Floor 55th, September 14th, 2026
The members of KoB, Galant included among them, finally arrived to the temple. After a long trip going back, all of them lived and not even a single one of them had fallen. Six of them enter rushing as they were carrying a still unconscious Asuna using an improvised pallet created with beams of wood and cloth.
They continue their rush going inside the temple.
Kirito: “Go with the Medical Undine, she’ll help you!”
Lamorak turns around after the rest carry Asuna to the medic.
“THE ARENA’S BEEN BURNT TO FUCKING GROUND!”
The remaining player’s cheer up.
“WITH MANY LEGIONARIES AND OTHER PLAYERS AMONG THE ASHES!!!” he says again while raising his right arm, as they players cheer again approving.
The survivors begin to gather and embrace in celebration. Lamorak reunites with Sybil and kisses her happily to see her again, back up. Still she had the bandage on her belly.
On the Medical room, Kirito, Galant and the others lay down gently Asuna on a wooden table.
Kirito: “Can she be healed?”
Medic: “Sybil had a single wound. This girl’s beyond common damage.”
Galant: “Her name’s Asuna and she’s more than a common player! You’d be capable of curing her.”
Medic: “I hope the AEsir think the same as you. For the moment I need space. I’ll see what I can do.”
Galant, Sinon, Leafa and others leave the medical room.
Galant turns around and suddenly stops. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at. Several feet right in front of him was Diana, who as well couldn’t believe what she was looking at. Both wondered if it was an illusion or if it was real. Diana rapidly forgot of that, runs and hugs him.
Galant grins, happy to see her again.
“You were alive!” She says with tears on her eyes.
He never expected to see her again, especially on ALO. The experience on SAO had left many people out of VRMMOs. But she wasn’t among them.
“Yeah…” Galant said while he also hugged her, but not as strong as she did.
Diana parts few centimeters and moves to kiss him, but Galant places his forehead on hers and pushed her slightly back. Diana smiled while closing her eyes, while Galant looked deeply on her face and then closed his own.
He cared about her more than many other players inside ALO. More than any other still alive former member of The Royal Knights United Player Army. But he didn’t love her. Sakura still was the heart that beat within his breast.
He didn’t want Diana to suffer with him.
He opens his eyes when a voice calls for him.
It was Kana. He surprised to see her as a Cait Sith with her cat ears and long tail.
Diana parted and Kana approaches Galant quickly and gives him a kiss on his gently cheek. Galant grins and raises his hand and placing on her head, scratching her cat ears.
“Aw.” Kana said, while her ears began pointing down. “Keep on doing that…I like when people scratch my ears…”
“I didn’t expect to see you here. Both of you.” Galant says
“It’s been a long time.”
“Come Galant.” Diana said. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
The three spent like 30 minutes talking about what had happened on both SAO and the real world.
Galant had now changed his gladiator outfit to his normal one. Except his rudis, which he had lost back on the arena while fighting Asuna. He presumed that it was lost or burned amongst the remains of the burning coliseum.
“And how fairs Ishi?” Galant asked.
“His son was born some months ago.” Kana said. “He looks the same as him, but with heterochromia.”
“One of his eyes is golden and the other is red. The same as Asuka’s eyes.” Diana added.
“Heterochromia…” Galant grins. “What’s his name?”
“Yamato Haseo.” Kana answered.
“Ya...mato.” Galant said surprised.“ The same as his own rival…”
“How did you know about that?”
“It’s a very long story Diana. But to summarize it, I knew Yamato from my years training with his own master of kenjutsu. You could say we were somehow friends…Yamato seemed always as a cold person, but there was good on him, Even though he said he was a bad person. And by giving his life for Aincrad and the players trapped inside, became a hero if you ask me, in his own.”
“He did that so Ishi could master both Corbenik and Skeith and put a final end to their circle of destruction.” Kana said. “I never expect him to be one of the good guys.”
“Yamato has suffered much all over his life. At least he found his small measure of peace this way…”
“A did Ishi…He got married with a girl he met on game.”
“I still can’t get how those two ended up together.” Galant wonders, but he quickly looks to the purple ribbon. “But love’s a mystery…”
“It is…” Diana said while looking towards Galant.
Galant looks at her and nods his head slightly, while he clenched his left fist on the loosen strings of the ribbon.
“Good news!” Kirito said appearing from the medic room accompanied by Sinon and by Yui on his right shoulder. “Asuna’s got a great durability. She’ll live to raise her blade again.”
Galant gets up.
Galant: “And continue to fight by your side?”
Kirito: “If she chooses to continue on this guild for our cause.”
