Chapter 12- Negotiation.
After resolving the issue with the guards and assassins, our mysterious saviors went about their own things. Sending out scouts, it was indeed true that the town’s folks were camping in the woods. According to sources, they claimed that the guards warned them of an emergency and they have been waiting since early nightfall. How they managed to trick and move them all so suddenly, I will never know.
Our first order of business was to clean up the mess and bodies before letting the people back to the town. While the town was still deserted, we held a conference with Drakus’s group.
The atmosphere of the situation resembled that of a diplomatic meeting. There was a palpable tension in the air. The entire mess was sorted out fairly quickly. I still haven’t got all my bearings, especially regarding their otherworldly strength. Now I was in the same room as my saviors.
“First and foremost, Thank you…you have my eternal gratitude for everything you did.” There were still matters unattended to namely showing my gratitude for rescuing me from a cruel future.
“It is of no problem princess. As I said, the plan was Drakus idea not mine; he is our leader after all.”
‘Leader, huh?’ When I first heard that statement, I was pleasantly surprised. From the way he carried himself and what I saw, I assumed the mage was their leader. With this new fact in mind, it’s likely that he was a trusted adviser to Drakus. Maybe he was similar to a council that advises a king and help sort of political issue.
“Well, it doesn’t matter whose idea it was. Getting to the matter at hand, what do you mean by ‘hire us’?” I asked, trying to hide my surprise.
“Ahh, yes. If I may be blunt princess, you’ve put in quite the situation. In truth, when Drakus suggested saving you, I was heavily against it. I even went as to go so far as to fight him to stop him.”
Casually speaking up I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the truth.
“What do you think of it now?” I asked with mild curiosity
“In truth, I still stand by my original decision. We shouldn’t have gotten involved and should have left you to your own fate.”
“Why you! Ho–“
Holding up my hand, I stopped Cain and silenced him. Antagonizing them will only spell disaster for us. Certainly the blunt truth hurts, and I too felt a hint of anger. But from the way he spoke, it didn’t seem it was because he was cruel or uncaring; it was a calculated decision that weighed the pros and cons of the situation. Letting out a silent prayer, I was gracious that Drakus managed to convince him to act.
“I understand what you’re saying. By saving us, you’ve now involved yourself with us, whereas you originally want to remain hidden. Am I correct?”
That was the only logical conclusion I could come up with. If placed in the same situation, I too might have made the same decision. Nodding his head, he proved my conclusion to be true.
“Now then. Regarding those that tried to kidnap you. They belong to an organization call “The Black Order”. Do you know who they are?”
“Unfortunately, I do.” I responded with a wry sigh.
The Black Order is a clandestine and nefarious organization that has roots all across the Central Continent. Rumor has it that they also deal with the other continents. Very little was truly known about the organization other than it dealt from anything from kidnapping and assassination to drugs and slave trade.
Informing them of the known facts regarding the organization in my mind, I tried to formulate a plan to counter such a powerful organization. But it proved more difficult, as we didn’t know where their base of operation was. Were there pocket bases or one massive base? What about members? There were so many unknown factors.
Coming to no answer, I asked for their opinion. Waiting on Nu-Ru, he gave his thoughts. “When going against an unknown enemy, it’s best to play it safe and let them make the first move. From there, we’ll wait for an opening.” Agreeing, he continued.
“Princess. Back in the Regios Kingdom, do you have friends? Siblings or perhaps people you’re close to but also those in a position of power?”
“Umm…Yes.” My reply was weak due to the oddity of the question.
“Trust no one.”
“Huh?” Taken back by his statement, I had little time to consider what he truly meant.
“Do not trust anyone besides your personal guard Cain and us. Everyone else is suspected as a possible mole.”
“Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme? That’s impossible.” I answered back.
“Was it impossible for your royal guard Mordrid to be persuaded to go against you? What about the town’s guards, who were sworn to protect going against you? Once you eliminate the impossible, you are left with the improbable truth. People tend to have the same misconception, that it’s simply unthinkable to be betrayed by the one’s they trust.”
I wanted to argue that he was wrong or paranoid, but a part of me reasoned and sympathized with his logic. Giving it some more thought, it wasn’t impossible, it was simply unthinkable. I’m simply looked at it the wrong way.
“Before we continue further, may I ask what you’ll do with the knight called Mordrid?”
