Update: Revised for accuracy and grammatical structure. Thanks CJ and Darth!
NOTE: BEFORE READING THIS CONTENT, READ TAP’S TRANSLATION OF THE FIRST 64% OF CHAPTER 15. THIS IS THE CONTINUATION OF HIS TRANSLATION! I warned you!
Translation of the last 36% of Chapter 15 of Volume 15 of Sword Art Online.
Any feedback is much appreciated.
Translation – defan752
Terminology – Tap
Proofreading – DarthMewtwo
Japanese Version Parallel – CJ
TL NOTE: Again, PLEASE READ Tap’s translation of the first 64% of Chapter 15 before proceeding below.
Chapter 15 – In the Northern Lands – The Tenth Month of the Human World Calendar, 380
On the twenty-second day of the tenth month, the coldest day of autumn arrived with bright sunshine.
Canceling their walk, Alice and Kirito spent time at the fireside. Originally before the real cold winter arrived, she had wanted to prepare a large amount of firewood as the elderly Garitta had taught her to, but for now there seemed to be no more need.
It had taken her an entire day to write just two pieces of parchment worth of a letter. After finishing, Alice hesitated for a while, and wrote down “Schuberg” in the Common Tongue, then wrote “Synthesis Thirty” in the Sacred Tongue.
She carefully folded the letter, tied them up with two bands, wrote Selka’s name onto one, then left the other one on the table for the elderly Garitta.
They were letters of farewell and apologies. Since the home in the forest had been discovered by Integrity Knight Eldrie, they could no longer live there. Next time, it would not be Eldrie but Knight Bercouli who came. By the time, Alice would not find appropriate words to tell her mentor in swordsmanship that she was indebted to.
So they could only run.
After letting out a long sigh, Alice raised her head and looked at the black-haired youth sitting on the other side of the table.
“Hey, Kirito. Where do you want to go? The highlands of the Western Lands are very beautiful, you know. Or would the forests of the Southern Lands be better? It’s warm for the entire year, so maybe we can pick a variety of fruits for ourselves.”
Although she asked him in a livelier voice than usual, Kirito was completely unresponsive as usual.
Blank eyes silently looked at the table. The fact that she had to take this injured youth on a life of vagrancy pained Alice in her chest. However, she could not leave him behind in Rulid. Not only could Selka not spare time to take the job as an Apprentice Sister, Alice did not wish so. Now, taking care of Kirito had almost what Alice lived for.
“…Forget it, let’s leave the destination up to Amayori. Okay… it’s late, let’s go to bed. We need to get up early tomorrow.”
After changing clothes for Kirito and laying him down, she changed into her nightwear, extinguished the lanterns, and climbed into bed.
In the darkness, she listened to Kirito’s breath with full attention. When Kirito sounded asleep, Alice wriggled her body.
She leaned her head against the youth’s bony chest. Beside her ear came a slow but steady thumping.
Kirito’s heart was already no longer here. This heartbeat was but a resonance of the past.
In the months that she had slept alongside him every night, Alice had thought so. But at the same time, she felt that in this deep yet steady resonance, there was still — something that remained.
If the Kirito now was in a state of having a normal heart but unable to express anything, then just how could she explain her current actions to him? Alice smiled as she thought so, and slowly entered the world of dreams.
Suddenly, the body beside her trembled slightly.
Alice opened her heavy eyelids with difficulty. She looked towards the east window with her left eye, but the sky through the gap in the curtains was still pitch black. Judging by her feeling, she had only slept two or three hours.
While Kirito trembled again, Alice whispered:
“It’s still nighttime… let’s sleep some more…”
Closing her eye again, she patted Kirito’s chest to tell him to go back to sleep. However, the soft voice from the youth finally let Alice knew that there was something wrong with him.
The Kirito now did not have wishes of his own. Simple coldness, hunger or others like that shouldn’t wake him. Even so, the boy trembled more violently as though he wanted to get off the bed.
This was abnormal; had he regained his senses? Alice thought as she instantly sat up and directly generated a luminous element, as if lighting a lantern was a waste of time.
The boy’s pupils in his eyes that were faintly lit by white light showed no change from usual at all and reflected the same blank darkness; Alice sighed with slight disappointment. But, if so, what was he—
At that moment, a sharp cry outside the window reached Alice’s ears.
