A sigh came from the other side of the line. Even from here I could feel as it carried heavy disappointment.
“Belladona…” Garden said in a tired tone before sighing once again. “…I’m dismissing you from service.”
“WHAT?” I shouted surprised before covering my mouth in a hurry. “W-Why sir?”
“Look, I can take a robot octopus. That’s… Still somewhat acceptable. And the laser too. Although weird, I guess it does makes sense. But when you got to the point of the plants… Well…” No no no no no… “And now, you come to tell me that Elves, as in the fictional fantastical beings… Visited that island? I’m sorry agent. You were one of our bests, but even I have a limit… I don’t think I can take your reports as being factual after so much…”
“No! Sir… I… I know it sounds ridiculous. I know better than anyone else, Believe me! But…” I pleaded him nervously. To which he simply interrupted me.
“It was nice knowing you, Agent. I’ll make sure to pass on your paycheck, and if you want, I’ll send a boat to give you a ride back ho…”
“SHUT IT ALEX!” A voice boomed over the radio furiously, leaving both me and Garden surprised for a moment. However, as I slowly started to recognize the voice, I started paling. “Can’t you see the girl is still telling her story! And just when she was getting into the good part!” A brief silence as we heard the sound of him drinking something. “Geez, you even spoiled the taste of my cocktail.”
“K-Karl? H-How did you…”
“Geez, and here I was enjoying this story so much.” The mad scientist said on the phone, leaving us confused.
How? How is something like this possible? This device should use laser transmission to send and receive audio to the satellite! Didn’t the technicians clearly state that it’s impossible to track this?
“Ho… Wha… Since when?” Garden shouted angrily. “How did you even know about this… Wait… BELLADONA!” General started shouting at me.
Yes, that was the simplest answer. He would be listening here with me. But… But…
“Oi, stop being mean to the poor girl, will ya?” Karl complained. “I’ve hacked into this myself. She didn’t even know I was listening this until I had to stop your annoying interruption. Oh, and I’ve been listening since the moment she was talking about meeting Takoyaki.”
“Then you’ve been listening since the beginning?” General Alexander asked shocked.
“I guess? Can’t be too sure as I don’t know where the story started.” I could almost see the strange scientist shrugging as he said that. “Anyway, stop being a jerk and let the girl finish her story as it was just getting to the interesting part.”
“…So you mean to tell me that all she said was actually the truth? And that you have a flying plant bird, a robot octopus and… Hair-dye lasers?” He said confused.
“Yep. Why would she lie about that anyway?” He asked back confused. “I mean, you did send her to keep an eye out for me, but when she does exactly that, you fire her? Aren’t you being a bit hypocritical here?”
“Look, as much as I trust my agents, I also distrust them. It’s the basics when working on the information line.” Alexander said angrily. “And as much as Belladonna might be one of our best agents, talks of elves and such is just too much of a ridiculous point to even consider it as being true. WIth that said, although I have no idea how you hacked into this channel, I bid you a good fucking nig…”
“If you cut the connection and don’t hear the rest of her story, I’ll have all your computers playing ‘What does the fox says?’ for the next twenty four hours. Non stop. At full volume.” Karl said indifferently. “Oh, I’ll also lock the doors. No point if you guys can simply walk away, right?”
“…You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh, I would.”
“ARE YOU MAD? Do you know what would happen if you incapacitated this building for a whole twenty four hours?” General said, sounding even angrier than usual.
“Well, yes. I AM Mad. Karl Madinson at your service.” The scientist replied with a laugh. “And yeah. No point in making a threat if the threat itself is worthless, right? Besides, all I’m asking is for you to stay a while and listen. Not a bad exchange, right?” I heard some snickers and grumbles through the line, leaving me worried. “Also, if you stay for long enough, I might even send you a little reward! Look, It’s a Win-Win situation!”
A loud grumble echoed once again before General Alexander let out a sigh. I took that as a chance to go on with the story, but before I did so, I decided to make one last question.
