Galant peacefully slept on a bed. He was still on chains tied to the bed. He couldn’t move much yet he was tired, and he’d passed through the worst days of his entire life. He was now finally comfortable as he dreamt of better moments. Suddenly he felt the touch of a hand, first on his chest, moving towards his left cheek. He woke rapidly up, grabbed he hand, dominated by frighten besides of unpleased. A well-known face appeared in front of him, the owner of the hand.
She was right in front of his face, body against body. They shared a passionate kiss.
“When Laughing Coffin appeared. You had died…”
“Shhh!” she ended his sentence. “I’ll always be with you. Neither Nightshroud nor his guild. No one can see you from my side.”
“I’d kill anyone who tried it!”
Sakura once again kissed Galant, as he moved his hands all what he could, on all her long golden hair and her back. They separate, and Galant sees a bit of blood coming out of her mouth. Suddenly, Sakura rose up, exploding in crimson blood at the same time….
Floor 1st, January 19, 2024
Galant woke up in an instant.
He touched his body for signs of blood but there was no were to be found on his body.
Unfortunately, neither sight of Sakura alive. He laid back to the bed as his cellmate spoke to him.
“Were you dreaming?”
“A nightmare. A horrible nightmare.”
He gets up and sits on his bed.
“Worse even than this prison?
“…Yes. Even worse.”
Galant’d been sent to the Black Iron Palace, a prison controlled and ruled by the army filled with assassins, thieves and criminals. Orange players. Though he was one of them, he didn’t belong to that place. He looked round his cells near his. Tetsu, the player that’d almost caused the death of his guild and later Silica, was some cells away from him. Galant was the cause that he was there, and he was probably happy to see his also in the prison, shearing his same fate.
The signal sounded and all the cells opened.
“The breakfast. Be quick so we can have the better one.”
Galant follows his cellmate. Most of the prisoners were forming a long line to the dining room.
The prison made honor to its name indeed. All was black and iron. The ground was also black and covered in circular stones; there were some circular columns that resembled the ones of a church, which ended in a semicircle in the ceiling where some aqua-green crystals gave light to the place of the same color. The only good thing the Prison, was the air within, that was significantly cooler than the outside
Everybody in the prison was looking at him even the guards, somehow welcoming him. He was known among the players due to the defeat of Cerdic, his “crimes” or/and his recent victory in the arena against four gladiators.
Approaching the kitchen, the player rapidly got off the line with their food. Yet, coming for the opposite side and not making the line was Tetsu approaching him, accompanied by ex-members of the army, banished to the prison because of Galant. As the Slayer of Cerdic and his cellmate got near the place where the plates and the food was served Galant grabbed one of the plates.
“He comes to fight you…” His cellmate tells him.
“Really?” Galant responds sarcastically.
“He won’t stop until he kills you…”
Galant gives his plate to the cook, who fills it with a horrible looking soup, which was actually not soup, just middle heated water, with some other weird looking food. Galant even believed it couldn’t be classified as such.
“Can he kill me BEFORE lunch?”
Tetsu got near Galant and hit the plate shattering into polygons along with the food.
“Welcome to hell, brat knight!”
He punches Galant sending his face towards the kitchen table. Tetsu the grabbed his hair and forced him up.
“…And I AM the devil.”
He once again punched Galant, but this time in the right cheek, sending him to the floor.
Galant gets up, and looks at him.
“You don’t know what real hell is. You aren’t the devil. Just a piece of shit.”
Tetsu tried to attack Galant again, but he easily eluded and countered him with a fist of his own with his right hand and then head-butted him on the nose.
His friends responded for him.
The first one tries to punch Galant but he eludes the technique once again, grabs the player by the neck and pushed him against the table with the head, knocking him out. Others appeared and grab Galant from his arms, but he manages to place his feet in the table and pushes the players to the floor where he get up, and begin pulling one from the leg in the floor. But other came, and punched Galant two times, he then tried a left kick, but this time the Slayer of Cerdic catches the leg, elbows with his left arm and finally a hook punch to the face. Galant was attacked by the back, but he manages to grab the arm and force the player to the ground. Two players came from the sides and Galant used both Garuru and Grey fist at the same time knocking them off to the ground. Other kicks Galant several times, but he simply kicked the feet planted on the ground, wounding the knee and sending him to the ground. Other prisoner grabs his back, but Galant grabs his arms and drags him to the ground as well.
