Perfidy: Four

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Happy Easter! Here’s another chapter of Perfidy.

Most of the time Aisa did what she was supposed to. She worked hard. She completed the assignments for her internship. She brought honor to the name of Ayerba. But to find out that your king is dead and to realize that your country was about to fall into turmoil– She tilted her head and stared at the plate of chocolate chip cookies. There had been seven when she’d planted herself on the couch. Now there were three. 

She grabbed another one. The country going into turmoil allowed for missed meetings and sticking around Wong Path for a little too long while eating Sai’s famous double-chip cookies. 

By “too long” she meant “Completely missing the meeting that would decide the fate of their kingdom.” 

Maybe she should just move to Anniotter. Secluded kingdoms with lots of snow sounded pleasing. And she’d heard that their hot cocoa was beyond compare. She shoved another cookie in her mouth and studied the painting opposite her couch. It was massive, wider than she was tall, with delicate ink strokes depicting a lake and a tree with pink blossoms. She’d stared at the scene many times, but the repetition never drained the peace the picture brought hter.

The flowers matched the maroon wall and the delicacy of the whole image complimented the chandlers and other decor around the cookie shop. 

“Aren’t you supposed to be at the meeting?” A voice sounded from behind her. 

She turned around to look up into the face of a dark-haired guy, probably a few years older than her. “Who are you?”

“Balor.” He leapt over the back of the couch and landed on the third of the three cushions. “You’re Aisa, right?”

“Yes.” She hesitated, but pushed the plate of cookies towards him. “Want one?” 

“Yeah, thanks.” He grabbed a cookie and set it on his dark pants. All of his clothes, in fact, were black. “It’s chaos in there.” 

“Second civil war start yet?” She tucked her legs under her and smoothed down her skirt. His expression sent shivers through her body. She’s meant it as a joke. He, apparently, had not taken it as one. 

“I give it twenty-four hours.” 

Panic struck her. “Precognition?”

“Phasing.” He shook his head and ran a hand through his thick hair. “I can walk through walls.” 

She studied him with the same fascination that she had the painting. He, unlike the picture, seemed entirely out of place in this delicate shop. Sure, she wore solid black, too, and had dark hair and skin, but her outfit matched the feel of the shop. The delicate lace on her skirt toyed with floral patterns.

His thick leather jacket didn’t. 

The silk of the couch clashed with his all-terrain pants. He looked like he had just returned from war. 

“Is your gun in the car?” Aisa grabbed the last cookie.

“Motorcycle.”

She gawked. “Why in Rowhux do you have a gun?” 

“Well.” He shoved the cookie into his mouth. 

She nibbled on hers. What was he doing with a gun? They were almost completely banned in Rowhux. Only the military and foreigners had them– or nor who feared for their safety. He had just admitted that he was not a nor. She detected almost no accent. Military was barely existent. War hadn’t taken place on Rowhuxian land for almost two centuries. 

He tried to mumble something through his cookie-filled mouth, spewing crumbs across the mahogany table. She shook her head and scooted back. Maybe he was insane. Insane people with a gun sounded less than pleasant. 

He tried again. “Do you have any tea?” 

“No.” 

“Oh well.” He took a moment to chew and swallow most of the cookie.

Aisa tried again. “The gun? Why?”

“I assassinated Lord Cactus.” 

He what? Aisa blinked. “Pardon?”

“Aren’t you an intern? Do they teach you what it means to be assassinated, or is that for when you became a senator or a lady?”

“No, no.” She struggled to keep her jaw from dropping. “You assassinated him? Did he die?”

“I believe that’s the point of assassination, love.” 

And so that’s how Aisa found herself sharing a couch with a murderer. A few minutes passed in silence. Was he here to assassinate her? Why would he want to assassinate her out of all people? She wasn’t important. 

She also felt the need to clarify this. “I’m just an intern.”

“I know. You’re studying under Brell, right?”

“Depends on whether or not you agree with Brell.” Though, considering that he assassinated Cactus, he probably sided with Brell.

“Brell likes nors. I like Brell.” 

