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« SAO:NA - Chapter XXIII: Lurking Wolves

Sword Art Online: New Aincrad
Written by: FedeTkd
Published: FedeTkd (talk) 00:42, January 11, 2016 (UTC)
Chapter XXIV: Heavy Burdens

SAO:NA - Chapter XXV: Sea Robbers »



Floor 90th, January 9th, 2027

Zar enters the in the circular bathtub filled with hot water. He immerses his head in the water and pulls it out quickly. After this, he pulls back his wet long hair, places both arms on the sides of the tub and closes his eyes, breathed the steamy air deeply, letting it fill his lungs. He places his head against the wall, allowing the hot water to clean his body and clear his mind. It’d been a long time since he last had a long bath, so he decided to spend a long time there, alone and calm. He almost fell that he could fall sleep right there.

The sound of water filling the tub was all he heard for quite a long time, until the door of the bath opened.

He opens his eyes and sees a female sylph player he’d ever seen before. Blonde long hair, green eyes, pretty face and curvaceous figure. She was wearing the uniform of the legions, but Zar could see that she was no fighter at all.

“My apologies for interrupting you, General Zar.” She says. “I was ordered to bring this wine to you.”

She was carrying an expensive blackberry wine vessel and two cups.

“Thank you.” Zar says with a slight grin. “Please, bring it here.”

She enters the bath and places the drink in the edge of the bath.

“First time I see you, girl.” Zar speaks. “What’s your name?”

“Freya.” She answers.

“Freya…That’s one of the names of the Nordic goddess of beauty.” He pauses for a brief moment, gazing her quickly with his sharp grey eyes. “You’re a quite a vision of her.”

“Thank you…” She says, awkwardly.

“What do you think?” Zar says.

“I…I don’t understand…” She says, blank-faced.

Zar rises from bath and walks a couple of steps towards her.

“It’s a very simple question: What do you think?” He insists.

“About what?” She says, uncomfortable to his advances on her. She looks to the bath’s walls, trying to ignore the fact that he was completely naked.

“Me. What do you think of Zar, The Wolf General?”

“I’ve just met him. I barely know him. So I can’t have a valid opinion.”

She turns around, to escape from that situation, but he catches her arm in time, stopping her.

“You just have to ask then.” Zar says, looking deeply into her eyes. He gets his face closer to hers and places his arm on her neck. “I can answer any of your questions.”

“I…I…” Freya says, nervously doubting. She didn’t know what to say.

“Shhh…” Zar silences her, placing a finger on her mouth before moving it aside. “…we can talk…after…”

He kisses her. Freya froze in that exact moment. Zar then moves downwards, kissing her neck and starts unzipping her coat.

Hao enters the bathroom in that exact moment. His whole expression changes when he sees the “couple” being more than friendly in the bath.

“Freya!” Hao says seriously.

They stop in that exact moment, looking at Hao.

“Leave. Now.” Hao adds.

“Yes, your Majesty.” She says, zipping her vest and running away as quickly as she can from that situation.

Hao now stared directly at Zar, very seriously.

“You give me a present: wine and a girl…” Zar says, grabbing the wine and filling his cup. “…only to take them from me?”

“I didn’t send her here as a fucking gift to you!” Hao says, loudly and notably angered.

Zar looks at Hao. It was the very first time he herd him curse, what meant he overstepped somehow.

“My apologies, my King. I didn’t know the girl was important to you.”

Hao breathes deeply and calms down. His whole expression softens.

“Apparently, you’ve been too long without civilized company.” He tosses him a towel. “Put on some clothes. We have important things to talk about.”

---

“We haven’t obtained many horses.” Markus says to Taikeus while both of them are walking in the hallway.

Freya rushes out of Zar’s room, bursting in tears, running the opposite way they walked. She tries to hide her tears, but Markus quickly realizes she was hiding something.

“What happened?!” he says.

“Nothing important…” She says, still trying to conceal the truth.

“Please tell me. If something’s bothering you, it’s better to let it out of your chest.”

“I…I was attending Zar, as ordered, when…”

“Zar?” Taikeus asks.

“The Wolf General, Zar?”

She nods slightly.

“My brother must’ve called him here to…shit…” Markus adds. “What happened?”

“He…touched me…If your brother hadn’t appeared he’d…I…”

“Where’s Zar?”

---

“What’s this thing we need to discuss about?” Zar asks while, putting a towel around his waist.

“About the upcoming war against KoB, and about Kirito himself.” Hao adds.

“To be sincere, my King, I know little to nothing about Kirito.”

“Fortunately, I conducted an investigation. The man we hunt is one of the strongest SAO players. He was judged to have had the fastest reaction speed in Aincrad, thus earning the Unique Skill known as Dual Blades, enabling him to use two swords at the same time.”

“Two swords? I thought you and a few other players were able to dual wield as well.”

