Episode 32

Behind the two-story house, in the large back yard, a fast moving evuukian man wields dual, wooden training short swords and repeatedly attacks a stoic grath man, who promptly blocks with quick movements. Modoran hops back, away from Trakenthin, and rolls his shoulders in an exaggerated stretch. He shakes his head of short, white hair and draws a smirk across his dusky, bluish gray skin. "Damn, you are deceptively fast."

Trakenthin cracks a confident smile and readies his wooden practice sword. "You are an acceptable challenge."

Modoran rolls his dark blue eyes and flicks the hair off his long, pointed ears. "I'll take that as a compliment from you."

He changes his stance, carefully analyzes Trakenthin's body language, and waits. Two maintain careful watch of the other, before both launching into flurries of activity. Loud dull thunks sounds out from the training equipment clashing into each other. Modoran dashes around Trakenthin in circlular motions broken by lunges at an opening in defense. Trakenthin holds his ground, his practice blade swiftly intercepting Modoran's assaults. He tenses up, directs all his focus upon Modoran's approach, and swings out. With cunning deftness, Modoran shifts his momentum to force his body to an evasive direction and dives out of the way of the incoming blade. He instinctively rolls away on the ground from Trakenthin's reach and springs up back onto his feet. After brushing flecks of grass blades and leaves off his tight fitting training gear, Modoran sighs. "Too close. I almost gave you that one."

Trakenthin repeatedly draws in long breaths of air and briefly removes a hand from his sword handle to wipe sweat off his brow. "We have been training for an hour. It is advisable to break. We may grow careless. We should not burden our medical mage with needless injuries."

He glances over towards the back sliding glass door of the two-story house and gives a respectful nod to Deedri, who spooks at the sudden attention. Deedri gathers her composure and awkwardly waves towards both Trakenthin and Modoran. "S-sorry. I didn't want to interrupt. I admit it was exciting to watch."

Modoran turns his head in surprise and blinks when he ponders Deedri's existence near the door. "How long have you been out here watching us?"

A flash of embarrassment fills Deedri's face and she averts her gaze during her admission. "Umm... Just the last ten minutes, maybe? I lost track watching you two..."

Trakenthin grins, puffs out his chest proudly, and nonchalantly props himself up with his sword. "Fan of martial combat?"

Deedri steps away from the brick wall of the house and walks out towards Trakenthin and Modoran. "Well... Somewhat? I don't mind a good non-lethal competition."

When she arrives near both Modoran and Trakenthin, she searches inside one of the large pockets on her apron and retrieves two plastic, flip top containers of liquid. She places one in each hand and holds them out to Trakenthin and Modoran. "I was working potions and medical supplies in the kitchen when I saw you start sparring. So, while the main batch is slow cooking, I mixed up some simple stamina boosters from the leftovers."

She eyes the two the vials with a tinge of uncertainty and then gazes at both Trakenthin and Modoran. "The orange one has a citrus flavor and the yellow one is closer to banana. Protellow flower petals aren't consistent with their taste."

Modoran glances towards Trakenthin and gestures at him to the vials. "I'll let you choose. Both sound good to me."

Trakenthin's expression drifts back to stoic as his eyes momentarily scan around the area and he grasps hold of the yellow liquid filled container with a nod. "Thank you... I prefer banana."

Deedri draws a happy smile on her lips, flicks her furry ears with the tickling of the wind, and gives the remaining container to Modoran. "Drink up. The mixture is only potent in this form for a few hours. After that, it's just flavored water made from expensive ingredients."

Trakenthin and Modoran each flip the tops of the containers and pour the liquids into their mouths. Trakenthin carefully closes the lid and returns the vial to Deedri. Modoran nods a few times as he smacks his lips while experiencing the flavor, and gives the other vial back. "That was really good. Thank you."

He slyly smirks and aims a lift of an eyebrow towards Deedri. "So, have you done any fight training before? I'm sure we could show you the basics, if you want to join in."

Deedri eyes widen, her ears perk up, and she bites her lip in a fight between interest and hesitation. "Well... Any training I've ever done has been strictly for defensive purposes. Medical mages aren't suppose to lead the fight. We are trained to avoid and evade. If that fails, we are suppose to use magic from as far as possible to disable or impede long enough for escape."

