The Sage’s Room occupied the entirety of the topmost floor in the Tower of Sorcery and was split into four distinct areas: the Elder’s private room,their laboratory, an office and their aide’s room.
Atransparent membrane blocked both the front and back of the moving elevator. Mira waited for the device to arrive at its destination and, when that membrane raised to allow her access into the floor, she went through the front exit. Then, after crossing the semi-transparent tube that linked the elevator to the floor, she arrived at a circular corridor and gazed at the door right in front of her. It was the door to the laboratory.
“Heeey! Luminaria! Are you there? Answer me!!”
Mira brought her tiny, balled-up fists to the door several times. It was possible to hear, echoing in the corridor, the bell-like voice of a little girl and thedangerous sounds of a door about to give in to her strikes.
After becoming one of the elders, nearly all of Luminaria’s ingame time would be spent confined inside the laboratory. So, if there was one place she could be in, it would most probably be there.
That was why Mira went directly for that door and started hitting it, waiting for Luminaria to scream “Keep it down, will you?!” while kicking open the entrance to her laboratory. However, that usual exchange between them didn’t happen this time. Finally, Mira stopped her fists and tried listening through the door.
“She is not inside…?”
Luminaria, in the rare moments when she actually left her room, would often conduct dangerous experiments in the nearby forest.
(As expected of someone who cannot read the mood.)
Disappointed, Mira thought about her friend and, while placing a hand on her chin, pondered about what she had to do now.
“May I ask who you are?”
Mira, who had been walking left and right in front of the door, started to consider whether or not to wait there until Luminaria came back. Abruptly, at that exact moment, a calm and composed woman’s voice called out to her from behind. And it sounded pretty familiar to Mira.
Indeed, when the little girl turned around, her sight was greeted by a beautiful woman dressed as a secretary. Wearing glasses that suited her position and possessing a blond hair that reached her shoulders, she stared at Mira with her blue eyes, revealing a puzzled look on her face.
“Ohh, it has been a while, Litalia. Do you know the whereabouts of Luminaria?”
That beauty, called “Litalia”, was an aide working directly for an elder. It was known that those who became elders would receive an NPC dispatched by the Kingdom to assist them in their research and daily chores. So, in short, Litalia was Luminaria’s aide.
Incidentally, that woman belonged to the elven race. Viewed by many as a dream-like species, their longevity meant that even after a long period of time her beauty would still remain intact.
Although players in Ark Earth Online couldn’t choose any race other than the human race, NPCs weren’t bound by that restriction. And not only Elves, there were many other famous species from fiction they could belong to, such as the Dwarves, Gnomes, Sires, Werewolves and Giants. Game-original groups also existed, including the sturdy-bodied Garidia Clan and the ones known for having a human-like appearance, except for their cat-ears and tail: the Meow Tribe.
“Who might you be, young lady? This floor can only be reached through the elevator and even then, only a few people should know how to do it.”
Emanating a tense aura around her, Litalia’s eyes were deeply filled with suspicion.
“Like I was saying before, I— oh… of course…”
At that point, Mira remembered her figure was that of a little girl now, and not of the solemn Dunbalf. And since Litalia couldn’t use “Investigate”, she had to ask who the little girl was. Mira wasn’t sure if the aide would believe her if she told her real name. But the biggest problem wasn’t that. It would be completely unbearable for Mira if the people who knew the great Dunbalf started to think he were the kind of guy who would enjoy living as a little girl. She wouldn’t mind telling that secret to Luminaria, though.
First of all, Mira witnessed it countless times and knew that her friend was someone who enjoyed that kind of stuff more than anyone else. If Luminaria were to see the current state of Dunbalf, she would say with confidence that it was “cute”.
However, what happened now was a bit unexpected.
Mira remembered it too late but, just as Litalia had said, only a few people should know the special method to reach that floor using the elevator. It was a mechanism added in order to block desperate fans from invading the Sage’s Room. And as one of the elders, Mira obviously knew how to do it, easily arriving at the topmost floor of the tower. But Litalia could only wonder how the little girl in front of her was able to get there. With that, Mira couldn’t try to use the excuse that she was just a simple Summoning Expert passing by to visit the Sage’s Room and still keep her identity concealed.
