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“Thanks, but she also needs money to eat. Got any job vacancy?” Hector leaned on the counter and motioned for Scarlet to come closer. “Look at her,” he urged, a knowing smile playing on his lips. “Doesn’t she look like somebody we know?” Dressed like a man, with her a cap hiding most of her hair, she looked a lot like that person they knew. If she had been taller and a bit wider on the shoulders then she would be perfect.

Claire didn’t hear the whispered exchange between the two. Her attention was caught by Bane’s apology and his question. An odd question to ask. One that she didn’t know how to answer. “I’m sorry? Did what exactly?”

Hector glanced sideways. The rebellion needed every person who was willing to fight for the cause. This woman could be an asset or she could just turn around and walk away without listening to what he had to say. She used to live at the countryside, content with a slow-paced life. They met and he instantly saw what others might have missed – her uncanny resemblance to that bastard Levi Wolferstan. The heir to the dukedom, the king’s favorite pet and the person who managed to spoil the rebellion’s mission time and again. He and his father were not hardcore anti-rebellion, but the family’s allegiance to the crown made fighting against the crown’s declared enemies their duty. Giving Levi a reason not to intervene was an option. Because Hector learned from his associates that the woman who went as Claire Dal was adopted by a local about seven or eight years ago and that she had no recollection about her past.

“Charm him.” Hector answered for Bane. “He meant to ask how did you charm him. Our trusty Bane is not easily charmed.” He gestured to an empty bar stool beside him so that he sat between her and Bane.

Claire looked from Hector to Bane. “I’m sorry, sir, if I offended you. I was advised not to trust any stranger who openly offers help in the capital.”

Hector guffawed. He draped one thick, heavy arm around the shapeshifter’s shoulder. “The girl’s got a point. We’ll have an exclusive one-on-one about how not to look like a scammer.”

Curiosity was what made Levi decide to ignore the invitation to a social event and instead accompany the lady. He was bored of upper-class parties anyway. This, on the other hand, might give him a chance to look for his missing twin.

The humans and the canine automaton walked around the area for a bit until the latter sensed something. The lady picked a piece of torn fabric from the grass, identifying it as an article that once belonged to the missing person. Levi stared at the mechanical dog. Impressive. If he had one of those, back then, he could have launched an investigation all by himself.

He quietly watched as the lady commanded the shadows to search for more clues. Not many nobles had the power over shadows. It was the first time he closely worked with one. And she seemed to be overexerting. “Working your powers beyond your capacity will do you more harm than good. Why don’t you take a break and work this case in –” In the morning, he wanted to continue. The words died in his tongue as her shadow lengthened to a direction where it shouldn’t go. He twisted his body and looked all around them. The buildings, the passing carriage, the trees, their shadows went one way. The lady’s however, pointed elsewhere.

So much for taking a break. With a possible lead literally at the tip of her toes, there was no way he could convince her to call it a day. Besides, he was too curious to know how effective her spell was to just walk away. They allowed her shadow to lead them across the park and into the streets of the capital. It didn’t even cross his mind to fetch their vehicle, but he might as well do. Seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to an hour. Well, not really. But they did walk quite a lot, away from the center of the city, straight to the invisible border. Beyond it was the slums. The trail led them to the industrial section, where most of the commoners work during the day. It stopped by an abandoned warehouse.

Levi held his arm out, stopping the lady from entering the backdoor. He shook his head, then allowed magic to do its work. The manipulation of the air was what Levi was most notable at. With it, he can do a number of things, including scouting the area for life. He found it. Them. It was a trap.

He felt the movements in the air before his other senses realized what was happening. Part of what made Levi an exceptional fighter was his ability to estimate what was happening around him before it had an effect on him. His left hand shot forward, palms out. A circle of spell faintly glowed. Bullets clattered on the ground inches from Lady Midnight. It was aimed at her head. He pulled out a long-barreled revolver from its holster aimed, and shifted a few degrees to the left before firing. “It’s an ambush. We have to go.”
May I make them find a lead? Actually, lead them to an ambush?
Finally finished a post! I'm still up for it if you are.
A scary guy and then --

Claire bolted away from the stool with a gasp. Anger and confusion bubbled up the surface. She fought the urge to throw something at the gentle beast who settled at the base of the stool. Pressure mounted on her chest. She held onto it the way she knew how, because of fear that letting go would create more harm than good. Yet the surprise, the anger, the confusion, the eyes of the beast that deceived her made her lose her grip and so she released the pressure.

