The next morning, Zuko was up and ready fairly early. He stood looking out of the window, watching as the sun greeted the city. He hadn’t told BroBob what time to come by, so he was expecting the Technician to arrive fairly late, however he was surprised when there was a knock on his door. Once opened, BroBob raised his hand in a wave and smiled.
“Bro!” He exclaimed.
Zuko just nodded and stepped out of the apartment, closing the door behind him and powering down the hallway, with BroBob in tow. The two walked in silence, however just as they were headed towards the entrance for Technicians and Hoods, a familiar voice called out to Zuko.
“Yo, Izano!” Curtis called out, prompting Zuko to turn around and look at him.
“Curtis.” Zuko simply replied.
Curtis was walking with Cassandra and her two Assistants; however he approached Zuko on his own. He had a smile on his face and once he reached Zuko, started patting his shoulder happily.
“Hey man, it’s been a while hasn’t it! I don’t see you for days, then next thing I hear, you save some Agents during last night’s flare up? What were you even doing there, dude?”
“I was looking for something.”
“Really? Did you find it?”
“I see. We’re on our way to a meeting with Captains and Leaders, and I am so not looking forward to it. I’m still in hot water with Pop after the whole jumping out of the window stunt. He just can’t seem to let it go. Oh, and that old man made me pay for the repairs personally! Can you believe it?”
“I can, actually.”
“But I wasn’t the one who made either hole, dude! You did!”
“Do I look like I have money to pay for anything? Besides, it was all your idea. Take responsibility for your actions.”
“I should be saying that, you bastard!” Curtis barked, before sniggering and patting Zuko on the shoulder again. “By the way, have you found anything further about the previous attacks?”
BroBob, who had been a silent spectator up to this point, suddenly had his ears prick up. Curtis had been first person to have sought him out for information about Izano Zuko, so he wasn’t sure whether or not he was asking Zuko the question as an Agent, or a spy for his father.
“Definitive? No. Clues? Yes.”
“Really?! Anything you can share??” Curtis enthusiastically asked.
“Nothing worth sharing at the moment.”
“It doesn’t matter if it isn’t worth sharing, share it anyway. Shit, do you have time? Let’s sit down for some breakfast, and—”
“Do you think we have time for that, you idiot?” Cassandra barked. “You just mentioned that we’re en route to a meeting! Stop making pointless breakfast appointments.”
“Huh?! Now is when you decide to speak? In fact, how rude can your metallic ass be? At least greet Izano!”
“Hmph.” Cassandra snorted.
“Ugh, that might be our cue – look, when you're done with your business, maybe we can get something to eat. Later, Izano!”
Curtis then started walking, and Cassandra followed after him. As she and her Assistants walked past Zuko, she snorted once more.
“Trash walking around with a savage – what a perfect fit.” She virtually spat out.
The trio continued walking until they caught up to Curtis, who appeared to scold Cassandra when she reached him. Zuko watched them walk off for only a second, before turning around and walking off, BroBob quickly following after. Once they had exited the parking lot and HQ itself, BroBob finally spoke.
“Yo, was that okay?”
“Was what okay?”
“Speaking to the Archmage’s son like that? Brometheus told you that he was one of those who was asking about you, right?”
“You did. I did not really tell him anything, but if we find further proof that is concrete, I will fill him in.”
“Understood. But just to put it on record, BroBob isn’t too sure about it.”
As they drove towards the Apothecary that was next on the list, something appeared to be troubling BroBob so much that his face gave away just how much he was in deep contemplation.
“What is it?” Zuko asked.
“Huh? What do you mean?” BroBob replied.
“Something is on your mind.”
“Oh! Nah, it’s nothing. Brometheus just can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgotten something important.”
“Something important? Such as?”
“If Brometheus knew that much, he wouldn’t be having this much trouble remembering what it was, now would he?”
“Hmph.” Zuko snorted in reply, before quieting down.
After they reached the first store, it all went pretty much exactly as it had the day before, with the store owners by and large completely shooting down the notion that they had any of those high level, high cost reagents in stock. The more places they went to, the deeper into the Non-Human Districts they delved until slowly but surely, they started leaving the ‘mixed blood’ areas behind, and entered the ‘full blood’ Districts. Zuko looked around slowly as they drove through, and even he appeared to be in slight shock at the squalor these people lived in. They were in an undoubtedly Elven District, and the different types of Elves could be seen going about their daily lives. Sun Elves, Wood Elves and Rain Elves were in the majority, differentiated not only by the hue or tint of their skin tone – with Sun Elves being yellow, Wood Elves brown, and Rain Elves blue – but also the angles in which their sharp ears pointed denoted not only which type of Elf they were, but their hierarchy in the grand scheme of Elven society. The car pulled up to the busted up parking lot to what looked like it should be an abandoned shopping complex, and Zuko would have thought that it was if it wasn’t for the fact that there were people actually moving around, entering shops and such.
“Is it that much of a shock to you, Izano?”
“Is what that much of a shock?”
“Seeing how those don’t have any Human blood within them live.”
“Hmph… the strong live how they want to live. The weak live how they are told to live. It is as simple as that.”
