Floor 55th, September 24th, 2026
Kirito gets up from bed and stretches his arms and body before putting his gear on. Asuna wakes up as well, next to him.
“The sun’s going up. Why you’re up so early?” She asks.
“I’m going with Lamorak the new group to hunt. To see them better and closer.”
Asuna nods and Kirito walks out of the room.
“I fear you’ll hunt alone.” A voice next to him says.
It was Klein with his arms crossed looking down.
“Lamorak and his group left before the dawn.” Sinon says.
“Along with my sister.” Diana adds.
Lamorak and his new men walk back to the Temple with several monsters NPC captured for food.
“Lamorak…” Kirito says approaching the group.
He’s followed by Klein, Diana and Sinon.
“…you went to hunt without me?” The Black Swordsman continues.
Lamorak: “We woke up before the crack of dawn.”
Frojnot: “We use the day for something useful, while you’re resting with your woman!”
Fandral: “But we found meat!”
Hogun: “Weapons and drink also!”
He shouts out loud and they all approve. After that, Hogun tosses him a wineskin. Kirito catches the half full container.
He looks to Diana.
Kirito: “There’s a place on the woods where we can find alcohol and weapons?”
Diana: “Kana and I searched the whole area. There’s none.”
Kirito: “How did you find these?”
Kana: “A wagon, on the road.”
Klein: “What the…?”
Kirito: “You attack the road without good weapons and so close to our position?! What if someone saw you?”
Diana and Sinon load an arrow on their bows and search for any sight of enemies. Klein draws his blade and also looks around.
Frojnot: “You don’t need to look. We killed them all. Let’s prepare a feast!”
The players agree and follow Frojnot back to the temple. However, the three leaders and two archers remain there. They get together.
Sinon: “It was a good idea!” She says sarcastically. “…to risk my life for this group.”
Lamorak: “We now have better numbers to face the legions.”
Klein: “They’re just risking discovery!”
Lamorak: “Well, then make them come! We’re just hiding like frightened prays from a hunter!”
Kirito: “We’re not ready for an open battle. Neither an assault.”
Klein: “Any boy could see that…”
Lamorak: “Well: this boy saved you from death on the Arena. This boy found warriors to join our guild. What’ve you done?”
Klein: “You just found a mob of savage and mad dogs.”
Lamorak: “Maybe. But these “savage and mad dogs” will never follow a fucking salamander like you!”
The situation grows more violent by the stare between the salamander and sylph, until Lamorak looks to Kirito.
“Sorry for not waiting you. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
Lamorak runs following his comrades back to the temple.
Sinon: “We should search the nearby area, see if there’s someone close.”
Kirito: “Yeah. You and Diana go now. Once I get back I’ll send Agil, Sybil, Recon, Silica Dynamm and Dale to help you.”
Diana: “Gotcha. Let’s go Sinon.”
They begin walking through the woods searching for enemies.
Kirito gets next to Klein.
“That impudent fucking brat…” Klein says referring to Lamorak.
“Forget about that. We should meal with our new brothers.”
They walk back to the Temple.
Floor 50th, September 24th, 2026
Galant walks through the streets of Luccinea while drinking from a jar of sake.
He can’t get out of his head the “offering” that Thanos made to join his crew and defeat Kirito.
He didn’t believe on the reason to fight of KoB. The simple idea of fighting the legions of Hao was madness for him. Simple stupidity. Facing a large army to inevitably die for nothing, that path leaded to nothing but a shorter life.
But, he knew very well many players on the “rebel guild”, as the legionaries used to call them. Diana, Kana, Klein, Silica and Asuna. All of them had a special place on the Champion’s heart. They were the last friends he had. The last people he cared about on the game. To betray them, wouldn’t be better to betray all what he believed in. What he was fighting for. But if he didn’t joined Thanos’ legions, nothing good would come out of that decision.
He keeps on walking until he arrives to the market where Thanos usually makes his speeches in front of the howling crowd. Several crucified players, hanged to the tall wall of a building by ropes. He walks looking to their faces until seeing the last one, almost dropping his drink from his hands. He stops once he’s in front of her.
