Chapter 32 part 2
Last Time on True Home: Liane, Glorfindel, Umeda and the lir, Katana and Teaal, arrived in Tokyo with Jean-Louise in tow. After taking a depressing down turn in his mood Umeda goes out looking for comfort and invariably finds himself in Glorfindel's arms.
Thank you to all my old readers and all my new readers for waiting for this new chapter, I rewrote it many times and finally buckled down and ground out this. I hope it satisfies you.
As always, please read and review!
The next day when Umeda awoke he could detect the welcome scent of kava root tea wafting in the air. When he opened his eyes he expected to see strong, long fingered hands cradling a steaming mug of his favored tea. Instead the tea he expected to be handed to him with a smile, was sitting unattended on the bedside table, and his usual morning guest was no where in sight.
In his place, Liane stood at the large floor to ceiling window with her back to him, looking out over the city through a slit in the blue damask curtains.
Even in the gloom of the morning light Umeda could see that Liane had resumed her natural appearance, her long white hair hung lose down her back, glowing like moonlight in the gloomy room.
As he reached for the mug and his glasses Umeda felt a sharp pain over his left eye and the night before returned in fuzzy blotches and blurs. He sipped the tea and grimaced ruefully, last night had been a disaster.
Seeking reassurance after his world was rocked with the realization that he would be returning home, but could never really return home, he had gone out carousing like a wild youth. And met his doom, he realized, as the memory of how he had gotten out of that club and back to the hotel came rushing back to him.
Suddenly glad that Liane's back was turned, Umeda felt a deep flush blooming up his neck and onto his cheeks as his mind mutinously called up the memory of Glorfindel's arms wrapping around his middle, of taunting the ancient elf into kissing him, and then that kiss...Umeda barely suppressed a moan, a feeling somewhere between embarrassment and longing.
What was he thinking giving an opening like that to Glorfindel? Glorfindel had been pursuing him for five years and he'd never gotten that close. And why, why did his mind have to recall that moment out of all the moments of that night so clearly?
Well, he would just have to make it clear that last night was an oversight in judgment and that it was never to happen again. Yes, he thought sipping at his tea quietly, he would just have to redraw the line and make sure Glorfindel got dutifully back behind it. It wouldn't take much, a little snark here, a little insult there, and he'd have that blond oaf back in line in no time.
Smiling now as the tea did its work on his headache and his new sense of resolve did its work on his bruised ego, Umeda's attention was caught by Liane. Either she hadn't heard him rustling around or she was simply ignoring him, he suspected it was a bit of both. He could just see the edge of her profile, she was worrying her lower lip as she lost herself in her own thoughts. With her elf ears and warrior instincts she probably knew that he was awake but had put it out of her mind for the time being while she concentrated on something else.
As he drained his tea he felt a fresh twinge of shame as he watched her stare out the window. She too had called Tokyo home once, and even though all her living relatives had been left behind in Valinor, she no doubt felt the same strange sense of homesickness while in the place she called home but could not return to.
Still she hadn't gone careening off into the arms of anyone who would have her just to feel like she still existed. She had remained levelheaded and sane under the pressure, she experienced the same feelings and worse since she had been forced to choose between one home and another knowing that either choice would leave her wanting. Probably the mission ahead of them, as opposed to drunken and best forgotten memories.
He opened his mouth to apologize for his childish behavior but just then the bedroom door crashed open and Glorfindel burst in dripping wet and clutching a towel around his waist. Startled by the noise, Liane and Umeda both looked at him curiously, clearly he'd just come out of the shower as he dripped on the carpet and was apparently enraged as he raised an indignant hand in the air and opened his mouth.
His rant fell short when he caught sight of Umeda sitting up in bed holding the empty tea cup. "Oh, you're up." he said looking both pleased and surprised.
Umeda's eyes roved over Glorfindel's glistening, lean torso, and followed a lone water drop as it made a painfully slow journey down from his erect nipple and over his ripped abs before finally disappearing into the fluffy white towel.
Realizing what he was doing, Umeda jerked and spilled cold tea in his lap.
"Of course I'm up you oaf!" He growled throwing the wet covers off himself only to fling them back into place as he found himself naked once again.
