Sword Art Online(Reboot): Link (Re)start! [Chapter 4 is out]

Discussion in 'Story Writing' started by Hisoka, Feb 16, 2017.

?

Do you want to burn Kirito at stake and place a new character as the MC(possibly a better one)?

  1. Hell, yeah!!

    13 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. No. I love Kirito(me:uuh. Nope. Go at the stake with him)

    4 vote(s)
    15.4%
  3. Can we have only the girls in this series. Yuri!!!(me:uhhhh...no?)

    9 vote(s)
    34.6%
  1. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Coming soon...
    Alright. Alright. I know what you're thinking.
    "Oh my god. He lost his sanity","We're going to suffer with another Kirito now","When we can burn you at the stake?","End this suffer now!"
    I was thinking to write another fanfic about SAO(for now, I'm holding the other one, "SAO: Parallel Works"). This time, I'd like to take out the harem/romance thingy revolving around Kirito. I'll try, somehow, to analyze each character personality throughout the series. From the accident until the end of Aincrad. And no, I'm not going to cover ALO and GGO...for now...
    If I need to, through this efficient poll, whether to substitute Kirito with another character or not.
    I guess that's it for now.
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out.
    Character sheets
    First name: Yukito
    Last name: Kirisaki
    Username: Kazuyuki
    Age:21
    Gender: Male
    Appearance:5'80"(1,76 m)tall guy.Well trained build. Mid-short black hair reaching the cheeks and covering the nape. His eyes tend from dark brown to black.
    Personality: He's open to anyone willing to talk with him. When in difficult, he analyzes the situation with attention, avoiding to miss any particular. He tends to help out anyone who ask for help and has a particular care for her sister.
    Background story: Yukito and her sister Misaki were raised in a wealthy adoptive family, as their biological parents abandoned them at a young age. Yukito was brilliant and excelled in scientific and mathematic related subjects. As he reached 19, he has received a Nerve Gear as a birthday gift. Upon of the announcement of the closed beta of the Nerve Gear's first game, Sword Art Online, Yukito signed up for it and successfully managed to get in the thousand testers. As the game came out, he decided to buy a couple of copies for both him and his sister.
    Preferred weapon of choice: One-Handed Sword
    Preferred armor of choice: Light-Medium
    Likes: Games, computers, music and homemade cooking
    Dislikes: Sour foods
    Other: He has a fear of snakes and spiders
    First name: Misaki
    Last name: Kirisaki
    Username: Miki
    Age:15
    Gender: Female
    Appearance:5'4"(1,64 m)tall. Slim build. Silky long black hair that reaches the shoulders and dark brown eyes.
    Personality: Her introvert personality doesn't make her an ideal person to talk with. Most of her times, she will try to find protection in her brother on her adoptive parents. Her personality as a writer, however, transforms her: she becomes determined and social. Such personality persists, most of the time when she talks to her family. Besides that, if something, or someone, hit her deeply, that determination fades away.
    Background story: Misaki and her brother Yukito were raised in a wealthy adoptive family, as their biological parents abandoned them at a young age. Unlike her brother, Misaki went to a female-only school. Her adoptive parents found her interest in poetry and literature and tried to encourage her to follow that path. Under the artistic name "Miki", she started writing a series of light novels, mostly focused on romance and drama. One day, a group of younger rival authors flamed her website, criticizing her work.
    Misaki, despite her parents reporting this event, got heavily depressed from it. Her brother, as an attempt to cheer her up, bought a couple of copies of SAO for him and Misaki, and a Nerve Gear as well.
    Preferred weapon of choice: One-Handed Sword
    Preferred armor of choice: Light-medium
    Likes: Romance and drama novels, cream puff pastries
    Dislikes: Tomatoes
    Other: Whenever she gets flustered, she would try to stay behind something or someone that would calm her down
    Aincrad Arc(started on 2/18/2017)
    "Brother...Yukito. Wait!"
    Misaki ran after her brother Yukito, avoiding any eye contact with the other people in the street. As they ran around the corner, Yukito stopped. Misaki put her hands on her knees and tried to breathe.
    "Jeez, Yukito. Why were you running so much?". Yukito, as a response, slightly hit Misaki's head."Ow!What was that for?"
    "I told you not to call me with my real name,<Miki>. We're in a game. And you should not blurt out anyone's personal details. Understood?"
    Miki watched her brother with bothered eyes. That situation was unusual for her. It was her first time in a game, and she didn't know anything about how to behave in a game.
    "Ok. I got it, <Kazuyuki>...". She massaged the part that her brother hit. He went towards her and gently pat her head.
    "Good. Now, do you wanna practice?"
    "Brother. I...". She couldn't end her phrase, as Kazuyuki slightly hit her on the head with his palm.
    "Hush!Don't hold back. We're just having fun today, ok?"
    Kazuyuki started running again. Miki couldn't do anything except going after him.
    After half an hour of running, they arrived to the west fields of the Town of Beginnings.
    "Here we are. It's a great view, isn't it?". The fields were very extended. In the distance, there were a couple of cliffs showing up between a hill and another. Between the hills and the fields, there was a lake.
    "I thought I was going to die...". Miki layed on the ground, panting. "Why did you bring me here?"
    "To practice. Didn't I tell you that before?". Kazuyuki unsheathed the sword from the sheat on his waist and pointed it against a boar in front of him."Against them. They're easy to defeat. So it should not be a problem for us"
    Miki sighed as her brother looked her in the eyes like a defenceless kitten.
    "Why you have to make that face?It makes me feel uneasy...and it's kind of creepy"
    Kazuyuki laughed at her sister's reaction, and changed his expression to a normal one.
    "That's why I did that face"
    Miki smiled a little bit. Then, she unsheated the sword she kept on her back.
    "It's kind of heavy..."
    "Does it feel like it?". Kazuyuki roteated his, a longsword. It had a simple design. A double edged blade with a crossguard. But the grip was recurved. Miki's was, instead, a battlesword with a short crossguard and a straight grip. Just like her brother's, it had a double edged blade."I guess it's kind of surprising for someone who's experiencing the Full Dive for the first time. I felt the same way back then too"
    Kazuyuki went in front of a boar. He grabbed a pebble from the ground, and threw it with a throwing skill. The pebble glowed and hit the boar in an instant.
    The boar winced, and turned at Kazuyuki, charging at him.
    "Ok. Lessons starts now. Defeat the boar, Miki"
    "What?". Kazuyuki dodged the boar. But it continued its charging, targeting the next thing it could see: Miki."How am I supposed to do that?"
    "It's difficult to explain..."
    "What do you mean?Ah. It's coming this way!". Miki moved to the left, barely avoiding the boar. The boar, as it missed its target, turned back and charged again. Miki noticed it coming back, and dodged once again."For how long will it continue doing this?"
    "Until it hits one of us, and no one of us is a threat". Kazuyuki put his sword between himself and the boar, blocking the charge attack. The boar kept pushing, while Kazuyuki resumed his talking with Miki."How should I explain how the game works...?"
    Kazuyuki unbalanced the boar, and with a kick, it sent it away to buy some time.
    "...Consider the sword as an extention of your body. Ready the skill. And when you're ready, release it"
    The boar charged Kazuyuki, who blocked it once again.
    "What do you mean with that?". Miki was confused by her brother's explanation."How am I supposed to do that?Explain better"
    "It's hard to explain it, with a boar trying to constantly tackle you. Plus...". Kazuyuki moved the boar, sending it against Miki."...I think it's more about instinct. When you feel like you're ready, the system will automatically lock the skill on the target. So, you won't miss it"
    'More about instinct?'
    Miki put the sword above her head, with the blade pointed at the boar. The left arm was pointed at the same direction.
    All of sudden, the blade of her sword glowed. Miki stepped forward and, in an instant, she went over the boar and hit it in the process.
    The boar's healthbar rapidly depleted, until the HP went to zero. The boar disappeared in a million shards, and a window popped out in front of Miki, showing up her rewards, Col and EXP points.
    "Congratulation. You just defeated your first mob, Miki". Miki looked at her brother, showing a broad smile. "But don't get too proud. That was one of the weakest mobs"
    "Really?". Miki sighed, as she sat down on the ground."And here I thought that it was a mob of medium difficulty"
    "Let's say it can become one, if you get overwhelmed by them". Kazuyuki sat beside his sister."Do you want continue practice?"
    The two continued practicing with the boars for 4 hours until Miki felt tired.
    "So...what do you think?How much do you rate it?". Kazuyuki sheathed his blade, while his sister kept hers unsheated.
    "I say I'd give it a 8/10. When we were at the Town of Beginnings, I saw no NPC that could give a tutorial about this game. All the other players just went to check the shops. Besides that...". Miki looked at her blade first, then she watched at the fields."...It's an incredible game. It's incredibly immersive!"
    "Is it?I guess so". Kazuyuki closed his eyes, and focused on hearing the sounds of the surroundings. The flow of the water, the tweeting of birds."I can say it's one of the few places that relax me..."
    "And what is the other one?Our home?"
    "Of course". Kazuyuki turned at Miki and tried to make irony over her question. "What were you thinking? I love being at school and such. But sometimes, it's a pain"
    "Ok. I got it. You don't have to joke like that". Miki continued."But I also feel like I entered one of the fantasy books you and mother used to read for me..."
    "It's kind of the same, I guess..."
    Miki stood up. She raised her hands and, with a swift movement of her fingers, she opened the menu.
    "Let's see the time. Oh. It's that late already?Brother, we should be preparing dinner for us. Our parents are out for business this week, remember?"
    "Oh...who was supposed to cook for today?"
    "You?". Kazuyuki looked at Miki with the expression of someone who didn't want to do anything."Ah. Come on. Don't get lazy now on me, Yukito!"
    "Alright, alright. I got it. Let's go". Kazuyuki smiled at his sister."I guess we'll play next time..."
    "Finally. Now let's...uh?"
    "What is it, Miki?"
    "...This is weird...The log out button isn't here..."
    "What?You might be wrong..."
    "I swear. It's not here"
    "Ok. Let me check it". Kazuyuki opened his menu and went to the <Settings>. His hand was frozen as he saw a blank space where the <Log Out> button used to be."It's not here..."
    "What is going on?"
    "I have no idea. Let me call a GM...". Kazuyuki went to the support section of his menu and requested for a GM."It could be only a bug. But..."
    "But...?"
    "It's weird. The developers go through a series of check-ups to see if there's any bug"
    "Could it be that they didn't warn the players about this bug to try not to bring chaos between them?"
    "It can't be. If they missed one right after the release of the game, they would usually close the servers to try to fix that. But in this case they didn't". Kazuyuki went from a calm face to a more nervous one.
    "But there's got to be another way to log out, right?". Miki looked and sounded more nervous for each second that has passed.
    "There is one". Kazuyuki tried to stay calm, but he sighed and continued."But we need someone from the outside to remove our Nerve Gear from our heads"
    "We have possibly the worst luck for today, uh?". Miki sat down and sighed as well."So...the only option for us now is to wait, right?"
    "Yeah..."
    Suddently, a light covered Miki who screamed."Brother!"
    "Miki. Are you...?". Kazuyuki couldn't end his phrase, that he got covered by a light as well.
    Kazuyuki closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he found himself in the middle of the plaza of the Town of Beginnings.
    "Teleportation?". Kazuyuki looked concerned about the reason of that forced teleportation."Why now?"
    He was also preoccupied about his sister's whereabouts. But that preoccupation disappeard as he heard his sister calling him.
    "Brother? Are you here?"
    "Yes, yes. I'm here. Don't start dragging the attention on us, Miki"
    "Sorry"
    The sky turned into a bloody red color. All of sudden, a weird liquid started pouring down from it. The liquid gathered above the dome of the Black Iron Palace, and slowly transformed in a human-like figure.
    Welcome to you, players of Sword Art Online!
    The voice echoed across the entire plaza, taking the attention of all the players in it.
    I know you're concerned about this sudden situation. But first thing first...
    My name is Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of this world

    The players started murmuring each other about that introduction
    "Kayaba Akihiko?Seriously?"
    "Really?The creator of the game?"
    "I think it's an announcement to introduce the game"

    As many of you noticed, the menu doesn't have the 'Log Out' button in it
    But this is not a bug. It's a feature of the game.
    I repeat. This is not a bug. It's a feature of the real Sword Art Online

    The voice of some players cracked, and the preoccupation started spreading across the crowd.
    "Brother, what is he saying?It's must be a joke, right?"
    "I...". Kazuyuki gulped and remained silent for a couple of seconds. "...I have no idea, Miki"
    The only way to exit from the game is to clear the entire 100 floors of Aincrad
    Clearing the 100th floor will permit you to log out from the game

    "You have to be kidding with us, Kayaba"
    "It's impossible. The beta testers didn't even manage to get over the 10th floor!"

    "Is it true, Yukito?"
    "Yes. As much as I know, the closed beta's frontline never managed to clear the 11th floor before the test was over"
    Kayaba continued his speech.
    However, if during this quest to clear the floors your healthbar gets depleted...
    ...microwaves will be sent to your brain, destroying its cells
    In other words, if you die in the game, you'll die in the real world as well

    Kazuyuki remained in silence. He didn't need to check his sister, as they both had the same reaction.
    'I don't know, but I have the feeling he's saying the truth...'
    Your parents and guardians have been already been warned about this
    Also, if someone from outside tries to remove your helmet, the latter will still happen
    Microwaves will be sent, and you'll die
    Some people didn't want to care about that. And because of it, 213 players left us.

    Miki put a hand on her mouth to muffle a feeble scream.
    Now...If you check your inventory, there's an object I left for you.
    Everyone checked their inventory, and picked the object that they just received.
    "What is it?". Kazuyuki looked at the object. It was squared and had a reflective part."A...mirror?"
    Kazuyuki looked himself on it. He looked at his own avatar. Silver hair. Dark blue eyes...
    Without a second of reaction, Kazuyuki got covered by another beam of light. He closed his eyes once again.
    The light went through the eyelids, and Kazuyuki was sure that he heard his sister's voice.
    When the light disappeared, Kazuyuki looked on the mirror again. He was looking to a different person.
    Mid-short black hair. Dark brown/black eyes....
    Kazuyuki recognized every particular of that face. His real face...
    He instinctively turned at his sister. Her appearance changed as well, turning to her real one.
    Their height changed as well. Miki was shorter than she was before.
    "What is going on here?"
    The preoccupation turned into shock, leaving the people with questions about what was happening.
    "Y-Yukito...how did he do that?". Miki dropped her mirror which shattered at the impact on the ground."Not only he managed to reproduce our faces...he reproduced our entire body as well..."
    "Uhm...I might have an explanation about that". Kazuyuki raised a finger, as to number his explanations. However, his expression was still nervous. He looked at the ground while he explained his hypothesis. "First of all, the face. Since the Nerve Gear covers the entire head, it could have analyzed every detail of our faces..."
    Then he raised a second finger."Second, the body. If I remember well, there's a calibration system whenever you ran the game in the Nerve Gear. I guess that calibration makes a scan of your whole body, in order to adapt it to your avatar..."
    Many of you are saying 'Why?', or 'How is it possible?'
    There's only one thing that you need to know.
    This is now your world, and, in order to survive, you'll have to clear all of its floors
    This concludes the introduction of the real Sword Art Online
    ...Good luck, players...

    The entity, as it appeared, it disappeared in an instant. The plaza went quiet. Then, all of sudden, the chaos spread across the players, who rushed to the exits.
    "Don't screw with us!"
    "Let us leave!"
    "I have things to do. Let us out!"

    While everyone ran away, a few people went on the floor. Crying. Praying. Saying it was all a bad dream.
    Kazuyuki and Miki stood there, undecided whether to run or stay. Then Kazuyuki came to his senses and turned at Miki.
    "No...no. This isn't happening..."
    "Miki...Miki...". Kazuyuki grabbed his sister by the shoulders and tried to take her attention."Misaki!"
    Miki raised her head, watching Kazuyuki.
    "Misaki. I know you're still shocked. But listen up. We need to get away from here"
    Kazuyuki grabbed Miki by her hand and dragged across the entire run.
    As they went far enough, Miki spoke.
    "Yukito...Yukito. You're hurting my hand"
    Kazuyuki left Miki, that started massaging her hand."Sorry, Misaki"
    "I'm fine...". Miki was panting. Her expression was emotionless."What's next?"
    "This town is no help for us". Kazuyuki sat down. Miki did the same. As they were recovering, Kazuyuki continued explaining."Most of the players rushed to the vendors and the shops, and most probably they took as much items as they could...Our only choice is to reach another town"
    Kazuyuki opened his menu, and selected the <Map> option. Then he pointed a place on the map."We could go through this path, avoiding most of the dangers out there"
    Miki began to space out as her brother continued his explanation. Then a snap of fingers brought her back.
    "Misaki, I know this is an unbelievable situation, but I need you to focus..."
    "I'm sorry"
    "You don't have to be". Kazuyuki put a hand on Miki's head and started caressing her, all of it while trying to show a smile at her."Don't worry. I'll always be with you"
    Miki wanted to cry, but she felt like it was not a good situation to do so. She wiped the tear that were coming out."Thank you, Yuki-...<Kazuyuki>"
    Kazeyuki made a step. Then he turned at his sister."Miki...?"
    "Yes?"
    "If you feel uneasy to call me <Kazuyuki>, just shorten it ot <Yuki>. Is it ok?"
    Miki smiled. Kazuyuki smiled back.
    "When we're going?". She asked.
    "Right now. Follow me"
    Kazuyuki woke up, feeling half of his body awaken and the other half still asleep.
    He tried to stand, but felt something forcefully holding him by his left arm. He turned around, only to see Miki who used his arm as a sleeping pillow.
    "Miki". He whispered. His sister mumbled for a couple of seconds, then she continued to sleep calmly. "Heeeey, Miki...My arm...Mikiii..."
    As he realized that his sister would keep sleeping, Kazuyuki carefully lifted her head with his free hand. He slided his left arm away, and proceeded to gently lay her head on the pillow.
    Kazuyuki sighed, looking at Miki as he massaged his left arm.
    He looked her child-like expression. His expression softened at that sight
    'Guess there's no use to wake her up...'
    Kazuyuki stood up and went out the room.
    As he went down the stairs, he heard a conversation between players. They both sounded tired, like they just arrived.
    "Did you see him?"
    "Yeah...we still don't know if he actually made it"
    "But what if he didn't?He jumped off to his death?"