She clasps her hands in front of her upon her apron and shrugs with an innocent smile. "It's frowned upon for a medical mage to have to heal themselves due to their own fault of endangering themselves."

Her eyes wander from the gazes of Trakenthin and Modoran, and she rocks ever so slightly to her bashful admission. "But, we do receive some very discipline specific training for defensive close quarters combat."

Modoran sheaths his practice swords into scabbards attached to his belt and crosses his arms with a curious, intrigued smile upon his face. "That's interesting. What did they teach you that's so specific?"

Deedri dons a happy smile with a chipper stance and recounts a summary as she tracks her points with a count of fingers. "A lot of grappling and escaping different holds. We drilled on being grabbed and shaken, and what how to react properly. Many hours of concentration training to teach us how focus magical flow when surprised. Also, common throws and pressure points."

Trakenthin nods plainly and stretches his back. "Sensible. Useful collection."

Modoran places his hands on his hips and tugs the corner of his mouth in thought. "Any examples you can show us?"

With a reserved nod, Deedri takes a step back, plants her stance, and takes a long breath. "Yes. If you could grab my shoulder Modoran, I will demonstrate."

After a few blinks processing Deedri's change in demeanor, Modoran glances to Trakenthin, shrugs his arms out to the side, and places a firm grip upon Deedri's shoulder. "Like this-?"

When Modoran's hand grabs onto Deedri's shoulder, she clamps tightly with both hands onto Modoran's forearm. She quickly spins inwards into his space and tugs Modoran's arm forward, full force with a sharp duck. Modoran follows his arm across Deedri's back, over her shoulder, and flattens the grass beneath his back with a loud thump. For a few moments, Modoran stares blankly at the blue sky above and the clouds conveniently obscuring the noon sun overhead. Deedri's concerned face graces his view of the world and she kneels down next to him. "Are you okay?! I'm sorry! We always trained pretty rough... Being classes full of medical mages, we were prepared to handle most injuries on the mats."

Modoran shifts his focus from the skies above and gazes into Deedri's auburn eyes. He eventually regains his composure with a gallant grin. "I'm just fine. That was an impressive throw that I just wasn't expecting from you. I truly apologize for underestimating you."

A blush of color highlights Deedri's cheeks and she quickly breaks eye contact while she stands back up. Modoran sits up, brushes more grass off his sparring gear, and notices an extended hand from Deedri. He graciously take hold with his hand and she helps pull him up. Trakenthin scratches his chin and quirks a brow. "Good form. Good results. Needs practice."

He straightens his posture and grins smugly. He pushes his practice sword to a stand in the dirt and rests his hands on his sides. "I respectfully doubt you could throw me. Did you receive instruction in confronting an opponent of my stature?"

Deedri's ears perk up and she pulls a slight grin. "Well, with great size differences we were taught to use a different approach. I can show you, if you want. But, it won't be as dramatic as a throw, since I don't want to harm you by accident."

Trakenthin cocks his head to side and stares down at Deedri while his mind puzzles out her last statement. "I am curious. What do you need me to do?"

Extending an arm out, Deedri gestures the motion to Trakenthin. "Just hold your arm out like this."

With an incredulous air obscuring an honest wariness, Trakenthin reaches his arm out, holds it in place, and maintains a careful watch of Deedri. Carefully, Deedri places the palm of her hand underneath the base of Trakenthin's forearm, and moments later a flicker of auburn lights her eyes. Trakenthin's wrist sharply rotates inwards, his forearm muscles tense. His forearm seizes to shaking definition. He witnesses the spasm in wide-eyed bewilderment and moves his arm slowly to observe the phenomena from different angles. Seconds later, his muscles relax back to normal and he flexes his released wrist and hand. "What. Happened?"

Deedri clasps her hands back together and rests them in front upon her apron with a proud smile. "It's a use of medical magic that locks the muscles up by causing them to contract. I used a very low strength on you. That way it was short and painless."

Modoran shakes his head side to side to break from his gawk at Trakenthin's arm and glances to Deedri. "I have to admit... That's a bit scary. And, impressive."

Trakenthin finishes stretching his arm and wrist out, and gazes at Deedri with a renewed interest. "What else can be done?"

Deedri's eyes search her mind and she relays what she finds. "Well, the simplest measures take the least amount of energy and concentration. So, targeted muscle locks and nerve signal disruptions. More advanced, you can disable limbs, cause coordination issues, and... invoke violent evacuations."

Modoran and Trakenthin exchange looks and return to stare warily, slightly uneasy at Deedri. She sighs with the faintest trace of an evil smirk. "Either AND both ends."

Modoran and Trakenthin blink long and wide-eyed in response. Deedri grimaces uncomfortably and frowns as she continues. "In dire situations, medical mages can be very destructive, despite it going well against our principles. We can sever tendons, rip muscles, shatter bones, and rupture organs.

Trakenthin shifts his stance back straight and contorts his mouth gradually. "You have my sincere respect for your capabilities."

After a series of quick nods, Modoran tries to maintain a confident smile despite the betrayal of his mind's thoughts. "Please, let me know if I do anything to make you angry. I WILL apologize and correct it."

Deedri deflates and her ears droop to the sides. "Please understand, I don't want to ever use my training that way. It's not why I chose this career."

Her ears lift up slightly and she eyes Trakenthin and then Modoran with a shy smile. "If I'm going to be aggressive, I only ever want a sparring weapon in my hands."

A sly grin graces Modoran's lips and he winks to Deedri. He draws out a training short sword from a sheath on his belt, hands the wooden practice blade handle first to Deedri, and nods to Trakenthin. "I think we can help you there."

Sitting around the dining table, Aristespha, Sebastian, Bach, Dretphi, Sotalia, and Cideeda intensely listen to the voice of Nash through Aristespha's aetherphone. Nash's voice echoes out into living room holding the eerie silence of the gathered group, as nervous glances aimlessly seek around the area. "So, that's all I got right now. Not exactly the news I wanted to give you all on a Saturday evening, but... I figured you all needed to know want exactly was there. Despite how grim it fucking is."

Aristespha rubs the temples of her head with both hands and releases a long, dumbfounded sigh. "That was not exactly what I thought it would be, but I can't say it wasn't out of the realm of possibility."

Nash remains silent for a few moments and sounds out a similar sigh over the phone. "I'll send you the rest of the information and documents we got as Harvos and his team puts them into the system. Unfortunately, I don't know how much more I'll be able to get you, since higher ups are getting involved."

With a shift to sly tone, he playfully whispers loud. "But... I'll be sure to relay what I can when they aren't paying too much attention."

A smile cracks on Aristespha's face and she rolls her eyes with a flit of the brow. "As always, thank you. I'll let you go now. We all will need some time to process all of this ourselves tonight."

Nash laughs with a confirming cadence. "Can't blame you. I'm going to go back to researching alcoholism and archaic video games. You all take care."

Aristespha moves her hand above the phone and hovers finger over the on-screen button. "You too."

With a light tap on the display, the phone ends the call. The group exchanges mixed expressions between themselves and a looming silent pressure weighs down upon them all. Sebastian drifts back from the table in thought and takes few moments to pan a gaze around the living room. As his attention rotates around the room, finally settles between both Bach and Cideeda. Bach stares down at the table top with his eyes sorting through his mind while his expression blanks out. Occasionally, a twitch of his cheek precedes a blink. Cideeda squirms in her seat with arms crossed. Her hands cover her elbows tightly, her tail subconsciously coils up defensively around her waist, and she shrinks her stature, drawing herself inwards. Sotalia gently rests a hand upon Cideeda's shoulder, rubs her back comfortingly, and whispers. "You okay?"

Cideeda returns her focus back to the group overall and nods slowly with a weak smile. "Yes. Just old memories coming back."

A wince appears upon Sebastian's ethereal face and he uneasily contorts his lips with a long ghostly sigh. He gazes at both Cideeda and Bach with concern and dutiful resignation. "I know it's a really uncomfortable subject for the both you... Especially, since it's come up recently. But, is there anything you two are willing to tell us about Nightmare Geists from experience? You are the only two people I know of that have had first hand encounters."

He watches both Bach's and Cideeda's discomfort and responds with hesitation. "If it's too much, I understand-"

A small, stronger smile graces Cideeda's lips and she looks up to Sebastian as she stretches some tension out of her body. She unfolds her arms, guides her tail onto her lap, and combs the fur with her clawed fingers. "It's fine. I just don't know what I can really add. My last encounter was over twenty years ago and I was just six years old. So, I only remember bits and pieces at best."

Her shoulders stiffen. She rolls them out with an uneasy exhale and briefly, distantly stares to herself. "I remember what it looked like when it tore out part of my mother's old house and... grabbed hold of me."

She pauses a long time, and witnesses supportive expressions of concern appear upon the rest of the group. After a considerable effort to navigate her emotions, she finally continues. "I remember, the black flaming aura it had. Its grip was cold and the fire felt like it sunk into your very being... And... tried to... negate your very essence? Existence? It's really hard to describe, but it felt like something was trying to cancel out a part of your very being."

She closes her eyes, leans into the chair back, and breathes out a shudder. She grips her tail tightly and manages a strong smiling composure. "After that, all I remember is my father firing his imbued Perimeter rifle, falling into my mother's arms, and a group of adventurers firing all kinds of spells at it. Then, I passed out and didn't wake up until a month later."

A grimace overtakes her face and she sighs in frustration, shaking her head. "I try to remember more each time I think about it. But, that's all I have right now. I wish it could be more useful."

Sebastian nods graciously and presents a thankful smile. "It's fine. Any details you can give will help us all."

He glances to Bach, waits a few seconds, and witnesses Bach's silence. He tilts his head to the side. "No pressure, bro. If you don't feel comfortable now, we can-"

Bach voice interrupts in a serious, explanatory tone. "Four to five meters tall. Black... Almost light absorbing, magical miasma that radiates out like fire. Two legs. Two arms. And, a mass at the top that served as a head. But, it was completely featureless... But... Something like eyes... looked at me."

His eyes lock forward and refuse to acknowledge the stunned stare of Cideeda across the table from him. A few breaths enter and leave his lungs. Bach blinks back to awareness, notices the looks upon him, and sighs. "It was late afternoon, near dusk on the fourth day of the assignment out at some old ruin that once served as a magical power collector. Condenser, maybe? Either way, nothing was suppose to be out there. It was a gift shop away from being a tourist trap at that point."

Lifting his head up, he recounts the events to the rest of the group with a frown. "An hour after we set camp up, it walked right into the area. Immediately saw us... And roared. It sounded like bellowing, enraged. distorted static. It just charged at us with no other warning. We scattered out, hoping we could keep rotating distractions so we all could get far from it. But... It didn't care."

Bach sits up straight in the dining chair, crosses his arms tightly, and shrugs up his shoulders with a cringe. "Most our spells did absolutely nothing to it. Well, some temporarily knocked out chunks of it, but those reappeared back in seconds. Raw energy blasts did the most to it, but nothing really damaged it. Unless it was missing a lot of itself, it did not slow down."

He closes his eyes, carefully draws in air, and a grim nature tinges his voice. "It knocked down my instructor and was lining up to run down the three other students. Two, who could barely walk, were trying to get another unconscious student out of the area. So... I decided to give IT something else to worry about and hit it with a D-Ball."

Sotalia interest piques and her attention focuses upon the current part of the tale. Bach opens his eyes wide and shakes his head. "That was one of the dumbest things I have ever done, even with everything I've done recently. It turned out the D-Ball hurt it deeply. It wailed out in utter anguish and paid attention only to me. That's when I noticed it was missing a bigger chunk than normal."

Aristespha attentively watches Bach carefully and Sotalia leans slightly over the table in anticipation. Bach groans from past defeat and frustration colors his tone. "But, gods dammit, it still reformed. I literally saw the shredded magical essence that comprised it recondense back onto its body."

Hope flattens out within Sotalia and Aristespha nods solemnly as her mind processes the new information. Bach blinks as the scene from the past plays back out in his mind and his face grimaces more. "Thankfully, the other students escaped, but it was coming right for me. I threw... D-Ball after D-Ball at it... I don't remember how many? A dozen or so... I was completely panicked. I wasn't thinking clearly at all. I had never thrown that many before. I don't know how it was possible even today."

Sotalia eyes widen as she internally calculates the raw energy mathematics. Bach sighs as his distant gaze drifts towards the table top surface. "I got cornered eventually and I was completely tapped out. I'd hoped to slow it down enough to get away from it, but very little phased it. When it stood over me, I had never been more scared in my life. It reached down for me..."

A long silence follows Bach's trailing statement. His eyes dart around a scene in his mind and his face contorts to the replay of events. As tension shrinks his posture and he sinks into his seat, a firm hand grasps Bach's shoulder and Dretphi speaks calmly with concern on her face. "Do not stress yourself. We understand if it is difficult. Painful to recount."

Bach's attention returns to the warmth of the living room and the supportive group around him. He dons an attempt at a smile and shakes his head with a sigh. "It's okay. It's just a really hard part to remember, because I'm not entirely sure what exactly happened. It feels disjointed and I don't know how to piece it together to make any kind of sense."

His body language loosens up and he vents out tension through a long exhale. "All I'm sure of is that there was a bright flash. Next thing I can remember clearly is waking up the next early morning to the sounds of rescue teams searching the area."

With an attempt at levity, Bach shrugs his shoulders and unfolds his arms out with a smirk. "So, I don't how useful that information is. Well, except don't piss of a five meter tower of black fire burning magical destruction. And well... Run away, if possible."

Sebastian leans forward, cranes his head around, and meets his brother's gaze with a smile. "It's good information. Thanks for telling us, bro. Really. Every bit helps."

Holding her chin by a hand in thought, Aristespha glances over to Bach with a curious perk to her brow. "I remember reading reports stating that narrow spectrum, specialized energy spell does very little to a Nightmare Geist."

Bach turns his head towards Aristespha and slowly nods to confirm. "Yes. I don't think it even felt those spells hit. The disintegration spells and raw, broad spectrum energy attacks did the most harm."

Cideeda shakes her head with disbelief and an astounded grin upon her lips. "I can't believe you picked a fight with one."

After a roll of the eyes at himself, Bach groans at his past self's actions. "That was NOT my plan. But, to be honest, I really didn't have a plan at all. I just felt I had to do something and threw the most dangerous thing I could think of at it."

An amused, proud grin appears on Sebastian's ghostly face. Sotalia narrows her eyes at Bach with quizzical lift of the brow and raps her long fingernails on the table. "A dozen of those disintegration ball spells?"

Bach shrugs awkwardly and briefly grits his teeth to an uncertain grin. "Well, I guess? Maybe a little less? I was too focused on flinging one after another to keep an exact count..."

He pauses a moment, internally replays the words he allowed from his mouth, and winces to resignation as realizes the implications. A devious grin reveals itself upon Sotalia's mouth and she sits back with an air of renewed interest. "That's REALLY intriguing to hear."

Aristespha nods in thought and resumes her conversation. "From the research I've read, that makes sense. The currently held theory is that elder energy can permanently harm a Nightmare Geist, since they were designed and mass produced to neutralize Elder Geists. Accomplished by quite literally charging into contact with them."

Dretphi perks an eyebrow and tilts her head to the side. "They are suicide tacklers? Sacrifice themselves to destroy the target by contact?"

Aristespha nods slowly, rests her arms on the table, and idly plays with her aetherphone. "Exactly. They were an unfortunately effective solution to what was thought to be an invincible defense."

In the moments of idle thoughts afterward, she picks up her phone from the table, angles the display into her view, and taps through a few menus. "So... I know we have some food we could eat here. But in light of recent news, I really want to order in from that multi-cultural buffet place, again."

The rest of the group mentally shelves previous topics and shifts focus to the immediate concern of dinner. Each debates on what to add to the quickly growing order.

Deedri wanders between sections of the kitchen. Rows of neutral colored cabinets encircle the space and stretches of patterned counters tops line the space below with breaks for appliances and the dual basin sink. Deedri's ears perk behind her and adjust to a source somewhere upstairs. She pauses above the kitchen sink after resting a pot in the larger basin and waits. Her ears minutely flick and twitch as they pick out faint voices. Eventually, she releases a long, disappointed sigh, lifts the handle on the faucet, and guides the spout over the pot. She quietly murmurs to herself, while her toe claws dig into the tile floor. "They argue so much..."