Switching to a different subject, the attention was on Mordrid. Just uttering his anme was enough to enrage me all over again. Mordrid. He was still alive, albeit heavily injured from Drakus’s attack. Even I was surprised that he managed to survive such injuries. Under guard, he was still unconscious and I hope he stayed that way.
“We’ve taken custody of him and will put him on trial while simultaneously interrogating him in order to find who’s behind all of this.”
Upon hearing my answer, Nu-Ru opened his mouth only to quickly close it. It looked as if he wanted to say something but stopped himself.
“I believe that Mordrid was a simple disposable pawn since he was close to your order. I highly doubt that he would be inform of who’s truly ruling this operation.”
The thought of that didn’t escape me, but a quick death would be a mercy for him. He needed to be properly punished for Perciple, Gawain, and Tristian.
“Perhaps. However, that is something for us to decide.”
Nu-Ru simply shrugged to show that he was fine with it. Finally, we got to the matter at hand.
“Onto the matter at hand, what exactly did you mean by ‘hire us’?” I asked with a mixture of curiosity and excitement.
“Yes. As you have no doubt to assume they will not stop here, once word reaches that the assassins have failed, then whoever is behind this will take action. They’d either sending more assassins or a more daring approach. They might even go after us in addition.”
“I see your point; but again, what do you mean by hire?” Again he didn’t truly answer my question. A small smile crept up the edge of his lips.
“Well you see princess, we’re part of a guild. This not only affects you but also all of us as well. As such, we’re willing to help you resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”
At first, I was confused by his motives, but when I heard that he was willing to lend us a hand, I almost shouted yes immediately. But something wasn’t all that right about the situation. I’ve always had a keen instinct when it came to politics. That was one of the reasons why I was able to perform diplomatic missions for the Kingdom. And if there was anything I learned with dealing with deals, there’s always a string attach.
“So you’re similar to mercenaries then? And what exactly do you hope to gain from all of this?”
The biggest thing on my mind was why? They were playing it a bit too cautiously despite their strength. Raising his hand, Nu-Ru held up two fingers.
“The first would be silence. In exchange for guarding you, we wish to remain neutral and our true strength hidden.”
I couldn’t help but tilt my head in confusion. Why would one go so far to hide their strength, if anything, a normal person would flaunt it. Power, a commodity that nations strive to collect and achieve. From what I witnessed, their strength is on par with a nation’s Hero if not greater.
“Why exactly do you wish to be kept hidden?” I asked, wishing for more clarification.
“That leads us to the second point. Information. We’re…not from around here is to say. If the nature of our true strength is revealed, then that would cause unnecessary trouble for us. We wish to remain hidden doing our own things.. In addition, we wish for the Regios Kingdom help in our endeavors.”
Once again, his motives only perplexed me even more. However, I was able to see the logic in it. If rumors spread of them, then they’ll undoubted be wrapped up in a nation’s political game for strength. And not just national issues, but rumors about their unparalleled power could spread as well. Being at the top wasn’t the most comfortable of places, for there will always be those who are jealous. But then, that leads to another question.
Where exactly did they come from? What was their true objective? Those questions plagued my mind as I tried to make sense of their objectives. Forcing myself to stay on task, we still needed to work out the agreement.
“I see, you wish to use my position as princess of a kingdom to mask your identify while helping search for whatever you’re looking for? Is that all that you wish for?”
“Besides other minor rewards, yeah. A fair deal, yes?”
Taking a moment to consider it, it wasn’t that bad of a deal. If they had ask for something outrageous then I would be have skeptical of their motives. However, what they’re asking for are fairly simple, and greatly work in our favor. Not to mention, this might provide a beneficial relationship with one another if this entire matter is resolve cleanly.
Breaking away from my thoughts, I came to my answer. However, there was one small detail that I needed to know before answering. “And what exactly will you do to guarantee my safety?” I asked, curious of their service.
“We’ll be personally sending you one of our most powerful warrior, Drakus.”
Hearing his name, Drakus showed a surprised expression regarding the claim. As if he didn’t know either. Although I was happy to hear that I held some doubts. One man wouldn’t be enough despite how powerful Drakus was.
“Only Drakus I…”
Nu-Ru held up his hand to show that he wasn’t finished.
“Accompanying him will be Altina here. Amongst our guild, she’s is on equal footing with Drakus. I can assure you that.”
Two people now. Seeing their strength, I have no doubt that, if they took on an army it wouldn’t be a hassle to them. However, our enemy was enigmatic and could strike from anywhere and anytime. I would feel more secure if I had a personalized group instead.
