The year is 2022.
When you look at that number, I'd imagine flying cars... Or spaceships.
Well, turns out that's not exactly what we're living with.
Instead, humanity has found a way to virtually simulate the consciousness of the human brain. Ultimately creating a virtual world that anyone can fully dive into.
Sword Art Online or commonly known as SAO is a full-dive VRMMORPG developed by Kayaba Akihiko. He is also the inventor of the second generation of the FullDive device, the NerveGear.
And... Is that enough world-building for you?
I realize these kinds of stories destroyed their world-building completely due to the fact they switched worlds many times, but seriously... Dimensional Group Chat stories are just like that.
Alright, let's do this one last time.
My name is Okamura Akihito.
I was crushed and murdered by the all-mighty Isekai plot device, Truck-sama.
And I'm pretty sure you know the rest.
"Nii-sama~! Wake up!" That is my little sister in this life.
In this life, our parents passed away when I was still in middle school. My little sister, Hiromi, was still in elementary school back then.
I worked so hard on part-time jobs before ultimately investing everything in Kayaba Akihiko's company, Argus.
And let's say I managed to survive with other things I did in the past.
One day I just woke up from my sleep, with a brand new memory of a former lazy CEO of a company who was one hit KO'd by a delivery truck on his way home.
But again, I realized what this world was upon hearing the news of the project NerveGear and the guy named Kayaba Akihiko.
Sword Art Online.
There's no way I won't know what that is.
Being an Otaku in my previous life, was something I frequently cursed at since it hindered my work as a businessman.
But still, I had to understand it deeply so I could play and became close to my cute niece in my past life.
No, I don't specifically watch, read, and become an Otaku just to have a conversation with my cute shut-in niece, but it can't be helped now, can it?
"I'm coming down!"
I better come down.
Currently, I am having breakfast with my little sister.
Let me tell you something about how this world progressed until now.
Simply put, we're almost in episode one.
Yes, Sword Art Online's server is officially launched today.
I played the beta version, but since I know what'll happen with the whole "10k players were forced to play Tron" I won't be joining the official launch.
I even stopped my little sister from playing the game, saying it was not for children.
Oh well, I know she also bought the NerveGear and a copy of the game in secret.
Fortunately, Hiromi has some makeup exams due tomorrow. That means she won't be playing when the SAO incident will happen.
"Onii-sama... You're daydreaming again."
"Ah... It's nothing, Hiromi. Say, isn't it about time for your make-up exams?"
Looking at her wristwatch watch with a toast in her mouth, she widened her eyes.
"Ah! I need to go!"
She hurriedly got up and left.
"Be careful on your way!" Ah, she already left.
Now then... What to do...
I walked into my room that is full of gear.
Beside my bed was a gaming setup, the screen showed me all the activities of Sword Art Online's server. Well, not "all". I'm not that professional at hacking.
Ah? What? Tell everyone else about the upcoming incident?
Nah, no one would believe me.
For now, I need to do my groceries.
Currently, I am in Hiromi's room. Tinkering with his NerveGear. Maybe if I just broke the transceiver, the Electromagnetic field generated by the signals thus rendered the whole thing useless except the battery lights.
With this, she won't be able to play it.
After a good 25 minutes, I closed the case of the NerveGear being done with my work.
"Onii-sama~ I'm home~!"
Shit... The news of the incident still hasn't been posted yet.
When are they going to announce it!?
In a panic, I cleaned up her room and got out of the room.
When I closed her door, "Un? Why are you upstairs, Onii-sama?"
My room is downstairs, so it's normal for her to be suspicious...
"Ah! It's nothing~ I was just-- uh..." I glanced to my side, to the dusty and unopened window.
"I was just going to open the windows! Yeah! It looks pretty dusty you see~?"
She raised an eyebrow.
"Hmm? Sure... Then I'll be in my room." She walked past me towards her, I teleported there in an instant to block her way.
"Hiromi! Have you eaten yet? I'm sure you're hungry! It's been a long time since you ate my special omurice???"
"Onii-sama... You're being suspicious."
"Eh!??" I can't hide the surprise on my face, looking at the cute little sister of mine with the flattest face I've ever seen on her face.
"Onii-sama... It's about the game isn't it?" She asked.
I can't say anything about that...
Only a little bit more...
"Firstly I'd like to apologize for using the money you gave me to buy them in secret. But I ---"
She wasn't able to complete those words. Why? Because I pushed her, I moved our position and pushed her against the door.
Trapping her between my arm, shamelessly doing a forbidden kabe-don between a brother and a sister.
