Sword Art Online:Volume 7 Chapter 6
"Aaaaaaaaaah, we lost, we lost!!"
Nora, who was the last to return, slapped Taruken in the back as she shouted cheerfully.
They were situated in a giant dome-shaped building opposite of Ronbaru's city square, the seven of them were transferred to the Save Crystal erected on the slightly lowered floor in the center of the room. Of course, this meant that they got wiped out from the 27th floor's black giant Boss' ferocious attacks.
"Ugh―― even though we tried so hard..."
As Yuuki's shoulders sagged in dismay, Asuna suddenly grabbed her by the collar.
Asuna dragged the surprised Yuuki along and ran to one of the room's corners.
"Everyone come over here quickly!"
Jun and the others, who originally planned to return to the inn to rest and reflect on the previous fight, ran over with their mouths opened.
There was nobody else around the «Respawn Point», but just in case, Asuna gathered everyone in a place where they couldn't be heard from the outside and said:
"We don't have time to rest. Do you remember the three people in front of the Boss room?"
"Yeah, I do."
"They're scouts sent out by guilds that specialize in hunting Bosses, their goal is to monitor players outside the alliance that challenge them. You must have been seen by them before you entered the Boss room on the previous floor and also the one before that."
"Eh... We didn't even notice..."
"I'm afraid that their goal isn't to stop you from challenging the Boss, but to gather information. This may be a bit rude, but they're using a small guild like the Sleeping Knights as a sacrificial pawn to figure out the Boss' attack patterns and weakness. This way, they don't need to lose experience due to the death penalty and can also save quite a bit of potion costs."
At this point, the spectacled Taruken raised his right hand and asked:
"Bu-but, the door immediately closed behind us after we entered the Boss room. They, they can't even see our battle, so how do they gather info?"
"That was my oversight... Right before the battle ended, I noticed a small, gray newt squirming around Jun's feet. That's Dark Magic «Peeping» ―― A spell that summons a familiar that can be attached to a designated player, allowing the caster to steal a look from the player's viewpoint. The instant it's cast, an icon indicating a debuff should appear for about a second..."
"Eh, that's bad, I didn't notice it at all."
Hearing Asuna's explanation, a look of remorse covered Jun's face. Everybody softly patted him in the back.
"Don't say that, I should have warned everyone in advance. It must have been mixed in when Shiune was renewing everyone's buffs right before we entered the room. There were so many icons appearing at that time, so it's natural that you didn't notice an extra one."
"... Speaking of which, can it be..."
Yuuki's eyes widened as she clenched her hands in front of her chest and shouted:
"Both the 25th and 26th floors' Bosses getting defeated immediately after we got wiped wasn't just a coincidence!"
Even though Yuuki was fairly shocked, there wasn't a hint of anger or resentment in her voice. Once again feeling renewed respect for Yuuki, Asuna nodded and replied:
"You're probably correct. Your unrelenting attacks exposed even the Bosses' last resorts, which is why they were able to do it in one fell swoop."
"That, that means..."
Shiune furrowed her brow and whispered:
"This time we've once again acted as sacrificial pawns...?"
"How can this be..."
Right when the remaining five's shoulder were about to droop following Nora's sigh, Asuna hit Yuuki's armor.
"No, we still have a chance!"
"Eh...? Asuna, what do you mean...?"
"Right now it's around 2:30 in the afternoon, even a large alliance will have a hard time gathering dozens of people, it'll probably take at least an hour. We'll take action now ―― Listen up, we'll finish our discussion in five minutes, and then rush back to the Boss room within thirty!"
Even this group, consisting of top players, can't help but shout in astonishment this time. Looking around her at the rest of them, a smile appeared on Asuna's face ―― a prideful smile extremely similar to a certain someone's.
"We can do it. And ―― we can definitely defeat the Boss with just the few of us."
Yuuki leaned so far forward that her nose almost crashed into Asuna, and Asuna faced her and nodded.
"All we have to do is calmly attack its weak point. This is my strategy. This floor's Boss is a Giant type. Even though its multiple arms are a little troublesome to deal with, it's still much easier to manage than atypical ones which have no real front or back. Its attack patterns include swinging down its hammers, sweeping with the steel chains and a charge with its head lowered. It'll start using a wide range breath attack at half health, and once it drops into the red it'll even use an eight-hit sword skill utilizing its four weapons..."
Asuna placed a holographic image display on the ground, switched over to the input screen and quickly drew images of the Boss' attack patterns. She then listed out ways to defend against these attacks.
