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It was later in the evening as Tanya entered the city of Swilvane, Sylph territory. When she entered the town, she did not see anyone she knew, and it would be hours before Satyr would be there. With that going on she decided to go do some hunting on her own. As she turned she found herself face to face with Kirito his hands on her hips stopping her from running into him.
“Kirito!?” Tanya started her hand resting over her heart.
He chuckled softly looking into her eyes. “Hey, Tanya. We missed you today. Where you been hiding?”
She chuckled softly, slowly taking a step back as his hands slipped from her hips. “I spent the day in Dragon Lance. Rather glad I went to pay a visit to. There were issues with the West again. We had to send a troop out to their territory to do away with a rogue Guild that was killing Dragons.”
Kirito tilted his head in confusion as the two started walking. “Don’t you have a treaty with the Western Guild?”
Tanya nodded. “I guess I need to rephrase that. The Western Guild came to us again with an issue.”
“When you say again, you mean they’re abusing the treaty, don’t you?”
“Mhmm,” Tanya nodded with a hum. “They are the smallest of the four we have treaties with, and one of the last we signed with. It has been about six months since we signed the treaty with Illusions of the Serpent,” she looked over to him as they walked. “The Western Guild comes to us at least once a month for some kind of help or hand out. If not twice a month.”
“Wow!” Kirito slid his hands into his coat pocket. “Yeah, sounds like they are abusing this slightly.”
Tanya sighed looking his way quickly. “Don’t get me wrong. We don’t mind helping them or any of the Guilds, but not even the Guilds that are struggling come to us like the Western Guild does.”
“I understand,” Kirito replied as he looked to the ground. He looked up at her and smiled. “And I was not thinking that you were being selfish. I have gathered that much just from getting to know you in the last week. I don’t think there is a selfish bone in your entire body, Tanya.”
Tanya giggled. “That’s because you never tried to take my mint cookies away from me.”
Kirito laughed. “So you’re selfish with your cookies, huh?”
“No no. I am selfish with my mint cookies.” her hand waved carelessly. “You can have all the rest. Just don’t touch my mint cookies. A person could lose their hand over that act of treason.”
He continued laughing as his head shook. “Well, thanks for the warning.”
“You’re welcome,” she tilted her head with a bright smile as she looked at him.
“So do you think they are up to something?” Kirito asked her, going back to the topic at hand.
“I don’t know,” Tanya stopped walking and opened her panel when the message icon popped up. “It’s from them. Hang on and let me check this.” Kirito nodded as he stopped as well waiting for her to check the message. “Good. They are all safe and have made camp for the night. Aaron said he would message me in the morning when they start moving again.”
“That’s good to hear.” They started their walk again. “So can the--” he paused in thought. “Illusions of the Serpent, right?” Tanya nodded as Kirito continued. “Can they hide their stats from you?”
Tanya looked to him, “What do you mean? Like their HP, XP, and skills?” Kirito nodded as Tanya shook her head. “Not to my knowledge. As long as we have a signed treaty with them all of that is visible to me. I know the powers and strengths of every one of their Guild members,” she sighed. “And in the six months we have been allies with them none of the members of their Guild has improved even an inkling with any of their stats, and the North, South, and East have more than double theirs.”
“Hm,” Kirito hummed his hand going to his chin as he looked to the ground before them.
“What are you thinking, Kirito.”
“Well…” he looked over to her, “Just thinking here, but the treaty or treaties you have signed with the four hemispheres, are they just the normal everyday treaties that are logged in the game panel?” Tanya nodded. “And what of the treaties they sign with the smaller Guilds in the territory? Are they the same?”
Tanya shook her head. “Yes and no.” She looked to Kirito, he was giving her a look of "which is it." “I guess you want me to explain?”
He nodded his head slowly. “Yes, please.”
Tanya chuckled and went into better detail. “Let’s say you have a Guild and I wanted to treaty with you. We both would open our panels and send a treaty request. In accepting the request, it would log it under ‘Signed Treaties.’ At that point, if I tap your Guild name in the panel it will open a list of every member you have in your Guild, as you can do the same with mine. However, you can only see the Guilds you have signed treaties with. So since my Guild has a treaty with the North, South and the East. I can see all their members, HP, XP and skills, but you can’t. Unless you too had a treaty signed with them. However, if we were to go within the said Guild’s information, there is a tab marked ‘Allies’ Treaties.’ In there we can see all the other Guilds, said Guild has signed treaties with. Though it only tells you how many members are in said Guild and it only gives a grand total of HP, XP, and skill.”
