A Midsummer Knight's Dream (R)
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November 4th, 2007 (10:38 AM). Edited December 9th, 2007 by JX Valentine.
Your aquatic overlord
The following is the latest chapter and the first new chapter for this version of the story.
As a note, while I encourage you to keep reviewing throughout this month, I'll be taking a hiatus for NaNoWriMo. Sorry!
Act Seven: Characters
The six black-clad strangers stared into the shadows at Viola, who realized at once that she had been caught. Cautiously, she stepped into the light of the nearest streetlamp. The woman, dark skinned and eyed, leaned towards Viola with her hands on her hips. Light glinted off her eyes and silver bindi, almost creating a third eye in the center of her forehead.
"Hm." She leaned closer to examine Viola's face. "What's your name?"
Viola remained silent. Her dark eyes stared blankly at the woman. In return, the stranger's eyelids fell to half-mast as she straightened.
"Gentlemen," she said, "I think she might ride the short bus to a special school."
At the insult, Viola blinked. "What? No! I, um... who are you?"
"Ah!" The woman straightened. "That's easy! I'm—"
One of the men clamped his hand over her mouth. "What are you doing? She might be a Capulet!"
"A what?" Viola asked.
Ignoring her, the woman pulled free. "Oh, come on. You're an idiot if you don't know who I am anyway." Then, hastily, she added, "No offense, dear."
"None taken," Viola said, though a blush of an embarrassed red color crossed her cheeks.
The young man backed away, into the shadows. He was awarded with a smug smirk from his female companion.
"Anyway," the woman said as she turned to Viola, "I'm Mercury Prince. Surely you've heard of me."
Viola quirked an eyebrow. "Not really."
The woman's face faulted as the youth who had fought the vileplume burst into laughter. She glared at him.
"Um," she said, "sister of Jupiter Prince?"
Viola's blank stare turned to one of worry.
"Oh." Viola nodded.
Mercury's eyes narrowed. "You don't get out much, do you?"
Again, Viola blushed. "Um."
"So, now that you know me," Mercury said with a shrug. "How about you?"
"I, um..." Viola cast her gaze to the side.
With a weary sigh, the man who covered Mercury's mouth earlier pulled his Master from his pocket. He kept it raised, pointing a black lens at Viola as a red light beside it blinked. Just as she looked at him, the red light turned to a brilliant, white flash. She stumbled back, nearly toppling over as she tried to blink away the purple spots. In the meantime, the young man prodded the screen with the stylus. His expression changed as he slowed.
The fighter looked over his shoulder. "What's up, Ben?"
"I just looked her up in the Data Bank," he said. "I've managed to narrow it down to fifteen profiles who fit the general description. Let's see... which one fits it perfectly?"
Viola rubbed her eyes and blinked. The spots finally cleared, giving way to the sight of the sandy-haired man whose square face was illuminated by the blue glow of the device in his hands.
"Here we go." He lifted the stylus to read off her name. "Viola DiAngelo. Is that you?"
He glanced at her to see her nod numbly.
"Good," he said as he looked at the screen again. "Viola DiAngelo. No birth certificate registered with the city, current claim of residence in the Wisteria District. Apolitical, unregistered voter. Entrepreneur and sole owner of Allegro Dolls. Daughter of an outsider from Saffron City known as Michele DiAngelo—" He ignored the fact that Viola curled her hands into fists at that point. "—though Saffron City officials claim to have never possessed records under that name in their database. Problems with the government system, apparently. He arrived almost two decades ago but died less than a decade later. Cause of death w—"
All six strangers looked at Viola, who shook as her mouth curled into a frown. The fighter broke away from the others and approached her, resting a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off and stepped back.
"I'm sorry," he said. "You'll have to excuse my cousin. Benvolio... sometimes forgets his place. He's a nice kid, though. Believe me."
Benvolio, as the fighter called him, glared icily at his cousin. Unaware of his expression, Viola shook his head and backed away.
"I don't even know you people, and you already..." She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I should go."
