For the preceding chapter, click here for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Chapter 1 Pt.1!!
“We have a theory about that,” replies Willow.
“Which is?” asked the White Sage.
“When Willow and I went to investigate the last place Aerith and Larissa were seen, we found a bunch of merchant carts dumped in a ravine,” Ecks said. Tatianna asks how many carts there were. “Can’t be sure of the count, but there were a lot of them. It looked like this has been going on for some time. Some of the carts looked like they have been there for a few weeks. Others a few years. Then there’s Tulpex.”
“Tulpex?” the White Sage says curiously. “What about it? Is something odd happening there as well?”
“As anyone knows, Tulpex is a merchant town. But as Ecks and I walked through Tulpex, we noticed that there were far fewer merchant carts than are usually present. The residents here have noticed as well and assume that the merchants have moved on elsewhere. Normally, this would not be cause for concern but even the regular merchants have suddenly stopped coming,” Willow tells Tatianna and the White Sage.
Ecks then takes over. “We have reason to believe that the dumped carts we found were once selling goods in Tulpex. We found the cart that Aerith and Larissa tended to there as well. They shared the duty with their mothers.”
“Hmm, so Elanohr and Elga were merchants together,” the White Sage said. He carefully considers what Ecks and Willow have told him. He and Tatianna suspected Elanohr had a possible hidden agenda since her story about Elga’s last moments conflicted with her neighbors and Elga’s brother Tremont. After being given more insight on Elanohr and hearing about the merchant carts in the ravine, Tatianna and the White Sage’s suspicions are no longer on Elanohr.
“Your Grace?” Willow says. “There is one more thing.” The White Sage and Tatianna listen attentively. “There are dark magics at work in Tulpaar.”
“Dark magics?!” Tatianna says, shocked by what Willow just said.
The White Sage expresses a stern look. He had his suspicions about dark magic, but he hoped they were wrong.
“Yeah,” Ecks started. “While we investigated the discarded merchant carts, Willow and I were attacked by living corpses. Worse yet, the corpses were once merchant girls, most likely the ones who operated those merchant carts. You guys recall the flower cart called the ‘Snowy Egret’ that used to come to Arcana?”
“Yes, I do recall that particular cart and the young ladies that ran it. Ecks, were they among…?” the White Sage said. His voice trailed off at the thought of the girls’ terrible fate.
“Yeah, I had to put them down,” said Ecks. Though they were dead, he still felt regret for having to end their life.
The White Sage sighs. He heard the regret in Ecks’ voice. “I see. It was not an easy task but necessary in order to give them peace.”
“In any case, Willow and I have to return to Tulpaar. We have to find out what is going on with this illness and the disappearances,” said Ecks. Though he regrets that he couldn’t do anything for the Snowy Egret girls, there is no time for him to mourn them. He must focus on their assignment.
“Agreed,” said His Grace. “Something is amiss in Tulpaar. And I fear it may threaten more than just Tulpaar. Found out what it is and report back.”
“You got it,” replied Ecks.
“Yes, Your Grace,” adds Willow. Before disconnecting from the Astral Flow, Willow quickly asks the White Sage a question. “Your Grace, before we disconnect, can I speak to my sister a moment. We may need her help in this matter.”
“What a coincidence,” the White Sage laughed. “Lady Beatrice is actually on assignment in Eshtar City as we speak. You can relay everything you reported to her through Miss Knoxville.”
“Wait, Knoxville? Tamirei Knoxville?” Ecks said.
“Actually, it’s her younger sister, Tiphanee Knoxville. She is a recent recruit to whom Beatrice seems to have taken a liking to,” says the White Sage.
“Ha! You don’t say. Looks like Beatrice is getting soft,” Ecks comments.
“You’ve got some nerve, Ecks,” Willow shot at him. “But still, it is odd that Betty would take on another subordinate.”
“Apparently, Tiphanee and Tamirei have relatives in Eshtar City and Tiphanee knows the city well,” Tatianna tells Willow and Ecks.
“Well, guess that makes sense,” said Ecks.
“Understood. Thank you, Your Grace. Tatianna,” said Willow.
“No problem. Good luck with your assignment,” said the White Sage. “Oh, and Miss Willow?” Willow listens as His Grace went on. “Probably would be best if you contacted us instead. I wouldn’t want to intrude like before,” he added, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
“Uh, i-it’s quite alright, Your Grace,” Willow replied with a nervous laugh. “No harm done.”
“Intrude? Is that what that yell was in the shower earlier?” Ecks asked, drawing reactions from everyone.
“Shut up, Ecks. I told you I slipped,” Willow grated out, sneering at her partner.
“How uncouth,” Tatianna said, shaking her head pitifully.
The White Sage simply smiles. “Anyway, Lieutenant Ecks and Miss Willow, be sure to inform Lady Beatrice of the situation and report back when you have more about the disappearances.”
“You got it,” Ecks replies.
“Yes, Your Grace,” said Willow.
“Good luck and may the Goddess of Light protect you,” says the White Sage. With that, Tatianna severs the connection to the Astral Flow. She follows the White Sage as he returns to his desk to resume his research of Balthasar and the Arcane Relics.
Ecks and Willow’s adventure begins HERE!