第3話 赤鼻のトナカイ ／ Red Nosed Reindeer
Ducker: Here’s to us, the Moonlit Black Cats! Cheers, everyone!
Ducker: I got another. Here’s to the guy who saved our lives! To Kirito!
Everyone: To Kirito!
Kirito: Uh… Cheers, guys…
Tetsuo: Yeah, man.
Sasamaru: Thank you.
Ducker: You saved us back there. Sachi, Thank you. Thank you so much.
Kirito: Oh, it’s cool.
Sachi: I can tell you how scared I was. And it made me so happy when you came to save us, I…
Kirito: Oh, well…
Keita: Uh, Kirito, sir. I hope I’m not out of line asking this, but I was wondering what level you’re at?
Kirito: Level twenty.
Keita: Really? You’re at our level and still a solo player. You’re an inspiration, sir!
Kirito: Keita, I’m not your superior. And being solo means I’m always hunting enemies out in the boonies. It’s not very efficient.
Keita: Oh… right. Well, in that case, I hate to spring this on you here, but… if you want, we’d love to have you in our guild. Our mace wielder, Tetsuo, is only one we can put out front right now. And then we’ve got Sachi over here. I was thinking of having her switch to sword-and-shield. That way, she can fight on the front lines. The thing is, she says she’s not sure she could handle it. If you join us, maybe you could teach her a thing or two.
Sachi: Oh, come on! I’m not that useless.
Sachi: Seriously, you can’t just put me up front and expect me to know what to do, I’d be terrified.
Tetsuo: It’s no big deal, just hide behind the shield.
Keita: Yeah, right. Ever since I can remember you’ve always been a scaredy-cat.
Keita: We always joke around like that. See, in real life, we all get to the same high school and are members of the computer club. But if you worry about fitting in with us, don’t. As far as I’m concerned, you’re already part of our group, right?
Kirito: Well… I’m really flattered. And thanks for the offer. I’ll do it.
Guy: Welcome to…
[—May 9, 2023 Floor 20: Sunlit Forest—]
Kirito: Sachi, get back! I got this! Come on, Tetsuo! Switch out!
Tetsuo: Got it! All right!
Ducker: Congrats, man! You totally owed us, sucker!
Keita: The Assault Team made it through to floor twenty-eight. That’s amazing! Hey, Kirito. What the heck does the Assault Team have that we don’t?
Kirito: Well, access to information? With that, they can find out the easiest ways to get EXP, and they don’t share that info.
Keita: Yeah, you’re probably right. But I think what really sets them apart is willpower.
Kirito: What do you mean?
Keita: I guess what I mean is they have the will to stick out for their friends, or any player for that matter. The truth is, I’d like to think we have the same kind of drive, even though we still need a protection. That said our first priority is looking out for each other. But someday, if we get strong enough, we’ll join the elites in the Assault Team.
Kirito: I see. That’s a good goal.
Keita: I don’t know, I guess…
Ducker: Hey, leader! Give me some luck! Hey come on!
Tetsuo: So, you really think we can be as strong as the Holy Dragon Alliance or the Knight of the Blood Oath?
Keita: Yeah, what if I do? Nothing wrong with setting our sights high. But we have to be level thirty first.
Sachi: That’s impossible.
Kirito: I like the way Keita thinks. If the Black Cats can level up fast and get to the front lines, his ideals could change the elitist attitude of the Assault Team.
Keita: I have an announce to make. After our latest hunt in the field, we’ve got 200,000 col!
Tetsuo: Buying a house of our own doesn’t seem like such a pipe dream anymore.
Sasamaru: I know, we should upgrade Sachi’s equipment.
Keita: Good idea!
Sachi: Uh-uh. I’m fine with what I have.
Ducker: Oh, come on! You know, it’s not fair to make Kirito be out in front forever.
Sachi: I’m sorry.
Kirito: Don’t worry about me. I’m cool with it.
Keita: Thanks Kirito. Sachi, I know switching jobs isn’t as easy, but seriously you’re almost there. You can do it! I know it!
[—May 16, 2023 Floor 28: Wolf Plains—]
Klein: Phew… What’s up, Kirito! The trash mobs’ all yours, guys!
Klein: Man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you. What? You doing some late night leveling or something? What’s up with that icon? Did you join a guild?
Kirito: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Guys: It’s all clear! We can move on!
Kirito: See ya.
Klein: Yeah… Oh, come on. Is it still bugging you?
Keita: It’s Keita. Sachi went off somewhere and hasn’t come back yet. We’re heading to the dungeon now. Please let me know if you find anything out.
Kirito: Everyone’s worried about you.
Sachi: Hey, Kirito.
Sachi: We should run away.
Kirito: Run away… from what?
Sachi: From this town. From the monsters. From the Moonlit Black Cats. And from Sword Art Online, too.
Kirito: Ah, are you talking about suicide?
Sachi: That’s not such a bad idea. Sorry, no. If I had guts to die, I wouldn’t be hiding in the town where it’s safe, would I? But really, why can’t we just leave? Why do we have to die, when it’s just a stupid game. What’s the point of going through this?
Kirito: Yeah, there is no point. I guess.
Sachi: I… I’m so afraid of dying in here.
Kirito: It’s really that bad for you, huh?
Sachi: I’m so scared. I haven’t been able to get any sleep lately.
Kirito: You’re not going to die.
Sachi: Really? How can you be so sure about that?
Kirito: The Black Cats are strong enough as a guild. Besides, our margin of safety is well above the norm. Plus, you’ve got Tetsuo and me up front. So, there is no reason to be on the front line with us.
Sachi: You honestly don’t think I’ll die? Will I make it back to the real world?
Kirito: Yeah. You’re not going to die. You’ll see. We’ll clear this game and go home soon.
