The trip to Diane’s house was uneventful. The place they arrived at as a little unexpected however. It was a small mansion. Property was at a premium in Listorna so even small houses were expensive and this house was rather big.
There was a button on the gate which Berardo pushed. A moment later Diane’s voice came through. “Come in, I unlocked the gate.”
Berardo pushed open the gate and the three of them walked toward the front door. The person that opened it was Blade of Unique Sway. He was wearing more normal clothes at this moment although not really more casual. He was wearing a suit.
“She is waiting for you.” He said as he stepped aside and motioned for them to enter.
They entered the house. Horizon looked around the place in wonder however it didn’t really interest Berardo too much. He had seen the inside of rich houses plenty of times during his work on the police force. Bad things tended to happen there.
They were lead through the house until they were let into a nearly empty room. The furniture had been cleared out of it. Diane Simon was standing in the room taking practice swings with the sword she was holding. A banner scroll on the wall had been hung. There writing on it was something foreign.
She finished the swing and turned as they entered. Unlike blade she was wearing casual clothes, somekind of sweatshirt and pants which made her seem in the element for practicing the sword.
She handed the sword off to Blade who made it vanish. “So, Detective Berardo, you wanted to come talk about Wrapped Charmer of Serpents?”
Berardo almost asked her how she knew the name but realized that would be obvious. It would be written on the card that she had.
Berardo nodded, “Yes, I hoped that we would be able to find something out of her. Apparently you already tried to question her?”
“Yes, however should wouldn’t say anything. I believe she said that Cockatrice would win, he always wins and that if she said anything then she wouldn’t be able to go back to him.”
“Could you tell if it was actual loyalty of fear.”
It was Blade of Unique Sway who spoke, “It was fear.” He sounded extremely confidant.
“You can tell?” Asked Berardo.
“True loyalty feels special. She did not have that. However she does believe in Cockatrice’s strength. She is terrified of him beyond words. I do not believe that we could convince her to tell us anything because of that.”
Berardo said, “That afraid huh. It can be difficult to convince somebody like that especially from our position. We could not threaten them with any worse fate then they believe the would receive from the person they are afraid of. Unless we can convince them not to be afraid then they will tell us nothing.”
Diane said, “Do you think that you can convince her of that?”
“I am a detective after all. This is part of my normal job. There are plenty of informants who need this kind of convincing. If you awaken her and then give me some alone time with her then I will do my best to convince her.”
“Alone?” She asked.
“It helps build trust and makes them feel more comfortable. Also if you have some chairs and a table that would also make it more convenient.”
“Alright. I can get you those things.”
It too a few minutes for everything to get setup but eventually the room had some furniture and Berardo was sitting in one of the chairs.
Everybody else had cleared from the room except him and Diane although they weren’t far away in case Berardo needed to call for their aid.
Finally Diane held out the card and called out, “Awaken, Wrapped Charmer of Serpents”
Snakes poured out of the card and with them came the bandaged woman. Once she took full form the snakes all disappeared into smoke. Diane hadn’t fully awakened Charmer. Charmer took a defensive stance like she was prepared for anything to happen.
Berardo raised his hand, “No need to be nervous. Please take a seat. I just want to talk with you. Thank you Diane, that will be enough.”
Diane turned and left the room leaving Berardo with Charmer.
He motioned at the chair, “Please have a seat.”
“I don’t think there is any point.” Said the woman, “I’m not going to tell you anything.”
“I’m not going to force you to say anything. I just ask that you listen to me.”
She looked at him suspiciously before finally taking a seat.
“Good,” Said Berardo, “Excellent progress. Now Diane said that you believe that Cockatrice is going to win against us. You have to be confidant in him to be that willing to not speak. You must trust him a lot.”
She didn’t say anything but that wasn’t really the point of this questioning. If he could convince her to talk that would be excellent but he was mainly watching her body language. Some people were excellent lier and were able to fake their body language but those people tended believe in their cause and were confident. She was the opposite of that.
“I believe that Cockatrice will dispose of you even if you don’t say anything. He doesn’t seem like the type of person who lets his heroes fail him. He keeps all of them in line by being so frightening that nobody dares try and betray him. Maybe your hoping that he will grant you a clean death if you don’t speak. Something that you wouldn’t get if you spoke.”
Charmer still just sat there in silence not saying anything.
Berardo took a folded paper out of his pocket and spread it out on the table. “I’ve been compiling a list of people who I think could be Cockatrice. I’ve been going through the list of Destiny Burst duelist trying to decide which of them is Cockatrice.”
“I said I’m not saying anything.”
“Of course, of course. However if you were to tell us which was in Cockatrice then I can gather people, including Meike and the King of Endless Water and we will go after him and without the drop on us we would certainly win against him.”
