[SAO V15] Chapter 17 – Dark Territory (25% completion)

NOTE: Part 3 has not been completely edited for accuracy yet, but it is pretty accurate.

Translation of Chapter 17 of Volume 15 of Sword Art Online, at 25% completion.

Any feedback would be amazing.

Credits:

Translation – defan752

Terminology – Tap, SAO Wiki

Proofreading – DarthMewtwo, CJ, Yuki

Japanese Version Parallel – CJ


SAO V15 War of the Underworld

SAO V15 Ocean Turtle

Within the «Ocean Turtle» 

The base for the disguised company «RATH» constructed to undergo «Project Alicization», development of a Bottom-Up artificial intelligence, is the independent large-scale floating carrier «Ocean Turtle».

Within the enormous pyramid-shaped «Ocean Turtle», STL Room One and STL Room Two each contain two «Soul Translators» needed to log into the «Underworld». The «Soul Translator» used by Kirito to log into the «Underworld» is within STL Room Two.

At the center of the «Ocean Turtle» there are stored the «souls» of the inhabitants of the «Underworld», which is the «Light Cube Cluster» of the artificial Fluctlights.

Gabriel’s group’s mission is to eject Alice’s artificial Fluctlight from this gigantic mass of Light Cubes through a vacuum tube.


Chapter 17: Dark Territory

1

Before the dragon came to a stop, Dark Knight Lipia Zankehl jumped down from its back and ran with full strength across the takeoff pad into the footbridge that connected to the Imperial Palace.

Quickly feeling difficulty breathing, she used her right hand to remove the helmet that covered her face.

Gray-blue long hair billowed out with a flourish. Adjusting it with her left hand and tossing it behind her back, Lipia further quickened her pace. She really wanted to take off her stuffy cloak and armor, but did not want the consuls crawling about the Imperial Palace to see one inch of her skin.

After she sprinted through the winding corridor, between the round columns on her right, a colossal black city erected under the backdrop of the red sky appeared in sight.

Imperial Palace Obsidia was the tallest structure of all in the boundless Land of Darkness — Of course, this did not include the tabooed «Mountain Range at the End» — carved out of the rocky mountains and constructed over a hundred years.

From the throne on the highest floor, it was said to be just possible to glimpse the Mountain Range at the End standing far away in the east, and the great gate embedded in the mountain.

But, there has been no one to confirm the veracity of this rumor for hundreds of years.

After the First Emperor, also the God of Darkness Vector, returned to the underground darkness in ancient times, the Throne of the Land of Darkness had always been empty. The great gate on the highest floor was sealed by a lock with infinite Life, left eternally unopened.

Lipia turned her eyes away from the peak of the pitch-black castle and called to the ogre guards at the castle gate straight ahead:

“In the name of the Eleventh Dark Knight Zankehl! Open the gate!!”

The wolf-headed guards were quite well-built, but turned their heads very slowly; by the time they turned the lever of the opening mechanism, Lipia had arrived at the cast iron gate.

The door made deep “gu, gung” sounds as it opened a sliver; Zankehl slipped sideways through the gap.

She had not seen the castle for three months, yet what welcomed Lipia was the same cold air.

The [Kobolds] doggedly scrubbed the corridors every day, making them spotless. As she ran, her armor clanking on the obsidian slabs, two flirtatiously dressed women showing skin here and there glided over soundlessly.

On top of their shiny, wavy hair, they wore large, pointy hats announcing their statuses as Dark Sorceresses. Lipia intended to ignore them and brush past, but one of the women sharply raised her voice in an exaggerated manner:

“Uwa, how noisy! Is an orc or something running?!”

Then, the other responded with a slight laugh:

“It caaan’t beee, these tremors have to be those of a Giant!”

— If combat were not prohibited within the city, she would have sliced off their tongues long ago.

Lipia thought. She snorted and raced on.

The Human females born in the Land of Darkness usually entered the Dark Sorcery Guild after graduating from Training Schools. The Guild was an organization of extreme indulgence, teaching debauchery instead of rules. As a result, it produced people interested only in decorating themselves, just like the two who walked by.

Even so, they held great antagonism towards women who chose to become Knights. When she was a youngster in the Training Schools, Lipia had been cursed with poisonous insects by a Sorceress who did not get along with her. Things settled down after she drew her sword and sliced off the Sorceress’s proudly tied hair.

In any case, there were only idiots with no ambition in this country.

Often competing, no matter if it were organizations or individuals, basing every decision on the degree of power, the Land of Darkness had no future.

Although danger could be balanced due to the «Ten Feudal Lords Meetings», it was unable to hold for much longer. If, in the imminent battle with the Human World — termed the «Ium Country» by Orcs and Goblins, a few of the Ten Feudal Lords were to die, the balance would be broken, and everything would become a chaos of bloodlust once more.

The one who told of this future to Lipia, was one of the Ten Feudal Lords, the Commander of the Dark Knights whom she directly reported to, and also her loved one.

And now, Lipia had confidential intelligence that he was anticipating.

Therefore, she would not waste a second to curb the Sorceress’ taunts.

Cutting straight through the empty lobby and flying up the wide staircase two steps at a time. Even with plenty of exercise, she was panting and drenched in sweat once she arrived on the right floor.

With the Land of Darkness divided by negotiation between them, among the Ten Feudal Lords, five were Humans, two were Goblins, and the rest were vanguards of the Orcs, Ogres, and Giants. After nearly a hundred years of civil war, they finally agreed on a document similar to a treaty, and ended up with regulations keeping the Five Races in equal standing.

Because of this, on the 18th floor, near the top floor of Obsidia, there were private rooms for each of the Ten Feudal Lords. Lipia dampened her footsteps in the round corridor, and gently knocked  three times with her right hand on the door of the innermost room.

“Come in.”

A deep voice replied immediately.

Lipia glanced left and right in the corridor; after confirming that there was no one, she quickly opened the door and slipped inside.

The decorations within the room were as low profile as possible. Breathing in the manly smell floating in the air, Lipia genuflected and bowed her head.

“Knight Lipia Zankehl; I have returned.”

“Good work. Come, sit.”

Suppressing her excitement, Lipia raised her head and looked towards the owner of the strong voice.

On the other side of the round table, there was a man sitting in a long armchair with his feet propped high: the Dark Knight Commander — Biksul Ul Shasta, also known as the «Dark General».

As a Human, he possessed an outstanding figure. Although his shoulders were not as broad as those of an Ogre, he did not seem to lose in terms of height. His head of jet-black hair was trimmed very short, and his moustache was very neat.

His bulging muscles nearly popped the buttons off of his plain linen shirt, yet there was not a hint of fat on his waist. Although he maintained a perfect body that looked not a day older than 40, since he had ascended to the topmost throne of the Knights, not many people knew that he continued to undergo a harsh exercise routine every day.

Seeing her lover for the first time in three months, Lipia had to resist the urge to fly into his embrace, instead sitting in the sofa opposite Shasta.

Shasta raised his upper body and handed one of the crystal glasses on the table to Lipia, then broke the seal on what appeared to be aged wine.

“I really wanted to have a glass with you, so I swiped a bottle from the Treasury yesterday.”

Winking, he poured the fragrant, crimson liquid into his glass. His expression was that of a mischievous child, completely the same as his former self.

“Th…Thank you, Your Excellency.”

“How many times have I told you not to call me that when we’re alone?”

“But… I’m still on a mission.”

Shasta shrugged helplessly and they clinked glasses politely. Lipia sipped the expensive wine and felt the Life she had expended on her long journey slowly recovering.

“…Okay, so.”

After downing a glass himself, he poured himself another one and changed to a serious expression, asking in a low voice:

“The [Matter of Importance] that you sent a familiar for: what is it?”

“It’s…”

Lipia looked to her left and right, then leaned forward. Although Shasta was often candid, he was quite vigilant. This room had many heavy protection spells cast upon it; even the Witch, leader of the Sorcery Guild, would be unable to listen in. Even though she knew this, the intel she had brought was so important that she couldn’t resist lowering her voice.

Staring straight into Shasta’s black pupils, Lipia said simply:

“The Highest Minister of the Axiom Church of the Human World… is dead.”

In an instant, even the Dark General widened his eyes in shock.

A long, deep sigh broke the silence.

“Is this… real…? I know it’s discourteous to ask like this, and I’m not suspicious of your intel… but… that undead…”

“Yes… I completely understand your feelings. I was unable to believe it myself, but after a week of confirmation, there is no error. I made sure by planting «Earworms» in the Central Cathedral.”

“What? That was very reckless. If you were traced, you would’ve been unable to leave the capital, and dismembered by now.”

“Yes. But, since a spell of this caliber has not been detected, it proves that this intel is accurate.”

“…Mm…”

Filling his second glass of wine, Shasta’s strong-willed face lowered slightly.

“—When, did that happen? Also, what was the cause of death?”

“About half a year ago…”

“Half a year. Indeed, their guard on the Mountain Range had probably been slightly loose at that time.”

“Yes. About the cause of death of the Highest Minister… This is quite unbelievable, but they are said to be [slaughtered by a sword]…”

“By a sword. —You mean that someone cut that undead?”

“Impossible.”

Lipia shook her head at the slack-jawed Shasta.

“I’m afraid, even if it’s the undead, they have finally depleted their Life. But it was probably to save the spirit of the Highest Minister known as a God, to say some empty words like that…”

“Mm… My guess as well. But… Dead, the Highest Minister Administrator…”

Shasta closed his eyes, crossed his arms, and leaned back into the armchair.

After thinking deeply for a while like this, he opened his eyes with a short mutter.

“Opportunity.”

Lipia instantly held her breath and replied in a small voice:

“What opportunity?”

She immediately got an answer.

“Obviously… One of peace.”

As a word too dangerous to utter in this city, it quickly melted in the air of the room and dissipated.

“Do you consider it… possible, Your Excellency?”

Facing the softly questioning Lipia, Shasta fixed his gaze on the red liquid within his glass, and slowly, but deeply, nodded.

“No matter if it’s possible or not, we must achieve it regardless.”

Downing the wine with a gulp, he continued:

“The Life of the «Great Gate» that has divided the Human World and the Land of Darkness since the world was created is about to be depleted. A large-scale invasion of the sun and land-nourished Human World awaited by the Army of Five Dark Races, you can say is the arrow poised on the bow. In the last Ten Feudal Lords Meeting, there was a large quarrel just about dividing the land, riches, and slaves of the Human World. They are really… an incurable bunch of gluttons.”

At Shasta’s direct and unrestricted speech, Lipia recoiled slightly.

Different from the Human World that had the «Taboo Index», a thick book of law, to rule the nation, there was only one law in the Land of Darkness. That was — seize by force.

In a certain sense, compared with the other nine Feudal Lords whose thirst for power could not be quenched even if they obtained the highest authority, it could be said that Shasta’s consideration of peace with the Human World was heresy.

