Floor 94th, February 6th, 2027
The burning beams of the gate crumbled, forming a large hole in the middle of it, as Asuna, Lamorak, Kana and Agil stared at it, motionless.
“Didn’t I tell you that you should run?” Zar asked to them, with his weapon held up next to his right temple.
Screams started coming from the other side of the gate and a Legionnaire appeared from the hole in the gate, rushing towards the Blood Knights. Right behind of him, other three came.
“We must hold the gate!!!” Lamorak shouted.
As the brawl between the Knights and Legionaries began again, the battering ram continued hitting the remaining solid parts of the door, until the remaining solid parts collapsed to the ground with a third strike. As the shattered pieces of the gate fell to the ground, a large squad of Legionnaires appeared behind it, drawing their weapons and advancing into the city.
“There’re too many!” Kana shouted.
“Shit!” Lamorak cursed, as he slashed a soldier’s neck before turning around. “Pull back!!!”
The four Knights rushed away, as the clutch of soldiers rushed behind them and spread through the streets and corridors of the city like water through an empty canal.
Zar turned around and looked towards the door; the ram had been moved away and Hao’s shadowy figure entered through the gate, clad in his black knight-esque armor that shimmered with the moonlight. On his back, the floor-length dark red cape waved with the soft and cold wind of the night and his golden eyes gleamed, eager for battle and victory. Behind him, Tyr walked while holding the pommel of his sheathed sword with his left hand, and next to him a Kingsguard Legionnaire carried the triangular red banner with a gold trim of the Legions. A golden eagle with its wings spread on top of the mast and the symbol of the Supreme Legion bellow it. Next to the two Legionnaires, Mordread walked with his three right-hand men behind him. He held his hands in his pockets and a wry smile formed on his face. Behind their commanding officers entered a formation of four columns of Legionnaires, with their tower shields on front of them and their blades drawn.
Hao stopped right next to Zar, briefly greeting him with the slightest of nods, which the General replied before looking towards the city.
“Welcome to Nuceria, my King.” Zar said.
“Give report.” Hao commanded.
“Everything’s following the plan,” Zar answered, “the Knights abandoned most of the city and go towards Solnia’s ridge. Once they know that we’re here, they’ll probably try to speed up to escape from us.”
“We’ll spread through the streets, advancing towards the northern gate.” Hao decided. “With the narrow streets, we hold the advantage while in formation. Let no Blood Knight you find alive. This city belongs to me.”
“Faster!” Kirito ordered to his men. “We need to get to the northern gate before the ships arrive!”
They rushed up the stairs that connected the docks with the rest of the city and stop once they ended.
“Hogun, Sybil, Jun, Siune and Nori, spread the word escape by the northern gate!” Kirito ordered. “Rorge, go to the northern gate and help Sinon, ordered them to speed up our departure.”
“Yes!” Jun shouted, before rushing away with the other five players.
“What about us?” Jack asked.
They hear the sounds of screams and clashing steel with steel coming from the street that lead towards the central plaza.
“What the hell is that?” Klein wondered, taking hold of his katana.
Kirito moved forward in the group until he was on the front.
The group followed Kirito. After a few second running forward, they turn right and arrive to the Main Plaza. A group of Legionnaires were there fighting against a smaller troop of Blood Knights. The corpses of the fallen players lied on the ground, bleeding from multiple wounds and the blood ran out from them, covering the white marble stones of the ground in red. Blood had also been splattered across the cream-colored walls around the plaza and it slowly slid down to the ground.
Kirito, Galant and Klein were the first to rush forward while screaming, and the soldiers turned towards them surprised. The trio jumped from the upper platform they were standing while raising their blades, and landed on the plaza, slashing down their weapons. Kirito managed to slash the throat of the soldier in front of him before landing on the ground. Klein’s downswing was blocked by a soldier, but the Salamander quickly stopped his momentum and slashed the soldier’s legs and then stabbed his neck. A soldier rushed towards Galant, swinging his blade forward, but the Stardust Knight easily blocked the attack with his right sword, and then sidestepped to his left before slashing the back of the Legionnaire’s neck with his other blade.
Just behind the three, Jack and Leafa joined the battle.
