When sunrise came for the rest of Team Amethyst, it was far from the calm and tranquil state that was portrayed in the sky outside.
That said, the atmosphere within the dorm was anything but calm for the past two hours, ever since the emergency alarm sounded in the middle of the morning, followed by a quick broadcast ordering all trainees to remain in their dorms. That only increased after they gathered in the living room and realized both Norah and Dezmond were gone, setting in motion a strained mood which lasted until someone knocked on their door.
That 'someone' turned out to be Alsius, who was accompanied by two guards. She asked them one simple question, to which they easily answered.
And now the six were being escorted to Gandalin's office, feeling more anxious than during their first few days at Cambreford.
Despite the hours they had from the moment they were awoken by the alarm to the point when Alsius arrived, none of them looked ready to meet the director of the Guardians.
The guys had it easier, as they were somewhat presentable after pulling on trousers, shirt, and shoes. That said, Elfred's stubble was due for a shave and Nemo's wavy auburn hair needed combing, while Roland had traces of sleep lines on his face. Tense and wary would be appropriate descriptions of Elfred and Nemo respectively, while for Roland it would be plain nervousness.
On the other hand, the girls looked worse for wear. Aria's mane of golden-blond hair resembled that of a big cat that lived in the savannah bordering Aszyria and Aragona, and she was still clad in the tanktop and short shorts that she wore to sleep. Furthermore, she felt more nervous than Roland.
Irene had pulled on a sweater over her full-body pajamas, and was still looking about worriedly for any sign of Norah and Dezmond. Last of all was Jemma, who was busy untangling knots out of her long brown hair while at the same time fruitlessly demanding an explanation from Alsius.
The six could guess why they were being brought to the director's office. But for all of Jemma's persistence, the woman did not divulge anything. Ultimately deciding her efforts were futile, Jemma withdrew into a sullen sulk as Alsius accompanied the six up the elevator to Gandalin's office.
Upon reaching the top, they stepped through the open doorway into the director's glass-walled and marbled-floored office. Besides the seated director, two other men were also present. The first was Bealus, who stood at the side with arms crossed and wearing a pensive frown. The second was Zealos, standing before the desk and speaking to the elderly man in a cold and harsh tone.
"I warned you again and again that this would happen, that girl should have been detained the moment she arrived!"
Gandalin did not reply and turned his attention towards Alsius and the six youths. Bealus's eyes flickered towards them, but his stern countenance did not change. Zealos's lips curled with suspicion, but before he could begin questioning them Gandalin swiftly stood and proclaimed.
"Welcome! Under normal circumstances, I would have chairs brought in for everyone to be comfortable, so I apologize for having all of us stand at this unpremeditated meeting."
Compared to the trainees who did not know what to say in response, Gandalin's confides were used to this and waited for him to continue; some more patiently than others. After regarding each trainee in turn with calm blue eyes, the director inquired.
"Do you know why you have been brought here?"
A short moment passed before Elfred replied.
"Norah and Dezmond are absent. We are here to be questioned for information."
Zealos released a dismissive sniffed before correcting him.
"More than absence, they are wanted for desertion and assaulting a pair of sentries."
That elicited a variety of reactions among the six. Irene gasped in shock, Jemma inhaled sharply through her nose, Roland's straightened and leaned back, Elfred frowned, and Aria grimaced while biting her lower lip. Nemo merely blinked, appearing quite unperturbed.
"The city is on high security alert and searching for them. Do any of you have anything to tell us?"
Bealus continued in a more civil manner, but with equal severity. He focused on Aria, Roland, and Elfred in particular. Roland shook his head. What it meant, one only had to guess. In the meantime, Elfred answered.
"All I know is that Dezmond works on some nights at the postroom, and has a part-time job as a bartender on his days off. On the other hand… I don't know much about Norah."
"And you. Did you not notice your roommate sneaking out in the middle of the morning?"
Zealos suddenly demanded of Nemo, who blinked once before answering.
"I was aware of him leaving the room, but did not realize his intent was to desert."
The head instructor of the reconnaissance division scowled and was about to retort in chastise when Gandalin remarked in a quiet but authoritative voice.
"Don't be harsh, Zealos. People cannot always be on guard, especially among those they trust."
The man's scowl deepened, but said no more. Alsius cleared her throat and turned to the three girls.
"What about you three? Did you notice anything strange about your roommate?"
