第8話 黒と白の剣舞 ／ The Sword Dance of Black and White
[—Oct 17, 2024 Floor74: Dungeon—]
Kirito: It’s been almost two years since this game of death began. I’m still going it alone, fighting solo on the front lines. Akihiko Kayaba’s out there somewhere, watching. I wonder what he’s thinking right now. Guess I’ll head home.
Kirito: You gotta be kidding.
[—Floor 50: Algade—]
Agil: No way! This is an S-class rare item! Holy crap! This is the first time I’ve ever seen one! Hey, Kirito. Don’t you already have all the money you need? I’ll buy it. But I’m saying, wouldn’t you rather have it for dinner?
Kirito: Sure. It’s just… Well, who knows if I’ll ever get another one.
Agil: So, keep it.
Kirito: What’s the point? Look, to prepare an item like this, you need to have high enough cooking skill.
Agil: Yeah, you’re right. If we tried, we’d just burn it.
Kirito: Hm? I’ve got my chef.
Asuna: Uh… What chef?
Kirito: Hey, Asuna’s here. Seeing you in a dump like this is beyond weird.
Asuna: Oh, save it. I came to see if you were still alive. You know it’s almost time for the next boss raid.
Kirito: I’m on your friend list. If you wanna know I’m alive, just check that.
Asuna: Whatever. Now I know you’re alive. Anyway, what are you up to? What’s all this about a chef?
Kirito: Oh yeah, that. I was wondering what your cooking skill level is.
Asuna: Totally maxed it out last week.
Asuna: Cool, huh?
Kirito: Well, if you’re that good, I need a favor.
Asuna: Hmm? You-You got a Ragout Rabbit!
Kirito: I’ll trade you. All you have to do is cook it up for me, and I’ll let you have a little bite.
Asuna: Half! Deal?
Kirito: Yeah, deal.
Asuna: Oh, right!
Kirito: Sorry, pal. You heard the lady? Guess I’m keeping it.
Agil: Yeah. But you could at least let me taste it, right? I thought we were tight, man!
Kirito: I’ll write a review for you. But only two pages, promise!
Agil: Damn. That is cold!
Asuna: So… where am I gonna cook it?
Kirito: Oh, well…
Asuna: I’m guessing not your place, right? You even own any cookware?
Asuna: Okay. Because the main ingredient is special, I won’t have a problem if we use my place this time. Thank you for escorting me. You may go.
Kuradeel: I’m sorry, ma’am. But I can’t allow you to go home with such a shady character.
Asuna: I don’t know the extent of his shadiness, but I know he’s quite skilled. In fact, he’s ten levels above you, Kuradeel.
Kuradeel: Are you implying I’m inferior to him? Oh, I know. He’s one of those beaters, isn’t he?
Kirito: Yeah. What if I am?
Kuradeel: You shouldn’t go with him, ma’am! All his kind care about is themselves. You can’t expect anything good to come from scum like that.
Guys: Hey, what’s going on? That’s Lightening Flash Asuna. You’re right. She’s really cute!
Asuna: Listen. I’m second-in-command here. I am ordering you to go home.
Kirito: Are you sure about this?
Asuna: Of course!
Kirito: Wow. There’s hardly anyone around. It’s really cool.
Asuna: If you like it so much, why don’t you move here.
Kirito: I don’t know. This floor seems way out of my price range. Anyway, what’s the deal with that guy back there? He was mad dogging me like crazy.
Asuna: Oh, he’s just my bodyguard. The guild’s new policy says all higher-ups have to have an escort. It’s lame. The guild didn’t have all these rules and regulations before. Used be really small. Then, more and more people joined up. After that, when we became the strongest guild, everything started getting weird. Well, I’m probably making a bigger deal out of it than it is. Anyway, we better hurry. It’s getting dark.
Kirito: Oh, okay.
Kirito: Wow, you’ve got a killer pad. Hey, how much did all this cost?
Asuna: Hmm… The room and furniture cost around four million Col. Anyway, make yourself at home.
Kirito: Uh, sure. Holy moly… Four million… Man, that’s a lot of Col. I’m sure I’ve earned that much too, but blowing it all on a flat?
Asuna: Are you gonna take off your coat or what?
Kirito: Oh, yeah. Sorry.
Asuna: So, this is a legendary S-class ingredient. Okay. How do you want this cooked up?
Kirito: I thought I’ll leave that decision up to the chef.
Asuna: In that case… how about we make it into a stew? Ragout. That’s pretty much the definition of a stew. In real life, there’d be a lot more steps involved in preparing this. Cooking in SAO is so simple. Believe it or not, it’s kind of boring. That takes care of that. Now for the next step. I was thinking about making a couple of side dishes.
Kirito: Oh… Kirito and
Asuna: Ha… .
Asuna: I’ve been here two years, and this is the first time I’ve ever eaten S-class food. I’m so happy I’ve survived long enough to eat that.
Kirito: Yeah, me too.
Asuna: It’s so weird. Sometimes, I don’t know, I get this feeling… that like I lived here my entire life. You ever feel like that?
Kirito: Yeah, almost all the time. In fact, there’s days I don’t even think about the real world at all. And it’s not just me. These days, more and more people don’t seem to care about clearing the game and getting back to the real world.
Asuna: I notice there’s not that many players out there fighting on the front lines. Maybe five hundred, if that. I guess they used to it. They don’t care anymore. Yeah well, I wanna go back. I mean, there’re things I haven’t done yet. I have to.
Kirito: I know how you feel. And when you stop to consider it, there’s everyone else, right? All the people who still count on us. If we give up, it’s not fair to them.