However, Lipia was deeply fascinated with this man because of his unique thoughts. Besides, unlike the servant women attending to their master, Lipia was not taken by force. Shasta had presented a bouquet on bended knee and convinced Lipia with his truthful words.

Oblivious of his lover wandering in such thoughts, Shasta continued with added gravity:

“… But, they underestimate the Humans too much. Especially, the «Integrity Knights» that have protected the Human World for three hundred years.”

Hearing this name, Lipia nodded, her head growing cold.

”Sure… They are skillful to a frightening extent.”

“They have, quite literally, the strength of a thousand in one. In the long history of the Dark Knights, countless have been slain by the Integrity Knights, but it has never happened the other way around. Their swordsmanship is so excellent, and the Divine Instruments that they carry are powerful beyond measure… Even I have only brought one to an impasse a few times, but I couldn’t manage to kill them. Of course, my defeats definitely number many.”

“That is… due to their usage of mystifying techniques, such as releasing fire or blinding beams from their swords…”

“«Armament Full Control Art». Even though we’ve had our Technique Research Department study it for a long time, we’re still unable to break it down. Just to go up against that skill, even a hundred Goblin Soldiers wouldn’t be enough.”

“Even though you say that… Our army numbers 50,000 while the Integrity Knights number only about thirty. Can we not suppress them with sheer volume…?”

At Lipia’s words, Shasta scratched his moustache with a sarcastic air.

“Didn’t I just say that they have the strength of a thousand in one? If you calculate it, we will lose 30,000 from our army.”

“Why would… It can’t be that many.”

“Hm, yeah. Even though this method of calculation is disheartening, we’ll be pushing forward in the battle with our Knights, Ogres, and Giants, the Dark Sorcerers would be using long-range explosive attacks at the rear, and we’d eventually exhaust the Integrity Knights. But after their last Knight falls, it’s hard to imagine how much we would have lost. Perhaps not 30,000, but losing half is certainly possible.”

The crystal glass was set onto the table with a hard sound.

Shasta extended a hand to stop Lipia, who was about to refill his glass, and sunk his back into his armchair.

“…And the result, would of course be an imbalance in power between the Five Races of Darkness. The Ten Feudal Lords Meeting would become meaningless, and the treaty of equality between the Five Races would leave only its name. If it goes down like that, the «Age of Iron and Blood» that ended a hundred years ago would return. No, it would be worse. Because this time, the everlasting honeyed sea of the Humans would be in front of us. Deciding how to divide that piece of land would take more than a hundred years of war…”

This was the worst future scenario that Shasta often feared and mentioned repeatedly to Lipia. What was worse, the nine other Feudal Lords apart from Shasta did not think that this was the worst future at all — on the contrary, they were looking forward to it.

Lipia lowered her head, gazing at the gleaming light exuded by her pitch-black full body armor, which had been her partner ever since her entrance into Knighthood.

Twice as short as other kids when she was young, Lipia could never become a Knight if she had been born in the «Age of Iron and Blood»; she would have been sold to human traffickers, or abandoned outside the city, ending her short life there.

Although it was shady, she was still thankful for that peace treaty, as she had not been sold into slavery but instead entered the Youth School, benefited from a late-blooming talent in swordsmanship, and ascended to a nearly unattainably high position for a Human female.

Ever since she had become a Knight, Lipia had been gathering children who were abandoned by their parents from remote places rife with human trafficking, and took care of them until they were able to enter school. She used nearly all of her income to run a childcare center like this.

She kept this a secret not only from her colleagues, but even from Shasta. She was unable to explain it herself; why would she do such a thing.

It was just that—

Lipia could not help feeling odd about this country, in which power dominates all. Although she had not the wisdom of Shasta, to be able to turn her thoughts into clear words, she felt that there should be a better, more appropriate form of this country — no, the entire Underworld, including the Human World.

Lipia hazily understood that this so-called new world, is far beyond the peace that Shasta proposed. At the same time, as a woman she was desperate to help the man she loved in order to realize his dream.

But.

“…But, how do you plan to convince the other Feudal Lords, Your Excellency? Not to mention… Would the Integrity Knights accept a negotiation for peace?”

Lipia inquired in a small voice.

“…Hm…”

Shasta closed his eyes, his right hand playing with his elaborate moustache. Eventually, he murmured bitterly:

“About the Integrity Knights, there is still a turn for the better. As the Highest Minister is now dead, the main commander should now be that old man Bercouli. Although he’s a sly old fox, he’s still a reasonable man. The problem… still lies with the Ten Feudal Lords Meeting. On this side… although it may seem to conflict with our goal…”

Deep within his raised eyelids, two sharply gleaming eyes stared at the ceiling.

“— Seems like we have to slash a few. At least four.”

Lipia gasped in shock and leaned forward:

“Four, you say, Your Excellency…? If my assumption is right, it can only be the two Goblin chiefs, the Orc chief, and…”

“The Leader of the Dark Sorcery Guild. That woman has always been filled with wild desire for Administrator’s secret to immortality, and the day that she ascends to the Emperor’s Throne. She would definitely not accept the proposition of peace.”

“B-but!”

Lipia objected in a strained voice.

“That’s too reckless, Your Excellency! Even though the Goblin and Orc elders may not stand against your sword… We do not know what kind of despicable trick the Dark Sorceress would use!”

Even after Lipia finished, Shasta was silent.

But what he said completely took her by surprise.

“Hey, Lipia. How long have you been coming here to me?”

“Hah? It’s… A-about… Ever since I turned 21… Four years.”

“It’s been that long, huh. … I apologize for always keeping you in a shadow of doubt. How about… It’s time, uh, well….”

Rotating his eyes and scratching his head with a rustle, the Dark Knight Commander opened his mouth roughly:

“…Would you, officially, marry me? If you don’t mind me as a middle-aged man.”

“E…Excellency…”

Lipia opened her eyes, unable to speak.

She felt a heat slowly seeping out from deep within her heart, and just as she was about to unhesitantly fly into her lover’s embrace…

From the other side of the thick great door, a clear, loud voice as sharp as a whip pierced right through the wide room.

“Big news!! This is some BIG news!! AAHH, what on earth is happening!! Feudal Lords, come with me, quickly, QUICKLY!!”

She faintly remembered this voice: it belonged to one of the Feudal Lords, the head of the Commerce and Industry Guild.

Uncharacteristic of the huge, burly figure in Lipia’s memory, the scream continued completely unexpectedly:

“It’s THE MOST important event EVER!! — In-inside the Throne Room! The sealing lock! It’s SHAKIIIING!!”

2

Under the identity of Emperor Vector, Gabriel Miller, dominating the Throne Room, surveyed the artificial Fluctlights prostrated on the ground with a hint of awe.

They were all photon information sealed in Light Cubes with each edge two inches long. Even so, in this world, they were true humans with intellect and souls. As expected, however, out of the ten in a line at the very front, half of them were strange-looking monsters.

The ten generals who were called «Feudal Lords» and the Knights and Sorcerers who trailed behind them, and the garrisoned army of 50,000 outside the city, were all [Units] given to Gabriel. From now on, he must appropriately utilize these pawns to annihilate the defenses of the Human World and capture «Alice».

But, unlike real-time strategy games in the real world, these Units were not freely controllable with a mouse and keyboard. They must be led and ordered with presence and spoken word.

Gabriel rose wordlessly from the throne, took a few steps forward, and turned to look into a mirror hung on the wall.

What reflected was himself, wearing a look that was in slightly bad taste.

Only the shape of his face and his extremely light brown hair were the same as Gabriel’s look in the real world. But, a black metal crown encrusted with a crimson crystal rested on his head; on top of a black suede undershirt and pants, he wore a luxurious midnight fur gown. A rapier gleaming with a dreamy phosphorescence hung from his waist, and his boots and gloves were weaved with silver embroidery. On his back, he wore a blood red long cape.

Turning his eyes to the right, a step below the throne, he saw a Knight with both hands behind his head, frantically looking around.

Inside a suit of armor gleaming deep purple like a gemstone was Vassago Cazares, who had logged in at the same time as Gabriel. Although he had already been told not to speak without restraint before the situation is in control , he still resisted expressing his impress with slangs with a difficult expression, clanking around in his shoes.

Gabriel shook his head slightly, and pulled his eyes back to himself in the mirror.

He was used to tailor-made suits, so this attire felt very uncomfortable anyway. But, in this «Underworld», Gabriel was not the CTO of a private military company.

He was the emperor who ruled the boundless Dark Territory.

Also — he was a god.

Gabriel closed his eyes, took a slow, deep breath, and exhaled.

Somewhere in his consciousness, the role he was playing as switched from the [Tough Commander] to a [Merciless Emperor] with a click.

Opening his eyes again, as he turned, tossing back his crimson cape, Gabriel — Vector, the God of Darkness, glared at the ten Generals and said with an absolutely inhuman tone that resounded in the Throne Room:

“Lift your heads and report your names. —You go first.”

The kneeling middle-aged man at the left of the frontmost line jerked up with an unexpectedly quick motion and reported his name in fluent Japanese.

“Y, y-yes, Your Majesty! I am Lengil Gira Scobo, head of the Commerce and Industry Guild!”

Besides the man who lowered his head and prostrated again, an enormous figure as large as a small mountain began to move.

On the body of a Demihuman that stood nearly 12 feet tall, glossy black chains were hung in a cross, with the skins of some wild beast wrapped around its waist. Vigorously raising its face along with its weirdly long nose, the Demihuman introduced itself with a deep voice, so low that it sounded like the ground was shaking:

“Elder of the Giants, Sigrosig.”

While Gabriel was having difficulty in swallowing the fact that this monster had intelligence and a soul, the third man let out an annoying, hoarse sound:

“…Leader of the Assassin Guild… Fer Za…”

When compared to the Giant, the figure in hooded robe was so skinny that it seemed insubstantial; its age cannot be determined, let alone its gender.

Although Gabriel wanted for a split second to order it to raise its head so he could see its face, he considered that Assassins must have some rule that forbid them to expose their appearances, so he put that aside and turned towards the next general.

Then, with great effort, he managed to hold back a frown.

The existence that was the absolute embodiment of “ugly” sat motionlessly in front of him. It was unable to kneel as its legs were too short. A chubby, rotund stomach filled with fat gave off an oily luster; on a neck that was combined with shoulders dangled skulls of small animals.

The head on top looked 70% pig and 30% human. With a protruding, flat nose, and a mouth with visible teeth, only its small, beady eyes flashed with human intellect, making this even more disturbing.

“Elder of the Orcs, Rilpirin.”

Hearing this high and sharp voice, Gabriel immediately wondered whether it was male or female, but instantly abandoned this thought. Since it was an Orc, it would definitely be a low-level Unit in the army. Just something disposable.

Then, what could be described as a boy raised his head and energetically saluted. His reddish golden hair was curled, and he wore only a leather belt on his sun-tanned copper-colored upper body. Putting skintight leather pants and sandals on the lower body, and both hands clad in punching gloves decorated with metallic square nails.

“Tenth Generation Champion of the Fighter’s Guild, Iskhan!!”

