Phantom Bullet (ファントム・バレット, Fantomu Baretto?) is the 5th book in the Sword Art Online Light Novel series, published on August 10, 2010.
A year has passed since «Sword Art Online» (SAO) was cleared. Kirigaya Kazuto (Kirito) is asked by Kikuoka Seijirou to investigate a game called Gun Gale Online, specifically a player who called himself «Death Gun» and possessed a weapon which seemed to link deaths in the virtual reality (VR) world to those in the real world. Upon entering the game, Kirito meets Sinon who teaches him the ropes around the game. They both enter the Gun Gale Online tournament, Bullet of Bullets (BoB). Kirito displays his amazing skills although he is only a newcomer to the game. As the story continues, Kirito finds out that the mysterious deaths were linked to a red guild, named Laughing Coffin, in «SAO».
In a bar inside Gun Gale Online, XeXeeD, an accomplished player, was on television explaining the failings of agility type avatars and mocking players who used them. Most of the people at the bar grumbled at XeXeeD's speech and ended up complaining about how he promoted the creation and usage of agility-focused avatars prior to a system update that drastically reduced their effectiveness and the previous Bullet of Bullets. A cloaked man then walked up to the screen and called XeXeeD out on his actions and how he would face judgment for them "from someone with real power," before making the sign of the cross and shooting at XeXeeD's image on the screen. Most people disregarded this action until XeXeeD abruptly disconnected. The shrouded man then made a proclamation that this demonstration was one of "the true power, the true strength," and that his name and the name of his gun were Death Gun.
Kazuto arrived downtown at a high-class sweet shop after being called up by Kikuoka Seijirou to discuss a certain incident. After first offering Kazuto to order something, Seijirou began to explain the incident that occurred in a game called Gun Gale Online (GGO). Recently, there had been two murder cases within the VR world that seemed to be linked to the real world. The two players that were murdered both showed heart failure after being shot by «Death Gun». Seijirou asked Kazuto to investigate this situation further by connecting to GGO and confronting Death Gun, and Kazuto accepted his offer, as he was offered a "compensation" and was curious about the case himself.
Asuna recalled the events of the past year as she waited for Kazuto to come for their date. Following the meeting, Asuna and Kazuto explored the Imperial Palace and the Edo Castle ruins. It was there that Kazuto revealed the reason behind choosing the Imperial Palace as the location for their date, aside from the fact that he was called to a meeting in that area, was because the Imperial Palace similar to the floating castle Aincrad. After the date, Kazuto revealed to Asuna that he was going to temporarily convert his avatar to Gun Gale Online.
Sinon, Ginrou, Dyne, and his squadron were in the middle of an ambush. As Sinon described Dyne and his squadron, she mentioned how they appeared to be a PvP (Player versus Player) team but in reality, they were a disgusting group of individuals who targeted weak opponents in groups in order to ambush them and take their items. Sinon commented about them being a bunch of people without pride. The chapter moved on to describing Sinon's first impressions of GGO and how she wished her character to be a rough emotionless male, prior to discovering that one could not pick the opposite gender than one's gender in real life.
Returning back to the ambush scene, they ambushed a group of seven players that included a cloaked individual, later revealed to be a player named "Behemoth", whom Sinon asked Dyne for permission to take out first. Dyne declined Sinon's suggestion, ultimately leading to a disaster. Chapter 3 also described the two types of guns in GGO, the live ammunition, and the optical as well as the pros and cons of each type. In addition, it included how Sinon obtained her «PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II». During the ambush, Ginrou's avatar, due to not listening to Sinon's suggestion of taking out Behemoth first, was killed by high speed shots from the Behemoth's minigun. The scene moved on to Sinon running for cover from Behemoth's minigun barrage as she tried desperately to find a way to defeat Behemoth. Sinon made her way up through a ruined skyscraper and jumped out of a window sill as she fired a final, powerful round at Behemoth, blowing an enormous hole through Behemoth's face and body, defeating him.
Asada Shino (Sinon) thought of how many days of school she had left and that she felt that the school was more like an asylum. Shino walked into a bookstore where she meets her ex-friends Endou and company who had used her in the past and abandoned her and even resorted to call upon her fear of guns to make Shino do their bidding after they parted ways. Shino recalled how Endou and the other two were her first friends but after some time, she discovered Endou and her friends in her room without her along with some men she did not know. From then on, Shino decided to sever the friendship between her and Endou and her company.
As Shino tried to leave Endou behind, Endou called upon Shino's weakness of guns as she made a gun with her fingers and imitated the sound of the gun firing, driving Shino into a state of fear and convulsion. Shino, however, was saved by her classmate Shinkawa Kyouji who pretended that he was leading the police to the scene where Endou was bullying Shino. The scene changed to introducing Kyouji and describing how Kyouji had introduced and described Gun Gale Online to Shino in order to help her overcome her fear of guns. This part described how the avatar "Sinon", a ruthless sniper who became famous in the wasteland of GGO, was created.
Kyouji asked Shino about the ambush and Shino described the failure and how Behemoth slaughtered four of their six members. The chapter moved on to describing the types of players in GGO, namely the agility (AGI) and strength (STR) types, and how the newer guns were inaccessible to agility types because of the high strength requirement needed to wield the newer guns that were more powerful than their predecessors.
After splitting ways with Kyouji, Shino returned to her apartment and took out the gun model she had obtained from the previous Bullet of Bullets as a prize, the Procyon SL, classified as an optical gun in GGO. It was revealed that Shino initially wanted to choose in-game money over the gun since she could not stand anything related to guns in real life but had decided to receive the gun instead in order to overcome her fear.
