A/N: I'm surprised this is actually getting views. But good surprised. Like, party surprised. But not the kind of party where the guests are ex-convicts who have a vendetta against me. Hehe. Psych references. Psych is a really weird word. If you stare at it for long enough it doesn't even look like a word. Same with the word donkey. And below.
*rambles on for half an hour about weird words*
Disclaimer: I cannot tell a lie. I do not own the Lunar Chronicles or the Seven Kingdoms trilogy. Also, I was the one who ate your goldfish.
Wolf tapped a finger against his leg impatiently. Cinder had been sent to look for Scarlet, Thorne, Kai, and Iko almost an hour ago. She hadn't returned yet.
"Do you think we should see what's taking her so long?" Cress suggested.
"We probably should." Wolf got to his feet and exited the Rampion. Cress scurried after him, struggling to keep up.
The two of them made their way through the halls and decided to check the library first. They entered through the loft on the second floor overlooking the rest of the library.
Cinder was there with the rest of the crew. They were crouching by the half-wall, peering over the top at something on the first floor.
"What are you-" Wolf started to ask.
"Shhhh!" Scarlet cut him off and and pulled the two of them to the floor beside her.
Before Wolf or Cress could ask what was going on, the main library door cracked open.
Cress ended up wedged between Scarlet and Thorne. She peeked over the ledge as Bitterblue, Katsa, and Po entered the library with three other people.
"...because unlike some people, I know how to take a rejection like a civilized person," Katsa was saying icily.
"And when someone makes a move on you, you kill them," a man that Cress didn't recognize pointed out.
"That was an accident, Giddon!" Katsa protested.
"Besides, he was a-"
"That's enough," Bitterblue interrupted. "We have more important things to discuss than something that happened yeas ago."
The man named Giddon fell silent. Katsa narrowed her eyes at him. They all sat down at one of the tables.
"Have you overthrown any kings lately?" asked an old woman as she knitted something that was as of yet shapeless.
Po shook his head. "The kings have been moderately well-behaved lately. King Murgon is slightly desperate to marry off his daughter before she gets too old and no one wants her anymore."
"At least he's not selecting random men and making them compete for her hand," Katsa said.
One of them—a blonde man—tilted his head. "I'm interested to see how that would play out, actually."
"Raffin, this is politics, not a science experiment."
Cinder shifted and whispered, "Thorne! You're stepping on my hand!"
"Well, I'm sorry if I can't-"
Thorne moved to the right. Cress was pressed up against his side. Not that she particularly minded...
Po had an amused expression on his face.
Katsa shot him a look. "What are you smirking about?"
"Nothing. You were saying something about Raffin's brain?"
"His brain was too big for his head so the rest of it went to his ears."
"Someone's in a prickly mood," Raffin commented cheerily.
"No more than usual," Giddon muttered.
Katsa scowled and was about to make a cutting remark when the old woman cut her off. "Raffin, how are things in the Middluns?"
"Everything is as it usually is. Ban tested some medicines that didn't work and, as a result, couldn't make the trip," Raffin reported.
"Is he alright?" Bitterblue asked.
"None of it is an unusual occurrence. He'll be bored, but that's about it," Raffin replied.
Cress felt the brush of fur against her leg. She turned to discover that Lovejoy had wedged her way into their little huddle and was sitting with her tail wrapped around her paws. She mewed softly.
"Lovejoy! This is not a good time," Thorne whispered to the cat.
Lovejoy meowed again, this time louder and more persistent.
"Thorne! Tell the stupid cat to go away," Cinder hissed.
"Lovejoy is not stupid!"
Katsa looked around. "Did you hear that?"
The Rampion crew ran for the figurative hills.
Bitterblue sighed in frustration. "If you were at the market the whole day, then how do you know your neighbor stole your horse?"
"I found Nelly down by the lake," said the farmer standing n the middle of the courtroom. "An' Barry goes down to the lake fer fetching water an' such."
Bitterblue frowned. "So you have no proof whatsoever? No witnesses?"