With that, she turned and started walking briskly down the street. Mercury started after her before two of the other men grabbed her and held her back. In the meantime, for a long moment, the fighter watched Viola until she disappeared around a corner. Then, he turned and punched Benvolio on the shoulder. Benvolio, biting his lip, merely held his Master with the hand of his injured arm while wrapping the opposite hand around his wound. The icy glare returned and continued to fix itself on his cousin.
"Romeo," he said.
His cousin pointed a finger in his face. "You'd better watch your mouth, Ben. You could say something you'll regret later."
Mercury nodded. "He's right."
Then, she swept down and grabbed Benvolio's Master before he could react. With a cry, he attempted to grab it back, but Mercury dangled it out of his reach with a triumphant smirk across her face. Keeping her back to him, she glanced at its screen.
"So, let's see," she said. "What other dirt can we dig up about that girl?" Suddenly, her smile faded as she read the last line of text. "Holy..."
"What is it?" one of the other three men asked.
"She's a..." Mercury blinked and stared at the line again. "She's a Knight. Not just any Knight, either. Take a look."
Romeo snatched Benvolio's Master from Mercury as Benvolio himself gave another frustrated cry. His cousin took one look at the last line before his face paled.
"What the hell?!" he asked.
By the time Viola returned to her familiar neighborhood, it was already well past midnight. She sighed wearily as she readjusted for the umpteenth time the position of the package tucked under her shoulder. For a brief moment, she regretted recalling Haunter, but at the same time, she knew that he needed a rest more than she did. Thus, she shuffled silently the last few blocks to the front door of her home. Her entire body ached, and her eyelids felt heavy.
"I really need a bicycle for this," she muttered as she pushed open the door.
Then, a barrage of white needles drove into the floor at her feet. She jumped back with a cry, slamming into the glass door as the tiles just by her toes shattered and sprayed linoleum across her black shoes. Somehow, she managed to not drop the package, but at the same time, her arms and back were pressed flat against the glass. Cautiously, her eyes trailed upward to find herself face-to-face with a nidoking. Behind him, she saw a man, somewhere in his late twenties, standing with a hand in his trouser pocket. The other manicured hand hung by his side as his thin lips curled into a smirk above his black goatee.
"Bonsoir, Mademoiselle DiAngelo," he said. "How are you this fine evening?"
"Um..." As she stared at the giant, poisonous rabbit that was between them, she found that she could barely find the words to respond to his question or ask a less polite series of her own.
As soon as he realized what was silencing Viola, the man laughed and patted the nidoking. "There's nothing to worry about, ma chéri. Nidoking is perfectly harmless... unless I tell him otherwise."
The man straightened, placing both of his hands on his suited hips. "Ah! How rude of me! I never introduced myself, have I? Orsino Chevalier, at your service."
He bowed and flashed a wide, white grin at Viola. She, meanwhile, stared at him with her eyebrows knitting. A worried frown crossed her lips.
" she said.
Orsino stood, his own frown curling his lips. "Oh, honestly, Mademoiselle DiAngelo. Can't you say anything else? One may mistake your behavior for ill-breeding, you know." He tugged his blazer. "You must be wondering why I'm here."
Viola blinked. "Um... Just a bit."
"Well, then," he said, "I've come to kill you."
"Oh." Viola nodded. Then, she paused for a beat. "
Orsino smiled. "Well, Mademoiselle DiAngelo, I'd hate to say this, but as charming as you seem, someone is offering a rather handsome price for your Midsummer Key. Though I surely don't need the price she offers, one can never turn down a generous gift. So, I'm afraid that your time as a Knight must be cut short. I hope you do find it in your heart to forgive me."
"Well, ah..." Viola laughed nervously for a moment. "I-if you, um, if you put it that way, then..." Her eyes widened, and she pointed frantically to something over Orsino's shoulder. "
Oh my God!
