After she was cleared for duty, Arsha put her duty uniform back on and examined herself in the mirror. She sighed as she felt herself returning to old habits. She then thought about her rose hairpiece. She then guessed that it must have been lost when Oyed beat her up half a year ago. She then heard the door chime. “Come in,” she called. Elgrad then entered.
“That look suits you better, Sweetie,” he remarked.
“It certainly feels better than that hospital gown,” she replied. “Although, it feels like it’s still incomplete. I guess it’s just me missing my hair ornament.” She then shook her head slightly. “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go without it.”
“Then what am I gonna do with this?” Elgrad then pulled his hand out from behind him and revealed Arsha’s rose hairpiece! Arsha’s eyes lit up in surprised happiness.
“I thought it was gone forever! Daddy, where did you find that?!”
“In Wysper City, of all places. Someone found it four months ago and held onto it until they managed to get my attention. I kept it in my quarters the entire time.” Elgrad handed it back to her and she set it into its proper place in her hair bun. She then felt a swell of strength coming from within her as she looked into the mirror once again.
“Much better! Thanks for holding onto it, Daddy!”
“Anything for my little girl.” Arsha gave the mirror one last glance.
“Well, I better get to the bridge. We should be arriving at the Plains by now.”
“Good luck, Arsha!” bid Elgrad as they left the room and went in opposite directions. Arsha then entered the bridge with the confidence she was known for. Denstra left the Captain’s chair and took her own. Arsha sat in the Captain’s chair, feeling like she was returning to an old friend of hers.
“Approaching the Plains,” Nazay reported.
“They’ve accepted our codes and are giving us a landing path,” called Shalvey.
“Nazay, set us down,” ordered Arsha. “It’s time to get some work done here.”
“Beginning landing cycle,” confirmed Nazay. The Endeavor then glided down and slowed down so it wouldn’t kick up so much debris or loose ends. She then touched down and a group of Centaur soldiers came up to greet them.
Arsha, Denstra, Endea, and Bashoon were led to a bunker where Aldarval was talking to a pair of people, a Neko woman and a Human man. “Sabotage? Are you sure?” asked Aldarval.
“There’s no doubt about it,” replied the Neko. “Someone’s against us rebuilding the Realmgate.”
“And whether or not it’s the Trinnies or the Council,” muttered Aldarval, “makes no difference.” One of the Centaur soldiers cleared her throat, attracting their attention. Aldarval grinned at seeing Arsha again. “When I heard you were actually alive, I couldn’t believe it!” she chuckled. “But it’s great to see you again, Arsha!”
“It’s great to see you too, Admiral,” returned Arsha. “What’s this about sabotage?”
“It’s been going on for about a quarter of a year now,” explained the Neko. “Every time we’re close to a breakthrough, some nitwit decides it’s good to undo the work in some capacity! We were supposed to have finished it by now, but we’re still three-fourths of the way!”
“And nerves are really getting frayed here,” continued the Human. “Although, with Bashoon’s help, I might be able to help people and get them to calm down.”
“…Do we know each other personally?” asked Bashoon. The Human smiled softly.
“You’ve been enjoying freedom for a long time. …I willingly chose imprisonment over my sins.” Bashoon’s eyes then lit up.
“Novice Norvorok!” She was about to hug him, then recalled something. “Whoa, hang on! Last time I saw you, your hospital was breeding Chimeras for experimentation!”
“I’ve sought redemption, Bashoon!” answered Norvorok. “Ever since my arrest, I’ve been seeking forgiveness under his guidance! If you help me now, you’ll be able to help the Realms in the process!”
“I’m not working with you, buddy! Not after the torture you helped that hospital put those Chimeras through!”
“You need to come with me, right now!”
“Oh no, YOU’RE coming with ME!”
“Lieutenant, enough,” interjected Arsha.
“I’m sorry, Bashoon,” said Norvorok as he pulled out a bracelet, “but the situation is more dire than you thought! Malutan!”
“DON’T YOU DARE!” Bashoon and Norvorok then vanished. Arsha blinked, then looked at Aldarval.
“Norvorok’s been rather spun up about his project,” explained the Admiral. “In any event, we must talk.”
“Yes, what’s this about sabotage?”
“Various supplies are being stolen,” explained the Neko. “We’ve been trying to construct a Realmgate without them, but we’re just not able to make a stable portal!”
“What are the supplies you need, Miss…?”