Gabriel looked at the youngster who shouted full of energy, and thought for a moment. A fist fighter is a boxer, isn’t he? A soldier for empty-handed combat?

As he was thinking, there suddenly came the “grrrh” moan of a beast.

The one who suddenly raised its head was a Demihuman who was not as tall and muscular as a giant, but possessed a body far from that of a human. Its upper body was nearly completely covered with long hairs. Judging by its completely beast-like head, those hairs weren’t clothing, but its own fur.

It looked a lot like a wolf. A protruding snout, saw-like teeth, and triangular ears. An incoherent noise leaked from its mouth, from which hung a long tongue:

Gurr… Elder… of the Ogres… Furgur…. Rrr…”

Although Gabriel didn’t know whether that was a name or mere mumbling, he nodded lightly and looked towards the next position.

Just then came an earsplitting shrill squeak:

“I am Hagasi, Elder of the Mountain Goblins! Your Majesty, please grant our brave race the honorable position of the vanguard!!”

The owner of the voice was a short Demihuman with a monkey-like bald head with two thin, long, protruding ears. No matter if it was by height or muscle mass, it was far, far off from the Giant, Orc, Ogre, or even Human who had previously reported their names.

According to the explanation that Critter had provided before they Dived in, in this Dark Territory, there was only one rule. That was, [power dominates all]. If so, what power did the Goblins have in order to be promoted to a position comparable to other races while they seemed weak no matter how he looked at it?

No matter what, although it was the lowest-level Unit, lower even than Orcs, Gabriel looked at the Mountain Goblin’s face with slight interest, and nodded lightly to himself as a sign of successfully answering his own question: it was because of the extreme, intense lust swirling in the Mountain Goblin’s small eyes.

Just as the Elder of the Mountain Goblin finished his sentence, the Demihuman besides him who differed only in skin color shrieked in the same way:

“That’s ridiculous! Compared to those guys, we’ll serve Your Majesty ten times more effectively! I am the Elder of the Plains Goblins, Kuberi!”

“What the hell are you saying, you slug-eater? Has your brain swelled up because of the wet mud!?”

“You’re the one who dried up your noodles in the sun!!”

In front of the two cursing shrilly at each other—

Pachi! Blue sparks flew forth as the Goblin leaders jumped out of the way, shrieking.

“—-You two are in the presence of His Majesty the Emperor!”

With a flirtatious voice, a young female wrapped in clothing that exposed much of her skin retracted her raised right hand. The sparks faded away as soon as she rubbed her thumb on her index finger, as though igniting a lighter flame.

She slowly stood up, bowed as though she was flaunting her full body and coquettish looks and saluted exaggeratedly. To Gabriel’s right, Vassago whistled softly, as if he couldn’t help it.

Her mocha-colored skin gleamed as if it had been brushed with oil; her chest and waist were covered only with enamel leather. Her boots were needle-like high-heeled boots. On her back hung a fur mantle shining black and silver. Long platinum blonde hair hung below her waist.

Her eye-shadow and lipstick were the color of water; seductively narrowing her light blue eyes brighter than her makeup, the woman reported her name:

“Leader of the Dark Sorcerer Guild, D.I.L. I have 3,000 Sorcerers under my command, and my body and soul all belong to Your Majesty.”

To these flirtatious movements and tempting voice, Gabriel, who had never been controlled by sexual desire, merely nodded.

The Witch called D blinked a few times, as though she wanted to say something else, but only saluted and kneeled again.

A wise decision, Gabriel thought, and turned his eyes onto the last general Unit.

The silently genuflecting figure here was a Human, but a middle-aged man of surprising size.

His full-body black armor had innumerable scratches on it, but still shone with a blurred glow. On the bowed face, there were visible light scars on his forehead and the bridge of his nose as well.

Without lifting his face up, a slightly rough baritone came out of the bowed man’s mouth.

“Dark Knight Commander Biksul Ul Shasta. Before devoting my sword… I wish to ask Your Majesty.”

The face that suddenly rose shared the same serious qualities as the few [real soldiers] that Gabriel had seen.

Especially, behind those sharp eyes, there was a certain kind of determination that was completely missing from the other nine generals. The Knight called Shasta stared at Gabriel with a gaze that looked almost piercing, and continued in a low voice:

“What, is Your Majesty looking forward to, returning to the Throne at this moment?”

As expected — These men are not simple programs.

I must remind myself of this constantly, Gabriel thought, and with the mask of a [Merciless Emperor], produced an ice-cold response:

“Blood and terror. Flames and destruction. Death and screaming.”

V15 Vector and Shasta

Gabriel’s hard voice that resembled sliced metal resounded in the hall; the expressions of all ten generals tightened immediately.

Looking one by one at the ten faces, Gabriel flipped his robe, raised his right hand and pointed at the western sky.

From within his mouth, lines filled with false desire for conquest automatically erupted:

“…Of the western land loaded with the powers of the gods who exiled me from the heavens, the protective «Great Gate» will now fall. I have returned… To proclaim my power to all!”

From Critter, he had learned the most he could about the «Final Load Test» that was about to commence after a week in internal time. Gabriel added the information to his tirade, continuing in a dramatic tone:

“When the Gate falls, the Human World shall fall into the hands of my subjects, the People of Darkness! All I desire is the «Holy Maiden» that shall appear in that land by then! I shall grant you all the right to do with all other Humans as you wish! The promised time that all People of Darkness awaited — has arrived!!”

The air that had become silent once again—

Was shattered by shrill, savage screams.

Giiii!! Kiilll!! Kill those white Iiiuuums!!”

The one stamping its feet and screaming was the Orc leader, its eyes rolling with anger and desire. Immediately, two Goblins raised their arms and followed suit.

Hooooou!! War!! War!!”

Urra——!! War, war——!!”

The battle cry instantly spread to other generals and the officers behind them. The black robes among the Assassin Guild billowed along with bodies as thin as twigs; the Witches among the Dark Sorcerer Guild released colorful sparks with flirtatious shrieks.

In the entire wide hall that was filled with primal howls—

Gabriel noticed that only the Knight called Shasta maintained his kneeling position, without a sliver of movement.

Was it due to a soldier’s self-control, or was it due to certain inner thoughts? It was indiscernible from the statue-like armor.

 

***

 

“I didn’t expect bro to have that kind of talent! Ain’t it better for you to become an actor?!”

Gabriel snorted at Vassago’s wretched grin, who threw a bottle of wine to Gabriel.

“Only when necessary. It’d be better for you to remember the speaking techniques just now. Since your rank is higher than theirs.”

He popped the cork of the bottle with his finger; holding some of the ruby-colored liquid in his mouth, he wondered whether he should drink during a mission.

Vassago crudely drank the vintage wine as though it was beer; he belched and replied as he wiped his mouth:

“Compared with orders or playing the part or whatever, I just wanna kill on the front line. You don’t Dive into this powerful VR everyday… This wine, this bottle, everything looks real to me.”

“Comparatively, it’s going to hurt and bleed if you’re cut. The Pain Absorber doesn’t work in here.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

Vassago smirked and shrugged. Gabriel set his bottle down on the table and stood up from the sofa.

The top floor of Obsidia was the Emperor’s private room. It was not inferior at all compared to the lavish decor in the office of GlowGen DS headquarters, and in addition, the faraway night scenery was visible from an enormous window. Although not as bright and colorful as that of San Diego, it had a different, fantasy look.

The ten generals with the statuses of Feudal Lords left the castle to prepare for battle, and torchlights danced non-stop, belonging to the porters moving resources from the storage rooms.

The Head of the Commerce and Industry Guild, who had the role of replenishing supplies, had been ordered to deplete all stored stocks of food and equipment in the city, so the soldiers should not suffer from cold or hunger.

Turning his eyes away from the countless lights, Gabriel walked to a corner of the room, touching the purple crystal plate that was set there — a system console.

He rapidly manipulated the menu and pressed the button to call an external observer. The time acceleration ratio decreased, and with a strange feeling of going back to 1:1, he heard Critter’s quick-mouthed voice:

“Captain?! I literally just came back to the control room after watching you Dive in!!”

“It’s already the first night here. Although I understand it, time acceleration is quite fascinating. Anyway, everything is proceeding as planned. The preparation of the Units will be finished in one or two days, and in two days, an attack against the Human Empire is planned.”

“Great. Remember, after securing «Alice», please bring her there and use the menu to eject her into the Main Control Room, then «Alice»’s Light Cube will be ours. Also, please tell that idiot Vassago what I said.”

As though he had heard Critter, Vassago’s short curse came from behind.

“I can’t operate with administrator privileges right now, so reconfiguring account data is impossible. In other words, Captain, if you or Vassago [die] in that world, you can no longer use that super account. You’ll only be able to start over with a small soldier!”

“Yeah… I know. I won’t go to the front lines for now. Any movement from the JSDF?”

“None right now. It seems like they haven’t noticed you guys Diving in yet.”

“Good. Then, I’ll cut the connection now. The next time I contact you, it’ll be when we’re preparing to leave after securing Alice.”

“Understood, good luck.”

He closed the communication window, and with a slight sense of incongruity, the world returned to the accelerated ratio.

Vassago was still aside, muttering and cursing while wrestling with a buckle on his armor, and finally threw off all of his outerwear; he stood up in just a leather shirt and pants.

“Hey, bro. Why not go have some fun in the city… We can’t, can we?”

“Just resist the temptation for now. After getting the target, I’ll give you a night.”

“Understood. So, no killing no women for today… Then I’ll head off to bed like a good boy. The room over there is mine.”

His joints creaking as he stretched, Vassago disappeared into a neighboring bedroom, and Gabriel took off his crown, exhaling.

He put his gown and robe on the sofa, and threw his sword on top.

In VR games he had played before, the equipment he took off would return to the item storage, but it seems like there were no such conveniences in this world. After a month of living in this room, it would become extremely messy, but he would be leaving the castle the day after tomorrow, and the next time he came back it would be time to log out.

As he unbuttoned his shirt and opened the door across from Vassago’s room, Gabriel’s eyes narrowed in surprise.

In the frighteningly large bedroom, besides the colossal luxury bed — there was a small silhouette, kneeled on the ground.

He should have already ordered everyone, including the servants, not to enter the floor above the Throne Room. There was actually someone who would defy the order of a god; what on earth was this?

For a split-second he wanted to go back and get his sword, but Gabriel entered the bedroom anyway, and closed the door.

“…Who is it?”

He called shortly.

The answer was a slightly hoarse voice.

“…Please allow me to serve as your sleeping partner [1] tonight.”

“Huh?”

Furrowing his brow in surprise, Gabriel slowly walked to the bed in the dark bedroom.

The one with both hands on the ground actually was a young woman in thin clothes. Her ash-blue hair was tied high with a decorative ribbon. From the slightly visible lines, he could not see signs of any weapons.

He sat down on the vibrantly colored silk sheets and inquired:

“Whose order was this?”

After a slight pause, the woman replied in a thin voice:

“Nobody… This is only my duty.”