Two soldiers advanced towards Kirito, slashing from both sides at the same time. The guild leader raised both of his weapons and parried the strikes at the same time. He stopped the momentum on his arms when his elbows clashed, and then swung in an inversed way, slashing the throat of an upcoming soldier. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two soldiers behind of him running towards him. He slid backwards and ducked at the same time while slashing back with swords and the soldiers tripped and fell to the ground. He raised both his blades before switching his handle to backhand before stabbing downwards, killing the two Legionnaires and finishing the battle. Standing back up, he looked around and saw that all the soldiers had been dealt with, but the troop of Blood Knights had been killed as well.
The five Blood Knights got closer.
“From where the hell do these come from!?” Klein wondered.
“The eastern gate has fallen!” Lamorak said, rushing into the central Plaza. Asuna, Agil and Kana followed rapidly behind him. “We’ve been betrayed!”
“Fuck…” Jack said, slamming his fist against a wall.
“I was an idiot for trusting the Pirates,” Kirito cursed.
“The Pirates!?” Lamorak repeated surprised. “The recruit Lyd was the one who betrayed us!”
“Apparently, he used an illusion spell to change the look on his face and his Avatar name as well.” Asuna explained.
“He calls himself General fucking Zar.” Lamorak added.
“Zar…Dammit!” Galant yelled.
“Who’s he, Galant?” Leafa asked.
“He’s Hao’s finest general and he was here all along informing Hao of what was going on. That’s why the Pirates betrayed us.”
“They’ve fucked us over as well?!” Agil asked.
They stopped talking for a second when they heard the sound of an upcoming squad of Legionnaires.
“Where’s Sybil?” Lamorak asked.
“I dispatched her, Hogun and the former Sleeping Knights members to give the alert.”
“I must find her…” Lamorak said.
“Go, and spread the word to escape towards the northern gate.” Kirito ordered him. Lamorak immediately rushed away. “We must see all the remaining towards Solnia’s Ridge.”
“You want us to run?” Klein asked.
“I want us to live…” Kirito corrected him.
“Then we have to fight! And make our stand here!” Klein argued.
“Hao’s already won this fight!” Kirito countered. “Most of our men are outside the city. We have few players inside and they outnumber us. We’re not prepared to face him in the streets.”
“Same as the players who flee through the northern gate,” Klein added. “How much time do you think they have until he strikes them in the rear?”
“I’ll gain some time by distracting them!” Galant said, stepping forward. All eyes turned towards him.
“How’re you planning to do that?” Kirito asked.
“I have no fucking idea,” the blue knight plainly answered.
“No. You go with the others; I’ll draw the Legionnaires away…” Kirito urged.
“This isn’t a request!” Galant insisted, just before Kirito rushed away. “You’re the leader of these people. If you die, it’s a fatal blow; but no one would care if I died.”
“We would…” Kana insisted.
“Galant…” Kirito said.
They heard the trumpets even closer.
“Just go!” the blue knight urged. “I’ll see you there once it’s done!”
Kirito nodded and approached Galant and placed his left hand on his shoulder. “We’ll wait for you as long as we can.”
Kirito rushed away towards the northern gate and Asuna followed him, not before giving the blue knight a quick nod and a chuckle.
“Good luck…” Klein told him and ran, followed by Leafa.
Kana hugged Galant and gave him a kiss on his cheek, much to his surprise.
“Should we stay here with you?” Jack asked.
“No.” Galant responded. “I’ve seen you fight, you’re not ready for this. I can handle myself.”
“You’re one mad fuck…” Jack added, and Galant smiled.
“Don’t you dare to die,” Kana said.
“Nor you two, go with them quickly. Go!” he ordered them, and so they did, following the same path Kirito and the others took towards the northern gate. He turned his head and saw that Agil had remained behind. He’d placed massive battle-axe on his shoulder while holding the handle with his right hand.
Galant was about to tell him to leave when the Gnome stopped him.
“Don’t even try to send me away,” he said. “Besides, if I die, it’d be even a smaller concern than you dying.”
Galant grinned; somewhat happy he had someone to fight with him. “Stay close to me,” he told him, “I won’t have this night as our last...”
They rushed several blocks back the way Lamorak and the others came before turning left and running the same number of blocks, arriving to the warehouse were the Blood Knights and the citizens of the city before them had been storing food,. It had been emptied since the Knights had taken all the food with them. All that was left in the wooden racks was wool and the fetid smell of putrid food.
“By any chance you have any jars of pitch with you?” Galant asked.
Agil opened his menu and four large jars of pitch filled to the top materialized on his hands. “I was about to give them to Klein as we left, but I didn’t have the time.”