"... Therefore Jun and Thatch can just disregard attacks from the steel chains and focus their attention on the hammers. Next is its weak points ―― If its hammer hits the ground, it'll take about 0.7 seconds for it to recover. Nora and Taruken should take advantage of this opening to use powerful skills. Also, it has plenty of openings behind him. Yuuki can just remain behind its back and use charge type sword skills. Be careful though, its chains will also sweep behind its back. The way to defend against its breath attack...."
Since the time she worked as the sub-leader of the Knights of the Blood, this was the first time she has spoken so much in a strategy meeting. As she thought to herself, Asuna continued to rapidly explain to them her strategy, and the six of them nodded as they listened to her seriously.
Asuna felt that it was almost as though she were a school teacher, and promptly finished the strategy meeting within four minutes. She then opened up her inventory to materialize the vast amounts of potions she bought using their budget and the gifts she received from Lisbeth and the others.
All kinds of glass bottles constantly appeared on the floor with a clack. Asuna divided the health potions based on the amount of damage they received in the battle just now, and placed the mana potions in her and Shiune's bags. With that, all of their preparations were completed.
Asuna straightened her back, swept her eyes across everyone's faces once again, smiled and nodded.
"I'll repeat once again, if it's you... No, if it's us, we will definitely defeat that Boss. I, who've battled here since long ago, can guarantee you this."
Yuuki's usual brilliant, innocent smile immediately spread across her face, and she confidently said:
"My feelings were correct, it's great that we were able to have Asuna help us. Even if we fail, these feelings of mine will not change. Thank you ―― Asuna."
The other five nodded in unison. Shiune, who appeared to be the sub-leader, added in her clear, gentle voice:
"I'm really thankful. I've once again ascertained that Yuuki's decision to bring you here was correct, you're the person we've long-awaited."
Asuna desperately tried to suppress the feelings welling up inside her, raised a finger and winked――
"... Words like these should be left for the afterparty. Now... once again, let's try our best!"
Once again taking flight from Ronbaru's streets, the seven of them flew to the dungeon at an indescribably fast speed. They flew out through the shortest route, and got eyed on by the field mobs. However, the gang kept on using Nori's illusions and got past the mobs as they dashed through.
They took merely 5 minutes to reach the tower, and then flew into the entrance without hesitation. They took the shortest path to the top floor. Even though they couldn't break through the monster mobs in the narrow dungeon, Absolute Sword Yuuki activated her ability at this moment and instantly sliced the enemy leader.
As the timer was set past 28 minutes, the corridor leading to the boss room finally appeared in front of them. This long and narrow passage was curled slightly to the left, and the spiral-shaped road led to the middle of the tower.
"Thank goodness. There's still 2 minutes!!"
Jun shouted excitedly and ran past Yuuki.
Yuuki raised her right hand and gave chase.
In that case, we should be able to disrupt the guild alliance. Thinking about this, Asuna started to run forward desperately too. The group of people continued to run in circles and up the corridor, arriving in front of the gates leading to the boss' room――
However, the scene in front of the gates made Asuna gulp. Jun and Yuuki, who were running in front, used their boots to scrape the ground and stopped quickly.
"Wha...What's going, on...!?"
Nori blankly muttered beside Asuna.
At the final 30m leading to the boss room, approximately 20 players blocked the way to the boss' room.
These people were of assorted tribes, but the only common point between them was that every one of them had a guild emblem beside the cursor, just like the trio that were hiding at the door.
――We didn't make it!? They unexpectedly gathered so many people so quickly at such a short time... Asuna bemoaned deep inside, but found that something wasn't right. There were still too few people to conquer a boss. 20 people, 3 parties. There wasn't enough to make 7 parties, 49 players altogether.
The members that should be taking part in this conquest were probably not here yet. It was truly daring to choose the gathering point at the deepest part of the dungeon, and one could tell that these people were rather impatient.
Asuna walked beside Yuuki, who was murmuring with a nervous voice, and whispered to her ear that was covered by the deep purple hair,
"Don't worry. Looks like we still have a chance to challenge it."
Yuuki finally heaved a sigh of relief at this moment. Asuna lightly patted on her shoulder and quickly walked towards the group. The other party's stares were all focused on Asuna and company, yet they didn't show any surprise or tension. One could even say that these people were looking forward to a show that was about to begin.
Asuna ignored their expressions and stood directly in front of the crowd, saying to the male Gnome player who looked like he had the most expensive looking armor.
"Sorry, we want to challenge the boss. Can you please make way?"
However, the Gnome that folded his thick arms as if trying to display them actually said something Asuna didn't expect,
"Sorry, this place is currently sealed off."