Orsino, naturally, turned. His eyebrow quirked when he saw nothing but Viola's workshop behind him. With that, he turned back around to find the place where Viola stood just a moment ago completely devoid of a person. A sharp gasp and a grunt filtered into his ear from his side, and with that, he turned to see his nidoking holding Viola by the back of her coat collar so that her feet dangled several inches from the floor with the package just a few inches from her shadow. He narrowed her eyes at her as she laughed nervously again and held out her hands in a shrug.
"Silly me. Must've been seeing things again," she said.
Her response only made Orsino frown.
On Tulip Street, a small restaurant sat between a florist and a boutique. The windows of the restaurant let light filter onto the street, but by then, the light was dim. No patrons were in the establishment except a young man sitting at a booth by the window with one hand on an empty white cup and the other on a Master. Imogen, dressed in a white chef's coat and black slacks, approached the table with a full coffee pot in one hand and her own cup in the other. Sitting across from Sebastian, she poured fresh coffee into first his cup and then into hers before putting the pot to the side. In the ensuing silence, she picked up her cup, inhaled the scent, and looked over the rim at Sebastian.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
After a beat of pause, Sebastian said, "How's your brother?"
Imogen winced and placed her cup on the table. "Better. The doctor says he might… well." She looked into her coffee. "Thanks."
Sebastian frowned. "Sorry. I guess I just haven't been thinking lately."
"I'd say." Imogen gave him a stern glare. "What's with you lately?"
Sebastian remained silent, his eyes on a point across the street. Noticing this hesitation, Imogen sighed.
"It's Viola, isn't it?"
At that, Sebastian shot her a wide-eyed look. Realizing his expression, he quickly picked up his Master and began playing with it.
With a smile, Imogen leaned back. "Imogen knows you well. I wouldn't worry about her, though. She's smart."
"Sheltered. She hasn't been out of Wisteria District until now."
." Imogen tapped one of her temples. "She solved that box at the Induction Ceremony."
Sebastian placed his Master on the table and gave her a solemn glance. "Do you know who
"The Trio." Sebastian tapped the table with the fingertips of one of his hands as he stared at the glowing screen of his Master. "I confronted Knight Spider as she was getting away after she made sure the box was triggered."
Imogen's eyes widened. "The Trio? What could they want with her?"
"What else? You know their reputation. Someone's hired them. I don't know who, and I don't know why. But…" He exhaled slowly. "If the Trio is involved, it's serious. However, what I want to know—" Sebastian looked up. "—is why they're toying with her."
Imogen's hands trembled slightly. "What?"
"Think about it, Imogen," he said. "The Trio are brutal. They kill and they do it as messily as possible. You heard about Knight Stealth, right? How they put his scizor's claw right through his stomach? They don't just commit an attempted murder by making an explosive puzzle box so easy their target can solve it and get away. That's not their style. They're definitely up to something, but
For a moment, Imogen stared at her cup of coffee in thought. Then, finally, she furrowed her eyebrows. "Do you think it's bec—"
Sebastian's Master cut off Imogen's comment with a sudden, loud beep. Jumping at the surprise, he picked up the device and examined the text that played across the screen carefully. Seconds later, his face paled, and he stood abruptly.
"We have to go," he said as he stuffed the Master in his pocket. "You and me. Get your things and come on."
Imogen rose to her feet. "What? What is it? What did the Controller say?"
"We have a mission," Sebastian told her, "and it's at my place."
In the apartment just a floor above Allegro Dolls, a nidoking carrying a young woman slung over his shoulder moved into the kitchen. With a grunt and a careful pull, he tugged Viola off his shoulder and plopped her onto one of the chairs as she stared wide-eyed at the beast. Orsino, with a smooth grin at Viola, sauntered past her and began searching through the cupboards along the walls for a pair of glasses. After a few moments, he plucked two glasses from the back of the third cupboard he looked through and examined them carefully as he stepped to the side to the sink. By then, he was behind Viola, and the latter stared at the door and swallowed hard.
"What do you want with me?" she asked.
Orsino filled the glasses with water. "We're going to play a game."
