Adon’s jakin arse. Quinen pushed himself off of the wooden floor. He looked around, blinking the slumber and fatigue from his eyes. He fumbled around for a cig. Found none. He cursed.
The nightstar hung lowly in the grim night sky. He reached into his pocket for his palmnode and checked the time. 3 Ascending.
He turned around and found Chrysanthemum sitting down, cross-legged, on the window sill. She looked out into the night sky, the Astral Sea of Stars hanging low. The cold night air wafted through neon pink, puffing it in the breeze.
She wore a dark sweater, and she held a cup of coffee in between her hands. She sat there — staring. Her eyes watched every star as they twinkled. An awfully anthropic sight, Quinen pointed out.
He stepped forward, and Chrysanthemum turned back behind him. There were no lights on, other than the illumination of both the city and the stars — fighting to give the room radiance and luminescence. Chrysanthemum’s eyes glittered mauve as she looked over her shoulder. Her eyes were half-closed; she looked down, unwilling to meet Quinen’s eyes.
Quinen didn’t move. He stayed, silent, quiet. He balled his hands into fists. Then, he took another step forward. She spoke then, behind her shoulder. “Why am I like this, Quinen?” She asked.
“Why do I do that?”
“What am I?”
Quinen sighed. He voice cracked when he answered, “I don’t know about you but all that just sounded incredibly cliche.” He grinned. Chrys looked down at the windowsill, and then she sipped on her coffee. The detective walked up to her, leaning on the window. “Are you alright?”
She looked down again. Her eyelashes were long, Quinen observed. Her face, small and elfish. She looked so… vulnerable. So normal. So human. So mortal.
Quinen knew she was none of these things.
“Why do you never answer my questions, Quinen?” she asked, looking up at the city lights. Quinen sighed. He didn’t answer for a moment, looking out at the same lights that Chrysanthemum beheld. Halogen light rose from them like a wave of illumination, trying to blot out the stars. He saw the little aircrafts that moved through the skies between the higher levels of the Spires and the Collegium. He saw the anzu soaring through and about the skyline, nesting on the higher levels of the Spires. Or on the floating steelnests that have been built for them. He watched the taller buildings pioneer the blasphemous march to pierce heaven.
“If I do,” Quinen said. “You’ll just get more questions than be satisfied with my answers.”
She looked down again, at the bustling cars below them in the building. Nothing. She said nothing. Quinen’s eyebrows fell. He inhaled, touched Chrysanthemum. She burned hot, and she pulled away. She didn’t show any pain. She pulled her hand away and laid it down.
Quinen bit his lip, and he stepped back. “I have to finish this case.”
She nodded. Her glowing pink hair had turned dark and flat.
Quinen breathed, turned, and walked out of the room. He patted his trench coat for his necessities. He sighed and turned around before he closed the door. “Come back,” Chyrsanthemum said, with a somber smile. “After you do it.”
Quinen managed a half-hearted smile in response. He left the building, walked out of the door, and headed up a few blocks to the convenience store in the corner of the street. It shone a bright blue, with pink typography gleaming within it, spelling out: “Quick-Shop.” He walked in and bought a couple of Fine Silk packs.
Quinen stepped out, reached for the lighter and lit a stick. He stuck the cig in his mouth and dragged. He stuck his hands into the coat and walked.
The statement of “come back” made Quinen shudder. He didn’t have to go back and go through the long arduous process of keeping Chrysanthemum.
But he wanted to. And that was good enough for him.
“Where’d you go?” Oberen asked, spreading his arms. He had a strange, anachronistic rapier. A weapon that belonged to the late Second Ages. On his right hand he had a bangle made of twelve different stones. Of course, he held a three-foot long wand focus in his left hand — the stereotypical wand focus for those studying in the Collegium. Especially those specializing in the Kifetic Arts.
“I…” Quinen sighed. At least he didn’t feel heavy anymore. “I had to do something important. Don’t ask, Oberen.”