Zuko snorted with the kind of conviction and authority that made BroBob feel just smallest bit pumped up. When Zuko stepped out of the car and began walking, BroBob was right next to him, and their respective uniforms drew the attention of the local populace. Despite wearing the cloak, Zuko’s Robes beneath were revealed due to the speed with which he was walking, and despite BroBob being dressed like a Technician, it was still official Order attire, which meant that he drew just as much attention as the big man next to him. BroBob then pulled his phone out, which was linked to his car, and was using the Navigation to lead them to the shop in question.
“Damn… this place… are we even sure that the—”
“There it is.” Zuko said as he pointed to the sign.
“Emporium of Amazingness.” BroBob said in barely contained disbelief. “What a shitty name.”
“I know, right?” Zuko said as he pushed through the door.
The shop was extremely similar to the first one the pair went to the day before, so BroBob was not all that excited to be there. Zuko however had something of a grin on his face as he saw many high level Alchemical reagents all hanging by rope and stacked on shelves. After visiting more useless shops than either man even count, they were finally in a place where they might get some useful information. As they both came in to sight after popping out from behind a shelf, the lady who was seated behind a counter smoking looked up and saw them. She cared little for the shorter, pudgier man; however the tall one made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She felt like there was something about this man that absolutely demanded respect, and she knew that it would be dangerous not to give it to him. Before they even reached her, she pulled the cigarette, which was on an elaborately decorated Elven cigarette holder out of her mouth and set it on the counter, before standing up and neatening herself up. Her traditional Elven robe, which practically hung off her as if she was a coat rack and sandals, also decorated with elaborate designs clearly pointed Sun Elf heritage. She held one hand in front of the other, before bowing her head slightly.
“Greetings, honoured customer.” She said in a sweet sounding voice. “May I ask who you are, and what one such as yourself would require from my humble shop?”
“I guess right now, I am here as an Agent of the Order. What I seek is information.”
“Oh my… one such as you is an Agent? Very well, even if it is insufficient, I shall tell you everything that I know.”
Zuko didn’t say a word, as he pulled out his Alchemy Book, opened it to the desired pages, and placed the book on the counter. By that time, the woman had already made her way back behind the counter, and sat on her chair again. She picked the book up, and her eyes scanned over each and every ingredient that was in either recipe. She sat perfectly still after reading the recipes over and over again, before looking up at Zuko, a myriad of emotions and thoughts coursing through her brain. She eventually let out a sharp breath, and got up, made her way over to the front door. After locking the door and placing a ‘back in 5 minutes’ sign up, she shuffled her way back to the two gentlemen.
“Please follow me, esteemed customer.” She said before walking again.
Zuko started following after her and BroBob after him. The lady reached inside her left sleeve and pulled out an old, worn looking wooden token. As they approached what looked like a regular shelf, she slid the token into a groove in the shelf, and it suddenly slit, revealing a spiral staircase that descended into darkness. She turned to look at Zuko, and noticed that his companion was right there with him.
“Forgive me Esteemed Customer; however your Agent companion will have to remain here.”
BroBob suddenly looked like he had been slighted; looking the lady, then at Zuko, then back at the lady. He let out a sigh and with a slight shrug of the shoulders, he nodded.
“That will not be happening.” Zuko stated matter-of-factly. “He comes with me.”
The woman looked at Zuko for only a second and nodded.
“Forgive me. Please, right this way.”
The lady descended down the stairs with speed and elegance despite it being dark. She suddenly remembered that they weren’t used to them and snapped her fingers, after which, every single torch she walked past seemed to catch a light on its own. They eventually reached the bottom of the stairs and walked into a rather impressive example of an Alchemy Lab. Fresh ingredients were being grown, animal species that provided, or became high level components were being reared in fields and ponds, and it had something of a whimsical feel to it as certain plants glowed bright colours, little firefly type creatures buzzed around. There were multiple winding footpaths and the woman also briskly as she seemed anxious to get to wherever it was that she was leading her guests. It took a few minutes, but they finally entered a more open area which all kinds of stoves, lab benches, bottles and cauldrons bubbling away with liquid, and such.
“Please take a seat there, I will be right back.” The lady said as she gestured towards two chairs.
She then disappeared and after the sound of a heavy door being opened and closed was heard, there was nothing but silence afterwards. BroBob, who had decided to remain quiet and watch due to his relative inexperience in places and situations such as this one. What he did though was press a tactile button that was on his phone, which was still in his hand. Moments after he did and put the phone back in his pocket, the sound of the door opening and slamming could be heard once more and soon enough, the lady reemerged pulling a medium sized wheeled box behind her. She reached the two gentlemen and after taking a moment to catch her breath, she pointed to the box.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting; what I have here is a box with most of the ingredients needed to create the recipe for the first elixir, Potion of The Mage Hunter.”
Zuko and BroBob looked at each other, before looking at the lady, and then at the box.
“Fuckin’ finally!” BroBob said.
“Wait, we need more details.” Zuko cautioned as he glanced at BroBob. “Continue.” He said as he looked at the woman.
She looked at Zuko, and looked as though she was desperately apprehensive. Despite sensing that there was far more to this man before her than meets the eye, revealing what she knew could possibly involve her in things she wanted nothing to do with. She did however promise to tell him what she knew, and was starting to regret saying that because she was going to keep her word.