    The other one paused for a minute. Then he replied.
    "...I don't know. For now we know that we can't get out from this infernal game. We do know that if someone...well...dies...their names are being crossed out from that big stone wall that blocks what was supposed to be the respawn area...We already lost 11 people now..."
    They walked out the inn. Kazuyuki went down the stairs and sat on a table. The NPC went beside him and waited for Kazuyuki to choose what to eat. Kazuyuki didn't take anything, and the NPC walked back to the counter.
    With a hand trying to massage his forehead, he tried to recall the dialogue between the two players.
    'This isn't good. We're already losing players...And this player? What did he think? Jumping off? Is it even possible that he did make it, and log out?Or he just fried his head in this futile attempt'. Kazuyuki stood up and went outside. 'Guess I'll just go for a walk. Maybe it will clear my mind for a while...'
    There wasn't anything much to search in Horunka. The village had 7 houses, a weapon shop, a tool shop and the inn. In total, 10 buildings.
    Kazuyuki walked past one of those houses, and noticed a NPC woman taking care of her garden. As she raised her head, the woman's eyes focused on Kazuyuki's.
    "Oh. Hello. You must be new in town" "Please, do come in. We're all open to travellers"
    Kazuyuki stood there, in silence. Then he proceeded to follow her in the home.
    It was a simple house. All the furnishing was made of wood. Only the kitchen was made of bricks.
    The woman went next to the corridor and indicated a chair.
    "Please. Take a seat"
    She went to the kitchen, and came out with a glass of water.
    "Here. Feel free to drink. I know it's not much. But I currently don't have food"
    Kirito looked at the glass he was holding. Then his eyes went to the nearby kitchen. It was small. All the pots were all gathered on one side. All empty. Except for one. He leaned a little bit over, and saw something that resembled some kind of vegetable soup.
    He looked the glass of water. Then he looked at the woman.
    "Yeah. It's not much. But I gladly accept it. Thank you"
    All of sudden, a loud cough came from a room nearby the one where Kazuyuki was in.
    "...I'm sorry. I'll be back in a minute". The woman went to the room where the noise came from. She later came back, with a more nervous expression.
    "I have to apologize. I lied about not having food at all. I do know we don't have much. But...". She paused for a second; then she resumed. "...I'd like to ask you something"
    Kazuyuki nodded. She started explaining.
    "You see...I have a daughter, living with me. Her name's Agatha. But she's been struck by a high fever"
    "The people of the village tried to help her with the medicines we had in storage, but it was no use. Her condition worsened"

    Her face went grim. She wanted to stop there, but felt like she had to continue.
    "Someone said that there's a particular flower whose ovules could be the cure for my daughter"
    "Unfortunately, the plant that produces those ovules is very dangerous"
    "I know it's too much to ask. But could you take one of those ovules"

    'This doesn't look promising at all'. His expression, however, changed, as the NPC continued her dialogue with him.
    "I don't have anything to give you back...except for this...". The woman looked over a shelf, and put down a wooden case. She pulled out a sword from it."This sword belonged to my family for many years...but I'll be willingly give this to you, as a thanks for your help..."
    Kazeyuki carefully analyzed the sword. It looked like Miki's. But probably it was made of a better material than the default weapon given at the start of the game.
    A notification popped up in front of him. The quest was called <The Secret Medicine of the Forest>. The objective was to obtain 1 <Little Nepenthes's Ovule>. What Kazuyuki had to do was to accept the quest or not.
    Kazuyuki looked at the notification. Then he raised his head to see the woman. She was standing in silence, smiling at him.
    'Those resources might come in handy, in order to survive...In the other hand, however, it might become a suicide quest, considering that we're going to have to fight...'
    His hand hovered over the notification, undecided whether to accept the quest or not. That decision was rather idiotic. However, it could make repercussions over the outcome. Refusing the mission would lower the chances of survivability. Accepting the mission could give a upper hand to him and Miki, but the percentage of success were rather low, if played on solo.
    Kazuyuki looked at the woman once more. Then he went back to the notification and made up his mind...
    Yuki sighed, as he pressed the button to accept the quest.
    'Well...if I guess it's a risk worth to take if it means I can get gears for our survivability...'. Yuki stood up and walked out the house.
    The NPC followed him to the exit. As he turned to her, she made a small bow.
    "I can't thank you enough for the help you're giving to us. I'll pray for your success"
    Yuki made a small bow as well and left. As he walked far enough, Yuki let out a groan. He resumed his walking and went back to the inn.
    He took a seat and ordered a meal. The NPC innkeeper brought to the table a plate of what it looked like a steak and mashed potatoes, along with a glass of water.
    'I'd like not to waste my Col on this minor things...unfortunately, my brain thinks anything else...'. He dug the spoon in the mashed potatoes and started eating bits of the food.'Well...at least, it's edible...The last thing I ate was some tasteless bread...'
    As he finished his mashed potatoes, he looked at the window beside him. The plaza where the inn was faced to was slowly getting filled with 4-8 players from the Town of Beginnings. Yuki knew that he could have just asked them to create a party in order to survive. But considering the immense psychological impact of Kayaba's speech, he knew that they would only care for themselves and/or their friend, just like he did for Miki.
    He went back to his plate and started cutting the steak into tiny bits. He took a bit one at a time and slowly chew it.
    Yuki checked his friend list on the menu and pressed on the option <Miki>. A dot appeared on a minimap beside the list, locating Miki in the inn. He turned at the stairs, to check if Miki would have come down to search him. Nothing. He went back to the bits of steak and calmly finished it.
    While he was taking sips of the water, he checked the map. The quest's location was somewhere on the northern side of Horunka.
    'Inside the forest...this is going to be a pain...'. Yuki put a hand on the left cheek, while the other kept scrolling the menu. He pressed over the <Skill> option, showing up a list of the available skills.'This is more pain than the quest itself'
    Yuki dragged the list, checking each option on it. He spelled each word on the list each time he hovered his finger over them.
    'Not this...not this...not this...'. Each time he repeated the same movement across the list, his patience decreased.
    As he scrolled the list for the sixteenth time, he nervously put his hands on his head and started messing around with his own hair.
    "Aaaah! Damn it!I can't think properly now!It's all because of that quest!". When he calmed down, he looked left and right, to see if someone saw his freakout."It's still the first floor...I should not react like that, or people follow the freakout...this game has lasted less than a day, and it already messed up with a few people's mind..."
    He went back to the skill list and checked it again. He put a filter on the menu and divided the skills into three main categories: Combat, Scout, Others. The Combat category was mostly focused on the weapons skills, with a few exception, like the Block skill. The Scout category was focused on the agility of the player, as well on the furtivity parts, such as the Hiding and Searching skills. The Others category gathered up any skill that wasn't related to the battlefield, or it was focused on the support.
    Yuki checked each category and looked at the skills in each category.
    'I'll ignore the first one. I already took the <One-handed Sword> skill...Maybe I should pick the <Block> skill and buy myself a shield...but it's kind of a pain, to be honest...'
    'For now, I'll ignore the last one. I don't think I'll ever need one of those, actually'
    'That means I have one only list to check...'

    Yuki checked throughout the Scout list. After scrolling up and down a few times, he hovered his finger over the <Acrobatics> skill. After looking at it for a couple of minutes, he picked the skill.
    'Somehow...I do feel like I'll need it...'. Yuki closed the menu and took the last sip from the glass. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
    "And I have solved a problem". He looked at the stairs once again. But he was sure that Miki wouldn't have come down in the meantime."Next one is to wake up my lazy sister..."
    He stood up and walked upstairs. He knocked at the door of his and Miki's room. As he heard no response, he grabbed the pommel and opened the door.
    Miki was still there, sleeping. Her whole body was wrapped in the soft sheets of the bed. Yuki sat next to her and started gently calling her.
    "Miki...". He leaned closer to her ear and whispered."Heyyyy, Mikiiii. Wake up..."
    Miki mumbled a couple of times. Then she slowly opened her eyes.
    "Stand up. We've got stuff to do"
    "What?". Miki stretched a couple of times. She gazed at her brother with sleepy eyes."*yawn*...What time is it...?"
    "It's already afternoon, sleepy head. Get ready now"
    "Come on...it's weekend. It's not like I'm late for school, or something like that...". As she said that line, she fully opened her eyes and checked her surroundings.
    A silence fell in the room. Neither Yuki or Miki spoke for at least two minutes or so.
    "Ah...it wasn't a dream, after all...". She looked at her brother. He wasn't making eye contact with her. He looked elsewhere a couple of times, and gazed at her from time to time."Yuki...I..."
    "Don't worry", he calmly replied."We're going to make it. That's because I accepted a quest"
    "Did you?". She went down from the bed and geared up. She went behind Yuki and followed him as he left the room.
    "The rent will last only for this week." Yuki said."After that, we're moving to the next city. You got it?"
    "Yes"
    "Feel free to grab something to eat, if you feel hungry. I'll wait for you at the plaza, next to the weapon shop". Miki nodded. Yuki let out a smile and went down the stairs. Then, he stopped midway."Miki...?"
    "Yeah?"
    "...Are you angry?Because I did accept that quest without warning you...?"
    "Kind of", she replied."After all, you went out without me..."
    "Well, I didn't want to wake you up, snow-white. You looked so happy to sleep that much"
    "Yeah. I guess you're right...". Miki went in front of Yuki. Then she turned at him."...Ok. I'll let it slide for now. But, next time, make sure to wake me up forcefully. Even if that means rolling me off the bed"
    "Don't exaggerate on that one, Miki". They both went down the stairs. As Miki went to take a seat, Yuki went directly to the plaza.
    The plaza wasn't very big. It was just a big area with an oak tree in the middle of it. The only two shops faced the plaza: the weapon shop and the tool shop.
    Yuki walked around the plaza for a couple of minutes. As he convinced himself that he was just messing around, he decided to head over to the weapon shop. He started a conversation with the dealer, and a trading menu popped out, showing the weapons and armors the NPC was selling.
    "Let's see". He checked the list and picked the <Leather Armor>
    As he stood up, Yuki felt like someone was watching him. As he turned his head to the right, he found another player in front of him, and it wasn't Miki.
    He was a male player, smaller than Yuki. Mid-short brown hair and narrow dark brown eyes looked at him from two meters away.
    "Sorry if I bother you, but...". The player made a small pause. Then he continued."Could you move a little bit? I'm quite interested in the dealer's items as well"
    Yuki was dumbfounded as the player leaned over to see the trading list of the weapon shop. As the player bought a <Leather Armor> and a shield, he left the area, without exchanging a couple of words with Yuki.
    Miki reached her brother and turned her head to the direction Yuki was watching, and her eyes landed on the player with the <Leather Armor> and
    "Who was he?", she asked."Do you know him?"
    "Not at all...By the way, you should buy something from there". He pointed the weapon shop with his thumb, then he gave little pats on his armor."To increase our chances of survival...sort of"
    "If you say so". Miki shrugged as she went to buy the <Leather Armor> as well."It kinda feels uncomfortable, though..."
    "Don't start complaining, Miki". He did a tired sigh as Miki started complaining about the armor."Look at the positive side about wearing that"
    "Which is?"
    "You don't have to worry about anyone groping you"
    Miki looked at her brother with disgusted eyes and promptly covered her chest with her hands.
    "Gross", she whispered."You're so gross, Yukito!"
    Yuki made a nervous laugh. Then his face went back to the neutral expression."By the way, there's one last thing you need to do"
    "What is it?", she said, while still keeping her chest covered and watching her brother with distrusted eyes.
    "The second skill to pick. Come on open your <Skill> menu". Miki did as she was said, and opened the <Skill> menu.
    "Ok. Done. Now what?". She scrolled the list, searching for a useful skill. "You said that there's plenty of skills in the game...but I guess we have to focus on combat-based skills, right?"
    "Not only that. I suggest you should rely on non-combat skills that can raise your percentage of survival. Sometimes, retreating is better than risking your own life"
    "Got it". Miki continued scrolling the list until she came over the <Acrobatics> skill."What about this?"
    "Let me see...". Yuki went by Miki and looked at her menu."The <Acrobatics> skill, eh? It's not a bad idea...but still..."
    "But still...?"
    Yuki put a hand on the chin and the other went on the elbow to hold the arm."It's a weird combination.<One-Handed Sword> and <Acrobatics>..."
    "What the hell are you thinking now?". Miki looked at her brother with bothered eyes. Then she looked back at the menu and picked the <Acrobatics> skill."Ok, done. What's next?"
    "Now...?". Yuki walked away from the weapon shop."We're going to the quest, obviously"
    The two walked to the north, heading to a path that led them to the forest.
    Yuki and Miki unsheathed their sword, as a pack of five wolves greeted them at the entrance of the forest.
    "Well...this was kind of predictable, to be honest"
    "Don't waste your time in talking, Yuki". Miki readied her sword skill. Her short sword glowed blue, and as she activated the skill, the sword made a horizontal strike, sending a couple of wolves back.
    The others roared at the siblings and charged them. Yuki activated a sword skill as well. This time, the sword glowed red He jumped and made a spin. The skill took the wolves that charged them.
    "Ok. Three down. Where are the other two?"
    "No idea. They ran away after the first strike"
    All of sudden, Yuki and Miki heard a couple of wolves whimpering. Then everything went silent.
    A player appeared from the direction where the two wolves. As he noticed the two siblings, he remained still.
    The three looked each other for a couple of minutes, then the player broke the silence.
    "What are you guys doing here?". His question was made with a stern voice, as he felt disturbed by the presence of Yuki and Miki.
    "I should say the same to you", Yuki replied to the player."I guess you're here for the same reason as ours..."
    "I guess so". The brown-haired player sheathed his sword. Miki and Yuki did it as well."Name's Coper"
    "Nice to meet you. I'm Yuki" he said. Then, he put a hand on Miki's head."And this beauty here is Miki"

    "Yuki, eh?", Coper pointed out the name, articulating each letter of the name."Were you part of the beta test?I do remember that name among the thousand names...Among the main players of the beta frontline..."
    "Why do you need to know?", Yuki nervously replied."What if I say 'yes'?"
    "I just wanted to know", Coper said. He twirled his sword a couple of times."After all, I was part of the thousand as well"
    "Were you?". Yuki scratched his head. Then he showed a more calm face."I guess I'll just say yes. I am Yuki from the beta test"
    Coper didn't reply. He just puffed and walked closer to the siblings."I guess I can say I'm for the same reason as yours...Want to join forces?"
    Miki looked at Coper with eyes full of suspicion.
    She dragged Yuki by the collar of his shirt away from Coper, and then she started talking to him in the ear.
    "Yuki, are you sure?"
    "Why not, Miki?". He turned a Coper and signaled him with the hand to say to wait for them. Coper nodded. Then Yuki went back to Miki."Listen, I know you don't trust people so easily, but we need to raise our chances of survival. If you want to, we can't stop cooperating with him once the quest is done"
    "Fine", Miki sighed.
    The two raised their heads. Then, Yuki turned at Coper and nodded at him.
    "It settled then. We're a party now", Coper said. They got closer and then headed to a direction in the forest.
    The trio walked in the forest for a couple of minutes, then they found themselves in a small clearing.
    "Must be the place", Coper said. He pointed in the direction of a group of unknown objects bunched up at the center."Those were the area the NPC talked about. But..."
    The trio stood there in silence, while some monsters stood up and started walking around the clearing. Some had some fruit on their head, others had bulbs. They didn't have any eyes. Instead, their huge face/body had a large mouth.
    "...we have to take care of those first...<Little Nepenthes>, uh?". Something came up in Yuki's mind. The mobs in that area looked familiar."Ah...I'm a fucking idiot..."
    "What?", Miki asked. She looked at her brother, who sighed and proceeded to put a hand on his face, as he self-pitied himself."Yuki, what is it?"
    "It's the quest. I remembered which one is it now...", he said, sighing once again.
    "Took you long enough, eh?", Coper said, showing up a little bit of self-satisfaction in his face."The <Secret Medicine of the Forest>. The quest to obtain a very useful weapon"
    "The <Anneal Blade>, yeah". Yuki raised his head and turned his head to the monsters in the clearing. He pointed one with a fruit on his head."Don't attack those. They will alert the other monsters"
    Coper and Yuki drew their weapons and headed towards the Little Nepenthes. Three turned as well and headed towards the two.
    Yuki held his sword backward. The blade glowed orange. Yuki leaped up and did a downward vertical slice, injuring the first one.
    Coper, instead, held his sword with both of his hands. The short sword glowed bright red. He spun and sliced the second monster horizontally.
    He noticed that Miki was behind them.
    "Did you hold our princess behind, or she didn't want to fight?" he sternly replied. "She's not helpful at all"
    As it was a response to the insinuation, Miki sprinted in front of them. She put her sword beside her hips, activating a sword skill and eliminating the third monster with a thrust of her sword.
    "You could have done it earlier." Coper said.
    Miki didn't reply to him. Instead, she turned around and looked at him with bothered eyes.
    "What a gloomy sight" Yuki pointed out. He snapped his fingers to grab their attentions. Then he pointed to another group of Little Nepenthes that was getting closer. "Get ready. Here comes another wave. Watch out for the ones with a fruit on their head!"
    The trio continued fighting for hours.
    They panted as they managed to defeat the last wave.
    "We already fought for ten hours, but still there are no drops" Coper angrily stamped his foot."This quest is a total scam! Damn you, Kayaba!"
    "Or maybe the drop is very rare. We just need to continue fighting" Yuki pointed out. "Here it comes another wave!"
    Another group of Little Nepenthes spawned. However, among those mobs, one, in particular, was different from the others: instead of a bulb or a fruit, this one held a blooming flower on his head.
    Miki noticed it and pointed at it with the tip of the blade.
    "Yuki, Coper. Look over there" she said. The two turned and their eyes brightened as they saw the Little Nepenthes with the flower.
    "That's the one!" Coper said. He readied his sword and went towards the group of mobs.
    Yuki and Miki went behind him. While Coper took care of the one with the flower, Miki and Yuki attacked the ones on the side of the group.
    Yuki put his sword on his back and activated a sword skill. The skill made him sprint over one monster, slicing it in the process. The Little Nepenthes twirled a little bit. Then it fell to the ground and disappeared.
    Miki did the same thing. She put herself on a stance that fencing practicers would call "Fool's guard". Then she pointed her sword towards the center of the body/head of the monster, activating her sword skill. Once again, she put her sword beside her hips. This time, however, she put a hand on the blade. The sword glowed bright purple and Miki killed the monster in a second, as she put away her hand and thrust the blade to the enemy.
    Coper was still fighting with a couple of Little Nepenthes. One of them was the one holding the flower.
    "Coper, hold on!" Yuki stretched his hand to try to drag Coper away, as he didn't notice that one of the two monsters was going to crush him.
    Miki noticed the danger and went in front of Coper. She activated another sword skill. The blade did a vertical slice, taking out the last bit of health that the monster had.
    The Little Nepenthes disappeared in million shards. Miki fell on her knees, as the sword skill gave her a motion delay.
    Yuki killed the last enemy near them and, as he noticed that the monsters stopped respawning, he headed over the two.
    A window popped out in front of Miki. Coper leaned towards to see what was the notification. As he read the message on it, he grabbed Miki by the collar of her shirt and tried to choke her.
    "Give it. Give that to me..." he said with a broken voice. "Give that damn item to me"
    "Coper, what are you doing?!" Yuki shouted as much as he can. "Leave her alone!"
    Coper dropped Miki on the ground. Then, he turned around and pointed Yuki with the blade.
    Yuki held his hands up as a sign of surrender.
    "Whoa! Hold on, Coper. Snap out"
    "Tell her to give me the quest item..." Coper's hands were trembling. He continued pointing the sword against Yuki. "Or I'll provoke the Little Nepenthis with the fruit"
    "Coper, don't...". Fear appeared in Yuki's eyes as Coper threatened them to provoke the monster with the fruit. "We both know what will happen if we attack those ones"
    "Well, then" Coper turned his sword against Miki. "Go to her and tell her to give me the item"
    Yuki walked past Coper, avoiding the blade of the sword. He sheathed his sword and went beside Miki. He grabbed her hand.
    However, instead of opening her menu, Yuki carried his sister on his back and used the <Sprint> skill.
    Yuki ran away from the clearing, leaving Coper behind, that started screaming in anger.
    Once the siblings went far enough from the clearing, Yuki put Miki down and started coughing.
    "I feel like I'm going to puke." he said. He then proceeded to leave Coper's party and create a new one for himself and Miki. "If you can move now, leave Coper's party. It's going to buy us time"
    Miki didn't do anything, besides shaking. Yuki went near her and tried to help her opening the menu.
    "Quick, we don't have much time left"
    "I...I can't"
    "Why not?"
    "His health...it's getting lower"
    Miki looked at her HUD, horrified, as Coper's health bar was slowly depleting in front of her eyes. She wanted to close her eyes, but they were stuck to that tiny health bar, which remained green at first. Then it went yellow. And then...
    "Miki, go back to the safe zone." Yuki said as he went back to the quest location. "If you encounter any enemy, do anything except fighting them. Head over to Horunka as fast as you can"
    "But..."
    "No 'but's, Miki. Do as I say"
    Yuki reactivated his <Sprint> skill, heading over to Coper's location.
    As he reached the area, a group of Little Nepenthes surrounded Coper, who was trembling.
    Yuki reached him, and activated a sword skill, creating a path for himself and Coper. As he killed one monster, Yuki grabbed Coper and activated the <Sprint> skill once again.
    The two escaped from the quest area and started panting as they felt like they were at safe distance.
    Coper was still holding his sword. Yuki kicked it away from them and instinctively pointed his against Coper.
    "Sorry. I'd like to higher my chances of survival from this talk, Coper" he said. The sword was fearlessly pointed at Coper as Yuki sat down and continued talking. "You've tried to kill us, after all...well...not really, you were going to let those monster do your dirty job..."
    "...So why did you come back to pick me?" Coper said while massaging his own shoulders. He looked at his sword for a second, then he looked back at Yuki. "You do know that my weapon will get back to me in a couple of minutes, right?"
    Yuki nodded. He stood up and opened the menu.
    "About why I came back to save you, I will only say that you should thank Miki for that" Yuki scrolled throughout the list and opened a trading option with Coper. He gave him a couple of healing potions. "If I didn't listen to her, I would have let you die back there..."
    Coper looked at his menu and set a fair amount of Col.
    "I need to get back to the quest area..." he said with a cracked voice. "I have to"
    Yuki held him by the shoulder.
    "Absolutely not." he said."Your health bar is in the red zone. For now, we retreat at Horunka"
    Coper reluctantly agreed. He grabbed his sword and sheathed it. He then went in front of Yuki.
    The two walked back at Horunka, where Miki was waiting for them at the main plaza.
    As she spotted them, she lightly waved at them.
    "Good. You listened to me" Yuki said, patting Miki's head."Now..."
    He turned at Coper, who looked on the ground, clenching and unclenching his fists.
    "Coper..." Yuki sighed and opened his menu."Let me give you something..."
    He looked over his inventory and, as he found the interesting item, he materialized it and threw it at Coper.
    "This...why?" Coper was dumbfounded, as he saw the item."After all that I have done to you...?"
    Yuki gave Miki the signal to leave.
    "I guess you were thinking to try to survive in this world" Yuki said, before leaving. "I guess giving you that is to help you out with that thought"
    The two left the plaza, leaving Coper in it. Miki decided it was the moment to leave Coper's party and join Yuki's. She opened her menu and proceeded to leave the party. She went over to her <Invitations> section and accepted Yuki's.
    They arrived at the house of the lady that gave them the quest. They looked each other a couple of times before opening the gate and knocking at the door.
    The door was instantly opened by the NPC who looked at them with relief.
    "You're back. Thank goodness you're in one piece.". She looked at Yuki first, then she noticed Miki. "Ah. Did you bring a friend?Please, come in"
    The two went inside the house. Miki looked wherever her eyes could.
    "So. How did it go?"
    Yuki shrugged. Then he turned to Miki, who took the pouch on her belt and she put it on the NPC's hands.
    The woman opened the pouch, and her eyes were wet with tears as she looked inside of it.

