Chapter 41 - Supporting Roles
“Midori? Finally, I caught you, what is going on over there?”
“The fighting has all but died out,” Midori interrupted herself to giggle at how she’d put it, “everything’s fine. I even got a sweet deal out of all of this.”
Midori didn’t know why she had felt the need to hide from Miyabi that she was helping out with the damage control at Fairgrifen. It’s not like she had anything to lose from doing it, and sitting at home ignoring it all just didn’t sit right with her. So yeah, she was helping dig people out of rubbles, putting out fires, and occasionally deal with maniacs who thought they could fight their way out of the city instead of being arrested and trialled.
“Well I’m happy you were able to take advantage of all the wanton destruction,” Miyabi sarcastically commented.
No doubt about it, though, that the whole ordeal had left Fairgrifen particularly weakened. It had been reduced to half its strength in a matter of days, with half of that strength committed to incarcerate and imprison half of the other half. Meawhile, Aellea was missing two of its best battalions, who were still there, helping put the city under control. However, they were under orders to pack and return to Aellea as soon as possible. But Miyabi would know that.
“I’ve been trying to get in touch with Arata and the others but I can’t reach them.”
“Yeah, I’ve been doing the same at the request of Pandeer, but it’s like he’s…dead.”
“More likely captured. Don’t ask me why, but I can’t imagine the blood twins in some dark corner where no one’s there to watch or hear all the noise.”
“Good point. Man, I’ve missed you so much. My time here has been absolutely crazy.”
“Mine has been boringly numb. I tell you, for all the reasons Skullerbee is amazing, he’s still one very paranoid emperor.”
“I guess someone has to be,” Midori shrugged, “still, I’m kinda worried about them.”
“I’ll try and contact Leaf. Maybe they talked to him before being captured?”
“And if not?”
“Well, at least we’ll know what’s going on over at Bellhall. They’re giving us the silent treatment too.”
“Right. Good luck.”
Leaf felt a call incoming, but he could not answer it. He could not make a sound.
Ignoring it, he continued to watch intently as the last of the Rei carried the last of the dead Fea back inside the tree. The Fea had almost made his escape but fell to a trap a hundred feet away.
He was on top of a tree, watching through a bush of leaves that completely hid him even if they looked at him. What Rei were doing so far into Fea territory, though, was anybody’s guess.
When enough time had passed, Leaf leapt down, with bow and arrows, not the least bit drawn because he wasn’t expecting a fight.
He had followed the group of scouts, that had been dispatched by order of Layryn, against their better knowledge. And hers, as well. Their lack of skill really didn’t surprise him, as no one on Bellhall was taking this threat that seriously; they were just members of the policing force of Bellhall. Everyone knew anyone with true talent always worked for him or herself…like Leaf.
There are always exceptions, sure, but turned out that squad didn’t contain one. Luckily, without Ringo with him, Leaf was much better at keeping his presence unknown when tracking.
Before, he had not expected the Sen to show up, nor expected her to have a ranger’s perception…and both surprises already coming extra to the fact Ringo was with him. He was found out and easily captured. But now he was alone.
He approached the big tree, cautiously and slowly, focusing his senses. Immediately, he picked up on an aura around it…a spell that enveloped an area and informed whoever cast it if it was penetrated. He observed a while, and when he was sure of what it was, he threw some leaves inside, noticing how they span as they fell.
“Hmpf…” he picked a branch off the ground and stuck it through against the flow of the spell, shown by the leaves. Keeping it there, still, he stepped through the border of the area.
The spell only flowed in one direction and was thin-layer, it could not sense within it. Lead kept the branch and did the same thing as he entered the door.
Once inside, he noticed the first step was booby trapped by seeing the walls connected to it had a bit of a scrape that the others didn’t. He stepped over it and continued.
Slowly, but surely, he made his way down the flight of stairs. He would have contacted Bellhall beforehand, but if this were just a criminal hideout of some kind, he would be punished for his disobedience as well as for standing by while public officers bit the dust.
He had to be sure they were a threat before he reported on his actions.
He continued on in the dark, and because of it, he picked up on a few rays of light that emerged from the walls and ceiling…though they were not coming from any connection to the Sun.
He motioned while avoiding them, always paying attention to the stairs. He had to dive through a few of the sensor beams, but the rest he could just step around. Cautiously, he reached the end of the flight and kept moving…carefully, looking in every direction, his senses attuned and attentive to anything he could catch.
