Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.5



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Sword Art Online

[Arsenal]


I held my virtual steel strong against the ferocious beast. A black scimitar chipped of a few specs of green from the bar in the left corner of my vision. I swung my blade in a horizontal arc, and as my steel cut into the creature I used the opportunity to push myself back fifteen feet from the beast.

After putting some distance between us I looked the left corner of my vision at the green bar slowly draining. Small bits of green trickled off of it, and flowed back into system; at least that’s where I assumed they went.

To others it may have simple HP bar –the visualization of a player’s remaining life force- but to me, it was a timer that told how much time I had left in world of Sword Art Online. Eighty percent of the bar remained, and was creeping toward zero. I may have had more than enough time to finish the battle, but the shadow of death that always loomed over my shoulder was ever present; as it was in every battle I fought.

I gripped my trusty sword in my right hand, took a deep breath, and stared down the frightening monster. Black vile dripped from its razor sharp fangs and tongues of fire lashed out of its mouth. It stood on two legs, but was far from human. Glints of red shone through its charred scales, and bits of rotted flesh dripped of its body, and revealed its muscle and bone. The jet black scimitar it clutched in its right hand, and the shield decorated with skulls in its left made it all the more intimidating.

The level 93 Demonic Lizardman Lord was truly one of the most frightening creatures in SAO. And the fact that it was found on the twenty fifth floor of the castle Aincrad was even more unsettling. As soon as I was done exploring the hidden labyrinth I planned on warning other players of the dangerous dungeon. That was the whole reason I was there anyway.

I moved my left foot forward, and crouched down to the point my knees were almost touching the floor. I held my sword parallel to my right leg, and with mighty dash, I sprung forward. My sword became covered in a light blue glow, and the familiar shgeen! sound meant that I had successfully activated a sword skill. My faithful blade pulled me forward at frightening speed, coupled with my already high AGI -agility- stat, my dash shook the air. And then…

Skasssh!


The moment my sword met the monsters shield its means of defense shattered into a shower of sparkling polygons. The explosion of light was the universal sign of death in SAO. It applied to monsters, players, and even items. Whenever something’s HP- or durability points in the case of items- reached zero they would explode into a shower of light. Though I did know of an skill that used SAO’s death animation.

The lizardman barred its fangs and the jet black scimitar in its right claw shot up, and began to glow with a menacing red light. If I didn’t know any better, I could’ve sworn I saw a bit of hatred in its glowing red eyes. But that was impossible. It didn’t have the ability feel hate. It didn’t the ability to feel all. At its core, it was nothing more than a complicated series of ones and zeroes; just like everything else in SAO.

I had two seconds before the beast finished charging its sword skill, and took off a huge chunk of my HP. My body was still rigid after using a sword skill, so dodging was out of the question. But I did have a way to avoid being cut.

“One-handed shield: Adamantine Crest!” In an explosion of polygons, a silver shield adorned with intricate designs appeared over my left arm. I raised my arm with a second to spare and my shield clashed with the black scimitar. A clang echoed through the empty labyrinth, and a shower of sparks erupted from clash of metal.

The lizardman stumbled back as it shook its head. It’s how I imagine a player would react if they saw me use my extra skill. But there were no players to be found in that newly discovered dungeon; I had made sure of that. I’d used my maxed out search skill to sniff out the possibility, amd the only things that occupied that place were monsters.

With the monster off balance, and my body able to move freely again, I brought my sword up and it glowed with a pale green light. I cut down, and my blade pierced the lizardman’s right shoulder and cut down to its waist at an angle. I twisted my hand and brought my sword up and out its left shoulder. My Vertical Arc left the distinctive V shaped scar on the monster’s torso, and the glowing red lines looked strange on the rotting beast

The creature let out an ear shattering roar, and it sucked in a great amount of air. A glowing ember appeared in its bulging throat; a telltale sign of a breath attack. Even though magic was all but nonexistent in SAO, monsters could still use certain type of longed range attacks: Dragons and Wyverns had breath attacks, Ghouls and Ghosts could curse players with status ailments, etc.

I held up my silver shield as the lizarman expelled the searing flames from its gut. The fire pushed against my shield, and even though my boots were sliding back across the slick granite floor, my strength made certain I would not falter. If it wasn’t for my shield, and my high STR-strength- stat, I wouldn’t have instantly died from the attack. And in SAO, where Game Over meant actual death, I had to thank Kayaba Akihiko for letting me obtain my extra skill.

After a few moments the sea of flames stopped, and peered around my shield to look at the tired monster. It was hunched over and gulping up mass amounts oxygen. I had to give credit to the creators of SAO, it did feel like I was fighting something that was actually alive. If I didn’t know any better I could’ve sworn I was fighting an actual lizardman.

But I knew better. It was no more of a living thing than I was an actual swordswoman.

Its breath pushed twenty feet from it, and I wagered I had at least four more seconds before it was able to act once again, and I was confident I could end the battle against the high level monster before it could counter.

I sprinted forward. “Two-handed spear: Gae Bolg!” The shield over my left arm, and the sword in right hand shattered into the familiar shower of light, and a second later a long spear was born from that light. I snatched up the pole at the base, raised it above my head, and spun it around. The sharp, blood colored tip glowed with a blue light as I spun it around. The sound triggered the activation of a sword was as satisfying as ever, and just as I brought the edge around for the first hit of the combo the lizardman was beginning to stir.

But it was too late.

The first strike of Rejecting Circle cut deep into the monsters throat. Its head lashed back and stumbled a few steps backward. My spear passed around four more times, and with each brutal slash on the lizard’s scaled throat it’s HP bar dropped five percent. But I wasn’t done.

“One-handed dagger: Yuxa’s Fang!” My Gae Bolg shattered, and a small purple dagger took its place in my left hand.
My boots slid close to the lizardman and, as if I had a death wish, I turned and pressed my back against its stomach. The false sensation of heat burned through the back of my brown duster. I turned the tiny blade so the tip was just barely touching the beast’s stomach, and it glowed a soft yellow. The poisoned tip sunk into the soft scaly flesh, and I thrust it in and out repeatedly. The tiny dagger carried me up as it stabbed into the lizardman. My slender body turned, rolled, flipped, and leapt up high above the monster.

The creature was covered in glowing red cuts, and its HP bar sank into the red. It tugged and tried to force itself to move, but my dagger left behind a nasty paralysis status ailment.

As I rose higher I called forth the weapon that would end the battle. “Two-handed sword: Ice!” I held the handle of the dagger with both hands, and as it was called back to my inventory, a large sword with a deep blue blade took its place. I held the cold weapon above my head so the blade was perpendicular to my head. It wore a glow the color of the sky, and the sound of the sword skill Helm Splitter activating echoed through the lonely dungeon.

The sword that was almost the same length as my body pulled me down like a comet, and as the frozen steel was about to sink into the lizardman’s skull, I could’ve sworn it looked at me with the most confused eyes.

“Skaaaash!”


In an instant after my sword fell through the scaly creature, splitting it in half, it exploded into a shower of polygons. The specs of light littered the room and shinned bright against the blackness of the labyrinth. They reminded me of night sky. Not the one that I had seen every night for the last two years, but the one in the real world. The system may have been able to create such a life like world, but there was something about the night sky around Aincrad that seemed all to fake. At least that’s what I though.

“One-handed longsword: Chrono’s Splinter.” The mighty sword Ice shattered into more stars, and sent back my trusty sword. I glanced quietly at the steel that shown with a light yellow tint, and the faces of ancient clocks that adorned the hilt. If I calculated all the hours it took farming for materials to forge it, I probably spent weeks. But it was a real labor of love. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the sword I always carried across my back.

