Chelsea just couldn’t stand it.
When Caleb got this excited, he was totally adorable.
“We’re going to an arcade?” Caleb asked, gazing at Mister Midnight with wide eyes that practically glittered with anticipation.
“We’re not going there to play,” Midnight said. “Access to Reinheit Citadel is tricky. We need to find a broker.”
“What’s a broker?” Adelaide asked.
“The kind of broker I’m talking about is someone who deals in transportation,” Midnight said. “No trains go to Reinheit Citadel, and there’s only one Location that actually links to it – and normal transportation to that Location is shrouded in complete secrecy. So the only way there is to buy our way, and we can only buy from someone who can actually deliver on what we want.”
“You’re not very good at explanations, are you?” Adelaide asked, resting her chin in her hands as she eyed Midnight with a skeptical look.
“Basically, the only way to get there is to pay someone,” Caleb said. “And Mister Midnight’s gonna handle all that, so the rest of us get to play!” He looked back at Midnight with those wide, shining eyes. “Right?”
Midnight let out a long, heavy sigh as he rolled his eyes. “Sure,” he said. “But when I say it’s time to go, we leave. No questions, no complaints, no excuses, no delays.”
“Yes, sir!” Caleb said.
Chelsea stifled a laugh, distracting herself by burying the back of her head in the downy softness of her owl Summon. He hooted softly and petted her hair with his wings.
“So what’s an arcade?” Adelaide asked, looking at Caleb.
“You’ve never been to one?” Caleb asked. Adelaide nodded, and Caleb leaned in, grinning. “It’s an amazing place filled with super fun games to play and prizes to win.”
Adelaide ooh’ed in excitement, staring at Caleb with wide eyes. “That sounds super fun!”
“Sure does,” Caleb said.
“So are we ready to go yet?” Adelaide asked, bouncing in her seat.
“I’m waiting for a friend,” Midnight said. “But she seems to have arrived.” He strode from the sitting room, and Chelsea heard the door open and close as he went outside.
“Does this mean we’re leaving?” Adelaide asked.
“Yes!” said Ingrid, coming into the sitting room with a bag slung over her shoulder. “No rush, but whenever you’re ready we should all grab our luggage and head outside.”
Chelsea stole a glance at Caleb, pursing her lips in frustration.
Did he really not notice it in there? We snuck it in right on top, it’s not like…
Oh. He hasn’t even looked inside his suitcase since then, has he?
She swallowed a sigh, pushing herself to her feet.
He’ll see it eventually. Be patient. He wouldn’t have bought it in the first place if he hadn’t planned on giving it to you when the time was right.
I wish Addie hadn’t found it, though…
Now I can’t stop thinking about it.
“Let’s go!” Caleb said, hopping to his feet.
“To Gold Heart Arcade!” Adelaide said, joining Caleb. She immediately grabbed one of his hands, swinging his arm with hers happily as they walked together.
“What are you so excited about?” Chelsea asked, walking alongside Caleb. “It’s not like we don’t have two arcades in Grimoire.”
“Yeah, but I haven’t been in way too long,” Caleb said.
“Isn’t that your own fault?” Chelsea asked with a smirk.
Caleb pursed his lips in thought, then rubbed the side of his nose as he nodded. “Yeah, okay, that’s fair.” He quickly regained his enthusiasm. “But still! It’s like a whole brand new place! It’s really exciting!”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” Chelsea said. Out of Midnight’s house they went, and in the dark outdoors they saw Ingrid, Mineria…
And not Midnight.
“Where’s Mister Midnight?” Caleb asked.
“Having a private chat with a dear friend,” Mineria said, nodding towards the back of the house. Chelsea, Caleb, and Adelaide took a peek, and saw Midnight standing by the bench on the edge of the Bridge, surrounded by flowers. And before him in the dark sky…
“Wait, how is she here?” Chelsea asked, gaping. “She’s confined to the Nightmare Citadel still, isn’t she?”
“It appears they found some sort of loophole,” Mineria said.
“But don’t ask Mister Midnight about it,” Ingrid said, pouting slightly. “He won’t explain.”
Chelsea’s owl took off from her shoulders, flying forward before she could even start to try and stop him.