Truly angry now, he really laid it on thick "Who could possibly sleep with the racket you create everywhere you go!"
Glorfindel stood rooted to the spot, stunned into silence.
"Aren't elves supposed to be light on their feet? You are the proverbial bull in a china shop come to life!"
"If you cannot stop yourself from barging into my rooms and disturbing my peace and quiet, the least you could do is stop undressing me and tucking me in like a toddler. I am not a child nor do you have any reason to follow me about now that we are safely across the sea. And correct me if I'm wrong, I do believe that your excuse for coming on this trip was to watch over Liane not me. What would Elrond say if he knew you were neglecting his daughter's safe keeping like this?"
Glorfindel's eyes darkened with every spiteful word, but Umeda made sure to show no outward sign that the elf's anger affected him. In truth he had only ever seen Glorfindel angry on Jean's private jet and it had been enough to silence him immediately. It silenced him now too, but he covered it up by brushing away the last droplets of tea from the coverlet.
Without a word Glorfindel turned very slowly on the spot and glided silently out of the room, closing the door behind him without a sound.
Umeda gulped down the last cold dregs of the tea hoping it would cool the flush on his face, when he was angry Glorfindel was a little intimidating and more than a little sexy. But at least he was gone, and would probably be too angry to do anything but sulk for the next few days, and by that time he would forget last night entirely, or at least Umeda hoped he would.
Umeda jumped as Liane's voice cut through the air, he had completely forgotten that she was there.
"You can ignore your own feelings all you want Umeda. But ignoring Glorfindel's is nothing short of cruel."
Gaping at her, he watched as she walked to the door. He had thought she of all people would understand what it was like to be unfairly saddled with an elvish.
"When you're finished that tea Glorfindel spent an hour brewing for you, get dressed and put your glamor back on, we're heading out to the temple today."
"You're one to talk about ignoring someone's feelings." He pouted angrily "Remind me again, how did Legolas take it when you decided to leave home?"
She didn't respond but made a very rude hand gesture over her shoulder and slammed the door behind her.
"How does your ego feel now lir?" Teaal asked innocently.
Grimacing, he ignored the vexing bird.
An hour later Umeda was washed, dressed and standing in front of his bedroom door. In truth it had only taken half the hour for him to get ready. The last half of that hour had been spent between staring blankly at the door and angrily pacing away from it and then back again.
"Surely one of the twelve high healers of the Kurast Temple is not afraid to face an annoying, vexing blond elf." Teaal taunted from his perch above the door.
"Quite raven! Take your never mores from my door" Umeda snapped.
"How clever, always so clever." Teaal sneered "One would think such a clever boy could anticipate the consequences of his actions, or words."
"I was well aware of what would happen after the things I said to him. He would storm off, without a word, and sulk for a few days before I grudgingly apologize and he returns to harass me again."
"Well then, your plan has succeeded by the sounds of it" The raven cocked its head, presumably the better to hear Glorfindel on the other side "It certainly sounds as though he's sulking. You should be out there, glorying in your victory."
"I would do so, were it that ravens were famous for their hearing."
"Ah, so you are afraid that he will in fact not be sullen after that spectacular dressing down you gave him and instead will be unmoved and unaffected. And there you will stand, defeated and humiliated in front of one whose respect and attention you secretly.."
"He was affected!" he near shouted to cut off that last and ridiculous accusation "You see, I am not a raven and can hear perfectly well through that door."
And before the raven could ask "And I do not go out there for the simple matter that I have no further desire to bare his passive-aggressive nonsense. This is not Valinor, we are in my world now, here he will not have the upper hand, here I can escape him forever."
"Ah, I see" the raven said wisely "You intend to remain in here, after throwing insults at him, to send the message of your stern disapproval of his attentions."
"Yes, that's it exactly!"
"And if Glorfindel should return to you after a few days of sulking to harass you again, you shall rain further venom on his attentions and will continue to deny him any positive attention or apology for your dreadful behavior. Until one day he will not return from his sulking to harass you again, ever. How passive aggressive of you, it's brilliant, unoriginal maybe but still brilliant. He'll soon be gone from your life if that's your plan"
Umeda's heart dropped with every word the raven spoke, he could picture it, the future stretching out in his minds eye. Glorfindel would begin teasing him, following him about, engaging him in long conversations over a game of chess. And time and again, Umeda would drive him away, knowing no matter what he said to the blond elf, that he would always be back. Until he wasn't. Leaving him with an eternity without his vexing company.
And at once Umeda's mood was brought as low as it had been the night before. He was going to live forever, and Glorfindel was one of only two people in all of Arda who would understand what that felt like. It was an empty, bleak, unending stretch of grey that would be his life without Glorfindel.
And he found himself asking the question that had plagued him for years. Why had he chosen this?
For he knew in his heart that it had been his choice, not Liane's, to come back, knowing full well he would be immortal. But for the life of him, he could not recall what had driven him to return.
When his mortal death had come he was ready, more than that, he was grateful for it when it came. He had been possessed by the Demon King, Baal, his body horribly transformed into his visage, his will turned to a demons whim, his knowledge turned from its healing art to unspeakable deeds. It was more than a bargain to trade his earthly life for release from Baal's torment.
His slate had been whipped clean in the healing hands of Eru, there was regret for the terrible things he had been forced to do, but that would heal further in Eru's care. But he had not long for the life he had left behind, not for his family, friends or his profession. Even now, after the journey across the sea to regain some part of that life, he found that in his hear he did not want it.
So, why had he come back from beyond the mortal veil then? What was it that he wanted here?
Umeda closed his eyes tight and thought hard to remember the moment before his re-birth. The others had been there, waiting like him for Liane, to say their goodbyes for they all knew she had to go back, that she deserved another chance at the life that had been stolen from her by fate. She had deserved to return to her true home, among her people, with her family and joined with her soul mate. And just then, a flash of memory overcame him, not a thought but a feeling. It felt like warm sunshine washing over him, like waking from a deep slumber to a bright summers day, it felt like…hope.
"It's safe to come out now" Liane's voiced pierced his thoughts from the other side of the door.
Umeda blinked rapidly as he came back to the here and now. The memory of warmth and hope disintegrated like the sun covered by cloud. He had something there, he knew he did, he just needed to remember, to think…
"Umeda?" Liane called through the door again.
When only silence greeted her, she rolled hers eyes and pushed the door forward forcefully, straight into something hard, that 'something' cried out loudly "Ow!"
"Sorry Umeda" she said, sounding only mildly remorseful "But you didn't answer when I called"
Umeda glared at her rubbing a solid lump on his crown, more angry that she had once again dragged him out of his thoughts just as he was nearing an answer to his questions.
"He's gone now" she told him as though she thought his hesitation was due to his fear of facing Glorfindel, making him frown once again. When would she and Teaal get it through their heads that he did not care for the blond oaf.
"I sent him and Jean-Louise on a tour for the whole day. It was quite a lot of work getting that all set up by the way." Liane chattered on as he followed her to the kitchen for some tea and sweet bean buns "First they had to be dressed, which would have gone fine were it not for Glorfindel's absolute refusal to wear pants with zipper fly's."
"I have no desire to have sharp metal teeth coming together like a hungry dragon over my groin, thank you" she said doing a fair impression of Glorfindel.
Umeda kept his smile hidden behind his bean bun.
"So I had to send out the concierge to find some pants with a button fly. It took quiet a while, apparently button fly's are no longer in style. And then I had to deal with Jean-Louise, he was quite distraught that you would not be joining him on the tour. But he perked up when he realized that 'George' would be joining him instead. Apparently Jean-Louise has varied taste."
Umeda frowned at that, thinking of the overly affectionate Frenchman with Glorfindel did not sit well with him. Nor did the realization that he cared so much.
Liane watched the play of emotions across Umeda's face and shook her head, had she been that confused and blind to her own feelings for Legolas. The immediate answer to that was yes.
"When had you stopped being confused and blind to your feelings for Legolas. Why didn't you tell me?" Katana chimed in unhelpfully.
"What a pair we make my old friend" she said throwing an arm around him "Well, lets get stated."
Liane turned to the large mirror that covered the coat closet door and observed her reflection. She had once again assumed the form she had taken in France when they had met Jean-Louise, it wouldn't do for her to appear as one person and then a completely different one overnight, even under her control Jean-Louise would find the change too considerable to ignore. So she had remained looking as he knew her, Lily, with dark blond hair, brown eyes, and tan skin with a smattering of freckles across her nose.
This look would not do for her purposes today, she would have gone back to the look she used to disguise herself when growing up, but people at the temple would recognize her instantly if she did. So she fashioned a new and entirely bland look. She was a regular looking young woman of Japanese origin, perhaps taller than the average Japanese citizen but it would be passed off and generally ignored.
Umeda had gone back to his young salary man look that she had made for him in France, the man known to Jean-Louise as Akira. He was staring blankly at the door and seemed not to hear her as she called his name repeatedly.
"What...?" He jumped and looked around, bewildered.
"I said are you ready?" Liane repeated slowly.
"Yes" he said distractedly "Yes, let's go."
And they went, leaving the comfort and safety of the luxurious hotel and seeking the crowded streets of Tokyo. Although they blended in with the morning rush, they were not average citizens or tourists, they were of the Kurast, and they were on the hunt.
"I can't believe that we got past the safeguards so easily," Liane whispered to Umeda as they hid in the shadows of a large grouping of rocks on the stairway down to the underground library.
At this time of day no one would be coming or going near here. On a Sunday morning all the elders would either be teaching the adolescent pupils or locked away in debate on various subjects. The youngest mages, the children in the beginning of their training were likely sitting in a classroom learning the theory of their many lessons before they went outside for afternoon practice under close supervision of the elders.
"Do you think it's a trap?" Umeda whispered furtively "Maybe they knew we were coming?"
She squinted around one of the large stones and up the spiraling stone staircase that made its way around the vast Kurast mountain. "If they knew we were coming Katana or Teaal would have warned us."
They glanced at each other suddenly, the lir had been known to keep things from their masters, usually in the name of self discovery, but surely no lir would ever put their master in danger.
"The magic here has grown weaker." she stated matter of factly "The safeguards around the temple remain the same but the people are unaware of us, they must have lost some of their connection to the magic when the cerin stones were destroyed. Now the question remains whether that's a good thing or a bad thing."
"How could it possibly be a bad thing?" Umeda looked utterly flummoxed "I for one never understood why you warriors had so much power."
Liane rolled her eyes, the healers, though of a different calling than warriors, had the exact same powers that warriors did, they just didn't use them as often since they weren't needed in their fields.
"Well, obviously there was a reason that the early magi kept the cerin stones even though some of them must have known what evil they contained. They probably wanted the extra power no matter the cost. There could be people in this time that would be willing to do the same, Ryujiro and Caine were. Of course, they could be happy with this new change."
Umeda gave her a derisive look over his glasses "Liane, when have you ever heard of people, especially people from this order, to be happy with change?"
"Maybe not, but the demon wars are still fresh in peoples minds, I don't think anyone is willing to risk that all over again, not just yet anyway."
"Didn't you take all the books with record of how to build cerin stones."
"Where there's a will there's a way" she chided.
"Come on, lets move, classes will be getting out soon, we need to find a more secure location." he said glancing at his watch.
They moved quickly and silently across the rooftops to the teacher dormitories as the temple emptied en masse. They watched as young children came bursting out of the main temple structure, eager to get out of their stuffy classrooms and practice all that they had learned. Older students followed at a more sedate pace, trying to emulate the more dignified grace of their elders who came out last.
Liane smiled as she remembered her time as a young trainee, desperate to please her teachers but also eager to try out all the magic she learned in class. More often than not this combination led to quite a few accidents and the occasional catastrophe. Her smile broadened as she recalled a time when she had accidentally set Umeda's robes on fire.
It looked as though Umeda was remembering that very same incident as he scowled down at the students.
"Oh, come on Umeda, it was only one time." Liane said "And you always said you hated the temple robes, remember? You said they made you look fat."
"What are you on about?" he said looking confused but before she could explain he pointed down at the large exodus of students and teachers "Notice anything unusual?"
She took another look, the crowd looked as she had always remembered it. Young students eager to get outside, elders resignedly following behind. She was about to say so when she saw it, the crowd was missing something, a great many something's in fact.
