Sword Art Online Unleash Blading

Sword Art Online
Unleash Blading

Dark Emperor, Chapter 7

 Night whitened in the Dark Realm as Solus peeked its head up above the horizon. To the soldiers in the Human Guardian Army, this light was surely a blessing. They could finally breathe with ease, knowing they were safe from a nighttime raid.

"Come on, I know Kirito is in here! Let me through!"
"This area is restricted to common soldiers. Be off with you."
"But I have urgent news for Kirito!"
 A voice shouted from outside while Kirito and Iskahn were having a council with the Integrity Knights.
"Is that you, Shirley?"
"What urgent news would this be, Kirito?"
"Well, I asked Shirley to stand on guard and...actually, I did nothing of the sort..."
 Deciding it would be faster to just ask the person outside the tent for an explanation, Kirito called out.
"Go ahead. Let her inside the—"
 Before Kirito could finish with the word "tent," Shirley charged inside. Her eyes were clouded over with worry.
"Kirito...Sylvie is gone!"
"She's gone? Did she join the platoon on the night watch?"
"No, she was with me up until bedtime. But when I woke this morning, she was gone..."
"Maybe she got hungry and had an early breakfast?"


Shirley was about to snap back at Iskahn for his casual dismissal, but she shut her mouth, remembering he was the commander. Instead, she beseeched Kirito with tears in her eyes.
"Sylvie was acting strangely yesterday. If only I'd stopped her..."
"Shirley, stay calm. Don't worry, I'm sure we’ll find Sylvie."
Kirito gently put his hands on her shoulders.
"You said she was acting strangely... Did Sylvie say anything that gave you pause?"
"Actually, yes... She said she saw her parents yesterday."


Shirley relayed Sylvie's account to Kirito. When Kirito heard that she had seen her dead parents in the enemy ranks, Kirito's complexion changed. And Iskahn's look of scorn turned to of surprise.
"Whoa, wait a minute, can people really be brought back from the dead?"
"Well, the dead emperor is still alive—that much is clear. But his dead body was reanimated by a secret spell. I don't see how it's possible to reanimate just anybody..."
"But Sigurosig has returned. I dunno how they did it, but I think it's safe to assume that there is a way to resurrect people."
"Yeah...but I still don't think you can resurrect just anybody. There must be some sort of conditions..."
 Kirito crossed his arms and began to think. The Integrity Knights who had heard the conversation began to discuss it amongst themselves. Then Eydis suddenly looked up, as if she had remembered something.
"That reminds me...there was a mage at the Cathedral who was very good at making statues. They looked so lifelike and real. They were so realistic, in fact, that they were kinda unsettling to look at."
 Entokia clapped his hands together.
"Right! I remember that. I would often see the Prime Senator smashing those statues. And this sculptor left when the Human Unification Council was formed. His whereabouts are currently unknown."
"Lifelike statues... So, you're suggesting he defected to the emperor and he might have the ability to carve statues of the dead and reanimate them by some means?"


Kirito was about to theorize on what those "means" were when Iskahn stopped him.
"Not so fast. We don't have time to waste thinking about how he did it."
"I agree. Solus is about to rise. Before that happens, we must draw up today's battle plans."
 Nergius stepped up, siding with Iskahn. And they were right; before they could expose how the dead were returning, they needed to stop the uprising. Besides, if they won the battle and captured the mage, they could find out how he reanimated the dead anyway. Coming to this conclusion, Kirito decided to go with Iskahn's and Nergius's suggestion. But Shirley was not convinced.

"H-Hey, wait a minute! What will happen to Sylvie, then? We have to find her fast—she might be in the enemy camp as we speak!"
"We don't got time to waste coddling traitors."
"Traitors? But...that's not possible!"
"Nah, it's definitely possible. She saw her parents on the enemy's side, so she betrayed us and joined them. I can't think of any other explanation."
 No heartfelt pleading from Shirley could sway Iskahn. She looked at Kirito for help, but he only shook his head.
"I sympathize with you, Shirley, but it's hard to search for Sylvie if she's with the enemy. Especially since we don't even know where she is."
“But...doesn't that mean she'll..."
"We need to prioritize winning this war as quickly as possible. I think that will give us a chance to talk with Sylvie, too."
 Shirley bit her tongue. Kirito looked too hurt for her to say anything. Thinking it through logically, she knew that Kirito was right. As Shirley stood there hanging her head, Eydis rested a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Chin up. Let's just push through and beat the enemy today. When we do, I promise we'll find Sylvie."
 Shirley nodded meekly in reply.

