The second summoning circle was a smaller version of the first one, not that Mayoi or Kaie had seen it. Neither of them knew that it even was a second site at all. But it was still the same runes, the same circle, just smaller- A backup.
Matoi had dropped Tsukia into the center of the circle and bound her to the spot with an immobilization rune.
Kaie and Mayoi stared on as the other dragon worked to set up the second circle properly; the type of acts consisting of lighting candles and preparing incense.
“What the hell kind of circle is that?” Mayoi whispered at Kaie with a frown.
“Never seen it before,” Kaie frowned.
They were a good distance away so as to avoid being heard, but observing was about all they could do at the moment. That cane was still in play, and neither of them had weapons on hand, and as for magic…
“So what do we do?” Mayoi stared on. “I don’t see any way of resolving this with the spells I know.” She growled, “Knew I should’ve picked up a few defensive wards but noooo, I just had to opt for the second round of fireball spell training instead.”
“Lucky you knowing any magic,” Kaie remarked good-naturedly. Humans had a very low magic potential, almost to zero percent on a graded scale. Kaie himself had enough for general enchanting, but that was about it. (The irony was not lost on Kaie, but he chose not to focus on it for the moment.) Still, Kaie had his arm cut off by that stupid cane-sword only once before, and he wasn’t looking forwards to a repeat performance.
His arm burned slightly where he knew it had been cut off, and he resisted the urge to massage at the scars.
“We’ll have to attack at some point,” Mayoi’s hands flexed. “I’m not about to let her do anything to Tsukia.”
“I’ll go first,” Kaie began, “you sneak around back while I distract her.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Mayoi nodded.
And so Kaie stepped out into the moderately small clearing. “Oi Oi, what do we have here?” He called out, hands raised up in the tell-tale sign of “nothing up my sleeves.”
Matoi stopped her work to turn to glare, hand reaching for her cane-sword’s hilt. “Oh, look, if it isn’t Ranagi Kaie. Still playing detective? I thought you would have drowned under the weight of your own guilt by now.” She stood to face him completely, smirking in that obviously insane way of someone who knew they would soon be visiting death.
“Nothing to be guilty about,” Kaie countered, beginning the slow process of circling so that Matoi would have her back turned to Tsukia. “Although I think you might have meant that literally rather than metaphorically, what with the fact that we got shoved into a cave that was filling up due to the tide.”
“Hah, I’m surprised you can joke after all this,” Matoi’s eyes narrowed, “Or maybe it’s because you know you’ll be joining your wife soon in the next life.”
“Leave Kyoko out of this, ‘Raven,'” Kaie didn’t bother smirking as he saw the ocean blue scaled dragon go a shade lighter at that name. “Heh. Looks like you didn’t think I knew.”
“You figured it out? How?” Matoi scowled.
“Well process of elimination really, we found one body who ID’d as the ‘shroom peddler “Rock,” and we never found your body, so,” Kaie shrugged. “Basically blame your leader for spilling the names during that ritual. Oh, what was his name again? Rodney Gage Bell, wasn’t it?”
“So you figured that much out,” Matoi laughed. “Yes, Shirou and I were part of Rodney’s little Mages cult. We both saw that summoning go wrong the moment your blood entered the circle.”
“Ah, right, so there’s something that’s been bugging me. Can you walk me through this?” Kaie began to stall for time, as Mayoi began her sneaky-approach from behind. “I screw over your summoning, so you try again fifteen years later? Why so long?”
“The Princess’s gates open and close on that certain cycle,” Matoi answered. “The window changes its exact date because it’s not an even pattern, always depending on the current stage of the moons cycles, but roughly every fifteen years or so, the moons and Cypher align… and Cypher’s daughter can escape.” She rolled her eyes. “We followers of the Princess have tried for this day ever since we discovered how weak the gates get during this part of the cycle… But, our first successful attempt actually only happened the last time we tried.” She smirked. “Wanna know why?”
“Sure, I’ve got all day,” Kaie answered with a small shrug.
“The prison gates are at half strength, what with Zuzol having up and vanished into thin air, and Mizar and Alcor having been indisposed for centuries and not actively reinforcing their own parts of the circle.” Matoi clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, and in a dour, mocking tone, continued, “It seems that Prizen, Collen, and Cypher just aren’t quite enough to keep her permanently locked away if someone were to try to break her out, especially with Cypher stuck up in the Sun the way he is.”
“Well that’s a lot of info I didn’t expect to be getting,” Kaie frowned. “What do you mean Zuzol’s missing?”
“Hah- Wouldn’t you like to know?” Matoi tittered in that way that Dragons could, “But I’m not going to tell you! It’ll be a mystery that you’ll take to your grave! How does that sound?”
