaking his head.
Nope. In the three hundred years history of Rulid, the only time
the Integrity Knight ever came to the villa
ge was six years ago, this is
what Garitta
jiisan said.
As he finished his words, he passed me the leather canteen. I
received it and pulled off the cork
like plug after thanking him. I then
brought it to my mouth and drank the liquid, which wasn
t cold
but had
a fragrance, as if it was mixed with lemon and herb. After three gulps, I
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Then...... just make some proper preparations for a long
Hey Kirito... You look similarly aged as me, weren
t you given a
Sacred Task at the village you live in? Abandoning the Sacred Task and
going out on a travel isn
t something we can do, is it?
s true.
While I was nodding, I
carefully observed Eugeo
s reactions.
s obvious from the start that this boy isn
t just a simple NPC. From
his abundance of expressions and his natural replies, he couldn
t be
anything but a real human.
But at the same time, his actions seemed to be
bound to absolute
rules which are more effective than the law in the real world. Yes, it
similar to how the NPC in VRMMO can
t deviate from within their
movement boundary.
Eugeo said he wasn
t arrested because he didn
t trespass into the
area restricted
by the «Taboo Index». In other words, that Index is the
absolute rules which binds him, perhaps it has direct control over
Fluctlight. While I don
t know what his Sacred Task..., no, what his
occupation is, I couldn
t imagine what job would be more import
ant than
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But something like that can
t be possible. From what I
ve been told,
the Fluctlight acceleration function could speed up to three time, in order
to simulate this world for sevent
een years, it would require six years in
the real world. However, it shouldn
t have been three months since the
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Eugeo shook his head slightly as he faced downward.
The Integrity Knight said she
d be executed after the
interrogation...... But, what kind of execution, I don
t know. I once...
heard from her father, the village chief Gasupht...... that she is already
But Kirito, I believe that she
s still alive.
The next moment,
Alice is... definitely alive and is somewhere in the capital......
I inhaled sharply the moment I heard that name.
Again, I felt a strange feeling running in the center of my head. A
sense of irritation. A sense of loneliness. And more than those, a sense
of nostalgia that shook my soul
s just my delusion.
I persua
ded myself,
s just what remained
after the shock. There is no reason for me to have a personal relationship
with Eugeo
s childhood friend, or in other words, «Alice» who is the
inhabitant of this world. Surely it was just the reaction to the common
Alice. Yes
t Asuna tell me yesterday at Dicey Café?
«RATH», the company which developed the STL, and the virtual world
«Underworld», weren
t those names taken from the novel
Alice in
Her name fitting with the other two names is a su
coincidence, there might be a meaning behind it. Also, I noticed another
piece of information from Eugeo
s words.
Just now he said six years ago, when he was eleven. It means that
s now seventeen, but that
s just too long
his manner of spee
ch is
like he has all the memories of those ten years of life, just like me.
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Those words of unknown nature were the
kind that bore the
mark of those who maintained the regularity and the capital of this
world, I stayed silent to encourage him to continue.
It was...... my fault. On one rest day, we both went to explore the
northern cave...... but we got lost on the wa
y back and ended up on the
other side of the Mountain range at the Edge. You know, right? The
Dark Territory where it is written in the Taboo Index not to set our
foot on. Although I didn
t exit the cave, she tripped and her palm
pressed on the ground outs
ide...... But just because of that... the
Integrity Knight came to the village and tied her up in chains in front of
Eugeo crushed the half
eaten bread in his right hand.
......I wanted to help her. I thought it was fine if he took me al
with her, and planned to use the axe to attack him...... but... hands too...
feet too... I couldn
t move them. All I did was just... watch her being
taken away... without saying anything......
His face was void of any expression as he gazed up into t
he sky
for a while but soon after, a faint self
deprecating smile floated to his
lips. He then tossed the crushed bread into his mouth and chewed it
while looking downward.
I didn
t know what I should say, so I also took a bite of the bread,
and thought a
s I chewed with all my strength.
The existence of the status window proved that this is a virtual
world created by the realistic technology, it could be some experiment by
someone. However, why did such an «Event» like this happen?
After I
swallowed the b
read, I hesitantly asked,
......Do you know what happened to her......?
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s fine, no need to force yourself. I usually buy them from the
Pan shop in the village before leaving, but as I leave in the early
morning they only have the Pan left over from yesterday for sale. At
noon, I don
t have
enough time to go back to the village either......
Heh...... Then it should be better to bring a boxed
lunch from
To my casual words, Eugeo lowered his eyes with the bread in his
hand. I shrank my neck unsure if I blurted something rude, fo
he soon lifted up his face and gave a little smile.
A very longgg time ago...... at noon, there was a person who
would bring a boxed
lunch here. But now......
The green pupils shook, they were filled with a great sense of loss,
in that moment, I forgot that this was the artificial world as I leaned my
body forward.
That person... what happened......?
After I asked, Eugeo looked toward the treetop far above h
is head
in silence for a while, then he slowly moved his lips,
......My childhood friend. The girl, who was the same age as me......
we were always playing together from morning until evening since we
were young. Even after I was given the Sacred Task, s
he would still
bring a boxed
lunch here everyday...... But... six years ago...... during my
eleventh summer an Integrity Knight came to our village...... and took
her to the capital......
Integrity Knight. Capital.
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s still quite a lot of «Life» left, so there
s no need to hurry
eating it. But if this was summer, it wouldn
t have this much remaining
Perhaps the «Life
» he mentioned is the number displayed next to
the item
s durability, and the status window displaying those is called
«Stacia Window». Seeing the action command that called the window
out being declared as sacred arts, Eugeo wouldn
t know that was the
ction of the system, but acknowledged them as a religious or magical
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Then it
s concluded. This place isn
t reality nor the real other
world, but the virtual world.
My body felt lightened with relief as soon as that
acknowledgement had settled down at the bo
ttom of my abdomen.
Now I
m ninety
nine percent convinced. Really, without this clear
Hey, Kirito. Don
t tell me this is the first time you have see the
sacred arts of «Stacia Window»?
When I lifted my face, I saw Eugeo with his hea
d tilted as he held
the bread in one hand, his window had already disappeared. I quickly
made a face that looked like
t say something nonsensical like that.
When I touched the surface of the window, it turned into sparks of
light and scattered away,
I felt slightly relieved.
Fortunately, Eugeo didn
t show any more doubt and nodded.
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s okay. Even though I said it like I want you to eat, in
truth, I
t like this anyway.
......Then I
ll gratefully accept. To be honest, I
m really hungry to
the point where I could collapse at anytime.
s what I thought,
As Eugeo laughed and sat down on the
root in front of the tree, I added,
Also, just Kirito is fine.
Oh? Then you can just call me Eugeo too...... Ah, just wait a bit.
Eugeo lifted his left hand to stop me from putting the round bread
into my mouth.
Well, since it
s not the
that can last long, just to be
As he said that, Eugeo
s left hand moved while his right hand held
the bread up. His index and middle fingers stretched and aligned neatly
with the other folded fingers. With his hand in that shape, he drew a
trace which looked like the alphabets S
and C in mid
In front of me, who was watching dumbfounded, his two fingers
tapped lightly on the bread which made a strange metal striking sound
and a pale purple translucent rectangle appeared. Its width was about
fifteen centimeters, while the hei
ght was about eight centimeters.
According to my knowledge, this familiar looking rectangle, along with
the alphabets and Arabic numerals being displayed on it using a simple
font I could understand right away. This was
without a doubt, the
called «S
tatus Window».
With my mouth left opened, I thought to myself,
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I see, then... just sit there for a while. Ah...... I still haven
t told you
my name.
The boy extended his right hand, as he continued,
m Eugeo. Nice to meet you, Kirito
As I grabbed his strong hand, which contrasted with his slender
looks, I repeated the boy
s name several times in my mouth. It wasn
in my memories, I didn
t know what language it came from, but
somehow I felt the name was familiar with my tongue for some reason.
The boy who called himself Eugeo pulled his hand back
returned to sit at the base of the great tree, before taking out the round
bread from the cloth wrapping and offering it me.
No, I can
I hurriedly waved my hands, but the boy showed no sign of
kun must be hungry, right?
You haven
t eaten anything yet,
have you?
Just as he said that, I unintentionally held my hand over my
abdomen to suppress the overwhelming hunger. Even though the
water from river tasted good, I couldn
t say it could fill me up.
No... but......
as still refraining myself, but the hand pressed the bread
forward even more, I then accepted it unavoidably. The boy
Eugeo grinned and shrugged.
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Ah...... but, I still can
t go right now though...... As I
m still
Yeah. I
m on a break now.
I moved my gaze to something wrapped with
cloth beside the
s feet, two items of which one seemed to be a portion of round
bread could be seen,
So that
s what he held at first.
while the other
object was just a water canteen made from leather, a pretty simple
menu for a lunch.
Ah, did I distu
rb your meal?
I shrank my neck, while the boy smiled timidly.
If you can wait until I finish work, I
ll accompany you to ask
Sister Azariya to let you stay at the church...... but it would be about
four more hours.
I actually wanted to go to the vill
age and search for the person
who could explain this situation to me as soon as possible, but the
feeling that I wanted to avoid having further conversations that were
like treading on thin ice was even greater. Four hours wasn
t a short
time but when thin
king about the consciousness acceleration function
of STL, the time in reality that would elapse would be about an hour
and several minutes.
Also, for a reason I didn
t understand, I also felt like I wanted to
talk with this kind boy a bit more. I nodded as I said,
s fine, I
ll wait. I may cause you trouble, but I
ll be in your care.
Then, a smile brighter than earlier appeared on the boy
s face as
he nodded in r
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explained your circumstances, perhaps Sister Azariya would help
and let you stay in the church.
Is that so, that
s great.
Those were my true feelings. If there was a village, it could be
possible that there might be staff from RATH Diving in, or they might
be monitoring the village from the outside.
ll go to the village. Is it directly north from here?
My gaze moved towards the almost opposite direction to where I
had came from and there I saw a narrow path stretched out before me.
However, before my feet could start moving, the boy made a gesture
using his left hand to stop me.
Ah, wait a bit. There are guards at the village, it might be difficult
to explain if you suddenly went there alone. I
ll go with you and help
explain the circumstances.
That would help a lot, thank you.
I smiled as I
thanked him, at the same time, muttered in my mind,
Apparently you
re not an NPC. Your replies are too natural for the
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Yeah, not knowing the way, it
s natural to get lost in t
his deep
forest. But it
s alright, if you go north from here, you will find a road.
No... erm......
Well, just do it then,
I said out the main keyword,
......I want to log out.
To the word I bet my ray of hope on, the boy tilted his head before
Log...... what was it? What do you mean?
It seems it
s confirmed by this.
He is either a test player that is a pure inhabitant without any idea
about this being the «Virtual world», or an NPC.
While I was careful not
to let my disappointment s
how on my face, I somehow added on a few
words to deceive him,
Sorry, it seems I used the wrong wording for this region.
Hmm...... I mean is there a village or a town somewhere I could stay in.
It was painful for me to say it. The boy then nodded in
Heh...... It
s the first time I heard such a word. Your black hair is
also unusual around here...... it could be possible that you were born in
the south.
Yeah, that may be so.
I gave a stiff smile as I looked at the boy who was smil
ing without
any ill will, then, he frowned in pity.
Hmmm, a place to stay. Although my village is just to the north,
as there are no travellers around here, there is no inn. But...... if you
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heart, however, the boy still looked surprised, he asked while still
gazing at my face,
...... don
t know where you come from...... what about the
town you were living in up until now......?
Ah...... I can
t remember. The only thing I know is my name......
s a surprise...... The «Vector
s Prank», huh. Even though
ve heard
about it before...... but this is the first time I have actually
seen it.
Vector... prank......?
Eh, you
ve never heard about it from your hometown? It
s what
my village calls a person who one day suddenly disappears, then later
on, suddenly appea
rs in the forest or the field. The god of darkness
Vector loves to play pranks on humans by kidnapping them, pulling out
their memories before throwing them out in a faraway land. Longgg
ago, an old woman in my village disappeared.
Heh...... Then it
possible that I
m also like that......
My situation is getting more suspicious,
I nodded as I thought so.
The boy in front of me no longer seemed to be a test player who was
role playing. As my emotion was driven up the wall, I started saying
something a little more dangerous,
Also...... there
s some trouble, and I want to get out
of here once.
But... I don
t know how to do so......
I desperately prayed that this would make him understand the
situation, the sympathy showed in the boy
s green eyes as he nodded
while saying,
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But if it
s the second or third, the situation won
t be that easy.
Toward the human that acts as an inhabitant of Underworld or an NPC,
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The moment I saw his face, my head...... the insides of my soul felt
a throbbing pain. However, that feeling vanished as soon as I tried to
catch it. I patiently tried to forget it, as for now, I opened my mouth to
declare that I had no hostility against h
But, what should I say?
And before that, what language should I use? I had no idea at all.
As I
opened and closed my mouth repeatedly like an idiot, the boy spoke
Who are you? Where did you come from?
That slightly foreign intonation was
in perfect Japanese.
I received the same shock as when I first looked at the jet black
great tree, and became absentminded for a while. In this place, which
no matter how I looked, wasn
t Japan, hearing my native language in
this different world was som
ething I didn
t expect at all. Once I got
used to hearing the words flowing out of the mouth of this boy, who
was wearing exotic clothes akin to western Europe during the Middle
Ages, it felt like non
reality, as if I had jumped into a dubbed western
However, this was not a situation I could become engrossed in.
This was where I practiced thinking. I began to desperately rotate my
brain, which I felt had become rusty these days.
Assuming this world is a virtual world created by STL, in other
«Underworld». The boy in front of me is either,
a test player
during the Dive, and possesses the real world memories just like me,
test player but his memories were restricted, becoming a resident of this
world, or
an NPC being operated by the prog
If it
s the first then it
d be quick. Just explain my strange situation to
him and ask him for a way to log out.
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Thinking about intruding into the garden of the emperor made
me waver slightly, but the temptation to touch the trunk of the great
tree led my feet forward. Although I tripped several times due to the
meandering roots below the moss,
it didn
t stop me from looking up
above my head, I slowly proceeded.
I, who was approaching the trunk of the great tree while sighing
many times in admiration, had completely forgotten to be cautious
about the surroundings. As a result, it was already to
o late by the time I
realized it.
My line of sight, which suddenly returned to looking straight
ahead, met the face of someone whose pupils were watching me from
behind the tree trunk. I swallowed my breath. Being startled, I
retreated half a st
ep before falling to the ground. My right hand was
about to take something from my back, but of course, there was no
Fortunately, it seemed the first person I met in this world didn
show hostility nor caution, just tilting his head in wonder.
s age should be the same as mine
I looked at the boy, aged
around seventeen, or eighteen. His soft
looking ash brown hair was
slightly wavy. His clothes were the same unbleached short sleeved
tunic and trousers as mine. He used the roots of the tree as
a bench to
sit on, and in his right hand was something round.
What was strange was his appearances. Although his skin was
cream colored, he couldn
t be considered a westerner and at the same
time, he couldn
t be an easterner either. I looked at the dark g
reen eyes
on his thin and tender features.
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Although the forest ended right there, there was no village.
However I didn
t have time to f
eel disappointed, as I absentmindedly
stared with my mouth open.
It was a circular open glade in the forest. It was certainly wider
than the place I woke up a while ago. The diameter should be about
thirty meters. Also, the ground which was covered in gre
en and golden
moss was different from the forest I had walked past, there were no
ferns, vines, nor short shrubs at all.
Then, at the center of the clearing, my gaze was fixed on
something that rose up high.
What a huge tree!
Estimating with my eyes,
its diameter shouldn
t be less than four
meters. The trees I saw until now in this forest were all broadleaf trees
with rugged and gnarled trunks, but the huge tree stretched high up in
front of my eyes was a needle
leaved tree. Its bark was of a dark colo
close to black, and upon looking up, I could see that its branches spread
out over each other high up into the sky. While I thought the Jomon
cedar in Yakushima and the sequoia cedar in America I saw from
images and videos were huge, I didn
t think the o
presence of this tree could be something in the realm of nature, and I
felt that it emanated the presence of an emperor.
My gaze went from the top part, which completely obstructed the
view above it, back to its base. I noticed the roots that
were like big
snakes wriggling about spread like a mesh in all direction, barely
reaching the forest boundary where I stood. Or rather, as this tree had
absorbed all the fertility, no other plant but moss could grow, resulting
in the large clearing in the
middle of the forest.
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As I tried to forget the prickly pain of the remaining memory f
now, the continuous sound that reached my ears became clear. When I
tried to listen to it again, this sound also made me feel nostalgic, but I
t know if I had heard this sound of wood being cut before. I shook
my head slightly before starting to wa
lk upstream again.
While I was moving both feet single
mindedly, I had a chance to
enjoy the beautiful scenery once more, then I noticed that my direction
had veered off to the left. Apparently, the source of the sound wasn
from the river bank, but seem
ed to be a place slightly deeper inside the
forest on my left.
The strange sound I tried to count on my fingers didn
t continue
to echo constantly. It repeated for exactly fifty times, then was followed
by a gap of about three minutes, before resuming ano
ther fifty times.
Finally I was certain that it could be nothing but a human
made sound.
During the three minutes of silence, I walked in the general
direction of the sound, then made some minor adjustments when the
sound resumed. I had already separated
from the river bank and
returned to within the forest. I proceeded silently as I reunited with
the strange dragonflies, the blue lizards and the giant mushrooms.
nine, ......fifty...
An unaware low voice counted at the exact same time as th
fiftieth strike had ended, it was then I noticed that the gap in the grove
of the trees up ahead became brighter.
So that
s the forest exit? Or it
could possibly be a village.
I quickened my feet toward the light.
I clambered over the tree roots which w
ere raised up like stairs
and when my face came out of the shadow of the old tree trunk, in
front of my eyes was
a scene that could be said to be unbelievable.
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Just as I blinked once, the illusory scene abruptly disappeared,
just like when it had appeared.
What was that just now?
Even though the illusion had already
disappeared, the overflowing feeling of nostalgia wouldn
t leave, the
middle of my chest fel
t tight and painful.
A childhood memory
I had a strong feeling when I saw the back
of the three children walking along the river bank. The black haired boy
walking on the right, wasn
t that me?
But such a thing can
t be possible. As there are no deep f
orests nor
that clear river in Kawagoe, where I live, and I never had friends with
those hair colors either. And before that, all three children were wearing
the same fantasy clothes I
m wearing too.
If this is inside the STL, the illusion just now is the
memory from the
continuous Diving on the first weekend? But even thinking of it that way,
due to the STL
s Fluctlight Acceleration function, I should have been
inside for ten days at most. Such a short time wouldn
t be able to cause
that throbbing pain in
the chest from nostalgia like just now.
The situation seemed to proceed further and further into an
inexplicable direction.
Am I really who I thought I am?
as such doubt
returned to me, I fearfully looked into the surface of the river beside
me, however, I couldn
t see the difference as the face reflected off the
undulated stream was distorted.
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Sword Art Online Volume 9
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I made
a half circle turn toward the upstream of the river, where
the dry echoes came from.
Suddenly, I had a feeling that I saw a strange scene.
On the right was a rippling surface of a river. A dense and deep
forest on the left. In front was a green path exte
nding to somewhere.
There, three children were walking side by side. Between a black
haired boy and a light brown haired boy, a girl wearing a straw hat had
her long golden hair swaying dazzlingly. Under the full mid summer
sunlight, the gold radiance scattered freely.
Is this
Far away, the days which wouldn
t return. The eternal trust they
vowed to do everything to protect, but like ice dropped into sunlight,
abruptly vanishing
Those nostalgic days.
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and those vividly colored small animals, I don
t think exist anywhere on
earth. In general, isn
t nature the thing that if touched by human hands
will become a harsh environment? Also, i
s there any reason that I have
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see white sands of the riverbed through the extremely clear mountain
Up until several
seconds ago, with the remaining small possibility
that this place was the real world, I would have to consider the dangers
of drinking unboiled water. However, watching the stream which
looked as if it was from melted crystals, unable to resist the tempta
my right hand plunged into the river
s surface. With a high
sound as if it was cutting the cold water, my right hand poured the
liquid into my mouth.
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the two old trees which rose as if they were natural gateposts, and
stepped into the gloomy forest.
The forest floor was cover
ed in a velvet
like thick moss, the space
felt suspiciously strange. The leaves of overgrown trees obstructed
almost all sunlight, it was just narrow beams of golden light that
managed to reach the ground. The butterflies dancing over the grass
were replac
ed with strange beetles which looked like dragonflies or
moths, they glided soundlessly in the air. Occasionally, a sound of
something from somewhere reached my ears. It was a scene I didn
think could be earth in the real world.
I walked for about fifte
en minutes while praying that a hostile
large animal or monster would not venture out. I felt greatly relieved
when the path that had a deluge of sunlight came into view. As the
sound of water became clear, I was certain that up ahead would be a
river. I n
aturally quickened my feet while suppressing my dry throat.
The moment I rushed out of the dense forest, separated by a three
meter wide area of grass, was the surface of water, in which the silver
light of the sun bounced off and entered my eyes.
With a miserable groan, I unsteadily walked along the final
distance, before throwing my body down onto the soft undergrowth
I unintentionally raised a sound once I laid on my stomach.
What a beautiful stream.
The river wasn
t wide, as I slowly
crawled, I could see the stunning transparency of the water current.
Like a drop of blue paint hanging on pure lack of color, I could clearly
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In other words, in order to obtain data about the action I would
take if I was in a place
where I couldn
t be sure if I was in reality or a
virtual world, they blocked my memory right before the Dive and
threw me into a super real different world created by STL.
If that was the case, I felt like slapping my head who had easily
agreed to that
evil experiment. It wouldn
t be wrong to say that it was
shallow to think that I could effortlessly come up with an accurate and
swift way to escape from this situation.
I counted the percentage of possibilities which could sufficiently
explain the curren
t situation as I folded the fingers on my right hand.
Hmm...... the possibility of this being reality is... 3 percent. The
present VR world... 7 percent. My agreement to test Dive in STL... 20
percent. A sudden accident during the Dive... 69.9999 percent
In my mind, I added the final 0.0001 percent possibility that I had
lost into a real different world. And that was the limit I could squeeze
out of my little wisdom. In order to obtain more information, I would
have to brave the dangers and try to
contact other humans or game
players or test Divers.
So it was time to take action.
First, I want to moisten my dry throat which has protested up until
I turned my body around on the center of the grass covered
ground I was standing on. The directi
on where a faint streaming sound
came from, judging by the sun
s location, would probably be the east.
Before I started moving, my right hand searched my back again,
of course there was not a single stick there, let alone a sword. I kicked
the hopelessnes
s away as I put my right foot out, it was just in ten steps
that I reached the end of the grass covered ground. I passed through
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lying inside the STL exper
imental machine in RATH
s Roppongi
development office, doing a two thousand yen per hour part
time job.
But...... isn
t it strange......?
After a brief moment of relief, I tilted my head again.
The operator, Higa certainly said that in order to preven
t the
contamination to the test data, the real world memories of Kirigaya
Kazuto would have to be blocked. But currently, what I can
t recall is just
one day, from sending Asuna off until I go into STL at RATH the next day,
s far from saying blocked.
yes, since the final test is approaching, didn
t I decide to
quit this part
time job to have time for studying? I don
t think I
m a
person who easily breaks my promise with Asuna after one day because
of a good hourly wage.
Moreover, from this situ
ation, even though this is STL
s test Dive, it
no doubt that some problem had occurred.
I looked into the blue sky
between the gaps in the treetops and shouted in a loud voice,
san, if you
re monitoring, stop the Dive for a moment!
Looks like a
problem has occurred!
I stood like that, waiting for more than ten seconds.
However, the countless leaves continued swaying under the
serene sunlight, the butterflies continued flapping their wings drowsily,
there was no change to the scenery.
u......perhaps, this is......
I groaned in a low voice to a certain possibility I suddenly realized.
Perhaps I have agreed to this experiment
is that the case?
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one room. Although the table, chair and various small things placed
there were hard to distinguish from the real thing, the room itself
t be called a «
However, the size of the forest which surrounds me now, perhaps
it would be several kilometers in reality. No, if the ridge of the
mountain range that faintly floated beyond the trees was the real thing,
then the size of this space would be at a l
evel of several tens or several
hundreds of kilometers.
Trying to create this using the existing technology, even using all
the storage available on the internet wouldn
t be enough to fit all the
data required. Only a totally new technology...... such as
the «Mnemonic
Visual» of STL, would allow not only a scene that was impossible in
reality, but permit this large amount of objects, I totally didn
t imagine
Then, if my guess that this place was Underworld, the virtual
world created by STL, was correc
t, it would be impossible to verify it
no matter what action was used inside.
That was because every object existed here, no, every
were at the same level as the real thing in my consciousness. No matter
how many grass I tore, the same inform
ation as if I did it in the real
world would be given to my consciousness
my Fluctlight, so it
was not theoretically possible to verify that it was a virtual existence,
So, if STL is going for commercial use, a marker to help in
that it
s a virtual world is absolutely needed......
I stood up as I
thought that.
Although I still haven
t obtained solid proof, it
s better to think that
this place is the Underworld. It means currently in the real world, I
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Now, without Asuna
s thinking circuit, my brain
was like a CPU with
half of its core disabled.
It feels like only yesterday that I enjoyed talking with her at Agil
shop for several hours. If I knew this would happen, I wouldn
t talk about
RATH or STL, but about how to distinguish reality from the
virtual wor
I inadvertently raised my body. The ambient sound rapidly
So that is it, and I didn
t realize it until now.
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communication route and caused me to log into a world which was not
originally connected. But in this case, there is no explanation for these
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I unconsciously said that out. At least Kayaba Akihito still carried
out his minimal duty, explaining fine details at the start of the game.
I looked up into sky through
the treetops before speaking again,
Oi, GM
san! If you
re listening then reply to me!!
However, no matter how long I waited, a huge face or a hooded
human figure didn
t appear. At that point, I started checking the
surrounding bushes again before sear
ching through my clothes for
something that could be a rule book, but I couldn
t find anything.
Apparently, whoever threw me out in this place has no intention to
respond to my call for help. This situation, if it
s not accidental then...
As I lis
tened to the birds
carefree twittering, I recklessly thought
about what to do after this point.
If this is an accident in reality, I have a hunch that moving around
carelessly isn
t a good idea. It could be possible that currently, a rescue
team is alrea
dy on its way.
