(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you happen to spot them, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you!!)
Grand Elder Grisham gingerly stood up from his chair. He’d been sitting on it for too damn long and his hips were complaining loudly at the poor treatment.
He gulped down an elixir concocted by the finest alchemy specialist in the city to ease the discomfort and dusted his robe, all ready to head home. He was done for the day. He carefully packed his bag of holding full of important documents and scrolls. Then, he cast an Invocation on the bag, making it weigh less than that of a feather. Otherwise, he would not have even thought about carrying something so heavy home.
He was not a spring chicken anymore, after all.
Stepping out of his office, he nodded at his personal secretary, the black-furred Pantherikin Invoker, and headed downstairs from the top floor via a lift system operating on Aeterna, to the parking area where a carriage waited for him.
He didn’t like riding on carriages as they were far too uncomfortable for his aged body, but since there was some distance between his secretive residence and his place of work he had no choice but to endure.
The sun had set and the streetlights were coming on one by one. There was still some traffic on the roads but they were thin enough to never impede Grisham’s unmarked personal carriage.
His mansion was quite similar in appearance to Michelle’s, except that it had much taller, reinforced walls. Double storied, cast with various protective Invocations to stop any would-be thieves – and assassins – away.
There were no one else in the mansion when he arrived at his darkened home. That was done for the sake of security. He didn’t want his maidservants accidentally stumbling onto something sensitive and not meant for the eyes of normal people. It came with his job, not being able to trust people near him.
That sure had its drawbacks. Not having any family member, for one.
Not that Grisham never had a family. No, he had one, years ago, before he took on the post as the Grand Elder – and more importantly, as the head of the internal disciplinary committee.
He had a wife and children a long time ago. And then, grandchildren. Later, great-grandchildren. But he was alone now.
Grunting, he sat the bag down on the top of the desk in his study on the upper floor and made his way down to the kitchen. The maid left his dinner there.
It was cold, but more than serviceable. Quite tasty too, although with his advanced age, his taste buds were dulling significantly as well. He thought that nice food was a waste for a man like him because of that.
After slowly consuming his meal, Grisham went to take a long hot bath. Nothing was better than soaking one’s weary body in a tub filled with hot water. At least, he hadn’t found one yet.
He dried himself off, got into a loose bathrobe, and strode into his office.
When he was about to turn on the lights via Invocation, he sensed another presence in the office. Grisham frowned, wondering how did someone not approved sneak into his house without him knowing.
As he tried to brighten the room, the intruder murmured quietly.
“No need, Grand Elder Grisham. Instead, please have a seat.”
“Hmph. In this darkness, how am I suppose to find a seat in the first place?” Grisham retorted before waving his hands about. “I do not know who you are, but you’re tempting fate, sir. You should very well be aware of who I am.”
Grisham then heard a long sigh. It sounded like the man who exhaled it just now was going through complicated emotions.
“Right, my apologies, Grand Elder. Here.”
The intruder then lit a small Firelight himself. This illuminated his face, revealing a scar that ran to the right side, as well as his bald crown.
Grisham saw an open spot on the sofa opposite the intruder and gingerly sat down on it. He cleared the phlegm with a cough and gazed at the man, before opening his mouth.
“So, who are you, and why have you broke into my home at this late hour?”
The bald man leaned back in his seat. This revealed that he was holding a bunch of documents in his hands. Grisham immediately noticed those and couldn’t help but grimace deeply.
“Those are classified information. You are not a member of SOIR and therefore, not allowed to read them,” said Grisham.
The bald man remained quiet, before lightly tossing the documents on the coffee table between the men. He sighed again, before slowly massaging his temples.
“Whew, this is awkward. Well, at least allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marcus Dawson, an Agent from the Special Bureau.”
Grisham cocked an eyebrow. “An Agent? What do you want from me, then? Why didn’t you contact me via official channels?”
“That is why I said awkward, prior. My…. current assignment was to…. make sure you don’t wake up tomorrow morning.”
