- This article is about the original Progressive light novel volume. You may be looking for the manga adaptation.
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Sword Art Online Progressive Volume 1 (ソードアート・オンライン プログレッシブ ００１, Sōdo Āto Onrain Puroguresshibu 001?) is the first volume of the "Progressive" spin-off light novel series by Kawahara Reki that expands upon the Aincrad Arc of the main series. The first volume consists of two stories covering the 1st Floor and 2nd Floor of Aincrad respectively. It was released on October 10, 2012.
Aria of a Starless Night
One month since the imprisonment of the players in Sword Art Online (SAO), 2,000 players had already died and the 1st Floor was yet to be cleared.
On December 2, 2022, in the «First Floor Labyrinth», Kirito witnessed a female Solo Player overkilling a «Ruin Kobold Trooper» with continuous use of «Linear». After watching the monster disperse into fragments, Kirito approached the girl to ask about her risky battle style. Learning that it was her first time playing a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, Kirito soon felt the need to teach her some basics regarding the game. Afterwards, the female player decided to end the conversation with Kirito as the monsters would soon respawn. But before she could engage in battle again, she was overwhelmed by fatigue and collapsed, prompting Kirito to intervene and transport her outside the dungeon away from danger.
After the rapier user, whose name was revealed to be Asuna, had finally rested on the grassy field and awakened. She noticed her saviour Kirito and remarked that saving her was an unnecessary effort.
After Asuna reminisced about how her old ordinary life changes when she borrowed the «NerveGear» from her older brother, Yuuki Kouichirou, Kirito notified her about the upcoming meeting for the boss raid at «Tolbana». Arriving at Tolbana's northern gate, Kirito momentarily parted ways from Asuna after telling her the time and place of the meeting.
Approximately two hours before the boss raid meeting, Kirito encountered «Argo the Rat», Aincrad's first informant, with characteristic painted whiskers on her face. He learned from Argo that the person interested in purchasing his «Anneal Blade +6» had raised their offer to 29,800 «Cor»; however, Kirito again refused to sell his weapon, wondering why Argo's client was so persistent.
Once Argo had left, there was still time before the meeting began. So Kirito met up with Asuna as she was having lunch by the fountains at the town centre.
When the meeting for the boss raid had finally began, forty-four players including Kirito and Asuna had gathered by the fountain. A self-proclaimed knight, called Diavel, appears amongst the crowd, and announced that the boss’s room in the dungeon have been located. During his speech about the slow advance of the game, a young man named Kibaou interrupted the crowds’ cheer. He demanded an apology from the unknown Beta Testers; however a tall man named Agil approached him and showed that the Beta players should not be fully blamed as they had also helped by distributing knowledge in the game. When the commotion had ended, Diavel finally finished his encouraging speech about everyone working together.
Due to the efforts of Diavel's clearing group, the boss had been revealed as «Ilfang the Kobold Lord» along with his re-spawning minions, the «Ruin Kobold Sentinels». As the boss raiding party later received the free information from the NPC shop of «Argo's Strategy Guide: First Floor Boss Edition». There were soon seven parties with different roles: two heavy-armor tank parties, three high-movement attacker parties, two long-weapon support parties. Whereas the left behind players; Kirito forms a partnership with Asuna and were assigned to rear guarding in the support group (E group).
After the meeting has disbanded, Asuna visited Kirito's rented room at a farm on the 1st Floor to use his bath.
While Asuna was bathing, Kirito was visited by Argo, who informed him that the player wishing to buy his sword had raised his offer to 39,800 Cor. Kirito paid Argo to learn the identity of the buyer, who was revealed to be Kibaou. While Kirito was wondering if his reputation as a beta player was exposed, Argo went to use the bathroom to change clothing, and before Kirito could stop her, she found Asuna there.
During the next strategy meeting on December 4, Diavel gave a speech to motivate the Clearers.
As the Clearers were walking towards the Labyrinth, Asuna and Kirito had an initially lighthearted conversation, which later developed into a discussion of the uncertain future that awaited them even if they were able to defeat the floor boss.
The group reached the Labyrinth and, within an hour and a half afterwards, they reached the boss room.
The Clearers deplete the first of Illfang's four hit point bars.
Diavel received a deadly 3-hit combo from the boss and dies in front of Kirito. In Diavel’s last moments, Kirito finally realized that the self-proclaimed knight was also a Beta Player and also the true client who was trying the hinder him by purchasing his «Anneal Blade»; his motive was to prevent Kirito from performing another Last Attack move against the bosses like he did from the Beta version. Diavel wanted to perform the last attack and obtain its bonuses for his own survival, and he thought that Kirito also wanted the «Last attack bonus».
After Diavel’s body shatters into the blue fragments, Kirito performed Diavel’s last wish in dealing the Last Attack against the boss; with Asuna and everyone’s cooperation; he succeeded and thus obtaining the rare boss item.
