Two years have passed since Sword Art Online trapped 10,000 people inside its cyber depths. Kirito and Asuna decide to join together and explore the 74th floor, but they are stopped by Asuna’s stubborn “guard”, Kuradeel
Kirito continues to venture up floor 74 and in the process, he finds himself a Ragout Rabbit: a rare animal that holds an extremely rare meat. Since he’s not a good chef, Kirito decides to request Asuna (who has maxed out her cooking skill) to cook it for the both of them. However, Kuradeel, Asuna’s “bodyguard” sent by the Knights of Blood, is completely against the idea of Asuna having any more contact with Kirito due to him being the (in)famous “Beater”. Asuna ignores Kuradeel’s warning and takes Kirito back to her house, where they cook the rabbit meat into a stew. While eating, the two begin to talk about how two years have passed since they became trapped inside the game, and that many players have now psychologically accepted the idea of just living there and not going back to reality. To make matters worse, there are only less than five hundred players who are even trying to clear the floors now.
Kirito finally decides to accept the idea of exploring the remainder of the 74th floor with Asuna. Before they proceed though, Kuradeel reappears to once again forbid further contact between the two of them. Kirito decides to settle the matter by challenging Kuradeel to a duel, which quickly ends with Kirito slashing and breaking Kuradeel’s sword with ease. Unable to accept his utter defeat, Kuradeel grabs another blade and fails at striking Kirito while he’s off guard. At that, Asuna relieves Kuradeel of his duties and orders him to return to the Knights of Blood headquarters to await punishment. With the fight settled Kirito and Asuna go on to explore the 74th floor and discover the next boss room that stands in their way…
“The Sword Dance of White and Black“ brings more interesting concepts together and continues to set the bar of quality higher. It’s revealed that the majority of the players are now slowly adapting to the virtual world and are drifting away from reality. It’s not necessarily just because Sword Art Online is a video game world to escape to, but more due to what Kirito and Asuna say about the matter: “I don’t have many memories of the real world anymore” and “Sometimes, I think I’m still in reality”. At first, I was rather confused on why the characters would feel this way, considering that their main purpose of fighting is to return to the real world. In retrospect that feels silly, as it turns out it’s been officially two years since they got trapped inside Sword Art Online. What was once a fantasy world is now a place where they live and sleep and dream, and this can easily have a way of confusing their perceptions of what’s reality and fantasy.
More conflict arises Kuradeel, who was following strict orders to stalk Asuna at all times. Kuradeel reeked of antagonism and it’s only a matter of time before he starts plotting his revenge against Kirito, or possibly aiming to kill Asuna for taking his high ranked position away. He definitely doesn’t strike me as a main antagonist, but more of a selfish character who would attack out of the shadows during the most convenient moment. Next episode the conflicts just keep escalating, with Kirito’s strength being put to the test.