With a clawed finger hovering over a paragraph of instructions in a book, she reaches out to the oven and turns the temperature dial down. When the pot fills up halfway, she cuts the water off, lifts the pot, and places it on the electric stove top burner. Navigating around the surrounding space of the kitchen, she sweeps up herbs into a bowl from a cutting board resting upon a counter top, plucks a few roots from plastic bags resting on the bar joining the kitchen to the dining area, and steps over to swing open the refrigerator door to pull out two dimly glowing blue glass flasks. She slides over to the stove top, clicks the knob to the appropriate electric burner and glances behind her to squint at the book. With a confirming nod, she mumbles to herself. "Hmm. Might need a little more protellow fluid extract..."

Trakenthin's head peers over the counter top bar from the other side of the dining table and he watches attentively. He observes with great interest, his idle hand keeping his place within a thick novel. After a few minutes of Deedri darting around the many stations of the encircling kitchen, Trakenthin speaks carefully within a lull in activity with a genuine curiosity. "Did you not finish potion brewing yesterday?"

Deedri stands back up from with a pot lid from a shelf under the oven, and places it on top of its mate. She spins around, blinks in thought, and smiles with a nod. "Yes. I finished brewing potions yesterday. I'm finishing up reagents and other materials today."

Trakenthin slowly acknowledges, blinks his hazel eyes, scratches his and gradually returns his attention to his book. "Oh. Understood."

A prominent series of muffled stomps upon the carpet covered stairs precedes a long growing growl of Tassilda as she rounds the corner of the archway leading to the kitchen. She grimaces with stifling, blue on black eye twitching rage. She stands flexing her long, black nailed hands, and exhales a shaky groan of boiling irritation. "The NERVE of that... CREATURE."

Trakenthin only affords a simple blank stare with a slight lift of the brow to Tassilda. Deedri pivots in place to glance over to Tassilda and keeps stirring a spoon in the contents of the pot. "What's happened?"

Tassilda slowly steps forward, regains her composure by rolling the tension free from her shoulders, and readjusts her tight fitting workout pants and top with a dramatic sigh. "SHE has Chad convinced that somehow I will be able to teach HER anything about the magical arts anytime soon. The only thing that wretched little snake is good at is finding the right beds to keep warm in."

Deedri frowns and shakes her head side to side, and weakly pleads, uncertainty betraying the original intent of her words. "We should at least try to give her a chance?"

Both Trakenthin and Tassilda stare at Deedri incredulously. Deedri's ears droop and she bites her lip as her eyes avert from them. "I'm trying. I like to give everyone a chance, but... She's really making it difficult to do."

Trakenthin shakes his head of short dirty blonde hair and with a slight frown. "Noble intent. Wasted on that one."

Graceful, proper confidence gradually returns to Tassilda and she groans in a mix of sympathy and frustration towards Deedri. "Your efforts are commendable, but I question how long you will be able to keep that attitude. Especially, given that I suspect she is going to overstay her welcome."

Deedri blinks and winces slightly with a twist to the corner her mouth. "What do you mean?"

Tassilda turns her head, tilts her eyes down, and lifts a brow. "Given recent nocturnal activities, I think her internship is going to last longer that any of us like."

With a cringe and a long grumble, Trakenthin growls out his irritation. "I must concur. I have HEARD Chad's approval."

He snorts with narrowed eyes, flips over to the next page in his book, and stares idly at it for a few moments. His lip curls to a sneer of disgust. "I have yet to NOT hear both in recent nights."

Tassilda rests a hand upon her ample chest and closes her eyes with a twist of the head. "You have my most sincere sympathies. I can't even imagine trying to sleep with that going on."

Deedri contorts her mouth in concern, sighs, and glances over to Trakenthin. "I have plenty of medical cotton that works well in the ear for dampening sounds. I know from personal experience... You can have as much as you need."

A sly smile graces Tassilda's mouth and she shifts her weigh with sway of the hips to eye Deedri. "Speaking of things medical... I was curious to what the procedure would be if a member of the team was to experience discomforts of a... Social variety?"

Deedri dons a blank expression as she searches within her mind, flipping through protocols. "After an initial questionnaire, a visual examination, and if necessary a manual inspection. Possibly a few tests to determine more details as to the nature of the ailment. Magical remedies may be needed in extreme cases or to alleviate severe discomfort, but usually a prescription antibiotic or curative compound will handle it."