“Yes. But I attained my Unique Skill because of a glitch in SAO system, Skeith. It corrupted everything it touched. I was very lucky actually, the players who got in Skeith’s way ended up crazy or worse. Other players attained a dual wield-like skill, somehow. For instance, the Dimachearus skill of Maximus Caliburn. But Kirito is unlike any others. He was chosen by the system to fight against the final floor in the final boss in floor 100th.”

“Against Heathcliff. Kayaba himself.” Zar chuckles. “And I know he managed to defeat him in the 75th floor. That’s quite an accomplishment. However, we’re still talking of a player, regardless of skill, how did he manage to best our Legions?”

“The Black Swordsman has proven himself quite a tactician. He burned down the Arena in Luccinea with less than 20 men.”

“I already heard of that.”

“I see. You’re not convinced. He defeated the fool Thanos in Muspel. Thanos and his men sieged then on Muspel’s peak. However, they crafted ropes with the vines they found at the top of the mountain. At night, they climbed down and defeated the Legions, who outnumbered them. Afterwards, he defeated several commanders of my guild. He even used a military tactic to trick Lucius and Octavius to defeat them, slipping inside their base with a few men and killing them both.”

“I see…He’s been using our own strategist against us. Using something we don’t expect do attack. So he thinks he knows what a regular general would do…a thing we can turn into an advantage.”

“Yes. A good idea. You’ve became quite smart in battlefield tactics.”

“Time and battle will improve your strategy. I’m sure you’ll be able to polish that of yours until it’s sharp as a Hellkarium blade.”

“Yes. Speaking of which, there’s something we need to talk about Zar. I‘ve been thinking of a plan for you. But I’ll need you to be extremely secretive about it.”

Hao walks and closes the door of Zar’s room.

Right next to the door, Markus hits the wall angrily. He’d managed to hear part of their conversation but he was going to miss the most important part.

He storms away to finish the preparations for the Army.

---

Floor 94th, January 9th, 2027

“A curfew?” Galant says shockingly, jumping from his seat. “The streets cleared by all except city guard!?”

“Yes.” Kirito answers. “By orders of the Governor.”

Galant turns around and looks to Antinomy.

“Did you know about this shit?!” he yells at his friend

“Fuck off! I just found out, same as you two!” Antinomy responds, quite angrily. He gives them the two blades. The weapons looked very similar to Kirito’s former blade in SAO, Dark Repulser. “I hope this two help you.”

Kirito gives one to Galant.

“They will.” Kirito says. “But I need to ask more to you now.”

“I thought so.” He smith responds with a slight smile. “If you pay me a bit more, you can stay here.”

“We don’t want that.” Kirito responds.

“You really think I’m an idiot? Why on Earth would I help two enemies of the Kingdom?”

“Haven’t you helped us already?” Galant says.

“Besides, we’ve got quite a lot of Yrd. How much do we have to pay you so that you can help us a bit more?”

“…A hundred thousand Yrd, to get me the hell out of Aincrad and very far from Hao and his Legions?”

Kirito grabs his hand.

“You have a deal.”

Antinomy laughs.

“I’m not a citizen of the Kingdom any longer then! Now, give me some more Ingots! How many swords do you need?”

“I think you didn’t understand Antinomy.” Galant says. “That’s not the kind of help we need. The ones who’ll join us are quite well armed.”

“Join you?” Antinomy approaches and his eyes widen. “You’re going to take this fucking city?”

“We’re going to liberate it. The only problem is the entrance gate.” Kirito says.

“We’re going to go out there by cover of the night, slit some throats and open it.” Galant adds.

“But, this unexpected curfew is quite a problem. They’ll announce we’re here way before we get near the gate.”

Antinomy turns around and walks, rubbing his face. After a short while, he looks to the two knights.

“I can’t help you on this. They’d kill me if I do.”

Kirito looks to Galant.

“Antinomy, you’ve got quite a problem.” The blue knight says. “You see, you’ve forged weapons to Kirito himself. If they find us with your weapons in hand, they’ll kill you all the same.”

“Fuck me and the Aesir…What do you want me to do?”

---

Markus runs through the hallways of the HQ, searching for his brother until he finally finds him walking towards his own personal chambers.

“Brother!” he shouts. Hao turns around. “I’ve attended everything. It’s all ready. Our army of ten thousand soldiers is ready at the Field of Victors. We can march tomorrow, at first light.”

Markus gives him a message. Hao gladly takes it.

“Very well, Markus. Thank you. You’ve been quite helpful over this few days.”

“Thanks. But there’s yet a problem. You still haven’t told me what position I’d take on the army…”

“I’m pretty aware of that, Markus, but I’m still thinking it through. I’ll have the answer by tomorrow.”

Hao places his hand on the shoulder of his brother.

“That’d be all?”

Markus nods slightly.

“Good. Have a good night.”

Hao walks away, towards his personal quarters. Disappointed, Markus sights before slowly walk away.