But, what is the reason that this kind of accident happened in the
first place?
If forcibly straining to get one, it could possibly be, trouble
happened to the vehicle I was boarding during traveling
be it a
plane or a car, and I fell u
nconscious in this forest, the shock made me
lose memories of the events that occurred before and after it. But that
t explain these strange clothes, and there are no scratches on my
body either.
Or, an accident happened during my Dive in a virtual wo
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Sword Art Online Volume 9
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The damp black soil was surprisingly soft, the entangled small
grassroots entered my eyes immediately. I saw a wriggling movement
between the tangle of roots and ge
ntly picked it up with my fingertips.
It was a small earthworm, about three centimeters long. The
lustrous green creature, which was pulled out from its safe haven, was
struggling recklessly.
Is this a new species?
right as I thought that, it
raised one end of the tip, which apparently was its head, and made a
cry. While I was feeling dizzy, I returned it to the top
of the dug up soil. I then looked at my right hand, my palm was covered
in black dirt
, the gaps of my fingernails were full of the fine soil.
I was absentminded for several tens of seconds, then, while being
reluctant, I came up with three hypotheses which could sufficiently
explain the current situation.
First, it is possible that this
place is a virtual world created by an
extension of the current FullDive technology. The situation in which I
woke up in the middle of the forest, is a standard fantasy RPG starting
However, in that case, no matter what kind of supercomputer I
, none of them had enough capability to generate these ultra
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Command. ......Log out.
I pronounced it along with a faint glimmer of hope, but there was
no response. As I sat cross
legged, I looked at my hand again.
There were swirled fingerprints on the tip of my fingers. There
were wrink
les at the joints. The fine soft hairs grew thinly. The beads
of cold sweat had been perspiring for a while now.
I wiped them off using my tunic, and checked the details of the
fabric again. The rough threads were knit into the cloth using an old
The fluffy and very fine fiber was clearly visible on the surface.
If this was a virtual world, the machine which created it would
have a fearfully high performance. As I set my gaze on the grove of
trees up ahead, I quickly tore a blade of grass with my
right arm and
held it in front of my eyes.
The Seed
s standard VR world, which used «Detail Focusing»
technique, wouldn
t be able to keep up with my sudden movement, a
slight time lag would occur before I could see the fine detailed texture
of the grass.
However, from the thin running vein and the jagged edge,
until the water droplet dripped off the slit, all were presented in ultra
fine detail the moment I stared at it.
It means the objects which entered my vision is generated in real
time with a precisi
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I had never seen such clothes and shoes before.
In the real
world, that was.
I relaxed my shoulders, as I muttered with a lig
ht sigh.
Even though they were completely different, at the same time,
they were the garments that looked familiar. From Europe during the
Middle Ages, or it could be said from fantasy, these were what were the
called tunic, cotton pants, and leather s
hoes. This place wasn
reality but a fantasy world, or a virtual world I was familiar with.
I said again as I tilted my head.
This means I was sleeping while FullDiving? But when and what
game did I log in to? Why can
t I remember anything
Anyway, I
ll know after I logged out,
as I thought that, I waved my
right hand.
After a several seconds, the window wouldn
t open, so this time I
waved my left hand. The result was the same.
As I listened to the uninterrupted sound of little birds twittering
and leaves rubbing against each other, I recklessly tried to shake off a
discomforting feeling which was creeping up from my waist.
This place is a virtual world. It should be. But
least it isn
Alfheim I
m familiar with. Before that, it isn
t even the standard VR world
which is created by The Seed.
But didn
t I just confirm the mole and scar I have in the real world?
A VR game which could precisely reproduce such things, as far as
I know,
t exist.
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of the humidity at the end of June.
This time, a genuine fear ran through
my back.
The «Yesterday
s memory», which I
m desperately clinging onto as
if it were a small float floating in the middle of a stormy sea, did it really
happen? Am I... really w
ho I think I am......?
After caressing my face and pulling at my hair several times, I
lowered my hands and looked at its details. I calmed down slightly as
they looked just like what I had in my memories, there was a mole at
the base of the right thumb,
the back of the left middle finger had a scar
which I got during childhood.
At that point, I finally noticed my strange appearance.
Replacing my usual pajamas wasn
t a T
shirt nor a school uniform,
no, it wasn
t even anything I owned. On the contrary, no
matter how I
looked at it, I didn
t think it was ready
made clothes available in the
The tunic was dyed in a pale blue, it was either a rough cotton or
flax short sleeved shirt. Its texture was irregular, which gave a coarse
feeling. The thread s
ewed on the cuffs seemed to be hand
sewn rather
than machine sewed. There was no collar, the V shape cut on the chest
was tied with a light brown cord. As I looked at the cord held by my
fingers, I could see that it wasn
t made of braided fiber, but seemed
be of finely cut leather.
The trousers also used the same material, but they were in beige
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The rain had already stopped when we exited the station. As we
walked side by side on the brick tile footpath, we talked about entering
the university
. I spoke openly about my desire go to the university in
America, and made an unreasonable request for Asuna to come along, at
that point, she gave her usual tenderly bright smile, and then
My memories stopped at that point.
I couldn
t recall it. How
did Asuna reply? How did I say farewell
and return to the station? What time did I come back home, what time
did I go to bed? I couldn
t recall any of those.
As I was slightly amazed, I desperately tried to pull out more
However, Asuna
s smile
just faded away like it was blurred in the
water, the scene after that didn
t come out no matter how hard I tried
to recall it. I frowned as I closed my eyes, and hastily dug up the
gloomy grey vacuum.
I was suffocating as if I was going mad.
Those were
just two images that came to mind, like small bubbles.
Unintentionally, I inhaled the sweet air deeply into my chest. And I
strongly sensed my dry throat, which I had forgotten about until now.
There is no doubt about it, yesterday evening I was
definitely at
Miyasaka town in Setagaya ward. Then how did I end up sleeping in the
middle of a forest I don
t know?
No, was it really yesterday? The breeze which is brushing against
my skin feels cool and pleasant. This forest doesn
t have the slightest
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Amnesia? As those dangerous words crossed my mind,
no way,
uickly denied it.
I am...... my name is Kirigaya Kazuto. Seventeen years old and eight
months. I live at Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture with my mother and little
I felt somewhat calm as my related data came out smoothly, then I
pulled out more memor
Currently, I
m a second year high school student. But as I
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I repeatedly blinked several times due to the sudden shot of
numerous swaying beams of lights. As I rubbed my eyes, which were
with tears, with the back of my right hand, I slowly raised my
upper body.
......Where am I......?
I unintentionally muttered.
What I saw next were green bushes. There were small white and
yellow flowers at various places on them, the shiny light blue
butterflies were flying back and forth between them. About five meters
away, the carpet of grasses was cut off, from there on, was
a stretch of
deep forest, lined up with the huge gnarly trees which should have
aged for tens of years.
As I focused my sight to the gloomy gap between the tree trunks,
the grove of trees seemed to continue until the limit where light could
reach. The rug
ged rippled tree bark and the ground were covered with
thick moss, shining green and gold under the sun.
I glanced to the right, then turned around, I was greeted by old
tree trunks from all directions. In other words, it seemed I was lying in
a small cir
cle of grasses in the opening of the forest. Lastly I looked
upwards, and from the gap between the gnarled tree
tops stretching in
all directions, it was the blue sky where the scattered clouds were
drifting, like I had expected.
Where is...... this plac
I muttered again as I sighed. But there was no answer.
I searched every nook and corner of my head, but I couldn
t find
the memory of how I came to take a nap in this place. Sleepwalking?
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Part 1
There were scents in the air.
My fragmented thought had sensed as such just before I woke up.
The air which was flowing into my nasal cavity contained large
amounts of information. The sweet scent of flowers. The scent o
f bright
green grasses. The refreshing scent of trees which felt like it could
cleanse my chest. The scent of water which stimulated my thirsty
As my consciousness leaned towards awareness, the flood of the
sounds information surged into me. The sound of numerous leaves
rubbing against each other. The sound of small birds cheerfully
twittering away. Below them were the occasionally buzzing sounds
from the insects. The faint murmuring sound of a small river from far
Where am I? At least it is obviously not my room. Usually, when I
wake up, there is always a sunny
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his chest. In addition to the voices fluttering about, a siren ripped the
air apart.
Heart rate is dropping!
Start chest compressions!
The face of
Kazuto, with his eyelids shut, looked terribly pale
under the car
s internal LED light.
No... no... Kirito
kun... not something
like this...
the small voice continued to spill out of Asuna
s mouth
without her noticing for a while.
Heart stopped!
p compressing!
kun, it
s a lie, right? You aren
t going to leave me, right? You
said we
ll be together forever...... didn
t you say that?
Asuna dropped her gaze to the mobile terminal held firmly in her
The pink heart displayed on the moni
tor throbbed slightly once,
before it stopped pulsing.
The digital figure cruelly changed and stayed at zero, as
everything became silent.
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reported the current location and situation to the o
perator of the
emergency center, panting and out of breath.
Curious spectators gathered. Then, a policeman appeared from a
crack in the crowd. Asuna just briefly answered his questions as she
kept on tightly hugging Kazuto.
s breath was short, and
shallow. Under his pained breath,
he whispered two short words.
Asuna, sorry.
The next several minutes felt like an eternity. Kazuto was brought
into one of the two ambulances which had arrived, and Asuna also
boarded the same car.
As Kazuto lay uncon
scious on the stretcher, a paramedic put his
face close to Kazuto
s mouth to check his airway, then immediately
called the other rescue member,
Respiratory failure! Give me the Ambu bag!
To hastily support his breathing, Kazuto
s mouth and nose were
covered with a transparent mask.
Asuna somehow managed to suppress her urge to scream within
her throat, as she informed the paramedic about the name of the
chemical she miraculously recalled,
Erm, s
succinylcholine...... he was in
jected with that drug. In the
left shoulder.
The paramedic looked at her in amazement for a moment, then he
gave new instructions in rapid succession.
IV inject epinephrine...... no, use atropine! Make sure it
s IV!
A transfusion needle was put into
the left arm of Kazuto, who had
his shirt taken off, the electrodes of the ECG monitor were placed on
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As she ran and called with her utmost voice. Isn
t this a mistake to
leave Kazuto and run away? ......If we both jumped on him at t
he same
time, shouldn
t we able to suppress that weapon? She passed the
halfway point as she thought so, at that time, a sound reached her ears.
Like when the cap of a carbonated drink was opened, or a can of
hair spray was used; a short, sharp compressio
n sound. Yet, she
understood its meaning right away; Asuna, overwhelmed with fear,
twisted her foot, staggered, and leaned her hand against the damp
Asuna slowly turned and looked over her shoulder.
A gruesome scene entered her vision.
The shaft
of the umbrella in Kazuto
s hand had stabbed into the
base of Kanemoto
s right thigh.
And the syringe in Kanemoto hand was pushed against Kazuto
left shoulder.
Together, their bodies separated from each other, before
collapsing violently onto the road.
The several minutes after that was unreal, like she was watching
a black and white movie.
She ran up to the side of the unmoving body of Kazuto. She pulled
Kazuto off Kanemoto, who was holding his right leg in agony,
Hang in
she was calling as
she pulled out the mobile terminal from her
pocket and opened it.
She couldn
t feel anything from her fingers, as if they were frozen.
Her stiff fingertips desperately operated the touch panel, and she
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Interlude I
gun for a
moment, but she held her breath as she saw Kazuto
s back
became intensely stiff. Her confusion turned into fear once she heard
s voice.
s...... the «Death Gun»......!
His right hand projected to the back, encouraging Asuna to
withdraw. At t
he same time, he pointed the tip of the folded umbrella
in his left hand at Kanemoto.
One step, two steps, as she unconsciously moved backward,
Asuna eyes were still fixed on the plastic «Gun». That was not a mere
water gun, but a syringe utilizing a high
pressure gas, inside of which
was with the frightening chemical which could stop the heart.
I have
, I have the poisoned weapon
m sorry it
s not a knife
As he was shaking the tip of the syringe, which was its only metal
part, Kanemoto made a creaking
like laugh. Kazuto grabbed the
umbrella with both his hands while directing it cautiously towards
Kanemoto, then called out in a low voice.
Asuna, run away!
Call someone for help!
After a moment of hesitation, Asuna nodded, then turned around
and started running. From behind, the voice of Kanemoto could be
Oi, «The Flash»! Make sure to let everyone know..... that the one
who took the «Black Swordsm
s neck, is this Johnny Black!
The doorbell of the nearest house was about thirty meters away.
Someone...... help!!
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
............XaXa. She heard that name just
half a year ago. The
mastermind behind that terrible «Death Gun Incident».
She heard right after the incident that XaXa himself, Shinkawa
Shouichi was arrested along with his younger brother, but the
remaining comrade was on the run. The third person, who
m she
thought was caught long ago, his name was probably Kanemoto...... in
other words, the man standing in front of her was
You...... still keep running away?
Kazuto said in a hoarse voice. Johnny Black, Kanemoto grinned as
he protruded both his i
ndex fingers.
Of cour
se. Did you think I
d give up after XaXa was caught? I
am the last of the Laughing Coffin. I discovered that coffee shop five
months ago, and I was on the lookout nearby for a month...... every day
was filled with hatred
As he s
poke, Kanemoto inclined his head to the left and right.
But, Kirito
san, without the sword...... you
re merely a weak brat,
t you? Even though the face is the same, it
s hard to think you
the same Swordsman
sama who beat me up so badly.
he same for you...... What can you do without your proud
poisoned weapons?
Hey, that
s so unprofessional to judge an armament by its
Kanemoto moved his right hand behind his back with a snake
speed, and pulled something off his shirt.
It was a strange object. From the cylinder made of smooth plastic,
there was a toy
like grip protruding out. Asuna thought it was a water
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
......So surprise atta
cks don
t work, huh.
With the edge of his lips tightly bent, Asuna didn
t know if he was
smiling or irritated.
Just who are you?
Kazuto repeated his question. The man shrugged, shook his head
two, three times, before he deliberately heaved a big sigh
Hey, hey, that won
t do, Kirito
san. Did you already forget my
face...... oh, over there I wore a mask, didn
t I? But... I never forget about
you for even a single day.
Tension built up on Kazuto
s back. He pulled back his right hand
he lowered his waist slightly.
«Johnny Black»!
With his low shout, Kazuto
s right hand flashed like lightning and
grabbed the air over his shoulder. It was once where the «Black
s beloved sword, «Elucidator» was.
Bu... Ku...
Kuhahahahahaha! Nope, no sword!!
The man who was called Johnny Black twisted the upper part of
his body as he spewed out a high
pitched laugh. Kazuto lowered his
right hand as his entire body remained tense.
Asuna knew that name. It was the name of an a
ctive murderer in
the old Aincrad, a well
known name even among the red players.
Belonging to the PK guild «Laughing Coffin» and forming a duo with
eyed XaXa», who required more than ten players to capture.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
stopped at Asuna and Kirito before saying
Excuse me,
with a high
pitched voice.
Erm, do you know where the station is?
The young man lowered his head as he asked, Asuna then pointed
to the east with her left hand.
Follow this road for a while, and turn right at the first traffic
light...... then...
Suddenly, Kazuto, who was behind, forcefully pulled back Asuna
er. Then he stepped forward while shielding Asuna behind his
You...... were following us from Dicey Café weren
t you? Who are
With a sharp tone, Kazuto said something that Asuna didn
t even
notice. She held her breath as sh
e looked at the man
s face again.
He had an uneven tangle of long hair. The outline of his thin
cheeks were densely covered by a stubbly beard. There were silver
earrings on his ears, and on his neck was also a thick silver necklace.
He was wearing a disc
olored black T
shirt with the same colored
leather pants. A metal chain hanging on his waist made a jingling sound.
His feet were wrapped in high laced boots which looked heavy in this
season, and he gave off a shabby overall impression.
The narrowed eyes
gleamed from the parting in his untidy
forelock, as if he was smiling. The guy frowned and tilted his head as if
he didn
t understand what Kazuto was talking about
suddenly, his small pupils shone with an unpleasant light.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
......Promise me, just one thing. Don
t do something dangerous.
Kazuto, who turned to her, gave a smile as he nodded deeply.
Of course, I promise. As I
m going to America with Asuna next
summer anyways.
Before that, shouldn
t you wor
ry about studying to get a good
score on the Scholastic Assessment Test?
Kazuto was at a loss for words momentarily, before he lightly
coughed and changed the topic,
Anyway, I need to properly greet Asuna
s parents first. I have
exchanged e
mails with Shouzou
shi from time to time, but your
s memory of me is quite bad......
No problem, no problem, recently she has become very
understanding. Ah, yes...... why not just go now?
Ehh!? N
No...... maybe it
s better to go after the fina
l exam, yeah.
They had arrived in front of a small park near Asuna
s house as
they talked. This was where Kazuto usually said farewell before
sending her off. Asuna stopped as she felt reluctant before turning
around. She looked at Kazuto
face, and his gaze was also fixed on her.
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Interlude I
So you mean the STL isn
t the goal, but the method? As Asuna was
wondering what the understanding of the human soul could lead to,
Kazuto continued speaking,
Besides. I think STL is his...... the e
xtension of Heathcliff
s idea.
That man, for whatever reason he created Nerve Gear, he sacrificed
thousands of people, fried his own brain, and on top of that, he even
spread «The Seed» out into the world...... I don
t know if he even had a
goal in the fir
st place, but I feel that his presence is floating somewhere
in STL. Even though I want to know what he was aiming for, I don
want it to affect my own direction. I don
t want to feel like I
m dancing
on his palm.
The face of that person appeared in the
back of Asuna
s brain in
that instant, and she nodded.
......I see...... ......Hey, the consciousness of Guild Leader, the
thought emulation program still exists somewhere on a server, right?
Like Kirito
kun mentioned before.
Yeah, but it was just
once. The machine that the guy used for
suicide was the original prototype of STL. In order to read the
Fluctlight, it required a high
powered beam that was enough to fry the
brain cells. Perhaps, he had to suffer a much more intense and long
continuous pa
in than when only the brain stem is destroyed by the
Nerve Gear...... For the purpose of making a copy of himself, I don
think it
s unrelated to what RATH is doing with STL now. Maybe
somewhere in my heart I
m still thinking...... that I want to see some
kind of resolution, which is why I accepted Kikuoka
s offer......
As he said that, Kazuto
s gaze turned toward the sky fading into a
reddish orange. As she looked at his face for a while, Asuna put more
strength into her hand that was holding his, befor
e whispering,
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Interlude I
No, our hearts were actually bound a long time ago. On the sky
above the collapsing Aincrad, when it disappeared wrapped in that
rainbow aurora
or perhaps even far before that, the moment we
met deep within the dark labyrinth, as
fellow lonely solo players.
Several minutes later, as they were walking along the walkway
holding hands, Asuna asked a question that suddenly popped into her
So you think that the Soul Translator you
re experimenting with
t the
successor of the FullDive technology? The Brain Chip
interfaces with brain cells at the same level as the Nerve Gear, but STL
is ahead of that, and interfaces at the quantum level, doesn
t it?
Kazuto was diligently poking the brick using th
e metallic ferrule
of the umbrella in his other hand as he answered,
......Its design concept is certainly more advanced than the Brain
Chip. But, how to say it...... maybe it
s too advanced. In order to
downsize that machine for practical use, it wouldn
t just take a few
years, but it would require decades to do so. I have a feeling that the
current STL isn
t a machine made for humans to FullDive into the
virtual world with......
Ehh? Then what is it for?
Maybe it
s a machine for understanding the
consciousness...... the Fluctlight.
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Interlude I
s why...... I
I want you to go with me, Asuna. I really don
want to live without you. I know I
m saying something unreasonable. I
know that Asuna has a path Asuna wants to go. But, even so, I......
At that point, he cut off his words as if he was conf
used. Asuna
eyes widened, and she let out a light laugh.
S......Sorry that I laughed. But...... could it be, that was what made
kun troubled until now?
Whaaat. If it
s about my answer, I had already decided upon it
g ago.
Her left hand grasped her right, which was still holding Kazuto
hand. After nodding deeply again, she told him,
Of course, I
ll go... we
ll go together. If it
s with you, I can go
s eyes opened wide as he blinked many times,
and then a
rare bright smile floated onto his face. At the same time, he placed his
right hand on Asuna
s shoulder.
Asuna responded by tightly embracing Kazuto with both hands.
As their lips touched, the coldness immediately left their lips,
replaced by
a loving warmth; Asuna, once again, sensed the exchange
of information through the infinite amount of radiance that comprised
each other
s souls. Even in the future, no matter in which world, no
matter how long we travel, our hearts won
t be separated, ab
out that
m certain.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
As if he finally shook off his hesitation, he took a step forward
......I still think about going.
Asuna, who understood the reason for his concern, smiled as she
Yeah. I s
pent a year researching, and I think the «Brain Implant
Chip» research at Santa Clara University is the real successor of the
FullDive technology. The Brain Machine Interface is probably heading
toward that direction. I really want to see it, where the nex
t world is
Asuna looked straight into Kazuto
s pupils before giving a deep
There were not only fun memories, but a lot of sad and painful
memories too. Its purpose, that castle
s destination, you want to know
about those, right?
t think even several hundreds of years would be enough
time to understand it.
Kazuto made a little smile and became silent once again.
s certainly difficult to speak about separation. was what Asuna
guessed. Without erasing her smile, she tried t
o voice the answer that
had always been kept warm inside of her chest
however before
she could do so, Kazuto made the exact same expression he once did in
the same one from when he proposed marriage to her
as he
said while stuttering,
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Interlude I
s, at that moment, became warm as if they were sitting by a
fireplace. After the floating castle collapsed, going through the world of
fairies, and returning to the real world, when she held his hand, she
could still recall the warm
th felt in her palm from that time.
Really, the human temperature is a strange thing. Even though
she knew that heat was generated from energy consumption to
maintain bodily functions, the exchange of warmth from the contact of
their palms felt like it contained some information as well. Bec
Asuna could understand what Kazuto, who had been walking in silence
until now, had been hesitating to say.
A human
s soul is light quanta contained within the microscopic
structures of their brain cells
was what Kazuto had said. But, that light
ght exist not just in the brain cells, but also in every cell in the body.
The quantum field, which was composed of those particles of
fluctuating lights and produced the human form, had connected
through their palms. Perhaps that was how the warmness coul
d be felt.
Asuna closed her eyelids gently, before whispering in her mind,
Look, it
s alright, Kirito
kun. I will always guard your back.
s because we
re the world
s greatest forward and backup.
Kazuto then suddenly stopped, prompting Asuna to al
so halt her
moving feet. Her eyes widened, Is it already seven? as the antique cast
iron street lamp radiated an orange light overhead.
In this evening after the rain, no one was to be seen on the
walkway aside from the two of them. Kazuto slowly turned h
is head,
his dark pupils fixed on Asuna.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Interlude I
At that time, Asuna had served as the sub
leader of the guild
Knights of the Blood. Her escort was a great sword user named
Kuradeel, who accompanied her all the time. Kuradeel, who had an
abnormal burning obsession
with Asuna, had used a paralysis poison
on Kazuto/Kirito, which compelled Asuna to withdraw from the guild.
Kuradeel had killed two guild members in the process; Asuna,
who got there just in time before Kirito
s life was lost, drew her rapier
with fury an
d mercilessly, Kuradeel
s HP gauge was reduced to a level
where it could have been depleted with just a final strike, but she had
hesitated. Kuradeel took that chance to retaliate however Kirito had
recovered from the paralysis by then, and he finished Kur
adeel off with
his bare hands.
The two then went back to the headquarters of the Knights of the
Blood on the 55th floor. After informing them about her withdrawal
from the guild, they held each other
s hands while walking aimlessly in
While she
remained calm on the surface at that time, inside
s chest, she had felt disappointed in herself because she didn
kill Kuradeel. The guilt from having Kirito carry that heavy burden
swirled around her. She felt that she wasn
t qualified to call hers
elf a
part of the clearing group, that she had no right to stand beside Kirito.
But, as she was suffering from these feelings, she heard a voice. Just
you, I want to send you back to the real world no matter what.
At that moment, a strong feeling welled u
p within Asuna. Next
time I
ll protect this person with my own hands. No, not just the next
time, but every time. No matter in which world.
Asuna could vividly remember that her hand, which had felt
nothing but the coldness of the air even though they wer
e still grasping
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Interlude I
The human temperature is a strange thing.
uuki Asuna suddenly had such a thought.
The rain had already stopped, and under that dark blue sky, with
a part of the clouds dyed in orange, the two of them walked slowly
while holding hands. Beside her, Kirigaya Kazuto, who had a sullen
expression ever
since he had started thinking about something several
minutes ago, dropped his gaze to the brick tile footpath without saying
Asuna who lived in Setagaya and Kazuto who was going back to
Kawagoe, usually separated at the Shinjuku station as they
had to take
different trains, however today, for some reason, Kazuto said
ll drop
you near your house.
Even though he would have to take an hour
longer to get back to his home from Shibuya, as Kazuto had an unusual
look in his eyes, Asuna nodded obedi
As they got off the train at the Miyanosaka station on the Setagaya
line, which was the station nearest to Asuna
s house, they were still
holding hands.
While doing this, Asuna vaguely recalled a scene. It wasn
t just
sweet, but also horribly pain
ful at the same time, so it was a memory
which normally didn
t appear in her consciousness, however, it came
back occasionally whenever she held Kazuto
s hands.
It wasn
t a memory of the real world, but of the town of iron
towers «Grandum» on Aincrad
s 55th floor, which no longer existed.
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Interlude I
Interlude I
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Once more, she secretly looked over her surroundings from
under the umbrella, but the eerie fee
ling of the glance from earlier had
also disappeared without a trace like the first time.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
When Kazuto, who exited the shop while putting his wallet into
his bag, had come down and stood on the street, he let out a single
word along with his sigh,
What, you
re still t
hinking about it?
No...... I recalled what I heard by chance from the staff
conversation on Friday before Diving in STL...... A, L, I...... Arti......
Labile...... Intelligen...... hmm, what was it......
Shino held her umbrella over Kazuto, who was
grumbling the
words she couldn
t get the point,
Asuna sure has a lot to worry about,
she gave a bitter smile.
Really, if something like that distracted you so much. Shouldn
you just ask them the next time you go there?
