- Warmth of the Heart and Morning Dew Girl redirect here. You may be looking for Episode 7 or Episode 11.
This volume consists of four short stories that took place before and during the events of Volume 1.
The Black Swordsman
Through a series of coincidences, Silica accidentally tamed a rare «Feathered Little Dragon», whom she named Pina, and grew close to it due to the fear and nervousness she experienced from the death game premise of Sword Art Online. This accomplishment, along with the fact that female players were rare in Aincrad, quickly made her popular with the average players, causing the young girl to become excessively proud of her abilities. Sometime later, while exploring the Forest of Wandering with a party, she entered into a quarrel with a party member over the distribution of healing items, prompting her to leave the party before they returned to town. However, due to the dungeon's specific design, she soon found herself lost in it and was attacked by multiple Drunk Apes, resulting in Pina sacrificing herself to protect her tamer. After Silica killed the monster responsible for the death of Pina, she was rescued by Kirito who happened to be passing by.
As Silica began to mourn the loss of Pina, Kirito revealed to her that Pina had left a «Pina's Heart» and that an item could be used on it to revive a Tamed Monster within three days of its death. However, since the location of the item was in too high of a floor for Silica's current level and she lacked enough time to level up accordingly, Kirito offered to help her obtain the revival item. When asked why he offered to help her, he explained that she reminded him of his sister from the real world, which caused Silica to laugh. Silica and Kirito then went to an inn on the 35th Floor for the night, where they encountered Rosalia, the same party member Silica had had an argument with. Rosalia recognized the Beast Tamer and noticed the lack of her Tamed Monster, thus she taunted her for it, prompting Silica to declare that she planned to revive Pina.
While waiting for their meal at the inn, Kirito discussed the concept of Color Cursors, Player Killing and roleplaying in massively multiplayer online games. He accosted players who voluntarily committed misdeeds under the death game premise of Sword Art Online, but then criticized himself for his reprimand of such players when he himself felt responsible for the deaths of his former comrades. At that moment, Silica quickly grabbed his hand and comforted him, citing his rescue of her earlier, causing him to thank her for her care. Later, Silica visited Kirito's room to discuss their plan to retrieve the Pneuma Flower, but they learned someone had been eavesdropping on their conversation.
The next day, both Silica and Kirito then journeyed together to the «Hill of Memories» on the 47th Floor. Along the way, Kirito discussed how his sister, who actually was his cousin, had started practicing kendo in his place when their grandfather punished him for quitting the sport. Kirito wondered if she resented him for compelling her to devote herself to kendo, but Silica stated her belief that if it was truly the case, then his sister would not have succeeded so well at the sport. As they made their way through the dungeon, Silica noticed the fantastic ease with which he dispatched the monsters they encountered and wondered about the reason for his presence back in the Forest of Wandering.
On their way back after retrieving the «Pneuma Flower», they were stopped by the orange guild Titan's Hand, revealed to be led by Rosalia. Silica was confused at Rosalia's lack of an orange cursor, but Kirito revealed it was not an uncommon practice for green members to find and hide among their targets before luring them into an ambush and surmised that the player who had been eavesdropping on them the night before had to have been a green member of Titan's Hand as well. Upon hearing this, Rosalia confirmed that she had only joined Silica's party because of the Beast Tamer's presence, evaluating their strength and rate of earnings, and had planned to handle them that same day.
After voicing her sorrow at Silica's premature departure and delight at her intention to gather a rare item, Rosalia questioned Kirito's presence despite his foreknowledge of these occurrences, teasing if he was genuinely foolish or the young girl had addled his wits. However, Kirito simply revealed that his intention was not only to help Silica, but also to lure out the orange guild and trap them at the request of one of their victims. Titan's Hand, though initially dismayed at the discovery that Kirito was the «Black Swordsman», a prominent member of the Clearing Group, began assaulting him, but were stunned to learn that his level and skills were high enough to negate any damage they could deal to him. After successfully sending the orange guild to the Black Iron Castle, where they would be imprisoned and in the custody of «The Army», Kirito and Silica returned to the inn, where they promised to meet again in the real world, and revived Pina.
