Ruben followed the veiled attendant down a long corridor, ending at a narrow wooden door. The metal hinges let out a high-pitched squeak as the attendant opened it. He motioned for Ruben to follow him inside.
The room they entered was unlike most of the others Ruben had noticed as he walked through the castle. It was a spartanly apportioned sitting room with a large window to one side, letting in quite a bit of afternoon light. Though, aside from two brightly colored couches sitting facing each other with a small metal table in between, the room had very little else to offer aesthetically. No lavish carpets, no fantastic portraits on the walls, not even so much as a candlestick holder to keep the room lit at night. It was all very modest… very unregal.
The veiled attendant made his way to one of the couches, gesturing to the other.
“Please, take a seat, Sir Serafin.” he said as he took his seat.
Ruben did as he was asked. Letting out a contented sigh as he did. The couch was much more comfortable than it had looked.
On the table before them was a bronze kettle accompanied by two clear glasses. The attendant filled both glasses with cold water from the kettle, handing one glass to Ruben. The other glass he set down on the table in front of himself.
“I suppose a proper introduction is in order, isn’t it?” the attendant asked.
“It would certainly be a start.” Ruben responded after a generous sip from his glass.
“Very well then.” the attendant said, moving his hands to the veil around his head. He undid two clasps, one on either side of his neck. Slowly, he lifted the veil off of his head.
The face of the attendant took Ruben a little by surprise. He was more youthful than his voice let on. He couldn’t be older than Aurora, in fact he looked maybe a few years younger. His blonde hair reflected the sunlight through the windows, and his cobalt blue eyes were soft and almost comforting.
“My name is Alter Erie, crown Prince of Deseret.” He spoke in a very assured tone.
“I see.” Ruben said. There was a small silence before Ruben spoke up again. “So I take it that woman who was trying to kill us was—”
“My mother, Prophetess Jasmine Erie.”
“You have my word that I won’t let her do that to you again. It was perhaps a bit presumptuous for her to even consider doing so in the first place, especially after what happened during the fight.”
“What do you mean? What happened?”
Alter pulled out the dagger he’d picked up from Aurora and laid it on the table.
Ruben looked at the dagger, confused. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Are you familiar with Collectives, Sir Serafin?”
“Vaguely. I know of their existence throughout the world, but I don’t exactly understand how they work.”
“I see. Well, as far as we understand it, the Collectives are some type of entity that exist beyond the physical plane. They are accumulations of physical phenomena given sentience.”
“…Say what now?”
“It’s similar to the concept of a pantheon of Gods in some religions, where each deity presides over a part of the natural world. Except… the Collectives are not a product of superstition… rather they came into existence due to the set parameters of our universe.”
“Do you at least follow the general gist of what I’m saying?”
“I think so.”
Alter sat up straighter in his seat as he continued. “Well, regardless, what’s important is that Prophetess Jasmine, and by extension the rest of her family, are contracted to one of these Collectives. Specifically, the Light Collective”
“Yes. You see, these Collectives can share their abilities with humans. In a sense, contracting ourselves to them in exchange for the privilege. One of the abilities my family and I have is capability to use light itself as a weapon. It’s how we were able to fight the way we did back there.”
“I see. And there are others around the world who are contracted to Collectives with different abilities?”
“So, what does all that have to do with this dagger?” Ruben asked, picking it up off the table.
“During the fight,” Alter answered, “I sensed something… else at work. An outside force, if you will. Don’t take this as an insult, but my family and I should have been able to kill the two of you with very little effort.”
Ruben furrowed his brow at the assertion.
“However,” Alter continued, “after the first volley, I noticed she was able to dispense with our guards as if they were made of silk paper. I could chalk that up to a person who had been trained well and had enormous physical strength. What I couldn’t resolve was her being able to so effortlessly blast a hole through a solid marble wall. In both instances, she used that dagger. I find it difficult to believe that’s a mere coincidence. I suspect Collective involvement; though, to what degree I cannot say for certain. Which leads me to why I’ve brought you here, and incidentally, why I had my mother spare your lives.”
Alter grabbed his glass of water from the table and took a large sip. Setting the glass back down, he leaned back, crossed his legs, and clasped his hands over his knee before continuing. “Please, Sir Serafin, tell me everything you know about that girl you’re traveling with.”