As if I could stop him from doing whatever he wants to do.
“Don’t interrupt them!” she called after him, but that worked as well as she expected. Midnight looked up as the white owl arrived, stopping in front of the massive Nocta. The two owls touched beaks, and then Chelsea’s owl came soaring back, an extra pep in his flaps.
After a few more moments, Midnight came striding back, walking straight through the group and on towards the Bridge. “Time to go,” was all he said.
“Hey, wait, seriously?” Adelaide asked, rushing after him, having to take two steps for every one of his. “You’re not gonna explain things? I never even got to meet your Summon, and now we’re just leaving?”
“You can meet her another time,” Midnight said. “We have work to do. And I needed to call in her help because two someones insisted on coming with us, and I can’t leave the Bridge undefended.”
“You’d miss us if you left us behind like you always do,” Ingrid said with a smile.
“And you agreed to our requests quite quickly,” Mineria said.
“Yeah, well…” Midnight started, but he trailed off, not finding a response. Mineria smiled brightly.
At the far side of the Bridge, the Goodnight Express was waiting, and the conductor had a small fit as he saw the large group.
“Only two of you with chronal,” he said, bushy mustache fluttering with his flustered breaths, “and two guests each? Highly irregular. Highly irregular.”
“And here I thought I had special privileges,” Midnight said. He cast a glance towards Chelsea. “Besides, I’m sure you heard about her and her last trip. She’ll end up on this train regardless of the rules.” He leaned a little closer to the conductor. “I’d advise letting it all slide. Unless you’d like her to go through you.”
“You’d just stand and watch such violence?” the conductor asked, his beady eyes going wide.
Midnight raised his hands innocently. “Honestly, there are plenty of things around here to capture my attention,” he said. “Who’s to say I’d even witness any such violence?”
The conductor huffed and fiddled with his hands, but then finally stepped aside, moving towards the front of the train. As the group boarded, Chelsea could hear the man muttering to himself: “Highly irregular,” over and over.
“Probably best if we take up two compartments,” Midnight said, leading the way. “Caleb, you’ve got Chelsea and the kid. I’m with Mineria and Ingrid.”
“I have a name!” Adelaide called out, stomping her foot.
“Remind me,” Midnight said over his shoulder.
“Adelaide. You can call me Addie though, if you’re nice.”
“I don’t know about nice,” Midnight said, “but ‘Adelaide’ is too close to someone else I know. Can I still call you Addie?”
“Yeah!” Adelaide said brightly. She grinned at Midnight’s back as he led his trio into a compartment, then followed Caleb and Chelsea into an adjacent one.
“Hey, do you know who he was talking about?” Adelaide asked, staring at Caleb.
“His sister has a… bodyguard?” Caleb looked puzzled for a moment. “I’m not sure exactly what her title would be. But her name’s Adelaida.”
“That’s really close to mine,” Adelaide said, sitting back and closing her eyes in thought. She nodded twice. “Yeah, it’s a good name, though. So it’s okay.”
“You’re so weird,” Chelsea said, ruffling Adelaide’s hair.
“You like me, though!” Adelaide said, grinning up at Chelsea. She sat to Chelsea’s right, taking the window seat, while Caleb was to Chelsea’s left.
“Sure do,” Chelsea said with a chuckle.
She’s overly excited about everything, and I don’t really get her, but yeah. I do like her.
“Hey, Chelsea,” Caleb said, squeezing her hand gently. “Do you think you could tell me about The Light?”
Chelsea stared at Caleb, surprised at his question. He looked back at her with a hopeful, inquisitive look. “I…” she started, then looked away. “I mean, I had that thing in the shadow world, but… it just feels kind of… private.”
“Oh,” Caleb said, also looking away. “Sorry. I just thought –”
Wait, what am I doing?
“No,” Chelsea suddenly said. “Don’t… don’t let me get away with that. I’ve talked to Gwen and Lorelei about it. I could say Gwen’s okay because she went through the same thing with me, but Lorelei… and anyway, I should be able to tell you, right?”
Caleb looked surprised, but then smiled. “Okay,” he said. Another gentle squeeze of her hand. “I just ask because the lady at the end of the Edge of Time mentioned it, and I realized I don’t really know anything about it. But I’d like to know.”
