CHAPTER SIX: IMPERIUM (5/5)

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The Emperor led Sol without conversation back to the atrium where Goone, Ofana and Ifrita were waiting in silence.

"That was a quick tour," remarked the Emperor.

"I wasn't feeling well," said Goone.

"I'm sorry to hear that."

Just then, the Palace doors opened and Tiruk entered. "You summoned me, Your Greatness," said the Centaur.

"Thank you, Commander. I would like you to escort Solomon to the Kirina. He is to return to the human world."

Tiruk nodded and crossed to Sol's side.

"He's going home?" said Goone. "Why?"

"Because that's what I've decided is best," said the Emperor.

"But we don't know what happened to—"

"Detective Goone!" boomed Tiruk. "You are addressing the Emperor!"

Goone dropped to one knee. "Forgive me, Your Greatness. It's been a difficult day; I'm not thinking clearly."

"That's quite alright, detective," said the Emperor. "There's no need to apologise."

"With your permission, I'd be happy to escort Solomon to Manhattan myself. It is where I'm stationed, after all."

"Actually... that is no longer true."

Goone blinked. "What do you mean?"

"I have heard about your past. In light of recent events, I feel it would be best if you refrained from visiting the human world."

"Refrained from visiting? I'm a Warlock for the Noble Order. Visiting the human world is my job!"

"Was. You are being reassigned."

"Where?"

"That is for the Order to decide. They are waiting for you at the Temple. Commander—you may take Solomon away now."

"Yes, Your Greatness," said Tiruk. He put his hand on Sol's shoulder, and Sol felt a breeze and saw another cloud of dust circle around him again. It quickly solidified, trapping him and Tiruk inside a much smaller room than the one that had brought him there. He could see Goone's lips moving but could not hear his voice, the room apparently blocking out all external sound.

"Is he in trouble?" Sol asked.

"Goone is always in trouble," said Tiruk as the glass room ascended.

The journey was a much shorter one than before. The glass room took them deep into the mountains where Sol recognised the Citadel circling the peak of one of the mountains. It was only from the air that he could truly appreciate its immense size. As they sailed over the top of it and neared the mountain's peak, Sol saw the cherry blossom tree surrounded by stone arches below. There, the glass room lowered to the ground, stopping only a short distance from the Washington Square Arch. The twin figures of George Washington looked suddenly very out of place.

As the glass room dissolved, Tiruk produced a coin—a shiny American quarter—and tossed it under the Arch. The silver curtain shimmered beneath it, awaiting its traveller.

"Do I just walk through it?" Sol asked.

"You can run if you prefer," replied Tiruk.

Sol took a deep breath and walked slowly towards the Arch. He could feel its warmth radiating from several feet away and wanted nothing more than to stop and bask in its glow. Instead, he continued onwards until he had disappeared beneath it.

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Mike

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