A slumbering mass of gray fur barely moved, save for the occasional twitch of his cat-like ears. One wing lay limp over the fancy rouge hotel bed, while the other lay resting over the traditional "wing hammock," which consisted of a cushioned board jutting out from the wall. Beings like himself, it was a necessity, unless you felt like accidentally breaking your own wing in your sleep. Others, however, used it whatever ways they wanted, possibly as shelves to put belongings on.
Light filtered in from the windows which he purposefully kept the curtains open, so that he wouldn't need to set an alarm. It was a back-up plan, but fortunately for him, an unnecessary one. The plan worked, and his eyelids opened to reveal bright yellow-green eyes which contracted into slits in reaction. Closing them again, and giving a final discomforted twitch of his left ear, he shifted carefully into an upright position, sliding off the one wing as he did so before folding both.
He gave a gentle little stretch of all his appendages, standing up to grab a black shirt. He winced in slight discomfort as he covered his furry torso, but could do nothing about it until his wings could find the holes cut into the back. Finally, they did and he flapped them slowly to work out the muscles. He kept himself clothed for the most part, in case he needed to get up in the middle of the night. It was an occupational hazard.
He was going to regret not cleaning his fur better, but he'd regret not getting an early start even more. With that in mind, he moved through the dark wallpapered room, over to a generic table near the window. It and everything else in that room appeared to be cut of the same material, possibly even all from the same tree.
His analytical mind guessed from pattern and wood that it was manufactured by an independent carver, using flora from the enchanted forest of Myrle. The tree, from the shade of darkening beige, must have been losing its magical attachment inside the forest. It was nice to see people appreciating nature for what it was. Had it not been an independent, it might have been a more vibrant color and, by extension, his next case. After all, forcefully severing attachment to otherwise perfectly healthy enchanted tree was serious grounds for punishment.
On this particular table rested a card, protected by the leather of a Cyranos, a horse of special properties. Anything made from the hide hardens into a special material that can't be destroyed by most things, be it inclement weather or otherwise. Whatever is contained within items made from it are somehow perfectly preserved, even from time. Cyranos are difficult to find, though. Most live in hidden herds, probably knowing through instincts that they'd be hunted to extinction, otherwise. The card read:
"Name: Ortheos Hralisth
Detective Agency: P.E.O.P.L.E.
The picture accompanying it wasn't the most flattering, but Ortheos gave a sad smile as he glanced over it. Even mere weeks ago, when this was taken and issued, he was the bright-eyed kit that hadn't even taken on his first job. If only he could talk to his younger self, he'd certainly give himself a lot to think about before taking on the responsibilities of others. A low rumble vibrated in his vocal cords, a growl which indicated he wasn't feeling the best, but these were exact reasons that he needed to make his way over to the next case.
His superiors had briefed him, already, and sent him to this hotel. Next to his identification rested a Cyranos folder, containing confidential papers pertaining to the dead body that would be found in a matter of hours. Ortheos couldn't tell you how his superiors could know what he'd need and when, but it did bother him that they could never do anything to stop it personally. For whatever reason, they were bound by their gifts and that was why they even built P.E.O.P.L.E.
Planetary Educational Organization of Protection and Law Enforcement was a school, built right before these times became trying, filled with vile crimes and acts of malice. It was headed by founder Helorvu D'estfasir, and took in people like Ortheos. Orphan children with talents and potential for tracking down those would perform such acts, people who needed a reason to go through life, or adults who would otherwise have nowhere to go.
Ortheos could recall a dark time in his life, around 13 years ago. He was becoming a teenager. No one wanted to adopt an angsty teenager, especially a temperamental Tomcat. In despair, he fought with the other orphans over small things, fueled with jealousy and territorial behavior. Then, finally, he was brought into P.E.O.P.L.E.'s custody. He was placed with a family that could handle his adolescent Felavi tendencies, both parents employed by P.E.O.P.L.E., and he rose ecstatically to the top of his class.
Thinking about himself, he couldn't even recognize the cat he once was. Both back then, and before his first case had closed.
He retrieved his nutrition tablet. A small, brown square in production by a company owned by the school, designed to fit everything necessary in any species' diet in a single bite. One of the many things still a mystery to even him, but he could feel it enter and wake up his systems. His eyesight and hearing sharpened instantly, and for a brief second, he felt ready to take on the world.
