Three journals had literally been dropped into Kana Mayoi’s lap. Never before had her own words been thrown back into her face so fully. It was almost a cliche straight out of a detective’s novel. Sadly, however…
“You went and investigated on your own!?” Ranagi Kaie was livid. Actually, Tyler Obonz wasn’t quite sure that was the right word, but regardless, it fit the situation well enough for him. Certainly better than the phrase “Overprotective Dad Mode Engage!” that Mikari had muttered upon entering the Import Shop.
“We uncovered vital information to the case!” Mikari Yuki protested.
“Information we would have gotten eventually!” Kaie started pacing. “Mayoi, do you believe this?!”
“I believe they’ve certainly given us cause for concern,” Mayoi frowned as she thumbed through one of the important journals that Tyler had discovered. “If all of this is correct and not just insane rambling, someone– and I’m not deciding IF these journals are recent, or even Shirou’s to begin with until more evidence surfaces- was planning on actually resurrect some ancient demon from the Void between worlds.” She scowled at the paper, “Who knows how old this thing is, the paper itself is probably at least thirty years old! This could be something Shirou got from the previous professor, which means that… Maybe Shirou was actually working to undo whatever demon summoning happened to begin with?”
“Even so, the rules of the internship-” Kaie began to rant.
“Allow students to do their own work so long as they show everything they found- which they did!” Mayoi snapped at him rather sharply, “Now shut up and lemme read, Ranagi.” Kaie crossed his arms and fumed silently as Mayoi read, “Several mentions of a cult in this. One member native to this island as well as him and others who moved here recently, but other than that the writer doesn’t identify them. Hints this is really old, mixed in with some recent info.” Her tail swished angrily, “Our motive keeps changing, and with it, so does the ‘who,’ but it’s so frustrating that our suspect pool barely shrinks at all.”
Tyler coughed politely, “If I may?” Kaie glared at him, but Mayoi nodded for her fellow dragon to speak. “It seems to me that our likeliest course of action is to look at the demon shrine hidden outside the Nori shrine that the book mentions. I suspect that it is more than likely the crime scene where Shirou Tsubaki was killed regardless of how old the book is or isn’t.” He then explained his reasoning, “There was a disturbing lack of blood at the initial scene for the amount of blood lost, and since the Lycan mauling was staged, it’s likely the body was too.”
“So we go to the shrine, we find out more about who killed Shirou,” Mayoi nodded. “All right, I’ll buy it. Yuki, Tyler, I’m going to ask you to stay behind here–“
“What?!” Mikari cried foul, “But we–!”
“–And WAIT for my Enchanting Expert to come in to disenchant the glasses,” Mayoi continued on unimpeded. (She basically just stampeded over her student’s interjection with her own sentence.) “I’ll take Kaie and Aya with me to investigate the shrine.” She paused for a moment, looking through the window into the Import Office’s commanding officer’s private office.
Ayako was there talking with Tsukia and trying to keep the Drow’s mind off of any negative thoughts. Distantly, through the window, Mayoi heard her daughter say something like “I’m sure things will get better soon!”
“Besides that,” Mayoi continued after a moment, “you two were there with Tsukia when you all discovered all of this. Someone’s got to keep an eye on her in case one of these ‘partners’ tries to come after her. And right now I’m trusting you two more with that than anyone from the town guard.”
“What!? But they’ve–!?” Kaie went silent when Mayoi glared at him in a way that clearly said “we’ll talk about this later.”
“So then,” Mayoi concluded, “are we all clear?”
“Crystal, ma’am,” Mikari saluted.
“Absolutely,” Tyler nodded.
Kaie crossed his arms, then added, “I don’t like it, but yes. We’re clear.”
“Good,” Mayoi relaxed slightly, “let’s get to work then.”
“A Demon Shrine?” Muiri asked in what seemed to be genuine surprise, apparently unaware of the fact that Miri and Tony had sneaked into the room behind her. “I never knew something like that existed back there in the Harpy Nests!”
“It might have something to do with your harpy problem,” Mayoi guessed, observing Ayako sneaking away from her and Kaie to go over to talk with Tony and Miri. ‘Good Girl,’ she fought back a smile, “You said they were getting worse lately, right? Angry and such?”
