Floor 26th, February 21st, 2023
Nine players on horseback sat on the hills at the outsides of the city of Londanium. All of them were heavily armed and somewhere on their armor a combined symbol of and R and a K rested: the Royal Knights. Looking towards the horizon, thirty members of the Army, with some of them mounted as escorts of a wagon carrying one of the leaders of the guild. An old friend of the Royal Knights.
Gawn: “Finally, Kibaou has arrived.”
Galahad: “At last, we'll be independent of them.”
Bors: “Yes, I can already feel it.”
Percival: “We are free Gal.”
Galant smiled towards them, and continued to watch the upcoming wagon.
The vehicle was passing the edge of a small forest, at its left side. The only thing that separated them was a small and shallow stream of water. Most of the army members were worried as they looked towards it. A transparent mist covered the air. Any of them could just see a few feet infront of them. Strange sounds of unknown animals and monsters were heard from the depths of the woods.
A soldier saw a fast flash in front of his eyes as the soldier next to him felt from the horse. An arrow hit him directly to his chest, shot from the forest. The party turned back to see dozens of middle-armed monsters charging at them, with similar shapes to that of a human, but with blue skin. They were like indigenous humanoids carring multiple weapons, such as swords, shields, axes and spears. Above all, they were masters of archery.
“WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!” shouted the captain.
They started riding, prepared to defend their allies.
“Protect the leader!” shouted their commander.
The soldiers surrounded the wagon as hordes of Pictons rushed towards them, crossing the river, and started an outmatched battle. The corps could do little against those advanced monsters, which easily outmatched and outnumbered them. A mounted player was easily thrown off the horse, getting hit several times before getting killed. The footman shared the same fate, as he was surpassed by Picton swordsmanship, and another falling pray to the rain of arrows. Only the commander could battle the demons, as the others sturggled to survive.
The Royal Knights approached fast as wind itself in battle-formation, with Galant upfront, and another four at his sides. He drew his sword as he let out a fearsome battle cry.
He threw Balmung in the air, grabbing the blade backwards, and stabbed a Picton that was about to kill a player. Before his eyes another player was killed by decapitation; Galant immediately uses Stardust Slasher, beheading the demon. Gawn threw his tomahawk towards the others as his battle-brothers smashed several with their war hammers, with Percival killing another by impaling with his spear, and finally Tristan who shot arrows towards an enemy, shattering it into polygons instantly.
As one of the pictons was about to get inside the wagon, Galant passed by, slashing it and Guinevere finishing him off.
Galahad sliced towards a Picton, continueing to ride tp the aid of another player and decapitating the axed monster. Lance arrived, jumping from his horse and slashing through the belly of a savage, and as other approached. He swiftly overpowered him with his new katana, Ruuurin, by unleashing the Sword Skill Raijin no Seiken, cutting towards two monsters and deleting them instantly. Other monster tried to get into the wagon but was shot dead by one of Tristan's arrows.
Percival continues to fight the monsters, slashing through them with his dagger and stabbing with his spear. An arrow stuck into his arm, but he removes it with his teeth as another archer shoots at him. His shied saves him from the damage though. He looks Tristan, and points with his spear to him, signalling him a target to aim at. Tristan nods, and shoots towards it, killing the archer, with the arrow stabbing it in his eye.
Gawn was about to look inside the wagon when a picton jumped behind his back, stabbing him repeatedly. He falls from the horse and grabs his mace, looking towards the monster, but the enemy was shot by another of Tristan’s arrows. Gawn turns and blocks the axe of a Picton, followed by slicing its belly with his axe and thrusting his axe towards another monster's stomach before finishing it with his mace in the same spot.
Near the river, Dagonet threw himself from his horse, smashing a monster with his hammer. He got back up and rams Great Mjolnir to the face of the monster. A sword wilder picton attacks him, but he uses his hammer to parry it and then stabs him with a spike. Bors saves him from another picton kicking himby elbowing it, and spiniing into it as he slashed it with his other Knuckle duster before he kills him with a kick.