I swiped the blade back and worth, and returned its rightful place in the tattered leather sheath on my back. My eyes twitched up to my HP bar, which was at seventy three percent. I may have had plenty of time to get back to town, even if I walked, but the fact that it constantly drained always brought about an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

I reached in my coat pocket, pulled out bottle filled with orange liquid, popped the top, and downed it in a few gulps. The citrusy liquid may have had a heavy medicine like taste, that always made me recoil a little, but it did succeed in raising my HP bar. While it would take the potion a minute or so to restore a normal players HP back to one hundred percent, in my case it would only take mine back to eighty percent.

The healing liquid would do battle against the curse that constantly drained my life force, and the curse would always win. In fact, it had been almost a year since I last saw my HP bar completely filled.

I raised my left hand and brought my finger down in a swiping motion. A familiar bell rang as the transparent purple menu was brought up. I moved my finger down until I saw the map tab, and with slight poke, opened it. I browsed over the map data I had been collecting all day and found I mapped sixty percent of the entire dungeon.

I smiled a little. Normally, it probably would’ve taken a party of six level 90 players do what I had done; and their HP bars would’ve more than likely dipped into the yellow. I couldn’t help but glean a little pride from that fact, even if it was solely because of my unique skill.

With a swipe of my fingers I closed the menu, and turned back to leave the dungeon. My clock had said it was only two in the afternoon, but even though I had plenty of day light left I decided I had done enough adventuring for the day.

My footsteps clicked against the smooth black floor, and before long I could see light pouring into the dimly lit dungeon. I raised my hand to shield my eyes, but as soon as they adjusted I looked out at the fantastic landscape stretched before me.

Dense forests, quaint towns, flowing rivers, and standing atop the hazardous Mt. Alibade I could see it all. It really was a sight strait out of an RPG, and being that SAO was a VRMMORPG, why wouldn’t it be?

But…

None of it was actually real. The cold air filling my lungs. The pleasant sun warming face. The craggy earth pressed against my boots. There were just lies pumped into my brain by the Nerve Gear strapped to my head back in the real world. In reality, I was probably lying in a hospital bed, while nurses and doctors waited for me to wake up.
Which was why a sharp pain dug into my heart.

One day I would have to leave the one hundred floor castle of Aincrad. I would have to return to the real world, and go back to being a normal sixteen year old girl, while all the power I gained in the last two years would disappear into the fast dataspace.

But until that day came, I would keep on searching, and keep on fighting. And while everyone else, even if they did remember me, would only know me as Elmias the solo-player, I would remember myself as the strongest player in Sword Art Online.
 

Lunarmaster54

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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal

I like what you've got so far. The writing seems to be on par with the actual light novels. I'll be sure to keep an eye on this :)
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal

I like what you've got so far. The writing seems to be on par with the actual light novels. I'll be sure to keep an eye on this :)
Thank you. I'm a fan of the light novels, so I wanted to writing to match as much as possible. Great, I hope you enjoy what's to come.
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal

2

While I walked down the rocky path that lead off the mountain I breathed in the child air. My favorite brown duster kept the cold from creeping up my body; so much so that it felt like I was wearing one long heating pad. It was one of the good things about SAO, I suppose. In the real world the worn leather would never be able to fend of the freezing winds of a mountain, but in this world it could do that and much more.

My coat was no stranger to harsh weather settings, and my sword was well versed in the art of virtual combat. And with both of them with me I could go anywhere I wanted to.
It was simple truth to RPG’s that I quickly learned when I started playing them: Get to a high enough level, get some good gear, and there was nothing you couldn’t do. And since SAO was a game, even with its harsh rule of no restarts, that fact applied to it as well.

I walked down the path, and a lone mountain troll walked into my field of vision. Out of reflex I spread my legs out and drew my sword. I held my blade out in my right hand, bend my knees, and let my left hand dangled behind my back. I glanced at the green bar under the yellow cursor above the monster’s head. It was only level twenty three- about the average level of monsters found on the twenty fifth floor- and common around the slopes of Mt. Alibade. Thanks to my completed hiding skill, coupled with bonus hiding effect of my Coat of the Wanderer, the troll didn’t even notice me and kept trotting on according to its preset algorithm.

Normally, because of my level, any monster that was under level sixty would flee from the sight of me, but low level monsters like the mountain troll weren’t programmed with high detection skills. Then again, a player of my level shouldn’t have had a reason to be up there anyway, so it was more a fault of mine than the programming of the monsters’ AI.

I knew I should’ve kept on walking, but some thought process that been ingrained my soul from hours of playing video games wouldn’t let me pass up the chance to flex my skills. I flipped my sword around so the blade was flat against my back and crouched down slightly. I felt the system take control of my body, and the sound of Sonic Leap activating gave me goosebumbs.

The moment my skill was ready to be let loose the troll’s low level detection skill finally noticed me. But it was too late for it to flee. I let the skill fly, and my blade pulled me forward in a flash of green. My sword shot through the troll before it even had change to flinch, and its HP bar dropped to zero in an instant.

After the dazzling death animation played a menu popped up that displayed what I had won from the battle; if you could call it that. The troll only dropped a messily two hundred col, which was barely a percentage of my current stash, and I didn’t receive a single experience point either. Then again, money and experience points weren’t things I was in dire need of. After playing SAO for almost two years I had gained quite a large amount of both.

I sheathed my sword and let out sigh. If slayed every little monster that was in my path it would take me a while to get back to town; and I would probably go through a few more potions. So I gulped down my unease, pulled up my hood, tucked my blonde ponytail inside it, and called out to my inventory.

“Item: Teleport Crystal.” A shower of light birthed a blue rectangular crystal in my hand. Even though I had plenty of them, something about using the expensive item brought about a kind of swirling pressure in my chest. But it was the quickest way to get around Aincrad, so using them up was a must for any player.

I held the sparkling crystal up against the bottom of the twenty sixth floor and shouted, “Teleport: Algade!” My vision went white, and I was swallowed up by a bright light.



When the teleport effect ended, and I could see clearly again, I found myself standing by the teleport gate of Algade; the main city of the fiftieth floor. I glanced at my HP bar and let out a silent sigh of relief. Since towns had special safe zones that made it so players couldn’t lose HP. And my curse wasn’t powerful to trump that iron clad rule.

The gate was swarming with player’s teleporting in as well. I looked at the left corner and saw it was almost two thirty. It was around that time that most players returned to a city after a long day of adventuring to rest and restock, then do it all again. But Algade was usually pretty congested with faces, so it was nothing I wasn’t use to.

I walked carefully forward, and began the task of navigating the messy city. Ever since the floor opened it was popular spot for mid-level players, who wanted to find a place to rest, as well as high-level players working on the frontlines, who wanted a break from grinding and farming. And the city was in no shortage of either. There were countless inns that littered the narrow alleyways. While some were run by friendly NPC’s-non player characters- who would rent a room for a few hundred col a night, others were run players. I never chose to stay to in a player run inn. I heard rumors of players having their items stolen though some kind of scam, and never wanted to be put in that kind of position.

The shops that jutted out the building sold the basic necessities; potions, crystals, weapons, etc. There were a few tucked away, and the only way to even access them was to get a password form on of the many quests that could be undertaken. The quests were usually simple fetch quests where a player brought info from one NPC to another, and they didn’t offer much in terms of col or EXP. And while those hidden shops boomed in popularity when the floor first opened, some players even sold all their items to find out how to access them, after the higher floors opened they became pointless. Why would someone waste their time completing a quest when they could farm for cash and buy a stronger weapon on a higher floor?

