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« SAO:PoA - Chapter Seventeen

Sword Art Online: Past of Ashes
Written by: FedeTkd
Published:
Chapter 18

SAO:PoA - Chapter Nineteen »



Floor 22nd, January 17th, 2024

“It was a great honeymoon.” Galant says.

“Why do all great things have to end?” Guinevere tells him.

Galant continues sitting while preparing to leave. Guinevere wrapped her arms around his neck and pressing herself to his back. He grabs her hand right hand with his own. They remained silent for a couple of seconds.

“I’d like stay here forever with you.”

“Hey, we’ll be back, one day.” Galant says. “For now, we should focus on clearing this game.”

Galant grabs Avalon’s coat and puts it on.

“I love that new coat of yours.”

“Really? Thanks. It was the rewards for killing Cerdic.”

Galant finished warping his weapons and grabbing all the left items from the house.

“Let’s go.” He tells him.

They get out of the small house at the south west of floor 22 and begin travelling towards the teleport plaza.

“As much as I hate to say it, we’re needed on the Frontlines.” Galant says. “In these two weeks a lot has happened.”

“Like?”

“Floor 51st was just arrived. And a new Red guild has appeared.”

“How do they call themselves?”

“Laughing Coffin.”

“We had enough with the Guardians of Darkness and all the other player killer guilds.”

“Pendragon Court members will be busy. I hope Diana and Kana are alright.”

“Yeah. Besides what’re we doing once we arrive to the HQ? What is our today’s mission?”

“Floor 51st is ready to be cleared, though we won’t go there today.”

“Why not?”

“I heard about a quest, in floor 50th.”

“What quest?”

“It is called Maximus Quest. Its prize is a sword.”

“A sword?”

“Yeah. But not just a common sword.”

“Something more I should know?”

“I want to leave it as a surprise, once we get back to our base.”

“Awww, come on tell it to me!”

“Sorry but no, Guinevere. Surprises are surprises. That’s it.”

“Damnit…Okay…” She says reluctantly.

They arrived to the teleport plaza, and teleported to their HQ at floor 50th. The place was named “Algade”.

It was a large city where most of the players and clearers of the game settled. It was also the place where the Royal Knights had recently established their new HQ. Guinevere and Galant arrived to the place, named Camelot, after the camp they left at the previous floor. It was exactly the same as their previous home at floor 7th, but it’d been made bigger.

Once they arrived, they quickly realized there was no one in the Base. Gawn, Percival and Bors were gone, and they had no idea from where they were. However, they went to their room. Few minutes after they finished, they heard the sound of the closing door. Galant walks down to see.

Galant: “Hey Guys.”

Percival: “Uh! You’ve arrived! Welcome! We thought you’d arrive later, in the afternoon.”

Galant: “I didn’t expect you not being here. Where’ve you been?”

Gawn: “The New Arena.”

Galant: “The Arena? You’ve been watching this new system of Gladiators?”

Bors: “Yeah. It was more amazing that we thought. Isn’t it”

Galant: “I don’t know. The Games are pretty recent and I’ve never seen the games.”

Galant walks a few steps and sits down on the table, while the others did the same.

Gawn: “Really? You should come the next time we go.”

Galant: “I lost my interest for non-sense Battles.”

Percival: “It’s not non-sense battle!”

Galant: “Explain it to me then!”

Gawn: “There’re two types of Games: Execution and a duel between gladiators?”

Galant: “Which is the difference?”

Gawn: “In an Execution, a player that has committed crimes is sentenced to execution. It faces one gladiator, whose purpose is to kill the criminal.”

Galant: “Wait a moment. If this player kills the gladiator, would he die?

Gawn: “I’d explain to you if you didn’t interrupt me. No, in Gladiators Games the Gladiators, instead of HP, have Gladiator Health Points or GPH. Once it reaches 0, the Gladiators disappear into polygons and re-appear inside the Arena, in a special place where Gladiators normally are while they aren’t fighting.”