"Sealed off...What do you mean?"
Asuna, who couldn't say anything for the time being, finally squeezed out this question. The Gnome twitched his eyebrows in an exaggerated manner, and then said in a rare calm tone,
"Our guild's going to challenge it next. We're still preparing. Just wait here for a moment."
"For a moment...how long?"
"Well, about an hour."
At this point, Asuna finally understood their intentions. They were just the scouting group assigned in front of the boss room, collecting information. Once other groups that could possibly defeat it appeared, they would try to force a physical barricade through numbers.
Recently, Asuna heard of some high level guilds creating problems by occupying hunting points, but unexpectedly, they would show such brazenly occupation. Wasn't this similar to the Army that savagely governed old Aincrad?
Asuna tried her best to suppress her anger and finally said in a calm tone,
"We can't wait for that long. It's different if you want to challenge it, but if not, please let us in."
"You're sorta right..."
But the Gnome shamelessly continued,
"But we came first. You have to get in line."
"Then you should have prepared before coming here. We have to wait for an hour even though we can attack anytime. That's unfair."
"That's why even if you grumble, I can't help out. This is the higher-ups' orders. If you have any disagreements, go over to the guild headquarters to negotiate. Our headquarters is at the World Tree city."
"IT'LL REALLY TAKE AN HOUR TO GET THERE!!"
Unable to bear with this anymore, Asuna finally shouted. She then bit her lips and took a deep breath to calm herself down.
No matter how they negotiated, it seemed that the other party didn't intend to move aside. What should they do?
They didn't know if they could strike a deal with the boss drops items and the Yield. Probably not, as the allure to beating the boss wasn't just about the drops, but also the vast skill-up points and the real reward of leaving their names on the Monument of Swordsmen. These guys probably won't accept such conditions.
If this were some other VRMMO, they could complain to the GM about such acts that defy net-gaming etiquette. However, the ideal player argument in ALO was to be settled amongst players. GMs basically only handled system errors.
The Gnome shot a glance at Asuna, who was at her wits end, and thought that negotiations were done and got ready to return to his allies.
At this moment, Yuuki, who was standing behind Asuna, shot out,
«Absolute Sword» used that ever energetic voice to ask the Gnome that stopped and turned around,
"You mean that you don't intend to let us through no matter how we ask, correct?"
"――To be honest, that's the case."
After hearing Yuuki's direct words, the Gnome couldn't help but blink. However, he immediately regained that arrogant attitude and nodded. Yuuki merely smiled and said,
"Is that so? Can't be helped then. We can only use force."
The Gnome and Asuna let out cries of shock at the same time.
ALO was truly a game that had the selling point of 'being able to attack players unconditionally in a neutral area'. All the players will resort to using their weapons to vent their dissatisfactions, and this code obviously existed in the game instructions.
However, in addition to being an actual rule, there's still some hidden taboo to attacking players. Players have to take note if they're taking on a large guild. That's because even if they win, the guild in question may send out a large-scale attack for revenge, and would sometimes even bring their resentment to the net community outside the game. Right now, not many players would challenge a large guild aside from those who were already aiming to PK at the beginning.
Asuna's mouth was wide open, yet she couldn't let out a voice as she didn't know how to explain this. However, Yuuki merely smiled and patted her on the shoulder and said,
"Asuna, some things have to be done through forceful means for the other party to understand. For example, right now, we should show them how serious we are."
"Yeah, you're right."
Behind them, Jun nodded in agreement. Asuna turned back and found that the other 5 members wielded their weapon as if it was normal.
"These people who are sealing this place off should be prepared to defend this place to the last man."
Yuuki again turned her eyes to look at the Gnome, tilted her head and said to him,
"Isn't that right?"
The petite Imp girl immediately drew her longsword at her waist right in front of the guy who hasn't recovered from the shock, and pointed it at the sky. The smile on her lips vanished, and her eyes showed a stern glint――
"Now, draw your weapon."
The Gnome that was devoured by Yuuki's presence undid the large battleaxe at his waist and easily made a posture to attack.
At the next moment, the petite Imp girl stormed through the entire corridor like a whirlwind.
Having finally understood what was going on, the Gnome pricked his nose and roared, moving the large axe in his hands. However, his movements were really too slow. Yuuki's obsidian longsword left a dark trail before swinging up from below and stabbed it straight into the center of the guy's chest.
Yuuki used this hit to make the Gnome, who was much more muscular than her, lose his balance. She then added on with a straight uppercut. The longsword let out a heavy sound, slashed into the Gnome's shoulder, and caused the HP bar to decrease drastically.
