Floor 94th, February 6th, 2027
Asuna walked through the HQ, giving each prisoner a piece of bread. She finally sat down next to Abelia and Sybil.
“I don’t like the way he looks at us.” Abelia said, looking towards Lamorak. He uneasily walked inside the HQ with his arms crossed. A player entered through the door and quickly approached the Sylph leader, whispering something into his ear. He nodded his head and walked out of the HQ.
“Don’t worry, he’s not mad at you,” Asuna nodded her head at Sybil.
“Lamorak, wait for a moment.” Sybil said, following him out of the building. “We need to talk.”
“Later. Kirito should be arriving at the docks now. I want to be there when he returns.” he walked away.
Sybil rushed a few steps, going past him before turning around and opening her arms. “You won’t even explain to me why you’re like this?”
“You should already know. You were with Crow, after I ordered you to stay away.”
“Ordered?” she said, pausing for a moment. “We’re fighting for freedom from the Kingdom! Don’t think I’ll give it up to become your slave!”
“Don’t make a scene here!” Lamorak whispered, after seeing that several players were looking to them from inside the building. After they closed the door of the HQ, he continued. “If I’d been discovered with the Pirate after promising you I’d stay away from him, you’d be angry as well.”
“I came across Crow on the streets when Klein and the others slaughtered the prisoners!” she explained. “We rushed to get you and Kirito, with barely enough time to talk.”
“You want me to believe that of the thousands of players within the city, he miraculously was the one who you came across?”
“I’d believe you if you told me that,” she told him. “I’d believe you in everything.”
Lamorak swallowed saliva. He didn’t know what to say. A voice called for him, breaking up the argument of the couple. It was Agil.
“We have a fucking problem.”
“What’s happening?” he asked.
“A clutch of Legionnaires is close to the city’s eastern gate.”
“Let’s go, now!”
Agil rushed first, followed by the couple. Running through the alleyways and narrow streets of Nuceria, they quickly arrived to the pathway to the eastern gate, where at least fifty players had gathered, all of them ready with weapons in hand. The three made their way through the mob until they were close to the gate. Lamorak saw Klein on top of the wall, with Leafa next to him. She could see them on top of a hill lined up in two columns, the leader in the middle, on horseback. They remained there, idle, just looking towards the city.
“How many do you see?” Lamorak asked.
“I count thirty,” Leafa replied. “perhaps there’re more, hidden on the morning mist.”
“Scouts!” Agil realized.
“They’re too few for an attack.” Sybil added.
Leafa turned to Klein. “But soon, more will come, ready to re-take the city.”
Klein nodded his head slightly. “Perhaps we should send them a message, to show them the folly they’re committing.” he drew his blade and looked to the crowd. “Gather weapons, and prepare to open the gate!”
The mob roared in approval.
“Kirito gave us strict orders not to recklessly engage Hao!” the Sylph general remarked.
“While he assaults Hao in Scilliana?!” Klein countered, much to the surprise of Lamorak.
“He attacks the Legions, and we have to sit here, scratching our asses!?” Fandral shouted.
The crowd roared again.
“Let’s show Hao that even the biggest army in all of ALO will not hinder us from defeating him!” Klein yelled, rallying the players.
The mob approved once again, but Lamorak remained immutable. He pointed his finger at the Salamander. “You don’t lead this people!!!”
“…well, perhaps it’s time I should…” Klein replied.
The crowd cheered.
“KLEIN!” a voice shouted, stopping the cheering.
Everyone turned around and saw Kirito, along with Galant, Kana and the rest of the men who went with him in the voyage. Once everyone saw him, they cleared path so that the new arrivals could pass by.
“Why’re you all assembled, ready to raise the gate?” the Black Swordsman demanded to know.
“To attack the clutch of Legionnaires gathered on the hill!” he answered.
“He’s given the order to open the gate!” Lamorak added, happy to see his friend again.
“Let’s raise it!” Kirito agreed, much to the pleased to hear.
“Finally! You listen to fucking reason!” Klein shouted as he laughed.
“You’re mistaking me!” Kirito added. “I haven’t ordered you to engage Hao’s men!”
“Then why’d we raise the gate?” Klein asked.
“I want to release our prisoners.” Kirito revealed. Shocked, the crowd started murmuring, wondering what was going through the head of their leader.
“You’ll set them free?!” Leafa asked.
“You’ve lost your fucking mind, Kirito!!!” Klein asserted.
“And you’ve lose voice! In all decisions of worth!!!” the Spriggan countered quickly, and Klein just glared at him. “I’ll go look for the prisoners. If you raise gate without my orders, it’ll always be shut for you.”
He walked away, followed by his men, leaving Klein and the rest angry and confused.
They whole group arrived to the HQ. The Blood Knights inside greeted the new arrivals happily, but as soon as Kirito and Asuna saw each other, she immediately walked away with Yui sat on her shoulder. Afterwards, the Black Swordsman ordered the release of the prisoners, who shockingly looked at him.
Kirito himself approached Abelia with a key on his hand.
“What about the players who slaughtered the citizens?” she asked. “They want to see us live?”
“They’re no longer my men,” Kirito stated while he opened the shackles on Abelia’s ankles and wrists. “I’m going to make sure you stay far from them and they wrath.”
“If only you’d decided that before we were killed like sheep in a slaughterhouse…”
“You haven’t been the only ones who have been wounded by it. Since then my relationship with Klein has been quite strained.”
“You’ve suffered nothing but a simple scratch!” she protested. “You can’t compare it to all the innocents your fucking men killed!”
