Makai Gaiden: The Unbroken Seal

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scikaiju

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That woman was better than anticipated, finding that tunnel like she did. It had to be her experience hunting down Horrors, it just had to be. Olivia and several of the guards explored the chamber as thouroughly as they could and never even suspected it existed. Time to control the damage as much as possible at this point. Olivia sent the one guard to explore the tunnel so by now he probably discovered the trick used to keep that exit hidden. That woman would probably look at it too. So no more excursions to collect artifacts.



Okay that was no problem, there was more than enough to sell at this point. Didn't have a clue what any of them did but that wasn't an issue. A good story sold better than actual facts any way. After the money traded hands it didn't really matter if the person who ended ups buying it ended up killing themselves. But track, not just the physical ones, had to be covered. So a quick trip to the archive room and make sure certain reports were mysteriously 'lost' and all that needed to be reworked was the escape strategy..



“What are you doing here?”, a unexpected voice asked. One of the other guards was in here.



Damn it, damn it, damn it! Nobody was supposed to come in here. Quick, think fast, don't make him suspicious, you're almost there. Do not mess up now. 'I thought I'd check the old records to see if there was any mention of that tunnel.”



“Hmm,” he said as he went back to looking over those same records, “that Priest Olivia brought in had the same thought.” Damn it, damn it, damn it. “So she asked me to check for any records of it after I see if there's any caverns in the areas that would be big enough to stash the stolen items in.”



“So they know what was taken?” This could be not good depending on what they know.



“I'm pretty sure Olivia does but she hasn't shared that information as far as I know.” Of course Olivia would know, she could probably even... Okay there was no way they could track the items, Olivia would have done it by now if that was the case So just relax they were still be in the dark about certain details so far.



“Seems to be a strange time to be secretive about something.”



“No kidding but I think Jules has an idea of what might be in that vault, I'm just guessing because she knew what the vault was and seemed a little afraid of it,” Oh right, her name was Jules. “The kid not so much, but she was giving it all the respect it deserves.”



“It's a forbidden vault, anybody who knows what it is is going to give it the proper respect.”



“You're right of course, Now if that idiot would just keep quiet about a 'secret vault' that would make things easier on all of us.”



That idiot being Walter of course. While his ineptitude was a needed ploy if he kept bringing attention to the vault it was just going to make things harder. “Maybe a couple of us should have a ''talk' with him.” A few well placed pats on the spear got the message across easy enough.



The other guard snorted, “Not going to lie, it's tempting. The man's been asking for a beating almost from the moment he arrived. But Olivia has some weird soft spot for him so I'll pass. I might turn my back at the right moment though.” Both of them laughed but he was still looking over the records. Then he took a closer look at one in particular. “This looks like the one we need.,” he said. “I better let the archivist know I'm taking this one for a bit. Jules is going to be a tad disappointed though.”



“Why if it has what we're looking for?”Damn it, damn it damn it. There were too many people outside to just kill him and take the records. Had to do it in here then. The archivist was old enough that she should be easy enough to take care of. But where to hide the bodies?



Then the guard said, “She also asked me to see who looked at these records recently.. Unfortunately the archivist told me they only kept records of those who takes them out of the building. There's too many people coming and going to keep track of them all.”



Oh she was good, but not good enough. “Unlucky for us then, could have really narrowed down the list of suspects.”



“Could have.” he said as he took the record, “but that's life sometimes. See you around.” Waving in return and trying not to panic, things could be worse. They don't know where the items are hidden yet. But if that woman was as good as believed she could probably talk Olivia to increase the guard presence in the surrounding woods. Which means the timetable would have to be sped up. But this could still be workable, chances were the increased presence wouldn't be that soon, or that great right away. It could still work, just can't make make any major mistakes and keep the small ones at a minimum.
 
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scikaiju

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Leaning against the wall Jules just watched as Shae put everything Nadia had left on the bed back in the closest.And while the kid wasn't exactly being anal about it, it was pretty obvious everything had a section of sorts in that closest and she was making sure things were in the right place. Not quite as perfectly as she assumed it would be, but it still made her the neatest teenager Jules had ever met. Still it was surprising that she didn't notice some old folded papers fall out of a particular jacket. She only noticed when Jules walked over and picked it. Not that she had any intentions of looking at it, at that was the idea until Shae went, “No,” in a really nervous way.



Jules whose only thought right then was don't prove me wrong now kid as she opened it, Shae just looked embarrassed as she glanced over it. She looked up at Shae and asked, “Where did you get this?” She didn't answer, she just kept looking down like she was caught having something she wasn't supposed to have. Probably the wrong tone of voice to use there. “You can be honest with me,' she said in what she hoped was a less demanding way. “Trust me you're not in trouble,” Jules folded it back up and handed it back to her, “Would I be giving it back to you if you were?”



With some uncertainty she reached out and took the papers back. “I found it under some rocks in a box.” she finally said sill looking like she did something wrong.



“By the stream on the south side of the compound right?”, Jules said suddenly. Shae looked back up surprised. She smirked as she went on, “My friend put it there years ago, she hoped somebody would find it in the future, I'm not sure if she thought it would found be this soon or not.” She looked over Shae with a new appreciation, “You can do string magic? That's pretty cool.”



“Walter thought it was useless,” she said softly. Only to look up when Jules put a hand on her shoulder.



“Now I thought we agreed that anything Walter said was to be forgotten. But come on now I know you had to have done some practicing behind his back, otherwise you wouldn't still have this.” Backing up to give her a little more space Jules sat on the edge of the desk and said, “Show me something.”



Luckily it didn't take much more prodding to get that demonstration as Shae reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of string that was tied end to end forming a circle. She began interweaving the string around her fingers. Before long she made a shape as the string glowed. Then Shae made a throwing motion with her hands at the door, the criss crossing shape covering it.



Getting off the desk Jules walked over to the door and tried opening it. The door wouldn't budge, like it was locked in place. Which it basically was if Jules remembered this particular spell correctly. “Considering Walter had a nasty habit of just barging in whenever he felt like, I'm not surprised you mastered that one.”



“You're friend ceeated this?”, Shae asked.



“Not quite,” Jules said as Shae undid the spell. “She found an old scroll that had the basics more or less down. But she was intrigued enough to try and expand on it. Unfortunately she was the only one who did. While I did support her efforts, I'm sad to say I didn't think much of it at the time either. What else can you do?”



“So far just that,” she started looking a little embarrassed, “I... can't read her hand writing all that well.”



Snorting a bit Jules told her, “How did you think I recognized what it was? And her hand writing hasn't exactly improved over the years.” Shae looked relieved that she wasn't in trouble, okay practice or not that was something she had to work on while she was here. Shae had potential, she just didn't need to hold herself back. Maybe work on making that bit of trust between then just a little bit stronger. “Look Shae, I said you had to be honest with me, and that's still true. But I want you to trust me too. I need you to know that you can ask me anything and I'll do my best to answer it. It might not be a good answer, or even the one you's want to hear but it'll be an answer.”



“Anything?”, she hesitantly asked. Jules should have expected that one, she pretty much opened the door for it.



“Anything,” she told her. Jules went over and sat on the bed and patted the mattress indicating Shae should join her. She did so but she still looked uncertain. “So what's on your mind?” In all honestly she was expecting something like, what going to happen to me if they don't find the real culprit, or what was it like to hunt Horrors. At the extreme ways to hurt somebody like Walter without being caught. She was semi prepared for those types of questions.



So when Shae asked, “How did you get the Knight you married to like you?” It took Jules more than a little cut off guard. She blinked a few times as she processed what she just asked. Shae looked on silently as she waited. Jules looked away for a second still a little stunned, but she did say she give an answer.



“Wow,” she finally ended up saying as her voice started working. “So you're crush is a Knight trainee.” Shae got embarrassed again. “I didn't get Carter to 'like' me,” she ended up saying. Obviously that wasn't the answer she wanted to hear. Jules patted her knee as she tried to get her thoughts together. “I'm going to tell you something that friend,” she pointed at the notes still in Shae's hand, “told me, her Father was a Makai Knight so she should know, but Knights basically have two sets of armor. The first one obvious right? The armor they don to fight Horrors.”



Shae nodded then went, “And the second one?” Granted she looked as confused as Jules felt when she first heard this years ago.



“The second one is the one they place around their hearts. It's not a actual physical armor but a mental one since they have to keep their emotions in check because the soul metal would react to them. That one they have to let you in. There's no way to force it open.”



“Oh,” Shae said a little dejected.



“I didn't say it was impossible,” Jules quickly said. “Carter let me in because he got to know me. It has to be organic is what I'm saying. Just be you, and the you I've seen so far is awesome so don't let anybody tell you otherwise.” While she didn't say a particular name out loud, it was obvious Shae knew who she was partially referring to. “But trust me Shae, if your guy is anything like Carter, once you're in you are in. Well hopefully he'd be more like Carter, it's not always the case.”



“What do you mean?”, Shae asked. Jules kicked herself a little mentally, she had to stop giving her these openings.



“Well,” she started deciding to be honest with her, “A few days before we were married we got an assignment. It involved a Makai Priest who fell because she got engaged to a Knight who ended up cheating on her. Then hit her when she confronted him with it.” Shae looked shocked to hear this. Hopefully anybody with any sense would be shocked at hearing something like that. “Now I haven't met you crush but I'm sure he's nothing like that guy.” For Shae's sake if nothing else she hoped her crush was absolutely nothing like that guy.



“So Carter is pretty understanding then?”, Shae asked.



“More or less. He can be a little gruff when you first met him. It took me a bit to realize that he was lowering that guard a bit when we were alone. Like I said he basically has two modes, and I know he lets me say some things to him that he wouldn't tolerate from others. And that was before we were married. Although,” she trailed off a bit. “between the two of us you'd assume I'd be the sex hungry one if you just met us.”



“Jules,” Shae quickly said looking uncomfortable with the sudden turn in the conversation. Apparently she hadn't quite picked up thart she shouldn't be showing her an opening like that yet. Better drive that particular lesson home if she was going to be around her.



“Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm exactly turning him down when the mood hits.” Shae started to cringe a bit more as she started to pull away. Okay time to take a little pity on her, besides this more than likely wasn't the best conversation to have with someone her age. “Granted we've only been married about five months now, so we're technically still in the honeymoon period,” granted it was probably the outside edge of that particular time frame, but still inside it. “I'm sure he'll settle down before too long.” She got off the bed and waited for Shae to do the same. “Just remember, just be you. And if it looks like he likes you in return don't try and change anything, not him, not yourself, nothing. And don't rush anything either,” she said as they headed for the door, “The last thing I need is for your parents hunting me down, I don't even think Carter would have my back there. Shae smiled as they left the room. “Let's see if Olivia or that guard has found anything yet.”
 
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scikaiju

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Things were going a little better now, both the guard and Olivia had found what they were looking for. They, minus Shae who was waiting in the other room, huddled around a table in Olivia's office, the one she first saw the box with the bypassed seal which had been removed at this point, more than likely back to the Vault chamber if she had to guess. People were already talking about a vault, much to Olivia's dismay, no point in adding any type of fuel to the speculation fire. First of all her hunch appeared to be right, that tunnel was there before. But there was nothing indicating that there was one leading to the vault itself. “Of course it wasn't going to be that simple,” she muttered as she looked over the paper. “And they only keep track of people who remove things from the archives?”, she asked the guard.



“That's what I was told,” he responded.



“That's they way it's always been,” Olivia spoke up, “even when I was studying here. 'These are records of this place's history' the head Priest at the time once told us, 'they must be preserved and respected as much as anything else in the Order'. It's something that stayed with me, even after I was asked to take over those duties.” Olivia took the records and carefully placed them back in the protective holder the guard had brought them in and closed it with some reverence. “Even more so today.”



“That's all well and good Olivia,” Jules said, “but we're still no closer to figuring out who did this.”



“Unfortunately that's true,” Olivia said as she handed the container back to the guard, “Thank you Marcus. But if it was that easy I wouldn't need you help.” Hearing the slight edge in her voice Jules decided to pull back a bit. The last thing this investigation needed was the person who brought her in to get upset with her. It took a moment but Olivia did seem to calm down “I know you didn't mean any thing by it dear.”



