“Patient?” Euryale’s growl was subdued for the hatchling, but all too clear. “They’d be fools to come, knowing what they know. Even if they have no idea we’re under assault right now, they learned enough of our lore to realize the Five Nations have their own ways of scrying the future. And they won’t let this pass unchallenged. They’ve seen it coming-”
Stheno straightened, a tingle of the Planes passing through her bones. “They won’t see this coming.”
It started with a flicker of sun off the chains; a spark, no larger than a firefly….
The spark bloomed, shimmering into a light the size and shape of a man. Power gathered, more sparks flying; a dozen, no a myriad of lights, blazing into life in Aincrad’s main courtyard, more and more-
Two dozen. No, fifty. No, more than that, far more; gods, there were only a few hundred clearers, how many chose this-?
Stheno squinted against one particularly bright fire. Far too big to be a person, more the size of a small dragon. Yet nothing alive, not unless gelatinous cubes were native to Earth; a massive rectangle with lacings of darkfire everywhere, radiating from four corners-
That light died, solidifying into a massive box of steel wreathed about with enchanted ropes, even as more sparks flew and bloomed into breathing bodies. Stheno only had eyes for the small group clustering at one rope-tied corner. One medusa, one blue-winged draconic, the green-haired swanmay who was one of Euryale’s agents… and four humans, all of whom looked alike enough to be family even if one had feathers and the younger girl was blonde.
Stheno knew those feathers, even before Kirito blinked off the shock of transit, and looked up at her. And smiled.