Floor 55th, September 29th, 2026
Last hours of the night.
Most of the Blood Knights sleep calmly and rest. Sybil and Hogun stand on top of the wall surrounding the temple. It was their lookout duty. If any legionaries or unknown group of players approached, they had to alert the others and get ready for battle.
Sybil could continue awake a while more, but Hogun was already tired. He remained sat, covering his body from the cold and wind with a blanket.
“Hogun…you better open your fucking eyes…” Sybil tells him.
“Why should I?! There’s nothing out there!” Hogun says whining.
He closes his eyes again and tries to fall sleep again.
She knows Hogun’s right, but she also knows she had to follow her orders. She crouches, looking to the temple. Suddenly, something pulls her back and makes her fall from the ground. The same happens to Hogun, seconds later. No screams nor sound from neither of them
Four Legionaries climb up the wall and look around with their swords and shields ready. They silently climb down the wooden scaffolding next to the wall and rapidly walk through the sand courtyard, using the spaces between the players sleeping there. After going up the short stairs at the entrance of the temple, they separate, like if they were looking for someone or something.
One of the soldiers quickly encounters with something unexpected.
Leafa wasn’t sleeping.
“SOLDIERS!” She shouts, sounding the alarm and waking up all the Knights.
However, most of the KoB members are still sleepy, stunned by confusion and they didn’t understand what the hell was going on. Some of the high ranking Knights, like Lamorak, Leafa, Agil and Asuna, still manage to engage combat with the Legionaries, but they’re bested by the incredibly high skills of the soldiers, which evenly matched their own abilities. The four legionaries defeat quickly each attacker they faced, almost with a single strike. Sinon and Diana arrive, aiming with their arrows along Kana and some other players with torches on one hand and a jar of inflammable pitch on the other.
She’s about to light one of the soldiers on fire, when he drops his weapons and takes of his helmet.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Kirito shouts after rapidly taking off his helmet, putting his hand forth.
Every single Knight stops fighting, though all of them were now even more disorient than before.
“Relax now!” The Black Swordsman orders.
The other three soldiers take off their masks as well, showing that they were Klein, Galant and Jack all the time. They were dressed up as legionaries with the exact same armor, weapons and equipment. The guild gathers on the center of the temple. Hogun and Sybil also appear, wondering what had just happened.
Lamorak: “This was just a fucking test?”
Kirito: “If it hadn’t been, most of you’d be dead!”
Agil: “That won’t happen again.”
Kirito: “It's easier said than done…And that’ll be our work today. The Sun will rise soon. Get up and take a hearty meal. This day will be a long one.”
Galant takes his bowl of food and sits down against a wall, alone. He starts eating and looks to the long row of players receiving their breakfast from the cook, Asuna. She crosses sights with him for a brief while, until her sight becomes icy. She stops and continues serving food.
The Blue Knight still didn’t have strong bonds with most of his new guild partners. Some of them looked at him as if he still was a soldier from the legions. Others seemed wondering what he was doing with them. A third group was curious to know if all the tales the non-race were true.
Klein sits down next to him.
“Seems Jack left you.” The Salamander says.
“He already ate his breakfast. He’s scouting. He’s a good guy, but he’s not very sociable…”
“Yeah I realized.” He answers with a grin, before quickly changing the subject of discussion. “Asuna doesn’t seem too happy by your return.”
“Others look to me as if I were a piece of shit. Others wonder what the fuck I’m doing here. Just a small group partially accepted me.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from the whispers of the Knights.”
“Well…I didn’t think I’d be rapidly welcome as a brother...”
“Nor I. Or to see you again until the GAW finished. Or ever saying you again…But here you are…”
“It’d be wonderful if everything were so easy to do…” he says, biting a slice of bread.
“I remember your relationship with the Flash. Back when we were fighting against Cerdic. You two were a good team.”
Kana and Diana sit down in front of them.
“Speaking of RYUPA…” Galant says.
“Hiya!” both sisters say happily.
Klein and Galant nods to the two girls.
Klein: “It doesn’t matter for what you two are fighting for. I know it’ll pass with time.”
