Hey, dear readers! I'm sorry it has taken so long. College has been rather tricky and very time consuming. And to the person who reviewed, I'll try to keep it updated a little more often. Now, I'm sure that you're all waiting to read this, so I'll let you get to it. Enjoy!
Chapter 15: Investigations
Due to the fact that I didn't have two people to watch over anymore, I decided to go out and search for any leads having to do with Karoku's older brother. When I had asked Karoku what his older brother's name was, he said he couldn't remember anything to do with his family. After that, I figured his older brother would be using his little brother's name for everything by now and could track him that way. A week had passed and I hadn't come up with any leads, so I went back to Smoky Mansion to see if I could find any clues in the rubble. Apparently, Kafka had blown up the mansion in an unfounded attempt to keep their secrets hidden. Little did they know that one of Gareki's jobs was to send all the files on their hard drives to our Airship.
I stood among the ruin of the mansion and walked around in search of anything that could have been missed, wearing my Circus uniform in case there were any Varugas hidden around the place that I couldn't see. I slowly flew upwards and looked among the bricks from where I was flying. When half an hour passed and I couldn't find anything, I was about to give up when I happened to see something flash in the light near one of the walls that was somewhat intact. I quickly flew over to it and landed on the ground, bending over to pick it up. It was a ruby adorned ring that began to flash with its own light every few seconds. I walked in different directions until I noticed that the flashing became even more urgent when I headed towards the woods. It was leading me towards something and I was going over the options in my mind about what it could possibly be. I reached a clearing in the forest that caused the ring to glow with a constant light before it flared and an opening in the ground revealed itself.
From what I could see, it was a dark set of stairs that led to an underground tunnel further down. After placing the ring on my index finger, I calmly walked down the flight of stairs without fear of missing one because I could see in the dark. I began to think back to the times I had met the older brother, who I was thinking about giving code name to because I was sick of referring to him as that, and tried to remember if I could picture the ring I found belonging to him. Regardless, I was going to keep it handy in case it led me to any other clues at other locations.
When I reached the bottom, I could see the tunnel stretch out further in the distance to a point where it was too dark for even me to see from where I was standing. I walked through the tunnel, mindful of the ring on my finger in case it unlocked some other secret passageway, and eventually made it to a large room that I could only assume was the basement for the mansion. I was surprised that it managed to hold up under the weight of the ruin above it, but it didn't seem to matter since the whole room was barren except for a table in the middle of the room. I noticed something sitting on the tabletop and walked over to it, noticing as I closed the distance that it was a book of some kind. I picked it up, paying attention to the red binding on it, and saw that it had the word journal etched in gold on the front cover. I was about to open it up so I could read it when I heard an ominous groan from up above, almost as if the beams in the ceiling were having difficulties holding the weight of the rubble above. I didn't want to risk being crushed so I flew back down the tunnel and back to the surface, breathing a sigh of relief when I didn't hear it come crashing down behind me. Now that I was outside, I was curious about who wrote it and so opened the journal to the last entry, which read:
It had been a while since I had spoken with Nai. The other night, I managed to communicate with him through brainwaves. He seems quite happy to be with his new friends, regardless of the fact that I have informed him that they will one day shatter when they find out how troublesome he can be. However, there is one threat that I hadn't counted on.
It seems that my destroyer has had a change of heart. The last time I saw her, she was feral and predatory, exactly as I had planned when I sabotaged Karoku's experiment. She was going to be the answers to all of my problems, but she somehow grew a conscience and began acting more human than animal. This is not something I can allow. I have tried many times to get the Varugas to bring her to me, yet she always manages to elude them. Now I have developed the perfect plan to bring her back to me.
I have convinced Nai to come to Smoky Mansion and I know that Cleiona will be with him, along with the boy called Gareki. There is something about the boy that doesn't sit well with me, almost as if I know him from somewhere. After I kill him, I will do some research about him. Hopefully, Nai and Cleiona will understand that he had to be eliminated for the greater good. If not, they'll be locked away until they do.
I already have a backup plan in place in case Cleiona starts trouble that I can't handle. When I meet with Nai, I will assess if she's a bigger threat to keep her on our side and then I will exterminate her at the same time as the Gareki boy. I will be rather… saddened by this development, but it would be necessary. I can't have my destroyer trying to kill me. It would ruin everything that I have worked so hard for.
Now, I must get ready for the meeting with Nai. I will get him to understand my point-of-view.
