Floor 55th, September 15th, 2026
The sun ascends arriving to the top of the sky.
Winds carried small grey clouds in the sky that slowly gathered becoming larger and larger. A storm was coming by nightfall.
Galant sits on the top of the three meter wall surrounding the temple, looking towards the horizon, waiting for Asuna to get up to leave as quickly as possible.
Inside the temple Kirito watched him, with his grey eyes seriously looking to any movement the lone player made.
“I know that look.” Klein says walking next to him. “Eyes full of seriousness. You had the same look at Heathcliff, when he revealed he was Kayaba Akihiko.”
“You knew Galant back in SAO. What do you think of him?”
“He’s a good guy. Of that, I’m sure.”
“I mean more than just that.”
“Galant’s both a great warrior and a leader. One to be compared even with you. He leaded me and hundred others against Cerdic and his monster hordes. And we won at his command. He may have lost confidence on himself as one after all he’s went through, but I still trust him. One more thing: He’d be a great ally to our cause.”
“He doesn’t believe on it.”
“We’d all have once. But you always find a way to convince otherwise.”
Klein walks to the garden and Kirito follows him rapidly.
He remains on the top of the stairs and looks the players on the sand garden.
“We’ve done the impossible….”
The knights start looking at him. Klein, Leafa, Diana, Sybil, Kana, Lamorak, Sinon, Recon, Agil and Silica look at him. Even Galant turns around to hear him.
“…We brought down the Arena of Luccinea. A monument of the Kingdom, build by other slave players. We’ve struck a strong blow, directly to the heart of our enemy. But, their numbers are vast, enough to defeat us. One day, they’ll try to strike back…”
“How do we avoid them?” One player asks.
“I won’t try to. If we’re going to fight Thanos and his legions, we’ll do it here!”
More players start to ask things out loud to Kirito.
Galant smiles, thinking of the madness the Black Swordsman was suggesting.
“We must get ready for what’s coming. We don’t have many proper weapons and we have neither a blacksmith nor good steel here. So we’ll have to create ones with what we can from wood and…”
As Kirito continues his speech, Lamorak looks to Klein some meters from him. He decides to try to make peace with him after all what had happened between them. He touches Sybil’s arm and walks towards him. Sybil smiles after noticing what he was trying to do.
Lamorak quickly gets next to him, and while keeping his sight on Kirito, he speaks.
“When Leafa noticed you were yet alive….you were right to try to save her.”
“If it weren’t for Kirito, you and the others, I’d be dead, and I couldn’t keep on fighting.” Klein replies. “That’s something I won’t forget…”
“…But I won’t forget your lie, what made her stay on that place another fucking day.”
Lamorak looks at him.
“She’s safe now. That’s all that matters now…”
“You really think a few words can change all what happened? You’re more stupid than I expected.”
“I’m sorry.” Lamorak says angered. “The mistake was mine. To try to apologize to a fucking salamander!”
Klein grabs Lamorak from his collar and punches him directly on the face.
Kirito stops his speech and runs to stop the fight as the entire guild turn their sight towards them.
“Fucking shit!” Klein says.
Lamorak attempts to punch him as well and they end up struggling against each other before several players grab them both as Kirito places himself between the two of them.
Kirito looks at Klein.
“I thought you’ve let this go.”
“Not yet…” Klein leaves.
Kirito turns to Lamorak.
“I’ll go to Bluewater Bay, to get BETTER players!” He says angrily before he leaves as well, accompanied by Agil towards the city of Bluewater Bay.
Galant laughs out loud calling the attention of most players.
“You shouldn’t fear the legions, and your own men try to kill each other.” He laughs again, before turning back again.
“You all have work to do. Let’s do it.” Kirito says.
All the players start doing the work they were told. Either training or helping. No knight could remain idle.
“Galant!” Kirito says. “I want to talk...”
Kirito give Galant a wooden spear once they are on the woods surrounding the temple.
“You want to fight?” Galant ask.
“I want to hunt.” Kirito replies. “Everyone is helping somehow. You can help me to find food.”
Kirito grabs a spear for him and follows Galant through the woods.
They both walk silently thought the forest, ready to attack any moving monster nearby. Either Black Boars or Brown Deer could be easily found on that area. The only problem was to catch them.
