XI : Nora

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The morning came faster than Nora would like. Golden rays of sunlight glimpsed through the pale curtains of the cabin, burning away any sign of darkness from the narrow room. Although the mattress the spy was laying on wasn't particularly comfortable, the delicate hints of snow falling to the ground outside the settlement made her hide further into the shoddy blankets, peeking at the scenery through broad holes in the fabric.

The previous day wasn't exactly light. Too much had happened, things she had no say in. The passing thought caused her fists to clench, the sleep to melt from her eyelids. How could he strike a deal without even seeing what he's getting in return? Although she was beyond glad the search was finally over, there was still no sign of the Kingfisher anywhere in the factory. Korin had claimed he would ask around, but he didn't appear especially eager to do so.

She had ended up in a shabby cabin a few yards away from the factory. Arden had disappeared, and Salo was nowhere to be seen, too. A bitter taste appeared in her mouth. Dropped the little girl and went for a drink, huh?

Slowly, unwilling to escape the warm comfort of her blankets, she reached out to the narrow table placed next to the bed. Her fingers felt the small pellet laying there, and at first she panicked. A bullet? A microphone? She brought it to her eyes, and the knot in her stomach relaxed its grip on her heart. The golden sun charm gleamed in the sunlight, the little diamonds buried in its surface blinding the girl. She knew it was wrong. She knew Ailyn would find out sooner or later. But for the time being, any unplanted seeds of regret that had remained needed to be hidden for good.

Nora had noticed it. The princess would occasionally look back at the castle as distance was put between it and her. Sometimes she would reach for her collarbone, and then drop her hand in bitter disappointment. What would the charm remind her? How would Kage use it against her? He had manipulated her before. The less leverage he had over her, the better.

It didn't take long for a loud thud to stagger the door, followed by Arden's intrusive form trampling into the room. Nora quickly dropped the yellow ball back on the table, hoping he wouldnt notice. His previous scruffy wool jacket was replaced by a nearly new topcoat, its chocolate color only accenting his fresh features. Perhaps dooming two innocent girls to a fate worse than death is exhilarating to him?

Nora sat up, holding the blankets close to her chest. The so-called nightgown provided to her was only a transparent white robe with a few tears here and there. It was clearly intended for specific purposes, and wandering around in public was not one of them.

"I could be naked for all you knew," Nora protested, nodding towards the door sharply.

Arden shrugged nonchalantly. "Not something I haven't seen before. I'll be outside."

With a deep scoff, Nora shoved a pillow at the door, which was already closing behind the man. She could feel a deep shade of crimson infiltrate her cheeks as she hastily slipped back into the clothes she was wearing the former day. Something he has seen before! What is he, some kind of stud? Arden didn't strike her as the lustful type, but everything seemed to be turning upside down those past few days.

The crisp air outside bit her skin like a leech, numbing her limbs and freezing her blood. Any hint of green had been bleached by pearly snowflakes, a white cloak over the factory's yard. The gentle breeze swept by, piling up snow in drifts, blinding the dawn with ice-white dust. Flowering was coming soon, yet the stubborn winter refused to desist its silver colors and its crystal glaciers.

"Did you work part-time as a prostitute, by any chance?" Nora queried, marching towards the still man. He gazed over the frozen lake, seemingly deep in thought. The spy laughed, urging his shoulder forward. "Don't be so jealous. You're already a living iceberg yourself."

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