“Is that so?”

Gabriel turned away his eyes and fell back in the center of the bed.

Seconds later, the woman straightened her upper body and glided onto his right side without a sound.

“Please excuse me…”

Even Gabriel could not help but marvel at the beauty of the exotic-looking lady whispering to him. Her skin tone was slightly dark, but the area around her cheekbones revealed a noble temperament of someone from somewhere in Northern Europe.

Watching the woman softly undo her thin clothing and prepare to loosen her decorative hair tie, Gabriel experienced a certain moving.

Would an artificial Fluctlight actually do something like this?

Even this lady is still not an incomplete AI? If so, to what extent of completion would the finished Alice have achieved?

What moved Gabriel, were not the actions of the woman devoting her body.

It was not like that—

She quickly pulled a small, sharp knife out of her hair and raised it high as Gabriel predicted.

Gabriel grabbed the woman’s hand with ease and his other hand flashed, snatching the woman’s throat and pushing her down onto the bed.

“Kuh…!!”

The woman clenched her teeth tightly and fought back with all her might, attempting to thrust the small knife. Her wrist strength was greater than expected, but not enough to make Gabriel nervous. He twisted the woman’s arm all the way back, and lightly pressed his thumb into her windpipe, restricting her movements.

Although the woman’s face contorted in excruciating pain, the determination flashing in her gray eyes did not weaken in the slightest. From her fierce expression just now, her incomplete makeup and toned body, she was definitely not a professional Assassin. This meant the one with rebellious thoughts was not the leader of the Assassins, Fer Za, but one of the other nine generals — most likely within the Human generals.

Edging his face slightly closer, Gabriel repeated the same question he had asked before.

“Whose order is this?”

She replied with the same tone.

“It is my own… will.”

“Then, to whom do you report?”

“…Nobody.”

“Hmph.”

Gabriel thought as a machine without any sliver of emotion.

«RATH» wanted to break the boundaries of an artificial Fluctlight, which was their nature to be unable to disobey all rules, laws, and orders from people of a higher priority.

Compared to the Human World Fluctlights bound by countless laws, the inhabitants of the Dark Territory seemed able to live more freely, but their nature had not changed. It was only because there was but one rule for the Fluctlights here that they felt free on the surface.

That rule was [power dominates all]. This was a dog-eat-dog world in which people with higher power could dominate those under them. If RATH’s experiment proceeded as they had planned, the orderly Human World and the chaotic Land of Darkness would clash violently even without Gabriel’s intervention, and would end in a breakthrough by war.

But he did not know why, before the plan had proceeded into that stage, there came a Fluctlight in the Human World that had exceeded the boundaries. The spy within RATH had not sent any information regarding a similar existence in the Land of Darkness.

In other words, this woman who had plotted to kill the Emperor with a small knife was also a soul bound by absolute law. Even so, from the situation that even under Gabriel’s questioning just now, no, under his order, she did not divulge the identity of her master. It proves that this woman, even under the order of Gabriel, an Emperor who was also a god, she prioritized her loyalty to her master. That is, she thought her master [stronger] than the Emperor.

In that case, to ensure that the battle goes smoothly, it was necessary to properly display his strength to the general and officer Units, to show them that Gabriel — Emperor Vector was the strongest in this world. But, he couldn’t completely destroy the valuable general Units. What should he do—

No.

He had to dispose of one of the generals anyway. A certain person who put the murderous spirit in this woman.

How should he single out the traitor? Should he contact Critter again, to have him supervise the general Units from outside? No, that would require adjusting the time acceleration ratio back to 1:1, and would waste precious time in the real world.

Then—

Considering this matter in an instant, Gabriel scrutinized the woman’s iron-colored eyes again.

“What is your reason for killing me? Were you offered money? Or status?”

He did not need to think about his questions. But the answer he immediately heard was unexpected.

“For righteousness!”

“Oh…?”

“If you wage war now, the world will fall back a hundred years, no, two hundred years! I cannot let you return the era to when the weak were trampled upon!!”

Again, Gabriel felt a sliver of shock.

Was this woman really in the stage before her boundaries were broken? If so, did her master make her say these lines?

Gabriel brought his head closer, gazing straight into those gray eyes.

V15 Vector and Sleeping Partner

Determination. Loyalty. The feeling deep within was…

Ah, so it’s like that.

If that was the case, then there was no more need for this woman. To be precise, there was no more need for this woman’s Fluctlight.

Gabriel complied with his own decision, and without another word, applied force to his left hand, which grasped the woman’s throat.

He felt bones being crushed. The woman’s eyes widened, and her mouth let out a silent scream.

Tightly restraining her struggling limbs, mercilessly tightening his grip around her neck, Gabriel felt a surprise unlike what he felt before.

Was this really a virtual world? No matter if it was the feeling of muscle and bone breaking that was felt by his left hand, or the frightening, painful smell that came from the bare skin, they all stimulated Gabriel’s five senses much more realistically than the real world.

His body trembled unconsciously, and his left hand reflexively closed.

With a muffled crunch, the cervical vertebrae of the unnamed woman were crushed.

Then, Gabriel saw it.

From the forehead of the woman with eyes tightly closed and teeth clenched — floated a prismatic glow.

This, definitely was it — the Soul Cloud once he had seen when he took away Alicia’s life.

In an instant, Gabriel opened his mouth wide, and sucked in every trace of the woman’s soul.

The bitterness of fear, pain.

The sourness of regret and melancholy.

Following these, Gabriel’s tongue was soaked in the heavenly sweet nectar that could not be described with words.

Behind his closed eyelids, a hazy scene was shining.

Small children were playing in the front yard of an old two-story home. There were Humans, Goblins, and Ogres. As they looked over, bright smiles appeared on their faces, and they came running, arms wide open.

That vision vanished, and was replaced with a certain topless man. A wide, thoroughly exercised chest, tenderly, powerfully embracing her.

“I…love you… Your Excellency…”

A tiny voice came, reverberated, and faded away.

After all had disappeared, Gabriel still tightly hugged the woman’s body.

Beautiful. How beautiful of an experience.

Gabriel’s consciousness was largely shaken in ecstasy, but shards of logic attempted to find out the reason for this phenomenon.

The Light Cube that held this deceased woman’s Fluctlight was connected with Gabriel’s Fluctlight through the STL. Therefore, after her Life, or Hit Points became zero, fragments of her released quantum data could abnormally flow to Gabriel through the network.

But, that kind of theory already mattered nothing to Gabriel.

He experienced once more the [phenomenon] that he had been chasing for his entire life. Gabriel extracted and tasted all traces of the woman’s last emotion — [love]. That was like a drop of nectar falling into a stark desert.

More.

More.

More slaughter.

Gabriel’s body threw back in a wide arc, and he let out a wordless guffaw.

 

***

 

Ordering the ten generals and the core members of each legion to line up neatly again, Gabriel watched them with a satisfied look as they respectfully bowed down.

Under his orders, they had completed preparations for the attack in two days. By the looks of it, maybe these Units were even more excellent than the fellows sitting on the floor of directors in GlowGen DS.

Really, they should just be classified as [finished products]. The perfect ability to carry out orders, with added loyalty. As AIs piloting robots in war, what else would you need on top of that?

Even so, it should not be forgotten that their loyalty was based on the bug lying in artificial Fluctlights that RATH had been eagerly trying to get rid of. It was only because the general principle [power dominates all] was carved into their souls that these ten people would obey the Emperor, Gabriel — no, Vector. But at the same time, it could also mean that as soon as Gabriel’s power was suspected, anyone could rebel at any moment.

This suspicion had already come true.

In the night two days ago, a female assassin sneaked into his bedroom.

That woman planned to kill the Emperor, who had the highest authority. In her heart, there was a master with a status higher than Gabriel. Someone she called [Your Excellency] at her last moments. And that person, almost for certain, was one of the ten generals in sight.

To her, against Emperor Vector, her own master was the mightier one. Then, the likelihood of the so-called “Your Excellency” not declaring his absolute loyalty to Gabriel was very high. If he took a Unit like this to battle, there would also be the likelihood of being betrayed.

Therefore, the last task before they went to battle was to single out and dispose of [Your Excellency] from the ten people before him.

At the same time, he could demonstrate the power of the Emperor to the remaining nine, forever carving the identity of the strongest into their Fluctlights.

At this time, Gabriel Miller did not consider at all the probability of any of the ten Units before him catching him off guard — in other words, defeating him in a one-on-one fight. To him, the Underworld was no more than an extension of VR games, and was still under the set impression that all Units here were [NPCs].

***

 

Dark Knight Commander Biksul Ul Shasta maintained his genuflected position, recalling his mentor’s words from twenty years ago, in the Dark Knight headquarters training field.

“…My mentor’s mentor’s head was taken off and he died instantly. My mentor was then cut in the chest and died on the way back to the castle. But even though I lost an arm, I’m alive today. Well, that’s nothing to be proud of, though.”

His mentor said this, sitting on the glossy black floor with his legs folded under his torso[2], as he showed his right arm stump sharply severed on the elbow to Shasta. The wound that was only bound with medicine and gauze seemed painful just by looking at it.

The one who had gave him this injury about three days ago, was the eternal enemy of the Dark Knights, or the most powerful swordsman in the world, or the most ferocious monster — Integrity Knight Bercouli Synthesis One.

“Do you know what this means, Biksul?”

Twenty-year-old Biksul could only scratch his head in confusion. His mentor slid a hand under his clothes, closed his eyes, and continued softly:

“We’re catching up, gradually.”

“Catching up — to that person?”

Young Shasta could not help mixing disbelief into his voice. Just three days ago, Bercouli had demonstrated his crushing swordsmanship. In the instant that his mentor’s arm flew high, spurting blood, the piercing feeling that chilled him to the bone like a pillar of ice still lingered today.

“I’ll be 50 this year. Even so, I still don’t feel like I’m holding my sword in the best way, let alone swinging. I think, in five years to ten years’ time, that won’t change even after I die.”

His mentor said quietly.

“…That way, we short-lived people are unable to achieve what that immortal living for more than 200 years can do. Although it’s pretty embarrassing, even in the instant that our swords cross, I still kept it in mind. But after fleeing following a miserable defeat, I realized that this is wrong. All this time, my mentor and all the Knights in the past have endlessly challenged that man, but it wasn’t all in vain… Biksul, what is the strongest swordsmanship?”

To this sudden question, Biksul answered reflexively:

“A «Slash of Thoughtlessness».”

“Very good. Through long years of training, you unify with your sword. One strike that you don’t think of how to cut, draw, or move would be the ultimate swordsmanship. My mentor taught me this, and I have taught you the same. But… Biksul, that’s not it. There’s something stronger. I’ve realized it since I’ve been cut by that monster.”

A hint of excitement floated onto his mentor’s aged, wrinkled face. Shasta maintained his leg-folded seating position, leaned forward, and asked:

“Something stronger… That is?”

“The opposite of thoughtlessness. Firm confidence. It’s the power of will, Biksul.”