Well...... that
s true.
azuto shook his head two, three more times, before finally
opening his umbrella.
See you Sinon, the next meeting we
ll talk about converting to
Understood. It
s fine to meet in ALO next time. Thanks for
coming out today.
See you, Sinonon.
See you, Asuna.
Kazuto and Asuna, who were going back with JR, waved their
hands, Shino then started walking to the subway station in the
opposite direction.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
had received from the seventy
two hours part
time job. Shino and
Asuna said
Thanks for the treat!
together, before heading for the exit.
san, I
ll come agai
n later.
Thank you for the feast, the baked beans were really delicious.
After the reply from the shopkeeper, who was busy with the
nightly preparations, Shino extracted her umbrella from the whisky
barrel and pushed the door open.
as the d
oorbell continued
ringing, the sound of the town
s ruckus and rain enveloped her ears.
Even though there was still time before the nightfall, due to the
thick clouds, the sign of the dark night had already hung over the damp
street nearby. Shino opened th
e umbrella, and began descending the
small stairs
she abruptly stopped her feet as she quickly moved
her eyes through the surroundings.
Sinonon, what
s the matter......?
The wondering voice of Asuna came from behind. Shino came to
her senses and hurriedly turned around from the street.
No, it
s nothing.
She gave a short laugh to hide her embarrassment.
It can
t be, I
felt the presence of a sniper on my nape, but it
not possible. Maybe the
habit of affirming the sniping points the moment I entered an open space
had come out to the real world?
by thinking so, she became slightly
As Asuna still tilted her head, the doorbell from behind rang once
again, fol
lowed by the sound of footsteps descending the stairs.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Ah, if the long continuous operation testing had succeeded,
means the top part of the fundamental design problem is all clear. The
next stage is to shape up the machine for implementation, but I wonder
how many years it would take to place that enormous size into a
commercial basis...... I also can
t do this par
time job much longer, as
the final test is starting next month.
At Kazuto
s words, Shino made a grim face once more.
Hey, don
t remind me of something like that. You guys have it
easy, there
re almost no paper tests anymore. Mine are
still using the
mark sheet system, give me a break......
Huhu, then how about doing a study camp together?
As she said that, Asuna looked at the wall up behind Shino before
in a low voice.
s nearly six already, time surely flies
while we are chatting.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Asuna asked as she was worriedly looked at Kazuto, who was
messing up
his hair,
That is, perhaps, the memories during the experiment......?
But... didn
t you say all memories of the virtual world were
As Shino said that after Asuna. Kazuto groaned with his eyes still
closed, before lowering his shoulders.
......Well, it
s ten days worth of memories anyway. It
s possible
that there might be pieces which had escaped the blocking......
Oh yes, if we think about it that way, if the memories actually
remained, it would mean you
re getting older than us, in th
e mind.
s somehow...... scary.
For me, I
d be a little...... happy, it
s like the gap would become
Asuna said so, as she was a year older, Kazuto responded as he
gave a weak smile,
Come to think of it, in the period between yesterday
s Dive and
s class, I felt a strange discomfort. It was like it had been a very
long time since seeing the town, or the TV shows. The classmates too......
s that guy again?
Something like that......
t exaggerate, it
s just ten days.
agree― It
s not something to worry about.
Shino and Asuna frowned at Kazuto
s words.
kun, you should quit that unreasonable experiment. It
really puts too much burden on your body.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
It makes sense since RATH
s name is also taken from
Alice in
. The first private edition of that book is
Adventures Under Ground
Heh... this is the first time I heard that. If this is true, it
somehow... like a fairy tale company.
Shino gave a little smile as she continued,
Speaking of
which, about the Alice books, there are two books
with stories about the long dreams. ......Perhaps during Kirito
s Dive, it
could be possible that he had a tea party with the rabbit or played
chess with the queen.
Asuna who heard that giggling in an am
used manner. But the
person in question, Kazuto, stared at a single spot on the table while
making a difficult face.
s wrong?
s voice brought his gaze upward, while still frowned, he
blinked repeatedly in irritation.
Just now, when I heard Alice...... I felt like I could remember
something...... Like, there are times, when you feel something funny or
disturbing such as just now, but no matter how you think about it, you
t recall what it was, it
s that kind of an
xious feeling.
Ah, yeah. Like waking up from a scary dream but not
remembering the contents of the dream.
Something...... Just now I felt that I had forgotten something
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Hmmm...... I wonder what you have been do
ing in a world like
that. The memories can
t be taken out, but how about taking the real
world memories into it? Are there any other testers?
No― about something like that, I don
t think so. As the
background knowledge would affect the test results. Als
o, it could
block the memories during the Dive, so restricting the existing
memories shouldn
t be difficult...... Anyway, the building in Roppongi
that I work at has only one STL experimental machine, so the one
Diving was just me. And I know almost nothin
g about the «Inside», it
not enough to become a Beater and mess with the test results. But the
only thing I could tell is the code name of the virtual world used in the
Heh...what is it?
Under...... the underground world
? I wonder if it
s how that VR
world was designed.
Its design is unknown whether from reality, fantasy, or SF
settings. But, based on the name, I have a feeling that it
d be a gloomy
Hmmm. So we can
t pinpoint it.
As Shino and Kazuto shook their heads together, Asuna touched
her delicate chin with her finger as she muttered in a low voice,
Perhaps...... that came from Alice too.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Watching Kazuto tremble as he shook his head made Asuna smile
again, then she continue
d asking,
Then, this weekend, Kirito
kun will be seeing a continuous long
dream, right?
Yeah. It
d be a long continuous operation testing. I
ll be Diving
three days straight without eating nor drinking. I think I
d get a bit
s not
a bit at all― Really... this work is too much.
Asuna made a cute angry face as she folded her arms in front of
her chest.
Tomorrow I
ll go make food at Kawagoe! I need to ask Suguha
chan to buy a lot of vegetables too.
s very nice of you.
As Shino was smiling while watching the two, she suddenly
thought of a question, and started speaking,
Hey...... this means, your three day long Dive is done under that
thought accelerated function, right? Do you know how much time you
actually feel insi
Hmm, as I explained earlier, the memory inside was restricted......
But, I heard that the maximum rate of the current FLA function is three
That means...... nine days?
Or maybe ten days.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
and a traveling software tha
t reproduced a high altitude view was very
popular among the elderly, it was as Kazuto said earlier, an era that
even military training was done in the virtual world.
With the increasing number of people who didn
t want to leave
their houses, came the arr
ival of the «Strolling group» boom, which
was walking aimlessly around town in the virtual world, the release of
the «Virtual strolling software», which catered to that particular group
had gained a big popularity, but it was a phenomenon which had its
orities backwards. And it was only recently that the major
hamburger shop and the beef bowl chain started to open their virtual
Where does the big tide from such a virtual world sweep to the real
even though it is the current social sit
uation, with something
that could accelerate the consciousness like the Soul Translator, what
kind of the world would it be like?
As Shino felt the chill on her back,
Asuna, who frowned as she was thinking about the same thing, started
muttering as she sig
A long dream......hmm......
She then raised her eyes toward Kazuto across the table and gave
a faint smile.
d be great if the Soul Translator was commercialized before
the SAO incident...... I wondered if I should think like this. If the
rface hardware wasn
t Nerve Gear but STL, then Aincrad would
have had like a thousand floors, and clearing it would take about
twenty years.
G......Give me a break.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
speed, ev
en it was said so, she couldn
t feel like it could possibly be
done. However, Kazuto grinned as he continued,
In this case. If we could do a work or homework in our
dream, don
t you think it
d be great? Even it is just a several minutes in
the real wor
ld, but it would be several hours in the dream.
Something like that is absurd.
Yes, I think so―, I haven
t seen such a convenient dream before.
Even though Shino and Asuna both objected at the same time, the
smile remained on Kazuto
s face as he
continued explaining,
The real dream is inconsistent, that is the by
product of the
memory processing operation. The dream which is created by STL is
much clearer...... I mean, the VR world resembles the dream in that
logic. In that world, the thought
clock in the consciousness is interfered
and accelerated. At the same time, the standard time inside the virtual
world is also accelerated in sync. As a result, the Dive time that a user
feels in the virtual world is several times over the actual time in r
That is the STL
s greatest killer feature, the «Fluctlight Acceleration»,
abbreviated as FLA.
......This is already......
I don
t think we
re talking about reality anymore,
as Shino let out a
little sigh. It was already far from a «Slightly different» AmuSphere.
Social life had been completely changed with just the
implementation of the FullDive technology. Shino heard that the
reduced cost version was used in normal compan
ies and it had become
common to go into the virtual world for a conference or presentation,
there were the broadcasting of real 3D drama and movies every day,
where audiences could enter into the scene from any angle they like,
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
That is also the max number they put in the catalogue, it actually
t constant. It usually operates slowly in order to generate less heat,
then when a heavy workload is requested
Ton ton ton,
as he sped up the rhythm.
As the opera
tion clock is increased, so does the calculation speed.
It is the same as the quantum computer in the form of Fluctlight.
Placed in an emergency state, having to deal with large amounts of
data, the thought clock would be accelerated to cope with it. Sinon
surely has experienced it too, when concentrating during an intense
battle, you felt like you could see the bullets, right?
Ah―, well...yeah, when I am in a very good condition. But there is
no way I could imitate your «Predicting the bullet
s trajecto
ry then
avoiding it»
Shino said as she pouted, Kazuto gave a bitter smile before
shaking his head.
s also impossible for me now. I need to retrain before the
next BoB...... Anyway, that thought clock affects our sense of time.
When the clock is ac
celerated, a human would feel that the flow of time
is slower. The moments during sleep would be an obvious example of
it. In order to deal with the large amount of memory data, the Fluctlight
is sped up, and as a result, we see a dream which feels several
long within several minutes.
Shino folded her arms as she groaned. Her brain, or rather her
mind, was a light based computer, something like that was beyond
common sense, an act of «Thinking» could increase or decrease its
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Caught by surprise, Shino hesitated to answ
er. The sky past the
summer solstice was still bright, so she couldn
t tell the time by the
light shining through the window. She was forced to rely on guessing
an answer,
......Around four fifty......?
Kazuto then uncovered the terminals, before direct
ing the screen
at Shino. As she peered at the screen, several digital figures indicated
that it was already long past five.
Whoa, I didn
t notice we had spent this much time talking.
The sense of time is a subjective matter. It
s not just during a
am but also in the real world. When in an emergency, adrenaline
that rushes out makes time feel slower, on the other hand, the time
passes faster when we are absorbed in a relaxing talk. RATH has been
researching about how this happens in the human
s consc
or Fluctlight, and has came up with a rough theory. Apparently, flowing
at the core of the consciousness is the pulse that acts as a «Thought
clock control signal». But it seems they are still unable to understand
where it comes from.
s what you hear often when talking about computer
The number of calculations it can do in one second, right?
Asuna said as she nodded, Kazuto then knocked the table surface
with his right hand
s finger, making a
ton ton
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Shino frowned at the succession of abbreviations, as Kazuto lifted
his face and blinked.
Ah...... it
s Soul Translator
s second magic. Just now, I talked
about the dream
like virtual world created by STL, right?
Have you ever had an
incredibly long dream, and felt very tired
when you woke up? A bad dream in particular......
Ah―, yes I have.
Shino nodded while frowning.
Running away from something, and along the way I think
must be a dream
yet I am unable to wake up. When thinking that I
have finally woken up after being chased for so long, it turns out that
that was a dream too.
How much time do you think you spend in those dreams?
Eh―? Two...... or perhaps three hours.
Well, when
monitoring the brain waves during the dream, which
a person feels was very long, the actual time between seeing the dream
and opening the eyes is only a few minutes.
Kazuto, who cut off his words at that point, suddenly stretched
his hands to cover both
the mobile terminals lying on the table. He then
cast his mischievous gaze toward Shino.
We started talking about STL around half past four, right? Sinon,
what time do you think it is right now?
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As Shino unconsciously murmured, Asuna, who was apparently
thinking the same thing, nodded from the opposite side of the table.
kun...... then, that means...... by using STL, a reality which is
subjectively mo
re real than our real world could be created? A
different world without a designer
s involvement?
Kazuto thought slightly, before slowly shaking his head.
No...... in the current situation, it
s still difficult. The forests or
grass in th
e natural terrain could be left to the system to generate, but I
think building a large
scale town while maintaining its integrity
without a designer is still impossible. About the other possibility......
such as preparing a few hundred test players and le
tting them build a
town from zero in the wilderness field state, or in the other words,
building a civilization, for that, I think it could be possible in the world
without a god
like creator......
Uwa, that would be a very time consuming strategy―
he completion of the map would take several months, I think.
Asuna and Shino laughed at Kazuto
s joke at the same time.
However, the owner of the speech remained pondering with his brow
wrinkled, and before long, he started speaking in a monologue manner
So it
s a simulation of building a civilization, huh. No...... it can be
said it
s necessary. If the STL
s FLA function is used and allowing them
to develop...... is there any restriction placed on the memories
s FL...... what is t
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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wondered if it was
worth continuing spending that amount of time and
money on Diving into the virtual world.
Shino thought that there must be a reason that her intensely shy
self had met and became good friends with Asuna for several months
now. This girl, who always gave
off a gentle smile, must surely have
had the same self values as Shino. Playing VRMMO games not to escape,
but to obtain the experience and bonds from the virtual world to
nourish her reality
s self, Asuna was surely that kind of person. Of
course, that al
so applied to Kazuto.
Because of that, Shino didn
t want to think that the VR world was
just a fake, that everything inside was just imaginary. She didn
t want
to think about the fact that the VR world couldn
t exist without the
Last month, on
the night she had spent over at Asuna
s house, in
the room after the lights had been turned off, she had expressed the
weakness she had hid. Then, Asuna who was lying on the bed beside
her had thought for a moment, before speaking,
Sinonon, isn
t that t
he same as the real world? Even now, the
surroundings granted to us, be it houses, or towns, or the status of
being a student in society, everything is someone
s design, isn
t it......?
Perhaps, being strong, is about advancing along this, don
t you think?
After taking a brief pause, Asuna continued with a laughing voice,
But, I just want to see it once, a VR world which isn
t designed by
anyone. Perhaps if that became reality, it may be, in a sense, the
, even more real than this real
Real... World......
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Those flying cats which the staff there made Kirito
kun see......
must be something the STL system created from zero, right?
The latter part is great. If that
s possible, then it
s not just an
individual object, but it could be possible to ultimately create an entire
s words made all three remain silent for a short moment.
Producing a virtual world without
human involvement
This idea caused Shino chest to throb. As Shino recalled that she
had recently become increasingly uncomfortable with the «Egocentric
designed» VRMMO worlds such as GGO and ALO.
The existing VR game worlds were completely assembled by
designers of the companies developing those games. Even though the
buildings or trees or rivers existed in a nonchalant manner, they were
actually objects placed on the terrain based on someone
s preference.
During game play, whenever she thought abo
ut this, something
always rose within Shino
s chest. After all, she too, was merely an
existence running around the developer
s palm, the so
called God, and
this thought remained in her mind whether she liked it or not.
As Shino didn
t originally start pl
aying Gun Gale Online for fun,
now that she had overcome the curse from her past, she started to
think about the meaning of her experience within virtual space in
reality. She didn
t seem to sympathize with someone from her
squadron who carried a model gun
in real life while wearing a cloth
decorated with matching insignia. She believed that the fortitude and
self control attached to the in
game Sinon would slowly strengthen
Asada Shino in the real world as well, but at the same time, she
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Upon hearing the words which were almost like a whis
per, Shino
finally realized it.
What if the optic memory information...... the Mnemonic Visual of
humans have a common structure? And the analysis of that structure is
already complete......? It could be possible in theory to create a real
«Dream» which i
s full of things one has never seen, food one has never
tasted, scenes one has never imagined.
Then, the words which supported her thoughts coincidentally
spilled out of Kazuto
s mouth,
......I had been doing this part
time job with RATH for two months
now...... During the first test Dive, there was no memory restriction yet,
so I still remember the VR world back then. One of them was just a
wide room with plenty of cats, which probably numbered in the
s mouth slac
ked as she imagined the cat heaven, before
quickly brushing it off. As he looked straight ahead, Kazuto said with
an expression as if he was searching his memories.
......What I could recall about that room, was that it was full of
breeds of cats I didn
t know. And it wasn
t just that...... there were some
which grew wings and were flying, some which curled themselves up
and bounced around. Something like that can
t possibly be from my
......And at the same time, it can
t be from another pers
memories either, right? Since a cat with wings doesn
t exist in reality
Was what Asuna said, before she continued,
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Kazuto continued frowning for several seconds longer, before
finally giving up as he let out a sigh. Shino, who was silent up until this
point, asked a questi
on she was no longer able to hold in her mind,
Hey Kirito, is something like that possible? To eat something in
STL which doesn
t exist in reality? As the virtual world created by STL
is a collection of parts based on the memories of a Diver, then isn
natural that the person can
t see what he has never seen, and can
t eat
what he has never eaten?
Ah...... that
s true. It
s just as Sinonon said...... In that case, the
virtual world from STL should have a very limited degree of freedom,
t it
? It can
t create a world which is completely different from
reality, like Aincrad or Alfheim.
Kazuto nodded slowly at what Asuna pointed out, before smiling
as if to shake off his earlier irritation.
You two are pretty sharp, that is a good point. Whe
n I heard
about the Mnemonic Visual, at first I didn
t realize that limitation. I
remember to ask the staff at RATH before going into the next long
Diving experiment, but as it involves the core of STL technology, I don
think they will agree to answer
...... But, there is one thing...... in the
explanation about the virtual world which comprises of memories, the
staff never mentioned that those memories are from the Diver.
Eh..... then how did they......
As Shino couldn
t grasp the meaning right aw
ay, Asuna, who was
next to her, inhaled slightly.
Could it be...... other people
s memories? No...... could it possibly
be that the memories did not belong to anyone but were created from
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Then, it means you
re doing the part
time job within the dream?
just by sleeping through the period of three days?
s what I told you in the beginning, didn
t I? Sleeping
throughout, without eating nor drinking. But of course, I got nutrition
and water through an intravenous drip.
Now that he mentioned it, h
e really did say that right after he came
into the shop. But I certainly didn
t expect him to actually work by
watching a long dream while lying on a gel bed.
As Shino glanced
upward, she muttered along with a sigh,
Three days of continuous dreaming, huh
...... If I could dream that
long, there are many things I could do. Like not waking up just before
eating a cake.
s too bad, as you won
t remember what you ate during the
dream anyway. Well, talking about having an all
eat cake
every day..
After talking jokingly until this point, Kazuto cut off his words in
the middle. The small eyebrows Shino saw under his slightly long
forelock frowned.
s the matter, Kirito
He didn
t immediately answer Asuna
s question, while his
made a motion as if it was putting something into his mouth.
............Cake...... no, not it...... It
s harder...... salty...... but, delicious,
what is......
You remembered? Is it something you ate in the virtual world?
I can
t remember. But I have a hunch that it didn
taste like anything in reality............
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Am I actually in the virtual world and operating this memory from
As she thought this, both Kazuto
s and Asuna
s cheeks
trembled, and s
oon after that they let out slight laughter. At that point,
she finally realized that her plan to tease Kazuto had backfired.
N......Now you
ve done it, Asuna! Next time, in ALO, prepare to eat
a hundred homing arrows!
Ahaha, sorry sorry, forgive me S
Asuna smiled as she tightly embraced Shino. While feeling the
stiffness in her chest melted away by Asuna
s action, innocent and
overflowing with friendship, she turned her pouting face away. But her
mouth immediately opened and let out a laugher
alongside the other
As if to follow through the eased up atmosphere, Kazuto said in a
slow tone,
Be it the Fluctlight or the Mnemonic Visual, just hearing the term
alone would make you feel that it
s questionable technology...... But, the
world created by STL is in fact, far better than the one from
AmuSphere which we are familiar with. Ultimately, it might be what
we call a «Real Dream»......
Shino blinked after hearing those surprising words, the Spriggan
swordsman, who had an aura that caused the people surrounding him
to become drowsy in ALO, nodded with a serious face.
Yes. Creating the world by gathering the objects maintained in
the mem
ories together, that action...... isn
t it almost like how dreams
work? Actually, the brain waves of a human Diving in STL is fairly close
to the pattern which occurs during sleep.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
And that, was what Shino had thought. Until today, before she had
heard Kiriga
ya Kazuto
s story.
......That means, Kirito. You... perhaps even now...... are still inside the
STL... that machine? The «Recollections» of Asuna and me you injected
into it.
As to avoid the sudden shivering, before Kazuto could reply,
Shino grinned a
s she spoke. Naturally,
But that
s ridiculous anyway,
she laughed it off as she thought so, but her companion frowned as he
fixed his gaze on her.
Stop it. I
m the real one.
As she hurriedly waved her hands, Kazuto remained in doubt as
he spoke,
If you
re the real Sinon...... then you must remember what you
promised me yesterday.
To thank me for calling me out today, you will treat me to as
many of the most
expensive dessert here, the «Dicey Cheesecake» as I
E......Ehh!? I never promised such a thing! Ah, b
but I
m not an
imposter, I
m the real one, right, Asuna?
Looking beside her, Asuna who tightly grasped her hands
Sinonon...... di
d you already forget? You promised to treat me to
an all I can eat «Berry & Cherry Tart»......
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Part 3
The virtual world, which is indistinguishable from the reality.
There was a lot of fiction from the last century which dealt with
this theme. Shino could also recall at least five titles of novels or
movies with this theme right away.
In an era where the implementation of FullDive technology was
used in consumer devic
es such as the Nerve Gear and AmuSphere, we
finally came to a point to doubt: «is this reality really the reality?»
and as we could read something like that from articles or blogs all over
the place, Shino had also felt anxious before her very first Ful
However, when the lid had actually opened, could it be relief or
disappointment that such worry was unnecessary? The world which
was created by AmuSphere was without a doubt, a miracle given birth
by cutting edge technology. The virtual world which
was perceived by
the five senses was brilliantly beautiful
but that was why it was
noticeably different from the real world. The scenes she saw, the
sounds she heard, the things she touched, everything was too pure, or
in other words, was too simple. T
he air had no dust, the garments
t wrinkle, and the tables couldn
t be broken. The 3D objects which
were created from digital codes were restricted by the manpower
needed to design them, and the CPU
s power to display them. Of course
she couldn
t know
how this would change in the future, but at least
with the current technology of 2026, creating a virtual world which
was indistinguishable from reality was impossible
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Kazuto nodded and spoke as he placed the glass
back up on the
Optical memory information...... or «Mnemonic Visual Data» as
RATH formally calls it. To me, as I still have the memory of the very
first test Dive...... it was different. Completely different from the VR
world created by AmuSphere
. It was merely an empty space about the
size of a narrow room, but I......
He cut his words for a moment, a smile that seemed to be forced
then floated to one side of his cheek, as Kazuto continued,
......At first, I didn
t know that was the virtual w
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Just what is
Listen...... at the time we see this glass or table or face of each
other, the recreated record data is maintained in the s
ight processing
section of Fluctlight. Even shutting the eyelids, it won
t disappear right
away, it isn
t just a mere shadowgraph. Or else, the moment the glass
t be seen, it
d fade out of Sinon
s memory......
Kazuto then hid the glass in his right h
and under the table.
The moment Sinon sees the glass, the same data of its form is
input into the sight perception section of Fluctlight. It allows Sinon to
continue seeing the glass which is now no longer on the table. At a
precision far beyond that of
the polygons...... Or it could be said that it
exactly the same as the real thing.
............It may be so in the theory...... But, it
s dealing with the
retention of human
s consciousness, or in the other words, «Memory»
t it? The outside manipu
lating the memory without hypnotism, how
it could be done......?
Shino closed her mouth after speaking to this point.
Just a while earlier
t Kazuto talked about the machine
with that exact possibility?
as she thought, Asuna, who had been
listening quietly until this point, whispered in a low voice in place of
The AmuSphere allows a user
s brain to see the polygon data......
While the STL writes it into the human
s consciousness... the short
m memory...... In short...... it
s not an artificial thing. The things in the
world created by STL, sight, inquiries, touch...... are the same level as
the real things in our consciousness, is that so......?
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Kazuto was silent for a moment before lifting up the empty glass
of Caffè Shakerato and showing it to Shino.
Sinon, this glass exists in reality
, right?
While having a dubious expression, she gave a nod. Kazuto then
brought the glass closer to her and said something difficult to
Now listen, this glass currently is in my hand, and at the same
time it exists in S
s consciousness...... or Sinon
s «Fluctlight» in
s term. To be more accurate, the light which reflected off the
glass is perceived in Sinon
s eyes, the electrical signal from her retina is
changed into the glass object in the consciousness. Next,
when I do
Suddenly his left hand extended to completely block Shino
s eyes.
She reflexly closed her eyelids, rendering her vision in dark grey with a
faint tint of red.
How is it, did the glass inside your consciousness suddenly
As she didn
t know what Kazuto meant, Shino answered honestly
......Really, I wouldn
t forget it that soon. From seeing it, I could
remember its color and shape, it
s natural anyway. Ah...... but it
progressively becomes vague though......
Yeah, that.
After he drew his hand back, Shino opened her eyelids, and gave a
light frown at Kazuto.
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Shino was still smiling as Kazuto grumbled, she then recalled the
question she had for a while and continued the topic,
But, Kirito. After all, that STL do
es the same thing as AmuSphere,
t it? Creating a VR world using polygons, then sending the image
and sound into the connecting person
s brain, is there any point in
spending large amounts of expenses on that machine?
Oo, that
s a good question.
Kazuto straightened himself before giving a nod.
What Sinon said just now,
Creating the VR world using
Polygons are, in other words, a collection of coordinates
and surfaces...... the digital data. The current highly detailed modeling
had rea
ched the point where the trees or furniture is hard to
distinguish from the real thing, but its essence is still the same.
He then quickly operated the mobile terminal placed on the table,
and started up a pre
installed mini
game. The futuristic race car
was slowly rotating on the demo screen had a sweet interior, the
curved surface of its body also didn
t look awkward at all, it was indeed,
a figure of a polygon model.
Shino lifted her face and slightly tilted her head.
s, well...... in ALO
or GGO, when too many players gather at
the same place, the rendering of the objects sometimes can
t keep up.
But aren
t the fundamental basis of AmuSphere and STL the same
thing? To create the 3D model of something which practically doesn
exist from no
thing, for a user to both see and touch.