“I just want to separate myself from you and from those who don’t comply with my orders.” Kirito interrupted.
“…you banished Klein and the rest from the city?”
“They’ll remain here. I’ll go to Scilliana, with those who’re still loyal to me.”
“The mighty Kirito…turning his back on his guild.”
“I’m just choosing another path.” Kirito stated, lifting her up.
The Knights had removed the shackles of the prisoners and proceeded to escort them towards the eastern gate. Once they arrived, Kirito’s men had to make way for the citizens to pass; making sure none of the others attacked them. Even still, this didn’t stop them from screaming and spitting the scared prisoners. Klein was the last of the group, standing in front of the opened gate with his blade drawn, pointing to the prisoners.
“You’re blessed because Kirito’s a fool!” he told them.
Kirito advanced until he was in front of his friend. “Move aside.” he plainly ordered.
Reluctantly, the Salamander moved, and so the citizens were free. They walked towards the clutch of Legionnaires outside the city. Once they were all out, Kirito walked back inside and ordered the gate to be sealed again. The players released the hold on the anvil and the gate came down with a thundering thud.
Floor 93rd, February 6th, 2027
The brisk evening wind started whistling strongly as the sun started to descend upon the horizon. Markus could feel the little hairs on his arms and legs erecting and the chills slowly going up and down his back like crawling lizards. He rubbed both hands together and placed them on his arms, trying to get some warm. He repeated this for a while, but no warm came back to him. He stood up and started walking around the camp, passing though improvised taverns, Legionnaires partying and drunk-sleep players. After a time, he found a dying campfire where no one else was. He sat in front of, looking to the reddish gray charcoal with hundreds of cracks, slowly turning into burning ash. He took nearby pieces of chopped wood and threw them inside the fading flames, which slowly started lighting afire, same as Markus started to feel slightly warmer.
A slight smile drew on his face, until the black stone fell from the pocket of his shirt and rebounded on the ground a couple of times before stopping. His smile faded instantly. He picked it up and started playing with it, feeling the smooth surface of the oval rock.
“Markus…” a female voice called.
He turned and saw Freya, donning a black and gold poncho over her typical uniform from the Legions. Markus nodded at her before turning to the fire again. She sat next to him. There was an awkward silence for a moment as Freya thought of what to say to him. She first thought of asking how he faired, but considering she could already guess that, she scrapped the idea. She immediately said the second thing that came to her mind.
“It’s seems that we were at the HQ in floor 50th.”
“I felt the same chill there than here.”
“When was the last time you ate something?”
“I don’t remember…” he placed the rock inside one of his pockets. “I don’t care.”
“To me, nothing’s more important. Come with me to my tent, and leave this inhospitable place.”
“I have to remain here, with my men,” Markus said determined. “that’s what his majesty would want.”
“Your brother cares for you more than you believe he does…” her comment didn’t seem to cheer him up at all. “…He’s…sending you help through me.” She lied, but only to try to cheer him up.
“You come to me on his orders?” Markus asks, turning his head to her.
“No. He’s chosen to make a gesture, as it’s your choice to accept it or not.” she got up and walked back to her tent, glad her lie succeeded, leaving Markus to stare into the flames, contemplating her offer.
Floor 94th, February 6th, 2027
Kirito walked back to the HQ followed by an angry Klein. As soon as they entered, Klein confronted his friend.
“Are you out of your mind?!” he yelled. “You put us all in risk!”
“I’m doing whatever it takes to ensure victory against Hao!” Kirito countered quickly.
“By letting our prisoners leave?!”
“You’re discharging your wrath against the wrong people. Hao’s our one true enemy.” Kirito started walking up the stairs.
“And you’re delivering a weapon to him!” Klein noted, pointing his finger at him from the bottom of the stairs. “Abelia and the others have been among us too long! What they may’ve heard or saw…”
“They just saw two good friends divided!” Kirito interrupted. “That’s a chasm we have to close.”
“I don’t think your adventures in Scilliana will help on that!”
Kirito rapidly walked down the stairs. “Something that Hao will believe as well, when Abelia tells him…”
Klein didn’t reply. He remained silent, assembling the pieces of the puzzle inside his head. “You’re releasing her, so that he can know about our plans.”
“Exactly, and once he moves to stop us, we’ll end the Supreme King and his Legions once and for all.” Kirito rushed up, followed by Klein, towards the small conference room. Galant, Lamorak and Asuna were already there. The Blue Knight leaned on the wall with his arms crossed. The Berserk Healer sat down on one of the chairs, paying no mind to Kirito and Klein when they entered. Lamorak remained standing next to the table.
“Lamorak, the map.” Kirito ordered as he entered, before walking next to him.
Quickly, Lamorak took out the Mirage Sphere on the middle of the table and activated it. The tridimensional blue image of Aincrad appeared, and he zoomed into floor 94th. The rest of the map disappeared, leaving just the projection of the map’s floor. It was half sea and half solid land. Nuceria was located at the south, at the end of Solnia’s ridge, which ran from north to south and covered most of the coast of the floor. Scilliana was the only a small island on the west in the middle of the sea. The rest of the solid ground was mostly a deserted wasteland, with forests on the north and the southeast.
“We’re here, in Nuceria, south of Solnia’s ridge.” he pointed to Nuceria in the map, and a small red light appeared on it. “The entrance to this floor is in the north, few kilometers from the end of Solnia’s ridge.” Another light appeared close to the entrance of the level, colored in yellow.
“Hao will probably set up camp there, close to the ocean.” Asuna added.
“So, what’s your plan once he arrives?” Klein asked.
“Thatch and his ships will carry a third our forces in waves to Scilliana, on the southwest.” Kirito replied, activating a second red light on the island.
“Tecchi and a clutch of trusted men, to make sure the Pirates don’t betray us.” Lamorak added.
“Galant and Asuna will accompany me there.” Kirito continued.
“What about Lamorak and me?” Klein asked. “We’re going to remain here?”
“With those known to be loyal to you, or at least that’s what Hao’ll believe.” Kirito explained. “You’ll lead your forces through the northern gate, across Solnia’s ridge while we assault his holdings of food in Scilliana.” he drove the red light on Nuceria into the ridge.
“We’ll several dozens of human mannequins, dressed as players, to make Hao believe we’re still within Nuceria.” Galant said. “With us being in two different places, Hao’ll have no other choice but to divide his Legions.”
“So while part of his army attacks the city, another will be going south on ship, ready to stop us.” Kirito continued, dividing the golden light in two, and dragging one to the gates of Nuceria and the other to Scilliana. “They’ll want to besiege the city, but before you’ll have to cross the mountains, go all the way back south and attack them from the side, just before they arrive to Nuceria.” Kirito drew the way that Klein had to follow, dragging the light across Solnia’s ridge and around it so that his fraction of the army could return to the city until it was close to the yellow light.
“Even if we flank them from behind, we’ll be too few to defeat him.”
“True, but you won’t be,” Kirito elaborated. “We’ll depart from Scilliana after Hao’s forces arrive to engage us. We’ll return to Nuceria, and from the sea, we’ll join you in the battle.” he dragged the red light in Scilliana back to Nuceria, surrounding the yellow light by two red.
Klein remained silent, looking to the map for a while. “It’s a good plan,” he admitted. “Setting upon Hao’s weakened forces from two sides while they’re pressed against the city’s walls.” he then turned to Lamorak. “You knew this when we talked?”
“He’s known this plan for a while,” Kirito replied before the Sylph. “I told Galant during our journey and now we’re telling you two now. We couldn’t risk Abelia and the rest figure out the true plan.”
Asuna didn’t say anything, though she didn’t look very pleased.
“Fucking shits…” Klein cursed angrily.
“Lately you haven’t been very agreeable, Klein.” Galant silenced Klein. “And now you’re complaining why you’ve been left in the dark?”
“Asuna, you’ve defied Kirito’s orders, what did you expect?” Lamorak added.
“Let’s forget about it, we must put our arguments aside or we won’t win this fight.”
Klein nodded his head, he pointed to the map. “Dinnac said that the way through the mountains was impassable during the winter.”
“The Legionnaires will believe the same,” Kirito replied. “You’ll prove them wrong.”
“I’ve been waiting for that for a long time…” Klein claimed.
“For the time being, get ready.” Kirito ordered. “Lamorak, get the mannequins ready. Klein, prepare your men. Asuna, you’ll help him.”
The three walked out of the room, Asuna being the last.
“Asuna, how’s Jack?” Galant asked, just before she got out of the room.
“He’ll be able to fight in this battle,” Asuna answered, before leaving. “He’s a tough guy.”
Kirito walked a few steps, following Asuna.
“She’s quite cold now,” Galant told him. “better to wait a little bit at let things cool off if you wanna talk to her.”
“What about me then?” Galant asked.
“You stay with me; we’ll go to see Thatch. Tecchi needs go get here, go to see your friend if you want to.”
Galant nodded. He walked out of the room then downstairs and went towards Jack’s room. As soon as he opened the door, he saw Jack standing up. He looked to the opposite white wall, adjusting Yahaza to several strings on the left side of his belt in Iaido fashion, with the edged side downwards.
“Asuna was right,” Galant said grinning. “You’re one tough son of a bitch.”
Jack turned around; smiled when he saw his friend and they share a handshake.
“It’s good to see you again Jack, on your feet this time.”
“I’m not dying, not until I defeat Hao and avenge my friends.”
“I’m sure about that,” Galant released his hand. “I hope you’re ready for that fight that you so crave for. Kirito has a plan; it’s time for us to engage Hao.”
“I’m more than ready now for a good fight.”
“I hope you are, because we’re testing those words very soon.” Kirito said, arriving to the room. “Tecchi’s here, come now, we’re going to look for Thatch.”
The four players walked out of the HQ and towards the docks, while Kirito explained the plan again, this time to Tecchi and Jack. Once they arrived, they saw the group of Knights boarding the Narwhal. Some Pirates climbed up the ratlines to loosen the sails. The wind blew strongly, moving the rigging of the ship and the sunlight clashed against the black sails, reflecting the light.
“Our people have to descend quietly on land. Once you’re done with the first lot, come back for more as fast as you can.” Kirito ordered him.
“I’ll try not to kill many Legionnaires without you close.” Tecchi said laughing, before boarding the ship by a plank.
At the same time, Thatch got off.
“You had enough wine?” Galant asked.
“Nyeh.” he answered with a short laugh. “I’m a player of the sea; I can’t be too long away from it.”
Kirito looked around. “Where’s your second-in-command?”
“I was planning to give this job to me quartermaster Crow, but me matey’s passed out in drinks. If he wakes up, tell him we’ll return for ‘m.”
“Thanks thatch, for all what you’ve done.”
“Unnecessary,” Thatch responds eagerly. “”We’re only here for the coin.”
