Arc V: The Paris of the East

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ARC V PART I: The Paris of the East

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.

Rubén rubbed his face and tried to concentrate on the book in his hand. Unfortunately, it seemed that Lills and Aoto were intent on making sure that he never completed it. They had spent the better part of the night flirting, then denying that they were flirting, then flirting again. All of this played out over a six-hour conversation about "lost world" narratives, hopping from the Mayas to Egypt to Atlantis, then back to Egypt, then to El Dorado. It was fun for the first hour, but after that, it became a song that had long overstayed its welcome. Why, oh why, had Rubén agreed to let Aoto room with him while recovering from his stab wound?

"I'm going to go get some biscuits," Rubén declared, jumping up from his chair. Neither Aoto nor Lills heard him. Grumbling to himself, Rubén pulled on his robe and slippers and crept down the stairs. The tea house looked entirely different in the middle of the night. Admittedly, Rubén was not particularly fond of the dark, especially not since the fateful night in England that had brought him here. The way light from the waning glass light and the cool moonlight mixed brought back memories of secret chemistry experiments, Bennett's bizarre notebook... and then his old employer's lifeless body.

Not willing to dwell on it any further, Rubén sprinted to the kitchen, his slippers making a faint scuffing sound as his feet struck the floor. Careful not to wake Imlach, Rubén struck a match and held it up to see the contents of the pantry. A self-satisfied grin crossed his lips when he saw the plaid metal tin filled with biscuits. Stomping out the match, Rubén reached for the tin and cracked open the lid.

"Can I have one of those?" a voice whispered into his ear. Rubén cried out and leaped across the room. Both he and the cookie tin fell the floor. Aoto and Lills rushed from upstairs to find the thief of time standing over Rubén, cackling wildly as she ate one of his biscuits.

"That wasn't funny!" Rubén exclaimed, scrambling to his feet.

"I beg to differ," Mieko replied.

"Rubén, please keep it down," Lills said. "We don't want to wake Imlach."

"Quiet?! You're telling me to be quiet?!" Rubén retorted, raking his hands through his curly hair. "She nearly gave me a heart attack!"

"I'm sorry," Mieko said, not sounding the least bit sorry. She held out one of the biscuits like a dog treat. "Here, have a biscuit."

With a deep scowled, Rubén snatched it from her and took a bite. "Good boy," Mieko said, patting him on the head.

"Is there a reason why you're here? Other than to scare the living daylights out of Rubén, I mean," Lills asked.

"Two reasons, actually," Mieko replied. "First, I wanted to check on my nephew and see how he's getting along."

"I'm doing well," Aoto said, bowing his head graciously. "Imlach said it will still be some time before I'm back to where I was, but I can move around alright."

Mieko nodded. "That brings us to reason two," she continued. "How do you end up in Hawai'i at the same time as me? Were you following me?"

"Not exactly," Lills said. "A woman called Dr. Ngô contacted us and warned us that Hiroshi was going to ambush you. We tried to stop them, but we were too late."

"Yến Nhi contacted you?" Mieko's eyes widened. "Where's the communicator you used?"

Lills pulled the communicator from her pocket and handed it to the thief of time. "You can't just contact her," Lills said.

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