Floor 26th, February 23th, 2023
Velron: “In three days time we'll arrive in Londanium, if we march without rest.”
Cynric: “We won't. What kind of players reside in the village?”
Velron: “Corps from the Army, and other less-numbered guilds.”
He stopped for a moment, before continueing with a trembling voice, showing concern and preoccupation for the matter.
“And the Royal Knights. It's a guild allied with the ALC. A boy named Galant is their leader.”
Cynric: “Galant? Who's this player?"
Velron: “It's said that he was never defeated in battle. It's also said that he's a fearsome warrior.”
Cedric: “Why should I trust you? You're betraying your own people.”
Cynric: “Tell me about the small village near the east.”
Velron seemed to refuse for a bit, clenching his fist strongly. Enraged and tired.
Cynric: “OBEY MY COMMAND!”
He opened both of his hands, and continued.
Velron: “The leaders of the Army are in a small village near the south. They were regrouping the missing men from villages on this floor. There must be around 50 players, and among them some lower level players.”
Cedric: “We'll attack them first. Capturing the leader would be perfect for me. Aside from that, do net let anyone escape who tries passing through the south. Burn the villages, kill all the humans. Leave no man, woman, or child alive who's capable of grasping sword.”
Floor 26th, February 24th, 2023
Nine horses rode, thought the Forest of the Wanders. The place was amazingly beautiful. The green pines were covered with snow, falling like stardust from the skies above. Gigantic mountains could be seen in the distance, with the same white substance resting on their peaks. They arrived to a clearing in the woods, where just before their eyes a small village sat.
Gawn: “Finally, we're here.”
Dagonet: “It seemed to last forever. My ass screamed in pain from the saddle.”
Percival: “As do all of our asses!”
Galant: “Enough of your asses. We've got work to do. Let’s go!”
On the inside, Galant felt pretty much the same as his friends. Two days cavalcade had been a long trip towards the north, and it hadn't even finished yet. In his heart, guilt was growing, for bringing them on this suicide mission.
They rode until they reached the entrance to the small village, where a 3 meter wall surrounded it.
“Close the gates!” Called a voice heard from inside the walls.
The gate closed as quick as it was opened. An officer of the Army appeared up in the wall. From the looks of his makeshift amour, he had to be a Lieutenant.
“Who are you?” It was the same voice from before.
“I'm Galant, the leader of the Royal Knights, a guild allied with yours. Open the gates.”
The gate opened, and the knights entered the village. Yet inside, there was no real village. Just tents and other homes made of wood and stone. There were at least 50 players, including just 25 members of the army within their midst. Some stray horses and other animals were spotted around the place.
“What are you searching for in this place?” Called the commander of the corps.
“What’s your name?” Asked Galant, getting down from his horse.”
“Corbatz, I am Lieutenant of The Army.”
“My orders are to take you down south.”
“But, that is impossible!” He responded.
“Where is Thinker? I am supposed to speak with him, not you.”
“Here I am.” Said another voice.
A boy of at least 20 years, uniformed, and at his back, a woman of the same age, with silver hair.
Galant: “We finally meet. I am Galant, leader of the Royal Knights.”
Thinker: “Thinker. She's Yuriel.”
Galant: “My orders are to take you down south immediately”
Thinker: “Corbatz just told you that it's impossible.”
Galant: “We don’t have much choice but to do it.”
Lance: “A large force of Pictons is gathering up north. Strange enough, they are being commanded by someone or something named Cerdic.”
Thinker: “You're right, but we're not leaving these people behind.”
Galant: “No we aren't.”
Galant got back up on his horse.
“Everybody listen! A large horde of pictons is gathering in the north and they're going south, and perhaps they're even marching on Londanium. Those that can, go to that city. Those that can't will have to gather their things and accompany us. We leave in one hour.”
Everybody started gathering their things and preparing horses, coaches and wagons.
Thinker: “You're good with speeches.”
Galant: “Thanks, but this isn't the time for compliments. Gather your things, we'll help all these people. Tristan, Percival, research the area for signs of the Pictons. Be back in 40 minutes”
Percival: “On it, Gal.” as he nodded and ridded his horse.”
Galant: “The rest of us will help the other players.”
As time passed, most of the players gathered all that they needed, and put it on the wagons carried by horses, ten of them forming a long caravan, ready for the journey to the south.
The Royal Knights had a brief moment to eat, since Yuriel was kind enough to lend them a spare moment due their tiredness. Thinker spoke as he sat with them.
Thinker: “I'm sorry about this... You didn't have to travel here.”
Galahad: “Yet here we are.”
Galant: “Kibaou told us this was our last mission. If we refused, our alliance would have lasted forever. We must advance to gain freedom. For all of us.”
Thinker: “He lied.”
They all looked towards him, their expression was shock. Yet, somehow, they didn’t expect less from him.
