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through the tinted glass

Chapter Text

It wasn’t long into their marriage until Twilight realized that something was… off about his wife.

 

The first sign was on the night he proposed to Yor. The glint of a knife that Twilight was unable to dodge, an enemy bearing down on him from above with the intent to kill, suddenly thrust aside like a ragdoll by one well-placed and powerful kick from Yor. He rolled around a dozen feet before hitting the wall and coming to a stop. That sort of strength was not normal in a person. Twilight filed that away for further analysis later, and Loid expressed gratitude to his soon-to-be wife for saving him. In the end, Twilight never did unpack that observation. In hindsight, he wondered if it truly was because he was growing sloppy in all his exhaustion, or if on some subconscious level he wanted to avoid the truth. As more time passed, Twilight suspected the latter, though he would never admit it.

 

The next incident was at the museum, when Loid found Yor admiring a painting of a guillotine and the razor edge of a knife. Although it was unexpected, he didn’t think much of that one. People had plenty of weird quirks, and perhaps Yor simply liked sharp objects. However, combined with all the other evidence Twilight had amassed, her seemingly innocuous fancy took on a sinister light.

 

Things like this continued to happen—when a stampede of cows threatened to overrun them at Eden Academy, Yor displayed knowledge of pressure points that no ordinary person would know despite her yoga class excuse; at their celebration of Anya’s acceptance into Eden, she demonstrated fighting talent while drunk that easily surpassed Twilight’s own—and he was a top-tier spy. 

 

Loid never asked questions, even though it would have been so easy to pry the answers out of Yor. Twilight knew all sorts of techniques to get a person to talk, and he probably wouldn’t even need them with a person like Yor. Just a bottle of alcohol and some probing questions would be enough to make her spill her secrets if he so inclined.

 

He wondered time and time again why he never asked. Twilight scolded himself for being far too laid back but never actually did anything about it. But for Loid, it was quite simple: a good husband would let his wife have her privacy. 

 

Months might have passed with Twilight remaining unaware of Yor’s secret if he hadn’t coincidentally stayed up late going over ciphered case files. Maybe in another universe he would have put the papers aside and gone to sleep, but in this one, he hadn’t—and that simple choice changed both everything and nothing at the same time.

 


 

Loid Forger, family man and well-respected psychiatrist, sat at his desk pouring over work-related papers in the dim light of his bedside lamp. Twilight diligently reviewed details about various missions, planning his schedule for the next week in order to balance Operation Strix with all the side missions he had to complete. 

 

The clock ticked away. It was late in the night, around 2 AM. He wouldn’t get much sleep, but he was used to running on a few hours. It had become the norm for him for a long time with how demanding his work was.

 

Loid put down his papers and removed his glasses, rubbing his face sleepily. Still, maybe he should just go to bed. If he was too tired, it would hinder his ability to retain information, which could lead to him compromising a mission simply because he didn’t remember some critical details.

 

Loid sighed and arranged the papers in a neat stack on his desk before standing up and stretching. He decided he would get himself a glass of water and then go to bed. As he stepped into the hall, he paused for a moment outside Anya’s room, opening the door a notch to check on his daughter. Loid smiled at the sight of her sleeping peacefully and gently shut the door again. 

 

Entering the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of water, Twilight performed a routine check of the house he always did before going to bed. Even though he never found anything during his time as Loid Forger, he knew better than to let his guard down. Besides, there was still that incident with Edgar and his lackeys kidnapping Anya. He still didn’t know how he had been compromised, and it had been bothering him ever since. At least he had silenced everyone involved, and they wouldn’t go near him any time soon.

 

Everything was clear as usual until Twilight reached the bathroom. Loid frowned, hearing very faint shuffling inside. It’s probably Yor, he thought. He risked a quick stealth walk to Yor’s room and peeked inside—sure enough, it was empty. Twilight arched an eyebrow at the state of her bed—it was as if she hadn’t slept in it all night. It was still perfectly made, not a crinkle to be seen, and no blankets tossed aside haphazardly as they should be if she had woken up in the middle of the night. And he certainly hadn’t heard her leave her room in the first place. She’d also managed to slip out of the house without him noticing.

 

What had she been up to the whole night, then? 

 

Twilight ruffled his hair and adopted a sleepy expression as the door opened. A softer, unassuming appearance would lower her guard.

 

“Oh! Loid!” Yor exclaimed, not expecting him to be standing there. She was wearing her pajamas. She must have changed before entering the bathroom, unless she’d been walking around town in her pajamas, which Loid highly doubted.

 

“Hello, Yor.” Loid gave her a small smile and squinted at her slightly through tired eyes. “I was just waiting to use the bathroom.”

 

“Oh, of course,” Yor said, stepping aside. “I’ll just, uh, go back to bed now.” She didn’t look at him directly. Twilight knew enough of her tells after living with her to see that she was feeling guilty. About what?

 

He flashed her one last smile and shut the bathroom door before scanning the room. There weren’t any immediate signs that anything was out of place, but he could pick up the slight scent of blood. A normal person might not have noticed it, but Twilight was well acquainted with the stench and had learned to pinpoint it among an array of smells. It was important when assessing signs of injury or fighting, after all. After he was sure Yor had gone to her bedroom and sufficient time had passed, Twilight flushed the toilet and opened up the medicine cabinet, the toilet masking any sounds he might accidentally make.

 

Twilight frowned. The medical supplies had not been placed like that the last time he checked. It was clear that Yor had done her best to arrange everything the way it had been before, but he had a good memory.

 

Loid felt a flash of worry for his wife’s wellbeing. Had Yor gotten injured somehow? Why didn’t she come to him for help? The only answer he could think of was that she didn’t want him to know she was hurt, probably because that would require her to explain how it happened.

 

Loid sighed, washing his hands for show and walking back to his bedroom. He would think more about this later, but for now he had to wake up in time to get Anya ready for school.

 


 

The warm, soothing aroma of coffee wafted around the living room as Loid sipped his morning coffee. He had already finished making breakfast. Fluffy pancakes were stacked aesthetically on a plate, sitting at the table and waiting for Anya to devour them.

 

“Good morning, Loid,” Yor greeted, emerging from her bedroom. 

 

“Good morning to you too,” he returned, moving to serve Yor some pancakes in her plate. “How was your night?” he asked amiably. 

 

Yor gazed at him for a moment as if searching his face for something. Trying to see if I know anything? Twilight wondered.

 

“I slept fine, thanks. How about you? You didn’t stay up late working again, did you?” she replied.

 

Loid smiled sheepishly. “You got me.”

 

Yor frowned. “Really, Loid, you shouldn’t have to work this hard. You deserve a break too sometimes, and sleep is important!”

 

Loid was touched by her concern for him. It almost distracted him from his objective this morning: to assess Yor for injuries and figure out what additional things she might be hiding.

 

Before he could respond, Anya trudged out of her room, rubbing her eyes drowsily and sitting at the table. “G’morning, Mama, Papa,” she said, still half-asleep.

 

“Good morning, Anya!” Yor was as chipper as ever.

 

As Anya regaled them about the latest episode of Spy Wars through mouthfuls of pancakes and maple syrup, Loid leaned against the kitchen counter and observed his family contentedly. Twilight’s eyes zeroed in on Yor’s slightly stiff movements. She was doing a good job of hiding it, but her left arm movement seemed to be impaired slightly as she used her fork and knife. He didn’t smell any more blood, though. That was good.

 

Just what had Yor gotten up to last night that forced her to sneak home in the dead of night and tend to an injury that left a small but noticeable dent in their medical supplies? Twilight narrowed his eyes in suspicion. He couldn’t let the signs slide anymore; this was something he had to investigate until he got to the bottom of it. His wife’s health was in the balance, after all, and her wellbeing was crucial to Operation Strix.

 

Anya suddenly sat up straight in her chair. “Mama, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed, looking very alarmed.

 

“Huh?” Yor asked in confusion.

 

“I’m sorry I leaned on you too much yesterday when I was taking a nap! Now your arm is sore.” Anya sounded devastated, and somehow also frightened. She was a sweet girl to be so worried about her mother.

 

“Eh? That’s not why…” Yor started, before glancing at her arm. “Er, it’s because I slept in somewhat of an awkward position last night. But it’s not that big of a deal—I didn’t even think it was noticeable. Don’t blame yourself, Anya.”  

 

“I hope your arm gets better soon,” Loid spoke up. “It seems to be hindering your movement.” After a pause, Twilight decided to give it a try. “Maybe I should take a look?” he offered.

 

Yor instantly refused. “Oh, it’s really no trouble! I’ll be fine, I promise. Thank you for your concern though!”

 

As I thought. Twilight closed his eyes in consideration. She’s definitely hiding something. Feigning casualness, he slipped his hand into his pocket, fingers wrapping around the bug he had just in case it came to this. Then, he walked over to their coat rack under the guise of getting Anya’s jacket ready for ease of access when they left the house. His hand brushed Yor’s coat, slipping the bug on and activating it. Sorry, Yor, but I have to be sure.

