Yor couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She knew what was before her, but it was like trying to jam two puzzle pieces together when their grooves didn’t match up. Or maybe they did click together, and she just refused to see the bigger picture formed by the pieces.
Into the storage closet walked Twilight and out walked Loid. She’d heard a few thuds inside, presumably from someone standing guard attacking Twilight. Yor couldn’t help him because she was dealing with her own opponents outside, not that she thought he needed it. But she remembered hearing a distinct ripping sound—it was the sound of a mask tearing. She recognized it from when she disguised herself with a mask on her last mission with Twilight.
If Twilight’s mask was torn off, did that mean that his real face was Loid’s? Did he have enough time to wear another one? It had all transpired in a matter of moments.
Could Twilight have been Loid this whole time?
Twilight—Loid?—looked back at her with surprise, startled by her sudden entrance. But it lasted only for a moment, quickly smoothed over with brisk nonchalance, the same reserved professionalism he always carried himself with. Yor never thought she’d see that look of cold focus on Loid of all people.
“Is something wrong, Thorn Princess?” he asked innocently. As if the face staring back at her was not Loid Forger’s. Her husband’s.
“Are you—Loid?” she choked out.
Twilight arched an eyebrow. An elegant blond eyebrow. Sky blue eyes narrowed slightly. How was she supposed to focus when it was Loid looking back at her?
“Of course not,” he said matter-of-factly. Like it was preposterous that she would even think such a thing.
Of course not. Her face burned with mortification. Embarrassed she even fell for this when she knew he wore disguises for reasons like this. What was she even thinking?
But of course. He wore disguises for reasons like this. Why did Twilight have a Loid Forger mask? The thought of Twilight approaching her as Loid while she was none the wiser left a bitter taste in her mouth. Was he thinking of impersonating Loid? Because if he was…
Yor surged forward and grabbed Twilight by the collar, shoving him against the wall. “Listen,” she growled. “I don’t care if you steal the face of some random civilian. But don’t you dare use my husband’s face for any of your convoluted schemes. Leave the people I lo—the people I care about out of this.”
Twilight gaped at her. With Loid’s face. Yor stepped back and released him. Even if it was fake, she couldn’t bear the thought of handling Loid this roughly, of seeing Loid this defenseless at her hand (not that Twilight was defenseless). And that was exactly why she could never allow Twilight to use the face of someone close to her. Because even if Yor knew it wasn’t real, she could never harm Loid under any context. Twilight’s skill of disguising himself as anyone and everyone truly was a dangerous ability. Yor could best him in combat, but the other tactics he had at his disposal made him a high profile threat nonetheless. Perhaps that fact had slipped her mind as of late, but she would do well not to forget it again.
“I… didn’t know you cared so much,” he said, caught off guard by the sheer fury of her outburst. “I mean, I was under the impression that you married him for the cover.”
Yor scowled at him. What did Twilight know about anything? “At first, yes. But… things have changed since then. Loid and Anya are the most important people in my life.” Was she saying too much? She should watch her tongue around Twilight. But then again, he was probably going to figure this out sooner or later anyway with how many tabs he kept on her. “So if you ever go near them, I don’t care who you have backing you or if you expose me to the Secret Police. If you even think about hurting them, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth and kill you,” she finished with a fierce glare.
Twilight—still wearing Loid’s face, it really was unsettling—looked even more shocked than before. He quickly turned away and coughed into his arm. “...Just so you know, I wasn’t really planning to impersonate your husband, but I needed that option open just in case. I only wore this mask because you were about to come in and my old mask was torn. It was just the first one I grabbed. I do apologize, for what it’s worth.” Twilight turned back around. “Anyway, we’re done here, so feel free to join your family now.”
She huffed. “Fine, as long as it doesn’t happen again.” Yor turned to leave the hall before realizing—“Umm…” She blushed. “I don’t really know the way back.”
Anya snuck back to the waiting area after Mama believed Papa’s lie that it was a mask. She wanted to hear the rest of the conversation, but she needed to make it back before them, and she could read their minds afterward to fill it in anyway.
She found Scruffy searching the waiting area for her frantically. Oh god, what am I supposed to tell Twilight if I lost his kid? Ugh, why did he even have to run off in the first place? There’s no way he actually needed to go to the bathroom. What happened this time? And why was it so bad that he had to get his assassin wife to help too?
Anya ran up to Scruffy and poked his side.
He jumped in surprise. “Oh! Anya, there you are!” he said in relief. “Where did you run off to? Don’t ever do that again!”
Anya gave him an innocent look. “Sorry, Anya just wanted to look around and didn’t realize she got separated from Scruffy.”
Scruffy sighed. “Okay, but stay close to me from now on, alright? If you want to see something, make sure you tell me or your parents. And also…” Suddenly, he looked like one of those kids getting yelled at by Mr. Henderson, like he was guilty of something. “Don’t tell your Mama or Papa that you ran away from me, okay?” I would look so bad for losing the kid!
