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Rainbow Bridge

Gsimenas September 20, 2014 User blog:Gsimenas

The proofread part of the translation is also available on http://dreadfuldecoding.blogspot.com/ for those who prefer that version.

Seeing as no one was doing Rainbow Bridge and I wanted to practise my Japanese a bit, I figured I'd make a little surprise by translating it.

Note: Only part 1 has actually been properly proofread. Although the translation for the story is complete, there may be errors here and there and I did omit some minor things that I wasn't sure how to translate. Some sentences may also be awkward. Read only if you're too impatient to wait for a properly proofread version (which might take awhile).

If anyone notices a mistake or has a better way of phrasing something, let me know in the comments.


Rainbow Bridge

Part 1

A castle shining in a madder-red colour, floated in the distance of the violet sky.

Two months have passed since the reborn Aincrad was implemented, yet when I look up from the surface of Alfheim's ocean, I still find myself captivated by a mysterious sensation. I just cannot believe that this small structure, and the floating castle that once existed in the skies of a different world, were really of the same size.

Of course, if I spread the wings on my back, take flight and ascend towards the New Aincrad in the faraway sky, before long, the castle will reveal all of its majesty that I will not be able to fully picture. After landing on the first floor from the aperture in the outer circumference, there will be a vast field with various mountains and lakes. I guess that walking from one side to the other will take as much time as it did in the old Aincrad.

While still trying to comprehend that, I continued with my own thoughts.

About being trapped inside that castle during those two years. About wandering through the roadless wastelands, fighting atrocious monsters, encountering lots of people, and then being separated from them. About my battle with Heathcliff on the 75th floor, where we were both defeated and the death game came to an end. I wondered if that was truly reality.

Or.

About landing in Alfheim in search of the slumbering Asuna, and successfully releasing her from the cage of malice at the end of a short but hectic journey. And now, about how I’m spending the tranquil days together with former allies and new friends in both the real and virtual worlds. Again, I wondered if this is a reality.

While I was surrounded by such endless thoughts, I silently looked up at the floating castle illuminated by the evening sun, and——

Suddenly, a loud, horn-like koooo――――n sound broke out next to my feet. My avatar’s legs lost their ground, as the grayish-white texture of the ground shook violently. Reflexively, I raised my arms and grabbed Asuna’s hand with my right, and Klein’s with my left.

“Woah, wh-what the--?”, Lisbeth screamed.

“I-it can’t be planning to drop us off here, can it―?”, Klein shouted.

“If so, we could just fly, right?", Agil calmly retorted right away.

The small hole in the ground in front of us spread out suddenly, and a large quantity of water was blown out of it with the force of a geyser.

“Kyuuuuuu!” “Hawawaaaaa!”

These screams were from the small dragon Pina who was just above the hole, and the small fairy(pixie) Yui who was riding Pina, respectively. Although the abrupt water current shot up to no less the five meters, at that moment Pina spread out its wings and restored her balance, lightly hovering over the top of the water fountain. Joyful laughter resounded, as if I had imagined Yui's scream two seconds ago.

While using my left hand to avoid the small drops of water that were falling down, I exchanged glances with Asuna, and we both gave a wide smile simultaneously.

“......Wow, it spouted like a tide, huh.”

At that moment, Asuna nodded and answered,

“What can I say, it is a whale, you know.”

That's true. The party comprised of 7 people, including me, Asuna, Leafa, Silica, Lisbeth, Agil and Klein, and also Yui and Pina, were travelling on the sea, on the back of a giant white whale ― one with such a huge size that even an Evil-God Class monster would flee.

Everyone uh-huhed to express their agreement to Asuna's remark and, as the whale’s spouting ended, Yui came down from the skies and said while flying to Asuna’s left shoulder,

“This does not mean that the whale-san in the real world actually sprays water from its blowhole. It is just that when they exhale close to the surface of the sea, ocean water is also carried along!”[† 1]

“Whaaaat?!”, the seven people exclaimed in unison.

Yui, who just showed her usual encyclopedic knowledge and strong memory, simply said “ahem” and set her small hands upon her hips. While thinking that her posture was lovely, I once again looked up at the floating steel castle in the night sky.

As the reborn Aincrad revolves around the skies of Alfheim at a considerable speed, the outline of the castle I saw a while ago was getting smaller and smaller. I motionlessly fixed my eyes onto the location approximately one-fifth of the castle from the bottom—— the place where the profoundly memorable 22nd floor should be.

Although, for now, only[† 2] the first ten floors have been opened, I'm sure that we will eventually climb up and reach the 20th floor and beyond. When I see the log house built in the depths of the snow-covered forest once again, will I truly be able to believe, I wondered. Believe that the former Aincrad disappeared to distant memory. And believe that the world where games are meant to be played has returned.


The white whale carried us from Thule Island in Alfheim’s southwest sea to a beach in Sylph territory. Then, with a voice that sounded like a giant tuba, it prompted us to get off. After watching us safely get off his back and land on the white, sandy beach with a gentle expression in the eyes, it turned around leisurely, and swam towards the bright red evening sun in the horizon, in the company of a school of dolphins.

“Whale-saan, thank yooou! Let us ride on your back again sometime, okaaaaay?!”

In response to Yui’s voice, the white whale spouted a very high column of water once again, and its large body sank into the ocean bit by bit. Before long, it could no longer be seen. Yui, who was sitting on Asuna’s shoulder, gently lowered her hands that she had been waving affectionately.

While smiling, I called out to that slightly lonely-looking face.

“I’m sure you’ll meet it again someday. The quest back then looked like it was hinting that it will somehow continue.”

"Oh, ho-hold it right there, Kiri-no-ji[† 3]!"

The loud voice that interrupted me and spoiled the atmosphere of the farewell was of course Klein’s. While scratching his unshaven face, he continued with an expression that could not be understood.

“What the heck was the deal with that quest[† 4]? Like the mermaid princess turning out to be an jii-san, the jii-san turning out to be a giant octopus, then the giant octopus turning out to be the lord of the abyss, and something about divine beings; I didn’t get any of that stuff.”

“The first one about the mermaid princess was merely your aspiration.”

Although I gave a tsukkomi[† 5] sort of retort by reflex, I too could not give an immediate reply to Klein’s doubts. Fleetingly looking around my allies, I saw that the former devil of clearing Asuna, the Norse mythology expert Leafa, the muscle head(tank) intellectual Agil, as well as Lisbeth and Silica, had all folded their arms and said “hmmm”.

Today is ―― July 25, 2025, Friday.

In order to grant Yui’s wish of “seeing a whale”, we challenged the «Deep Sea Plunderers» quest that was rumoured to have a large, aquatic-type monster.

We were requested, by an ojii-san, to search for an item in a dungeon ― just a common errand-type quest ―― or so we thought. But the truth was that the ojii-san was actually pulling our strings. Unwittingly, we ended up stealing a treasure that was sealed in an Underwater Temple. Well, this was still a common plot, but from here on, the super rapid development, or should I say, an overly rapid plot twist began. The ojii-san had seven HP bars and transformed into a gigantic octopus-type monster, «Kraken the Abyss Lord», who beat us to a near death status with ease - just a single hit from a single tentacle. But, before we could even think that the quest was impossible, a gigantic oji-san, calling himself «Leviathan the Sea Lord», descended from above. Just as the two of them completed their hard to understand conversation, Kraken sunk into the depths of the sea Leviathan then recovered the pearl (which was actually a large egg) that we had taken out of the temple and, at that moment, a “quest cleared” fanfare played ―― It was such an incomprehensible quest, even after thinking about it again and again.

Still dumbfounded, we were initially discouraged by the thought that the rumoured aquatic-type monster was Kraken, but then the oji-san calling himself lord of the seas summoned a white whale, which took us to this beach. So, in any case, the initial objective of Yui getting to see a whale was accomplished. And we all lived happily ever after―― although that is true, I understand Klein's feelings of wanting to say “I didn’t get any of that stuff”.

After humming for a while, I looked around faces of my comrades, and said,

“I wonder if anyone can accurately remember the talk between the octopus and the ossan[† 6]?”

If this was in a conventional MMORPG, we could just scroll up the message window with a mouse wheel and browse through the conversation that took place during the quest; however in VRMMORPGs, there’s basically no such convenient function. Therefore, there’s a technique of using a crystal to record an event’s conversation if it sounds l important. However, this time, we didn’t have such a luxury at all.

In response to my query, the six of them simultaneously tilted their necks, and then shook their heads left and right.

“Heh, indeed a vanguard-only[† 7] party with no magic users(mages) at all.”

Just as I finished my comment with a sigh mixed in, Liz raised her right hand overhead with the motion of a pitcher about to throw the ball, and consecutively thrusted her index finger towards me three times.

"You too! Can't talk down! Other people!"

“......Yeah, sorry[† 8].”

However, at that moment, Yui flew up from Asuna’s shoulder, and landed on my head with a pose just like Leviathan's descent at the Underwater Temple.

“I guess it cannot be helped. Although it is kind of cheating, let me reproduce the conversation!”

All of us shouted “ooo” in an amazed voice, and, puffing her chest with an "ahem" sound, the pixie began the narrative while skillfully imitating the tone of the octopus and the oji-san.


Leviathan: “It's been a long time, my old friend. I see you're up to your old tricks.

Kraken: “The same to you[† 9]. How long will you be satisfied as a servant to the Æsir? You're an embarrassment to the name 'Lord of the Sea'.”

Leviathan: “I am satisfied with being a king. And this is my domain. Knowing that, do you still wish to fight, Lord of the Abyss?”

Kraken: “For now, I shall withdraw. But I[† 10] shall not give up, my friend! One day, I shall claim the prince's power, and make the accursed gods pay! Until that day!......”

Leviathan: “That egg belongs to the one that will someday rule all the sea and air. I must find it a new home[† 11], so I shall take it back.”


“......That is all!”

After Yui's reproduction of the conversation ended, all seven people applauded. Even Pina, sitting on Silica’s head, flapped its wings lively.

“Thank you[† 12], Yui.”

After thanking my daughter for the job well done, I started pondering about it once again and continued my speech,

“Hmm…… The proper nouns that concern me are «Æsir»[† 13] and «Prince». I have a feeling that I've heard something like that somewhere, but……”

“Heere!”

The one who said this while raising her hand enthusiastically was the wind fairy(Sylph) mage and swordswoman, Leafa. Possessing the most knowledge about myths and folklore among all of our party’s members, she stepped forward and explained with a clear enunciation,

“The Æsir are a family of gods that come from Norse mythology! You guys have heard of gods like the chief god Odin, the thunder god Thor, and the mischievous Loki among others, haven’t you?”