"Okay. Let's figure out our strategy for today. If possible, I'd like to—"
 Iskahn cut in loudly.
"Let's end this as quickly as possible. They can resurrect the dead. The longer the wait, the more likely we are to lose. We gotta move fast."
"I agree. If many more minions are born, our platoons won't be big enough to fight back."
 Eydis spoke up in support of Iskahn. The other Integrity Knights nodded in agreement. The Dark Realm’s army had very few mages, and everyone who was skilled in Sacred Arts in the Human Empire Army was busy healing the wounded. That meant the Integrity Knights were the only ones who could stand against the minions.

"I agree with you. That's why I'm going to infiltrate the enemy lines alone. Then I'll defeat the enemy commander."
"You're going alone? Don't be stupid."
 Kirito nodded earnestly in reply. Iskahn shook his head.
"Eydis, take Kirito with you on your dragon. If you guys are together, you’ll be hard to beat."
"Huh? But what about the minions?"
"Don't get so damn cocky. We can hold our own just fine without you guys. Besides, we've got Integrity Knights of our own."
 Iskahn turned to Entokia and Nergius.
"Unless you think you can't win a fight without Eydis around? You two so-called Integrity Knights."
 Nergius glared and snapped at Iskahn's taunt.
"I would advise that you not get so cocky, Commander Iskahn. Integrity Knights are not so foolish that we would let a mere minion best us."
"Well, when you put it like that, I suppose our only choice is to fight. I'm sure we'll manage to accomplish something in a day. As long as Master Kirito and Eydis strike the final blow swiftly, we'll have no problems."
 Entokia smiled, rising to the challenge.
"Okay, Shirley? You keep fighting hard. We'll bring Sylvie back home."
"Understood. You be careful out there, too, Eydis. Remember, I shall be the one to defeat you."
"Yup, I’ll be careful."


Now that the matter was settled, Iskahn clapped his hands together.
"Good, so our strategy is decided. It's all on you, Kirito."
"Don't worry, I've got this. Thanks for the assist, Eydis."
 When Eydis replied flawlessly in Sacred Tongue, complete with jazz hands, Kirito smirked.

 Just as Solus rose into the sky, both sides clashed together in fierce battle. Morale was high in the Dark Realm's platoon under Iskahn's command. They held their own against the ogres and the giants. But with minions in the enemy ranks, fists and swords did not inflict effective damage. Their front line was pushed further and further back. Compared to the tireless minions, the catalysts required for spells were in limited supply. And now that Eydis was gone, they were far more outnumbered than they had been yesterday.
"C'mon, you slackers! Push! Don't give in! This is where we have to go our hardest!"
 Iskahn barked orders to his soldiers as he punched enemies away with his own fists. Hearing his command, the Pugilists Guild let out a war cry and pushed back from their cornered position. Nergius and Entokia flew around the battlefield, picking off minions one at a time. They were holding the line—barely.

 Meanwhile, Kirito and Eydis were flying on Kirimai. Kirimai plunged deep into the enemy camp, where their commander's tent was believed to be. Gripping Kirimai’s back firmly, Kirito frowned in thought.
"Thinking about Sylvie?"
"Yeah... If I found out someone I loved who had died was actually alive...well, I can understand why Sylvie did what she did. Even if I knew there was a ninety-nine percent chance it was all a lie, I'd cling onto that one percent chance of hope...”
 Eydis pondered over what Kirito had said behind her, before she murmured, "I don't really get what this percent-thingy is you're talking about." Then she continued,
"But I still think that's no better than retreating. She's turned her back on the truth."
"Dang, that's harsh... And I'll admit, you're right...but Sylvie is still just a kid. So..."
"A kid? But she doesn't look much younger than you, Kirito."
"Y-You think so? I find that hard to believe..."
 The smirk in Kirito's eyes quickly turned into a sharp glare. At the same time, Eydis and Kirimai tensed up.
"Yeah. I noticed. Dragons are flying right towards us."
"Hmmm...there's a lot of them. This might take a while."
 Eydis looked over her shoulder at Kirito.
"Kirito, can you fly on your own from here on?"
"Yeah, I can handle that...but will you be okay by yourself?"
"I may not look it to you, but I am an Integrity Knight. Leave the dragons to me. You hurry on ahead."
 And with that, Kirito let go of Kirimai's back and let his body sail in the air. He focused his Incarnation power, willing himself not to fall to the ground. His body froze in midair...then it zipped ahead at a speed faster than a flying dragon.
"I'd heard about this art before, but...dang, he really is fast."
 Eydis smirked as she watched Kirito fly away...but her face tightened when she heard the beating wings grow closer. There were four Dark Knights on flying dragons ahead of her. Each one of them had their sword drawn, poised for the attack.
"Okay. It would be helpful if you guys would surrender...but I guess that's not happening."
 Without waiting for the enemy to reply, Eydis drew her own blade.
"I've gotta go rescue a pretty girl named Sylvie, so I'm gonna make short work of you guys!"

