It’s here! It’s late, but it’s here. I was so upset when I could not post this chapter on Saturday. This is the first chapter of 2017 and I wanted everything to go smoothly. Of course, nothing goes as planned. Chapter Five should be ready to go on Saturday so we won’t be off schedule for too long.
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The apartment was not big enough to contain one anxious Yuri. He tried to remain calm. Knowing he only had a limited number of options to keep himself occupied combined with his fear of somehow making his life even more complicated by accidentally messing with more of the strange technology in the apartment to make him downright twitchy.
With not much else to do, he did end up taking a shower not long after Willow left for her job. When he put his clothes back on he was reminded why it was important to have a change of clothes. After wearing the same clothes since the day before, they were not exactly fresh anymore. With the time he spent in the space between worlds, he was not sure he could say with any amount of confidence just how long it had been since he last had a change of clothes. He wished he had something else to put on now rather than having to wait to see what solution Willow might come up with.
He paced from one end of the apartment to the other. He even took the time to finally figure out how to shut off the television and immediately felt a crushing loneliness without its constant background noise. He realized he did not even have someone to celebrate his victory over the strange technology with. The silence pressing in around him caused him to consider turning it back on just for the comfort of the sound of the inane babbling.
Every moment seemed like a wasted opportunity. The hole between worlds in Willow’s bedroom closed up before he regained his senses after falling through into this world. So far it did not appear to be coming back, and everything Yuri heard about these holes told him not to wait and hope it would come back to the same place again.
He needed to go out and hunt down a new way to go back home. He had been told to stay put, but it seemed like he was just wasting time by waiting here. He might not know the area, but he did not think he deserved to be treated like a child in need of an escort for a simple scouting mission in the surrounding area.
He could handle a walk outside just fine on his own. It might even mean he could go home today and that sounded just about perfect at the moment. He did not need to have his hand held for something so simple.
That settled it for him. He would go out today and see if he could find anything on his own.
After searching fruitlessly all night Ciel resigned herself to the idea of writing to her employer to inform him that she was not able to successfully complete the mission assigned to her. Under ideal circumstances, she would be leaving the city by now, but with her mission only half done she needed to seek further instruction.
She wrote out the message on one sheet or paper and instructions for sending it to on another sheet. Long ago she learned that it was easier to do transactions in writing as many people started to panic once they realized they could not resist a request when it was uttered in her voice. Her day to day life worked better when those around her assumed she was either mute or eccentric.
With her message and her directions written out she left the boarding house, which had seen better days but was doing a good job of hiding it from those who did not know what to see, where she had rented a room and headed toward the edge of the city. She specifically avoided expensive or high profile establishments so she was already fairly far from the center most part of the city.
With the sun well above the horizon, this part of town was fairly deserted. Nearly everyone had already departed for the day to do their work. She was able to reach the hill unimpeded.
Once there she was forced to wait in line. Unlike some other cities, the citizens of this city were expected to send their messages from just one hill. The wait was not as bad as it might have been, but it would only get worse as the city grew and Ciel noted a distinct lack of other hills that would be serviceable as a locus for sending and receiving messages. It might end up being a problem for whoever took over now that the duke was gone, but it certainly would not be of any concern for her.
She waited her turn and slowly ascended the hill. Once there she handed her message and her instructions to the magician who would send her message to her employer. She also handed over three coins, one for the message and two to have a runner bring the reply to her immediately.
With that done she headed into the city’s marketplace. She knew the reply would arrive promptly, but she was sure that she had enough time to find something worth eating in the meantime. The boarding house provided morning and evening meals, but the food was not of a quality that she typically ate, and having various other occupants of the boarding house trying to strike up a conversation with her made it tempting to speak up and shut them up for good.
At the fruit vendor, everything was normal, all she heard was the typical early morning pleasantries and gossip. Then the news from the palace spread across the marketplace like a wave. Voices lowered ever so slightly. A hush seemed to fall over the entire area even though more people were talking than ever.
Ciel remained silent, listening to every word. Durya had been found and the news radiated out from the palace now. She was sure that the palace guard had done their best to keep it under wraps, but servants always gossiped, and now the city would rapidly decline into a state of panic.
She frowned. This panic would wreak havoc on the price of goods. Merchants knew they could wrench up prices when an area became unstable. If she needed to stay here much longer she might need to increase her fee to cover her expenses.
She quickened her pace and pushed her way through milling clusters of shoppers on her way to the cheese monger’s stall. She pointed to the cheese she wished to purchase and mutely refused to accept the shop assistant’s attempt to sell the product for twice what it was worth.