    "Oh. Thank goodness" she said while bringing the pouch with herself in the kitchen. "I'll be preparing the medicine and administer it to Agatha..."
    The NPC worked on the quest item for an hour or so. When she exited the kitchen, she rushed to her daughter's room, with her eyes full of hope.
    After a couple of minutes, the woman started crying tears of joy. The cry echoed through the corridors of the house.
    A whispering. And the NPC woman that sounded surprised. She went back to where the siblings were and made a sign to Miki to come over.

    "Could you come over here?Agatha would like to talk to you, dearie..."
    Miki hesitantly stood up. She looked at her brother, who nodded. He wanted her to go and give a look.
    She entered the room. A girl of her same age was sitting in the bed. Agatha was wearing a white dress. Her blue eyes gazed at Miki.
    "My mother told me you were the one that found the ingredients for my medicine" she said. She grabbed Miki's hands as she went closer and smiled at her. "I can't thank you enough. My life is in debt with you"
    That particular action touched Miki's heart. Tears streamed down her cheeks as watching Agatha reminded of herself.
    "Why are you crying?". The NPC girl took Miki's head and let her cry on her lap. She started caressing Miki's head, as Yuki ran in the room."There, there. It's going to be alright"
    After a while, Miki, Yuki and the NPC woman went back to the entrance. The woman held a box. As the two were approaching the door, the woman opened the box.
    Inside of it, there was a sword. It was a simple short sword. The crossguard was rather simple and quite short. The handle was covered in black leather. Near the sword, there was its sheath.

    "As I promised. Here's your reward". She handed both the sword and the sheath to Yuki. He looked at it with interest. "This weapon was my family's heirloom...but I think it will be useful in your hands, adventurers"
    Yuki sheathed the sword. A notification showed, saying that the ownership of the sword was given to him.
    "Good luck, adventurers. May the wind bring you to new paths. Travel safely"
    The two waved at the woman who waved back. The door closed, as they left the area.
    Yuki looked at his sister. Her eyes were still wet with tear.
    As Miki noticed her brother's gaze, she wiped the remaining tears in her eyes.
    "Miki, if you feel like you want to say something, say it"
    "It's nothing. Really"
    Yuki stopped. He grabbed Miki by the hand and stopped her.
    "Miki, I don't like when you lie" he said."Tell me"
    Miki tried to avoid eye contact with her brother, but she couldn't. She felt like that gaze wouldn't have ended unless she would have spilled everything.
    "I just...I miss the real world already" she said, with a cracked voice.
    Yuki sighed as he let go her hand. Miki started massaging her hand, and looked at the ground with a gloomy expression.
    "Me too...sort of" he said, holding his left arm with the hand. Miki looked at him, confused. "Sometimes I felt more alive in this world, rather in the real one..."
    Before Yuki could react, Miki looked at him with more confused eyes. She was probably thinking that he didn't want to leave that world.
    Yuki tried to say something, but he couldn't. All he could do was sighing all the time.
    "...But that doesn't mean I don't want to exit from this game" he concluded. He reached out his hand. "Fine, then. Let's make a promise: that we will always cover each other's backs. Do you accept?"
    Miki looked at her brother first, then she looked at her hand. She was reluctantly to reach out her hand to held his. But she gave up as he didn't give any sign of giving up.
    "Ok..." she said, with a feeble voice.
    The sun was setting down. It illuminated the two siblings as they sealed their promised by doing a pinky promise.
    "Good"Yuki said, while rubbing his hands. "Now, I want to get back to the inn. I'm starving, and I want more of that steak!"
    Miki smiled and followed him to the inn as another day in the death game has passed...
    <<December 6th 2022,12:35 PM,<Horunka>
    Where do I start?
    We managed to reach Tolbana. Quite calm for the most of the travel.
    Yuki wanted to depart from Horunka earlier, but many factors forced us on delays.
    First of all, my inability in handling the Sword Skill...well, not really. More like misusage of the Sword Skill.
    During the quest for the Anneal Blade, I faced what Yuki called "motion delay"(a very ironic delay for our departure). As the name implies, it delays any action we want to do. It can be triggered with a badly timed parry, a successful parry from the enemy or the overuse of Sword Skills. And this was not the worst case scenario.
    If we are attacked during such status, the motion delay would turn into a paralysis. And I ended up in that situation when Coper attempted in strangling me. At first, Yuki didn't notice the paralysis, even if it was shown in the HUD. I guess the shock caught us off guard.
    Anyway, he trained me in basic sword fight techniques, in order to avoid that I heavily rely on the Sword Skills again. It takes more time to defeat an enemy, but it lowers the probability of getting a motion delay by overusing the Sword Skills.
    To be honest, I'm still not used to the term "spam". The only thing I can think when I say that name is that canned meat...yeah. I don't think I'll get used to the use of such terminology...
    A week has passed and we faced the second reason for the delays: the arrival of other players from the Town of Beginnings. After days of stubbornness, some players decided to move to the new locations. But the way they leveled up was way too reckless. Most of them were in bad shape or badly equipped. Most of them would only head over to the nearest quest they had on sight, without caring about the rewards given. Those players felt irritated from the cheap rewards that they would receive from the quests they picked. Others would even pick a fight with the lucky ones that managed to get better items.
    And then the wave came in Horunka. When I say "wave", I mean the raid of monsters that Yuki mentioned. Each week, a town would have been struck with a wave of monsters for the entire night. I guess the first waves were focused on the Town of Beginnings. Lucky for us.
    The majority of the players just bunkered up in the inns, while the rest of us decided it was the moment to move to a new location. Yuki warned them about the risk of not being able to get back in Horunka, as the NPC guards will close the gates once we were out. Only a couple of players left the group.
    While the monsters were focused on getting in from the main gates, we passed through a secondary entrance to the city. Luckily, we encountered very few monsters during our travel. And when we heard the chime after getting inside Tolbana, we knew we were safe. Each member of the group split off and went to different directions. But no one was willing to befriend each other.
    A couple of weeks has passed since we arrived. Yuki and I rented a little apartment in the city. It's filled with vines, but it's very comfy. It has a bathtub as well. Just took a bath, and I felt relieving. It gave me a regeneration buff as well.
    Ok. Enough self-chatting. I'm starving...>>
    Miki put away the journal back in her inventory and went to the door as she heard someone knocking.
    "Yes? Who's there?"
    A voice came out from the other side of the door. But it wasn't Yuki's. It was quite high pitched and had a nasal stamp. "It's me, Miki"
    "Oh...". Miki opened the door without hesitation, letting in a hooded girl. "Hello, Argo"
    Her face was covered with makeup. The fringe of her blonde hair partially covered her eyes that looked Miki with calm.
    "Hey there, Micchan". Argo looked left and right like she was searching something or someone."...Is Yu-Kun still out?"
    "Yeah. Do you want to wait for him?"
    "Sure. I have time"
    Both of the girls sat next to the table.
    "What did he tell you?"
    "Not much. He just said he would scout the area. To look for any quest or any particular thing..."
    "I see". Argo looked a little bit around and stood up as she noticed the bathroom. "This little room is very nice"
    "Excuse me?"Miki asked, confused.
    Argo nodded a couple of times. "Hm-mh. This is worth as an info"
    "I thought all the beta testers knew about this place"
    "Nope". Argo turned her head to Miki. "I wonder why he didn't tell me..."
    She paused for a couple of seconds, then her expression changed to a smirking one.
    "Say, Miki. Did Yu-Kun lure you with something in order to convince you to team up with him?"
    Miki's face went fully red as that question was asked.
    "Are you trying to tease me, Argo?"
    "Oh, my. You got me". Argo raised her hands to mimic the act of surrender. "But, seriously. How did he convince you?"
    "He didn't. We were together from the start of the game"
    "Are you a married couple or something?" Argo whispered.
    "You're totally getting the wrong idea, Argo..."
    Another knock at the door. Miki stood up and went to check on the door.
    "Miki, it's me". Yuki's voice came in, as well him when Miki opened the door. "What took you so long...?"
    Yuki looked at Argo that simply waved at him. He grabbed the pommel of the door and went out of the room.
    "Oi, oi...Isn't that cold, Yu-Kun?" Argo said, with a disappointed stamp on her voice.
    A couple of minutes later, Yuki was in the room again and quite annoyed from that visit.
    "Any news, Argo?"
    "Only one. And it's not nice". Argo's voice became more serious as she said that. She opened her menu and went to the map. "You know this location, right?"
    Yuki looked to where Argo was pointing and nodded. Miki leaned to get a glimpse of the map.
    "Yes, unfortunately". Yuki's voice cracked. He put a hand on his chin and stared at the map once again. "The PKs are beginning, I suppose..."
    "PKs?". Miki heard the whole conversation and tried to join in. "What is that?"
    "Something that we hoped it wouldn't happen. Not in a game like this...". Yuki looked at his sister once again. She looked confused. "Miki, you don't wanna know..."
    "...The players are starting to kill each other, aren't they?" Miki's voice cracked and she looked like she was on the verge of a hysterical cry. "THEY ARE?"
    "PK...<Player Kill>...An acronym that we weren't supposed to face in SAO...". Argo was serious in her eyes and her voice. She remained calm and resumed. "But this isn't a direct PK. They're using the monsters inside the Labyrinth"
    Miki sat on the bed and took a deep breath. She wiped the few tears that she let out and looked at the two. "Do you two know who could the culprits be?"
    "Maybe some beta testers. Or maybe a couple of new players that managed to learn about this area" Yuki said.
    "Ok. And the reasons behind it are the resources given by the drop of those dead players?"
    "Correct, Micchan"
    Miki took another deep breath. Her face became more serious. "How many have died because of that?"
    Argo and Yuki were both hesitant to answer. But Argo gave up. "Around a dozen or so"
    The situation felt unbelieving as that number went in Yuki's and Miki's heads.
    "Ok. You can go now, Argo. I'll give you any update later. How much do I owe you?". Argo stood up but denied the payment with a slight movement of the hand.
    "Later, Micchan. Yu-Kun". Argo waved at them and closed the door.
    As she left, Miki laid on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "I guess you have a plan, Yuki"
    "I do, but you're not involved. You'll stay here while I and Argo are looking for the murderer that started it"
    "But you do not know how they managed to lure those players in that meat grinder". She said
    "...A fair point". Yuki opened his menu and gave to Miki a couple of items. "Grab this one"
    "What is it?"
    "A little reward from the farmer's quest. Come on. Open it"
    Miki unwrapped one of the objects and the smell of a baked apple pie filled the room. The pie was already cut.
    "Ahh...What about this?" she put the pie on the table and opened the other object. "Bread?"
    "Oh. Wait". Yuki went to his inventory and took another object, a jar, from it. "Add this"
    Miki pointed at the jar and a light went on the tip of her finger. She slid her finger on the bread, creating a layer of cream.
    "Ok. You're spoiling me too much, now" she said.
    Yuki smiled as his sister starting eating the bread with delight.
    After five full minutes of tasting and taking tiny bits, the bread was completely eaten.
    "Took you long enough?" Yuki asked with a tone of sarcasm.
    "Sorry. It just felt..."
    "...like a real pastry?"
    "Yeah..."
    Miki looked at the pie that was on the table. She pressed a button on it and put two slices in her inventory.
    "I'll keep it for later since I have already a regeneration buff from both the bath and the bread"
    "Bath?". At first, Yuki felt confused, then he acknowledged. "Oh. You mean that? Yeah. The weird fact is that there are only three of those type of rooms in Tolbana"
    "Only three?"
    "If you manage to get the correct combination of dialogues with the bartender, he will give up and offer you those rooms. Not impossible, but very difficult"
    "How many beta tester know about this trick?" she asked. "I'm asking because Argo looked like she didn't know about it at all"
    "Did she? I guess she took the info about this room as her payment", he sighed. "I guess only 2-3 beta testers know about this. Mostly because it would have given us more benefit because of the buffs of the bathtub"
    "Or you were the only one to know about this"
    "I guess so"
    "You never told me what you used to do during the beta, by the way", Miki said
    "Maybe next time", Yuki replied. He stood up and went to the door. "I'm going for a walk. You stay here"
    Yuki approached the pommel of the door, but he felt like something pulling him away from it.
    "You can't trick me so easily, Yuki"
    He turned around and saw Miki pulling a piece of his shirt.
    "You know the answer already, Miki. Let me go"
    "What are you planning to do, then?"
    "Isn't that obvious? I'm going to stop those nut-heads. Starting from the one that is spreading this rumor". Yuki pulled his shirt from Miki and turned to face her. "Whoever is doing this needs to be stopped. But I can't let you take the risk of falling into that trap"
    "Just tell me what was the 'area' that Argo mentioned"
    "...Ok. I was going way too far from the argument, anyway". Yuki sat down and opened his map. "Last week I managed to map the first part of the Labyrinth. I and Argo decided to share that information between the players, in order to speed up the scouting of the dungeon"
    "Now look at this part". Yuki highlighted an isolated area of the dungeon. "This is the area that Argo pointed out before"
    "What's so dangerous about it?"
    "It's a dead end. I mean it in all ways. It's full of monsters. Their level is higher than the average player"
    "And for what purpose would those PKs use it?"
    "For the objects that the victims could drop"
    "Still...we don't know what kind of rumor the PKs used in order to lure the victims...". Miki analyzed the highlighted area. Though the trap was not fully scouted, it was clear on the 2D map that the lines of the wall were getting closer. "It can't be...what did you call it? The floor boss's area?"
    "Yeah. If that was the case, the victims would have teamed up in mass. But, in this case, the PKs were made for lone players or tag teams"
    "A high-rewarding quest?"
    "Possibly", Yuki replied.
    "I guess we have only one case...that could be wrong", Miki said with a bitter tone. "The only ones to know about it are the PKs and the victims. For now"
    "Yes". Yuki remained silent for a while. Then he resumed, with a bittersweet tone in his voice. "In that case, we have to fall for that trap too"
    ...Meanwhile...
    Argo went to the bartender and ordered a glass of orange juice. As she took a sip from it, she winced because of the sour taste.
    '*Bleh* Why is it so sour? Gotta keep note of this...'. She turned around to check the stairs and noticed someone eavesdropping near a couple of players sitting on a table nearby. 'I guess I went to the right place in the right time'
    She went a few centimeter closer to the conversation. Despite the fact that the two were almost whispering, Argo managed to hear the entire dialogue. As they finished, Argo noticed that the person on the stairs was gone. She decided it was the moment to get closer.
    "Are you sure?"
    "Pretty much..."

    "Is there something interesting? I'd like to hear it too" Argo dropped in the conversation, startling the two players. "From whom did you hear this? Care to explain?"
    ... ... ...
    Two hours have passed. Then, Yuki received a message from Argo.
    "Argo must have found out something". Yuki proceeded to open the message. His face went grim as he finished reading it. He stood up and went to the door, dropping the chair in the process. "Damn those people..."
    "What is it, Yuki?", Miki asked, startled from the sudden reaction.
    "No time to explain, Miki. We're heading to the dead end now"
    Yuki ran throughout the city, without caring for the other players on the road.
    When they reached the entrance of the Labyrinth, Argo was waiting for them.
    "Did anyone enter the dungeon?". Yuki asked.
    "No idea, Yu-Kun". Argo nervously replied. "But we have to look inside anyway. Back at the inn, I saw someone hearing the rumors from two other players"
    "Damn it!". Yuki unsheathed his sword and went inside the dungeon. "Argo, take care of Miki"
    "But..."
    "No 'but's. Keep an eye on her". As he said that, he rushed further in the dungeon.
    The dead end wasn't very illuminated, but Yuki managed to detect a small group of mobs. All of them surrounding a person at the end of the gallery.
    He clenched and unclenched his left hand and ran towards the mobs. As he gets closer, he managed to see the monster.
    "A minotaur, eh?". He said to himself. "I thought I wouldn't see those monsters except in the upper floors"
    He slid under one of them and blocked the guillotine attack that was going on the passed out player, who was covered with a cloth.
    He activated a Sword Skill and rotated around himself and wounding the minotaurs around him.
    Despite the minotaurs staggered a bit, Yuki's attack didn't stop them and continued approaching them.
    However, before Yuki could react, someone else did. The mysterious person jumped, activating a Sword Skill. The blade of his sword glowed green and sliced a minotaur. The attack went from the right shoulder to the center of his body.
    The player extracted the blade from the minotaur's body and kicked him aside, leaving an open area for Yuki, that put the passed out player on his back.
    As they went over the mobs, a sudden roar came from behind and became louder as they ran.
    "One of them is chasing us. We need to slow him down"
    "Oh, no. Really?". Yuki ironically replied.
    Just as they ended talking, Miki came to their aid, activating a Sword Skill and cutting the minotaur's legs.
    The monster fell down. The falling echoed across the gallery, suddenly followed by its roar. But the group was already outside.
    They heavily breathed and, occasionally, wheezing because of the run.
    "I told you to keep an eye on Miki, Argo". Yuki said.
    "I did". Argo replied. "But then I had to turn around. Something went in my eye"
    "You always find a loophole, do you?". Yuki said. Then he turned to the rest of the group.
    Miki was still trying to gain some air, while the other was already recovering.
    Then he went over to the rescued person.
    "Help me put this player near a tree. It's better if they can sit"
    Yuki and Argo held the player by the shoulders and brought them to a tree.
    As they were sure that the person wouldn't fall, the mysterious player went to them.
    "Time for me to go". He said. "I need to give the information that I gathered about this map"
    "So you were already inside the Labyrinth". Yuki said with a stern voice.
    "Just for you to know, when I went in, there was no one in the dead end yet. I went there when I heard the roars", he replied.
    "Did you forget something?" Argo said as the player was on the point of leaving
    "What?"
    "The info"
    The player looked Argo in the eyes. Then he sighed.
    "With that hood on, I didn't recognize you, Argo"
    "So you know him?" Yuki asked.
    "Yes. And seems like your first meeting wasn't off to a good start". Argo pointed out at the player that removed the hood covering his head. He had black hair. The fringe was messy, partially covering his blackish eyes. "Yuki, his name is Kirito. He's another beta tester"
    Yuki took a better look at Kirito. He wore a blue shirt, covered by a leather armor. His hands were covered by a pair of gloves up to the knuckles. Maybe he was around Miki's age.
    "Nice to meet you then". Yuki said.
    "Likewise here" Kirito shortly replied while handing over the information to Argo. "I guess we both acted rude to each other before"
    "I guess so"
    The passed out person started recovering from the slumber.
    "Let's give this person a little bit of light to see". Kirito said and removed the hood, letting long hair to fall on the shoulders. The player was a girl.
    Yuki froze. He held himself by the head, covering his eyes with his hands. "This is a very cruel joke..."
    "Yuki?"
    He went closer to the girl and adjusted the hair covering partially her sleeping face.
    "Of all people...First Miki, now her. I wonder how Kouichiro is feeling right now..."
    "Kouichiro? Isn't that...?"
    "Yes. He is, Miki" Yuki quickly replied and turned to the girl. "And this person in front of us is his sister"
    He took a few steps back, letting Miki see the girl that was waking up.
    "Of all people..."
    "Y-Yuki?" the girl murmured.
    "Hey, Asuna. It has been a while..." Yuki said with a bitter tone. "This is a very cruel joke, isn't it?"
    "You too?" Asuna was on the verge of crying. Then she noticed Miki. "Even Misaki?!"
    "Hey, Asuna-nee-chan"
    Asuna started crying a little bit. Miki went closer to her and tried to comfort her. Then they looked each other in confusion.
    "I guess you three need to stay together for a bit. I'll warn you later if we find other clues"
    Argo and Kirito left. When Asuna stopped crying, Yuki broke the silence.
    "How do you feel now?"
    "A little bit...". Before Asuna could end her phrase, her stomach growled.
    "...hungry?". Yuki asked, smiling. She nodded while trying to cover her blushing face.
    "Wait. I have some apple pie". Miki said. She went on her inventory and picked the two slices of apple pie that she kept. She handed a slice to Asuna, trying not to make it fall from the wrapping.
    Asuna took a little bite from it. But her hunger took over her patience and, after a mere couple of seconds, she ended up eating the whole slice, leaving a delighted expression as she finished it.
    "Now, Asuna...". Yuki sat alongside her and looked her with angered eyes. "You have to explain to me what were you doing in that dead end"
    "I..."
    "Whatever thing you ever heard back there, it's fake. There's no exit to this game. Not that early"
    "How can you be so sure of that?"
    "Think about it. If such secondary exit would exist, wouldn't Kayaba mention that and warn us about the danger that we might get in it?"
    "You can't be sure of that. It might be an error. He might have forgotten that there was a secondary exit"
    "It's not something that Kayaba would do. And I don't think the game would allow a secondary exit in the first place..."
    "What do you mean?"
    "In a game that was programmed to have a log out button in the first place, a secondary exit would be pointless. So, once the log out is removed, there aren't any exits, besides the completion of the game"
    "You might be wrong about that, Yuki"
    "I'm not. In fact, you fell into a trap that was used by former beta testers". Yuki concluded, with a bitter tone. "I know that because I fell for it too"
    "But back then they didn't use the secondary exit excuse, right?" Miki asked.
    "Yes, Miki. Let's just say that my curiosity led me to a total failure"
    "I can imagine that"
    "Anyway..." Yuki resumed, turning again to Asuna. "You still didn't give me a proper response, Asuna"
    "I need to get out from here", Asuna said while lowering her eyes. "My life...I need to get back to it"
    "All the people are thinking about it, Asuna", Yuki replied. "Don't act so reckless..."
    "I know..."
    Yuki sighed and proceeded to move a string of her hair from her face.
    "Asuna, I know how you feel..."
    "No, you don't". With a fast movement of her hand, she moved Yuki's hand away. "When I needed you the most, you left me alone. Then, after four years, Kouichiro says that you'll be looking over me in SAO while he was on business trip"
    "I had no choice but to leave back then!"
    "Yes, you did!". Asuna screamed with all her might, scaring a flock of birds that flew away.
    "Asuna-nee-chan...Yuki..."
    "Let's go back at Tolbana for now" Yuki shortly replied without facing the two girls.
    Asuna and Miki followed him without replying.
    As they reached the room, Yuki received a message.
    "I'll go out to check the message. You two should rest"
    Yuki closed the door and checked the message.


