Chapter One: New Developments

It had been a few months after the attack of Lord Brevon and the Kingdom Stone's destruction. Everything was more or less back to normal. The Three City-States of Shang Mu, Shang Tu, and Shuigang had become peaceful. Things were starting to look up for everyone, as they felt a new sense of hope within them. As if nothing could ruin it.

But that didn't mean they were taking chances.

As such, there were those who sought to prepare themselves in the event that such disaster would strike once more.

Enter:

Shang Tu Dojo

Shang Tu (Duh)

Milla the Basset Hound was in the middle of another training sessions with her superior, Neera Li. The panda woman had agreed to help train not only her, but Lilac the Dragon and Carol the Wildcat as well. As of right now, it was Milla's turn.

"You're getting stronger," Neera commented as she flung a roundhouse kick at her trainee, "But don't get too confident."

With her fists clenched, Milla blocked each of the attacks successfully, grunting slightly as each blow landed-without the use of her shields. It had been a long time she had actually put them to use outside of defending against magic and energy attacks. But for hand-to-hand situations, she was able to defend herself without them.

"Th-thank you," Milla replied as she used what she had learned in the past few months. Just like she was taught by the Magister's best combantants including Neera-she had to gauge her oppoenent, and predict thier next moves.

A grin was plastered on Neera's face for a moment before she changed her approach. Jumping up, she would come flying down unto Milla with her spear pointed directly at her. Months ago, Milla would've simply used her magic to deflect the attack. But this time, she had different judgement.

Milla grabbed Neera's spear before it reached her, which managed to get a spark of shock from the panda woman. "Hiya!" With her attack in motion, Milla flung her opponent upwards, and quickly followed up with a jumpin Crane kick that landed hard.

"Unh!" Neera grunted from the surprising force of her student's attack, and was tossed back several feet into the base of a training dummy. "Hm..." She stood up slowly. Of course, she took the time to dust herself off and fix her hair upon standing. "Satisfactory as always, Milla."

The hound nearly jumped for joy. She was doing well, and she could see it clear as day. "Th-thank you, ma'am! I-I'm trying my best!" Her face shone a shade of crimson. Praise was something she didn't always know how to accept. Especially from someone like Neera Li.

They both exchanged a customary bow, and Neera spoke once more. "You have completed your training for the day. Please bring Carol in."

Milla nodded, "Ok!" and quickly raced out of the training dojo on all fours. Her friends were supposed to be waiting outside. Today was an indie training sessions with each of them facing Neera to test their skills.

Milla had no clue how she did.

But at the moment she was focused on finding her friend Carol. However, the green wildcat was nowhere to be found. "Huh?" Milla was confused. Where could she be? "Carol? Carrrrooooll!" She called out, but recieved no answer. This was concerning. If she didn't show up, she could fail. "Oh no oh no oh no..." She started to panic, but her worrying was cut off by a broadcast coming from a television on the wall.

"Breaking News: A special report from the middle of Shang Tu. A green, cat-like figure was seeing stealing a number of auto parts from a technology museum. One of the items stolen was an expensive battery made of unknown metals. However, we are not at liberty to disclose any information on the part itself. If anyone has any information on the thief, however, please contact the local police department. Now back to the weather-someone fix the damn camera!"

"Eep!" Milla gasped in horror. Was that where Carol had gone to? She was a thief at one point, but she quit that life...right? "No...no. It can't be!"

"What can't be?" Neera's voice suddenly boomed from behind Milla, causing the hound's ears to stand straight up for a moment.

"Eee! Oh, um...nothing?" She had no real clue how to address the situation...

Neera was about to say something. But just then, a communicator on her waist started to vibrate. "Hm?" She picked it up and spoke into it. "Go ahead."

Milla watched on as her teacher had a conversation with another officer. "Ms. Neera...?"

The panda woman blinked in disbelief at what she was being told. Putting her communicator away, she looked at Milla with a more stern glare in her eye. "Where is Carol?"

"I-I don't know! I swear!" Milla answered defensively.

Neera sighed, and her expressions softened for a moment. Milla wasn't the type to tell lies. "..So she ditches class to steal things of value? I know she used to be a thief but that's just..."

"H-hey!" Milla almost barked at her teacher. "Carol would never do something like that. Ditching...I don't think so? But definitely not steal!"

Another sigh came from Neera. "Look...the report said they spotted a green, cat-like figure. Not to mention her track record. This doesn't look good for her."

Milla stomped her foot on the floor, "Well, let's go find out, then!"

"Sorry, but...I'm going to find Carol," Neera turned around and started walking.

"B...why?"

"Even if it isn't her, she may know who it is. She's the only lead we have so far without much evidence. The piece of machinery that was stolen was made of minerals found from all over Avalice. We can't afford to lose it." She opened the door to the dojo, and prepared to exit, "Be on time tomorrow, yes?"

Without missing a beat, Milla bowed. "Yes, ma'am!" But as her teacher exited, she started to worry. "Why would Carol do that...? It...no!" Refusing any sort of reality that her friend could still do such a thing, Milla shook her head. Then, a small smirk grew on her muzzle. There was something that Neera was unaware of. "I can beat her there with the shortcut I made!"

Milla scampered off on all fours in an opposite direction, aiming to get to Lilac's treehouse before Neera did. Before she had met Lilac and Carol, Milla was heavily into alchemy and potion making. As such, her "shortcut" involved her digging a hole to her underground hideout in the pipes of Shang Tu.

Once there, Milla quickly raced over to her emergency potions that she buried into the dirt. "Where is it...where is it...aha!" After sifting through a few bottles...and digging at least a dozen holes, she found it. A bottle of blue potion. "Dragon Speed...I knew that bit of Lilac's hair would come in handy." She downed the bottle instantly, and let out the tinest of belches afterwards. "Oops, excuse me." There was no one around, but it was habitual for her to follow the ways she was raised.

The potion began to take its effects. In no time at all, she felt a blue aura around her. "Woah...ok, now how do I..." She gingerly but a foot forward, and suddenly started blazing it through the underground tunnel. Not as fast as Lilac, but enough to where it shocked her momentarily. "Woaahhh!" After a moment or two, though, she got used to the speed, and ran on all fours. "I have to get to Carol!"

At the same time, Neera along with a few other officer-ninja were sprinting towards Dragon Valey. "Carol Tea is our only lead. We have to find her immediately!"