“Um… excuse me?”
“Wha?” Lizzy blinked as a hand was waved in front of her face. For a moment, the Spriggain girl’s eyesight blurred, then refocused on a pair of brown eyes staring at her.
“Are you alright?” those eyes belonged to an Undine girl, who had her blue hair cut short to the point of almost being shaved. Actually, no, it was likely recently shaved and then grown out since then. Wait, what was she saying? “–since you’ve been sitting here just staring at the gate for a while now.”
“Oh, sorry, just…” Lizzy’s sight focused down over the girl’s body and…. “Just resting my eyes,” she answered with a smile. No visible runes on the girl’s body what so ever. A quick glance down the road towards another group of students walking by confirmed the result. She’d finally turned that annoying “Power” off, for the moment. ‘Thanks, Kendal!’
“What’s your name?” the Undine girl asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.”
“Elizabeth Smith,” Lizzy replied, “but everyone calls me Lizzy. I’m going to be starting classes soon.”
“Ah, a first year!” The Undine smiled. “I’m Olivea Nitta. Friends call me Olive, or just Liv, sometimes,” she laughed, “but I guess that could get confusing if you went by Liz too.”
“Nice to meet you, Olive,” Lizzy smiled in return, offering her hand to the other girl to shake.
“Ah, sorry, I’d like to, but I can’t,” Olivea held her hands up as she took a step backwards. “Skin contact allergies.”
“What?” Lizzy blinked in confusion. “How is that even a thing?”
“I’m part human on my mom’s dad’s mom’s dad’s side,” Olivea answered. “Just enough human in me to make me partly susceptible to the Cataclysm virus. Nothing that’ll kill me on it’s own, but…” She sighed, hanging her head slightly towards the ground. “You’d never believe even half of the things that could kill me if I so much as touch it. People included.”
“And you’re training to be a detective??” Lizzy raised an eyebrow at that.
“I’m aiming for a desk job,” Olivea replied. “The Dispatch department… hopefully.”
“Hopefully?” Lizzy frowned.
“Yeah,” Olivea nodded, “apparently I got the attention of one of our teachers when I was messing around with some water spell channeling.” She paused for a moment, then said, “Listen, whatever you do, try not to get Mister Waatt’s attention, alright? If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid having to take one of his remedial classes and…”
Lizzy frowned, something about that sounded familiar. Had she heard someone talking about it recently? “And?”
“Aaaannd, I got recommended to take an exclusive class that might make me Black Arm Certified,” Olivea sighed. “If I do that, then there’s no way I’ll get to Dispatch!” There was definitely something familiar about this, but what, Lizzy couldn’t place it.
“Well, I dunno what to say,” Lizzy shrugged. “I haven’t even started taking classes here yet. I don’t think I’ve even been fitted for the uniform yet.”
“Ooh, that’s a toughie!” Olivea nodded. “Lemme tell you about how much fun it was requesting a uniform material that wouldn’t kill me for wearing it!”
“You’re awfully casual about talking about the things that kill you,” Lizzy noted.
“When the whole world seems out to get me since birth?” Olivea smiled. “It pays to have fun where and when I can.”
Nahgi Llewellyn frowned at the picture of the Lamia sitting on her desk. It was a teacher’s application- one that had already been approved by the Academy administration. The man’s black hair was styled in that one particular style from twenty years ago, and was slightly greyed around the snake heads. It was eccentric looking, especially when compared to his crimson eyes, which shown brightly behind a pair of sunglasses.
Sunglasses, Nahgi observed, whose black lenses glowed with the faint power of an unknown enchantment. It wasn’t seen in the photo, but those black colored lenses matched the black arm-warmers stretching across from hands to shoulders. The Lamia in the photograph would be starting a limited-run class in a month’s time- recruiting a fresh batch of students for that peculiar restricted island, which ran itself under its own supervision…
This man, staring at her through the photograph, was but one step below her part of Mystryal’s administration. It was of no surprise that he would be chosen to teach this one particular class. It was of no surprise that he would be certified to become a teacher. It was of no surprise, to anyone except Nahgi herself, that this man, one Ahr’tur Llewellyn, would be slithering into her life and making a mess of things once more.