“…Karl… From the way you said it… You already knew I was a spy.” I said worriedly. “Since when?”
“Oh? Well… Since around one month ago?” He replied casually. “When they told me your name, I made a quick search around and found out that your identity was fabricated. From there it was easy to guess.”
“…So my disguise was busted even before I came into this island…” I said with a sigh.
“That said, I’m still expecting you to keep working here, okay? I have the contract as a proof!”
“Wait, you expect me to keep working here?” I said surprised, and could hear as General Alexander was also caught by surprise. “Don’t you know I might keep making reports like this?”
“Oh, and you’ll report of elves, dragons and robot octopus. Even if Alex here starts believing, without any solid proof, the higher ups will simply think the whole place have gone crazy and ignore you, so it’s not like it makes a difference, right?”
He had a point. It was already clear that Garden wasn’t believing my words any longer, and even if he started to believe us, the last call wouldn’t be given without the minister’s permission, and he wouldn’t believe us either. He surprisingly had thought this through, haven’t he?
Grimacing at the thought that I had been playing right into his hand this whole time, I took a deep breath to calm myself before shaking my head and preparing to go back to the story.
That said, the fact I could hear someone munching popcorns didn’t exactly help me calm down.
Lunch was surprisingly tasty, so I even though I was tired from everything that had happened, I still managed to enjoy it to the end before finally moving on to the problem at hand.
Elf. As in… Long eared magic people.
I confirmed again and again with Karl, but the elves he was talking were indeed that kind of elf. Not something else that goes with the same name nor any of his inventions. I guess you could say that me having lunch calmly was just me trying to bring some sliver of commonness to this day.
But even that had a limit, as I turned to him as he prepared to go back to his laboratory and said.
“Okay. I give up. How?”
Karl turned to me confused and tilted his head.
“Elves! Just… How?”
“Oh… How what exactly? How will they come here?”
“Yeah, that too.” I said with a nod.
“Oh, I’ll use the portal on the basement to bring them here.”
“I don’t think I can quite understand what you are saying.” I said while covering my face tiredly. “You mean… You built a portal under your house? And it can bring elves over from the other side?”
“Geez, no. There’s no way that’s true, right?” He said with a laugh, so I heaved a sigh of relief. “I just found the portal and started managing it. It was already there since god knows how long.”
Oi, give me back my relief and sense of normalcy, will you! While eyeing at him angrily, Karl noticed me and looked confused for a moment, before hitting the palm of his hand in an ‘i got it!’ pose.
“So you want to go see the portal?” He said.
I sighed in defeat before nodding. There’s simply no point in trying to go against him, is there? As he smiled widely and made a motion towards the table, where Savia was still standing in wait. The bird quickly took flight and came towards us, landing on my shoulder and letting out a satisfied sound.
Seeing that it looked like to be in a good mood, all I could do was sigh loudly before shaking my head feeling as my annoyance slowly dissipated under her happy sighing. For a plant, Savia was surprisingly light, does it have anything to do with her also being a sort of bird?
“Yes, it does.” Karl said over the line.
“…Weren’t you the one complaining about interruptions?” Garden complained.
“Well, she had a doubt and I answered. Is there something wrong with that?” Karl said indifferently.
“Well… Since you feel like answering our questions…” I said with a frown. “Mind telling me what exactly Savia is?”
“Well, it would take a long time to explain, but put it simply…” The scientist took a moment to think. “Well, she’s kind of a symbiotic parasite plant… I guess?”
“P-PARASITE?” I asked shocked.
“Oh, don’t worry. She’s harmless.” Karl dismissed quickly while sipping in his cocktail. “Savia’s origin story is fairly complex, but the main point is, she’s what happens when a pseudo-parasitic plant takes over a dead animal.”
“That’s… Surprisingly dark.” I commented surprised.
“Well, like around fifty percent of everything else here, it’s kinda of an accident how she came to be. That said, I’m quite happy with this one.” As he said that, I could hear, both through the link and from the window of my bedroom a singing tone as Savia agreed with him. “Well, back to the story now, shall we?”