Galant: “I’ll do whatever, so I can gain my trust here.”
Diana: “You don’t need to do anything.”
Klein: “Yeah you don’t need to. But you still need to show your loyalty. ”
Kana: “If you ask me, saving our asses back at the swamp is a great start.”
They all laugh slightly.
“For the moment….”Kana continues. “You should do what you know best, fighting. Once they see your capabilities, they’ll start respecting and trusting you. Perhaps, they start looking up to you; maybe you can become one of our leaders.”
Galant: “No…I don’t think so Kana…” He replies. He’d left leadership behind a long time ago. “But you’re right about fighting.”
Diana: “Alright…anyhow…what’s Kirito’s plan for today, Klein?”
Klein: “Well, our dear Black Swordsman is against a great difficulty: our internal fights. This situation can’t be stood any longer. ”
Diana: “I see. With internal fight, we can’t fight an enemy such as the Legions.”
Galant: “That’s why we bested you so easily before.”
Klein: “Yeah…” Klein looks to Kirito, eating right next Yui. “I just wonder what he’s thinking.”
Kirito takes a slice of bread. He takes a small piece and gives it to Yui, sitting on his shoulder. Asuna sits down with her own meal next to him.
“Does everyone have their meal?” he asks.
“Sure.” Asuna responds. “That’s my job. I’d not be here if I hadn’t finished.”
“So what’s the plan for today?”
“I don’t have any actually.”
“Yeah…Our Guild is divided racially and philosophically. Antagonistic groups are forming within our ranks and bad blood’s starting to spill over.”
“You just need to find a way to join them all together somehow.”
“We’re already joined here for two: freedom and despise for the legions. But that won’t be enough. We need stronger bonds.”
“Well, you can’t force people to like each other…”
“No. But even still, they should try to be nice to each other. For instance…you with Galant.”
“Did you really have to bring him up?”
“Well, yeah. I can’t lead my army if you and Galant are fighting. It’s already very difficult with Lamorak and Klein. They’re always at each other’s throats. So it’s enough.”
“Alright…” She says reluctantly.
Kirito finishes his breakfast.
“Seems everyone’s finished their breakfast. We should gather now…”
In few minutes, all the Knights gather and start discussing, but it isn’t long until they start yelling at each other and chaos takes over the temple. Kirito, standing on top of the short stair and accompanied by most of his right hand men, finishes the discussion, before it got even worse.
“WE CAN’T PROTECT THIS PLACE NEITHER FIGHT FOR AINCRAID IF WE’RE FIGHTING EACH OTHER!”
Hogun: “You should put a man to be on watch with me! NOT A LITTLE GIRL WITH LITTLE BALLS!”
Sybil tries to go for him and start a fight, but Lamorak stops them both.
Sybil: “My “Balls” didn’t allow the false attack!” She stops pushing. “You’re the one sleeping!”
Lamorak: “You were falling asleep and you blame Sybil, lazy piece of shit!”
Klein: “Stop defending your girlfriend, and look to your OWN failures!”
Lamorak walks up the stairs, ready to start another fight.
Lamorak: “Then we can fight again and see if I get another fucking result!!!”
Kirito places his hand between them while Jack catches Lamorak.
Kirito: “SOLDIERS WILL APPEAR SOON!”
Lamorak stops, he groans looking to Klein before backing off.
“And if we’re divided, we’ll die.” Kirito continues.
Leafa: “He’s true.”
Agil: “What should we do?!”
Fandral: “Try not to get your fucking ass kicked!”
Galant: “You shouldn’t say that, considering how quickly I defeated you....”
Fandral: “What do you expect!? There aren’t fucking weapons for everyone here! WE CAN’T FIGHT THEM WITH FUCKING WOODEN STICKS!”
Sinon: “Then Diana and I can teach you archery.”
Kana: “La chienne et ses flèches de merde (French: The bitch and her fucking arrows).”
Hogun: “Most players here fight with fucking steel!”
Kana: “There isn’t a damn Blacksmith here!”