Once both of them were there, he begins punching the face of the player.
The guards appear and grab Galant from both arms, dragging him out of the fight. He opposed no force.
“To the dungeon! NOW!” One of them commanded.
“Eh? Why!?” Galant asks.
“As if I’d need that.”
“Not for you, for them!” The soldier said, pointing to the soldiers.
He looks towards the players crawling for the pain he’d just caused. He noticed there left the purple ribbon of Guinevere had fallen from his wrist. He looks back and quickly finds it in the mock. He tried to reach it, but the guards still forced him back to the dungeon. Galant was dragged through the prison’s basement, and forced inside a cell with a powerful push, and the door was locked.
“You like fighting so much that you want to face every single of the prisoners here, one by one?” A voice said.
Galant turns around and sees a middle aged man. He looked similar to Heathcliff. Same color of the hair and very similar face face, yet this carried its gray hair loosen and was wearing a suit with the colors of the army instead of armor.
“They were seven, against me.”
“I counted six, Galant.”
Galant was surprised to see that this man know his name.
“How do you know who I am?”
“Aincrad is too small for you to hide, Slayer of Cerdic, even if you’re imprisoned here.”
“My name’s Ducard. I’m the warden of the prison; you’re now one of my prisoners.”
“Fancy meeting you then.” He replies sarcastically while getting up. “Now if you excuse me, I’d be alone with my thoughts.”
“I’d like to stay here, and have a conversation with you…If you want to....”
“I’M NOT.” Galant replies angrily.
“Then just listen. I was in the arena, when you fought. I see how you become the Slayer of Cerdic. Do you know why you’re here?”
“Because I trusted in the honor of Kibaou.”
“No. You’re here, because I convinced him that you’d be of better use here. Or that’s rather what he thinks.”
“What do you even mean?”
“I’m not just the warden of this prison. I’m also a trainer of the Gods of the Arena. I see things in men that they’ve lost. Even if it’s a small spark. I just need that, an ember. I can give it breath, tender, until it ignites inside the Arena.”
“That’s what you saw in me.”
“No Gladiator so far has faced four opponents at the same time, and defeated each one of them.”
“So that’s what you saw in me, my capability for fighting and killing? ”
“No. What I saw in you was: will and hope to keep on going.”
“Hope?” Galant almost laugh. “There’s no such thing in this hell hole. It banished as soon as Kayaba said this was a death-game…”
“That’s not all what I can see in you. I can now see grief and pain. You were condemned to die. Yet, you defied your fate.”
“Because I still have a reason to live.”
“And which may that be, money?” He stops for a couple of seconds. “No. Not something so basic. Position? Power?...Love?
Galant turned his sight to him, as the warden smiled.
“So…you have a woman.”
“I HAD a wife.”
“And do you love her?” He stops again, and then continues. “No what I’m even asking. Of course you do. I can see it on your eyes, the tensing of your jaw. Which was the name of this delicate flower?”
“What happened to her?”
“Laughing Coffin appeared on a quest and what was left of my guild was killed. I tried to fight them, but I failed. I was almost killed. The Army arrived and saved me, but Kibaou took revenge of me for what I did when I was yet one of the players at his command.”
“Then what do you seek?”
“Isn’t that obvious? Vengeance, from Laughing Coffin.”
“Then we can work together...”
“I don’t want to say here as a warden forever. I was commended here after I caused the deaths of many players of the army in the rush of the 25 first floors. But I want to climb up on the steps of my guild. I manage to do this, in a way, inside the gladiators of the arena. There, is where you come by. What’d you do to avenge your friends and your wife? Hmmm?”
He walks until he’s in front of Galant.
“They’re the reasons why you can’t feel the warm of her skin and the test of her lips. Tell me, you’d kill them?”
“Whoever somehow caused her death.”
“How many players? A hundred? A thousand?”
“I’d kill them all!”
