And so, with a new username (because the old one's fscked), comes a new thread. Let's start with a good review for all you new people, shall we?

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Men of L33t, Part XXI - That Which We Know
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Erika nodded as Shadow and BG walked in. "Please, sit." She gestured. "Shall we begin?"

"You have some news?" guessed BG.

"No, I'm afraid I have not." she gestured, and Integral stepped forward with some tea. Erika started and BG blinked.

"Integral, you-?"

"Charles is busy at the moment." She said smoothly. "With an invention. I was with Sir Caduceus at the moment and decided to volunteer in his place." She smiled softly. "Do you feel I am inadequate to the task?"

"No, I..." There was a glint in her eye. "Was simply surprised. I was not aware that you knew how to create just extraordinary delicacies. They are of surpassing quality." He grinned. "I may have to pull you away from your studies for the kitchen sometime."

Shadow leaned forward as Ms. Integral left. "May I inquire as to the nature of this invitation then?" she asked with a delicate edge.

"She is simply trying to pool what little information we had to aid in the capture of the fugitives." said Draegos, coming in from another room.

"That motive is insufficient." said Shadow bluntly. "I do not trust you, Lady Erika. For all we know, you could be helping the exile for the sake of your charge Kimiko."

Erika's face sharpened. "Nor do I trust your vaunted order and its guards. One might think that they worshiped the Abbess Miho were not there a cross on their robes."

"Ladies, please, contain yourselves." said Draegos. "You are both too suspicious. We all seek the same goal, and I am sure Brother BG agrees with me in that it would best if we were to work together?"

"Er.. yes, of course. Shadow, milady, if you could indulge us just this once...?"

The two women glanced sharply at the other just briefly, and then nodded.

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"Thank you." said Draegos, pulling out an old book. "Now. Here is the information our Royal Guard has assembled on the Piro case. He was arrested two years ago on the charge of murder; to wit, the brutal killing of a royal guard. He claimed the defense of a young girl named Kimiko, in that the guard in question had sexually assaulted her. There was no solid proof, but yourself," he nodded to Erika, "Took in the young girl and pursued his case, eventually bringing it before the Emperor. He and his wife took pity and exiled him, given that rape is not defense for murder, especially of a Royal Guardsman. About a month ago, when the Princess Yuki had her 16th birthday, defense was heightened at the behest of the Lady Shadowdancer-" he raised a eyebrow at her.

"I felt that this would be a prime moment for an enemies to strike, while our security was at its most lax." That the exile Piro was sure to come is not important.

"And of course, you needed Church Guardsmen to reinforce the ball-room." remarked Erika, looking in no particular direction.

"We simply offered our assistance." said Shadow with a slight frost.

Draegos looked down at drafty books old pages. "Could you please explain what exactly happened from there? The records become sparse after this. For instance, how did you-

See through my illusion? Kit wondered as she looked at Will through the faint shimmering of a magical seal. He was unconscious, of course. The Church hadn't found a way to neutralize his teleportation abilities, and until they could, he would be kept asleep. The seal was for rescue attempts, as were the sixteen guards for each corner of the inside and outside walls.

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You were the first person to see. I know this because of the way you looked at me before that horrible woman stepped up and arrested Piro. I don't know how she saw either, or how she broke my illusion, only that I forgot everything in the pain of my shattered reality. Toko- Hanatoko, says that Largo and his friends got involved in the fight, and then escaped because of you. He says you even mocked that woman. I wonder, could you do it again? Could you make us all disappear like you did when you-

"'scaped into a scary forest! But it was only scary that night. Well, and the morning- there was a spider in my bed!!"

Ping hid a grin. "Really? What'd you do after that?"

"Mr. Lightsider came'n smushed it. After that, we sorta just... I dunno. Did whatever. Sometimes bad people would come through the forest, and we'd stop 'em and take back the gold they stole! Since we didn't know where they took it, we gave it to poor people! It was cool. I got to pie people upsidedown!"