It was not the first time she faltered on her control, but it was the first time she saw something that came out of it. Because the friendly wolf that sprawled on the floor was no longer there. In its place was a mass of a man. The same one she met at the docks.

Of course, how could she forget? There were different types of magic users, one of such was a shapeshifter.

The door chose that moment to swing open. “What’s all the commotion about?” asked a blonde man in gray overalls. He had an air of superiority that manifested itself in his tone. He moved from the main entrance to the bar as if the pub belonged to him, then crouched beside the shapeshifter and patted its head playfully. “Had a little too much to drink, buddy?”

“Mr. Gresley.” It was more an accusation than a statement. Claire peered at the man who cocked his head upon hearing his name.

For a moment, a flash of recognition flared in his eyes, then he pushed himself to his feet and claimed one of the stools for himself. “Pardon me,” he coughed. “You look like somebody I know. Didn’t think you’d really risk coming out of your suburban hole. Candy? Chloe?”

She looked as if she wanted to take a seat beside Hector, but then hesitated. “Claire. My name is Claire.”

“Mmmm… Scarlet, do you have a vacancy?”

Levi nodded when she gave him directions where to take her. He stopped briefly at an intersection then took the right turn towards the Theater District. The streets were busy at that time of the day when most of the daily wagers came out of work. It would stretch on until late at night. He received an invitation to an exclusive party that night, but had yet to decide if he wanted to attend.

The lady went on to assure him that she did not have motion sickness. Levi nodded again. Blue eyes focused on the road ahead, careful not to accidentally overrun a carriage or a commuter crossing the street.

“Careful,” he warned low as she continued defending the rebels. “I may be swayed to believe that you have an intimate relationship with the rebellion. Not a lovely characteristic for a lady of your standing.”

They slowed down to a stop beside the valet. Levi left the keys on the ignition. Protocol dictated that he should be the one opening the door for her. In his defense, the valet tried, but also failed. The woman was a person of her own. She stepped out of the vehicle on her own, her mechanical dog tagging along.

Levi was already at her side of the vehicle beside the busy street when she swayed, looked away, and unconsciously grabbed the metal roofing for support. He didn’t ask if she was, because she didn’t look like she was alright. “I don’t have a lot to do tonight.” A lie. “An investigation will proceed faster with two detectives. Tell you what. I will help you with this case. In exchange, you will help me revive the case of Emilia.”
Hi! Claire's powers is actually anti-magic. She is still unaware of it since she lost her memories and woke up far from the capital and its magic-users. His brother is also unaware of this. My idea is that it is the reason for the kidnapping. Though initially, I thought it is the rebellion behind the kidnapping. Your thoughts?

And another thing, can she force Bane to transform back to human, because after Scarlet hinting about the wolf being a shifter, Claire will be surprised and a bit scared thinking that the bad guys lured her to their den.
Claire was welcomed into the pub by an orange-haired woman. Pubs didn’t open until nightfall; thus, the interior was relatively quiet. And a bit dark. It smelled of alcohol and grease, but the interior was relatively clean. Her eyes immediately gravitated towards the circular bar, the open kitchen concept, and the realistically sculptured chandelier. She wondered if the Green Fairy made their home somewhere in between those winding branches.

Intrigued by how different the establishment was compared to the pubs she frequented in the countryside, Claire stepped deeper and deeper into the Green Fairy until she was seated on one of the bar stools. “I – My name is Claire.” She looked around. Save for Scarlet and the wolf, the pub was empty. She was expecting to meet that same person – Hector Gresley – who persuaded her to leave her life and explore the capital.

“I’m supposed to meet up somebody here.” She smiled sheepishly. “Maybe I came in too early. Do you mind if I stick around to wait?”

