Criterion Effect: Norok Chronicles - In Search of Titan's Wings

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Chapter 1

Sublocation – Baldur Castle, Divergence Wings

Innerlocation – Northern Halls

It was an hour past midnight on the west coast of Divergence Wings when an alarm that hadn’t been heard in millions of years when off, causing the two soldiers making their rounds in the northern halls of Baldur Castle to hasten their way to the Room of Titan’s Wings. As big and unique as Baldur Castle was, the northern halls were easily considered one of the most important parts of the whole castle because it was the only way to get to Titan’s Wings. Titan’s Wings was a sacred medallion given to the Norokians over two aceons ago by the Warrior Shykair Titan Bane. In the ancient days, people in the Realm of Norok considered the Shykair to be gods but later came to understand there were instead highly evolved being, though some still consider them to be gods, or at the very least the closest thing to it.

Drawing closer to their destination, the floor changed from marble to woods but it was the siege sized arrow in the left wall that caused the senior of the two soldiers, an Elvenkai Talkei to stop.

For the most part, both soldiers wore the same type of uniform and armor; black chest and back plates, a red right shoulder guard, black forearm guards, black hip guards, black shin guards, armor plated boots, and a black metal plated helmet, which was often layered in the back. To indicate their ranks, their helmets had a certain number of silver or gold dots or bars. The soldier on the right was a mere Pitkei and only has a single silver dot. The soldier on the left was a Talkei and has three gold horizontal bars one above another. The primary weapons for the Divergence Wings Military Order soldiers stationed at Baldur Castle were a rank designed halberd with their secondary weapons being a single edged sevka sword and a dagger.

The Pitkei soldier on the right is a young, average sized Genohuman at six feet with dark blue horn tips on his dead, and dark skinned. Being only a Pitkei, the Genohuman wore his equipment accordingly, by the letter of the rules; sword on the opposite of his dominate hand, armor in the right places, and his pitkei ranked designed halberd in his dominate hand. The Talkei Elvenkai on the left was a relatively young at 500 years old, stood at five feet eight inches, two small white horns on his forehead, and five small forearm spikes. Due to the spikes on his outer forearms, his forearm guards were modified to go around them, making the guards longer than usual. The Elvenkai Talkei was more laid back then the Genohuman Pitkei and followed spirit of the rules rather than the strict letter.

The Pitkei, already sweating, looked at the Talkei and asked, “What does this mean Sir?”

The Elvenkai didn’t bother to look at the young Genohuman as he started towards the Room of Titan’s Wings. “That the hallway defenses have been activated but seeing how only one arrow was triggered, the intruder was unusually skilled.”

Without warring, the floor shook violently accompanied by a loud boom. The alarms that had just started to die down were once again at full force and this time flashing red lights that lined the floor and upper walls started to go off. Fearing the worst, the Elvenkai picked up his pace until he was running. Hanging a left into the room, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It took a moment for the Talkei to notice the Pitkei wasn’t in the room with him. Turning around, he saw the Pitkei staring at the decapitated Aeronok slumped against the wall.

“Pitkei E’KaTe,” the Elvenkai said sternly. The Pitkei turned around upon hearing his name only to stop and drop his halberd. Kai understood the look on the Genohuman’s face, he was feeling the same way. It took a lot to throw the Elvenkai off balance mentally but this was one of those times. While the Talkei was in shock, his decades and decades of military training took over. It was more for the kid’s sake than his own that he put on a brave face. Looking around at what was left of the room, he started to feel the Pitkei staring at him. Already knowing what the young Pitkei was waiting for, Kai turned around and started to give the Genohuman instructions. “Pitkei E’KaTe,” the Genohuman snapped to attention upon hearing his name once more. “Find Lord Chaos Baulder and the King’s senior assistant, Vissler Kuna. Escort them here then report to Archkei Weston for further instruction.”

The young Pitkei responded with a nod, he picked up his halberd, and gave the Talkei a quick salute. Placing his left hand on his sheath, E’KaTe quickly exited the room, creating a small gust of wind that rustled what was left of the banners hanging on either side of the large doorway. This is not how I wanted to end my shift, he thought to himself and he turned left and made his way down the hall.

When the young Genohuman Pitkei left the edge of Kai’s vision, he looked around the ruined room, took in the situation, and settled on the glass etched case that earlier in his shift had contained Titan’s Wings and not a note. After a moment of looking in the empty case, he looked up to the ceiling where the security cameras and security orbs were diligently watching the case and started to wonder why security didn’t alert him of the situation sooner. His guess was the cameras and orbs went out the same time the attack happened. Looking back at the case, the Elvenkai started at it once more and slowly began to circle the room to see if anything stood out from the rubble.