“Well,” Ruben said, also leaning back on his couch, “I guess for starters Aurora is my niece. Though, it may be worth mentioning that I’d never even met her until a few days ago. We were both imprisoned by the Nyhrin Empire. I don’t know exactly why she was in there with me, but the Empire picked me up in Nova Roma on a conspiracy charge or some such nonsense.”
“Really? I have heard the Empire isn’t exactly the most hospitable place.”
“That’s putting it mildly. But the charge itself was baseless. I was just trying to find information about my brother, but they claimed I’d stolen state secrets.”
“Yeah, Aurora’s father. He’s a… scientist of sorts I suppose you might say. I don’t know exactly, he was always very secretive about it, but I think he studies these Collectives. Although it’d be more accurate to say that he studied the Collectives… at the University of Petra.”
“I see,” Alter said with growing interest, “I take it this was all before the attack by the Children of the Sun?”
“Interesting. But how does this equate to Aurora and you ending up in prison together? And how did it lead you two here?”
“Well, according to Aurora, she used to be an agent of something in the Empire called Vipera As—”
Suddenly, there was brisk knock at the door.
“Enter!” Alter exclaimed loudly.
Immediately, a well-to-do servant walked in and addressed Alter. “I’m terribly sorry for interrupting, Your Highness, but Ambassador Dirix has arrived in the capital and has asked to meet with you as soon as possible.”
“Very well,” Alter said, rising from the couch, “Sir Serafin, we shall have to continue this later. I have duties I must attend to.” He then turned to the servant, “Will you please see that Sir Serafin is set up in some proper guest quarters?”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
“Thank you.” Alter turned back to Ruben, who had risen from his seat as well, before exiting the room, “Sir Serafin, feel free to make use of our servants here during your stay. They can see to your comfort.”
The servant held the door open for Ruben. “If you’ll follow me, I can show you to your quarters, sir.”
“I think I found us a place to stay for the night,” Aurora spat out, choking down the blood surging up her throat. Her reassurance seemed to leave Ruben very distraught as the swordsmen carried Aurora’s beaten up body down the stone-mortared corridor.
“Could you at least try to be gentle? Is this how you treat a woman?” Aurora scolded the guards carrying her.
One of them sneered back at her, “Women around here at least put out before they demand anything.”
“Fuck off,” Aurora croaked, making peace with the fact that she was going to be thrown around like a rag doll until she reached the infirmary… and possibly after that as well.
About twenty aggravated bruises later, the guards finally plopped her down on a medical bed. “Wait here,” one of them ordered.
“Like I could even go anywhere if I wanted to,” Aurora whispered back, breathing heavily. The guards left the room, and Aurora rolled into the center of the bed. A number of nurses immediately swarmed her and began treating her wounds. Bandages, ointment, and needles seemed to be tossed around like frisbees. The pain began to dull down, and Aurora started to get her bearings back. Once the nurses seemed satisfied with their handiwork, they dispersed, leaving her and one other nurse alone together. She sat down on a stool beside Aurora.
“You have very efficient colleagues,” Aurora complimented her.
The nurse chuckled, “Thank you, sweetie. We try our best with what we have. All we really did though was pump you with painkillers and apply first-aid.”
“Oh, don’t look so concerned, dearie. Lady Xylander is the one who’ll be treating your wounds. We’re just here to keep you alive until then.”
“How kind of you…”
“Oh, it’s nothing! It’s our job after all!” the nurse replied with a heartfelt smile.
There was some shuffling from the end of the room, and a woman strode in accompanied by two guards. She had multiple gold piercings along her ears and nose, which shined bright against her dark, tattooed skin. Beads hung from her colorful clothing, and there seemed to be an ominous air that followed her. She stopped right at the foot of Aurora’s bed, and the nurse who was sitting beside Aurora stood up and greeted her.
“Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend to this… impromptu request, Lady Xylander,” the nurse said with a formal expression.
The tattooed woman dismissed her gratitude with a wave of her hand.
“As you can see, the wounded conwo—erm—guest that we asked you to heal is this patient right here, Lady Aurora Serafin,” the nurse gestured toward Aurora.
Lady Xylander nodded and stared directly at Aurora.
“Uh, nice to meet you,” Aurora addressed the tattooed woman.
Lady Xylander did not respond.
