Chapter 1 Reality
Kazuto clicked through the screens on his PC, his eyes glued to the screen. Today was finally the day. There were videos all over the web of people waiting in line and going crazy to get one of the first copies of SAO .
SAO was short for Sword Art Online, the new VRMMORPG and the first of its kind. Similar to the massive multi-player online role playing games people had played for years, except the element of virtual reality had been factored in making it a much more immersive experience. It was almost as if you were actually in the game world, thanks to newly developed technology called Nerve Gear. Kazuto had actually been one of the few selected beta testers for the game and had been waiting on edge for the game to be released.
It was like being in another world for him and in a lot of ways, he could be himself more than he actually could in the real world. He clicked off of his computer and with a deep breath picked up his nerve gear, walking over to his bed.He slipped the nerve gear on and lay down.
"It's time." He said, smiling a bit.
"Nerve Gear Link." He said and just like, that things had begun. Little did he know what exactly would be in store for him and the other players of SAO.
After entering all of his information and setting up his character, Kazuto blinked as he appeared in the game world. He looked down at his fingers, stretching them out and then looked around. It was stunning how real this world was. If you didn't know it was a game, you could easily get it confused for the real one.
He smiled, clenching his fist.
"I'm back." He said as the name "Kirito", his chosen screen named popped up over his avatar. He walked down a path near a field, bringing up his menu and equipping the best starter weapons for his character. He didn't need to go through the tutorial like most of the players were doing now.He decided to look around a bit after getting everything set up and took out a few weak monsters to get a bit ahead of the curve. After walking around for a bit, he tilted his head to the side, watching a guy that looked older than himself with red hair trying to take on a monster. Kazuto watched him, and was pretty impressed by the guy's daring, considering how harsh SAO's penalties were for dying.
"Ah ah ah! No, no, I can't do this early!" The man fumbled around with his weapon, getting knocked down by the monster and cringing as it charged him again
"Ehhhhhh!" He closed his eyes waiting but then blinked opening them.
Kazuto looked down at the guy as the monster faded into pieces, disappearing after he struck it. He smiled, reaching down to help the guy up.
"Phewww, thanks man." He said, shaking his head.
"Not to good of a start, I guess." He laughed embarrassedly, rubbing his head.
"Maybe, but you're pretty brave, trying to fight this early on." He said, then looked at him, tilting his head a bit.
"I can help you if you'd like me to show you the basics and some good starting places to grind." He offered.
The man smiled widely.
"Really man? Thanks!" He laughed. "I'm Kline." He extended his hand out to him.
"Kirito." he responded, shaking his hand.
"Now!" Kazuto called out, backing away from the monster and allowing Kline to come in.
"Ahhhhh ya!" Kline finished off the monster and laughed.
"Whew, this is great." He said, putting away his weapon after taking out monsters for a while together.
The two sat down on the grass. Kline looked up at the sky.
"Pretty crazy how real this is, isn't it?"
"It's like another world."
He said, staring out at the sky. Kline looked at him and smiled. He could tell he really meant it. There was a look in his eyes.
Kline stood up.
"Well man, I've got to log out for a bit"
Kazuto stood up.
"Oh alright." He said, nodding. Kline brought up his menu and scrolled down.
"Here, add me and when I get back on we'll team up some more."
Kazuto brought up his menu and accepted his request. Kline laughed and nodded to him.
"See ya!" He said, scrolling through the menu. Then he stopped and scrunched up his eyes a bit.
"Huh... Um, the log out button's not here." He said, confused.
Kazuto scrunched his eyes.
"It's got to be there, let me check." He said, bringing up his menu again and going through it. He raised an eyebrow.
"You're right, it's not there." He said, a bit shocked. Kline sighed.
"Probably just a glitch or something."
He scrunched his eyes again, thinking about it. "That's a pretty major glitch, especially this early on," He said. "And it's going to cause some major problems for the game if people can't log out."
