“This thing is impossible,” Tyler Obonz declared as he watched the coffee maker shimmer back into existence again. “I don’t know of any enchantment designed to make something like this disappear not only itself, but the memory of its owner too…? Could Zuzol even put something together like this?” He paused, “Well, actually, she probably could have. Maybe even better than this, but even so…”
“Creators aside, the question is, did Teacher Bell make this enchantment, or was it Teacher Tsubaki?” Mayoi frowned.
“Where’s that specialist enchanter you called in?” Tyler asked.
“Busy deconstructing something on one of Inga’s cases,” Mayoi frowned as the coffee maker shimmered into invisibility once more. “If someone local is willing to take a look at this, I’ve got a hunch about who to ask in town, but for now,” She shook her head, “we’ll have to assume Shirou enchanted both this and Miri’s glasses.”
“Glasses?” Tyler asked. “What glasses?”
“Yeah, was a hunch at first, then a lead from that same person I’m going to talk to,” Mayoi’s lips quirked up to a half-smile. “I’ve got Mika’n and Aya on the glasses thing right now, so if it all works out we should match timelines up pretty closely.”
“What enchantment is it?” Miri adjusted her glasses slightly, the lenses glowing just ever so slightly. “Um…. Shirou… Mister Tsubaki… Uh, he said it was to help me study enchanting quicker.”
“I hate to ask this, but can we take those and any other enchanted glasses in to examine?” Mikari asked.
“Sure,” Miri nodded. “Shirou enchanted at least one of my spares, but I’ve got another one I kept not enchanted.” She grimaced, and explained before Mikari could ask, “Sometimes after a long day of wearing them I’d get headaches. He said it was just stress from the focus enchant, and that I should switch to a normal pair if I started getting a headache.”
Mikari watched Miri pull her current, black framed glasses off of her head, letting them dangle from the string around her left wrist for a few moments as she pulled a pair of light blue framed glasses out of one of her dress’s hidden pockets and put them on. Almost immediately, Miri seemed much more relaxed now. The blue frames looked a lot nicer on her than the black ones, though, so it might have just been a trick of the lighting-
“Tadah! And then…” Miri paused. “Huh. I hadn’t even realized my head was hurting until just now.” She smiled, wide and happy in a slightly goofy way, “Must just have been the stress from the day. It usually doesn’t hurt until much later on.”
“Hmm,” Mikari frowned as Miri handed the first set of enchanted glasses over, and then turned to walk towards her room in the house where she likely kept her second set of enchanted glasses. Yuki followed her through the house as they talked “Maybe it’s just the stress… or it’s something else.”
“Maybe,” Miri mused, “but I don’t know what it would be.”
“Dunno either,” Mikari actually had a very certain theory on what it could possibly be, but she wasn’t going to voice it right now.
“Okay, this is my room,” Miri smiled as she reached a certain door in the hallway.
“One second, actually. I need to ask you something.” Mikari stopped Miri at the bedroom door, turned her around and looked the Lycan square in the eyes, then asked, “Did Mister Tsubaki have a cane with a hidden blade inside? One that was enchanted with a shocking or lightning enchantment of some kind?”
“A cane?” Miri frowned. “I wouldn’t know about a hidden blade, but one time he told me about some of the possessions he’d inherited from the previous teacher’s office.” She mused for a moment, “There were some interesting things in there he’d tell me about, one time was a cane. Mister Bell- that was the previous teacher,” Miri clarified- “worked for the Mages Guild for a short time before he came to work here. Some of his work revolutionized modern enchanting as we know it. He’d practice his work on some of his personal items, including a cane with a rainbow aura enchantment on its surface. I never saw it personally, but Shirou would talk about how ‘stunning’ it was.” She shrugged, “A Rainbow glow seems stunning to me. But he might have meant a shock enchantment on it as well.”
“Stunning Rainbows, huh?” Mikari blinked, trying to remember where she’d heard that phrasing before. “Well, I’m going to go see where my partner got off to. Thanks for your co-operation.”
“Anything to help find out what happened,” Miri smiled and nodded. And then with that, she went into her room to fetch her other set of enchanted glasses.
Mikari glanced into the room through the open door as Miri went to a small dresser in the corner of an equally small room. Actually, it seemed more like a broom closet than a room, now that Mikari was looking at it. A small, single bed was shoved in a corner along with the small dresser and a metal bar was set across the sides of the room with clothes hanging from it.
There wasn’t even a window! Were all the…? “Are all of the staff rooms like this?” Mikari had asked as she thought it herself.
“Um, no, actually,” Miri shook her head. “All the staff rooms were taken already when Tony and I got here. “We’ve had to make do since Mom brought us here so suddenly. Aunt Muiri says she’s been considering building a new house off to the side for us, but she keeps putting it off.”