To the untrained eye, the etchings on the glass case were just etching. To someone who was trained or familiar with the technique however, the etchings were much, much more. The etchings were a security device that sealed the case in an invisible protective field. If the case was disturbed or tampered with, the intruder would be shocked to unconsciousness, the alarms would sound, and the room would lock down to prevent the intruder’s partners to escape. Seeing how none of that happened, Talkei Kai became very concerned. The thought of someone betraying his or her King and country in this day and age disturbed him greatly. Completing his round, he stopped and looked down at the plaque that had “Titan’s Wings” engraved on it.

Moving to the back of the room, Kai raised his right forearm, the military issued BracerTech that had his ID on it, and waved it in front of the scanner. The computer took a moment to scan and accept the ID. Once it did, the walls parted and a keyboard and monitor slid out. After entering the data required to use the system, the screen went black and an error message came up in red. Turning around to the case then back to the screen, the Talkei whispered to himself, “What in the Three Realms happened here?” Until now, the Elvenkai hadn’t noticed there was an unusual coldness to the room that wasn’t there before. The more he dwelled on it, the colder he got, and the more he started to feel get a dark feeling a dark cloud was coming once again, one far more darker than the one that had come twice over the past five years. Kai started to find it interesting the every time some bad happened, dark weather was always involved, including the event that led to the treaty between Divergence Wings and Valkyrie Retribution being breached.

“I am really hoping you can tell me Talkei,” a grumpy voice came from behind him. Kai had been so caught up in his thoughts that he failed to notice the Genohuman Pitkei had returned with someone. Judging by the tone of his voice, Kai suspected it was Vissler. Turning to face them, he nodded at the Pitkei. The Jin standing next him confirmed his suspicions and in his opinion, he looked worse than usual.

“Mr. Kuna for you Sir,” Pitkei E’KaTe saluted. “Lord Baulder is reported to be out on a diplomatic assignment to Valkyrie Retribution for the King and has yet to return.” The Genohuman stepped back and let the Jin advance.

“Thank you Pitkei,” the Elvenkai Talkei said, tightening his grip on his halberd and turned to look at Vissler but still addressing the Pitkei. “When you report to Archkei Weston, inform him that the situation is Theta Delta Black.” The Pitkei was caught off guard with code and had a confused look on his face. A second later he remembered what it meant, saluted the Talkei once more, and exited the room to find Archkei Soul Weston.

Once the Genohuman Pitkei was out of sight, the half asleep and rather grumpy Vissler, despite the good day he had, addressed the Elvenkai Talkei.

Vissler was one of a dying species called the Jin, once known as the Jinki. Though encountering a Jin as considered uncommon, an encounter with a human was even rarer. Like the rest of his race, he had three eyes, all which were colorless, a unique feature among the Jin, his antennas were an average four inches, three horns on his head went halfway back, two rows of small spikes went all the way up his back, and hooves as feet. On the back of his shins were four small cured spikes and like the rest of his species, he wore an air filter that allows him to breath Norokian air; the Jin never full adapted or developed the genetics to process Norokian atmosphere. “So Talkei, what’s so important that-” the Jin stopped mid-sentence as he looked past the Elvenkai and at the empty case with a strange note in it. Vissler blinked just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. Opening his eyes, he saw the same thing, an empty glass etched case that was supposed to contain Titan’s Wings. “What the hell Talkei?! Where the frak is the medallion and what in the name of Titan does that damn note say?!” the Jin demanded, storming past the Elvenkai to the case.

“I have no idea Mr. Kuna,” Talkei Kai replied, understanding the Jin’s reaction. “I was just about to open the case to see that the note said.”

“Hurry the hell up,” Vissler said in a raised voice, folding his arms. Kai nodded as he made his way to the plaque and entered the codes to release the field and open the case. With a hiss the case parted and the Elvenkai grabbed the note only to be confused at its contents. “What’s the issue Talkei?”

Kai hesitated at first but ended up handing it over to the Jin. “I can’t read it.”

Once in his hands, the Jin understood why, the writing on the paper was in ancient draconic. “I’ll inform his Highness right away.”

The Jin started to walk out of the room when he heard Kai say, “I’ll inform Lord Baulder of the situation as soon as I can get a hold of him.” He noticed the Jin tense up at the suggestion and wondered if he had crossed some sort of line.

Vissler turned around got in the Talkei’s face. “Actually Talkei, that won’t be necessary. I will do that myself. No need to concern yourself with some so trivial.”

Vissler’s statement caught Kai off guard. To his knowledge, the Jin hated to deliver this type of news to Lord Baulder. Unable to come up with a reply, the Talkei simply looked at Vissler and ultimately decided it would be safer to respect the chain of command. “Yes Sir. If that’s the way you want it.”

The Jin assistant started at the Elvenkai a bit longer before deciding it wasn’t worth it and turned to exit the room once again. “Make sure you follow the procedure to Theta Delta Black to the letter Talkei.” Kai nodded and saluted as Vissler exited the room.

Sublocation – Baldur Castle, Divergence Wings

Innerlocation – King’s Sleeping Chambers

Woken up by a quake and a large explosion, King Ziad Ginta, a 1,500 year old average Elvenkai with long white hair, a long white beard, white eyes, two small white forehead spikes, and five small forearm spikes, stumbled out of his bed, hurried down the ladder to the ground level, and over to his work desk where his computer was beeping repeatedly. Keying a string of command codes, a mini holo-image of armored soldier appeared. “Report! What the bloody hell is going on soldier?!” the Elvenkai King demanded.

“Two intruders have broken through the gates and made their way into the castle,” the soldier said with an unsettled tone. “Also, there was an explosion at the Northern Gates. The current situation is Theta Delta Black.”

“Are you sure it’s Theta Delta and not Delta Theta Black?” Ginta asked, hoping the young soldier got his words mixed up.

The soldier shook his head, “Negative Sire. Theta Delta Black.”

“Damn,” the King said, not sure how to react without over reacting. In his entire reign, he had never once been through a Theta Delta situation. Theta Delta situations were reserved for situations that were dire and worst case scenarios. The color at the end signified the severity of the situation and black was near the top of the worst case scenarios. “Inform all senior officials to follow protocol to the letter.”

“As you wish my Lord,” the soldier said with a bow and a moment later, the mini holo-image dissipated.

The King cursed as he started to pace the length of his room. Because of the protocol, he was stuck in his chambers until the situation was resolved or it was at least safe for him to come out. Before Ziad could do anything else, the door to his chambers slammed open behind him followed by a panicked Jin.

Bursting into the room, Vissler started to shout the King’s name, and made his way up the ladder. It was only when he reached the second floor that he heard a loud noise that sounded like someone was clearing their throat. The Jin turned around and looked down to see who was trying to get his attention. When he saw the King, he looked at the bed, which he now noticed was empty, then back to the Elvenkai King.

“Before you say anything Vissler, I already know that the situation is Theta Delta Black and that there was an explosion at the Northern Gates. So unless you have some more good news, I don’t want to hear it.” With that, the Jin lost his train of thought and was unable to come up with anything to say. “Well?! What do you have Vissler?” Ziad asked with a stern voice, not sure why his head assistant burst into his room.

“Titan’s Wings was stolen and this was in its place,” Vissler answered, handing Ginta the note. “Neither the Talkei on the scene nor I could read it.”

The Elvenkai took the parchment, looked at it, and raised an eyebrow. “I can see why. It’s in ancient draconic.” After reading it, his eyes grew wide and nearly dropped the note. “This is disturbing,” he said with a shaky voice and looked up to find the Jin looking curiously at him. “Please tell me you had this translated before coming here.”

“No my Lord, there wasn’t any time,” Vissler answered, shaking his head.

Before the Jin could ask what the King wanted to do, Ginta started to read the note aloud. “For over two and a half aceons I have watched you slowly ruin the planet my ancestors died to protect. You have grown soft and weak in your power, assuming no one would dare steal any of the Legendary Five Wings. Today, I prove you wrong.” When his assistant first handed him the note, the Elvenkai King was expecting a ransom note, not a declaration of war from an unknown enemy. He looked at the parchment one last time then to the Jin. “Continue your report,” he said, gulping.

Vissler was still processing what the King had read off the note and it wasn’t until the Elvenkai snapped his fingers in front of the Jin’s three eyes that he opened his mouth to speak. Due to his mask, the King couldn’t tell the Jin’s mouth was open but wasn’t speaking. When words finally started to come out, he was rambling. Clearing his throat, he make his report, “Talkei Kai was the first one on the scene and is continuing the necessary procedures for Theta Delta Black. Current estimated confirmed casualty is around one hundred and twenty-five.”

Ginta’s heart sank at the number of casualties. Even though it was a relatively low number compared to past battles, the death of anyone working under him affected him. With a nod, the Elvenkai had his way to the table next to the counter and poured a glass of three thousand year old Elvenkai fine wine. “This presents a very disturbing notion and problem, one I thought we were above.”

Vissler understood his King’s position but at the same time understood the military. After a few moments of silence, he asked, “What are your orders Sire?”

The Elvenkai King looked at an ancient suit of armor hanging on the wall facing the door. Quickly finishing his glass, he answered, “Along with Theta Delta Black and full lock down protocols, initiate Ziad Black.”

The Jin looked at Ginta with concern. The last time the King had ordered that was two years ago when the event that started the political war they were in started. “Are you sure my Lord? That is a very dangerous operation to be activating.”

Ginta flashed the Jin an angry glare. “Are you questioning my orders Kuna?”

Vissler searched the King’s eyes and decide it would be wise not to press the issue. “No Sire,” the Jin answered with a bow. “That brings up another problem. On the way here I was informed that do the explosion the main power grid is down. As a result we won’t be able to do things-”

“Then do them the old fashion way! This is what the military has been training for!” Ginta shouted. He took a moment to control his anger before he continued. “Next get word to Kouchou Ashley Sōti of Vanguard Academy. Inform her of the situation and tell her that her talents are needed.”

“Yes my Lord,” Vissler said with a bow.

“Oh and wake up the High Council and tell them the topic is ‘I told you so’,” Ginta added, stopping the Jin just short of the door. Vissler bowed once again and closed the door behind him. Upon hearing the door close, the Elvenkai opened one of the upper cabinet doors and pulled out a bottle of 1000 year old Aeronok whiskey and poured it into a glass given to him by on his late mentors. Taking a long sip, Ginta looked at the armor on the wall next to this cluttered desk once and thought to himself, This does not bold well.

ONE WEEK LATER…

Sublocation - Elite Academy, Elemental Wings - 4000 Miles East of Divergence Wings

Innerlocation – Cosmic Division Quad

It was an average lunch at the legendary Elite Academy; kas and senseis were doing their normal activities and clubs. For some reason though, the quad was quieter than usual, which sat just fine with the Human and the Genohuman sitting a table in the shade. The Human on the right was Eagle Rei, the kouchou of Elite Academy. He was middle aged at 110 year with short pure white spiked hair, white eyes, a modified version of the academy’s principal uniform, and shades. Unlike other kouchou he had known, Eagle actually preferred to eat among friends, fellow staff, and on occasion kas. Kaz Sanaya on the other hand was a relatively young Genohuman at 85 years old, short black hair, a single row of small blue spikes on his head instead of the traditional three, black eyes, and was wearing the standard sensei uniform with shades. Being one of the many sensei on campus, Kaz found it refreshing to hang out with higher up rather than his peers. It helped of course that Eagle was one of his best friends.

Many shadows crossed over the two over the course of the lunch but when one stopped, Kaz nodded and pointed passed his friend. The Human wiped his mouth, turned around, and smiled at who he saw. At first glance, the Jin in front of him seemed like the typical messenger or assistant for royalty but at the same time, unique.

Ignoring the Genohuman, the Jin looked down at Eagle, “Are you Eagle Rei, Kouchou of this academy?”

The Human displayed a confusing look on his face. “Why Vissler, my friendly Jin, I can’t believe you don’t remember me.”

Truth be told, he had met the Human several time before but never liked him. It wasn’t like the Human had done anything to offend him or anything, there was just something he genuinely didn’t like about him. “I’m sorry. Have we met before Mr. Rei?”

“That truly hurts Vissler,” Eagle replied, knowing full well the Jin knew exactly who he was. He couldn’t put his finger on it but there was something off about Vissler today, something in his voice didn’t sound right. Noticing one of Vissler’s antennae twitch, Eagle moved on. “So, what message does old Ziad have you delivering to me this time?”

“The King of Divergence Wings, his Royal Highness King Ziad Ginta, is requesting an audience with you immediately. A situation has developed.”

Up to this point, Kaz was sitting quietly in the background, trying to act professional but as soon as the Jin said the word “immediately”, the Genohuman couldn’t help but laugh.

Eagle looked at Kaz then back to Vissler. “I gather from you tone that this situation, whatever it is, is a tad bit more serious then you’re letting on?”

The Jin looked at the Genohuman disapprovingly, know full well where this conversation was going. “I would prefer to discuss this in private, away from the staff and kas,” he answered looking around at all the people in the quad. The quad was too public for the information he was about to reveal to the Human. Glancing back to Eagle, he noticed the Human giving him an ‘I don’t care’ look. Vissler sighed and shook his head. “Fine. Titan’s Wings was stolen nearly a week and a half ago. Considering you past, the King thinks you can to something about recovering it.

Kaz leaned forward in his chair and asked jokingly, “I take it the King’s first choice was busy?”

Before the Jin could counter the cheap shot, Eagle asked, “This happened on your watch? Very disappointing.”

Vissler pretended neither comment fazed him but before he could respond, two of the academy’s security guards approached them. The guard on the right was a muscular Genohuman with all three rows of white head spikes, short brown hair, and wore the academy security uniform and shade. The other guard was an average looking Elvenkai, wearing a security design jacket over his security uniform and shades. “There you are!” Tai’D, the Genohuman shouted. Seeing the Kouchou, he turned to Eagle, took off his shades and bowed. “I apologies Sir. He walked right passed us with no explanation like he owned the place and managed to avoid my teams.”

The Human let out a small laugh, “There is nothing to worry about Mr. Tai’D. As far as I am concerned he’s no security threat.” Eagle was going to end there but then decided to add, “I mean look at him, he is only a messenger for the King of Divergence Wings.”

Tai’D raised an eyebrow, looked at the Jin then back to Eagle, not convinced at all. “Are you sure Sir? I would be pleased to kick this one off campus.”

“Excuse me?!” Vissler objected, reacting as if he was slapped in the face. “Do you have any idea who the hell I am Genohuman?”

Tai’D was about to answer but Eagle beat him to the punch, “This Genohuman is a Vickei of the Elite Order and outranks your position Vissler.” He turned to Tai’D, “Thank you for your option Tai’D but Vickei Sanaya and I can handle him.”

“Your choice Sir,” the Genohuman said with a nod. He looked at the Jin one last time before turning to his partner and leaving.

While security left, the Human turned his attention back to Vissler, “Back to business at hand. When do I need to be there?”

“Preferably immediately,” Vissler answered honestly.

Kaz took a sip of his drink and shook his head, “Always in a hurry.”

The Jin was taken aback at the Genohuman’s response. “Excuse me? What the hell is that is supposed to mean?”

Kaz smiled at the notion that something as little as that could set the Jin off. “Nothing really. It’s just that you messengers, especially if you work for the crown, always seem to be in a hurry, no matter how urgent or unimportant the subject it. After a while it gets hard to tell what’s urgent and what isn’t.”

Before things got heated beyond control between these two, Eagle interrupted them by simply raising his hand. “I can be ready in twenty minutes. How about we meet in front of the academy then?”

“Sounds good Eagle,” Vissler replied without thinking. The moment the word came out of his mouth, the Jin realized he had crossed a line he couldn’t have and by the way the Genohuman was shaking his head, it simply confirmed it.

For Eagle that was a mood breaker. He didn’t care that Vissler was the his friend’s prized assistant, only a select few were allowed to call him by his first name and a nameless assistant wasn’t one of them. “Look Ecila, as long as you are on my academy grounds, you will give my staff and I the respect we deserve and then some!” Being who he was, Eagle had a tendency to call people girls’ names when they annoyed or angered him. Eagle stood up to his full height and slightly raised his voice. “Understand Ecila?”

Intimidated, the Jin nodded as a thought of Eagle actually letting the guards literally kick him off the premises crossed his mind. “In front of the academy. 20 minutes. Got it.” Vissler repeated then turned and power walked away.

While the Jin scurried away, Eagle sat back down and was greeted by a look from Kaz. “What?”

The Genohuman shook his head, “You didn’t have to be that hard on him. He’s only a glorified assistant after all.”

Eagle picked up his utensils and moved around what was left of his food. “I know but he’s so much fun to mess with. Just between us though, I think he may have actually wet himself this time.”

Kaz laughed before he answered. “After what you just said to him, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Eagle finished his drink and got up, “Well I’m off. Tell Gene that he’s in charge until I get back.”

“Hopefully he can handle it this time,” Kaz said jokingly, remembering the last time Fuku Kouchou Gene Sting let in charge.

The Human laughed at the notion of his Fuku Kouchou failing in his duties. “You never did tell me what happen the last time I left him in charge did you?”

“Don’t worry about it,” the Genohuman replied as an idea popped in his head. “When do I get to be in charge?”

“The day Gene’s position becomes available is the day you get to be in charge in my absence.”

“That hurts,” Kaz answered as he placed down his glass. “See you when you get back friend.” The Human waved as he made his way towards this office.

MEANWHILE...

Across the quad under of the two biggest trees on campus was a group of six Year Four kas, two of which were considered titans of the academy, playing a game of Seikai Shi. Leaning again the tree itself were the titan Elvenkais, Yoshio Sanjuro and Sunchina Aya. They were both 23 years old, headstrong, stubborn, independent, know it all, know who they are, and what they want out of life, not to mention the best Year IV swordsmen, arguably the best in the academy. Yoshio had long brown hair in a high ponytail, a right violet eye and a left brown eye, and was wearing a vest of his academy uniform. Sunchina also had long brown hair in a high ponytail, violet eyes, and was wearing a sash over her academy uniform. To their right was Rin Nagasaki, an 22 year old, smaller than average red Aeronok, who was nothing but confident to the point of being arrogant, and was the top archer on campus, well after the female Genohuman who sat across from him, Cati Yucan. Cati was a 21 year old Genohuman with hazel eyes, shoulder length sandy blonde hair, three rows of small white head spikes that ended at her shoulder blades, straight “A” ka but still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, and had a crush on the red Aeronok sitting in front of her. Across from Yoshio and Sunchina was Kurara Yukari and Trip Blaze. Kurara was the youngest of the group at 21, 5’7” with blue eyes, long blonde hair with blue streaks, blue lipstick, three rows of head spikes that started at her forehead and ended at her shoulder blades, easily the shyest between them, and a bit of a klutz off the battle field. Trip on the other hand was 18 with green eyes, short black hair, arrogant to the point of rebellion, the class clown, and manages to excel at nearly everything he does.

Yoshio placed down a red three on top of the pile of cards which was quickly followed by a red five by Sunchina, a blue five by Cati, a blue 0 and two blue 7s by Kurara, who then picked out one of her useless cards and tossed it to Sunchina. “Gee, thanks Kurara,” Sunchina said sarcastically, knowing it was going to happen as soon as the Genohuman had put down the two sevens. Kurara simply smiled in return.

“Are you three looking forward to the tournament this weekend?” Trip asked, looking though his cards before finally putting down a wild death card followed by a green nine. Everyone but Rin looked at Trip as if they didn’t know what he was walking about.

Rin tossed a green 8 on the pile then placed his cards faced down and looked at Yoshio, Sunchina, and Kurara in disbelief. “Have you guys been so busy that you completely forgot about the big tournament this weekend?” the three muttered half effort answers. “I can understand Cati here, she’s been training for the big district wide archery competition coming up.”

Trip jumped in, knowing full well once the red Aeronok got off topic, he rarely went back on it. “It’s actually quite a big deal this year. It’s not every year kas get to participate in the One Millionth Inner Class Tournament.”

“Oh, that,” Yoshio said, tossing down a green one. “We signed up for that a couple of weeks ago.

“Not to mention a lot of overtime in the dojo,” Kurara said with a smile.

After picking up three cards from the deck, Sunchina found something she could play and tossed it down. “It helps having a friendship with the Kouchou.”

Trip put down his hand of cards and pointed to the two Elvenkai. “The only reason you two have a friendship with the Kouchou is because you two are constantly getting in trouble.”

“Yeah, well he starts everything,” Sunchina protested, pointing at Yoshio like a little kid.

As if in response, Yoshio placed down a wild death four, two red twos on top of that, and tossed the rest of his hand in the air, “Set and match.”

“I rest my case,” Sunchina remarked as everyone tossed their cards into the pile of cards.

ONE HOUR LATER...

One of the many perks Eagle enjoyed about being the Kouchou of the toughest academy on the face of Norok was the stuff he was able to get away with. Walking under the two huge swords that represented both the entrance to the academy and the swords that the Shykairs Titan Band and Shadow Zoruzekrem used to battle for Titan’s Wings, Eagle saw the Jin standing at the bottom of the stairs looking at his digital display. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long,” the Human greeting, not meaning a word of it.

“Not at all,” Vissler replied, looking up from his digital display. “Are you ready to go?”

“What’s your hurry Lucy Q?”

“At the same time Titan’s Wings was stolen, our main, secondary, and our backup power grids were sabotage in an explosion, taking everything offline, including our energy transports. I had to use one of the ancient Transport Gates to get here. That’s at least a couple of days of flying in each country.”

“I see,” the Human said, glancing past the Jin to the brown dragon that was sitting less than five hundred meters away. “Why did you do that? I find motor and monocycles to be much faster than dragons.” Eagle looked at the Jin who had said nothing and glimpsed into the Jin’s mine. “As a matter of fact I do Ginger.”

“Excuse me Sir?” Vissler asked, not sure what the Human was going on about.

Eagle smiled as he placed his hand on the Vissler’s shoulder, “You were wondering if I had a faster way of travel in mind.” He walked pass the Jin, “Don’t worry about your dragon, it will get him back to the castle too.” A small wind started to gust and continue until a funnel of wind surrounded them. “LUNVA AII WA BOKAVA BALDUR CASTLE!” Completing the spell, the funnel swallowed them and vanished.

A MERE MOMENT LATER...

The funnel that had transported them to Baldur Castle in Divergence Wings dissipated and the two found themselves in the empty throne room. “So much for your couple of days of travel, huh Vissler?” the Human asked, patting the Jin on the back. With the time difference, it was still early morning in the part of Divergence Wings the castle was located.

Vissler stood speechless, unable to process what had just happened. “What-where did you lean that spell? Is it an ability of your Cosmic Mark? Last I heard, that spell had become forbidden and subsequently lost during the Andormidia Days,” he finally rambled out.

Savoring the shallow, pointless victory, the Human replied coolly, “No. What that was, was pure and simple magic but, Mr. Kuna, no matter who you work for, there are just some things I cannot tell you.” Judging by the Jin’s facial expression, Eagle guessed he wasn’t ready for his answer. As much as he enjoyed toying with the Jin, he was here for a reason. “Now how about you go get Ziad for me.”

“Sure…right…” Vissler said, bowing then turning around, and made his way to the King’s chambers. The entire way there he tried to the Human out but by the time he reached the door to the King’s chambers, he gave up, turned his thoughts back to the matter at hand, and knocked on the door.

o0o

Once again, the Elvenkai King was woken up before he had to be. As the knocking persisted, Ziad slowly got out of bed and made his way to the door. “Hold your horses!” he said sternly as he reached the door handle. This had better be one hell of an excuse. Opening the door, he saw the last person he expected to see. “Kinda early aren’t we Mr. Kuna? I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

“Mr. Rei had a spell that got us here in a couple seconds. Something about not wanting to ride dragons for an extended period,” knowing it wasn’t worth fully explaining, Vissler continued. “In the meantime, the Human is waiting for you in the throne room.”

There was something about the way his assistant said ‘Human’ that he didn’t like. It was either how he said it or that fact that he called his longtime friend a Human. Either way, he would talk to Vissler about it at a later date. “That sounds like Eagle alright,” Ziad said humorously as he shook his head. Tell him I will be with him shortly.”

“Yes Sire,” Vissler replied as he bowed. Hearing the door close against the wooden frame, he straightened, turned around, and made his way back to the throne room. “The King will be with- why are you sitting in the royal chair?” Vissler demanded as he entered the throne room and finding the Human sitting in the King’s five hundred year old chair.

“Why?” Eagle asked, pretending to think about it then countered, “Why do you have an overbearing attitude when you are running errands for old Ziad?”

Thrown off by the question, Vissler took a minute to think about it. “Well it is a job for the King. Plus that’s how I normally am.”

“And?” Eagle pressed.

“And because what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him and even if he did find out, all he would do is tell me to knock it off,” finishing the thought, the Human gave him a look that that was the answer he was looking for. Realizing this, he nodded, “Ah. I see. So this has been going on for a while I take it?”

“Yep,” Eagle casually answered. Shifting in the chair, he asked, “So what was Ziad up to?”

“Sleeping,” Vissler answered immediately, walking towards the Human. “You did wake him up after all. He wasn’t supposed to get up for another hour.”

“Right. The time difference,” Eagle said as he shook his head. “He’s still a late sleeper then?” The Jin nodded in response. “Some things never change do they? Let me know when he gets here will you?”

“Not much chance of that,” Vissler said under his breath.

“What was that?” Eagle asked, knowing full well what Vissler had said.

“What will you be doing in the meantime Sir?”

“Taking a nap of course,” Eagle said jokingly, tilting his head and resting it on his hand just to make the Jin seem like he was serious.

Of course you are, Vissler thought to himself. In his mind this meant he was home free and he could leave but just as he turned around to leave, the Human stopped him. Typical. “Yes?”

“Would you mind getting me a glass of water?”

“Are you serious?” the Jin asked, insulted.

“Yes, and could you hurry, I am quite thirsty.”

“Sure,” Vissler answered, taking a deep breath. “Would you like anything else while I am at it? Something to eat perhaps?”

Smiling, Eagle answered, “Actually, I would like a…” before he could finish his request, the Jin as already out the door. Closing his eyes, he shrugged, and leaned back. “Guess I am not getting that water.”

The voice of the King came out of the darkness, “Now, now my dear Eagle, is that anyway to treat one of my subordinates?”

Knowing his friend had been there for at least the past couple of minutes, Eagle didn’t move. “Now seeing how you were standing in the corner the whole time, I take it you thought I was well within my bounds.”

“Maybe,” the Elvenkai King agreed as he made his way to his throne chair. “However…”

“Now how did I know there was going to be a ‘however’?” Eagle asked as he got up and out of the chair.

Ziad ignored the question and continued, “However, that doesn’t excuse you from using an extinct wind spell.”

“I am well aware of that my old friend,” Eagle admitted, which he almost never did with Ziad. “I didn’t feel like spending thirty plus hours with him.” As soon as the King was in his chair, Eagle asked the one question Vissler couldn’t answer. “So, what did you want to see me about? I assume this isn’t a social call.”

Quickly situating the room, Ziad made sure it was secure. Convinced it way, he took a deep breath and started. “I'm sure Vissler told you about the situation that has developed here.”

Using his best Seikai Shi face, he replied, “Not really. He just mentioned something about the main power grid being offline but didn’t say why. Just that you wanted to see me.” Eagle paused to think about how vaguely Vissler had mentioned the theft of Titan’s Wings. “So what did the shy Jin steal this time?” he asked joking without hinting that he knew most of what had actually happened.

“Funny. If only it were that simple,” Zaid answered. “Do you remember what we talked about every time you came around the castle?”

How can…Eagle started to think to himself but finished out loud. “How can I forget? Seeing how that’s all you every wanted to talk about when we weren’t busy training or something. I know its history as well as the myths and legends. It’s something the kas at the academy have to learn.” He started to think back to his days at the academies. “I also know that this is the second time this castle has had issues with Titan’s Wings in the last two years. That’s why you and Valkyrie Retribution are still technically at war. Don’t tell me it was stolen?”

“Sad to say but that’s exactly what happened,” Ziad confirmed, looking away. “Not only that but it looks to be an inside job. The glass etched case was completely undisturbed and all security cameras and orbs just happened to miss it,” the Elvenkai looked back and Eagle and leaned forward. “Look, the reason I asked you here was to offer you an opportunity, one that doesn’t come around very often.”

Before Eagle could comment, Vissler was back with his water, “About time Yuki.”

“My apologies for taking so long,” Vissler said, not meaning a word of it at all while handing the Human his water. “The doors to the kitchen were locked for some reason.”

Neither Eagle nor Ziad believed him. “Well thank you.”

“On your way out, make sure you lock the throne room door,” Ziad ordered.

“Yes Sire,” Vissler said as he bowed and made his way out of the hall.

Hearing the door lock, Eagle asked, “What kind of opportunity are we talking about here Ziad?”

“To find and recover Titan’s Wings.”

“That’s a bit more than an opportunity,” Eagle corrected. “It’s a very dangerous, practically suicidal mission.”

“Depends on who you ask. Besides, it’s right up your alley Mr. Immortal,” the Elvenkai complimented, reminding the Human of his heritage and what he was capable of. “So what do you say? Are you in?”

“It sounds like fun but have you asked Ashley Sōti? She was part of my team for decades before going into academia and if memory serves, she just as good as I was, if not better.”

“She was the first one I thought of to be honest,” Ziad replied. “But due to circumstances beyond her control, she isn’t available and recommended you. Something about unusual trouble at Vanguard Academy”

“That sounds like Ashley,” Eagle said with a laugh, remembering what it was like it was to work with her. “What has she gotten herself into this time?”

“A continental civil war. Two of the bigger countries formed an alliance and decided they wanted to take over Bikai.”

“That’s what the Elite Order gets for setting up an HQ in yet another unstable political climate,” Eagle mocked. He had nothing but respect for the Order he still serves but it was common knowledge that he didn’t agree with some of the Order’s foreign policies.

“The icing on the top though,” Ziad started, shaking his head. “Is that she was a part of the incident two years ago.”

“Interesting,” Eagle admitted. While Ziad had filled him in on most of the details about the incident two years ago, he had left out that Ashley was involved. “What about the Order? I mean this is one of their primary missions.”

“They are dealing with their own internal issues. Someone compromised some of the core securities.”

Failing to think of anyone else he could recommend, he caved in, “Alright, I’ll do it but who am I supposed to get for a team? Everyone I know is either dead or busy.”

“What about you kas?”

“Please tell me you’re not serious,” the Human objected. “They are only kids after all.”

“Aren’t you having that big historic tournament this weekend?”

“Yes,” Eagle answered, not sure where this was heading. “Wait, let me guess. You’re proposing the winners of the tournament be the one to go on this insane mission with me?”

“To my understanding, this tournament is the Inner-Class Tournament, which means the best of the best of every division and fields will be participating. And may I point out that this is what they are being trained to do.”

Eagle scratched his head for a second to think. “I will admit, you do bring up a valid point. Fine. You win but I won’t be the one leading this little adventure.”

“Oh really?” Ziad asked curiously. “What could possibly be your excuse?”

“Well in case you have noticed, I’m not exactly in my prime anymore. This type of mission could kill me before it starts to get serious.”

“Nonsense!” Ziad objected, knowing full well what his Human friend was capable of. “This sort of mission is play stuff to you! You used to tell me stories that makes this one a walk in the part. You participated in the Great War for Titan’s sake.”

Eagle folded his arms and sighed. “Regardless of what I’m capable of now and what I was capable in the past, right now I am the Kouchou of the toughest academy on Norok and I have responsibilities not even my VP could do. Not to worry though. I know exactly who will lead them,” Eagle said confidently, thinking about what Kaz asked him earlier.

“Excellent! Then it’s settled,” the King said cheerfully but disappointed at the same time.

Eagle nodded and started to walk away. “Oh and by the way. You’ll have to attend the tournament and congratulate the winners.”

“Naturally,” the elderly Elvenkai said in a dreadful voice. “See you then.” The Human continued to walk and recite the wind spell. Once again a gust of wind swallowed him up and disappeared.

o0o

Moments later, Eagle found himself in front of the academy gates. Walking up the steps and passing under the two swords, he wondered how he was going to make the necessary administrative changes to the tournament in time

Sublocation - Balder Castle, Divergence Wings

Innerlocation - Castle Courtyard

Lord Chaos Baulder, an average Elvenkai at six foot with long black hair, brown eyes, a single forehead spike, King Ginta’s right hand adviser among other things and one of the most powerful Elvenkai on Negito if not Norok, was sitting under his favorite tree at the castle, the Vilacava Tree. The petals of a Vilacava Tree gave off water, creating a misting effect, a rare feature among Norokian foliage. Although he was in deep meditation, he sensed someone approaching. “What’s the situation Vissler?” Chaos asked with no emotion, eyes still closed, levitating, and facing the trees.

The Jin bowed and reported, “The King’s meeting with Kouchou Eagle Rei went well. The Human has decided to accept the mission and is holding some sort of Inner-Class tournament this weekend to decide who is going to go on the mission. There is one small problem that wasn’t foreseen. The Human won’t be leading the mission, one of his trusted senseis will.”

“How out of character of him,” Chaos commented as he raised an eyebrow. “He must have great faith in this sensei of his. Do we know who it is?”

“No but I have a feeling it may be that Genohuman sensei Kaz Sanaya,” The Jin said in distaste.

“That would make sense. The two have been teamed up for decades,” the Elvenkai Lord said, finally getting up and look to the Jin. “Even when Castle Crew got disbanded, he and Kaz still ended up on the same assignment. Accompany the King to the tournament and report the winner as well as which one of the senseis Eagle has selected to lead the mission.”

The Jin bowed once more, “Yes my Lord.”

While his servant walked away, the Elvenkai sat back down and drifted back into mediation. Everything is now set in motion.


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