    If you're back in town, meet me at the inn within five minutes.
    We need to talk
    -Argo​

    "Alright, then. Let's go meet her..."
    He went downstairs and looked around. After a couple of glimpses, he finds Argo, sitting next to the bar.
    "How long have you been waiting?"
    "Long enough"
    "I didn't know you were waiting here" Yuki said.
    "I didn't know you were already here" Argo replied.
    They remained in silence for a couple of minutes.
    "Enjoying the drink, I suppose", he said as he looked at the glass that was in her hands.
    "Pretty much" she replied. Then she took the last sip from it. The empty glass faded, instead of shattering. "It should have been some type of ale, but I didn't feel any alcoholic substance in it. Despite that, I feel dizzy and the system gave me a debuff"
    "How old are you?"
    "Oh, my. How bold!", and proceeded in a goofy attempt to cover her chest.
    "You're starting to get on my nerves, Argo..."
    "Alright, alright". She regained her composure and coughed a little bit. "I'm 17"
    "I guess that's quite reasonable". Yuki half-smiled. Then he started explaining. "The system detects how old are you. If the player is underage, the system blocks any signal that could lead to that sensation. I think a lot of things that are age-restricted are censored as well"
    "Some sort of ethical censorship, then"
    "Yeah..."
    "Anyway". Argo turned her head around a couple of times. Then she turned to Yuki. "What's your plan about the trap?"
    "The PKer didn't appear as we saved our friend. So I guess they were looking us from the distance"
    "So we need something to lure them out...". Argo looked Yuki in the eyes. She noticed that his expression went grim. "I already know you don't want to involve any player"
    "Yes. But we have no choice"
    "So you'll use a random player that will take the PKer's bait and wait that he gets killed..."
    "That's not the plan" Yuki shortly replied. "We will use a player, but we will not let them get killed"
    "Ok. No harm done to the player" Argo said, shrugging at that answer. "But how are we supposed to catch the killer? If the player doesn't get killed, they will suspect that it will be a trap. If we use a former victim that managed to survive, they will get suspicious too"
    "What about holding the player inside the Labyrinth and dropping a few items near the dead-end?"
    "It could work". Argo thought about it for a couple of minutes. Then she resumed. "How are we supposed to know when the killers will look at the entrance? They might be watching it for the entire day"
    "How good is your <Hiding> skill now?"
    "It's quite decent. Even if they have the <Search> skill, they can only detect objects and NPCs"
    "Then that settles it". Yuki triumphantly concludes. "Better if we define the details throughout the messages"
    "Not that we already gave a lot of information before..." Argo ironically replied. She stood up and put her hood back on her head. "I'll warn you when I'm ready"
    "Aye, aye. Bring Kirito as well"
    "Why do you need him?" she asked.
    "Let's say 'For precautions'. If we need a plan B"
    "Alright, then. See ya later"
    As Argo left, Yuki went back upstairs and knocked at the door.
    "It's me, Miki"
    There was no response from the door. Instead, a loud rustling through the furniture was hearable.
    "Someone else went inside?"
    Yuki slammed the door wide open. But there was no intruder inside. Instead, Yuki was in front of a partially clothed Asuna, while Miki was effortlessly trying to cover her.
    "I know where this is going. And, before you get any angry reaction, I'll close the door..." he humbly replied.
    In an instant, he was sitting on the floor, laying against the door.
    'What a stupid cliché...' he thought while trying to shake off the image of Asuna from his mind while someone fell on the ground inside the room.
    A couple of minutes later, the door opened.
    "Sorry for the commotion. I was talking with Miki. I was off guard when you knocked at the door"
    "Uh-huh..."
    "Now that Asuna explained, and your face doesn't have a red mark on the cheek...". Miki stood up from the ground and sat on the chair. "What took you so long? I thought you only needed to read a message"
    "Well..." Yuki froze. He wasn't sure whether to explain to her what he was planning with Argo or not. "I..."
    "You did something without asking me beforehand, didn't you?" Miki asked.
    "You do change personality when you're between friends, don't you?". Yuko said. "Back at the Labyrinth, you didn't even try to look..."
    "Don't even try to change the topic. Just tell me what did you do?"
    Yuki hesitated for a while. Then he gave up and explained the plan to Miki and Asuna.
    "So you're telling me that we are going to use a player to lure out the killers"
    "Don't worry, Miki. I already said that the player will be unharmed"
    "If that's the case, wouldn't it be better if someone you know does the job"
    "Denied, Miki" Yuki shortly replied. "I know what you're planning to do"
    "But if they don't see my face, it can work"
    "In that case, even I or Argo can do that too?" Yuki shortly replied. "You'll stay here with Asuna"
    "...Why are you doing this? What about the promise we did back at Horunka?"
    "I'm sorry, Miki" he said. "But you'll be staying here with Asuna"
    "How are you supposed to block me?"
    Yuki quickly unsheathed his sword and pointed it at his sister.
    "Don't try my patience, Miki" he sternly replied. "We're in a safe zone, but I'll tell you this: being hit while you're inside one can become a terrific moment..."
    Miki broke eye contact with Yuki. She tried to look for help from Asuna. But she was as scared as Miki.
    "You'll stay here" he concluded.
    In an instant, he left the room, leaving Asuna and Miki alone.
    As soon as he left, Miki channeled her anger on the nearby chair and threw it against the nearest wall.
    "I HATE HIM! I HATE HIM! I..." she wanted to scream more, but her anger gave up and her sadness took the lead.
    Miki sat on the ground and leaned her back against the bed, putting her face behind the legs.
    "Asuna-Nee-Chan..."
    Asuna didn't hesitate any moment, and she went to comfort Miki who started crying as soon as Asuna's arms embraced her.
    "It's all right, Misaki. You can cry as much as you can..."
    After a while, Miki calmed down. She wiped the few tears that she had in her eyes and she tried to regain her composure.
    "He has been doing this for a while..." she said. "Doing this all by himself. Barely putting me in danger"
    "He always does, Misaki" Asuna replied. "I hate him too. Whenever he tries to protect us like two princesses in a castle"
    "It does sound too childish, Asuna"
    Asuna laughed a little bit. "I guess so"
    "Asuna-Nee-Chan...I know you hate me and Yuki because we moved out but..."
    "I know" Asuna replied. "I was just too blinded by the emotions back there. It's just..."
    "What is it?"
    "Each day felt empty without you. As you're still the only friends I have"
    "I barely talked to other girls. But it never felt the same way...it was never heartwarming..."
    "I guess my curiosity and my social needs put me in this situation..."
    "But then I felt like I wanted to get back there...try to fix my errors...and try to find new friends...fight my shyness"
    Asuna turned to Miki and half-smiled. "I guess we have to go throughout the long way"
    "Yeah..."
    Miki hesitated for a minute, then she started talking as well.
    "You know, Asuna, my social situation is almost the same as yours..."
    "...I never talked to anyone before"
    "Most of my time was spent in front of a desk, reading a book, isolating myself from the others..."
    "But you looked socially strong when you tried to fight against your brother, Misaki" Asuna replied, trying to infuse courage in Miki.
    "It was different, Asuna" Miki said. "He's my brother. It's easier to talk to him since he's the closest one I have..."
    "You know? We made a promise before..." she said while looking to Asuna. "To cover our backs. Each other...I hate him because he lied to me"
    Asuna's expression went grim. She held Miki from the shoulder and looked her in the eyes.
    "He wants to protect you, after all"
    "And I hate him"
    "Aren't you afraid to die?" Asuna asked. "If you would die, how would Yuki feel?"
    "I know how he would feel, Asuna-Nee-Chan..."
    "But we both knew the risks". Miki freed herself from Asuna's grip. "I don't want to rot inside the city, waiting for this game to be completed"
    "...and if my brother died during the game because I couldn't protect him...well, I would not forgive him"
    Asuna went silent. She looked at Miki with serious eyes. Miki didn't blink at that visual inspection.
    She sighed. "I guess I can't convince you any further..."
    Asuna tended a hand to Miki who grabbed it without thinking twice.
    "Shall we go?"
    ... ... ...
    Yuki and Argo looked at the entrance of the dead-end.
    After a couple of hours, he saw a group of three players getting closer. They all wore a hooded mantle and their faces were covered with bandanas.
    As soon as they entered the dead-end, Yuki ran behind them.
    "Looking for someone?"
    The group got scared a little bit. As they turned around to face Yuki, their composure returned normal.
    "Oh. Sorry. We're actually looking for our friend"
    "Oh?" Yuki gazed at them with fake curiosity. "Which one, exactly? The victim or the one that had to tell you when the victim was dead?"
    The trio remained silent.
    Behind Yuki, a player ran towards the exit. Argo followed them for a while, then went behind Yuki.
    "How did you...?"
    "Surprised?". Yuki asked with a tone of challenge. "It was quite easy, actually"
    "After finding out what the rumor was and hypothesized how you schemed the plan, there was something missing: how did you know that someone was gone and you could go for the scavenging? You needed someone that would warn you about that"
    "Remember that huge stone back in the Iron Palace in the Town of Beginnings? Of course, you do. After all, that's where the names of the players are written...and they get marked when the player dies"
    "Now you were blind, and when you didn't receive any message, instead of running away, you decided to get in to check. Quite a bad move, let me tell you"
    "So...you did capture our informant?", one of the three players asked.
    "Not really. He immediately gave up as soon as we told him that we captured you three. I guess he was the most innocent in your group since he surrendered easily"
    Yuki unsheathed his sword, pointing it to the group that readied themselves as well.
    "I suggest you decide quickly" Yuki said. He lifted his sword enough to point above their heads. "Otherwise the minotaurs will get you"
    The group didn't need to turn their heads. One of them got grabbed by a minotaur.
    "Yu-Kun. I think we intervene". Yuki remained silent while the two players tried effortlessly to free their friend. "Yu-Kun, we have to help them now!"
    TheI minotaur pointed its blade to the chest of the player who was screaming and begging for help.
    "YUKI!"
    Before the minotaur could strike, Miki went in front of Yuki.
    She activated the same Sword Skill as before. The minotaur stood on its knees, leaving its chest wide open for attacks.
    Miki activated another skill. Her blade went yellow.
    She dashed past the minotaur, slicing him wide open. The monster winced, then he loosened its grip on the player, freeing him. Then it disappeared.
    Kirito arrived and looked at the group. Then at Yuki.
    "I got here as soon as I read the message" he said while heavily breathing. "Do you have any idea how tiresome is running from the Town of Beginnings to the Labyrinth in less than an hour?"
    "Pretty much" Yuki shortly replied. "Why didn't you take a horse?"
    "I don't have that much of Col with me"
    "Suure..."
    Kirito looked at Miki. A couple of minotaurs went towards them.
    He readied his sword, but he didn't have to do anything.
    Miki activated <Whirlwind>. She started spinning along with her blade and wounding the minotaurs on the knees. With a rapid movement, she changed her grip on the sword. The blade was near her arm.
    In a swift movement, she sliced the first minotaur on the abdomen.
    "Quite a lightning beauty". Kirito admired her with shocked eyes. Miki, in the meantime, held her sword normally, blocking an attack from the second minotaur.
    "She's not the only lightning beauty, in this case"
    "Excuse me?"
    Before the two could react, Asuna intervened as well.
    Branding her rapier on her right hand, Asuna ran past the second minotaur. The monster winced as it received the blow dealt from Asuna.
    The second minotaur dissolved in millions of pixels while Asuna and Miki sheathed their weapons.
    The three PKer fell on their knees as soon as they were safe. Yuki and Kirito helped them out to exit the dead end as soon as they recovered.
    Outside the Labyrinth, the group was still shocked from the near encounter with the minotaurs.
    "I guess you learned your lesson, you three". Yuki sighed a little bit, while Argo and Kirito observed him with attention. Miki and Asuna were, instead, looking at the PKers. "You're lucky that no one got killed. Now go away. Don't ever mention this and you won't get in trouble for your attempt of PK"
    The trio nodded. They stood up and left the zone.
    Yuki turned to Miki, looking her with stern eyes.
    "Here we go", she whispered to Asuna. "He's going to give me a very heavy tamper this time..."
    As Yuki approached her and Asuna, the two closed their eyes, waiting for him to scream. Instead, they were surprised as soon as they felt his hands patting their heads.
    "Congratulations". Miki looked at Yuki who was smiling. "You passed the test"
    "Test?". Miki asked in confusion. "What test?"
    "In taking the decisions, instead of listening me"
    "You mean 'disobeying your orders'. I thought it was a bad thing"
    Yuki chuckled a little bit. "Not in this case"
    "You see...since we're in a world or survival, something like listening orders is a top priority. But, sometimes, those orders will feel too unreal and unethical to follow. It's up to the single person to decide what's right and what's wrong in this case..."
    "And in this case...?"
    "...You made the decision of disobeying". Yuki said. "If it wasn't for you, those three would have been dead"
    "Wait a second...". Miki said. "Earlier, you said 'attempt of PK. What did it mean?"
    Yuki changed his expression as she asked it. It tended to a saddened and grim look.
    "Argo and I lied about the number of victims" he admitted. "But as soon as we heard that those players heard about this exploit, we had to intervene as soon as possible"
    "Why you had to lie to me?", she asked. "Was that part of the test too?"
    "Let's say the opinion is splitted. After I told you that, I hoped that we could have talked to those players and convince them not to attempt those murderous acts"
    Yuki turned to Asuna and looked her in the eyes. "Then it became a personal problem...after I almost saw Asuna die for that exploit"
    The group remained in silence. They looked each other in the eyes, as those sudden reveals were shocking for each one of them.
    "Well...". Miki started. "As soon as no one else will retry this, it's fine for me"
    "But there's something that troubles me...those PKers...weren't beta testers, were they?"
    Argo and Yuki shook their heads as a sign of denial. Miki looked at them with suspicion, but felt like they were telling the truth.
    "Ok then" she concluded. "We better leave now. The sun is setting, and I'd like not to encounter a horde of mobs at night"
    The group started leaving the area. Argo and Yuki were the last to leave.
    Argo grabbed Yuki by the arm and went closer to him.
    "About earlier, Yu-Kun...what would have happened if Miki and Asuna didn't come?". Her voice was accusing and her eyes full of confusion.
    Yuki went silent for a couple of seconds.
    "I'd have intervened. But seems like Miki beated me by a couple of seconds"
    Yuki walked away from Argo who was looking him with more suspicion. She felt uneasy as she watched him from the back and decided it was for the best to not make too many questions...
    Extra Episodes:
    <<November 6th 2022 23:30
    I decided to start a journal, to keep up our progress throughout the entire game. Yuki didn't initially want me to buy this journal. But, in the end, he gave up and let me do it.
    I have to be honest...this is kind of weird. Despite the game represents this journal as a papery one, it needs to use a keyboard in order to write on it.
    Besides this curious trivia, we did manage the next town, Horunka. More of a small village, honestly. Our way to it was calm and dangerless.Well...except for a couple of wolves nearby the Town of Beginnings
    As we entered the village, we were sure we were in a safe zone, and we would not risk at all."For a while", Yuki said. He explained that the systems programs a scheduled raid of monsters each week. Unless the players team up in raid teams, it's almost impossible to be safe in a town for a long time...
    We entered the first inn we found, the one where I am right now. Luckily, it has a very cheap room renting. We decided to sleep in the same room for this night...and maybe it will be the same for long...
    He went out three hours ago, and he still didn't come back. Whathever he's doing, he should better be back now...
    I guess I'll just go to the room and sleep...>>
    Miki sighed as she put her journal back in her inventory and walked up the stairs.
    She entered the room that they rented, and immediately went to lay on her bed. She put a hand on her head and vaguely looked at the ceiling. She remained like that for a couple of minutes, until the door opened, letting in a tired Kazuyuki.
    "You're late"
    "Sorry. I scouted the entire village". Kazuyuki went straight ahead to the bed without thinking twice, sinking his head on the pillow."I can't feel my legs..."
    "Well. Next time think twice before doing a scouting". Miki stood up and sat on her bed, looking at Kazuyuki who looked to the opposite direction. "Hey!Look at me at least!"
    But she didn't receive any response. She went past Kazuyuki's bed, only to see him sleeping like a baby.
    "Jeez...". Miki went back to her bed and layed down as well. She reached over the lamp that was illuminating the room, and pushed the button floating near it, turning it off. "Good night, brother"
    She went under the blankets and slowly closed her eyes...
    After a couple of hours, Miki started moving on her bed, murmuring in her sleep.
    "Onii-chan...Don't cry..."
    "Please...don't cry"
    Tears coursed down her cheeks and disappeared in tiny pixels.
    Kazuyuki turned around, and opened his eyes. His dark brown eyes looked at Miki. He stood up and went near her. He could hear her sobbing in her sleep. He was at the point of wiping her tear off her eyes, when he suddently heard another phrase.
    "Onii-chan...don't leave me alone..."
    That phrase reminded Kazuyuki of when they slept together back when they were kids.
    Miki used to cry whenever she would hear a noise. She wasn't used to the new family and the new house, so she would get scared by anything.
    When that happened, Kazuyuki would normally get in her bed and hug her, while singing a little lullaby that their adoptive mother taught him.
    Kazuyuki raised the blankets high enough to get in the bed. He put an arm over Miki's shoulders, while with the other he held his head.
    He gently patted her back and started humming a melody at first. Then he started singing with the best intonation he could reach.
    At the end of the lullaby, Miki's voice calm. Kazuyuki looked at her, while a smile appeared on her face.
    He stared at his sister for a while, and then slept alongside her.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
    Black Abyss and RobinHoodPT like this.
  2. luigiFTW

    luigiFTW Blue VIP Blue VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    This poll is so efficient.
     
  3. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    I have to guess that you chose the option number 2.
    Don't worry. There still a lot of space at the stake...
     
  4. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Alright. Seems like the first and the third option tied up...really, guys?
    You really want...ah...oh well...guess I'll just burn Kirito now.
    *Lits up the stake*
    Hey!What are you doing?
    You heard them, Kazuto. Just stand still...
    Hey!Put that torch down!
    ...

    *phew*Done
    So...40% of you asked for a new character, 40% asked for a yuri scenario...and 20% asked for Kirito to remain...oh wait...this last option is not an option anymore.
    You know what? I'll just go with both of them. The ones with the 40%. Who cares about the 20%, let's be honest :Kappa:
    However, there will be not one, but two new main characters. Siblings, to be precise.
    I'll leave their description here, so you can check them out, and see if it's a go or not.
    First name: Yukito
    Last name: Kirisaki
    Username: Kazuyuki
    Age:21
    Gender: Male
    Appearance:5'80"(1,76 m)tall guy.Well trained build. Mid-short black hair reaching the cheeks and covering the nape. His eyes tend from dark brown to black.
    Personality: He's open to anyone willing to talk with him. When in difficult, he analyzes the situation with attention, avoiding to miss any particular. He tends to help out anyone who ask for help and has a particular care for her sister.
    Background story: Yukito and her sister Misaki were raised in a wealthy adoptive family, as their biological parents abandoned them at a young age. Yukito was brilliant and excelled in scientific and mathematic related subjects. As he reached 19, he has received a Nerve Gear as a birthday gift. Upon of the announcement of the closed beta of the Nerve Gear's first game, Sword Art Online, Yukito signed up for it, and successfully managed to get in the thousand testers. As the game came out, he decided to buy a couple of copies for both him and his sister.
    Preferred weapon of choice: One-Handed Sword
    Preferred armor of choice: Light-Medium
    Likes: Games, computers, music and homemade cooking
    Dislikes: Sour foods
    Other: He has a fear of snakes and spiders
    First name:Misaki
    Last name: Kirisaki
    Username: Miki
    Age:16
    Gender: Female
    Appearance:5'6"(1,70 m)tall. Slim build. Silky long black hair that reaches the shoulders and dark brown eyes.
    Personality: Her introvert personality doesn't make her an ideal person to talk with. Most of her times, she will try to find protection in her brother on her adoptive parents. Her personality as a writer, however, transforms her: she becomes determinate. But if something, or someone, hit her deeply, that determination fades away.
    Background story: Misaki and her brother Yukito were raised in a wealthy adoptive family, as their biological parents abandoned them at young age. Unlike her brother, Misaki went to a female-only school. Her adoptive parents found her interest in poetry and literature, and tried to encourage her to follow that path. Under the artistic name "Miki", she started writing a series of light novels, mostly focused on romance and drama. One day, a group of younger rival authors flamed her website, criticizing her work.
    Misaki, despite her parents reporting this event, got heavily depressed from it. Her brother, as an attempt to cheer her up, bought a couple of copies of SAO for him and Misaki, and a Nerve Gear as well.
    Preferred weapon of choice: One-Handed Sword
    Preferred armor of choice: Light-medium
    Likes: Romance and drama novels, cream puff pastries
    Dislikes: Tomatoes
    Other: Whenever she gets flustered, she would try to stay behind something or someone that would calm her down
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  5. luigiFTW

    luigiFTW Blue VIP Blue VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Nice. It's better this way I think.
     