At that instant, all three girls gulped. Irere looked down, red-faced. Aria said nothing while chewing on her lower lip. After taking a short inhale, Jemma spoke in a forcibly composed tone.
"Norah leaves the dorm on some nights. We don't know where she goes, but she always returns in the morning."
The Atlantian girl felt several pairs of eyes pierce her as she spoke, as if scrutinizing her every word. In an act of defiance, she countered by demanding.
"But what do you mean they assaulted a pair of sentries? Could you prove it was definitely them? And is it that difficult to search for two missing people? I had the impression that the Guardians are a capable paramilitary organization."
Only Gandalin seemed to appreciate her outburst. Raising a hand to placate Zealos who looked furious with indignation, he calmly explained.
"Two guards on duty at the main entrance were missing at three hours past midnight, at which the emergency alarm was sounded. After a short but extensive search, they were found, bound, gagged and under the effects of tranquilizers. It took some time for them to regain their senses and describe the perpetrators, who bore many similarities to your absent teammates. It was at that point when I sent Alsius to confirm it was them. Is my explanation adequate?"
When none of Team Amethyst replied, Gandalin calmly continued.
"Now then… is there anything you could tell us?"
Gandalin regarded each person in turn. Only Nemo, Elfed and Jemma dared to face him. The other three were looking aside or down. The silence lasted for a few precarious seconds before Zealos direction a question at Nemo.
"What is the relationship between Norah and Dezmond?"
"Besides being countrymen? I don't know. You could call them friends?"
The lanky Atlantian promptly replied, and did not falter at the withering glare Zealos directed at him.
"Nonsense. A foreign agent and an orphan deserting at the same time are merely friends? What in Raetrethra have you been doing during these months?"
"This isn't the time or the place for reprimanding your subordinates, Zealos."
Bealus gruffly interrupted. Alsius quickly spoke before the head of intelligence could direct his ire at the field agents commander.
"He's right. They have no useful information for us, we should move on to consider our next course of action."
Alsius then turned to face the trainees with sympathy, but spoke with a stern tone.
"The six of you will be confined to your dorm until we decide otherwise. Guards will be posted outside with instructions to forbid you from leaving under any circumstance. Any signs of resistance will be treated as an attempt to desert and will result in your arrests. Do you understand?"
One by one, starting from Elfred and ending with Irene, the six remaining members of team Amethyst replied in the affirmative. With that, they exited the director's office and took the elevator down.
As they waited within the descending passenger hold, the first person to speak was Irene, who said in a tiny voice:
"Norah… is a foreign agent?"
In the meantime, Gandalin listened passively as his confides discussed.
"All outbound airships are being searched prior to takeoff. It would only a matter of time before they are caught, if they haven't already left Cambreford. If."
Bealus commented, and tersely repeated that single word. Zealos grumbled a remark.
"They've probably smuggled aboard an airship and left before the alarm was raised. Estimating the time frame they had, they could be onboard one or two of fifteen possible airships. Those airships were instructed to search for them too, but I'll be surprised if they were actually found by amateurs."
"You hold those two in such high regards?"
Alsius queried, earning an annoyed sniff from Zealos. In a quiet and reserved tone, he muttered.
"I don't know much about the boy, but that girl is very skilled. Nearly all her mistakes during training were intentional, and her improvement records are very inconsistent when compared to regular recruits which indicate she isn't a novice. If I were to guess as to how good she is… she can evade all but my most skilled and experienced agents."
"Dezmond's a calm and collected individual. I wouldn't say he's particularly skilled at subterfuge, but he's not a fool."
Bealus cooly continued after Zealos. After a short pause, the head of intelligence released a thoughtful exhale before adding.
"More significantly, no one else was harmed besides the two guards, and nothing of note was stolen. They've left us no trail to investigate their aims, not even a clue to indicate whether they are working together or separately."
At that point, all three officers turned to Gandalin. All known information is now on the table, it is time for the director to issue orders. After closing his eyes and releasing a thin sigh of weariness, the elderly man spoke.
"Zealos, send every agent you deem capable to Aszyria. It is most likely that they have gone there. Bealus, contact our commissioners in each nation and have them issue search warrants for them in every dock, airfield, and train station. Until we know their true motives, it is imperative they are apprehended."
Both men replied in the affirmative and were about to leave when Gandalin added.