“I like nors.” The words came out too fast. 

“No.” He shook his head. “But you don’t dislike them. I’m not going to kill you, Aisa. I just needed to get things started.” 

“A war?”

He ignored her question. “What’s your magic?”

“Death.” 

He smirks. “And I’m the assassin. By the way, your friends will be here before long.” 

“Friends?” She’d almost forgotten about them coming.

“Mocha, Jael, Nadia, Edison, and the others.” 

“Oh.” Aisa nibbled on her cookie. “Won’t they recognize you?”

He snorted. “Everything was chaotic. They’re not going to recognize me.”

“Why are you here then?”

To see how everything plays out.” 

Aisa shifted in her seat. Why did his answer make her feel so uncomfortable? 

The bell over the door jingled. Aisa turned to see Jael enter. Aisa had never seen the lady rumpled, but Jael’s hair was everywhere, and her pencil skirt featured a large rip to the middle of her thigh. She looked– angry. Like she could punch someone and not blink an eyelash about it. Aisa shrunk back into the couch. 

Behind Jael followed Nadia. The dark-skinned girl’s forehead shined with sweat. Her normally curly hair frizzed out like a lion’s mane. She, too, looked angry, but with more of a wet anger as her golden eyes glistened with tears. She beelined for the couch, sitting beside Aisa with barely a glance at Balor. 

Jael stalked over with cookies a moment later, pulling up a chair that screached across the wooden floor. Aisa glanced back and forth between her friend, Nadia, and Balor. He wasn’t kidding. He’d killed Lord Cactus. The pit in Aisa’s chest filled with panic. There was no stopping this, was there?

She shivered. “Jael?” 

“Aisa?” Silver eyes pinned her down. “What?”

“Are you alright?”

Jael shook her head. “No, I’m not.” 

“Why?”

“Lord Cactus is dead. War is starting.” 

“It doesn’t have to.” 

Jael held Aisa’s gaze. “Yes, it does. Nors cannot be treated fairly until something radical happens. Mocha blames me– us– for Cactus’s death.” 

Footsteps sounded from the side hallway. Aisa’s heart leapt into her throat. Mocha could be here. She knew he could be radical. She’d hung out with him the least, after being welcomed into the group a few month ago. What if he was here to end the war before it started. No one else seemed to pay attention to the footsteps. 

Two people came around the corner. 

She breathed a sigh of relief when she recognized Edison’s black-and-white hair and blue fish. In front of him stood the short-and-stout Mister Sai Cornelius Path with a new plate of steaming Swableberry cookies. 

“Hey kiddos,” Sai grinned, his wrinkly face familiar with the motion. “I figured Aisa would have eaten all the cookies by now so I’d bring you more. These are on the house, ’cause I told Soph that I wouldn’t make anymore. She’s just jealous that she can’t bake.”

Sai and Sophie had always insisted that they weren’t nors, but their powers were that he was absurdly good at baking, and she could cook anything she put her mind to. Aisa reached for a cookie as he set them down on the table. She’d smiled and nodded politely when Sai first explained this too her, but after eating one of the cookies, she did believe it. 

“Oh dear, Nadia, m’girl, what’s wrong?” Sai had spotted the tears streaming down the girl’s cheeks. 

Nadia wiped her tears. “Cactus was assassinated.” 

“Oh dear.” Sai’s face paled. “Oh dear, oh dear. I need to talk to Sophie about this. I will return in a bit, kiddos.” 

“Bye, Mr. Path.” Balor waved as Sai disappeared back into the hallway. 

Edison continued to stand awkwardly in the doorway, his fish bobbing through the air. 

Balor cleared his throat. “Jael, when war starts, I stand with you.” 

Jael’s gaze flickered from the doorway to the boy. The skin between her eyebrows wrinkled slightly “Who are you?”

“A magic-user who supports nors.” 

“Ah. Powers?” 

“Phasing.” 

The anger in Jael’s eyes hardened to something– something dangerous. Cunning. A determination. Aisa shoved another cookie into her mouth. 

Jael nodded. “Okay, we’ll take you.”

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