In the time since Kirito last saw her, Asuna had not only joined the Knights of the Blood, the most famous guild in the game: she had become its vice-commander.
One day, Asuna finds Kirito napping in a field, and wonders why he would be so lazy when he should be trying his hardest to clear the game as fast as he could. Kirito replies that the weather in Aincrad was the finest on this day and that it would be a waste to go dungeon raiding on such a day. Asuna, curious, decides to test out Kirito's theory and ends up dozing off for several hours. When she awakens, she finds Kirito watching over her. Embarrassed, she offers to treat him to a meal at an inn.
At the inn, Asuna thanks Kirito for watching out for her while she was asleep: player killers (a major problem in SAO, given the fact that players who die in-game die in real life) had been taking advantage of sleeping players by moving their hands to accept duels where players would fight until one ran out of HP as a means of preserving their green player icons and killing players in towns, where HP does not drop.
Before they can enjoy their meal, however, they hear a scream. They find the source: a woman finding another player hung from a rope on a bell tower, a sword piercing his body. The player vanishes, seemingly dying, leaving behind the sword. A "Winner" indicator does not appear, ruling out the possibility of the dueling exploit.
The scream came from a player named Yolko, who knew the victim: Caynz. With the help of Agil, a shopkeeper and friend of Kirito, they find that the weapon had belonged to an acquaintance of Yolko and Caynz: Grimlock. Yolko, Caynz, and Grimlock, along with another player named Schmitt were all part of the same guild, Golden Apple, which was led by Griselda. One day, they found a rare item. A vote was placed to determine whether to keep it or sell it: the result was 3-2 to keep it. Griselda, who was married in-game to Grimlock as well, kept it in her inventory. Yolko believes whoever killed Caynz may be targeting the players who wished to keep the ring, which also included herself and Schmitt.
Kirito and Asuna find Schmitt. Yolko then panics, believing the killer to be the vengeful spirit of Griselda. After all, how else could a player be murdered outside of duels in a safe zone like a town?
Suddenly, a dagger appears in Yolko's back. She falls from the window and vanishes.