Sword Art Online Unleash Blading

Sword Art Online
Unleash Blading

Dark Emperor, Chapter 5

Solus rose in the eastern sky. The Dark Realm's earth, once shrouded in shadow, now shone with light. This light stirred the soldiers from their short rest.
The battle between Iskahn's troops and the rebel forces was entering its third day.

"So, Iskhan, how does it look out there?"
 Kirito was in Iskahn's tent, inquiring about the state of the war. He and Eydis had only just arrived in the Dark Realm. In the tent with them were Iskahn's advisor Dampa along with Integrity Knights Nergius Synthesis Sixteen and Entokia Synthesis Eighteen. Dark Knight apprentices Shirley and Sylvie were also there.
"Could be better, could be worse. We've got more soldiers than them, but they've got giants and ogres. Myself and Dampa aside, our fighters don't have a chance in hell of beating them one-on-one."
Iskhan had a grim look in his eyes.
"What's more, Sigurosig—the giant chief who died in the Otherworld War—is among their ranks," Dampa reported.
"The giant chief is back from the dead?! But...are you sure that's true?!"
Eydis demanded, her face burning red. Dampa awkwardly avoided her gaze and nodded.
"At the very least, we have confirmed reports that a very powerful giant stands with them."
"Anyone who’s engaged him so far has gotten a terrible beating."
Nergius and Entokia looked just as perturbed by the news. Either of them was an equal match for the giant, but their Perfect Weapon Control arts were more suited to groups of opponents. And even if they were sent away to deal with Sigurosig, it would be difficult for everyone else to hold the line.
"Eydis, do you know something?" Kirito asked. "Have you dealt with that giant before?"
"I think so... He's probably the bastard that killed Dakira," Eydis replied. "Though I heard that Fanatio had slain him."
Eydis then turned to Iskahn.
"Iskahn, would you let me take on that giant chief? If he really is back from the dead, then I want to bury him again and avenge Dakira."
"Of course. I'd appreciate that. If that really is Sigurosig, it would take an entire platoon to have a chance at defeating him."
"Thanks. Dakira...you will be avenged."
Eydis clenched her fist, murmuring intently. Kirito was surprised to see such grave sentiment from someone who was usually so silly and carefree.
"So, are you sure it's all right for these kids to be here?" Iskahn asked.
His eyes were pointing at Shirley and Sylvie. Sylvie wore her Dark Knight armor proudly, but Shirley was wearing a borrowed suit that didn't fit her very well. Sylvie bit her lip in reply, but Shirley couldn't remain silent.
"I-I'll have you know, I am Lady Lipia's star apprentice! I can even use the dark arts..." She began to chant.
Kirito hastily stopped her.
"Shirley and Sylvie are exchange students from the Dark Realm. They're both good fighters—you have my word on that."
"Well, if you say they're good fighters, Kirito, then they must really be good. Maybe we should test 'em out—"
"Commander, the battle will begin at any minute," Dampa stopped him. "We don't have time to waste on tests of strength."
"It wouldn't take that long," Iskahn snorted. "What're ya trying to say, Dampa? That these pipsqueaks would actually give me a pounding?"
"I would never imply that..."
"Haha! Oh, Dampa, looks like you have it as rough as ever."
Kirito's turn of phrase sent the room into an uproar of laughter—the tension in the air blew away like a gust of wind.
"Oh well," Iskahn shrugged. "We'll save the sparring for some other time... Eydis, I can trust you to take care of Sigurosig by yourself, yeah?"
"Of course you can. On my life, I will defeat him."
"Good. Once he's out of commission, that'll give us an instant advantage. Dark Knights, Pugilists Guild, use everything you've got to hold the front line until then."
"As you wish, Commander."
"So, Kirito," Iskahn turned to the boy. "What's your plan? Are you going to fight alongside the Integrity Knights?"
"I'd like to attack the enemy stronghold, if possible. It's likely an emperor from the Human Empire is there."
 If they did have an emperor on their side, and if they were able to reanimate the dead, there was a possibility that Sigurosig could come back to life after they killed him. So defeating the emperor first was Kirito's recommendation, but Iskahn shook his head.
"That's not going to be too easy a task. The enemy stronghold is quite far from the front. You might be able to make it there on your own...but that's risky."
"I understand..." Kirito conceded. "We shouldn't take unnecessary risks when we still don't know who we're up against. In that case, I'll fight with Nergius's group."
"And your presence would certainly boost our morale, Master Kirito! Right, Negio?"
"Don't call me Negio!"
Nergius shoved Entokia's arm off his shoulder and said,
"He's right, though...having you fight by our side will make things much easier, Swordsman Delegate. You are trained in the healing arts, after all."
"Thank you," Kirito said. "It's an honor to serve with you both."
 Nergius nodded solemnly in reply.
"Okay, then. We sally forth now! Today is the day we crush them for good!"