“Why?” It begged asking.
“The Harpies, mainly,” Miri shrugged as she took her extra set of glasses off of the dresser- these ones were red framed, hued an ominous shade of blood red. “She doesn’t want to build with them acting up, and plus, we’d have to cut down trees next to their territory, which WOULD make them act up and, well-” She turned and handed Yuki the glasses. “It’s just a big mess.”
“I can see that,” Mikari frowned, faintly. She would have to speak with Ayako about this.
“Aya?” Mikari skipped down the steps out of the main house and onto the Shrine’s yard. The Lycan girl was nowhere to be seen. However, Miri’s Aunt Muiri was. “Miss Muiri?”
“Yes?” The woman looked up from where she was sweeping the floor of the main shrine, working her jaw a bit as she put down her broom.
“Have you seen my partner, Ayako, anywhere?” Mikari asked, not wanting to start something just yet that could spiral out of control.
“Hm,” Muiri mused for a moment, then pointed in a direction, completely unaware of what she was sending the Imp into. “I directed her after Tony. He should be out back chopping wood for the Memorial Fires tonight.”
“Memorial Fires?” Cutting wood for Memorial Fires was okay but not building a house? What in Alcor’s name was Muiri thinking?? While Memorial Fires at least were doable with wood that fell to the ground, actively chopping wood outside of Harpy territory would normally aggravate them as badly as clearing trees down for construction would.
“It’s the least we could do given everything that’s going on,” Muiri said with a slightly sour look to her face. “I just wish it hadn’t come down to this.”
“Thank you,” Mikari bowed slightly and turned in the direction she’d been directed in, which hopefully was nowhere near the Harpy territory. There was a reason people keep them away with wards, after all.
The walk was quiet through the shrine, however, not as quiet as it got when she reached the edge of the forest behind the shrine itself. For a moment, she closed her eyes and listened to the wind.
No bird calls of the normal variety, and no calls of the Harpy kind either. …Strange. Very strange. Strange enough that when two voices echoed faintly through the trees, it was louder than it normally would have been.
“…hat’s when you found out your sister was pregnant?” Ayako was asking.
“Yeah,” Tony replied, followed by the sound of a blade cutting wood. “Aunt Miri figured it out first. Miri just… and we dunno…”
Their voices trailed into muted whispers after that, even as Mikari began to walk into the eerily silent forest. Save for the occasional muttered sound of talking, spliced with a sharp crack of metal meeting wood, there still was nothing.
There was a steady, if slowing, beat to the wood chopping, at least, but it was nothing that would have scared the local wildlife into hiding.
Chop. Pause. “…hen you two argued, did he..?” Ayako’s voice.
Chop. Pause. “…he insisted that she wouldn’t…” Tony’s voice.
Chop. Pause. “I didn’t actually want him DEAD!!” Tony’s voice rose above a whisper and into a shout, and then there were no more chops that followed.
Yes, no more wood was to be chopped that day. All that followed was a wracking sob from Tony, and a familiar whine that Mikari recognized as Ayako’s “Aww, you poor thing” that usually preceded a hug.
The sounds carried louder even as she got closer, but it was when a quick burst of golden light just ahead, followed by a dual yelp of surprise, that the Imp knew she was close. She sped her pace up and ran after that light, wondering just what had caused it. Was it related to the absence of the local wildlife, or was it–?
And then as Mikari Yuki neared a clearing, she slowed to a stop, almost as if Mizar and Alcor were yelling at her to hide, and then quickly did just that- dove behind a tree to hide.
A few moments later- slowly, surely- she peered out from around the side of the tree.
Ayako and Tony were sitting on the ground near a tree stump with a Woodcutter’s Ax wedged firmly into it, and… were bathed in a golden aura? Mikari’s eyes widened as she caught sight of a flow of magical runes floating about within that golden aura. ‘A Soul Bond!?’
Yes, that was the traditional Ancient Script that showed when a Soul Bond was reactivated. Soul Bonds had been an ancient marriage spell whose creation process had been lost due to The Catastrophe oh so many, many centuries ago. It was a spell that was designed to guide two souls together again in the next life after death; and it was a spell that had been known to work for the many countless centuries after the Catastrophe itself. It was such strong magic that no recorded Soul Bond had ever been observed being broken, despite some arcane researchers attempts at doing such over the years.
Mikari frowned- something about that rang a bell in her memories. It was something nagging and screaming that it was important, but the memory itself felt like it was chained to the bottom of a lake and she was stuck on shore. Regardless, though, this newly rediscovered Soul Bond meant…
Well, for starters, this had nothing to do with the quiet forest. Not unless the birds and other native wild life could sense the Soul Bond just waiting for those two to touch each other in order to reactivate the ancient magic. Secondly, this obviously meant that in one of their earliest lives, Ayako and Tony had been lovers, been married with that Soul Bond spell, and–!