“Close to a year ago a man, whose presence was not unlike your own, entered the shop and told me that he was in need of some Alchemical ingredients that were rarer than what was readily available. He showed me a list not too dissimilar to the one you did. There were a few differences here and there, but by and large, they were identical. There were two things that struck me as odd at the time; the sheer volume of product they required and what truly shocked me, was that it was all for a single recipe, not for two like you require.”
Zuko and BroBob looked at each other once, and BroBob spoke up for only the second time.
“Doesn’t this match kinda go with what you hypothesised? That some super Alchemist combined two overpowered potions into one?”
“Excuse me, but what do you mean?” The lady asked, sounding slightly concerned.
“Yo, during those recent attacks on Order patrols, when those motherfucker’s were cornered, they ate some pill and—”
“And they consumed their Spellbooks and became Elementals!” The lady blurted out, finishing BroBob’s sentence. “I did not want to believe it, but…”
As the sentence trailed off, a look of grim realisation suddenly made its way onto the woman’s face.
“Exactly.” Zuko said as he nodded towards her.
BroBob looked at them both in confusion, before staring at Zuko until he was noticed by him. Zuko then nodded, and looked back at the woman.
“Woman, full disclosure; how would you rate your skill level as an Alchemist?”
“Honestly speaking? Upper tier.” She replied somewhat deflated.
“What do you think about the nuggets that were created?”
“I can more than likely make both of those potions separately without any issues, however… I can’t even begin to fathom the level of skill required to combine them and create a single item to be taken.”
“And there you have it.” Zuko said to BroBob, who still looked confused. “It means that there is a monster out there. I told you before that whoever this Alchemist is, that they are stepping into the realm of the forbidden.”
“In theory.” The female Alchemist stated as she joined in the conversation. “Combining the two recipes to create one isn’t very difficult, and experiments that push the boundaries are common. I do not know how much you know about Alchemy, but every elixir, salve or pellet requires something to fuel it. Lesser items can use the ingredients themselves as fuel, and do not require anything further.”
The woman then snapped her fingers twice, causing the torches that illuminated the underground lab to go off, and then reignite.
“What I just did for instance is an example of that. All of the torches in this place are lined with Flame Grass which is doused in a common and rather unimportant liquid known as Demon’s Fire, and—”
“Demon’s Fire? Sounds important to Brometheus.”
“The woman is saying this for your benefit, so quiet down and listen.” Zuko scolded.
“Thank you.” The Alchemist said. “As I was saying, I have within me exactly two hundred and eighty eight Alchemical ingredients, and whenever I snap my fingers, I can release any one of them. When I release another common grass known as Dragon’s Whisker, it reacts with the other ingredients in the torches, and the all catch fire. Those torches can then burn, on their own strength, for as long as I am down here.”
“Because they produce something that requires no further fuel to take effect?”
“Exactly.” The Alchemist said with a nod. “Now, I am also able to combine this basic flame formula with other ones to create different things, and they will work so long as the fuel requirements can be satisfied by the ingredients themselves.”
“Brometheus understands. Alchemy doesn’t require Mana to work though, and Izano here mentioned the other day that these things are scary because they use both Mana and the soul to work.”
“Really??” The lady asked.
“It was a simple theory. A single nugget with two immense effects that have to be fueled somehow does not really have that many options.”
“You seem to be intimately acquainted with Alchemy, Esteemed Customer.”
“Only in theory.” Zuko said dismissively.
“Yes, well your theory was correct. What makes it scary however is the fact that despite the process sounding simple enough, it is almost impossibly difficult to do. What is needed to even facilitate the conversion of Mana and a living soul into Alchemical fuel is rarer than anything I have growing in here and the skill required to refine them…”
“In other words.” Zuko interrupted as he lost patience. “The Alchemist is a monster.”
“The likes of which I have never seen in all my years.”
There something of a lull in the conversation as everybody sat and contemplated the seriousness of what was happening, before Zuko suddenly looked the lady Alchemist.
“You never did finish telling us what happened after the man gave you the list.”
“Oh yes, forgive me… well, after he showed me the list, I told him that we are a serious, yet small Alchemist and while we have most of the ingredients, we only sold what we grew down here – nothing more. The man was quite insistent however and even offered to bankroll an expansion of our operations, or purchasing of those ingredients we couldn’t source ourselves. It took quite some time for me get through to him that I wasn’t interested, but he eventually got the message, and simply left. At the time, I thought nothing of it, and assumed he was looking to experiment and needed the large quantities of ingredients as they legislated for failures. I never even imagined that they already had somebody who could create what was written on that paper.”
There was yet another period of silence as everybody seemed to be in deep thought once again, and Zuko was the first to perk up as he looked at the woman.
“Woman, tell me your story.” He practically demanded.
The woman looked at him, and instantly recognised it was that Zuko was saying. She bowed her head a lot more than he had when they were upstairs and spoke.
“We are the Messengers of the Sun God, we are his shepherds, we are his guardians, and we are his children. We are they who hear him speak and record his words so that others may too share in his wisdom. We are the herbalists of our people. We are the healers of our kin. We are the slayers of our enemies. Of the Synae Clan, of the Branch Family, of the Guild of Alchemists, I go by the name Synae Arethi Mythera. May I hear yours, Esteemed Customer?”
