Floor 1, December 29th, 2022
The Royal Knights walked though the first city on Aincrad's first floor, named the Starting City.
They were staying in a small inn, near the great wall surrounding the city.
Several more players were staying there, as it was an economical and big inn. Each user had enough room to be alone and there was enought food and space for all the temporal residents.
Nine o’clock, time for dinner.
The guild sat down at a table, eight of them on the sides, and one on the head of the table. Galant usually sat at the head, but he was trying to comfort Guinevere. Lance was sitting there in his place.
“Guinevere, we must be strong.”
“I know I must, but I can’t. I want to stay here, please.”
“I don’t want to look at you as time passes by. You'll slowly die from the inside. Be strong, and play…”
He would have continued, but a short and solidly built man with sienna, spiky hair man had just entered the inn. He spoke with a Kansai dialect accent. He had a strange smile and he bore the symbol of Aincrad's Liberation Force, also known as The Army, on his body armor.
“I'm searching for the ´Royal Knights´. Where are they?”
Guinevere got up from the chair and ran towards her bedroom, with her hands covering her face.
“GUINEVERE PLEASE STAY!”
She didn't come back.
The man asked once again.
“Does anybody know the ´Royal Knights´!?”
“We're here.” said Galant with a disappointed voice.
“I finally meet you, at long last. May I sit here?”
“Do it if you must.” Galant said, after looking up the stairs for a sign of Guinevere. “Percival, can you go with Guinevere? As soon as I finish this I will go with her.”
“You don’t have to ask.” Percival went off to follow Guinevere.
The stranger sat on the other head of the table, next to Galant. He stoped for a moment, noticing that almost the entire guild was still there.
“I would prefer to speak to your leader, not to all of you.”
“We don’t like secrets, so if you want to say something, say it to the entire guild.” Galant said.
“Why I'm speaking to this punk!?” He said as he got up.
“Because that ´punk´, as you called him, is our leader, Galant.” said Dagonet, as he got up, tired of the stranger’s bad manners “So you better present yourself, be polite, or leave.”
The man was surprised, and sat back down. He started talking to Galant.
“I'm sorry. My name is Kibaou. I come in representation of the leaders of the guild known as Aincrad's Liberation Force to deliver a message to you. The Army wants all of you in their troops, as a special team. You have shown great skill in this game. The Army is definitely interested in you lot.”
“We aren't interested in your guild.” Galant answered.
“I have to ask you. Please to join us, we're the strongest and biggest guild by now.”
“I don't believe it.” Lance said “Your guild has already received critics for tax collection from players from this floor; we aren't interested in extortionists.”
“My second-in-command is right” said Galant ”Yet, I would have an alliance with your guild.”
“Galant!” said Lance.
“We won't take command from you, but we'll give you a hand with the clearing of future levels.”
Kibaou smiled once more, with that same strange and fake smile.
“Then, second matter, we are preparing the team for the boss battle.”
“Where and when?”
“Central Plaza. Tomorrow, 1:00pm.”
“What is known of the boss?”
“Not much. His name is 'Belphegor, the rage king'. The information we obtained from the beta testers and our informants says he doesn't have weapons. It rather fights with its claws, teeth, body and other powers. That’s all we know.”
“What is the plan?”
“Tomorrow, we shall see. For the moment I don’t know. But for now, I think you will need that shield. You know how to use it?”
“We'll see soon enough. If that is all you have to say, please leave us; we have internal matters to discuss” Galant took his glass and started drinking from it.
“Of course. See ya tomorrow then!”
He got up and without even offering his gratitude or saying goodbye he left them, keeping the same fake smile he entered the inn with.
Galant put the empty glass on the table and got up, He went to the same place Guinevere was. Lance followed him seconds afterwards after looking to the faces of his partners. Once they entered the door, Lance started an argument.
“The hell were you thinking, helping those idiots?!”
“Relax Lance! I talked only for knowledge.”
“The boss battle, I knew he was hiding something.”
“So you did it just for information.”
“We are a small guild Lance. He was right, we do need help.”
“We are. But Guinevere is not. We must protect her for now. Try to understand it from my position.”
“What will you do with her? I mean, tomorrow we have that boss battle.”
“I don't know, I want her to be strong. But if she isn't, she can’t be on field of battle. I'll hate myself for saying this, but she would be in danger, and a heavy weight for the guild. She's the most important for me. And I'll protect her no matter what.”
“I understand you. But really, this alliance must be with them?!”
“They're by far the strongest guild, which will make this faster.”
"You should at least consulted me and the rest."
"If I had, we wouldn't have the knowledge of the Boss Room tomorrow. I had to take this decision for myself, sorry."
“I don’t trust them.” Lance said while shaking his head.
“Neither do I, so keep an eye on them.”
Lance was leaving.
“You better know what you are doing. If something happens to you, Guinevere…”
“Okey. Take care of her. I'll handle the guys, tell them what you thought.”
He left. Galant continued as he entered his room. Percival was speaking to Guinevere; he got up and spoke with Galant.
“She needs you Gal, more than anything else.”
“I'll leave you two alone.”
“Percival, thank you.” he offered his hand. Percival grabbed it.
He placed his right hand on his back supporting him and then left the couple alone.
Galant looked at Guinevere weepy eyes; she was seating on the bed she was smiling to him. Galant crouched and grabbed her hand.
“I'm sorry. I may have been too bad with you.”
“And I'm too weak. I'm also sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. From now on, you will not be participating with the guild in the frontlines, you'll stay here.”
“...Are you sure?” Though she liked the idea, she seemed to not fully aprove it.
“Yes, you can.”
Guinevere hugged him.
They remained in silence for a moment.
“What did that player want?”
“His name was Kibaou, from the Army. He wanted us to join their guild. I refused, but I made an alliance with them. I knew he was hiding something, he told me they are preparing the team for the boss. Tomorrow, we leave to fight with them.”
Guinevere opened her eyes, clearly impressed.
“You really have to go?”
“I gave them my word, Sakura. Blood and honor. It speaks of the man, especially in these days that this is forgotten.”
“Alright...” she answered with sadness.
“Let's go sleep, I'm tired.”
Galant got up ,changing his clothes as Guinevere did the same. They laid down on the bed holding hands as they began their pursuit of dreams. But, Guinevere couldn't dream, she was way too troubled, thinking of tomorrow’s boss battle and what would happen to her friends and to him.