She rests a curled finger upon her lips, thinks a moment, and continues her response. "Thankfully, there are many potions and creams that the patient can self administer after initial treatment."

An evil grin overtakes Tassilda's lips. She flits her brow at Deedri, rests her hand upon her hip, guides her black hair over a horn, and ices her words with heavy sarcasm. "I'm so glad you are well versed in such procedures. I feel given the interactions between our illustrious leader and our... spirited... intern... Your knowledge may be put to the test."

Deedri pauses from stirring the contents of the pot upon the store top as realization washes a wave of discomfort over her body. Her stare grows distant, her furry ears pull back low, her shoulders tense, and she visibly shudders. After a few moments, she resumes mixing the boiling concoction upon the stove top. "It is my duty to the team to satisfy all medical needs to the best of my ability."

She eyes Tassilda and Trakenthin and sighs. "But, I do sincerely hope certain aspects of my abilities are not put to that particular test."

Deedri's ears flick back towards the stairs and she curiously eyes the archway, puzzling. A faint, nearly transparent shimmering figure darts around Tassilda, quickly moves around the side of the table opposite to Trakenthin, and reaches the sliding glass door. The door shifts open slightly and the figure blurs with activity. An invisible force rolls out onto the backyard and disturbs a long line into the grass. The mass of visual distortion lowers down to the floor, lifts up the white tablecloth, and slips underneath the dining table. Deedri's ears twitch to another source of sound from the stairwell, her eyes widen, and she devotes her full attention to mixing the contents of pot before her.

A series of light, rapid steps cascade down, and Veevi rushes out into the shared kitchen dining area. She glances to Trakenthin studiously reading a book, Tassilda looking over the kitchen, and Deedri preparing a mixture. Brushing her pink hair out of her pink pupil eyes, she scans the rest of the area and spots the open sliding glass door. She puffs up her chest boldly underneath her short length shirt, sways her hips, places her hands upon her short shorts, and proudly struts to the door with a sly smirk on her lips. "If I had my guess..."

Veevi pulls the door open the rest of the way, peers out into the backyard, and excitedly snickers as her eyes follow the trail in the grass. She steps through outside, closes the door behind her, and intensely follows along the path of parted grass. Trakenthin slowly lifts his head from his book, flips it pages down upon the tabletop, and stands up carefully. He steps over to the sliding glass door, inspects it, engages the lock, and slides the vertical blinds to conceal it. He sits down, lifts his book back up, and cracks a dry smirk. Tassilda grins sinister, pivots in place, and strides towards the front door. "I'll get the other door."

The transparent visage rises from underneath the table with a flip of the tablecloth and grows more opaque to reveal Modoran's worried expression. "Gods. I'll be glad when this internship is over. She is a persistent little pain in the ass. I can't even hang out in my own room with her pestering me to teach her how to sneak around."

Trakenthin rolls his eyes, Deedri frowns, and Tassilda flits her brow as she returns through the archway. "About that... We have an interesting theory about that."

Sotalia pulls her lip up into sneer and flicks a finger across the surface of the tablet. The readout on the display casts a flicker of light onto her face as she lays out in the recliner. After a few more swipes through various screens of official text, she releases the tablet onto her stomach and stretches her arms out to the side with a groan. "All these jobs are either boring, annoying, or both so far!"

She rolls her head to the side to gaze over the couch at Cideeda and Dretphi. "You two find anything good?"

Cideeda pulls herself up from a slouch on her pillow to sit upright and glances over her shoulder to Sotalia. "Found a few ruin survey and inspection jobs near that other place we had suspicions of being a Noxian hang out. Might be able to take care of a few jobs there and check out that one location at the same time."

Sotalia angles her tablet up to her view, taps the on screen map with a lift of brow, and brings up a new listing of items upon the screen. "Okay. These looks a bit better."

Dretphi sits opposite to Cideeda on the couch with her arm propped upon her knee, supporting her head with a hand. She squints at a tablet upon the coffee table, cocks her head to the side, and puzzles at the description on the device. "There is a local whelp removal job."

Cideeda twists her lips and briefly sticks her tongue out in disgust. "Pass. They may be pests, but I don't like killing the little guys."

