|Spoiler Alert: This article or section contains details about plotlines not covered in the anime. Do not proceed unless you wish to be spoiled. |
The Day Before (ザ・デイ・ビフォア, Za Dei Bifoa?) is a bonus side story, written by Kawahara Reki, that was included in the limited edition version of volume one of the DVD/BD sets for the anime. The story is about Kirito and Asuna's day after Kirito proposed to Asuna.
The day after his proposal to Asuna, Kirito contemplated on how the the idea of an in-game marriage had always frightened him, but this anxiety had finally been erased by Asuna. Considering the consequences of his sudden proposal, such as Asuna's status amongst the players and finding a new place for the couple to live together, the boy recalled a log house that he had found for sale a year and a half ago, hidden in the forests of the 22nd Floor of Aincrad.
That afternoon on October 24, 2024, the couple travelled to the 22nd Floor. Having reminisced on the consequences of the 25nd Floor's boss fight, the debut of the Knights of the Blood following the battle, as well as Asuna's stunning impact during the next boss battle meeting, on the way to the log house, they finally arrived at its location, only to discover that the house was no longer there.
Still shocked, Kirito apologized to Asuna, insisting that the log house had definitely been there the last time he had visited the place. Seeing her boyfriend's bemusement, the girl reassured him that she believed him and that just being brought to such a lovely place made her happy. Asuna proposed having their official marriage there despite not getting their new home; however, having noticed Kirito's unease about the mysterious disappearance, she allowed the boy to investigate the case until the end of the evening.
As the two discussed and debunked possible explanations for the phenomenon, Kirito momentarily considered the possibility of the house becoming an aerial fortress, before immediately deeming such a theory to be implausible as well. At that moment, the fencer's gaze was drawn to the skies, where she noticed the log house hovering in mid-air. Upon closer inspection of the house with the help of a sight-enhancing skill after being notified of its whereabouts by the girl, Kirito realised that the house in the distance was held in the air by an immobile tornado. At that moment, Kirito also noticed a person inside the house through a window, prompting him and Asuna to rush to a cedar tree directly beneath the house in hopes of finding a way to assist the trapped player. Upon arriving in the vicinity of the tree, the pair encountered Toto, a small dog marked with an icon for a quest in progress. Just as Kirito deduced that the pup's quest was the cause of the flying log house phenomenon, Asuna, enamoured of the adorable creature, called it into her arms before the boy could protest against such an action, triggering a gale that transported them to the log house.
Inside the log house, the couple discovered that the trapped player was their mutual acquaintance, the information broker «Argo the Rat». The girl explained that she had been investigating rumours of new quests, when she became trapped for two days in the house due to being unable to complete one such quest, as she lacked a key character for the quest to continue. Asuna and Kirito soon deduced that the key character in question was Toto the dog, whom Argo had abandoned due to her fear of dogs. When the girl fled into the log house, the tornado event was triggered before the dog could enter the house, causing the quest to malfunction. Moments after Argo finished her story, the group realized that the house had begun moving, as Toto's presence resolved the issue with the quest.
Having landed in an isolated part of the 22nd Floor, Argo, Asuna, Kirito, and Toto met three new key characters for the quest: «Lion», «Scarecrow» and «Tin». Upon explaining that the Witch of the West had abducted their female friend, whom they could not rescue themselves as the witch had also stolen their courage, brain, and heart respectively, the three Non-Player Characters (NPCs) requested the players' aid in their endeavour. At that moment, Asuna and Argo immediately realised that the quest was based on the Wizard of Oz story. On the other hand, Kirito could not recall the plot of the story, thus he was shocked when the girls decided to skip the collection of the stolen items and instead proceed directly to the rescue.
Having reluctantly agreed to follow the girls' lead, Kirito began doubting his ability to truly love someone else as the group marched towards the witch's castle, but his concerns were halted when the group reached their destination. Taking advantage of the great level difference between the players and the monsters in the area, as well as Argo's mobility allowing them to take shortcuts, the group defeated the castle guardians and reached the boss room in just ten minutes. In the room, the witch used the soup in her pot to unleash a mist that paralysed the entire group, except for Lion, as part of a forced event.
The witch's spell could only be broken by a lion's roar, but Lion seemed to be unable to roar due to lacking his courage. However, Toto's barking caused Lion to forget his fear and unleash a grand roar, releasing the rest of the group from the paralysis. At that moment, Scarecrow and Tin joined their companion, thwarting the witch's following spells, while the players dealt heavy damage to the boss with their high-leveled Sword Skills. In the end, as the players waited for their skill delays to end, Toto forced the witch to fall into her own pot by biting her as she attempted to reach her soup, thus defeating her. After the fight, the group liberated Dorothy and returned to the log house, where they parted with the girl and her friends.
On their return trip with the flying house, Kirito learnt from Asuna that the «Lion», the «Scarecrow», and the «Tin» had what they desired inside of them the entire time in the original tale, which was why Argo and Asuna had seen no reason to complete the item gathering sub-quests. When the house finally landed in its original location, the information broker thanked her two friends, promising not to spread word of their engagement, before departing. After a few moments of shock caused by Argo's remark, Asuna began giggling, thus loosening the tension. Having learnt from the story of the quest that he himself already had what he desired as well, Kirito navigated his menu and sent a marriage request to the girl, who happily agreed to the request by pressing the «YES» button.
- The story implies that Asuna and Kirito disbanded their party before the 25th Floor's boss fight. However, an official timeline provided with the Hopeful Chant side story has retconned this event to take place after the boss fight.