December 10th, 1618.
Was it fair? Ranagi Kaie wondered. Was it fair that a life was hanging in the balance due to a group of thieves? Was it fair that in less than a month it would be the start of the end of the year Glitter Festival? Was it fair that in a time where people were supposed to be spending time with their families and friends, that it was very possible that because of a group of thieves with a magic gun, that two people could be forever separated by the void of death?
The manager of the Plesio Myne’s location was still in surgery- his survival owned mainly due to his Sylph biology. A last-second instinctive shift that turned his body from solid to gaseous and spared him from the magi-tech weapon’s most devastating damage- it’s enchanted ammunition.
A bullet that, upon entering Mike Flynn’s torso, would unleash a devastating electric charge into his body. Enough of a voltage, apparently, that it would have stopped his heart cold in his solid form, regardless of the rest of the shot’s impact damage. Mike, as a Sylph, had shifted into his elemental form at the moment of impact. Instead of immediately killing him, that bullet had ended up shocking Mike in his elemental form, which contained a lot of natural bio-electricity to begin with and did little physical harm otherwise, but still forced him into unconsciousness almost immediately, dropping him back into a solid form. This mean that the bullet then had become lodged somewhere within the Sylph’s chest area, with most of its charge already spent. What little shock charge left in the ammunition was now acting very similarly to a certain broken cane sword tip from a certain case four months ago. That, more than anything was what became life threatening.
‘All this,’ Ranagi Kaie thought, ‘all of this, for a set of costumes.’
The four mascot costumes had been stolen a month out from a family holiday. The thieves had come in and shot the Manager at point blank range, all to steal the four costumes.
Three of the four lockers that the Mascot actors used to store the costumes had been broken into, the fourth, had been literally stolen right out of the possession of the girl who had been with the Manager when he’d been shot.
Shauna Toulise – the poor girl – had simply been left alone as she tried to figure out what to do about a bullet lodged within her manager without an open wound to get to. And once those thieves had left, she’d torn herself away for just a minute in order to call for a doctor. According to the emergency responders, it was very, VERY lucky that Mike Flynn was still alive, if just barely- but that fact wasn’t doing much to console the pink hued dragon.
“Please, just… stop crying…” Miri Nori, who Kaie really thought should not be out in the field with her four-months-along pregnancy, tried to comfort the girl. “He’ll be fine. Please, just…”
“B-bu-but I di-di-didn’t g-ge-get a-a-a ch-chaa-chance to t- to te-tell h-hii-hiiiimm~~~” Shauna barely managed to stutter out before breaking into a loud wail.
Miri looked towards her brother, Tony, who gave an apologetic shrug before turning back to talk with their fellow Lycan, Ayako Mayoi, and their Spriggain friend, Lizzy Smith, about the abandoned Magi-tech weapon that had caused this mess. Miri sighed, and returned to trying to comfort Shauna.
Kaie wished her the best of luck in that, and turned to join his Intern detectives in their discussion.
“What I don’t get is why they just left it here,” Tony grimaced. “They shoot a guy, then drop the weapon on their way out?”
“It’s not like they could use it again,” Lizzy remarked as her eyes ran over the object’s surface in an attempt to read the runes embedded inside the weapon’s internal design, or rather, what was left of its internals. “Whole thing is basically fused into one giant brick right now. There’s enough of some of it left… not melted? I guess… to tell me that it’s intentional, like some kind of one shot weapon type deal. Part of one of these runes seem to be made to fuse the entire thing into a brick when whatever it was fired.”
“That’s pretty expensive for a one shot weapon,” Ayako frowned, her ears flexing downward in annoyance. “I’ve never even heard of something like this.” What was the purpose? Intimidation? If so it was a stupid move to leave the weapon behind.
“Maybe we should call in Mikari?” Tony offered, glancing at Lizzy when she flinched at the name. “Didn’t she say they went over something like this in class before?”
“And you know she’s not even supposed to be talking to me about that,” Lizzy bitterly snapped. “We can all get in trouble if I tell you guys about it.”
“Who’s going to care about a certification class all the way out here?” Tony asked, scowling.
“Riiiight,” Ayako griped, “’Black Arm Certification.’ Seriously, I don’t get what the whole deal is. Even Kendal’s annoyed with how little they’re allowed to tell us about the class.”
“Preaching to the choir here,” Kaie shook his head as he interjected himself into the conversation, “I have to deal with both my daughter and my girlfriend being annoyed at the same man, who just so happens to be the Chief’s father.”
Nobody cracked a joke at his expense. Chief Nahgi Llewellyn’s father’s sudden appointment as the teacher of that Black Arms Certification class had caught everyone in their little group of friends off guard. Especially with how uneasily Mikari had accepted the class into her existing roster of classes- there was something going on that she couldn’t tell them- that much Lizzy had allowed herself to say. And given everything else that had happened since those classes had started? That Chief Llewellyn, Detectives Kaie and Mayoi were finding it impossible to pull Mikari out for field work of any kind? That Llewellyn’s father had seemingly doubled down on making his displeasure of Ranagi and Nahgi’s relationship known? That he gave everyone and anyone- who even accidentally was in the area of one of his active classes and could potentially be snooping around- a three week detention slip? A lot of the other teachers seemed to be annoyed with the man’s ridiculous antics, but could do nothing about it.
Sometimes, Ayako really wished that Kyiahlnah would cause some trouble somewhere in the world- just so that way the old team could get together again and work on that long-since left open case and so they could get Mikari out of there.
But no, that Stuck Up Princess refused to even make so much of a spark of discontent anywhere in the world. Even her mother was so busy trying to get two different court cases going that they hadn’t so much as had a chance to work a case together since… since…
Her hands clenched tightly, sharpened nails threatening to pierce the skin of her palms.
Tony caught the feelings of resentment and anger flowing over their Soul Bond, and reached a hand out to massage Ayako’s shoulder in a comforting way. Ayako gave a small sigh, and relaxed her hands.
None of this went unnoticed between Kaie and Lizzy, and even Miri, who was still sitting with Shauna a small distance away, was able to pick up on it. None of them said anything.
“Er… what was…?” Well, except for Shauna, who finally felt a feeling other than despair and anguish for the first time in the last half hour- observing the scene with wide eyed confusion… and just a faint, barely visible bit of anger.
“Nothing, Nothing,” Miri waved it off. “Just some personal stuff going on.” Then, she finally took the opportunity to keep the dragon girl focused on something other than her recently shot boyfriend/manager. “Hey, do you want to go get something to eat real quick while we wait for my team to finish examining everything?”
“Um…. sure,” Shauna nodded, and together, they went off to find any nearby convenience store that would still have been open at this time of night.
Miri just hoped that she would be able to keep Shauna focused away from thoughts of death. The last thing they needed was for her to be convinced Mike Flynn’s soul was heading to Yaovi’s realm.
Judges Aaron Asha’da and Sophie Sapphire were good people who had tried many cases over the years they’d been first appointed to become Judges of the Court. A lot of Kana’s and Ranagi’s cases had been sent through them, ranging from some of the most absurdly convoluted murder cases to some of the more typical personal injury cases.
Each had their domain, and each had a unique perspective on the cases they were to be investigating.
Chief Nahgi Llewellyn was sure that, if anything, these two would be able to sort their way through the mess that had been the Tategami Wyoh investigation.
“So that is the situation of both cases as things now stand,” Hecate the Pathfinder concluded the summary, strings visibly vibrating with each spoken word. “Your thoughts on the matter?”
“I think a Joint Trial would be ideal,” said Judge Aaron Asha’da with a nod. He was a Pyromander who made it very clear that he was one by never hiding it from the court, and by never turning down a case that involved anything with his species’ history with the Flame Princess’s army. Everyone respected him for his work in fairly sentencing the criminals of his own kind. “It’s one series of events. The Changeling intentionally escalated events in the Caria case to serve as a distraction to the main case. If that had never happened, your daughter, nor Miss Izala, would never have had their lives threatened by Caria.” He nodded to Kana, who smiled faintly in return. “However, I doubt it would be the easiest thing to pull off given the circumstances.”
