I'll admit this chapter is more of a filler than anything else. But some key things do happen that are important for what I think will be the final third of this story. In between this and the next I'll be re-researching the characters. So forgive me for going back to basics. Nonetheless, enjoy Chapter Eighteen.
Beauty and the Beast
Nagi woke up find herself alone in Fox's bed. He left a note cover in soft pink rose petals that fell off when Nagi lifted the sheet of paper. He was called to head quarters for an emergency briefly. Nagi didn't feel like complaining. Her body needed rest that only sleep could to provide.
After a shower she sat down to a comfy breakfast Fox left ready for her with three long stem pink roses. Her plate was cover with fluffy brown waffles with strawberry, black, and blue berries topped with whip cream, chocolate syrup and honey.
"Are you falling for me?' She murmured with a smile.
She travelled to the Kingdom through the subway. She kept her jacket closed and looked onto the floor. Since the panic twenty years ago the government proposed a "Don't look, don't ask weres, and don't tell" policy for Zoanthropes, but Nagi knew along with the citizens of the Kingdom that most humans are informed through the census, taxes other personal mailed in government papers to report the public sightings of any suspected Zoanthropes to the authorities. Desecration is vital to everyday life.
When Nagi got off at her stop she slowed down, fumbling in her bag as if she was looking for her cell phone so that the humans could rush passed her. She went the opposite direction and headed for the underground passageway to H.Q.
She groaned at the sight when she got passed the gates ad above ground. Most of the gates and fences were piles of rubble. Many of the watch towers had also fallen over or were extremely burnt. The headquarters was in chaos as workers both the remaining loyal humans and Zoanthropes with frantically trying to clear the mess and re-establish the borders. In this state they were enormously vulnerable.
Nagi ran to the front desk.
"Suzette" she gasped when she arrived, tossed her card through the little space at the bottom of the protective glass.
"All fighters have been asked to the combat room immediately. You should have also received a message on your phone."
Suzette didn't even scanned Nagi's card. In seconds Nagi bloated down the stairs to the weaponry. There she found Yugo suited up in light but titanium steel armour.
"Nagi. Good to see you up and about." He greeted, zipping up his leg guards.
"Instructions?" Nagi asked.
"Get in gear and some weapons if you need 'em. The whole kingdoms is in lock down until the repairs are done. All combat agents are being shipped out for patrol."
Nagi nodded and went to her locker. She didn't plan on transforming unless absolutely had no other choice, so she also attached three holsters on her ankle, hip and her back. Her back held medium curved sabres, her other two holsters held a regular gun and one with silver rounds. She then wrapped protective gauze around her arms and hands before putting her clothes on top of her armour.
She walked back out and briefly greeted Uriko who was having her rifle checked by Yugo.
"Is Alice here?" Nagi asked.
"Already suited up?" Yugo snapped the rifle closed. "In the infirmary re-bandaging everyone who needs it before going out."
"I need some of that." Nagi thanked him and went to Alice. Alice was with Busuzima who wore an eye patch over his left eye.
"I'm sorry Busuzima" Nagi said.
"Just a scrap. I didn't lose my peeper." He told her with a chuckle.
Alice tapped him on the shoulder. "Kay, you're set. Nagi?"
Busuzima and Nagi switched places. Nagi sat down on the bend and pulled off her coat. Fox had properly re-bandaged her shoulder the apartment. The gauze was visible underneath her armoured vest. Alice gently ran her hands around the gauze.
"Nothing broken. Gunshot?"
"Stabbing. A five inch by half a inch. Not sure how big the wound is."
"Well I'm gonna give you some cruxes, so it'll heal faster, but you be able to use this arm if you have to fight." Alice pulled on a fresh pair of gloves. "Does it hurt?"
"Only when I lift my arm or move it far out."
Alice quickly snipped off the bandages and carefully examined the wound. It was deep, but not too wide,
"Uh huh. Yes, you'll have to keep it immobile for at least a week. Do you mind if I wrap your arm close to you?"
"Go ahead. Especially since I won't be able to move it."
Alice worked quickly, pulling the treaded needle through the skin. Nagi moaned and hissed loudly at the tug and cut at the sensitive flesh between her arm pit and collar bone.
"I looked for you, when the fires started in the forests." Alice said as she sewed.
"I went home because I was hurt." Nagi replied.
"Greg says you ran into the burning woods. I didn't believe him."
