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Sword Art Online Progressive Volume 4 (ソードアート・オンライン プログレッシブ 004, Sōdo Āto Onrain Puroguresshibu 004?) is the fourth volume of the "Progressive" spin-off light novel series by Kawahara Reki that expands upon the Aincrad Arc of the main series. This volume covers the events that took place while clearing the 5th Floor of Aincrad. It was released on December 10, 2015.
Scherzo of Deep Night
Outside of the main town of the 5th Floor of Aincrad on December 28, the day after the defeat of the 4th Floor boss, Asuna requested a lesson on Player versus Player (PvP) combat from Kirito. However, due to her hesitation to fight during the Duel, Asuna declared that she did not want to proceed.
Five minutes later, Kirito started a campfire and the two began a conversation, during which they discussed various recent events, including Morte's attempt at killing Kirito via a Duel on the 3rd Floor. They also pondered whether Morte was the man in the black poncho who incited the weapon upgrading scam on the 2nd Floor, or the two men were separate people, meaning that there could have been a group of people interested in player killing.
After 19:00 that evening, the two returned to Karluin, the main town of the 5th Floor, where they visited a restaurant named «Blink and Brink». In addition to their meal, they ordered two servings of Blue-Blueberry Tarts, which gave a bonus that highlighted relics scattered around town for a limited time, making it easier to hunt for relics. Hearing that relics included various pieces of jewelry, Asuna became interested in hunting for them, thus the two spent the next hour exploring the ruins in town.
After an hour of relic hunting, Asuna and Kirito's haul included several coins, gems, and accessories. One of the rings they found had a Candlelight effect, thus Kirito urged Asuna to equip it, while the rest of their haul was not impressive, thus they sold it for cor. The two soon began discussing about Kizmel and the campaign quests, prompting Kirito to remind Asuna that they had yet to receive the reward for defending Yofel Castle.
At the Teleport Gate plaza in Rovia, the two swordsmen met Agil, who had been making use of the Vendor's Carpet he received from Kirito to sell the excess items his group had accumulated during batles. Hearing that Agil had been selling gondola materials, Asuna inquired if he had any left, as their own gondola was moored at Yofel Castle at that time. Agil revealed that he had already exhausted his supply of gondola materials, but he offered to lend them the gondola that belonged to his group.
At the castle, Asuna and Kirito claimed their rewards from Leyshren Zed Yofilis and spent the night there. After breakfast the next morning, the two returned the gondola to Rovia and then returned to Karluin. As it was raining in Karluin, they decided to descend to the catacombs beneath the town to complete some quests.
After completing three quests in the catacombs and several more in-town, the duo visited the restaurant again, where they were surprised that the tarts were still available. Kirito wondered whether Argo had not included information about the relic hunting bonus in her guide but then recalled that he had yet to see the guide being available at a store at all. Concerned, Kirito attempted to send a friend message to Argo, but the message could not be sent, indicating that Argo was in a dungeon.
Assuming that Argo was busy gathering information on the boss at the bottom of the catacombs, the two ordered some Blue-Blueberry Tarts and decided to rent rooms at the inn on the second floor of the resturant. After the two retired to their roms for the night, Asuna decided to use the bath outside her room. However, before reaching the bath, Asuna spotted Kirito leaving the inn. Realising that Kirito was planning to search for Argo, she follwed him out of the inn.
Asuna pursued Kirito to the catacombs, but he had already entered the dungeon on the second level before she could send him a message. Following him to the second level, Asuna encountered a Mournful Wraith while searching one of the rooms there. Spooked by the astral monster, Asuna retreated to a corner of the room, triggering a trapdoor. While falling, Asuna released her rapier to brace for impact, managing to suffer less than ten percent damage due to the fall. However, before she could retrieve her rapier, a Sly Shrewman entered the room, snatched her rapier, and fled.
Asuna had nearly caught the thief, when she suddenly stepped into a puddle and lost her balance. Having lost sight of the monster, Asuna decided to use an item as bait to lure the Sly Shrewman which stole her weapon and kill it with her spare Iron Rapier to retrieve her lost weapon. During the next fifteen minutes, Asuna had killed four Sly Shrewmen but could not find the one with her rapier. Instead, the last of the monsters she killed dropped a wad of paper. Enraged, Asuna was about to throw the paper like a baseball, when she noticed that something was written on it.
Using the light of her candlepower ring, Asuna discovered that the note consisted of a date and coordinates to a meeting place on the floor she was currently on. Curious why anyone would take the unnecessary effort of composing a handwritten note instead of using an Instant Message, and noticing that the meeting would be taking place fifteen minutes later, Asuna travelled to the meeting place where she hid in a hollow to wait for the meeting.
A minute later, two cloaked men arrived at the meeting place. One of them informed the other about successfully manipulating his guild to raid the Labyrinth during the New Years Eve party. Realising that the two players were Player Killers and they were attempting to sow discord among the two main clearing guilds, Asuna unconsciously shifted her balance, accidentally kicking a pebble. As the noise alerted the two players, Asuna pondered on a way to avoid being discovered. In a few moments, she decided to drop the paper she had acquired earlier to attract another shrewman.
Although the arrival of the monster successfully misled the two players, to Asuna's dismay, the monster she lured was the one with her rapier, thus the ownership of her weapon was transferred to the cloaked player who killed the monster. While the two Player Killers were inspecting the rapier, Kirito overheard their conversation and entered the room. Identifying the player who acquired the Chivalric Rapier as Morte, Kirito accused him of having killed his partner.
