At Order HQ, the Knight Captain-Commander stood on a balcony, watching the night lights of the city switch on. He had a drink resting on the rail of the balcony however was completely dressed in his armour, as if he was ready to go to war at any time. He appeared to be lost in his own thoughts and gently stroked his grey beard until he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. They snapped him out of his thoughts, and he reached for his drink.
“Cassandra.” He said without even turning to face her.
“Father.” She said, bowing her head slightly. “I bring news.”
“There is a Knight who encountered the savage last night who has told me that he wishes to report things that he left out in the official report during the meeting in the War Room.”
“This Knight, I assume you are speaking about Zaroku.”
“Very well – see him up.”
Cassandra disappeared for a bit, and after a few minutes, she returned with two Knights in tow. Zaroku was walking with an older male who was dressed similarly. The difference was that Zaroku was walking while tapping the tip of his sheathed sword on the floor, much like a blind man would. The trio reached Knight Captain-Commander Donald, and the two men bowed slightly.
“Captain-Commander.” They both said in unison.
“Captain, Agent.” Donald said with a nod. “I hear that the Agent has some information for me.”
“That’s correct, Captain-Commander.” The older man said. “Go on, Zaroku.”
“Yes, Master. Captain-Commander, during the official report, I failed to mention one important detail; I engaged in combat with the one known to us as Izano Zuko.”
Donald and Cassandra looked shocked for a second, before calming down just as quickly.
“Continue.” Donald said with a nod.
“It was after I had eliminated those two soulless husks that murdered all those people in the area.”
“Did you not seek any clarity on his identification?” Cassandra asked.
“Regretfully, I found myself overwhelmed.” Zaroku replied. “It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that, and I panicked. I thought he was an evil abomination that had to be destroyed, but after he repelled my attacks, I saw that he was an Agent and did not know what to do.”
‘He made Zaroku panic? Seriously?’ Cassandra thought to herself.
“What did you see about him that made you panic, Zaroku?” Donald asked.
“Tell him.” Zaroku’s Master encouraged.
“I saw… living beings within him – like… souls.”
“What?!” Donald replied, shocked.
“That’s what I said, Captain-Commander.”
“Are you sure, Zaroku?” Cassandra asked.
“Absolutely certain, Cassandra. I saw no more than two, but still… what kind of living being contains living beings inside of him? I just did not know how to handle that, and attacked.”
There was a period of silence in the room, with the father and daughter both in deep thought. The awkward silence persisted, until Donald spoke and broke it.
“Zaroku, do you have any idea who or what those living things were specifically? What were they the souls of?”
“Unfortunately Captain-Commander, I couldn’t tell you. I really have no idea.”
“Hmmm, that’s alright. At least we know some more about this person. Thank you for the report Zaroku, dismissed.”
Both Zaroku and his Captain nodded, before seeing themselves out. Cassandra and her father remained and looked at each other.
“Just who or what is that man, and what is his connection to the City Lord?” Cassandra asked.
“That is a very good question, Cassandra. It doesn’t help that he is a Mage, otherwise we could bring him in and force him to tell everything we want to know.”
“He’s a Black Robe, right? Aren’t they able to form annoying autonomous Squads?”
“What do you mean ‘Squads’? Those clad in black are practically Divisions on their own. What in the Hells was the first High Lord thinking when he came up with that?” Donald said, taking a sip of his drink.
“He does seem to be chummy with Curtis, Father.”
“Yes, I heard that they were on an ‘adventure’ when they ended up getting involved in the first attack; them being chummy doesn’t help us learn more about him, though.”
“Good point.” Cassandra conceded. “That said, we already know more about that savage than those of his own Division, I’d wager.”
“I would agree with that… anyway, keep an eye on him through Curtis, and report any new developments.”
“Understood.” Cassandra said with a bow.
Meanwhile somewhere in the opposite side of HQ, another parent/child pair was having a meeting in secret; however it was going in a slightly different direction.
“H-Hold up, Pop! Calm down!”
Curtis boomed this whilst hiding behind the Spell Shield of the Armoured Six Shelled Tortoise. He received no spoken response from his father – only the earth shaking and tortoise shell shattering impact of a Meteor, which destroyed four of the turtle shields of the Spell.
“Fuck!” Curtis exclaimed as he leapt into the air. “Disc-o Dash!”
Curtis, having cast the Spell Artam’s Flying Discs, landed on two Magic discs which had materialised as a result of the Spell. Immediately after he landed on them, he cast another Spell.