“Then do it in the arena! Fight for me! We’ll both see endless rewards from it. Prove yourself. Climb to the top, become Champion of Aincrad, become Legend! GAIN YOUR FREEDOM! And then take vengeance for the woman you lost!”
“I didn’t lose. She was taken from me. I saw her die!”
“A man must accept his fate or be destroyed by it. It was your fate to come here. It’s your fate to keep on going and kill everyone who’s in your path, until you kill every last one of them.”
“Why’d I place my life in the hands of another player of the army?”
“Because of what they hold.” Ducard took out from one of his pockets the purple ribbon and gave it Galant. “This was from your girlfriend?”
“If you need weapons go with the blacksmith, Antinomy, in the second floor. He’ll help you. Defeat Arkadios, the current favorite of the crowd and the current champion of this Ludus. Pass the test with honor at today’s nightfall with honor and servitude. Swear your oath. Call me Master. And I’ll help you in your vengeance.”
Ducard walks to the door and opens it.
“You’re free to go. The choice is yours!”
Ducard walks out of the dungeon. Galant was also allowed to go free.
Galant runs to the stairs of the first floor and continued towards the second floor. The stairs were pretty long, due to the ceiling of the first floor being height, but he rushed through them quickly. There he was on the second floor which was not as tall as the first one. Galant looked around, and saw a whole place where at least 30 gladiators trained upon the sands of the so called Ludus. To his left were the cells, which were much better than the ones of the floor below, with proper beds, besides these ones did have proper space for two people in them.
Galant continued walking, and noticed at distance, a small place where fire seemed to be burning.
He went there. One he entered, he saw a player forging weapons.
“You must be Antinomy.”
The player turned around. He had blue hair and grey eyes. His clothes seemed a bit old probably for the time spent on the prison. He appeared to be at least 16 years old.
“And you must be Galant…” He responds
“I am. How do you know…?”
“The warden told me that you would come here. And besides, I know you from several boss battle raid teams. I was there when you defeated Belphegor, and while fighting Theokeler.”
“How did you end here?”
“A debt, which grown too large. I acceded to become a gladiator and be the personal smith of all the gladiators here to pay my debts.”
“Debts…you’re a fool”
“Then I’m in good company. Well, besides of our mutual presentation, what do you seek?”
“I’m going to face Arkadios, at the next context at today’s nightfall.”
“Arkadios??? The Champion of this Ludus?”
“Yes.” Galant said without doubts. “Ducard said you may give me aid with weapons.”
“Yeah. You have guts, for facing him. What do you need?”
“My shield was destroyed. I need a new one.”
“Shields…for you? No. A shield is not for you…”
“Tell me, doesn’t a shield affect you movements?”
“Yes but, I need protection.”
“No more. You have a skill slot for daggers for what I heard, am I right?”
Antinomy turns to the fire and from near of it took out a crimson blood bladed knife. It handle was colored golden and silver. The knife was approximately 40 centimeters long.
He threw the dagger to Galant, who catches it in mind air and noticed its weight.
“Not heavy, nor light. What’s this metal?”
“Hellkarium combined with another metal alloy. It’s the strongest and lightest metal at the same time. It is very unique; there’re few shards of it in Aincrad. But there are even less smiths who’re capable of working with it.”
“And I guess you can work with it?”
“I can’t make a sword. Yet, my master, Hephaestus, taught me to make a dagger. One day I’ll be capable to make a sword.”
“Does it have a name?” Galant says, looking at the blade.
“Guren. Crimson lotus.”
“Besides of that blade, you’ll need equipment. Since you’ll have two blades, you’ll be a Saber gladiator. So you’ll need a manica and a couple arm guards and greaves…”
Arkadios places himself in position.
The sands of the Ludus where completely cleared, and the battle was about the start. The Doctore, the title given to the trainer of gladiators, walked in circles, with his brown whip clutched upon hand waiting for the command. Ducard sat at the balcony with a cup of wine in his hand, watching to the ground at the gladiators waiting for the battle.
Still, someone was missing. Galant.
Arkadios was losing patience, even when the duel was programmed for that hour.
Arkadios: “This is the opponent you have for me, Master? The one to face me is a coward!”