“Finally,” Galant said, “one thing goes well this night…”
He began spreading the pitch of one of the jars before tossing it to the ground once it was empty, spreading the pitch that remained glued to the insides of the jar.
“It isn’t much of a plan, is it?” Agil said, as he did the same that Galant did with his two jars of pitch.
“I’m making do with what we have right now.” Galant responded, as he started spilling the pitch of the second jar before hurling it against a wall. “If you had a better idea, I’m opened to suggestions.”
“Escaping from the Legion sounds better,” a voice said from above. Both Galant and Agil looked up and saw Aki, sitting on a wooden beam near to the roof of the ceiling.
“Odin…fuck me…” Agil cursed.
“Aki, What’re you even doing here?” Galant asked. “You should be with the rest, going to Solnia’s Ridge.”
“I wasn’t planning on following you,” she stated, “I’m not member of your guild.”
“We don’t have time for this shit Galant!” Agil cried.
Galant nodded and then turned to Aki. “We’re lighting this place on fire, you want to stay or escape from the Legions?”
She jumped from the beam and landed firmly on the ground, right on the middle of the two knights before walking towards the gate. “Seems I have no other choice...” She lighted a fire on her hand before pointing towards the pitch, starting the fire. “Are you two coming or what?”
Sybil spun her lance several times before stopping, aiming towards a soldier coming from a narrow alleyway at her left. Just behind him, another soldier appeared, but Hogun rammed his hammer into his side, breaking through metal, skin, bones and flesh. A Legionnaire appeared from his left side, raising his blade ready to strike at him from above. Hogun saw him in time, and countered with the spiked pommel of his weapon, piercing through breastplate and chest. The soldier fell to the ground, and the Gnome raised his warhammer with both hands, and brought it down with full strength, shattering his helmet and splattering blood along the corridor.
Just as Sybil pierced through the soldier’s armor and pushed him back the way he came, a third soldier ran towards her from behind. She twirled just in time to block the first blow with the handle of her weapon, and then thrusted it forward, slashing the Legionnaire’s arm. At last, she spun her weapon, hitting the player’s chin with the pommel, knocking him to the ground.
“Behind you!” the Gnome yelled.
She turned halfway around, and saw a Legionnaire approaching her with his blade up, but he stopped just before taking the swing and the blade fell from his hand. A tip of a curved sabre pierced through his neck before disappearing, and then Crow appeared behind the falling corpse of the soldier.
A green shadow passed in front of the puzzled eyes of Sybil, swinging an emerald blade towards Crow, who blocked the attack and then countered with a quick thrust forward, but the player blocked with his shield and placed his blade against Crow’s neck, ready to slit it open.
Sybil blinked her eyes and once she opened them, she recognized Lamorak holding his blade against Crow’s neck. “What the hell are you doing?!” she yelled, “Crow just saved my life!”
“The fucking Pirates berated us!” Lamorak yelled. He pressed his blade made a small cut on his neck and it started bleeding. “He and his guild are now with the fucking Legions!”
“I have no idea of what you’re talking about!” Crow argued. “I awoke up after drinking and me mates left without me!”
“He had no part in the betrayal!” Sybil said.
“More Legionnaires are coming,” Hogun alerted from the entrance to the alley they all were in were in. “We have to go! Now!”
Lamorak groaned. “Sybil, take his weapon,” she did as he ordered, taking away his saber and the sheath on his belt. “You try to reach for a weapon, and I swear, I’ll fucking kill you right there!” he sheathed his blade and grabbed Crow from the back of his neck. “We’re escaping from the northern gate! Go!”
The Legionnaire lunged towards Jun with his spear, but the Blood Knight eluded the attack. The tower shield clashed against him, knocking him to the ground. The soldier advanced while thrusting his spear forward. Jun placed the flat of his blade between him and the Lancea, and yellow sparks flied as the spear was deflected to his left and it stopped once it clashed against the wall. He kicked the soldier away, ripping the polearm out of his grasp. He jumped up to the ground and hacked the spear in half with a dual-handed stroke. The soldier slid free his Gladius, but Jun took a swing and the sword flied away along with the forearm. The Soldier screamed as he looked at the bleeding stump, giving Jun an opening to swing his greatsword, as tall as he was, to his opponent’s waist, shearing through armor and cleaving the player in half.
He turned around and saw that Nori and Suine had defeated their opponents as well.
