In all the years that Terran had served as dispatcher, very few people had ever visited his apartment, according to the Building Supervisor. Only about a handful of people came to visit the Gnome since he had moved in. “Very few friends,” the Building Supervisor said with a shake of his head.
It was a shame, really. Terran had been a brilliant detective up until about two years ago, when an accident on a case had left him unable to work in the field by nature of having a shattered kneecap.
That case had also cost Terran his partner, Darren, which had prompted the move from active duty to the Dispatch office. He’d cut ties with a majority of his friends after that, even going so far as to move from his previous apartment to this one…
And it was really sad, because even with all the times that Mayoi had spoken to the Gnomic man since the accident, she had no idea where he’d even been living up until now.
And now he was dead.
The apartment of Dispatcher Terran was a small affair, nothing at all like his previous place. One main living room, a similarly sized bedroom, one small kitchen, a small office, and an absolutely tiny bathroom. If it weren’t for the massive pool of blood on the floor or the writing on the wall, Mayoi could have sworn it was just a miniaturized version of his last place.
“STOP ME IF YOU CAN, KANA MAYOI.”
The blood said the message as clear as the lamps around the room allowed it to be, framed neatly on the wall in the main living room by a hallway and the next wall over, and punctuated neatly with Terran’s severed head serving as the period.
There was something familiar about all of this.
“Geeze, Neia, you weren’t kidding,” Mayoi sighed as she looked away, instead towards the Lycan woman who had called her in.
Ahra Neia was a Detective who had been in the Agency for as long as Mayoi, Terran, and the rest of their final class year had been, she was also Izumi Lockhart’s long time partner in crime fighting,
Izumi Lockhart, the Leprechaun woman who had discovered the body. The woman who, right now, looked very much like the girl who Mayoi had first seen after the brutal murder of their young childhood friend Sasha, rather than the detective that Mayoi had trained along side for all those years.
“Whoever did this definitely has a grudge against you,” Neia nodded, although sounding a little uncertain as she spoke. “Calling you out like this… I had to call to let you know.” She nervously eyed Chief Llewellyn, “I, ah, didn’t know you were with the Chief, though. That’s kind of rare these days, isn’t it?”
“You weren’t interrupting much,” Nahgi Llewellyn sighed as she looked at the pool of blood that had been used to draw the message on the wall. “Dinner was practically ruined already at that point.”
“Kendal means well,” Mayoi mused as she looked at the painted handwriting on the wall, trying to recognize some small part of it, if she could. “I’m not surprised she lost her temper though, what with the portal last night…”
“You think it’s related?” The Lamia asked, glancing at her former roommate in concern. Mayoi’s only response was to nod, which enticed a sigh in return. “That explains her pizza at least,” She frowned, “I didn’t think she’d gotten that strong already, but if the portal from last night caused her magic to flare up like that…”
“My apartment’s going to smell like burnt pizza for a couple of weeks,” Mayoi headed off that particular thought from her friend with a shake of her head, and then walked into Terran’s office. “Not the first time though. It’ll clear eventually. Let’s just be thankful the fire sprinklers didn’t go off. Holy water’s a bitch to clean out the furniture.”
Clean out? Yeah, just like Terran’s office had been tossed and turned, and everything generally ‘cleared out’ of any evidence. It was almost like a wild boar-hound had charged through.
“So what’s the story in here?” Llewellyn asked, frowning at the chaos and disarray.
“Looks like someone stole his off-hours work,” Neia spoke soundly, all while tucking a stray strand of hair up and behind her right ear (the cheeky multi-tasker). “We couldn’t find any personal notes, or any notebooks left behind.”
“And all of this is recorded pristine already, right?” Mayoi asked.
“We did a camera sweep already, yeah,” Neia confirmed with a nod.
“Good, I want copies of the scans to compare after CSU finishes a sweep,” Mayoi grimaced, and from there, went into the kitchen, similarly tossed about. “And here?”
