The Last Draconian 57: Illyana’s Plea

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Illyana Fensen

Michael had been mostly silent since we had resumed our trek. He’d speak only if I said something and even then he’d only give a terse response. This time we were walking, just in case he lost it again. I was used to him being quiet. Ever since we were little, he had always had his silent moments. This time… this time it worried me. He was still shaky and wasn’t sure if he could keep flying if he had another attack.

What did he mean when he said he had a “sense of incompleteness.” Was it related to why he’d suddenly collapsed? I couldn’t help but be concerned. Even his voice sounded shaky.

“How long until we reach Orontios?” I asked, trying to sound fairly cheerful.

“We will arrive in approximately three hours, twenty four minutes and fifteen seconds,” he answered. “Assuming, of course, that we maintain our current velocity and do not stop. I apologise in advance if we do not arrive at the projected time due to my condition.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I don’t think a delay would really hurt.”

*****

Lynai Elfblood

The morning came all too soon and I found myself in front of a squadron I barely knew. There was one more body than there should have been. Callie, I knew, had donned a suit of armour and surreptitiously joined the ranks. She’d show herself when we were well on our way and I couldn’t very well insist that she leave.

I spotted her in the crowd, those bright eyes glancing directly at me. I chose to pretend I hadn’t seen her. Even if I was fine with her tagging along, I knew it would cause trouble if everyone else found out before we left. After all, we were both part of a world with strict protocol and we were both breaking it. But it gave me comfort to know that she was there, looking out for me.

Lais approached before we left with someone I’d never expected to see in tow. It was Michael, looking rejuvenated, packed up and ready to go.

“Michael?” I asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I have come to offer my assistance,” he stated. “Commander Elivy has assigned me to your unit. I trust that will be acceptable?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “But I thought you were…” I paused. It could very well be a problem if I said it “I thought you had other business to attend to.”

“I have not given up on that business,” Michael stated. “But I have concluded that experience in a real battle will be a step toward finishing it.”

I nodded. “Makes sense. Join the vanguard and don’t stray from the group. We have to fight as a unit.”

He nodded. “I will observe proper military protocol. Do not concern yourself.”

We rode. We didn’t ride at full gallop, not wanting to exhaust our horses, but we still rode quickly through the great forest and towards Relna. I felt pretty good. Michael and Callie were both in my unit and I knew the three of us could accomplish remarkable feats.

*****

Michael Ryufan

We were approaching the Orontios with a fair amount of speed, considering. I was feeling significantly better, perhaps the fall earlier had been due to stress. It was somewhat disconcerting that Athena herself had implied that I should be here. But I believed in her benevolent intentions.

Surely, she knew that the age of draconians was drawing to a close. Perhaps she had a plan for me that would serve some good before my fall. Perhaps she wished to delay the inevitable. Perhaps she intended for me to unearth the secret of constructing living beings in a laboratory and propagate my species artificially.

Ultimately, however, her reasons did not matter. As long as I would still be able to accomplish my purpose, I had no objection to being put to work for whatever her goal for this scenario was.

“Can we rest for a moment?” Illyana asked.

“Certainly,” I stated. “I can not complain after the delay I caused. And I should have been attentive to your status.”

“No, no,” Illyana said. “I’m fine. Just a little tired. You’ve been perfectly attentive.”

I led her to a fallen log that she could rest on and we sat on it. I noted that she was perspiring and offered her some water, which she accepted.

“It’s been a while since we sat together like this,” she mused.

“It has,” I concurred. “Truthfully, I did not anticipate seeing you in person again after I left Wicadia. I am glad that I was in error.”

She waited exactly thirty seven point three seconds before responding. “I did get that impression but I didn’t want to bring it up.” She sighed. “Can I ask what exactly happened?”

“There is not much to tell,” I said. “I fought Sadow. When it became apparent that I could not win I attempted to use the binding breath spell. He did not notice, but my elven friend interfered and, unknowingly, prevented my plan.”

There was a more substantive pause. “I’m glad,”Illyana finally said. “Not because I don’t want him brought down, understand, but because I don’t want you to sacrifice yourself to do it.”

“I have considered methods that I could use to end him for his crimes without losing my own life in the process,” I said. “However, I do not know if I am strong enough to defeat him under normal circumstances. Please, understand my plight.”

We sat in relative silence for a substantial amount of time. It was broken, not with words, but with movement. Illyana grabbed my arm. She was surprisingly rough, given her fragile build. “Maybe that’s why we’re going.” She stated. “To get stronger. There are plenty of people who would be willing to fight by your side. Don’t try to do it alone.”

“I do not have any desire to see anyone injured or killed at my behest,” I said. “It is preferable for me to face him alone. Furthermore, I, more than anyone else, have the right.”

There was another substantial pause. It was beginning to grow disconcerting. “Maybe you do,” Illyana muttered. “But that doesn’t make it worth throwing everything away.” She stood up and rubbed her hands on her robes. “Let’s keep going.”

“Very well,” I concurred. I was well aware that she was ending the conversation in order to compel me to contemplate her finishing words. I decided to allow it.

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The Case of the Missing Stock Boy part two

Previous chapter

The inside of the building was vacant save for Brandon and about seven employees scattered into various areas.

“Mikael is over in the books and stationary department tonight,” Brandon said. “I arranged for him to be working where Zach was when he disappeared.”

“That does make things more convenient,” Bianca stated.

Hilde nodded. “Do your workers know why we’re here?”

“I’ve told them that I’m hiring people to try and find Zach,” Brandon said. “Since the police haven’t had any luck.”

“We’ll let you know immediately if we find anything,” Hilde said. “Just leave it to us.”

