Moonlight wolf

by

Michael Gordon

Chapter 9 - Schemes masked under the moonlight

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In an office in the middle of the city, there sat a woman. The room was covered in a blanket of darkness. There were only two sources of light in the room. One came from the moonlight that lightly cascaded down onto the desk. The other light source was as bright as a firefly. It came from a hand-size orb that contains a wisp of a flame. There was one window that overlooked the courtyard. The room was relatively simple but eloquent. The floor was made up of some type of wood. The colors of the room were teal and dark brown. Once you enter the room, you saw bookshelves lined up across each side of the walls. There was a few painting that covered the wall that was open to interpretation. The desk and chair faced the door with two chairs that set on the other side of the desk. There was a small trimmed tree that lacked any signs of life with a raven sitting on the top branch.

The chair was currently preoccupied with a woman. She stared at the orb in her hand with an almost fanatic gaze. This woman has been staring at the orb every day for the last few days. “When will you return?” she let out a whisper to the orb. As she continued to sit in silence, a knock at the door echoed through the room. She reluctantly put the orb away before she called for them to come in.

“Sorry for interrupting you at this time of night headmistress.” A man walked into the room and said with a bow. He continued shortly after pulling out a crest from his pocket that appeared too made from a dark metallic ore. The crest had a full moon blocked by clouds inscribed. “I am here to give you an official report on what transpired over the last few days.”

The man who spoke was robust. He kept a sword at his waist that seemed to always be at the ready. His clothes were neither flashy nor cheap. His gait was even and his eyes had a sharp gleam but also seemed diluted simultaneously. “Have there been an update from Miss Autumn? I was asked to inquire from my master” This caused a flash of irritation on the woman's face before it returns to its trademark stony look.

“Your master truly has been bold lately. Not only does he not report to me himself but he does not even send a personal disciple. An errand boy at most!” She chastised coldly before she continued. “I do not need to report if she has or has not. Your only value is to tell me all that you know. Your patron might be the strongest in the city, but his words hold no sway here.” She sharply replied as if she did not want to be outdone.

“Forgive my brisk words; I do not hold any ill intent. Our clan of the night just hoped that this event would be settled as soon as possible. Even if the worst befell Lady Autumn, our sole wish is for our relationship between you, our clan and the school to stay friendly. We are praying for Lady Autumn's good health daily. “The man quickly added.

This caused the woman's temper to flare and a deadly aura descended on him. “Words are easily spoken but can never be taken back once said. This had led many to end up not able to see the next sunrise. I advise you to choose your next sentence carefully.” She said with a deadpan expression, the undisguised threat clear in her message. This caused the man to get on both knees and give a quick kotow to repent.

“I am sorry if I offend you, Lady Leyla. I just hoped for an update regarding Lady Autumn because of the current situation is quickly escalating. It is known that the lady has a high ranking magic crystal before-“

The lady silently appeared behind the man and the pressure that she released was gone. He was not able to follow her movement. He was still facing the desk but was afraid to turn around. He knew she was standing behind him but he did not feel her presence at all. This was the complete opposite of the pressure before. This absent form of pressure was much scarier. This implied that he could die without realizing what happened. He turned back once before putting his head back to the floor. Cold sweat started to flow down his back before she began to speak.

“Continue down that line of thought if you do not value your life,” Leyla said without emotion in her voice. “That magic crystal was brought back from my homeland. What we do with it is not any of your concern.” She said flatly.

The man continued to keep his head down but chose his next sentence carefully. “Neither I nor my master doubts your claim. Your word is more precious than gold. The city master just happened to have a break in a few nights before the incident. He had a guest that he could not imagine leaving unattended. This guest reported that a rare magic crystal that they brought with them among other things that were stolen. They asked the city master to recover it with great haste!” The man spoke each word carefully.

