I do not own Sword Art Online nor Summer Wars. Reki Kawahara and Mamoru Hosada do.
October 2nd, 2022
In the arena, the fighters clashed. The crowds cheered their battles, their deaths, like the gladiators of Ancient Rome.
But these fighters weren't human. Nor did they fight with sword or shield.
An anthropomorphic duck in an admiral's coat was sent flying, landing in a heap on the arena floor. The word K.O. appeared, hovering under him in big black letters.
In the safety of his room, far from the carnage, Ikezawa Kazuma's fingers flew across his laptop keyboard. To any onlooker he was button-mashing like a toddler. But the tan-skinned, dark-haired fourteen year old boy was doing no such thing.
Back in the arena, the melee was down to two. A giant centipede, made out of Knight armor and swords, collapsed under a roundhouse kick from a white-furred anthropomorphic rabbit. With a tuft of blonde hair, clad in a raggedy red vest and jeans, his waist encircled by a gold championship belt, the survivor stood tall as the K.O. sign appeared, and icons popped up all around him.
NEW RECORD! 134th consecutive victory in the OZ Fighting Circuit!
King Kazma looked up, eyes hard and stern, as he saw the text bubbles clustered around the arena as it drifted through the white emptiness of OZ. Around the arena creatures of every shape and size cheered, and the text bubbles coming in from people watching LiveStream popped up like fireworks.
This was King Kazma, the best fighter in all OZ, the virtual social network of the world. In this world, he was King of Kings, holder of dozens of accolades and records.
Longest Win Streak. 134.
Fastest K.O. Six seconds.
Longest Match Time. Thirty minutes and forty-five seconds.
Fastest 100-Horde Clear Time. Thirty-two seconds.
Thirteen time OZ FC Champion. In contrast, the closest competitor only had four wins under his belt.
King Kazma ignored the bubbles of his audience and the cheering, as he warped out of the arena and onto a platform overlooking the vast white universe that was the world of OZ.
"Splendid work," said a gravelly voice nearby. The rabbit turned his head and saw another avatar, one he knew well. It was a squid clad in black shinobi garb, with two katanas by his waist. "134 straight victories isn't an easy feat."
"It felt like it to me," said the white rabbit as he saw the arena disappear in a cloud of pixels, other OZ Avatars flying off to mind their own business. He looked down at his hand. "This has gotten too easy for me now."
"Too easy?" asked the squid, amused. "Have you been trying to set up matches with lower ranked opponents?"
"No," King Kazma sighed. "I queue up for the matches that have the best opponents but…I guess you trained me too well, Sensei."
"Ha! You say that as if it's a bad thing Kazuma-kun!" The squid laughed. "Can't have too much of a good thing, no? For instance, once upon a time during the days of-"
"I get it grandpa," King Kazma flapped his hand, hoping to stop his grandfather from going on another retelling of their family's war stories. "Don't go on another rant. I've heard them dozens of times already."
"There's nothing wrong with brushing up on old history! Our clan has a proud heritage and you should be proud of it too! The Jinnouchi Clan has prospered thanks to our ancestors and we must do our part to honor them and look to our future for years to come!"
King Kazma sat up, looking down at the shorter avatar. "Yeah. Sure. Anyways, I-"
Back in the real world, Kazuma gritted his teeth at a particularly annoying and annoyingly familiar sound. Looking out of his bedroom, he heard the sounds of his mother cooing at the source of the sound and trying to calm it down.
His two-month old little sister: Ikezawa Chiyo.
"Chiyo-chan I presume?" asked the squid avatar. King Kazma sighed.
"Yeah, she's making another fuss. I'm gonna log out, knowing mom she will need help…again." He turned back towards the squid. "I'll see ya around Mansuke-sensei."
"Kazuma-kun." He bowed in farewell.
In his darkened room, Kazuma logged out of OZ and walked into the main hallway.
"Kazuma!" called out his mother's voice. "I need-"
"On it." Kazuma replied in an annoyed tone. He stalked down the corridor towards the cabinet where the diapers were kept. He took one, then headed downstairs to the living room.
There, Ikezawa Kiyomi was seated on the couch with little Chiyo in her arms, a putrid smell hanging in the air. He handed the diaper to her, and the mother went into the bathroom, without so much as a word of thanks. Kazuma glanced after her.
"Easy now Chiyo-chan…it's okay now." She sounded exasperated, almost as much as he felt.
'What else is new,' he thought to himself darkly as he walked into the kitchen to grab a cup of water.
It has been three months since the end of the Love Machine Crisis that crippled OZ's systems and sent the world into bedlam. During that time, they had conducted the proper funeral for the late-matriarch of the Jinnouchi Clan: Jinnouchi Sakae. Chiyo had been born a few months later in August. Kazuma's birthday, in that same month, had been little but an afterthought; not just for his parents, but the majority of his family. They were just too focussed on mourning Sakae, and the arrival of Chiyo.
