I gotta admit, I expected Chudelkin and his giant fire summon to be more of a fight than what happened this episode. It was barely a speed bump, but I suppose that applies to most things in the face of Kirito, Eugeo, and Alice. I must say though, the animation for the fire summon was superb, and the flames trailing across the ground and around its skin were gorgeous. Alice takes it upon herself to distract the creature, single handedly tanking its entire weight by using her flowers defensively. Furthermore, she devised the plan to defeat Chudelkin almost immediately, without a moment’s hesitation. It’s clear that Alice is no stranger to battles, and I am super excited to have her on the team.

However, the clear highlight of the first sequence was most definitely Kirito’s Vorpal Strike. At first, I was just excited to see what it was, but when his clothes transformed into his Aincrad attire, I was beyond excited. What an epic homage to the original season, so much so that it felt like fanservice in the best way possible. He also wrecks Chudelkin, piercing his small chest in what looks like an unbelievable speed. I’m surprised by the amount of blood that poured out his body, but even more surprised by the beauty of the special effects. Kirito charging his ability up seemed like something I’d expect out of a high budget Fate series by Ufotable, but A-1 Pictures once again proves that they’re not to be laughed at when they’re serious. As for context behind the ability and what makes it so special, I had to reach out to my source material buddy who told me it was Vorpal Strike and not just a random ability. While it isn’t explicitly stated in the anime, Vorpal Strike was one of Kirito’s signature abilities back during Aincrad, but also one he refrained from using after leaving Aincrad (due to a mixture of survivor guilt, people worshipping him as a hero, etc). The fact that he chooses to use Vorpal Strike is absolutely huge, indicating that he’s overcoming the guilt and trauma he feels from Aincrad, and by using his signature ability, his Aincrad incarnation releases.  

Disgusted and bored by Chudelkin’s pitiful display, Administrator tosses his body against the wall with little to no care. It’s become quite apparent the nature of Administrator’s character through these past few episodes, and more so through Alice’s conversation that followed Chudelkin’s death. Quinella has lost whatever emotions made her human long ago, and with that has gone the ability to trust. She has no idea what love is anymore, and can’t process the possibility of the Integrity Knights serving her without the piety module. No one is trustworthy unless they’re an empty doll for her to twirl around, and it’s sorta tragic. I’m not sure who Quinella was before all this twisted her head, but her approach to the world is so deeply rooted that it seems irreversible. How many wrong turns did she have to take for her to become like this?

Annoyed by Kirito’s attempts to convince her of her insanity, and the futility of her actions, Quinella unleashes her ace. Summoning forth all the divine objects in the room, she creates a massive Sword Golem that utilizes all thirty. It’s a giant automaton of golden blades and claws, the very one we see in the show’s opening theme. And as Alice says, it sounds absolutely broken. Facing users of one divine object were challenging enough, but to face a creature with control over thirty is absurd. This will be a boss fight worthy of all the boss fights Kirito has faced before, but in place of Asuna, he’ll have Alice and Eugeo.

Well, as I went on to write that, I proceeded to see Alice get skewered almost immediately, followed by Kirito receiving another fatal blow. Holy crap, this golem is insanely strong. It didn’t even use the perfect weapon control arts of its thirty, weapons but finished off Alice and Kirito in a heartbeat. It was obvious that they wouldn’t die here, but I didn’t expect Cardinal or Cardinal’s spider to arrive at all. I had completely forgotten about Cardinal’s spider, and her going down to buy Eugeo time was heart wrenching. Cardinal’s explanation that Charlotte was an NPC, but over two years had come to grow protective of Kirito makes it even worse.

In fact, I expected Bercouli to arrive with his Time sword and somehow reverse their wounds, but I suppose he’ll arrive sometime in the future instead, since Chudelkin has died and released the stone sacred art. Nevertheless, Cardinal arrives and heals Alice and Kirito almost immediately, and Quinella just watches it happen. Cardinal challenges Quinella, telling her that she could never feel love as Charlotte did, and the battle music comes on.

The battle with Quinella has finally arrived, but Quinella doesn’t seem to be worried at all, does she have another ace? Almost definitely.