Ducard: “Arkadios! Be patient! Wait!”
Some minutes passed, when suddenly the steps of someone else where herd. A warrior with brown boots, a pair of greaves, an orange manica on his hand, and a pair forearm protectors. On his right hand, Blamung Blade, on his left, Guren. Tied to his right waist, a purple ribbon.
It was Galant.
The gladiators began to speak between themselves.
“He’s the one, Galant, the one everyone has been pissing about.” One said.
Arkadios: “Silence! This is the best you bring be Ducard, a boy, just one who had the luck to survive his own execution?”
Ducard: “If you really think he’s a boy, prove it. Kill him.”
Arkadios: “As you command.” he turns to Galant: “One more battle before you are sent to the hell.”
Ducard got up and spoke.
“This duel will be for the title of Champion of the Ludus. Remember, Galant’ll find for his life on this duel and Arkadios’ll have GHP. Doctore, at your signal.”
Arkadios placed himself in battle position, yet Galant remained firm to ground as if something stopped him. Antinomy didn’t understand what happened to him and Ducard remained fixed looking at the battle about to begin. Doctore thought but he was worthless.
Arkadios looked more into Galant’s face and saw tears flowing from his eyes.
Arkadios: “Tears?!?!? The rabbit is about to piss himself.”
Galant grabbed the ribbon and placed it into his right hand, grabbing it.
Suddenly he was clashed by the square tower shield of Arkadios. However, he regained composure rapidly. He manages to jump above him, landing behind Arkadios. However, the current champion turns around and continues to attack Galant in salvage frenzy. Yet, Galant continued to elude and parry his moves.
Slowly, Galant walked backwards, approaching the corner of the place.
“So this is all you can do? Parry and run?!”
Galant doesn’t answer.
An angry Arkadios rushes to stab him, yet Galant parries the move and continues to run towards the wall fast, as Arkadios follows him. When he was about to crash, Galant jumped to one of the walls and begin walking on it. Then he jumps into the other, confusing a rather slow Arkadios. He spins on the air, landing behind Arkadios and slashed the back of the gladiator.
Arkadios was forced to remove his helmet and face Galant by rushing at him. The Slayer of Cerdic waited until the last moment and spins on the ground, making Arkadios fall to the ground. Galant backs off a bit while Arkadios got up and pushed him with his shield. At the same time, he slashes Galant’s left arm.
“BOY YOU’RE FINISHED!”
Galant noticed the cut.
Galant turned his blades back-hand embedded them to thesand. He then approached Arkadios, unarmed.
“No. you are.”
Galant walks nearer. Arkadios slashed horizontally, but the Slayer of Cerdic bends his legs and the blade swings right above his head. Once he got up, he punches with the right and then with the left to the current champion. Arkadios countered with other horizontal slash to the opposite side, Galant eluded jumping backwards. Then, the gladiator attacks with the side of his shield but Galant also eluded it. He then fisted the rib zone and left to the face sending his opponent to the ground.
An even angrier Arkadios got up, cursing Galant. He attacks again him but Galant twirled on the ground. He ducks and grabs Balmung Blade. He twirled once again and grabbed Guren with his left. He blocked the downwards slash of Arkadios, and while still on his knees, stabbed him through the belly. Galant gets up while his blade was still inside the body of the player.
He removed Balmung from his body. Arkadios attacks one last time, but he parried with Guren and stabbed him on the back with his sword.
Galant places both blades on Arkadios’ neck, he opens his arms and then slashes Arkadios throat in a gruesome fashion. Arkadios GHP was gone afterwards. Galant’d won. The gladiators cheered the crowning of their new champion of the Ludus. While Antinomy nodded to his new friend and Ducard smiled.
Ducard: “Your life now has meaning. Get ready to swear the Oath of Gladiators to me.”
Galant grabbed the purple ribbon and kissed it.
“I commit my flesh, my mind and my will to the glory of this Ludus and the commands of my master, Ducard. Until the achieving of freedom, I swear to be burned, chained, beaten, or die by the sword, in pursuit of honor in the Arena.”
“Welcome to the brotherhood.” Ducard responds.