 

He already had a theory, what with Yor’s incredible combat skills and the events from last night. Loid sincerely hoped he was wrong and it was all a misunderstanding. After all, if Yor really was a hired killer like he suspected, that meant someone could order her to go after Twilight at some point—and for once, he actually didn't know if he could win.

 

Twilight had bugged her before, but it revealed nothing. Perhaps she just hadn’t been up to anything on that day. He needed to collect a larger sample size to be certain. 

 

As Anya wore her jacket and put on her shoes, she turned to Loid with a serious expression on her face. “Papa, you and Mama trust each other, right?” 

 

Loid and Yor exchanged a glance. What brought this on?

 

“Well, of course,” he said.

 

“That’s right. I know Loid would have my back in any situation!” Yor added.

 

Anya looked sad. “Mama and Papa will stay together no matter what, right?”

 

Twilight pushed down a twinge of guilt. “Of course.” Loid beamed at his daughter. “We’ll always be there for you.”

 

“Come now, Anya, or we’ll be late for the bus,” Yor urged gently, the moment passing.

 

“Okay…”

 

Twilight tried to push aside the somber look in Anya’s eyes as she asked that question. Despite his best efforts, it stuck with him during the walk to the bus stop.

Chapter Text

Twilight was getting frustrated. Placing that bug on Yor bore no results. The only thing he discovered was that her coworkers were even pettier than he thought. The way they spoke to her, as if she was beneath them, made an unpleasant feeling bubble up in his chest, like how he felt when Anya cried during her interview.

 

What? Why was he angry on Yor’s behalf? It’s a fake family, all for the mission, Twilight reminded himself. Yet that did nothing to appease him.

 

He shook his head to refocus himself and focused on his current task at hand. He was preparing masks for his mission today. Twilight recounted the details in his mind: an organized crime group had blackmail material on a politician, and they wanted to control him to do their bidding. Today, his objective was to destroy the material and keep the politician free from their influence. Taking down the crime organization would be for another time.

 

Twilight slipped on his mask, the face of the man who was meeting with the informant today for the information exchange. He would get his hands on the intel and circle back later to threaten the informant to get rid of the evidence permanently.

 

Slinking out of the alley and approaching the informant, Twilight was no more. Instead, he was a higher up in a circle of organized crime, arrogant and important. There was a swagger in the way he walked that didn’t exist in Loid Forger.

 

“You got the evidence?” he asked gruffly, already outstretching his hand greedily.

 

“Right here. Photos of Adam Wood cheating on his wife. Caught him red handed.” The informant chuckled smugly.

 

He flipped through the photos to make sure they were the real deal and nodded in satisfaction. “Nice doing business with you. Now get lost.” He shuffled off.

 

Once it was safe to do so, Twilight tore off the mask, replacing it with one of a generic man. It didn’t hold any meaning; it was just a precaution if the informant glimpsed the face of Twilight while he was being threatened within an inch of his life.

 

Twilight slipped into the shadows and tailed the informant, who was completely unaware of his presence. He narrowed his eyes, observing the target. Sloppy, or he doesn’t know better. Those with experience know not to walk near alley entrances. That’s just asking for someone to jump out of the darkness and attack you. Since his target was leaving himself so open, that was exactly what Twilight did. His hand shot out of a dark alleyway and grabbed the informant, yanking him roughly into the shadows with him and slamming him against the wall, pinning his arms behind him with one hand and pressing the muzzle of his gun against the back of his head with the other.

 

“Not a sound out of you or I shoot,” Twilight hissed quietly.

 

The informant’s breathing was ragged from shock and terror, but it was quiet enough that Twilight let it slide. Otherwise, he was obeying.

 

“I don’t particularly have anything against you or your business, but that information you have on Adam Wood needs to go. I want you to dispose of all the evidence you have on him. I have my eye on you, and I’ll know if you don’t do exactly as I say. And if that happens, I will not hesitate to find you and kill you and everyone you care about. Understand?” Twilight said darkly.

 

His target didn’t immediately respond—probably paralyzed from fear. Twilight had dealt with it many times. He pulled the man back and slammed him against the wall again. He cried out in pain.

 

“Understand?” he repeated harshly.

 

The informant nodded frantically, letting out a small whimper. Twilight pulled back and shoved him toward the entrance of the alley, stepping back into the dark and keeping his gun trained on him the entire time.

 

“Leave.”

 

The terrified man didn’t need to hear it twice, scrambling away from him and running off.

 

Twilight stood there pensively. He felt like he had been more intense than usual with the intimidation tactics. Was he still frustrated about Yor’s treatment by her coworkers? No, that was ridiculous. He was just annoyed that no evidence had turned up yet about whatever Yor was hiding from him.

 


 

Loid stood at the bus stop waiting for his daughter’s bus to arrive. He was only alone for a few minutes before he noticed Yor approaching. They usually tried to greet Anya together when school was over.

 

“Hello, Yor. How was work?” Loid greeted.

 

“It was good. The same as usual. What about you? How were your patients?” Yor responded.

 

“I made some good progress with a few of them. I think they’re on the path to recovery,” he lied.

 

“Oh, that’s good.” 

 

Yor looked so genuinely happy to hear that his non-existent patients were doing well that Twilight wavered in his suspicion. Could she really be up to sinister activities in the middle of the night? Maybe it was all a silly misunderstanding. There was no way someone as caring and considerate as Yor would dirty her hands with blood.

 

On that note… “How is your arm doing?” he asked.

 

Yor glanced at her left arm self-consciously. “It’s better. I barely feel it at all.” She demonstrated with a series of arm movements. There was no impairment to be seen. Either she was great at tolerating pain, or it really hadn’t been much of an injury at all.

 

Loid smiled. “I’m relieved. Your health is important to me, Yor.” He meant it.

 

A small blush appeared on Yor’s cheeks. “Thank you, Loid.”

 

The bus pulled up to the stop, and out poured excited children. Loid spotted Anya among the sea of students and waved to her. Her green eyes lit up and she hurried over to them.

 

“Papa!” Anya cheered, hugging his leg. 

 

Loid smiled and patted her head. “How was your day, Anya?”

 

She separated from him and walked between him and Yor, holding both their hands. “School was great! Anya got a hard question right in math class today!”

 

“Wow! Good job, Anya!” Yor praised. “You’re a smart girl, aren’t you?”

 

Twilight was pleased at the news. Anya’s struggles were especially evident when it came to math, so he was glad to hear she was improving. Ever closer to becoming an Imperial Scholar. But there was also this other feeling beyond satisfaction that Operation Strix was going his way. Loid was simply… happy. Happy to hear about his daughter’s success, because she had done well at something she usually had difficulty with. Was this what being a father was like?

 

You’re not her real father, Twilight, he scolded. “You did very well, Anya.”

 

Anya peered up at him through big, bright eyes. “Can we get ice cream?”

 

“Hm? What brought this on?” Loid wondered.

 

“Anya heard some kids talking about a new ice cream place opening up. They said it’s really good!”

 

Twilight ran through his mental list of things he wanted to accomplish today and deemed it acceptable to go for an ice cream detour. “Alright.” It was to keep morale up, after all. And the adorable way Anya’s eyes sparkled when she ate ice cream was a plus.

 

They ended up ordering chocolate chip ice cream for Anya, mango for Loid, and strawberry for Yor. The family sat on a bench enjoying their ice cream and making small talk. We must look like the ideal family right now, Twilight reflected.

 

“Be careful to keep your bangs away from your ice cream, or it’ll make your hair sticky,” Yor advised, brushing Anya’s pink locks out of her face. 

 

Loid watched his wife and daughter thoughtfully. A sense of longing settled over him as Yor dabbed the corner of Anya’s mouth with a napkin. He wished he could cradle this domesticity, save it in a bottle and never let it go. They were not his real family, but sometimes they came dangerously close to it. It was funny, in a way, because this pretend family was somehow more authentic than many others out there.

 

But this life wasn’t for him. Once Operation Strix was over, Loid Forger would disappear, and he would lose this safe haven. Twilight had only one future ahead of him, and it was one where he was alone.

 

He was distracted from his thoughts when a tiny hand grasped his. Anya was looking up at him—no, it was like she was looking through him, directly into his soul. Her intuition was unnerving at times.

 

Anya smiled. “Enjoy the ice cream before it melts, Papa.”

 

He swallowed. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I will.”

 


 

Twilight leaned back against the couch and sighed. It had been a long day, and he hadn’t gotten anywhere in his investigation of Yor. As he reflected over the day’s events, he couldn’t help the guilt he felt at invading Yor’s privacy. She was a good person, and the way she got along with Anya today only reinforced that. A caring mother, diligent wife, and trustworthy partner—all of those words described Yor. A killer? Not so much.