The guy finally let out a roar of anger and raised his battleaxe as he got ready to swing it down at Yuuki. This player was really a player who's a squad captain of a famous guild as his attacks were really fast. However, «Absolute Sword» Yuuki merely continued to swing the sword in her swords without hurry.
*DING!* A sharp metallic sound rang, and the trajectory of the axe was deflected slightly, grazing past Yuuki's red hair by several centimeters above the head. Normally, weapons can only use the «Parrying» skill when facing weapons of similar weight. However, Yuuki's thin longsword that looked no different from a rapier deflected the large battleaxe. This was due to the lightning-quick swinging speed. It's impossible to be so agile unless the player avatar, nerves and the AmuSphere that links them both are all as one.
How much experience did she have to gain just to reach that level? Asuna looked really amazed as she watched Yuuki fight in front of her. At this moment, Yuuki's sword started to let out a blue glow. She activated a sword skill.
The Gnome warrior's feet were unstable as he was parried by a full-force attack, and a stab, a horizontal slash, a slice down and an uppercut; four attacks in all exploded as they were aimed at his face. The light blue the tip of the sword drew out surrounded the Gnome's body and let out an intense glow. This was the straight 4 consecutive hit «Vertical Square»
With a cry, the Gnome's body was blown several meters away and landed on the ground. The HP bar immediately dropped into the red zone. He must have realized this as his eyes that were glancing at the upper right corner seemed to bulge out from their sockets.
As his eyes went back to Yuuki, the expression on his face went from shock to anger.
"Tha...That's despicable, attacking like that all of a sudden...!"
As the leader started to yell back in a seemingly random manner, about 20 of his allies finally managed to recover and got into battle mode. The players that were in charge of the frontlines scattered and drew their weapons.
Asuna instinctively drew her World Tree wand and repeated what Yuuki said inside her mind.
――Asuna, some things have to done through forceful means for the other party to understand.
This definitely wasn't something thought up randomly at the last moment, but a belief this mysterious girl called Yuuki had. That's because she always followed this example. She would challenge countless opponents on the streets in duels and use this to interact with them.
...I see...you're kind of right in that sense...
As Asuna wordlessly muttered, her face subconsciously showed a smile. If she continued to back away because she was scared of fighting against other people or revenge, the meaning of playing VRMMO will be lost. The sword at her waist wasn't a mere ornament, and it definitely wasn't some heavy burden.
Asuna took a step forward with determination and arrived beside Yuuki. Jun and Shiune were standing beside Asuna, and Thatch, Nori and Taruken were standing beside Yuuki.
Perhaps the enemy that outnumbered this group of 7, three to one, seemed to realize something as they couldn't help but back away.
Then, what broke this tense atmosphere――
Wasn't the enemy in front, but the numerous footsteps that came all the way here. The Gnome warrior looked over behind Asuna and company and showed a smile of victory.
Asuna gasped and thought Why at such an inopportune time? and turned her head around. Numerous colored cassocks then appeared in front of them. Most of the guild emblems shown were a «Sagittarius», but some of them were the emblems of a «Shield and Horse». In other words, the people that came were the other half of the alliance the Gnome was waiting for, and there should be about 30 of them.
Even if Yuuki was that powerful, it's hard to win when being pinned down by an enemy that's 7 times their size on both front and back. The spells and arrows that can be fired from behind would be enough to wear their HP down to nothing.
――All because of my hesitation...
Asuna felt regret as she bit her lips tight. If she had followed Yuuki's belief right from the beginning, they could have at least broken through the 20 people in front of them and entered the boss room.
Just as Asuna was about to open her mouth and apologize, Yuuki, who was on her left, tapped her hand. The Imp girl's emotions were passed through the skin in the virtual world.
――Sorry, Asuna. My impatience dragged you down. But I don't regret doing this. Ever since we met, I've never seen you show such a beautiful smile.
Asuna held Yuuki's hand and answered this whisper that seemed to appear in her mind.
――I should be the one apologizing for not being able to help out. We might not be able to do it on this level, but we'll definitely beat the next level's boss.
Shiune and company seemed to feel the duo's interactions as they all nodded, formed a circle and faced the enemies on both sides. The 30 people that came rushing in front behind seemed to have understood the current situation as everyone drew their weapons.
Right now, they could only fight until the end. Asuna made her decision and raised her shortwand to chant the offensive spell. On seeing her actions, the Cait Sith claw warrior revealed his carnivorous nature and yelled,
"STILL STRUGGLING TILL THE END..."