“I have I have I have”

Six people gave their acknowledgement one after another, and Leafa gave a big nod in return.

“Then, as for the Prince……”

“Go on go on go on”

“I have no idea at all!”

Bam, all of us openly made a falling to our back motion, and started pondering again.

The next one to speak was the cat fairy race(Cait Sith) beast user(Beast Tamer), Silica.

“Err, in short, the Kraken-ojii-chan detests the Æsir, but, since he hasn’t been able to win yet, he wants to obtain the «Prince’s power» to become stronger…. is that how it is?”

“If even that giant octopus’s ridiculous power was no match for the Æsir , I wonder what kind of power do they have……”, said the blacksmith fairy race(Leprechaun) Lisbeth, while tossing her metallic gloss pink hair.

“Well, they are gods after all”, said the water fairy race(Undine) Asuna, adding on to the conversation. Then, the one who interrupted with a self-important tone was the fire fairy race(Salamander), Klein.

“That’s right, ya younglings might not know, but Odin is actually of the strongest class. The moment he’s summoned, bam! And the monster is sliced into two……”

“Oi oi, that’s not the plot within the myth.”, the earth fairy race(Gnome) Agil inserted a tsukkomi with a stunned expression, and everyone, including Yui, burst into laughter.

Understanding the parody[† 14] in Klein’s remarks, I formed a wry smile as well. While doing so, I thought about why I felt a faint sense of discomfort in this conversation.

The answer immediately came.

During the quest, Kraken and Leviathan appeared as NPCs until the very end ―――Even though they were essentially boss-class monsters. It can be expected that their conversation was nothing but[† 2] a scenario written by the scenario writer-shi[† 15] of «Ymir», the company that manages ALO.

And yet, all of us talked about Kraken and Leviathan[† 16] as if they had their own individual consciousness.

Perhaps the reason for that is that their words sounded far too human. The remorseful and angry expression of Kraken, unwilling to accept his defeat and declaring "I[† 17] will not give up!", inadvertently led us to think that "Hmm that octopus must have went through a lot..."

Or possibly, Kraken and Leviathan …… are not mere NPCs?

Asuna and I encountered and adventured with a female dark elf knight during the early stages of old Aincrad’s floor clearing. She was called Kizmel, but, despite being an NPC, she was not just a moving object that repeated standard phrases. Her ability to reply to our words… could even be regarded as volition.

ALO has a software architecture that is almost identical to the one in the old SAO. That means, even when looking at the ability of Control system(Cardinal), the existence of «Highly Intelligent NPCs»[† 18] like Kizmel was already possible.

However, in that case……won’t Kraken become an existence that doesn’t just act according to the quest’s script, despite being a quest NPC? Meaning that obtaining something like the «Prince’s power», rising against the Æsir, such things are all that big octopus’s own will……?

“……………That can’t be the case, right?”

Realising that my thoughts were going too far into the field of absurdity, I halted such mutters and conjectures. At the exact instant, Klein, who had been facing Silica and the others, lecturing them on how powerful were the Odin and Bahamut[† 19] of the good old days, suddenly started shouting hysterically. “Awwww, crap! I have a pizza delivery order at ten o’clock!”

“Oi oi, that's in three minutes. You know, it will take ten minutes to fly to Swilvane from here.”

At Agil's calm points, Klein held his head with both of his arms and bent backwards as much as he could.

“MY[† 20] SEAFOOD PIZZA AND DRAUGHT BEER――!”

With the nostalgia brought up by the line that I had also heard a long time ago[† 21], I went to the katana user and tapped him on the sleeves of his large Japanese-style armour.

“We’ll watch over you until your avatar disappears, so calm down. You must enjoy it to the max this time, yeah.”

After I said that, Klein blinked for a moment and then expressed that he understood the meaning of my words with a light “hehe” laughter.

“Right. In that case, I’ll take you up on your kind offer and excuse myself for the day.”

"I offer my best regards to all the shrimps, crabs, cuttlefish and octopuses on the pizza~"

While making a complicated-looking face to Liz’s words, Klein opened his main menu.

“Well then, great work, everyone!”

After tapping on the logout button, the salamander’s avatar automatically switched to a one knee kneeling position, closed its eyes and stopped moving.

In ALO, to prevent people from «Escaping» from player skirmishes, the player’s avatar will remain on site for a little while when logging out in the field. Naturally, it’s highly likely that monsters would target the player. The player would then find themselves in the form of a left behind fire(Remain Light) when they logged in later.

Therefore, when logging out outside the area, a player’s allies would normally protect their avatar until the timeout elapses and the player’s avatar disappears. Thankfully, it doesn't look like that this beach has many strong monsters spawning, thus I looked away from Klein’s body and proposed,

“If anyone else beside him wants to logout, go right ahead.. I’ll watch over you till the end.” At my words, Asuna was the first to bring up her right hand apologetically .

“Err….. then I’ll be logging out too, if it’s okay……”

Although I haven’t met her yet, I have heard stories that Asuna’s mother was a very strict person, so I nodded quickly.

“It’s fine. Thanks for today.”

“Yeah, thanks to everyone for today too, thank you for the great work!{[† 22]

As Asuna nimbly operated the menu to log out and her avatar switched to a standby position, Agil, who has to stock his shop for tomorrow, Liz, who has a TV show she wants to watch, and Silica, who has to complete today's homework, all requested to instantly log out and left the fairy homeworld together.

When Silica went into a standby posture, Pina, who was sitting on Silica’s head, began to look around restlessly, as if trying to protect her avatar. “How noble”... while thinking that, I stretched my limbs.

At that moment, my eyes met Leafa's, who had taken the exact same pose at the exact same time.

Somehow, we grinned together, and then I turned my eyes towards the west horizon.

Before I became aware of it, the sun had completely set, with only a deep vermillion left above the horizon. Yui, who was sitting on my head, used my shoulder as a springboard to plunge into my chest pocket, and made a lovely yawn.

“……Papa, the whale-san was really big, was it not?[† 23]

I gently brushed the head of the pixie who said this in a sleepy voice with my fingertips.

“Yeah. Let’s ride it again someday.”

“Yeah……”

Yui nodded and closed her eyelids, then, immediately afterwards, she began sleeping, breathing softly.

Yui, an AI independent from ALO’s system, has no need to sleep like a human, but when she has a large quantity of information input and nothing urgent to process, she often conducts memory sorting in a sleeping state. In all likelihood, today’s adventure was being played back in Yui’s dream right about now.

After a while, at first Klein’s avatar, then Asuna’s, after that Agil’s, Liz’s, and Silica’s avatars, as well as Pina, all scattered into beads of light and disappeared.

I faced Leafa and, while casually extending my right hand, said,

“Well then, Sugu, shall we return to Swilvane in one flight?”

Upon that, my imouto[† 24] pouted lightly.

“You know, Onii-chan, since we’re not in the water, we don’t have to fly while holding hands.”

“Ah…...I-I see… Sorry, didn't mean to……”

However, the blonde mage-and-swordswoman quickly snatched the hand that I withdrew.

“However, since I’m better than you in the sky, from here on, I'll be leading the way!”

“......I-I’m counting on you”

We spread our wings at the same time and took off from the sandy beach that was being dyed in purple.

Returning my glance to the northeast, the gigantic silhouette of the World Tree in the background of the sky, where stars had begun twinkling, came into my view. Before us, a cluster of green lights glittered like jewels. It was the dear Sylph territory capital, Swilvane.

After confirming that Yui was in her place in my pocket, Leafa and I nodded, and we took off riding on the sea breeze.

Part 2

“............Haruhohohee……”

I muttered this in an unintelligible voice, while chewing my chewy udon[† 25].

At that moment, Suguha, who was on the opposite side of the dining table, looked over here with upturned eyes.

“That's bad manners, Onii-chan.”

It's true that holding chopsticks in my right hand and a tablet terminal in my left while eating a meal probably isn't appropriate. However, after swallowing the udon in my mouth with a gulp,

“I should be deciding on how to eat my bukkake udon[† 26].”

“......Then, what about karē udon[† 27]?”

“No way.”

“......How about kitsune udon[† 28]?”

“That's fine.”

“......And what about nabeyaki udon[† 29]?”

“No way.”

“I don't get your standards at all……”

Sighing, I slurped[† 30] the chilled bukkake udon (with hot spring eggs[† 31], steamed chicken, boiled shrimp, okra[† 32], thick wakame leaves, shiso[† 33] and shredded nori[† 34] as toppings) in one mouthful.

We logged out from ALO around fifteen minutes ago. As usual, our mother has yet to return home, thus the two of us made a late dinner; however, lately, I feel as if we've also been favouring the «quick to make and simple to clean» route too much.

Let's make at least three meals for tomorrow―― while secretly deciding thus, I again heard the voice from across the table.

“Then, what was with that ‘I see’?”

“It took me a second to understand that the question was about the 「haruhoho」[† 35] that I uttered a while ago.

“......That 『I see』 was about me understanding something….. no, about the Æsir story.”

“Oh, so you investigated that promptly.”

“Although you may say so, it's only to the extent of reading a rough outline.”

I presented the tablet, where the corresponding article of an online encyclopedia was displayed, to Suguha and considered whether I should crack open the preserved hot spring eggs and mix them in with the udon, or simply bite into them. However, faster than I could come up with a solution, Suguha fearlessly and scornfully laughed.

“......What is it?”

“It's completely useless, Onii-chan. Why did you say “I see” with just this? This has nothing but[† 2] a mere outline written.”

“I-is that so?[† 36]

“Yeah. If you really want to know, it did not begin with the head god Odin's father, the giant Borr, nor Borr's father, the first god Búri…… Err, first of all, in Norse mythology, the beginning of the world began with a large rift, called Ginnungagap……”

“S-stop stop. Let's save the beginning of the world till later, when we have time for you to tell me about it without rushing. Hey, we'd better eat quickly or the udon will grow stale.”

At my interruption[† 37], Suguha made a displeased face, but obediently put down the tablet and took the chopsticks into her hand again. Without hesitation, she cracked the hot spring eggs and mixed the egg yolk that flowing out into the noodles. As that golden radiance was too beautiful, I did the same and vigorously slurped it.

Although I thought that interrupting the earnest lecture was inexcusable, I haven't needed such detailed information so far. Because, as far as I know, the Æsir realm does not exist in ALO――probably[† 38], and the «Deep Sea Plunderers» may or may not have a continuation.

