Chapter 12 can be read below the cut.
Hayésu found Onnarré on the outskirts of Tsengtu. He’d set up some targets for target practice, and his own personal possessions were strewn out along some tree stumps. If Hayésu was correct – and he was usually correct about things like this – then Onnarré had already been out here for an hour or two.
He waited until Onnarré set his rifle aside to tap him on the shoulder. Onnarré immediately turned to look at him, though he didn’t say a word or flinch.
“Lu and I have more information,” said Hayésu.
“Hm?” was Onnarré’s only response.
Hayésu sat down on the closest tree stump, rubbing his knees. Onnarré remained standing in front of him. “Tsuroyin Korro is definitely one of the Rebels,” he said.
Onnarré blinked. “Is that all you have to tell me?” he asked.
“Um, yes,” said Hayésu. He frowned. “This is important, you know! We can actually go arrest Korro now and take his things. Maybe we can even find out who he’s passing information on to.”
“Okay,” said Onnarré flatly.
Hayésu scowled and crossed his arms. “That’s all you have to say?”
“What do you want me to say?” said Onnarré with a confused frown.
Hayésu sighed. “I don’t know…‘this is great’, or ‘we’re finally going to be able to do something for the Empire’, or ‘that’s annoying, I just wanted to be stationed here and do nothing and treat it like a vacation instead of real work’. Anything, really.”
Onnarré kept quiet, still frowning. Hayésu finally stood up and gripped Onnarré’s shoulder. “Man, I just don’t know how to get through to you that-”
“I think the Commander might be working with the Rebels,” said Onnarré quietly.
“Might be working with the Rebels,” Hayésu repeated flatly. “Is there…do you have a reason to believe that? A real reason? I know you don’t like Haruyéng.”
Onnarré looked annoyed. He moved Hayésu’s hand off his shoulder. “I saw something on his slate,” he said. “A message saying that we were going to be stationed in western Shihun-”
“Not weird at all,” said Hayésu. “There are people he needs to notify about that sort of thing.”
Onnarré looked even more annoyed. “I saw the names Kiyohu and Tsensung. It looked like the message was addressed to them,” he said. “No, it was definitely addressed to at least one of them.”
Hayésu grabbed Onnarré by the shoulders; this startled him so much that he briefly dropped his scowl to look surprised. “Are you sure?” Hayésu asked. Onnarré nodded. “Did you copy the message?”
“I didn’t get a chance,” said Onnarré. “I had to leave because I heard Haruyéng.”
Hayésu sighed. “I wish you did,” he said.
Onnarré tried and failed to peel Hayésu’s hands off his shoulders. “So do I,” he grumbled.
Hayésu finally let go of Onnarré and straightened up. “Honestly, Onnarré, I don’t want to believe you,” he said. “I trust the Commander with my life and the thought of him working with the Rebels is awful. It’s not something I want to think about.”
Onnarré was back to looking annoyed. “So you don’t believe me?” he asked.
“I don’t want to believe you,” Hayésu repeated. “It doesn’t mean I don’t, just that I don’t like it – uh, never mind, that’s probably hard to understand. Onnarré, you’ve never liked the Commander and you don’t have any proof of what you claimed. But you don’t lie or make shit up, ever. And there’s nothing you could gain from making this up, so…I trust what you say.”
Onnarré looked relieved. He picked up his rifle and slung it over his shoulder. “Thank you,” he said.
The two of them stared at each other for a moment. “So…I guess we should go confront Korro now,” said Hayésu.
Lu was waiting for them, leaning against the back wall of the inn with her arms crossed. She ran up to Onnarré and Hayésu when they got closer. “What took you so long?” she demanded.
Hayésu glanced at Onnarré before answering. “I had to explain some things,” he said. “You know how hard it is to get things through to him sometimes. It took longer than I expected it would.”
Lu raised an eyebrow. “How long does it take to explain ‘I found a traitor, let’s go arrest him’? I know Onnarré has trouble understanding you sometimes, but you must have explained it pretty poorly if it took that long.”
Onnarré looked mildly perturbed, but didn’t say anything. Hayésu huffed and crossed his arms. “Can we just go and find Korro already?” he said.
Lu pointed toward the town guard headquarters. “He’s at work right now,” she said. “I already told Haruyéng, so he’s gonna talk to him and maybe get him alone. The other guards know what’s going on, too.”
Hayésu couldn’t stop himself from looking alarmed. “He’s alone with Haruyéng? Is that the best idea?” he blurted out. “Okay, uh, let’s go and make sure nothing bad happens.”
The three of them made their way over to the guard headquarters. Guards stood outside, talking amongst themselves. All of them looked nervous.
