Sugary Days 6
Translation of Sword Art Online ME 15, Sword Art Online Sugary Days 6.
“—What business do you have with me?”
Suddenly interrogated by the petite female player with swirly glasses and hair in braids, in a manner of speech familiar to period dramas, I was momentarily at a loss as to how to reply.
The meaningless thought about how I could answer with the hackneyed “I am no one strange!” had she only gone and asked “Name yourself!” went through my head before Asuna showed off her usual communication skills, answering in a crisp voice.
“We apologize for interrupting your work, but you are the wood crafter, Mahokl-san, aren’t you? I am Asuna and this is Kirito. We have visited today with a request for crafting furniture.”
“Hmm, customers, huh?”
Mahokl plopped the extremely large saw, which had just split that gigantic log into two, straight onto a rack before approaching with her plain work shoes shuffling against the floor.
Even after she came right before our eyes, the swirly texture of her round glasses obstructed her eyes from being seen. Her braided hair was a bright brown, she wore a blue denim apron, and thick leather gloves covered her two hands. Unlike the maid-like apron dress Lisbeth, Asuna’s and my blacksmith friend, usually wore, her appearance was the very image of a craftsman-class.
Having examined us in detail through her swirly glasses, Mahokl placed her hands at her waist and voiced out a second question.
“How did you find this shop?”
“We had an information dealer search on our behalf.”
Asuna answered truthfully and, apparently realizing where the information passed through from that alone, Mahokl snorted with a hmph.
“That «Rat», huh?”
“…Yes, we do apologize if that has offended you.”
The wood crafter lightly waved her hand as Asuna tried to lower her head.
“That’s not quite it. There is a signboard out and all. It’s simply… nn, who have you heard my name from in the first place?”
“We hadn’t heard of you from anyone, but we saw a table you made in a shop, Mahokl-san. It was really exquisite, so we thought about putting in an order with the craftsman who made it.”
Having heard Asuna’s answer, Mahokl’s eyebrows drew together above her glasses.
“That is odd, I did think I recalled all of the products I consigned… where was that shop?”
“It’s in Coral Village on the 22nd floor.”
“Coral……… ah, aah.”
Mahokl nodded, hitting her right fist onto her left palm.
“There was that, wasn’t there, there was a village like that. Come to think of it, I did entrust some with the NPC furniture shop there… I had completely forgotten about it.”
I substituted Asuna, who finally let out a question mark above her head, at that moment and spoke of the doubts I had after following the conversation.
“…Erm, from what I’ve heard so far, it seems you’ve been trying to hide yourself… but is it just my imagination?”
“It is not.”
The wood crafter casually shrugged before bringing up her right hand, still in the glove, and raising a finger.
“I suppose I will ask this at least, but what did you want made here?”
Asuna answered that question.
“A rocking chair!”
Mahokl lowered that index finger and turned towards the depths of the atelier.
“Well, that makes the both of you customers, then. I can serve some tea at least, so this way.”
A table in a strange shape, resembling the letter «Z», and four chairs with armrests were placed farther in the atelier. Sitting down beside Asuna, I was shocked by how the surface felt so soft despite being an unfinished wood plank.
Putting three mugs, made from wood as well, on the table side by side, Mahokl picked up a kettle—made from metal, naturally—from a nearby stove before gradually pouring hot water into those cups.
…Even if you say so, this isn’t tea but plain hot water; I politely kept that thought to myself and accepted it.
And upon bringing up my own cup while Asuna did too, we took a sip. In that instant, a richly sweet, aromatic, and refreshing flavor unfolded to my surprise and I could not help but to exchange looks with Asuna.
Grinning as her swirly glasses gleamed, Mahokl brought her own mouth to her cup as well and spoke.
“These mugs are made from S-ranked fragrant wood and you get tea just by pouring hot water into them.”
“Ooohh~ there’s more to the Woodcraft skill than I thought, huh…”
While I was overwhelmed with admiration, Asuna continued as she rubbed the table’s surface.
“Did you make this table and these chairs too, Mahokl-san?”
“The comfort, feel, and appearance are top-class. …Why are you in hiding despite being able to make products of this quality…?
Asuna asked, and Mahokl gulped down another mouthful of tea before answering the question with another.
“…Asuna-chan and Kirito-kun, was it? Are the both of you among those who stay only within the area? Or those who go outside of it?”
We exchanged looks once more at the question we were hardly ever asked. She would know at a glance that we belonged to the latter if we were fully equipped, but both Asuna and I were in casual wear at the moment, without even a bit of metal. Scratching my head, I replied curtly.
