|Aria in the Starless Night|
|Cover Character/s||Asuna, Kirito, Illfang, Diabel|
Aria in the Starless Night is a side story of the Sword Art Online series. It shows Kirito and Asuna's first meeting. The First Floor Boss fight is also shown, as well as the origin of the term «Beater».
This story takes place 1 month after the beginning of SAO. It also has a Material Edition continuation. The story was later revised and published as the 1st chapter of the Progressive series, along with its continuation, now named as Intermission - Reason for the Whiskers, and the Rondo of the Transient Sword side story.
Original Side StoryEdit
Set in one month's time since the imprisonment of the players in the SAO game,with 2,000 players already dead and the 1st Floor yet to be cleared.
The story begins in the «First Floor Labyrinth» on the 2nd December. With Kirito witnessing a female Solo Player named Asuna overkilling a level 6 armed beast-man monster: «Ruin Kobold Trooper» with continuous usage of «Linear». After watching the monster disperse into fragments; Kirito approaches the girl to ask about her risky battle style. Learning that it was her first time playing a MMO game, Kirito soon felt the need to teach her and answer her questions on some common knowledge in the SAO game. Afterwards, Asuna decided to end the conversation with Kirito as the monsters were going to re-spawn soon. Asuna was soon overwhelmed by fatigue and almost collapsed on the dungeon floor, however Kirito quickly intervenes and transports her outside the dungeon from harm’s way. After Asuna had finally rested on the grassy field, she wakes up and notices Kirito who saved her; she responded to him by stating that saving her was an "Unnecessary Effort".
After Asuna reminisced about how her old ordinary life changes when she borrowed the «NerveGear» from her older brother: Yuuki Koichiro. Kirito notifies Asuna about the upcoming meeting for the boss raid at the town called «Tolbana». Arriving at Tolbana’s northern gate, Kirito momentarily part ways from Asuna after telling her the time and place of the meeting. Kirito soon met up with «Argo the Rat»; Aincrad's first informant and recognised by the painted whiskers on her face. Within the 2 hours of the meeting, Kirito learns from Argo that the buyer of his «Anneal Blade+6» had raised his price to 29,800 «Col»; however Kirito again refuses the offer and wonders why the Argo's client was so persistent.
Once Argo had left, there was still time before the meeting began. So Kirito met up with Asuna as she was having lunch by the fountains at the town centre. When the meeting for the boss raid had finally began, 44 players including Kirito and Asuna had gathered by the fountain. A self-claimed knight, called Diabel, appears amongst the crowd, and announced that the boss’s room in the dungeon have been located. During his speech about the slow advance of the game, a man name Kibaou interrupts the crowds’ cheer. He demands an apology from the unknown Beta Testers, however a tall man name Agil approaches him and shows that the Beta players should not be fully blamed as they had also help by distributing knowledge in the game. When the commotion had ended, Diabel finally finishes his encouraging speech about everyone working together.
Due to the efforts of Diabel’s clearing group, the boss had been revealed as «Ilfang the Kobold Lord» along with his re-spawning minions: «Ruin Kobold Sentinels». As the boss raiding party later receives the free information from the NPC shop of «Argo's Strategy Guide: First Floor Boss edition». There were soon seven parties with different purposes: 2 Heavy-Armor Tank parties, 3 High-movement attacker parties, 2 Long-Weapon Support parties. Whereas the left behind players; Kirito forms a partnership with Asuna and were assigned to rear guarding in the support group (E group).
After the meeting has disbanded, Asuna stayed over at Kirito’s rented room at the 1st Floor farm to use the bath. Soon afterwards, Kirito was visited by Argo and paid the fee to learn that the client was Kibaou, who once again raised his price for Kirito’s sword to 39,800 Col. While Kirito was wondering if his reputation as a beater player was exposed, Argo went to use the bathroom and unfortunately for Kirito, she met Asuna.
The boss raid finally commences on December 4th and during the fierce battle, Diabel receive a deadly 3-hit combo from the boss and dies in front of Kirito. In Diabel’s last moments, Kirito finally realise that the self-claim knight was also a Beta Player and also the true client who was trying the hinder him by purchasing his «Anneal Blade»; his motive was to prevent Kirito from performing another Last Attack move against the bosses like he did from the Beta version. Diabel wanted to perform the last attack and obtain its bonuses for his own survival, and he thought that Kirito also wanted the «Last attack bonus». After Diabel’s body shatters into the blue fragments, Kirito performs Diabel’s last wish in dealing the Last Attack against the boss; with Asuna and everyone’s cooperation; he succeeded and thus obtaining the rare boss item.
Everyone was celebrating as the first floor was finally cleared, however the atmosphere soon changes when a few players from Kibaou’s group reminded everyone that their leader Diabel had died. To deal with growing anger against the Beta Players, Kirito made the bold decision to direct all the anger onto him by announcing himself belonging to a new category known as «Beater» (Beta Tester + Cheater); a player who uses future knowledge to benefit himself in the SAO game from its previous version.
After flashing the victorious boss item: «Coat of Midnight» to everyone, Kirito left them all behind in their discontent, with only Asuna and Agil understanding what he did, and passes through the gate of the 1st floor as the SAO game first known «Beater». Kirito was soon followed by Asuna, who met up with him to show her gratitude, as well as to relay 2 worded messages from Agil and Kibaou. After parting with Asuna once again, he later receive a message from Argo about his infamous speech and tries to compensate him for the trouble she cause; by allowing an onetime free offer of any information, Kirito mischievously reply by asking for the meaning of her painted whiskers. Afterwards, he approaches the main city of the 2nd Floor: «Urbus».