“Once more, I reiterate: ‘I’m Retired’ Hergie’s tailless ass!” Nahgi hissed at the photograph of her father. She was of half a mind to grab her direct line to Hecate and ask why she had never been informed that her own FATHER had been a part of Mystryal’s Restricted Island staff for- according to the folder in front of her- over FORTY YEARS!! Even during the time he’d said he’d been retired!!
But no, she knew that’d never get her anywhere. There was a reason the Restricted Section of Mystryal had it’s own management. The same reason the Academy had it’s own management separate from the Agency’s management. The reason was that Hecate was not the ruler people wanted them to be. The reason was that Hecate could never have managed three different branches on their own.
The reason was that three different branches eased the burden of leadership and split the load of power among three different parts of the island. It therefore went without saying why the Academy’s administrative board had decided to hire a man who worked among the upper ranks of the Restricted Vault without even checking with the Agency’s Chief to see if she was even aware of her father coming back into her life in such a dramatic manner.
Nahgi wondered if her father would even call her to tell her about this? Or would she be left in the dark and never would have known had someone over in the Academy administration not caught the same last name and forwarded a copy of the file to her desk out of curi–
Nahgi snapped the phone up before the second ring could even begin. “Chief Llewellyn speaking!”
_“Hey, Nahgi!”_ Kana Mayoi’s voice beamed through the phone.
“Oh, hi, Kana,” Nahgi smiled, though she knew her friend couldn’t see it. “What’s up?”
_“Oh, you know, one last case before I go on vacation,”_ Mayoi answered. _“And boy is it a doozy!”_
“It must be if you’re calling me while on duty,” Nahgi frowned. “What’s happened?”
_“Oh, nothing big, I just need to know if you could call up Hecate and ask them how to, just out of curiosity and completely as a hypothetical-”_ Mayoi’s tone of voice sounded anything but hypothetical. _“How do I kill or capture one of Kyiahlnah’s Changelings?”_
Nahgi blinked, processed the question, blinked again, then asked, “Um, care to run that by me again? I think I misheard you the first time. Did you say you wanted to know how to kill-slash-capture a Demon empowered Changeling?”
_“Well, yeah?”_ Mayoi sounded rather…. bemused? What was there to be bemused about hunting down one of Kyiahlnah’s wartime monsters!?
Nahgi resisted the urge to face palm. Instead, she glared at the ruby paperweight sitting on her desk. “Mayoi. I’m going to assume you already have a way of tracking down this Changeling, right?”
_“Er, well, sorta, yeah?”_ Mayoi laughed. _“I’m going to be using the murder weapon as a focus in a tracking spell. I think even if it’s not still in town, it should still work?”_
Nahgi thought on it for a moment. “Yeah, that should work. But killing it… I don’t think that will work.”
_“Well, that’s why I asked you to ask Hecate?”_ Mayoi didn’t seem to understand the sheer irony of this situation.
“Well, it’s just… you see…” Nahgi debated what to say, staring at that gemstone the entire time. “I might actually have something in my personal collection that my Dad gave me years ago that might help with a Changeling.”
_“Eh? Really?”_ Mayoi asked, clearly surprised.
“Yeah, hold on, I’m going to make a call or three, but if I’m right, I might have a way to capture the Changeling.” Nahgi smirked as the thought came to her, “And honestly? Nabbing a Changeling alive is going to be great practice for when we have to arrest Kyiahlnah for burning your apartment down and nearly killing Kendal.”
“Oh!” Mikari cried out in surprise, and then waved, “Nitta! Lizzy! Over here!”
It had been sheer circumstance, with Lizzy and Olivea running into the four others who had been looking for Lizzy right outside Beetle’s Donuts.
“Oh! Hey, Mikari,” Lizzy gave a small wave.
“You two know each other?” Olivea asked.
“She offered me her spare room while I’m taking classes here,” Lizzy answered as Mikari, Kendal, Miri, and Detective Kaie caught up to them.
