*Thinking that one day my story might be famous, it fills me with determination.
The middle-aged man kept on staring at the smoke-white hair boy with a scarlet fox sleeping across his shoulder sitting on the opposite side. The boy wore a stylish white and blue shirt under his grey jacket, a pair of dark brown shorts and orange slippers. The boy couldn't take any more of the man's gaze, he glared back at him, annoyed. He diverted his attention towards the passing scenery of Astral, the capital of Speir, the floating world. He adjusted the red-coloured pendant with a heart-shaped symbol down his neck to make it more comfortable. The monorail took a brisk turn to the right, causing the boy to avert his eyes away from the sunlight piercing through the window.
"Yggdrasil Academy," an automated voice announced as the monorail arrives at the destination of all the freshmen on board. The boy swiftly alighted the monorail and sauntered towards the colossal gate. Anyone would have marvelled at the ancient wall gate constructed from the strongest material in the realm and forged by the most skilful masters. It has endured the test of time for it had not failed its purpose for several millennia as had the gigantic, albeit dormant, golem knights at each side of the gate. Yet, the boy wasn't amazed by the legendary creation. Unlike the freshmen that kept taking pictures of the south gate, he just walked into the school grounds.
He wasn't planning to get sunburned, so he strolled under the shades of the large trees planted on the right side of the road. There was an express lane that a large proportion of the student body used to reach the school in a short time, but he had plenty of it, and so enjoyed the view.
"Hinoko, wake up. We're here." The fox slowly woke up. He pointed his finger to his left, gesturing at the large grassy field. She let out a whispering cry to express her excitement within only their earshot. They soon turned their sight to the left. It was an open aquarium. He spotted a few people playing with the aquarium's animals on the levitating tiles. The fox shrank her body even further before she rose to the crown of his head. He didn't find a fox resting atop of him weird, therefore, he just adjusted the long hair messed up by her movement to cover his left eye more properly.
At times he doubted the words of those who came back from visiting the academy, thinking they were exaggerating the truth. He was wrong. If he didn't know any better, he would've thought he was walking into a royal palace. The entrance, in concert with the exquisite design and magic carving, denoted that Yggdrasil had been an influential institute for scholars and students alike since forever ago. Ambling past the classrooms down the entrance, the fox raised her head up to take a peek at the ceiling.
The hallways are of alchemical wonder. Anyone looking up from below a floor could see through every hallway directly upwards except the top ceiling as if the floors didn't exist. Anything above the hallway would become invisible, but those looking downwards would only see their reflection on the marble floor. The classrooms were an exception thus all of them could be observed from the ground floor. He strode through a short corridor between two classrooms, then another horizontal hallway, another corridor, another hallway and finally arrived in front of the cylindrical auditorium.
The opening ceremony was only a few minutes away, hence there weren't many newcomers like him entering the doorway concurrently. He followed those in front of him into the door below the high staircases to the left, a little further from the auditorium entrance. The elevators in the narrow corridor hardly have spaces for five persons, but the place wasn't crowded at all. When it's his turn, he blinked only once and the elevator already made it to the fifth floor. He still had to go round to the other side as all the nearer seats have been taken. He sat in the last row with no one beside him, impatiently awaiting the ceremony to start.
"Welcome to Yggdrasil Academy. My name is Ann Miller, the vice principal. Without further ado, the opening ceremony shall now begin." The lights went out and a hologram of the exact replica of the vice principal along with other important looking people standing in front of a tree was presented at the center of the floor he is in. Ann, the elegant woman in her thirties, commenced her speech in a modulated voice, which the boy found it boring and completely ignored the ceremony entirely. He pushed his index finger and his middle finger to each other to activate his Circulum. A screen appeared in front of him originating at the ring on his middle finger. He tapped the book app on the screen to read the chapter where he left off.
"... And that concludes today's opening ceremony." A round of applause was heard. He switched off the device immediately, preparing to leave. "Please remain in your seats. There is still one more thing I have yet to announce. The daily function of the Academy heavily relies on the Circulum. Hence, for those who do not possess one, the academy will grant them their personal Circulum. I would strongly advise not to lose sight of it as you will be punished severely if you do. For those who currently possess a personal Circulum, please place your hand which the Circulum resides on the desk in front of you; for those who don't, they shall receive one from the Academy." He did as she instructed, laying down his left hand on the previously-not-present desk.
