Chapter 32 can be read below the cut.
Lisel’s group – with the exception of Nüwa – sat in a small room hidden in an alley in the Heavenly Capital. Nüwa had been directed to meet up with Haruyéng and bring him here. Lisel hoped they wouldn’t run into any problems.
“How much longer?” Sirilrhis asked.
Lisel shrugged. “Probably just another few minutes. Haruyéng knows how to get here. I doubt he’ll get lost,” she said.
“That had better be the case,” Sirilrhis grumbled under his breath.
“Don’t get antsy,” said Lisel. “That won’t help you, especially not with killing someone. You can’t allow yourself to be ruled by your emotions in something like this. It won’t end well.”
Sirilrhis glared at her, and Lisel rolled her eyes. “I’m serious,” she said.
Nüwa pushed open the door a couple of minutes later, followed by Tsiyung Haruyéng. “We’re back!” she announced.
“Sure took your time getting here, didn’t you?” said Lisel.
Haruyéng looked down at Lisel and frowned. “What the hell are you wearing, Tsensung?” he asked.
Lisel stood up and smoothed down the front of her skirt. “I don’t want to be recognized,” she said.
Haruyéng looked bewildered. “Well, it certainly worked. I couldn’t tell it was you at first.” He glanced sideways at Nüwa. “But from what I understand, that’s not even necessary, since this woman is going to put invisibility spells on us.”
Nüwa patted Haruyéng’s upper arm. “It’s more complicated than that. There are many things you were not told,” she said.
Haruyéng eyed her warily. “Yeah, like your existence. I was under the impression that Tsensung only brought three subordinates with her. And then an Imperial spy sees you with her.”
“Hey! We’re not subordinates!” said Kiyaska indignantly.
“Yeah, we’re not in the military. We’re civilians,” Hirúka explained.
Haruyéng stared at them, wide-eyed. “I…was this mentioned at some point? I know someone said that your group was made up of untrained people, but I don’t think anyone ever mentioned anything about them being non-military,” he said weakly.
Lisel looked at Sirilrhis, who put his hands up in a shrug. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.
“I guess someone forgot to mention this,” said Lisel. “You sure you never heard anything about it from Kiyohu?”
“It really doesn’t matter if we’re all going to be invisible, so let’s get to the point,” said Haruyéng. He knelt down and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, then folded it out on the ground so everyone could see it. “So, these are the assignments for all the different units, Commanders, and everyone else today. It’s a pretty good day for us Rebels. There aren’t any drills going on and there’s nothing major scheduled. If something goes wrong, we – uh, the Imperial soldiers aren’t going to have quick access to their weapons. That’s for us – the Rebels.”
“Do you seriously talk like that?” Lisel asked. “You address the Firearms Division like that?”
“Of course I fucking don’t!” said Haruyéng. “I’m just not used to switching allegiance or whatever when I’m talking about this sort of thing.”
“That’s not quite what I mean,” said Lisel.
Sirilrhis held up his hand, then pointed from Lisel to Haruyéng. “Let’s get back to the point. Is Shona-is the book Yrrum Innué in the Imperial Library? That’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Haruyéng shrugged. “I honestly have no idea. But I know that those sorts of books are in the restricted section. I can’t normally get in there.”
“I know where it is,” said Hirúka. “My uncle used to work in the Library.”
“Hirúka, you’ve never been here before,” Lisel pointed out.
“Qursin showed me the layout of the Library!” Hirúka protested. “He’s got a map of it in his house! I know where the restricted section is. I can find it!”
“Are you volunteering to get this book for us?” Lisel asked.
Hirúka looked nervous, but he nodded. “Uh, yeah. I guess so,” he said.
“I’m going to need an affirmative answer, not an ‘I guess so’,” said Lisel.
“Yes!” said Hirúka, much more confidently this time.
Lisel looked to Haruyéng. “Do you think you’ll be able to get into the restricted section of the library with Hirúka?” she asked.
Haruyéng looked surprised. “Just the two of us? I thought we were all going,” he said.
Lisel shook her head. “No, that was never going to happen. We should split up into three groups: you and Hirúka, Sirilrhis and Nüwa, and me and Kiyaska.”
“I get that. It’ll make us harder to catch,” said Haruyéng. “But what are the other two groups going to do? Stand around and wait for us?”
Lisel looked at Sirilrhis. “Sirilrhis is going to kill General Mérrun. You do have his whereabouts for today, right?” she said.
Haruyéng glanced down at the paper. “He’ll be in his office for most of the day. You should be able to go right in and find him.”
“Is he usually alone?” Sirilrhis asked. “Does he often have guests? Does he talk to people in there?”