Galant: “Then just the criminal can be killed.”

Gawn: “Exactly. But if the criminal defeats the gladiator, he could gain the favor of the crowd, and so be forgiven. However, the final decision is taken by the editor of the games. If the criminal succeeds, he begins training as a gladiator.”

Galant: “Who’s the editor?”

Gawn: “This system is implemented by the Army generally, so the editor is generally the leader, Thinker. Though, the editor can be anyone with enough Col to pay for this.”

Galant: “What is a duel?”

Gawn: “The same as an Execution, but instead, two or more gladiators fight. The last one left living is the victor. Those fights are mostly for entertainment rather of a judgment. There’re different types of Gladiators. Due to the different levels of player, they all carry special equipment just for the Arena, depending of the weapons they use.”

Galant: “So this means that all the Gladiators are criminals, trying to “redeem” themselves.”

Percival: “Yeah, sort of…”

Galant: “Non-sense.”

Bors: “Really?”

Galant: “You can’t fight to redeem yourself of the crimes. You committed you must suffer the punishment.”

Bors: “Aw, come on! I have just won a bet from these two.”

Galant: “No. That’s final.”

Gawn: “That’s because you haven’t seen them in person. Watching the players fighting and hearing the roar of the crowd… it’s a unique experience.”

Galant: “Whatever, I’ll never be watching them. Don’t try to convince me.”

Percival: “You don’t know what you are missing, Gal. In some months, the best gladiator in all of Aincrad gladiator will earn the title: “The Champion of Aincrad”.”

Galant: “And who’s the current favorite now?”

Gawn: “Some guy called Arkadios. Fights with a square shield and a straight sword.”

Guinevere arrived to the gathering of the friends at the dining room.

Guinevere: “Hi, what’s all this about.”

Galant: “Nothing, just speaking about the Gladiator Games. They’ve gone to the Games where we weren’t here. ”

Guinevere: “Really! How is it?”

Gawn: “Amazing.”

Galant: “You won’t convince me…”

Guinevere: “Someday I will go.”

Galant: “Really?!”

Guinevere: “What is wrong? You’re talking as if you weren’t a showoff, back in Real Life”

Galant: “Whatever…”

Gawn: “Well to other matters: what’re we doing today…”

Bors: “We should join the frontlines. Floor 52nd is waiting.”

Galant: “Not yet. I’ve heard about a dungeon here, at floor 50th labyrinth. There’s a quest named Maximus Quest, which consists of defeating three hordes of monsters. At its end, there’s a sword stuck to a rock. It is named Maximus Caliburn.”

Bors: “Why interested on a single sword?”

Galant: “It’s is not just a common sword. It is a Legendary Sword with a unique skill.”

Guinevere: “So that’s what you didn‘t wanted to tell me.”

Galant: “Yes. We need more strength. If we obtain that weapon, we’ll be one of the most powerful guilds in Aincrad.”

Gawn: “How do you know it was not taken by other players?”

Galant: “Have you heard about any guild with a player carrying a sword that has a unique skill?”

Gawn: “No.”

Galant: “Well, there’s my point. We should go there. Today.”

Percival: “Even still Gal. I think were low in numbers here for that quest. Haven’t you considered also joining another Guild, like KoB for example?

Galant: “Yes. I did. Yet I don’t want the Army. I don’t know if I could trust other guild to take care of us.”

Bors: “But Galant’s right. If we grasp this weapon we’ll have much more strength.”

Galant: “Who else is with me?”

Gawn: “We’re all with you, always. But, we should consider joining another guild once we’re back.”

Galant: “Okay. We are going in 20 minutes. Get ready.”

