While fishing, Kirito meets another player: an older gentleman named Nishida, whom he invites over for lunch when he expresses a desire for fish with soy sauce, a condiment Asuna could replicate in-game. Nishida then asks for Kirito's help in catching a particular fish: the King of Lakes, a large and powerful monster hidden in the lake that Nishida couldn't catch due to his low strength stats.
A few days later, a crowd gathers to watch Kirito fish the King of Lakes. He manages to drag it onto the shore, but is chased away by the large and angry fish. Asuna manages to slay it, and the crowd gather around her in admiration. Before Kirito could join in the celebration, however, he receives a summons from Heathcliff, ordering him and Asuna to return to the front lines.
Before leaving for KoB HQ, Kirito and Asuna say their farewells to Nishida, who reveals that he wondered if he could return to his old life in reality, and that his becoming a fisherman was the best thing to happen to him since being trapped in SAO. Asuna also felt the same way until she met Kirito, who helped to stoke her desire to return to the real world. Nishida is moved by this, and also looks forward to returning to the real world.
At KoB HQ, Heathcliff explains that a group of twenty players found the boss room on the 75th floor. Ten players went in, but were trapped inside, the door to the boss room shutting and preventing the others from assisting. When the doors opened five minutes later, they were gone, slaughtered by the boss and unable to escape due to the room being an anti-crystal zone. A raiding party consisting of players from the strongest guilds were now gathering to combat the boss, and Heathcliff orders Kirito and Asuna to take part in the raid.
Before departing for the boss, Kirito reveals to Asuna his fear of dying, and suggests they run away and live out their lives in SAO. While Asuna is also afraid, she tells Kirito that there is a time limit to how long they have to clear the game: in the real world, their comatose bodies are being kept artificially alive, but are slowly wasting away; and there was a limit to how long they could be kept in this condition before eventually dying. She wants the chance to meet Kirito in the real world, to date him, fall in love with him, and marry him. Thus, they must fight.
The next day, Kirito and Asuna meet up with the raiding party, which Klein and Agil are also taking part in. Heathcliff uses a Corridor Crystal to take the raid group to the boss room. They are soon ambushed by the boss, the Skull Reaper, which kills several high-level players in mere moments. Kirito is attacked by the Skull Reaper, but the assault is fended off by Heathcliff and the other players. The battle rages on as Kirito and the other raiders attack the boss from all sides...