Witness Twenty-Four: Denouement

The dank, dusty prison cell spoke misery and captivity. It had no windows to the outside world. Even if it did, the view would have been of the brick gate surrounding the building. The walls were a morose grey. There was one door firmly locked and sealed. A small bed with the sparest linen constituted the furniture along with a table and broken chair. Despite the room's grim appearance, Kaine's spirits soared high. He felt happy. No room, no foreboding prison, nothing could bring him down.

The case was finished and Sanders was proven innocent – well, to an extent. Sanders was the person who shot Vandwell, Ire, and Rowne but there was no criminal intent. He did it under stvorenjie influence saving him from a lifetime sentence in prison. Relief coursed through Kaine at the thought that his intuition was correct. Even better, he fulfilled his promise. He saved Sanders.

Turning his attention away from the room and back to Sanders, he felt his spirits soar higher. It tugged at him, pulling him away from the Sphere towards a better world. Sanders appeared nervous as he usually did but there was a relaxed air to his position. His muscles weren't tensed. His eyes weren't wide and frightened. He was at peace. As Kaine explained the turnout of the investigation, a smile threatened to shine on the convict's face.

"Since you did shoot the victims, you will have to endure a jail sentence of ten years," Kaine said. "However, as you killed them under Fifi's spell, you've been labeled as a forced accomplice, rather than a murderer."

"But who will believe that she isn't human and controlled me with her powers?" Sanders asked. "I mean, even I thought she was human."

"Don't worry," Kaine reassured patting the man affably. "Certain people in the government know about the existence of stvorenjie. One of my friends contacted them and told them about the murders. The government has handled all records and decisions regarding your sentence and the verdict in the case. It will also invent a story explaining how Fifi committed the murders and how you got involved. As for Fifi, she'll be dealt with due justice."

"So what is the story?" Sanders asked. "Since I might need to know it to tell anybody who asks."

"Agents from the government will come and give you information about the cover-up," Kaine replied. "They are still trying to figure everything out. The murders were notorious so it's taking time getting everything straightened out."

A silence filled the room. It wasn't one of those uncomfortable pauses. It was more reflective. Kaine enjoyed it. It was a moment for him to calm his mind and to unwind. He stared at the grey wall for another minute before standing up. He had fulfilled everything needed to be accomplished. His job was done and it was time to say farewell.

"I'll be going then," Kaine said approaching the door. "I wish you the best of luck with your future. I won't see you again so this will be the last time we meet."

"Thank you," Sanders said following Kaine to the door. "You've helped me so much."

"No problem."

"No." Sanders grabbed Kaine's hand and looked at him straight in the eye. "You don't understand how much gratitude I feel for everything you've done. You were the one to trust me first from the beginning and without you, I would never have gotten the justice given to me today."

Kaine looked at Sanders with wide eyes. As a stvorenjie lovacek, he did have moments where people thanked him for a job well done. He always viewed the gratitude from the people he saved with reluctance and embarrassment. He always felt some shame – shame that he received love for hunting, even if what he killed wasn't human. But the moment with Sanders was different. This time, he felt his heart open with astonishment and pride. Somebody was gracious of him for saving lives instead of killing them. But there was something else beyond just that. It just wasn't the different circumstances; there was something more to that warm feeling rising in his chest.

Kaine shook his head with a smile. "No, I believe I should be the one, who is grateful. Thank you for trusting me."

Cirasu absentmindedly fingered her pocket watch. She was told somebody would contact her soon but a feeling in her gut signified 'soon' wasn't quick enough. The Group was leaving for the next fragment soon. As soon as Dmitriv finished talking with Parliament, they would find the nearest fragment station and chose another fragment to explore. She didn't have much time to talk with her correspondent. She wanted to make good use of the time she had.

Staring at her watch, Cirasu traced the engravings on it. Memories filled her head but she blocked them out. Now was not the time or place. She was waiting for something, not reminiscing about days long gone. If she was tracking the time of her home fragment correctly, it must have been more than 1,500 years since… She stopped the thought. Her mind was trailing towards forbidden regions, regions she never wanted to enter again.