"Please stay calm during the installation process," Tiny robotic arms jutted from the desk performing rapid, intricate procedure on the ring, "The process integrates a unique chip into the Circulum. It allows students to access various 'services' within the school ground. It also includes a guide to ensure students can understand the new functions incorporated into their Circulum's system. Last but not least, students must NEVER let an outsider obtain their Circulums. They will be expelled for failing to comply. That is all." The procedure was completed just as the vice-principal dismissed the students.
He traced his way back to the station, although it took an extra hour to get into the monorail when everyone was doing the same thing simultaneously. Not only that, it was so crowded he nearly couldn't exit when it arrived at his destination some five minutes later. He now stood before his dorm, or rather a really high, fancy-looking hotel. The fox crawled down to his shoulder and rest on it again. He walked past the sensor glass door and a busy scene welcomed his arrival. The lobby wasn't grand, but it has some class. People were standing around talking, or the luckier ones get to sit down on the comfy sofas and chatting with their friends.
"Hey, listen. I managed to train a ton of bugs I caught during the holidays and I have the perfect plan to use them. I'll tell you all about it later."
"Dude, you got a girlfriend?! That's great! You finally found a way to escape the friendzone! As a reward, I'll let you have some fun with my latest mechanical wonder~~No spoilers, just wait and see."
"Ya, I totally watched that new show! The main character is so awesome! I mean, he can literary one kick any enemy in his path!"
"Yes, I fixed the 1AD18U6 model drone we looted. We can take it for a spin whenever you want."
"Hehehe, tonight I'm gonna use my shadow Ingenium to do some stuff. No, not perverted stuff!"
"Seriously, what is wrong with the haters keep hating fandoms? Just because a community likes a particular thing while you don't doesn't mean they can't have some fun with it. Urgh, I'm too tired to argue with you anymore."
That was some conversations he heard while heading towards the furthest elevator. Besides the elevator were two large information counters with four or five staff in each, answering the non-stop questions of the new students. Along with the others, he waited for the elevator to descend to the ground floor. The elevator was larger than any elevator he saw before, it could fit around thirty people and still left with extra spaces. He stood at the side of the elevator to avoid as much contact as possible. The button of the floor he was going has been pushed by other first years, giving him a chance to memorize the faces he would be seeing the whole year.
There are multiple floors for each year's students. He managed to get the lowest floor, hence it hadn't been five seconds before stepping out of the elevator. He glanced at the number of the room just left to the elevator, then the next before turning to the other direction. After walking past four rooms to the right of the elevator, he halted in front of the fifth. A few sealed boxes of his belongings were laying on the ground beside the door. He took a deep breath and placed his hand on the recognition pad next to the door. He saw a brown-haired boy similar to his age wearily leaning against a stack of boxes identical to the ones outside, perhaps from the fatigue of carrying those boxes inside by himself as he entered the room. Despite the brunette was facing the door, he was surprised by the stranger's presence and immediately straighten his body. He shyly stretched out his hand and introduced himself (though he is curious about the fox on the expressionless boy's shoulder).
"Hi. Err.. My name is Elliot, but you can call me Eli. Nice to meet you!" He regretted saying that instantly because his new roommate didn't say a word, just coldly examining him. The brunette's lavender purple eyes, his auburn bang that reaches just below his eyes, the sweet yet slightly frightened smile coupled with the red scarf round his neck gave the impression of a timid and adorable animal. The birch sweater, pristine noir jacket and the stylish dark blue jeans on his lean body denoted he came from an upper-class family.
"My name's Reynard. Call me Rey," He then pointed the fox, already landed on the ground, "This is my familiar, Hinoko. She's not a summon, so she'll be living in this room together with us. You wouldn't mind, would you?" While expanding her body to her original size (a little larger than average pup), she strutted towards Eli. Eli, in response, crouched down to stare at her. When she was close enough, Eli attempted to pet her. To Rey's big surprise, Hinoko let Eli pet her head without any resistance. An innocent smile appeared on Eli's face like a child went to a zoo and caress a fox for the first time. However, it was but for a moment. She escaped from his hand, scampered through the room and sprung up to the desk below the window opposite to the entrance.
