Chapter 10 can be read below the cut.
Haruyéng had left the three of them – Lu, Hayésu, and Onnarré – at the inn in Tsengtu they were staying at about an hour ago. He’d bought them tea and then gave them absolutely no notice of how long he was going to be gone. Onnarré hadn’t touched his tea, and Hayésu was sure he wasn’t going to touch it. Lu had been sipping hers as she read a book, and Hayésu had already drank all of his. He was antsy, drumming his fingers against the table.
“Why are you so anxious, Hayésu?” Lu asked, still staring at her book.
“Haruyéng’s taking too long,” said Hayésu. He glanced at one of the windows. There were no people visible through it.
“You could go and find him instead of waiting here,” Lu suggested.
Haruyéng stood up, pushing his chair back. The sound of the chair scraping against the floor woke up Onnarré, who had been dozing off. He looked at Hayésu with a startled expression that quickly morphed into his usual indifferent one.
“I’m going to go get him,” Hayésu announced to no one in particular.
Lu watched him leave. As soon as the door closed, she turned to Onnarré. “Maybe you should just go to bed?” she suggested. “It is pretty late.”
Onnarré shook his head. “No, I’ll stay awake until Haruyéng gets back.”
Hayésu and Haruyéng walked in a couple of minutes later. They were arguing, which had become a common occurrence with Hayésu ever since they’d left the Capital.
“You’re not taking this seriously,” said Hayésu.
Haruyéng sighed loudly. He pointed at Hayésu and poked him in the chest a few times as he spoke. “Look, Hayésu. I don’t like it either, but there really isn’t anything I can do about it.” He looked down at the table, grabbed Onnarré’s untouched tea, and drained it in a single gulp.
Onnarré didn’t react. Hayésu looked more than a little startled. “That’s Onnarré’s,” he said.
Haruyéng set the teacup down. “He wasn’t drinking it,” he said. “And considering how late it is right now, that’s probably a good thing. Let’s go talk upstairs.”
Haruyéng carefully shut and locked the door behind them. “I’m sure you’ll all be happy to know that I learned some things from talking to the town guards,” he said.
Lu sat down on the mattress next to Onnarré. “Did they mention anything about Rebels?” she asked.
“There was only speculation,” said Haruyéng. “Some of them think that Rebels have spies in all towns this size. They found one a month ago and executed her, but they think there’s more. Here. In Tsengtu. And that’s why we’re here.”
“That makes sense. There’s hardly ever only one Rebel,” said Hayésu. “They usually work in groups.”
“I think most people usually work in groups,” said Lu. “So the generals want us here to find the rest of them? Why didn’t they tell us that in the beginning?”
“They probably didn’t want the information getting out,” said Hayésu.
“That’s probably their reasoning, but they didn’t say anything like that,” said Haruyéng.
Onnarré frowned and crossed his arms. “The guards here executed one Rebel a month ago. That sort of news spreads fast. We should have heard about it. Everyone in the Empire should have. That news should have made it all the way into East Meitsung.”
Haruyéng rubbed his chin. “You’re not wrong,” he said. “But the guards told me that they managed to do this all in secret. I’m not surprised that no one knew about it.”
Onnarré continued frowning. “Someone should have noticed something.”
“It does seem pretty odd, now that I’m thinking about it,” said Hayésu.
Haruyéng sighed and rubbed his face. “I know that,” he said. “I know it sounds ridiculous and unbelievable. I’m sure there’s something else I’m not being told. But even as a Division Commander, I haven’t been able to get any clarification. I don’t like what’s going on at all, but for the time being, we’re going to follow the orders we were given.”
“You need to get up,” said Haruyéng.
Onnarré reluctantly sat up and rubbed his eyes. He looked up at Haruyéng and frowned – he certainly didn’t remember falling back asleep. And since he was wearing his uniform, he definitely hadn’t just dreamed about getting up.
“Lu and Hayésu are downstairs,” said Haruyéng. “I’ll give you your assignments over breakfast.”
Onnarré scrambled to his feet and hurriedly got his things together before he followed Haruyéng downstairs. Lu and Hayésu were sitting at the same table, squabbling over something nonsensical as usual. A plate of pastries lay in the middle of the table.
“Quiet down, you two,” said Haruyéng. “And where did you get that? Did you even pay for it?” Without waiting for an answer, he continued talking. “Anyway, I’ve received our proper assignments.”
“And what would they be?” asked Hayésu.
“Well, we’re ‘looking for Rebels’,” said Haruyéng. “Duh. I think we all knew that already. But it turns out that we’re not actually supposed to do anything other than that. So, really, we can do whatever we want as long as we don’t cause any trouble. And as long as we find a Rebel or two.”