---

The Demonic Servant slashes downwards, Galant blocks but is then hit hard by the shield and forced back. Guinevere switches with him, chaining several of her fast attacks, which the monster responds with a horizontal slash, yet Guinevere bends her legs, hitting several times the monster on the legs. The Servant tried then a downwards slash once again, but the Violet Knight span on the ground and switched with her husband who deals rapid blows to the monster and finished it dividing the monster in two with Crescent Stardust Slasher, ending the first wave of monsters.

Percival: “These monsters are unlike the rest on this level.”

Galant: “Seems the rumors were true…”

Bors: “What?”

Galant: “The monsters are from higher floors.”

Gawn: “Higher floors!?!?”

Guinevere: “Still these monsters aren’t as difficult as I thought.”

Percival: “So either we’re really strong or Kayaba made these monsters weaker.”

Bors: “Why’d he do that?”

Galant: “I don’t think so.”

Percival: “Why?”

Galant: “The sword is really unique. He wanted someone worthy to wield it. Not just anyone.”

Gawn: “That makes sense, but what’ll we do to win?”

Galant: “Prepare a defense formation.”

Bors: “Okay. Still, why you didn’t tell us? That this quest has the most powerful monsters we’ve ever faced?”

Galant: “I didn’t believe it true.”

Gawn: “Bors is right. You should’ve told us.”

Galant: “Well. You’re true. I’m sorry. If you want to get out, it’s fine.”

They all look at each other while in a circle discussing whether to continue or not.

Guinevere: “I’ll stay with you.”

Percival: “We’ve gone too far, right? It’ll be a waste of time to not continue.”

Gawn: “Yeah.”

Bors: “I’m in.”

Galant: “Okay. As I said, we’ll assume a defensive formation. Percival and myself at the front. We’ll switch constantly. Let’s advance!”

---

They finished the second wave of monsters and advanced for more.

For their surprise; the third horde of monsters didn’t appear until more several meters. Many Demonic Servants and Lizardman Lords appeared.

The Demonic Servant looked like a skeletal swordsman, over two meters tall and surrounded by an eerie blue light. It carried around a huge straight sword in its right hand and a round metal shield in its left. The Lizardman were humanoid lizard with bluish skin, a long tail, and glowing red eyes. They wore set of armor consisting of a helmet and breast plate. They carried a scimitar on their right hand and a round shield on theirs left.

The knights assumed formation. Galant and Percival placed themselves at the front lines again, while the others remained at the back.

One of the skeletons rushed to Galant, but the player could notice it before, and spins on the ground, avoiding the attack, and kicked on the back the monster, it felt to the ground and was smashed by Bors hammer.

A lizard approached Percival, who managed to defend with his shield and casted a hit to the monsters side. Still, the monster attacked once again. Gawn intercepted it, and dual delivered a huge attack with both weapons, killing the NPC with a single blow. This attack leaves his back wide open, and a Lizard managed to slash his back, yet Percival managed to kill it before it continued attacking. One of the skeletons passed by gap there was in their defense and attacked Guinevere, who jumped up kicking back the monster. Yet this doesn’t stop it. It managed to push back Guinevere, but Bors appeared and smashed them monster with his Vulcanus Wrath and the Sword Skill Thunder Pile. While it few, Guinevere slashes its chest, killing it.

Galant blocked several of the attacks of a skeleton and a lizard at the same time; he then managed to slice the leg of the skeleton. He then lunges forward with his shield, hitting Lizardman. The monster is forced back, but quickly recovers; attacking with Fell Crescent, yet Galant countered with Vertical Square, which leaves the monster stunned. He finishes the monster with Crescent Stardust Slasher. The attack even continued and sliced other two nearby monsters. Galant fell to the ground and crushed by the fall the skeleton without the leg.

Gawn: “SHIELD!”

Galant knows what that meant.

He ducks with his shield above his head.

Gawn runs, jumped at the shield towards the monsters.