 

The telephone rang. Yor was in Anya’s room, reading her a bedtime story. Usually, Loid was with them when Anya wanted a story, but today he had stayed behind to wash some dishes.

 

“Forger residence. This is Loid Forger speaking,” Loid greeted politely after picking up the phone.

 

“Hello.” The man on the other end had a deep voice. Twilight didn’t recognize it, and he had looked into everyone at Yor’s workplace. “Is Yor available?” the man asked.

 

“Yes, I can go get her if you’d like.”

 

“Oh, it’s no trouble. I wouldn’t want to bother you, especially so late in the night. Could you tell Yor to call me back, though?” he requested.

 

“Of course. But… I’m sorry, you are…?” Loid asked.

 

“Yor’s manager,” he offered smoothly.

 

This was certainly not Yor’s manager. “Alright. I’ll pass the message on. Have a good night.”

 

“You too.” He hung up.

 

Twilight narrowed his eyes. It seemed he had a new lead.

 


 

Of course, Loid told Yor that she had missed a phone call from her manager—just not before tapping the phone line.

 

Now, he listened in as Yor called her “manager” back.

 

“Hello?” Yor asked.

 

“I trust that you are alone?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Very well. Now, how did your mission go, Thorn Princess?”

 

What.

 

“The target was successfully eliminated, Shopkeeper.”

 

“A job well done as usual, Thorn Princess. Stay put as you wait for your next mission. Expect a call in around a week.”

 

“Yes, Shopkeeper.”

 

What?

 

“Good night, Thorn Princess.”

 

“Good night, Shopkeeper.”

 

He sat down, processing.

 

Twilight had heard the stories about Thorn Princess before. The best Garden had to offer, unmatched in combat, and she had never failed a mission. But he never thought it was Yor. This went even deeper than he thought—she wasn’t some random hitman. She was a professional. An assassin, perfectly versed in the art of killing.

 

He rubbed his face and groaned. Of all the women in Berlint, he managed to marry the one who was possibly the deadliest woman in all of Ostania.

 

Holy shit, I’m married to Thorn Princess.

Chapter Text

A week had passed since he discovered Yor was Thorn Princess, and Twilight still didn't know what he would do about it.

 

On one hand, if she ever slipped up, he would be caught in the crossfire and his own secrets could be unveiled in the ensuing investigation. Twilight also didn’t know how Yor would react if she ever uncovered his identity. It was unclear where Garden stood in relation to WISE—they weren’t enemies, but they weren’t allies either. Garden was notorious for eliminating threats to Ostania’s peace, but did Twilight count as one? The common narrative in Ostania was that Twilight was the worst kind of criminal out there, seeking to destroy Ostania and wreak havoc. Did Garden believe that story? There simply wasn’t enough information on the organization to know for sure.

 

However, divorcing Yor would certainly hinder Operation Strix. It would reflect negatively on their family if they suddenly parted like that, and Twilight knew how much Anya loved her mother. She would have a difficult time focusing on school if she was dealing with the grief of separation at the same time. 

 

Those are losses that can be recovered from, Twilight told himself. But if your identity was ever discovered, it would be over for Operation Strix—and it might be over for you too.

 

Objectively, the safer decision was to cut his ties with Yor while he could. He felt like he could hear the voices of Handler and Nightfall urging him to distance himself from the wild card. Never take risks if you can help it. One slip up is all it takes to get you killed and compromise an operation. Even if it hinders your progress, the priority is always keeping yourself—and the mission—alive.

 

Twilight had cut ties for the sake of a mission plenty of times during his career. Somehow, though, he found himself hesitating at the idea of breaking this one.

 

Anyway, he had yet to make a decision about what to do. It was obviously because they had adopted their dog, Bond, this week. Dogs were a lot of work to take care of, but Loid noticed that Bond occupied a space in their family that he didn’t know was empty. Anya appreciated the companionship, and the gentle dog was unwaveringly loyal to her. His antics never failed to bring a smile to Loid’s face, even after a long day at work.

 

Today, they were on a family outing at the park. It was sunny with a cool breeze that prevented it from getting too hot. Loid figured that Anya and Yor would appreciate some fresh air and warm sunshine to get away from work. 

 

Loid and Yor sat in the shade on a picnic blanket while Anya played with Bond on the grass. Neither of them spoke, but it was a comfortable silence. Loid watched lazily as Yor fiddled with blades of grass, Anya’s delighted giggles ringing in the air. 

 

It was so peaceful. Loid closed his eyes and leaned back against the tree trunk behind him.

 

A few minutes passed like that until Loid noticed that Yor had gone still beside him. He peeked an eye open to spare her a glance. She was gazing at him intently, her lips parted in a small O-shape. Her cheeks were dusted slightly with pink.

 

Huh, I never really noticed, but her eyes really are the same shade as blood. The corner of his mouth quirked in a small smile. I suppose it’s only fitting. He ignored the part of him that whispered beautiful.

 

“Hi,” Loid said, the relaxing atmosphere bringing out a playful side of him.

 

“Good afternoon!” Yor squeaked before clearing her throat. “I mean, hello.” She smiled shyly.

 

Loid looked down at Yor’s lap, where her hands still grasped some grass blades. “What’s that?” he asked curiously.

 

Yor lifted the grass so he could see it more clearly. She had woven the threads into a small wreath. “It’s a grass crown,” she explained. “Do you want to try it on?”

 

He arched a brow, wondering if she was joking. But she looked completely serious. “Okay.”

 

She leaned closer to place it on his head. Loid stiffened. This close, he could smell her perfume. Roses. It reminded him of her maiden name, Briar, and her moniker, Thorn Princess.

 

Finally, Yor leaned back to inspect him. She giggled at the sight. “Ah, you look so funny like that!”

 

It was Loid’s turn to blush. “Show me how to make them.” It sounded more like a statement than a request.

 

She gave him that warm, graceful smile. “Sure. So first, you take two strands like this…” 

 

She reached out to adjust his positioning, fingers brushing his. They were calloused from gripping her weapons, but still soft. Their eyes met, and she gave him a nervous smile but didn’t retract her hand. His heartbeat sped up.

 

“Then you want to weave them together the way I’m doing now, making sure you don’t let go of this strand here…”

 

Loid followed along as Yor guided him. He purposefully occasionally made a few mistakes, acutely aware of her long ebony locks brushing his arm as she corrected his work. It felt like they were in their own bubble, a tiny world consisting only of them. Losing awareness of your surroundings is the top cause of death for a spy. He couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

He would have been content to stay like that forever, but eventually Anya’s ball rolled up to them in the grass. Bond raced to retrieve it, stopping in front of Loid and Yor as Anya caught up. The little girl promptly seated herself on Yor’s lap, the assassin instantly accommodating her so that she was comfortable.

 

Loid was glad to see Anya so relaxed today. She had been high-strung all week despite the excitement of adopting Bond, and he couldn’t figure out why.

 

A little bark from Bond demanded that Loid take heed of him. He reached out to scratch the dog under his chin and received an affectionate nuzzle in return.

 

Watching as Anya dozed off in Yor’s arms while Bond settled his head in his lap, Loid leaned back and enjoyed the cool breeze against his face. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to keep Yor around a bit longer.

 


 

Yor was in a good mood. Whatever had been bothering Anya the whole week seemed to have evaporated into thin air, and today she’d seen a side of Loid that he usually kept hidden. Somehow, her husband seemed more relaxed today, and she enjoyed that gentle, playful side of him. 

 

Her cheeks heated up as she remembered the feeling of his hands brushing hers and the scent of his cologne when she leaned in close a few times. Was it wrong to think of her husband this way? They were married, but it was a fake marriage. 

 

Yor barely dodged a blow from a bodyguard. Focus, Yor! she scolded herself. An assassination was definitely not the time to be daydreaming about her husband.

 

She stabbed the bodyguard with her signature golden needle, stepping past them calmly as they fell to the ground. Ducking under the swing of a knife from another guard, Yor kicked her in the stomach, sending her flying toward her ally who was aiming their gun at Yor. The bullet hit the guard instead. The last bodyguard didn’t have the chance to shoot again, met with the glint of a needle to the neck.

 

Yor turned to her horrified target, running on the high of the kill. “May I have the honor of taking your life?”

 

“Get away from me—!”

 

Her lips curved into a smile. The body hit the ground with a thud.

 

Surrounded by the stench of blood, Yor furrowed her brow in thought. This was almost too easy. Her target had certainly been wealthy enough to afford better protection than three bodyguards. She didn’t let down her guard as she cleaned up (she wasn’t going to risk cleaning up at home again, not after Loid almost caught her last time. Luckily, she healed quickly and her arm no longer bothered her).

 

Nothing happened, which concerned Yor even more. Was it really that easy? Well, Yor wouldn’t complain. It just meant she could get home to her husband and daughter faster.