Thinker: “He did it so no more members of ALC were killed... instead, you would.”
Dagonet: “That piece of shit!”
He slammed his hammer into the ground repeatedly. Bors interfered.
Bors: “Relax brother. This won’t change past. We're here, that’s all that matters.”
Dagonet: “As soon as I see him, he's dead."
Lance: “Forget it, for now.”
Thinker: “As soon as we get there we will see to the end of this all. I promise”.
Thinker: “No, it's I who must offer you gratitude from coming here to save us.”
Gawn: “It is a bit early to tell us that. Save it for when we have arrived at the city.”
The chat would have continued, yet suddenly, Corbatz called from the wall.
Corbartz: “LEADER, COME HERE RIGHT NOW!”
They rushed to the wall, going up the stairs.
Thinker: “What happened?”
He pointed outside the northern gate of the village. There was a player, covered with a white hood, carrying a young girl in her arms and he seemed to be gravely wounded.
Galant: “Open the gate! NOW!”
Corbatz: “I can't. If I do so monsters could attack us the very moment we rush to help them.”
Galant: “We can't leave him alone; he's with a girl in his arms.”
Corbatz: “I won'tt open the gate!”
Galant: “And I won't leave them to die there. Fall to my command.”
Galant slammed his fist into Corbatz face,the Lieutenant falling to the floor. He then jumped over the wall and ran to help the players.
Lance: “Screw this... Dagonet, Galahad, with me!”
They followed their friend.
Galahad: “We're insane.”
Galant: "We're not leaving anyone behind."
They got to the players, just 50 meters from the village. Dagonet got near the smaller one.
Dagonet: “She's at least 12 years old. Very young for a player”
Galahad: “Strange. The minimum age for playing SAO was 13.”
Dagonet: “She was a beast tamer, with a blue feathery dragon; she dressed in yellow, and a dagger. What was she doing here, so far up north?”
Lance: “We'll ask her and see.”
Galant: “What of him?”
He removed the hood.
Galant: “A girl.”
She had long blue hair, styled to her right, red earrings and a pretty face.
“Give me some healing potions, Galahad.”
He softly lifted her head and gave her the healing potion.
Galant: “I have never seen like this Lance, even with a girl.”
Lance: “It's nothing. I’m just being compassionate to her.”
Galant had known Lance for a long time, since they were kids, and he had never had compassion for anyone, nor felt kindness, except for his friends and this occasion.
Lance: “Ssssht! She's waking up.”
She partly opened her eyes. They were emerald green and shone like jewels.
Lance: “Are you alright?”
“It's a trap” She answered.
And arrow was shot into Galahads arm, and another into Lance's leg.
Pictons rushed towards them.
Lance and Dagonet lifted the girls, as Galant and Galahad covered them.
Gawn: “Open the damned gate, NOW!”
Thinker: “OPEN IT!”
Guinevere: “Let’s go!”
Galant drew his shield and Balmung, A picton approached, he lowered all his body covering with his shield, making the picton fall. Another drew his sword and rushed towards him, but Galant clashed Balmung into his foe, and rammed his shield into his face.
Galant: “More are coming!”
Galahad drew Galatine as another demon approached, thrusting his axe downwards. Galahad flipped back, avoiding it. The monster used 'Rage Spike', blocking Galahad's strike with his axe before driving the sword outside the reach of his body, and kicking Galahad in the chest, dumping him to the floor. The monster tried to ram his axe once more into him, but Galahad parried it with Galatine and the axe hits the floor.
A tomahawk carved the monster's face, killing it.
Gawn appeared, and drove his axe into a nearby monster he was going for. He slammed the beast's left leg, leaving it stumbling, and slammed its face with his axe. Bors jumped and kneed a Picton to the face, when another approached him with a spear. He jumped once more, and lowered his feet to the axe, breaking it. He finished by impaled the monster with the blade of his knuckle duster and punching it in the face, killing it.
Guinevere drew Laevatein, blocking one monster's sword. She then flipped and delivered two quick blows to the chest, though the monster still tried to stab her back but she was quick enough to move, and cut the monster's arm before slashing it once more. It shattered into polygons.
Another monster neared Guinevere and sliced her back, letting her HP bar drop to half. Then she kicked the monster back, and used Stardust Slasher on it while spinning through the air.
Galahad got back up, facing another picton, thrusted his sword to the monster's neck. He defended himself with Galatine, and slashed the monster's body twice. He was countered by a punch to his face. He was on 35% of his HP.
Picton: “We aren't like the Pictons you've faced before.”
Galahad was frozen in place. He couldn't believe that. That monster possessed Artificial Intelligence, and it seemed to be quite adaptable. His father told him that there was no such thing in this game. His thoughts ended as his foe slashed at him once more. Galahad blocked it, but was thrown to the ground once more by a powerfoul punch to the face.
