RTA: Matters of Importance
The representatives of the Round Table Alliance are called to an emergency meeting by Shiroe of the New World Alliance with some rather disturbing news. How they approach the matter from here on could very well affect the social norm of Adventurers as time goes on.
A private message had been sent to both Nureha and Misa. It was direct, blunt, there was no flowery motions in regards to the matter. The message was simple and straight forward, an immediate RTA meeting needed to be held to handle a matter of vital importance. Without a base that the NWA had as their own, it was a bit of a relief that the SEA had agreed to offer its facilities, though even as Shiroe arrives, all Misa would have received was a nod of thanks before getting himself ready at his corner of the table.
That would bring us to now. The leaders of the alliance, along with a certain Adventurer that Shiroe had made tag along. "Thank you for coming so quickly..." His hands slowly move from his chin as he rests them on the table. His expression is...Agitated, the look in his eyes is...Were of those of a villain. Yet, his voice still seemed as calm and composed as usual.
"...As you all know, in our last meeting we had began to implement Kita's sketches inorder to help Adventurers find missing people from Ezzo. As far as things go it's been a major success...An immense success in fact. So much so, we had also used those resources inorder to put out a search for Adventurers that had been missing within Alne as well. The reason I've called this meeting is because we believe that we've found out where these missing Adventurers have disappeared to, and what has happened to them..." He stays silent for another moment, a brief pause as if needing the moment to prepare himself. Though he turns in Reika's direction as he speaks up once more, "The person I've brought with me today is a former member of the guild Hamelin, Reika. When you're ready Reika, I'd like you to please inform both Nureha and Misa what you told me. Please don't leave out any details in regards to either the sketches I showed you or anything pertaining to your experiences." From there, he stay silent to let Reika say her piece.
"It started a few days ago, Hamelin partook in their bi-weekly raid, which is mostly tackling on some of the higher leveled monsters in the first level of Aincrad. I usually don't take part in those, only from a distance at best. But this time, they were very insisting that I took part." She reasons she doesn't know why, but she's going with facts here. At least for now.
"I... believed it was standard practice to use lower leveled players to wittle down the strength of monsters, but what I saw didn't align with that. They were... pushing the lower ranked into the path of monsters."
She seems a little shaken at that, but keeps going, gripping her wrist with her hand as she remembers the scene. "They were using the invincible tombstones as a way to funnel the monsters in, making them easier targets. The monsters apparently don't see the tombstones, they act as an invisible wall that the monsters avoid instinctively. And if enough tombstones are lined up, it seems to mess with them to a point that the monsters take almost no action... as if they were growling through the bars of a cell."
She shakes her head, tiredly "I had seen something like that before, but I thought it was part of the game. What I saw was players getting pushed in the right place to build that invisible barrier, not given any help, they are treated as... tools. Less than tools at that point." Obviously bringing easy kills to the higher ranks was the goal of the exercise here, if you think about it in game terms.
She brings up the sketches, holding up several of them "While I don't know where all of these people are, I confirm undoubtedly that there were in Hamelin." Out of them she picks up several "And I saw these getting pushed into the charging monsters." Out of them was Tohya, the one that Shiroe personally asked her about. She then points to Minori's sketch "I believe I saw her as well, in the healer ranks. I believe they were kept aside and then pushed in once their Mana run out."
She's probably going to get questions from this, for now she stops the exposition.
Her eyes glitter in her smiling face, cold and clear as a frozen lake over which there is no moon or stars for guidance. She is watching Reika. She is watching every breath, the tone of every word, with a quiet intensity that borders on the unsettling.
Then, with an indrawn breath, it vanishes like fog burning away. Her eyes match her smile again. She gives the pictures only a passing glance. "Ms. Takayama." she says, her smile now pointed in the Scale Alliance's direction. "Your agents have verified this story?"
Those involved in the meeting are met at the castle's front gates by a pair of similarly equipped members of the ALF. A more and more common sight lately as the SEA continues its efforts to grow and improve security on the island. The meeting members are guided into a medium sized meeting room. At which point Misa orders, "Guard the halls. No one is permitted to enter." The doors are closed and thus the meeting starts.