“You’ll have it once we end Hao, I promise you that.”
“That’d be a good day for a drink! Until such day, King Kirito.” Thatch turned around and boarded the ship. “Weigh anchor! Get ready to set sail, you bilge rats!”
Floor 93rd, February 6th, 2027
Hao looked at the letter that had just been placed on his desk, white old folded paper with a black-colored wax to seal it. After silently thinking with his eyes closed for some minutes, he took the letter, opened and quickly skimmed through it.
“How many reports like this have you received?” he asked.
“Three, my King.” Tyr answered. He remained standing at the other side of the table with rigid posture and his hands clenched behind his back. “From floors 81st, 83rd, and 86th.”
“And you waited until now to tell me?”
“You were busy.” the Salamander general swallowed saliva before continuing. “When I get them, I believed you wouldn’t be pleased if you were informed about these minor matters. But I just got the third one, and each message has a worse sense than the previous one.”
Hao read the message out loud. “To his majesty, the Supreme King of Aincrad: We saw the armies of Sylphs, Cait Siths and Salamanders rising towards floor under command of Sakuya and Alicia Rue. The counting marks at least 1000 men.” he placed the letter on the table. “How many men did they say in the previous two?”
“In the first one, 450. In the second one, 700.”
“And now they reach 1000. How much longer until the rest of the races join them?” Hao rose from his chair. “If their numbers swell more and they manage to somehow pass our army by and join forces with Kirito, they’ll hold the advantage in numbers.”
“We’re close to the labyrinth of floor 93rd, my King. I don’t believe they can simply go past us.”
“You’re right. They can’t, at least for the time being.” Hao remarked, holding his hands together. "But if we get between two armies, they’ll have the advantage as well.” he pauses before continuing. “This army must be dealt with.”
“How my King? By force?”
“Eventually, if it comes to that. For the time being, send more scouts to the lower floors and every report that comes, you shall give it to me. We’ll wait for the right time to strike.”
“My King.” Tyr said respectfully, before turning around to walk out of the tent, but Mordread walked into first. The Salamander stepped back and let the leader of the Dark Knights pass.
“If you want a sign or some sort of mystical shit to move, here it is cousin.”
A female Pooka enters the room. She had orange curvy hair, very messy and tangled. She donned a bluish-green gown, which had been cut short, just reaching her knees. It had multiple rips across and had been stained of blood and filth. Her wrists were red with the markings of shackles and her feet were stained with mud up to half her tibia. With her lusterless hazel eyes, she looked around the room, but was quite astonished when she laid her eyes on Hao, who she immediately recognized, even though she never saw him before.
“Kirito released a clutch of prisoners form Nuceria, and this one holds knowledge about the city.” Mordread added.
“Come here, darling.” Hao ordered her. “What’s your name?”
“Abelia, my King.” she respectfully bowed, though little she could with her sore knees.
“My cousin here says you have valuable information, but I’d prefer to weigh it myself.”
She walked a couple of steps forward. “Kirito will take a big portion of his men to attack Scilliana.”
“What of the remainder?”
“They have split and remain within the city, now under the command of the Salamander Klein.”
“Now’s our chance!” Mordread pointed out eagerly, with a toothy smile. “Nuceria’s partially defended.”
“So it’d appear,” Hao said, before quickly looking to Abelia again. “I’ve been told that Kirito’s men killed most of the players within the city. How did you manage to survive?”
“Because I’m the wife of the governor of the city.”
“You’re married to Varus?”
Mordread stared at his cousin, notably annoyed. “I don’t see the point of this Ha…”
“Give reply.” Hao interrupted him, dismissing his opinion.
“Yes,” Abelia answered with a sad tone. “Kirito knew this and forced me to help him in his dealings with the Black Flag pirates.”
The eyebrows of Hao frowned immediately after hearing this. He placed his hands on the table and leaned forward. “You give aid to the player who slaughtered the players within your city?”
“To save as many of my people who were yet alive!” she cried. “I’d do it again if I had to.”
“My king.” a Legionnaire entered into the tent and kneeled in front of Hao’s desk. He stood up and gave a message to the King before walking back a single step while he read it quickly.
“She gives us a very valuable piece of information.” a bluffed Mordread said. “Why’re we still doing nothing?”
“As I’ve said before on multiple occasions, I’m just waiting for opportunity. Which’s now right here.” smiling, Hao raised his sight. He first looked to his cousin and then to Abelia. “Thank your help. We’ll talk once again, after I retake your city. Give command to prepare to march!”
Markus moved aside the silk blanket aside and entered Freya’s tent. It was smaller than the tents on the main camp, but still larger than any of the others in the follower’s camp. It was better equipped as well with a big bed, a chair, and wooden table. On it, food and two silver jars of alcohol. The tent was lighted by two candelabra hanging from the beam on top of the wooden frame, and each carrying two small candles.
Freya rose from the bed once she saw that Markus entered and smiled gladly.
“You have wine?” he asked surprised, even though she could see the jars on the table.
“It’s a gift from your brother.” she filled a cup and offered it to him. “Let’s share a cup.”
Slowly, Markus took it.
They heard the deep sound of trumpets coming from the main camp.
“What’s that sound?” Freya wondered.
Markus turned around, looking towards the main camp, even though he couldn’t see it since he was inside a tent. “The Legions have been called to formation. They’ll probably advance to floor 94th.”
“Hopefully that’s a good sign.” Freya comments. “That the war will soon be over and your brother can assume his rightful place as King of Aincrad.”