Kirito looks to Galant for a moment and speaks.
“You told me you had to explain something to Asuna, like if you had a debt with her. Wasn’t saving her life enough to repay it?”
“I wouldn’t call it a debt. And it’s for her to decide.”
“You’re a free man. That decision’s your own. As when you chose to fight on the Arena against Asuna Klein and Kunimittz….”
Galant turns around.
“…Why did you do it? Honor, as you told me, or the promise of coin?” Kirito continues.
“I’ll never collect that, because I chose not to kill you in the Arena!” Galant answers a bit annoyed by Kirito’s comment. “And now my Rudis, MY FREEDOM, is forever lost. Buried beneath the remains of a burning arena.”
“Freedom isn’t a stick of wood carved to serve an unworthy King. It’s a thing that all men deserve.”
“I’m a player killer, as you were.”
Kirito surprised to Galant’s comment.
“Yes. I know that story, of the players you’ve killed.” Galant tells him to end his surprise. “You and me; we only deserve only a death equal to all the lives ended by our blades.”
Galant turns his back on Kirito.
“I’ve heard rumors, saying that it wasn’t always like that for you…”
“So, you’ve heard them…”
“Yeah, I wonder what the truth is…”
“I was a leader of a Guild once, inside SAO, with my best friends and my girlfriend. The name was the Royal Knights. Great warriors. Great friends. The only love I’ve ever felt.”
“What happened to them?”
“We suffered many loses on the way towards the 100th floor, but the promise of freedom was the only thing that kept us going. To continue fighting. To never surrender. But even still, all of them died. Dagonet, Galahad, Elicia, Tristan, Lance, Gawn, Bors, Percival and Guinevere…Sakura…”
“Mordread happened.” Galant answers with a deep hatred notable on his words. “He was my second best friend on real life. But in a hard moment, I’d to chose Sakura and Lance over him. He swore vengeance. And once I knew he took their lives, I did the same.”
He pauses for a brief moment, and then continues.
“It was Mordread, leader for the League of Darkness Knights who’s responsible for the death of Sakura and the others. And I won’t rest while he’s yet alive.”
“This is the reason you use a VRSMA? Risking your life for vengeance? In the memory of Sakura?”
“For love. The greatest cause of all.”
“And that’s why you’re a Darkness user?”
Galant is surprised.
“Diana told me.” Kirito says finishing.
“If she told you, she must’ve also said that I’ve learned to control it. Besides, this isn’t your business…”
“I know almost nothing about it.” Kirito keeps on. “But for what I’ve herd. It’s not something you’d have inside your body. With those thoughts, those feelings, that hatred, it will only become larger and larger until they consume you inside out.”
“You think I care about that? There’s nothing left for me out in the Real World.”
“I think you do. But you’re too blind with anger and revenge to see it.”
“And tell me: what would you do, if someone killed Asuna, leaving you with nothing? Every single day without feeling the warm of her skin, the scent her soft and long brown hair, the taste of her lips. Tell me?! What would you do?”
“I’d fight. But I wouldn’t lose track, for the friends and all the people here that still count on me. This isn’t what Sakura would’ve wished.”
“Does that mater? She’s dead. And the dead can’t have an opinion.” Galant pauses for a moment. “…There many things she’d not have wanted. And yet they’re so. I’ll keep on fighting and kill all the VRSMA users and the members of the League. I’m just fighting this battle using the best weapons and methods at my disposal.”
“Galant, do you understand? That if you only do evil out of hearted for evil; that rage and hate will simply give birth to a new stronger evil. Dimachearus Knight, I now know and I can understand what betrayed you and caused you to fall to such despair. But those emotions are just found on those who once only sought and believed in true justice. Galant, when you were younger, you must’ve wished to become a hero. You believed with all your heart in a hero, and wished it more than anyone. Am I right?”
Galant turns just his face around, looking by the corner of his left eye towards Kirito.
Kirito was indeed right.
A life time ago, when he met both Shun and Sakura, the only thing inside his head was this hero. This ally of justice who could protect and save everyone. Someone he wished to become more than anything in the world.
But many things had happened since then.
Galant wasn’t the man he was and he may never be him again.
