“Are we really just gonna sit here and do nothing?” Liscia voiced, leaning her back onto Halbert’s as she roamed her eyes on the ceiling. “We’ve been here for almost an hour. It’s time wasted, Mola. We better hunt something so we could at least bring back some spoils for extra coins.”
“Wait, I’m thinking.” Mola hunched while seated. She pulled on her fringes as she retraced her conversation with Lara.
On the other hand, Glasses was staring at Mola’s figure. [Was it just a fluke?]
[Maybe it is,] Mola replied through Wind Whisper. [But I really can’t comprehend Her Royal Highness’s reason for ordering us to come here.]
[Maybe we shouldn’t have hoped?]
Mola sighed. Gaaah! Her instruction is too vague! Just what kind of development was I hoping for! Mola had to admit. She hoped Lara had a piece of information that would unravel a part of Academia’s Labyrinth. Agh! There wasn’t even anything out of the ordinary! The best I could make out of this is to make Meiko think about the relics!
“Seems like Mola has it hard.” Halbert pushed back Liscia, while Liscia returned it, effectively making a game out of it.
“Hey, Mola, just who was your lead that made you want to come here at this day and hour?”
“Please be quiet!” Mola snapped.
Meiko lifted an eye and returned to her usual silence. She was sitting beside the Statue of Babel while embracing her knees.
[Do you have anything in mind, Glasses?]
[Nothing in particular.] Glasses sighed. He roamed his eyes like Liscia, trying to guess the intention behind Lara’s instruction. [Other than taking the fact that we should bring the Hero, then we should focus on something that Meiko brought into the plate. But there’s none.]
[None. Nothing. We don’t have any leads. Nor do we have any trace of a hint! Damn! Just what kind of puzzle is this!]
[I’ve been thinking. Since Meiko has been quiet for a while now, maybe it had something to do with the statue of Babel?]
[That’s out of the question. That Babel is just an ordinary statue. We both know that.]
[Well, yes, that’s true. But that’s true when the statue was investigated without Meiko around, wasn’t it? Remember that the Labyrinth has some weird mechanisms that can’t be triggered no matter what the Philosophers tried? Maybe this statue has a trigger or something whenever a Hero is around.]
[As if. If that was the case, there should be an obvious change. But so far there isn’t a single thi—wait.]
Mola shifted her sight towards the statue, then towards the path they came from. [Oi. Maybe we’ve been too focused on the statue?] Mola’s heartbeat began to rose.
[What do you mean?]
[Remember?] Mola focused her sight on Glasses. [We encountered an unexpected blockade along the way.]
[…] Gradually, Glasses’ eyes widened. [You don’t mean?!]
[What if the Labyrinth changes whenever a Hero is present?]
[But haven’t you been with Meiko when you tried to capture a Mimic?]
Mola rose to her feet. [No, I didn’t notice any. But what if… there are only a select few passages that only Heroes can pass through? And the reason La—Her Royal Highness told us to come to the Sanctum is to retrace that blockade?]
Liscia sat up. “Halbert, we’re moving.”
[…] Glasses returned Mola’s gaze and nodded. “Which way?”
Mola shifted her sight towards a passage west south-west from where they came from. “Mei, let’s move.”
Meiko broke her silence and stood. “Okay.”
Of all the places… Mola thought. A place where anyone could overlook. A place near the surface rather than the depths… Just what kind of logic did the creator have?
A little before Mola and the group began to move, Meiko isolated herself with the reason “I’m a bit sleepy.”
A few seconds after she buried her face between her knees, she began to chant in a mutter.
Maybe I should find the endpoint and trace a route back, Meiko thought.
As she passed through wall after wall, and floor after floor, Meiko noticed the gradual change in the Labyrinth’s structure.
Wails and howls from various beasts toned down. Creatures that skittered and wriggled between crevices decreased in number. Traces of dim glowing colonies of eggs were reduced to a nil. All the while the passageways started to become uniform.
