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« SAO:PoA - Chapter Nine

Sword Art Online: Past of Ashes
Written by: FedeTkd
Published:
Chapter 10

SAO:PoA - Chapter Eleven »



Floor 35, July 31st, 2023

Forty heavily armed monsters ran through the plains. They were ugly, with green skin, yet with human-like faces. No hair, a big nose sitting on their face with red eyes and a beast-like gaze, and long ears coming out like a fairy. Not pretty muscular, and just 1, 60 meter tall in average. They were escorting a caravan of wagons with several players imprisoned inside.

All of them were depressed as they looked down the floor of the wagon, just waiting to see where the monsters were taking them. Most of the players were low levels, among them two girls.

“These shits just appeared form nowhere. Cerdic’s army of AI monsters aren't as the others we've faced.”

“Lower your voice Kana. If they were to hear you…”

“What can they do that hasn't already been done.”

“I wouldn't ask it sister.”

“What will they do Diana?” Another player interrupted their conversation.

“They'll kill us, one by one. We're like sheep going to a slaughterhouse... Why the hell do you even ask.” Another player said. He was obviously nervous, his eyes wide open, and he was on the verge of shouting, enough to lay fear among those in the wagon.

Kana slapped him in the face.

“Don't say that asshole, there are kids in here, idiot.”

“You bitch!” The male player closed his fist and tried to ram it into the girl.

“Don't dare to touch my sister” Diana interrupted and kicked the player in his groin. He fell to his knees, with his hands covering his weakness, as he could nearly scream in pain.

“Quiet yourself! You aren't helping.” She then directed to everyone on the wagon

“The best thing we can do is remain alive, do you understand? Remain alive.” She pointed to her forehead. “In here.” She pointed to her heart. “And in here.”

The caravan stopped, as the leader raised its left fist.

“What is it, leader?”

“I smell something.”

“What?”

“Human flesh.”

“The wind knocks the back of our necks, they're behind us.”

“Pick up the pace!”

The caravan continued its way north east, faster than before.

“Diana, someone is following us.”

“We have to send message, so they won't lose our tracks.”

“How?”

Diana untied the ribbon of her hair and threw it out of the wagon.

“We pray now, and hope.”


---

Two players ran as fast as they could in the plains of floor 34

“Two days, following these monsters through the plains. Without stop, nor rest. And not even a single fucking sign to see if we're near or not from them.”

“I don't believe that, Percival.”

He stopped a brief second and lowered his knee to the ground.

“What did you find?”

“This. A violet ribbon, for the hair of a girl.”

“This means we're on proper path. Send Horus on his way to advance on the path, so we may have anticipated sight of where the goblins are headed. ”

“The ribbon here stands as no casualty.”

“What do you believe?”

“The wind was heading in their direction two hours ago. They may have caught our sent. And when the players noticed, they might have thrown this, as a message for us. They are at least 2 hour from us.”

“We've yet to cover more distance. Let's go, no time to waste!.”

“Horus, fly!”

The hawk began his flight, as the two players continued the way following them.

“It's the most fortunate thing, that we both have a Tracking Skill.”

Tristan didn't answer. His mind was with other things.

“What troubles you, brother?”

“Why are they capturing humans?”

“This has become strange since the last months, since the attacks from Cerdic’s Army have become more frequent.”

“This isn' the time for this, we've got to free those imprisoned. And call for back up, if we need it.”

“Yeah, let's go!”

The Reconnaissance Team of the Royal Knights ran faster, as a veil of dust was left in their wake. ---

Galant: “Grey Fist!”

Bors: “Good one!”

Galant: “I need to be faster.”

Bors: “Two coming in your back!”

Galant: “Garuru Fist!”

Galant pierced through the body of a Goblin, and as the other came he blocked the swing of its sword with the body of the one he just punched. He then jumped past them, panting as he braced himself.

“Meteor Impact!”

A powerful fire kick pierced the body of the Goblin, killing it instantly.

Bors: “Yeah, you're much better.”

Galant: “Thanks, yet I need to be much better.”

Bors: “Don't press yourself too hard. Combining these movements I taught you with your skill with sword and shield will make you a fearsome opponent.”

