The small crowd of alcolytes around the statue of Ping parted respectfully before Option Chihiro. He could hardly believe it, but there it was: Sabyr was sprawled across the dedication plate, and he wasn't moving. Kneeling down next to him, Opt turned him over gently.

*Still breathing, at least*, he thought. *By the Made Princess, what happened to him?!*

Suddenly his nose caught a faint scent. He siffed slightly, examined the prone body more closely, then took one of Sabyr's hands and sniffed at his fingers. He sighed heavily as his suspicion was confirmed.

"Sabyr, you idiot...", he said in a half-tone, more to himself than anyone else, "...you know you shouldn't eat rum pie." The Pilgrim's tolerance to alcohol was extremely low. To say it was zero would be overestimating it. He was known to get tipsy when a bottle of wine was opened in the next room.

Opt ordered two alcolytes to carry Sabyr to the infirmary, and told the nurses to keep watch. There was no telling how long it would be before the charismatic Pingfan woke up... or how hung over he'd be when he did.

------------------------------------------

Somewhere else, preparations were already brewing. The data gathered by the scout was analysed. The target's daily routines were mapped out. The blonde wig was being combed and dried after washing.

This would be a difficult operation mainly because of the risk of bodily damaged involved.

Meanwhile, another operative was reporting.

"...it's a good thing I don't actually want to work here, because if I did, I'd be quitting already. No support, no equipment, not even baisic training... I was just told, 'get out there and make a difference'. I-"

"That's enough, agent", his supervisor said. "You know what you're supposed to do. Go and do it." He grinned. "And they were right - you'll be making a difference."

------------------------------------------

At the same time, rumor was spreading. Yuki Sonoda had been attacked. She was hurt. She was dying. Wild theories raged, questions brought no answers and not even more questions, and through it all ran a deep current of fear.

Because if Yuki was hurt, it could mean only one thing: Draegos was going on a rampage.

Sooner or later, most of the rumors reached the pointy ears of the Right Hand of Miho. Shadowdancer curled up in the tall chair, definitely not rested enough, but refusing to leave her post.

"Draegos is going to blame this on us, isn't he...?", she asked Hoturi softly. "Whenever something happens to Yuki, he says it's the fault of the 'deadies'..."

"Shadow-sama...", Hoturi said, not sure what to say.

The drow sighed, and curled up tighter. "We can't stop him this time. We gave all our power to Miho-sama..."

After a longer pause, she added dreamily: "Oh Kami, I'm so tired..."

Hoturi exchanged a worried glance with the nearby Manta. They were both thinking the same thing: Draegos is probably swearing bloody revenge at this very moment...

------------------------------------------

Draegos put down his fork, settled back in his chair and let out a long yawn. Even microwave-reheated, Meagen's food was still tasty. He took the nearby remote for his galactic videocom, and set it to Animal Planet. The current feature was about a man who discovered a dove's nest on the balcony of his appartment.

Draegos' silvery eyes lit up at the sight. "Aaaw, so cute..."

He turned his chair slightly to have a better view of the hatchlings in the nest, and opened a can of Coke.

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