The Fourteenth Autumn
Aincrad Floor 35, October 4th, 2024
"Kirito-san, congratulations on clearing Floor 73!" announced Silica, holding up her wine glass. The black-haired swordsman touched his glass to hers looking slightly embarrassed as he did so.
Clink, a crisp echo rang out and a small, blue dragon gave a high-pitched cry, "Kyuru!" from her place on the table. The sound caused by the glasses may have triggered the response, but Pina somehow looked happy, too.
Taking a sip of the light-pink wine, Kirito carefully raised his glass again. "Thank you, Silica. Though...I barely had any action this time."
"...Really? Is that true?"
"Yeah. The boss was one of those «Giant and Solid» types. In theory, something like that takes a coordinated attack by a lot of people, so the major guilds like KoB or DDA went up against the boss while I cleaned up the underlings the entire time," said Kirito, who laughed like he couldn't care less about it, but Silica pursed her lips in his stead.
"I don't quite get it. Shouldn't the whole party handle the boss and the minions while rotating players?"
"Nah, that would've made the operation more complicated... But I do feel kinda bad that I didn't have a chance to take the LA." Kirito chuckled lightly and blinked a few times, then stared straight at Silica. She subconsciously hid her mouth behind her wine glass and peered back up at him.
"W-What is it?"
"Nothing... I was just thinking how time flies and you're even using words like «minions» and «rotating» now..."
"T-That's normal! How many years do you think we've been here?!" Silica shot back and gulped down her drink to conceal her burning cheeks.
No matter how many liters of alcohol were consumed in this world, the player's real body would never ingest a single drop. The player could still get a little light in the head though when the wine-flavored liquid was downed in one shot, like it was more sour than sweet.
This day was October 4th, 2024. It had been one year and eleven months since the start of the Death Game «Sword Art Online», so the "how many years" line from Silica was a slight exaggeration, but it really did feel like many years had passed. She was completely used to life in the steel floating castle with its day-to-day adventures―even mastering various MMORPG terminologies―but her level still fell short of Kirito's and the clearers'.
So opportunities for Silica to see Kirito were typically scarce. The reason they were meeting in the NPC restaurant on the first floor of the inn «Weathercock Pavilion» in the town square of Mieche on Floor 35 was because she had summoned him under the pretext of treating him to a celebration for clearing Floor 73.
Silica had used the same «ruse» several times before, but the feelings hidden in her heart were just a little more special today. Of course, she didn't plan on confessing this or anything at all. Far from it, Silica had no intention of telling him why today was special to her. She was content with being able to spend just a few hours together with Kirito during the early evening.
Kirito set his glass down on the table. He lifted the bottle and refilled it with the pink liquid. Even a gesture as simple as that made Silica's virtual heart skip a beat. Convincing herself to act normally, just normally, she returned to conversation.
"...If the Floor 73 boss was the «Giant and Solid» type, then the Floor 74 boss has gotta be the «Tiny and Cuddly» type. You're going to get lots of action next time!"