Suddenly, his mentor stood up from the wooden floor, and waved his right arm stump vigorously.

“You see. Back then, I sliced down with a right diagonal slash. It was exactly a thoughtless attack; the fastest I have ever swung my sword in my life. At that moment when I drew my sword, I already had the advantage.”

“Yes… I thought so as well.”

“But… But. Normally, my sword should’ve bounced off his defense, but he pressed my sword back, and this arm was sliced off… Can you believe it, Biksul; in that moment, his sword didn’t even touch mine!”

Shasta kept silent, and shook his head dubiously.

“H… How could this…”

“It’s the truth. It was like… the very path of the sword, was completely altered by some unseen force. It’s not a spell, nor is it the Armament Full Control Art. We can only explain it like this: my Slash of Thoughtlessness was defeated by his willpower built up with two hundred years of hard training. Because he pictured where he wanted my sword to go so intensely, it became the unchanging truth!”

Shasta was unable to immediately believe his mentor’s words.

The power of will: something amorphous like that can defeat a real, heavy, rigid sword; no matter what, that can’t be real.

It looked like that Shasta’s mentor expected this reaction. Suddenly regaining the formality in his sitting position, on the glossy black floor, he calmly ordered:

“Okay, Biksul. I’ll teach you my last sword technique. — Cut me.”

“What… What are you saying! It’s difficult for you to…”

Have lived so long; Shasta could only swallow these words. Suddenly, his mentor’s eyes flashed with a strong light.

“Since I managed to live on, there is even more necessity for you to cut me. Since I’ve been defeated by that man in one stroke, I’m no longer the strongest in your heart. As long as I live, you’re unable to battle that man on equal footing. Cut, no, kill me, and stand at the same height as him… Bercouli!!”

His mentor finished and stood, holding his right arm stump as though he was gripping a sword.

“Now, stand up! Draw your sword, Biksul!!”

 

Biksul cut his mentor, and ended his life.

At the same time, he realized with his body the meaning of his mentor’s words.

The invisible sword that his mentor’s severed right hand held — the sword called [will], let out intense sparks as it crossed with Shasta’s sword, and marked an eternal wound on his face.

His face stained with tears and blood, the young Shasta stood at the zenith that exceeded the «Slash of Thoughtlessness» — on the border of the «Slash of Incarnation».

Time passed — Five years ago.

Shasta finally challenged the archenemy of the Dark Knights, Integrity Knight Commander Bercouli. He was but 37 years old, but he felt that his sword had achieved the highest.

His mentor had exchanged an arm for his life, but Shasta had no intention of returning defeated. Because Shasta had no apprentice as his successor. He did not want his young apprentice to have the executioner’s burden, and bear the destiny of having his life sliced away. He decided to put his life on the line, and sever the blood-stained cycle there and then.

The sword called [will] that carried with it all determination and realization, during its first cross with Bercouli’s, was not deflected at all. But in that instant, Shasta already predicted his own loss. He did not think that he could reproduce a slash of such power.

But, as they crossed swords, Bercouli laughed roughly:

“Your swordsmanship isn’t bad. If you only have murderous intent, you will be unable to block my sword. Go back and think long and hard about the meaning behind my words, and return after five years, little boy.”

Then the Integrity Knight Commander turned and left. But Shasta didn’t know why he was unable to swing his sword towards the Knight’s back, which looked full of openings.

To understand the meaning behind Bercouli’s words, it took a very long time. But he finally understood what happened now, five years later. Then, if Shasta had swung his sword only with hatred and the intent to kill, he would have immediately been defeated. Although it was only one round, he was able to clash with him because he held a realization much heavier than murderous intent.

That was — gratitude to the mentors who put their life on the line to pass on their knowledge, and a prayer for the young one who will become his successor.

Therefore, after receiving news of the Highest Minister’s death, Shasta immediately decided to negotiate for peace. He was confident that, if the other party was Bercouli, he would definitely accept.

For the same reason—

This Emperor Vector, who suddenly descended on Obsidia and decided to wage war without saying anything else, must be cut to death by Shasta himself.

Even as he kneeled and bowed his head, Shasta was shaping out the [Incarnation] that he must load his killing Slash with.

This Emperor that left the Dark World for hundreds of years and suddenly revived was a young man with white skin and golden hair, similar to that of a Human World resident. His figure and looks were not necessarily charismatic.

But, only his extraordinarily blue eyes revealed that the Emperor was not an ordinary man. Within those eyes was a [void]. A bottomless abyss sucking in all light. This man concealed a colossal and evil hunger.

If his exercised Power of Incarnation was engulfed by the Emperor’s void, the blade would be unable to reach him.

If that happened, Dark Knight Shasta would lose his life. But, his will would likely be succeeded by someone after him.

His only regret was that he was unable to convey his determination as he did not see Lipia yesterday. She might be busy with preparation before the attack, or staying in her important [home].

If he told her his intent to slay the Emperor, she would definitely not listen and beg to join him. It was better this way.

Shasta slowly inhaled, building up.

With his hand, he quietly touched the sword that was released from his belt and placed on the floor.

He was about 15 Mel from the throne. He only had to take two steps to reach it.

He must not let anyone notice. He must be thoughtless in drawing his sword.

Purifying and contracting his Power of Incarnation to the limit, he injected it into his sword through his fingers. Then, he emptied his body.

His left hand gripped the sword—

Just then.

The Emperor spoke nonchalantly with a sound as smooth and rigid as glass:

“Just — last night, someone infiltrated my bedroom. With a short knife concealed in their hair.”

A suppressed gasp wavered the air in the hall.

In the line of the other nine Feudal Lords to Shasta’s left, someone softly held their breath, another let out a low moan from the depths of their throat, and another shrank back into their thick robes. A few among the officers in the back made sounds as well.

Shasta was equally shocked. Maintaining his stance and style before slicing, he thought for an instant.

Besides himself, there were others who came to the conclusion of eliminating the Emperor. Unfortunately, the fact that the Emperor was still alive showed that they had failed — but which of the nine people sent out the assassin?

Not the five Demihuman generals. Passing over the Giant, Ogre, and Orc, even the shorter Goblins were unlikely to have dodged the eyes and ears of the guards and infiltrated the top floor.

If he considered the four Human generals, he could first exclude the young leader of the Fighters, Iskahn, and the leader of the Commerce and Industry Guild, Lengil. Iskahn was just a straightforward boy who purely aimed at improving his empty-handed combat to the maximum, and Lengil would love to make a lot of money out of the war.

Since the attacker had infiltrated the bedroom, the leader of the Assassin Guild, Fer Za, was the most suspicious, and he actually had a few hints for what that man was thinking, but it was puzzling that a short knife was used.

In the inner depths of dark caves, the Assassin Guild specially researched the third power apart from Dark Sorcery and Martial Arts: [Poison]. The race of Fer Za was an organization formed to survive, by those who were not gifted on Priority when it came to controlling weapons and spells. They had a unique restriction: their only allowed weapons were hidden needles and blow darts coated with poison. Short knives were not included.

In the same reasoning, the leader of the Dark Sorcerers kneeling right beside Shasta, D.I.L., would be out of the consideration. This woman with only desire for status, although she could have considered taking and raising high the Emperor’s head, becoming the dominator of the Land of Darkness, the Sorcerers under D would have used spells instead of a short knife.

Looking at it like that, the one who sent the assassin was not any one of the nine generals.

The one left — could only be himself, the Dark Knight Commander Shasta.

However, he had not the slightest memory of doing that. He had already decided, when he was going to eliminate the Emperor, he would swing his sword with his own life on the line. Of course he didn’t give an assassination order to any of his men, or even the decision that he had kept secret, not once—

No.

No…

Could it be?

After the Emperor finished his words, Shasta thought only for the blink of an eye, and noticed that his left finger on his sword grip had instantly become ice cold.

What was originally sharp, surging determination instantly transformed. Fear. Anxiety. Terror. Then — it became a certainty of impending misfortune.

Almost at the same time, Emperor Vector opened his mouth a second time:

“I don’t want to question right now, regarding the name of the one who sent the assassin. Souls that use their own power in a desire to obtain more power are excellent. If you want my head, cut me whenever my back is turned.”

The Emperor looked arrogantly at the bustling hall, and for the first time, an emotion floated onto his white face — a shallow, light smile.

“Of course, I hope that you all understand that this kind of gamble carries with it an equal price. For example… like this.”

From within his dark robes, a hand extended and made a soft gesture.

Then, set besides the throne, a small door on the wall east of Shasta opened soundlessly, and a servant girl shuffled in. She held a large silver bowl in her hands: inside was a cube-shaped object, but it was obscured with a black cloth, so it couldn’t be seen in detail.

The servant girl set the silver bowl in front of the throne, bowed her head respectfully to the Emperor, and exited through the door.

In the deafening silence, the Emperor wore a crooked smile, extended a toe, placed it against the cloth covering the bowl, and kicked it off.

Shasta, whose entire body, even his thoughts, were frozen, caught sight of —

An ice cube, as transparent as the most perfect crystal.

Sealed inside, was the forever sleeping face of his lover.

“Li…pi…”

Shasta’s lips moved soundlessly.

The coldness that enveloped his entire body disappeared, and was replaced with endlessly deep, dark emptiness in his heart.

Shasta knew that Dark Knight Lipia Zankehl was secretly running an orphanage. No matter the races, she sheltered and educated children who had lost their parents, siblings, and were about to die on the street. Shasta saw a hopeful future in Lipia’s actions.

Therefore, Shasta only told Lipia his own ideals. An endless dream in which the long-term state of war with the Human World would be broken, and a mutually supportive world in which there would be no need for constant snatching and seizing would be created.

But, his own words had driven Lipia to attempt to assassinate the Emperor, and ended in this grievous result. Although it was the Emperor who killed her — Shasta also had a hand in it.

Doubtlessly.

Although it was only for a blink of an eye, a storm of insurmountable guilt and remorse raged in Shasta’s empty-feeling chest.

Instantly, it became a black chunk of emotion.

Murderous intent.

Kill. He must kill that lightly smiling man sitting cross-legged on the throne, no matter what.

Even if he needed to put his own life, and the future of the Dark Territory on the line.

 

***

 

Now, who is that suspicious [Your Excellency]?

Gabriel watched the ten prostrated Leader Units under his eyes with a little bit of interest.

The master of the assassin woman whom she so loved. Gabriel had sucked dry all traces of the emotions that tasted of heavenly nectar, that had been released during the woman’s death: not just the yearning of the woman, he even understood the feelings that [Your Excellency] had for the woman herself — although he just analyzed the emotional patterns as data.

Therefore, he was confident that when he showed the woman’s head, the one called Your Excellency would definitely take action. He would mercilessly execute the opposing, rebellious Unit, and increase the loyalty of the rest of the Units through fear. No different from the simulation games he had played to kill time in the real world.

What a bunch of pitiful and happy people.