――But just when he was about to declare victory.
Something that was far beyond Asuna and all the players' expectations happened.
The one who first noticed the anomaly was Nori, who had the nightvision ability. A second later, Asuna witnessed the phenomenon too.
At this moment, the enemy forces were already 20m in front of them, however, behind them, on the gradually curved wall of the corridor, there was a kind of...or rather, a certain person was dashing over here. As it was really too fast, only a black shadow could be seen.
That's the «Wall Run» that all lightweight elves could use. The only ones who could use them were Sylphs, Undines, Cait Siths, Imps and Spriggans. Normally, 10m would be the limit, but the shadow in front of them ran for about 30m. This highly difficult action can only be done through an exaggerated sprinting speed.
The moment she realized this, or rather, the moment she saw that vague figure, Asuna knew who that intruder was.
The profile ran at a really fast speed, dashed on the wall, past the reinforcements, and easily landed on the ground. His speed slowed down with the large amount of sparks caused by the sparks on the soles rubbing against the ground. He arrived in between the main forces and Asuna's company and stopped while facing Asuna's group.
That person was wearing tight-fitting black leather pants and a black longcoat, had short black hair that was bucked aside, and had a slightly large one-handed sword on his back.
Also, the black leather scabbard had a pure white wyvern emblem on it. That was the trademark of the «Lisbeth Weapons shop» that was opened at the streets of the world tree city. The sword was forged from a rare metal from Jötunheimr; it was a masterpiece from a close friend of Asuna.
The right hand of the black-clothed swordsman quickly reached for the light blue blade from behind, and then *Clang!* stabbed it into the stone floor beside him. The 30 veteran explorers all stopped like they were shocked by his presence.
Then, the words this uninvited guest said actually echoed what the Gnome said to Asuna.
"Sorry, this place is currently sealed off."
This voice was rather clear even though there was no feeling of deposition, and caused the group of 30 that just appeared, the 20 people behind Asuna, and the Sleeping Knights to be completely speechless.
The first one who responded at this defiant attitude was a skinny Salamander that was standing at the front of the reinforcements. He shook his dark red hair and gave a look of disbelief and said,
"Oi oi, «Blackie». Even you can't stop so many of us here, right?"
This swordsman who was called lots of nicknames because of his black attire shrugged and answered,
"Really? Why don't we try it?"
This thick-skinned attitude caused the Salamander, who seemed to be the leader of the guild alliance, smile wryly and raise his right hand.
"That's true. Then, try it...mages, roast him."
*BACHK!* Once he said that, this person snapped his fingers, and the back of the group immediately chanted their spell words quickly. Whether it was the response or the voices, one could tell that they were highly trained. Asuna wanted to chant a healing spell, but the 20 advance troops that were closing in from behind wouldn't allow her to do so.
At this moment, the Spriggan that entered tilted his head slightly.
Ever since both of them knew each other, and even when the avatars were different, Asuna saw that confident smile on his left cheek countless times. The next moment, the glow of the spells shot out behind that human wall and immediately covered a black shadow over that smile.
The «Black Swordsman» Kirito saw the seven high-level attack spells that were shot at him and didn't react at all. No, it was too late for him to react. All the spells were of the «Single Homing» type, and there's no way to dodge these attacks through movement in this 5m wide corridor where he couldn't fly.
Kirito drew the longsword and rested it on his right shoulder. At this moment, the blade let out a dark red light effect. It was a sword skill――
The next moment, all sorts of colored lights, explosions and the shocked expressions of more than 50 people filled the entire narrow hall.
Kirito used the 7 consecutive hit skill «Deadly Sins» to take on all the attack spells that came over... or rather, 'sliced' them up.
Even the «Absolute Sword» Yuuki could only mutter in disbelief. Asuna could understand her feelings, but if she herself was shocked by this level of exaggeration, reckless and radical actions, she couldn't be a friend of this VRMMO player called Kirito.
This was Kirito's own skill that was created outside the system, called «Spell Blast».
Kirito's specialty in old Aincrad was to use the sword skills to attack the weak points of the enemy's weapons instead of attacking the enemy, the outside system skill called «Arms Blast». Though that amazing skill itself required superhuman reflexes and extremely intricate aiming skills, it was harder to slice spells here in ALO.
As attack spells themselves aren't solid physical objects, and they look like a mass of light effects, the 'hit designation' can only be created when hitting the center of the spells. Also, the center of the spell must not be hit by an ordinary attack, but by a sword skill that hits it at the point at high speeds. That's because the solid nature of a normal weapon couldn't negate magic. In contrast, a sword skill would have some form of elemental damage like earth, water, fire, wind, light and darkness. However, it was already beyond insane to try to capture the center of the spell when using a sword swing that couldn't be controlled due to system assistance, and almost impossible.