“Are you two alright?” he asked, while sheathing his weapon on his back.
“We’ll be…” Siune said in between breathes. She had received a large wound across her chest from one of the soldiers, and could only maintain herself up by using her magic staff.
“There’s no time for talking now Jun,” Nori said, “we need to get to the northern gate as fast as we can.”
“These Soldiers are everywhere,” Jun said, approaching his two friends. “What do you suggest?”
“We should take the way… to the Central Plaza…” Siune suggested, “That’s…the shortest way there…”
Jun nodded before turning to the large group of unarmed guild mates that followed them. “Is everyone alright?”
The nervous players with them nodded their heads.
“Come here, we’ll take the shortest way to find Kirito and the others!” He shouted, and then ran, followed by his two former guild mates and the other players. They ran one street forward, before turning left and ran two more then turn again, this time to the left. On all streets, they found a number of corpses, from either Legionnaires or Blood Knights, but mostly the latter ones. They could hear the screams of their guild mates and the sound of steel clashing coming from the southern and eastern sides of the city, and by each second, they were getting closer and closer to them, compelling them to move their legs faster.
They turned left again, and after running another street, they arrived to the central plaza. Jun smiled, but then turned his head left, at the sound of soldiers entering the plaza from a different street in a tight formation. They spread across the width of the plaza, looking towards the Jun’s group and with their shields facing them, ready to charge to the scared and outnumbered Blood Knights. Jun, Siune and Nori stepped forth, standing between the soldiers and the group.
“Halt!” a voice ordered from behind the soldiers. They did, and a gap in the middle of the soldiers opened. Hao’s tall figure came walking through the corridor his men formed and stopped in front of his soldiers. From ten to fifteen tips of swords and polearms materialized in the air behind him, forming golden ripples where they hovered. He swept his sight across all the nervous Knights in front of him slowly, as if he enjoyed their nervous eyes on him. He then looked at the three players on the front. “The former Sleeping Knights,” he said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“I wish we could say the same,” Nori quipped. It was the first time any of them ever saw him, but they immediately knew who he was.
Hao grinned. “I’m sorry about Absolute Sword Yuki. She was quite a legend; I would’ve loved to fight her at least once.”
“I think you wouldn’t” Jun said. “Yuuki would’ve destroyed you…”
“What does that matter now? She’s dead, that’s all what matters. But you aren’t. I’m interested to see what you can do.” All the weapons on his back disappeared, except two which moved next to him. He drew them out his invisible armory and two longswords materialized; a pitch black with red symbols on the blade’s flat and silver eagle wings on his right hand and a silver blade with golden details on his left. “Medorach and Secace should be enough against you.”
At the same time several parts of his armor disappeared. The floor-length red cape, the spike collar, six spikes jutting out of the back of his armor and the long black cloths with golden trim hanging from his belt banished, and Hao’s armor became much lighter and flexible. It looked the same as the armor worn by his colonels and generals, aside from the violet gems in his shoulders and the golden spikes coming from his elbows and knees. His large helmet changed shape, shifting into a smaller type of helmet with a red crest of feathers that ran from the top of his head to the back of his neck.
“My King, we’re running out of time,” Zar said, stepping forth from behind of the soldiers.
“Don’t worry General, this will be over quickly. Besides, I haven’t fought anyone seriously since SAO, I’m eager for another challenge.” He raised his left blade and pointed it towards them, “Send the players that cannot fight away, have no interest in them.”
“Go!” Jun shouted. “Continue on the path in front of you should find Kirito.”
And they did.
Three players stayed behind however. A middle-sized, robust Gnome with a large spiked club; a Sylph with golden locks and a makeshift brown armor holding an arming sword; and an Imp girl with long purple hair tied as a ponytail, carrying a large curved blade on her right hand and a circular shield on her left.
“We’re staying with you,” the Imp girl said.
“Help appreciated…” Jun said. He drew his greatsword from his back and held it with both hands.
They entered in formation, with Jun at the front, with the Gnome on his left and the Sylph on his right. Behind them, then Nori with the Imp girl next to her, and Siune on the rear.
“You’re planning to stall me so that I don’t arrive at the gate before it’s closed.” Hao deduced, looking at their formation. He smiled and raised his swords. “Good plan, but it won’t work. I already have most of my men marching towards the northern gate.”