Leviathan did say 『I am going to move it to a new home[† 11]』when he took away «Prince's Egg», which we had taken from the Underwater Temple after being so splendidly tricked by Kraken. With this issue being solved, we had a feeling that this wouldn't end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. What the heck is that prince or something―――it's not a human, as it was going to be born from an egg―――but I have no idea. Kraken also seemed like he hadn't lost yet, as he didn't seem too satisfied with pent-up revenge.

This merely has a few personal feelings mixed in, but, wouldn't this lead into a serial story(campaign) quest and not a single instance quest after all?

In ordinary campaign quests, if one of the quests is cleared, the player can receive the following quest and the new destination will be specified via markers. However, there are rare cases, in which the players themselves must guess which place they should go to and what should they do based on the information that they had received up to that point.

If we assume that that this campaign[† 39] is of that type, there were supposed to be hints for the location, where the next quest could be accepted, in the conversation[† 40] between Kraken and Leviathan…...but…….

“......-chan, come on, Onii-chan[† 41].”

Suguha called me several times while I was pondering before I finally came to my senses and raised my head.

“Eh, wh-what is it?”

“I hope that you haven't forgotten that we're doing a major cleanup of the dojo tomorrow. Don't stay up late tonight; we have to go to bed soon.”

Of course I forgot about it, but without saying a word, I nodded.

“I get it I geet it[† 42], I'll go to sleep in one… make that two hours, I promise.[† 43]

I avoided my imouto's eyes with a questionable look, and escaped to the kitchen with the now empty plate.


In my room, I rolled in bed and looked up at the alarm clock on my headboard while upside down

It was 23:30. At around this time in the old Aincrad, I would be in the midst of my «night phase», secluding myself in a high-efficiency hunting ground and continuing to swing my sword.

Of course, I don't lack levelling (although ALO doesn't have levels) in ALfheim. Particularly because I had reset my stats inherited from SAO, thus, in order to catch up with Asuna and the rest, there were times when I worked vigorously towards hard hunting.

But of course, there was no chance of experiencing the trepidation from before—that throbbing motivation to level up in order to live on.

Needless to say, that's a fortunate thing. By no means do I think of things like wanting to return to that world.

However, somewhere in my heart, I may[† 38] be continuing to wish. For something that is a game, but not a game…… for something in the miniature garden of the virtual world that could invoke breathtaking «reality».

I felt an sign of that «something» the moment Leviathan's trident came down in the nick of time, when we were about to be wiped, after being driven to a near-death state by Kraken's blow. So in that event of pre-established harmony, it wasn't someone's written plot and was really an accidental development…………?

“......No, well, it would just be interesting if that were the case…...”

I muttered that monologue to hide my embarrassment, and, in order to prepare for tomorrow's major clean up and go to bed early, I turned off the lights of my room.

After ten seconds had passed, I fumblingly grasped the AmuSphere and mounted it on my head, and then recited the voice command in a whisper.

“Link Start.”

Part 3

By my standards, going to bed no later than in two hours is a sufficiently early time to go to bed.

While making such an excuse, I landed in Alfheim, which, similarly to the real world, was wrapped in a veil of darkness.

This time onwards is the peak time for nearly all net gamers, thus the main street of the Sylph capital Swilvane was thriving with plenty of fairies. Of course, most of them were Sylphs, but a considerable number, when compared to some time ago, of other race players could be seen.

Gazing at the street from the window of the inn that I used for logging out, I could see that the Cait Sith, who had made an alliance with the Sylph, were the most plentiful of the other races. After them would be the music fairy race(Pookas) and darkness fairy race(Imps), whose territories were close by. Although, geographically, the Salamander territory is adjacent to the Sylph, they were still formally in the middle of a war with the Sylph, thus it’s not a surprise that red-haired players could not be found.

My race, the shadow fairy race(Spriggans), are not in a hostile relationship with the Sylphs, but, at any rate, their territory is on the other end of the realm with the World Tree in between. And, in the first place, there’s also the fact that the Spriggans are an unpopular race, so, like the Salamanders, not even one Spriggan could be seen on the main street.

For a short while, I thought about how I should move to my destination without standing out too much, then took out a cloak with a hood from my storage and tried covering myself with it. Furthermore, after also reciting the chant for the illusion magic spell «Moonshade Lurk»[† 44], I stepped out of the inn with light steps.

The Moonshade Lurk[† 45] spell makes it hard for other people to see the player, but only while the player is in a shade created by the moon (in other words, it has zero effect in dungeons which are not reached by moonlight in the first place). Although it’s a spell with such a questionable hiding ability, it’s the limit of my magic skill. Luckily, the moon was shining brightly this night and Swilvane has heaps of side streets, thus I advanced in a half run while trying not to step out of the shadow as much as possible.

After moving for several minutes and arriving at the heart of the city, I stopped for a moment and looked forward.

Right before my eyes, a round-shape road(rotary) that was not less than a hundred meters in diameter extended, in the middle of which towered the most beautiful building in Swilvane――the Sylph lord mansion. The three-storey building was surrounded by a deep moat, with only two bridges: one in the north and one in the south, connecting it to the road. The rotary was entirely illuminated by the pale moonlight, leaving entirely no shade for me to hide myself in.

Two NPC guardians, who looked very strong, stood in the vicinity of each of those bridges, raising their axe spears(halberds) high. Only players registered in the lord mansion’s register of names could pass through there.

If I’m not mistaken, Leafa was also supposed to be registered, but even outsiders who were in a party with someone who was registered could not pass. Trying to fly over the moat outside the guardian’s field of vision may seem like a good idea, but, of course, such a cheap trick was useless. It seems that there is a barrier that nullifies all magical powers of outsiders, including the ability to fly, within the premises of the lord’s mansion.

It’s not that I wanted to break in, it’s that it would be common courtesy to catch a member of the staff coming out and going into the mansion to convey a message inside; however I would, as much as possible, like to avoid this night’s visit from becoming a rumour in the distant future.

“............!”

When I thought to that extent, I sensed the arrival of the moment that I was aiming for, prepared myself by lowering my stance.

The moon that shone palely in the corner of the night sky was becoming concealed by a black shadow from the right side. It was an artificial lunar eclipse that took place in Alfheim every night. It was the floating castle Aincrad, which revolved in high altitude, overlapping with the moon for only a mere dozen of seconds. Moreover, the complete obstruction of the moon light only occurred for merely a little under five seconds.

As the pale disk was slowly going into an eclipse, all of the light finally disappeared―― in other words, at the moment when all of Swilvane sunk into Aincrad’s shadow, I jumped out of the back lane.

The street in this area without stores was quiet, but that does not mean that there weren’t any players at all. I expected my body would continue to be obscured by the effects of Moonshade Lurk, but, while praying that the sharp-eared Cait Sith would not catch the sound of my footsteps, I traversed the rotary in an instant. At the middle point of the two bridges, I raised my foot at the cast iron fence that separated the moat from the road and jumped with all my might.

As soon as a player stepped on the deep black surface of the water, they could no longer use their wings nor any magic. According to rumours, some kind of dreadful aquatic-type monster lurked inside the some ten-meter wide moat, and it seems that players who fall down turn into Remain Lights at the bottom of the moat without being seen. As my Remain Light[† 46] would appear on this side of the moat, if it came to this, my attempt at intrusion would be found out.

Jumping ten meters without the help of the flight ability was absolutely impossible even for the agile Spriggans. In the air, I drew out my sword from my back and, while falling, I extended forward to the limit. The point of the sword just barely got stuck into the stone block on the opposite bank.

If this was an ordinary rock that was lying in the field, the sword forged by the master smith[† 47] Lisbeth would have simply teared it to pieces, but it was impossible to destroy structures in a town. With a reverse grip, I forced the tip of the sword into the block with all my might, and my body was thrown forward by the recoil.

With an additional small jump, my left hand somehow reached the opposite shore. While sheathing my sword into my scabbard, I nimbly crawled up. When I hit the stone with the point of my sword, a slight metallic sound rang, but, luckily, the bridge guardians haven’t moved.

I brought my body down again and ran. The moment I dived into the shade of a garden tree, the short lunar eclipse ended.

“............Phew.”

While taking a light breath, I looked up at the lord’s mansion before my eyes. My destination was, of course, the centre of the the top floor. I don’t know if the other part of the visit was there, but in case she was absent, there was nothing I could do but wait for a while.

From this point on, I wouldn’t be able to obtain the divine protection of the Moonshade Lurk spell. While praying that there weren’t any guardians within the building, I stored the sword on my back to my item storage and then, aiming to open the front entrance, I began stealthily moving.

After five minutes.

Having one way or another finally reached my destination, in front of the elegant double door on the third floor of the lord’s mansion, I again checked left and right.

There were no figures of people in the vast corridor. It seems that the majority of the administration department players were in the middle of a friendly chat in a hall on the second floor. Anyone and everyone could come up to here without question, but if the person that I should meet with was on the second floor, it will be all for nothing. While praying that my good luck would continue to the end, I dusted the hood that I was wearing and knocked on the door.

After a little while,

“Come in.”

That was the reply of a familiar voice. Taking a breath in relief, I pulled the silver door handles and speedily slipped inside through a minimum opening.

At the same time as I closed the door with my hand behind my back, the female player, who was operating the lord-exlcusive window at the large desk in front of me, raised her head.

When the Sylph female lord, Sakuya, who was tucked in a graceful kimono-style costume, recognized me, she first raised her eyebrows, then slanted her neck, and, lastly, raised the index finger of her right hand.

“May I confirm something just in case?”

“Anything at all.”

“You didn’t come here because you’ve been employed by the Salamanders to take my head…...have you, Kirito?”

“Eh…… is it possible according to the system? In other words, is there such a thing as…… me, a Spriggan, passing the lord killing bonus to the Salamanders?”

“Oh really….. Ah, no no, of course the answer is no[† 48].”

While raising both of my hands to indicate that I had no hostility towards her, and coming to this point, I spoke of my goal.

“The truth is, there’s something that I’d like you to tell me.”

“............You intruded into the lord’s mansion with a reason like that at best?”

“Yeah, well…… That’s because I’m not registered as a friend with you, so I can’t send you messages…… and, moreover, I don’t want this to be heard by other people……”

I explained the circumstances after that remark that sounded somewhat like it was said by a girl from a romantic comedy, and then the lord-sama lightly shook her head left and right and nodded.

“............I see. However, it is because I am a lord for the time being. In this situation, I would be limiting what you could ask, if you were another race. However, you also seem to be my lifesaver, hm?

“Ah, that is fine. It is not that I came here for you to tell me the Sylph’s military secrets. Besides, I am of course prepared to offer my own information as compensation.”

“Is that so? I wonder what would you tell me?”

“The method of infiltrating the Sylph lord’s mansion and the countermeasure for it.”