Muiri had not, in fact, said such a thing, but Mayoi didn’t comment on the inconsistency. Nor did Mayoi comment on the fact that Muiri had said “Harpy Nests” instead of just “Harpy Territory.”
However, Muiri just rolled right along with the punches and said, “Oh dear, you’re right, I think the timing of it all does line up a bit!”
“We have a map, but you know these forests better than we do. Would you mind leading us there?” Mayoi asked, and then used her tail to lightly hit Kaie in the back of his leg to get him to nod in agreement.
“Ah, yeah, that would be really helpful.” Kaie then muttered something about being really good with maps, but fell silent when Mayoi hit him again with her tail. He glared slightly at his occasionally insufferable partner.
“Of course, I’ll be glad to help,” Muiri nodded, and started to walk off. Kaie followed her immediately, but Mayoi hung back just long enough to nod over at Ayako, who nodded back in turn.
Once they were out of hearing range, Ayako smiled at the twin Lycans. “So, do you know where that shrine is?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Tony nodded. “Aunt Muiri told us never to go near that part of the forest since it was in the middle of the Harpy nests behind the wards. But considering everything that’s happened…”
“I’m willing to head there,” Miri said with a curt nod. “I have to know why Shirou really died. I need to know what kind of person he really was deep down.”
“I think that’s what we all want by now,” Ayako smiled.
“What. Is. Your. Damage?!” Mayoi hissed at Kaie as they followed Muiri through the forest at a slight distance.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kaie grumbled lowly.
Oh, Mayoi realized instantly, so he was playing THAT game, was he? Well too bad, because Mayoi wasn’t playing back. “You said to me at the end of the last case that you wanted to see Yuki take on some initiative and investigate on her own,” Mayoi reminded him, “and then when she does that, suddenly it’s a Bad Thing!?”
“They’re supposed to notify us first about whatever they’re doing and-” Kaie hissed in pain as Mayoi hit him on the back side of the head with two fingers.
“You Idjit! That has nothing to do with it!” Mayoi scowled at her seemingly bipolar partner. “We’ve been partners for far too long for me to not notice when you’re acting like the stupid protagonist who doesn’t want to let others help him out with his case!”
“This isn’t one of your damned detective novels, Kana,” Kaie narrowed his eyes at her. “This is real life. We’re dealing with Demon Cults now! This is way out of their league and you know it.”
“Ah, now it all makes sense,” Mayoi rolled her eyes at her partner as she stated the clear and obvious, “this has to do with Kendal’s Mom.”
“This is neither the time nor place for this talk, Kana,” Kaie continued to glare at her. “We’re on assignment.”
“I beg to differ,” Mayoi crossed her arms, and then sung his first name one syllable at a time, “Ra-Na-Gi, obviously this is the best time to talk about our jobs as parents versus detectives.”
“Fine,” Kaie huffed, “you saw the symbols in the book. You know what they mean.”
“Of course I do, but that doesn’t mean we should be punishing our interns for doing their damned job!” Mayoi glared at him. “The way I see it, the more of us working on different angles of the same case, the better. And the more of us working a case, the faster it gets solved!”
“I just don’t want to see any of them end up like I did,” Kaie replied after a moment, relaxing and clenching his left hand into a fist repeatedly. “It’s just not-”
“Pardon my intrusion,” Muiri spoke up then, “But I seem to have missed your destination.”
“Missed how?” Mayoi asked, frowning at Muiri’s rather ‘Sudden’ declaration.
“I think we just walked in a giant circle around the Moon Shrines,” Muiri laughed as if it were a simple joke.
Mayoi glanced at Kaie and wriggled her eyebrows in victory. ‘I knew it’, she beamed at him. And then her nose scrunched up in dismay as she smelled something in the air. “Ah,” Mayoi said as she started to wobble on her feet. “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
“Wait, what…?” Kaie asked before…
And then Mayoi and Kaie both fell unconscious- collapsing to the ground as Muiri just smirked, confident in her triumph, as well as her immunity to the knock out gas that had been used. Faintly, a black aura flared up around her, burning away the gas as it neared her.
“This…” Ayako gulped at the sight of the very demonic looking shrine. It was overgrown with plants that seemed to have been burned black, and all the stonework was similarly scorched. There was a large summoning circle painted on the ground in a dried, formerly liquid, brown colored substance, with a large patch pooled in one part of it, making it useless for it’s intended purposes. “This is definitely the place.”