“To be received by the crowds with glory and laurels, for the King and the men who yet serve beneath him.”
“To act without you beside him is a difficult thing for him.”
“I’m not speaking about me, Freya.” he turned his sight back to Freya, showing his golden eyes sparkling with tears. “I’m talking of those innocents who died because of his brutal punishment.”
“He didn’t give that command lightly…or without regret.” she saw that the black stone was still in the palm of his hand.
“If only I had drawn this stone and died instead of Taikeus.”
“You don’t really mean that…”
“Wouldn’t everything be the same without me fighting this war? Wouldn’t the King advance towards victory, without the deadweight disappointment that’s me?”
“Your brother loves you Makoto.” she interrupted before Markus continued berating himself. “He loves you more than you believe.”
“It appears he loves you more...” Markus began crying. Freya advanced and tenderly hugged him, grabbing the back of her head with her left hand and the back of his torso with his right arm. On her arms, Markus wept even stronger and he hugged her strongly. They remained like that for a while, until he loosened his grip on Freya. She held his face between her hands and wiped out his tears on his cheek with her thumbs.
“Everything will be as it should, little prince.” she said, looking directly into his eyes. “Everything will be at it should.”
Markus moved forward and pressed his lips against hers, but she immediately walked a step back.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re mistaking me.”
Markus caught her arm while she walked back, dropping the cup and spilling the wine on the floor. “You’re mistaking me. He took something from me…I’ll take something from him in return…”
He advanced, grabbing her other arm, pushing her against the bed behind her.
“Stop this, Makoto!” she cried
His hand seized her throat, tightening upon contact like steel rods. “You forget your place!” he whispered, coming closer to her. “Despite being the King’s helper, you’re a member of the Legions, you’re still beneath me. You’ll do as I fucking command you!”
He pushed her to the bed and removed his clothes. She attacked him with arms, nails and legs, but Markus easily moved her legs aside, grabbed both of her arms. He opened the buttons on her black vest, ripped open the red shirt underneath it, leaving her chest and stomach bare naked, before thrusting himself inside her. She moaned with pain once he did, but Markus silenced her by placing his hand on her mouth as he started to brutally ram at her. Freya felt the strong constant pain for a long time, even after she had stopped moaning, until she no longer felt anything but deep sadness while she inertly looked upon a black oval stone rolling on the ground.
Floor 94th, February 6th, 2027
Lyd walked through Nuceria’s streets. He saw the big amount of players going towards the northern gate, grabbing whatever they could: weapons, food, drink, torches afire and whatever else they could gather. They placed it inside large carts and walked in the ordered direction. All of them carried large cloaks to protect themselves against the freezing winds of Solnia’s ridge. Even with the moonlight, he could see the mountains covered in snow, and the top was hidden underneath clouds, suggesting that a strong blizzard was taking place there.
A wind coming from the mountains blew for a second and he felt the small hairs on his arms standing up. He shook his head and walked on the opposite direction they were going. It was difficult to make his way through the mob, but he managed to get close to the wall and kept on walking until the stream of players decreased, just a few left over ordering players to “clear the streets”. One of them ordered him to turn around, but Lyd lied, saying that Kirito had ordered him to go with him, and the player let him pass with no more comments.
He arrived at the central plaza, where he recognized the quartermaster of the Pirates, Crow. He drunkenly wandered and wobbled at the same time. His skin looked pale and puffy. He clashed against a wall, and started vomiting for several long seconds before falling to the ground, on the vomit. Lyd almost went to help him back up, but the Pirate rose up by himself, yet slowly by clinging to the wall next to him. He wiped the stinking liquid from his face and saw Lyd for a moment, even though he recognized him, he kept on walking without saying a word. Lyd looked at his staggering walk for a short moment. He knew that Crow had to go to the eastern side of the city, to the docks, but he didn’t stop him. Glad he had left; he kept on walking, but almost immediately came across Fandral and his two friends.
“You’re going to the wrong direction brother!” Fandral said. “We’re going with Klein, to Solnia’s Ridge.”
“I’d prefer advancing to a more promising opportunity.” Fandral responded.
Fandral laughed and patted him in the back of the neck. “As I’d like to, but Klein’s agreed with Kirito’s plan, and we’re nothing but soldiers in the war.”
“You’re following the path to a frozen death, while Kirito sails to fucking Scilliana!”
“Well, if you go there you’ll have to follow Kirito’s command. Tell me, who’d you prefer to follow, the Spriggan or the Salamander? Either way, if the plan goes as planned, Hao’ll lose the war. The die’s been cast. We have to arrive to the bitter end. ”
After contemplating Fandral’s words for a while, Lyd nodded his head. “I guess we must…”
Fandral smiled and then continued walking, but he heard groans and whines coming from behind of him. He turned around and saw how Lyd pierced Kazz’s stomach with his blade. He withdrew it and slashed Cerdyn’s throat. Both players fell to the ground, dead. Shocked, yet far from paralyzed, Fandral drew his blade and axe from his back.
“You’ve lost your fucking mind, Lyd!”
The Sylph advanced, swinging his axe downwards, but Lyd effortlessly caught it with his own weapon, hacking the blade of the axe off, sending the useless head of the weapon flying away. Fandral then attacked with his sword on his left hand, but Lyd was quicker. He caught Fandral’s right hand in the mid-swing with his left and then kicked him. The sword and the handle of the axe flied away and Sylph fell to the ground. He then turned to him.