Galant: “Cause now?! You’ve got balls to rival Odin himself, I’ll give you that. A few players don’t stand chance against the power of the Legions. The Kingdom of Aincrad’s united by more than a few wooden beams. If you want to cut short your lives, then you’ll have a certain victory.”
“Why you always chose to aid us, if you believe that?” Kirito asks.
“You mistake my choice, with a proper explanation I have to give your girlfriend. Without that…we wouldn’t even be talking right now.”
Galant leaves to go to see Asuna.
Sinon: “He’s right. You were mistaken....To ever trust on his intentions.”
Diana: “What do you mean? I know he’s not on our guild, but he can be persuaded to join.”
Kirito: “Perhaps you’re right Diana…”
Sinon: “Or perhaps you’ve killed him in the Arena.”
Floor 50th, September 14th, 2026
Some soldiers arrive to the fortress of Thanos on Luccinea.
Though the fortress was distanced from the city, the column of black smoke coming out of the arena could be seen from any place in the entire floor. Still chaos and confusion ruled the city, but in a lesser extent than the day before.
Thanos goes to the playground as the soldiers rest after a long day working.
“We managed to get some bodies out of the remains of the Arena, part of the fire was extinguished and we managed to remove some of the rocks.” Captain Vorhes says to his general, and then he approaches him. “Also, this was found inside of it.”
Vorhes takes out a small wooden sword from his belt and hands it to him.
Thanos briefly looks at it before turning back to looks his men resting.
“Why our numbers are so few?.” He says looking to the soldiers which were less than 40.
“Many remain on the city, others on a mission to the south at the command of Lyn. But many’ve been taken to the wind.”
“They shit on their oath to their King!?”
“Fury, chaos and panic rule the city and many others have shared the same fate. Including many of our men. Some players even believe that Kirito unleashes the wrath of the AEsir.”
“Meaningless thing.” Hikami said appearing from the shadows. “Legions could also join our ranks and still fall to Kirito and his men.” He continues approaching Thanos and Vorhes. “As I warned Colonel Valon when he died, Kirito’s men aren’t common players. Many of them have played SAO. Three of our men couldn’t best a single one well trained” he looks to Vorhes. “Spite their refuse to die...”
Vorhes takes out his blade and point Hikami with it.
“Wait!” Thanos said. “You were trapped in that game as well.”
“Long time ago.”
“Let’s see what you can do. If you can prove boast…” Thanos gives him Vorhes’ Gladius, taking Hikami’s katana, Kagutsuchi, with him.
Hikami looks at him with a nervous face. He was never a good fighter. All the fights he’d won were the combination of sheer luck and vile tricks.
“Men form up! Circular formation!”
The soldiers do as commanded when Hikami walks to the center of the circle as the soldiers shout and curse him just for fun as they laughed out loud, eager for blood of a helpless player, they get ready to fight drawing their blades.
Hikami gets ready.
“BEGIN!” Thanos shouts.
Hikami turns around and attacks the soldiers with heavy and wide attacks, though he did it just to set distance and protect his back. However a player attacks his back, slashing his arm. Blood comes out of the wound as pain is felt strongly. He doesn’t have any time to balm it as another player kicks him hard on the side, sending him to the ground. Hikami looks up as the soldier tries to stab him, but the salamander grabs sand and throws it to his eyes, blinding the soldier. Hikami briefly attacks the soldiers forming the circle at his back to avoid attacks and then clashes with the blind legionary, pushing him back and grabbing his Pugio, making him fall to the ground.
Another two soldiers appear. Hikami parries the attack of the first and eludes another two attacks, each of them from one soldier. He parries another before turning and stabbing the player with his dagger on the right leg. Hikami turns 180º and slashes the same leg on the back, sending the defeated player to the ground. Hikami goes back up again and first parries the attack of a soldier with his dagger and counters with a strong fire fist with his right hand. He then slashes the players elbow downwards with the Gladius and finally punches him for a second time, defeating him as well.
The player Hikami blinded had regained his sight and kicks his back, sending him for a second time to the ground. While he’s trying to get back up, the player attacks him, but Hikami quickly turns round his opponent after a brief sword clash. They continue fighting until Hikami manages to lash his enemy’s right hand fingers off, making him loose his blade. Hikami then makes him fall to the ground with a strong push. To end the battle, he wraps the soldier’s arm with his own and starts punching his face again and again and again. By the moment the face of the player was covered in blood the other soldiers had backed off.
The battle ends with a Hikami as victor.
He gets back up.
“I was probably one of the weakest players.”
