Before I begin this episode, here’s the real life Baron Wolfgang Andrés von Erstein.
He’s a terrier mix. His favourite toy is a stuffed Charmander and he likes to howl sometimes. Apparently, he thinks of himself as a big, ferocious wolf. I’m sure all five kilos of him is very intimidating to your average person. Now, on with the story.
“The affected zone is a perfect circle,” Grace stated. “A pretty damn big one too. With a radius of a hundred kilometres.”
“It can’t be a natural phenomenon,” Ophelia observed. “Try to find the source of it. Maybe we can find a way to counteract it.”
“It’s worth a try,” Grace said. “But these readings aren’t like anything I’ve seen. Without knowing the tech involved, I may not be able to counteract it.”
Ophelia was about to reassure her when a slight beep caught her attention.
“We’re being contacted by our clients,” she said. “Do your best. I’ll take this.” The bridge’s screen lit up and two Yujin delegates appeared.
“Your mission,” one said. “How has it fared?”
“We haven’t found Thol Olison yet,” Ophelia answered. “Right now my people are searching some kind of strange garden that doesn’t show up on sensors.”
The two Yujin were visibly taken aback. They knew something, Ophelia was sure of it.
“He wouldn’t be there,” one jumped in. “It is impossible for him.”
“Settle yourself,” the second chided. “Stronger warriors than him have succumb. I hope your spawn is not there, but our friends are just being thorough.” He turned away from his colleague. “Alas, Captain, if your crew has entered the garden, I fear they won’t return.”
“Impossible,” Kat muttered. “This is impossible.”
The city was massive with towering crystalline structures and a floating castle in the sky.”
“Maybe it has some kind of anti-gravity unit,” Lucy suggested. “But I don’t see any signs of propulsion.”
“Maybe they’ve got a giant gem as a power source,” Allison said. “And they don’t need a propulsion unit.”
“Gems don’t work that way,” Kat stated.
“However it works doesn’t matter right now,” Leon said. “We still have to rescue Farah and Yuri.”
“True enough,” Lucy said.
The four continued into the city, passing a trio of women on their way in.
“Notice anything about them?” Kat asked.
“They had some bitchin tattoos,” Allison said. “Faction marks, right?”
“For three different factions,” Leon said. “the green-haired one had a Guyoin mark. The red head had a Pores mark and the silver-haired one had a Ferigol mark.”
“They were awfully friendly for soldiers fighting on competing sides, weren’t they?” Kat observed.
“I wonder if this is neutral territory,”Allison mused.
“Even so, it’s odd for them to forget their differences that much,” Lucy said.
“Strangers!” A commanding, feminine voice cried out. The four turned. A Yujin woman roughly two hundred fifteen centimetres tall approached them. She had dark blue hair and wore a crown. In her right hand was a silver sceptre. “We are Lunais. We rule this place. For what purpose have you entered our domain?”
“We seek two friends of ours,” Lucy answered, giving Lunais a slight curtsy. “One is human, like these three.” She gestured towards the others. “The other looks human, but she’s an android. Would you please tell us where they are?”
Lunais cocked her head to the side. “An interesting tool. Your voice compels compliance. Even we feel slightly urged to do as you ask. However, we are above such manipulations. Still, it harms us none to lead you to your companions.” Lunais gestured to the city. “We spoke with Farah and Yuri when they arrived. They went into the city to speak with one of our subjects. Right now, you will find them twenty three and a half kilometres to the Northwest. Partaking in some refreshments at a rather charming bistro.”
“Thank you for telling us,” Lucy said. “We’ll just be on our way.”
“And we will be observing you,” Lunais cautioned her. “We will permit no disturbances of the peace.” She vanished with those final words.
“Do we hoof it or does this place have public transit?” Allison asked.
“We’ll start walking and look for something faster as we go,” Leon said. “It’s about the best we can do.”
“It is a lovely day for a walk,” Lucy said, smiling.
Kat examined the area where Lunais had been. “I’m not seeing any signs of where she went,” she reported. “Do you suppose she was using some kind of holographic projection to talk to us?”
“She wasn’t,” Lucy stated. “She was actually here.”
“I think she appeared the same way she left,” Leon said. “I’m positive she wasn’t here until Lucy was in mid-sentence about differences.”
“That doesn’t worry you?” Kat asked. “This whole place is impossible! Castles don’t float. People don’t appear and vanish into nothingness and gardens don’t grow in the middle of war zones!”
“It’s not that I don’t understand how you feel,” Lucy said. “I could be a technology beyond any we’re aware of. But, however it’s happening isn’t our top priority. Our main goal is to find Farah and Yuri. Our secondary goal is to find Thol Olison. If, during the course of that, we can solve what’s happening here that’ll be great.”
Kat thought about it for a moment and nodded. “You’re right, of course. Sorry, it just…”
“I know,” Lucy said, softly. “Come on, let’s get moving.”
The four continued on their way, certain that they were, indeed, being watched and uncertain of whether or not they could do anything about it.