The Alchemist had changed the way she held her hands, now gently holding one closed fist in an open palm. Zuko simply stood up with authority, his cloak and Robe fluttering as he did. The atmosphere suddenly changed, and the air became thick, before Zuko spoke using his mouth.
That was all he said, and in truth, that was all that was necessary. The Alchemist suddenly felt an immense weight pressing down on her bowed body, as if the entire building had collapsed on her. That only lasted a moment however, and when it passed, she took a few deep breaths to collect herself, before standing up straight.
“I thank you for sharing with me, Munsai Zuko.”
“I thank you…”
“I go by Sam in this place, Munsai.”
“…Sam.” Zuko then looked at BroBob, who was about as lost as a person can be. “We are done here.”
“Huh? Okay sure, but what just happened here?!”
“A greeting; I will explain later.”
BroBob looked at Sam, and then replicated the bow and how she held her hands.
“Brometheus Bob, Professional Brogrammer, Order Technician, patriot.”
Sam looked at BroBob at first with a confused expression, which quickly changed to one of amusement, and then acceptance. She faced him and smiled, before repeating the bow.
“I thank you for sharing with me, Brometheus Bob.”
By the time both had finished their introductions, Zuko was powering towards one of the many footpaths that were ahead of him.
“Shit, Sam, we gotta hurry!”
“That BBQ Bastard gets lost walking down a straight road! If he disappears into those plants, you’ll never find him again.”
BroBob then ran after Zuko, and somehow managed to get him to stop and wait for Sam to catch up with them. The walk up to the shop was surprisingly cheery and energetic, with mostly BroBob going on about many stores they had been to previously. Sam wasn’t really listening, as her attention was mostly taken by how he walked, and his odd way of speaking. When they reached the shop, and Sam moved to open the door, she stopped and seemed to be in deep thought, prompting BroBob and Zuko kind of glance at each other. She eventually turned around and looked at them both, her eyes darting between them both before sighing and looking at Zuko.
“Munsai… please leave me a number or something which I can reach you on.”
“Yes, a phone number. As much as it will be dangerous to do so, I shall do some digging around and see what I can find out.”
“Whoa, is that really a good idea, Sam? Brometheus and Izano are both Order Agents.”
Zuko suddenly remembered the words of the Half-Elf Mage, and the soul he conversed with before; looking at Sam as something appeared to click.
“The Buffoon is not wrong, Sam. If my hunch is correct, doing that could be far than simply dangerous.”
“I appreciate the concern; however I am not doing this for your Order… I have heard rumblings about certain things, and I just wish to confirm them. Perhaps the information I receive may confirm your hunch to be truth as well, Munsai.”
“I understand. Give Sam your details.” Zuko said to BroBob as he glanced over at him.
Both Brometheus Bob and Sam were far more shocked at Zuko saying that than he thought they had any right to be.
“W-What is wrong with that? I do not have a mobile device, and this idiot is more likely than anybody else to be around me if you do decide to get in touch. Besides, in the short time I have been in this city, he has helped me far more than the bastard who asked me to come here in the first place. So, with nobody else around me to trust, calling Brometheus Bob here gives you the best chance to get a hold of me.”
“…understood, Munsai.” Sam said with a bow before looking at BroBob. “Please leave your contact details here, I shall get in touch if I find anything out.”
BroBob and Sam quickly exchanged details, before he and Zuko left the store. As they reached and jumped into the car, Zuko looked at the in-dash navigation, and then at BroBob, who had yet to start the car.
“Where to next? I hope it is not too far from here.” Zuko said before looking out the window.
“Let’s go get something to eat, on BroBob.” Brometheus said as he looked at Zuko with a smile.
“I am not hungry.” Zuko said, dismissing the suggestion.
“Who cares about you? Brometheus is hungry! What do Elves eat? Let’s drive around and see if anything interesting pops up.”
BroBob didn’t care to listen to anything further Zuko had to say on the matter, and pulled the car out of the busted up parking lot. They drove around for a bit, BroBob’s eyes looking around for places that seemed to sell food.
“Perhaps there was a place that sold food at the building we left behind.”
“Brometheus is starting to suspect the same damn thing.” BroBob said with a sigh. “Look, we’ll find a place to get some food, and then you can tell Brometheus more about that whole Elf story thing.”
As if right on cue, they drove past a place which boldly claimed to serve the best traditional Elven cuisine.
“If it’s printed on the sign, it must be true.” BroBob said as he whipped the car into a parking bay, and they both hopped out. They entered the run down establishment, and it seemed as though conversations, ordering, cooking, eating – everything just stopped. Brometheus Bob suddenly looked as though he regretted stepping in there; however the atmosphere seemed to be lost on Zuko, who just powered his way towards the counter. It remained dead silent in the establishment, and Brometheus Bob followed after Zuko, his dip looking as if it was extra deep. The glares that they were both receiving felt tangible, purely because they could see the Insignia on BroBob’s coat. The Order was absolutely reviled in these parts, so the possibility of the District being wiped off the map was only thing keeping the locals from ripping Zuko and BroBob to shreds. After a few seconds of perusing the menu, Zuko just started talking and pointing.
