Such pleasant chapters.
This is Yui’s arc [Side story in Volume 2]. Chapter 17 [Volume 1] occurs after this arc. This arc is great in that it revolves around sentimental relationships. Not action. Not mechanics. Just basic, bliss interaction.
Relationships: As we know, there are four primary types of relationships, or statuses in SAO: being strangers, friends, guild members, and married couples. The first relation offers no benefits, the second relationships, being friends, allows you to send private messages regardless of distance [where as to a stranger, there’s a certain proximity requirement — in Murder Mystery, Yoruko and Asuna were friends, this allowed them to trace her location]. A guild relationship has the same benefits as the above listed, except you’re also given the benefit of stat boosts while in a guild party [however, you have to pay a tax to your guild]. The fourth relationship, is marriage.
“Marriage—although getting married was very simple. Once one person sent the proposal message and the other person accepted it, then they were married. But the difference between marriage and friends or guild members was incomparably different. Marriage in SAO meant the sharing of all information and items. One could see the other’s stat window at will, and even their inventory windows had fused into one. In others words, it was entrusting one’s most important safety nets to their partners. In Aincrad, where betrayals and fraud were common, few went as far as marriage even amongst the closest couples. Of course, another important reason was because of the extremely unbalanced male-female ratio.”
Churches: One of the most engimatic structures in SAO, they provide the ability to remove «Curse» abilities. Since magic is seldom included in SAO, it’s a anomalous structure. A church can be turned into an inn if funds are provided.
Aincrad Liberation Force: As we know, the Aincrad Liberation Force is [commonly known as the Army, which is derogatory] SAO’s largest guild. They have their headquarters in the Starting City. They originally began as a organization reminiscent of the Peace Corps, but they eventually transcended into a despotic government. The reason? A change in leadership which will be covered in the next episode.
Kirito-Asuna Interaction: I’ll primarily be copying and pasting some quotes attributed towards them [followed by some commentary. Most of them are narrated or monologue, the adaptation cannot show this practically. These are my favorite chapters not only because of the character development, but because of the purely sentimental character interactions between the two. Each quote is copy and pasted from bakatsuki’s SAO translation.
“Just a while back, due to his uncaring and aloof nature, she had figured that he should be a little older than her. However, the sight of the Kirito, deep in sleep, extruded such naive innocence, that he could only look like a young boy, no older than her. Asking for something like his age probably— would not be a problem. However, breaching into affairs of the real world is frowned upon, and besides, the two of them are already husband and wife. Rather than age, to meet again after returning to the real world, exchanging information from actual names and addresses, to contact details would be much more reliable. However, Asuna was not quite able to bring herself to say that out loud. She was afraid that after speaking of matters from the real world, this «married life» would feel like nothing more than a flimsy figment of her imagination. To the current Asuna, her single, most important reality, are these gentle days in this forested home; even if it becomes impossible to escape from this world, with their actual bodies welcoming death, she will still be satisfied, being able to continue living this way till the very end, passing on without regrets. That is why she will not wake up from this dream just yet— Thinking so, Asuna softly stretched out her hand and caressed the sleeping Kirito’s face.”
We’re given a certain fear that Asuna has; this ephemeral, yet tangible romance between the two is precious to her. Players in SAO treat their lives as their one and only ones, belittling it, or referring to an alternate world would disassociate the verisimilitude that they’ve been living through.
“But everyday has been so much fun, you know.”
These are Asuna’s real and pure thoughts. Just thinking back brought out painful memories, but in the one and a half years, from the time she became a prisoner of SAO until she fell in love with Kirito, Asuna had forged and hardened her heart. Sacrificing sleep to strengthen her skill levels, being chosen as the subleader of the clearing guild, Knights of the Blood, she had plunged into the labyrinths at a pace fast enough to cause even members to give up at times. All that was in her heart was solely to clear the game and escape, thus, she concluded that all other activities unrelated to that cause were useless. With these thoughts running through her mind, Asuna could not help but regret not being able to chance upon Kirito earlier. The days after meeting him were so vibrant, so filled with surprises that they surpassed even her previous life in the real world. If it was with him, the time spent here could all be considered rare experiences. That’s why to Asuna, finally being able to get a day where the both of them can pass time together, each and every second can be thought of as a precious jewel in itself. She wanted to go, as a couple, to more and more places together and talk about many different topics.
As I said, it sounds a bit cliche and trite to simply say that “he gave her a reason to live”. But like all literature, it’s not entirely dependent on the concept, but more so the execution of it. SAO’s light novel excelled at this, it’s not highly-rated solely because of hype, it was a great novel.
