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On the 8th Day of the 3rd Month, 380 HEC, having stained the uniform of the Sword Mastery Academy's First Seat swordsman Volo Levantein and thus forced into a sparring match against the swordsman as punishment, Kirito was about to begin his battle when his mentor, Sortiliena Serlut, approached him. Sortiliena warned the boy that Volo had a practice of engaging other swordsmen in one-point battles with real swords in order to strengthen his own abilities with the sword from the experience. Just before letting the boy return to his battle, Sortiliena asserted her belief in him and reminded him of his promise to display all that he is capable of to her, urging him to use his match against Volo as an opportunity to fulfil the promise.
Seeing that Volo entered the stance for a Sword Skill for the two-handed sword named Avalanche and amplified the strength of the skill with his imagination, Kirito made the decision to counter the attack with a four-hit skill named Vertical Square, thus compensating for the fact that he was using a one-handed sword by employing a skill with a greater number of swings. With his third swing, Kirito managed to stop the descent of Volo's sword, resulting in the two locking their swords. Noticing that the burden of his lineage was the source of Volo's power, Kirito recalled the people important to him, causing his sword to absorb the resources in the area and grow in size and thus allowing him to break Volo's skill. Just as the two were about to initiate a second Sword Skill against each other, Azurika entered the hall and ordered the two swordsmen to halt their duel.
In the aftermath of the duel, Sortiliena invited Kirito, as well as Eugeo and the latter's mentor Gorgolosso Baltoh to celebrate in her room. Later that evening, with Eugeo and his mentor in an alcohol-induced slumber, Sortiliena and her valet continued their conversation at the table. While having a conversation about their sword styles, Sortiliena shared the story of how her family created the Serlut style as they were forbidden to use the High-Norkian style due to displeasing the emperor and thus. While Sortiliena was proud of her family's sword style, she still harboured a sense of inferiority when facing a representative of the High-Norkian style, which was the reason for her losses against Volo during her two years at the academy. However, witnessing Kirito's capabilities with his own irregular style helped Sortiliena understand her own issue better, thus the boy encouraged her to beat Volo in the final ranking examination match.
Later that night, when Kirito left Eugeo sleeping in his bed for a breath of fresh air, the boy encountered Humbert Zizek and Raios Antinous as the two left the dormitory's garden. After ridiculing his fighting style during the battle against Volo, the two nobles left Kirito with a broken piece of one of his flowers as they departed from the scene. Filled with a bad premonition, the boy rushed into the garden, where he found that his personal planter had been utterly ravaged. The sight reminded Kirito of how he began growing the flowers as an experiment to see if he could use his imagination to allow the flowers to bloom despite the fact that the flower would not grow in the northern empire. Eventually, Kirito began to identify himself with the flowers as they struggled to bloom in foreign land, reminding him of how he himself felt lonely after being separated from the people important to him in the real world.
As Kirito began weeping at the loss of the flowers, he heard a mysterious voice encouraging him to believe in the flowers, as well as his own strength. Alerting the boy to the fact that the other flowers desired to help, the voice explained that he did not need to know specific commands to guide the will of the flowers. With that encouragement, Kirito used his imagination to have the flowers share their life force with the broken flowers, thus helping them recover. Weeks later on the last day of the month, following Sortiliena's victory against Volo in the final ranking match, allowing her to graduate as the top swordsman of the year, Kirito gave a bouquet of his flowers to his mentor as a graduation gift. Meanwhile, Eugeo and Kirito became the new Sixth Seat and Fifth Seat after their advancement examination, thus being promoted to Elite Disciple status and gaining valets, named Tiese Shtolienen and Ronye Arabel respectively, of their own.
- Adapted from Volume 10, Chapter 4, Parts 5-6; Interlude II
- Kirito's doubt whether it was okey for him to duel Volo, as he was Sortiliena's rival, was omitted.
- The scene where Kirito was reminded of Kuradeel as Volo took his stance to perform «Avalanche» was omitted.
- Therefore, the scene where Kirito briefly considered using «Arms Blast» against him, before abandoning the idea out of concern for breaking his own sword instead, was also omitted.
- The mention of the figures behind Volo when his and Kirito's swords clashed being the former heads of the Levantein family was omitted.
- The scene where Volo sees an image of the Gigas Cedar behind Kirito was anime original content.
- The scene where Sortiliena scolded Kirito, by stating he should have just surrendered, was omitted.
- Therefore, the mention of Kirito not knowing he could have just surrendered was also omitted.
- In the Light Novel, the scene where Sortiliena told Kirito of the history of her Serlut Style and why she chose him as her Valet took place after their sparring match.
- The scene where Kirito realized Raios and Humbert being able to destroy his flowers was because the earth they were planted in technically did not belong to him, as the Taboo Index forbids the destruction of another's property, was omitted.
- The mention that Kirito would have cut Raios and Humbert down if he had a sword with him was omitted.
- The graduation duel between Sortitiena and Volo was anime original content.
- In the Light Novel, it was quickly glossed over in a short sentence.
- The mention of Sortitiena being defeated in the Four Empires Unity Tournament by a member of the Norlangarth Knights was omitted.
- The scene where Kirito saw an Integrity Knight returning to the Central Cathedral was omitted.
- In the Light Novel, Sortiliena used «Whirling Current» to parry Volo's «Avalanche» and used the push back to return to the skill's pre-motion stance, causing it to re-activate and deal a second hit.
- In the anime, however, she simply overpowered him and broke his sword.
- The anime announced that Sortiliena's fight with Volo and her graduation took place at the last day of the third month, 380 HEC. However, in episode 7 while the date was the 7th day of the 3rd month, 380 HEC, she told Kirito that she wants to know everything about him as a swordsman before she graduates the day after tomorrow.