She glanced down momentarily at the list but didn’t say anything.
“You still don’t think that would be enough to defeat him?”
“He can’t be beaten.”
“Then why did he run from Meike when she showed up today? Oh, right, you didn’t see that since you had already been defeated. The group of people in the school had almost been beaten by Cockatrice but instead of finishing us up he let us live. Do you know why? Because Meike and King of Endless Water were almost there and they would have beaten him.”
I could see her mentally squirm and he continued the attack, “But I bet his other heroes don’t know that. He isn’t the type to tell his heroes about his plan and what he knows not is it. I think that explains a lot about him actually. He keeps up the pretense that everything is under his control even when things are not.”
Berardo continued, “Has he ever retreated prematurely before beating the person he attack. However before he does that he gives some short speech about how letting them live is part of his plan. I’ve already seen through him, that is just a lie, a fake, meant to trick his heroes. A way to mask his escape and cowardice as planning.”
“You’re lying. Just saying things trying to trick me into talking.”
“He isn’t as strong as you think he is. He keeps pretending to be all powerful but occasionally he slips up and is forced to reveal his hand. Can’t you think back and remember those times when he did that?”
Then both of them remained silent for a bit. Berardo was giving her time to stew and mull over his words. To find those times in her memories where Cockatrice had messed up.
After a while he said, “Please. Look at the list and tell me who is Cockatrice.”
Her eyes flashed down and were quickly scanning the list. Finally she spoke and said, “You are never going to find Cockatrice. He is undefeatable.”
“Is that so? Fortunately for you, you are wrong about that.”
Her eyes narrowed in uncertainty.
Berardo smiled, “Because I have figured out who Cockatrice is, all thanks to you.”
“What? Impossible!” She actually seemed worried.
Berardo called over his shoulder, “Meike and everybody else. Please come in. It is not time for the grand reveal.”
The door to the room opened and everybody came into the room. They had been overhearing what he had been saying.
Meike gave him a questioning looked and said, “Do you really know who Cockatrice is?”
Berardo gave a giant smile. This was the best part about being a detective, “Of course I do!”
They all looked expectantly at him and he gave them a moment to ponder before saying, “You see Wrapped Charmer of Serpents answered the most important question I had about the identity of Cockatrice.”
“I did what?” She sputtered. “I didn’t say anything.”
“It wasn’t about what you said. It was about how you moved and acted. You see, she confirmed that Cockatrice is not on that list.”
“I did not do that!”
“Yes, you did. Your eyebrows relaxed a little when you looked over the list. You were relieved that I wasn’t close to catching him. There were other minor tells as well but I’m certain now that Cockatrice is not on that list of names.”
Horizon raised her hand to interrupt, “But Berardo, how can that be true? That is the list of duelists that haven’t been checked yet. Wouldn’t he have to be on that list? Unless you already checked him and mistakenly thought that he wasn’t Cockatrice.”
Berardo continued to smile, “Oh, he wasn’t on the list from the beginning because I made one very crucial mistake from the beginning. That that list was the way he was choosing his victims.”
Meike said, “Then how was he choosing his victims.”
“Now I hadn’t taken the list of the only possible answer from the beginning. It isn’t good to put all your deductive eggs in one basket but I couldn’t find another answer. But the question remained. How did Cockatrice find out who bought heroes? One answer was that he was a duelist that kept watch about who won battles and then watch the store at strategic times. However there is another option, a better more accurate option. One where he would never make a mistake.”
Berardo knew he had the right answer since at that moment Wrapper Charmer of Serpents did the thing he had been waiting for, she performed a forced awakening. Diane Simon cried out in pain as he crystals were used without her permission.
“Activate, Shield of the Morning” called Berardo who had already prepared for this to happen. Instead of putting it on Horizon like he usually did he equipped himself with the shield. It was just quick enough to stop Charmed from sending snakes down his throat.
Swords were being drawn from both Rose and Blade however Berardo didn’t let them have a chance to attack. He shouted out his solution to the riddle of Cockatrice’s identity, “Cockatrice is one of the employee’s at the Destiny Burst store.”
And with that it was over. Charmer sunk to her knees in despair. She knew that she couldn’t have beaten all of them. She had only hoped to silence Berardo before he said the truth.
Berardo lowered his shield and looked down at her, “Thank you for confirming it. I was only about 60% certain before you did it but now I am a 100% certain.”
“How?” She cried out.
“It was only a little bit ago that I really began to make the connection. You see I heart Cockatrice today. Shot him. I’m sure he used some spell to protect him but I still injured him. His tricks are strong but I continued to believe that he was actually injured.”