"However, besides being absent without leave, they have not violated any laws. Violence is to be avoided if at all possible."
Zealos scoffed at that with a sardonic remark.
"Absent without leave, instead of desertion?"
His superior shrugged meekly in response.
"Old age must have dulled my wits and filed my fangs."
With another derisive huff, the head of intelligence left, followed by Bealus. Once the two men were gone, Gandalin returned to his desk and sat.
"I have got a peculiar task for you, Alsius. May I trust you with this confidential, and likely controversial, orders?"
The woman raised one fine brow in response. Several moments passed before she replied in a tone of mild amusement.
"Have you ever considered, that I would say no?"
"I told you, I told you, I told you!"
Jemma ranted while pacing up and down the small living room at a rapid pace, her usually pale complexion flushed and contorted. Except for her and Nemo, who leaned against the wall, the other four were sitting on two settees. Somber would be an apt term to describe this mood.
"I told you there's something fishy about them! But nope, you kept defending them and saying I'm being prejudiced, that I'm being unfair!"
"So you were right, now shut up. Your whining isn't helping."
Elfred growled and met her glare head-on.
"Guys, let's not tear each other apart…"
Nemo intervened with a tired voice.
"I saw her leave… It's my fault…"
Aria muttered all of a sudden, drawing everyone's attention towards the Avalonian woman who was bent over and holding her head in both hands. When she did not elaborate, Elfred queried.
"What do you mean?"
Five tense seconds of silence passed. Finally, Aria's head tilted upwards. Her almond-shaped face was twisted in a grimace of guilt and regret. While keeping her gray eyes downcast, she recalled.
"I… I heard someone moving during the middle of the night and woke up. I turned and saw Norah packing and changing into travelling gear. She then noticed I was awake and looked at me. She did this."
Aria curled every finger of her right hand besides the index finger and brought it to her lips, which were red and swollen from compulsively biting out of anxiety.
"And then, she left… I, I thought she was taking another nighttime stroll…"
"What!? Why didn't you tell that to the superiors earlier!?"
Jemma demanded in a frantic pitch that almost reached a screech. Under normal circumstances, Aria would never retreat from a verbal spar, but this time she backed down in submission. With great zeal, Jemma pushed it further.
"If only you reported it, none of this would have happened!"
"No, I'm also at fault."
Roland interjected, his voice calm, yet laced with self-derision.
"While everyone was still washing up, I entered the bedroom to use the toilet and noticed Dezmond sorting through his things. More importantly, I saw him wrap his weapon in cloth. I knew we were having weapon drills today, so he'd need it in less than ten hours. I should have asked him what he was doing. If I did, maybe I would have realized what he was up to."
"Hei, it's no one's fault…"
Irene meekly interjected, her voice weak and uncertain as she continued.
"Maybe they had to leave for some reason. Maybe they'll be back in a few days-"
"And how do you know that?"
Jemma abruptly cut her short.
"Did Norah or Dezmond tell anyone where they're going and what they're up to? Nope, they didn't! They just, packed up all of a sudden and left! Even though, even though…!"
Everyone became shocked when Jemma's voiced suddenly cracked, accompanied by an abrupt welling of tears. Surprise and embarrassment replaced incense and frustration; the girl looked away and viciously wiped them away, but her true feelings had already been unveiled. For all her rage and bluster, it was clear to all that Norah's sudden departure had struck her severely.
"Damn it…! How could she… just after I truly thought…"
A gentle yet firm palm landed on of Jemma's shoulder. She turned to see Aria followed by Irene a few steps behind, both looking equally heartbroken and upset as she was. The two girls then went on either side of her to support a shoulder and ushered her to leave. Several weak attempts of pushing them away later, the weeping Atlantian allowed them to escort her back to their bedroom.
As the girls departed, Roland wanted to groan in lament. If only I tried harder getting to know Dezmond and Norah… if only I paid more attention! I have failed…
He lamented with a deep sigh, then gasped in pain and surprise when Elfred rapped him on the shoulder none too gently.
"Stop mopping. You're a leader, so act like one."
The man gruffly said, his countenance was neither critical or judging. It was hard to decipher what the soldier was feeling right now.
"No matter how difficult it gets, you must be a leader as long as there are still those who need you as one. If not, the team is finished."
Roland hung his head and fought back the urge to sigh again as a dull knock resounded at the back of his mind.
Once the girls arrived at their bedroom, Jemma went straight to the restroom, insisted for privacy and locked the door, leaving Aria and Irene outside. The two girls waited in silence for the next few minutes with only the sound of running tap water on the other side of the door to listen to. A strained mood came over them as neither knew what to do or say.
They also heard footsteps in the hallway outside, probably made by one of the guys.
Aria wanted to scream, to hit something or someone – specifically herself – so badly. The moment Norah made that 'shh' gesture that morning, she knew something was wrong. She knew she should have done something to stop her, but instead did nothing and pretended to go back to sleep with the fantasy that when morning came, Norah would be back and everything would return to normal.
Throughout her life, Aria had always smashed aside obstacles thrown at her, from the time she fought off three bullies as a toddler to the day she knocked out her opponent to win the opportunity to become a candidate of joining the Guardians. But when it came to non-violent situations, she was as useful as using a hammer to chop vegetables. The only way she solved problems was by using her fists, a disadvantage she now felt keenly.
Irene, on the other hand, had overcome her initial shock and was now sinking into melancholy. Oh, how naïve she had been, for thinking that everything would be fine among them after yesterday night. Like a foolish rural countryside girl, she thought going to the big city would lead to making new friends and having fun experiences. But reality is never kind.
For Irene, Norah was a dear friend no one could replace. Sure, she enjoyed Jemma's bossy yet well-meaning company and Aria's cheerful if somewhat boisterous friendship, but being around Norah was unique. While Jemma inspired her to improve and Aria encouraged her to be more open, she felt most comfortable around Norah. They could spend hours together with little to no verbal exchanges, and not feel stressed or bored.
Perhaps due to wanting to seek some trace of her missing friend, Irene went towards Norah's bed at the other end of the room. She recalled Norah sitting cross-legged on the bed just last night, reading the novel Irene had given her. Besides her flickering eyes and the swishing sound of turning pages, the girl was still as a statue. But now, her bed was vacant and unmade.
Irene turned to Norah's metal trunk at the foot of the bed. It was open and unlocked, the first time she had ever seen it that way. Only Jemma and Norah kept their lockers secured at all times, but she had peeked into Jemma's clothes-filled locker before. Norah's locker only contained a few pieces of clothing and items. It looked as if someone had gone through it in a hurry. Was it Norah, or a Guardian who came to search it while they were at Gandalin's office?
Irene then moved to the bedside dresser and checked each drawer, starting from the bottom. All of Norah's clothes were neatly folded. I wonder if she brought enough changes of clothes? Irene almost chuckled at herself for worrying about Norah having enough clothes of all things during these circumstances.
Finally, she pulled open the top drawer. It contained a few stationaries, small pieces of travelling equipment and several odd pieces of paper. What caught her attention though was a folded, light-brown leather cover that would fit around a palm-sized book. She immediately recognized it, because that was the cover which came with the book Irene bought and gave to Norah yesterday. But if the leather cover is here, where is the book?
Irene picked up the cover and paused when a small piece of paper slid out. It was torn from a larger page, and had a short sentence written on it. Out of curiosity, she retrieved the paper and read it.
Aria turned at the sharp sound of Irene's gasp and saw the girl holding a hand to her mouth, eyes wide with shock while staring at a piece of paper. Approaching the girl, the Avalonian blonde inquired.
"Irene? What is it?"
It took several seconds for Irene to respond by wordlessly passing the note to Aria. The woman read it, inhaled sharply, then stormed towards the toilet and pounded excitedly on the door.
"Jemma! Get out of there!"
"W-what do you want!? I'm not done yet!"
"Forget that! You have to look at this!"
Aria insisted and was about to pound on the door again when it opened to reveal an indignant Jemma, who had washed and dried her face, but hadn't gotten rid of the redness around her eyes and cheeks. Her gaze switched to the paper held in Aria's fingers and snatched at it to read the note. She blinked twice as surprise washed through her.
"Come on, we've got to show this to the guys!"
Aria dashed towards and pulled open their bedroom door without waiting for the other two, and yelped when she nearly rammed into Nemo, who was presenting the back of his fist at shoulder height to knock. The lanky Atlantian jolted backwards when the door suddenly flew open and was almost headbutted in the chin.
"Whoa, clownfish! What're you doing here?"
"We just got a letter, come to the living room."
