Inbetween: Chapter Twenty

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As soon as he met Ciel, Asa knew she was up to something. Even now that he had evidence of someone sabotaging the work he did for Nyura, the duchess refused to believe that anyone in the High Lord’s party could be up to anything nefarious.

He hoped to have a chance to speak to the duchess privately. If he just spoke to her one on one, he thought he might change her opinion of their guests. Unfortunately, the High Lord insinuated his way into a constant place at Nyura’s side in a matter of hours. Asa knew better than to accuse the servant of sabotage in front of her master and he never seemed to find more than a moment to speak to Nyura before Erramun appeared.

He realized the duchess was not likely to be swayed by even the most damning of evidence. Once her mind turned towards an idea, it seemed to remain there until another great influence entered her life.

Asa contemplated going to one of the advisers for assistance in getting Nyura to understand that the situation was not as simple as Erramun might lead her to believe. The number of people he could trust within the palace dwindled over the past few weeks. Aside from his own men he did not know of anyone who could be trusted within these walls. His list of allies had always been small, but not it was pretty much nonexistent.

He still had his men in the guard. The ones that could stay were still with him. He knew they were loyal to him and to the integrity of safety in the palace. He knew he could trust them, but he knew for a fact that they held less sway in the political climate of the palace than him. If he wanted to get to the bottom of this, he would need to act on his own.

Fortunately for him, he did have a skill set that at least made it more likely that he could handle this situation without assistance if he ignore the politics of the situation. He needed to track down Ciel and make her talk.

He left instructions with his men to be extra vigilant today. Ciel may have left the palace, but Erramun and the rest of his entourage were still inside the walls. If any of them were up to something he wanted to be sure his men would catch it.

If any more of their guests acted in a way that was harmful for the people of Detreya, Asa wanted to be sure they were stopped and presented as proof of nefarious goings-on to the duchess. She needed to be convinced that her guests were actually putting her own goals and aspirations at risk.

It was a matter of security. As long as these people were in the palace he needed his men to be informed of potential threats to the sovereignty of their small nation.

Asa himself would go after Ciel. She easily could have left the city in the night. Erramun managed to cross the desert so she could have taken a portion of his equipment and supplies to make it across the desert to another country. Of course, there was a chance she stayed in the city. He only knew that the documents were missing and Ciel disappeared around the same time.

He dared not assume too much about her actions or her motivations. All he wanted to do was catch her. Catching her was more important than having a perfect understanding of her motivation. The duchess had no interest in motivation. She only seemed to care about having results. Proof was never of much concern to her.

He knew he was already well behind her. Ciel disappeared sometime during the night. It was nearly noon before Asa exhausted his other options and decided to head out into the city himself. With no idea what to expect, he decided he just needed to hope for the best. If luck was on his side, he would find her and recover his lead to find Yuri in one swoop.


When Willow stepped through the portal to the other world she did not know what to expect. She had not been prepared in the least for complete darkness.

Caught off guard, she stopped dead in her tracks. This darkness was not what she expected. She thought she would step through and be in the city Yuri came from. This darkness seemed to indicate something had gone wrong.

She wanted to go back, but when she turned around, the way back to the alley was gone. Now the panic really started to set in.

She turned around a few more times, hoping she would notice something she missed the first or second time. Nothing changed except her heart rate.

Yuri appeared next to her suddenly and with no warning. Willow jumped but felt relief surge through her now that she knew she was not alone. She reached out and took his hand, just to the reassurance that he was really there. He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

Now that Yuri was here she was sure everything would be fine. He crossed between worlds before. If he was not panicking she knew there was no point in panicking herself.

She found the courage to speak up even though she was not sure that she could speak in this place. The darkness was oppressive, but she could see herself and Yuri clearly. It was just a lack of anything else around them. Nothing should have stopped sound from traveling in this space, but with nothing else there, the silence was more deafening than any she experienced before.

“Where are we?” she asked and nearly jumped out of her skin. She spoke, but her voice only seemed to exist in her mind. Her ears played no part in it at all.

Yuri shrugged. “I”m not sure what you’d call this place. It’s just the space in between worlds.”

Hearing Yuri speak was even more unnerving than hearing her own voice inside her head. His voice was going directly into her mind.