“Pouncara. Nekini Pouncara.” Arsha blinked.
“The harem outfit model?”
“I needed to put my engineering degree to use in these times of war.”
“…I’m amazed. Anyways, what supplies do you need?”
Bashoon and Norvorok managed to land flat on their faces. “Oof! Ow!” groaned Bashoon. “Rough teleport! Then again, that always happens with a Tele-bracelet.” Her expression then hardened again. “But you can teleport us back!”
“I only had the power for one trip!” replied Norvorok.
“Then get some more! Where are we?!”
“We’re at the Capital City.”
“Good! Then you can tell King Heenda that I’d like a word! They’ve got hundreds of their people trapped in other Realms! THOUSANDS!
“But you’re in the Royal Castle! Right now!” Norvorok then flicked the lights on to show Centaur statues.
“…What’s with the artwork?” asked Bashoon, confused.
“Let’s just say the sculptors were Gorgons, renegades that tried to kill Erudsa after she sided with us.” Bashoon then realized what, or rather, WHO, the statues were. She got a good look at the statues around the throne and realized they were King Heenda Untarfu, his harem with his harem head, Laumney, and their son, Kunfar. “A voice was silenced,” continued Norvorok. “If he attended the Realmfleet Council meeting, then he would have struck down the motion of not rebuilding the Realmgates.”
“How long has it been like this?”
“Just a month after the Realmgates were destroyed, the day before the decision to keep the Realms closed off to one another. This petrification wasn’t the result of the usual Gorgon’s Stare. The renegade Gorgons disguised themselves as travelling merchants and sold a new potion to the people of the castle. When it evaporated, it released a virus that resulted in turning them into living statues. It died before it could leave the castle. It froze the local government in three minutes flat. There was only enough time to close the castle off from the outside world.”
“You said living statues. How did you-?” a scared moan then escaped from Kunfar’s statue, answering Bashoon’s question.
“They’ve been unable to die or move,” continued Norvorok. “They’re stuck forever in their respective poses.”
“So you’ve been trying to find a cure and give Aldarval the voice she needs to pass an executive order to rebuild the Realmgates.”
“We don’t have enough medics, even with their help! They’re doing all they can!”
“Who’s we? How are you still flesh and blood?”
“One of them told me about this! They’ve all been waiting for the Endeavor these long years!”
“Norvorok?” called a woman’s voice. They both turned to see a Chimera woman enter the throne room. She had the legs of a goat, a mermaid’s tail, a tiger’s torso, talons for hands, the eyes of a lizard, and a pair of tiny horns on her head, just barely visible under her auburn hair. “Ah, there you are,” greeted the Chimera woman. She then saw Bashoon and gasped. “One of the Saviors! Bashoon Barmek!”
“Er, I’m sorry, I’m at a disadvantage. Who are you?”
“I’m Lanbuldii Lorntar, Savior Bashoon!”
“Stop that, I’m as mortal as you.”
“She and her fellows have called the Endeavor crew their Saviors since they were saved from the Monastic Hospital’s Womb,” explained Norvorok.
“…She’s one of the Chimeras from the Womb?!” realized Bashoon.
“And thanks to the research, I’ve been cured of my pain!” explained Lanbuldii.
“Thanks to Crossgene Hospital’s newer research methods, we’ve saved them all,” continued Norvorok. “I was made the head of the research team as penance for my sins.”
“We received news about the virus about a day after it hit the castle. The Centaurs smaller government officials are doing what they can to keep the Plains running, but without a central figure to guide them, the Plains would have gone tribal.”
“So you saved them,” summarized Bashoon.
“We tried to cure them,” supplied Norvorok as he gestured to the petrified Centaurs, “but we simply don’t have enough people to help. Even the Gorgon doctors are baffled.”
“There are other countries in the Over-realm that have doctors to help,” reminded Bashoon, “even those initially from other Realms.”
“Not nearly enough,” replied Norvorok. “We need Marshii’s genius. We couldn’t get a message to her until we got reports that the Endeavor found Arsha.”
“So you’ve stayed here all on your own for the entire half-year?”
“I had no choice! I can’t leave these people to their suffering!”
“…Can’t is a matter of fact. You actually can, but you won’t. That makes it a choice.” Bashoon finally gave him a warm smile. “You really ARE serious about repenting.”
“Bashoon, we need the Endeavor’s help more than ever!”
“And you’ll have it. This, I promise.” The two then hugged.