Instead, she stared out the window. The sun shone brightly and the sky was a light blue with wispy white clouds. The day was perfect outside but with the current circumstances, she felt anxious. The beauty of the sky seemed wrong. Murders had happened in the city and there was still tragedy in all the fragments. The sky was a lie, a lie to appease and reassure the aimless people who saw it. The sky was a promise for happiness. She learned long ago happiness was impossible. The Sphere was created to prevent mirth and laughter. And she was born devoid of all emotions. Either way, joy was not an option.

A burning sensation seared her hands. She jumped out of her thoughts. Glancing at the watch, she saw the engravings radiated a soft blue light, mesmerizing and soothing to the eyes. It was time.

Flipping open the pocket watch, Cirasu rotated the face of the watch around its axis. A low humming sound emanated from the watch. In an instant, a sphere projected out and revealed the image of a young woman with short dusky blonde hair that curled at the very tips.

"Mademoi'." The woman greeted Cirasu with a bow.

Cirasu leaned back on her chair and placed the watch on the desk. "Do you have anything to report, Rhianne?"

"The Order has properly restarted," Rhianne answered. "About half of our previous members have willingly and happily returned to the organization. Other members cannot return in fear of endangering their new families and friends."

"Understandable." Cirasu tapped her finger lightly on the table. "Do we have enough members though?"

"Not to worry," Rhianne replied. "We've started recruiting already."

Cirasu nodded her head in satisfaction. "Okay. Have you been in contact with Karian?"

"Yes, Miss Vlase has already talked with us. Apparently, Parliament is interested in what we'll be doing?" Rhianne bit her lip as she said those words.

"Restarting the Order was Parliament's idea so of course they'd want some involvement in our operations." Cirasu rested her hands on the desk's wooden surface and looked Rhianne directly in the eye. "But their concern is a lot better than their initial plans. Parliament wanted to control the Order at first."

A smile graced Rhianne's fine lips. "But let me guess: you wouldn't let them?"

Cirasu returned the smile. "You know me too well."

"I have been working under you since I was five," Rhianne replied, her golden eyes lighting up. "I'm bound to know how difficult you can be when your control is in someone else's hands." She leaned forward and the image of her head increased in size. "But are you sure you want Parliament to have some involvement with the Order, even if it is a mere inquiry in our activities?"

Cirasu shrugged in reply. "Him isn't my enemy so I wouldn't put as much effort into stopping him. If nearly half of Parliament weren't my friends, then I wouldn't have bothered getting involved in this whole mess."

"You're not bothered about his secret plan?"

Rhianne's question caused Cirasu to grimace inwardly. Her expression bore no sign of the worry eating up her insides but she was bothered, incredibly bothered by Him and his plans. Parliament told her the bare basics: Him was dangerous and needed to be returned to the Realm before his plan reached fruition. She knew nothing else and Parliament didn't seem intent in giving her more answers. Her talk with Juris had been even less helpful. The man refused to help her. She should have expected it. She did spend most of her life trying to kill him. But his snub put her at a dilemma; she needed information about Him, knowledge she lacked.

Him's dealings never bothered her before but Cassia's – or rather, Fifi's – involvement changed everything. The Lamppost Murders occurred decades ago and this signified one terrible fact. Even then, Him's plan was under creation. Even then a conspiracy had begun.

There was something peculiar about the events surrounding Him. Parliament was hiding something from her and the entire Group. And she didn't like it when she was the one being withheld secrets.

A thought fleeted through her mind. She caught it and solidified it. She changed it from a fleeting contemplation to a grounded decision. Tapping a finger on the desk, she gave Rhianne another smile. Rhianne read the message in the smile. Her relaxed expression died as she understood what the smile meant. It wasn't the controlled happy grin of before. It was a grin of resolution, of mystery.

"Rhianne, I have a favor to ask of you," Cirasu said as she stroked the pocket watch again.