From the oldest elder to the youngest mage, there was not a single lir to be found.
"Where are they?" she and Umeda exchanged curious looks.
Every mage received a lir during their initiation, a right of passage which included the itosha nei, at the end of which a lir would reveal themselves to the mage. The pair would be forever bonded and inseparable, separation would drive a mage without a soulmate to madness and ritual suicide.
And yet, here was a whole temple of mages, strolling the temple grounds without their lir. Even warriors and elders who had always had lir now walked alone. What was more they all seemed perfectly sane and not the least bit inclined to suicide.
She squinted down harder at the people below, maybe the lir were out in the wilderness or still in the temple? Was this some strange new ritual? What was going on?
"I don't understand it." Umeda muttered "How can there be mages without lir?"
"Maybe something happened to them when the cerin stones were destroyed."
"Then why weren't our lir affected?"
They exchanged another uneasy glance. Their lir may be annoying, cryptic and strange but neither one of them, not even Liane who had a soulmate to fall back on, would not want to lose their lir.
"Although I appreciate the sentiment lir, I assure you I am not going anywhere whether you like it or not"
Umeda's eyes went upward to the sky where Teaal circled overhead.
"Don't worry Liane I promise, I will always be there to keep you company." Katana leapt onto the rooftop with silent grace.
Liane and Umeda narrowed their eyes and crossed their arms simultaneously, clearly they were about to get another impromptu life lesson via a more informed lir.
"What gives Katana?" Liane demanded.
"I would love to impart my knowledge on you lir, but we will have a much bigger problem on our hands in just a few moments." She nodded behind her.
Liane and Umeda spun around and scanned the distance, it was Liane who saw him first.
A glorious golden head was peering carefully around the corner of an outer building. She watched in horror as Glorfindel, somehow devoid of his glamour, scuttled across a small garden to the next building. Worse still only two more buildings away a group of young students were playing. In just a few moments they would see him, and they would indeed have a very big problem on their hands.
Liane knew the moment Umeda had spotted him, he drew in a sharp breath and clamped his mouth shut apparently afraid he might not be able to stop himself from shouting.
"I'll deal with it." She said hurrying unseen along the rooftops over the wide courtyard in one leap.
In only a moment she was just above Glorfindel, she dropped down on top of him closing a hand over his mouth and a strong arm around his waist. In an instant Glorfindel had tensed, sensed her identity and calmed in her arms. She pulled him back behind the outer buildings and down to the stairs to the catacombs where they were hidden from sight.
She released him from her hold and revealed herself to him.
"What-how-why-what?" Liane stumbled to find the words to address him.
Before he could answer they were joined by Umeda and the lir.
"We are leaving," Umeda said without looking at Glorfindel.
"But we have discovered nothing." she hissed.
"We are leaving now!" he ground out "This missions safety has been compromised, we have to get out of here now."
Liane knew when he was right and when to listen, staying here with Glorfindel was too risky. She nodded and pulled Glorfindel behind her as they descended the stairs to the library catacombs. They had broken in from the catacomb entrance deep under the mountain, it lead out to the Tokyo underground.
"Surely I am not that much of a risk that we have to leave immediately, I am not an infant you know." Glorfindel protested as they descended the spiral staircase to the base of the mountain.
"You certainly act to the contrary of that fact" Umeda snipped from behind.
Liane stopped and whirled on her heel to face Glorfindel "I know that you are a great warrior of the first age, lord of Gondolin, slayer of balrog's, general to many armies. I know that all of mine and Umeda's battle experience combined would not fill your pinky finger nail. I know you promised my ada that you would look after me. I knew all these things this morning when I told you that it would be too dangerous to come with us. Why would you doubt my judgment?"
"If we were in Valinor and you advised me against doing something dangerous, would I not trust your judgment?"
Glorfindel went slack with acceptance and followed her lead without complaint. They arrived at the base of the mountain and stopped abruptly at the entrance to the catacombs. Normally hidden in the side of the mountain, it required a spell to open it from either side.
"Umeda, did you leave this door open?" she asked realizing that Glorfindel could not have gotten through these doors without help.