Hao enters his room, where he finds Freya lighting some candles in his room. He lies against a wall and remains gazing at her with his arms crossed. Freya finishes lighting the candles without realizing she was being watched. She walks to the desk in the room and looks at a sword exposed horizontally, supported by two small wooden blocks with a small gap to place the weapon in. The Sylph girl remains looking at the blade, gazing its unique design. It was a one handed straight sword, with a hilt that looked like an old and grey femur of a human. The cross-guard had the exact same color, but it rather resembled two smaller, shorter and perfectly straight bones, extending no more than 5 centimeters. However, the most distinguishing thing about the weapon was its blade. It was quite long, almost reaching 1 meter long, with a slightly curved inside middle that became wider by the end. The fuller was vermillion as the sunset, with a pitch black edge. It was that contrast of colors what gave the blade its unique beauty. Freya touches the blade with her middle and index fingers, sliding it slowly across the edge, making sure she didn’t cut herself.

“You like that blade?” Hao says.

“Your Majesty!” Freya says, turning to Hao, quite surprised. “For how long have you been there, looking at me?”

“A short while. Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He shuts the door and walks towards her. “Dainsleif. It’s a thing of rare beauty, isn’t it?”

“Yes, my King. You’ll carry it when you face Kirito?”

“No.” He says shaking his head. “I’ll carry other weapons, my most powerful ones. Dainsleif’s my very first blade. It’s strong and well balanced, but I’ll need more power to defeat Kirito.”

“Then Zar will carry it as your second in command. Your word and will.”

Hao stops walking. He’s right in front of her but doesn’t answer.

“I shouldn’t have let you go near him. He’s a great soldier, but a man of basic needs.”

“Then why’re you giving him a tittle above your brother.”

They look at each other for a while.

“Forgive me, my King. I overstepped.” She says, looking down.

“It’s fine. You’re just saying what you feel and I can’t blame you for that. You care a lot about my brother and I’m very thankful for that. The boy often sees you as the mother he never met.”

“Boy…He’s no longer one, except for you.”

“Adulthood doesn’t just come by the changes in your body, result of entering puberty. It comes when you mentally accept your responsibilities and when you start acting maturely.”

Freya doesn’t respond. She just nods her head slightly.

“Anyhow, if you’re so nervous about this war and about Markus, you’d like to come with us?” Hao says, walking behind her and kissing her template delicately.

“My King, that’s possible?” She says, turning around, looking to Hao.

“I can’t have you inside the main camp with the rest of my men, it’s a rule I created for discipline within the camp. I’d be a hypocrite if I allowed you. Besides, a woman there’s quite dangerous, even under my protection. You’d need to stay in the followers’ camp. But, yes it’s possible, if you want that...”

“Yes, my King.”

Hao walks a step backwards.

“I’m not asking as your leader, neither as your King. I’m asking as a man to a woman. Do you want to come with us?”

She turns around, facing Hao with a smile.

“Yes. It’s something I want…Hiro.”

Freya was the only one he allowed to use his real name.

Hao smiles and touches Freya’s cheek with the palm of his hand, looking directly into her eyes. He comes closer to her and kisses her passionately.

---

Floor 94th, January 9th, 2027

Near the city on top of a hill, the three generals of KoB wait impatiently. Right behind them, Sybil and Leafa. Behind all of them, forming a semi-circle, the captains of KoB along Hogun, Fandral, Dinnac and the five former members of the Sleeping Knights. All of them remain crouching, looking to the main gate and waiting for the signal.

“The moon approaches zenith.” Asuna remarks, looking to the sky.

“But the gate is still firmly fucking closed.” Lamorak pouts.

“Just wait a bit longer.” Klein says. “Those two together can do anything. They’ll open it, or die trying to.” He turns around, looking to Lamorak. “Tell everybody to get ready. When the gate trembles, death will follow immediately.”

Both Lamorak and Sybil nod slightly. They get up and walk downhill. There, the rest of their army waited, hidden behind the hill, waiting for the signal as well. Thousands of Blood Knights ready for battle and thirsty for blood.

---

Antinomy tiptoes as quick as he cans through the city, using the narrow alleyways to avoid being detected by the guards. He tries to make the least sound possible and uses the walls to hide. He managed to advance far from the smithy when he sticks out his head and sees some guards in his way.

“Fuck me…” he whispers.

He leans his head out again, and realizes the guards somehow didn’t see him. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“Fuck you both, Galant, Kirito…” He mutters.

He turns around and enters the alleyway were the guards were.

“Quickly! We have to gather men and weapons! Kirito’s here!” He shouts to the guards.

The two guards look at him before running towards the main entrance of the city. Antinomy smiles and follows them. In no time, the three of them arrive.

“Kirito is within our walls!” One of them shouts. “Protect the gate! You, open the armory! You, go look for Commander Graccus!”

“Where’s he?” The soldier asks.

“He’s in the prison, where the traitors are! Go!”

The soldier nods his head and runs towards the prison.

A soldier opens the lock of the armory and moves the latch. Most of the guards enter inside, grabbing whatever arms and weapons they can find.

