The Rising of the Sword Heroes
The spell was designed to summon a person with amazing potential for swordsmanship at a useful time, but when two people meet that criteria, are right next to each other, and are perfect partners already? Something smells fishy in Melromarc, but at least this time they aren't getting blamed.
The floating castle of Aincrad was collapsing, much to the melancholy of the two final players watching. They sat on a clear platform, cuddled next to each other as their prison of over two years crumpled from the bottom. Horrible as the death game of Sword Art Online was, they still held fond memories of their time there and the people they'd met.
"You know," Kirito began, "I don't know your real name."
"I'm Asuna. Asuna Yuuki."
"You used your real name as your avatar name?"
"What? Didn't you?"
"No! My name is Kazuto Kirigiya."
"Well now I feel stupid, but I'm going to keep calling you Kirito." She smiled, and Kirito couldn't help but smile back.
"I wouldn't have it any other way." They sat in silence, Asuna's head on his shoulder, watching places they could name tear to pieces, fragments, and code.
"We're going to find each other outside, aren't we?" Kirito asked, the home they had bought together breaking in two below them. "I don't want to stop here."
"It won't," Asuna responded. "I swear. We'll find each other."
"Good." Kirito reached out, taking her hand. Their wedding rings, though only digital, glinted in the dying light of the virtual world. Far beyond, the Crimson Castle that topped Aincrad split, fragmenting into shards. The last of their digital world shattered. Light bloomed, growing brighter as the system finally began to log them out.
"K-Kirito?" Asuna stuttered. "Do you hear chanting?"
The swordsman didn't get a chance to respond, the white light giving way to a jagged line. A crack of burning red code opened before them. Acting on instinct, Kirito grabbed his wife in a hug as the portal swallowed them.
With its last two players gone, Sword Art Online finally shut down.
"What do you mean he's missing?" Suguha Kirigiya demanded, the poor nurse before her trembling. Behind Kirito's cousin, her mother wailed.
"W-We don't know what happened," the nurse cried, tears welling from the stress. "I've seen the footage. This red crack just opened and absorbed your brother."
"I don't believe you!" Sugu roared. "Find him! Bring him back!"
"We can't," the nurse answered, still crying as one of her co-workers carried Kazuto's NerveGear over. "We can't"
Taking the NerveGear, Suguha vowed to never stop until she found her brother.
"What the Hell do you mean she's gone?" Sugou Nobuyuki yelled into the phone. "You idiot! How does a girl who's been comatose for over two years just vanish?"
"We don't know, sir! Her NerveGear is here and even the medical equipment is all intact, but there's no blood or evidence of her leaving!"
"Find her, or else."
"She will be mine," Noboyuki muttered, hanging up. "I didn't go through arranging our marriage just for you to disappear. Wherever you are, Asuna Yuuki, I will find you."
"We did it!" an older man exclaimed. "We've summoned the Four Cardinal Heroes!"
Kirito's awareness returned too slowly for his liking, but he attributed that to the burning ache in every one of his muscles.
"Your Excellency," another voice whisper-yelled. "There are five! And two of them look half-dead!"
"So you are right," the first voice commented, now less excited. "Worry not. I shall help. I am the Pope, head of the study of the Divine. I have deciphered the laws of magic, bend to my will. Restore Strength!"
A green haze filled Kirito's vision for a moment, his eyes widening as his senses began to return.
"Where are we?" a new voice asked, this one belonging to a young man.
"Cardinal Heroes, our world is in great peril," the old man said, Kirito's vision allowing him to see the man, who was dressed like the Pope with the big cone hat and all, wave his arms dramatically. "We have summoned you to help us rid our land of the monsters that seek to destroy it!"
"And what makes you think we'll help for free?" another new voice drawled. "You just ripped us from our homes and expect us to just risk our lives?" Kirito turned to his right, looking up to see a tall man with long blond hair, a spear clutched in his grip. Beyond him was another young man with black hair sitting on the floor. He seemed to be trying to get his bearings.