He shrugged. “Alright” he said. He turned and showed his golden badge to the Celestial Lions. The starmade beasts bowed down and let the Warlock pass without harming him. “So care to tell me why you called me out here three in the jakin’ Ascending?”
“The Dean never sleeps, right?” Quinen asked as they walked out of the torch-lit room and into the almost barren center of the Collegium. There were still students out here, practicing small, quiet Magicks, as well as doing more mundane things. Like playing the guitar, or finishing a project on their lapnodes, or kissing.
“Yeah,” Oberen said, following Quinen to the Tasspaths once again. “He doesn’t need to.”
“That’s perfect,” said Quinen as they took the Tasspath to the Dean’s room. Quinen led Oberen, with the only times Quinen stepped back being when he needed Oberen’s clearance.
Soon enough, they appeared in front of the Dean’s wooden double doors. Quinen gestured for Oberen to knock, and he did. “Care to tell me why we’re going to the Dean so early in the morning?”
The door swung open, revealing the elderly Dean tapping away at his palmnode with one hand and performing intricate gestures that shaped a strange, gray material resembling carbon with another. He moved his fingers, and the gelatinous mass became a stellar polyhedron.
His eyes flittered between the feed of the palmnode and the strange gelatinous blob itself. Now it was a strange moving beast with seventeen wings. “What brings you here so late in the night?” He raised an eyebrow and spoke without looking up from his work. “And stop smoking. Smoking is not allowed in the Collegium.”
Quinen breathed out a huge draft of smoke. He dropped the cig onto the ground, and stepped on it. Then, he pulled out another cig from his pack and lit it. He dragged on it as he stepped forward. “I know who killed Lyn, Hakumatheia,” he said, flexing his muscles and stretching. “I know what killed her, and what the motives were.”
Hakumatheia couldn’t help but look up at him. Both his eyebrows were raised now, but his eyes were half-closed and heavy-lidded “Is that so? Tell me. If you’re wrong, then get out. You’re interrupting my meditation. If you’re right, then maybe you wouldn’t be so bad of a detective.” Quinen’s mouth hung open.
What did he mean by, “if he was wrong or right?” It’s not like he knows what actually happened.
Quinen bit back a small anger building up within him. Of course he knew. He was the Dean Hakumatheia, Elder Master of the Fundamental Fields. Of course he’d know. He just decided not to tell him.
Of course, Quinen thought.
But he should get on with it. His Yantras were on the line. “Right. Diys, one of your little Magickers. Lyn’s a good friend of Diys, yes? Yes. They did drugs and substances together. They eventually get bored of normal chemical substances, so they resort to something more exciting — alchemical substances. Magickal substances.
“Angel Dust,” Quinen said, turning to the Dean. “Ever heard of it? Strange, powdered thing that you can snort or burn and inhale? The smoke it produces has a certain, rainbow color. It leads you on a most peculiar trip — to a land of pure Chaos. I am right?”
The Dean nodded, giving Quinen the eyebrow.
“It wasn’t Angel Dust that killed Lyn, Hakumatheia,” he said. “Not Angel Dust, but the beings that live within that place of Beautiful Madness. The land of Avalon. The Siddivata.”
Oberen looked up at Quinen, eyes wide yet confused. The Dean gestured for Quinen to continue.
“Diys didn’t want to kill Lyn,” Quinen continued. “She was just lucky to be able to leave the damn place. Lyn wasn’t. So she got her physical body — which was still in the Mund and left it in the park, to make it look like Lyn had died of other causes. Good thing I was around.
“So she didn’t have a motive. She didn’t want to kill Lyn — she was her best friend after all. But she did have something wrong on her part. You do know this, don’t you Hakumatheia?”
Hakumatheia nodded. Oberen felt compelled to say something, “What, that Angel Dust is not allowed to be manufactured?”
Quinen nodded. “To have gotten the specific alchemical recipe to be able to cook up Angel Dust is, well, illegal, and found only in the deepest parts of the Collegium’s datagroves. So how did she get it?”
Hakumatheia, wordlessly, signaled Quinen to tell him the answer.
