[11th of September, 2740 AD; Sparrow Hotel – Indoor Pool and Exercise Facility, Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Kiku arrived with Ayame and Igor at the indoor pool, where they wanted to spend some time until her mother finished her meeting. As Kiku expected, there were several other people in the pool as well as around it. Both Kiku and Ayame wore swimsuits, a white one-piece swimsuit and a purple bikini respectively, but Igor remained in his military uniform. Despite wearing a swimsuit, however, Kiku opted to sit at one of the tables with both of her guards instead of going into the water.
“Do you not wish to swim, madame?” Igor asked.
“Iggy, swimming is much more fun when it’s with someone you love, at least in my opinion,” Kiku replied. “I’m surprised you didn’t pack a pair of swimming trunks, though.”
“I’m afraid to say I can’t swim, madame,” Igor said.
“Ah, that’s a shame,” Kiku said. “Then again, you wouldn’t want to go swimming anyway, since you can just look at Aya and I.”
“It’s my job to keep an eye on you,” Igor replied.
“But not on Aya?” Kiku asked. “Or are you so in awe of her beauty that you cannot even gaze the sight of her?”
“It’s not that,” Igor said. “I can look at Ayame just fine. It’s just that swimsuit, if it can be called that…”
“I see now,” Kiku said. “It’s because you’ll catch yourself staring at Aya’s breasts, won’t you?”
She laughed as Igor turned away.
“It’s just a normal swimsuit, Igor,” Ayame said. “Then again, this is the first time we’ve actually been in a place like this together. Oh my god.”
“I bet I can make you blush even more, Iggy,” Kiku said. “What if I told you that there is someone I love? You’ll never guess who it is!”
“I don’t think you have someone like that,” Ayame said. “Not that I know of, anyway.”
Igor grimaced and turned in his seat. “It’s nothing.”
Kiku leaned forward. “Oh, did you say something?”
“Nothing, madame,” Igor replied.
“Well, you two can keep talking,” Ayame said. “I’ve been wanting to take a dip in the pool for quite a while and I don’t want to wait any longer.”
She stood up and walked towards the pool. As Ayame went swimming, Kiku watched on while Igor turned his sight back to her.
“She’s even more graceful in the water,” Kiku said. “Are you sure you don’t want to swim, Iggy? You can use Aya as a floatation device!”
“Um, I’m surprised you didn’t say that I could use you, Madame Izumi,” Igor replied.
“Just take a look at me,” she said as she spread her arms wide. “I’ve not the same assets as some of the other women, but luckily the gods decided to bless me with an enchanting charm instead.”
“Are you envious?” Igor asked. “You don’t usually come off as envious, if I do say so myself.”
“True, there are some advantages to being larger, and I don’t just mean height,” Kiku said, “But being small has its perks, too.”
“I suppose, though I wouldn’t know myself,” Igor said.
“Hey, do you want to go for a walk?” Kiku asked.
“But Ayame’s still swimming,” Igor replied. “Is that really okay?”
“She will eventually notice when we’re gone,” Kiku said. “I kind of just want to get up and stretch my legs.”
Igor stood up. “Then let’s go,” he said. “I’m sure that Ayame won’t mind if we take a breath of fresh air.”
Kiku got up as well and followed Igor out of the indoor pool. Out into the hallway, the two walked for a bit as they decided what to do next. That was when they managed to see both the prince of Thekohn and Lauren Ahga in one of the lobbies of the hotel.
“Perhaps we should greet them,” Igor said.
“I was just going to do that, Iggy,” Kiku said. “Oh, Brooksy! Over here!”
Brook turned his head and grinned the moment he saw Kiku. Ahga noticed the two as well and smiled as the two men walked up to Kiku and Igor.
“It’s nice to see you again,” Brook said.
“Yes, it’s quite nice to finally meet the lovely daughter of the empress of Kikuisha,” Ahga said. “Just one look at you tells me that you are indeed Yamazaki’s offspring.”
“Excuse me, but I don’t believe that you’ve met with Sir Lauren before,” Brook said. “He is an advisor to the queen.”
“Ah, that’s why,” Kiku said. “Well, Sir Lauren, it is nice to meet you. Now I wish I was in much more formal wear…”
“Seeing where you probably came from, it can’t be helped,” Brook said. “Is it just me, or isn’t there another person you’re with?”
“Oh, you mean Aya, don’t you?” Kiku asked. “She’s probably still taking a swim right now, if I had to guess.”
Brook nodded. “That was easy,” he said. “Hey, if it’s not too much ask, perhaps you could attend a dinner with my mother and I?”
