Sundown – Chapter 14 (Part 1)

[10th of September, 2740 AD; Glora Grand Hall – In the Talons of the Albatross, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

Within the main floor of the Glora Grand Hall, where the summit was to take place in six days, Kiku Izumi strolled through the calm and almost empty passageway with Ayame and Igor. There was little for her to do while her mother, Empress Yamazaki met with some of the other leaders, that Kiku could only stare longingly out of the windows and into the city close by where most of the action took place.

“Say, Aya, why are we still hanging around here?” Kiku asked. “There’s literally nothing for me to do right now! It’s so boring!”

“It’s because we must wait for Madame Yamazaki to return,” Ayame replied. “I know it’s very tedious and lackluster right now, but please keep in mind that this is the first time for you travelling outside to another country that isn’t Jiaikohn, madame.”

“You really can’t just let me head off to the city, can you,” Kiku said. “All the people here are too busy to do anything exciting. At least in the city there’s a chance I can meet new and exciting people!”

“New people who may or may not put you in danger,” Ayame said. “There’s nothing exciting about being kidnapped, I assure you.”

“Aya, you really can be a pain in the butt,” Kiku replied.

“Don’t worry, Madame,” Igor said, “When this is over, we’ll go and get something to eat.”

Kiku sighed. “Food is not something I’m interested in right now,” she said. “By the way, Iggy, I’ve heard that Glora has a really nice shopping district. Maybe we could drop by so you can get yourself a new suit?”

“Why would I need a suit?” Igor asked.

“Well, maybe you’ll need one for when you get married,” Kiku answered. “Or maybe you would like to look nice once in a while. Or is it a new gun you’re interested in, instead? I can help you get whatever you want.”

“Please, Madame Izumi, it’s not necessary,” he said. “I’m good with what I have. No need for any new clothes or anything like that.”

Kiku laughed. “That’s disappointing, but I suppose I can understand,” she said. “Maybe we should pursue a different destination instead.”

“What might that be?” Igor asked.

“Well, perhaps we can see if they have a park,” Kiku said. “It’d be better than staying around in this old building, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I suppose that Madame Yamazaki wouldn’t mind if you went to the city,” Ayame replied. “As long as we’re around, I believe things will be okay.”

“Then it is a date, Aya!” Kiku said as she wrapped her arms around Ayame. “You could even carry me there if you wanted to…”

Ayame cracked a smile. “I don’t think that that’s needed,” she said. “There should be a cab that goes from here to the city. We can just ride that.”

She pointed over to the double doors that led outside. Several cabs sat outside as the three walked out of the building and onto the main deck. Igor picked out the closest cab driver and hurried Kiku and Ayame over.

The cab driver opened the back door. “So where do you want to go?”

Ayame got in first, with Kiku following in after her and Igor stepping in last. The door closed behind them as the cab driver walked around and got in the driver’s seat. As the engine started, Igor turned to Kiku.

“Well, madame, where to?” Igor asked. “Is it the shopping district or the park?”

Kiku closed her eyes. “Let me think,” she said. “Do I want to look at beautiful flowers or beautiful women?”

“We don’t have all of the day to think,” Igor said.

“So impulsive!” Kiku replied. “Ah, but then again, I suppose we can head to the park first. I’ve already got Aya with me and if I get tired, I can just rest on her shoulder.”

“You heard her,” Ayame said. “Take us to the biggest park in the city!”

“Got it,” the cab driver said.

The cab started to move as the driver proceeded to take them to the local park. Igor sat back and rested his eyes while Kiku wrapped herself around Ayame’s arm.

“You can be too protective at times, but I still love you,” Kiku said.

“I know,” Ayame replied.

“Do you ever just want to take a break?” Kiku asked. “Maybe you and Iggy can spend some quality time alone and get to know each other better.”

Igor’s eyes shot open. “What of the blazes are you saying, Madame Izumi!?”

“You guys always spend your time around me,” she answered. “Surely you two must get bored of having to deal with me. Why not take the time for yourselves while I go and see the park?”

“Being with you isn’t boring at all, madame,” Ayame said.

