PART TWO: THE BUTTERFLY
After six months of intense training for the Golden Knights Agency, Leal was excited to be going out for his very first mission albeit as a rookie understudy to a more seasoned operative in Timeline Beta 3. In addition to his training and desk duty, the Agency’s policy had been to have their new agents become better acquainted with their more experienced partners. The result had been that Leal and his newly assigned partner would spend a lot of time off-work as well as on the job.
The seasoned operative Leal had been assigned to, a lycan named Acwulf, had the policy of getting his understudies drunk enough to spill their guts as much as possible before revealing intimate knowledge about himself in his own personal approach to the Golden Knights’ Policy knowing that exchanging secrets was key to establishing strong bonds between colleagues. His personal approach had proved successful for the most part and had helped cement his bond to Leal as Acwulf had intended.
On the day of his first mission outside Timeline Delta 1, Leal and Aurora once more had a long conversation about his impending departure and Aurora updated him on their joint progress of virtually designing their dream home.
The couple would be moving into the home soon following their need to have a live-in nanny to watch over their two children as their current home could not accommodate one at the time. The progress they’d made was shared with the architect they’d hired via a secure link and she had been pleased with the couple’s strides thus far.
“I hope you won’t be gone long, Leal. We need to move our plans faster so that we can have the live-in nanny as soon as possible. I have several projects in the works at the DoD that are likely to take up a lot of my time and I am sure missions are going to take up more of your time too in future,”
“I’ll try and come home as soon as I can, Aurora, I promise. You just keep making any changes you see fit and I will review them virtually as soon as I can, okay? And what about the garden we started here? Can all the plants be transplanted successfully to our new home?”
“Yes, I had Ash do the math. Almost 80% can be successfully transplanted,”
“Great to hear, Aurora. Well, I best be off. Arc really hates late comers,”
Aurora smiled and nodded. “Good luck,” she stated. Leal lingered awkwardly for a while and then Aurora blushed and pecked him on his right cheek for good luck. Leal felt a sense of warmth and comfort wash over him spreading from his right cheek all across his body and unwittingly stumbled out the back door nearly trampling the plants he and Aurora had been growing in their Witch garden while at it.
He had been making steady progress with his charge but it had felt like eons had passed before Aurora had performed such a simple yet profound action to him of her own accord. Would it be presumptuous of him to assume that they could eventually share more deeply intimate actions between them? It had been nothing but pure torture being so close to Aurora and not act on his feelings in spite of the Protector’s bond they shared between them growing stronger by the day.
Leal sighed as he idly observed the plants in the garden allowing his imagination to run wild. He noticed that some butterflies had been flying around some of the plants that had flowered in the garden but one such butterfly in particular stood out to him.
The butterfly’s wings were the loveliest shade of orchid blue he had ever observed and its sheer beauty stunned him into silence. Unlike the other butterflies, this particular monarch butterfly settled on the witch hazels that he himself had started growing in the garden. Leal squatted down and observed the hazels more carefully and he instantly had a flashing vision of a set of hands, carefully concealed behind gardening gloves tending to witch hazels in a mythical garden.
The gloved hands tended to the witch hazels as tenderly as a mother would tend to her child. It felt as if Leal was intruding upon a very intimate moment which was strange because he had never met anyone who cared so much about witch hazels, a must have herb growing in every Witch garden.
He continued to observe the hands tending to the hazels for a long time with his mind’s eye, eventually being interrupted by Aurora who promptly reminded him that his partner hated latecomers and Leal hastily got out of the garden and immediately set off to meet up with Acwulf.
“Hmph, you are late, Captain Chestnut,” Acwulf complained referring to Leal by the nickname he had coined for Leal based on the latter’s hair color.
“I was… caught up in some stuff, I am sorry, but I thought I made it just in time,”
“Well, you know what I always say, its either you are at least five minutes ahead of time to any appointment or you’re late,” Acwulf grunted.
“I am sorry, boss. It won’t happen again,”
“It had better not, Captain Chestnut. My time and resources are very expensive you see?”
“So beers on me after the mission?” Leal guessed.
“Oh no, no… No simple beers are going to fix this C.C. I want some of those fancy elixirs you only get in fancy taverns. As fate would have it, I know just the place we can find them where we are headed,”
“You’ve got it boss. So, where are we going exactly?”
“Glad you asked, C.C. We are going to a City in Denary called Dodona. Ever been there before?”
Leal shook his head. “Can’t say that I have. Why are we headed there exactly?”
They walked up to the Machine that would teleport them to their destination and after being cleared to travel there, they were immediately teleported to the receiving port in B-3. After the momentary motion sickness had dissipated, they walked up to get a Dune buggy and Acwulf shared the virtual Mission file on Leal’s C-pad with the details inside it including the photograph of a stunningly beautiful woman with a radiant smile.
“Pretty little thing, ain’t she? Don’t tell my wife I said that or its vegies for dinner when I return,”
“She’s… easy on the eyes, I suppose. Who is she?”
“Her name is Mariposa Esposito. She went missing a couple of months ago but the Blues ruled it as eloping and since she’s old enough to make her own bad decisions, they didn’t take it on as a disappearance act. Her most immediate family, of course, were unsatisfied with the results so they hired us to look for her,”
“What do you think about it, boss?” Leal asked him.
Acwulf shrugged. “I’d rule it as a closed case too. I mean, I have gone through the file multiple times and nothing stands out. She had a boyfriend from a rival clan and he went missing roughly around the same time she did; must have been preplanned too by the looks of it since both their bank accounts were cleared prior to their disappearances and the Blues were even kind enough to let the banks share the paper trail of their spending spree after that. Heck, those two crazy kids even got married in Pharland like the many other annoying couples who do so in the name of love,”
Leal quickly skimmed through the files and then stated, “Then why is this a mission at all?”
“Well, her folks seem convinced that something must have happened to Mariposa because she hasn’t been in contact with them ever since she and her boyfriend eloped. So we are basically just on this mission to confirm what the Blues said. A total waste of credits if you ask me but hey, I’m a dad too so if one of my girls started acting weird, I’d want reassurance too that it wasn’t as a result of my bad parenting,” Acwulf stated in his usual wise-cracking voice.
Leal continued to scroll through the file and then read statements gathered from her parents.
“Says here that she was a huge gardening geek even in her heydays at school,”
“Yeah, that’s the mother’s alleged proof that her darling daughter is missing. See apparently Mariposa had just moved into her new home here in Dodona and well, she would never have left her witch garden unattended. Mariposa was especially fussy about her witch hazels. The mom said they are her favorite plant. Hear that, C.C. Some nutters actually have a favorite plant!”
Leal stopped his scrolling the instant Ac made a wise crack about Mariposa’s supposed favorite plant and turned to face him and asked, “Did you just say that her favorite plant is the witch hazel?”
“Yeah I did but why does that have to mean anything? Don’t tell me it’s your favorite plant too, I’ll lose my respect for you,”
“No, of course not, boss, I just- find that fascinating,”
“What, is it your woman’s favorite plant too or something?” Arc sarcastically asked.
“No, boss, nothing like that. Um, I just… find it curious,” he stated looking at the mission file closer.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Is there a connection between the earlier vision Leal had and Mariposa’s love for witch hazels? Stay tuned to find out! Link to the previous part is listed below: