Chapter I - What The Glitch!?

A huge castle made of stone and steel floating in an endless sky. That was all this world was.

It took a destined few, the beta testers, one month to survey the place; the diameter of the base floor was about 10 kilometers. Above, there were 100 floors, including the base; its sheer size was unbelievable. It was impossible to even gander what each floor held, and how diverse they all were, all sizes of towns, villages, forests, deserts, jungles, each floor was never the same as the last in some way, shape or form.

Only one stairway through a central column could grant access to the next floor, guarded by a labyrinth of monsters, and a guardian to test those who would try; So discovering and getting through was not simply done, the only short cut between floors was the use of Teleport Gates once another floor was unlocked, yet the Beta Testers only ever made it to Floor 7.

The name of the castle was Aincrad, a world of swords launched to 10,000 on November 6th 2022. This new reality, otherwise known as...

Sword Art Online.

"Link Start!"

[Loading Personal Data...]

[Augmented Systems: Ready]

[Username: White Hat]

[Password: ***********]

[Language: Japanese / English]

[][][]Welcome to Sword Art Online![][][]

It took only seconds, but reality as White could visually perceive soon faded away at the bright lights, and automated logs of code, and diagnostics. Funny how such complex commands were created to only act in seconds, against a command that would take weeks to perform, but White wasn't an expert in this field, he just says what he sees, and what he saw is a whole new horizon. White wasn't alone in his journey though, an old friend of his would be greeting him real soon.

In a readjustment of light, White had entered the 'Central Nexus', It was a large, hexagonal room, with terminals to creating your characters, while observation screens allowed news headlines, and update notes to scroll. There were poles with adverts, sponsors, and even Future DLC hung like banners. Overall, the blue, black, and white flowing walls were nice and comforting touch, it was almost like drifting in a sea of code. This was a commonplace to design your first VRMMO character, or if you had played a previous one, you can convert its data to create a copy for SAO or other VRMMOs. White merely did just that, pressing the blue icon before him.

[Are you sure you wish to convert Saved Cloud Data? Y / N]

"Done." He both replied, and pressed the icon again, and soon he watched the code across his body begin to resign his body, making him feel tingling all over, his hair standing on end

In a small conversion of white and blue light, his vision was coated in a blinding force, making him wince again, yet his ringing ears soon adjusted to the large sound of people, the small breeze in the warm air, and once his eyes had adjusted under his glasses, he noticed the massive tower of smooth stone before him, the clock-bell above him, and many others that stood or warped in around him.

White wore black trousers, with hazel gloves and boots, his red tunic matched with his tanned, leather chestpiece and padding. A black belt of leather hugged his torso, and the feeling of a sword against his back made a twinge of excitement rush through his body, his heart pumping with unaltered bliss.

Floor 1, Town Of Beginnings

"Let's get this party started." White wasn't alone in that, with many cheering under the sound of fireworks going off around Aincrad

"I knew I'd find you! Seriously though, I've been waiting for ages~!" White slowly turned at the voice, his eyes finally focusing on the spunky girl before him. Her bright, red eyes, long, snow-white hair, wearing blue and white gear like himself

"I said I may run late, what part of my message was unclear?" White's blunt excuse made her pause mid-speech, so she huffed, pointing a finger at his nose with her other hand on her skirt

"Hey, if you're late again, I might be stuck fighting for my life, then what would you do!?" She snapped back, and White blinked with a frown, looking to the Teleport Gate

"I'll wait to say 'I told you so'." If his bemused, and constant apathetic voice didn't drop the stone, then his answer sure did

"I...don't have a good reason against that. Ok...ok, how about this." She pointed to herself. "If I am in danger and need your help, you come to my aid as soon as you can, and vice versa for you, so that we won't be stuck waiting for the other to catch up, sound fair?"

"Hmm...fine, I can agree to that." White nodded once to his overly cheery friend, and she raised a fist towards him, and he counted with his own fist-bump. "Shall we get started then?"

"Let's make our way to the top of the world~!"


[Two Years Later...]

Hollow Area Dec. 2024

"Somebody once told me, the world was gonna roll me, I ain't the sharpest-ack!" A boy sung in amongst a tree before his foot had dislodged, now his face was planted firmly in the soil under the tree, a small, purple hexagon appearing for a second. His moral hadn't wavered though, since he simply chuckled, pushing his body backward, resting on his back for a moment to stare up at the sky through the tree line, rays of sunlight trickling through with the sound of animals and birds all around him

[White Hat - lvl 110]

The player, White Hat, was a toned boy with dark brown hair, his eyes a sharp silver underneath his blue-rimmed glasses. A red jacket ran down to his waist, with a white zipper, cuffs and collar, a flame split between the zipper itself, while also having a fur-lining across the hood. Under it was his black shirt and silver chestplate with a reflective red sheen, along with matching gauntlets and shin guards. A single, black fabric was tied to his back, trailing down to rest near his thighs.