It was the cry of Amayori, who was supposed to be asleep in a corner in the clearing. The sharp cry was sharp and high-pitched as though she was warning her master.
Alice jumped onto the floor, ran from the bedroom to the living room and threw open the door. A freezing night wind blew. It should only carry the fragrant of the forest, but the wind mixed with a sliver of strange odor. This smell stung deep in the nose, can only be a signal of substance being burnt—
She walked barefoot to the vestibule. Looking around the sky, she could not help gasping.
The sky to the west— was burning.
The ominous red glow was undoubtedly a reflection of an enormous fire. Squinting, she could see horizontal streaks of black smoke covering the sky.
A bush fire?!
Although she had thought so for a split second, Alice immediately dismissed that notion. Through the burnt wind came the tinny sounds of clashing metal —and screams.
An enemy attack.
An army from the Dark Territory was attacking Rulid Village.
Letting out a hoarse scream, Alice was to immediately run back inside. However, she stood stock still when she stepped on the porch.
Alice wailed weakly and prepared to immediately run back inside.
Then she stood stock still.
I have to save my sister and parents no matter what.
But… What about the other villagers?
If I were to save everyone, I would have to directly confront the Dark Army. Do I still possess that power now?
The source of power for the Integrity Knight Alice of the past was the fanatic loyalty to the Church and the highest minister. With it shattered along with my right eye, can I still swing the Fragrant Olive Sword and use the Sacred Arts?
The frozen Alice heard—
A “thump” from inside the house.
She opened her left eye wide. In the middle of the living room, there sat an upset chair and the black-haired boy crawling beside it.
Alice hurried back inside with watery legs.
Kirito’s eyes were still devoid of will. But what he meant by his slow actions was very clear.
He reached out his arm straight towards the three swords hanging on the wall.
Alice felt hot lumps rising in her throat and chest. It took her seconds to discover that her vision was blurry and distorted because of her own tears.
Letting out hoarse noises, Kirito moved relentlessly towards the swords. Alice wiped her eyes firmly, ran to the boy, and held his frail body up.
“Don’t worry, I’ll go. I’ll save everyone. So, stay here, and relax.”
Whispering quickly, Alice hugged Kirito tightly.
Thump, thump. Through the chest which Alice was laying on, his heartbeat reached her.
Even though his heart was closed, deep in the beating hid flames of will that would never run out. Although they were weak embers, Alice could certainly recognize the warmth.
After tightly pressing her own cheek to the boy’s, Alice carried the frail body over to a chair.
“I’ll save them and be back soon.”
Then she took down the armor and belt hanging from the ceiling and put them on over her nightwear. Without hesitating, she then ran to the east wall and grabbed her beloved sword.
The Fragrant Olive Sword that she had not held for half a year felt rigid. Alice fixed the scabbard onto the belt, threw her coat on while slipping on her boots and ran to the vestibule again.
Shouting towards the east, a gigantic shadow hastened over and lowered its head.
Alice clambered onto its long neck and commanded sharply:
Whoosh! Flapping its silvery wings, the dragon sprinted and soared into the air.
After gaining some altitude, the pitiful sight of Rulid Village ruthlessly entered Alice’s sight. The rising red-hot flames generally came from the northern side of the village. As expected, the invaders had come from the <Mountain Range at the End>.
Last night, Eldrie had confirmed that all was normal at the <Cave of the North> that had been blocked under Bercouli’s command, so they must have moved a large amount of debris in one day. If that was the case, the mobilized soldiers numbered at least twenty.
Since a long time ago, there had been scouting teams infiltrating the three caves running through the Mountain Range at the End, and successfully attacked the Human World. Kirito and Eugeo had said, before they went to the Central Capital Centoria, they had battled a group of goblins in the Cave of the North. She, however, had never heard of such large scale and obvious assault. By the looks of it, the entire Dark Territory was in the mood to launch an attack against the Human World.
As Alice was thinking, Amayori flew over the forest at full speed, reaching the sky above the wheat fields on the outskirts of Rulid.
Without any reins, Alice used her hands to pat the back of the dragon’s neck as a signal to stop.