Nagi stayed silent. Alice cut the thread after knotting it and started on the gash on Nagi's back.
"I know something's wrong." Alice murmured as she careful poked the needle through the cut at the end of the gash.
"Nothing's wrong." Nagi insisted.
"But something's changed. You're never at home. Talk to me Nagi. Is there something going on with you?"
Alice stopped sewing, waiting for Nagi's answer. Nagi sat there for a while in silence.
"Are you still freaked out about Xion? Jenny says you haven't spoken to Gado since the attack."
"That's true." Nagi replied.
"Is that what's been bothering you?" Alice asked.
"A little bit. I guess I feel a little bit ostracised. I mean. It's my problem and rather than help Gado screws it up."
"He's trying to be fair-"
"He is letting the Unborn live." Nagi said the real name of Xion's horrifying beast form, that to this day shook some of the strongest Zoanthrope's hearts.
"Nagi. We've been through this. I can't tell you how sorry I am. Gado is sorry. More than you know. He was one of the first. He would never wish his fate on anyone, least of all you." Alice has begun to sew again. "Don't you think it destroys him knowing the Unborn did this to you. Made you one of us?"
"His decision could not have been easy. And who knows maybe they can rehabilitate him."
"Alice." Nagi cut in. "If Gado or anyone lets Xion out, I swear I will kill him before he kills me, or anyone else."
"Nagi. You'll be imprisoned."
"For doing the right thing? You don't see the irony in that?"
"I'm sorry." Alice whispered.
"So am I."
Jeanne assembled the groups, and lead Nagi's group with Uriko, Shenlong, and Kohryu. They headed to the east entrance of H.Q where the second most amount of damage was done to both the barrier and the security locked exits. Nagi walked around the surrounding wooded areas with Uriko.
"It was awful, what happened yesterday."Uriko said.
"It was. I feel awful. I triggered the guy who started it." Nagi sighed.
"It would have happened either way. There were over eight suicide bombers employed."
"unbelievable."Nagi growled deep in her throat. "How did they do it?"
"I wanted to go to the houses and residents." Uriko confessed. "That was the first thing I thought. But then Ganesha got a message from Cronos, Uranus confirmed that there were no bombers there. She stayed there and guarded it alone."
"That's why she didn't show up outside." Nagi was surprised.
Nagi stopped slowly and held her good arm up in front of Uriko signalling her to stop. Uriko took a breath and then threw a tranquilizer blade in the seemingly empty looking bush. A thin man dress head to toe in a black spandex jump suit with an armoured vest and explosives.
Nagi grabbed the bomber by the throat and hears a loud growl as Uriko transformed into her beast form.
"How many?' Nagi asked, tightening her grip with her only mobile hand. The man's eyes were already gazed over in the holes in their ski mask. Nagi waved Uriko closer.
"You live as long as you are useful. But once you stop, I get my friend to end you're useless existence."
The man tried to shake his head and managed to mumble six more. Nagi quickly alerted everyone else on patrol. Uriko carried the man off and Nagi continued her rounds.
When the second set of Zoanthropes took over for the afternoon shifted, Nagi went to the upper offices to fill out some Grievance reports on a laptop. The work was emotionally and physically straining with one hand. She stopped a couple of times to rub her shoulder.
"I admire your dedication, Nagi."
Nagi sat up a little as Cronos leaned on her desk, standing just behind the screen. He flashed a sweet smile and tapped the screen.
"You could have done this at home, resting."
"After yesterday, the Kingdom needs every single one of us. I wanted to do my part." Nagi replied.
"That's noble. I really admire that."
"Thank you, your highness."
"Cronos, please." The young prince corrected as he took a seat beside her. "As of yesterday, I have begun to work closer with Gado, Jeanne, Jenny and my mother to figure out how it was accomplished. Naturally you'll be seeing a huge upgrade in security."
"Have you found anything yet?"
"No, but that's about to change. I have also personally asked Fox if he could use his connections and skills to figure out the origins of yesterday's assault on the kingdom."
"Really?" Nagi failed to hide her surprise so Cronos asked, "Are you familiar with Fox?"
"We've sparred a few times. He likes to pretend he knows all the women around here."
"I'm well aware." Cronos chuckled. "But he has merit and he could help us. He's not the only one I am calling upon to my side. Some outside, rural Zoanthropes are being contacted. It's time we were all united in this cause."
Nagi trebling a little and started to type again. "I supposed if we want to survive, we need all the help we can get."
