Chapter 44:

After 2

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Despite Gwyn's ulterior motives for joining Harlan's investigation, he quickly proved to be a valuable resource. He was able to take Harlan to where Dia first appeared and somewhat recall where she had come flying in from in the city. He was also able to walk her down the path they had pursued the winged Aqueenian through the hallways.

Gwyn, in the end, became a little happy that he could do something. As far as he was concerned, he had been useless in the fight against Dia before.

This assistance led to the investigative duo stumbling on a single black feather that had fallen off Dia's wing at some point in the chase.

"This is a most valuable find," Harlan said with a calm nod. She dropped to her knees and began to dig through her bag. From her satchel, she produced an object that, to Gwyn, resembled a microscope. When she placed the feather on it and began to look at it, he bent down next to her.

"Do you see anything?" he asked.

"Traces of sugar and syrup. It seems she had spilled some dessert on her wing and could not get it out. I would guess it is the kind of sticky food that you would see at a carnival or similar event."

"Interesting, but that doesn't help us. Does it?"

"No, not at all," Harlan calmly replied as she slid her microscope and feather back in her satchel.

Gwyn let his head hang a moment before standing back up and following Harlan down the hall.

They ended up walking back in the main hallway where Dia had taken down Odell. If one didn't know better, it would seem as if nothing had happened.

In one corner of the room, there was a pair of Aqueenians doing their own investigation into Dia. They looked at the other investigative duo for a moment before shaking their heads and whispering to themselves.

"Based on the account, it seems like she had a map of sorts for the castle," Harlan said.

"Yeah, it seemed like she had trouble reading it, though."

"It is most curious that she would have a map though, it suggests someone with knowledge of the castle aided in her infiltration," Harlan said while rubbing her chin. "However, maps can be input into a Needaimus, so it would have to have been a last-minute thing she picked up...."

"It seems she had help within the castle, is what you're trying to suggest?" Gwyn asked.

Harlan did not get a chance to answer. Across the room, the Bentulousian flagbearer and one other entered the room. The flagbearer had a light brown fur and cream orange hair braided down into a ponytail and a similarly colored tail that flowed down to her ankles. She wore a burgundy and purple military uniform.

The other Bentulousian was a head taller and had white fur with black stripes, or perhaps black fur with white stripes. Gwyn couldn't help thinking of a zebra when he saw her. She wore a similarly colored uniform to the flagbearer, but with the addition of many decorative patches that went down her arms and covered the right side of her chest.

Harlan's neutral face made one of disgust when she saw the Bentulousians. Though it was only for a moment, and Gwyn wasn't sure if he saw it correctly.

When the Bentulousians saw the duo, they waved and walked up to them.

"Ah, the Nonpareil. It is good to meet you," the striped Bentulousian said while bending down and grabbing Gwyn with her massive hands. "You may call me Zenith," she said as she shook his hands. Gwyn only nodded as she towered over him.

Zenith stood back up and took a step back. The flagbearer then stepped forward and did the same to shake Gwyn's hand as well.

"Good to meet you; I am Rheba," she added.

"Good... good to meet you as well," Gwyn responded.

Both Bentulousians made no effort to address Harlan. They stood so that they were slightly turned away from the Zenotote while they spoke to Gwyn.

"I see that you are conducting your investigation into the matter as well," Zenith said. "If you like, we can provide you good company as you search."

Gwyn kept his mouth shut and nodded.

"I find it very odd such a warmongering species is doing an investigation," Harlan chimed in with her calm and neutral tone. "Why don't you rest in your room, and we can call you if we need to knock a wall down."

Rheba and Zenith turned to eye Harlan.

"I find it odd a lizard is doing such an investigation. Do you find it a good way to escape the confinements of your room? Or perhaps you were commanded that you should investigate?" Zenith replied.

"Perhaps she thought it best to follow the Nonpareil. While he does an honest investigation, she latches on for her own amusement?" Rheba added.

It was the opposite, but Gwyn could feel the tension between the two groups and didn't want to jump into the argument between them. He took a small step back and looked around for anything else to focus on.

In the corner, the Aqueenian researchers were looking at the brewing conflict and chuckling to themselves. Gwyn could not hear them, but they were making bets to which side would throw the first blow.

Gwyn noticed them chuckling, however, and sighed.

"Hey..." he said meekly. The attention of the other three was drawn on him. He froze up at the sight of their intense glares.

After a moment of the group patiently waiting for Gwyn to finish, he spoke up again.

"Maybe you should... wait for later... I think some others believe this is some kind of show..." he weakly added while pointing out the Aqueenians. The team turned away from the brewing conflict as soon as Zenith, Rheba, and Harlan all looked their way.

"It would be unbecoming for us to pick a fight with such a weak fighter, especially if it would become entertainment for others," Zenith said with a sigh.

"You are correct, ma'am," Rheba agreed.

Harlan bit her lower lip but didn't add anything else.

"I would like to meet you later, properly, but for now, we shall go."

With that, the Bentulousians waved goodbye and left to go down another hallway. Gwyn let out a sigh of relief.

"They sure were interested in you," Harlan commented after Zenith and Reba had left.

"Pot, meet kettle," Gwyn said after a sigh of relief. He was starting to wonder if he should have stayed in the unkillable's stomach.

They stood in silence for a moment.

Before anything else could be said, they were interrupted by a voice calling out to Gwyn.

"Nonpareil!" The voice was familiar to him; it belonged to Colton.

Colton ran up to Gwyn and Harlan. He took a moment to catch his breath before speaking again.

"Queen Whitlock has called for a meeting in the war room. She has requested that all visiting parties and you attend," Colton explained.

"No, thank you," Gwyn quickly replied, but he didn't have much of a choice as Colton grabbed him by the wrist to pull him to the war room.