Welcome to Courage. This story is a sequel to Blacksmith and Warrior, and continues where it left off. If you haven't read it but played the game Fatal Bullet, it continues from the true ending of the game, but a slightly different telling to fit my storyline. The series of stories I'm writing merges the main canon with the SAO gameverse.

This story will go through the Caliber and half of the Mother Rosario arcs and parts of the game Hollow Realization. I don't know how in depth I'll go into the game, but since this story focuses more on the gang as a whole (rather than the OC and Lisbeth, which Blacksmith and Warrior did) but I do want to do more than I did for the Fatal Bullet adaption in the last story.

First up, however, is the Caliber Arc. Enjoy the first chapter.


December 28th, 2025, 14 days after the "Death Gun" incident..

"That gun… Ha ha, so you've kept it this whole time… Looks like my plan was a failure. Your friends were all supposed to abandon you, forcing you to lose faith in humanity, so you'd be mine alone… Are you mad I tricked you, Jaymes?"

I shake my head, keeping the pistol level with Itsuki's. "No, I'm not. To be honest, I never fully trusted you, maybe that's why I'm not mad at you."

Itsuki scoffs. "Of course not. You're just not that type of person. Why don't you fire that gun? I'm wearing a NerveGear too, of course. If you pull that trigger, I'll die. Do you have what it takes to kill someone?"

I look away to the group of onlookers below. The rest of my squad from Gun Gale Online, Kureha, Zeliska, Rei, Fuka, Pito, M, and LLENN, they all have an unknowing look upon them. They all don't know my past beyond when I first logged on to GGO, and those that do know of that don't know what I've done; the other eleven (not including a girl with silver hair, she's new), my friends from Sword Art Online, they know the answer to that. My eyes look specifically at four girls: Kureha, my reconnected childhood friend; Rei, my loyal AI companion that I met here; Philia, my best friend of all the girls and my one true partner; and Lisbeth, my beloved girlfriend. Each one wishes the same, for me to not shoot and kill Itsuki. "I could. I've done-."

"Just kidding! Ha ha, that was one of my jokes. It's the hero's job to defeat the villain. If you can't, then maybe I should…"

"Joshua…"

"Well, looks like time's up." As the server begins to crash, Itsuli and I are surrounded by blue light. Below, Kirito and the gang lose their signal from ALO to this server. Kureha, Rei, and the rest start to drop out too. "I'll see you again, Jaymes. Maybe in the virtual world, maybe in the real world. Who knows? After all, you never did tell me why you came to the virtual world in the first place…"

"Joshua!"

"Ow!" I hold my forehead as the pain receptors flare from the strong flick. Looking up, I stare at the frowning face of Rika as she sips on a cup of coffee. "What gives?"

"You were thinking about it again, wasn't you? About that Itsuki guy?"

Sighing, I look down to my untouched bowl of soup. "Yeah."

"I'm not saying let it go, but… It's been two weeks, everyone came out okay. I think you can relax a bit. Plus...we miss you in ALO. You were already gone for months, but you haven't played on your AmuSphere since the incident. Join us today, take your mind off of it."

I swallow a bit of my soup and gaze at the news report. "Fine. I guess it wouldn't hurt. Plus, it'll be nice to play with Sinon in a game more my style."

Rika nods. "You knew her for a while, correct?"

"Aye. I knew her and Spiegel before he was Death Gun. I'm still surprised he wanted to hurt her like that, I honestly thought he was just a possessive friend of hers. He did tell her where to find her sniper, which I helped obtain." I take another spoonful of the soup. "Anyway, I'd rather not do any floor clearing of New Aincrad. Anything but that."

At that moment, my phone begins to ring. Looking at the ID, I pick it up. "What's up, loser?"

"Nothing much, virgin. Anyway, are you free today?"

I nod. "Sure. I'm just eating breakfast with Rika? I was going on ALO later."

"Great. Tell Lis we got a quest today. We're going to get Excalibur."

I blink twice as I put my phone on speaker. "Excalibur? You mean the Excalibur? The sword you and your sister found months ago?"

A second voice picks up on the phone. "Yes! But as I just showed Kazuto, the sword is now public knowledge. However, we might have a way there. You'll make our eighth player. Everyone will be happy to see you, especially Sinon. I'll text you the time and place."

Rika smiles. "See you later, Leafa." As the call disconnects, she looks at me with a smirk. "Satisfactory enough for you?"

I grin, my previous mood totally dashed. "Hell yeah, it's Excalibur! King Arthur's sword! Every swordsman worth his salt would love to wield the legendary sword!" I chug the rest of my soup, wipe my mouth, and hop off the stool. "I gotta shower for this!"


ALO, Lisbeth's Smith Shop

"Ah," Klein sighs as he swigs a cup of mead down his throat. The eight party members, plus Yui and Strea as NPCs, gather at our meeting place. I sit between the Cait Siths Silica and Sinon, while Klein and Kirito occupy the other side of the table. I shake my head at my fellow Salamander, wondering just how this lazy ass man lives everyday.

"Hey, Klein," Silica says, "do you get to take vacation for New Year's?"

"Been on it since yesterday. Even if I wanted to work, and I don't, there's no shipments this time of year. You know what my cheap-ass boss said? 'Be thankful you got a job where you get a whole week's off for New Year's'. Bragging about it like he's doing us a favor. And speaking of favors, if we do manage to snag Excalibur today, how about doing me a solid and helping me get my hands on the soul blade Kaguzuchi?"