Chelsea nodded. Slowly, she began to properly explain the final part of her journey in that shadow world, when she’d stood in the water and faced the strange, mysterious gate.
“It was honestly… frightening,” she said. “I almost didn’t go through. There was something about it… like it was staring into me with this intense, searching gaze. But… I went through. And then I was completely surrounded by this bright light, brighter than anything you’ve ever seen. There were no shadows, just light. And when I tried to speak… I couldn’t. Or at least, I couldn’t hear myself. There weren’t other sounds, so it’s not like I was drowned out, at least I don’t think so. I just… couldn’t make a sound. And well, no, there wasn’t any sound. It was like… the silence itself was drowning out any other sounds. It’s so hard to describe.” She shook her head, trying to gather her thoughts. The impressions she’d kept closest to heart had been the good ones, so she’d almost forgotten how frightening it had all been at first.
She noticed that Adelaide was also listening intently, leaning against her and looking up with one green and one blue eye. She and Chelsea locked eyes for a moment, but the little girl said nothing.
Neither did Caleb.
Caleb was always too good of a listener, but I never expected that from the kid.
“At first, it was honestly terrifying,” Chelsea continued. “The light and the silence both, they hurt. But…” A small smile crept onto her face. “There was also this… purity. Like everything evil, all fears and uncertainties were swept away. And the only reason I was so scared was because… well, I don’t think people are normally supposed to see that, that place, that… whatever it was, wherever it was. So it hurt. But then I heard this… voice. It was so still, so small, it’s almost like it didn’t exist. And I couldn’t hear what it was saying at first. But then, when I listened closer, I heard it say two things. First it said ‘Do not be afraid.’ It said that twice. And I didn’t understand, because I was still so afraid of everything, and the voice didn’t explain itself at all, and I… I was still so lost in trying to figure out what to do. With my anger, with my pain…” She sighed, feeling a lightness in her chest, and her smile grew. “And then it spoke again, and said three words I’ll never forget: ‘Let it go.’ I’d been trying to bury the pain and anger, or redirect it, and I thought that was all I could do, one or the other, but neither was helping, neither was giving peace or relief or hope for the future. And then that voice told me to do something… impossible. At least, that’s what I thought. But I was still in that place, and I thought about everything.”
Ah, come on. Don’t go crying now.
She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly.
It’s all right. It’s good to talk about this again. It’s good for them to hear.
“I thought about my whole life, all the pain, all the sadness… but also about everything else. And I realized just how much love there was in my life, had always been in my life. And the more I turned my thoughts towards that love, the more that place I was in didn’t seem so painful. It was like, in the light, and the silence… there was love there, too, love that I couldn’t ever try to describe. And then I felt just a tiny little piece of the pain, of all the messed up stuff I’d been holding onto and struggling with, just… fall away. And then I felt this warmth, like… like the light itself was embracing me. And then… it was over. I was back in the Library with Gwen, and just the look on her face said that she’d been through the exact same thing.”
Chelsea sat back, finding comfort in the softness of her owl, in the hands that held hers, in the realization that, in telling the story again…
She felt closer to it than ever before.
And for a moment, she could feel that warmth, and hear that voice.
I don’t have to be afraid.
Neither Caleb nor Adelaide said a word. They just held Chelsea’s hands tight and leaned against her.
I’m so surrounded by love. If I kept holding on to my rage… I’d never be able to have this, never be able to hold onto this.
My anger, my hatred… it was taking up space.
Space that was meant for love.
Chelsea smiled and closed her eyes, slowly sinking into a deep, contented sleep.
Caleb dreamt of light.
When he awoke, he’d never be able to recall details. There was light, and water. There were chains, and… lightning? He wasn’t entirely sure what those flashes had been.
And there was wind, a wind that tossed his hair, that brought a smile to his face. When he awoke, he thought he could still feel that wind.
His smile didn’t last very long. They’d arrived at Gold Heart Arcade, and Caleb and Adelaide were the first off the train. As Caleb stepped into the neon lights and the hustle and bustle…
His smile melted away.
