Chapter 1 : The Radiant City (3/3) [Route 2]
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“Eh… are you serious?”

Holding my groceries close to my chest, I backed up slightly. She was getting too close for comfort, and… my anxiety was kicking in pretty bad right now.

“Who are you?”

She stomped on the floor causing me to straighten my back.

“I gave you an order!”

“Eh… My name is Feodora Cicer, and I’m currently in-between jobs.”

"You are a creature of the night. One who is in love with the darkness. Your body resonates with the dark spectrum, does it not?"

She approached closer causing me to back up again.

“Eh, yeah… Listen, if this is about that barklight, she started it.”

“My name is Jade Opal, a knight from the Radiant Kingdom, and I’m taking you in for questioning.”

“You look nothing like a knight… not in that getup.”

I remarked, looking at her… clothing choice.

"Do you dare question my authority based on what I'm wearing?

“Ah… yeah, that’s just what I’m doing.”

She looked pissed off, and that caused my shoulders to drop. Everything in me was telling me to make a break for it. But I’ve heard the stories of the Radiants from tales spun over time with Maxwell. They are dangerous. Their command is deemed as law so if I disobey, it would be a pain to deal with.

“Listen… Ah, Jade, I just came to town to buy some stuff. Can I like, stop by later and make a statement or something?”

Her eyes lowered as she put her free hand on her blade.

“I asked nicely the first time… Now I want to cut you down and drag you in.”

She approached as I put my hand on my katana, ready for another fight. Suddenly, the world was shaken as a bright light lit up the sky. An explosion in the distance caused my body to shake as I fell to the ground. I sat right on my groceries, crushing the

remaining tomatoes. 

“The hell?”

The beauty named Jade scorned as she looked into the distance. Fire erupted from a distance away. My arm was grabbed, a bright light formed in my wrist. A holy spectrum tightened around both my wrist, binding me to them.

“Stay where you are, I’ll be back to deal with you later. And if you dare try to leave, I will kill you.”

“Eh?! Hey! Get these off me!”

I cried, but it was useless; she raced off into the distance, towards the explosion. Crowds of people rushed away from the scene. I took to my feet and attempted to break her spectrum.

“Tsk... this isn’t weak. She must be strong in holy to put something like this on me.”

I turned towards the gates and attempted to run away, but my body was pulled by the light on my wrist. I crashed to the ground.

“Are you kidding me?”

I tried again and again, but the result was the same. I even attempted to shadow walk outside the gates, but the spectrum would pull me out from the shadows and slam me back into town. There was no doubt about it…

“I’m stuck here until she gets rid of this spectrum on me. She’s the only one that can get these off me, isn’t she?”

Annoyed, I took to my feet. I closed my eyes and focused on the holy bindings on my wrist. What I saw was a link of chains. As I followed it, I noticed that the chain followed where Jade ran off to.

"Maybe..."

I stepped forwards and before I knew it, I was following the link. It seemed that I was only bound if I attempted to pull on the chains.

"So, I'm bound to her, and if I try to pull away... I get punished."

I understood the problem. So, I took a deep breath and concluded what I had to do.

“Alright.”

I raced off towards the chains. It allowed me to follow where she was going and gave me a clear insight into where she went.

As I traveled towards the blast, the wooden stores were lit on fire and the fires became greater over time. People were evacuated, making it all the harder to get through. Bodies pushed upon me as I made my way through the crowd. With my arms tightly together, this was harder than it should have been.

“Everyone, make your way to the west gates, keep it orderly, people!”

From the distance, a dark blue-haired woman with a blue dress and bright eyes was directing the evacuating people. In her hair was a blue flower that mirrored her hair. She caught my eyes with me as I was making my way in the opposite direction of everyone else. But she didn't say anything, she just gave me a creepy smirk and continued directing

the fleeing town members.

When I finally made it through the rush, buildings were on fire as knights were clearing out the area. There were users of the water spectrum, trying to extinguish the flames.

“Where is she?”

