Well… this is certainly interesting, to say the least. SAO's 10th anniversary is, by total coincidence, the exact same year the game launched in-universe: 2022. I just find that overlap to be kinda funny, and I think that it is pretty cool that, kinda like Back to the Future day, the staff of the franchise is gonna celebrate the fact that we're about to hit SAO's in-universe release date of November 6th, 2022.

I don't know the exact date, but nevertheless… happy 10th, Sword Art Online. I'll admit that I haven't seen all of it (I watched through the first two storylines, have the gist of what happens in GGO and Yuuki's arc, but the Alicization arc was so slow and boring that I stopped), but this is a franchise that I enjoy. …I will admit that I haven't done any work writing for it in a long while, mainly because the last time I did something with SAO in it, it was one of the most negatively received things I had worked on, which honestly really makes me upset because the reason that story even existed was because I wanted to do something to introduce a friend to the others in my friend group.

In spite of the risks of negativity to this idea… I still want to at least try and see where I end up. Alright, so, I will admit that I've never read the Progression story and I've not watched the recent movie with that Mito girl (who I swear looks like she could be related to Yuuki based on the avatar), but I have been playing SAO Integral Factor for a while now. I really do like that game and even wrote a fanfic related to it a while back (which… (sarcastic) thanks for pressing the trauma button, Integral Factor. Appreciate it.)

Anyway… this idea of mine combines a few different ideas I've been sitting on for SAO stories. One, what if the story was revised to fit the version of history we've been dealing with? Two, what if Sachi hadn't died? Three, how would I write something with the Integral Factor duo? And, four, what if SAO was a longer running franchise in-universe?

I'll admit that the ideas were meant to be different ones, but they started to get a little jumbled together in my head. I eventually just decided to blend them together and we'll see how things go from here. This is gonna be a really major AU, and there are gonna be a lot of alterations that spring up cause of that. I hope that you'll enjoy them as we go along.

I will admit that, when planning out this project, I did decide to try to give the in-universe games some amount of lore and background to the companies who made them. …kinda didn't know that the dev companies who made SAO and ALO in-universe had actual names. *shrugs* Ah well. This is an AU anyway.

Oh, and before I'm asked, no, I've not seen the Abridged version. I've heard of some of the jokes (like "For you see"), and some of the plot twists (SAO being made by Bethesda, ALO being made by Ubisoft). While I may slip in references to it as jokes, don't expect it to be very extensive.

Not much else I wanna say other than I hope that you all enjoy it.

Disclaimers: Sword Art Online belongs to Reki Kawahara, abec, Dengeki Bunko, ASCII Media Works, Kadokawa, Yen Press, A-1 Pictures, etc. I don't own any of the rights to the series.

It was a fairly normal day in Japan. After several months of anticipating, the one thousand players for the closed beta test of Sword Art Online had been chosen and emails had been given out to the participants about the terms they needed to agree to.

One of the participants, one Kazuto Kirigaya, was intending to play with a family member, only for something to come up to prevent that. Kazuto reread the terms he was given after he had accepted the ability to be in the beta test, which mostly talked about not disclosing too much about what would be in the game at launch, anything beyond the 10th floor was off limits to discuss unless it was with another person confirmed to be in the beta, which made think a little bit.

"Doesn't say that I can't do this…" he soon commented to himself.

-Prepare for a once in a lifetime opportunity. As many of you know, I was chosen to be in the beta test for FullDive Tech's newest game. Owing to… circumstances… I have a second access code for the beta, and I'm giving it away.-

The tweet made headlines almost instantly from the huge follower group that the content creator had.

-Simply retweet this tweet, give a follow, and then leave a comment down below about your favorite weapon type in video games to enter. The winner will be chosen one week before the beta. Good luck-

Kazuto smiled as he leaned back into his seat at his computer and could see the retweets and new followers coming in waves. He just chuckled a little bit before he heard a knock at his door.

"Come in," he responded.

The door opened up and a young woman who looked to be in her early 20s stepped into the room, "Hey."

"Oh, hey, Onee-chan," Kazuto greeted.