  6. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Ok.I'll just skip the initial part where they say "Link Start" and bs like that...
    By the way, I'll be using the same titles as the anime...maybe only the first episode...meh...
    "Brother...Yukito. Wait!"
    Misaki ran after her brother Yukito, avoiding any eye contact with the other people in the street. As they ran around the corner, Yukito stopped. Misaki put her hands on her knees and tried to breathe.
    "Jeez, Yukito. Why were you running so much?". Yukito, as a response, slightly hit Misaki's head."Ow!What was that for?"
    "I told you not to call me with my real name,<Miki>. We're in a game. And you should not blurt out anyone's personal details. Understood?"
    Miki watched her brother with bothered eyes. That situation was unusual for her. It was her first time in a game, and she didn't know anything about how to behave in a game.
    "Ok. I got it, <Kazuyuki>...". She massaged the part that her brother hit. He went towards her and gently pat her head.
    "Good. Now, do you wanna practice?"
    "Brother. I...". She couldn't end her phrase, as Kazuyuki slighlty hit her on the head with his palm.
    "Hush!Don't hold back. We're just having fun today, ok?"
    Kazuyuki started running again. Miki couldn't do anything except going after him.
    After half an hour of running, they arrived to the west fields of the Town of Beginnings.
    "Here we are. It's a great view, isn't it?". The fields were very extended. In the distance, there were a couple of cliffs showing up between a hill and another. Between the hills and the fields, there was a lake.
    "I thought I was going to die...". Miki layed on the ground, panting. "Why did you bring me here?"
    "To practice. Didn't I tell you that before?". Kazuyuki unsheathed the sword from the sheat on his waist and pointed it against a boar in front of him."Against them. They're easy to defeat. So it should not be a problem for us"
    Miki sighed as her brother looked her in the eyes like a defenceless kitten.
    "Why you have to make that face?It makes me feel uneasy...and it's kind of creepy"
    Kazuyuki laughed at her sister's reaction, and changed his expression to a normal one.
    "That's why I did that face"
    Miki smiled a little bit. Then, she unsheated the sword she kept on her back.
    "It's kind of heavy..."
    "Does it feel like it?". Kazuyuki roteated his, a longsword. It had a simple design. A double edged blade with a crossguard. But the grip was recurved. Miki's was, instead, a battlesword with a short crossguard and a straight grip. Just like her brother's, it had a double edged blade."I guess it's kind of surprising for someone who's experiencing the Full Dive for the first time. I felt the same way back then too"
    Kazuyuki went in front of a boar. He grabbed a pebble from the ground, and threw it with a throwing skill. The pebble glowed and hit the boar in an instant.
    The boar winced, and turned at Kazuyuki, charging at him.
    "Ok. Lessons starts now. Defeat the boar, Miki"
    "What?". Kazuyuki dodged the boar. But it continued its charging, targeting the next thing it could see:Miki."How am I supposed to do that?"
    "It's difficult to explain..."
    "What do you mean?Ah. It's coming this way!". Miki moved to the left, barely avoiding the boar. The boar, as it missed its target, turned back and charged again. Miki noticed it coming back, and dodged once again."For how long will it continue doing this?"
    "Until it hits one of us, and no one of us is a threat". Kazuyuki put his sword between himself and the boar, blocking the charge attack. The boar kept pushing, while Kazuyuki resumed his talking with Miki."How should I explain how the game works...?"
    Kazuyuki unbalanced the boar, and with a kick, it sent it away to buy some time.
    "...Consider the sword as an extention of your body. Ready the skill. And when you're ready, release it"
    The boar charged Kazuyuki, who blocked it once again.
    "What do you mean with that?". Miki was confused by her brother's explanation."How am I supposed to do that?Explain better"
    "It's hard to explain it, with a boar trying to constantly tackle you. Plus...". Kazuyuki moved the boar, sending it against Miki."...I think it's more about instinct. When you feel like you're ready, the system will automatically lock the skill on the target. So, you won't miss it"
    'More about instinct?'
    Miki put the sword above her head, with the blade pointed at the boar. The left arm was pointed at the same direction.
    All of sudden, the blade of her sword glowed. Miki stepped forward and, in an instant, she went over the boar and hit it in the process.
    The boar's healthbar rapidly depleted, until the HP went to zero. The boar disappeared in a million shards, and a window popped out in front of Miki, showing up her rewards, Col and EXP points.
    "Congratulation. You just defeated your first mob, Miki". Miki looked at her brother, showing a broad smile. "But don't get too proud. That was one of the weakest mobs"
    "Really?". Miki sighed, as she sat down on the ground."And here I thought that it was a mob of medium difficulty"
    "Let's say it can become one, if you get overwhelmed by them". Kazuyuki sat beside his sister."Do you want continue practice?"
    The two continued practicing with the boars for 4 hours until Miki felt tired.
    "So...what do you think?How much do you rate it?". Kazuyuki sheathed his blade, while his sister kept hers unsheated.
    "I say I'd give it a 8/10. When we were at the Town of Beginnings, I saw no NPC that could give a tutorial about this game. All the other players just went to check the shops. Besides that...". Miki looked at her blade first, then she watched at the fields."...It's an incredible game. It's incredibly immersive!"
    "Is it?I guess so". Kazuyuki closed his eyes, and focused on hearing the sounds of the surroundings. The flow of the water, the tweeting of birds."I can say it's one of the few places that relax me..."
    "And what is the other one?Our home?"
    "Of course". Kazuyuki turned at Miki and tried to make irony over her question. "What were you thinking? I love being at school and such. But sometimes, it's a pain"
    "Ok. I got it. You don't have to joke like that". Miki continued."But I also feel like I entered one of the fantasy books you and mother used to read for me..."
    "It's kind of the same, I guess..."
    Miki stood up. She raised her hands and, with a swift movement of her fingers, she opened the menu.
    "Let's see the time. Oh. It's that late already?Brother, we should be preparing dinner for us. Our parents are out for business this week, remember?"
    "Oh...who was supposed to cook for today?"
    "You?". Kazuyuki looked at Miki with the expression of someone who didn't want to do anything."Ah. Come on. Don't get lazy now on me, Yukito!"
    "Alright, alright. I got it. Let's go". Kazuyuki smiled at his sister."I guess we'll play next time..."
    "Finally. Now let's...uh?"
    "What is it, Miki?"
    "...This is weird...The log out button isn't here..."
    "What?You might be wrong..."
    "I swear. It's not here"
    "Ok. Let me check it". Kazuyuki opened his menu and went to the <Settings>. His hand was frozen as he saw a blank space where the <Log Out> button used to be."It's not here..."
    "What is going on?"
    "I have no idea. Let me call a GM...". Kazuyuki went to the support section of his menu and requested for a GM."It could be only a bug. But..."
    "But...?"
    "It's weird. The developers go through a series of check-ups to see if there's any bug"
    "Could it be that they didn't warn the players about this bug to try not to bring chaos between them?"
    "It can't be. If they missed one right after the release of the game, they would usually close the servers to try to fix that. But in this case they didn't". Kazuyuki went from a calm face to a more nervous one.
    "But there's got to be another way to log out, right?". Miki looked and sounded more nervous for each second that has passed.
    "There is one". Kazuyuki tried to stay calm, but he sighed and continued."But we need someone from the outside to remove our Nerve Gear from our heads"
    "We have possibly the worst luck for today,uh?". Miki sat down and sighed as well."So...the only option for us now is to wait, right?"
    "Yeah..."
    Suddently, a light covered Miki who screamed."Brother!"
    "Miki. Are you...?". Kazuyuki couldn't end his phrase, that he got covered by a light as well.
    Kazuyuki closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he found himself in the middle of the plaza of the Town of Beginnings.
    "Teleportation?". Kazuyuki looked concerned about the reason of that forced teleportation."Why now?"
    He was also preoccupied about his sister's whereabouts. But that preoccupation disappeard as he heard his sister calling him.
    "Brother? Are you here?"
    "Yes, yes. I'm here. Don't start dragging the attention on us, Miki"
    "Sorry"
    The sky turned into a bloody red color. All of sudden, a weird liquid started pouring down from it. The liquid gathered above the dome of the Black Iron Palace, and slowly transformed in a human-like figure.
    Welcome to you, players of Sword Art Online!
    The voice echoed across the entire plaza, taking the attention of all the players in it.
    I know you're concerned about this sudden situation. But first thing first...
    My name is Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of this world

    The players started murmuring each other about that introduction
    "Kayaba Akihiko?Seriously?"
    "Really?The creator of the game?"
    "I think it's an announcement to introduce the game"

    As many of you noticed, the menu doesn't have the 'Log Out' button in it
    But this is not a bug. It's a feature of the game.
    I repeat. This is not a bug. It's a feature of the real Sword Art Online

    The voice of some players cracked, and the preoccupation started spreading across the crowd.
    "Brother, what is he saying?It's must be a joke, right?"
    "I...". Kazuyuki gulped and remained silent for a couple of seconds. "...I have no idea, Miki"
    The only way to exit from the game is to clear the entire 100 floors of Aincrad
    Clearing the 100th floor will permit you to log out from the game

    "You have to be kidding with us, Kayaba"
    "It's impossible. The beta testers didn't even manage to get over the 10th floor!"

    "Is it true, Yukito?"
    "Yes. As much as I know, the closed beta's frontline never managed to clear the 11th floor before the test was over"
    Kayaba continued his speech.
    However, if during this quest to clear the floors your healthbar gets depleted...
    ...microwaves will be sent to your brain, destroying its cells
    In other words, if you die in the game, you'll die in the real world as well

    Kazuyuki remained in silence. He didn't need to check his sister, as they both had the same reaction.
    'I don't know, but I have the feeling he's saying the truth...'
    Your parents and guardians have been already been warned about this
    Also, if someone from outside tries to remove your helmet, the latter will still happen
    Microwaves will be sent, and you'll die
    Some people didn't want to care about that. And because of it, 213 players left us.

    Miki put a hand on her mouth to muffle a feeble scream.
    Now...If you check your inventory, there's an object I left for you.
    Everyone checked their inventory, and picked the object that they just received.
    "What is it?". Kazuyuki looked at the object. It was squared and had a reflective part."A...mirror?"
    Kazuyuki looked himself on it. He looked at his own avatar. Silver hair. Dark blue eyes...
    Without a second of reaction, Kazuyuki got covered by another beam of light. He closed his eyes once again.
    The light went through the eyelids, and Kazuyuki was sure that he heard his sister's voice.
    When the light disappeared, Kazuyuki looked on the mirror again. He was looking to a different person.
    Mid-short black hair. Dark brown/black eyes....
    Kazuyuki recognized every particular of that face. His real face...
    He instinctively turned at his sister. Her appearance changed as well, turning to her real one.
    Their height changed as well. Miki was shorter than she was before.
    "What is going on here?"
    The preoccupation turned into shock, leaving the people with questions about what was happening.
    "Y-Yukito...how did he do that?". Miki dropped her mirror which shattered at the impact on the ground."Not only he managed to reproduce our faces...he reproduced our entire body as well..."
    "Uhm...I might have an explanation about that". Kazuyuki raised a finger, as to number his explanations. However, his expression was still nervous. He looked at the ground while he explained his hypothesis. "First of all, the face. Since the Nerve Gear covers the entire head, it could have analyzed every detail of our faces..."
    Then he raised a second finger."Second, the body. If I remember well, there's a calibration system whenever you ran the game in the Nerve Gear. I guess that calibration makes a scan of your whole body, in order to adapt it to your avatar..."
    Many of you are saying 'Why?', or 'How is it possible?'
    There's only one thing that you need to know.
    This is now your world, and, in order to survive, you'll have to clear all of its floors
    This concludes the introduction of the real Sword Art Online
    ...Good luck, players...

    The entity, as it appeared, it disappeared in an instant. The plaza went quiet. Then, all of sudden, the chaos spread across the players, who rushed to the exits.
    "Don't screw with us!"
    "Let us leave!"
    "I have things to do. Let us out!"

    While everyone ran away, a few people went on the floor. Crying. Praying. Saying it was all a bad dream.
    Kazuyuki and Miki stood there, undecided whether to run or stay. Then Kazuyuki came to his senses and turned at Miki.
    "No...no. This isn't happening..."
    "Miki...Miki...". Kazuyuki grabbed his sister by the shoulders and tried to take her attention."Misaki!"
    Miki raised her head, watching Kazuyuki.
    "Misaki. I know you're still shocked. But listen up. We need to get away from here"
    Kazuyuki grabbed Miki by her hand and dragged across the entire run.
    As they went far enough, Miki spoke.
    "Yukito...Yukito. You're hurting my hand"
    Kazuyuki left Miki, that started massaging her hand."Sorry, Misaki"
    "I'm fine...". Miki was panting. Her expression was emotionless."What's next?"
    "This town is no help for us". Kazuyuki sat down. Miki did the same. As they were recovering, Kazuyuki continued explaining."Most of the players rushed to the vendors and the shops, and most probably they took as much items as they could...Our only choice is to reach another town"
    Kazuyuki opened his menu, and selected the <Map> option. Then he pointed a place on the map."We could go through this path, avoiding most of the dangers out there"
    Miki began to space out as her brother continued his explanation. Then a snap of fingers brought her back.
    "Misaki, I know this is an unbelievable situation, but I need you to focus..."
    "I'm sorry"
    "You don't have to be". Kazuyuki put a hand on Miki's head and started caressing her, all of it while trying to show a smile at her."Don't worry. I'll always be with you"
    Miki wanted to cry, but she felt like it was not a good situation to do so. She wiped the tear that were coming out."Thank you, Yuki-...<Kazuyuki>"
    Kazeyuki made a step. Then he turned at his sister."Miki...?"
    "Yes?"
    "If you feel uneasy to call me <Kazuyuki>, just shorten it ot <Yuki>. Is it ok?"
    Miki smiled. Kazuyuki smiled back.
    "When we're going?". She asked.
    "Right now. Follow me"
    Yes, I basically copied the first episode. But like I said, this was supposed to be a fan reboot of the series. I apologize.
    EDIT:Changed "Kirito" to "Kazuyuki" and added a couple of dialogues at the end.
    This concludes the first chapter of this fan work. Next chapter will be Chapter 2:First night
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  7. luigiFTW

    luigiFTW Blue VIP Blue VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Oh dear this is so bad almost no original content in this.
     
  8. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    <<November 6th 2022 23:30
    I decided to start a journal, to keep up our progress throughout the entire game. Yuki didn't initially want me to buy this journal. But, in the end, he gave up and let me do it.
    I have to be honest...this is kind of weird. Despite the game represents this journal as a papery one, it needs to use a keyboard in order to write on it.
    Besides this curious trivia, we did manage the next town, Horunka. More of a small village, honestly. Our way to it was calm and dangerless.Well...except for a couple of wolves nearby the Town of Beginnings
    As we entered the village, we were sure we were in a safe zone, and we would not risk at all."For a while", Yuki said. He explained that the systems programs a scheduled raid of monsters each week. Unless the players team up in raid teams, it's almost impossible to be safe in a town for a long time...
    We entered the first inn we found, the one where I am right now. Luckily, it has a very cheap room renting. We decided to sleep in the same room for this night...and maybe it will be the same for long...
    He went out three hours ago, and he still didn't come back. Whathever he's doing, he should better be back now...
    I guess I'll just go to the room and sleep...>>
    Miki sighed as she put her journal back in her inventory and walked up the stairs.
    She entered the room that they rented, and immediately went to lay on her bed. She put a hand on her head and vaguely looked at the ceiling. She remained like that for a couple of minutes, until the door opened, letting in a tired Kazuyuki.
    "You're late"
    "Sorry. I scouted the entire village". Kazuyuki went straight ahead to the bed without thinking twice, sinking his head on the pillow."I can't feel my legs..."
    "Well. Next time think twice before doing a scouting". Miki stood up and sat on her bed, looking at Kazuyuki who looked to the opposite direction. "Hey!Look at me at least!"
    But she didn't receive any response. She went past Kazuyuki's bed, only to see him sleeping like a baby.
    "Jeez...". Miki went back to her bed and layed down as well. She reached over the lamp that was illuminating the room, and pushed the button floating near it, turning it off. "Good night, brother"
    She went under the blankets and slowly closed her eyes...
    After a couple of hours, Miki started moving on her bed, murmuring in her sleep.
    "Onii-chan...Don't cry..."
    "Please...don't cry"
    Tears coursed down her cheeks,and disappeared in tiny pixels.
    Kazuyuki turned around, and opened his eyes. His dark brown eyes looked at Miki. He stood up and went near her. He could hear her sobbing in her sleep. He was at the point of wiping her tear off her eyes, when he suddently heard another phrase.
    "Onii-chan...don't leave me alone..."
    That phrase reminded Kazuyuki of when they slept together back when they were kids.
    Miki used to cry whenever she would hear a noise. She wasn't used to the new family and the new house, so she would get scared by anything.
    When that happened, Kazuyuki would normally get in her bed and hug her, while singing a little lullaby that their adoptive mother taught him.
    Kazuyuki raised the blankets high enough to get in the bed. He put an arm over Miki's shoulders, while with the other he held his head.
    He gently patted her back and started humming a melody at first. Then he started singing with the best intonation he could reach.
    At the end of the lullaby, Miki's voice calm. Kazuyuki looked at her, while a smile appeared on her face.
    He stared at his sister for a while, and then slept alongside her.
    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I used the "Onii-chan". But let's be honest. Translating it directly to "Big Brother" is not such a good idea...
    Next episode will be Chapter 2:The Anneal Blade
    Here's a little teaser of the chapter(that might get changed when the chapter comes out)
    Ah-HA! You thought that you would get a little peek of the next chapter. You silly people :Kappa:






































    Nah. Just kidding. Here it is.

    "Name's Coper. What's yours?"
    "I'm Kazuyuki. And this little beauty here is Miki"
    ...
    "There are too many of them. We need to run away for now"
    "No. We're too close to completing the quest!"
    ...
    "What are you doing?!Coper...don't do this..."
    "Yuki, watch out!"
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  9. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Note #1(3/01/2017)(Yes. Because I might forget about it someday and undo it for no reason)
    *ahem*
    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm going to change Kirisaki Yukito's nickname from 'Kirito' to...I don't know yet. But I'll sort this out for today...
    Just process the idea, and you will know why I made this decision
    Also, chapter 2 might come out(or might not) tonight.
    Okay. Note ended. You're free to go.
     
  10. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Alright. Chapter 2:The Anneal Blade is now ready. I'm trying to stick to the timeline for a while.
    By the way, I'm splitting this story in two parts, as I was out of ideas for the third chapter, and already planned the titles of the remaining 7 chapters already.
    Ok. I'll make this promise:I'll kill my Kirito later on in the story. And put the original one back again
    EDIT:Changed Yukito's username to 'Kazuyuki'...yes. Yes, I did that.
    Kazuyuki woke up, feeling half of his body awaken and the other half still asleep.
    He tried to stand, but felt something forcefully holding him by his left arm. He turned around, only to see Miki who used his arm as a sleeping pillow.
    "Miki". He whispered. His sister mumbled for a couple of seconds, then she continued to sleep calmly. "Heeeey, Miki...My arm...Mikiii..."
    As he realized that his sister would keep sleeping, Kazuyuki carefully lifted her head with his free hand. He slided his left arm away, and proceeded to gently lay her head on the pillow.
    Kazuyuki sighed, looking at Miki as he massaged his left arm.
    He looked her child-like expression. His expression softened at that sight
    'Guess there's no use to wake her up...'
    Kazuyuki stood up and went out the room.
    As he went down the stairs, he heard a conversation between players. They both sounded tired, like they just arrived.
    "Did you see him?"
    "Yeah...we still don't know if he actually made it"
    "But what if he didn't?He jumped off to his death?"