Attached to his side sat a black scabbard, containing a silver sword with strange runes carved into the edge, the handle was a basic T-guard with a blue and silver tone and a rounded pommel too, the sword, Parting Glass.

=Pause=

"Sup, the name is White Hat, only drop the 'Hat'. I'm like any typical player of the newly integrated VRMMORPG known by the world as, Sword Art Online. It was the first major launch title, and during the beta and launch, it was a success, or, until the opening of the game came to a close." White looked almost saddened by this

"The creator, Akihiko Kayaba, had wired the Cardinal System to prevent anyone from leaving, if you died, the Nerve-Gear would fry you like a pop-tart in a microwave, yeah, it was pretty bad for the first few days. Now, two years later and we had our chance, a friend of mine stood up for all of us, and he fought Kayaba with everything he had. Yet something happened, and now...now we have twenty-five floors left."

=Resume=

White blinked for a moment, scratching his head while moving to his feet, taking in the strange surroundings of a forest. To him, this wasn't strange, but definitely weird, since the last location he was on the 77th Floor, fighting a more powerful than normal Wyvern, then 'poof' he felt a forced teleport throw him from a high altitude to a tree.

"Oooook? So where am I? Don't tell me Asuna finally decided to kill me!?" White didn't take the revelation too well, then he stopped seconds later, putting a hand to his chin. "Nope, wait...yeah, she would have done it publicly."

Suddenly, among the chips and movements of the forest, White's ear caught something fast, running towards him too, but the frantic steps sounded like the entity was frightened, a big difference between a creature out to kill you, and, what can be big enough to frighten it? A question he soon found to be closer than he expected, as a blue hood covering a player leaped over a tree, and was looking over their shoulder, not noting the frantic waving of White.

"Wait-wait-wait-wait!" It was too late, ocean blue eyes widened in surprise, yet the two collided, throwing White backward slightly, making him roll to his knees. Whilst the first yelped, tumbling backward, yet her left hand grasped the soil, pushing her body back into 'fight or flight', and her serrated sword was out now, and she was coming for White, a murderous gaze in her eyes

Quickly, White scampered to his feet, ducking as the horizontal strike sliced the air above him, followed quickly by a frightened downwards lunge, yet White jumped backward, grasping Parting Glass in his right hand, and swinging the blade to block her diagonal laceration from right to left. This was followed quickly after two quickdraws to form an 'X'. leaving White only to defend himself, blocking both at different angles, and deflecting her blows.

The strange girl wore whites and blues, with a blue coat over a tube top that has several shades of blue, a silver arm-guard on her right arm, thigh-exposing black shorts, and thigh-high black socks. A, a short, serrated sword for a dagger, a sword breaker, not good.

She continued to strike relentlessly like a startled person, her moves were precise and quick, but not strong, only a feeble attempt to push past White, who was left to constantly back away to gain some distance, yet the treeline wouldn't allow him for long. One powerful slant right to left diagonally allowed for White to view something above her head, something that made his heart skip slightly at the sight.

"She's an Orange Player?" White now felt less worried about hurting her, knowing his cursor wouldn't turn orange too, still didn't mean he'd kill her. Something was off about her, she was running from something or someone, and after crashing into each other, she only seemed to try and push White out of her way, so what had her running? Green Players? Red Players?

=Pause=

"Ok, this is by far, my worst day ever...wait...why do I feel like someone has said that before?" White then put a hand to his chin, tapping his sword against the crazy orange player's short sword. "Still, this chick's nuts, and I'm friends with Argo, this is a whoooole 'nother level, but...she looks frightened of something, guess I'll just ask her."

=Resume=

Not wanting to keep up the endless defence, White planted his foot firmly, then lunged down with his silver-edged sword, yet the Orange Player flipped her sword in her hand, striking upwards, and the blades locked with a large clang of metal, the serrated edge holding their weapons tightly, while allowing the two to breathe. Yet the girl looked baffled at White's presence.

Yet the words spoken from her mouth, he never realized it then, but these words were the beginning to a whole journey, filled with torment, grief, hardships, and hatred. Yet something else brewed in that uncertain future ahead, little did the two know as of now.