“My master title as the lord of the night holds great weight. His reputation and exploits are known throughout the kingdom. The guest heard that my master resides in this town and implored the city master for his help in capturing the thieves. The city master and my master are drinking buddies. That’s why he asked for my master's service in locating the magic crystal. This would alleviate some of the worries from his guest. That is when a word from the wall sentinel came back that an elf brought in a magic crystal a day after the break-in. This caused the guest to go livid and ask for Lady Autumn arrest.”

“I do not enjoy repeating myself. Did I not inform the city master and your lord that, the magic crystal came from my homeland?” Leyla interrupted him by continuing to look down on him with eyes viewing a corpse. The man began to stutter and quickly speak.

“W-We believe you. That’s why we sent the night guard to escort Lady Autumn back to avoid unforeseen accidents from occurring “He hastily added.

“Are you implying the events that played out were all planned?” a dagger the color of midnight appeared in her hands from out of nowhere. He spoke quickly, afraid that a delay would cost him his life.

 

“Not at all, not at all. We did not expect the noble guest to also put out a bounty for the magic crystal and the Misses. He even uses personal connections to apply bounties to the mercenary and adventurer guild bulletin boards. That is why the shadow guard began to mobilize in earnest. It was that idiot from the Bortain family who brought about that destructive atmosphere. It was Hihi and his minions who used poison from the thieves’ guild that affected Lady Autumn. They saw a chance for a new backer an-“A cold piece of steel pressed against his throat. He immediately stopped speaking. The top layer of the skin was cut. Blood began to fall slowly. The crimson drops that hit the floor broke the silence.

“Was it not the shadow guard that tracked her down with him?” she asked rhetorically. “I have three questions I need you to answer. If I sense a trace of falsehood…” she trailed off before she continued.” Who were the individuals who went out to “escort” Lady Autumn? Where are they now? Why has your lord came out and made an appearance himself?” She asks each question slow with an almost monotone voice. The lack of emotions and tone from the voice was replaced with a trace of bloodlust and coldness.

The man's hand was shaking at this point. He continued to sweat but looked her in his eyes with confidence before speaking. “They were the ones who tracked her down but no evidence of fighting could be found.” The dagger dug a bit deeper before he hurriedly continued. “We been meaning to send out a second squadron but the city been in an uproar since. There has been a backlash from the school and different clans. Many of the mercenaries and adventurers are speaking out about it also. This has not only put the city master in an awkward situation, but the noble guest home has also been targeted. This has led my master to send some of his disciples over to help. This way we were so late in informing you of the situation until now. This is also why my lowly self was sent here to inform you of the ongoing situation.” He carefully swallowed before he continued.

“The squad that was sent was Donovan squad. He is well-known for his tracking capabilities. His second in command was Cayden followed by two Conjurers and Swordsman. They went in but none returned. We see no traces of fights in the outermost forest after paying for a high-ranking tracking squad. Nothing has been left to lead us to the correct path.” Leyla took the dagger away and slowly walked back towards her seat.

“Why have you not sent a second squad to investigate the situation? This might not be common knowledge but I know that the night guard does have a special way to leave tracks for other groups. It is standard for those who accept hunting missions. Are you telling me that you never sent a second group? Or are you telling me that you sent a second group and nothing was found? She asks as she stared out the window with her back towards him.

The man’s body slowly got up before speaking hesitantly. “There is another reason there been such a delay in reporting back. We did send a second squad almost immediately after the first. They went missing only a few hours after they were dispatched. A third squad was dispatched the following day and had orders to be careful. We have not heard from any of the three squads nor are there any clues. “he said with an even tone while watching her back. She slowly turned around.

“Are you informing me that the night guard personnel were sent into the forest and all disappeared. Not only have they disappeared without warning, but there was not even a sign of a fight?” She locked eyes with him.

He bowed his head one more time before confirming. “That is correct. That is why this situation is so baffling. To be able to take down the elite night guard and not leave a trace cannot be done by just anyone. Not many people in this city would be able to pull that off.” He said as he silently swallowed.

