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A Brother In Need

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It was maybe an hour or two past Nighttime when Caldina heard the knock on Lafarga’s door. Soft, but repeated and urgent knocks, the knocks of someone desperate to be heard but not to be overheard.

“I’ll get it.” She said, getting up from the bed and putting on a robe.

“You sure?” Lafarga asked groggily.

“Yeah. I’ll call if I need you.” Caldina reassured him, then walked over to the room’s entrance and peeked through the peephole of the front door. Ascot? What was he doing here? He looked terrible, too, pale and frazzled and- Were those tears? She quickly opened the door to let him in.

Her first thought was that Umi broke up with him. In which case, Ascot was gonna have to stop Caldina from marching right over there and giving the Knight a piece of her mind. Like, if she was really gonna let him go so soon after getting together, when she was the one who asked him, when Ascot would’ve been perfectly fine waiting until they were out of this game to say how he felt, well, Caldina had a lot of things to say about that.

“What happ-“ She started, getting angry already, but he cut her off with an answer right away.

“I killed someone.” Ascot said in a rushed whisper, and her anger immediately subsided, her heart sinking all the way down into her stomach. Caldina was glad she hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights, glad Lafarga was on the other side of the room where he couldn’t hear them or see what must have been the obvious dread on her face. Still, while it was an extremely unpleasant scenario (the worst, really), it wasn’t exactly a surprising one. As Ascot had told her that one time after Monokona offered a murderer that succeeded the chance to save two people in addition to themselves: “If it were three, I would’ve considered it.”

“It- it all happened so fast.” He continued with the explanation, trembling, “She started attacking me, I barely got a spell out, it worked too well, and, so, she’s dead now. It’s just, it’s in Trez hall. I don’t want Umi to know.” Of course it was outside Umi’s room. She was such an easy target, alone up there and distraught as she was over the last trial. Or, more precisely, she would’ve been an easy target, if Ascot hadn’t all but moved in next door.

Caldina and Lafarga knew better than to let Ascot think they might need his protection in a game like this. It was too dangerous for him, someone both too willing to kill for the sake of the few that mattered yet so unwilling to personally profit from it. Had he even tried to control the spell, or had his anger at someone who dared threaten Umi made that impossible? She didn’t know. She supposed it didn’t matter at this point, anyway.

“Can you help me move the body somewhere else, please? I’ll confess to everything-“

“No.” Caldina interrupted, harshly enough that Ascot jumped a little.

“But, if I don’t, you three will-“ He started tearing up again. Caldina put a hand on his shoulder.

“No, you listen here.” She said, softer this time, “You don’t gotta confess to anything if nobody ever finds it, right?” His eyes widened, and he stopped trembling.

“You- you think that would work?” Ascot asked weakly, a glimmer of hope sneaking in as he wiped away some of the tears and snot with his sleeve.

“Sure it will. Not to worry, I’ve got this. Just you wait outside and calm yourself down.” She patted his shoulder and opened the door again.

“O-okay…” Ascot answered tentatively. He started to head out, but then, standing in the hall light, he looked back at her.

“I’m sorry.” He said, hanging his head.

“You can apologize later.” Caldina dismissed, trying not to let her breaking heart show on her face, “I’ll be out in a minute.” Only after practically shoving him out and shutting the door did she let any of it show. She prayed to all the Chizetan deities she barely acknowledged that this would work, this contingency plan she’d be developing just in case of an emergency like this. Would Monokona even allow them to exploit that loophole, and if so, for how long? There was only one way to find out. There was no time for second-guessing, no time for tears or asking why. If there was to be any chance of saving him, they had to act now.

Caldina returned to the bedside, picked up the clothes carelessly tossed on the floor earlier, and started getting dressed.

“Was that Ascot?” Lafarga asked, a little more awake now, “Is he okay?” Caldina leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

“Aw, sure. Just needs some sisterly advice.” She said, once again grateful for the dark hiding any cracks in her composure.

“Umi again?” He asked, settling back into the pillows.

“Umi again. Bless his heart.” Caldina sighed, “Don’t wait up for me, kay, puddin’?”

“If you’re sure.” Lafarga closed his eyes. That’s right, just a normal night as far as he needed to know, just some of Ascot’s normal problems. Let him rest easy and forget this exchange ever happened. It was for the best. This cruel killing game Monokona trapped them in made transparency too much of liability for it to be otherwise.

Anyway, better get moving. That body wasn’t gonna hide itself, ya know.