Although they have real souls, their intelligence is limited, and can be reproduced as much as one wants even if they are killed and killed again. There will eventually be a day, when the Underworld, its Mainframe, and the Light Cubes are mine, the hunger that has so pained me ever since I was young will be quenched.

Leaning his face against his wrist supported by the throne armrest, Gabriel waited, relaxed.

He was a little more than 15 meters from the Units. No matter what attack from any weapon, he could easily counter it with the sword equipped on his left waist.

Of course, he would be unable to deal with a [System Call] prefixed command attack. But Gabriel’s anxiety had already been wiped clean before they logged in.

The super account «God of Darkness Vector» was set up for RATH workers to undertake forced operations to the Dark Territory. Therefore, the HP called Life would be massive, the equipped sword would be the strongest; and on top of all, Vector possessed a cheating attribute to prevent all commands targeting him.

As Gabriel was protected under so many conditions, even as the leftmost Knight out of the ten Units, clad in jet-black armor, bent his back violently.

Even as his entire body was covered with a halo like a light shadow.

Even as he saw the Knight’s left hand gripping his sword’s scabbard as fast as lightning, flicking up his head at the same time, sharp eyes flashing an inhuman crimson from the middle of his iron face—

He did not fully understood what had happened sequentially as he failed to realize the two facts below:

This world, was not only a program executed by a physical server, but also a «Real Dream» that was built with the same photons which human Fluctlights were made out of.

And, because of this, the pure and intense murderous intent created by the Knight in black, from his Light Cube to the Main Visualizer, and through the photon communication circuit, could reach the STL Gabriel was using.  

 

***

 

In the middle of Shasta’s blood-red vision, he could only see the Emperor’s figure.

With the fastest movement he had ever made in his life, he drew his sword with his right hand.

What released from its scabbard was the Divine Instrument he had inherited from his mentor, the longsword «Hazy Mist», but not in its normal form of a gray blade. True to its name, a thick mist like a night haze encircled the long blade, winding into a vortex.

The logic behind this phenomenon, was the same as the ultimate ability of the Integrity Knights that was indiscernible even under long years of research — the Armament Full Control Art, but all of that seemed insignificant.

KILL!!

With an instantaneous scream, Shasta put all rage, hatred, and grief onto his blade, and heavily swung it over his head.

3

From the northern ends of the Human Empire, to the edge of the eastern territory.

No matter whether it was Integrity Knight Alice, or Amayori, who was born in the Western Empire, it was the first time that they had stepped into the land with the most mysteries of the four empires, the Eastern Empire Eastabarieth.

Between the rolling mountain peaks, surging rivers as blue as glass connected tortuously. The villages and streets that occasionally appeared at the river banks were different from the familiar stone architecture of the north; these were almost entirely constructed with wood.

The people who gazed up and pointed to the sky at them were all black-haired. Then Alice suddenly remembered that Fanatio, the Integrity Knight Vice Commander who could not get along with her, was born here.

Moving her eyes back forward, Alice thought: the Kirito leaning on her back and staring blankly at the sky also had jet-black hair, so could he be born in the east? Would he start to regain his memories if they could land on the streets and let him get in touch with people here? She soon abandoned this idea, though, as they could not delay, not even a second.

Camping on rural areas at night, they had rushed full tilt for three days, living on dried fruit and fish that Amayori caught—

In the afternoon of the second day of the eleventh month, the Mountain Range at the Edge that stood as same as its northern section, and a valley as straight as if it had been split by an axe, entered their sight.

“…Can you see it, Kirito?”

Alice muttered, gently soothing the neck of her beloved dragon that she forced to fly a long distance with a heavy load. Nowadays, since the magical beasts were virtually extinct, dragons have become the lifeforms with the highest Life and Priority. But, it was definitely not a trifle to carry two people and three Divine Instruments. The strength that Amayori had been accumulating through unrestricted fish consumption had almost been completely depleted.

When they reached the camp, I’ll definitely provide her with fresh lamb to her heart’s content. Alice thought as she shook the reins; Amayori replied with a seemingly restless shriek and vigorously flapped her wings.

The valley that seemed a crack as thin as paper from faraway was definitely not the same up close.

It was about a hundred Mel wide: wide enough for an army of Orcs or Ogres if they were to enter it in a row.

In front of the entrance of the valley that straightly sliced the mountain in half, was a grassy field spread as though it was encircling it. On the field, a large campsite comprised of countless white tents neatly erected in rows. Steam columns from cooking food rose here and there; around were soldiers training in formation. Alice could almost feel the flashing blades and heavy atmosphere from high up.

Morale was not as low as she had feared — but no matter what, their number was definitely too little. From a rough glance, their total number was less than 3,000. Conversely, the Dark Territory invaders must be at least 50,000. In the Human Empire, the Sacred Task of Soldier and Guard were bestowed upon extremely few; in contrast, everyone in the mountains, regardless of gender or age, was a soldier.

In this situation, it would not make much difference for Alice alone to join the battle. Just how does Integrity Knight Commander Bercouli plan to protect the world…?

Alice deliberated as she flew over the camp; she guided the dragon towards the slight darkness of the valley.

“Sorry Amayori, just a little more.”

She said; as the dragon responded with a “kururu”, the mountain peaks obscured Solus’s light.

As soon as they entered the valley, chilly air immediately enveloped their bodies. The rocky cliffs to their left and right were perfectly perpendicular, smooth surfaces that could only be the work of a god. No organisms, not even vegetation, were visible.

After slowly gliding for a few minutes—

Through the thick, velvety mist, several colossal structures eventually became visible.

“This is the… «Great Eastern Gate»…?”

A vertically standing gray door; it was probably as tall as three hundred Mel from top to bottom. Although it was not as tall as the five hundred Mel Central Cathedral of the Axiom Church, the gravity of both did not differentiate between heights.

The most shocking fact was that the door was constructed with one stone slab, without any gap at all. An existence of this caliber naturally could not have been carved by human hands; even creation by way of magical processing would be absolutely impossible. The structures that the world’s strongest sorcerer, the Highest Minister Administrator constructed in the past was the «Immortal Wall» that divided Central Capital Centoria into four, but the individual stone slabs on it were far smaller than this huge door.

In other words, this great door was placed here by the hand of a god at the beginning of the world. To divide these two worlds — in order to instigate the tragedy that would come three hundred years later.

“Stop, Amayori.”

Having Amayori halt in the middle of the air, Alice looked again at the great door from a closer distance.

For some reason, on the door, or the stone slab would be a more appropriate name, there were Sacred Words inscribed.

Destruct… at… the, last, stage…

Although she tried reading the line of Words in the middle, she hadn’t an inkling of their meaning.

Just as she was thinking with her head tilted, suddenly, a wave of frightening scratching and creaking noises shook the air, stunning Alice and Amayori. Alice turned the dragon’s neck towards the noise; a portion of the great door that had been perfectly smooth before, had developed a crack that resembled lightning that was extending downward.

The crack that was tens of Mel long suddenly stopped; bits of stone broke off from its surface and struck the valley floor with heavy impact sounds.

Alice raised her head and looked again at the great gate: the cracks and falling stone were not just confined to one area. It would be better to say that the giant door was nearly covered with a mesh of fissures and cracks.

Alice gently shook the reins, coaxing Amayori as close to the great door as possible.

She gingerly reached out her left hand, rapidly drew the Seal of Stacia in midair, and softly knocked the surface of the door.

A purple window materialized, labeled «Great Eastern Gate», with its full Life capacity and current value.

The number on the left was the highest Life she had ever seen — more than three million. But the one on the left was less than one thousandth of that: 2985. Moreover, the rightmost number decreased just as she was looking at it.

Sweat beading on her palms, Alice counted out loud, measuring the amount of time it took for the number to decrease. She then estimated the time until the Life would completely deplete.

“… It can’t be…”

In disbelief of her own conclusion, Alice mumbled:

“… Five days… There are only five days left……?”

The door at the end of the world that had stood dignified for over three hundred years, had only less than five days until it would collapse — how was this possible?

Selka’s bright smile, old man Garitta’s tanned, deeply wrinkled face, and her father Gasupht’s grave frown — passed through Alice’s mind. It was only a few days ago that she had repelled the Goblins that had attacked them, and sealed the cave with ice. She had thought that those actions would bring a temporary peace to Rulid.

As soon as the great gate collapses five days later, the Army of Darkness would swarm in like insects, and if the guards are unable to defend, the bloodsucking monsters would gush into the Human Empire like floodwater. This flood would soon reach the northern border, and Rulid would be engulfed.

“We have to… We have to think of something…”

Alice muttered to herself as if in a dream, as she unconsciously pulled the reins. After moving away from the stone slab about to collapse, Amayori slowly rose up, and stopped roughly three hundred Mel above, at the top of the door.

Behind the door, the valley continued in the same way, as though splitting the mountain. However, what appeared there were not a blue sky and green plains, but the blood-red sky and desolate, cinder-speckled wilderness of the Dark Territory.

Alice did not want to see this unsettling sight, but as she narrowed her eyebrows, focusing —

On the hazy, great black landscape, a tiny waving light was visible.

Urging Amayori higher, she fixed her gaze afar. There was not just one light, but many extending outwards irregularly.

Bonfires.

A camp. The vanguard of the Army of Darkness, already in formation in front of them, just waiting for the great door to collapse and the way to the Human Empire to open.

“There are only… five days…”

Alice mumbled softly again.

Immediately, as though she were escaping reality, she turned the dragon around and retraced her path towards the valley entrance. If she looked at those countless bonfires for long, she felt that she would be consumed by a massive urge to attack them alone.

If that really happened, if the opponent were merely Goblin or Orc foot soldiers, she was still confident that she would be able to take the heads of one or two hundred before retreating. But if there were Ogre crossbow archers or Dark Sorcery squads within the enemy, things wouldn’t be so easy.

Although it was said that Integrity Knights possessed the strength of a thousand in one, it was as described: that was only one. If the Knight was confronted with a focused range attack from afar where neither his swordsmanship nor his techniques were able to match, he would definitely suffer injuries. Even if they were light injuries, if they built up over time, they would eventually reach the upper limit of his Life. That was the greatest weakness of the Human Empire’s defense that Knight Commander Bercouli has worried about for years.

With the stickler for gathering power, Administrator, now dead, the large amount of defense weapons buried in the Cathedral were already distributed among the hurriedly assembled guard team. But their remaining time was too little. At least, if they had 10,000 soldiers, and a year of preparation—

With a soft sigh, Alice pushed away these meaningless thoughts and motioned for Amayori to land.

The plain at the center of the guard team camp had a large clearing. Seeing a huge tent beside it, Alice knew that the clearing could only be a landing field for dragons.

Flying down and landing in an arc, Amayori struck the grass with her talons, turned towards the tent, and gave a high “kuruuu” call.

Quickly, a slightly lower call responded. That was probably her brother-dragon, Takiguri. As soon as the dragon came to a stop, Alice held Kirito, jumped down onto the grass, and helped Amayori unload the heavy load on her feet. Afterwards, Amayori shot excitedly towards the tent, and rubbed heads with her brother, who had extended his head out of the tent.