“Are you implying that I would know what happened?” She chuckled. “I can confidently say it was not me. This is the first time learning that you sent three squads. If I was there, I would have also killed them all myself.” She said with a playful but confident smirk. Her eyes showed she was serious. “The three squads’ deaths are the only thing you have informed me that holds any significant weight. Did your master only send you here to appease my anger? You never informed me why your lord has not made a public appearance. “

 

The man froze before putting on what appeared to be a sincere smile. His sweat and fearful eyes gave away his current state of mind, however. The tension in the air was palpable. His life was not guaranteed “The rumors about my master being sick are true. It seems he has advanced in age rather quickly these past few years. He is also currently recovering from a recent sickness. It’s not anything major. My purpose here was to give an update on the current situation out of respect. “ He hesitated before continuing. “ My master also wanted to clearly express his feelings on the matter. He wishes for your relationship to continue to be amicable.”

He stopped for a moment before continuing. His voice shook a bit while he continued his message. “If you have any disagreement with his arrangements, feel free to voice them. But respectfully request that you inform him if you wish to take personal action. Communication is best for both parties involved.” He finally completed it before he waited for a reply.

He waited for a reply while she continued to stare at him. After a minute of silence, she just turned back around. “You can leave now,” Leyla said in a flat tone. The man bowed before he began to walk towards the door relieved. Leyla turned around to stare at him before speaking once more. “Tell your master that there are many pros and cons in our relationship. But there are benefits to our cooperation. ” She paused for a moment before continuing to speak. “We both pay a price for our goals. Tell him not to become short-sighted and give free benefits.” She declared and turn back around to stare out the window. The man did a curt bowed and left.

The woman made sure she was alone before she took out the orb. The crow hopped from the tree unto the desk. “What do you think?” she spoke while staring at the orb as if the flame would speak back. It was the crow that responded in a high pitch voice. “Do you believe that nothing was found, caw!?” It began to caw. “You know I hate it when you speak through animals.” Leyla declared with annoyance.

“What an irritating fellow. He claims to be low on the totem pole, but he remained calm throughout the whole exchange. His outward opinion showed fear but his heartbeat remains the same throughout the conversation. I believe he was sent to investigate our motives. I was almost fooled in the beginning.”

The crow began to caw as it waddled across the desk. It midnight black feathers and beady eyes were reflected by the moonlight through the window. “It seems that you are suspected. How much do you believe of what was said?”

“I think what he said has some truth to it. Although I do not believe everything.” She went silent for a moment before continuing. “If what they said was true, there’s no way they can keep those events secret forever. We need to investigate.” Leyla's eyes finally made contact with the crow. “I do hate that irritating caw. The only thing I despise more than the caw is the form. Start investigating. Keep in touch and relay any information you deem important immediately.”

“ What are the means that available to me? You know what the crow symbolizes.” The crow stared straight back into her.

Leyla's eyes were cold while bloodlust began to roll off her body. “Do not make a commotion. A few missing individuals should not cause too many problems. We do not need to start a war…yet. Those who were involved in the incident need to be uncovered. If something happened to my sister, they will follow her on her journey to the underworld.”

The crow shuddered for a moment and then hopped back on the tree. The intelligence in it eyes disappeared as it pecked at the tree. Leyla returned to observing the flame like essence in the ball as she drifts off into her own thoughts.

____________________________________________________

 

The moonlight seemed magical tonight. As the lights softly embraced the streets of the city, a man was swerving in and out of the darkness. He navigated the back-alleys efficiently. He suddenly came to a stop and looked around in a daze.

“How did I get out here? “ He began to look around confused. He looked down and saw blood on his hands and began to frantically pat himself down. He finally reaches his neck and realizes it had a deep cut. He placed his hand on his sword while looking around vigilantly. After a while, he calmed down as he to walk out of the alley. “Why am I out in the backwoods of the city, eh? I must have drunk too much during the celebration and got lost trying to reach the red-light district. If the captain finds out, she is going to kill me.” He burst out into laughter as he began to walk towards his inn. “There’s no one out tonight, eh?”