Jack: “Even if there was, we don’t have any metal ingots…”
Kirito: “We have to use what we have…”
This causes silence from some members of the guild, but low whispers and an intrigue feeling about what was going to happen.
“I can all understand your fear and impotence. But with those feelings, we won’t get any further on the War. We must forget about it. We have an advantage over them: this is a brotherhood of all the races! We’re better than Hao and his soldiers!!! Galant, Asuna prepare everyone for training and put everyone in guarding position. We’ll train now, trying to improve from the test.”
Galant: “Let’s do it then!”
Asuna: “I can manage alone.” She says plainly, trying to avoid him. “Sybil, Hogun…”
Everybody leaves and starts training.
Klein walks next to Kirito and talks to him.
“The result won’t change just because it’s day. We’re not a fist, as you said. We’re just fingers trembling without a common goal and purpose.”
He leaves after saying this.
Lamorak appears as soon as the Salamander commander left.
“Seems they heard my words, but will they really feel them?” Kirito says.
“If they didn’t, we gotta try harder.” Lamorak tells him, trying to lift up his spirit. “Maybe… punishment or scolding for those who fail at training.”
“No.” Kirito answers without thinking twice. “I said we were better than the Legions. We can’t use their same methods to create discipline, trust and loyalty.”
“What can we use then, huh? Poems of love, tight hugs and tender kisses?” Lamorak says sarcastically and takes a sib of a cup of alcohol he had.
Kirito looks at him and grins. He keeps on seeing him until his eyes seemed to sparkle, before talking again.
“Gather a dozen men, there’s a thing I need you to do.”
“What Klein says we must do: to create a fist, with a common goal and purpose.”
Floor 50th, September 29th, 2026
The large black steel doors of the HQ of the Supreme Legion widely open. Hikami walks through the gate. On the courtyard, the commanders of mercenaries greet their leader with a military salute. Close afterwards, Lyn appears out of the main building, accompanied by Lyunatix and Kalius. The new arrived Colonel is quickly told Thanos was waiting for him.
The Salamander enters the building and rushes to Thanos’ office. After going up some long stairs, he knocks the door and hears Thanos voice from the inside. Hikami enters and sees the Spriggan General staring at a hologram of Aincrad.
“General.” Hikami respectfully greets.
“Hikami! You’re finally here.”
“I came back the fastest I could. It was a long journey.”
“I can imagine…” Thanos walks towards him and grabs an icy bottle and two glasses from a table nearby. He fills one of them and gives it to Hikami. “Take this.”
“The full bottle is yours if you bring what I asked...” Thanos says.
Thanos walks back to the table and looks to Aincrad’s map.
“As you wish. Where should I start?”
“The beginning would be good.”
“Of course…” he opens the map and starts searching places from floors 45th to 56th. “The rebels have attacked the Market on Sogen and the Luccinea Arena, both of them on the 50th floor. Weeks before the attack on the coliseum, they attacked the Mines on floor 46th. After the arena attack, they also assaulted the ports of Bluewater Bay on the 55th. And finally, they were last seen on the swamp on the 56th floor.”
Thanos looks to all the places Lamorak highlighted on the Hologram.
“Everybody knows that. Why’re you telling me this?”
“I needed to think of their position. Moving so fast in short time gaps means they must have their location somewhere between floors 50th and 55th.”
“That’s a very vast area.”
“Yes. When I started the search, I thought they’d be close to the 56th floor. I searched throughout the previous level, and my guess was true.”
“The Knights of Blood are on the Redwood Forest, close to the flaming shadow of the volcano Muspel.”
“That’s still a large area.”
“Yes. But I walked inside the woods and searched in for two days, until I found it yesterday. There’s a temple close to the foot of the mountain.”
“Then we’ll march at night. And tomorrow, we’ll end Kirito and his mongrels.”
“No.” Hikami says, almost interrupting the impulsive General “We need to be more careful. There’s a wall surrounding the temple. They’ve probably fortified their base.”
“Then we’ll show him what the combined powers of the Legions and the Band of the Nine can do…” Thanos says with a smile. “We’ll destroy his defenses and then…we shall kill them all. Prepare your men.”