"Who...are you?" She near-whispered

"Would you still stab me if I told you?" That made her ground her teeth, the two pushing against each other's weight. "Still...I get the feeling I should be asking that?"

While the two continued to stare each other down, that moment of silence never lasted, as soon as the two looked closely at each other, something caught the light, reflecting it in White's eyes, and he immediately went into panic mode. Pushing their weapons down, he grabbed the girl's shoulder, throwing the two of them down onto the ground in the process. When time slowed for them both, nothing but the silver face of a massive sword had cleaved the area, slicing the trees down around them, showering shards of glass to the sky, a rainfall of green and blue as White moved to his knees, with the girl followed suit, her eyes narrowed dangerously at the monster that caused the strike.

From the trees, large, sharp bones for legs dug into the thick bark and soft soil of the ground. Its massive, skeletal body pushing itself into the newly created clearing, four, gargantuan scythes hung in the air, their crimson lining dimmed from the sword skill it had used on its targets, yet only prevailed in slicing the foliage down.

"I'm guessing...'that's' the reason you were running?" White gulped, moving to his feet along with the player. The two standing to face the massive creature that had slaughtered over a dozen on Floor 75

The Hollowreaper - lvl ?

"Hehehehahaha! Heeey buddy, you've been...juicing?" White gulped, with the girl looking at him like he had lost his sanity. In response, Hollowreaper struck the ground next to White, indicating that this was the same 'Skull Reaper' he'd aided the Raid Team in defeating, or maybe the A.I's accuracy isn't as good as before. "Ok, so we're probably gonna die."

"Hmph, you can run if you want, I don't get a choice now." The girl replied to White's 'Joke', or 'Bad taste in humor'

"So, this normal for...wherever we are?" White asked, watching carefully at Hollowreaper, which was trying to find a way to pull its body through the forest behind itself, even digging its scythes into the ground to pull. At his question, the player scowled at him

"I have no intention on wasting time on people like you." The venom was clear in her voice, yet she hadn't noticed the scythe raising above her. So White moved ahead of her, striking upwards at the right moment to skate Parting Glass across the face of the scythe, parrying at he did, while he smiled, the girl only stared at him like an anomaly. "Wh-Why did you...?"

"Ok, so I block it, but can I hurt it? Given the strength behind that parry, its far stronger than us, so maybe..." White continued to ponder on their next move, seeing how part of its body had clearly caught on something, preventing it from moving any closer, so that could be used to their advantage. "Right, I have an idea!"

"..." She didn't reply, so White placed his hands together like he was praying

"Pleeeease, if we work together we can beat this thing. You noticed the question marks too, this version of Skull Reaper is far too strong for one of us, but sword skill combos could hurt it." White quickly gave her the rundown, yet she didn't look convinced

"What's to stop me from simply striking you from behind? Why aren't you worried about that?" She asked him calmly, yet White merely ducked under another lunge of the crimson scythe, looking back at her with a smile like a child just playing a game, no malicious intent or fear, simply joy

"I don't. But someone told me once that he'd rather 'trust and regret than to not trust and regret', besides, you want to live too, right?" That reply made the player's body language chance to being more...relaxed, though she did keep a stern expression, her eyes did lighten slightly

"...I got it, I'll help you, just this once." Was her answer, and White grinned happily, swinging Parting Glass around in his hands

"Alright then, ante up!" White cheered, rushing Hollowreaper without a moment of hesitation. "I'll weaken it, when I give the word, switch!"

"Ok!" She replied, rolling under another arc of its scythes

White skipped to his left, spinning back the drive of the scythe-arm, sliding under the next that attempted to sweep his legs out from under him. Upon reaching the face of Hollowreaper, Parting Glass glowed a bright shade of yellow, reflecting off his armor.

[Sword Skill - Sloth]

He struck Hollowreaper across its face with a diagonal slash to the bottom left, then a diagonal slash from that point to the right, trailing the blade over its massive face, then he brought it down towards the left again in a diagonal slash, creating an 'S' mark, which made the massive boss scream, the yellow letter burning into its face, yet its reel back was slow, and sparks of lightning flashed across its body. Paralysis and Slowness. White jumped back, blocking a single strike from its right side, skating Parting Glass to redirect the scythe away from his stomach. White ran over the arm, charging his blade with bright blue this time.