“It’s good that you soldiers are finally here,” said one of the guards. “Your Commander is inside. He’s trying to talk Korro into confessing.”
The guards stepped aside to let them through the door. The room was triangular in shape, with a desk where a guard would normally stand behind it, and several chairs and another desk against one of the walls. Haruyéng and Korro were near the opposite wall. Haruyéng had his arms crossed, and Korro looked nervous.
“Commander?” said Hayésu.
Haruyéng turned his head toward them. “Ah, Lu!” he said. “Thank you for bringing the other two here.” He grinned at Korro. “Guess you’re out of luck now, aren’t you?”
Korro did not look happy. “This isn’t funny,” he said. “You need to stop harassing me and let me go back to doing my job.”
Haruyéng tilted his head to the side. “Which job is that? Your official guard job or your unofficial Rebel spy job?” he said.
Hayésu’s mind wandered as Haruyéng kept talking. The Commander’s having an awful lot of fun tormenting this man. Wouldn’t a Rebel be acting differently?
Korro still looked uncomfortable, but he continued glaring at Haruyéng. “I don’t understand why you’re accusing me of this,” he said. “I know you soldiers think you can do whatever you want, but that doesn’t give you the right to harass me. Or anyone else.”
“You don’t understand why?” said Haruyéng. “Don’t you think the reason I’m accusing you of being a Rebel is because I think you’re a Rebel!? How does that not make sense? Am I not being clear enough or something!?”
Korro still looked unsure. “Well, yes, but you don’t have any proof! You’re just saying things. You can accuse anyone of anything you want, but unless you actually have proof, they’re just meaningless comments.”
Haruyéng pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. It had the obvious remnants of a wax seal on it. Korro stared at it, wide-eyed. “What is that?” he said after a moment.
Haruyéng unfolded the paper. “After you’ve read this letter, you must burn it,” he said. “Wow, you really should have done that. Please continue your observation of the Imperial officials and their families. You’ve given us good information so far. Also, please try to network with our other spies in the town.” He looked back up at Korro. “The date on this letter is the first of March. I’d like to ask you a question.”
“Is my name on the letter?” Korro asked.
Haruyéng glanced down at the letter. “Uh…no,” he said.
Korro looked offended. “It doesn’t have my name on it? Did I hear that right? You came here to harass me and accuse me of aiding the Rebels, pretend you have proof, and then it turns out you actually have nothing? This is utterly unprofessional. I’m leaving.”
Korro pushed his way past Haruyéng, who stood there, staring at him. “You can’t just leave!” Haruyéng protested.
“Watch me,” said Korro.
Onnarré stood in front of the door with his arms crossed, looking as neutral as ever. “You need to move out of the way and let me through,” said Korro.
In response, Onnarré stepped forward and punched Korro in the stomach. Korro stumbled backward, clutching his midsection. Lu grabbed Korro and dragged him back to where Haruyéng stood, and Hayésu grabbed Onnarré by the shoulder and pulled him back.
“What the fuck, Onnarré?” said Haruyéng. “What did I tell you about punching people?”
“Is he a Rebel or not?” Onnarré asked. His expression remained unchanged.
Haruyéng eyed Korro, who yanked his arm out of Lu’s grasp. “Yeah. I found this letter and others in his house. That’s pretty incriminating.”
“So you toyed with him instead of immediately taking him prisoner?” said Hayésu.
“Yeah,” said Haruyéng. He grabbed Korro and kicked the back of his legs, making him fall to the ground. “Hey!” he called to the guards outside. “Can you people do something useful and put this guy in a cell?”
Hayésu moved Onnarré out of the way as the three guards walked into the building. He then led Onnarré outside, closed the door behind them, and walked down a couple of streets to a more secluded area where he was certain they wouldn’t be heard. Only then did he let go of Onnarré’s shoulder.
“You’re still absolutely certain that Haruyéng is a Rebel?” said Hayésu. Onnarré nodded. “Shouldn’t he be trying to prevent this sort of thing if he’s a Rebel, though?”
Onnarré looked lost. “I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish, but I know what I saw on that slate,” he said.
“Trying to make sure that no one suspects him, I guess,” said Hayésu. “I still don’t know why he’d do something like that. But now I’m curious. I want to see if we can find something that incriminates him as a Rebel.” He put his hand back on Onnarré’s shoulder and squeezed. Onnarré flinched. “Let’s figure this out together, okay?”
Lu suddenly rounded the corner. She was breathing hard like she’d run here. “Hey!” she said. “I don’t know why the two of you suddenly ran off, but you need to come back to the guard headquarters! Haruyéng needs to talk to all of us together!”