“Nothing stolen as far as we can tell, but everything was torn up like they were looking for something still,” Neia reported, sounding a little unsure. “I dunno why. Nobody would hide anything in the kitchen. It’s dumb and stupid for even looking in here.” She sounded a bit peeved off at whoever had messed with everything. “Waste of their time, really,” she continued in a muttered whisper, “who hides anything in a freaking kitchen??”
“Probably they didn’t find what they were looking for in the office and decided to look elsewhere,” Llewellyn suggested.
“Looks that way to me too,” Mayoi agreed.
“Meh.” Neia frowned, “Still seems like a stupid waste of time.”
And then they moved onto the bedroom, where the rest of Terran’s body was, along with Tyler Obonz, who was already surveying the body’s state of pre- and post-death damage.
“What do we got, Bones?” Mayoi asked.
“Whoever did this wanted a first glance to say decapitation as COD,” Tyler replied, running a finger along the severed bone. “The staining is all wrong though. Not really enough of a visible blood stain on the…” He paused, “let’s say ‘cuts’ for now. There’s something funky with this. I think he was drained out for ‘writing material’ first, before he was decapitated.”
“Brutal,” Mayoi shuddered. Brutal, yes, but no less so than seeing a body after it had been mauled to pieces by an insane, demon worshiping Wolf Mode Lycan. “So the guy who did this had free time then?”
“Time enough to kill him, drain him in the front room and write the message, then get his head off and move the body in here,” Obonz guessed at the series of events. “I’d put Time around…” He paused to do the math, “six to eight hours ago? I’ll have to get him under the knife to know for sure, but that seems about right to me.”
“So right around when we came back to the office and reported in,” Mayoi sighed. “Great, so either someone picked a hell of a time to get vengeance on me for some slight, or they heard about what happened on Aura’s Dawn.”
“I’d hedge my bets on the latter, honestly,” Llewellyn guessed. “That portal caused waves. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t some other people out there out for revenge for your interference.”
“Great, just what I needed on top of all of this…” Mayoi frowned. “Don’t you think we should warn Kaie and the others?”
“Probably, but if they’ve way-gated away by now, then it’s too late to do anything.” Llewellyn sighed, “Which probably screws us over until Ranagi calls in to check up…” With a shake of her head, she decided, “I’ll go call Kaie’s apartment and see if he’s still there, if not, we’ll just have to wait for them to call us.”
“Good luck,” Mayoi nodded, and as Chief Llewellyn slithered off, she took stock of the rest of the bedroom. Almost pristine, as if nothing had been disturbed save for the body being dumped onto the bed itself. It would be hard to hide something in here, let alone the random trashing that had been done elsewhere…
Was it respect that the bedroom had been skipped? Or maybe just that they figured nothing COULD be hidden in here, just she herself had guessed a moment ago?
Mayoi ducked down and lifted up the bed’s skirt. ‘Ahha!’ There was a brief case wedged up beneath the bed frame. She pulled it out, much to Tyler’s protest, and then opened the case.
Inside lay a various number of things; papers, some books, what looked to be a recording crystal of some kind… Mayoi picked it up first, and turned it over to find the activation spot.
“What’s that?” Neia asked.
“Looks like…” Mayoi activated the recording crystal’s playback, and a hologram of a man yodeling at chickens appeared before them. “…I don’t even wanna know what the hell this is.”
“It’s a man yodeling at chickens is what it is,” Tyler sourly remarked. “Now shut it off before I murder that crystal.”
Mayoi did such, and put the crystal away without so much of a second thought. The papers in the case seemed to be noting strange math calculations and formulas, all of it centering around some odd formula at the very start of it. “Would even Prizen or Cypher know what ‘P Versus NP‘ is?”
“Not a clue,” was the near-simultaneous response from everyone who heard the question, and so Mayoi put the papers back.
Next up were the books, about three in total. One was a book on modern math, one was a book on theoretical math formulas, and the third…
“’Yodeling for Dummies’…” Mayoi frowned. “Y’know, something tells me that Terran had a thing for yodeling in recent days.”