Yeah, that
s the point. Hmm...... how should I explain it......
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Really, this man has so much self
Yeah, well, af
ter all he
s the legendary Hero
sama anyway―
From the conversation between Asuna and Kazuto, which she
could understood at once, even though it had words she heard for the
first time, Shino didn
t try to interfere too much and instead spoke in a
joking t
I already read
All Records of SAO Incident
which came out last
, it
s quite hard to believe this guy is the same
who appeared in that book.
hey, stop it......
Asuna giggled at the action of Kazuto who waved his hands
bent backward, as she said
Yeah, really,
while nodding.
Written in that book, it was said this leader had a big influence
among the capturing guilds, even though the record itself is fairly
accurate, a great amount of bias was added into the cha
description. Like when Kirito fought against the orange players......
When I unsheathe the second sword, no one is allowed to stand
before me!
the two girls burst out into a grand laughter as
Kazuto sat dejectedly on his chair wi
th a blank expression. As Asuna
felt relief and finally returned to her smiling face, Shino continued
delivering the final blow,
That book is also translated and is published in America. It
means this Hero
sama is a world ranker now.
......After I
went through great lengths to forget it...... And I already
agreed to forward the royalties too.
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On the first day of the debut of business
use first generation
FullDive machine at the Shinjuku amusement part, I
rode the first train
to line up. At that time I was still in elementary school......
This is it,
that was what I thought.
This is the world that was calling me for a
long time.
On the first release day of Nerve Gear, I also bought it with
the money I
had been saving up...... and kept diving into various games.
At that time, I really didn
t care about the real world. Eventually I was
selected for SAO
s beta test, and that incident unfolded...... terrible
numbers of people had died. After two years of be
ing captive and
returning, Sugou and Death Gun incidents continued occurring one
after another. I...... want to know. About where the FullDive technology
is heading...... About the meaning behind those incidents...... For the
Soul Translator, although its
functionality is entirely new, its
architecture uses the medical
use Medicuboid as a prototype.
While Asuna, with her head held low, was listening to Kazuto
words, her shoulders trembled. Shortly after that, her steady voice flew
through the quiet shop
s interior,
s my premonition. About what is inside the Soul Translator.
What if it doesn
t end up as being a mere amusement machine......
Probably, there might be a dangerous side too. But......
Kazuto imitated the motion of gripping his sword and swung it
down as he spoke,
Until now, no matter what world it was, I was always able to
come back. This time too, I
ll surely come back. Well..... in the real
world I
m just a weak and powerless gamer
......Even though without my backup, your back is wide open.
Asuna gave a light smile while exhaling a short breath, then
looked at the face of Shino who was sitting beside her.
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during the Dive. This means Soul Translator...... STL could erase or
overwrite your memory, doesn
t it?
Kazuto touched Asuna
s left hand briefly to relieve her as he
shook his head.
The part that maintains the
term memory data is very large
and the archival method is very complex, at the current state it could
be said that it
s still out of reach. The reason that I don
t have any
memory of the Dive is merely because it seemed to be intercepted
along the ro
ute to that part. In other words, it isn
t completely erasing
memory, it
s just I can
t get to remember it...... just like that.
But, I
m......scared, Kirito
kun. Something like manipulating
An anxious expression still remained on Asuna
s face.
Besides, the person who brought that part
time job to you is
Chrysheight...... no, Kikuoka
san of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications, isn
t he? While I think he isn
t a bad person, I feel I
t see even the tiny bit at the bot
tom of his heart. It
s somewhat
similar to the Guild Leader. Somehow...... I feel like something bad is
going to happen again......
s true that he never shows what he
s thinking. And I also
t know his real social status nor professional dut
y, along with
various things. But......
As he cut off his words, Kazuto
s pupils seemed not to focus at any
place in the shop as he spoke,
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Shino tilted her head as she couldn
t understand the meaning of
her words right away, at t
he same time, Asuna glanced at her, with
pupils that were filled with the color of anxiety.
Sinonon, think about it...... The AmuSphere we
re using isn
t just
reading the movement commands sent to our body. It feeds the sight
and hearing...... the five s
ensory signals into our brain, creating the
experience of the virtual world. It
s the core of the FullDive technology
used in that machine, right? Then, the Soul Translator which could do
the same thing should be the next generation machine, isn
t it?
....In other words...... it could write something into the soul of the
person connected to it......?
At that point, both of them turned their gazes at Kazuto.
Although the black haired boy seemed to have hesitated a little,
He nodded in agreement before
Yeah...... Soul Translator, it
s too long, so RATH shortened it to
«STL», that translation machine is bidirectional. In the hundreds billion
qubit data holding a human
s Fluctlight, it translates and reads the
words we understand, and at the same t
ime, it translates and writes
the information into a form we can read too. If it
s not the case, it
d be
just as Asuna said, it won
t be possible to Dive into the virtual world. In
short, it maintains and disposes the Fluctlight
s five sensory
and fills in the information about what being seen, or the
sound being heard.
Then, Asuna leaned forward and asked what seemed to be her
main question,
Could it possibly be that...... could affect memory in the soul?
kun, you said just now that
you don
t retain any memories
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is a unit of a quantum computer......
well, this part is already at the limit
of my understanding though......
s alright, I have already passed that limit a long time ago.
Me too......
Shino and Asuna surrendered together before Kazuto exhaled his
breath in relief.
The collection
of photons which is the memory of that computer,
perhaps, it might even be the human
s soul...... RATH has given it an
original name. «Fluctuating Light», which they abbreviated to
He paused slightly,
Shino softly repeated the coined term with a mysterious sound. If
what they had been talking until this point was all true, then the
Fluctlight also existed in her own head too. No, by saying so, what she
thought was «her» was......
The shudder from earli
er returned to Shino, she rubbed her arms
which extended out of the sleeves of her summer uniform. Next to her,
Asuna also made a movement which looked like she embraced herself,
while she spoke in a small voice,
Reading the Fluctlight...... No, the ma
chine which
«Translates» it, is what Soul Translator does. In that case...... the
translation isn
t just one way, right?
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theory. The fluctuations...... that is what the human mind is, according
to the theory.
Right when she heard
those words, Shino could feel a shudder
running about from her spine to both her arms for some reason. The
mind and fluctuating light. That mysterious yet beautiful image welled
up within her and at the same time, the thought
t that already the
s d
appeared in her mind.
Asuna was also embraced by the same deep emotion, her brown
pupils were blurred with an anxious light as she spoke in a slightly
hoarse voice,
kun, the name of the new machine is...... «Soul Translator»,
right? Soul..
.... in other words, the collection of those lights is a human
RATH engineers call it «Quantum Field». But, by giving the
machine such a name, they must have thought about it already...... That
quantum field, and the human
s soul.
But then, w
hat does it mean? Soul Translator is the machine that
t access the human brain, but the soul itself......?
When said like that, it doesn
t sound like a machine anymore, but
a magic item in a game instead, huh.
What he said had softened the atmosphere slightly, and Kazuto
then continued speaking as he grinned,
But, it isn
t an act of magic or god
s miracle. Let
s plunge into the
explanation of its structure for a bit...... What it does is recording the
spin and
vector of each photon inside the microtubule, the «Qubit» unit
data. In other words, the brain cell isn
t just a single gate switch to let
electrical signals passing through, but it could be said that the cell itself
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But, there are humans who approach the answer with their own
Their own...... theory?
«Quantum brain dynamics». It seems to have been proposed at
the end of last century by an English scholar. After tackling the
theory for a long time, «RATH» has finally managed to
create that machine which looks like a monster......
From this point
on, I still can
t fully understand it yet. Just a moment ago, we talked
about the structure of a brain cell.
Shino and Asuna nodd
ed at the same time.
The cell itself also has a frame to support its structure. It seems
to be called «Microtubules». That framework doesn
t just support, but
acts like a skull too. The brain within the brain cell.
That skull has the s
hape of a tube, in other words, a hollow pipe.
Of course it
s very tiny...... we
re talking about a diameter in
nanometers, but it isn
t empty. There is something contained within
the tube.
Shino inadvertently exchanged glances with Asuna, before
at Kazuto and asking in a low voice,
What is inside......?
Kazuto gave a short answer.
A light particle...... or «Evanescent Photon» is what it
s called.
This photon is, in other words, quantum. That existence is like
indeterminism, it is endlessly fluctuating according to the probability
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After he finished
the gesture he made using both hands up until
this point, Kazuto placed his hands on the table and joined his slim
fingers together.
Here, as I said earlier, the network of the hundreds of billion
brain cells connecting together...... Now looking at the
shape of the
mind, what is the essence of the mind?
The media...... in other words, the flowing of electrical pulse
along brain cells...... is the information?
Nope, the electrical pulse is, like this......
Kazuto brought his right fist approached his spreading left palm.
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s completely
different from buying it off a convenient store,
right? Even though it seems to be based on a cocktail, I like the strong
taste of ginger.
Shino recalled the taste of the spicy ginger ale from half a year
ago, the first time she ordered due to Kazuto
lead. Without meeting
him in GGO, she would never have set foot in this shop, which looked
unfriendly from the outside, and the development of everything since
then could be considered a miracle...... As she embraced that deep
motion within her heart, Shin
o continued the topic,
Then...... how does the human mind and the internet relate?
After returning the glass to Asuna, Kazuto nodded once before
using his hands to make a shape.
Hmm, if the connections between a server and a router,
the PCs an
d mobiles which look like a mesh is the «shape» of the
Then, what is its «essence»?
Shino thought briefly before opening her mouth,
In short, it
s what flows in that shape...... in the network
structure......? The electric
al signals.....?
That may be so, since electrical or light signals are persistent
media. The essence of the network is how they go along that structure
and communicate the information...... Let
s temporarily take an
explanation here.
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Somehow, it sounds like the name of an in
game spell
thought. She felt discomfort at the words related to the latest
technology. Asuna next to her tilted her head slightly as she muttered,
The first time I heard
it, I had thought that it was a somewhat
exaggerated name too.
Kazuto lightly shrugged before throwing a sudden question,
The human mind, where do you think it is?
Shino was about to touch the middle of her chest by reflex, she
then cleared
her throat as she answered,
In the head...... the brain, right?
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Kazuto shrugged, then said something
unexpected in a casual
Due to the security protection, the memories of the world made
by that machine can
t be brought out to the real world. Everything I
saw or did during the test, I currently have no memory about any of it.
ino unintentionally yelled in a loud voice, then lowered her
voice before asking,
t bring out...... memories? Something like that... how is it
possible? Could it possibly be that you get hypnotized after you have
finished testing?
No no, it uses a
purely electronic mechanism. No...... it could be
called quantum......
Kazuto who had cut off his words then took a glance at the mobile
terminal placed on the table.
Half past four, huh. Sinon and Asuna, do you still have time?
No problem
for me too.
As the two nodded at the same time, Kazuto leaned his back
against the back of the antique wooden chair
Well then, let me start explaining from the foundation. The
question of...... «Soul Translation» technology.
Kazuto said another unf
amiliar word slowly.
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was that large, from there on, the size of the Nerve Gear has remained
the same for five years. And the AmuSphere 2 (provisional) which is
developed by Recto will be on sale next year too...... oops, that is
supposed to be confidential.
As Kazuto sh
rugged, Asuna gave a little smile before saying,
s fine, as they will announce it at the Tokyo Game Show next
month anyway.
Ah, so Recto will participate too. ......I hope it won
t be too
Asuna looked at Shino, who made upturned eyes, the daughter of
the company president then made the same serious look and nodded
I hope so too― But for now the price has yet to be decided......
Well, even though I
m already satisfied with ALO and
t really plan
on buying a new device, they said it
ll have a much higher rendering
speed. And it
ll be backward compatible with the software too.
Is that so. Kuu―, should I find a part
time job too......
Pushing aside the data in her account book
which had surfaced in
her mind, Shino continued to ask Kazuto another question,
......Well, so that RATH company
s huge FullDive machine isn
intended for home use? Is it for business use?
No, I don
t think it
s at that stage yet. Firstly, strictly
speaking, it
actually uses a different FullDive technique.
Different......? Isn
t it about creating a VR world using polygons, in
which a user can Dive into it? What did you feel inside that world?
I don
t know.
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As Kazuto
s expression remained vague, Shin
o tilted her head to
the right and asked,
Heh...... What is the name of the company?
It may sound ordinary, but I also never heard about it before.
Hmm, is there an English word for that......?
I thought of the same thing too, Asuna knows
it though.
Sitting beside Shino, Asuna drank her ginger ale before nodding
and answered,
Through the Looking
Glass, and What Alice Found There
there is a verse in
mentioning the creature that comes
out in the dream. It seemed to be explained as a pig or a turtle.
Even though it was a book she had read long ago, she didn
remember such a word at all. Shino imagined a strange creature with
the head
of a pig protruding out of a rounded shell, as she continued
RATH...... Then, they are independently developing the next
generation of FullDive machines to sell? But wasn
t AmuSphere co
developed by several companies?
No, I don
t think so.....
Kazuto muttered in an unchanged, uncertain tone.
The main machine is very large. Adding the console and the
cooling equipment together, it could easily fill up this entire room......
Although the experimental first generation of the FullDive machine
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s outstretched right ha
nd was wrapped by Asuna
s supple
fingers. After gripping each other
s hands tightly, Shino hit the surface
of the table with her hand once.
So, the main topic is now concluded. Let
s see, next is......
She said as she stared at Kazuto
s face, as he chewed on the
remaining ice from the opposite side.
Should we hear it carefully now? About your suspicious part
time job. What kind is it? But even if we ask, knowing Kirito, it would
probably be alpha testing some new VRMMO game.
Shino p
ut forward the question she had held for more than thirty
minutes as her gaze was fixed on his face.
Well, it isn
t a hit, but it
s also not too far off the mark.
Kazuto nodded as he gave a bitter smile, then traced the micro
sensor embedded at his hea
s upper section with his fingertip.
The test player part is correct. What I
m testing isn
t a game
application however, but a new
Brain Machine Interface
of the FullDive
Shino was surprised, while her eyes remained on Kazuto.
means, the next generation of AmuSphere will finally come
out soon? Could it be, a tester for Asuna
s father company?
Nope, it isn
t related to Recto. How should I put it...... somehow I
still don
t really understand the whole picture about that company
It is a venture company whose name I
ve never heard of before, and it
has quite a lot of funds to pour into the development
s expenses. There
might be a large organisation backing them with funding......
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When she realized what she had carelessly muttered, Shino
quickly lifted her face, and shook her head at Kazuto and Asuna who
ere blinking in surprise.
Ah, no... that... there
s nothing behind it, really. Well...... G
also has a heart beat sensor, it was a supplement in the battle situation
with bad visibility, it has no girly implications like this, that was what I
had jus
t thought.
As she quickly returned the terminal to Asuna
s hand, she
continued speaking,
Oh, I almost forgot today
s main topic. Hmm, I asked Asuna
through mail about the fifth tournament in GGO, could you participate?
Since it involves character con
verting, I don
t want to forcibly ask you
for the favor.
Ah, about that, it
s no problem. I have a sub
account in ALO so
the house and items can be left to that account to maintain.
s cheerful smile and tender tone returned Shino to her
calm sel
f, she took a deep breath before speaking,
Thank you, with Asuna
s help, it
ll be like giving an iron club to
an ogre, or mounting a machine gun in a bunker. I think you will need a
few days practicing with a photon sword to grasp the timing though.
Yeah, I
ll convert about one month before the tournament, I
need you to guide me through the city then.
Of course. The food in GGO also can
t be neglected. Then...... it
may be a little early, but I
ll be in your care.
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Why are you doing something like that...... Ah, could it possibly
be a cheating prevention system?
No no!
Kazuto and Asuna
s actions were in perfect synchrony as they
shook their heads repeatedly.
No, it was when I st
arted this part
time job, they recommended
me to implant it, as it was terrible needing to stick electrodes in every
day. After I told Asuna about it, she strongly urged me to get the vital
data. She then forced me to set up an application, and installed i
t on
her terminal.
s because― I don
t want some unknown company to
monopolize Kirito
s health data. I was against embedding
something strange into his body in the first place.
Eh, don
t you seem happy whenever you look at the monitor
every t
ime you are free, so who are you to say that?
To Kazuto word
s, Asuna
s cheeks became faintly red.
I felt somewhat calm when looking at it. Thinking that Kirito
s heart is beating, it is as if we
re on a trip together......
Uwa, Asuna, that
sounds dangerous somehow.
While Shino laughed, she glanced down at the terminal in her
palm again. The pulse rate had already sped up to 67, while the
temperature had also rose slightly. Even though Kazuto made a poker
face as he greedily drank the water
, the data showed that he was
actually very embarrassed.
Hahah, I see...... That
s right...... somehow...... it
s nice......
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and a smaller [36.2] was on the right side. As Shino tilted her head, the
left figure ascended to 64.
What is......
As Shino was about to ask
What is this,
Kazuto seemed
embarrassed and saying
t stare
like that.
At that point, Shino
finally realized the meaning of this standby screen.
Ehh...... this... could it be... the heart rate and temperature of
s correct― As expected from Sinonon, you have good
Asuna said as she
clapped her hands. After Shino rotated her gaze
between the mobile terminal and Kazuto
s face several times, she
asked the first question floating in her mind,
But...... what kind of mechanism......?
s here under my skin......
Kazuto poked at a
lmost the middle of his chest with his right
thumb. He then extended his hand toward Shino, and made a crack of
about five millimeters using two fingers.
It is a very small implanted sensor. It monitors the heart rate and
temperature, and sends the data
to my mobile terminal via radio. From
that, the almost real time information is then passed to Asuna
terminal through the network.
Ehhh? Vitality sensor?
This time Shino was greatly surprised, as she became speechless
for about two seconds before be
ginning to speak,
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Even though you
re saying so, but we
re still freeloading at your
shop in Yggdrasil City at the moment...... Hmm, what should
I order
As Asuna, who seemed to be an old friend of the giant shopkeeper,
viewed the cork
bound menu, Shino took another peek at Kazuto
mobile terminal placed on the table. The blue blip stood still on the
spot, perfectly overlapping the l
ocation of the coffee shop.
......Then, I
ll get ginger ale please. The spicy one.
After Asuna finished ordering and Agil had returned to the
counter, Shino said while grinning,
Hey, are you two monitoring each other
s GPS coordinates? It
seems you
e getting along very well.
Kazuto then gave a serious look as he waved his right hand while
No no no.
It may seem to display the exact coordinates of Asuna
s terminal,
and also seem to not require any operations from Asuna, but mine isn
simple. Asuna, show it to her.
Asuna nodded and brought out her mobile terminal from the bag
hung on the back of the chair, before forwarding it in its standby
screen to Shino. As she received it and took a look, the monitor was set
up with a cut
e animated wallpaper.
At the center of the screen was a pink heart tied in a red ribbon,
which was throbbing at an interval about one second long. Beneath the
heart were two lines of several figures, whose meaning Shino didn
understand. A [63] figure on
the left side was displayed in a big font,
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Part 2
To the nickname she hadn
t been called by for more than five
years, Shino inadvertently stood up as she gave a broad smile.
Asuna, hello.
Yuuki Asuna made a lively sound from the natural wood
floorboards as
she walked along, the two girls then joined their
fingertips to each other in a pleasant reunion. As they sat down on the
chairs side by side, Kazuto, who had a slight expression of amazement
You two...... when did you become this close?
Last month I even spent a night over at Asuna
What!? And I haven
t even been to her house yet.
t Kirito
kun the one who said
I need to be mentally
and escaped?
As Asuna gave a little scowl, Kazuto sipped from his Caffè
o in an embarrassed manner. To that state, Asuna couldn
help but smile as she thought
It can
t be helped
then she noticed Agil,
who offered her some cold water and a towel, so she stood, getting off
the chair before giving a bow.
Excuse me for my lon
g silence, Agil
This really reminds me of the time when you two
were lodging at the second floor of my shop.
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......What do you see?
This time Shino tilted her head. Kazuto then placed the terminal
on the table, and slid it slightly toward Shino. Looking into the high
precision four inch monitor, she saw the map of the Okachimachi
d with this coffee shop in the center. There was a blue
light dot blinking along the route from the station to the shop.
What is this light dot?
The person Sinon is waiting for is coming. About a hundred
meters more.
It was just as Kazuto said, the light dot was moving toward this
shop. Crossing the intersection, entering the alley, arriving at the
center of the map, and at that moment,
the doorbell rang, Shino lifted up her face. The person
who had entered the shop folded the umbrella, her long chestnut hair
swung around as she turned toward Shino. From there, a bright smile
floated as if the rainy season had ended a little early.
o―, Sinonon!
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However, if that man was really a professional soldier or police,
would he spit out that speech just before he brought down his target?
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s with that weak comment, it
s very unlike you. It
s true
that he
s strong, but he
s still a VRMMO player
, speaking like it
s pro vs
amateur is just......
Yeah, that.
Kazuto leaned his back against the old
fashioned wooden chair,
his hands behind the back of his head.
Is Satrizer really an amateur...... really just a VRMMO player?
......What do you
mean? If he
s not a player then what could he be?
A professional. Whose objective is not to play, but to practice in
gun fights. Like a soldier...... or a member of the police
s special force.
Eh―!? You can
t just say something like that.
To Shino who gave a bitter smile as she was certain it was a joke,
Kazuto kept his serious expression as he continued,
I read it from news sites so I still don
t know full details...... but, it
seems that the army and police of several countries, as well
as private
defense companies and such have already incorporated FullDive
technology into their training. After polishing the skill in the virtual
environment, don
t you think it
s possible for the so
called professional
to test it by participating in BoB?
............That, can
t be......
As Shino was about to say Kazuto was reading too much into it,
she recalled the sharpness of Satrizer
s supernatural readings and the
smoothness of his movements. The way of he fought could be
described as a battle ma
chine, thinking about it, it was certainly
beyond the level of an amateur gamer.
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Thus, my invitation to you.
E......Ehhh, Me?
As she gave a smile to her companion who was taken aback, she
gave her prepared speech at the same time,
About that, I
m not saying an unreasonable thing like asking you
to convert from ALO to GGO again, I
m just certain that you were
indebted to me a li
ttle. Hey, after that, is the legendary weapon
comfortable to use?
s golden long sword, «Excaliber» that he
possessed in «ALfheim Online» was what Shino had collected just
before it would have been lost in a bottomless pit. As she had awarded
him the extremely rare item, of which only one existed in the server,
she had th
e right to say something with such self
indulgence. Also, it
would be attractive to Kazuto to be able to fight against a strong
As he didn
t want to betray Shino
s expectations, Kazuto cleared
his throat before saying,
I do have a feeling of w
anting to fight that Satrizer too...... But, I
think the main reason I, who was a gun novice, stood a chance in the
last tournament, was because the other participants were
inexperienced with fighting against a sword user. However, after
listening to your
story so far, Satrizer seems to be a close combat
expert in addition to a gun master, doesn
t he? I wonder if I have a
chance of winning......
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The patterns of veteran players, and the theory.
Oh. Well.....yeah, for that re
ason...... I think the player who
t use those patterns, whose actions aren
t based on the theory,
should be able to take up a position behind Satrizer......
She said that half automatically, as she finally understood the core
of the reason she had c
alled Kazuto out today. She switched her mood,
and drank the cold water from her glass, of which the ice had almost
completely melted, but the chill sticking to her back didn
t leave so
Yes...... he crept and captured Shino from behind, defeating
her in
just a few seconds, as Satrizer stopped her from breathing and she was
on the verge of losing the last bit of her HP gauge, he whispered in a
low voice. Back then, she couldn
t understand the meaning of the
almost silent, English whisper, and it now
came back to her ears as she
thought about it,
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set up her rifle on
bipod and laid in a prone position...... approaching
her from behind, like a cat attacking its prey.
However, Shino didn
t really want to be on the top floor, but a
floor below, as its height was still able to provide enough angle to fire.
The reason she
t do so was because there was a library on the
floor below. The reawakened memory of her sole relaxing spot in her
middle school self had disturbed her concentration, by the time Shino
realized that she was lost in thought for a few seconds, she was a
on the top floor. And in the shadow of that floor, was the enemy who
was waiting for her with a sneak attack......
In other words, Satrizer could predict Shino wouldn
t be on the
floor with the library but would set up her sniping position on the f
above. However, the reason she changed her sniping point wasn
t a
rational decision made by a sniper, but an entirely personal reason.
Being able to read Sinon the sniper
s actions was one thing, but he
t be able to see through the real world
bookworm Asada Shino.
Could it be just a coincidence that Satrizer decided to pick a hiding
location on the top floor of the same building? Or had he seen the
library and was confident that Shino wouldn
t choose that place for
some reason......?
If the la
tter was the case, he didn
t base his prediction on data or
experience. But on something beyond the skill category of VRMMO
game players...... which was reading the minds of other people......
......non. Oi, Sinon.
With the fingertips of her right hand
stretched out and fixed in
mid air, Shino winced and lifted her face. As her eyes met Kazuto
worried face, she quickly said,
Ah...... S
Sorry. Where were we again?
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......Anyway, there was not a single JP players who could even aim
their rifle at him, let alone shoot him. What was really terrifying about
Satrizer wasn
t his close combat technique, but his ability to predict the
battle situation.
Yeah...... I see...... But, is something like that possible......? It might
be possible against beginners, but those participating in BoB
s main
battle are veterans, the chance of predicting their actions at a hundred
percent shouldn
t even exist......
To Kazuto
s words, whose expression was still in doubt, Shino
shrugged lightly as she replied,
He defeated more than ten people the same way, so it
s already
t be considered a fluke. Well...... even though they
re veterans, there
might still be pa
tterns in their actions. For this terrain, they should
take this position, or using this route for their movement, there might
be a hole in those veterans
As she spoke, Shino felt she realized a certain fact too late and
gave a small sigh.
At t
hat time, just before the conclusion of the fourth BoB
Shino, who was the last person left against Satrizer, was at her
sniping point with her beloved Hecate II on the top floor of the
partially collapsed building. Her prediction was, from the
window of
that floor she should be able to confirm Satrizer position, as he must
cross the road below.
However, the enemy had read her prediction and hid near the
sniping point in the same building ahead of her. Waiting until she had
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I heard from eleven people who had been defeated directly by
him after the tournament, almost every one was defeated using the
same method. He shouldn
t have had any data about them, yet he was
able to clearly read their movements, as he
ambushed them at an
extremely close range, killing them without giving them any time to
use their weapons. I don
t know about America, but far from grappling
fights in the JP server, even using knives to fight with is unheard of......