As the situation became tense, Asuna noticed that Morte's ally was reaching for his sword and heard another shrewman spawn nearby. Making use of these factors, Asuna dropped the paper again to lure the rodent, and unleashed a deafening scream just as the man was about to pass the rapier to his other hand. Startled, the man dropped the rapier, allowing it to be instantly snatched by the looter, which was subsequently dispatched by Asuna. Before a fight could ensue among the players, Kirito abruptly grabbed Asuna to conceal both of them with his Hiding skill just as monsters were attracted by the shriek. Concerened about being outnumbered, the two cloaked players fleed to the staircase.
Less than an hour after the encounter with Morte, Asuna and Kirito found Argo camping in a safe room next to the chamber of the dungeon's boss. Argo had discovered that the boss was different from the beta and, deciding to investigate it, spent the entire day solving a lever puzzle that would open the ceiling, weakening the boss with sunlight. Using her intel, a group of chosen top players defeated the boss on December 30, 2022. The next day, on New Year's Eve, Argo and Asuna enjoyed a bath in an instanced Dark Elf village, where, due to Asuna's concern about Argo's safety, the latter proposed to have a mock swordfight with a banana and herbs, showing what she was capable of in combat.
While the girls were having a duel in the bath, Kirito lay on the grass, lost in thought. During his search for Argo in the catacombs, he had noticed Asuna's Hit Points bar suddely dropping by about ten percent. Deducing that she must have triggered a trapdoor on the second level, he had rushed to the third level to find her. There, Kirito had overheard the conversation about Asuna's rapier, thus leading to his confrontation with Morte and his associate.
As Kirito finished his contemplation, he heard Asuna calling him due to finishing her bath. Asuna informed him that Argo had left for Mananarena, the nearby town, and offered him to have his turn at the bath. However, Kirito declined due to more pressing matters at hand, prompting a discussion on how to handle the Aincrad Liberation Squad's (ALS) plan to raid the Floor Boss alone. Presuming that the ALS member helping with the New Year party would be opposed to their guild's plan, the two contacted Shivata, the Dragon Knights Brigade's representative for the party, in Mananarena to request for the name of the ALS member helping with the part planning.
Having been called to a vacant dwelling in town, Shivata angrily questioned their intentions, assuming that the two knew about his relationship with the ALS member. Although Kirito remained clueless about Shivata's concerns, Asuna deduced the reason for Shivata's outburst and persuaded him to invite his partner to the dweling. Three minutes later, a player outfitted with a full steel plate armor and a heavy armet helm, with its visor closed, joined their group.
To Kirito's surprise, when the player removed their helm, it was revealed that Shivata's partner was a girl, who was named Liten. In a following discussion, the girl revealed that she had acquired her set of steel plate armor by mining an ore deposit that would not become depleted due to a glitch, and that she was scouted by a member of the ALS because of that armor.
After Liten shared the details of what led to organising the New Year party, Kirito revealed that he was aware of the ALS's plan to raid the Floor Boss alone. As the guild's plans were no loner a secret, Liten disclosed that a member of their guild had acquired intel from a beta tester that the boss of the current floor would drop an item that would give one of the guilds a major advantage. As Kirito was a beta tester, Shivata asked Kirito about the drop. After a moment of thought, Kirito recalled that the boss in the beta had dropped a flag that gave all members of the guild within a certain range a buff to all their stats.
After parting with Shivata and Liten, Kirito and Asuna visited a cafe, where they arranged to meet with Argo. Once Argo was informed of their findings, the group considered sharing information about the guild flag with Lind. However, concerned about the conflict that would arise due to the impossibility of sharing the flag between two guilds, Kirito ultimately proposed to beat the boss themselves. After listing Agil's group and Nezha as some of the people they could invite to aid them, Kirito recalled that Argo had been doing the boss quests, thus he inquired about her findings.
According to Argo, the boss quests indicated that the boss was a golem, just like in the beta. Having confirmed that there were no obvious changes to the boss, Kirito was about to discuss strategy regarding the boss fight, when Asuna interrupted, reminding him that they were still lacking enough people to form at least two parties for the battle. Thus, Kirito proposed inviting Shivata and Liten, as well as requesting them to bring a partner each, to fill the vacant positions. Asking Asuna to get in contact with Agil, Shivata, and Liten to persuade them to participate, Kirito left for Karluin to invite Nezha.
After Kirito successfully recruited Nezha for the boss fight, the raid participants met in a forest near Mananarena. Asuna had gathered Agil, Wolfgang, Lowbacca and Naijan from Agil's Bro Squad, Liten and Okotan from the ALS, as well as Shivata and Hafner from the DKB. Argo led the group to a secret shortcut she had discovered through the boss quests. The shortcut involved climbing a wall that connected to the Labyrinth tower, allowing the group to both bypass a maze obstructing the path to the Labyrinth, and skip almost twenty percent of the Labyrinth.
Following a walkway atop the wall, the group reached a small observation deck where the wall connected to the tower. There, the group decided to take a break before advancing through the Labyrinth, thus Asuna shared some cake with everyone. While the others were eating the cake, Kirito pondered about his motive for leading the boss raid. Sensing Kirito's internal struggle, Asuna grasped his hand, claiming that she was returning the favour for his help with crafting the Chivalric Rapier.
Once Kirito released Asuna's hand, he announced that his idea for the group formation was to have one team consisting solely of tanks, and the other only of damage dealers. Kirito explained that this decision was based on the fact that the boss, according to his beta information, should not have any long range attacks, and they did not have enough tanks to split evenly for potion rotation. At 16:15, just as Kirito finished the strategy meeting with some words of encouragement, the fifth floor Labyrinth raid began.
- The last section of the volume, starting from the New Year countdown, was not part of the web version.