Since there wasn't a cloud of gloom hanging above the horizon, Jade decided that today was a good day for her to have a walk around town. Neither the sun nor the wind were in their roughest, so she got her sun hat off the rack, in case the clouds do decide to shine some light onto this land, and announced to her friends of her departure.
She cupped her hand around her mouth and asked, "Hey girls, anyone planning to have a walk around town with me today?"
"Not now Jade, I'm quite busy," replied one of her friends from the lab. "Once I can get this weather machine to work, we won't have to worry about the sudden change of weather anymore!"
She gave the remainder of her friends a few seconds to respond before she asked again, "Rilla, where are the others?"
The Raccoon's head popped out of the doorway. There were blots of inky oil on her bandana. With a thoughtful look, she told Jade, "Let me see
Oh! Skye left this morning for another one of her errands while Tala and Kira are still soundly asleep in their rooms."
The Tigress shrugged helplessly. Looks like none of them would be accompanying her today. "Rilla, if anyone calls for me, tell them to search for me around town. I'll be back before lunch," said Jade then closed the door behind her.
It took Rilla several moments after Jade had left to realise that she'd completely forgotten to tell her about Skye's whereabouts. Still in the compartment of her latest invention, she shrugged it off then resumed her adjustments to the wiring. Maybe they'll come across each other in town, thought Rilla in a whim.
A breeze blew past her bangs the moment she stood in the centre of a crossroad again. Pinching the rim of her hat to keep it in place, Jade glanced to her left then right, only to find these streets empty as well.
Something didn't seem right to the Tigress the moment she left her home. The locals should've been out of their homes to tackle today's errands, not locked up inside. Not even the birds are chirping amidst the wind. This sort of scenario only occurred whenever something dangerous stalked the streets of this village.
She remembered a time when a brute had managed to enter the village without being noticed, but that was taken care of by the Lynx single-handedly and without trouble. That thing didn't seem much of a threat at all, and neither did the locals disappear into their homes when they saw that thing. They simply avoided the monster.
Today was different, and Jade could tell it simply by smelling the air that has been carried down from the mountains.
Going up to the nearest doorstep, Jade rapped on the door in hopes of getting the owner's attention and perhaps an answer, but no one answered.
Fuming at her failed attempt and the coward inside, Jade tried the same with the rest of the doorsteps on this street. None of them opened to answer the Tigress's question.
Deciding to head to the Central Hall and have a word with the Councillor, Jade jogged rather than walk towards the building with her sun hat behind her. There weren't any reports of monster sightings in the newspaper yesterday, and neither did she hear anything out of the ordinary in the past hour.
As she neared the grand building, Jade reached a hand out to open one of the doors, for she knew that they were always unlocked. When her palm came in contact with the surface, however, the door remained firm.
Rather than knocking nicely to inform the Alligator that lived in here of her presence, she pounded the door with her fist and shouted, "Miss Councillor! May I see you for a moment?!"
The door was slightly ajar after her beatings had ceased, revealing the worried look of the Councillor in between. She seemed quite surprised to see the Tigress. "Jade, is that you? Get in, quick! You shouldn't be outside as of the moment."
Pulled inside rather than greeted in, Jade waited for the Councillor to re-do all of the locks before she began with her question. "Miss Councillor, why is everyone locking themselves in their own homes? Is there something dangerous out there that the Jade Brigade has yet to know of?"
"Jade, this morning, I'd received an anonymous threat letter stating that anyone will be killed if they were to leave their homes. I've already made my announcement over the radio. Did you hear it?" asked the Alligator.
"Uhh, no," admitted Jade, wondering if Rilla was done with her adjustments to the radio.
The Councillor didn't ask any further of the radio, to Jade's relief. "No need to worry, Jade, at least you've come to me and ask of the situation personally. I must inform you, this morning, just after I'd found the threat, a Ferret by the name of Austin came up to me and requested to meet the town's hero. Follow me."
She led the Tigress down the hallway towards an open door at the other end. The Councillor went in first, followed by Jade who soon noticed another Mobian in this room.