“I was about to cross a line,” Jules quickly said. “And I'm sure the stress over the situation isn't helping. I know I'm feeling it at the moment.” Ovlivia just nodded, to be honest it wasn't until just then that Jules seen her show the weight of the situation getting to her. Even when she was smaller Jules always thought Olivia had an unlimited well of patience and strength, so everything had it's limits from all appearances.



“We all are Jules,” she said. Going back to the table and the map, which was still in it's frame, along with stacks of old documents from her office she waved her closer. “But you might be right about where the items might be hidden. Look here,” she pointed to a couple of small section of buildings that she couldn't exactly remember as she hovered over a lone building in the middle of it all.” This building was torn down decades ago as were these others. I almost forgot about them until you mentioned something about basements. I had to look through several old records to see if I was right.” Looking through the stacks she found what she was searching for and showed it to her. “This building had an basement level, as did a couple of others.”



She felt the smile start to form on her face as she looked over the paper. That basement was just covered over, not filled in according to this, “So we got a starting point in our search. Marcus,” she addressed the guard, “where was that opening located?”



He got closer to get a better look at the map. Pointing out a particular section he told her, “About here.” Nodding Jules held a finger over the map and traced a line from that spot to were those buildings were. Seeing what she was doing he commented, “Plenty of space to get things from here to there without being seen.”



“Unfortunately,” she said. She didn't have to ask if the records for those old buildings were in the archives. And just cemented that this was an inside job in her mind. Because it took this much research just to get them this far. And just stumbling across a tunnel leading to a forbidden vault and a place to hide the goods was just too much to be a coincidence. She had to start looking ar the personal here a little closer. Jules knew she should have done it sooner but she was a little bust trying to see if Shae was the actual culprit or not first. So start with the obvious choices and try to eliminate who you can to narrow things down. She looked up at Marcus before glancing at Olivia. “I think I need to speak with some of the guards here, particularly the ones assigned to watch the vault. Sorry,” she said to Marcus right after making that request.



“Completely understandable,” he told her.



“I can arrange a meeting,” Olivia said, “but not anyone during their shift. Now does not seem to be a good time to lessen the number of guards around the vault. There's never a good time of course.”



“Of course,” she agreed with a slight grin, “we don't want to give the thief a free shot now. You gather those guards, I'll be back in a bit, I think a certain student might be going a little stir crazy.” Olivia nodded as she headed for the door. On the other side Shae was still in the chair that she sat in when the meeting first started. And like Jules thought was looking extremely bored until the door opened. Okay they had to figure out something better to do with her when they had these meetings since having her listen in wasn't the best idea. If teenagers where anything like she was growing up the more they knew the more they wanted to tell somebody. Or maybe that was just her. Either way it was better to make sure the temptation wasn't all that great. “Let's go stretch our legs for a bit, I want to see how much the training grounds has changed since I've been gone.” Greteful for the change of pace Shae jumped out of the chair and joined her as she left the building.
 
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scikaiju

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It was a little surprising that Jules was doing exactly like she said she was going to, even going so far to point out any difference she happened to spot while they walked. While Shae wasn't exactly expecting, she might have been expecting it a little, to be brought along while she worked the assignment she was asked to do the impromptu tour was unexpected. “You see that tree over there,” she pointed out one in particular as they walked around, “I got half way up it when I was nine before one of the instructor literately dragged me down.” The tree in question had to be at least over sixty feet tall now. And she wasn't seeing any branches low enough to jump up and grab to start, not to mention that trunk looked as straight as any tree she'd seen.



Okay she had to know as she kept looking at that tree while they past it, “Why would you even try to climb that tree?”



She shrugged, “A boy said I couldn't do it so I decided to show him. I'm pretty sure he was the one who got the instructor to begin with. Some people just hate to lose.”



“You climbed that because a boy said you couldn't do it?”, Shae said in disbelief.



“I was little more stubborn back then,” she said with another shrug. “Like I said I was nine. Any time a boy told me I couldn't do something, it just made that more determined to prove him wrong. Now I've matured so anytime anybody tells me I can't do something I'll just ignore them. And thank you for not laughing when I said I matured.”



“It's hard imagining you at my age much less nine,” she said suddenly. Shocking herself in the process, and Jules as well as she looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. “I mean you … you're.”



“Old enough to be called ma'am?”, she said In that teasing way Shae had quickly learned to identify. And even though she knew she was just teasing her Shae still felt a little embarrassed. Then Jules put a arm around her shoulders, “Well I was, believe it or not so was Olivia. I had to grow into the person I am now. So will you after you get out in the world and see things with the filters off.”



“You mean hunting Horrors?”, she asked trying to figure out what she meant.



“No, not like that,” she said. “Not every Makai Priest hunts Horrors.” She searched for the proper words, “I mean actually experience things out there.” She gestured to the woods and the things past them. “The good and the bad. And I'll be honest with you some days there seems to be more bad than good.” After she said that she looked thoughtful again, then she muttered, “Is that why he did it? He was starting to see more bad than good?”



“Who?”, Shae asked. Jules looked like she was about to answer but got this look on her face. It was almost like she was suddenly sad about something, like when she was talking about her mentor.



“It's nothing important any more,” she ended up saying. “Just a left over question from something that happened over a year ago. I know I said I'd be truthful about anything you asked, but that one still a little too personal to answer.”



“I understand,” Shae told her. She did too, or at least she thought she did. So she tried to get away from this particular subject. Thinking fast, or trying to at least, she went with the first thing that popped into her mind. “Are you scared when you hunt Horrors?”



“Sometimes,” Jules said, surprising her a little. Why would you admit that hunting Horrors scares you, even if it's just a little, when you hunt Horrors? Sensing her confusion Jules said, “I may be capable of doing combat spells and take down lower level Horrors but I'm still human. Unless the Watchdogs gives us an assignment most times me and Carter don't know what we're up against half of the time. One of the first times we ever worked together we stumbled upon a pretty powerful Horror, and we weren't even after it at the time. Damn thing took over a car and people wondered why I have a slight disdain for Horrors who don't take over human like the others do.” She shook her head as they kept going.



“Okay then,” Shae went.



“Don't get me wrong, I never want to see a human get eaten or possessed by one,” she went on. “I do as much as I can to make sure that doesn't happen, I'm not always successful but I try. And I'd bet anything Carter would tell you the same thing, we both hate it when we find a gate that's been used. But hunting Horrors is hard enough as it is when it's a person.” She stopped talking just long enough to take a glance behind them. Shae did the same and saw Walter quickly duck behind a tree, that was about a yard or so away from him.



“He's following us?”, she asked.



“Almost since we left's Olivia's office,” Jules replied as they kept going. Shae looked back as he got out from behind the tree only to jump back again when he noticed she was looking. “Probably trying to see if we're up to anything. But he's not the one I'm worried about though, it's the other one.” Shae started to look again but Jules quickly told her, “Don't look. So far that person doesn't know I'm on to 'em just yet. Let's keep it that way for now”



“The thief?” she asked, although the temptation was enough to look back Shae did as she was told.



“More than likely, I thought I saw somebody move behind Walter right after he did,” Jules answered. Then she pointed at something more toward the side, “My friend had her first kiss right over there. Never did see what she did in the guy.” Shae thought she knew what she was doing, making sure the person following them didn't catch on that she knew. They kept on walking a path that seemed rarely used, actually Shae was fairly sure they were in a area that's off limits to the students here. They turned a corner then Jules quickly pushed her off the path and got her to kneel down behind a rather large bush, “Quiet now,” she said softly. Shae did as she was told as Jules kept her eyes on the path. She pulled them back behind the bush as Walter came around the path, looking around. He muttered something as he hurried off, obviously thinking they went on ahead. If she thought Jules was going to relax a bit Shae was mistaken when she looked at her. Jules took her eyes off the path and started looking around them. “About as smart I thought they'd be,” she said after a moment as she stood up.



“Who? The Thief?”, Shae asked. Jules just nodded as she looked around a bit herself.



“It was a long shot any way,” she said after a bit. Then she started off again but not along the path, but further off it. Into an area Shae knew she wasn't allowed to go. “Come on,” she said, “I can't just leave you here.”



“But this area is forbidden to students,” she said.



“It was when I was going here too,” Jules told her. “Just made me want to see it even more. Also there were a bunch of buildings that been torn down and the lower levels weren't exactly filed in. Which is why students were banned from entering the area. You never knew when you step on something and fall through.”



“”So you're investigating a lead,” Shae said as it dawned on her.



“Mostly,” Jules said. “I was being honest about wanting to stretch the legs out and see some of the changes in camp. But I might be right about were the thief could be hiding the things taken from the vault. However I still don't know who to trust in this situation to go and check things out. Well Marcus seems pretty trustworthy so far but it could be an act. Call it paranoia from hunting Horrors.”



“They can be anything apparently,” Shae said as she followed her deeper into the area. Granted she wasn't the typical 'good student', always following the rules and things like that, and she wouldn't say it out loud but there was a certain thrill to what they were doing. But just the idea that they could get caught was making her heart race a little faster.



“Exactly.” Jules kept a closer eye on the ground here, as well as their surroundings. “Listen to me Shae, a little fear can be a good thing,” she said continuing their previous conversation. “It keeps your senses sharp in situations like this. There you are.” She made her look ahead a little further with that last statement, to a bunch of sunken boards in the ground. Crouching down she examined the area, “It doesn't look like any one has touched these in years. So if I was putting stuff here where would I get in?” Shae got closer as she kept looking. Suddenly Jules popped up and held out a arm to block her way, eyes locked on something. Then Shae saw it, a black slip of paper with red markings. Whatever it was it freaked Jules out enough that she made her back up away from the boards.



“What is it?”, she asked when they finally stopped. “I've never seen a seal like that before.”



“That wasn't a seal Shae, not in the way you're thinking,” she answered in a confusing way. In what kind of way was it then? “That's a trap, a rather explosive one.” Shae blinked a few times as the words hit her. She was that close.



“Can you get around it?”



Jules looked back at the area,”Maybe. If it was just me I'd try it. But not with you here.” Shae started to protest that she wasn't in the way but Jules quickly cit that off, “By staying by me I'm supposed to make sure you stay safe. And disarming a explosive spells with you around does not count as keeping you safe.”



“So now what do we do now?”, she asked.



“Well, we go back to Olivia's office and tell her what we found. She won't like that I brought you out here but it can't be helped. And I have got to find you something to do beside sitting in that office while I'm talking to her.”



“You won't get an argument from me,” Shae told her. Jules just looked at her, “What?”



“That's sounds like something I'd say. Now I know I can't be rubbing off on you that quickly,” Jules told her as they headed back to the path.
 
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scikaiju

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There was no way she saw me, the actual thief thought. She was concentrating on that oaf following the two of them. But there still might be the chance she caught a small glimpse, s leg at the most, when he tried to hide suddenly when they looked back. A glimpse didn't mean she got a good look behind him at me. It was a small hope to cling to but it's all there was at the moment. Then she and the girl hide once they turned the corner, and stayed hidden once the oaf kept going. They were still visible from this position so the thief watched to see what they would do. She was waiting for me, the thief realized quickly enough. It was just a glimpse that was it but apparently it was enough to raise her suspicions. So I'll just stay here. She got out of hiding and looked around before they headed further into the woods, not continue along the path but into the woods. The thief was confused for a moment, only to panic slightly when the thief realized where they were.



How did she know? Those buildings were already torn down decades ago, long before she was ever a student here. Staying back but keeping them in view the thief watched as she headed to where the old building was ant knelt down. Not really breathing the thief watched as she looked around. Then her demeanor seemed to changed, she noticed the trap that was set. She made the girl back up before leaving after a quick conversation.



She's going to Olivia, in that there was no question. And there was no time to get the items and move them elsewhere. Well maybe a couple since they were hidden in more than one basement. But the big money items were in that spot. So it was time to get picky. But there was still that woman, if she knew about this one then there was a chance she knew about the other buildings that used to be in this section. Probably got that information from Olivia since even the archives didn't have the old training ground maps. Well this wasn't going to be as bloodless as originally planned. No some people were going to have to die now if they got in the way. And she had to be one of them, there was just no other way.
 
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scikaiju

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To say Olivia was upset that she took Shae into that area was an understatement. She was down right angry over it. Even when she was younger Jules had never seen her this angry. Jules knew the woman wasn't a big believer in physical violence, but for a moment there she was actually worried it was going to head that way. Then she mentioned the trap. The anger she was feeling melted away along with the color in her face. “A.. are you sure?”, she asked.



