Arc I: The Blue Koi

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A/N: Hello again! Thanks for reading so far! Sorry that I don't have any art yet to go with this story; I'll have some soon. :) Who's your favorite character so far? Are there any time periods or places you'd like to see explored?

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ARC I PART II: The Blue Koi

Foumban, Cameroon

August 1919

Lills dragged Rubén by the wrist through the crowd, past the recently renovated Foumban Royal Palace (and the soldiers that guarded it). Dang, it sure was hot. And the heavy dress and hat weren't helping. But it did little to dull her love for Cameroon. Just the sound and sight of the people walking down the streets, going about their everyday lives, filled her chest with excitement.

"Who are we meeting again?" Rubén asked. It occurred to Lills that he had asked this twice now- she had been too focused on trying to take in every little detail to notice.

"Sorry, I was in my head again. Aoto and Shoma Aihara, I think," she replied, offering an apologetic smile. A man carrying a chicken nearly knocked her off her feet, but she recovered and kept moving. Finally, she found a shortcut in the form of a narrow alley and pulled Rubén inside. They stopped for a minute to cool off and catch their breath. Neither was used to walking this much, or this fast. "Veer was supposed to meet us here too, but he had to work," she added.

Rubén scowled and mopped his brow with his handkerchief. "Ah, Veer. The nerve of him, locking me in a prison ce-"

"There there," Lills laughed, patting him on the head. Her yellow-green eyes glinted with amusement, a sentiment not shared by her mercurial companion. She pushed her glasses up her nose and pointed down the alley. "It's just down that way. Ready to go?" Rubén nodded, and they continued on a little ways through the marketplace before finding the cafe.

Aoto and Shoma Aihara were already seated at one of the outdoor tables. The sounds from the marketplace and surrounding forest were quite different from the gentle music coming from the record player inside the cafe. As they neared, Lills saw that Aoto was tapping his fingers to the melody of the song, urbane as always in his three-piece suit and pince-nez. He offered a warm smile and a polite bow before helping seat both of them.

Shoma didn't even look up. The large, modern textbook (poorly disguised to look time period appropriate) in front of him had his undivided attention.

"Whatcha reading?" Lills asked, propping her head up on her hand. Shoma didn't reply.

"He's trying to cram last minute," Aoto explained for him, pouring Lillian and Rubén each a cup of tea. Mixing in the cream, he added, "This what happens when you spend all of your time on sports, comics, and time-traveling instead of studying."

"The last one is your fault," Shoma muttered, not looking up.

"What is he going to school for?" Lills asked.

"Art history, antique appraisal, and business management," Aoto replied. "Our father insisted."

"That's an odd mix of skills to have," Lills remarked, craning her neck to see the contents of the book. "Oo! I have this book! It's a real page-turner, isn't it?"

Shoma looked up at here. "I don't think anyone has ever described a five hundred page book on the history of Chinese pottery as a page-turner."

"Clearly you haven't met my friend Nicolas," Lills said with a grin. "He's the one who wrote it." She turned back to Aoto. "But I can see that it's not everyone's cuppa tea. Why is your dad making you read about this?"

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