Kirito: Come in!
Sachi: I’m sorry. I can’t seem to get to sleep.
Kirito: If I stay in this guild, she’ll be safe. And we’ll all make it back to the real world someday. There must be a lot of players like her, who’re afraid of dying in here. But still, they laugh, and cry, and try to live as best they can. I’ve never thought about it like that before.
Kirito: It’s okay. I promise you’re going to survive.
Kirito: And no matter what, I promise I’ll protect all of you.
Keita: Okay, I’m heading out. Teleport: Town of Beginnings.
Sasamaru: Can you believe it? I never thought buying a house would so exciting!
Ducker: Dude, you sound like an old man!
Tetsuo: Hey, while Keita’s off buying the house, what do guys say go and raise some extra cash?
Sachi: Oh, then we can buy furniture.
Ducker: Come on, let’s go to a dungeon on a higher floor!
Kirito: We should stick to our usual hunting spots.
Sasamaru: But up there we can make more and faster.
Ducker: Yeah, at our levels, we don’t have anything to worry about.
[—Jun 12, 2023 Floor 27: Dungeon—]
Sasamaru: You see, I told you guys this was going to be cake! We might even be able to reach the front lines sooner.
Ducker: That’s what I’m talking about. Look!
Kirito: No way! A hidden door?
Ducker: A treasure chest! Hoho!
Kirito: No! Wait!
Kirito: It’s a trap, guys! Hurry! Let’s get out of here!
Ducker: Teleport; Taft! Ah… Teleport; Taft!
Sachi: We can’t use our crystals!
Kirito: They’re probably being blocked by the walls.
Sasamaru: Tetsuo! Damn you! Ahhh!
[—December 24, 2023 Floor 49: Mugien—]
Argo: I hear someone’s been taking risks with their level raising.
Kirito: You got any new info for me or what?
Argo: Nothing worth charging you money for.
Kirito: You give info brokers a bad name.
Argo: Hey, this wasn’t in the beta test. It’s a first-time event. How am I supposed to know what’s going to happen? All I know is that tonight on Christmas Eve, the event boss is going to appear. He’s called “Nicholas the Renegade." He’s going to show up under a fir tree somewhere. The major guilds are searching everywhere for the tree as we speak. You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, would you?
Argo: Are you thinking of going solo on this one?
Kirito: In this world, the dead can never return to life. I heard a rumor though. If you beat Nicholas the Renegade, who’ll drop an item that can revive a dead player. I’m going alone, and I’ll probably die alone. No one will see me, no one will know. Nothing will be left behind. That’s how I’ll die.
Keita: You’re a beater! You had no right to be with us!
Kirito: That’s right… It’s my fault. My arrogance killed you, all of you. If only I hadn’t kept my true level as a player secret from everyone. I have to figure out a way to beat Nicholas, then I can revive Sachi. And then, I’ll find out what she was trying to tell me. And if it turns out she was cursing me, fine, I accept it!
[—Floor 35: Forest Maze—]
Klein: What’s up?
Kirito: You followed me?
Klein: Of course. You’re after the revival item, aren’t you?
Klein: Don’t be risking your life for some rumor that could turn out be bogus. Man, you can’t be messing around in this death game. Once your HP hits zero, that’s it. In the real world, your brain gets fried and it’s…
Kirito: Shut up…
Klein: Huh? Try and get you to stop with your stupid soloing. Come on, join up with us. Whoever gets it to drop the revival item keeps it, no hard feelings. Hey, that’s fair, isn’t it?
Kirito: But then, there’d be no point. I have to do this. Alone.
Klein: Think about what you’re doing, Kirito! It’s suicide, and I can let you die like that! Come on!
Kirito: I guess you were being followed too, huh, Klein.
Klein: Uh-huh. It sure looks that way.
Guy: It’s the Holy Dragon Alliance.
Guy: They’ll do anything for a rare item, no matter how shady. What’ll we do?
Kirito: You bastards…
Klein: Screw these guys! Get out of here, Kirito!
Kirito: No way.
Klein: Leave 'em to us. We can hold them off. Get going!
Kirito: Let’s do this.
Klein: Huh? Kirito, hey! W-Wha?
Kirito: There. That’s the revival item.
Klein: Let’s see… it says it must administer to affected player… within ten seconds?!
Kirito: If someone dies in front of you someday, make sure you use it.
Klein: Kirito… Listen. Stay alive, you hear? I don’t care how you do it. Just stay alive, to the end!
Kirito: See you.
Sachi: Merry Christmas, Kirito! By the time you hear this, I’ll probably be dead. How can I explain this, let’s see… To tell you the truth, I never really wanted to leave the Town of Beginnings. And I knew if I fought with an attitude like that, I would end up dying someday. But that’s not anyone’s fault. That’s something I have to deal with. Kirito, ever since that night you found me, you kept telling me I wasn’t going to die, no matter what. But what if I got killed anyway? I knew that if I died, you’ll blame yourself. That’s why I decided to record this for you. By the way, I know how powerful you really are. Sorry. I sort of peeked when you weren’t looking. I wondered why you weren’t telling the truth about what level player you really were. I wondered why you decided to fight with us. I never figured it out though. You know what? When I found out how strong you were, I don’t know, it made me so happy. I so relieved. So even if I die, promise me you’ll go on living, okay, Kirito? Stay alive, so you can see the end of this world, and find out why it was created. Find out why a weakling like me ended up here. Find out the reason you and I met. Please. That’s what I wish. Looks like I still have time, so… Seeing how it’s Christmas and everything, I’ll sing you a song.
Sachi: Anyway, Kirito. I’m so glad that I met you, and that I could be with you… even for a little while. Thank you. Goodbye.