One version of the world’s creation myth ran something like this: “In the time before time” as is prim and proper with anything dealing with the Ancient times Pre-Creation, “The Creators left their Universe to find another one, to mold and make it into their own.” To start with, they created their own world and named it ‘Oneuywa,’ after some ancient language’s turn of phrase meaning ‘earthen home.’ “They then each filled the planet with a specific kind of life, each creating one race that the others could then counter with something of their own. Alcor and Mizar then created the two moons to watch over their children races,” of which historically, the Lycans were not directly one, but instead were a hybridization of the powerful, non-humanoid wolves, and the magic-less humans.
The historical cause for that is that it was a mostly successful attempt at curing a disease unleashed by the Traitor Princess. Successful enough that said disease is rarely seen active in these modern days, leading certain groups of people to believe that that it was simply Mizar’s strange sense of humor to create a race whose only genetic claim to fame was being able to be bitten by wolves and turn into Lycans from it.
Moon Shrines, then, existed as early on as the Moons themselves—dating back to Pre-Cataclysm times—but only became popular once the effects of the Cataclysm War were felt. Why would anyone come to a Moon Shrine? For normal folk, the answer was “Worship of the two moons and the lost Creators of the world, Alcor and Mizar.”
Turned Lycans, however, tend to be unstable with regards to controlling their transformations, and any turned Lycan with their sense of reason still intact would come to a Moon Shrine, such as the Nori family shrines, where they could learn to control their inner wolf. Now, you might be wondering, ‘How unstable are we talking about here?’
Unstable to the point that for any freshly-turned-Lycan, simply looking at any iconography that represented the two moons would force a transformation, let alone the accidents that could happen from being out at any time of night when the moons were out in full force. It is strange, yet important to note, however, that two circles next to each other of the appropriate different sizes would not trigger any violent transformations as long as the drawer of the circles had not intended for the circles to represent the moons.
No one was quite sure why or how the Lycanthropy effects became tied to the Moon Cycles. The Creators only said that some drastic change in the world’s magic flows caused it during the Cataclysm.
Typically, all of the above ended up being the reason why most Moon Shrines were run by pure-blood, Natural Born Lycans, even if a Natural Born’s parents had both been turned before having said child. Natural Born Lycans came naturally equipped with the ability to shift between their human-ish form and more wolf-ish form at will with complete control—seemingly a holdover from the days when Lycanthropy was a cure for a rampaging disease, albeit a handy one.
You see, that in-born Control could be taught, and with the above notice of the intent of the drawing in question, anyone trying to cheat the system by drawing themselves ‘fake moons’, and trying to pass it off as them having control over their transformations, would be caught in their lie. It was crude for an anti-cheating system, but as unstable as some turned Lycans could become, it was a necessary part of life just the same.
The Nori Twin Moon Shrine was your standard affair in terms of appearance. Normally, wolf-born Shrine Maidens would be tending to the structures, serving as greeters for visitors, or teachers for those seeking to learn control. The Shrine itself shone with two colored disks, one larger blue disk and one smaller pink disk, representing Alcor and Mizar.
Today was one of the slow days, especially for a shipping port town such as Egg Roost, and there was only an older woman tending to the shrine at the moment. Her fur-covered ears were turning grey with age, but the Lycanthropy kept her face youthful despite the wrinkles starting to force their way in.
“Hello?” Mayoi called out as they walked in.
“Oh, hi!” The woman turned around. “Welcome to the Nori Twin Moons Shrine. I’m Muiri, the Matron of this shrine. What can I do for you three today?”
Mayoi drew out her badge, “Detective Kana Mayoi, these are my students in training, Mayoi and Yuki. We’re here investigating the body discovered this morning.”
“You’re Mayoi, and she’s Mayoi as well?” Muiri frowned, pointing at Kana Mayoi, then Mikari Yuki in turn, clearly assuming that the common knowledge of the genetic combination of Dragon plus Iconox equaling Imp was in play here.
“What?” Mikari blinked. “No, I’m Yuki!”
“Then…?” Muiri eyed Ayako, who flashed a grin and cheekily supplied:
“Oh…” Muiri’s hand went to her forehead and she muttered something under her breath about ‘another dammed adoption’ before putting on a smile and asking, “What can I help you with, Detectives?”
“Well,” Mayoi nodded, “Your family’s name came up in the initial investigation. Your daughter Miri was in the victim’s class, and we think she might be one of the last people to see him alive yesterday.”
“Miri? My daughter?” Muiri blinked, then laughed. “Sorry, you’re mistaken, I’ve never married. Miri’s my niece.” She rolled her eyes, “My sister left her kids over here to learn how to take care of the shrine. She thought it’d keep them out of trouble…” Muiri sighed and shook her head. “Evidently not. Really, I told her that much when she dropped them off on my lap. But did she listen? No. She didn’t.”