If the massive amounts of blood didn’t indicate that this was definitely a murder scene, the random skeleton fragments lying about was the clincher… not only that, but there was a recently deceased, fur covered corpse in the center of the summoning circle.
This whole place gave off the vibe of imminent doom to any who trespassed- along with the undeniable pressure of being watched by something. Miri took one look at the corpse before covering her mouth as she muttered a prayer to Alcor and Mizar.
Tony confirmed Ayako’s suspicions a mere second later, “That’s… that’s mom.”
The body in the clearing was a female Lycan in full on “Werewolf” Mode. The fur pattern may have been mottled with blood and ritualistic symbols, but it was still recognizable to the twins next to Ayako.
They probably also placed it by a partially obscured scent. Obscured by what? Decay, primarily, but also an irksomely familiar odor to Ayako.
‘Sulfur and Lamia Lubricant?’ Ayako frowned as she looked at the body from a distance. There was no rapier in sight, but from the ghastly wounds in the body, Ayako could reasonably guess that the murder weapon was that same rapier. But the question now was, “what next?” What next what next what next. Ayako racked her memories for a moment, trying to remember procedure… ‘Screw procedure,’ Mikari normally held the imaging gems, but on this specific trip, Ayako had thought ahead to take one from storage. (All right, if Ayako was being completely honest with anyone here, she stole it out of the storage case to delete that one picture on it while Mikari and Tyler were out searching the Tsubaki house, but Who’s Counting!? There’s a DEAD. BODY. And a FRESH. CRIME. SCENE. Right here, Right NOW.)
Out came the Imaging Gem, and Ayako tapped it once before throwing it into the air, “Cover your eyes!” She warned. Tony and Miri did just that, and a moment later, the Imaging Gem flared to life.
Normally, the crystalline image capturing devices took anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes to record a crime scene of variable sizes at optimal levels, and you had to walk around the scene carrying the crystal while it recorded, too, to get anything decent.
However, for situations like this where time was definitely of the essence (the whole site was giving off an ominous vibe that just got larger the longer they stayed), the gems had simple instructions: “Tap Once, Throw into Air, Catch.”
The whole field was recorded in a snap shot, not to ideal levels of professional standard, but it would do to verify if the scene had changed any the next time they came to it.
Ayako caught the gem after the pulse finished, and turned to her companions, “Let’s go.”
They ran and they ran as fast as they could. And once they exited the forest, and hit the road heading from the Moons Shrine back into town, they kept running.
Suddenly, the safe shelter of that family run shrine just didn’t feel so safe anymore. Especially not with the continuing presence of something watching them.
Oh. What was doing the watching, you ask? A pair of very dead looking eyes lying in some rather badly burnt sockets, all part of a skull that was covered in charred flesh and burnt bone. And then the creature leaped out of the trees after the three Lycans with a horrible cry of un-death.
An “Um, excuse me?” followed a knock from the front of the Import Shop.
“I’ll go check it out,” Mikari said to Tyler before heading out to the front room to answer the door. “Yeah?”
“I’m looking for someone from Mystryal?” On the other side was Lizzy, the Spriggain girl that Mayoi had talked with before.
“I’m Mikari Yuki,” Mikari introduced herself, “I’m a student from there.”
“Oh, cool, cool…” The girl’s turquoise eyes blinked. “Is Detective Mayoi here?”
“She’s out investigating something right now,” Mikari answered. “Is something wrong?”
“Um, well,” Lizzy laughed nervously, “she asked me to come down to take a look at something that was enchanted?”
“Wait, you’re the enchanting expert Mayoi called in?” Mikari asked.
“I dunno about expert, but I guess that’s me,” Lizzy nodded. “I think she thought of me because I told her I knew there was an enchantment on Miri’s glasses.”
“How could you tell there was an enchantment?” Mikari asked.
“Well, the fact that they were enchanted was pretty obvious,” Lizzy explained simply enough, but continued on with a longer description of her deductions, “but what they did was pretty subtle. If it was something generic like school work, or lunch, she’d listen just fine, but if I tried talking to her about anything that Mister Tsubaki evidently thought dangerous, she’d just sort of ignore me and brush my concerns off. I saw the lenses glow during times like that, too, like the magic was having to work hard to do it’s thing. I couldn’t get a real good look at the runes then, but I saw enough to figure out what was going on!” She smiled, faintly embarrassed, “So, yeah, that’s basically it.”