That was a voice he recognized. Kirito, and everyone else in the room, turned their attention to the woman on his left. She was gaunt, her white-and-red battle uniform hanging off her skeletal frame. Auburn hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back, and a basic shortsword lay across her lap.
"Kirito!" The woman embraced him, the two smothering each other in what would have been bone-crushing hugs if they had the strength. Kirito's muscles screamed in pain, but the swordsman ignored it. His arms, thin as they were, were covered in the black clothing he'd gotten use to over the last couple of years.
"Do you two know each other?" Pulling his face from the nape of Asuna's neck, Kirito looked up into the eyes of another blond, this one looking younger with messy, shorter hair. He had a bow clutched in his hand.
"There will be time for introductions in a bit," the Pope interjected. "Please, Heroes, I employ you to at least listen to His Majesty before you try to leave. He will explain our situation to you after you've had a little time to take everything in."
"Bah, fine," Spear Guy grunted. "You better have a good argument or we just might become your enemies."
"Asuna, can you stand?" Kirito asked, waving away the robed woman that came to help them.
"Yeah, I think so." Clumsily, the couple got to their feet, leaning on each other. Swords hung from belts attached to their hips, one for each of them.
The five followed the Pope through a series of hallways, the two blonds questioning their leader on the way. Kirito and Asuna, on account of their health, trailed along behind with the other black-haired man who had a shield attached to his arm.
"Are you two ok?" Shield Guy asked. "You look like you haven't eaten in years."
"We haven't," Kirito replied, Shield Guy stopping to gape as the couple continued to shamble forward like a two-part zombie. "I could really go for some of your Ragout Rabbit Stew right now."
"No kidding," Asuna smiled as their third caught up.
"You haven't eaten in years? How are you alive?"
"Miracles and luck," Asuna answered. "Your suicidal plans never helped, Kirito."
"My plans were fine and they worked!" the male shot back. "I'm not dead, anyway." The couple bickered until the procession reached a pair of double doors. Sensing something important to come, the SAO survivors quieted as the Pope pushed the doors open and led the group inside.
"I present to you, our Cardinal Heroes!"
The throne room was spacious, even with nearly a hundred people lining the walls and upper level. Marble shimmered in the light, a royal purple rug stretching from the doors to the base of a throne. On the throne sat an old man with white hair and a beard which matched his robes. A crown rested on his head, pronouncing him king almost as much as he himself did after the five stopped in a line before him.
"Welcome, brave Heroes!" the man began in what was clearly a practiced speech. "My name is King Auldcray Melromarc XXXII, king of Melromarc. Our world is in grave danger from a threat known as the Waves of Calamity, a series of monstrous portals that legend says only the Four Cardinal Heroes, the Heroes of the Bow, Spear, Sword, and..." He paused, almost imperceptibly, flinching, "...Shield can defeat. For that purpose, we have summoned you here, and I assure you you will be handsomely rewarded for all your efforts. Please, introduce yourselves, you who will save us."
"I'll go first," Spear Guy said. "Motoyasu Kitamura. I'm 21 years old and a college student."
"I'll go next," Bow Guy offered. "I'm Itsuki Kawasumi, age 17. I'm in high school back home."
"I'm Naofumi Iwatani," Shield Guy stated. "I'm 20 and also a college student." All eyes turned to the couple still leaning on each other. This was the first time the King stopped to actually look at the Heroes, and seeing these two confused him to say the least.
"I'm Kazuto Kirigiya, 16."
"Really, Kirito?" Asuna muttered. "That's it?"
"It's not like we've gone to school lately," he shot back. Asuna shook her head before giving as strong a smile as she could.
"Hello. I'm Asuna Yuuki. I'm 17."
"You're older that me?" Kirito blinked.
"We've been over this before. You just forgot because dinner came afterward."
"Silence, please!" the king ordered, the whispers that had grown dying away. One of the Pope's followers stepped forward, garbed in a brown robe.
"If the Heroes would please check their Status?"
"Status?" Naofumi asked.
"If you look in the bottom-right of your vision," the monk offered, "you should see an icon. This is a manifestation of our world's Status Magic."