The scene moved on to describing the death of her father in a car crash while Shino was a child and how her mother's mind, traumatized from watching him and unable to help him, regressed to when she was a teenager. It described how Shino's mother wished for peace and quiet and began to love Shino like a little sister. Shino recalled the incident in which a persistent salesman frightened her mother when Shino was nine years old, and how the peaceful, sheltered, and relatively uneventful circumstances they lived in may have led to the incident when she was in fifth grade. Shino was at a post office when a burglar burst into the post office she and her mother were at, and threatened to shoot her mother. To protect her mother, Shino wrestled the gun from the burglar and pulled the trigger on him three times, eventually killing him. This was the event that eventually led to Shino's great fear of guns,as well as ostracism from adults and her peers. In her room, Shino tried to think of how GGO and looking at pictures while killing monsters online with guns could heal the scars and help her overcome her fear.
Death Gun viewed the Gun Gale Online news and read a conversation between players discussing the deaths of XeXeeD and Usujio Tarako regarding their deaths at the hands of Death Gun. After moving away from the web browser, Death Gun recalled his plan to kill two more people in the third Bullet of Bullets and how his power and identity were unquestionable unlike «The Black Swordsman». He believed that no one would ever find out who he was aside from his other half. The chapter closed with Death Gun viewing Sinon and her "Ultimate Ratio Hecate II" on his hit-list and thinking of how "her mind and body could become his" as he stroked the photo of Sinon.
Kazuto recalled Asuna's expression when he told her that he was going to temporarily transfer his avatar to Gun Gale Online and how he could not create and train a new avatar in time to enter the third Bullet of Bullets. Kazuto went to the hospital where he was greeted by Nurse Aki who suddenly extended both of her hands, and examined Kazuto's body.
Kazuto put on the AmuSphere and entered the world of GGO and described the majestic view of Gun Gale Online. Kirito converted his character and to his surprise, he ended up looking like a girl. Another player offered a large sum of money to buy his rare avatar. The character, a rare M9000 type that presumably could only be obtained through having a large amount of playtime, looked exceptionally like a female. After politely refusing the player's offer and wandering around GGO for a while, Kirito met Sinon, who he asked for help, and Sinon said that he needed credits to play.
Sinon took Kirito to a casino where Kirito, to everyone's surprise, managed to beat the Untouchable! game and earn around 300,000 credits which he used to buy a «Kagemitsu G4» (150,000 credits) and a «FN Five-Seven», along with pre-prepared bullet magazines, a thick bulletproof jacket, a belt-type optical gun shielding field, and some other small equipment.
After his shopping spree, Sinon noticed that they were nearly late for the tournament registration deadline. She explained how the only instantaneous movement was after being killed and being teleported to the revival area. Along the way, to the Governor's Office, Kirito noticed a buggy and decided to rent it to reach the office on time. After the registration, it was shown that Kirito and Sinon were in the same preliminary block but would not meet each other until the finals.
The scene moved on to where Kirito and Sinon prepared to change and Sinon found out that Kirito was a guy, to which she was infuriated by her shamelessness in front of a man as she gave Kirito the cold shoulder. She later ended up giving Kirito the basics of the Bullet of Bullets tournament and told him that after the explanation, they were officially enemies. The scene moved on to Kirito in the stadium for his first match, where he was initially confused but ended up with an amazing win, astonishing the audience with his amazing swordsmanship as he cut through bullets to defeat his opponent.
After the match, Kirito was confronted by a masked man with a tattered gray mantle who Kirito suspected to be the renowned Death Gun. The masked man cryptically asked Kirito if he was the same person as the Black Swordsman from Sword Art Online. The scene moved on to Kirito remembering "Laughing Coffin", the killing guild in SAO and its leader, PoH. Kirito described PoH as a handsome person who was well-versed in three languages: English, Japanese, and Spanish. Kirito moved on to describing PoH's actual ability as a talented dagger user and how the lawless followers were all attracted to PoH the same way that people were attracted to Heathcliff. Kirito also described the creation of Laughing Coffin approximately a year after SAO started, as well as its vanquishing months later where he himself and fifty other players from the Clearing Group formed an Assault Team to defeat Laughing Coffin after a member of the guild exposed the location of their hideout. However, through unknown means the members of Laughing Coffin anticipated the assault and launched an aggressive counterattack when the Clearing Group moved into their hideout, forcing the Assault Team to reluctantly kill several of the player killers while sustaining heavy losses themselves; Kirito himself was compelled to take the lives of two Laughing Coffin members to protect the other members of the Clearing Group. Sinon later found Kirito in the middle of recalling Death Gun and Kirito grabbed Sinon's hand and placed it on his chest.
Sinon recalled what had happened between her and Kirito, where the latter grabbed her hand and held onto it, and how she actually felt the warmth of his hand despite being in a virtual reality. Sinon came back to her senses as she returned to the battlefield where she disposed of her semi-final opponent, earning her place in the tournament. The scene moved on to her match against Kirito where it seemed that Kirito was intentionally going to let himself get shot by Sinon. Realizing this, Sinon was enraged as she demanded Kirito to fight seriously. Apologizing, Kirito offered a duel right then and there to Sinon where Kirito predicted Sinon's bullet line through her eyes in the scope and ended up winning the final round in the preliminaries. After a brief discussion on Kirito's actions, Sinon resigned after Kirito's persistence at not hurting girls.
- The dressing room scene was not part of the web version of the novel. Instead, after registering, Sinon and Kirito introduced themselves without going to the dressing room.
- In the original print of the volume, Agil's shop was stated to be located on the 50th Floor of New Aincrad, even though that floor had not been reached in the published version of the novel at that point in time.
- This error was corrected in later reprints, where Agil's shop is stated to be located in Yggdrasil City.
- The mention of the significance of the Tokyo Imperial Palace in Japan is also utilized in one of the author's other series, Accel World.