Inbetween: Chapter Eighty Three


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Aside from the encroaching desert, Pyrna appeared to be the same at first glance. Admittedly, Ciel had only spent time in the poorer districts of the city while tracking down Nyura. Now through a string of events that hardly made any sense to her, she was going further into the city with Lady Nyura while she tried to track down her former fiance.

Less than a year had passed since Ciel’s last stay in the capital of Garon. She expected much of the city to be the same as when she left it. The city was over a thousand years old and change tended to come slowly to a place with so much history and tradition bogging it down. With that expectation in mind, Ciel allowed the city to pass by from her seat in the cab Nyura had hired without focusing her eyes on any particular aspect. It was not until Nyura had the cab stop that Ciel took the time to really see the city and took notice of the abrupt changes that had come about.

The buildings were entirely the same as they had always been. This part of the city was old. Not the sort of old that led to crumbling ruins, but the sort that was carefully maintained to bring about thoughts of “culture” and “historic significance” among tourists and citizens alike. Whatever these buildings might have been in past centuries, they were now all part of a thriving commercial district.

Many of the shops had awnings stretching out from their doors to provide relief from the unrelenting sun for their potential customers. The awnings were common in most parts of the city where people were expected to spend their time going in and out of doors. Trees once provided a similar service, as indicated by the now empty plots of dirt at regular intervals down the walkways, but arid conditions made trees a luxury that was now only afforded to those that could afford to maintain their gardens.

Beneath the awnings were a variety of items on display intended to entice shoppers to enter the store. The strategy proved quite effective on Nyura as she was willing to leave the cab waiting while she went to inspect the items on display beneath the awning of a shop that appeared to be particularly prosperous based on the fresh coat of blue paint on the door and the lack of dust caught on their walls.

Ciel contemplated getting out of the cab as well. She had no interest in perusing any of the shops on this street, but she got the distinct feeling the cab driver might try to strike up a conversation if she remained. She weighed her options before hastily following after Nyura. It was at least an opportunity to stretch her legs, even if she had no intention of even window shopping.

Once she was on the walkway, she found her eyes immediately drawn to the items the shop had on display. Ciel barely schooled her expression in time to hide her surprise. The items for sale here were unlike anything she had ever seen in all her travels in this world, but she had seen items similar to these before. Things made of metal and the strange material that was neither wood, metal or a woven fiber. It was completely alien to this world, but practically everywhere in the other world she had visited.

She did not join the other shoppers in marveling at the items. She had seen them at work before, lighting up and making noise so their inert state did little to impress her. That was not the case for the other shoppers. Compared to the surrounding shops which offered items that fit into this world, even if they were beautiful and of high quality, this shop was attracting far more people. It was not possible for Ciel to guess how many of these shoppers were actually buying items, but she deduced they were selling enough to be the most well-kept shop on the block.

Lady Nyura was just as transfixed by the out of place items as everyone else. The appeal must be out of pure novelty, which would explain why it had almost no effect on her. She might not have had much time or inclination to investigate during her time in the other world, but she saw enough to find them completely unimpressive while sitting inert on the display tables pushed up against the wall of the building. To others, these were marvelous oddities, but Ciel knew of the noise and light these devices were capable of producing. Without that, they were nothing.

It seemed as though they were going to be staying here for a while. Lady Nyura was as easily drawn in by these novelties as all the other shoppers. The delay did not bother Ciel in the least. She needed more time to figure out a way to avoid seeing Erramun and to avoid being seen by anyone that might tell him that she was back in the city before she had a chance to leave with Nyura.

She hoped that having more time to come up with a strategy would make coming up with a plan easier, but she was starting to realize there was no simple way to handle someone like Nyura. Not only was she accustomed to getting her own way at all times, but she was also capable of being unpredictable in ways that most people could not accomplish without ample time to plan.

Since Nyura was the one paying for the cab and anything she decided to buy would be covered by money from her own purse, Ciel did not feel that she needed to pay any mind to how long they stayed here or whether the lady was foolish enough to buy any of the wares presented for sale. Instead, she could concentrate on remaining unnoticed and figuring out what their next move should be.

The bright sunshine made for plenty of shadows for Ciel to settle into. She picked a shadowy place where she could keep an eye on Nyura and said a small spell to make herself easier to overlook just as a safety precaution. The odds of someone recognizing her when most of her work required her to be outside of this city and to remain hidden were minuscule but as always she treated hiding as a sort of security blanket when in a public place. Being visible in public was just as bad as walking down the street without any clothes on.

All was well, if incredibly boring for quite a while. Then a patrolman from the city guard rounded the corner. It was certainly unlikely that anyone living and working in this city would recognize Lady Nyura, and it was almost impossible to imagine that they would notice her at all as long as they only made a cursory glance at this shop, but being a crowded place like this with the police patrolling put all of her instincts on edge.

Ciel found her attention split between watching Nyura to make sure she did not wander off or otherwise find a way to cause trouble and monitoring the patrolman as he strolled down the street. The appearance of a member of the city guard put her on edge. As he passed by the shop, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She averted her gaze and focused instead on Nyura.

Somehow in the brief seconds that Ciel turned her attention elsewhere, Lady Nyura had managed to navigate around the other shoppers and squeeze her way into the crowded interior of the shop. Ciel needed to move quickly or risk losing her altogether.

As much as she hated to throw herself into even more crowded conditions, she dreaded the problems that would arise if she lost track of Nyura now. She broke her cover and pushed her way through the crowd, squeezing between bodies and bumping into far too many people to make her way to Nyura’s side.

Getting Nyura’s attention while she was transfixed by the exotic items interspersed amongst the more ordinary, if exquisite, wares proved more difficult than Ciel would have liked. She tried waving to get her attention, but that only managed to irritate a middle-aged woman who backed into her elbow mid-wave.

When that tactic failed to yield results, she acknowledged that this situation might call for more drastic and, for her, unpleasant measures. Her hand hesitated. Touching other people, even when it was planned on her part, made her skin crawl. Nonetheless, she felt an instinctive jolt of urgency to get out of this place as soon as possible. Her instincts were being vague, but she could not deny the feeling that something was not right and they needed to move on.

She grabbed Lady Nyura’s arm, perhaps a bit too roughly, and stood on her tiptoes to get closer to her ear since she was certainly not going to shout in a crowded place like this.

“We need to get moving, Lady Nyura,” she whispered insistently.

A little bit of her power might have slipped into her voice since Nyura turned away from the junk she had been inspecting. She effortlessly found her way through the crowded store without bumping into anyone or having anyone attempt to push her away. Ciel followed in her wake, observing Nyura’s bearing and demeanor to see if it was something she could emulate in the future to get people to subconsciously give her space.

The cab was still waiting, which seemed like another miracle brought about by something intrinsically different in the way Nyura carried herself compared to an ordinary person. She was most likely insane in some way, but she still exuded an aura of wealth and privilege that opened up doors that remained inaccessible to anyone less sure of the quality of their pedigree.

Once safely settled into the cab, Nyura turned to Ciel with curiosity shining in her eyes. “Is Erramun ready to see me now? Do we have an appointment?”

Ciel realized she needed a lie that would somehow make sense to someone with a mind she could barely comprehend. Not only that, but she needed to come up with a lie quickly.

“Not yet,” she started, realizing that mixing a healthy helping of the truth in with the lie would probably serve her best. “I think we’re being watched by people who would not wish you to see Erramun. We need to evade them first.”

Nyura nodded. Somehow it worked, but Ciel was not at all confident she could keep it up for too long in the face of the lady’s dogged insistence on going to see Erramun.

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