Kiku looked over at Ahga. “Will he be there?”
“Sadly, I will not,” Ahga replied. “It’s a bit of personal matter.”
“I see,” Kiku said. “How about it, Iggy? Do you want to go?”
“No matter what I say, it probably won’t mean much,” Igor said. “If Madame Yamazaki is okay with it, then I suppose there is no problem.”
“Hooray! Sounds like we’ve got a dinner date tonight, Brooksy,” Kiku replied. “I’ll be sure to tell mother of the good news!”
“I’ll be awaiting your arrival,” Brook said. “It’s actually a really nice place from what I’ve heard.”
“Well, if you say it, then I guess I’ll have to believe it,” Kiku said. “Anyway, it’s been nice seeing you, but I believe it’s due time for us to head back.”
“Take care,” Brook replied.
Kiku said her goodbye and headed off with Igor back the way they had come. She could not wait for the dinner tonight, but had to get ready first. That was when they arrived at the pool and found Ayame getting out of the pool.
“Madame, did you leave?” Ayame asked.
“Did you not notice? I would’ve thought that you would,” Kiku replied. “I merely wanted to take a little walk, that was all.”
“Well, as long as Iggy was with you, it’s okay,” Ayame said.
“That it was, Aya,” Kiku said. “Anyway, I’ve changed my mind; I want to take a little swim now.”
“Right now?” Igor asked. “D-Does that mean you’ve found your love here?”
“No, Iggy,” Kiku answered. “I’ve told you before, haven’t I? I love Aya, so it’s only logical that I get to swim with her.”
“And you said you can’t swim,” Ayame said. “Although I suppose I’m going to have to watch extra carefully to make sure you don’t do anything sneaky, madame.”
Kiku gasped. “Sneaky? Me? What kind of woman do you take me for, Aya? I’m the least sneaky person in the world!”
“I know that,” Ayame replied. “I was just teasing.”
“Teasing, is it?” Kiku asked. “I like being teased by you, Aya.”
“That’s a weird thing to say,” Igor said.
“Oh, you only say that because I tease you all the time,” Kiku said. “It’s too bad you can’t swim, Iggy, because I’d really like to splash you right now!”
“Please don’t,” Igor replied. “I’m not a fan of large bodies of water.”
“So does that mean you like small bodies?” Kiku asked. “I didn’t think you would have those feelings about me, Iggy…”
Igor stepped back. “No! That’s not at all what I meant, Madame Izumi! I don’t think about your body at all!”
“Just kidding,” Kiku said. “Come on, Aya, let’s jump in!”
Kiku went towards the pool and leapt in, causing a small splash as Ayame shook her head at Igor. Some of the water ended up splashing both Ayame and Igor, the latter’s clothes slightly soaked.
“Perhaps you ought to stand back,” Ayame said, “Because I’m going in, too!”
Ayame joined Kiku in the pool and jumped in, causing another splash. Igor tried to move, but ended up getting splashed again and slipped. He landed on his backside as the seat of his pants became soaked with water.
“Damn it!” Igor said.
Kiku and Ayame laughed as they floated in the pool. As Igor stood up, he could only wonder what kind of explanation he would give to the empress later.
[11th of September, 2740 AD; Ameci Embassy, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]
The night arrived as Henry entered the embassy after a long day of working with Fercewend. He waited for the arrival of Aron Arrington, the man Henry had tasked with keeping an eye on Korbin. Henry walked around for a few minutes, checking his watch until Aron entered through the front door.
“Arrington, you’re finally here,” Henry said.
Aron saluted Henry. “A couple of minutes late, sir,” he replied. “Sorry about that.”
“As long as you don’t make tardiness a habit, then I’ll forgive you,” Henry said. “How are things going?”
“Well, about that, sir, I have some news,” Aron replied, “I heard that Mr. Mars was headed towards Helm. Seems he’s got a little pack of his own along with him.”
“That’s not too surprising,” Henry said. “He’s always had that small group with him whenever he hangs around the base or around here. The rumor, though, does interest me. How did you find out?”
“I asked around,” Aron answered. “Most didn’t know or care, but I did run into Bradley of Troop 15. He told me he needed a truck to go to Helm.”
“Okay, then you heard it from Crawford Bradley himself,” Henry replied. “You could have just said that in the beginning.”
Aron lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Henry said. “At least we know now where they are.”
“That’s true,” Aron replied. “I wish I had more to add, but that’s all I’ve got, Junior Lieutenant Randolph.”