The Spell, known to regular people as Geysers of Mist, shot powerful jets of mist out from Curtis’ palms and propelled him forward, which was just as well, as another Meteor came crashing into the remaining tortoise shells with a fiery blaze, destroying them with ease. As flames danced around the point of impact, Curtis was zipping above the ground with his open hands thrust behind his body, with a desperate look on his face.
“You shitty old man! How many children do you have that you can treat me like this?!”
Again, the only response Curtis received was in the form of an offensive Spell, Wrath of The Hydra. The ground beneath Curtis’ feet started to crack, and moments later, head after head of the Hydra burst out from beneath the marbled floor of the training room. Curtis drew out more Mana to feed the mist geysers, increasing his speed, and beginning evasive maneuvers. The look of desperation on Curtis’ face became more and more intense as the Hydra heads continued to sprout like demonic bean stalks, all roaring and snapping at him as they were clearly trying to devour him.
“You old bastard!!” Curtis boomed as the Hydra kept sprouting. “That damn near endless amount of Mana is practically a cheat!”
Curtis looked up to where he last saw his father and suddenly noticed an entire line of Meteors descending towards him, with William having cast Meteor; Scattershot.
“Holy shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeetttt!!” Curtis boomed. “Six Headed Turtle Motherfucker!”
The shells did not appear as they usually had after this particular casting, as they arranged themselves all around and above Curtis, becoming something of a mobile shield. He was roaring with effort as he did all this, before he suddenly felt the vibration in his breast pocket and heard the familiar sound of his ringtone, despite how loud the roars and explosion all around him were.
“What the fuck?! Who the hell is calling?!”
Due to his hands being occupied, Curtis used the hands free to answer.
“Hello?! Who is this – I’m in the middle of something!”
The person who spoke on the other side made him lose concentration for just a second, and that resulted in a Hydra smashing off one of the four shields that around his body at the time.
“I’m busy right now; I’ll come see him later!”
As Curtis listened to the person on the other end of the call, his shields were being destroyed left and right. Whatever was being said clearly was distracting enough that he was no longer as effective as he should have been,
“Wait, wait, wait! I’m with the Archmage right now! I can’t just… he said what?!”
Just as the final shield was turned to dust, Curtis looked up and spoke.
“P-Pop, let’s take a break… we got a meeting to attend.”
“…a meeting?” Archmage William said, as he suddenly descended from a point behind Curtis as the Hydra and the Meteors suddenly calmed down.
“Eh?! When did you get there?!” Curtis asked as he suddenly turned around to look at his father.
“Never mind that, what’s this about a meeting, Curtis?”
“…yyyeah, about that.” Curtis mumbled as he wiped prodigious amounts of sweat from his brow with a sheepish grin.
As Curtis explained things to the Archmage, back in Zuko’s apartment, BroBob and the man himself were seated in the lounge. Zuko was seated on a couch, with the top half of his Robes splayed out on the couch, with his bandaged torso completely exposed. He sat with his elbows on his knees, looking down at the table in front of him which had books and papers on it, and also focusing on his breathing somewhat. BroBob walked in and saw Zuko seemingly going through his Alchemy Book and some others.
“They’re on the way.” He said with a tired sigh.
“Just a heads up though, expect some fireworks.”
“Curtis seemed to forget that Brometheus was still on the line when he started talking to the Archmage, and—”
Before BroBob could finish his sentence, there was a knock on the door, immediately followed by some unintelligible barking, and the door flying open. Curtis, who had his father behind him, walked in with a tired looking wave. His Robes were actually disheveled and showed signs of fighting, due to the fact that he had come directly from an intense sparring match with his father to the apartment.
“Curtis, Old Man.” Zuko said as he looked up from his books.
“Yo, Zuko, I heard you—”
“Whelp! How dare you summon me to come see you?! Do you know nothing of protocol? Etiquette? Common sense?!”
“I initially wanted to invite Curtis alone so he could tell you tomorrow, but you happened to be there with him and decided it might be better for you to hear everything first hand, because Curtis is... well.”
“Hey!” Curtis protested.
“You aren’t wrong in that regard, however your approach was still incorrect!” William responded.
“We do not have time for this, so take a seat, and listen to what I have to say for now.”
Zuko set about relaying most of the events of the last week or so, and the two Mages listened rather intently to the report. When he was done, there was only a brief lull as they both digested what had been said, however William quickly got to asking questions in return.
“So according to the facts and theories you have come up with, these recent attacks were not only linked, but came from the same place?”
“That is what I believe, yes. We can also assume that the Alchemist and that bastard from earlier tonight are not the only monsters that they have within their ranks.”