"Goddammit," Kirito hissed as a screen appeared in the air before him and Asuna, his curse nearly echoing around the quiet room.
"Language, Kirito," the auburn-haired teen scolded, her own frown building.
"We're stuck in another freaking game, Asuna. Do you expect me not to be pissed? Not only that, but we're back to level one!"
Their Status had opened, and it was their Status. Both of their names were written in the name line, the picture on the right had both their faces, and the Equipment item read "Legendary Sword half (x2)". The only separation was a pair of pentagons in the middle of the Status, each one having one name above it, but they were identical currently with moderate stats all around.
Also hovering in their vision were each of their names with a health bar next to them. Kirito supposed it was either coincidence or the so-called Status Magic picked their brains because the bar were in the shape of the health bars from SAO. Currently, both of them were in the low yellow.
"A game in real life?" Naofumi wondered, staring at empty air where Kirito assumed his Status was.
"If this is real life, I'll eat my Cloak of Midnight," Kirito spat.
"Be nice, Kirito."
"Asuna, magic isn't real. The only place it could exist is in games, and to be this immersive, only in VR."
"I'm not sure what VR is," Motoyasu cut it, "but this is exactly like the popular MMO Emerald Online."
"You're both wrong," Itsuki argued. "This is clearly Brave Star Online for console."
"What about you?" Motoyasu asked, turning to Naofumi. "What sort of game is this to you?"
"I don't know much about games," the 20-year-old admitted. "I got sucked here by a library book."
"Oh," the Spear Hero sighed. "That's too bad."
"Heroes, please!" the King called. "Confirm you are who we wish you are."
"I'm the Spear Hero," Motoyasu nodded.
"Bow Hero," Itsuki agreed.
"Both of us are the Sword Hero," Asuna offered.
"Interesting," the King muttered, cutting Naofumi off. The Shield Hero frowned. "Never in our history have we had two of the same Hero at the same time. From your manners, I assume you two know each other?"
"Yeah, we're..." Kirito paused, sharing a glance with his maybe-still wife. "We're partners."
"Yo, King!" Naofumi frowned. "It's rude to cut people off!"
"You can't say that to royalty!" Itsuki hissed, trying to elbow the Shield Hero in the gut. Both attacker and victim grunted in pain, the former rubbing a now-sore joint.
"I'm sure you all are tired," the King continued. "I will have a servant lead you to your quarters for the night and have a meal brought up for you. Tomorrow, you will need to start your adventures so you can grow powerful enough to defeat the wave in one month's time."
"Adventures?" Kirito wondered. "As in plural?"
"Indeed," King Auldcray nodded. "You see, the Legendary Weapons are extremely powerful with unlimited potential, but they cannot be used close together consistently without hindering their growth." His eyes drifted to the couple. "I do not know what this means for you two." Finished, the man waved his arm and a maid stepped up to the group. The Sword Heroes and Shield Hero were still recalling too much to argue while the Bow and Spear seemed satisfied after their talk with the Pope on the way over.
"Please," the maid began, "follow me to your room."
"This is nuts," Motoyasu began after a hardy meal. The other Heroes nodded in agreement from around a small table in his room where the Spear Hero had called a meeting before any of them could turn in for the night. "What do you all think about this?"
"I'm not sure how I feel," Itsuki offered. "On one hand, I love games, so getting to live in one is a dream come true, but..."
"I'm still don't know how I'm supposed to fight with a shield," Naofumi grumbled. Kirito and Asuna did not answer, instead studying their weapons. Each was an identical shortsword, the kind any player starts with. The only interesting visual they contained was a blue gemstone set into the crossgrip of each that faintly glowed.
"What about you two?" Itsuki asked, turning to Kirito and Asuna who were curled up on a love seat. The question pulled them from their investigations.
"As soon as we get the chance, we're leaving," Kirito stated.
"Why?" Motoyasu gaped. "This is amazing!"
"After the SAO Incident, I just want to go home," Asuna sighed.
"What's SAO?" the Shield Hero questioned.
"You don't know?" Kirito blinked. He turned to the other two men. "You two as gamers should, right?"