“You’ll surely get a reward for this, smith.” A guard says, giving his club to Antinomy.

“I’m goddamn sure I will.” He says smiling.

He hits the guard with the club in the face. The guard falls inside the warehouse. A guard inside rushes to the door, but the smith kicks him back just in time. He closes the door and the latch. With that, most of the guards were now locked up, and those left only carried wooden clubs. Antinomy is hit hardly in the face by a guard and falls to the ground.

“Antinomy!!!”

Both Knights enter the fight, now wearing their regular clothes. They found their way just by following Antinomy and the guards.

Galant is the first to enter, slashing the face of the guard about to kill Antinomy. Kirito enters just behind him, slashing the throat of the player behind Galant.

“Get the hell out of here. Hide, I’ll find you when it’s all over!” Galant says, helping up his friend.

“Sure.” Antinomy replies. “You should set the prisoners free. Some of them are pretty strong, they could help you.”

The Smith runs away from the entrance as quickly as he can.

Several guards rush towards the two Knights and they respond doing the same while letting out fearsome battle cries.

Kirito blocks the club of the first guard and Galant cuts him right in the gut. Another one comes right behind the first. Kirito catches his arm just in time and, at the same time, slashes the back of the neck of the first, killing him. The Black Swordsman kicks the leg of the second, who loses balance and starts falling to the ground. The Stardust Knight then hacks his back just before he hits the ground.

A guard charges forward towards Galant while another attacks from behind. He eludes the attack of the one in front of him, turns around just his time to avoid the club before catching the arm of the attacker and using his body as shield against the other. The Champion of Aincrad stabs the player with his blade and grabs his mace with his empty hand. After this, Galant blocks the attack of the other with the wooden weapon and slashes the inner side of his right leg, before beating him hardly in the face with the club.

A guard on the top of the wall hurls a spear to Kirito, who barely dodges it. However, he’s left opened enough time for a guard to attack him. The blade falls from his hand. The player attacks a second time. The Black Swordsman catches his arm and pushes him, using his body as shield for another upcoming projectile from the soldiers on top of the wall. He turns around and sees a three guards running towards them.

“Galant, open the gate! I’ll handle these” He orders.

“Got it!”

Galant rushes forward and sees the crane system used to lift the heavy wooden gate. A rope attached to a pulley which had to be turned onto a wooden spindle by two winches at the extremes of said wooden beam. He grabs the winch and starts turning it as strong as he can, but the door was quite heavy. He’d help of another player if he wanted to open the gate quickly.

Kirito grabs his blade and rushes forward while the spears clash the ground behind of him. He jumps forward and lands in the first upcoming soldier, grabbing him firmly. The momentum of the jump was so heavy that he continues going forward and slashes the second soldier across the chest. Both Kirito and the first guard land hardly on the ground. The Black Swordsman manages to get up and catch the attack of the last soldier before pushing him to the ground. He looks for a brief moment to Galant having trouble with the gate before cutting down both guards and running forward to help his partner to hoist the gate up.

They advance slowly and take their time to make the crank turn a single time. But the gate started rising inch by inch as they worked together. Soon, they hear the sound of metal hitting wood coming from the door of the armory. The guards inside were trying to break the door open.

“Quickly!” Kirito shouts.

The two knights start putting more effort into their. After a few more hacking sounds, the soldiers make a hole in the door and open the latch from the inside. A gang of armed soldiers comes out of the armory, rushing towards the two knights. They had just lifted the gate one foot and a half.

A player appears, slashing solider who was the nearest to the gate. It was Klein, who rolled in the narrow space between the gate and the floor. Some players outside the city lift up the gate up, allowing Lamorak, Asuna, Sybil, Leafa, Jack, Agil and Kana enter the city. Together, they best the weak and unprepared guards in no time. Just behind them, the rest of the KoB knights.

The taking of the city had begun.

Agil and Hogun find Kirito quickly.

“You two, we’ll need help with the gate!” Kirito orders.

The two large Gnomes take the place of Galant and Kirito and keep on hoisting the wall up.

“What now then?” Galant ask.

“I need to fight alongside my men. You take some men and go to the prison and kill Graccus, once we’re done with him the rest should be easy.”

“Alright!” Galant rushes with the rest of the knights who enter the city shouting and yelling. In no time, Galant finds his friends. “Jack! Kana! On me! We’re going to the prison!”

“The prison?!” Dinnac asks, appearing out of nowhere. “There’s where my master lives!”

“Where’s the prison?” Jack asks.

“Follow me!!!” Dinnac shouts.

---

Dinnac enters kicks open the door of the prison.

He finds several of his old acquaintances there. All of them in chains.

“Dinnac!” One of them shouts.

“Where’s Graccus!?” He shouts loudly, eager to kill his former master. “Wher-”

A blade pierces through his chest, ending his sentence. The blade is withdrawn and Dinnac falls to the ground, fatally wounded.

