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            With his hideout upon a cliff that faced the crashing waves of the Veruna Ocean and not much freedom to do as he pleased, Tobias Alistar did not have too much to amuse himself. He did not mind staying at the hideout, since he was so used to staying indoors. His associate Rachel, in a white blouse and skirt, entered the room where he met that odd wolf not too long ago, where Tobias was polishing off something. The witch jumped back a little, her vision recognizing the shape as a sword.

            Tobias was wiping off the curved blade of what was known as a “katana”, its sharp edge very dangerous to even the gentlest touch. It was not one of flashy appearance, with a simple golden hand-guard and end-cap on the hilt of the handle. The sheath and a strap that was designed for travel rested just behind his chair. Tobias himself was dressing more lightly with a simple tank top and white pants with black boots. His arms were surprisingly well-formed for someone of his stature.

            “T-Tobias, I just wanted to let you know that there’s a ruckus going on in Haleigh and Doragon Machi. From what our informant told us, the police are establishing themselves at the residences of the Hayabusa family. They claimed that the reason for this is that the royal family believed that you were going to kidnap the other Hayabusas,” Rachel reported, her voice still shaken.

            After adjusting his glasses, Tobias snuck a glance up at the white-haired girl. He shook his head and resumed cleaning his katana. “He’s losing it already. Chris, I mean. If he’s already convincing the royal family that I’m up to more crimes, then he’s been haunted more than I thought.”

            “Haunted? What do you mean?” Rachel asked. She was about to take a seat in front of him but he raised his hand to halt her. He reached behind and picked up the kitana’s sheath, safely hiding the sword’s blade within. Tobias picked up his sword and started to head outside.

            He mentioned, “Hey, could you bring out that orange that’s in the fridge?” Before striding outside, Tobias removed his glasses and placed them on the kitchen table. He stepped into the small grass field in between the house and the cliff. To his left was an old clothesline that had been there longer than he has. He closed his eyes, allowing the soft gentle breeze of the wind whip through his hair. His mind slowly wandered aimlessly, absorbing his surroundings before he heard Rachel call out to him.

            In one swift motion, the airborne orange that Tobias requested fell in halves. He quickly sheathed his sword and exhaled. “How fast was that, Rachel?” He requested.

            “Way too fast for me to process,” the young witch admitted. She shook her wrists before waving her hands and chanting a spell in a foreign language. An apparition of a broadsword appeared that swung at Tobias. His blade sliced through the air seamlessly from its sheath and knocked the opposing weapon off-balance along with Rachel. She yelped from the force, almost tripping over. “Th-That was way too strong, Tobias!” She complained. “But at least you’re not rusty on whatever you call that move…”

            With a small smile across his face, Tobias still had his blade drawn. He slowly dragged a finger across the blade’s edge, opening a cut. He smeared his drawn blood on the weapon’s steel and then, out of a droplet of blood that dripped from his finger, sprung a small mob of blood beasts. Something within Tobias severed the mental connection he held with the monsters, causing them to charge under their own free will.

            Tobias swerved his head away from a claw, downing the beast with one precise horizontal strike though its torso. It disintegrated just as the pterodactyl that Chris defeated had done, and he wasted no time stabbing a beast through a vital point behind him. Then, after cutting upward through another blood beast, he gave a mighty slash downwards that cleanly carved up the outmatched monsters within the radius of the blow.

            He was grabbed from behind by a beast that lifted him off the ground and tried to crush him in a bearhug. He still kept a firm grip on his katana, stabbing through the beast’s foot, causing it to howl in pain. Tobias dropped down, pulled his weapon from its temporary confine, and gave a deadly slice through its head. For good measure, as the head fell, Tobias carved the head up into many pieces before its mighty yet useless body toppled over before dissolving.

            Rachel stared on as she observed the sparring. Her vision could only see in silhouettes so she was witnessing heads, torsos, and other limbs lob apart and fall to the ground just to disappear. It took a bit for her to not feel repulsed by the display. The only worthy distraction was that of how well Tobias maneuvered with his weapon and how precise his slices were.

            The remaining creatures actually stumbled backwards in fear of their fallen comrades. Tobias, with his blade still coated in lifeblood, beckoned over whoever still had the courage to challenge him. When no beast took it upon themselves to step forward, Tobias essentially mercy killed with a barrage of sword strikes. Victorious once again, Tobias deliberately shook his sword towards the ground, the blood flying off and coating the grass.

            With a small sigh, Tobias smiled at Rachel before heading back inside and putting on his glasses. He walked back to his desk once again, laying his sword upon it and starting to clean it once again. Rachel timidly followed her boss and sat in the chair before him, his aura rather different compared to his meeting with Chris.

            “Tobias? What did you mean about that wolf guy being haunted?” Rachel mustered.

            He nodded up and glanced at Rachel while he wiped off the stray blood with a cloth. “It’s not worth going into. He’ll be out of our lives soon enough. Once Vanessa is safely back with me, then we can go wherever we want. I’ll just assume a new identity and change my appearance. Something like that.”

            “I wish I could have that freedom to change,” replied Rachel. She shuddered after remembering that uncomfortable sensation in her stomach when she first saw Chris. “That guy, Chris…he has something weird inside of him. And it felt so strong…i-it was way too scary.”

            Tobias paused, setting his katana down on the desk and looking at the young girl. Her eyes, even though they appeared to be glazed over, were still able to speak for her. Tobias reached forward and patted her shoulder warmly, inciting a small gasp of surprise from her. He sat down once more and remarked, “That’s usually what happens when the powers beyond try to meddle with this world. No offense, but you do have some weird power inside of you as well.”

            Rachel gently bit her bottom lip. “Yeah, but I’m one of the few who can really see what’s inside and it’s…amazing. Though your blood is probably more interesting in comparison.”

            Tobias chuckled, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

            “Boss? I haven’t asked because I felt it wouldn’t be right to prod into your past but…when did you get that sword?”

            Tobias’ eyes studied his weapon for a brief moment before he sat back in his seat. “Well, it was about two years when I ran away from home. I found my way to the country of Shen-La, in the Okada province. Their culture heavily involves the warrior code of ‘Bushido’. And bushido is part of the way of the samurai. In an effort to have a way to defend myself, I sought out a master of the sword. My teacher was Erich Ruhig. He immigrated over to Okada from Helcomb. He didn’t speak much. I stayed with him at his home though I also learned how to survive off of the land for training.”

            Rachel adjusted her position in her seat as she listened on. She was leaning forward intently.

            “I learned proper etiquette of carrying a sword, how to properly tend to it, and adjusting the hilt grips before I came close to learning how to swing it. Master Ruhig showed me that your weapon is a reflection of who you are. Which is why I’m making sure my katana is more than just clean of blood.”

            “Did you use your katana when you returned to Aldwynne?” The young witch asked. She had never really seen this, for lack of a better word, genuine side of Tobias.

            “I only use it as a last resort. Usually, just the presence of my blood beasts is enough to deter my enemies. When I used them to fend off the guerilla group that was attempting to seize control of Haleigh, it didn’t take too long before they surrendered just so they could live. I’ve never really took anyone’s life so I wasn’t going to make a bunch of losers my first.”

            Rachel gave out a small whimper as she looked upon what she could only guess was some of the photos Tobias had on display. Chris didn’t notice the different photos that displayed the missing Vanessa featuring different hairstyles and eye colors. Others that focused on the unlikely photogenic Syrus. Rachel, unfortunately, couldn’t notice either due to her eyesight. But she was able to ask another question. “So…how did you meet Syrus? He doesn’t seem to want to talk to me.”

            Tobias froze, staring at Rachel for a brief moment. “Now’s…not the time. Let me finish what I’m doing and then I’ll tell you.”

            With a small sigh, Rachel stood up and entered the kitchen once more. The bustling sounds of opening cupboards reached Tobias’ ears as he became lost in the memories…

 

    20 years ago…

     

    A middle-aged zebra, a shopkeeper of a convenience store, was closing up for the rainy night in the middle of a town in the country of Zirachi. The normally lush, rolling hills in the Zukuva province had been plagued by stormy weather, cutting down on the tourism. Business was rather slow this evening, and there just wasn’t enough customers coming in this hour to warrant staying open late. He was mopping up the mud that was tracked in when he heard his shop door bustle. He picked his head up and scanned the store but didn’t see anyone. Shrugging it off as the wind, he shuffled his mop over to the refrigerators containing alcohol.

    Outside of his point of view, a piece of the paneling on the ceiling gave way. A young boy, no older than 11, slowly lowered down towards the cash register, dangling by his feet. His raggedy clothes and overcoat were dripping wet, and the eyeglasses he wore were cracked on one of the lenses. With a quick grab, he held onto it for dear life as he was raised back through the ceiling panel and it was placed back like nothing had happened. To the boy’s benefit, the shopkeeper was one to reject some of the advances of technology and that included security cameras. With his accomplice, the boy crawled through the ducts, with his prize in hand. Upon reaching the rooftop, he gasped in relief and from holding back his nerves.

    The boy turned to his cohort, a carbon copy of himself except he was completely blood red. The boy placed his hands on the near featureless body, and it grotesquely transformed into a gorilla. It was still the boy’s size but it was visibly much stronger. It raised its mighty arms and crashed down upon the cash register. Coins scattered all over the ground but the boy didn’t waste his time with them. He grabbed all of the paper money as much as he could and stuffed them into his pockets. There was a bit of money that became soaked from the rain but he didn’t care.

    The boy stared at the gorilla and it picked up the broken cash register, following the boy down the ladder that led to the roof. Now in a dark alleyway, being prompted another stare, the gorilla hurried off into the night. As the creature disappeared, the boy patted his pockets to make sure his loot was safely secure. He started to walk out of the alleyway when a figure stood before him. Cloaked by the darkness, the person was a hulking goliath, just from silhouetted alone. The boy cowered, looking for any other escape route. The hesitation was all it took for the figure to grab the boy by the arm. Just from the feel of the hand alone proved that he did not intend to let the boy go.

    “Just what do you think you’re doing robbing a convenience store like a common crook? You don’t even look like you’re out of junior middle school, kid,” a gruff voice rumbled.

    “Shut up! I didn’t do anything wrong!” The boy protested, though his scared face betrayed him immensely.

    “Next time, you’d probably be better off not breaking a cash register where everyone can see you. You’re lucky I was the only one out here at this hour.”

    The boy, during his struggle, noticed that the person had this strange smell emanating from him. It wasn’t quite alcohol but it wasn’t all too pleasant either. The boy muttered in a tone that was a perfect mix of anger and fright.

    The person still kept their firm grip on the boy’s arm, quiet for the moment and then mentioning, “I heard about you. People have been saying there have been a string of thefts all over town. But I didn’t think that…the accomplices you have were feral beasts. How do you get them to work for you?”

    The boy’s young mind just made him groan, “They’re not real…I make them. I have weird magic and I hate it. I wish I was dead.”

    The person’s demeanor, to anyone else, would have shown that he knew more than what he was letting on but he continued talking to the boy on his level. “Why? You’re robbing for money. That says that you want to survive.”

    “My parents are dead and I killed them. I don’t even know why I bothered running away…” The boy started to sniffle.

    The person only slackened their grip to be more coaxing. They sighed and crouched down and the streetlight on the sidewalk flickered on. Their features were now more prominent and he was a dark-skinned human male with a buzz-cut and a goatee. He looked upon the boy with a concerning eye and asked, “Listen, we’re only going to get sick just hanging out here in the rain. Do you want to spend the night at my place?”

    “I don’t go anywhere with strangers…” the boy began but the man interrupted.

    “No matter what you pick, you’re still going to return that money. Maybe the shopkeeper will show some leniency if you’re honest about it. The difference is, if you go with me, I’ll help you. If you were just some other punk on the street, I would have just decked you. But you’re scared. You’re alone. Do you want to keep being that way?”

    “I-If you try to do anything, I’m gonna kill you…” The boy quivered. The backbone wasn’t quite there for his threat.

    “We might as well just return the money now before that shopkeeper goes home.” He started to walk before halting. “What’s your name, kid?”

    “…Tobias.”

    “I’m Syrus. Come on.” Syrus led Tobias around the corner back to the store entrance. Syrus rapped on the glass and the shopkeeper, who looked visibly distraught hurried over. Syrus quickly cleared up the situation, though he only whispered the details about the boy being orphaned and on his own. The shopkeeper, though angry about his destroyed cash register, accepted the money back under the promise that Syrus was going to help Tobias find honest work.

    The boy was escorted to Syrus’s house in his vehicle, staying quiet the whole time. He had only been on the streets for half a year but he did not take anyone at face value. He still kept a shifty eye on Syrus the whole trip. The two walked up to his house, a small building that felt more like a place to hide rather than live. The door was unlocked and upon their entry, a woman, with the same pleasant complexion as Syrus, approached him and was about to hug him before she noticed the unexpected visitor.

    Syrus took her aside to talk while Tobias looked around the entranceway. There were photos of Syrus with what the youngster presumed to be his girlfriend, along with family and friends. It was a nice interior, even though the outside could use a new paintjob. But it was better than having to sleep in the rain. The woman approached the boy, dressed as if she was ready to head to bed, crouching before him.

    “Hi there, Tobias. It’s nice to meet you,” she smiled, speaking with a bit of thick accent.

    Tobias remained quiet, the effects of an unsteady diet now prominent in his facial features.

    “Are you hungry? I have some leftover suya and jollof rice in the kitchen if you want some,” the woman offered.

    Tobias, though not vocally answering, slowly walked towards the refrigerator that was partially visible from the entranceway. The woman giggled to herself, following the youngster. Syrus was downing a cold glass of water at the kitchen table. Syrus looked up at the woman as she entered, remarking, “Hey, you gotta introduce yourself too. Don’t be a stranger, hon.”

    The woman nodded, her jet black hair tied back in a ponytail. She helped warm up the leftovers for Tobias. “My name’s Taya. It’s nice to meet you, Tobias.”

    Syrus quickly rose up and started to head to the door.

    “Wait, Sy, where are you going?” Taya asked.

    “I just remembered that we should get him some new, fresh clothes so he has something to wear other than those rags. I’ll be back soon.” Syrus exited in a flash and soon, the warm smell of marinara filled the kitchen. It seemed to be tonight’s dinner so it was still moderately fresh. Tobias made himself comfortable at the table, at least grateful that they were trying to be friendly.

    With the leftovers plated and supplied with some napkins, Tobias picked up the suya, a spicy shish kabob, and took a bite. His eyes lit up from the flavor and he ravenously helped himself. Taya laughed at the sight and sat down at the table.

    “So where did you come from, Tobias? You don’t seem like you’re from around here,” Taya pondered.

    Tobias seemed too occupied with the amazing spices to really answer her question. He went about the leftovers as if he hadn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Since the rice had less room to be wild with, he slowed down a little and his teal eyes looked up at Taya through his fractured glasses. He wasn’t willing to start pouring his heart out to this woman. He figured she would tell Syrus all about it when alone with him.

    Taya looked at the boy but she didn’t press the question. She slowly stood up and headed over the kitchen sink to wash some dishes. Tobias resumed eating his impromptu dinner, mentally commenting that this Taya was definitely a good cook. He looked around and studied the kitchen. From the condition of their furniture, stove, and refrigerator, they seemed well off enough. It was hard to tell if they were dating, engaged or married.

    But Tobias decided that’d be for later, as he finished off his food. He turned towards Taya, who was humming a song to herself as she still cleaned the dishes. The boy figured that making himself useful would go a long way, so he approached the sink. In a soft tone but loud enough to be heard, he asked, “Taya, can I wash my plate please?”

    Taya almost jumped in surprise at his sudden appearance, laughing a little at her own shock. She allowed Tobias to use the sink but she supplied a footstool to give him more height. After properly washing and setting the dishes to dry, he walked aimlessly to the living room, making himself comfortable on a soft, plush couch. A few moments later, Taya entered the living room, taking a seat on a nearby chair.

    Taya’s face showed to be in thought before she asked if he wanted to watch television. The boy didn’t really care but Taya turned it on anyway, only at that time realizing that the boy’s glasses were broken. The first show the screen displayed was rather dull, something about a group of spoiled teenagers living in a summer house. Taya changed the channel and it showed an animated movie in progress of a wandering samurai, who was accepting a bodyguard job for money and food. Taya laughed a little and when Tobias looked at her, she explained, “Syrus loves this kind of stuff.”

    Tobias, eyebrows raised, asked, “He likes samurais or cartoons…?” He would have taken Syrus for a guy who likes hard-boiled crime dramas.

    Taya smiled. “He likes animation. It’s not just cartoons like you would think of.”

    Tobias became absorbed into the movie, watching intently as the samurai’s life was revealed more and more. It turned out that the samurai also lost his family at a young age and took up the sword to defend himself and learn more about strength. The samurai was not going around, just wildly hacking and slashing like a maniac. He held up a code of honor called “Bushido”, one of the rules proclaiming that he’d only draw his sword against other armed swordsmen for self-defense. The very presence of having a blade in possession was usually enough to deter anyone who felt lucky enough to try and provoke the wandering samurai.

    It almost felt like an instant when Tobias heard the front door to find Syrus enter with two large handfuls of bags. Taya had fallen asleep while the boy was still watching the flick. Syrus chuckled at his enthusiasm for the movie. “Yeah, it’s one of my favorites too. Hey, I’m going to put these in your room. Try them on and let me know which ones don’t fit.”

    Syrus headed off upstairs with the bags in tow. Tobias watched the ending of the movie, where the samurai went through a vicious battle against a young man whose father was slayed by him. The samurai opted to spare the young man’s life, telling him that vengeance would just consume his heart. The final shot of the samurai continuing his wandering towards the setting sun burned itself into the boy’s mind.

    Taya stirred awake from Tobias’s only reaction.

    “Woooooooooow.”

    Syrus had been watching behind the couch, and he smiled at the boy’s response. Taya stretched while she got up at the time striking eleven o’clock at night. She mumbled something that was hard to decipher before she swayed over to Syrus, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Taya headed upstairs where Syrus just was. Tobias felt a pat on his shoulder and looked up at Syrus, who nodded his head in the same direction.

    Remembering that he supposedly got new clothes, Tobias followed Syrus into the guest bedroom. It was definitely spacious for a young boy to stay in, and the bags that Syrus bought were on the huge bed. Syrus left Tobias alone, closing the door while the boy got the chance to look at and try on his new clothes. He didn’t really have any preferences for style since he didn’t have much choice prior but everything felt so warm and clean to wear.

    Tobias still held some doubt within about this whole scenario but he wasn’t about to say anything. He could still defend himself and that’s when he got the idea. But he couldn’t exactly start playing spy now. Especially with how tired he was. Shambling over to the bed, after having cleared the bed of the bags and putting on some pajamas, he slowly crawled under the covers, taking off his ruined glasses when he thought he saw a glimmer of light shine from one of the bags. The moonlight crept in and Tobias inspected the glimmer to find a new pair of glasses. They weren’t exactly the best quality but the very fact that he had a new pair to wear that wasn’t broken made Tobias start to regret doubting Syrus. With a small smile and discarding his old pair, Tobias laid his new glasses on the table next to the bed and finally tried to fall asleep. The softness of the mattress and sheets crept over him as he slowly fell into a slumber.

            Blaze swallowed her words, driving home with her father in silence, who was dressed once again in a proper suit, his fur groomed and trimmed. The suit was still tight enough to show the impressive physique of the king. King Ferno had just held a conference pertaining to the details of the kidnapping and his rescue. He agreed to abide by Chris’ wishes to be left out of the reports but it was difficult to not bring him up specifically. King Ferno reassured the public that he was not harmed though some of the reporters demanded an answer to their questions about catching the kidnappers.

            The king refused to give a response, not until everything was settled. That led to King Ferno riding alongside his daughter, both unsure of what to say. Driving in a second car of Blaze’s, they passed the area where Chris pursued Syrus a matter of hours ago. After a moment’s consideration that was plain on her face, Blaze pulled over to the street that was littered with debris. Stepping out of the car, having changed into a photogenic white dress and jacket, Blaze approached the owner of one of the sidewalk signs that were destroyed.

    A rather feeble vixen who visibly displayed her age, she was sweeping up the shattered pieces of her sign that advertised her clothing shop. She looked up and was visibly surprised by the appearance of the king and princess. With a curtsy that was propped up by her broom, she shakily tried to speak but Blaze said, “Ma’am, could I borrow your broom?”

    After being handed the broom, Blaze resumed the woman’s sweeping at a much faster pace, collecting the large chunks of wood into a dustpan and discarding the debris into a nearby trash can. King Ferno chuckled to himself while watching his daughter. Blaze continued to clean up the mess that Chris, and by extension herself, made with the other shop owners. They all graciously accepted her help and even the king himself helped lifted and carried replacement trash cans and signs. The shop owners clamored that the king did not need to sully his suit but he still continued to help.

    After tidying up the sidewalk, Blaze and King Ferno took it upon themselves to personally enter each of the shops, ending up buying at least one item from each store as compensation for their losses. Making sure to consider the queen in their purchases, father and daughter headed back to the car and resumed the trip back home.

    King Ferno jokingly remarked, “One thing usually leads to another, doesn’t it, Blaze?” His glowing smile did not go unnoticed as Blaze’s demeanor visibly improved after their detour.

    “Yes, it always feels wonderful to assist the fine people of our city. The looks on their faces really touched me.”

    The king turned to the backseat, glancing at the bags containing their purchases. Straightening and smoothing out his suit jacket, he gave out a small puff of air. “Do you think your mother will enjoy the gifts we bought her?”

    “I’m sure you’ll have the element of surprise on your side, Father,” Blaze giggled, turning right onto one of the streets that was close to the city square of Haleigh. It was impossible to resist giving a passing look.

    “Father. I have a dilemma. About Chris,” Blaze mentioned.

    The king clasped his hands together and relaxed in his seat. “Ah yes, you did mention offering the boy a reward for his work. You’re intent on giving him a prize?”

    “Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. Umm…over the past few days, while we were trying to find out what it took to get you back…we encountered a bigger problem,” the princess said, with a hint of worry in her voice.

    “A…bigger problem? Bigger than me being kidnapped?” King Ferno pondered.

    “Chris holds a lot of power within him. Power that I think might be…an issue if we don’t help him. Do you remember when he tried to fight off the monster that grabbed you back at the Festival?”

    King Ferno nodded and added, “I do know that he has pyrokinetic abilities just like you, dear.”

    “When I held that dinner, he said that he believed he was born with it, only that his power was realized at a certain age. I did some digging and…there’s no records of anyone from the Hayabusa family being associated with the goddess Agnaria or any of them exhibiting powers like Chris’. Of course, some of his family could be undocumented when it comes to things like that,” Blaze trailed off.

    “So you’re saying he suddenly received his powers. That only happens through divine intervention, much to my knowledge. What are you getting at, dear?”

    Blaze was silent as they slowly approached their property, being welcomed back in by the guards. “I don’t know. I can’t figure out a solution.”

    The king thought over his response and patted his daughter’s shoulder. “Blaze, how about we discuss this with your mother?” Blaze had just parked, and with their shopping spree in tow, the pair headed inside. Being received by their servants, the king warmly greeted them while Blaze was lost in the depths of her mind. Entering the living room, Queen Charrie was busy going over a stack of papers before being surprised by her family.

    The Queen happily approached and hugged her husband and daughter, fawning over the bags filled with the goods that they bought. While the king and queen went through the bags, Blaze sat by herself, still trying to connect what she wanted to say. She didn’t wish for Chris to land himself in trouble thank to her. Blaze sought the confidence to declare Chris was no trouble at all but the incident at Club 41 encouraged more than enough doubt. What was she thinking? She couldn’t tell her parents about another possible demon and ruin Chris’ life.

    “So what was it that you wanted to tell us about Chris, dear?” Queen Charrie interrupted her daughter’s train of thought and was smiling as she waited for her answer. King Ferno was also politely silent as they seemed to have gone through the bags. Blaze’s ears twitched from her nerves although her voice did not betray her.

    “I think he could have discovered some kind of spirit energy that affects demons. Something we’ve never seen?” Blaze lied, her public appearances aiding her façade.

    King Ferno rubbed his strong chin, his mind mulling over the idea. “Well, we don’t fully know the capabilities of what demons are weak against. But then why is this a dilemma?”

    Blaze, without missing a beat, replied, “It’s just that realizing new power like this, I just don’t want to see Chris start hunting down Tobias.”

    King Ferno absorbed her words, his face now starting to fall into deep thought. Good. Blaze sprung at the chance to excuse herself. “Mother, is it okay if I look through the records?”

    With a puzzled expression, she nodded while Blaze almost ran out of the room. Cutting through the main hall to head upstairs into King Ferno’s study. A female servant was busy cleaning the King’s desk, being surprised by the princess’ appearance.

    “Oh, Your Highness! Am I in your way?” The servant asked.

    Blaze gave a comforting smile. “You’re fine, I just need to access the records. Doing some research.”

    The servant nodded, placing herself in a different area of the room while Blaze took a seat in her father’s oversized chair. Her tail frisked as she opened up a drawer, looking through labeled folders trying to find what she was looking for. Fingering through label after label, Blaze’s golden eyes lit up as she found the folder. Taking it out and placing on the desk, the princess opened it up and her mouth slowly became agape as she looked at the stack of papers and photographs.

    The folder she pulled out was a containment of recordings of known demons to have existed throughout the world, in different time frames. The people documented had their basic information listed as well as family history that helped link the subjects to their status. Blaze did not realize how many there would be placed in this database. She looked at the very first document at the top of the stack:

 

Name: Douglas Percival Wershen

    Age: 47

    Height: 5’11’

    Weight: 173 lbs.

    Species: Snowy Owl

    Status: Deceased

    Country of Origin: Helcomb

    Occupation: Criminal Judge

    Family: Barbara Wershen (Wife), Isaac Wershen (Son)

    Case Notes: Wershen held position of criminal judge for over 20 years from Year 2009 to Year 2033. Displayed irrational behavior around Year 2031 during the murder trial of one Barry Carson, talking down to the prosecution and defense for wasting his time. Witnesses noted his change of voice and posture. Shot dead by angry family members of Mr. Carson in Year 2033. Spirit Detective Emma Fortunata determined Douglas Wershen’s condition after examining his blood and brain in the autopsy.

    (Document copy supplied by President Victoria Ernesto)

     

    Blaze could only stare at the pictures of the late Douglas Wershen. His face was demure, appearing just like any other person she would see in Haleigh. That was definitely contrasting with the photography of his outbursts in the courtroom. His expressions of anger would make one awestruck of how unrecognizable he appeared. Blaze quickly flipped through more files until she saw a name that was familiar to her:

     

    Name: Tsien Wei Zhao

    Age: 72

    Height: 5’6”

    Weight: 140 lbs.

    Species: Human

    Status: Alive

    Country of Origin: Shen-La

    Occupation: CEO of ArborCo

    Family: Dion “Donnie” Wei Zhao (Son), Fei Wei Zhao (Daughter)

    Case Notes: Tsien inherited ArborCo, a global conglomerate specializing in goods for non-human Terrans, from her father Hwang when she was 39 years old. She helped grew the company to prominence during her 30 year tenure as CEO. Shortly after handing down the position to her son Dion, Tsien admitted herself into “Lone Mountain Rehabilitation Center”, citing having voices in her head. After an examination by Spirit Detective Jack Parker, it was confirmed that Tsien was suffering from repeated attempts of demonic possession. Tsien has remained at Lone Mountain to protect her friends and family from herself.

    (Document copy supplied by Prime Minister Ling Zei Yen)

           

    While Blaze definitely had some relief that Tsien did not meet a tragic fate like Douglas, she still felt a cold lump weigh down her heart. The princess continued searching through the pages of paper and photos, hearing the servant mutter something angrily.

            “Is something wrong?” Blaze cautiously asked.

            “It’s this stupid bug! I keep swatting it out the window but it keeps coming back in!” The servant fussed, attacking the bug with a feather duster.

            Blaze tried to chuckle before returning to her search. She flipped through countless stories of people who had lost their lives to these curses, in more ways than one. The tigress felt her throat tighten once she found the file.

 

Name: Tobias Gregory Alistar

Age: 19

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 193 lbs.

Species: Human

Status: Missing

Country of Origin: Aldwynne

Occupation: Antique Shop Owner

Family: Nelson Alistar (Father, Deceased), Trisha Alistar (Mother, Deceased)

Case Notes: Tobias, born into the Alistar family that defected itself from the infamous Torren clan, had been reported to be kept in seclusion by his family. He was rarely seen outside of his home though he was not completely hidden. Tobias disappeared at age 10 when his parents were found dead in their home but forensic evidence proved inconclusive. Tobias returned several years later when a renegade guerilla group attempted to seize the city of Haleigh. He had subdued them with what he claimed to be illusions. Tobias, after being publicly revealed as a demon, was ousted from the continent of Aldwynne. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

               

    The considerably younger Tobias wore a joyful smile in his photo. The worn, aging picture happily stared at the princess. Blaze stood silent, slumped over the desk until she heard the servant yelp, “Your Highness! The bug’s coming at you!”

    Blaze jumped back only from being caught off guard. She caught the bug in question in her sights, watching it dart all over the room while the servant dutifully tried to swat it down. It eluded her efforts before settling on the desk next to the open folder. It was unlike any bug Blaze had seen before. She squinted while taking a closer look and noticed that the insect was actually a fly. And unusually…red.

    The princess wasted no time putting the file away, although rather messily, and grabbing a nearby heavy book and slamming it on top of the bug. Fortunately, it wasn’t strong enough to suddenly lift the book but Blaze could not just leave it there. Blaze pressed down on the book and commanded the servant to fetch her parents. As she waited, the young woman could have sworn that her heart was crawling up her esophagus.

    King Ferno and Queen Charrie hurried into the study, discovering their daughter and her fearful mien.

    “F-Father…M-Mother…Tobias is watching us,” Blaze shakily whispered.

     

    Shojira hummed a tune to himself while checking his nose in the bathroom mirror back at the dojo. He had never been elbowed in the face at all in his life and it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience to happen to his nose. It ached and felt out of place, even though Jirokai confirmed that it was not broken. The tiger sighed and turned on the sink’s faucet. Cupping his hands under the cold water, he splashed a little bit of it on his face, giving his senses a much needed jolt.

    But even after leaving the bathroom and heading to the main training area of the dojo, his mind wandered back to everything from the past few days. It really appeared to be that he was stuck, only being able to watch while one of his best friends was finding himself going through so many revelations and claims. Shojira clenched his right fist in a bit of frustration when he heard someone clear their throat.

    His ears perked when he noticed that the source of the sound came from Cassie Hayabusa, wearing a formal uniform together with a worried look.

    “Shojira? Do you know where Chris is? I’ve tried calling him but I haven’t received an answer. Jaden’s too busy to try and reach him.” The younger Hayabusa clasped her hands together just below her stomach, pleading to Shojira with her demure blue eyes.

    “The last time I saw him, he and Bailey were heading to your folks’ place. From what it sounded like, the police were there,” said Shojira.

    The wolf’s eyebrows raised, her worry starting to strengthen its grip on her. “Why?! Did something happen with my mom and dad?! Is it about Chris?!”

    Shojira’s mouth was agape as he searched for a proper answer. “I don’t know what happened but Chris and Bailey should be on their way back.”

    Cassie sighed and wrung her hands together, only becoming more distraught. In an orange and black blur, Cassie found herself on the receiving end of a hug courtesy of Lei-Mei.

    “Oh my gosh, I’m so happy to see you, Cassie! Are you finally here for lessons?!” The young girl jubilantly chirped.

    Cassie squeaked out a giggle but was still hesitant. The sounds of a car pulling in reached their ears and the three walked outside to find Chris’ car. The windows were rolled down and they could faintly hear Chris and Bailey talking. The two were still in the car seats, Chris upright and Bailey leaning back.

    “Bailey, I’m so sorry for what I did to you earlier. I don’t remember any of it but…I’m still sorry,” Chris said. He gripped the steering wheel securely while staring at his own hands.

    “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have flipped out and whaled on you like that. I should have just stopped it,” Bailey sighed. She adjusted her posture and grunted from how little maneuverability she had. “Jeez, Chris, did you have to own a clown car?”

    He weakly smiled before laying his head on the top of his steering wheel. The wolf sighed heavily himself with the weight of many things forcing itself upon him. He felt Bailey’s hand rub his back and alleviate some of the pressure.

    “If it means anything, I’m impressed by how much you’ve managed to keep it all together. We’ll find an answer to your problem,” Bailey comforted.

    Chris raised his head and nodded at her. He looked forward and noticed Shojira, Lei-Mei, and Cassie watching him. Bailey exited the vehicle with him while Chris approached his younger sibling at the dojo entrance.

    “Hey, sis, what are you doing here?”

    “I’m here because I’m worried about you! You haven’t talked to me or Jaden in days! What is this about the police showing up to Mom and Dad’s?!” Cassie demanded.

    Chris bit his lower lip and cringed. He turned towards Bailey, who gestured for him to speak up.

    “It’s more of that ‘blessed by the gods’ thing that Blaze talked to me about. Except, for whatever reason, the police suspected me of being a demon,” Chris admitted, shuddering from having said it.

    Cassie stared at her brother, lulling over his last sentence before holding her hands up to her mouth. “Chris…you can’t really be…”

    “Sis, no, I’m not a demon. Or…if I am, I never made that decision and neither did our parents.”

    Cassie’s eyes began to swell up, reaching to hug Chris. He accepted her into his arms but wondered if he said the wrong thing.

    “You know you have to tell Jaden too. And Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Blaine and Aunt Lauren…”

    “C-Cass, I don’t think they have to know RIGHT now. I think our immediate family’s more important,” Chris stammered.

    She pulled away, laughing a little. “I’m sorry. Just…please be careful with what you do next.”

    Chris nodded, approaching Shojira and Lei-Mei, giving them both hugs of his own. Shojira still had an awkward expression while Lei-Mei happily embraced the wolf.

    “I hope you forgive me for that nonsense I started earlier.”

    “Chris, it’s fine, I already forgave you the first time. Though I think you should be telling that to Jirokai,” Shojira said, nodding his head back towards the dojo.

    The wolf sighed as he re-entered the dojo, already finding his teacher waiting for him. His beard stubble was trimmed down, and his hair was nicely combed. He had fixed up his flower-print shirt and shorts, appearing the most serious he had ever been. His laidback demeanor was nowhere to be seen at this point.

    Chris had removed his shoes and was kneeling in front of Jirokai, bowing.

    “Chris, you must know how much I have frowned upon starting fights with other students in the past. You know my punishment for that sort of offense?” Jirokai quietly said.

    “Yes. Expulsion from the dojo. And…if that’s what I deserve for trying to hurt a fellow student and friend…then I’ll accept it,” Chris replied, still bowing.

    “You’re right. But…I’m not going to expel you. You will still be punished for your actions but I will allow you to stay. The reason being that the look in your eyes belonged to someone who was not you.” Jirokai folded his arms and heaved a heavy breath. “And plus, I would never hear the end of it from those two.”

    Chris rose from his bow, still looking on intently towards Jirokai. “So, what is my punishment then?”

    “To go help the royal family take care of a problem they have at their home. The princess called me and told me to have you head over there as soon as possible,” He replied.

    “Then…why do you look so…?”

    “I was in the middle of preparing myself to go meet someone. Very important business. If you come back when you’re done, Shojira and Lei-Mei will be here.”

    Chris nodded, rising up to leave. He was almost outside when Jirokai stopped him. “And Chris. Don’t make your family worry.”

    Taking a moment to absorb his words, Chris nodded in acknowledgement. He walked past the small group listening in from the outside, shaking his head.

    “I guess I’ll find out what’s going on when I get there. I’ll be back soon,” Chris added. “Bailey, why don’t you help get Cassie started on some lessons?”

    Cassie’s eyes went wide while Bailey casted a very devious smile while leading her into the dojo. Shojira and Lei-Mei waved Chris goodbye while they headed back in as well, making sure that his sister would still be in one piece.

    After arriving at the mansion, Chris hurried inside after being let in by the servants. They directed him to King Ferno’s study, where he and his family were waiting on him, almost appearing eerily similar to Jirokai’s morose expression.

    “Did…I do something wrong?” Chris cautiously inquired.

    Blaze simply held up a glass jar that contained the blood red fly that she trapped earlier. It was not harmed and it was buzzing around incessantly.

    “What the…that’s not what I think it is,” Chris muttered.

    “If you mean anything other than Tobias spying on us, you’re correct. Do you think you could do my family a favor and snuff this thing out?” Blaze requested.

    Chris stared at the fly while it flew all over the jar, his mind slowly cranking its gears. “How am I going to get to it without letting it out? Can you make a hole in the lid small enough for a spark to come in?”

    King Ferno was already taking the initiative, approaching the jar with a pen. Before Chris could ask how he planned to use it, he jabbed a hole into the lid small enough to still contain the insect. “Specially made tip,” he vaguely explained.

            Taking a calming breath, Chris held the jar and plugged the hole with his right pointer finger. In a flash, the jar lit up with azure flames engulfing the glass.  The ferocity of the small inferno shattered the glass jar, but Chris held the burning energy in the hand that was holding the jar. With a small flourish, the crackling of the flames was snuffed out. The wolf sighed in relief before noticing the royal family still staring at him.

            “You’re certainly very talented with your powers, Christopher,” Queen Charrie remarked.

            Chris laughed a little before he diverted his attention to Blaze. “Are you 100% sure that fly was sent by Tobias?”

            Blaze nodded while a servant hurried into the room to clean up the broken jar. “How many flies have you heard of come in blood red variety?”

            “Why the hel-er, why in the world would Tobias think he needs to spy on you? Does he think you’re not going to try and find Vanessa for him?” Chris brought up.

            The princess folded her arms. Her expression shifted from ponderous to vicious. “It’s only been half a day…If he wants us to fetch Vanessa for him that badly, then fine!” Blaze yelled, though it didn’t seem to be directed at anyone. She stormed out of the study, the only sound coming from the clacking of her heels onto the floor.

            King Ferno gave a low huff before looking at Chris, who was staring in the direction where Blaze departed. “Don’t worry about her too much, my boy. She has always had a bit of a temper. I’ve already mobilized detectives to search for Miss Vanessa Winters.”

            Chris was about to ask King Ferno more about Vanessa but another question formed itself.

            “Your Highnesses? …Majesties? Is it true that you also have pyrokinetic powers since Blaze also has them?” Chris fidgeted with his hands as he looked between the two royal authorities.

            Queen Charrie politely laughed at Chris’ demeanor. “It’s quite all right, Christopher. You don’t have to worry. While the king and I do possess talents such as our daughters, our lack of use has rendered them dormant.”

            That made sense to Chris while mulled over that idea. He wondered if the same thing could apply to himself. It seemed unlikely but he wished to think of other solutions. “How long has Blaze had her powers? Ever since birth?”

            The queen lightly rubbed her chin for a spell. “I think she first exhibited her flames when she was about 4 years old. When the gods grant abilities to families, they do wait until the next child would have some semblance of control.”

             Families? Chris had never heard of anyone in his family possessing any powers like his nor did anyone know about these abilities even existing. “Your Highnesses, do the Elementals normally grant superpowers to their followers?”

            King Ferno shook his head. “Not necessarily. They do study each person they consider and weigh whether they are worthy. You just do not see them as often in present day, due to the lack of global conflict.”

            “They originally granted powers to help decide war?”

            Queen Charrie interjected, “Yes, though I do think it was more to protect their followers. You do not really hold much power if you have no one worshipping you.”

            Chris’ ears folded backwards the more he thought about it. “What about the demons? How do they pick people?”

            The king hummed a low groan. “It’s hard to predict. If you can keep this confidential between us, I would really appreciate it.” Chris nodded and King Ferno continued, “I have been collaborating with the other leaders in submitting and sending files of all known citizens to have either been possessed, come in contact, or interacted in any other way with demons. Not all who are in the files are guilty of any wrongdoing.”

            Chris could feel a weight lift from his heart upon hearing that last sentence.

            “Most of those who are innocent have been admitted into asylum or committed suicide. There may be more out there but we won’t know unless a Spirit Detective meets them.”

            Well, that felt good as it lasted. Chris did pick up on that odd term though. “A…Spirit Detective? Sounds like it comes from one of my friend’s movies.”

            “Peculiar name aside, the Detectives handle cases of the supernatural. They have studied both sides of the coin. Blessed by gods or cursed by demons, they investigate anything someone comes to them for,” King Ferno explained.

            Chris, while not downtrodden, still felt a bit uncomfortable. King Ferno fixed his suit jacket and approached Chris. “I never really had a chance to say this back at Tobias’ hideout, but I thank you so much for helping out my daughter. And for trying to save me when I was kidnapped. You have the eternal gratitude of the Shirazi family.”

            Chris stared at the king for a moment before he started to awkwardly laugh and pet the back of his head. Queen Charrie giggled at the young man while he replied, “O-Oh, it was nothing, sir. I was more than willing to be of assistance.”

            King Ferno chortled at Chris’ reaction before clapping him on the shoulder heartily. Chris still beamed before something came across his mind, wiping his face clean of his smile. “Though…Your Highness…if I could be perfectly honest with you…the entire situation felt like it went too smoothly.”

            The king’s brow slowly lowered, recalling the sequence of events in his mind. “Do you believe there’s another reason why Tobias sent that insect? He has something else planned?”

            Chris folded his arms and closed his eyes. His brain tried to work out any possibilities that could arise from this whole debacle. The wolf grunted before opening his eyes. “What if Tobias just kidnapped you to make an example out of you? To say, ‘If you try to toy with me, this could happen to you or your family.’ He’s not exactly the most trustworthy abductor around…but by that logic…no. No. No, he wouldn’t. He doesn’t even know where they live.”

            Queen Charrie picked up on his words with surprising speed, hurrying to the phone on King Ferno’s desk and dialing a number. “Hello? Yes, this is Queen Charrie Shirazi. Please mobilize your men and send them to the residences of the Hayabusa family here in Haleigh and Doragon Machi! Whether they are home or not, search for any creature that is blood red and capture it! I do not care how long it takes, we are dealing with Tobias Alistar! And do not release this information to the public!”

            Chris’ eyes grew wide before his mind snapped itself steady with a memory. Chris pulled out his cell phone and dialed a different number. “C’mon, c’mon, pick up…C-Cassie! It’s Chris! Whatever you do, do NOT leave the dojo! Stay there with the others, I’ll be there as soon as I can! Call Mom, Dad, and Jaden and tell them to not go home. And if they’re home, tell them to come to the dojo!”

 

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            Chris stood back from the man at the desk, his cold chill starting to become frosty. Rachel continued to stare at Chris, her lips quivering. With no other way to go but forward, Chris took a seat at a chair in front of the desk. The figure sat back in his seat, turning a knob on the lamp to brighten its light.

    More of his features were now prominent, showing that he was rather handsome with his eyes being a light blue and his face possessing smooth cheekbones and round chin. His parted hairstyle and eyebrows being a brownish-red, it was hard to determine his age. The man’s expression wasn’t devious or malevolent. Dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, he looked at Chris with an aura of sympathy.

            “I really have to hand it to you. You certainly know how to get yourself noticed. Though I don’t think that’s entirely the best thing for you right now,” he stated.

            Chris tried to make a read on the man to figure out what he was thinking. Without much to go on, Chris went with the first thing that came to his head.

            “Who are you, exactly?”

            The man’s face hardened before he chuckled. “Of course. How rude of me. My name is Tobias Alistar. I guess you could call me the mastermind behind this though I hardly take any pride in this whole situation.”

            “Pride? What are you talking about? You regret kidnapping King Ferno?”

            “Well, I always regretted the fact that I had to resort to this. I take it you never heard of me before if you don’t already know.”

            “No. I never heard of you.”

            “Not even through word-of-mouth? Hmm. You must have been too young.”

            “I’d rather not learn about creeps who DO have to resort to kidnapping. Now what did you mean when you said you hope this would be ‘enlightening’? What am I gonna tell you that will change your outlook?”

            “Oh. No. I didn’t mean enlightening for me. I meant you. Though I’d like to learn more about yourself.”

            “Me? Are you sure I’m not here for something other than chit chat?”

            “The princess herself can now vouch that her father is unharmed. We never legitimately threatened him. Our reason for kidnapping him…you’ll know soon enough.”

            “If you never threatened him, then why the bars on the windows?”

            “It was a precautionary measure for if he was far too resistant. He understood everything once I explained it and he complied.”

            Chris folded his arms and appeared unconvinced. Tobias expected this reaction, remaining calm.

    Chris raised an eyebrow at his demeanor. “So you want me to tell you more about myself, huh? What would you like to know first, my astral sign or the way I’m going to kick your ass?”

    Tobias leaned forward with a disapproving stare that clashed with Chris’. “If you want me to tell you what you want to know, then I’d watch myself.”

    The wolf bared his fangs and his eyes started to glimmer from deep blue to crimson. The pit of his stomach began to burn. “You really want to start giving ME orders after you ruined a festival, kidnapped a world leader, and terrorized innocent people?!”

    Tobias appeared to be unfazed though that was more to do with the person behind Chris. Rachel placed a glowing hand on Chris’ shoulder, sending that cold chill from earlier down his body and suddenly, he felt his insides become calm.

            Tobias replied, “Yeah. Because it all has to do with your powers. I’m surprised you never really put two and two together. Did your princess offer any possibility about why you were able to mutilate my blood beast?”

            Chris’ body quaked as he tried to shake off the wintry. “Wait. That was YOURS? You created that monster?”

            “And the pterodactyl that you crashed through a window with. I see everything through the eyes of my creatures. They are linked to me and they only obey my commands. I experience what comes to them. That fire pillar move of yours that you used to kill my pterodactyl was rather strong. Certainly you have been blessed.”

            Chris’ face froze as he considered his thoughts. “How…does that really work? Your powers, I mean?”

            “Simple.” Tobias pulled open a drawer and held up a scalpel. He pricked his right fingertip, looking intently at the growing droplet of blood before it splashed onto the desk. A miniscule impish creature appeared from the puddle, crawling and snickering before it suddenly disappeared back into the small incision and then the cut was healed.

            “That…that’s amazing.”

            “There’s a lot of rules and boundaries that come with this. I can’t just instantly heal large cuts I cause to myself. And unless I absorb my blood beast, I don’t regain my blood instantly. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. That’s not even mentioning the power ratio depending on how much blood I use. Being a demon has it perks I suppose.”

            “W-Wait. A demon? You’re…a demon?” Chris raised an eyebrow though his insides were starting to feel empty.

            “Yes. Were you expecting horns, a pitchfork? I’m not surprised though. We were all brought up to believe that demons were hellish nightmare creatures. Though appearances aren’t everything. Not much I can do about it.”

            “No, I’ve seen pictures of demons appearing to be normal humans. But nothing you can do about it? Why?”

            Prefacing his statement with a sigh, Tobias answered, “Surely you do believe that family shapes what one can become?”

            “In layman’s terms, your family has something to do with this?”

            Nodding and leaning back in his chair, Tobias picked up a nearby pencil and twiddled it around in his fingers. “I had no choice whether I wanted these powers or not. That decision was made for me before I was even born. If you don’t recognize the name ‘Alistar’, then maybe you’ve heard of the Torren family that was around Aldwynne in its infancy.”

            Chris’ mind searched for the name, only vaguely remembering it in one of his high school classes. “Didn’t…they offer a high-ranking official their allegiance in exchange for a jump up the social class ladder?”

            Tobias chuckled out of antipathy. His eyes were focused so intensely on the pencil that he could have snapped it in half with his thoughts. “That’s what they want you to believe. The Torrens offered their loyalty to a demon in exchange for power to combat their rivals and become dominant. But it was the heads that made the decision and you could only guess that some of those in the Torren family didn’t agree with that. So they disowned the Torren name and became the Alistars. But the curse still remained in their very bones and arteries and that’s why I’m ‘gifted’ with my power. All because some egotistical fools were too unhappy and lazy to actually reach an upper echelon through their own will!!”

            With an audible “SNAP!” the pencil was broken in Tobias’ fist. He slowly uncurled his trembling fingers and allowed the fragments to fall onto the desk. There was a long period of silence that made the air around the room very thick. Chris looked down at the pieces of the pencil and back towards the seething Tobias.

            “That can’t be all there is to this, right? Something must have happened to you that would give you a reason to kidnap King Ferno and start this whole mess,” Chris said solemnly. His posture was now improved with an aura of purpose.

            Tobias’ glasses shimmered in the lamp’s glow as he turned to face the wolf. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes before placing them on again. “Honestly, I don’t think you deserve to know about everything in my past. But I will tell you why I did this. My best friend was taken from me because her father did not trust me. I thought it was because I was human but then I learned he actually had the gall to dig into my family’s history to try and publicly oust me for being a demon. And before you ask, King Ferno was on the throne when I was exiled from Aldwynne. I was supposed to leave the country for good, which I did for a couple years. But I spent that time trying to find her. Vanessa. She was nowhere where I could get to. I never came close to finding her in my search.

    So, after my last failed attempt, I became desperate. I needed to do something that would give me the world’s attention and allow me to have Vanessa back. I don’t really blame Ferno for my exile. After some time, I recognized that he was just fulfilling his duty as a king protecting his people. Nevertheless, I needed him for my ‘demands’. I made the king’s kidnapping look as hostile as possible but once he was in my custody, I’ve made sure that he was perfectly fine.”

    Chris listened to the story and after a moment, he stated, “No matter what reasons you had to kidnap our king, a crime is still a crime. Did you really work that hard to find Vanessa? Why didn’t you get your pal Syrus or Rachel here to try and find her? They’re not a public enemy like you say you are.”

    Rachel suddenly interjected, “I-I’m only 14, what am I gonna do to try and find a missing person?”

    Tobias countered with, “And Syrus doesn’t work just for me. He’s at the request of at least five other clients. He wouldn’t have the time or resources. And as for me, when you become branded as a public menace because our king was still wet behind the ears, you don’t have the privilege to walk down a busy street and expect everything to go smoothly. And if you don’t handle yourself, you’re going to go through the exact same thing. Because you-”

    “Have something living inside of me,” Chris interrupted. “Yeah. I sort of figured it out for myself yesterday. I’m not stupid, I don’t need you and your lackeys trying to be mysterious and all of this fucking bullshit just for some big dramatic reveal that’s supposed to shake me to my core.”

    Tobias was not taken aback by Chris’ vulgarity but the wolf still continued. “I’ve already been shaken up by these dreams that I’m having and I don’t need you and your ‘oh woe is me’ claptrap.”

    Tobias clasped his hands together, heaving a heavy breath. “What I was going to say was that you need to learn how to control your spirit. What Rachel noticed when she saw you at the park was that there was this energy that partially fragmented your soul. It is now as much as a part of you as the rest of your body.”

    “God or demon, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be stronger than them in the end,” Chris growled.

    With an amused laugh, Tobias asked, “Are you telling me that you think you will eventually possess enough power to be mightier than every other being?”

    Chris glowered at Tobias but wore a knowing smile nonetheless. “No. I mean that I won’t have to swear loyalty just so I can feel better about myself.”

    Tobias’ eyes sunk before facing the wolf. “You say that now, but you’ll learn soon learn that it’s not that easy. And I say this as someone who wants to help you.”

    The wolf’s head started to thump from his frustration. “Okay, so let me make this clear. You kidnapped the king to find your ‘best friend’ and in the middle of all this, you start feeling bad so you want to help me, somebody you never even heard of? Do you even know what’s going through your head?”

    “Yes. Again, I don’t think you deserve to know everything about me. And this is not your problem. Your problem, last time I recalled, was to ensure the safe return of King Ferno to the throne. And I’m not ready to let him go until I have Vanessa back,” said Tobias. He reached to a framed picture on his desk and displayed it to Chris. It was a young vixen who wore a bright childlike smile with pink irises and a distinctive marking on her muzzle similar to a heart. Upon a closer look, the heart appeared to be artificial.

    Chris stared at the portrait, remarking, “I can’t say I’m not surprised.”

    Tobias placed the picture back down before rubbing the left side of his neck. “I…have no intention of being welcomed back into society. I know that will never be a reality. I just want to live out the rest of my days with Vanessa by my side. Just do whatever she wants so she can be happy.”

    Chris was quiet until Rachel made herself known again. “So what are we going to do with the king? I don’t think the princess is going to let him go that easily.”

    Tobias leaned back in his chair and scratched his chin. His steely eyes glanced down to his desk before the white-haired witch. “Have our friend here go up to meet him so they can discuss it.”

    Rachel motioned for Chris to stand and head upstairs, once again following him closely.

    Tobias stared at the portrait of Vanessa while he waited for Chris to leave the room. Once Chris was out of sight, Tobias muttered, “And here I thought there was loyalty among demons.”

     

    Shojira and Lei-Mei lounged around in Chris’ living room while Bailey was lifting a dumbbell with her right arm in the kitchen. The badger huffed with effort as she lifted the 100 lb. weight in multiple reps while Lei-Mei and Shojira were laid out watching a movie. The silence between the friends lingered until a timer rung. Bailey placed the dumbbell on the floor, pulled on some oven mitts, and moved a pizza from the oven to the stove. After cutting the extra-large into even portions for the trio, Bailey sighed and rejoined the tigers in the living room, taking refuge in the comfy chair and stretching her legs.

    Lei-Mei, who was lying upside down on the couch, kicked her feet as she looked towards the badger. “Something wrong, Bailey?”

    Bailey smoothed out her t-shirt and placed her hands behind her head. “I’m just…worried about Chris.”

    Shojira, sitting behind the coffee table, peered at Bailey. “I’m sure he’s fine. He has the princess with him.”

    “No, not that. You know as much as I do that Chris has been weird lately ever since the festival. And…I don’t usually say this but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what could possibly be going on with Chris.” Bailey closed her eyes for a moment and breathed.

    Now glum, Shojira propped himself on the coffee table, dully gazing at the television. Lei-Mei glanced between her morose brother and friend before picking herself up to grab a slice of pizza. She also assembled two other plates for Bailey and Shojira before returning to the living room. The young tigress politely handed off the paper plates to the two before sitting back down.

    Lei-Mei kept to herself for the time being though she could faintly hear “thanks”. The tigress pushed her hair out of her eyes but was starting to feel her own mood crumble. In an attempt to salvage it, she cleared her throat to make sure she came through clearly.

    “Whatever that’s going on with Chris, we have to be there for him. I’m scared too but we’re his best friends. And we have to make sure his family’s there for him too. We owe that to him at least.”

    The girl found Shojira and Bailey both sharing appreciative looks towards her. Lei-Mei hid her face immediately, garnering a laugh from her brother. He raised his slice of pizza and bumped it with Lei-Mei’s as a faux toasting. Bailey snickered and scooted closer to the television.

    “I’m surprised that you’ve been allowed this much time off from wrestling, Bailey,” Shojira commented.

    “Eh, I was starting to feel some aches and pains so it doesn’t hurt to rest up from that. Besides, they’re building up for when I come back and just smack the taste out of the champ’s mouth,” the badger grinned.

    “I wanna see you wrestle again soon. It’s fun to watch you fight. It’s like a movie that could jump out and hit me,” giggled Lei-Mei.

    “I’m sure our princess would be more than up to that,” Shojira said.

    To answer Lei-Mei’s expression, Shojira explained, “I think she might be a total goof for Bailey.”

    Lei-Mei giggled while Bailey tried to pay no mind to the siblings.

    “So what in the world are you two watching?” The badger inquired, finishing up her slice.

    “It’s ‘The Kyoto Nightcrawler: The Future of Neo Tokyo’ where the Nightcrawler, Akira Sazaki, goes to war with his archnemesis Shadow Shark, who’s actually his best friend Ryoshi Norimora. There’s also Akira’s love interest, Yumi, who tries to tell him that she’s pregnant with their child but his duties as the Nightcrawler get in the way. It’s really amazing,” Shojira explained, with all seriousness.

    Bailey stared at Shojira before expounding, “I’m so glad I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”

    “It’s not that hard to figure out! It’s a simple yet depthful tale of action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama, and all of the above!” Shojira continued.

    “You did sort of lose me at ‘Shadow Shark’, bud,” Bailey muttered, finishing off her slice of pizza.

    Lei-Mei propped her head on her hands, also finished with her food. “I love Kyoto Nightcrawler but I also like ‘The Solar Roses.’”

    The young girl straightened up on the couch and waved her hands with dramatic flourish. “’We strike down evil in the daylight, with a thousand fiery passions burning in our souls! Heroes to justice, villains to lawlessness! Solar Roses, assemble! Yuri! Rei! Sakura! Aoi! Karin!’ We will always protect the helpless and punish the cruel! We are! THE SOLAR ROSES!”

    Finishing with an upward point, Lei-Mei settled down, pleased with herself. Bailey’s head tilted back with laughter while Shojira groaned and rolled his eyes. Lei-Mei appeared to be embarrassed from their reaction but Bailey added, “Does your Nightcrawler say cool things like that, Shojira?”

    The tiger folded his arms and pouted, opting not to dignify that question with a response. Bailey winked at Lei-Mei who was once again happy with her performance. The trio proceeded to watch the rest of the movie with some general commentary, with Bailey in particular becoming gripped with the Nightcrawler’s martial arts, acrobatics, and wit. Everyone was leaning towards the television when the secret alter-egos of the two friends were revealed to one another. When a new villain entered to their battle and the two former enemies teamed up, there were exclaims of shock and approval rising in the room.

    “OHHH! GET ‘EM! GET ‘EM! USE THE ONE-INCH PUNCH!” Shojira screamed, literally shivering with excitement.

    Bailey turned to Shojira with wide-open eyes. “HE’S GOT A ONE-INCH PUNCH?! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!”

    Lei-Mei squealed and squirmed in her seat. “ONE-INCH PUNCH TO THE DRAGON UPPERCUT! YEEEEAH!!”

    The final blow dealt, with all three cheering at the TV, started the cool-down to the ending scenes. Bailey breathed, feeling her adrenaline declining before noticing that Chris was standing there, staring. Shojira and Lei-Mei then caught Chris’ appearance and they both looked away. Quietly, he took a seat on the arm of the couch by Lei-Mei, rolling his neck.

    With an obvious subject looming, Bailey took it upon herself to address it. “So how did it go?”

    Chris rubbed his right eye for a second. He quickly recalled the sequence of events prior to his arrival from Tobias’ hideout with little enthusiasm, being met with various reactions though it was mostly quiet. Then when it came to discussing the meeting, he left out details, mostly explaining things about Tobias than the actual words spoken.

    “So, now here’s the deal. Good news, the king has been returned to Aldwynne safe and sound. Bad news…Vanessa has to turn up in 5 days or…something will happen. Most likely something terrible. Blaze told me that she’s going to handle all of the searching for Vanessa but she wants me to be on my guard,” Chris finished.

    After a moment of quiet, Lei-Mei clapped her hands together. “Even still, you helped bring the king back. Whatever that jerk has planned, you can stop him. Right?”

    Chris rolled his shoulders, quiet and shaking slightly. “I don’t know. I need to go down to the dojo. Do something. Anyone wanna come with?”

    The three gave glances to one another while Chris prepared himself to go. He noticed their hesitance and said, “If anyone’s not going to go, then fine.”

    Shojira raised an eyebrow. “Chris, you just got here. What’s gotten into you?”

    The wolf didn’t even bother turning around to answer. “Nothing. Now are we going or what?”

    With lingering confusion, Bailey, Shojira, and Lei-Mei followed Chris out of the apartment and into his car. The four headed to the dojo in awkward silence, nobody unsure of what to say around Chris. Jirokai was busy sweeping off the outside steps when they arrived.

    “Shojira, Lei-Mei! Back home so soon?” Jirokai asked with a chuckle. His gaze shifted to Chris and his smile faded. The wolf just about charged into the dojo, recklessly kicking off his shoes. He headed straight to the new room at the back while his friends trailed behind.

    “Where’s the fire? No pun intended,” The teacher uttered, with none of the trio able to answer. Bailey directly pursued Chris to the white empty training room, where she found him clenching his right fist.

    “Chris, you okay? What happened over there?” Bailey queried. She slowly stepped towards him while Shojira, Lei-Mei, and Jirokai stood near the open door.

    “C’mon. Let’s go,” Chris replied, taking a fighting stance.

    “Chris, I’m not training with you until you give me an answer! We don’t even have protective gear on!” Bailey responded.

    “I already told you! Now hurry up!” Chris yelled.

    “Chris! Bailey! Stop this before it even starts!” ordered Jirokai.

    Bailey’s mouth broke into a scathing scowl as she raised her fists. She circled around the room, keeping an eye on the wolf as she could sense a burning aura emanating from him. Before she had more time to think, Chris dashed forward, throwing a right hook to her body’s side. She grabbed onto his arm with her own right, spinning her body and tossing Chris over her. He tumbled but quickly rose to his feet. Chris charged into close range once again, throwing a left knee towards her chest. Bailey could only block with her forearms but she grabbed onto Chris’ head and slammed a knee of her own into his stomach.

    Chris grunted in pain but he still held onto her leg, tripping Bailey. After landing on her back, Chris dove down directing a punch at her. Bailey caught his punch and countered with her own hook to Chris’ jaw. The wolf rolled his head with the punch, negating most of the impact. Chris dropped his body and his left elbow against Bailey. The two got off of one another and stood facing one another again. Chris shuffled his feet towards Bailey but she was ready. She grabbed Chris by his bicep, tugging him in towards her. While he was still off balance, she circled behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Heaving her body backwards, she suplexed Chris onto his back while maintaining a bridge position.

    Chris struggled free and out of whatever what was going through his mind, his right hand ignited as he launched a fireball towards Bailey, who was still on the ground with him. She barely dodged it as it shot past her chin and ended at the wall behind her. Her eyes were wide with shock…and incoming fury. Bailey stood while grabbing Chris by the shirt. She picked him up and propped him onto her shoulder, dashing into the closest wall and slamming him against it. Bailey roared and threw a flurry of punches and kicks at Chris who tried to defend himself as much as he could.

    “BAILEY!! CHRIS!! STOP!!” Shojira screamed, trying to grab onto one of Bailey’s arms but was elbowed in the face for his efforts. He clutched onto his nose as blood trickled out of it and the two noticed the injury. Lei-Mei helped Shojira out of the room while Jirokai approached the fighters, absolutely livid.

    “What the hell got into the both of you?! One of you needs to give me an explanation now or I’m going to kick the both of you out of the dojo!” Jirokai ranted.

    Bailey sighed and rubbed her face into her hands while Chris stood motionless. His eyes were dull though his arms were quivering.

    “Well? Is anyone going to say anything?” Jirokai continued.

    “I…I’m sorry.”

    Bailey and Jirokai both turned to Chris, who slumped against the wall and held his head against his hands.

    “I…I wasn’t thinking straight. I…can’t stop thinking about Tobias. And just how much I wanted to punch him in the face. I ended up seeing him in Bailey’s place and…dammit. I’m sorry…”

    “You saw him…in my spot?” Bailey confusedly wondered. She rung her hands together before she approached Chris. “Hey, you have to get yourself together. It feels like you’ve been letting everything get to you. You rescued the King, you should feel great.”

    “It’s not what you think. When I was going to meet him and Blaze up in the room…I heard Tobias say ‘And here I thought there was loyalty among demons.’ I don’t know if he wanted me to hear it or not but…I just felt my heart stop.” Chris rubbed the nape of his neck, his eyes still facing downward.

            “No. That can’t be it. You really think a creep like him would be telling the truth? He’s probably trying to screw with your head,” Bailey replied, though she felt a bit of uselessness to her words.

            Shojira and Lei-Mei re-entered the room, Shojira wiping off his nose. They both stood quietly though Chris quietly approached Shojira and hugged him. The tiger’s eyes darted awkwardly from his sister to Bailey as he patted Chris on the back. “It’s…okay. It was an accident.”

            “Bailey, I…” Chris’ cell phone began to ring. Chris quickly answered it after reading the number, still hugging Shojira. “Hello? Mom? What’s going on?”

    There was a pause though Bailey and Shojira especially could hear Chris’ mother frantically talking on the other end.

    “Oh dammit…I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t say anything until I’m there, Mom.” Chris hung up and shook his head, finally releasing Shojira.

    “What is it now?” Bailey, becoming exasperated with all of the events occurring, rubbed her temples.

    “The police are over at my parents’ place. I gotta get over there and find out what’s going on,” he answered.

    “Chris, I’m coming with you,” the badger demanded.

    “…All right. Just don’t give them a reason to do anything to my parents,” Chris replied, starting to leave before stopped by Jirokai.

    Jirokai folded his arms and nodded at Chris. “We’ll figure this out later but there is definitely something more going on with you that we need to get under control.”

     

    Chris was unable to bear looking at his teacher in the face, only responding with a nod. He and Bailey exited the dojo, grabbing their shoes while they hurried out. The pair sat in silence in the car until they arrived at Damien and Suzanne’s home, with a police vehicle in front of the sidewalk. Hurrying out of the car and approaching the one-story suburban abode, Chris and Bailey almost burst inside, nearly startling Chris’ parents and the officer present in a blue uniform.

    “Chris! B-Bailey! You scared me!” Suzanne gasped, sitting on the couch wearing a pink robe. Damien was besides her in his own blue robe, appearing rather cross though more with the officer. It appeared that they were enjoying a day off prior to the arrival of the officer.

    Chris raised an eyebrow upon a closer look at the officer. It was Officer Travis Kennedy, the raccoon who attempted to pursue Tobias and his cronies when kidnapping King Ferno on the day of the festival.

    “What the hell is all this?” Chris demanded.

    Officer Kennedy appeared taken aback as if he fully expected Chris to know the situation. Worriedly gawking down at his notepad, he flipped through the sheets before halting immediately.

    “Right! Mr. Christopher James Hayabusa, age 22…occupation is grocery clerk…umm…” Officer Kennedy muttered.

    “We already met the day that King Ferno got kidnapped. But this isn’t necessary. He’s on his way back,” Chris began, but he was halted by shocked gasps by his parents – and Officer Kennedy.

    “Wow, that’s fantastic, son!” Damien beamed, though his expression changed upon noticing how his son wasn’t reveling in the glory.

    “I specifically asked him and the princess not to put me in the news tonight. I don’t deserve it. And the last thing I want is for my parents to be questioned when this whole thing is dealt with.” Chris folded his arms while Bailey stood behind him, noticing the change in his posture.

    “Chris, it’s okay to feel proud of your accomplishments,” his mother started, but Officer Kennedy waved for attention.

    “Excuse me!! I was about to get to your questions, Mr. Hayabusa!” The raccoon whined.

    Chris turned to the officer, who quickly asked, “Was it true that you were involved in a childhood accident involving…’purple fireworks?’”

    Everyone froze in place, their expressions very uncomfortable as they stared at Officer Kennedy. He crouched under his notepad, eyes shifting around. “I-It’s just a question…” Officer Kennedy muttered.

    Chris stammered out a “Yes” before Officer Kennedy queried, “Is it true that it wasn’t actually fireworks but actually mystical pyrokinetic powers?”

    Damien immediately rose from the couch at full height, his natural instinct as a parent taking over. “This little interview of yours is over. I want you out of my house now. You have no business digging into my son’s past for this. He said the King has been rescued so you can be on your merry way and never come back.”

    Officer Kennedy backed away from the looming wolf, gulping to himself and trying to come up with an answer. “B-But Sir, you don’t understand!” Damien’s pace sped up, intimidating the raccoon towards the front door. He opened the door for the officer before making sure he was outside.

    Just before Damien slammed the door in Officer Kennedy’s face, the officer yelled, “YOUR SON MIGHT BE A DEMON!”

    Damien locked the door and stormed back to the couch, visibly fuming and trembling. He ran his hands through his hair, steadily huffing before Suzanne placed her hands on her husband’s shoulders. An awkward lingering silence hung over the room. Damien was still deathly quiet when Chris spoke, “Dad, I just want to know if you, Mom, Jaden, and Christie will be here for me…blessed or cursed.”

    Suzanne stood up and hugged her son, her chin on his left shoulder. Chris could feel something wet fall onto his shirt. “We will never abandon you, Chris. Don’t let anything make you think otherwise. You’ll always be my baby boy.”

    Chris’ ears twitched, his head pivoting slightly away. “Aww Mom…”

    Suzanne looked at Chris, confused until she could see Bailey snickering behind her son. Smiling warmly, she patted Chris’ shoulders prior to facing Damien. He still sat in silence, staring holes into the floor. Chris looked down at the necklace Damien gave him before approaching his father. He made sure Damien was looking at him before opening the cross locket, showing the family photo. Chris offered a smile before being abruptly tugged downward into a hug. A rather tight one, given Damien’s musculature. The young wolf could hear his father heave a saddened sigh. Chris slowly returned the hug to his father, patting his back.

    “I’m sorry, son. I just…didn’t want to bear having to hear whatever BS that runt was going to spout about you. I remembered the last time that Aldwynne heard about a demon living among them and it wasn’t pretty,” Damien said.

    Chris’ eyes grew wide before breaking off the clinch. Damien rubbed his chin before expanding on his words.

    “I think it was this kid named Tobias that had these weird illusion powers. Must have been a part of some weird family, from what I recall. I think it was their reputation that did him in rather than being a demon,” the older wolf claimed.

    His son’s heart lifted just a tad at that idea. “Do you think that could be the case?”