Hector seemed to be in his early thirties. He had the build of a fighter and eyes with the sharpness of a hunter. During their short encounter back home, he managed to challenge Claire’s belief that the peaceful countryside all that she needed. The capital was a vast adventure that a girl like her should explore. Besides, it was where she could finally discover who she was, he said. Hector said it with much conviction, as if he knew who she was.

Just then, her stomach grumbled. Claire pursed her lips in embarrassment. She swallowed hard. “Could you also pass me the menu?” A little something to eat would be good. Though, she prayed to the gods that this place was not too costly.

The engine whirred to life once again. Levi was behind the wheels, commanding the vehicle while Lady Midnight took to the passenger seat. She admitted that she knew about a certain Emilia Wolferstan, that the lady had Emilia’s file back in her office, that Emilia’s file was not enough to push for a proper investigation. Her disappearance was kept a secret by the family for quite some time until the scandal became too difficult to conceal. By then, it was too late. Ems was gone too long.

Lady Midnight continued to brief him on the case she was handling, telling him how many victims had been missing so far and the manner how they disappeared. He wasn’t interested. He wanted to know about his twin sister and not some random nobleman’s spoiled child. The lady was building a theory centered on the level of the missing person’s magical abilities. But Claire had none. She was an ordinary girl. There wasn’t any reason he could think of why anybody would kidnap the duke’s daughter other than for political means.

“The rebellion is on top of my list,” he countered. They had left the palace grounds by then and were a couple of miles from the city proper. “Especially if the missing people are all gifted. Think about this – who will benefit from these missing people cases the most?”

The cool afternoon breeze met them, teasing Levi’s reddish-brown hair. The sun was low on the horizon that the vehicle cast a long shadow along the paved road. He glanced sideways at the lady beside him. “Reading while inside a moving vehicle will do that to you,” he offered as a form of an advice, seeing her massaging her temple. Did she also have motion sickness? Some nobles did. More than twice did a nobleman empty his stomach on the vehicle. He wondered if she would too and immediately considered slowing down.

“The missing people, as well as the security threats, within the Capital and the empire are all being blamed on the nobles. Us. We, who had power over the common people. Such was the fuel propagated by the rebellion. The more the common people hate the nobility, the more powerful the rebellion becomes. Thus, why would you discount the rebellion from these crimes?”

Levi’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel. They had entered the city by then. The long rays of the sun were replaced by the artificial light coming from several erected posts. He trained his eyes forward. “Where to?” he asked, possibly trying to change the subject.
Looking around, it did not look as if having a giant dog was a common thing. Although bystanders barely spared a glance at the pair, she failed to spot another soul walking their dog along the busy streets. But this one was friendly and cuddly and cute. Who was she, a mere mortal, to resist its charms? Claire was even smiling as she followed the prompts of her unlikely companion.

It led her away from the steam and metal plates that made up most of the city to a portion of it which looked a little dated. Though quite a bit different, the population was not lacking in any way. The street was still busy, but that was not what was important. That the dog led her to the Green Fairy was a marvel in itself.

“Good boy.” She patted its massive head. Claire guessed it was a boy just because. “Do you live here? Do they feed you treats from the pub?”

“I told them that I will only take a few minutes of your time.” Levi shrugged. He was a busy man as well. The curse of being a high-born Elemental. In between the council meetings was the occasional reconnaissance mission being entrusted to him. That afternoon, thankfully, was a little bit on the free side thus he had the chance to visit this person who was entrusted with the missing nobles.

He watched her move around the desk with the obvious grace of nobility. Had he not known that she was a lady, he would have found out about it through her movements. They said she was different, but to his eyes, she was the same as the rest. Until she told him that he was being rude. And that she did not know who he was. Levi tilted his head at an angle, examining the movements of the lady and her mechanical guard dog. Nobody confessed his rudeness right at his face yet. Not while he was at the Tower training as an Elemental, not while he was mercilessly rebutting the other noble lords for their shitty proposals, not while he openly rejected ladies who pined for his attention during banquets. This was the first person outside his immediate family who told him that he was being rude.