“I’m here, you fucking slave.” Graccus says. He was accompanied by six guards. He points his blade at the players in chains. “Fucking animals! You stay right there! Close the gate! We need to fight against these shits!”

“Dinnac!” A voice shouts from the outside.

The door is kicked open again by Galant, followed by his two partners. He swigs his blade against the Commander, but he blocks. Soon, all six guards advance forward, protecting their master. Two of them attack Galant at the same time, but Jack and Kana enter just in time to block and they engage battle against two soldiers at the same time. Galant also engages with two. He cuts one of them down, and sees that Graccus running away, leaving his own men to be killed.

“You go! We’ll handle this!” Jack shouts to him.

Galant kicks back his opponent, before running around the fighters and following the commander. Graccus rushes up the stairs, swiftly followed by the blue knight. The second floor was a wide large room with several cells with wooden doors at the sides. The Commander of the city guard looks around, but there was no way of getting out of the place except by using the same stairs or by making a large hole in one of the walls. He turns around and sees Galant, standing at the edge of the stairs. He points his blade at him.

“That’s enough, Graccus. You’ve got nowhere to run. Throw your blade and I promise not to kill you.”

“You won’t. But your guild certainly will. I don’t like it the easy way, you fucking traitor.” He says, drawing his Spartha Gladius from his belt and pointing it at Galant.

“I see you’ve heard of me.”

“If I die, at least I’ll take your fucking life before.” He removes his red toga and throws it to the ground.

“I see the easy way won’t work…”

Both of them rush forward. Galant attacks with several Stardust Slashers as he advances, but Graccus deflects them all. The Sword Skills clash against the walls of the prison at the same time as both warriors clash their blades and start struggling. After a couple of seconds, Galant swings his blade up, along the blade of Graccus and quickly switches defense into attack, slashing towards his opponent’s neck. The Commander blocks and kicks back Galant, before starting his own assault. He swings his blade left and right on a tandem, pressing forward. Galant blocks both attacks before making a wide slash to push Graccus back, but the Commander plants his foot behind and swings his blade to counterattack. The Champion of Aincrad blocks with his blade, using the momentum to spin and slash. Graccus walks a single step backwards and barely eludes the attack, which slashes his armor in his left shoulder and diagonally across the chest.

Now holding the upper hand, Galant unleashes a constant flurry of attacks, driving Graccus behind, towards one of the walls. Once he was cornered, Galant thrusts his blade forward. Graccus, seeing the attack coming, waits until the last moment possible and eludes the sword, which clashes against the wall. Seizing opportunity, the Commander punches Galant hardly on the face. He falls to the ground. Graccus smiles widely as he swings down his blade towards the ground. Galant blocks the blade, inches from his face before sliding in the ground and kick one of the Legionary’s legs. Graccus loses his balance and falls to the ground, but he recovers fast and attacks again. The Stardust Knight rolls on the ground, avoiding the attack before kneeling, but Graccus was quicker and attacks him. He is barely able to block several of the Legionary’s strikes, but in the end he recovers, gets up and both strongly clash blades between them. Galant’s blade is cut in half. The upper half flies away before embedding itself into one of the walls. He is stunned after seeing this. Graccus sees his wide open and attacks, but Galant blocks using his forearm guards. The Commander raises his right leg and kicks him back. Galant clashes and goes through one of the wooden doors. Splinters scatter across the room.

He lands hardly on his back, but quickly recovers and looks to Graccus outside the cell. But the commander didn’t use that opportunity to finish him off. He wasn’t even looking him back. He was just there, looking inside the prison with his eyes widely opened. He attempts to run, but a fire spell coming out of the prison ignites him in fire. He begins screaming loudly as the fire started burning his body before he finally falls to the ground, dying slowly.

Galant turns around and sees a player, shadowed by the darkness inside the cell. He was looking directly at him. Galant rises slowly, keeping his eyes on him. He walks backwards out of the room.

“Who or what are you?” He asks.

The player walks a couple of steps forward and the light makes his face visible. Galant’s eyes widen as soon as he sees him.

“Kozuki…Aki…” He says.

Aki Kozuki was a former player of SAO. She was a powerful player with the Unique Skill known as “Demeter’s Gift”, which enabled her to control plants at her will. She couldn’t quite control those powers, so she became a PK known as Black Rose Witch. Galant defeated to become the Champion of Aincrad. However, she wasn’t truely evil so he had mercy and let her live alongside her brother who was also an SAO player, Haruka Kozuki. Both of them returned to the upper floors, but Galant thought them to have died in the boss battle of the 72nd floor.

Now, she looked older, at least 19 years old. Her burgundy hair was way longer and she had two long bangs coming out from the sides of her head. The rest reached the base of her neck. She now wore white shirt with short, puffy sleeves and a high collar beneath a low-cut red corset above a sleeveless magenta trench. In her arms, she wore a pair of black elbow-length gloves with gold bracelets above them. Her stockings were the same color as her gloves, and were connected to her black skirt. Her boots were black and high-heeled, with a golden base. She also spotted a red neck choker and an emerald crested, golden cross-shaped medallion.