"You must be Jade, the town's heroine mentioned by the Councillor. A pleasure to meet you." Austin bowed. "Please, have a seat."
"No thanks." Jade shook her head then leaned her back against the wall. "Now what's the situation, Austin?"
"A winged devil roams the skies above your hometown, Jade. I don't know how long has it been stalking me, but I'm unable to send it away alone. Please, I need your assistance as to repel her."
"A winged devil?" asked Jade, who now leaned her back against the wall beside the sofa. "Are you kidding me? I've seen loads of weird stuff happen around here before, but I have never heard of a devil that would come out on such a fine day! Well, except for this one time when a wounded devil allied with me and my friends against a bunch of zombies
Since the Alligator and Ferret had no idea as to how the Tigress had managed to team up with a horrible creature, they made no comment.
"Jade," the Councillor said to snap her out of her thoughts. "You will work with Austin as to repel that creature, won't you?"
Jade laughed it off. "As if I would give a 'No' for an answer. Come on Austin, let's get out there and teach this devil not to mess with us!"
"Shouldn't we formulate a plan before we do this?" asked Austin, only to realise that the Tigress had already left the room.
Leaving the doors ajar just so that the Ferret may follow him, Jade stormed into the open and shouted at the top of her lungs, "Come out, you stinking coward! Here's a free meal for you to snack on!"
Austin pulled her by the arm then turned her around so that he may question her sanity in the face. "Just what do you think are you doing?! We need a plan to combat this devil before
Seeing as his eyes were looking past her, Jade spun on her heels and readied her claws for a busy moment with the creature hunched atop of the roof.
"Just what gave you the idea that another Mobian such as her can save you?" asked the familiar creature who rose to her full glory, looking down at the two as if they were worthless.
"You again," Jade snarled, secretly wishing that she has her daggers now. She could've taken it out of the skies before it could take to the wing. "Now get down here and fight us fair and square, coward."
"You'd actually believed the threat, didn't you?" the devil sneered then pointed a clawed digit at them. "I'm only here for that boy. His parents will be very happy once I bring him back to them, not to mention a handsome reward for whoever does so."
"Silence!" he retorted then raised his fist threateningly at her. Without warning, his right hand erupted into flames. "I will never go back to them, so as long as my heart continues to beat."
"Hey, what's going on?" Jade asked, quite unsure of the change of situation.
"Remain silent and aid me in her defeat." Without warning, he ran off and leapt, swinging his burning fist down to produce a streak of flames that fell upon the roof rather than the devil. She'd dodged the attack, and catching a glimpse of her long tail at the other end of the building, Austin pursued her relentlessly. Jade would've followed him if the building wasn't on fire.
Planning to teach that Ferret a lesson once this is all over, Jade tried for the door, but with no avail. She heard frantic screams coming from inside, and someone tried the door as well, only to find it mysteriously locked. A pair of hands pounded against it. "Help!!"
Unable to use the door as a means of escape, Jade focused on the windows instead and slammed her palm against the glass, hoping to draw the family's attention here rather than the fire.
The moment a face appeared on the other side, Jade shouted, "Use the window!"
Praying that whoever was inside had heard and knew what she'd said, Jade clenched her knuckles as more faces began to appear. A male Cat, possibly the father, managed to get the window open after a few tries, climbed out first, and then began to assist the others out of the building one at a time.
Joining him to help the other out, both Cat and Tigress helped the youngest, then second child out, followed by the wife and the oldest son of the family. As soon as everyone was out, Jade shepherded them away from the blaze while several of the townspeople worked together to extinguish the fire by the bucketfuls.
Even at this distance, Jade could hear the support beams of the building beginning to crack. Their efforts were going to waste. In need to get the nearest Mobian as far as possible from the soon-to-fall building, Jade shouted aloud, "This house is going to fall!"
The Skunk was about to toss his load when he heard Jade's call. He then heard the crackling of wood coming from the blaze that seemed to be supporting the Tigress. Dropping the bucket, he ran from the burning zone as if there was no tomorrow.