"It's his journal," I whispered to myself. "This belongs to Karoku's older brother…"
Is this the clue you needed? the Dragon asked, sounding bored in my mind.
"Well, it's a clue that will help," I told her. "It can be used to figure out why he did all of this and maybe lead me to places that Kafka is hiding. It could be really useful."
I think that you have forgotten something important, she said. It's almost nightfall and you promised to go visit Gareki after he was settled into life at your academy. It's been a week.
I felt the sensation of my stomach sinking when I realized she was right. I jumped into the air and flew off in a south westerly direction, forcing the journal to disappear like my weapons until I needed it. I flew as fast as I could towards Kuronomei and by the time that the sky was completely dark I made it there, allowing my magic to camouflage me so I wouldn't set off any alarms. I landed on the roof of the boys' dormitory and listened carefully, noticing that it was silent within. It must have been time for quiet hours and the lights were off, so they were all resting inside their rooms.
I sensed Gareki's presence two floors down and I jumped from the roof to his balcony, landing just right to perch on the railing and letting go of my camouflage. I must have made just enough noise because I heard someone stirring in the room before I saw a figure walk to the sliding glass door, opening it and walking out for me to see that it was Gareki. It was good to know that his thief skills allowed him to wake when he heard the slightest sound. He had on a white tank top and black shorts, for once not wearing his goggles since he had been asleep. I knew I had just woke him up because his hair was messier than usual and because he looked very groggy.
"Circus Agent Cleo, here to report my findings," I said quietly, giving him a mock salute.
"Don't you know what time it is?" he asked blearily before rubbing his eyes.
"It's not that late."
"You took the program and yet you seem to have forgotten the fact that we have to go to bed early so we can get up just before dawn for training."
"Sorry," I said sheepishly, looking down a little and kicking my feet gently as they were dangling from me sitting on the railing.
He walked closer and reached over to place a finger under my chin, tilting my head up so I would meet his gaze. "So let's hear what has happened so far while I've been gone."
"Karoku is finally awake," I said and before I could say anything else, Gareki began questioning me.
"How is he? Is he all right? He's not a complete psycho like his brother, is he? If he tried to kill you, I'll—"
"Gareki, stop," I chuckled, placing my hands on his waist and moving him closer to me. "He didn't try to kill me or even harm me in any way. He just seems to have lost his memories."
"What do you mean?" he asked suspiciously.
"Remember when the imposter said that he was more like Karoku than the original was?" When he nodded, I continued on. "Well, I'm beginning to wonder if the only reason that's possible is because he's been absorbing memories belonging to Karoku. He gets severe headaches whenever he tries to recall anything."
"Does he at least remember you and Nai?"
I felt myself stiffen ever so slightly and my expressions must have darkened because I saw Gareki begin to look concerned. "No, he doesn't," I said softly. "When we heard that he had come out of his coma, we immediately flew to the Research Tower and let Nai go in to talk to him first while the rest of us listened from the door. They were talking and I could tell that something was wrong when Karoku asked who Nai was. Before long, Karoku pushed Nai to the floor and I burst into the room, threatening to kill him if he ever did that again. He immediately freaked out at the sight of me because he said that he had seen me in his nightmares but he didn't know who I was either. The only thing he does know with any certainty is that he should recognize us."
"Wow, that sounds… interesting."
"You can say that again," I said sarcastically. "Oh and he also apparently has zero trust in me. His nightmares have terrified him enough that he can't stand to even be in the same room as me."
"How are you holding up?" he inquired gently. "From what you told me about your past, you became close with Karoku after you realized that he was actually trying his best to watch over you."
"It… hurts," I said after a lengthy pause. "It's almost like everything I went through with him was shattered, completely and totally insignificant to anyone but me. But I'll be fine. I've been doing some research into Karoku's older brother and I found a journal belonging to him in a basement below the rubble of Smoky Mansion."
"Have you found anything in the journal?"
"I only checked the last entry. It talked about how he had convinced Nai to come to him and how we were sure to come along for the ride. He was going to kill you for sure and only kill me should he assess that I was more trouble than I was worth."
"Gareki, who are you talking to out there?" a sleepy voice called out from the room within. "It sounds like a girl. You know the rules about girls anywhere near the boys' dormitory. Ranji will blame me for this and you already know he hates me. Get Tsubame to visit during the day."
Gareki must have noticed that I was about to speak and so covered my mouth with his hand before saying, "Shishi, it's not Tsubame that's here."