“I’m always taking care of your ass, Dag.” He said mockingly.
“Just luck, he was mine.”
“That's what you always say”
Bors kicks another picton in the face, and stabs it as it collided into the ground before kicking another that was getting up by the river. He then blocks an incoming strike, and he resorts to punching his new enemy several times before grabbing the back of his neck and hitting him with a knee to the stomach multiple times, and shattering him into polygons.
Galant defends with Brave Shield, them spins and left elbows the picton, slaying it with a final strike up from his leg to his neck. Guinevere in his back parries an incoming weapon as she slices the monster's hand and finally cutting off its head of.
Galant: “You're much better.”
Guinevere: “Because of you my-”
Galant: “Watch out!” her lover cired out as she threw herself to the ground
Galant threw his shield and hits an archer, impaling him.
Galant: “Yet you've much to learn. Continue!”
Galahad gets down from his horse and slowly draws Galatine. Two attacks were swung at him, though they were useless as he peacefully parries them both before slicing them down. Percival hurled his spear, saving Galahad as he draws his dagger, hitting a picton with his shield and slashing it on the face.
Lance deletes two more as others approaches, yet he easily defends. He cuts both of the monsters legs, then gets to its back, before slitting his throat.
Dagonets rams mjollnir and kills two more. Tristan shoots and kills the last archer. Bors parried an axe with his weapons, then slashes at the monster’s throat, the left side of his belly and finishing with stabbing the back of his neck. He looked towards the woods.
“ATTACK ME! RUS!”
Gawn looked at the other picton as he stood just before him. The picton tries to attack him, yet Galant blocks with his axe, spinning around and smashing into its face with his mace. He looked inside the wagon. Galant killed the last one as ot approached him, with Guinevere thrusting her sword into the neck of the monster.
He then goes to the wagon, where Gawn, Dagonet and Bors are. He looked at the remaining Players of the Army. Seemed less than 20 survived, with 10 of them having died in battle. The rest of the Knights gathered around the wagon.
“What a waste.” Galant thought, as he got to the wagon.
Gawn was obviously disappointed, thrusting his sword to the ground.
No one inside, just three arrows shut by the Pictons stuck on the sides of the vehicle. Whoever was inside was already dead.
Bors: “We couldn't stop this from happening.”
Galant looks to the ground. Clearly disappointed, he hits the wagon with his fist. He looks once more to the soldiers near the commander, and he notices something familiar.
Galant: “Kibaou was never in the wagon. Here he stands, as captain of the soldiers”
Kibaou: “Galant... smart as always. It's been a long time.”
Galant: “Just a few months. Welcome to Floor 26th. Your strategy has improved.”
Kibaou: “Just a stupid trick to fool these mindless monsters.”
He stopped, showing that same creepy smile he had 25 levels ago.
Kibaou: “I’m not the only one that progressed in my strategies. It seems you've also improved much since we last saw each other. So, these are the great Royal Knights that are much spoken about among the players!”
He got down from his horse and stretched his legs and back, before continuing.
Kibaou: “I thought the Pictons were more in the North.”
Lance: “Generally, but these last days they have been much more in these parts.”
Kibaou: “For now, the best idea is to go back to the city.”
Galant: “Yes. Tristan, I want you to research the surrounding area, Percival with him. The rest we are the new escorts of Kibaou." he turns to Kibaou. "Don’t worry Kibaou, you'll be protected.”
Kibaou got inside the wagon.
Kibaou: “I don’t doubt that.”
Galant peered at the woods as he walked to his horse, making sure that no more monsters would come out. He mounted it.
Galant: “Let’s go!”
The Royal Knights mounted their horses, and walked towards the city. Galant and Guinevere rode in the front of the line. Just behind them, the rest of the guild, and behind the wagon and the remaining members of the Army.
Galahad: “I still don’t like that guy. Why is he coming to have the last meeting with us?!”
Gawn: “Hey! Are you pissed?” Laughs bellowed forth from all of them.
Gawn: “Galahad, it seems that you don’t even know how the members of the Army work! They don’t wipe their asses without arranging a meeting.”
Bors: “Yes, Galahad. You want to be free, and you don’t kill.”
Galahad: “I don’t kill for fun. I'm not like that.”
Dagonet: “Try it someday, you might like it.”
Bors: “That's carried inside of you.”
Galahad: “No. From tomorrow afterwards, this will only live in our memories. We can finally progress through the next levels as we wish, without commands, embracing our freedom”
Gawn: “Amen to that. We're lucky we didn't have to participate in the last boss battle. If we had we would probably be dead right now.”
Dagonet: “We are lucky because we were on a mission. These bastards finally made a good decision for us!”
Bors: “Don’t say that bro. Thanks to them, we are here, and we achieved level 26 in just two months.”
Dagonet: “But, we still have as messenger the same shit that met us the first time. We even tried to change him, but they didn’t do anything. These same leaders were the ones that misplayed the strategy against the 26th boss”
Galahad: “No doubt, they're idiots.”
Galahad looked to his right as Tristan and Percival passed by him.
Percival: “Gal, we have just researched the area. There's no sign of monsters.”
Galant: “Good job Tristan. Tell your new “friend” to keep an eye on the area. Guys, we are having the meeting at 8:00pm, so you have an hour and a half off.”
Tristan looked to the hawk they found just days ago, and spoke to him.
Tristan: “Horus, go.”
The falcon spread his wings and took off, circling the area to spot another potential bunch of monsters.
Percival: “I still can’t understand why you called it Horus.”
Tristan: “You know anything about history?”
Percival: “You know me; I'm the worst student ever, in all subjects.”
Tristan: “When we're back in the real world, I'll teach you.”
Percival: “And I won't have a choice but to listen. Hey guys! What we are doing when we get back to the real world?”
Bors: “I never thought about that, ehhh...”
Galahad: “I want have a nice vacation, in the Caribbean or something.”
Dagonet: “I'll have some good real food.”
Bors: “I’m in for that too. And as soon as I’m able I will be back to my martial arts training.”
Gawn: “I'll find some beautiful girl and begin a relationship.”
Everybody looked at him, as if he was strange or an alien. To change the subject, Percival spoke.
Percival: “And what of you Lance, what will you do?”
Lance: “Well, if Gawn’s girlfriend is as he spoke, I'll spend some time in her home. After all, she might need company!”
All of them laughed.
Gawn: “And what will I'll do in the meantime?!”
Lance: “Expressing your gratitude. Your sons will be the same as me!” He went to speak with Galant, as all of them laughed.
Gawn: “That'll be after I smash you with my axe!”
They continued to laugh.
Lance interrupted Galant’s and Guinivere’s conversation.
Lance: “What will you two do, once we're back in the real world?”
Guinevere: “We're having a date.”
Lance: “Date? You two never change.”
Galant: “Until then, we'll continue fighting. Not just for us, but for all the players here that seek freedom.”
Lance: “And your speeches will also never change”
The three smiled. They arrived soon at the small city of Londanium, to the north of the 26th floor. It was the last city in that direction. They went to the stables in the base of The Army.
Galant: “Kibaou, my room is yours.”
Kibaou: “Finally, I needed some rest.”
Floor 26th, February 21st, 2023
The Royal Knights gathered in the central room of the base. A large circular light brown table, with space for at least 20 sat in middle of the room. Most of them sat in a semicircle, with Galant infront of them, Guinevere sat two chairs at the left from him and Lance sat in the same distance, and opposite of her. The air filled with joy and happiness, smiling and joking. Galant got up.
Galant: “Remember that we're the fortunate ones."
They all got up.
“Let's lift a cup, for all the brave and extraordinaire players that have fought and died by now. Their memory will live in eternity.”
They all drank.
Percival: “FREEDOM FOREVER!”
All: “FREEDOM FOREVER!”
They celebrated in respect of their fallen comrades, thought they did not know all of them. Yet, for them just the loss of a human life was matter enough for them to pay their respects.
Kibaou entered seconds later. He was dressed with his new army outfit to show of his status above the common players. Strangely, he didn't say hi.
