Within the center of Tolbana, Two weeks after the release of Sword Art Online

-Diavel crashed unto the floor with a loud THUD, His opponent was named Maraki who quickly moved to finish the duel with a quick downward slash. Diavel defended himself by blocking the attack with his sword although Maraki's attack was actually a feint and retracted his sword which Diavel tried to use an opportunity and recompose himself. Tried. Maraki kicked Diavels back before pausing and giving Diavel just enough time to stand and face his dueling opponent. Maraki glared at Diavel with eyes that seemed to pierce his very soul.

The 'duel' had been going on for just under half a minute and already Diavel was beginning to buckle under the sheer speed and skill of Maraki who then proceeded to disarm Diavels sword which fell unto tbe hard concrete, Maraki then held his sword to the throat of Diavel

"Yield?" It was phrased more as a statement rather than a question, as if he had already figured out the answer that Diavel would choose.

Those simple words gave enough fright into Diavel that he nodded in fear. Maraki swiftly withdrew his sword and sheathed it,

The reason that they had dueled was simple enough, to test their skills and improve without the fear of the everpresent fact that they can die.

All around Diavel were six other opponents that had tried to duel Maraki without any coming close to succeeding.

There were spectators watching the Duel about twenty or so and had varying reactions, many cheered, some jeered, a few booed, only two stayed silent.

The duels had started simple enough with most of the fighters being evenly matched with each other, though that was before Maraki had entered the arena. The way he fought was well and truly vicious with two opponents yielding at the first ten second. Maraki would hit hard, hit fast, and hit with great precision without using ANY 'sword skills'. That alone spoke to his expertise with a blade,

"I wanna duel!" shouted one of the spectators, who seemed to be about in his early teens. If Diavel remembered correctly that was Kirito. Kirito approached Maraki before being promptly given a prompt of the Duel, Kirito accepted the Duel.

The countdown to the duel had started and Kirito had readied himself into a chūdan-no-kamae stance, Maraki stared and slowly readied himself into a High Guard.




Kirito tightened his grip around his sword, Maraki was as still as a rock.



At the count of one, Maraki quicjly closed the gap between them with speed as if he were the Wind itself.

Kirito tried to deflect one of Marakis downward slash which failed as Maraki slammed his fists unto the guts of Kirito. Kirito to retreat unto a better position yet was interrupted as Maraki continued his ruthless attacks which forced Kirito to have to block three of the attacks.

Kirito crouched and pierced the leg of Maraki, At that Kirito's hope lit up and was quickly hit with the pommel of Maraki's sword away. Maraki retreated away and walked around Kirito.

Maraki shifted his stance into the Fool's Guard, As Kirito ran towards and attempted to attack him. Maraki moved to deflect the uncoming strikes. For a whole ten seconds, Maraki deflected any attacks from Kiritos blade. More and more players began to enter the arena to spectate the duel.

Maraki then parried the blade of Kirito and thrusted his sword into cheek of Kirito's face causing Kirito cause to retreat. Maraki then shifted unto the Ox Guard, sprinted towards Kirito and slashed his sword into the right arm, torso, and the forehead of Kirito. Kirito retaliated by attempting to flank the side of Maraki which was stopped by his hands. Maraki then pulled the sword by its blade and disarmed Kirito.

Maraki dropped Kirito's Blade unto the ground without any care, "Are we done?"

This wasn't a duel, this was like a Butcher who was precisely cutting into the meat of a pig as if he had done it a million times.

Kirito seemed to sweat and nodded, Maraki walked towards the exit and proceeded to leave the Tolbana.

Kirito thought about the duel, of his opponents fierceness, of his spees, and finally of Kirito's own mistakes during the fights. He would use the fight to learn of his mistakes and hopefully improve himself, of that there was no doubt.

After a minute or so of thinking, Kirito ran out of Tolbana at a brisk pace.

Maraki was marching to the Town of Beginnings to both resupply and buy another shield as his had broken yesterday. He was just interrupted by a horde of Nepenthes who he quickly massacred, He was just finishing off the last of the Nepenthes, when suddenly a voice shouted "Wait up!"

Maraki finished off the Nepenthes and turned around to face the man who as he recalled was his last human opponent. Kirito, was it? Maraki waited for this Kirito to walk up to him.

"I want us to party up," Kirito proclaimed "If we want to have a way to get out of this game, us players have to party up" At that, Maraki agreed. Strength in numbers was at times better than fighting allne. To the front of Maraki was a pop-up to either agree or disagree on partying up. Maraki agreed. Kirito sighed, He then earnestly asked the superior fighter "The way you fought, it was unreal... How did you learn that?"

Maraki paused "...Experience," At that, Kirito was puzzled. Experience? Was he a Beta-Tester or a Martial Arts Pro?

"We'll be going to the Town of Beginnings then we'll kill a den of wolves," Maraki quietly said, his voice so soft yet hardened at the same time, a contradiction of sorts.

Kirito nodded at that, then smiled. Maraki continued his trek with Kirito shortly accompanying him.

He was hopeful that with Maraki's help that they can clear out Illfang with at the very least minimal casualties.