Chapter 18 - House Arrest
Midori awoke in bed. For a second, she didn’t even remember what had happened. She yawned and massaged her eyes, sitting up straight as if it was just another morning.
“Finally,” an unknown voice spoke from the end of the room.
Her senses then flared, still convinced she was in her own bed. She pulled the sheet to cover up just in case she wasn’t wearing enough. She peered out of the covers to see a skinny Jun. He looked the seasoned middle-aged man even though his skin betrayed his young age. He had long white hair and silver eyes which starkly contrasted the deep dark circles around them. He seemed so tired.
He was standing in a corner of the room, leaning against a cover.
“Who are you?”
“Education Overseer Breem. Do you remember what happened to you?”
“I…” She thought back to her memories, uncovering a little since Breem didn’t give off the slightest bit of aggression. And she was in her street clothes. “Faircloth,” she remembered, “I fell?”
“I caught you,” Breem told her, bowing his head. “You’re welcome.”
“I…thank you!” She bowed to him, and noticing she was still in her clothes, she was relieved, though still surprised “but why?”
Breem looked out the window.
“You’re not the only one who distrusts the man,” Breem said as way of explanation. It was still night outside, so she hadn’t been out for long.
The room was small, though looking out the window, it was clear it was inside one of the towers. She assumed it was Breems’. It had only the one bed, a closet plus a sock drawer, against which he was half-seating, half-leaning.
Still looking away, he posed the question: “what did he say?”
“Well…I didn’t understand most of it. I was just curious why the library lady was so stingy about the book.”
“Library lady? Book?”
Midori was as quick to trust as she was to doubt. Breem really didn’t seem at all harmful or aggressive and sounded honest. She didn’t much hesitate to tell him everything. He listened, nodding now and again to show he was following.
He made important notes of the librarian’s name, Lanna, as well as the topic of the book, and Faircloth’s demeanor and narrative towards his plans.
“So the origin stone is missing…I was sure something was amiss. And you say he seeks to retrieve it without alerting us?”
“That’s what he told them.”
“The Blood twins…right.”
“Yup yup. So do you know what this is all about?”
He shrugged and looked back at her.
“His ambitions; always his very high, insatiable ambitions. I‘m afraid adventurers are ever the pawns of such men…and mercenaries their weapons.”
Midori giggled, amused at the notion. The man raised an eyebrow, a bit confused.
“What is it?”
“Oh...it’s just…” she calmed down, looking him dead in the eye with a confident smile. “It’s just funny. He’s not the first to think he can use them.”
She leaned back on her stretched arms, to keep herself up, now fully comfortable in that tiny room with that man she had just met.
“And he won’t be the last…” she looked down, seeing them in her memories. She smiled, and almost proudly added: “to be shockingly disappointed.”
Back on the dark streets of Aellea, the Sen female threw two daggers at Miyabi and the third at Jomiko. Arata and Kazuki dashed, drawing their swords while closing the distance between them to block Miyabi.
Arata opened his chained swords to hit both daggers away from Miyabi and Kazuki effortlessly slapped away the third. Miyabi winced and stepped back but Jomiko just looked on as if she had summoned Kazuki with her mind, not even flinching.
“Missed one,” the Sen said, her tail suggestively pointing in Pixa’s direction. She then noticed, to considerable surprise, that she had a dagger shoved in her shoulder.
“Wha? I didn’t even…” she grabbed at it in a sudden flinch of pain, moving to take cover behind Kazuki. He and Arata watched the Sen carefully because neither of them had seen the fourth dagger, which was intimidating.
Miyabi went to Pixa to work her healing while Pixa pulled the dagger out of the shoulder.
“Ranger?” She whined.
“It would explain how they caught Leaf,” Kazuki replied.
“You mean the elf child?”
The voice was familiar. As Miyabi healed Pixa’s wound, they looked back and up to land eyes upon Shinyaki, who was looking out of a window at them. Agathon was in a dark blue robe, his face hidden inside a hood. They could feel his gaze upon them even though they couldn’t actually see it.