The detectives headed over to stationary. Mikael had boxes of stock arranged neatly and was making good progress getting the merchandise onto the shelves. He had rust coloured red hair and dark blue eyes.

Hilde noted that he arranged the stock neatly as he went. He also had a neat pile of empty boxes already flattened.

“Your clean up must be quick,”  Hilde noted. Bianca moved off on her own, presumably trying to pick up any traces of magic. Looking closely, Hilde noticed Sakura follow after her.

Mikael didn’t look at her. “It is,” he confirmed. “Things always go faster when you’re efficient.” His pace didn’t slow as he spoke.

“Do you know where exactly Mister Schietzen was when he vanished?” Hilde asked.

“Not exactly,” he said, never once pausing his work. “I was stocking the wine that night. If I had to guess, probably bothering  Herbert or Andrew to chat about  nothing or staring blankly into space. He did that a lot.”

“You really didn’t like him,” Hilde stated.

“I might’ve done if I hadn’t had to work with him,” Mikael said. “We did share some hobbies. But you know how it is. It’s hard to like a co-worker when they’re a useless cunt.”

“But Andrew and Herbert liked him?” Hilde asked.

“Nope,” Mikael said. “They complained about him all the time when he wasn’t around. They just tolerated him when he was.”

“Did anyone actually like him?” Hilde inquired.

“Not anyone we work with,” Mikael answered. “We all had to do extra to make up for him doing bugger all.”

“But they suspect you of being behind his vanishing,” Hilde watched his response. It was the first moment he’d paused his work for a moment.

“Isn’t that always the way of it?” He almost sounded like he was talking to himself more than to her. “Something bad happens involving a person and everybody suddenly deludes themselves over how much they liked them.”

“And you aren’t like that?”

“Nope,” Mikael said. He was back to a steady pace.

“Are you glad he’s gone?”  Hilde asked.

Mikael hesitated. “I’m glad I don’t have to work with him any more,”  he answered. “I just hope he’s run off somewhere and quit.” He  turned to Hilde for the first time. “Let me make one thing clear.  I wanted him fired so I’d never have to put up with his shit again. I never wanted him hurt or gone missing without a trace.”

Hilde nodded. “Right. I understand. Sorry to disturb your work.”

She moved over to where Bianca was wandering with Sakura over her shoulder. “You two find anything?”

“Maybe…” Bianca’s voice was uncertain.

“It feels… like something happened but didn’t,” Sakura added.

Hilde rubbed her temple. “I’m not a witch or a magical being. You’ll have to give me some explanation.”

“I… I don’t know how to explain it,” Sakura said.

“I might,” Bianca said. “Have you ever glanced at an online comment only to have it removed in seconds so you aren’t sure it was actually there or you just imagined it?”

“Okay, I get what you’re talking about,” Hilde said.

“Yeah, it’s a faint impression like something might have happened with magic but it’s so faded I can’t be sure,” Bianca said. “What about you? Think that our suspect is responsible?”

“My instincts say no,” Hilde answered. “He’s very blunt, but I don’t think he’s violent or dangerous. I knew a lieutenant on the force who was like that.”

“Why do I get the impression you liked working with him?” Bianca asked.

“Her, actually,” Hilde shrugged. “I like to know where I stand with people. I’m not fond of worrying about what someone might be saying behind my back. With people like her and Mikael, you always know.”

“So, where do we go from here then?” Bianca wondered.

“I’m going to check the surveillance footage from the night in question,” Hilde answered. “I want to pinpoint the exact spot Zach was when he vanished. Is there any way for you and Sakura to confirm whether or not magic was used?

“There may be,” Bianca said. “But I’ll have to call in a favour and make some preparations.”

Hilde nodded. “Get me when you’re ready.”

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The Last Draconian 56: Lynai’s Allies

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan

My return to consciousness was not a particularly pleasant one. My cranium throbbed and I was overtaken by a pervading sensation of loss.

The third thing I became aware of was Illyana, standing guard over me. There was a palpable energy in the air from her magic barrier.

The instant I began rising, Drake alerted her, fascinating that his vocalisations could be comprehensible to her. The connection betwixt a familiar and their master is fascinating.

“Michael?” She asked, her voice betraying uncertainty.

“I am not certain what happened,” I said. “How much time transpired while I was unconscious?”

“I’m not sure exactly,” Illyana admitted. “Two to four hours, certainly. I was really worried. You just collapsed and I couldn’t wake you.”

“I regret causing you concern,” I stated. I brushed the dust from my armour. “We have also lost time. Let us continue on our way.”

“Will you be okay?” Illyana asked. She brought her hand to my forehead.

“I have a gnawing sense of incompleteness,” I stated. “Physically, however, I will be fine. Thank you, for safeguarding me.”

She smiled. “Hey, what are best friends for?”

*****

Lynai Elfblood

I don’t know what I’d expected. We’d gone over the formation and then it turned into a social event, like so many I’d had to attend as a Princess.

I found my way to the garden. What was the point, I wondered, of getting to know people when you were about to go into battle and some of you probably wouldn’t come back?

“Somehow, I knew I’d find you here.” It was a familiar voice, one which got my heart racing.

“Callie,” I breathed. I looked back. She was right behind me, the moonlight illuminating her features.

“So, what’s it like to be riding into glorious battle on the morrow?” Callie asked. Her tone was glib. “Nervous?”

I tried to say no, but we would both know that was a lie. In the end, I simply nodded.

Callie moved so quickly that she seemed to dissipate. I felt her arms around me as she hugged me from behind. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

“B… but they aren’t sending you,” I said, stuttering just a little.