One snap was enough to set off a collapsing chain reaction, blowing eye-stinging dusts and ashes away from the epicentre of the fallen roof.
Along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered, Jade shielded her eyes from the wind. She felt sorry for the family who'd just lost their home when she saw the mess, but was glad that no casualties were sustained.
After she'd given a brief order to the nearest townspeople as to help the stricken family and extinguish the remaining flames, Jade headed for the scene, taking as many shortcuts as possible with hopes of preventing the Ferret from burning anymore buildings. Occasionally she stopped to scan the skies for his flaming arcs, and sure enough, she spotted one not too far from her current position. She's not sure whether she could consider him as an ally for what he has done.
She thought back at the devil's words, something about a family that the Ferret hadn't mentioned during their first encounter. What did he meant by not wanting to return? She needed answers, after the devil has been repelled and the Ferret agrees to not use his powers whenever they mention about his family. From the way he spoke, he didn't sound like the type who would want to talk about his past.
Arriving at the scene to find Austin slashing in vain at the airborne devil, Jade ran up to him in time to stop his next move, preventing another disastrous consequence. "It's no wonder that you're always defeat by this devil," murmured Jade as she got into a fighting stance beside him.
"It isn't my fault that she has wings!" he snapped, keeping his flaming hand from their tails. "How else am I supposed to hit her, throw pebbles at her until one of them hits?"
"Wait, you can't throw fireballs?!" Jade exclaimed in surprise, eyeing his flaming fist from the corner of her sight.
He tensed when the devil landed before them. "It's the disadvantageous truth."
But Jade denied it. "But, you're fist is on fire! Aren't Elementalists supposed to be good at both melee and ranged combat?"
"I'm trying my best to learn how other people are able to do that, alright?" His scowl deepened as the devil approached them. "Got any other ideas?"
"Let's split up," Jade said on a whim. "You distract her while I search for a net or something to ground her so that we may question her true motives."
"It won't hold her down for long, and besides, she already has-!!"
Jade grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and snarled close to his eyes. "Now you listen here, pal! I don't want you to be starting anymore fire accidents around town just because of this devil, so keep her busy without the use of your powers and help me catch her! And be quick with your decision, she's almost near."
The Ferret looked away for a moment to think about it, not really happy to be limited in combat. Reluctantly, his flame went out.
She didn't give him the chance to say a word when she released him. "Good" was what she whispered to him before taking off in the opposite direction of the nearing devil.
After making several turns, Jade barged into the nearest equipment store. The Dove behind the counter gave her an awkward look when he saw her panting. "What's with the rush, Jade? You need something?"
"I need a net, Mister Anthony," she said in between her gasps as she went to the back of the store.
"Well, there are a couple of nets at the back of my store! Hey, where do you think you're going with that?! You haven't paid!"
Looking over her shoulder, Jade answered from the doorway, "Saving the town from a winged devil and a guy who can manipulate fire but can't throw them. I'll return this net as soon as I can, promise!"
And thus she bolted out of the shopkeeper's sight before he could say something to stop her. She felt bad to be taking something from the store without paying, but desperate situations call for desperate actions. Approximately seventy Rings is an insufficient amount to rebuild her hometown.
As she neared the scene, she stopped just a few steps from walking into the light. What was she thinking? If the devil were to see her with a net, she would've probably guessed their plan and destroyed it before Jade could even cast it. Keeping the net under the building's shadow, she spied on the exchange of hits between the two fighters.
The flying devil had quite literally the upper hand of this duel, as she kept swooping over him repeatedly, avoiding Austin's flaming slash without breaking a sweat. Jade could hear the Ferret cursing aloud as he missed another hit, and she shook her head at his use of language. Guess I should clean his mouth after this is all over, she thought as she waited for the devil to land again.
After watching several arcs strike against the ground and secretly admiring the devil's midair-twist technique, she saw her chance when the devil noticed Austin's exhaustion. He was leaning on his knees, and from the way that his body rose and fell, he was gasping for air.