“Everything I point at, we will take two portions of.” Zuko stated, seemingly haven forgotten about not being hungry. “I have not had food like this in far too long. What kind of meat do you use in the Sheu?”
The person behind the counter spat right on it, before glaring at Zuko with about as much abhorrence as one set of eyes could have. For some reason, whatever it was that the other Elves and Half-Elves felt in their blood about Zuko was clearly lost on this guy, because despite the cloak covering his Robes, Zuko was still a smooth ear that was hanging around with an Agent. The energy in the restaurant went from tense, to hostile in the blink of an eye, but for some reason, Zuko was oblivious to it. He looked down at the cashier and flipped his hood down, exposing the… exposed part of his head. The smile on lips was clearly visible as was the excitement in his eyes.
“What meat do you use in the Sheu? It has been an age since I last ate this cuisine. Buffooneus, you are in for a treat.”
“It’s Brometheus!! Dude, you called Brometheus by his name properly just a few minutes ago when you were being all cool and sincere!”
“The Sheu I used to eat in my youth while traveling through the Ember Wood was often times prepared with the meat of the Six Horned Deer King of the forest. It was unbelievably strong; however it was just as delicious.”
As Zuko was happily reminiscing about his childhood travels with Brometheus Bob, and in turn, the entire restaurant, the guy behind the counter spat on it again, before interrupting Zuko.
“Shut the fuck up with your bullshit, you smooth eared reject. We don’t serve your kind, so you and your fat, Magically challenged Agent friend can both burn in all of the Thirteen Hells!”
The Elf was really tearing into Zuko and BroBob; however an older, bearded Elf suddenly appeared and smacked the younger cashier on the back of the head so hard, it smashed into the counter. He then looked up at Zuko and nodded with an apologetic expression on his face.
“Please forgive this one, he is young. I will handle your order, Agents.”
Zuko looked at the old man, and then at the back of the head of the younger man who was just disciplined, before getting back to ordering. He wasn’t nearly as visibly excited as he was before, but after the order had been placed, and BroBob had been summoned to pay, the old man started speaking again.
“Allow me to apologise once more for the behavior of this one, Agent. I once traveled through the Ember Wood many, many years ago… the Deer King of that generation was a majestic creature, and in Elven folklore, it is said that only those with ears so upright that they are blessed by the Heavens are able to taste its meat. Unfortunately, the way things are in this city has our young more interested in martial prowess than in the history of their people.”
Zuko did not reply, as silence and unease once again filled the four walls of the restaurant. He then looked around the restaurant, eyeing its patrons. He then looked at BroBob, who was remaining as quiet as possible and appeared to be smirking just a tad. It wasn’t long before plastic bags with food were placed directly in front of Zuko and BroBob, and they both took the bags. Brometheus Bob looked at the bags in his hands suspiciously, before looking up at the old man.
“There isn’t any spit in this food, is there?”
“Absolutely not, Agent. Please be at ease and enjoy the food.”
“Let us go.” Zuko simply said as he began to walk.
BroBob smiled at the old Elf and nodded, before following Zuko out of the restaurant. The atmosphere within the restaurant was still not good, and the young Elf came out from the back, glaring.
“What was the deal, Gramps?!”
“Silence!” The old Elf boomed as he slapped the young Elf hard. “Do you realise how close you were to death? Not only that, you almost condemned us all to death, you fool!”
As the old Elf continued to scold the young one, Zuko and BroBob made their way to the car. BroBob once again was looking at the food suspiciously and as they both stepped into the car, he looked at Zuko.
“Yo, are you sure this food is good to eat, Izano?”
“Find some place suitable to park the car so we can eat.” Zuko said, seemingly ignoring the question.
BroBob sighed and shrugged, before starting the car and driving off. After a bit of driving, they found a genuinely abandoned shopping center, and parked.
“Thank fuck this is an SUV.” BroBob said with a relieved sigh.
“Let us eat.” Zuko said, again not interested in what BroBob was saying.
There was silence in the car as they started sorting the food parcels, with Zuko finding and splitting the parcels evenly between them so they would both get an even share. They opened the parcels, and BroBob just looked at the food, as if expecting to find spit or worse in the food. He even sniffed it, and as he looked at Zuko, he realised that the big man was already scarfing the food down. He had created something of a split in his bandages, and this time, his mouth was exposed, unlike the previous time they ate together.
Brometheus just decided to bite the bullet and start eating as buying Elven food was his idea in the first place. Surprisingly enough, the food was far more delicious than it looked and next thing, BroBob was scarfing the food down with just as much enthusiasm as Zuko was.
“So, Elven Stories…” Zuko said without any warning. “…because Elves by default are able to live such long lives naturally, they can experience many life altering things. Non-Human’s believe that there is immense power in a name, and thus it should neither be simple, nor given freely. To an Elf, their Story represents everything that they have experienced and lived through, and that in itself is their name.”
“Yeah? So everything that Sam chick said—”
“More than likely details centuries of her life, even though she held a fair amount back.”
“Brometheus understands, although he has another question for you.”
“What does Munsai mean?”
“It is Sun Elf dialect, and is used to respectfully address a person. Sun Elves are probably the most chain-of-command oriented of the Elves. Power demands respect, and respect grants authority.”
“Alright, and you have enough power for her to respect you, even though she admitted to being a skilled Alchemist herself?”