“Not only that, they are more than willing to sacrifice the lives of those they are claiming to want to liberate.” Curtis added.
“Well of course… they go down as martyrs, and are hailed as heroes in the new world that will be created out of their blood.”
“Only fools would fall for such honeyed words… yet, fools are also necessary in war.”
“You think this is war already?” Curtis asked.
“It became war the moment those idiots killed their own in an effort to kill us.”
“What is the status of those Agents who were injured in both attacks?”
“Surprisingly, we haven’t suffered any permanent losses yet.” Curtis said. “Severe injuries, sure, but no deaths.”
“Yet there have been multiple mixed race deaths already. Perhaps they are viewed as extra expendable due to their Human blood?” Archmage William said.
“That makes sense.” Zuko said as he agreed. “It might not be too much of a stretch to say that however many more attacks are scheduled to take place, none of them will occur in the full-blood Non-Human areas.”
There was another brief lull as the Archmage looked at Zuko, before speaking again.
“If your theory about them coming after the Empire by eradicating us is true, then our patrols must be even more vigilant – particularly in areas populated by those mixed races.”
“The biggest problem we have is that we don’t have enough information to actively search or investigate in earnest.” Curtis added.
“What do you mean?” His father asked.
“Well, think about it; what are the chances of that shop Izano was at still having anything in it that can be considered a clue? Considering how they found him snooping about, they might be tightening things up or shutting up shop everywhere else. At this point, we are the ones who have to wait for them to move first, and hope we get lucky.”
“We have to make our own luck, Curtis.”
“How do we do that?”
“If we capture one or more of their cannon fodder, preferably before they eat those things, then that could be a start.” Brometheus Bob said, finally contributing to the discussion, drawing looks from both Curtis and William.
“That makes sense.” Zuko said in response. “Once they ingest the pellets, they are condemned to death.”
“Exactly.” BroBob said, before noticing the looks he was receiving. “Eh?”
“Hey.” William said as he looked at Zuko for a second. “Why did you call us here? Curtis and I.”
Things in the lounge suddenly went from serious and productive, to quiet and awkward. BroBob looked around, wondering if this sudden change was brought about because he decided to give his input, or if the timing was just a coincidence.
“Why? Well, I suppose there is not a single reason. First of all, it would be foolishness to assume that neither you, nor that other old man have not instructed people to keep tabs on me, because I was forced on you and your organisation, after all. So relaying what I have discovered is merely me showing some respect, I suppose. Secondly, I called for Curtis because he was the first person in this place who did not look at me as though I was some kind of abomination or savage, as you all have taken to calling me. This idiot sparred with me, introduced himself to me like he would to somebody from here, and dragged me along with him on a tour of sorts. He’s an idiot, sure, but he showed me kindness, and I was told a long time ago that genuine kindness is a rarity between beings with power.”
“…could you stop calling me an idiot, you char-grilled bastard?” Curtis said through gritted teeth.
“Finally,” Zuko said, ignoring Curtis. “I called for you both because the three of us wear these flimsy Robes. I have not quite been here long enough to understand the dynamic; however one thing that is painfully obvious is that those in Armour stand on one side and those in Robes stand on the other side. I wear Robes and Curtis wears Robes, but you seem to be the highest ranking Robe wearer, so it is only proper that you hear of what happened to one who was representing you and your Robed brethren.”
Zuko took a deep breath as he appeared to have concluded relaying his reasons for summoning the two Mages.
“…I had no idea this dude could talk for that long.” Curtis said with something of a smirk.
“Very well, I understand. That all leads me to my next question; this man, this… Bratwurst Bob, you do realise that he is a Knight, right?”
“Uh, that’s Brometheus, Sir.”
“I am fully aware that Buffooneus is a Technician.”
“Then why is he here? If this is a meeting between Mages, why is a Knight Technician here?” The Archmage asked, looking at him as he remembered how he used BroBob to get rid of Zuko the day he arrived.
“Hey.” Zuko said as he looked at BroBob. “Curtis included, how many people have asked you about me?”
“Huh? Uh… about five or six people have asked Brometheus about you, him included.”
“Alright and how many of them were Knights?”
“Uh, there was that weird old man in jacked up Armour, but he didn’t quite get to ask as he got distracted by a woman. So taking him out of it, uh… none of them were Knights.”
“There you have it.” Zuko said with a slight shrug. “The Buffoon is so poorly regarded by his own people, that he is called trash. I doubt that he has spilled to anybody”
“Alright, but what’s to stop him from doing so in the future?” William asked.