"I don't mind. She's cute." He answered whilst standing up.
"She never casually let strangers pet her unless she trusts them. I apologize for my attitude before. I hope we can get along well, Eli." He offered his hand to Eli.
"Me too, Rey." He grabbed and shook Rey's hand. This handshake marked the beginning of their friendship. Rey released his grip before heading towards the bunk bed at the front right corner.
"I'll take the top." He removed his jacket and threw it on the upper bed. Eli did the same, plus the scarf and at the lower bed, silently agreeing to Rey's decision. He couldn't decide which bed to sleep in anyway.
Rey strode towards the door, exited the room, used the dated levitating spell on the boxes, transported them into the room and asked, "You got a seal ring on your left hand, you're not a human are you?" Eli's heart went cold. He didn't expect Rey to ask that question this fast.
"... No. I'm not." He stifled his anxiety; his mind racing to find a perfect excuse for the next inevitable question. He stood stiffly facing the bed, closed his eyes and prayed for the best to come.
"Make me a list of the things I shouldn't do while you're around and the items you can't get close to. I'd like to save myself from as much trouble as I could"
…Hmm? Rey didn't ask about what his race is? Eli opened his eyes and turned to his back. He saw Rey settled down the boxes in front of the second receptacle, which was left to the desk Hinoko is currently sitting on because he already reserved the first one (by his boxes).
"Remember to hand it to me before the night rolls by." Eli's tears were on the verge to escape his eyes. This was the first time anyone didn't do-asking what is his race. He was so scared he would lose a friend again.
"The ring is pretty powerful. I'm basically no different from a normal human when I'm wearing it." Although Rey might never know, he will always be grateful for Rey's incuriosity.
"That's good to hear." He was oblivious to all the drama Eli was having behind him.
For the next hour or so, they unloaded all their personal things from the boxes into their respective receptacle. Both of them didn't bring much stuff as the dorm has already prepared most of the items they need to go on their daily lives. From the top view of the room, the entrance is located at the bottom left and the small square that covers the area directly in front of the door allows them to place their shoes. After the small square, two receptacles lies straight in line against the left wall. Right to the further receptacle is the window and Rey's desk below it. The bunk bed sits on the top right corner of the room, below it is the fox's new home. In the middle of the room, there is one large sofa and an adjustable table; a holographic projector on the ceiling in front of the adjustable table to watch movies or play games. Not to forget wind magic circle that controls the temperature (plus wind) of the room and light magic circle which control the brightness of the room. Their switch is beside Eli's table, against the bottom wall and to the right of the entrance. More to the right bottom corner is a fridge, at the side of it is a door leading to the smaller, partitioned room.
Past the door is a small kitchenette, equipped with basic tableware, a tiny stove, a few kitchen tools, a water dispenser, a beverage maker, a dish rack, a microwave and a sink. The dorm provides meals, thus the kitchenette does not serve a great purpose to hungry students save for a few special occasions. In front of the kitchenette is the door connected to the washroom. Once enter the door, a basin can be seen attached to the left wall while the right has a door to the toilet; directly to the front is the bathroom.
"Ha~ Finally done. I'll go take a shower now. Do you wanna join me for dinner later? I heard that the buffet is really nice~" Eli placed the empty boxes beside the door and asked.
"Sure." Rey was almost finished setting up Hinoko's living space along with her things.
Half an hour later, the three of them, after a refreshing bath, are now standing in front of the expansive cafeteria bustling with people. Teenagers of various races can be seen eating and chattering. Both of them take turns to grab their dinner once Rey spotted an unoccupied table for two. Eli went first. Rey stole a glance at his plate and glad that he wasn't a seafood lover. When it's Rey's turn, Eli was astonished by the amount of food stacking up on the larger plate. It turns out half of those was meant for the fox, which she gobbled down all of it less than ten minutes. Eli assumed only he and Rey can saw Hinoko given nobody batted an eye to the fox eating on their cramped table. However, when some older students walked by their table, a few questions were fired. Rey replied with words incomprehensible for Eli. He couldn't quite follow what they are saying even though he understood the language. He managed to grasp a few keywords which his mind interpreted it to "the older students can perceive Hinoko because they have training in Source detection."
