Alicization Beginning (アリシゼーション・ビギニング, Arishizēshon Biginingu?) is the 9th book in the Sword Art Online Light Novel series, published on February 10, 2012.
Using a new FullDive machine called the Soul Translator, Kirito entered Underworld as a child without his real world memories. There, he and his friends Alice Zuberg and Eugeo embarked on an adventure, which ended with Alice accidentally violating the Taboo Index, with disastrous consequences. Six years later, Kirito awoke within Underworld with his real world memories. This time, Eugeo and Kirito left their village on a quest to return Alice to her hometown.
Eugeo and Kirito, two eleven-year-old boys living in a settlement at the northern edge of the «Human Empire» called Rulid Village, were assigned the lifelong task of chopping a giant, durable tree—known as the «Gigas Cedar»—using the «Dragon Bone Axe», in order to allow the villagers to expand their fields and pastures. Several generations and more than three hundred years of chopping diligently with the axe had left a one-mel-deep gash in the tree, with three more mels and around nine centuries' worth of chopping remaining. When the two boys finished their quota for the morning, the village chief's daughter Alice, who had been studying the Sacred Arts at the Rulid church, brought them homemade lunch. After discussing possible ways to prolong the «Life» of their food, the children decided to spend the next rest day searching for ice in the forbidden «Mountain Range at the Edge».
On the following rest day, the three children gathered at the edge of the village and departed towards the mountains. En route, Eugeo pondered on their futures, as well as their past before being assigned to his «Sacred Task». At that moment, Kirito asserted his belief that they could choose to be guards if they managed to fell the «Gigas Cedar» — an idea that Eugeo rejected as impossible. Eventually, the three children reached the cave at the mountain pass; to their surprise, the trip lasted significantly less time than anticipated. As they explored further and further into the dark cave, the air grew considerably colder, making their breath visible. Moments later, the three children arrived at a large chamber, within which they were greeted by the sight of hulking white bones of a fallen dragon. The trio soon realized that the dragon had been killed with a sword.
While speculating on the cause of the dragon's death, Kirito pulled a sword, known as the «Blue Rose Sword» in the village's legends, from the dragon's remains. However, due to the sword's weight and their unwillingness to rob the dragon's grave, the children instead returned to their original goal of gathering ice. After filling Alice's basket with it, the three of them attempted to leave the cave and return to the village. However, as they took the wrong path, the children instead arrived to the entrance to the Dark Territory, the land of the devil races. Looking up into the blood-red sky, Alice, Eugeo, and Kirito witnessed a mid-air battle between a white Integrity Knight on the back of a dragon, and one of the Dark Knights. When the Integrity Knight mortally wounded the Dark Knight and the latter fell to the ground just in front of the three children, Alice subconsciously attempted to come to the dying knight's aid but tripped along the way, accidentally touching the soil of the Dark Territory with her hand.
The next day, an Integrity Knight descended on Rulid Village, announcing to the village and its chief that Alice had broken a Taboo and was to be taken away for interrogation and execution as punishment for her crime. Having seen the dragon flying overhead at the Gigas Cedar, Eugeo and Kirito rushed back to the village, where the latter was restrained by the other villagers when he attempted to attack the knight with his axe in an attempt to free Alice, while the former stood frozen, unable to defy the rules. Ignoring the commotion, the Integrity Knight finished tying Alice to his dragon and ascended into the sky, vanishing into the distance.
On June 29, 2026, Asada Shino (Sinon) met with Kirigaya Kazuto (Kirito) at the «Dicey Café», where the two discussed about the aftermath of the «Death Gun» murders, as well as the recently-held fourth Bullet of Bullets, the winner of which seemed to be able to predict the patterns of veteran players in an uncanny way. While assessing that an unusual playstyle might be able to overcome the player, the girl felt a chill as she recalled the time she was ambushed during the tournament by the player and he whispered to her in English that her soul would taste sweet. Assuming a falsely cheery tone upon recovering from her recollection, Shino invited Kazuto to participate in the next tournament, reminding him of her help with Excalibur to help persuade him. As they continued their conversation, Kazuto realised that Shino had also invited another person and quickly checked his phone, which displayed a red dot on a map moving towards their location. The dot's arrival at the café coincided with the entrance of Yuuki Asuna.