[Sword Skill - Pride]

Bringing the gleaming light towards his face, White leapt up the side of Hollowreaper, driving the tip of Parting Glass through the Hollowreaper, hard, navigating the blade through its nose vertically, followed by two rapid strikes from left to right diagonally, then right to left diagonally, resembling a 'P' shape as Hollowreaper struck its own head, yet White leaped over the blade, spinning back onto his feet, as the symbol of 'Defense Down' appeared beside Slowness, yet Paralysis was gone, leading to its body burning with crimson flames, channeling dark light into its arms.

"Wait for it...Wait for it..." White stood still as a statue, and upon seeing the joints turn, his eyes widened. "Switch!"

White only took a moment to parry the twin thrusts of Hollowreaper's scythes, and yet the rush of blue and dandelion brushed past him like smoke. She was fast, and her blade glowed crimson too. But Hollowreaper's two left arms had turned a contrasting emerald to her malice red.

[Sword Skill - Silencing Strike]

White leaped back, seeing the two twin scythe's come flashing horizontally, yet the Orange Player spun into the air, her body flying between the two straight blades, flipping her short sword back upright again.

[Sword Skill - Shadow Stitch]

The girl spun in the air, roundhouse-kicking Hollowreaper twice, but during her third spin, she struck fast and hard against its eyes with her blade, etching a red, horizontal line through its face, sparks of lightning flash again.

"Switch!" She called, and White ran beside her, lunging with a sonic wave of mint green energy, calling out 'Sonic Leap', White then spun down to his knees, a scythe flying over his hair, but over his head was the girl, who planted her hand on the scythe, before striking out with two cross attacks. "Let's use sword skills together!"

"Like reading my mind." White smiled, and both charged their blades. White's a bright red, and the girl's a bright blue. Yet Hollowreaper's two extra scythes broke free of the tree line, all four limbs rising to glow a sickly green, they had mere seconds to act, an infinite moment to win

[Sword Skill - Solar Storm]

[Sword Skill - Lunar Crusade]

Unity - Hurricane Eclipse

The girl thrust her sword through the middle of its collar bone, twisting her body around to pull the blade upwards in a blue crescent, followed but a back-flip, swinging the blade down through the same line as before, then a kick, throwing herself back. At the same time, White sliced from right to left, then quickly left to right diagonally, followed by a spin of his blade in his hands, slicing several red arcs through random points across Hollowreaper's body. The twin result boosted their overall damage by 200%, with an afterburn of attacks, and finally, the third bar on the unknown level Skull Reaper was gone, resulting in its body tensing up, turning into a blue statue of light, before finally bursting into a flurry of glass.

They had beaten The Hollowreaper.

"Hollowreaper...I've never seen that monster before." The girl beside White replied, with White closing the 'reward tab', turning to face her again

"Seems its the reincarnation of Floor 75's boss, only with extra arms, and a new, red decal." White added

"Why would a floor boss be here?" She asked White as if he'd know the answer, which he was still questioning himself about

"No freakin' idea. All I know is, that wasn't a real fight." He paused, seeing her confused expression, so he turned to her with his arms crossed, but still smiling for some reason she couldn't understand. "Think about it, question marks covering the level means we would have died, yet we won, and it barely touched us. I get the feeling...we haven't seen the last of it yet."

A long, awkward paused now stretched between the two, with White trying to avoid the piercing stare from the Orange Player.

"So...to break this awkward tension, do we...really still have to fight?" He asked, slash, hoped she'd answer with a 'no'. Slowly, she lowered her sword to her side, placing it back in her sheave, while grasping her left arm with her right

"Are you really not one of them?" Her words threw White into a loop. One of them? There we other players here? Wherever here is, and how she asked, she sounded unsure of what White would say

"Ok, now I'm really confused, first you attack me, then you work with me, now you have no idea what I am...I mean, I come from Kanto IRL, and...myself and others have been here for two years?" White carefully added more to his answer, yet she breathed heavily, closing her eyes for a second

"You're not lying...but you see it...my cursor, right?" At her grim reply, White didn't waver, he merely kept his composure

"Yeah, its orange, actually matches your hair nicely." White commented like nothing was out of the ordinary, and that made her scowl return, but she looked hurt. "Okay, probably not the best way to put it."

"And that doesn't bother you? Why do you still talk to me like nothing is wrong?" Agitation was rising in her voice, yet White merely waved it off

"'Cause, I met orange and red players before, one of which is actually not such a bad guy. Plus you and I worked together to save each other, at any point you could have killed me and ran, but you didn't. Why would I find the colour of your cursor bothersome?" White knew how the system worked, but orange meant you attacked a player, but red meant you killed, and not a speck of red leaked from it. "If you don't mind..."