Grabbing his ID and folder, he pocketed the former and threw everything he had on him haphazardly into a bag, except the folder. Bag slung over his shoulder, he left the hotel room and checked himself out through orders from his superiors. Now out in the open, he noticed a familiar spirit animal encircling him.
It was an ethereal ferret-looking creature with long, floppy dog ears, and a long tail. The tail was never more than a blur, though, because it never really stopped moving even when the creature had. It was known simply as a Tether, because it was his tie to his partner, his way of reaching her, even if they should be on opposite ends of the planet.
"Morning, Sleepy Kerna." He teased, his canine's bared mischievously. His eyes scanned in case people passing by were looking at him strangely. Tethers could only be seen by those they followed unless special means were used, to minimize the potential that ties could be broken by outside forces. Although, it could become awkward situations when talking to their other halves. Tethers were another rare resource that P.E.O.P.L.E seemed to always have an infinite supply of. Well, maybe not endless, but they always seemed to be able to get as many as they needed. It was no wonder there were plenty of negative remarks going around by those who weren't taken under P.E.O.P.L.E.'s wings, so to speak.
"Unless you want a nice, little balding spot of scorched fur, I wouldn't call me that again," spoke a voice that emitted from the Tether. Like the fact it couldn't be seen, no one else besides Ortheos could hear it, either. Ortheos' closed eyes gave a flutter at hearing the threat. Despite the words' meaning, he couldn't help enjoying the voice pattern itself, envisioning its owner behind darkened vision. He gave a light wheeze of amusement at the empty threat.
"Yeah, good luck actually managing to burn me. You know I outmaneuver you any day of the week, birdbrain." Ortheos teased. He probably shouldn't have, considering that claim was just as empty. He could only imagine the death glare Kerna was sending at her own Tether.
"You know these things are supposed to follow you into the hotel room, too, right? What if I needed to reach you?"
"You would have flown here personally, burst into my room in the middle of the night, and gave me the chewing out of a lifetime. It's better this way. No one can steal my Tether or try to trap me into summoning you here." Of course, it was more than just that. It was also a matter of the fact that having 24-7 access to talk with Kerna would keep him from getting a proper amount of rest. He'd rather have every single individual strand of fur pulled than admit that to Kerna. She'd never let him live it down.
"Do you want to meet up? Compare notes? You know having an outside pair of eyes helps in a case."
"Can't do that. I have nothing to compare with. Maybe later. I have somewhere I have to be, anyway."
"Sure, sure. Did anyone ever tell you that you're no fun, anymore?"
"Yeah, but you're a terrible judge of character, so who could trust you?"
"You just wait until I catch you. I'll show you the best fire remark."
"Like I said, you couldn't catch me, if you had a full millennium. I'm not worried."
The majority of conversation between them was filled with similar insults and teasing jokes, though nothing that really bothered one or the other. It was merely to fill time, until Kerna cut him off or vice versa. Finally, Ortheos flapped hard and flew up into the air. He used a combination of flying and high jumps to scale the largest mountain on the planet.
Giant's Mountain was a treacherous, intimidating cluster of rock and snow. Only giants lived there. They had a natural adaptation against the cold and thin air. Ortheos and his higher up had to rely on special equipment. His collar now around his neck would regulate his body temperature and breathing, while preventing the muscle pain problems most would normally experience from climbing up too fast. He hated the idea of having to at all, and he could tell he'd be feeling effects of the journey later, though his equipment would help him through the worst of it. Nothing to do about that, now.
"What have you got for me, Alpha?" Ortheos asked, respectfully, being not name, but a term of authority. He was following a pixie of a magenta hue. Smaller than his pupil, it could have easily been lost to his senses, if it wanted to be. Alpha was a girl of as few words as possible. She had segmented wings and pink hair in loose strands around her shoulders though they barely passed them. Alpha could talk, though, but most would find it difficult to hear. Fortunately, Ortheos could.
"This. You're the promising rookie, so you tell me?" Alpha mumbled, annoyed that he would waste their time. Ortheos took a breath. They stopped before a naga, motionless and lifeless, with silver and bronze scales lining his body. The cobras hood was open, clearly showing signs of distress, but his eyes were clouded over unnaturally. Ortheos had the file. Alpha was right, he was wasting valuable time, especially if Alpha was going to make him work his literal tail off.