At that moment, Sakuya blinked with surprise and then laughed[† 49] loudly. I had no choice but pray that the laughter would not reach the floors below.


While drinking the wine, which looked like it was high-class, and was personally poured by the lord, little by little, I explained the reason for my visit without an appointment over again from the beginning.

After my story was finished, Sakuya, who had been listening in silence, slowly nodded.

“Around ten days ago, I also did the «Deep Sea Plunderers» quest.”

“Eh, the lord-sama did it…...personally?”

“Occasionally, even I want to pass through a dungeon. Besides, I have participated in Aincrad’s floor boss raids several times.

“Th-that is true.”

“However…………”

With the manner of a lord-sama, she drank up her wine in one breath and slightly bent her head to the side.

“When the members of the administration department and I did the quest, neither Kraken, nor Leviathan came.”

“Eh?”

“When we handed the pearl or egg that we found in the temple to the ojii-san NPC who hadn’t changed, he expressed his gratitude as usual and the quest was cleared. After that, the ojii-san summoned a gargantuan giant squid, and that guy seized us with its tentacles and transported us to the sandy beach, but…… honestly, that was not a very enjoyable personal experience.”

“Gi…...Giant squid you say? In that case, I would have wanted to see…… no, errr, in other words, does that mean that whether or not you hand in the pearl leads to a divergence in the development of the plot?……”

“It appears to be so. Or perhaps I should say that people normally hand it in, I guess.”

I responded to Sakuya’s bitter smile with my own bitter smile.

“Weell[† 50], I tried handing it in, but…… just as I was about to do so, it was confiscated by Asuna……”

“Haha, you can’t make light of her sixth sense.”

While looking at me and nodding, Sakuya laughed for awhile, then, while pouring herself a second helping of wine, she said.

“We’ve come to an understanding concerning the quest’s divergence route. So…… in the end, what is it that you want to ask me?”

“Err…... I was wondering whether you happened to know about a «New Home» that Leviathan mentioned in the end…… For example, besides the aforementioned underwater temple, have you encountered a building that resembles the temple somewhere……?”

“Hmm…… I can’t remember such a place right away, but……”

After thinking for a bit, the lord operated her exclusive menu, a large map that filled her large desk was displayed. Several times more detailed than that of us commoners, it was a complete map of Alfheim.

“Speaking of classified information, this is also classified information, but fine. This map[† 51] has recorded all unique[† 52] points: discovered quests, significant buildings and stone monuments, secret paths etc.. Let’s see if I can look up «home»[† 11] with this……

White digits flashed on the map and, suddenly, the results were displayed on the search window. The number of matches: zero.

“Then the «Prince»…...is not listed. «Kraken»…… «Leviathan»…... neither of them are listed.”

“How about «egg»?”

“Isn’t that a little too vague…...Look, more than a hundred matches. Search for, protect, destroy, cook among other things to do with the egg of [something]; at this rate, there is a great amount of quests.”

“I-is that so…… Hmm……”

While staring at the ground plan of the fairy homeworld, I played back the conversation between the Lord of the Sea and the Lord of the Abyss in my mind.

It’s been a long time, my old friend…… as a servant to the Æsir…...One day, I shall claim the prince’s power…...the one that will someday rule all the sea and air…………[† 53]

――All the sea and air.

“S-say, Sakuya-san.”

“What?”

“Does that map record unique objects in the three dimensional coordinate system?”

“Of course.”

“Then, first of all, could you tell me the point that’s in the lowest place? Oh, and not including Jotunheimr.”

Sakuya nodded and nimbly sorted the information.

“The lowest coordinates are -98 meters. The quest name is…...«Deep Sea Plunderers».”

The pupils of the lord shone with a momentary flash of light. I nodded in return, and voiced my next request.

“Then, next up, the point at the highest place. Not including Aincrad.”

“......That doesn’t even need to be looked up.”

“Huh……?”

“Because I know the answer. The mystery at the topmost location in Alfheim……”

While pointing at the back of the large window with the thumb of her left hand and broadly grinning, the beautiful lord laughed.

“That’s the summit of the World Tree.”

Part 4

Three months ago――April 2025.[† 54]

A large scale updated was performed in the VRMMO-RPG ≪ALfheim Online≫ by the new management enterprise, Ymir.

The implementation of the floating castle Aincrad. The integration of former SAO accounts. And, the elimination of the flight time limit.

Fairies, who could never even reach the lowest branch of the World Tree by themselves, could now even fly to Aincrad, which was soaring in the far away heights. However, what the players who received infinite flight power were aiming at in the beginning wasn’t the floating castle, it was the topmost place in Alfheim――it was the topmost part of the World Tree.

However, the result was that far from reaching it, even the wish of seeing it could not come true.

That is because the summit of the World Tree is covered by a cumulonimbus cloud and a violent storm and lightning persistently get rid of any intruders. Climbing along the trunk yields the same results: several seconds after they break through into the clouds, one of two possible scenarios occur: players are either electrocuted, or are shaken by the squall and thrown out into empty space.

Although it seems like an idea from a certain masterpiece anime film, even reckless adventurers who try to challenge the giant cumulonimbus cloud(supercell), called the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ among players, have long since died out.

“……Say, Kirito-kun.”

Asuna, who stood next to me, said while looking straight up at the skies.

“How many times have you died after plunging into that cloud, I wonder[† 55]?”

“Err……I won’t die for the tenth time, probably……”

“Then, I wonder[† 55] who was the one to recover your Remain Light with magic each time?”

“Asuna-san……”[† 56]

“Then, who was the one who accompanied you to hunting to recover from the death penalty[† 57]?”

“Asuna-san……”

“I’m glad you reminded me.”

I returned an awkward smile to the sweetly smiling water fairy race(Undine) recovery magician(healer).

”O-of course. The number of times I’ve thanked you is more numerous than the number of all the suction cups on Kraken’s eight tentacles.”

“……That’s not a very pleasant metaphor……”

Muttering this with a subtle facial expression, Asuna once again looked up at the sky.

July 26th, Saturday, 2pm.

At a viewing platform close to the south of Yggdrasil City, a newly established city in the sky at the center of the World Tree, aside from us, there were no other figures of players. Previously, many challengers would advance from here, but, nowadays, the giant cumulonimbus cloud(supercell) surrounding the summit of the World Tree is considered as a zone that is as impossible to break through as the Guardian Knight dome that once existed at the base of the same tree.

The dome in question had an unreasonably high degree of difficulty, in order to conceal the personal appropriation of server resources and illegal experiments done by Sugou Nobuyuki, who was the manager of ALO. However, the new management enterprise, Ymir, probably doesn’t also have someone imprisoned high in the sky of the World Tree.

It is impossible to break through the cumulonimbus cloud because an established condition hasn’t been fulfilled…...on the contrary, if that flag is raised, wouldn’t it open a path through the gale and the storm of violent, whirling lightning?......

“Soorry for keeping you waitiing!”[† 58]

Abruptly, a vigorous voice came from below and, immediately after that, a green shadow traversed our field of vision, while making sure to graze through the railing of the viewing platform.

The one came, looped-the-loop high in the sky and landed in front of me and Asuna was the speed holic Sylph swordswoman-san. As she logged out in Swilvane yesterday, it seems she came flying to this Yggdrasil City at full throttle.

Leafa, who fleetingly looked towards the time display, regrettably said “I couldn’t cut it to forty minutes”. As the distance is supposed to be approximately around seventy kilometers, she could not have travelled the distance in such a time unless she kept her speed at 100 kilometers per hour.

“Wow, as expected of you, Leafa-chan. And yet it took me and Kirito nearly one hour.”

Said Asuna with a surprised face and my[† 59] simple-mannered imouto puffed her chest with an *ahem*.

“I have skills for it. In order to ride favourable winds as much as possible, you have to slightly adjust your course, as, with altitude and time, the wind’s direction changes.”

“Then, you’ve memorised all the ways the wind blows. That’s amazing….. like, when Kirito’s flying, he dozes off, and looks as if he’s plunged into a group of Cyrus Medusa[† 60].”

At that, Leafa turned her wet eyes and, while looking towards me, said.

“This person[† 61] logged in again at midnight yesterday and seems to have done something in Swilvane. Abruptly, he had the urge to challenge the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ once again. He appears to have procured new information, but he will not tell me more details about it.”

As Asuna’s face began showing doubt, I had no choice but to evade the question with an unnatural cough.

What exposed my midnight dive to Suguha was my constant big yawns while the two of us were doing major cleaning of the kendo of the hall this morning. Of course, I haven’t said anything concerning my last night’s deed――intruding the lord’s mansion, but I have a feeling that she’ll find out about that sooner or later.

However, braving that great danger did pay off. If I hadn’t met with Sakuya and been shown the world map that shouldn’t see the light of day, there’s no way I could have noticed the possibility of the 《New Home》existing at the summit of the World Tree.

And, if I’ve noticed such a thing, there’s no way I’m going to just stand there. After the major cleaning was over, I called out the usual members――although, unfortunately, it was impossible for Agil and Klein to participate, as it’s the middle of the day――to rendezvous at this viewing platform.

It seems that Liz and Silica won’t be able to come quickly - while thinking so, I meaninglessly gazed at the flowing clouds and the goddess of help quickly popped out of my chest pocket.

After stretching both of her small arms and making a lovely yawn, she made a bell-like sound and flew high. She landed on Asuna’s left shoulder and greeted us with a smiling face.

“Good morning, papa, mama and Leafa-san! I’ve slept in late a bit.”

I know she's my daughter, but I still have to state how adorable she was as she shyly went, "tee-hee". The two females who were in catching up mode smiled all at once.

Without change, they had a reminiscent talk about the whale yesterday and other things and, before long, Lisbeth and Silica came flying from the south-west direction. Now that all the members were present, we switched to our strategy meeting.

“......Although I’d like to say so, it’s not that big of a strategy…… I’m going to break into the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Lair≫, so if I die, please[† 62] use magic to recover my Remain Light and that’s about it……”

Basically, if party members don’t grab the Remain Light left after a player’s death with their hands, it can’t be moved, but if high-ranking magic or rare items are used, it is also possible to recover the Remain Light from a long distance. If someone tries a direct recovery of a Remain Light left in the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫, there is a considerable probability that the number of victims would increase, thus there’s a need to pull the Remain Light out with magic cast from the outside of the cloud.

Of course, if a fixed amount of time passes, a player can be automatically revived at the location that they set as their save point, but, compared to someone who was revived on the spot, the death penalty for the player would increase dramatically. Although I’m resolved to die again and again, it’s best to reduce losses to the minimum.