“It’s a shopping arcade?” he asked with a tone he knew was overly whiny. But he’d expected the lights and sounds of a video arcade, with tons of games to play, tickets to win and exchange for prizes.
There were a bunch of shops. And everyone was bustling about buying things.
No video games. No tickets. No prizes.
“What’d you expect?” Midnight asked, clapping Caleb on the back as he walked past him.
“The fun kind of arcade…” Caleb said mournfully. But when he looked down and saw Adelaide staring at everything with wide eyes and an awestruck smile, his own disappointment melted away.
Yeah, okay. I guess this place is pretty cool, when you take it for what it is.
There was a long lane ahead of them that slowly sloped up a hill. And on either side of the lane were dozens upon dozens of brightly lit, marvelously decorated shops. The lights tended towards gold, but it wasn’t a gaudy, glitzy, flashy sort of gold. It was a warm gold, one that suffused the entire air with a warm, inviting feeling. That warmth was enhanced by a subdued sky filled with painterly swaths of warm colors – red, orange, purple, pink, gold. And looking up, Caleb realized that Gold Heart Arcade was truly impressive. There were perhaps a hundred shops along the main lane, but looking up Caleb realized the Arcade was vertical, as well. There were bridges crisscrossing left and right at various levels, up for about a dozen stories, and walkways ran along the right and left against numerous other shops, stores stacked upon boutiques stacked upon ateliers stacked upon cafés stacked upon restaurants. Thousands of people must be here, bustling to and fro, arms frequently heavy laden with bags filled with merchandise.
Many of the customers filling the space seemed to be families, often parents with young children.
A wind tousled Caleb’s hair, and a smile spread across his face.
“Not so disappointed anymore?” Chelsea asked.
“No,” Caleb said.
“Good,” Midnight said from up front. “I’m going off to find our broker. The rest of you can do as you like until I’m finished. I’ll find you.”
“You won’t be going alone,” Mineria said. Midnight stopped in his tracks, but he didn’t look disappointed by the fact that Mineria decided to join him. Seeing the pair slowly intertwine their fingers as they started walking together warmed Caleb’s heart.
“And I’ll stick with you guys!” said Ingrid with a bright smile.
“You don’t want to be with them?” Caleb asked.
Ingrid giggled as she watched Midnight and Mineria continue into the crowd. “I don’t want to disturb their date,” she said.
“So the kids are gonna prevent us from having a date,” Chelsea said dryly. “How sweet of you.”
“We’ll have plenty of dates when the work’s done,” Caleb said, taking Chelsea’s hand in his.
“Promise?” Chelsea asked, pursing her lips slightly.
“Promise,” Caleb said, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek.
“Oh, snap,” Adelaide said softly. Ingrid giggled.
“Kid, you gotta stop ruining the moment,” Chelsea said, pressing her knuckles against Adelaide’s forehead. All she got was a giggle from the girl.
“Come on, then,” Caleb said, starting forward. “Let’s make the most of this.”
“Let’s explore!” Adelaide said, marching alongside Caleb.
They were soon in the thick of the crowd, and Caleb realized that he, Chelsea, Adelaide, and Ingrid fit right in.
We’re too young to be either of the girls’ parents, but not everyone can tell that at a glance. It’s like we’re just another couple taking our kids on an outing.
The thought of that lifted Caleb’s heart, and his disappointment of this place not being what he’d hoped was now miles from his mind.
Gold Heart Arcade was, even with its warm lighting and inviting atmosphere, sometimes a bit flashy and silly up close. There were costumed mascot characters advertising for their shops, wearing hilariously oversized masks designed like cartoon renditions of animals as they carried signs advertising sales or new wares. Signs were colorful and creative, and many salespeople spent time just outside their shop handing out fliers or free samples.
Two things kept the massive, crowded place from feeling overwhelming compared to malls and shopping arcades Caleb knew from Earth. One was that people weren’t shouting or screaming, having a generally calm, pleasant attitude, and only raising their voices enough to make themselves heard in particularly busy sections. Two was that there weren’t any electronic speakers, no intercom systems, and so there wasn’t any music playing that created a necessity for people to talk louder or risk being drowned out by radio tunes completely irrelevant to the business at hand.