Aaaand now they were kissing.
Mikari’s eyes widened again, this time more out of the outright egregious display from her friend, who had initiated the kiss.
In all the time Mikari Yuki had known her, Ayako Mayoi had always scoffed at the idea of a personal romance involving herself and anyone else despite being a fan of the book genre, simply claiming that it wasn’t for her and that if she found someone she’d like she would just simply KNOW.
Well, it looked like she was right on that point- she certainly knew right then and there, even as the golden light started to fade away into invisibility once more.
‘A Soul Bond!? Really, Yaovi??’
Mikari ducked back behind the tree and covered her mouth to prevent herself from squealing loudly at the surprise that she had just seen. This… certainly explained a lot about before, she decided. Yes, it definitely explained a lot, maybe even more than a ‘lot’ in the traditional sense and more like ‘a lot of land that’s a mile wide.’ Such a dramatic thing was something that definitely explained a lot of a lot of things that explained so many things that–
As the two Lycans stopped kissing, Mikari forced her current train of thought to stall on the rails lest she let out some sound that drew attention towards her. (That, and that train of thought had gotten horribly stuck in an endless loop of repeating stations and rails like some children’s toy, which did nobody any good in any situation; let alone THIS situation!!)
“Well….” Ayako giggled, weakly, as if not quite sure what to say. “I certainly didn’t expect a soul bond.”
“Of all the dumb stupid times… Mizar must be laughing at us,” Tony’s voice sounded wracked with guilt. “If I hadn’t kept threatening him… I know all of this wouldn’t have happened.”
Mikari risked looking back at them.
“You can’t know that,” Ayako was massaging her fellow Lycan’s shoulders, probably using some soul-learned skill through muscle memory. (Although, Mikari mused, it could be argued if it was really muscle memory or not. Maybe more of a soul-memory?) “It could have happened regardless. He was trying to help keep her safe, right?”
“But it’s still my fault! I was going to expose him for everything he’d done- the lying, the cheating, the… that fucked up enchantment he put on my sister’s glasses!” Tony ranted. “I even wrote Mom, on the off chance she could help…!” And then he gasped- “Mizar and Alcor- What if she killed him!? What if it was my own mother who killed the man who got Miri pregnant?!”
“Shooosh,” Ayako pressed her head up against Tony’s neck, and rubbed up and down between his jaw and shoulder. That was a technique Mikari had felt Ayako use on her own shoulder once upon a time after a certain stress-filled exam. The sensation of Lycan fur against bare skin rubbing up and down had some kind of calming effect, but the motion had an even more profound effect on the boy it was presently being used on. He leaned into it on familiar instinct- and he reached a hand around to brush up and down Ayako’s right arm.
Neither of them seemed very aware of what was going on, but from an outside perspective, Mikari could see exactly what it was.
This was, for sure, a one-hundred percent genuine soul bond. One Hundred Percent authentic; One Hundred Percent “this can’t be broken;” One hundred percent “Just you try to keep us apart.” No doubt could be shed upon it even though the bond itself was no longer visible. Nope. There was simply no way to fake those memories burned into the soul, those automatic reactions that came without thought or hesitation. Things that just felt right between them.
Mikari had never experienced a Bond personally, nor did she get the feeling that she ever had one in her previous lives, but she knew things just from the experience of observation alone. Her own parents had a Soul Bond, and those same seamless motions came so smoothly after so many years of repeated practice… Even if they’d hit a rough patch after her sister had died. (They still managed to work things out. Eventually. Mostly.)
But really, as wonderful as this moment was for her friend to have rediscovered her eternal Soul Mate, it was going to put a hamper on the case.
Tony was still a critical witness, and now any information he put forwards now could be considered suspect by any jury! They would need to work around this somehow. Although, one piece of information that could not be denied by anyone was that sudden confession of Tony writing his mother. That definitely added a new suspect to the pool.
‘Actually,’ Mikari mused, ‘if she’s the Lycan that mauled him, then it’s possible that…’
Lost in her thoughts, Mikari failed to notice Ayako leaning in, her lips pursing as they neared Tony’s. Mikari failed to notice that their hands were both starting to wander towards places best left untouched unless in private. Which, honestly, they were. It was only because of one wayward soul having wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time that this was even being observed by an outside presence. Really. Even the Creators would have- should have- turned a blind eye to this show of events.
Mikari Yuki failed to notice, that is, until those two started kissing again, but this time with a heavier passion than the first kiss. The spell that made up the Soul Bond’s initial reactivation decided to resurface in that moment and to glow brighter than ever before, which brought Mikari back into the present moment once again, staring straight at a sight which made her cover her mouth to mute a shriek of surprise that already was worming its way past her lips, and then to duck back behind the tree she was hiding behind.
