76 Gaylord the House Ca
Sphinx scouted the forest alone jumping from one branch to another. It was the safest way to travel in a forest inhabited by wolves. It's been two days since he last rescued a survivor. He hoped he would find at least one today rather than a dead body.
"Aah!" A bloodcurdling scream echoed through the forest. Sphinx knew the voice. It was none other than Dick Gaylord, the most narcissistic person he ever met.
Sphinx wasted no time. He quickly moved towards the voice's direction.
Where Gaylord was, Ileanna and Li Yuan shook their heads in disbelief when the person they rescued was petrified by a mere caterpillar on his head. It had only been a few hours since they rescued him from wolves and now he needed rescuing again.
Ileanna simply flicked the caterpillar away with her finger. "There."
Gaylord brimmed with happiness. "M-My savior! This is the second time you saved me today! It must be fate—" He fell down unconscious when he was hit by the back of Li Yuan's sword.
"Oops," Li Yuan said casually.
"You really need to stop doing that or he'll get permanent brain damage," Ileanna said.
"If you ask me, his brain is already permanently damaged to begin with."
Sphinx observed them from afar. There were two players he didn't recognize with Gaylord's unconscious body. Were they friends or foe?
Ileanna's sharp senses alerted her. "Someone is nearby."
Li Yuan kept his sword close. "Should we attack?"
"Don't. It could be another survivor. Let's wait until he makes a move."
For about five minutes, both sides did nothing but wait for each other to make a move. Ileanna was beginning to get bored of waiting, so she decided to call the person out.
"You can come out. We know you're there," she said, hoping to draw the stranger out.
It worked. Sphinx emerged from his hiding place. He was beginning to think that they might not be enemies. He decided to give it a chance.
"That unconscious person with you is someone I know," said Sphinx. He waited to see if they would take Gaylord hostage or not.
Li Yuan grabbed Gaylord by the back collar and lifted him up like holding a cat. "Is this yours?"
A drop of sweat trickled down Sphinx's cheek as Gaylord was treated like a house pet. "Yes. His guildmates sent me to look for him. Are you two looking for shelter?"
"We've been living here in the forest since the day the world went crazy. We've been surviving fine on our own," replied Ileanna.
"There is a city near here where all the survivors are gathered. We send out scouts regularly to search for other survivors and missing players. You're free to come along if you need supplies or a safer place to live."
Ileanna looked at Li Yuan. They agreed that their supplies had been scarce lately and even considered moving to another area. It probably did no harm to check out the city.
"Alright. We're going with you," replied Ileanna.
While Astrid and Jasmine were chatting and updating each other at the city square, Wen and Sed returned with the bags of supplies. Astrid was given a bag full of tools and provisions to use for the trip.
"Jas and Sed, I leave the city to you while we're out searching," Wen instructed. "When Sphinx gets back, let him know that we're out looking for specific survivors."
"We'll keep things in order while you're away," Sed promised.
While Wen was talking to Sed and Jasmine, the beastmaster girl moved near Astrid and tried to shyly get her attention. It took a few more tries before Astrid finally noticed.
"Astrid, it's... me," Alice said and covered her face out of embarrassment because it took her so long to get Astrid's attention.
"Huh?" Astrid was confused.
"It's me," Alice repeated. Her shapeshifter transformed into an orange and white cat. "Remember Kimmy?"
"Alice!" Astrid finally recognized her.
Alice was someone the Noctis Noir girls knew personally. They used to hang out together at school. When the artificial worlds came out, she had to move to a different world to join her family. She managed to get into Aries eventually and wanted to surprise the girls, but she was unfortunately caught in the pandemonium and ended up trapped in the world.
"How long have you been here in Aries? You never sent us a message!" Astrid was surprised to see her friend here.
"Not very long. I'm going with you to search and surprise Lyria and the others," Alice was determined.
"And how did you become such good friends with Wen?" Astrid smirked.
Alice covered her face in embarrassment.
"Hm? You two know each other?" Wen noticed the two of them talking like old friends.
"Astrid and I knew each other in the real world," Alice replied.
Wen looked at Astrid. "That's interesting. I didn't think you'd know so many people here. Good thing I brought you here then."
"How did you and Alice meet anyway?" Astrid asked out of curiosity.
Her question triggered strong reactions out of Wen and Alice. They both turned red and looked at the side. Astrid decided that it was a story she definitely needed to hear.
"It's... a long story. You'll get bored," replied Wen. "Let's go." He desperately wanted to avoid having to tell the story himself.
As soon as Wen was far enough, Alice whispered to Astrid, "I'll tell you on the way."