Chapter 30 can be read below the cut.
“We’ve cut 170 kilometers off our route by not going through South Kelutshélin,” said Lisel. “Only 250 more to go until we actually reach the Heavenly City.”
“Are you finally happy we’re ahead of schedule?” asked Sirilrhis.
“It’s certainly a plus,” said Lisel. “We’ll be there in five days. I hope you’re prepared for what you’re going to do.”
Sirilrhis nodded. “If that Haruyéng person tells us where Shonaru Mérrun is going to be for the next couple of days, I’d much appreciate it.”
“I’ll pass that on to Suli tonight. She should be able to get in contact with him, and we should have an answer by tomorrow,” said Lisel. She sighed. “There are so many other things we need from Haruyéng…positions of the soldiers, events that are going on in the Capital, so much other shit I can’t think of right this moment…”
Lisel pressed her palms against her temples and groaned. She reached to her bun and pulled off her hair tie, then shook her hair out. All the pins she used to keep her hair pinned back came out after that.
“Uh, what are you doing?” Hirúka asked.
Lisel pulled a cloth out of her pocket and attempted to rub off her makeup. “Trying to make myself less recognizable,” she said. “Since Nüwa can’t put a glamour on me, I’ll just do things the old-fashioned way and change my hair and makeup.”
“Ooh! I can help with that!” said Kiyaska.
Lisel was immediately skeptical. “Really? I’ve never seen you wear any makeup. And you don’t even do anything with your hair, unless you’ve got it braided or something under that headscarf.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing,” said Kiyaska with a scowl. “I can do girly stuff.”
“Nüwa, I’m sure you can help me with this,” said Lisel.
Nüwa nodded and smiled. “Of course! But I think some new clothes could help you as well. Civilian clothes.”
“That’ll look even more unacceptable with my rifle and sword,” Lisel protested. “And you’ve been a snake for eighty years. I’m sure you don’t know a single thing about modern fashion-”
Nüwa held up a hand to silence her. “Lisel. You’ll just have to put your weapons away and rely on your wits instead of your skill in violence.”
“I didn’t become Commander of the Firearms Division because of my wits alone,” Lisel grumbled.
Nüwa patted Lisel’s shoulder. “You’ll be fine, Lisel.”
Kiyohu shuffled through her papers, frowning down at them. Suli tapped her chalk against the slate, waiting for a response from Lisel. They’d been sending messages back and forth for the past few minutes while she waited for the mission to officially start.
Petkal leaned over to look at the slate. “Are they at the Capital yet?” he asked.
“They’ve just crossed the border into the Tengming Capital Region,” said Suli. “They haven’t reached the Heavenly City yet and won’t for another couple of days.”
Petkal leaned back. On the floor behind him, his spirit soul yawned. “That’s good. Can you ask Lisel how Kiyaska’s doing?” he asked.
“I’ll do that after the meeting, if you’re willing to stay a little longer than usual,” said Suli.
“Absolutely,” said Petkal.
Commander Kiyohu set down her papers and pressed the fingertips of both hands against the table. “Well, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to move on to the things that matter. Suli, status report. Where are they?” she said.
Suli looked down at the slate. “Lisel said they stopped at twenty kilometers into the Capital Region. They’ve got about 230 left to go.”
Kiyohu blinked. “That was some shortcut. They’ll be at the Heavenly City in just a few days.”
“Lisel says five,” said Suli.
Kiyohu leaned back in her chair. “I don’t doubt her. What’s she asking for today?”
Suli looked back down at the slate, then at the list of requests that Lisel had sent her earlier that she had transferred to a sheet of paper. “It’s quite a few things,” she said, “and she wants Haruyéng to give them to her.”
“Makes sense,” said Kiyohu. “If you’ll give me that list, I’ll contact him after this meeting.”
Suli held the list over the table toward Kiyohu. Qursin grabbed it and passed it on to Kiyohu for her. “Thank you,” said Suli.
Kiyohu looked over the list. “Nothing too out of the ordinary. Haruyéng should be able to get all of this to us tonight, if he’s available and not incredibly busy like he’s been the last few days.”
“Didn’t he say something about people suspecting him of being a Rebel spy?” Qursin asked.
“Something like that,” said Kiyohu as she continued reading over the list. “It was a while ago and he said that nothing’s happened since, so we can assume that nothing else is going to happen.” She looked up. “Suli, what’s Lisel’s response to this?”
“She said she’ll be awaiting all our answers because she…she…” Suli frowned. “She has to go shopping for new clothes.”
“Is she serious?” said Kiyohu. She looked just as bewildered as everyone else. “This isn’t some kind of joke, is it?”
Suli blinked down at the slate. “Lisel doesn’t make jokes. She has to be serious.”
Kiyohu crossed her arms, still looking confused. “Can you ask her why she has to do this?” she asked.
Qursin rolled his eyes. “Hasn’t she been running around in her military uniform this whole time? If she didn’t bring any civilian clothes with her, then of course she’d have to buy them. Why she didn’t bother doing this when when she was still in East Meitsung is entirely beyond me.”
“She needs to disguise herself,” said Kiyohu flatly.
Qursin threw his arms up in exasperation. “Of course! Everyone in the Capital knows who she is. I highly doubt she’d want to be recognized.”
