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Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online Chap 8

Thank you very much for reading Sword Art Online Volume 18: Alicization Lasting. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude: my gratitude to you for staying with me across 10 volumes since the beginning of the Alicization Arc in Volume 9.

I mentioned this in the afterword of Volume 1, but I would like to reiterate that I began writing the story of Sword Art Online ("SAO" from here on) in Fall 2001 to participate in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prize. Even though the first draft was completed before the Spring 2002 deadline, it drastically exceeded the page limit. Since I had no idea as to what and how I should cut the story, I eventually forfeit my entry.

This means that back when I had just started writing SAO, I only had the «Aincrad arc» in my head – to be more precise, the story itself only covered a few weeks right before the death game got cleared on the 75th floor. However, later on I set up my homepage and published SAO as a web novel, and fortunately, I happened to receive calls from scores of readers expressing that they would like a continuation. With a few extra side stories in between, I went on to release the second arc, «Fairy Dance», the third arc, «Phantom Bullet» (known as the «Death Gun arc» back then), and, if I remember correctly, I began the fourth arc, Alicization, in January 2005.

By now, I can’t remember why I broke out of the "VRMMO box" that I had always been writing from, or why I stepped into bigger themes like bottom-up AI, autonomous weapons, quantum brain theory, and simulated reality. The only thing I do remember is how obsessed I was about writing it, despite all the walls I was hitting.

The Alicization arc finished serializing online in July 2008.

Just around the same time, I was serializing one of my works called Chouzetsu Kasoku Burst Linker» on a novel sharing site. Six years after my first attempt, I used that work to take on the 15th Dengeki Novel Prize again, and I was lucky enough to win something. I changed the name from «Burst Linker» to «Accel World» and made my official debut as a commercial author. Just when I was telling people about this on my homepage, Miki Kazumsan, the editor responsible for me, sent me an email indicating that he would like to read SAO.

I collated a draft of the SAO series written across roughly eight years, and he kindly squeezed precious time out of his editing work to read the entirety of it in one week, and told me: “Let’s publish this under Dengeki too.” I still remember it quite clearly.

Miki-san also told me back then, “I’d like to set the goal of publishing it until the last bit of Alicization.” To be honest, I thought that was a far-fetched dream. Considering the word count of the SAO web version, over 15 volumes would be needed in paper. Even if they could publish three volumes every year, the series would succeed only if they could get readers to support it for five whole years.

Forget publishing the end of Alicization. I wasn't even confident that I would still be an author by then. But thanks to Miki-san’s passionate bookmaking, the neat and stunning illustrations from abec-san whom Miki-san helped persuade, and of course, the love and support from an abundance of readers, the Dengeki Bunko version of SAO has released volume after volume and now brings to you the finale of the Alicization arc after almost seven years since the release of Volume 1.

As a matter of fact, a lot of content was added to the Dengeki Bunko version of SAO, so Volume 18 is – if you count Progressive – the 22nd volume of the entire series. If you count my other series as well, this would be the 45th volume. Seven and a half years since my debut, or almost fifteen years since I first began writing SAO seems incredibly long to me, but somehow, at the same time, it feels like the blink of an eye.

While I was writing this afterword for the finale, a vague question flashed through my mind: "Why did I write the story of SAO and Alicization?"

Because I like online games and death game stories… which was probably the original reason. I don't know what would have happened had I participated in the Dengeki Prize contest as I’d planned, but the very likely result is that only the Aincrad arc would have been serialized, and in parts on the Dengeki homepage. This is because the only scenes I wanted to write 15 years ago consisted of Kirito and Asuna sitting side by side in the sunset, gazing at the destruction of Aincrad, and Kirito immediately searching for Asuna upon returning to the real world.

But I didn't stop my pen there, and I continued to write the Fairy Dance arc, the Phantom Bullet arc, and the Alicization arc. If I were to probe my impetus for doing so, other than the support of the readers who visited my personal homepage, perhaps it also had to do with… the characters themselves as they laughed together, suffered together, and fought together throughout the story. I kept on writing, led by the figures of Kirito, Asuna, and the others as they sprinted forward in search of new worlds and new adventures, until this moment… I think that was it.

Now, every time I push down the keys on my keyboard, when I close my eyes, I feel as though I'm gazing towards the backs of Kirito and the others as they chase the light in the distance. Their journey is still not over. Countless adventures are hidden within ALO and The Seed Nexus inside it, sealed within Underworld, and  await them in the real world.

Of course, I want to continue to find new stories with them. Yet at the same time, I'm encumbered by the vast, uncertain scene that is the future. Before I step into the next world, I want to properly appreciate and perceive the things that Alicization, this epic story, has left for Kirito, Asuna, Alice, and the others, and myself – those are my thoughts today.

In the long period that the SAO franchise has serialized to today, I have been under the care of countless people. Nakamura Tamako, Minami Juusei, Hazuki Tsubasa, Nekobyou Neko, Himura Kiseki, Yamada Kotaro, and Kiya Shii, all in charge of the manga adaptations.

Director Itou Tomohiko, in charge of the anime adaptation, Adachi Shingo-san and Kawakami Tetsuysan, in charge of the anime character designs, Shikama Takahiro-san, animation action director, along with all of the production staff at 1 Pictures: producer Iwakami Atsuhiro-san, Oosawa Nobuhiro-san, Kashiwada Shin'ichiro-san, Katou Jun-san, and Niwa Masami-san. For Matsuoka Yoshitsugu-san, who provided Kirito's voice, for Tomatsu Haruksan, who provided Asuna's voice, for Taketatsu Ayansan, who provided Leafa's voice, for Sawashiro Miyuki-san, who provided Sinon's voice, and every one of the voice actors and actresses. For LiSsan, Eir Aoi-san, and Haruna Lunsan, who lent their voices to the theme songs. For sound director Iwanami Yoshikazu-san, Konno Yasuyuki-san, in charge of sound effects, and Kajiura Yuki-san, who composed the soundtrack.

For Futami Yosuke-san and Kawai Yasukazu-san, who have created many games. For Washizaki Takeshi-san, in charge of radio and events.

For Miki Kazumsan and Tsuchiya Tomoyuki-san, in charge of editing. For Kurusu Tatsuysan, who drew the miniature maps, and abec-san, who filled the story with color through innumerable outstanding illustrations.

And lastly, to all of my readers, who have stayed with the story until now.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you all.

Thank you very much, everyone. I hope you all will support the SAO series in the future as well.

A certain day in July 2016  Kawahara Reki

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