In fact, Lyfa, Klein and Asuna themselves once tried to learn this «Spell Blast» skill with Kirito, and had to give up after 3 days. Even Kirito himself noted that he gained experience from 'Using a sword to slice bullets' in the other world called «Gun Gale Online» when he transferred there. On hearing Kirito say with a straight face 'No high speed spell will ever be faster than a rifle bullet', even Asuna, who was already at the level of being unsurprised by just about anything, could only stand there in shock.
Because of this reason, one could tell that Kirito was likely, no, definitely the only person who could use the «Spell Blast» skill in Alfheim. And he secretly trained this himself, and never used this in a duel or a group hunt, so now it should be the first time a large guild saw this for once.
"...What in the world..."
The long-haired Salamander muttered out, and from behind, they could hear voices 'He sliced magic!' 'That's not a coincidence, right?' 'That's why I said...' and all sorts of voices.
However, the other party was a guild that specializes in taking down the boss and reacted. Under the Salamander's orders, the frontline fighters drew their weapons, the rangers showed their lances and arrows, and the backup started chanting again. This time, it didn't look to be a «single homing» type, but also seemed to include «multi-homing» types and «Area ballistic» types.
Kirito again turned around, nodded quickly at Asuna, and pointed 3 fingers with his left hand.
Of course, this wasn't a victory sign to change the situation, but one with the meaning 'I'll help you stall them for 3 minutes'. Of course, he didn't think that he could beat 30 enemies alone.
At this moment, Asuna finally understood the reason why Kirito appeared here.
Once he heard Asuna say that she wanted to help the Sleeping Knights conquer this level, he knew that the gang would be obstructed by a large guild. Kirito was most likely lurking in the entrance area of the dungeon, and noticed the guild alliance's movements. Once he saw that Asuna and company couldn't fight off against such numbers, he intended to sacrifice himself to buy time as he caught up.
3 minutes. 180 seconds. It would be a twinkle of an eye in the house of forests, but it would be a long time in a fight against players. Asuna didn't doubt Kirito's ability, but could he really hang on for 3 minutes against so many people? Would it be wise to send someone to escort Kirito from the gang of 7 here...?
Just when Asuna was hesitating about this, two things interrupted her thoughts.
First, Kirito put his left hand behind his back and grabbed onto the hilt of the second sword he materialized, and drew it with a clear sound. That was a glamorous looking golden longsword. It wasn't made by a swordsmith, but a legendary weapon sealed in the deepest parts of the underground water Jötunheimr, the «Holy Sword Excaliber». In order to get this sword, the gang got Lyfa's friend, the flying-type evil-god «Tonkii» to reach the limit of the party and challenge it. They had to face near complete annihilation in the boss battles. However, the back of Kirito's profile as he went back to using two swords became ever so reliable, and Asuna felt that the hard work back then was worth it.
The pressure released by the golden longsword called the backup to slowly back away. As if taking advantage of the moment the enemy wavered, a roar suddenly echoed right from the back of the group.
"UWOOOAAAAAAHHH!!! I'M HERE TOO, EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN'T SEE ME!!!"
That somewhat crude and hoarse voice was undoubtedly from that familiar katana user Klein. Asuna couldn't help but tiptoe to look behind, and could barely see that straight flowing red hair that was tied with a bandana. It seemed that Kirito wasn't the only one who came to inspect the dungeon. But why did he appear after some time?
"TOO SLOW. WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU DOING!?"
On the human wall side, Kirito shouted out, and on the opposite end, Klein yelled back,
"SORRY, I GOT LOST!!"
Asuna nearly fell down, but steadied herself, and noticed that little figure that was waving over from Kirito's shoulder. It was the navigation pixie Yui, who was also their 'daughter'. Her cute smile showed a ray of warmth into Asuna's heart.
――Thank you Yui-chan, thank you, Klein.
――I love you the most, Kirito-kun.
After muttering this deep inside her heart, Asuna immediately whispered to Yuuki beside her.
"We should be alright if we leave this to them. Just focus on breaking through the 20 people in front of us and head into the boss room."
"Okay, got it." Yuuki blinked a few times, and then answered with a clear voice.
She turned around, looking like she was going to activate her sword skill and raised the sword above her head. Jun and Shiune on her right and Thatch, Nori and Taruken on her left noticed the purple light effect and got into battle positions.
