第14話 世界の終焉 ／ The End of the World
Heathcliff: Everyone, attack!
Klein: How many did we lose?
Kirito: Fourteen of us died.
Agil: Oh my god…
Klein: And we still get twenty five floors to go.
Agil: Twenty five more floors… How the hell do we even go to make it that far?
Asuna: What’s wrong? Kirito, what are you…?
Asuna: An immortal Object? Commander Heathcliff, wh-what’s going on?
Kirito: I think I got the answer to that. The reason why the commander’s HP never hits yellow, is 'cause he’s protected by the system. You know, whatever since day one, something’s always bugging me about this whole thing. I was always wondering “Where is he hiding while he watches us and controls everything in this world? “Well, the answer’s pretty simple. It’s basic psychology. In fact, it’s so simple, every kid knows it. There’s nothing more boring than watching someone else playing RPG…, is there, Akihiko Kayaba?
Heathcliff: Just for my curiosity’s sake, would you mind telling me how you figured it out?
Kirito: The first time I knew something was up was during our duel. Remember when you turned the tables on me, that move was way too fast.
Heathcliff: Yes, I thought so. It was a mistake to think that would go unnoticed by you. But you were so strong and so fast, the only choice I had was to engage the system’s assist mode.
Heathcliff: Yes, I am Akihiko Kayaba. And now that my identity’s been revealed, it should come with no surprise that I’m the final boss on the top floor.
Kirito: So the strongest player in the whole game ends up being the final boss. Kind of cliché, isn’t it?
Heathcliff: Actually, I kind of like that angle. One thing’s for sure. I always thought you’d be the one standing before me at the very end. You know, dual-wielding is a rare skill, the kind that’s only given to the player with the fastest reaction time. He is the hero of this story, the one who rises up to challenge the demon king. But you… the power you displayed exceeded my expectations. I guess this unexpected twists and turns are what makes MMORPG so thrilling to play.
Guy: Our loyalty… Our hope! How dare you… How dare you! How dare you!
Kirito: What’s the plan now, huh? You’re gonna kill everyone here and cover it up or something?
Heathcliff: Oh, God no. That wouldn’t be sporting of me. That wouldn’t. No, I have a better idea. I’m going to head for the top floor and wait for all of you there. I’ll be inside the Ruby Palace. It’s a shame I have to leave you all so soon. I spent lots of time developing the Knights of the Blood Oath and other elite players. Oh well, you’re all strong, so I’m sure you’ll reach me… eventually. But before I go, Kirito, I feel you deserve some kind of reward for discovering my identity, so… I’ll give you a chance.
Kirito: Chance for what?
Heathcliff: To fight me one-on-one right here right now. Oh and, my immortality will be deactivated. Defeat me and you clear the game, and all of the players will be able to log out from this world, no-strings-attached. What do you say?
Asuna: Don’t do it, Kirito. I don’t like it. We should fall back.
Kirito: I have to… Okay then, let’s finish it.
Kirito: I’m sorry. I can’t run away if it means ending this.
Asuna: You’d better not die. You hear me?
Kirito: No, I’m gonna win. I promise I’m gonna end this world.
Asuna: Okay. I believe in you, Kirito.
Agil: Kirito, don’t!
Kirito: Agil… Thanks for supporting a lot of players in the game since day one. Yeah, I knew you acted like all about the money, but I know you spent every penny you had on helping intermediate players level up. Klein… I’m sorry I bailed on you that day. I think about it all the time.
Klein: D-Damn it, Kirito. Don’t you apologize! Don’t you dare apologize now! I won’t accept it! I’ll never accept it until we’re on the other side and you buy me dinner, God damn it!
Kirito: You got it. See you on the other side. If it’s okay, I have a final request to make.
Heathcliff: What is it?
Kirito: I’m not planing on going down easy. So, if I die today, I want your word that you’ll fix it so Asuna doesn’t kill herself.
Heathcliff: As you wish.
Asuna: No, Kirito! That’s not fair! You can’t do that! It’s not fair! No! Kirito!
Kirito: This isn’t some in-game duel. It’s a fight to the death. That’s fine with me, 'cause I’m gonna kill him!
Kirito: He can block whatever I throw at it, 'cause he designed the dual-wielding skill. And he knows all the combos. I have to beat him with my own power, without using the sword skills. Faster! I gotta go faster!
Kirito: I’m sorry, Asuna. Please keep living…
Heathcliff: Game over, Kirito.
Kirito: Asuna… Asuna… You can’t… You can’t be…
Asuna: I’m sorry. Goodbye.
Heathcliff: Now, that was a surprise. I’m sure I never programmed a way for players to neutralize their own paralysis. I guess sometimes these things just happen.
Kirito: It’s over now…
Asuna: I believe in you, Kirito.
Kirito: Not yet…
Kirito: Not yet! Ahhh! We did it, didn’t we?
Announcer: On November seventh, at 2: 55 PM, the game has been cleared. Repeat, the game has been cleared.
[—in the sky—]
Kirito: Where am I?
Kirito: I’m sorry. I guess I ended up dying too.
Kirito: Where are we? Do you know?
Kayaba: A stunning view, isn’t it?
Kirito: Akihiko Kayaba…
Kayaba: At Argus Headquarters, the SAO mainframe’s in a room five floors below street level. And right now, it’s deleting all the data from its drives. In about ten minutes, everything in this world will disappear forever.
Asuna: And all the players? What happens to them?
Kayaba: You don’t have to worry about them. The 6,147 players who survived the game up to now were logged out a few seconds ago.
Kirito: And what about the four thousand people who died? What about them?
Kayaba: They’ll never return. In any world, real or virtual, once you’re dead, you’re gone.
Kirito: Why? What’s the point? Why did you do this?
Kayaba: That’s good question. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten the reason. It’s not strange. Even before I developed the system for the full-dive environment, I dreamed of this. A castle in a world that wasn’t governed by earthly laws and restrictions. I’ve poured my life into making that world to reality. I created this world. And I got to see something that surpassed anything I could’ve imagined for it. My steel castle floating in the sky, I don’t remember how old I was when I became obsessed with it. I wanted to leave the earth… to fly to that castle. I wanted that more than anything else… for as long as I can remember. You know what, Kirito? I wanna believe it’s still out there. That’s somewhere in some other world, my castle is still standing taller than ever.
Kirito: Yeah. Maybe it still is.
Kayaba: Before I forget — Congratulations on clearing the game, Kirito, Asuna. Well then, I should probably get going now.
Kirito: Guess this is goodbye.
Asuna: Uh-uh. This isn’t goodbye at all. We’re gonna be together when we finally disappear. So we’re gonna be together forever. Hey, you never told me your real name. Would you please tell me before we go?
Kirito: Kazuto. Kazuto Kirigaya. And last month, I turned sixteen.
Asuna: Kazuto Kirigaya… So you’re younger than me, huh? My name is Asuna Yuki. I’m seventeen now.
Kirito: Asuna Yuki… Asuna Yuki… Sorry, Sorry… I swore, I promised I’d save you… get you back to the real world. But I… I couldn’t…
Asuna: It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m happy I got to meet you, Kazuto, and to be with you, and to live with you. This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. Thank you for that, and I love you.
Asuna: I love you… so very much…