Sotalia's head rocks against the cushion of the couch chair in a rough nod of agreement. "Too cute for me to annihilate with my spells. Now give me some really nasty vermin or slimes, then we can talk."

Dretphi lifts her head up and gazes towards both Cideeda and Sotalia as surprise mixes into her expression. "They want them captured alive. Unharmed."

Both Cideeda and Sotalia exchange glances with Dretphi. Sotalia touches a search button the display and eyes over to Dretphi, her interest piqued. "What's the job number?"

Cideeda presses a few spots on her tablet and waits. Dretphi drags the document down to a large header and reads off the encoded number. "Three six one six dash eight six seven eight."

Seconds later after golden and emerald pairs of eyes scan the literature upon respective tablets, Sotalia speaks up with a childish delight and excitedly squirms in the recliner chair. "Oh. My. Gods! These are fancy whelps! I SO wanted one of these when I was a teenager."

Slowly examining the documented list, Cideeda's brow flits and she stares at the inventory, surprised by the individual descriptions. "Wow! I can see why whoever wants them captured unharmed. If I remember right, these are some expensive breeds. The job pays decently, too."

An amused smile graces Dretphi's lips and she glances over to Cideeda and Sotalia with an air of satisfaction. "Should I bookmark the job?"

Both Sotalia and Cideeda nod in unison as they continue to read the details of the job. Across the room at the dining table next to the kitchen bar, Aristespha, Bach, and Sebastian survey a collection of documents, maps, pictures, and other articles upon the table top. Aristespha hovers a pencil over a spot on the map, taps idly, and ponders, staring at a page of paperwork. "It all checks out. But, I still can't believe it."

Sebastian slowly shakes his head as he floats above the dining table and carefully inspects the spread. "It was a huge operation to create the place and almost as huge to conceal it afterwards. I don't think we would have ever found it unless we got those coordinates from that bunker computer system."

Bach blinks hard and long, lifts his head away from the organized chaos upon the table, and rubs his eyelids. "We printed this much off and there STILL more coming in. It was nice they included an office printer as part of the house rental, but I hope they don't charge per page."

Aristespha pulls back her silvery blue hair over a long, pointed ear, and sighs with a smile and playful eyeroll to Bach. "No, they charge a flat rate per month. But, they may reconsider that after we are done."

The tablet near Aristespha vibrates upon the wooden tabletop which amplifies the rumble. Aristespha taps the screen, reads the notifications, and slides it over to Bach. She leans back into her chair and groans in mild defeat. "Oh gods. Another batch. Could you look through them? I need to focus on what is out here for a bit."

Bach nods and guides the tablet over. He slides the old, necklace and blue ribbon wrapped journal off to the side, and maneuvers through a series of menus on the tablet. "Sure. I'll see if it's anything relevant."

He sorts through the lists of document files, peeking at the contents through previews, and stops upon one large image file. He taps the preview on the screen and it expands the image out to the extents of the display. Bach closely examines the scanned photograph of a team of people lined up in the rows. With a quick gesture to zoom in, he scans from the top through the rows of faces. He reaches the bottom row and ends his search at the right corner. "Hmm, here's a picture of one of the teams..."

His finger drifts near the close button, but recognition boils in his mind and freezes his movement. Familiarity seizes Bach's full attention and his eyes lock onto the people in the bottom, right corner. He enlarges the section more and stares closely, his head lowering close to the picture. He scrutinizes a man, woman, and child. A minute later, he slowly rotates his head to gaze upon the old, necklace and blue ribbon wrapped journal. His eyes widen. He reaches over to lift the blue ribbon in hand and snaps back to the blue ribbon in the child's hair. He squints at the woman and notices faint lines draping from her neck. Bach blinks hard, feels the necklace, and exhales with a stammer. His focus falls upon the child's bright blue scarf. His eyes open fully, his pupils narrow, and he withdraws his head back away from the tablet. Both Aristespha and Sebastian observe Bach confused. Sebastian sinks down lower to Bach's level and questions. "What's wrong, bro?"

Bach raises the tablet display towards Aristespha and Sebastian, and points at the bright blue scarf. Second later, Aristetpha covers her mouth in shock, while Sebastian's visage visibly pales.