"Never heard of it," Itsuki shrugged, Motoyasu shaking his head. The couple shared a look.
"Who's on the 10,000 Ryo Bill?" Asuna asked. Confused, the other three Heroes each answered, but none of them said the same person.
"Aww shit," the swordsman muttered. "We're all from different worlds."
"Not you two," Motoyasu waggled his eyebrows. "Spill, what's going on between you? What's your story?"
"The short version," Asuna offered, "is that Kirito and I were trapped in the first-ever Virtual Reality game with the rules that if you died in the game, you died for real."
"That's so cliché," Naofumi waved off. "I've read almost a dozen manga with that premise."
"We were stuck there for over two years," Kirito cut in with a weary voice, staring at the ceiling. "We were front-liners, fighting every day to try to clear the game and earn our freedom. We'd just won and were going to get out when that summoning happened."
"...That sucks," Itsuki finally offered. "I can see why you don't like this if that's true, but are you going to just leave this world to ruin because of that?"
"...No," the swordsman sighed. "I can think of half-a-dozen people that would refuse to let me."
"That's not the part I wanted to know," Motoyasu pressed. "What is there between you two?"
"None of your business," Kirito responded. The Spear Hero pressed harder, but was unable to get any answers out of the Swords.
The conversation lasted most of the night, drifting to comparing the systems of their games to the differences of their world's on a fundamental level. Kirito and Asuna dismissed themselves around midnight after listening to Motoyasu and Naofumi argue about the usefulness of shields.
"I don't like this, Asuna." Kirito commented as the couple walked down the hallway hand-in-hand. They'd only been in this world for half a day, but whatever magic and food they had managed to make the couple strong enough to walk individually.
"I know. I don't like it either, but there are a lot of innocents at stake if half the stuff they told us about these Waves are true."
"But why did we need to get what I'm guessing are our real bodies?"
"There's no point worrying about that. We can't control it."
"Yeah, I guess." Reaching their door, Kirito offered it to his partner. "Say, we have our real bodies, but our clothes from SAO, including our rings. Are we married or not?"
"You know what?" Asuna questioned, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him in. "I say we say yes."
Sunlight streamed through the open window, causing Kirito to squirm, wiggling closer into the sheets and the warm body next to him. Said warmth whined cutely, redoubling her hold on his shirt. That was, until a quick knock on the door tried to pull them from their slumber.
"Lady Asuna! Sir Kazuto!" a female voice called. "Your presence is requested in the throne room for the ceremony in 30 minutes!"
"Not now, Yui!" Kirito replied, wrapping his arms around his wife. "Ten more minutes!"
"I do not know who Yui is, Sir Kazuto, but King Auldcray is asking for you!"
"Who is-?" Kirito stiffened, the memories of the previous day flooding back. Heathcliff's message, the 75th floor boss, Kiyaba's reveal, their duel, the summoning. "Goddammit, that wasn't a dream."
"Kirito?" Asuna stiffened in his grip, the memories coming to her as well.
"I guess it's time to get up," the male of the two grumbled, throwing the covers off with surprising strength. Their health bars said they were back to full and their bodies mirrored this. They were nowhere near the strength of those last days in Aincrad, but at least they weren't suffering from malnutrition like they had been. "The king wants us to meet him."
"Ugh," Asuna whined, pawing at Kirito's shirt in an attempt to get him to stay. As much as he wanted to, Kirito didn't want to learn what the king would do if they refused.
"Come on, Asuna."
"Fine," she grumbled. Both she and Kirito had slept in the nightclothes that had been provided... mostly. It was a good thing the maid didn't open the door.
Throwing on their clothes and summoning a breakfast platter from the kitchens, the sword-wielding duo made their way to the throne room. They were the last to arrive, but this didn't bother either on them too much. Before the throne stood a line of 12 individuals of all heights and dress.
"I can't believe you kept His Majesty and us waiting," Itsuki sniffed. It was clear he wasn't a morning person.
"You try killing the man that kept you a prisoner for over two years and then not want to sleep in the next morning," Kirito replied.