“Well, let’s see here,” the nurse hurriedly flipped through a hastily prepared chart. “She has three broken ribs, an arrow piercing through the hand, thirty-two minor cuts here and there, thirteen bruises, and blood loss… as you can no doubt tell from the copious amount of blood all over her bandages.”
Lady Xylander nodded in acknowledgement.
One of the guards brought out a quill and a roll of parchment from somewhere beneath his chainmail and scribbled something down, then looked expectantly at the tattooed woman.
In a deep, disturbing tone, the tattooed woman finally spoke, “Aurora Serafin’s ribs are not broken. Her hand is not pierced. She has no cuts or bruises. She is not suffering from blood loss.”
The tattooed woman’s words reverberated through Aurora, wrapping around her soul. An eerie, awkward feeling coursed through Aurora’s body. Something was wrong. Everything felt unfamiliar. What… was happening?
The nurse interrupted Aurora’s uneasiness by leaning over her and unwrapping her bandages. Confused at why she was doing that, Aurora shifted away from the nurse, causing the half-unwrapped bandage on her hand to unfurl completely. And there her palm was, as good as new, even though there had been a hole clean through it not a minute ago. Aurora sunk back into the bed, letting the nurse unravel the rest of her bandages. Her body… was completely healed—not a single injury left.
The guard with the quill continued scribbling, observing Aurora’s condition.
“Don’t be so alarmed, sweetie. Lady Xylander borrows the power of the Deception Collective. Any lies she speaks become true.”
Aurora gave the nurse a dumbfounded look.
“Well, I guess that’s a lot to take in all at once.” The nurse placed a reassuring hand on Aurora’s arm. “You should rest to regain your mental strength—and also to let the painkillers wear off.”
“Are you even qualified to be a nurse?” Aurora replied, stupefied by how triggerhappy she’d been with the injections.
“As long as they pay me, I’m as qualified as I need to be,” the nurse winked back.
“For fuck’s sake.”
Aurora’s eyes opened slowly from her drug-induced sleep. Her head still felt a little foggy, but her senses were starting to come back to her. She raised her hand to her head and noticed that it was still healed.
Good. I guess it wasn’t a dream, Aurora thought to herself as she looked around the room from her bed. It was devoid of people, and the door to the room was closed.
It had been a few days since Aurora had given Commander Blackheart an update on her situation. Now would be as good a time as any to contact him.
“H-hello…” Aurora called out softly, making sure she was alone in the infirmary.
Silence was the only response.
Satisfied, Aurora tapped the implant in her neck twice, and, after a brief wait, she heard a click signaling a connection.
“Hello Aurora,” Blackheart’s familiar voice greeted her, “I trust this is urgent?”
“Yes,” Aurora started, “I haven’t been able to deliver a progress report personally in a few days, and I’m finally in a place where I can talk… at least for now.”
“I see. Well then, give me your progress report.”
“Yes, sir. Ruben and I have made it to the capital of Deseret. He suspects that getting into the Quarantine Zone may be a viable way to discover Jarrod’s current whereabouts. Obviously, we can’t just walk in there and look around for several days, so he and I are going to try to find a way around the gradient field in the area.”
“Very good. I trust this mission hasn’t been too hard on you?”
“Well… Ruben and I both have nearly died a couple of times, but so far there hasn’t been anything I couldn’t handle.”
Blackheart chuckled, “The scary thing is I can’t tell whether or not you’re being sarcastic and, knowing you, it’s fifty/fifty either way.”
“Well sir, the important thing is that we are still alive. And, I’ve found an in with the royal family of Deseret… for the moment. I also seem to have come into contact with one of the Collectives.”
“I know. It’s crazy. But this… thing that called itself the Impact Collective has imbued its power into the dagger you left for me. But—and here’s the thing I found hardest to believe—this Collective told me that it made some kind of deal with Darius to do so.”
There was a stilled hush on the other end of the connection before Blackheart spoke up again, “Darius has… neglected to elaborate on these details in our mission briefings.”
“He has neglected to include me in this knowledge as well. Somewhat… distressing, isn’t it Commander?”
“To say the least…”
“It isn’t all bad though. This Collective power saved my life a few hours ago, and it may yet again. I hope it holds, because it could be a useful tool for continuing this—”
Aurora heard the door to the infirmary begin to open.
