Reunion

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"This... This is amazing...!" Ren Koumei said, staring at the scroll in his hands in astonishment. He had been wondering why his older brother had summoned him all the way out to his base on the Tenzan plateau, but this... "If we use this method for long-distance communication, then instead of weeks, or even months, we can know what's happening in any given corner of the empire almost instantly! I never would have thought... Can our magicians really do this?"

"Yes," Kouen answered confidently. "It may take some time to set up since we will have to have the magician's learn how to coordinate with each other, but I have been told that it is definitely possible to carry out. I got the idea after talking to someone very interesting. I called you out here because I want you to meet her. I believe she can be very useful to us." With that, Kouen stood up and led his younger brother out of his tent and over to Hope's.

"Her name is Hope Dupont," he began to explain, "and she is so desperate to find her sister, that if we offer to use our resources to find her missing twin for her, she would most likely do anything we asked of her in return."

"Twins? How unusual..." Koumei remarked as Kouen reached to open the flap of Hope's tent. He was surprised when his older brother suddenly froze. "Is something..." Koumei started to ask as he peered around his brother's shoulder to see inside, trailing off when he saw what was wrong. Instead of the eighteen-year-old girl they were looking for, the two brothers were greeted by the sight of a couple of soldiers, both of whom were fast asleep. One of them had been stripped of his uniform, and Hope Dupont and her bag of mysterious items was missing. She had obviously drugged her guards by grinding up some of her sleeping pills and slipping the powder into their tea on the sly.

Yes, it was for that very purpose that Hope had endeavored to gradually gain the trust of the men guarding her. Each evening she offered them a pot of tea, biding her time til she found an opportunity to escape. With her medicine running low and her anxiety on the rise, Hope had made up her mind that she needed to take action and start searching for her sister before her meds ran out, while she could still trust herself to think straight. So she took advantage of the commotion caused by the arrival of Koumei the previous evening to escape under the cover of darkness during the new moon. First, she drugged her guards and waited for them to fall asleep. Then, she pulled one of their uniforms on over her dress to blend in while she marched over to the tent where she had managed to learn the magic carpets were being kept. She almost hit a bit of a snag there when some suspicious soldiers intercepted her, but she used the silver spoon she had borrowed from her dinner tray to parry their attacks. With her attackers bound and gagged so they couldn't alert anyone to her escape, Hope then grabbed one of the carpets and slipped out of the camp as quickly and quietly as possible, flying away during the moonless night as far and as fast as the magic carpet could carry her.

"..." Kouen stood there with his face cast partially in shadow. "Hmph! It seems I underestimated that woman..." he said with a smirk and a dangerous look in his eyes that sent shivers down the spines of the men who came running when he called out to issue orders for a search.

'Oh dear...' Koumei thought, covering his mouth with his fan. He hadn't seen his older brother this excited in a long while...


"...?" Hope said, shuddering, while she wondered why she suddenly felt as though someone had just walked over her grave as she passed over a range of mountains. But despite the chill running up her spine, the air was beginning to warm a little with the rising of the sun, and Hope found herself being overcome by a strange feeling of optimism as the sky brightened. Unfortunately, she was also feeling exhausted and drained after flying all night, and before she knew it, the carpet was riding lower and lower as she began drifting in and out of consciousness, until it ran aground on some flat land at the edge of the mountains, and the rough (but not too rough) accidental landing somehow ended with her getting rolled up inside of it like a human burrito. She lay there, for hours, until the sun was high in the sky. The ground began to shake with the great thundering of many galloping horses' hooves beating against it, and still she continued to lay there like a log.

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