It was a flaw in most games, and SAO seemed to fall victim to that as well. Even I knew it was matter of time before I would have to reforge my arsenal of weapons, or find new ones entirely. But I would deal with that when the time came.
I walked down the spider web of streets until I found myself standing in the shadows of a dead end alley. I glanced back at the way I came, and players and NPC’s alike walked by as if I was there were an invisible wall that separated them from me.

“What’s up, Elly-chan?” Moving from the shadows of the alley, a girl in brown hood, with whiskers drawn on her face, stepped out to greet me.

I smiled under my hood. I didn’t mind her giving me nick name; I actually liked it. Most people called be my players name, Elmias, and a few liked to call me El. “Same old same, Argo, what about you?”

Though her name was Argo, everyone called her Argo the Rat. She was a former beta tester who used her knowledge to make quite a bit of col as an information broker. I wasn’t sure how she did it, but she always seemed to know everything that went on in Aincrad; even after her knowledge of the beta dried up. Though there were a few things about the world of Sword Art Online that she didn’t know.

“Business has been a little slow, but I’m still getting by,” she nuzzled up close to me, and her eyes seemed to grow. SAO’s engine could never get a player’s face to perfectly resemble their real one, even though all players looked like they did in the real world, and it always had the habit of over exaggerating facial expressions. In Argo’s case, the system made her lips quiver, and her eyes glint with tears. “You wouldn’t want to buy any extra info, would you, Elly-chan?”

I imagine the system was playing tricks with my face as well, since it was taking most of control not to laugh. “Okay then, what’s the new on the frontline.” It may have been basic information that any player could find out on their own, but since Argo had been helping me I couldn’t help but throw her a bone.

The facial expression engine must have worked overtime, because Argo’s face changed in a second. Her trembling lips went into a grin of rat who had just snuck a piece of cheese past a cat. “I’ll take it out of your fee.”

Argo then got me up speed about what had been going on the frontlines. The seventy third floor’s labyrinth had been mapped out, and it there was going to be a raid on the boss room in a few days. No player had been unlucky enough to get a game over in a while, so it was expected that the battle would go smoothly. And with Asuna the Flash, a sub commander for the guild known as the Knights of the Blood, leading the charge it was to be expected.

I had met Asuna before, and even seen her fight once. And in that brief battle, when I saw her fight for the first time, I carved that memory into my mind. It wasn’t just her beauty, or even her amazing skills with her rapier, there was else about her. If had to put it into words, she was like a shoot star. Something the beautifully cut through the darkness around her. She was the light that gave the clearers hope that the game could be beaten, and she was something I could never be.

Argo finished by telling me that the KoB was still looking for members. I had been approached a few times about joining a guild, but each time I had turned them down. I was adamant about keeping low profile, and not doing anything to attract unwanted attention. If my secret were exposed…I didn’t know how the other players would react. It was why I never formed a party, and why my friends list didn’t have a single name in it.

“Anyway, about that map data.” Argo held out her hands like a begging child. I opened my menu and with a few button presses produced a rolled up scroll. It would’ve been easier to just send the data to Argo, but to do that she would’ve had to be on my friends list, and that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Besides I liked giving her map info that way. The rat snatched the scroll from hand, and after a few button presses of her own the parchment disappeared.

“Now that I’ve held up my end…” My throat closed up, and I had to force myself to spew out the words I wanted to say.
“Have you found her?”

Argo looked at ground, and her lips dipped into a frown. “No, nothing yet.”

My heart dropped down into the pits of my stomach. I didn’t know why that’s how I always reacted, since I had been going to Argo for the same information for months. But still, no matter how many times she gave me the same answer, it felt like a blade went straight through my heart.

“Have you been to see the Monument of Life?” she asked, her eyes spilling out empathy.

I nodded. “I went this morning, and her name’s still there.”

“I’m sorry.” If Argo had been keeping the system’s influence at bay, it finally broke through her will. Her eyes welled up with tears and streamed down her face. The tiny drops fell to the ground and became fragments of light that scattered into nothingness. “I know how hard you’ve been working, and I’m sorry I can’t help you more.” Argo was one of the few people I had told about the girl I came to Sword Art Online with. And even though she liked to charge me for it, there was no denying that the little rat wanted to help me.

“It’s alright,” I pulled down my hood, and made system give Argo the brightest smile it could make. “I know I’ll find her, one day.”

Argo smiled back at me, and wiped her tears on her sleeves. “I know you will. If anyone can do it, it you can.” She looked up at me, and starred into my green eyes. “You know, you should really keep that hood down, you’re pretty cute, Elly-chan.”

“I could say the same about you.” The two of use shared a hearty laugh, and I tucked my hair back under my hood. “I have to get going, Agil said he had a client for me today.”

The smiling rat nodded. “Alright, I’ll see you around.” I waved goodbye, and as I walked down the dark alley Argo spoke, “Elly-chan!” I cocked my head back, and peeked out the corner of my hood. “She must really be something special.”

I remembered her face for a moment, her beautiful smiling face. I wouldn’t even have gotten in to gaming it wasn’t for her. If it wasn’t for her I never would’ve had the courage to put the Nerve Gear on. It was because of her that I had even survived as the first weeks of SAO. And if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to take on the Lamia's Curse like I had. And it was because of all that, that I would find her. And when I did I would find the courage to ask for her forgiveness.

I smiled at Argo, and used every bit of my STR stat to keep the system from pouring tears from my eyes. “Yeah, she really is.”
 

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re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

Another brilliant chapter. C: I haven't read the light novels, but it's cool to finally know the lovely protagonist name is! Speaking of which, it's cool how well she fought off the troll and knows her way around the place. I guess the rules still apply, if she dies its game over and a comatose life for her, right? Anyways, I hope she finds this girl she's looking for, since she seems really important to Elly-chan. Furthermore, I'm happy to know Asuna exists in this too.
 
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re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

Another brilliant chapter. C: I haven't read the light novels, but it's cool to finally know the lovely protagonist name is! Speaking of which, it's cool how well she fought off the troll and knows her way around the place. I guess the rules still apply, if she dies its game over and a comatose life for her, right? Anyways, I hope she finds this girl she's looking for, since she seems really important to Elly-chan. Furthermore, I'm happy to know Asuna exists in this too.
Thank you. The light novels are written pretty well, and it goes more in depth with world building than the anime did. But the story is the same in them. She knows a lot about the game, and I'd say she's just as OP as Kirito, if not more so. But there is a good reason on how she got that way.

In the words of Kirito, "You die in the game you die for real." The nerve gear that lets them play the game microwaves their brains if they get a gameover. All the old SAO characters exist in here. The story fits in the timeline. Where it is now is about two months before the game is beaten. So you'll see Asuna, Agil, Liz, and maybe even Kirito himself. Oh, Elly-chan is just Argo's nick name for her. In the light novels Argo calls Kirito Ki-boi, and she calls Asuna Aa-chan. So I wanted to keep that in this story too. But her player name is Elmias, but some people call her El for short.
 
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re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

3

I walked out of the alley back into the cluttered streets of Algade. Hastily stepping through the crowds of players and NPC’s I navigated my way through the dusty stone streets. I turned right down one street, a left down another, and took a shortcut through an alley. I remained focused, and pictured the virtual map in mind. Even though I knew where I was going it was still easy to get turned around in that mess of a city. But I was lucky enough to make it to my destination without the slightest mishap.

I opened the door to the small shop and a bell rang a warm chime for me. The shop may have been small, with only a counter and a few items displayed on walls, but it had cozy and welcoming feel to it.