“Because I’m a foreign aristocrat, I know,” Callie said. “And, as a foreign aristocrat, I also know that I don’t have to follow their orders. They’ve tried to keep me safe. They’ve washed their hands of responsibility. Great. Now I’ll go with you any way.”

“That’s…” I began, but Callie’s finger on my lips stopped me from completing the thought.

“I didn’t come here for Het Wald or even for the elves as a whole. I came here for you. And I shan’t see us separated.”

I stared at her… no, not directly at her but into her bright, blue eyes. I wanted to protest that she shouldn’t follow me, that I didn’t need her help, but I knew she’d see right through me and, truthfully, what she’d just said had made me really happy.

It occurred to me in that moment that I may have actually started falling for her.

*****

Michael Ryufan 

I regained consciousness in a comfortable bed. I had not expected to awake again at all, given what I had heard before drifting into unconsciousness.

“Commander, he’s awake!”

I searched for my blade. A pink-haired elf in full armour approached.

“Sorry about that,” she said. “There are rumours going around about what happened with you and Lynai. Quite unkind towards you, I’m afraid. Fortunately, I know the truth and I was able to stop them. Thank you, for helping her.” She held out her hand. “Lais Elivy, at your service.”

“I am Michael Ryufan,” I responded. I did not take her hand. “are you, perchance, related to Luc Elivy?”

“And how might you know my sister?” she asked. Her mannerisms were those of a person who is laughing at their own private joke.

“I was her student at the Academy,” I answered.

“Funny,” Lais said. “She never mentioned teaching a draconian.”

“She was unaware,” I stated. “I always wore heavy robes and a hood.”

Lais snapped her fingers. “I remember! She mentioned having a strange student who did that. She thought you were self conscious about your looks.”

“I noticed,” I said. “She was always making certain to reference famous mages who were considered unattractive when conversing with me.”

“So, why did you come back here?” Lais inquired. “Surely, it’s not just to talk to my sister.”

“Of course not,” I stated. “Since Lynai and I are on friendly terms, I decided that I could aid her fight against the troll threat.”

In truth, my feelings towards Lynai were wholly ambivalent, but I was well aware of her feelings being more positive and feigning friendship was a more certain avenue towards cooperation than being entirely honest and saying that I just wanted to be owed.

“That’s great news,” Lais said. “Lynai is going to be leading a garrison into battle in the morning. I’ll send you with them. just look out for her, okay?”

“I will strive for her safety above all else,” I stated.

She nodded. “Try to get some more sleep. I’m sure you’re still more than a little sore.”

I closed my eyes and drifted peacefully into sleep. it was all happening in accordance with the plan.

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The Case of the Missing Stock Boy part one

“You should dress up as them next time,” Sakura said, pointing.

“You mean when we go to another con?” Hilde queried. “I’d be down with that. I could make a cute Nanoha.”

“And I could make my eyes red like that,” Bianca said. “You know, I always thought these cartoons were for kids. Live and learn.”

“Oh, Honey, I have so many more adult anime to show you,” Hilde said.

“Maybe another time,” Bianca said. “I think I’ve had enough for today. I’m going to the roof for some air. If you get a job just give me a ring.”

“Already pressuring me now that same sex marriage is legal, huh?” Hilde asked.

“Witches don’t bother with rings,” Bianca called back. “We exchange talismans. Maybe if you’re lucky I’ll show you how it works.”

Sakura waited for her to leave the office. “You should totally get her a talisman!”

“Girl, it is way too early in our relationship to be thinking of marriage,” Hilde said. “Give it a little more time.”

“But if you’re joking about it doesn’t it mean it’s already on your mind?” Sakura asked.

“Of course no…” Hilde began. She paused. “Well, maybe to a very small degree.”

Sakura looked like she was going to start bragging, but swiftly hid when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Hilde said, turning off her show.

A tall, balding man with a thin beard entered. “Uh, hi,” he said. “I’m Brandon Walters. I manage the overnight team at the local Galeria Kaufhof.”

“And how can I help you, Mister Walters?” Hilde asked.

“Well,” Brandon looked around. “You’ll keep this confidential, right?”

“It’ll stay between us and my partners,” Hilde promised.

“Two days ago one of my workers, Zachary Shietzen, went missing while on the clock,” Brandon explained. “At first I thought he may have taken off early and forgotten to clock out, but no one’s seen him since.”

“Does he often go home early or forget to clock out?” Hilde asked.

“More often than he should,” Brandon said. “But he gets by with it because our store manager thinks he may have a severe mental disorder.”

“Has the store been searched?” Hilde inquired.

Brandon nodded. “No sign of him.”

“Suspects?” Hilde wondered.

“Well…” Brandon said. He leaned in close. “There’s a rumour that one of my best workers, Mikael Gallas, might have something to do with it. I don’t want to believe it, personally, but they didn’t get along.”

“And why didn’t they get along?” Hilde wondered.

“Well, ” Brandon said “Mikael thought Zachary was an incompetent waste of space and should be fired. He… he didn’t like having to spend a lot of extra effort picking up the slack.”

“And the other workers think he may have done something about it,” Hilde said. “I get it.”

“I don’t want him accused or harassed without proof,” Brandon said. “I’m hoping if you investigate, that you’ll be able to find the facts and put an end to any unfounded gossip.”

Hilde nodded. “All right. My partner and I will come in tonight after you close. Show us where this Zachary was working and we’ll look the area over.”

“Thank you,” Brandon said. “I’ll let you in. Just be discrete, please.”

“Don’t worry,” Hilde said. “We promise.”