“I thought you dead.” Galant says.

She doesn’t answer.

She walks out, ignoring Galant. She opens a nearby closet and takes out a red belt with a golden buckle and a rapier hanging from it. He adjusts it to her waist.

“What happened to you afterwards? Where’s your brother?”

Afterwards she takes out a black coat with a golden trim and a flame design. She puts it on; adjust the coat and walks to the stairs.

“Aki, wait!” he walks towards her and grabs her shoulder.

She looks back at him. Their sights clash. Her eyes looked completely different. Before, they had a slight sparkle in them. Now they lacked that, and were filled with void and hate. Galant couldn’t see the girl he defeated now. He could only see the eyes of the Black Rose Witch.

“I killed Haruka.” She says coldly. “I killed my brother."

Astonished, Galant releases her she walks away. Galant walks to the black carbonized corpse of Graccus and takes his keys and his Spartha Gladius before following her down. Once in the first floor, he sees Jack and Kana, who had finished off the soldiers. They see Aki walking in their way, and get ready to face her, but she continues walking forward.

“She’s not our enemy. Let her go!” Galant orders.

She walks between them and leaves the prison. Kana scratches the back of her head, looking at Aki’s back as she leaves.

“Dinnac?”

“Dead.” Jack seriously replies.

“Understood.” He tosses the chains to the prisoners. “You’re free now.”

“Galant, who’s she?” Kana asks, still looking at the door.

“I guess that just an old SAO friend…”

---

All the rebels had finished entering the city and now they were running wild through the streets and corridors, as water in a river. In little time, they finish killing most of the guards, and they now proceeded to kill whatever stood in their paths. This included the citizens of the city. It didn’t matter if the player was boy or girl. Old or young. Rich or poor. If they screamed or begged for mercy also didn’t matter. Nothing mattered to the KoB knights, only the taking of the city and the victory in the war. In just a few hours, most of the citizens of the city fall to their blades. Only those enchained, the slaves or the prisoners didn’t share that luck. Soon, gallons blood starts flowing in the streets of the city, along with the KoB members, darkening the muddy ground wherever they went.

Abelia somehow escapes from a clutch of Blood Knights and hides in a corridor; there she encounters some of her friends.

“Ulsen! Lissa!” She shouts.

“Abelia!” Ulsen shouts. “It’s good to see you alive!”

“Where’re you going?!” She asks.

“We flee to the northern gate. Towards Solnia Ridge. If they haven’t sealed the scape, it’s our only choice.”

“My husband! Have you seen Varus!?”

“No. We have to go!” Says Lissa, Ulsen’s in-game wife.

“I’ll follow once I find him!”

“May the Aesir protect you.” Ulsen says, before running to the northern gate alongside his wife.

Abelia walks a few steps before finding a guard who just entered the corridor.

“The governor! Have you seen the governor?!”

The guard doesn’t respond and he’s cut down. The player who killed him enters in the corridor. It was Kirito, who points his blade at her before realizing it was Abelia.

“You! You’re Lucian, the one from before!” She says, becoming aware that “Lucian” was using a special illusion spell to alter his appearance. However, she could see some characteristics in Kirito’s face that instantly reminded her of Lucian. “You fight for Kirito!?”

“No!” Kirito responds. “I am Kirito.”

The answer left her completely aghast.

Kirito grabs her arm and carries her to make sure nobody killed her.

---

Floor 90th, January 9th, 2027

Markus slowly opens the door and looks around. The fireplace lighted the whole room slightly. With that light, Markus could see that Zar was sitting near the fire; drinking the wine Hao had given to him from a glass cup. Markus closes the door as delicately as he opened it and walked inside silently, until he could properly gaze at the Wolf General resting.

“Zar.”

Zar turns around, looking at Markus.

“I thought you were Hao himself. You look quite similar.” Zar says.

“I’m a proud reflection of my brother.”

Zar looks again at him again.

“Markus?” He asks.

Markus doesn’t answer, but Zar didn’t need an answer anyway. He burst out laughing.

“For Odin’s fucking cock!” Zar roars after finishing laughing. “You were a boy the last time I saw you. You grew up!”

Markus was unfazed, without batting an eyelid. Zar gets up from his seat and walks towards him.

“A lot has changed.” Markus says. “Seems the time in the upper levels has changed you to as well. You look more like a rabid and savage beast than you already did.”

“Well that’s the point, after all according to Hao’s plan…” Zar says, before stopping. “Wait, your brother hasn’t told you about that yet, has he? His plans?”

“Well not. He’s occupied, with more important issues.”

“Well…I believe he’ll tell you…once he deems you’re worthy of knowing.”

Markus gets more serious.

“You think I’m not?” He asks.

Zar laughs again.