The shop keeper behind the counter smiled at me, and waved. “Hey El, you’re a little early.”

The friendly merchant’s name was Agil. Unlike me he actually looked like a mighty warrior. His broad shoulders, bulging muscles, coupled with his shaved head and dark skin, gave him the look of a real axe wielding warrior. Since all players looked like they did in the real world I always wondered what he did on the other side; though I never mustered up the courage to ask.

I stepped up the counter and bumped my tiny fist against his. “I decided I had done enough adventuring for the day, and figured I’d take it easy. Speaking of which,” I opened my menu, pressed the icon that displayed my current col, and after a few more presses conjured up a bag of money. The sack of col landed on the counter with jingling thud. “This is my haul for the day.”

Agil tapped the bag with his finger and his eyebrows raised. “Nice,” his lips blew an impressive whistle. “This will keep us going for a while, but are you sure you want to give all this away? I know it wasn’t easy to farm this much in a morning.”
I shook my head. “It’s fine, really. I already took out enough to keep my gear in good shape, and stock up on potions and crystals.”

His solid face softened into a smile. “I’ve played a lot MMO’s, but I never met a player who just gave their hard earned money away.” He tapped the bag one more time and disappeared into his inventory.

I sat down at on a stool and rested my palms on the counter. “It would just burn a hole in my inventory, anyway. At least this way I know it’s going to a good cause. And besides, you’ve been letting me stay here, so I’d say it’s a fair trade.”

His hand stretched back, and he rubbed his bald head. “About that,” he peered back at the door that lead the spare room upstairs. “I may have promised someone else could use your room.”

“What!?” I shot up from my seat, and my voice rang out of my throat.

Agil stumbled out his seat, and the stool crashed against floor. “Whoa, slow down, alright,” he frantically waved his hands back and forth. “An old friend needed a place to stay. We got to talking, one thing led to another, and I told him he could stay here.”

Friends. They were something had few of, and it was my fault that that was the case. Unlike me, Agil had people he had to look out for, and help when they needed it. I understood that. Even though I didn’t have anyone that relied on me, I did remember what it was like. Which was why I took a deep breath that blew out the flames of anger that lashed out a moment ago.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ve gotta look out for your friends, right?”

His mouth morphed into an uneasy smile. “Yeah,” He picked up his stool and sat back down, and I did the same. “He may be a battle addict, but he’s a nice guy. That’s why someone has to look out for him.”

“Battle addict, sounds a bit like me.” It was inevitable that were other players who hungered for battle. I knew the allure of virtual combat wasn’t lost on me. “Is he someone I might’ve heard of?”

“You probably have. He’s a solo-player, his name’s Kirito.”

I slammed my hands so hard against counter that it triggered the ‘Immortal Object’ warning, and I practically jumped out of my stool. “You mean the Kirito! The Black Swordsman!”

Agil jumped a little at my reaction, but not near as much as before. “I take it you’ve heard of him.” He said with a sheepish grin.

“Of course I have.” I sat down, but the giddy feeling in my chest wouldn’t subside. “I don’t know if there’s a player who hasn’t heard of him.”

The legend of the Black Swordsman was one that had its roots in the early days of SAO. Before I even learned his name, I knew Kirito as the game’s first “beater”- a combination of the words “cheater” and “beta-tester”. After the raid on the first floor’s boss he declared himself the strongest players in the game, and that even the beta-testers were inferior to him. This brought him a lot hostility, but at the same time, it took a lot of heat of the beta-testers. By taking on that hatred of the clearers he saved the other beta-testers a lot of grief.

Argo was the one who told me about what happened during the first boss room, and often sold me little pieces of information about him; whenever I felt like finding out what he was up to. But eventually I didn’t need her to learn more about Kirito. As the game went along rumors of the Black Swordsman began to spread. Some painted him as a selfish player, who cared more about his level that anything. Other’s said that he was a selfless hero who defended the weaker players from bandits. There were so many that it was impossible to tell what was true, what were just rumors.

But those rumors weren’t the reason I admired him. It wasn’t his actions towards the other players, but how he played the game that made me look up to. After paying Argo a small fortune she told me that Kirito was at level nighty-five. He made it to such a high level all on his own. He didn’t rely on a cheat like had, he was able to do it all on his own.

Without realizing it began rocking back in forth, with a wide smile displayed across my face.

“You want to meet you him?” Agil asked.

I shook my head. “Nah,”

“Why not?”

I stopped rocking but my smile remained. “Don’t they say you should never meet your heroes?”

“Fair enough,” Agil opened his menu, and began swiping through it. “Anyway, you have a client today.” With a swipe of his finger he turned the menu to me. “It’s a pretty simple job.”

I silently read the request. A player needed help farming materials for a weapon, and it would require completing a few easy quests to get all the necessary items, as well as defeating one field boss.

Aside from being a merchant, an occasional fighter on the frontlines, and making sure the medium level players were well equipped, Agil also ran a sort of side business out of his shop. Basically, whenever a player needed help completing a quest, farming for items, leveling up, or getting in practice against certain enemy types, I would go along with them; for a small fee, of course. I acted as a sort of safety net. The client would do whatever it was they needed to while I would only jump in if things got dangerous. And since I would never actually form an official party they would get all the EXP, and the items from whatever they defeated. Agil often called me a glorified baby sitter.

“It says he wants to meet by the teleport gate at four o’clock,” I checked the clock in the corner of my vision and it was almost three thirty. “I should get going then.” I stood and stepped toward the door, giving Agil a wave as I did.

“Before you go,” He closed his menu, sat upright, and his face became solid as stone. “Argo sent me some info about that dungeon you mapped out today.”

I chill gripped my chest. I forced my lips into a grin. “What about it?”

“When Malenese Abyss first opened up there was group of hot shot players form the frontlines who tried to tackle it. There were six of them, each was around level eighty five, and they were equipped with some of the best gear you could find. But when they came back, there were only two.”

The cold that grabbed my chest raced down my legs, through my arms, and took hold of my entire body.

“After a month the survivors finally talked about what had happened. They said that dungeon was hell. It was a simple maze that lead from a one room to another, but each room had monster waiting. Not only were the monsters terrible to look at, they were all level nighty-five or higher, and they had the sword skills to match. They were able to defeat the first monster, but only because they almost emptied their cache of potions and crystals. Two of them wanted to leave, but the other four brushed them off, and refused to quit. Their argument was that the dungeon must’ve had some rare item inside, since it had such high level monsters inside.”

Agil’s eyes sunk and his mouth dropped into an exhausted frown. “It’s ironic. Players hunt for items in the hopes that they’ll survive longer, but end up getting themselves killed.”

My body had started to thaw, and lips were free to move again. “It happens a lot. The prospect of a rare item that can make you stronger is too much to resist sometimes.” For the first time in a while I felt that uncomfortable pressure that kept itself coiled around my right arm. I usually forgot about it, but in moments like this it would always make itself known; the curse’s way of reminding me that that it’s fangs were sunk deep into my arm.

Agil shut his eyes and took in a long breath. “I won’t ask you how you do it, and whatever it is you I understand why you’re keeping it a secret, but nothing can be kept secret forever. Argo wouldn’t sell you out like that, but someone will eventually figure out you’re the one who’s mapping all these hidden dungeons, and when that happens…” He opened his eyes and they showed me a great deal of concern. “They’re going to ask how you’re able to do, in a single morning, what six clearers couldn’t.”

