Sword Art Online:ME4

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November 2008

From this Fourth Material Edition onwards, the rest will shift to the novel format.

What I'm writing might look like an excuse (Laughs). My take on the work is, «Conveying the visual image in my head», . Because it works as a tool for transmission, I feel there is no essential difference whether it is in pictures or words form.

Of course, a picture (manga) conveys a visual message with more power and a large foundation, but sometimes, «a scene that is hard to draw» does exist... and so, as an active novelist, my existing aim is to write an article of which «its visuals can be seen through reading». Although it is quite difficult.

Ah, concerning this text, I still haven't mentioned anything about the content yet...eh, it is about Kirito-shi and Asuna san, as always.

ME4: Cold hand, Warm heart[edit]

Sword Art Online ME04 043.jpg

After completing a day of hunting, I returned to my house on the fiftieth floor, which was located in «Algade», but my body still had that marvelously uncomfortable feeling.

My body movement became slow. I couldn't stand straight. My entire body felt like I was carrying a prop which my back could not achieve the required strength, it felt really heavy, as I opened the main menu window, but could not see any place written in red.

As I unsteadily staggered out onto the path from the square, my thoughts remained uninterrupted.

If this discomfort is a negative status, there should be a warning flashing before my eyes. And since I'm within the District Boundary, negative status such as poison and paralysis should be removed.

Maybe I got affected by a new unknown monster's negative status effects. Even after entering the boundary it did not disappear, and at the same time does not trigger a warning ―― something like «Curse».

At this point, an evil cold crept up from my toes to my body, causing me to shiver.

It is still September in Aincrad, too early for winter. But, going through my coat, penetrating deep into my muscles and bones, was like the wind of winter.

I couldn't return to my room under these conditions. Thinking like this, I increased my pace, going into the first hotel I discovered. I quickly rented an empty room at the front desk, and after taking the key I rolled and crawled to the front of the furthest door from the desk.

As I sat on a simple bed in the narrow room, I unequipped all my equipment to make my body feel lighter, then took out all kinds of antidotes for all kinds of negative statuses and tried them all one by one. I then used a Crystal which could remove all negative effects, and awaited the moment I would be returned to normal.

―― However.

"......This...... is...... Really bad......"

This evil cold did not leave, and my field of vision began to blur.

I could no longer withstand it and collapsed onto the bed, and using my brain, whose operating speed had dropped to very low levels, to think, desperately searched for a countermeasure. If this was a «Curse», an NPC in the church should be able to remove it right? However, was there really a church in the "disorderly" [Chaos] Algade's streets?

As I was filtering out the buildings on the map, my consciousness began to fade, so I had no choice but to decide to seek help from others. In other words, I had given up on the idea of solving it on my own.

I opened the directory to my list of friends. With my blurred vision, I searched for Klein's name from a list that couldn't be considered long, selected it, and pressed the button for sending messages then immediately typed out on the virtual keyboard.

[I can't handle it      I'm dying      Save me]

After keying in this message which was rich with melodrama, yet did not lose its poetic flavor, I pressed the send button, then turned the room into the «Friends Allowed» mode, and lost consciousness.


My forehead was caressed by a cool comforting touch.

As I stirred, I discovered that I was covered by a thick quilt. The bone chilling evil cold had also changed into sweltering sweat inducing heat.

In this uncomfortable heat, the only cool object was applied to my forehead, controlled by a constantly moving hand. At this moment ――

"Ah, you're awake?"

A refreshingly sweet voice came from beside my pillow. As the word repeated itself a few times in my brain, I realized that it totally didn't sound like Klein's crude "Oi, you've woken up".

I desperately opened my heavy eyelids, the thing swaying in my sight was... the «Knights of Blood» Sub Leader, the strongest rapier user, «The Flash» Asuna who actually revealed a gentle smile.

"..................!!?!?"

I was so surprised I wanted to bounce up, but Asuna immediately used her left hand to hold me down.

"Not lying down won't do. Although it won't make you better immediately."