It was Otome.
She was already dead; bloodied on her face and part of her body. Her clothes had been torn off and almost destroyed. She looked down to the ground, with a peaceful expression of her face.
Galant remembers what she said yesterday.
“Some friends even suggested joining his cause to fight the legions.”
He clenches his fists.
Hikami must’ve overheard them when she said Kirito’s name. He was also somehow sending Galant a warning: to remember him to join the guild peacefully. The salamander probably commanded Vorhes to crucify her.
Galant can’t take the injustice make by his superiors. Filled with anger, he punches the wall making a small crater with lots of cracks.
“You knew her?”
Galant turns to his left, where the voice came from.
Jack was standing there in the entrance to an alley way. Galant reaches to his back grabbing the handle of Maximus Caliburn and get ready to fight.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Relax. I’m not here to fight.”
“Then why you’re here?”
“I heard Thanos started using Crucifixion as punishment, but I had to come here to believe it.”
Galant stops holding his blade and looks to Otome’s corpse again.
“She was a stupid girl, who spoke to loudly of things she shouldn’t.” Galant says, answering Jack’s question.
“Since the fall of the fall of the arena they’ve become paranoid.” Jack adds. “The city’s full with nervous and fearful players searching for whispers of betrayal. Or people sometimes…”
Jack adds looking to a player nearby.
Galant looks to the player as well. It was one of Hikami’s hired mercenaries covered with a cloak. Once Galant looked, he turned around.
“If you try to leave the city, they’ll put you in a cross right next to your friend.” Jack says.
“I’m a free player!” Galant yells to him. “I won’t submit to Thanos’ threats.”
“That’s not what I want.” Jack adds.
“You’re full of fucking riddles! Speak clear once and for all, Jack.”
“Don’t think you’re the only one that’s been in your position, Galant.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was in your position once. I was also a mercenary for Hao.”
Galant’s eyes widen. He didn’t expect that answer.
“I’m sure you want more answers. But I can’t give them to you here, not with so many people around. Come here at night” jack gives him a small card with the name of a place written. It read “Loki’s Eden” in English. “And you’ll have all the answers you wish.”
Floor 55th, September 24th, 2026
The sun had already set on the horizon.
The Knights are having an entertained night. While feasting on the Monster NPC they’ve hunt and the alcohol they’ve found, they’re fighting without weapons. Similar to training, but this was rather just for fun. They players were laughing, drinking and eating, having a good time and bonding.
Kirito looks from the distance with Asuna and Yui next to him.
The leader keeps looking to a map in front of him, planning the next move.
“I think you should stop thinking right now Kirito.”
“Just trying to figure this out. I think we can get more men, from the city of Neerin on the 56 floor, which’s been recently cleared.”
“Let me see.” Yui says.
“What’s the path to the city?” Asuna asks.
“After going out from the Labyrinth, the way surrounds The Swamp of Mysteries. The trip on the path must be three or four hours until you arrive to the city.” The little pixie says. “But there’s another way, going through the Swamp. There, flight is allowed.”
“If flying is allowed there, it’s probable that a legion’s inside that place.” Asuna says.
“Maybe. But what of a small group formed by several skilled players? They could arrive to the city unnoticed.”
“Few against many?” Asuna asks.
“Our most skilled players count as three or five Legionaries. And with Yui skill to detect upcoming players, we could see the players coming way before they see us. We can choose either fight or hide.”
“Maybe…But forget it for now. Relax for a moment.” Asuna says.
“Alright.” Kirito says, returning the map to his items and relaxes for a moment. “They’re noisy people.”
“Hey.” Asuna says. “Sometimes fun, drinking and stupidity is needed. This helps to create strong bonds.”
“Right now it’s not the time for this...”
“Is it ever?”
He shakes his head with a smile.
“No. We never know when we’ll be attacked.” He gets up from his chair. “I’ll try to get a drink to share between us.”
He gets up and leaves to the inner part of the temple.
Leafa leaves Klein and Recon, going to the back of the temple to grab water. While she was putting the water inside a cup, Fronjot appears, notably drunk.