“I’ve read up on the lawyers involved,” Judge Sophie Sapphire began. She was a Gnome, and her rock solid, unshakable ways of dealing with with personal relation cases made her the perfect choice to deal with the more outspoken types of people involved in cases like these. “The fact is, the defense lawyer Rhutowski managed to hire for him and miss Calvert has already begun circling the wagons in an attempt to change the story. I’ve dealt with cases this man has worked on before- especially unusual and rare joint trials. If we try to do both cases as one, it’s likely going to end up with him claiming that the ghost of Kyiahlnah mind controlled everyone into their actions and getting them all off scot-free, Changeling included.” She scowled, not noticing how almost everyone else tensed up at the “Ghost” comment, rather than the “Changeling being let off” remark.
“So,” Hecate strummed, “you see no easy way of a Joint Trial working?”
“No,” Judge Asha’da shook his head.
“Despite the common factor between the cases, the Changeling’s actions are easily replaced by that of any other man,” Judge Sapphire said. “We perform the Changeling’s trial first, get him convicted, and then do the Attempted Murder case second.” She looked Hecate in the-sort-of-glowing-orb-eyes, and then said, “But that was already your conclusion, was it not?”
“Ah, of course,” Judge Asha’da nodded. “Not a Joint Trial but a Sequential Trial! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Sequential was my conclusion as well,” Hecate admitted. “But I wanted your opinions first.” They shrugged their metal shoulders with a faint squeak. “I may be the one who set up this system, but I’m afraid I’ve managed to lose track of some of the minute intricacies that have formed within the last few decades.”
“That was the easy part taken care of,” Hergie scoffed. “The hard part is: ‘What to do about the Changeling?’ and let me tell you, we’ve been scratching our heads over it for four months now.”
“Changelings are, of course, publicly seen as all but extinct, given their limited means of reproduction,” Judge Asha’da remarked. “Naturally, that takes the death penalty off of the table, even considering his potentially massive list of Cataclysm War Crimes… Certain groups would conspire to keep him alive at all costs. Especially given how ancient this one Changeling seems to be.”
“And that Changeling biology makes sentencing harder as well. Any kind of normal sentencing we could give him would be null and void given his unique biology,” Judge Sapphire added. “He could shift into a guard and simply walk right out of the building.”
“But,” Judge Asha’da countered, “any highly advanced Black Arms rank mage could pull something like that off. Mages who have that kind of power are dealt with safely all the time.”
“But we can suppress those mages with sealing ward tattoos.” Judge Sapphire frowned, “A Changeling’s skin is as permanent as water. Any and all forms of sealing would have to be kept on it externally, and those can degrade, or be tampered with. Anyone seeking to free him could do such with ease.”
“Which is a problem we’ve run into with storing him before the trial,” Nahgi interjected. “The paper runes binding him start to fail within a month. We have to replace them before then or else he can escape.”
“So, the real question here is,” Judge Asha’da mused, sounding like a softly rumbling volcano as he scratched at his chin. “What can we do to contain a Changeling that is a fitting punishment for murder while not going excessively overboard?”
“And that,” Hecate thrummed, “is exactly why I’ve called you all here today.”
“Now, for the prelude to your Holiday Homework assignment. Which of you can tell me what the correct answer is in this case?” The Lamia teacher known as Ahr’tur Llewellyn pointed a collapsible/extendable wand at the situation written on the blackboard.
The case referred to a Specter that had been summoned by a group of Mystryal Students some years ago- a poor wayward soul had been involved in an incident in the school even more years before that, and her soul had been cast adrift through time. Upon arriving in the then present, the Specter had possessed a teacher and caused untold damage before the students that had summoned it found a way to bind it and ‘banish’ it from the possessed teacher.
The how, though, that was up for debate this class. There were three options, two scenarios and a third ‘write it in’ option. Imp girl Mikari Yuki sat at her desk, and mulled it over. Option One was to use Salt as a banishment medium; Option Two was to use a Purifying Chant.
“Miss Yuki?” Mister Llewellyn nodded at her- and she swallowed back the immediate, bitter response she wanted to throw his way to speak a legitimate solution to the problem.
“I’d do both. Throw salt while saying the Chant.” That was her third option.
The Lamia stood there for a moment as he processed the answer, then, smiled. “Good. Because that’s exactly what they tried.”