“Is there no more that you can spare? Only two people…well, it’s discomforting.”
“I understand your plight, however, that is the most we can spare for now. We also have other plans for the future. You’re not the only one facing a dilemma. Besides, there’s a saying where we’re from. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’.”
I was about to openly object; however, the more I thought about it, the more I understood his standpoint. They involved themselves with us when they could have easily just have ignored us. They weren’t offering their service for free. We’re both beggars in his sense; only we need them more than they need us.
If we ask for more than that, it would not only be selfish of us, but we’ll be taking advantage of their kindness. Taking a deep breath, I had no choice but to take what I can get.
“I graciously accept your offer. Please help us resolve this issue, and I’ll make sure that all of you will be greatly rewarded.”
For the first time, he showed a genuine smile. Standing up, he walked over and held out his hand. The action wasn’t anything I was familiar with.
“It’s call shaking hands. A sign of agreement between two respectable allies.”
Extending my hand, I followed his lead as our hand clamp together and it shook up and down. Before the conference finally comes to a close, Nu-Ru parted with one last advice.
“Please take this. It’s an item call [Hestia Ward]. Place it in the general area of where you and your men will sleep and it will safeguard you. Our side still needs to sort out some issue, so please wait at least three days. Drakus shall rendezvous here when everything has been taken care of.”
Although three days was certainly long, I had no choice but to accept. Nodding, we parted as the mysterious portal opened once more and just as how they appear, they disappeared. All that was left within the room was Cain and myself.
Slumping back into the chains, I was finally free. An exasperated sigh of relief worked its way up from my mouth.
“Princess…Are you sure about them?” Hearing Cain’s question, he still retained some doubts.
“I don’t know anything anymore. But…I do know this, they’ll changing everything we come to know. As for how…Only time will tell.”
“And thus, the first official Crimson Strife council meeting within the new world commences!”
Technically, if you counted the number of time we discussed within the Council room, this would be the third or fourth time. The Council room was an important area within the building where we would make choices that not only affected us but also the entire guild back in Eternia.
So I considered this to be the true first council meeting, as now we’ll be planning for the future.
Everyone was in attendant, so we are to informed everyone regarding how the operation went. Most had mixed opinion regarding my choice of action. Thus, leading to the council meeting. The main topic? What to do next.
“I would like for everyone to hear my idea and give their opinion on this…I would like for us to expand throughout the world.”
One by one, I listened to what each one had to say.
“I…I don’t know. Though it’s smart to try and learn more, don’t you think it would be safe to stay in the guild?” First up was Shae, who voiced her concerns about exploring the new world.
“I’m all for this, nyaa! Just think of it, nyaa! A whole new world for us to see, nyaa.” Kaetzchen was next who adamantly agreed with my idea right off the bat.
“I have already seen what’s the world has to offer. If any problem appears, then we can fight back” Reptilia followed up after Kaetzchen who too agreed, using the rescue mission as a basis to show that we’ll be able to fight back if need be.
“I for one, am against it. Or rather part of it. Why go out ourselves when we can have the NPC’s within the sanctum leave and do it for us?” Proposing a slightly different approach was Manom. In part, I do agree with his logic, though there were parts that I challenged. Namely, the reliance of the respawnable NPC’s and our own involvement. An NPC could easily find what we’re looking for. But, they won’t learn why we’re looking for it.
“I’m siding on Manom on this dude. You brought up the point of us being uber strong but that doesn’t make us invincible. If we get ourselves involved in something big, then we might regret it.” Taking Manom side was Trion Jazz who took the side of caution.
“I don’t care really. I’m in the same mindset of Kaetzchen, I want to see what the world has to offer and then kicks its ass! You guys have been hogging all the fun.” On the flip side, Arsenal sided with us, regardless of his rather transparent reasons. A groan could be then heard from Manom.
Finally, there was Drakus and myself, and we knew what our votes were. A majority vote won typically, and I would simply move on, but not this time. What we need was a unanimous vote from everyone, not a majority. Their fear and hesitation was warranted, but I needed them to see the bigger picture.
‘Looks like I going to have to bust out that then.’
“There’s…one more reason why I’m suggesting the exploration plan…it’s because we may not be able to go back home.”
Immediately all chatter ceased. Complete and undivided attention rested on me as I looked over their ranging emotion. From suspicion and fear to downright denial.
“What do you mean?” Drakus was the first one to question my claim.
“It’s just as I said. I think that we might not be able to return back to earth.”