“Someone’s coming, gotta go Commander.” Aurora hurriedly whispered, tapping the implant to terminate the connection.
Aurora dropped her head back down on her pillow, closed her eyes, and pretended to be asleep. The door opened partially, as a pair of curiously wide blue eyes peered through the gap toward Aurora’s bed. The door was pushed open a little more by the young boy as he tip-toed into the infirmary and toward the bed. Aurora still feigned being asleep as the boy got closer, and closer, and closer, until he was standing right next to the bed. He slowly reached his hand out toward her face. When this fingers were just a few centimeters from her cheek, Aurora opened her eyes and quickly turned her head toward the boy.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” the boy screamed as he fell backwards onto the floor.
Aurora immediately busted out laughing, “Sorry kid, but you made it too easy.”
The boy brushed himself off as he got back to his feet with a sneering expression. “That’s not funny!” insisted the boy in a high-pitched tone.
Aurora picked herself up and rested her head in her hand. “Sorry, I won’t do it again, I promise.”
The boy just stared at her suspiciously.
“I promise!” Aurora asserted. She held out her hand toward the boy, “My name’s Aurora, what’s yours?”
Warily, the boy extended his hand. “Mika,” he said, “Mika Erie.”
“Well, Mika Erie, it’s nice to meet you.”
Mika smiled awkwardly and nodded. “So, what are you and that other man doing here in New Babylon?”
“Well… that’s an interesting question…”
Before Aurora could continue, a knock on the infirmary door interrupted. In walked Alter and Ruben. Alter noticed Mika standing next to the bed and shot him a monitory glare. “Mika! What are you doing in here?!”
“Nothing… I was just—” Mika stammered.
“Now!” Alter demanded, pointing to the door.
Mika huffed out of the infirmary, muttering under his breath.
“Pay no mind to my little brother,” Alter addressed Aurora, “he means well, but he can be a pest sometimes.”
“It’s fine. He wasn’t bothering me.” Aurora replied, sitting up straight in the bed.
“Good. Anyway, I’m glad to see you’re well. I apologize for my mother’s… indiscretions earlier.”
“Well, it isn’t the first time I’ve been on someone’s hit list. If I held a grudge against everyone who’s come to kill me, the only people I’d know would be enemies.”
Alter chuckled. “I’m sure you exaggerate. Either way, I’m glad you haven’t taken Prophetess Jasmine’s barbarism to heart. As her son, I feel nothing but shame. By the way, I’m Alter Erie, the crown prince.”
“Nice to meet you… your holiness,” Aurora greeted him half-mockingly.
“Ah, no need to be so formal. You can just call me Alter.” He drew Aurora’s ornate dagger out from within his robes. “I’ve talked to your companion about your situation and am quite intrigued by how you were able to fend off Jasmine’s assault with this.”
Aurora shot a suspicious look at Reuben, which was received by his usual derp face.
“Oh, you don’t have to be so wary. I said I’d keep you safe as long as you’re in Deseret, and I’m a man of my word. Do you still not trust me?”
Obviously, she didn’t. But it seems like it’d be to her advantage to accept the crown prince’s magnanimity.
“No… I do trust you… and am thankful that you spared me back there. Sorry, I’m just a bit… taken aback by everything that’s happened.”
“Of course, that’s understandable. Maybe I should come back another time…” Alter trailed off as he moved to exit the infirmary.
“But if it’s about the dagger, I know as much about it as you do.”
Alter’s ears perked up.
“That is, I wasn’t aware it held that kind of power until right back there when I used it to blow back your men.”
“How… strange,” Alter muttered. “Would you be… up to test some theories I have?”
“I think the drugs have worn off,” Aurora replied with a sour expression, remembering the healthcare she received, “So I should be good to leave.”
Alter reached his hand out to Aurora, helping her out of the bed. Aurora grunted slightly as she placed her feet on the floor. Her chest was still a bit tender, but nothing compared to before her healing. Her shoes she’d been wearing were next to the bed. She carefully slid her feet into them, using Alter’s shoulder for leverage.
“Good?” Alter asked.
“Yeah,” Aurora replied, regaining her balance, “now where exactly are we off to?”
“The sparring room, where we train our guards. I want to see this dagger’s capabilities in a place where I can safely gauge them.”
“Very well, lead the way.”