“Sleep well, young prince, and dream of future glories…” Zar places his arm on Markus shoulder. “…under my command.”

---

Floor 94th, January 10th, 2027

The first rays of sunlight appear in the sky.

Kirito carries Abelia with him towards the central plaza. There they could see piles of dead bodies of citizens of the city. The copses gathered in every corridor and every courtyard of the city, but that couldn’t be compared to what they could see here. The cadavers of dozens of men, woman and children massacred like livestock in an abattoir. It was carnage. Their blood splattered in the walls and covering the white marble floor. Limbs or heads cut off, rolling in the blood stained ground. Nothing was there alive there. Absolutely nothing.

After seeing this, Abelia falls to her knees with tears in her eyes.

Kirito walks a couple of steps before crouching next to two bodies. They were the two sisters of yesterday, laying there on the ground with their eyes widely open. The bigger sister received a massive swords slash in the middle of her chest and a severe head wound. The other was slashed from neck to belly button. Still clutched in her hand there was her toy. Kirito grabs it and takes a brief look at it before taking a deep breath and closing his eyes.

Grief. Anger. Sadness. Pain. Hate.

He had felt that many times throughout the war. The grief caused by the death of a friend. The anger towards Thanos and Hao. The sadness for not being able to save someone. The pain of old wounds. The hate towards the Kingdom because of their atrocities. All those feelings were inside of him right now. But this time it was combined with something else. One more feeling. Remorse.

He had ordered the taking of the city. The deaths of all the players of the city were on him. All the violence and the brutality caused by his men were on him. For the first time since the start of the war, he somehow felt that their cause against Hao was wrong. He and his guild were making the exact same atrocities they condemned about the Legions made. He quickly strikes that thought out of his head. All the violence they caused was for the motive he and his men believed in, freedom. But he wouldn’t use a banner of freedom as an excuse to justify all the bad things they had caused, as the Legions did with their banner of peace. That’d make them no different to Hao and those who followed him, and Kirito deeply believed than they were better than the Legions.

He wasn’t using freedom as an excuse, but rather as something to make lighter the already heavy burden in his back. To try to give some rest to his conscience.

He opens his eyes and uses his index and middle finger to close the eyes of the girls.

A stream of Knights abruptly enters the plaza, carrying several citizens as prisoners. They get ready for the final stroke.

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Kirito shouts, rising from the ground.

All the knights stop, looking to their leader stunned.

“We’ve taken the city.” Kirito continues. “The remaining citizens are our prisoners. Shackle them.”

“Chains!?” Hogun shouts.

“You’ll let them live?” Kana asks.

“They’re not a threat.”

“They’re fucking useless!” Fandral shouts, releasing his prisoner and walking towards his leader. “Tell me something Kirito, if we were in their position right now, would they show mercy?”

“You’ve killed more than enough players this night. We all have! I want no more bloodshed this day.”

There’s an awkward silence for a moment until Klein, Asuna and Leafa arrive.

“Kirito, the Governor barricaded in the center of the city, where all the food is.” Klein says.

“Varus!” Abelia says.

“He spilt pitch all over the place, and is threatening to light it on fire if we enter.” Leafa adds.

“Let’s go now.” Kirito says, grabbing Abelia.

“I won’t aid you or your animals.” She says angrily, breaking free from his hold.

Asuna puts her hand on her shoulder.

“I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through this night, but if a fire is started, we won’t have a way to calm our…“animals”.” She tells her, trying to reason with her.

“You need to do this, or the rest of your people will die. “ Kirito adds.

“And I don’t want that. We don’t want that.” Asuna finishes.

Abelia looks at her people before turning to Kirito and nodding her head.

“Let’s go. Now.” Kirito tells his men.

The five of them walk towards the center of the city. Soon, they arrive. Hundreds of blood knights were there, Lamorak, Sybil, Galant, Jack and Antinomy among them. All were in front of a closed gate made of thick metal bars. The governor was at the other side, with a lighted torch in his hand and near his feet a stream of black pitch. Three guards accompanied him. He threatened to light everything on fire if they tried to knock over the gate while he insulted the invaders of the city, who insulted him back.

Lamorak takes Sybil’s spear and gets ready to hurl it and kill him.

“Calm down!” Kirito shouts. “Lamorak, lower your spear. Back off from the gate!”

The knights walk a couple of steps backwards.

The governor’s eyes widen as soon as he sees his in-game wife alive.

“Go with him, and hope that you can persuade him.” Kirito tells her.

Abelia walks towards the gate.

“You’ll leave our future in her fucking hands?” Klein asks.

“No. I leave it in our hands and what we believe in…” He responds

She grabs the hand of her husband and starts talking.

“I thought you were dead.” He says.

“I was very lucky. A small clutch of ours is also alive.”

“How many?”

“Few. And we’ll be all dead if you don’t stop this.”

“You want to give them this city? All what we’ve worked for?!”

“I don’t want any more death. We already had plenty tonight. Open the gate, please!”