When they returned to their room bellies full, the sky, as of now, has been painted in darkness. Rey immediately jumped up to his bed using the same levitating spell with the fox on his shoulder. He sat against the wall and resumed to read his book. As for Eli, he did a few weird exercises before brushing his teeth and changed into his pajamas. He pressed a button on the black, rectangular machine on his desk to activate it. A large holographic screen and keyboard were projected from a hole on the machine instantaneously. He slid the cover on top of the machine open, revealing a solid-like black coloured liquid. He touched the substance with his index and middle finger then proceed to wipe that substance on his mouth and both his ears. Next, he dipped all his fingers on that black substance, which will then allow him to physically touch the opaque holographic screen and keyboard while his right hand also functions as the mouse. He sat down, 'clicked' the bookmarked website WeTube and then 'clicked' on the first video with a humorous title he saw. The audio of the video can only be heard by him; when he laughs, no sound was heard by Rey.
Three hours later, Eli decided to call it a day. He switched off the black machine and ambled towards the kitchenette. Rey, dressed up in pajamas, was leaving the washroom while he cleaned his hands in the sink, along with Hinoko on his shoulder. Hinoko leapt into her pet basket and went to sleep when Rey walked back to his bed.
"Erm...I'm going switch off the light right now if you don't mind," Eli asked because Rey was still reading his virtue book after returning to his bed. Rey agreed verbally. Although the magic circle was switched off, there was still light in the room originating the screen in front of Rey. He pressed a few buttons on the screen and it disappears. He then rubbed his middle finger over his closed eyes. This way, it allows Rey to read his book without disturbing Eli. Once he finished the book, he did the same eye-rubbing as before and powered off the Circulum. He lied down, his hand on his forehead and closed his eyes.
The absence of a sensation on his right hand was the first sign. He raised his hands and, sure enough, his Circulum is missing. He calmed himself and went down the bed. The sunlight has partially entered the room and Eli's hands were in plain sight. The seal ring's disappearance on his hand, observed by Rey, was the second indication that something ominous was afoot. He strode to Eli's desk and opened the top drawer. He remembered last night, before switching off the light, Eli left his Circulum into that very drawer where it still lies. He bolted to the door, hold Eli's Circulum with the tip of his fingers, aimed it at the recognition pad, opened the door, threw it back onto its owner's desk and stepped out the room. The first glance he took to the right revealed a suspicious person wearing a hoodie grabbing something from the potted plant placed at the corner.
Just as the person stood up and shove unknown items into his/her pocket, he/she turned his/her's head at Rey's direction. The suspicious person promptly fled towards his/her back. Rey chased after the hooded person in barefoot, but when he made it to the corner, the person has disappeared and the elevator down the hallway has gone up. He sprinted to the elevator to check which floor that person went. However, he was too late. Frustrated for not being fast enough, he stomped back to the potted plant in hope of obtaining any clue left behind by the hooded person. Except for a bug leg he picked up and held it in his hand, nothing notable was seen. He was halfway back to his room when Eli busted out from it in a paranoid manner. Rey rushed to the boy, who was on the verge of tearing out and pushed him into the room. The door automatically slid back and Eli began to speak frantically.
"Rey! The ring, my, my seal ring! It's gone! It's gone! What am I going to do?" Eli broke down and went full panic mode.
"Calm down. How long can you still maintain your body in human form?" Rey grabbed him on his right shoulder and look directly into his eyes.
"I don't-I don't know! I've never taken it off since the day I first wore it! Wha-wha-"
"Stay in the bathroom. I'll find your ring. Hinoko will guard the room, call her when you need something. Take a deep breath, and go to the bathroom." At this point, a few of Eli's tears has made it out of his eyes. He sniffed a few times before walking to the bathroom. Hinoko was awakened when Rey chased the mysterious individual. She heard Rey's order and began to patrol around the room. Rey quickly changed into his casual clothes, he couldn't afford to waste any more time while time might be running out.
