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Sword art online volum.., p.1
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       Sword Art Online - Volume 1 - Aincrad, p.1

           Reki Kawahara
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Sword Art Online - Volume 1 - Aincrad


  Sword Art Online

  Volume 1

  ~Aincrad~

  Written by:

  Reki Kawahara

  Illustrations by:

  Abec

  Translated by:

  Baka-Tsuki

  Disclaimers:

  All materials’ copyrights reserved by their respective authors and the associated publishers.

  Please respect their rights. Works will be deleted upon request by copyright holders.

  Translators:

  Sharramon

  Ence

  Editors:

  Aorii

  Black Cats of the Full Moon

  Saorian

  Thinklife

  DrFaust

  Chancs

  Zero2001

  ePUB by:

  Simon

  Prologue

  A huge castle made of stone and steel floating in an endless sky.

  That was all this world was.

  It took a vagarious group of craftsmen one month to survey the place; the diameter of the base floor was about 10 kilometers — large enough to fit the entirety of Setagaya-ku within. Above, there were 100 floors stacking straight upwards; its sheer size was unbelievable. It was impossible to even guess how much data it consisted of.

  Inside, there were a couple of large cities along with countless small scale towns and villages, forests and plains, and even lakes. Only one stairway linked each floor to another, and the stairways existed in dungeons where large numbers of monsters roamed; so discovering and getting through was no easy matter. However, once someone made a breakthrough and arrived at a city of the upper floor, the «Teleport Gates» there and of every cities in the lower floors would be connected making it possible for anyone to move freely through these levels.

  With these conditions, the huge castle had been steadily conquered for two years. The current front line is the 74th floor.

  The name of the castle was «Aincrad», a world of battles with swords that continued floating and had engulfed approximately six thousand people. Otherwise known as…

  «Sword Art Online»

  Chapter 1

  A grey sword cut my shoulder.

  The thin line at the top left corner of my field of vision reduced slightly. At the same time a cold hand passed over my heart.

  The blue line—called the “HP bar”—is a visual rendering of my life force. There was still a little over 80 percent left. No, this phrase isn’t appropriate enough. Right now I was about 20 percent closer to death.

  I dashed backwards before the enemy’s sword even began its attacking motion.

  “Haaa…”

  I forced a huge breath to steady myself. The in this world didn’t need oxygen; but the body on the other side, or the body lying down in the real world, would be breathing heavily. My limp hands would be soaked with sweat and my heartbeat would be off the charts.

  Of course.

  Even if everything that I see right now is nothing more than a rendering of a 3D virtual reality, and the bar being reduced was nothing more than a bunch of numbers that showed my hit points, the fact that I was fighting for my life didn’t change.

  When you think about it like that, this fight is extremely unfair. That’s because the in front of me—a humanoid with dully shining arms covered in dark green scales along with a lizard’s head and tail—was not a human, nor was it really alive. It was a digital lump that the system would replace however many times it was killed.

  —No.

  The AI that moved the lizardman was studying my movements and enhancing its ability to respond to them with every second that passed. However, the moment that this unit was destroyed, the data was reset and it did not pass on to the unit that would be regenerated in this area.

  So in a sense this lizardman was also alive. A single being unique to this world.

  “…right?”

  There was no way that it would have understood the word that I had muttered to myself, but the lizardman—a level 82 monster called —hissed and smiled, showing the sharp fangs that sprung from its long jaw.

  It’s reality. Everything in this world is real. There’s no virtual reality or any fakes of any kind.

  I shifted the one-handed longsword in my right hand parallel to the middle of my body and watched the enemy.

  The lizardman moved the buckler in his left hand forward and pulled the scimitar in his right back.

  A chill breeze blew into the shadowed dungeon and the flame on the torch shook. The wet floor softly reflected the flickering torch-light.

  “Kraaah!!”

  With a tremendous scream the lizardman leapt. The scimitar drew a sharp arc as it flew towards me. A blinding orange light lit its trajectory; a high-class one-hit sword skill of the curved sword . It was a formidable charge-type sword skill that covered a distance of 4 meters in 0.4 seconds.

  But, I was already expecting the attack.

  I had slowly increased the distance in order to induce the AI to create this situation. I closed in on the lizardman, my mind registering the burning smell that the scimitar left behind as it sliced through the air centimeters in front of my nose.

  “…ha!”

  With a short shout I swung the sword horizontally. The sword, now covered with a sky-blue light effect, cut through the thinly protected stomach and bright red light was scattered instead of blood. There was a low scream.

  However, my sword didn’t stop. The system assisted me through the programmed movements and chained the next slash with a speed that would have normally been impossible.

  This is the most important element in battles in this world: .

  The sword sped off right from left and cut into the lizardman’s chest. In this state, I spun my body in a full circle and the third strike stuck the enemy more deeply than before.

