Sword Art Online, Vol. 01: Aincrad | Chapter 24 of 39 - Part: 1 of 3

Author: Reki Kawahara | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 7729 Views | Add a Review

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“…It is a terrible shame,” murmured Miss Azurica, the dorm supervisor. She thought for a moment, then added, “I was certain that you two would be our school representatives at the end of the year.”

“That was my plan, too,” said Kirito, bold as ever. Unable to muster that same courage, Eugeo looked upward, feeling his left eye getting hot.

The May sky was utterly blue and cloudless, washed clean by the storm overnight. Birds crowded the green, budding branches, chirping brightly. It was the perfect day to lie down on the central lawn and take a nap—but they would never sleep at this school again.

Eugeo and Kirito had spent the night behind the heavy gate they had just left: the holding cells in the basement of the Swordcraft Academy faculty building. For hardly ever being used since the very founding of the school, the cell was quite thoroughly clean, and the bed was as nice as those at the primary trainee dorm, but Eugeo didn’t get a wink of sleep.

Kirito, in characteristic form, worked hard through the night trying to heal Eugeo’s ruptured eye with sacred arts, but without a catalyst, the best he could do was seal it up. Restoring its function was too difficult. He still didn’t know why the eye had collapsed like that without an external cause. After a number of experiments, the spatial power dried up, and even Kirito’s stubbornness had to be set aside.

At last the morning broke, and the sun shone through the narrow window. At the ringing of the nine o’clock bells, they were released at last. They figured that some imperial guardsmen had come to take them away, but to their surprise, it was merely Miss Azurica, the supervisor at the primary trainee dorm.

Kirito’s statement caused the twentysomething teacher’s expression to soften. Then she turned to Eugeo. Those silver-blue eyes, which put him in mind of polished metal, always made Eugeo nervous due to their resemblance to Sister Azalia’s back home, but this time he stayed firm and met her gaze.

Azurica started to say something, then shut her mouth. Instead, she pulled an object out of her pocket—a pale-green sphere. It looked like a glass ornament, but it wasn’t. It was a crystal of holy power, harvested from the school’s Four Holy Flowers.

She squeezed the precious catalyst between her fingers and crushed it. The sphere shattered, the tiny pieces sparkling as they fell. She held out that hand to Eugeo’s right eye and began to chant spell words.

“System Call. Generate Luminous Element…”

The chanting was far faster than any they’d heard from their sacred arts teacher. Eugeo and Kirito paused in shock as she smoothly assembled all the requisite words, until a warm light coalesced on Eugeo’s wounded eye.

“Open your eye,” she whispered. Very hesitantly, Eugeo lifted the eyelid that had been sealed for sixteen hours at this point. When he realized that his sight had returned in full capacity, he let out a gasp of surprise and delight. After several turns in place to assure himself that everything was truly normal, Eugeo came to his senses and bowed.

“Th-thank you, Miss Azurica.”

“That’s quite all right. More importantly, Disciple Eugeo and Disciple Kirito…I have something to say to you before you are handed over,” Azurica announced. For a rare moment, she looked hesitant, then placed one hand each on their shoulders. “You are going to be judged for turning your backs on the Taboo Index and harming the life of others. But do not forget—the Taboo Index…the Axiom Church itself was created not by God but by man.”

“Uh…wh-what does that…?” Eugeo started to ask.

Even small children knew that it was Stacia, god of creation, who forged the Earth. It was equally known that the Church that ruled the world was a holy creation as well.

“That is all I can say for now. But…I’m sure you will soon learn the truth of the world for yourselves,” Azurica said. Then she winced and closed just her right eye. Eugeo could sense that she was feeling a sharp pain there.

“Disciple Eugeo…you broke a seal that I could not. That means you’ll go places I could not reach…Trust in your sword and your friend,” she said, then turned to the other boy. “Disciple Kirito. Here at the end, I still do not know just who you are. But I know that when you reach the tower, something will happen. I will be here, praying that you find the light.”

Somehow, Kirito seemed to understand this mysterious statement. He nodded and enfolded Azurica’s hand on his shoulder with both of his own, moving it to his chest. “Thank you, Miss Azurica. I’ll come and see you again sometime. Then I can tell you everything you want to know.”

Then he pulled her dainty fingers up to touch his lips. She blinked several times in surprise, and unless it was Eugeo’s imagination, her cheeks seemed to color just a bit. She smiled faintly.

Kirito made that face like someone was tugging on his hair again, but she didn’t seem to notice. She gently pulled her hand free of his, then removed the other one from Eugeo’s shoulder.

“Let’s go, then. Your escort is here.”

The grounds of the school, usually bustling with students going to and from class, were eerily empty and quiet. Instead, Eugeo spotted something unexpected in front of the training hall. His freshly healed eyes bulged.

It was a huge creature, shining in the light of Solus. Not only was the metal armor on its chest and head gleaming, but so were the silvery-white triangular scales that covered its body. He didn’t need to see the folded wings jutting up like twin towers or the long curved tail to know that it was a dragon. It was the largest and most powerful spiritual creature in the human empire, the mount of the Axiom Church’s almighty Integrity Knights.

The dragon’s rider was nowhere to be seen. Unperturbed by the massive dragon watching them from above, Miss Azurica walked the two boys to the entrance of the training hall and stopped.

She looked at both of them in turn, gave them a firm nod, then spun on her heels. As she strode away, tall boots clicking, both Kirito and Eugeo bowed deeply in her direction. Only when the footsteps were gone did they raise their heads, check on the dragon, and turn to the door.

“So…if there’s a dragon…then does that mean our escort is…an Integrity Knight?” Eugeo whispered with a slight quiver. His partner snorted in his usual fashion and reached for the closed door.


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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