 

She found the answer to her question on the way out. At least ten unconscious bodies littered the hallway she entered from. If she had to guess, her target anticipated that an assassin might pay him a visit and planned an ambush. She probably could have made it out alive, but someone seemed to have thwarted the ambush regardless. A flurry of questions raced through her mind. Who? How did they know I would be here? The same way my target did? Why help me? Was it just a coincidence? Did I slip up somewhere?

 

Well, she couldn’t dwell here to search for clues no matter how much she wanted to. The protection of night would fade soon, and the authorities would be here to investigate with the break of daylight.

 

Assassination successful…?

 


 

“Yor? Are you alright? You’ve been zoning out for the entirety of breakfast,” Loid said.

 

“Oh, I’m fine. I’m just thinking about something confusing that happened to me,” Yor replied. It was the morning after the job, and she was still puzzling over who had helped her last night.

 

If someone provided aid in secret, that meant they knew Yor would be coming. They also knew that there would be an ambush. What sort of person had that kind of information at their fingertips? Garden intel was highly confidential. It was possible that her target simply hired those extra guards to be on standby. She had triggered a few alarms while breaking in, so that would explain how the guards knew to ambush her. But what about Yor’s secret helper? They had to be strong enough to take down ten trained bodyguards, so they were not an average person. Of course, it was also possible that they weren’t acting alone.

 

In any case, even if this person seemed to be on her side, Yor did not know what their motives were, and that made them dangerous. She had told Shopkeeper everything in a phone call after the mission in hopes that her boss could shed some more light on the situation. It turned out that he knew nothing, but he promised to look into it.

 

Anya fed Bond some scraps of meat while glancing between her and Loid. She had a grin on her face but said nothing—envisioning another spy scenario, maybe.

 

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon,” Loid assured her. 

 

Yor smiled gratefully. Loid was always supporting her, even when he didn’t know what it was about. It was moments like these that made her feel the most guilt for lying to her family. Anya and Loid were so pure—and then there was Yor, whose hands were stained with the blood of dozens of people. She would never truly fit in with them, but she had accepted that a long time ago. Just being with them every day was a privilege.

 

“Thanks, Loid. You’re always there for me,” Yor voiced her thoughts.

 

He looked surprised. “Of course,” he mumbled, averting his gaze. So cute.

 

“Are Mama and Papa flirting again?”

 

“Anya!”

 


 

Anya giggled. Mama and Papa were so funny, but they were also blind. They were in love, but neither of them knew it. No matter how much they denied it, their thoughts revealed what their words wouldn’t. Mama called Papa cute and considerate in her mind all the time. Papa always thought Mama was beautiful and kind. That was what people in love did in the shows Anya watched.

 

Anya was worried a lot this past week. Papa found out Mama was injured and he became suspishus of her. Then, he put that device on her, the one that let him hear everything she did. Anya hated it the last time he did that. She wanted Papa and Mama to trust each other and get along.

 

But it turned out differently this time. Papa did end up finding out Mama’s secret, but he wasn’t mad like she thought he would be. At first, he didn’t know what to do, and for a few days it looked like he was gonna leave Mama. But then she heard his thoughts yesterday at the park. Anya didn’t know what Mama and Papa were doing while she was playing with Bond, but they were probably flirting. Flirting made Papa soft, so he decided not to send Mama away.

 

Papa still didn’t want Mama to know he was a spy, so Anya wouldn’t do anything. Oh, but she was really excited to see what would happen next! Papa helped Mama with her job last night, but Mama didn’t know it was him. It was like Mama had a guardian angel watching over her!

 

Anya grinned. She couldn’t wait to see what would happen next!

Chapter Text

Anya skipped along the sidewalk humming the opening of Spy Wars. Mama and Papa walked behind her while they chatted quietly. Bond strolled beside her, keeping up with her because of his large size. Ah, Bond. He was so cool! Anya found out some time ago that Bond could see the future. It seemed like everyone in her family was special. She giggled to herself. Papa is a spy, pew pew. Mama is an assassin, slash slash. And now Bond is a special doggy that can see the future, bark bark. Her family was so awesome!

 

The only sad thing was that Mama was stressed about her guardian angel. She still didn’t know it was Papa. Anya didn’t expect her to react so badly, though. She thought Mama would be happy someone was helping her. Instead, she was thinking things like my identity and unknown and eliminate all threats. The last one was the scariest. Anya hoped Mama wouldn’t hurt Papa by accident.

 

Anya was sure it would be fine in the end. Papa’s mind was always hard to read because he was so grown up, but she heard bits and pieces about protecting Mama and the family. Plus, Papa was smart, and he could do anything. He wouldn’t let anything happen. 

 

Bond suddenly nuzzled close to Anya and whimpered softly. 

 

“Bond?” Anya asked, patting his head. “What’s wrong?” She tuned in to his mind, trying to figure out why he was sad all of a sudden.

 

Mama had Papa pinned to the ground, a golden needle pointed at his neck. His gun was out of reach and a ripped mask lay next to his head. They were staring at each other in shock and devastation, covered with blood. 

 

W-what?

 

“Anya?” 

 

“Anya, are you okay?”

 

Anya looked up at her parents. She wanted to cry. Mama and Papa are gonna fight each other? But everything was going so well!

 

“Anya, you’re tearing up—”

 

Papa knelt in front of her, wiping her face with his hankerchiff. “What’s wrong, Anya?” he asked gently.

 

Anya panicked. She couldn’t tell Mama and Papa the real reason! “...Anya loves Mama and Papa a lot!” she said, hugging Papa’s leg.

 

“Oh, Anya,” Mama cooed, joining the hug. Bond nuzzled close and gave her a comforting lick.

 

“We love you too,” Papa said. But he didn’t know what Anya and Bond saw. 

 

“Mama… Papa… please don’t leave Anya,” she sobbed. Was Mama going to kill Papa?

 

“Oh, darling, we’re never leaving…” A warm hand stroked her hair.

 

If only they knew.

 


 

It was clear that Handler was not impressed. Her brows were raised in disbelief and her lips were pressed together in a firm line. Her eyes seemed to say, Are you kidding me?

 

“Let me get this straight,” Handler said. “Your wife, Yor, is the assassin known as Thorn Princess. She is employed by Garden, and it is unclear if that means she is an ally or an enemy. After a week of deliberating, you want her to remain as your fake wife while you keep your identity hidden from her. And you don’t see how this could go wrong?”

 

“Anya is a sensitive girl. She will not perform optimally at Eden Academy if she is dealing with the grief of divorce at the same time. Knowing her, the worst case scenario is that she gets expelled for behavioral and academic issues. In addition, this is an invaluable opportunity to investigate Garden and ascertain where they stand in relation to WISE. Who knows? A collaboration between Garden and WISE could be possible if we play our cards right,” Twilight explained.

 

“If you were able to figure her out, who’s to say that the SSS can’t figure her out either? You know how they are—if they think your wife is even remotely suspicious, they won’t hesitate to seize you for questioning too. Even if you can maintain your disguise, your reputation could be permanently damaged. People will not forget an incident like that easily, even if you are innocent.”

 

“Of course I’ve thought about that,” Twilight said easily. “But the fact that Yor has made it this far speaks for itself, especially since her brother is an SSS officer himself. She also has Garden backing her, and they guard the identities of their assassins very closely. I can help from the sidelines too, if needed.”

 

Handler sighed. “You’re the best we have, Twilight. I just don’t want to see you get yourself killed because your feelings got in the way.”

 

Twilight bristled. “What do you mean? This is all for the mission.”

 

She arched an eyebrow. “Did you really have to help Thorn Princess on a job? She is a very capable assassin according to your own reports. She would have survived the ambush.”

 

“She could have been injured. A major injury would inevitably draw attention to her.”

 

“The risk of injury is always present in a profession like hers. Besides, it is highly likely that she has dealt with serious injuries on her own in the past. As you said yourself, she should be capable of avoiding the attention of the SSS even under such circumstances.”

 

“That may be true, but why take the risk when I can avoid that situation altogether?” Why did it feel like his argument was getting weaker and weaker? This was for the sake of the mission, of course!

 

“Enough. You obviously won’t budge.” Handler stood up to leave his office. “I suggest you reevaluate your role in Operation Strix, Twilight. And… good luck. You’ll need it.”

 

The door clicked shut. Twilight pinched his nose and sighed. He was doing it for the mission, right?

 

You didn’t have to remove your bug on Yor, the little voice in his head whispered. Admit it. You’ve gone soft. The old Twilight would know every aspect of Yor’s life by now. Her past, her habits, her aspirations, her insecurities, every detail imaginable. You wouldn’t take any risks.

 

Shut up, Loid thought. She wasn’t up to anything during the day. She communicates with Garden via telephone. There was no need to keep tabs on her everyday life. That would be a plain invasion of privacy!

 

You wouldn’t have been bothered by that only a few months ago.

 

He didn’t grace that inner voice with a reply.