“Oh, that’s nice,” Olivea smiled at Lizzy, then to Yuki. “Hey! Fancy that! I found your roommate.”
“Haha, yeah,” Mikari nodded. “Funny coincidence, that.” Those two quickly slipped away to discuss something about recording gems.
“Hey, Lizzy,” Kendal smiled. “Things going better?”
“Yeah,” Lizzy nodded. “I’m not feeling so overwhelmed right now.”
“That’s great!” Kendal grinned.
“Yeah, the way-gate trick really helped,” Lizzy nodded.
“AHHEM,” Ranagi coughed, politely, so as to draw attention back to him- or more specifically, the shopping bags that he’d been forced to carry all the way over here. “Now that we’ve reunited everyone, Kendal, I think it’s time we headed home and get sorting everything.”
“Right, right,” Kendal nodded. “Home.” She turned to Lizzy and smiled in apology, “I guess we gotta go… Did you figure things out?”
“It’s fine,” Lizzy smiled and thumbed at her dry, non bleeding nose. “Thanks for the idea, it really helped.”
“That’s great!!” Kendal smiled.
Mikari coughed. “Um, am I missing something?”
Lizzy and Kendal shared a look, then both spoke at the same time, “Nothing important!”
Father and Daughter returned home in silence, to the sight of their small apartment’s living room filled with shopping bags. Bags that were soon emptied, and their contents ready to be sorted.
“So many clothes,” Ranagi sighed and sat down, “so much money spent.” He shook his head, “I just wish your mom was here to see you beat this.”
“Beat what?” Kendal was smiling as she sat down too, “Me no longer burning up my clothes every time I get angry?”
“Ignoring the part where those outbursts were slowly killing you?” Ranagi frowned as they started sorting through everything.
“Well, yeah, that too,” Kendal frowned slightly. “I guess…”
Ranagi sighed once more. “Sorry to bring up the depressing part again.”
“No, Dad, it’s fine,” Kendal shook her head. “I’ve been kind of ignoring that part in favor of saying, ‘hey! I survived an arm through the chest!’ It’s kind of…” She paused, and her ears twitched as she fought for the right words. “Happier? I guess? I survived an attempted murder rather than lame fire magic poisoning.”
“And here I was hoping I’d be able to keep you from getting in that kind of danger in the first place,” Ranagi sighed for a third time, which he was beginning to really tire of doing at this point. “Look, Kendal…”
“Yeah?” She looked at him, and their eyes locked. For a few moments, Ranagi saw the same yellow fire in his daughter’s eyes that he’d seen in his wife’s. A fire that would never be contained by the likes of him.
“I’ve been thinking,” He began, even while folding up some printed shirt as neatly as he could.
“Uh oh,” Kendal jokingly frowned. “Should I be worried?”
“No, yes… maybe…” Ranagi ran his hands through his hair and lightly grunted in frustration. No, sighing felt like it would have been a more appropriate action here, but oh well too late now… “Kyiahlnah’s going to come after you again at some point, when she learns you’re still alive. And, I’ve realized there’s nothing I can do to stop that if I’m not there.”
“Oouh, fair point,” Kendal grimaced. “You’re not going to stop being a detective, are you?”
“No.” And that was the truth. “There’s no better place for me to be that’ll give me a better chance at stopping her first than as a detective.” He paused, opening his mouth slightly as he thought for the right words. “But, I don’t want you getting caught off guard,” he continued. “I want you to be able to fight that bitch off with everything you’ve got if I’m not there to stop her.”
“Dad?” Kendal stared at her father, not quite sure where he was going with this.
“When Ayako gets back, she and Tony are going to help you learn how to control your transformations,” Ranagi concluded, “and if you’re able to learn how before the next set of classes begins…” He sighed, and let loose the words he really didn’t want to say, “I’m willing to reconsider letting you join Mystryal.”
Kendal thought on that for a moment, eyes blinking and ears slowly twitching- and then she let out a squeal of happiness, and leaped into hugging her father. “Thank you, Daddy! Thank you!”
Ranagi sat there for a moment before hugging her back and whispering, “You’re welcome.”