She used her index finger to poke at my cheeks.

What is this all about? How did this happen? Is seeing Klein as Asuna caused by this mysterious negative effect? If this is the case should I call Agil?

These bursts of stupid questions hit me as my brain functioned, before finally realizing the truth.

According to the order in the list of friends, Asuna's name was just above Klein's. In my semi conscious state and blurring vision, I just wanted to press his name, and must have pressed the wrong one. In other words, I had sent Asuna ―― Aincrad's idol, as well as the heroine of the raiders, some embarrassing information.

What should I do? What is the best action to take?

My brain continued to operate inside my head, as Asuna dunked the damp towel into a basin next to me. *Plop*, the sound of water being displaced could be heard.

The towel was quickly taken back out, squeezed dry, and applied to my forehead once more. The cool comfortable feeling slightly dispersed the heat gathered onto my body.

"The cooling effect of water doesn't last long, but this is the only option. It's better than nothing."

Seeing the smiling Asuna, I could only emit ―― a single phrase.

"Tha......Thank you. Helping me with this."

Subsequently, my cheeks turned into a pink shade, and feeling this change, quickly turned my head to the side, to see Asuna smiling again.

"It's nothing. We should help each other in a moment of need. A person on his own would definitely feel uncomfortable, I understand."

At this kind of time.

That said, Asuna should have experienced this mysterious negative status effect before.

"What kind of negative status effect is this......? All kinds of antidotes, as well as the Crystal doesn't work on it......?"

After I inquired, Asuna's hazel eyes blinked.

Then broke out in laughter.

"Ahahaha...... So-sorry...... but...... huff huff...... Being like this, is it your first time?"

"Of...... Of course it is the first time. I've never heard of this status effect."

I replied in an injured tone, and Asuna apologized a few more times, while mopping my head with the wet towel.

"I say, this negative status effect, is neither poison nor paralysis.... it's a sickness. You caught a cold."

"Co......Cold?"

"Um. It's not your avatar, but your body in the real world which caught a cold. Right now, the seasons should be changing over there. Around this time last year, many people collapsed from this."

"A......Aah......"

I could not help but sigh.

Sword Art Online ME4first.jpg

It was completely in my blind spot. However, this was truly possible. Although the body's five senses were completely cut off, the Nerve Gear was unable to isolate fever and other physical discomfort. In other words, as Asuna said, my real body was what gave me such discomfort.

"Which is why I said, a cool forehead can let you feel more comfortable."

With that said, I looked away from Asuna who was once again wetting the towel, to determine the time. It was eleven thirty at night.

Since I rolled and crawled into this hotel at around six, Asuna had continued to do this for five hours.

Using the «Wettable cloth equipment» to produce a cooling effect, could only last for five minutes at most. Although it was very comfortable, isn't it a waste of effort?

Suddenly, an odd feeling emerged from my chest, causing me to have no idea what to do. In my semi conscious state, I had no idea what this feeling meant.

Instead, I moved my hand out from under the quilt, and held the towel on my forehead, getting ready for Asuna's hand to take it.

"What..... What is it?"

Although her words became obscure, Asuna maintained her smile, while on the other hand I couldn't find any words to reply her. I didn't understand what I was doing either.

It was clearly like this, but my mouth emitted some words in a rough voice on its own.

"Enough with this towel. Instead of it...... just use your hands to touch my forehead."

―― Don't take advantage of my weakness!!

Was what I had expected her to spit out, but contrary to my expectations, "............Em" Asuna answered in a quiet voice.

Squeezing my hand in reply, she used her cool hands to brush across my forehead with the other. As my body was exhausted, my consciousness gradually faded. The anxiety of getting the disease made way to a comfortable sense of security.

As I entered a light sleep, By my ear, I could hear a soft lullaby.

"I said, you...... Kirito...... kun. It's ok to give your cold...... over to me. Like that, you might be able to recover faster."

After that, I could feel a gentle kind of touch to the cheeks, on my face with my eyes closed.