 


 

The cool night air caressed Yor’s skin as she knelt on a rooftop, surveying the hotel her target was staying in. They were a Westalian drug lord with ties to organized crime. The prospect of expanding their business brought them to Ostania. 

 

She was expecting heavy resistance this time around. Tonight’s job was not an easy one—she had a lot of opponents to take care of, and she couldn’t afford to get too badly hurt. Loid had plenty of reason to be suspicious of her already, and lately she noticed him looking at her with an unreadable expression when he thought she didn’t notice.

 

Yor wondered if her stalker would show up tonight. They hadn’t been at the last few jobs, but those ones had been simple and straightforward. She was beginning to think they only showed up when they thought she was in enough danger. If she was right, she could expect an appearance tonight—and hopefully get some answers.

 

Enough dawdling. Time to get to work. 

 

The moment she broke down the door to the hotel, Yor was being shot at from all angles. Her instincts screamed at her to duck and roll before her brain even registered what was going on.

 

Yor grimaced. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but this is more than I thought! Sprinting at top speed to avoid the bullets, Yor pulled out a knife strapped under her dress, flicking it at a sniper who thought themself cleverly hidden. One down and… twenty-nine to go.

 

Yor charged another shooter who was reloading their gun in a moment of weakness, slitting their neck with a golden needle. She stabbed another one next to them and pushed, running the person behind them through with her blade as well. Three down.

 

She dropped behind a counter for cover from the bullets raining down on her position. The moment there was a slight lull in the onslaught, she hopped the counter and charged at breakneck speed, a few quick slashes eliminating a cluster of enemies. Five more.  

 

Yor managed to grab one of the bodies to use as a shield just as a bullet was about to hit her. She still got grazed in the side by another.  Gritting her teeth in pain, she picked up a chair nearby and hurled it with as much force as she could. Two eliminated.

 

It continued like that, and as the enemy’s numbers dwindled, so did their resistance. It was a one-sided massacre, thirty gunmen falling like dominoes when faced with the might of Thorn Princess. Yor’s injuries were minimal considering the bloodbath that just took place—a bullet graze wound on her side and a few scrapes and cuts here and there. Still, she had been hoping to get off with less. Yor sighed. She was getting sloppy.

 

From there, it was easy to finish the job, finding the drug lord pathetically attempting to escape through one of the windows. As Yor cleaned the blood off of herself, she detected an extremely faint rustling behind her.

 

“You can come out,” Yor said, turning around. “I know you’re there.”

 

There was no response.

 

“You’re late,” she said almost conversationally. “I got to have all the fun without you.”

 

Again, no reply. 

 

Yor narrowed her eyes. “If you don’t want to show yourself, I have no problem with making you. You know what I am capable of.”

 

That seemed to reach her stalker. They stepped out of the shadows. Yor’s eyes scanned their figure, trying to memorize all the details she could. They were dressed in all black and had a mask pulled over their face, making it impossible to see anything beyond their eyes. Even then, it was so dark that Yor couldn’t make out their eye color.

 

“Thorn Princess,” they greeted. So it’s a man, she noted. He had a deep voice that she didn’t recognize.

 

He inhaled sharply, sidestepping just as a throwing knife penetrated the space his head had just occupied. Good reflexes, and he’s quick.

 

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” Yor got straight to the point. This man, whoever he was, knew her identity. Not knowing what he planned to do with that information filled her with dread. Did he intend to use her as a weapon? Would he hurt her family to make her do his bidding? The thought of Loid and Anya being attacked while she was out killing people instead of protecting them made her heart clench in fear. 

 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. “I just want to help.”

 

“I don’t need your help. Why did you decide to meddle in my affairs?”

 

“...I can’t answer that.”

 

“Who are you?” She desperately needed to know in order to even the playing field. Even if she couldn’t get any other information, Shopkeeper could work off of an identity to figure everything else out. 

 

“I can’t answer that either.”

 

Fine. If you insist on being so difficult… Yor channeled her fear into anger, charging forward to attack the creep. “You know my identity. That means I can’t allow you to live, even if you have good intentions,” she said coldly.

 

“I can help you!” the stalker protested. He was good, very good, but even so, he could barely keep up with Yor’s onslaught of blows. 

 

He’s hanging on by a thread right now, but give it a minute and I’ll have him at my mercy, Yor thought. Then I’ll have my answers.

 

“Do you honestly expect me to bat my eyelashes and accept your help?” she growled, landing a kick that left him wheezing for breath. “You know who I am, and that means you know who I care about. You probably spy on them—my husband and my daughter—at every waking moment! If you have a good explanation for why you’re such a disgusting stalker, you had better talk now before I rip you apart.”

 

He tensed in alarm. Yor smiled at the sight, enjoying his fear.

 

BANG!

 

“Wha—” Suddenly, she couldn’t see or hear. Disoriented, Yor stumbled back, expecting her opponent to take advantage of her weakened state and kill her at any moment. But by the time she recovered her senses, he was gone.

Chapter Text

“You, uh… You really don’t like that onion, do you?” Loid chuckled nervously.

 

“Huh?” Yor’s head snapped up as she became aware of her actions. Her cheeks heated up in embarrassment when she noticed the state of the onion she was cutting. She had sliced the pieces so much that it was more of a powder than anything else. “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry, Loid! I was in my own world.” I’m still frustrated that I let that guy get the drop on me and escape.

 

He laughed, not unkindly. “It’s okay. Maybe we can find a use for them. How about you just set the… pieces aside and cut a fresh onion?”

 

Yor stared at the cutting board in embarrassment. “Right.” I’m such a terrible wife! I can’t even cut vegetables correctly. And on top of that, it was me who asked to help out with dinner!

 

Sweeping aside the onion slices and reaching for another, Yor let her hands do the work—correctly this time—while she got lost in her thoughts. He didn’t kill me when he had the chance. I guess he was telling the truth when he said he didn’t want to hurt me, unless it’s an elaborate act to make me lower my guard. She was still annoyed that he wouldn’t reveal anything about himself. If he couldn’t give a better argument for why she should trust him, then Yor had no choice but to eliminate him to protect her identity. She hated the thought of not only herself, but her entire family, being at his complete and utter mercy at every second of the day. If her shadow ever decided he was better off as her enemy, he could end the Forger family with one tip to the Secret Police. Yor needed to recover some semblance of control in this situation for her peace of mind.

 

Yor reached for another onion. As she sliced it—Loid had trained her to properly cut vegetables, but she wasn’t perfect—she noticed a quiet, melodious sound filling the kitchen. Yor followed the source until she realized that Loid was humming to himself.

 

He, too, seemed to be in his own world. His sky blue eyes, usually swirling with too many thoughts for his own good, were like two pools of calm water. A small, peaceful smile lifted his mouth as his long and dexterous fingers cut the tomato in his grip. Yor noticed with fascination that he came dangerously close to cutting himself with every slice of the cooking knife, but he never did.

 

This is why I have to catch my shadow, she realized. So I can protect… this, whatever this happens to be. Her grip on her cooking knife tightened ever so slightly. Whoever you are, I will catch you and unveil your secrets… and if you are a threat to my family, I will eliminate you.

 


 

“Good evening, Thorn Princess. I have a new client for you.”

 

“Yes, Shopkeeper.”

 

“Royal Hotel. Room 303.”

 

“Understood.”

 


 

Twilight’s eye twitched. He sat in stony silence while his informant laughed in his face with absolutely no qualms. “Information. On her next job,” he said through gritted teeth.

 

“Sorry, sorry,” Franky wheezed. “It’s just nice to see the great and powerful Twilight get his ass kicked once in a while.” 

 

Twilight crossed his arms and tapped his finger incessantly. Wasn’t Franky supposed to be on his side? And he didn’t need reminding of how Yor had decimated him in battle. The big, painful bruise on his abdomen spoke for itself.

 

“Why are you still trying to help her, anyway? She made it clear that she doesn’t want you around,” Franky said once his laughter died down. 

 

Twilight opened his mouth and closed it again. In light of recent events, that question had crossed his own mind numerous times. He sighed. “To be honest, I don’t know anymore. I just—I need to make sure she’s safe. But I’m going to dial it back. I’m not interfering for anything short of death.” Otherwise, it would be his death. Just the memory of the fury he had seen in her eyes made him shudder.

 

Franky sobered up. “...Twilight, I think you’re compromised.”

 

“Of course not,” he said instantly. “Why would you say that?”

 

Franky gave him a deadpan look.

 

“...Okay. Maybe I have… grown a little attached. But Yor is no use to me if she’s dead. She’s our window into Garden, remember? And an essential component of Operation Strix.”

 

“Twilight, you’re down bad.”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“I’m gonna be laughing so hard at your wedding.”

 

“I’m already married.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“I mean, it is a fake marriage, of course.”

 

“Ohmygod, just leave already. I’ll have your intel in a few days.”

 

“It’s fake—

 

“I completely believe you—”

 

“No, really—”

 

“Uh huh. Great talk!”