    “Maybe. I mean, there will always be the fear from just the name. But…I don’t remember any ancestors that dealt with that kind of junk. Well, I don’t know about Suzy’s mom though.” Damien received a slap on the shoulder from his wife for his efforts, though he could only chuckle. Chris laughed to himself before Bailey leaned against him, making herself known again.

    “Don’t forget about me and those adorable tigers. We’re there for you too. Hell, Blaze probably owes a lot to you now,” the badger explained.

    Chris nodded, trying to shrug off the mighty wrestler though that was easier said than done. Damien stood back up, eyeing Bailey’s biceps.

    “Hey, have you been working out even more than usual?” He muttered while patting Bailey’s right arm, much to her amusement and Chris’ discomfort.

    “Kinda sorta. You’ve been keeping yourself in shape too, Mr. Hayabusa,” she snickered, knowing how much it would make Chris squirm.

    Thankfully, Suzanne unknowingly came to her son’s rescue, telling Damien, “We really should get out of these robes. We can’t wear them all day. Right?” She raised a teasing eyebrow, leaving the living room and she started to walk upstairs, waving her tail like a siren’s beckoning. Damien quietly pursued his wife, with Chris and Bailey taking their cue to leave as soon as possible.

    Once in the privacy of Chris’ car, the wolf bluntly asked, “What the hell was that all about?”

    Bailey’s brow furrowed. “I was just goofing around, Chris. I didn’t think you’d take it that personally.”

    Chris rolled his eyes, leaning his seat back. “No, no. I mean that cop being here just to harass my folks. Who or what would tell him to talk to them?”

    Bailey folded her arms, nodding her head back. “I don’t know but it can’t be good. It’d probably be a good idea to stay on your guard until Blaze can find that girl.”

    The wolf groaned and closed his eyes. “Could we just stay for a bit so I can take a nap? Just forget about all of this crap for a little bit?”

    Bailey was almost ready to oblige him before they heard a squealing laugh coming from a second story window. They both looked towards the sound and saw the silhouette of Suzanne embracing Damien through the window curtains. Without a word, Chris immediately turned the ignition of his car, driving away as fast and as far as possible. Bailey only patted Chris on the top of his head, whispering, “It’ll be okay, little wolfy.” If he didn’t have to focus on the road, Chris’ stare of death would have lasted for a while.

            Blaze and Antonio both stared at Chris, who eyed them in return with an overzealous expression. Blood trickled down his forehead to his muzzle where it then dripped off of his chin. Who or whatever was taking control of Chris was itching for a brawl. But there was the obvious problem and Blaze’s mind raced trying to figure out a plan. Impulse guided Blaze’s body, approaching the possessed wolf and slapping him. With a sharp sound echoing the open hand smack, Chris’s head snapped to the right. He groaned and held his cheek, looking at Blaze with deep red irises still.

            “Well, that could’ve gone better,” she muttered.

            “Watch out!” Antonio yelled, grabbing Blaze and pulling her back before Chris, or whatever was controlling his body, threw a punch.

            “If you’re feeling sorry for that freak of nature, then whose side are you on?!” ‘Chris’ yelled.

            Antonio raised an eyebrow, glancing at Blaze. “Okay, I can’t tell if he’s evil now or just really wants to fight. What do you think, mamacita?”

            Blaze stared at Antonio knowing what that word meant and shook her head. Sort of the last thing she needed with everything that was going on. “I think we’re gonna have to knock him out. But he’s already losing blood so maybe it won’t take much. Still, we can’t be too rough. We still need him. The Chris that actually cares about who he’s talking to.”

            “Are you two just about done yapping?! C’mon! If we’re fighting, then let’s go!” ‘Chris’ growled, raising his fists, though not in a fighting pose.

            Antonio’s body began to sway in place, similar to his stance when fighting the punks inside the club. At this point, though, people were already gathering thanks to the ruckus from the breaking window, the bloody pterodactyl’s screeching, among other things. The crowd were starting to talk among themselves about what was going on and then remarking about the presence of Blaze. The princess swore under her breath and her mind began to formulate a strategy again. Looking desperate, Antonio approached the wolf, arching his head backwards and crashing it against Chris’s. Blood now covered both of their faces while Chris stumbled and fell onto his back. He groaned and tried to get up.

            Antonio readied himself until Chris spoke in his familiar, smooth voice. “What just ran into me? Oww…”

            Chris rubbed his forehead and slowly sat up. “Did…I get knocked out by that monster?”

            The crowd was now muttering though it was more about Antonio head-butting Chris for no reason, according to them. Blaze grabbed a hold of Antonio by his blood-stained hair, who yelped. She turned to the crowd and exclaimed, “Don’t worry, I’ll break this up! They’re just emotional from the Terra Festival!” She looked at Antonio and Chris, yelling, “Now I don’t want to see you two fighting in the streets unless you want me to exert my full authority as the Princess of Aldwynne upon the both of you!”

            Fortunately, Antonio caught on quick and answered, “All right, all right, I’m sorry!” Chris was still out of it and just looked confused. Disappointed that nothing more happened, the crowd began to break apart before Blaze checked on Chris.

            “Chris, do you remember anything that happened in the past half hour?”

            Chris rubbed the spot where Antonio struck him and slowly replied, “I remember meeting the informant, Syrus. He…told me that your father was unharmed and his boss could possibly meet me. A bunch of street punks were ready to ambush me but Antonio helped me out. Then that…thing flew in, screeched and then I climbed the wall to try and get its attention. I did, I jumped onto it, and the last thing I remember was flying through a window.”

            Blaze frowned and sighed. “We’re going to have to take you to the hospital to get you sewn up. Thanks to our friend, that cut is getting worse.” Helping Chris to his feet, she took him to the van while Antonio followed. Fortunately, the camera operators from the club had some cloth to put pressure on Chris and some water to clean the blood off of Antonio. While Blaze got into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition, Antonio stood near the passenger seat, appearing rather hopeful. Blaze sighed and allowed him to get in and come along. Blaze told the camera operators to close the door and then she started to head towards the nearest hospital.

            The princess was silent, looking dour as she drove along the open streets. She was starting to feel the weight of the situation pile upon her. How in the world could she have expected things to not go down south so quickly? And now she’s escorting someone to the hospital because of her lack of foresight. The only good news, if it was even true, was that her father was all right. She figured that if they actually did harm the king, the wrath of thousands would rain down upon this group, courtesy of herself and her mother.

            Antonio twiddled his thumbs, thinking that Blaze’s morose demeanor was due to his actions.

            “Ay…I’m sorry, but I thought it would knock him out of whatever loco thing got him,” he explained.

            Blaze took a look at Antonio and focused back on the road. “I’d just like to know why you were at the club in the first place,” Blaze said.

            With a shrug, he simply answered, “Just getting a drink, like I usually do. My body can handle the tequila better than everybody so why not?”

            Blaze eyed him up. “Just don’t make it a habit of getting in the way of the investigation. I’m grateful you helped Chris out but if this is how you settle conflicts all the time, I’d rather you stay out of it.”

            “Investigation? Is that what it was? Dios mio, I’m sorry. I thought it was something else. Like they were settling an argument.”

            Blaze resisted showing more of her frustration, opting to ask, “So what in the world are you still doing here? I thought everyone from the Festival was supposed to have gone back home.”

            “That would be the case if the queen didn’t ask the honchos and everyone they brought here to stay. Something about clearing their names of having anything to do with this mess,” Antonio explained, looking out the window.

            “So you’re just as deep into this as Chris is, huh?”

            “Rumor has it that every single person who was there is getting investigated. They don’t wanna leave anything open.”

            Blaze’s eyes widened as a thought came to her head. “Oh sweet Agnaria, please don’t tell me that Chris’s family is getting questioned.”

            The Barostian shrugged and exhaled. “I’m sure he’ll understand. If that’s even what’s going on. But don’t worry about me. I don’t really look like the kind of guy who could pull something sneaky off, now do I?”

            Blaze appreciated his attempt at lightening the mood but couldn’t smile. Having now arrived at the large pristine hospital, Blaze exited the vehicle and escorted Chris inside while Antonio stayed behind. Blaze told an abridged version of the events to the doctors, leaving out the pterodactyl, and was informed Chris would have to stay for a couple hours for stitches and to regain some blood. In a check-up room, Blaze was sitting in a chair across from Chris while he was on the exam table, taking it easy on his stitches while his fluffy tail dangled over the side. A nurse was prepping Chris for a blood transfusion, who was warming up an arm for the needle to enter.

            “Chris. I’m…so sorry that this happened to you. If I knew this was going to happen, I would have brought along the police or something,” Blaze sighed, hanging her head and clasping her hands together.

            Chris craned his head to better see the princess. “Hey, don’t kick yourself over this. Even if you did bring them, they still wouldn’t have been able to get rid of that pterodactyl. This is…bigger than I thought it was.”

            To answer the puzzled expression on Blaze’s face, Chris explained, “The way this Syrus guy was going on…it was like he expected ME. He said that he was there at the Festival watching my fight. And he was…he was claiming that my powers ARE heightened. Either I’m actually meeting someone else or the boss next. Depends.”

            Blaze rubbed her head and tried to process what Chris said. She looked down at the floor, trying to think of what to do next. “Chris, I forgot that your car is still at the club. Do you want me to call your parents to figure something out?”

            Immediately, Chris shook his head. Blaze realized her mistake and didn’t press the matter. She tried to think of another person but Chris answered for the princess, “Call Bailey. She’s staying at my place.” Without having to ask, the nurse grabbed Chris’s phone for him and handed it to Blaze. Grunting from the soreness starting to make itself known across his body thanks to his fight, he tried his best to relax for the transfusion.

            The princess dialed the number and it didn’t take long for Bailey to pick up. “Hello? Hey, it’s Blaze. Y-yes, the princess. Listen, Chris is all right but I had to take him to the hospital to get some stitches. We’ll explain once you get here.” There was a slight pause and then Blaze asked Chris, “Hey, is it okay if Shojira comes along?” She shrugged as it seemed to be an unnecessary question. Chris nodded and Blaze passed on the message.

            About 15 minutes later, Bailey and Shojira arrived at the check-up room, where Chris was slowly getting blood back into his system. His best friends looked as if they had been busy at a party of some sort, as they were dressed in matching neon green shirts, had multiple wristbands on and were wearing sunglasses.

            “What…the hell were you two doing?” Chris asked.

            Taking off her sunglasses, Bailey raised an eyebrow and glared at the wolf who was receiving blood and had stitches in his head. Chris grunted and turned his head away. Shojira also removed his sunglasses and awkwardly waved hello to Blaze. Blaze, her cheeks feeling a tinge of a blush now that Bailey was in her presence, reached out towards the badger’s arm and could only barely grasp her forearm. Bailey jumped a bit in surprise and faced Blaze, who smiled at her.

            “Please don’t be mad at Chris. Things went crazier than I thought they would go.” Blaze quickly explained what happened and added what Chris told her about the chain of events. Bailey suddenly went from bothered to apprehensive as she went to check on Chris’s stitches.

            “Jeez, did you charge head first through that window though?” She complained, raising up Chris’s bangs and wincing at the scar and stitches.

            “Try 100 miles per hour flying,” he grumbled. He looked at Shojira, who was still nervous. “So can you answer my question? Why are you two dressed like stop lights?”

            Shojira took it upon himself to speak for Bailey. “We…were using your place for a party. Just a small one! Kinda like a rave but we made sure not to break anything!”

            Chris could only squint and dig a hole into Bailey and Shojira as the two avoided eye contact with the wolf. “Did you at least invite people that I know?”

            “Your siblings…” Shojira trailed off.

            “…And some of my wrestling friends,” finished Bailey.

            “What a minute, what?!” Chris exclaimed. The nurse placed her hand on Chris to try and calm him down. “Sir, do not move the needle out of place!” she ordered. Chris swallowed his words and sighed. He did his best not to shiver. The nurse’s touch was ice cold, to his annoyance.

            To the surprise of everyone else in the room, Blaze beamed and held Bailey’s hand. “Wrestling friends?! You mean like Dai Lee and Preston Hoffman?!”

            The nurse did her best to stifle her giggles at the childlike wonder from the princess while Chris and Shojira could only watch in silence. In a moment that surprised her friends, Bailey rubbed the back of her neck shyly. Blaze slowly released Bailey and her ears folded back. This was not becoming behavior of herself, not with Chris receiving a blood transfusion. Chris waved his free hand to try and gather attention once again.

            “Yeah, I’m still here. Just show me that no one broke anything. Or something. I’d rather worry more about this next meeting that these kidnappers are gonna try and pull,” he said, his brow furrowing.

            Shojira approached Chris, finding a free chair to seat himself. “Chris, is something wrong? I mean, besides the stitches and blood transfusion. You’ve been sorta moody and stuff even before this started.”

            Chris snuck a glance at Bailey, who shrugged her shoulders. The wolf, having now completed his transfusion, was now raising his used arm while the nurse was proceeding with the removal of the IV from the room. He rested per the nurse’s orders and breathed.

    His line of sight avoided the three when he admitted, “Only Bailey knows about it but I’ve been having these weird dreams. Where I find this giant purple ball of energy and the closer I get, everything just burns. I don’t know why but I keep becoming drawn to it, wanting to grab the thing and understand its power.”

            Blaze’s mind raced. Chris probably realized it by now, but this purple sphere has something to do with his pyro powers. So what in the world is it exactly? Why does Chris always approach it like a moth to the flame? Wait…moth to the flame…

            “Chris? What if your dreams have something to do with what happened to you tonight?” asked Shojira.

            Chris raised an eyebrow, with Blaze surprised that Shojira was following the same line of thinking as herself. “What do you mean? Like the closer I become drawn…the more it controls me?”

            Shojira tapped his finger against his temple, pausing before replying, “Either that or whatever bigger power that’s responsible and trying to do things their way.”

            Blaze held her chin, closing her eyes. Her brain worked to try and piece things together, but the most that she had was a theory. “Chris? How much do you know about our gods?” The wolf, with his arm bandaged to suppress any bleeding from the puncture of the IV, could only raise his shoulders.

            “I’ve…never really put much thought into them. I can’t really say what I believe now, not with everything that’s been going on,” Chris replied.