"Okay. What for?"

"I need you to some research."

"Reconnaissance? On what?"

Cirasu's finger traced the engraved words on her watch.

Sciantie saminu sapiantie quǣd vitiem.

How true the words were. It was time to add more information into her collection of knowledge. It was time to find more wisdom.

Her knowing smile grew wider. "I believe the more accurate question is 'On whom?'"

Sareyah shut the lid on her suitcase tightly. Her time at the fragment was coming to a close and it was a shame really. She liked the fragment. It had its problems but it was a lot better compared to the other fragments she'd seen. And her time there was relaxing. Though it did end with solving a mystery, she still spent time just exploring the fragment instead of locked in a room looking for clues or interrogating people. And she enjoyed it. She hated to see people treated unfairly but solving mysteries was a damper on anybody's spirit. Sometimes, she needed a break.

Sareyah looked out her window at the blue sky. It was so beautiful and bright. To her, it seemed as if it was a last farewell to the good memories she had in Khorcinne City.

"Finished packing up?" Tsacharia poked her head through the door.

"Yeah," Sareyah answered.

"Sad to be leaving?" Tsacharia asked.

Sareyah nodded her head and Tsacharia smiled comfortingly.

"Well, that's our life I guess," Tsacharia said. "Or at least the life we choose. We could have rejected the offer to travel across the fragments again but we didn't. So we must bear with it."

"And I am bearing it," Sareyah replied. "I just had such a good time strolling down the streets and park, going window-shopping, and seeing the city with Dmitriv."

The moment she finished her statement, she realized her slip-up. "And the others," she quickly added but she was a few seconds too late.

It was clear Tsacharia understood everything. Sareyah prayed the younger girl wouldn't tease her about what she said. Fortunately, Tsacharia was kind enough to know when not to pry.

"Yes, well I enjoyed the free time," Tsacharia said diverting the subject. "But I bet that if I had stayed here a few weeks longer, I would have gotten restless. I enjoy relaxing but if I loved it that much, I would never have agreed to this journey in the beginning."

Sareyah and Tsacharia sighed at the same time. Sareyah reflected over her decision for life as a detective and Tsacharia did the same. A knock sounded from the door frame ending the contemplation.

"Am I interrupting something?"

Cirasu appeared still wearing a suit and fedora. Glancing at Cirasu, Sareyah had to admit she pulled off the look quite well. Though she appeared effeminate as a man, she carried herself with a strength and certainty that made it hard for one to doubt she was male. If she didn't say otherwise, it would be easy to mistake her for male with her careful disguise.

"I see you're still putting on a disguise," Sareyah noted.

"What disguise are you talking about?" Cirasu asked.

Sareyah rolled her eyes. She should have known. Cirasu would never admit that by her choice of fashion, she purposefully appeared like a man to the two newest Group members, Rowan and Kevin. But that was the way she worked.

Sareyah let the subject drop. "Is there anything wrong? Did Dmitriv ask you to send us down to leave?"

"Oh no," Cirasu replied. "Dmitriv is still wrapping up some business with the Parliament."

Upon mention of the Parliament, Sareyah felt her heart stop.

"Parliament?" she asked. "Did something happen? Is Dmitriv in trouble? Is it about the Sanders case?"

"I believe I'm the one in trouble, not Dmitriv," Cirasu said. Her tone dropped in lightness and she rolled her eyes in exasperation. Grabbing Tsacharia by the shoulders, she added, "But forget about that."

With a light push from her, Tsacharia stumbled into the room. Poking her head back into the hallway, Cirasu scanned it. A thin smile graced her face as if she was satisfied with what she saw.

Stepping into the room and closing the door, she said, "I was glad to see the two of you together, since there's something I want to ask of you two."

"What Su?" Tsacharia asked. "Do you need help with anything?"

"I have a request," Cirasu said. Her voice had lowered to a whisper.

"What request?" Sareyah inquired. "And why are you talking in a whisper?"