Everyone was celebrating as the first floor was finally cleared, however the atmosphere soon changed when Diavel's party member, the scimitar user Lind, reminded everyone that their leader Diavel had died. To deal with growing anger against the Beta Players, Kirito made the bold decision to direct all the anger onto him by announcing himself belonging to a new category known as «Beaters»; a player who uses future knowledge to benefit himself in the SAO game from its previous version.
After flashing the victorious boss item, the «Coat of Midnight», to everyone, Kirito left them all behind in their discontent, with only Asuna and Agil understanding what he did, and passed through the gate of the 1st Floor as the first known «Beater» in SAO's history. Kirito was soon followed by Asuna, who met up with him to show her gratitude, as well as to relay two worded messages from Agil and Kibaou. After parting with Asuna once again, he later received a message from Argo about his infamous speech and tries to compensate him for the trouble she caused; by allowing a onetime free offer of any information, Kirito mischievously replied by asking for the meaning of her painted whiskers. Afterwards, he approached the main city of the 2nd Floor: «Urbus».
Intermission - The Reason for the Whiskers
Kirito had just opened the gate of the 2nd Floor of Aincrad. While hiding from the players entering through the gate, he saw Argo running from some guys. Kirito decided to follow them and, after catching up with them, identified that the players were part of a guild from the Beta test period that simulated being ninjas.
After tailing them to an area outside of the Anti-Criminal Code Effect Area and noticing that the two were trying to force information out of Argo, Kirito stepped in. After a short conversation, during which the two "ninjas" mistook Kirito as a member of rivaling guild, a monster attacked the two ninjas, forcing them to run off. Argo thanked Kirito and he told her that he wanted to know the reason behind her whiskers. She instead decided to give him information on the extra skill hidden on that floor.
She took him to a hut in the mountains of the 2nd Floor, where an NPC was waiting for a disciple. Kirito accepted the quest, and, after the NPC took him out of the hut and told him that he had to break an indestructible-looking rock with just his palms, the NPC painted his face, telling him that he would not be able to take off the paint until he breaks the rock. That is when Kirito realized that Argo had tried to do the quest during the Beta period, but had not been able to clear it, thus she kept the whiskers.
Kirito then asked Argo whether his paint was similar to hers, hoping that if it was not noticeable or looked cool, he could still have a choice of returning to his daily life with it. But, as Argo compared his appearance to Doraemon and started laughing uncontrollably right afterwards, Kirito secluded himself at the mountain for three days until he broke the boulder and cleared the quest, obtaining the Martial Arts extra skill.
Rondo of a Fragile Blade
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Upon clearing the 1st Floor, Kirito went on the run as the first person ever to be called a Beater. He arrived at the market place to see one particular person complaining about a failed upgrade on his sword. He later found Asuna, who also wanted to upgrade her rapier, so Kirito accepted the challenge to help her collect the materials needed to enhance it.
Asuna took Kirito to hunt Windwasps. Since they needed to kill 100 of them, she challenged Kirito to see who could kill 50 of them faster. Being overwhelmed by Asuna's ability to connect critical hits, Kirito started using his Martial Arts skill, once a secret, to regain some terrain, but in the end he lost to Asuna by one monster, so he had to treat her to dinner.
While looking for a place, Asuna selected one that Kirito knew very well. It had the most expensive dish in the game yet, and she ordered it. The cake was delicious and Asuna told him that the information was provided by Argo, and teased to ask her about Kirito's information, to which Kirito responded by saying that he'll do the same, but Asuna misunderstood.
After an awkward moment, they finished eating and exited the restaurant. While walking, they noticed a new luck buff from the cake they just ate. While thinking about what to do, Kirito decided to take Asuna to the blacksmith and try upgrading her Wind Fleuret.
Asuna gave Nezha the blacksmith her Wind Fleuret and the materials for the upgrade. Kirito and Asuna crossed their fingers and the process started, but at the last moment the Wind Fleuret broke into a thousand polygons. Asuna was rendered speechless and Kirito asks Nezha what happened. He explains that when the game was released a new penalty was added, Weapon Disappearance.
With tears in her eyes and an empty mind, Kirito took Asuna to a bench where he offered to buy a new rapier in another city. Asuna declined, and he took her to an inn where he waited for her to check and enter her room.
After leaving Asuna, Kirito decided to investigate and followed Nezha to a bar. In the bar, Nezha reunited with some friends, who congratulated him, while he informed them of the items he got that day. Kirito thought of something, but one of Nezha's friends detected him and tried to follow him. Kirito managed to escape with his hiding skill, then he checked the time, and ran towards the inn in which Asuna was staying. He abruptly entered into her room and told her to materialize all her items and gave her instructions on how to do so. He started looking in her pile of items and at the bottom he found her Wind Fleuret.