    The tigress continued to think before following up on her question. “See, my family has always believed in the Elementals, while always being guided by Agnaria, the goddess of fire. The legends told about her were of a woman who was hardy, strong-willed, and ambitious. But she was also short-tempered and enjoyed fighting. A little bit of her essence could be residing in Chris and it’s starting to gain its own sentience. Sometimes, the Elementals don’t realize a part of themselves become implanted.”

            The three childhood friends all shared glances at what Blaze said.

            Bailey folded her arms. “So, if that’s the case, your goddess’s personality is now dormant in him? How do we keep this from going crazy?”

            Blaze’s eyes appeared rather eased the more she thought. “The thing is, Agnaria loved to fight, yes, but she only wanted to fight able opponents. Maybe ‘she’ saw Antonio and wanted to go at it. Which…he sorta obliged.”

            Shojira queried, “And how sure are you of this?”

            The princess appeared taken aback for being put on the spot. “I don’t know, this is just an idea! Do either of you have any better-suited theories?”

            She had them both there, though Chris’s brain began to swarm with their words as if he was an experiment in the latest god-mortal mixology. He chose to hold his tongue back, not interested in being given more crazy stories about the reason for his outburst. Chris tried to change the subject, asking Blaze, “So what made you such a fan of pro wrestling? Doesn’t sound like you just know Bailey when it comes to that.”

            Blaze stared at Chris, who did not really offer her a reason for the sudden topic change. Bailey massaged the nape of her neck awaiting the princess’ answer. The magenta tigress rubbed her hands together, ears folded once again, stumbling out, “Just the showmanship, athletic ability, and…well…ridiculousness. Like that time you wrestled some guy who was in a shark suit.” Bailey chuckled a bit nervously. She leaned in closer to the princess to explain some things while Shojira scooted closer to Chris, who sat up and his necklace slipped out from under his shirt.

            Shojira eyed the lounging wolf. “You don’t really believe that talk about ‘Elementals’, do you?”

            The wolf opened his right palm, a small fireball appearing in the center. It crackled softly before Chris extinguished it.

            “I don’t know. Gods or not, I don’t know what to feel or think. Everything is just going by at a blur.”

            Shojira quietly nodded, peering back over to Bailey and Blaze, the latter absorbed in a story about a jump off of a ladder.

            “…And so here I was, ready to jump, when all of a sudden, some crazy fan runs in and tries to push me off. Then here comes the referee, who’s about 110 pounds soaking wet and he just BRUTALIZES him with a tackle. The crowd’s just chanting, ‘Let’s go, Ref! Let’s go, Ref! Let’s go, Ref!’”

            Blaze squealed and giggled with obvious approval, much to Bailey’s amusement. The course of their conversation continued down this path until it was time for Chris to leave the hospital. The plan for now was to wait until another message arrived for the royal family. Hopefully, the kidnappers were not spooked or doubted anything as a result of tonight’s events but that was more for Blaze to worry about. After dropping Chris off back at Club 41 to retrieve his car, Blaze stopped him for a moment while she was still in her own.

            “Hey Chris…when all of this is done...is there anything I could do for you? Just to make this headache worth it?” She asked.

            Chris’s mouth opened to speak but he couldn’t come up with an answer.

            “Well, when you figure it out, let me know. Nobody deserves to go through this for nothing. Okay?” Blaze offered, smiling consolingly.

           

    Chris returned the smile, waving at Blaze and telling her good night as he returned to his car. He headed home and found Bailey already there in the living room upon entering his apartment, still in her neon green shirt from earlier. The wolf went straight to his bedroom without a word, already in his pajamas when Bailey entered. Bailey leaned on the door frame and knocked on it to get Chris’ attention.

    When he turned to face her, Bailey shook her head and sighed. “You definitely charged in through without saying hi to me. I know, you saw me at the hospital but I thought we were sorta roommates now, y’know?”

    Wincing, the wolf rubbed his shoulder. Bailey noticed the discomfort and approached Chris, asking, “That did more of a number on you than I thought. C’mon, let’s go watch some TV while I help you.”

    After both were on the couch (Chris changed the channel to the nightly news), Bailey wrapped her large hands around Chris’ shoulders and kneaded them, along with his upper back. Chris goofily grinned as his ears folded sideways and his tail began to wag, hitting Bailey in the face.

    “C-Chris! Move it out of the way or stop it!” she spluttered, spitting out fur from her mouth.

    Chris grabbed a hold of his tail, embarrassed. Bailey only laughed, however, and remarked, “I guess I’m doing such a good job then.” After a couple minutes of nothing to do with tonight’s events appearing on the news, Chris presumed Blaze made sure to put a lid on anything having to do with the investigation.

    Bailey interjected Chris’ thoughts, “So I heard about Club 41 from some of the wrestlers and they say it’s a pretty cool place. What’d you think?”

    Chris twiddled his thumbs, laughing sheepishly. “I didn’t really take the time to notice that much. The bartender that was serving that Syrus guy looked pretty cool though. He was this gecko who was blue, white, and yellow. I saw him again outside before I went to the hospital and I was thinking we could go there ourselves one of these days. Take Shojira with us and maybe Blaze if she would want to hang out.”

    Bailey smiled, glad to hear that Chris had found something positive to take away from tonight. She rubbed her elbow against the valley of Chris’ back, eliciting more satisfied sounds from the wolf.

    “So you had fun having your own private chat with the princess?” Chris snickered.

    Bailey paused for a moment before answering, “I’m surprised how much she really knows her stuff. She’s really the farthest thing that I would picture when you said the word ‘princess.’”

    Chris shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t say that. I think she just has a lot of freedom to be herself instead of having to be all…” He sat up straight and took on a snooty voice. “Oh yes, I do say Madam Augusta of Shropshire! These pieces of cr-r-r-r-r-r-r-ab from the Wasterly Ocean certainly are exemplified by the spices of salt and cayenne pepper!”

    Cackling, Bailey fell against the arm of couch, holding onto her right side. Chris soon burst out laughing as well, leaning against Bailey. After moving him off of her for a moment, she also sat up in a pompous manner, adding in her best overbearing old lady voice, “Ooh! Master Brusselford! You must simply tell me all about the wedding planned between your daughter and that darling boy from Shamalamadingdong! Explain, did you bring in chocolates all the way from the outer reaches of Hatalaugh?”

    “Where in the bloody world is Hatalaugh?” Chris finished, before collapsing on the couch sniggering and trying to catch his breath.

    Bailey rubbed the tears of laughter out of her eyes as she tussled Chris’ hair. “Hey, when I’m done wrestling, we could tour as a comedy act. What would we call ourselves?”

    “Two Dorks Without A Clue,” Chris snorted.

    Bailey gave a heavy exhale and took her chance to gather herself. “Chris, I am so glad I’m staying here with you. I don’t think I would have had this much fun staying home by myself.”

    “Same here. I’m definitely glad you offered to stay because I think I’d be going crazy without someone here,” Chris chuckled. He remembered what Blaze said to him earlier and mumbled. Bailey crooked her head to hear Chris better. Noticing, Chris expounded, “Blaze asked me when I went to get my car if there was anything I would want after this is all over. I can’t think of anything material.”

    “Material?”

    “I dunno, the most I could say is just a new car but I never considered doing this expecting a reward. I sort of figured being able to live in a stable government with a happy family ruling would be reward enough.”

    Bailey nodded and leaned back on the couch. “I think she just said that to try and make things up to you, in her eyes. Sort of goes without saying but you’re under a lot of stress.”

    The electronic jingle of Chris’ phone rang. He answered and listened, mouthing “It’s Blaze” to Bailey. He continued to pay attention before seeming to breathe some relief. He nodded and said, “All right. Will do. Thanks.” He hung up and rubbed his forehead.

    “I take it some good news have come our way, finally?” Bailey said.

    “Almost. The kidnappers sent a new video message with the king. He appears to be physically okay and he said that as long as we continue to follow their directions, nothing will happen. Then Blaze said I have another meeting tomorrow morning but she is going to be with me to keep them from pulling anything,” he explained.

    Bailey folded her arms and made a sound. Chris didn’t know what to make of it but he yawned, stretching and feeling much more loose thanks to the massage. He added, “This time, I’ll be prepared and hey, if someone did attack me, they’d be attacking Blaze as well and can you say…ahem…’Full Authoritative Asskicking?’”

    Bailey couldn’t help but laugh. Even if Chris was probably doing all that he could remain positive, she definitely had to be there for him. The two switched off the television and headed for bed.

     

    The next morning, Chris quietly left the apartment while Bailey was still fast asleep. Blaze was already outside waiting for him in her car, with it being a rather chilly day outside. Both were both dressed more for the summer however, which wasn’t lost upon the two. Chris entered the car, tucking his tail into his lap.

    Chris took a glance at Blaze’s blouse and chuckled. “I wanna take a guess and say that your pyro powers naturally keeps your body warm?”

    Blaze expected the question and already had her response prepared, “It’s a little bit of that, plus my fur. I would assume the same goes for you?”

    Chris shrugged and stretched out his legs as they began to head towards the city park. He looked out of the window, watching the buildings and people pass by in a blur of colors. Blaze noticed his silence and tried to keep the conversation going.

    “So Chris. I really enjoyed listening to your stories at the dinner. Do you have a few more you’d like to share? If you want to, I mean.”

    Supporting the back of his head with his hands, Chris lulled around the idea in his head and asked, “Actually, I wanna know more about you. Chances are that our lives aren’t going to go back to normal after this. Besides, I’d love to know how a royal family lives. I mean…did you go to school with other kids or did you have some appointed teachers?”

    Blaze was taken off-guard by the question, though not necessarily in a negative way. She was apparently pretty good at maintaining proper driving while swimming in her thoughts. “I went to school with other children. My parents believed that it was a good way to begin building a relationship with the people of Aldwynne. I was glad to have friends that were interested in me for me, not just because I was a princess. I mean, of course being a princess had me receive a lot of attention. But I’m grateful that I wasn’t given a free ride. I think that’s the first thing anyone has to do if they ever want the support of their people.”

    “Go to school and learn cursive alongside the kids?” Chris chuckled.

    Giggling, Blaze gave Chris a gentle slap on the arm. “Oh my goodness, you are such a little brat.”

    With a grin on his face, he looked up at the ceiling of the car and allowed his mind to wander. “So, how many people do you have working for you? Do they have their own rooms at the mansion?”

    Blaze pursed her lips for a moment. “I believe we have three groundskeepers, two chefs, and about six maids. We also have personal assistants though my father’s assistant is obviously distraught. And as for rooms, we do supply them if required. But that’s not to say we’re all just sitting on our butts being tended to. Being inactive really makes me all fidgety.”

    Chris chuckled and scratched the back of his ear. “Yeah, I would imagine having nothing to do yourself would get very aggravating.”

    The princess took a glance at Chris’ cross necklace. “That necklace looks very nice. Who gave it to you?”

    The wolf looked down at his jewelry. “Oh. Uh, my dad gave it to me. It has a picture inside of the two of us along with my mother.”

    Blaze beamed. “Aww, that’s so cute. Your family seems really nice.”

    Chris smiled a bit weakly, staring down at the necklace before opening up the locket to remind himself of the picture inside. “I should probably find a way to add my brother and sister into it. Don’t see why they should be left out.”

    Blaze detected a hint of something in his voice but couldn’t figure out what. The wolf sat up in his seat. “So, do you often travel the world with your parents?”

    The princess’s body stiffened considerably. Chris was worried he said something before she squealed, “Oh it’s wonderful! The other countries I’ve been to are beautiful! We get to meet so many different people and experience so much! It’s just…wow!”

    “Do you mind if I turn on the radio?” he asked, finding amusement in Blaze’s glowing answer.

    Blaze gave him the okay and Chris switched it on. The very first sound that burst through the speakers took the both of them off-guard.

    A voice sung out, “I love it when you call me big poppa!” while a smooth, husky voice rapped, “Throw your hands in the air, if you’s a true player!”

    Chris immediately recognized the song and started laughing hysterically, much to Blaze’s joy-turned-mortification. He patted Blaze’s arm before she turned down the radio. Comforting her, Chris wasn’t sure if he could handle this much laughter in the span of several hours though. Blaze was simply unable to respond as she avoided eye contact with Chris and her ears folded back.

    “Hey, I’d rather have you be honest instead of trying to be what you’re not. I don’t care what music you listen to…as long as it’s good,” Chris winked. He sat up and prepared his voice. “Oh, Princess Blaze! I must say that you cannot be expressive or have any interests! You have to be completely boring and devoid of any personality! That is only the true way to r-r-r-r-r-r-rule!”

    Blaze took a moment to process what he just babbled and started to snicker. She strongly wished that everything was completely okay and her father was safe at home just so she could enjoy just palling around. Hopefully, this meeting would bring them one step closer to the safe return of the king.

     

    The city park was rather barren of people while the pair walked from the outer boundaries towards a lake. They kept an eye out for any suspicious activity but were unable to spot anything. Much like Syrus, however, their target was definitely somebody who would have stuck out like a sore thumb even if the park was bustling.

    A young human girl sat alone on a park bench, staring straight ahead with vacant gray eyes. Her hair was as white as the clouds while her skin was a shade darker. Her long curly hair laid upon her shoulders and on top of her long black blouse with white lace on the wrists of her sleeves. Her fingernails were painted black, the same shade as her ruffled skirt with a white hemline. Her leggings and heels were also dark, the girl definitely appearing to be out of her comfort zone.

    As Chris and Blaze approached the girl, she turned her head to face them but her eyes gave the impression that she was looking behind them. Blaze stepped closer, uttering, “Did the king capture the pawn?”

    Chris raised an eyebrow but the girl shyly nodded. Blaze and Chris both joined the girl at the bench, the wolf definitely unsure about how to handle this. The girl gulped and rubbed her hands together while hiding them inbetween her thighs.

            Blaze shifted her eyes at the girl, who was gaping ahead once again. The princess quietly remarked, “You definitely don’t look like someone who would have the gall to kidnap a king on her own free will.”

            The girl shook her head and kicked her feet along the ground. Chris tried to get to her, asking, “Did you owe the one responsible a favor or something?”

            To his and Blaze’s surprise, the girl gave a squeak of fright and cowered to one end of the bench. They shared glances before Blaze tried again. “Do you just not want to talk to us?”

            The girl tried to steady her breath and spoke her first timid sentences. “I-I want to. I want to make everything all better. But…”

            “But?” Blaze queried.

            “It’s hard to know how you feel. You see…I’m blind. I can’t read your faces,” she quivered.

            Chris raised an eyebrow. “You shouldn’t be able to see anything at all if you’re blind.”

            “I-I mean, I’m blind but…I know where I’m going thanks to magic. All I see is the silhouettes and outlines of everything physical. So like your ear here,” the girl trailed off, reaching up and tugging Chris’ left ear gently. Both Chris and Blaze stared at the girl who definitely didn’t notice their odd expressions.

            Chris scratched his neck, heaving a sigh before opting to try and actually discuss something. “Your friend told me what his name was when I went to meet him. Mind telling us yours?”

            The girl grabbed onto her left forearm and squeezed it. The nerves were just pouring out of her like a surging river. It was a miracle that she wasn’t collapsing from the pressure in the air.

            “R-Rachel. My name is Rachel and I’m a witch…I’m not going to get hurt for this, am I?” she shakily responded, hiding her hands in between her legs.

            Chris turned to Blaze and nodded at Rachel, wearing a look that said “You’re not buying this, are you?” Blaze shook her head but Chris continued. “No, I don’t think you’re going to get hurt. But you definitely are riding on a very thin line between freedom and confinement in a jail cell if you don’t tell us something.”

            Blaze was puzzled as to why Chris was going on as if he was the one in charge until Rachel replied, “Actually…I’m supposed to escort you…the boss is ready to see you, Mr. Hayabusa…”

            The princess definitely butted back in, exclaiming, “Hey! If your BOSS wants to see Chris, I’m coming as well! Either I come along or Chris doesn’t show up at all!”

            Chris jumped at her outburst but slowly nodded. It wasn’t the moment that Blaze spoke up but something else that seemed to frighten Rachel. She still cowered away from the pair. “O-Okay! Both of you can meet the boss! Just don’t hurt me!!”

            Both of them remained clueless as for the base of Rachel’s fear but before they could say anything else, the girl got up and dashed off to the same edge of the park that Chris and Blaze arrived at, heading towards a black car with tinted windows. She took too long to enter the vehicle, allowing Chris and Blaze to see that the driver was Syrus. Noticing the smoker catch a glimpse of them, he sped off at a breakneck pace. Chris and Blaze ran as fast as they could back to their car before Syrus got too far.

            “Chris! You drive! I gotta make a call to the police!” Blaze ordered, hurrying to the passenger seat.

            Once the ignition was turned, Chris began his pursuit, surprised by how sensitive the pedals were and how fast the car picked up speed towards the business district. He focused solely on Syrus’ car, though he could faintly hear Blaze mentioning to not pursue either Syrus or themselves. There were hardly any cars around the park at this time of day, leading to continuous green lights. But then, near the early bird coffee shops and restaurants, not only was there a red light but a waiting vehicle in their lane. There was no need to wonder about Syrus’ plan of action, as he immediately swerved around the vehicle and went straight on ahead, barely avoiding passing traffic.

            Chris gritted his teeth and breathed nervously. Blaze’s eyes darted from Chris to the road ahead, which now displayed a green light in their direction. Chris couldn’t wait for the driver who was waiting to pick up speed, thus performing the same swerve around and continued pursuit. The road trailed on with Syrus in sight until another red light. This time, not only were the lanes full but there was traffic heading directly past the car.

            Chris and Blaze found themselves leaning forward, anticipating the next move. The reckless endangerment was evident with Syrus driving onto the sidewalk, mowing down a newspaper stand, trash cans, and sidewalk signs before getting back onto the road. Blaze noticed the look in Chris’ eyes and shook her head rapidly.

            “Chris, no no no, please don’t, this is a $400,000 car, I definitely need this car, Chris, no! NO!!”

            Faced with no choice, Chris turned the car onto the sidewalk as well, slamming into any of the objects that weren’t absolutely crushed by Syrus. The damage was not as severe but the emotional damage was already done. Chris could have sworn that he heard a sniffle come from Blaze as they started to follow Syrus out of the city as well as away from Doragon Machi. The buildings and sidewalks gave way to grassy fields and an upcoming coast line. With much less obstacles to get around and following as close as possible, the coast line gave way to a beautiful ocean rolling in with the tides. In any other situation, it would have been nice to watch the waves go by but they noticed that Syrus turned off onto a dirt road leading up to an abandoned trail surrounded by thick trees. It swerved and swayed from left to right, forwards and backwards. The lack of experience with the trail caused Chris and Blaze to lag behind.

            Following along, the trail ended at what appeared to be a white and blue two-story detached house surrounded that rested near the edge of a cliff. After Chris and Blaze pulled up, their targets were nowhere to be seen. After checking on the damage that came upon Blaze’s car (Chris believing that the princess gave off another sob), they approached the house, which featured some barred windows at the second story. Blaze’s impulses got the better of her judgment upon this sight, as she charged towards the door and knocked on it violently. Chris caught up just in time for the door to creak open with no one behind it.

            The house was a little bit dim in the lighting, as the sun had not yet risen enough to shine through. The entrance hallway parted into three different paths, with the middle path appearing to lead into a kitchen, before a calm yet unnerving voice broke the silence.

            “Princess Blaze Shirazi, your father awaits you upstairs. Please head that way. Mr. Chris Hayabusa, your presence is required in the room to your right.”

            The voice definitely felt like it came from the room to the right. Chris and Blaze looked at each other, sharing a mutual thought before following the voice’s instructions.

            Blaze hurried as fast as she could up the stairs and down the hallway. She found Syrus standing guard outside of what could only be presumed to be the king’s room. His eyes dug right through her heart but Blaze stood firm. With her golden yellow eyes displaying her own intensity, Blaze opened the door. She looked inside and found her father sitting on the bed.

            King Ferno was dressed in the same dress shirt and slacks that he was wearing on the day of his kidnapping. A quick scan of the room would show that there was an adjoining bathroom though his fur was disheveled. It appeared to be from a lack of extensive grooming, one could presume. Appearances didn’t seem to hold much importance when the king’s head turned toward the door as it had opened. His sleepy hazel eyes took a moment to notice his daughter standing before him. His mouth opened but Blaze was already wrapping her arms around Ferno’s massive frame. She buried her face into his shoulder and cried, days of pent-up emotion pouring out. Syrus still stood near the door, though he seemed to be occupied with something else.

            Meanwhile, Chris entered the room to the right where it was still rather dim except for the glow of a lamp. A cold chill came over him as he looked around. There were no pictures of any people on the walls and the furniture was very minimalist. The white walls did not help ease Chris’ building nerves. Then he noticed a figure sitting at the desk that supported the only source of light. Chris’ body suddenly became very rigid as a shiver went down his spine. It was the same chill that he felt from the hospital, when the nurse placed her hand upon him.

            Feeling his heart pounding against his chest, he slowly pivoted his head to find Rachel standing behind him. Her gray eyes stared directly at him while she was still quivering.

            “Please forgive Rachel. With power such as yours remaining dormant within, it was only natural for her to become frightened by your presence.”

            Chris turned to face the figure. It was the same voice that instructed him to come into this room.

            “Hello, Mr. Hayabusa…” the voice trailed off. The figure scooted forward and part of a human man’s face came into view, the light shining off of his glasses. “I do hope this will be an enlightening conversation.”

Me! My niece was just born today and oh my God, I'm so excited! More details to come when they do but yay!

Journal History

deviantID

OrochiPhoenix19
Christian Serrano
United States
Name: Chris Hayabusa

Age: 22

Gender: Male

Height: 6’1"

Weight: 195 lbs

Species: Wolf

Hair color: Gray

Eye color: Blue

Family: Damien Hayabusa (father), Susan Hayabusa (mother), Christie Hayabusa (sister),
Jaden Hayabusa (brother)

Powers/Abilities: Chris is extremely proficient in martial arts, having trained in the Soaring Dragon Dojo since he was 7 years old. He came up with an original style of combat based in Wing Chun, Capoeira, and wrestling. He also has an interest in parkour, which he uses as a part of his daily training regimen. Chris comes from a long line of pyrokinetics, and even though his parents found no use for such powers, Chris’ power is just as strong as the rest of his heritage.

Weaknesses: Chris has a very serious fear of being weak, not being able to carry out his goals as he envisions them or protect others. His sense of justice is noble, but it is prone to being manipulated for others. He also seems to be prone to some inner turmoil he might not be aware of. Chris also has a problem with being carried away by being a showman.

Biography: As a child, Chris was just as bullied as other kids, and he couldn’t stand seeing
them every day at school. Even though he was mostly quiet and was generally well-behaved, Chris always wanted to find a way to help others but wasn’t sure how. Then one day, when Chris was a 2nd grader, one of the bullies decided to target Chris, to get a reaction out of him, the young wolf didn’t pay too much attention to him until the bully started to insult Chris’ parents, a surefire way to anger him at that age. Out of nowhere, Chris’ right hand ignited with burning violet flames and the bully quickly backed off, not mentioning the event to anybody in order to protect his reputation. Chris looked at his quickly diminishing fire. He had power. He found a way to protect others.
But even though Chris realized he was special, he didn’t think things through on how to use it. The following day, Chris witnessed the same bully from yesterday picking on a much smaller student. This was it. This was Chris’ chance to be a hero. From the blue, Chris charged at the 5th grader and jumped on him, wildly using his pyro abilities, causing 1st degree burns towards the “villain”. This power possessed him, as he proceeded to attack the bully while he was still on the ground.
As no surprise, Chris was suspended from school indefinitely, but his parents took him out of school for his own safety from the other kids. Following the suspension, Chris’ younger siblings, Jaden and Christie, looked upon their older brother with a sense of fear over what he could do to them. Wishing to defuse the paranoia occurring among his children, Damien Hayabusa talked to his oldest son about how he appreciated the fact that Chris was trying to help others but was at the same time disappointed that he didn’t handle the situation differently. After talking it over, Damien and Susan enrolled Chris into the Soaring Dragon Dojo, a martial arts school owned and ran by a family friend of theirs named Jirokai, in order to help Chris better grasp his abilities and learn to use them responsibly. Strangely, only two other children were taught at the same time that Chris was, and yet, the dojo was very clean and modern, as if Jirokai taught that many students to afford it. These two new classmates of Chris’ were Shojira Hyujimoto, a tiger who was taking care of his younger sister after their parents succumbed to a disease, and Bailey Rosworth, a female badger who was about twice as tall as Chris as well as a tomboy.
As years passed and Jirokai taught the trio in ways that not only improved their bodies but their minds beyond the limits of their bodies, Chris not only learned how to control his pyrokinesis but to think through situations where he would have jumped the gun if not for his training. Now much more social and energetic thanks to his friendships with Bailey and Shojira, he was able to finish school at a proficient level. Chris has been taking several odd jobs around his hometown as a means to get by living on his own. He technically graduated from the dojo but is still involved to help new recruits. Lately, an announcement was made for a festival in the royal city of Aldwynne that would feature a martial arts tournament. But little did everyone involved know that their lives would change on that day.
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ShirleyVaga Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
happy bd
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:iconthemrcagdl:
THEMRCAGDL Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
Happy Birthday!
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:iconsonicgal390:
SonicGal390 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
:icondjpon-3plz::iconpinkiepieplz: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :party::iconcookiecakeplz::iconcakecookieplz::cake::cookie::milk::party::iconpinkiepartyplz::iconcarameldansenplz::iconcheerplz::iconvictorydanceplz::iconhappybirthdayplz::iconballoonsplz::iconskyepartyplz::iconomgcakeplz::iconfuncakeplz::iconcumple1plz::iconcumple2plz::iconcaekglompplz::iconcaekplz::icongiftplz::iconbummyballoonplz::iconcake3dplz::iconhappybirthdaysignplz::iconpresentplz::iconrainbowbummiecakeplz::iconheartballoonplz::iconforyouplz::icondjpon3plz::iconrainbowcakeplz::iconplaywithfireplz::iconbonklers::iconpineappletardplz::iconhappybirthday2plz::iconbummiesplz::iconlaplayplz::iconlabeatplz::iconballoonplz:
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2015
Hello there :P
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
Yooooooo. :V
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
whats up man :p
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
Ah, just been up to school and stuff. Selling kitchen cutlery. Going to go see :iconhyperchaotix: next month for my birthday.
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(2 Replies)
:iconjinzoki:
JINZOKI Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks for the llama and Merry Christmas! :D
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014
Hey, I want to commission you again. I already sent a note on FA to try and establish it. :V
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:iconjinzoki:
JINZOKI Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014   Digital Artist
Oh can you send it here actually I'm not as active on FA as I am here :XD: I'll get on in a while I'm answering everyone as fast as I could.
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Commission :: Chris and Bailey by Nafyo  
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
  Isabella from AC: Thanks for the Fav by Nafyo  
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Commission :: Chris and Logan by Nafyo  
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:iconwinterfox51:
WinterFox51 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
Hey! I've seen you on KYM a few times.
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
*slowly walks into my bunker shelter* You ain't seen nothin'. >:T
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:iconwinterfox51:
WinterFox51 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
I am simply omniscient, there is no hiding! 
I used to see you alot back when Cringeworthy wasn't locked xD those were the days.
But yeah, I'm Jesse, my KYM name is UACmarine208, nice to meet you finally.
How's it going? :) 
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
Trying to help fix :iconhyperchaotix:'s Saxxies 2014 entry by putting it in the right category.
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(1 Reply)
:iconalexandricswartzwind:
oAo
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014
Long time no see buddy
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2014
Yep.
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
How have ya been?
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
Pretty fine on my end.
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(1 Reply)
:icondanguy96:
DanGuy96 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014
Thanks for the watch.
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:icontixielix:
TixieLix Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the fave on my Street Fighter work!
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