Viola turned to face him, but he spoke before she could object.
"No peeking," he said as he pulled something from his pocket. "It's cheating."
A cold feeling settled into Viola's chest as she obeyed and turned away. She heard a pair of pops, followed a few moments later by an opening of drawers and the tinker of something hitting glass. A few seconds passed, and Orsino tapped the spoon on the edge of the second glass and set it aside. Then, taking a glass and an empty vial in each hand, he walked to the table and placed the glasses in front of Viola. She blinked at both.
"My client and my sister say you're clever," Orsino said as he sat down across from Viola. "So, let's prove it. As you can see, both glasses contain apparently just water. However, one contains sugar water, and the other contains Poison Sting crushed into a fine powder. When small amounts of either are dissolved in water, both become odorless and virtually invisible. The only difference between them is taste – and, of course, the fact that one of them will burn away the closest layers of your tongue and esophagus on the way down, enter your bloodstream, and ultimately lead to a slow and painful death. I brought them here in these vials. Take a good look at them."
He rolled the glass vials across the table towards Viola, who stopped them with her hand. Carefully, she picked them up to examine them. Her eyes narrowed.
"As you can see, these vials are perfectly identical. Even I can't tell which one held poison and which held sugar. So, clearly, when I brought the vials from my pocket, I couldn't tell which vial was the one that poisoned one of the glasses."
Viola placed the two vials on the table. "So?"
"So, let's play Russian Roulette." Orsino leaned back and crossed his legs. "Choose a glass and take a drink from it. If it's sugar water, you win, and I'll drink the other glass. If it's poison, then you get the consolation prize of never having to play such a dreadful game as Midsummer."
"What if I walk away?" she asked.
Orsino shrugged. "Then you forfeit to a Knight. According to the Game, that entitles me to your Key."
"So, I lose either way," Viola said with a frown.
"If you choose to see it that way. One would see escaping with her life as more of a victory than escaping without."
Viola frowned and sat in thought. Then, she asked, "May I ask you questions?"
Orsino smiled. "Any except which glass is which. At most, I can allow you to ask three questions. Choose your words wisely."
Viola straightened. Her eyes fixed on Orsino, who found himself gazing at a dark, midnight-blue color, rather than the medium blue he could have sworn her eyes had been a moment ago. For a reason he couldn't define, it sent a shiver down his back.
"First question," she said. "What do you do?"
Caught off-guard by her question, Orsino raised his eyebrows for a moment before a smile played across his face again. "I'm a proprietor like yourself, Mademoiselle DiAngelo. My dealings, however, are more with the entertainment industry. That is, I own a nighttime establishment of dance and the distribution of alcohol."
"In other words, a nightclub."
"Yes, you could say that."
Viola exhaled and closed her eyes. As she digested the information, Orsino relaxed slightly in the absence of her stare. Finally, she opened her eyes again, to which Orsino struggled to keep himself from tensing. Oblivious to his attempts to resist her stare, Viola tried to find his eyes once more.
"Second question. What do you get out of winning the Game?"
Orsino chuckled. "What would anyone get out of the Game? Do you know what the prize
, mon ami? Your wildest dreams. If you can eliminate the competition, you have a chance to find the Midsummer Treasure."
Viola bit her tongue. She didn't want to waste her last question by asking about the treasure, although it was the first time she heard about it. Luckily, Orsino could see that her face was faltering slightly, that the intensity in her eyes faded as the corners of her mouth drooped.
"Don't tell me you've never heard of the Midsummer Treasure," Orsino said.
His opponent lowered her eyes to stare at the glasses. The reaction was enough to break Orsino's momentary intimidation over her into laughter. He leaned back in his chair as he wiped at the corners of his eyes with his thumb.