He first thoroughly searched the entire room while asking Hinoko to sense whether if magic or Ingenium was used in the room. The scarlet fox told him what she found and Rey managed to find a piece of clue with his keen sight. There was a bug's leg lying on the ground, a little further from the bed. It was the same bug leg he saw in the potted plant. Rey took the chance to ask Eli if he remembered anything odd happened during sleep while on his way to grab some toilet paper and wrapped both the bug legs in it. Eli vaguely recollected him hearing a buzzing sound while sleeping. He thought it to be a bug's and found it annoying, therefore he waved his hand a few times to get rid of it. After that, the sound vanished and he went back into deep slumber. He was barely conscious at the time and that was all he could recall. Nevertheless, Rey now has some lead to follow.
1) Whoever that stole his Circulum and Eli's seal ring had to have the knowledge of the time when the both of them fell asleep. He or she must have surveillance over the two of them without the three of them noticing.
2) They weren't the only one that got their rings stolen. Before Eli jumped out from the room and attracting his attention, he saw students like himself standing in front of the elevator, discussing something in a nervous manner, indicating others have fell victim too. He wasn't positive if students of other ages were involved as well.
3) Freshman like himself couldn't have done it. This wasn't as obvious as it seems. This "hotel dorm" is only one of the eight in this city. Every dorm, each taking a position of the Cardinal Direction, represents the eight worlds connected to Speir, the world located at the centre, in the realm of Yggdrasil. In order to encourage students in Speir to interact with students came from the other eight worlds, although three of them are completely cut off from the wider realm. The Academy, indirectly controlling the dorms, forced the students, native or not, to move from dorm to dorm yearly in clockwise. Thus, taking the different styles of each dorm into account, no one can perfectly know the layout of a dorm as it does not allow students to enter the building until a new year starts. But, students from other dorm can visit their friends or siblings in another dorm, leaving the possibility of only older students can perform this feat.
3) It is highly doubtful the perpetrator himself or herself committed the stealing. Not only will this risk being caught red-handed, it will vastly reduce the efficiency of the thief to steal every Circulum, according to Rey's assumption. He heard of these incidents happening, although he didn't put much thought into it as he was confident in his and Hinoko's ability. He was proven wrong harshly. He didn't expect something like this happening on the first night, neither do the others. Older students must've had preparation for these kinds of situation hence the thief might not go after them. Then what method was used to detect the rings' location and took it? The only thing that can be certain is whatever the method used, it cannot differentiate the Circulum from a seal ring, which both have similar sizes.
4) The motive behind this is nothing short of simplicity. The Circulum might have excellent defence mechanism which will lock out anyone trying to hack it. However, if someone is skillful enough, he or she can wipe the system clean and resell it to others. If not, the internal systems and the materials used to build it can be sold with a decent amount of money. This, however, raises more questions. Where does the thief hide the stolen rings? Is it still in the building or has it already been sold to someone else? Though it is not of the utmost importance as long as he catches the perpetrator. He can make him or her bear the responsibility of returning the rings to their rightful owner. Besides, there are hundreds of places the thief can hide his or her stash at in this building, the rings might have been smuggled out before anyone can find it.
5) The suspicious person he saw earlier is definitely the thief or is that they have some relationship because the bug leg in the room and in the potted plant is identical.
With those five clues on hand, Rey trod into the hallway once more, where his attention was drawn by a large commotion coming from the elevator on the right. A large group of freshman was surrounding two individuals in front of the elevator. They seemed to be older students and are arguing. Rey approached the crowd and this is what he heard,
"Were you the one that stole the first year's Circulum, Alan?!" The words came out from the mouth of a long haired girl. Her lithe body was slightly shaking in anger.
"Is this how you greet an old friend, Ada? Accusing me of a crime I didn't commit just as we meet?" A blonde with fashionable clothing stood in front of the long haired girl. A group of four were right behind the blonde and a few steps away from the elevator.
"The first thing you do when you walked out from the elevator was trying to sell Circulums to the freshmen that just had theirs stolen! You knew about that beforehand because you stole it!"