"Another girl?" the guy named Shishi said incredulously. "Who knew you were such a player after all."
Deciding that I should have my say in the matter, I bit Gaerki's hand just hard enough for him to let go, suppressing my laughter when I heard him swear under his breath, and said, "Please, Tsubame is his adoptive sister. However, if there are other girls, I would like to know."
There was a creaking noise as Shishi must have shifted his weight to get up and then the sound of footsteps. A few seconds later and a guy who was a few inches taller than Gareki stood in the doorway. He was wearing red shorts and a white T-shirt that had the emblem for the academy emblazoned on the chest in black. He had short, messy light blonde-brown hair with his bangs pushed back. He also had light purple hair that stood out in comparison to his bright orange rectangular glasses, which he pushed further up his nose with his index finger. He tilted his head to the side as he looked me up and down before a slight smirk formed on his face.
"This one is really pretty but I don't remember seeing her on campus," Shishi said.
"That's because she hasn't been on this campus in a few years except for when she dropped me off," Gareki told him. "Shishi, meet Circus Agent Cleiona. Cleo, meet my roommate, Shishi. He's going into the Technology Creation Course here."
"I recognize her. I've seen her acts as a fire breather. She's also known as the Dragon Lady."
"A fan, I see," I said with a small laugh.
"Of course! Any pretty lady that plays with fire is good enough for me! It proves that you have a dangerous side."
"You don't know the half of it," Gareki said under his breath before speaking a little louder. "Anyway, stop hitting on her. Only I'm allowed to do that."
"Be nice or you'll force me to bite you again," I said with a devious grin.
"I like this girl," Shishi said before turning back towards the room. "This one is a keeper. If she's not officially your girlfriend yet, I suggest you do so soon or I might have to steal her from you."
He went back into the room and walked towards his bed, leaving sight as soon as he did so. I heard Gareki sigh before I focused my attention back on him. "Damn him," he said softly. "I don't need him telling me that sort of thing, especially not right now."
"That he'll steal me from you?" I asked with a small laugh. "I have a select few people that I can stand being around. You're one of them."
"Not that. I meant when he said I should make you my girlfriend."
I paused hesitantly, looking away and up at the moon that rose into the sky high enough that I could see it past the building. "And what are your thoughts on that?" I asked, a slight blush warming my cheeks.
"Well, I…" he started to say and I looked out of the corner of my eye to see that he had looked away as well, a blush of his own forming on his face. "I… I would like to… but we just… we live too far apart now."
"I can fly," I said softly, forcing myself to look at him instead of being suddenly so shy. "Distance isn't that big a deal for me."
"That's not what I mean," he sighed before finally turning his gaze to mine. "I'm here and you live there. Not only that but I'm going to be gone for a long time. I can't keep making you fly to me all the time."
"Do you want to or not?" I almost growled, feeling a little frustrated.
"Then it's settled," I decided, his eyes getting wide from shock. "You and I shall date. We'll be boyfriend and girlfriend."
"N-now wait a minute!" he yelled and I was then forced to clap a hand over his mouth for being so loud.
"Way to go, Cleo!" Shishi called from inside the room. "Way to take charge! Whip him into shape!"
Gareki shook off my hand and said, "But we can't date! I don't want you to waste your time on someone that you won't be able to see often!"
"Hush," I said sternly. "You let me worry about that. I'm pretty sure I can handle it." I hopped down from the railing and stretched my back a little. "Well, I think I might have to go."
"Wait," he stopped me, grabbing my wrist. "Stay the night."
"What?" I asked in surprise.
"Stay the night with me. I'll let you borrow a T-shirt to sleep in."
"It won't get you in trouble, will it?"
"No one will know," he assured me. "Our alarm will go off in the morning to wake us up, but no one comes into the room to do it. We'll be fine."
I nodded that I would do it and a smirk formed on his face before he leaned closer, pressing a quick kiss to my lips. I was almost stunned by how casual he was over it, barely noticing as he led me into the room. To the left against the wall was a dresser and next to that was the door to the closet. As Gareki rummaged into one of the drawers, I looked around the room. The desks were pushed up against the wall nearest the doors to the balcony and adjacent to one of the beds. I looked over at it and noticed the Nyanperowna and Niji stuffed animals on the shelf on the bedframe. Adjacent to that bed and opposite the desks was Shishi's bed, who gave me an amused wink and a wave. I waved back just as Gareki stood up straight, handing me one of his shirts before leading me over to the bathroom. It was nearby the door leading out to the hallway and he pushed me inside before shutting the door behind me. I sighed before changing my clothes, leaving on my bra and underwear underneath the T-shirt, which was quite long on me. It stretched down to my knees and looked like a dress on me.