Not since his comrades died two years ago. In the moment Mordread killed Sakura he killed Galant’s identity as well.
In that moment the man he was died.
Galant was the once who rose from those ashes. Someone who felt only grief and lose. Someone moved by will for retribution. Someone hungry for vengeance.
“I’ll end this circle of vengeance.” Galant answers after some long seconds. “I’ll make sure that this blood I spill, will be the last spilled inside ALO. I even if I have to stain my hands with all the evils in the world, I’ll gladly do it for the sake of vengeance and the sake of the players. So that my friends and I can rest in peace…” Galant looks around. “You’ve scared away the animals. I fair better alone.”
Galant leaves searching for a pray.
The Knights start digging a long passage beneath the Temple, preparing an emergency exit from their base escape if needed. Others reconstruct the wooden broken ceiling of the Temple. The last group teaches the other players how to fight against the legions. How to move, how to attack, how to parry, how to win and how to live to celebrate your victory.
Klein was cutting long branches of trees for the ceiling with a short two handed axe.
Leafa walks next to his with a jar of water.
“I don't want you to get too thirsty.”
“Thanks.” Klein says, taking the jar and drinking.
“I don’t want you fighting with Lamorak.”
“If it were for him, you’d still be on the mines.”
“Perhaps he was right…”
“Don’t say that.”
“Don’t you think the same? After how I act…”
“No. All what matters, is that you’re back against with us.”
“Do I? I lost all my skill with the katana. I can’t fight. I’m just the remains of Leafa. And I may never be her again.”
Klein gets angry and smashes the axe against the wood again.
“In a week a ship will dock here.” Lamorak touches the map. “It’ll be full of players that once fought against the legions. Fighting players.”
“A few of us dressed as soldiers could gain entry there.”
“Yeah, it’s possible.”
“Seems your investigation was useful.”
“But not all I found were good news. I learned that Thanos put a bounty on your head at 10000 Yrd.”
Galant arrives to the temple, with a large back boar over his shoulders and the spear on his right hand. He rapidly gets next to Kirito and Lamorak sitting on the short staircase.
“Seems you’ve caught nothing except the attention of the legions. And what I cough is our meal.”
Kirito and Lamorak seriously look at him as he continues walking towards the inner part of the temple.
Lamorak looks at Kirito.
“Weren’t the Salamanders not fucking bad enough?!”
Galant keeps on walking and gets next to Klein, sat next to a small fire he created.
“I’ve heard many accomplishments of Fuurinkazan.” He says while putting down the boar. “Nice name for a guild, I’ve never told you that.”
“Thanks…”Klein says while looking at him. He was notably distracted.
“I’m glad you came out alive of SAO, along the rest of your friends.” Galant draws Carnwennan from his boot and starts removing the guts of the pray. “And it comes as a great surprise to find you here, along Kana and Diana, all of you former members of RYUPA, following the lead of a spriggan.”
“Kirito helped me in SAO after we defeated Cerdic. He also did on the first day and on several more as the two years passed. He opened my eyes to the current situation inside Aincrad. We stand together.”
“Then we’re you here sit, while they make plans?”
“I’m thinking of something else…” Klein says looking to Leafa next to Sybil.
Galant turns around, looking her as well. He turns again afterwards, looking back to Klein.
“You managed to save Leafa. I thought it Impossible…”
“We lost several players on the mines. Three of my guild mates among them. You weren’t totally wrong.”
“A big price is always paid by those we care about. You’d leave Kirito and his stupid cause….before he drags you all to death.”
Klein notices Yui flying nearby Galant’s shoulder, who as well notices her. The small Navigation Pixie continues and finally gets to Kirito’s shoulder.
Kirito smiles as soon as he Asuna partially recovered, but still resting on the bed. She smiles as well.
He gets next to her and places his left knee and right leg on the floor to place his face closer to hers.
“I’m so happy you’ve woken up.”
“What happened?” Asuna asks with a weak voice.
“We couldn’t let any of you die on the Arena. We attacked it and freed you, burning the arena to the ground.”
“What’s this place?”
“It’s a temple, on the 55th floor, near the inactive volcano Muspel.” Yui answers.
“You carried me unconscious five floors? That must’ve been hard.” She says smiling.
“Hey.” Kirito says. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, you know that.”