Mikari processed that for a moment, as if processing the information passed on to her. And then, making a decision, she grabbed Lizzy’s hand and shook it with a triumphant cry of “You’re Hired!”
It couldn’t really fly, but damn it all if it couldn’t jump. One strike was all it took to land a hit on Tony’s arm before any of them knew what was coming from that horrid sound.
Blood went flying, but with a roar and a snarl, Tony partially shifted- just enough to slam his right fist into the things’ neck and send the mutilated monster flying back the way it came.
‘Okay,’ Ayako thought as they ran for safety, ‘so I stand corrected, it CAN fly. Juuust not under it’s own power. That’s all.’
It was a long/short way back into town whatever way they looked at it. A short walk on a normal, non hurried day… Excruciatingly long when being chased by some unknown monster. An unknown monster that was quickly snapping its head back into place and howling an even more mutilated cry at them.
“We need a plan!” Ayako yelled out as they continued their run for town. There was the bridge over the river not too far away… but now it was definitely farther away than she would have liked.
“If we can stop for a few moments once we’re somewhere safe, I can draw an anti-harpy ward!” Miri volunteered.
“With what?” Tony asked. “And is that thing even a harpy!?” He glanced back to see the demonic looking animal leaping and bounding down the road after them, and then quickly looked forwards again so as not to trip. “It’s like a zombie or something!”
“I don’t know! If it’s not a Harpy, I’ll think of something!” Miri shot a glance over her shoulder back at her brother, and then gasped- “Tony! Your arm-!”
“We’ll fix it later!” Tony countered. “We’ve gotta get somewhere safe first!”
“What if it’s infected though!?” Miri asked, very much concerned for her brother’s well being. It was very well possible that whatever had happened to the “Harpy” could be infectious.
Ayako felt twinge of a nagging doubt over that recently reforged soul bond, and knew somehow that it wasn’t- but this wasn’t the time to be worrying about such things. Not with a monster trailing them.
They hit the Bridge, and Ayako stalled briefly to let the two other Lycans get ahead of her while she channeled a spell. “I’ll stall it!” She called out, focusing some small part of her magic reserves into what should be a basic warding spell… And then she threw the magic book out the window by throwing the half-formed spell at the charging monster.
A flash of bubble-gum pink energy occurred at the point of impact- but Ayako didn’t stay to observe her handiwork, instead, she continued to run.
Miri was already stalling slightly to see what was wrong with Tony’s arm, and Ayako rolled her eyes faintly before pushing them both on ahead with a cry of, “KEEP MOVING!”
Tyler Obonz observed the Spriggain girl working with the same general skills he used when dissecting a body, dissecting and pulling part at the seams with a surgical precision that spoke at a skill she was destined for. But instead of cutting flesh, the Spriggain girl’s turquoise eyes were working furiously on forcing various enchantment runes to surface from beneath other runes so she could figure out what was going on with the overall enchantment.
All the subtle little things Tyler saw in himself were reflected in the way this girl- this random girl who had never stepped foot off of the island of her birth in her entire life- processed the runes on the coffee maker and the two sets of glasses, all without damaging or destroying either enchanted piece.
Like Ayako could smell a lie, Tyler could cut apart a body to figure out cause of death, or Yuki could theorize up the misplaced facts into a solid whole- this girl- named Elizabeth “Lizzy” Smith, as she’d formally introduced herself to him- was a natural at enchantments and magic.
In fact, she was such a natural at it that it made Tyler wonder if she shouldn’t be taking classes at Mystryal or joining the Mages Guild. He’d have to suggest both of those to her later, given a chance.
“This rune here,” Lizzy deduced after a few moments, tapping a pencil on her paper showing a certain rune she’d copied from the glasses internal enchantments, “it’s not a typical rune, but it’s present on both sets of glasses. Where-as the Coffee Maker has a different rune in its place. But otherwise, the basic enchantment on all of these are identical.” She chewed on the non-sharpened tip of her pencil for a moment, “It looks a little bit like a Summoning circle, so I’d say these runes are more of a signature than anything. You usually only see these kinds of runes in magic that’s tied to a specific person or people, like binding circles or summoning circles, but it’s definitely a signature in the case of the glasses. It’s cut off from the rest of the Rune circuits just as a sort of thing to exist on its own.”