“I hoped I had an army formed by men with your skill or higher.” Thanos says smiling.
“We could find other mercenaries or other players that stand as me. Players at my guidance. Help could be of use on these difficult times.”
“The council would curse an honored legion lowered to mock and shit…” Thanos replies seriously. But afterwards, a smile draws on his face. “…as they curse many things that ambitious men must embrace to achieve their goals. You’re my Colonel now Hikami. My second in command. Do whatever you must in the name of the King to get rid of this festering disease of Kirito and his mongrels.”
“As you command, my General.” Hikami says with a vicious smile.
Floor 55th, September 14th, 2026
“Does this hurt?” Leafa asks, while she’s healing the wounds on Klein’s back.
“Just a few cuts and scratches. I’ll forget it.” Klein responds.
“I hope all scars could be so easily erased.”
Klein turns around.
“What happened during those weeks?”
“I’d rather not talk about that!”
Leafa gets up to leave, upset.
“I’m sorry. I doesn’t matter what happened. I just wanted you to know that I have no regrets of what I’ve done. Kirito and I wouldn’t stop until you were free. If you don’t want to tell us, it’s alright. We just worry about you, that’s all.”
Leafa leaves, leaving a confused and angered Klein alone.
Galant sits calmly on the chair waiting for Asuna to wake up. He’d been there for two hours straight since he’d finished talking with Kirito. Without a single stop.
He’d known Asuna since the boss party reunion for boss 26th. Since that moment, he deeply trusted on her abilities as a leader and a warrior. Galant knew her devotion to freedom was the only thing that matched her beauty. When the war against Cerdic began, she was her contact on KoB for support. He could always count on her.
But even after the death of his comrades, her image of him had changed, caused by the lies spread by Aincrad Liberation Force, courtesy of Galant’s old enemy, Kibaou. After that, her image on him had changed. Just recognizing him as a Player Killer. No. Something even worse than that. A traitor. A coward. A man without honor. Someone that betrayed his own friends and his wife.
Someone Asuna would kill if she could.
Galant had many things in his life. Some of them things he regretted. Yet killing them was not among them. He’d become a gladiator just to find his new purpose and try to find his path. He’d kept walking on that path since then. Blood and Death. Those were the only things on his path.
That was all what mattered for him.
Yet, he didn’t wish anyone to die for him. Much less those that were close to him. The players of SAO that he once met and friended. He wished them to live more than his own vengeance. And that included Asuna.
A voice interrupts Galant.
“Are you alright?” It was Diana. “You seem worried.”
“I’m okay, just hoping she’s fine.”
“I want to talk about something. You mind?”
“It’s okay. Sit down.”
Galant gives her a chair and Diana sits down.
“Well, I’ll go straight to the point…” She said. “What happened to your Darkness?”
Galant looks at her.
“It’s still inside me. But don’t worry. I’ve learned to control it.”
“Galant, that’s not a thing that you’d have inside of you.”
“I need it. It saved my life more than once. It’s my best weapon. ”
“No. It’s not.” Diana points to the middle of his chest, touching him with her index and middle. “There’s your best weapon. Your heart. You’ve never given up. You always stood back up no matter what hit you. No matter how strong. No matter how difficult. You always did. It’s not Darkness what keeps you living. Your greatest weapon, is your will. Your hope.”
“I can’t rely on those things alone.”
“Did will save my friends? Did hope save Guinevere?! Did it save those that died near me and I could do nothing to save them? No. The thing that made me stronger is Darkness. I need it. And I won’t defeat Mordread without it.”
“Darkness feeds on your wrath. Your despair. Your hate. Negative emotions and things just create more negative emotions and things. But hope and love create positive things. That’s were your will and hope come from. Not from the bad things you’ve made, but from the ones you’ve lost.”
“Are you telling me that my love for Sakura gives me my greatest strength?”
She places her hand on his cheek.
“Yes. But not only hers…”
Galant looks for a moment to her eyes, as she did the same. However he quickly parts.
“Diana, I…” Something calls his attention. “Who’s outside?!”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Diana looks at her a bit angry.
“Doesn’t matter. You interrupted nothing.” Galant said.
“You mind if I borrow him for a small moment, sister?”
“It’s alright. I already said all I needed. Talk to him all the time you need.”
Diana leaves and Kana sits on the chair where she was.
“She still loves you.”
Kana smiles to his joke.
“I’ve missed you Galant.”
“I’ve missed you both.”
“So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Gawn.” Kana says directly, changing her sight to one firm and determinate, as well as a bit angry.