While tracing her chin with her fingertip, Mira was deep in thought, trying to find a way out of that predicament. She had to think of a convenient explanation that would keep her identity a secret and still justify how she knew about the security mechanism in the elevator. It had to be something that also allowed her to freely move in and out of the tower.
Suddenly, a great idea came to her.
“Lady, do you know who Dunbalf is?”
Mira broke the silence and turned her eyes up at Litalia while displaying a confident smile.
“But of course! He is the Elder of the Tower of Summoning!”
Sounding a bit more lively, the aide immediately replied.
“Yes, good. I am the pupil of that same Dunbalf. He had a few words to tell Lumi—… Lady Luminaria so I was ordered to come here and transmit the message.”
With her heart beating like crazy, Mira still managed to not let her appearance falter a single bit while telling a completely fabricated story. She then tried to check Litalia’s reaction to it.
“Dunbalf-sama’s…!? If that’s the case, then certainly… no, wait. I have never heard of Dunbalf-sama having a pupil such as yourself.”
For a moment, right after Mira professed herself, Litalia revealed a clear look of excitement on her face. Of course, the aide’s reaction was something completely natural. That young girl called herself the apprentice of someone who was considered missing since thirty years ago.
“Indeed. I only became his pupil after the disappearance incident.”
“After he disappeared!? Then, that means Dunbalf-sama has returned to the Kingdom!?”
Not looking satisfied, Litalia pressured Mira even more, causing the girl’s expression to lose a bit of her usual confidence.
“Exactly. However, due to some circumstances, he is unable to move from where he is. That is why I came in his stead.”
“Is that so? Dunbalf-sama is… but, just what in the world happened to keep him stuck in a place?”
“Ahh… hmm, you see…”
The idea was perfect, but it still lacked specific details. With that in mind, Mira thought of an appropriate excuse that used something she often did as Dunbalf. Assuming it was also a fact that happened in the history of that world, it would probably work.
“He has been stuck at the City of Mythical Beasts in order to train a new Summoned Spirit.”
Mira answered with unease, wondering if it would really work.
“…Training yet another Summoned Spirit. That is so like Dunbalf-sama. Sometimes he would suddenly leave for that place to grow one of his spirits. I guess he never changed, huh? If that is the case, I can understand that he cannot move from there. Oohh, Dunbalf-sama, how I wish to see your face already.”
It was an excuse born out of desperation but, apparently, Litalia was satisfied with it as she nodded in agreement. Also, Mira was now confident that, one way or another, her past actions were engraved in that world’s history.
The City of Mythical Beasts was a pretty popular farming spot for players. But even though it was called a “city”, no one really resided there.That was because the ruins of an ancient city occupied the entire place, only serving as home to a great variety of monsters and mythical beasts.
Dwelling within that town was an ancient blessing that could be earned after killing the monsters there. It steadily increased in power as the player defeated even more monsters, boosting their experience and recovery rates and also increasing the chances of a rare item dropping. With the wide number of enemies that spawned in that city, it was a classic farming spot for high ranked players.
However, once a player left that town, the blessing would be reset. So it was common sense amongst everyone that, if one really wanted to farm there, they had to give their all by buying a large quantity of items and spending as much time as they could killing monsters.
“Yes, that is what happened. So, about the matter with Lumi—… Lady Luminaria…”
Mira thought it was a good opportunity to ask Litalia, who seemed to be in some kind of a trance.
“Oh, right. Currently, Luminaria-sama is… oh no, wait a moment… I cannot say that yet, really. Indeed, what you told me was something that Dunbalf-sama would often do. But anyone familiar with him would know that, so it does not prove that you are his pupil. Do you have any kind of physical evidence to confirm it?”
Litalia’s respect for Dunbalf, who once supported the Kingdom together with Luminaria, went beyond admiration. After hearing about the possibility of him being alive, her whole face lit up with hope but she quickly composed herself, determined on finding whether it was the truth or not.