‘Alcor! You tell that partner of yours right now to make this stop!’ Mikari wrenched her eyes closed as she tried to wash the images from her brain. ‘At least make her put it off until we’ve solved the case! This is totally inappropriate behavior!!!’ and then her eyes snapped open in surprise as she swore she heard the wind laughing at her. ‘Do you see what you’ve done to me, Mizar!? You’ve got me acting like Detective Kaie in one of his overprotective Dad Moods!’
Mikari decided that now was the best time to abscond back to the Shrine before she was discovered, or worse, overheard something she definitely did not want to hear. She ran, as silently as she could, but not that those two would have noticed, all things considered. Before she knew it, the Shrine was back in sight again and then–
And then she almost ran face first into Miri. Mikari wheeled her arms out and leaned backwards to skid to a stop, thankfully slowing her momentum down before she did collide with the other Lycan girl.
“Woah,” Miri blinked, “is something wrong?” Mikari held up a finger as she tried to catch her breath from the sudden run. Ah, the universal signal for ‘wait just a moment, please!’ Miri nodded, “Okay, we can sit down over here.” And with that, she quickly guided the student detective over towards a bench where they could sit down.
After a few moments of resting, Mikari finally spoke up. “Please, promise me you won’t tell this to anyone else from my team?”
“Um, sure…” Miri nodded, not quite sure where this was going.
“I just saw your brother and my partner…” Mikari paused. How to describe it? “Soul… bonding? I guess is the polite way of saying it.”
“A Soul Bond?” Miri blinked. “You mean Tony is–?”
“Bonded with Ayako, yeah,” Mikari nodded, looking pale. “I went to find them when I saw this golden glow…. they both were as surprised by that as I was… and they didn’t even see me they were so caught up in it!” She planted both of her palms to her face, directly over her eyes. “Alcor, please, someone get me some brain bleach! I did NOT need to see any of that!”
“Sorry, we don’t have any of that,” Miri apologized for the lack of the classical fictional object/spell. Memory manipulation was internationally illegal for a rea… son? “Well, that’s just…” Miri blinked, going silent for a few moments as she thought on something that made her eyes widen slightly. “Huh.“
“Something up?” Mikari asked, frowning at the sudden trail off.
“It’s just… weird, is all,” Miri scratched at the back of her head. “That my brother would have a soul bond with someone he recently met here on the island, and I met someone the same way.”
“…What?” Mikari asked flatly, not quite getting what the other girl was hinting at until she spoke again.
“Shirou,” Miri said quietly, almost near a whisper. “One day it was… well… the same thing. I was talking to him about my grades and then he accidentally touched my hand… Then there was all this light and we just knew that we were screwed.” She sighed. “So I forged a letter from mom so Shirou could tutor me and we could spend time together to just figure all of this out.”
“Huh,” Mikari’s face went blank as she processed this new information. “Well, that’s one reason to have an affair, I guess,” she decided after a moment. “Kinda bad what with the age gap, though. But still…”
“Yeah,” Miri nodded. “It’s not usually like that, I don’t think…” She paused, “Although, I think it’s happened to me and him a few different times in older lives. Something must have happened in our firstish life to get us offset like this, I think.”
“Memories coming back?” Mikari pursed her lips for a moment.
“Not right now,” Miri shook her head. “And with Shirou dead, I don’t think I’ll remember too much more either. I usually only remembered little things from back when we were together, and not anything outside of that.”
“What kind of things?” Mikari asked, genuinely curious. Miri recounted a few things she’d remembered- previous lives where she had been a healer of some kind, or where she had been an aspiring artist. There were other things, such as moments not related to any job or any specific life- just general ideas and motions that she’d lived repeatedly. Things like how to cook a favorite meal (Even though Miri had yet to personally take a cooking class yet a day in her current life) or how to wash a child’s clothes in just the right way.
“A kid’s clothes?” Mikari asked.
“Yeah, I can’t remember anyone specific, but,” Miri nodded slightly. “I know sometime in another life I’ve had kids before with Shirou… whoever he was then.”
And so they sat there for a few moments, silently.
And then Mikari asked, “So… does that mean you know what’s causing your morning sickness now?”
“Know?” Miri blinked, frowned as she thought for a few moments. “Well, it’s… it’s…” She paused, and then her eyes widened and her hands went straight to her stomach. “Oh, Mizar. No! No way!!“
“By the way, apparently one of your classmates figured it out too,” Mikari hummed after a moment. “Your brother and Aunt have been keeping it from you for some reason, though.”