“Caria! I can’t believe you!!” Rhutowski cried out in protest as he and the Lawywer, Damez Vivex, stood outside the jail cell that the annoyed dragon woman had once again been put into. “You tried to KILL SOMEONE!”
“No! They hit me over the head with a box and framed me!” Caria insisted, crossing her arms and glaring at the lawyer. “Now get me out of here!”
“Sorry, but that’s going to be impossible,” Damez said, shaking his head. “Your terms and conditions of my previous bailout had you not causing trouble, and what did you do?” Caria remained silent. “You caused trouble. Now, admittedly, there is a little I can do, but it won’t get you out of jail again, I’m afraid. The Izala family is pressing charges. You’re not going to be bailed out any time soon, no matter how much money your friend here pays me.”
“SEE, CARIA!?” Rhutowski exclaimed, tears running from his one good eye. “You’re in serious trouble!”
“I’m NOT in trouble because this is bullshit and Mystryal holds no actual-!” Caria stopped as a blinding flash of ruby-red light filled the room, and then settled down, revealing that whole investigative team had walked into the jail cell holding chamber… With a certain dragon holding a peculiar rusted shovel that was tied with mage-rope to a glowing Ruby Gemstone.
“What in Mizar’s…?” Rhutowski began to stare when Kana Mayoi pointed the shovel at them and called out:
A warming pulse of ruby light filled the jail cell area, and caused the Lawyer, Damez Vivex, to suddenly spasm and collapse to the ground, writhing in anguish as his whole body began bubbling and shifting like it was made out of a volatile chemical reaction.
“What the fuck!?” Caria stared at the lawyer’s body as it settled into some weird, monstrous form that was half-way between a harpy, a Rakutor, and a four armed dragon.
“Ba’rune the Changeling!” Mayoi called out, kneeling down and slapping a piece of paper marked with a binding circle onto the changeling’s back, forcing the monster to go through yet another transformation- this time locking it into the form of a small bird with the binding circle spread across its back. “You’re under arrest for the murders of Joan Hayamoto, Frank D’zaro, and Tu’Rahk Morgan!” Then, Mayoi turned to Ayako, who was holding a bird cage in her arms, and locked the pesky Changeling into the cage.
“Well that sure was a mystery, wasn’t it?” Tyler Obonz commented as he looked down at the Caged Changeling. “Just who the hell was this guy supposed to be anyways?”
“The Hoss family lawyer?” Rhutowski supplied, although he questioned the validity of that information now.
“We’ve never had one,” Robert Hoss scowled.
“What? But he’s the one who let me out of jail before!” Caria protested. “He’s got to be a legitimate lawyer!”
“Oh, so he’s the one who let you out?” Mayoi glared at her mother. “Can’t say I’m surprised. Probably wanted you to distract me from finding him.”
“HOW!?!” The Changeling barely managed to chirp out from within the cage, “How did you find me!?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Ayako asked before sticking her tongue out at it.
“Who knew that your old paperweight from years ago would be the key to tracking down a friggin’ Changeling?” Mayoi shook her head as she tossed the ruby up and down in her hand once before handing it over to Chief Llewellyn, who had come all the way from Mystryal to deliver the artifact.
“Honestly, I never thought we’d ever actually be hunting a Changeling,” Nahgi shook her head as she carefully put the Ruby Heartstone into the velvet bag she’d brought it in. “At least that’s one good thing my dad’s off the wall jobs have gotten us over the years.” She sighed, “Damn it.”
“Did something happen?” Mayoi frowned.
“No. Well, yes, sort of…” Nahgi sighed again. “Look, I’ll tell you back on Mystryal, alright? Over dinner?”
“Sure thing,” Mayoi nodded. “I could go for a nice dinner after the day I’ve had.”
“Right, dealing with your mother,” Nahgi frowned. “Listen, while I’m here… do you want me to-?”
“No,” Mayoi shook her head. “I’m going to deal with her myself.” She steeled herself with a deep breath, then said, “I have to. If I run away now, I’m always going to be running away from her.” She then put on a smile and glanced over at Ayako and Tyler, who were keeping watch over the bird-caged Changeling. “Besides, you’re going to have your hands full escorting that thing back to the island.”
