Forty-eight hours later and I finally got my hands on a physical copy of Sword Art Online, hooray for me! It'd wiped out most of the money I had saved up from past birthday gifts from my parents, but I feel as though it was worth it. This game was the highly anticipated product created by Kayaba Akihiko, one of the greatest video game designers of all time and his game had already been flying off store shelves. I'd been lucky enough to snag a preorder, and so had Ron after he "borrowed" some money from Percy. I looked at the clock at my room, it was about 8 in the morning over here, and about four over in Japan, which meant that the launch for the game had finally started.
I placed the Nervegear, a VR helmet that was also created by Kayaba Akihiko, over my head as it did the usual start up procedure. I then calibrated the device by touching parts of my body, basically my arms, legs, chest, etc. Lying on my bed I called out,
A flash of white and multicolored lights later I ended up in a blank room with a large mirror.
"Hello, player!" a disembodied voice, "Welcome to Sword Art online, before we begin, would you like to customize your appearance?"
Two large screens popped into existence in front of me, with the words 'YES' and 'NO' written in large blocky letters. I shrugged and changed my avatar to the one I used in other games, I gave myself a thick hood, shrunk down my height, fixed my teeth, and then I was done.
"Are you sure you want to save these changes?"
I hit 'YES' again and was teleported into what looked like a town square that seemed as though it jumped out of medieval times with the cobbled roads, old fashioned stands, and slightly worn-down walls of other homes. Other players had already teleported in ahead of me and were talking among themselves or just exploring the town. I opened a menu and found that the others had already started up a private chat, I quickly joined in with them.
QuidditchMan: So, is everyone here yet?
Guywiththeglasses: Yeah, I just got in, I'm in the starting town, where are you guys?
BookWorm: I'm in the starting town too, I'm kind of surprised at how real everything looks here.
Guinevere: Well Kayaba usually pays attention to detail, so I'm not too surprised.
QuidditchMan: Okay, so if we're all done praising the guy.
QuidditchMan: How about we take on our first quest?
Guywiththeglasses: Are you sure we're ready for a quest yet, we don't really know how to use the mechanics.
QuidditchMan: Oh come on, how hard could it be?
QuidditchMan: Besides I found us an easy fetch quest, we'll get pretty good exp if we do this one.
QudditchMan: Plus, we'll be up against the equivalent of slimes, I bet I could take it out in one hit.
BookWorm: How much would you like to bet on that?
Guinevere: How about the 30 pounds I saw you get from mom?
Guinevere: If you win, I'll do chores for you for a month.
QudditchMan: Sure thing, get ready to do chores for a month!
"Gah!" A large man in red armor was sent flying back and hit the ground hard, dust billowed around him and the broadsword he had held in his grasp skittered to the ground.
"Well I guess you owe us those thirty pounds Ron," A tall woman dressed in orange armor as she watched Ron pull himself to his feet.
"Well you could've helped Ginny!" Ron rounded on his sister before turning to face you and a man in green lying against a wall. "And how about you two, you were just watching the entire time!"
"I would have helped, but I thought it would've been better to let you prove yourself," the man in green armor said, "But I didn't expect you to lose to a pig of all things."
"Seriously Harry, can't you help me?!"
Said pig, or rather its head, happily bounced up and down on the ground, behind it laid our objective for the quest that Ron had gotten for us. The NPC who had given out the quest had apparently lost their teddy bear when they were playing in the cave we were currently in and had wanted to get it back before their parents found out they were somewhere they weren't supposed to be. Of course, monsters had recently infested the cave and so it was up to us to clear it out and get the stuffed toy.
It was a pretty simple fetch quest; the problem is that we'd been in the cave for about an hour watching Ron trying (and failing) to beat the pig. But every time he swung his sword he only managed to barely dent its health, right now its health had gone into the yellow, but Ron's health had also been chipped away at as well. Currently the two were at a stalemate, with Ron glowering at the pig head with such menace I couldn't help but chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation.