Misa isn't sure what the issue is about, or why the need for privacy is important. But the apparent aura that Shiroe is giving off is not one to be dismissed lightly. As such she remains quiet as she listens intently to Shiroe's beginning. And then when Reika is invited to explain in more detail, Misa continues to listen.
Finally Reika finishes and Misa considers the information quietly. Then Nureha asks about confirmation. Misa replies, "While we do not make a habit of dying, it does happen on occasion and I can confirm the monsters strange behaviour around the tombstones left behind. The sentries at the tower entrance have also reported the regular arrival of large Hamelin groups that are then considerably reduced on exit. The specifics of what happens in the field are not confirmed though. Any SEA member that has reported running into Hamelin there have said they've done nothing particular suspicious, but have acted in a very guarded manner. They're probably being careful about what they let others see."
Misa then looks back at Reika to address her, "If the Hamelin members are being mistreated, then they have the option of leaving, no? Or are its leadership engaging in some sort of imprisonment?"
She sighs, and takes another deep breath "Most of the players were told to empty their friends list, and told not to contact the outside. The reason given was mostly that only they can keep them safe, and if their friends cared they would have contacted them before this. And the longer they stay in, it feels harder to leave."
She hangs her head "I should have realized sooner... I was happy to have found a place that wanted to use my skills... They made it sound like it was home, that they would protect us..." She sobs a little, her shoulders shaking. Hamelin seemingly has some sort of cult mindset going on.
"While I can't attest directly to the actions of Hamelin, I'm familiar with a few of the individuals that ended up in these sketches. Several of them are in fact low-level or new players altogether who would likely be susceptible to their invitation. A need for a friends, allies, of strong individuals to rely on. They're a perfect target for such a scheme..."
As he says this, his fingers could be seen slowly tensing into a fist on the table. Though again, he tries to maintain his calm.
"As it stands there are no rules that prevent this kind of behaviour and abuse from occuring. There's no penalty thrown out from the system because of it. However, it's clear this is still an inhumane and cruel act that's occuring by those who are abusing the system to their advantage. As far as I recall, part of the functions of the Round Table Alliance wasn't just to help with our escape, but to act as a form of governing body to keep the peace amongst Adventurers. With our current resources, I've seen that it has done the most it's been able inorder to maintain a level of civility amongst players. For the most part that's been successful by simply making sure to keep vigilant for the occasional PKer who would try to loot. However, this situation is probably the largest issue the Round Table has yet to handle. Depending on what we do, or lack to do, can end up defining what players decide is acceptable from here on in. So my question to you both is how do you wish to proceed on the matter from here?"
No! I thought they needed me. Please. Please don't take everything.
She raises her head and opens her eyes again. Of the three, she is the one who looks the least moved or impressed by Reika's painful confessions. "Thank you for being so honest. I know this all must have been very hard for you." her words have the same droning pleasant cadence as the battle for the First Floor of Aincrad. She reaches up, casually brushing at her own hair and letting it fall in a semi-wild tumble down her back as leans back and then forwards again.
Please.. they aren't worth anything.. Just trinkets. Worthless trinkets.
"This situation was inevitable, in it's way. I do not mean to belittle your pain, Reika. It is as real as any desperate escape from a group of lunatics as one would see plastered across the evening news. But I believe it has started to sink in that the road to home may be longer and more treacherous than they were prepared for, and what is there in this new life but time? Time they may steal from others. Time they may hoard jealously, for there is no death to claim them. For some, there is no Reason for anything else."
"This is an efficient use of resources. Regrettably, this is what other guilds will say. The information will spread. And when the supply of newbies runs dry, they will turn to the refugees of Ezzo, or the Landers, and when they do we will have another problem. The surrounding kingdoms possess superior numbers and arms. As much as I may regret it, I fear this is the first preclude to war. It must be handled as such."