Normally, Anya would make sure to tell them because watching Scruffy get in trouble with Papa would be funny, but this time it would be better to keep quiet. She nodded back.
Scruffy ruffled her hair and grinned. “Thanks, kid! You and I, we have a good bond. You get me.”
“I hope you’re not being a bad influence on Anya, Franky,” Papa said calmly, appearing out of nowhere.
Scruffy jumped again. “Of course not! I’m just getting along with little Anya here like any good uncle.”
Papa didn’t press it. He seemed like he was thinking hard about something, but his thoughts were really chaotic. Whatever it was, it must have made him really flustered or something. Anya did pick up Mama’s name in the storm of his mind, so maybe they’d been flirting again.
Mama quickly ran up to them, almost knocking Scruffy over, who let out a yelp. “Sorry I took so long!” She glanced at Papa and Scruffy. “I, uh, I also had to go to the bathroom.”
Mama’s so bad at lying, Anya thought, seeing how suspishus Mama looked. It’s a good thing Papa and Scruffy already know her secret.
Anya blinked, noticing something in the background. “Look, they’re opening the exhibit!”
“So they are,” Papa said. “Well, we’re towards the back, unfortunately, so we’ll have to wait a while before we can go inside.” He gave Scruffy a questioning look. “How did you lose your place in line?”
Anya tuned out as Scruffy came up with an excuse and they chatted away. She needed to think about what today would mean for her now. Mishun debreef, as Papa would say.
Everything had turned out better than Anya could have hoped. She didn’t even have to do anything, and Papa came up with a lie to keep up his cover. But Anya couldn’t feel anything but doubt and worry. Because if Papa was able to handle it this time, what if he would have handled it back at Royal Hotel? Maybe things wouldn’t have turned out as bad as she thought.
No, Anya knew Royal Hotel was a lot different. Mama was a lot more comfortable with Papa’s side as Twilight now than she was back then, so of course she believed the lie this time. Plus the situation was a lot different. Papa wouldn’t have been able to lie if Mama ripped off his mask at Royal Hotel.
But still. Maybe, even if Mama had found out Papa’s identity back then, it wouldn’t have turned out badly. Maybe it would have been a good thing! Anya couldn’t stop wondering if she jumped in when she didn’t have to. She might have made the situation a lot worse than it would have been originally. Just because Bond had a vision it didn’t mean she had to change it…
This all just made Anya sure of one thing. She definitely couldn’t tell Papa about her powers, or that it was her who called the Secret Police. Today showed that he didn’t need her help for everything. If he knew what she did, he would be furious. And then he would abandon Anya…
“Our turn, Anya!” Mama said, holding Anya’s hand. “Are you excited to see the fish?”
“Huh?” Anya blinked. “Oh… yeah.”
“Hey Yuri, why don’t you give it a go?”
Yuri looked up from his seat. After Anna caught him up on her team’s investigations on Royal Hotel, she told him they were still in the process of interrogating their newest arrival—the owner of the hotel.
The entire hotel had been empty the night of the tip, which Yuri himself had found odd. But Anna’s team was the one that volunteered to look into that while he and Julian investigated Chihuahua Girl, so he left it to them. According to Anna’s findings, though, it actually ran deeper than they thought. After questioning the owner with some… advanced techniques, he revealed that he worked with an organization called “Garden.” Neither Yuri nor Anna knew that name, but a few of their higher ups did. Apparently, they were a dangerous and elusive assassin organization that operated in Ostania, but nothing else was really known about them except that their assassins were highly skilled in combat. Supposedly, one assassin from Garden was capable of wiping out a whole army if they wished.
The role Royal Hotel played in all this? They were the bait. Many of Garden’s victims happened to be wealthy, high profile people, and Royal Hotel was known to be a prestigious establishment. Targets stayed the night at Royal Hotel and mysteriously disappeared afterward with no evidence of a killing. Once their passing was discovered, it was framed to be days or even weeks earlier or later in an unfortunate accident. And not every assassination happened at Royal Hotel, which helped space out incidents. Cooperating with Garden—which paid them handsomely for their services—they always managed to erase the evidence and evade suspicion. It was an elaborate system, and in all honesty, Yuri was quite impressed that they got away with it for so long.
There was still more information to be had, though. Anna surmised that if the man they saw was probably a spy, then that left the woman as a Garden assassin. It provoked all sorts of questions about just what business a spy and an assassin had with each other—not to mention that they seemed to go from enmity to amity in a matter of minutes. Anna’s theory would be confirmed or debunked with questioning, but Yuri thought it was sound. Unfortunately, the owner was proving to be quite stubborn when it came to providing details about just what happened the night of the raid. And this was where Yuri came in.
He stood up from his seat and adjusted his gloves. It was time for some dirty work.