He looked to the ground again. “So there is no way to keep accurate track on the outside Guilds under your allies unless you have a treaty with them as well, or you just have to go check on them,” he looked to her again, “Is that what I am understanding?”
“Mhmm,” Tanya replied.
“Hm, so if they are using you and they keep coming to you guys for gold, supplies and whatever else they might be needing... They could be using this stuff to buy other Guilds off to do their dirty work.”
She tilted her head as Kirito started putting two and two together as he spoke and thought aloud. “Do you think…” Her heart skipped a beat, her hand going to her forehead as her eyes widened. “If this is true. They are making verbal treaties with outside Guilds, so they can use them to do what they can’t because of the treaty they have with us.”
Kirito shrugged slightly as his brows raised, head tilted slightly. “It’s just a hunch, but it’s worth looking into.”
Tanya nodded as her mind still raced in thought. “But in that case why would they call on us to help them out in battle against them?”
“Think about it, Tanya. If they are doing this, they are going to keep it hidden. They don’t want others to know what they are doing. Taking up arms against another Guild without real cause marks you as a PK-er or raises suspicion. So they are going to stay under the radar,” Kirito offered. “This so-called rogue Guild that is killing the Dragons might have been one they took on a verbal treaty with and they turned on them. So to keep from being marked or getting their asses kicked. They get an outside force, your Guild,” he looked to her with questioning eyes. “Can you tell if a player is a dragon killer? You know like if a player is a PK-er?”
Tanya nodded. “Yes, if a player kills a dragon their player stone turns pitch black. Unless it is in self-defense.”
Kirito nodded. “Does it change slowly like the PK-er’s?”
“Oh no…” Tanya’s head shook. “The Avi is marked permanently even if you only killed one dragon, but it has to have been for a malicious reason. That’s why you have to be very careful even if you kill one out of self-defense. You can still be marked as a dragon killer if you don’t do the right thing after you kill the dragon.”
“So what're the rules if you kill one out of self-defense?”
“The dragon has to be taken and reported to the nearest breeder. You can’t remove a single crystal from the dragon or even the ivory. If you do, you’re marked.” Tanya told him.
“So what does the breeder do with a dead dragon?” Kirito asked with an odd look.
“The crystals are removed, crushed and turned into potions the breeders can use to help ensure breeding in other dragons. Their ivory and horns are made into medicines created for the dragons and even the players if they have an injury or get sick. The scales and bones can be used for armor. Even the meat of the dragon can be used. Anything that can’t be used is then burned. In actuality, there is not much of a dragon you can’t use, and every part of the dragon is very versatile for what it can be used for.”
“So I am guessing that is why some of the players hunt the dragons? Those potions and remedies must be hard to come by for the players.”
“They cost a fortune since we don’t have many dragons pass on. The good part is, dragon’s do shed or lose their crystals, scales, and horns. Either from fighting other dragons or to be replaced with new ones, and the Magic Wielders can conjure up what is needed if nothing is available at the time. It is not the best like coming straight from the source, but it does the job. Just takes a bit longer,” she looked to Kirito and smiled. “We manage, and we keep the Dragon’s as safe and healthy as we possibly can.”
Kirito nodded slowly as he looked around where they were. It seemed they had made a complete circle in the town square and ended back where they started. He looked around a little more, seeing a few people he knew. It then dawned on him they had not seen or heard from Klein. He looked to Tanya.
“Have you seen Klein?”
Tanya nodded quickly. “Yeah, he--” she stopped abruptly flashing back to their conversation just before they left Whitehaven Castle.
“I will message you when we make camp for the night,” Aaron informed her.
Tanya nodded. “I will be on. I have to go to ALfheim later tonight.”
“Well if you run into Kirito or the others don’t tell them about this,” Klein told her.
Tanya looked to him confused. “Why not? Are you ashamed you’re over here playing Dragon Lance?”