“No, it’s not that,” Miri shook her head. “I just… I didn’t believe Tony when he told me, and Aunt Muiri didn’t say anything so… that and when Shirou said he’d gotten hit by a rogue spell a few years back that should have made it impossible… I just, I didn’t think it was possible.”
Mikari’s eyes narrowed, “Well, that spell thing’s going to be hard to verify.”
“Why’s that?” Miri asked.
“Well, for starters, rogue spells like that don’t hold up in court as a defense,” Mikari explained. “So even if he did get hit by something, it might have faded over time and he didn’t know it, and since the only permanent way to stop that is with an infertility rune tattooed directly to the skin… We can’t verify either of those. His… ah… y’know…” She scratched at her nose and glanced sideways. “It was cut off before he was mauled.”
“…” Miri’s eyes dulled for a moment as she processed this information, and then asked, faintly, “And the Sword-Cane you asked about…?”
“Is the weapon that did it,” Mikari nodded.
“Poor Shirou,” Miri sniffed. “I feel like… like we just never get enough time.”
“Time, unfortunately,” Mikari sighed, “has a way of getting away from us.”
“Yeah.” Miri stood up suddenly, wobbling on her feet for a moment before stabilizing, and declaring, “I think I need to talk with my Aunt for a few minutes!”
“Why’s that?” Mikari asked.
“I need to ask her why she didn’t say anything when Tony brought it up last!” Miri smiled sadly after a moment, “I’d go talk to Tony first but, ah… I think he’s busy right now.”
“Just a smidgen,” Mikari smirked as she held up her right index and thumb together in approximation of some measurement of time.
Once Miri had walked off, Mikari decided to just sit there and wait for either Miri or Ayako to come back. It was really going to be a race against time to see which happened first. As she waited, her mind wandered. ‘Seriously?? Two different soul bonds from two siblings within a month of each other?’
If the Reaper in Green had some strange plan up her sleeves, it certainly would explain the age difference between Shirou and Miri across multiple lives.
Soul Bonds typically worked to make sure that the two souls in question would always end up together regardless of the circumstances of their deaths- sure, sure. But they also usually kept any age differences down to a few years at a minimum by holding one soul back from reincarnation until the other had come to join them! These were just simply the facts that everyone took for granted! Things would goof occasionally- what system didn’t?- but it would sort itself out soon enough! Or…. that was the assumption, and there was an old saying about that since before the world had been made.
‘Then again,’ Mikari frowned, ‘the magic itself isn’t really sentient, is it?’
The Bond itself was more of a promise, and a way to remember memories better than the Reincarnation Cycle typically allowed. But the magic involved held no real hold over the Reincarnation cycle; like the part where souls would usually be held back until their mate joined them to reincarnate. No, that power alone fell to one creature and one creature alone.
So now that left the question as “Why?”
Why would the Reaper who helmed the reincarnation cycles do such a thing like this?
Idly, Mikari conjured up a memory of a picture of the Reaper herself from one of the Mystryal textbooks. Perpetually young with skin as pale as death. Piercing, yet paradoxically pale green eyes that shone brighter than the muted green dress she’d perpetually wear and yet never get dirty. Her black painted lips would quirk into a smirk at the picture taker as she mused aloud on their previous life, all while holding one of her infamous “Lucky Life Charms” or whatever they had been called at the time of the picture’s capture.
Yaovi – The Reaper in Green – was one of the only beings from that ancient time whose comfort zone was almost entirely in the public light. Not even the Guardian Trio who made their home in Lohck’s Eye Quay were seen as often as the personification of Death and Rebirth was in day to day life, and you had a better chance of seeing one of them over the Pathfinder, or the Patron of Thieves.
(As a rule of thumb, if the Lucky Cat’s Guild’s patron herself was seen by anyone not of her organization, then you were in for a very interesting day to say the least.)
All of those interesting viability habits were, of course, ignoring summoning rituals, and historically the guardians of the world answered even less of those now when compared to the times Pre-Cataclysm.
The very same Cataclysm that had wiped out all knowledge of how to craft Soul Bonds in the first place, leaving the bonds as ancient things that signified a love that spanned across all of time and space like a story that never wanted to end.
Had Yaovi had a hand in that? Lightening her work load for the countless years to come? Or had she been forced to do it in a deal? Or maybe a plan had been made from the beginning with when and how the Soul Bonds would be created, and for how long they would even last. That probably was the case, which-ever statement above ended up being the correct answer on this odd Multiple choice test.
Beings like Yaovi saw time in a different span than everyone down here in the mortal world did, Mikari knew that as a fact. Time simply just meant different things to those who lived different life lengths. Celestial Ascendants like Yaovi planned for things on the scales of lifetimes rather than hours. So if she had intentionally staggered Miri and Shirou by several years, repeatedly, just to arrange for the meeting of Tony and Ayako- wait, where had that idea come from all of a sudden?– the question was maybe not just “Why?”
