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One thing was for certain, Lady Nyura was incapable of hiding. Ciel was not certain that she was trying to hide. Being certain of the reason behind any of the lady’s actions was almost impossible. One had to assume she operated on some sort of logic, but the pattern of her thought process continued to elude Ciel and apparently most other people as well.
Many of her missions over the years were just a matter of time. Most of what she needed to know about her targets was their routine, but even then she had to get into their head a little bit. Knowing why they did what they did helped her anticipate any deviations from their regular routine. She was good at hiding, but the fact of the matter was most people had some sense of danger even if they were not consciously aware of the signs. This awareness could cause them to deviate from their normal routine and she had to be ready for that. All of her experience getting into the heads of people wildly different from her still left her unprepared to deal with someone like Nyura. Her mind just did not work in a way that made any sort of sense to Ciel.
Even with the difficulties presented to her, Ciel had no choice but to keep moving forward. Failure was not an option. She did not dare turn around and return to Saras empty-handed.
Right now it looked like her chances of succeeding were rising with every step. Nyura was staying in this hotel under her own name. With anyone else, Ciel would suspect it was some sort of trap set to catch her, but with Nyura it seemed as though she just saw no reason to conceal her identity. If she suspected she had been followed across the desert, she showed no signs of concern or a sudden increase in paranoia.
The hotel was far from the opulent luxury Ciel half expected Nyura to try to live in, but it was also not a cheap, shady dive. This middle ground proved Nyura was capable of some sort of sensible planning. She also must not be completely out of funds if she could still afford this place.
Ciel’s own funds were about as stable as ever. She learned long ago to be frugal because it was far too easy to overspend at the beginning of a long trip and be left with almost nothing before she had any news that warranted her employer increasing in her stipend.
This time she intended to fulfill her mission in short order and use the rest of the provided funds to purchase supplies needed to care for herself and Lady Nyura on their return trip across the desert.
Timing was crucial when it came to infiltrating an establishment that might actually attempt to provide security for its guests. Her skills could make a few people forget they saw her, or completely cloak herself from a large group of people, but to get the information she needed to get behind the desk and the least complicated way to do that was to wait until the receptionist was alone and enchant just that one person.
She lurked across the street from the hotel, watching and waiting just in case she saw Nyura coming and going and had an opportunity to intervene then. When there was no sign of her, she knew she needed to let the day turn to night so she could go into the hotel and discover which room belonged to the lady.
Waiting was simple enough. Ciel has plenty of experience with this part of her work. She despised it, but in recent months she almost grew to miss it. She was able to enjoy the quiet, patient waiting on this day. Knowing that her waiting was finite and would end after the sun set certainly helped her to feel a bit more serene.
Just as she expected, the sun set and the neighborhood grew quiet. Everyone around here seemed to be more interested in an early night than staying out and discovering what the city had to offer. This worked out just fine for Ciel so she was not too worried about figuring out why there was a complete lack of nightlife in this part of the city.
The lobby was empty, even the front desk was temporarily unmanned. Ciel whispered words of power and cloaked herself in silence, but elected not to waste precious seconds hiding herself in shadow. No one was around to see her slip behind the front desk and flip through the books to find the room rented by Lady Nyura.
She spotted the room number, 203, and began to look for a master key. There had to be a pretty good chance that Nyura would let her into her room willingly, but if she decided to be less than cooperative Ciel wanted to be prepared. She spotted the key and grabbed it before silently slipping out from behind the front desk and heading up the stairs.
The door to Lady Nyura’s room was surprisingly unremarkable. Ciel assumed that she would make an effort to get some sort of special treatment. Apparently, Lady Nyura’s sense of self-importance was not so great as to stop her from settling for an ordinary hotel room.
Once she was on the correct floor, Ciel dropped her cloak of silence. Her presence here would not arise suspicion and she accepted that she would likely find herself in a situation where she would need to speak.