The chains came to a stop and below me was built up slack from the binds. I looked around, trying my best to find that strange beauty when a slightly higher-pitched voice melted into my ear from behind.

“And who might you be?”

I turned around, only to be drowned in the bright blue eyes of that woman from before. She looked about my age, in her 20s, as she searched me up and down.

“Oh, you have handcuffs on?”

 

 

She concluded as she yanked them, pulling me closer to her.

“What are you doing here? Why do you have these on?”

She was aggressive, and it caused me to lunge back.

“Ah, a Knight by the name of Jade Opal put them on me. I couldn’t take them off…so I came looking for her.”

Manically, she laughed. Suddenly, a mist formed around her hand, and a large gun appeared. It seemed she was a water spectrum user. She waved the weapon near my face.

“Oh, are you a suspect?”

She pushed me to the ground and pointed her gun in my face. I wasn't sure what was happening as I mindlessly watched her play with it like a toy. The gun's large black barrel aimed at my forehead.

“As you can see, everyone is busy with this mess right now. That gives me time to have fun…”

She turned to the side and kicked a wooden crate that was left during the chaos. The wood scattered across the street.

“Calm down already!”

She yelled at seemingly no one. Clearly, this girl was off her rocker. She walked about the fire zone as she giggled to herself.

“First question, what’s your name, redhead?”

Before I could open my mouth, she shot off her gun. A bright ray hit the ground near me causing water to splash up. It was sharp, like the edge of a knife as the water cut the side of my cheek.

“You’re insane!”

I bit on my teeth.

“No, I’m efficient. Now give me your name!”

She put the gun to my head and pushed it into my forehead.

“Tsk… Feodora Cicer.”

“How long have you been in this city?”

“Today was my first day coming. I needed groceries… and now I’m regretting it.”

She pushed the gun off my forehead and walked about for a bit. She found a pot lying on the ground and kicked it, effectively shattering it across the street too.

“Good so far… Now, what kind of spectrum vessel are you?”

I hated every minute of this as I confessed.

As my eyes moved about, I caught the sight of a pink-haired girl. She was dressed in a uniform of some kind, but I couldn't make out much with this psychopath walking about. She was watching from a distance. 

 

Behind her was a taller blue-haired woman. Our eyes met, and it seemed to have taken her by surprise. She was transparent, and I could see the flames erupting behind her. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but she spoke to the pink-haired girl next to her.

“Hurry up, Yuu Yuu! Do you want to be caught?! Mother will be pissed if we don’t escape!”

The blue-haired woman commanded her like a dog. The ghost girl then looked back at me, and for the second time, our eyes connected.

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, flashing lights rippled through my head. It was like I was blinking my eyes constantly. Everything around me went quiet for a second before all the sound came crashing back with a large pop.

The chaos persisted as people ran from the blast site. I was still… in a trance, looking at that blue-haired woman floating behind the backpack girl.

“That girl with the red hair over there… I think she sees me, Yuu Yuu! W-Whatever, I’m getting paranoid! Let’s go! Go!”

That blue-haired woman pushed the pink-haired one to escape. I tried my best to watch them, but the psycho entered my view again.

“Hey! I’m talking to you! What kind of vessel are you?!”

I had a crazy chick with a gun pacing around me with a kick to my head.

 

“Dark vessel…”

Her bright eyes shined brighter than a gemstone.

“Oh… I see why she kept you. I guess you are kind of screwed, aren’t you?”

Suddenly, she kicked me, causing me to fall over.

The world around me was becoming hazy.

 

I couldn’t tell what was going on anymore…

 


 

 

“Ah?!”

I found myself bound to an uncomfortable chair. My face was leaned to the side, and drool was running out of my mouth. It wasn’t like I was sleeping… more like I was in a daze and finally came to.

“Eh… I hope nobody saw that.”

I rubbed my mouth on my shoulder as I looked about. It was a dark room with grey walls and a single table in the middle. There was a one-way glass behind me and a door in front. This room reminded me of my books again. It was certainly inspired by the human European civilization’s design. It used to be called a precinct office interrogation room.