Cirasu motioned for Sareyah to speak softer. "It's an important request and I hope I trusted the right people with this."

"Does Dmitriv know about this?" Sareyah asked.

Cirasu gave Sareyah a look. "Dmitriv doesn't need to know about this. It's just a little favor I'm asking but it's very crucial for what I'm doing."

Sareyah opened her mouth to speak but one look at Cirasu's face made her keep silent.

Staring at the scene nervously, Tsacharia ended up speaking. "Okay, I'll help you."

"And you Sareyah?" Cirasu asked.

"Just as long as it isn't anything illegal or unethical," she answered.

Cirasu stared at Sareyah with disappointed eyes as if her response hurt Cirasu. But Sareyah saw nothing wrong with it. She cared about Cirasu and respected her; nothing she said was meant in ill will. She only said a truth that everybody, even Cirasu herself, admitted. Cirasu Millieu was always one to care more about the ends than the means.

"Don't worry," Cirasu finally answered. "Nothing unethical."

"Then what do you need help for?" Tsacharia asked.

"Come closer and I'll tell you," Cirasu said beckoning the two towards her.

Sareyah leaned forward towards Cirasu, ears perked and ready to listen. But she was definitely not prepared for what Cirasu had to say.

S. rubbed his temples trying to soothe his aching mind. The last few hours were nerve-wracking. He had paced, groaned, and kicked the walls in frustration. But he was unable to make any connections between Fifi's words and his journey. He couldn't get the answers he wanted. That sharme stvorenjie had accomplished her task. She had managed to get him apprehensive and confused. Her words had made a sore impact, still reverberating in his mind.

So how does it feel to be the Parliament's little puppet? How does it feel to work on a commission you know nothing about? Trying to stop a force you don't understand?

The triumphant smile on her lips accompanied her questions. She was mocking him for his ignorance. She was taunting him for his work. She was laughing at his agreement to become somebody's scapegoat, somebody's blind accomplice.

He groaned, burying his head into his hands. Discontent festered within him. He hated that look on her face as she was dragged away. How her lips pursed and her eyes shined. She regarded him as if he was some fool who knew nothing about what he got involved in. Falling back onto his bed, he stared up at the ceiling. He tried to clear his mind and find some peace. He couldn't do it. The words nagged at him.

Granted, Fifi was trying to instill suspicion within him – that much was evident. But her words were grounded in truth. The idea irked him terribly but he found himself interested in her words, interested in what she was trying to tell him. She was telling him that he knew nothing about his work. His trust might be misplaced. He clenched his fists at the thought.

He never freely gave his trust to others and he wasn't about to follow Parliament's orders without understanding everything. He needed to know everything about Him and his plan. He needed to know what Him wanted to change about the Sphere. He needed to know what lies Parliament was spreading to S. and the Group.

But at the moment, he knew nothing. And he hated the feeling. He detested questions and uncertainties. He abhorred not having a clear answer. It made him feel vulnerable again. It made him feel like he did before he joined Juris's side.

S. stood up and walked towards the window. Gripping the windowsill, he stared out of the window to find a bright blue sky. It held so many opportunities for discovery. So many chances. So many prospects to explore and dig towards the truth. He took a deep breath and enjoyed the view. He thought over the recent events. He thought about Fifi's expression. He thought about how exposed he felt. His grip on the windowsill tightened as he made his decision.

It was time to do a little research.

It was time to learn more about Him.

A/N: And thus, we reach the end of this story. So... what were your overall thoughts about this? What do you think I need to improve on most?

By the way, the engravings on Cirasu's watch were revealed (in the first story) to mean: Knowledge is that which breeds wisdom.

But anyways, this might be the end for this story but the series has not yet ended. The Myte series continues with Ritual Repetition. However, as the third story doesn't really contain any elements of a murder mystery, it is in the "Supernatural" genre. I know, I should probably find a consistent genre for the whole series but I was kind of jumping back and forth when I wrote the first three stories.

But thanks so much for your support and reviews throughout this entire story! It means a lot!

Signing off...