――The group of females, who heard such an attack plan of mine, exchanged glances with each other and then Lisbeth’s mouth was the first to open.

“Err, first of all, I want to confirm something…..The reason why you want to go to the summit of the World Tree is because you think that the pearl, no, the ≪Prince’s Egg≫ is there, right?”

“Yeah.”

I nodded and, this time, Silica asked while making a pikopiko sound with her triangular ears.

”But, Kirito-san, if you find the egg, what do you intend to do with it? Doesn’t it mean that you’re going to steal it again?”

“Y-yeah.”

I nodded again and added an explanation.

“Speaking about the egg…… To be accurate, I was thinking whether the quest we did yesterday, the ≪Deep Sea Plunderers≫, could receive a continuation. I really can’t believe that it was an ordinary single-instance quest[† 4]…….”

And then, this time Asuna swayed her water-colour hair with a worried face.

“That might be so…...But, don’t serial quests usually occur in succession in geographically close areas? The distance in a straight line from the underwater temple from yesterday to the World Tree’s summit is no less than a hundred kilometers. Assuming that the words『All the sea and air 』was a hint, I wonder if we’re not making too big of a leap.”

As expected from someone who, in the old Aincrad, was only called the ≪Demon of Clearing≫, what she pointed out was logical.

It is because among all the unique points that exist in Alfheim, the underwater temple from yesterday is in the deepest place and the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ is in the highest place―― I wanted to voice such a basis, but that data is the Sylph’s administration department’s confidential information and I’m not supposed to know that.

While I was hesitating whether I should confess about sneaking into the lord’s mansion yesterday――

“…………Say……”

The one who timidly said those words was Leafa, who was sitting on the railing of the viewing platform.

The four of us looked around and she began speaking with an interjection again.

“Say, yesterday I had a dream. A dream about a rainbow bridge descending from a very high place in the sky. I rapidly crossed the bridge and could see an immensely large and very beautiful gate…...but, before I could reach it, I woke up.”

With a bit of an embarrassed smile, she turned her eyes to the blue sky.

“I am quite certain that the reason I had such a dream is because we were talking about the story about the Æsir at the beach in Sylph territory yesterday…… In the myth, the Æsir lived in a realm called ≪Asgard≫……”

“Does that have the same meaning of ≪realm≫ as realms like Alfheim and Jotunheimr?”

As I interjected this, Leafa looked at me and nodded.

“Yeah. In Norse mythology, the world was divided into nine realms, additionally, there were others like ≪Vanaheimr≫ where the Vanir lived and the realm of ice ≪Niflheimr≫…… and a rainbow bridge that led to the ground spanned from Asgard that was high in the sky. The name of the bridge was ≪Bifröst≫.”

The Sylph mage-and-swordswoman swayed her golden ponytail and again looked up to the sky.

“.....That’s what I’ve been imagining ever since the first time I saw the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫. Perhaps there’s a rainbow bridge inside that cloud and it perhaps it connects to Asgard……”

“Wow…..so romantic!”

Silica, with Pina on her head, shouted while her pupils were glittering.

“If that’s so, then I too absolutely want to see[† 63]……no, I want to try crossing it!”

Liz and Asuna, as well as Yui, nodded with smiling faces.

On the other hand, I pondered while making a ‘hmm’ sound.

Judging from Kraken and Leviathan’s conversation[† 64], there’s a high possibility that Æsir NPCs exist somewhere in this world as well. In that case, their realm, Asgard, should also be a reality…...perhaps, but thinking about MMO games, it’s very hard to imagine them not doing some sort of announcement with the implementation of a new, large-scale map.

In fact, when the underground world, Jotunheimr, was opened, on top of making a grand announcement on the official site and news sites, they seem to have even went as far as holding a commemoration event. In the first place, I wonder if there’s is some sort of meaning behind making an impossible to break through storm to conceal a gate for travelling in order to ensure that no one could cross it while they were making the map, spending quite some budget and time on it.

――No.

It’s no use now even if I put those contradictory guesses together. Whether there’s a rainbow bridge, or a prince’s egg or both on the other side of the cumulonimbus cloud….. I can understand it all if I break through that cloud.

“Then, I’m going to go see it with my own eyes.”

“If so, I’m going too!”

Leafa raised her left hand and interrupted my words. Then, Asuna and the rest in addition, even up to Yui, identically raised their hand up very high.

“If it has come to this, let’s all go!”

“Let’s go!”

In confusion, I called out to the excited female group.

“W-wait wait. If we’re annihilated, then who’s going to collect the Remain Lights?”

“Even I sometimes want to be the forward instead of back up.”

Said Asuna with a bit of a pouting tone and, I had no words to return regarding her position of aiding as logistical support each time.

Asuna immediately returned to her smiling face and cheerfully said.

“If we all end up being annihilated, then after we return to town, we can just go hunting together. If it’s these members, I think we’ll recover the death penalty in no time.”

――That’s right, it’s a self-righteous idea to go into a dangerous place by myself while calling them out and expect them to stay alert. What’s more important than solving the mystery of this quest―― is for us to enjoy the adventure together.

“……That’s right. Then, shall we all go!?”

I nodded and the four people, plus Yui and Pina, simultaneously and vigorously shouted.

“Yeeeaaah.”

“After we confirmed our equipment, we took off from the viewing platform.

We came out of the large space of branches and leaves, which intertwined like a maze, and advanced towards the sky. We formed a V-shaped formation with me in the vanguard and ascended in a straight line.

The weather was good in the Alne plateau today and, in the surrounding sky, one scud[† 65] cloud was not moving. However, as we continued to fly along the inclination of the World Tree for several minutes, a whitish haze began lingering in our path. Sharpening my ears, I heard the low rumbling sound of distant thunder.

“We’re going to reach it very soon!”

I shouted facing my comrades and decreased my speed. We came out of the layer of thin mist that carried out the role of a warning zone, and a giant, pure white mass――the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ extended, filling in my field of vision. The sharply extending end of the World Tree was concealed by the cumulonimbus cloud, which was probably five hundred meters in both diameter and height, and could not be seen at all.

I spread my wings to break with them and then hovered mid-air.

It seems that a real world giant cumulonimbus cloud(supercell) is ten kilometers in diameter, with a height 2-3 times as much, but, looking up from point blank range, the cumulonimbus cloud of the virtual world was by no means inferior in force, thus no matter that I’ve pierced that cloud god knows how many times before, I feel trembling with excitement over again―――

Silica, who stopped nearby, said with a merry tone.

“Wow, amaazing[† 66]! Somehow, that looks like whipped cream and it looks tasty!”

Lisbeth also followed that impression.

“That’s true, I want to try adding it on pancakes, splashing some syrup on and then eating it.”

Next up, Asuna who stopped on my right side said while laughing,

“Ahaha, then, shall we go eat when this is over? There seems to be a store that makes amazingly tasty pancakes in Ygg City.

“REALLY!? I LOVE pancakes!! I’m going to eat ten of them!”

Leafa ended it with those words.

Should I feel relieved or uneasy about their lack of fighting spirit. Or should I say, what happened to the talk about going hunting to recover the death penalty?

No no, that’s a talk about if we do get annihilated. We are going to magnificently break through the cloud, find a continuation of the quest and a rainbow bridge and have a toast with pancakes.

Getting psyched over again,

“Then, I’ll eat a hundred!”

After such a proclamation, I conveyed something like a strategy to my reliable comrades again.

”Speaking from experience of dying ten times, dodging the lightning is impossible. We’d better think of a faster way to cross it than changing the course unreasonably and losing time. As we won’t have an unobstructed view inside the cloud, let’s form a ≪star≫ to fly straight.”

“Understood!”

Asuna and the others nodded, Yui plunged into my chest pocket, and Pina glued to Silica’s back like a booster.

The five of us formed a small circle and, instead of connecting my hands with Leafa and Lisbeth who were on each of my sides, I instead connected hands with Asuna and Silica who were in front of me. Everyone did the same and, while the ten hands crossed, we drew a star. With a group flight technique, called ≪star-shape combination(Star Bind)≫, the number of people was limited to five, but, on top of being able to form a much firmer bond with each other than with binds like horizontal or round-shaped ones, it also improved our speed and stability of flying straight.

The problem was that flying horizontally like this, at least two people would end up flying backwards, and, as this required practise, I and Leafa took charge. While forming the formation, we moved slowly and arrived at the height of the cumulonimbus cloud and, just to be sure――or for the peace of mind, Asuna chanted a spell that increased lightning-resistance.

“Alright…… I’m starting the countdown. Five, four, three, two, one……”[† 67]

The last word was said by all members at the same time.

“““““Go!!””””[† 68]

Five pairs of wings surged with the radiance of five colours and we accelerated like being fired out of a cannon.

With a three hundred meter approach flight, we reached our maximum speed and pierced into the gigantic cumulonimbus cloud. At first, our field of vision was dyed in pure white, but suddenly it became dark. The atmosphere increased in density of dampness, weakening our flight speed.

“......Here it comes!”

At almost the same time I shouted this, I clenched my teeth.

*Gagaaaaan*! Such a fierce, loud sound roared and a very thick, purple lightning passed through a space that was a mere three meters away from us. Liz and Silica, for whom penetrating the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ was a first time experience, leaked out faint voices, but our acceleration was not disrupted. Tightly grasping each other’s hands, we pushed on through the dark night-like dark space in a straight line.

The next attack to come at us was a squall that struck us from the side. If I was alone, I would probably be violently shaken and lose track of my direction of movement, but, with the weight and thrust of five people, we were overcoming it.

Another radiating flash of lightning at point-blank range. And again. And yet again.

The trajectory of the lightning appeared to be random, but probably different. At any rate, even if the total number of challengers reached thousands of people, all of them without a single exception would be driven away. The people who penetrate this cumulonimbus cloud would definitely be struck by a direct hit within one to ten seconds and die instantly. Both evasion and defense would be impossible.

But――if, if my guess is correct.[† 69]

If the ≪New Home≫ that Leviathan mentioned exists on the other side of this cloud.

We can break through this storm. I don’t have any basis for it, but that’s what I believe in. I’m sure that I can feel the ≪something≫ that transcends the death zone regulated by the system… ≪something≫ that brings about a real tale in a made up virtual world.

Gagagaaaaan!!

I’ve already lost count of how many times the purple lightning had struck from the front, made our bodies shake as if a dragon passed us, and faded behind us. We continued flying even though we couldn’t shake our fear when our vision was dyed in white and all sounds faded away.

Have the ten seconds not passed yet? Or have they already passed? How far does this lightning cloud continue……?