I couldn’t say anything. I just stood there, as if I was hit with a paralyses ailment. Naturally I had thought about what would happen if the existence of my extra skill, and curse, became public knowledge. Jealousy toward other players was common in MMO’s, and SAO wasn’t an exception. Players would envy those who stood above them. Whether it was because of level difference, or because they had a rare weapon, some players would actually hate anyone who was stronger than them. But in my case, the jealousy towards me would come from thousands of players.

It wasn’t that I had incredibly rare weapons, or that I had reached the maximum level. It was because of my extra skill that allowed me to be an entire party at once. My skills with a sword could match and probably beat any swordsman. I could use lance as well as the players who had been using them since the start of the game. My speed with a rapier was so incredible that I didn’t even need help from the system to use it. I had mastered every weapon in the game, and I could call upon any of them with a simple command.

To call my skill broken would be an understatement. To be able to summon a weapon from my inventory just by say its class and name was skill that only the administrators-beings that had been absent from SAO since the start- of the game should have. Having that skill put me in completely different league from the rest of the player population.

And if word ever got out about my skill, I would be branded something far the worse than a cheater, or even a beater. Because how obtained the skill, how I was able to master every weapon type, and hit the level cap in less than seven months, was due to having a curse that wasn’t even supposed to exist in Sword Art Online.

“Promise me something,” Agil’s words brought me back to Aincrad. “That you won’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.” He smiled, but the system wouldn’t let him hide the worry in his eyes. “Sometimes even the strongest people need someone.”

I couldn’t stand there anymore. I waved goodbye to one of the few people I called a friend, and ran out into the cramped steers of Algade.

I didn’t want to think about other players, or how I cheated to get my power. Even if everyone found out about my skill, and my curse, they wouldn’t actually do anything about it. They would whine and groan that I was cheater, but that’s all they would to. They wouldn’t actually ki…

“It’s just a game. It’s just a game. It’s just a game.”


I repeated those words over and over as I stepped through the crowds. SAO was game, and games were meant to be fun. There was no reason for me to think such heavy thoughts when I was living a dream. I lived inside a video game, it was what every gamer dreamed of. SAO just had one exception that made it different from other games. But I was the strongest player, so there was no way I would get a game over. And whenever those thoughts about death and sadness sprung up in my head, I would just repeat those four simple words. The words she taught me two years ago in the Town of Beginnings, when Sword Art Online officially started.
 

KingdomKey

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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

This curse must be a big deal if it lets her master every weapon available within the game. Raises the question if Kirito would be able to defeat her in a fight or not through sheer power of will. Anyways, its pretty exciting to think Kirito is staying in her room. Gosh, I want to watch the first season of SAO again, because it fills me with nostalgic to think about. I hope El eventually lets others help her when the time comes like the bartender had said. C: Good chapter as usual!
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

This curse must be a big deal if it lets her master every weapon available within the game. Raises the question if Kirito would be able to defeat her in a fight or not through sheer power of will. Anyways, its pretty exciting to think Kirito is staying in her room. Gosh, I want to watch the first season of SAO again, because it fills me with nostalgic to think about. I hope El eventually lets others help her when the time comes like the bartender had said. C: Good chapter as usual!
It is, but it comes at a cost. In terms of stats she's higher than Kirito. Even with Dual Blades I think she'd be able to beat him since he only ever goes all out if something important is on the line, and he wouldn't be able to use his "human spirit trumps the system" power up. I've been meaning to rewatch it myself, or at least reread the first novel, but just haven't found the time. I think you'll be surprised about what happens, and what she has to do. Thanks, I think I have most of the story outlines, it's just a matter of writing it.
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.3

4

I thought back to that day, November 6, 2022, right before I first logged into SAO.

I was so scared.
I’d never used the NerveGear before, except to do the initial set up, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I spent days reading through tech magazines about the NerveGear, and its creator, Kayaba Akihiko. From the articles I read, the way the bulk grayish blue helmet worked that was that it intercepted the signals that were going from your brain to your limbs and turned that into data. One example was moving your arm. The nerve gear would catch that signal, turn it into data, and forward the command to an in game avatar; with virtually no lag. It also “tuned out” the outside world, so you wouldn’t feel anything while you were playing. The only things you felt were inside the game.

It was incredible piece of technology, a far cry from the ancient consoles that were lying on my bedroom floor. Even my custom PC paled in comparison to what the nerve gear could do; which would explain why I emptied my entire savings to be able to buy it.

But the NerveGear wouldn’t work at all unless I had a game for it. There were a handful of games for the system, most of which I had heard were incredibly boring, but there was one game that fit the NerveGear perfectly: Sword Art Online. When I watched the first trailer I was blown away by it. To actually be able to become my in game avatar, it was something that every gamer dreamed of.

And the MMO genre was perfect fit, too. Naturally, they could’ve made a regular RPG, where you were the hero who saved the kingdom from the evil empire, and met lots of wacky and memorable characters along the way, but that would all be planned out. Every player would have the same experience. But in an MMO, players could make their own adventures. While I almost always played single player games, even I had to admit that the developers at Argus made the right call.

And as the day of SAO’s release came closer and closer, my anticipation grew in kind. It was the only thing I could talk about; much to the annoyance of my friends and family. You mean I can actually be the hero, and go off on grand adventures with my friends? Of course I was excited. And when they announced the beta test I was one of the first to sign up, but sadly I couldn’t get it. But luckily, my best friend and neighbor, was able to get in.

I hounded her every day. What’s the combat like? What kind of leveling system does it have? Are the quests fun? What’s it like fighting actual monsters? But with every question she would smile and say, “You’ll see when you log in.” I wasn’t discouraged, though. I kept asking, even though she never gave me an answer. I wanted to see the world she’d seen, and fight by her side. We were always by each other’s side. That’s how it was between us.

When I was about eight I was sick with a terrible case of pneumonia. I couldn’t go to school, play outside, go to soccer practice, all I was allowed to do was sit in bed and watch TV, or read. Which was fine, for the first few days, but eventually they lost their abilities to keep me entertained. Noises from my TV would blend together into a jumbled mess, and any word I read would go in brain and mixed together with about two different ones. Couple that with being sick and I wanted nothing more than to go into a coma and not wake for a year.

My friends would come to visit me, and try to cheer my up, but even that began to lose its effect after the first week. Nothing I did would hold my attention, I couldn’t focus anything, and after two weeks of sitting in bed I felt like I was going to go insane.

Then, one day, the girl who lived next to me decided to visit. I knew of her, but I wouldn’t have called us anything more than acquaintances. In fact, I found it strange she had come to see me at all. Anyway, the girl with glasses and short black hair sat on the edge of my bed and we talked. It was forceful small talk, to say the least. Just simple “how’re you”s, and “nice weather” kind of stuff.

I don’t remember exactly how we got on the subject, but eventually I told her how bored I was. “If you’re bored,” she said, tilting up her thick glasses. “Then maybe this’ll help.” She reached in her bag and pulled out a little device. I took it from her, flipped it open, and stared oddly at its two screens. On the bottom half there was a tiny gray circle on the left side, and four buttons on the right.

It took me a moment, until I realized it was a video game console. Naturally, I’d heard of games, but nothing about them ever really piqued my interests. My older brother played them before he left for college, and even had most of his still in his room, but I never once had the desire to play one of them.

She scooted up next to me and flicked a little switch on the side. Both screens lit up, and a chime shook me ears; almost making me drop the handheld on my fluffy blankets. She reached across and tapped a few buttons, and suddenly the screens changed again. A triumphant melody played and on the top was a little man in green, standing on a path. Not sure exactly what to do, I moved the gray circle on the left side, and the green boy moved as well. I walked him around until her ran smack into some bushes. There was no way to go around, but there had to be a way to get past them. Going by a hunch, I pressed the right circular button on the right side. With just one button press the green boy swung his sword, and cut the imposing bushes down.

