Chapter 6: Spring Flowers

Not very happy with this, but I want to get back to working on the Animax script and Dreamers. Yes, yes, Mignon, I’ll come to you in a bit. Naoya, Serulina, don’t you two start with me now. 1387 words.

She took the call outside, letting herself out while his family looked after him. They did not know what had happened in the warehouse, only that it had been a rather bad accident. She had debriefed him in private though, like she had done for the rest. The kidnapees had all been told that this was another random supernatural incident; none had thought to question further. They had been trained to detect supernatural entities and circumstances, although not all were trained to deal with them. Their main function was to act as eyes and ears on the ground. Seo, among the minority in the group, had been trained to handle the circumstances if and when they arose, assisting the local agent on patrol. The local agent was something of a policeman with his own beat.

Xis, on the other hand, was an agent sent to deal with recurring cases that local agents could not solve. Depending on the country, there were different agents from different agencies assigned to a particular case, though the most common agency used was Interpol. In this case though, she had not been completely honest with Seo; she had been assigned to follow up on the case that had resulted in the kidnapping. Her involvement in it was not planned for. She had been standing in for one of the regional examiners when the batch had been kidnapped in the middle of an examination. The main priority for her now was to find out what was the desperate need for so many trained adults.

“Xis here,” she covered her other ear in order to hear better. What she heard made her blood run cold. Once the caller had hung up, she went back into the room and excused herself to Seo’s family. “I’ll be back later,” she squeezed Seo’s hand and bowed to his parents before leaving.

As she left the hospital, a car pulled up. Looking in, she recognised the driver as one of the older local agents. Although she would have preferred to drive herself, she did not know the roads here, and this was time-sensitive enough that the agency had sent a car to get her. The driver reached over and opened the door for her when she could not open it.

“Sorry,” he mumbled when she sat and closed the door, “Car’s my own.”

“I see. What’s the update?” she ignored his apology. While it was rare for an agent to use his own car, it was not unheard of.

“Three civilians injured. One is the suspect, the other two were local agents from across the mainland. All three bear the marks of the same teacher, though the suspect is not certified by any of the international agencies. He was trying to grab one of the local agents the same way you were grabbed,” he accelerated just a little.

“Any ruckus?”

“No. The local police are covering this as another attempted snatch theft. It might make the papers, or it might not. The injuries are what’s drawing their attention. They’ve not seen a snatch thief this bloody in a long time.”

“Would the local officers use our press release?” He shook his head, overtaking dangerously while trying hard not to swear. “Then let it be known that the agents were undercover Interpol agents here on vacation and that we require their identities to be secret. That should kill the story.”

“What about the suspect?”

“Someone who works for a local syndicate. Be vague about the charges and his name. Once we have more information from this guy, we can turn him over to the local police for them to charge him. I don’t want this to be dragged too long.”

“We walk from here,” the agent parked his car.

The incident had happened inside an old, near-abandoned fort by the sea. As the fort required visitors to pay, it had been largely abandoned. Xis was more interested in what mainland agents were doing on the island. Unless they were here casually, mainland agents and their counterparts on the island were very territorial. Funding was not limitless, after all, and resources to train additional eyes-and-ears as well as agents were very limited (no thanks to the religious and cultural implications of the country itself). Urban areas tended to request help and additional funding more often than the rural areas did. And when the rural areas did ask for help, you could be quite certain that it was no trivial matter.

“Naoko Kensaku, Interpol Special Agent,” she presented her ID to the police officer at the door. He took it from her to examine it closely, like how one would check an ID suspected of being a forgery.

“Is this real?” his tone said that he thought it was fake.

She sighed. It was not the first time anyone would doubt her age and position, and she very much doubted it would be the last. Instead of replying to him though, she spotted one of the mainland agents. This was one she knew well, having trained his class a few years ago. Taking her ID back from him, she ran over the man being wheeled out on an ambulance trolley. The local agent trailed behind her, looking tired. For the moment, she paid the older man no heed; she was here to do a job.

“Hold him,” she told the paramedics. They were on the verge of ignoring her, but he had reached out to grab her arm. She leant over him.

“Kristen…” she looked at him blankly.

“The girl’s over there, being treated,” one of the orderlies said, guessing.

The man’s next words were lost in the wind, but she had what she needed. She detached the man’s arm from hers and went back the way the paramedics had come from. Kristen was this man’s partner. They were one of the few pairs on the streets; most preferred to work alone. The stench of blood got stronger the closer she got. There was one or two local police officers around, but they were taking photos. Over the wind though, she could hear Kristen’s voice. The woman’s voice rang out clear and confident.

When Xis turned the corner, Kristen turned to look at her. Her eyes widened when she caught sight of Xis, and then she went back to answering the policeman’s questions. A covered body lay nearby; all one could see were the soles of a pair of dirty feet, facing them. There was blood everywhere, but Kristen herself seemed relatively unharmed. When Xis went to the policeman, she had just taken out her ID and passed it over to them. Xis could see the vein throbbing on Kristen’s wrist as she did that. For a person who seemed unharmed, the wrist looked like it had been bathed in blood. In contrast to the rest of her, Kristen was relatively… clean.

“We’ll contact you in case there’s anything else to add. Brigadier,” one of the two men inclined his head in a manner of respect to Xis.

“Thank you, Inspector. May I have Kristen now?” she smiled warmly at the one who had greeted her.

The moment she said “Kristen,” she knew something was wrong. Instinct took over and she leant back. The claws missed her face by just an inch. Xis fell back against the wall to evade the other blows, even as the “Kristen” changed shape before their eyes. It became a huge growling beast, destroying the skin that had been Kristen’s. The Inspector pushed his colleague away from the monster swinging at the now-trapped Xis. She, on the other hand, was evading both blows easily, not bothering to fight back. She slipped under the monster’s clumsy attack, and as she did, two gunshots rang out.

The monster moaned and fell, slumping against the wall, a thick sludge flowing slowly out of the small holes where the bullets had gone through. As the sludge covered the grass, flowers sprang up.

“The blood of a villain always makes for the best flowers, don’t they, Brigadier?” the local agent stood next to her, holding his gun in front of him at the thing.

“Yes, they do, Niosh.”