Galant: “Welcome Kibaou.”
Kibaou: “What's this round table?”
Guinevere: “If you stand among us you're as equal to us, doesn't matter your uniform, or your degree. In this place, we're all just common players.”
He looked down on her, as he briefly walked towards Galant. He automatically changed the subject of discussion.
Kibaou: “Galant and his Knights have bravely served Aincrad Liberation Force, where is what it is left of our honor. The Army lives in debt with you, for your last days as our allies!"
Lance: “DAY, not days.”
Kibaou moved down with his left hand, they all sat down. He continued.
Kibaou: “Unfortunately, since the last boss battle, our forces have halved since then. The army is going back to floor one, as you must all know. From now on you are an independent guild. The future of clearing isn't in our hands, but in those of a new guild, called Knights of the Blood Oath. KoB is assembling a reunion in a week's time, in the central city at the south, for the strategies in next boss battle. Beside this, in the north a new danger has been found.”
Kibaou: “Yes, a strange being known as Cerdic. I ignore him as if he was a player, a monster, a NPC...or even a Boss.”
They all got up, surprised and shocked.
Galahad: “A boss cannot leave his room.”
Kibaou: “True, but we don’t actually know what or who he is. We do know, that he's accompanied by lots of pictons, and they're beginning a crusade towards Londanium.”
Gawn: "How is he acompanied by Monsters?"
Kibaou: "I'd ignore him."
He made a brief pause and took some water.
Kibaou: “Now, the contract that ends our relationship... but before that, I must speak to your commander. In private.”
Galant: “We don’t have secrets.”
He took the contract away.
Lance: “We're leaving. Let the “Leaders” speak alone.”
Dagonet strongly grabbed his hammer. Bors took his arm.
“Let's go bro.”
He sheathed Mjollnir once more and left.
Kibaou started their conversation.
“There's one final order to you and your guild”
Kibaou: “In the north, the commander of our guild, Thinker, was traveling trying to gather the remaining player of the army in this level. They are all in a small village, several kilometers from here, you must go and escort them back here.”
“You order to us, on this day, when we're finally done with our alliance?!”
He got up, tired of mistreatments to his friends for the selfish wills of The Army.
“They've risked their lives for mission and causes that weren't their own and now, when we finally can take destiny in our hands, you send us on a mission that is much more dangerous than anyone we have faced before! Tell me Kibaou, now I have to tell my friends that instead of continuing, we are all going to die?!"
“If your friends are the best warriors of the army, you may survive. Besides, that is the risk of this death-game.”
“I'VE ALWAYS LIVED FOR MY FRIENDS AND MY GIRLFRIEND. I'M A LOYAL SOLDIER, NOT A FOOL KIBAOU!”
“WILL YOU LET A FEW PLAYERS FALL TO THE WHRATH OF CERDIC OR THE MONSTERS?!" Kibaou cried out before calming himself down. "If you and your soldiers complete this mission, you're free. We will sign this document. I promise.”
He took the document, and prepared to leave the room.
“Don't forget your promise Kibaou, because we will pull through! Break it, and there won't be anything or anyone in this world that can protect you.”
Drinks were shared as music sounded in the atmosphere of an open air tavern in the outsides of the base. Gawn grabs a tomahawk and throws… almost bullseye.
Percival also laughs.
“All yours Percival!”
The brothers were playing poker with the other players. They lost. The two players were about to leave when Dagonet strongly slams his hammer on the table.
Guinevere and Lance were seated, having a conversation. Galahad appeared in the tavern. She immediately calls him.
“Where were you?”
“Just over there, promoting our shop.”
“You never change...”
“Never. ” Percival throws a knife, Bullseye.
An arrow was stuck to the back of the knife.
“Tristan, what did you do?”
“I just pointed to the middle.”
Lance: “You know other things that won't change your voice! Sing!
“Come on, the last one.”
“I don’t want to!”
“Stop the music! Guinevere will sing”
The Royal Knights gathered, closing in on her.
Guinevere: “Alright... I will sing”
They all clapped exitingly.