Once we went down to the house’s basement, what my eyes met was… A large metal box.
Wondering if that was the portal, I stared at the box for some time. I could see some strange apparels hanging on all of its sides and a single control panel was on the far corner of the room. While I felt confused at the scene, what really caught my attention were the other things present on the room.
Turrets. Around a dozen of defensive turrets, with what looked like missile launchers, lasers and gatling guns. All of them eerily silent as they lay turned towards the door, as if expecting to a whole army to come out from it.
With so much security in this room, I started to worry about what could possibly be on the other side of the strange portal, and while Karl walked forward with indifference and opened the metal box, I stayed behind him, peeking over timidly.
Inside the door itself was… A Soup. It was the best way to explain it. A vertical milky surface made of some strange blue and purple liquid that would swirl back and forth into a thousand of different patterns, ever mixing in an almost mystical way.
“Kinda screams of magic, doesn’t it?” Karl said with an awkward smile, to which I could only nod weakly. “Well, ladies first.” He said while giving me space to go ahead.
I stared at him confused for some time before turning back towards the strange surface. Did he mean for me to enter it? Is it safe? While feeling confused and not sure if I wanted to go first into this strange device, I hesitated for a moment.
However, when he looked at me with expectant eyes. While feeling conflicted, I finally decided that trying to gain his trust was worth the risk, so after taking a deep breath I approached the strange colorful whirlpool. Hesitatingly extending my hand, I was about to touch it…
“Actually…” I nearly screamed in surprise when Karl suddenly grabbed my hand. Confused, I turned to him and saw as he stared at the portal with a pensive expression. “…Just to be safe…” he quickly dragged me to a place besides the portal. “Erm… Whatever you do, don’t get in front of the portal, okay?”
“Huuh… Why the sudden safety precaution?” I asked worried.
“I… Can’t quite remember where I left the portal last time.” Karl said while scratching his chin. “So… In the worst case scenario… Just wait here, okay?”
As he said that, he quickly skipped towards the portal and started by shoving his head first, as if he was looking over a corner. I flinched slightly as I saw that his head didn’t appear on the back side of the box. Di-Did that thing really work? As I thought so surprised, he cautiously took a step forward and soon his whole body entered in the portal, leaving nothing behind.
I stared wide-eyed at the scene before trying to take a step forward to see if I could see the portal itself better, but Savia chirped briefly as if warning me to not go forward anymore.
Turning confused towards her, I sighed before nodding weakly.
Then, as if waiting for that cue, Karl shout came from inside the portal.
“OUTTA THE WAY!”
Surprised by his desperate shout, I saw as he dive-jumped through the portal while covering his head with his arms and sliding face-down on the ground.
Not even a second afterwards, a raging inferno of flames erupted from the portal, reaching all the way to the empty wall on the end of the room and roasting it black in an instant. Even from the place where I stood I could feel the heat of the inferno reaching me. Savia even tilted away from the flames as if worried she could get caught on the fire.
Having only a couple of centimeters between the inferno and his body, Karl barely escaped the inferno as a thunderous roar echoed.
Staring shocked at him, I saw as Karl quickly stood up and jumped to my side in despair as a huge scaly claw appeared from the portal and slashed at the ground where he had been just a couple of seconds ago.
“WHAT IS THAT!” I shouted surprised as the turrets came to life and started bombarding the massive claw.
“Ooof. I totally forgot that I had set it to the dragon’s cave.” Karl said while breathing heavily and tiredly for a few seconds. A pained roar echoed from the other side before the claw entered back into the portal and the metal door closed itself off.
“D-D-D-DRAGON?” I shouted surprised while pulling him up and shaking him by his collar. “You mean… the large one with wings and can spew fire?”
“W-Well… Technically, it doesn’t spew fire as much as it conjures it… WAAH! STOP SHAKING!” As he started making a painful expression, I finally let go of him and stared at the door in shock and confusion.
“Bu-But… That claw alone was your size! Just… How can… That’s… that’s…” Feeling as my mind slowly slipped away from me once again, I fell to the ground on my knees, staring blankly at the door.
“Yeah… That was kinda my reaction the first time I saw it too.” Karl said blankly. “…hey, is it just me or are things hot in here?” He suddenly asked.
“…Do I really have to answer that?” I asked while looking at the wall on the far side, only to be surprised as the roasted wall was slowly turning back to it’s original white color.
“No… It’s kinda like…” Just as he started saying, one of the nearby missile turrets turned towards him and I saw as it loaded a strange blue missile into the barrel. I quickly jumped back up in surprise again. Why was it aiming at us? “…I’m on fire again, aren’t I?”
As Karl let out his annoyed voice and Savia replied with a cheerful tone, I noticed that the bottom of his lab coat was on fire, and quickly moved away. As if waiting for that chance, the turret let out the shot from it’s large caliber barrel. Feeling as my heart stopped for a moment, the missile quickly dissolved into a large foam-like substance and enveloped Karl entirely.
After a few seconds the substance dissolved itself, leaving a disgruntled (and slightly drenched) Karl in its wake.
“I REALLY need a better fire-fighting system.” He complained before standing up and dusting off his clothes. “Oh well. Guess I have to change the coordinates to a safer place before sending you in.”
Saying that he went to the control panel and started fiddling with it. The apparel around the portal started acting up while making a strange sound for a few seconds. Looking at it blankly while still laying on the ground shocked, I finally blinked and turned to him.
“Why would you even… Dragon… I don’t…” Ah. Calm down. Deep breaths. “If you can choose the portal’s location… Why would you even go into a dragon’s cave?” I asked confused.
“Cause dragons!” He replied briefly. “Well, to be honest I kinda wanted to get some scales to run a few tests and whatnots, but…”
“But…?” I asked worried. “You didn’t manage to get the scales?”
“Nah, as long as I’m prepared I can somehow or another deal with the big guy.” He quickly dismissed my idea. “Thing is… I kinda got carried away with TakoyakI’s cocktails, gotten a little bit too drunk and…” He looked away from me embarrassed. “Well, let’s just say I don’t remember what I did with the scales anymore.”
“So… You lost them?”
“Nah. I wouldn’t do such a newbie’s mistake.” He said while waving away. “I just used it into an experiment and now I have absolutely no idea what it does.” He frowned slightly. “I tend to do that a lot when I’m drunk… Oh well.” He finally shrugged before going back to the portal. “It should be safe for now, but…”
“I’m not going through there until you come back.” I said bluntly.
“Fair enough.” He said with a shrug.
Once again he peeked over the portal before jumping in. After a few anxious seconds, he finally popped out and made a motion for me to follow him. I felt relieved for a moment, followed by worry as it finally dawned on me the understanding that I was entering in an unknown and non-logical machine.
I frowned and sincerely thought of refusing the offer, but when Savia let out a brief chirp as if encouraging me, I finally gave in and approached the portal. Staring it from only a couple of inches away, I couldn’t help but feel that this was even more outlandish than what I originally thought.
Guuh, do this for the job, Rose. Do it for your country!
Breathing deeply, I slowly extended my arm towards the portal once again. However, this time I didn’t have anyone to stop me when I was about to enter, so soon my fingers passed through, then my hand, and my arms.
Okay… I can still feel my limb. That’s… A great start.
As I was thinking that, I took another step in. This time my whole shoulder was eaten up by the odd liquid whirlpool, as well as the entirety of my right leg. Knowing that it was now or never, I closed my eyes and stepped through the portal.
Instantly I felt as the whole air around me changed. From the humid, but comfortable tropical air that took over the island, to a fresher and slightly cooler air that reminded me of the forests you’d find at the base of mountains.
“Look, it’s been five seconds and you are still alive. You can open your eyes now, you know?”
I felt annoyed by Karl’s joke, but he did have a point, so with great hesitation I slowly opened my eyes.