Adelaide was excited about everything, and wanted to go into every single shop she saw, with Chelsea the one who usually held her back. Ingrid was more relaxed, but she had a marvelously excited light in her silver eyes as she surveyed all she saw.
Come to think of it…
“Ingrid, have you been here before?” Caleb asked.
“Never,” Ingrid said breathlessly.
“I know you’ve been to Sunset Square… where else have you been?” Caleb asked.
“Nowhere,” Ingrid said. “Aside from where I was before I ended up with my p– I mean, the Gabblens. And most of that is hazy even after Mister Midnight helped restore my memories. I’ve simply been serving at Midnight Bridge – he hasn’t taken me on a trip before.”
Caleb smiled. He’d found it surprising that Midnight hadn’t tried all that hard to oppose Mineria and Ingrid’s coming on this trip.
But it’s good for all three of them.
“I smell something amazing!” Adelaide whined, pulling against Chelsea’s grip. “We have to investigate!”
“You can’t possibly be hungry,” Chelsea said, holding the girl back without much effort, despite her flailing around.
“I’m always hungry after I take a nap!” Adelaide said.
“What are you, a baby?” Chelsea asked.
“Babies can’t talk,” Adelaide said with a giggle.
“Why don’t we go see what it is?” Caleb asked, sniffing the air. “It does smell amazing. And I’m kind of hungry, too.”
“You’re always hungry,” Chelsea said.
“I’m hungry, too,” Ingrid said politely.
Chelsea sighed, but it was followed by a small smile. “Fine,” she said, earning a cheer from Adelaide. “But you can’t go running off. Just stay with us, we’re going where you want to go together, okay?”
“Yes!” Adelaide said, slapping a sloppy salute. Caleb chuckled as Chelsea rolled her eyes.
The food they smelled was coming from a booth that did all its cooking and grilling beneath an outdoor canopy. The pop and sizzle of oils, the wonderful aroma of grilled meat, both combined to greatly multiply Caleb’s appetite.
“We can’t even buy things, can we?” Chelsea asked. “It’s not like they’d take dollars.”
“They totally do,” Adelaide said, pointing at the sign behind the counter. It showed a menu, but the items were the smallest part of the menu, as each was followed by literally hundreds of different prices, each with their own currency symbol – including dollars.
“I’ve read all about this place,” Ingrid said. “They deal with so many people from so many places that they find no burden in tracking exchange rates, even for the many currencies of Earth.”
“And it’s cheap,” Caleb said, surprised at the low prices.
“Need to get your wallet out of your suitcase?” Chelsea asked.
Caleb was stunned for a moment that Chelsea would even suggest letting him pay – paying for food was something the two of them always fought over – but then shook his head, reaching into his pocket. “No, I’ve got it on me,” he said.
For some reason, Chelsea seemed remarkably disappointed by that. She pulled out her own wallet faster than Caleb could get his and approached the counter. “I’m buying,” she said.
What’s that all about?
They left the booth with skewers of meat and vegetables dripping with sauces and covered in spices, and Caleb and Adelaide especially made numerous sounds of delight at the taste of the wonderful combinations.
They ate as they walked, finishing a few stores down from the booth, tossing their empty skewers into a waste bin. Caleb kept on going, but stopped after a few steps and looked back.
“What’s the deal now?” Chelsea asked, looking at Adelaide.
“I’m thirsty,” Adelaide said, pursing her lips.
“Seriously?” Chelsea asked.
“We can get something to drink there,” Ingrid said, pointing. “They have a café.” Her eyes were glittering with hopeful enthusiasm, and Caleb looked to see where she was a pointing.
Caleb grinned. “That sounds perfect,” he said. “Let’s check it out!”
“Can you help me with the troublemaker?” Chelsea asked.
“Come on, Addie,” Caleb said, taking the girl by the hand. “Stay with me, okay? And if you want or need something, try asking politely instead of whining about it. That’s the proper way to do things.” Adelaide giggled. “What?”
“You’re like a papa,” the girl said, grinning up at Caleb. And with that grin, there was a sort of hopeful look in her eyes.
Caleb stared back at her, lost for words. Slowly, he smiled and led the way.
So that’s what she thinks of me, huh?