The 20 member advance party that hadn't grasped the situation completely and the Gnome warrior who was the leader noticed Asuna's company actions and got ready to fight back.
As the sound of magic and sword skills clashing resounded behind, Asuna yelled,
With Yuuki leading, the 7 of them got into a wedge formation and rushed out. The Gnome and his followers roared and charged over.
The moment both sides clashed, *GAGAANN!!* The sound of impact exploded, and several light effects appeared at the same time. A chaotic battle royale began, and every corner of the corridor was filled with the sound of blades clashing against each other.
Asuna had personally experienced Yuuki's skills by dueling her, and at this point, she could tell that the other members were comparable. Even when fighting players, rather than the usual monsters, they were able to swing their weapons and fight.
Jun's two-handed sword and Thatch's heavy mace were both able to use their weights to break the enemy down from the front. Taruken's long spear and Nori's quarterstaff would attack during the opening. Yuuki herself used her superb dodging ability to easily dodge past several blades that were closing in on her and rush into the enemy's clutches, using devastating slashes to attack.
When facing the enemy that outnumbered them, the members of the Sleeping Knights could be said to be fighting valiantly. However, the enemy group wouldn't break like that ―― that's because the mages behind continued to chant healing spells.
In this huge battle, there would be some unexpected damage. Other than Yuuki, the other members' HP were starting to decrease. Asuna and Shiune started to chant their healing spells.
At this moment, 2 shadows from the enemies came rushing over them. They were assassin-type players with sharp daggers and wearing light leather armor.
Asuna noticed that these were the Sylphs that were hidden in front of the boss room several minutes ago, and instinctively changed her spell. She used her specialty speed chant to finish reciting in 2 seconds. The two Sylphs had light streams of water appearing at their feet, and their feet that were bound caused them to fall.
Using this opening, Asuna whispered to Shiune, who finished casting the healing spell.
"Can you take care of the healing on your own?"
The Undine who was slightly taller than Asuna immediately nodded her head.
"Yeah, I should just be able to do it."
"I'll deal with the enemy healers then."
It's been a few minutes since the battle started, and the sounds from behind started to become more and more intense. This should be the result of Kirito and Klein charging into the enemy's group to prevent magic attacks. However, they didn't have any healers, and couldn't heal all sorts of unexpected damage. Kirito said that he could hang on for 3 minutes, but it would be best if they could break through the enemy within 2 minutes to repay their sacrifice. It would be best to end this battle quick.
Asuna quickly called her window, put the wand into her item inventory and switched to the rapier she loved to use. At once, a silver glow appeared at her waist, materializing a sword belt knitted from mithril thread, and a scabbard of the same material.
*SHCHANK!* The long, thin blade was drawn out. First, she ran over to the 2 Sylphs that were held up by the restraining spell «Aqua Bind», and mercilessly attacked their vital points to cause their HP bar to vanish immediately.
She peeked through the remnants of the avatars that shattered in front of her and looked over at where the battle was proceeding. It seemed that every corner of the corridor was filled with players maniacally swinging the blades in their hands, but if she had to put it, the right side was the one with less people.
Asuna took a deep breath, adjusted her breathing, and forcefully kicked the ground. She put the rapier in her right hand at her waist and sprinted. Once she reached a certain speed, she shouted at Yuuki, who was fighting with her back facing Asuna,
Yuuki tilted her head slightly, checked that Asuna was rushing over, and hurriedly dodged. Asuna aimed at the Gnome leader, standing still with his axe out, and thrust a sword strike out in a straight manner right as she got into a forward-bent posture.
*BAA!!* The sword let out some white flashes, and several lights surrounded Asuna. Asuna immediately felt a floating sensation, and she grew a long tail like a comet before rushing forward with tremendous speed.
The Gnome that was finally able to move readied the two-handed axe and was ready to use it as a shield. However, Asuna was faster, and the front tip of the rapier touched his body.
The Gnome looked like a monster that lost control as he was blown up into the air. He was about to have his HP whittled down to zero thanks to Yuuki, and was blown into yellow lights and scattered while in the air.
Having turned into a white comet, Asuna didn't slow down even after dealing with one person as she rushed over to the healers. The 3-4 people that were in the way and their leaders were blown aside. Some flew into the air, and some sat on the ground. She was using the strongest long distance thrust sword skill for rapiers, the «Flashing Penetrator». A lot of running was required to use this skill, so almost no one would use this in a 1 v 1 duel. However, it was very effective when breaking through people.