Seeing Asuna's casual interactions with Shino, Kazuto became curious to know when the two of them had got to be that close, becoming upset when he discovered that Shino had spent a night at Asuna's house, while he himself had never visited her house even once. When the topic turned to the app on Kazuto's phone, Shino learnt that Asuna's version was capable of displaying Kazuto's body temperature and heart rate, transmitted by a sensor implanted under his skin as a result of his part-time job. Thus, Shino questioned him further about his job, which led to Kazuto explaining that he was involved in the testing of a new Brain Machine Interface (BMI), overseen by a company called «Rath». Following a detailed explanation on the concept of «Fluctuating Lights» («Fluctlights»), the fundamental principle of the new technology that was based on the theory of quantum brain dynamics, the boy noted that he had been unable to differentiate the world created with this new technology from the real world.
Comparing a FullDive with the Soul Translator to the state of dreaming, Kazuto explained the concept of Fluctlight Acceleration (FLA), a function of the Soul Translator that amplified the user's perception of time by interacting with the Fluctlight's thought-clock, thus allowing the user to experience a longer Dive in the same amount of time. After Kazuto asserted his intention to halt his participation in the project as his finals were about to begin, Asuna noticed that it was nearly six o'clock, thus prompting the group to finish their conversation and leave the café. As they departed, Shino stopped abruptly as she sensed a prying gaze directed at them but was unable to locate its source, until it suddenly vanished.
After taking the train to Setagaya, Kazuto was escorting Asuna to the latter's home while holding hands. This reminded Asuna of the time the two held hands in Granzam on the 55th Floor of Aincrad in Sword Art Online after the incident with Kuradeel that forced Kirito to kill the man to stop him from harming Asuna in her moment of hesitation. Since then, Asuna learnt to discern information from the warmth of Kazuto's hands, thus she knew that the boy was silent due to hesitating to tell her something important. Just then, Kazuto stopped abruptly to reveal his decision to seek his future in America, where research was being made on a brain implant chip that the boy was very interested in. However, the boy was conflicted about the decision due to not wishing to part with Asuna. As such, the boy pleaded the girl to travel with him, prompting the girl to reply that she would go anywhere with him, surprised that this question was the entire reason for the boy's concerns.
When the two reached a small park near Asuna's house where they typically parted ways, the couple was approached by a man, who asked for directions to the station. However, having realised that the man had been following them since they had left the cafe, Kazuto demanded that the man identify himself. The man's reference to wearing a mask in Sword Art Online allowed Kazuto to identify him as Johnny Black (Kanamoto Atsushi), a member of «Laughing Coffin», as well as one of the murderers behind the Death Gun incident. Moments later, Atsushi produced a syringe filled with succinylcholine from within his jacket, prompting Kazuto to order Asuna to seek help while he tried to defend himself against Atsushi. As Asuna rushed to the nearest houses, Atsushi injected Kazuto with the drag by pressing the needle-less injector against his shoulder, while the boy stabbed the tip of his umbrella deep into Atsushi's thigh. Asuna immediately rushed back and called an ambulance, which promptly arrived on the scene. The paramedics attempted using atropine to counter the effects of the succinylcholine; however, the boy soon entered a state of cardiac arrest.
Kirito awoke in the heart of a forest, unable to recall what had taken place after he and Asuna reached the park. Noticing that he was wearing unusual clothes that seemed to fit the aesthetics of a fantasy game, the boy presumed that he might be in a virtual world but was unable to open any in-game windows when he attempted to log out. After numerous conjectures, Kirito assumed that he found himself in Underworld, thus he attempted to call the operator, Higa Takeru, by yelling at the sky for him to stop the Dive, to no avail. Disappointed, Kirito decided to find a source of water to quench his thirst and found a crystal-clear stream by following the sound of flowing water. Having refreshed himself with the water, the boy suddenly heard a chopping sound in the distance. Following the sound to its source, the young man abruptly witnessed a brief vision of two boys and a girl walking by the riverside under the setting sun of midsummer. Struck deeply by the scene, he wondered if it was a memory of long-passed days he had forgotten.