Asuna received the Wind Fleuret as things calmed down and Kirito explained the methods to lose a weapon, the items property and the Objectize All function in the Menu. Asuna decided to thank him, as she was about to hit him for entering her room so abruptly, but she was happy over recovering her beloved weapon.
The next day they headed out to the field and encountered two parties formed from members from the 1st Floor boss raid fighting a field Boss and other 3 waiting in the back. After an abrupt change of events, one party was in trouble and one of them, named Orlando entered the action wielding an Anneal Blade.
After the battle, the two parties returned to the town and Kirito and Asuna took the opportunity to enter the dungeon, as a Beta Tester, Kirito knew the location of almost all the chests and, with Asuna, they were making enough profit. Asuna sensed that the Minotaurs' clothes were sexual harassment, so Kirito, who was about to use an item that looked like them, decided to give the item to Agil the next time they met since Asuna gave her approval.
When they returned to town they found Nezha, and while deciding what to do, they talked about Kibaou's and Lind's groups, which were now competing to become strong and complete the game. However, they stopped when Kirito noticed that his appointment with Argo was in an hour.
At their meeting with Argo, Kirito asked the informant to conduct a secret investigation on the Legend Braves, especially the backstory behind their player names. Using this opportunity, Asuna learnt from Argo that a weapon could only break during an upgrade attempt if it no longer had any upgrade attempts remaining. Ten minutes later, the pair began spying on Nezha's blacksmith stand in an attempt to uncover the means behind his weapon upgrading scam. When Shivata approached Nezha to upgrade his Stout Brand, Asuna and Kirito carefully observed the process, noticing that Nezha had performed a suspicious action before the sword broke.
After rejecting several theories on how the scam could have been performed, Asuna and Kirito began talking about Nezha himself, concluding that it was unlikely that the boy was performing the scam of his own volition. Just as Kirito shared his concern that Nezha not having a hero's name was a sign of the other guild members distancing themselves from him in case the scam were to be discovered, he received Argo's report on the Legend Braves via a private message. Upon reading the report, the two found to their surprise that even Nezha's name had a detailed backstory behind it. This revelation caused Kirito to have an epiphany on the trick the blacksmith was using to switch weapons.
After spending two days grinding for experience in order to obtain the Quick Change mod for his One-Handed Sword skill, Kirito approached Nezha in disguise to have the blacksmith upgrade his Anneal Blade, with Asuna overseeing the event from a distance. Before beginning the upgrading process on the Anneal Blade, however, Nezha covertly used his own Quick Change mod to swap the sword for a similar one without any upgrade attempts left, in order to feign the destruction of his client's sword. Just as Nezha was about to start apologizing, Kirito revealed his identity by removing his disguise, before using the very same mod to re-equip his sword.
Although Nezha attempted to flee the scene, Asuna descended onto his path from the second storey of a nearby house, blocking his escape. He told Asuna and Kirito the tale of why he had become a blacksmith, as well as what led to the Legend Braves beginning their weapon upgrading scam. The former involved him having a FullDive Non-Conformity (FNC) with his depth perception, which made it difficult for him to wield a weapon, and the latter involved a mysterious man in a black poncho approaching the Legend Braves and explaining how to perform the scam, before leaving without asking for anything in return. With his evaluation of Nezha's character having improved upon hearing this story, Kirito decided to offer the blacksmith a weapon that he would be able to use despite his FNC, in exchange for sacrificing his Blacksmith skill.
- In the original web and light novel version of SAO, Asuna did not meet Kirito or fight together with him this early in the game. They had only seen each other at boss raid meetings but they did not meet privately and did not get to know each other until April 22, 2024, when Asuna discovered Kirito resting due to the great weather.
- The "S" in weapon parameter 3S3D is supposed to mean Sharpness, but at one point (Part 10) in Rondo of a Fragile Blade, it is referred to as Speed, although it had been written correctly as Sharpness in other instances in the book.
- It was previously stated in Volume 1, Chapter 3, that the SAO beta lasted for a period of two months. This, however, was retconned in this book, where the beta occurred for a period of only one month.
- The same chapter states that during the two month beta, the testers had only cleared up to the 6th Floor. This is retconned in this book to the 10th Floor.
- In Volume 8, Kirito and Asuna partied together and Kirito claimed that it was their first time. But this novel retcons this fact, as Kirito and Asuna formed a party in this novel, and it takes place over a year before the Area incident.
- Six months before being published as part of the Progressive series, Aria of a Starless Night had received an official release on April 10, 2012 as part of an «All-in-1-Book: Accel World & Sword Art Online» (まるごと１冊 アクセル・ワールド＆ソード/・オンライン, Marugoto Issatsu Akuseru Wārudo & Sōdo Āto Onrain?) appendix to Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE Vol.25.
- Cover for Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE Vol.25 (2012 May Issue) on Amazon.
- Photo of Aria of a Starless Night being part of All-in-1-Book: Accel World & Sword Art Online appendix to Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE Vol.25.