*****

“There are beings that can vanish people,” Bianca said. “Mostly ones that just straight up consume them entirely. You think this bloke’s disappearance was magical in nature?”

“All the other cases I’ve had recently have been,” Hilde said. “It would follow the pattern.”

“Maybe it was  Fae!” Sakura said.

“Your cousins?” Bianca said. “Don’t they only snatch children?”

“But the guy who hired us said he had the mind of a child,” Sakura said. “So… maybe?”

“Technically, he didn’t say that,” Hilde said. “I did get the sense that he was thinking it, though.”

She parked her Beetle and quickly left the vehicle along with Bianca. Sakura flew behind them, invisible to mortal eye.

“Hilde, make sure you have your pendant secured,” Bianca cautioned. “Beings that can just disappear a human are no joke.”

“I’ll be fine,” Hilde said, taking Bianca’s hand. “I’ve got you with me.”

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The Last Draconian 55: Connection

Previous Chapter

Sparks flew from Sadow’s eyes. “What?” He demanded. He was so enraged that he nearly forgot to enchant his voice.

“It weren’t our fault,” Femre protested. “Brat had a dragon or a harpy or somethin helpin er.”

“You’re certain?” Sadow asked.

“What else can fly?” Femre countered.

“Flight,” Sadow muttered. “Indeed, what else could have flown? My master will be most disappointed by this news.”

“Tell im not to worry none,” Femre stated. “Me an the boys, we’ll get er back.”

“He’ll be most relieved to hear that,” Sadow stated. He left Femre to his own devices and returned to his carriage. He until it was in motion to bring Laina out.

“The draconian came to her rescue,” Sadow stated. “She acted faster than anticipated.”

“And what would you have me do about it?” Laina asked.

“I need to know, is this what you foresaw?” Sadow demanded.

“I foresaw your death at the hands of a draconian,” Laina stated. “The events leading to it were not mine to see.”

“So I just have to survive against this final one,” Sadow muttered. “If I can do that…”

“Then you will have beaten fate itself,” Laina finished.

Sadow’s skeletal face smirked. He liked the sound of that. Very much indeed.

*****

Michael Ryufan

I was on my way to Het Wald to offer my services, thereby putting the elves in my debt, when they struck.

The fireball hit me from behind, pushing me into the ground. I struggled to retain consciousness.

“It’s the draconian who kidnapped the princess!” I heard a voice declare.

“Hurry. We have to finish hir.”

“Wa…”

I was unable to rise and I slipped into oblivion.

*****

Michael Ryufan

My mind burned. There is no other term to adequately describe it. It was as though some force beyond mortal ken reached into my very psyche and set alight a part of it.

I struggled to stay in flight, very nearly losing my grip and crashing. I would not, could not allow that to happen.

“Michael, what’s wrong?” There was a tinge of panic in Illyana’s voice, beneath the concern.

I needed to keep her safe. I landed as quickly as I could, setting her down before the pain became too much and I lost consciousness.

*****

Illyana Fensen

Just a moment ago we had been flying. I had been secure in his arms and everything had been fine. Then, he had started shaking. I’d felt him lower and he’d placed me on the ground and now I couldn’t get him to wake up.

Drake flew around me. “Michael.” I managed to find his hand and made my way up to his wrist, checking his pulse. It was still going strong, thankfully. Why had he collapsed like that? Exhaustion, maybe?

I went to work casting a protective spell around us. I wasn’t sure how long I could maintain it if we were actually attacked, but it would give us some measure of safety.

I listened to the sounds around us. Feeling very alone and very vulnerable.

*****

Lynai Elfblood

“Lynai, I’m placing you in charge of the twelfth unit,” Lais said.

“Am I the best person for that?” I asked.

“Don’t worry,” she said, stroking my head. “You’re a good fighter and you know how to lead.”

“But won’t I be putting someone else out?” I asked.

Lais shook her head, sadly. “Former commander Liny lost her life repelling the trolls.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said, not sure what else to say. How can you more eloquently express condolences over someone you barely knew?

“She will be missed but we have to keep up the fight,” Lais said. “She, and the others who have fallen, gave their lives for our victory. All we can do is try to perform their jobs as well as they could have.”

“I’ll do my very best to honour her command,” I said, trying to keep the uncertainty out of my voice. I was used to giving orders, true, but I’d never done so in an actual battle.

“I’m assigning Miss Perom to guard duties,” Lais added. “I appreciate that she came this far for your sake but…”

“It’s not her fight,” I finished. I knew Callie would disagree and probably say something that would make my heart race to explain herself, but Lais nodded.

“That’s part of it, but there’s also the political aspect to consider. She is an important figure who was chosen by her people to represent them and we don’t need strained relations with Strecner right now. If she were hurt or killed it would be a problem.”

“Definitely!” I agreed. Lais gave me a quizzical look, making me wonder if I’d spoken too enthusiastically. “So, what’s the twelfth unit’s assignment?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

“A dangerous one,” Lais stated. “We need to go on the offensive, but we also need to rebuild Het Wald’s defences. Several units are being sent to try and initiate aggressive action against Relna. The twelfth unit is one of them. You’ll have to be cautious. Don’t try to encroach into their territory too much. Just gain enough of a foothold that it’ll decidedly put them on the defensive.”

My head filled with questions. Was it a good idea to send a unit that had lost its commander on a mission like this? What other units would be sent? How far exactly did we need to go to meet the objective? I stopped myself from asking all of them. After all, coming back here to help had been my decision and this was the help they needed me to offer. Instead of asking questions, I nodded. “You can count on me.”

“I know,” Lais said. “Tonight, you’ll meet with the other commanders. Lang is in overall command of this operation so you should iron out the details of the attack with him.”