"Oh, Knight Illusion, you certainly are a funny girl." He took a deep breath to calm himself. "The Midsummer Treasure is the prize given to the winner of the Midsummer Game. Rumor has it that it has the power to give a person anything he wanted. Anything. Money, women, a home… anything you can think of, it can give you. Unfortunately, no one knows where it may be located. Just that certain Keys can lead us to where it is. That is why we need to collect every Key we can find. If only certain Keys out of hundreds can find the Treasure, then it would only benefit a treasure hunter if he had
the Keys at once. That way, the possibility of someone else having a Key that will lead him to the Treasure would be zero. Understand?"
Viola nodded slowly. "So, you're a Knight because you want the Treasure."
"Naturally." Orsino spread his hands on the table and examined his fingernails. "Of course, I could possibly get whatever I wanted myself, but taking this shortcut is easier… and, for that matter, more interesting."
A smirk drew across Viola's lips. "And you're absolutely certain that you would be the one to get that far."
Orsino shrugged. "Why
I be? I possess intelligence, cunning, courage, and resources superior to any other Knight in the Game, all of which are the most essential tools one could have in the Game. My methods are completely efficient. I always kill my victim before he kills me." He tapped his temple. "The Midsummer Game is a chess match with higher stakes, Mademoiselle. You must always think one step ahead if you wish to survive."
Viola looked at the ceiling and nodded. She turned the problem and his answers over in his mind carefully as the silence between them grew longer. Orsino leaned back, hanging one of his arms off the back of the chair as he watched Viola intently. He had no idea what had made him feel so uncomfortable about her eyes, and the feeling was already fading into confidence.
"The clock is ticking, Knight Illusion," he said. "You still have one more question and the option to leave the table. Wouldn't you like to ask me something about the challenge? Perhaps something about the powder itself that would give you a hint as to which glass it may be in?"
At his words, Viola laced her fingers together and placed her hands on the table. "All right. My third and final question…"
Orsino made a small motion with his hand to indicate that he wanted her to hurry. "Go on."
She looked at him with a small smile. "Why did you make this challenge easy for me?"
The question was punctuated with a long silence as Orsino stared at her. His eyebrows went up, and the confident smirk on his face vanished.
"What?" he asked. Then, he ventured to chuckle a little. "What are you talking about? Of course it's not easy!"
Viola shook her head. "It is. Let me explain why. At first, I thought it would be possible that you would have poisoned one of the glasses, considering the fact that you appear to be eccentric, not to mention you broke into my shop. Besides, if I drink one of the glasses, and it turns out to be poisoned, then you can do whatever you want to me."
Orsino nodded. "Of course."
"On the other hand," Viola said, "I thought that it might be possible that you poisoned
of the glasses under the same principle. That is, if I drank one of the glasses and died, then there's nothing stopping you from not fulfilling your part of the challenge and failing to drink the other glass unless you were ordered to by your Master, which is ridiculous because you would have won the challenge."
"That seems reasona—"
"But then..." Viola lifted her chin to smile at him. "You told me the answer."
A nervous chuckle bubbled from Orsino's throat. "What? I didn't say a word about it."
"Perhaps not directly." Viola shrugged. "But you said
. When you told me why you wanted to be a Knight, you revealed to me two things about your character. The first is that you're incredibly arrogant. You even said it yourself that you believe yourself to be more skilled and better equipped to handle challenges than any other Knight in the Game. The fact that all Knights are by default stupid enough to play the Game in the first place is proof enough that we all are on an equal playing field, and even then, you're daring to compare yourself to hundreds of other Knights. There will always be someone who has the ability to outperform you."
Orsino clenched his jaw as he listened to her words. Already, he was feeling a little light-headed from a combination of faltering confidence and irritation at the insult. In the meantime, he tried his best not to show much emotion to let her know that she may have been winning.
"And what," he said, "is the second fact I revealed to you?"
Viola lowered her eyes and grinned. "That you're also self-centered."
A flicker of anger crossed Orsino's face as he parted his lips slightly. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that you wouldn't sacrifice yourself." Viola lifted her chin a little to look at Orsino again. "When I first looked into your eyes, I saw you shiver. It was as if you thought I might have a chance of walking away with both my Key and my life. Then, you told me that you wanted to survive in the Game. I can't imagine what you want with the Treasure, but quite obviously, you care enough about it to tell me your strategy. 'You must always think one step ahead in order to survive'? Just another way of saying you're always looking for ways to stay alive – as in, you always create a strategy that would put you in the least amount of danger."