“You shouldn’t drink…water this night. Alcohol…we can share…” he says while offering her a bottle of sake.
“Thanks, but I don’t drink, and they’re waiting for me…” She says with a smile.
“What…ah…you’re with the salamander...”
“Eh…no. He’s just a friend.”
“I saw him…looking at me…no love…”
“He just needs time.”
She tries to go back to her group, but the large Gnome holds her.
“I don’t like his eyes….yours are…better…”
He pushes her against the wall.
Leafa realizes what he attempts and fights back. She creates a knife made of air and stabs his arm. Now angry and drunk, he punches her face. Leafa falls to the ground.
“Frojnot, leave her!”
Lamorak grabs his arms from the back and forces him back. However, the much larger and stronger Gnome easily gets rid of the Sylph commander, throwing him to the ground. He then lifts him up by the neck chocking him and throws him again to the ground and beating him hard on the face.
The watchers cheer up, believing they were playing.
Klein sees the fight and smiles realizing that Lamorak was being defeated by his friend. But after he hears the voice of Leafa, he turns and sees her wounded and bleeding. Leafa then looks at Fronjot.
Now angered, Klein rushes and attacks Fronjot while he’s distracted with Lamorak. The Salamander manages to deal a hard strike to his face, releasing Lamorak. Afterwards he hits him several times and tires to choke him, but Hogun runs and attacks Klein as well. After they both fall to the sand garden of the temple, a battle starts between the two factions of KoB: the old players and the new Gnomes and Sylphs. However, some inner battles between the old members of KoB also start.
Hogun and Klein continue fighting. Agil starts fighting Fandral. Kana starts fighting Sinon. Most of the rest just fight whoever they find on their way.
“STOP THIS NONSENCE!!!” Kirito says coming out of the inner part of the temple entering the battle with Asuna right behind him.
He’s first attacked by a Sylph, but Kirito blocks the blow, hitting the player on the face several times and knocking him out. He then rushes kicking a player on his way and entering the sand garden. Asuna follows him blocking the strikes of a Gnome way larger than her. She jumps, punching his jaw, leaving him out of combat. She also enters the garden. A player nearby tries to strike with a piece of wood, but she raises her right forearm, blocking the attack. She then grabs the player, delivering a hard knee to his stomach and throws him above the campfire. The player falls to and rolls on the ground next to the fire.
The fight continues on the entire temple.
Fronjot gets up and tries to attack Kirito, but Lamorak appears again and grabs his neck with his forearms. He starts to choke him out. They struggle for a long time until the large Gnome elbows Lamorak several times, forcing the Sylph to let him go. Fronjot turns around, punching Lamorak had on the face. He grabs Lamorak’s blade and punches him again, this time making him fall to the ground. Once the Sylph was on the ground, Fronjot raises his blade and blinks his eyes, revealing himself as a VRSMA user. He slashes downwards to kill Lamorak.
“KIRITO!” Asuna shouts.
The Black Swordsman reacts on time reaching his back and drawing Holy Sword Excaliber. He blocks the blow of Fronjot by countering it with an upwards slash. Angrier, the giant Gnome slashes three more times, but Kirito eludes easily. Fronjot goes for the head, but Kirito bends his body downwards, ducking under the blade and slashing the legs of Fronjot. He screams but doesn’t have any time to balm, as Kirito goes to his side, spins and slashes his neck beheading him with a single swift strike.
The fight ends in that instant, and that death being the only one of the night.
All the players look at Kirito in shock after Fronjnot’s brutal death.
The Gnome’s dead body falls to the ground and his head rolls for a few seconds.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!!!” Kirito screams out loud. “WE’RE HUMANS! NOT RABID ANIMALS!
The death of Fronjot was brutal, but necessary. Kirito needed to assert his authority over the Knights, and the large Gnome acted like the “Alpha-male” of the new group. After his conduct, the guild leader had no choice other than take his head to stop the skirmish.
“We’re giving you freedom but you’re repaying with dishonor and useless death.” Kirito continues. “You’re free now, that means you have to choose: you can stay here among us as a comrade and follow my orders or you can leave now, or die as Fronjot!”