The Sylph is the first to rush forward, but Hao blocked with Medorach on his right hand and slashed across his stomach with Secace. The Sylph fell to the ground and writhed. Angry, Jun took a step forth and attacked Hao, aiming to his right leg. Hao blocked with his black sword, raised his silver blade up and brought it down on Jun, but the Salamander lifted the guard of his weapon just in time and the silver blade slid down across the edge of his. Hao takes another swing, this time with his black sword, but Jun jumped back, eluding the blow just in time before raising his blade and bringing it down with both hands, at full strength. The King parried with his left sword before hitting the side of his head with the pommel of his right sword and kicking him to the ground. The Gnome brought forth his spiked mace, but Hao ducked under it, and the spikes of the mace cut some of the hairs on top of his head. While kneeling, he slashed the Gnome’s left leg with both swords. Screaming in pain, the Blood Knight raised his weapon and brought it down. Hao cut upwards, and club and hand went flying. He then raised back up while he thrusted his Secace into the Gnome’s neck, piercing through it. Out the corner of the corner of his eye, he saw Siune reciting a spell, and several ice-made spears materialized in front of her, aiming at him. As they were fired, Hao moved behind the body of the body of the Gnome. The magic-made polearms embedded into the player’s corpse. On his left side, he saw a healing magical spell appear next to the Sylph on the ground. He shoved the lifeless meat aside and four spears materialized behind him. The weapons flew and pierced through Siune’s left shoulder, chest, stomach and right thigh, embedding her to the wall behind her. The blood tainted her white mage robes into red. However, the Sylph rose from the ground, and the wound on his chest had been almost perfectly healed.
The four remaining blood Knights spread around Hao, who spread his arms to his sides, pointing his swords at them, as he turned his body and head, ready for an attack.
The Imp on Hao’s right was the first to attack, taking a wide swing with her curved blade. A second afterwards, Nori swung her quarterstaff. Hao blocked the Imp’s strike with Medorach, and as the quarterstaff came on his direction he swung Secace, sending half of the weapon flying away. The King turned around, while kicking Nori away, as Jun and the Sylph attacked at the same time, but Hao parried both strikes at the same time. Quick on his feet, he started walking backwards, while the four players followed him while swinging their weapon at him, while Hao blocked or dodged each blow they threw at him. Hao flinched until his left heel collided against the platform that leaded to the docks, there he kicked the Imp on the side, and she clashed against Jun, who was next to her. At the same time, Nori swung both halves of her quarterstaff, but the King blocked, raising both blades pointing down in a parallel position at his sides. Hao raised both blades above his head and brought them down with full-force, and they sent blue sparks flying away as they clashed against the Sylph’s shield, who stumbled back and fell to his knees. He looked up, and saw Hao as he advanced on him, his sword a black blur aimed to his neck. His body rolled on the ground as blood came out of the gash. Hao leapt above his body and wheeled around, landing firmly on the ground with the three Knights looking at him. Jun and the Imp girl advanced first, each from one of Hao’s sides. The guild leader backed away again while twirling his blades, as both of them attacked, and he parried. He stopped, advanced and shifted to his left, blocking Jun’s blow while attacking the Imp, but his stroke clashed against her shield. Nori and Jun attacked at the same time, and Hao blocked both. The Imp attacked, but Hao caught the attack on the start with a cross block. Jun moved to interfere, but Hao used the player’s body as shield, pushing him against Jun, then brought his blades close to the Imp’s neck and slit. As Jun shoved aside the girl's corpse, Nori assaulted the King. They exchanged attacks and counters until Hao hacked one half of his quarterstaff into two quarters and knocked the other aside with a swipe of his sword before impaling her chest with his Secace. Jun stared at her motionless, as Hao pushed his blade forth into her until the cross-guard was against her body. She raised her eyesight, and grinned at Jun, before Hao removed the blade and looked at him. His sight jarred Jun back to reality.
He looked at the five corpses surrounding him, the gruesome wounds on their bodies. He then turned to Hao, who stared at him as well with his brow furrowed. He walked a few steps while he twirled his blades, covered in the blood of his guild mates. Jun took a deep breath and grabbed his greatsword with both hands.
