Recap: Kirito and Asuna witness a murder in the game’s safe area and take a few days off from the front lines to investigate.
We have a doozy here – this side story was something like twelve chapters in the novels, and it meant that we finally got a two-parter episode. I didn’t much like it then and I don’t much like it much now, but I suppose they did a decent job.
While eating together in town, Kirito and Asuna see a player hanging from a noose, impaled by a nasty-looking spear. The cause for alarm is that the towns and cities in the game are supposed to be safe areas, where hurting and killing another player is impossible without them agreeing to a duel. Despite this, the man soon explodes into polygons as all dead players do, the spear dropping to the ground and leaving all players present stunned at what they have just witnessed. They take the spear to item shop owner and all-around cool guy Egil to have it appraised, and our resident bald bro determines that it’s a player-made weapon that deals continuous pierce damage, forged by a man named Grimlock.
Our heroes interview Yolko, the first witness and a friend of Kains, the man who was killed. She and Kains were both involved in some drama with their former guild over whether or not they should all have kept a rare ring or sold it. Against the wishes of the rest of the guild, they both voted for keeping the ring, along with another man named Schmitt. Their guild leader, Griselda (who happened to be Grimlock’s in-game wife), went to the front lines to sell the ring but never returned.
They bring in Schmitt to talk to Yolko, and both of the former guildmates start flipping out over the possibility that Grimlock is after them for revenge, or that perhaps Griselda’s ghost is seeking them for the same ends. They don’t have any time to entertain these ideas, however, since Yolko suddenly finds a knife buried in her back, and tumbles out of the window to her death. Kirito gives chase to the supposed attacker, but the mysterious robed assailant gets away using a teleport crystal.
Later, a dropped sandwich leads Kirito (of course) to the answer – since all destroyed items play the same animation of exploding into polygons, Kains and Yolko aren’t actually dead at all. They used the continuous pierce damage of the weapons to damage their armor, and then made their getaways by timing teleport crystals to coincide with the armor’s durability running out and shattering, giving off the illusion of player death.
Meanwhile, Schmitt is tearfully confessing to Griselda’s gravestone, where Yolko and Kains reveal themselves. They only wanted to know the truth, because they suspected that Schmitt was somehow involved with Griselda’s death. He claims that he was only given instructions and money by an unknown individual to swap out a corridor crystal in the guild’s shared inventory.
The group is suddenly ambushed by members of the PK guild Laughing Coffin, but in typical Sue fashion, Kirito arrives in the nick of time and scares off the bad guys with his very presence. Asuna soon arrives with Grimlock in tow – since being married in-game combines the inventory of both players into a single shared space, they have determined that Grimlock was the one who killed Griselda to claim the rare item. And he did, of course, but because he’s a total bastard instead of just a greedy one: Griselda was his wife in reality, and he couldn’t stand her becoming more independent in the game instead of being obedient to him. It had nothing to do with the ring.
As Yolko, Kains, and Schmitt drag Grimlock off to the jail on the first floor, Asuna and Kirito contemplate love and the implications of being married in game, and add each other to their friend lists. You don’t get any points for guessing what’s going to happen later on.
As for the cuts this episode… there were a lot. To start, there was a short scene at the beginning of episode 5 where the front-line players were holding a meeting about the floor boss, and Kirito protests against allowing it to harm the NPCs. This was from a doujinshi written by the actual author, which can be found at Batoto. Fair warning: the last page of the first chapter has a minor spoiler, and unless you’re far ahead in the novels you shouldn’t read the second chapter at all.
As for the mystery plot, Kirito and Asuna’s first investigative action was to head down to the first floor and check the monument we saw in the first episode: the one where dead players’ names are crossed out. Logically, this would be a surefire way to tell if someone was actually dead, and they found Kains’ name to indeed be slashed through, with Continuous Pierce Damage listed as the cause of death. The twist was that while a player named Kains did indeed meet his end in such a way, Yolko and Schmitt’s guildmate was named Caynz, pronounced the same but obviously a separate name on the monument, and they had devised the plan around this deception.
They also spoke to a man called Heathcliff in their investigation – the leader of the Knights of Blood guild, and therefore Asuna’s direct superior. He’s the last person who shows up in the montage in the OP, one of the strongest front-line players, and he’s fulfilled some sort of secret prerequisite to get a unique skill – while, for example, Kirito uses One-Handed Swords and Asuna uses Rapiers, Heathcliff has the “Holy Sword” skill, which is a special sword/shield combination different from a normal build. At any rate, they asked him his opinion and he ended up pointing them in the right direction. Since he’s an important character in the actual plot, I’m surprised they didn’t decide to introduce him now. I suppose it would have taken too much time from the mystery plot.
Schmitt got a bit more characterization in the novels. He acted the most suspicious from the start, and got a small aside that entered his mindset. In what is perhaps the most logical move out of anyone in this series, he specifically focused his character build on becoming as sturdy as possible: using the strongest armor and the safest weapons to avoid being killed. Lastly, the confrontation with Grimlock involved some stuff with boxes that prevented items from running out of durability, and Yolko keeping Griselda’s old guild leader and wedding rings to prove Grimlock was the one guilty of the crime.
I think that’s all. Next week will be yet another side story involving yet another haremette. This time, we’ll meet Lizbeth, the blacksmith you may have noticed in the OP, who got a cameo on Asuna’s friendlist. Oh boy.