Despite saying that in a calm tone, there was no denying the fluster in his tone that had nothing to do with nearly being headbutted. His brown eyes flicked towards Irene and Jemma, and sensed their eagerness.
"Did something happen?"
Aria nodded, having returned to her senses. She waved to Jemma and Irene, and the three girls exited their bedroom.
"Yeah, Irene found something in Norah's desk. We were just about to show it to you guys."
Aria swiftly explained as the four returned to the living room to find Roland and Elfred standing while frowning in contemplation. Roland's left hand held a ripped envelope and several small strips of yellow paper, while his other hand held an unfolded letter. Judging by their troubled expressions, they too had something important to share with the girls.
But before Aria could speak, Elfred noted the girls' fluster and asked.
"What's the matter?"
In response, Aria showed them the note. Nemo had to lean over her arm to read it. Written neatly in common letters were two three-worded sentences.
We'll be back. Don't follow us.
A short pause then ensued as varied reactions were elicited from the boys, none of which were as shocked or emotional as the girls. A wry smile worked its way into Nemo's calm features, Roland's eyes widened with surprise and relief, and Elfred hummed while wearing a tight grimace.
Roland asked in a quiet voice, and Aria nodded once before returning with her own query.
"And what about you?"
Her chin jerked impatiently towards the letter, and Roland's grip on it tightened as a complicated demeanor came over his face.
"Go ahead and read it, Roland."
Nemo bluntly interrupted his thoughts. After taking a short breath, Roland's doubtful gaze settled onto the letter as he began to read its contents.
"Dear Team Amethyst. Please find enclosed six airship tickets. According to our records, Mr. Dezmond Alcast's home address is in Asher. The guards outside your dorm will change shifts at exactly five thirty, five minutes before the next shift arrives. I leave the rest to you."
He paused at that moment, and, unable to read any further, flipped the letter and lifted it towards the girls to let them read for themselves. Below the paragraph he had read was another short message with a less sophisticated handwriting, and seemed to have been photocopied and pasted below the handwritten paragraph.
Khan Gromnir has sold the orphanage's land rights. The orphanage has been seized. The children are being rounded to be sold into slavery. I will be waiting. Please hurry. S.
Silence descended as every girl, boy, man and woman processed what they had just heard and read. Six minds worked separately to process this new information.
"May I check the tickets?"
Roland passed the six strips of yellow paper to Nemo, who examined them front to back to front again before confirming they were authentic, business-class commercial airship tickets.
"I don't like this, it reeks of espionage. We were instructed to remain here until told otherwise. This could be a trap."
Elfred immediately voiced his opinion. Being the oldest and most experienced among them when it came to serving in a military organization, he instinctively knew some of them were thinking of.
"And why would they be trying to trap us? Clown fish, you should be good at dealing with fishy situations, what do you think?"
Aria retorted before turning to the lanky Atlantian. While smiling wryly at the deliberately ironic way which she described it, Nemo voiced his opinion.
"Assuming that the second part of that letter is true, they might be hoping to follow us to Norah and Dezmond. But what I wonder is why are they doing this in such a roundabout way? They could just send full-fledged Guardians, not trainees."
"They can't simply send their agents without requesting permission, that would mean trespassing into foreign territory. But if we went after Norah and Dezmond who deserted, the Guardians could claim that we also deserted and are outside their control."
Roland murmured, surprisingly the other five with this deep yet logical reasoning. Uncomfortable with the attention, he quickly explained.
"My family has been in the upper ranks of the military for many generations. I grew up learning about politics and bureaucracy from a military perspective."
"So you're saying, that someone in the Guardians is encouraging us to go after them, but without any official orders so that if something happens to us they would not be held responsible?"
Aria summarized, to which Roland simply nodded.
Aria felt her resolution waver at that. She would happily describe herself as stubborn and headstrong, but not reckless. And while this would surely be an exciting adventure, the cost of failure could forfeit their chances of becoming Guardians and potentially their lives, which they've already risked once in order to get here.
Another pause ensued before Irene declared in a quiet but resolute tone.
"I want to go after them."
"Are you serious? They're probably in Aszyria by now, and none of us know what it's like there or the dangers to look out for. And like Roland said, the Guardians won't vouch for us if we are caught! This is ridiculous!"
Jemma sharply countered. Irene faltered for a brief moment before rallying her courage to reply.
"If Dezmond is in trouble, then I want to help."