No. What was so important that it required doing such a thing? she frowned. For that matter, what if–
It was then that Miri came walking back over, looking pale in the face as she sat back down next to Mikari. “Mizar, sometimes I wonder if my Aunt’s a good person or not.”
“What happened?” Mikari asked, surprised by that sudden change in tone.
“Aunt Muiri just…” Miri held her hands out in the universal gesture for “What the hell were you thinking?” and then said, “She laughed and said it was about time I’d figured it out… in some, ah, not so polite words.” A scowl graced the girl’s face, “She brought my mom into it too- said I was just like her- and then she just went back to writing in her journal like I hadn’t even interrupted her.”
“Hmf,” Mikari scowled, “well that wasn’t very nice of her.” And then a thought hit her. ‘A Journal, huh?’ She repeated the words in her mind as the thought continued to roll over like a snowball rolling down a mountain side, growing larger and gaining momentum as the opening overture to the avalanche that was to come soon enough.
“Oh well,” Miri sighed, “I supposed now we just wait for my brother and your partner to finish up with… whatever they’re doing.”
“Eyuuup,” Mikari nodded. “That just about wraps it up in a nice shiny bow, doesn’t it?”
Ayako was oddly quiet, but strangely happy looking when she and Mikari returned from the Lycan run Twin Moon Shrine. But if it hadn’t been for the sounds of her claws tapping against the Import Office’s waiting room’s tiled floor, Tyler could have sworn the girl was walking on air.
“Here are the enchanted glasses,” Mikari held out a small bag that contained two sets of identical, black rimmed, clearly enchanted glasses. “Take them in back, then come back here so we can head out again,” She handed him the evidence.
“Well then,” Tyler mused as he looked over the bag. “Now we just need to wait for Mayoi and Kaie to find a local enchanter with the skill to observe their construction.”
“Hehehe,” Ayako giggled at something she found funny in that last sentence as she slid down onto a chair.
“Is she alright?” Tyler asked, glancing at his fellow Mystryal student with a concern that rarely graced his face.
“Oh, uh,” Mikari blushed for a moment before coming up with a believable excuse. “There was some catnip out in the forest behind the shrine.”
“Catnip?” Tyler narrowed his eyes at her, “But that only affects cats, Yuki.”
“It was some Lycan version of it then,” Mikari waved it off. “You don’t expect me to know the name of every alchemy ingredient, do you? That’s soooo not my specialty.”
Tyler narrowed his eyes for a moment, glancing between Yuki and Ayako, then sighed, shook his head, “Whatever,” and turned to return to the makeshift lab in the kitchen of the Import shop.
Mikari sighed in relief once he’d left, and shot a quick glare at Ayako. “You so owe me for this, Aya.”
“I know,” Ayako giggled, eyes closing in content. “Who knew reactivating a soul bond was so much fun?“
Mikari Yuki, detective in training, could only plant both her palms directly onto her face and swear up and down at Mizar for causing such chaos in her life.
Tyler came back into the room a few minutes later, “I’ll leave it there for now. So what next?”
“Now, we go find ourselves a cane-sword,” Mikari smirked. “Our person of interest is Matoi Tsubaki, if she or her daughter are there, we ask if we can search her house for any journals Shirou might have left behind. In reality, though, we’re going to search for the murder weapon.”
“She’d be pretty stupid to keep it around if she killed her husband,” Tyler remarked.
“Oh, it’s definitely long gone by now if it’s the murder weapon,” Mikari agreed on that fact, then held up a finger. “BUT! If it’s there! Then that rules it out as our murder weapon!”
“And if it’s suspiciously missing, then it definitely IS our murder weapon and we no longer have to search the whole town for a proverbial needle in the haystack that is this town.” Tyler nodded, “I see, I see… but shouldn’t we wait for Mayoi and Kaie to come back first?”
“There’s no time to waste, Bones!” Mikari punched her left fist into her right hand. “The first forty eight hours are critical to evidence gathering and case solving! Besides, Mayoi’s looking for an Enchanter still, right!? Who knows how long that could take!” She added, slightly sing-song-y, “A~nd be~sides thaaa~at, there might be something more there that could blow the case wide open!”
“What’s gotten you so fired up, Yuki?” Tyler asked.
“Something Miri said when we were getting the glasses,” Mikari explained in a non-explanatory way. “We’ve gotta get moving!”
“All right, fine,” Tyler frowned, glancing at Ayako. “What about Aya?”
Mikari looked at the smiling, slightly drooling Lycan girl. “She’ll be fine here for now. Besides, we need someone to stay behind to tell Mayoi and Kaie where we went, right?”