 With the power of Incarnation, Kirito cut through the low clouds as he flew. Here, away from the front lines, the wounded soldiers were resting. It seemed the enemy did not have many healers in their ranks.
"I guess I can zip through this area without needless bloodshed," Kirito reasoned with a sigh of relief.
 In time, Kirito made it through the area of wounded soldiers. A glamorous tent was now in sight. Three armored Dark Knights stood in front of it. One of them was Sylvie. He couldn't make out who the other two were. As Kirito lowered himself to the ground, he reasoned they were probably Sylvie’s parents.

"Hi there, Sylvie."
 Kirito greeted the girl as brightly as he could. But Sylvie remained silent, staring at him with sorrow in her eyes. Then she spoke, her voice hoarse.
"If you want to run away, now’s your last chance."
It was a warning.
"But I can't run away. I have to defeat the leader of the rebel forces and take you back home, Sylvie."
"I...I can't go back."
 Sylvie avoided Kirito's gaze and hung her head. Her parents drew their swords and stepped forward protectively in front of her.
"Sylvie, you probably don't know this, but these people aren't really your—"
"Shut up! They're my mother and father! I know it's them!"
 Sylvie denied it with all her might, and drew her sword from the sheath at her hip. Her parents stepped between Sylvie and Kirito, as a protective shield.
"Sylvie, this man is our enemy, right? The one the emperor told us about."
"Let's kill him so that we can live together as a family again."
 Kirito's eyes opened wide at the sight of them. They were human in appearance only. Inside, they were minions. And yet they were protective of Sylvie and spoke without struggle. For a moment, doubt raced through Kirito’s mind: maybe these people weren't minions after all. That was just how human-like their behavior was. They did not look like minions who were blindly obeying orders.
"If these people really are minions..."
 Then maybe resurrecting the dead was more than a rumor. That would mean the enemy held that power. Kirito shuddered at the thought.

 Sylvie steadied the tip of her shaking sword with all her might, inspiring courage within herself. She was up against the most powerful person in the Human Empire: Swordsman Delegate Kirito. But unless she killed him, she would not be able to live happily ever after with her parents. She had to kill him...even if he was a kind person who was trying to bring peace to both realms.

"That’s right. If that little brat is gone, the Human Empire will fall into chaos. Then the Human Empire and Dark Realm are both as good as ours. A Human Empire without Integrity Knights cannot make a comeback."
 Last night, after being reunited with her parents, Emperor Tolgash had given Sylvie a command.
"About that rat. He will come here tomorrow to attack. His mission will be to end the war and to rescue you."
"K-Kirito would never come here to rescue me! Why should he, when I..."
Sylvie shut her mouth, unable to say the words, "betrayed him." But Tolgash laughed it off amusedly.
"That brat's weakness is his naivety. He avoids killing, and he'll extend mercy even to those who have betrayed him. If you kill him when he comes here tomorrow, I will grant you your freedom. You can go live peacefully somewhere with your parents."
 The carver smirked lightly beside the emperor, pointing at the outside of the tent with his chin. Sylvie's parents took that command to go outside and stand guard. They were forced to obey the carver's orders, no matter what.
"Naturally, if you lose, you will die and those clay puppets will be returned to dust. Do we have an understanding, I hope?"
 The words "clay puppets" made Sylvie grind her teeth.
"But...I'm not strong enough to defeat Kirito..."
"Humph. I never said you had to do it alone. But I know who I’m dealing with here. The brat's sword hand will falter when he sees your face. We will seize that opening to strike the final blow."
 Tolgash's eyes fell on the sword at Sylvie's hip.
"Besides, you have a superior armament, little girl. With that sword, you may even be able to wound that whelp of a boy."
"My sword...?"
"I guess that sword is still a sapling. Are you still not able to unleash its true power yet?"
"Its true power...?"
"Divine weapons and those like them are imbued with special powers. Your bone sword used to be an animal. The animal's memories in life now reside within it."
 Sylvie stared hard at the blade on her hip, mulling over the carver's words. She remembered the lady general of the Human Empire Army had also said it was a powerful sword.
"I can't guarantee you'll be able to use it, but allow me to teach you an incantation. We would be most fortunate indeed if you happened to unleash the sword's potential and strike down the swordsman delegate."
 The carver reluctantly taught Sylvie the spell. But even when she finally memorized the words, the sword showed no sign of transforming. Sylvie's sword hadn't left her hand all this time, but that was only because she saw it as a keepsake of her parents. She hadn't used the blade as an actual weapon until this war. The carver seemed disappointed, but Sylvie, who hadn't gotten her hopes up, was able to shrug it off. But if Kirito really did show up the next day, and if she really were able to defeat him... She stopped herself there, thinking only of whether or not she would even be able to raise her weapon against Kirito.