Asuna: Uh-uh. Don’t go there.
Asuna: I’ve seen that same look on guy’s faces before, and always right before they proposed to me. You should see your face. I guess you never had a girlfriend before.
Kirito: Whatever. I’m a solo player.
Asuna: And you’re okay with that? You don’t ever wanna join a guild? I know how the beta players don’t fit in with the guilds. But… ever since we got to Floor seventy, things are getting more dangerous. The monster algorithms are even more irregular.
Asuna: There’re things a solo player can’t handle, unexpected things. Sometimes, warping out isn’t an option.
Kirito: Yeah, well… I’m pretty careful. I work better by myself anyway. Besides, most of the time, instead of helping, party members just get in the way.
Asuna: Oh, yeah?
Kirito: My bad. Everyone except for you.
Asuna: So, what do you say you and me team up again?
Asuna: Black’s my lucky color this week anyway.
Kirito: Hold up a sec! Don’t you have stuff you have to do for your guild? You can’t just bail on them!
Asuna: It’s not like we have any leveling quotas to meet.
Kirito: Well then, what about your bodyguard?
Asuna: I’ll just ditch him.
Kirito: The front lines are dangerous though. Okay… fine.
Asuna: Well, I suppose, thanks in order for the meal, so… thank you.
Kirito: Thank you for cooking it. Maybe next time. Uh, what am I saying… ? I’ll never get my hands on something like that again.
Asuna: No way. You can make anything yummy if you have the skills to cook.
Kirito: Looking at this world, and seeing what it’s become since we got here, is this really what Akihiko Kayaba wanted to create?
[—Oct 18, 2024 Floor 74: Calmdet—]
Kirito: Hmm… Where is she?
Asuna: Eeek! Watch out!
Kirito: What is this thing? Hmm… Squishy.
Asuna: Ah, no!
Kirito: Urgh! Hey. Good morning, Asuna. What’s wrong?
Kuradeel: Why are you behaving like this, ma’am? I’m only following orders. Please let’s go back to headquarters.
Asuna: I won’t! Especially not with you. And why were you lurking around my house in the morning, huh?
Kuradeel: You have a bad habit of leaving without any warning. So, for the past month, part of my mission has been to keep an eye on you in Selmburg.
Asuna: What? Who ordered this? It wasn’t the commander.
Kuradeel: With all due respect, ma’am, my mission is to guard you. No matter where you are, including your home.
Asuna: No, it doesn’t, you idiot!
Kuradeel: I wish you would be a little more understanding about this, ma’am. Now then, let’s return to headquarters.
Kirito: Sorry. But I’ll be borrowing your second-in-command for the day. So you just have to make do without her. I’ll take responsibility for her security. Don’t worry. It’s not like we’re going on a boss raid. You can go. She’ll be fine with me.
Kuradeel: Insolent punk! Do you know who I am? I’m a member of the glorious Knights of the Blood Oath. A low-level player like you couldn’t protect her!
Kirito: I can do a better job of it than you.
Kuradeel: You’ve got a big mouth, kid! So, I’m going to give you a chance to prove just how tough you really are.
Kirito: Are you sure?
Asuna: Don’t worry. I’ll tell the commander how this happened.
Kuradeel: Please move to a safe distance, ma’am. I’m going to prove beyond any doubt that I am the only one who can protect you.
Guy1: Kirito’s gonna duel a guy from the Knights of the Blood Oath.
Guy2: This’ll be fun to watch.
Kuradeel: I can’t believe it!
Guy3: Holy crap. He destroyed the sword!
Guy4: How did he do that?
Kirito: If you wanna try again with another weapon, I’ll be glad to take you on. Or we can call it a day.
Kuradeel: Asuna? I don’t know how but he cheated. You saw how he destroyed my sword! He must have used some kind of trick! There’s no other way I could’ve lost to a pathetic beater like him!
Asuna: Kuradeel, as second-in-command of the Knights of Blood Oath, I’m relieving you of your duties as my bodyguard. You’re to return to headquarters and wait for further orders.
Kuradeel: You… You can’t be serious. Damn you! Teleport: Grandzam.
Asuna: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to drag you into that.
Kirito: No, it’s no big deal. I’m worried about you. Are you okay?
Asuna: Yeah, I am. The guild’s getting on my nerves, is all. Maybe 'cause I’ve been so focused on clearing the game. Or maybe 'cause I’m so demanding of the other members in the guild.
Kirito: Yeah, I get that. But you didn’t have much of a choice. Think about it, if you’d done things any different, you think your guild would’ve done this far as they have? I mean, what would I know? I just messed around as a solo player, right? The thing is, if you take a day off to team up with a loser like me, so what? That’s your decision to make. In my opinion, no one’s got the right to complain. Screw 'em.
Asuna: Wow. Thank you for your opinion on the subject. Okay. I accept your offer and I’ll be taking a day off from the guild. You can play forward today.
Kirito: Huh? W-Wait a second! Aren’t we supposed to take turns as forward?
Asuna: Sorry. It’s my day off, remember?
Kirito: Oh, come on!
Kirito: Having someone along who knows how to fight sure makes things easier.
Asuna: Switch with me, Kirito!
Kirito: Yeah, right!
Asuna: Kirito, look. Is that what I think it is?
Kirito: Uh-huh. You found the boss room.
Asuna: What’ll we do? You think we should look inside?
Kirito: Well, we came all this way. Besides, boss monsters never leave the rooms they guard. I think we’ll be okay if we just take a peek.
Asuna: Oh, okay.
Kirito: Have a teleport crystal ready, just in case.
Kirito: Okay. Are you ready?