What I saw were large trees. My mind quickly went on to think on the sequoias parks I visited a couple of times in my life, but if I were to be honest, I don’t think these trees are the same. Looking all around us, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the gigantic forest that circled us.
Still, even with the whole forest shrouding us from the sun with the thick leaf covering, the grass still grew uniformly on the ground, and patches of flowers appeared near the bases of some trees.
Part of me still believed that I was under Karl’s house and this was all just a trick. Other part of me simply thought that I had been transported to a random not well known place on earth.
But the moment I thought that, my will crumbled down by the sight of a single animal.
A flying beast. A big flying beast. And I don’t mean a condor big flying beast. It had easily the size of a large feline like a tiger or something of the sorts. With large wings that threatened to occupy the whole area between two of the tree trunks, it dived in with a swift and unbelievable precision amongst the forest, landing right in front of us where I could get a better look at it.
It softened the impact of the landing with ease before straightening itself on a more comfortable position. With a large beak and angular head, a large pair of sky blue eyes stared at me with playful curiosity that somehow fit strangely well with its bird-of-prey looks. However, it didn’t just stop there, while it was true that white feathers covered its whole body, some clearly non-aviary features appeared. With a pair of fluffy triangular ears popping from the top of its head, four legs that ended into sharp looking claws and a long thin tail that swished amusedly.
“Alhuy Makar, humans. What brings you to this forest.” A masculine voice echoed, sounding friendly.
For a moment I simply stared at the beast. Did it just speak? I’m pretty sure it just spoke, didn’t it? As I looked shocked and confused at it, I finally noticed that Karl was looking at the gryphon with an amused smile.
“How do you do, Taellyr? Have you been enjoying the radio?” Karl said amused.
Wait, radio? Confused for a moment, I once again looked at the gryphon who was eyeing me curious. No, rather than looking at me, he seemed to be looking at Savia who still stood in my shoulder. Anyway, after a quick second look, I finally noticed that the beast had a collar around its neck where a device was tied to.
It was a portable radio. No doubt about it. Recognizing the speaker-like object that I was more than used in seeing during my missions, I couldn’t help but stare blankly at it for a moment.
“Well well. I wasn’t really expecting your visit this early in the day, but why don’t you come here so we can have a talk?” The voice radio echoed cheerfully. “And it even seems like you brought company, huh? Well, Garduk should be able to support you with ease, so hop on.”
As the voice said that, the beast, I guessed that its name would be Garduk, kneeled on the ground, as if beckoning us to mount. Confused, I simply stared at it while Karl quickly jumped on the beast’s back as if used to it.
Snapping out from my shock, I confirmed if I should also climb on it, and he nodded briefly.
The moment I had firmed myself on the beast back, it stood up and let out a loud cry that resembled that of a hawk, before spreading its wings and beating them down hard. I held tightly behind Karl, who was a lot more nonchalant about the situation while Savia quickly took flight on her own.
“No worries, the elves trained these guys so that they can people, so riding a gryphon is surprisingly smooth.” Karl explained cheerfully.
“Weait, elves?” I asked surprised, and Karl nodded. “Wait, you mean that the one on the radio was…”
“An elf. Exactly.” Karl nodded.
“…Huh? No, wait, why does the elf have a radio?” I asked confused.
“Because I sold it to him in exchange for an egg from his next batch of gryphons.” Karl nodded. An egg? From a gryphon? “Oh, by the way, it might end up falling to you the task of caring for it, since I’ll probably be occupied with my work, okay?”
Huh? Why did my to-do list just increase? Does he really want me to take care of a mythical beast all of a sudden? While thinking of that, I ended up thinking of me having to take care of a baby gryphon…
You know what? Compared to the rest that had happened today, that actually sounds fairly simple. It shouldn’t be hard taking care of a bird slash cat hybrid, right?
Huuh, somehow the fact that I’m not shocked by that is quite worrying…
Could it be that I was already getting used to working under him? Somehow I feel as if I just lost something…