His thoughts were with Ringo, worried about what would happen if the plan Shinyaki was talking about was actually put into practice…thinking about his need to get back to her.
“Where’s your brother?
“Leaf’s not my brother,” Ringo protested, “and I don’t know, you’re the one always calling him back and forth.”
The Fea standing before Ringo was a captain of the forest guard, the special militia in charge of defending Bellhall’s forest.
“He’s been our contact to these freelancers that have been close to the enemy. You know that’s why.” The man was tall but thin and lean. His eyes were bright green and his hair short and dark green. He had a shield at his back and a small staff at his left waist and was dressed in the half-plate armor of the forest guard, a green and brown uniform that clearly presented their flora-related motif.
“I can be in contact with them too,” Pixa argued.
“But you’re just a child,” the man argued, impatient.
“Hmpf, then leave this child alone, why don’tcha? After all, I’m too much of a child to be aware of anything, aren’t I?!” Pixa yelled, angry.
She really didn’t feel anything against them, her problem was with Leaf. She just didn’t understand why he had kept her in the dark ever since they returned to Bellhall. His brotherly efforts to keep her safe just took him to frustratingly irritating lengths… sometimes.
“Please, let us know if you hear of him.”
“Hello?! Trees to genius, don’t just wait for my call! Please, he’s out there and could be in trouble. Just go and save him,” she half-pleaded.
“If he’s out there, he’s in direct disobedience of a presidential order…and he’s entitled to whatever happens to him.”
Ringo’s heart leapt
“No! How can you say that? He’s been utterly loyal to Bellhall.”
“Sure,” the man commented, not really concerned or finding that statement the least bit credible, “just let us know. Bye.”
As soon as he left, Ringo jumped to her bed, closed her eyes and began to frantically call Leaf. To her shock and worry, though, it wasn’t working. It was like…like he was dead.
“No…that can’t be.”
…they still itched. The wounds the blasted doll had given him still itched, even with the attempt to stitch themselves back together with the help of some magic healing he had received earlier...they still itched. And now he was there. Somewhere in the middle of the crowd.
Shinyaki couldn’t help but try and spot that bastard of a doll, but it was hard, they all looked alike.
Reis…he never imagined he would be there, personal bodyguard to a Doll bent on raising a Doll city by process of fire and chaos. Though that part did not surprise him since he loved fire and chaos very much, it had been clear for the longest time that the Rei he was following was no ordinary Rei…
“My people! The time has come for us to ascend to the light again!”
A roar of applause and approval rose up, in unison and unanimity, to shake the foundation of their temporary homes. They had obviously been itching for the opportunity.
“Not all of us are here…and that is unfortunate. But once we have established our place in the world order, rest assured the rest of our people will flock to us…and we will accept them. But those that bleed and hurt now, for the benefit and salvation of us all, shall be given their true reward, and most importantly, prove themselves…as true Rei!”
“Arm yourselves and see to your commanders! They shall be following me into the most important battle any Rei has ever fought!”
They cheered louder in assent.
“We return…onto the surface!!”
To the cheers and yells of thankful dolls, Katsuryu turned around and left.
The fact he could rile them all up like that was exactly why he was different. Rei were known for being gloomy, thoughtful, and overly hard to emotionally spur into any kind of commitment or cause…even amongst themselves. But under Katsuryu, they had filed and grouped, and come together, and been utterly spurred to his cause…making it theirs.
Shinyaki couldn’t help but smile, amused and in full anticipation of what would come next.
In SpellGate, in a locked and dark room, magenta holograms stood in a circle. They had fluorescent white instead of eyeballs, and bodies that looked exactly alike…a normal familiar Jun.
“This is preposterous,” one of them protested, waving a hand around.
“My source is unquestionable. An army of Rei is about to invade Bellhall,” another one said.
“If that is true, so what of it? What chance do those sub-beings have against the Fea?” A third hologram posed the question.
“Four very round and mythical chances,” the informed hologram mentioned in a sarcastic tone.
“And that was thanks to whom, exactly?” The hologram accused in turn.
“I was not the one who facilitated the theft,” the informed hologram, the one with the source, rose his hands in his defense.
“We were informed of the thief’s action,” a deep and impatient voice spoke out, “we were not informed of yours.”
“Allowing a Rei to take our stone, and to compound it, collect all of them… was frankly the most idiotic decision I have ever seen going without protest.”
“We do not act on our own.”
“Nonsense, of course we do. I acted on my better judgment and failed. Had I succeeded, you’d be thanking me.”
A threatening silence prolonged itself, and Ramachandra knew he had to fight his impatience, and further defend his actions.
“We do act on our own,” the voice again said, “all of us know we bring matters here to make sure they’re not in too much of a conflict with others. Also to seek approval, fair, but only so far as to quell consequences.”
His tone of voice seemingly shrugged, “in short, we don’t answer to each other and you know it.”
“This is true,” the deep voice agreed, the hologram slightly nodding, “it was a bad decision.”
“I believed he just had a party of people bent on vengeance.”
“More like revolution,” a hologram complained, “if your sources are to be trusted.”
“And why weren’t we told of this before?!”
“I warned you I was close to finding out the Rei’s real plan. I did. You should have waited.”
“A plan that is inconceivable of working.”
“Not with an army behind him.”
“True.” “Possibly.” “Agreed.” “Maybe.”
The holograms did not know who each other were. Only the major players in SpellGate’s ever ongoing private power feud gained access to these meetings, and while each of them obviously knew about what other major players there are, they still kept as many secrets as they could. No one knew who had the source, no one knew who had acted on his own, though they could probably find out, just like they found out he acted on his own. But even if they knew who was up to what, in these meetings, it was still not clear who was saying what.
Unless they were clear about it, as Ramachandra and his opponent, the genius who had gotten approval to allow Katsuryu to steal their stone, were being.
It had been revealed later that the thief had been allowed to steal the stone, for some motivation that was lost to Ramachandra. He now knew who had done it and wanted nothing else than to use this whole thing to get rid of this opponent.
“As much as Bellhall has proven a nuisance, a nation of Rei is unthinkable,” the deep voice, coming from someone who wanted them to think he was old, mentioned.
“Too much grudge.”
“They’re our servants! That’s why we make them, damn it. They’re inferior! By principle, they cannot accomplish anything of worth.”
“Beasts are inferior, and they can still kill us, and wreak havoc.”
“I say we send our forces in,” Ramachandra hinted.
“No time. They’re neighboring Bellhall, and they’re on the move now. It will be impossible to reach.”
“I propose he make amends for facilitating the heist,” Ramachandra hinted, closing the noose…
“I propose he sacrifice himself for a mass teleportation spell. Let’s get a force in there.”
“You’re out of your mind!”
“No,” the deep voice stated, “no other city knows we can do that.”
“They’ll find out eventually.”
“When it’s more beneficial. We will not spend such a secret card on saving…others.”
“It’s not about being beneficial, and it’s not about saving anyone. Listen to me,” Ramachandra’s Jun hologram folded his arms, “Fairgriffen is crippled, Aellea’s main foreign forces are stationed there. And we’re too far. This Rei played everyone, he has checkmated, so to speak, everyone but us and Bellhall, who have just been checked. But he thinks he has us checkmated… because he doesn’t know about this ability of ours.”
The hologram smiled all cocky.
“I’m not saying we do it ’cause we’re afraid of what might happen. I’m saying we do it to carry a point across. We do not lose. We do not get outsmarted. SpellGate does not get fooled. We use something no one even knew was possible to crush an enemy no one was even expecting. That makes a statement. That speaks of us.”
Silence then settled, and endured, as they thought it over.
Ramachandra wasn’t actually sure they would go for it. At least half of them already knew he was the one behind the stone replacement, which meant they knew who he was…and they always grouped against him under those circumstances because he was the Pan.
He felt nervous, which was a rare thing. Feeling his heart racing made him think back to when he was but a child, facing hazards and enemies for the first time. He felt excited, but kept his hologram stoic and emotionless, he waited for their words.
“To make a point,” the deep voice said, in agreement.
“Make them know,” another one added.
“Oh c’mon,” his hologram protested.
“A statement,” a third yet agreed.
“SpellGate is superior.”
“I didn’t know! You can’t make me do this,” Ramachandra’s opponent protested.
But it was late. It was checkmate.
“The Jun are superior,” the final one said, looking at Ramachandra’s hologram, who offered nothing but a light, victorious smirk.
“Of course, we are.”