  “Raarrgh!”

  As soon as the lizardman recovered from the brief stun-state, after failing to hit with a big skill, it screamed with rage or perhaps fear and raised its scimitar high up into the air.

  But my chain had not ended. The sword that had been swinging right suddenly sprang, as if forced by a spring, left and up and hit its heart—a critical point.

  The sky-blue rhombus drawn by my four consecutive hits flashed then scattered. A horizontal consecutive 4 hit skill, .

  The clear light shone strongly in the dungeon then faded. At the same time, the HP bar above the Lizardman’s head disappeared without even a single dot left.

  The huge body fell, leaving a long trail, then suddenly stopped awkwardly—

  With a sound similar to breaking glass, it broke down into infinite polygons and disappeared.

  This is the of this world. It is instantaneous and short, a perfect destruction, not leaving even a single trace.

  I glanced at the virtual experience points and drop items I received that appeared in purple font in the center of my vision, and swung my sword right and left before sheathing it in the scabbard on my back. I walked backward a few steps and slid slowly down with my back against the dungeon wall.

  I spat out the breath I was holding and closed my eyes. My temple started throbbing, perhaps from the fatigue from the long fight. I shook my head a couple of times to get rid of the pain and opened my eyes.

  The shining clock at the bottom right of my field of vision showed that it was already past 3PM. I should get out of the labyrinth or I won’t make it to the city before dark.

  “…should I get started?”

  There was nobody here to listen, but I just said that and slowly got up.

  I was done with making progress for the day. I s
omehow escaped the hand of death again today. But after a brief rest, tomorrow will come with more battles. When fighting battles without a 100% chance of victory, however many safety nets you prepare, there’s going to be a day when you fall out of lady luck’s favor.

  The problem is if this game will be or not, before I draw the ace of spades.

  If you value your life above all else, staying in a village and waiting for somebody else to clear the game is the wisest route to take. But I go to the front lines every day solo. Am I just simply an addict of VRMMO who keeps increasing his stats through countless battles, or—

  Am I an idiot who insolently believes that he can win the freedom of everyone in this world with his sword?

  As I started walking towards the labyrinth entrance with a slight smile of self-scorn, I thought back to that day.

  Two years ago.

  The moment that everything ended, and began.

  Chapter 2

  “Ahh… ha… uwahh!”

  The sword, swinging to these strange shouts, swished around cutting nothing but air.

  Right afterwards, the blue boar, which moved surprisingly quick considering its bulk, charged fiercely at its assailant. I burst into laughter after watching him fly through the air after getting hit by the boar’s flat nose and rolling on the hill.

  “Hahaha…not like that. The first movement is important, Cline.”

  “Argh…that bastard.”

  The complaining assailant, a party member called Cline, got up and glanced at me while answering plaintively.

  “But Kirito, even if you say that… I can’t do anything about the fact that it’s moving.”

  I met this person, who had reddish hair held up by a bandanna and simple leather armor worn over this thin body, a few hours ago. If he had revealed his real name it would have been hard to omit the honorifics, but his name Cline and mine Kirito, were both names we had made up for our characters. Putting “-san” or “-kun” at the end of them would sound comical more than anything.

  The legs of the person in question started shaking.

  Seems like he’s a little dizzy.

  I picked up a pebble from the undergrowth at my feet and raised it above my shoulder. As soon as the system detected the first motion of a sword skill, the pebble started giving off a slight green light.

  After that, my left hand almost moved by itself and the pebble went flying, drawing a straight line of light and hit the boar between its eyebrows. Ggiik! The boar squealed in fury and turned towards me.

  “Of course they move. They’re not training dummies. But if you start the right motion, the system will put your sword skill into motion and hit the target for you.”

  “Motion…motion…”

  While muttering this like some spell, Cline raised the cutlass that he had in his right hand.

  Although the blue boar, officially named «Frenzy Boar» was a level one monster, Cline had had almost half of his HP reduced while getting hit by counterattacks due to his wild swings. Well, even if he died he’d just respawn at the «Starting City» near here, but coming all the way out to this hunting ground again was somewhat annoying.

  It seemed like there was one move left before the fight reached its conclusion.

  I cocked my head as I blocked the boar’s charge with the sword in my right hand.

  “Hmm, how should I explain… It’s not like one, two, three then strike, but more like gathering a bit of energy then as soon as you feel the skill start, it goes BAM and you feel it hit the monster…”

  “Bam, eh?”

  Cline’s roughly handsome face grimaced itself into an unsightly image and leveled his sword with the middle of his body.

  Breathe in, and out; after taking a deep breath, he lowered his pose and raised his sword as if he was going to shoulder it. This time the system sensed the pose correctly and the arcing sword slowly started shining orange.

  “Ha!”