 When the battle gong sounded, both sides clashed fiercely against each other. Swords pierced flesh, fists smashed bones, and soldiers fell on both sides.

And amidst the clamor and the spurts of flying blood, Eydis cut her way through the enemy line to reach Sigurosig. The giant swung his iron hammer, soaked in blood, staring vacantly at Eydis.
"So hey, I heard you died in the Otherworld War," she told him. "Is that true?"
"Raaar... Human..."
Sigurosig did not answer Eydis's question. As a minion, he had no memories of his past life as the giant chief. All that remained in him was the instinct to fight and defeat his enemies.
"So you don't remember, eh? But you look exactly like the giant Fanatio described, so—"
The swinging of Sigurosig's iron hammer cut Eydis's words short. The colossal weapon stirred up a cloud of dust with an earsplitting boom, but Eydis had dodged the attack.
"Guess that means you don't wanna talk. Fine, now I have no qualms about killing you and avenging Dakira!"
 Eydis's impassioned battle cry brought Sigurosig to a halt. And as Eydis faced him, sword at the ready, she too was still. Amidst the chaotic battle around them, these two combatants alone seemed to be frozen in ice.

 It would be untrue to say that Sylvie did not feel joy in standing on the battlefield alongside the Dark Knights. But since she was allied with the Human Empire, that would mean turning her sword on her own kind—this filled Sylvie's heart with conflict.
Ever since witnessing the death of her parents with her own eyes, Sylvie had dedicated her life to the sword, so that she may avenge them. But learning that the Integrity Knight who slew her parents was now dead had made Sylvie lose her purpose. And now, she swung her sword aimlessly, unsure of what it was she wanted.
"Stop that!" she admonished herself. "Focus on the fight in front of you!"
 If she let her concentration falter for even a moment, the cost would be her life. The only way to avoid being killed was to kill. Even if it meant slaying her kinsmen. Sylvie hardened her heart and kept swinging her sword.

 With a roar, Sigurosig's hammer swung at Eydis. She parried it with her sword and slipped through a gap in his defense. By the time Sigurosig raised his hammer to strike again, Eydis's blade had already pierced his throat.
"I heard Fanatio had a hell of a time killing you...but I guess you're a lot weaker now than you were then. Do you suppose coming back from the dead dulls the reflexes?"
 But the battle was not yet over. As a minion, Sigurosig no longer had the ability to go berserk and overpower his enemies with sheer force. However, this did not mean a sword through the throat was enough to kill him. As black liquid dripped from his neck, Sigurosig squeezed Eydis tight with both arms.
"Urk! Whoa, now... I like my hugs from people who aren't gross undead giants, thank you very much!"
The only reply from Sigurosig was a gurgling of bubbles spilling freely from his neck. But his minion lifeforce would not permit him to die yet. Eydis's armor began to crack and bend under his mammoth grip. Her Integrity Knight's armor, as robust as it was, would not last much longer.
"Why, you! C'mon, lemme go..."
 Eydis squirmed in his arms, but Sigurosig would not desist. The sword in her right hand slashed him slightly, but it was not nearly enough to loosen his grip.
It'll affect all my allies nearby, but I have to use my Memory Release skill.
 But just as Eydis made her decision to do so—
"That voice... Shirley?!"
"System Call! Generate Luminous Element!"
 Shirley parted the sea of clashing swords and hurled the light element she'd summoned at Sigurosig.
 Sigurosig's hands shot up to shield his face. Eydis was free. There was a sputtering noise as the part of Sigurosig that had been hit melted away.
"Thanks, Shirley! You really saved my hide!"
"Remember, Eydis, I shall be the one to defeat you! I can't let that oaf steal that honor from me!"
"Damn straight, sweetie. Well, now that I know his weakness, it's time to blast him off this plane of existence!"
 And with that, Eydis began to chant her Sacred Art. Sigurosig, still recoiling from the light element attack, frantically lunged at her with his hammer. But Eydis finished her chant faster. Light elements shot from Eydis's hand, surrounding Sigurosig and burning his body away.
 Even with half of his body scorched to nothing, he still swung his hammer at Eydis. But his swing was slow and frail, and it did not reach Eydis. She easily dodged his attack and slashed with her sword. Immediately after, Sigurosig's head hit the ground with a dull thud.
"Whew. Guess I managed to kill him."
"And you have my dark arts to thank!"
"True. I really do owe you one, Shirley. You got much stronger while I wasn't looking."
"Of course I got stronger! I've been training hard every day so I can take you down someday, Eydis!"
"Ooh, that's what I like to hear."
As Eydis said this, Sigurosig's body melted, turned to black liquid, and sank into the earth.
"Dakira... The guy who gave you a hard time came back to life. But I got rid of him for you. So, let your soul be at peace...and please watch over Commander Fanatio for me."

