Astrid was on her way out of Epsilon's lab when Garth noticed her. He was on his way to his brother's apartment and decided that Astrid should join the impromptu meeting.
"Astrid, are you free right now?" Garth asked.
"Yeah. I'm free. Do you need some help?" Astrid replied.
"I want you to come with me to my brother. We'll tell him about the world reset function we discovered. I also have some questions I want to ask him."
She nodded. "Let's go."
Garth and Astrid walked to the building where Wen used the top floor space as his new apartment. They walked up the sandstone stairs decorated with potted desert flowers and stopped at a door. Garth knocked. After a few seconds, the door opened.
"What's up?" Wen said as a greeting.
"We need to talk to you," Garth said.
"I had a feeling you'd want to talk eventually. Come inside."
Garth and Astrid entered the apartment. It was a modest living space used simultaneously as an office. Alice was already making coffee for Wen and herself at the kitchen counter. She saw the two guests and took out two more cups.
"Have a seat," Wen offered.
The three of them sat around a round wooden table at the center of the room where Kimmy the cat was peacefully asleep in the middle.
"Ask away," Wen casually leaned back on his seat.
"First off, how did you know about this city's existence?" Garth immediately started.
"Alice and I are what's left of the Aries Defense Committee. We are always informed about new developments like this beforehand in case anyone tries to break in and use places under development as a place to hide."
"What is the function of that committee?"
"Simply to protect Aries from invasions such as what's happening right now." Wen held up a hand before Garth could say anything else. "Yes. I know. We failed at our job. Trust me. We're doing what we can to undo this mess."
"How long have you been in the committee?"
"Ever since the beginning of Aries."
"So you knew M.K. personally?" Garth leaned forward.
Wen eyed the both of them for about a minute. "I suppose it's safe to tell the two of you."
"Tell us what?"
He lit a cigarette. "M.K. isn't who you think he is."
"What do you mean?" Garth's face turned serious.
"M.K. isn't a real person. He is someone we made up. Rather, the real M.K. is a group of people."
So the three people in the photograph in M.K.'s house were all M.K.? Astrid thought.
"There were three of us who worked on building Aries: me, Elris, and Cecil. Elris was the one who first conceptualized Aries. He was a game developer who worked on MMOs. He wanted to make his dream a reality, so he dragged Cecil and I along for world building. Cecil worked on the lore, bestiary, and NPC designs. I worked on the visuals: the maps, architecture, people, and monsters. Together, we slowly built the world of Aries from scratch until it became what it is today."
Garth was shocked to hear it. Wen had been so good at keeping it a secret that even his own brother didn't realize it.
Wen continued, "Everything was going fine at first, until we started getting offers from big companies. Elris and I wanted to keep Aries pure and free from any third party intervention. However, Cecil disagreed. He thought that bringing in more people to develop the world would make it better. He argued that ideas and technology wouldn't have developed the way they did today if other people hadn't contributed. Keeping Aries to ourselves was preventing it from reaching its full potential. Because of the majority decision, Cecil was unable to bring in any third party. However, Elris and I suspected that he had been making deals behind our back, although we never found any evidence. There came a point when Elris was targeted and narrowly escaped assassination. He urged me to go in hiding with him. That was when I suddenly disappeared from Black Rose."
Wen looked at his younger brother, "I'm sorry I never said anything to you back then, Garth. I did not want you to be a target as well."
"Where are Elris and Cecil right now?" Garth asked.
"I honestly don't know. Cecil has been out of sight after that assassination attempt. I don't even know if he's dead or alive. I lost contact with Elris after he said he would investigate on his own. He did tell me to 'meet him at the highest point of the world where no player dares to venture' if things escalate into something uncontrollable. He's always been vague and tends to leave his messages in remote areas."
Garth thought about the world reset mechanism. "The highest point of the world... Wen, we found papers describing some sort of reset button located there."
Wen was surprised. "A reset button? Where did you hear that from?"
"We broke into the house we suspected to be M.K.'s," said Astrid.
Wen laughed. "Oh. That house we rented so M.K. would have an address and sound more like a legit person. We often met there to work on Aries. It must have been a messy sight."
"There was a box there with papers about that world reset mechanism."
"That's probably Elris' doing. He never mentioned that to me and Cecil." Wen paused to think. "That could be why he told me to meet him there. It might be our only hope of ever recovering Aries."
"Will you take us there?" Garth asked.
"Sure. Elris better have programmed that thing right. Tell me all the details."