Gawn: “What will you sing?”
Guinivere:“One of my favorites: “White Reflection” from Two-Mix. You've got your guitar with you right?
“I never leave home without it!”
He took out his guitar, and started playing.
"...I feel your love reflection..."
"...In your eyes as they gaze back into mine..."
"...Writing a distant, never-ending story..."
Galant arrived at the scene, shocked at what he found. That song was not any song, it was his favorite song. It reminded him of her. A long time had passed since he last heard it, since he was trapped in this prison with the rest of his friends. He looked to all of them, moved by Guinevere’s perfect singing voice and the way she connected words in sonority. They showed pace on their heart, satisfaction. In other words: happiness. Almost as if they had returned to the real world. Galant turned back and left, not wishing to deliver the new orders.
He stopped. She rushed to his arms and hugged him.
Gawn: “Come here, join in the celebration!”
Bors: “Rus! Hahaha!”
They all came near him, forming a circle.
Galant: “My friends, brothers in arms. You've proved your bravery in overcoming any limitation!”
Galant: “But I'll have to ask you once again to prove it!”
Galant: “We have one final mission before we can finish our alliance with the Army...”
Gawn, Percival, Bors and Galahad started laughing. The rest remained serious.
Galant: “The leaders of The Army are in the north. Cerdic’s army is about to capture them. Our mission is to rescue them and escort them here."
The laughs ended.
Dagonet: “They'll take care of that themselves!”
Gawn: “To the north, where the Pictons are landlords?!”
Galahad: “The alliance we had with the army, it's finished. The pact is done.”
Dagonet: “The knights that follow you have offered to risk their lives for you.” he pointed at him. “For you. And now you want more death? OUR LIVES?! YOU CARE MORE FOR THE ARMY THAN FOR US?"
Galant: “DAG! These are our orders. We're leaving tomorrow at dawn, and when we are back we'll go our way.”
Dagonet: “WE ALREADY HAVE OUR FREEDOM, WE WILL CHOSE OUR OWN FATE!”
Tristan: “Yeah...we're all going to die. If you are afraid of the Pictons, STAY!"
Galahad: “IF YOU WANT TO DIE, I CAN KILL YOU MYSELF RIGHT NOW!”
Bors: “The Army didn't keep their promise. But Galant promises it. That’s enough for me. We have an hour to go home and to get ready.
He began to walk to the teleport plaza. Tristan followed.
"Dag! We are leaving.”
Dagonet: “OF COURSE WE ARE! I WON'T LET YOU ALONE, YOU WOULDN’T COME BACK! I JUST SAID WHAT EVERYBODY THOUGHT!”
He went the same way as his brother.
Galant: "And you, Gawn?"
Gawn: “I’m with you. Galahad the same.”
Percival: “The same for me.”
Galahad, falsely laughed, and smashed the glass of water in the floor. The three went to the teleport plaza, Lance with them, followed by the other couples. They all gathered in the plaza, and teleported back to their home on floor 7.
All: "Teleport, Bratein!"
They arrived at the floor and walked. None of them spoke a single word. Just disappointment was all that was seen in their faces. They soon got to their castle, Camelot.
Each one of them went to their room. It was nine o'clock and it had been a long day. They had already eaten, so they went to sleep, until tomorrow’s dawn.
Galant entered his room and took off his weapons and prepared them. He suddenly stopped, violently smashed his fist into his bed. Guinevere arrived at the very moment he did.
Guinevere. “What happened?”
He grabbed her by her neck.
Galant: “I want mercy. But not for me. For them, because is their necessity. If they are protected in this trip, I'll make any self-sacrifice that is needed. If that's my life, I will gladly give it up so that they may go back to the real world. I don’t want anything else...”
“Why did you two speak together and not with the rest of the guild?!”
He turned back. It was Lance.
“Continue. It doesn't matter, if you don’t fight the Pictons.”
Galant: “Leave us.” he said, turning to Guinevere.
She left and closed the door.
“She is my girlfriend and my best comfort! Why do you question that?”