“Yes.” Hikami walks to the door with his bottle, but he stops just before opening it. “I have just one question, General.”
“It’s just curiosity: among all the men you had under your command, why did you chose your Colonel, your second in command, to search for the rebels? Why did you send me?”
“You’ve proven yourself useful, Hikami. I thought you were the best choice to find out where the rebels are hiding. And I was right.”
“Alright. Thank you for your trust. I’ll you leave to follow my orders.”
Hikami leaves the room and closes the door. After this he widely smiles. After a while he begins going down the stairs. He appears on the courtyard and the commanders of his mercenaries walk towards him.
“Colonel. Everything’s good?”
“Everything’s going according to planned…” Hikami says with a wide grin. “Once the remaining members of The Band and the main KoB leaders’ slaughter each other to pieces, their remaining men will be mine. Nothing will be on our way to the throne of Aincrad. Once I rise from the mud, not Thanos, not Mordread and not even Hao will be able to stop me.”
Floor 55th, September 29th, 2026
Kana raises her leg and prepares a circular kick, but Galant blocks with his left forearm and gets ready to counter, pushing Kana back with the heel of his other hand. The girl slides back a few meters and Galant rushes to attack. He jumps and spins in the air to perform a side kick. However, the Cait Sith moves and the kick passes inches from her head. Galant lands right in front of her. She punches the back of his head and fall to the ground. Seizing an opening, she attacks while he hasn’t regained balance. However, Galant stops his momentum and places both hands on the ground and raises his leg, delivering a side kick directly to Kana’s chest and making her fall to the ground.
She twists on the ground while Galant gets up and looks at her.
“What happened?” He asks.
“THEY MAY BE SMALL, BUT IT STILL HURTS!” Kana yells out while sitting.
After a brief moment of silence, Galant starts laughing. Kana serious looks at him, before losing up and joining his laughter.
“…It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard. I’ve missed you so much, Kitty kat.” Galant said after finishing.
“I know. We missed you.”
Galant offers his hand and Kana takes it. She gets up with his help.
“You’re a good fighter. Who taught you? Ishi?” He asks.
“He was way more with Asuka. Trinity taught me. Both of them taught my sister and me.”
“How’s Diana with her bow?”
“She’s becoming better by each day, look.”
Kana turns around and looks, along Galant, to the place at the woods where the archers were training. All of them were under tutelage of Sinon and Diana, by far considered the two best archers of the whole army. They were so evenly matched; it was difficult to say who’d win in a competition.
Kirito knew the Legionaries didn’t use arrows. He wanted to exploit that weakness by having good archers on their ranks, so he named both girls commanders of the archers. Right on that moment, they were teaching them some advanced Two-Longbow Sword Skills to deal with the hard armor of the legionaries.
“…She’s became a great shot while you weren’t around. Probably as good as Tristan.”
“That’d be incredible…But that’s tough talking…”
“Even if she’s not as good as Tristan, she’s still better than that Idiot Kitty.”
Galant looks to the archers, twenty meters from them and also on the woods.
“You mean Sinon, I guess.”
“Why?” Galant asks curious.
“She’s a selfish idiot. She didn’t like you and she wanted to kill you.”
“I don’t need a protector, Kana…”
“Well, you have one!”
“Fine…Just settle your shit with her. She’ll get used to me sooner or later…”
“Whatever…but she’s still an idiot.”
“Forget about her. Focus on you right now. You move well...but with a bit more of training, you’ll become much better.”
“Ready for another, Champion?”
Galant jumps back a couple of meters and gets ready. Kana raises her guard.
“Let’s go, Kitty!”
Jack appears running out of nowhere, stopping both combatants. He drifts with his feel on the ground before stopping.
“What’s going on? I thought you were scouting.”
“And I was. I’ve seen something…”
The players were training for defense tactics inside the temple. Sybil and Fandral were training against Asuna and Klein, who represented the legionaries.
However, the two Sylphs are quickly defeated by the two leaders and thrown flat face to the sand. After crawling up, both spit out sand.