"Isthmantil Noagis. Head of the biggest corporation in the Yvethren District, The Venom Fang, located just 20 minutes from here. That's taking into account that half of that time is just to get up here and drop off the body."
"Signs of this not being a natural death?"
"The eyes are dead giveaway of this being anything but natural. A Naga's eyes only cloud over like this when they take in the poisonous substance of Urube's Tears, a liquid that suspiciously is near identical to the one he consumes every morning, promptly at daybreak almost ritualistically. However, that liquid takes a flavor unique to its consumer. The only way this could have been possible is that whoever is responsible knew him very well, otherwise the difference in flavor would have tipped him immediately off. His wife has a lot to gain. I'll start there."
"Good. Your assessment is strong. Your instincts are good. Carry on." Ortheos didn't move right away. He took a deep breath, spinning towards Alpha. He then spoke further.
"Alpha, I don't know if you should be assigning me anything. I made a mess of my last case."
The pixie snorted suddenly, and Ortheos' tail twitched unhappily at being scoffed. The action didn't last long. "Rookie, you've had all of one case. If everyone quit when they had a bad break, there wouldn't be anyone to do this job. Now, is that all?"
"No. This was obviously the body dump location for a reason. They must have realized that the giants are lazy in nature for scavenging whatever died within the last day or so, and have a particular fondness for snake meat. They might not have realized the Tears could harm whatever poor beast consumes Isthmantil's body. You'll need to get a detail to come pick it up and make sure no giant happens across it until then.
"Not bad, Rookie. Don't ruin yourself over a bad past. Learn from the experience." Alpha insisted encouragingly, before Ortheos nodded. Right. Learn. If only it were that simple to move past.
His work pulled him away from the mountain and over to the Yvethren Distinct. He was feeling a light burning sensation in every muscle and breathing was difficult, but from what he could be experiencing instead, this wasn't too bad. He made good time on reaching the mansion. Not a testament to his skills, it wouldn't be too difficult to tell who was responsible, as long as he talked to everyone the victim knew as promptly as time would allow. Yet, he didn't figure on things to wrap up quite as well as they were about to.
A brief tapping of 4 short knocks was all it took to bring another naga to the door. Ortheos' eyes stared harshly, trying to keep his emotions and a growl in check.
"Would you be the wife of one Isthmantil Noagis?" He questioned, trying to overshadow insecurity with confidence. He kept his ID visible to her so she would realize his questions would need to be taken seriously.The naga slid backward in surprise, eyes showing shock at anyone coming back to her. Ortheos' ears flattened back, but she regained composure.
"I should have known. Issy had a feeling you'd come. He told me to give this over to whoever did." She offered, retrieving papers from a black desk locked by a key that laid flat on its surface. Ortheos blinked, surprised by the turn of events. "I think he hoped it would see me kept out of trouble, but I know it's every bit my fault and I'm ready for the consequences."
Ortheos took the papers gingerly and read them as she continued on. "Issy was troubled, you see. He was haunted by his success and hated what he was becoming. He was miserable and just wanted his existence to be wiped clean. I didn't like how much he'd been suffering the last few years, so I agreed to help him. Most of this was his idea. I don't know much about any of these sorts of things, but I carried everything out.
"Getting him to the mountain where he told me to leave him wasn't easy. That took me all night, more strength than I knew I had, and I felt like I was breathing through a tube the whole time. I still do. The pain all through me is unbearable, but I digress, that's not the point."
Ortheos sighed, easing up a bit, but she could still be lying. The papers could be fake. However, it did make sense, and the writing did seem to check out. Nothing seemed out of place upon analyzing another letter that Isthmantil had wrote, cross-referencing to the letter explaining his death and issues in life. "Look, I'll need to do some more investigating to check your story. If it all seems legit, then you probably would see much over the death Isthmantil. However, there will be a great fine over the potential harm of the giants and for trying to cover it up like this. You should have just turned yourself in."
"I know. I'm sorry."
Ortheos shook his head, but added those papers to the folder on Isthmantil. This wasn't how he expected the day to go, but it seemed as though everything had figured itself out in the end. It almost made him wonder what P.E.O.P.L.E. even needed him for. Maybe the next case would prove more dire than this one, but he supposed they couldn't all be life and death. It didn't mean the next one wouldn't.