At that moment, Leafa, who was on my right side, shouted in a voice louder than the thunder.

“A great wind is coming from below! Let’s ride it instead of avoiding it!”

Below――that means, to me flying backwards, it would be my back side. Just as I realised this, a fierce squall struck. I gripped my hands that had formed a star-shape combination and beared with the violent vibration.

“…………Now!”

Just as Leafa said this, I quivered my wings as much as I could.

With a sudden turn from horizontal flight, we began ascending. The vibrations weakened, but in exchange our flight speed accelerated to a degree that we had no former experience in. From our parth, many lightning dragons descended. If we got scared and decelerated, we’d definitely be struck.

“G…...gooooooooo!”, I cried while straining my voice.

In a star-shape combination, the hands of the two people directly grasping each other’s hand would, of course, tightly cross with the hands of the other two people. The courage of one’s comrades is thus passed on by touch.

Having turned into a comet dyed by the five colours of our hair, we continued to push on. Four strikes of lightning pierced the sky in all directions and dyed our field of vision in bluish-white again. This time the vision effects didn’t disappear at all. On the contrary, the surroundings steadily became whiter and brighter―――.

Immediately afterwards, even the sounds disappeared.

The roars of the storm, the flashes of lightning, everything faded away. In this unbelievable silence, I opened my narrowed eyes as much as I could.

The first thing that I could see was a white wall that was rising perpendicularly. As we continued ascending this indefinite screen, our silhouettes were reflected by it.

I changed my glance to Asuna and Silica, whose hands I was grasping in front of me, and saw that both of them rounded their eyes. They must have seen something or were worried about something, but, while in a star-shape combination, I couldn’t turn around.

“......I think it’s fine to dissolve our formation.”

As Asuna said this in a whisper, I gently released both my hands while decelerating. The moment that the star separated, Leafa and Liz turned around at the same time.

There was a huge, pure white spherical space.

Its diameter was three hundred meters or so. Green pillars vertically went through its centre. The base of the pillars sunk into the white walls, but the pointed end could be seen close to the ceiling.

No doubt about it. That pillar is――

“The summit…… of the World Tree……”, Leafa muttered in a hoarse voice.

In other words, we broke through. The ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫ that repelled all players. This place was the inside of the gigantic cumulonimbus cloud that wrapped up the top of the World Tree.

“No way……”[† 70]

These words leaked from Asuna whose eyes were still open and who was still covering her mouth. We exchanged glances, little by little, we began smiling. We deeply inhaled air to shout ‘We diiid it!’ at the same time.

However.

Just as we were about to do it, the small fairy who flew out of my chest pocket shouted in a strained voice.

“Papa, something is coming!”

“…………!”

All members of the party quickly became alert. I also drew the sword on my back and spread my vision in all four directions.

The dome of the cloud was almost completely wrapped in silence. Nothing could be heard - not even the thunder that should be roaring in the cloud behind us. The only thing that could be heard was the quiet sound of World Tree leaves swaying in the gentle breeze inside the dome……

――No.

*Katsun* *katsun*. Such a sound suddenly came out of nowhere and was getting closer. It wasn’t a metallic sound, it was sound that had both hardness and tenderness, and was like a plate of thick glass hitting a wooden pole.

“Ah…... over there!”

Lisbeth pointed her finger at the slanted sky.

The sun could not be seen, but a white radiance filled the topmost part of the dome and so I narrowed my eyes. Within that light, a small silhouette was approaching us. It wasn’t a monster. It was a fairy like us wearing a loose [† 71] ……no, it was a human…...?

Descending even though he did not have wings on his backs, and making footstep sounds as if there was a transparent stairway in the sky, was a youth with a tall stature and slender figure. The bluish silver hair facing back was ruffled and there was a thin circlet on his forehead. Judging from his appearance, he didn’t have a sword nor a staff, and yet he struck us with a breathtaking pressure, so we slowly retreated.

The young man facing us continued descending to our altitude without changing his pace at all, and stopped in the air when around merely five hundred meters separated us from him. With a clever and beautiful face, his golden-brown pupils cast a sharp light.

At the same time as the youth spoke up, a cursor appeared over his head.

“Sheathe your swords, fairies.”

It was a beautiful voice that gave the impression of sharpened steel. The displayed name was ――【Hraesvelg the Sky Lord】[† 72]

“The lord of the sky……Hraesvelg……”[† 73], muttered Leafa who was on my right side.

I had a feeling that I had heard that name somewhere, but before I could dig up any memories of it, I hit the left flank of my imouto who was in a dumbfounded state with my elbow.

“Ugu…...w-what are you doing!”

”Your sword, put away your sword!”

While indicating this in a whisper, I myself stored the sword in my right hand to the scabbard on my back with godspeed as well. Leafa, Asuna and the others also got out of their state of preparation for battle.

Setting aside one’s true colours, this Hraesvelg-san was, without mistake, of Leviathan’s lineage.

In other words, if it came to battle he’d should be hiding stats that would allow him to blow us away with one swing of his finger.

Having put away my sword, I once again gazed above the head of the young man. However, only[† 74] the cursor that displayed his name was shown; the golden【!】mark - the symbol of a quest initiation NPC, was not there.

So this wasn’t the place where one could accept the second chapter of the campaign quest, I wonder? However, if that’s the case, why did Hraesvelg show up?

The young man calling himself the king of the skies looked down at me, while I was tormented by such a question, from his high stature of around one hundred and ninety centimetres and then he slightly nodded with a ‘hmm’ sound.

“I see. I was wondering how could you small fairies pass through my[† 59] storm barrier, but it was because you were given the divine protection of the lord of the sea.”

“Eh…...the lord of the sea… you mean, Leviathan?”

The lord of the sky nodded with an unchanged expression to my impolite question to which I nearly forgot to attach the polite language question mark.[† 75]

However, although the giant ossan did send us to the content by a whale, I have no memory of any kind of magic being cast. Were we given unnoticed divine protection and the like…… or, was that a proof that the quest was continuing?

“However, you fairies.”

Suddenly, Hraesvelg’s voice became slightly strict.

“Even if you got a favour of the lord of the sea in some way, you can’t be forgiven for approaching the ≪Sky Home[† 11]≫. Or are you thieves that have sided with the lord of the abyss?”

“That is not is!” “That’s preposterous!” “No way!” “Are you joking!?” “That is not it, you know!” “Kyuruu!”.

Luckily, the king of the sky seems to have managed to recognise the six different kind of rejections said at the same time and he once again nodded with a ‘hmm’ sound.

“I see. In that case, you should promptly leave.”

“………………”

This time, every sunk into silence at the same time.

Just now, Hraesvelg did indeed speak of the name ≪Sky Home≫. That was unmistakably the ≪New Home≫ that Leviathan mentioned.

In short, it was arranged for the ≪Prince’s Egg≫ that Kraken was aiming to get to be housed somewhere inside this dome now. With that belief, I again gazed at the trunk of the World tree and could see a structure that seemed like a gate at its lower part. Perhaps there was a dungeon identical to the Undersea Temple in the interior of that thick trunk.

'An undiscovered dungeon! I want to go in! To be accurate, I want to go in and open the untouched treasure chests!'

It seems that my imouto didn’t share such conflicts of mine.

Abruptly, Leafa lightly came to the front, faced the lord of the sky and shouted.

“Say! Err… before we go back, please tell me just one thing!”

“What do you want to know, fairy musume[† 76]?”

“The bridge…...the rainbow bridge, Bifröst, that connects to Asgard is not here!?”

Just now, the golden-brown pupils of the lord of the sky shined sharply, in some way giving the impression of a bird of prey.

“Why do you want to know that? Do you wish to cross the bridge and have an audience with the Æsir-domo?”

With my breath taken away, I again realised something.

That Hraesvelg the sky lord’s conversation ability far surpassed that of a simple chat bot.

Indeed, he, and probably Kraken and[† 77] Leviathan too, were AI that had pseudo-self-consciousness. It was existance close to Kizmel the dark elf that I met in the old floating castle Aincrad, and[† 77] Yui, who had concealed herself up to her eyes in my chest pocket.

Did the administrating enterprise Ymir create them and introduce them to ALO? Or…...was this the deed of the true god that was controlling this world……?

Leafa, who was momentarily silent for other reasons than mine, slowly shook her head.

“No, it is not that I want to meet the Gods. I just…… want to know. Whether this is end of the World Tree…...Or, does it still continue beyond this point.”

I wonder how did he interpret such an abstract answer――.

A smile unexpectedly floated on the lord of the sky’s face and he said,

“It’s a desire that exceeds your small fairy body, musume. Even though I am called the lord of the sky, even I’ve never seen the end of the nine realms.”

“......Okay……”

“However, I shall tell you just this one thing. The rainbow bridge Bifröst does indeed come from Asgard, but its end is not in thy realm.

“WHAT……?!”

At this, besides Leafa, the other four people also rounded their eyes. Even if said so, the only other realm currently implement is the underground world, Jotunheimr. It can’t be skipping Alfheim and connecting to the bottom of the ground, can it?

However, it seems that the lord of the sky wasn’t planning on giving any more hints than that, and he stepped down one step while still making an enigmatic smile.

“Well then, you should return to thy city.”

“Err…...d-do we have to go through that storm again……?”, said Silica in a feeble voice. At that, the lord of the sky made a strict face again, and said,

“Did you challenge my barrier even with such resolution?”

Naturally, all of us ducked our heads, but, luckily, rage lightning did not befall on us.

“......Out of consideration for your friendship with the lord of the sea, just this once I’ll send you outside. Is that fine, fairies? Without being entrusted with a righteous duty, thou must never again come to this place.[† 78]

“Yes, sir!”, after we all made this obedient answer in one voice, the lord of the sky made a faint bitter smile――or at least I had such an impression.

However, the god instantly took back that rigid expression and raised his right hand high from his toga.

Could it be that he was summoning us a return taxi like Leviathan did? If so, maybe this time it will be a giant bird, or dragon, or a flying saucer――

My full of hope expectations were quickly betrayed.

“Farewell, small ones.”

The voice full of majesty informed us, and Hraesvelg the lord of the sky gently swung his right arm.

In that trajectory, I could see transparent wings of a bird of prey――the moment after I thought so, a violent tornado welled up, and engulfed us.

“Uwa, wa, waa~~~~!”

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who made such screams. While the four females were also making high-pitch screams again, we were whirled up, turning round and round. Instinctively, I spread my wings and tried slipping out of the tornado, but my propulsive power did not work at all.