......Eh, I heard
that after the third tournament, the number of
players using light saber had increased though......
To Kazuto who faintly said so, Shino inadvertently gave a bitter
s...just trying to imitate your showy performance. It
s true
that early in
this year, there were players practicing to cut bullets with
the light saber, but it seemed no one could actually accomplish it.
Even though she said that as if it was about other people,
Shino herself had purchased a small sized light saber and practi
ced in
secret with the soldier mobs as well. As a result of one month
struggle, aside from the initial shot from the rapid
fire assault rifle, she
still couldn
t reach the level required to defend herself from successive
bullets, and without at least def
ending against all three shot burst, it
t be used in real combat. The dream of reaching Kazuto
s level,
who could defend himself from more than ten shots of rapid
remained a dream, and she eventually gave up. The light saber was
currently acti
ng as a charm inside her storage.
However, if that time, she took it out of storage and equipped it
on her waist, she wondered if she could be able to wound Satrizer at all.
Shino immediately shook her head.
This isn
t the time for that. Switch
return to the topic.
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......Even though the result was like that, the topic went
around his complete victory. Because that guy, at the start, didn
t have
any weapon.
Eh......bare hands?
Yeah. Well, instead of weapons, he had the «Army Combative»
skill. He defeated his first target just by grappling, robbed the weapon
m his target, then used it on the next target..... he just repeated this.
The scene of him using just his bare hands to defeat other players
while they were reloading didn
t only occur two or three times. It can
be said that...... the battle was in a diffe
rent dimension......
Shino muttered while letting off a sigh, Kazuto folded his arms
before shaking his head,
But...... In short, Satrizer
s build was the close combat type, right?
If so, he shouldn
t be able to retaliate a mid
ranged or long
tack, should he? Rather, more than half of all GGO players are of
those build too......
You... you actually saw the scene when I lost to him, didn
t you?
Yeah, in ALO. When Satrizer was approaching your hiding place
in a straight line and was less th
an three minutes distance away,
everyone was like
Not that way
Sinon, behind you
Yeah, that.
Shino let out a big sigh as the amazing and at the same time
disgracing scene revived in her mind, before saying in the calmest tone
could muster.
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Kazuto who heard that blinked a few times, his consciousness
seemed to follow his gaze upward.
Come to think of it...... In the field o
f the third BoB I participated,
you told me about the US player who only had a knife and a handgun
but managed to win the first tournament......
Eh, but I
m certain
that since the second tournament, the server was divided into US and
JP, it was no longer
possible to connect from America, isn
t it?
s supposed to be like that...... Actually, there was no US entry in
the second and third tournaments. But this time he somehow managed
to avoid the block, or there was a connection to the management
.... Well, either way he was accepted. But you would realize the
legend of «Satrizer» just by watching his fights once.
Yeah. Even though it was from the broadcast screen, I noticed
that Sinon was fired up
Kazuto grinned as he said that. Shino pouted
before replying.
It wasn
t just me. All thirty finalists...... no, since he is not
included, all twenty
nine finalists were fired up too. And there were
even some among us who had lost to him in the first tournament. Even
though America is the home of
FPS, but breaking into the battle royale
stage of Japanese
s GGO, which is the origin of «The Seed» engine......
but, when the lid is opened......
A repetition of the first tournament...... right?
Shino nodded with her lips protruded and bent into a
The spoon in her right hand carried the last thick cube of bacon into
her mouth, savoring the simple yet rich taste of the food had reset her
thought, and last week
s memories resurfaced.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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Heh...... of American cuisine, I thought you only knew hamburger
and fried chicken.
The latter part of her words was reduced to a whisper, Kazuto
gave a bitter smile,
rejudice. I have talked to quite a few good guys from
over there too.
Yeah, definitely. Just the other day, I was deep in talk about
sniping with a girl from Seattle over the GGO international server for
three hours. Ah―, but...... it
s just him that I
t understand......
Kazuto, who had already emptied more than half of his plate,
repeated the word while still chewing.
s today
s topic anyway. You knew about last week
s fourth
Bullet of Bullets individual final already, right?
Abbreviated to «BoB», it was the name of the battle royale
tournament to decide the strongest in Gun Gale Online, Kazuto
immediately nodded.
Yeah, I watched the broadcast with everyone. Oh, I still haven
congratulated you yet. ......Well, it might be a
regrettable result to Sinon
though. Anyway, congratulations for the second place.
T......Thank you.
She wore a serious face while saying that so as to hide her
embarrassment, then quickly continued,
If you
ve already watched the broadcast then it
quicker. Even
though the winner is the player named «Satrizer»...... He, it was his
second time being the champion.
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Thanks for the treat.
......Well, it
s alright. I just finished my part
time job, my wallet is
still warm anyway.
Heh, you
re taking a part
time job? What kind is it?
The one I mentioned earlier about neither eating nor drinking
for three days. Well, we can talk about that after clearing today
s main
topic. For now let
s eat while it
s still hot.
Kazuto grabbed t
he small bottle of mustard and dropped a lot of
it at the edge of the plate, before passing it to Shino. She did the same
then used the spoon to scoop a heap of beans into her mouth.
A nostalgic and simple western style taste could be felt from the
beans, which was fluffy to the core and released a lot of soft
sweetness. The thick bacon which had no excessive fat, broke down
into pieces on her tongue.
This is also...... very delicious.
As she muttered, she looked at Kazuto who was eating greedil
before asking,
He said Boston style right? What kind of seasoning does it use?
Hmm...... I forgot its name but, it seems to be a crudely produced
syrup. What is it again, Agil?
The shopkeeper, who went back to polishing the glass, glanced
toward t
hem with his face lifted before replying,
Yeah, that
s it.
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several friends. However, it put Shino in a slightly complicated
situation as the topic they always talked
about concerned the boy
sitting in front of her waiting at the school gate to take her on his bike.
As Shino was unawarely thinking about that, Kazuto noticed her
mild expression, and nodded,
Then, everything from the Death Gun incident is already over
Yeah...... That
s... right.
Shino also nodded slightly, before shutting her mouth. There was
something, she seemed to recall something from the corner of her
mind and tried to pull it out, but before she could do so, the
shopkeeper appeared f
rom the kitchen before placing two steamy
plates on the table.
The scene of glossy amber colored kidney beans with cube
bacon placed in the middle caused an outbreak of hunger from the
stomach, which had already digested that day
s lunch. Shino grabbe
the spoon as if she was pulled towards it. At that point, she returned to
her senses and quickly pulled her hand back before speaking,
Ah, I
I didn
t order this.
Then, a faint mischievous expression floated on the rugged face of
the big framed master.
s fine, it
s a treat... from Kirito.
By the time Kazuto who had heard it opened his mouth wide to
protest, the shopkeeper had already went back to the counte
r calmly.
As Shino tried to suppress her laughter within her throat, she grabbed
the spoon again before slightly waving it at Kazuto.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
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As he gave a short response to Shino
s answer, Kazuto looked
toward the pouring rain. After several seconds of silence, Shino
intentionally broke it as she made a dissatisfied face.
Hey, normally at that point, you should be asking if I
alright, shouldn
t you?
Eh, ah, I
I see.
Erm, then what about Sinon?
After a rare success at making Kazuto panic, Shino grinned as she
embraced the sense of satisfaction.
ve already watc
hed all the collection of old action movies
ve lent me. The one I like most is probably the guy avoiding
handgun bullets by rolling toward cover. If you ever think of going
back to GGO, I
ll show it in our next practicing meet.
Is that so? Then it
s great...... please be gentle......
To the slightly twisted smiling face of Kazuto, Shino had to
suppress her laughter.
The fear of guns that Shino had suffered from for more than five
years, even now still can
t considered to have completely vanished
Even though she seemed to be enjoying the gun action movies, it would
still make her heart jump when she unexpectedly saw the guns in the
town corner
s posters, or the toy store
s show window. When she
thought about it now, it seemed to be just a nor
mal cautious reaction.
Since she couldn
t be certain that she wouldn
t meet a real criminal
possessing firearms in the real world some day.
In addition, Shino thought that the disappearance of the intense
reactions of denial upon seeing images and photos
of guns, such as
fainting and vomiting, was already more than enough. She also no
longer felt alienated at school. She was now able to eat lunch with
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She understood the meaning of the sudden question right away.
However, Shino didn
t reply immediately, she seiz
ed the glass from
s hand again, this time she took a bigger gulp. As the smooth
cream passed down her throat, the rich fragrance escaped to her nose.
That stimulus reconnected the fragmented thoughts in her mind,
changed them into a short words,
eah...... He seemed to have calmed down quite a lot.
Half a year ago, in 2025, the «Death Gun» incident occurred.
One of the three perpetrators at that time was also Shino
s only
friend, Shinkawa Kyouji, had received an exception after the lengthy
of the juvenile case, he was transferred to be imprisoned at a
juvenile rehabilitation facility last month.
During the trial, he had remained stubbornly silent, even the
psychiatric examination performed by an expert couldn
t make him
open his mouth; how
ever, a day about six months after the incident, he
started to agree to the counselor
s queries, bit by bit. Shino could
vaguely guess the reason for that. Six months
or one hundred and
eighty days, was the retention period of the unpaid fee in the VRMM
game «Gun Gale Online». Once that period had passed, Shinkawa
s other self, or it could be said his true self «Spiegel» would
disappear from the GGO server, which led Kyouji to be prepared to
finally face reality.
I planned to visit him once he
improves a little. I think this time
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The glass which was placed in front of Kazuto contained a light
brown liquid topped with smooth brown foam.
This is the Caffè...... something or other you ordered just now?
Shino asked, Kazuto then slid the glass with his fingertips t
she lifted up the glass as she muttered, and put it at
her lips. The texture of the thick creamy foam, the refreshing chill, and
the coffee aroma visiting in turn, after swallowing, the magnificent
sweet aftertaste still softly pe
rsisted. It was worlds different from the
iced café au lait that could be bought at the school
s vending machine.
s very good.
As Shino muttered, Agil made a satisfied look before hitting his
thick upper arm.
Without these fantastic
bartender arms, it wouldn
t be that
t stop boasting about your skill level ever since coming back
to reality, huh. Leaving that aside, Agil, what
s this smell?
Kazuto asked as the smell stimulated his nose, the shopkeeper
cleared his throa
t and answered,
style baked beans. These fantastic arms of rock......
Heh―, a taste of your wife
s hometown, huh? Then I
ll take that.
Agil, who was interrupted mid
speech, walked away with his lips
in a
shape; Kazuto recovered the glass in
front of Shino, then took a
gulp. He exhaled, corrected his posture on the chair, before looking
straight ahead.
............How is he now?
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He sat on the opposite side of Shino, then undid a button of his
collared shirt.
You didn
t come on your bike today?
I don
t want to ride it through the rain...... Agil, Caffè Shakerato
for me
Shino looked at the relaxed Kazuto who had ordered an
unfamiliar drink, his neck was as thin as his avatar in the virtual world,
his face also couldn
t be said to be healthy.
t you too thin? You should eat more.
Shino said frowning, but
Kazuto just waved his hand.
From here on it would go back to my standard body weight
anyway. But from Friday until Sunday, it would drop again......
Training on the mountain?
No, nothing but sleep.
Then why did you get thinner?
Not drinking
and eating at all.
......Hah? Are you aiming for enlightenment?
Shino tilted her head as she was unable to understand the
meaning of his words, at that moment, a light click
clack sound could
be heard from the counter. What she saw was the master who
the silvery shaker with an elegance mismatched with his big frame
but saying it that way might be rude. As Shino watched while
thinking that, Agil gently poured the contents of the shaker into a wide
coupe glass, before putting it on a tray and
carrying it out.
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......When you tell a joke, it will lose its effect if you make a face
like that, Agil
The scene of the coffee shop and bar, «Dicey Café
s shopkeeper
Agil grop
ing his brows and mouth for
a face like that
, seemed like it
could make children immediately start to cry, Shino who was watching
it let out a slight laugh. She then quickly brought the glass to her mouth
and gulped down some coffee.
How would he interp
ret Shino
s reaction? Right after Agil made
an intense frightful face in a satisfying manner, the doorbell rang. The
new customer stopped moving just as he walked one step into the shop
and saw the master
s face, then shook his head before saying,
Hey Agil, if you greet the customers with that face every time,
surely this shop will go out of business very soon.
s not. That was a special favor used for jokes.
......No, that
s also wrong.
As he was disproving Agil, he put his umbrella int
o the whiskey
barrel near the door before looking at Shino and raising his right hand.
re late.
She frowned a little as she responded, the person she was
Kirigaya Kazuto shrank his neck before making an
Sorry, I
t taken a train for quite some time now......
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Prologue II
Part 1
While taking a gulp of iced milk coffee and enjoying the mellow
fragrance as she slowly swallowed, Asada Shino let out a long sigh.
She was watching a vague scene of colorful umbrellas
passing by
through the old
fashioned glass window. She disliked rain, but sitting
on the table seat in this coffee shop, which was like a back alley hideout,
and watching the grey view of the damp street couldn
t get her into a
bad mood. The furniture in t
he shop had no indication of technology,
and a nostalgic scent from the kitchen inside the counter gave her an
illusion, like falling into a border between the real world and virtual
world. It was as if the school class just an hour ago was an event from a
different world.
It falls quite a lot, doesn
t it.
It took a little while before she realized the baritone voice coming
from over the counter was directed at her. Of course that was certain,
as there was no other customer. Directing her gaze toward th
e café au
lait colored master, who was carefully polishing a glass, Shino
Yes, it
s the rainy season after all. It seems it will continue to rain
until tomorrow.
m certain that this is the Undine mages
The scary faced giant iss
ued the words with a red face, before
inadvertently making a bitter smile.
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Go. I have to go. I have to take Alice back from the knight
s hand,
then escape to the southern forest.
A faint voice echoed from a corner of his min
d. But immediately, a
sharp pain attacked his right eye as if it was stabbed, blowing off all his
intentions. Together with the pulsing red light, another voice noisily
reverberated like a cracked bell.
The Axiom Church is absolute. The Taboo Index is abs
Disobeying it isn
t allowed. No one is allowed to do so.
Eugeo, at least get these guys off me!! Then I can......!!
The Integrity Knight paid no more attention to the commotion at
the square, he set the end of the chain to the saddle on the back
of the
flying dragon. As the dragon lowered its neck, the knight effortlessly
climbed into the saddle. The silver armor gleamed brightly.
Kirito screamed as he was vomiting blood.
The white flying dragon raised its body, and spread open i
wings. The loud sound rang twice, thrice.
Alice, who was bound to the dragon
s saddle, looked straight at
Eugeo. She was smiling. As if she was saying
with those blue
pupils of hers. Her long golden hair shook from the wind caused by the
pping wings, glittering as brilliantly as the knight
s armor.
However, Eugeo couldn
t move. He couldn
t make a sound.
As if his legs were rooted to the ground, he couldn
t even move
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Take those children out of the square.
Immediately after that, Eugeo and Kirito
s napes were grabbed
and dragged backward.
Damn...... let go!!
Village chief!! Gasupht
ojisan! Is this
alright!? Is it alright to let Alice be taken away like
Kirito struggled as if he went insane, shook off the man
s hands,
readied the axe in his hand, preparing to charge in.
However, his feet, which wore simple leather boots, couldn
t even
make a single step forward. Before he could start running, s
surprising had occurred.
The moment the Integrity Knight, who had finished confirming
the leather belts on Alice, glanced at Kirito, the Dragon Bone Axe which
was held in a tight grip made a sharp metallic sound before flipping out
of his hands.
The knight touched neither the sword on his waist nor the
bow on his back. He didn
t move even a single finger. It was as if his
intention itself formed a real blade and hit Kirito
s axe, sending it flying
to the edge of the square.
Kirito who had receive
d the aftereffects from the unusual impact
also had his body suppressed as he collapsed. Immediately, several
men joined in and completely sealed his movements.
His right cheek was pressed against the stone pavement, while he
gave off an expression of pai
n, Kirito desperately shouted,
Eugeo! Please, go!!
A......u, a......
s whole body trembled.
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Eugeo...... is there any need for hesitation!? Who cares if it
Is that more important than Alice
s life!?
s low but tense voice hit Eugeo
s earlobe.
Right. It
s just as he said.
Inside Eugeo
s heart, he shouted to himself,
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Eugeo...... listen, I
ll use this axe to attack the
Integrity Knight. I
should be able to buy a few seconds, you use that chance to take Alice
and run away. Run to the wheat fields in the south, blend into the gap
in the fields and go into the forest, you won
t be easily seen that way.
After Eugeo glanced
at the Dragon Bone Axe Kirito held, he was
somehow able to squeeze out his voice,
......Ki...... Kirito...... but...
Yesterday, haven
t you already seen the Integrity Knight
s terrifying
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Along with those words, he waved his hand to the two kneeling
men. The villagers stood up and grabbed the back of Kirito and Yujio
necks, before starting to pull them away. While opposing them, Kirito
shouted aga
Th......Then, we also commited the same sin!! We were at the
same place! If you
re going to take her, then take us too!!
However, the Integrity Knight no longer looked at them.
s right...... If Alice committed the Taboo, then I should receive
the same punishment.
Eugeo thought so. He thought that from the
bottom of his heart.
Then why won
t my voice come out? I want to shout like Kirito, but
my mouth feels like it has forgotten how to move, all it can do is spit out
husky breaths.
Alice glan
ced and turned to look at them,
s alright.
She smiled
like that, and nodded.
Her father, who had lost his facial expression, turned the
threatening restraint tool behind her slim body. He tightened the three
leather belts at her shoulder, abdomen, and
waist. Alice
s face distorted
just slightly. After he finished tightening the metal fixtures, he
staggered a few steps backward, and looked down once more. The
knight walked toward Alice, before grabbing the end of the chain
dangling behind her back.
o and Kirito were pulled back to the center of the square,
then forcefully pushed down on their knees.
Kirito put his mouth near Eugeo
s ear while he pretended to
stagger, and quickly whispered,
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The Integrity Knight nodded
lightly before pulling an odd tool out
from the back of his armor. It was a thick iron chain with three leather
belts attached to it in parallel, there was a big loop at the tip of the
The knight handed the tool to Gasupht.
An order to the villa
ge chief. Bind the criminal.
As the village chief received the restraining tool as his confused
gaze lowered, before Kirito and Eugeo finally arrived in front of the
knight. The knight
s headpiece moved slowly, before facing straight at
Eugeo was unable to see anything inside the cross shaped cut on
the shiny visor, as it was wrapped in deep darkness, but the pressure
from the gaze caused him to feel pain. He looked down reflexively,
wanting to say something to Alice who stood in fr
ont of him, but
unable to do so, as his throat felt like it was burning.
Kirito also faced downwards, like Eugeo, while taking shallow
breaths repeatedly, then suddenly he lifted his face and shouted in a
clear voice while he was still trembling.
He inhaled deeply once, and continued,
A......Alice didn
t enter the Dark Territory! One of her hands
merely touched the ground briefly! It was just that!
However, the answer from the knight was simple,
Is there any need of further acts?
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Alice raised a small voice, before clenching her lips tightly. As her
rose colored cheeks faded, a faint smile floated to her face,
s alright.
She nodded to the two like that.
When Kiri
to called out in a small voice, the wicker basket in her
right hand fell down due to the rough pulling. The lid opened, and its
contents rolled out onto the stone pavement.
The two villagers pulled Alice, without letting her pick it up,
toward the Integri
ty Knight.
s stare was fixed on the wicker basket which was lying on
its side.
Pie and hard bread were wrapped in a white cloth, small ice
firmly filled the gaps. A piece of ice which had spilled out reflected the
sunlight and shone brilliantly. In
just a moment, the ice on the stone
surface, which was heated by the sunlight, immediately melted, turning
into a small black spot.
Beside him, Kirito inhaled sharply.
As expected, he lifted his face and chased Alice
s back, which was
being pulled away. Eugeo also clenched his teeth, forcing his stiff legs
to follow his partner.
The two men released Alice
s arms beside the village chief, then
moved a few steps backward before kneeling. Both their hands were
clasped as
they bowed down deeply, showing obedience to the knight.
Alice, who had been released, looked at her father with a pale face.
Gasupht glanced at his beloved daughter briefly before turning away
and looking downward once more.
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s alright, if it
s that person.
Eugeo thought. Even though he had
never spoke to the village chief Gasupht much, he should have the most
respect from the adults after Old Garitta.
......In that case, I will call my daughter, I think we should hear the
reason from the mouth of the person herself.
The village chief who lifted his face said just that.
No, we can
t let Alice come out in front of the knight.
During the
ef period Eugeo thought that, the Integrity Knight lifted his right
hand up as his armor made a small sound. Seeing his fingertip pointed
directly at him, Eugeo
s heart squirmed uncomfortably.
That is not necessary. Alice Schuberg is right there. You, an
The knight moved his hand and pointed to the adults among the
crowd in turn.
Take the chief
s daughter here.
The row of villagers in front of Eugeo quickly split. What stood
between the Integrity Knight and Alice were just Kirito and Euge
On the vacant road, two village acquaintances slowly approached.
Their skin had lost the color of blood, but there were odd lights floating
in their eyes.
The men forcefully tore Eugeo and Kirito, who were blocking
them, off Alice, and pushed them to
the side before grabbing Alice
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A trembling could be seen on Alice
s back who stood nearby.
However, Eugeo and Kirito couldn
t do anything, let alone speak. In
their heads, the knight
s words repeatedly echoed.
The village chief
s strong body also shook for a moment. A
but clear curve could be seen slightly from the side of his face.
After a long silence, Gasupht said in a voice which had lost its
......Sir Knight, what was the sin that my daughter committed?
The Taboo Index, first chapter, third pass
age, eleventh
paragraph, trespassing the Dark Territory.
At that moment, a big commotion began among the villagers who
were holding their breath, listening to the exchange up until this point.
The children widened their eyes, as every adult murmured the
s sacred phrase while tracing the curse protection symbol.
Then, Eugeo and Kirito finally acted, partly due to instinct. They
thrust themselves in front of Alice, stuck together at their shoulders,
hiding the girl from the villagers eyes behind the
ir backs. However,
they couldn
t perform any further actions, as sudden movements
would attract attention from the adults in front of them.
Inside Eugeo
s head,
What should we do, what should we do,
the only thought there, continuously repeating itself. Even without the
depression which had welled up in his chest at this moment, he still
t know what he could do.
All he did was stand upright, watching the scene up ahead, at the
village chi
ef Gasupht who was hanging his head deeply without making
any actions.
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I serve as the village chief of Rulid, Schuberg is my name.
The Integrity Knight lifted up his fists in front of his body in
return to Gasupht, the armor made a faint sound when he nodded,
before starting to speak,
Overseeing the Norlangarth North Castle, Integrity Knight of the
Axiom Church, Deusolbert Synthesis Seven.
It was hard to believe that it came from the throat of a living
person, as it reverberated in a discordant intonation.
The voice which
had a steely feel to it echoed throughout the square, causing every
villager in the area to become silent. Eugeo frowned as the sound felt
as if it pierced directly through his forehead rather than come through
the ears, even though he was
more than twenty mels away. Even the
village chief Gasupht was pushed half a step backward due to the
However, as expected from his courage, Gasupht corrected his
posture, before issuing his impressive speech once again,
It is an honor to have
Sir Integrity Knight, who keeps the order of
the vast Human World, visit our small village in this remote region. If I
had known of your approach in advance I would have prepared a
welcoming banquet.
I can not accept that during the fulfillment of my
official duties.
The knight
s reverberating voice said, and with an ice
like glare
under the visor
he continued,
Due to Gasupht Schuberg
s child, Alice Schuberg
s offense to the
Taboo clause, I have come to arrest her for interrogation, followed by
her execution.
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Their childhood friend turned around, as her golden hair swung
sideways, her surprised face l
ooked as if she was about to say
something. Kirito quickly put his finger to his mouth, before quietly
Alice, be quiet. I think we need to get out of here right now.
Eh...... why?
Alice replied in a similarly low whisper, she seemed not
to know
the danger which currently drew near her. Eugeo thought she wouldn
notice the possibility without Kirito saying it.
No...... that Integrity Knight is probably......
How should we explain from there.
As Eugeo was lost in thought
for a moment.
At that time.
A few low voices came from within the crowd. Looking up,
walking to the square from the village hall, a tall man came into view.
Ah...... father.
Alice muttered. The man was the girl
s father and at the same
time, the current village chief of Rulid, Gasupht Schuberg. The firm
body was dressed in a simple vest, his black hair and beard were tidily
trimmed. Even though he had inherited this Sacred Task from the
previous village chief for
just four years, his piercing discernment
quickly gained him the respect of all villagers.
Gasupht approached the Integrity Knight alone without any trace
of hesitation, before setting his hands in front of the body according to
the Axiom Church
s etique
tte, then bowed. After raising his face, he
addressed himself,
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Its big wings folded to its side
s, almost completely blocking the
church from view. Its grey scales and the steel armor on various parts
of its body reflected the light of Solus, which made it look like an ice
sculpture. Its bloodshot eyes, void of emotion, were looking down at
the villa
ge square.
In front of the dragon, shining even more dazzlingly, was the
figure of the knight.
His frame was larger than anyone in the village. The heavy armor
polished until it was like a mirror covered his entire body, without a
single trace of cloth,
as all the joints were covered by finely knit silver
chains. The headpiece which mimicked a dragon
s head had its
forehead protruding out, on its sides were long decorated horns
stretched backward, the knight
s face was hidden behind the huge
visor which w
as pulled down.
There was a long sword which had a silver grip hanging from his
left waist. On his back, with a length of about a mel, was a reddish
brown bow. It was without a doubt, the Integrity Knight who shot and
killed the black knight that Eugeo ha
d seen at the exit of the cave
From the cross shaped opening of the visor, the knight stared
wordlessly to the south of the square, and the dozens of villagers who
had gathered lowered their heads in unison. On the last row, the figure
of a you
ng girl who had just lowered the wicker basket in her hand
could be seen, Eugeo released the tension from his shoulders slightly.
Alice, who was wearing her usual blue dress and white pinafore, stared
at the figure of the Integrity Knight from between the
gap of the adults.
Eugeo elbowed Kirito
s sides as a signal, they bent their bodies
and moved, after they arrived behind Alice, Kirito whispered,
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Something bad is happening.