“What did you do to them?!” Miyabi demanded, undeterred and still with glowing hands on Pixa’s wound.
“Still you act this way,” Shinyaki complained. “You could have left us in peace, but no, you had your child ranger follow us. Have you learn nothing?”
“You know this kid crap’s gettin’ real old!” Sanpu spoke out. He already had his saw out and looked up at the window unflinchingly. “You know how many grownups I’ve cut down?”
“Do we even keep track?” Fuun’na asked with a sly smile.
“No, sis, we don’t,” he answered, looking at her endearingly. He then looked back at Shinyaki, “because there’s so many of them...” his voice roughed up and grew more aggressive as he added “and FYI, none of them shoved a scythe through my chest!”
He beat the ground with his word, his eyes darking from the inside.
“You wish to fight here?” Agathon asked, appalled at the idea.
“Do you?” Kazuki rose his voice, “in the middle of Aellea? This isn’t the wall of Fairgrifen. This isn’t just some port town. Make a ruckus here and you’ll have the imperial army coming down on you.”
“You’re the ones attacking us,” Shinyaki proclaimed in a purposely mocking voice, as if he was a victim. “We seek only to find our friend. She’s right there. And now we want to go on our way.”
“With the stone you robbed from Fairgrifen,” Arata yelled out.
“And others, too,” Pixa mentioned, frowning with effort, her hands charged and primed to attack. She was going to add`prolly’ but a hint of pain interrupted her.
“How do you know about the others?” Agathon reacted, again emotional.
Shinyaki glared at him in frustrating disbelief.
“Are you serious?!”
“Done,” Miyabi whispered, letting go of Pixa and fully turning around to face the huge house .
“More stones?” Fuun’na chuckled and looked sideways at her brother. ”Oh, I bet their owners will be happy to have them back, don’t you think, big brother?”
“Oh, I’m certain of it, little sis,” Sanpu licked his lips, anxious to fight. His voice was bloodlusting, there was a faint growl to it.
“Calm down,” Jomiko said, so the twins would hold. “Kazuki’s right, we can’t just fight here.”
Everyone gasped in surprise.
She back and around at them, eyebrow twitching. “What?!”
“Give us our friends,” Arata yelled out in response, “and we’ll leave this for another day.”
“We give you your friends,” Shinyaki countered, “and you leave this forever.”
Silence prolonged itself.
Glances were traded between them all and Miyabi looked on, painfully aware of what was about to happen. The Sen, despite being far enough away from the two that they could all get to her before she got help, looked none too bothered about it.
Despite Jomiko always getting flak about it, Miyabi’s patience really was not much better. She was, alas, too much aware that the two were side by side next to a window.
On a building made of rock. Healing was, after all, only her secondary skill, something she had picked up as a hobby.
“Okay, I’ve had enough!” She cupped the air, both hands glowing. A purplish orb of magic formed in her hand and she looked up at them with concentrated determination.
Shinyaki and Agathon both flinched, unsure of what she was doing, but it was too late. The floor behind them rose to close against the window, which pushed Shinyaki and Agathon out.
The Sen drew and threw more daggers. Arata focused his eyes and, this time, dashed to slash away at shadows that were a bit too solid to be a trick of the light.
He knocked the shadow daggers out of the way as Sanpu and Fuun’na moved to intercept Shinyaki’s fall. Kazuki followed Jomiko to fight Agathon.
Jomiko leapt, rising in the air side by side with Sanpu even though they were targeting different people.
“Annoying little brats!”
Agathon and Shinyaki span in the air, kicking each other so they’d get out of the way. Agathon went to the left of Jomiko and Shinyaki to the right. Sanpu followed Shinyaki with his eyes and thus was caught unawares when Jomiko kicked him.
An aggressive rumble stormed behind Arata and, the second later, Miyabi was being propelled towards the house. “Leaf!”
The door fell back when the hinges busted open due to the walls retreating a few inches and Miyabi went in without breaking a stride.
“Go with her, Pixa!” Arata told her, knocking away two more daggers while leaning his head to the side to avoid a third near-invisible one. It made a cut on his cheek.