Tyler relented under that logic, “Urgh. I’m going to regret this but fine. Let’s get going then.”
And so they left, leaving Ayako sitting in her chair, daydreaming lazily about lifetimes gone past, and craving a second lunch all of a sudden. “I wonder if there are any places that sell cheese sticks?” She asked the empty room.
Matoi Tsubaki had definitely gone missing since that morning’s previous questioning and her mysterious ‘lunch break,’ forcing Mikari and Tyler to go to the next best source: Tsukia Tsubaki, who had returned home after her questioning. And no, she’d opened the door with in greeting, she had NOT seen her mother either since breakfast.
Mikari elbowed Tyler in the side to prevent him from making any irresponsible comments, and explained why they were there while he recovered from the sudden assault.
“You want to search my house for anything that my dad might have left behind?” Tsukia blinked. “Well, alright, that’s fine with me.” She let them in, and asked, “So what is it you’re looking for, exactly?”
“A Cane-sword,” Tyler said, grimacing as he rubbed at his ribs, “specifically one with a rapier blade. We suspect it was used in your father’s murder.”
“Oh, you mean the rainbow-aura cane from Professor Gage’s belongings?” Tsukia asked.
“Gage?” Tyler asked, frowning at the name.
“I’m guessing that’s Rodney Bell’s middle name,” Mikari answered, to which Tsukia nodded. “We’d also like to look through whatever other belongings you might have from him.”
“It’s all in dad’s study,” Tsukia said, leading them to the room in question, or more specifically, the door leading into it. “Dad had the lock magically enchanted so only he could enter, but he worked up a skeleton key for me if I needed to get in to talk to him,” She jumped up slightly and grabbed a key off of the door frame’s top. “Mom didn’t know about this. Dad practically blew a gasket last time mom went into his study unannounced.” She twirled it around for a moment in distant amusement, “It’s made out of a harpy bone we found a few years ago when he was walking me to my first day of school.”
‘Cute, if just a little bit Grim,’ Tyler thought, ‘to make a key out of a piece of bone.’ A twist of the literal skeleton key later, and they were let into the Office/Study that Shirou Tsubaki had used prior to his death.
“Okay, so the cane should be on display right about…” Tsukia paused in front of a large set of hook racks on the wall, most of them filled with something. “Here??” Her brain finally caught up with what she was seeing- which is to say: Nothing at All.
Mikari frowned, and reached out to swipe at the conspicuously empty space in the collection of artifacts, “Damn, it’s not here.”
“Why would you think it was there?” Tsukia asked, frowning at the odd logic. “It couldn’t turn invisible or anything.”
“Coffee Maker,” Mikari and Tyler explained simultaneously, which meant absolutely nothing to Tsukia. Instead, she just smiled and nodded, pretending to understand what they were talking about.
“So,” Tyler frowned, “Murder weapon for sure?”
“Oh we’re well out of the wild theory category on this one,” Mikari nodded, then started searching the rest of the room.
“Murder Wea-!?” Tsukia stopped herself mid exclamation. “My dad was killed by his own sword!?“
“Did he take it out of his office often?” Tyler asked as Mikari opened a desk drawer, obviously looking for something else besides a murder weapon.
“No, not really. He said it was too nice to use,” Tsukia shook her head, “but sometimes he’d take it to work on some of the Harpy Wards around school.” She frowned, “And I think I did see it with him yesterday when he was talking with that… other student.”
“You don’t need to lie,” Mikari said, “we know he was having a Soul Bonded affair with Miri Nori that resulted in her pregnancy, and that-” She was interrupted by a sharply inhaled gasp, followed by a loud THUD. Tyler and Mikari both turned towards Tsukia, and blinked upon realizing that the girl had fainted. After a few moments of staring, the Imp girl flatly said: “Wild Speculation here, but I don’t think she knew about the affair.”
“Gee, Mikari,” The dragon boy set a flat gaze towards her as he used her rarely used first name to hammer home the point, “Ya’ think?”
“Are you okay?” Mikari asked as she handed Tsukia an ice pack.
“My dad… was having an affair with Miri?” Tsukia asked with a grimace as she pressed the ice pack up against her head. “And they were Soul Bonded!?” She nearly fainted again on the spot, “Oh Alcor, that makes so much sense now… the fighting with Tony.” She looked panicked for a moment, “Oh Mizar, Tony didn’t kill my dad, did he!?”
“We’re pretty sure he didn’t, no,” Mikari cut off Tyler’s next remark before it could flit out into the air and cause trouble, and then turned on her heels to face the dragon with a confused look. “So he had the cane with him at School yesterday? That means that anyone could have taken it to use on him later on.”