Alice stretched over and gazed below. At the north of the main path stretching south, Alice could clearly see shadows of the invaders created by the red glow of fire. Those who jumped around as if they could fly were the dexterous goblins. Not far behind, tall orcs advanced.
The vanguard had already met the temporary line of defense set up with furniture and timber on the north side of the Central Square. The goblins had already reached there, crossing swords over the blockings. White blades flashed around the barrier.
Confronting the invaders were the village guard. But whether it was number, equipment or experience, they were no match for the goblin troops. If this went on, as soon as earthquake-like stomps came from behind, the gradually approaching wall of gigantic orcs would arrive and instantly crush the resistance.
Alice fought the urge to immediately rush into battle, instead surveying the situation again.
Flames licked the east and west streets, but the Square and the south side seemed fine. It seemed like the villagers not part of the guard— of course, that would include Selka — had evacuated through the south gate into the forest.
Thinking so, Alice gazed once more at the Central Square and sputtered:
In the circular square in front of the Church, there were countless silhouettes surrounding the fountain. She had not noticed before due to their overwhelming number. Those should be the entire villager population of Rulid.
Why were they not evacuating out of the village?
As soon as the invaders’ main force reached the main defense line, the guards would immediately scatter. It was too late even now to begin moving.
Patting the neck of the dragon again, Alice flew above the village square and shouted:
“Amayori, standby until I call you!”
In one breath she jumped from a height of tens of Mel. Her coat billowing in the wind, she dropped straight down as if she could cut the icy night air in half.
The circular formation of three hundred villagers were probably planning to assume a defensive position for the time being; men wielding hoes and sickles were stationed around the boundary. Besides the two vigorously commanding men, Alice hit the ground.
With a deafening crash, the stone slabs beneath her shoes cracked radially. Although the shockwave of the impact traveled from the soles of her shoes to the top of her head, decreasing her Life a bit, Alice attracted more attention to herself.
The two men — rich farmer Nygr Barbossa and the Rulid Village Chief Gasupht Schuberg — jumped out of their skin in reaction to the suddenly descending shadow.
Alice looked at her father’s face and felt a sliver of dejection, but treasured the sudden silence she created and shouted:
“This place is indefensible! Take everyone and evacuate through the southern road now!”
Hearing her orders, the two men expressed greater surprise.
But a few seconds later, in return came Nygr’s murderous curses:
“What the hell are you saying! For us to leave our homes behind… leave the village behind and run?!”
To the livid wealthy peasant, Alice retorted bitingly:
“We can still get away before the goblins catch up to us! Your wealth or your life: which one’s more important?!”
In place of the speechless Nygr, the Village Chief Gasupht said nervously in a low voice:
“The Guard Chief, Jink, ordered us to form a defensive circle in the Square. In this situation, even as the Village Chief, I can only follow the Guard Chief’s orders. That is the Empire’s law.”
Now it was Alice’s turn to be speechless.
In emergency circumstances, the person with the Sacred Task of Guard Chief would temporarily assume full command of everyone; this was clearly according to a clause inscribed in the Norlangarth North Empire Basic Law.
However, the Guard Chief called Jink was a young man who had just inherited his position from his father. In this situation Alice thought that it was unreasonable to assume that Jink could calmly make decisions and commands. Gasupht’s face showed strong anxiety, but this confirmed that the Village Chief was thinking the same thing.
But no matter what, the Law of the Empire was absolute to the villagers. To immediately begin evacuation, Jink, who was probably still leading the battle on the northern defense line, had to be pulled over and forced to change his command. But no matter how Alice thought about it, there was no time left for that.
What should she do. What would —
At this time, Alice, who was standing still, heard a young yet determined shout.
“Do as nee-sama says, Father!”
She turned around in surprise. In the crowd, there was a delicate young nun using Sacred Arts to treat villagers who appeared to have been burned.
This was wonderful; all was well. Before Alice could step towards her beloved sister, Selka finished treating the villager, stood up, and walked through the crowd towards the three.
She smiled at Alice and spoke to Gasupht, her face taut:
“Father, ever since we were young, has nee-sama ever been wrong? No, and even I know that. At this rate, everyone will be killed.”
Gasupht fumbled for words with a pained expression. His beard trembled slightly and his eyes remained wandering in space.
