Arc III: The Breaking Point

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ARC III PART I: The Breaking Point

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.

Lills, Darcy, and the Aihara brothers listened with rapt attention as Rubén Castillo paced across the room. Lills has just finished telling their own tale of their time in London, and now it was Rubén's turn to explain why he was dressed as a cowboy.

"So, I was just sitting right there, reading in the corner," Rubén began, nearly spilling his tea everywhere as he gestured to his chair. "Then that cyborg bounty hunter- the one who tried to kill Darcy- burst through the front doors! He looked around the room and, seeing that I was the only one present, pointed at me and said, 'How would you like to make $200?' Apparently the man- his name is Atticus, by the way- had accidentally sent his nephew's dog back in time to 1883 and needed help retrieving it. Now, normally I wouldn't have anything to do with such an unsavory fellow, but the offer seemed legitimate and my funds are currently nonexistent."

Rubén flopped back into his chair dramatically; this time, tea did spill, not that he noticed. Lills saw both Imlach and Aoto wince at the sight of spilled tea on the carpet. "Next thing I know, I'm dressed like this," Rubén continued, gesturing to his attire, "and I'm walking down the streets of Amarillo! Which would have been fine, if that fool hadn't started a bar fight, all because a drunk gentleman insulted his hat. I barely escaped with my life! Anyways, we manage to find someone who thought they saw the dog. By this time, it's getting dark, yet Atticus insists on dragging me all the way out into that dry, forsaken land. Eventually, we see something that looks like the dog go into a cave, and Atticus makes me go in and fetch it."

Rubén raked his free hand through his hair. "But it wasn't the dog! It was a coyote. And this coyote had friends. Very fast, very hungry friends. Atticus let them chase me for two kilometers before he finally shot one of them, and he was laughing at me the whole time! At that point, I couldn't care less about finding this stupid creature, but I'm not going to give up on that $200. So we hike back to town. Guess who we found sitting in front of the bar?"

"The coyotes, back for more?" Lills teased.

Rubén gave her an exasperated look. "No, the bloody dog," he said. "I just about kissed that mutt. But Atticus just took the dog and leaped out of there without paying me! Can you believe that?"

"Are you really that surprised?" Lills asked.

"No, but I'm still angry!" Rubén exclaimed, falling back into his chair, arms crossed.

Darcy grinned and turned to Shoma, expecting to see an amused smile on his face. But his expression was unreadable, and his attention was focused on his teacup, not on Rubén.

"Are you okay?" she asked gently. Her words seemed to pull his out of his head, and he gave her a slight nod. "I was just thinking that it's time for me to go home now," Shoma replied, standing.

"Oh, okay. Of course," Darcy said, rising with him. Out of all of them, Shoma had undoubtedly had the worst time in London- something the bruises on his face could attest to. He more than deserved some rest. Still, Darcy was sorry to see him leave so soon. She moved to give him a goodbye hug, but Shoma was already halfway to the front door.

"Wait up, I'll go with you," Aoto said, following after his younger brother.

The streets of Edinburgh were just as dreary as they had been that morning, though their conversation on the street bench felt like a lifetime ago to Aoto. Once they were well out of sight from the tea house, Aoto grabbed his brother by the arm. Shoma impatiently turned to face him.

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