Softly muttering her disapproval, she flipped to the other side, facing the bed on which the girl was asleep. In the pale blue darkness, the black-haired girl was still fast asleep as before. Although she had never made a conscious effort to think about the girl’s past, her thoughts gradually drifted in that direction as she continued staring. If she was living until now with a guardian, like her parents or siblings, that’s still fine. However, in the case that she came into this world alone, and spent these two years in fear and isolation— to a mere eight or nine years old child, those days must have been unbearable. If she was in that situation, she would probably be unable to retain her sanity. Could it be— Asuna leapt towards the worst possible conclusion. Maybe, the reason why she was wandering in that forest, and faded into unconsciousness, was due to some problem caused by the condition of her mind. Of course, there are no psychiatrists in Aincrad, neither were there any system administrators to seek aid from. The most optimistic prediction for clearing the game was still half a year at least, and nothing could be accomplished with merely Asuna and Kirito’s effort anyway. Due to the fact that they are both currently absent from the front lines, the number of players at their levels would be reduced by two and creating a balanced party would be more difficult as well. Regardless of how deep the suffering the girl is undergoing, she does not have the ability to save her— Realizing that, Asuna was stricken with an agonizing pain within her chest. She subconsciously left the bed and moved to the side of the sleeping girl. Brushing the girl’s hair for a short moment, Asuna softly turned back the covers and lay down beside her. With both arms, she tightly embraced her small body. Although the girl did not move by even a single inch, her expression seemed to soften, and Asuna quietly whispered. “Goodnight. It would be nice, if you wake up tomorrow…”
It’s a bit ironic to say that Asuna relates to Yui [given Yui’s role], but she really does. She entered the world by “accident” [explained in whole in the next quote]. In a way, her perceived situation and her emotional state envelops and develops a maternal state, which Asuna will hold dear to her.
Born through a relationship between a businessman father and a scholar mother, Asuna— Yuuki Asuna, was raised, subjected to the expectations of her parents from the very time she gained awareness. Both of her parents were people who were mercilessly firm with themselves, while being gentle to Asuna, and due to that, she was afraid of how they would react if she did not live up to their expectations. Her brother was probably the same. Both Asuna and her brother had went to the private school chosen by their parents, and without a hitch, constantly retained their excellent results. From the time her brother finally reached the age to be admitted into university and left the house, she existed with nothing on her mind, but solely to live up to her parents’ expectations. Taking up lessons for multiple activities, socializing only with friends approved by her parents, but as she went through life like that, Asuna eventually felt her world shrinking, as though it was steadily deflating. If she continued on this predetermined path— proceeding onwards to the high school and university chosen by her parents, marrying the partner chosen by her parents, she believed she would definitely be trapped within an extraordinarily hard shell, even smaller than she was then, and be forever unable to escape from it; these were the fears she had always suffered from. That’s why, when her brother was employed by the company managed by her father and came back home, speaking so spiritedly with a NERvGear and copy of SAO that he gotten through his connections, about what would become the world’s first «VRMMO», that even Asuna who had not touched a television console game before, felt a minor trace of interest about that strange new world. Of course, if her brother were to use it within his own room, she probably would have soon forgotten and not bothered about things such as the NERvGear. However, thanks to bad timing, her brother had to go on a business trip overseas on the very first day of the start of the SAO service, and so, Asuna ended up requesting to borrow it from her brother, for just a single day on a mere whim. Feeling the desire to peek into a world she had never seen before, that was all it was— And thus, everything changed. now, she could still recall the excitement of that day, when she changed from Asuna to “Asuna”, finding herself on an unknown street, among people unknown to her. But immediately after that, when that god of emptiness descended down and announced about this death game, with the inability to escape from this world, the first thing Asuna thought about, was the Mathematics work that she did not yet start on. If she did not hurry back and settle that, she would get scolded by her teacher in the following day’s lesson. For the life that Asuna had led thus far, that would be a failure that she could not allow… but of course, the severity of the situation was not of such a degree. One week, two weeks, even as each day was idly passed by, there was no sign of help from the outside. Secluding herself within one of the rooms of a Starting City’s inn, cowering atop the bed, Asuna constantly experienced a ridiculous amount of panic. Screaming every now and then, even beating on the walls as she wailed. It was the winter of her third year in middle school. Soon would be her examinations, and after that, the new school term. Being derailed from that path, was considered the same as the devastation of her life to Asuna. Asuna spent each day amidst troubled fits, embracing deep, murky convictions. Her parents were definitely, rather than being concerned over their child’s body, they were probably busy being extremely disappointed over the daughter who failed her examinations due to a game console. Her friends, while suffering from some grief, were probably pitying the one who dropped out of their group, or perhaps sneering over it. When she passed her critical point with those dark thoughts, Asuna finally made a decision, to leave the inn. Not waiting to be rescued, but to escape from here with her own strength. To become the savior who will put an end to this incident. Without taking that path, she would most likely not be able retain her presence within the minds of the people around her any longer. Asuna prepared some equipment, memorized the entire reference manual, and headed out into the field. Sleeping time for each day was restricted to two, three hours, and the rest of her time was sunk into level training. As a result of focusing all of her natural wisdom and willpower onto clearing the game, it was not long before she could enter the list of top level players. This was how the ardent swordsman, Asuna the «Flash», was born.
It’s funny. Asuna-Kirito interaction during the first arc of SAO is probably the most enjoyable aspect of SAO. In the next arc, ALO, every scene with Asuna catalyzes a want to smash a computer screen in. Anyways, as we see, Asuna used SAO in a way reminiscent of how many people use MMORPGs [or anime], as a way to escape from daily life. She got her wish, but along with that, a completely different world. There’s such a voluminous amount of development in SAO given through narration and monologue; you cannot get the complete story through animation and blatant actions alone. I’ll be a bit more sparse with the quotes, I just find the need to copy and paste every other line, it’s incredibly integral development. Read the SAO, these entries only highlight the big picture.
Extremely enjoyable episode. Yui’s character may seem a bit trite at the moment, but I assure you, it’ll be resolved during the next episode. The foreshadowing and the reveal compliment the other. It’s incredibly characteristic of the author’s writing style.