There’s no fair or unfair in battle.
( There is only victory or in your case, defeat. )
Another day, another completed job… if a bit of an odd one. One of Fairy Tail’s aces, Nessa Lux, had asked Vandrad to go in her stead to a school and help the little brats with some combat training. Apparently they believed that giving the rowdy children something to focus on would help their overall ability to interact in school. Frankly he thought teaching bullies how to punch better was just giving them better ammunition. But a hard kick in the ass from someone stronger and unwilling to talk nicely was in due order and there was no one better suited for that than the Prince of Bellum. It felt like being back home; running drills with fresh recruits and breaking them in. And much like the greenhorns that came into the military with an overinflated opinion of themselves, Vandrad had brought them kids down. By the end of the lesson, they were referring to him as ‘sir’ and following each and every order he issued. He assured them he would be back to check on their progress, both in their training as well as their attitudes. That had been enough of a warning for them to understand how serious he was. Their teacher had been over the moon at the sudden progress they had made. So long as it seemed like he hadn’t pushed his luck and caused any issues with Fairy Tail’s business, Vandrad was satisfied.
By the time he was leaving the school, it was late afternoon. The sun was beginning to set and people were starting to filter into homes and restaurants for dinner. The Prince walked through the emptying streets, already thinking about his own meal plans for when he returned to the guild hall. After all the effort he had put in today, he felt he had earned a nice, juicy steak. The perfect platter of protein before his evening workout. The very thought brought a small smile to his face – the only show of happiness he was ever willing to give, even to himself.
As he turned down a long, narrow street, he heard footsteps following behind him. It was only a moment later that a feminine voice called out to him from behind. “Hey Vandrad!”
For a brief, fleeting moment, a knot formed in his stomach. It could not possibly be Mercury, could it? Not at this hour – not after everything that had happened between them. He needed space in his normal day in and day out but he definitely needed a break from her now, more than ever. With an audible groan, he turned and found… well, not Mercury. In fact, he didn’t recognize the woman at all. She stood a few inches over him, though that was helped by the heel-tipped boots she wore on her feet, one of blue and the other of red. Long, chocolate hair hung off of her head in intricate little curls and points, coming to rest on the small of her back. Large, square glasses hung on her face, framing almost the entirety of her eyes. She wore a checkered dress, changing from blue to red, that came to an end in a short skirt near the top of her thighs. She wore black leggings underneath that ran the length of the seemingly toned limbs and a black sweater underneath the dress with sleeves that ran down to her wrists.
The Prince of Bellum turned to face her, his face wrought with confusion and annoyance. “I’m off duty, woman. If you have a job, post it on the board at Fairy Tail and I’ll get to it tomorrow.”
The woman looked puzzled, even a little amused. “I knew you were the stand-offish type but refusing to even talk to me? I’ll admit – I thought we had a good time in that cavern. You being an obstinate brute, me being the charming scientist. The two of us facing off against the perils of the buried ruins. It’s kind of like a romance novel if you ask me,” she said with a chuckle.
His brow furrowed. A cavern? Ruins? Wait a minute… “You’re that scientist. The one from Cedar.” Now that he stopped and looked at her closely, he finally saw it. Dr. Patricia Reeves she had said her name was. But it was no surprise he hadn’t recognized her at first. After all… “Your hair is different.”
“Yeah, so? I decided to change it up. Went to a magic salon and got the whole thing done and expanded. You seriously didn’t remember me because my hair was different?” She crossed her arms, glaring at him as she waited for an answer.
What the hell was she doing, giving him grief over nothing? “You should consider yourself lucky that I remember you at all. Now leave me alone – it’s been a long day and I plan on spending the rest of it away from company.” He turned and started to walk away, done with the conversation.
“Wow, I come all the way here to see you and you just blow me off like that? I thought you’d like to know the results of some of the testing I had done with the relics.” She followed right after him, unwilling to give up the chase.