Reiterating what I said, I too felt the same when I came to that conclusion. A frightening chill coursed through my body when I first came to such a conclusion. Sweated flowed like a river as I tried to calmed myself. If there was a possibility of returning home, then there was also a possibility of there being no solution.
“We came to this world through an unknown means and we have yet to see anything that relates back to the notification. We’re now in a new world that has no semblance of Eternia nor Earth.”
“S-Surely there’s gotta be something…”
“If there’s the possibility of a solution, then there’s also a possibility of there being no solution. We have to be realistic.”
My blunt answer caused the mood to shift dramatically. A sense of despair washed over everyone as they considered the possibility. I kept this fact from the others as I knew just how dangerous this piece of information was.
“I-If that’s true….then…then…what’s the point?”
Slowly the others fell into the same mentality, even I started to feel the effects of it all.
“If we can’t go back then we need to learn how to live in this new world.”
Despite the words coming out of my mouth, they felt hollow. I was basically asking them to give up their old lives and accept reality as it is. It was cruel no matter what way you looked at it. It wasn’t the best of plans but it was one nonetheless.
But, that didn’t change their conviction. Hell, I wasn’t even sure that they heard me or not.
‘Damn it! I knew I should have kept my mouth shut!’ Screaming in my head, everything is going in opposite way that I wanted.
The plan was to use the piece of information as a rallying goal. Instead I only made it worse. I needed something to change the mood. But no matter how hard I racked my brain, I couldn’t think of anything. Ironically, the more I tried to find a solution the more I felt depressed and the gravity of the situation.
Screaming we all looked to see the screamer being Drakus.
“Yea there might be a possibility that there might not be a way home but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% true!”
“But what?! We haven’t even done anything yet and already you’re all moping on the floor. We won’t know if there’s truly a mean to get home until we search for it.”
“What if we search and search but find nothing…”
“Then we’ll look keep on looking and looking. To the four corner of the world if we have to. Until we all die if we have to. But we must not give up hope, or else everything is lost before we even start.”
“Even if you say all of that…it’s…impossible.”
“Have you forgotten who we are? We’re Crimson Strife! One of the most famous and reputational guilds within Eternia! Known far and wide, we were known to do the impossible. Our guild was created during the midlife of Eternia and yet we rose to the top! We fought and attack many different guilds and returned victorious! Dungeons, bosses, raids, secret levels, there was nothing we couldn’t do with trial and error!”
“They were all from a freaking game! This is real life!”
“So what! It doesn’t matter if we’re in a game, real life or the fucking moon! We did what was thought to be impossible! We fought and fought and fought even more! That’s how I roll, that’s how we roll, and that was how Crimson Strife roll!!”
After delivering an epic speech everyone silent, just hearing it filled us with something. Something indescribable, a sense of happiness. Laughter.
The laugh came from me as I couldn’t take it anymore and busted out laughing. Laughing so hard, I doubled down and grabbed my stomach as it started to hurt. The other joined in one by one as the room was filled with laughter from all, but Drakus, who looked around as if he said something incorrectly to garner our laughing response.
Should I expect nothing less from Drakus? While recovering, I couldn’t help but reminisce about our old days in Eternia. Drakus has a little reputation for being the Loud Voice of Reason as he was called. This deriving from his sudden boost in moral by screaming to never give up. The basic and cheesy motivational speech that you would find anywhere.
And yet they always came through. Every memory of them, we succeeded through trial and error as Drakus mentioned. It was one of the thing that I was jealous of him for, his leadership.
Often times I could hear comments and remarks of how I was a better leader than Drakus. And to them I always denied it. In my eyes, simply being intelligent didn’t define a leader. Drakus, on the other hand, was everything I wasn’t. The charisma, passion, and the strength to lead. And that was why Drakus was and will be the one and true leader of Crimson Strife.
Slowly, we all settled down to confront an extremely confused Drakus. The look on his face was enough to make chuckle up again.
“Leave it to you to change everything huh?”
Flashing Drakus a smile. he quickly recovered from his confused state. Returning the smile, slowly a smile formed on everyone. After such an inspiring speech, who couldn’t feel empowered?
“Drakus is right. If we give up before the fight even starts then we have already lost. We must look for the positive and believe that we can find the solution we’re looking for. It won’t be easy, but that is what we need to do. So I ask everyone one last time, all those in favor of exploring the world. Say aye!”
All at once we answered, it was a unanimous decision. And thus, we planned for the future, the future of Crimson Strife!