He grabs her hand, interlacing fingers with her.
“Yes…I love you Kirito.”
Kirito approaches him and gives her a kiss.
“Don’t do perverted things in front of me!” Yui yells out.
The couple laughs.
“I’ll leave you to rest…but someone wants to talk to you first…”
Kirito turns around and leaves the place followed by Yui who sits on his shoulder. He finds Galant next to the entrance, with his back against the wall and with his arms crossed. They share a gaze for a moment.
“Go, and be quick, she needs to rest.” Kirito says before leaving.
Galant uncrosses his arms and gets to the door. Asuna was looking at the entrance, waiting for the person Kirito told him. Upon noticing that person was Galant, she notably became angry.
“I’m here only to talk.” Galant says, trying to make the situation less violent
He gets next to her and gets in the same position Kirito was, with his left knee and right leg on the floor, to place his face closer to hers.
“What words could change what you’ve done?”
“That I faced you in the Arena to give you an honorable death. I’d prefer killing you or any of the people I care about rather than letting you die at the hands of a VRSMA user.”
“Is that, your only reason? Or money as well?”
Galant pauses for a moment looking down. In that moment Asuna notices that was true as well.
“Whatever happened between us, I never intended it. I never wished to lose your trust. I just want you out of this world to be safe. All of you.”
“I trusted you in SAO. But you’ve changed. You’re not the same one that fought and defeated Cerdic.”
“Many things have happened. After the death of Guinevere and the others. I’m other person now.”
“Yes, you are.” Asuna answers. “You’re a man that stands only for himself. One that’d betray anyone, to get what he wants.”
Galant closes his eyes.
Those were the same words Lance used to describe him, when he betrayed him and fell in love with Sakura. That’s what he told him. And he was true.
And so, was Asuna.
“I’m always a fool, to believe otherwise.” Galant responds disappointed and a bit sad.
He gets back up and leaves to get ready his possessions before leaving the temple as well.
Leafa examines Klein’s katana left on his room. He removes the blade from its sheath and looks it. Looking and touching the sharp and shiny blade with the tips of her fingers. Slowly moving her middle and index finger across it, up to the point of the blade. She cuts her index finger slightly and a drip of her blood falls to the ground.
“The boar Galant caught is being prepared for food.” Klein says. “Come, you’d eat.”
Leafa isn’t distracted. She keeps on looking to the blade.
“It has a fine edge.” She says still looking at the sword. “Life easily runs from veins if it’s swung against anyone’s flesh.”
“That was my name before…I now wonder who I am. The things I had to do to survive!”
“We’ll find another place. Far from Aincrad. Far from Hao and his legions and from the things they’ve done to you.”
Leafa shakes his head.
“The memory would still hunt men, even in real life.” She gets up facing Klein. “I can’t run from this…”
“What do you want us to do?! Do nothing, and see how you slowly die?!”
“NO! I want you to all teach me again, how to live, how to fight! So that no one will try to touch me without my consent! And that way, maybe, I’ll return to normal once again.”
“We’ll have vengeance, for what the legionaries did you. Together, we’ll see them drown in rivers of blood!”
The sky was covered in dark black clouds. The storm was approaching by every second.
But another storm had just started inside the temple. All the knights were searching for something. Something important since most of them moved and searched as fast as they could. It seemed like if it was a matter of life and death.
Agil: “Neither here!”
More screams and yells could be heard from all the players.
Kirito arrives from the rooms of the temple followed by Sinon.
Kirito: “Relax! What’s happening?”
Agil: “What we had left of Yrd’s missing!”
Lamorak: “FUCK THAT, THE MAP’S GONE! Or position, the plans towards Bluewater Bay.”
Sybil: “Seems someone’s going to betray us to win Thanos’ reward…”
She says looking towards the inner part of the temple.
They four all turn and see Galant coming in their direction looking down.
This calls the mercenaries attention and he looks up. Kirito grabs Yui and places her on Lamorak’s shoulder.
“You leave without farewells?”
All the KoB members surround Galant, looking directly at him.
Galant: “I’d my conversation with Asuna. I just wanted to leave as quickly as I could. Now I’m going.”
Kirito: “What’re you taking with you?”
Galant: “My equipment? Weapons? Water? Meat I’ve cut with my own fucking hands!?”