“So that’s it?” Alec Purchit, the Lycan boy of their group, asked. “Salt and A Purifying Chant banishes Specters?” He, too, seemed distrustful of Mister Llewellyn, though for an apparently different reason that Mikari had for not liking the man.
“Note that I said ‘tried’,” Mister Llewellyn said. “I did not say that they succeeded.” He took off his glasses and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “After they attempted this first ritual binding and cleansing, they did succeed in freeing the first victim from possession, however, that just freed the spirit to go into another body.”
“Wait.” Elise Eh’yre, the Iconox girl of their group, frowned. “So they failed? What… what was the point of the two choices on the board then?” She, too, was nervous in voicing her concerns.
This class was nothing like any of the others. Quiet, secluded, and hours long without the usual breaks- only lunch hour ended up being free, usually.
Oh, Ahr’tur Llewellyn never locked the door, but it was clear that it would be an immediate fail if anyone left early without his approval.
“The point is that sometimes your first attempt will fail! That the first attempt is not always the final solution,” Mister Llewellyn answered.
“What did they do then?” Olivea Nitta, the Undine girl of their four student group, asked. She was uneasy with the class as well- with her life threatening allergies, she would never be a proper mage or work in the field. That still didn’t stop Ahr’tur from pushing her into the class somehow anyways.
“That,” Mister Llewellyn smirked, “is exactly what your homework assignment for this holiday break is.” He began slithering side to side, “By the time we resume classes after this holiday break, I expect you four to work together to come up with a solution to this problem, and to present it to me when you return to class after the new year begins.” And with that, he motioned at the door. “Class dismissed. Remember: tell no-one what you learned here.”
“OH THANK ALCOR, WE’RE FREE!” Mikari began as they exited the Academy building on Yuugo Yisela. “How’s about we knock out this homework as fast as possible and not come back to it until we’re back from our free time.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Olivea nodded. “What’re you all doing for the Glitter Festival?”
“I’m going back home in Zaahak’s Willow,” Elise smiled. “My cousins are way-gating in from Gahli’s Hook for the Festival and we’re going to be exchanging gifts. I haven’t seen them in years~!”
“If you were a Lycan, your tail would be wagging,” Alec joked, a little bitterly. “I’m not doing much this year. My family’s all crazy chaotic with the tourist season back home. I’m probably just going to stay on the islands. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get brought along on a case by someone.”
“Eh,” Olivea grimaced, “sounds like a pain. My only other family travels a lot, and since I live here on the island, I’ll be staying too.” She turned to Mikari. “What about you, Yuki?”
Mikari’s smile didn’t quite reach as far as it normally would, “I’m going back home to visit my parents. I’ve been meaning to go back and visit my sister, so I’ll probably make that trip too.”
“You’ve got a sister?! Awesome! How come you haven’t mentioned her before?” Elise asked, smiling brightly. Mikari tried her best not to flinch. None of them really shared much in class, and outside of it, they were just glad to be out from under Ahr’tur’s oppressive thumb.
“She’s, um…” Mikari shook her head. “She stayed in our home town when my parents moved away, and I went to Mystryal.” That was as close to the truth as she was willing to go. She could see Alec staring at her with a concerned look in his eyes. Damned Lycan sense of smell- he could probably tell she was half-lying.
“Aw,” Elise pouted. “That’s too bad.”
“Well, at least you’ll get to see her, right?” Alec ventured, sounding a bit hesitant.
He definitely knew. Damn it.
“Yeah,” Mikari nodded, “we haven’t talked in a long while.”
And that was the end of that as they reached the Way-gate and teleported across islands to Kono Yisela.
“So what should we do about the homework assignment?” Mikari asked, changing subjects upon arrival. “I don’t think we’re supposed to use the library. I kind of get the feeling that-”
“ALEC!!” a shrill voice interrupted her as a blur of red colored fur leaped from the stairs and tackle-pounced Alec into submission.
“OOF!” Alec gasped for breath as he hit the ground- “What the…?” His eyes refocused, and the first thing he saw was his little sister, Chery Purchit, giggling like mad as she hugged him tightly. “…Sis?” And then, he realized a crucial difference from the last time he’d seen her. “What the hell did you do to your hair!?”
“…Huh,” Olivea mused, “didn’t see that coming.”