“Towards Chickens in particular?” Tyler dryly guessed.
“That’s news to me too,” Neia shrugged. “Should I take it into evidence?”
Mayoi considered it for a moment… “Nah,” She closed the case with everything in it. “I’ll take it with me and look it over again before I go to bed. Maybe there’s something in one of these books that’s important.” She then smiled and said, “But before I go, I’m gonna talk with Izumi.”
“I think she’d appreciate that,” Neia nodded. “She’s missed you, you know.”
“Yeah?” Mayoi asked. “It’s been kind of hard to keep in touch the last few years. She kept canceling our lunch and dinner plans.” She ran a hand through her hair as she let out a rough sigh. “What is it with her and Terran? They both just pretty much dropped off the face of Oneuywa! And now THIS?”
“Izumi’s…” Neia sighed. “She’s been going through some rough times lately. Especially after Terran’s… y’know,” As Mayoi nodded at that, Neia reached out and grabbed Mayoi’s arm before she could walk way or even say anything else. “Hey, um…”
“Yeah?” Mayoi asked, raising an eyebrow in curiosity.
“I’m scared for her, Kana,” Neia replied. “When Terran’s partner died and…. Izumi just started to feel weird. And after today… I just don’t know what to do with her. I’m afraid that this is just going to break her even worse and I don’t know if I can handle that.”
Mayoi had nothing to say in response to that beyond, “I’m scared too, Neia.”
Years and years ago, in the mountain-top town of N’kaish’al’s Burrow, overlooking the mighty, frozen ocean of the frigid northern pole, lived three girls- A Dragon with orange scales, a Drow with bright eyes full of potential, and a Leprechaun who wanted to go shopping.
One day when they were young, they had gone to a new store that had opened for the first time just that day expecting fun times and smiles. Instead, one corrupt Town Guard grew mad, and called the Drow a thief. She was but a child, and had never even been to this place. She went to explain, and received a sword through her chest for the effort.
They had only been six. Six years old and the survivors had been introduced to the brutal horrors of the world. Corruption. Greed. Cover-ups. A general lack of Justice. But in the end, it had driven the two girls to the Mystryal Academy. To try to right the injustices of the world.
“Hey, Izumi,” Mayoi coughed as she walked out of the apartment and into the external hallway/balcony combination that looked out into the streets below. “How’re you holding up?”
Leaning against the railing was the sad looking Leprechaun woman. Her gold-tinted skin was extremely pale, and her long, brown hair blowing in the late night breeze looked dried out and frazzled, rather than neatly combed and shiny as it had been during their Academy days. For a moment, Izumi Lockhart considered her thoughts, and then spoke with an almost unnatural calm, “About as well as you could expect from someone who just discovered a body. Going to crime scenes is one thing but finding the damned thing…” She looked upwards at the stars. “It’s not like knowing that you had a chance to do something different, but failed to do it. You just…”
“End up finding the aftermath of someone elses’ choices?” Mayoi asked.
“Yeah. Something like that,” Izumi nodded sadly. “How did it end up like this, Kana? We should have had better lives than this. We shouldn’t be here. Sasha shouldn’t be dead.”
“I’m sure she’d be happy to know we’ve made something of ourselves,” Mayoi frowned, just a bit. “Fate works in mysterious ways. We’ll find out who did this, Izumi. Terran will be avenged, just like the detectives from back then got Sasha’s killer.”
“They called you out, Kana,” Izumi said after a moment. “They want you to find them. What if they’re the same people who…?” She dismissed that immediate thought and changed it for something even less pleasant, but speakable, “What if they want you dead? What if the bodies don’t stop from piling up and we can’t stop it?”
“Then they’ll have dug themselves into an even deeper hole,” Mayoi answered. “I’ve got this feeling that whoever is behind this has no idea what they’re stepping into. It’s sloppy. They knew Terran personally enough to leave his bedroom alone.”
