Sword Art Online Unleash Blading

Sword Art Online
Unleash Blading

Dark Emperor, Chapter 8

"That's right—Kirito?!"
 Sylvie's mind was preoccupied with her parents, but Tolgash's words brought Kirito back into her conscience. She frantically turned towards him...to see that he had broken the minions' grip and was now free.
"When did you escape...?"
"While you were distracting them. I used light elements to defeat the minions."
 Kirito pointed with his eyes at the spot where Sylvie's parents stood only a minute ago.
"Sylvie...I, um—"
"Don't say anything. It's fine. I'm over it."
 Sylvie was firm, her gaze never leaving the emperor. Her eyes were still red, but they were filled with determination.
"I understand. You're really strong, Sylvie."
 "Unlike me..." Kirito murmured to himself. Then he turned to face the emperor as well.
"Useless mud puppets... So, this is the pathetic end they meet when they become needlessly self-aware."
 Sylvie bit her lip at the carver's cynical words. She gripped her dual blades even harder.
"I was right the first time, minions with no will of their own are much easier to use. Just like I used you!"
 As the carver cried out, a dull thud echoed loudly from within the tent. Then a giant emerged, tearing its way out from the inside. It was Sigurosig, the giant chief that Eydis had defeated the day before. Sylvie and Kirito readied their weapons warily. Tolgash faded behind Sigurosig into the shadows.

"Sigurosig reborn, squash those insects!"
 At the carver's command, Sigurosig let out a roar and charged at Kirito and Sylvie. His raised club barreled down towards Sylvie's head.
 Sylvie swung the Sword of Byakko above her head and blocked the heavy blow. With a crunching sound, Sylvie's feet sank slightly into the dirt. But she sank no further—with a burst of courage, she knocked the giant's club away.
 Sigurosig howled with anger. How dare a puny human hit him back? But his club—a weapon that could surely smash boulders to gravel—did not touch Kirito or Sylvie.
"You shouldn't treat the dead like this—it's wrong!"
 Sylvie screamed in anger. Even though her enemy was trying to kill her, she couldn't bring herself to hate him. This giant was merely a puppet, his strings pulled by the carver. Just like her parents. She wanted to put him down as quickly as possible. Otherwise, there was no way his soul could be at peace in the afterlife.

 Sigurosig, chief of the giants, possessed herculean strength, and his fighting prowess was a cut above that of humans. But he was no match for Kirito, or for Sylvie when she had Byakko's Sword drawn. Soon enough, Kirito's attack struck Sigurosig's neck. His head fell to the ground. And his body melted away, returning to dust.

"Tsk! Your Highness...we must retreat. If we can cut our losses and revive some new minions..."
 Seeing their defeat written on the wall, the carver tried to rush to the emperor's side. But Sylvie wasn't going to let that happen. Sylvie's sword thrust into his back.
"I'm not letting you get away. If I do...you'll only create more victims, like my mother and father..."
"B...But what I did was a-art... It was a weapon that could...change the nature of war—"
"You're wrong! What you did was nothing but pure evil! An evil that must never be used ever again!!!"
 With a shout, the sword in Sylvie's left hand pierced the carver's body. Skewered by both swords, the carver's body fell limp and slid to the ground.

"You're next."
 Kirito approached Tolgash, his sword raised high. Kirito had thought something was amiss about Tolgash—he had watched the fight unfold all this time, not participating himself. He had heard that Tolgash was an accomplished fighter. That in the Uprising of the Four Empires, he had fought with sword in hand. So why hadn't he joined the fray here as well? He might have some secret ploy to which Kirito and Sylvie were not privy.
"I am impressed, Swordsman Delegate. I was hoping that if all went well, I could take your swords...but sadly, fortune did not smile on me. The little girl betraying me was also not part of the plan."
"All I did was follow the lessons my mother and father taught me."
"Ha! Have you forgotten you swore your loyalty to me? Well, I suppose saying so would be in vain."
"So, you've given up. Then lay down your weapon and surrender."
 Kirito kept his weapon at the ready. Sylvie guarded his rear with equal vigilance.
"As emperor of Southacroith, surrendering to the likes of you is not an option. Now. Show me the might of your sword. I shall give you the fight of your life."

 The battle was decided in a split second. Tolgash looked untouchable at first, but he could only hold his own for a few attacks. Pushed into a corner by Kirito's expert swordsmanship, Tolgash lost his footing and was unceremoniously stabbed through the heart.
"I knew that your bodies were only temporary, and that there must be a way to connect them to your life force. I knew that the red jewel was the key to everything."
"And...what of it?"
"I hoped to buy a little more time...but this should be more than sufficient."
 A satisfied smirk formed on Tolgash's lips as reddish-black blood spurted from his mouth.
"What are you talking about..."
 Kirito pressed him, his eyes filling with unease. But before Tolgash could answer, there was a cry from Sylvie.
"Kirito! Watch out!"
 The dead carver suddenly sprang to life, his cold steel lance darting towards Kirito. Kirito removed his sword from Tolgash and deflected the spear with barely a moment to spare. Sylvie ran up to attack, but before she could, the carver's body grew limp and deflated—for good this time.