I wanted to open my eyes to confirm ―― Obviously, I was unable to do so.


✝✝✝


"............ooh............"

Asuna grunted, and opened her eyes.

The view entering her eyes was not the white ceiling of her home, but instead it was the black of an old wooden board. The bed was hard and the blanket was thin. Despite complaining to herself to find a better room, she was not in any condition to get out of bed.

Could it be ―― a real cold?

No, it is impossible to be infected by a virus in the virtual world. The players were completely separated in the real word, connected only by wires. However, this is too much coincidence!

The strongest solo player, The «Black Swordsman» Kirito, perhaps due to the excellent physical condition, as well as the overnight care by Asuna, had recovered. This is good. This is fine enough.

However, facing this exchange, she didn't think about her own collapse. Asuna was sitting beside Kirito's bed, humming a lullaby until she fell asleep. Based on the sun shining through the window, it was now evening.

She looked away ―― to the empty chair by the bed.

In the midst of her mind, she recalled that until afternoon, Asuna was changing the wet cloth on the forehead constantly. But, seeing Asuna asleep, Kirito probably went out to complete his daily hunting.

"Maa...... there is nothing I can do about it."

She whispered aloud.

Different from Asuna who was associated with a guild, Solo Kirito had no training partners. If he missed one day of hunting, it would require a lot of effort to make up for it. She understood this, but...

To be relied on, that happy and warm feeling, still could not stop the buried feelings of cold loneliness. Her body was obviously hot, but in her chest was an icy coldness, she could not help but let her tears emerge.

"......Aaaa...... This won't do...... as expected."

Tightly closing her eyes, she buried her head into the blanket, just then ――

Suddenly, in the middle of the room a blue vortex shimmered. As a hum was issued, a two meter high elliptic door appeared.

"......Corridor Crystal."

Her head left the pillow to say these words, when a black figure jumped out of the door.

Of course, this was the «Black Swordsman» Kirito. And no one else. However ――

"I, I say...... Can't you come in from the main door......"

At this point, Asuna was finally aware, that Kirito had brought something.

It was a large wooden bucket. No, it should be called a basin.

The basin was filled with grains that glowed white, reflecting the light of the afternoon sun.

After looking at it for a few seconds, she finally realized what it was.

"That....... that is, snow......? But...... where did you get it, in this season?"

After that question, Kirito carefully placed the basin on the table, faced Asuna, and lowered his head.

"I'm sorry, I came back too late! I intended to come back earlier...... it's all because of that tough dragon......"

Kirito's words reminded Asuna of the tall mountain that was full of ice and snow. It was at the top of one of the hills that was located at one end on the fifty eighth floor. However, climbing that mountain required encountering many monsters along the extremely long mountain road, and at the end of the road, the regional boss monster, the Ice Dragon waited. Being able to go there and return in two hours was nothing short of a miracle.

"......Why would you go this far......"

Kirito did not answer Asuna's question, picked up the towel on the table, and put it into the ice basin. Upon taking it out, the towel was completely frozen.

"Lie down."

At these words, Asuna's head returned to the pillow, and the ice cold towel was placed on her forehead. «Frozen towel» produced a cooling sensation much higher than the wet towel.

"Ah...... Comfortable......"

Sword Art Online ME4Second.jpg

As Asuna smiled and said this, Kirito shyly laughed.

Her forehead obviously felt very cold, yet at the same time she could feel a gentle warmth. Asuna blinked, then stretched out her hand, and held the hand which protruded from the sleeves of the black clothes.

The hand Kirito had used to collect snow had become cold, but after holding tightly for a while the temperature was restored, so Asuna held on tightly.

" I say...... this time I will pass my cold over to you."

Listening to this, Kirito replied with a bitter smile.

"Then this will have no end."

"Isn't that fine? If you collapse again, I will go to collect snow and ice, and make shaved ice for you to eat"

"............If it is like this, collapsing will not be that bad."

Maintaining a smiling face, Asuna closed her eyes, and waited for that moment.


(End)


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