“That would be a logical assumption to make. That said, whoever it was that initially tried to get her to supply them with reagents must have made her feel the same sense of power as I did, or perhaps even greater.”
“You think so? Why do you say that?”
“That woman really had to fight against the instinct of remaining quiet for self-preservation, which means she must have considered the possibility that even if she was to come to us seeking protection, we would not be able to keep her safe. The one who approached her must have been quite the powerful being.”
The fact that Zuko was saying all of this potentially frightening stuff whilst wolfing down food didn’t quite add up to BroBob, who by now had stopped eating with as much gusto as he had been up to that point. Zuko looked at him as he opened a different parcel and tilted his head to the right slightly.
“What is the matter? Are you thinking about that important thing you forgot?”
“Ugh, that fuckin’ thing! Brometheus has been wracking his brain tryna remember, but it’s useless! He just fuckin’ knows that it’s hella important, too.”
“Still no idea what it had to do with?”
“None what so ever.”
The two men continued to eat for a while longer, before BroBob declared that he was stuffed with a few light hearted smacks on his belly. He looked over to Zuko, who had actually finished all of his food, and sat back into the seat, looking rather satisfied.
“If you are done, then let us get going. We still have more places to visit.”
“Good point. Brometheus will eat the rest for dinner later.”
A few minutes later, the car was back on the road, and driving according to the path and directions laid out by the GPS. BroBob continued to look as if he was trying his hardest to remember exactly what is was that he had forgotten when suddenly, heard Zuko speak.
“I would suggest that you try and avoid hitting that person standing in the middle of the road.”
The calm tone in which Zuko said this was completely not in keeping with the urgency of the matter, as BroBob suddenly took evasive action and swerved to avoid the small figure standing in the middle of the road. After successfully doing so, he hit the brakes hard, and the hulking SUV came to a loud and abrupt stop, after which, both men hopped out and rushed over to see if that person was alright. A few rushed steps into the dash, BroBob’s eyes suddenly baulked and he immediately grabbed Zuko’s sleeve, prompting the big man to stop and look at him.
“What is it?”
“Brometheus finally remembers what it was that forgot!”
“And you chose this moment to tell me that?”
Brometheus suddenly pointed at the person they had swerved to avoid with a shocked expression on his face.
“That’s the little girl from yesterday!” He boomed. “Brometheus forgot about her after Zaroku appeared and all that, but that is the little girl!”
Both men looked at the girl in silence, and after a bit of time, she started walking towards them herself.
“Why is she here?! Where did she go yesterday?! Why was she there in the first place?!”
“Why are you asking me?” Zuko asked in reply. “She is coming this way, so ask her yourself.”
“What if she’s a ghost, bro?!”
“Why on earth would she be a ghost?” Zuko asked with a slight shake of the head.
“How else do you explain her disappearing yesterday, and then suddenly appearing over here?! Brometheus is fuckin’ telling you, she’s a ghost!”
“I’m not a ghost.” The dirty little Elven girl replied in a deadpan voice as she stepped right up to the two men.
She was wearing a tattered dress that used to be white, sandals, and was covered in dirt and small bruises. She had incredibly long hair from which the points of her ears just barely appeared, and looked up at Zuko for the longest time, her smudge laden face not giving a thing away.
“You saved me yesterday.” The girl said in her deadpan delivery. “I was told to give you this as a token of appreciation.”
The girl reached up and handed a piece of paper that was folded in half to Zuko, who took the paper without even a hint of hesitation or apprehension.
“W-What is that, ghost girl!?” BroBob boomed.
“A piece of paper with an address.” The girl said simply as she looked at BroBob. “And I’m not a ghost.”
“Child.” Zuko said, prompting her to look at him. “I did not save you by consciously.”
“I know, but I was still saved and told to give you this.”
“Who told you to give this to me?”
“The one who watches.” The girl said before turning around and starting to walk off.
“Wait.” Zuko commanded.
He looked at BroBob who was still eyeing the girl suspiciously and forcefully pulled his sleeve out from Brometheus’ hand. He then handed the paper to him, before turning around and walking to the car. A few moments later, he had returned with a food parcel and a plastic fork in hand. He then handed the parcel to the girl, who accepted it with both hands.
“Thank you.” She said simply.
Zuko just nodded as the girl turned around and walked off, soon disappearing into a dingy alley. Zuko looked at BroBob and shook his head.
“Really? A ghost?” He said as he unfolded the paper and looked at the address that was written there. “Input this into the screen and let us see where it goes.”
Zuko handed BroBob the paper, and made his way back towards the car. By the time he had buckled up, BroBob was entering the car, and then started entering the address, before suddenly realising something.
“Wait a minute… Brometheus recognises this damn address.”
“It’s on the list we already have! We just haven’t gotten to it yet, because it is deeper within Non-Human territory. What do we do? Can we really trust that ghost girl and whoever it was that sent her?”
“Trust them? You misunderstand. They are merely hinting that this address is important somehow. However because it was already on the list, going there would be following our original plan to begin with.”
“That makes sense. So should we follow the order of the list or go there now?”
“This search is becoming tedious. We go there now, and see what happens afterwards.”
“As you say.” Brometheus said as they drove off.