“…You found something?” Izumi finally turned away from the railing to look at her childhood friend. There was a cold, almost calculating interest in her eyes in that moment.
Mayoi could see why Neia was scared.
“Just a Briefcase full of math notes,” Mayoi held it up to show. “I’m going to look through it tonight and see if there’s any leads in here.”
Izumi stared for a few moments, and then smiled, “I’m sure there’s something in there for you to chase, Kana.”
“Just so long as it isn’t a Yodeling Chicken,” Mayoi replied offhandedly enough to make Izumi blink in confusion. “Sorry, just something Terran had on an imaging gem.”
“Ah,” Izumi nodded, finally understanding the odd statement to some degree.
“Anyways,” Mayoi shook her head. “Try to keep your head down, okay? Hopefully whoever did this won’t be coming after you, but, you never know with some psychos. Especially if they are the ones who…”
Who killed Terran’s Partner.
“Yes…” Izumi’s face grew ever so slightly grimmer. “You never know, indeed…”
“But, really,” Mayoi tried to cheer her friend up, “the chances of one of them sneaking onto Mystryal?” She made an exaggerated sound of some kind of disbelief. “The chances are about as high as Kyiahlnah’s momma having returned from the grave with all her memories and powers intact.”
Izumi wasn’t sure why Mayoi used the Traitor Princess’s mother in the metaphor. It usually went “Chances are as high as Kyiahlnah coming back from beyond the stars,” but maybe that was the point of this version? Kyiahlnah was even more than likely to come back than the mother that she herself had killed.
“Yes,” Izumi nodded at that reasoning. “You’re right. I’m worrying over nothing.”
And so she gave a genuine smile, worry free.
“So basically-” Kendal recapped as she waved her can of root bear around in the air above her head. “Dad goes off on all these cases thinking that it’ll lead him to mom’s killer and he tries his best, I know he thinks he does but he won’t let me even enroll in the academy here even though I LIVE on the freaking island!”
“Mmh,” Miri, lying on the ground next to Kendal as they both looked up at the stars, simply nodded in response.
“So not only am I apparently not allowed to know when he actually succeeds in finding my mom’s killers, but I’m also not allowed to even follow in his line of work even though that’s probably the one thing I’ve wanted for years now?” Kendal scowled, “Hell, I don’t even know WHY I wanted to join now. I forgot why I even wanted it except that it’s the only thing I even HAVE left to do that I Even CAN DO!. None of the other stuff I wanted to do I can do because I’m a freaking time bomb waiting to go off.”
Kendal took a long, heavy drink of her root beer, and Miri waited for her to continue. It was about a minute of pure silence, only the waves lapping on the shore, before Kendal did continue.
“Fucking Fire Magic. I’m going to burn up someday soon and then there’ll be nothing left of the me that’s here right now and instead of wanting to spend time with me while I’m HERE, my dad just- He- Just- UGH!!!” she then threw the can at a small, but growing pile of empty cans.
Miri flinched at the rattling of metal cans on metal cans.
Kendal continued on, “He freaking ignores me to go out on some stupid kidnapping case when he just got back from fighting CULTISTS and what am I?? Nothing! He ignores me and ignores me and tries to think that I’m somehow going to be better off for not knowing he’s in danger???”
“I think,” Miri spoke after a moment’s pause. “I think he just wants to protect you from everything that’s wrong with the world.”
“What a fine job he’s done so far,” Kendal scoffed at the sentiment inherent with that idea.
“But I think he’s just going about it the wrong way,” Miri continued. “There’s something that he feels he has to do himself, but he’s ignoring everyone else who’s offering help.” She frowned, “But I’ve barely spoken with him, so I might not be the best person to judge his motives.”
“What’s new?” Kendal asked as she laid back onto the grass. “It wouldn’t change anything even if you were his best friend.” She sighed. “Honestly, I just… I don’t think anything will change between us even if I talk to dad about it. BUT. He’s not going to listen to me, and he’d probably just try to ignore the problem that’s there.” Kendal stared up at the stars. “We both know I’m going to die in a fiery death ball of fire and there’s nothing either of us can do about it.”