 

Twilight gawked as the door slammed shut in his face. How dare he!

 


 

Someone was tailing Yor. It was hard to control the urge to look back, but she kept her eyes fixed ahead of her as she walked. She was on her way home from the grocery store, but her follower didn’t seem to care that it was broad daylight. In fact, it was like they wanted to be noticed.

 

Yor passed a bouquet of flowers carelessly dumped on the ground. The arrangement of flowers caught her attention. Ah, I understand now. She ducked into an alley.

 

“Thorn Princess,” the informant greeted.

 

“Hello. What does Shopkeeper require of me?” Yor replied.

 

“Your next job is all fabricated,” they explained. “We planted information to lure in the one who has been meddling in your affairs. You are to lie in wait and confront them when they arrive.”

 

“I see,” Yor said slowly. “And how do you know he will be there? I gave him quite a scare last time.”

 

The informant inclined their head in a way that exuded smug satisfaction. “Oh, he’ll be there.”

 

She dipped her head, not questioning the capability of Garden’s resources.

 

“One more thing,” the informant said as Yor was about to leave.

 

“Check your house for bugs, specifically your telephone line. Shopkeeper suspects that is how your little stalker has been keeping tabs on you.”

 

Yor’s heart lurched at the thought of someone planting a bug in her house. “Understood.”

 

As soon as Yor arrived home, she searched the house for any signs someone was spying on her. Fortunately, Loid and Anya were at the library, and they wouldn’t be home for a while. Bond watched curiously as she checked the undersurfaces of tables, behind shelves, and any conceivable place a bug might be hidden.

 

She discovered nothing until she checked the telephone line. Her phone line had indeed been tapped.

 

Yor’s face twisted into a snarl, simmering hot anger boiling her blood. This was an invasion of her privacy, of her family’s privacy, and she would not let it pass. I’ll make you pay for that, you bastard.

 

She was looking forward to seeing her newest client.

 


 

Anya paced her room clutching Mr. Chimera. Bond sat on the floor watching her, his ears twitching restlessly. Mama and Papa had already left the house despite her best attempts to keep them home. They thought she was sleeping in her bed, but how could she when she knew what was going to happen? It was the night of the job.

 

“What do we do, Bond? It’s tonight, isn’t it?” Anya whimpered.

 

Bond flicked his tail.

 

Hot tears burned behind her eyes. Mama was gonna trap Papa tonight, and depending how it went, she might even kill him. Bond’s vision would come true if she didn’t do something.

 

Anya was forced to sit on her bed when it became hard to breathe. She wasn’t hot, but her hands felt clammy from sweat. Her mouth was dry and her heart was racing. It felt like the fear was going to swallow her up, and she couldn’t think straight. Papa doesn’t know he’s walking into a trap… Mama is gonna hurt him or worse… 

 

Bond pressed close to her leg. His soft fur helped ground her, and Anya tried to remember what she was supposed to do when she felt like this. She heard Papa describe this feeling once in his mind. He called it a panic attack. 

 

Anya imagined Papa sitting beside her and instructing her while Mama rubbed circles on her back. Bond licked her leg. Breathe in through your nose, counting from one to five. Then breathe out through your mouth for another five counts. She started feeling calm again as she repeated that a few times.

 

“Okay,” Anya said shakily, trying to think. “What can we do to change the future?”

 

She knew that Papa and Mama were at the Royal Hotel from reading their minds. Anya and Bond could try to get there on time, but then she would have to explain why she was there. Scruffy was her next thought—he was Papa’s best friend, so maybe he could help. But he wasn’t actually an agent, and from reading his and Papa’s thoughts, she didn’t think he had a way to call Papa’s spy friends. She thought hard about anyone else she might know, but no one came to mind.

 

“Bond,” Anya said miserably, “what are we gonna do?”

 


 

Twilight’s heart was pounding. He rushed to get to the Royal Hotel as fast as he could after Franky told him his findings. Yor’s job tonight was a trap set up by the Secret Police, made possible when they managed to find and manipulate one of Garden’s informants. Yor could probably make it out of an ambush alive, but her identity would be exposed. She wouldn’t be able to outrun the SSS forever, and Twilight wouldn’t be able to help her either. He would be too busy trying to save himself and salvage Operation Strix. If he couldn’t warn Yor of the danger ahead, Operation Strix would fail and—and he would lose Yor. 

 

Twilight had thought long and hard about Franky’s words earlier. The informant may have masked it with humor, but Twilight knew he was genuinely worried about him. They both knew the price to be paid for forming attachments in a business like theirs. It hadn’t just been Franky either; Handler told him the same thing.

 

It was becoming easier to admit that every time he interfered where he shouldn’t have, it wasn’t purely out of concern for the mission. It was for that tight feeling in his chest, the way his heart clenched at the thought of something happening to the people he cared about. It reminded him of that time he had to rescue some hostages and one of them almost died because of a mistake he made, except it was even worse. It reminded him of another time, many years ago, when he went by a different name and his mother was somewhere out there as that bomb descended, because one moment she was there and then she wasn’t and now he was all alone—

 

So yes, Twilight knew he had been willfully ignorant to the fact lately, but the closer he got to Royal Hotel, the clearer it became to him: he was undoubtedly compromised when it came to Yor Briar Forger.

 

Handler could yell at him for that later, but right now he—

 

“Don’t. Move.”

 

Twilight froze. Yor’s scent of roses filled the air as she stood behind him holding a golden needle to his neck.

 

“W-what?” he whispered. He hadn’t even heard her.

 

“You fell into our trap hook, line, and sinker,” Yor said lowly in his ear. If this wasn’t the shock of his life, he would probably be blushing hard right now.

 

Twilight forced himself to calm down and think rationally. “So you planted information in order to lure me here.” Years of training allowed him to speak coolly, his voice never wavering. “I suppose Garden is capable of fooling even the best of informants.”

 

“That’s right,” Yor said. “And now that I have you right where I have you…” She yanked his black facial covering off. “...let’s see what you look like, shall we?”

 

She doesn’t know I’m a spy, he thought. So she doesn’t know that the face I’m wearing is fake.

 

Yor turned him around in her grip, keeping her weapons pointed at him the entire time. Twilight didn’t dare try anything. He knew how fast she was.

 

Yor blinked. “You look just like any other man.”

 

“Well, yes,” Twilight replied. His mind raced for ways to gain even a momentary advantage, enough to put himself a safe distance from her. She’s flustered easily. “What were you expecting? A roguishly handsome criminal?” 

 

She frowned. “What, no—”

 

The split second she eased her guard was enough for him to kick her swiftly in the stomach and bolt for an exit.

 

“This again?” Twilight heard her hiss.

 

He heard Yor’s footsteps pounding behind him—she was so fast, how?! He pivoted on his heel and whipped out his gun to shoot at her. But at the last moment, Twilight shifted his aim to the side, almost against his own will. Huh? Am I unable to bring myself to shoot at Yor?

 

He gritted his teeth. Get a grip, Twilight! She was skilled enough to dodge his bullets anyway. If he held back even a bit, it would be over for him—no, Twilight knew he was fucked even if he fought back with everything he had.

 

Twilight slipped his hand under his coat, trying to pull the same trick as before with a flashbang grenade. But Yor was closing in too fast, and he was forced to use his arm to block a kick. He grunted from the effort.

 

Before Twilight could react, Yor knocked him on his back. Alarmed, he raised his gun to shoot, but it was ripped out of his grasp with brute strength and tossed aside.

 

“Now,” she said matter-of-factly, straddling him and pressing a needle to his throat. “What’s your name? Who do you work for? What are your motives?”

 

Twilight stared at her in shock as he panicked internally. He couldn’t afford to reveal any of that information, but—

 

The needle punctured his skin, drawing blood from a shallow wound.

 

“If you won’t tell me what I want, I will kill you,” Yor growled. She looked murderous.

 

In all of his time as a spy, Twilight had never been so utterly helpless. He floundered for something to say, anything to use as a distraction before Operation Strix was doomed in a way he hadn’t expected.

 

Yor’s gaze went from bloodthirsty scarlet to apathetic maroon. “Fine,” she said. “I usually ask this question earlier, but… may I have the honor of taking your life?”

 

Wait, wait, wait— “Wait!”

 

The pressure of her weapon against his neck increased.

 

Not like this!

 

“My name… It’s Twilight!”

Chapter Text

Yuri Briar’s life was dictated by routine. Every morning, he woke up early, ate a quick breakfast, and drove to work. At his job, he interrogated suspects of espionage and other crimes, patrolled Berlint, poured over files, and investigated people of interest. Late in the evening, he packed up and went home after a productive day. There wasn’t much room for free time in his busy schedule, but Yuri preferred it that way. He didn’t have much else to do with his time except to call his beloved sister. Not that he was lonely—he liked his life this way! It was predictable, not boring. And Yuri didn't need anyone but his sister, anyway!