“He’s going straight to Isolation for now,” Nahgi grumbled. “I don’t know how we’re even going to go about holding a trial for a Changeling.”
“Let Hecate figure it out,” Mayoi offered. “Isn’t that SOP for cases like this?”
“I guess so,” Nahgi shook her head. “It just seems so weird that all of this ancient magic stuff is popping up now. What ever happened to the good old days when history stayed on the walls and in museums?”
“The day they didn’t buy an ancient relic just because it was cracked,” Mayoi smirked at her own little joke.
“Fair enough,” Nahgi relented.
Caria Calvert, formerly Mayoi, steeled herself as her daughter walked into the room. Johnathan Rhutowski, stuck in the cell next to her, didn’t. Instead, he practically threw himself at the bars, pleading, “I didn’t know! I didn’t know he was a changeling! I didn’t know he was a murderer either! Please, Kana! You’ve got to believe–!!” A silencing spell later left him muted, yelling nothing at all into the air. He didn’t even seem to notice.
“So,” Caria began, frowning at her daughter.
“So,” Kana countered, keeping her face neutral.
“How is this going to work, this time?” Caria asked.
“You’re going to both be tried in court for a couple of different things,” Kana answered. “Honestly, be glad you’re both being charged separately from the Changeling’s murder case. The fact that you almost killed an innocent girl while on your way to kill your own Granddaughter?” Caria flinched, clearly wanting to say something, but didn’t. Kana gave her a small sliver of credit. “That isn’t going to earn you any favors as it is, but it’s probably going to be a lighter sentence than if you were being charged with accessory after the fact.”
“I… see…” Caria frowned. “You’re not going to go easy on me, then?”
“No.” Kana answered, “Just because you gave birth to me doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on you. Besides, after this, the next time we’ll be seeing each other is in court.” She narrowed her eyes slightly, “And it won’t be as me-the-detective who you’ll see. Legally? That’s because it wasn’t me who arrested you. When you see me next, it’ll be me- the mother of the girl you wanted dead.”
“And what about John?” Caria asked, glancing over at the still yelling Rhutowski.
“Don’t know, don’t rightly care,” Kana answered, looking at the Lamia straight in his one good eye. It was enough to get him to shut up and listen as she concluded, “I never liked him anyways.”
And thus, she left the jail cells, passing by Robert Hoss on the way out. She gave him a nod, and he let Rhutowski talk once more before they closed the door behind them.
“So,” Robert mused, “I take it the next time we’ll be seeing each other will be in court as well?”
“For both cases,” Kana nodded. “But honestly, I’m looking forwards to the Izala’s case more. Simple, open and closed case. She’ll get what she deserves.”
“Personally, I’m looking forwards to the Changeling case,” Robert replied. “It’s not every day you deal with something like this.”
“True,” Kana nodded. “Until next time?” She held out her hand.
“Yeah,” Robert shook her hand. “Until next time.”
Tony’s ears twitched as he heard the front door to the apartment unlock. A moment later, Ayako called out, “Tony? Miri? You home?”
“Yup!” Miri called out from the front room. “Tony’s making dinner!”
“He is?” Ayako asked, peeking her head into the kitchen. “Whatcha makin’?”
“Mac ‘n’ cheese,” Tony smiled at her.
“Sounds yummy!” Ayako grinned. “Lemme know when it’s ready. I’ve had a really long day and comfort food sounds great for talking it over.”
“Oh?” Tony asked. “What happened?”
“No spoilers!” Ayako teased, and then flitted out of the kitchen with a giggle.
Tony just laughed as he felt a surge of positive energy from his soul bonded girlfriend. Things would be alright… just so long as he didn’t burn dinner.
Mikari Yuki heard a knock at her apartment’s door.
“Coming, coming!” She called out, and hurried over to the door to open it. “Yes?” She opened the door, and frowned as she looked at the man standing on the other side of the frame. He was a Lamia, and dressed up in a teacher’s uniform. His snake headed hair was black, with the heads of said snakes greying. He wore a set of sunglasses that looked ridiculous indoors.