"Oh, it looks like you were the ones who got that quest," A voice spoke up from the entrance of the cave. We turned to look to see a tall man wearing a grey cloak walk into the cave, a small smile was on his face. He then turned to look at Ron, "You guys are new, so you don't really know how to use the system right, that's why you're having so much trouble with the pig."
Ron looked at the man in confusion, "What do you mean using the system wrong, all I have to do is hit it right?"
The man shook his head, "Sure you could do it like that, but it'd take you forever to kill something." he said. "What you really need to do is this..."
The man pulled out a dagger and held it behind him, his focus completely on the pig. Then his blade began to glow and with a quick thrust of his dagger a wave of energy struck the pig, causing it to vanish in a flash of blue pixels. The man sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he looked at all of you, "Looks like I overdid it a bit..."
"That was awesome!" Ron shouted as he looked at the man with admiration, "How'd you do something like that?"
The man, who introduced himself as Cedric, went into detail about initial motion and Skills, apparently to maximize your chances at actually hitting something, you would need to perform the initial motion correctly and activate one of your Skills at the same time, which would lead to you to gain the upper hand in combat.
"So, you'd do it like this..." Ron performed the same movements that Cedric had done moments prior, and his sword began to glow. With a loud shout he sliced through the air and a wave of energy cut through the wall and hit the rocky surface of the cave walls, cutting a deep impression through it. "Hey, I did it!"
Cedric smiled, "Congrats on using your first sword skill," he said, "You should probably get back to town now, the other beta testers'll probably try to grab it from you and get the exp for themselves."
"You're a beta tester?" I asked Cedric, though when I thought about it, it kind of made sense. He knew a bit too much to be a new player.
Cedric nodded, "Yeah I was lucky enough to get chosen, I know most things about this game like the back of my hand," he said. "So, if you need any help you can ask me, here I'll add you guys to my contacts."
After thanking him we left the cave and headed back to the town we had started in. Ron led us to where he had gotten the quest from the NPC and handed it the teddy bear, which ended the quest and gave us each 100 exp. Then the three of you went to the town square and sat down near a few trees,
"Well that was fun, right guys?" Ron asked.
"Yeah it was fun, though anything's better than having to deal with Dudley," Harry said. "He's apparently decided to take up orchestra."
Ron winced in sympathy. "That seems like a disaster waiting to happen."
Ginny smirked, "Is he any good?"
"Hell no, it sounds like he's strangling a cat!"
"That sounds like it sucks," I said, "I'm going to guess your aunt and uncle are still acting like he's a gift from God or something?"
"Actually, I'm pretty sure Vernon's planning on smashing Dudley's violin when he isn't looking," Harry said. "He's that bad."
Ron stood up and stretched, "Well it's almost time for us to leave, Dad's apparently bringing us to a car museum."
Ginny stood up as well, "Yeah, we'll see you guys later!"
They then opened their menus and Ron frowned, "Wait where's the login button?"
"I think it should be near the bottom," Harry said as he pulled up his own menu, only to frown a few moments later. "That's weird I don't see it either."
I opened my own menu and found that I couldn't find the logout button either.
"Maybe it's a glitch?" Ginny said as she swiped through multiple menus, "It is launch day so maybe there are a few kinks they haven't worked out yet?"
We didn't we really think much of it back then, but maybe that was because we wanted something to blame for the logout button suddenly disappearing. It made perfect sense to think that it was just a bug, it was launch day after all, so bugs were to be expected. But in the end, it turned out to be much sinister than that, and there was no way we could have known what was going to happen next.
"Hey guys the sky..." Ron pointed up to the sky, which rapidly became filled with hexagonal red caution messages. Then what looked like blood began to drip through the cracks between the hexagons, and pooled in the sky to form a gigantic figure in a robe.
We would have never known that today would mark the end of our normal lives...