“If it’s alright with you, we’d like to talk with them,” Mayoi said.
“Well, normally they’d be in school, but with classes canceled this morning, they got sent back,” Muiri replied. “I think they’re in the kitchen working on extra homework.” She motioned for the trio of detectives to follow, then hazarded, “So… It’s Tsukia’s father?”
“We’re fairly certain of that, yes,” She nodded, taking the lead on this while Mikari and Ayako followed. “We’re still running an autopsy to double check, but it doesn’t look good for ol’ Shirou.”
“Such a shame,” Muiri shook her head. “He would drop by every now and again to renew the enchantments that keep the Harpies out. I guess I’ll either have to figure out a new way to do that now, or get Miri to do it for me.”
“Did he come by often?” Mayoi asked as they walked.
“Once a month or so,” Muiri paused to shift her lower jaw right to left, thinking before continuing, “Although he did start to come by a bit more often recently! He was helping Miri with learning the same Harpy repelling enchantments at my sister’s request. Really, if anyone’s to blame for all this mess it’s my sister.”
“Why do you say that?” Ayako asked, nose flaring slightly and ears twitching as she processed both the faintly enraged tone of voice and angry scent coming off of the older Lycan.
“Inquisitive little pup you have here, Detective,” Muiri chuckled dryly, her ears twitching in annoyance.
“I try my best,” Mayoi answered with a similar chuckle. “I wouldn’t be doing my job right otherwise.”
“Hmf. I know that feeling all too well,” Muiri’s voice fell flat, and then went silent for a few moments before talking again, this time seemingly mostly to her own benefit. “Our island was quiet for a long time. Everyone knew everyone, and nobody really ever thought anyone would be capable of murder. Our biggest problems tended to be the harpies and lightning beetles.” She shook her head, “Then one day a few months ago, my sister comes in via way-gate and just dumps her children off on my lap without so much of a ‘could you please’, and more of a ‘you have to do this for me’, before running off to who knows what part of the world to do Cypher knows what. I haven’t seen her since.”
“How did your sister request the private tutoring then?” Ayako asked, catching the inconsistency in logic as well as the faint smell of evasion from the older Lycan’s breath.
“She wrote a very appalling letter of all things and sent it through the mail,” Muiri shook her head again. “Tony was just as shocked as I was that their mother would think Miri’s skills wouldn’t grow without private tutoring. Miri is a very bright girl, you should know. But she excels at working on things privately on her own. Tutors haven’t worked well in the past…” She scowled, “I wouldn’t be surprised if my sister hadn’t come into town unannounced and killed him just because Miri’s grades didn’t rise half a percentage.”
“You and your sister didn’t get along well, I take it?” Mayoi asked.
“I was the oldest of five siblings, she was the youngest,” Muiri shook her head. “Of everyone she could have chosen, she chose me. I had to act as mother more than sister for her, and I felt like she always resented it growing up. Especially when our siblings struck out and disappeared into the world.”
“That’s a shame,” Ayako mused. “I remember arguing with my older sister once, and we were mad at each other for weeks before we were able to talk things through… I don’t regret doing it though. She died suddenly a few years ago, but we were on good terms then, at least.”
Mikari frowned slightly at that sentence, but said nothing.
“For me and my sister, that’d be a bit harder to do,” Muiri shook her head. “We were very distant. She refused to even talk things through. I get the feeling she’d be happier if we never saw the others face again.”
“That’s pretty harsh,” Ayako frowned.
“That’s my sister for you,” Muiri shook her head. “Harsh should have been her middle name.”
At first glance, Miri Nori looked to be about the same age as Ayako, about seventeen years old. She had golden eyes peering through circular, metal rimmed glasses—all framed with brown hair.
There was something about her that felt familiar to Ayako, but what it was, she couldn’t quite place just yet. It was like she was smelling a familiar scent or re-tasting a warm, gooey flavor from some memory or another that she couldn’t quite fit into place yet as to what the flavor even was.
Miri was presently dressed in the usual shrine dress, the white and red patterned fabrics layered thinly at her chest before tapering down in massive flowing layers past her stomach, thinning at the hips near the back just enough to let her tail out, and then expanding even further towards her legs only to end abruptly just half-way between her knees and ankles.
She sat at a table in the dining room reading a book, a glance at the cover confirming that it said “Enchanting for Beginners.” Scattered randomly across said table were a few drawings that appeared to be practice runes that had not gone so well, and evolved into drawings of various things instead, as well as a few other books on Enchanting.
