In the real world, Kikuoka and Higa give Asuna access to the “Stacia” account, giving her godlike powers within the Underworld, which she shows once she gets there by creating those chasms. Unfortunately she can’t use that power very much, but it’s enough to finally find Kirito again, who is just as grateful to see her even in his weakened state. Alice is really predatory of him at first, but Bercouli gets her to calm down when she attacks Asuna, though the two of them aren’t starting off on the best of terms.
Asuna explains the situation about the real world, Rath, Vecta, and the search for Alice to the rest of the knights, telling them that they’ve come to make use of her somehow. As for what makes Alice so special, it turns out to be the fact that she was able to break the seal on her right eye, which exploded when she embraced her rebellious thoughts, known as Code 871. Asuna is confused by this, since a seal like that wouldn’t help Rath’s intended experiments, meaning it must have been a mole inside Rath working for the enemy. So the goal now changes to making peace with the Dark Territory and getting to the bottom of things, though first they’ll have to defend their world with Asuna’s help.
That night, Asuna tries visiting Kirito again, though is met with Alice, as well as Ronye and Soritilenia, who all swap stories about Kirito.
Well, that wraps another book to adapt for this arc, leaving two left. And with it ends this phase of the battle, shifting to the residents of the Underworld finally learning that they are within a simulation made by other humans, heralded by the arrival of Asuna (who even now show’s up in the OP, though you’d be forgiven for missing that detail). It IS nice to see her back in the action in a meaningful way, which I don’t think has happened since, arguably, the end of the Aincrad arc. Maybe since the end of her focus arc at the end of Season 2 if you want to be generous. But yeah, she’s back and more powerful than ever, switching out being just a fast swords-woman with now being able to warp landscapes, which is quite the upgrade. I can only imagine the arrival of the other former principal characters is only a matter of time at this point.
What I can’t say I was really looking forward to is Asuna meeting EVEN MORE of Kirito’s not-harem, most notably Alice, and having the expected cat-fight for territory. Thankfully it looks to be resolved now, but I’m already beyond sick of how much Kirito his verbally felated by just about every character, especially women, that having numerous scenes dedicated to just how much his charisma gathers just about any woman in his vicinity is just territory I wish the show would abandon already. Especially since, for one, Asuna’s already his actual girlfriend, so bringing in EVEN MORE GIRLS doesn’t do anything but make him look like an asshole flirt, and two, that Alice (especially THIS Alice) barely knows this Kirito at all, having only known him conscious for one night. Though Asuna doesn’t get away from having “KIRITO KIRITO KIRITO” being a more than sizable portion of her character, which only really drags her down even now that she’s a literal goddess.
But that’s really the only egregious part of this episode, because otherwise things seem to going pretty smoothly still, including the explanation about the other worlds to the residents of the Underworld. We’re down to the wire with just a little bit before the dub catches up with the sub and we have to wait for another break to see the end. And we’ll see more of that unfold as we enter the final two episodes of this quarter next week!