Outside, Ecks watches the woman holding the picture as she stops random people for a moment or two before they walk away shaking their heads. The woman’s face is long with worry, pain, and sorrow. The dark circles under her eyes show that it has been a few days since she last slept a peaceful night. The gauntness in her face shows that she has eaten very little, if at all, in the same time frame. What happened to this woman’s loved one, Ecks wondered. He must find out who sent the letter from Tulpaar but he cannot ignore this woman’s plight. Perhaps if he helped her, she may be able to help him. Ecks inhales deeply and exhales slowly. It is a tough decision but he has an assignment to complete. He makes his way toward the woman.
“Sir, please, have you seen my daughter?” the woman asks. The burly man shakes his head no and moves on. She asks a pair of fancy-dressed women. They turn their noses up and blatantly ignore her, figuring her for a begger. The woman turns around to group at her back. They have not seen her daughter either. The grieving mother will not be detoured. She continues to search for someone—anyone—who can provide a clue to the whereabouts of her missing child. After yet another negative reply, she sees Ecks and hurries to him, hoping he might be able to help her. “Please, have you seen my daughter?” she begs.
Ecks looks at the picture. It depicts a young woman with striking curly red hair, bold green eyes and fair skin. He sees the top of a peach colored dress she is wearing and a blue onyx necklace. He looks back at the woman and scans her up and down. Her two-tone brown dress and tunic are tattered and her feet blistered and dirty from the days she has spent standing, begging anyone for information as to where her daughter is. Ecks needs information on who requested aid from Arcana, however. Helping this woman find her daughter may be a start. “When did you last see her?” he asks.
The woman is stunned. This is the first time in days anyone has responded to her and inquired about her daughter on top of it. She looks at the young man with spiky blonde hair with urgency and hope in her eyes. “You’ve seen her? You’ve seen my daughter?” she says.
“Sorry, I’m just a visitor here,” Ecks replies. In that instant, the woman’s face turns dark again. It is another letdown, just like all the others. She had hoped this young man before her would hold some clue to where her daughter could be. Ecks sees the sorrow return to her face. He cannot deny her. His duty as a Knight of Arcana is to help those in need. “But I will help you find your daughter,” he tells her.
“You…will?” the woman is stunned. Never before has anyone offered to help. They either pretended to show concern or ignored her completely. She looks him in the eyes. All she sees is honesty. This young man before her is the first person to offer help. She can’t help but be both shocked and grateful.
“Yeah, but in order to do that, how about we start from the beginning…” Ecks says, using his eyes to ask the woman her name.
She catches on. “Elanohr,” she tells him.
Willow has somehow become Elyzah’s assistant. She was under the impression that she was only to model a dress because she nearly matched the client physically. Now Elyzah is making alterations with Willow handing and holding various tools for her while being treated like a puppet at the same time, being asked to change her pose ever so often. “How do I get myself into these situations?” she whined silently. Elyzah takes a spool of thread from her right hand and asks her to raise her arm.
“Too high, bring it down a bit,” Elyzah instructed.
Willow lowers her arm slightly.
“A little more,” the stoic seamstress said again.
Willow brings her arm down a little more.
“Up a bit.”
With a groan, Willow raises her arm. Elyzah tells her to lower her arm ever so slightly before instructing to raise it again afterward. Willow shoots an angry look when notices the final position of her arm.
“Good, hold it right there,” Elyzah said.
Willow’s arm is back exactly where she first started. Elyzah then goes about altering the dress again on the right side. Willow has become annoyed with this girl’s meticulousness, but she cannot squander a chance to learn who sent the letter to Arcana. However, she cannot ask outright; that would raise suspicion. Willow thinks about it for a moment while Elyzah has her change her pose yet again. Whoever sent the letter to Arcana through Tulpex must have found something so disturbing that they neglected to inform the Regal Society. Willow had best keep her question centered on that notion.
“Elyzah, can I ask you something?” she says.
“Why isn’t this working,” Elyzah mused. “Maybe your gigantic boobs are the problem.” Again, he blatantly blurts out her thoughts.
“Will you shut up about my boobs and listen for a moment?!” Willow hollered back.
“Oh, were you saying something?” Elyzah said.
Willow shoots a look at the seamstress; the girl’s obliviousness was more annoying than Caleigh Ashford who is brilliant with machinery but a bubble-head when it comes to anything else. She has gotten into plenty meaningless conversations with Caleigh and all of them led to nowhere. Willow recalls how frustrating it was to get a straight answer from her. She fears the same for Elyzah. “Have you noticed anything strange recently?” she finally asks.