“I follow Kirito!” Lamorak shouts out. “There’s no other player more worthy of being followed!”
“Step forth those that want to join.” Kirito says, with a calmer voice.
Not a sound came from any player for several seconds, until Hogun steps forth, drawing his hammer from his back.
“The player who killed Fronjot…”
Kirito tabs his blade, getting ready for more battle.
“…is a formidable warrior! And I will follow!” He points his hammer towards Kirito. “THE BLACK SWORDSMAN!”
Wanting to make other players follow, Lamorak draws his blade and points it to Kirito.
“The Black Swordsman!”
Fandral seems to doubt a bit, but he finally draws his blade.
“The Black Swordsman!” he says while pointing his blade to him.
“THE BLACK SWORDSMAN!”
Soon afterwards, and one by one, the new players also start chanting Kirito’s epithet, pledging their fidelity to him.
Floor 50th, September 24th, 2026
Galant walks in the middle of a street on the outskirts of the city of Luccinea with the Moon’s white light shining on the sky and lighting his way.
He finds the place he was looking for.
It was a tavern with a large wooden sign on top where the name was carved, “Loki’s Eden”. Nearby there wasn’t a single player. Most of them feared being caught by the legions and accused of treason and crucified.
But Galant could take that risk since he had his Rudis back with him.
He places his back against a wall and looks to the tavern.
It was a basement.
Galant knew a basement was easy for trapping any player from the outside. If Jack was going to betray him, he was on the perfect position. However, the mercenary somehow felt he needed to know Jack’s story. He breathes deeply trying to relax and walks towards the tavern. After walking down a staircase, he opens the door and finds another staircase, but this one was circular. He walks down and once he was on the basement, he realizes no one was inside the small tavern except for the bartender and Jack, who was sitting down on a table for two. He smiles once he sees Galant’s face.
Galant walks to the table and sits down in front of Jack.
The bartender comes to the table.
“What will you want, guys?”
“Scottish Whiskey.” Jack says.
“Make it two.” Galant adds.
The bartender leaves. Jack and Galant seriously stare to each other in the meantime until the bartender came back with two small glasses of Scottish Whisky. He places them on the table and leaves.
“You didn’t tell me it was a fucking basement.”
“Why you say that?”
“Because I’m not stupid. It’s easy for ambushes here…”
“Few legionaries come to this tavern at night; they prefer the bigger taverns or brothels on downtown. You still don’t trust me…do you?”
“No. I don’t.”
“If you’ve lived what I lived, seen what I’ve seen and know what I know, you’d understand me.”
“I’ve heard about the Royal Knights.”
“How did you find out?” Galant says, unsurprised.
“I made one member of the League spit it out.” He answers, before continuing. “Mordread, your own old friend betrayed you. I can understand why you attacked him with all your spirit, back on the Labyrinth cave weeks ago.”
“Mordread deserves to be killed for what he’s done to me. His sole existence threatens Aincrad itself.”
“And you think he’s death alone shall grant Aincrad peace?”
“Once him and his guild formed by mad dogs is disbanded and everyone who once formed part of is dead, everything will be over.”
“You’re not right.”
“Aincrad won’t find peace. Not until Hao’s reign is over.”
“Hao’s just a simple pawn for me. I need to work easier, without problems. He helps me, I help him. Fair exchange.”
“I thought the same once, back when I was a mercenary for him.” Jack adds, and takes a sib from his whiskey.
“You know my story. But I don’t know yours…”
“I was formerly a warrior for my own race, the Imps. I fought and bleed along many of my brothers and sisters during the first 25th floors of Aincrad’s castle until we decided to take the 25th boss ourselves. But before arrived to the Boss Room, a new guild had. The Supreme Legion. We almost fought against them, but Hao let us join the boss battle. Once we entered I saw the boss, but Hao was unfazed while the rest of us remained looking at the large beast. The monster attacked, but he activated his unique skill, Supreme Weapon. In less than a minute, he had killed the boss, alone. Impressed for his incredible power, many Imps joined Hao’s guild, while others remained suspicious of him. I was among the ones impressed, but I didn’t want to betray my race. I joined the Supreme Legion as a mercenary and Hao himself gave me my Rudis.”