“You aren’t coming?” I asked. Lais was the finest warrior we had, it seemed like an odd decision to leave her behind.

“I’ll be directing the troop movements here,” Lais explained. I knew what she meant, in case we failed she was going to take care of the city defences. I had to remind myself that it was a sensible precaution.

“Good luck,” I said.

“To you also,” Lais said. “You’ll need it more than I.”

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The Case of the Mummified Finale

Previous Chapter

Hilde briefly considered running out of the hidden room and taking cover among the addicts but these things… whatever they were would definitely chase her and the people out there didn’t deserve to get killed like that.

Her opponents were trying to flank her, the wheel going low and the bird man going high. Her only chance was to do the unexpected, keep them off balance. She just needed to hold out until Sakura returned.

She ran directly for the wheel and leapt over it, rolling aside as she landed. Its fire managed to singe her as she managed the manoeuvre, but she was okay. The bird came next, its talons scratching down at her.

She executed a simple jump kick, giving it a good shot to the groin, but earning some nasty scratches in exchange.

Not good, her protective pendant wasn’t going to stop burns or cuts and she could only maintain the fight for o long while taking hits like that.

She fired off the last rounds in her luger’s clip and hurriedly reloaded while evading another strike from the flying fiend. Maybe if she could trick them into hitting each other…

She moved between them. The wheel aimed its fire directly for her legs while the avian scratched for her head. She managed to get away from them but the attack pattern wasn’t lost on her. They were deliberately avoiding attacking her in any way that could harm the other. She’d have to literally grab the bird and use it as a shield just as the wheel attacked.

No chance in that happening. Even if she wasn’t tired and injured.

Her adrenaline surge was swiftly wearing down but she could hear the sound of footsteps coming towards them. She allowed herself a smirk.

“Does death hold such appeal to you?” the avian demanded.

That’s when Sakura came flying through the illusory wall. She swiftly dived into Hilde’s pocket.

The Veritas agents followed shortly after. They looked over the wreckage of the mystical laboratory, noticed Hilde and, more importantly, her opponents.

“Get the Wanyudo,” Amethyst said. “I’ll take the Tengu.”

“Yes, Dear,” Mica agreed.

The pair split. Mica reached down and grabbed what looked like a grenade from her belt. It exploded over the wanyudo, raining what looked like foam on top of it. The wheel hurriedly moved back, its inner face screeching in pain. Its wail sounded completely garish.

Mica chased after it, intent on finishing it off.

Amethyst moved toward the tengu. She had a pair of magnums. She opened fire. The monster took to the air, it moved like a blur. Hilde could only surmise that it couldn’t keep that speed up for very long. It dove towards the Veritas agent. She didn’t even flinch. She raised one of the weapons directly at it with almost inhuman reflexes and fired.

He was thrown back towards Hilde, stunned. How many normal bullets did it take to bring down a tengu, Hilde wondered. She raised her luger and fired as it came near. He didn’t get back up from that one.

Amethyst eyed her suspiciously for a moment before moving off to help her partner. The wanyudo’s draining magic didn’t seem to affect them. Some kind of technological shield, perhaps? It would have to be if  Veritas truly didn’t use magic.

At this point, the wheel was covered with liquefied foam and its flames had grown weak. Mica drew a scimitar and sliced into it. Amethyst grabbed a blade of her own and the pair hacked into it until its flames had completely extinguished, its face vanishing.

The agents exchanged a quick glance and turned towards Hilde in unison. “Just what are you doing here?” Amethyst demanded.

“I was investigating those strange corpses,” Hilde answered. “I found out that every person had a strange VIP card and then I followed someone who had one down here. Then I kind of stumbled on the trick that hid this chamber. That’s when those things attacked me. I had no idea what they were.” It wasn’t entirely true, but it was close enough.

“How many times did you shoot the tengu?” Amethyst wondered.

Hilde shrugged. “I emptied my clip and reloaded. Not sure how many hit. But I’m curious. How did you two get down here? And you seemed to know what those things were and have a way to deal with them.”

“Amethyst,” Mica whispered. “Isn’t that enough? You know what we have to do.”

Amethyst looked at Hilde then back to Mica. She nodded. The next thing Hilde knew, she was down on the ground with Amethyst holding her wrists.

“Sorry about this,” Mica said. “But it’s better if you forget.” She shoved a pill down Hilde’s throat. Hilde lost consciousness.

*****

She woke up in her hotel room. Her wounds were dressed and her memory was hazy. Sakura flew down, landing on her forehead and looking into her eyes.

“Are you okay?” Sakura asked.

“My head hurts,” Hilde answered. “What did they do to me?”

“To put it simply, they tried to erase your memories of last night,” Sakura answered. “Do you remember what happened?”

Hilde thought about it intensely. She remembered… going to the club…. loud music… a basement… drug-addled people & monsters? No, she shook her head. One of them she’d heard of before. Tengu. That was it. The other was… a wagon wheel…Yes, that had been it.

“Vaguely,” she answered.

Sakura nodded. “You should remember all of it given some time and thought. But hey, we solved the case.”

“A tengu, huh?” Hilde said. “I’ve seen them used in anime a few times.”

“I’ve never heard of hem before,” Sakura admitted. “I don’t think they’re usually seen in Europe.”

“Guess we’ll have to do some research later,” Hilde said. “The important thing is that we caught the culprit.”

“And got rid of the Veritas agents!” Sakjura declared. “I overheard them saying they were going to report the mission successful and return to base.”