"I don't need no proof, Lady Queen. I know them shady types." He tapped his temple.
"Can you even prove that your horse was stolen at all?" she continued. "How do you know Nelly didn't just wander off?"
The farmer fell silent.
Bitterblue stood and was about to declare this case a waste of time when Rood gave her a warning look. She sat back down. "Until you provide us with solid evidence, I declare this case invalid."
The farmer and his neighbor were led out by the guards. Bitterblue turned to Judge Quall. "Who approved this case?"
"You did, Lady Queen."
She paused, having no memory of reading about a stolen horse without proof. She did, however, remember pretending to read over a crime report while fiddling with the feathered end of her quill. She had decided it was better to approve a ridiculous case than dismiss an important one. "Oh. Very well. Are there any more cases for the day?"
Judge Quall hesitated uncertainly. "Well, there is one more. But it's rather...strange."
"I'm sure I've seen stranger," Bitterblue said dismissively. "Tell me about the case."
"Someone was murdered five days ago in the east part of the city. All the witnesses were slightly disoriented and couldn't give any details. The person responsible admits to the crime but claims to have been controlled somehow."
Bitterblue felt a shiver run down her spine. She thought of a mismatched pair of eyes: one gray, the other blood-red. She thought of a voice that made her remember things that never happened and forget things that did.
"Bring him in," she commanded.
The prisoner that the guards dragged in, wrists shackled, was not a him at all. She was a young woman around eighteen years old.
"What's your name?" Bitterblue asked the girl.
She almost didn't catch the girl's soft whisper. "Leira."
"Leira. As you know, you are on trial for murder." Bitterblue leaned forward. "Did you do it?"
"The man was killed by my hand, yes. But I was not responsible, Lady Queen." Leira answered politely.
Bitterblue arched an eyebrow. She had expected a similar response. "And why is that?"
"Five days ago, I went to sell a necklace that I'd gotten in Nander a few years ago. I needed the money, and a friend told me about a man who collected all sorts of odd things. He payed a high price for things that came from other places. He had a shop in the east part of Bitterblue City. But when I got there, a woman was in the shop. She had dark, witchy hair and the highest cheekbones I've ever seen. She gave me a cold look and said that someone had been looking into entirely the wrong sorts of things. And I found myself agreeing with her. I didn't even know what he had been looking into! And then I thought that...that he needed to die. Because it would help the woman." Leira grimaced.
"And then you killed him," Bitterblue finished.
"Was the woman Graced?" the queen asked.
The girl shook her head.
This came as a surprise to Bitterblue. If she wasn't Graced, then how...
Maybe this girl is just lying, she thought pessimistically. Or perhaps hopefully.
"Is that all?"
A few witnesses spoke, telling them nothing of much use, although one of them mentioned a woman saying to forget something. It must have worked, because he couldn't remember what he was supposed to forget.
Judge Quall wanted to simply declare her guilty. "She confessed, after all."
"But what if she was telling the truth?" Bitterblue insisted.
They couldn't execute her if she was innocent, but they couldn't let her go if she wasn't. In the end, they decided to imprison her until things were sorted out.
The court trial consumed Bitterblue's thoughts for the rest of the day. She needed answers. She needed to know what had really happened. She needed to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
That night, Bitterblue did something she hadn't done in a long time.
After weeks of sleepless nights that the whole Levana situation had caused him, sleep completely eluded Kai. After lying awake in bed for an hour, he gave up and decided to take a walk.
After wandering around in a desultory manner, he found himself in what must have been the palace gardens. The cool night air carried the scent of flowers.
And the sound of a twig snapping.
Kai turned around. A hooded figure moved around a topiary bush and froze when she saw Kai standing there. "Balls. No one was supposed to be out this late."
Kai raised his eyebrows in recognition. "Bitterblue?"
"What are you doing out here, Kai?" Bitterblue demanded in hushed tones.
"I couldn't sleep. What are you doing?" he countered.
"Sneaking out. What does it look like I'm doing?" Bitterblue replied casually. "Come on. We should get going."