“I've seen it before or something similar,” Jules told her. “Most recently before me and Carter was married. I'm pretty sure I could have disarmed it but I didn't want to risk it with Shae there. And honestly Olivia You're the only person here, outside of Shae that is, I think I could tell that too.”



“Of course,” Olivia said, although still a little ruffled over the information she was just told. “I've been the head of this particular training ground for a long time. I'm finding it more that a tad upsetting that I don't think I can trust those who been under me for just as long.”



“Believe me Olivia I more than understand what you're going through.” Like when they thought somebody was trying to split the order again. She didn't know who they could trust during that situation either. Although trying to deal with someone trying to pick up were Sigma left off was easier to deal with than what actually happened. Olivia, knowing the details of what happened back then just nodded. Jules still felt for her though. “It just means we need to figure out who else we can trust and quick. Have you brought in some of the vault guards in so I can talk to them?”



“Yes, a couple of them just arrived after you did.” Jules tried not to read into that statement too much, considering she was fairly certain the thief was following her and Shae not that long ago. “They're in another room, waiting for you.”



“Lead the way,” Jules said. Following her out the door Jules took a moment to look out a particular window to view the front of the building. There was Shae sitting on a bench talking to her friend Nadia, and not that far off was one of the regular guards keeping watch over the situation. Again not an ideal solution but infinitely better than just having her stay in a room by herself while she did this. And Olivia swore by this particular guard so she had to trust her judgement there, despite revealing she wasn't sure who she could trust either in this situation. But sometimes you just had to take a leap of faith with some people.



“In here,” Olivia said as opened a particular door. On the other side was five individuals just standing around. Four of which who were staring right at her as she and Olivia entered the room. But all it took was one look from Olivia for that to strop. Satisfied the situation was settled for the most part she started with the introductions, “You know Marcus of course,” they simply nodded to each other. “This is the head of the vault detail Emily,” who also nodded but still kept her eyes on Jules. “And we have Hector, Johnathon and Lynda. Jasmine and Travis are currently still guarding the Vault.”



“I'd like to talk to them later if that's possible,” she said.



“I'm sure it will be,” Olivia told her. “You don't need me holding your hand here so I'll let you get to it. Answer her questions as best as you can,” she told the guards before leaving the room. Once the door closed Jules took stock of who was in the room with her. Emily was still staring her down, and everyone but Marcus was doing the same. Oh this was going to be fun.



“Let's get something out of the way,” she began. “First of all I get it, you're annoyed right now because you're being questioned again. I've been there.” The leader Emily and a couple of the others seemed unconvinced of her truthfulness at the moment. Now how was she going to get them to trust her and open up. “Since I'm sure Walter been telling any one he could about that particular bit of my recent past,” In the back Johnathon seemed to perk up a little, Granted it wasn't just a hunch on her part but it was still damn annoying. To him specifically she added, “Just for the record, yes my former mentor did try to expose what we do. And no I had no clue he was doing it. Something I had to explain more times than I can count. Every time someone new was brought in that was always one of the first questions they asked. It got to the point as soon as I say someone new that was pretty much the first thing out of my mouth. Like I said I get the annoyance.”



“Then why talk to us then if you understand so well?”, Emily demanded. Which got a nod of agreement from a few of them.



“Because at this point it'll be faster to eliminate people than actually figure out who did it,” she told them. “And the faster I can eliminate some names the faster I can tell Olivia we can add them to the search for the culprit. So help me eliminate some people here.”



She kept eye contact with Emily the entire time. Because Jules got the feeling where she'd go the rest of them would go too, or at least she hoped that was the case. She was sure they 'd answer because Olivia told them to but she wanted the the help to come from them not because they were told to. Finally Emily looked at the rest of them and nodded, and they nodded in return. Looking back at Jules she went, “What do you want to know.”



“Thank you,” Jules told her. To the group she said, “Now I'm going to try and not ask you things you've been asked before. Mainly because I don't know what was asked and what your answers were, so I won't be able to compare notes from that previous session.” She watched the group for any sort of reaction to what she just said, somebody relaxing a little or looking relieved, any sort of sign. But this group was giving away nothing so far. Although she did notice Emily was doing the same. Did she have doubts too? “Since I know nothing about the rotation schedule let's start there. How often do you switch spots in a day.”



“We have a morning, afternoon and night rotation,” Emily told her. “The vault is constantly guarded.”



“What do you do if nature calls?”



“We hold it,” Lynda told her sharply which got a look from Emily.



Marcus volunteered, “If we have to go bad enough we call someone who isn't on duty at that moment to cover us for a few minutes.”



“And we're never gone longer than that,” Emily told her. Jules nodded, well just by the smell she figured they didn't go in any part of the chamber. That would have been disgusting. But chances are Emily made sure they stayed to that few minutes. So if it was a vault guard it wasn't during their shift.



“Again I'm just trying to figure out the standard procedure here, but do you go and examine the vault chamber itself, and if you do how often?” Here they started to look at each other. “You do go back and examine the vault chamber?”
 
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“Not regularly, “Johnathon answered



“We'll be doing it more now,” Emily said. Jules was sure that was directed more towrd them than her so she said nothing.



Hector finally started to speak up, “I usually only do it if I thought I heard something. In case something was trying to get out.” That got a groan from the others. Obviously something he said before, and often based on their reactions. “You don't know what's in there something could try and get out.”



“Nothing is trying to get out of the vault,” Lynda told him. “Even if it did you'd know before it happened.”



“Having done research on a couple of the items in this particular vault,” Jules told him, “that's a pretty reasonable fear to have.” Somehow that didn't look like that exactly made him feel better “So it's just the seven of you assigned to guard the vault?” they nodded in response. “So what happens when somebody gets sick? Does one of the border guards get rotated in until that person is better?”



“Outside of Olivia we're the only ones who know the vault is here,” Emily told her. “So somebody has to do double duty until that person gets better.”



“Thanks to Walter,” Johnathon said. “more people than ever are talking about a secret vault on the premise.”



“I still say we should 'teach' him not to talk about things he don't know about,” Lynda said, smashing a fist into the palm of her other hand to highlight her point. Which drew a warning look from Emily, although Jules did notice Hector and Johnathon silently nodding in agreement before that happened.



“I think you should probably listen to the boss lady here on that,” Jules told them “Although for the unofficial record I will find something else extremely interesting if that moment happens.” While Lynda and the others gave her an appreciative looked Emily was less than happy with her statement. “That's pretty much all I have for you for now. But don't be that surprised if I track you down later if a few more come to mind. That's it for now.”



“You heard her,” Emily spoke up, “dismissed.” They all snapped to attention and left the room. All but Emily, who closed the door leaving the two of them. “You didn't eliminate anybody did you?”, she asked.



“I think we can eliminate you,” Jules told her truthfully, which caught the other Priest by surprise. “I was watching you, and you were watching them when they answered anything. And not in any sort of warning way that I could tell. You think it's one of the vault guards too.”



She started looking as tired as Olivia probably felt in this situation. And it looked like it hurt her to admit, “So far everything seems to point to one of us. And that honestly pisses me off.”



“It would me too if I was in your place,” Jules told her.”I didn't want to ask this with the others in the room, but are any of them acting off in any way?”



“That's the frustrating part, none of them are, at least in front of me at any rate,” she said crossing her arms. “I've known most of them for years, you'd think I'd be able to notice something.”



Briefly remembering what happened with Reks Jules said, “Oh believe me I know how exactly frustrating that can be. But what do you mean by most of them?”



“Hector and Johnathon only joined our ranks in the last year or so.” Jules didn't say anything but that was plenty of time to figure out a way into the vault. So two people to keep a closer eye on at least. “But I vetted them pretty thoroughly before I accepted them into our ranks.”



“I'm sure you did, but people can fool you,” then mostly to herself she added softly, “No matter how long you knew them.” Getting herself out of the funk that threatened to overtake her Jules said, “But right now we're on the same side. I'll let Olivia know that I think we can trust you here but let's keep each other in the loop about what's going on.



“Agreed,” Emily said and extended a hand. Jules took it and they shook them to cement their new relationship. She didn't know about Olivia but Jules was glad they had at least one more person they could rely on.
 
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“A black market? Come on now Nadia,” Shae said as the two of them sat on that bench In front of Olivia's office building. She was just happy Jules said this was okay to that guard Olivia said was going to watch her for a few minutes while Jules continued with her investigation for the time being. And even though she promised not to tell anybody anything about the forbidden vault, Shae was surprised to learn how much the other students already knew since rumors were running rampant all over the training ground according to Nadia. But some of the things she was telling her was just too unbelievable, like this black market business.



“That's the word going around,” she insisted. “Honest. I've even heard my folks talk about on occasion.”



“But how would anyone not in the Order know what the stuff was?”, she asked. No one outside the Order was supposed to know they even existed. So there being a underground market for items they used didn't make any sense to her.



“How am I supposed to know?”, Nadia asked. “I'm just telling you what I heard. Let's ask that guard maybe he'll know.” Both of them turned to where the guard was. He wasn't there any more. Both of them looked around to see where he went. While Shae didn't see the guard she did see Walter looking right at her with that stare that made her skin crawl. She reached to grab Nadia's arm to get her attention then Walter looked to the side with a curious look. Shae did the same and saw a group of students come in their direction. They didn't look pleased to see them, or her for that matter. But Walter looked pleased with what he was seeing.



“Nadia,” Shae was able to get out loud enough to get her attention. She saw the crowd and quickly got in front of her.



“Can we help you?”, she asked in a demanding way.



“Out of the way Nadia,” one of them said, “we came to teach her the lesson she has coming.” Nadia got her brush in hand and squared off with them. Shae, while she didn't have her Madou Brush still had that string she used and Jules let her keep, slowly reached into the pocket holding it. If she could put up a barrier to block them real fast then maybe the two of them could quickly get away while they were confused. She glanced back at Walter who did nothing to stop the group. Don't panic she told herself you can do this. Just stay calm and cast that spell like you've been doing since you discovered those notes.



Before she got a chance to do anything a metal spike impaled the ground in front of the crowd making them stop in their tracks. Everybody looked over where it came from and saw a furious looking Jules standing there, before marching over to the group and before they all ran off she grabbed one by the arm and pulled her out of there. It was the same one she had caught making the threat to her earlier. “You just don't listen do you?”, she said as the rest of them ran away. Dragging her over to someone wearing something similar to what the people guarding the vault entrance were wearing she said, “You might want to have Olivia talk with this one.”



“With pleasure,” she said as she took the girls other arm.



“It wasn't my idea!”, she started to protest. “It was...”



“Save it for Olivia,” the guard snapped at her. She looked around and spotted Walter still standing there. “Why didn't you do anything?”



Instead of answering Walter said. “What are you going to do about her,” he pointed right at Jules, “Attacking the students with that metal spike.” Was he actually trying to say Jules was at fault here? For trying to protect her and Nadia? Of course he was, he blamed her for stealing from the vault the first chance he got. Then Shae saw Jules do something with her brush, and the metal spike faded away.



The guard saw it too and started smiling to herself. “What spike?” she asked. Walter pointed at where it was at then started sputtering when he realized it was gone. Seeing a couple of border guards she said, “Grab him and bring him to Olivia. She'll want to know why he was just going to let a bunch of students gang up on those two,” she nodding her head toward her and Nadia.



“Now wait a minute,” Walter said as he tried to get out of their grasp, but to no avail as he was soon being dragged inside with that vault guard in tow dragging the girl along with her.



In the next instant Jules was in front of the two of them looking them over, “You guys alright?”



“We're fine Jules,” Shae told her. She looked relieved right before she started scanning the area, looking for that errant guard as well. Although she had a hand directly on her shoulder and was rubbing it gently.



“What was that?”, Nadia asked. “They were just going to jump me and Shae. For nothing.”



“I'm sure it wasn't nothing,” Jules told her. As she looked at them “I warned that one girl off earlier. And I doubt she's dumb enough to just ignore that warning. Somebody had to put her and the others up to it.”



“Walter?”, Shae asked a little unsure of it as soon as she said it. It made sense to her seeing how he was just standing there looking satisfied at the situation. But would he really stoop that low?



“He's at the top of my suspect list too,” Jules informed her. “But I doubt even he's that stupid. Close, mind you, but not that stupid.”



