Chapter 205:

Aftermath Report

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Mayor Abelard opened his eyes and groaned. He was lying in a hospital bed with several machines attached to confirm that he was still alive. They had set the mayor on his right side, and as he rolled to his back, he found out why; from neck to thigh, it stung.

Abelard had burned himself enough times before to know what the feeling was, and he did his best not to wince at the pain as he sat up. A guard, someone who wore the official colors of Nun, jumped up and held out hands like he was about to push the mayor back down—but he would never dare, so he awkwardly danced his open palms in the air while apparently working to come up with words to say.

“Get me someone who can give a full report,” the mayor ordered. He received a salute, and the guard immediately ran out of the door.

It took only three minutes for Rom to come running in; she had clearly been waiting.

“Mayor Abelard!” she shouted as she rubbed below reddened eyes. He held up a hand to show she should calm down.

“Take it easy, Rom. Shouldn’t you be resting as well?”

“I’m fine. I woke up two days ago and have taken advantage of that for treatment.”

“Two days… you say?” Abelard could not hide the concern in his voice. Rom nodded.

“Yes, it’s been four and a half since we fought that large Needaimus. Our army arrived quickly and got everyone to medical care as soon as possible—the hospital was still a mess due to the invasion—but they could not recover our opponent's body.”

“That is concerning….” Abelard replied as he rubbed his chin.

“Our experts believe everything disintegrated. They say that is to be expected at the center of a Needaimus explosion, but they also made mention that the size of the explosion was not consistent with the size of his body; apparently, it is directly proportional, or so they said.”

“I suppose there is little use worrying about it now,” Abelard sighed. He gripped the lining of his bed tightly as he spoke. “How is everyone doing? What came of those who went out? Was Dia okay?”

Rom nodded to his list of questions.

“Dia is fine. The invaders ignored her hospital room, and the staff was able to evacuate her quickly. She is still comatose—our investigation has found the healing Needaimus we were trying to bring in has gone missing. We will have to wait until she wakes up on her own at this rate. For our group, Amber was badly cut in the fight here. Our allied Bentulousian and Zenotote defeated one invader, but he took poison in favor of being captured. We secured his Needaimus, and none of our visitors have tried to claim it. The Nonpareil and our entire group suffered minor injuries from the fight, save for severe burns from the explosion, and the Zenotote girl lost her tail. The hospital suffered much damage, but it was mostly localized, and the invaders were too preoccupied with you to bother harming bystanders severely; a couple got shoved. As for the group that left….”

“I’ll take over here!” a fresh voice shouted from behind Rom; she jumped and turned back with hands ready to strike at a short gray Bentulousian with burned fur.

“Tancred,” Abelard muttered. “We haven’t talked for how many years now?”

“Two years, one season, thirty days, but who’s counting. I have had little to say, and you’re always too busy to write or call.”

“I take it you have something to say now?”

“Of course, but,” Tancred looked up at Rom, “I’d like to discuss it privately.”

Rom opened her mouth to protest, but Abelard held up a hand to stop her.

“Rom, please be sure no one comes into this room.” She wasn’t pleased, if her expression was any indication, but nodded and left all the same. The hospital door closed more forcefully than needed, resulting in a loud bang.

“Feisty assistant you have there; she’ll be good at keeping you in check,” Tancred said with a laugh.

“She seems to have made that her purpose in life. Why did you want to speak to me?

“Well, I joined up with young Odell and Hal, the two that came with the group, before everything went down. They were all recovering at my place until I could discern the hospital had no enemy agents inside.”

“I’d like to call you paranoid, but that might have been an excellent decision,” Abelard said, thinking of the doctor who tried to stop them.

“Right! So, we seem to have had a run-in with the bosses of the little invaders; I suspect they are high in the ranks of Array, but not the overall heads. Either way, we had a lot of trouble with them. Young Hal lost his dominant arm, and young Odell had his crown shattered. Your agents Felix and Liv were injured, but the former is in critical condition.

Abelard stared up at the ceiling and sighed.

“Was there nothing we could do? The invaders left, but it doesn’t feel like we won; more like they didn’t wish to waste any more time.”

“True, and I think the younger ones feel that much more than we do, but there are some things we can gleam from this whole mess to not call it a total loss. Before leaving the hotel, I gathered some items from our foes, and young Rom has filled me in on what your Needaimus foe said before self-detonating.”

“You are rather optimistic today.”

“Detectives are nothing more than pessimists that want to prove themselves wrong. Based on what I have gleaned, the group here was indeed sent to assassinate you. Their plans turned awry when our travelers entered the city, their attention got divided, and after they went to scout, it seems a third party raided their safe houses. I found arrows, of all things, scattered about and deformation that looked similar to the Nonpareil’s ability, even though he was not there.

“From what I can gleam, they never expected the traveling band to arrive in Nun. Apparently, dangerous agents were placed in a city on our traveling friends’ way, but the group took a detour through the mountains to get their vehakul repaired. Pure luck; as far as I could tell, it sounded like they had some nasty characters waiting to hurt them. To make matters worse, I believe they intended to use Dia to draw you out. If it eases your mind, I don’t think she fully knew what they had planned, though you will still need to punish her for killing a foreign king.”

“You discerned all that these last couple of days?”

“Why yes, I’ve been quite busy looking at what we’ve gathered, visiting safe houses, and talking with those involved. All for free, I might add.”

Abelard sighed.

“We’ll officially hire you to investigate and pay you for the time already spent. If others try to stop me, I’ll have funds taken from my salary.”

“Fantastic! When you get better, let’s get dinner, my treat! And here I thought I would have to make Rym twist her sister’s arm… uh, I mean, we’ll invite them too. It’s great to let them catch up as well!”

“Is that all you came for? I’m suddenly feeling a headache come on.”

“Being wounded will do that to you, but no, I had something else to disclose to you, the real reason I wanted us to talk alone.” Tancred’s tone turned more serious, and his voice lowered as if it were likely someone was still listening in. Abelard responded to the tone and corrected his posture to a more attentive position.

“Go ahead.”

“Before all this mess started, young Odell showed up with a letter from King Fio, and even before that, one of the king’s agents snuck into the city and was injured. He had quite a bit to say for such a brief letter, but the short of it is that he believed the Aqueenian government assisted Array someone high in the system.”

“He believes they killed their own king? To what end?”

“Our friend didn’t speculate on that point, but he is personally, or probably has already done it by now, scrubbing his own government of any potential bad actors. He advised I should tell you to do so as well, but after this incident, I suspect that was already on the table.”

Abelard nodded.

“Did he have anything else to say on the matter?”

“He warned we need to investigate. He feared the Aqueenians were already lost, and other countries might fall. I can’t imagine his stress with the election right around the corner.”

Abelard looked up at the plain ceiling.

“It feels like something large has been set in motion; the fact I’m still alive means my assassination wasn’t as high priority or that it can wait for another time. I fear that will come back to haunt us later. Now more than ever seems to be the right time for a Nonpareil. How is he doing?”

“I haven’t had the chance to meet him. He seems well enough physically, but I’ve heard his mood could be better.”

Mayor Abelard sighed and laid back down. He had suddenly grown sleepy and waved to Tancred that he should leave. The detective nodded and departed to continue his investigation.


As the short detective walked through the hospital halls, he couldn’t help but worry that worse bloodshed and violence were around the corner. He steeled his resolve to find some clue that could prove him otherwise, but he wasn’t optimistic that one would show up.