He grabs the two tomahawks from his back and then throws towards a Lizardman Lord. Both axes are blocked, but the red knight manages to land right behind the monster and hack of his head with a strong attack with his axe. He turns around, and two other lizards appear right in front of him. He kicks up his tomahawk in the ground and catches it before throwing it to one of them, impaling its chest and killing it. The other advances on Gawn, but a Gungir nails it side on the head. The projectile pounds against one of the stone walls.

Bors advances to the front lines. A Demonic Servant gets near him, swinging its sword downwards. He easily eluded the move then parried other, and started punching rapidly and strongly, killing it in seconds. Another servant appears, dangerously close to Bors’ back, but Guinevere jumped right in front of the NPC and stabbed it through the jaw.

Galant advances to the last monster with horizontal attack, but was parried by the shield. The monster tried to attack Galant, but his shield also parried. He steps back, and monster used this moment to kick Galant back. It continues the assault, but the blue knight eludes the blade. He places his weapons around the monster’s arm and grabbing it firmly. He spins, tearing off the monster’s arm. He keeps on going with the momentum and charges Stardust Slasher, beheading the monster with a single stroke.

Galant: “Is everybody alright?”

Gawn: “Yeah.”

Guinevere: “There’s something strange.”

Galant: “What are you talking about?”

Guinevere: “The quantity of monsters was the same than in the previous wave.”

Galant it that moment noticed it. Something was weird about this quest.

Galant: “Still we should continue. We’re going to be the owners of this blade soon.”

All nodded their heads.

They continue walking deeper inside the cavern, continuing on the way of the quest.

They suddenly arrived to a place where the cavern was made bigger; the place was surrounded in part of darkness. Part of it was illuminated by crystals that came out of the sides of the cavern. That the end of the cavern, there was a golden and silver sword with details in black and red stuck to a stone, this had some markings that read: “Only the player that values friends and love more than his life can possess this sword”.

Gawn: “That’s must be it. Maximus Caliburn.”

Percival: “It’s ours.”

Percival ran to grab the sword, but he falls to the ground middle way.

Guinevere: “What? What’s happening?”

Gawn, Bors, Guinevere and Galant felt the same. Galant was surprised and looked around, but he didn’t find anyone. Then something struck to Galant‘s chest, a knife. His body didn’t respond and he felt to the ground.

“Oh these were very easy to capture...” A voice was heard.

“What should we do now?” Another voice said.

“What we were born for, Xaxa, killing.” A third one responded

The hearts of all the Knights started beating faster.

Several shadows came out of the shadows of the cavern. Galant forced himself to look up. The shadows were player, all of them wearing dark-colored robes, covering most of their faces.

Galant realized why there were fewer monsters that he expected. Those players had arrived moments before them. The monsters did not re-appear very fast, and so, it was easier for the Royal Knights to arrive to the place.

Galant: “So the rumors were true. The red guild, Laughing Coffin.”

One of the players got near Galant and grabbed his hair forcing him to look up.

“Uh, it seems that this doggy has heard of us.”

Galant: “Everybody has.”

The player smacks Galant face to the ground hitting it with the hard stone ground. Afterwards, he starts stepping on his head, pressing it further against the floor.

Guinevere: “Leave him!”

“SHUT UP! OR YOU SHALL END WORSE THAN HIM!” The players screamed, before stopping stepping on Galant’s head. “PoH, can we have them fight between them. The one who survives the fight is free?”

Those words made the players even more afraid than they were in that moment.

“No.” The apparent leader said. “We’’ll do that with another day another group. Not with this group.”

“What should we do then, PoH?”

PoH: “Let the new ones have fun with them. See if they are worthy of being members of our organization.”

Xaxa: “Selene, Jotuhn, Whipper and Annie, kill them. But leave the one near the entrance, the leader, alive.”

“I’m sorry, can I wait to other guild to appear?” spoke a Silver-haired girl.

Xaxa: “What?! It is an order, kill th…”

PoH: “Let her. She shall prove worthy soon. Kamui, you want one of them.”