As grateful as she was to be able to get some answers and know that they could communicate here, she felt uncomfortable to have Yuri’s voice in her head. It was not as though he was forcing his way into her mind. It was just a different way of hearing. She just did not like that it did not seem to follow the laws of acoustics. She liked things to make sense, and science made sense.

Of course, she knew that science had no explanation for a lot of what had been happening in her life. She knew in her heart that she believed in things that science considered to be impossible, but part of her just wanted to feel as though she had a solid foundation beneath her feet.

She tried to get out of her own head. In a place like this, over thinking everything was even more dangerous. There was very little here to draw her back out. It seemed like a risky place to get lost in her own thoughts.

“How do we get out of here?”

If she kept talking to Yuri she knew she was not allowing her mind to run away in some flight of fancy. She was not sure she could call it staying grounded in this place, but it helped her to stay focused on the problems at hand.

Yuri hesitated. Willow tried to push her concerns down. She knew she needed to stay optimistic. Even if Yuri had cause for concern, she knew she could trust him to do his best. Between the two of them, they could work this out.

It seemed like they were safe from being followed. To Willow that seemed to be the first and greatest problem they had to overcome. She did not know how they would go about protecting themselves in this place if they were followed. As it was, they were in a place where they could not hide and it did not seem as though they could do much of anything to actually get away.

The longer she waited for Yuri to answer the more nervous she became. He made it through this place to her world, but that did not necessarily mean he knew how to handle this place in reverse.

“Yuri?” she asked after hesitating to disturb him for a few moments.

He shushed her and she was started enough by that response that she found it impossible to respond. She stopped, waited and watched Yuri.

Waiting did nothing to alleviate Willow’s concerns. Now she could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. Since she had been shushed she did not feel as though she could ask about it either. Eventually, she was sure she would gather the courage to speak up again, but right now the shushing still stung a bit and she did not relish the idea of reliving the experience.

Licking her wounded pride did do a bit to help her pass the time. Before she knew it, Yuri spoke up again.

“Do you hear that?’

Willow had to stop all her worrying and quiet her mind so she could actually listen. Even as she forced herself to listen to something other than her own inner voice, she heard nothing.

“I don’t hear anything,” she insisted.

“There’s a voice. It’s telling me to move forward.”

Yuri started walking. He still held Willow’s hand and she felt as though she had no choice but to go along with him. The last thing she wanted was to be left alone in this place.

She was not inclined to follow voices she heard in her head, and following a voice she could not hear herself seemed even more ludicrous. Nothing about this place made much sense. Even her being here was proof that she was doing things that went against what she considered her own character. She wanted to be ordinary and safe. Nothing about this place or her behavior recently allowed her to be either.

There was a lot of trust required in a place like this. So much of what she experienced seemed unbelievable and she had come to rely on Yuri’s response to help her gauge whether she was processing the situation properly. Knowing that he had an idea of what they should do boosted her confidence.

No matter how much she tried to listen, Willow could not hear what Yuri claimed to hear. She trusted him. If she was deaf to the sound that led Yuri out of this place once before, she wanted to give him every opportunity to listen and get them out of here.

She still had not moved past the disappointment of not appearing immediately in Yuri’s world. This space in between the world was such a huge let down to her. All it seemed to do was give her an opportunity to question her decision to go through the portal in the first place.

Regret did her no good at all. As far as she could tell, there was no way to go back. Yuri would lead her forward and she would be the one lost in a strange, unfamiliar world.

After they walked for a while — Willow found it nearly impossible to measure time in this void — she started to notice a subtle change to the darkness. At first, she could not be sure that it was anything other than a trick of her mind.

Then a blinding, white light appeared before them. After so much time in darkness, it was hard to see something so bright, but looking away seemed impossible.

“This is it,” Yuri announced.

“It is?”

Apprehension gripped Willow at his announcement. Being trapped in this place made her desperate to leave, but leaving this place for another world full of unknown challenges frightened her. Staying in this nothingness suddenly had some appeal.

“Let’s go,” Yuri urged her with a quick hand squeeze.

The last thing she wanted was to be left alone in this place. She knew she needed to find her courage and step into the light.

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