“I’m betting it’s got something to do with the reincarnation cycle, doesn’t it?” Kaie asked. “Your daughter’s what? Fifteen now?” Mayoi was getting closer now. Just a bit of a longer stall. “Did you trap Zuzol’s spirit into some baby’s body, a forced reincarnation?”
“She’s sixteen, actually, but like I told those girls, she’s not my daughter,” Matoi scowled. “She’s just some kid Bell picked up for a potential sacrifice for the summoning years ago. Then Shirou translated the fact that the Princess doesn’t do baby sacrifices unless there’s a blood bond involved, and since poor ‘widdle’ Tsukia was an orphan…” she went ‘daw’ in a very exaggerated mocking tone, “Well, that just didn’t work out for us. And no, she’s not Zuzol reincarnate. How dumb do you think I would have to be to even try to do what I’m doing if she were? Even without her memories, she’d definitely try to interfere based on pure instinct alone. Would probably succeed too.”
“I dunno, you do seem pretty stupid, but I could be wrong,” Kaie glanced at Tsukia, she looked absolutely horrified by what she was hearing from the woman she’d considered to be her own mother all this time. “So I suppose my daughter got chosen at random to be Zuzol’s Host all those years ago?”
“What the even-” Matoi stared blankly at Kaie’s face. “What? You seriously think that your kid’s the–!?” She resisted the urge to plant her hands across her face. “How fucking dense are you!? No! Zuzol isn’t reincarnated into anyone! We KILLED HER before we tried to summon the Princess! She is DEAD.” She stomped her foot for emphasis. “END. OF. STORY.”
“Now see, I don’t buy that,” Kaie shook his head. “You’re toying with me. How can you possibly know if Zuzol’s soul reincarnated or not? Yaovi could have interfered and you’d never know.”
“The Princess’ attendants know all, little detective boy,” Matoi chided. “Like the fact that you’re trying to distract me from your partner with IDIOTIC BANTER!” She then spun around and flung a dark sphere of black flames at Mayoi who had only just gotten behind Tsukia.
“Cra–” Mayoi quickly threw a normal looking fireball spell of her own to counter- but the close range explosion sent her flying backwards into a tree regardless, and had the side-effect of rolling Tsukia onto her side.
“Kana!” Kaie called out in surprise before Matoi wheeled around and drew the broken rapier blade, leveling its broken tip at him.
“DON’T!” she warned, “Move and you die.”
“Fine,” Kaie growled and made sure to stand still, “just answer me my questions then.”
“What? Trying to stall in hopes those kids will come to your rescue?” Matoi rolled her eyes.
“No,” Kaie replied, eying Mayoi as she groaned from where she’d landed, “just terminally curious.”
“Hah, clever, I like that,” Matoi laughed. “Fine then. I’ll answer your questions… but only for as long as your reactions amuse me. Then it’s business as usual and you’ll all be dead.”
“So why kill Shirou?” Kaie asked.
“My Husband manipulated the facts,” Matoi scowled. “He knew she’d work, but just wanted to adopt Tsukia instead of using her as a sacrifice to begin with. I guess he had a soft spot for children since I never wanted any, nor could I ever have them. Sold my eggs in a Deal, you see,” She smirked, as if proud of that fact. “Even from the void, our Princess can grant a conditional immortality of sorts. I can’t die unless the Princess decides it’s my time and I’ve paid my price in full. Fun, isn’t it? I was thinking ahead. Immortality is so over-rated when it comes to the centuries long wait times. I saw that first hand from Rodney.” She scowled, and said sharply, “But I digress.”
“I could tell,” Kaie said flatly. “So what about Miri?”
“When Shirou ‘figured out’ that Tsukia wouldn’t work, and Muiri’s brat sister dropped her brat kids on her, well… I told him we would be using Miri in the ritual to unbind Kyiahlnah from your stupid brat wife. But in order to prevent any reactions like before, fighting it off, you see, I secretly planned with Muiri to make the corpse a necromantic vessel. No soul except the one destined to inhabit it.”
“Mom…” Tsukia let out a whimper then.
“SHUT UP,” Matoi growled. “The grown ups are talking, child.” She plastered on a sickeningly sweet, obviously fake smile. “Now where were we? Yes… Shirou tried to talk his way out of it again and again. Maybe he figured out what I was planning with Muiri. Suggested we use Muiri’s nephew instead. Actually a pleasant idea, all things considered. Muiri liked it since she wasn’t so fond of her sister dumping her kids on her like that, regardless. But no, it wouldn’t work. The Princess would never willingly jump into a Male body for any longer than it took to jump into another female vessel, so it had to be one of the girls. So, yes, Muiri wanted to use Miri.”
“Basically one final ‘stick it’ to her sister?” Kaie asked.