"Let me get this straight. You, without any visible proof, are saying I stole the Circulums because I heard news of the first year's got their Circulum stolen and tried to solve their problems? You know what the Academy will do if they found out students lose sight of their 'precious' chip. I'm the good guy here, Ada. I sell them cheaper Circulum and help them set up their profile in a way that the Academy wouldn't notice. And before you say anything Ada, I got those chips legitimately. I bought them at the Academy. After all, who wouldn't want cheaper alternative when they wanted to install the chips in their latest version of the Circulum after replacing the older version ones the Academy gave?" The arrogant bastard remarked. His slim rectangular glasses made the smug look on his face even more arrogant. His voice was familiar to Rey. Somewhere in his mind, he knew where he heard the bastard's voice. With no better option at hand, Rey proceeded to place his right hand on his head after ensuring he is not in anyone's sight.
"Is this what you have become? A liar? A sly businessman?" Her voice softens, "After what happened last year, haven't you learn your lesson? What happened to you? Why have you changed so much from a kindhearted boy to- "
"Enough! You don't know anything about me! Now move before I get angry." He tried to push away the girl but she resisted.
"I will not move from this spot until the culprit has been found!" She stretched her arms wide, preventing him from stepping forward any further. The blonde glared at her in burning rage. His angry face slowly transformed into a grin.
"You want to know who did it so badly? Then I'll tell you. It's-"
"You. It was the ugly glasses guy who did it." Everyone immediately turned their heads toward Rey while Rey just stood behind layers of bystanders emotionlessly.
"Did you just call me 'ugly glasses guy'?" A cross-popping vein* appeared on his forehead, "Are you asking for a beating, kid?!" The blonde was ready to sprint all the way to Rey and punch him in the face.
*[Note: For those who don't know, this 'thing' appeared on anime/manga characters' head whenever they are angry. It is merely an expression here.]
"Yes. It will save my effort to make you confess you stole the Circulums." The crowd already cleared a path between the accused thief and Rey. The blonde disregarded the girl in front of him and shoved her backwards. He strutted his way towards Rey and stopped when Rey's head was forced to move upwards to align his sight with the blonde's.
"You got guts to say that, kid. I should warn you to not accuse someone without proof."
"I have the proof, but do YOU have the guts to accept a bet? If I can show everyone here that you are the culprit, I win."
"Why not, since you are going to lose anyway. You will be my underling until you graduate if you lose." He smirked.
"If I win, you will tell me where you hide the Circulums." Rey remained emotionless.
"You are way over your head, kid."
"Thank you for the compliment, Alan." The blonde almost lash out at Rey as Rey really was getting on his nerve.
"Now, would you be so kind to follow me to a less crowded place? Just in case you decide to run away from our bet." Rey finally had a change in expression after arriving the city. It was a wicked grin. He knows the blonde was going to fall for it no matter what, so he started to waddle back the way he came. Alan's friends followed him, then Ada, then the clueless newcomers. They stopped just right outside Rey's room. Rey swirled to his back in order for their eyes to concentrate on each other.
"You see, my roommate, Eli, had his seal ring stolen instead of his Circulum. His Circulum was placed in his desk drawer while mine was on my finger. This proves whatever method was used, it cannot clearly detect the location of the ring despite being able to know when the both of us fell asleep. This explained why someone could call for our dear dorm staff here to unlock those who were stuck inside their room with a master key." Rey was referring to Ada. He saw her at the information counter yesterday and the moment where she was unlocking doors with the keycard in her hands before Eli went bursting out from the room. "But the question here, is how do you know people found out the Circulums are stolen?"
"I didn't. I was looking for someone on this floor but as soon as I stepped out from the elevator, Ada here decided to accuse me of something I didn't do."
"Is that so?"
"Again with the accusation? Cut to the chase kid, I don't have all day to spend with you losers." A moment of silence filled the hallway. Before Rey continued, he removed the insect legs he discovered earlier from his pocket and lay it on his palm.
"This is what I found. One was found lying on the ground beside the bed in my room and the other in the potted plant behind me; as for the latter, we will get to that much later. My roommate mentioned he was briefly woken up by a sound which resembled that of a bug's. He didn't realize he hit the bug while trying to chase the sound away with his hand. This leg likely belongs to the bug which stole the rings. A bug is small, hardly detectable and probably has the capability to lift a ring or two."
"If that's the case, you should be going after Daniel, the self-proclaimed 'Bug King'. He has a bad reputation himself and he certainly has the ability to control bugs. You lose, kid." A victorious smile surfaced.