The front doors to the embassy opened again and in walked Korbin. He had a new change of clothes and was carrying his sword at his side. Henry, with his arms crossed, turned to Korbin and nodded.
“Where have you been, Mars?” Henry asked.
“I’ve been around,” Korbin replied. “Here, there… Does it matter where I go? Why so suddenly concerned about me?”
“You know why I asked you that,” Henry said. “I heard from Arrington here that you were headed towards Helm the last he checked.”
“Really now?” Korbin asked.
“And there was an attack earlier in that town,” Henry continued. “Would you happen know anything about that?”
Korbin shrugged. “Why the hell would I know?”
“Because I’m concerned,” Henry replied. “General Fercewend has been noting your absences and went to me directly in hopes that I would address you personally about it.”
“You really got to do that?” Korbin asked. “Tch, you want to ask for my shoe size, too?”
“It’s a serious matter, Korbin!” Aron exclaimed.
“Shut up,” Korbin replied. “Fine, you want to know so bad? Okay, I did go to Helm, but I had no idea about the attack whatsoever.”
Henry sighed. “Well, since I heard that the attackers were domestic, I’m inclined to believe you,” he said, “But I do want to know why you went there in the first place. Care to tell me?”
“There’s no real reason that you’d go, right?” Aron asked.
Korbin’s eyes darted around, but then stopped as a smile appeared on his face. “That’s right, I was going to tell you about what I found out,” he replied. “You will not believe what I discovered today! I bet it’ll shake you up real good!”
“You found out something?” Henry asked.
“Actually, I was hoping that it’d be better news, you know,” Korbin said, “But alas, it concerns our resident spy, Johan Kuu.”
“Explain,” Henry said.
“Well, it’s only what I’ve heard, but Johan is in cahoots with a former member of the True Thekohnians,” Korbin replied. “Now I know that you probably have your doubts, but with all his roaming around, it makes a lot of sense if you ask me!”
“But Johan’s been on our side this whole time,” Aron said. “What possible reason would he have to associate with the likes of them?”
“Hey, don’t go after me,” Korbin said. “I’m just a messenger.”
Henry rubbed his chin. “Where did you hear this from?”
“Look, it doesn’t matter what the source of the news is,” Korbin replied. “All that matters is that we look into this. Now that I think about it, perhaps he was compromised before we rescued him. Yeah, definitely.”
“It’s no good to jump conclusions,” Henry said. “I’ll have to hear it from Kuu himself before making any sort of judgement.”
Korbin chuckled. “I guess that’s why you hold the rank you have,” he said. “Please just consider it, though. It greatly worries me that we might have a traitor in our midst.”
“I’ll inform the general about what you said,” Henry replied. “Just be more considerate of his time from now on, okay?”
“Don’t worry, I will be sure to remember,” Korbin said.
“Very well,” Henry said. “If you two will excuse me, I’m off to get some rest.”
Henry then left the embassy, leaving Korbin and Aron alone. Aron breathed out a sigh of relief as Korbin looked at him. Aron stared back at Korbin, who then marched up to him. The two men’s faces were mere inches apart as Korbin drilled his stare directly into Aron’s eyes.
“I know what you did,” Korbin said.
“What do you mean?” Aron asked.
“You’re working to undermine me, aren’t you,” Korbin replied. “Nothing more than a meddling rat, aren’t you? Do you know what happens to rats when I find them?”
Aron shook his head.
“They say the best way to deal with a filthy rat is to crush the head,” Korbin said. “It’s fast and efficient, after all. Some also say that drowning works as well.”
“What… what are you talking about?”
Korbin grabbed Aron by the collar. “You found me out pretty quickly,” he said. “If you had any balls, you would’ve tried to interfere with my plans. But you didn’t even try, did you?”
“I was waiting for the right time,” Aron replied.
“Fuck, you’re too stupid and dull to realize your mistake,” Korbin said. “I could just deal with you now and make it look like an accident, but I’m feeling generous today.”
He unleashed Aron’s collar, who decided to back up away from Korbin. Korbin, however, continued to walk towards Aron until the latter hit the wall. Once again, they were separated by a few inches as Korbin furrowed his brow.
“The next time you try to fuck with me, though, I will fucking kill you,” Korbin said. “Make no mistake, Aron Arrington. Oh, and don’t even think about reporting me to General Fercewend unless you really don’t value your life.”
Korbin then grinned as he patted Aron on the shoulder and walked away. Aron, who had been scared stiff, finally released his breath as he clutched his shoulder. There was little that Aron could do now, so he decided to take Henry’s cue and get some rest for now.
To be continued…