Warmth of the Heart
The story introduced a female blacksmith named Lisbeth, who spent her days running her own smith shop in the town of Lindarth. One day, Asuna, who was visiting for maintenance on her rapier Lambent Light, revealed to Lisbeth she was having a meeting with another player. The blacksmith, surprised that the aloof, work-oriented vice commander of the Knights of the Blood would be interested in a boy, briefly teased her about her interest, but afterwards could not help wondering if she could have a boyfriend as well. The next day, Kirito entered her shop to request for a new weapon, one equal to or superior to his current blade, the «Elucidator». When she presented her best sword, he struck it with Elucidator to test the durability of Lisbeth's sword, which resulted in the sword breaking. Enraged that her best «Player Made» sword had been destroyed by a Drop weapon, when the former type of weapon was usually superior to the latter, she demanded to form a party with him and go on a quest to obtain a Crystallite Ingot to forge a sword that could rival the Elucidator.
After briefly explaining the details of the quest and the attempts of the players who had failed to obtain the Crystallite Ingot, Lisbeth left with Kirito for the 55th Floor to try their hand with the quest. At the top of the mountain where the target of the quest, X'rphan the White Wyrm, lived, Kirito was on the verge of defeating it when Lisbeth, assured that the monster would soon be dead, disregarded his orders and left her hiding spot too early, causing the creature to blow her into a giant hole in the ground. Kirito rushed in and managed to save her from fatal fall damage, but the two found themselves trapped at the bottom of the hole, with no way of climbing or teleporting out of it, or communicating with the outside. As they resigned themselves to staying the night, Lisbeth inquired why Kirito had risked his life to save hers, to which he replied that he believed dying together with someone was better than dying alone. Before they fell asleep, Lisbeth asked to hold his hand, to which he complied.
The next morning, Kirito dug around the bottom of the hole and found a Crystallite Ingot buried under the snow. He deduced that the hole was actually the dragon's lair and the reason behind no other player finding the ingot was because it was actually the monster's excrement, to Lisbeth's disgust. Realizing that the dragon, nocturnal by nature, would be returning soon, Kirito used his reflexes to trick the dragon into flying them out of the hole. After returning to the shop, Lisbeth used the ingot to forge a new sword, named the «Dark Repulser», for Kirito and was about to confess her feelings for him when Asuna rushed in, relieved to find her friend after being unable to contact her the previous night. Recognizing that Kirito was the one Asuna was interested in, and that the latter had recommended the former into visiting the shop, Lisbeth was heartbroken, but Kirito comforted her and promised to clear the game and free everyone.
Five months later, Lisbeth was working in her shop and ruminating over her adventure with Kirito. She had just finished her orders for the day and was wondering what she should do for lunch when the Non-Player Character (NPC) tending the shop suddenly disappeared. Running outside, Lisbeth heard a loud voice announcing the clearing of the game. Deducing that Kirito had kept his word, Lisbeth cheered with the other players and shouted her feelings for Kirito toward the upper floors.
Morning Dew Girl
At 07:50 on October 30, 2024, six days after Kirito and Asuna began their honeymoon on the 22nd Floor, the latter awoke ten minutes before her husband to watch him sleep, ruminating how much she loved him. Following breakfast several minutes later, Kirito suggested venturing to a site in the northeastern area of the forest on the floor, where a ghost was rumored to wander. Despite her intense fear of ghosts, Asuna agreed to the offer. Once they prepared their lunch and left their home, Kirito acquiesced to Asuna's request to carry her on his shoulders to their destination.
As the couple drew closer to the site, Kirito elaborated on the story of the ghost, deliberately frightening Asuna with details of how a wood-crafting player had been scared by the appearance of a mysterious black haired young girl in a white dress. Incensed when Kirito revealed that nothing had happened to the woodworker in the end, Asuna leaped off his shoulders, but just as she was about to punch him, she noticed a little girl, who matched the description in the story, staring at them nearby. Moments after Asuna drew Kirito's attention to the figure, the girl suddenly collapsed. Having immediately rushed to her, the two confirmed that the girl was not a ghost, but, surprisingly, lacked a Color Cursor. Concerned, the couple brought her back to their home.
Having taken the girl to their home and settled her in bed, excluding the possibility of her being an NPC in the process, the couple had a simple dinner, while searching for any notice of the girl in the newspapers in vain, before going to bed. Unlike Kirito, Asuna found it hard to sleep due to being plagued by thoughts of the young child's sufferings, thus she left her bed with Kirito to sleep with the girl.
The next morning on October 31, when Asuna's alarm began ringing, she was surprised to hear that the girl was humming to it, despite it being set to only be audible to her. She immediately called Kirito and lightly shook the girl to awaken. When they asked the now conscious girl what her name was, she identified herself as Yui, but could not recall anything else. As the girl had trouble pronouncing their names, Kirito suggested using whatever name she deemed to be simpler. They were shocked that she chose to refer to them as her parents, but decided to play the role for the time being.