Meiko had thought about the chill the creatures sent her spine, despite her not in the actual location.
How did such creatures come to be? Why weren’t they exterminated? Why are there steel railings confining the egg colonies?
There were so many questions to be asked. Questions stacked above a question that seemed endless if answered one after another. However, Meiko withdrew her thoughts and focused on her task.
Academia was far larger than Issenheim—a metropolis compared to a capital city. And unlike her previous search, she had no leads. A blind search of the depths of the Labyrinth in hopes of finding something out of the ordinary, perhaps a clue.
At times, Meiko would take a momentary stop and read the inscribed symbols she came across.
Again. It’s the same phrase again. But I don’t understand. That time and the other was different...
The phrase was entirely the same. However, Meiko noticed that the symbols varied. They weren’t fixed, but they meant the same thing.
Babel… The tower bothered Meiko. If what Liscia said was true, then why is Babel here? Was there really one language? One human language?
It was hard to believe. Human civilizations from differing ethnic groups having the same form of language. It didn’t make sense—at least from where Meiko came from.
Then, moments before Mola called her, she arrived in a large circular chamber decorated with murals. It was but a glimpse but Meiko kept it in mind. A mural of a tower’s construction similar to Babel.
Charles swung his wooden sword. Once. Twice. Thrice. He kept going. He did so with a visible frown plastered on his face.
“It’s a pain to deal with nobility, but they are often the triggers.” Each swing was accompanied by a rush of wind. “But the hardest to deal with are those who are overprotective.”
Charles heaved a sigh. “Come on Maxwell, don’t be a fool. At least get a hint.” He moved his sight towards a balcony three stories from where he stood.
Ever since Charles was summoned, he harbored a sense of excitement and impatience. And to fuel his desire, he kept an eye on his fellow Heroes, primarily Meiko and Evelyn. Clark was not much of a threat, he thought. Most likely, with a Princess in his party, he’d be swung around by the Royals as they pleased, or so he thought based on his previous experiences.
In a way, he tried to gauge Meiko and Evelyn by approaching them with a friendly demeanor. And from what he learned in his little probing, Meiko was not a threat either. That leaves Evelyn.
However, things took a sudden turn. Meiko vanished from Issenheim. And not knowing the reason bothered Charles.
She’s headed south… and at the south is… Brent? Academia and Laurel, too.
For Charles, the early stages of a game are important. It is a time to gather as much information as he needed before creating a road-map for his goals. Since the events in Limited-Multiplayer-Online are realistic in nature or can be narrowed down to a simple cause and effect, he needed to pave his path with knowledge.
There are the refugees. The Princess of the fallen Kingdom, Niveria. The Philosophers of Academia and the Labyrinth. A Kingdom pushing for communication with the races and an ethnic group of Elves and Dwarfs. Which are you after, Meiko?
As the days passed, Charles kept a concerned expression.
“Evelyn, where do you think Meiko went to?”
“I dunno. Maybe she went ahead and ditched this Kingdom and turned towards another?” she said, sheathing and unsheathing the rapier resting on her lap.
“Ehh? What makes you think so?” Charles knitted his brows. Is the map a generic feature for all four of us?
“Well, it just kinda happens, right? Come to think of it, being summoned in the same kingdom has that kind of disadvantage. But it’s fun in its own way.” Evelyn smirked.
“Disadvantage? Which?” Charles played the innocent role. She’s done this kind of scenario before.
“I think you already know that, Charles. Besides, even though we are fellow Heroes, it doesn’t mean we all have the same goals. And trash what the King said. That’s the main storyline. I’ll do things on my own and uncover side-quests.”
Searching for side-quests was fine and all. Charles too knew about the fulfillment it could give. In the case of LMOs, side-quests can even alter the main storyline’s progress or path. It can turn from waging a war to waging peace. However, the best part was uncovering the world’s secrets and lore.