Galant: “What of Lance?”

Lance: “Here I am.”

Galant: “Did you manage to use that technique?”

Lance: “Yeah.”

Bors: "Show us then, a goblin is coming at you from behind.”

Lance turned and ran to the monster, as it trusted the sword to him. Lance avoid it and kicked it to the ground. He then jumped and prepared a downwards fist.”

Lance: “Ryu-Ken!”

Lance’s fist pierced the monsters chest and killed it in a second.

Bors: “Incredible!”

Galant: “You're much better.”

Lance: “Thanks, the hour grows late, we should return to the village, see if the guys have come back.”

Galant: “Yeah.”

The three knights walked back to the village of Ayres, at the center of Floor, medium big city, with walls surrounding it. The city did not serve as home for much of them; it was, by far, the highest level the player had achieved by the moment, and the only place where an Army could be held.

Upon entrance, Gawn, Elicia, Silica and Guinevere were waiting.

Gawn: “Guys, you're finally back.”

Galant: “Training uses up much time, we're already on level 40 Gawn.”

Lance: “Any new members recruited into your army?”

Guinevere: “None.”

Galant: “Damnit, almost six months yet we're but a few dozens, up against an army.”

“What do you expect? People wouldn't just join an army just like that. They need reasons. Proves that you are worthy to follow.” A voice spoke form behind of them. They tuned, it was Klein, leader of Fuurinkazan, and one of the few guilds that joined their Army.

Gawn: “Any ideas, Klein?”

Klein: “At this moment... no.”

Lance: “Then come here when you've got something worthy of sharing.”

Galant: “Stop!”

Lance: “Galant?”

Galant: “There's truth in his words. People don't just look for actions, they search someone or something to believe in. Perhaps, by doing something, we shall prove ourselves worthy, and see our numbers swell, aswell as the odds in our favor.”

Guinevere: “Anyway, the hour grows late, we should prepare our meal.”

They began walk to the inside of the city all of them together. Suddenly, Galant stopped.

Guinevere: “What happened Galant?”

Galant: “A message from the recon team.”

Galant moved his index finger and opened the message. It held nothing written in it, but an object: a hologram communicator. A device that could be used for communication with someone else at the moment, via a hologram of your body and microphones. It could only work if the other person had one with himself.

Gawn: “We should go to the base, and view it there.”

Galant: “Yeah.”

They continued on their way to the center of the city. The base was a medium building, with a large plaza at the back, which made it perfect for their cause and the only reason they stayed there.

The allies gathered on the dining room and sat on the tables. Galant took out the Hologram Communicator and pressed the button for begin a conversation.

Percival’s body image appeared in that instant.

Percival: “Hello Gal, everyone.”

Galant: “Hi. Are you two guys okay? Held any good news for me?”

Percival: “We're fine. We do have news, but good or bad is entirely up to you.”

Lance: “Go for it.”

Percival: “We've followed the Goblins which had attacked the village north of Ayres. They took prisoners for reason unknown to us at the moment. We've followed them the entire day.”

Klein: “Do you continue to do so?”

Percival: “No, since I'm speaking to you. We've finished travelling because they have stopped.”

Galant: “What do you mean?”

Percival: “They've built a fortress upon two ridges.”

Gawn: “Goddamnit...”

Guinevere: “What aree we up against this time?”

Percival: “It seems to be an abandoned castle, and they have built a sort of wall around its entrance. It's a fortress. Only one way in and one way out...unless we learn how to fly. A security office at the far side of the compound, next to the principal entrance, and a command center, connected by a bridge. Both heavily guarded. If Cerdic is there, he might be in that control room.”

Bors: “What of the prisoners?”

Percival: “They're down in the control room. There are approximately 70 players.”

Galant: “Where're you right now?”

Percival: “On a hill to the right side, 150 meters from the stronghold. Tristan is up a tree, and thanks to his X-ray skill he can easily see inside the castle.”

Galant: “Take pictures, send us images, and all the intel you can. Remain there and be back here soon. DON'T GET DISCOVERED.”

Percival: “If so, we shall take our own lives.”

Lance: “Try not to.”

Percival: “We shall.”