Sinon: “A map disappears when you leave…Isn’t that a bit suspicious…”
Kirito: “It’s a thing we’ve seen you look several times.”
Galant: “I’m guilty of many things. But betraying your stupid and worthless cause isn’t among them!” he looks seriously to Kirito. “Get out of my fucking way.”
They didn’t move.
Far the contrary.
They make a smaller oval surrounding Galant, who was outnumber and outmatched. They wouldn’t let him go if he had the map and told the legions where the “rebels” were. They’d kill him first.
Galant looks around, noticing Diana, Kana and Klein shaking their heads, somehow telling him to surrender. To avoid unnecessary blood. Galant then looks to Kirito several feet in front of him and begins to laugh out loud like a maniac.
“I knew you’d send all this players to their deaths one day!” he says after finishing and he points his finger to him. “Is this the day I’ll do it?!”
Kirito: “At least I’ve been loyal, a quality you don’t quite know…”
Galant’s face changes from one of laugh, to one of anger in that second.
Faster than any of the Knights, he rushes towards Kirito and tackles him. Both players fall to the sand. They get up and the Knights draw weapons to fight Galant. Galant draws Maximus Caliburn as well and activates Dimachearus, duplicating the blade. The one who was about to attack him was Lamorak.
Kirito: “NO!!! DON’T INTERFIRE! I’LL SHOW HIM WHAT A MAN WITH A NOT SELFISH REASON TO FIGHT CAN DO!!!”
Lamorak keeps his sight on Galant and reluctantly stands down. The rest of the players make a semicircle surrounding both fighters.
Kirito draws from his back both Elucidator on his right hand and Long sword on his left.
Galant turns around facing the Twin Black Swordsman.
“So, this is it: Dual Blades vs Dimachearus…You won’t use Excaliber?”
“I don’t need it.”
“You won’t defeat me without it. So let me pass, or die.”
Another lightning accompanied seconds later by a thunder.
It begins to rain.
Kirito rushes towards Galant and tries to stab his but Galant parries quickly with his frontal blade. He tries another blow the same blade, but Galant parries that attack as well. They start moving is circles as they constantly attack on parry at the same speed, matching each other perfectly. Their blades shined with every single sword skill they tried and sparkled with every single clash they made.
Galant blocks several of Kirito’s attacks and tries to slash him with his right blade. But Kirito was quicker than he expected, and he manages to parry with Elucidator and then slash Galant’s back.
Galant yells out and fells the pain, but doesn’t have any time to balm it.
He turns around quickly, as Kirito makes a second attack. Galant bends his body forward and the blade passes above his head. He is on Kirito’s back and hits it with the pommel of Maximus Caliburn, making the Black Swordsman lose his balance. Kirito regains it quickly, and turns around with a wide horizontal strike. Galant parries using a both blades, and then tries to slash Kirito’s neck with them. However, he manages to elude. They both turn at the same time 360º to their right and clash their blades in the middle, struggling against each other.
They look to each other’s eyes filled with rage.
They stood on equal skill with each other and it was impossible for the players looking at the great battle to decide who would win.
Sinon gets next to Klein.
“You have to stop this!”
“Kirito wants to show him what we can do. They’re having an honorable duel. We’ll honor that!”
They end the struggle, forcing each other back.
Kirito tries to use Rage Spike to stab Galant’s chest, but Galant parries the blade, and moves to Kirito’s back again. This time, he swings his blade with Stardust Slasher, hitting Kirito’s back with the skill, returning the same blow Kirito delivered to him few moments before. Both distance after that and get ready for another assault.
Kirito advances, and Galant exchanges several quick blows with him before striking his left blade strongly, making the weapon slip from Kirito’s hands. The blade turns 180º and begins going down, but the Twin Swordsman manages to grab it backhand. After this he tries a wide slash with his right. Galant eludes, bending legs as the blade passed inches front his head and cuts a few locks of his hair. Galant the kick his side, forcing him back, but Kirito comes again nerveless. They exchange other round quick blows before Galant rushes against a wall, Kirito follows him. Galant jumps on the ground and then on the wall. He spins while doing this and lands a hard and strong kick using Shippu Kokutenfuu to his back. Kirito falls to the ground and rolls. Long Sword falls from his hand after that attack.