Seeking to find the child's origin, Asuna and Kirito decided to journey to the 1st Floor to begin searching for any of her acquaintances. Therefore, after lunch they asked Yui to accompany them, helping her change into more appropriate equipment for the season. Briefly bewildered upon seeing the unique design of the little girl's menu window compared to their own, they decided to put the discovery aside for the moment and continued with their plans.
Having arrived in the Town of Beginnings, the couple heard about a church acting as an orphanage for child players from a player they met in the streets. In hopes of finding information that would lead to Yui's acquaintances, the trio traveled to the church, where they asked a woman named Sasha who supervised the orphanage about the girl, to no avail. Just then, several of the church's orphans interrupted the conversation to inform them that some of the other children had been captured by members of the Aincrad Liberation Force (The Army).
Volunteering to help them, Asuna and Kirito followed Sasha and the others to the alley where The Army had trapped the children. Discovering that the corrupted members of «The Army» were demanding the children's money and even their apparel, the infuriated Asuna assaulted the majority of The Army players by making use of the knockback effect of the Anti-Criminal Code Effect Area system to incapacitate them, while the remainder of them retreated. As the children excitedly expressed their gratitude for the rescue, Yui remembered she used to be in a dark deep place, before suddenly suffering an unusual seizure.
The next day, after Yui had recovered, Sasha described to Kirito and Asuna the growing corruption and tyranny of The Army. Suddenly, they were visited by Yulier, a vice-commander of The Army. She requested their help in rescuing the founder of their guild, Thinker, who had been tricked and trapped by Kibaou, founder of the original Aincrad Liberation Squad, in a dungeon hidden underneath Black Iron Castle. Although they were initially unsure whether Yulier was telling the truth, Kirito and Asuna agreed to help after Yui vouched for Yulier's sincerity. In the end, the group found Thinker, but were ambushed by the secret boss of the Hidden Dungeon, The Fatal Scythe. Kirito and Asuna decided to fight the boss as a distraction to allow the others to escape, but they were easily overwhelmed by the boss's power. However, at the last moment, Yui stepped between the couple and The Fatal Scythe, exposing her status as an «Immortal Object», and summoned a giant flaming greatsword to eliminate the boss. Immediately afterwards, Yui revealed her true identity as a «Mental Healthcare Counseling Program» to Kirito and Asuna, and explained how she was prohibited from interacting with any of the players and how she was drawn to the couple's emotional states, which were unlike anyone else's. Though surprised by the discovery, Kirito and Asuna nonetheless unconditionally accepted her as their daughter, but were shocked to learn that Yui's actions had prompted the «Cardinal System» to scan her program, which would soon prompt her deletion. Yui requested her parents to spread happiness to the other players, before she disappeared, to Asuna's sorrow.
At a barbecue with Sasha and the children, the now liberated Thinker informed Kirito and Asuna of his plans to expel Kibaou and his faction from The Army and to reform and restore the guild back to its original mission. Asuna thought back to the events in the Hidden Dungeon, when Kirito accessed the game's system with the hidden console unit to save Yui from the «Cardinal System» before she could be completely eliminated. With Yui's main program saved as an item, the couple promised to bring her back and see her again.
Five days before Christmas Eve in 2023, Kirito was occupied with amassing experience points by hunting giant ant monsters in the Ant Hill on the 46th Floor. After an hour of fighting, exhausted from his efforts, Kirito left the dungeon to let the next guild in queue have their turn. Klein, Kirito's first friend from the start of Sword Art Online and the leader of Fuurinkazan, sent his guildmates ahead with a few tips and reminders, before handing Kirito a healing potion and mildly chiding him for putting great effort at exposing himself to significant risk just for the sake of leveling.
Kirito initially feigned being addicted to leveling, but then confirmed Klein's unspoken suspicion that he was preparing to fight the special event boss, Nicholas The Renegade, on Christmas Eve. He also revealed that he had paid Argo the information broker to discover that Klein had requested intelligence on his purchase of information on the boss. Stunned by this reveal, Klein admitted to his actions and discussed the reason why the Clearers, normally focused on clearing Labyrinths, was unusually interested in the special event: the rumor of the boss dropping a revival item.