“No, it’s always been my own.” Lyd said. He placed his left hand in front of his face, covering it, and a bright white light shined on it. Two seconds later, he raised his hand above his head and slowly brought it down, revealing spiky black hair styled backwards and matching onyx eyes. His face was shaped in almost the same way as before, but his chin was more pointed than before. Only thing that was the same was his bestial, yet bright, look on his eyes. He pointed with his sword at Fandral. “The mind of the Wolf General, Zar.”
“An illusion magic spell to mask your real appearance.” Fandral realized. He jumped up and angrily stared at him. “You were a fucking traitor all this time…”
Zar grinned, and prepared to take a swing with his blade.
“Wait! I can help you!” Fandral yelled out, raising both opened hands.
Zar stopped, though he didn’t exactly know why.
“Don’t kill me, and I’ll help you.” Fandral said.
“You’d betray your own guild?” Zar asked.
“This may be my Guild, but only because I thought it was the strongest guild I could join when the war started.” he explained. “But I’ve always known that the Legions are the strongest of all. I just want to be on the winning side once the war’s over. I can help you to get closer to Kirito. And, together, we can kill the son of a bitch.”
Amused, Zar smiled and lowered his blade. “That’s an offer much appreciated, Fandral…” he saw the Sylph relaxed and smiled widely. “…but I’ve made other arrangements.”
The General blinked his eyes, turning them red and activating his VRSMA. He swung his blade, slashing Fandral’s throat. The momentum of the swing forced the Sylph to turn around and to slam the ground in a puddle of blood. Dying, Fandral’s body writhed, gasping for air, drowning in his own blood.
Zar looked upon the dead body for few seconds, until he spat it. “That was for that girl, you piece of shit.” he said, remembering about the girl Fandral and his friends had tortured.
He sheathed his blade and walked away, continuing on the same way.
Kirito and Galant arrived at the port. There, they could see Jun, Nori and a few others Blood Knights, but not nearly the number they expected to go with them to Scilliana. The Narwhal was docking and placing planks as bridges so that the pirates could come down the ship.
“They arrived late.” Kirito stated.
“The pirates don’t give a shit about that,” Galant told him. “nor good manners, nor a proper bath."
They continued walking, going to the place where Thatch awaited them. Strangely, he had his black coat closed, instead of open at it regularly was.
“I’m sorry for arriving late, but we had a few problems coming here.”
Kirito nodded his head. He briefly skimmed through the faces of the players on the ship, recognizing Robberts and a few other Pirates. A lesser group of Pirates wore large black leather cloaks that hid their whole body. Strangely, Kirito also saw a thing he’d never seen before in the ship. On the main deck of the ship a huge cream-colored blanket that covered almost the whole deck, tied with ropes, which some Pirates were uniting. He also realized that someone was missing.
“Where’s Tecchi?” he asked.
“He died…” Thatch answered, unfazed.
Galant gave Kirito a serious, yet worrying look.
“He died fighting the Legions?” Kirito asked.
“He died because that’s what they wanted.” Thatch answered. “And because of they make better offers than you ever could, King Kirito.”
The Pirate captain opened his coat, revealing on his neck an amulet with the symbol of the Supreme Legion hanging from a collar. He walked a step back and drew his curved sabre while giving Robberts a quick nod. The Pirate pulled from a rope, revealing the concealed formation of ducked Legionnaires beneath it. They rose from the ground, blades in hand, ready to fight. The players cloaked removed them easily, revealing that they were with the Legions as well.
“I’m sorry brother, “Thatch apologized. “I didn’t wish such a dishonorable death for you.”
Coming out of a shadow, a player with black eyes, matching hair and knife in hand screamed just before stabbing Kirito in the back of his right shoulder. The leader screamed in pain, but Galant turned around and punched the attacker in the face, pushing him back. The Stardust Knight removed the dagger from his leader’s back with his left hand and drew Maximus Caliburn with his right, engaging combat with the player he managed to recognize as Lyd. The broke formation and Legionnaires started getting off the boat, engaging a surrounding maneuver on the two Blood Knights. Kirito kicked back Thatch before he could take a swing with his blade. He drew Long Sword and got ready to finish the pirate off, but before he could, a Legionnaire got in his way, blocking the attack. He then thrusted his blade forward, but Kirito easily blocked it, got closer and punched the player on the nose before thrusting his blade between the eyes of the soldier. Seeing that more Legionnaires started to surround them, Kirito drew Elucidator.
“Seek help on the northern gate!” Kirito ordered to a player, who immediately rushed away using a narrow path leading north.
Jun and Nori rushed to join the battle. The young Salamander quickly followed Thatch inside the vessel and engaged combat with him.
Galant ducked under Zar’s high attack. He raised his body and swung his blade, but Zar bent back, avoiding the attack before coming back with a swing downwards. The Dimachearus Knight blocked it halfway and kicked the Spriggan back. Before he could continue fighting, however, a soldier got in his way. For a brief second, he saw Robberts, taking aim to Kirito with his harpoon. Galant tossed Zar’s dagger up, it span in the air several times before it fell back down. There, he caught it and threw it to Robbert, nailing his neck. A stream of blood came out of the wound before he fell. With his left hand free, he drew his left Maximus Caliburn and started attacking the Legionnaires.
“Over here!” Zar shouted to his men. “We must open the gate so that the city can be retaken!!!”
He rushed towards the eastern gate followed by a big clutch of his men, leaving the four Knights to be entertained by his Legionnaires.
Agil tied a mannequin to the rope of a pulley on top of the wall, close to the gate, where Lamorak waited to place one of the last fake wooden bodies. Each of them was fully armored, with helm, breastplate and weapon. Asuna and Kana arrived from the northern gate.