"A young man opened the door in the -subway- after you had gone through. I passed him without notice before he closed it back up."
"You were following us the whole time?!" Umeda shouted.
"Not important Umeda" Liane said quickly "He didn't see you, did he?"
Glorfindel pulled a face without bothering to answer that question.
"Fine, we should get going then, hopefully we won't cross paths with the young man you saw and get out unseen."
Just then the young man they were hoping to avoid came through the open door, it was Roland, a young mage who had once studied under Umeda himself. A heavy silence descended on them as they faced each other. Roland's face was etched in shock and horror at the sight of two of his teachers, who were supposed to be long dead, standing before him with an elf and their two lir.
Before Roland's shock could wear off Liane released Glorfindel and pushed him back into the catacombs and out of sight. Umeda followed behind swiftly taking control of Roland's mind and rendering him speechless and docile.
"You three" Liane hissed to Glorfindel and the lir pointing to the door "Keep watch."
Once sure they were out of hearing range, she turned to Roland and asked him "Where have the lir gone name?"
"What are you doing?" Umeda looked incredulous.
"I'm interrogating him, would you mind helping out" she explained.
"First off, do you honestly expect those two to give us all the answers we seek" she jerked her head back to the doorway where the lir kept watch with Glorfindel" And secondly, even if they do tell us everything, they can't know what's going on inside the temple, they've lost their connection now too presuming the lir have really left the Kurast. Who better to tell us what has changed and how the order is taking it than someone who is actually in the order."
He stared at her a moment longer "Fine, but make it quick, this one's not nearly as stupid as the other young mages, we won't be able to control his mind long before he begins to recall this."
"Right, now Roland, tell me, what has happened to the lir?" she repeated.
Roland stared blankly at her and did not answer.
She glared at Umeda "Could you please make him answer"
Umeda smirked and focused again on Roland "Roland, you are having a dream"
"Why would I be dreaming?" he asked dazedly.
"Because you're sleeping" Umeda ground out as Liane snickered.
"Why would I be sleeping when master Koji sent me to check on the broken safeguards?"
Umeda turned to glare accusingly at her "I guess we didn't get in as easily as we thought." Liane shrugged.
"Look Roland" Umeda pressed harder on the young mage "You were thinking about your old master and sempie White here. This conversation is a figment of your imagination, we are not really here. When we're finished talking you will feel as though only a moment has passed. Do you understand now?"
"Yes sensei Umeda." Roland said looking much more relaxed.
"Now, where are all the lir" he asked softy.
"Gone" Roland answered dully.
"Gone where?" Umeda rolled his eyes exasperated.
"Back into the wild, back to their natural state."
"Back to being regular animals?"
"They are no longer needed."
"No longer needed?" Umeda scoffed "Are there not still warriors who face this life in absolute secrecy while fighting all the darkness ever created. Do they no longer require a companion to guide them through their darkest trials. Or has the order grown so strong that they no longer need the strength and advice of mystical beings created specifically for them and bound to their very souls."
Had Umeda not been holding Roland's mind under his control Liane was sure he would be shaking in his boots under the influence of Umeda's raging anger. Then again Roland had once had a lir too, he would understand that Umeda's anger stemmed from fear of losing his own lir.
Fortunately Roland was under the calm of mind control and seemed not the least bit bothered by just about anything "Balance was restored since the cerin stones were destroyed the evil ones have lost their hold on this world." he recited this as though he had learned it rote. Which made sense, after such a monumental change in the worlds fabric the order of things would change within the Kurast.
"And so the lir returned to Eru and left their mortal bodies behind."
"But surely breaking the bonds between mages and lir would have, should have, driven you and all the others with lir mad from grief." Umeda looked, if possible, more angry than before "And yet here you stand, alive, when your lir has gone from this plane, to leave you alone in this darkness. Tell me solider why haven't you done honor to your oath and opened your stomach."
"Not broken" Roland said serenely "Just stretched thin across the distance of the veil. We shall be reunited the afterlife."
"And the new mages, what about them, will they receive no lir?"
"No, they have no need."
"I bet this has made everyone very happy. I'm sure that no one protested this new order of things, hmm?"
"Things change" Roland shrugged "The will of Eru cannot be denied."