“You'll die now, human.”
Gawn: “Galahad, NO!”
It once more lunged his sword downwards, but something stopped him. A spear had struck his chest, and seconds later arrows stuck to his forehead. Galahad looked at it. It was an explosive arrow, and he quickly ran away to gain distance. The arrow flashed twice before exploding, deleting the monster.
Percival: “Seems we arrived just in time.”
He grabbed his spear from the monster he had scewered. Tristan grabbed one of his arrows and shot towards the treeline, killing another of the archers. He got down from his horse and drew Sicari, his new one handed Scimitar. A monster attacked him, but he easily countered and slashed the monster's neck with sword skill, Reaver. Another attacked; he parried and cut the monster's legs from his body, leaving its body on the ground.
Galant knocked a picton down with his shield’s edge. The last one came at him, and he blocked him with his sword, thrusting it into the monster's body, but it managed to block it, spin and cut Galant’s left cheek. Galant then used Crescent Stardust Slasher on it, deleting it instantly.
Lance: “What happened?”
Gawn: “Percival and Tristan appeared, saving us all.”
Percival: “We looked at the area as fast as we could.”
Galant: “What of the girls?”
Lance: “They're inside the biggest wagon. They might be comfortable in there.”
Dagonet: “We'll have words with them later.”
Galant: “What did you find?”
Percival: “They're heading northwest from here. Their army divided into two, a hundred monsters at least in each. One for the east, other to the south. Those will appear here soon.”
Galant: “And the only way south is through the east?”
Percival: “No, through the southeast, near the ridge of mountains. We could encounter the faction going east, but we don't have a choice.”
Tristan: “I have found something that may be of use.”
He pointed to the legless body of the picton, who crawled to the forest as a snail. They all approached it, turned it upwards, and began questioning.
Galant: “How can you talk monster?”
Picton: “I won't talk to you, you shit-faced human!”
Tristan grabbed his sword and cut off one of the monster's arms. Screams and pain were heard throughout the forests. He did it once more to its left arm. Once more, cries left the blue demon's lips.
Picton: “STOP, STOP! The leader, Cerdic! It has this unique ability. By placing his finger on the forehead of a monster, it gains artificial intelligence! That's how he has created his army.”
Galant: “If you're killed, and you reappear, do you still have AI?
Lance: “Why are you here?”
Picton: “Cerdic commanded us to take advantage, and to take a look at this place. They are coming here to kill the leader of The Army.”
Galant: “Understood. We should get ready.”
Galant was about to walk, but the monster stopped him.
Picton: “I answered all that you asked of me. Please, spare my life!”
Galant: “You'll reappear somewhere.”
Galant walked to the village with the Royal Knights behind him. Tristan slashed the monster's throat, following his friends afterwards.
Galant: “Ready all the wagons. We are leaving.”
Galant then approached Corbatz.
“Don’t you ever defy my command again. You shall die, if you don't help.”
Thinker: “Do as he commands in the future. That’s an order”
Corbatz gave his commander a look filled with wounded pride, and his face turned red with rage. His wrath towards the boy could not be bigger.
Corbatz: “Yes Sir.”
Some hours later, the horde of pictons had arrived at the place.
Velron: “I have found traces of horses from the south, footfalls in the forest. But they won't return. They travel, light and fast. Once they arrived here, they took all the players and traveled southeast, towards the mountains. They seem to travel slower than before though, and there may be members of the army with them, or even Royal Knights.”
A cynical smile drew on Cerdic’s face.
Cerdic: “We're almost on their backs. Boewolt, take 100 pictons, and rush to their backs. Don't attack yet, wait until I arrive at tomorrow’s midday”
The large beast-like monster called Boewolt nodded. He then turned to the monsters and took a 100 of them.
Cynric: “You should've commanded me to do that, father.”
Cerdic: “Are you defying me? For that, you need your sword in hand. As long as I live, I am the King of monsters and the Leader. Don't question my command, or you'll suffer.”
Cynric: “If the rumors around Galant are true, he's no fool. Do you expect me to wait in the snow, and announce his end?”
Cerdic: “That's exactly what I expect...”
The snowy journey to Londinum was a narrow path, which passed first through the forests and later the Never-ending Ridge. It bore a mere five meters width, leaving just enough room for one wagon on the road at a time, with several players to walk beside them. The Royal Knights rode from the beginning to the end of the line, making sure that nobody stopped, and that no one would got lost.
Galant: “Tristan, go to the back of the caravan. Check how far away the pictons are.”
He nodded, and rushed back.
Lance: “We're going to slow! The two girls won't live. There's time for Thinker, but not for the rest.”
Galant: “We won't leave them behind.”
Lance: “If that horde appears, we'll have to fight.”
Galant: “Save your wrath for them then!”