  With his low yell, he jumped off the ground with a movement that was completely different to the ones before. Swish-! With this crisp sound the sword drew its flame red trajectory through the air. The «Reaver», a basic skill of the one handed curved sword, struck the boar right in its neck as it was about to charge and got rid of the rest of its HP, which, like Cline’s, was about half full.

  Guekk— it screamed a pitiful cry and its large body shattered like glass and purple numbers appeared, showing how much virtual experience points I gained.

  “Yeeeeaaaahhh!”

  Cline took an overstated pose of victory with a huge smile on his face and raised his left hand. I high-fived him and smiled again.

  “Congrats on your first victory…but that boar, it’s about as hard as slimes from other games.”

  “Eh, really? I thought it was some sort of semi-boss or something!”

  “No chance of that.”

  My smile became a little forced as I sheathed my sword on my back.

  Even though I was teasing him, I understood what he was feeling right now. Since I had two more months of experience than him, it was only now that he could feel the exhilarating feeling of destroying his enemy by his own hand.

  Cline started to use the same sword skill over and over again yelling as he did so, perhaps as a way of practicing. I left him alone and looked around.

  The endlessly stretching plains gave off a beautiful red as the sun had started setting. Way up north there was the silhouette of a forest, a sparkling lake down south, and I could just about make out the walls that surrounded the city to the east. To the west there was a limitless sky going on forever with bunches of golden clouds drifting by.

  We were at the plains that stretched to the west of the «Starting City», which was situated at the north end of the first floor of the colossal floating castle—«Aincrad». There should be numerous players fighting monsters around here; but because of the enormous size, none of them were visible.

  Seeming finally satisfied, Cline sheathed his sword and walked over while observing the area as well.

  “But really…however many times I look around like this, I still can’t believe that this is «inside the game».”

  “Well even if you say ‘inside’ it’s not like our souls were sucked in or anything. Our brain’s just seeing and listening instead of our eyes and ears…with the signals that the «NERvGear» is sending.”

  I said while shrugging. Cline pouted his lips like a kid.

  “You might be used to it now, but for me it’s the first time doing a «FullDive»! Isn’t it awesome? Really…it’s a relief that I was born in this decade!”

  “You’re exaggerating.”

  But as I laughed, I totally agreed with him.

  «NERvGear».

  That’s the name of the hardware that moved this VRMMORPG—«Sword Art Online».

  The basic structure of this machine is totally different from the older ones.

  Unlike the old-style man-machine interface hardware like “flat screen monitors” or “controllers that you used with your hands,” NERvGear only had a single interface, a streamlined interface that covered the whole of your head and face.

  Inside there were numerous signal components, and by using the numerous electronic signals these sent, the gear accessed the user’s brain itself. The user didn’t use their eyes or ears to see and listen, but took in the signals that were sent directly to their brain. In addition, the machine could access not only sight and sound, but touch, taste, and smell as well—that is to say, all five senses.

  After slipping the NERvGear on and locking the strap on your chin in place and saying the initiation command «Link Start», all noise fades away and you’re swathed in darkness. As soon as you pass the rainbow colored circle in the middle, you’re in another world made entirely out of data.

  So,

  Half a year ago, this machine, which started selling in April, 2022, successfully created a «Virtual Reality». The electronics company which created the NERvGear called the actual act of
linking to the virtual reality—

  «FullDive».

  It was a total seclusion from reality, fitting of the word “full.”

  The reason for this is that the NERvGear not only sent fake signals to the five senses—but blocked and rerouted the orders that the brain sent to the body.

  This can be called the most basic requirement for moving freely in a virtual reality. If the body received the brain’s signals when the user was in Full Dive, the moment the user decided they wanted to «run» their actual body would run into a wall.

  Because the NERvGear could reroute the commands the brain sent through the spinal cord, Cline and I could both move our avatars around freely and swing our swords around.

  We’ve completely leapt into the game.

  The effect of this experience captivated me and many gamers such as myself to the point where we were sure that we could never go back to the old touch-pens or motion sensors.

  Cline was staring at the wind passing through the plains and the castle walls off in the distance with actual tears in his eyes.

  “So SAO is the first game for the NERvGear that you’ve played?” I asked.

  Cline, looking like a calmly handsome warrior from the Sengoku period, turned his head my way and nodded.

  “Yeah.”

  If he put a serious expression on his face he had an impressive bearing about him worthy of an actor from a historical play. Of course this was different from his actual body in the real world. It was an avatar made out of nothing from adjusting a bunch of options.

  Of course, I looked like some ridiculously handsome protagonist from some fantasy animation as well.

  Cline continued in his low vigorous voice, of course this was different from his real voice as well.

  “Well to be exact I sorta bought the hardware in a rush after I managed to get my hands on SAO. There was only ten thousand in the first batch. So I suppose I was really lucky. …well, if I think about it you were ten times luckier when you got picked for beta testing. They only picked a thousand!”

 
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