“Oh, you mean the disappearances?” Elyzah said, showing the first sign of expression.
“Three days ago?” Ecks responded.
Elanohr has been telling him about her daughter Aerith who disappeared along with her friend Larissa three days ago when they went to Tulpex Village to trade linens and cookware. She herself had traveled to Tulpex to see why her daughter hadn’t returned home the next day. Along the way, Elanohr found the cart Aerith and Larissa used hidden away in a pile of bushes just outside of Tulpex. She assumes bandits were responsible until she noticed that though the cart was damaged, nothing had been taken. Elanohr’s worries deepened now that she suspects foul play. Since the three days she last saw her daughter, Elanohr has been holding Aerith’s picture and searching for answers. “What of the friend’s mother?” Ecks asks. If his search is going to continue, he must speak with both women.
Elanohr lowers her head and expresses deep concern. “Elga hasn’t left her home since Larissa disappeared. I’m afraid she may have taken up drinking ale again.” Elanohr recalls the day her neighbor fell deep into depression after she returned to tell her that there was no sign of their daughters. Elga looked downtrodden the last time Elanohr saw her. That was also the last time Elga had answered the door. Unable to bear seeing her friend in that state, Elanohr has been standing in the market place of Tulpaar Village, asking anyone about her daughter because if Aerith is found, so will Larissa.
Ecks sees that Elanohr is near her emotional limit. If she doesn’t get a break in her search, she might end up like her friend Elga and close herself off. He thinks about forgoing the assignment and helping Elanohr instead. But he’ll never hear the end of it from Brie. What if Elanohr’s case is linked with whatever disturbance is occurring in Tulpaar, he thinks. “Elanohr, have there been any other disappears besides your daughter and her friend?” he asks.
“Several,” answered Elyzah.
Willow conducted her own investigation with Elyzah. She is still the seamstress’ human sized doll as she is modeling another dress—a green and white short dress that came just above her knees and form fitting at the waist and under her bust. The lace top hung off the shoulder and exposed a lot of cleavage. Normally, Willow would not mind wearing such an outfit but having Elyzah gaze at her wide eyed is making her feel a bit uneasy. Elyzah’s hazel eyes lay upon her improvised model’s bust, which is hard to avoid since the Tulpaar seamstress is eye level with Willow’s bosom. She has Willow cross her arms and lean forward.
Elyzah’s eyes widen more. “Wow, like staring into a canyon,” she says pointedly. She then takes out piece of chalk and marks a spot on the dress where she will need to make an adjustment.
Willow sighs at the remark. “Do you have an idea of when the disappearances began?” she asked, hoping to get Elyzah to focus on something other than her bosom.
“About a couple months ago, maybe,” said Elyzah while she marked off a couple more areas on the dress. “Okay, one more. It’s behind the screen over there.”
Willow looked to where Elyzah pointed toward the screen to her left and she walks over to and then behind it. The outfit hanging there is a bar maiden outfit with a white top that has a low cut frilly neck line, short beige skirt with a slit up to the hip, tan leather bodice and calf high boots. That’s kinda cute, she thinks, but Betty would kill me if she saw me in that. After taking off the current dress, Willow tries on the bar maiden outfit. “Do you have any idea who?” she asks.
“Nope, all I know is that someone’s daughter was on their way to Tulpex and they never came back,” Elyzah answered. “That was the first one, at least the first one I heard about. Since then, there have been a few more. The most recent was a couple days ago, I think.”
“Really?” says Willow with interest. The letter from Tulpaar arrived in Arcana Kingdom five days ago, she recalls. This might be the emergency they were referring to. Willow steps out from behind the screen. Elyzah looks her up and down with a critical eye.
“Wow, total hotness. Alright, you can put your clothes back on. Thanks,” she says with stoic sarcasm.
Looking at her awkwardly, Willow half expected Elyzah to have her model the outfit like before, being positioned into different poses and Elyzah meticulously making adjustments. Rather than give the petite seamstress chance to change her mind, Willow takes the road less traveled and changes clothes.
(The story begins HERE!! Get your copy of Defenders Volumes 1 and 2 through the links in the J1 Studios Bookstore for your Kindle and eBook device!! And check out my new fantasy novel Arcana X and the adventure continues in Arcana X: 2nd Assignment!! And see the witch dance with the devil in my fan fiction Dante vs. Bayonetta and it’s the angriest vs. the furious in “Kratos vs. Asura!!” Plus, check out the awesome crossover fan fic Yu-Gi-Oh X Beyblade!!)
Dante vs. Bayonetta Linx
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The Witch dances with the Devil Epilogue
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