As soon as Viola finished speaking, Orsino smiled, but this time, the corners of his mouth were twisted into a vicious grin. "Ah, but that doesn't tell you if I poisoned the glasses or not."
"This is true," Viola said with a shrug. "By itself, my reasoning only tells me that you could have either poisoned both glasses or poisoned neither glass. That is, to ensure a victory, you could have poisoned both glasses so that I would never choose the right glass, which would then leave you to take my Key and leave after I'm dead, or you could have intimidated me enough with the challenge itself to make me leave the table, even if neither glass is poisoned. On the other hand…" She picked up one of the glasses. "By not poisoning both glasses, you would also avoid the possibility of a counter challenge."
Orsino lifted an eyebrow. "Counter challenge?"
Viola smiled and brought the glass to her lips. "Pick up the other glass. We'll drink it together."
At that, Orsino straightened. "Absolutely not."
"Well, then," Viola said, "you would technically forfeit to a Knight if you turn down my challenge, which means I win both your challenge and your Key. I've left you with only one glass. If it's poisoned, I'd know because you would refuse to pick it up in order to preserve yourself, which means I've already won. If it's not poisoned, I'd know because you would accept my challenge with the knowledge that you would win either way but could at least get away without giving me the opportunity of claiming your Key first for the refusal of my challenge."
Orsino growled. "That doesn't make any sense."
Viola held the glass up and shook her head. "Actually, it makes more sense than you think. If you refuse my challenge, I can take your Key before I fulfill your challenge. That means you're automatically out of the Game, which means that your goal of claiming my Key no longer has any meaning, even if both glasses turned out to be poisoned. If, however, you accept my challenge, you still keep your Key, and you have at most a fifty percent chance of getting mine."
The details of her challenge struck Orsino silent. He sat in thought for a moment as he stared at the remaining glass. One hand inched closer to it, although the uncertainty still lingered.
"You have the option to walk away," Viola reminded him. "Just leave your Key on the table before you go."
Orsino glared at her. "I do not deny a challenge."
With that, he grabbed the glass and brought it to his lips. Viola smiled at him one more time and lifted her glass in a mock toast.
"At the count of three," she said. "One. Two…" She brought the glass to her lips. "Three."
Both Knights tilted back their glasses and drained their contents. For a split second, Viola felt the pang of panic as she doubted her reasoning – which was, in itself, completely pulled out of nowhere best mentioned. Then, self-doubt gave way to physical sensation, and she realized the water was sweet. She closed her eyes and finished off her drink as a small flicker of pride began to grow in her chest. When the last drop was gone, she placed her glass on the table, next to Orsino's empty glass.
"Well, then," she said. "We both won."
Orsino sat in silence for a moment before bursting into laughter. Viola jumped in surprise as she watched him rise to his feet. The scowling monster she had seen a moment ago faded back into the handsome man with a bright smile as he bowed to her.
"Perhaps we have. For this challenge." He straightened and signaled to his nidoking to follow him. "I must thank you for the exciting battle of wits, Mademoiselle DiAngelo. It was a fascinating match. Wasn't it, Knight Horse?"
With an awkward gasp, Romeo tumbled into view from where he hid just to the side of the door. Viola abruptly stood, smacking the table with both of her hands as she stared in wide-eyed surprise at her other guest. Regarding this reaction with a laugh, Orsino gave her a half wave and began walking to the door.
"See you again soon, Knight Illusion. May you remain ever-entertaining."
With that, he passed Romeo and walked down the hall. Romeo watched him for a second before turning slowly back to Viola, who was silently fuming at him.
"I can explain," he said as he held up his hands.
"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" she asked.
