"So you want to go back to the bookshop?" Ilaria leaned against the desk and folded her arms in front of her. Her eyes, which were usually gentle, now looked at Faye with doubt and a little pity. "What can you do when you get there? Jarreth sent you away to keep you out of harm's way."
"Won't his efforts to protect you be wasted if you run towards danger?"
Despite the older woman's scrutiny chipping away at her earlier determination, Faye refused to let it fade entirely. The one the Main Computer was after was her; it didn't feel right to hide away at the bar, when everyone was fighting an entity that seemed impossible to beat. She didn't want to lose anyone.
Faye glanced at the communication device on her wrist and felt even more determined to help. She couldn't fight, so there had to be something she could do. Through years of being an NPC, she had honed the skill of obtaining information, which had become her speciality. And that included knowing who the right people to ask were and how to get the information she needed.
The bar was popular in Archeline and was frequented by a whole array of people: high-level players, ones who have been playing games for a long time, big spenders, etc. There had to be someone amongst them who knew how to win against the main computer without actually having to fight it. The thing was an existence that ruled over the whole game world after all, and couldn't be fought against with normal means.
From where Faye was, there was no way to know if Jarreth and the others' attacks were working on the main computer.
Looking up from the communication device, Faye replied, "I don't want to go there directly. I want to help from a safe distance and put an end to this. The one the main computer is after is me, so I'll have to be the one to defeat it."
Ilaria stayed against the desk and studied Faye. The doubt and pity vanished instantly, and what replaced them was a look of respect. "If that's the case, there might be someone I know who could be of use to you."
"And who might that be?" Faye hid her excitement and asked.
Ilaria smiled and moved round the desk to the intercom. She summoned a staff member with the push of a button and instructed them to invite someone to the bar. The urgency with which the staff member acted was notable, and it made Faye curious about the person who would soon arrive at the bar.
Nox stood in the spot that Eriladar had instructed him to. Excitement coloured his expression, and Ashlyn beside him was the same. It hadn’t been long since they left the game, but to them, it had felt like a lifetime.
Eriladar spoke just as their anticipation was becoming too much: “Clear your mind of unnecessary thoughts and form an image in your mind of where you want to go. This won’t work unless you can picture your destination perfectly. There’s no knowing where you’ll end up if your mind wanders to something else.”
“One danger of this is that you might lose a body part, or even worse, your life.” Eriladar thought sugar-coating his words wouldn’t help in this situation, and explained everything that could go wrong. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? Farwich is always open for newcomers, and as the leader, I’ll do my best to make your lives there as comfortable as can be.”
Nox and Ashlyn nodded their heads simultaneously. They didn’t have the luxury of staying in Farwich, especially when their friend was in danger, and others in the game faced the main computer. How could they live comfortably in Farwich knowing that they had left people behind in the game?
“Okay, if you’re sure, do as I said before and open your mind to the surrounding space. Reach out with your consciousness and grasp the strands of light that will appear before you. They will lead you to where you have to go.” Eriladar’s soft voice sounded out in the quiet space, and he added, “and this is where we’ll part ways. Once you follow that light, you’ll know what to do next.”
He signalled Taegen to go back to Farwich ahead of him, and as Ashlyn was about to open their mouth to say something, he interrupted them: “There is no need to thank me. It is my job to help those who have lost their way after being discarded from their games. If you find yourself here again, we shall meet again.”
The two of them kept their eyes closed and didn't speak a word. Their minds were wholly focused on spreading out their consciousness and feeling the surrounding space.
The white space was as vast and empty as it always was, but after a while of nothing happening, something shifted in the space and the air crackled like it had suddenly come to life. And out of nowhere, streams of light appeared and flowed in one direction, beckoning Nox and Ashlyn to come forward.
They were hesitant at first and couldn't quite believe what was happening. However, Eriladar's words still rang in their ears, and they followed it without questioning it further: it was the only way they had to get back to the game, and they could deal with any danger that might crop up along the way.
The beams of light moved ahead, pausing intermittently as if to check if the two were still behind them, and vanished upon reaching a specific spot. The area surrounding them appeared identical to everything else, with no noticeable differences. Yet, there was something ahead that was calling them forward, and they couldn't help but reach out their hands.
The air felt solid, and a click was heard as their fingers brushed over the wall, revealing a door that opened up to the familiar sights of Archeline.
Finally, they were going to return to the game.