When I walked out of the bathroom with my Circus uniform in my arms, Gareki was still waiting for me and led me over to his bed. He took my uniform from me and put it on top of his desk as I crawled into his bed, getting comfortable under the blankets with my back against the wall. A few seconds later, Gareki was climbing under the covers with me, wrapping his arms around my waist and sliding me closer to his body. I laughed a little before leaning my forehead against his chest and I realized how much I had missed this. I yawned and settled down enough so that I fell asleep in his arms.
There's my little destroyer…
I felt a shiver go through my body as my eyes snapped open, soon noticing that I was on a small hill of green grass that was completely surrounded in darkness. I couldn't see anything beyond the edges of the hill, but I could definitely hear a sinister laughter that was moving around. It didn't take very long for me to figure out that it sounded like Karoku's voice, so it could only mean that this was the older brother.
You've been searching for me. I know that you've found the journal that I left behind at Smoky Mansion. I made it challenging for you, just how you like it.
"You're in my mind and I want you out of it," I called out. "I won't be fooled by any of your tricks."
You mean like all of the times I've managed to convince Nai to do what I've wanted? I can make you do the same, but it would take a little longer. You're a little worldlier in comparison to the Niji. I could hear him chuckle softly before I could see a patch of darkness begin to clear. There, hiding in the fading shadows, was the imposter Karoku. He had a smug air about him, one that seemed to morph into annoyance when I grinned at scar on his cheek where Gareki had grazed him with a bullet. What do you find so funny, Cleiona?
"Oh, just marveling at Gareki's handiwork," I said with a laugh of my own. "He's a very good shot. It would do you well to remember that next time the two of you cross paths."
Ah, yes, maybe I should pay him a visit, the fake said before he seemed to just disappear. When I blinked, he was right in front of me, his hands around my throat and tightening his grip until I was gasping for air. I'll poison him first, paralyze him so that he can't get away. Then take a knife and carve him up, just so that you can know you couldn't help him.
"Stay the hell… away from him," I managed to growl as I noticed spots appearing in my vision, clutching at his hand and trying to pull his fingers back so that I could breathe.
Cleo! I heard a voice ring out from all around, making the darkness shiver and the fake Karoku froze, his hand loosening his grip just enough so I could breathe. I then heard the voice a second time. Cleo, come on! You need to wake up right now!
What's wrong with her? another voice asked, soon making me realize that I must be able to hear what was going on outside of the dream.
While the fake Karoku was distracted, I quickly moved my head forward to headbutt him in the nose. There was a crunch as he sharply hissed, falling back on the ground and I leapt at him to straddle his legs. Interesting development we have here… he hissed again.
"I'm going to hunt you down," I growled, "and I will find you, even if it is the last thing I do."
Then let me make this a little easier, he said, his eyes lighting up with a rage I had never seen on him before. You have six hours to make it to the port city of Serany. I'll be waiting on the south pier for you to arrive. If you don't arrive in six hours, I'll be gone and you'll have to start the search yourself.
"I'll be there, don't you worry," I told him seriously. He nodded and disappeared instantly, leaving me totally in the dark to force my way out of the dream.
I think she's coming to. Shishi, go wait out in the hallway. I'll come outside when she's calm.
Try to hurry if you can. We don't want to be late for class.
I pushed my way through the dream as I heard the door snap shut, clawing my way out and sitting up straight on the bed with a loud gasp. I grabbed my throat and hunched over after a few seconds, panting and lightly massaging the skin where I could still feel the fake Karoku choking me. I felt a warm hand placed on my back between my shoulder blades before it stroked along my spine comfortingly. When I had calmed down, I turned my head to see Gareki watching me worriedly, vaguely noticing that he was wearing his uniform. He wasn't wearing the tie that came with and had a couple buttons from the shirt undone.
"No goggles?" I asked hoarsely, feeling tired from the weird dream.
"They barely let me get away with not wearing a tie. They nearly threw a fit when I showed up with my goggles on," he explained before placing a finger under my chin to tilt my head back so he could look into my eyes. "What just happened to you? I thought I would let you sleep in before I headed to class, but you wouldn't wake up. It sounded like you might have been having a nightmare."