“Oh no, that was to be the penultimate one,” Matoi laughed, and hefted the rapier. “But in reality, the final one was when I cut her chest open with this blade, stuck a heart-stone inside, and then raised her corpse to maul that Imp girl that’s been following you around.”
“Mika..ri..!” Mayoi growled as she tried to sit up.
“You shut up too, sun-scales,” Matoi shot a look over her left shoulder and wing. “Or I’ll do the same thing.”
“So… moving along?” Kaie tried to bring her attention back on him, and it worked. Matoi snapped her head back towards him. Oh he had her now. “You were saying about Shirou and Miri?”
“My ungrateful, adulterating ex-husband decided to start sleeping with her,” Matoi spat on the ground. “The pervert either couldn’t keep it in his pants or thought he could screw with the ritual by doing it. I don’t know what went through his head; it’s like everything he did was intentionally confusing to the extreme. But, whatever he was trying to do, he pretty much succeeded in ruining our success chances by confronting us both last night when we were building up preparations for the ritual.”
“What happened?” Kaie asked, wondering all the while how long Matoi Tsubaki had been holding all of this in.
“The idiot stole Rodney’s cane from the display shelf and threatened to corrupt the blood we’d drawn the circle in with his own blood like you did to your wife’s circle years ago,” Matoi answered flatly. “If we stood down and spared Tsukia, Miri, AND his unborn child, then he’d let us continue on using Muiri’s nephew instead, which, as I just said, isn’t a thing that could work.”
“And then?” Kaie pressed on. This was it. The whole reason they’d come to this island in the first place…!
“And then Muiri’s sister came barreling out of the forest like a bitch out of Gi’ahn’na- no idea where she came from- and then the two sisters started fighting with each other,” Matoi laughed. “It would have been funny, almost, if my traitorous husband hadn’t decided that was a fine moment to try to run me through with the Cane in the confusion.” She shrugged off her shirt’s left shoulder to reveal a bandaged wound, probably from the same sword she had in her hand.
“So you took the cane from him,” Kaie guessed.
“Then the tip broke off in his shoulder in my attempt to kill him after I got it,” Matoi grimaced. “I lost myself in the heat of the moment when I heard the tip snap. I think Shirou might have cast a rage spell, either that or that Muiri’s Bitch of a sister did it.” She shrugged, not caring about the wound on her shoulder. “Either way, once he was paralyzed by the electricity, I just…” She shrugged, “I rolled him over, cut open his robes and cut off the thing that had caused all of this.”
“You didn’t, actually,” a girl spoke.
“I thought I told you not to-” Matoi spun around to glare at Mayoi, only to see that it wasn’t her that had talked just then, but instead the Imp stepping out of the shadows, with a wolf-mode Lycan at her side. Mikari Yuki and Ayako Mayoi stood ready to rumble.
“Shirou changed his mind because Miri and him discovered they were soul-bonded,” Mikari explained, holding out a charged shock spell in preparation to fire. “All of this happened because Shirou cared about someone precious to him!“
“A… Soul Bond?” Matoi groaned. “Are you KIDDING ME?! Of all the reincarnations to happen, he came from the other side onto ours!?” She slapped her free hand against her face. “I thought there was something familiar about his soul. No wonder the idiot grew a conscience!” She struggled to resist face palming again. “I bet I killed him at some point in our past. Wouldn’t that be an ironic twist of fate?” She laughed, although nobody was sure what was so funny.
“So since you’re in a talkative mood, the only thing that I want to know is who killed Carter Nori?” Mikari asked, stepping forwards just a little bit more to put herself on the forefront of attention. It was a good plan, too.
“Muiri had her inside the circle once I’d started cutting into Shirou,” Matoi answered flatly. “The circle warped with all the new blood coming in and started a failed summoning for Kyiahlnah. Muiri’s sister got stunned in the process, and Muiri decided to take the sword from me and ran her own sister through the chest in order to kill her, invalidating the ritual runes and stopping an already failed summoning that wasn’t going to work anyways.” She shrugged slightly again, as if to say ‘what can you do?’ “It had the unfortunate result of creating the storm we had last night.”
“And why wasn’t it going to work?” Kaie asked.
“The gate didn’t properly open until tonight,” Matoi smirked, “with the Setting Sun.”
Ranagi Kaie, Mikari Yuki, and Kana Mayoi all looked upwards out of some instinctual warning- the skies had gone dark and stars were starting to peek through the clouds.
“YOU LOSE, DETECTIVES!” And then Matoi turned the cane sword onto herself and ran herself through the stomach in that moment of distraction. The blood spilled onto the summoning circle, making it glow with power as Matoi yelled to the heavens above, “KYIAHLNAH, WITH MY FINAL BREATH, I RELEASE YOU FROM YOUR PRISON!!!“