|Spoiler Alert: This article or section contains details about plotlines not covered in the anime. Do not proceed unless you wish to be spoiled. |
Hopeful Chant (ホープフル・チャント, Hōpufuru Chanto?) is an extra story written by the author of the Sword Art Online light novel, Kawahara Reki. The story was distributed as a present to visitors of Sword Art Online The Movie -Ordinal Scale- in Japan in the third week of the official cinema release between March 4 and March 10, 2017.
On October 15, 2023, three Knights of the Blood parties under the command of Asuna engaged the Ruthless Warder Chief, a mid-boss on the twenty-third floor of the Labyrinth located on the 40th Floor of Aincrad, in battle. After close to twenty minutes of battle, Asuna's party executed a Party Switch with Team C, Asuna dealing an attack on the boss using her «Triangular» Sword Skill that eliminated the first of the boss's Hit Point bars in the process.
Due to the possibility of the boss's attack patterns having changed, Asuna commanded her party members, including the one-handed sword-wielding Nautilus and the spear-wielding Sanza, to split into smaller groups. Sanza's spear was not durable enough to guard against the boss's wide-range attacks, thus Nautilus was expected to defend him; however, Nautilus failed to comply with Asuna's orders, leaving Sanza defenceless.
Before Sanza could retreat, he suffered a wide-range attack from the boss, which resulted in his weapon being broken and Sanza himself crashing into the wall, temporarily stunned. As the boss possessed an algorithm known as «Bullying», it immediately ignored its previous targets and focused its next attack on the collapsed spear user. Just before Sanza could suffer a finishing blow, the attack was intercepted by Kirito.
Due to Kirito joining the battle, the boss was easily defeated. After a short chat, Kirito proceeded further into the Labyrinth, while Asuna focused on investigating why Nautilus had ignored her order. As Nautilus had seemingly not suffered any damage or debuffs, Asuna requested him to explain the situation. The one-handed sword user reluctantly admitted that his legs had refused to move forward, despite his attempts to do so. After a moment of deliberation, Asuna commanded everyone into formation to depart from the Labyrinth.
Having reached the main town of the 40th Floor, Asuna disbanded the party and used the Teleport Gate to travel to Nolfret, the main town of the 39th Floor, where the Knights of the Blood headquarters were located. At the rural mansion that served as the headquarters, she headed to Heathcliff's room, where she reported on the daily clearing efforts to the guild leader. Heathcliff became interested when Asuna mentioned that there had been an issue during the mid-boss battle, and thus request further details on the matter.
Having learnt of Nautilus's inability to fight during the boss battle, Heathcliff hypothesised that the boy might be suffering from a slight case of «FullDive Non-Conformity». In Natilus's case, Heathcliff believed that the NerveGear was giving priority to the commands of his lower cerebral centres, the origin of instincts, instead of the higher centres, responsible for reason, thus making Nautilus's avatar unresponsive when at times of perceived danger. Although the guild leader doubted that the issue would be resolved entirely by mere training, due to Asuna's evaluation that the boy had potential, he entrusted the sub-leader with the final decision on his fate. After some hesitation, the girl declared that she would not allow Nautilus to participate in the next boss battle but would work on a way to control the condition after the battle.
Following the disbandment of his party, Nautilus wandered around Jaileum, the main town of the 40th Floor, until he eventually rented a room at a cheap inn to avoid contact with his guildmates. There, he lamented his blunder during the mid-boss battle by pointlessly attempting to stab himself with a dagger, only for it to be deflected by the Inner Area barrier, until the dagger fell out of his hand. As he bemoaned how his condition made him unable to fulfil his promise of rescuing his childhood friend from the death game, Nautilus received a message from the only person he had registered as a friend and left the room moments after reading the letter he had received.
At the plaza of Jaileum, Nautilus met with Yuna, his childhood friend and the only person he was friends with in the game. Having immediately noticed her friend's depression, Yuna decided to comfort him by giving him a piece of her candy and singing to him next to an NPC orchestra. Her song attracted a large audience, thus, as soon as she finished the song, Yuna escaped from the plaza, dragging Nautilus by his arm, in embarrassment. While having a conversation about Yuna's singing with her, Nautilus noticed that a new buff icon had lit under his Hit Point bar. Upon the boy realising that the buff came from her song, Yuna revealed that the buff was the effect of her Extra Skill named «Chant» and shared with him her desire to become part of the Clearers.
Having awoken at around 01:00, Asuna left Nolfret for a hilly area outside town. There, she encountered a «Balloon Roussette» bat, which unexpectedly ignored her and flew in the opposite direction. By following the bat, Asuna found Kirito in battle against a group of Balloon Rousettes, making use of their ability to attract others of their kind for farming efficiency. Just as Asuna began pondering whether she should return another day, the man in black disengaged from combat and approached her, suggesting to relocate before they started a conversation. Thus, the two travelled to a small spring at the edge of the hilly area, avoiding detection by any monsters.
After thanking Kirito for his help earlier that day and explaining how she used information from Argo to deduce where he would be conducting his farming that night, Asuna requested for his advice on Nautilus's case. Following a long period of silence, Kirito concluded that Heathcliff's assessment was most likely correct and thus Nautilus should avoid fighting on the front lines until the problem was resolved. As a last resort, Asuna wondered whether change of build could help overcome the problem, mentioning Nezha as an example, but Kirito stated that Nautilus's condition was too severe for this to be effective. With Kirito having affirmed her own conclusion, Asuna thanked the man in black, apologized for interrupting his farming and advised him to be less reckless. Kirito nodded, and headed towards the farming site. As soon as his color cursor vanished from Asuna’s vision, she went in the direction of the main town
Despite knowing it was 2 o’ clock, the hooded girl didn’t feel like sleeping, so instead, she walked randomly around the city, until she found five or six people player and NPC alike, which surprised her, due to the fact it was late at night on an unpopular floor. Upon noticing their cursors remained motionless, Asuna noticed they were listening to the NPC orchestra, since she didn’t find any reasons for that, she approached until she saw a female player singing. Curious on the singer’s reason for doing it at that time, the hooded girl was going to ask it, but before she could, the female player ran to the teleport gate and went to another floor. Since she didn’t understand it, she asked one of the players who was listening to the song who was the singer and if she always sang by the same time. The player shows the buff he got from listening the song since the start, and explains that they didn’t know her name, so they nicked her as «Uta-chan». A friend of him, who was by his side, also told Asuna that the female player appeared at a random floor by that time every day, and right after that, the group of friends invite the hooded girl to join their fan club, but upon noticing her guild tag, they noticed she was in a guild of clearers and stepped back, embarrassed. At the same moment, Asuna deduced that the player had the «Chant» extra skill, analyzed the nickname and dreamed of listening to the mysterious singer with Kirito.
Later on the same day, the KoB clearing party encountered Kirito at the topmost part of the labyrinth. Together, they reached the boss room, so they retreated to Nolfret and dissolved the party. Upon disbanding, Asuna went to the thirty-six floor in pursuit of Kirito, whom she found listening to «Uta-chan’s» song within a large crowd of people.