Galant freezes for a moment. He didn’t respond and lower his sight, looking to her neck. She still wore Gawn’s bandanna as if it were a short circular scarf around her neck. Pretty much the same way he had Guinevere’s purple ribbon tied on his right hand. Galant then looks to her eyes. Those same eyes filled with anger he had.
He knew what she was thinking about.
“Who killed him?” Kana asks after several seconds.
“I know what you’re going through very well Kana. You loved him?”
Kana looks down.
“I’m still not sure, but he was special to me. Very special.”
“I know what it feels like. And I know very well what you seek.” Galant pauses a moment. “This will sound very hypocrite coming from me, but let it go.”
Kana looks at him surprised and angry.
“You…You ask me that?”
“I told you it was hypocrite. But this is my path. If you follow it, just sadness lies ahead.”
“You think I don’t know that? I’ve seen what you’re capable when you want revenge, twice.”
“Then you’ll know it’ll consume you until there’s nothing left. I can do this because I have nothing left. There’s no future for me after this ends. But you have your sister. Your family. Your friends. Let it end. Or much more suffering will come.”
“Who was him?” Kana stops. “The man that took his life…”
“If you want to take this path, I won’t stop you. But I already warned you. Nothing good will come for it.”
“I’m free to make my own decisions. Thank you…”
“I know. That’s why I’ll tell you. He’s name is Whipper. He’s a large gnome, and a strong one I’ve fought him before. As his name suggests, he fights with armor with dozens of whips attached. It’ll be difficult for you, a close quarter’s specialist, to defeat him.”
She gets up and walks half a foot to the exit with Galant stops her, grabbing her hand.
“I won’t stop you. I respect whatever you choose. But know something. Nothing good will come out of that. Only more suffering, more death and more blood. It’s better for both of you, if you leave from this path, forget about this war and leave Aincrad. I’ll help you. Forget about Kirito’s stupid cause, before he drags you all to doom.”
Kana briefly looks to him.
Kana leaves Galant alone with Asuna.
Kirito activates the mirage sphere, showing the mat of floor 55th.
Kirito: “We’re here.” He points to the map. “In the shadow of Muspel. A single player on top of it can have clear view of many miles away, in all directions.”
Lamorak: “That way we can spot legions or armies easily.”
Sinon: “There’s a way to its peak?”
Diana: “A single one, narrow. Up there the soil’s hard rock. There isn’t other path down, at least not without our wings.”
Kirito: “We’ll choose three players, too young to fight. Each of them will have a separate watch.”
Sinon: “There’s just one entrance to the temple. We can be easily be trapped inside.”
Sybil: “Perhaps we can dig one to escape if necessary.”
Diana: “And a few arches could keep the legions occupied while you use it.”
Lamorak gets up looking at her.
Lamorak: “There’s not much use for arrows against close quarters combat.”
Kana: “You won’t always fight in close quarters. And there’s no blacksmith neither metal here. We can’t forge a sword from a fucking tree!”
Kirito: “Then we’ll create weapons from whatever we can.” he gets up looking to Diana “.and you and Sinon will teach them.”
Lamorak: “We can train until our deaths, but with this numbers we don’t stand a chance, we need fighting men!”
Kirito grabs the map.
Kirito: “Perhaps we should reconsider you plans about Bluewater Bay. We could find captured players from any race.”
Diana: “You want to attack the port? With so few men?!”
Sinon: “Well, we brought the Arena down with less.”
Kirito: “We’ll take a handful of players and what coin we have. Buy off someone on the city to tell you about ships docking.”
Lamorak pats him on the shoulder in sign of approval, but he rapidly turns, looking seriously to someone.
The entire group turns and sees Galant with crossed arms.
“Sorry I didn’t want to overhear the conversation.”
Kirito gives the mirage sphere to Sinon to hide it, suspecting Galant was interested on it.
“I just wondered if you had any sake or alcohol…”
“We don’t have any.” Kirito answers.
“Then things couldn’t get any better!”
Galant leaves the group alone, walking back in the same direction he came.
Lamorak: “What about him?”
Diana looks Lamorak.
Diana: “He’s no threat. He won’t betray us. Trust me.”
Sinon: “We can’t rely on your beliefs alone.”
Kana: “Blue haired idiot girl! You know nothing of him.”
Sinon: “And what do you know?”
Kana: “More than you, that’s for sure!”
Kirito: “That’s enough. Leave Galant to me.”
Sybil: “What are you thinking?”
Kirito: “I’ll see which Galant’s true intentions here are. And if he proves threat, if he thinks about betraying us, I’ll personally take his life.”