Now that she was done chasing and stalking, she was starting to feel out of her element again. She knew what she needed to do, but going up to the door and knocking felt like an invitation to a conversation and every fiber of her being screamed for her to avoid initiating any sort of conversation with a mad woman. Unless she wished to fail another master in less than a year, she knew what she needed to do. She gathered her courage and prepared to shield herself from the worst of the possible outcomes of the upcoming events.
She knocked and waited. There was no way for her to know whether Nyura would consider answering the door for a stranger and she did not know how long it would be sensible to wait before forcing her way in. Using force decreased her chances of getting Nyura to cooperate with her and she desperately wanted to have everything go smoothly.
Lady Nyura threw the door open wide and glared imperiously at Ciel. She knew she needed to say something and explain a reason for knocking on her door, but she could not find a way to speak without some of her magic leaking into the words. Her nerves were failing her more than usual and she knew exactly why. She was accustomed to understanding the motivations of her targets, but now she was completely in the dark. From her perspective, Lady Nyura could react in almost any way imaginable and probably a few she could not imagine as well.
“You used to work for Erramun,” Nyura said as excitement sparked in her eyes. “Has he sent for me?”
Ciel waited a moment to see if Nyura would catch the flaw in her own reasoning. The seconds ticked by and the expectant look never left her face. Ciel knew she needed to speak, but her vocal cords felt like they were covered in a corrosive layer of rust.
She cleared her throat, but her voice still sounded grating to her own ears with all her magic restrained. “I don’t work for High Lord Erramun anymore. I’m here to take you home.”
Nyura frowned. Ciel knew what was coming next. She stuck her foot out and stopped the door before Nyura could slam it shut in her face.
Unable to easily escape from the situation, flustered, red splotches appeared Nyura’s cheeks. Her eyes darted around the hall, but Ciel knew there was no one else out here and Nyura was not likely to get past her to escape this situation that way.
She sighed and said, “I’m not leaving until I see Erramun.”
Ciel was not sure what she expected, but a conversation in a doorway with an obstinate woman was not exactly within her area of expertise. Although she was not exactly charming and charismatic and far from a seasoned conversationalist, she still hoped she would be able to convince Lady Nyura to leave with her willingly. The notion of starting off the journey home by using force sounded utterly exhausting. Once she started using her powers to restrain her, there was no way she would be able to stop until they made it back to Detreya. Doing it was not beyond her capabilities, but it would be exhausting and almost insufferable considering the person she would be restraining.
“I cannot help you,” Ciel said the words as slowly and deliberately as she could. “I’m here to take you back to Detreya, where you belong.”
“I belong with Erramun.” She folded her arms across her chest and glared defiantly as Ciel. “And don’t think that you can force me to go with you. I know your tricks and I’m not as weak, helpless, or mad as people make me out to be.”
Although Ciel doubted the assertion that Nyura was not as unstable as she appeared, she found herself certain that she was more capable of fending off Ciel’s spells than was immediately apparent. She could still try, but without the element of surprise, it would be a risky fight. She remembered Yuri and both times he managed to elude her. If he was able to get away from her when she had the advantage of the element of surprise and he was rattled by his fear, she had to believe that his sister would have the skills necessary to hold her own while prepared and eager to be defiant. What she needed to do right now was find a way to compromise and still get everything she wanted out of the arrangement.
“You want to speak to Erramun.”
“And my mistress wants me to take you back to Detreya.”
“If I find a way to get you to talk to Erramun, will you return home with me?”
“Only if Erramun wants me to go. Once he knows I came all this way to see him, he’ll probably want us to get married right away.”
Ciel nodded. Arguing with Nyura at the moment seemed like it would only prolong this painful conversation. The last thing she wanted was to be forced to continue talking if she could be doing something to expedite the whole process instead. She was not sure what she could do to get Nyura to see Erramun without getting herself killed in the process, but it seemed like it would be the only way she was getting out of this city at all. Facing her fear of Erramun’s wrath might do her some good in the long run. Even just a few months of constantly looking over her shoulder had taken its toll on her. Living the rest of her life like this would be hell.
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