Bundling the net under her arm, Jade stalked in the shadows towards them, taking care not to make a sound. With her free hand, she gestured at the Ferret to not pay any attention to her. She hoped that he had a plan to stall the devil for a while longer before he is spirited away.
Ignoring their exchange of insults and taunts, Jade casted the net.
And caught both the devil and the Ferret by surprise.
The she-devil tried to untangle the fibre from her limbs and horns, only to worsen her situation for herself. She then resorted to tearing her way out, but soon gave up when her hands began to ache.
"Let me out!" she and the Ferret demanded simultaneously, echoing one another.
Jade crossed her arms with a smirk. "Not unless the both of you start talking."
In defeat, the devil looked away without her arms crossed, fuming that she wasn't able to at least deal a few claw marks on the Ferret before she returned him. Austin, however, remained silent and glared at her.
She shrugged at her prisoners. "If that's the way for you guys, then I guess I should let the Town Councillor take care of this problem herself. Who knows what sort of methods she has in store to get the answers from you, especially when she's an Alligator."
Austin's eyelids shot up in alarm. "Alright, alright, I'll talk!" He sighed before continuing, "What is it that you want to know."
Since the majority of the townspeople are either inside or busy cleaning up the accident, Jade asked, "Why do you dislike your parents so much, Austin?"
He looked away, not wanting to reply. It must've been a touchy topic for the Ferret, so she asked again at the devil, pretending as if she hadn't begun her questions. "Who hired you to bring him back?"
"Rumours," she snarled, followed by a yelp.
Jade had treaded on her tail when she went over to help Austin out of the net, hoisting him up then carried him by the shoulder.
"Hey, that hurts!" she cried, only to realise a few moments later what the Tigress had planned. "W-wait! Don't leave me here! Come back!" she called out, trying to make their heads turn. "Alright, alright, I'll tell!"
Jade stopped before the crossroad and turned around to have a good look at the devil, grinning at her success. "Then what are you waiting for?"
"I've read several posters around his town that his parents promised a handsome for his return! I swear, no one told me to catch him!" She sighed. "I just want to do something good for a change."
Jade blinked several times as to make sure that she wasn't in a dream. To further confirm that she was indeed awake, she told Austin to pinch her arm. He did as she'd said so, and felt the sting shot up her arm.
The last time that she'd encountered the devil, Jade heard her constantly exclaiming how badly she'd wanted to take her revenge upon that Tamaskan and the Lynx for what they've done to her. She clearly didn't sound like the type who would forgive someone very easily, but here she is, tangled in a net and admitting that she was just trying to re-unite a family.
"Don't listen to her, she's lying. Let her deal with the peasants instead," said Austin in between his gasps.
A decision had to be made, Jade realised. It's either the Ferret beside him or the familiar devil before her. She can only save one of the two.
In need of a clear mind, she mentally secluded herself from the world to ponder for solutions.
Austin found her behaviour awkward. "What are you waiting for, Jade? Let us proceed to the Central Hall and punish her for stalking and attacking me!"
"No" was Jade's answer when she opened her eyes. Bringing him over to the net again, she put him down beside the mess and offered him the biggest knot.
Austin couldn't believe the decision that she'd chosen. "Are you pulling my leg?"
"Just do it." Jade glared down at him. And to prod him further, she used the sun behind her to prove how sharp her claws were.
Not wanting to experience her wrath, Austin did as he was told to and reluctantly freed the devil from the net. It was also decided that she had to take a sum from her savings to pay for the damage of 'borrowed' property.
The devil got onto her hooves and looked at the two, unsure of what had just happened. Just as she was about to take to the skies, a hand caught her by the wrist, preventing the devil from fleeing.
"What do you say after someone does something good for you?" the Tigress asked when their eyes met.
From her stutter, Jade could tell that she wasn't lying about turning over a new leaf. With nothing else to worry about, she released her and dismissed the devil with a wave. "Go on, you can fly back to your home now. I'll take care of him, and tell them you were the one who'd found him first, alright?"
For the first time since they encountered, she smiled.