Klein’s smile was wide. “Hell no! I just want to be the one to boast about it. If you tell them it ruins the fun.”
Tanya chuckled shaking her head. “You’re such a goof, but if that is what you want. Fine. I won’t tell them, Klein.”
Kirito looked on at her waiting for her to continue as she shook her head and smiled softly. “I can’t tell you.”
Kirito blinked. “What? Why can’t you tell me?”
“Because he wants to tell you. I promised I would not say a word,” Tanya told him.
Kirito nodded. “Well as long as he is alright. I guess I can wait.”
“Yes, he is fine, and I am sure we will be seeing him here soon,” Tanya explained.
Kirito nodded as he looked around the town square across the way he saw his sister and a few of her friends. He waved to them with a smile as they came their way. Kirito grabbed Tanya’s hand as they too started walking their way as well.
As they greeted one another Tanya’s eyes were covered from behind. “Guess who?”
Tanya turned. “Klein…” she smiled brightly as he dropped his hands to his side and chuckled. “So is everything going well?”
“Smooth as a baby’s bottom,” he draped his arm over her shoulders when she turned back to the group, “I got to meet Un today. I told Aaron I wanted one.”
Tanya chuckled softly, “So you want a Dragon now?”
“Hell yeah! Could you ask for a cooler companion?” Klein confessed.
They both looked to the group at the same time. Klein and Tanya both started to chuckle from the looks on their faces.
“When did you two become so buddy-buddy?” Leafa asked them.
“Yeah. Inquiring minds want to know,” Lisbeth added.
Kirito was just too shocked to say anything as he stood there looking at them. Klein chuckled as his arm slid down off Tanya’s shoulders and looked to Tanya.
“I guess I should tell them, huh?” Tanya nodded with a wide smile. He nodded and looked back to the group, “Well it’s a long story so I will make it short. Tanya and I got married.”
The group went so silent you could have heard a pin drop at that moment. Just then, a stern backhand hit Klein across the center of his chest as the group started objecting and/or congratulating them. Klein grasped at his new injury and doubled over slightly, groaning aloud as the group fell silent once more.
“That hurt… Damn Tanya. I was just trying to have a little fun.”
“Then don’t lie to them,” she looked to the group, “Klein was jerking your chain. We did not get married.”
They looked at Klein with narrowed eyes some with their arms crossed over their chest. “You lied to us?” Lisbeth growled.
“It was a joke. Not a lie.” Klein stood still rubbing his chest. “The facts are I am playing Dragon Lance with Tanya and on my first day in the game, I was made Grandmaster Knight of her Guild.” Klein got a proud grin across his lips. “Grandmaster Knight, Sir Klein of the Knights of The Mystic Dragon. And I look awesome in their uniform.”
Kirito looked to Tanya. “Did you knock your head on something?” He pointed at Klein, “Did you really make this goofball your Grandmaster?”
Tanya chuckled, “No, I did not, on both facts. My Vice Master made him Grandmaster Knight. Aaron tested his skill, and when Klein made the cut better than any other he had tested, he could not pass up the opportunity.” She looked to Klein, “Plus, he wanted in.”
Klein looked to her and smiled, “And who wouldn’t. The game is wicked awesome. The castle of the Knights of The Mystic Dragon is huge and beautiful. As is their villages and the land around them.” He looked quickly to Kirito, “It reminds me of SAO, but with dragons, you can tame, fight with side by side and even breed.” He looked quickly back to Tanya then back to the group. “Musashi and Un are wicked awesome. Tanya hugs and kisses on hers. Aaron whistles and his comes like a well-trained pet. You guys have to come check out this place,” he paused. “But wait for a few days. I am off on mission to the West to stop a rogue Guild of Dragon Slayers.”
Kirito looked to Tanya then back to Klein, “You’re on that mission?”
“Mhmm,” Klein hummed. “Riding a horse off to the West into battle.”
Kirito looked to Tanya again. “Should we tell him about our hunch?”
“Huh?” Klein asked looking at them both as Tanya nodded.