In place of the speechless village chief, Nygr Barbossa exploded again.
“Children shouldn’t mouth off!! We’re gonna protect our village!!”
His bloodshot eyes darted towards his own properties not far from the square. To be precise, he was more looking for his large stash of newly harvested wheat and gold stores saved over the years.
Looking back at Alice and Selka, the rich farmer yelled in high pitched voice as expected.
“Damn… so it’s like this, I got it, I got it! The one who drew the Monsters of Darkness into the village was you, Alice!! You were corrupted by the Forces of Darkness when you crossed the Mountain Range at the End, weren’t you!! A witch… this woman is a terrifying witch!”
Being pointed at with a meaty finger, Alice was at a loss for words. The noise of the villagers talking amongst themselves, the sound of crossing swords on the defense line, and the screams of the monsters advancing from the north all faded out.
Since Alice started living outside the village, she had helped Nygr fell giant trees numerous times. Every time, this man had thanked her sycophantically. But, just to protect his own wealth, he could say something like this, what kind of —
Alice turned her eye from the man’s ugly half-Orcish expression and muttered softly in her heart.
— Fine, just do as you like.
— I wouldn’t need to strain myself like this. I’ll just take Selka, the elderly Garitta, my parents and Kirito and leave the village to find a new home far away from here.
She clenched her teeth tightly and closed her eye.
But Alice continued to think hard.
— Nygr Barbossa and the other villagers were ignorant, because of the Axiom Church’s hundreds of years’ worth of rule.
Besides the Taboo Index, they invented countless laws and regulations to restrict the people, providing peace like warm water while endlessly taking away what was important.
That was, the ability to think, and the ability to fight.
In that seemingly eternal epoch, where had that amorphous power been stored?
In just thirty-one Integrity Knights.
Inhaling and exhaling deeply, Alice snapped open her eye like a breaking string.
As expected, she saw Nygr’s face draining of color as though he were afraid.
It was the opposite for Alice, whose body filled with tremendous power. A calm yet scorching blue flame. That was what she thought she had lost in the battle on the top floor of the Central Cathedral — the power that had allowed Kirito, Eugeo and Alice to revolt against the Highest Administrator of the Human World.
After taking a deep breath, Alice declared:
“… Discard Guard Chief Jink’s orders. I command you all, scatter this formation immediately; the ones with weapons, lead the way to evacuate to the southern forest.”
Although that voice was steady, Nygr recoiled as though he were struck with something. Even so, his gall to retort in a trembling voice was admirable:
“On…on what authority, can you, an exiled little girl, say such…”
“A knight’s authority.”
“Kn… What the hell is a knight?! There is no such Sacred Task in this village! You just know how to swing a sword, and you arrogantly call yourself a knight, if the knights in the central capital were to find out, you’ll be sorry…”
Glancing at the sputtering Nygr, Alice lightly grabbed her coat on the right shoulder with her left hand.
“I am… My name is Alice. I, who oversee the entirety of Centoria, am the Integrity Knight of the Axiom Church in the third place, Alice Synthesis Thirty!”
Powerfully declaring her identity, she threw away her coat.
As the thick fabric was removed, her golden armor and Fragrant Olive Sword instantly reflected the raging flames, shining with blinding light.
“Wh… I-I-Integrity Knight…?!”
Nygr’s tone of voice changed completely and he fell backwards onto his bottom. Gasupht’s eyes widened.
Alice’s title was no lie. This was because, in this world, there were no humans who were able to impersonate Integrity Knights — that is, to deny the authority of the Axiom Church. The only people who could were Kirito and Alice, but even if she had escaped from the central capital to here, Alice had not give up her sword that confirmed her status as a knight.
The noisy villagers immediately quieted down. The sounds of crossing swords on the northern defense line, and the screams of guards and goblins died down.
The first to break the silence was Selka’s soft voice.
Turning her sight towards her sister, who clutched her hands in front of her chest, Alice smiled kindly.
“Sorry for keeping it from you, Selka. This, is my true punishment. At the same time, it is — my true duty.”
Tears sprang and trembled in Selka’s eyes.
“Nee-sama… I… I always believed it. Nee-sama would never be a criminal. It’s… really beautiful…”
The one who moved next was Gasupht.