Still, it bothered Charles how quick-witted Meiko was upon hearing a bombshell of a rumor. A rumor that Laurel’s Princess took in a Hero.
I’ve been had…
Along with the news of Laurel forging a renewed bond with the Tribe, Charles heard Laurel’s form of participation in the war. They took in refugees and donated numerous provisions without compromising its own stock for the incoming winter. That in itself told Charles the capability of the peaceful Kingdom.
Lastly, after being unintentionally driven by Meiko to rush his training and cut off making appearances with the nobility of Libet, he caught wind of an incident East-South-East of Issenheim. An explosion. A sudden rampage of chained beasts. And remains of a beast torn in half.
“An explosion of this scale, it wasn’t caused by gunpowder, right?” Charles muttered to himself after arriving at the said site.
“What’s wrong Sir Charles?” Selena, the light-blue haired priestess, asked after offering her prayer. “You seem to be bothered lately. Is there something I—no, we can help you?”
“Aiyoo!” The female scout saluted from the side. Her maple shoulder-cut hair pinned towards her left a relaxing impression. “This Medea will aid this Sire! Mihee.” And then she imitated a butler’s bow.
Charles chuckled. “Don’t worry, Selena, Medea, it’s not that huge of a matter. But still, I’m curious how this placed was scoured clean.”
Medea nodded energetically. “Hm, hm. The cleaning operation was way too quick. I thought there will be an investigation first before things were moved around. So it really is suspicious. Unless there’s an underground organization in the work here, it won’t make sense.”
Selena frowned. “True. It is a case filled with doubt. But I’m afraid we don’t have a lead. Much less a clue.”
“I agree.” Charles tapped a finger on his forehead. “Though we could call this an illegal practice of an organization or such, we can’t ignore what caused the explosion. If it really was an underground organization, then the place should be tight with matters that can expose it. In that case... someone attacked this facility?”
“Most likely.” Medea crossed her arms. “Problem is, there are way too many candidates that can cause such an explosion. Just the amount of candidates from Academia would leave our heads spinning. So I don’t recommend cracking the source with the current state of our information.”
“Maybe I should exercise my right in the nearby temple and get us more information?” The rings of the silver staff Selena held clinked.
Charles shook his head. “No. It’s fine. Just the list of the beasts that was found in this place is enough. We don’t need to spend much time in this matter.”
Meiko… Just how far have you foresaw these events…
Though the news and rumors from Laurel were distorted to some extent, Charles pieced it and made a partial conclusion for himself. And his conclusion was…
Meiko was involved in the incident with refugees. And probably the incident on the forest near Twin Peaks, too. But linking those events with the explosion is… too far-fetched. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s the only possibility I have in mind. Besides, Selena never heard of priests that sallied towards Laurel. But then—Ahhhh! This is driving me nuts!
Just thinking of Meiko triggering the first events knocked on Charles mind. The first events in LMOs usually trigger how the story would progress. If in case the story veered towards something he did not desire, it will become a hassle to play and continue the game.
But there’s still a chance. If I can’t decide which vehicle to use, then better ride it and take the wheel. But first, I have to keep track of Evelyn… Charles focused on a map that popped out from his interface. Evelyn has been moving too. But her movements are too erratic and in-between. I can’t make heads or tails about it.
Though Evelyn has yet to finish her training officially, Evelyn has been roaming around Issenheim. Unfortunately, in Charles’s map, it only shows a top view of Evelyn’s location. A narrow, more detailed, tracking of a person required Charles to be in the same area or structure.
“Selena, Medea, I have things to take care of in Brent, won’t you accompany me?”
“With pleasure, sire!”
“I have no qualms.”
And thus the reason how Charles arrived in Brent.
“Really, things are turning for the worse.” Charles grimaced at the fact that he was about to show himself in public due to the Royalty’s request. “But things are hard to explain to such people! Why can’t you just get a feel of it and trust me!”
Just the fact that Evelyn left Libet and was already nearing Laurel ticked Charles.
“I’m being left behind!”