“Mikari Yuki?” He asked.
“That’s me,” She frowned.
“I’m Ahr’tur, from the grades department,” the man introduced himself, removing his glasses to reveal blood red eyes, “and I’m here to talk to you about your class scores.”
“If this is about the Remedial classes, I’m taking them,” Mikari scowled. “Even if Mister Waatt doesn’t seem to take my concerns about busted spells seriously.”
“Remedial classes, yes,” Ahr’tur said with a dry chuckle. “That’s exactly why I’m here.” He handed her a letter. “I’m here to inform you that unless you pick up one extra recurring class, your grades will not reach high enough marks to pass this semester, and you’ll be expelled.”
“…What?” Mikari opened the letter and read through it. “This can’t be right. You’re listing my practical classes as lower than they should be. And– HEY!” She looked at him, glaring. “This isn’t right either. I know my written exams are shoddy but I know my field evaluations are definitely higher than this! You’re making this up!”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me properly the first time,” the man said, “I’m Ahr’tur Llewellyn. I’m the Chief’s father. Whatever I say is true, whether you believe it or not.” he smirked, “Fortunately, I have a solution that will make this problem go away.”
“And what’s that?” Mikari glared at him.
“You take my Black Arms Certification Class, or you’re expelled.”
“Pardon the pun, but that’s Black Mail,” Mikari growled, moving to close the door. “And Chief’s father or not, I know Chief Llewellyn personally. You can’t force me to take this class!” That would have been the end of it- had Mister Llewellyn not grabbed the edge of the door and held it open before it could be slammed in his face.
“You seem to misunderstand once again the severity of your grading issue,” He glared at her. “If you tell my daughter about this, she will be fired. She shouldn’t have had this job as Chief at all to begin with.”
“So now you’re threatening me with the Chief’s JOB if I don’t take your class!?” Mikari scowled.
“Yes, and that of your supervising field teachers… Kaie and Mayoi.” Ahr’tur Llewellyn said. “Oh, by the way, tell either of them, too, and there will be consequences just the same.”
“…” Mikari glared at the man with the fire of a burning sun. “You realize, of course, I can quit the academy entirely and tell everyone what you’re doing.”
“Do that, and they’ll be fired just the same.” Ahr’tur answered.
“You’re bluffing.” Mikari dared him. There was no way he had that much pull.
“Do you really want to test that?” He asked.
“Why do you want me in your class so badly, hm?” Mikari flawlessly countered while she continued to glare at him.
“You’ll just have to take the class and find out,” and with that, Ahr’tur Llewellyn put his sunglasses back on and turned to leave. “Have a good day, Miss Yuki.”
Mikari continued to glare after him as he left, and then shut the door. For a few moments, she stood there, breathing, then turned to Lizzy, who was standing in the door to the room she’d claimed as her own, and asked with a dangerous, angry tone, “How much of that did you hear?”
“Every single word,” Lizzy answered with just as angry of a tone.
“Good,” Mikari breathed out, somewhat in relief. “I think I have to take that class whether I want to or not.”
“What’s his interest in you, though?” Lizzy frowned. “I don’t get it.”
“Me either,” Mikari frowned, “but I want you to see what you can dig up about him and find out what the fuck is going on.”
“That?” Lizzy smiled, “that I can do. And when I’m done?”
“We tell everyone,” Mikari decided. “I don’t care what the fuck it is that guy’s reach is… there’s no way Chief Nahgi’s going to roll over and let him get away with this.”
“But what if he does?” Lizzy asked, frowning. “What if he can do it?”
“If he can really do it?” Mikari paused to think, then, nodded, “…Then I find some people who would be more than willing to help me tear him down with us. One person in particular would be more than glad to help us out.”
“Who’s that?” Lizzy asked, even as Mikari turned to head to her own bedroom.
“My girlfriend,” was all Mikari said before the door closed behind her.
TO BE CONTINUED…
The Voided Banks