Lance: “We can also help you in those moments.”
Galant: “It's not the same. She is my girlfriend.”
Lance enraged, tired, and went straight to the point.
Lance: “Trying to fight that army is madness!”
Galant: “We've already defeated Pictons!”
Lance: “NOT AN ARMY, AND NEITHER IN THAT REGION. How many Pictons? Mhm? ANSWER!"
He sighs, looking to the wooden floor in which they stood, and continued.
Lance: "Galant, do you have faith on this mission?"
Galant: “We must go to help them. It’s our duty.”
Lance: “I'm tired of hearing your commands, Galant! And don't start speaking about The Army, freedom, this game, or Aincrad! If you want to remain in here, fine! BUT DON’T MAKE OTHERS DIE!!!"
Galant: “AND YOU CHOOSE TO LET THOSE PLAYERS DIE?!?!”
Lance: “NO, I CHOSE LIFE. AND FREEDOM FOR MYSELF AND ALL THOSE TRAPPED!”
He sat on the bed looked down and grabbed his head. Galant also sat down.
Galant: “Tell me... how many times we have won in the presence of death? Being outnumbered and outmatched, and we have won. With you ,next to me at my side, that will happen.”
Lance: “Galant, you fight for a world that will never exist. NEVER. There will always be a field of battle!"
He got up and went towards the door.
“Maybe I die fighting. It is almost sure. I hope that it's in a battle that I choose. But, if it happens and I die, do me a favor. Don’t put my name on the tombstone . Make a pyre in my honor. Burn it, and throw those ashes into the eastern wind.”
He left the room. Guinevere entered.
“Nothing. Let's rest, tomorrow will be a long day”
They gathered their weapons, changed clothes, and went to bed.
"You'll find a way to get out of this."
"As you always find the words to pull me from my darkest toughts."
They shared a kiss, and slept.
A middle-aged man in his fifties with a long orange beard was among monsters. He was notably big, dressed in a light armor and a golden crown on his forehead, with the locks of his hair coming from his back and the sides of his head. His armor was green and carried large silver shoulder pads, and forearm protectors on both of his arms. He wore brown boots and green pants. He carried a large Claymore on his belt, and strapped to his back an axe, and on his right leg a knife. Overall his appearance was uncommon. He wasn't a regular player, and he had something strange.
He had lots of monsters surrounding him, yet he wasn’t attacked, as if the monsters feared him. As he walked, a Picton appeared and attacked, but he was stopped by his comrades. The strange player got near him and touched the monster's forehead with his finger. The Picton stopped and got up. He did the same with several more as he was attacked.
One he had several of these monsters he spoke. His voice was calm and easy, yet sounded tyrannical and despotic.
“My name is Cerdic. You'll now follow my command. I am your lord from now on, until you die.”
“What if we don't want to, idiot?” One asked.
Cerdic calmly got near of him, grabbed his sword and beheaded the monster.
He got near some other powerful monsters, and spoke to them.
“This is how you keep your leadership, with fists of iron.”
“Cynric, what did you have to tell me?”
“We've found this one, a player.”
He was trembling in fear. It was a young player with just 16 years old.
Cerdic grabbed his neck and lifted him.
“You'll help me now player. You're from The Army, I have already killed some from your guild before. Where is the rest of your squadron?”
“They're in a small village, with the leaders of the guild gathering every last player to turn back to floor 1”
"Tell me where this village is. I want to arrange a meeting with them…"
Floor 26th, February 22st, 2023
The Royal Knights teleported to Londanium. They went to the stables and prepared nine horses, and equipped them with necessary things. They cleaned and sharped their weapons, and prepared emergency weapons. They gathered more arrows and healing potions. Kibaou arrived, just before they were ready for their journey.
“I thank you all, for fulfilling your duties as allies.”
Galant: “I still have others that lie with my men.”
Kibaou: “Bring them alive.”
They all mounted, and started journey, crossing the small city, entering the huge Forest of the Wanderers. They travelled towards the north, and the cold mountains. With a strange sensation of what would they encounter.