Hayésu raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” he said in a disbelieving tone.
“We can actually do whatever we want?” Lu asked.
“Doesn’t it sound like the upper brass wanted you out of the way for some reason?” Onnarré asked.
“Don’t – don’t you all interrupt like that,” said Haruyéng. “We are all going to go around and talk to the people in this town. You know, to get a feel of how things have been recently and if they suspect anything weird’s going on.”
“Right,” said Lu. “Everyone’s gotta be antsy ever since they caught that Rebel. There’s gotta be a ton of gossip going around.”
“They don’t know about that,” said Onnarré. “Only we do.”
“Some of them have to have suspicions,” said Hayésu. “A small group of soldiers doesn’t suddenly turn up in a town for benign reasons. Everyone knows that.”
“We’re going to be working in groups of two,” said Haruyéng strongly. “Hayésu and Lu, you two are going to be sticking together. I don’t want either of you wandering off and getting into something weird.”
“What?” said Lu.
“And I and Onnarré will be in the other group,” said Haruyéng. “I think this will be for the best.”
“I…I don’t like this,” said Lu.
“Neither do I. Why do we need to be in groups?” Hayésu asked.
“Just deal with it,” said Haruyéng. “It’ll just be for the day! If it doesn’t work out, we won’t have to do it tomorrow.”
Lu was the last person Haruyéng expected to run up to him. It had been a few hours since he and Onnarré had split up from the other two. Haruyéng noted with displeasure that Hayésu was nowhere in sight. For a moment, he wondered just how and where Lu managed to ditch him.
“Lu, I told you to stay with Hayésu the whole day,” said Haruyéng, trying to sound professional. “Where is he? Why didn’t you listen to me?”
Lu responded without changing her demeanor or tone of voice. “I thought that order was bullshit, so I didn’t care to listen to it,” she said. “Anyway, me and Hayésu were talking to some of the guards, and they’ve got leads on who the other Rebels could be.”
“And it’s stuff they didn’t tell me?” Haruyéng said. “That seems unlikely.”
“I guess it’s new information?” said Lu. “So-”
“Where is Hayésu?” Haruyéng interrupted. Lu looked affronted, and he sighed. “Fine, never mine Hayésu for now. Elaborate on what the guards told you.”
“They’ve been investigating some suspicious people, and have reason to believe they’re Rebels,” said Lu.
“Have reason to believe they’re Rebels?” repeated Haruyéng. “Could you please elaborate? Like, actually elaborate!? There’s no way anyone actually said that and nothing else.”
Lu looked offended. “I’m not making things up! They even gave me a list of names!”
“You could have just said that in the beginning,” said Haruyéng. “Show me the list. Show me now.”
Lu pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and shook it at Haruyéng. She was still irritated. “They’ve been watching all of these people for a while, apparently. Tsuroyin Korro is actually another guard, but he wasn’t there when I was talking to them. The other four are just normal people.”
Haruyéng scratched his chin. “I talked to Korro last night,” he said. “I guess he would try to downplay the guards’ knowledge of any Rebel activity. But this still seems like too much of a coincidence.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” Lu asked.
“Right now, nothing,” said Haruyéng. He folded up the paper and slipped it into his pocket.
“Nothing?” Onnarré asked. He sounded genuinely surprised.
“But why not? I went through all this trouble of getting this information for you-” Lu started.
Haruyéng scoffed. “I don’t want to accuse someone of being a Rebel traitor without having enough information to implicate them. If that sort of word gets out in this climate, someone could end up dead,” he said. “What I’m going to have the three of you do is figure out who is actually a Rebel. Then, once we have some actual evidence, we’ll go confront them, arrest them, and question them. Understood?”
“Yes,” said Onnarré.
“Yeah,” said Lu. “Wait, the three of us? What are you gonna be doing?”
“I am going to go find Hayésu,” said Haruyéng. “And then I’m going to do whatever the hell I want! It’s time for you three to become more independent. You can handle this investigation on your own, can’t you?”
Lu glanced at Onnarré. He barely moved his head to meet her gaze, and after a moment, Lu looked back at Haruyéng. “I…guess so…” she said.
Haruyéng smiled and clasped his hands together. “Well, you two had better stick together while I get Hayésu. Either go back to the inn or talk to some other people. I’ll meet up with you later.”
With that, Haruyéng spun around and started walking toward the market. Lu and Onnarré stared after him. The expression on Lu’s face got more and more hopeless the further away Haruyéng got.
“He took the paper,” she said. “I don’t even remember the Rebels’ names.”