Arc II: Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

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A/N: Hello! Another three-part arc coming your way! Hope you're enjoying the story so far! Do you have a favorite character yet? Thank you for reading!

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ARC II PART I: Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.

Aoto checked his watch. Shoma should be here already; it wasn't in his nature to be late, yet the cup of tea he had poured for his brother had gone cold long ago. Imlach gave him a concerned look, but Aoto just flashed a cheerful smile. Glancing around, he texted his brother under the table. The text went ignored, just like five others before it. Now he was worried.

He slipped some money under his empty teacup and exited the tea house. Save for a puttering delivery truck and a wandering cat, Aoto was alone. The cobblestone road felt good under his feet; the world, in his opinion, could use more cobblestone. The morning fog had not yet dissipated, and the damp air on his face reminded him of that whirlwind of a day in 1934, when he and Shoma had nearly drowned in the Port of Tokyo. What fun that had been!

"It feels like Tokyo, doesn't it?" a familiar voice said. Aoto turned to find Shoma a few steps behind him. There was rain on his coat, even though it hadn't rained at all in Edinburgh, indicating that Shoma had only just arrived. "Imlach said that you went this way. So sorry that I'm late. I was video chatting with... a friend and lost track of time."

"I'm just glad you were able to make it," Aoto remarked good-naturedly, but inside he was just relieved to see that his brother was well. Actually, "well" might be an overstatement. The sight of the bags under Shoma's eyes filled Aoto's chest with a heavy feeling.

"How much have you been working?" Aoto asked.

"No more than usual," Shoma assured him, though Aoto didn't believe him. Shoma sat down on a bench, resting his head back on the brick wall behind him. "I just haven't been sleeping so well."

"A lot on your mind?"

Shoma nodded slightly. "I think that Father lied to me about how he knows Zikmund."

"What makes you think that?" Aoto asked.

"Because I've seen the watercolor painting he claims Zikmund painted. It's all light strokes and soft colors," Shoma said. "I didn't see Zikmund's workshop, but Darcy described his work to me, and she said that most of his art consisted of dark, moody oil paintings. Now, I'm no painter, but I do enjoy drawing, and I know that generally, people do not drastically change both styles and mediums in a short period of time. What's more, Father isn't one to forget someone's name, especially if he had a constant reminder of that person hanging a few meters from his desk. Yet it took him some time to place Zikmund's name."

"But why wouldn't he just deny knowing Zikmund all together?" Aoto asked.

"I... I don't know," Shoma admitted. "But the more I think about it, the more it doesn't feel right." He let out a frustrated huff of air. "Or maybe I'm just overthinking it." He closed his eyes, knitting his brow. "How's work been? Did you get the promotion you wanted?"

Aoto sighed. "Actually, they let me go."

"What?" Shoma sat up quickly. "Why?"

His brother pulled down his sleeve, revealing the edge of his tattoos. "One of the customers saw my tattoos, and they told my manager. I tried to convince them that I wasn't affiliated with the yakuza anymore, but because I hadn't told them from the start, they felt that they could no longer trust me." Aoto fixed his shirt cuff, and the ink disappeared. "I can't blame them."

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