 

Yuri’s lip curled in disgust. Lately, he hadn’t had the chance to spend as much time with his dear sister, and it was all because of that vile Lottie! His darling sister’s scoundrel of a husband, who Yuri just knew was fishy despite how perfect he pretended to be. Lottie was too good to be real, and today would be the day Yuri showed his beloved sister who her snake of a husband really was.

 

Yuri had gone home early from work just for this—a chance to have a long, quality phone call with his dear sister and talk to her without that Lottie sticking his nose into their conversation. He reached for the phone giddily. Yuri had been waiting for this opportunity all day, and soon he would get to hear his darling sister’s voice!

 

The telephone rang before he could grab it, catching Yuri off guard. His surprise was quick to fade away into elation when he realized it must be his sister—she was calling him this time around! He didn’t let it finish the first ring, picking it up immediately.

 

“Good evening, Sis!” Yuri answered cheerfully. 

 

She sniffled, not replying immediately.

 

“Sis!” Yuri exclaimed in alarm. Who had made his darling sister cry?! It must have been her vile husband. Damn you, Lottie! But he had to reign in his distaste for Lottie, or his sister would be upset. “What’s wrong, Sis?” Yuri forced himself to ask gently.

 

“U-Unkie Yuri,” his dear sister—no, that high-pitched, obnoxious voice was definitely not his sister’s, who dared impersonate her!—replied. 

 

“...Chihuahua Girl?” Yuri said gruffly.

 

“Unkie Yuri, you gotta help,” Lottie’s spawn sobbed. 

 

“Huh? Why are you even awake at this time?” Yuri wondered. “Shouldn’t a kid like you be in bed?”

 

“Anya thinks there’s a fight happening at the Royal Hotel,” she cried.

 

“...What?”

 

“Please, can you help? Go to the Royal Hotel and help!” Chihuahua Girl pleaded.

 

What was going on? Why was Lottie’s spawn calling this late in the night with some vague request for him? This was so random! “What do you mean there’s a fight happening? How do you know that?” 

 

There was a pause on the other side of the line. “Anya was sneaking out of the house,” she admitted sheepishly. “And while sneaking out, Anya passed the Royal Hotel and heard gunshots and other scary stuff.”

 

Ha! So there was something about Lottie that wasn’t perfect after all. His daughter was sneaking out in the middle of the night like some shady criminal.

 

Wait—what? “Where is Lottie? Shouldn’t he have had his eye on you?” Yuri was a mix of smug and concerned that Lottie was so careless. Even if he didn’t like the Chihuahua Girl, she could have gotten hurt or lost, and he wouldn’t wish that on a child. In the end, it wasn’t her fault that Lottie was her father.

 

“Mama and Papa are both out of the house. They put Anya to bed and thought she was asleep.” Chihuahua Girl sounded guilty.

 

“So you snuck out of the house, heard suspicious things coming from the Royal Hotel, and you ran home to call someone… and you chose to call me?” Yuri asked disbelievingly. This story reeked of a horrible attempt at deception. 

 

“Yes!” 

 

“And why did you choose to tell me of all people?” She trusts me that much? Well, I guess I am her uncle…

 

“No one else would pick up.”

 

Yuri’s jaw dropped. This kid— “So I was your last choice?!” Calm down, Yuri. This is not the time. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Anyway, what makes you think I can help you?” Yuri could, in fact, help—if Lottie’s spawn was telling the truth, that was. He was still doubtful, and if he called in to work about this only to be mistaken, it would be a huge embarrassment. She wasn’t doing a good job of convincing him.

 

“Dunno. But Unkie Yuri cares a lot for Mama, right? So he’ll figure something out.”

 

Yuri tensed up, his attention piqued instantly. “What happened to your mo—to my sister?” he demanded. 

 

“Anya thinks Mama went out to that area. What if she gets hurt?” The little girl started crying all over again.

 

“I’ll help you!” Yuri declared. “Don’t worry, Chihuahua Girl!”

 

“Unkie Yuri…”

 

“I’ll call back later if you’re lying to me. And you’re not off the hook either, you hear me? I don’t fully believe your story.” Yuri hung up and immediately dialed work, hoping this wasn’t about to be the biggest embarrassment of his life.

 

“S-Sir! I received a tip from someone I know that they heard gunshots and other signs of suspicious activity coming from the Royal Hotel!” Yuri said urgently. Best not to say that it was a child. That’ll be even more humiliating for me if she was lying.

 

“That’s odd. We haven’t received any word about that,” his superior said. 

 

Yuri hesitated. The Royal Hotel was a public location, so other people must have also heard the sounds of fighting if Chihuahua Girl did, right? Was she lying to him after all? What if my beloved sister really is in danger, though? He would take the embarrassment if it meant making sure she was safe.

 

“Requesting permission to take a team out and survey the area, Sir! Just in case!”

 

He sounded skeptical, rightfully so. “This is uncharacteristic of you, Yuri…”

 

“Please!” Yuri begged.

 

Yuri heard a sigh on the other end. “Fine, only because I trust your judgment, Yuri. You’re one of our best.”

 

“Thank you, Sir!”

 

If Chihuahua Girl was lying, he was going to wrangle her.

 


 

“My name… It’s Twilight!”

 

Yor froze, her signature golden needles a heartbeat away from killing her prey. “Twilight?”

 

“Yes. Have you heard of me?” He sounded relatively calm for someone who was moments away from death. Yor was impressed.

 

“I have,” she said slowly. In her line of work, it was inevitable that his name was tossed around a few times. Westalis’s best spy, a master of disguise and the man of many faces. No one knew what he looked like. By the time his victims realized they had been duped, Twilight was far gone, leaving no traces behind. However, despite him being from Westalis, he wasn’t exactly an enemy. Actually, Yor wasn’t really sure where spies like him stood in relation to Garden.

 

I guess that means I can’t kill him, she thought. He may not be an enemy after all. And who knows what conflict between Garden and whoever he works for could erupt if I kill him? Of course, he could just be lying about who he is, but there’s no reason to risk it. Yor narrowed her eyes. There is one thing I can do, though…

 

She reached for his face. She would be the one to unmask Twilight. This would be the leverage she needed to finally gain the upper hand—his identity. 

 

Twilight’s breath hitched in panic. “Wait, don’t!” he said, his eyes wide. But he wasn’t in a position to stop her, not when he was pinned beneath her with a blade to his throat.

 

This is it, Twilight. Who really are you?

 

Just as she was about to tear off his mask, the windows shattered and in tumbled Secret Police agents—dozens of them. Yor immediately ducked and hid her face, all thoughts of unmasking the spy thrown to the wind in the face of a bigger threat. 

 

Yor pursed her lips. She didn’t want to let him go free, but she obviously couldn’t defend herself if she was sitting on top of Twilight. She stood up, averting her face the whole time, and steeled herself to kill them all. But as Yor was about to charge, she glimpsed a familiar face among the agents. She let out a strangled sound in shock. Yuri…?

 

“Here, put this on!” Twilight shoved his coat over her shoulders and slipped his cloth mask over her face. Yor barely registered that he was protecting her identity.

 

“Look away and cover your ears,” the spy ordered. She did as he said numbly. He tossed a flashbang at the unsuspecting agents, buying more time as they lost their sight and hearing temporarily. I remember being on the receiving end of that, she recalled, hearing them cry out in surprise. Twilight turned and started running down the hall.

 

“What are you waiting for?” Twilight asked, looking back when she didn’t follow. He followed her gaze. “Oh.”

 

Yor glanced at him sharply. “You knew?”

 

“Of course I did. But now is not the time,” he said urgently.

 

He’s right. I can deal with Yuri later! Suddenly, though, she was not so keen to kill the SSS agents. When I look at them, I can only imagine Yuri… She swallowed, choosing to follow Twilight instead. After everything, she knew he wanted her alive and well, and Yor didn’t think he was going to turn on her now.

 

“Does Yuri know who I am?” Yor asked as she ran beside him. She figured he probably knew the answer, since he seemed to know everything about her.

 

“No,” Twilight replied, his eyes fixed straight ahead of him.

 

Are those even his real eyes, or are they contacts? Yor looked away. Even after she almost killed him tonight, Twilight was trying to help her. The curious part of her itched to rip the mask off while he was distracted, but she decided to let his secret be—for now, at least. There would be plenty more opportunities to unmask the Westalian spy in the future, since he couldn’t seem to stay away from her.

 

“Duck!” Yor warned, hearing gunshots behind them. But Twilight was already on the same wavelength as her, dropping into a crouch alongside her. Yor was impressed when he managed to get in a few nonlethal shots with his silenced gun at the enemy simultaneously, shaving their numbers. Thankfully, he did not hit Yuri, who was also in hot pursuit of them.

 

Twilight swore under his breath as he spotted a group of agents ahead of them in the hall, cutting off their route to the window. Yor couldn’t agree more. They could fight, but they would be pelted with bullets in a narrow hallway on both sides. Not ideal.