"I wasn't finished," Rey said in a mildly annoyed tone, "No matter how good a person is with a bug, he or she certainly cannot manipulate bugs to do their bidding by sheer force or will. It is either magic or Ingenium. Normally, none of us can detect whether if both of those are used. However, this is but a minor obstacle for I have a familiar. All of us know familiars can sense if there is a distortion in the Source Clouds, so you shouldn't doubt my words when I say no magic nor Ingenium was used because there are no distortions in the Source Clouds near where the rings rest, which is my left hand. If you are so stubborn to not be convinced, I'm sure someone in the crowd can affirm my statement. No answer? Then I'll take your silence as a yes for believing me. As a side note, when other races activate their unique abilities, there will still be distortions in Source Clouds, thus they are not suspects in any way. Now, there is only one possibility left. Take a look at this leg."
He held the bug's leg between the toilet paper up high to ensure the blonde can see it clearly. "If you examine it closely, you will find that this is not organic but electronic. Someone used a bug drone to steal the rings." He slid the leg back into his pocket as the audience behind began to whisper to each other. Exactly what Rey expected to see, the confidence in the blonde's eyes was wavering.
"The drone certainly can camouflage itself to its surrounding. However, by my deduction, it would render the drone immovable as it would drain most of the energy to maintain the camouflage. This would explain why, even though the drone managed to sneak into our rooms, it cannot determine where the exact location of the Circulums are. It is also likely to have light** sensors attached to it, allowing it to know when we fall asleep. The easiest way to pinpoint the location of the Circulums is to send special signals, but these signals will be viewed as potentially hostile by the Circulum's defence system, giving out alarms of some sort. Thus, a thermographic camera is required. The way it detects the Circulum is by searching for an abrupt dark spot on our hand. This is why my roommate's seal ring, which has the same size as the Circulum was confused as one while his Circulum, hidden in his drawer, with no object of higher temperature surrounding it, was left alone. Now, all we have to do is to find the correct model of the drone and look for anyone in this building that possesses it." **[Note: Not only the visible light but the entirety of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. So, even if Rey did the eye-rubbing thing with the ring which allows him to see the screen through other EM radiation (not visible light), the drone will not move as it still detects strong EM radiation in the room.]
"Good luck with that. There are hundreds of bug-modelled drones out there. Even with the leg, by the time you found it, whoever that did this is long gone."
"You are correct. Except, yesterday, as I was passing through the lobby, I overheard some idiot telling his friends which exact model of the drone he had. Model 1AD18U6, the ladybug drone. Does this ring any bells? Because according to my memory, your voice sounds the same as the guy I just mentioned. This is why my roommate managed to damage the drone due to its slow speed whilst carrying both my Circulum, which it used to unlock the door, and his seal ring. It's a shame you didn't take the risk of exposing the drone's existence or else you would've gotten away with all of it." A heated discussion was lit behind the blonde's friends. Ada, on the other hand, has a sad expression on her face. The reaction of the thief's friends was odd as if they were enjoying it.
"Are you an idiot? Those are not evidence, those are the fabrication of your sorry imagination. Admit you lost kid, your words mean nothing at all." Sweat began to show on his forehead. So what if the white hair kid managed to remember his conversation in the midst of a noisy place, he still wins if there are no concrete evidence against him.
"It wouldn't if you hadn't come all the way down to pick up the damaged drone." Rey grinned again. The blonde almost lost his composure, his mind ran wild panicky. He was going to lose.
"Ten minutes ago, I saw a suspicious person doing something near the plant at the end of the hallway," His thumb was put into motion, aiming at the potted plant far behind his back, "He managed to escape before I had a chance to take a good look at his face. Remember the damaged drone I mentioned earlier? It probably managed to exit the room and crash landed on the potted plant. The thief must have set all the drones to carry out the operation automatically and when he woke up, he found one of the drones malfunctioned. Therefore, he came down personally, in hope of no one noticing him, to fetch the broken drone and the rings. On top of that, I believe he is holding the rings right now in his pocket. What do you think, Alan? You wouldn't mind me take a peek at your pocket, now would you?" Strangely, the blonde's smug smile reappeared. However, Rey couldn't be happier to see that smile.
"Come and see for yourself."