Dropping to his knees with a thump, the village chief bowed and cried roughly:
“I obey your command, Integrity Knight-dono!”
Standing up quickly, he turned towards the villagers behind him and gave instructions.
“Everyone stand!! The ones with weapons, lead the way to the south gate!! Once you get out of the village, run to the forest south of the polders!”
Among the sitting crowd, noise of anxiety began to spread. But that was only for a moment. No villager would disobey the village chief’s command, let alone which was based on that of an Integrity Knight.
Immediately, the tough farmers protecting the boundary stood up together, and hurried the women, children and elderly inside the boundary to stand as well. Calling back Gasupht, who was to join the leading team, Alice told him with a withdrawn voice:
“Father, please take care of the villagers… Selka, and Mother.”
Gasupht’s tense expression wavered for just a moment, and replied briefly:
“…Please stay safe as well, Knight-dono.”
This father would now never address Alice as his own daughter. This was the price of being granted power. As Alice was committing that to memory, she pushed Selka on her back, prompting her to move beside Gasupht.
“Nee-sama… please don’t strain yourself.”
Smiling and nodding at her crying sister, Alice turned and looked north. Behind her, the villagers began to move as a whole.
“Ah…ahhh… My… my house…”
Moaning in a good-for-nothing manner, Nygr Barbossa remained seated on the ground. His eyes darted between the running villagers and his house that was about to be engulfed by flames. Deciding to leave him alone, Alice concentrated on the other villagers.
Although she had finally gotten the villagers moving, there were about300 people. It would take time for everyone to leave the village, but the defense line was close to collapse, and the footsteps of the enemy were approaching from both east and west.
Suddenly a young man’s scream came from north of the square:
“We won’t make it! Retreat! Retreeeat!”
That was likely to be Guard Chief Jink. Hearing this, Nygr suddenly blustered at Alice with renewed intensity:
“D…Did you see that?! We should stay here and defend! We’re gonna die! We’re all gonna get killed!!”
Alice shrugged and calmly refuted:
“It’s fine, since this much space is spared. I will stop them.”
“Impossible! How can you manage such a thing?! Even… Even if you’re a real Integrity Knight, the other side has that many monsters; what the hell can you do alone?!”
The shadows of goblins and orcs attacking from the east and west were visible now but Nygr was still cursing. Ignoring him again, Alice spun and looked behind her: even though the line of villagers still extended back to the square, it was now a considerable distance from her.
Alice seized Nygr’s collar and pushed him to the south, then pointed into the night sky and loudly called her beloved dragon:
Immediately, an energetic roar came from the sky. Alice’s raised right arm swept from east to west, and she shouted:
“— Burn everything!”
A storm of wings descended from the sky; Nygr and the abnormal demihumans — goblins that raced into the square all looked up at once.
The gigantic dragon descended by splitting the sky dyed red with flames, and opened its mouth wide. From the depth of its throat, bluish white light flashed—
A blinding beam rushed out. From the west road, the beam of heat sliced through the central square in front of the standing Alice and the sitting Barbossa, cutting into the east road.
In a split second.
Astonishing flames exploded in a straight line, releasing into the night sky. The goblins consumed by it were thrown into the air, shrieking.
The dragon fire that instantly annihilated at least twenty invaders evaporated the water in the fountain at the center of the square; white steam permeated the surroundings. Alice signaled for the passing Amayori to standby again, and checked behind her.
Nygr Barbossa lay on the stone stab as though he was paralyzed; his eyes were about to burst out of their sockets.
“Wh… wha… A… dra-dr-DR-DRAGON…!?”
As Alice was thinking about what happened to the taut-faced middle-aged man, from the other side of the steam approached footsteps of running at full tilt. Showing up were the men of Rulid guards in leather-armor. The early retreat proved to be a correct decision, as the guards who numbered roughly ten had suffered wounds, but there seemed to be no heavy injuries.
The tall youth impressively bringing up the rear, Guard Chief Jink, saw the empty square and shrieked in astonishment:
“Wh-where did the guys in the village go?! Did I not tell them to stay here and defend?!”
“I ordered them to retreat to the southern forest.”
