Kotoro blinked, and then turned to the boy with the glasses. He wore the sixth-year’s uniform of the Throne Collegium — a black double-breasted jacket with dark blue pants, with a white polo underneath. The one thing distinguishing the various different levels was the mantle they wore around their shoulders. For the sixth-years, their mantle was a brimming indigo.
A few of the other students in the class kept talking to each other, while the majority of them turned to look at the boy. “Yes.” Kotoro squinted his eyes. “Did you know him?”
The boy opened his mouth, but said nothing. His eyes swept across his classmates, and then he sighed. “Yes. I knew him.”
Kotoro scanned him. His hands were clenched, and his jaw was set. He swallowed — a deep, harsh gulp. His eyes were on the verge of tears.
The Naphli Detective nodded, and turned to Master Qamed. “Master, if it’s not too much to ask, can I excuse the students that knew of Roeser Oberen?”
Qamed nodded. “I knew about Roeser Oberen as well. Exceptional Student, and a frequent Dean-Lister. In fact, the Dean ordered him on many things.”
“Oh?” Kotoro said, raising an eyebrow. “Interesting. I’ll have to look into that.” He paused suddenly captured by his thoughts. “Very… interesting…
“Master Qamed,” he said again. “I don’t need to excuse them. Just a few more questions, and I’ll be gone. Hopefully that’s not too much of an inconvenience?”
“Oh no, not at all. Go ahead.” Qamed’s face was of somberness. “Tragic news, and I’m thankful that the Naphli are looking into it.” He leaned closer to Kotoro. “Can I know about the details?”
“I don’t know if I can disclose it yet.”
“Yes, yes. Right of course.”
“Now.” Kotoro turned again, and the boy still stood. “What’s your name, boy?”
The boy had closed his eyes; when he opened them, they were red. Tears glistened on his cheeks. “S-Sygmun.”
“Sygmun,” Kotoro repeated. “When was the last time you saw Oberen?”
Sygmun swallowed. “A few days ago. 2nd of Nymph, maybe?” Kotoro gestured for him to continue. “I– The last time I saw him was with the Warlock.”
Kotoro’s eyebrows rose. “Warlock?”
Sygmun nodded. The other students seemed to nod as well, some of them murmuring and muttering, “I thought the Warlock was dead?” and “Oh yeah, I saw the Warlock here a few days ago. He looked like a normal enough dude, though.”
“Tell me about the Warlock.”
“You haven’t heard of the Warlock?” Master Qamed said behind him. The detective shook his head and turned to him, grinning.
“I’m new here.”
“Ah,” Qamed nodded. “Are you from the Continent of Oyora, perhaps?”
Kotoro nodded. “Jubh-Kan. A bit dirtier than this place, let me tell you that.”
Qamed smiled. “Okay, well,” he scratched the side of his face. “The Warlock has… turned into a sort of Urban Legend in the Throne Collegium, see. Says that he can warp reality, his power comes from Daemons, he’s mastered Qitran Magic, stuff like that. In truth, he was just one of our students that made it to seventh-year and never beyond because… well let’s just say he and the previous Dean got too curious.”
Kotoro tilted his head to the side, and the shadow of a smile danced across his lips. “Isn’t curiosity the basis of Kifetic Theory anyways?”
Master Qamed shrugged. “Sure. Anyway, get back to your investigation, yeah?”
“Right,” Kotoro nodded. He turned around again. He felt like he was going nowhere. New threads were popping up and none of them tied around each other. “That’s it?”
Sygmun nodded. “H-how did Oberen die?”
“I cannot disclose right now,” said Kotoro, grinning. “Rest assured that we will be able to tell you once we’ve fully examined the body and have seen the rest of the investigation through.”
None of the others spoke or objected or gave any meaningful addition, so Kotoro decided it was nigh time that he went. It seemed that he had to take his queries to the Dean himself if he wanted answers.
He turned around and bowed by the waist. “Thank you muchly, Master Qamed. I will take my queries elsewhere. You’ve been of utmost help.”
“No worries,” he said.
Kotoro turned to the class, bowed to them as well, and then turned and left. He didn’t glance over his shoulder, but he could hear the silence that followed after his wake. The sniffles that came from Sygmun. He must’ve been a close friend.
He walked out of the door of the Field of Energies and walked up to a wooden bench unoccupied by most of the students. He sat there, under the staff of Kifes Hasrianna, and allowed the loom of his thoughts to wrap themselves around him.