"You killed someone?" Naofumi gasped, Motoyasu mirroring his look. Whispers circled the throne room.
"Ahem," Auldcray coughed into his fist. "Heroes, I have called you here today to help you get started on your journeys. Melromarc has assembled its finest warriors who have agreed to travel with you to help you battle the Waves. However, they have already chosen which Hero they wish to follow." On cue, the adventurers at the base of the throne marched forward, lining up behind their chosen champions.
It was over in seconds. Motoyasu found four female adventures behind him. Itsuki had three, one man and two women. Kirito and Asuna had a total of five, four men and a woman. Much to the confusion of the Heroes, no one lined up behind Naofumi.
"What?" the Shield Hero cried. "This isn't fair!"
"I'd heard the rumors, but I didn't expect this," the king muttered, his hand covering his lips.
"I'm not surprised," Motoyasu chuckled.
"You got something to say?" Naofumi demanded. "Say it to my face!"
"It's just, the shield is a loser's job. That's how it worked in the game I played. Though their defensive stats were really high, the only ones who used shields were noobs. They don't count as weapons, anyway."
"Sorry, Naofumi," Itsuki shrugged. "It was like that for me, too."
The sword couple glanced at each other, sharing an entire conversation in a few blinks.
"Warriors," Asuna stated, turning to those who had chosen them. "We appreciate your willingness to help, but Kirito and I have decided we do not want any assistance."
"Excuse me?" a man in full plate armor rumbled. "Are we not good enough for you?"
"It's not that," Kirito answered. "We've been fighting together for a while, you see. Our teamwork was unmatched on the battlefield. We think trying to include you all would be more danger to you than you deserve. I suggest joining Naofumi. He's a Tank and can help protect you."
The knight glared bloody murder at Kirito for the suggestion before he and another man joined Itsuki's squad. The woman debated with herself before joining Motoyasu. The last two men frowned, groaning in disgust before walking away.
"I," began one of those men before disappearing into the crowd, "would rather fight the Waves alone."
"But how am I suppose to fight with a shield?" Naofumi demanded. "Itsuki, Motoyasu, both of you have five members. Give me some."
"That's not how this works," Itsuki smiled. "We can't order them to fight with you."
"Will no one fight with the Hero of the Shield?" King Auldcray questioned.
"I volunteer," one of Motoyasu's party answered, a beautiful woman with bright-red hair and purple clothing answered.
"A-Are you sure?" Naofumi asked with a blush.
"Of course!" she responded. "You can call me Myne."
"I look forward to working with you, Shield Hero!"
"Very well then," Auldcray blinked. "To help you get started, I have allotted each of you 600 silver coins, but because he is at a disadvantage, the Shield Hero will receive 800 as compensation. If there are no more matters, you may begin your journeys!"
"600 Silver, a whole new world, and just the two of us," Kirito summed up. "This will be great."
"You don't need to be sarcastic," Asuna replied, rolling her eyes. The two slowly approached the gate outside the City of Melromarc, the capital of the country of Melromarc. The people around them pointed and whispered, watching them like they were some kind of celebrities.
"This is so strange," Asuna commented, eying the crowd. Her gaze landed on a couple of men who blushed. "I'm not sure I like it."
"I'm use to it," Kirito shrugged, his arms folded behind his head, "but I agree. It's weird having positive rumors about me." Turning his eyes forward, Kirito caught sight of Naofumi and his companion. She reminded him of Rosalia, the leader of Titan's Hand that he and Silica had taken down, but he shook that thought away. The weren't the same person and he knew personally what assumption could cause. "Hey! Naofumi!"
"Oh, Kazuto, right?" Naofumi smiled, walking over to shake the black-clad swordsman's hand. Naofumi had changed clothes, now sporting a brown outfit that emphasized defense "I know it didn't work, but thanks for trying to help. You too, Asuna."
"Don't worry about it," Asuna smiled.
"It was nothing, and you can call me Kirito. It seems like we're going to run into each other pretty often, so we might as well be familiar."
"Well, alright Kirito. Hey, I want to let you know I went to a blacksmith earlier. It turns out we're not allowed to use any weapons other than the ones we have."