The duo found themselves driving out of the Elven District after a while, and approached a more mixed feeling area. The paint schemes and building designs denoted a multi-ethnic District, and as they entered, they saw variants of Orcs and Elves populating the District.
“Man, this city is hella divided, ain’t it Izano?”
“Hmm? How do you mean?”
“Glory City is essentially huge island in the middle of the ocean. It is divided into racially dominated Districts, but when you look at how things are, there is no fuckin’ unity. The mixed races have their own areas, the full bloods have theirs, and we as humans have ours. I wonder how many Districts like this one exist, where two or more races can live in harmony.”
“Is that a problem for you? The extremely prevalent splits, that is.”
“Honestly? Yeah. I mean shit, we are all citizens of ONE Empire, we all live in the same land, speak the common language… I’m not saying identities and cultures should be lost or blended or some shit, but damn… what would happen if somebody attacked or invaded or some shit?”
“What do you think would happen if some force united all of the Non-Human races? The hatred they have for humans is clear as day, so if they all banded together and achieved this unity that you so wish existed, would the possibility of war not be a very real one?”
BroBob suddenly quieted down as thoughts of what the implications of Non-Human unity would be. He couldn’t think much on the subject however as the GPS announced that they had reached their destination, forcing him out of his thoughts and having him park the car. Zuko and BroBob took a moment to look at each other, before stepping out of the car and making their way towards the entrance of the shop. As if instinctively, they walked as if they were approaching a hostile environment and looked to be ready for anything to happen. Their impressive strides came to an abrupt halt however as the door they reached had a closed sign dangling from it.
“Well fuck.” Brometheus Bob exclaimed.
They both tried peering in through the windows; however it was extremely dark in the shop. Zuko continued to look even after BroBob had given up, and after a while, he gave up and looked at the door again.
“This place has Magic Wards all over it – and powerful ones at that.”
“Really? How can you tell?” BroBob asked.
“I cannot see into the shop.”
“That’s because it’s dark in there, isn’t it?”
“Why is it so dark in there, this early in the afternoon?”
“Ah, good point.” BroBob conceded.
“There is a reason why this Apothecary is closed and Warded at this time of day.”
“Somebody must have heard that we were asking around and warned the owner?”
“Possibly. One thing is certain though – this place holds significant clues about what has been happening.”
“Agreed. One more thing is also certain – we have to get in there.”
“Can you take care of those Wards?”
“Take care of them?”
“Yeah. Brometheus can do something about opening the door so we can enter normally, but if there are Wards put in place to keep intruders out, Brometheus can’t handle them.”
“I see. I will take care of the Wards.”
BroBob walked back to the car and opened the boot, before starting to fiddle and faff about. Zuko’s curiosity got the better of him, and he went back to check on BroBob to see what he was doing, and he was greeted by the sight of all manner of equipment hanging and poking out from shelves and hooks. There was something that looked like a customised Order breastplate but, a single left glove that was not armoured, yet was dotted with small black crystals, a crude looking bladed weapon which looked like a patch work weapon that had been cobbled together from two or three different weapons, and more. Brometheus Bob pulled a drawer open and pulled out a small case which he quickly zipped open and inspected the gadgets inside.
“What is all this?” Zuko asked.
“Huh? Oh, this is shit Brometheus made from scavenged parts. He’ll describe it all in detail when we are done with everything.”
“Have you ever used any of this?”
“Nope – Brometheus hasn’t had the chance to.”
“You have the ability to do all this, yet are still called trash? I do not understand.”
“Yeah, well Brometheus will have to explain that later as well.”
BroBob said this as he closed the small case and then the boot. As the men started walking back towards the store when all of a sudden, Zuko stopped dead in his tracks. His fists clenched and his teeth gritted as every single cell in his body told him that he and Brometheus Bob were in immense danger. He felt a pair of eyes on him that he had felt numerous times since arriving in Glory City, however this was the first time whoever they belonged to wasn’t trying to conceal their presence. Almost on pure instinct, Zuko’s body began expressing Mana, building up the barrier and causing his cloak to flutter. BroBob looked at Zuko with slight confusion, however before he could seek any clarity on what was wrong, he saw Zuko turn around and look behind the both of them. Izano was looking directly at the man he had been riding the train into the city with, standing some hundred meters away, with his fists clenched and by his side. His hair was tied up in a bun and he was wearing different clothes, but it was definitely him.
“Hi there!” He said excitedly with a smile and a wave.
Zuko did not say anything in reply; he just looked at this man, who he did not know was named Momoh, make him feel a sense of danger he had not felt in longer than he could even imagine. He blinked once, and as his eyes opened, the sight of Momoh in midair, right in front of him with his fist cocked and ready to explode had Zuko scrambling to block. There wasn’t even any time for him to do the usual stomps that the Dance of Gul’Rhaka used. Instead, he concentrated as much Mana as he could into both the forearm of his right hand – which was the one attempting to block the soon to be incoming blow – and his face, in the event that his arm didn’t make it. Before Zuko knew what happened, he felt an unbelievably immense amount of pain as a fist absolutely crashed into his face, lifting him off of his feet and careening towards a building behind him. Zuko, who kept his eyes open even at the point of impact, looked behind him to see a large panel van directly in his path. He thrust his arms back and positioned his hands in anticipation. As he reached the car, he grabbed onto the corner of the roof panel, his fingers digging into and eventually, through the metal, and using arm power alone, redirected his course. He flipped over, let go of the car and used the momentum to fly up towards the side of a particularly high building. He blinked again and heard what could only be described as an explosion before opening his eyes. The roof of the car was still in the process of disintegrating as Momoh absolutely tore through the air, flying towards Zuko with wide eyes and a massive grin on his face. As he got closer, Zuko quickly formed a cross guard, however Momoh zipped past him, landed on the wall of the building behind them, and then pushed off. Momoh then swung his fist with the kind of savagery that could turn a body to mush in an instant.
Zuko, who himself had shot Mana out of his hands in order to create some thrust and turn his body around, had managed to form the guard once more. Momoh’s attack hit the guard, producing a sound so crazy, it sounded like a mallet hitting a wall. The strength of the blow was unbelievable, and it sent Zuko tearing through the air towards the solid tarmac below. Once again, Mana was forced out of Zuko’s palms, flipping him over just in time for him to land on his feet. Much like back at HQ after he jumped out of the window, Zuko actually crashed through the surface of the road, creating a crater that was deeper and larger in size than the one at HQ. It took a moment for him to jump out of the dust cloud and land on the road surface again, but Momoh was already on him. Zuko had time to react properly this time, as his eyes had adjusted and gotten to grips with the insane speed. He slid his right foot along the ground, bent his knees and both feet stomped on the ground with authority. He thrust both arms straight out at chest level, before bending both at the elbow, holding his right forearm just above his left with a small gap between them. As Mana pulsed out from where he was standing, a nova of sand and rocks did the same. The approaching Momoh simply let out a hearty cackle, before thrusting his hand down towards the ground. The moment he entered attacking range, his right shoulder pushed itself back, before tensing and launching an attack that sounded as though it was ripping the air around his arm to shreds. His right fish crashed into Zuko’s guard, going through the Mana barrier as if it was none existent, and then smashing through the guard, blowing Zuko’s right arm up into the air and then made contact with his chin, snapping the bandaged head back. Momoh then opened his fist, grabbed the back Zuko’s neck and pulled it towards him. He then drove his forehead directly into Zuko’s face, head-butting him hard.
“Is this all you’ve got?!” Momoh roared as he suddenly grabbed Zuko’s entire face with his hand and began running.
As he ran, he crashed his left fist repeatedly into Zuko’s side before leaping and driving Zuko back first through a wall. He pulled Zuko out, before running in a different direction and repeating the entire process. He covered so much ground when he ran; there wasn’t even a break between attacks. As Momoh ran towards another building he suddenly saw Zuko’s clenched fists flying towards either side of his head, and he quickly threw his victim at the wall he had intended to smash him through. The cloaked man crashed into the wall painfully, but did not break through the wall. He immediately pushed off of the wall and instead of landing deftly on the ground below, his feet simultaneously stomped on the tar hard. As he did, his hands extending out to his sides at shoulder height, fingers pursed together and palms facing the sky.
“Come!” Zuko boomed, shouting through his bandages.
As Momoh closed the gap between them with an even bigger grin on his face, Zuko’s arms suddenly swung up, and his hands clapped above his head. The moment the clapped echoed throughout the busted up battlefield, two large, square tarmac pillars burst from either side of the onrushing Momoh and before he could react, both smashed into him, as if trying to come together and form an arch. As that happened, Zuko stepped forward with his right leg, stomping down and bending his right knee whilst straightening his left. His hands that were still pressed together above his head split, swung down, and clapped below his body in the gap between his legs, before splitting once more and being driven upwards at an angle, fingers bent in half, palms still exposed. A third pillar suddenly burst from directly in front of Momoh and smacked him clean, catching his entire upper torso, creating a shockwave and sent him tearing through the air behind him. Zuko’s savage attacker quickly disappeared from sight as he flew towards the sky, and Zuko, who was doing his best to catch his breath properly, waited for him come back and launch yet another insane attack. Instead, all he got was a message, which started off with an annoying bout of laughter.
“Hey man, that was GREAT! You’re so durable; I’m impressed you didn’t blow up after taking all those hits!” Momoh boomed, before laughing again.
As he laughed, BroBob suddenly came sliding in from around the corner, clad in his salvaged arms and armour, and began running towards Zuko.
“This was just a greeting – an introduction. If you continue walking down this path, we will surely meet again, and next time, things won’t end this easily. Later!”
Just as BroBob reached Zuko, Momoh’s presence disappeared in blaze of booming laughter. Zuko’s shoulders suddenly slumped and he fell on his ass, breathing unbelievably heavily.
“Izano!” BroBob called as he knelt down next to Zuko. “Are you okay?!”
“No need for concern, I am fine… I was able to confirm something and further strengthen a hunch.” Zuko said as he shook his head.
“What do you mean?” BroBob asked.
“Somebody within this city is gathering monsters, and I suspect I know to what end.”
“…to rebel against Human rule.”
“W-What?” Brometheus Bob said with wide eyes. “But how?”
“By destroying the Order.” Zuko said somewhat ominously as he looked at BroBob, and suddenly noticing his outfit. “Brometheus.”
“…what in the Hells are you wearing?”