55 Advice from a Crusader
For the next few days, Astrid and a few other Black Rose members opened as many portals as they could to the other guilds' instance fields. As the days passed, the Black Rose Headquarters saw more visitors. Garth was satisfied with the progress. Once all the guilds were connected, they could hold a meeting to discuss escape plans.
"Next is Jupiter," said Astrid.
Sphinx ran the code on his menu tablet to summon the portal leading to the Jupiter Headquarters. He went inside to inform the Jupiter mages of their plan. After a few minutes, he went back out of the portal with Frisk.
Frisk had tears in his eyes. "I can finally flirt with girls again!" The Jupiter mage rejoiced. He had been deprived from flirting for so long that he was almost losing sanity.
"Don't you have female mages in your guild?" Sphinx asked.
"We have a few, but as the second-in-command and now the temporary guildmaster, I'm not allowed to flirt nor harass the female members."
"How responsible of you."
"Next should be the Knights Alliance," Astrid said as she checked her list of guilds.
Luna stood beside Astrid as Sphinx opened up the portal. She had been waiting for the Knights Alliance's turn.
Astrid looked at Luna. "Do you want to go in and inform them, Luna?"
"M-Me!? Is it alright?" Luna started feeling nervous.
"You're probably a more familiar face."
Luna nodded. "I'll do it."
The lady knight stepped into the portal and found herself at the end of a stone bridge leading to the majestic Knights Alliance castle. She saw a figure standing in the middle of the bridge. As she slowly approached it, she realized it was Tank.
"Luna! How is this possible?" Tank was surprised.
The Knights Alliance members had been mostly left in the dark after being locked inside their instance field during the attacks. They only managed to learn about what happened thanks to the mailing system, but none of them knew about what Lyngvi did and why they were locked in.
"Tank!" Luna was relieved to see Tank again in person. She wanted to hug him, but held herself back and reminded herself that he was already taken.
"Is that the way out?"
Luna shook her head. "It leads to the Black Rose Headquarters where everyone else is. Garth is trying to connect all the guilds to their instance field."
"I'd be glad to see other faces again. Is Vi there too?"
Luna's face turned serious. She wasn't sure how to break it out to him nicely. "Vi isn't there. He's... part of the group that caused this mess."
Tank laughed. "You're kidding."
"I'm not kidding. Vi tried to abduct Lyria and even erased her player data, but Astrid managed to stop him from taking her. He tried to kill Astrid!"
"You know he wouldn't do that, right?"
Luna decided to show Tank the video Astrid took when she and Pio followed Lyngvi and Lyria to the rose garden.
"What the hell! My second-in-command would never do this kind of thing." Tank still refused to believe it. There was no way that man in the video was Vi.
"We didn't expect this either."
"Take me to the Black Rose Headquarters. I need some answers."
Luna led him through the portal. When they both entered the Black Rose Headquarters, they found their friends gathered at the wide lobby where Black Rose members usually received guests. Only Garth and Sphinx were missing.
"Tank!" They all looked up and gathered around him.
"This is all hard to take in. What exactly is happening in Aries?" Tank was disturbed by the situation.
"The world went crazy, that's what." Frisk sighed.
"I'm sure you've been aware of the hacker problem and even fell victim to it. The laws of this world has been altered to their liking," Astrid tried to put it as succinctly as she could.
"Is there a way out?" Tank was almost afraid to ask.
"We're trying to make one," replied Pio.
Garth approached them. "Tank and Lyria, we need to discuss something in private. Astrid too." He led the three of them to a meeting room and closed the door behind him.
"About Lyngvi, huh?" Tank guessed.
The guildmaster of Black Rose nodded. "That's right. We haven't had the chance for a proper discussion about this. What are your thoughts on Vi?"
"I don't believe it. Vi never seemed like the type who'd do this. He gave us no hint. The night of the ball, he excused himself saying he'd get more liquor for our party. He didn't return. That was the last time we saw him."
Garth nodded. "I see. So that night, Vi left the Knights Alliance Headquarters and locked everyone inside. After that, he made his way to the ball to see Lyria and convince her to go with him." He looked at Lyria.
Memories of that night still haunted Lyria. She took a deep breath before she spoke, "He appeared to me wearing a mask to hide his identity. He said he had something to tell me and led me to the rose garden."
Astrid followed, "Pio and I noticed what was happening and followed them to the garden."
"That's when the events in the video took place." Garth nodded.
Lyria continued, "He was about to abduct me when Astrid stopped him. She kept him busy as I ran up to warn the others."
"So that was when we bumped into you."
"Lyngvi and I fought. He almost killed me, but left immediately when he heard the large explosion."
Garth's eyes widened. "He left immediately?"
"Yes. He sounded like he was pressed for time, even when he was talking to Lyria."
"It's possible that Lyngvi isn't invincible. He was still subject to the altered laws. It's either that or he had to do something like meet up with someone right after. If he was the true mastermind behind all this, he could have taken his time and actually stayed to finish the fight, unless his code was too imperfect to grant him safety." Garth was deep in thought. "Is there anything else you noticed?"
"He had the ability to use any skill from all skill trees and somehow had improved stats."
"That sounds like the illegal code Sphinx found. That same one I warned you about after the end of the single battles."
Tank felt dizzy just listening to the conversation. This was all unbelievable to him. His second-in-command was evil all along? This was Lyngvi they're talking about. The calm, cool, and collected crusader Vi. A well-respected member of the Knights Alliance.
"What are you planning to do from now on?" Tank asked.
"Attempt to force a portal open to the real world. We can't afford to stay here under the mercy of the mastermind."
"We need every person familiar with artificial world development to work on this. I will need the help of all guildmasters to recommend players who might be able to assist us. Can you help me execute this plan?"
Tank scratched the back of his neck. "I'm as anxious to get out of this world as you are. Of course I'll help."
Garth smiled. "Thank you."
The meeting was adjourned shortly after. Everyone left the meeting room except Tank and Lyria, who were both still in a daze. They wanted to take their time to make sense of all that they had been discussing.
Tank felt like he had to say something on behalf of his second-in-command. He was well-aware that Vi was fond of the priestess. He never imagined that he'd try to forcefully abduct her. "Lyria, I'm sorry about what happened with Vi. I can't believe it myself either. It must have been tough on you."
Lyria shook her head. "It's alright. Honestly, I'm glad that there's still someone who believes in Vi. Somehow it gives me hope that maybe he is still the same Vi deep inside."
The crusader smiled. "Yeah. If I see him, I'm going to slap some sense into him. You should do that too when you see him again."
She lightly clenched her fists. "Before I meet him, I want to become stronger first." She opened her palm and stared at it. "As of now, I don't have any strength in this world because of my lost data. If I stay as is, I won't be able to reach him. I need to reach his level and make him acknowledge my words."
"The harder the slap, the more effective. I give you permission to kick his butt."
Lyria laughed. "That line reminds me of Luna."
"Really now? I guess her influence rubbed off on me." He stood up and got ready to leave. "Take your time to figure things out. If you ever need some training, you're welcome in the Knights Alliance. I'm sure your other friends will be glad to help out as well. Don't try to do things alone or you'll forget what's important."
"I'm leaving Vi to you."
Tank left the meeting room. Lyria stood up and decided it was time to do what she could in the meantime. The crusader's words gave her courage and motivation.
Wait for me, Vi!