“Evidence? Uh-huh… this should be enough, right?”
After considering her options for a bit, Mira opened her item box and took out something that only Dunbalf possessed, an item that could easily work as proof. Of course, it was the silver card engraved with nine towers, the Master Key.
“This is… the Master Key to the Tower of Summoning! So you really are Dunbalf-sama’s… would you honor me with your name, little lady?”
As soon as she finished verifying the item, Litalia let out a smile.
“My name is Mira. Litalia, I have already heard about you from my master. And again, is Lady Luminaria not here?”
“Indeed. Luminaria-sama has left for the Lunatic Lake and will only return tomorrow.”
“Oh, I see. Then there is no other option for me but to come back later.”
If she’s not there, Mira can’t do anything. Traveling to the Lunatic Lake right now would be too troublesome, so she concluded it would be fine to visit the tower again after Luminaria returned.
“My, look at the time! It is already late at night and you could simply stay in my room. If you are fine with it, we could wait there until Luminaria-sama returned, right? Then, if possible, I would like to hear so much more about Dunbalf-sama!”
Litalia suddenly approached the little girl as if she were a cat aiming for its prey. With her back pressed against the door, Mira’s expression stiffened while she averted her gaze from the aide.
Even though Litalia only wanted to hear about Dunbalf, it would be just something fabricated on the spot by Mira. It wasn’t a good idea to prolong a story that could fall apart without a moment’s notice.
“No, I have a few more things to take care of, so I hope you let me return tomorrow.”
Mira spoke without any hesitation. Quickly running away from there was the best course of action she could take.
“Ahh, no way… forget about the entire night then, I just want a little bit of your time. Mira-sama, what happened thirty years ago? Please tell me what Dunbalf-sama had to go through!”
“Now is not the time for this. I have to first take care of the tasks entrusted to me by my master.”
Pulling herself free from the clinging Litalia, Mira leapedinside the elevator and started it, moving towards the first floor. There, she decided to think of a suitable excuse to give if an emergency such as that one appeared again. While feeling a bit of regret from what she said, Mira tried looking up at the top floor, only to see the complete change Litalia’s appearance had underwent, her entire body clinging to the transparent tube. The girl let out a deep sigh.
“She seemed way more intellectual…”
That kind of behavior wasn’t something the NPC Litalia had before. When this was still a game, she always gave off the impression of being a hardworking secretary. Was it because thirty years had passed? Or was she like that all along? While supporting her chin with a hand, Mira smiled wryly, looking at the the floors going past her.
After several seconds, Mira reached the first floor and, with regained composure, took the opportunity to encourage the researchers she passed by with a “Do your best!” shout. It was a habit of sorts she had as Dunbalf and, unbeknown to her, when the researchers heard the cheers of an unfamiliar girl that suddenly walked through the tower, many of them got fired up for their all-nighter.
Having left the Tower of Sorcery, Mira went directly to the Tower of Summoning. Luminaria would be coming back tomorrow but, until then, the girl wanted to confirm something by herself. The fact that she had tasks to do wasn’t entirely a lie: Mira had to verify her base of operations, the Sage’s Room. If the girl could use it just as she always had, then it wouldn’t be a problem to spend the night there.
The structure inside the tower was the same as the Tower of Sorcery, its dead-silent interior as bright as day, illuminated by the flickering light generated with Abstractionism. Mira squinted a bit at that and, while thinking of later adjusting the amount of light generated, operated the elevator to reach the top floor.
Differently from the other tower, the place was completely deserted and she couldn’t see any researchers working on the floors she passed by. At that sight, Mira remembered how the knights told her that Summoning was something unusual. It was obvious now that the number of Summoning Experts had decreased. After experiencing such a fact, it felt like she were seeing off her retired comrades and a feeling of helplessness welled up inside her.
リタリア – Litalia
ルナティックレイク – Lunatic Lake
幻獣の街 – City of Mythical Beasts
小人 – Gnome
ガリディア – Garidia
メオウ族 – Meow Tribe