Asuna immediately pierced through the metal wall of armor and shields before gliding forward for about several meters. At this moment, she finally landed on the ground of the dungeon. She used the heel of her boots as brakes, creating lots of sparks in the process, and knelt on the ground on one leg before lifting her head. The four casters, wearing robes and cassocks, could only look down blankly at Asuna.
――It looked like the infamous nickname «Berserk Healer» became even better known now.
Asuna thought as she forcefully dragged the rapier in her right hand back.
The most important thing in a group battle wasn't the ability of the members fighting at the frontlines, but the status of the backup group supporting them from behind, Asuna fervently eliminated the opposing healers, and the frontlines were crushed by Yuuki, who had Shiune and the rest helping.
The total time taken was 2 minutes and 8 seconds.
Looking back, she immediately saw that Kirito and Klein were still fighting intently against the reinforcements. The enemy had already lost a lot of members, but the duo's HP bars were near the red region as shown by the cursor colors.
Deep within her heart, Asuna again thanked the two of them and Yui, who was on Kirito's shoulder acting as the tactical radar.
She immediately turned around and shouted at all of the Sleeping Knights, who managed to survive,
"ALRIGHT, IT'S THE MAIN SHOW NOW! LET'S GO BEAT THE BOSS!!"
The six of them immediately shouted alright and kicked the ground to dash towards the black gate leading to the boss room with Asuna.
Like their first challenge, Jun placed his left hand on the gates. The gates let out a heavy sound and opened both doors, shooting out 2 rows of bluish-white flames.
The time taken for the flames to form a circle would be the time taken for the gate to remain open for those still outside, but there was no need to wait. The seven of them immediately flew in. Asuna was the last one to rush in, and immediately turned around to press the stone button that was set on the right wall. This was the button to cancel the one minute waiting time.
The door let out a loud boom, and slowly closed on both left and right sides, and the intense battle behind was reaching its critical moment.
The black-clothed swordsman whose HP bar became bright red raised his right hand. He then pointed two fingers, this time really showing the V-sign to Asuna.
Once the boss room gate closes completely, they wouldn't be able to hear any voices from the corridor. Nobody will then be able to open this gate unless the fight inside ends.
In complete silence, fire would continue to rise every two seconds. Right now, the fire filled half the room. In other words, there were about 50 seconds before the boss appears.
"Everyone, hurry up and use potions to recover HP and MP. We'll proceed with the conquest as according to the plan in the meeting. The attack pattern at first will be simple. Just dodge them calmly."
After hearing Asuna's words, the six of them nodded slightly and started taking out red or blue bottles.
Asuna noticed that they still had something to say after drinking their potions, and showed a puzzled look. Yuuki then stepped forward to represent them and spoke,
"Asuna...those two came to help us and..."
Asuna smiled and nodded. Right now, Kirito and Klein should have their HP worn out and becoming little «Remain Lights». No, even if they remained there, nobody would revive them, so they should return to the respawn point.
Thinking that Yuuki and the rest would be worried about the duo that became sacrifices, Asuna continued to stare at everyone and said in a clear voice,
"Let's beat the boss to repay their intentions."
"But...we're always relying on you and your friends..."
Yuuki bit her lips, and the hair that had a red headband on it drooped down as well. However, Asuna merely patted Yuuki's shoulders. There were still 10 seconds until the boss appears. The Undine used this moment to say something important.
"You taught me something important too, Yuuki. Didn't you say that «Some things have to be done through forceful means for the other party to understand»?"
Yuuki's eyes widened, but Shiune and the other five immediately understood what Asuna was trying to say. As the fairies smiled and nodded, the last of the flames shot out to the sky behind them.
"Now, this is the last time! The guild just now will definitely try to regroup while we're battling and gather at the corridor. We have to work hard and show them the victory sign when the door opens!"
As the sub-leader of the «Knights of the Blood», she would also encourage everyone before a boss fight. However, the words Asuna said back then would only cause her allies to tense up. Those were words that would make them grip their swords hard, but wouldn't allow them to resonate with their hearts. That's because Asuna only thought of how to effectively command people, and never show their real feelings.
...Yuuki, once this battle is over, tell me more about you, like what journeys you went throughout the world and what adventures you had.
With such feelings, Asuna forcefully grabbed Yuuki's shoulder guards and stepped back. At this moment, she sheathed her rapier again and raised the World Tree wand up high.
In front of them, a deep bellowing began along with the formation of a rock-like polygon. The boss was about to appear. The four-armed giant leaped out as the humanoid-looking blocks were blown aside.
"Alright...let's challenge it again!"
On hearing Yuuki's heroic voice, everyone's increasing momentum matched the black giant's roars.
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