Kirito: “No Fandral! You’re attacking before I give the order.”
Asuna: “The strategy is to hide. Hide until they’re inside the temple.”
Fandral: “The hell you guys are planning? You want them to breach the wall.” If they enter and we’re outnumbered, we’re screwed.”
Klein: “No you moron! It’s a trap!”
Klein: “Once they’re trapped inside, there will be no easy way of going out. We’ll capture them as if they were fish in a net. Let’s go for another one…”
They get ready for another round…
“KIRITO!!!” Jack shouts while he enters the temple by the gate.
He’s followed by Galant and Kana.
All the players top training. Kirito walks down the stairs.
“Jack, what’s going on? I thought you were scouting” he asks.
Jack: “I was, until I saw Lamorak and a clutch of his men attacking a wagon. They’re coming here.”
Klein: “That fuckhead brat…”
Asuna: “Agil, Hogun, what do you see?”
Agil: “A wagon’s coming here. And Lamorak leads it.
Klein rushes to the wall and quickly climbs up to look from the distance
“He’s done this again! Without command!!!”
Kirito: “No. He’s following my orders.”
Galant: “Why’re we attacking the wagons on the road?”
Kirito: “There’s something we urgent and immediately need…”
Kirito grabs a glass full of alcohol, which they took from the wagon on the road, and begins drinking. The other knights follow quickly. Soon, the temple has become the place of a celebration and party for no apparent reason whatsoever. However, this didn’t stop the players from drinking and having a good time with others. Everyone had stopped training and fighting, they were just enjoying their time together.
Laughing, drinking, toasting, hugging, talking, screaming; everyone was having a good time.
Galant is given a drink and walks next to Klein and Jack. One player offers alcohol to the imp, but he refuses.
Jack: “…This is one nice form of training.” He says sarcastically with his arms closed, while he laid his back on a column. “Just getting drunk and getting vulnerable to attacks.”
Galant: “This isn’t the time or the place for this…”
Jack: “We barely know the guy Klein…What’s inside that empty head of his?”
Klein: “I thought you two were wondering. Trust me, Kirito’s no drunkard.”
Galant: “Then what’s the reason for pulling this off?”
Klein: “Just trust me guys. There’s a deeper meaning to this celebration than just getting drunk. Kirito has something in mind…”
Jack: “Well see…”
“It makes me happy to see all of you happy!” Kirito yells out.
Everyone shuts up and looks to Kirito, while he continues his speech.
“Relaxing from this War and seeing us creating bonds! Not because we have the same race. Not because we have the same opinions. It’s because we share an ideal: THAT ANY PLAYER FROM ANY RACE SHOULD BE ABLE TO LEARN, RISE, FIGHT, BLEED AND DIE ON THIS GAME, ALWAYS FREE!”
All the players cheer to the statement, agreeing without second thoughts.
“However…If we want to fight the legions, if we want to defeat Thanos and Hao, if we want to win this war, we must forget our differences and stupid quarrels. We have to become one! And I have the best idea for that: let’s have some competitions!!!”
The players agree again.
“Two vs Two. Each team made up by players who hold a grudge with each other. We ‘ll see, if your will and thirst for victory overcomes an idiotic argument.”
Klein: “There’s your reason…”
Jack rolls his eyes, somehow accepting he was wrong.
Galant grins and nods to Klein.
That was Kirito’s whole plan.
Not getting drunk just to get drunk.
The drink was to make the knight loosen up and to be happy. With all the players happy, a contest would ignite spirit and their thirst for victory. Even more, on that situation, stronger bonds, and why not friendships, could also be forged.
“Now…AGIL AND FANDRAL!” The Black Swordsman yells out.
The two players look to each other. They seem to not be very happy of pairing up, but that was Kirito’s whole reason.
“VERSUS HOGUN AND SYBIL!”
As soon as Kirito finished the sentence, both players rushed to their adversaries and tackled them. The four fall on the sand courtyard. They get up and get ready to start: Sybil vs Fandral and Hogun vs Agil.
