There were twelve decks on the self-propelled mega-float that boasted an overall length of four hundred meters and a width of two hundred and fifty meters, the «Ocean Turtle».
Considering how Oasis of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship—though smaller than the Ocean Turtle, of course—could hold eighteen decks, it appeared to be a slightly extravagant use of space. However, it was not constructed for cruises, but for oceanographic research, and apparently needed specifications capable of fitting all sorts of observation and analysis machinery. Naturally, not even Asuna had any dissatisfaction over the ceiling’s height.
The first floor from the waterline was the floating deck, the engine room took the second floor, while the third to eighth floors comprised of all kinds of research facilities, such as marine biology, deep-sea resources, and plate tectonics. The ninth and tenth floors held the cabins, the eleventh floor was the recreation deck with the lounge, gym, pool, and such, and aside from the radar and antenna installed on the final floor, the twelfth floor, it had an observation platform as well.
The ship belonged to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, that was merely half of the truth.
Aside from the link in utilizing a domestic pressurized water reactor, its construction was carried out in cooperation with the self-defense forces and its members were constantly aboard, actively guarding it even after its completion.
That wasn’t all. The composite titanium pillar—nicknamed the «main shaft», stabbed through the hull’s core was left completely under the self-defense forces’ management and a top-secret research with absolutely no relation to the ocean was being carried out there. One that duplicated a newborn baby’s soul, brought up a virtual world, and seemed to have given birth to the world’s first bottom-up artificial intelligence—named the «Alicization Project».
6th July 2026, Monday, 7:45 AM.
Having paid a visit to Kirito—Kirigaya Kazuto, undergoing treatment in the upper half of the main shaft, called the «upper shaft», Yuuki Asuna had her breakfast at the eleventh deck’s lounge with Koujiro Rinko, a researcher of fulldive technology.
She figured she had no room for complaints, seeing as she was no guest on some luxurious passenger ship—or rather, she would have been escorted to the detention barracks (though she didn’t know if one existed) if not for the decision of Lieutenant Colonel Kikuoka Seijirou, who supervised the project, but she had no choice but to admit the buffet-style meal was fairly splendidly done.
Rinko, who inserted a knife into a battered white fish on the other side of the table, spoke as she stared hard at the cross-section.
“I wonder if this fish was caught from the Ocean Turtle?”
Having taken the same onto her dish, Asuna timidly brought a small piece to her mouth. The tender white flesh shredded easily yet kept its mellow texture when chewed. She had no doubt it was reasonably fresh, but she had no idea if fish could actually be caught by throwing a rod into these open seas.
Putting down the knife in her right hand, Asuna turned her eyes towards the window on the left of the table while bringing up her glass of iced tea. The calm ocean surface was pitch-black, without a single fishing boat in sight, let alone fishes.
Now that she thought about it, Asuna hadn’t heard anything about the Ocean Turtle’s current location, aside from it being in the «sea near the Izu islands». Even if it was around the Izu islands, that was a long distance from north to south. If she recalled right, even Hachijyou Island near the middle was almost three hundred kilometers from Tokyo.
She could just start up a location application and display her current location on the portable terminal she brought from Tokyo if she could use it, but unfortunately, she didn’t have permission to connect to the shipboard Wi-Fi due to security or something. She could play the music files and such stored in the local memory, so she felt lucky enough that it didn’t get confiscated, but frustration certainly did accumulate when stuck in a situation incapable of doing an «instant search whenever a thought struck her». She didn’t feel this disgruntled back in SAO, where she couldn’t even get a single piece of news from the real world, let alone perform a search, though.