“Lamorak, you’re ready?” Asuna asked.
“Grab the last of the jars of pitch and give it to Klein,” Lamorak ordered. “he’ll need it on the mountains.”
“I believe that can wait…” Kana said, looking towards a street. “Legionnaires!!!”
Alerted by the scream, Lamorak grabbed the rope of the pulley and jumped, descending from top of the wall while the mannequin went up. They saw Zar, followed by a clutch of his men running towards them, and towards the gate.
Lamorak was the first one who rushed forward, engaging a battle against the commander, while the rest begins to fight off the Legionnaires.
Asuna gracefully blocked the first blow of the first player who appeared on her way, and quickly switched her guard to attack, nailing the player on the arm two times. Angry, she attacked again, but she easily deflected it away, and nailing him again, this time in his eye. The corpse fell to the ground and she advanced on the next player.
Agil shoved a player aside with his axe, breaking his shield in half. A second one came, and the Gnome pushed him back with the tip of his weapon. Once he was back enough, he swung the huge weapon, but it clashed against the shield, leaving a huge gash on it. The soldier on his left advanced, but he slammed his elbow against the player’s ear.
Zar swung his blade downwards, but Lamorak blocked with his shield. He attacked again, this time thrusting his sword, but the Sylph parried with his shield and pushed him back using his shoulder. The General staggered back, but planted his right foot behind him firmly on the ground, regaining his balance. Lamorak slashed vertically, yet Zar bent his body to the side, eluding the attack. Using the momentum, he lunged forward with his blade. The Blood Knight was just as quick and blocked with his shield before pointing his sword to his opponent’s neck.
“Lyd, you fucking traitor!” Lamorak cursed, recognizing his opponent.
“Not Lyd, fucking General Zar!” he raised the blade quickly, clashing against Lamorak’s. The Sylph reacted quickly and attacked with the edge of the shield, aiming to Zar’s head, but he jumped back. Angry, Lamorak switched guard and lunged forward with his sword. The General parried, got closer to his opponent and smacked him hardly on the face with his empty hand. The Sylph fell to the ground
“Open the gate!!!” he ordered, before turning around to attack Lamorak, who was still on the ground. However, Asuna blocked the attack and engaged battle against the Spriggan.
Two of the soldiers in the rear rushed forward and got to the crane used to lift the door. They started to turn the winches, slowly rising it.
A Legionnaire slashed towards Kana, but she easily danced away. He attempted a second blow, but she easily deflected and stabbed the player two times in his right arm. He advanced, pushing forward with his shield. Kana slid diagonally, eluding the attack and then quickly changed her momentum, and nailed the player’s neck with both her blades, she repeated constantly, leaving the player partially beheaded, while blood ran down his neck like a cascade.
Agil slashed with his axe back, breaking through armor and leaving a large gash across the chest of the player behind him, who soundly sat down against the wall. Another came from his left side, and he switched his momentum to slam the blade on the stomach of the soldier, who kneeled in pain. He then raised his weapon and brought it down with all his strength, beheading him with a swift stroke.
“Agil, the gate!!!” Lamorak yelled while he got up, and was quickly engaged by another soldier.
Agil slammed his battle axe back, killing the player against the wall before rushing towards the crane. He moved aside the first soldier with the head of the axe. The second one attempted to advance, but the Gnome quickly pushed him back by thrusting with the tip of his weapon. The other soldier grabbed him from behind, and Agil responded by shoving back his elbow, hitting the player in the ear. Free from grasp, he swung the massive weapon diagonally downwards, hacking off the leg of the second Legionnaire. The edge of the axe hit against the ground, and then he switched it back and slammed it against the body of the other, penetrating through armor, skin and flesh. At last, he used the pommel of the axe to release the hold system, and the door came down with a booming clash.
Zar shoved Asuna aside and saw how the two soldiers were hacked down by Agil. Most of his clutch of men had been easily wiped out by four players, and just a few Legionnaires were left. Desperate, he switched the blade to his left and rushed forward. He grabbed one of the bottles of pitch and, while screaming, hurled it to the door, breaking it to a hundred pieces and splattering the black goo all over the door. Agil advanced; swinging his battle axe towards Zar’s stomach, but the Spriggan ducked under it and grabbed a torch from one of the holds, and threw it against the door as well, instantly lighting the wooden structure on fire. He dodged another of Agil’s attacks, grabbed a second jar of pitch and tossed it to the door as well, and even more flames crept across it.
At the same time, Lamorak killed the last Legionnaire.
Kirito blocked an attacked while yelling out, as Galant did the same right behind him.
They Legionnaires had formed a circular formation around the two Blood Knights and used their shields as walls. With flawless defense and upcoming attacks from all direction, the two players could do nothing but to hold position back to back, deflect whatever they could and holding on for as long as they could, even when both knew they wouldn’t last for long. They could see how Jun fended against Thatch alone and how Nori fought against the Legionnaires to try to get them out of the formation, but against bigger numbers, it was useless.
A scream was heard across the docks and everybody stopped for a second to see. A dark red shadow jumped from the top of a building close to the the docks, and landed on the Narwhal’s main deck, right infront of a Legionnaire, who had a huge gash across his face, neck, breaking through his armor until the end of his collar bone. He turned around and engaged the circular formation of Legionnaires from behind.
“Klein!!!” Kirito screamed eagerly.