The older sister walked over to him and saw his social media was opened up and saw the notifications were going off, "...what did you do?"

"...you know how you couldn't afford the NerveGear in spite of us having the two beta codes? Well… I decided to do a give away of the beta code that would've gone to you so that it wouldn't be wasted."

She let out a small sigh at her brother, then she walked out of his room with a bit of an exasperated look on her face. Kazuto just chuckled a little out of nervousness.

"Sugu-onee-chan, it's not like it was against the terms!" Kazuto defended.

It was now the last week before the beta test of Sword Art Online would begin. Kazuto looked over the comments left by people and saw it had reached over 10,000. He sighed before he took a moment to close the tweet's comment section down so he could pick a winner.

"...18,000,000… from all over the world. …random number generator it is…"

The random number generator ended up on the 18th comment, which made Kazuto scroll until he finally found comment 18 on the tweet. He smiled as he pulled up the account of the person who won and typed out a congratulatory message towards the other person.

In a more rural town, the contest winner adjusted her hair a little bit after she made sure she looked presentable for the day before her phone went off. She picked it up to see the message that had been sent by Kazuto that informed her that she had been the winner.

It was now the evening before the beginning of the beta test for Sword Art Online. Over at the FullDive Tech HQ, the creator of the game was walking alongside somebody else, a phone in his hand as he saw the announcements of Kazuto's little giveaway. He let out a small sigh, then turned towards the person he was walking alongside.


"Are you sure that the giveaway was worth not stopping?" Kayaba soon asked.

"Eh, I wouldn't worry about it, dad. The kid drummed up more hype for the beta test and the launch," a teenaged girl remarked with a shrug of her shoulders.

"I guess. …moreover, are you sure you wanna partake in the game?"

"Dad, it's just a game. I wanna at least see what you've spent the past several years working on and be proud of it," the girl informed.

"...very well."

"Dad… just don't make invincible or anything. I wanna trial and error things as well," the girl requested.

"Fair enough," Kayaba responded, "Just be back in time for dinner tomorrow."

The girl gave off a cheeky grin, then gave her dad a thumbs up. She headed off towards her room to get herself ready for the next day.

August 1st, 2022, 8:00 am JST

[Copyright: FullDive Technologies, 2022. Welcome to Sword Art Online.]

The day of the beta had arrived and the one thousand beta testers had logged into the game. The goal they were given was to try to get as far as they possibly could within one month's time and then report any glitches.

"Alright… let's see…" one person mumbled. He was a fairly regular looking teen that had light skin, brown eyes, was wearing a mostly brown version of the starter gear, and the most notable thing about him was that he had frizzy blue hair. He began to mess around with the menus to find his starting equipment, with somebody else passing by him.

This other person was none other than Kazuto's in-game avatar. He glanced towards the blue haired teen, but then kept on his way as he looked around. The user name he had been given was 'Satsuki' for the person who had won his contest. He kept looking around at the user names he could see from around the Town of Beginnings.

"Blue haired girl…" he mumbled before he finally spotted her and walked over, "Oh, hey!"

The girl was in a blue version of the starting gear. She was roughly the same height as Kazuto's avatar, her hair reached her hips, she was fairly flat chested, and she had a sword for her starting weapon.

"Are you Satsuki?"

The girl heard the name and nodded her head.

"Excellent. Once again, congrats on winning the contest. Just so you're aware, my username is Kirito."

The girl, Satsuki, gave another nod in response. She looked to see that he had a two-handed sword, and he started to walk forward a bit. Kirito then glanced over to Satsuki and she simply followed along a little bit.

"Hey," Kirito told Satsuki, "Ready to play?"

Satsuki didn't say anything to Kirito, which made him look a little worried at her. She soon opened up the menu and began to type something out, which then appeared in the group chat between the two.

-Sorry… I busted the part that lets me talk, so I have to communicate with the chat…- Satsuki apologized.

"Oh, no worries. Things happen," Kirito assured her, "Should be an easy fix after the beta period ends."