He finished the conversation by pressing the button once again.

Lance: “What do you think?”

Galant: “The place is a fortress, it will not be easy to liberate the players.”

Lance: “You're saying that…”

Galant: “Yeah. I plan to enter the stronghold and get the players out of it.”

Lance: “Are you crazy?!”

Galant: “No.”

Klein: “I stand with him, Galant. We can´t risk our lives like that, it would be foolish.”

Galant: “Who stands with me?”

Guinevere, Gawn, Elicia, and Bors agreed his statement.

Lance: “You´ve all lost your mind.”

Gawn: “We can't leave those trapped there.”

Guinevere: “If there's a way, we shall use it, no matter the difficulty."

Klein: “Are you certain of this?”

Galant: “Klein, you told me we need to a give a reason for people to join our army. I'll send them a message, to all players, one that shall ignite the hearts of all those who fear Ceric!” ---

Floor 35, August 1st, 2023

22:00

The moon was rising to its highest peak. Yet it couldn't be seen, as lightnig and thounder covered it. The sky itself was falling. Mist in the atmosphere, making visualization even worse. The Royal Knights gathered on the hill near the stronghold, the soft and cold north wind caressing their faces.

Galant: “Does everybody remember my orders?”

All: “Yeah.”

Galant: “Great. Then we just have to wait for Klein and his men to finish their job. Once they're done, it’s the signal for us to move.”

A few minutes passed as if they were hours. Suddenly, a large explosion occured several meters from the entrance.

Galant: “We're on. Team 1, with me. Team 2, you know what you have to do. Wait with blowing it. Pay attention to your communicators. Tristan, we're counting on you. Go!”

Galant, Gawn and Guinevere went to the side of the main entrance, while Lance, Elicia and Bors went to the bridge that connected the two sides of the compound.

Galant: “Tristan, two archers at the top of the wall. Take them out!”

Tristan shot two arrows as their two bodies fell to the outsides and shattered into polygons.

Gawn: “Good shot.”

Galant: “Prepare the hooks.”

They grabbed their hooks, swinging them in circles several times, and threw them. Luckily they all hooked on in one go. They began climbing up the wall, and once they reached the upper side, they looked straight at the monsters. Their foes were all focused on the entrance, which had been opened, in search of what had exploded.

Guinevere: “Your plan succeeded. The explosion caused by Fuurinkazan was enough to catch their attention.”

Galant: “Fortunately.”

Gawn: “There, the security office!”

Galant: “Yeah. We shall go through the tents, down there. Do as I do. Understand?”

Galant walked down the the stairs of the wall to the security office. They covered themselves going around the tents crouching.

Galant stopped for a second.

Galant: “Gawn, plant explosives on the tents. We'll burn this place down if we have to escape.”

Gawn placed several explosives, carefully hidden on the tents.

Galant: “Two goblins near the entrance. Gawn...”

Guinevere: “Wait, seems they're moving.”

The goblins got out of the entrance, as it seemed they were walking on a shopping mall. They soon arrived to a spot where they could see the humans walking through the camp.

Galant: “They're to near to the entrance, we can't risk it.”

Galant tossed a knife to Gawn They followed in the goblin's steps, grabbing them from the neck and slashing their throats, dying instantly and without a single sound.

They got to the entrance. Galant touched the communicator in his ear.

Galant: “Tristan, we're at the door of the office. Do you see anyone inside?”

Trirstan: “Four goblins. It seems they didn't hear the explosion.”

Galant: “Understood. Gawn, tomahawks.”

Galant took out two kunais and knocked the door. The door opened Galant rammed to the goblin and stabbed it with one knife to the chest, He then threw his other to a monster right in the face. Gawn also threw his two tomahawks and killed the Goblins.

Galant: “Clear. We can advance.”

They continued on their way through the Security Room, getting out to the bridge connecting the two parts of the facility.

Gawn: “The others should be down by now.”

Galant: “Right, let’s check.”

They looked down, yet the storm obscurred their view. They could barely see in front of them, and the lower part of the bridge was covered in total darkness.

Galant: “Tristan, we can't see team 2 under the bridge. Where are they?”

A brief moment, waiting for response.