"I will protect Mother and Father... Then we can all start over, together!"
 Sylvie opened her eyes and charged at Kirito.
"Stop!" Kirito yelled, blocking Sylvie's attack. Sylvie's parents violently lashed at him a second time...a third time...but Kirito dodged them easily.
"Damn it!"
 Sylvie swung her sword even harder. If Kirito had been an ordinary soldier, she could have struck him down with one blow. But somehow, he was always out of reach. He repelled her full-force slashes, causing her to come dangerously close to dropping her sword. She frantically gripped its hilt and fixed her stance.
"Sylvie, I know it hurts. But your parents...they aren't—"
"Shut up! Shut up!!!"
 She wildly charged at him, anything to shut his mouth. If the truth spilled from his lips, there's no telling what would happen to her parents.
"You think I don't know?! You think I don't know?! You think—ah?!"
 Kirito's attack hit Sylvie square in the chest, blowing her backwards. Her mother rushed over to her while her father protectively held his sword between Sylvie and Kirito. They looked like nothing less than loving parents. Kirito's attacks faltered. Sylvie took the opportunity to rise.
"Oof! So powerful..."
 Kirito really was strong. Even with her parents fighting by her side, there was no way Sylvie could defeat him. But if she didn't, her parents would turn to dust. She didn't care what happened to herself, she just didn't want to lose them again.

——I have to save them. If nothing else, Mother and Father have to live on.——

As she felt her mother's hand on her back, Sylvie's thoughts burned strong in her mind.

——They loved me always. I will never let them die.——


Suddenly, Sylvie felt something warm surge through the sword in her right hand, and into her body. The giant beast was fighting against an even larger enemy. Beneath it hid several cubs. The beast was fighting to protect its young.

——Is this...the sword's memory?


Just as Sylvie had imagined, this was a memory of the sword from when it was still Byakko, the white tiger. The beast god was a mother who lovingly raised many cubs. In the Dark Realm, where enemies were numerous, the tiger fought through its wounds to protect its young, never turning her back on a fight. Sylvie's earnest wish to save her parents had activated this memory, which had now harmonized with Sylvie’s mind.

"System Call! Enhance Armament!"

 Sylvie chanted the incantation smoothly, almost unconsciously. And with those screamed words, the Sword of Byakko changed into its true form. The giant sword in her right hand had split in two blades, one now in each of Sylvie's hands.

"A...Perfect Weapon Control art. So it was dual blades."

 Kirito was stunned, and Sylvie used the opening to charge at him. Her attacks were different from before. Each blow made Kirito's hands more and more numb.
"Mmf! This is a whole other level of power. But...!"
 However, once Kirito recovered from his moment of surprise, Sylvie's technique was no match for him. Just like before, he knocked Sylvie away, never inflicting mortal wounds on her. He aimed another thrust at her chest.


 But his sword stopped just short of touching her. Kirito and Sylvie let out a cry of shock in unison. Without Sylvie knowing it, her sword had sent Kirito's attack sideways. Even if Kirito fixed his stance and attacked her again, the result would be the same.
"Is...Is this the true power of the Sword of Byakko?"
 Kirito's well-aimed attack was nearly impossible for Sylvie to block. But the Sword of Byakko had the power of protection. It would block any attack, keeping its owner safe from harm. At last, Sylvie finally understood what power her weapon held.
"Do attacks...just not work on you?"
 Kirito's eyes filled with panic. No matter how he attacked her, he would be rebuffed by her impenetrable shield. And with her parents attacking him as well, Kirito had to fall back into defensive mode.