“BEGIN!” Kirito shouts.
Floor 50th, September 29th, 2026
“Equip all the soldiers and mercenaries. Make sure they’re ready to travel by dusk.” Thanos orders.
“Yes commander!” Kalius responds.
Thanos looks to the courtyard, with most of his men getting ready. Through the gate, Hikami riding a horse appears.
“Where did you go?” Thanos asks.
“I managed to obtain a clutch of 30 more mercenaries. They’re arriving from Sogen.”
“Good job, Hikami. Reach them and make them hurry up.”
Hikami nods and prepares to turn around and leave, but he stops just before galloping towards the road.
“I’ll tolerate NO delay in marching to the upper levels and to Kirito’s death!” Thanos shouts to his men.
“I must advice you a different path, Thanos.” A voice says.
Thanos slowly moves his head and looks to the place where the voice came from.
Right in front of Hikami was General Magnus, the old rival of Thanos, smiling proudly riding his horse, accompanied by two riding legionaries of his own. Thanos’ face rapidly changed from one of eagerness for battle, to a face with deep not-well-hidden hatred.
The Sylph general hops off his horse and walks to Thanos.
“We need to talk, General.”
“Of course...” Thanos says reluctantly.
They walk inside the main building accompanied by Magnus guards.
“The Council of Generals sent me here with a message. You have to stop perusing Kirito and the Knights of Blood. You have to immediately return to the main HQ, in Acceria”
“I’m a General of the Supreme Legion. The same degree of all the members of the Council. They can’t command me anything, only the King himself can order me.”
“Yes. You’re right. Our King is the only one who can order anything to the Generals. But even still, the Council can recommend an action or a path. One a man like you, who wishes to rise above us and become Hao’s second in command, shouldn’t ignore.”
“And they, casually, sent this message through the man who wishes to steal the glory of Kirito’s defeat from me?” Thanos stops just behind Magnus.
Magnus grins. He stops as well and turns around, facing his rival.
“Well…I can say I’m not the only one who wants that…”
“Don’t you try to trick me! I know you’re the one who most wants to steal that victory from me.”
“Your trust on me doesn’t change the message.”
He reaches to his belt and grabs a message strapped on it. He give it to Thanos, who quickly reads it.
“The Council has decided this since our best mercenary switched sides. We found out Galant’s now fighting for the rebels…”
“How do you find this out?! Who informed you?!”
“Let’s just say…I have my contacts...”
“But this doesn’t change the fact that Hao was furious after hearing this.” Magnus adds. “He and the Council want KoB destroyed and Kirito dead. And you seem to be…delayed.”
“No. It’s within my reach!” Thanos says vigorously. “This night, I march to the Volcano Muspel, to destroy the Rebels!”
“The Volcano Muspel?” Magnus asks.
Thanos realizes he’d made a stupid and impulsive decision to show off on Magnus face. He’d revealed his secret and creating a path towards glory for the Sylph general. He curses under his breath.
“So there’s where he hides…” Magnus says with a smile, after realizing what Thanos had made.
“That doesn’t concern you at all…” Thanos says, tring to persuade Magnus, but it was useless.
“The Generals of the Council and our mighty King don’t believe that. They sent me and an army at my back to assume your place, as the persecutor of the rebels.”
“And…If I refuse to step back?”
“You can do that. But that action would only destroy what’s left of your ambition to rise. The Council, Hao and even your leader, Mordread, would despise you. With all that pressure, it’d be impossible to come out from that bog of shit. But the worst of all will be that nobody ordered that to you, your actions alone would’ve caused it.”
Magnus snaps his fingers. One of his soldiers gives to Thanos a bottle Abthines, the most expensive alcohol in all of Aincrad.
“I give you this liquor to you in sign of good faith. Save the little worth and pride you have and go back to our HQ…”
The Sylph general walks out of Thanos’ HQ accompanied by his soldiers, closing the door behind him.
Thanos screams and smashes the bottle against a nearby wall, destroying it.
He while breathing heavily and angrily, he turns around and death stares to the main gate where Magnus left.