"Shoot," Asuna frowned. "This style of sword doesn't work for my techniques."
"Were you not told?" Myne asked. "The Legendary Weapons can change form or strengthen themselves when they absorb materials."
"You didn't tell me that," Naofumi blinked.
"I was going to tell you out in the field when we had materials to work with." Myne responded before turning back to the Sword Heroes. "It's said they can also take the form of any of the same type of weapon they come in contact with."
Kirito sighed. "Where's Liz when you need her?"
"Probably going through counseling and physical therapy," Asuna chuckled, a tinge of melancholy lacing her words.
"Nevermind," the swordsman waved off. "I've got some advice for you, too. Where we come from, shields are incredibly important for the group's success. We call them Tanks. They aren't know for DPS by any means, but they keep the monster's eyes on them and tank the hits so the faster people can sweep through safely. I should know, I'm the tank between the two of us." He gestured to himself and Asuna.
"Thanks, Kirito," Naofumi smiled. "That's useful to know. Oh, there's a blacksmith a road that way." He pointed behind them. "An older guy with this triangular beard. He's got good prices. Maybe you should check him out before you go fight if you need a different shape."
"We'll do that," Asuna nodded. "Thank you." Nodding to each other, the couple started back toward town. The shop wasn't hard to find if one was looking but it was very plain, which explained why the Sword Heroes passed it by the first time.
A little bell chimed as they entered the shop, a burly man calling "Welcome! How can I help you?"
"Hello," Asuna greeted. "We're looking for new swords. In particular, I'm looking for a rapier."
"A rapier, huh?" the blacksmith parroted. He was a tall man with fair skin. The only hair he had to show grew from his chin and sideburns, a scar cutting over his left cheek. "Not a lot of people use those around here, but I might have one in the back of the shop. Let me see what I can find." Excusing himself, the man lumbered into the back, leaving Kirito and Asuna alone in the shop proper. Kirito, like so long ago in Lizbeth's weapon shop, couldn't stop himself from getting hands-on with some of the swords. At least, the first time. Reaching out, the teen gripped the handle of a sword with a curved edge, but felt and saw blue lightning spark. The shock made him drop the weapon before he could lift it, a notice opening in front of his face.
" [Caution, Legendary Weapon violation]," he read. "Looks like Naofumi was right. We can't use any weapons but these. I suppose we could copy their shapes, though."
"That'd be... well not stealing, but pirating at least. We have to pay the man."
"Pay me for what?" the blacksmith asked, coming back to the front of the store with a rapier in hand. It was nothing special, but it was the style Asuna was use to.
"We have to tell you, we're Heroes, the Sword Hero, actually. We can't actually use any of your swords, but we can copy their shapes. Thing is, we'd feel bad about copying them without paying. Isn't that right, Kirito?"
"Yeah," he answered with a shrug.
"Wait, both of you?" They nodded, the man letting out a hardy laugh that made him sound like Agil. "So that's what the rumors meant! I... oh sonova-!"
"What is it?" Kirito asked.
"These blond guys came in earlier and touched a lot of stuff but didn't buy anything. I'm guessing those were Heroes, too?"
"Yeah, probably. Sorry about that."
"So may I copy your rapier?" Asuna questioned. "How much will it cost?"
"It's not like I'm selling it to you and it's not that powerful, so I'll say half-off. Just five silver." The swordswoman nodded and dropped the price on the counter before setting her sword on the rapier. A notice appeared.
[Shape Acquired: Basic Rapier (lvl 1)
Skill: Speed Stab]
She x'd out the pop-up, only for another to appear.
The Legendary Weapons have the ability to change shape to fit any of the same type the weapon has touched. The change can be done manually or with a thought, and a default shape can be selected.]
Dismissing that box as well, Asuna tapped her blade's gem. A dropdown menu appeared listing a multitude of sword types, but only Shortsword and Rapier tabs were available. Every other tab was greyed out. Following the familiar format, Asuna selected the basic rapier, her sword glowing a bright blue and morphing in her grip. Finally, the light died to reveal an exact replica of the original save for the blue gem set between the handle and blade.