“Why the hell would I care about that? My job was to keep you from getting killed. I did my job; end of discussion. I didn’t take the damn job to make friends,” Vandrad grumbled, shaking his head in disgust.
“Well excuse me for thinking that you were one of the kinds of guys that cared about the follow up on their jobs. You seemed so dead set on getting the job done, I thought you’d care about some of the amazing results.” She caught up to him, walking in step with him.
Vandrad stopped abruptly, turning to face her. “From the moment I arrived, I made my mission very clear. And you acknowledged it – went as far as to mock it. So don’t pretend you came here for some asinine reason as ‘results’. What are you really here for?” There was no way she had misinterpreted his personality that badly when she had so easily come to some amazing conclusions about his armor. In fact, she seemed quite fascinated with it. After a moment of silence, where the two stared – or rather glared – at one another, he finally spoke again. “It’s about the armor.”
“Fine! Yes, it’s about your armor. You provided absolutely no details about its materials and I can’t stop thinking about it. A hard case shell that’s damage preventative and flexible? Whoever crafted it is a genius and I need to know what makes it up.” She sounded so exasperated that her real reason had been picked up so easily. She scoffed and rolled her eyes as she spoke. She set her gaze on him once more. “I’m willing to pay you for it.”
“It’s not for sale,” Vandrad said with a tone of finality.
“Everyone has a price.”
“Not me.” With that, he started to walk away.
“Or maybe you just haven’t received the right currency? My company doesn’t just invest in relics; we support and create technology including weapons and armors. We’re one of the top corporations that has provided resources for the Rune Knights during their rehabilitation and—“
Vandrad paused. “You have connections with the Rune Knights?”
Patty blinked. “Well yes, a few. We have worked hand in hand with the Engineering—“
“What about it’s Director? Mythal Ragnos?”
“I’ve communicated with him, yes though not directly. Why?”
Vandrad paused, his eyes flicking from side to side. This woman had a direct line to Mythal then or at least as direct a line as anyone he’d run into thus far. “He’s a former friend. Childhood. I’ve been trying to reconnect with him for awhile now but with everything happening at the Rune Knights, it’s been tough to get ahold of him.” The fib came easily, surprisingly. He’d been practicing on his ability to bend the truth ever since his questions had almost outed him too easily to Mercury. He couldn’t have everyone just coming to the instant conclusion of them being related based on simple questions.
Luckily his tone seemed truthful enough that she believed him. “Tell me about it. He’s the one that reached out to us about expanding their magic technology and then getting a response from him is like pulling nails. I—“ Her rant came to a stop before it could even begin as her gaze shifted to something past him. “What’s that?”
Following her gaze, Vandrad turned to find that something small and rectangular was sitting right in the center of the road. From this distance, he could tell it was some kind of card or letter but it was resting in such a way that it was clearly intricately placed rather than dropped. He couldn’t recall if it had been there when he started down this road. Before he could speak, Patty walked right by him, heading straight towards it. “The hell are you doing?” He asked, following after her after a beat.
“A singular card is sitting in the middle of the road and you’re not the least bit curious?” she asked him, snapping him a look of derision. As she came to stand over it, her head cocked to the side before she bent down and picked it up. “It’s a tarot card,” he said in wonder, turning the item over curiously. She adjusted her glasses and leaned in a little to read the words inscribed intricately on the bottom of it. “The… Fool?”
It took a moment but Vandrad felt the shift before she did. The air was clenching in around them and bitter, piercing laughter began to echo out of the darkness around them. “Damnit woman; do you just read any strange thing you find?!” He barked at her angrily as he quickly tried to focus up his magic, preparing for the enemy that lay in the shadows.
“What kind of stupid question is that?” She snapped back at him as the tarot card dropped from her hand. “Of course I do! I’m a scient-“
Then everything went black.
Words: 1705/7500 | Tag: | marzia at shine & gs.