“I did it!” I cried into the girl’s ear. Her dark brown eyes went wide for a moment, but soon returned to normal.
She put on a soft smile and tapped a button on the bottom right. “And you have more than just a sword.” She was right. I had boomerang, a magic feather, a bow, a bag of magic powder, and some other cool items.

With her at my side, she guided to my first ever dungeon. She was already pretty far along so the puzzles were a little tricky, but with some quick thinking, and a lot of trial and error, I was able to beat the boss and obtain the magical instrument; not that I had any idea what it did. We spent the rest of the day playing that game. And when it was time for to her to go home, she was kind enough to let me borrow it; she said I could even make my own save file and everything. So after a dinner of soup and crackers, I opened the little game console, jumped right to the main menu, and hit the start button.

There were two open slots; the first being occupied by her file; with the little green boy dancing beside a line of hearts. I looked at the name beside her file and it read “Aimias”. I selected one of the open files and it said to type in my character’s name. So it was fair to say that she picked that name herself. It wasn’t a name I was familiar with, but I had to imagine she picked it using bits of her own name. The “Ai” definitely came from her first name, Airi, but I hadn’t the slightest clue where the “mias” came from.

I didn’t think about it for long, I had and adventure to go on after all. I wasn’t sure if I should’ve used my own, or make one up, so like the kind girl who let me borrow the game, I compromised. I combined the first two letters of my first name with the last four she made up.

From that night on I fell in love with video games. I started playing all the classics, reading up on all the new hardware that was coming out, and spending whatever free time I had playing. But I wasn’t alone in my obsession, oh no. The girl who kindled my love for the hobby was there with me, and happily answered every question I had. We would entire nights just playing a single game, and if it were a single player one we’d hand the controller back and forth.

And when we logged into SAO we’d fight side by side; just like we always had. As I held the helmet in my hands, on that cold November morning, I was struck with a strange fear. I froze, and couldn’t do anything. After being so hyped about being able to play the world’s first VRMMORPG, I couldn’t put the NerveGear on.

She was waiting for me, in that fantastical world. Even though she was able to get her copy of the game first because she was in the beta-test, she was kind enough to wait in the cold with me so I could get mine. She was always kind, like that, and brave, too. In my time of knowing her she never backed down from a challenge, and never let fear stop her. And I wasn’t going to let it stop me.

I put the NerveGear on, it was lighter than I thought it would be, plopped down in my bed. She said she’d be waiting for me by the teleport gate. I hadn’t seen her avatar, but I knew she’d let me know it was her when I saw her. All she’d have to do is show me her name. Whenever we played a game, and we were allowed to pick our character’s name, we’d always choose the same names. She would name hers Aimias, and I would name mine Elmias.

I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath, and braced myself. All I would have to do was speak the magic words that would take me to the floating castle of Aincrad, and to my dear my friend. My eyes opened, and the visor reflected my resolve back. With my fear gone, I recited the spell that would transform me into Elmias the mighty swordsman.

“Link start!”



I smiled under my hood as I passed through the crowd of players and NPCs. Thinking back to pleasant memories always seemed to bring me back when I was feeling down. And it was a good thing, too, because I didn’t have time to be sad. I had a client to worry about. I always wondered if she was the reason I was so good at my job. Maybe I wanted to help other players, like she helped me. If so, it was yet another reason I was grateful to have met her.

Finally, after going through the congested streets of Algade, I made it to the teleport gate. I checked the time by life bar, and saw it was a quarter till four, which meant I had fifteen minutes until my client was supposed to arrive. I leaned against one of the four obelisks around the gate and people watched to pass the time. It was around that time that most players had already returned from hunting, doing quests, or farming for materials, so the lake of people that was usually around the gate was pretty shallow.

There were a few players, however, that used that time to nab the good hunting spots while the high level players were resting up. It wasn’t a bad strategy, in theory, anyway. The problem was that almost all of the higher level players were in guilds. And the big three: the Knights of the Blood, the Divine Dragon Alliance, and the Aincrad Liberation Force, all controlled the major hunting grounds. Whenever a player wanted to try and boost their level quickly they would have to stand in a line and wait for other players to be done before they could use the grounds. And since these were the spots that gave the most EXP they were almost always being used.

The KoB were usually pretty nice about sharing their hunting grounds with lower level players. They would even offer to partner up with a player if they were asked. Though that may have been a clever plow to recruit new members. The DDA, on the other hand, were notorious for attacking players who tried to use their grounds. Argo even submitted a guide that told where the DDA operated so that low level players would accidentally run into them; she got quite a bit of flak from them for that. And then there was the Aincrad Liberation Force, more commonly known as the Army. They operated on the lower floors, with their base being in Black Iron Palace.

In my opinion, The Army was far worse than the DDA. They used their numbers and high levels to intimidate players on the lower floors; even making them pay taxes. They monopolized all the good hunting spots, so low level players, who finally got the courage to venture out, and try to play the game, couldn’t. They were threatened and forced away, or they’d have to join The Army. And if they did they’d have to meet leveling quotas, hand over most their col and items, and train new recruits. They weren’t allowed to just have fun, and go on adventures with their friends. Which was what I hated most about them; even more so than their hypocrisy.

As I stood there, pondering the politics of guilds, a sudden thought popped into my head; one that made me want slam head against the obelisk I leaned on.

I had no idea what my clients name was, or even what they looked like.

My eyes shot to the clock resting above my HP bar; it was five minutes till four. Since Agil wasn't on my friends list I couldn't message him. If I ran as fast as I could I would be able to reach Agil’s shop in five minutes. Then it would take thirty seconds to get the client’s name, then the trip back. At the end I’d be at least five minutes late. Not wanting to waste another second, I knelt down and touched the stone street with my fingers. My right leg was pulled forward, and my left was extended back. My eyes looked toward the first roof in the direction of Agil’s shop. The building stood at least three stories tall, but with my high AGI and STR stats it would be easy for me to make that jump; thought I’d probably make a few players turn their heads.

I took in a breath and pressed the toes of my boots into the ground. The distance between me and the building was roughly thirty feet. So if I jumped at the twenty feet marker that should’ve given me just enough room, and I wouldn’t leap right into the wall. It wouldn’t do any damage, to me or the wall, but it would sure hurt.

“Excuse me,” a young voice said beside me. “Are you Elmias, by chance?” I turned my head to left and peeked from under my hood. He looked a little younger than me, probably fourteen or fifteen.

I stood up and faced the boy. “Yeah, that’s me. Are you my client?

He smiled brightly and saluted me; which made me cock my head a little. “Yes ma’am, thank you so much for assisting me today.”

I was no stranger to having over enthusiastic clients, but something about the boy seemed different. It was hard to put into words exactly what it was, but it was a sort of feeling you’d get when you met a cosplayer who was really into character. Then again, wasn’t every player in SAO roleplaying?

I held out my hand. “Well, it’s nice to meet you…”

The boy took my hand in both of his and jerked my arm up and down. “Mik,” The spikes of his brown hair bounced up and down, and his innocent blue eyes gleamed. “I promise I won’t let you down.”

I carefully took my hand from his. “Okay, Mik, where to first? Your request said you needed to farm for materials, and finish a few quests. So is there any particular order you want to go in?” Since I was tagging along I always let the client decide how they wanted to use my services.

“We can go the Floor 47 first, there’s an item we need for a quest; and one of the monster drops I need is there, too.”