The meeting lasted for a little over an hour. Afterward, Suli stood outside of the military headquarters, leaning against the wall and looking down at her slate. Her cane hung in the crook of her arm.
Qursin walked out through the door. “Suli, you should probably try to get some rest,” he said before he even looked at her. “I know you’ve been overworking yourself, especially in the past few weeks.”
Suli shook her head. “It’s fine. I’m only slightly more tired than usual.” She brightened up. “But if you’re really that concerned, you’re welcome to help me with the shop!”
“Uh, no thank you. I have plenty of work to do on my own,” said Qursin. He held up his hand in farewell. “See you tomorrow, Suli.”
A couple of minutes later, Petkal’s spirit soul opened the door and walked out. It looked up at her, its ears twitching. “Suli, did you already get word on how Kiyaska’s doing?” it asked.
It was the first time Petkal’s spirit soul had addressed her instead of Petkal himself, and it was a little jarring. “I asked, and it looks like she’s going to let Kiyaska talk to you directly,” said Suli.
“That’s great!” said Petkal as he shut the door behind him.
Suli handed the slate to Petkal. She leaned back against the wall and stumbled. Petkal looked alarmed. “Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?” he asked.
Slightly annoyed, Suli waved her hand at him. She grabbed her cane and set it against the ground, leaning heavily on it. “I’m fine. I’m just a little tired. That’s it.”
Petkal frowned, but looked back down at the slate. There was now a message from Kiyaska, written in Zarya Heul.
Petkal, are you there?
Yes. How are you holding up? Petkal wrote back.
After a few moments, words appeared on the slate underneath his message. They then vanished, probably from Kiyaska erasing them. The sentence remained unfinished for close to half a minute before Kiyaska started writing again.
I’m fine. I’ve seen a lot of new and interesting things. But no Zarya Tel.
It made sense. There weren’t very many Zarya Tel outside of Zarya Wa, and Kiyaska and the others had been avoiding major cities where any Zarya Tel would be.
You’re in the Capital. That might change. You could run into some merchants or traitors.
Kiyaska took long enough to respond that Petkal started frowning. Merchants or traitors? Not both?
Petkal grinned. It was a typical response for Kiyaska. How are you faring with your lack of spirit soul?
There was another pause, and Petkal suspected that Kiyaska was figuring out how to respond. When the words showed up, they did so all at once. I am fine. There are no problems.
Petkal rubbed his chin with the hand holding the chalk, smearing a bit of it on his face. Are you sure about that? he wrote.
Yes. was the response he got.
Good. I hope you’re doing well in other aspects, too. Good night and good travels, Petkal wrote back. They’d been communicating back and forth for long enough. It wasn’t possible for him to tell her mood or body language from words alone, and worrying further won’t actually accomplish anything.
Petkal looked up from the slate. He put the chalk back in its holder, rubbed off his and Kiyaska’s messages, and held the slate out to Suli.
“Done already?” she asked.
“Yeah,” was his response.
Suli tucked the slate into her purse. “Did you find out everything you needed to know?” she asked.
Petkal nodded. “Kiyaska’s doing all right. Everything seems fine.” He sighed and pressed his palms to the front of his thighs, leaning over slightly.
“Still thinking that having her go in your place was a mistake?” Suli asked.
Petkal jerked up almost in a panic. “What? No, of course not! Kiye’s handling herself just fine.” He let out a breath, looking even more unsure of himself. “At least she seems like she’d handling herself just fine. Who knows what she’s actually going through. She didn’t tell me.”
“Lisel hasn’t mentioned anything out of the ordinary, so I’d say that Kiyaska’s probably fine,” said Suli.
“What? Does she talk about Kiyaska randomly or something?” said Petkal.
Suli nodded. “She talks about all of them when she tells me how her day went. There usually isn’t anything strange, so I honestly don’t remember a lot of what she said.” She continued, looking sheepish, “When Lisel gets back, don’t tell her I said that, okay?”
“I’ll try not to mention it,” said Petkal. “I doubt I’ll remember. I assume we’ll be too busy for idle talk when they get back.”
Suli frowned. “Petkal, there’s another thing Lisel told me. She said to keep it a secret.”
“And you’re going to tell me about it?” Petkal questioned.
“Can I trust you not to tell anyone else?” Suli asked.
“That depends on what it is,” said Petkal.
“It’s related the to book,” said Suli. “The spell we’re going to use can only be read by an Immortal. We don’t exactly have one of those around.”
“Weren’t we going to use the dragon for that?” Petkal asked.
“That works most of the time,” said Suli. “But sometimes the spells don’t turn out quite right, so it’s best to get an actual Immortal.”
“So Lisel found an Immortal somewhere and they agreed to help us?” Petkal guessed.
Suli nodded. “She won’t give me the details, but it seems like things are going well.”
“That’s good to hear, but why don’t you and Lisel want to tell anyone about this?” said Petkal. “Shouldn’t Kiyohu know about it?”
“Lisel doesn’t want word getting out to the Empire,” said Suli. “I suppose it’s understandable. We still don’t know who or where the spies are.”
There was a sudden gust of wind and one of the street lamps went out. It lit itself back up in a moment. “It’s getting late. We should probably go home and go to bed,” said Suli.
“Agreed,” said Petkal.