"Someone's coming" Liane cut this interrogation to an end as Glorfindel and the lir came rushing back in to hide from the newcomer.
"A man, in dark robes, middle aged" Glorfindel informed them quickly.
"That will be master Koji, he sent me to check and reinforce the safeguards." Roland told them promptly.
"You all ready mentioned that Roland" Umeda said sounding bored "Right you're coming with us, you will close the door out behind us and replace the safeguards, then you will return to master Koji and tell him you saw nothing. You will remember this conversation only as something you imagined, understand?"
"Yes sensei Umeda" Roland bowed reverently before being dragged behind the five of them as the rushed down the catacombs twisting halls, deep into the earth, before working their way back up as they came upon the exit.
Liane took the lir and Glorfindel through first, casting glamors on them as they walked through the doorway to the subway. Umeda paused and turned back to Roland.
"Are you happy without your lir Roland?" he asked quietly so no one could hear.
"Yes sensei, it was difficult at first but many things have changed." he answered sincerely.
"Aren't you lonely without him?"
"Not at all, I have married a woman who I share my triumphs and trials with."
"I was not aware you had a soulmate."
"I do not, at least not in the way the temple used to define it, but she is without a doubt my other half."
"The temple now allows you to pursue relationships if you don't have a soulmate?"
"Things change" Roland repeated with a foolish grin on his foolish face.
"I am, happy, for you Roland." Umeda said begrudgingly "Safe journey brother."
"And a safe return to you brother."
Master Koji found Roland facing the secret entrance to the temple with his back to him.
"Roland" Koji barked.
Roland jumped to attention and whirled around.
"Yes Master Koji?"
"What did you find?" Koji asked with his hands held formally behind his back.
"Nothing sir" he reassured him "Nothing is wrong, the safeguards were not breeched. A false alarm, probably set off by the new announcement system in the subway."
"Good" Koji turned and led the way back to the temple.
Umeda kicked the door shut angrily after they'd all made it back to the hotel. Umeda brushed off his glamour in his fury and pointed at Glorfindel.
"You, get out!"
When Glorfindel did not comply "This is classified Kurast business!"
Liane and Glorfindel shared a look, silently agreeing that whatever she learned she would tell him later.
Glorfindel pushed off the wall and bowed mockingly to Umeda before disappearing into his own room.
"All right you two, I want some straight answers" Umeda commanded, marching back and forth in front of the two lir and Liane, now devoid of their glamors.
"Tsk, tsk, lir. Such rudeness will get you no where."
"Well, would you be so kind as to tell me what will get me anywhere with the two of you? For I vow I do not have the patience to deal with your cryptic answers."
"You could say please once in a while."
"Fine" he huffed "Would you please stop being such a pompous, mysterious puffed up dark feathered chicken and tell me what the hell is going on?"
"I never thought I would ever hear you say please for anything lir. Perhaps all my years of toil were actually making an impression on you."
Umeda threw up his hands in frustration "I give up, I don't even want to know anymore" And he stormed off into his own room without another word, not noticing that Teaal followed silently in his wake.
As his door slammed shut Glorfindel poked his head out of his own room and smoothly re-entered the living room.
"So, what did you discover?" he asked without preamble.
"Not much, as we suspected the destruction of the cerin stones has changed the balance of power in the world. What we did not expect was to find that all te lir had been called back by Eru and left the Kurast."
"I don't see how that is of much concern" he said "No offense Katana"
"There might be room for some concern." Liane ground out folding her arms and glaring at Katana.
"Katana? Do you have something to tell me?"
"Teaal is explaining more to Umeda now."
"And that concerns me why? I asked if you have something to tell me"
"It might concern Glorfindel. You know how Umeda hates to be interrupted."
Liane shook her head at Katana's nonsense and turned to roll her eyes with Glorfindel, only to find herself standing alone once again. The firm click of a door behind her told her that he had once again given her the slip.
"Wiley blond elves." She muttered as she stared at Umeda's closed door.
"Come lir" Katana said prowling imperiously to the living room "Make me some sushi, and I will explain everything."
Authors Note: I promise I'll do better with my next deadline, the author hangs her head in shame and gets back to her computer.