"Seriously," Kirito sighs. "That dungeon's like a frigging oven, man."

"Yeah, well, we're going to Jotunheim for you, where it's colder than the ass-end of an ice pop."

I raise my finger up. "And we went underwater too for that 'pearl'. Us Salamanders deserve a quest in an end that suits us."

Sinon nods. "You know, I want something out of this, too. The Shekhinah Bow."

"Uh, your avatar's two weeks old, and already you're gunning for a legendary weapon?"

"Yeah, well, that bow Lis made me is great and all, but I need something with a little more range."

"Oh yeah?" Lisbeth says from far behind, Sinon's bow being worked on. "Then what the heck are you using a bow in ALO for? Their range falls between spears and magic. You're like the only player who wants to use these things to snipe from 100 meters."

I pat Sinon on the shoulder. "Never compare Lisbeth's craftsmanship in her presence. Some idiot almost died in SAO once doing so."

Kirito rolls her eyes. "And the two people who forged it haven't let that go."

Sinon nods then faces Lisbeth. "If I had it my way, I'd want double that range at least." Lisbeth gasps, then smiles. I shake my head and shrug. Once a sniper, always a sniper.

The door swings open, showing Strea, Leafa, Yui and Asuna. "Yoohoo!"

"We're back, guys!"

"Thanks for waiting."

"We thought you were never coming back."

"What's up? You get lost or something?"

"Strea sidetrack you?"

Yui shakes her head as she flies to her dad. "Not at all. Little sister was on her best behavior. We were gathering information while we shopped. We talked to a whole bunch of people, Daddy, and so far, no one player or party has reached that dungeon yet."

"Really? Well, then how the heck do they know where Excalibur's at?"

"That's the thing, Daddy. No one really knows where it is. Apparently they found a different quest than the one Tonky showed us. They met an NPC who told them if they finished this other quest, they'd get Excalibur as the reward."

Asuna continues. "And from what we heard, the quest they're going on isn't very pleasant. Instead of a delivery quest or an escort quest, it's a kill quest, just slaughtering monsters. Everyone in Jotunheim is out there right now killing as many as they can."

I smirk. "Sounds so thrilling."

Kirito agrees. "Yeah, that doesn't even sound close to being pleasant."

Klein sighs. "This whole thing sounds sketchy to me, guys. Here's what we know: There's a dungeon in the sky with Excalibur locked up at the bottom of it to get to it. You gotta fight your way through a bunch of monsters, but now we got an NPC offering it up as a kill quest reward? That's bizarre."

"Now that you mention it, that is weird. The NPC's not showing anyone the dungeon. But that's where the sword is."

I scratch my chin. "Hmm. It might just be the first step. Something that rare is not going to be simple to grab anyway."

Sinon shrugs as she picks up one of the vials the other girls bought. "Well, I'm sure we'll find out why once we get there,"

"All righty," Lisbeth shouts as she holds our weapons. "Your weapons are all restored and ready for action!"

As I take my sword and shield, I swing them lightly back and forth. Ah, as much as I loved my two pistols, a sword and shield feels more at home. "This is more like it… Wait, hold on." I inspect my sword, recognizing the winged black hilt with a red stone inserted. Looking at the glistening off-red blade, I gasp in surprise and look at Lisbeth. "It's my sword from SAO...and the shield too. You recreated them."

"My proudest work back then and now. Plus, I thought it'll cheer you up even more." I sheath the sword on my back and smile at Lisbeth. It really does make me happy to have my favorite sword and shield back with me in a different game.

"Even though our party's full of hotness, we're still a bunch of gear-toting meatheads."

Lisbeth rolls her eyes at Klein's statement. "If you want to switch it up, you could always boost your magic."

"Ha! Keep dreaming. A real samurai, he wouldn't be caught dead using magic. Code of honor."

"Code of honor, huh? Know what samurai's are classified as in RPGs? They're both warriors and black-magic users."

"Please. I'd rather bust my sword and quit being a samurai than use magic, doll."

Silica jumps into the conversation. "I don't know, Klein. If I remember right, didn't you use a flame-sword skill the other day? You know, when you activate it, you are using part magic."

"No way! Really?"

Yui and Strea nod simultaneously. "Yes, Klein. What Silica said is true. Remember the May update? It brought a whole bunch of new sword skills to ALO. Some are physical and others are advanced. Like Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Dark, and Divine. All of which are magical attributes."

Klein sighs. "Fire's magical, too, huh?"

"Okay, ex-samurai, you need help busting that sword?"

Klein grips his sword like a child holding a delicate possession and comes towards Kirito and I. "Dudes, back me up here."

"Well, since you don't chant when using sword skills, I guess it's not the same."

"That's true." I turn to Lisbeth as I push Klein away from me. "What do you say?"

"I'd let it slide this time, heh."

As Klein sighs in relief on Kirito's chest, Kirito looks at the seven of us. "I really appreciate you guys helping me out on such short notice. Seriously, you don't know how much this means to me. Especially you, Jaymes. Thank you for coming back."

I smile. "I owe you one after all. All of you."

"All right, are you ready?"

"Yeah!"