The Noctis Noir girls took a trip to the Lamont Marketplace to purchase some cloth for Anna to make dresses out of. Anna wasted no time in grabbing some samples and imagining the girls in different dress designs. She fainted with a nosebleed from the intensity of her imagination.
Luna spotted a familiar face from afar. "That looks like Jas."
"Oh. Hey there!" Jas waved at them as she and Yaya went their way. "Here to shop for dresses too?"
"I'm so glad Black Rose will be attending the ball. The moderators sent us invites as an apology for the incident. Ahh! I hope I'll get to dance with Chris!" She froze. "Oh woops. I wasn't supposed to say that out loud."
Yaya laughed. "Garth will probably recover 100% by the time the ball happens. If not, we'll drag him there anyway!"
A drop of sweat trickled down Astrid's cheek. "Don't be so hard on him."
Yaya spotted a pink ball gown on display. "Oh! Look at this dress! This will look great on Pio."
Jasmine nodded in approval. "Gaylord will totally fall in love with him again."
The two Black Rose girls giggled. Astrid and Lyria felt sorry for Pio.
As the girls passed by a stall selling books and daggers, Astrid's attention was immediately on their collection of books.
"Lady Astrid, we're here for dresses!" Lyria dragged her friend away from the stall. "We can't have you use up all your money on equipment and books."
Astrid silently cried inside as she was being pulled away from the display of books.
"That cloth looks gorgeous!" Anna ran to a stall far away from where they stood.
"Anna wait!" As Lyria and Astrid tried to catch up with their guild seamstress, they lost sight of her within the dense crowd. Instead of Anna, they bumped into another familiar face. Someone neither of them wanted to see for a long time.
For a moment, the three of them just stood there in silence.
"Congratulations on your win. I didn't think you'd make it." She was smiling, but underneath that smile was a massive amount of hatred.
"Thanks," was all Astrid could reply.
Lyria stayed quiet, unsure of what to say.
"I heard you're going to a ball held for the winners. I'm sure you'll have a great time. Enjoy!" She gave a casual wave before turning around and walking away. Once her face was away from their view, her smile vanished and was replaced with a scowl.
As soon as she was out of sight, Lyria and Astrid both sighed.
"That just killed my mood for shopping," Lyria said.
Astrid felt the same way. "Yeah. Let's just find Anna, finish all the shopping then go back to the headquarters."
The Knights Alliance guild headquarters was a large castle made of white stone situated on an island surrounded by a body of water. Unlike the Black Rose headquarters, it had tall cliffs overlooking the crashing waves below instead of beaches. Players who teleport to the instance field arrive at the wide stone bridge connecting the castle to the main land.
A number of members anxiously waited for the arrival of their guildmaster at the castle gates. When Lyngvi finally appeared at the spawn point with Tank, they all ran to greet them. The guildmaster was bombarded with one question after another. It was as if he was a famous celebrity who came out of a court hearing.
"Tank! What happened during the team battle?"
"Did they clear your name?"
"Is the investigation over?"
Tank wanted to cover his ears, but he knew that he had to give them a proper answer as the Knights Alliance guildmaster. He was, after all, someone his members looked up to. He knew each and every member in the guild. Most of them had been trained under him and the rest were players he often partied with for dungeon raids.
"Gather everyone at the dining hall. I'll answer all your questions there," Tank instructed. He didn't want to waste his time answering the same questions over and over again.
In just under five minutes, all the members gathered at the dining hall. Tank and Lyngvi stood at the wooden stage like usual when they did meetings like this.
"Before I answer any of your questions, I will tell you everything from my side first." He paused. "Although there's not much to say regarding my side. The team battles went on like how we usually do things. I didn't notice anything suspicious either. For some reason, my usual skills harmed the Black Rose members. Because of that, I was accused of hacking. My equipment was confiscated for the investigation. They ended up releasing me, but they are still going to keep an eye on our guild."
"At the very least, you were found to be innocent, which is why you have been released," Lyngvi added.
"Did they say anything else about the culprit, Vi?"
Lyngvi shook his head. "Unfortunately, they said nothing else."
Tank continued, "As of now, we are mostly in the dark about what happened during the team battles. I'd rather not point fingers, but it's quite possible that whoever did this is part of this guild or an outsider we are familiar with."
One person raised his hand. "Are we still in the competition?"
Tank looked at Lyngvi for an answer. His second-in-command only looked down frowning.
Lyngvi answered the question, "They said it will be announced after the investigation is over. We will not be able to join the upcoming ball either."
Almost all the members groaned in unison. They were looking forward to the ball.
"It doesn't matter if we can join the ball or not. We'll just have our own party over here!" Tank didn't want to see his guild members so disappointed. If he had been more careful, maybe this incident could have been avoided.
Lyngvi smiled at the idea. "We can celebrate Tank's release."
The Knights Alliance members cheered. Out of all the top guilds in Aries, they were probably the ones who held the most parties and consumed the most amount of alcohol. They celebrated any event good enough to hold a party for. Because of this habit, Tank had a cellar built specifically to store all their alcoholic drinks. Sometimes, a certain Black Rose priestess pesters Tank for a bottle of their guild's special spiced wine.
"Prepare the drinks and meat. We're going to make this party way better than the ball!"
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