He raised the blade and slashed downwards. Hao caught it in the downswing, and thrusted with his other sword, but Jun jumped back just in time, eluding the attack while he brought his greatsword circling above his head and slashed again at Hao. He jumped back, eluding the attack, but the tip of the blade slashes his helmet, exactly where his cheek would be. Angry, Hao attacked with both blades at the same time. Nevertheless, Jun blocked with his weapon both attacks at once, but flinched back. Medorach slid away, but it came back as Hao performed a backhand slash with Medorach. Jun blocked it, and then jumped back, eluding another backhand attack Hao chained, this time with Secace. The King attacked once again with Medorach, but Jun blocked and then changed his momentum to strike, slashing at his opponent. Hao deflected it, raised both weapons, bringing them down with full strength and Jun lifted his blade vertically, blocking the attack. They locked blades and enraged eyes, until Hao’s strength on his arms began fading. Jun smiled and used his remaining strength to push Hao’s arms away, gripped his blade with both hands and lunged forward with his blade. For a brief second, Jun raised his sight, and saw that Hao smiled as well. He looked forward again, and saw that Hao had moved his body left, barely eluding the tip of his sword, and he had also placed both weapons against the other side of the blade. Jun tried pushing forth and back his blade, but he couldn’t, it was stuck between Hao’s stomach armor and his two blades. The King twirled, ripping the sword out of Jun’s grasp, and he then brought Medorach forward, piercing through Jun’s stomach. The Salamander bent over, feeling the cold, blood-stained, black steel of the sword that had pierced right below his breastplate. He slowly rose, feeling the strong pain, and looked to Hao, who then stabbed his right shoulder. He writhed as the strength of his legs faded away and fell to his knees.
“Well fought.” Hao congratulated him. He walked a few steps and grabbed his greatsword from the ground. “This is a fine blade.” He approached Jun, who tried to pull Medorach out of his stomach. Hao placed the tip of the blade on his neck. “I think I’m going to keep it.”
Jun tried to talk, but he only managed to cough out blood. He took a breath and looked at Hao again. “As long as I have HP…you won’t pass…” he said between breathes while looking Hao to the eye.
“I see…” Hao murmured, before placing the blade against his neck while holding it with two hands, “then bravely fulfill that role.” Hao took the swing, and the blade opened a large gash across his neck. Jun struggled to breathe; but his throat was only filled by blood as he writhed on the ground, until he stopped. His eyes half opened and lifeless.
Hao raised Jun’s blood-stained greatsword and looked at it, from guard to point, but his sight continued going up, as he discovered a column of smoke and cinders coming from the city, enough to blot the stars on the night’s sky and hide the quarter moon. He took a breath and realized that the smoke came from a place that was close.
“They’ve abandoned hope and ignited the city on fire,” Zar said, looking towards the same smoke.
Tyr appeared behind his King. “The rebels have ignited a warehouse. I’ve sent four groups of 25 Legionnaires to…”
“Call them back,” Hao ordered, “we’ll continue as planned.”
“My King,” Tyr said, before walking away.
Zar walked closer to his king. “Kirito wants to turn our victory to ash, and you recall your men?”
“Alea Iacta Est.” Hao said, before looking to Zar. “The die has been cast, General. I’ve already set plan in motion, and Kirito wants to distract us. I won’t fall for that.” He snapped his fingers and his nearby weapons banished into golden particles of light, returning to his invisible armory. He looked to his soldiers behind him. “We advance on northern gate!”
Galant leapt to the Legionnaires, slashing at their shields with a constant flurry of attacks, but Maximus Caliburn barely left a mark on them. They charged forward, ramming their shields against the blue knight and pushing him back. He tripped and fell to the ground, and a soldier slashed Galant’s unprotected back.
“Duck!” Agil shouted.
Galant glimpsed Agil, entering into the plaza at full throttle while wielding his axe from the grip. He barely had time to roll aside as Agil bulled into the Legionnaires while he rammed the axe against the formation, breaking it. The massive blade of Agil’s weapon went through wood, metal and flesh. While some soldiers fell dead to the ground, others stumbled and fell. The lesser part remained standing and attacked Agil, who proceeded to block with the handle of his axe.
Galant sprang to his feet, and he sliced at a Soldier’s neck, as he was still rising from ground. Two others got up and faced him, but Galant deflected both attacks and then attacked player on the left, slashing his right arm. He then advanced as he turned around and slashed at the soldier’s back of the neck. The other Legionnaire charged at him, but Galant slashed again with the same sword, cutting across the face of the player.