    The other one paused for a minute. Then he replied.
    "...I don't know. For now we know that we can't get out from this infernal game. We do know that if someone...well...dies...their names are being crossed out from that big stone wall that blocks what was supposed to be the respawn area...We already lost 11 people now..."
    They walked out the inn. Kazuyuki went down the stairs and sat on a table. The NPC went beside him and waited for Kazuyuki to choose what to eat. Kazuyuki didn't take anything, and the NPC walked back to the counter.
    With a hand trying to massage his forehead, he tried to recall the dialogue between the two players.
    'This isn't good. We're already losing players...And this player? What did he think? Jumping off? Is it even possible that he did make it, and log out?Or he just fried his head in this futile attempt'. Kazuyuki stood up and went outside. 'Guess I'll just go for a walk. Maybe it will clear my mind for a while...'
    There wasn't anything much to search in Horunka. The village had 7 houses, a weapon shop, a tool shop and the inn. In total, 10 buildings.
    Kazuyuki walked past one of those houses, and noticed a NPC woman taking care of her garden. As she raised her head, the woman's eyes focused on Kazuyuki's.
    "Oh. Hello. You must be new in town" "Please, do come in. We're all open to travellers"
    Kazuyuki stood there, in silence. Then he proceeded to follow her in the home.
    It was a simple house. All the furnishing was made of wood. Only the kitchen was made of bricks.
    The woman went next to the corridor and indicated a chair.
    "Please. Take a seat"
    She went to the kitchen, and came out with a glass of water.
    "Here. Feel free to drink. I know it's not much. But I currently don't have food"
    Kirito looked at the glass he was holding. Then his eyes went to the nearby kitchen. It was small. All the pots were all gathered on one side. All empty. Except for one. He leaned a little bit over, and saw something that resembled some kind of vegetable soup.
    He looked the glass of water. Then he looked at the woman.
    "Yeah. It's not much. But I gladly accept it. Thank you"
    All of sudden, a loud cough came from a room nearby the one where Kazuyuki was in.
    "...I'm sorry. I'll be back in a minute". The woman went to the room where the noise came from. She later came back, with a more nervous expression.
    "I have to apologize. I lied about not having food at all. I do know we don't have much. But...". She paused for a second; then she resumed. "...I'd like to ask you something"
    Kazuyuki nodded. She started explaining.
    "You see...I have a daughter, living with me. Her name's Agatha. But she's been struck by a high fever"
    "The people of the village tried to help her with the medicines we had in storage, but it was no use. Her condition worsened"

    Her face went grim. She wanted to stop there, but felt like she had to continue.
    "Someone said that there's a particular flower whose ovules could be the cure for my daughter"
    "Unfortunately, the plant that produces those ovules is very dangerous"
    "I know it's too much to ask. But could you take one of those ovules"

    'This doesn't look promising at all'. His expression, however, changed, as the NPC continued her dialogue with him.
    "I don't have anything to give you back...except for this...". The woman looked over a shelf, and put down a wooden case. She pulled out a sword from it."This sword belonged to my family for many years...but I'll be willingly give this to you, as a thanks for your help..."
    Kazeyuki carefully analyzed the sword. It looked like Miki's. But probably it was made of a better material than the default weapon given at the start of the game.
    A notification popped up in front of him. The quest was called <The Secret Medicine of the Forest>. The objective was to obtain 1 <Little Nepenthes's Ovule>. What Kazuyuki had to do was to accept the quest or not.
    Kazuyuki looked at the notification. Then he raised his head to see the woman. She was standing in silence, smiling at him.
    'Those resources might come in handy, in order to survive...In the other hand, however, it might become a suicide quest, considering that we're going to have to fight...'
    His hand hovered over the notification, undecided whether to accept the quest or not. That decision was rather idiotic. However, it could make repercussions over the outcome. Refusing the mission would lower the chances of survivability. Accepting the mission could give a upper hand to him and Miki, but the percentage of success were rather low, if played on solo.
    Kazuyuki looked at the woman once more. Then he went back to the notification and made up his mind...
    Aaand done. Yes. I know I gave you a cliffhanger. But still...I think you know where this will end. No, he will not refuse the quest. Faggots...
    Anyway, that's all for now.
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out.
     
  11. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Wow. How long did I postpone this post?(no pun intended)A week?Two, perhaps? I don't even know...
    I decided to shorten "Kazuyuki" to "Yuki", but Yukito will always introduce himself with the whole username. The other characters will decide whether to shorten it or not(something that would most likely not happen).
    Also, I'll try to put some features that I think they never put in detail in the anime(man...I have to check the light novel as well :shifty:)
    Yuki sighed, as he pressed the button to accept the quest.
    'Well...if I guess it's a risk worth to take if it means I can get gears for our survivability...'. Yuki stood up and walked out the house.
    The NPC followed him to the exit. As he turned to her, she made a small bow.
    "I can't thank you enough for the help you're giving to us. I'll pray for your success"
    Yuki made a small bow as well and left. As he walked far enough, Yuki let out a groan. He resumed his walking and went back to the inn.
    He took a seat and ordered a meal. The NPC innkeeper brought to the table a plate of what it looked like a steak and mashed potatoes, along with a glass of water.
    'I'd like not to waste my Col on this minor things...unfortunately, my brain thinks anything else...'. He dug the spoon in the mashed potatoes and started eating bits of the food.'Well...at least, it's edible...The last thing I ate was some tasteless bread...'
    As he finished his mashed potatoes, he looked at the window beside him. The plaza where the inn was faced to was slowly getting filled with 4-8 players from the Town of Beginnings. Yuki knew that he could have just asked them to create a party in order to survive. But considering the immense psychological impact of Kayaba's speech, he knew that they would only care for themselves and/or their friend, just like he did for Miki.
    He went back to his plate and started cutting the steak into tiny bits. He took a bit one at a time and slowly chew it.
    Yuki checked his friend list on the menu and pressed on the option <Miki>. A dot appeared on a minimap beside the list, locating Miki in the inn. He turned at the stairs, to check if Miki would have come down to search him. Nothing. He went back to the bits of steak and calmly finished it.
    While he was taking sips of the water, he checked the map. The quest's location was somewhere on the northern side of Horunka.
    'Inside the forest...this is going to be a pain...'. Yuki put a hand on the left cheek, while the other kept scrolling the menu. He pressed over the <Skill> option, showing up a list of the available skills.'This is more pain than the quest itself'
    Yuki dragged the list, checking each option on it. He spelled each word on the list each time he hovered his finger over them.
    'Not this...not this...not this...'. Each time he repeated the same movement across the list, his patience decreased.
    As he scrolled the list for the sixteenth time, he nervously put his hands on his head and started messing around with his own hair.
    "Aaaah! Damn it!I can't think properly now!It's all because of that quest!". When he calmed down, he looked left and right, to see if someone saw his freakout."It's still the first floor...I should not react like that, or people follow the freakout...this game has lasted less than a day, and it already messed up with a few people's mind..."
    He went back to the skill list and checked it again. He put a filter on the menu and divided the skills into three main categories: Combat, Scout, Others. The Combat category was mostly focused on the weapons skills, with a few exception, like the Block skill. The Scout category was focused on the agility of the player, as well on the furtivity parts, such as the Hiding and Searching skills. The Others category gathered up any skill that wasn't related to the battlefield, or it was focused on the support.
    Yuki checked each category and looked at the skills in each category.
    'I'll ignore the first one. I already took the <One-handed Sword> skill...Maybe I should pick the <Block> skill and buy myself a shield...but it's kind of a pain, to be honest...'
    'For now, I'll ignore the last one. I don't think I'll ever need one of those, actually'
    'That means I have one only list to check...'

    Yuki checked throughout the Scout list. After scrolling up and down a few times, he hovered his finger over the <Acrobatics> skill. After looking at it for a couple of minutes, he picked the skill.
    'Somehow...I do feel like I'll need it...'. Yuki closed the menu and took the last sip from the glass. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
    "And I have solved a problem". He looked at the stairs once again. But he was sure that Miki wouldn't have come down in the meantime."Next one is to wake up my lazy sister..."
    He stood up and walked upstairs. He knocked at the door of his and Miki's room. As he heard no response, he grabbed the pommel and opened the door.
    Miki was still there, sleeping. Her whole body was wrapped in the soft sheets of the bed. Yuki sat next to her and started gently calling her.
    "Miki...". He leaned closer to her ear and whispered."Heyyyy, Mikiiii. Wake up..."
    Miki mumbled a couple of times. Then she slowly opened her eyes.
    "Stand up. We've got stuff to do"
    "What?". Miki stretched a couple of times. She gazed at her brother with sleepy eyes."*yawn*...What time is it...?"
    "It's already afternoon, sleepy head. Get ready now"
    "Come on...it's weekend. It's not like I'm late for school, or something like that...". As she said that line, she fully opened her eyes and checked her surroundings.
    A silence fell in the room. Neither Yuki or Miki spoke for at least two minutes or so.
    "Ah...it wasn't a dream, after all...". She looked at her brother. He wasn't making eye contact with her. He looked elsewhere a couple of times, and gazed at her from time to time."Yuki...I..."
    "Don't worry", he calmly replied."We're going to make it. That's because I accepted a quest"
    "Did you?". She went down from the bed and geared up. She went behind Yuki and followed him as he left the room.
    "The rent will last only for this week." Yuki said."After that, we're moving to the next city. You got it?"
    "Yes"
    "Feel free to grab something to eat, if you feel hungry. I'll wait for you at the plaza, next to the weapon shop". Miki nodded. Yuki let out a smile and went down the stairs. Then, he stopped midway."Miki...?"
    "Yeah?"
    "...Are you angry?Because I did accept that quest without warning you...?"
    "Kind of", she replied."After all, you went out without me..."
    "Well, I didn't want to wake you up, snow-white. You looked so happy to sleep that much"
    "Yeah. I guess you're right...". Miki went in front of Yuki. Then she turned at him."...Ok. I'll let it slide for now. But, next time, make sure to wake me up forcefully. Even if that means rolling me off the bed"
    "Don't exaggerate on that one, Miki". They both went down the stairs. As Miki went to take a seat, Yuki went directly to the plaza.
    The plaza wasn't very big. It was just a big area with an oak tree in the middle of it. The only two shops faced the plaza: the weapon shop and the tool shop.
    Yuki walked around the plaza for a couple of minutes. As he convinced himself that he was just messing around, he decided to head over to the weapon shop. He started a conversation with the dealer, and a trading menu popped out, showing the weapons and armors the NPC was selling.
    "Let's see". He checked the list and picked the <Leather Armor>
    As he stood up, Yuki felt like someone was watching him. As he turned his head to the right, he found another player in front of him, and it wasn't Miki.
    He was a male player, smaller than Yuki. Mid-short brown hair and narrow dark brown eyes looked at him from two meters away.
    "Sorry if I bother you, but...". The player made a small pause. Then he continued."Could you move a little bit? I'm quite interested in the dealer's items as well"
    Yuki was dumbfounded as the player leaned over to see the trading list of the weapon shop. As the player bought a <Leather Armor> and a shield, he left the area, without exchanging a couple of words with Yuki.
    Miki reached her brother and turned her head to the direction Yuki was watching, and her eyes landed on the player with the <Leather Armor> and
    "Who was he?", she asked."Do you know him?"
    "Not at all...By the way, you should buy something from there". He pointed the weapon shop with his thumb, then he gave little pats on his armor."To increase our chances of survival...sort of"
    "If you say so". Miki shrugged as she went to buy the <Leather Armor> as well."It kinda feels uncomfortable, though..."
    "Don't start complaining, Miki". He did a tired sigh as Miki started complaining about the armor."Look at the positive side about wearing that"
    "Which is?"
    "You don't have to worry about anyone groping you"
    Miki looked at her brother with disgusted eyes and promptly covered her chest with her hands.
    "Gross", she whispered."You're so gross, Yukito!"
    Yuki made a nervous laugh. Then his face went back to the neutral expression."By the way, there's one last thing you need to do"
    "What is it?", she said, while still keeping her chest covered and watching her brother with distrusted eyes.
    "The second skill to pick. Come on open your <Skill> menu". Miki did as she was said, and opened the <Skill> menu.
    "Ok. Done. Now what?". She scrolled the list, searching for a useful skill. "You said that there's plenty of skills in the game...but I guess we have to focus on combat-based skills, right?"
    "Not only that. I suggest you should rely on non-combat skills that can raise your percentage of survival. Sometimes, retreating is better than risking your own life"
    "Got it". Miki continued scrolling the list until she came over the <Acrobatics> skill."What about this?"
    "Let me see...". Yuki went by Miki and looked at her menu."The <Acrobatics> skill, eh? It's not a bad idea...but still..."
    "But still...?"
    Yuki put a hand on the chin and the other went on the elbow to hold the arm."It's a weird combination.<One-Handed Sword> and <Acrobatics>..."
    "What the hell are you thinking now?". Miki looked at her brother with bothered eyes. Then she looked back at the menu and picked the <Acrobatics> skill."Ok, done. What's next?"
    "Now...?". Yuki walked away from the weapon shop."We're going to the quest, obviously"
    The two walked to the north, heading to a path that led them to the forest.
    Yuki and Miki unsheathed their sword, as a pack of five wolves greeted them at the entrance of the forest.
    "Well...this was kind of predictable, to be honest"
    "Don't waste your time in talking, Yuki". Miki readied her sword skill. Her short sword glowed blue, and as she activated the skill, the sword made a horizontal strike, sending a couple of wolves back.
    The others roared at the siblings and charged them. Yuki activated a sword skill as well. This time, the sword glowed red He jumped and made a spin. The skill took the wolves that charged them.
    "Ok. Three down. Where are the other two?"
    "No idea. They ran away after the first strike"
    All of sudden, Yuki and Miki heard a couple of wolves whimpering. Then everything went silent.
    A player appeared from the direction where the two wolves. As he noticed the two siblings, he remained still.
    The three looked each other for a couple of minutes, then the player broke the silence.
    "What are you guys doing here?". His question was made with a stern voice, as he felt disturbed by the presence of Yuki and Miki.
    "I should say the same to you", Yuki replied to the player."I guess you're here for the same reason as ours..."
    "I guess so". The brown-haired player sheathed his sword. Miki and Yuki did it as well."Name's Coper"
    "Nice to meet you. I'm Yuki" he said. Then, he put a hand on Miki's head."And this beauty here is Miki"

    "Yuki, eh?", Coper pointed out the name, articulating each letter of the name."Were you part of the beta test?I do remember that name among the thousand names...Among the main players of the beta frontline..."
    "Why do you need to know?", Yuki nervously replied."What if I say 'yes'?"
    "I just wanted to know", Coper said. He twirled his sword a couple of times."After all, I was part of the thousand as well"
    "Were you?". Yuki scratched his head. Then he showed a more calm face."I guess I'll just say yes. I am Yuki from the beta test"
    Coper didn't reply. He just puffed and walked closer to the siblings."I guess I can say I'm for the same reason as yours...Want to join forces?"
    Miki looked at Coper with eyes full of suspicion.
    She dragged Yuki by the collar of his shirt away from Coper, and then she started talking to him in the ear.
    "Yuki, are you sure?"
    "Why not, Miki?". He turned a Coper and signaled him with the hand to say to wait for them. Coper nodded. Then Yuki went back to Miki."Listen, I know you don't trust people so easily, but we need to raise our chances of survival. If you want to, we can't stop cooperating with him once the quest is done"
    "Fine", Miki sighed.
    The two raised their heads. Then, Yuki turned at Coper and nodded at him.
    "It settled then. We're a party now", Coper said. They got closer and then headed to a direction in the forest.
    The trio walked in the forest for a couple of minutes, then they found themselves in a small clearing.
    "Must be the place", Coper said. He pointed in the direction of a group of unknown objects bunched up at the center."Those were the area the NPC talked about. But..."
    The trio stood there in silence, while some monsters stood up and started walking around the clearing. Some had some fruit on their head, others had bulbs. They didn't have any eyes. Instead, their huge face/body had a large mouth.
    "...we have to take care of those first...<Little Nepenthes>, uh?". Something came up in Yuki's mind. The mobs in that area looked familiar."Ah...I'm a fucking idiot..."
    "What?", Miki asked. She looked at her brother, who sighed and proceeded to put a hand on his face, as he self-pitied himself."Yuki, what is it?"
    "It's the quest. I remembered which one is it now...", he said, sighing once again.
    "Took you long enough, eh?", Coper said, showing up a little bit of self-satisfaction in his face."The <Secret Medicine of the Forest>. The quest to obtain a very useful weapon"
    "The <Anneal Blade>, yeah". Yuki raised his head and turned his head to the monsters in the clearing. He pointed one with a fruit on his head."Don't attack those. They will alert the other monsters"
    Coper and Yuki drew their weapons and headed towards the Little Nepenthes. Three turned as well and headed towards the two.
    Yuki held his sword backward. The blade glowed orange. Yuki leaped up and did a downward vertical slice, injuring the first one.
    Coper, instead, held his sword with both of his hands. The short sword glowed bright red. He spun and sliced the second monster horizontally.
    He noticed that Miki was behind them.
    "Did you hold our princess behind, or she didn't want to fight?" he sternly replied. "She's not helpful at all"
    As it was a response to the insinuation, Miki sprinted in front of them. She put her sword beside her hips, activating a sword skill and eliminating the third monster with a thrust of her sword.
    "You could have done it earlier." Coper said.
    Miki didn't reply to him. Instead, she turned around and looked at him with bothered eyes.
    "What a gloomy sight" Yuki pointed out. He snapped his fingers to grab their attentions. Then he pointed to another group of Little Nepenthes that was getting closer. "Get ready. Here comes another wave. Watch out for the ones with a fruit on their head!"
    The trio continued fighting for hours.
    They panted as they managed to defeat the last wave.
    "We already fought for ten hours, but still there are no drops" Coper angrily stamped his foot."This quest is a total scam! Damn you, Kayaba!"
    "Or maybe the drop is very rare. We just need to continue fighting" Yuki pointed out. "Here it comes another wave!"
    Another group of Little Nepenthes spawned. However, among those mobs, one, in particular, was different from the others: instead of a bulb or a fruit, this one held a blooming flower on his head.
    Miki noticed it and pointed at it with the tip of the blade.
    "Yuki, Coper. Look over there" she said. The two turned and their eyes brightened as they saw the Little Nepenthes with the flower.
    "That's the one!" Coper said. He readied his sword and went towards the group of mobs.
    Yuki and Miki went behind him. While Coper took care of the one with the flower, Miki and Yuki attacked the ones on the side of the group.
    Yuki put his sword on his back and activated a sword skill. The skill made him sprint over one monster, slicing it in the process. The Little Nepenthes twirled a little bit. Then it fell to the ground and disappeared.
    Miki did the same thing. She put herself on a stance that fencing practicers would call "Fool's guard". Then she pointed her sword towards the center of the body/head of the monster, activating her sword skill. Once again, she put her sword beside her hips. This time, however, she put a hand on the blade. The sword glowed bright purple and Miki killed the monster in a second, as she put away her hand and thrust the blade to the enemy.
    Coper was still fighting with a couple of Little Nepenthes. One of them was the one holding the flower.
    "Coper, hold on!" Yuki stretched his hand to try to drag Coper away, as he didn't notice that one of the two monsters was going to crush him.
    Miki noticed the danger and went in front of Coper. She activated another sword skill. The blade did a vertical slice, taking out the last bit of health that the monster had.
    The Little Nepenthes disappeared in million shards. Miki fell on her knees, as the sword skill gave her a motion delay.
    Yuki killed the last enemy near them and, as he noticed that the monsters stopped respawning, he headed over the two.
    A window popped out in front of Miki. Coper leaned towards to see what was the notification. As he read the message on it, he grabbed Miki by the collar of her shirt and tried to choke her.
    "Give it. Give that to me..." he said with a broken voice. "Give that damn item to me"
    "Coper, what are you doing?!" Yuki shouted as much as he can. "Leave her alone!"
    Coper dropped Miki on the ground. Then, he turned around and pointed Yuki with the blade.
    Yuki held his hands up as a sign of surrender.
    "Whoa! Hold on, Coper. Snap out"
    "Tell her to give me the quest item..." Coper's hands were trembling. He continued pointing the sword against Yuki. "Or I'll provoke the Little Nepenthis with the fruit"
    "Coper, don't...". Fear appeared in Yuki's eyes as Coper threatened them to provoke the monster with the fruit. "We both know what will happen if we attack those ones"
    "Well, then" Coper turned his sword against Miki. "Go to her and tell her to give me the item"
    Yuki walked past Coper, avoiding the blade of the sword. He sheathed his sword and went beside Miki. He grabbed her hand.
    However, instead of opening her menu, Yuki carried his sister on his back and used the <Sprint> skill.
    Yuki ran away from the clearing, leaving Coper behind, that started screaming in anger.
    Once the siblings went far enough from the clearing, Yuki put Miki down and started coughing.
    "I feel like I'm going to puke." he said. He then proceeded to leave Coper's party and create a new one for himself and Miki. "If you can move now, leave Coper's party. It's going to buy us time"
    Miki didn't do anything, besides shaking. Yuki went near her and tried to help her opening the menu.
    "Quick, we don't have much time left"
    "I...I can't"
    "Why not?"
    "His health...it's getting lower"
    Miki looked at her HUD, horrified, as Coper's health bar was slowly depleting in front of her eyes. She wanted to close her eyes, but they were stuck to that tiny health bar, which remained green at first. Then it went yellow. And then...
    "Miki, go back to the safe zone." Yuki said as he went back to the quest location. "If you encounter any enemy, do anything except fighting them. Head over to Horunka as fast as you can"
    "But..."
    "No 'but's, Miki. Do as I say"
    Yuki reactivated his <Sprint> skill, heading over to Coper's location.
    As he reached the area, a group of Little Nepenthes surrounded Coper, who was trembling.
    Yuki reached him, and activated a sword skill, creating a path for himself and Coper. As he killed one monster, Yuki grabbed Coper and activated the <Sprint> skill once again.
    The two escaped from the quest area and started panting as they felt like they were at safe distance.
    Coper was still holding his sword. Yuki kicked it away from them and instinctively pointed his against Coper.
    "Sorry. I'd like to higher my chances of survival from this talk, Coper" he said. The sword was fearlessly pointed at Coper as Yuki sat down and continued talking. "You've tried to kill us, after all...well...not really, you were going to let those monster do your dirty job..."
    "...So why did you come back to pick me?" Coper said while massaging his own shoulders. He looked at his sword for a second, then he looked back at Yuki. "You do know that my weapon will get back to me in a couple of minutes, right?"
    Yuki nodded. He stood up and opened the menu.
    "About why I came back to save you, I will only say that you should thank Miki for that" Yuki scrolled throughout the list and opened a trading option with Coper. He gave him a couple of healing potions. "If I didn't listen to her, I would have let you die back there..."
    Coper looked at his menu and set a fair amount of Col.
    "I need to get back to the quest area..." he said with a cracked voice. "I have to"
    Yuki held him by the shoulder.
    "Absolutely not." he said."Your health bar is in the red zone. For now, we retreat at Horunka"
    Coper reluctantly agreed. He grabbed his sword and sheathed it. He then went in front of Yuki.
    The two walked back at Horunka, where Miki was waiting for them at the main plaza.
    As she spotted them, she lightly waved at them.
    "Good. You listened to me" Yuki said, patting Miki's head."Now..."
    He turned at Coper, who looked on the ground, clenching and unclenching his fists.
    "Coper..." Yuki sighed and opened his menu."Let me give you something..."
    He looked over his inventory and, as he found the interesting item, he materialized it and threw it at Coper.
    "This...why?" Coper was dumbfounded, as he saw the item."After all that I have done to you...?"
    Yuki gave Miki the signal to leave.
    "I guess you were thinking to try to survive in this world" Yuki said, before leaving. "I guess giving you that is to help you out with that thought"
    The two left the plaza, leaving Coper in it. Miki decided it was the moment to leave Coper's party and join Yuki's. She opened her menu and proceeded to leave the party. She went over to her <Invitations> section and accepted Yuki's.
    They arrived at the house of the lady that gave them the quest. They looked each other a couple of times before opening the gate and knocking at the door.
    The door was instantly opened by the NPC who looked at them with relief.
    "You're back. Thank goodness you're in one piece.". She looked at Yuki first, then she noticed Miki. "Ah. Did you bring a friend?Please, come in"
    The two went inside the house. Miki looked wherever her eyes could.
    "So. How did it go?"
    Yuki shrugged. Then he turned to Miki, who took the pouch on her belt and she put it on the NPC's hands.
    The woman opened the pouch, and her eyes were wet with tears as she looked inside of it.