Miri frowned. “But, you’re still human right now, right? The Fire magic hasn’t completely overwritten everything yet, has it?”
“Yeah, for now. So what?” Kendal asked.
“So… it doesn’t have to be me, or even anyone you know, but,” Miri took a breath to prepare herself, “maybe you could get turned into a Lycan before the fire magic takes hold?”
Kendal blinked- considering the thought. “…Has anyone ever done that before? Successfully, I mean,” She turned to look Miri in the eyes. “To go from a fire hybrid to a Lycan? Wouldn’t the flame magic prevent it?”
“I dunno, I don’t know about anyone that’s tried before,” Miri smiled. “But it’s still an option though, isn’t it?”
Kendal thought for a few more moments, “Yeah, actually. I guess it is. I mean, if it worked, at least then I’d still look pretty much the same? And also I wouldn’t be constantly exploding into flames or making my soda evaporate when I’m mad.” She glanced at the scattered pile of empty cans and sighed, “Now I gotta replace the stash… if someone else doesn’t do it first, I guess.”
“What is it with the tree anyways?” Miri asked as she propped herself up with her elbows to look at the pine tree behind them. “Like… some kind of portal?”
“Dunno, really,” Kendal sat up and then reached into the tree, then pulled out a green skirt that she’d definitely not been wearing before during dinner. “You can put stuff in there to keep it safe, and, like, the tree will only ever give you either what you put in, or what you really need in that moment, even if someone else put it in first.”
“Really?” Miri mused on that as Kendal pulled the rest of an outfit out from the tree and started re-dressing. “So, if I didn’t put anything in there, would it give me something I needed?”
“Probably,” Kendal nodded. “We should probably get back before Nahgi and Aunt Kana start to worry.”
“Good idea…” Miri paused for a moment, looking at the tree in curiosity. “I’ll have to come back later and see what this tree’s about.”
“Heh,” Kendal laughed, properly amused for the first time all evening. “If you can figure this tree out before I’m gone for my next life, I’ll buy a hat and eat it just on principle.”
“While that’s a funny image,” Miri giggled slightly before growing serious, “please don’t. That’s a really silly idea and probably not that good for you. I’m sure that whatever happens and whatever choice you make, you’re going to live!” She smiled sadly, “Don’t say you’re going to die just yet, okay?”
“Fine, I’ll rephrase, if you do it before I make a decision on turning into a werewolf, THEN I can just burn it up in my mouth,” Kendal then smiled sadly as she finished putting on a green shoulder-cloak, “how’s that?”
Miri smiled, not so sadly this time, and nodded in return, “Much Better!”
And so they both stood up and started walking back. On the way, however, Miri couldn’t help but get a sense of de-ja-vu from looking at Kendal as they walked. It was that same nagging ache that had came whenever she thought of Shirou and the soul bond they had briefly shared before his death. But somehow… different?
Green cloak, green skirt, blue leggings. There was something about that particular pattern that stuck out in Miri’s former life memories. It was bugging her so much now. Like an itch that refused to be scratched!
“Um, so… do you mind if I ask about your current clothes?” Miri asked, though she already knew the answer.
“Mind, yes. Answer?” Kendal shrugged. “Might as well though.” She took a deep breath, and then explained, “Pretty much whenever I get super mad at anything anymore, by the time I get to that tree, everything I’m been wearing is usually just all about burned into ash. A while ago I saw a store closing sale at the Mall- everything was basically buy one, get, like, ten free. So I bought a whole ton of identical outfits like this to leave as spare clothes at the tree. It’s still a major pain, though,” Kendal scowled, “especially since I like my normal wardrobe, and I have to keep buying new versions to replace the stuff I keep burning!!” She paused, considering that for a moment, then admitted, “Actually, I think that would be one plus to going Lycan. I wouldn’t incinerate my wardrobe all the time. Accidentally tear them to shreds? Sure. But that’s repairable compared to burning them off all the time!”