"We?" Kai prodded.
"Well, obviously you have nothing better to do. And I might need assistance." Bitterblue started walking again. Kai sighed deeply and followed her. "How do I get myself into these situations?" he muttered to himself.
Once they were off the palace grounds, Bitterblue led him through the winding streets. She wove through the city without hesitation, as if she'd been there many times before.
"I assume you know where we're going?"
"Five days ago, the same day you came, a man was killed," Bitterblue said instead of answering. "The murderer says that she wasn't in control of her actions and someone else was involved. I need to find out if she was telling the truth."
Something about that felt off to Kai, but he shrugged it off. "So you're checking out the crime scene?"
Bitterblue gave him a confused look.
"Um, going to the location of the murder and looking for clues," he explained.
"Oh. Yes, that." She rounded a corner and froze.
They were on a dim street lined with run-down buildings packed close together. The meager lighting came from a flickering lamp post on the edge of the gravel road, next to what looked like a printing shop. Kai saw the disappearing end of a tail as a cat slunk into the shadows.
"Is this it?" he asked.
Bitterblue was silent for a moment. Then she shook her head. "No. It was...I don't know why I'm here."
"Well, that makes two of us," someone said behind them.
Kai spun around. Cinder was standing behind them, giving them a disapproving look. "You two are terrible at sneaking out."
Kai furrowed his eyebrows. "Cinder?"
She rolled her eyes. "No. I'm the ghost of your great-great-grandmother."
"When did you get here?"
"I was following you this whole time. I heard everything. It sounds like your little murder case is a matter of bioelectrical manipulation."
Kai mentally facepalmed. How had he not made the connection?
"What's that?" Bitterblue prodded.
"This," Cinder replied simply. Kai smacked himself in the face.
"Ow! What was that for?" he demanded.
"That was for running off in the middle of the night to investigate shady business."
Bitterblue fingered the edge of her sleeve. "So it's mind control."
Cinder nodded, all sugar and spice again. "Pretty much. It's dangerous stuff."
"Dangerous is an understatement," Bitterblue sighed. "Believe me, I know."
Kai started to ask what she meant by that. Cinder cut him off with a look.
"We should get going," he said instead.
The three of them started traversing the city again. Apparently Cinder had seen a map of the city and downloaded it in her brain, so Kai was the only one who had no idea where they were going.
Eventually they reached a part of the city that wasn't as crowded with buildings. Not anymore, at least. There were squares of dirt and dust and fragments of bricks where a shop or someone's house used to be. Some of the vacant lots even had charred remnants of walls or unfinished building frames. The half-moon shone brighter here, with less light and less structures blocking the sky.
"This is it," Bitterblue announced. She walked right up to the door of an abandoned shop and unlocked it with a silver key.
"How did you get that?" Cinder questioned.
Bitterblue snorted. "I'm the queen. Do you really think I would have trouble getting a key?" She swung the door open and stepped inside before Kai or Cinder could tell her to be careful.
Cinder flicked on her built-in flashlight and followed her into the small room. Kai went in after her.
The shop was cluttered with old books, small metal contraptions, exotic jewelry, and various other items. Bitterblue sneezed.
"I don't see anything that would provoke someone to murder," Cinder announced after a few minutes.
In the corner of his vision, Kai saw the faint moonlight from the tiny smudged window glinting off of something. "Cinder, shine the light over here."
He went over to the small table where the object peeked out from underneath a scattered stack of papers. Bitterblue and Cinder peeked over his shoulder.
It was a fractured square of reflective glass with an ornate frame of shiny black metal. He pulled it out from underneath the papers and held it up.
"A mirror?" Bitterblue guessed.
Cinder shook her head. "No. Not a mirror." She reached out and pressed a button on the side. It flickered and lit up. Although cracks spiderwebbed across the surface, it still worked enough for Kai to tell what it was.
A/N: DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN! I think my love for Psych showed in this chapter. But anyways, leave a review if you liked this chapter! Or if you hated it. You can say that too. Construction paper *cough* I mean criticism is always appreciated.