-So… whole beta without speaking. …alright then.-

"Shouldn't be too much to worry about," Kirito told her, "...uh… would you be willing to trade weapons? Two-handed swords are kinda annoying…"

Satsuki nodded her head, with Kirito quickly opening up his menu. He looked through the main menu to try to find the right button to trade items. He initially opened up the 'Inventory' option, yet didn't see anything that could indicate the trade feature. He sighed, backed out, and kept going through the options he had.

Satsuki watched him for a bit, with her soon spotting someone looking a bit upset at having a one-handed sword from the corner of her eyes. She looked a little worried before a ping got her attention back to Kirito.

"Here we go! Communications, 'Trade'!"

The girl saw the trade offer for her one-handed sword for his two-handed sword, and the options 'yes' and 'no'. She clicked the 'yes' button, which made the equipment briefly disappear and then reappear swapped between them. Satsuki fumbled back a little bit from the weight of the weapon, yet was able to regain it quickly enough.

"...oh. Uh… sorry. Didn't consider how much it would weigh…" Kirito quickly spoke.

Satsuki just gave a small wave to indicate to not worry about it. With that, the two of them headed out of the Town of Beginnings to start exploring…

Kirito and Satsuki eventually found a few enemies to practice against that were relatively harmless, appearing to be some sort of slimes, which Kirito knew how to evade and attack by going around and striking from behind. Satsuki tried to mimic his actions, yet was slowed down by not only her weapon, but also her general inexperience. She did manage to knock out a few and level up a few times, yet needed a moment to catch her breath.

"Sorry if I'm going too fast. Those enemies are old hat, so…"

Satsuki looked up to him in confusion at that remark, tilting her head to indicate her confusion nonverbally.

"They've been around since Quest."

This simply made Satsuki continue to look confused before she brought up the menu to talk to him.

"So, how much do you know about the series?" Kirito soon asked out of curiosity.

-Not a whole lot…- Satsuki admitted.

"...alright, that explains it. No offense is intended, but you've not played this series before?"

-I didn't even know there were other games.-

"I guess we can start with the humble beginnings. Sword Art, the very first game in the franchise, launched on November 6th of 1988 on the Famicom, and it later got an enhanced port on the SEGA Mega Drive in 1990 as a launch title. FullDive Tech had made it after seeing the popularity of the original Final Fantasy and the original Dragon Quest. It lacked a story other than to get the legendary sword known as the 'Elucidator' to beat some evil at the Ruby Palace at the top of the world."

Satsuki gave a nod of her head as they found somewhere to sit down and talk a little more.

"The Elucidator is the strongest sword in the series and is usually required to kill the final boss. The one funny thing I remember about the game when it released outside of Japan was that 'Elucidator' somehow got mistranslated into 'Excalibur'."

-... … … how?-

"I have no idea."

Satsuki couldn't help but give a small noiseless giggle at that ridiculousness.

"While the game lacked a story, it did have dialogue since… RPG and stuff. Some of the lines from the promotional material's theme came from old dialogue in the original. That song by LiSA?"

-Crossing Field?-


-... … …-

Kirito blinked as Satsuki was typing a little bit.

-That is such a good song.-

"True. Anyway, the second game in the series was Sword Art Stories, which released on the Mega Drive in 1992. It was the first game in the series to actually have a story, which followed the female Dark Elf known as Kizmel as she and elf-kind were trying to stop some sort of threat. The original protagonist from the first game was retroactively made into an elf ancestor to Kizmel."

-A female protagonist in 92? That's a bit surprising…-

"It's kinda what made the game get popular. Although, one of the most infamous reviews on the game after it released in North America specifically was that Kizmel was a 'male generated fantasy'."

Satsuki just mouthed out a 'wow' in response and gave another noiseless laugh.

"The game sold about as well as Dragon Quest III did, so let that say something. Following that was Sword Art Quests in 1993, originally released for the SEGA CD… of all things. It was a follow up to the plot of Stories and marked the first time that Reki Kudohara worked on the series. He expanded on the world and introduced the other races that made up the world apart from humans and elves. They were the Cait Siths, Gnomes, Imps, Leprechauns, Pookas, Salamanders, Spriggans, Sylphs, and Undines. In that game, you could actually pick which of the species you wanted to play as, but Kizmel would always appear at the half-way point of the plot to assist you as the second protagonist."