"...Fine...I killed someone." That answer made White's face turn to...confusion, as well as a growing mystery to him. "If she killed someone, then why isn't...hmm."

"Now do you see why hanging around me is a bad idea...still, thank you for the help back there...goodbye." Without another word, White watched the mysterious orange player turn back to the forest, moving past the trees Hollowreaper tore apart

"Wait a sec!" White blurted out, running up to her, as she turned on her heel against a tree

"Didn't I just say hanging around me is a bad-" Please stop

"I know-I know-I know, just...answer me one more thing?" She turned around completely to listen. "Where...are we? I mean, its SAO, but...where? I accessed my minimap a while ago, but it only showed me the name of this forest, not the floor?"

"To be honest, I don't know myself, ever since I was warped here a month ago." The girl replied though the thought of it made her emotionally tired. "I've spent more time surviving here than actually figuring out 'where' I am."

"Buuuut...my teleport crystals still work? Do you not have any?" White asked her, but she shook her head

"They do, other items and messages too, as for teleport crystals, I don't need any." The blunt reply only deflated White more, she was completely stoic about this. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"

"But what about-"

HOLLOW AREA ACCESS RESTRICTION HAS BEEN LIFTED

"That...doesn't sound normal, is that normal here? In...the Hollow Area?" White asked rapidly, looking around in the sky as if expecting something to appear, yet nothing did

"Wait, are you..." He turned his head back to the girl, who now stood closer to him

"Huh?" White merely tilted his head

"The pattern on your hand." Looking to where she pointed, White flipped his left hand over, and on it, sat a strange, golden symbol, it looked like Aincrad, only less iron, more glowing symbol. White responded by freaking out, rubbing the stop where the symbol glow regardless of his frantic attempts to shake it off

"Nope, not going through this again, last time a strange symbol was on my hand, I had to stop half the floors of Aincrad from being melted off, NOOOPE." White then looked to the girl warily, who grabbed his arm, pulling his hand to rest in hers

"Hold still...just...who are you...?" White didn't know how to reply to that, yet she stared intently at the symbol on his hand. "...I see, they're the same."

"You mind sharing your thoughts 'Scary Lady With A Knife'." She looked at him, bemused by his joke, yet he chuckled. "What, you haven't given me your name, so what else was I to call you?"

"You can't see it?" Her eyes glanced up for a second

"I turned that off, I only see the cursor. Makes things more formal, though that's the same with mine." White responded in-kind. "Anywho, you were saying something about this symbol being the same?"

"Yes, I saw something that had the same marking as your hand."

"Then that's where I'll go...if you would lead me there since I have absolutely no idea where I am." White grinned, but she kept her poker face straight

"I don't mind...but are you sure you want to trust me, and orange - no, a red player?" A murderer, came her unsaid thought, yet White shrugged

"Yeah, I'm concerned. But hey, you've helped me out this much, any normal PKer would have killed me by now, plus...you don't look bad to me, call it...a hunch." That single reason still made her keep a small distance, yet her head felt more at ease, something about his laid-back attitude was a better change of pace than simply running into...whatever those other 'people' are. "I'm White Hat, just drop the 'Hat', and you are?"

"...Philia." White grinned at that, noting her still stiff movements

"If you still don't know what to make of me, that's fine." His reassurance did make Philia raise a brow. "Sometimes, you just have to take a chance. Still, it's nice to meet you, Philia." Finally, a small smile broke her stoic expression

"Nice to meet you too." Then, she frowned again, but White did take a little pride in knowing she wasn't always moody. "I still don't know if you're really kind or really stupid."

"I think a bit of both, makes one more tolerable, eh?" White replied

"Then I guess I'm in good hands, come on, let's go." Philia walked ahead, following the gaps in the trees to an exit from the forest, White merely followed close behind, happy to just have someone he could trust in a strange new world

To Be Continued...

[][][]~-[Sword Art Online: Hollow Reborn]-~[][][]

Written by Silent Slender

OP 1 - The Rock City Boy


I had this archived and thought I'd upload the chapters anyways. I like the games, wished the Anime went the same way, but hey, I like them both. Hope you liked the start of White Hat and Philia's adventure in the Hollow Area! Seeya in the next chapter!

Next Chapter: Story - [Stranger Things]

Now on-route to where Philia recognizes the symbol, White Hat begins to learn a little more about 'The Hollow Area', and of its dangers. Question is, how will his friends take it if he makes it back to Floor 76?