“Occasionally? You’ll just have to go there and find him when he’s alone, I guess.” Haruyéng said, looking confused. He looked to Lisel. “So what are you and the girl going to do?”
Lisel sucked in a breath. “I was thinking that I might want to go in and ruin some things, now that I have the chance,” she said.
“You ruined a lot last time,” said Haruyéng. “Are you sure you want to take that risk again?”
Lisel nodded. “I think I’d set the Empire back a lot if I succeeded. At the very least, I need to try.”
Haruyéng looked to Kiyaska. “So why are you taking this Zarya Tel girl with you? There’s no way she’s as good at fighting as you are.”
Kiyaska looked offended. “Excuse you!” she said, puffing herself up. Lisel was reminded of an angry cat. “I’m a hunter. I know how to kill people and set traps and all of that!”
“Don’t discount her,” said Lisel. “She’s much more ferocious than she looks. If she wasn’t Zarya Tel, she’d make an excellent soldier after a couple of years of proper training.”
Kiyaska looked pleased at first, then confused. “I have no idea if that’s supposed to be an insult or not,” she said.
Lisel shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Kiyaska, just stick with me and do what I say.” She straightened up and brushed off her clothes. “So does everyone understand what they’re doing or do I need to explain again?”
Haruyéng nodded. “I’m going to the Library with…with…” He looked at Hirúka, completely lost. “I wasn’t ever formally introduced to any of you. Can we do that before we leave? I don’t even know your names.”
He looked embarrassed. Lisel sighed. “Fine,” she said. She pointed at Hirúka, startling him. “You start.”
“Uh, I’m Muhánquri Hirúka,” said Hirúka. “I’m a tiger, but you probably already know that.”
Lisel pointed to Nüwa, who set a hand on her chest. “I’m Nüwa and I am the sole Immortal of this party,” she said.
“I’m still processing that, to be honest,” said Haruyéng. “I never expected I’d meet an Immortal.”
Lisel pointed at Sirilrhis, who just said, “I’m Sirilrhis.” She let her gaze linger on him a little longer, wondering if he was going to say anything else. When he didn’t, she pointed to her right at Kiyaska.
“Nin Tulka Sil Kiyaska,” said Kiyaska. “I’m Zarya Tel and I came here because I wanted to kill Imperials.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet all of you, even though I doubt I’ll be seeing any of you after this,” said Haruyéng.
“Why not?” asked Kiyaska.
“Because I’m going to stay here as a spy?” said Haruyéng.
Lisel frowned. “That’s not going to happen. I’m supposed to take you with me,” she said.
Haruyéng’s mouth hung open. “What? That is not what we talked about last night.”
“I know,” said Lisel. “It’s not Kiyohu’s decision, it’s mine. I heard some shit about you being investigated because people think you’re a Rebel. It is not safe for you to be here any longer.”
“That was dropped!” Haruyéng protested. “They’re fine with me now.”
“Do you seriously believe that?” said Lisel irritably.
Haruyéng blinked, then sighed and looked down at his feet. “Fine then, Commander Tsensung. I’m definitely going to feel bad about leaving things a mess.”
“You shouldn’t. I didn’t,” said Lisel.
“Haruyéng, I assume you’ve never experienced a spoken spell before,” said Nüwa. “It will probably be painful for you.”
An hour had passed, which was enough to work out the plan in detail. Haruyéng stood there with his hands on his hips and scoffed. “A little bit of pain isn’t going to bother me,” he said.
Nüwa smiled and clasped her hands together. “That is good to know! I’ll say it now.”
She started muttering a spell under her breath. Lisel recognized that the language was a much earlier form of Meitsung soré, but she only recognized a few words. Sirilrhis seemed to understand much more. “Oh! This is-” he started.
The spell took effect, and Sirilrhis winced in pain. Haruyéng had been standing casually and was unprepared for the pain – he flinched and let out a gasp.
“A really old form of Meitsung soré,” Sirilrhis finished with a strained voice.
“What the fuck? Is that normal?” said Haruyéng.
Nüwa, bright-eyed and smiling, nodded happily. “Yes! That is exactly what spoken magic feels like.”
Lisel could tell that Haruyéng was about to get upset, so she spoke up before he or anyone else got a chance to. “Since we’re all invisible now, we should get going. Haruyéng, take Hirúka and get to the library as fast as you can. Sirilrhis and Nüwa, go find General Mérrun’s office.”
Nüwa nodded and took Sirilrhis’s upper arm in her hands. “Let’s go,” she said.
Lisel looked over at Kiyaska. “You ready?” she asked.
Kiyaska adjusted her pack. “Yep! Absolutely!”