He turned around, and saw that Agil had disposed of a Legionnaire, ramming his axe against his head, splitting it open along with the helmet. He turned to Galant, raising his battle axe to the sky, but he stopped halfway through. The armor on his abdomen broke and a spear came out of his body.
“Agil!” Galant shouted, before rushing towards his friend.
The spear was pulled out of Agil’s body and, as he collapsed to the ground, two Legionnaires were revealed to be behind him.
Enraged, Galant charged at them. He knocked the spear aside with a stroke with his left sword and pushed the soldier away with his shoulder. He turned to the other soldier and thrusted with his right blade. The solider sidestepped his attack and slammed his shield against Galant’s hand, loosening his grip on the sword, and it flew away. The Legionnaire then swung his Gladius, but Galant parried with his other sword, got hold of the soldier’s arm and ducked under it while stabbing his armpit. The Legionnaire fell to the ground. The Stardust Knight switched his blade from hand and slashed backwards, slicing the soldier’s neck. Galant grinned, but he then felt a second slash on his body, this time across his left arm’s back. He hopped back while twirling, and saw that the other Legionnaire had dropped his Lancea drawn his Gladius. He attacked again, but Galant blocked the weapon with his left vambrace to block the attack, and rammed his left knee against the soldiers shield, breaking it. He then tacked the soldier to the ground and stabbed his neck with Maximus Caliburn, ending the battle.
Exhausted, he rose from the ground, grabbed his other blade and walked next to Agil. He was lying on the ground, face up with his eyes closed; a large circular wound was on the right side of his abdomen where the spear had pierced through. Somehow, the thrust had been powerful enough to break through the armor that donned on his body. Even with the great pain he must have felt, he still had a smug smile on his face. Galant placed his hand on his shoulder and looked down.
Aki came from one of the paths leading to the plaza where Agil and he had fought. “I dealt with a small squad,” she said. “Is he dead?”
“I think so,” Galant said sadly, before returning to his feet.
Aki gave him a quick look from boots to head. “You’re wounded.”
“I’ll be alright,” Galant covered the wound on his left arm with his hand.
“No we won’t,” she said, sheathing her rapier. “I’ve heard a larger group of Legionnaires saying that they’ll be soon arriving at the northern gate. We’re surrounded by them and we have no way of reaching the others. We’re as good as dead…”
Galant sighed and looked up. He closed his eyes and thought of the city’s map, trying to remember anything they could use. After a few moments, Galant ran and took one of the paths out of the plaza, and Aki followed. After a block, they turned right, and arrived at some abandoned stables, close to the wall surrounding the city.
“What’s this place?” she asked.
“A place where we can hide,” he responded, “when Abelia and Asuna released some of the citizens we captured, they hid them under here.” He moved aside some of the hay on the floor, and beneath it was a small door, “It’s the only way.”
Wordless, and reluctantly, Aki walked into the stable and entered the hideout. Galant grabbed some of the hay and put it on top of the door before slipping inside.
“Keep on walking and don’t stop!” Kirito shouted to the players that passed beside him. He remained standing close to the gate, looking towards the city as hundreds of his guild mates walked through the gate. Close to him, Klein, Jack, Asuna and Leafa repeated the similar orders.
He had his thoughts lost on Galant’s decision to stay back and save some time for them, risking his own life, something he did not expect coming from the Stardust Knight, but he greatly appreciated nevertheless. He wondered where he was, if he was close to them and, more importantly, if he was alive. He remembered how Galant saved them against Goliath in the 50th floor, how he survived the falling arena, how he appeared alongside Jack in the swamp of the 56th floor to save them from the League, his aid during the Battle of Muspel and every battle ever since. “He’ll be alright, Galant can take care of himself,” he told himself, trying to return to the present. “You focus on what’s coming Kirito, that’s your job here.”
“Kirito!” a voice said, and he looked up. It was Lamorak, accompanied by Sybil, Hogun, and the pirate Crow with them.
“Crow,” Klein said. “You fucking traitor!”
He advanced to attack Crow, but Sybil stopped him by pushing him back with Lamorak’s shield. “He knew nothing about the treason!” Sybil shouted.
“That’s what he fucking said!” Lamorak countered.
“There’s no time for this right now!” Kirito interrupted. “Bind his hand and carry him to the ridge with the others!”
Lamorak used a piece rope from his equipment and tied up the Pirate’s hands. Then he ordered Sybil to take him away and so she did.
“Those who’re able to fight go to the rear,” Kirito ordered, “move quickly, and don’t turn back!!!”
