It was nearing dawn by the time Lance and Ran reached Ran’s quarters. As Lance headed for the showers, Ran remained deep in thought. The young man at the temple perplexed him. This was not the first time he had failed a client (he had an impressive track record, though there had been the occasional one or two… mishaps), but it was the first time that he had failed so spectacularly. There would be a backlash from the Underworld, but they were not his concern. His clients were inconsequential.
He sat on the porch, drinking a cup of warm tea. When Lance came out he would find Ran sitting on the porch on his way to his room. With the towel around his neck and the bathrobe tied snugly around his waist, he sat across from Ran and joined him. His tone was soft but deadly; Ran knew that he had held off asking questions for long enough. Lance did not say a word though, but merely studied Ran with a glance that Ran hated. They went back quite some time, but he had never learnt how to ignore the stare.
He had however, learnt how to tolerate the stare, so he drank from time to time, aware of the stare and letting the silence lengthen, though he did not like it. So they sat there for a little while in the silence, with dawn breaking over the horizon.
Unfortunately in the long time they had not met, Lance had learnt how to keep his silence with the stare.
“You know, this is silly. I’m heading to bed,” Ran said as the sun peeked now, bathing the small garden in a brilliant but soft pink shade.
“You did not invite me here just because of nostalgia, Danhwa. Why did you risk this?” He broke the impasse.
“Truthfully, Zhilbar, I had only one aim. It was to call you out for a drink again, old friend.”
“So what has changed? You are not this discourteous when your friends are visiting.”
“I usually don’t have business to attend to,” he replied with a wry smile.
“Perhaps I could be of assistance?”
“I doubt this. It looks to be that this is a World-specific event.”
At noon, Ran went to his office and was greeted by a very nervous-looking secretary. He had hired the boy more for his good looks and innocent air rather than any real skill. The boy had done him a favour countless times whenever he had managed to soothe an irate customer, nearly always female. The males did not take to him very well in the beginning, but the boy had been a quick learner, and he had learnt the preferences of each customer. The only thing he did not do was sleep with them. Ran had been adamant about that. He did not want to have to replace this boy after searching for him. He was perfect.
“She’s been in the office since 9AM and maybe before that, Master Ran. She will not leave without seeing you,” he said. The young boy knew Ran’s habits, and he knew that Ran did not like to keep a customer waiting, which was why he never saw anyone before two in the afternoon at least.
“I’ll see her now. Did she give her name?”
“Karin,” the boy replied, and Ran had to restrain the urge to smack him. Karin had been a name that Ran would have asked “How high” if she told him to jump. He nearly ran into his office.
The crisp mountain air was cool in the summer, and she was glad she wore an extra sweater. Some people might have been able to take the temperate climate, but she could not. She prayed that she would never have to. With her hands in her pocket she climbed the stairs up to the temple, looking at the ground to keep her footing. When she reached to the top she stood for a long moment merely looking at the temple. Everything seemed to be fine, but she caught small, tell-tale signs that it was not. The leaves were not swept fully for one, and based on previous sweeps, the small souvenirs shop was closed. For a temple this size on a day and time like this, it was more than unusual. Still, there seemed to be no one else but her.
“Can I help you, miss?” A young man in the dress of a acolyte came to her from within the temple.
“I’m looking for the Head Priest. Is he around?”
“I’m sorry, but he passed away last night.”
“My condolences. May I ask how?”
“It was a freak accident. His room was burnt,” the young man bowed, indicating the interview was over. She bowed back to him and turned away.
As she did, a foreigner came to the temple. He had dark hair and striking blue eyes. Not only that, he was extremely handsome. She took one look at him and then began walking down the stairs. She had no time to think about tanned foreign men with silky hair and blue eyes. There was a job to be done and she had to do it.