"It was the imposter. He infiltrated my dreams in an attempt to freak me out," I told him. I gasped a little when I remembered what I was supposed to be doing next. "I need to leave right now."
I hopped off of the bed and past Gareki, pulling off his shirt and heading towards his desk near the window where my uniform was folded. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" he yelled, running over to me to wrap his arms around my waist and pulling me away from the window. I could see a faint blush appearing on his cheeks and he refused to meet my gaze. "You can't just run over to a window when you're half naked! What if the other guys in this dormitory see you?!"
"It's sweet that you're trying to protect my modesty, but I need to leave!" I hissed. "The imposter told me where he's located and I need to get there before he disappears!"
"Where is he?" Gareki asked, grabbing my uniform from behind on the desk and handing it to me. I quickly pulled away and began to pull the uniform on as fast as I could.
"He's in Serany. It's a port city to the east of here."
"How long does it take to get there?" he asked, looking away as I got dressed.
"Since I don't have a plane with me, it will take a little under six hours."
"How long until he leaves?"
"You know this has to be a trap, right?"
"I know that," I told him as I zipped up the uniform with a sigh. "I need to catch him. I need to find out some answers about why he did this to Karoku and if his memories can be recovered. I also need to know what his motives are."
"You shouldn't do this," he said, placing his hands on either side of my face so he could tilt my head back a little. "I don't want anything bad to happen to you and I have a feeling that this might end badly."
"How about this," I stated calmly. "I will leave right now to track down the imposter. You let me go and I'll come back later tonight. I might bring Nai along if I'm done soon enough. I know he misses seeing you as much as I did."
He stared at me intently, trying to make up his mind when he finally let out a sigh. "Fine. Just know that I don't like this idea at all. I will give you until nine at night to show up here. If I don't see you or receive word that you are alright, I will contact Airship Two to go track you down. If they don't find you by dawn, I will leave Kuronomei Academy altogether to find you myself."
I leaned forward and captured his lips with my own, feeling him shiver lightly before I pulled away. "I'll be back before nine. If not, I will send a message through the academy. Either way, you'll find out if I'm safe."
He brushed his mouth against my forehead before he took a step back. "Don't do anything too reckless, Cleo. That's all I ask."
"I'll do what I can," I said with a slight bow, giving him a smirk before I ran out the window. I jumped up onto the railing that surrounded the balcony and leaped into the air. Once I was airborne and heading in an easterly direction, I felt the Dragon growl before I hit max speed. She roared in my mind at the feel of the wind rushing past us and I concentrated on keeping my speed so I would make it to Serany in time.
What if this is a trap that we are walking into? the Dragon asked a few minutes later, sounding a bit curious. What is it that you plan on doing then?
Fight my way out, of course, I thought to her, deciding to speak through my mind instead of trying to yell over the wind to be heard. I just want answers. If I can't capture the imposter, the answers will tide me over for now until I can actually bring him in for questioning.
Do you really think we can catch him?
Maybe not today, but I'm certain that we can eventually. I'll probably just need the help from Airship Two if I ever want to catch him. I think it's something that we can accomplish if we try hard enough.
If he tries something, the Dragon growled, I'll be waiting to help you out of the trap. He's not going to kill us just because we are his 'little destroyer.' I'm not sure about you, but death is definitely not on my agenda in the near future. I have many things to do one day.
Things? I asked with a slight laugh, looking down to notice that there was a large mountain chain approaching, clouds at the very top that seem to curl around the tallest peaks. What kind of things do you want to do? Hopefully you don't want to kill humans still. I'm not going to allow that. We aren't going to be destroyers anymore, but protectors for those we care about.
No, killing the Varugas that come before us is my ultimate goal for killing. What I want to do is to find a Dragon colony, or even just one Dragon will do.
… What? I felt a slight cold chill travel down my spine and I nearly stopped flying altogether from surprise at the Dragon's words.
You heard me, the Dragon said. I want to go be with our kind, even if it only lasts a few days. I think that we could greatly improve our strength and become even more powerful if we train with one.
Maybe after this. We have to find out more about the imposter first and then we can try to find a Dragon.
I have one last request, the Dragon stated softly. I realize that we are one entity and I am just the Dragon side while you are the human one, but I think that I need a name of my own for now until we can find a way to meld together. I'm tired of being referred to as 'the Dragon' in your mind.
What name are you thinking of picking?
I like the name Saryx. Let's go with that.
I agreed and concentrated on flying even faster to make it to Serany before the imposter Karoku could get away.