Alice replied. Jink blinked as though he just noticed her and looked her up and down several times.
“You are… Alice…? Why are you…?”
“No time to explain. Are all of the guards here? Is there anyone you left behind?”
“Um… No, there shouldn’t be…”
“Good, then leave with everyone else. And yes, please take Barbossa-san with you as well.”
“B-but… those monsters are right in front…”
Before he even had time to finish—
A coarse scream filled the square.
“Where the heck are they— ! Where did the white Iums go— !”
Plunging out of the steam into the square were goblins, clad in crude sheet metal armor, clutching rough swords that resembled slabs of metal, and wearing long feathers on their heads. Seemingly not of the same tribe as the ones who had just been scorched by Amayori’s fire, their bodies were a little better built.
Alice stared at the demihumans and gripped her sword handle with her right hand. The dragon could not repeatedly breathe fire. Until Amayori could gather enough Thermal Elements again, Alice would have to face the main enemy force on her own.
One of the goblins sighted the shadow of Alice clad in golden armor; its eyes flashed yellow with frightening murderous hunger, as it shouted:
“GIHII!! An Ium woman!! Kill!! Kill and eat it!!”
Alice silently waited for the blade-wielding demihuman, who has abnormally long arms, to come near, muttering in her heart.
—What a terrifying power. So strong that existing can be considered a sin.
Existing as myself, an Integrity Knght
The thick blade that was swung down from high in the air was easily stopped by Alice’s left hand. Although the heavy impact traveled down her arm, there were no fractures of skin nor bone. She effortlessly gripped the blunt blade with her fingers and crushed it as though it were thin ice.
The pieces of metal fragmented, but before they hit the ground, the Fragrant Olive Sword was pulled out by Alice’s right hand and sliced across the goblin’s body.
Glowing in golden yellow, the sword generated a wind that twisted the three goblins near it into its path and blew away the surrounding mist. Without even knowing what happened, four of the round yellow-eyed enemy soldiers were separated at the middle and landed on the ground.
Alice stepped back to avoid the spray of blood and said to herself in her heart:
— Highest Minister Administrator. You had been wrong after all.
— You had concentrated such power into the bodies of just thirty Integrity Knights, sealed their thoughts and raised them as puppets. You wanted to use such a method to control the power that was supposed to be distributed to everyone of the Human World. But power that is too unbalanced will corrupt and disturb the one using it and the ones around them. Even someone as yourself was consumed by overwhelming power and became something inhuman…
With the Highest Administrator dead today, it was no longer possible to rectify that mistake.
Even so, she at least needed to use every last bit of this power for the people.
Not as an Integrity Knight of the Axiom Church but a swordswoman who thought according to her own will and fought according to her own determination. As the two brave swordsmen had before.
Maintaining her position to swing the sword all the way, Alice opened her left eye with determination.
At the same time, the temporary defensive line that was constructed north of the square was completely destroyed.
The wide road was full of the main enemy force. Goblins that numbered more than fifty, and orcs that were numbered less but were covered in metal armor and clutching huge tridents.
Seeing their yellow eyes that gave off bright and cold light, their screaming bodies that reeked of hatred and desire, the guards behind Jink and Nigel Barbossa let out moans of despair.
But Alice’s heart was very calm.
This was not an Integrity Knight’s strength. If they were surrounded by such a tremendous number and attacked with spears from all directions, even a knight would not walk away with minor scratches.
What gave Alice her power was but a new realization.
— From today on, I will fight for my own desires. I will fight to protect my sister, to protect my parents, and to protect this world that Kirito and Eugeo wanted to protect.
Alice clearly felt the self-doubt and powerlessness deep within her heart slowly evaporate in white light. That white light spread all around her body, all converging at her right eye that was covered with a black bandage, generating intense heat.
She clenched her teeth and endured the severe pain that penetrated her eye socket to the back of her head. But that was a pain she seemed to have felt before and made her feel slightly sad. Alice grasped the bandage tied to her head and tore it off.
She slowly opened the eye that had been closed for nearly half a year from that day. Red light radially flooded her black vision and became a flickering flame. It created a double image with her left eye that captured the scene of endless burning homes, which dislocated and slowly disappeared— finally combining together.
Alice looked with both eyes at the black fabric in her left hand.