Zuko looked at BroBob once more, the two just staring at each other for what seemed like the longest time.
“He may be a Buffoon, but he is not stupid enough to cross over to a side and allow himself to be used.”
“Damn fuckin’ straight!” BroBob said with a bang of his chest.
“What I’m saying is that he might not have a choice, Izano Zuko.”
“Maybe not, however that is why you are finding everything out first. Whether you wish to consult with that other old man or not is your prerogative. I have fulfilled my obligation as a Robe wearer.”
Archmage William looked at Zuko and sighed with a slight shrug, before continuing with the discussion.
“Understood. Now, considering how your independent investigations have born such fruit, what do you plan on doing next?”
“More looking around, I guess. First and foremost, I need to discover the identity of that bastard who attacked me earlier, because if I find out who he is, finding him will eventually lead to finding those who seek to destroy you all.”
“That is a strong possibility.” Curtis said with folded arms and a nod of the head.
The Archmage looked at his son and at Zuko, before turning around.
“Curtis, we’re leaving; we need to do some thinking of our own. Izano Zuko, if anything else happens, be sure to report it.”
The old Mage suddenly walked out of the apartment abruptly, while Curtis just sighed and looked exasperated.
“Can’t that old man even show appreciation? Thanks a lot, Izano. We should do breakfast or something… but for sure, the Archmage is going to have a word with me for trying to employ a spy who told you I tried to use him right after my attempt. Later.”
Curtis waved and smiled slightly, before leaving the apartment as well. After a bit of silence, Brometheus Bob looked at Zuko and spoke.
“Brometheus appreciates you, bro.”
“Hmmm? What are you talking about?”
“Just saying man, you’re appreciated. Anyway, you should probably rest up now… I mean, you got your ass absolutely handed to you earlier.”
“…you aren’t lying.” Zuko conceded. “That Orc was insanely powerful.”
“Huh? That dude was an Orc? How could you tell?” BroBob asked looking somewhat perplexed.
“That is a tale for another time. For now, I need to rest.”
Zuko stood up and quickly disappeared into his bedroom, leaving BroBob to awkwardly look around, loiter about and then eventually leave.
Elsewhere in the city, Momoh was standing in front of a public phone, receiver pressed against the side of his head.
“…yeah, so after I wailed on him a little bit, he managed to get a shot in and I decided that was enough of a warning.”
“Momoh, if you had the opportunity to kill him and his companion, you really should have taken it. What if this person becomes a problem?” Responded the man who had been on the line during the other call.
“Don’t sweat it, Boss – after seeing him in action, there’s nothing he brings to the table that frightens me. I can stomp him out like that.” Momoh said with a snap of his fingers.
“Don’t be an idiot, Momoh. In a short space of time, that guy was able to figure out that we used Alchemy to power up those fools with alarming speed. If we hadn’t have built up our stocks, we would have been in a rather unfortunate position.”
“What do you mean, Boss?”
“Well Momoh, we waited for as long as we did before initiating our plan with something like this happening in mind. It might still be difficult for them to try and search for our suppliers without any hard or concrete evidence; however I do not like leaving things to chance. We have more than enough Boosters to see us through the first phase; therefore, we shall be severing our deals with the suppliers. You, on the other hand, are to wait and see if that Agent makes any further moves, but only for a day or two; you are needed at the Eastern Base.”
“Understood, Boss.” Momoh said as he hung up and disappeared into the night.
The man who Momoh called his boss then spoke after having put the phone down.
“Send people to take care of the suppliers. Have them go through all their records, and destroy anything pertaining to our dealings with them.”
“As you command!” Came the response from above the ceiling, before whoever was in there disappeared.
“It appears that there is at least one person in that Gin’s Order who could make things… interesting.”
The following morning, Zuko woke up somewhat later than he had previously, due to the fact that he was injured. He had done a good job of hiding the fact that he was injured, however he had suffered a few fractures to his ribs after being on the receiving end of the repeated body blows.
‘Ugh.’ He thought to himself. ‘Incurring injuries whilst still recovering from serious injuries is not very intelligent.’
Once Zuko stepped out of the bedroom with the intention to go shower and get ready, he found the Archmage sitting in the lounge, sipping on some coffee, looking as though he had been waiting for Zuko.
“It’s about time.” He said as he looked up at Zuko, who was walking around with only his body bandages on.
“Old Man… why are you here?”
“Obviously, I am here to speak with you.”
“Alright, however let me ask you this; is it common or acceptable for one to enter another’s domicile without their knowledge or consent?”
Archmage William looked at Zuko in silence for a bit, before nodding and taking another sip.