“Not much use to the suspect pool,” Tyler frowned as he searched through a notebook’s contents. “Just kind of increases it like a Helio-Whale on a sea-grass diet.”
“Even Tony or Miri…” Tsukia groaned.
“Miri’s out of the suspect pool firmly because of a multitude of things,” Mikari said. “One of them is the fact that your dad enchanted her glasses with what I’m betting is a perception altering spell of some kind.”
“He enchanted her glasses?!” Tsukia dropped the ice pack to double-face palm. “Mizar, why would my dad do anything like this!?”
“He also was cheating grades at school, and hid it from the staff by doing something to their coffee,” Tyler added, “if it’s any consolation.”
“….No that’s not a help!” Tsukia sobbed. “My dad… he… everything I’ve been hearing since he died makes him out to be a monster of some kind! Why? What happened to turn him into that?! He was a good man! He was just an enchanting teacher! Why would he do all of …this!!?“
“We don’t know,” Mikari put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
For a few minutes, the room went silent save for Tsukia’s sobbing, and Tyler Obonz and Mikari Yuki reading through journals. Then, “Ol’ Bonesy” made an “Ah” sound.
“What is it?” Mikari asked.
“In this one journal, Shirou makes note of something Professor Bell wrote in another journal.” Tyler switched books and quoted, “‘If we are to truly grasp the means of traversing the stars to track down the demon’s hidden realm, we must first figure out how to exploit the summoning system that can bring them here.'” He paused as he switched back to the last book, “Apparently, there’s a hidden memorial to this unnamed demon in the forest to the west, just a bit behind the Nori Family Shrine, somewhere in the Harpy territory, it looks like.”
“Grade adjustment, a secret affair, now demon summoning?” Tsukia sniffed, “Just what the hell was my dad doing!?“
“There’s more,” Tyler growled as he paraphrased the journal’s multiple handwriting styles, “it says here that the ritual to summon this demon requires a sacrifice. A Large sacrifice. Looks like there are a few translations here to this one line. Shirou seems to have gone with ‘a soul’s spawn twice over must be slain.'”
Mikari’s face went pale. “Please tell me there isn’t a ritualistic time limit?”
“The two deaths must be no more than nine months apart,” Tyler answered grimly.
“He was going to kill me, wasn’t he?” Tsukia gulped. “He was going to kill me, and then he was going to kill whatever kid Miri had.”
“If– and let me stress If- that’s the case,” Mikari frowned, “it looks like we’ve got increased motive for someone to want Shirou dead.”
“And it’s a gruesome one, Yuki,” Tyler replied with a shake of his head. “Mizar, what did we get ourselves into?”
“Aya?” Kana Mayoi asked in surprise as she and Kaie returned to the office, only to find a still high-on-happiness Ayako waiting for them, and nobody else. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Ayako nodded. “Mika’ and Bonsey went out.”
“Went out for what?” Kaie asked.
“T’find the murder weapon,” Ayako replied.
“Damn it,” And so Kaie stormed off, leaving mother and daughter behind for a few moments of relative solitude.
“Sooo…” Mayoi sat down next to the girl. “What’s up?”
Ayako considered her words for a few moments, then said, “Memories from past lives.”
Mayoi turned that sentence over in her head for a moment, then blinked in realization. “You’ve got a Soul Bond with Tony Nori?”
“Eyuup,” Ayako nodded. “Mika’ was mad a little. Didn’t even tell Bonesy.”
“I can see why,” Mayoi sighed, and then reached an arm out and around to pull Ayako into a hug. “C’mmere, you.”
“You’re not mad at me?” Ayako asked.
“Nah,” Mayoi shook her head. “I sort of figured this was going to happen. I’ve made my peace with it already.”
“What if we had sex already?” Ayako’s question came out in a whisper, so quiet so much so that Mayoi wondered for a moment if it had even really been asked, and wasn’t just part of her imagination. It very well could have been, actually. Just one of Kana’s thoughts manifesting in Ayako’s voice… but that probably wasn’t the case, and either way, remaining silent to that question once asked… even if it was in her head? That simply wasn’t doable.
‘Better play it safe and assume she actually asked it, then,’ Mayoi sighed inwardly, and simply repeated, “I’m not going to get mad with whatever you two get up to.” She paused to tighten her one armed hug, and continued, “You’re growing up so fast, Aya. You were already leaps and bounds tougher than you should’ve been when we first met. So I’ll trust that you’re ready for anything you feel ready for. Just…” She paused for barely a second, but it was noticeable. “Just promise you’ll come talk to me if you feel out of your depth, okay?”
“Okay,” Ayako nodded, and then nuzzled into the hug. “Thanks, mom.”
“Anytime, kiddo,” Mayoi closed her eyes and smiled. “Any time.”