“Then we’re off.” I stepped into the center of the teleport gate, and held my head up. “Teleport, Floria!”
 

KingdomKey

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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.4

The backstory was fantastic. I absolutely loved the brief mention of the Legend of Zelda series. <3 It's nice to see that's how El got started on SAO. Furthermore, it was amusing to see how much she changed from that encounter with her new friend. At the same time, it was amusing to see how she didn't even know her own clients name that hired her until she got spotted by him. xD
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.4

The backstory was fantastic. I absolutely loved the brief mention of the Legend of Zelda series. <3 It's nice to see that's how El got started on SAO. Furthermore, it was amusing to see how much she changed from that encounter with her new friend. At the same time, it was amusing to see how she didn't even know her own clients name that hired her until she got spotted by him. xD
The exact game was Link's Awakening. There will be a little more backstory latter, about what she did when it was announced SAO wasn't a game anymore. She had a lot on her mind. One of the big things about her is that she doesn't want to accept that she will actually die in the game if she gets a game over.
 
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Re: Sword Art Online: Arsenal ch.4

5

The bright light of the teleport effect wore off, and Mik and I were standing in Floria, the central town of the 47[SUP]th[/SUP] floor. The square we stood in was overflowing with a multitude of flowers, with a tall fountain at our backs. Starting at the fountain were four paths of red brick that stretched out the town and into the vast fields of flowers that made up the floor.

I searched the square, and saw it was surprisingly busy for it being the afternoon. Floria wasn’t well known as good floor for power leveling, even among lower level players, so to see it bustling like it was made me wonder what was going. I hadn’t heard anything about an event, or any new dungeons being discovered. The last time there was any news about the floor was last February, on the 14[SUP]th[/SUP]. There was a unique quest line that appeared, and closed the same day. I hadn’t participated, but I had heard what the quest was like.

The quest was called The Star Crossed Lovers. It was a simple escort mission, where players had to guide a couple across the floor, all the way to the northern edge. There, they would say that they were going to jump over the edge because their families wouldn’t let them be together. But to stop them, all the player had to say was “don’t do it”, or something to that effect. Then the couple would realize they were wrong, and the quest would end. It didn’t net much EXP, since it was so simple, but it did give out a pretty rare item.

The quest gave two red ribbons called the Ties of Fate. When two players wore them, and were in the same party, both gained small bonus to their EXP. To gain more EXP, and level up faster, should’ve prompted the entire frontline to poor down the Floria and complete the simple quest. Except, there was one more condition that had to be met for players to use the ribbons.

For the effect to activate the two players had to be married.

Marriage in SAO was simple. One player sent a request to another, they pressed accept, and the two were married. I wasn’t near as complicated as it was in real world. But even with the prospect of more EXP, barely any players chose to go through with it. And I understood why. Even if they were just doing it for the item, when two players married they shared the same inventory space. If they wanted, one player could take the other items, dissolve the marriage, and flee with a ton of items. So most players didn’t bother taking the risk.

But even after the quest disappeared, couples still came to the 47[SUP]th[/SUP] floor on dates. And since the sun would set in a few hours, it made it all the more the romantic; not that I knew anything about that kind of stuff.
I turned to my eager client, and smiled under my hood. “So, Mik, where to?”

“To the Hill of Memories. The item I need for a quest is there.”

I had been to the Hill of Memories on another job, where a beast tamer lost his pet wolf. Though SAO didn’t have classes, occasionally monsters would befriend players, and fight alongside them, and the player population called them beast tamers.

The beast tamer I met, a player named Elino, lost his wolf while farming on the 55[SUP]th[/SUP] floor. He was the same age as me, but when he told me the sad story, of when his companion took a hit that was meant for him, he cried like a child.
SAO was no stranger to sad stories, and neither was I, but when I saw him break down, my heart hurt. It should’ve been impossible, my body was just a bunch of ones and zeroes, but still, I had felt a gripping pain in my chest when I heard his story.

Luckily, there was an item that spawned in Hill of Memories that could resurrect tamed beasts. And with me at his side, Elino claimed the Pneuma Flower, and he was back with his trusted wolf in only a few hours.

“Do you need the Pneuma Flower for your quest?” I asked.

Mik nodded. “Yep. The quest is called Reunion of Fragile Hearts.” His youthful face grew serious for a moment, as he described the quest. “On the 50[SUP]th[/SUP] floor there’s little cabin where an old lady is. When you talk to her she tells her how her pet cat was killed by a pack of wild dogs. She gives you her cat’s bell…”

“And if you bring it to the Pneuma flower you can bring the cat back. After that she give you a password you can use to access a hidden weapons shop in Algade.” I said.

I had completed the quest, or rather watched other players complete it, four times since I began working with Agil.

“Right.” Mik said, his eyes brightening. “I was told you knew your way around the game, but I didn’t think you would be this smart.”

My cheeks burned under my hood. “We should get going,” I turned down the path that facing north, toward the Hill of Memories. “So, do think you can handle fighting on your own for now?”

“Yep. I’m level sixty, so this should be no big deal for me.”

“Alright then.”



We began our trek across the red brick path that stretched along the vast field of colorful flowers. While he walked Mik went on about how pretty the floor was. He said he rarely visited areas that weren’t good for power leveling, and it was nice to visit one of Aincrad’s more visually appealing floors.

I felt there was something behind his words, like he was hiding something. He was level sixty, well above the safety margin for the floor 47[SUP]th[/SUP] floor. I had met a few clients that were overly cautious about the possibility of a game over, but Mik didn’t give off the same frightened, anxious vibe that they did. He seemed like he genuinely liked being there, and was confident that he could face anything the floor threw at him. Which begged the question: Why did he hire me?
I brushed question into the corner of mind. I had my secrets, so it was only fair that he could have his.

When we were half a mile from the town, our first monster appeared. Out of the flowers beside our path, it shot of the ground, and barred its giant yellow teeth. Out of its mouth, twin purple tongues licked the air as yellow acid dripped from the twisted lobs of flesh. Around its head was a circle of wide, blood red petals that were larger than Mik and I combined. It stood on a tight coil of roots, with six lashing outward. And under the red cursor above its head was its name: Vile Garish Gerbera.

Thanks to my level, the weaker monsters that spawned stayed far away from us, but a rare one was a completely different story. I had never encountered a Mother Garish Gerbera, and heard their rate of appearing was less that ten percent, but they were one the nastiest enemies that could be found on floor 47. Not only were they level 55, but their roots could inflict paralysis, and they had a breath attack that could cause confusion and poison.

But even as frightening as it was, it fall with a single sword skill from my blade. “Do you want me to take care of this?” I asked, placing my hand on the handle of sword.

Mik drew the sword from the sheath that dangled at his side, and I returned my hand to my side. “No, I got this.” A smile flashed across his face, and his sky blue eyes sparkled. The blade he held in his right hand shone with a pale orange light, thanks to the setting sun.

At first glance, I recognized the sword in his hand. It was called Horizon’s Edge, a rare weapon in its own right, and one I had to complete a six quest questline to obtain. At my current level, the sword might as well have been on the basic steel blades found on the first floor, but at Mik’s, it was a mighty weapon that could carry him at least five more levels forward.

With his boots pressed firmly against the brick path, Mik dashed toward the giant plant; his red scarf trailing behind him. Four blobs of acid were spat toward him. The first was aimed for his feet, the second his torso, the third his right arm, and the fourth his head. But regardless, he kept on sprinting forward. And just as the first ball of acid was about to touch his left foot, Mik leapt into the air. The corrosive liquid landed harmlessly at my feet, while I kept my eyes on my client.