"Without endangering each other, yes." Cronos added as if he suspected her discomfort.
"Nagi, you are a mystery to me." He admitted. "Would you mind if I took you out for dessert or even dinner one of these days?" Nagi was take back a little. "Highness- Cronos! Are you sure you want to do that?"
"Are you concerned about my reputation or fishing for a reason to say no?" he teased.
"Not at all. I would mind eating with you and chatting, but with everything going on and your reputation, I just wonder if it's alright."
"Both are important but so is recreation. Imagine if we should die in the nearest future. I think about what I'll regret. One thing is not getting to know a lovely and rising young warrior fighting for my kingdom." He looked at her hard and Nagi's hand shook once more. The conversation could have ended there but they continued until Nagi was called to surveillance.
Her cheeks were still pink as she rode the elevator. She immediately felt guilty for saying yes to Cronos. But could she have really said no? He is the frigging Prince! Other girls would kill for a chance to speak to him and she was getting a whole meal and a couple of hours of conversing.
When Nagi entered the room, she found Fox sitting crossed in front of the screens, but he faced the door. He was alone in the room.
"Fox! Why are you here?" Nagi panicked. She didn't expect to see him so soon after her encounter with Cronos. She planned on telling him either way but not this soon.
"I'm working Babe. Just arrived." He walked towards her and hugged her.
"Sorry for leaving you this morning." He whispered.
"You left in a good way." Nagi replied. "Don't worry about it."
"I hear you've all been having a busy day. Find anyone?"
"Three in total," Nagi started to speak normally as Fox let her go and return to his chair. "Well that me and Uriko found. We're looking at about twenty humans down in Gallows."
"They'll be given the Talon interrogation treatment?" Fox asked.
"I don't know." Nagi sat down beside him and took his hand. "You still remember those days?"
"When I turned?" Fox gazed at her. "Aw baby doll, depends on which days. The days before I turned are crystal clear. An orphan bastard running like a hooligan on the streets in Germany. I was taken from behind, drugged, gagged. I woke up Hell knows how many days, weeks after in this country. I had no idea what they did until my first full moon. Talon found and took me back and I started to work for them. And contrary to what a lot of the old Zoans will tell you, I had no bloody choice. Barely knew the language, I had nothing. Except Talon."
"I'm sorry." Nagi kissed his cheek.
"You shouldn't. Talon fell, the late Bakuryu, Gado and Alice straiten me out."
"Not that she'll admit it." Fox chuckled. "Gado is a sick teacher. Bakuryu was always my partner in crime. He never abandoned me. So I felt bad when he went metal and I left."
"Why did you leave?" Nagi held his hand and played with his long pale fingers.
"Bad memories. Pride. I mean, whenever they need me all they have to do is call but, I thought the Zoanthropes could thrive better with less reminders of our origins... Which is why I wanna ask," Fox took both of Nagi's hand. She started to shake her head.
"How did you get turned?"
Nagi started to say no, but Fox cut her off by tighten his hands.
"Was it Stun? Busuzima? I know it's gotta painful but I know the law. There shouldn't be more of us unless we're born. The way we were changed is..." He signed. "The thought of you going through that tears me up."
"I... I don't really remember how." Nagi said slowly. "But I know it was Stun who saved me. And Alice. They both made sure I survived my first few moons. It's been almost two years."
"I'd be lying if I said it's been easy. But I'm stronger physically, and it put things in perspective." Nagi rested her head on her shoulder, smiling at the way he gently kissed her as she spoke.
"I used to be like everyone else. Humans I mean. But then I got here and I realized, if you all had a choice, you wouldn't have changed. Your story is just as tragic as Alice's or- almost everyone else here. We should be comforted, not treated like monsters. We already know that's what we are."
Fox grabbed her and kissed her lips deeply. He murmured, "You're not." Over and over between kisses.
They parted after a bit and Nagi returned to lying on his shoulder. She felt lighter, having shared a bit of their change stories.
Unknowingly, Fox shattered her moment of relief.
He cupped her cheek, forcing her to face him. Then he asked. "I still don't know what your beast form is...?"
The panic returned. She sat thee staring at him, crumbling inside as each painful second pasted, making her look even more and more insincere.
I promise the next chapters are going to be epic or close to it. I think another reason why I went a little soft was because I wanted to bring the romance back into focus, and what better way to do that than with some triangle conflict. Thanks for reading! Don't forget to review. Till the next chapter!