“Ouch,” Miri grimaced, not really sure what else she could add to the conversation at this point.
“But, I dunno, really,” Kendal continued on with the tangent. “If I was left down to just the endless cloned wardrobe in the tree, I wouldn’t be too torn up about it.” She smiled, sort of contentedly, “This feels right somehow. Green and Blue, and something black, too.” She lifted her shoulder cloak for a moment to reveal the black shirt underneath. “But a black shirt alone just doesn’t feel right enough on its own, though. I want to get black gloves instead, but you can only get those as a sign that you’re able to channel magic at an extremely high level.” She scowled, “Stupid laws. I’ve done the research! Did you know that you can’t even OWN a pair of black gloves unless you’re actually able to use magic that well!?”
“Oh, wow, really?” Miri asked. “Why’s that?”
“I’d be Mizar if I knew!” Kendal shrugged. “I don’t get the whole ‘professional identity’ thing. Shouldn’t clothes just be for wearing for you, rather than yelling out your job and powers to everyone you meet? Isn’t that what titles are for? Like my dad’s a Detective! Shouldn’t you just be able to tell people that by mouth rather than having to look at how they’re dressed for all your life?”
“Hmm,” Miri mused. “Wearing clothes to represent what you do for a living has been the status quo for so long, I wouldn’t know how we’d remove years of ingrained clothing design and subtext symbology,” She looked down at the shrine clothes she still was wearing beneath her jacket, and sighed. “And speaking of, I really need to change out of these at some point. I’m not working at a shrine anymore.”
“You joining the Academy? You’ll get a uniform once you’re enrolled,” Kendal rolled her eyes. “But I don’t think anyone’ll complain if you stick with what you have until you get something new. Isn’t that how it works? …Meh, but what do I know? I’m not a mage and never can be. Oh, here’s something funny,” She then started off on another tangent, “The ONLY magic I have is flame magic and- here’s the fun fact of the day!- that is a freaking death sentence if you try channeling it to the levels required for getting those gloves I want.” She scowled, “So basically my dreams won’t matter much once I go full flame-head.”
“Or you could go Lycan,” Miri reminded her of the alternate option. “Even turned Lycans have a decent magic reserve! You could become a Lycan Mage that way!”
“Yeah, that too, I suppose,” Kendal sighed. “But something in either way just feels… Wrong to abandon my human identity. I kinda like being human, ya know? It’s who I am! Or was born as, anyways. I don’t know how to be anything else! I’m comfortable with that part of me and I don’t want to CHANGE.” She stomped her foot, scowling, and then sighing as she tried to restrain her temper back so she didn’t ignite yet another set of clothes on fire. She succeeded, as Miri could feel a slight temperature increase that quickly faded.
“Well,” Miri began, “I was born a Lycan so I wouldn’t know what it’s like to change from Human to Lycan, or a Human to a Pyromander for that matter.” She paused for a breath, “But I know what it’s like to have your life be exactly one way, and then…. torn up and completely gone the next.”
“Such is life, I guess,” Kendal shrugged.
“Yeah,” Miri nodded, “such is life…”
They arrived back at the apartment to find that Tsukia and Lizzy had broken into Mayoi’s book collection and were shuffling through titles at random.
“Oooh, Mayoi’s detective novels!” Kendal nearly grinned. “Lemme at ’em! I could use a good laugh!” And so the four girls picked out random books and began reading commenting aloud at some random oddity they found amusing within a given plot.
A few chapters of several books later, Mayoi came back in with a briefcase from the crime scene, and, unable to put it off due to Lizzy and Tsukia having cleaned up after everyone else, settled down at the table to shift through the case’s contents. As far as the rest of the night went, it was just the five of them reading through various books, until something Miri read aloud from one of the books caught Mayoi’s attention.
Without saying much of anything in response, the Detective hurried over to her collection of books, and fished out one novel in particular before retreating to her room to read in private.
The other girls wouldn’t see her again until morning.