From the front, Gawn appeared. He seemed happy, even in this horrible scenario they were going through.
Gawn: “Good news! The teenage girl has woken up.”
Galant: “I would've words with her, I think. Take me to her.”
Gawn rode towards the front of the caravan, and stopped at the biggest coach. Galant got down from his horse and put his foot on the step outside the door. He tied his horse to the rood used for getting inside the transport, with Lance doing the same. Inside the wagon were the two girls. Galahad was inside aswell, taking care of the little one with Dagonet giving him a hand.
Galant: “How is she?”
Dagonet: “Better. She's a brave girl. Before she briefly woke up, she told us her name: Silica. And then she went back into deep slumber.”
Lance: “What's such a young girl doing inside this game?”
Galant: “By now that doesn't matter. I need you two ready for an emergency, we have to rush. Where is the older girl?”
Galahad: “Resting behind this blanket.”
Galant and Lance moved the blanket. The girl was sitting near the open window, with all her body covered. From beneath her hood, they spotted a look filled with nostalgia and sadness as she looked back to the road, as if she had lost something. She then turned towards us, her sight changing to a more serious look. She watching every single move we made. Lance approached, with healing potion at his hand. She hit his hand, and the potion fell into the wagon floor and shattered into polygons.
Galant: “You shouldn’t be so rude to the one that save your life.”
“I don’t need someone to save me.”
Galant: “Yet he did it. If not, you’d be polygons by now.”
Lance: “We haven't presented ourselves. I'm Lance, he's Galant. We're members of the Royal Knights, and we're travelling south towards Londanium through the Never- ending Ridge. Your name is...?”
She didn't respond, and continued to look out the window. Lance sat down. Galant did the same.
“If you don’t want to offer your gratitude, that's okay. Just please tell me your name.”
She looked into Lance eyes, and as they made visual contact, she relaxed a bit.
Lance: “Elicia, why were you with that girl?”
Elicia: “I was on a quest, and I found her.”
Lance: “Quest for what?”
Elicia: “YōkaiOuRyu no Katana.”
Lance eyes opened, amazed with her words.
She showed her hands. On them, she held a long Katana. It was sheathed in a black scabbard, decorated in gold, crimson and orange. Yet, the most incredible was the face dragon at the end of the handle.
Lance grabbed his katana and also showed to her. She was also shocked by this. Galant: “Sorry, what does this mean? I do not understand.”
Lance: “Our swords are related to each other, you could say that they are sisters to each other.”
Elicia: “You could say that my katana is the 'bigger sister' to your friend’s katana, they are also stronger together”
Galant: “Besides that, how did you appear by the small village?”
Elicia: “I was found by the pictons and I was captured. There, I met a man in his mid-50's, with a long beard and a crown on his forehead. He also seemed to be the leader of them.”
Elicia: “That’s his name. I'll remember it, and claim his head one day.”
Galant: “What did he do, that would force you to someday claim his life?”
Elicia: “…He forced me to go with the recon team as living bait, alongside the little girl.”
Galant: “So the other girl didn't know you.”
Galant: “Thank you, for your words. Hope you can get back into battle soon enough. Until then, you're traveling with us, unless you wish to be killed by the pictons.”
Elicia: “I'll remain with you, for now.”
Lance: “Great. More players that can wield sword would be of use. Galant, I…”
He would have continued if Percival had not appeared, mounted on his horse and speaking through the window space. He seemed nervous and shocked.
Percival: “Galant, we have a big problem.”
Galant: “What might that be?”
Percival: “Better to show you that to explain it, COME!”
Lance: “I'm going to.”
Elicia: “I'll accompany you.”
Galant: “Are you sure?”
Elicia: “I AM. GO!”
They left the wagon, the others having stopped. It had begun to snow, and the winds hit their faces strongly, enough to remove their sights, aside from a few meters in front of them. The seemed to have entered a largely cleared space on the mountains surrounding the canyon.
Percival: “Through here.”
Galant and the others walked to the first wagon of the caravan, Percival had left his horse.
“Let's walk a few meters.”
They walked a bit, in the same direction. The wind ceased a little. Fifty meters in front of them, a deep dug trench, and behind it a tall wall, both covered the entire canyon. On the top of it, several Pictons, heavily armed.
Lance: “We should fall back through the other way.”
He had just arrived from the back of the caravan. He seemed to carry bad news.
“A picton horde is coming this direction! They'll be here by tomorrow’s dawn. There isn't time to fall back!”
Percival: “We're literally trapped between the wall and the sword.”
Lance: “How's this possible?”
Galant: “Nothing is beyond reach for the Lords of these lands.”
Lance: “Cerdic and the Pictons.”
Galant: “It was always his intention to trap us upon this ridge. He'll travel from the north with his army behind us. And when he comes, death shall follow in his wake.”