The light flickered on, the dim light from the aging bulb barely illuminating the room. The blinds in the window had been drawn shut. The only pieces of furniture were a small table and chair, both of which looked old. It was always cold in the interrogation room, but after a few sessions, it stopped bothering Megumi rather quickly. He glanced at the figure sitting in the chaira blonde woman with green eyes. She wore a lab coat, or what used to be a lab coat, that was torn in many places.
She smiled at Megumi as she leaned back in the chair, white teeth standing out against the dirt-ridden hue of her skin. "And here we are again," she said, voice smooth and unafraid. Megumi's expression, the straight-faced interrogator, didn't change one inch at her tone.
"Here we are again," he nodded. "Name and species," he told her as pressed a button on the small audio recorder he had on the table. The woman raised an eyebrow at him, but complied.
"Anastasia Hallbell. Half-fae," she said in a bored voice, placing special emphasis on 'half-fae' so she could watch the tiny flicker of animosity in his eyes. She let a small smile flicker onto her face as she noticed his brown eyes darkening a little.
"You've been here three days, Miss Hallbell."
"So I have," she replied. "And so far, you have nothing, am I right?"
Megumi gritted his teeth only slightly. He'd been interrogating her for three days straight about her activitieshe'd found her selling vials, some kind of magic chemical, to a few of her half-fae clientsbut she hadn't told him a single word that gave him a lead on what she planned on doing with them.
"Because you keep being
evasive. What was it exactly you were giving them?" he asked. Anastasia leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table as she looked up at her interrogator in the dim light.
"I'm a doctor, Mister Tadashi, I can't give you that kind of information," she said smoothly.
"They weren't patients," Megumi said, his tone even and controlled. "And you aren't even a doctor anymore, Miss Hallbell. You lost that title a while ago." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag containing a small vial with purple liquid, slipping along the sides of the vial like syrup. He set the bag on the table in front of her. "We found this at the site," he told her. "Care to tell me what it does?"
Anastasia picked up the bag, examining the contents. "I don't know," she concluded, setting the bag back down. Megumi frowned slightly.
"What do you mean 'you don't know'? You made it."
"Do you know how many solutions I've created, Mister Tadashi?" Anastasia shot back with a hiss. "How many magicals come to me for paralyzing agents, hallucinogenic-"
Megumi cut her off as he walked to the back of the room. "You've been here for three days, Miss Hallbell. You're intelligent. I've walked past your cell during patrol, heard you rattle off the names of the chemicals in your inventory. What they're used for." He retrieved an object from the back of the room, then returned to the table. "That's your coping mechanism, isn't it, Miss Hallbell?"
Anastasia didn't answer, choosing instead to fix her eyes on the table. Her fearless expression changed only minutely at the device Megumi had gotten: a semi-circular device similar to a large protractor, with a knob on the outside edge. On the inside-top edge were sharpened barbs. Megumi took the half-fae's wrist and slipped it inside the device.
"If you can't remember what one little magical solution can do
" Megumi fixed his eyes on hers, cold brown meeting impassive green. "How can do you do that?" Without a word, the man twisted the knob on the device, sending the large barbs into Anastasia's wrist. She winced, only winced, but Megumi caught the facial movement.
"Now...Can I get an answer?" he asked, irritation carefully masked by his controlled voice. Anastasia was silent. Megumi twisted the knob again, sharper this time, and again the sharp points pierced the woman's skin. Blood began to bubble up and spill onto the table. The woman tried to slip her wrist free of the device.
"That only makes it worse," he told her in a voice that clearly didn't care. "Maybe if you answer my question, I'll consider letting you go."
The woman looked up at him with an expression twisted with anger and, though she didn't want to show it, pain. She knew he was making an empty promise. That's all interrogations were for him, empty promises so he could get answers.
Anastasia met his gaze smoothly, leaning forward onto her bad arm, letting her uninjured one hang at her side.
"If I told you that, what fun would this be?"
She suddenly raised her good arm, something hidden in her hand, and prepared to throw it down, but Megumi caught her arm in a tight grip. A vial similar to the one in the plastic bag was clamped in her fingers. She smiled at the flicker of darkness in his eyes, the disgust at having to touch her for such a long time.
"Goodbye, Mister Tadashi."
She dropped the vial from her fingers and when it hit the ground, a cloud of green smoke billowed from it, beginning to fill up the room. Megumi coughed and pressed a hand to his mouth and nose, trying wildly to search the smoky interior of the room, but his eyes were nearly blinded by the fog.
He heard an alarm sound and someone's voice crackled over his watch. "Tadashi," came the voice of his partner, Hasira Menefer. "Come in, Tadashi."
Megumi coughed again, feeling his head spinning, and he got the feeling that this gas was much more than just a distraction. He raised his watch to his mouth. "I'm here," he told her as he felt his way to the door.
"Where are you, what happened?"
"Room 327. Hallbell escaped. She tried to gas me as a distraction. Let me know if you see her, okay?"
"Right. She's not the only one who escaped; we've got a prison break." Hasira paused on the other end. "Be careful, will you?"
"Don't worry" he cut himself off when he saw, or thought he saw, a figure in the gas. A humanoid shadow moving forward in the smoke. Megumi blinked, still groping for the door, his eyes fixed to the figure as the smoke seemed to clear away in front of it.
The figure was a woman, taller than Megumi himself, with long dark hair that seemed to float around her shoulders, and dark eyes. Her face was long and smooth, but most of all it was completely blank, impassive. She regarded Megumi coolly with her dark eyes.