The bookstore was oddly familiar to Caleb, reminding him quite a bit of Grimoire’s Grimoires back home. It had a homey, rustic feel to it with dark, wood-paneled walls, warm lighting, and carefully spaced bookshelves to give plenty of room for multiple customers passing between them. And at the far side of the store was a more open space where drinks were served and customers could sit and read – there were four there already, with twice as many seats still open.
“I’m going to browse,” Ingrid said happily, wandering through the bookshelves. Caleb, Chelsea, and Adelaide headed over to the café, where they each ordered drinks. Chelsea seemed to still be in a bit of a foul mood, so Caleb relented once again to her paying.
The moment they sat down, something felt strange to Caleb. And when he looked up from his latté, he realized what.
Someone was staring at him.
In the far corner of the café, a man who looked to be in his forties or fifties was watching Caleb and his companions. The man had dark, tousled hair with long bangs combed aside. His skin was pale, but it didn’t seem to be an unhealthy sort of paleness. In one hand was a drink, and in the other was a book, held open to about a third of the way through.
And yet the man was staring at Caleb.
Just as Caleb was considering whether he should ignore the man or confront him, the man stood up. He left his drink behind, but strode towards them with book in hand. Now more in the light, Caleb could see he was dressed rather oddly. He wore a dull red jacket over a pale green waistcoat, both of which were decked out with numerous silver, gold, white, and black buttons, almost like emblems or badges pinned here and there. The sleeves of his jacket were long and flared out wide at the end, with bronze tassels dangling from the bottom of them. His pants were tan, with a black chain running from his red belt up to the pocket of his jacket, and he wore tall black boots with silver laces.
His face was strange. There was a smile on it that gave Caleb dual impressions of laziness and incredible self-assuredness, and that paired with movements that gave that same dual impression. And his eyes… when he was closer, Caleb could see that while his left eye was an ordinary brown, the man’s right eye was striking blue, and…
There was a spiral pattern within it. That spiral within the blue was a thin line of silver coiling around itself, and it glittered in the light.
The man stopped at Caleb’s table and bowed low with an exaggerated flourish from one arm. When he rose, Caleb, Chelsea, and Adelaide were all staring at him.
“Can we help you?” Chelsea asked.
“Pardon my manners,” the man said. His voice matched his smile. He spoke slowly and carefully while also having a sort of high-class air in his breathy, mellifluous tone. “I simply was intrigued by you three and thought I might introduce myself.”
“Intrigued why?” Chelsea asked. She was clearly on edge, and one hand was in her pocket. Caleb didn’t blame her – his fingers brushed against the chain of his pocket watch.
Something’s very strange about this man. I can’t get a read on him. Is he just an eccentric weirdo? Kind and mysterious? But what’s this weird vibe I’m getting from him?
“You’re Humans, aren’t you?” the man asked. He had a way of drawing out his vowels slightly that gave his slow, dreamlike way of speaking a magnetic quality. “And yet you seem right at home in the Enchanted Dominion. Such a rare thing to see.”
“And who the heck are you?” Chelsea asked.
“Ah, yes, manners,” the man said, bowing once again in that exaggerated fashion of his. “My friends used to call me Sal. Feel free to do so as well. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Why did you want to?” Caleb asked.
The man nodded once and then held out his book with one hand, tapping it gently on the table. Caleb stared in surprise at the title: On the Subject of the Endless Night.
“I’m quite fascinated with the Prophecies of this universe,” Sal said. “Particularly this one, what some call the ‘oldest’ one. Do you know why?”
Caleb, Chelsea, and Adelaide stared back at Sal, saying nothing.
“Of course you don’t, I apologize,” Sal said. He twirled the book in his hand and then tucked it under his arm. “You see, there are two great powers in this universe: light and dark. And yet all say that light will have the ultimate victory. It is destined, you see. Just another Prophecy, perhaps the truly oldest one. And yet…” He tapped the book with a ringed finger. “They call this event the ‘Endless’ Night. ‘Endless.’ Why use that specific word? Light’s victory cannot be complete if there is a possibility of an ‘endless’ night, can it? I believe this Prophecy speaks to the possibility of the impossible, the upending of the natural order of things. I find that fascinating, and I wish to know more.”