[Set as default? Y/N]
"Thank you, sir," Asuna smiled, pressing yes before bowing to the shopkeeper.
"Not a problem at all," he waved off. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"That depends," Kirito answered. "Do you work with clothes, too?"
"When it comes to battle attire, I know a thing or two," the man smirked. "You looking to buy or upgrade?"
"I'm looking for variations of what I'm wearing," Kirito responded, ignoring his wife's stare. Of course he'd want all black. "We won't need it for a while, but we only have the clothes on our backs right now."
"Sure, I can throw together some lookalikes for you two, but they'll cost extra and take a little longer if you want some defensive buffs on them."
"What would the cost be for everything?" the auburn-haired teen questioned.
"With all the bells and whistles on a custom order, I'd ask for 25 Silver an outfit. It'd be less if you could provide the materials, but I have a feeling you haven't been out into the fields yet."
"We'll take three sets for each of us."
Asuna reached for their money pouch, but the blacksmith raised a hand to stop her. "Slow down, miss. You don't pay for something like that until you're satisfied."
"Call it a thank you and an apology for the other Heroes," she said, placing 75 Silver on the counter. "We'll pay the other half when we pick them up. How long?"
"I like you all," he smiled. "Give me till the end of the day. If they aren't done when you come in again, I'll give you a discount."
"Looks like we're done here for now," Kirito stated. "Thanks, Old Man. We'll be back."
"Be safe out there!" the blacksmith called as the couple left.
"Out to the fields?" Kirito asked as the door shut behind him, having held it open for his wife.
"We don't have anymore errands to run, so yes."
"Balloons?" Kirito muttered, hacking through two in a single swing. "Really? The boars in SAO were at least a little menacing."
"We'll fight what we can," Asuna grunted, stabbing another three. The ground around them was littered with shredded balloon parts, and more just kept coming. Not that this bothered the duo as each gave them at least some EXP, but it was still tedious.
Levels might have been important somewhat, but skill can beat any level gap any day, and skill was something the couple had been forced to perfect.
They had been out on the plains for several hours now, the balloons coming to them in an almost-steady stream. They'd seen the other Heroes pass by every now and then; Itsuki and Naofumi waved to them and Motoyasu tried to strike up a conversation while they were taking a short rest before moving on. Even so, each one moved on quickly, eager to get back to their own practice.
Finally, Kirito cut the last balloon in two, its pieces getting lost in the pile with the rest. Both he and Asuna had grown to level 4 with the low-class mobs, but they felt like they would need to go deeper into the plains or into the woods beyond if they didn't want to stagnate soon.
"How are we supposed to carry all this?" he wondered, poking a ripped balloon with his sword. "Is it even worth anything?"
"Who knows? We can't just leave it here."
"You don't suppose there's an inventory system in the Status Magic, do you?"
"Let's find out." Lifting a shredded balloon piece, Kirito pressed it into the gem of his sword. The piece of monster fragmented, being sucked into the weapon.
[Absorbed: Orange Balloon
Shapes: Orange Sword
Perks: Effectiveness against Balloons (+1)
Skill: Orange Slash]
His sword shifted, turning orange without any other change save for a small balloon on the bottom of the handle. Kirito blinked, shifting it back to the default setting with a single thought.
"That's not exactly useful, but good to know," he muttered, allowing Asuna to read the message and insert a piece of the balloons into her own sword. The next several dozen pieces made no pop-ups, but we're sucked into the blades anyway. "Looks like there is an inventory."
"It's getting late," Asuna commented. "The sun is setting after all. Let's head back into town. We'll go into the woods tomorrow."
"That works for me." Hand-in-hand, the warriors strolled back toward Melromarc.
End of Chapter 1
This is the first of three chapters of this I put together. The idea bugged me for about a week and wouldn't go away until I typed it out, but didn't go any further; partially because of my lack of knowledge about the RotSH mythos and partially because I didn't want to get deep into the game system aspect a story like this would entail. The other two chapters I typed out are after this one, labeled as 2 and 3.