His shout was soon followed by others from several people, coming from the narrow path across the coast, which lead to the northern gate. Leafa, Jack, Hogun, Rorge and others advanced towards the docks. The Legionnaires advanced towards them in line, but they easily started cutting them down, one after the other.
At the same time, Sybil appeared from a southern path. She rapidly made her way to the poop deck. She blocked a blow with the shaft of her spear and then swung it across, forcing the soldiers back. With a quick nick, she cut the throat of one. Another came to her left, but the Sylph girl nailed his chest, and though her weapon didn’t pierce through his armor, it was more than enough to push his off the ship.
Now happy that they were accompanied, and with the numbers of the Legionnaires in the circle formation dwindling, Kirito and Galant attacked, striking down with few blows whoever came across their way.
Klein kicked a soldier back. Another on his left attacked him, but he dodged the first, then blocked the second and slashed his throat. A third Legionnaire attacked him, but he easily moved aside, slid behind and nailed the player on the back of his neck. The one on the ground got up, but Klein caught the hand which held the blade and, with a deftly grapple, threw the Legionnaire to the ground.
Galant slashed upwards with both blades while using Crescent Stardust Slasher, cutting two adversaries down. Another soldier came at him, with his gladius ready for the downswing, but he easily blocked it mid-way and then brought down his other along with his body, lacerating his right leg with a fast stroke. The player fell to the ground as Galant rose up again. He tossed his right blade up before catching it backhand and brought it down on the player’s face.
Kirito advanced towards Thatch, cutting down whoever was dumb enough to come in his way. He jumped into the forecastle deck, just as Jun was tossed aside by the Pirate captain. Kirito brought down his blade as he was about to land. Thatch blocked it, but the strength of the blow was enough to push him back. A soldier behind Kirito slashed his arm, but the Black Swordsman blocked the second, knocked the sword out of his hand and kicked him out of the ship. He turned around and Thatch had regained his balance and he advanced towards him. The Blood Knight leader blocked and countered with a flurry of blows, forcing the Pirate back, towards the bowsprit. He slashed diagonally, across the pirate’s forehead, and the body fell to the sea.
With that final stroke, the fight was over.
Kirito sheathed his blades and looked around, seeing the large amounts of Legionnaries and Pirate bodies and the Blood Knights who’d survived, finishing. Klein was on the docks, blood splattered all over the ground and his body as he stabbed a body with a Pugio dagger. Kirito and the others gathered closer.
“Klein…” Kirito said.
“Klein!” Leafa added.
Klein stopped, looked up and a slight smile formed in his face. “I told you…fucking pirates…” he stood up and sheathed the katana to his belt.
“You came to our aid, in the best moment you ever could.” Kirito thanked him, covering the wound on the back of his right shoulder, before looking to his bloodied hand.
“You’ve often done the same.” Klein remembered.
They grasped hands covered in blood, settling their differences aside. They looked to each other’s eyes and nodded.
“Kirito!” Galant shouted from the main deck of the ship, in front of the railing. Kirito and the others approached.
“It’s far too early to celebrate.” Jun commented.
“Legionary ships.” Galant extended his hand and pointed towards the sea. Four large ships with white sails and the symbol of the Legions in the middle were arriving into the city.
Kirito frowned. He took a deep breath and thought for a moment. “Fall back to the ridge!” he ordered.
Galant, Jun, Jack, Hogun, Sybil, Rorge and Nori followed command, but Klein and Leafa stayed.
“Fall back!!!” Kirito shouted.
Reluctantly, they did. Kirito remained on the dock, glaring at the ships with a furrowed brow before turning around and leaving the docks. “What’re you thinking, Hao?”
The whole door had been engulfed in flames; creating large monstrous shadows the Wolf General clashed against the Blood Knights.
Lamorak slashed downwards, Zar parried. He attacked again, this time a vertical slash, but the Spriggan still blocked, and thrusted his blade, but it clashed against Lamorak’s shield. He then moved around the Sylph, trying to get behind him, but Agil brought his battle axe horizontally. Just in time, he ducked beneath the weapon, but Asuna was in front of him. She thrusted with her rapier, but the General blocked, jumped back and slashed to Lamorak, then Agil and then Asuna, even though all attacks are blocked. Lamorak attacked, but Zar blocked his move and pushed him aside. However, this left him wide open. Asuna was the first, nailing his left arm and left side of his chest, then Agil thrusted the pommel of his axe into his stomach, blowing the air out of him. Zar bent over, but then Lamorak slammed his shield into his face. He flied for a few seconds before slamming to the ground, harshly. The sword fell from his hand as well, and landed inches from him.
On the ground, he moved his hand to reach to the weapon, but Lamorak placed Fragarach in front of his neck. “Whatever your plan is, it dies here with you, General Zar.”
A rumbling sound came from the burning door, surprising the four Blood Knights, as they looked at it, stunned. The noise came from the door for a second time. Like if a giant was punching it with all his strength; each hit was stronger than the one before. A third time. With each hit, the astonished Knights slowly walked a step back from the door that shacked like a lonely leaf in a wind of autumn. A fourth time. With a slight chuckle on his face, Zar rose from the ground, blade in hand. He lifted it, close to his face and firmly pointed it to his astonished enemies, who looked at the Legionnaire with the background of the flaming and shaking door. With the fifth time, the two vertical beams of the burning gate fell and a large hole appeared on it, sending pieces of burning wood and splinters away. A large and thick wooden ram pierced through the opening. On its end, the Symbol of the Supreme Legion.
Zar chuckled, “Now’s good time to run...”