With that, the group moved to Leafa’s place to talk in private. When they were finished explaining to Klein what they thought the West might be up to, Tanya told Klein what she wanted to do to try and prove their hunch. Klein agreed and asked her to message him once she got rock solid evidence for them. She agreed to do that. When their conversation was over Tanya had to leave. It was time for her to meet up with Satyr. Actually, she was late by about twenty minutes, so she said her goodbyes and left them to their own.
It was the next day and Ashley was up early. She needed to do a little research on the Western Guilds and there were two ways she could do this. One was to check the logs for the many Guilds in the world of Dragon Lance. There she could learn of the Guilds in the West and how many had come about since the Knights of The Mystic Dragon signed the treaty with the Guild, Illusions of the Serpent. She would not be able to get their individual skill, XP and HP levels, but she could get the total levels and how many members were in the Guild. From there it was all a matter of a little math. The other was to go in as a spy and see what she could find out on the players themselves.
Luckily, Ashley could do both. Thanks to her second Avi, Celty. She created her back when she first started playing Dragon Lance three and a half years ago. Celty was a nobody. Well, she can’t really say she was a nobody. Celty had a bad reputation, just the way Ashley wanted her for times like these. She was marked as a thug, a bandit, a drifter. Perfect for gathering information without people thinking she was out looking for incriminating information to use against them. She had not been on Celty’s account for many months. The reason being was things were going all too well, so she just had her disappear until she needed her again. Finally, that time came and Celty was pulled out for play once more.
The best part about Celty. Nobody, not even her little brother knew she was her. Nobody was any the wiser that Tanya and Celty were controlled by the same player. She did not belong to a Guild, so to say, so it made it even easier for her to just disappear without consequence to the other members if something came up, but she did run with a small group that was controlled by a tall Moon Elf that called himself Creed. She was sure he was mad at her for disappearing as she did, but if she came across him she would think of something to tell him to keep him from going off the deep end with her. Either way, he might be the best person to talk to about all that’s going on in the West. Creed always had his hands in places they did not belong. Though what worried her, was what if he was behind this whole mess of the Dragon Slayers. Creed was crazy OP like her other Avi Tanya, and Creed was always out for a fast buck. The Unseen, the name of the little group Celty ran with was never for killing the dragons, but like everything else in their world. Things change.
Ashley was surprised at the information she found from her research after checking everything out. Gathering it all together, she transferred all her found information into a message to Aaron and Klein and told them she was going to dig a little deeper and see what else she could find. She got a message back from Aaron rather quickly telling her that Klein filled him in on their hunch and to be careful. If the Western Guild was up to what they believed they would go to great lengths to keep it hid. Especially from the Guilds they had signed treaties with. Messaging him back she agreed with him, but she could not let the Western Guild continue using them or the others in this manner. It was wrong for them to think they could take advantage of them like this. She then went on to inform him that if they messaged her back she might not get the message for a bit since she would be away. However, she would check back in time before they got to the Guild of the Illusions of the Serpent. That was if she found anything that might help them in their mission in looking for the Dragon Slayers or helping them understand what the Western Guild was up to. She wanted them to be ready. Not walk in blindly and they lose half their troop.
Finally, Ashley was getting ready to sign out of Tanya’s account, but not before she got a new message. She decided to check it just in case. When she did she was shocked to see it was from Kirito, and it was not from the ALfheim world. It was from Dragon Lance. She thought for a moment before messaging him in return. When she did she ask him where he was and what his Avi looked like. He returned her message quickly with his location and told her he was an Elemental Alchemist, his attire all black. She messaged him back telling him to stay put and that a girl with long blue hair and teal eyes, dressed all in black, all but the teal shirt under her long trench, would be approaching him, adding that her name would be Celty. She signed out of Tanya and into Celty.
When she appeared in the Dragon Lance world she was shocked to see where she spawned in was not too far from where Kirito was. She opened her panel and plucked out her horse. She then whistled as the white stallion came into view. He stopped in front of her as she grabbed his rein and stroked his nose.
“It’s been too long, Cloud. I have missed you,” the horse whinnied bobbing its head. She smiled and patted his neck.
“Well then, let’s get this show on the road there is someone we need to meet.” She quickly mounted her ride pulling the reins to the left as the horse turned and they took off toward the West and a small village called Slycrest. There she would find Kirito waiting like she asked him to.