“Over here!”, somebody cried out. Shae looked over to see the person was close to where the guard watching her was supposed to be. “



“Stay here,” Jules told them as she rushed over to that spot. She stopped and knelt down and checked something, looking relieved again she pulled back. Shae heard her say, “He's just knocked out. But get him some medical attention anyway.” the person who yelled nodded and ran off for that help as Jules stood up. She looked around at a few others just staring in her direction. “I don't suppose anybody saw anything?”, she called out. When nobody was forth coming with the answer she blew out a breath, “Of course not.”



“Is that guard going to be all right?”, Shae asked her when she got closer



“He's just unconscious, but he'll be fine once he wakes up,” Jules assured her. Then she started to scan the area again before looking at Nadia. “You're a pretty good friend. Were you planning on fighting them all off on your own?”



Nadia started looking embarrassed, which was something Shae had never seen before now. “Somebody has to look out for Shae. Did the person who tried to frame her do this?”



Jules nodded, “It's a good bet. Come on let's get out of the open in case they try it again.” While she guided them inside the building after the other person returned with help for the fallen guard Jules still looked over the area. Shae tried to do the same, not sure what to look for. But it felt better than doing nothing.



However she did manage to say, “Can you show me how you did that metal spike?”



Jules looked at her and smiled a bit, “Sure, I think we have a few free moments. How about you Nadia, you want to learn how to?” Nadia just shrugged but she wasn't looking uninterested either. Shae found herself getting a little closer to Jules as they walked toward the building.
 
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Knowing Olivia for as long as she had Jules had only seen her get angry, truly angry twice. Both times just happened to be today so Jules was staring to get a little worried about her mental state. Getting that repeatedly angry in that short of time couldn't be good for her. At least this time it wasn't directed at her like it was earlier. This time the cause was Walter, and his apparent lack of effort to stop that crowd from trying to get at Shae. And given who was in the next room Jules almost felt sorry for the girl they dragged in here, almost. She did tell her she'd hold her responsible after all.



“Why were you just standing there?!” Olivia demanded, not for the first time since this meeting started. Walter again refused to say anything in his defense so far. Jules stood to the side keeping her head down the entire time. Mostly because Olivia asked to be in here for this and wanted to be respectful. But partially because if she did look Jules wouldn't be able to hide how much she was enjoying seeing him squirm, especially after all the crap he said to her when she was being investigated. Beside Olivia already aimed her ire at her once today and she wasn't in a rush to repeat the experience any timr soon. “More than one person saw you see that group threaten Shae and Nadia.”



“Then why didn't they do anything then?”, he shot back. Jules winced, just knowing what was coming. Apparently Walter didn't realize what he just stepped in because he kept going, “Why am I the one being signaled out?”



“This isn't about them!”, Olivia forcibly told him. Here Jules glanced up and now finally Walter seemed to figure out how deep in it he currently was. “You saw a mob come at another student and did nothing to curtail it. In fact a couple enen said it looked like you were enjoying it?”, Olivia stormed up to Walter, who started to back up. Jules briefly considered stepping in, but didn't telling herself she would if it looked like she was going to get physical. She was considering defending Walter, today was a weird one all right. “This is about you apparently letting a situation happen for your own sick amusement.”



“She had it coming,” he ended up saying. It took a moment, and Olivia getting redder and redder, for him to realize that was the wrong say at that moment. So much so Jules started to make her way forward to get between the two of them.



“You don't get to decide that!”, Olivia exploded. Walter flinched so hard it look like he shrunk a foot when he did so. Then she turned her head toward her with a look that made it clear she didn't want Jules to get involved. Worried more about Olivia's reputation than Walter's safety at the moment Jules held her ground, but made it clear she wasn't moving backwards any time soon. Looking back at Walter she continued on, “We do not let mob mentality run things here or any where in the Order! Why you thought that would be acceptable in any way is inconceivable to me.” She went back to her desk and dropped back into her chair. Walter opened his mouth to say something. “I don't want to hear it,” she snapped at him. “Get out of here before I say or do something I'll regret.”



It took a moment but Walter finally got moving. Opening the door he snarled at Shae, who was out there with Nadia. Jules saw Emily step forward since she was making sure they one they dragged in here as the ringleader didn't try and leave while this meeting was going on. Walter looked back at the two of them before walking through the door, slamming the door behind him.



Rubbing her forehead as she sat in the chair Olivia looked extremely tired. “I wish I never rescued him and brought him into the Order.”



“Olivia you don't mean that,” Jules said as she stepped forward. Although now she could stop wondering who saved him all those years ago. “You'll know you'll regret saying that later, after you calmed down.”



She sighed, “You're right, I probably will. He had so much potential when I first brought him into the fold. I knew he was old enough to be already be set in his ways. But I hoped his mind would open, even a little, after he saw there was more to the world then what he knew.” Jules sat in one of the chairs on this side of the desk and just let her talk. “I never knew what his old life was like before I came into contact with him. I realize now that's where his attitude came from, I can picture his father being the same way. If only I noticed how he was before now. I could have tried harder to help him.”



“You said yourself he was good at hiding how he really felt,” Jules told her. “You can't really help if you don't know the problem's there to begin with.



Olivia gave her a sad smiles Jules couldn't interpret, she soon said, “Vincent told me the same thing when I brought it up to him a few years ago.” Jules quickly blinked a couple of times after hearing that. That did sound like something he would have said now that she thought about it, and probably where she got it to begin with. “You're both right of course. It just feels like I failed him sometimes.”



“He's not your responsibility Olivia,” she told her. “Vincent told me something once while I was growing up. You can't help the ones who don't want it. He has to want to change first, and if his way were set then chances are they're permanent by now.”



“I'm aware of that Jules,” she said. “It's something I try and tell myself, almost daily at this point.” She looked off into the distance, Jules let her glad she appeared to be calming down at least. “You have to understand one thing, I did the one thing we weren't supposed to do and checked around with their neighbors, trying to understand why that Horror attacked that particular family. From what I heard his father was a down right horrible person and treated his wife worse than trash. He kept holding over the idea that even if she left him that she would have nothing since everything was in his name and not hers. And all the judges in that small town were all his friends since he was an officer of the law so he'd make sure she got nothing if she tried to divorce him. That poor woman was so miserable for the longest time.”



With everything she'd seen and experience over the years Jules quickly guessed what Olivia wasn't saying, at least not out loud. “His mother was the Horror,” Olivia leaned back and closed her eyes, “wasn't she?”
 
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“I have no concrete proof one way or another,” she said finally opening her eyes back up, “but I'm afraid she might have been. We were searching for a rumored gate for a while,but the area was so out of the way we never put that much effort into finding it. Because we didn't yet another victim fell into whatever lure the Horror baited her with. Maybe if we took it a little more seriously...”



“Olivia don't,” she spoke up. “Don't do this to yourself. Even if you did find that gate before she did then she'd still be in a horrible situation. She was in a no win situation no matter how you look at it.”



“I'm fully aware of that as well, as Vincent had often told me over the years. I'm also aware these things happen in cycles and I was trying to break it before it happened to some one else.” she leaned back in the chair, almost like she was trying to hide herself in it. “I knew I shouldn't but I was convinced if I could save Walter that I could exercise some of my sin over that situation, imaginary or not.” She was quiet for a long time before she sat back up, “Now I have another mess to deal with,” she said as she waved a hand toward the door.



Jules looked back at the door than gave her hand a quick squeeze. “Well, she's been out there long enough that hopefully she scared herself into talking. So that should make things easier for you.” Jules looked at her for a bit, not realizing how old she looked until just now. “You want me in here for that talk too?”



“No dear,” she said patting her hand. “I'm sure I've more than have a handle on this one. Besides you still have a thief to catch. And you can't do that by holding my hand during these messes.”



“Okay Olivia,” Jules said getting up.”But I think somebody did put her and the others up to it she was going to say who before Emily told her to save it for you. More than likely it was the thief, So this might have been his or her's first slip up.”



“We can only hope,” Olivia told her. Taking another moment to compose herself Olivia said, “Please send her in as you leave.”



:Of course,” Jules said as she left the room. On the other side of the door Shae ans Nadia looked on expectantly. Then she looked over at the other side of the room and saw Emily still guarding the girl she dragged out of that mob. She wouldn't look at her as she sat there. Right now she didn't have any sympathy for the kid. “I so don't want to be you right now.” Looking at Emily she jerked a thumb toward the door, getting the message Emily nodded as she took the girl by the arm again, getting her to stand and walked her to Olivia's office Going over to the other two girls Jules asked them, “Did Walter say anything to you two?”



“No,” Shae answered, Nadia nodded in agreement. “He just stormed out of here after he slammed that door.”



“I'm pretty sure that guard would have done something if he tried anything,” Nadia spoke up.



Looking back at the door Emily took the girl through Jules smirked slightly. “I think she would have too. Now I do believe I promised the two of you that I'd show you how to do that one spell I used.” Shae perked up almost immediately, Nadia wasn't quite as evident as Shae but she seemed interested as well. “I'm pretty sure Olivia's doesn't want us to pull it off in here. So let's head to a practice range and I can show you two there.” Both of them got up, right when the guard who got knocked out walked in. “Are you all right now?”, Jules asked.



“Just a little woozy at the moment,” he said, “but the healer's positive I'll be over it soon. I just wanted to check on Shae and Nadia. I heard about what almost happened after I got knocked out.”



“We're fine,” Shae told the guard as she held her arms out.



“Not a hair out of place,” Nadia agreed.



“I'm glad,” he said. He was obviously upset that he pretty much failed in doing his duty, despite it not being his fault to begin with. Honestly it was a refreshing change from Walter's stubbornness from a few moments ago.



“I don't suppose you saw who did it to you?”, Jules asked. The thief might have made one mistake in getting that group riled up enough to go after Shae, if that girl in Olivia's office can identify the person that is. If that happened then maybe they made one more.



He started shaking his head, so much for that, “I got a glimpse of somebody walking past me then everything went black. I didn't have the chance to see who it was, sorry.”



“At least you're all right,” Jules told him, “that what counts.” Glimpses, she thought she caught a glimpse of he person behind this earlier, now this guard had one as well. Maybe the thief was getting careless now, feeling the pressure. Or maybe they were lucky as hell. Either way Jules needed to think about what she had in terms of clues at the moment and figure out how to use them to catch this person. Turning back toward the girls she said, “Let's get to that practice range.” Both of them nodded as they left the building. Jules caught Shae looking around at their surrounding. She hated that this situation made her a little paranoid, but Jules only caught it because she was doing the same exact thing. Maybe teaching a couple of teenagers wasn't the best idea to clear her head but it all she had at the moment. And the clearer her head was the faster she could figure this out.
 
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This was getting out of hand faster than expected. It was easy enough to get most of the kids around here wound up enough that they would have went after the girl. The only obstacle in that particular plan was the unexpected presence of that guard, He was a nice enough guy, always with a friendly greeting no matter what his mood was at the time. He was also extremely lucky since he was out in the open with plenty of witnesses to hear him cry out once the blade pierced his flesh, otherwise he would have been death number one. As it was that quick knock out spell was tricky enough to cast unnoticed. Fortunately the brats choose right then to go after the girl getting everybody's attention. It was the perfect distraction to get away and move some of those items closer to that arranged extraction spot.



Then that damn woman got involved again. Who would have guessed that she would have used an actual magical metal spike to stop them. But she did and it was enough to stun the brats long enough for her to pick out one in particular and have the other guard take her inside before her and the other two girls went inside as well. The only bright spot was Walter was dragged inside as well, so while the others were watching him protest his treatment they didn't notice one person slip away from the scene. Not an ideal situation but at least a couple of the smaller items were closer to the extraction point, now to figure out how to move some of the bigger items without being noticed. Wait, there were the underground sections of the training ground, most of them were connected to each other and rarely guarded. Well that was the case for the moment, who knows when that will change. Not to mention having to find out if they were even still connected to the buildings that were torn down. That information was going to be harder to obtain now, more than likely the archivists were going to pay extra attention to any one looking at the old records now. Difficult but still doable, just had to be fast enough it didn't occur to that woman to check into it as well.
 