(A/N: Kabedon or kabe-don refers to the action of slapping a wall fiercely, which produces the sound "don". One meaning is the action of slapping the wall as a protest which occurs in collective housing like condominiums when the next room makes noise.)
"Hiromi, there's something important that I need to tell you..." I whispered, an air full of authority.
"U-huh!?" Saying that she is surprised was an understatement. Her face was red, her hand on her chest as if she was conscious of the fact that her heart beats too fast.
I put my hands on her chin and brought her face to look at me. "We are... Not blood-related."
"Our parents wanted to tell you right after you finished middle school, but... You can guess what happened next..."
They died in a car crash.
"I also wanted to tell you but back then you..."
She was crying very hard back then, I can't say anything else aside from comforting her.
In the end, I kept everything to myself since she was shutting herself in her room all day.
Thankfully she opened up her door right when summer breaks are over, but I was afraid that telling her such things would encourage her sorrows to come back.
Is she going to cry?
No... Thankfully, due to my actions, she was only embarrassed between my arms.
I approached her face slowly.
"I wanted to tell you all this time... But Hiromi..."
"W-what is it...?"
"I don't think I could hold it anymore..."
That...was the sound of the smartphone in my pockets.
I quickly took it out and...
"Look! Hiromi, it seems like there's an issue in the game. Players were not able to log out from the game whatever they do!"
I showed my screen to her.
The screen showed news about the recently announced bugs and incidents revolving around the disappearance of the logout option...
"Unbelievable, this is... Onii-sama you... You knew of this, didn't you?"
Phew... Now with this, she won't play the game.
I thought I was relieved.
But... That was too soon.
That sound was not made by my phone.
It was the sound of a bell.
A giant bell.
Almost the same as the ones on top of the church.
It was loud enough that everyone could hear it.
The problem is...
There was never a single church in this neighborhood.
If that's the case then...
What was that?
"W-what was that?"
Both of us turned our heads toward the window.
The sunset that is illuminated from the window quickly turns dark as if the night came very quickly, no... It was an object, a giant object that blocks the sunset floating in the sky.
I wasn't ready to believe it.
The same castle as that game.
The same iron-and-stone-made floating castle has about ten kilometers of floor base diameter.
The huge castle may look like it is going upwards slowly, but in reality, it was pretty fast regarding the size of that thing.
"O-onii-sama! Your body!" (Hiromi)
When I looked down, my views were blinded by a white light.
The lights engulfed in as I tried to sight Hiromi with worries on her face.
My sight of her too, was ultimately, consumed by the lights.
There's no way this can be happening.
This wasn't the SAO that was supposed to happen.
There I stood among the crowds.
My outfits... They are newbie equipment from SAO's beta test.
And the crowded place I am currently standing in is... The first floor of Aincrad, the plaza.
Am I in the game?
It wasn't VR, this feeling... It's real. There's no lag between the time and I could feel it clearly...
That everything here is real.
The sword on my waist, the leather chest plate, and my iron shoes...
"I'm sure some of you have realized... That the logout button on the main menu has been removed..."
The sky is red, the humanlike object in the figure of a cloak above us? Also red.
For a second, the whole word is dyed red.
The figure introduces himself as Kayaba Akihiko.
Yes, that's what is supposed to happen before too, just like the real SAO storyline.
"However, this is by no means a mistake."
The figure explained to us that we weren't able to log out.
What was the huge castle I saw back in reality?
And the sound of that bell too.
"On the contrary, this game will become something beyond your very expectations."
The sound of SAO's system.
The holograms appeared in front of me, moving by themselves, picking the daily news option without my consent.
It was the same for everyone else.
After it does its own thing...
Another screen popped up.
A screen that shows us a video of the real world.
That's right... In the middle of Tokyo, the floating castle floats there.
"W-what the hell is this!?" (NPC A)
More screens popped up afterward, showing all kinds of nations...
London, the USA, Japan, Russia, and a few countries have at least one Castle floating above them.
Now that I realized... The choices of "servers" weren't limited only to only the international server.
There was an Asia server, America, Europe, and some countries even had their private servers.
But at this point... It's all being brought to reality.
On the screen, a few helicopters flew in the sky...
It really was the real world...
The view of a beautiful castle flying above each city accompanied by the sunset changes.
A blue light... A portal?
We were shown all kinds of public spaces from the real world...
There existed a blue portal.
"Those are dungeons, from now on, dungeons will spawn in the real world. The only way to close the dungeon is to clear it."
I thought this was an anime world... Not a Manhwa world.
"With this, I announced to you the official release of the game... Players---"
"Welcome, to Sword Art Online"
To be continued