Her fingers dig slightly into the back of her hands, then smoothly glide off. "And once an appropriate method has been agreed upon, I do believe some stricter governance is in order to prevent such problems in the future. If we cannot govern ourselves. If we cannot provide our friends and allies with a reason not to indulge in this behavior.. we make ourselves look very poorly. I do not think, with so many strange things happening about us.. that is something we can afford."
Misa nods in understanding of both Reika's mention of manipulation and Shiroe's points about the ones he's aware of being newbies. She concludes, "They're probably intentionally targeting newbies. Specifically those in situations which make them easily controlled. Predators like this can be surprisingly good psychological profilers."
Misa also nods along in response to Nureha's assessment of the situation. The actions of Hamelin reflect poorly on the rest of the Adventurers in the eyes of the Lander kingdoms. And worse if the method spreads and in some way starts to involve Landers. They might have a war on their hands, if such a thing is possible. Misa doesn't want to find out. It would be a terrible waste of time.
Of course, they then come to the ultimate question. What to do about this. Misa considers, "This is disrupting what harmony we've managed to create in Alne and on the island. And I'm not overly fond of the predatory actions they're taking. They clearly need to be dealt with."
Misa then rubs the ridge of her nose, "But jailing is unfeasible. We don't have the means to enforce it when they can just die and respawn somewhere else. And I'm not fond of the idea of fighting a continuous guild war against them..."
Misa shrugs, "I suppose banishment is the only real option available. Make life for them on the island so unpleasant that they choose to go elsewhere."
"I want to do something, anything, to fix this..."
Once he's done with Reika however, his attention returns back to Misa and Nureha with the same expression as before. "I'm glad we're all in agreement that this is something that can't allow to continue. However, several questions come to mind when it comes to dealing with Hamelin still. First, how do we want to approach the matter? We could very well bring the entirety of the Round Table Alliance onto Hamelin and confront them, but just like Misa said, even if it was just to confront them it'd be nothing but a respawn war. I also can't imagine word wouldn't get out, whether it be to other adventures or to the people of the Land. Should word reach to the Landers, I'd imagine they'd either isolate themselves from us entirely, or possibly even try to pick sides."
He doesn't like the concept that there might be Landers who would be okay with Adventurers using other Landers as tools but well...If he recalled there were certain kingdoms with similar enough philosophy. "Another question would be how would we end up making life so unpleasant that they'd end up choosing to go elsewhere? As it is, Hamelin's completely kept itself distant from the Alliance. If that's the case I find it'd be difficult to simple make it uncomfortable for them without some immense measures."
He takes another breathe, "It's a difficult situation..." If they acted to quickly to push them out, it could become a battle of attrition that keeps going without any real way to keep them from returning to Alne. If they waited too long, it allowed them to continue taking advantage of the new players. Either way it seemed like there was going to be loss of life. "Misa, is there anything you were thinking of specifically to make it difficult for Hamelin to reinforce there exile if we did so?"
She comes to a stop and smiles at Reika. It seems to be sincere. "I know you do, dear. And the best way, I think, and the only way to solve this problem is to place Hamelin in the same position they have placed others. I would ask the Scale Alliance to do this, but I cannot justify pulling resources away from your investigations of the newly opened floor. And I would ask the New Order Alliance, but I admit there may be too much of a conflict of ideology." her eyes flick to the paper and then to Shiroe, silently acknowledging the seemingly personal stakes here.
"..And their interests are not entirely aligned with properly handling a delicate matter such as this. Our Alliance is well versed in dealing with problem players. All we need do is turn their own tactics against them.. for no zealot believes he can fall for the same trap he has laid for the masses until the gentle teeth click shut around him."
Nureha slides out of her chair, standing up. "Think on it." she says with a long purr. "..Wouldn't it be right? Wouldn't it be Justice?"
