After making the deal, Kakane began searching for Rean. He found the puppet near where they first landed, twiddling with its thumbs. It seemed relieved when it saw Kakane, whipping out its notebook and scrawling something in it.
Okay Good Serena Fine
“Where is she?” Kakane asked. Rean bit its lip.
Man All Say Full. Found Place By Big Building. It pointed to the palace. Kakane took a deep breath. He touched his scar, exhaling. He didn’t like that Serena was so close to Enjo Hononen, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.
“That’s fine. We need to go there, anyway. Come on.”
As they moved into the denser, richer, more populated areas of Jigoku, Kakane did his best to remain inconspicuous, staying out of people’s way and keeping his head down. Rean, looking at the emotionless puppets following several fancy-looking women, starting mimicking the way they walked, doing its best to remain close to Kakane. Now it just looked like Kakane’s tag-a-long puppet servant. It hurt to think of it that way, though.
The crowds thinned as they got closer and closer to the palace, a huge spire of marble and iron that reached for the heavens. Just looking at the place made Kakane’s scar itch. He felt a murderous intent simmer within him; he would make this job quick. Kakane spotted several guards and moved towards the shadows, making his way behind the castle.
The men in purple cloaks were waiting patiently for them. They didn’t bat an eye at Rean, who was walking so robotically and looked so emotionless that it really did seem like a Doryokan-made puppet. The leader of the men in purple pointed to a window on what seemed to be the third floor of the palace.
“Our correspondent is waiting for us there,” he said. “You need to sneak through the palace and into the kitchens. The codeword is ‘vermillion’. Say it once you enter the kitchen. He’ll take it from then on. Give this to him.” He held up a small vial. “It’s a lethal poison that we brewed ourselves. Can we trust you?”
“Whoever this Head of Treasury is, they will be dead by morning,” Kakane snarled. By my kingly pride, I swear it. The man in purple nodded.
The man in purple disappeared into the darkness with his companions, leaving Kakane and Rean alone. The puppet’s shoulders had relaxed and it looked determined. Kakane pocketed the bottle of poison and stared up at the window on the third story.
A map would have been helpful, but he didn’t have the luxury of time. Memorizing and studying the floor plans would take too long. Their main concern now was figuring out how the hell they were gonna get up there.
Kakane didn’t want to risk turning into his dragon form, less Enjo Hononen caught wind of it. Scaling the walls seemed like their only option. So he and Rean painstakingly climbed up the walls of the palace to the third floor. The night was young and by the time they finally reached it, it was perhaps a little before midnight. When Kakane peeked through the open window, there were several maids with their backs turned to him. He motioned to Rean, who looked nervous, but successfully infiltrated the building.
It moved fast albeit with some hesitation and quickly took out the women, who passed out onto the floor. Kakane dragged them behind a corner and the duo began moving. There weren’t many people around this late, though they had to mind several guards. They were very laid-back and grumbled about night shift. One of them suggested going to the kitchens for a snack when the other said it was too far.
Kakane motioned to Rean, who began leading the way. The puppet, using the blue world as its guide, looked for any source of life it could. Whether guards, maids, or late-night wanderers, if they got caught, everything would all be for not. After a while, it discovered a single person in a large room. Rean beckoned to Kakane, who slowly opened the door.
The man ushered them in. Kakane took out the vial of poison, dropping it into the man’s hands. He nodded and proceeded to pour it all down the sink.
“What are you𑁋!?”
“What the𑁋!? Damn it all!” Kakane swore and shot a plume of fire at the guard, who promptly fell to the floor screaming.
Rean barreled through several more people, clearing a pathway. It and Kakane bolted out of the kitchens, trampling over more guards. Kakane couldn’t care less for anyone here, but there was a slight burning anger present that they had been tricked and ratted out.
Kakane and Rean raced through the palace, shoving past servants and shattering vases of flowers. With every passing second, the sound of the yelling guards grew louder and louder and the number of footsteps increased. Gritting his teeth, Kakane vowed to himself that he would not be caught by these filthy Doryokans. Not on his pride as a king, as the last prince of the Draconids!
He would not fall to the ones who caused the destruction of his people!
A dreaded feeling descended upon Kakane as he skidded to a halt. It was a dead end, not unlike the gaping cliff he had fallen down back in Zetreum Forest. Back when he had first met Serena. It seemed like such a distant memory, yet this feeling of nostalgia was nothing but sickening and terrifying. The only way out of the palace was the window, but falling from this height would surely kill them. Rean tugged at Kakane’s sleeve, frantically pointing in all directions.
“This is the end for you!”
They were surrounded.
Kakane let out a slew of swear words, cursing the name of the gods and slandering his terrible luck. He grabbed Rean’s collar and threw it out the window, jumping after the puppet without a moment’s hesitation. Kakane debated whether or not he should transform into a dragon when Rean took him and stuck out its feet.
Kakane doubted whether Rean would really be able to survive the impact, but the puppet seemed absolutely determined. Kakane wasn’t sure what to expect, but he had no other choice than to trust Rean.
The wind whistled around them as they fell an insurmountable number of feet. They gained more and more speed, causing Kakane’s anxiety to go through the roof. He let out a yell as Rean drove straight into the earth in front of the palace, blasting a huge crater into the ground with a boom. Rean’s feet skidded, sparks flying from its soles and making a painful metallic screeching noise. Despite its best efforts, its knees buckled and it fell, dropping Kakane.
The Draconid hissed in pain but quickly scrambled to his feet, only to be tackled to the ground and held in place by several soldiers. Nearby, Rean was also struggling against four other men. A small army was surrounding the palace, spears at the ready. They had bright headlights aimed at Kakane and Rean, allowing them to see the two intruders clearly. These Doryokans didn’t let anything get past them, did they? They were fully prepared for this scenario; someone really did tip them off! Dammit!
“So, the assassins are these two young teenage boys? I was expecting someone a little deadlier; capturing the Manjusaka would have definitely raised my rank.” A soldier with a fancy white cape knelt down to leer at Kakane, who spat at his face. Wiping off the liquid angrily, the commander hissed, “What are your names?”
“Agni Tolan!” Kakane blurted out. “That one’s mute.” He jerked his head at Rean. “His name’s Verle Barath.”
“Write that down,” the commander ordered.
“Sir! We’ve discovered an undocumented clinic nearby while searching for conspirators! Among all the patients, the one with the worst symptoms is a young teenage girl with frost fever!”
“Don’t you dare hurt her!” Kakane screamed. “I swear, if you touch a single hair on her head I’ll kill you and everyone else in this gods damned city! You hear me!? Don’t you dare do anything to her or else I’ll𑁋”
Something hit Kakane in the back of his neck and he quickly fell silent. Rean blinked, staring at the now-unconscious Kakane who was being forced into handcuffs. A soldier slung him over his soldier before marching towards the palace. If Rean could cry, it would as it too was cuffed and forced to walk behind the man carrying Kakane.
Where did they go wrong?