“No, it is not. I am simply far too accustomed to entering this place when the City Lord is absent; I apologise.”
“Is what you wish to speak about pressing, or can it wait until I have showered and gotten ready?”
“You’ve already made me wait for you to wake up, so you may as well make me wait until you are presentable.”
Zuko just walked off into the bathroom, and around twenty minutes later, he was seated in the lounge with the Archmage. The two men sat in silence so awkward, if there was a third party in the apartment, they most likely would have lost it and ran out.
“Coffee?” The Archmage offered.
“Do you mean that bitter tasting brew you made for me the other day? I will not say no.”
William got up and entered the kitchen for a minute or so, before retuning with a cup that he set down in front of Zuko. He looked at the bandaged man for a bit while still holding the coffee mug, initiating yet another awkward silence.
“Izano Zuko.” He said, seemingly ready to speak about whatever it was that caused him to be there since the early morning.
“What is it?” Zuko said as he tried to pry the mug out of William’s hand.
“I am going to ask you a series of questions and I need you to answer them as clearly and as honestly as you possibly can.”
Zuko looked up from the table and at the Archmage, who had an absolutely serious expression on his face and in his eyes. This prompted Zuko to nod once, and immediately afterwards, the mug that he was jostling for was released.
“There may be certain aspects of my answers that will not satisfy you, however once I have given an answer, I will not give another.”
Archmage William made a bit of a face at this declaration, however had no choice but to accept the stipulation as he felt that Zuko was not going to budge.
“Do you know Gin – our City Lord.”
“Yes, I do.”
“How? Who or what is he to you?”
“…my uncle.” Zuko replied, after taking a bit of time to carefully consider his reply.
The Archmage’s eyes grew wide with absolute shock; however he recovered just as quickly, calming down after taking a breath and continuing with his questions.
“Through blood?” He asked.
“…through love.” Zuko said, looking William directly in the eye.
To his credit, the old man got what Zuko was trying to convey in that statement very quickly and just nodded slowly.
‘So he’s saying that Gin was close enough to one or both of his parents that he considers him an uncle.’ William thought to himself, before looking at Zuko once more.
“Why are you here?”
“To fulfill a promise that was made decades ago.”
That reply did little other than stoke the fires of curiosity within Archmage William, who spent quite a bit of time trying to formulate his follow up question. Zuko could practically see the cogs turning in his head, and the smoke flowing out from his ears, because William knew that asking what the promise what, or what it entailed, or seeking any hints about it would all prove fruitless. After some time, he eventually just sighed and shrugged his shoulders, before looking at Zuko.
“Why are you here? What are you here to do?”
Zuko, who had been nursing his cup of bitter tasting brew, looked at the Archmage, who seemed to be looking at him with a unblinking eyes. The two men looked at each other and William, who had been waiting to hear the big man’s voice in his head, suddenly saw his mouth move from behind the bandages wrapped around his head.
“… to… help.”
William’s eyes grew in size once more as a whole host of thoughts rushed through his head. He looked at this man, who came in from the Savage Lands not too long ago, was forced upon him by a stubborn City Lord, and appeared to have shown up just when things were about to become complicated. He scowled for just a second and shook his head, before sitting back into the chair.
“So… Black Robes…” William started saying, as if he was satisfied with the answers he had received. “Black Robed Mages are virtually a Division in of themselves, much like White Knights – those Knights clad in White Armour, much like that Zaroku that you clashed with. Able to move about and act with more freedom than regular Agents, those clad in Black and White have the ability to recruit or conscript Agents to their Divisions so to speak. That means you are able to have subordinates, people who run your Division, custom vehicles and so on. You are able to run independent investigations, and—”
“Sorry to interrupt, but you already gave me a rushed explanation detailing all this. Why feel the need to do so again?”
“Because back then, I told you purely as it was a formality that I wanted to get over with. As things stand at the moment, I’m telling you because we may have to utilize your strange ability to pursue and investigate things.” William took another sip of coffee, before continuing. “If you are going to continue with this however, I strongly suggest that you recruit at least one subordinate.”
“I told you that I do not need one.”
“Listen you stubborn idiot, recruiting somebody will pretty much make them untouchable, and give them the power to say no to unwanted requests…” William said, trying his best to look indifferent.
Zuko looked at this old man, the Archmage of the Order in the city, trying his hardest to make it seem like he wasn’t giving the most obvious hint in the world. Zuko couldn’t help but chuckle just a tad as he hid behind his coffee mug, before nodding as he sipped once again.