“… Arrrg… I seriously hope nobody saw that.”

My mind wasn’t clear yet, and the only thing I could think about was people watching me foam at the mouth as I was in a strange daze.

“Where am I?”

The place where a suspect would be pushed around by two investigators. I kind of expected two men to come in. One being the nice guy and the other… not so much.

Suddenly, the door shook. A burly man came through the door. With a stack of papers in hand, he approached, slapping them on the table.

"Alright you little fiery-haired punk, you're gonna talk!"

He was large, maybe around 6’5 or so as he towered over me. His bald head shined in the dim light of the room. With a reddish nose, a brown mustache, a casual shirt with a bright red tie, and pants that rode up around his big waist, he circled the table before sitting down.

"We have reported that you caused a lot of trouble missy. I have a lot of charges I can press on you. Disturbing the peace, reckless endangerment, chase and pursuit of a minor…"

 I lunged back.

“That barklight was no minor! She attempted to take my weapon!”

He scrunched up that cherry nose of his and turned away.

“I don’t know missy, it ain’t lookin’ all good for you, nope sir, nope sir. Jade told me to keep you until she came back.”

“This is why I need to grow my own tomatoes…”

I scorned my inability to be self-sufficient. My cravings got the best of me, and I went into town. Maxwell was right, I should have stayed alone and none of this would have happened.

“Alright, that’s enough Halmote. I can handle it from here.”

The beauty named Jade walked in. Her dark long hair that reached to her hips swayed from left to right as she made her way to me. At her command, the burly man walked out, shutting the door as he did.

“I want to start off by apologizing to you. I didn’t mean to leave you there… but things had to be done.”

I recalled what happened. That earthquake and explosion. There was a fire in the distance and Jade ran off to help.

“Y-Yeah… I ran over there to find you… and this strange woman started interrogating me.”

Confused, she looked at me.

“What are you talking about? I found you back where I left you. That explosion caused you to fall over and you hit your head. I didn’t have time to deal with you…so I handcuffed you and took off.”

“What?”

“When I came back you were in a daze. I asked Halmote to look after you as I finished up my duties. It looked like you came out of it. I don’t know what caused it, but…”

She bit her lip.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t care.

"Right now I have a job, and you are the person I need to chat with.”

She sounded so matter of fact about it. But that's not what happened. I clearly remember running after her. But instead of saying anything else, I shook my head.

“Listen… I just came to town for groceries. This is a little much. If it’s about that barklight… she stole from me and-“

With her hand, she stopped me.

"Look, you have a lot of charges facing you. These come from witnesses' accounts. I know about what happened… you don't have to worry about that."

She laid out a bunch of papers. Each was scribbled so terribly I couldn't tell what they even said. Apparently, Halmote wasn't too good at their job.

“Legally, I can hold you here for the foreseeable future… and it’s not even about that incident with you and Lana.”

"Lana? Is that her name?"

I recalled her face. The bratty earth spectrum user who called her golem on me. Her name is Lana, it seemed. But the image of her vanished as everything in me wanted to just have those fried green tomatoes. My stomach began to growl.

 

 

“I just wanted to go home and make fried green tomatoes…”

I complained.

“But I don’t think that would benefit either of us, now would it, Feodora? If I just locked you in here and threw away the key.”

“I don’t think so.”

I pondered…

“Could I be in solitary confinement if you do?”

“No, you’ll be in a cell with three roommates at the very least.”

My heart sank into my stomach.

“Here’s the true reason I brought you in here.”

She sat across from me and brought out her hand.

 

 

"You are a user of the dark spectrum, aren't you?"

I grit my teeth as I looked her in the eye.

“…What about it?”

"You know how extraordinarily rare that is? Anyone who is born to use the spectrum is drifted towards one element. The vast majority of us are born with the highest ability of Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind."

I kicked the ground as she went on…

“Fewer than one percent are born with the compatibility to use dark or light. That means… you are special, I shouldn’t have to tell you that, right, Feodora?”