This eyepatch that had been repeatedly washed and was slowly losing color was something Kirito had made by tearing a strip off of his own clothes. This piece of cloth that had protected the right eye that had been blown away along with the seal for several months, had reached the end of its Life; it began to slowly disappear from end to end as though it were melting in the air. Gazing at that ethereal yet beautiful sight, Alice realized it.
In this half year, she had originally planned to protect and take care of Kirito, who had lost his right arm and spirit. But the one protected was herself.
“…Thank you, Kirito.”
She said, holding the cloth that was close to disintegrating to her lips.
“… I’m fine now. I believe, from today on there will be all kind of confusion, frustration, and mistakes… but I will forge ahead. For you and for what I desire.”
The moment the cloth disappeared, she raised her head emphatically.
Her two eyes fixed ahead of her saw nearly a hundred goblins and orcs, screaming and shrieking as one, swarming into the square. From behind came the sounds of the guards and Nigel Barbossa’s fleeing footsteps.
Alice, who had to confront the enemy alone, felt not the slightest bit of fear in her heart.
She inhaled the burnt air and shouted:
“— I am Alice, a Knight of the Human World!! As long as I am here, the blood and massacre that you desire will not be realized!! Now return through the cave from whence you came!”
As though it was an omnipresent pressure, that awe-inspiring declaration caused the goblin vanguard to slow slightly in their advance. Immediately after, the tall orc in the middle of the formation who seemed to be the generals, swung its axe and let out a savage roar.
“GURAAA! You’re just a small Ium girl, I, the <Foot Cutting Morikka>-sama will smash you to the ground!”
The goblins regained their energy with this shout. Facing the black wave of enemy forces, Alice waited until they were within range—
By one name call, a gigantic shadow flew down at breakneck speed. Even though it had not generated enough Thermal Elements to breathe out, but the mere sight of a flying dragon and a thunderous roar enough to scare the demihumans flew menacingly over their heads. The troops, frightened by this, wavered even more than before.
Not hesitating for a second, Alice raised the Fragrance Olive Sword high, high into the air and shouted:
“— Enhance Armament!”
Even though she was chanting this after half a year out of practice, and even though it was an extremely simplified version of the <Armament Full Control Art> that had excluded almost the entire verse, Alice’s beloved sword still reflected her will. With a clear metallic sound, the golden blade split into countless small blades, dancing in the night sky as they reflected the fire.
“Engulf this place — flowers!”
With a whoosh, the blizzard of golden flowers poured towards the enemy.
The first one to be engulfed in a mist of blood was the self-proclaimed Orc general. His entire body was permeated by several bursts of flowers, wasting his entire Life away in an instant; he fell back onto the ground with a trembling crash. The surrounding Orcs screamed endlessly and keeled over.
The Fragrant Olive Sword was a Divine Instrument crafted from the wood of the world’s oldest tree in the center of the Human World from the beginning of the world. With another name of <Eternal Immortality>, it could split into hundreds of flower petals through the Armament Full Control Art, with each petal having enough power to go against a famous sword forged by a blacksmith. It was certainly not stoppable by crude cast-iron armor.
The main invading force that had lost its general in an instant was significantly less enthusiastic. The advancing vanguard slowed immediately and stopped within 10 Mel of the entrance to the square.
As the goblins at the very front were confused and unable to decide between desire and fear, Alice fiercely swung the sword hilt in her right hand. Hundreds of flower petals flew into the air softly and formed a finely patterned wall between Alice and the enemy.
Gazing at the demihumans through the golden lattice, Alice quietly declared:
“This is the wall that divides the Human World and the Land of Darkness. Even if you schemed to clear the cave, as long as I’m here, you will not pervert this land! Choose— will you march forward and surrender under a sea of blood, or will you turn around and run back to the Land of Darkness!”
Within five seconds, the goblin vanguard all suddenly turned around.
The lively sounds of knocking rose into the clear blue winter sky.
Alice put her hand to her forehead, watching the faraway wheat fields, besides which rose Rulid Village.
A week had passed since the attack by the Forces of Darkness.