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“You mean that's all it is?”, a disappointed sounding Nadia asked once she showed them how to do the metal spike. Actually Shae looked a little disappointed as well that it was apparently so simple. Granted she remembered being slightly confused, alright very disappointed, as well when Vincent first showed it to her all those years ago. There was something exciting about something being more complex than it was. Looks like that hasn't changed over the years, at least with these two



Bringing her brush to the paper she channeled some of her magic through it and swiped it across the slip as the bristles glowed. Both of them watch the paper fly out of her hand, transform into a metal spike and implant itself into the target. “Afraid so,” Jules said, a bit amused the the girls were still gawking at the spike. After making the spike disappear she added, “Not everything is all hand waving and motions. Sometimes it's as simple as a single piece of paper. Like that sleeping spell a lot of us learn in the more advanced sessions.”



“Is that what happened to that guard?”, Shae asked as Jules handed her a couple of slip of the gray paper she used to make the spikes.



“Maybe?”, Jules answered while handing some to Nadia as well. “But considering it wasn't on him when they discovered him, nor did he mention somebody slapping one on his forehead so it's doubtful that's how it happened.” Grabbing one for herself she took a moment to check her supply of that particular paper. “Gotta remember to make more of these later. That's were the real work is for this particular spell. I'd be willing to show you if you're still interested.” Nadia just shrugged while Shae looked on eagerly. “I can do a bit more than aim and shoot them off. I can control their direction a little too.” To demonstrate she faced the other direction and fired off a spike but kept her brush aimed at it this time making it pause in the air. “Could the two of you take a couple of sreps back?” When they did Jules quickly aimed the brush at the target. The spike quickly reversed direction and flew past them as it hit near the bottom of the target. “I'm not entirely that accurate doing it this way. I can hit the side of the building with no problem.” She caught the question in Shae's face before she even asked it. “Long story,” was all she told her. “Now you guys give it a try.”



After a brief explanation of the basics Jules stepped back and let them try it. Much like when she did the first time she tried it took them a couple of times to get it. But almost at the same time both of them fired off a spike that hit the target. Shae jumped a little after she finally got it. Nadia was a bit more subdued in her reaction but it was obvious that she was pleased that she got it to work as well. “There you go,” Jules told both of them as she stepped up behind them. “While you got me here is there anything else you want to know?”



Jules tried to mot get that suspicious as the girls looked at each other. Nadia was urging Shae on,” Go on ask her.” Shae being hesitant worried her slightly.



“What is it Shae?”, Jules asked her. When she started to look away again Jules put a hand on her shoulder. “I said you can ask me anything, and you took advantage of that earlier. So don't start being afraid of asking me now.”



Shae looked at her and surprised her again by asking, “Is there really a black market for Makai items?” Where was she getting these questions? Well based on Nadia urging her on there was a good chance it originated with her. And they were both looking at her waiting for an answer



Blowing out a breath Jules remembered she also told her she'd be as honest as possible. Why did she ever tell her that? Oh yeah to help build up the level of trust between the two of them. Olivia was probably going to give here another earful if she ever found this out. “I'm afraid so. Honestly that was one of my first thoughts that crossed my mind when I found out things were stolen.”



“I told you,” Nadia said. Okay that's exactly where that question came from.



Shae still didn't looked convinced, “Do they even know what the items are?”



“Most of the time, no they don't. At least that's what some of the buyer or sellers said the times I was assigned to track one down or break one up.”



“My folks,” Nadia spoke up, “said it's stuff stolen from the Order.”



“Sometimes that's the case,” Jules said with a nod, “sometimes it somebody who not part of the Order any more, either they left or got kicked out. Occasionally it the children or grandchildren of those who left for whatever reason and decide to get ride of the 'junk' their inherited without knowing exactly what they had. Sometime they just stumble across an old temple and think the things inside are interesting and valuable. And as hard as we try to keep it from happening information about us does gets out occasionally so people go looking for evidence we exist. There's are a lot of reasons why it happens.”



“How is that even possible?”, Shae asked. “I mean they're not supposed to know we exist at all, we do everything possible to make sure that doesn't happens.”



“Because at the end of the day we're still human,” Jules told her, “and humans makes mistakes, we're no different. Look guys, I've met Priests who forget that, even start thinking that we're above the regular humans. But we're not.” Looking both in the eyes she said, “If either of you take anything away from what I'm trying to tell you, let it be that at least.” Both of them looked thoughtful as they thought that over. Hopefully that was a good sign.



Given the moment Jules looked around, started seeing more and more activity from the kids staying here. Trying to remember how things around here was done when she was here learning Jules figured it was time for one of the training sessions. Looking at Nadia she told her, “I think I've kept you for too long. You better get back to your group before you get in trouble.” Nadia started to say something, Jules knew what she was going to say just by the look on her face. “No arguing,” she said sternly. Okay where in the hell did that voice come from? “I don't need any of the instructors around here getting on my case for taking their students.”



“Fine,” she said with a huff as she started to get up. Oh yeah, this one was reminding her of somebody all right. And she could almost feel Vincent's amusement over the situation if he was still here. Looking over at Shae she went, “If I see that Knight trainee you like should I tell him you said hi?” Shae started blushing immediately.



Naturally as the responsible adult she shouldn't add to the young girl's embarrassment. But Jules couldn't help herself in this situation. “You know who she likes? We're talking later.”



“No,” Shae quickly got out before she realized what was happening.



“You're lucky I'm not here all the time because you are way too easy to tease,” Jules informed her.



“Told you,” Nadia said to Shae before she started to leave.



Looking around at the other kids Jules grabbed her shoulder real fast, getting her attention. “If anybody give you any trouble about sticking up for Shae earlier, let me know.”



Nadia just grinned, “Sure thing. Behave yourself Shae.”



After she left Shae stepped up to Jules. After a bit she said, “I think she meant you.” Looking at her Jules saw the smile she tried to hide from her. Was she really that much of a bad influence?



“Hey,” she said with a slight shove. “I don't think Olivia or the others are going to be that happy at all that I brought out this side of you. Come on, I hate to do this to you again but I'm going to have to leave you with Olivia for a bit. Don't worry,” she said to quickly cut off the upcoming out burst, “I'm going to give you some busy work to do while I'm out so you don't get too bored.”



Shae looked a little wary, “Doing what exactly?” Yeah, that was an opening. When was this girl going to learn?



“Translating some old scrolls, doesn't that sound fun?” The look on her face said she thought it was the exact opposite of fun. Good, because Jules wasn't sure what she was going to do if she looked excited about the idea, outside of finding some old scrolls that is. Putting an arm around her shoulder as they headed off Jules told her, “No I'm not, but it's something almost as tedious. I'm going to show you how to make the seal to make those spikes. Don't worry I won't leave until I'm sure you understand it fully. And I'm going to want, let me see what sounds like a good number, at least five done by the time I get back.”



Looking up at her Shae asked, “What are you going to be doing?”



“I'm going back to that spot we found,” Jules told her as she looked in that general direction. “After I get some back up that is. And not you, if I knew that place had booby traps I wouldn't have taken you there to begin with.” And she knew who that back up was going to be too. Hopefully Olivia knew where Emily was.
 
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Fortuantely Emily was still in Olivia's office when they entered and luckily she was up to searching that area a bit more thoroughly. And Shae was obviously still disappointed that she was being left behind for this one she still paid attention while Jules showed her how to treat those slips of paper to make a metal spike. Reminding her of the minimum amount she wanted to see by the time they returned Jules and Emily headed off. Looking around seeing how her and Shae were being followed last she came this way caught Emily doing the same. “Feeling paranoid?”, she asked in a light tone.



“That and frustrated,” came a surprisingly candid if understandable reply. “My only job here is to protect the vault.” Both of them quieted when they passed some students. No need to add fuel to that particular fire. Although Jules did look back to see if the kids were looking back at them or gave any indication that they were talking about the “secret vault”. And she did halfway expect to see Walter still stalking around behind them somewhere. Or if they were extremely lucky more than a glimpse of the thief. After a few feet Emily started talking again, “I was actually insulted when I found out things were stolen from under our very noses. And the idea that one of my people could be responsible, it makes me sick to my stomach.”



“I've been a little afraid to ask Olivia this,” Jules began, “Just because I'm not sure what kind of answer I'm going to get. But who else knows about the vault and what it contains?” Quickly adding after they passed another group of students, “Not as a rumor that is.”



“Outside of you?”, Emily went. “To my knowledge, Just Olivia, myself and the other guards. And it's looking more and more like one of mine was responsible with every question you ask and everything you find out.”



“I'm amazed I'm trying to increase the suspect pool at this point,” Jules said in a joking manner. Still it might be better to get this out of the way now. “Did Olivia tell you that whomever did this was able to get past the seals on the containers in the vault?” Emily nodded. “I have to ask this but are any of the guards under you capsble of pulling that off? Maybe spent a little extra time researching something they wouldn't really talk about?”



“I've been racking my brain asking myself those same questions,” was her reply. “And nothing is coming to mind or sticking out as something strange. As far as who would be capable of pulling that off,” she let out a short, almost angry sounding laugh, “we all are. Being able to perform or create complex spells is a prerequisite to be a vault guard, Olivia practically insisted on it.”



“I'm sure she's rethinking that now,” Jules commented. Looking up she realized they were almost there and took one more look around to make sure they weren't being followed. She'd even take another glimpse of the thief right about now. Because that would mean that person was at least here and not back with the others causing more trouble, since Jules was still sure the thief was behind those kids going after Shae earlier. Speaking of that particular situation, “Since we're alone, did that kid say anything?”



“Just that a Makai Priest she'd never seen before talked her and the others into it. Outside that it was a male she couldn't really describe him, saying he kept a hood over his head.”



“They listened to a guy who wouldn't even show his face?”, Jules said in disbelief.



“I know,” she said sounding aggravated. “It seemed a bit far fetched to me too. Olivia's holding out on the hope that the guy used some sort of spell to confuse her and the rest in that group instead of the kid making somebody up to save her own skin.” It was likely that was what happened. It made more sense than them listening to somebody who wouldn't even show his face while talking to them. There were a few ways to disguise oneself that she could think of off the top of her head, and for one of them the the less your face was visible the better which would explain the hood. Just another reminder that they were dealing with somebody who knew what they were doing. Jules caught herself trying to recall if one of those ways could make a person think a female was a male then stopped herself. Just put that one on the back burner for now she told herself. We're still trying to shrink the suspect pool not grow it like she had been. She really had to stop that, it was just making her job harder in the long run.



“It's over there,” she said once she recognized the bush her and Shae had hid behind earlier. Going past it she lead Emily to the spot. They found it soon enough, and the trap she saw earlier was still there. “And there it is.” Emily stepped closer and knelt down to get a better look at. Something about her face as she looked at it gave Jules a slight chill. “I'm guessing you recognize it?”



“Unfortunately,” she grumbled with out rising up. Her gaze was transfixed on that seal for a long time, Jules just waited for her to say something, and stand guard at the same time. A habit she developed since teaming with Carter. There's been more than one time that they were surprised by the Horror they were hunting because both of them were focusing on the same clue one of them had discovered. And now would be the perfect time for the thief to come up behind them and catch them bu surprise. Eventually Emily stood up and told her. “That's one of the seal used on the forbidden vault. A fail safe in case anything or anyone tried to get in or out. All the vault guards know how to use it. There's no way you could have disarmed this, not without help from one of us.”



Only her pride made her feel a little insulted by that statement. Fortunately the more rational part of her mind made Jules realize that Emily knew more about this particular trap than she did, and concieded to her expertise on this one. A small part still thought she could do it though. “I get the feeling it's not a quick work around either.”



“No it is not,” Emily said as she backed away. “”The thief, after putting the vault items down there, had to leave himself a way in. We should look for that entrance.”



“That's if they're in there,” she said looking around. Glancing over at Emily Jules couldn't help but notice the look she was giving her. Granted it did seem like she was trying to make things more difficult than necessary. But in this case, she actually wasn't. “Blame it on all the Horror hunting I've done,” she told her. Adding, “You learn not to take things at face value.” She nodded, seemingly accepting her explanation, and they started exploring the area. “We should check around for where the other buildings were as well. That could be how he's getting in there.”
 
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“Agreed,” Emily said with a nod. Both of them spread out and searched the area. Jules tried to recall were those buildings used to be as she kept an eye on the ground. It only made sense, if the Priest who used to run this training ground didn't fill in that one they wouldn't have filled in the others. “I found another one!”, Emily called out.