Kamui: “No. I don’t wish to kill worthless insects. I shall witness what all of you are capable of do. I don’t like killing worthless insects.”

Galant recognizes in that moment the leader of the guild that was the biggest enemy of Pendragon Court: Kamui, leader of the Guardian of Darkness.

PoH: “Then you, Strefen.”

Xaxa: “Whipper, you start.”

The player opened both hands and two long silver metal whips came out of them. He then started slashing several times Gawn at the back.

Galant: “STOP!”

“Just shut up.”

The assassin next to Galant started stepping on his head several times.

Guinevere: “Stop this! Please!”

The player known as “Strefen” got near Guinevere and gagged her mouth with a piece of cloth.

Strefen: “This bitch is mine.”

He sits on the floor and placed the Guinevere, between his arms, like hugging her, while Guinevere couldn’t stop looking to Galant. He did the same, and tried to extend his hand to grab hers.

Whipper continued to slash constantly Gawn, slowly taking out his HP with pain. Gawn took out his band across his head, and managed to enter his menu. His HP was arriving to red.

Whipper: “Don’t try a teleporting crystal. You’ll suffer much more.”

Gawn smiled to the player.

Gawn: “It’s just a message, you asshole.”

The Whipper seemed pissed with his comment, and slashed strongly to Gawn ,taking almost what was left of his HP. Gawn still managed to create a message, in which he sent his headband.

Gawn: “You’ll survive.” He then looked to Galant with teary eye. “Give it to her, would you?”

Galant: “Taichi…”

Gawn: “Bye.”

Whipper slashed downwards his both of his whips, slashing one last time Gawn at the back. Gawn continued to look at Galant, and he shattered into polygons.

Galant: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Guinevere began crying as his best friend was killed.

Strefen: “Ohhh, don’t cry sweetie, you shall join him soon...”

PoH: “Annie, you’re next.”

They blonde short girl got near Bors.

She grabbed him from his neck and got him up at force, yet he didn’t manage to maintain himself standing. Due to this the Girl once again grabbed Bors from his neck, and threw him up to the ceiling. He falls and she began an onslaught of lots of punches and kicks directly to the body and face of Bors.

Percival: “Stop you bitch!"

PoH stepped strongly on Percival’s face.

PoH: “Jotuhn, this one is yours.”

Once Bors life was almost over, she drew a knife sliced his throat, killing him.

Galant: “Yamato! No!”

Percival: “YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”

Kamui: “He was named Yamato.” He briefly laughs. “Glad he’s dead!”

Galant: “You Kamui, piece of black hooded shit, just wait until Pendragon Court or KoB get you!”

Kamui unsheathed a long black pitch sword and got near Galant, ready to kill him.

PoH: “Hold. Such a death would be far too quick. He needs to watch this first.”

Kamui nodded to his ally, sheathed back his sword and went back to his place.

Kamui: “You’re true. I’ll be sure to kill every single one of your friends at that guild.”

Galant: “No. Leave them alone!”

PoH: “Jotuhn, tour turn.”

Black got near Percival and grabbed Gungir from his back.

Jotuhn: “You own a nice spear...”

Percival: “Go fuck yourself.”

Jotuhn: “and very bad manners. I’ll teach you some right now.”

He placed the blade Gungir in front of his mouth.

“Now, say ahhhh.”

Percival: “Fuck yourself.”

It the moment he opened his mouth, he managed to place the blade between his teeth.

Jotuhn: “That works.”

Jotuhn extended Gungir. The weapon pierced out of Percival’s left leg. It a couple of second the third one of them was dead.

Galant: “IKUTO! FUCK! I WILL KILL YOU ALL, I SWEAR!”

Xaxa: “Shut up. So this is all you can do?! The Slayer of Cerdic. The one that killed the King of Monsters? This is how you have made yourself a legend in Aincrad? Pathetic.”

Strefen: “My turn is, right?”

PoH: “Do it.”