While he was thinking that, Eugeo
also kicked the ground and quickly chased after Kirito.
They ran through the familiar small path of the forest at full speed
while avoiding roots and rocks, as the path merged with the main road
which went through the fi
eld. They couldn
t see the shadow of the
flying dragon in the sky over the village. Kirito loosened his feet
slightly, and loudly asked the farmer among the ears of wheat, who
wore a blue outfit and was looking up at the sky.
ojisan! Where did the
dragon knight go!?
The farmer looked like he had just woke up from a dream, after
blinking many times, he finally replied,
A...... Ah...... hello, it looked like it dropped at the village square......
After thanking him in irritation, the two continued running at full
On various places along the main road and fields, were groups of
villagers standing still. Probably, even among the elders, there might
be no one who had actually seen the Integrit
y Knight before. Everyone
just stared at the village with an expression of not knowing what to do.
Eugeo and Kirito just ran past them desperately.
Passing through the village
s south gate, running through the
short shopping street, and, after crossing th
e small stone bridge, the
two finally saw it. They caught their breath without their feet ever
The long arching neck and tail of the flying dragon occupied the
northern half of the square in front of the church.
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Why would he comes to a place
like this?
In the complete silence, as if the birds and bugs were in fear,
Eugeo thought in confusion.
The Integrity Knights fight against the Axiom Church
s enemies and
keep the order in place. In the current Human World where the four
empires divided a
nd ruled, there are no rebel groups anymore, so aside
from the forces of darkness, the Integrity Knights
enemies don
t exist.
What I heard about the knights
endless fights outside the Mountain
range at the Edge, I actually saw it with my own eyes yesterd
It is the first time I have seen a real Integrity Knight. Since I was
born, the knight had never come to the village. And yet, why now
It can
t be...... It can
t be, Alice......
Kirito murmured beside him.
The moment he heard that, the strange
voice he heard back then
returned vividly to Eugeo
s ears. Beyond the violet window, blurting
out mysterious phrases from the human with strange facial features.
He felt chill down his spine as if he was suspended in freezing water.
s a lie...... it c
t be true, just that...... with just that......
He looked at Kirito
s face while he talked, as if to seek agreement,
but his partner was wearing a rare solemn expression while staring in
the direction the knight flew. A few moments later, Kirito looke
straight into Eugeo
s eyes before giving a short call,
s go!
He took the Dragon Bone Axe off Eugeo
s hand before running
toward the north in a straight line.
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As the morning went on, the two continued making good strikes
on the tree trunk. The reason was, as they were swinging the axe
, if
they lost concentration, their minds would return to the scene they
saw yesterday
it wasn
t something that could be denied.
After striking nine sets of the fifty strikes per set requirement,
s stomach started rumbling.
Eugeo looked up into the sky as he wiped his sweat, Solus was
already reaching the middle of the sky.
Like always, after one more
strike, Alice would bring the awaited lunch. But today we can slowly eat
pie with cold milk.
His empty stomach hurt just by im
agining it.
Just thinking about lunch made Eugeo
s grip slip. After wiping
both his wet palms, he cautiously held the axe in a tighter grip.
Suddenly, the sunlight became dim.
Sudden rain? That
s annoying.
Eugeo thought while looking up.
A shadow could be seen flying across the blue sky above Gigas
s branches at a high speed. Eugeo
s heart flinched.
The flying dragon......!?
Eugeo unintentionally shouted,
Oi...... Kirito, just now!!
Aa, it
s the Integrity Knight from
His partner
s voice was also frozen in fear.
The flying dragon along with the silvery white knight sitting on its
back swept over the treetops and disappeared from their eyes in the
direction of Rulid village.
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Part 4
Solus had set, then arisen
and then, it was daily life as usual,
without any changes.
Normally, on the day after the rest day, Eugeo would go to the
workplace slightly depressed, however, today he somehow felt
ve had enough adventure, I
m a woodcutter after all.
As he
was thinking this as he walked out of the village
s south gat
e, Kirito
joined him on the border between the fields and the forest.
Eugeo noticed a slight sense of relief on the face of the partner he
had known for a long time. The other also noticed the same expression
on Eugeo
s face. For a short while, the two ex
changed grins to hide
their embarrassment.
They walked along the narrow forest path for a short while
before obtaining the Dragon Bone Axe from the storage hut, then after
walking several more minutes, reached the base of the Gigas Cedar.
Eugeo was gratef
ul when he thought of continuing to cut the tree trunk
like nothing had changed.
Alright, make sure you get in a few good hits and treat me to
Siral water today.
t that what you have always had to do until recently, Kirito?
As they jabbed at eac
h other, Eugeo set up the axe. The first strike
produced a
pitched sound.
m in a good condition today.
Eugeo thought.
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had been holding in admiration and respect up until this point had
turned out to be something completely di
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You can look forward to tomorrow
s boxed lunch. As the reward
for your hard work, I
ll do my best.
You mean Sadina
obasan will do her best, don
t you?
, which of
course, Eugeo and Kirit
o didn
t say out loud. The two exchanged
glances for a moment before nodding at the same time.
......Hey, what were you thinking?
Alice asked while wearing a perplexed expression, the two boys
slapped Alice
s shoulders, before saying in unison
nothing! Well, let
s go back to the village!
By the time they walked to the village square, the place where
they parted, the real sunset sky hovered above them. Kirito lived in the
church, Alice went back to the village chief
s residence. Eugeo arrived
at his house on the west side of the village just a few seconds before
the six o
clock bell rang.
Eugeo stayed silent throughout the dinner he arrived at, barely on
time. Even though he was confident that his brothers and sisters, and
even his father and
grandfather never had an adventure like him today,
he was somehow unable to bring himself to boast about it.
It seemed he couldn
t speak about the fact that he had seen the
Land of darkness with his own eyes
the fierce battle between the
Integrity Knig
ht and the black knight, and then the strange face which
appeared at the end; because once he talked about that, it wasn
t hard
to guess what the reaction from his family might be, and it made him
That night, Eugeo who went to bed early thought he
would be
able to forget everything he saw at the end of the adventure. But he
t able to, as the Axiom Church and the Integrity Knight which he
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when they jumped into the white light they finally saw, the afternoon
sunlight was still brightly pouring onto the forest.
However, Eugeo
s anxiety of getting captured hadn
t disappeared
easily. Even at this momen
t, he still had the feeling that the violet
window would open right behind them, with that strangely pale face
appearing again, so he didn
t let himself rest.
Under the trees where small birds sang, passing the bank of the
small river where a group of sma
ll fish moved here and there, the three
hastily walked in silence. Crossing the hill which was supposed to be
the Northern pass, going past the twin ponds, before finally arrived at
the north Rulid bridge.
With additional walking, they had returned and
rested at the base
of the old tree, which had been their meeting place at dawn, but still
t talk much. The three exchanged glances before smiling slightly.
Hey, Alice, here.
Kirito said and thrusted the heavy looking wicker basket forward.
it was packed with the fruit of today
s adventure, the «Summer
Ice»; Eugeo now realized the existence of the basket which he had
completely forgotten. To hide his embarrassment, he said with a calm
When you get back home, you
d better bring them to
the cellar
quickly. That way, it should be able to hold out until tomorrow, right?
......Yeah, alright.
The unusually obedient Alice nodded, after taking the basket, she
looked at two boys
faces in turn; finally, her usual clear smile floated
to her face.
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features. Its skin was pale, its head didn
t have a single strand of hair.
Both of its eyes which opened in a perfect circle we
re also void of
emotions. However, Eugeo could instinctively guess. Those eyes
t looking at him or Kirito, but at the person who was sitting
absentmindedly on the ground, Alice.
The stranger
s mouth started moving, through the violet
membrane, stran
ge words could be heard,
Both its eyes, which looked like balls of grass blinked briefly, then
once again, the mysterious voice said,
Then, the violet window suddenly vanished. Once E
ugeo belatedly
noticed that the stranger
s words might be some kind of the sacred arts
ritual phrase, he hurriedly looked at Alice, Kirito, then finally himself,
but he didn
t feel that anything had changed.
Even so, the event was too strange to ignore.
Eugeo exchanged
glances with his partner, the two helped to lift Alice up, as if to carry
their childhood friend who was still trembling, back into the cave
and started trotting in the original direction they had come from.
Eugeo couldn
t remember how
they returned to Rulid village.
Going back across the lake where the white dragon lay, and
continuing to run after they jumped into the opposite exit. They
slipped many times as they were running on wet stones, but they went
through the long cave with ju
st a fraction of the time when they came,
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............I...... I......
Alice murmured in a grave tone, as Eugeo mindlessly stretched
his hands out to her right hand. He rubbed her
palm, wiping out all the
grains of sand, and said earnestly,
s alright, Alice. You didn
t go out of the cave. Your hand just
touched it. That, surely, isn
t forbidden, right? Right, Kirito?!
Eugeo lifted his face and looked at his partner
s face
as if to rely
on him. But Kirito wasn
t looking at Eugeo nor Alice. While standing on
his knees, his gaze was sharply running through the surroundings.
s the matter, Kirito?
t you feel it, Eugeo? It
s like...... someone......
He frowned and started looking around again after speaking,
however, in the cave there wasn
t even a bug, let alone a human. The
only thing that entered his vision was at the place ten mels away, the
dead black knight. The figure of the Int
egrity Knight who had won the
battle had already disappeared from the sky.
s just your imagination, rather than that......
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A thin voice leaked from Alice on Eugeo
s right side. Moving as if
she was sucked toward, staggering forward
to the outside of the
Eugeo didn
t have any reaction. However,
Kirito on his left made a
low and sharp shout
Alice heard that voice, her body trembled,
trying to stop. But her feet were tangled, her body inclined forward.
This time Eugeo also stretched his hand along with Kirito in reflex,
trying to grab Ali
s clothes.
However, their fingertips only sliced air.
Alice collapsed on the ground of the cave and let out a small gasp,
followed by the trail of her long golden hair.
s just falling. Even if I checked the «Window», Life would be
reduced by just
one or two points.
However, the problem wasn
t that.
The moment Alice fell, her right hand stretched forward, and went
about twenty cens past the strangely clear boundary between the
bluish grey cave floor and the ash colored ground ahead. The pure
white p
alm touched the pure black gravel. The Land of darkness, Dark
s ground.
Kirito and Eugeo unanimously called, they stretched out both
hands and grabbed Alice
s body tightly. Normally, doing something like
this would get them yell
ed at until they regretted it, but this time, she
just stood firm as if in a trance, and was pulled back into the cave.
Alice, who was held up by Eugeo
s and Kirito
s hands, had her
eyes wide opened at the defeated black knight, before long, her gaze
ped to her right hand. The fluffy palm still had sand and small
stones stuck to it, every single grain pitch black.
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Knight had replaced his sword with a reddish brown great bow and
drew it to the limit, before releasing a long arrow.
The arrow drew a faint trace of flame in the mid air, without
missing, it pierced through the black knight
s chest.
Alice raised a small voice which sounded like a shriek.
As the skin of both its wings had been burnt completely, the black
dragon lost its ability to fly and wriggled violently in mid air. The black
knight separated from its back, and with a
trail of blood, started falling
straight toward the cave entrance where the three of them stood.
First, the black sword stabbed upright into the gravel mixed
ground, producing a dry sound. Next, at a place about ten mels away
from the three of them, the
knight crashed. Lastly, the black dragon
crashed into the considerably far rocky mountain, it moved its long tail
while crying in agony, before it stopped moving altoghether.
In front of the three children who were staring wordlessly, the
black knight was
struggling in pain, trying to raise his upper body. On
the dully shining metal armor
s breastplate, the deep hole from the
pierce wound could be seen. The knight
s face, which was hidden
behind the thick visor, was directed straight at the three.
His sli
ghtly trembling right hand stretched out as if asking for
help. But immediately after that, a large amount of fresh blood gushed
out of the neck of the armor, the knight then collapsed onto the ground.
The red liquid spread wide from the body which no long
er moved,
soaking into the gaps of the black gravel.
Ah...... ah......
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As the two dragon knights struck each other with their swords,
the sound of thunderous impact reverberated, as large amount of tiny
fire particles danced in the air.
I wonder if the white one is...... the Church
Integrity Knight......
To Alice
s mutter, Kirito nodded slightly.
Right...... The black one is the knight of the darkness
forces, I
guess...... With strength on par to the Integrity Knight
It can
t be......
Eugeo shook his head inadvertently.
The Integrity Knights are the world
s strongest. He can
t be
defeated by the likes of a knight of darkness.
I wonder about that. From the look of it, there isn
t much
difference in their sword skills. Both can
t pen
etrate the other
Immediately after Kirito said that. As if hearing his voice, the
white knight pulled his dragon
s bridle and gained a large gap. The
black dragon flapped its wings violently to shorten the distance.
However, before the distan
ce could be reduced, the white dragon
turned its head sharply by bending its neck, along with an action which
seemed to be gathering power. Immediately after that, while still
swinging its neck, its jaws opened wide. A colorless flame gushed out
in a strai
ght line from between its fangs, and wrapped the black dragon
knight entirely.
The roar which dominated the sound of the wind struck Eugeo
ears. The black dragon twisted its body in pain, shaking violently in
mid air and descended. Without missing that
chance, the Integrity
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Not anyone is to go beyond the Mountain range enclosing the edge of
the Human World
No...... don
t go any further......
Eugeo recklessly moved his stiff mouth and squeezed the words
out. He spread his arms as if to prevent Kirito and Alice, who were
behind him, from falling.
At that time. A solid metal striking sound echoed from above,
s body trembled in surprise. He
looked up at the red sky
In the blood red background, he could see something white
intertwined with something black.
As they were flying at frightening heights, they were tiny little
specks. It seemed their real size would be far beyond hum
ans. While
the two flying bodies were intensely switching places, they separated
before approaching each other again, the moment they blended
together, an intermittent metallic sound echoed.
The dragon knights......
Kirito, who was looking up at the sk
y beside Eugeo, whispered in
a husky voice.
It was as his partner said, the two fighting each other had long
necks and tails, they were huge flying dragons, each with a pair of
triangular wings. The body of the riders could be seen on their backs,
armed w
ith swords and shields. The one riding the white dragon was
in a white silver armor, on the black dragon was a knight in jet black
armor. Their swords were like that too, the beam of dazzling light from
the white knight
s sword was stagnated by the miasma
released from
the black knight
s sword.
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The ground was black. On the other side was the strangely steep
mountain range which was
dotted in front by strangely shaped rocky
mountains, the water surface which could be seen here and there were
stained in black with something reminiscent of ash. The skin of twisted
dead trees was white like polished bone.
The wind, which blew violently
as if to tear everything in pieces,
shook the dead treetops, causing long melancholic cries. It was without
a doubt, the sound of the wind they had heard inside the cave.
A place like this, a world which was forsook by gods, wasn
t the
Human World Eugeo lived in. Then
what the three were looking
at, this scene was
Dark...... Territory......
s hoarse voice was immediately carried off by the sound of
the wind.
The place where the authority of the Axiom Church couldn
extend its reach to, the land of the devil tribes serving under the god of
darkness Vector, the world which they had thought only existed inside
the tales told by the village elders, was just a few steps ahead. As he
thought that, the center of Eugeo
s h
ead became freezing cold, he
t do anything but to stand still. As if having touched that
information for the first time in his life, the large amount of it flew into
a section of his mind which had never been used before, he was no
longer able to ev
en handle thoughts of his own.
Inside his head, which was stained in pure white, was a single
sentence written at the beginning of the Taboo Index, shining clearly
and brightly. The first chapter, third passage, eleventh paragraph
which should have been f
orgotten after talking to Alice the day before.
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The exit!
He shouted with a smiling
face, then frowned. The light became
faintly reddish. They had entered the cave just around lunch, the time
they spent inside was at most an hour or a little more, it seemed they
had been in the underground world longer than they realized. If Solus
had alr
eady started sinking to the west, and they didn
t hurriedly go
back, they wouldn
t reach the village in time for dinner.
Eugeo quickened his pace. The high
pitched sound of the wind
echoing into the cave had already dominated the sound of the river.
Eugeo, stop for a bit! This is weird, it has just been two
hours at most but......
Alice who ran behind him raised her voice in anxiety. However,
Eugeo didn
t stop.
ve had had enough of this adventure. Right now, I
want to be home even a moment sooner
Turning to the right, turning to the left, and turning to the right
again, finally the light fully spread in his vision. The exit was just a few
mels ahead. He narrowed his eyes which had been accustomed to the
dark while gradually loosening his runnin
g pace, before completely
The cave ended just there.
However, in front of Eugeo
s eyes wasn
t the world he knew.
The whole sky was deep red. But it wasn
t the color of the setting
sun. First of all, Solus couldn
t be found anywhere in the sky.
Like the
juice from the hanging mountain grapes that were too ripe
or the
s blood which was thrown out, only a dull, depressing red
spread across his eyes.
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As Kirito suddenly put his finger to his lips, Eugeo and Alice
stopped talking. They listened carefully.
Certainly, there was another sound mixed in with the flow of the
groundwater stream. It sounded like a melancholic whistle that raised
and lowered in pitch.
Ah...... the sound of wind?
Alice murmured. Certainly, Eugeo also realized it was a sound
ar to the treetops playing in the wind.
The exit is nearby! It
s great we picked this path, let
s hurry!
As he called out in relief, he started jogging to resume advancing.
Hey, you
ll slip if you run in a place like this.
But even though she said
so, Alice also increased her pace.
Following them from behind was Kirito, who made a doubtful
But...... does summer wind sound like this? Somehow...... it sounds
like cold winter wind......
The strong valley winds blow like that. Anyway,
s get out of
here quickly.
The light in Eugeo
s right hand swung violently as he approached
the cave exit.
My heart has already overflowed with the feeling of quickly
going back to the village, to my home. I
m sure my family would be
surprised once I
show them the fragment of ice I got from Alice.
But, the ice will melt quickly. Maybe it
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Alright, it
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Trying to keep them from starting their usual bickering, Eugeo
hurriedly said,
ll help, we can take turns to carry it.
Well, if we don
t go
back now, we won
t reach the village before evening. Haven
t we
already been in this cave for nearly
an hour?
Ah...... as I can
t see Solus, I don
t know the exact time. Is there
something in the sacred arts that can tell what time it is now?
Alice quickly averted her face, a small exit could be seen from one
side of the wide lake of ice.
Next, looking around, on the opposite side was another exit.
Then, she drooped her shoulders before speaking,
Hey, which way did we come from?
Eugeo and Kirito immediately pointed to the direction they were
very confident of. Of course, they pointed
at different exits.
There must be footprints
unfortunately, there was not a single
depression on the smooth ice surface; the side where water from the
lake flowed to must be the exit
unfortunately, it flowed out of both
sides; the direction the skull
was looking at was the exit
it didn
t look at either side; after all options were exhausted in vain,
finally Alice started to explain something likely to be a pointer.
Look, isn
t there a frozen puddle that Eugeo stepped on and
broke? I
f we go closer to the exit and see it, that would be the correct
I see, it
s as she said.
As if to hide his embarrassment because he
t think of it himself, Eugeo coughed, before nodding.
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against humans wouldn
t apply to this situation, it didn
t mean they
could do anything they wanted as long as it wasn
t prohibited.
Eugeo looked at Kirito and Alice again before
s follow our plan, only taking the ice. If it
s just ice, even if the
dragon was still alive, it would forgive us, surely.
After he said that, Eugeo walked closer to the icicles, and kicked a
small ice crystal which stretched up from the
base of the big icicle like
a newly grown bud.
, with a good sound, he picked up the broken
lump before holding it out to Alice, who opened the lid of the empty
wicker basket and placed the ice inside.
The three concentrated on working to pack the ic
e fragments into
the wicker basket without talking for a while. When the base of the
icicle was cleared, they moved to the next column and repeated their
actions. In just a few minutes, the big wicker basket was full of crystals
which looked like transpare
nt blue jewels.
Alice exerted her strength to pull up the wicker basket while
looking at the group of lights between her arms,
......So beautiful. Somehow, it
s such a waste to bring these back
and let them all melt.
t we
bringing these back to prolong our boxed lunch?
Kirito said matter
factly while making a frown, Alice suddenly
held out the basket to the black haired boy.
Eh? I have to carry it all the way back too?
t it obvious? These are too heavy for me
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rose, with just a glance, they understood that it had a much higher
value than any sword in the village.
Ah...... this, proba
Alice said as she looked at it, Kirito nodded to her,
Yeah. The «Blue Rose Sword» that Bercouli tried to steal from
the bosom of the sleeping white dragon. I wonder why the guy who
killed the dragon didn
t take it......
He bowed while talki
ng, and lifted the grip off the ground with
both of his hands, however, even with his utmost strength, he only
managed to lift it up a mere ten cens off the floor.
......Too heavy!
Kirito separated his hands as he yelled, the long sword dropped
to the
ice floor again with a heavy sound. A small crack could be seen
on the thick ice, the sword seemed to have an unimaginable weight
despite its delicate appearance.
......What do we do with this?
t, can
t, even with the two of us together, it
s not
possible to
bring it back to the village. Even though we deal with that woodcutting
axe everyday. ......Besides, there seems to be more treasure under the
bones though......
......Yeah, but don
t think about taking anything......
The two nodded at Ali
s serious tone.
Even though taking a small trophy back and boasting to the other
boys that they did it without waking the dragon would be a great
adventure story, the act of taking treasure from this place was clearly
grave robbery.
Although the Taboo Index
regulation about «Thievery»
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Part 3
An Integrity Knight, the ultimate embodiment of law and order,
and also the symbol of goodness, killed the white dragon, which was
also the protector of the Human World.
That kind of story was, in the
eleven years that Eugeo had lived, never thought of, so he didn
t think
he could accept it easily. After suffering from the question he couldn
swallow or chew for a while, he sent a glance beside him, requesting an
answer f
rom his partner.
......I don
t understand.
However, Kirito
s mutter was also painted in great confusion.
Maybe...... it
s possible that the Land of darkness also has a very
strong knight, and that knight killed the white dragon...... But, if that
rue, it
s odd that until now there
s not even once that the forces of
darkness had crossed past the Mountain range at the Edge.
least, this isn
t the act of a thief though......
After he finished speaking, Kirito stepped toward the dragon
and gently put the talon back on the mountain of bones. Next,
he dragged something long out of the bottom of the bone mountain.
Uo...... so absurdly heavy......
He showed it to Eugeo and Alice after he staggered as he dragged
it for about a mel.
It wa
s a long sword, with a silver grip and a scabbard made of
white leather. Its rain guard was decorated by an inlaid delicate blue
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These are the sword wounds. What ki
lled this dragon was
But...... well, even Bercouli, the hero who won the tournament
in the capital still couldn
t do it and had to run away. It
s absurd, even
the swordsmen from everywhere......
Speaking until that point, Alice seemed to n
otice something and
sank into silence. A moment of silence fell onto the ice lake which was
now turned into a huge tomb.
A few seconds later, a whisper filled with fear flowed from her
small lips,
......The Integrity Knight......? The Integrity Knight f
rom the Axiom
Church killed the white dragon......?
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countless number of sword
like fangs lined up on the overhung
The white dragon
s...... bones?
Alice whispered in a low voice.
s already dead......?
Ah...... But, its death is not due to natural causes.
The answer came from Kirito who had regained his composure,
Eugeo rarely saw his partner like this, as Kirito was always painted by
various other emotions.
Kirito moved a few more steps, from his feet, he picked up a huge
talon which seemed to have come f
rom the dragon
s front feet.
Look...... there are a lot of wounds here, the tip was also neatly
cut off.
It fought against something......? But, a living thing which could
kill a dragon......
The same question Alice asked floated in Eugeo
s mind.
of the «Northern White Dragon», it
s the one that lived in various places
at the Mountain range at the Edge, which encloses the entire world,
protecting the Human World from the forces of darkness, it
s the world
strongest protector. What kind of
living thing could kill something like
Fighting with animals or other dragons shouldn
t give these kind
of wounds.
Kirito said while stroking his thumb over the blue talon.
Eh......? Then, what......
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we could do what Bercouli couldn
t...... by bringing anything from the
s treasure hoard back with us, wouldn
t the village chief
reconsider our Sacred Task......?
As Eugeo was expanding
his day dreaming while still walking, his
nose bumped into the back of Kirito
s head, who had suddenly stopped;
with his face in a frown,
Oi Kirito, don
t suddenly stop like that.
However, there was no reply from his partner. Instead, a low
groan came
s that......
Just exactly what is that!
Eugeo tilted his head at the same time as Alice beside him, and
looked forward from Kirito
s side.
Just what are you talking abo......
Alice, who saw the same thing as Eugeo
t finish her words.
It was a mountain of bones.
All of them were bones made out of blue ice. They shone rigidly as
if they were crystal sculptures. Every single one of them was big, the
various shape of bones stacked on top of each other, made a m
higher than the height of the three children. On top of it, was a huge
lump which told them who this grave belonged to.
A skull, Eugeo could understand with just a glance. Its empty eye
sockets, elongated nostrils. The horns stretched out from the
back, the
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approached the center of the lake, and became fully obstructed at the
very center.
It was ice. The surrounding wall, the lake below the feet, the
strange hexagonal columns, everything was made out of ice. The blue
wall stretched up vertically, and closed up together at a far height,
looked like a chapel
s dome.
The three forgot the cold which pierced their skin, stood still for
several minutes whil
e exhaling misty breath. Before long, Alice faintly
said in a trembling voice,
......With this much ice, we could cool the food of the entire
Or rather, it could even turn the village into mid winter for a
Well, let
s go check inside
As soon as Kirito spoke, he advanced several steps before putting
his foot on the ice lake. He gradually put his body weight on it, and
eventually stepped on it with both feet, there was not a sound of the
thick ice cracking.
s always like this.
en though Eugeo had the duty to object to
his partner
s recklessness, this time his curiosity was superior.
But if
there really is a white dragon inside, I still want to peek at it no matter
Holding the sacred light higher, Eugeo and Alice chased af
Kirito. Cautiously avoiding making loud footsteps, they moved from
one shadow of the huge icicle to another with the center of the lake as
their destination.
This is great, if we see the real dragon, this time a story about
us would continue for
many hundred of years, wouldn
t it? And if, just if,
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Ah...... somehow, there
s a lot of light there.