The lord of the sky suddenly faded away and the ceiling part of the dome became closer in return. When I thought that everywhere I looked there was a raging storm inside the cloud, a small hole opened up in the ceiling. I couldn’t tell just from looking at it whether that was a safe passage, or a death zone of whirling purple lightning.

Liz grasped Silica’s hand as she like she would be sucked into the hole. Then, Leafa grasped Liz’s hand, and Asuna grasped Leafa’s.

“Kirito-kun……!”

I grasped the left hand that Asuna extended to me with my right hand.

Unfortunately, the chain ended with this. Since there was no sixth member for me to grasp.

However, at the verge of giving up, my badly swung left hand touched something.

I grasped it reflexively. While being swung around by the squall, I shifted my eyes and noticed that it was a thin branch that extended vertically. At its tip were two lovely leaves―― It was a tip of the World Tree.

“Nu, nununununu……!”

I grasped the branch tightly with all that I had to fight against the tornado created by the lord of the sky. Asuna, who was right on top of me, shouted,

“Err, Kirito-kun…...!”

“It’s alright……! I’m definitely, not letting go, of this hand……!”

“That’s not it…… you’re going to incur the god’s wrath…...

“Huh……?”

I looked up and on the other side of Asuna, who was making a complicated face, Leafa also shouted.

“That’s right, Onii-chan, you’re probably not supposed to grasp that branch!”

“Let it go, Kirito, the lord-sama is going to be mad!”, said Liz.

“If you end up breaking it, it is your responsibility, Kirito-saaan!, said Silica.

”Kyu~~~~!”, said Pina.

“B-but…...I’m trying to save every…….”[† 79]

With a pitiable voice, I tried to object, and then.

Far away, in the lower part of the branch that I was grasping. From a corner of the trunk of the World Tree, there was a shadow that flew with great force.

It wasn’t Hraesvelg the sky lord. Far bigger than a human, having two wings, a long neck and a long tail, although I haven’t been able to see one in all of Alfheim, it was a monster of the strongest class―― a dragon.

The dragon with countless scales glittering like sapphire turned around and looked up straight towards us, and also made multiple thunder-like roars. Violet sparks coiled around the sharp fangs that it bared.

“Se-see, it’s angry, Kirito-kun!”

At Asuna’s voice that came from above, I could do nothing but[† 2] nod.

“I-I g-get it, I’m letting go on three! One… two...thr……”

*pokiiiiin*!

With such a truly refreshing sound resounding, the branch that I was grasping splendidly broke.

While flame of anger burned in both eyes of the dragon that literally unleashed a thunder-like voice, it came soaring towards us. However, luckily――if I should say so, having lost our lifeline, we were sucked into the hole in the ceiling with violent force.

Still connected in a line, we plunged into the dark and thin tube-shape space at ultra high speed. I wasn’t even sure whether we were ascending or descending anymore. It began to seem like my soul would pop out of my avatar every time we turned right and left.

“Kyaaaaa!”, I couldn’t tell whose scream was that, but,

“Yahoooooo!”, that shout of joy was unmistakably Leafa’s.

After being at the mercy of the unexpected scream attraction[† 80] for around thirty seconds or more, it finally became became brighter up ahead. However, our speed remained unchanged, and we were thrown out into the white light.

*supopopopoon*, as we were thrown out, we found ourselves in the middle of the infinitely continuing cobalt blue.

No matter where I looked - sky, sky sky. After spreading my wings with both of my hands to stabilise my posture, I looked right under us and saw that the pure white cumulonimbus cloud was floating a considerable distance away from us. Even further below, I saw the foliage of the World Tree veiled in light blue.

“Kirito-kun!”

I heard a voice calling me from the front, thus, while preparing for the additional scolding, I looked up and there I saw Asuna’s sparkling and smiling face.

While returning the smile, I grasped the left arm extended to me with my right arm. With Leafa gripping Asuna’s right arm, as well as Liz and Silica being connected, the five of us lined up and began floating. Lastly, Yui who slipped out of my chest pocket sat down on Asuna’s left shoulder.

A super-high altitude air current blew close to my ears. The pouring sunlight made everyone’s hair and equipment glitter.

For a short while, no one said a thing.

I’m pretty sure that everyone was recalling the strange personal experience we had in the ≪Lightning Dragon’s Nest≫.

In the end, we were unable to get a quest that would continue from the ≪Deep Sea Plunderers≫. However, at parting, the lord of the sky did say,

“......Without being entrusted with a righteous duty, thou must never again come to this place.”

In other words, we should revisit when we have been entrusted with a righteous duty…...I think. Perhaps, it wasn’t enough for the quest flag. The continuation of the story is waiting for us somewhere in this world. In that case, we’ll definitely be able to find it.

It’s not just a quest. According to the words of the lord of the sky, the ≪Rainbow Bridge Bifröst≫ that Suguha felt she saw seemed to exist somewhere, but not here.

I turned my glance at my right side, and called out to the Sylph swordswoman with her loosely fluttering ponytail.

“Leafa, it’s a shame that we didn’t find the rainbow bridge. But, I’m sure that someday……”

“Ah…...that’s it.”

As if she had been lost in thought and now came back to her senses, Leafa looked at me and said,

“Hraesvelg-san said it. The rainbow bridge began from Asgard, but the point it connected to wasn’t Alfheim. I heard that and remembered. In the myth, Bifröst actually connected Asgard to Midgard.”

“Mid…...gard?”

To that name that we had not heard of, the four people with the exception of Leafa inclined their head all together.

Leafa smiled and briefly answered.

“The realm of humans.”

“......Humans……”

After we repeated that like parrots, we tried saying ‘isn’t that the map where we are’ and then realised. Alfheim was of course not the country of humans. That’s because the players and NPCs too, without exception, were fairies that had pointy ears and translucent wings.

However, if that’s the case, a place called the realm of humans didn’t exist in ALO―― equals, the rainbow bridge as well would not appear. I exchanged glances with Asuna, Liz and Silica who had arrived at the same thought. However, Leafa who was in the centre did not stop smiling.

“Ah…...I understood it!”, the one who said that was Yui who was sitting on Asuna’s shoulder.

“What did you understand, Yui-chan?”

“Where the realm of humans could be!”

The pixie who rose from Asuna’s shoulder and flew to a place where she could face us pointed to a corner of the sky after puffing her chest simply making an ‘ahem’.

All of us looked at that direction.

Just[† 74] the dark blue sky no matter how much one spread their vision. Let alone a rainbow bridge, even flight-type monsters could not be found at this height.

No, that’s wrong. Far away in the sky, at around the same height, a small shadow was floating. A circular truncated cone-shape(frustum) that was slightly bent at its side.

The reborn Aincrad.

“Ah…...S-so that’s it……!”, I shouted while opening both of my eyes.

An infinite number of NPCs lived in Aincrad as well. They did not have wings and their ears weren’t pointy. The same applied to the players that fought in that former world.

“........In this world, Aincrad is, the realm of humans(Midgard)......?”, Asuna was the one who murmured that.

“That is what I am guessing!”

To Yui declaring this distinctly, Leafa also made a deep nod.

“That’s what I think too. Of course, at the present time, a rainbow bridge cannot be seen in Aincrad yet, but…… some day I’m sure, perhaps when we clear it until Floor 100, wouldn’t Bifröst appear from the sky……”

“That is right, I am sure that it is the case!”, shouted Silica, while Asuna and Lisbeth energetically nodded.

The thought ‘Floor 100 you say!’ flashed in my heart, but, even so, I pointed straight at Aincrad with what I had in my left hand and said,

“All right, let’s be the first to reach Floor 100!”

Yeah!

Such a shout could not be heard.

I shifted my eyes to the right and saw that the four girls, Yui and even Pina looked back at me with a truly complicated look.

“......D-did I say something wrong……?”

“......No you didn’t, but…… Kirito-kun, you brought that with you……”

With Asuna pointing that out[† 81], I myself gazed at the thing that was facing towards Aincrad.

A long and narrow tree stick that was probably one and a half metre in length. The bark was smooth, and it made a delicate spiral close to its tip where two large leaves glittered.

The highest branch, of the World Tree.

“Ah………...I-I ended up bringing it…...”

In a haste, I looked down on the lower part of the cumulonimbus cloud, but there was no indication of an angry lord of the sky or a dragon chasing after us right now.

“......Errr… what should I do with this.”

”I don’t care. You’re the one who holds responsibility, so take IT! Sorry, but I’m not risking to get caught in your divine punishment!”, said Lisbeth.

I thought this and that about what to do with it: even if I throw it away, burn it, cook and eat it, I can’t get rid of the feeling of incurring a god’s wrath.

“Then…… I’ll force sell it to Agil and the divine punishment will pass over to him……”

“......You’re not giving it to him, but selling it……”

“See, that’s because it’s a branch of the summit of the World Tree! You can’t just get your hands on it that eas-……”[† 82]

While giving such a forceful reply, I casually tapped on the area around the centre of the staff with my index finger.

And then, together with a light sound, the property window opened. The item name would probably be something like 【Branch of Tree】―― I thought, but…

“Huh….. It comes with kind of long a name. Hmm, ≪Crest of Yggdrasil≫……? The category is…… a Two-handed Staff……!?”

I quickly raised my face, and saw that Asuna and the others had uniformly rounded their eyes. I turned towards them and, while putting up the long cane(staff), formerly called a tree branch, explained in an excited voice.

“It looks like, this is a, sort of a weapon…… Moreover, the specs are amazing…… probably a legend weapon(legendary)-class……”

“I-I’ve also never seen such a staff. In that case, there’s only one of it in the world…...? If we put it up on auction in Alne, just how much would we get……”

I exchanged glances with Lisbeth as her commercial spirit abruptly woke up――

*Gohon*, I heard a cough. Silica who was next to Liz said in a reproving tone while moving her triangular ears,

“Kirito-san? If it’s a weapon, then I don’t think that there should be a divine punishment, thus, I believe that you’ve decided what to do with it, right?”

“Kyuuuu!”, Pina on Silica’s head also raised and lowered its head.

“O-o-of course I get it.”

I nodded straight away and let go of Asuna’s left hand that I had been continuously holding till now.

I slided slightly ahead, and turned around at Yui’s side. I fixed my eyes directly at Asuna’s blank facial expression in front of me.

Whether or not guessing my intention, Leafa, Liz and Silica as well flew to my left and right.

After correcting my posture, I presented the branch of the summit of the World Tree(Crest of Yggdrasil) that I was reverently holding with both of my hands to Asuna who had not yet grasped the situation.

“This is for you, Asuna. I’m sure that it will help you.”

“Wha…..i-is it okay for me to get it……?”

Of course I gave a nod, and she timidly held out her hands and accepted the staff.

