Novus wasn't prepared for the reception they received upon entering the City Guard Barracks with Rixa in handcuffs. Once the guards recognized their high-profile prisoner, the news quickly spread, igniting a chorus of gleeful cheers.
Alexa couldn't hide her satisfaction. The capture of Rixa was a significant achievement that bolstered her standing. -Too bad I'll have to share the credit with you two,- she whispered to Callis and Novus, her hand covering her mouth to ensure discretion.
-It's all yours,- Callis replied, approaching her and encouraging Alexa to take full credit for Rixa's capture.
-Yes, I don't need any more attention on me,- Novus agreed, nodding in approval of Alexa receiving sole credit for the successful operation.
-You two are the best. Drinks are on me...- Alexa began, but her sentence was interrupted by a stern voice clearing its throat behind them.
-Nomene... Igneus... I'm going to kill you both,- the voice hissed, laden with palpable and all-consuming rage.
The trio turned to see a furious Berula Medela descending the stairs, her gaze fixed on them with piercing intensity. Unfamiliar with Berula, Alexa stepped forward to intervene.
-Excuse me, miss, but who are you and what were you doing on the upper floors?- The Captain of the Guard attempted to assert authority over the Magnus Paeoniis with her imposing stature.
-And you, you must be the beast who works in the top office,- Berula retorted, unimpressed by Alexa's attempt to intimidate her. Instead, she turned the tables and reprimanded Alexa.
-How can someone mess up so much paperwork in such a short time?- Berula was the reinforcement Callis had requested earlier that day, anticipating her ability to decipher the chaos Alexa had created.
-Don't even get me started on all the grammatical errors. I hope you have more experience with that oversized meat cleaver on your back than with a pen, or you'll suffer a thousand deaths in a real fight,- Berula continued her tirade, her words flowing like the rippling waters of the Hyacin River during spring.
-But I'm a fighter, not a bureaucrat...- Alexa attempted to defend herself, but Berula cut her off abruptly.
-Me neither, but surprise! I can read and write like a regular person for the Magus' sake!- The Magnus Paeoniis continued berating Alexa until Callis finally intervened.
-Messa Medela, please compose yourself. This kind of scene is unproductive for everyone involved,- the Beast Blade responded, his anger evident yet controlled.
-You owe me big after this,- Berula threatened, shaking her finger at Callis, who met her gaze unflinchingly.
-Not unless you want your recent academic pursuits to reach my cousin,- Callis countered, alluding to Berula's interest in necromancy, a practice so taboo that even considering it was considered a crime, the Arcane Inquisitors could kill you if you merely showed interest.
Berula froze in her tracks, the gravity of Callis's threat registering instantly. Her entire demeanor shifted in an instant.
-Oh, you two seem quite troubled. Would you like me to heal you while you explain what happened out there? I'm not particularly adept at sensing Vis over long distances, but even I could pick up on the commotion,- Berula offered, her tone softening considerably after Callis's warning.
The quartet ascended the stairs as the guards escorted the still-unconscious Rixa to the dungeons.
-So, you're telling me they stole a shipment, and the ship got destroyed because you accidentally activated a spell formula tattooed on her arm?- Berula attempted to make sense of their explanation.
-I'm not entirely certain, but we should definitely investigate the spell formula. It's ancient imperial,- Novus explained to his superior, who immediately perked up at the mention of the kingdom's predecessors' ancient tongue.
-Wait... how do you know it's ancient imperial?- she asked, puzzled by Novus's knowledge.
-I studied Early and Late Colonial during my time at the academy, not to mention I have some familiarity with Morbani, Urbani, Paho, and even Kiniri. So, by a process of elimination, not to mention the effect, the body art must be written in ancient imperial,- the young Arcanist elaborated.
-That... actually makes sense,- Berula admitted, impressed by Novus's linguistic expertise, considering she had barely studied Early Colonial herself.
-I'm more concerned about who gave her that tattoo. Did she say anything about it?- Alexa interjected, recalling the rules of investigation their mentor had instilled in her and Callis.
-Not only who, but why? Why would someone give a lowlife like her a spell formula of such power?- Callis added, pacing the room, deep in thought.
-It's not just power; that elemental core shouldn't exist. I haven't found much to read about it back in the academy, but there are certain families of spell formulas that vanished with time, and this is one of them, Gravitas, Novus utilized his expertise to explain the rarity of the spell.
-So, an ancient forgotten spell was placed in the arm of a lowborn criminal by a mysterious figure, and we don't know why, how, or for what purpose,- Alexa started popping her knuckles menacingly.
-It seems I have a long night of interrogation ahead of me,- she added with a cold tone of voice.
-Maybe we could get an expert down to the dungeons to study the Spell Formula,- Callis mused as he leaned against a wall.
-You aren't thinking of bringing the Arcane Chalearii down here. First, he wouldn't leave the castle, and second, your cousin would most likely be apoplectic you involved his number one political enemy in a mission he sent you on,- the Magnus Paeoniis shot down what Callis left unsaid.
-I…- The Beast Blade started to reply, but he stopped midway as a loud voice reached them, even on the second floor of the building, from the very entrance of the Guard Barracks.
-WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS DUMP!?- A female voice echoed inside the large stone chamber of the building, making the group come out from Alexa's office to see what was happening.
From their vantage point, they could see three figures, two draped in the white and red tunics of Arcane Inquisitors, servants of the Arcane Chalearii, while the third one, a hulking man dressed in heavy armor with a white and gold jacket over it, was known to Callis—it was Saxum, the Arcane Chalearii's personal bodyguard.
-Shit, this isn't going to end right,- Berula commented upon seeing the newcomers, she then did a double take, noticing they were Arcane Inquisitors and glared at Callis. -Did you sold me out?-
Callis rolled his eyes at her.
-Let us go an meet them, before any of the guards starts an incident.- Callis indicated, leading the group down, hoping that whatever this was, it wasn’t involved with Rixa.