Screams coming from the city interrupted Kirito’s orders as a few Blood Knights rushed out of the city, and then a stream of Legionnaires entered the gateway. In a tight formation with their shields pushing and their swords slashing and stabbing, they had carved a bloody path to the other side of the city. The nearby Knights attacked them, but they could do little against the heavy infantry’s large tower shields, so they rushed out of the city. A voice from behind the soldiers called “halt”, and the Legionnaires stopped there, and return to their tight battle array. Seven columns of three players each, all of them with their left leg forward, shield pressed against their bodies, heads with the top of their shields and swords coming out of the space between the two shields.
“Pull back!” Kirito ordered one last time. He advanced forward, with Klein, Lamorak, Asuna and Jack beside him. From his back, he drew Excaliber with his right hand and Longsword with his left.
“Attack!” the voice ordered from the behind the Legionnaires ordered, and the seven players in the frontline advanced; and so did the five Blood Knights.
The five started a constant flurry of attacks without stopping; slashing constantly at them with both speed and strength at the same time. The Legionnaires, though far from defeated, they couldn’t advance any further, and hid beneath their shields while pressing forth and countering the Knight’s attacks, advancing slowly towards the gate.
“We must seal gate behind us!” Kirito ordered.
Lamorak managed to slash at one of the soldier’s neck. He then rushed back and grabbed one of the pots near a wall and hurled it at the wooden spindle of the door, splattering the pitch over it and the rope.
“Klein!!!” Lamorak shouted, as he returned to face the Legionnaires.
Klein pushed a soldier aside and then slashed his neck, killing him. He then rushed back, charged a fire spell on his hand and aimed at the spindle. Almost instantly, the wooden structure caught on fire. Klein returned to the front and kept on holding off the Legion.
As the rope caught on fire, the door fell halfway down.
“KAZUTO!!!” Leafa shouted from outside the gate, where she waited for his cousin and friends alongside Sinon, Kana and Hogun.
“GO!!!” Kirito ordered.
As Klein and the others rushed out of the city, Kirito embedded Longsword into the ground and grabbed Excaliber with both hands. With the moonlit clashing down on it, the golden legendary blade cleaved through two of the three Legionnaires that remained fighting them in a single swing. Pieces of metal, wood and flesh fell to the ground, alongside gallons of blood. The third soldier came at Kirito with a downwards slash, he blocked the attack with his own sword and then drew his other blade, still embedded in the ground. He then shoved the shield aside with a swipe with both blades and thrusted with Excaliber, piercing through the Legionnaire’s neck.
Kirito turned towards the gate.
“KIRITO!!!” a voice called from behind.
The Black Swordsman turned his head back to the city and the red cape in his left arm waved like a slithering snake. The formation of Legionnaires had opened a gap, where two figures were. Kirito immediately recognized the one on the right as Lyd, or rather as Galant called him, Zar. The one on the left was different; a figure who donned a more complex version of the armor that the Legion’s generals always wore. A floor-length red cape, violet gems with a golden border on his shoulders, long golden spikes coming out of the joints in his limbs and no brown belt across his body, since he carried no Gladius with him. He looked at Kirito with his golden eyes and an assertive, fulfilled smile formed on his face.
Kirito felt shivers running up and down his body, as rats crawling on his back. He immediately knew who he was; Hao, the Supreme King, leader of the Supreme Legion.
Behind Hao, several weapons’ heads materialized and hovered above him, creating golden ripples where they remained floating in the air.
“SIEZE HIM!!!” Hao shouted.
The weapons flied towards Kirito, and Zar and the Legionnaires charged at Kirito as well. As he rushed backwards Kirito twirled his blades, deflecting the blades that flew towards him are deflected away. The burning rope that held the gate up broke, and Kirito turned around, jumped forward, rolled on the ground and out of the city, just as the door came clashing down behind him, hindering the Legionnaires from following him.
“Fucking shit!” Zar cursed. “The fucking Aesir are always helping that piece of shit!”
“They’re just delaying the inevitable,” Hao said, “Bring the ram here, and put sentries to guard the eastern gate.”
“We won’t follow them?” Zar asked, pointing his blade towards him.
“When the time’s right,” Hao answered. He still had the smile on his face, even after Kirito had just escaped from his grasp. “Sweep the city and find any of his followers that are yet alive, so that we may kill them in celebration of this glorious victory!”