Tristan: “Right below you. Besides that, the monsters have come back to the base and the doors of the entrance are closed once again.”

Galant: “Thanks. You two are alright?”

Tristan: ”Fortunately, they didn't got here, and it seems we weren't noticed.”

Galant: “Good to hear that. Guys, prepare ropes, we shall help them up.”

Team 1 took out the hooksn planting them on the edge of the bridge and waited for them to go up. As soon as they all got up, Galant spoke.

Galant: “Is it done?”

Lance: “Yeah. The whole damn bridge is about to collapse. If we also take into account the storm, and the river’s increasing wake, those factors shall help.”

Galant: “Let's advance.”

The gathered teams got to the second part of the facility. As soon as they were in they saw a divided hallway. One going downstairs, the other upwards, to a second floor.

Lance: “Tristan, which path do we take?”

Tristan: “The one upwards shall take you to the command center, the other to the prisoner room. Unfortunatly, my X-ray vision skill can't penetrate further into the walls, so you're on your own from here on out.”

Galant: “Understood. Lance and Guinevere, we're going to the Control Room, upwards. Gawn, Bors and Elicia, to the prisoner’s dungeon.”

Lance: “Be careful guys, Elicia.”

Lance gave his communicator to Gawn.

Gawn: “We will. We're going now.”

Tristan: “A thing you should take into account Gawn, down there is the locker for all the player weapons, so it would be a good idea to use them.”

Gawn: “Good idea.”

They got down and prepared to liberate the players.

Galant: “You two, near me. We shall end this war tonight.”

Tristan: “Galant, the Command Center is right above you. To you left you've got a thin wall. That will lead you to a narrow gap where you can crawl up to the center. I am blind from here on out.”

Galant: “Thanks Tristan. Guys, we're taking a shorter path.”

Galant used Garuru fist on the wall several times, creating a hole where they could enter.

“We're on.”

They started going up by the wooden beams inside the wall that connected the two sides of the breached wall. Escalating, they got to several small holes, where they could look inside from the upper side of a wall. There was no sub-boss of note inside, just several Goblins speaking to each other.

“No response from the security room?”

“None.”

“Send someone to check it.”

Guinevere: “They may have noticed something strange.”

“So, is it true?”

“The attack force Ayres? Yes.”

Lance: “We should enter.”

Galant: “No, I want to hear what they're talking about.”

“Why?”

“According to what I heard, the humans are preparing an army, to attack the King of Monsters.”

“And the attack will be held in purpose of destroying Humans' hope of defeating us.”

Galant: “Ready your weapons. We need to interogate that one.”

They took out their weapons.

“Lance, prepare a fist to the wall, we will catch them by surprise. Be as fast as you can. On my mark. Three, two, one… GO!”

The combination of Grey fist and Ryu-Ken widened the wall's hole, and so the players entered

Lance rushed to a goblin and using Fujin no Seiken pierced into polygons. Guinevere slashed other several times before finishing the monster with Stardust Slasher. Galant pushed the goblin to the floor. He saw the last one about to escape from the room, and he threw Balmung to it, piercing his chest. He went to grab his sword while Lance held the monster on the floor, with his katana on the neck.

Lance: “We would have words.”

Galant: “When will you attack Ayres?”

“In two days, at midday.”

Lance: “How many?”

“A hundred, at least.”

Lance: “Heh, thanks.”

Lance stabbed the monster on the neck, killing it instantly.

“This isn't good.”

Galant: “We're too few to face that legion. Yet, we must, We have no choice.”

Lance: “The night gets better and better by each damn second!”

“IT WILL BECOME MUCH BETTER! TRUST ME!”

The door opened. A sub-boss entered in the room. He was large, not just in weight, but in height as well. He had long hair covering up to his chest, and a helmet covering most of his head whith the hair coming out the back. He wore a large belt, along with black long boots and a brown vest with short trousers. He carried a huge two-handed axe.

At his back, four Orcs, level 40 monsters, and the most powerfull monster in the floor.

Galant: “Throllbrad.”

Throllbrad: “True, Galant. I'm here to end your lives. THIS SHALL BE YOUR TOMB!”

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