"I, um…" He straightened, rubbing the back of his neck. "Oh yeah. I never introduced myself, have I?" He tried his best to form a serious expression as he bowed. "Romeo Montague, heir to the Montague House, at your service." As he straightened, he regarded Viola with a solemn glance. "Apparently, Benvolio found a bit more regarding you in the Data Bank. According to the rumors circulating around the other Knights, Knight Spider has been searching for information about you."
Viola crossed her arms. "Why is that a problem? So have you."
Romeo shook his head. "You don't understand. Knight Spider and Knight King – the man who just walked out of this building – are part of the Trio."
Furrowing her eyebrows, Viola stared blankly at her guest. It was then that he realized the names had absolutely no significance to her.
"The Trio," he said with a sigh, "is a group of three Knights who are notorious within the Game as being hired hands. If someone needs something stolen, killed, or sabotaged, they go to the Trio to get it done. So, if Knight Spider wants to know more about you, it can only mean you're in deep trouble one way or another."
At that, Viola lowered her gaze to the table. Slowly, she sat down as she let the words replay in her mind. Her skin paled a little as reality began to get to her.
Then, her voice crossed her lips in a small whisper. "Oh."
Sighing again, Romeo crossed the room to kneel by her side. "Listen. I know we don't know each other that well, but you can trust my friends and me. Mercury's the sister of the mayor. She can arrange for someone to keep an eye out for you. But the only safe way to go is to get out of the Game. If you just give up, then—"
Romeo jumped at the force of the word. His mouth hung slightly open as he found himself staring into her face. She offered him a fiery glare in return.
"I can't accept that," she said. "I need to stay in the Game. I can't back out now. Please understand."
For a moment, Romeo only stared at her. Then, slowly, his expression softened. He lifted a hand and almost patted her knee before deciding against it. Instead, he curled his fingers and stood.
"Of course." He shoved his hands into his pockets. "In that case, I can at least offer you a place in my group. Safety in numbers. We can help you, too, what with our resources put together."
Viola nodded. "Thank you… but why would you want to help me?"
He shrugged. "Don't take this the wrong way, but even the best players would be killed if they didn't get help. You might be clever, but the fact that you look like you're innocent will make the other Knights think you're fresh meat." He looked at her with a smile. "In any case, we're meeting up tomorrow at noon. I'll have one of our people come pick you up around then. Is that all right?"
She lowered her head and nodded. "Noon."
"Right." He waved at her and turned towards the door. "Oh, and by the way, that entire complicated logic thing you did back there? Complete bull****. So, how did you know he didn't poison either glass?"
Viola smiled sheepishly. "Two reasons. The first is that both of the vials contain crystals on the sides if you look carefully enough. Sugar in its most common form is a crystal, and he claimed that the poison was a powder. If he was carrying the poison, not only would one of the vials be coated with a colored dust, but also, most likely, I wouldn't be able to see through the remnants of it at the bottom of the vial."
Romeo nodded. "Okay, fair enough. What's the other reason?"
"Any idiot would know that Poison Sting instantly disintegrates into a nearly invisible dust upon impact with a solid object. There's no way he'd get a powder out of it."
Outside Allegro Dolls and across the street, Orsino leaned against a lamp post as he watched Sebastian and Imogen rush into the building. He narrowed his eyes slightly and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Then, he stopped, feeling something with his fingertips for a moment before bringing it out. In the palm of his hand, the cell phone buzzed with vibration until he finally flipped it open and took the call.
"Cesario," Orsino said. "Good of you to call."
The voice on the other end purred. "I couldn't bear to spend another hour without hearing your angelic voice, my lord." After a beat of pause, Cesario's voice gained a note of solemnity. "Were you successful?"
"Mmm." Orsino cast another glance towards the shop's façade. "Yes, I believe so. She thinks she has an advantage over us."
Orsino tilted his head. "Cesario, if I may ask, what exactly are you planning?"
On the other end, Cesario chuckled. "You know I can't say, my lord. It'll ruin the surprise. However, I can assure you that it will all be clear soon."
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