Astrid, Wen, and Alice circled the desert vicinity for any signs of the others. When they were convinced that the people they were looking for weren't there, they moved to the forest area.
"So you and Wen were part of the Defense Committee. What happened to your other team members?" Astrid asked.
Wen sighed. "They were either captured, gone into hiding, or..." He didn't want to say it. "...executed." He still felt responsible for what happened to them. He did his best, but he still made the wrong choices and put everyone in danger. Now all players were in danger.
"Is that the reason why you suddenly left Black Rose?"
"I had to prioritize the Defense Committee and the safety of my guildmates."
"Garth has been looking for you all this time."
"Sounds like my brother. I saw how he was badly injured during the team battles by the hackers. I won't forgive them for that."
"You were watching the Guild War?"
"Of course. I needed to see my guild win. Even if I'm not with them physically, I'll always be with Black Rose."
Astrid as quiet for a moment. "Did you know about Yaya as well?"
"I did. I left her alone thinking the others might change her mind. Especially Pio. Unfortunately, she was set on remaining with the hackers."
"Garth suspected that there was a hacker in Black Rose, but he didn't know it was Yaya."
Wen stared at Astrid. "You seem to be pretty close with my little brother. Just what is your relationship with him?"
Astrid blushed from the question. "I'm just an outsider he asked for help in the investigation."
"Guys, I see something," Alice interrupted them. "Over there."
She pointed at a spot in the distance. There was a crusader standing there looking for something. After a few seconds, Astrid recognized the person. It was Lyngvi.
"Is that a lost player?" Wen was about to approach him, but Astrid stopped him.
"Don't go near that person. Take cover." Astrid's desperate sounding voice told both her companions that they should be wary. The three of them hid behind bushes.
"Who is that?" Wen asked.
"Lyngvi. He was a former ally of our guild. On the night of the ball, he tried to kidnap my second-in-command. He's sided with the hackers and uses an illegal code to enhance his combat abilities. I almost died fighting him." Although there was a chance Astrid could take him down with the new hack they created, she didn't want to risk the lives of her companions.
"It's going to be troublesome if the others encounter him."
"He seems to be searching for something," Alice said as she observed Lyngvi's actions.
Astrid had a feeling that Lyngvi would lead them to where Lyria was. "Let's keep an eye on him. He might be looking for the same people we're looking for."
Wen didn't like the situation. "Are there others like him?"
"There are a few I know of."
"We'd better find my brother and his friends fast before we're forced into a battle."
Epsilon kicked a huge boulder in the way. It crumbled to pieces and disappeared.
"This is pretty convenient," Lyria said with a sweat drop on her cheek. She and Epsilon decided on checking out a nearby village, but the road was long and winding. It would have probably taken them half a day to get there if they had taken the traditional route. However, the one punch mage Epsilon insisted on taking the faster way, which was walking a straight path towards the village and demolishing obstacles along the way.
"We're almost there," Epsilon announced. "I'm going to punch a hole through this mountain."
As Epsilon was busy carving a hole into the mountain in front of them, Lyria sat on a rock and took a rest.
"I didn't expect to see you back here again, Pumpkin Girl."
Lyria instinctively turned her head. Magnus was standing behind her with his arms folded. She quickly switched to a defensive stance.
"How did you find us?" she asked.
"Don't look so surprised, Pumpkin Girl. Who wouldn't hear all that noise you're making demolishing large structures? Did you manage to tame one of the powerful bosses and have them destroy everything in your path?"
Lyria smirked. "I guess you can say I have a powerful boss on my side."
"Ooh scary. Well, I suppose that's the only way you'd be able to fight after Vi erased your data."
So Magnus and the others don't know the identities of the people who forced their way back into Aries, Lyria thought.
Magnus continued, "So, who's the new boss you tamed?" He continued his casual chit chat, thinking Lyria couldn't possibly harm him even with a tamed boss. She was but a priestess who had zero fighting abilities. Her priority would have been to stay alive under the protection of a powerful monster.
"You really want to see?" Lyria smiled sweetly.
"I'm a bit curious."
A loud sound came from the hole in the mountain. Clouds of smoke emerged from the artificial cave. After a few seconds, a silhouette emerged.
"It looks like she's back," Lyria said.
"A humanoid boss, huh? Interesting." Magnus nodded. "Were you going for those fairy types?"
"This one is a dark mage."
"A dark mage boss?"
Once the smoke cleared, the dark mage Razette Epsilon stood in front of them with a hand on her hip. On her face was a malicious grin upon setting her eyes on Magnus. She looked just as beautiful and deadly as the last time Magnus saw her.
"Yo, Maggie. It's been a while," she greeted.
"E... E... Epsilon," Magnus found it difficult to even utter her name. He broke out in cold sweat. He thought she was finally gone from Aries, but here she was standing right in front of him with the same face she wore that day he was forced to become her guinea pig for her poisons. It was a nightmare.
Epsilon walked towards him like a looming disaster. "I've been eagerly waiting to see you again."
Magnus stepped back. "W-What do you want from me?"
She stopped right in front of him and held his chin with her two fingers, bringing their faces close so she could clearly see the fear in his eyes. "Good question. Your screams? Your look of fear? You look adorable when you're afraid."
Magnus managed to push her away. He had the advantage this time. With the hack to enhance his ability, he could resist Epsilon! "No, not this time, Epsilon! Today, I will defeat you."
Epsilon gave an amused laugh. "Sure thing. I'm up for a warm up battle."
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