“I don’t know,” Quinen said. “That’s really the only part I’m stumped on.” The detective, hot on his blazing line of logic, looked up at the Dean. “Care to enlighten us how the drug actually works?”
He looked directly into the eyes of Quinen. There was a soothing calm within, but a broiling defiance underneath it, like raging water underneath a thin sleet of ice. As if he didn’t want to tell him, but he had to. His soul-piercing gaze almost forced Quinen to shiver and fall to his knees, and he realized that he needed no magick to actually be able to do that. His eyes shifted a bit to Oberen, leaving Quinen with some space to breathe.
“It is a conjoined working,” he said, turning to Quinen once again. “One that includes the study of Matter, Mind… and a Soul Sympathetic to the Field of Avalon.”
Quinen crossed his arms and scowled. “Suicide,” Quinen said. “Sympathy to Fields outside of the Fundamentals will destroy you.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Indeed, Warlock. I’m sure you would have known all about it.” The Warlock nodded.
“A Sympathy to Avalon?” Oberen cut in. “That’s… That’s possible? A magickal sympathy to a Field that is not Fundamental?”
The Dean nodded. “You know the fabled Astrathruges, yes?” Oberen nodded.
“Powerful Magickers that change all of reality with a thought.”
“And what do the stories say about their Sympathy?” Quinen continued, as if helping out the Dean.
Oberen shrugged. “That they’re Sympathetic to the Astral Sea — b-but we all know the Astral Sea has been debunked! Thoroughly explained by the Perfected Collegiate Theory.”
Quinen couldn’t help but smile, although he repressed it. The Dean nodded. “You, a Magicker, should’ve known by now that such explanations are not thoroughly true. In fact, all explanations are but just one side of a larger, bigger truth. That is Magick, my boy.”
Oberen furrowed his eyebrows and snorted. “Oh, you’re going all sentimental. I get it. Going all stereotypical ol’ wizard from the folk tales like Herlifaliore the Thrice-Wise.” He scoffed. “Okay. Fine. Why did you bring up the topic of Astrathurges?”
“They’re real,” Quinen said.
“Bullshit,” Oberen said, smugly. “Show me a Rote that channels the Astral Realm. Maybe then we’ll talk.”
The Dean looked up at Quinen, worried. Quinen shook his head. He knew that one couldn’t just show the Astral Sea. You couldn’t codify workings that rippled from the Astral Sea into Rotes because the Astral Sea is the Greater Reality. No, there was another way to explain this, quicker, and so that Quinen could get what he needed already. “Technothurges,” Quinen said with a dismissive wave of a hand.
“What do they call power from? What is their soul Sympathetic to? What is their Magick?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t study the esoteries of technology,” he said. Quinen smiled. Just a small, ample smile.
“Technoturges call their power from none other than the Datascape, using it similarly to the Fundamental Fields. Is it a Fundamental Field? No. Go ask a technowitch. I won’t wait,” he turned to the Dean. “Now if I’m facing a Magicker with a soul Sympathetic to Avalon then, I’m gonna need a few more of my Yantras. You know how I sucked at the other Forms, Hakky.”
“Ah yes,” the Dean said. “And don’t call me Hakky.”
Quinen rolled his eyes. The Dean backed up a bit and dug for something underneath his desk. “Mantras need memorization, Mudras take too much physical power, I suck at drawing so no Runir for me. Yantras are just right. Tools meant to be used to weave Magick into Reality.”
The Dean pulled out a glass card and handed it over to Quinen. “This is the identification node for it in the Repository. You know what to do, yes?”
Quinen accepted it into his hand and read it over. Scrawling lines of text fit together in a barely readable font in the pane of glass. He read something regarding the “Ring of Temporal Accuracies,” a “Mageweave coat,” a “dynamostaff,” and finally, his “diwaslinger,” which he had mostly inherited from his older Teacher.
All these breath-taking magickal constructs, but no sign of his Astral Yantra — his fabled staff.
He frowned, turning to the dean. “You know,” he said. “I find it funny that you allow me to recover my murder weapon instead of my Astral Yantra.”