She slides the picture of Tohya off the table and approaches Shiroe. She holds it out in front of him with both hands. "They feed on others because they are weak. They have no other reason. They need none. But they can still be salvaged.. no bloodshed. No broken lives. No silent vigil at the Cathedral. A cult works by a leader. By faith. By belief. Desperation and hope and power intermingled. All we need do.. is cast out their power structure. Those who made the rules. Those who enforced the policies. Strip them of power. String them of resources, and they are nothing but bandits. Bandits, Co-incidentally.. the Hunter's Guild may issue a lucrative quest for. The rest, we simply fold into ourselves so that they may know a better way. "
Misa considers, "The details are still to be ironed out. I've not had long to think about this... But..." Misa seems to think on it a bit more, before finally proposing, "We engage them in battle, staggering their deaths and subsequent respawns. At the same time we have forces stationed at the Town of Beginnings exits and the church. They are just one guild. We are nine, including some of the largest guilds on the server. I'm sure we can organize at least two members to their every one. We then forcefully escort them to the port and onto a ship off the island. Any that resist are killed and the process repeated until they get sick of it."
"After that point, we tag every Hamelin guild officer as kill on sight. The SEA has already established guard positions at key points on the island, meaning we can watch for them. Eventually it'll get to the point that they just don't want to return to the island out of concern of being killed and wasting time respawning only for it to happen again. Especially as they have the rest of the Yamato server available to them. It would be idiotic of them to continue trying to throw themselves at us." She pauses, then adds, "Although I can't dismiss the possibility of them being idiots."
She moves to the side and sits down quietly, mind still running miles per hour on its own at the moment. She just doesn't know what to do with herself, or what she can do for the other members. Telling on the leader's actions is a step, but she still feels shehas much to atone for.
It's at this point Nureha ends up bringing up her solution, a method that would end up relying solely on the efforts of the Olympus Alliance...Shiroe's eyes already lock on to her own the moment they go from the sketch and back to him. "You have a point..." He doesn't say anything for a time as she continues to speak of simply allowing the best alliance versed in the situation to handle it. It made sense after all, right? The SEA was dealing was already dealing with the second floor, and the NWA well...Too many chefs in the kitchen might have been an apt comparison. As long as justice was served did it truly matter who was dishing it out? It's at that moment that Nureha comes to him, holding the sketch of Tohya right in his face as she explains the methods of parasites like Hamelin.
"...Olympus seems very apt at handling of interpersonal relations amongst Adventurers. I'm sure the Ikigai has also helped with the development of that skill, assuredly. If the Olympus Alliance believes they might be able to break their power structure, then there's no reason to impede those efforts. However, even if the SEA is handling the tower, and even if the NWA is not the best versed in these issues. The fact still remains it is the duty of all alliances to act on the matter. To have even one guild of any of our alliances turn a blind eye to this would be signaling that we didn't deem it necessary of our attention. That is something I won't allow to be said..."
Shiroe ends up standing up this time, pushing up his glasses. "As it stands, even if you were to begin trying to disrupt Hamelin, you'd need to find a chink in their armor. So far Hamelin's leadership hasn't even shown their face to the public. If that's the case we don't even know who we'd be putting up for bounty in the Hunter's guild." He looks back towards Reika to confirm this before turning back towards the others.
"As it stands it'd still take time even with Olympus' resources to identify who their leader actually is. So...I'd like to make the following proposition." He takes the sketch of Tohya...There's a long look at the boy's face before turning the paper around. The scribe pulling out a pen as he began to sketch out a very basic map of the first floor, "I'd like to have Reika inform the SEA of all possible farming areas she's aware that Hamelin uses on the first floor. If we can have eyes in their usual hot spots I'd imagine it'd keep them using their usual methods. It's also like what Misa said, we outnumber them. So rather than going to war with them, as long as we can still keep the secret that we're unaware of what they're doing, just simpling keeping an eye on them might keep them in check for the time being. It'd be during this time of vulnerability, I think Olympus might best be able to work its magic and get information about their leader. I'm sure with their usual farming spots taken they might reach out to one of the main alliances to work out some sort of agreement whether it being having higher level players carry them, or strike up negotiations inorder to split up times in farming areas. At that point you should be able to try identifying who their leadership is under the guise of negotiations..."