    "Oh. Thank goodness" she said while bringing the pouch with herself in the kitchen. "I'll be preparing the medicine and administer it to Agatha..."
    The NPC worked on the quest item for an hour or so. When she exited the kitchen, she rushed to her daughter's room, with her eyes full of hope.
    After a couple of minutes, the woman started crying tears of joy. The cry echoed through the corridors of the house.
    A whispering. And the NPC woman that sounded surprised. She went back to where the siblings were and made a sign to Miki to come over.

    "Could you come over here?Agatha would like to talk to you, dearie..."
    Miki hesitantly stood up. She looked at her brother, who nodded. He wanted her to go and give a look.
    She entered the room. A girl of her same age was sitting in the bed. Agatha was wearing a white dress. Her blue eyes gazed at Miki.
    "My mother told me you were the one that found the ingredients for my medicine" she said. She grabbed Miki's hands as she went closer and smiled at her. "I can't thank you enough. My life is in debt with you"
    That particular action touched Miki's heart. Tears streamed down her cheeks as watching Agatha reminded of herself.
    "Why are you crying?". The NPC girl took Miki's head and let her cry on her lap. She started caressing Miki's head, as Yuki ran in the room."There, there. It's going to be alright"
    After a while, Miki, Yuki and the NPC woman went back to the entrance. The woman held a box. As the two were approaching the door, the woman opened the box.
    Inside of it, there was a sword. It was a simple short sword. The crossguard was rather simple and quite short. The handle was covered in black leather. Near the sword, there was its sheath.

    "As I promised. Here's your reward". She handed both the sword and the sheath to Yuki. He looked at it with interest. "This weapon was my family's heirloom...but I think it will be useful in your hands, adventurers"
    Yuki sheathed the sword. A notification showed, saying that the ownership of the sword was given to him.
    "Good luck, adventurers. May the wind bring you to new paths. Travel safely"
    The two waved at the woman who waved back. The door closed, as they left the area.
    Yuki looked at his sister. Her eyes were still wet with tear.
    As Miki noticed her brother's gaze, she wiped the remaining tears in her eyes.
    "Miki, if you feel like you want to say something, say it"
    "It's nothing. Really"
    Yuki stopped. He grabbed Miki by the hand and stopped her.
    "Miki, I don't like when you lie" he said."Tell me"
    Miki tried to avoid eye contact with her brother, but she couldn't. She felt like that gaze wouldn't have ended unless she would have spilled everything.
    "I just...I miss the real world already" she said, with a cracked voice.
    Yuki sighed as he let go her hand. Miki started massaging her hand, and looked at the ground with a gloomy expression.
    "Me too...sort of" he said, holding his left arm with the hand. Miki looked at him, confused. "Sometimes I felt more alive in this world, rather in the real one..."
    Before Yuki could react, Miki looked at him with more confused eyes. She was probably thinking that he didn't want to leave that world.
    Yuki tried to say something, but he couldn't. All he could do was sighing all the time.
    "...But that doesn't mean I don't want to exit from this game" he concluded. He reached out his hand. "Fine, then. Let's make a promise: that we will always cover each other's backs. Do you accept?"
    Miki looked at her brother first, then she looked at her hand. She was reluctantly to reach out her hand to held his. But she gave up as he didn't give any sign of giving up.
    "Ok..." she said, with a feeble voice.
    The sun was setting down. It illuminated the two siblings as they sealed their promised by doing a pinky promise.
    "Good"Yuki said, while rubbing his hands. "Now, I want to get back to the inn. I'm starving, and I want more of that steak!"
    Miki smiled and followed him to the inn as another day in the death game has passed...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ERROR:
    Timeline has been compromised. Changing it might have repercussions later on. Continue?
    [Ok] < [Cancel]
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ERROR:
    Request has been accepted.
    ...
    ...
    ...
    Next chapter will be...
    Chapter 4: Lightning Beauty
    Yes, my friends. Asuna is coming soon. Just as shy as Miki. But as lethal as Yuki.
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out.
     
  12. luigiFTW

    luigiFTW Blue VIP Blue VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Chapter 3 is great. Hopefully having asuna doesn't ruin it.
     
  13. Black Abyss

    Black Abyss Lead Pipe Staff Member Administrator Black VIP Knight Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer Oldtimer

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    Can't wait for 16.5
     
    Kuhaku likes this.
  14. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Hush, Blacky. No spoilers >>
     
  15. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Ta-dah!
    New chapter. Hooray-...ah...it's becoming a pain.
    Enjoy the reading whatsoever.
    <<December 6th 2022,12:35 PM,<Horunka>
    Where do I start?
    We managed to reach Tolbana. Quite calm for the most of the travel.
    Yuki wanted to depart from Horunka earlier, but many factors forced us on delays.
    First of all, my inability in handling the Sword Skill...well, not really. More like misusage of the Sword Skill.
    During the quest for the Anneal Blade, I faced what Yuki called "motion delay"(a very ironic delay for our departure). As the name implies, it delays any action we want to do. It can be triggered with a badly timed parry, a successful parry from the enemy or the overuse of Sword Skills. And this was not the worst case scenario.
    If we are attacked during such status, the motion delay would turn into a paralysis. And I ended up in that situation when Coper attempted in strangling me. At first, Yuki didn't notice the paralysis, even if it was shown in the HUD. I guess the shock caught us off guard.
    Anyway, he trained me in basic sword fight techniques, in order to avoid that I heavily rely on the Sword Skills again. It takes more time to defeat an enemy, but it lowers the probability of getting a motion delay by overusing the Sword Skills.
    To be honest, I'm still not used to the term "spam". The only thing I can think when I say that name is that canned meat...yeah. I don't think I'll get used to the use of such terminology...
    A week has passed and we faced the second reason for the delays: the arrival of other players from the Town of Beginnings. After days of stubbornness, some players decided to move to the new locations. But the way they leveled up was way too reckless. Most of them were in bad shape or badly equipped. Most of them would only head over to the nearest quest they had on sight, without caring about the rewards given. Those players felt irritated from the cheap rewards that they would receive from the quests they picked. Others would even pick a fight with the lucky ones that managed to get better items.
    And then the wave came in Horunka. When I say "wave", I mean the raid of monsters that Yuki mentioned. Each week, a town would have been struck with a wave of monsters for the entire night. I guess the first waves were focused on the Town of Beginnings. Lucky for us.
    The majority of the players just bunkered up in the inns, while the rest of us decided it was the moment to move to a new location. Yuki warned them about the risk of not being able to get back in Horunka, as the NPC guards will close the gates once we were out. Only a couple of players left the group.
    While the monsters were focused on getting in from the main gates, we passed through a secondary entrance to the city. Luckily, we encountered very few monsters during our travel. And when we heard the chime after getting inside Tolbana, we knew we were safe. Each member of the group split off and went to different directions. But no one was willing to befriend each other.
    A couple of weeks has passed since we arrived. Yuki and I rented a little apartment in the city. It's filled with vines, but it's very comfy. It has a bathtub as well. Just took a bath, and I felt relieving. It gave me a regeneration buff as well.
    Ok. Enough self-chatting. I'm starving...>>
    Miki put away the journal back in her inventory and went to the door as she heard someone knocking.
    "Yes? Who's there?"
    A voice came out from the other side of the door. But it wasn't Yuki's. It was quite high pitched and had a nasal stamp. "It's me, Miki"
    "Oh...". Miki opened the door without hesitation, letting in a hooded girl. "Hello, Argo"
    Her face was covered with makeup. The fringe of her blonde hair partially covered her eyes that looked Miki with calm.
    "Hey there, Micchan". Argo looked left and right like she was searching something or someone."...Is Yu-Kun still out?"
    "Yeah. Do you want to wait for him?"
    "Sure. I have time"
    Both of the girls sat next to the table.
    "What did he tell you?"
    "Not much. He just said he would scout the area. To look for any quest or any particular thing..."
    "I see". Argo looked a little bit around and stood up as she noticed the bathroom. "This little room is very nice"
    "Excuse me?"Miki asked, confused.
    Argo nodded a couple of times. "Hm-mh. This is worth as an info"
    "I thought all the beta testers knew about this place"
    "Nope". Argo turned her head to Miki. "I wonder why he didn't tell me..."
    She paused for a couple of seconds, then her expression changed to a smirking one.
    "Say, Miki. Did Yu-Kun lure you with something in order to convince you to team up with him?"
    Miki's face went fully red as that question was asked.
    "Are you trying to tease me, Argo?"
    "Oh, my. You got me". Argo raised her hands to mimic the act of surrender. "But, seriously. How did he convince you?"
    "He didn't. We were together from the start of the game"
    "Are you a married couple or something?" Argo whispered.
    "You're totally getting the wrong idea, Argo..."
    Another knock at the door. Miki stood up and went to check on the door.
    "Miki, it's me". Yuki's voice came in, as well him when Miki opened the door. "What took you so long...?"
    Yuki looked at Argo that simply waved at him. He grabbed the pommel of the door and went out of the room.
    "Oi, oi...Isn't that cold, Yu-Kun?" Argo said, with a disappointed stamp on her voice.
    A couple of minutes later, Yuki was in the room again and quite annoyed from that visit.
    "Any news, Argo?"
    "Only one. And it's not nice". Argo's voice became more serious as she said that. She opened her menu and went to the map. "You know this location, right?"
    Yuki looked to where Argo was pointing and nodded. Miki leaned to get a glimpse of the map.
    "Yes, unfortunately". Yuki's voice cracked. He put a hand on his chin and stared at the map once again. "The PKs are beginning, I suppose..."
    "PKs?". Miki heard the whole conversation and tried to join in. "What is that?"
    "Something that we hoped it wouldn't happen. Not in a game like this...". Yuki looked at his sister once again. She looked confused. "Miki, you don't wanna know..."
    "...The players are starting to kill each other, aren't they?" Miki's voice cracked and she looked like she was on the verge of a hysterical cry. "THEY ARE?"
    "PK...<Player Kill>...An acronym that we weren't supposed to face in SAO...". Argo was serious in her eyes and her voice. She remained calm and resumed. "But this isn't a direct PK. They're using the monsters inside the Labyrinth"
    Miki sat on the bed and took a deep breath. She wiped the few tears that she let out and looked at the two. "Do you two know who could the culprits be?"
    "Maybe some beta testers. Or maybe a couple of new players that managed to learn about this area" Yuki said.
    "Ok. And the reasons behind it are the resources given by the drop of those dead players?"
    "Correct, Micchan"
    Miki took another deep breath. Her face became more serious. "How many have died because of that?"
    Argo and Yuki were both hesitant to answer. But Argo gave up. "Around a dozen or so"
    The situation felt unbelieving as that number went in Yuki's and Miki's heads.
    "Ok. You can go now, Argo. I'll give you any update later. How much do I owe you?". Argo stood up but denied the payment with a slight movement of the hand.
    "Later, Micchan. Yu-Kun". Argo waved at them and closed the door.
    As she left, Miki laid on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "I guess you have a plan, Yuki"
    "I do, but you're not involved. You'll stay here while I and Argo are looking for the murderer that started it"
    "But you do not know how they managed to lure those players in that meat grinder". She said
    "...A fair point". Yuki opened his menu and gave to Miki a couple of items. "Grab this one"
    "What is it?"
    "A little reward from the farmer's quest. Come on. Open it"
    Miki unwrapped one of the objects and the smell of a baked apple pie filled the room. The pie was already cut.
    "Ahh...What about this?" she put the pie on the table and opened the other object. "Bread?"
    "Oh. Wait". Yuki went to his inventory and took another object, a jar, from it. "Add this"
    Miki pointed at the jar and a light went on the tip of her finger. She slid her finger on the bread, creating a layer of cream.
    "Ok. You're spoiling me too much, now" she said.
    Yuki smiled as his sister starting eating the bread with delight.
    After five full minutes of tasting and taking tiny bits, the bread was completely eaten.
    "Took you long enough?" Yuki asked with a tone of sarcasm.
    "Sorry. It just felt..."
    "...like a real pastry?"
    "Yeah..."
    Miki looked at the pie that was on the table. She pressed a button on it and put two slices in her inventory.
    "I'll keep it for later since I have already a regeneration buff from both the bath and the bread"
    "Bath?". At first, Yuki felt confused, then he acknowledged. "Oh. You mean that? Yeah. The weird fact is that there are only three of those type of rooms in Tolbana"
    "Only three?"
    "If you manage to get the correct combination of dialogues with the bartender, he will give up and offer you those rooms. Not impossible, but very difficult"
    "How many beta tester know about this trick?" she asked. "I'm asking because Argo looked like she didn't know about it at all"
    "Did she? I guess she took the info about this room as her payment", he sighed. "I guess only 2-3 beta testers know about this. Mostly because it would have given us more benefit because of the buffs of the bathtub"
    "Or you were the only one to know about this"
    "I guess so"
    "You never told me what you used to do during the beta, by the way", Miki said
    "Maybe next time", Yuki replied. He stood up and went to the door. "I'm going for a walk. You stay here"
    Yuki approached the pommel of the door, but he felt like something pulling him away from it.
    "You can't trick me so easily, Yuki"
    He turned around and saw Miki pulling a piece of his shirt.
    "You know the answer already, Miki. Let me go"
    "What are you planning to do, then?"
    "Isn't that obvious? I'm going to stop those nut-heads. Starting from the one that is spreading this rumor". Yuki pulled his shirt from Miki and turned to face her. "Whoever is doing this needs to be stopped. But I can't let you take the risk of falling into that trap"
    "Just tell me what was the 'area' that Argo mentioned"
    "...Ok. I was going way too far from the argument, anyway". Yuki sat down and opened his map. "Last week I managed to map the first part of the Labyrinth. I and Argo decided to share that information between the players, in order to speed up the scouting of the dungeon"
    "Now look at this part". Yuki highlighted an isolated area of the dungeon. "This is the area that Argo pointed out before"
    "What's so dangerous about it?"
    "It's a dead end. I mean it in all ways. It's full of monsters. Their level is higher than the average player"
    "And for what purpose would those PKs use it?"
    "For the objects that the victims could drop"
    "Still...we don't know what kind of rumor the PKs used in order to lure the victims...". Miki analyzed the highlighted area. Though the trap was not fully scouted, it was clear on the 2D map that the lines of the wall were getting closer. "It can't be...what did you call it? The floor boss's area?"
    "Yeah. If that was the case, the victims would have teamed up in mass. But, in this case, the PKs were made for lone players or tag teams"
    "A high-rewarding quest?"
    "Possibly", Yuki replied.
    "I guess we have only one case...that could be wrong", Miki said with a bitter tone. "The only ones to know about it are the PKs and the victims. For now"
    "Yes". Yuki remained silent for a while. Then he resumed, with a bittersweet tone in his voice. "In that case, we have to fall for that trap too"
    ...Meanwhile...
    Argo went to the bartender and ordered a glass of orange juice. As she took a sip from it, she winced because of the sour taste.
    '*Bleh* Why is it so sour? Gotta keep note of this...'. She turned around to check the stairs and noticed someone eavesdropping near a couple of players sitting on a table nearby. 'I guess I went to the right place in the right time'
    She went a few centimeter closer to the conversation. Despite the fact that the two were almost whispering, Argo managed to hear the entire dialogue. As they finished, Argo noticed that the person on the stairs was gone. She decided it was the moment to get closer.
    "Are you sure?"
    "Pretty much..."

