Here we go again - looks like another SAO fanfic from me.

Hello, everyone. I can only hope I'll meet with more satisfaction from this than the Crimson Swordsman. I've learned a lot since I wrote that story, so I hope you guys will like this one just as much (or more. Hopefully more.)

As always, enjoy reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own Sword Art Online or any of its characters.

I slowly opened my eyes to the sound of my annoying-as-always alarm clock, temporarily blinded by the sunlight shining through the window above me.

Just 5 days now, I thought.

I sat up on my bed, stretching my back and yawning, then got up and flipped my calendar onto the November page. I managed to restrain myself from smashing my alarm clock in for another day, turning off the alarm and rubbing my eyes.

My name is Rei Katsura, gaming extraordinaire. In my mind, at the very least. Really, I'm just an average 13-year-old – slightly-messy black hair, gray eyes, and a build that erred on the slight side. Beyond that, I was just a quiet, somewhat-scholarly kid who never made any trouble in class and tried not to stand out too much.

After quickly throwing on a pair of black jeans, an SAO promotional shirt and a burgundy sweatshirt, I pushed open my bedroom door and walked into the living room, only to find my older brother already busy cooking breakfast in the connected kitchen.

"I thought it was my turn to cook," I said, scratching my head a little bashfully.

"You'd probably use sugar instead of salt and then burn it all anyways, you're so affixed on that game that's going up soon," he said, looking at me over his shoulder. "What was it called – Sword something, wasn't it?"

"Sword Art Online," I corrected him, flopping onto the couch. "And I'm not that bad!"

My brother's – cousin, in reality – name was Osamu Nakane. At 22 years old, his hair is a kind of golden-brown with hazel eyes to compliment it. He isn't particularly large, but under his average build he's a lot more muscular than you would first think (as proved by a series of arm wrestling matches I've had with him). To top it off he's tall – just under 2 meters.

He worked at a local printing company. He'd always wanted to write a book, but between juggling me and my sister, college online classes, and work, he'd just never managed to got around to it.

"The first thing you do when you get in the door is ask your sister for any updates on the game," he said. "Only after she's informed you on every little detail do you take your shoes off and say you're home."

I blushed slightly, mainly because everything he'd just said was completely true.

Seemingly as if on cue, my sister walked into the room and sat in the armchair, setting her laptop down on the table and promptly getting set up for a day of gaming. "'Morning" happened to be all she got out before putting on headphones and becoming lost to the world.

My sister – who, in fact, was actually my cousin's cousin – is the only person I know who can out-game me. Her parents died in a car accident three years ago, and since then she's been entrusted into the care of my cousin. Her blonde hair is long enough to stretch to her waist, slightly curly, and surprisingly soft (yes, I had to try feeling it at least once). She has striking blue eyes and was of a height with me, at about 170 cm. She's a NEET, since she never really wanted to go to school after the accident and my cousin didn't force her, with the name of Rin Uemura; also my gaming partner of choice.

"Not beta testing today?" I asked her as the smell of breakfast wafted throughout the house.

"Servers are down for maintenance," she replied, leaning over and typing furiously on the keyboard.

"Any news beyond that?"




"Are you su-"

She gave me a sharp glance, then went back to her game. I sat there sulking until my brother finally said that breakfast was ready.

I got up and walked over to the dining table, tapping my sister on the shoulder on the way since she probably hadn't heard our soft-spoken brother.

After Rin had decided to take her headphones off and sit down at the table, I ate my breakfast quickly, then grabbed my schoolbag and threw my shoes on. "See you later!" I said, giving a quick wave then disappearing out the door.

I was a couple blocks away from the house when my phone rang. "Hello?"

"You realize it's only 7:20, right?" my sister said from the other end of the line.

" to be early?"

"There's nothing to do before school starts. Anyhow, you're supposed to be sick, remember?"

"...I'm sure I can find something to do. And I feel fine right now."

She sighed. "That's what you said yesterday, before you said your brain exploded."

I huffed out a sigh. "Fine." I turned and started walking back to the house. "I'll see you back home, then," I said, before hanging up.

I never really understood why, but shortly after my parents died two years ago I started getting infrequent yet unbearable headaches. The doctors all said it was some sort of reaction, but all I knew was that they hurt like hell.

I walked back into the house and took my shoes off, my cheeks tinged pink partly from the wind and partly out of embarrassment.

My sister glanced over from the armchair she'd situated herself in again. "You should really let yourself recover more, you know. SAO's turning you into an idiot."

I stuck my tongue out at her and withdrew to my room, booting my PC up and putting some headphones on.

My sister walked into my room a couple dozen seconds later. "Servers are back up," she said, looking meaningfully at my computer.

I looked at her sullenly. "You have a laptop and a PC in your room."

"But yours is better!" she said, smiling brightly at me.

"Use the one you'll be using when the full game comes out," I retorted, turning in my chair and focusing back on what game to play.

"You're no fun," she pouted, walking out and into her room across the hall.

I sighed. "Why'd she get to be a beta tester and not me?" I glanced at my calendar. 5 days. Just 5.

Until my world changed forever.

Not quite a prologue, not quite a chapter...whatever it was, there you have it.

Getting right to SAO this fanfic. I don't feel too much of a need to write much about what happened beforehand - and of course, flashbacks are always an option. In regards to canonity - read both Volume 1 and Volume 2, so hopefully I'll be doing fine on that front, though the story will be altered here and there. I wouldn't call this a complete rewrite - in fact, for a large part of the story it will be completely focused on the OCs and their own plot - but...well, you'll just have to find out.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Depending on how my creativity fares, I'll have Chapter 2 up as soon as I feel like it! (...jeez, that sounds bad...but it also happens to be the truth, so. Luckily I feel I can work with this story - moreso than the Crimson Swordsman, at the very least. Please excuse the abuse of parantheses.)

Seriously though - thanks for reading!