Satsuki looked a bit amazed before the two happened to see some boar enemies notice them. The two got up and got to work fighting them. Kirito managed to trip up the boars, which gave Satsuki an opening to go in and attack them.

-You able to keep going?- Satsuki asked.

"Eh, boars are easy to fight. Been in the series since the word go," Kirito responded, unleashing a few swings of his sword, "Alright… the species of Quests… right. Next up was Sword Art Heroes, which was the first 3D game in the series and it launched on all consoles available in 1998. That game introduced the enemy staggering system, which is how I knew that weak point earlier. It celebrated the 10th anniversary of the series, and actually brought back the very original human protagonist from the first game. Kizmel ended up getting, of all things, Excalibur for her weapon."

This made Satsuki blink a bit, with her managing to kick a boar away and let Kirito finish it off.

"Yeah… the English version had to include some extra dialogue to explain why the Elucidator was given the wrong name and that ended up getting added to the lore afterwards," Kirito added, quickly cutting down the last of the boars.

Both of them looked to see the Cor they had earned and their Levels both went up a little bit. Satsuki smiled a bit at Kirito, and he just smiled back at her.

"Following Heroes' success, the next game was greenlit. …only to run into some issues behind the scenes that resulted in the plot of 2000's Sword Art Lost. The creator of the series, Akihiko Kayaba, had wanted more control of the series as it had gotten too fantasy driven for his liking, and it got into an argument with Reki-san. The plot of Lost ended up causing the world of the series to split, and it created the world known as Aincrad that we are in right now."

-Why didn't he like the changes?-

"Nobody's really sure. The arguments got so bad that it ended up causing a legal scuffle and more issues after that, which led to FullDive Tech splitting up."

-...oh no.-

"Suffice to say, the series had a bit of a legal nightmare after FullDive Tech split up. Since Kayaba was the creator of the original Sword Art universe and lore, it belonged to him. However, since Reki-san owned the rights to the characters introduced in Sword Art Quests and all the games up to Heroes they went to him after the split. Kayaba went to make Full of Entertainment Systems, while Reki went to make Dive Intelligence."

Satsuki gave a small nod of her head as she looked to see more slimes were being fought by somebody else, -Did the enemies need to get changed?-

"Here and there. Some of the designs were too generic to properly copyright."


"Most of the characters by Reki-san then went into their own game, which was called Alfheim Adventures. The game focused on the fairy species introduced by him and created their own lore. While it did spawn a few spin-offs, Alfheim Warriors and Alfheim Unlimited, the player base felt the protagonists of those games were either too boring, too flat, gary-stus, amongst other things," Kirito continued to speak, with Satsuki giving a nod as they walked around a bit.

-And Kizmel and company?-

"Getting there. Sword Art Knights was the first game in the series following the split, and it was originally made as a Wii game. It's actually the second most popular game in the entire series in spite of the motion controls, just behind Stories" Kirito commented as he raised up his one-handed sword, "It follows the lore of the Integrity Knights and their world known as the Underworld and such. It was meant to fill the in-universe gap after Aincrad had lost the fairy races. The main protagonist, Alice, was said to have a great arc and be a blast to play as. She placed in second in an anniversary poll just after Kizmel."

-Was she in the game?-

"As a secret boss."


"It sparked a renewed interest in the series that got a new game, Sword Art Guardians, released some years later. It featured both Kizmel and Alice on a grand adventure to stop a foe at the Ruby Palace, making it the first time it's shown up in the series since Heroes. It is considered to have the greatest final boss in the series. …not that I would know what it is since I've never played it myself. That game is stupid expensive…"

This got a nod from Satsuki, with the two of them soon stopping as they spotted more players roaming around and fighting a bit of the monsters. Satsuki nervously backed up, with Kirito giving an understanding look to her.

-...little nervous since I'm not big on games. …maybe keep talking?-

"...story gets a little tragic."