“For what it’s worth, we do go outside of it, I guess…”
“Well, of course you do. You are here with an order, after all, even after seeing the price of that table.”
Though Mahokl lifted the corners of her mouth in a grin, that smile soon vanished with wrinkles forming on her brow above her glasses. She groaned with a “hmmm” with some sort of hesitation but eventually spoke out a new question at a lowered volume.
“Then, do you know of «Composition»?”
I blinked at the unexpected query before nodding.
Composition, or composite effect, was a term in SAO that referred to the «combined effect» produced with multiple skills. For example, among those I learned, after the One-handed Sword and Martial Arts skills reached certain values, the requirements to use the sword skill, «Meteor Break», would be cleared. It was not limited to combat skills: there were numerous composite effects among the Life-type skills, like how raising the «Polearm Weapon Creation Skill» and «One-handed Weapon Creation Skill» would allow the creation of weapons like the «Halberd» with both piercing and slashing attributes, or how raising the «Cooking» and «Mixing» skills would allow the creation of food mixed with medicine or laced with poison.
At the start of the death game, many players would search out those compositions and keep those they found under wraps, but with the nearly two years that passed since the beginning, all sorts of compositions were discovered and such listings could be bought from information dealers too. In other words, there was no need to keep them a secret nowadays, so I held on to a sense of uneasiness at the wood crafter’s solemn behavior while waiting for her to continue.
It took a while before Mahokl, stirring the tea in her mug, talked.
“It’s precisely because of composition that I had my entire shop go into hiding.”
“…What do you mean by…?”
Mahokl groaned once more, perhaps wondering if she should expose more information or not. Looking up, she stared hard at Asuna and me through those swirly lenses before nodding as though to convince herself at last.
“…I will put my trust in your expression of appreciation for my tables. …Last month, I discovered a new composition.”
Honestly surprised, I could not help but raise my voice.
“I have always thought they were already all found.”
“There aren’t many wood crafters, you see. At the current moment, I believe there are only around five players who have completed the «Woodcraft» skill.”
“Among those five, aside from me, there is only one who has the «Sewing» skill at a decent level in addition to «Woodcraft».”
“And I am the only one who raised «Polearm Weapon Creation» as well.”
Swapping in for me, who could only nod in awe, Asuna put her quick-wittedness on display.
“In other words, the new composition Mahokl-san found is a three-skills composite from «Woodcraft», «Sewing», and «Polearm Weapon Creation»… is that how it is?”
“That it is!”
Her two hands, still in their leather gloves, softly hit together and Mahokl leaned against the back of her chair.
“…Polearm weapons often make use of wood in their materials, so I raised it thinking to make effective use of the offcuts resulting from making furniture. I consigned the weapons I made to NPC weapon shops and made some money off them, but I had no intention of living mainly off that. Furniture’s what I like, after all.”
That was understandable, seeing as she had completed the Woodcraft skill. Unlike combat skills that naturally level up while fighting against monsters, Life-type skills have to be accumulated through plain, earnest training. They were not something that could be reluctantly completed.
“As for the Sewing skill, I raised it because it was necessary when making beds or sofas. …I noticed the new composition displayed in the production window after my Sewing skill level was over 900 and my Polearm Weapon Creation was over 800.”
I let out a soft whistle. Despite how tough it was to master even a single Life-type skill, to have the skill levels for three separate types at 1000, 900, and 800 was rather amazing. It would be only understandable for Mahokl to be the only one who reached it.
If that was how it was, she certainly had my interest in finding out exactly what composition she had discovered now. There were various composite products from Woodcraft and Sewing, but just what would result from adding Polearm Weapon creation to them? A mop? Or a carp streamer?
I asked while leaning across the table.
“…So, what was that composition…?”
Mahokl’s answer struck both Asuna and I dumbfounded.
“Eh? …S-Some sort of coffee machine?”
“In Japanese, it would be «
“Balli… wait…… e-eeeeehh?!”
Asuna tugged on my right sleeve as I bent back in shock.
“Hey, Kirito-kun, what’s a ballista?”
“A b-ballista is, well, to make it short… it’s a stationary, gigantic crossbow. Like a cannon that doesn’t use gunpowder.”
And Asuna was the one to shout this time.
The bell signaling midday rang just as we exited the teleport gate on the 22nd floor.
Coral Village’s central plaza was quiet as always with no other player in sight. There were no players at the plaza at Zumfut on the 3rd floor too, but there were barely any NPCs walking around here either. Few would imagine this to be the main town representative of the floor.