Jack takes another sip of his drink before continuing.
“As time passed, I became good friends with Hao himself. We often spoke with each other and we had a respectful relationship. But some small Legions were attacked by Imp soldiers. Hao was mad after the peace deal he’d made with my race, so I decided to be his ambassador. I’d bring his terms for a truce to my people. I did, though I wasn’t warmly received. Most of them called me traitor and a liar, but they decided to accept Hao’s terms. When the day came, I was going to attend to the meeting place. But when I arrived, I just found chaos and death. The race leaders had been slaughtered by the legionaries. I found an almost dead friend there; he told me Hao orchestrated the meeting to kill the leaders of our race, but that wasn’t all he was then going to attack my race army, located on a small town…”
Both angry and saddened, Jack takes the final sib of his drink. Galant looks at him notably moved by his tale. Jack slowly continues his tale, between several few intervals of anger and sorrow.
“…I rushed to the place where the army was as soon as I could.” Jack continues slowly. “I found the place, and the Legions had arrived before me. That was no battle; it was a slaughter of Imps, which was at the command of one of my own race, Captain Vorhes.” Jack clenches his fists. “I dashed through the battlefield and found Hao on the top a hill. I kneeled and begged him to stop. He looked at me and ordered me, to bring him the head of the commander of the Imps. Answer me a question Galant, if your good friend, The Supreme King asked you to kill your best friend and your girlfriend and remain idle as thousands of players are slaughtered right in front of you, would you’ve done it? You’d keep your oath to serve him then!?”
Galant doesn’t answer, just keeps looknig him seriously and shocked with his eyes widely opened.
“So, I took matter into my own hands. I drew my blade and assaulted the King, but I couldn’t defeat his storm of giant metal bullets. In few minutes later, the battle had ended with the total defeat for Imp army. I attacked Hao once last time, but lost my blade by a powerful hit of one of his weapons. I jumped and drew the last weapon I had: my Rudis. I drove the wooden dagger to his neck, piercing it but another weapon forced me back. I grabbed my blade and gazed to the King, who’d managed to remove the blade from his neck. The army was coming towards us, so I had no time to continue fighting. I rushed out of the battlefield, but not before swearing to Hao I’d kill him. That’d keep on fighting to become stronger than him.”
He stops for a brief moment before continuing.
“Power’s the only thing that matters. It’s the only thing that ever mattered in the history of humanity. The weak have been always forced to serve the powerful. Nothing more. It’s the human nature. Then I’d become the strongest of all. The strongest shall become the king, and there will only be one King of Aincrad. And that one will be me.”
“What happened afterwards?”
“Fortunately, no Imp was killed on RL as well, but we’re left out of the war. Besides, after these my own race considered me a renegade and I was despised and marked as Fugitive by the Legions. Without anywhere left for me to go, I began wondering through the Caste of Aincrad, looking to something to live for. I finally found it after my sorrow became strong anger and hate towards the Legions. Since then, I’ve looking for good opponents and fighting Hao and his army from the shadows. Once I discovered the League of Darkness Knights I also fought them. Months afterwards I found you.”
“If you’re telling the truth, why you waited so long to tell it to me?” Galant asks
“I wanted to see what class of person you were, Champion of Aincrad. What forced you to fight on this world. Why you gave your blade to Hao as if it were your own. I wanted to know what was deep inside of your chest. I answered these questions, and concluded I could trust you.”
He stops for a moment.
“The same as me before, you’re presented with two paths: you can either join the Legions and become a puppet under Thanos and Hao, or fight against them, losing all your privileges but not your freedom, conscience and ideals. So, what will you choose?”
Galant leans on his chair. He grabs the glass of whisky and finishes the entire glass with a single sip.
He gets up and walks out.
He stops before walking up the stairs.
“Thanos placed me on a path where I must choose one of two ways, and live with that decision for the rest of my life. But first I need answers. I’ll find out what’s truly behind Thanos’ and Hao’s schemes. I’ll get to the truth no matter the way… once I know that, I’ll take my final decision…”