“At least the innocent creatures around here will be safe,” Hilde said. “Everything’s worked out. We should go back too.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Sakura said. “Those women suspected that something was off about you. They let it go that time, but they could very well arrange to have you watched. We’ll have to be super careful.”

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The Last Draconian 54: Home Coming

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

“Lyn! I’m so happy to see you!” Lan hurried up to me and gave me a hug.

“I came as soon as I heard,” I said. “Its good to see you doing well.”

“ Oh, I’m not doing well at all,” Lan said. “I’m terrified of my new responsibilities, especially given the circumstances. Maybe you should take the crown.”

“No,” I said. “You keep it. You were always better at commanding than I.”

He looked at me. It was the same look he always had when he tried to solve puzzles. He was wondering why I’d returned.

“I came here to help,” I said. “We have to drive the trolls back, for all our sakes.”

“Of course,” Lan said. His voice had that particular cadence that tends to accompany a sense of solution. “We could certainly use your strength.”

“I didn’t see any trolls on my way in,” I said. It was my turn to give him a quizzical look.

“We forced them back,” he said. “At least temporarily. I don’t doubt that they’ll return before long.” We stood in silence for a moment. “Lyn, I’ve released you from your duty.”

“My…” I hesitated for a moment. Had he seriously? “You mean that I don’t have to go through some political marriage when this is over?”

“You don’t,” he said. “Nor will any after you. That practice… You were right. It has to end.”

“I bet the high council loved that,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Lan said. “They’ll come around. They’ll understand that we can make alliances without sacrificing our noble daughters.” He shrugged. “And I’m sure open relations will lead to some marriages whether we force particular suitors or not. Marriages that are happier for both parties.”

“Strange,” I mused. “It never would’ve happened if Liys or Leaf had succeeded and yet… I wish they were still here. Papa too. I wish that I could still make peace with him.”

“I know,” Lan said. “It’s… not easy. When it first happened I kept thinking about the things I should have done differently. The fights I never should have had. The times I caused them trouble, but Lyn, that’s the wrong way to think. Instead of dwelling on the difficult times, we should be celebrating the good. When it comes right down to it, those are the times that truly mattered.”

“You’re right,” I said. “There were a lot of good times. Remember when Leaf caught us sneaking our pixie friends into Heltsger so we could play Royal Council and he decided not to tell on us if we let him be the Royal One?”

“Or the time we had that heat wave and dad brought some water mages to drench everything so we could cool off and play in the water?” I nodded. That had been a fun day.

“Or when Liys bribed us with that really good chocolate so we wouldn’t tell dad he’d been sneaking boys into his bed chamber?”

“Not like we would have told on him any way,” Lan said. He wasn’t wrong and I think Liys had known it too.

We shared a laugh over our memories. “And that’s why we’ve gotta beat down these bastards and bring Larick back here to face trial.” I stated.

“Absolutely,” Lan said. “We’ll bring him down, together. For our family and for our people.”

“Together,” I agreed.

*****

Illyana Fensen

“Where have you been?” Professor Mord asked. I could hear his staff tapping the ground rapidly.

“I was captured by some mercenaries,” I answered. “From what they said, I gathered that they worked for Sadow.”

I let my words sink in while Drake returned to my shoulder. He nuzzled my neck affectionately, his fuzzy face tickled. The speed of the professor’s tapping increased.

“You’re absolutely certain they weren’t trying to trick you?” He asked, finally. “You did manage to escape.”

“I had help,” I explained. “I couldn’t have gotten away on my own. They had me in a cell with leech stones. Fortunately, Michael heard about my predicament and came to my rescue.”

There was silence for a time, lacking even the familiar tap of the Professor’s cane. Silence, my oldest, most uncomfortable friend.

“So, that’s who he was off to kill,” The Professor stated, after a time. “Did he succeed?”

“Sadow still lives,” I stated. “Michael and I are going on a journey to find justice. Athena met us on the road and alluded to the idea that we could find what we seek in Orontios.” It wasn’t quite accurate I knew, but I also knew the Professor would never allow me to go if I told him that Michael was going to enlist in team battles, with me as one of his partners. Even if I was, technically, the interim head of the academy. I heard his tapping.

“Then I’ll head the investigation against Sadow here,” he said. “You two youngsters be careful.”

“We will,” I assured him. With Drake on my shoulder, I made my way back to Michael. I followed the sound of his wings gently folding and unfolding until I was directly in front of him.

“I’m ready,” I said.

“Then we should make haste,” he stated. “It may not be completely necessary to face him immediately, but I would… appreciate being able to settle this matter quite quickly.”

Next Chapter

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The Case of the Mummified part six

Previous Chapter

The stairs leading down looked the very definition of a “murder basement.” The steps were creaky, wooden and smelled faintly of mould. There were cobwebs running along them and there was no consistency with the distance between steps. Some were very close, others were a pretty large drop. Hilde looked back up, the entrance had closed. That explained why the “VIPs” continued going down. Didn’t explain why they’d kept the cards.

They arrived downstairs. There was a singular room, musty and disgusting to look at, with seven people strewn around a wooden bowl filled with pills. The group showed no sign of noticing Hilde. They stared at nothing with glazed eyes and open, drooling mouths.

“Something feels off about those pills,” Sakura said. “I don’t know if they’d affect you normally or the pendant would work against them, but I wouldn’t try.”

“Good thing you mentioned that,” Hilde stated. “I normally just shovel down random pills I can’t readily identify.”

“You’re welcome,” Sakura said, not picking up on the sarcasm.

Hilde looked around. The  room, as was, didn’t explain how anyone had died. There had to be something more to it. Fatalities from over-dosing, maybe? But why drain their energy in that case? She shook her head. No, there was something more. She just had to find it.