“But don’t you wish to enjoy things for yourself?” Kiku asked. “You can go see a play or take a dancing lesson with Iggy!”

Ayame patted Kiku on the back. “You continue to persist and persist,” she said. “Actually, I have heard that it was the same with your mother.”

“Oh, I’m not sure that that’s the case,” Kiku said. “In fact, I find it hard to believe that mother was once like I was.”

“Believe it or not,” Ayame replied. “You’re still a young woman after all.”

“Oh don’t be such a hypocrite, Aya,” Kiku replied. “You’re only four years older than I and only two up on Iggy!”

Igor shook his head. “It’s not from a place of being older than you are,” he said. “We’re telling you as your bodyguards.”

“Then let me tell you as the twenty year-old empress’ daughter: relax,” Kiku said. “We’re here for a few days before mother takes us to Rezar, so let’s just enjoy the fun while we’re on our trip.”

“If it will satisfy you, then fine,” Ayame said. “We’ll allow you to roam about the park at your whim.”

Kiku gazed into Ayame’s eyes. “Oh, really?”

“But do let us know if you need us,” Ayame continued. “Igor and I will spend some time around the park as well, so we will not be too far off.”

“I can live with that,” Kiku said. “I just wish I could kiss you right now!”

“Please, madame, it’s not necessary,” Ayame replied. “Not now, anyway.”

Kiku sighed. “And here I thought that this would be the time my lips would finally meet yours,” she said. “You can be a real killjoy, Aya…”

She sat back and rested her head as the cab driver drove the three to their destination. What sort of intrigue awaited, Kiku thought to herself as the drive down the mountain took them towards the city.

 

*****

 

[10th of September, 2740 AD; Royal Songbird Park, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

There were few clouds floating through the sky as Kiku walked past the small playground where several children played. She took the time to admire all of the tall trees and plants that surrounded the area.

“Oh, Ahnlikohn, you have quite the beautiful flora, don’t you?”

Kiku looked around, but no one was to be found. It seemed that Ayame and Igor were able to keep their promises as they were over at the other side of the park. Looking through where she was, Kiku spotted a small stand where a couple of people stood.

“Excuse me!” Kiku called out to the two and waved. “What is it that you’re selling at your stand?”

She moved over to the stand and up to them as a light breeze went through her hair. Both clerks were shuffling through the back of the stand while Kiku stood and waited.

“Sorry ma’am,” the first clerk, a short man, said. “We’re closed right now, so you should come back later.”

The other clerk, an older man, ran out the back of the stand and towards the truck nearby. Kiku turned around and decided to walk the other way, but ended up bumping into an unexpected stranger.

“Oops, sorry about that,” she said.

Her eyes set on his long brown hair and green shirt as Johan turned to face her. A sole cookie was being held between his teeth as Kiku took a step back.

Johan removed the cookie from his mouth. “No, it’s quite fine,” he said. “I was the one in the way.”

“I, well, I should apologize anyway,” Kiku replied as she placed a hand on her chest. “You’re… you’re from around here?”

“Not at all,” Johan said. “I only just arrived here.”

“So you wouldn’t be able to know when that stand opens up, would you?”

“Sad to say that I haven’t a clue,” he replied.

“I see, I see,” she said. “So that cookie… that’s not from there?”

“Just a snack I picked up from when I was Helm,” Johan said. “I’ve got an extra in my pocket if that’s what you want.”

Kiku giggled. “Do you think that I’m a child?”

“If you were, you’d be the biggest of all the kids here,” he replied. “Er, I mean that in a metaphorical sense. You’re a beautiful, petite woman, miss…”

“The name is Kiku,” she answered.

“Yes, Kiku,” he said. “Wait, you don’t mean THAT Kiku, do you?”

“Well, there’s me, my mother, and my grandmother,” she said. “That’s three Kikus in total, so you’ll have to be specific.”

“Oh my god, I had no idea I was speaking with Kikuishan royalty,” Johan said. “My heart is racing so fast now.”

“I could say the same, but just don’t think of me as a member of a royal family,” she said. “Here, I’ve already introduced myself, so you should do the same to me.”