“…Aah, I did gather some lumber from here, didn’t I. That would be almost a year ago, though.”
Stepping onto the plaza’s stone paving after Asuna and me, Mahokl spoke in a small voice. She continued in a nostalgic tone even as she diligently checked through the surroundings.
“I had gathered a large amount of good quality wood, with my inventory almost bursting, so I borrowed a corner in the NPC shop and made a table. Since I consigned it there and then, I forgot to register it in my account book.”
“…So that means you could make a table of that quality a year ago?”
Asuna asked, apparently surprised, and the craftsman with swirly glasses grinned.
“Well, it would, but to put it in another way, it took nearly a year to complete the skill from there. Now, let us head to the shop.”
The three of us moved to the furniture shop and the table in question, its top made from a single walnut plank and with a net price of seven hundred thousand cor, was still exuding a massive presence in the depths of the shop just like the day before, naturally enough.
Briskly stepping over to her creation, its maker removed the glove from her right hand and gently caressed the table’s top. Muttering “It wasn’t too badly done.”, she tapped the table’s surface.
The window accessible only to the one who consigned the product appeared and just as Mahokl was about to press the «End Consignment» button, I quickly stopped her.
“Erm, h-hold on!”
“…What is it?”
“Are you going to stop selling that table?”
“I am, you should know why, after what I have mentioned earlier.”
What we had heard from Mahokl at her atelier in Zumfut was certainly reason enough for her seclusion. It would be best for her to put her business on hold and go into hiding for the time being when considering her safety. Asuna and I had tracked her down precisely from this table alone—even if it was through the staggering investigative abilities of the «Rat», Argo.
Still, I could hardly find it in myself to give up easily when recalling the expression Asuna had worn when we found this table yesterday. Nonetheless, unfortunately, I did not have the means to casually drop seven hundred thousand cor for furniture.
Feeling as though my «reliability as a husband» was being tested on the third day of our marriage, I growled and Asuna giggled before gently patting my shoulder.
Drawing her face closer to my ear, she whispered.
“Thank you, Kirito-kun. But the thought is enough.”
“We can still go back and buy it once we’ve saved up enough money.”
Mahokl watched over our exchange through her thick lenses and grinned once more.
“The both of you.”
“I would not mind taking ninety percent off this table.”
“Oh… nine… ——eh, ehh?! Ninety percent off?!”
Mahokl thrust a finger on her right hand forward as I nearly hopped up.
“Of course, I will make that rocking chair you wanted to order too. However, there is a condition attached.”
“…T-That’s only natural… …What is it…?”
“You will have to gather all of the material items I ask for!”
Temporarily withdrawing the table that was effectively sold now, Asuna and I accompanied Mahokl back to the teleport gate as she returned to the 3rd floor and looked down upon the small parchment handed to us by the wood crafter.
Five types of material items were listed there. Each was relatively rare, but the problem laid beyond that.
“…These are likely the materials for the ballista, aren’t they…?”
I curtly nodded to Asuna’s whispers.
“Yeah, they must be. But I wonder why… She should have vacated her last atelier and hid on the 3rd floor because she didn’t want to make it…”
“Hmm… —Well, for the time being, let’s go back and have some food?”
With my forgotten empty stomach reawakened by my wife’s words, I briskly answered with a “Yeah!”.
Purchasing the ingredients in the village, we walked along the lake shore path and returned to the log house. It was just after five in the afternoon on the twenty-fourth of October that Asuna and I married in front of this house, and since it was now one on the twenty-sixth, it had actually not even been two whole days yet.
Nonetheless, the moment I saw that roof and the unadorned chimney on it beyond the hill, nostalgia squeezed tightly deep in my chest. Perhaps feeling similarly, Asuna put more strength into our linked hands.
“…It’s nice having a home, isn’t it?”
I hugged Asuna’s shoulders as she murmured and replied with our heads against each other.
“Yeah. I feel like I’ve finally understood the significance behind the term, «Player Home».”
“Yes… It is our home, isn’t it?”
The serene expression, veiling what seemed like a strong longing, Asuna showed to me as she said so forced my left hand onto her cheek as I laid my lips over hers. Asuna’s lips conveyed an aphonic “I love you” as our long kiss continued.
We went out together in the morning, passed through various places, and came home together. I felt nothing else could be more joyful, fun, and precious than even just those now.
“I love you… I really do, Kirito-kun…”
I hugged Asuna’s slender frame close with all my strength as she whispered in a quivering voice.
After polishing off a breakfast of prosciutto crudo, cheese, and lettuce generously placed between rye bread along with croque-madame with the sunny-side-up fried eggs atop, I took out a memo written on parchment from my shirt’s breast pocket.
Reading from the top of the listed material items, we had:
● Solidite Ingot 30
● Acutite Ingot 20
● Aged Teak Log 10
● Greatrock Dragon Tendon 8
● Legendary Bear Fats 8
The top two were rare metal ingots, the middle was wood, likely just as rare, the fourth was a material gathered from ground dragons, and the fifth—was an item of a truly nostalgic name.
Bringing cups of steaming hot coffee over in her two hands, Asuna sat by my side and peeked at my hand.
“…The last one’s that, isn’t it… on the 4th floor…”
“It should be. To think we’ll be fighting that fire-breathing bear again, huh…?”
Distant memories came back to me for a moment as I sipped the coffee.
The «Legendary Bear Fats» was a rare material necessary when constructing the gondola for moving across the 4th floor, the floor of lakes and waterways. The gigantic bear that breathed fire everywhere, «Magnatherium», dropped it, but it was a disaster when we challenged it on our first encounter.
Still, our levels were now over 90 contrast to nearly two years ago when we were about level 15. Even the terribly frightening Magnatherium from back then would probably be go down in a fight with a single sword skill now.
We could simply hold back on the fire-breathing bear fighting and obtain it from players… that thought occurred to me before Asuna gave a quiet “hmm”.
“…What is it?”
“Hmm… —I am happy over getting ninety percent off that table too… but it is really okay for us to gather these materials…?”
Or so I went this time.
There was a strange contradiction in Mahokl’s actions. After all, she vacated her atelier from that floor high above and moved to Zumfut on the lower floors because she did not want to construct that composition weapon, the «ballista», that she personally discovered, or so she had explained.
A major premise of SAO was the lack of «projectile weapons». Through that principle, not only was magic, something basic to the usual fantasy RPG, missing but also bows and arrows.
The reason was to abolish any shooting aspect from the game and have players experience combat as intimately as possible or so the game design went, but there was a reason behind that setting in this world as well.
That was— A long, long time ago, the humans, elves, and dwarves established and lived in their respective nations on the great earth. However, at one point, the catastrophe called «The Great Separation» broke out and many towns and villages, including all of the nations’ capitals, were cut away from the earth in circles and stacked up as they floated into the sky, forming a humongous castle. All magical powers were lost since then and arrows shot from bows lost their ability to fly straight.
I opened my mouth while sentimentally recalling the dark elf knight who taught us of that legend.
“…It’ll be earth-shattering if the ballista’s real and usable, huh. We don’t know if we can bring it to the labyrinth’s boss room, but at the very least, I believe it’ll change the face of field boss clearing and such. I can understand Mahokl’s unease based on that alone… if those divine dragon people from the frontliners or the Aincrad Liberation Force were to find out that she’s the only one capable of creating the ballista, they would never leave her alone.”
“True… they are the type to go ‘anything to clear this death game is okay aside from PK’, so they may even confine her at worst.”
Asuna, somewhat assuming the air of the Knight of the Blood’s sub-leader, nodded solemnly.
To Mahokl, who put that much passion into making high-quality furniture, being forced to make nothing but ballistas, a weapon, no, weaponry would hardly be bearable. No one could blame her for choosing to hide herself before any uproar occurred.
Still, why had she told us about the ballista, then?
Also, why had she gave us this condition to gather the rare materials likely for the ballista…?
“……What should we do, Kirito-kun?”
I considered for another ten second before letting out a breath and answering when questioned by Asuna.
“Let’s do it. Not because of the table, but… I’m sure Mahokl has something in mind. If things get dangerous, we’ll just have to put a stop to it.”
“…Nn, I understand. Then, let’s get ready.”
Nodding and standing up, Asuna waved her right hand and brought out a window.
After briefly fiddling with her equipment figure, her plain sweater and skirt were replaced with a bodice for knights, pure white with a red accent.
Despite it being a mere two days since I last saw it, her beauty, grace, and charm overwhelmed my ability to speak.
The hem of her skirt fluttered gently as she spun about.
“Kirito-kun, you should hurry and…”
Asuna got that far before my two hands reached out and drew her closer.
“Ah, wait, you can’t, we’re going to gather those items, so…”
Slowly tracing my lips over the fencer’s nape as her face reddened, I whispered.
“It’s fine, we can gather those easily enough in three hours.”
“Geez, what do you mean that it’s fine… nn……”
A warmth slowly crept into Asuna’s breaths as her body shuddered—
(To be continued)
- Translation – Tap
- Editing – ZeHaffen