Miri Nori seemed to be a better artist than an enchantment crafter, Mikari mused.
“Miri?” Muiri spoke up, causing the girl to look up in surprise.
“Yeah?” She blinked as she turned her head towards her aunt. Mayoi blinked in return, but more at the fact that she realized the glasses were enchanted. With what, Mayoi couldn’t tell, but the subtle flare of rune light etched on the lenses told enough of a story.
“These detectives are here about Shirou, They’d like to ask you a few questions,” Muiri explained. “Is that alright?”
“Un, sure,” the girl nodded, then put her book down on the table. “What can I do for you, officers?”
“Hi, I’m Detective Mayoi, these are my students,” Mayoi glanced to Ayako and shook her head subtly. Ayako got the message, ‘sit back and observe,’ and quickly passed the message along to Yuki. “We were told that yesterday you were speaking with Mister Tsubaki after class?”
“Yeah, I was confirming that he was going to come over yesterday after class,” Miri nodded. “The Harpy wards are starting to fail, so we needed to recharge them.”
Mayoi processed that information, then frowned. Well that was a new item on the timeline. A glance to Mikari confirmed that she was writing it down on her notepad. “And about what time was it that he came over?” Mayoi asked.
“He didn’t,” Miri replied, suddenly a bit sad. “He canceled suddenly, said something important had come up and he would come by today instead.”
“But he didn’t,” Mayoi surmised.
“But he didn’t,” Miri shook her head, sniffing slightly. “He, ah… he looked upset when I talked with him. It was like he was trying to avoid speaking with me. Which hurt, to be honest. He’d never turn down an opportunity to come by before.”
“Any idea why?” Mayoi asked.
“No,” Miri shook her head again. “I was under the impression that it had to do with whatever had come up so suddenly.”
“Did you know he was seen arguing with someone a few days ago?” Mayoi asked, keeping an eye on both the girl, and her aunt’s, reaction. Sometimes it was the little things that hinted at something.
“Arguing? No, I didn’t know that,” Miri shook her head, very surprised. “With whom?”
“Our description fits someone matching your brother,” Mayoi evaded the flat out truth for the moment, just to see the reaction as well.
“Why would Tony be arguing with Shi… Mister Tsubaki?” Miri’s sudden change of name familiarity was interesting. Her Aunt, however, was glancing away. Mayoi decided to ask a few more questions before interviewing the brother/nephew.
“Don’t know yet, which is why we’d like to ask him for his side of the story,” Mayoi glanced at Muiri, “if, that’s still alright with you, Miss Nori?”
“I…” Muiri worked her jaw for a moment. “It’s fine,”
“Aunt Muiri?” Miri saw the strain, “Did you know about this?”
“I… saw them talking a few days ago,” Muiri’s smile faded to a flat line, “but I didn’t think much of it. Maybe I should have asked.”
“Miss, do you know where your nephew is?” Mayoi asked.
“I’ll go call him in,” Miri went to stand up from her chair.
“No—” Muiri stopped her, “You’ve had a long day, I’ll go find him. He’s probably out back cleaning the shrines.” And then with that, she left in a rush.
“Well, that’s a mite suspicious,” Mikari muttered to Ayako, who nodded in agreement.
“I’ve never seen her so flustered before,” Miri frowned, fully standing up but bracing herself against the table for a moment. “Unf… It’s probably because I’ve been feeling sick the last few days on top of this…”
“You’re sick?” Ayako’s ears flared up in surprise, and just a hint of fear, as she stepped slightly behind Mikari.
“Un, just some stomach bug,” Miri nodded. “It’s been really bad in the mornings, but I’m fine usually after that.”
Ayako loosened up a bit, then sniffed the air. Her ears perked at what she smelled, and then she replied, “Oh, that’s not so bad.”
“Annoying really,” Miri smiled faintly. “It’s been going on for almost half a month now. I just wish it’d stop.”
“Has it affected your enchanting any?” Mikari asked, earning a suspicious look from Mayoi, but nothing else.
“Yes!” Miri nodded. “Even if they’re weak runes, I’ve got to put more energy into something as simple as a glove or a belt buckle. I might have to stop visiting Matoi’s shop at this rate.” She paled, “Oh Mizar, I don’t even know how she’s going to react with Shirou dead… and I can’t even imagine how Tsukia’ll react.”
“You know Tsukia?” Mayoi asked.
“Yeah,” Miri smiled faintly, recalling a fond memory. “I’d go with her to the shop when I practiced my rune enchanting. I didn’t have permission enchant the armor scraps there unless she was there.”
‘Aha!’ Mayoi’s eyes widened slightly. ‘A contradiction. But what it means remains yet to be seen.’