That straight forward deduction, plus the way she mapped out the various other enchantments on the coffee maker that hadn’t been blatantly copied onto the glasses, gave Tyler a firm idea of why Mayoi had called upon this one random girl instead of any of the trained enchanters already at Mystryal.
In a sub-par environment, this girl had excelled and excelled.
“So, the ‘coffee maker’ rune has multiple effects. First is a self power enchant, obvious due to the lack of a cord,” Lizzy listed off the features, “second is what’s commonly called a Perception Filter. Designed primarily to hide the fact that this thing is pretty much just a box full of runes, but there’s something to the perception runes that are tied up onto the signature in this case, which is the only time I’ve ever seen it used on something like this so far.”
“Meaning?” Tyler asked.
“It’ll fade the owner from the memory of anyone who drinks from it,” Lizzy’s lips twitched into a smile. “But only after his death. There’s a conditional loop that keeps it running otherwise… and that loop got damaged at some point, recently I’d wager.” She hummed for a moment, then guessed, “Probably the same impact that caused the next rune set to break completely.”
“Impact?” Tyler shifted between her and the coffee maker. “Someone hit it?” It sure didn’t look like someone had. But then again, what did he know about mechanical devices? He was just the medical examiner.
“Yes and no,” Lizzy nodded. “And that broken rune is… drum roll pleaseeee…” She beat her fingers against the table for a moment before announcing, “An immovability enchantment.”
“To prevent anyone from moving the actual coffee maker from the table,” Tyler said with an ‘ah’ tone of voice.
“The impact was specifically targeted to break that rune, so it could be removed and get examined,” Lizzy explained. “It broke a few extra runes, like the one I just mentioned, but the rest of them- the ones that are actually generating the coffee itself, were repaired. Patched in with rune work similar to that on the glasses.” She picked up a pair of the enchanted specs. “They’ve got a different signature on them, but only in the patched areas.” She began turning the glasses over in her hands as she spoke, “It also gave the coffee the side-effect of causing a susceptibility enchantment to affect anyone who drank it as well.”
“The enchantment that makes people listen to the author of the enchantment?” Tyler guessed.
“And that’s what’s copied onto Miri’s glasses,” Lizzy nodded.
“Damn,” Tyler shook his head. “That is just cold.”
“It really is,” Lizzy nodded. “There’s some extra stuff in there that specifies exactly what is to be ignored, a list of concepts basically. Anything relating to the enchantment author is higher in priority, though.”
“That’s almost cheating on some level,” Tyler frowned.
“It really is,” Lizzy sighed, and rubbed at her eyes. “It’s all stuff signed RGB, which I recognized from class. Believe it or not, it’s the-“
“Former teacher of the Enchantment class who also, while a member of the Mages Guild, created some of today’s most recent enchanting advancements?” Mikari rhetorically asked as she entered the room, carrying with her a small tray of food. “Dinner is served,” she put it down on a table.
“Oh thank Zuzol, food, finally!” Lizzy gave a smile as she took her order off of the tray.
“Alas,” Tyler lamented as he picked up a small box that had the word “Thunderburger” printed on it, “I’m too hungry to care if it’s made out of a lightning bug or not.”
“Ah, good old Sorcerer’s Eye-Burgers,” Lizzy sighed at fond memories of what was inside her now opened food box. “The best study session food you can get on the island.” She took a bite out of what was basically a fish filet sandwich, chewed for a moment, swallowed, then asked, “So what’d you get, Miss Yuki?”
“The box calls it the all-night-er,” Mikari said as she held up a burger that seemed overloaded with an abundance of unnecessary ingredients. “I have a feeling I’m going to need it.”
And so the next few minutes were interspersed with eating as well as small talk regarding anything from the case to personal stuff.
“I also got some stuff for Mayoi and the others when they get back,” Mikari added between mouthfuls of food. “I dunno what’s taking so long to investigate some demon shrine though.”
“I’m sure they’ll be back soon enough,” Tyler assured her. “If they found something big, they’ll probably send someone back to get us.” He paused to chew a bite of his burger. “So where’s Tsukia?”