I turned away as she pierced my eyes with her fearsome gaze. I couldn’t deny that she was beautiful…but a little scary too.

“How long have you lived around here, Feodora?”

“I traveled from a forest around 70 miles or so. I arrived here a few months ago. I set up a cabin on the outskirts of the city. Today was the first time I entered here… and I regret that.”

People are stressful to deal with. There was a reason why I never associated with them much. I concluded that if I got out of here… I was never coming back.

“So, you’re a hermit, Feodora Cicer?”

“H-Hermit? That’s a cold word to associate me with. I’m not a hermit.”

“But you just told me that you live on the outskirts of town. You prefer to be alone and away from people… that’s the definition of a hermit.”

“C-Can you drop the hermit thing, please, Jade?”

“No, I’m writing it down into your records. It might be important for later.”

As it would turn out, I was now Feodora Cicer, the hermit girl. My body slumped all the more.

“Hey, fix your posture… Kids these days.”

I did as I was told and sat up properly. After a moment of writing, she looked back up to me.

“Listen, from my conclusion, I can’t let you leave today.”

“Why?”

“You fit the profile of a person I’m looking for in an ongoing investigation.”

“Profile?”

She pointed at me as she listed off what was on the paper in front of her.

“The person I’m looking for is likely young, a recluse, a user of the dark arts or dark spectrum at its highest caliber. They are a dark vessel…”

“You’re looking for a dark spectrum user… a dark vessel?”

She nodded.

"Yes, someone who has birth-level capabilities. Someone who was born with a line attracted to the dark spectrum. Someone just like you, Feodora Cicer."

My mouth jawed. The only person I’ve known was Maxwell who was like me. But now someone else around this city could be…

“Well, it’s not me.”

“You are the prime suspect in a string of missing people investigation now.”

“What?”

“And to me, you’re the likely culprit, and I have no intentions of letting you go as of now.”

She leaned back in her seat.

“However, I can let you walk today…if you help me with something important, Feodora.”

I was on edge as her stone face now had a slight smirk on it.

“…What do you mean?”

I asked warily. She crossed her arms and leaned in closer.

“I’ve been at a standstill in this case because I don’t have someone reliable who is privy to… the dark spectrum.”

I didn’t like where this was going.

I went on the defensive as I turned away.

“…What do you want from me?”

"There's been a string of disappearances around this city like I said. And the only things that turn up are these symbols."

She looked in her stack of papers and slid a picture across. I instantly knew what this was. This was a symbol of the dark arts. These symbols always appear in my dreams as if luring me closer to them. I… know them well without knowing what they mean. This symbol swung in a strange arrow pointing to the right. I had no idea what it meant.

 

 

But then I stopped myself. I knew exactly what this symbol meant.

“This is the symbol of [S]ubjagation!”

My strange dream came back to mind. This was the symbol of subjugation, and it entailed that someone was being used as a slave by a dark vessel user. If this symbol was found by Jade, this knight, then the person they are looking for is likely being used as a tool and nothing more.

I looked up and caught the knight analyzing my expression. I carelessly showed on my face that I knew more than I first said.

"You know something… don't you, Feodora Cicer?"

I shook my head.

"No, it's not that. I've seen this symbol before…."

I recalled the teachings of my mentor. The dark arts are illegal, and using ones like possession and necromancy will likely lead to me being executed for crimes against humanity. I had to be careful in trusting my knowledge to someone like her.

"So, what do you know about it, Feodora Cicer. This was left at my crime scene, and if you're holding out information, I have every right to keep you here for further interrogation."

The knight was relentless, and the longer I stayed here, the less pull I would have. I had to play my words carefully to walk out of this place today.

“The dark arts are passed down from dark vessel to dark vessel.”

I began my explanation to Jade Opal. Despite my hesitation… something told me that I could maybe trust her with this information.

“Yes, I’ve heard that to be the case.”

I crossed my arms.

"First off, I want you to know that I am not a part of whatever is happening here. If you choose not to believe me, I won't tell you anything."