Megumi let his expression slip, eyes narrowing as he watched the woman, feeling small pricks of fear running up his arms. He slid a hand into his pocket and closed his fingers around his knife. Something was oddly ethereal about her. She seemed too smooth, too perfect, like a painting. Too much like a figment of his imaginationthe gas's fault, most likelyto be real.
His fingers found the door handle and he wrenched it open, breathing in clear, crisp air. The escape alarm blared in his ear now that he was outside the room and he heard the clamoring of agents wrestling runaway magicals back into their cells.
He sent a glance back into the foggy interrogation room, eyes locking onto the dark woman's for only a second before he turned away, leaving the room. His mind set itself back on his task: he needed to find Anastasia Hallbell.
A young faerie girl tried to rush by him, and when he grabbed her arm to pin her down, she kicked him in the stomach, knocking him back into the wall. Gritting his teeth, Megumi twisted the girl's arm hard, holding her against an empty cell while he unlocked the door. He shoved her in when it was open and locked the door. The girl scratched at the door with one arm, letting the other arm hang loosely at her side, screaming obscenities at him.
Moving away from the cell, Megumi suddenly felt very dizzy, and though he tried to keep his balance, he was on the floor before he had the chance to do much about it. The world around him went fuzzy for just a second before everything went black. The sounds of the alarm and the noise from the prison break stopped abruptly.
Megumi opened his eyes and was greeted by bright fluorescent lights buzzing over his head. He sat up, running a hand his dark hair, and looked around the blurry infirmary room. His head throbbed painfully. Something crackled near his wristhis watch was broken, faint static and sparks came from the face and speakers.
" he sighed.
"You're an idiot," came the voice of his sister Yue as she faded into view at the end of the bed, her features set in deep frown. Megumi gave a half-hearted laugh in response. The alarm had stopped ringing, which meant that the escaped creatures had been corralled and locked up, but he still didn't know if Anastasia had been recaptured.
"Don't you search for weapons before interrogations?" Yue admonished.
"She'd been locked up for three days, and we monitored her cell frequently," he told her sharply. "We had no reason to search her more than once." He knew that, at some point, someone had messed up. All it took was one second for someone to get distracted. He sighed, leaning back on his pillow.
"Well maybe you'll learn next time." Yue stepped over to him and brushed a feather-light finger against her brother's forehead. "Are you alright, Meg?" she asked softly.
"Fine. I think the gas was just to knock me out, a distraction so she could escape."
"And the woman you saw earlier?"
Megumi paused and thought back to the dark-haired figure in the room, moving across the floor as if she were floating on the air. He shook his head. "I don't know who that was. Probably a hallucination."
Yue frowned. "If she's not me, or Eilea, or Mom and Dad
"Then maybe it was the gas' fault, I don't know."
Yue was silent for a while, then she nodded. "Alright. So what" she stopped abruptly, eyes fixing on a corner of the room. Megumi glanced over at her and frowned. "Yue, what's the matter?"
He followed her gaze and finally his eyes fell upon two familiar dark eyes, the same ones belonging to the woman in the interrogation room. The woman's face remained distant, cold, but her eyes held some faint spark of irritation.
Yue moved to speak to her first, but Megumi put his finger to his sister's lips. The girl disappeared like smoke. Megumi observed the woman with sharp eyes. "Who are you?" he asked her now that they were alone. She stepped forward, long black hair swishing around her shoulders.
"My name is Lady Ink," she said, her voice as calm and cold as her face. Megumi nodded, standing up from the bed. There was a strange feeling about her, one of power, but it didn't feel distinctly magical. Megumi didn't quite know how to describe it.
Megumi raised an eyebrow at her. "Lady Ink. What do you want?"
"I want your help, Mister Tadashi."
He bristled slightly. How did she know his name? His eyes narrowed. "My help with what?"
"The Book of Storiesthe book of all Storiesis falling apart," she told him. "The Stories are disappearing. Unwriting themselves."
"Every Story ever told," she answered. "Fictional, reality. Worlds. Any story that's ever been created is starting to unravel. One word at a time. Soon there will be none left."
Her words still didn't seem real to him. Regardless of what this Lady Ink said, he was certain that she was a gas-induced vision. Megumi watched her, his fingers closing around his knife. If this was some trick, like he expected it was, he wanted to be ready. "And why do you need me?"
"You have such an
interesting story. So many unexpected twists. You've become familiar with expecting the unexpected, and I believe that's exactly what you'll find in the Realm of Stories." Lady Ink moved again, her feet gliding along the floor as smoothly as a paintbrush would across a canvas. Her dark eyes held his as she searched his face. She was met with an expression as cold and distant as hers.
Megumi tensed and raised his knife when she came forward, but something kept him from striking at her. That strange and powerful aura she had, he supposed.
She took his hand in hers with surprising gentleness, and Megumi felt something cool press against his skin. He withdrew his hand quickly and looked down to see a black ball had replaced his knife. It shifted around in the palm of his hand. The ink-colored ball stretched itself out and curved before solidifying. Megumi frowned and turned dark eyes to Lady Ink, gripping the arc in his hand.
"What did you do?" he asked, both confused and a little irritated. "What is this?" And why are you such a persistent illusion?
The woman's only reply was to take his hand again, but this time the only thing that happened was that Megumi was tugged into complete inky darkness.