“And you think we know?” Caleb asked.
“Ah, in a word, no,” Sal said, smiling. “I simply wished to share my thoughts. I’m a rather obsessive sort – all collectors are, aren’t they? And I saw some who seemed to have some understanding, and wished to share. It’s a bookshop.” He spread his free hand to gesture to the store. “What a wonderful, magical place. A place of knowledge, and passion, and the sharing of knowledge and passion. So I merely wished to share.”
“And now you have,” Chelsea said. She still refused to let her guard down.
“I’m quite curious,” Sal said, tapping a finger to his chin. His eyes tracked to the owl on Chelsea’s shoulders, and then down to Chelsea herself. “What do you think of vengeance?”
This guy’s all over the place, isn’t he?
But Caleb looked at Chelsea and saw a startled look in her eyes.
Except that hits close to home for her.
Was that just a random question? But…
Why did he ask her specifically?
“It’s worthless,” Chelsea said, glaring up at Sal. “All it does is destroy.”
“Yes, you have some wisdom, then,” Sal said, nodding approvingly. He looked to Adelaide. “The two of you have such a lovely young daughter.”
“Oh, no, she’s not –” Caleb started, but both Chelsea and Adelaide glared at him.
Okay, what’s that all about?
“Ah,” Sal said. “My mistake. Well, then.” He gazed towards the door out into the street. “I must continue my search. Knowledge breeds wisdom. And wisdom breeds greatness.” He smiled back at the three of them one more time, but his eyes lingered on Caleb. “I’m afraid time is ever so fleeting. It was a pleasure to meet you, Caleb Greyson.”
“What…?” Caleb started, staring at the man. But Sal was already leaving, his slow movements deceptive. Before Caleb could even begin to collect his wits, Sal was gone onto the crowded street.
Adelaide let out a long, heavy sigh. “Oh, I can finally breathe,” she said.
“What?” Caleb and Chelsea both asked, looking at her.
“You didn’t feel it?” Adelaide asked. “That pressure?”
“Pressure?” Chelsea asked.
“Like he’s a lot bigger than he looked,” Adelaide said. “No, that’s not right. I can’t explain it. Forget it, at least it’s gone now.”
“But he knew your name,” Chelsea said, staring at Caleb.
“And I never told him,” Caleb said, standing. “I don’t want to stay here.”
“Me neither,” Adelaide said, shooting to her feet. She drained the rest of her milk in a series of hearty gulps.
“Leaving already?” asked Ingrid, returning from the bookshelves with a pile of books in her arms. “I found some wonderful books. I thought we could sit and read for a while.”
“Sorry, we just…” Caleb started, staring at the door of the shop. A shape passed by it, and for a moment Caleb shuddered.
But then in strode Mister Midnight, Mineria close behind him. There was an urgent expression on Midnight’s face, and when he saw the four in the café, he rushed over to them.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“We’re… fine,” Caleb said, studying Midnight’s expression.
“What’s the matter?” Chelsea asked.
“Did you talk to the man who just left?” Midnight asked.
“Yeah,” Caleb said. “Though I wish we hadn’t.”
“What man?” Ingrid asked.
“Never mind,” Midnight said, giving the four of them another long look. “I just…” He looked away, towards the door. “He’s the one I met before.”
“The one what?” Caleb asked.
“Nothing,” Midnight said, shaking his head. “Come on. I found our broker. We have our passage to the Citadel.”
“So fast!” Adelaide said.
“Lancelot can be very persuasive,” Mineria said with a smile.
“But…” Ingrid started, looking at the seven books in her arms in dismay.
“They’re yours,” Midnight said, pulling out a wallet from his pocket. “Come on.”
“Really?” Ingrid asked, eyes positively glowing as she followed Midnight to the counter where he paid for the books in her arms, and then carried the bags for her. The rest followed out of the shop, and all six of them walked together.
“You’re not going to say anything else about that man?” Caleb asked, walking alongside Midnight.
“No,” Midnight said. “I just… thought he was dead.”
There was a pause, and then Midnight muttered something under his breath. It sounded to Caleb like: “I hoped he was dead.”