The vision faded as quickly as it had come, leaving Kirito with a sense of nostalgia, as if he were remembering his own childhood, despite having no recollections of living in Underworld. As he continued following the sound of chopping, Kirito reached a clearing, where he found a boy standing next to an enormous tree with an axe in his hand. After some hesitation, Kirito decided to enquire about the possibility of logging out; however, as the boy failed to understand the question, Kirito concluded that it was not an option. Considering his next best option in the current situation, the newcomer wondered if there were a lodging place in the area. The boy thus revealed that his village was nearby and offered to escort Kirito there, if the latter would wait till the former was finished with his work. When Kirito agreed to wait, the boy, realising that he had forgotten to do so before, introduced himself as Eugeo.
Inferring that Kirito had not yet eaten lunch, Eugeo offered one of his pieces of bread to the boy. Before the two began eating, Eugeo summoned the Stacia Window for the bread to check on its Life, prompting Kirito to regard this as a confirmation of him being inside a virtual world. Discovering that Eugeo always ate bread from the day before due to his unforgiving schedule, Kirito remarked that he should bring a boxed lunch from home. Reminded of the past by this comment, Eugeo shared the story of the events six years prior that led to his childhood friend named Alice being arrested by an Integrity Knight. After finishing lunch, Kirito learnt that the boy's «Sacred Task» was to cut the giant tree; feeling thankful for the boy sharing his lunch, Kirito offered to help him with his job. Dusk arrived by the time they finished Eugeo's daily quota and headed towards to the village of Rulid.
At the village, Eugeo escorted Kirito to the village's church to request a room for him from Sister Azariya. As the nun instantly welcomed the boy into the church, her apprentice Selka helped the boy settle into his room and explained the schedule at the church, before the two went to sleep. After church worship and breakfast the following morning, Kirito decided to accompany Eugeo on his job at the Gigas Cedar that day as well. During their noon lunch break, Kirito learnt from Eugeo about Selka being Alice's sister, as well as various crises in the area lately, including an epidemic and goblin raids on merchant caravans. At the end of their break, just as Kirito was about to return to work, he felt compelled to ask Eugeo if there were anything harder than the axe they could use.
While stating that only a Divine Object would be more powerful than their axe, Eugeo suddenly recalled the existence of the «Blue Rose Sword», which he had transported from the Northern Cave to the storage shed near the Gigas Cedar two years prior. When Eugeo brought the sword from the shed to show to Kirito, the latter decided to test it against the tree. However, due to Kirito's Object Control Authority (OC Authority) being lower than that of the sword, he could not wield the sword properly, thus missing the existing cut on the tree, which reduced the effectiveness of the swing. Although Eugeo was surprised that swing had visibly reduced the Durability of the tree, albeit only by one point, the two decided to return to using the axe instead for the remainder of the day, as they could not wield the sword properly enough to make effective use of it.
In the evening, while Kirito was taking a bath, he heard Selka outside the room and decided to request her to answer some of his questions. He quickly finished his bath and returned to his room, where Selka awaited him. When Kirito broached the topic of Alice, he learnt from the girl that Eugeo had stopped smiling ever since Alice was arrested, while the other villagers began overwhelming her with their great expectations of her as Alice's sister. Just as Kirito finished comforting the girl to just be herself, the church bells rang, prompting Selka to take her leave. Just before leaving the room, Selka enquired about the reason for Alice's arrest, thus discovering that her sister had trespassed into the Dark Territory.