Pixa aimed and shot off a light-beam against the Sen but the Sen silently slid to the side. It was such a well executed, quick movement it almost looked like her body didn’t move.
“But if she’s at their level, you’ll need my hel--”
“Might be more of them inside!” Arata yelled out, throwing his sword in a spinning motion to to glide across the air in an arc of attack.
Pixa opened her eyes in realization. That had not occurred to her, and probably neither to Miyabi.
She nodded and ran after her. “Wait Miyabi!”
The Sen bent backwards, all the way down to her knee level, dodging the spinning sword. Like that, her tail rose between her legs to throw another dagger, which Arata dodged though another invisible blade cut at his shoulder.
He pulled his sword back and grabbed, eyeing the opponent just as she straightened up to stare back at him.
Jomiko front-flipped, crushing the ground with a heel kick because Agathon landed in time to hop out of her way. In mid-air, though close to the ground, Kazuki thrust his sword at him from behind. Agathon span, allowing it to pierce his robe, and elbowed Kazuki out of the way. He landed the spin with a pushing motion towards Jomiko, who had leapt after him. Air pressured following his fists, blowing her back.
Shinyaki had drawn his scythes in mid-air. He waved upwards at Sanpu with one of them, who allowed himself to be pushed back by blocking. Fuun’na tried intercepting Shinyaki with a baseball swing using her greatsword, but he pole vaulted using the other scythe while he was beating Sanpu off. The scythe pushed him up and over her swing.
He used the upwards swing against Sanpu as additional momentum to help with the vaulting which enabled him to back-flip into a neat and effortless landing.
Then he posed, crossing his scythes behind him. Fluid movements and a lithe body, Sanpu was facing him again.
“I won’t show you any mercy, this time, little Jun.”
But he wasn’t alone this time.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Sanpu told him, standing at Fuun’na’s right. “with my sister here, that’d be a death sentence.” He grinned, hungrily, along with Fuun’na who grinned more in anticipation of the fun she was about to have. Her eyes, the irises themselves, began to darken. To match her brothers’.
“WE FOUND THEM!” Pixa voice yelled out from inside the warehouse. “THEY’RE HURT, BUT THEY’RE ALIVE! ALSO NOBODY HERE!”
Arata smiled glad but the others were more or less indifferent to it or at the least unwilling to show emotion.
Still, Leaf and Ringo were ok. They heavily outnumbered their opponents and they were in the middle of a city that was heavily patrolled. This could not but go well, Arata felt, as long as he didn’t die in this single combat against this scary skilled Sen.
“Well maybe,” Breem gave Midori the benefit of the doubt. “Still, I will need you to remain here and out of sight. Faircloth has already issued for your arrest.”
“What?” Midori reacted, sad. “Did he see me?”
“He doesn’t need to. For all the things he lacks, intelligence is not one of them.”
“But…I was just about to start my studies, I joined the academy just last…I’ve worked so hard to--”
“I’m in charge of education, Midori.” He gave her a disarming smile. “I’ll make sure you’re reinstated once this is all over. Until then, you really want to stay here. Where it’s safe.”
“But I have my job, and a life,” even if it was just a couple days old, “I can’t just--”
“You will,” he said, a bit urgently.
He approached the door, solemnly and regrettably adding “if you wish to guarantee you’ll still have one, you will follow my instructions. I am sorry, I didn’t want you dragged into this but that’s Faircloth for you.
“Anything but fair,” he said, a bit spitefully, closing the door behind him.
She snorted. That was funny for him to say, great delivery too. Still, it was her curiosity that had dragged her into it, not exactly Faircloth.
Midori noticed, though, the door hadn’t been locked. That was nice though not enough to lift her spirits.
Frowning and emotionally exhausted, she lied down again. It was still night time outside, which somehow helped her mind wander into regret.
Her curiosity always got her into these kinds of situations. She knocked on her head, mildly punishing her uncontrollable drive to make these decisions. It all came from her head, she figured, her dumb head.
“When will you learn, Midori. Keep to yourself? Mind your business?”