It was just as Alice said, Eugeo moved his right hand, from the
tless spots of light, he could see them flicker and blink palely. As
he had completely forgotten about the white dragon, he half trotted in
that direction.
Based on the time they took, it seemed they had proceeded about
a hundred mel deeper. Suddenly, the
left and right walls ended.
At the same time, a breathtakingly fantastic scene appeared
before their eyes.
Wide. It was hard to believe they were in an underground cave, as
it was an extraordinary huge open space. Its size was certainly a few
times larg
er than the village square in front of the church.
The curved wall, which almost surrounded the entire
environment, no longer looked like the wet grey wall they saw until
now, but was covered in a transparent, thick, light blue layer. Then,
after looking
at the floor
s surface, Eugeo understood,
I see, so this is the
source of the Ruhr river.
, it was a huge pond
no, a lake would be
more suitable. However, the water
s surface didn
t shake in the
slightest. It was frozen firmly all the way, from the bank
to the middle.
Among the trail of white haze over the lake, strangely shaped
columns protruded out, their height easily exceeded the height of the
three children. They were angular hexagonal columns ending in a
tapered tip. It was like the crystal of raw
ore that Garitta
jiisan showed
Eugeo before. However, these were much bigger, and far more
beautiful. The numerous transparent thick blue columns absorbed the
sacred light from the ear of grass Eugeo was holding, before releasing
it in six directions, whic
h were also reflected further, illuminating the
entire vast dome. The numbers of the columns increased as it
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right. The white dragon chased Bercouli because he stole
its treasured sword, didn
t he? It sure wouldn
t mind us taking icicles.
Hmm, but if possible
d want to peel a scale from it though......
Oi, what are you thinking about, Kirito?
That is, if we go back with a proof that we have seen the real
dragon, Jink and his gang would die from jealousy.
t joke! I
ll tell you now, if you get chas
ed by a dragon, we will
just leave you and run away.
Oi, your voice is too loud, Eugeo.
s because Kirito said something strange......
Suddenly his foot made an odd noise, and Eugeo stopped talking.
, it was the sound of something breaking under his foot. He put
the light in his right hand closer to his right foot in a hurry before
unintentionally letting leak his voice.
Ah, look at this.
Alice and Kirito bent down to look, Eugeo moved his toe off the
spot. The water accumulated on the rock had turned into a thin ice
spreading over its smooth grey surface. He stretched his fingers to pick
up a piece of the thin transparent sheet.
After put
ting it in his palm for a few seconds, it melted into water
droplets, the three looked at each other and inadvertently smiled.
This is ice, no doubt about it. There is sure to be a lot more up
Eugeo said while illuminating his surroundings, a gr
eat deal of
blue light bounced off the similarly frozen water. And it sank into the
pitch black darkness of the cave, deep within......
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Wow, really. And I have been thinking that it has been cold for a
while now......
Ignoring Kirito
s comp
laint, Eugeo nodded alongside Alice.
Even though it is summer outside, it
s winter inside this cave.
Surely there is ice here.
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As if he was pushed by momentum, Eugeo raised the small torch
and fearfully proceeded into the cave.
The winding flat shelf of rock seemed to steadily continue
extending. The walls were illuminated in a bluish grey as if they were
wet. Occasional
ly, he was worried by the small rustling movements in
the dim part where the light didn
t reach. However, no matter where
he focused his eyes, he couldn
t find anything resembling ice at all.
While there were pointed grey things which looked like icicles h
on the ceiling, he knew they were rock just at a glance.
After walking for several more minutes, Eugeo called out to Kirito
behind him,
Hey...... certainly, you said there should be icicles once we
entered the cave, right?
I said? Something li
ke that.
You said!
As he approached his partner who averted his eyes feigning
ignorance, Alice used her right hand to stop Eugeo and quickly
Hey, bring the light a bit closer.
Eugeo brought the ear of grass near Alice
s face.
She rounded her
lips before blowing a deep breath toward the light.
Look, you see it right? Our breath turns white, like in winter.
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Kirito and Eugeo unintentionally let out sounds of amazement at
the same time.
Even though they already knew
Alice had been studying the
sacred arts, they almost never had a chance to see it with their eyes.
According to Sister Azariya
s teachings, all the rituals which had their
sources of power from the god of life Stacia, the sun god Solus or the
earth god Ter
except the dark arts which were used by the
servants of the god of darkness Vector
existed to protect the
order and tranquility of the world, so they should not be used
The sacred arts were used by the Sister and her pupil on
ly when
the medicinal plants in the village were unable to cure the sick or
injured. As Eugeo understood this well, he turned to Alice, who held
the ear of grass lit in a strange color, and inadvertently asked,
Ah, Alice...... using the arts like that, i
s that alright? Wouldn
t you
get punished for it......?
Hmph, if just this much would get me punished, I would have
been hit by lightning ten times already.
After saying that, Alice thrust the shining grass in her right hand
toward Eug
eo with a smile. He received it without thinking before
, and realized,
m first!?
Of course, or would you let the weak girl walk in front? Eugeo is
in front of me, Kirito is behind. Don
t waste anymore time, let
s hurry
up and move.
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At that point, Eugeo realized he made a major mistake, he
dropped his shoulders and looked back.
Oh no...... I didn
t bring a lamp. Kirito, did you bring one?
Even though he was only about five mels from the entrance, the
ambience was dark enough that
he was no longer able to distinguish
the expressions of the two. In the complete darkness inside the cave, it
was very natural to entrust his hope to his partner to deal with stuff he
himself had forgotten, but the response was,
How could I realize
ing that you also didn
t realize?
in a tone full of strange
R...... Really, you two......
While Eugeo was thinking how many times he had heard that
amazed voice today, he looked toward the faintly shining golden hair.
Alice looked at her s
ides a few times before thrusting her hand into her
pinafore pocket and pulled something thin and long out. It was the ear
of grass she had picked up when they started their adventure.
She held the grass in her right hand, with her left palm supporting
s tip, Alice closed her eyes. Her small lips moved, a strange ritual
verse in sacred words that Eugeo didn
t know started playing in the air.
Finally her left hand quickly sliced the complex symbol, a pale soft
light lit at the swelled round tip of the ea
r. The light then increased its
intensity immediately, and kept the darkness of the cave away at the
considerably distance.
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What he saw were her sm
all palms which had turned completely
red. Unintentionally, he stretched his hands and wrapped it around
s, certainly to exchange the warmth from his hands with the cold
in hers.
Wait...... stop it.
Her small cheeks turned to the same color as he
r palms, and Alice
pulled her hands back. At that time, Eugeo finally realized that he had
done something his usual self would never do, and shook his head in a
Ah...... no, that
Well, shouldn
t we be heading off now, sir and madam?
you intend to help me out of that situation?
Eugeo was
grinning while saying that and lightly kicked Kirito
s leg, and after his
rude action, he lifted the water bag to his shoulder, and walked into the
cave without looking back.
It was hard to believe
that the source of the Ruhr river, the clear
stream that the three had been following up until this point, would
really be this small. With a diameter of about one and a half mels, the
small river overflowed from the cave opening on a high cliff; to its le
side, there was a bare rock about the same size stretched out, he
stepped on it and walked into the cave.
Eugeo was thinking,
Bercouli had stepped on this rock three
hundred years ago,
as he tried his best to proceed into the cave
interior. Suddenly
the surrounding temperature dropped, he rubbed
his arms which extended from the short
sleeved tunic.
He proceeded for about ten steps while affirming the two
footsteps from behind following him.
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That cave...... if we find a lot of ice, then we won
t have to hurry to
eat tomorrow
s lunch.
Swallowing his food, Eugeo turned to face him and answered,
But thinking about it, even if we successfully get the ice, how do
we maintain its Life in the first place? If it all melts before tomorrow
lunch then there is no point to it, right?
I didn
t think about that,
s shoulders drooped, then Alice
said with an unconcerned face,
If we bring it back in a hurry and keep it in my house
s cellar, just
a night wouldn
t be a problem at all. You two, you should have thought
just this
from the beginning.
After they had their usual thoughtlessness pointed out, Eugeo and
Kirito tried to hide their embarrassment by greedily stuffing their
mouths with food. Even though they had enough time, Alice still ate at
her usual fast pace before d
rinking Siral water.
After folding and fitting the white cloth neatly into the empty
wicker basket, Alice stood up. She then walked to the nearby stream
with three cups in her hands, and washed them quickly in the river.
She raised an odd voice while finishing her work, and when she
came back, Alice widened her hands, which were wiped dry using her
pinafore, toward Eugeo.
The water in the river is so cold! It
s like the well water in mid
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Everyday, at the same time, the adults eat breakfast like the day
go to work in the fields or pastures, smithing or spinning
workshops like the day before. What Alice said earlier, that four hours
was not enough to reach Zakkaria,
of course, all three of them had
never been to Zakkaria before,
I heard from the adults th
at it took over
two days walking along the southern main road to reach the town.
However, how many of those adults actually went to Zakkaria and came
The maelstrom of depressing questions which manifested in
s mind, was blown away by Ali
s voice,
Anyway, there
s nothing but to go inside after we
ve come
this far. But before that, let
s have lunch first.
With that said, she pulled the wicker basket from Eugeo
s hand,
then lowered her waist on the short undergrowth where it changed
gray gravel.
s what I
m waiting for, my belly is starving.
With an
encouraging voice from Kirito, Eugeo also sat down on the grass. The
fragrant smell of the pie blew away his remaining doubts, all that he
could remember was his stomach had start
ed complaining in hunger.
Alice fought off the stretching hands of Eugeo and Kirito by
slapping them while drawing the windows of each food in succession.
After she had affirmed that all of them still had their surplus time
remaining, she handed out the f
ish and bean stuffed pies, apple and
walnut stuffed pies, and dried peaches. In addition, she poured Siral
water packed in the water bag into wooden cups, this also has been
confirmed not to have gone bad yet.
As soon as she allowed them, Kirito who was i
rritated enough not
to say a word as he started biting the fish pie, then said in a muffled
voice while still chewing,
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ve already arrived......? This is, the Mountain r
ange at the
Edge...... right? Isn
t it a bit too soon......?
Kirito, who appeared not to believe it either, said in a faint voice.
It was the same with Alice, who whispered while her blue irises were
still wide,
Then...... where is the «Northern pass»?
Did we pass through it
s just as she said. It
s possible that the village
s children
maybe even adults have been passing through the pass without even
knowing it. Thinking about it, about thirty minutes walk from the twin
ponds, th
ere was a place which had quite a bit of ups and downs, could
that place be the Northern pass?
While Eugeo was looking around with his doubts, the unusually
serious tone of Alice
s whisper reached his ears.
If this is the Mountain range at the
Edge...... then on the other
side is the Land of darkness, right? If so...... we have been walking for
just four hours, the same amount of time won
t even get us to Zakkaria.
Rulid is...... really, at the border of the world......
Eugeo stood there in co
We lived in the villages for so long
but didn
t know where it
s located in the world? No
could it be that
even the adults didn
t know that the Mountain range at the Edge is this
close? In the three hundred years of history, the one who came out
of the
wide forest spreading to the north of the village, aside from Bercouli, was
Somehow...... it
s strange.
Eugeo thought. However, he didn
t know
why it was strange.
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s just a fairy tale, right? The i
ce dragon that lived in the
cave was, surely, just a story he made up sometime later too, that
Oioi, if you say something like that in the village, the fist of the
village chief is gonna fall on your head. The swordsman Bercouli is
hero after all.
s words made a smile float back to everyone
s faces again,
and Alice hastened her stride.
ll know once we reach there. Look, if you
re leisurely walking
like that, we won
t be able to reach the cave before the lunch.
said, Eugeo didn
t think they would reach the «Mountain
range at the Edge» with half a day of walking anyway.
The Mountain range at the Edge was, as its name implied, the
s edge; in other words, the border of the human country which
consisted of the
four empires of the north, south, east, and west; for
Rulid village which located at the north most of the northern region, it
was a place children
s feet could easily reach.
So, Eugeo was really surprised when, just before the sun reached
the center of
the sky, the Ruhr river, which had narrowed considerably,
disappeared into the cave entrance which opened its mouth at the base
of the steep cliff.
The deep forest which spread on both sides abruptly ended, in
front of his eyes was the steep gray rugged c
liff stretching upward. If
he looked up, he could hazily see where the blue sky crossed the pure
white mountain ridge in the distance, this rock slope was without
doubt, the edge of the mountain range.
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If it
s around here, it would be the four
eared fox. Eugeo, you
such a scaredy
cat, aren
t you?
During their
laugh, Eugeo hurr
iedly refuted,
No, it
s not about being scared...... We never went beyond the
twin ponds before, have we? I just want us to be more careful.
Upon hearing that, Kirito
s black pupils shone mischievously.
Yeah, that
s true. Did you know? During the t
ime the village was
founded, sometimes the devils from the Land of darkness...... like
«Goblins» or «Orcs» would cross the mountain to steal sheep or kidnap
What? Are you two trying to scare me? I know about it. In the
end the Integrity Knight
s came from the capital and exterminated the
Goblin chief.
Since then, on a sunny day, the silvery white dragon knight
could be seen far above the Mountain range at the Edge.
Kirito hummed the final verse of a fairy tale that all the children
in t
he village knew about, while turning to look up toward the north
sky. Eugeo and Alice did the same, before they realized it, their vision
was filled with a pure white rocky mountain, and over it was the blue
sky where they were looking for something.
a moment, they had the feeling they saw a small light
glittering among the clouds, but they couldn
t see anything once they
tried to focus their gaze. The three looked at each other before
laughing in embarrassment.
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get angry, but facing going against the rules, yes
it could be said
that it was the uneasiness from the rules that made their feet unable to
move when seeing the pass in
front of their eyes.
Even though he and Kirito always had to listen to the complaints
from the adults who were concerned about tradition, thinking about it,
far from doing it, the two didn
t even think about breaking rules or
Taboo. Today
s humble adventu
re would be the closest they had come
near the forbidden act.
Eugeo started feeling a little anxious, he looked at Kirito and Alice
walking carefree ahead of him, they were singing shepherd songs in
Those two... don
t they have any fear or worry?
while thinking
so, Eugeo sighed dejectedly.
Hey, wait.
He called out, the two still kept walking but turned around
What is it, Eugeo?
Alice tilted her head while asking in a slightly threatening and
purposeful tone.
re quite far
from the village now...... Aren
t there dangerous
beasts around here?
Eh―? I never heard about it though.
Alice said while glancing at him, as Kirito lightly shrugged.
Hmm...... the donetti whose huge long claw that grandfather saw,
where did he say
it was?
It was at the black apple tree to the east, right? But it was an old
story from ten years ago though.
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sound. It was indeed mid summer, the freezing water during the
beginning of spring was now quite warm. It should feel rea
lly good if
he could undress and jump into the water, but he couldn
t do so in
front of Alice.
This is not a temperature a block of ice could float in.
Eugeo said and turned to his side, Kirito pouted before objecting,
That is why we
re going to the
big cave where the ice came from,
t it?
s all good, but we need to be back before the evening bell.
s see...... when Solus is in the center of the sky, we should start
heading back.
It can
t be helped. If that
s the case then let
s hurry
Behind Alice, who was treading on the soft undergrowth, the two
quickened their pace to chase her.
The tree branches protruding from the left side acted like a
canopy, blocking the sunlight, there was also cool air rising from the
surface of the river
to the right, those helped the three walk
comfortably even though Solus had already rose high up in the sky. The
road along the bank which was about a mel wide was covered in short
summer grasses, there were almost no pebbles nor holes to make
walking dif
Eugeo wondered, why is it that they had never set foot beyond
the twin ponds even once, although it was so easy to walk there.
The «Northern pass» in which the village rules forbade the
children to go beyond was still far from the twin ponds. So
even if they
went anywhere else before that point, the adults shouldn
t be able to
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I was glad I didn
t ge
t the Sacred Task to be a shepherd or farmer.
Those are tasks which just don
t have an end, but ours is different. I
sure there is a way, in three...... no, two years we
ll cut it down, and
ll join the sword arts tournament in Zakkaria.
What? Are you thinking of the same thing, Eugeo?
I can
t let Kirito look good alone anyway.
After that talkative exchange, Eugeo had a strange feeling that it
was no longer an unrealistic dream. The two walked while grinning,
imagining the scene wh
en they received the official sword, returned to
the village, and made Jink and his gang
s eyes widen in jealousy; Alice
who was walking in front of them suddenly turned around.
Hey you two, what are you talking about in secret?
No, it
s nothing. Ju
st wondering if it
s time for lunch yet, right?
t we just start walking? Also, look, we can see the river now.
When they looked toward where Alice
s ear of grass pointing to,
they could see the shaking water surface at the road ahead.
The source
of the Ruhr river was on the Mountain range at the Edge, it flowed
through the east of Rulid village, then continued south to Zakkaria
town. At the point the road met the river, the road branched into two,
the right path crossed the north Rulid
bridge into the eastern forest,
the left path stretched north along the river
s west bank. The direction
they chose was, obviously, north.
Once Eugeo arrived at the junction, he knelt at the riverside, then
submerged his right hand into the clear stream and made a rustling
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wrapped in a gre
en and light brown sentinel uniform, the shining
silvery official sword hung on the waist, was him......
The dream is still not over yet.
Suddenly, a whisper came from Kirito who was walking beside
him. Eugeo lifted his face in surprise. Apparently, wi
th just the sigh he
had let escape earlier, Kirito could read all the meaning behind it. His
instinct was as sharp as ever. Eugeo made a wry smile and muttered in
Nope, it is already over.
Yes, the time of dreaming was already over. In spring l
ast year,
the Sacred Task of guard apprentice was given to Jink, son of the
current village guard chief. Even though his sword skill fell short of
s and Kirito
s, and of course Alice
s. Eugeo continued talking in a
tone mixed with slight irritation,
Once the Sacred Task has been given, even the village chief can
change it.
With one exception, right?
When the task has been accomplished.
This time he made a bitter smile at Kirito
s stubbornness. This
partner still wouldn
t let go of his great ambition to cut down the Gigas
Cedar in his generation.
Once we cut down that tree, our work will be beautifully
completed. After that we can choose our own Sacred Task, how
s that?
s true but......
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steel swords, albeit used ones, and would attend a real school of sword
That wasn
t all. Every fall, all the guards of every village in the
northern region could participate in the sword arts tournament held in
Zakkaria, to
the south. If one could achieve a high ranking, they could
become a sentinel
being recognized as a real swordsman in both
name and reality, and able to borrow the official sword tempered by
the blacksmith workshop in the capital. However, the dream didn
t end
there. If they could prove their merit among the sentinels, they could
obtain qualification to take the examination for the «Master Sword
Academy», which had an ancient and honorable origin. After passing a
difficult examination, and graduating from
the school
s two years of
learning, they could participate in the martial arts tournament which
was held in the presence of the Norlangarth North Empire Emperor.
Bercouli the legendary had been said to have won in this tournament
a gathering of all true heroes from the entire Human
World was held by the Axiom Church itself, the «Four Empires Unity
Tournament». Only the one who won the battle that even god could see
clearly, the top of all swordsmen, would be bestowed the command by
the god to protect the world, to fight against the demons from the Dark
Territory, to be appointed the duty of a dragon rider, an «Integrity
Until that point, it was already beyond imagination, but perhaps,
there was a time when Eugeo had thoug
ht of that. Perhaps, if Alice left
the village not as a swordsman but as a sacred warlock apprentice, to
attend the school in Zakkaria or even the «Master Arts Academy» in
the capital, at that time, by her side as the escort, with his body
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pluck an ear of a grass, straightened and pointed its tip toward the
standing tall rocky mountain, she then energetically exclaimed,
Well then...... summer ice searching party, let
s go!
Why do we always end up as «The princess and
the two followers»?
While thinking this, Eugeo exchanged glances with Kirito again and ran
after Alice who had already walked ahead.
The village had a road which ran through it from the north to the
south, and while the southern side of the road had been
trod firm by
the traffic of humans and carriages that came and went all the time, its
northern side, where almost no one lived, had a lot of tree roots and
pebbles that made walking difficult. However, Alice lightly pranced
through the rough road as if it
was completely flat, proceeding ahead of
the two as she hummed.
How to say it, she has good control over her body?
, was what Eugeo
thought. Several years ago Alice occasionally joined the sword practice
played by the village brats, and her slim branch ha
d hit Eugeo and
Kirito countless times. That stick acted as if it could cut through the air,
even if its opponent was a wind spirit. If she had kept practicing, it was
possible that Alice could become the very first female guard of the
Guard, hu
Eugeo muttered in a quiet voice.
Before the Sacred Task of cutting the great tree was given to him,
perhaps it had been his dream, though it was vague and extraordinary.
All the village kids yearned to be selected as a guard: instead of the
ugly stick made from the bark of a living tree,
they would be given real
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other girls in the village. In the not so distant future, she would be
prohibited from playing with boys,
and no doubt she would have to
take lessons not only in the sacred arts but also in conduct.
Then...... what would happen after that? Would she have to marry
into someone
s house?
, like Eugeo
s eldest sister Sulinea,
If that
s the
case, what would this p
artner think......?
Oi, you look so absentminded. Did you sleep well last night?
With a sudden stare from Kirito with his doubtful expression,
Eugeo nodded in a hurry.
Yeah, I
m alright. ......Ah, there she comes.
Upon hearing light footsteps, he
pointed in the direction of the
Appearing through the thick morning mist was Alice, just as Kirito
had said, her finely combed golden hair was tied with a ribbon,
swinging on top of her spotless pinafore. Eugeo unintentionally
exchanged glances
with his close friend while trying not to smile, then
they turned to shout at the same time,
re slow!
You guys are just too early. Stop acting like children all the time
Once she finished saying that, Alice pushed the wicker basket
which was in her right hand to Eugeo and the water canteen in her left
to Kirito.
Both of them reflexively took the items before turning around
toward the narrow road stretching from northwards
. Alice bent over to
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Part 2
Apparently, the weather was good on the third rest day of the
seventh month.
Only on rest days were children above ten, who had already been
given their Sacred Task, allowed to play around until dinner as they
had in their childhood. Eugeo and Kirito usually spent it doing things
like fishing and practicing their sword skills with
other boys, however
today they left their homes before the morning mist even disappeared,
and waited for Alice under the old tree at the edge of the village.
s slow!
Even though he had been waiting with Eugeo for only a few
minutes, Kirito gr
I can
t understand why dressing has a higher priority than
coming on time to girls. Maybe in two years she will be like your sister,
who had her clothes dirtied in the forest and refused to wear them
It can
t be helped, girls are l
ike that anyway.
Having said that with a bitter smile, Eugeo then suddenly thought
about what would happen in two years time.
Alice would still be a child without a Sacred Task, people around
her would still tolerate her preference of being together wit
h Eugeo
and Kirito. But since she was the daughter of the village chief, it had
been partially decided that she had to act as a standard model for the
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While Eugeo was s
till stubbornly thinking in circles for a way to
retreat, Kirito slapped his back
with a force not enough to reduce
his Life
before exclaiming,
Look, Eugeo, if Alice, who studies the most in the village, says so,
then there is no doubt about it! Al
right, then it
s decided, on the next
rest day we
ll go search for the white dra...... erm, I mean, search for the
cave of ice!
Then it
s better if the boxed lunch is made using the ingredients
which lasts a bit longer.
Looking at the bright faces of
his both childhood friends, Eugeo
sighed within his mind before responding
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was the Land of darkness
or «Dark Territory» in the sacred words.
Therefore, traveling to the Mountain range at the Edge was already
prohibited by the Index in the first place. To Eugeo, it was
to only go to the base of the mountain without going into the cave.
Alice would find the way to challenge the Taboo Index like always,
but thinking like that is already a great taboo in itself.
Eugeo stared at
his other childhood friend while
thinking so.
Her long eyelashes brightened under the noon sunlight filtered
through the foliage like a very fine line of golden thread, Alice sank into
silence for a while
Soon after, she suddenly lifted her face, then
said with the usual disobedient
light shining in her pupils,
Eugeo. Your prohibited term is inaccurate again.
Eh...... you
re lying.
m not lying. What is in the Index is like this: The first chapter,
third passage, eleventh paragraph,
Not anyone is to go beyond the
Mountain ra
nge enclosing the edge of Human World
......Beyond the
mountain, naturally it means
Climb beyond
. It doesn
t include going
into a cave. Also, our objective isn
t to go beyond the mountain range,
but to obtain ice, right? There is no
Do not search for
ice in the
Mountain range at the Edge
written in the Taboo Index at all.
To the words gushing smoothly out in Alice
s sweet and clear
voice like a church
s smallest bell, Eugeo didn
t say another word.
Indeed, he felt what Alice said was somewhat correc
But, up until now we haven
t gone to the Northern pass before,
we have only followed the Ruhr river up to the twin ponds, I don
t know
what lies beyond that, this is the season that has many annoying bugs by
the waterside too......
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restraint of the group for so long made Eugeo unable to stop saying
......But, going to the Mountain range at the Edge isn
t breaking
just the village rules but
too, right? Even if we go past the pass
and arrive at the base of the mountain, we still can
t enter the cave......
Upon hearing that, Alice and Kirito made a serious face.
«That» which Eugeo said was the absolute law which governed all
people of the v
ast Human World, its authority was far beyond the
«Norlangarth North Empire Fundamental Law», let alone the «Rulid
s Standard»
Its name was «Taboo Index».
It was issued by the «Axiom Church», the great tower which
seemed to reach the heavens,
located in capital city Centoria. The thick
book which was bound in pure white leather was provided not only to
the north empire that Eugeo lived in, but also at least one to every
town and village in the east, south, and west empires.
The Taboo Index, un
like the village rules and the empire
s laws,
just as its name implied, was the list of «Things one does not attempt».
It started with a wide range of taboos like «Treason against the
Church» or «Murder», «Thievery», on to more mundane entries like the
it of beasts and fish to be caught each year, or food that can
t be fed
to the livestock; the number easily exceeded one thousand entries. For
all children attending school, aside from learning to write and calculate,
the most important subject was to memo
rize all of the Taboo Index.
Or rather, not teaching the Index in school is considered to be
breaking the Index.