 With Sigurosig's defeat by Eydis and Shirley's hand, Iskahn's army was now at a significant advantage on the battlefield. The rebel forces were not an orderly platoon to begin with—more like a band of individuals fighting for their own causes. Losing the unifying pillar of Sigurosig spelled their defeat. By the time the sun sank beneath the horizon, the battle was as good as over.

"The enemy front has collapsed," Iskahn announced. "We'll be able to reach their stronghold tomorrow."
"Yeah. And we have Eydis to thank, for killing Sigurosig."
"Yup. Though Shirley helped me out a little."
"Did she, really? Wow, guess she improved a lot while I had my back turned."
"I know. I gotta keep on my toes now."
 The conversation in Iskhan's tent that evening was filled with peaceful banter. Tomorrow, they would storm the enemy stronghold and defeat their leader. Then, this uprising would finally be quelled. Or that's what Kirito hoped would happen.

But he was naive to think that. The next morning, the reality of their naivety was shoved in their faces.

"It's no good—swords don't work on these guys!"
"Fists won't kill them either! What the hell are we supposed to do?!"
 With the addition of minion soldiers to the rebel's side, the advantage Iskahn's troops had enjoyed was quickly snatched away. Physical attacks—swords, fists—these things had little to no effect against minions. Only magic attacks worked against them. And there were no sorcerers from the Dark Mages Guild on Iskhan's side of the battlefield. Unlike humans and demihumans, minions did not have what one could call cognition, but their relentless drive to keep fighting made them an ample threat.
"Please fall back, troops! Leave this to us!"
"Master Kirito and Lady Eydis will have our backs. They will heal our wounds!"
 Iskahn had no choice but to pull back the front line in the face of the advancing minions. Nergius and Entokia would handle the minions while Kirito and Eydis healed the wounded. Only the enemy's lack of leadership was keeping the front from completely crumbling.

 Shirley and Sylvie, with their short list of magic spells, had also joined the front line. There weren't many Dark Knights proficient in both the sword and the dark arts, so they pivoted back and forth between attacking and healing.
 They managed to finally push back the enemy assault. Just when Solus was sinking in the western sky, Sylvie made an unexpected discovery in their foe's ranks.
"I know that armor... Father? And Mother, too?"
The glare of the setting sun hid their faces from her. But the Dark Knights she saw wore the same armor her parents did. They were with the enemy, fighting her side. The way they swung their swords was also familiar to Sylvie.
"It can't be... But how?! Mother and Father died that day. I saw it with my own eyes..."
 Images of her slain parents flooded Sylvie's mind. It was a scene she could never forget, try though she might. So there was no way she could be mistaken.
"But if you were alive all this time...why didn't you say anything to me?!"
 Sylvie's vision went dark, the discord too much for her brain. For a fleeting moment, she considered running into their arms. But the horn signaling retreat from both sides stopped her at the last minute.
"Father! Mother!"
 Sylvie screamed at her parents as they retreated alongside the rebel forces. But her voice did not reach them. In seconds, they were gone from view.

"Listen, Sylvie," Shirley called out to her. "I want to talk about what happened on the battlefield today..."
 Sylvie sat in her tent. She had refused dinner and was stewing in her own thoughts. Her usual cheer was gone, and Shirley had noticed.
"Unless my ears deceived me...did you call out to your mother and father?"
"Oh...you heard that?"
"Y-Yeah, I guess I did. You were screaming awfully loud, Sylvie."
 Sylvie glared at Shirley in silence. Avoiding her gaze, Shirley pressed further.
"Sylvie, aren't your parents both..."
"They're dead. An Integrity Knight killed them."
"R-Right. So then, how could they be here?"
"They were with the enemy. I saw my parents. I know it was them."
"Are you sure you weren't mistaken? I mean—"
"I would never be mistaken!" Sylvie snapped. "I know what I saw!"
 Shirley shut her mouth uncomfortably. She reached out a consoling hand, but Sylvie slapped it away.
"Are you saying I wouldn't know my own mother and father if I saw them?!" she yelled. "They've been on my mind and in my heart every single day! I would never mistake anyone else for them!"
"Go away," Sylvie muttered. "I don't want to speak with you."
 With a huge sigh, Sylvie turned her back on Shirley.
"Sorry I yelled at you. But I just don't feel like talking right now."
"Okay... I'm sorry, too."
 Sylvie said nothing in response. Shirley gave her a worried look, but she eventually left the tent.

 Later that night... Unable to eat or sleep, Sylvie waited until the other soldiers were dreaming before quietly slipping out of her tent. She carried the sword she'd inherited from her parents in her hand. And her eyes burned with a solemn resolve.

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