46 The White Tower
When Astrid returned to the Noctis Noir guild headquarters, she found the girls gathered in the living room. They were all staring into Luna's menu tablet. They didn't even notice the guildmaster enter the room.
"Are you watching a movie?" Astrid asked as she walked towards them.
"It's a message from the White Tower!" Luna was deeply shocked by the sudden mail. She was still in disbelief that she would be contacted by Aries' governing body.
"White Tower?" Astrid's eyes widened. She knew quite well that being summoned to the place where the world moderators operated was a serious thing.
Luna nodded. "They're inviting me to go there."
"Did they say why?" Lyria asked.
Luna re-read the message again. "Nope. They didn't say why." She began to panic. "Oh no! What if they're suspecting me of a crime? What do I do? I don't want to be falsely accused and then exiled from this world!"
"Calm down, Luna. You didn't do anything illegal. Maybe they need you for a secret operation? Or maybe you won an award?" said Astrid.
"Oh! Maybe you'll be featured in the next issue of Aries Unlimited!" Anna squealed. "And then you'll get to model the new equipment designs..." Her nose started bleeding from her imagination. She eventually collapsed on the floor from blood loss.
"Yeah, Luna. It's probably nothing that would get you exiled. Who knows? Maybe you're a candidate for becoming a new moderator?" Lyria said.
Amelie raised her hand. "If you ever become moderator, please increase the drop rate of potato so I can make more fries!"
Luna took a deep breath. "I hope it's nothing serious. Well, here goes nothing..." She pressed the 'yes' button, which immediately warped her to the White Tower.
The Noctis Noir girls became worried about Luna, so they decided to wait in front of the gates of the White Tower where two hollow suits of armor stood guard. The tower was located on a patch of land in the middle of the sea. A long strip of land connected the tower to the main island. There were plants enclosed in rectangular flower beds and benches lined up around the tower, so they sat on one of them while watching the sea and eating ice cream made by Amelie.
Around an hour passed before Luna finally left the tower. She was surprised to find her friends in front of the gates.
"Were you waiting for me?" Luna asked.
"Yeah. So, how was it?" Lyria replied.
The lady knight smiled and rubbed the back of her neck. "Oh. They just wanted to ask me some questions about the Knights Alliance and Black Rose. Nothing serious. Thank goodness!"
Anna dropped down on her knees and screamed in despair. "No! I was hoping for those modeling shots!"
Luna completely ignored Anna. "The White Tower was amazing! I ended up at the top of the tower where you can see the heavens from the large glass windows. The view was amazing! There were also robot maids everywhere. They served me cream cookies. Oh, and the global moderators were all valkyries!"
"Valkyries?" Astrid's eyes widened in shock.
"What's wrong, Astrid?" Luna didn't understand the guildmaster's shock.
"The moderators aren't actual people?"
"Yeah. Apparently so."
Astrid stayed silent.
"Is that bad?' Luna was worried about her silence.
"This means that even the ones governing this world could possibly be hijacked through code. M.K., the developer of this world might have installed security features to prevent that from happening, but if someone as skilled as him were to come along and bypass that..." Astrid could only imagine the horrors such an event could cause. "...it could be dangerous."
"What if it already happened?" suggested Lyria.
"I hope it isn't so. Everyone in this world could be in serious danger."
"You girls might want to check out the breaking news right now." Anna brought out her menu tablet, which featured a news report.
"Due to the incident that threatened the life of Black Rose's guildmaster, the list of the guilds who are qualified to attend the final round is withheld temporarily until investigations regarding this incident are completed. The scheduled date of the final round of the World Guild War will later be announced," said the reporter on screen.
Footage of Tank being arrested followed. "The guildmaster of the Knights' Alliance, Tank, is currently under custody for his involvement in the incident."
"Tank?!" Luna was shocked. "No, he couldn't have done it! I don't believe it!"
"He was the one Garth fought with. Of course he'd be a suspect," said Astrid. "We don't know for sure if his equipment was tampered with or if he was a hacker all along."
Luna clenched her fist. "I have to find out the truth."
Astrid placed a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Luna, I know you want to clear Tank's name, but this is between Black Rose and the Knights' Alliance. If we interfere with this, there's a chance one of us could end up like Garth. I'd like to avoid any casualties if possible."
Lyria nodded. "Astrid is right. This incident isn't really any of our business. It's too risky to conduct our own investigation."
Upon hearing Lyria's words, Astrid felt guilty for secretly investigating the incident on her own, but she didn't want to risk her guildmembers' safety by involving them.
Luna still couldn't bring herself to follow Astrid and Lyria's advice. She wanted to clear Tank's name as soon as possible. As she was engaging in a mental battle, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"I'll help you," said Amelie.
"Amelie!" Luna's eyes widened, and so did the others' eyes.
"It's Chris!" Amelie replied angrily by reflex. She cleared her throat. "If what Astrid and Lyria said about the moderators of this world is true, that maybe the hackers have already gotten hold of the governing body, wouldn't it be easy for them to frame someone? Tank is our friend. We can't just leave the investigation under their hands."
"Amelie has a point."
Both Amelie and Luna looked at Astrid and Lyria, hoping they could convince them to help clear Tank's name.
If Black Rose is doing an investigation on their own, does that mean they also realized the possibility of the moderators being hijacked? Astrid thought.
"Let's continue this discussion in the guild headquarters. It's too dangerous to discuss it here out in the open," said Astrid in a whisper.
All the members warped to their cozy home and quickly gathered in the living room.
Astrid sighed. "With the way things are going, I should probably disclose some information I received from Sphinx. It's about Christina." She glanced at Amelie. "She was seen meeting with a suspected hacker."
"See? We're already wrapped up in this incident. There's no going back," said Amelie.
"This is a real threat with our necks on the line. Are you certain you want to do this?" Astrid asked a final time to make sure of their resolve.
Luna immediately nodded. "After all Tank and the Knights Alliance did for us, we can't just sit and do nothing! Besides, don't you want to find out who really did that to Garth?"
"Honestly, I do, but I'd also like to prevent as many casualties as possible. I don't want any of you to end up like Garth."
"I don't care what you say! I will fight for truth and friendship!" Amelie said with burning passion. "Who is with me!?"
Lyria was deep in thought. "I'd like to leave investigations to the proper authorities, but if Luna and Amelie are set on involving themselves, someone has to look out for them."
Anna raised her hand. "I'll go with whatever the majority decision is! Although I would very much like to make a special set of outfits for our secret investigation!"
"Astrid! Are you joining us or not?" Luna asked.
Astrid was proud of her guildmates for deciding to risk their lives to help others. However, she couldn't help but feel uneasy about their decision. In the end, she knew that there was no way to stop them from involving themselves. The guild needed to stick together to achieve the best results.
Finally, Astrid gave in. "Alright. I'll join you, but we need to be in top shape for the next round of challenges. We promised a victory for Black Rose."
"Of course! I'll work and eat twice as hard!" Amelie raised both her hands up in the air and did a funny dance.
"We'll show them our cool moves!" Luna followed Amelie's funny dance.
"I can't wait to sew the outfits!" Anna was so excited that she also did the funny dance.
"Anna, I think you've got your priorities mixed up," said Lyria.
"Alright! Let's clear Tank's name!" Luna was filled with vigor.
The rest responded with an enthusiastic "Yeah!" and raised their fists in the air.