Ruben held the infirmary door open as Alter and Aurora exited. He walked next to Aurora as they followed Alter, who moved at a rather purposeful pace.
“You looked pretty rough last time I saw you,” Ruben finally spoke up, “it’s good to see you got better.”
“Pfft!” Aurora huffed, “Better? That’s a matter opinion.”
Ruben glanced at her hand that had been pierced a few hours before. There was no evidence of a wound there anymore. “Well, your hand has to feel better without an arrow sticking through it.”
“I will admit, that’s a plus. Though, I can’t say much for the bedside manner of the bitch who actually healed my wounds.”
“I assume the ‘bitch’ to whom you refer is Lady Isabella Xylander?” Alter chimed in ahead of them.
“Yeah, what’s her deal?” Aurora answered, “She doesn’t exactly seem like… one of you, to put it lightly.”
“That’s a very astute observation, because she isn’t. She’s a member of the Xylander Family, the rulers of the Encelidan Matriarchy.”
“The Matriarchy, huh? So what’s she doing here, on this side of the Atlantic?”
“She’s here because of the Concordat, a trade and defense treaty both her family and ours signed. You could say that Lady Xylander is here as a sort of attaché for the Matriarchy, to assure that the terms of the Concordat are held in good faith by both parties. The Concordat isn’t mutually exclusive though, one of my uncles is living in the Matriarchy now as well.”
“So this… Concordat is beneficial to both sides then?” Ruben asked.
“Oh, very much so. In fact, the Concordat is one of the reasons we’re able to keep the Nyhrin Empire from an outright invasion of our territory. The Deception Collective is a powerful ally, and a great deterrent.”
“Although you are right, Aurora,” Alter chuckled, “even knowing Lady Xylander as long as I have, I will say her personality is certainly… an acquired taste, for sure.”
“Definitely.” Aurora acknowledged.
The trio continued walking down a corridor that seemed to stretch on for a full kilometer. Along the way, a handful of well-dressed servants going about their duties passed them, each giving the crown prince a respectful nod as they walked by. Each time, Alter would return the gesture in kind.
“How big is this place?” Aurora asked, admiring the elegant marble inlays along the walls of the corridor.
“Big enough to get lost in,” Alter quipped, “that’s for sure.”
“Undoubtedly.” Ruben added.
Alter stopped abruptly in front of broad mahogany door. Above it was a sign the read simply Sparring.
“Here we are.” he announced, opening the door to reveal a spacious, high-ceilinged room peppered with many types of martial instruments. Along one wall hung a multitude of practice swords and other bladed weapons neatly arranged according to both type and size. Gathered along the back wall were several practice dummies clothed in tan leather outfits and stuffed with hay. Alter walked to the back wall, grabbed one of the dummies, and dragged it to the center of the room.
“Alright,” Alter indicated, pulling the dagger out from beneath his robes again, “you two might want to step back for this.”
Aurora and Ruben complied, retreating several meters away, as Alter lined himself up with the dummy. He allowed a few paces so he could get a running lunge, positioning his body to absorb the force of the Impact Collective’s power. Taking two deep breaths in, he leaned forward with the dagger outstretched.
“Here I go!” Alter exclaimed, kicking up his feet, charging at the dummy vigorously. Just before the dagger made contact with the mannequin, Alter raised his free hand over his eyes, protecting them from any debris or splinters that may be created on impact.
Alter braced his body as the dagger pierced the leather hide covering the outer layer of straw innards.
He was cast, carried by his own momentum, up and over the dummy, losing his grip on the dagger in the process. As Alter fell on top of the dummy with a loud thud, the dagger landed right in front of Ruben’s feet. Although, Ruben was almost too steeped in laughter to notice. Even Aurora had to hold back a chuckle as she approached Alter to check on him.
“Are you okay?” Aurora asked.
“Ow,” Alter replied, regaining some sense of composure, “that hurt.” Aurora held out her hand to help him up. Alter reached out, pulled himself up, and brushed himself off. “I don’t understand why the dagger’s power didn’t activate. Perhaps…” he trailed off.
As if both had the same thought, Aurora and Alter turned to Ruben who had picked up the dagger.
“Oh, Ruben…” Aurora smirked.
“Yeah?” Ruben asked, composing himself.
“Why don’t you try it?”
Ruben hesitated momentarily, but relented, “Okay.”
