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Due to the attack by Kanamoto Atsushi (Johnny Black), Kirigaya Kazuto (Kirito) suffered brain damage and was hospitalised in a comatose state. However, the boy suddenly vanished while en route to a different hospital for better care. With the help of Yui, Asuna traced his position to a mega-float known as the Ocean Turtle. Enlisting the help of Koujiro Rinko, the former lover of Kayaba Akihiko, managed to infiltrate the facility, where she discovered that Kazuto had been abducted by Kikuoka Seijirou and Higa Takeru, the men in charge of the Soul Translator project, in order to use the device to stimulate the boy's recovery via his Fluctlight.
Meanwhile, Eugeo and Kirito journeyed south from Rulid Village to the town of Zakkaria, where they worked on a farm outside the town for several months before competing in the Norlangarth North Area Swordsmanship Competition. After winning the tournament, the two were accepted into the town's garrison. Eventually, the two earned the right to enroll into the Sword Mastery Academy in Centoria, taking their next step towards their goal of becoming Integrity Knights and gaining entry to the Central Cathedral.
Chapter 2 - Project AlicizationEdit
Two days after Kanamoto Atsushi's attack on Kirigaya Kazuto, Asuna, Leafa and Sinon met in ALfheim Online (ALO) to discuss the situation. Kazuto had been transported to a hospital in order to receive emergency treatment for the drug that was injected into him. Although the doctors succeeded in restoring his cardiac activity, the boy remained unconscious due to brain damage. His doctors soon ordered him transferred to a different hospital for magnetic resonance imaging, but the ambulance carrying him disappeared.
Considering that Kazuto's area of expertise was virtual reality games, the three girls concluded that his disappearance was related to his work with Rath, meaning that Kikuoka Seijirou was responsible for the abduction. As Seijirou worked for the government, the girls requested Yui to search the national budget for grants related to artificial intelligence, which led them to discover an allotment for the «Ocean Turtle», a large, offshore mega-float that bore a strong resemblance to the fictional creature that served as the basis for Rath's name.
With the help of Koujiro Rinko, Asuna infiltrated the Ocean Turtle, the main site for Rath's Soul Translator technology that Kazuto had been secretly transported to by Kikuoka Seijirou. The two women found Seijirou and Higa Takeru, the primary developer for the Soul Translator, in the mega-float's main control room, where Asuna revealed her identity to them and demanded to know what they had done with Kazuto. From the government agent, Asuna learnt that while Kazuto had recovered from Atsushi's attack, the brain damage inflicted by the attack could not be treated through the means available to modern medicine. For this reason, Seijirou orchestrated Kazuto's abduction in order to place him into a Soul Translator, which could promote the recovery of his neuronal network via the stimulation of his Fluctlight. Although reassured by this knowledge, Asuna and Rinko demanded to know why Seijirou needed Kazuto at all. Relenting, Seijirou agreed to disclose the true purpose of Rath, as well as why Kazuto was necessary to their plan.
Seijirou began his explanation by revealing that the Soul Translator was capable of making copies of a user's consciousness. To demonstrate this function, Takeru loaded a copy of his own Fluctlight, which self-destructed in dramatic fashion after a few minutes of existence. Seijirou and Takeru stated that every Fluctlight copied from an adult individual had collapsed in a similar fashion, apparently due to the Fluctlights' inability to comprehend that they were not the original individual. Rath had circumvented this issue by using the prototype Soul Translator housed at Rath's facility in the Roppongi district of Tokyo to replicate the Fluctlights of infants, creating a generic template for the human soul. Since the template maintained its stability without collapsing as their previous attempts had, Rath had the template transferred to the Ocean Turtle by satellite and used it to create artificial people, who could then be raised in a virtual environment to fulfill Rath's eventual goal: the creation of a highly adaptive artificial intelligence to replace human soldiers in warfare. The process of developing the artificial intelligence was accelerated through the use of the Soul Translator's Fluctlight Acceleration function, which allowed altering the Fluctlights' perception of time and thus made it possible to have one hour in reality span over forty-one days in the virtual world.
