4: Just Like Old Times
Torhout Forest was to him what the catacombs were to Emily. She gave him the warmest smile she could muster. Asking him about faeries and avatars wasn’t a good idea with Kaori around to lash out at him if he didn’t show the proper respect. It wasn’t a good idea to get on Kaori’s blacklist.
Some were on that list by default, however, and the Fates decided it a good time to throw three such people their way. Any enthusiasm Kaori had for entering the forest quickly dulled as Astrid Guirlande emerged from the trees ahead of them, her minions, as ever, at her side. She greeted the group with a haughty harrumph and changed course to avoid them, as if she feared passing too close might contaminate her with some peasantry disease. Why Seelie let the three of them near the Theatre was anyone’s guess. Blackmail, most probably. Emily felt herself repressing the desire to reach out and grab Astrid’s wrist, confront her, find out the truth…
The troika passed without incident. Kaori’s glare followed them. One of these days, the tensions would turn to violence, but that day was not today.
And then, out of nowhere, Elizabeth Canterbury’s snide voice snapped, “And if you see that cursed Princess, you can tell her I’m not her friend! She’s a nothing but some … hylic hallucination!”
The group stopped, but the Sophists said no more. If Leira had been with them … well, Emily was just glad she wasn’t. At least Kaori knew when to keep her mouth shut. If she had any anger for the Sophists, however, she wasn’t showing it.
“Did she say ‘Princess’, babe?” she asked Joel.
“You think the Princess is in the forest? Man, no wonder Ron were proper bitching about her!”
So that was Leira’s ‘surprise’. No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it.
“Ye did the right thing,” she once told her. “Ye can’t be trusting their deals. They offer yer something ye want, but ye can be sure they’ll be wanting something better in return. And what’s better for them don’t mean it’s better fer you. Trust me, they offer ye a deal, ye say no, as politely as ye can, mind, but ye say no.”
The Fates really did have a sense of humour.
Without further pause for consideration, Kaori made a break for the forest, dragging her boyfriend with her as fast as her boots and her tangle of skirts and ribbons would allow.
Emily chanced a look in Dante’s direction. “The Princess, huh?” she forced a smile. “I guess this is the proof I’ve been waiting for!”
He stood there expressionless, hands buried in his deep pockets, dark eyes fixed on the forest ahead of them—the forest that burned, the forest that claimed his mother’s life. With a grunt of acknowledgement—or was it amusement?—he started after the raven couple, and toward the trees.
Emily hesitated a moment before following.
Chapter 4 End
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise!