Chapter 43:

After 1

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The conference ended for the day for an undetermined amount of time. Each leader rejoined their respective group and shuffled out of the war room. Queen Whitlock was left to direct the Aqueenians remaining in the room. She slowly walked over to the late King Whitlock, who had been left undisturbed while the other leaders had left.

Hermina had pulled out Fiona and Asha as the last few to leave the room. Only Queen Whitlock and Donn were left in the room as some castle staff put up a temporary curtain over the large hole in the door.

Gwyn, likewise, was also escorted away from the event.

"Wait! Odell was left on the floor!" Gwyn had shouted to some of the newly arrived Aqueenian guards who not so gently tried to push him back to his room.

"That is something for the Hobusians to deal with," was the sharp reply he was given.

Gwyn quickly found himself back in his room and the door shut behind him. He let out a sigh as he walked across the room. Mem popped off his arm as Gwyn sat on the bed. He rubbed his hands over his face as Mem settled on the bed next to him. Then, Gwyn flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling.

"Don't beat yourself up, partner; that Dia would have been sent here knowing there were lots of strong opponents. As a novice to such things, you wouldn't be expected to have beaten her," Mem tried to reassure Gwyn.

"That's not it," Gwyn said with a loud sigh, "I was just thinking I have gotten wrapped up in events that are over my head."

Gwyn continued to contemplate in silence.

Since he had arrived, the whims of others had swept him into what felt like a never-ending storm. His ideal adventure would have started with a grand welcome by the royalty, then a granting of powers to him, and finally, setting off with a party to some faraway place.

Instead, he had been eaten by a beast, spit up by said beast, swept up in an assassination plot, and then failed to stop said scheme.

Gwyn reached for his pocket, where he kept his phone, but the device had long since been lost.

He groaned and sat up. Leaving Mem on the bed, he walked over to the door. It slid open in response to him, and two guards greeted him. He did not know the duo, and they only spoke with a lack of interest in their tone:

"Nonpareil, we must ask that you remain in your room for the time being. A castle-wide investigation is being conducted currently." Gwyn let the door slide back shut without giving a response. He contemplated asking 'where the lazy guards were during Dia's tour of the castle,' but he held his tongue.

He walked over to the window and looked out of it. He was high up, but there appeared to be a ledge that could be shimmied on. If he wanted, he could liquify the wall and escape, but Gwyn didn't know where he might be able to go.

Gwyn thought about the idea for a moment as he paced the room. He shook his head and sat down. He ultimately decided to put the thought on hold. While he might be able to get away, especially in confusion, he felt guilty about leaving Odell and Fiona. They had at least shown him some kindness since he arrived in the world.

"You sure like pacing, huh?" Mem asked while stretching on the bed. It walked in small circles and settled in a laying position on the bed.

"I was thinking," Gwyn answered.

"Well, don't think too hard; you might get hurt."

"You seem awfully calm about this; a world leader just died," Gwyn said.

"A world leader that tried to kill you with a show and melt me down. We might be better off without him."

Gwyn had no rebut and instead scratched the back of his head while looking off into space.

"If I decided to run away, do you think we would make it with your ability?" Gwyn instead asked.

"Right now, we might. However, I surmise that you are just entertaining the thought."

"You don't think I would do it?"

"I do not, however, remember the Netzians gave you an offer to go with them. I feel like the guards can't stop you if you ask to see them."

Gwyn rubbed his chin.

"I don't know...." Gwyn said. He wasn't sure going with the Netzians was any better than staying with the Aqueenians. Still, he stood up and nodded his head. "Yes, I think I'll talk to them again." If it gave him an excuse to leave, it was better than remaining trapped.

Mem didn't reply but just jumped up and bonded to Gwyn's right arm. He walked back over to the door and watched it slide open.

This time, however, Gwyn was not only greeted by the guards, but a new face he had not seen before.

The easiest way to describe the being was a lizard. Gwyn had seen some from afar in the war room and in models at the museum, which made up the image he had in his head when he thought of a Zenotote.

Up close, it was a little different.

The one in front of him was undoubtedly reptilian; she was covered in green-yellow scales from head to toe. The feet and hands were thin and had sharp claws on the ends of the fingers and toes that came in sets of three. She had what appeared to be hair on her head at first, but on closer inspection, it would resemble the folded portion on a frilled lizard.

The body was humanoid in shape, but she had a lizard tail. Her eyes were green with slits down the middle, and her face was as flat as a human's would be. Gwyn was not as aware, but typically Zenototes had faces resembling a dragon with a pronounced snout that could vary in lengths depending on the individual.

She wore an odd set of robes. They were teal blue with an orange centerpiece that resembled a large, wide tie that flowed from her neck to her waist. The robes were cut short to allow for more effortless movement and Needaimus bonding. A satchel was hanging from her shoulder down to her waist, and an orange Needaimus was bonded to her left leg.

"Can... can I help you?" Gwyn asked as the stranger silently stepped into the room and up to him. She was slightly taller than Gwyn and stared at him directly in his eyes.

She silently looked up and down at Gwyn closely. She grabbed his unbonded arm and pinched his skin. Then she pulled a strand of hair from his head. With Mem on his arm to dim pain, it felt like nothing more than a slight tingle, but he still protested.

"Hey, what's the big idea!" he said while throwing his hands out to his sides.

"Samples, there are no longer pure Netzians on this planet," she replied in a cool, calm voice. With that, she turned to try to leave. Gwyn grabbed her on the shoulder.

"You can't go taking samples without giving your name at least," he spat out. His tone reflected his frustration from everything that had happened to him, in addition to this strange Zenotote intruder. Though the words he spat out were not what he wanted to say.

"My apologies, I am not used to dealing with intelligent subjects. I am Harlan, junior science officer for the Zenotote Absolutism, and may I ask for your name in exchange?" she answered in a calm tone that sounded very uninterested.

"Uh, Gwyn. I was... am a history major and... wait. Why were you allowed out of your room?"

"I simply told them I would help with the investigation of the cursed Aqueenian."

"And I am part of the investigation?"

"No, I just wanted to get some samples of a pure Aqueenian while I had a chance," Harlan answered bluntly. Her tone was neutral, but there was a hint of deviousness in her eyes. Gwyn snatched his strand of hair away from her. It quickly escaped his grip and fluttered down to somewhere on the floor.

"Hmm, pure Netzians don't like parting with their hair. I will have to remember to write that down later," she muttered to herself.

Gwyn took a deep breath but didn't bother retorting to her. Harlan seemed to give up and began to walk to the door. As it slid open, Gwyn got an idea.

"Hey, wait, I'll help you with your investigation!" he shouted and walked out of the door with Harlan. The guards gave him suspicious looks, but they let Gwyn accompany her since Harlan did not object.

"I did not think you had an interest in the investigation," Harlan said after they had gotten out of the earshot of the guards.

"I don't; I just didn't want to be trapped in there any longer," Gwyn admitted.