That simple, earnest statement struck several cords in the room. Including Jemma, who could not summon as much conviction with her next rebuke.
"T-then why didn't he ask for it? Why did he and Norah just sneak off without telling anyone?"
"And would you have said 'yes' and gone along if he did ask?"
Nemo quietly queried, at which point the tight frown Jemma wore faltered as her blue eyes darted about with uncertainty. She made a few attempts of answering, but only managed to squeeze a few garbled words before falling silent.
"Gem, don't you care about what has happened to Dezmond and Norah?"
"N-no, I do care! But logically, this is too risky…"
Irene's voice trailed after answering Aria. No one refuted her assessment.
Elfred suddenly grumbled, jolting his younger commanding officer.
"What should we do; go or stay? It's your job as our leader to decide."
Roland's jaw slackened at the heavy responsibility that had suddenly been dropped onto his shoulders. Putting his own feelings aside, he doesn't want to force anyone to do anything. Yet five pairs of eyes were now focused on him. What should he do?
In that instant, a thought popped into his mind. This scenario reminded him of a historical case he had read about years ago. Several hundred years ago in Avalona, the prime minister at that time had to make a decision on a very important matter, but the whole of parliament could not reach an agreement. The ensuing political turmoil nearly brought about a civil war until a certain proposal was made. Using that proposal a decision was made, and though not everyone was happy, a worse disaster was avoided.
Elfred called again, as the younger man's demeanor had turned anxious. Perhaps he should step in-
"Guys, I am going to put three options forward. I'd like you to choose the one you feel would best suit you, and give me your answer in clockwise order from me."
The Avalonian blond said, this time surprising them due to the authority of his tone.
"The first is to go after Norah and Dezmond using these airship tickets and our own initiative. The second is to not go after Norah and Dezmond, and wait here to let our superiors handle it themselves. The third is that you cannot decide and wish to consider other options. Whichever option reaches majority, the rest must obey or have their voting rights revoked."
"What!? That's a ridiculous idea-!"
"No Gem, it's a valid method. Avalonian politicians use it sometimes when there's no other choice."
Aria swiftly cut off Jemma's outburst, much to the girl's discontent. To push this matter through, the Avalonian continued.
"I agree with using Roland's idea, who else?"
Elfred and Nemo were the first to agree, followed by a tentative Irene. In the face of overwhelming defeat, Jemma huffed once.
"And I disagree with this majority, I will be excluded from voting altogether? Fine! I agree."
And so the hurdle of installing a majority rule voting system was passed. Roland turned left following the clockwise order and waited for Elfred to give his answer. The broad-shouldered man exhaled with a frown and crossed arms before speaking.
"I don't like it. Though I hope Dezmond and Norah are alright, they left of their own volition and knew the consequences of it. I feel we should remain here as ordered. However… if the majority vote is to go after them, I will do whatever I can to help."
Roland masked his relief at Elfred's supportive attitude, then turned to Nemo. The lankly Atlantian shrugged with a complicated grimace.
"I cannot decide."
A simple but honest answer. Roland then turned to Aria, who answered after a short pause.
"I wasn't sure initially if this was the best choice, but what Irene said earlier was right. Even though they left without saying anything, they're still our friends. We shouldn't abandon them."
The Avalonian blonde gave Jemma a meaningful glance, to which the Atlantian brunette grimaced but remained silent. Next was Irene.
"I also want to go after them. I know it will be risky, we'd have to break some rules and it won't be easy, but I cannot just ignore it if they're in trouble. I'd do the same for anyone here. But if we do decide to stay… then I will abide by it."
She then gave Jemma a doubtful side-glance, as it was now her turn. The Atlantian brunette's grimace deepened as internal conflict raged within her. It took some time before she decided.
"I… don't think we should go."
She refused to look at Aria and Irene's expressions of appal and quickly continued.
"I'm worried about Norah and Dezmond, really I am! But I'm also worried about us; how will we fare in a foreign country without any support, and what would happen if things go wrong! I… I think it's too risky."
As such, the current votes are split two-two between go and stay, and one vote in remaining neutral. Five pairs of eyes focused on Roland, whose vote will either decide what they should do or drag this discussion even longer.
Team Amethyst's leader inhaled once before announcing.
"Guys, go pack your weapons, equipment, and supplies. Take what you absolutely need. We're going after them."