Without Kirito's sword for support, Tolgash's body lost shape as it dissolved into the earth. A red jewel appeared where he fell, floating in the air with a dull gleam.
 Just after deflecting the lance, Kirito swung back with his blade to strike the jewel. But before the tip of his sword could touch it, the jewel flew away with tremendous speed. It was just like the time when Emperor Cruiga was defeated.

"Damn it. Another one got away..."
 Kirito muttered bitterly, staring at the spot where Tolgash's body once stood. His elaborate armor and his great sword were there, but his body had crumbled away completely.
"He left nothing behind we could use as a clue. At least Cruiga left behind an insignia when he went..."
 As Kirito knelt and searched the ground, Sylvie timidly approached him.
 Her barely-audible voice was a mixture of regret, shame, and sorrow. Kirito rose to his feet and smiled.
"What I did... It was unforgivable. So..."
 As Sylvie strained her voice in desperate apology, Kirito reached out his right hand to her.
"Sylvie... Let's go home. Shirley's waiting for you."
"Huh...? But I..."
"I sort of know what happened. Why you're here and why you fought, too."
"Then why won't you—”
"I lost someone dear to me, too..."
"Somebody...dear to you?"
"I know he's never coming back...but if there were some way I could see him again, I would probably do anything to make that happen."
 Kirito's left hand unconsciously traced the sheath at his hip. But he had given the Blue Rose Sword to Tiese. Hit by that realization, he clenched his fist.
"I understand...no, I don't understand how you feel, Sylvie. But in the end, you and I both made it out alive and well. Though I'm sure your heart was broken a little..."
"You people of the Human Empire...you're all too soft."
 Sylvie muttered, staring at Kirito's hand. She felt overjoyed that Kirito had forgiven her, yet bitter towards the pity he had shown... But he was right. Nobody could understand the conflicting forces in her heart. But when Kirito told her he lost somebody he loved...she believed him.
"People always tell me I'm too softhearted."
"Fine... I'll go back...and apologize to Shirley."
 And with that, she took Kirito's extended hand.
"Also...it was painful and tragic, and it's something I never want to endure again...but I did get to see my mother and father one last time...and that, I will never forget."
"Good. That's the best way to think about it."
 Kirito gave Sylvie's hand a firm squeeze. Sylvie squeezed back with equal strength. Then they looked at each other and smiled.

"Ohhh, Kirito! You wolf! Holding hands with Sylvie!"
 When she heard the voice from above, Sylvie let go of Kirito's hand with a start. She looked up to see Eydis, descending from the sky atop Kirimai.
"Eydis! I'm so glad you're okay!"
Yeah, I made it somehow. Looks like you guys settled everything on your end, too."
"Yeah... You could say that."
 After Kirimai alit upon the ground, Kirito explained the details of what had happened. When she heard about Sylvie's parents, Eydis was filled with rage—it was personal.
"The bastards took her parents hostage... They deserve to burn in hell. Sylvie, that must have hurt."
"It's okay...I'm fine now."
"You're really strong, Sylvie."
Eydis reached out to pat her head, but Sylvie evaded her touch. Eydis looked disappointed, but not for long. She frowned grimly when Kirito told her what Tolgash's last words were.
"So, he was buying time after all... He said so himself."
"I could understand if he was talking about the front lines. But this is the enemy stronghold. If we tell them what happened, this battle is ours for the winning. Which means..."
"He meant...someplace that isn't here?"
 Eydis and Kirito looked at each other.
"The Central Cathedral!"

"So that's it...this whole rebellion was a diversion."
"It seems a bit extreme for a diversion...but if the Cathedral was what our enemy had its sights set on, they would need to find a way to get you away from there."
"This is bad. I've got to get back to the Cathedral right away."
 Kirito looked up into the western sky...the sky that connected to the Human Empire.
"Eydis, Sylvie, tell Iskahn what happened here. And Eydis, please be careful—"
"Yeah, I've got this. Don't worry. I'll be sure to defend Sylvie in any way I can. And if he tries to hurt her, I'll kick his ass."
"No. I deserted...and I will accept my punishment."
"So, Kirito. What's your plan?"
"I'm going to fly to the Human Empire, full speed. Fanatio and Deusolbert are there—everything should be okay, but still..."
 Kirito spoke as if the Human Empire were a casual stroll away. Sylvie cried out in surprise.
"You're flying...all the way to the Human Empire? But how? You don't even have a flying dragon."
"I'll be fine. If I'm on my own, it shouldn't take me too long to get back."
"That's right, you arrived from the sky..."
 But her mind was so preoccupied at the time that her brain hadn't put the pieces together to realize Kirito had flown there.
"Okay, Kirito. I'm leaving the Cathedral in your hands."
"You two be careful out there."
 And with that, Kirito used his Incarnation to soar into the heavens. He zipped towards the west, at a speed even faster than a flying dragon.
"Yeah, they kinda broke the mold after they made Kirito. Okay, let's head back."
"All right..."
"Don't worry, I'll stick up for you. Besides, I think everyone will understand."
"Thank you..."
 Sylvie spoke shyly. And when Eydis saw the look on her face, she said,
"What a pretty smile. You finally smiled, Sylvie!"
 And Eydis grinned in turn.

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