Extending from the northern homes, almost one fifth of the village had burnt down, but the village chief decided for everyone to temporarily pause their Sacred Tasks and change to manual labor, so reconstruction was proceeding very quickly. Unfortunately, twenty one villagers had lost their lives because they were too slow during evacuation; a funeral had been held at the Church three days ago.
After Alice was invited to a ceremony, she immediately rode her dragon towards the Cave of the North to confirm.
The long tunnel that had been collapsed under Bercouli’s command had been widened to a width that could even allow tall Orcs to pass through. Within its depths, at the part nearest to the Dark Territory, Alice found evidence that there had been a long-term camp there.
The invaders could not have cleared the cave in one night. Apparently troops had been sent from the Dark Territory and then their pathway exploded behind them. When Integrity Knight Eldrie was checking that entrance, there were already goblins that had infiltrated the cave and began to clear the path.
Before, neither goblins nor orcs would have scheme such a plan so thoroughly. Just from this incident it could be determined that this time, the invasion from the Dark Side was not just a scouting mission like before.
Once Alice left the cave, she did not immediately collapse the cave, but temporarily blocked the stream flowing out of the center of what used to be the White Dragon Nest, flooding the entire cave. Lastly, she released numerous Cryogenic Elements that she had set up, and used ice instead of rock to seal the cave.
This way, if neither Alice nor a Thermal Element user of the same caliber could melt the ice, there would be no way anyone could pass through that cave again.
Turning her eyes from the white Mountain Range at the End, Alice tied the last travel bag onto Amayori’s foot straps.
Selka, who was holding back tears with all her might and helping with preparations for departure, lowered her head and spoke:
“…Father originally wanted to come and see you off. I always felt that he had been preoccupied since this morning. Father is… really happy that nee-sama has returned. I hope you can believe this about him…”
“I know, Selka.”
Alice gently hugged her sister’s small body, saying softly:
“I left this village having done a great sin, and came back as an Integrity Knight. But next time… when I’m finished with everything, I’ll come back simply as Alice Schuberg. I think, then, I can definitely say it. ‘I’ve returned, Father’.”
“…Yes. That day will definitely come.”
Selka responded, her words mixed with sobs. She raised her head and firmly wiped away her tears with the sleeve of her monastic robes.
Turning to the youth clad in black sunk into the wheelchair besides them, she spoke jovially:
“Kirito needs to perk up as well, become better again and help my nee-sama.”
After she had gently hugged the bowed head and said a prayer for good luck, the young nun backed away several steps.
Alice walked to Kirito’s side and gently took the two swords from him and secured them to Amayori’s saddle. She then gently carried the youth’s frail body and sat him onto the front of the saddle.
She had considering leaving Kirito at the village with Selka. If she had left from the front of east gate, Alice would be busy as the main force of the Human World Defense Force on the front lines, and would definitely be unable to stay by Kirito’s side all day like she was currently.
But Alice still decided to take him with her.
On the night of the attack one week ago, Kirito had definitely wanted to take up his sword and enter the village. It was his nature to fight for others. Then, the only thing that could bring back his heart was probably the battle to protect the Human World.
If there is a change, even if she had to tie him to her back, she would protect him to the death.
Alice tightly hugged Selka for the last time.
“…Then, I’m going, Selka.”
“Yeah. Be careful… Definitely come back, Nee-sama.”
“I promise. …Say hello to Garrita-ji for me. …Stay safe and study hard.”
“I know. I’ll definitely become an outstanding nun… and then, I will, too, one day…”
She slowly stroked her sister’s head, and after letting go, Alice slowly and reluctantly walked towards her beloved dragon, sitting behind Kirito on the dragon’s back.
Nodding deeply to her sister on the ground, she turned her eyes towards the faraway blue sky.
Gently casting away the rope, the dragon ran with tremendous force in the wheat field, oblivious to the weight of the two people and three swords on its back.
There will definitely be a day when she would return to this village.
Even if she wasted away on the battlefield, her heart would remain the same.
Alice wiped away a tear on her eyelashes and let out a sharp shout:
With a floating feeling, they left the ground.
Amayori rode the rising air current, twisting into the sky.
The wide land and forests, with Rulid Village shining in their center, and the figure of Selka who was running and waving with all her might; she engraved them deeply into her eyes—
Alice turned the head of the dragon towards the eastern sky.