-I think it'll be fine.-

"Alright then. So, a new game was announced to be in production at E3 of 2018 and was slated for release in 2020. There were a few spin-offs and rereleases of older games to try to build up hype… but then 2020 happened."

Satsuki gave a small wince in response, her mind drifting back to memories of the pandemic and lockdown orders.

"The series went into hiatus after the pandemic had began…" Kirito spoke, "The creator stepped back and needed time to grieve after he lost people he cared about, which set the 2020 installment into cancellation. They ended up making a spin-off called Sword HeArts that launched in the middle of 2020 as an apology for the problems."

-Sword Hearts?-

"The 'A' in 'Hearts' is capital. Meant to show the connection to the series," Kirito added on, "It was a dating simulator of some sort. I've never played it."

-I see…-

"Following that, Reki-san had gotten in touch with Kayaba and they worked some stuff out that got things back on track. With that, the two companies remerged. While the Dive half has their own game launching sometime in the next two years, which will probably focus on the lore from their games, this is pretty much the reunion of the two worlds that had been in the works for a long time now."

Satsuki looked a bit amazed at the luck that had resulted in the game they were both currently in. She thought a little bit before typing out.

-Wait… FullDive is the name of the company… and they also named some of the stuff related to the VR after that?-

"Pretty much, yeah."

-...ego much?-

"You're not the first person to joke about that, Satsuki."

Another noiseless laugh came from her before the two headed down to find something else to grind against…

A few weeks had gone by and Kirito and Satsuki had become something of a good team. Satsuki eventually found another weapon that let her fight at a bit of a range, and reduced her height so as to reflect her actual height, and the two became fairly adept at fighting side-by-side. While Kirito lacked a shield, owing to a lack of luck in getting any to drop, the two had managed to make it to the fifth floor as a team.

"You're getting pretty good," Kirito smiled.

-Thanks…- Satsuki responded, still needing to type, -I swear, I will get this thing fixed soon!-

"Don't worry about it too much."

Satsuki gave a small smile as the two walked along.

"Oh come on…"

Down in the first floor's dungeon, the blue-haired teen that both Kirito and Satsuki had happened to spot was fighting off some of the generic enemies. None of them had dropped the material that the teen had been looking for, which was starting to make him upset. He gave off a sigh before he exited the dungeon and logged out for the day.

Elsewhere, Kayaba's daughter had been looking over some of the reports about glitches and other issues, when she saw one that made her look a bit curious.

"'Ranged Weapon Drops. I have been grinding in the dungeon that should give me the materials to craft a bow for the past four days. In spite of one of the materials being listed as a regular rare item, it has not spawned once. At all. Nobody seems to believe the item exists. Please help'..." she read to herself before passing the reports along to her dad. She let out a yawn before heading off to her room for the evening.

Another few weeks had gone by before it reached the last day of the beta test and the blue-haired teen had returned to the dungeon to try one more time to see if the materials were going to drop. He fought off a few enemies, still with no success on the item he needed.

"...this is so dumb…" he sighed before starting to walk away. As he kept walking, he soon spotted somebody nervously pacing around the safe zone of the dungeon. He stopped himself from walking further and, out of curiosity, walked towards the person in question.

"Today's already the final day of the beta test… and still… here I am…"

The young teen turned towards the source of the voice and saw a young woman who looked to be about the same age as him. Her eyes were a bright shade of green, her hair was a black-gray color that reached a little around her neck, a brown variant of the standard starter gear for female players, and she looked to be wielding the basic one-handed rapier weapon.

"Konichiwa," the teen greeted, which made her turn towards him.

"Oh. Konichiwa!" the girl responded, "Uh… can I talk to you for a moment?"

He nodded and soon walked to be in closer range of her.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Erica," the girl said.

"I'm Shu," the teen responded, offering a hand to shake, which Erica accepted after a moment.

"Shu. …well… this is a bit embarrassing to admit, but… I'm terrible at this game. And I'm talking really bad…" Erica began to explain, with Shu soon spotting her level was only eight, compared to the other beta testers who had managed to get a minimum of ten or higher, "This is… honestly the first video game I've ever played. I made sure to look up stuff online before signing up for the beta, but it's all just so… well… different from what I was expecting."