“Tsukia was the one who found and ID’d the body,” Mayoi informed the girl.
“Oh. Oh…” Miri sat back down quickly. “That’s… Mizar, that’s horrible!”
“What is?” A Lycan boy asked as he walked in along with Muiri. Still standing mostly behind Mikari, Ayako let out a brief squeal of surprise, and nearly gripped her claws into her friend’s arm as she tried to bury her face into Mikari’s back. Mikari bit back the urge to laugh, and instead focused on taking in the appearance of the boy who had just walked in.
“Tony, Tsukia was the one who found Shirou’s body!” Miri explained to the boy who was obviously her brother, and not just any brother, but her twin. Same golden eyes, same hair, damn near same face, except shifted more towards the male gender rather than female. And besides that, Miri’s claws were blue, and Tony’s red, another telltale sign of twin-ship, especially among Lycans.
“What?” And the look of surprise as well, if that didn’t look just the same as his sister’s, Mikari wasn’t sure what would. “Oh Alcor, that’s terrible!”
“Tony Nori, I presume?” Mayoi asked.
“Yeah,” Tony nodded. “You wanted to ask me about what Shirou and I were talking about before?”
“Exactly that,” Mayoi glanced at Muiri, who seemed content to now be sweeping at the floor.
“Well, it’s…” Tony seemed very uncomfortable, understandable given the circumstances. “We talked about a lot of things the last week. Usually it was just about the Harpy wards and how much we were going to pay him.”
“Pay him?” Miri asked in surprise. “But we don’t—”
“Yeah, I know,” Tony interrupted before she finished that sentence. “But it just didn’t feel right asking him to do it without paying him for his work. So I was trying to see what it’d take to get him to do the work on commission.” He scratched at the back of his head, just behind his right ear. “He was being really stubborn about it too. Nothing I offered him was enough for him so I asked him what it’d take and he said he’d tell me yesterday after school but he never showed.”
“What time did you set to meet?” Mayoi asked.
“Last night, just before the usual time he would come over to do the Harpy Enchantments,” Tony shook his head. “That was… around five? I waited for a while afterwards, but he never showed so I can’t say for sure how long I was out there.”
“Hmmm,” Mayoi mused on it for a few moments. “Well, thank you for your time. If you can think of anything else that might help us with the case, you can find us at the Import Shop. Just ask for either me, Yuki, Ayako, Tyler, or Detective Kaie, one of us should be there.”
“Alright, I will,” Tony nodded. And with that, Mayoi announced her intention to leave, but then… “Um,” Tony coughed. “Actually, can I walk you out?”
“Sure,” Mayoi nodded. “We’ve taken enough of your time, Miss Muiri.”
And so, they walked out of the building, and once they were out of hearing range of Muiri, Tony spoke up. “Um, right, so… I kinda lied in there, to my sister. About what we were really arguing about. We were supposed to meet, but he really didn’t show. I don’t know why.”
“Obviously,” Mayoi resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “So, what were you really arguing about?”
“I saw what was happening. I saw how she kept… forgetting. Ignoring. She wouldn’t listen to us when we—” Tony stopped mid-sentence, then changed tracks even without stopping his walking pace any, “So I just started confronting him about Miri,” he sighed. “The first time I told him that if anything happened to her because of him, I’d… Well, it doesn’t matter now because he’s dead.” He frowned, “But, every time we fought, he told me that he would do everything in his power to keep her safe and that if anything did happen to her, I wouldn’t have the chance to do anything to him. He usually just left it at that.”
“Did he know something was up, then?” Mayoi asked.
“I think he did know something,” Tony nodded. “He was really coy about it every time I tried talking with him about it and we just ended up retreading the same arguments over and over again. So… Now that he’s dead?” He shrugged. “I dunno what he knew, or what to say, but if he died to protect Miri… I guess I was working myself up over nothing, in the long run.”
“Y-yeah. You were,” Ayako squeaked out, and then buried her face into Mikari’s back again which gave Tony an excuse to finally take in her appearance and scent. It was the scent first which nearly threw him for a loop as a similar memory that he couldn’t quite place flared up in response to it. Tony nearly choked in surprise, which made Ayako turn back towards him in concern.
And much like Ayako’s earlier reaction, Tony’s eyes visibly shrank in surprise when his eyes met Ayako’s.
It was adorable how their feet both rooted themselves and left them standing there as Mayoi and Mikari walked ahead. And the cuteness factor grew exponentially as they each started sputtering out nonsense syllables in an attempt to talk.
So adorable that Mikari pulled out an imaging gem and used it to take a snapshot of the moment—for teasing purposes, naturally. This was the first time that either Mikari or Detective Mayoi had ever seen Ayako react to anyone in such a way.