Alice couldn’t help but smile. However, she instantly noticed footsteps approaching from behind, and frantically tightened her face. She adjusted her plain skirt and tucked her wind-blown hair behind her back.

Before she could turn around, a familiar, easygoing voice rang across the landing field.

“Sensei! Mentor Alice-sama!! I knew you would come!”

The one sliding over with pattering footsteps was Integrity Knight Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One, whom Alice had parted with ten days ago. Although they were in a long-term camp, his pattan-colored long curls and silver-white armor were as spotless as always.

“… You seem spirited.”

At Alice’s cold words, Eldrie’s long eyelashes that trembled in great surprise, and the corner of his lips that seemed as though they had something to say — froze completely.

Of course, he had noticed the black-haired youth that Alice held with her left hand.

Straining the left part of his face, throwing back his head, the young Knight put on a look of disbelief and said:

“You brought him… huh. Why.”

Alice threw out her chest in defiance and replied:

“Of course. Because I have sworn to protect him.”

“Bu, but… If there is battle, we Integrity Knights will need to be at the very front line. What’s going to happen when we cross swords with the enemy? You can’t possibly fight while carrying him on your back.”

“If I need to, I will do so.”

As though she were hiding from Eldrie’s sight, Alice leaned slightly as she held Kirito’s frail body, which was unable to stand on its own. But, somehow, the soldiers and lower Integrity Knights on break had all gathered around the landing field. They watched Alice with gleaming eyes, and Kirito with surprised expressions.

To drown out the wave-like hubbub, Eldrie retorted sharply.

“You can’t, my mentor! Please forgive my directness, but if you carry this useless load to battle, not only will our strength be halved, but you yourself will fall into danger; this is definitely not okay! In the coming battle, Alice-sama will…”

He interrupted himself, and suddenly pointed at the surrounding swordsmen with an ornate silver armguard.

“…be responsible as their leader in battle! How can you not give this your all?!”

He had a point. Although he wasn’t wrong, Alice couldn’t just reply with that. To herself, which one — protecting the world, protecting Kirito; both were equally important. Alice clenched her teeth as she thought of a way to explain this.

At the same time, she was surprised at Eldrie’s tone and attitude.

There was a certain change from the Integrity Knight Eldrie that had underwent Alice’s tutoring in swordsmanship. Then, he had worshipped Alice, and had listened to her no matter what she told him to do.

This was also definite. The people in the world had their right eyes sealed by the mysterious «Outside Gods», absolutely not defying laws or authority. To Alice’s knowledge, the only ones who have successfully broken the seal are herself, and the deceased Blue Rose Swordsman Eugeo. Even Administrator and Cardinal, said to have Authority of Gods, were unable to defy that seal.

In other words, Eldrie was supposed to be still under the control of that seal. But now — he wasn’t directly disobeying Alice’s words, but he should still obey her if she forcefully commanded him. But he was definitely not in a state of [blind loyalty] like before. He could think for himself, and convey his own thoughts.

The reasons for this change are Kirito and Eugeo.

Although he had only come into brief contact with the two biggest traitors in the world, they had deeply moved Eldrie’s soul.

As Alice recalled, even her sister Selka living in Rulid, occasionally revealed dissatisfaction with the formal regulations on the village and resilient figures of authority. Also — the two female students who walked out of the crowd when Alice had taken Kirito and Eugeo from Centoria Training Academy. As normal citizens, and young girls, to actually talk by their own will to an Integrity Knight was in itself impossible.

Finally — even Alice herself had been affected.

Before she crossed swords with Kirito and fell out of the Cathedral, she held not a sliver of doubt against the structure of the world, the rule of the Church, and the godliness of the Highest Minister.

But, in the time that she had to join forces with him to repel danger, accept a truce, and climb up the outer wall, Kirito’s voice, sword, and pitch-black eyes strongly moved Alice — eventually breaking the Seal of the Right Eye…

Yes, Kirito is the sledgehammer that swings towards this world full of lies. The one who expended the strength of his own limited body and soul, to move the world, shake, and eventually shatter the ancient nail calling itself the Axiom Church, that was driven into the center of the world. But, as price to pay, he sacrificed his friend Eugeo and guide Cardinal, and lost his own heart…

Alice tightly hugged the twig-like body that she supported with her left hand. Then, she looked directly at Eldrie.

She wanted to say it. You are who you are today because of this person’s struggle. But, he definitely would not understand it. As far as the Integrity Knights were concerned, Kirito will always be a hateful traitor.

Towards Alice who stood there silently, Eldrie wore an expression that looked like he was resisting heavy pain, and just as he was about to continue.

At this time, the wall of people around them, as though parted by the hand of a giant, was suddenly cut open.

“Hey, there’s no need to be so angry, Eldrie.”

The young Knight snapped his legs together with a flourish and straightened his back. Alice slowly turned her head around as well.

Light gray clothes full of eastern territory style worn softly and gathered in front. A dark blue sash tied slightly low. A rough longsword stuck simply on his left waist. However, strange wooden shoes hung off of his feet.

This was a casual attire far less effective than that of those worn by the surrounding Knights and soldiers. But, the gravity that effused from the completely trained, gigantic body, was heavier than any armor.

Sweeping his ice-blue hair that was trimmed very short, and of a similar color to his clothes, the owner of the voice chuckled, covering his mouth.

“Oh, little girl. You’re more spirited than I imagined; that reassures me. Has your face gotten plumper?”

“… Mentor-sama. It has been a long time.”

Alice held back tears as she squeezed a trembling voice out, forced a shallow smile, and saluted to the world’s oldest, strongest swordsman — Integrity Knight Bercouli Synthesis One.

In the six years of Alice’s life as an Integrity Knight, she had only opened up to one person, revered him as her master, and respected him as she would her father. At the same time, she was sure that in this world, only he — apart from Kirito — was the one person whom she could not win against.

Therefore, she absolutely could not weep in front of him.

If Bercouli said that they could not keep Kirito here, she could only obey. Of course, the Alice now couldn’t be forced by even Bercouli’s orders. But, if she disobeyed in front of everyone else, it would disturb the order of the Knights and guards. In this situation in which they had but five days until the decisive battle, she absolutely could not harm Bercouli’s leadership authority in any way.

As though he had seen completely seen through Alice’s inner hesitation, Bercouli slowly walked over, the corners of his mouth maintaining a soft smile.

Gazing into Alice’s eyes, he nodded forcefully.

Then, the Knight Commander glanced behind him at Eldrie, who looked about to say something, suppressing him, and turned to look at Kirito, in Alice’s arms.

Bercouli tightened his mouth. A light like bluish-white flames accumulated into those sharp eyes.

Bercouli inhaled a deep breath. Then, Alice felt the air around her swiftly becoming cold.

“…Mentor-sama…”

Alice squeezed out a strained voice.

Bercouli was building up his fighting intent. He was preparing to release the «Incarnate Technique» only inheritable by Integrity Knights… A secret technique more powerful than the «Incarnate Wrist» that could move objects with the power of one’s heart.

Imbuing his concentrated will into a sword, and releasing it. That invisible blade could sometimes parry the tangible blade of an enemy. The Armament Full Control Art of the Knight Commander’s Divine Instrument, the «Time Piercing Sword» that could cut even the future, was a technique that first came into existence based on Bercouli’s crushing willpower.

In other words — did Bercouli plan to slice Kirito?

If he did as he said and sliced this problem clean away with a sword, then that would be the one thing that Alice could not accept. If it came to that, Alice must draw her own sword to protect Kirito.

Suppressed by the Knight Commander’s extremely crushing fighting intent, no matter whether it was the surrounding soldiers, or Eldrie, or even the dragons under the tent, everyone sank into a deep silence. In the air compressed so tightly to the point of suffocation, Alice commanded her right hand fingers to move with all her might.

But, just as Alice touched her beloved sword’s hilt, the corners of Bercouli’s mouth twitched, and a thought-like sound came.

—It’s okay, little girl.

“……?!”

In that instant when Alice held her breath.

Bercouli’s body was completely still, but his two eyes flashed a shocking light.

At the same time, in Alice’s arms, Kirito’s body jerked violently.

PIN!!! With a rough noise, the space between Bercouli and Kirito reverberated with a silver flash.

—This is?!

Alice gasped in shock, but Bercouli smiled jovially as though his fighting intent just now was a fantasy.

“M…Mentor-sama…?”

Turning towards the numbly mumbling Alice, the oldest swordsman scratched his wide chin, the same as when they had practiced together before:

“Little girl, did you see that just now?”

“Yes… Yes, I did. Even though it was just an instant… It appeared to be the flash of a sword clash…?”

“Yeah. I released the small blade of an incomplete Slash of Incarnation at that young man. If it had struck, it would probably have sliced a bit of skin off of his face.”

“If it… struck? Then that means…”

“Indeed, he stopped it. That young man used his own «Incarnation».”

Alice couldn’t help but steal a glance at Kirito’s face that her left arm supported.

But, her expectations were shattered. In the slightly open black pupils, there was only empty darkness. No expression whatsoever, as always.

—But his body did tremble just now.

Alice felt Kirito’s hair with her right hand, and looked at Bercouli. The Knight Commander shook his head slowly, and said assuredly:

“It seems like that young man’s heart is really not here… But, he’s most certainly not dead. Listen, the one the young man wanted to protect just now was not himself, but you, little girl. So, there will be a day when he will come back. I think so. Around when you really get into danger, little girl.”

Alice could only blink back her tears more forcefully than before.

—Yes, he will definitely come back.

—Because Kirito… Kirito is the strongest swordsman in the world. He swung two swords and even killed that half-god person.

—Was it for me…? I can’t say that. If he comes back for the many people living in this world…

Alice could not resist anymore; she lowered her head, hugging Kirito tightly and buried her head into his shoulder. The didactic voice of the Knight Commander passed over her head:

“So, Eldrie. Don’t say it so selfishly like that, he’s just a youngster, so take care of him.”

“But…. But…”

The most astute Integrity Knight Eldrie described his opinions to Bercouli with even more admirable spirit.

“It would be okay if he had the least bit of strength, but in this state… Besides, even if he recovered, what can the sword of a student do…?”

“Hey, hey.”

With a calm smile, Bercouli’s words were as sharp as knives.

“Have you forgotten? This boy’s partner has won against even me. He’s beaten Integrity Knight Bercouli Synthesis One.”

Instantly, the entire grassy field was silent again.

“That kid called Eugeo… He’s strong, stronger than you can believe. I even Released Recollections of my Time Piercing Sword. I still lost. Like you, Deusolbert, and like Fanatio.”

Now, Eldrie was at a loss for words. Of course, a swordsman winning one-on-one against Bercouli, no matter among the Integrity Knights, or in the Dark Territory on the other side of that door, shouldn’t exist — everyone strongly believed this in the Axiom Church.

But, in a certain meaning, wasn’t this a dangerous way of thinking?