Klein criticized Kirito for believing that the item was truly capable of resurrecting the players who had died in Sword Art Online, postulating that if Kayaba Akihiko had deceived everyone about the death premise of Sword Art Online, all of the players would have been released from the outside by then. Kirito disagreed with him by claiming that there was the possibility, albeit extremely slim, that the minds of the deceased players had been transferred to a sort of reserved waiting area until the end of the game, thus he stated that he would pursue that chance, no matter how unlikely it was. Seeing how the solo player still blamed himself for the destruction of his former guild, Klein gently comforted him and confessed to wanting to do everything he could for a deceased friend as well, before leaving to confirm the status of his guild.
More than half a year earlier, while leaving a dungeon, Kirito had encountered a group of players struggling with a group of monsters. After some momentary hesitation, he offered them his assistance. He helped them defeat the monsters and safely leave the dungeon, while deliberately limiting his usage of Sword Skills so as to conceal his status as a beater. After an impromptu enthusiastic rejoicing at their victory, the players invited him to celebrate at an inn, where their leader Keita hesitantly inquired Kirito's level. The solo player deliberately misinformed them that it was only slightly higher than the group's average, when, in reality, it was twice as high as his claim. Impressed, Keita requested him to join their guild, the «Moonlit Black Cats», to help them improve their party balance and help Sachi, the only female member of the guild, transition from using a two-handed long spear to using a sword and shield. Kirito accepted the offer, but kept his true level and skills a secret.
While helping the Moonlit Black Cats level up, Kirito learned of Keita's aspirations to have them join the Clearers, and his belief that those on the front limes derived their strength from their willpower to protect their friends. Though skeptical of Keita's philosophy due to first-hand experience and knowledge of the Clearers' motivations, a part of Kirito believed that having the Moonlit Black Cats become strong enough to join the front lines could allow their ideals to change the elitist attitudes of the Clearers. That outcome became more and more feasible as the guild members continued accumulating experience points and Cor due to Kirito's assistance, though they still had trouble with Sachi's weapon usage conversion.
One night, Sachi disappeared from their temporary headquarters without leaving any means to identify her location, prompting Keita and the other members to search for her in the Labyrinth. Only Kirito, who was able to use the Searching skill, stayed outside the dungeon and found her at the city drains not too far from the main street. Learning of her fear of dying and her confusion at being trapped inside Sword Art Online, Kirito claimed that there was no meaning behind the death game, and comforted her by promising that he would do everything he could to protect her. Afterwards, they returned to the rest of the guild and had her weapon transition halted. Kirito and Sachi started sleeping in the same room together, which forced Kirito to desist his clandestine late-night leveling, while he repeated his vow of protection to her night after night.
Some time later, while Keita was away to negotiate the purchase of a player house for the guild's first official headquarters, the other members decided to explore the Labyrinth on the higher floors, just three floors below the front lines, to raise funds for furnishing the house. However, towards the end of their hunt, they discovered a treasure chest, which Kirito immediately identified as a trap but was unable to inform them of such. True to his suspicions and fears, opening the chest activated an alarm trap, which spawned waves of monsters into the area. Due to the room's revealed nature as an Anti-Crystal Zone, the members were unable to use crystals to teleport to safety, forcing Kirito to reveal and utilize his high-level Sword Skills to repel the monsters. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of enemies led to the deaths of all the members except Kirito, one by one, ending with Sachi, who attempted to speak to Kirito just before her hit points were completely depleted. When he finally defeated them all and returned to inform Keita of what had happened and of his true identity as a beater, the devastated guild leader blamed him for the deaths of his friends and committed suicide by jumping over the edge into the void below Aincrad. Back in the present, Kirito, having accepted Keita's accusation as truth, resolved to use the revival item to learn Sachi's last words, regardless of whether they would be revealed to be a dying curse.
For the rest of the days before Christmas, Kirito continued garnering experience without sleep in the ant dungeon, gaining another level. While waiting for his turn in the queue during that time, he used his knowledge of differences between fir and pine trees from the real world to identify false leads on the location of Nicholas' spawning point, and determined a more likely position to a place he had found within the Forest of Wandering. On Christmas Eve, after receiving the level-up notification a few hours before midnight, Kirito teleported back to his lodgings in a town on the 49th Floor, where he collected all the healing and antidote items in his storage and replaced his weapon and all his equipment with new items. After pausing for several minutes to look at the shared inventory page he had created with Sachi, which would have been rendered unnecessary by the guild inventory and which he had been unable to delete, he headed to Mishe and began his journey to the dungeon.