After Jade had given her report regarding the devil's departure to the Councillor via the telephone, she took her seat around the table. "You owe me an explanation, mister," said Jade to Austin as he dipped another cookie into a cup of cold milk. She brought the arrogant Ferret to her home, where he would be resting temporarily for a few days before she kicks him out of town.
"I don't owe you anything," he said after he'd finished the cookie. "But I still can't think of a way as to repay you for your kindness to let me rest here. Is there anything that I can do in the meantime to return the favour?"
"You may leave before the sun rises," she replied with her arms still crossed. "But you have to tell me why you ran away from your parents before you step a foot out of my home."
"None of your business," he shot back then left the table to place the empty dishes into the sink. Just when he turned around, Jade grabbed his collar by surprise.
"Hey, let me go! I need rest after being held up for god-knows how many times already!" he exclaimed, but secretly admires her speed.
"I won't let you leave this room unless you spill the beans, mister. Any moment now, my friends will be in here for lunch and you will have to face a bigger audience. If your reason is really that embarrassing for you to share, would you rather say it in front of a group rather than a single person?"
For a while, Austin kept a scowl on his face, and then knocked her hand off of his jacket. "Fine, I'll talk. Take a seat, please. We shall talk of this in a formal manner."
Jade found his request odd, but she complied without question. Once both have taken their seats, the Ferret rested his elbows on the table then planted his forehead into his palms. Taking in a deep breath, he began, "I ran from them because they weren't even my actual parents. They're a pair of Polecats, not a Ferret like I am."
"Wait." Jade interrupted. "Aren't Polecats and Ferrets the same? Well, almost."
"That's what everybody thinks," he scoffed with his eyes rolled. "Allow me to clarify your understanding towards the difference between my species and Polecats. According to the humans, which of these two species is the domesticated one?"
Having put on her thinking cap, Jade gave her answer after a while. "The ferret?"
"Correct. And since a ferret is considered 'domesticated', what about the polecat?"
Realisation struck Jade in the face. "Are you telling me that your adoptive parents are wild?"
"When it comes to parties and social gatherings, yes, they are. But that isn't the reason as to why I ran." He leaned back into his seat, his fingers still interwoven together. He then spoke in a calm, but clearly enraged, manner, "In a family of six, I was the only one who wasn't related to them by blood. The only one," he emphasized the three words. "Do you know how painful it is to realise that you'd been living with a pair of Mobians for thirteen years, only to find out that they aren't even your real parents?!"
"But they treated you as one of their own, didn't they?" Jade thought aloud.
Austin looked as if he'd just been slapped across the muzzle, and then sighed in defeat. "I admit that it's true. But when they told me of the truth seven years back, they revealed to me that I was the replacement for their kit that'd passed away before he had his first birthday. As you can probably guess, I was shocked by this revelation. Not because of their child's death, but rather, of my origins. When I asked them of my true parents, neither knew who they were."
"My father," he said, although he hinted a snarl, "told me that he found me at the entrance of his workplace wrapped in a shawl with my given name written on a crumpled piece of paper. No one in town visits his pawnbroker shop before eight in the morning." He reached into his breast pocket and dropped it within Jade's reach. "As you can see, it's just a piece of papyrus, the only clue to my parents' identity."
Jade picked it up for a brief examination. His full name was written with a really fine tip, similar to that of a fountain pen. A very expensive fountain pen, she thought as she passed it back to him.
Once back in his grasp, he said ahead of Jade, "And that alone is the reason why I chose to run away. I'm on the search for my true parents, dead or alive."
Just as she was about to talk any further, they heard the front door open.
"Fwhoo! Thank goodness we're back! The fire accident did somehow worsen the day for us, didn't it?" That was Rilla.
"You're right. And who was this 'flaming fighter' that everyone's talking about?" Tala questioned.
"Maybe he's the threat that the Councillor mentioned," Kira guessed.
"Come on girls, we'll talk about it in the kitchen. There's still some lemonade in the fridge," said Skye, followed by their approaching footsteps.
"Shall we talk about this another time?" Jade was quick to ask.
"I have nothing else to tell. You've already known my intentions." Austin smiled.