“Same here!” Jules shouted back. Like with the first site she found these boards haven't look like anybody had touched them recently either. Actually these boards looked to be in worse shape than the ones covering the first sight, and those looked pretty bad. On the upside it didn't look like this one was booby trapped in any way. Looking back over at Emily Jules saw that she moved on to another spot. “Was there a trap on that other one?”



“No,” she replied. “There isn't one on this one either. I'm almost afraid to touch either of them. They look like they'll disintegrate as soon as something does.”



“It's the same over here,” Jules said as she headed toward her. Then she caught a glimpse of another set of of boards, when she remembered something from that map, there were six buildings that used to be in this area. And they found where five of them were. Looking around she could easily see were the five they found used to be, based on how the ground was sunken in so where was that sixth one? The Earth around them looked relatively smooth. Jules blinked as it hit her. “You sneaky little devil,” she said to herself softly. “The thief's hiding it!” she called out to Emily. “Where the building used to be. He's hiding it like he did that opening to the tunnel to the vault.”



“You think that's how he's hiding the items he stole?”



“Well if he is hiding them in that other spot it could be like I said and it's how he's getting in.” Jules said as she visually searched the ground, a bit afraid to move in any direction she hadn't been yet because more than likely those boards weren't in any better shape than the other they found. At least she wasn't the only one being paranoid as Emily was staying where she was as well, although she was poking at the ground with the blunt end of her spear trying to find it. Jules knelt down and started drawing in the dirt with her finger, first getting where the ones they found were and trying to remember were that sixth building was. It had to be around here somewhere. “Stay where you are,” she told the guard.


“I wasn't exactly going to go for a stroll,” she shot back. Ignoring her for the moment Jules took out her Madou Brush, waving a hand over the bristles, making them glow. Then she slowly moved it in an arc just trying to see if she could sense anything that was out of place, magically speaking that is. Seeing what she was doing Emily drew her brush and started doing the same. Granted she never tried this with anything this big before, but in theory that should mean it was using more energy to conceal what it was hiding. In theory. After a bit Jules thought she detected something and kept her brush pointed at it. Emily seemed to be pointing her brush at the same general area as she was. Both took cautious steps toward that spot. As Jules got closer the more certain that she was that she was picking something up. So certain in fact she tried to circle around the spot, her brush kept pointing at the same general spot Emily was. Putting up her brush Emily started poking the ground again. Before long the spear went through the ground in a way Jules had seen before.



She broke out in a slight grin, “Bingo.” Getting on her knees by Emily she started patting the ground in front of her until her hand went through the illusion, there wasn't any boards that she could tell. Keeping it in there she pulled her hand back until she got a grip on the edge. Getting a grip with her other hand she leaned over until her head went through it. Still no boards but this one had a basement so she looked around as best as she could. Raising up she pointed at a particular corner, “There's a ladder over there.” Emily stuck her spear back into the illusion and used the edge as a guide to get to that corner. Feeling around a bit she found the ladder and made her way down. Jules hurried over before she vanished from view completely and followed her down.



“I wonder why the Thief decided to hide this one,” Emily commented as she looked around what was left of the underground room. So far it was a less than impressive discovery on their part. Jules looked up, this one didn't have any sign of those boards that she could tell, they might have decayed years ago. If they did than that was how the thief found this place. “It's not even the closest one to the other one you found I'm not even seeing a way to get there from here. Unless it's hidden by a illusion too.”



“That would be a bit paranoid,” Jules commented. But she waved a hand over the bristles of her brush again and started scanning the room by slowly turning in a circle, “But more than possible considering what we've seen so far.” She spun around twice before lowering her brush, “I'm detecting the illusion above us and that's about it.” So she started checking the walls, maybe there was a covered opening like the one she found in the vault chamber. There just had to be one, the thief was hiding this particular basement for some reason. Emily soon joined in and they carefully explored the room. Jules knew she wasn't going to get lucky with a stray breeze this time around so she paid extra close attention to the walls.
 
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Emily was getting more frustrated by second. Blowing out a breath she looked above them. “You think the thief would notice if we canceled the illusion?”



Jules looked up at it. “More than likely. The thief doesn't know we found this yet. Let's not give up the one advantage we have so far.”



“As slim as it is,” Emily said as she continued looking. Jules said nothing but she had to agree it was a small one. But after finding that tunnel and now this it was better than nothing. After a bit more searching Emily said, “I might have found something.”



“Let me see,” Jules said as she headed over. Emily pointed out the area and she examined that section of wall. It took a bit but she found what the guard did, a seam in the wall. Again using her fingers she traced a rough outline of a door sized opening. “Well on the bright side I doubt the thief would have set a trap on this one.”



“It be easier if he did and he blew himself up by accident,” she commented. Glancing over at her as they tried to find a way to move this particular section Jules wondered how much was the frustration she was feeling was actually getting to her. Jules personally wanted to know who did this and if that seal was a powerful as she thought it was then there wouldn't be that much left to identify the thief by. “I don't want him dead,” she said suddenly. “But at least it would be over and things would almost be back to normal?”



“Almost back to normal?”, Jules asked, stepping back when Emily motioned for her to do so.



As she jammed the point of the spear into the gap she clarified, “More people know there's some sort of vault here now. That's going to cause problem eventually after you leave. With people trying to look for it. And we have an way in now that's practically out in the open.”



“For now,” Jules said as she joined in as they tried to leverage this section open. “I haven't discussed it with Olivia yet, but I have a explosive seal of my own that I can use to collapse that tunnel after this is all over. I'm just not sure she'd go for it.”



“If she doesn't I will,” Emily informed her as they finally got it opened enough for Jules to put her fingers in the gap and slide it to the side with a bit of effort. They were greeted by a dark tunnel. Emily looked around before concentrating on the tip end of her spear. Using her brush she made the tip catch on fire for a makeshift torch. Jules followed her, occasionally looking back to make sure they weren't caught by the thief. The tunnel took a sharp turn. “I'm pretty sure this way is to that other site,” Emily said before following the tunnel. Jules couldn't disagree as that was her first thought as well.



While it wasn't exactly a straight shot, there was a few extra turns to take. But essentially they were heading in the same direction. Before long Emily held up a hand to get them to stop and she extinguished the flame from her spear before they entered another basement that was a bit bigger than the first one they came into. And a bit more crowded as several boxes littered the room. In the light Jules heart dropped a little as some of them were open. A quick inspection revealed that most of the open ones were empty. “Damn it,” she muttered. She did a quick examination of the others and realized one of her biggest fears was just realized. “It's not here.”



“What's not here?”, Emily asked as she used her spear to pick up something off the ground. It looked like it could have been a hood, so it looked like at least part of the kid's story was at least true. Lucky for her.



“The Condemned,” Jules said. Emily didn't look as alarmed as she felt at that particular moment. She guessed the guards didn't have to know what they were guarding. Given how jumpy Hector was about something getting out, that was probably a good thing. Still she answered her unasked question. “Something that's given me nightmares ever since I was asked to help research it. More than likely the thief is moving things to another location when he can do what he originally planned.”



“Probably after you got involved,” Emily said as she cautiously looked around. “I'm not sure I want to know what most of this stuff is.” Jules pretty sure she had a similar look on her face when she first started researching some of these items, a bit of awe and fear at the same time. Although Jules did it reading through various books and scrolls Vincent was able to track down. Jules hoped there was a bit more fear in the guard seeing how they were looking at the items directly. As it was she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as she recognized something here and there. Still Jules pulled a blue slip of paper out of her coat after she examined one box in particular. “A tracker?”, Emily asked.



“I'm betting on the thief getting a bit greedy,” she said as she waved her brush over it as to activate it. “Because more than likely this stuff is going to be sold off, and the more he has the bigger the pay day.” Placing the seal against one particular item in the crate before quickly removing her hand like she was afraid she was going to get bit. As she rubbed her hand, she didn't feel anything from the item it was just the idea she touched it, the seal faded from view. Reaching into another pocket she retrieved a small disk that she waved her brush over. The magical radar appeared and she smiled at the pulsating dot near her location. “And that one is just small enough to be carried without being that noticeable.”



Emily looked into the crate, “Neat trick.”



“Thanks,” she said. “I looked it up after I saw Vincent do it one time.” Jules closed her eyes as she recalled that moment. When Vincent put his hand on the back of Reks' neck after he placed the talisman that would eventually kill him,. “It's been useful on a couple of occasions so far. Hopefully the thief will come back for some more. If we don't catch him we can at least discover where he relocated some of the things that were stolen.”



“I'd settle for catching him,” Emily said as Jules walked around and picked another item and tagged it as well, at least it was better than wanting him dead. Doing it a third time just to increase their odds if nothing else. Then she did it to one of the crates just to be sure. “We better go,” she said after that one. “Since it look likes it's one of mine who's behind this and I want to pound him into the ground personally. Doing it in here doesn't seem to be the best idea.”



Jules caught a look of another thing she was asked to help research and backed away a bit saying, “That's literally the best idea I've heard so far today. Let's get back to Olivia and tell her what we found.” Like they went in Emily lead the way after turning her spear into a torch again. Before entering the tunnel Jules stopped and looked back at the items that were still here. Hoping that leaving these items here wasn't going to be the mistake that a sudden fear made her think that it would be. Trying to quell that thought with the fact the thief just left them laying around here and nothing happened so far. It wasn't helping much as she followed Emily back to the other basement.
 
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She didn't know how long investigating that spot was suppose to take but they had to be back by now, or at least that was what Shae was thinking as she sat there by herself. It might not had been so bad if she was outside. At least that way she could have least gotten a better sense at how long it had been. Or had somebody to talk to to help pass the time. Bur every one was sure the person who stole the things from the vault was the one behind the incident earlier. At least that was what Olivia had told her earlier, and that it was better for her to stay in here for the time being. It made sense, and there was a chance nobody would have been around to stop it from happening. Didn't mean it wasn't still boring though. Sighing as she took another slip of grey paper she marked it like Jules showed her then held it out as she ran the glowing bristles over her brush, a concession Olivia allowed seeing how both she and Jules were positive the thief was still out there, over it to finish the incantation. The markings glowed slightly before returning to normal, another one done and added to the small pile next to her.



She looked up as the door opened, and she brightened considerably as Jules and that guard came in. She couldn't help herself as she jumped out of the chair and went to her. “Are you all right?”, she asked. “Did you find anything?”



“Yes on both counts,” Jules told her. Then she looked over to see the pile she created while the two of them were gone. Shae almost expected her to whistle at the sight. She almost did, or at least it looked like she was going to start to. Shae looked back, it didn't look like that much to her. Eventually Jules said, “That's a bit more than five.” Then she walked around her and picked it up, “I've seen how you keep your side of your room and all but this is the neatest messy pile I've ever seen.”



That what was amazing her? How neat it was? Not how many she's done? Granted once she got the gist of how to do it, it was a fairly simple spell to preform. But that was a lot she had gotten done in the time they was gone, at least as far as Shae was concerned. Wait she had to be messing with her again, she just had to be.So Shae watched her as she flipped through the pile, it had to be coming any second now. But it wasn't she soon realized, she was actually amazed at how she arranged them. Feeling a bit disappointed she said, “I was bored.”



“That much was obvious,” the guard told her with a bit of a smirk.



“Looking good so far,” Jules muttered as she continued to flip through them. Then she fanned them out slightly and held them out to the guard, “Emily, do me a favor and pick one out for me.” Without even questioning the request she pulled one out at random and held it out for her as she rearranged the pile back to where Shae had it. “Thank you, that's the one we're going to test out.”



“Test out?”, Shae asked as Jules kept examining the paper.



“I'm not going to show you how to do something and not see if it'll work,” Jules told her. “I'm not even an instructor and I know that's now how things are done. And we will right after Emily and I talk with Olivia.”



“I can fill in Olivia on what we found,” Emily told her after glancing at her. “All the guards use a practice range in the back of the building. The two of you can test it out there.”



Looking her over Jules nodded slightly, “Yeah, she does look like she wants to see if this will work. Thanks Emily, tell Olivia I'll be in once I see if this works properly.” The guard quickly gave her directions to that particular range and how to get in. Jules nodded once she got it, “Thanks Emily, come on Shae.”