Was the Dean the only real lead he had? He didn’t know about most of the Magickal going-ons in Throne, and a lot of the Record Keepers can’t really disclose information with him anyway, since that needed express permittance from the Dean himself. But the Captain said not to go to the Dean just yet…
Kotoro wondered why, leaning his head back and sighing. Oberen was with the Warlock, eh? That’s it? Maybe if he learned more about the Warlock…
He pulled out his palmnode and looked at his list of frequencies. He saw the frequency of the lady from before, behind the receptionist’s counter. Saraster Ofenia?
He buzzed the frequency and put the palmnode against his ear.
* * *
Quinen sat in the chariot with the two other non-humans, staring at the alfr and anzu sitting squished next to each other. The anzu had to fold his wings in an unnatural angle to make enough space for both of them. They both sat rigidly, looking straight on, without looking at each other or at Quinen himself.
Quinen leaned against the window with his elbow and rested his hand against his fist. He watched outside as the shorter buildings grew, sprouted and then shot up into the sky, transmuting from drab basalt and concrete to coalescing glass. He watched as the city grew like a perverse forest of steel trees, as they left the Karoley Ward and entered the Cathedra Ward.
Quinen raised his eyebrows as they cruised through the new Ward. Admittedly, he hadn’t been here much. Mostly because most of his business had been elsewhere, but the Spires were a testament to Savant-Engineering. Most of the towers would pierce the sky with their height, having near fifty floors to a hundred and fifty floors, standing so tall that they looked like they would topple. Other towers floated amongst these tall spires, only half as tall, floating with some sort of reality-defying magick Charm.
A second layer of roads twisted through the Spires like a serpent. This second layer of roads was actually just one, long road that winded and circled and danced around the Spires, held by some contraption that Quinen couldn’t much see from here, but he could see the blue and red glint of some sort of Magick.
The autochariots became more advanced here as well, some of them getting shorter and sleeker. Flatter, less of a box like the Naphli autochariot they sat in right now.
Soon enough the autochariot barreled into an underground parking space, and the three of them got out. They hadn’t slapped cuffs on to Quinen, much to his relief. (Not that that would’ve bothered him, unless they’d managed to get ahold of Countermagickal Cuffs). When he got out of the autochariot, the Captain immediately placed a hand on him. “You’ll be taken in for questioning, alright? We’ll get to you in a few.” The Captain turned around and gestured behind him. Quinen felt cold, slender hands gripping his back and his wrist. The alfr led him forward, into the electric lift, and they shot up to the thirtieth floor.
Quinen licked his lips as this alfr girl that stood a few inches shorter him managed to make him feel like he’s the smaller one.
The doors opened, and the alfr girl shoved him forward. Quinen followed, and they walked through a room that resembled a maze because of all the cubicles within it. The alfr Naphli led Quinen along, down the side, to a room with a wooden door, and the words “Interrogation” engraved onto a plaque.
The alfr pushed him inside. “Sit down,” said the girl, gesturing to the leather couch that lay against a wall. “We will return to you shortly.”
“Yeah,” Quinen walked forward as the girl let go of him, and fell onto the couch. “Take your time.”
The alfr girl watched him carefully. No semblance of emotion or usual human facial movements. Her teimach also flared a low, neutral gray. “You will be confined here until we will speak with you.”
The alfr’s teimach shone brighter a bit in approval, and she left. She closed the door behind her, and there was the mechanical clanking of gears and locks.
Quinen sighed, left alone with his thoughts.
A few minutes passed with him twiddling his thumbs, looking up at the ceiling, at the shelves of books that encompassed lessons he’d probably already read about. The floor was carpeted, and the walls were white. The temperature was mild.
Quinen leaned back and tried a simple Sense Energy Working. He called upon the Field, and focused the image of the spell. He formed it in his Mind’s Eye, sensing if there was something different in the temperature, sensing if there was something managing it artificially.
The Working fired off without a hitch, and he felt his senses direct him to a place past the clear wall to his left, across the wall with the bookshelf. He stood up and walked toward it. He placed a hand, and the Working told him there was something past it, and Quinen could only extrapolate from this information that, indeed, the temperature was controlled.
He let go of the Working, and the Spell dissipated back into Diwa. With a shrug, Quinen decided to let it be as he turned around and walked back to the couch. They probably had some sort of control room past that very wall to check on the conditions of their, er, victims.
As Quinen sat, he felt an uncomfortable chill sprout from the back of his neck, crawling down his spine. He scowled, and broke into a cold sweat. The shadows of the room loomed larger then, and the Warlock sank back into his seat, looking as if he wanted to sink even deeper into the couch.
What in Adon’s name…?
He felt the pulse of danger, of uncertainty. The cold feeling that heralded the spike of Dissonance long deserved. The cold feeling of oblivion reaching out to his Soul and slapping his hubris into nothingness.
Quinen didn’t realize he was closing his eyes.
He opened them with a gasp.
When he did, the alfr girl was back, in the middle of closing the door. Quinen found that he was gasping for air. He felt as if actual Dissonance had hit, and he began expecting sores or spasms all over his body, but felt none.
The alfr girl watched Quinen. “Dissonance Wards,” she said. “Made from only the best of converted Diwa.”
Quinen winced. Converted Diwa…? Did she mean Qitra? “A warning would’ve been good.”
The alfr girl nodded, and Quinen swore she had a sheepish look on her face. “It would have, yes.” And with that, she walked out of the door once again, closing it behind her.
Quinen watched the door for a few moments, before sighing and reverting to a relaxed position on the couch, with hands outstretched and one foot on his thigh. “Why didn’t they just build counter-magick devices? Shouldn’t be too hard, and they didn’t have to convert Diwa into Qitra.”
Quinen shuddered. The only time he’d encountered Qitra was back in eighth year, where they were having Advanced Metaphysics. It was one of the last classes of his seventh year. The professor of that class — it was the Grand Master of the Field of Matter that conducted that class. Smide, was it? — had showed them a glob of deathly black and red ooze, that looked like what Tass would look like if one had stuck it into a blender and poured black ink onto it.
Grand Master Smide never opened the glass jar that the glob of Qitra was in — the jar itself was engraved on every side with Runir — and he only spoke of the destructive effects. How it could erase Diwa from existence, and that Qitra was the lack of existence itself, and how amalgamating Qitra and Diwa together would create a powerful effect akin to that of an alchemical explosion. Only the explosion would be large enough to annihilate the city — and by annihilate he meant annihilate. As in, dissipate everything into nothing in its blast radius — and the aftermath would include Qitran Virulence. There were stories of one such occurrence, on an island off the West Coast of Choma. The island no longer exists, and ships are forbidden to travel that route.
Whatever they were doing, Quinen hoped they had a capable Magicker in their hands that can handle it carefully. Countermagickal Charms were safer than Qitran… anything. He knew that creating counter-magick Charms would be expensive, since they would have to hire Savant-Engineers that would be Masters for a Field of Magick. And since not a lot of people tend to become Masters in more than one field, they’d have to hire eight different Savant-Engineers. And Savant-Engineers were already expensive as all hell.
There’s a reason why Savantry Courses were the more popular Courses in the Throne Collegium, as opposed to the Martial and Diplomacy courses.
Quinen let out another breath. He was going to be here a while, wasn’t he? He decided to check his palmnode, and found that all his frequencies were slashed. Ah, they have their own servers in here, don’t they?
With another, defeated sigh, Quinen decided to wait. This was, in his eyes, the worst decision of his life.
* * *
Urie and Gharth took the Lift to the top floor. As the doors opened to the open area, Captain Urie saw that there was a corvid sitting on the airdock past the glass doors. Urie could see the intricate symbols and humming lines of Magickal power. It looked similar to a bird with its wings folded back when in its ground mode, with wheels instead of feet.
The side door of the corvid chariot had been opened, but no one walked out yet. Urie walked past out of the glass doors quickly, while Gharth took his station with the command center of the Naphli — the rows of people typing away at desknodes on either side of the room.
Gharth watched as the Captain walked up to the corvid. Gharth knew who drove around in that corvid. One could see it from the sleek black and white palette of the corvid. The Captain waited in front of the corvid before a woman stepped out.
She wore a long, monochrome dress that reached her ankles, and she walked forward with the strict, straight-backed and chin up posture of a soldier. Latched onto her right hip was a sword, and on her left was a slugpiece. Her skin was immaculate, white but healthy, and her hair was tied up into a severe knot. Her platinum blonde hair was pocked with the occasional gray strand.
Urie saluted. “Commissioner Haliyn.”
The Commissioner saluted back. “Captain.”
The Commisioner took a long glance at the command and nodded, satisfied. “Everything seems to be in order,” she said. Her gray eyes were somehow both piercing and swallowing at the same time. “Take me to the Transplanar entity.”
The Captain nodded, and she led the Commissioner to the electric lift. He thumbed 42, and they rode down half the Naphli Spire in silence. When the doors dinged open, they walked into a lobby, with various safety equipment lining the walls. Across the room was a door, and above it were the words “Containment.”