"Was that why you came to the tournament? To 'take back the gold they stole'?"

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"Huh? Na, Largo just wanted to practice his "l33t skillz" (-what's Elthreet?) -and Piro wanted to see his girlfriend." WoK grinned. "He's always moping about her, an' he thinks people don't see it. Anyways, we went and that's where we met you! Why'did you come?"

"I came... to keep an old promise."

"Did you keep it?"

"Welllll... I guess. At least I was. I'm not doing so well now that we're locked up."

"D'ya think anybody even knows what happened to us?"

"I don't have a single clue!" cried McFinnigan frustratedly.

"Calm down, McFinnigan, we'll figure something out." said Lightsider wearily. He was still recovering from the use of so much Light the other day. Actually, truth be told, Largo was even doing better. He was currently leaning a chair against the wall beside Lightsider's bed.

"Where were they last seen?" he asked grimly.

"A Guild carriage passed through Sandat and that's all I can find. Nothing. Not a single scrap of information, not even a trail! It's like they disappeared of the face of the earth!"

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"Well, that's what they were trying to do. Hm..." Lightsider paused carefully. "... the Church wants him badly, moreso than the Royal Guard-"

"Huh? Why do you-"

"There is always a significantly larger group of Churchmen at our encounters. That, and the Emperor hasn't placed a bounty on Sir Largo, meaning he most likely isn't putting the pressure on this thing.

"He is right..." said Largo, bemused. "Find where the Church is looking, and you find a trail to Piro."

"Hm..." McFinnigan took on a thoughtful look. "There was a big ruckus after some field up yonder north of York. Somethin' about the magic there, got the Churchmen very excited."

"I wonder what they must have found..."

"All the residue we left!" said Ping confidently.

"Residue...?"

"It's the stuff that magic leaves behind when you use it. Usually it's still sorta half-woven from the spells you made, and we left an awful lot!"

"We did?"

"Don't you- oh, that's right, we still didn't find that song! I'm sorry. There was a big battle with the guys who got us, because I know some good magic, and they know some bad. They got stronger though, and so we got caught. I'm sorry."

WoK huggled Ping. "'s not your fault! There were two of them against you! It wasn't a fair fight!"

"...no, dear, it wasn't. Anyway, they had to have found the residue that got left behind!"

"We found two types of magic on the field." said Shadow. "One was Maenadian, developed by an evil race. Its weavings tend to look like sickly vines with sharp, deadly thorns. An excellent weapon against magical defence, as it winds itself around the opposing magic like a creeping vine and erodes it much quicker than the real-life counterpart."

"And the second?" prompted Draegos.

"The second was unlike any we have ever encountered. It was heavy and dense. The weavings were extremely tight, and formed to create strength like that of a stone wall surrounding a city. Just one-fifth of what it would take to shield a single person would exhaust an average mage. This weaving covered all ten of the acres that comprised the field. This poses an extreme problem, given the person that wove it."

"I thought you had never encountered the magic?"

"We have not, but the feel was very similar to the time I fought with the exile Piro. However, I did not sense anything near that powerful in him. In fact, if you had asked, I would have said that he was weaker than most, though his swordsmanship was most impressive."

"And I give you all my assurance, Shadowdancer is an expert at gauging power levels." said BG Master.

So where does that leave me? thought Kit-san. I would so dearly love to be free, but... I cannot leave this place. I am bound here, not by those who would bind me, but those who would set me free. But can I really be held, knowing my heart's dearest is being hunted?

She stared outside her window, to the north.

Piro-kun... was it worth it? Would you really still sacrifice all for her?

Deep within the dungeons of an obscure castle, a prisoner lay on the freezing stone floor of his cell, shivering. His spasms, however, did not come from the cold; his fever was too high for him to feel that. As he lay there, nearly comatose from the sickness that wasted away his body, a single word formed through the delirium.

"Kimiko..."

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