She examined the walls. They were concrete and not well maintained concrete. Concrete that was dented and stained. There was only one spot where it looked fresh and clean. Just big enough for a small door too. It was so out of place that it caught her attention immediately.

She moved close to it and had to rub her eyes. It was like the sensation she’d gotten when she’d partially seen through Sakura’s illusion. The wall was a fake, designed to fool those who came down here looking for a fix.

Was that why they’d died? Had they seen through it or, possibly, just stumbled in?

“Stay close,” Hilde ordered. “Whatever’s in here has already gotten people killed.”

“I was going to tell you the same thing,” Sakura said. “I mean, you’re just a normal human.”

“Maybe,” Hilde admitted. “But I’m a pretty resilient ordinary human.”

She moved through the illusory wall segment with Sakura hovering near her right shoulder.

The room they found looked like an old depiction of a Witch Doctor’s hut. There were tables with strange looking ingredients and there was a bubbling cauldron. Hilde noticed a fleshy, almost reptilian looking beak.

“What’s that from?” Sakura wondered, flying up to it.

“I don’t know either,” Hilde said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” She snapped a quick picture, making a note to ask Bianca.

She looked around, carefully. There were signs that the chamber had been worked in very recently, but no sign of the worker.

That was when Hilde heard it, the rush of air. She instinctively rolled along the ground. The manoeuvre saved her life.

The creature had large wings and very nasty talons. Its body was mostly bird-like, but heftier and with humanoid arms. Its face was mostly human looking, but with a very long, thin nose.

“What the heck are you supposed to be?” Sakura asked.

The creature swiped its talons at her in response.

“Wan!” he called. “Deal with the human!” He chased after Sakura. Hilde almost shot him, but she was suddenly preoccupied. The creature he summoned looked like a burning wagon wheel with a grisly, malformed face that shifted within the centre. Sometimes appearing with great clarity and others having only the vague, smoky outline of a face.

It revved up and dove directly for her. She jumped back to avoid it, her pendant was glowing. Was this the thing that had drained the life force from the others? Sensing that she had protection from its mystical attack, Wan decided on another route. It zoomed past her, tossing blue flames in its wake. She quickly took cover.

The creature chasing Sakura had the edge in sheer power, but she was small and very agile. It didn’t look like he’d catch her any time soon. Still, they needed a plan.

“Sakura, come here, quickly!” Hilde cried out. Sakura moved past her pursuer, narrowly escaping his grip. Hilde hurriedly explained her plan and handed Sakura the VIP card.

Sakura looked like she wanted to protest, but they both knew there was no time. And they had to separate to avoid getting mangled by the strange creatures.

Sakura hurriedly flew back the way they’d come. Hilde kicked over one of the tables and fired a couple shots at the flying enemy. One bullet managed to find his leg. He screeched and turned his attention to her.

Good, just as planned. Now she just had to survive.

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The Last Draconian 53: Advice on Gaining Strength

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan

We had been flying in relative silence for some time. I was uncertain as to what I should say. A simple greeting seemed odd under the circumstances. I had no interest in hearing remarks of gratitude or praise. There was no necessity for such things between friends, after all. I had tried to select my words carefully to avoid sounding as though I did, but had elected to remain silent. I would allow her to begin the conversation. I know not whether she was experiencing shock of some kind or was having difficulties deciding what to say as well. She eventually did break the silence, though.

“I was worried about you,” Illyana said. “Are you feeling better?”

“I have recovered to a perfectly functional degree,” I said. “Refrain from shifting your weight too much. Flying with a passenger is no simple matter.”

“Sorry,” Illyana said. “I’m still a bit sore from the cell.”

“I will return you to Wicadia shortly,” I said. “However, I can land if you would like to stretch.”

“It’s fine,” Illyana said. “This feels nice. The breeze is lovely and I feel almost like I’m floating.” I was left wordless. Illyana had always tended towards granting menial activities a bizarre wonderment that was somewhat disconcerting.

“Hey,” she said. “What’s it like for you? Flying, I mean.”

“It is what it is,” I answered. “I flap my wings and I fly. On occasion I use magic to make the winds more favourable and I am capable of moving more swiftly.”

“You make it sound so… unremarkable,” she said. “Most humans would love a chance to fly.”

“Some races lacking the ability does not imbue it with supernatural properties,” I stated.

“And some races having it doesn’t make it any less stunning,” she countered. She waited in silence for a moment. “Did you change your mind about facing Sadow again?”

“The confrontation will certainly happen,” I answered. “I simply heard rumours of your peril and felt your safety was more important.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Illyana said. “I don’t know how quickly Drake would’ve been in getting help.”

I came in for a landing at the outskirts of Wicadia. “Assume a direct path and you should arrive at the city gates within minutes.”

“You aren’t coming along?”

“I am not,” I said. “I must resume my mission.”

“Without a plan?” Illyana asked.

“I do have a plan,” I said.

“You aren’t strong enough!” Illyana declared. “Why do you have to rush this? You’ll just get yourself killed.”

“I am prepared for that eventuality,” I said. “I have trained my entire life. I am as ready as I can be.”

“If that were true you wouldn’t have lost!” Illyana said, she sounded infuriated.

“Excuse me,” an elderly woman approached us. Her back was hunched and she moved with the aid of a stick. Odd, that I had not heard her coming. Illyana seemed surprised to hear her voice as well. Odder still that my appearance had no discernible effect on her. “I don’t know if you want an old woman’s advice, but fighting is about more than training. If you really wanna be ready for a fight, there’s still things you’re missing.”

“What would that be?” I asked.