Grisham remained unimpressed. “Oh? But you say was. What changed?”
Dawson sighed again. “Well, I still have half a mind to finish my mission right away. I know that it was your great grandson who created the illegal narcotics that resulted in the deaths of many citizens. I also know that it was you who quashed the investigation. On that account alone, you are guilty as hell, Grand Elder. But….”
“But what?” urged Grisham. “I wish to go to bed soon, so please, Agent Dawson. If you have something to say, pray, don’t beat around the bush.”
Dawson leaned forward and pointed at the documents.
“I read them. These reports. Investigations discreetly performed by the members of SOIR…. I need you to tell me everything you know about this Dimensional Gate Dial. And why the Children of the Amber is so hell-bent on locating the both pieces.”
Grisham studied Dawson’s face for a long while, before coughing lightly again to clear his throat.
“Hmm. The way you speak, it seems like you have encountered the members of the Children in the past. Then you should know they are not a good news for this world. Their end game is to sow chaos and bring about the change in the world. As for the artifact called the Dimensional Gate Dial…. well, you also know some story behind it, no?”
Dawson nodded. “Yes. I was tasked to find it. The mission led me to the doorsteps of a person of interest – and that also led to me realize the hunger the Children of the Amber has for this item.”
“Hoh, is that so. Did you locate it? The Dial piece.”
“No. I was about to elicit an aid from this person but then the Children interrupted the process and left me with…. this.”
Dawson slowly traced the scars on his face.
Grisham nodded at him and began twiddling the dark spot on his cheek. “Hmm. I see. Well, you weren’t told of what the item was, were you not? That is understandable. Let me see…. hmm. Your immediate supervisor is… most likely the old outfitter, isn’t it.”
Dawson narrowed his eyes but didn’t say anything.
“Ah, don’t be so alarmed, Agent Dawson. I’ve heard of an excellent Agent who was capable of wielding Darkness Element under tutelage of that man. And you seem very proficient at it, so I took a wild guess.”
“Does it matter who my superior is supposed to be?”
“Oh yes, it does indeed. Because, as you might have inferred just now by reading those classified documents, the matters regarding the Dimensional Gate Dial only surfaced recently. The Empire’s officials don’t even know of it yet. Not even the Imperial Family is aware of its existence. But you were given the assignment to locate the Dial? Now that, sir, is rather fishy, wouldn’t you say?”
Dawson felt enraged by Grisham’s words but he kept his cool to the best of his ability. “Are you trying to say something untoward against my master? If so, such insinuations won’t work. Please, just answer my original questions already.”
“Hmm…. I also remember hearing about this particular agent never questioning his orders, carrying them out to their fullest no matter the contents, no matter the difficulty. So, it was true, then.”
Grisham stroked his dark spot with a contemplative expression on his face.
Dawson reached down to the coffee table and grabbed the documents and waved in front of the old Invoker.
“Stop wasting both our time, Grand Elder. Just tell me, what the hell is going on here?!”
Grisham chuckled lightly before becoming dead serious. He stared straight into Dawson’s eyes and spoke.
“Agent Dawson, that Dimensional Gate Dial operates a Dimensional Gate which connects our Realm to that of another. Without the intact Dial, one can not travel through the Ether. As for why the Children members search for the artifact, I can only guess, but it’s probably not for the betterment of the society as a whole. And…. heh, you are a clever man, I assume. You should have come to the conclusion by yourself already, Agent. After all, the clues are in those documents you hold.”
Dawson angrily stood up. He breathed in heavily, staring daggers at Grisham – but genuinely unable to say anything to the old Invoker’s face.
Because he suspected it as much.
There was a very good chance that his master was a member of the Children of the Amber as well.
That the old outfitter was the traitor who left him with the scar on his face.
Volume 1 End
(The second volume will begin shortly. In the meantime, I’ll be writing another novel, one that’s totally different to Aeterna Saga. Please look forward to it!!)