"I can say the same here. I'm not big on MMOs, so I can relate," Shu told her, scratching the back of his head a little bit.

"I can't land a single attack, so I've been leveling up my speed and agility to try to keep away. Everyone else in the game is miles ahead of me… but I just can't catch up…" Erica commented nervously, looking fairly embarrassed.

Shu gave a bit of a sympathetic look towards her.

"I have gotten a bit better, and I wanted to play a bit more… but we only got… what, an hour left before the beta ends?" she spoke, "And I wanted to see if I could get something before the period of play ends, but… well… I got kinda lost and stuck here."

Erica then gave off a small exhale and looked towards Shu, "Gomen nasai. I was rambling, wasn't it?"

"It's alright. I'm kinda awful at directions as well…" Shu admitted as he pulled up his map and showed the amount of markers that he had left on it to make sure he knew the path, "It's always been something I struggle with."

Erica couldn't help but give a soft giggle in response, "Sorry. I'm not trying to laugh at you or anything."

"At least you're easing up a bit," Shu responded, "...maybe we could work together for a bit to find our way back out?"

"Arigatou," Erica beamed.

The two began to make their way back up towards the exit of the dungeon, with Shu making sure to slowly follow the marked path he had made. The two ended up stumbling onto a few boards that growled at them.

"Looks like we're gonna have to fight a little," Shu exhaled as he closed the map and summoned up a generic sword and shield, "We'll go as a team."

"Right," Erica nodded as she summoned her rapier.

The two exchanged a quick nod and then headed forward. Shu opened up with a few sword swings that managed to briefly stagger one of the boars, with Erica dashing up nearby and soon landing a few clean hits to whittle down its health. The second boar did a dashing attack, while the third moved up from behind. Erica managed to catch sight of the second one moving towards her, then jumped backwards, doing at least one or two spins while midair, and then flinging her rapier right into the second boar, which managed to knock it out. She landed on her feet without even breaking a sweat, and quickly reclaimed her weapon.

Shu couldn't help but whistle in amazement at that act, then quickly moved to knock out the remaining two boards with a few sword swings. The two saw the boards were gone, then turned towards each-other.

"Okay… that flip was amazing," Shu commented.

"Thank you," Erica smiled as she dismissed her weapon.

"Are you sure you've never played a video game before?"

"Never before in my life. I even uninstalled apps on my phones that were games for space."

"So… how'd you find out about this game?"

"I kinda found out about the game because of the music with the ads. Crossing Field is a great song…" Erica admitted, "...though, I think the AmaLee rendition is a bit more catchy."

"...oh, you speak English?" Shu asked, phrasing the question in English instead of Japanese.

"Indeed I do, good sir," Erica responded in pure English.

The two laughed a little bit, then kept along their way towards the exit.

"That fight was pretty good. I appreciate having you to help out, Shu," Erica smiled, "Just… truly… thank you."

Shu couldn't help but smile a bit, fighting off a minor blush, as they kept on going and soon reached the last leg before the exit.

"Hey… if you wouldn't mind… would you want to be friends?"

Before Shu could respond, they soon heard somebody in the middle of combat. The two picked up the pace and saw Kirito was fighting off a few of the monsters and won. The two of them ended up clapping, which made Kirito turn towards them.

"Oh. Hello," he greeted, "If you were hoping to farm here, sorry. I think I cleared out the last of them."

"Oh, we were just on our way towards the exit," Shu informed.

"That was incredible," Erica added.

"Thanks. See you around, hope you enjoy the rest of the beta," Kirito told the two.

"Oh! Would you tell us your name? I'm Erica and this is Shu!"

Kirito blinked a bit, sort of surprised by that, but he then smiled at them, "Kirito."

With that, he walked off in another direction, leaving Shu and Erica to keep going. Shu looked up the name against a player ID base and soon gawked on seeing his level, with Erica soon gawking as well after she saw it.