“Experience boy, experience and companions!” She waved her stick in front of my face. “If you really wanna win, you need to practice with some buddies.”

“I lack the time required for such an endeavour,” I said.

“Nonsense,” she said. “You have a long life ahead of you if you play it right. Besides, you can get all the experience you need quickly, if you go  down to the arena in Orontios. The cage fighters there get quite a few showings, and they have team matches.”

I was about to respond when she turned her gaze directly on me. That was when I noticed her eyes. I had seen them before… No, that was incorrect. Other draconians had seen them. Those piercing grey eyes could only belong to one being. She was allowing me to see through her disguise.

“Who would I fight beside in these team matches?” I inquired.

“Maybe someone beside you,” she said. “Maybe someone’s in the city already looking for a partner. Maybe a bit of  both.” She walked away with inhuman speed. Her laugh echoed behind her.

“There was something strange about her,” Illyana said. “I trust you noticed?”

“She was Athena,” I said.

“The Goddess?” Illyana asked. “Are you sure?”

“I am quite certain,” I said. “It is not easily explained, but my people have encountered her many times and in multiple forms. However, there are always two consistencies. Her eyes and her presence.”

“I felt the presence too,” Illyana said. “I can’t say I noticed the eyes. So, are you going to take her advice?”

“I am,” I answered. “Even though she is not the Goddess I have dedicated myself to, she has still proven herself a steadfast ally of my people and she has never led us astray.”

“Makes sense,” Illyana said. “Just let me grab Drake and talk with Professor Mord and we’ll leave.”

“We?”

“Of course,” Illyana said, smiling wryly. “After all, Sadow is trying to kill me because of you. So I’m in this too. Besides, she did say you should look for allies beside you. As far as I know, I’m the only one she could be talking about.”

I had intended to leave Illyana behind, in spite of her protests, however, what she said did have a fairly strong rationality behind it. If Sadow was trying to kill her, then she would certainly be safer. I would certainly be damned before allowing him to harm my friend as he had harmed my people. His attempts on her life may even provide me with a chance to finish him. And the only other person she might have been referencing was preoccupied and would certainly not be participating in any crass arena matches.

Next Chapter

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The Case of the Mummified part five

Previous Chapter

Hilde and Sakura arrived at the flat of the fourth victim, Patricia Becker. It was abandoned but had clearly been kept in good order. The living area had a glass curio cabinet with porcelain dolls lined up neatly inside, a television lined up on a cabinet, some ostentatious abstract expressionist paintings and two recliners.

Hilde looked over everything carefully, not wanting to damage anything or leave signs of them having been there but also being thorough so as to not miss any potential clues. She found what she was looking for tucked underneath a doll designed to look like a traditional geisha. A card for VIP access to the Bombastic Berlin Party Room. Laminated with some bright stripes of blue & pink.

“Same as all the others,” Hilde muttered. “A hidden card for a seemingly ordinary night club.”

“So, we tell Thoril and bust them?” Sakura asked.

Hilde shook her head. “Right now we just have suspicions. Strong suspicions, I’ll grant, but suspicions nonetheless. We need to confirm them. I suggest you find something to protect your hearing. Tonight, we’re going clubbing.”

*****

The Party Room was everything Hilde hated about clubs. Loud, flashy, full of drunken idiots thrusting at the air and pretending it was a dance. One thing she couldn’t see, strangely enough, was any sign of a VIP area.

After searching futilely for a time, she finally decided to ask the bar tender.

“VIP area?” he asked. “We don’t have anything like that. Why? You someone important?”

“Oh, no,” Hilde said, waving her hand. “A friend just gave me this,” she held out one of the VIP cards. “Thought I might take advantage of it.”

He looked it over, a perplexed expression on his face. “Your friend must be joshing you. I’ve never seen one of these before.”

“Well, thanks,” Hilde took it back. “Guess she thought it was funny. I’ll get her back later.”

She casually made her way back outside. Sakura peeked her head out of her purse. “What now?”

“It seems that, at the very least, the tender we talked to doesn’t know anything about it,” Hilde said. “There might be a specific person you’re supposed to talk to. Probably even a pass code. So, what we’re going to do is you’re going to use your invisibility glamour and you’re going to follow someone if you see them with a card. I’ll go back inside and try to stake out potential locations for this VIP room.”

“Leave it to me!” Sakura declared. “If I find out anything, I’ll let you know.”

“Just watch out for those Veritas guys,” Hilde said.

“I will,” Sakura promised. She flew off. Hilde went back inside.

*****

The inside of the club was as stifling as before, but Hilde did her utmost to ignore the commotion. She moved around the area, seeing no signs of any hidden rooms. The club looked to be entirely normal.

After nearly an hour of fruitless wandering, Sakura returned.

“I’ve seen it!” she declared. Hilde looked around. None of the patrons showed any signs of seeing the fairy.

“Lead the way,” Hilde mouthed.

“It’s outside, I’ll show you,” Sakura said.

She led Hilde outside and away from the club proper. She had to duck into Hilde’s bag once, when they noticed the Veritas agents heading for the club. Hilde surmised that they’d found a clue leading here as well. To the left of the club, down an alley, was an old padlocked basement entrance.

“The guy slipped his VIP card through the middle of that door and it opened.” Sakura said.

“And then padlocked itself back up, I suppose,” Hilde said.

“Well, yes,” Sakura answered. “We both knew there was magic involved.”

“No helping it,” Hilde sighed. She slipped one of her cards in between the doors. The chains and padlock fell away. The entrance creaked open. Hilde grabbed her luger, nodded to Sakura and the pair descended into the foreboding VIP section.

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