Knight Commander Bercouli was able to lead the assembled guard with the authority of the strongest one. But, he made known the existence of a swordsman Eugeo whom he had been defeated by — and even acknowledged that Eugeo and Kirito were on the same side, then…

As Alice was thinking, just as she was about to raise her head.

Bercouli suddenly looked to the sky with a spasm-like jerk.

“Men…Mentor-sama…?”

At Alice’s inquiry, the Knight Commander said something unexpected.

“Somewhere far, far away, a wave of great fighting intent expanded in an instant, and disappeared… Someone I know has died…”


References

  1. The specific language used here refers to women selected by emperors to sleep with. Go back

Author: defan752

I translate stuff for you all to read.

88 thoughts on “[SAO V15] Chapter 17 – Dark Territory (25% completion)”

  1. I dont really get it; is this the entire chapter or only 25%? And when will the next chapter/volume come out?

    Like

  2. Thank u so much Defan and the guys that help u, was wondering if the next chapter is out yet and when are u going to start working on it?

    Like

  3. 100% – Editing…

    The moment a long download finishes, and you’re excited until you remember that there’s an equally lengthy installation. That’s what this is. Hopefully editing won’t be too long…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Getting goose bumps looking at that progress bar…it’s gonna be massive…..arrgh so wish it came in more, smaller, parts…hope I have time to read the whole thing before finals….xD

    Like

    1. Dude, take it easy, defan is a very busy man, the part will come adventually. Besides, it’s not going to come out faster if you keep asking.

      Like

          1. he never said what soon was. soon to you may mean something different. if your a lazy piece of shit(I.E. me) it means like 2 months. if your a really busy person, similarly, a long time. its when you got time to kill and have the motive to do it soon i like a week

            Like

  5. Hey Defan, I remember that one morning I looked at my phone and a notification email said that you where going to start translating Accel World, but when I clicked the link for it, I think you already took it down. What happened? Are you going to translate Accel World?

    Like

      1. Cool. Anyways defan just a question. Some of the volumes for accel world are hosted on tus tran (the first translator) but does he have other translators translating besides you and CJ?

        Like

          1. Oh, ok thanks. And probably if u want u should put accel world in your light novel list with a sign/link to the hosted page

            Like

  6. Thanks for the translation Defan n Co. :)

    I also got some news for you people who can’t wait for the chapter to be finished.
    There is a fully translated version of this and there has been for 2 months but (here’s the kicker), it’s in Spanish. Not sure if I’m allowed to share the link with you guys so I’ll just say it’s done by Saojohnny, so just Google him if you want to.

    For those of you who can not read Spanish, I’m sorry for you, I myself aren’t really that good at Spanish either.

    Question: If I want to discuss the chapter what do I say since there are no spoiler tags?

    Like

    1. I am familiar with the Spanish translation, but I can’t read Spanish either.

      To discuss the chapter, just place a big all-caps spoiler warning before your text, hit enter a few times, and discuss. I’ll put a warning on the site soon about spoilers in comments.

      Like

  7. The Author is writing 4 novels: SAO, SAO Progresive, Accel World và Zettai Naru Isolator. So there is no way he would finish this LN fast. Just wait.

    Like

  8. Hey defan haven’t read this chapter yet so not sure if this page has been getting updated but is this 25% of the chapter or 60% like the translation bar says?

    Like

  9. Thanks for the upload defan! :P

    Just pointing out something strange I found while reading:

    “The number on the left was the highest Life she had ever seen — more than three million. But the one on the left was less than one thousandth of that: 2985. ”

    The left and then the left again? o.O

    Like

  10. Thanks for the translation defan.i am desperately waiting for the new part of the chapter 17.do you have any idea how much more time will it take for the complete translation of vol15

    Like

    1. Hi, thanks for making it, but just so you know, my translations aren’t finalized until I’m done with the entire volume. There will be more corrections before I finish Volume 15.

      Like

  11. Defan, What you do is keep us otaku from the harsh confines of PADS. Please continue being our hero.

    Cannot wait for the continuation! :)

    Like

  12. Damn a lot of feels in this chapter. I love Alice and how she struggles to keep Kirito by his side. I’m going to feel terrible for her when she sees Asuna but i bet Asuna going to make a badass comeback too. I love this! I hope Yui comes with her. And it seems the Evil King is getting wayy to into this. I feel bad for that guy who lost his girl and died by the King, it’s all her fault for interfering! -_-. Even Bercouli felt it

    Like

    1. Why? He was never Alice’s to begin with. If anything i would feel terrible for Asuna and how she woukd feel about her husband/boyfriend is in the arms of another.. Thst breaks my heart..

      Like

  13. Awesome ! This is just 25% ?? Means 75% of awesomeness are still to be expected :D

    Thanks for your work. I can’t really judge the translation, but because it’s very pleasant to read, I’d say you are doing a very good job.

    Also, if you plan to edit this artice to add the missing 75%, can you place some kind of marker so I know where I can resume reading ?

    Like

  14. Hey defan I thought your prologue was wrong so I corrected it please go over it I edited everything

    «Ocean Turtle»
    The «Ocean Turtle» is an independent large-scale floating carrier. Which is used as the base for the disguised company «RATH» constructed to undergo «Project Alicization», a development project for a Bottom-Up artificial intelligence.

    Within this enormous pyramid-shaped structure, there is a TL Room One and STL Room Two with each containing two «Soul Translators» needed to log into the «Underworld». Within the STL Room Two the soul translator there is currently logged into Underworld by the user, Kirito

    At the center a «Light Cube Cluster» is stored. The cluster is a storage for the «souls» of the inhabitants of the «Underworld», the artificial Fluctlights.

    Gabriel’s group’s mission is to eject a artificial Fluctlight soul, named Alice, from this gigantic mass of Light Cubes through a vacuum tube.

    Like

  15. Hey Defan do you think you would ever going to get a spoiler system (something like Taps) for the comments?

    Like

  16. Thank you for the read. Here’s a few things that caught my attention.

    “After she sprinted through the winding corridor, between the round columns on her right, a colossal black city was erected under the backdrop of the red sky appeared in sight.” Remove “was” before “erected” or add “that” before “was”.

    On top of their shiny, wavy hair, they wore large, pointy hats announcing their statuses as Dark Sorcerers. ->Sorceresses

    Twice as short as other kids when she was young, Lipia could never become a Knight if she had born in the «Age of Iron and Blood»; had born -> had been born

    Lipia could not help feeling odd about this country, in which power dominates all. Although she had not the wisdom of Shasta “had not” -> did not have

    No matter what, although it was the lowest-level Unit no matter what, – repetitive “no matter what”

    Like

      1. That first edit was good before you performed it, so please re-edit that.
        I can’t help but wonder, do you have an English speaker proofreading for English? I am a native speaker with college English behind me, and I’d be willing to lend a hand, just to be sure your English makes sense after you’ve gone through the translation process.

        For example:
        “What moved Gabriel, were not the actions of the woman devoting her body.”
        The comma pauses the sentence in an awkward place, and as a result, the intended message of the sentence is lost. Removing the comma would make the whole sentence a cohesive message, not broken into two fragmented parcels that confuse anyone reading carefully.

        Another example is this:
        “…sharp knife out of her hair and raised it high as Gabriel predicted.”
        Up to the begining of my citation, the sentence is correct, but when you said “…as Gabriel preticted,” you missed a tiny idiosyncrasy of the English language. This is simply that in this and many similar situations, the verb ‘had’ must be inserted before the past tense verb, which is this case is ‘predicted’. This is because some English verbs in some situations (which are difficult for me to list as a native speaker, as I intuitively know the verbs and situations as I come across them) use the verb have to help indicate varying degrees of the past tense.
        You could also put a comma after “…raised it high…” because that puts a pause in a place that aids the flow of the sentence. If the woman in question “…raised it [as] high as Gabriel [had] predicted,” you don’t need the comma, but if it was the act of raising that Gabriel predicted, the comma is necessary. Again, this is something that a native english speaker intuits, and becomes difficult to explain without a huge amount of delving into the language.

        There were more mistakes that I noticed, but unless you ask for my full input, I won’t bother you with them, as a reader who knows enough to care can puzzle through them if I did.

        Also, because I really appreciate the translation effort you put in to this, THANK YOU! I have limited experience translating but it is hard enough work when languages share alphabets. Keep up the good work, and please consider my offer.
        Thanks again!
        -feauxen

        Like

        1. Hi, I’m going to address your edits.

          The only reason I’m placing the commas there is that’s how it’s formatted in the original Japanese and Chinese text, as they have a different syntactical structure. A lot of people strive for pure accuracy, while the other half call for grammatical correctness. This is the closest I can come to a compromise. (I am also a native speaker.) The edits you’re mentioning, especially the “as Gabriel predicted” portion, are not actually my own – they’re what my editor decided them to be. However, it’s good that you’re raising this issue before the translation is finalized.

          About your offer, I recently got another English editor on board who is equally adept as you are. Thanks for offering though; I’ll definitely consider you for other projects if you’re interested in them!

          Like

          1. Oh hey, your reply wasn’t here before…
            Thanks for considering, and good luck moving forward. It looks like you have these things more considered than I thought. I will suggest however that you pay closer attention to the English syntax when in English, for the simple reason that it will make more sense to anyone who understands English, which should be anyone who is reading the english version. Just picture a German person trying to make sense of Chinese syntax superimposed on English text.

            Like

            1. Being a native German speaker, I never understood what the heck you English speaker are doing with commas anyway. At least there is a fixed structure in japanese syntax. :D
              (No offense intended.)

              Like

              1. As a fellow native german speaker I must admit, I changed some of the commas in my published PDFs from Tap, since they just sounded weird. Most of the time, though, I leave them as they are. If you’re constantly reading SAO LNs, then you get used to the structure the translators wanna achieve.
                Anyway, I’m trying to say that non-native readers from other countries usually have no problems with the structure. But since germans are quite good in english (thanks to the educational system that forces you to learn it for mimimum 6 years, usually 8or 9 years), I don’t know others like french or turkey people.
                In May I should have more free time, I’ll try to compile your translations into PDF, but I can’t promise anything.
                Keep up the good work!

                Like

          2. I always thought it was wierd how some translators put commas where it usually isn’t and how they don’t put commas where there ment to be. But probably like you said (if im not mistaken) this is purely a direct translation from chinese to english with japenese references while it isn’t like yen press when it’s like it was english to start with, because they translated and changed some part/structure to make it sound like english grammar

            Like

        2. Well look at that, even I make mistakes when I don’t proofread…
          “I have limited experience proofreading[,] but it is hard enough…”
          Fear not if you mess up a few commas, we English speakers are quite practiced at the very same thing.

          Like

          1. Tap’s translation will most likely trump mine, so I don’t think it matters down to the finer details. I’m just providing a speedy service. Thanks for your time and consideration, though.

            Like

        1. its fine mate, i just thought it was funny because it sounded similar to obi-wans spiel about alderan

          Like

Comment on this...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s