Although the Taboo Index and the Axiom Church possessed such
tremendous authority, but there seemed to be land it couldn
t extend
to. Beyon
d the «Mountain range at the Edge» which enclosed the world
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t it right? We aren
t going there to play, that
s forbidden by
the rules. But searching for an icicle isn
t playing. Prolonging the Life of
the boxed lunch isn
t just for us, it also helps people who work on the
fields and pastures, right? So this can be interpreted as a part of work
After the flowing speech, Eugeo exchanged glance with Kirito
again. Although his partner
s black pupils
initially seemed to have
some slight hesitation, but it was immediately melted away like an ice
block floating in a river in summer
Yeah, that
s right, absolutely right.
While folding his arms, Kirito nodded with a serious face.
Because it
s work,
even if we go beyond the pass to the
«Mountain range at the Edge», it still doesn
t break the village
s rules.
Look, Balbossa
san is always saying, right?
Work isn
t just that which
was ordered, if you
re free then look for work!
, like that. If they get
angry, we can just refer to his saying, then it should be fine.
The Balbossas were a wealthy family which owned the village
largest wheat fields. The current head of the house, Nigel Balbossa was
a fifty year old man who still had a good body; even tho
ugh his house
could harvest many times more than the rest of the village, he still
t satisfied, and whenever he met Eugeo on the street, he always
greeted Eugeo with a sarcastic
Still can
t cut down that annoying Cedar
. Rumor said that he
d ask
ed the chief for priority to cultivate the
new land once Gigas Cedar has been cut down. Eugeo
s response was,
Before that happens, your Life will be long gone,
of course he only
said so in his mind.
Even though Kirito
s idea to use Nigel
s words as an e
xcuse for
going beyond Northern pass was attractive, but having served as the
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However, only few knew that their many misdeeds were secretly aided
and abetted from behind by Alice, the village
s number one honor
That Alice currently had her right index finger at her lips, as she
remained silent for several seconds, suddenly blinked and declared,
s not a bad idea.
Not you too, Alice......
Certainly, only children were prohibited from going
beyond the
Northern pass. Try to recall properly. The exact sentence of the rule
said, [Without adult supervision, children must not go play beyond the
Northern pass.]
Eugeo and Kirito unintentionally exchanged glances.
The village
s rules or «Rulid Vil
s Standards» as its formal
name was the old writing half in paper and half in leather, its two cen
thickness was kept inside the village chief
s residence. It was the first
thing all children who went to church school had to memorize. And
after that,
after having to hear their parents and the elderly keep
In the rules
According to the rules
, the rules were ingrained
in their heads by the time they turned eleven
was what they
thought, however, it seems that Alice accurately remembered al
l of the
text, word for word.
......No way, don
t tell me even the empire
s fundamental law which
is two times thicker has also...... no, even perfectly memorizing the village
rules is already......
While Eugeo
s glance was filled with such thoughts, Alice cleared
her throat once, then continued in a teacher
like tone,
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the Human World
s boundary. The figure of the dragon, its body curled
over an incalculable amount of assorted treasures, made Bercouli
realize it was sleeping, but even with his courage, he
still approached it
on tiptoe. Among the treasure, he discovered a beautiful long sword,
and he really wanted to own it no matter what. He softly took the
sword without waking the dragon up, and ran away as fast as he could
that was the plot summary. T
he title was
Bercouli and the
Northern White Dragon
Even for the mischievous Kirito, surely he wouldn
t be thinking
about breaking the village
s rules to go beyond the Northern pass and
searching for the real dragon, would he?
While half praying, Eugeo
fearfully asked,
You mean, we
ll watch Ruhr river and wait for an ice block to
float down...... is that right?
However, Kirito snorted before simply saying,
Waiting like that, the summer will just end before we can get
hing. I don
t want to imitate Bercouli and go find the dragon. In
that story, it mentioned the icicles at the entrance of the cave, right?
Just two or three of those would be enough for testing on the boxed
You, like I said......
Eugeo became s
peechless for several seconds, then he turned to
his side, looking for Alice to substitute him in objecting this reckless
s ideas. Then he noticed that her blue pupils were shining with a
brilliant light, he dropped his shoulders in his mind.
Eugeo an
d Kirito were the number one brat duo of the village,
they made elderly people sigh and scold the duo on a daily basis.
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Aside from Eugeo, Alice also tilted her head slightly.
Before Stacia summ
oned Eugeo
s grandfather to her side two
years ago, a lot of legends were packed behind that white beard of his.
While sitting in the rocking chair in the garden, he always told stories
to the three children sitting near his legs. Strange stories, exciting
stories, scary stories: there were hundreds of those stories, so Eugeo
t know which story Kirito was referring to. Then his black haired
childhood friend coughed while raising his index finger, before saying,
Summer Ice, it
s nothing but that, righ
Bercouli and the
Northern White......
Oi, stop it, you
re joking, right?
Eugeo interrupted without listening to the end while swinging his
head and hands violently.
Bercouli, among the ancestors who founded Rulid village, was the
strongest sword
user, who
d served as the first generation
s guard
chief. But since he
d lived three hundred years ago, there were only a
few remaining tales of his bravery, and the story Kirito mentioned was
one of the most bizarre among them.
On a certain day during t
he peak of summer, Bercouli noticed a
big clear rock floating in the river to the east of the village. Upon
picking it up, it turned out to be a lump of ice. Bercouli, in his
amazement, walked upstream along the river. Before long, he arrived
at the end of
the world, the «Mountain range at the Edge», and as he
kept following the narrow river, he faced a huge cave opening.
Bercouli stepped into the cave against the blowing freezing wind,
and after he overcame various dangers, arrived at the largest hall.
at he saw there was a huge white dragon, which was said to protect
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s summer now. Where exactly can you find ice? Even the grand
market in the capital won
t have it!
She said in a tone like a mother scolding her unreasonable child.
Eugeo, on the other hand, could recall the bad fe
eling, as he had
seen Kirito making this tight
lipped face before. This childhood friend,
when such a light floated in his eyes, when he spoke in such a tone,
Eugeo knew from experience that Kirito was thinking about something
up to no good. Inside his hea
d, he recalled when Kirito took the honey
of the emperor bee to the eastern mountain, or when he broke the jar
of milk which had expired a hundred years ago in the church
s cellar,
those scenes floated and disappeared in quick succession.
Well, it
s fi
ne, isn
t it? There
s nothing wrong with eating in a
hurry anyway. Also, if we don
t start our afternoon work soon we
ll be
late going back.
Eugeo said while quickly moving the empty plates back to the
wicker basket, as he wanted to break off this distur
bing topic. However,
when he looked at Kirito
s pupils which were shining brilliantly, as if
he had some idea, he inevitably realized that his fear had already
become reality.
......What is it, what plan do you have this time?
His question was mixed with resignation, Kirito smiled before
Hey...... Looong ago, Eugeo
s grandfather told us a story,
Which story......?
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Eugeo folded his arms and thought.
At the center of the open space in front of the church, there was a
fearfully deep well which had been dug when Rulid village was
founded: the water drawn from it was so cold that it could make hands
go numb even in summ
er. Also, in the northern forest, there were some
Silve trees growing: their leaves were cold and released a pungent
aroma when squeezed, they were very useful as treatment for bruises.
Probably having a jar of water from the deep well, or wrapping the pie
with Silve leaves would make it possible to keep the boxed lunch cold
while carrying it between places.
However, Kirito, who
d also paused to think, slowly shook his
head and said,
Just that, I think it won
t work. The well water becomes
lukewarm just
a minute after it is drawn, Silve leaves might keep its
coolness longer, but I don
t think it could keep the insides of the basket
cold long enough to cover the distance from Alice
s house to Gigas
So, do you have any other methods?
Alice, whos
e good idea was shot down, asked while pouting.
Kirito scratched his black hair in silence for a while, then suddenly said
in a low voice,
Ice. With a lot of ice, it
d be more than enough to keep the boxed
lunch cold.
Oh you......
Alice shook her head in amazement.
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s right, it
s just as Eugeo said, the cold will make the food
last longer. Not just in the winter. If it
s cold, even during this se
we could still keep the food for a long time.
This time Eugeo was dumbfounded. He lightly kicked Kirito
s shin
with his toe.
t say it like it
s easy. Cold? Summer is hot, that
s why it
summer. Are you thinking about using the absolutely tab
oo weather
control art to call snow down? The next day the Integrity Knights from
the capital would fly here to get you.
Yeah...... Nothing we can do......? I feel like there is a way, some
easy way......
While Kirito muttered that with his frowning
face, Alice who was
quietly listening to their conversation while using her finger to curl the
tip of her pigtail hair up until now said,
s interesting.
What do you mean, Alice?
No, not about using the banned art. It doesn
t need to be at a
cale enough to cover the entire village, but just small enough to be
able to put into this boxed lunch basket is good enough, isn
On hearing what she said as if it was perfectly normal, Eugeo
unintentionally turned to Kirito, who was nodding. A smi
le floated on
s face before she continued,
re a few things which are cold even in summer. Like water
from the deep well, or the leaves of Silve. If we put those in the basket,
t it become cold inside?
Ah...... that
s true.
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Alice since last month, but even as it was declared so, the difference
between the food made with help from her mother, Sad
obasan, and
without was obvious. They understood that techniques couldn
t be
acquired without practicing for a long time, and that applied to
however, Eugeo and Kirito also understood that it was
better not to let it out of their mouth.
Kirito said while pinching a yellow marigo from the dried fruit
With the trouble it takes to make delicious boxed lunch, I want to
eat it at a slower pace. I wonder why the heat has to make the food go
Why? Hmmm......
This time, without hiding his bitter smile, Eugeo shrugged in an
exaggerated manner.
You said a weird thing huh? Summer making Life go down faster
is just how things work. Be it meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, they
become bad immediately if you leave
them alone, right?
I know that, I asked why, didn
t I? During winter, even if you left
raw salted meat outside for many days, it still wouldn
t go bad, would
s...... because winter is cold.
Kirito bent his lips like an unreasonable child a
t Eugeo
s answer.
His black pupils, which were unusual in the northern region, shone
with the light of disobedience.
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Alice told Kirito and Eugeo, who were nearly diving into the food,
hold on
, as if she was commanding dogs, then quickly sliced the
symbol in th
e air and confirmed the «Window» of each food starting
with the bisque jar of milk.
Uwa, the milk has ten minutes remaining, the pies have barely
fifteen minutes. And I even ran here...... well, then we
ll just have to eat
quickly. But make sure to chew
it properly too.
When the Life of the food was exhausted, it became so
«Rotten Food», of which even a single bite would cause terrible
symptoms such as stomach ache to those without a very strong
stomach. Eugeo and Kirito were already irritated en
ough and started
biting the big sliced pie without saying a word.
The three of them continued chewing their food without talking.
It was obvious with the two hungry young boys, but Alice also made
one wonder where she put all the food she ate with her sle
abdomen. The food was cleared up one by one. First was the three
slices of pie, followed by nine slices of black bread, then the jar of milk
was depleted, after that, the three of them breathed a sigh of relief.
How did it taste?
It was Eugeo wh
o answered Alice
s question in his serious tone,
as she cast a side glance toward them.
Yeah, today
s pies are good. Your skills sure have improved,
Is that so? I still feel there was something missing in the taste
Embarrassed, Alice said while facing sideways, Eugeo exchanged
a wink with Kirito before smiling. Their boxed lunch had been made by
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house in the afternoon. Her first task after studying was to bring lunch
to Eugeo and Kirito.
With the wicke
r basket hanging on her right arm, Alice nimbly
jumped down from the big rock. As she was on the verge of letting the
next round of thunder fall off her small lips, Eugeo quickly got up while
shaking his head.
We didn
t slack off, really! We already fini
shed our morning job.
Alongside Eugeo
s quick excuse, Kirito, behind him, reacted
accordingly with
Yeah yeah.
s pupils emitted a strong light to the two again, then her
cheeks softened.
If you have enough energy to fight after finishing, I
wonder if I
should ask Garitta
san to increase the workload for you two?
Anything but that!
Just kidding.
Well, let
s quickly have lunch. Today is so hot, if
we don
t eat it soon, it
ll go bad.
Alice then put the wicker basket on the ground, to
ok a large sized
cloth from inside, and spread it out. She selected a flat area and laid the
cloth down, on which Kirito quickly took off his shoes and jumped over
to sit on it. Eugeo sat down after him, then the food was lined up one by
one in front of th
e two hungry workmen.
s menu was salted meat and baked bean stuffed pie, black
bread cheese sandwiches and sliced smoked meat, several kinds of
dried fruit, and milk squeezed in the morning. Even though the food
aside from the milk could be well pre
served, the intense sunlight of the
seventh month could still rob «Life» away from the food without mercy.
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Prank». It was only when the harsh winter arrived that all the villagers
could finally be at peace.
s house had wheat fields in a wide cultivated
land to the
south of the village, his father Orick and his ancestors were farmers.
After knowing Eugeo, one of his three sons, was chosen for the
chopping mission his mouth was filled with words of delight, but in
part of his mind he surely held some disa
ppointment. Of course they
would receive the payment for the chopping mission from the village
vault, but the fact that there was one less hand to help in the field
t change.
In practice, the eldest son of each house would be given the same
Task as their father: in the case of a farmer
s household, their
daughter, next son, and the third son would also follow this standard.
Children of the tool shop
s owner would continue working in the tool
shop, a guard
s child would become a guard, and the
village chief
child would succeed them as the next chief too. Rulid village had
maintained this custom with almost no change for a few hundred years,
the adults said that it was the gift of divine protection from Stacia, but
Eugeo could faintly remember
the incompatibilities in their story.
Why, if the adults thought about expanding the village, why was
there not a single change until now? He still couldn
t understand. If
they really wanted to expand the fields, they could just take a little
detour and
leave the troublesome tree alone to be able to open up the
southern forest further away. However, the chief, who was the wisest
man, didn
t have the faintest urge to review those old traditions.
Therefore, no matter how much time passed, Rulid village was
still poor, so the chief
s daughter Alice could only study in the morning
as it was necessary that she had to tend to the livestock and clean the
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This is bad......
Both of them shrugged then fearfully turned around.
On the rock a little bit away from them, with both hands on her
hips, a human figure with h
er chest protruding forward. Eugeo pulled
out slightly, then spoke with a smile,
H......Hey Alice, you
re pretty early today.
Not early at all, just the usual time.
The figure made an unfriendly face, the long hair tied on both
sides of her head shi
ning with a golden light under the sunlight filtered
through the foliage. The young girl jumped off the rock nimbly. She
wore a bright blue skirt with a white pinafore, and held a wicker
basket in her right hand.
The young girl
s name was Alice Schuberg.
Daughter of the village
chief, and she was of the same age as Eugeo and Kirito, eleven years old.
For all children living in Rulid
no, in the northern region, it
was a tradition that they would be given their «Sacred Task» and
become apprentices in the
spring of their eleventh year; however, Alice
was the only exception, she went to school at the church instead. She
was given private lessons from Sister Azariya in order to extend her
talents in the sacred arts further as the best child in the village.
However, Rulid wasn
t wealthy enough to let the village chief
old daughter merely study all day long, no matter how
much talent she had. Everyone who could work must work, they had to
continue repelling the constant attacks from drought, long period of
rain, pests; all of which could shave off the Life
of the crops and
in other words, from the «God of Darkness Vector
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Kirito, who was crouching with his head in his arms, looked up
Eugeo, then suddenly grabbed Eugeo
s legs. Eugeo lost his balance due
to the sudden attack, and collapsed onto the moss bed on his back.
s with that honor student attitude! At least act more
troubled with this unreasonable duty!
Even though he
said that as if he was angry, a grin floated on
s face while he rode Eugeo and messed up his hair.
Uwa―, why you!
s hands grabbed Kirito
s wrists and pulled hard. He then
utilized the moment Kirito stiffened his body to resist, rolled vert
in a half circle, so now he was on top.
Now, payback time!
While shouting and laughing, he pulled Kirito
s hair with his dirty
hands, but unlike Eugeo
s soft light brown hair, Kirito
s pointed black
hair rendered his attack meaningless. Eugeo
then switched to tickling
s flank.
Ugya, you...... that
s, h
Kirito was running short of breath as he struggled against being
held down and tickled, when suddenly a high voice came from behind
You two
! Slacking off again!!
At that moment, the fight between Eugeo and Kirito came to a
complete halt.
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sometimes couldn
t understand his childhood best friend, he lost to his
curiosity, and looked into that surface.
The pale purple square window had figures written in a
combination of straight and curved lines. Those were the ancient
d letters, if it were only reading a few figures, Eugeo was able to
do it, only writing them was strictly prohibited.
Eugeo used his finger to confirm it one by one while saying the
Ah― ......what was it months ago?
Probably...... 235,590.
On hearing Eugeo
s reply, Kirito lifted his hands in an exaggerated
manner, collapsed with his knees hitting the ground, then messed his
black hair using his fingers.
Just fifty! We worked hard for two months an
d only managed
fifty out of 235 thousands! At this rate we wouldn
t cut it down within
our whole life!
No, that wasn
t possible in the first place.
Eugeo couldn
t do anything but answer with a bitter smile,
The six generations of woodcutters before
us worked hard for
three hundred years, and the result was not even one
quarter...... To
make it simple, hmm, it would take about eighteen generations, or nine
hundred years more.
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the form of «Life». Insects and flowers had a little, cats and horses had
much more, and humans were given even more life than those. Then
the trees in the forest and moss covered stones had many times m
«Life» than humans. In all its forms, life had one similarity: it increased
after being born, and once it reached the peak, continued to decrease.
When life was completely depleted, animals or humans stopped
breathing, the plants withered, and the rock
s broke down.
«Stacia Window» was where the sacred text of the remaining Life
was inscribed. It could be called out when a person with proper sacred
power cut the symbol, then struck the target. While most could pull out
the window of pebbles or grass, it
was somewhat difficult to do so on
animals, and for humans, it was not possible to pull the window out
without sufficient knowledge in the sacred arts first.
On the other
hand, it was a little scary to look at one
s own window anyway.
In general, the w
indow of trees were easier to look at than
humans, but the degree of difficulty of the evil tree Gigas Cedar was as
high as expected: Eugeo and Kirito only became able to call out the
window about half a year ago.
There was a story that once, at the «Worl
d Central Axiom Church»
in the capital city Centoria, the elder master of the sacred arts
succeeded in pulling out the window of the earth god Terraria after a
continuous ritual for seven days and seven nights. However, once the
elder master looked at the
s Life, he became depressed, lost his
sanity and later disappeared.
Upon hearing that story, Eugeo became a little scared not only to
look at his own, but also the windows of large things like Gigas Cedar,
but Kirito appeared not to care. This time as well, he put his excited
face close to the floating shiny window. While
Eugeo thought he
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
Kirito, standing beside Eugeo while staring wordlessly at Gigas
Cedar, seemed to be thinking the same thing, then he briskly walke
toward the trunk while stretching his left hand.
Oi Kirito, don
t do it. The chief said not to peep excessively at the
«Life» of the great tree, didn
t he?
Eugeo hastily called out, but Kirito just glanced toward him while
his usual mischievous smile
floated on the edge of his mouth.
The last time we looked was two months ago, it
s no longer
excessively, just occasionally.
Always like this huh, it can
t be helped then. ......Oi, wait for me,
let me look too.
Eugeo whose body finally calmed down
got up using the same
movement Kirito did earlier and rushed to his partner
s side.
Ready? Opening now.
Kirito said in low voice, with his left hand out front, the index
finger and middle finger stretched out tightly while the remaining
fingers held c
lose. A shape which looked like a creeping snake was
drawn in the air before them. It was the most basic devoted symbol of
the god of creation.
After slicing the symbol with his fingertip, Kirito immediately hit
Gigas Cedar
s trunk. It didn
t make the dry
striking sound it should
have, but a clear sound as if it was from playing with silverware
resounded softly. Then a small squared light window emerged out of
the trunk.
Everything in the universe, regardless of whether it was able to
move or not, had its
existence governed by the god of creation Stacia in
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
be done due to the Gigas Cedar which was rooted at the entrance of
It had been said that its bark was as hard as iron, and even fire
t cause the slightest burn, digging it up was also not possible as
its roots were as deep as it was tall. Therefore the village founders had
decided to chop its trunk
down using the «Dragon Bone Axe» which
could cut even iron, and the duty to do so had been passed down
generations since then
The village chief finished telling the mission in his trembling voice,
it made Eugeo feel terrible, so he asked, why shouldn
they just leave
the Gigas Cedar alone and open up the forest further south.
Then the village chief replied in a frightening voice that cutting
down the tree was their ancestors
vow, that vocation had turned into
the village
s custom to entrust chopping d
uty to two people. Next was
Kirito, who tilted his head while wondering aloud why those ancestors
chose to build the village here in the first place. The chief lost his words
for a moment before going into a fiery rage, and hit Kirito
s and even
s he
ads with his fist.
It had been a year and three months since then that the two
continued taking turns with the Dragon Bone Axe and challenging
Gigas Cedar. However, most likely due to their immature arms, their
axe swing couldn
t make a deep cut into the
tree trunk. The cut in the
tree up until now was the result of the three hundred years of work, so
it was natural that the hard work from the two young boys wouldn
make much difference, they couldn
t feel any accomplishment from
their work as a result.
their mood, not only could it be seen, their clear form of
depression seemed like it could be verified in reality too.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
The Gigas Cedar had stretched its roots here long before Rulid
village was founded, and the duty to cut t
he tree had been passed down
the generations since the first settlers
time. Counting from the first
generation to his predecessor Garitta
jii, of the sixth generation, Eugeo
and Kirito were the seventh generation. More than three hundred
years had passed
before they were given the duty.
Three hundred years!
At that time, it was an unimaginable span for Eugeo, who had just
reached his tenth birthday. Of course, that hadn
t changed even though
he was eleven now. What he somehow could understand was, from the
time of his parents, his grandparents, the time before that, and the time
even further back, the amount of axe swings combined from those with
this duty could be said t
o be infinite, and the result was just this cutting
wound less than a mel deep.
Why was cutting down the great tree so important? The reason
was explained in a severe tone by the village chief.
The Gigas Cedar, with its huge body and its excessive vitali
ty, took
away the blessings of the sun and earth gods from its surrounding area
in an enormous range. Seeds sown on the land in the shadow of the
great tree wouldn
t grow, any effort to plant anything near it was futile.
Rulid village was a part of the «N
orlangarth North Empire», one
of the four empires that divided and ruled over the «Human World»,
and it was also located in the remote northern region. In other words,
this place could literally be called the edge of the world. North, east,
and west, these
three sides were surrounded by a steep mountain
range, so in order to expand the fields or pastures, there was no way
other than to cut down the forest in the south. However, that couldn
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
The mid summer sky of the
seventh month was still ridiculously
blue, stuck at the center was the sun god Solus, which shone its
overwhelming light from the sky. However, the light was obstructed by
the branches of the great tree outstretched in all directions, most of it
t rea
ch the roots where Eugeo and Kirito were.
At the same time the countless leaves of the great tree devoured
the sun god
s blessing, its roots also relentlessly absorbed the favor of
the earth god Terraria, allowing it to recover from Eugeo and Kirito
d work of steadily cutting it down. No matter how much they did
during the day, after a night
s rest, when they came back the next
morning, the tree would have already recovered half of the cut wounds
from the previous day.
Eugeo sighed lightly as he look
ed back to the tree from the sky.
The great tree
the «Gigas Cedar», its sacred name was given
by the villagers, was the monster with a diameter of four mels, and had
a height of seventy mels. The bell tower of the village church, which
was the tallest
building in the village, was only one quarter its height;
to Eugeo and Kirito whose height only passed one and a half mels this
year, this ancient titan was a very suitable opponent.
Is it unreasonable to cut down this guy using man power?
Eugeo couldn
t help but think about this after seeing the cut on the
trunk. The wedge
shaped cut wound had finally reached a depth of one
mel, but the remainder of the trunk with three times the thickness was
still healthy.
In spring last year, when he and Kirito wer
e taken to village
s residence, as they were at the suitable age for the duty of
«Chopping the giant tree», he had heard a mind
boggling story.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
decreased. Partly due to his desperation, he grasped the woodcutting
axe tightly and bra
ndished it over his body.
Forty...... nine! Fif......t......y!!
His last strike was a big deviation from his usual skill, it hit the
bark a distance away from the deep cut on the trunk, producing an ear
splitting metallic sound. Due to the reaction whi
ch was as if it could
make a spark come out of his eyes, Eugeo dropped the axe, staggered a
few steps back, then sat down on the thick moss.
While he repeated his rough breathing, he heard a voice mixed
with laughter from his right.
The good sound came
out three out of fifty times. So the total is,
erm, forty
one huh. It seems today
s Siral water is your treat, Eugeo.
The owner of the voice, who was lying down slightly further away,
was a young boy of a similar age. Eugeo didn
t reply immediately, but
fumbled for the leather water canteen then picked it up. He greedily
drank the water, which had become completely warm. After he became
comfortable he closed it with the hard cork, then said,
Hmn, yours is only forty
three, isn
it? I
ll catch up soon anyway.
Here, it
s your turn...... Kirito.
Yeah yeah.
Kirito was Eugeo
s childhood friend and also his best friend, as
well as his partner in this melancholy «Sacred Task» since spring last
year. Kirito wiped the sweat off his
black forelock, stretched his legs
straight and raised his body. But he didn
t pick up the axe immediately;
his hand was on his hip while he looked up above his head. Attracted
by his action, Eugeo also looked up toward the sky.
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
Part 1
Grasping the axe.
Swinging upwards.
Striking down.
It might be just those actions, but if the mind was distracted even
slightly, the reaction from the hard bark would bounce back
relentlessly to both arms. Breathing, timing, speed, shifting of body
weight, all of them must be perfectly controlled from the
transmitting the hidden power from the heavy blade of the axe to the
tree, producing a pleasant, clear, high
pitched sound.
While he could understand the theory well, actually doing it
t that simple. Eugeo was given this task in the spring
when he
was ten, and it would be the second coming of summer since then, yet
he could only get that pleasant feedback once out of ten swings. He was
told by fellow axe users that his predecessor Garitta
jiisan always hit
the bull
s eye, and even though he
t show his fatigue after
brandishing the heavy axe, but after merely fifty times Eugeo
s hands
went numb, his shoulders became sore, and he could no longer lift up
his arms.
Forty...... three! Forty...... four!
He counted with his loudest voice t
o push himself while striking
the axe on the great tree
s trunk, the sweat gushing out caused his eyes
to blur, his hands became slippery, and his accuracy continually
Sword Art Online Volume 9
Alicization Beginning
Prologue I
Color Illustrations

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