“I know what you are getting at, but I am still reluctant… particularly because that Buffoon does not really know all that much about me.”
As Zuko said that, the image of BroBob dressed in his goofy looking combat gear, running towards him with the intention of trying to fight off his attacker with him suddenly engraved itself in his mind, causing him to sigh just a bit.
“But then again, loyalty being rewarded is something I had drilled into me from an early age, so if doing this can keep the sharks at bay, then maybe it could be a good idea.”
There was a lull in the conversation as both men just sipped on and finished off their respective beverages.
“Well, I will go and get the necessary forms and such ready to make everything official. You didn’t sign anything the last time, so—”
“Curtis…” Zuko said as he interrupted William. “Curtis… on this Plane, Old Man, there are beings that are loved by certain things. That love can either prove to be a boon or a bane, and it is often up to the individual being to decide which it is.”
“What in the Hells are you talking about?”
“Back when I was much younger, I used to travel around quite a bit. I have seen native lands of many races, of Elves, of Orcs, of Gnomes, of Dwarves, and more. I have seen countless beings that have been loved and hated by things, and Magic is most certainly one of those. When I reflect and look back on those travels, I am hard pressed to find a being that is loved by Magic more than that idiotic son of yours.”
William, who had maintained a neutral expression the entire time Zuko was speaking, managed to keep the straight face, but was betrayed completely by his eyes.
“You once told me that if you were to die, all the Mages in here would be left in the hands of your imbecilic son, did you not? An imbecile he may be, but Curtis is also a kind hearted person who is loved by Magic – which is just as well, because he loves it back. He is allowed to invoke Magic Spells using the most ridiculous incantations, purely because Magic loves him, and because he loves it back, he is able to command Magic with the kind of ease that many a Mage will strive for a lifetime to achieve and still fail.”
“Don’t speak as if you know him! How much time have you spent with him? How much Magic have you seen him use? Huh?”
“Enough to formulate this opinion.” Zuko said with a shrug. “Your son is talented, Old Man. He is stupid, but he is as kind and talented as he is an idiot, and if the Mages in this city were to become his responsibility, I think he would surprise you with how well he would do.”
The Archmage just stood up and walked out of the apartment without saying another word. The door slammed behind him, and Zuko just sat there, shaking his head ever so slightly.
‘Disingenuous old man.’ Zuko thought to himself before standing up.
A knock on the door caused Zuko to stand on the spot for a bit, as if he had been planning on doing something else, but the knock on the door threw him off. He eventually walked over to the door and opened it to see BroBob standing there. The Technician didn’t even wait to be invited in, and walked right in, sliding in smooth as his high tops threatened to squeak on the floor tiles.
“Yo Izano…” Brometheus Bob said as he looked behind him. “Brometheus just saw the strangest thing, bro. That Archmage walked past him, and BroBob could have sworn he was blinking away tears, man. That sour faced old dude was fuckin’ weeping, bro.”
“We all do.” Zuko said as he closed the door.
“True that. Yo, how are you feeling by the way?”
“Better.” Zuko stated simply. “This is not my first time ignoring injuries.”
“Whoa, so you really were injured?”
“Of course I was. Did you see how many times that bastard hit me in my midriff? That kind of physical strength should be illegal.”
“Yeah, or it should be on our side.” BroBob said as he sniffed the air.
“That too. Although neither of us was fighting anywhere near full strength, in my current state, he would also be able to take me out.”
“Yeah.” Zuko said with a look in his eye that suggested he wasn’t afraid in the slightest. Instead, he genuinely looked excited. “Strong people seem to be appearing like cockroaches crawling out of cracks in the ground.”
“Is that a good or a bad thing, bro?” BroBob asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“That depends on me, I would say…”
“Shit! Bro, Brometheus can smell that good coffee in this place, but he can’t find any! Don’t tell him you finished it all?”
“Huh? Yeah, we finished the brew.”
Just as Brometheus was about to whine some more, the front door suddenly swung open with William and Curtis both standing in the doorway. The Archmage, who had opened the door, suddenly remembered something causing his face to look even sourer than it usually did. He stepped back as he closed the door slowly, before a single knock rung out through the entire apartment, causing Zuko and BroBob to look at each other with wide eyes.
The door then swung open, and the two men walked in, William with a scowl on his face, while Curtis was barely able to contain his amusement. Curtis was carrying a briefcase of sorts, and smiled at Zuko once they were all together.
“Curtis.” Zuko simply said with a nod.
“Ah, you're here.” The Archmage said as he looked at BroBob. “We have things to discuss.”
