104 The Ones Who Stay
Wen gathered all the players in the cave together for one huge meeting. Once everyone was present, he gave the signal to Garth and Astrid to activate the portal to the real world.
"This portal leads back to the real world. Anyone who wants to go home can take this portal, but we need people willing to stay and help recover this world. It's going to be risky and full of danger, but your bravery will be awarded if we pull through. If you don't wish to fight, you are free to take the portal back to the real world," Wen spoke. "Anyone who has decided can step up and enter."
The crowd grew wild with whispering. Soon, there was a line of individuals taking turns to exit Aries through the portal. They waited until there were no more players who wanted to exit.
"How many people do we have?" Wen asked Tank who was counting the remaining number of people.
"About a third of our original number," replied Tank.
That's not enough people, Wen thought.
"We'll pull through with a good strategy," said Garth calmly.
"Hey, where is that confidence coming from, little bro?" Wen folded his arms. Even he was unsure about the probabilities about their success. Fighting with only a few people already runs the risk of getting overwhelmed by numbers.
"From what I gathered, Cecil plans things messily and has to rely on people like Lyngvi for creating flawless plans. It is less likely that he has skill in military tactics. We need to bombard him with several unexpected attacks all at once, creating as much confusion as possible," Garth explained. "If Elris delivers his promise of dragons, they can help quell the summoned creature army Cecil often uses. They seem to be effective in destroying those spawner portals. That leaves us with Cecil and his officers as the next threat. We need to find a way to separate them and fight them individually... or at least keep them out of the way until we retrieve the cube."
Wen was impressed. "Oh? So you have a strategy formulated already?"
"You might consider this reckless, but I believe this might be our best way of snatching back the cube."
"Go on, I'm listening."
"We attack their base and at the same time send a team to locate the reset mechanism. When we corner Cecil, that team will activate it and give us a short span of time to snatch the cube back safely before he manages to reapply the hacks and edit the world laws again."
Wen gave it some thought. It might actually work.
"But we need to shroud our plan as much as possible and stage diversions. We need to create a fake army of players using NPCs and place them in strategic locations. We'll set up traps there. We also need to infiltrate their base and wreck havoc inside. They should be kept busy in different locations, forcing their whole population to split up."
Wen smirked. "Divide and conquer, huh?"
"We'll infiltrate what we can. Including their communications." Garth paused and took out his menu tablet. "You're listening to us right now, Frisk?"
"Wha!? How did you know?" Frisk was shocked.
"Just a hunch. About that time when you gained control of the speakers in the floating castle..."
"Yeah. I was doing a little coding experiment and decided to try it out."
"We need you to do that again at the enemy's base. Broadcast whatever distracting thing you can think of."
"Just make him sing karaoke. That's enough to distract people," Tank interjected.
Frisk had a brilliant idea. "I'll tell them spoilers of the new season of Game of Stones!"
Tank frowned. "No way! I haven't even seen the new season yet since we're stuck here."
"Hurry up and defeat that crazy Cecil then so you can come back here and watch it. I recorded all the episodes so far."
"Heh. Easy for you to say."
"Let me upload it into your menu tablet then."
"Oh. Thanks man."
The brothers Wen and Garth observed their exchange of words before getting back to their original conversation.
"I have one request," said Wen.
"What is it?" Garth asked.
"When we meet Cecil in battle, let me fight him. I want to do this for all my fallen comrades in the defense committee. It's the least I can do for them." Wen recalled all the good memories he had together with his team. He never thought their days would end so abruptly.
"Fine by me. Just don't get yourself killed. You still owe me money from that time you wanted to buy a new backpack."
"I can't believe you still remember that." Wen laughed.
Meanwhile, the girls gathered together along with the other players who remained. Just like Wen, the other players who stayed wanted to avenge their fallen friends.
"If I fight this war, I'm going to be considered a hero! They're going to write Dick Gaylord in history books and erect a statue of me for my heroic deeds. My esteemed name will be known throughout the land and generations to come. Ladies will come filing into my luxurious mansion begging for my attention! Ah! What a glorious tale I will tell in my bestselling autobiography." Gaylord was deep inside his delusion. Nobody bothered to interrupt him. He looked like he was having way too much fun anyway.
"We fight till the end. Don't be a coward like Frisk," said Astrid to the girls.
"Well, I'm sorry for being a coward!" Frisk immediately reacted.
The rest of the girls giggled.
"Don't worry, Frisk! You're still a valuable team member," Luna said with a laugh.
"M-Miss Luna!" Frisk cried tears of joy.
Wen and Garth stepped closer to the group and announced their tentative plan to the rest.
What originally started out as a guild war event turned into something this big. Now, all the guilds in Aries merged together as one to reclaim their world. It wasn't the guild war event they were hoping for, but they were content to fight together as allies.