And so, despite it still being a tree branch in outward appearance, the staff that gave off an extremely graceful impression suited the healing mage Undine well.

After exchanging looks with Leafa and the others on my left and right, matching our breathing, I said in a loud voice.

“Asuna, thanks for always covering us!”

“““Thanks!!””

Hearing this cheer in chorus――

A radiant smile formed on Asuna’s face as she hugged the World Tree staff to her chest.

Part 5

While slowly descending towards Yggdrasil City, just once more, I looked up at the white cloud that covered the summit of the World Tree.

We did not find the continuation of the quest that I was looking for, nor the rainbow bridge that Suguha desired, at that place. However, maybe the two are the same thing.[† 83]

As far as we’ve heard from Kraken and Leviathan’s conversation, the quest will eventually become a grand story that involves yet unseen Æsir. In that case, I’m sure that the time when we’ll be cross the seven colour bridge and aim at Asgard beyond the sky will come―― of course, that’s a story of a much later future.

When the reborn Aincrad is cleared up to Floor 100, the rainbow bridge Bifröst will descend.

That vision is a small, but definite passion dwelling in my chest.

Because, there is no end to adventures. ≪Beyond that point≫ always exists. Even if one day I become an adult and the time when I am separated from ALO comes, if I look up at the sky, I’m sure I’d be able to find a rainbow bridge.

“Hey, Kirito-kun!”, Asuna flying next to me lively shouted.

“There was a dungeon where my heals previously didn’t reach and we couldn’t clear it, right? At night, let’s try going there all together! With this staff, I think we’re going to clear it this time!”

Then, before I could answer, Lisbeth flying ahead of us turned around.

“Before that, pancakes at Ygg City, remember! Kirito, good luck with that hundred of them!”

“Ugh…...I-I wouldn’t even be able to take fifty of them……”

To my answer, Silica and the others laughed.

Leafa who suddenly turned around and started flying backwards said with an impish smile,

“If you insist. Then, in exchange for losing, confess what you did at Swilvane last night!”

“Ugh……”

Should I challenge the hundred pancakes with a resolution that I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner. Or resign and confess about the misdeed of intruding in the Lord’s Mansion.

At the end of the adventure that spanned two days, for a minute I was faced with the choice between two pitiable alternatives. To me saying ‘umm’, Yui who was riding on my shoulder pointed out a wonderful solution,

“It is alright papa! If you take a hundred of them cooked at the same time, you will only need to finish eating one big one!”

“......I see. That’s a great idea.”

I lightly stroked the head of my beloved daughter, who seemed to think that a ≪big boom≫ would come, with my fingertip.

While thinking that I’ll someday show her a real whale, I aimed at the city up in a tree that I could now slightly see in my path, and made the wings on my back quiver full of strength.

(The end)

Translation Notes

  1. Actually, the air inside the whale is typically quite warm from the whale’s body heat. When it’s exhaled, it meets the much cooler temperature of the air outside and immediately condenses, making it look like a spout of water. http://gizmodo.com/whales-don-t-spray-water-out-of-their-blowholes-1445483468
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 There are various ways to say "only/nothing but" in Japanese, despite them being translated the same in English. In this case, the しか (shika) form that expresses the lack of everything else is used (compare to ばかり (bakari) which implies that there's too much of something to notice something else).
  3. Klein nicknames Kirito as キリの字. I have no idea why such a nickname is used.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Quest is shortened to just “que” in this case.
  5. A "Tsukkomi" is the straight man in a Japanese comedy duo. Means something like "butt in" and "expose other people's error" then "bring a conversation back from nonsense" as a verb. In Manzai(Japanese stand-up comedy), Boke is the crazy joker(like Klein) who makes nonsensical remarks, and the Tsukkomi(in this case Kirito) hits him with a paper fan while telling him the truth/clarifying up the nonsense.
  6. Rude term for a middle-aged man.
  7. “Only party” is in Engrish.
  8. Written in katakana as スミマセン (sumimasen). If a Japanese word is written in katakana, it usually means that the word is emphasised.
  9. Uses 貴様 (kisama), which is considered to be one of the most insulting ways to say "you" in modern Japanese.
  10. Kraken refers to himself using 儂 (washi), which is usually used by elderly males to refer to themselves.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Uses the word 御室 (みむろ, mimuro), which means "home of a nobleman", in this case.
  12. "Thank you" is said in Engrish
  13. Æsir is the plural form of ǫ́ss in Old Norse, which is why "are" was used.
  14. Klein's remark is a reference to final fantasy. Odin (オーディン, Ōdin) is a recurring Summon Monster in the series. Most commonly, Odin will appear and slice through enemies with his sword, cleaving them in two and inflicting Instant Death. http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Odin
  15. 氏 (shi) is an honorific similar to -san, but more formal and not as common.
  16. Technically, says “Kraken and the other”.
  17. Uses 儂(washi), which is a personal pronoun used by elderly males to refer to themselves
  18. Original text is "高度にAI化されたNPC" which literally means "Highly AI-fied NPCs"
  19. A mythical fish from Arabic mythology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahamut, but probably referencing the summon Bahamut from the Final Fantasy series. http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Bahamut
  20. Uses the 様(-sama) honorific after 俺 (ore) (I, my), which indicates arrogancy. It is like saying "I the highness's"
  21. See volume/episode 1
  22. The first instance of thanking is “今日はありがとう” (lit. thanks for today), while the second instance is お疲れ様でした, which is a set expression for thanking someone for their work.
  23. Yui speaks in polite language, thus the question tag is not contracted to express the difference of her speech as compared to the others’.
  24. Japanese for younger sister.
  25. Udon is a type of thick wheat noodle of Japanese cuisine. The following few lines mentions several types of udon. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udon for more information about the different types of udon.
  26. Cold udon served with thick dashi-broth. For anyone interested, I found this.
  27. Literally, “curry udon”. Udon cooked with curry topping.
  28. Literally, “fox udon”. Udon with deep-fried tofu.
  29. Literally, “cooked in a metal pot udon”. Scalloped udon.
  30. The raw also says “with a slurping sound”.
  31. Eggs slow-boiled so that the yolk is hard but the white is still soft. Traditionally, such an egg was cooked in a hot spring, hence the name. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onsen_tamago
  32. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is a herb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okra.
  33. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla_frutescens
  34. Edible seaweed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nori
  35. Haruhoho is a slur of “naruhodo” (なるほど), which means “I see”, “that’s right”, “indeed” etc.
  36. Uses the explanatory の particle to request for an explanation/confirmation.
  37. This is written in kanji with Engrish as furigana.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Uses かもしれない which is less certain than 多分(tabun).
  39. Literally, "the campaign of this time".
  40. Literally, (conversational) exchange.
  41. Uses てば (teba) which indicates annoyance with someone.
  42. The first “I get it” is normal and written in kanji, while the second one is written in hiragana and has a long vowel mark in the middle. Accounting for this by doubling the "e".
  43. Literally “absolutely”. Also, this is written in katakana in this instance for emphasis.
  44. Error in the raw. The hiragana was り, but in future instances it was changed to み. As み makes the word mean "lurk" instead of "dive" and since the spell is "Moonshade lurk" not "Moonshade dive", I'm guessing that み is the correct version.
  45. All further instances of the spell name use only the kanji form.
  46. For some reason, this instance is in kanji
  47. “Smith” is written in both kanji and Engrish.
  48. The last “no” is in Engrish in this case.
  49. The laughter is described as a “hahaha” sound.
  50. This word in the raw has an unusual long vowel sound.
  51. “Map” is in Engrish in this case.
  52. Unique is written in kanji, but also has Engrish as furigana.
  53. Various quotes of the conversation between Leviathan and Kraken.
  54. Although the raw for Rainbow says “April”, previous publications claim that the update took place on May. Reki is bad with his timeline and/or math.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Uses だっけ (dakke), which is an expression that indicates that she is trying to recall something.
  56. Kirito used the polite copula です (desu) in both these replies
  57. Abbreviated to “desu pena”
  58. The double vowels are meant to represent the unusually extended pronunciation.
  59. 59.0 59.1 Uses 我が, a more formal expression for “my”.
  60. I haven't figured out what this is supposed to mean yet
  61. “Person” is written in katakana for emphasis.
  62. “Please” is in Engrish.
  63. Technically, this said “want to try seeing”, but that sounded awkward.
  64. Literally, conversational exchange
  65. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scud_(cloud)
  66. Pronounces with an extended vowel sound. Reflected as a doubled vowel.
  67. All of the numbers were in Engrish.
  68. This had 5 dialogue opening and closing quotation marks to represent five people saying the same thing at the same time. Go is in Engrish.
  69. This sentences uses two types of “if” forms: a もし (moshi) in the beginning of the sentence and the verb conjugated to the -ba conditional form.
  70. Literally “like a lie”. It’s used as an expression for disbelief, surprise etc.
  71. long clothing
  72. The raw actually wrote "Load" instead of "Lord", but "Load" doesn't really make sense. Probably just a case of poor Engrish, as both "load" and "lord" are written the same in katakana.
  73. Leafa translated the name into Japanese, hence why the name format differs.
  74. 74.0 74.1 Uses the ばかり (bakari) form which is used to indicate that there is too much of something to notice anything else.
  75. After the word “Leviathan”, Kirito made a short pause, after which he added ですか (desu ka), which is needed for a question in the Japanese polite language. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure how to translate the sentence to account for the nuance.
  76. 娘(musume) is a word used to refer to a young (unmarried) woman.
  77. 77.0 77.1 Uses the や (ya) particle, which is used for listing when there may be more things that aren’t listed or not all of the mentioned ones apply.
  78. He used a ぬ (nu) negative form instead of the common ない (nai) form. The nu form is a more old-fashioned negative form for those who want to sound more ye olde-like.
  79. This sentence sounded incomplete in the raw, so I accounted for it by leaving out part of “everyone”. Though technically, the part that was left out was する after 助けようと, which would have made the form “try to save”.
  80. This is referring to an amusement park attraction. Not sure if it’s a specific attraction or any kind where one experiences extreme speed.
  81. Technically, he said “accepting Asuna’s point out”, but that just doesn’t work in English.
  82. A sentence interrupted midway. Technically, all he said was something like “obtaining it that easily……”, but due to the grammar difference between Japanese and English, I can’t phrase it like that in English.
  83. Uses a double “maybe”: he begins the clause with もしかしたら (moshikashitara) and ends it with かもしれない (kamoshirenai)

Credits

  • Raw: Takazuki
  • Translation: Gsimenas, 1caiser
  • Editor: 1caiser, Dennis Lee, Pryun

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