"Excellent. But before that, will Ada, at the back, please remove the rings in your pocket?" There it is, the expression Rey has been waiting for, the paranoia written all over his face. Ada, naturally, was surprised as Rey called out her name. She did what Rey told her to and was shocked that there were two rings in her hand after reaching into her pocket.
"When do these two rings in my pocket?!" She was freaked out a little more than Rey thought she would.
"The rings in Ada's hands are the solid proof of your crime. This is where the other detached drone leg in the potted plant comes into play. You know the drone was missing two legs and that someone will eventually piece these two together and realize the suspicious person I saw is the thief. You needed to plant an evidence on a random person should anyone asking where you went in the morning to clear the suspicion on you. So you came down to this floor, with an excuse in mind to justify why you are here, and place those rings in her pocket, using magic or your good old drones undetected."
"If you're trying to convince everyone here that you didn't put those rings in her pocket and she is the real thief, you can save it. The rings have small amounts of dirt on them for you to ensure everyone believes she was the mysterious person. That dirt is the no different with those in the potted plant, same goes for the small amount of dirt in your pocket right now. You can tell whatever lies you wish, because, with a little help from the Circulum, which I am sure someone will be kind enough to lend a hand, the dirt can be examined and become the 'solid proof' you so wanted. Checkmate. You lose." The thief made his attempt to escape, though he can't possibly outrun every single angry student on this floor. Two of them restrained him while his friends left him to deal with this alone. Rey's intuition told him they are far more sinister than they seem.
"Here, the rings," Ada stood beside Alan and placed the two rings on Rey's hand, "I'll make sure he tells me where he hid the rest of the Circulums and get the punishment he so eagerly looking forward to. Thanks for your help. What's your name?"
"It's a nice name. You'll receive some units as a reward later. Goodbye, Mr Foxtale." She then gestured the two freshmen to take Alan to the elevator as she followed at their heels. Hinoko shortly appeared from the kitchenette to greet Rey after he had returned to the room. He placed Eli's Circulum he borrowed on the table, wore back his and made his way into the washroom with the seal ring in hand.
"Are you okay in there? Are you in your original form right now?" Rey asked as he stood in front of the bathroom door. The fox jumped onto Rey's shoulder.
"Yes. I am in my original form right now. Did you found my seal ring?" Eli sounded tired.
"Yeah. Found it. I'll put it in front of the door and leave."
"Don't leave!" Rey's movement froze for a moment. Eli realized his words came out wrong, "I-I mean I'll open the door slightly for you to put the ring inside the bathroom." The door was immediately slid to the right, leaving a small opening. Rey did what he asked, placing the ring on the bathroom floor and the door closes again. Eli, inside the bathroom, picked up the ring and put it back to his finger.
"What happened outside? I heard you're arguing with someone else. It will be awhile before I turn back to human form. Please stay and tell me how you got my ring back." Rey didn't have any plans for today yet, so he sat down and narrated the entire incident.
"But how did you know Alan managed to put the rings into Ada's pocket? You said you didn't see him do it." Eli interrupted Rey and asked.
"His expression sold him out. When I said I wanted to take a peek, he was 'happy' to let me. It was obvious at that point he didn't have it on him anymore. As for why he chose Ada, he has two reasons for doing that. First, she was one of the closest people standing around him. The second reason was because he hates her as seen in their conversation. He could've easily chosen another person to place the rings but he just couldn't resist the temptation to frame her."
"Hmm. What about the drone? Why did it fly to the potted plant in the first place?"
"It was heading towards the garbage chute. Every floor has four in each of the four corners, it just went to the closest one. It was a shortcut to Alan's floor. If he was more experienced and composed, I wouldn't be able to solve this easily." By the time he finished the rest of the story, Eli's transformation was completed. He thanked sincerely to Rey for helping him as soon as he stepped out of the bathroom. Even though Rey replied "You're welcome" in a monotone voice, Eli was sure that Rey smiled softly for a split second.
Rey sat on the sofa in the front room for a few minutes waiting for Eli to wrap up his morning routine (brush teeth, taking shower, etc). Rey didn't expect a visit from anyone, but the doorbell rang. He ambled lazily towards the door and opened it.
✵End of Chapter 1✵
Advisor: Jigoku Shounen
Original in RoyalRoadl