"The way this is going...I might have no choice but to strike down Sylvie..."

 If Kirito unleashed his true power, he might be able to break the Sword of Byakko's defenses. But it would be difficult to control his power at such high levels. Even if he managed to avoid killing her, he wouldn't be able to avoid inflicting major damage. Kirito was conflicted, and this conflict dulled his movements.

"Warrior of the Human Empire...are you going easy on us?"

 Sylvie's father sneered at Kirito after blocking his attack. Kirito stood still. Because Sylvie's father was right.
"I stand here and fight you as a warrior. Even though my skill does not compare to you, I fight with all my heart."
 Kirito had no words in reply.
"I don't know what sort of etiquette the Human Empire has. But the way you fight now is shameful behavior for a warrior."
 His tone was harsh. And his words struck Kirito's warrior heart painfully. But at the same time, the words resonated with something in Sylvie's heart.

"Shameful behavior for a warrior..."

"You might encounter a difficult trial in the future."
Sylvie remembered the words of wisdom her father had given her at the start of the Otherworld War.
"And when that time comes, I want you to act in a way that won't shame you as a knight...or as a person."
"Shame...? I don't understand."
"That means, to never be embarrassed by your deeds, to live in a way that leaves you with no regrets."
"To never be embarrassed... So, do you mean you don't want anything I do to embarrass you or Mother?"
"Sure, you may think of it that way for now. When you get older, you will come to understand."

 She knew that Kirito was fighting to bring peace to the realms. She also knew that the emperor whose orders she was following sought to exploit this and plunge the world back into war. Even though she had tried not to think about it...Sylvie knew who was right and who was wrong.

"Now...finish him!"

 An order suddenly barked from the tent, and a black shadow leaped at Kirito. Stunned by the conflict he felt from Sylvie's father's words, Kirito was unable to block the attack. A fluffy black mass clung to Kirito's body, immobilizing him.
"Damn it...a minion."
"Hee hee hee, finally I've caught you, Swordsman Delegate."
"You must be the emperor... Tolgash Southacroith."
"The words of a dead man are of no concern to me."
 Tolgash issued an order to Sylvie:
"Little girl. Kill the swordsman delegate. When he's immobilized like this, even a pitiful whelp like you can slay him."
 Kirito struggled, but he could not free himself from the minion. His mouth was clamped shut, so he could not chant any Sacred Arts.
 Sylvie held her twin blades with shaking hands. But the tips stayed pointed at Kirito. She could not move them.
"What's wrong, little girl?! Don't you value your parents' lives?!"
 Tears flowed from Sylvie's eyes. But her shivering sword tips stayed still...and then quietly lowered.
"Little girl..."
"I cannot kill Kirito. It would shame me as a warrior...no, as a daughter. I can't possibly join forces with a treacherous person like you...and kill Kirito...for my own personal gain..."
"You wretch... Do you have any idea what happens to those who betray me?"
She ignored the growling Tolgash and turned to face her parents, who still weren't following the situation.
"Father, Mother, please forgive me. I've been lying to you."
The tears that had stopped flowed freely once again. And in a voice shaking and barely audible, Sylvie told the truth to her parents.
"Father, Mother...you died in the war. And now, you both are..."
 She took their hands. They were definitely the hands of her parents, the hands that she remembered so well.
"Th-That emperor and the carver used a spell to..."
 If she finished the sentence, that might mean farewell forever. But——
"Turn you...into minions... Oh-ohh..."
 After barely squeezing the words out, Sylvie broke into tears. She forgot that she was on a battlefield...she forgot about the emperor, the carver, and Kirito...and she just wept bitterly. Her parents caressed her hair.
"I see... I'm so sorry we hurt you."
"We became shackles to you, didn't we."
 Her mother's voice and touch were so gentle. Sylvie looked up.
"Father, Mother...aren't you angry with me? I deceived you both..."
"You should always live in a way that is true to your heart. We will always support you, Sylvie."
"Father, Mother—"
 Sylvie flew into their arms. But the moment her parents tried to hold her, with a thundering moan, their bodies crumbled to dirt. Sylvie clung to the dirt and sobbed. But in time, she stood up and glared at Tolgash and the carver.
"You stupid little girl...you betrayed me."
"No, I didn't. All I did was follow the lesson my father taught me. If I had gone through with what I was about to do, that would have been a betrayal to my parents."
"What nonsense! Fine, I’ll just have to kill you and the swordsman delegate myself!"

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