Having reached the forest maze and traversed its paths, Kirito was one zone away from his destination half an hour early, fully willing to suffer an ignominious death in pursuit of his endeavor, when Klein and the rest of Fuurinkazan appeared at the warp point behind him. Klein explained to Kirito how they had followed him and declared him to be the strongest member of the Clearers, before beseeching him to party with them and allow whoever received the revival item to keep it. Kirito, unable to accept such a solution, started to consider the possibility of killing them.
At that moment, a party from the Divine Dragon Alliance (DDA), the largest guild among the Clearers, as well a group who were willing to become orange players to achieve their goals, that had been following Fuurinkazan entered the area. Kirito considered fighting them, an option he believed more favorable than fighting Klein, until Klein told him to challenge Nicholas alone while he and his guild distracted the DDA, to which he complied. At the designated location, Kirito waited close to the fir tree for a few minutes until midnight, when Nicholas arrived at the scene by descending from a giant flying sleigh. Ignoring the boss's opening speech, Kirito commenced his attack.
After defeating Nicholas in battle, during which Kirito exhausted all his recovery items and his hit points had reached the red zone for the first time since the start of Sword Art Online, he scrolled through the items he had acquired from his victory and found the one he had sought: the «Divine Stone of Returning Soul». However, to his despair, he discovered that its usage was limited to ten seconds after the target's death. Devastated, he vented his emotions on the Divine Stone and his immediately surroundings for several minutes before wearily retrieving the revival item and returning to Fuurinkazan's location, where Klein had apparently resolved the issue with the DDA through a duel. The despondent swordsman handed the Divine Stone to the katana user, warning him of its limitations and telling him to use it on the next player who died in front of him. As Kirito was about to leave, Klein stopped and begged him to survive to the end, but Kirito simply bid him farewell and departed.
Having returned to his room, Kirito decided to undertake a suicide attack against the 49th Floor Boss in the morning, and any Floor Bosses after that if he survived. After several hours of mindless waiting, Kirito began moving from his seat when he was alerted by an item in his inventory. Finding a time activated message recording crystal in his shared inventory page with Sachi, he materialised it from the inventory and activated it. Sachi's message greeted Merry Christmas to Kirito and informed him that if he was listening to the recording, it meant that she had not survived till that day, as she would have removed it from their shared inventory on Christmas Eve and given her message to him in person otherwise.
Sachi told him of her similarly shy friend from another guild who had died despite taking precautions, and how she concluded death was inevitable in this world for people who lacked the willpower or determination to survive, regardless of the strength of their companions. She sensed that Kirito would blame himself in the event of her death, thus she asked him not to do so, as she would not consider her death his fault. Sachi also revealed that she had learned his true level when she saw his status window after awaking one night. Although she had never been able to understand the reasons for his secrecy, she believed he would disclose his real abilities and the reasons for his silence to the guild someday, and was glad someone like him was by her side and that there might be meaning in someone like her advancing as far as she did.
Sachi requested Kirito to survive and see the world end, as well as to discover the reason behind the creation of the game world, the meaning behind a timid person like her being brought into it, as well as the meaning behind their meeting. As there was some time remaining for the recording, Sachi sang «Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer», the only Christmas song whose lyrics she could remember, as his words and presence reminded her of a father. Comparing Kirito to a bright star guiding her in the dark, she expressed her gratitude at her fortune for having met and being with him, thanked him, and bid him goodbye, which gave him the strength and will to continue living.
- The whole part from Silica receiving Kirito's equipment to Kirito carrying Silica back to the main city area with his arms was entirely omitted in the published version.
- There were some changes in Kirito's conversation with Silica, as Kirito was not aware that Suguha was his cousin rather than his sister in the web novel.
- In the web version, it was clearly stated that Silica loved Kirito and wanted to be his girlfriend. However, this is not the case in the published version.
- In the Web Novel, Lisbeth had asked to be with Kirito in his sleeping bag, claiming to be cold. Once she entered his sleeping bag (after already removing most of her clothes in the process, being left only in a camisole), she asked him to hold her as they fell asleep. The published Light Novel omitted most of this scene and instead, Lisbeth asked to hold Kirito's hand. Discussions about the Moral Code were also removed from these paragraphs.
- "Morning Dew Girl" was originally named as "Four Days" in the web novel version.
- "Warmth of the Heart" had the "Heart" in its title written in Katakana in the web novel version.