Galant, knowing he was going to kill her, widens his eyes and screams.

Galant: “Not her, leave her alone! I beg of you. Take my life, in exchange for hers!”

Strefen: “Why?”

Strefen looked to Galant left hand and noticed a golden ring on his finger. He then grabbed Guinevere’s hand, and noticed the same.

Strefen: “…I understand now…You two are married.”

Galant did not like that he had noticed that.

The red player removed the gag of her mouth and spoke, while the two lovers could not tear eyes from each other. Strefen then grabbed Guinevere’s left breast and started to gropping her. Guinevere was notably in pain. While Galant face but showed anger wrath desperation and will to kill everyone.

He’d never felt hate before. Not even to Cerdic. Yet now, he knew what it felt like, to desire to see a person just in one possible way: dead.

“You’ve fucked her, right? I bet you stick it to this girl day and night, am I right?”

Guinevere: “GALANT!”

Galant: “I WILL KILL YOU! I SWEAR I WILL!”

PoH: “Stop, we’re not here to rape the girl. Neither have we time to watch you while you do it.”

Strefen: “I’m not going to, though I’d like to. I just was having fun.”

He looked back at Galant.

“After all look at her. You have luck to have a girl as hot as her.”

The player, which as for Galant was just a monster, then began to touch the rest of the body of Guinevere. As she screamed in pain, Galant tires to get up with all his strength. No avail. He was left without hope, not willing something to happen, yet incapable of doing anything.

“Well enough of this!”

She turned and placed Guinevere on the ground. He took out a knife from his back, and stabbed Guinevere right on the chest, piercing what’d be her heart in real life. Slowly, he did it several more times in the same place, making the girl feel even more pain. He then began kissing her and trying to lick her face, as she tried to gate his face out of hers and cried while Galant’s rage was uncontrollable by the look in his eyes.

Her HP got down second by second, as it was almost reaching red.

“Tell me Galant. What does it feel like?! To see your own girlfriend, the person you most love, at the hands of another man. TELL ME! WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?!”

Galant managed to grab Balmung it the place it had felt.

Galant jumped on the ground at high sliced his sword on the air, and ended next to Guinevere. The next second the head of Strefen felt to the ground. The head exploded into polygons alongside the body.

All the members of Laughing Coffin were ready to attack Galant, but PoH raised it hand and stopped them.

Galant grabbed Guinevere’s head and got it back up. He also took out the knife inserted on her chest, as red data flew out of her body.

She was barely conscious.

“Just endure the pain, Sakura.” He say, calling her by her real name for the first time in a long time. “I’ll see you from this.”

Guinevere shook her head.

“Please, don’t tell me that…” He says with teary eyes “…anyone but you. SAKURA!”

“This time, you can’t save me.”

Galant begin crying, while Guinevere places her right hand on his left cheek.

“You’ll survive…you must remain at my side. Who’ll protect without you?”

“You’re as strong… to protect yourself.”

“No, I’m weak I couldn’t save you. I gave you my word I would.”

“You tried to save me. And you have.” She smiles widely while tears start flowing from his eyes. “I’m happy to have my final moments with you…Kiss me.”

Galant kissed her for one last time.

They continued to stare at each other.

“I love you Sakura. I’ll always love you.”

“And I love you, Y…”

The words coming out of her mouth stopped.

Her eyes closed with smile on her face.

Her feet began to shatter into polygons, turning into stardust, dissolving into the ground. Slowly, she shatters into polygons, leaving just her sword. Galant’s hands ended at the floor locking towards the blade. The purple ribbon he had place on her hair months ago fell to his right hand. The stardust disappears soon, while the last small fragment of Guinevere touches his hand and disappears…

“Sakura, Shun, Taichi, Daisuke, Yamato, Ikuto, Takeru, Izumi, Ryuko. My friends, you have left me alone. It is my entire fault. Your deaths. The one that should have been our leader WAS NOT ME!”

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