He saw a black silhouette walking towards him. The silhouette was waving her hand towards him. “What does she want?” he thought while he moved his hand towards his sword. As he got closer, he realizes it was a beautiful woman and began to relax a bit.

“I see I made you wait. You came earlier than expected. “she said to him as he looked confused. They were out in the slums. “Did I make an appointment with a prostitute out here?” The lady had a beautiful red and pink dress that hugged tight against her figure. The bright colors contrasted her pale skin. This matched her beautiful crimson eyes that seem to pull you in coquettishly. She was medium height with a beautiful smile that occasionally was hidden by the small feathered fan in her hand. Her other hand was hidden behind her. She had a lot of makeup that did not seem to be applied correctly. That did not take away from her beauty. Her stride was very seductive as she gave him a seductive look.

“I thought my young wild years were past me. This is a high-class prostitute. Even after the successful mission, can I afford her?” He said while licking his lips while laughing. Worst comes to worst, I will give her night of a lifetime before I send her off. “I glad you made it. For me to spend a night with such beauty under the moonlight makes a man blood boil. We are only missing some drinks for such an occasion.” He laughs vulgarly.

The woman giggled. It sounded like chimes in the wind. The heat in the man's gaze was igniting more and more. “I expect nothing less from someone of your ilk. I am here for a meeting but not with a dead man? You get any interesting information Yami?” she smiled and looked at him. The man looked at her confused but went on alert at her words. He observes her closer and saw two heads in her other hand. He was about to unsheathe his sword before he heard a voice come from behind him.

“It seems everything went as expected. She does not know much now. She is more cautious than we first believed. Even with all the precautions, I believe she still has her suspicions. Her investigation will be her downfall. When she realizes the trap that been set, it will be too late. I see you done with your side of things also.” The man began to frantically look around with his sword in his hand but discovered nothing. He heard a voice from behind but did not see anything.

“Where are you?!!!” the man constantly turned while the woman looked in amusement. He turned back around and stared warily at the woman. From behind him, his shadow began to manifest behind him. It whispered in his ear “There’s no point speaking with a dead man.” It whispered in a raspy voice. The shadow resembled the man outline. The only difference was that the shadow held two daggers in its hand while the man held a katana.

The man was jolted by the voice and turned around to find nothing before a wet splash on brushed across his arm. He suddenly stilled and saw blood splatter to the ground. He slowly reaches towards his neck looking at the blood that painted his hand. His mind finally figured out the situation he was in. He quickly clutched his neck before a sword made of shadows came out his chest from his backside. He looked down feeling helpless before the light dim from his eyes and he collapsed.

The shadow just stood there looking at the woman. She finally reaches towards her hip and threw two heads onto the ground. “These were the two messengers that went towards the dean. My part of the deal is complete. With you completing your side, this completes the contract” she let out a lovely laugh while covering her mouth with her fan.

“The lord of darkness will be incensed when he finds out that Leyla killed his messengers.” She began to look at him flirtatiously. “The chaos that will entail throughout the city will be lovely. The murder, schemes, and blood will give the walls a beautiful scarlet hue. You plan on participating in the aftermath?” She asked imagining the future demise of the city with yearning eyes and an innocent smile. The shadow man turned his back to her before she asked one final question. Her smile could entrance any man.

“Are you even interested who starting this chaos and why? He did not even reveal himself when he employed us.” The man turned around and looked at this deadly flirtatious woman before he turned back around. “I do not care about the employer or what happens. I do whatever the job is if the price is right. I could care less employer much less his reasons. I only care if he can pay up.” The man began to walk away. The shadow fell to the ground before it seems to melt under the moonlight.

 

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Michael Gordon

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