I was firm. Knowing this subject gave me the power I needed in this discussion. It was clear to me that Jade was at a loss in her investigation and that I would be the only person who had the knowledge to push it forwards. The knight grunted, and it made me believe that she knew what position she was in.

I held power in this interrogation…

But despite that, Jade tried her best to come back with a rebuttal.

“Anyone would assume that the culprit behind these disappearances is someone of the dark spectrum… in other words…”

“Someone like me?”

I blurted out but instantly I regretted it.

“Listen Feodora…there aren’t too many dark vessels in this world. The few I’ve known already passed away years ago. Many… aren’t around anymore. But what I do know is if you were on this case, you might be able to solve why these people go missing… unless you’re the culprit that is.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I lock you up under the pretense that you might be associated with this whole ordeal. Even if another incident occurs… I can’t be certain that you’re innocent.”

I called her bluff.

“Then lock me up.”

Jade looked surprised as her iced expression thawed. I put her on her back foot. Without me, her investigation would come to a stall. Because I had the knowledge she needed, I'm sure Jade knew locking me up would be the worst thing possible.

“Hehe…”

Jade… smiled and even giggled. It threw me off because she didn’t look like the type to do that.

“You’re in here with handcuffs and the prospect of being tossed into a cell… and you still hold the confidence to threaten me?”

“…”

I decided to shut up. The only confidence I had was knowing the subjugation symbol in front of me. But Jade didn't know that. I was an expert in all of the various signs and spells for all she knew. I had a surface-level understanding of most of them across the board, but Maxwell made sure… that it was only a surface level. But with my more profound knowledge of subjugation and the power and uses behind it…

It was clear to me that Jade needed this.

I became the key that would open the doors for her. That’s where my confidence came from.

“Fine.”

Jade said as she reached over the table. My handcuffs shattered as she released her spell from me.

"As a sign of good faith, I have no intention to put you in jail, Feodora… as long as you help me understand what's going on here."

I felt my wrists. They had light burns from the spell, but this was… a sign of good faith, as she proposed. Jade leaned back in her seat, showing me that she wasn't as guarded as before.

“What if I leave?”

I asked.

"If you leave and another person goes missing, I will put you on the most wanted list, and we will find you. However… if you are telling me the truth and you aren't a part of this entire missing person case, what would it hurt if you told me what you knew?"

I pondered for a bit. Giving up my leverage was a price I would have to take for my freedom.

“If you want me to consult with you on this matter… then I want to be paid for it.”

I laid out my demands. The knight smiled again, to my surprise.

"Huh… I didn't expect you to try and grift me. Give me information, so I know you're not bullshitting me, Feodora Cicer."

I thought about that symbol on the table as I explained the true meaning behind it to her.

 

“The symbol of subjugation is an arrow pointing forwards.

It means: No matter, I will go forward.

It is an order for the slave to follow thy will until death…."

 

 

I repeated my teachings from my strange dream.

“Subjugation?”

Jade asked.

"This means a dark vessel laid this trap out for a victim. They stepped on it and were caught. As long as the dark vessel allows, the victim is their slave going forward."

The knight bit her lip.

“And how many… “slaves” can one dark vessel user have, Feodora Cicer?”

“Honestly, as many as they want.”

I could see the discomfort in her body language. She adjusted her seat and sat tall.

"Explain how that would be possible. Isn't there a limit on how much the spell weighs on the dark vessel?"

I shook my head.

“The symbol of subjugation doesn't feed off the dark vessel. It feeds off of the host. The spell tricks the host to obey the commands of the dark vessel by using their own spectrum lines."

I put a finger to my lip.

"For example, If I gave you the command to "run," you can choose to run or not. It is always your choice to decide what you want to do and not do. But this symbol overrides your will to say no. You are using your own energy to fulfill what I want you to do. That's why it's called "subjugation."

Jade clicked her tongue.

“And how far can those commands go?”

"I could tell you to kill yourself, Jade, and you wouldn't bat an eye and just do it."