“We? As in you two and Izano? Should Brometheus give y’all some space?”
“No, we as in you and I. Without wasting time, let me get right into it.”
Archmage William set about explaining everything about Black Robes, going into far more detail with Brometheus than he did with Izano Zuko – almost as if he had accepted that a low ranking Knight Technician was about to become the second most powerful figure in a Black Robe’s Squad. To his credit, BroBob was not only listening intently, but had been engaging with William, asking questions, seeking clarification, and just being eager to understand, despite having no idea why he was being told all this. When it appeared as though the Archmage was done, Brometheus raised his hand in a manner akin to how a student would in class.
“Brometheus has a question!” He boomed enthusiastically.
“Y-Yes?” William asked somewhat apprehensively.
“Why is the Archmage telling Brometheus all this? Brometheus is a Tech, after all.”
“It has been decided that you are to… join Izano Zuko’s Division.” William said through slightly gritted teeth.
“…you mean as a… Technician? Or a Hood?” BroBob said with a look of deep confusion on his face.
“No, as an Assistant.”
“To him!” William snarled as he looked at Zuko.
“Wait wait wait wait wait!!! Brometheus is a Technician! Hell, he’s a Knight! You want Brometheus to become one of the Assistants of a Mage?! How will the others respond to this?”
“The others?” William asked.
“The other Assistants!”
“There are no ‘other’ people. It is just you and I. Just us.”
“HUH?! Shit, just you and Brometheus?! I mean damn, we were just hanging out these past few days! Doing this makes this shit official!”
“So? Nothing changes except the fact that you will be in a place where you are no longer ignored or referred to as trash. No longer have to skulk about, to scavenge, and to hide.”
“You will also be able to turn down those who seek information from you. I have a feeling that as things intensify, more and more people will be seeking you out as the person closest to Izano Zuko. If you remain a Technician the things that can be done in order to coerce you into talking are limitless. As the second highest ranking member of a special Division, you gain infinitely more clout, and it becomes difficult to do anything to you.”
“Damn.” Curtis said in shock. “I wanna join to. Izano let me join the crew as well.”
“I do not mind.” Zuko said with an indifferent shrug.
“I do!” The Archmage said in protest. “Anyway, decide whether you wish to join or not. The sooner we have this finalised, the better.”
“Shit…” Brometheus said, before looking at Zuko for about a minute. He then looked at William and nodded. “Shit, give Brometheus the fuckin’ pen, and let’s do this!”
Curtis suddenly swung the briefcase he was holding onto the dining room table with a hard bang, unclipped and opened it before pulling out a number of scrolls. He opened all of them, before pulling out what looked like a special type of pen.
“Alright, this pen is what you two will be using to sign all these damn scrolls. Izano, you will be signing them all, while Robert over there will only sign this one over here.”
“Yo, that’s Brometheus Bob.”
Zuko made his way over to the table and once he got there, picked up the pen before looking at Curtis.
“Where do I sign?” He asked somewhat nervously.
“Here, on this line.” Curtis said as he pointed.
“This is my first time signing anything.” Zuko admitted to Curtis. “I must admit, I am feeling slightly nervous.”
“Just print your name on the line.” Curtis encouraged with a whisper. “That’s all we need, dude.”
Zuko did just that, writing Izano Zuko on all the scrolls, nodding at Curtis once he was done. Brometheus Bob made his way over to the table as well, and signed the scroll he was directed towards. There was very little fanfare or even time to absorb what had happened, as the Archmage started speaking.
“Alright, now that you are part of a special Division there are certain things to discuss, however—”
“No time.” Zuko declared. “We need to move while the other side is still in the process of trying to tie up loose ends.”
“I was going to suggest the same thing.” The Archmage said. “Curtis.”
Curtis pulled out a massive scroll, and after stuffing the recently signed ones back into the briefcase, he laid it out on the table.
“What is this?” Zuko asked.
“A map.” The Archmage responded.
“Why has it been laid out on the table?” BroBob asked.
“I figured Izano wasn’t well acquainted with the layout of our city, so I figured if he became intimately familiar with it, it would assist in planning.” Curtis said.
Zuko just nodded his agreement and appreciation, looking at Curtis for a second, who grinned and nodded back.
“He does occasionally have the odd good idea when he isn’t skirt chasing.” William snorted.
“You shitty old man, embarrassing me in front of company.” Curtis grumbled as he pulled a small wand out from beneath his Robes.