The next morning, Sister Azariya approached Kirito as he washed his face, informing him that Selka had vanished. Realizing that Selka's disappearance might have been caused by the fact that he revealed the reason for Alice's arrest the previous night, Kirito shared his suspicion with Eugeo, enlisting his help to pursue the girl to the «Mountain Range at the Edge». There, the two entered the Northern Cave in search of the girl, until they heard her scream midway through the passage. Rushing towards its source, Eugeo and Kirito entered the main chamber, where they found Selka captured by a group of goblins. Under Kirito's instructions, the two boys charged at the first four goblins and doused the goblins' fire, giving themselves an opportunity to acquire some weapons. While Eugeo distracted the goblin minions, Kirito confronted the leader of the goblins, «Lizard Killer Ugachi». As Kirito's initial attacks failed to overcome Ugachi's defence, the boy instinctively resorted to tracing the movements of a three-part Sword Skill named «Sharp Nail» to overwhelm the goblin with consecutive attacks. To Kirito's surprise, however, his movements triggered an actually system-assisted attack, allowing him to breach the goblin's defence and sever one of its arms in the process with the boosted attack.
The momentary sense of triumph from Kirito's successful attack proved fatal, as it allowed the goblin to retaliate with a slash at his left shoulder. Paralysed by extreme pain from the injury, Kirito was rendered helpless against Ugachi as the goblin lifted his machete for a finishing blow. At that moment, Eugeo rushed to his partner's aid, startling Ugachi and forcing him to step backwards. However, Eugeo's predictable rhythm eventually allowed the goblin to create an opening and slice deep into the boy's abdomen. Eugeo's impending death forced Kirito to recall his suppressed memories of Alice being apprehended by an Integrity Knight, filling him with anguish that overwhelmed his physical pain. With a new surge of energy, Kirito managed to sever Ugachi's other arm, followed by the goblins head, killing the goblin in the process. Once the other goblins fled in fear, Kirito released Selka from her bounds and immediately brought her to the dying Eugeo. At Kirito's insistence, the girl used a highly dangerous Sacred Art to transfer some of Kirito's Durability to Eugeo in order to prevent his death. As Kirito's senses began fading due to the loss of his Durability, the boy heard a familiar voice in his mind stating that it awaited the two boys at the top of Central Cathedral. At that moment, Kirito felt a surge of overwhelming energy in his body, which swiftly flowed into Eugeo through his arm.
Two days after the fight in the cave, Eugeo and Kirito returned to their work at the Gigas Cedar, surprised to find that their axe felt unusually light in their hands. Having noticed an increase in his Object Control Authority after the fight against the goblins, Kirito decided to once again test the «Blue Rose Sword» against the Gigas Cedar when the two finished their morning quota. This time, Kirito successfully activated the «Horizontal» skill, hitting the tree with tremendous velocity. Shocked by the sight of Kirito's skill, Eugeo pleaded his friend to teach him his techniques, wishing to learn the way of the sword in order to reclaim what he had lost. Happy with his partner's resolution, Kirito began training Eugeo in his sword style, using the Gigas Cedar as a target for their practice. After five days of their training, the tree finally collapsed, prompting a feast in the village that evening to celebrate.
At the climax of the celebration, the elder of the village provided Eugeo with the right to choose his next task. Although Eugeo's decision to become a swordsman surprised the majority of the villagers, the elder nonetheless approved his new Sacred Task and allowed the boy to leave the village to train as a swordsman. However, this decision provoked an outcry from Jink, the current village guard chief, who refused to acknowledge Eugeo being allowed to enter the tournament in Zakkaria before him. A duel was proposed to resolve this dispute, resulting in Eugeo's victory when the boy destroyed Jink's sword with «Slant», a Sword Skill the newly-appointed swordsman had learnt on his own. With the duel resolved, the celebration continued until the bell chimed ten. At that point, Selka dragged a drunk Kirito back to his room, where he swore to her that he would someday return to Rulid with Alice and Eugeo.
The following day, Eugeo and Kirito departed from Rulid to begin their journey to Zakkaria. En route, the two encountered Eugeo's predecessor Garitta, who had been waiting for them at a side path that led to the Gigas Cedar. Requested their help, the former woodcutter led the two boys to the fallen trunk of the Gigas Cedar. There, he directed their attention to the tree's topmost branch and instructed them to sever it in a single strike. When Kirito successfully completed the request, Garitta advised him to bring the branch to a craftsman named Sadore in Centoria to have it fashioned into a sword. Upon expressing their gratitude to Garitta, the two boys returned to the road to continue on their journey to Zakkaria.