“I won’t bend to this fucking rebel scum!”

“Forget about them! Think about your people. If you don’t open the gate, you’ll condemn us all to death, including me…I-”

Her phrase is interrupted by the battle cries of Klein, Galant and Jack. Using their comrades’ bodies as pivot, they jumped above the gate and killed the guards behind Varus with a swift stroke of their blades. The governor turns around just in time to see this. He turns around again to look to his wife, but Kirito advances and drives Sybil’s spear between the metal bars and throughout his head with. Abelia shouts, shocked to see this. The flaming torch falls from his hands but Klein catches it just in time. Kirito removes the weapon from Varus face and he falls to the ground, dead.

Abelia stares at the corpse of her in-game husband before turning to Kirito. She grabs his collar firmly.

“WHY?!?!” She sobs loudly. “He would’ve opened the gate!! I know he would’ve! He would’ve opened the gate for me!!!”

“I could not expect that!!!” Kirito says, grabbing her arms.

She releases Kirito and turns away to look at Varus while crying.

“We had more than enough blood and vengeance this night, now rest.” Kirito says to his fellow guild mates. “No citizen of this city who’s yet alive will suffer any further harm. THE CITY IS OURS!!!”

“YEAH!!!” The rebels scream together.

Galant and Klein open the gates widely and the Knights of the Blood were now able to travel free through the city. Most of the knights leave to celebrate. Kirito turns around and looks at Abelia, still looking at the dead corpse. He walks towards the body and closes his eyes before looking to Abelia in the face.

“Even if it’s just a game and even if he’s alive in reality, it’s not easy to see one you love dead. A thing that many of us suffered in the hands of the Kingdom. But I’m fighting so that we never suffer that again. I know it’s not a consolation, but I take full responsibility for his death and your loss.”

Abelia looks at him, bereft.

“Place her in chains!” Kirito orders.

---

Floor 90th, January 10th, 2027

Near the Field of the Victors, there was a small temple. There, the commanders all waited for the arrival of their king. Everyone was present, including Mordread and his three right-hand men. Zar was with his arms closed and a confident grin in his face. Markus was with his arms on his back, but he couldn’t stop moving his fingers nervously.

At last, Hao enters the temple, wearing his regular armor, Incursio. He carried his helmet in beneath his left arm.

Once he stopped, all the players kneel before him, even Mordread and his men.

“Rise.” He commands.

All of them rise.

Hao places his helmet on the table in the middle of the room and looks to the faces of each player. Once he finishes, he starts talking.

“War often implies great sacrifice. None more strongly felt than the possibility of death of those close to you.” He looks to Markus. “I don’t want my little brother to die out there, because he wasn’t ready to command an army.”

Zar grins slightly.

“…but I won’t deny him the opportunity he’s now a grown up man.”

Zar eyes widen. Markus looks at his brother astonished. Both Taikeus and Mordread smile after hearing this.

Hao walks towards Markus. He activates his unique skill and draws Dainsleif, holding it horizontally in front of his brother.

“With this blade, I give you, prince Markus, the position of second in command in my army. My word and my will.”

Markus takes the blade.

“You’re honoring me, brother. As I’ll honor you and your Kingdom.”

“You’ll have a scouting mission in the upper levels. Ride with Zar and any other men you choose. Look for Colonel Augustus and what remains of Julius Legion. Find KoB and send me a message about their movements, but don’t engage them in combat until I arrive with proper numbers.”

Filled with pride, Markus sheathes his new blade. He salutes his brother and leaves the tent, followed by the commanders inside the tent. The only ones who remain inside are Hao and Zar. The Wolf General remained his arms crossed, but his grin had disappeared. He looked utterly disappointed and miffed.

“You speak of a great victory for both of us…” Zar says. “…only to place me beneath A FUCKING BOY!!!”

“HE’S MY BROTHER! You’ll treat him with the same respect you have towards me!” Hao shouts. He takes and deep breath and calms down before draws another blade from his storage. “Crocea Mors. With this blade I’m giving to you the position of third in command in my army.”

“I’d preferred Dainsleif, and the position I expected.” Zar says, now calmer.

“Trust me.” Hao places his arm on his shoulder. “Follow this plan I have, and I promise you that the rewards once we reach the end will have no way to be measured.”

“My King.”

Hao gets out of the tent followed by Zar.

“Sound trumpets!” he orders.

All the commanders had formed a line, with Hao and Zar in the middle. Right in front of them, Hao’s army. 10000 players. The largest army he’d ever raised.

Hao smiles for a second before addressing his troops.

“This war started five months ago. As it passed, we’ve seen lots of battles. A number of victories and a lot number defeats as well. But now, now we stand at the beginning of the final battle. We’re advancing to the upper floors to defeat Kirito and those who follow him. It’s time for us to show these mongrels the true force of the Legions, and each player who’s just related to the guild shall be put to the sword. All of this done for the preservation, the glory and magnificence of The Kingdom of Aincrad!!!”

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