Alter repositioned the dummy as Ruben took a stance similar to the one Alter had taken a few meters in front of it. Alter and Aurora stepped back a few paces and waited for Ruben.
Ruben glanced over at Alter with a well-to-do grin, “Watch this, your highness.”
“Famous last words,” Alter muttered.
Ruben suddenly bolted toward the dummy at top speed, swiping the dagger in front of him and bracing for contact. He let out a great roar as he made made contact with the dummy, and then…………
In a single, swift motion, the dummy was sent flying toward the back wall. It impacted with a force so great that it shattered into a hundred pieces.
Once the initial shock of the calamity wore off, Alter and Aurora looked back at Ruben who was obviously quite pleased with himself.
“Well damn! I’m pretty good.” he stated matter-of-factly, walking over to Aurora and handing her the dagger back.
Aurora took the dagger back. She was about to say something to Alter, but she noticed he was lost in thought, staring intently at the blade in her hands.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
“Come with me,” Alter ordered, darting toward the door.
Aurora snapped quickly behind him, followed closely by Ruben.
“Where are we going?”
“The library!” Alter acknowledged, “There’s something I need to know.”
After walking through what seemed like a kilometer of corridors and crossways, the trio finally arrived at the castle library. The doors were fixed in a large marble archway extending all the way up to the ceiling. While the doors seemed as though they weighed a tonne, Alter was able to open them with ease.
Inside, the library was extravagantly furnished. Several grand lighting fixtures adorned the ceiling, and a lavish fireplace filled out a central reading area, laid out with dozens of plush seating arrangements. Grandiose artwork lined the walls, one of which was a portrait of Alter in a rather regal outfit. Multiple rows of bookshelves completed the rest of the space, filled with volume after volume of bound tomes.
Aurora and Ruben stood amazed at the exorbitant nature of it all, as Alter went straight for a particular shelf with haste.
“Wow!” Ruben finally uttered, “Where in the world does all this come from?”
“The Concordat,” Alter answered, grabbing a ladder to reach the books on the higher shelves, “in addition to providing us with a unique form of defense, the Concordat provides us with access to what the Matriarchy is known for the world over: knowledge.”
“Amazing,” Aurora spoke up, “so you know what they know?”
“Exactly,” Alter began climbing the ladder and removing a handful of books.
Ruben started pacing through the library, mouth open, like a child on a sugar rush.
After a few minutes, Alter climbed down from his ladder with about a dozen books in his arms. Ruben noticed he’d returned and hurried back over to where Aurora and Alter were standing.
“I’m sure one of these books has the information I need,” Alter began, “I shall retire to my quarters for the night so I can do some research.”
“Very well, but… Alter?” Ruben asked.
“Regarding what you and I discussed earlier, would it be possible for me to utilize this library for my own research as to how exactly Aurora and I could enter the Quarantine Zone?”
“Absolutely, and I’d be very interested to hear about anything you discover. I must admit, you’ve piqued my curiosity Ruben. And, Lady Serafin?”
“Yes?” Aurora responded.
“I’d like you to accompany me to a meeting I have tomorrow. There’s someone I need you to meet. I think he’ll be very interested to see you.”
“Wonderful. Now, I shall see you two in the morning. If there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask one of the servants.”
“Will do,” Aurora said, nodding as Alter left the library and closed the door behind him.
As the door shut, Aurora turned back to Ruben, “Well, what do you think?”
Ruben looked around the library before answering.
“It’s a nice castle.”
Aurora rolled her eyes and scowled, “I think you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do. And I think we can trust him, at least for now. Besides, just look around. We’re alive, we’re safe, and we’ve been given a roof over our heads. We’ve been in much worse positions on this journey already. Personally, I’d say this is a step up.”
“You’re right, but don’t get too comfortable. We have a destination to get to, and I don’t exactly fancy staying right next door to the Empire for very long.”
“Agreed. But in the meantime, look what we’ve been given access to!”
Ruben threw his arms out, as if embracing the entire library.
“Yeah, well you have fun with that,” Aurora said, heading for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To find somewhere in this place to take a long, hot bath.”
“Not a bad idea.”
“Indeed… Besides, I need to look my best. Apparently I have a date tomorrow.”
Chapter 8: Infiltration Paradigm (Coming Soon)–>