The Dean looked up at Quinen, with a look that intended to say, “I don’t have to answer that question.”
With a slight roll of the eyes, he stepped back and gave a forced curt nod before heading off to the Repository.
“Oberen,” the man behind the counter smiled up at him. The bespectacled man gave Quinen a shallow nod before bending over the Repository counter and kissing Oberen on the cheek. Oberen smiled and ruffled his hair, tousling his already very messy, coal black hair even more. He leaned back and looked up at Quinen, who was impatiently tapping the glass card for his loadout.
“Ah,” he began. “Right. The Dean had told me about you coming to pick up your arsenal. You must be doing something huge to be able to make the Dean look over your Warlock reputation and give you back your entire loadout.
Quinen smiled at the false truth.
“I’ll be right back,” the coal-black haired boy said. He turned, the unbuttoned tails of his waist coat fluttering behind him, and strode into the starswirl portal. Quinen waited with the patience of a spider approaching a trapped insect. Oberen’s hand shot out to make him stop tapping his finger on the marble counter of the Repository.
The Repository wasn’t a huge place. It was simply a small store next to the booknodes one would get from the library. One would go into a nondescript, rectangular shop with only two things waiting for them — the marble counter and the Repositor. The Repositor changed every week, and for this week it seemed it was Oberen’s other-half, a human boy named Sygmun.
Behind it all was the large, circular starlit portal that led to the repository, a land of space and vectors and angles that break the common perception of time and space that only special Magickers — the aforementioned Repositors — could use them.
Sygmun came out and Oberen’s hand flashed back to his side. Sygmun was holding up the glass card and reading out the contents of the bag when Quinen grabbed the bag out of his hands and placed it on the ground.
“You’re welcome.” Sygmun frowned at the Warlock.
The Warlock retrieved the contents of his bag. He brought out his Timespace Yantra first — a small brass watch that fit within your finger — and slid it into the middle finger of his right hand. He slung out his Mageweave trench coat and threw it up into the air. He left his arms up there in the air, like a magician waiting for the prestige of his trick, and the Mageweave coat flew onto him, inserting his arms into its armholes until it was a snug fit. It looked like it was made of synthetic leather, and there were several lines that ran down the length of the coat. When it snuggled into his form, the lights activated, a bright white that looked like neon lights woven into the fabric.
He took out his dynamo-staff next, a small little wood staff no longer the size of his forearm, and shoved it into his front pocket. Then he pulled out his diwaslinger. Oberen frowned at him when he pulled out what looked very much like a rectangular semi-automatic pistol slugslinger. The only thing that separated it from the rest was the cartridge, which was transparent, and one could see the iridiscent mixtures of light that blended together so perfectly that one could only see a flowing cascade of white. Diwa, Creational Force harnessed as a Destructive Force.
Quinen spun with a playful flourish, and then he tapped the diwaslinger on the timepiece ring. The timepiece ring sung with a bright light, a sigil of a language long gone, and the diwaslinger was gone. A basic enough Manipulate Matter and Timespace Working — he Manipulated the slugslinger into a small folded space within the timepiece. Something he learned immediately when he began learning the basics of Timespace.
Quinen took the bag of folded space and put it on the counter. Sygmun took it. “What are you doing with the Warlock again?” Sygmun asked Oberen.
Oberen shrugged. “He’s a friend of mine, remember? And he said he’d helped with the whole Lyn shenanigan.”
“Ah,” he said as he picked up the bag of folded space and threw it into the portal. “Yes, I know that, but why are you sticking with him?”
Oberen leaned against the marble counter. He sighed, turning a gaze to Quinen. “I have to look over him, just in case he doesn’t go do anything stupid like before. Besides, he’s a friend. He helped me out before.”
“Ah, yes,” Sygmun nodded. “But, what you’re doing is very dangerous.”
“I know,” Oberen said. “I know. Coffee first thing tomorrow?”
“You pay,” Sygmun said, winking at him as another customer walked into the repository.