As years passed in Underworld, Seijirou and Takeru observed that the Artificial Fluctlights were absolutely obedient to the Taboo Index, a series of rules created by their own ruling organisation. The inability to break any rules was detrimental to Rath's goal to create highly adaptive artificial soldiers, thus they had to investigate the cause of this blind obedience. To this end, they had a number of Rath employees raised alongside their virtual subjects in the world, leading to the observation that they all succumbed to law-abiding behavior to the point of becoming reclusive. Theorizing that the employees were simply unfamiliar with their foreign environment, Seijirou had Kazuto, his acquaintance with years of FullDiving experience, inserted into the simulation and raised alongside the Artificial Fluctlights. To their pleasant surprise, subsequent observations of Kazuto revealed that his influence had caused one of the two children he had befriended in the world to violate the Taboo Index: the very behavior they were seeking. However, before Seijirou and Takeru were able to retrieve the child's Light Cube, the world's authorities captured her and reprogrammed her Fluctlight, returning it to its state of unconditional obedience.
After Seijirou finished his explanation, Asuna and Rinko were escorted by Nurse Aki to the concrete-reinforced central core of the Ocean Turtle, where its control centers and Soul Translators were housed. There, they were allowed to observe Kazuto, still lying comatose in his Soul Translator.
Several hours later, Rinko visited Asuna's quarters, where they discussed the effect Kayaba Akihiko had had on their lives. Asuna was aware that Akihiko had implanted a microbomb in Rinko's chest to force her to care for him during the SAO Incident, but Rinko clarified that he never intended to actually detonate it. He instead used it as a way to absolve her of any wrongdoing in the wake of the game's resolution. She expressed regret over her inability to kill him herself in the days following the beginning of the SAO Incident. Asuna assured Rinko that she felt no bitterness toward her or Akihiko over what they did, sharing her own conflicted feelings about Akihiko with her in return; while he may have trapped her in his game and nearly killed her, she would never have met Kazuto without it.
Later that night, Rinko's dreams were interrupted by a voice resembling Akihiko's in her room. In a panic, she searched the room and hallway outside her door for an intruder. However, as she found nobody there, she was unable to determine whether the voice was real or imaginary.
Chapter 3 - Zakkaria Sword Arts TournamentEdit
Having reached Zakkaria, Eugeo and Kirito began working for a family of farmers. Five months after they left Rulid Village came the 28th Day of the 8th Month, the day of the Norlangarth North Area Swordsmanship Competition in Zakkaria. Unbeknowst to the boys sleeping on a pile of straw on the farm early that day, they were being observed for the past 163 days by a small, non-humanoid being. Although the creature was at first disappointed that the boys whom its master had ordered to observe did not seem special at all, the creature gradually realised that the boys were unusually inquisitive. The black-haired boy appeared to particularly imaginative and mobile, frequently bordering the line of breaking the Taboo Index.
Five Underworld months after leaving Rulid Village, Kirito and Eugeo woke up in a barn on the outskirts of the town of Zakkaria. They had been working as stable boys for a family of farmers for several months until that day and were getting ready for the Zakkaria Sword Arts Tournament, which was going to be held later that day. The two boys were greeted by the twin daughters of the farmers who brought pies to the boys before they headed off to town.
Kirito and Eugeo participated in the tournament, where the top two performers would be able to receive positions as guards in Zakkaria. After they are assured to be in different blocks, Kirito had to become the top winner in the west block and Eugeo in the east.
There was only one performer that Kirito kept an eye out for, as he suspected that the performer, Egome Zakkalight, secretly tried attacking the two before they could register. Egome used the Sword Skill «Vertical» in an attempt to defeat Kirito, but the latter quickly countered Egome's skill with the twin-consecutive Sword Skill «Snake Bite», and won the match by breaking Egome's blade, with the tip breaking off and then stabbing into the floor. This was a stepping stone on their way to reach Centoria's Central Cathedral.
Chapter 4 - Sword Mastery AcademyEdit
Part 1 Edit
Kirito had now spent almost two years in the Underworld, which was considered to be about 18 hours in the real world. Kirito and Eugeo were enrolled in the swordsmanship academy, training themselves to be the top students.