The knight closed her eyes and repeated my previous words.

No matter, I will go forward. It is an order for the slave to follow thy will until death…."

The knight clicked her tongue.

“What… a dangerous spell. And there’s the chance that… a lot of people have fallen victim to it already.”

The knight looked at me. Any playful banter she had in her was gone entirely. It seemed the severity of the symbol had erased all lightheartedness.

“Firstly, I want to apologize for how I treated you when we first met.”

I didn’t expect this, but I didn't say anything either.

"Secondly, I ask that you consult with us going forward. Knowing the dangers of this spell, I think you can understand why I would have to put you in prison if you fail to comply. For the safety of the people in Radiant City."

“Are you going to pay me for my service then?”

"I'll figure out a pay scale for you, Feodora Cicer."

 

“For the return of my freedom… I’ll help you out for the time being. But I want to make sure you know that this is temporary and just until this case is concluded.”

 

 

She nodded.

“Alright, I will write up a statement and put you as a consultant on this case. In return, I’ll allow you to return home once your duties are finished.”

She glared at me.

"But if you fail to show up at the appointed time, I will be forced to send knights to apprehend you. You will be charged with failing to appear, and I'll lock you up just as I pointed out before."

I called her bluff further.

"Yeah… I don't think so. You… need me more than I need you, Jade Opal. I'm sure you can wait."

Jade once again crossed her arms and smirked. 

"You really are testing my patients... you're going to be an interesting asset if anything, Feodora Cicer."

In an odd way, I think Jade was enjoying my kickback. If I was going to be a part of this, I had to make sure she knew that I was in control of the knowledge she needed. Even if I don't actually know all about the dark arts, she didn't know that and it needed to stay that way. I had the upper hand in this interrogation and I wasn't going to allow Jade to have dominion over what I do. The knight groaned in frustration. I think I just stabbed her in the side with my honesty.

“Alright then, tomorrow I have a scene for you to investigate with me. I expect you to be back here by 9 in the morning. We'll meet outside Radiant City Brewery. It’s a pleasure working with you, Feodora Cicer.”

The knight reached out her hand... and I accepted it. It felt like this knight gained a least a bit more respect for me and realized she couldn't treat me like a dog to do her bidding.

“Yeah, you as well, Jade Opal.”

I stood up and made my way to the door. In a way, I felt empowered that I was this needed for the knights. Jade had little to no pull on me because she needed me. And this would solve my money problems for the time being. But… I certainly wouldn't want to do this all the time.

My goal is to live alone on the city's outskirts as Maxwell asked me to. I had no intentions of making friends with the knights here.

“Oh, Feodora…”

“Huh?”

I turned back to her and met that charming smile of hers.

"Avoid the east gates of the city, please. I want you back tomorrow in one piece."

Her warning felt so ominous. I had no intention of going over there, but the fact of the matter is… every place in this city felt dangerous. I mean, a girl can’t even go buying tomatoes without being hauled to jail like this. 

When I stepped outside the interrogation room, I was guided to the main entrance by a knight who gave me my weapon back.

“Hey, so that bombing earlier… that was something else, wasn’t it?”

To the side of me, two knights were discussing that bombing earlier in the day. I recalled that time, it happened suddenly, and I fell to the ground. Jade told me that I passed out in a daze… but I clearly remember making my way towards it to find her. 

At least…that all felt real enough. And that strange girl with the dark blue hair and the gun. She interrogated me before kicking me. That’s when I…

“Hmm… was that a dream?”

I still had no idea what happened. But one thing is certain, there was a bombing, and they seemed to have got it under control.

“Well anyway, just keep your eyes peeled. We can’t have a psycho going around bombing places. It’ll only make it look like the knights can’t keep order.”

Not wanting to be questioned by them, I decided to take what I heard and make my way to the west gates. Jade warned me not to approach the east gates. I’m not sure why, but I’ll take her word for it. The less I have to deal with people, the better.

 

“…I still want fried green tomatoes.”

Dejected, I made my way home hungry…

 

 

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