Parry and Riposte II

Ezekiel Nayot scratched his nose as he turned a corner into Naomi’s apartments, the servants parting before him as if he were an angry bull. The order to pull the kameiras away had shocked the cabal to its core. Soemhow, information was reaching Reginald and his new wife Katerina, despite every attempt made to put them in a communications blackout during their honeymoon. Work needed to be done to shore up the remnants of loyalists while DENT licked its wounds on the fringes of the Holding. The job shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was–most of DENT’s safehouses had been compromised during de’Crux’s tenure and the cabal was more than capable of neutralizing political threats stemming from the lesser nobility. The challenge arose from their leader–Naomi Sakakibara.

He knocked on the open door to Naomi’s quarters, only to be greeted with a languid, “It’s open.” He shuddered as he stepped inside, to see the noblewoman he served with absolute dedication removed to a state of despair. She was staring out of one of the open windows, its drapes fluttering with an afternoon breeze.

“We have a problem,” He started, noting that she didn’t even bother to turn around to look at him.

There were, in fact, many problems, but the biggest was the one sitting in front of him. She was becoming lax, careless, and dare he he even think it, depressed. If she had been any other person, at any other time, he would not have cared for her in the slightest. But to see one come so far, to have victory within their grasp, only to pause on the cusp of triumph, was more than enough to evoke a sense of rage. It was all a waste–the dozens that had been killed, their preparations, the fact that the Holding was simply ripe for the taking. And yet she paused.

“She’s gone,” Naomi murmured, her small frame sitting with the poise of a noblewoman but with none of the conviction.

“Yes,” He replied, somewhat annoyed that she didn’t even care to listen to his previous concern.

“I miss her.”

“We know.”

He was beginning to lose his patience. This was the danger of relationships, of falling in love. It was the demise of the brilliant, the death of those with the potential to change history, the doom of even the strongest willed. Love was a disease. Like a cancer it spread throughout every cell until each waking moment was dedicated to the worship of another person. It killed ambition. It ended drive. And it whittled at even the sharpest minds.

Love was fatal.

“Do you think I’ll ever see her again?”

Tightening his hands into fists, he whisked over to in front of her. His teeth clenched, he released one hand and brought it hard against Naomi’s cheek. The resounding sound of flesh striking flesh echoed through Naomi’s bedchamber. Naomi’s face turned into a kaleidoscope of emotion and in the twists and contortions, he searched for the woman he had followed for so long. At first there was surprise, then the tears of pain, then frustration, then anger, then finally outrage.

She rose from her seat and barked at him, “What do you think you’re doing?”

He stood his ground, looking down at her imperiously, “Waking you up.”

It took a moment for his words to reflect properly in Naomi’s gray eyes, her short black hair made slightly unkempt by his action. She looked around the room, as if awakening from a dream, the realization of placing her entire operation in jeopardy.

She took a deep breath, spending only a few moments to rub the side of her cheek before nodding, “Thank you.”

Doctor Nayot’s lips smirked into a smile, “My pleasure.”

“What did you want to tell me?”

Nayot pulled out his neocom. After entering a series of passwords to get through the encryptions, he showed Naomi a message.

“We intercepted this manifest this morning.”

Naomi peered at the blue screen, her eyes widening at the realization.

“How long do we have?”

“Two days at best.”

She bit her lip, her eyes ablaze with the cunning he had come to known her for. He could only pray that her mind hadn’t been softened by her infatuation with de’Crux, their public displays of affection doing little to solidify Naomi’s grasp on the Holding. She needed to return to her old self.

Lord Reginald was coming home.


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