Kline thought about it. "You're right..." He said, then his face dropped. "My pizza!" He whimpered.
Kazuto blinked, looking at him. "What?"
Kline dropped to the ground. "I ordered a pizza and I'm going to miss it...I'm going to miss it." He shook his head.
Kazuto couldn't help but laugh. Despite his mirth, he had a really bad feeling about this log out thing. As soon as he had thought that, something started to happen. The area around them almost seemed like it was moving. Kline blinked
"What's going on?" He asked, standing up. "A quest, maybe?"
Kazuto shook his head.
"I don't know, but it's no quest." He said, looking around. He blinked as they were teleported to the main town, apparently along with all the other players. The main square was packed full of people.
Kline was standing next to him, looking around in amazement.
"Woah..." He said. Everyone was chattering, trying to find out if anyone knew what was going on.Kazuto's eyes stayed focused up front. He watched as the pixels began changing and the area became red, almost like blood dripping from the sky forming into something. Everyone watched, ooing and aaing.
"Hello players of Sword Art Online." The voice boomed.
"I am the creator of this game and this world, Kayaba."
The whispers from around the square increased, everyone thinking this was some kind of grand quest announcement.
"I am here to inform you now of a change to the game." He said.
"First," He waved his hand and everyone seemed to ripple, avatars changing to match their appearances in real life. Boys that were playing as girls looked embarrassed at being caught and there were dismayed cries of "You're a girl?!" echoing around the town square.
"Now, what I am here to announce is that from here on out, if you die in the game then you will also die in real life." He said.
The square went silent as everyone stared up at him in disbelief. Kazutos eyes were wide shaking a bit. Kline looked at him.
"Hey man, are you ok? It's probably just-"
"No." He cut him off. He shook his head. "This is for real, he's not joking." He didn't know how he was so sure, but he was. Kayaba wasn't joking.
Kline looked at him. "Come on now, man! I'm getting freaked out." He said.
The voice continued. "For those of who don't believe me see for yourselves."
A screen came up showing the news. News anchors were doing covers on players mysteriously dying while playing the game. The crowd fell almost dead silent, watching.
"As you can see, players have already died. As soon as you die in SAO, a microwave will be sent through your nerve gear, going instantly to your brain and frying it."
Kazuto swallowed. "Kline... we need to get out of here." He said nervously.
Kline looked at him "What...what do you mean?" He asked.
Kazuto kept his eyes fixed on Kayaba. "Once this sets in with everyone that this is for real, it's going to become madness. We need to get ahead." He said.
Above them,Kayaba continued.
"Also, if your nerve gear is removed, it will fry your brain. Those of you still here, don't worry this has already been discovered and is currently being broadcasted. Hopefully, your family members will not ignore the warnings. I'll leave you with this, the only way out of this is to survive. Survive and clear all 100 floors of the game." Kayaba melted back into the sky and disappeared.
There was a deafening silence for a few seconds before everything exploded. People began running and screaming, pushing each other over in their fear.
"Kline..." Kazuto said.
Kline nodded. "Let's go."
They had still waited too long, and now it was a challenge to escape from the panicked crowd.Kazuto stumbled as he was bumped into. Kline was torn away from him in the crowd. Kazuto back away from the throng of people, hands still shaking.
"This is for real now." He thought to himself. "My life and everyone's lives are on the line."
"I have to do this, the only way out is to clear all one hundred floors." He forced himself to stop shaking and narrowed his eyes. He looked down at his hand, clenching it. Taking a deep breath, he turned and ran away, out of the square, out of the town. He stopped when he came to the clearing he had been in when he first arrived. A boar stood in the middle of it, staring at him with blank red eyes. A surge of rage pushed up in his chest. He could do this. He could survive.
Kazuto pulled his sword out, gripping it firmly. He dropped into a stance and levelled the blade with the animal's eyes. He ran towards it, a defiant scream tearing itself from his mouth as the sword sliced clean through the mob and it dissipated into a thousand red pixels.