    "Is there something interesting? I'd like to hear it too" Argo dropped in the conversation, startling the two players. "From whom did you hear this? Care to explain?"
    ... ... ...
    Two hours have passed. Then, Yuki received a message from Argo.
    "Argo must have found out something". Yuki proceeded to open the message. His face went grim as he finished reading it. He stood up and went to the door, dropping the chair in the process. "Damn those people..."
    "What is it, Yuki?", Miki asked, startled from the sudden reaction.
    "No time to explain, Miki. We're heading to the dead end now"
    Yuki ran throughout the city, without caring for the other players on the road.
    When they reached the entrance of the Labyrinth, Argo was waiting for them.
    "Did anyone enter the dungeon?". Yuki asked.
    "No idea, Yu-Kun". Argo nervously replied. "But we have to look inside anyway. Back at the inn, I saw someone hearing the rumors from two other players"
    "Damn it!". Yuki unsheathed his sword and went inside the dungeon. "Argo, take care of Miki"
    "But..."
    "No 'but's. Keep an eye on her". As he said that, he rushed further in the dungeon.
    The dead end wasn't very illuminated, but Yuki managed to detect a small group of mobs. All of them surrounding a person at the end of the gallery.
    He clenched and unclenched his left hand and ran towards the mobs. As he gets closer, he managed to see the monster.
    "A minotaur, eh?". He said to himself. "I thought I wouldn't see those monsters except in the upper floors"
    He slid under one of them and blocked the guillotine attack that was going on the passed out player, who was covered with a cloth.
    He activated a Sword Skill and rotated around himself and wounding the minotaurs around him.
    Despite the minotaurs staggered a bit, Yuki's attack didn't stop them and continued approaching them.
    However, before Yuki could react, someone else did. The mysterious person jumped, activating a Sword Skill. The blade of his sword glowed green and sliced a minotaur. The attack went from the right shoulder to the center of his body.
    The player extracted the blade from the minotaur's body and kicked him aside, leaving an open area for Yuki, that put the passed out player on his back.
    As they went over the mobs, a sudden roar came from behind and became louder as they ran.
    "One of them is chasing us. We need to slow him down"
    "Oh, no. Really?". Yuki ironically replied.
    Just as they ended talking, Miki came to their aid, activating a Sword Skill and cutting the minotaur's legs.
    The monster fell down. The falling echoed across the gallery, suddenly followed by its roar. But the group was already outside.
    They heavily breathed and, occasionally, wheezing because of the run.
    "I told you to keep an eye on Miki, Argo". Yuki said.
    "I did". Argo replied. "But then I had to turn around. Something went in my eye"
    "You always find a loophole, do you?". Yuki said. Then he turned to the rest of the group.
    Miki was still trying to gain some air, while the other was already recovering.
    Then he went over to the rescued person.
    "Help me put this player near a tree. It's better if they can sit"
    Yuki and Argo held the player by the shoulders and brought them to a tree.
    As they were sure that the person wouldn't fall, the mysterious player went to them.
    "Time for me to go". He said. "I need to give the information that I gathered about this map"
    "So you were already inside the Labyrinth". Yuki said with a stern voice.
    "Just for you to know, when I went in, there was no one in the dead end yet. I went there when I heard the roars", he replied.
    "Did you forget something?" Argo said as the player was on the point of leaving
    "What?"
    "The info"
    The player looked Argo in the eyes. Then he sighed.
    "With that hood on, I didn't recognize you, Argo"
    "So you know him?" Yuki asked.
    "Yes. And seems like your first meeting wasn't off to a good start". Argo pointed out at the player that removed the hood covering his head. He had black hair. The fringe was messy, partially covering his blackish eyes. "Yuki, his name is Kirito. He's another beta tester"
    Yuki took a better look at Kirito. He wore a blue shirt, covered by a leather armor. His hands were covered by a pair of gloves up to the knuckles. Maybe he was around Miki's age.
    "Nice to meet you then". Yuki said.
    "Likewise here" Kirito shortly replied while handing over the information to Argo. "I guess we both acted rude to each other before"
    "I guess so"
    The passed out person started recovering from the slumber.
    "Let's give this person a little bit of light to see". Kirito said and removed the hood, letting long hair to fall on the shoulders. The player was a girl.
    Yuki froze. He held himself by the head, covering his eyes with his hands. "This is a very cruel joke..."
    "Yuki?"
    He went closer to the girl and adjusted the hair covering partially her sleeping face.
    "Of all people...First Miki, now her. I wonder how Kouichiro is feeling right now..."
    "Kouichiro? Isn't that...?"
    "Yes. He is, Miki" Yuki quickly replied and turned to the girl. "And this person in front of us is his sister"
    He took a few steps back, letting Miki see the girl that was waking up.
    "Of all people..."
    "Y-Yuki?" the girl murmured.
    "Hey, Asuna. It has been a while..." Yuki said with a bitter tone. "This is a very cruel joke, isn't it?"
    "You too?" Asuna was on the verge of crying. Then she noticed Miki. "Even Misaki?!"
    "Hey, Asuna-nee-chan"
    Asuna started crying a little bit. Miki went closer to her and tried to comfort her. Then they looked each other in confusion.
    "I guess you three need to stay together for a bit. I'll warn you later if we find other clues"
    Argo and Kirito left. When Asuna stopped crying, Yuki broke the silence.
    "How do you feel now?"
    "A little bit...". Before Asuna could end her phrase, her stomach growled.
    "...hungry?". Yuki asked, smiling. She nodded while trying to cover her blushing face.
    "Wait. I have some apple pie". Miki said. She went on her inventory and picked the two slices of apple pie that she kept. She handed a slice to Asuna, trying not to make it fall from the wrapping.
    Asuna took a little bite from it. But her hunger took over her patience and, after a mere couple of seconds, she ended up eating the whole slice, leaving a delighted expression as she finished it.
    "Now, Asuna...". Yuki sat alongside her and looked her with angered eyes. "You have to explain to me what were you doing in that dead end"
    "I..."
    "Whatever thing you ever heard back there, it's fake. There's no exit to this game. Not that early"
    "How can you be so sure of that?"
    "Think about it. If such secondary exit would exist, wouldn't Kayaba mention that and warn us about the danger that we might get in it?"
    "You can't be sure of that. It might be an error. He might have forgotten that there was a secondary exit"
    "It's not something that Kayaba would do. And I don't think the game would allow a secondary exit in the first place..."
    "What do you mean?"
    "In a game that was programmed to have a log out button in the first place, a secondary exit would be pointless. So, once the log out is removed, there aren't any exits, besides the completion of the game"
    "You might be wrong about that, Yuki"
    "I'm not. In fact, you fell into a trap that was used by former beta testers". Yuki concluded, with a bitter tone. "I know that because I fell for it too"
    "But back then they didn't use the secondary exit excuse, right?" Miki asked.
    "Yes, Miki. Let's just say that my curiosity led me to a total failure"
    "I can imagine that"
    "Anyway..." Yuki resumed, turning again to Asuna. "You still didn't give me a proper response, Asuna"
    "I need to get out from here", Asuna said while lowering her eyes. "My life...I need to get back to it"
    "All the people are thinking about it, Asuna", Yuki replied. "Don't act so reckless..."
    "I know..."
    Yuki sighed and proceeded to move a string of her hair from her face.
    "Asuna, I know how you feel..."
    "No, you don't". With a fast movement of her hand, she moved Yuki's hand away. "When I needed you the most, you left me alone. Then, after four years, Kouichiro says that you'll be looking over me in SAO while he was on business trip"
    "I had no choice but to leave back then!"
    "Yes, you did!". Asuna screamed with all her might, scaring a flock of birds that flew away.
    "Asuna-nee-chan...Yuki..."
    "Let's go back at Tolbana for now" Yuki shortly replied without facing the two girls.
    Asuna and Miki followed him without replying.
    As they reached the room, Yuki received a message.
    "I'll go out to check the message. You two should rest"
    Yuki closed the door and checked the message.


    If you're back in town, meet me at the inn within five minutes.
    We need to talk
    -Argo​

    "Alright, then. Let's go meet her..."
    He went downstairs and looked around. After a couple of glimpses, he finds Argo, sitting next to the bar.
    "How long have you been waiting?"
    "Long enough"
    "I didn't know you were waiting here" Yuki said.
    "I didn't know you were already here" Argo replied.
    They remained in silence for a couple of minutes.
    "Enjoying the drink, I suppose", he said as he looked at the glass that was in her hands.
    "Pretty much" she replied. Then she took the last sip from it. The empty glass faded, instead of shattering. "It should have been some type of ale, but I didn't feel any alcoholic substance in it. Despite that, I feel dizzy and the system gave me a debuff"
    "How old are you?"
    "Oh, my. How bold!", and proceeded in a goofy attempt to cover her chest.
    "You're starting to get on my nerves, Argo..."
    "Alright, alright". She regained her composure and coughed a little bit. "I'm 17"
    "I guess that's quite reasonable". Yuki half-smiled. Then he started explaining. "The system detects how old are you. If the player is underage, the system blocks any signal that could lead to that sensation. I think a lot of things that are age-restricted are censored as well"
    "Some sort of ethical censorship, then"
    "Yeah..."
    "Anyway". Argo turned her head around a couple of times. Then she turned to Yuki. "What's your plan about the trap?"
    "The PKer didn't appear as we saved our friend. So I guess they were looking us from the distance"
    "So we need something to lure them out...". Argo looked Yuki in the eyes. She noticed that his expression went grim. "I already know you don't want to involve any player"
    "Yes. But we have no choice"
    "So you'll use a random player that will take the PKer's bait and wait that he gets killed..."
    "That's not the plan" Yuki shortly replied. "We will use a player, but we will not let them get killed"
    "Ok. No harm done to the player" Argo said, shrugging at that answer. "But how are we supposed to catch the killer? If the player doesn't get killed, they will suspect that it will be a trap. If we use a former victim that managed to survive, they will get suspicious too"
    "What about holding the player inside the Labyrinth and dropping a few items near the dead-end?"
    "It could work". Argo thought about it for a couple of minutes. Then she resumed. "How are we supposed to know when the killers will look at the entrance? They might be watching it for the entire day"
    "How good is your <Hiding> skill now?"
    "It's quite decent. Even if they have the <Search> skill, they can only detect objects and NPCs"
    "Then that settles it". Yuki triumphantly concludes. "Better if we define the details throughout the messages"
    "Not that we already gave a lot of information before..." Argo ironically replied. She stood up and put her hood back on her head. "I'll warn you when I'm ready"
    "Aye, aye. Bring Kirito as well"
    "Why do you need him?" she asked.
    "Let's say 'For precautions'. If we need a plan B"
    "Alright, then. See ya later"
    As Argo left, Yuki went back upstairs and knocked at the door.
    "It's me, Miki"
    There was no response from the door. Instead, a loud rustling through the furniture was hearable.
    "Someone else went inside?"
    Yuki slammed the door wide open. But there was no intruder inside. Instead, Yuki was in front of a partially clothed Asuna, while Miki was effortlessly trying to cover her.
    "I know where this is going. And, before you get any angry reaction, I'll close the door..." he humbly replied.
    In an instant, he was sitting on the floor, laying against the door.
    'What a stupid cliché...' he thought while trying to shake off the image of Asuna from his mind while someone fell on the ground inside the room.
    A couple of minutes later, the door opened.
    "Sorry for the commotion. I was talking with Miki. I was off guard when you knocked at the door"
    "Uh-huh..."
    "Now that Asuna explained, and your face doesn't have a red mark on the cheek...". Miki stood up from the ground and sat on the chair. "What took you so long? I thought you only needed to read a message"
    "Well..." Yuki froze. He wasn't sure whether to explain to her what he was planning with Argo or not. "I..."
    "You did something without asking me beforehand, didn't you?" Miki asked.
    "You do change personality when you're between friends, don't you?". Yuko said. "Back at the Labyrinth, you didn't even try to look..."
    "Don't even try to change the topic. Just tell me what did you do?"
    Yuki hesitated for a while. Then he gave up and explained the plan to Miki and Asuna.
    "So you're telling me that we are going to use a player to lure out the killers"
    "Don't worry, Miki. I already said that the player will be unharmed"
    "If that's the case, wouldn't it be better if someone you know does the job"
    "Denied, Miki" Yuki shortly replied. "I know what you're planning to do"
    "But if they don't see my face, it can work"
    "In that case, even I or Argo can do that too?" Yuki shortly replied. "You'll stay here with Asuna"
    "...Why are you doing this? What about the promise we did back at Horunka?"
    "I'm sorry, Miki" he said. "But you'll be staying here with Asuna"
    "How are you supposed to block me?"
    Yuki quickly unsheathed his sword and pointed it at his sister.
    "Don't try my patience, Miki" he sternly replied. "We're in a safe zone, but I'll tell you this: being hit while you're inside one can become a terrific moment..."
    Miki broke eye contact with Yuki. She tried to look for help from Asuna. But she was as scared as Miki.
    "You'll stay here" he concluded.
    In an instant, he left the room, leaving Asuna and Miki alone.
    As soon as he left, Miki channeled her anger on the nearby chair and threw it against the nearest wall.
    "I HATE HIM! I HATE HIM! I..." she wanted to scream more, but her anger gave up and her sadness took the lead.
    Miki sat on the ground and leaned her back against the bed, putting her face behind the legs.
    "Asuna-Nee-Chan..."
    Asuna didn't hesitate any moment, and she went to comfort Miki who started crying as soon as Asuna's arms embraced her.
    "It's all right, Misaki. You can cry as much as you can..."
    After a while, Miki calmed down. She wiped the few tears that she had in her eyes and she tried to regain her composure.
    "He has been doing this for a while..." she said. "Doing this all by himself. Barely putting me in danger"
    "He always does, Misaki" Asuna replied. "I hate him too. Whenever he tries to protect us like two princesses in a castle"
    "It does sound too childish, Asuna"
    Asuna laughed a little bit. "I guess so"
    "Asuna-Nee-Chan...I know you hate me and Yuki because we moved out but..."
    "I know" Asuna replied. "I was just too blinded by the emotions back there. It's just..."
    "What is it?"
    "Each day felt empty without you. As you're still the only friends I have"
    "I barely talked to other girls. But it never felt the same way...it was never heartwarming..."
    "I guess my curiosity and my social needs put me in this situation..."
    "But then I felt like I wanted to get back there...try to fix my errors...and try to find new friends...fight my shyness"
    Asuna turned to Miki and half-smiled. "I guess we have to go throughout the long way"
    "Yeah..."
    Miki hesitated for a minute, then she started talking as well.
    "You know, Asuna, my social situation is almost the same as yours..."
    "...I never talked to anyone before"
    "Most of my time was spent in front of a desk, reading a book, isolating myself from the others..."
    "But you looked socially strong when you tried to fight against your brother, Misaki" Asuna replied, trying to infuse courage in Miki.
    "It was different, Asuna" Miki said. "He's my brother. It's easier to talk to him since he's the closest one I have..."
    "You know? We made a promise before..." she said while looking to Asuna. "To cover our backs. Each other...I hate him because he lied to me"
    Asuna's expression went grim. She held Miki from the shoulder and looked her in the eyes.
    "He wants to protect you, after all"
    "And I hate him"
    "Aren't you afraid to die?" Asuna asked. "If you would die, how would Yuki feel?"
    "I know how he would feel, Asuna-Nee-Chan..."
    "But we both knew the risks". Miki freed herself from Asuna's grip. "I don't want to rot inside the city, waiting for this game to be completed"
    "...and if my brother died during the game because I couldn't protect him...well, I would not forgive him"
    Asuna went silent. She looked at Miki with serious eyes. Miki didn't blink at that visual inspection.
    She sighed. "I guess I can't convince you any further..."
    Asuna tended a hand to Miki who grabbed it without thinking twice.
    "Shall we go?"
    ... ... ...
    Yuki and Argo looked at the entrance of the dead-end.
    After a couple of hours, he saw a group of three players getting closer. They all wore a hooded mantle and their faces were covered with bandanas.
    As soon as they entered the dead-end, Yuki ran behind them.
    "Looking for someone?"
    The group got scared a little bit. As they turned around to face Yuki, their composure returned normal.
    "Oh. Sorry. We're actually looking for our friend"
    "Oh?" Yuki gazed at them with fake curiosity. "Which one, exactly? The victim or the one that had to tell you when the victim was dead?"
    The trio remained silent.
    Behind Yuki, a player ran towards the exit. Argo followed them for a while, then went behind Yuki.
    "How did you...?"
    "Surprised?". Yuki asked with a tone of challenge. "It was quite easy, actually"
    "After finding out what the rumor was and hypothesized how you schemed the plan, there was something missing: how did you know that someone was gone and you could go for the scavenging? You needed someone that would warn you about that"
    "Remember that huge stone back in the Iron Palace in the Town of Beginnings? Of course, you do. After all, that's where the names of the players are written...and they get marked when the player dies"
    "Now you were blind, and when you didn't receive any message, instead of running away, you decided to get in to check. Quite a bad move, let me tell you"
    "So...you did capture our informant?", one of the three players asked.
    "Not really. He immediately gave up as soon as we told him that we captured you three. I guess he was the most innocent in your group since he surrendered easily"
    Yuki unsheathed his sword, pointing it to the group that readied themselves as well.
    "I suggest you decide quickly" Yuki said. He lifted his sword enough to point above their heads. "Otherwise the minotaurs will get you"
    The group didn't need to turn their heads. One of them got grabbed by a minotaur.
    "Yu-Kun. I think we intervene". Yuki remained silent while the two players tried effortlessly to free their friend. "Yu-Kun, we have to help them now!"
    TheI minotaur pointed its blade to the chest of the player who was screaming and begging for help.
    "YUKI!"
    Before the minotaur could strike, Miki went in front of Yuki.
    She activated the same Sword Skill as before. The minotaur stood on its knees, leaving its chest wide open for attacks.
    Miki activated another skill. Her blade went yellow.
    She dashed past the minotaur, slicing him wide open. The monster winced, then he loosened its grip on the player, freeing him. Then it disappeared.
    Kirito arrived and looked at the group. Then at Yuki.
    "I got here as soon as I read the message" he said while heavily breathing. "Do you have any idea how tiresome is running from the Town of Beginnings to the Labyrinth in less than an hour?"
    "Pretty much" Yuki shortly replied. "Why didn't you take a horse?"
    "I don't have that much of Col with me"
    "Suure..."
    Kirito looked at Miki. A couple of minotaurs went towards them.
    He readied his sword, but he didn't have to do anything.
    Miki activated <Whirlwind>. She started spinning along with her blade and wounding the minotaurs on the knees. With a rapid movement, she changed her grip on the sword. The blade was near her arm.
    In a swift movement, she sliced the first minotaur on the abdomen.
    "Quite a lightning beauty". Kirito admired her with shocked eyes. Miki, in the meantime, held her sword normally, blocking an attack from the second minotaur.
    "She's not the only lightning beauty, in this case"
    "Excuse me?"
    Before the two could react, Asuna intervened as well.
    Branding her rapier on her right hand, Asuna ran past the second minotaur. The monster winced as it received the blow dealt from Asuna.
    The second minotaur dissolved in millions of pixels while Asuna and Miki sheathed their weapons.
    The three PKer fell on their knees as soon as they were safe. Yuki and Kirito helped them out to exit the dead end as soon as they recovered.
    Outside the Labyrinth, the group was still shocked from the near encounter with the minotaurs.
    "I guess you learned your lesson, you three". Yuki sighed a little bit, while Argo and Kirito observed him with attention. Miki and Asuna were, instead, looking at the PKers. "You're lucky that no one got killed. Now go away. Don't ever mention this and you won't get in trouble for your attempt of PK"
    The trio nodded. They stood up and left the zone.
    Yuki turned to Miki, looking her with stern eyes.
    "Here we go", she whispered to Asuna. "He's going to give me a very heavy tamper this time..."
    As Yuki approached her and Asuna, the two closed their eyes, waiting for him to scream. Instead, they were surprised as soon as they felt his hands patting their heads.
    "Congratulations". Miki looked at Yuki who was smiling. "You passed the test"
    "Test?". Miki asked in confusion. "What test?"
    "In taking the decisions, instead of listening me"
    "You mean 'disobeying your orders'. I thought it was a bad thing"
    Yuki chuckled a little bit. "Not in this case"
    "You see...since we're in a world or survival, something like listening orders is a top priority. But, sometimes, those orders will feel too unreal and unethical to follow. It's up to the single person to decide what's right and what's wrong in this case..."
    "And in this case...?"
    "...You made the decision of disobeying". Yuki said. "If it wasn't for you, those three would have been dead"
    "Wait a second...". Miki said. "Earlier, you said 'attempt of PK. What did it mean?"
    Yuki changed his expression as she asked it. It tended to a saddened and grim look.
    "Argo and I lied about the number of victims" he admitted. "But as soon as we heard that those players heard about this exploit, we had to intervene as soon as possible"
    "Why you had to lie to me?", she asked. "Was that part of the test too?"
    "Let's say the opinion is splitted. After I told you that, I hoped that we could have talked to those players and convince them not to attempt those murderous acts"
    Yuki turned to Asuna and looked her in the eyes. "Then it became a personal problem...after I almost saw Asuna die for that exploit"
    The group remained in silence. They looked each other in the eyes, as those sudden reveals were shocking for each one of them.
    "Well...". Miki started. "As soon as no one else will retry this, it's fine for me"
    "But there's something that troubles me...those PKers...weren't beta testers, were they?"
    Argo and Yuki shook their heads as a sign of denial. Miki looked at them with suspicion, but felt like they were telling the truth.
    "Ok then" she concluded. "We better leave now. The sun is setting, and I'd like not to encounter a horde of mobs at night"
    The group started leaving the area. Argo and Yuki were the last to leave.
    Argo grabbed Yuki by the arm and went closer to him.
    "About earlier, Yu-Kun...what would have happened if Miki and Asuna didn't come?". Her voice was accusing and her eyes full of confusion.
    Yuki went silent for a couple of seconds.
    "I'd have intervened. But seems like Miki beated me by a couple of seconds"
    Yuki walked away from Argo who was looking him with more suspicion. She felt uneasy as she watched him from the back and decided it was for the best to not make too many questions...
    And as a little surprise, Argo makes a brief appearance in the chapter. So...yeah. About her age...I had no idea how old was she. I remember that in one chapter of the SAO Progressive manga, it kinda gives the idea that she was older than Asuna. So...considering Asuna was 16-17 when SAO started, I guess Argo was 17-18.
    And a little reference to Asuna's brother? Yes. Maybe he might appear later in the story? No, he's not in Aincrad. Let's say the Fairy Dance Arc is confirmed...
    As you can see, Yuki, Miki and Asuna are supposed to be childhood friends. I think it was fitting, as they belong to the same social class. Now it's kinda difficult to draw a line about the relationship between Yuki and Asuna...I don't even know what I am writing...
    And a little clue to the Ethics Code. I guess Chapter 16.5 will happen. :Lenny:
    Also, I have bad news...yes. You guessed it. Your least favorite character is back. He's the Black Swordsman, the Beater. KIIIIIIIIRIIIITOOOO! So...we have 4 MC now...yay-...please, end me. No, wait. I'll go to the stake by myself.
    *Hisoka binds himself to the stake*
    I'm changing the title to "Sword Art Online(Reboot): Link (Re)start!"...yeah...it sucks, I know.
    Chapter 5: The Frontline will be posted as soon as possible...Maybe I'll post an extra chapter after it...
    P.S.: I apologize for the massive use of "-Kun","-Chan" and "-Nee-chan" in this chapter...expect to read them in the next chapters too...
    Stay tuned for more. Hisoka out.
     
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  16. Black Abyss

    Black Abyss Lead Pipe Staff Member Administrator Black VIP Knight Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer Oldtimer

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    karlito
     
    Hisoka likes this.
  17. Tokikaze

    Tokikaze Black VIP Dark Green VIP Black VIP Young Knight Seasoned Adventurer

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    Hey. New update, lads. I uploaded the reboot on wattpad as well...I needed to double the pain.
    If it has success, we might have troubles with new members soon enough.