Nureha puts the picture back on the table as quickly as she started it. She puts her hands on Reika's chair rather than touching her outright. "You must be exhausted, my dear. All and everything can wait. Hamelin will be caught. Those in it's thrall will be freed. In time. But don't worry..," she gives her a smile. It seems sincere.
"..You're safe, now."
She brings up the descriptions of the two main leaders Shredder and Smoking Lightning. "Those two were the main ones taking care of activities. But the Guild Leader is Twilight Explorer." She also points out several more of the higher ranked that were involved.
The leading squad of Hamelin is no more than 6 or 7 people in reality, and their higher levels are entirely due to this stratagem, managing to get easy kills of high leveled at the expanse of the new players. This might make a direct confrontation with them a little risky if they retaliate. But there should be ways of handling them in numbers.
She nods to Nureha "I know... I'm exhausted though, yet I feel like I can't sleep."
Misa has to admit that getting some of the more innocent members of the guild caught up in the fighting would be a problem. And also that Nureha has proposed some interesting ideas as well. Not the path Misa would have taken on her own. But then that's the benefit of conferences such as this one. They can each bring something to the table.
Misa listens to Shiroe offer up his own thoughts on how to deal with the issues. Then finally Misa says, "I suspect a combination of all three suggestions might be the ideal approach. For now, I can redirect some of our training and leveling parties towards the Hamelin farming areas. We'll see how they respond to that, while giving Olympus time to gather more information."
As Reika provides information on the leadership, Misa takes out a quill and some paper and makes notes. As she does so she says, "Once all is done, I still believe we should mark the top leadership as wanted. I'd prefer their lives inside alliance territory were miserable for as long as possible, in lieu of jail time."
he goes to sit back down, taking a moment to stare down all three of the others in the room, "So, let me reiterate what we have in mind in regards to dealing with Hamelin. As of this time Adventurers will be placed in certain areas through out several of Hamelin's favored farming spots. While this will be composed mainly of SEA members, should extra eyes be necessary the use of other members might be provided either from New World or Olympus should they need it. At the point Hamelin starts to struggle, we'll have Olympus come in to identify their leadership in more detail under the guise of begining negotiations with them to work out new farming areas...I miss anything?"
Actually...It did seem like he might be forgetting something...Wasn't there?
"... I just don't know what I should do for now... should I just leave Hamelin, or is there a task I can do from the inside, while I still have access to their guild?" She doesn't seem to have been removed yet, maybe they think she'll come back eventually of her own.
Reika questions the continued use of the newbies, to which Misa clarifies, "The idea behind setting up our own people in their farming locations is to make them slow down on their use. To make them rethink their approach. That should buy us and the newbies some time. As for you..."
Misa considers. If Reika is indeed still on the inside... "We need as much information as we can get. Information about their leadership, base of operations, farming areas, travel routes, merchants and others that they deal with... If you can find any of that out, it'll be a great help in shutting them down completely. Also try and figure out which of the members are being forced to remain, so we know who to set free and who to keep an eye on when the time comes."
Shiroe ends up nodding again as they bring up the option of Reika returning, "While no one would force you, it'd definitely be good to have someone on the inside who would be able to keep tabs on things. I imagine if you went back under the pretense of saying you were attacked by a of PKer but fled, it'd give enough of a reason as to why you came back, and give them enough ammunition to try and reinforce that staying with them is the best option. Still, going back still does come with some major risks. You should definitely consider that before accepting, Reika. There's plenty of other ways for you to contribute to the cause without doing this, so don't feel pressured to do so."
"I'll take the risk, as my own penitence for getting to this point. I might not be making the decisions like the officers are, but I'm still involved." In fact, she's pretty sure they would try to use that as psychological amo against her, if she tried to do anything.
"I'll use whatever weapon I have to correct this, and ask for forgiveness when the others are out of their grasp." She surely can pull a few strings and the wool over their eyes long enough to get something out of them. One way or another.