Johan laughed nervously. “Right, where are my manners? The name is Johan Kuu.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Kuu,” Kiku said. “Or should I say… Cookie?”

“I had a feeling you would use that against me,” Johan said.

“It’s because you seem so sweet,” she replied. “Oh, but that’s not exactly becoming of me, is it?”

“Not at all… not at all,” Johan replied. “Hearing you say that about me is quite nice, though.”

“So what brings you here?” Kiku asked. “If I could guess, it’d be because you wanted to try some of Glora’s famous delicacies. Am I right?”

“As nice as that sounds, I’ve got another reason for being here,” he said. “That building over there, do you see it?”

Johan pointed in the direction of the Glora Grand Hall as the top of the building emerged from the crowd of trees around it. From there, he and Kiku could see that there were no clouds in the sky where the building stood.

“I’ve got some business there with somebody,” Johan said.

“Ooh, sounds interesting,” she said. “You don’t look like a diplomat, however…”

“It’s not official business or anything,” he replied. “I was asked to go there, so I’m about to head off soon.”

“You don’t want to spend more time here?” Kiku asked. “This conversation has been nice and I’d be sad to see you go so soon, Cookie.”

“Aw, don’t be sad,” Johan said. “I’m sure that we will meet each other again in the future.”

“You really think so?”

“Give me a few hours,” he said. “After I’m done with business, I’ll try to find you again.”

“Well, if you’re going to do that, I should let you know where I’m staying,” Kiku said. “Go to the Sparrow Hotel; I’ll be most likely in the outdoor lounge, if not in my room.”

“You know, you’re very content with sharing this information with me,” Johan said. “We barely know each other, yet you’ve all but given me your room number.”

“Oh, well, if you want that you’ll have to come to the hotel,” she replied. “Anyway, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of your important business, would I? Though I do have one thing I’d like to ask you, Cookie.”

“Go right ahead,” he said, “As long as it’s not about my job, of course.”

“No, nothing like that,” Kiku said, “I just want to know if you know a man by the name of Sorin Wilk.”

Johan raised an eyebrow. “An unexpected question,” he replied. “I do happen to know him. Why do you ask?”

“If you want to know the answer, come to the hotel,” Kiku said as she put a finger to her lips.

“Guess I’ll have to do just that,” Johan said.

“It’s on, then!” Kiku said.

“Yes, looks like it is,” he said. “Just promise me that you won’t tell anyone about this meeting, okay?”

Kiku nodded as Johan laughed. “I won’t tell a soul.”

“Then it’s time for me to get out of here,” he said. “See ya!”

“Bye!”

Johan ran off to Kiku’s right as she watched him leave. The air of mystery that surrounded him intrigued her and she had to know more. Added with the fact that he was Sorin’s friend, Kiku had all sorts of questions for Johan if he did decide to meet her later. Still, in the midst of it all was a quiet park where people walked about as Ayame and Igor went up to Kiku.

“Madame, are you okay!?” Igor asked, struggling to catch his breath.

“See, Iggy, I told you that she was fine,” Ayame said. “I knew that she wouldn’t leave the park while we’re here.”

Igor shook his head. “I could’ve sworn I heard someone talking earlier,” he said. “Were you speaking with someone, Madame Izumi?”

“I was just merely wandering through the park,” Kiku answered. “Too busy looking at the flowers to have a conversation with someone.”

“What do you think of these flowers, madame?” Ayame asked.

Kiku took a moment to think. “If I had to say… I’d probably say they were okay,” she replied. “These flowers are nothing like what they have in the gardens in Mikahana.”

“It seems to be a nice place for the birds, though,” Ayame said. “Iggy and I saw a few of them flying by the pond over on the other side.”

“That must be nice,” Kiku said, “But I’m already tired of this place. How about we head off to our other destination, Aya?”

“Okay,” Ayame replied. “The cab driver should still be parked near the entrance. Let’s go, Iggy.”

Kiku went with Ayame and Igor and left the park. Their next destination at the shopping district awaited them, but all Kiku could think about was whether or not Johan would meet her later.

 

To be continued…

 

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