Another Story [Hiatus]
"I am impressed by how fast you have solved the case!," Haila said, complementing our take on the mission.
"Thank you! I can't believe he confessed to it that easily, though," Jayde replied.
"Maybe he was covering for someone else," Mimi proposed.
"That won't be the case, his cult refrains him from doing so," Haila informed.
"Cult?," Mia asked.
"Yeah, a cult that serves the ancient god Kronius, the god of time. In their cult, they are not allowed to lie because they think Kronius will stop you from entering eternal salvation," Haila added. It seems that he is in this kind of weird cult. "I want to know how you guys found out that he was the perpetrator, though," she looked at us with curiosity, "I just can't believe it."
"Well, to be honest, we all slacked off during the tour. It was all because of Aura's quick thinking," Jayde said, pointing at me.
"Yes! Aura! He is very smart! Just like those detectives in old novels!," Mia also complimented me. I am feeling shy at this point.
"Well, he did solve it, indeed," Mimi also confirmed. I feel so delighted that her anger towards me has subsided.
"No, no! Without my division mates, I couldn't have done it!," I try not to take all the credit. After all, they did help me a lot by going through the information a few times. All I did was process it.
"But how did you know?," Haila finally asked.
"Well, first of all, maestro," I started, Haila nodded, "we know that all the victims are vendors, right?," Haila nodded silently, "Yes, I noticed when we went towards the clocktower that there are many vendors. Do you know what they all have in common?," I asked again.
"They are selling stuff?," Jayde tried answering.
"Well yes, and no, but you are close," I replied.
"Ah! They are so noisy! I could barely hear you guys when we were walking!," Mia finally said.
"Yes! That's it! And did you notice the weird obsession of Julian when he was talking about the sound of the clock?," I want them to try and process it all.
"Oh yes! He seems to love the clock more than anything else. But why?," Jayde asked.
"It's because of his cult, of course. The clock is the symbol of the cult of Kronius. It represents time. The vendors must have been so noisy that he couldn’t hear his beloved clock." Haila finally caught up to us. "But how did he attack the vendors? How is it that they cannot remember?" she asked. I do not fully understand it as well, but I have a hunch.
"I think that he set an item charged with a magic circuit. A coin, perhaps," I explained. This is just a guess. I want to find out more later, though.
"Coin?," Mimi seems to be confused.
"Yes, because that is the first thing you hand out to the vendors, after all," I explained.
"And that coin contains the incantation?," Mimi continued to ask, I nodded, "Well if it is a magic circuit, when does it trigger? Given that it must have taken such a short time. He could have not had the trigger being wounds, because then the incantation would not work properly. If it were a verbal trigger, other people would notice. Also, why did he not just kill them?," Mimi seems to be asking the right questions.
"As for your first question, I believe that the trigger for the magic circuit is the bells of the curfew. We know that the victims live nearby. So they do not need to walk that long, as they are probably the last ones who left the marketplace," Mimi agreed. "Well, the reason why he did not kill them must be because he is afraid of killing them or probably because he didn't have the time to do so," Mimi agreed to my statement again.
"But then again, why would he attack them? How does he know that this will make it work?," Mimi asked again.
"Well, do you remember where we met after getting lost? The oddly unpopulated place. He must've attacked them to create such a place. He knows that people would not place their stalls where they know a crime took place," I informed again. "Did you notice that when we listened to the clock, it was all clear; each clink and clank could be heard?"
"Ah yes! It was so beautiful. I cannot believe that such an old thing could sound so nice!," Mia added.
"Ah! I understand it all now," Haila realized. "You are so impressive; to have thought all about this during the tour. I cannot believe it!," Haila complimented me.
"Maestro, I have a favor to ask," I asked Haila, but it seems that everyone's attention was caught. Haila nodded as if wanting to hear my favor. "Well, I would want to see Julian in prison." I finally requested.
"What! But that's dangerous, Aura!," Mia warned. She grabs my arm in concern.
"That's dangerous, indeed. I cannot allow you to go alone," Haila replied. Alone? So, does that mean I can go? "I will ask Laero to come with you."
Laero? Isn't that the guy who literally and magically forces people to shut up? Oh, God. I guess I have no choice. . .
"Can't we come with him instead?," Mia asked, to my relief.
"I cannot risk more students, so no. I am sorry," Haila replied.
"Well, if that scary teacher is with him, then I have no complaints," Mimi seems to agree with Haila.
"Alright, I might as well, prepare dinner for when he comes back," Jayde informed.
"Oh! By the way, Aura. I have something for you," Haila seems to have remembered something. She took out a letter from her pocket. It seems to have been sealed very carefully with wax. "It's from May," she informed. A letter from May? What could it be? Haila hands me the letter. I take a careful look into the envelope once more. I cannot believe my eyes. It's as if she heard my yearning for her.
"Thank you," I said humbly to Haila. She seems to smile back.
I cannot wait another moment to open this letter. The letter inside seems to be written very carefully and signed at the bottom with the most beautiful penmanship I have ever seen, "May of Orma". Very odd, I thought her name was May Tiyana. I will make a mental note of that, for now. The content of the letter also seems to be written in a very gentle handwriting. This is the very first time I received a letter from May.
How are you? I have heard from Haila that you were looking for me. I also felt that you were looking for me. Maybe those are just my motherly instincts, though.
I will be back from the mission with my section tomorrow. I have a place nearby. I attached the address on the back. Just go there the day after tomorrow. I need to show you something, as well!
See you and stay safe,
May of Orma
Her letter gave me something to look forward to at the end of the week. What does she want to show me, though?
When we all parted ways, I got to meet with the scary teacher. He seems to have agreed that he'll escort me to the prison. The prison itself is in the part of town that is steeped in poverty. These people were placed there because they either couldn't pay their debts or were born in poor families who cannot afford a house. These people have little to no opportunities; they do not have the resources to get admission to the school. It seems that these people survive by selling handicrafts, some by selling drugs illegally, and some even by selling their bodies. I heard all about this from Jayde when he talked about how his restaurant got caught in some drama. It didn't amount to any serious damage though, so it wasn't really a big problem.
Maestro Laero and I started walking towards the prison. It seems that he isn't much of a talker, nor does he like engaging in normal social activities. The whole time he was staring at the direction of where we are walking and just ignores everything, even me. I try to start a conversation, but his focus is unbreakable. I guess he only talks when he deems it necessary.
The moment we actually enter the area surrounding the prison, people start to throng around us, but never actually touch us. The tinge of onion and excrement dominates the area, though I cannot detect its origin. I can barely breathe. I cannot help but cover my nose. Laero seems to have come through here so many times that he doesn't have to cover his nose, though. I cannot help but feel a slight sense of dread by the seemingly hopelessness that our surroundings radiate.
The scraggly group of people doesn’t seem to carry a lot of hope or happiness about them, all of them covered in rags, barely covering their worn out, often skinny bodies. The surrounding housing hardly looks any better, with patchwork roofs, holes in every building, looking like they could collapse at any moment.
"Hey, boys. Why don't we have a nice night together?," a woman with tattered clothes winks at us. She seems to be a prostitute, who seems to be accustomed to doing this. I guess that's how they survive in this place.
"Do you need my blood, sir! I will give you a good price!," says another man as he passes by. Apparently, he sells his blood to manipulators to create circuits and other rituals with mana. Considering his diminutive stature and general lack of hygiene, I wonder how much good his blood could do, though.
"THE SCHOOL!," someone screamed, "THEY ARE FROM THE SCHOOL!," the person seems to be behind us, though I cannot pinpoint where. His presence causes a panic, as people start to look from side to side as well as behind them. It seems that the school of mana is quite despised. All this time Laero seems to be keeping his cool. A quiet man, indeed. I am starting to shake a bit while we are walking.
Thankfully as we approach the prison and we move away from houses, the group backs off, as despite their horrible situation, the prison scares them even more. And yet we continue moving towards it.
When we arrive at the prison, I was surprised at the size of it. It is very small despite the size of the kingdom. I do not understand why it is so small. It just looks like a cobbled house with iron-barred windows. From the size of it, I estimate that around ten prisoners could be housed. Laero continues to walk towards the entrance of the place; an iron door with the seal of the city carved in the front. The stench is still apparent despite its distance from the rest of the houses in the area.
As we enter the place, we are greeted by the guards. Two guards, in fact, are wearing a grey uniform, unlike the armored guards outside the entrance to the city.
"Hello, gentlemen," The guard took his hat off as he greeted us. "I heard from the school about your visit. A messenger informed us about your appearance earlier. This way, please," I nodded, he shows us what seems to be a staircase on the left side of the room. The staircase seems to be leading down to a dungeon. As he guides us downstairs, the other guard stays at the place where he greeted us, probably waiting for another guest.
The staircase is lit by torches. To my astonishment, I now realize the sheer size of the prison. The whole poor area is basically on top of it. This tiny structure is nothing but a facade. Once we enter the dungeon, we are greeted by the enormity of what seems to be a great hall of cells. The cells are placed around a hall, and at the end of the hall is a hallway leading to another hall, and so forth.
He leads us to what seems to be a group of cells that seem to be more secure. The doors on the cells seem to be made of a special kind of material. The guard stops at the end of the hall.
"The one you are looking for is at the third cell from the left. You can talk to him; his mana is suppressed due to the magic circuit embedded in the whole area. He cannot break it so please do not worry. If any problems do arise, do not hesitate and call me," The guard informs. Learo starts to walk towards the cell. I quickly follow him, and he stops at the third cell.
Noise from this cell becomes more clear as I slowly reach it. A familiar voice. It is from Julian. But the aura emitting from the voice is different. A sinister aura. I cannot help but be hesitant about approaching him. But I feel somewhat safe with Laero by my side.
The aura is somewhat getting dark, the voice somewhat getting clearer. "Kronius, Kronius. Come to my salvation," Julian says repeatedly. It seems that he is praying. His figure is really slender and dark, different from yesterday.
"Julian," I said hesitantly, "I have some questions. . ."
It seems that I caught his attention. "Questions!," He blurts, "Ah! Questions, indeed! My good sir! What questions do you have for the poor, oh, me?" He asks. His voice is so different. Somewhat like that of a crazy person.
I start to say my question, but he interrupts, "Ah! It's you! Little bird, it is you! What a surprise!" he starts to look at me; my whole body, in fact. I start to repeat my question, "Shhhhh, good child." he seems to be very crooked, "I know your question, but first." he started to look at Laero as well, "Let me tell you about Kronius. He sees everything and through anything. He sees time, he can travel through time. He can kill you without you ever knowing. Did you know that?," I shake my head as I am starting to feel scared, "Oh, good child. Innocent child. There are things you wish to forget, no?" he finally asks. How did he know?
"Yes." I say slowly. I do not wish to startle him.
"Is it about your-," he starts but is interrupted by a hurl of an incantation coming from my side.
"Blaer!," Laero said his incantation, "Silence!"
"No!," I yell. The guard at the entrance to this hall seems to have been startled as he looks at us with shock. Why did he say that incantation? Why would Laero interrupt? I do not understand! I wish to know!
The smile carved on Julian's face is something I will never forget, a sinister smile. His last sentence is also something I won't forget. 'Is it about your-' he said , and although his final words were never voiced, his mouth seemed to form 'mama', or was it 'papa'?
"There are things better left unsaid. . ." Laero finally blurted out.