At least Kenji and Mansuke-Sensei had had the decency to wish him a happy birthday. But his own parents? They were happier to spend time with that faeces-spewing, food spitting, endlessly-screaming monstrosity called an infant. Kazuma hadn't minded at first, for his sister needed to be cared-for. But he hadn't expected to be all but forgotten by his family, aside from cousin Natsuki's boyfriend and his grandfather, for over two months.
His father, Ikezawa Kyosuke, had gotten a promotion shortly after the Crisis; one that allowed him to work in Hong Kong for a big-time International Firm. That left him and his mother to live on their own in Fukuoka, Japan. Kazuma was the 'man of the house', and he was starting to hate his new role. He obeyed his mother's constant requests for help, but was barely recognized. When he didn't, she turned into a banshee and screamed at him as if he had thrown down a 125,000 yen piece of china to the ground and trampled on it.
He downed the cup of water, the crying berating his ears once more, then headed back to his room and plopped down on his bed. Ever since that…that…
He had some wicked names for her, but dared not speak them. He rolled over and flipped open his laptop, the ear-splitting crying had dimmed, but only a little. Kazuma thought of helping his mother down there, maybe offering assistance…
"No. This is karma," he said bitterly. She has been ignoring him all for the sake of her. He never wanted a little sister. He never even asked for one. This was on her shoulders. She made her bed, she could sleep in it.
He was tempted to log back into OZ, maybe to give another match a go before bed time. But something stopped him, and Kazuma knew it well.
It was boredom. He knew the end result of logging back onto OZ.
Log on. Go to the FC. Queue for matches. Win with no effort because he is just that damn good. Log out. The monotony was getting annoying. How in the world could he free himself from it?
He had been overjoyed when he first came to OZ and the FC. He had vowed to be the best, and the Shaolin Kung-Fu taught to him by Mansuke had made him the best. It had made him unbeatable, both in the game and out in the real world.
He paused. Maybe a new game was what he needed. But could anything really match up to the OZ FC? The variety and uniqueness of the fights and competitors; could anything match that?
Kazuma opened up an internet search engine and typed: "New…upcoming…games…" Chiyo had quieted down, and he could hear his mother going from overwhelmed and desperate parent to kind and doting. He didn't even hear a single mention of his help.
He let out a growl, but decided to ignore it, and focussed his attention on the screen. There were a few sports events, but then an E3 link caught his attention.
The most ambitious MMO yet! Sword Art Online Pre-Orders are out!
"Sword Art…Online?" he asked aloud. What was Sword Art Online?
Kazuma did another search, and what he found floored him. Sword Art Online or SAO for short, was a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, or VRMMORPG, to be released on November 6th that year. With the NerveGear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user's five senses via their brain, players could experience and control their in-game avatars with their minds.
In many ways it was similar to OZ, but also very different. OZ was something used in everyday life, with a focus on social networking and helping businesses. This SAO, on the other hand, was for the sole purpose adventuring in a fantasy world; unlike any other released. It was also the first MMO of its kind to tackle the Virtual World. SAO would also not have any magic, something incredibly hard to do in a Fantasy world.
Kazuma did another search, and found forums and message boards raving about this game and how life-like it was. He felt the corners of his mouth curve up in a grin. He remembered this sensation. It was like when he first found out about the OZ FC, a place where he could hone his skills and become king of the world. .
But this world of SAO, this 'Aincrad', sounded like an experience like no other. Weapons of all shapes and sizes? A fantasy world without magic? He was hooked.
He searched the shopping websites, and found the SAO was available on pre-order. He opened another tab to check his bank account. He had been saving his allowance and birthday money for some time, but was it enough?
Kazuma tallied the prices; a pre-order of SAO, and the NerveGear headset. His face split into a wide smile; he had more than enough. He pulled his Debit card from his wallet, and started typing.
November 6th 2022
Kazuma wiped his brow as he looked upon his new 'battle station,' as other people called their computer dens. Next to his PC he had the NerveGear connected to his PC brain, and his bed close by. He had finished installing his brand new copy of Sword Art Online no less than an hour ago. He had gotten there early, around six in the morning via bus to the closest game store. Thankfully, Fukuoka wasn't Tokyo so the line didn't extend for miles, and only one person was camped out.
He heard his mother tending to Chiyo downstairs as he laid down in the bed. At last he would have a place to escape to, a place without his family playing favourites, and without that parasite. He could climb a new mountain, just as he did in the land of OZ. Ikezawa Kazuma will become the best in the Castle in the Sky.
He connected the port into his PC brain and put on the helmet. His brown eyes looked up into the ceiling past the NerveGear visor, seeing the battery at full charge and the clock ticking in the right side of his visor. Kazuma heard the whirring sound of the device and took a deep breath, grinned, and closed his eyes.
Welp. Sorry Words, Never Alone, and CMM fans, but my muse is a fickle mistress.
I watched Summer Wars on Toonami some while ago and saw the review by gigguk and I LOVED this movie. Combined with me watching SAO and getting into a love-hate relationship, I figured "What kind of idea could I use to combine these two verses?"
And Climb Every Mountain was born.
Major thanks to Nameless2210 and Juubi-k for beta-reading and editing.