After pointing at the map, the wand glowed brightly, before a series of tiny glyphs stared flowing out from the tip. They swirled around the page, and as they did, three-dimensional holographic models of the buildings began sprouting from the outlines on the paper. The process was grand, filling the naturally dark apartment with light and colour for the duration of the construction so-to-speak. Once the miniature reconstruction of Glory City was complete and the light show died down, Zuko looked at the Archmage with a certain look in his eye, as if the light show was somehow confirmation of what he had told William earlier.
“Hmph – show off.” William snorted before stepping up to the table. “Listen closely, Izano Zuko; I am about to explain the current situation in the city.”
Zuko seemed to perk up and begin to pay special attention to the sour looking old man, who was standing next to his extremely chipper son.
“The way things stand at the moment, we have certain centers of power.” As Archmage William spoke, Curtis was pointing towards the map. “If we say that we as the Order are in the Human Center of Power, then the Districts in the areas surrounding this building can be considered as Human Districts. The further away we move from HQ, the more those who have mixed blood start to trickle in to the population, until we eventually enter the Districts that are predominantly mixed. Even then, the mixed peoples generally do not mix with one another all that much, however there are areas in which they do. The further away we go from these Districts, the closer we get to the full blood areas where Elves and Orcs, the other races that live in the city, are present. The deeper into these areas, the more stark the separation between Elves, Orcs and their respective affiliate races becomes, until we reach what we call Enclaves.”
“Yes, Enclaves; the Orcish and Elven Enclaves in which the leaders of both races along with a large amount of what could be considered the more worthy or powerful reside. The War Chief of the Orcs and the Elder of the Elves are the heads of the two Centers of Power.”
“War Chief and Elder?” Zuko said as he looked the Archmage with a raised brow. “So cliché.”
“That’s what they are called everywhere. Stop with the interruptions! Anyway, Curtis did well circling the different areas in separate colours so the different areas can be easily told apart. So, if we look at this map which has been split, perhaps we can hazard a guess as to where these people are based.”
“That will be difficult.”
“Especially considering how little information we have on them.” Curtis agreed.
“We also don’t know where the suppliers are.” Brometheus added.
“Although if we sniff around those Apothecaries that are in and around Elven territory, I suspect we might be able to find something.”
“That is if whoever is in charge of things hasn’t already moved to get rid of them.” William added.
“So what do we do bro?” BroBob asked.
“Well, we are not yet in a position act against these people comfortably. We are still stuck doing the reacting, which is a bad position to be in because we are constantly playing catch up.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Curtis asked with a sigh.
“I will search for and find the one who attacked me last night and make him talk.” Zuko stated bullishly.
“That guy whooped your ass, bro. Is looking for him such a good idea?”
“There is nothing else I can think of besides finding him. Besides, towards the end, my eyes were able to keep up with his speed, so I will not be a punching bag next time around.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, we didn’t hear a damn thing about this!” Curtis boomed. “The guy who attacked you last night won the fight?”
“He didn’t just win, he whooped Izano’s ass!”
“Tell me everything!”
“Would you two quiet down?!” The Archmage boomed. “Some of us aren’t here to gossip!”
“No, it is alright, Old Man – I have already decided on a course of action.”
“Oh? Is that so?”
“I will go here.” Zuko said as he pointed to the Orc Enclave.
“To do what exactly?”
“Ask the War Chief if he knows the identity of the one who attacked me.”
“Why would he know? Unless—”
“That is right, he was an Orc.”
“Well shit, that’s unfortunate.” Curtis said.
“Why is that?”
“Our relationships with our Orcish and Elven brethren are… strained at best. The understanding we all have is of coexistence through gritted teeth. You can’t just go there and bulldoze your way in – lest you completely destroy the alliances that the City Lord works so hard to maintain.”
Zuko just looked at the Archmage as he spoke, waiting for him to finish. Once he did, he looked at the map before speaking.
“What makes you so sure that they have not already been destroyed without your knowledge?”
“Think about it, Old Man… if there really is a coalition of Non-Humans out to get all humans, would the leaders of the Non-Human Enclaves really not be involved? Or at least have been approached by whoever leads this coalition to try and secure support?”
Zuko’s words took a few seconds to sink in to the minds of everybody in the apartment. The Archmage looked at Zuko with wide eyes for a second, before looking at the map.
“I will not be going there to stir anything up – only for information. I was delicate enough before that you all had no idea what I was doing, not so? I can do this without destroying any alliances.”
Before there could be any kind of rebuttal, Zuko turned around made his way off towards the bedroom.
“Buffooneus prepare yourself; we leave for the Orc Enclave in half an hour.”
“…does that man even know how to listen to other people?” William said as he watched Zuko disappear.