Kirito became a valet to a senior elite-swordswoman named Sortiliena Serlut. He trained with her on most days, and had a great respect for her and her family's Serlut style of combat, which consisted of using unorthodox weapons such as whips. One day after a sparring session, Serlut asked Kirito to show her everything he has, and so he promised that he would show her his true skills in the Aincrad-style the next day and told her to consider it a present. The reason for postponing this was because he intended to show her Sword Skills consisting of consecutive strikes, but the wooden sword he currently had would be unable to do anymore than 2-hit combos.
Kirito planned to ask Eugeo for his sword, but when he got around to that, he was reminded that the Gigas Cedar branch should be carved into a sword by the next day.
Early the next day, the duo went to Sadore's shop, the man who they were told by Garitta to take the branch to. The previous year, they had left the branch with him to make it into a sword, and since that day, Sadore had completed the one-handed straight-sword at Kirito's request. He allowed him to keep it for free, with a custom name of his own, and told him that he intended for the sword to be his shop's signature.
Later that day, Kirito decided to travel to a secluded area in the woods near the school, and attempted to see how many consecutive strikes he could manage. He discovered that like with Eugeo's Blue Rose Sword, he could only make 4-hit moves successfully. When he attempted to exceed that limit, Kirito's pose was thrown off balance, and the sword struck the ground, sending mud flying in Volo Levantein's direction, who had been standing there the whole time watching. Volo, being the head student of that year, told Kirito that he would be punished for staining Volo's uniform, but rather than forcing him to clean on a rest day, he said that they would spar in the practice arena.
Upon reaching the arena, about 50 students had gathered and Kirito's senior, Sortiliena, told him that she believes in him and told him to win. The spar began, and the two exchanged blows, but before either could hit the other, Miss Azurika, the dorm supervisor, halted the battle with the authority of being the first Swordswoman Representative of the Norlangarth Empire, a title earned at the Four Empire Unity tournament 7 years ago. Volo told Kirito that his punishment was complete, and left the arena.
Later, Kirito, Eugeo, and both their seniors went to Sortiliena's room and celebrated. After taking Eugeo to their shared room, Kirito went to water the Zephyria Flowers that he had been attempting to grow the whole year, in order to prove that The Underworld had parameters guided by "imagination". Upon arriving at the garden, he spotted two boys, Raios Antinous and Humbert Zizek, nobles whom had harassed Kirito and Eugeo for most of the year. He discovered that they had cut away all the Zephyria flowers he planted, and realized that though the Taboo Index protected property, the law did not claim these flowers as his property, due to being grown on soil that "belonged to nobody." However, a voice in his head told him to ask the Sacred Flowers in the garden, to help revive the life of the fallen Zephyria, and just like that, they grew before his eyes.
In the graduation test of the Academy, Sortiliena finally defeated Volo, graduating as the best student of the year. During the final graduation of Kirito's senior, Kirito gave her the pot of flowers as a gift, which she happily accepted.
Kirito and Eugeo were now Elite Swordsman trainees with their own valets. Ronye Arabel, with tea colored hair, was Kirito's valet and Tiese Shtolienen, with red hair, was Eugeo's valet. Tiese informed Eugeo that she had finished cleaning and Eugeo was about to dismiss her, though he wondered where Kirito was, since Ronye had finished already but couldn't leave until Kirito dismissed her. In that instant Kirito entered the room through the window, carrying a bag filled with honey pies. He took one for himself and gave one to Eugeo, giving the rest to Ronye and telling her to share it with her roommates.
Then Eugeo asked Kirito if he remembered what their goal was, the latter reassuring that they would defeat the other 10 elite swordsmen in the academy, become Integrity Knights, and continue to move forward to achieve their goal of finding Alice.
- Much of the events within Volume 10 were not present within the web version of the story. All of chapters 3 and 4 were only added within the light novel adaption.
- In the web novel, chapter 2 is the first time Yui and Sinon met, and prior to this meeting, Sinon had only heard of her. In the light novel, the two both participated in the group quest for Excalibur.