He put the flat of his sword against his back, and the silver blade glowed bright green. The familiar sword of the sword skill Sonic Leap starting up was like a beautiful melody, but it was bitter sweet tune. The way he was positioned in the air, the sword skill would bring down in front of the monster’s mouth. Even though he would take a chunk off of its HP bar, he wouldn’t succeed in beating the creature, and it would be light right in front of its gapping mouth.

But I was underestimating him.

The moment he let the skill fly, Mik turned his body so he was upside down. My eyes went wide for a moment, capturing the sight. Leaving behind a trail of green, his sword cut through the top of plant’s head, and carved down its back; leaving behind a glowing red gut. Without thinking, I took several strides to my left, not to help him, but to get a better view.

When I could see him again, Mik had landed safely at the beast’s back. Thorn covered tentacles lashed at him, and struck the ground around him. His body was still rigid from using a sword skill, so dodging wasn’t an option for him. But the grin cracked across his face told me he had a plan.

His sword glowed with bright blue, and the high pitch wind of the skill activating gave me goosebumps. He swung his blade down, cutting on the vines in half. Turning his hand he brought his sword across and severed two more vines that were aimed for him. From above, another vine came down on him. If the monster was smart it would’ve attacked from the sides, but its basic AI wasn’t advanced enough to see the rest of Mik’s combo. He swung his blade straight up, and split the vine in twain. Then, with a satisfying roar, he delivered the final blow to his four part combo. He brought his sword across the back the monster’s head, and spun around.

The familiar outline of Horizontal Square spread out from the blows Mik had landed. I checked the plant’s HP, and it was just below half; the bar had went from green to yellow. He had almost won, but rare monsters used tended to switch up their tactics once they were in the yellow, so the most dangerous part of his battle was just beginning.
Still rigid from using Horizontal Square, Mik was only able to bring up his left hand. But the Garish Gerbera jerked around to face him, scattering its wilting petals over the area in which they fought. It sucked in massive amount of air. Its cheeks bulged and acid dripped down its sucked in lips. Mik still had a few seconds until the side effects of his sword skill wore off, which wasn’t near enough time to dodge. But as the monster opened its mouth, and the thick, purple haze of acid and vile gushed out of its mouth, Mik ran his left hand down and opened his menu.

He pressed two buttons, but before I could see what he had done he was consumed by the mass of purple. Instinctually, I drew my sword. The client’s safety took priority, even over their own wishes. But before I could use my own sword skill, another pierced the darkness that had overtaken Mik.

A bright, emerald green light shone through the darkness, and the sharp light cut through the haze, and across the creature’s jaw. His Cyclone stopped the bad breath attack, and tossed the giant plant’s head back; where it remained; a sign it had been stunned. But I wasn’t concerned with the status of the beast. No, my eyes were on Mik, and two-handed sword in his hands. The center of the blade was silver, but the edges were pure white.

I had seen the weapon before, and even added it to my arsenal for a little while. It was called Fiend Slayer, which, as the name suggested, did more damage to fiend type monster. Despite its long blade, which was almost as long as I was tall, it was rather light; which was why I didn’t use it for very long. I always preferred my swords to have some weight to them.

With the beast staggered, Mik opened his menu again and pressed a two more buttons. The sword in his hand disappeared, and his Horizon’s Edge returned. He leapt back and held his sword out. The blade glowed a deep crimson, and the sound that came from it was like that of jet engine. When he let his Vorpal Strike fly, Mik soared forward in blur. The tip of his blade sunk into the bottom jaw of the monster, and red particles scattered from the wound.
The crippled beast’s HP bar dove into the red, and thanks to Mik’s counter it was still staggered. All he’d have to do was land one sword skill, and the battle would be his. I waited, and watched with batted breath to see how he’d finish the fight.

His fingers flew down his menu, tapping the two buttons he had before faster than ever. In matter of moments, his Fiend Slayer was back in his hands. He hoisted the blade over his head, and a pale orange light shone off of it. The silver and white steel dropped right through the plant’s gigantic head. A small explosion of orange light erupted from the wound, and the monster let out a curdled roar as it burst into a shower of polygons.

The shards of light floated upward, toward the bottom of the 48[SUP]th[/SUP] floor.

But my eyes didn’t follow them. I kept my stare on Mik.

It wasn’t the aid of the system that allowed him to pull of such feats, but his own athletic skill. Most players just went through the motions. Get into position, wait for the sword skill to trigger, then use it. It was an effective tactic, to be sure; using skills like that in any MMO was the best way to go. But I felt the way Mik used sword skills was what the developers of SAO had in mind when they programed them. They wanted players to push the limits of their avatar, and use the skills in new and creative ways.

That’s what I thought, at least.

I watched him thumb through the transparent menu, his eyes darting down the list of his spoils. And when he stopped, he jumped and down, screaming in joy.

“Yeah!” He ran around in a circle, like a child who had gotten that one special present on his birthday. He dashed up to me, glowing. “I got it! The last item I need to forge it! I thought it would take forever to find it, but I got in my first try. You must be like a good luck charm!”

“Nope, you did that all on your own.” I couldn’t help but smile. I know I must’ve reacted that way at least a few times when I got a rare drop. “That was nice use of Quick Change, by the way.”

“Really!?”

“Yep.” I said with a gracious nod. “I don’t think I’ve met a player who used it when they didn’t have to.”

One of the skills unlocked along the one-handed sword tree, was Quick Change. Normally, for a player to equip a weapon they had to open their menu, unequip their current weapon, and then reequip the one they wanted. The process didn’t take too long, but if a player had their sword knocked out of their hand, or destroyed in battle, that time simply wasn’t enough. But with Quick change, all they had to was open their menu, press the skill button, and then hit Quick change. It was very similar to how my Arsenal skill worked.

“That means a lot,” replied my joyful client. He then looked down the path to the Hill of Memories. “Now all I need is the flower.”

“Ready to go, then?”

“Yeah.”



Player Designation: Elmias.


Level: 100


Unique Attributes: The only processor of the extra skill Arsenal.


Mental State: Stable.


Notes: While the player appears to be mentally stable, I have detected several instances of severe mental stress building. Further observation is required to show if she will relieve said stress, or allow it to keep building. If the latter is achieved, it was possible for her to have a mental collapse. As per the administrator’s instructions I shall continue to monitor her, and note any changes in her behavior.


Yui-MHCP001
 

KingdomKey

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It's been a really long time since I've last read this. I did enjoy this new chapter! I felt like I was watching the fight take place myself. Mik certainly is a stronger fighter and able to hold his own in battle. I'm curious if this mission will later become a trap, or perhaps it's as harmless as it appears. I'd love to know what secrets Mik holds, of course, and I really can't wait for the next chapter. As for that last bit, I wonder if they're referring to the female protagonist? :)
 
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It's been a really long time since I've last read this. I did enjoy this new chapter! I felt like I was watching the fight take place myself. Mik certainly is a stronger fighter and able to hold his own in battle. I'm curious if this mission will later become a trap, or perhaps it's as harmless as it appears. I'd love to know what secrets Mik holds, of course, and I really can't wait for the next chapter. As for that last bit, I wonder if they're referring to the female protagonist? :)
*checks last time I updated* It really has been a while. One thing I'll always give SAO (both the light novels and the anime) is how good the fights are, and I want to be able to get as close to that as possible. Could be both. He has a few, but deep down he's a nice kid. I'm not sure when it'll be up, but hopefully it won't be as long as the last break. Yep, they were talking about Elmias. It was Yui (Kirito and Asuna's daughter), back when she was a mental health councilor.
 
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