The assistant grew exasperated with her silent refusal to give in to the city’s panic and accept the new prices and the cheese maker himself stepped in to take over the transaction. He looked her up and down, noted her fine attire and her calm demeanor and settled for the original price for the cheese.
With her purchases in hand, she pulled her scarf up, covering her face below her eyes and pushed her way through the increasingly panicked crowd. This sort of reaction was exactly why she preferred to get away before anyone knew the death had occurred. Chaos was not her style.
Even at the boarding house, she had not escaped the panic. The palace was the epicenter, but the aftershocks reached the outskirts of the city by mid-morning.
She went up to her room and closed the door. As a mute and a foreigner, she knew the boarding house mistress would not suspect anything out of the ordinary if she did not join in the gossip and speculation. The best she could do right now was keep out of sight and wait for her orders.
Once outside, Yuri decided this world he had landed in was even stranger than he originally thought. The cold caught him off guard. Willow’s apartment had been pleasant enough which only made the shock of stepping outside that much greater. Back home it only got this cold in the mountains and Yuri had certainly not been prepared to go mountaineering in his current attire. At least he knew he would be motivated to keep his investigation brief. His clothes were not equipped to handle this sort of weather, but he thought he could endure the cold for maybe a half hour.
The television programs he saw had prepared him for the outside world just a bit, but he still could not get over just how loud it was. At home, there was noise, of course, but it usually came hand in hand with people. The marketplace was quite probably the noisiest place he had ever been. Being alone was supposed to mean silence and a sense of solitude.
Stepping outside here he felt alone and very small and weak, but he found it to be far from silent. Cars rushed by on the street. The wind picked up and dead leaves rattled.
As Yuri started to walk he also picked up on the sounds coming from other homes and apartments. He was shocked to realize that the sounds were not the people living in these dwellings talking to one another, but once again it was the sound of televisions and other machines. These devices seemed to be everywhere. What had seemed like an innocent novelty just a few minutes before now started to seem like a virus that had infected all the homes in this area. He realized now it was everywhere, serving as a distraction for everyone.
Now he understood how it could be possible for the people of this world to be so completely unaware of the existence of other worlds. They were too distracted by all the noise around them to even notice what was really happening. It might not be a good sign for the people living in this world, but Yuri saw the faintest glimmer of a silver lining.
If they were not paying attention and for that reason believed that there was nothing else out there, there was a chance they had missed it. His search might not be that difficult after all.
He needed to stay alert and aware of the strange world around him. The loud, zooming death traps that raced down the street in this world moved faster than anything he knew of back home. Walking on the sidewalk, with only a few feet between himself and those things, made him more than a little nervous so he elected to walk in the yards instead.
Finding a hole between worlds was not easy even if he knew they had to be out there. He had faith that it could be done. He just did not know how to turn that faith into tangible results. His only encounter with a hole between worlds had brought him here and at the time he focused on staying alive more than the call signs of the phenomena. Most of what he managed to remember came after he had crossed into the space between worlds.
Right now he needed an understanding of the way the hole played with his senses. At the moment, he was looking everywhere for something that did not look like it belonged. That proved to be almost impossible since nearly everything he saw seemed at least a little strange to him.
Once he made a lap around the block he felt his confidence start to ebb. The fact that he made it here did not mean that the holes between this world and his were all that common. There could be infinite other worlds that the holes could lead to. He never knew anyone that disappeared into one of these other worlds and came back so it might be possible that this place was only a destination with no return trip possible.
He tried to remain optimistic. Going around one block was not a comprehensive search of the entire world. He had no way of guess what his odds might be elsewhere in this world. He just did not dare to go any further on his own. He did not trust the speeding vehicles not to hit him since none of the people inside seemed to notice much of the world around them. All he could do was hope that Willow would know what they could do or at least offer some helpful advice about where to better expand his search.
Unwilling to go any further on his own, he decided the only thing he could sensibly do at this point was head back to Willow’s apartment and wait for her to return. He tried not to see his effort as a waste of time and effort. He at least went out into this world and explored it a bit, proving to himself that it was not nearly so dangerous that he should be required to stay hidden away in Willow’s apartment all day. Now he knew it was strange, but not anything he could not learn to adapt to.
He returned to the apartment, not successful in his mission, but shoring up his ego by feeling accomplished in the sense that he managed to see even just a small portion of this world without any sort of incident. When he tried the door the knob would not turn. The door refused to budge. He realized he would be stuck out here since he did not imagine he would be allowed to stay if he broke a window to get back inside.