Chapter Twenty-one

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Several days of travel got Distya and Tregan to the edge of Minyavo. Already the tides had turned, with Tregan receiving odd looks from the rural Tevarians. None dared approach, either because they feared the Coretian or, if they needed extra convincing, Distya would angle her rider patch in their direction. It didn't reduce the stress of traveling together as sworn enemies. Distya often wondered early in their journey if Tregan would try to finish the job Rinnet had started.

But he wasn't a murderer — petty and vindictive, maybe, but not much of a fighter. After one too many ridiculous complaints, she realized he would never be a real threat on his own. He whined for a full day when Distya said they should switch so her horse was leading his, and he nearly refused to wear the scarf over the beacon of red that was his hair. It made him look like some kind of field worker, he said. A commoner.

Distya had rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Good," she'd said. "Then maybe people around here will take you seriously."

Now, outside the capital, Tregan pulled the ends of the scarf a little tighter. Valor shuffled his hooves in the grass. "Explain to me again how this isn't going to get me killed."

"I'm pretty sure Irya has more to worry about than one Coretian noble in a city of Tevarian warriors," Distya said.

"That doesn't make me feel better, if that's what you wanted."

"It's not. I wanted to make sure you knew you don't stand a chance here if you decide to go back on our agreement." Distya watched Tregan fall into his routine sputtering, the way he always did when he was frustrated or anxious, and rolled her eyes. "I'm not threatening you, I'm just being honest. You can trust that I won't let you die here, and I won't get in your way. I want to find her as much as you do."

"And you'll make sure she doesn't escape us?"

Of course he would make Distya kill Rinnet, though it didn't take much persuading. "I will make sure we're the last thing she ever sees. She won't be ruining your chance at glory once we find her."

"And you?" Tregan waved his hand at her accusingly. "You'll follow through on your end?"

Distya huffed, a mix of annoyance and disguised distress. "I'm through in the Tevarian army. There's nothing left for me, not after all this." She waved her arm back at Tregan, the movement stilted and limp, the feeling gone for good. "I know children who would make a better rider than me at this point."

"But you're sure you can capture Rinnet? And, you know—"

"Oh, that's all certain." Distya nudged Hawthorn into motion. Valor resisted just the slightest before he, too, lurched into a lazy plod. "That will be the last time I end a person's life."

Distya itched to move faster, but she didn't want to be weakened with exhaustion when she faced Irya. The closer she got to the chief commander's estate, the more people started to recognize her, and the ones that did took off ahead of her. And let them, Distya thought. Let Irya realize her mistake before she had to stand before her. Distya would learn more from how Irya reacted to the news given time than she would from the instant surprise.

The bystanders noticed Tregan, too. Had it been a cloudy day, he might have passed by unnoticed. But the afternoon sun shone bright in the west, and it made his eyes catch sparks of red even in the shade of the scarf.

That made the Tevarians' voices drop to whispers. Seeing Distya leave town with a Coretian in tow was one thing, but returning from a supposed death with an older Coretian man? A finely dressed one, no less. Of course it caught people's attention.

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