Also the first who told him that he was wasting her time. “Then you are not officially tasked to look into the missing people cases,” he concluded upon hearing that it was brought to her by the family of the victim. Then again, why her? Why not the peace keepers? Why not the imperial knights?

”I heard she’s an unusual woman” The lord’s words floated in Levi’s mind.

The family of the missing person would not entrust her the details if she was just a pretty silver-haired lady. Levi decided to follow her out the door. They walked in silence across the winding corridors of the palace, until they found their way onto the palace grounds. A waiting butler immediately approached Levi.

“My lord,” the butler greeted. The pair of males exchanged a few words before the butler hurriedly left.

Levi turned to the lady. She was a head shorter than Levi, but was quite tall for a woman. “I brought a vehicle,” he said in a manner of indirectly offering her a ride. “I want to know if you handled a case about a certain Emilia Wolferstan.” His features soften for some seconds when she mentioned the name of his missing twin sister. Though it might not be possible, since she had been missing for years, this Lady Midnight kindled the hope that he would see Emilia again.

Whatever her response was supposed to be, was cut off by the sound of a whirring steam engine. Carefully, the butler drove the two-seater vehicle onto the driveway. Its body was bronze, with a convertible top hatch with could be lowered on a beautiful day and automatically drawn up to protect the passengers from rain. The butler was trying hard to contain the grin lighting his face as he stepped away from the driver’s seat to deposit the keys to its owner.

Levi thanked him quietly, and like a proper gentleman, pulled open the door for his passenger. “You may tell me the details while we drive.”
Yup, just got a bit busy with work
There was no sense of personal space in the lift. So much so that when the mesh door slid open, the passengers literally spilled onto the street. With them was Claire who clutched her bag as close to her body as she could. She suddenly missed the wide expanse of space and the quietness of the countryside. At the capital, everybody seemed to be racing to outpace the clock. Steam-powered engines were more common at the streets, though a number of common people still preferred walking than spending a little extra on transportation.

Just like Claire. She would have to walk to the Green Fairy given the little allowance she had saved up all those years.

Taking a deep breath, she prepared herself to plunge into a new adventure, maybe look for a peace keeper to help her find the way. Then, someone – something – nudged her leg. Turning to her left, her blue eyes would have been blind to have missed a giant dog. Her heart leapt, her legs did too. She would have ran for it again if not for the friendly look on the dog’s eyes, and of course its gesture.

“Have you lost your way, buddy? Do you have an owner?” She asked, reaching a hand to tentatively pet the dog. Then, it nudged her again, as if telling her to follow a direction. “Oh, wait. You want me to go there? Let’s go then.”

Maybe they would come across a peace officer. Maybe she’d ask for directions when she saw one. But to leave such a cuddly, friendly, furry beast in the middle of the capital was not like her. Claire had always had a soft spot for lost animals. Perhaps, because she too was lost.

A couple of guards stood beside a double-doors. This was the office of the Lady Midnight, according to Lord Henry. The latter seemed very interested to the former, thus was a mine of information about the lady. The daughter of a lord. Her position was not what drew Levi to her office, it was the assignment that the palace entrusted her.

“Forgive us, my lord, but the lady does not wish to be disturbed,” one of the guards said. But who was to stop an Elemental lordling from doing what he wanted to do?

“It will only be a few minutes; she would not mind.” Levi advanced towards the door. The guards instantly drew their weapons. Well, they tried. The pressure of compressed air weighed down on their muscles, making even a little motion seem heavy. He heard them grunt and curse, which was all they could do at the moment.

The door opened to a wide space – a study – with a number of books lining one side of the wall and tall glass windows on the other. The lamps had been lit as shadows lengthened and the sun continued its descent. Lady Midnight was mumbling words under her breath, too absorbed in what she was doing to hear him approaching. The mechanical dog, though, did sense him. Levi had to stop.

“Lady Midnight. How long have you been in charge of the missing people?” He did not forget to introduce himself. He was just not bothered to do so. Most noble knew his face as an heir to a dukedom and a prominent Elemental. “Tell me everything you have uncovered so far. Don’t leave out any detail.”
Yup, sorry about the delay. I should be able to post a reply tomorrow.
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