Sinon starts moving and gets own of her arrows ready.
Now with advantage, Galant attacks him with a diagonal descending slash. However, Kirito manages to parry the attack and forces Galant a bit back. However, Galant comes back using Shimmer Spike to stab his. The guild leader manages to elude by few inches and then punches the mercenary strongly on the face with his right hand. He struggles with Galant’s right hand and manages to make his right blade slip from his hands as well, making the battle fairer.
Kirito makes a wide slash spinning 360º which Galant eludes lowering his body for a third time. He gets up quickly and manages to grab Kirito’s arm milliseconds after it passed. Galant hits Kirito’s elbow with his forearm, making him lose Elucidator as well. Kirito grabs his arm and punches his hard with his right hand, and Maximus Caliburn falls from his hands as well.
They part for a moment and engage physically afterwards. Kirito tries to punch Galant but the champion grabs his fist. Galant ignites his left fist with fire and punches as well, but Kirito grabs his hand as well.
Galant Darkness sparking into his eyes, activating the VRSMA as well. But he forces it back. I wasn’t going to let it interfere.
That was an honorable contest.
He wouldn’t kill Kirito.
They enter on a second struggle.
“You’re better than I expected…”Galant whispers.
“Same I could ask of you. It’s a waste to see you fighting for the Legions.” Kirito tells him.
“It’s a bigger waste you all risking your lives for this non-sense. If you can’t defeat me, you don’t have a chance against Hao.”
“If you don’t have the guts to use Excaliber you won’t even defeat Thanos.”
“This is over…”
Galant places a hard knee to Kirito’s stomach. They part as Kirito lands a kick on Galant’s side. Galant advances to punch him, but Kirito blocks with his forearm and lands a hard fist to his face. Galant then counters with one of his own. They take distance again. Kirito attacks again, but Galant locks his arm with his own before striking. The Dimachearus Knight punches him with his left several times on the face and on the chest, but then Kirito lands a hard uppercut to Galant’s face, then grabbing his arm and both of them fall to the ground.
The rain continued stronger than before as an angered Thor filled the sky with dozens of lightings.
Both warriors take their blades again and get up continuing the battle. Their blades sparked each time they grazed or touched, making the battle both beautiful and deadly. Each sound of their thunderous clash could match the sound made by the storm itself as they never stopped eluding, paring and attacking. Even if both of them were beaten and wounded, they’d keep on getting up and fighting until one of them was dead. The battle wouldn’t be over soon for none of them. They could continue much more time.
Sinon loads an arrow and aims…
“KIRITO!” She shots out.
Kirito and Galant take distance from each other as the arrow passed between their blades, piercing through the chest of a player, who falls to the ground afterwards.
“She was trying to escape while we were distracted because of the battle.” Sinon says while walking towards the player on the ground.
Kirito and Galant stop their battle and approach the players
“A good shot…” Diana says.
“But I just wanted to wound…”
The player dies, shattering into polygons.
Sinon examines his clothes.
“He took the Map.” She says with the Mirage Sphere on her hand.
Kirito: “Why?” Kirito Asks.
Sinon: “Thanos’ rewards probably…”
Kirito turns to Galant, who also looks at him.
Kirito: “I’m sorry. You’re telling the truth.”
Galant: “I haven’t always told it. I’ll leave now, unless you want to continue this quarrel.”
Kirito: “Go. Enough blood for a night.”
Galant nods, he deactivates Dimachearus, refusing his blades into one and sheathing it on his back. He looks to Diana, Kana and Klein.
“You stay?” he asks.
Klein: “I do.”
Kana: “We do.”
Kana says before her sister could speak.
“Then I’ll mourn your death.” Galant says before he takes leave.
“You think it’s a good idea to let him leave just like this?” Lamorak says.
“I already told you Lamorak. Every men has right to make their own choice.”
“What happens to you, papa?” Yui says. “Your vital signs seem to have changed…”
“Galant’s a great warrior and one of the few that equals my skill. I just have the felling, this won’t be the last time Galant and I clash our blades. We’ll surely face each other another time. But whatever it happens, I’ll certainly win. We’ll win this war and free Aincrad. No matter the cost.”