Still a little depressed she wasn't excited at how much she did Shae went, “All right.” They walked the corridors in relative silence. She looked at the floor while Jules kept looking at the paper when she wasn't making sure they were going the right way.



“I'm sure it's going to work,” she said suddenly. “This is just a formality, I went through the same thing when I was younger.” Adding, “That's why you're so quiet right, that I'm testing it out.” She didn't answer right away so Jules stopped and looked at her, “Shae what bothering you if that's not it?”



“I just thought you'd be impressed with how many I got done,” she told her.



“Is that it?”, Jules asked her. Wasn't that enough? “Shae I figured you were going to do more than what I asked you to do, why do you think I made that number so low? I didn't want you to drain yourself too much trying to get too much done. Granted,” she said as she flipped through them again, “I didn't think it was going to be this much more, so good job there.” Shae beamed a little but still kept her head down. She was proud of what she'd done. “Ah here we are.”



Shae looked up to see that the practice range was still inside the building. It had all the same targets and dummies they had in the other ranges plus a couple she didn't recognize. Jules caught her staring at one of the signs on the wall. It was in the makai language and she was able to make out most of it before Jules blocked her view of it. “What was that about memory manipulation?”



“That's a more advanced class,” Jules told her as she guided her to the targets. Adding, “It's nothing you have to worry about now, all Makai Priest have to know how to do it, just in case somebody who's not suppose to know about us does.” Shae nodded, remembering her aunt saying something about it with her parents a couple of years ago. “Now let's see how you did.” Taking her brush Jules quickly swiped it across the slip. Shae was excited that it transformed into a metal spike in mid flight and impale itself into the target. She looked at Jules who looked impressed as she nodded than walked toward the target, Shae followed her. Once she was close she gave it a quick flick with her fingers and again looked satisfied with the metallic ping she got. “That's some excellent quality right here, good job Shae.”



“Thank you,” she said with some pride. “I didn't think something that came from paper was going to be that strong. I mean would it burn up it went through fire?”



“No,” she said as she flicked it again, “This is as solid as it gets. Granted I've never shot it through fire before.” She trailed off as it looked like something occurred to her. “No way the problem is that simple.” Then she remembered Shae was still there. “Just something I was trying to figure out the past few days,” she said as she put an arm around her shoulders and walked them toward the door.



“What problem?” she asked her.



“I was trying to mix the spike with another spell I use. I was so focused on making it work I never considered if it could work, or how I was going to use it. Oh that reminds me,” she turned back to the spike and did something with her brush to make it disappear. Offering her a bit of a grin Jules told her, “That's going to be lesson two.” Going back to the slips she worked on Shae watched her count out four. “Okay these plus the one I tested are the five I asked for.” Then she surprised her by handing her the rest of them to her, “Here you go.”



“Are you serious?”, Shae asked as she took them and a few extra slips of unprepared paper.



“And I'm not going to show you something and not expect you to practice it. Either. I'll tell you how to get the slips on your own. Just one thing,” Shae got depressed again as she sighed and handed back her brush. “Well there's that but that wasn't what I was going to say,” she added as she held up a finger, “don't practice your aim toward or in your house. The last thing I need is your parents tracking me down because you kept making holes in the walls.” Shae quickly nodded her agreement as they left the practice range.
 
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There had to be a way to turn this into an advantage some how. Emily and that woman had headed back to the area she had taken the girl earlier. There was no way she was going to be as cautious now that she left the brat with Olivia. And Emily was going to recognize the trap as soon as she saw it. Olivia would have recognize it as well since she taught it to all of them, it was a calculated risk but a necessary one considering what was hidden under it. Anything that disturbed those boards and it would have went off as soon as the vibration hit the seal. So the big question was would Emily try to disarm it or would they try to found the other way to get in there?



Either one would take time so there was plenty of it to cause a little confusion to distract the rest of them when they got back. And the target was right there by himself, perfect. Leaning against a tree with his arms crossed while he looked at the ground everyone was giving him a wide berth at the moment, well wider than they usually did. At the moment he looked like the loneliest guy in the world. Granted he looked like that the first time he showed up, and it soon became apparent why the moment he opened his mouth. But right now he looked like that more than ever. Again it was a calculated risk because someone could easily spot them talking. Considering how hard headed he was even he wouldn't fall for the disguise trick he pulled on those kids earlier. Besides that would mean going back for the hood, and that was back with the items stashed away. And there was no way Emily and that woman wasn't going to spot any one trying to sneak by them in that area. So calculated risk it was, after making sure none of the regular guards were keeping an eye on him after earlier, Okay make with a cheery yet concerned voice, “Walter.”



Surprised that anyone was calling out his name he looked up and gave a half hearted smile as he waved, “Careful, you don't want to be labeled a pariah being seen talking to me.”



If anything would have done it, this would be it. If they could prove who stole those things being labeled a pariah would have been an upgrade. “That's the least of my worries. But why so down, I heard you lost that student of yours but I thought that would have made you happy. Now you don't have to worry about her dragging you down any more. Now you can get a proper student to teach.”



“I doubt it,” he said darkly. “I overheard the others talking. They're going to make sure I don't get a chance to,” he held up both hands and did the qoute mark thing, “'corrupt' anyone else.” He looked so disgusted by the idea that one could alnost sympathize with the idiot, almost, after a hard night of drinking. “They're probably celebrating that guilty ***** started undoing all the work I put in on the brat they gave me.”



“Nobody celebrating,” But they should be, “Just because you think a little differently than everyone else doesn't mean you're wrong.” In this case it did but best not to say that thought out loud especially when trying to get his ire pointed in the right direction. It shouldn't take much most of it was already aimed at that woman to begin with. He didn't need to go over the edge completely, just enough to get her and everybody's attention. “They forget that at times.”



“Tell me about it,” he grumbled. Oh this one seemed ripe to be taken over by a Horror at some point. He'd probably walk right into too. Is that why Olivia kept him around?



“A lot of them have that superiority complex to any one not originslly part of the order. They're particularly nasty when you don't immediately confirm to they're way of thinking right away. I've seen it, I'm a second generation Makai Priest in my family. My parents were like you, they came into the Order late in life. Dad always complained they ruined Mom for as long as I can remember, making her more independent than she needed to be,” and there was the look of recognition that bold face lie was supposed to get. Walter was looking this way with a new look of respect, It took everything not to throw up right then and there. “So I get you man.”



“Finally somebody around here does,” he said. “When did the Order lose sight of the way things were meant to be.”



“I don't know, as far as I know the Order always been like this. It didn't even change after the witch trails in the northeast centuries ago.”



“They should have learned then.” This idiot was too easy to manipulate. Every one in the Order learned about the trails that hit them in this country, that a Makai Priest was caught using her abilities defending the same village that hanged her as a witch from a Horror. The Order did what they could to contain the damage of course. History still recorded the witch trails but their involvement was carefully removed after it happened. Still those poor woman who lost their lives because of a bunch of backwater superstitious nonsense. “You can't trust a woman to do the right thing,” Walter went on.



Or act like you expected her to in some cases, today was perfect proof of that. “Oh I know, but those ideas are quickly shot down, mostly by the women around here.”



“Oh I noticed,” Walter practically snarled. “And it starts at the top around here.” Okay that was a tad surprising considering Olivia gave him more leeway than she did anybody else around here. There had to be a way to use that to the proper advantage.



And this might be the right way. “Well the others are pretty set in they're ways.” Walter looked interested in where this was going, now to get him to take the bait. “They're not going to change no matter how hard you try to show them they're wrong.” Almost like it was planned a group of young children ran by not noticing them, “You need to make them understand when they're young. Before they twist their little minds to think like them.”



“They'll be keeping an eye on them,” Walter said, the idea firmly planted in his head now. “Make sure I don't get any time alone with them to show them the way things should be. Especially after that ***** got Shae away from me.”



“Nobody said revolutions were easy,” he nodded in agreement. Oh there were going to be several showers in the immediate future once this meeting was over. “And they got to start somewhere.”



“Right,” Walter gave a quick pat on the shoulder. Forget that initial shower it was straight into the lake to get the filth from the physical contact off, maybe burn this tunic at the first possible opportunity. “Nice to know I have one friend around here,” and he walked off.



Walter was out of sight in moments and it couldn't happen fast enough. “I just feel disgusted with myself right now,” but it was a necessary evil. That moron grabs they're attention then the easier it'll be to get away and get the stuff out of here to the buyer who should be at that spot in a few hours. Then it was all a matter of counting the money after the exchange was made.
 
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scikaiju

Guest
“I'm very impressed with how far you've come Shae,” Olivia had said. Not that Jules didn't notice the little side look she gave her after she found out exactly what she taught her and Nadia. But it was no worse than what Olivia showed her earlier, at least in Jules' opinion.”I do think I should mention what Jules said about practicing toward or in the house applies to what I showed you as well.”



“Of course ma'am,” Shae said with a nod. Shae wasn't her student, at least not officially, so Jules probably shouldn't be feeling as prood of her as she was. But she couldn't help it. Olivia was right, considering how she was when she first met her Shae had come a long way. She was going to have to remember to ask the other instructors around here to see if this was what she was like before Walter got his mits on her. A thought for later if there was time.



Right now there was a more pressing matter. “I don't want to do this to you kiddo,” she began.



She seemed to understand as she said, “Go in the other room while you talk with Olivia.”



“I'll try not to be long,” Jules told her. “But call me if anybody tries anything.”



“Oh Shae,” Olivia called out, “before I forget again. I found this scroll that I had forgotten about.” Going over to an old wooden bookcase she looked at a couple before finding the right one, “Here it is.” Walking over to the girl she handed it out to her. “It's about string magic,” and Shae perked up immediately at hearing that. Olivia just smiled as Shae took it,” I believe I heard you developed a interest in it. This might be helpful in your studies on that particular subject.”



“Thank you,” she said gratefully as she exited the room.



Jules watched her take a seat and start reading that scroll before she made sure nobody else was in the room or coming in before she closed the door to give the two of them a little more privacy. Then she looked at Olivia with a slight smirk, “You just happened to have a scroll in here about that?”



“I did,” Olivia said sounding offended that she would think otherwise. “I originally had it brought to me when a former student you're very familiar with took an interest in it. I've always tried to encourage a student's curiosity when they discover something that's not that common any more. And I was reorganizing things in here a few weeks ago when I found it again.” She started shaking her head slightly, “Walter mentioned Shae was wasting her time after finding some notes. Obviously he never saw any value in it so I kept looking for the right time to give it to her when he wasn't around.” Once again Jules wondered why it took so long for her to see why that pairing was a bad idea. But she kept herself from saying that thought out loud. Olivia explained why she put them together originally, and held stead fast to that idea despite the apparent protest from the others. Well the important thing was she saw the error now while the damage could be undone.



Now onto the other unpleasant business they had to discuss. “Emily told you everything?”



Losing a bit of that smile she had Olivia went, “She did. Part of me was still hoping that it wasn't one of the vault guards.” She went back to her desk, “But like Emily said it's looking more and more like one of them did it.” Leaning on that desk she softly added, “At least I don't have to keep the rest of those under me at arms length now, so there's that. Just the ones I had to trust the most.”



“Small victories Olivia,” she said. “Hold on to them before looking for the big one.”



Smiling sadly again she said, “Once again Vincent told me something similar once.” And once again Jules figured she was right because that did sound like something he would have come out with. Unfortunately that made her wonder what he would have considered a small victory when he was trying to expose everything.



“I don't mean to bring up any unpleasant thoughts dear,” Olivia said reading her. It only annoyed her because on how on the mark she was at that moment.



“It's fine,” she ended up saying, trying to make herself believe it at same time. Forcing herself to get on the task at hand she said, “Stuff did look like it had been moved though. Even though I marked a few items there's no guarantee the thief will go back for more. We should check the general area around there more closely. My gut feeling is that these items were taken to be sold off.”



“Emily mentioned something about that,” Olivia told her. Shaking her head again she went, “Sometimes you forget we still have the base needs like those not in the Order, and the same weaknesses. You can really forget that when you's picked to help guide the future.All those fresh, hopeful faces, you can get lost in it if you're not careful. It's why I always looked to a Priest who dealt with the reality of the situation on a regular basis when choosing a new instructor. Not to frighten the students, but to give them a idea of what they'll be dealing with once they leave here.” Getting herself out of this particular funk she walked over to that map they used earlier, “So were do you think we should concentrate our search? I'm going to ask the border guards to handle this, hopefully, at least Emily will understand my decision in this matter.”
 
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scikaiju

Guest
I'm sure they all will,” Jules told her, “especially after we catch the thief.” Then she studied the map. She should have asked if her and Emily could have taken this with them earlier. They could have found that sixth spot a bit sooner. Pointing to a section near that spot Jules said, “I'd start around here. There's a smaller chance of being caught moving them since I doubt the thief's dumb enough to walk out the front gates with the items.”



“Or that bold,” Olivia added. “It's not widely known yet but I instructed the guards at the gate to search any one leaving the training grounds.” Jules nodded as she studied the map a bit more, trying to think like the thief. Would he expect them to look around there and avoid the area entirely?.



Then a thought hit her. “Olivia,” she began, “those surveys Marcus found, did they indicate any other tunnels under the training ground? I'm just trying to figure out all the bases before I can say they're covered.”



“I had that same thought after the two of you left the first time with Shae,” she answered. “I went over what I had here looking for any records.” She went back to that bookcase and started searching it's contents again. No, she was moving things before pressing various spots on the wall. She soon found it as a panel fell open and pulled out an old scroll, “This goes back to when the vault was first built, I sent word to the Senate record keepers since that is were it would be kept, it arrived a half hour ago.”



“Anything dealing with a forbidden vault gets top priority I guess,” Jules commented with a slight smirk while Olivia carefully unrolled the scroll.



“I'd be surprised if it wasn't,” she told her with a snort. “There's a report of some sort of large cavern under the vault itself. There was some concern at the time of how structurally sound it would be. It doesn't say how they found it though. But if they found a way to it once.”



“Somebody could find a way to it again,” Jules finished for her. “Would there be any word of this cavern be in the archives here?”



“I already checked them,” she said as she rolled them up just as carefully as she undid it before placing it back in it's hiding spot. “And there's none that I can find. I still have the archivist looking though since they have the time and privacy.”



“I hope you told them it had top priority,” Jules said as she tried to add this particular piece to this puzzle.How would an underground cavern fit in this situation? If it fit at all? This was why she hated putting puzzles together without know what the picture was first.



Then Olivia went, “Oh I'm fool.” Jules looked at her wondering were that came from. “I'm a old fool. There's series of tunnels under the training grounds. They were built around at the same time as the grounds were built.” She went to a different bookcase as she kept talking, “Before all the protective talismans and seals were put in place. They were supposed to be used to get the students out of here in case a Horror attacked or the woods around us caught on fire or any number of disasters. We rarely use them for anything so I rarely remember them.”



“Do they lead outside?”, Jules asked. Now this was the puzzle piece she was looking for.



Olivia found what she was looking for and unrolled another map and showed it to her. “Yes they do. At a couple of locations. And before you ask all the guards know about them as part of their training since they would be taking the lead in case we did have to evacuate. If only I remembered these sooner.”



“You had a lot on your mind Olivia,” Jules told her. Looking back and forth between this new document and the old map on the wall she tried to think. Okay there this huge section around this building that was void of these tunnels. It was probably when this particular vault was rediscovered, so don't concentrate there she told herself. Instead she looked at where the old buildings were on the map on the wall. “Okay if those buildings were here,” she said to herself, “and the closest opening is...,” It was in the other direction than her initial guess. “Have them start around here,” she told Olivia. “It's still far away enough from the training grounds that the thief shouldn't have worried about being spotted by anybody else.”



“I'll do it right away,” she said. Without warning one of the guards burst in the room. Jules looked past her to make sure Shae was all right. She was fine but looked as confused as the two of them about what was going on. Olivia went to her once the shock wore off, “What is it Samantha?”



“Walter forced his way to some of the younger kids,” she said between breaths, “He keeps talking about showing them how things are supposed to be. He knocked out Caleb and Antony before anybody could stop him. The other guards are with him to make sure nothing happens to the kids so I came here to report it.”



“My god,” Olivia said as she held on to the desk for support.



“He had to hadve been put up to it Olivia,” Jules quickly said. It had to be the thief, it just had to be, trying to distract them by getting Walter to go this route. For Olivia's sake Jules hoped he was put up to it. Otherwise than he went over the deep end on his own. “I'll handle this,” she told her. To the guard she said, “Show me where they are.” She ran out of the building, vaguely aware Shae was following them. There was no time to argue the point, the faster this was dealt with the sooner she could get back to the finding the thief.
 
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scikaiju

Guest
“Damn it they moved,” the guard, Samantha, exclaimed when the spot came into view. Jules was almost irritated enough at the moment to almost snap at her that much was obvious. But she held her tongue, it wasn't her that was making her frustrated at that particular moment, it was this entire situation. At least Shae was smart enough to stand a few feet back to stay out of the way. Jules looked around trying to see where they went. If the guards had defused the situation word would have been sent word to Olivia by now and chances where they would have crossed path with the messenger by now. At least come across them bringing Walter to Olivia's office. Neither of those two happened. Since the latter didn't happen, there was a small possibility that a messenger took a different route to get to Olivia's but Walter being dragged away quietly, that wasn't going to happen.



The three of them looked around until all three of them spotted a crowd not that far off,” Over there,” Jules said as she ran toward that particular group, the rest following her. The closer they got the clearer it was that something was going on.



“Just let them go,” she heard somebody said.



Then they heard Walter, “I'm not going to hurt them. They just have to know how things really are before you fill their heads with that fantasy you tried to shove down my throat for years.” Jules, Samantha and Shae made their way through the crowd, Walter spotted her first and started frowning almost immediately. Then he spotted Shae before she could get behind her. “And there's the perfect example right there. I had her almost looking like a proper lady, now look at her,” he sneered. “Now look at her, dressed like a man. It's sickening.” Oh yeah it was possible he was close to snapping all right.



“I've been in what you call the real world,” Jules said stepping forward to draw his attention more. “Or did you forget about that? Or care at all? I'm not saying there are men out there who don't think like you, I've run across them plenty of times in my life.” She had to be careful here, he was close to the edge right now, more so than she originally thought, and he had his brush in his hand. But most of her attention was to the kids behind him. They looked unharmed but obviously scared. And Walter seemed to know when one was about to make a run for it as he kept turning to the group to keep them in place. She almost wished one would as it would grab Walter's attention long enough for them to grab and restrain him. But that wasn't happening. So her best play was to force him to pay attention to her. Now the tricky part, “But they were a very small minority of the regular humans I come across.”



“Don't listen to her lies!,” Walter yelled at the children.



“It's not a lie,” she shot back. “I hunt Horrors, I deal with people pretty much daily. I've seen their worst and their very best. And that attitude,” she pointed right at him,” is dying out. It had been for a long time. I feel sorry for you in a way, I really do. Your father was so behind the times and set in his ways that he passed those feelings onto you not realizing he was making you as screwed up as he was.”



“My father was a good man!” he exploded. Oh this was danger territory right here, depending on what he knew. “ He should have been sainted for dealing with my so called Mother. My Mother was weak that's why she died first. If she was stronger, like the two of us, than she would have survived.”



“Your father was a bully who unfortunately had power behind him, and was the only one who was killed in that situation,” she shot back. “And you probably joined in making her life miserable.” She made a hand motion behind her back to Shae, hoping she'd get the idea to keep back, because here it comes, “To the point a Horror possessed her.”



His face went slack, like he was in shock. Did he not know, after all this time? Glancing around Jules saw a few of the other look like they were trying to sneak around him. Keep his attention on you she told herself. “No,” he said shaking his head. “That's not what happened. Even if it was it just proves my point, if she a man she would been strong enough to resist...”



“That's now how it works,” she snapped at him just to shut him up for the moment. “Everyone here knows how it works,” she almost gave into the temptation to hold her arms out wide to gesture to everybody around them. But that would have made him notice those trying to sneak around him so she didn't. “It's been documented for centuries. I deal with it almost nightly. Horrors tempt those humans when they're at their lowest, it doesn't matter if they're a man or a woman. And they give in, because they want something better or the power to pay back those who wronged or tormented them.”



“Shut up!”, he yelled. Nope didn't look like he was aware of Olivia's findings on that particular matter. That was a miscalculation on her part. “My father showed me the right way. How to handle women like you who don't know their place.”
 
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scikaiju

Guest
Stepping closer to keep his attention she said, “Then do it.” Walter and the rest of them seemed shocked at her challenge. The other were close enough to start grabbing the children at any moment. Keep him focused in this direction. “Try and put me in my place, if you think you're man enough.”



“I'll beat the truth about your role in your mentor's plan out of you too,” he growled. Jules was already set for his charge. It was wild and reckless, like she expected. It almost made him more dangerous, unpredictable, throwing hay maker after ha ymaker at her so fast she couldn't do anything but dodge his blows at the moment. Luckily he seemed to forget about the Brush in his hands he was so enraged. And she made him chase her a little since the others were starting to get the kids to safety as others joined in with the rescue while he was distracted. Seeing the last child was taken away to safety Jules ran in and slid on the ground around him after that last punch attempt. She got up spinning around and lashing out with a foot that caught him flush in the side of the head. She just happen to catch sight of Shae and it looked like she wanted to jump in. Jules shook her head one before returning her full attention to Walter, while a bit staggered didn't exactly go down from the blow.



Smacking the side of his head a couple of times he said, “Is that all you got *****? Keep proving my point for me!”



“Just when I was starting to feel sorry for you,” she muttered, not caring if Walter heard her or not at that particular moment. Now she went at him throwing every combination that came to mind., from every angle possible. Walter took most of the initial assault, head rocking back several times, before he pushed her away.



“Fight me like a man!”, he bellowed. “Not any of that foo foo **** they teach the kids around here, making them soft like women.” Then his head rocked back again after a straight right from her. Okay that one felt better than it probably should have all things considered.



“That was like a man,” she taunted him. “Looks like you still can't handle it.” Then he tackled her to the ground out of the blue. Pinning her there as he raised a punch at her unprotected face. Jules stared at him the entire time, keeping eye contact. Letting him know she wasn't afraid of him in any way shape or form. He was smiling down at her up until he notice the look she was giving him. Enough to make him waver a bit. And enough that that she got her arms up and hit him in the throat. He started to choke a bit as he grasped at his neck. Jules pushed him off and came up swinging again. This time knocking him down with a hay maker of her own. This time he didn't try to get back up. Not even breathing all that hard she looked at Samantha and some of the other who converged on Walter in the next second. His arms held back by Samantha's staff they hauled him to his feet and tore the brush from his hand.



“Jules,” Shae said as she finally got closer, “Are you okay?”



“I'm fine kiddo,” she said as she stood up. “Are the kids all right?” She looked around and saw most of them were still around, they looked shaken but otherwise fine. That was her main concern, now she could breath a little either. “I'm absolutely fine.”



“You had to take a cheap shot!”, Walter coughed out. “You took a cheap shot because you knew you couldn't beat me in a fair fight.” This from the man head was being used as a punching bag a few moments ago. He was never going to learn was he?



“Oh would you shut up you big moron!” Jules blinked a few times as Walter's jaw dropped as they both realized that just came out of Shae. Sweet, shy, quiet Shae. She suddenly look unsure of herself once she realized the attention she was currently receiving.



“Did you all hear what she just said?”, Walter demanded as he struggled against them..



“I sure did,” Jules said with a stern hint in her voice. Shae cringed back a little, probably expecting to get a talking to. Instead of that Jules looked at her then gave her a small clap of approval. Walter started yelling again as they dragged him away. Yeah he was never going to be taken away quietly. Going up to Shae she told her, “You're finally showing a bit of backbone. But I am telling you right now if I ever find out that you lost it, even just a bit, I will be back to kick your butt from one end of this compound to the other and back again. Do I make myself clear?”



“Yes Jules,” she said, but couldn't help from smiling at the same time.



Putting a arm around her shoulders one more time she said, “Well I better get this tongue lashing from Olivia over with. I did a few things just now she's not going to be happy with. New lesson Shae, It's better to admit it when you mess up and face the consequences. Because it'll be worse for you in the long run if you don't. And I'm not joking about kicking your butt. I'll do it if I ever hear you reverted back a bit, I don't care how old you get.” Okay that was over with, now she could get back to locating the thief. He had to have put Walter up to that, he just had to.
 

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