"Wow… Level 25? Is that the highest level in the test group?" Erica asked.

"I think somebody managed Level 30, but I'm not sure…" Shu admitted.

"...do you think that, if I keep trying, I could be as strong as that?" Erica soon asked as they made their way to the Town of Beginnings.

"Yeah, if you worked hard, anything is possible."

"Well… everyone has to start somewhere. I'll be sure to try once we get to the final version!" Erica said with a beaming smile, "I hope that you'll be there to see me improve!"

"You know… I wasn't sure if I was gonna stick with it, but… now? I'm certainly going to the final build. You're pretty cool," Shu added.

This made Erica blush and then nervously giggle a little. The duo finally got back to the town and saw the setting sun.

"Also, yeah. I'll be your friend."

"Thank you."

"Hang on…" Shu mumbled, quickly opening up the menu and going through the options for a bit before finding the button he was looking for.

Erica blinked a bit, but then heard a chime. She opened up her menu, then went to the connections option, seeing a friend request had come in via Discord. She opened it up to see it was from Shu, who gently waved to her.

"So we can stay in touch until the launch."

Erica just smiled and accepted the friend request. The world soon was filled with an echoing bell and all players were returned to the Town of Beginnings.

[It is now 5PM JST, which marks the end of the Beta Test Period of the game. Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you at the finished release.]

With that, players began to log out of the game. Shu and Erica quickly waved goodbye, with Satsuki giving a smile towards Kirito before they logged out…

Unbeknownst to everyone, after the last player was logged out, Kayaba began to look at the registry files of the game and was working on something…

Finished on time for the big day. May have cut it close, but here we are. Before I get asked about the changes, always keep in mind that this is an AU based loosely on the original, some of the spin-offs, and Integral Factor. Plus, whatever other changes I can cook up.

One thing I do sort of struggle with is action scenes, hence why there were only a handful in this chapter. I will try to get better. Character descriptions are another struggle, so we'll see how well this goes for me as we go along.

The backstory on the games is something I've had in mind for a long while. I will remark there was gonna be one made up console, the "Famisis" (Famicom + Genesis), but I decided to just go with the actual console names for sake of simplicity. And, for anyone wondering, yeah, I'm just gonna roll the stuff from Alicization into a Sword Art game for the sake of simplicity. That way, while Alice and Eugeo will get to appear later, it won't require any stupidly complicated explanation.

Alright, let's get into one change I know I'm going to be asked about, the name of the partner character. Canonically, her name is "Koharu Honda". I will openly admit that I decided to run with her name being "Erica" when I started playing. Why? …uh… that is a good question. I have no idea why I chose that name anymore. You'll see I used that as her name in a previous SAO fanfic I made, and I'm just going with that because that's what I associate her name to be. In this universe, her name is "Erica Kohandu". I got the last name from messing with her given name and last name in canon and then adjusting it. As for 'Shu'? Just a name I thought sounded cool, and derived from the Japanese word for 'protagonist'.

Before I'm asked, there won't be a super protagonist, and there'll be more than one major protagonist. While this may cause some elements to get to be a bit difficult, we'll see how it rolls.

Yeah, in this world, Suguha is actually Kazuto's older sister and they are biologically siblings unlike canon. If you want a sort of visual of what she looks like in this universe, just imagine Leafa with Suguha's hair color and her being taller than Kazuto, and you'll get the picture. The reason I decided to change it was because, well, we rarely ever see the parent who did adopt Kazuto, and it would be able to wipe away all the problems with Suguha from the second arc. And, yeah, she won't be joining SAO. This will cause rewrites for the events I'm basing on Integral Factor, where she was in the game, but that's something I just thought would be better overall.

Also, you'll learn who Kayaba's daughter and the mysterious 'Satsuki' are in due time. There will be some mysteries in this story to bring up some fun twists for people who are already fans. I will admit that the former needed to have her role trimmed down from my original ideas so as to avoid giving it away. The latter? I think it should be apparent, yet will not be at the same time.

Not totally sure what my favorite part was, but this story is gonna be something I have some fun with.

Just Live More.