“The room the guards gave me in case we needed to stay the night,” Mikari explained, idly staring at her own food’s box and wondering for a moment about if she should have changed her own sentence structure for the sake of a pun before shaking her head and continuing on. “She’s out cold after everything that happened today. Too much stress, plus that fainting spell…” She paused after a moment’s thought, and then asked, “Hey, randomly, you don’t think she’s pregnant too, do you?”
Silence filled the room before Tyler dryly remarked, “I sure hope not because otherwise that’d just add a whole new level of creep to this case.”
“You should go ask her if she’s eaten anything since breakfast,” Lizzy offered. “It’s more likely she’s just hungry and hasn’t had enough to eat all day.”
Mikari nodded, “Yeah, she did find the body after all. That’d be a shock to anyone’s system…”
Tyler nearly choked on his food, “Yuki, by Mizar’s name, please do not joke like that anymore on this case.”
“Sorry sorry,” Mikari stood up, putting her food down as she went. “I’m going to go check on her and see if she’s hungry.” Before she left, though, a thought hit her, and she paused to ask “Has anyone heard anything about her mom since this afternoon?”
“Nope,” Lizzy shook her head. “The smith shop was closed and empty when I went by it on my way here. Not even the rest of the staff were inside, and the forges looked like they were put out.”
“Suspicious,” Mikari frowned. And with that, she left to talk to the other girl.
“So anyways,” Tyler began once Mikari had left, “have you ever thought about joining the Mages Guild, or Mystryal?”
“Like, The Academy?” Lizzy asked, blinking in surprise. “Not really. Why?”
“Well-” Tyler was cut off by a sudden knocking sound from the front of the shop. ‘Interrupted by the bell,’ He shook his head and got up, “I’ll be right back.”
The walk through the Import Shop went simply, but time felt like it was dragging out unbearably.
Each footstep felt like he was a mile further away, even as the frantic knocking continued.
Mikari had locked the door after returning with dinner, so of course it made sense that anyone expecting to be able to get in wouldn’t be able to. Tyler picked up his pace, “Just a moment!” He passed the stairs leading to the upper level, and then into the waiting room at the front of the shop.
On the other side of the glass door was a familiar Lycan girl pounding on the glass- accompanied by two unfamiliar Lycans.
Tyler went to the door and opened it. “Ayako? What’s wrong?” He was going to ask, but only got past “Aya” before the girl shoved past him and let Tony and Miri into the room before shoving the door closed a moment later, and firmly locking it.
There was a frantic look on Ayako’s face as she peered out into the street beyond, and it forced Tyler to take in her full appearance. Her Uniform was covered in dirt, not unusual, but what was unusual was the fact that she had torn off half of her uniform’s top for some reason or another.
Tyler glanced over at Tony, and found the matching piece of uniform- wrapped around the boy’s left arm in an attempt to staunch bleeding from what was probably a heavy cut. Miri was holding that arm and keeping pressure to the wound to prevent her brother from bleeding out. “Ayako, what’s wr-?” He was cut off again by a harsh “SSSSH!” from all three Lycans.
And so he went silent.
“What’s with all the commotion down here!?” And then Mikari came back down the stairs, asking her question loudly, with Tsukia following along hesitantly.
Ayako went to make a shooshing sound at her friend when- in that exact moment- something from the outside leaped from the shadows and crashed into the glass door- howling and screaming at them as it tried to claw its way inside the Import Shop.
Mikari and Tsukia screamed, Tony grit his teeth, and Miri bared her fangs and growled. Tyler took in the creature’s body structure. Whatever “It” was, it had definitely been, at one point, a Harpy. Now, however, it more resembled some kind of draconian creature with pitch, oil-slick back, burnt to a crisp skin. That was all he saw before Ayako made her disgust known.
“FUCK OFF, BIRDBRAIN!” Ayako yelled at it before pulling out another missing piece of her uniform from her skirt pocket and slammed it against the glass door.
There had been blood painted onto that scrap of cloth, and whatever rune it was patterned into, the magic intended activated, causing the glass to glow brightly, and then flash outwards into the creature’s direction.
It screeched and howled and then fell to the ground dead as a smoldering corpse, already burned up more than it had been already.
Silence filled the Import Shop lobby for a few moments before Lizzy poked her head out from the hallway door, and asked, “What was all that noise?”