 

“There!” Twilight pointed out the door to the nearest room. They dashed for it, trying to avoid the gunfire as they did, and managed to get inside.

 

Twilight hissed in pain. Yor glanced back at him. He was inspecting his leg.

 

“They managed to graze me,” he explained. “I can deal with the pain, though.”

 

Yor nodded briskly and picked up a chair, throwing it at the window and shattering the glass. Fortunately, they were on the second floor, so they could survive the drop unscathed if they landed correctly. She was confident in both their abilities to do so, even if Twilight was injured.

 

“Let’s go,” Yor said, jumping out and tucking into a roll as she landed. Twilight was quick to follow, landing elegantly despite his leg. They stuck to the shadows, trying to avoid the agents standing guard outside.

 

“So,” Yor whispered. “Did you anticipate that this was a trap and tip off the Secret Police just in case?”

 

Twilight looked confused. “No. Why would I do that?”

 

“But if you didn’t, who did?”

 

Their eyes met. Yor saw her concern reflected on his face. “I don’t know,” he admitted uneasily. “I guess we have to figure that one out together.”

 

Yor’s eyes widened. Was Twilight suggesting a truce? Well, she supposed that was fair. If there really was an unknown third party that neither of them knew about, that was a huge cause for concern for both of them.

 

“Okay,” she said evenly. “Let’s work together, Twilight.”

 

He met her gaze coolly. “Pleasure doing business, Thorn Princess.”

Chapter Text

Anya didn’t sleep until Mama and Papa were both home safely. It had been a nerve-wracking few hours, sitting in silence with Bond and wondering if she had made the right decision. She originally planned to go to the Royal Hotel herself with Bond, but she didn’t know if she would make it in time. Plus, Mama and Papa would definitely wonder why she was there and how she knew. Unkie Yuri was probably suspishus of her right now, but her cover story was more believable than if she went herself. The problem was, Anya didn’t know how suspishus Unkie Yuri thought she was.

 

Actually, she didn’t know if Unkie Yuri even went to the Royal Hotel like he said he would. He sounded really doubtful on the phone. What if he only said he would help to calm her down? Everything depended on him believing her. She brought in Mama when he sounded like he was gonna say no, hoping that would get his attention. It seemed like it worked, but who knew?

 

Anya stroked Bond’s head. He licked her hand in response. She had been listening the whole night for Mama and Papa’s thoughts, clutching Mr. Chimera and willing them to come home safely. She knew it might be a bad idea to send Unkie Yuri after Mama and Papa since he was teknikally their enemy, but she was counting on him to crash their fight and give Papa the chance to get away. Anya trusted that her parents would be able to escape from the Secret Police.

 

Finally, as Anya’s eyelids were drooping and she was on the verge of falling asleep, she was able to pick up on Mama and Papa’s thoughts again. They were a mix of chaos and relief, which made Anya curious about what happened. She wanted to listen more to their minds, but the drowsiness overtook her the moment she knew they were safe. Anya fell asleep with a smile on her face as Bond nuzzled her warmly.

 


 

Twilight wrapped his leg in a bandage and paced a few steps experimentally before nodding. Luckily, the graze wound wasn't so deep that it would be a major inconvenience, but it was a huge burden to walk normally without pain blazing through his leg.

 

He sat down on his bed and sighed. What a night it had been. Yor’s job had been a trap, and she almost killed him. He was forced to tell her his identity in order to buy more time. Just as she was about to unmask him, the SSS arrived at the scene, apparently having been tipped off by some third party. Twilight escaped with Yor and they agreed to work together to find out who had stepped in that night.

 

Twilight was calm right now, but that was mostly because he was far too tired to concern himself with whoever had interfered tonight. He was sure the stress would kick in tomorrow morning. Honestly? I’m just glad I’m alive. It started off bad, but it ended better than I could have imagined. He had an alliance with Yor now, albeit he didn’t know how much substance it actually had.

 

Loid sighed and tucked himself into bed. He would think about it in the morning.

 


 

Yor packed her weapons away, reflecting over the events of the night as she did. She didn’t know where to start. Her secret helper had been Twilight all along? Westalis’s greatest spy? She didn’t get the chance to ask during all the excitement, but what did he even want with her? Why was a spy stepping in to make sure she was safe? What ulterior motives do you have, Twilight? She would have to fill Shopkeeper in on everything tomorrow.

 

Then there was… Yuri. Yuri, her sweet brother, who apparently worked for the Secret Police. Who, according to Twilight, didn’t know that she was Thorn Princess, and had kept his identity hidden from her as well. What a family we are. Next thing I know, I’ll find out Loid and Anya have been keeping their own secrets too.

 

Yor didn’t know what to do about Yuri. If he was SSS, that made him her enemy. But there was no way she could go against him—he was her brother, and she loved him! She hoped he hadn’t seen her face tonight the same way she’d seen his. Twilight had been quick to give her his coat and mask, so maybe not. Speaking of… Twilight really saved me back there by doing that. I’ll have to thank him properly when I see him again.

 

Anyway, she was getting off topic. What would she do about Yuri? Nothing, I guess. What could she even do? All she needed to do was maintain the status quo and continue keeping her job as an assassin from him. Yor had always done it because she feared his judgment if he found out, and now she had an extra reason. She didn’t want to make him choose between his job and his sister.

 

Today’s job was successful overall. She found out who her shadow was and managed to make a truce with him. Yor would even call her revelation with Yuri a success because now she knew to be more careful with her act around him. The only problem was who had tipped off the Secret Police in the first place. Even Twilight hadn’t known the answer, which was… well. It was terrifying. He was a master at intelligence, and even he didn’t know. But somehow, she wasn’t panicking as much as she normally would. Was it because she had Twilight on her side now? Even if she’d only worked with him for a night, it was easy to see how competent he was. It was like… I felt safe, when I was fighting with him instead of against him. Twilight reminded her of Loid in that way. They both always had a plan, were always calculating their next move. They both had a way of making Yor feel at ease with their presence.

 

Yor smiled. Of course, that was a ridiculous comparison. Twilight and Loid couldn’t be more different.

 


 

Yuri couldn’t believe it. Chihuahua Girl really had been telling the truth. Good for him, he supposed. He wasn’t humiliated in front of his coworkers after all. 

 

But even in the face of that massive relief, Yuri came away with more questions than answers tonight. Who were those two people they’d been chasing anyway? When he broke in through the windows, it looked like they were fighting—one of them had the other pinned to the floor. Yuri almost caught a glimpse of the one on top, but it was too dark to make out their features, and then the other person reacted and covered them up. That was strange. One moment they were fighting and the next they were working together. They were good, too, if they’d managed to evade a whole squad of SSS agents—very good. Alarmingly good. Just who were they?

 

Yuri mentally ran through everything that transpired in an attempt to squeeze out any details he might have missed. They had pursued the two, cornering them in a hallway, but they managed to dart into a room while returning some counterfire and—

 

Counterfire. That gun…

 

The bullets had been very quiet, so much so that it was difficult to hear even in the hallway. It had been a silenced gun. A silenced gun.

 

Didn’t Chihuahua Girl say she heard gunshots outside the Royal Hotel?

 


 

Breakfast was quiet the next morning. Everyone seemed to have something on their mind. Twilight figured that Yor was still processing what happened last night, and Anya… well, who knew what went on in the little girl’s mind? Either way, she seemed to realize that everyone was in an introspective mood today. Even Bond was quiet, only nudging Loid occasionally for some food scraps. 

 

Loid obliged, scratching Bond behind the ears and watching Yor as she chewed her bread thoughtfully. He wondered what she thought of the uneasy truce they had. Did she trust him? She had made quite the one-eighty in her impression of him, and that was almost too favorable to be true. After the little trap she pulled, Twilight couldn’t help but look at his wife warily.

 

After she almost killed him last night, it was difficult to suppress an involuntary flinch whenever Yor made sudden movements. He knew the incredible power hidden under that innocuous cherry-red sweater of hers. Even if Twilight had an alliance with Thorn Princess, she could easily turn on him. If she chose to betray him, he would be dead before he even knew it.

 

Yor looked over at him with those beautiful, blood-colored eyes. The same eyes that had flashed with bloodlust, almost feral as she prepared to slit his throat open.

 

“Is something wrong, Loid?” she asked innocently.

 

Twilight swallowed uneasily, and Loid smiled at his lovely wife. “Nothing at all, Yor.”

 

Anya frowned around a mouthful of bacon and tossed Bond some.

 

Loid broke eye contact with Yor. “Don’t feed Bond that, Anya,” he said. “Bacon isn’t very healthy for dogs.”

 

“Oh. Sorry.”

 

He smiled gently. “Don’t worry. A little bit won’t hurt him either.”

 

A moment of silence passed. Bond barked softly. Anya chewed loudly. Yor fiddled with the hem of her sweater.

 

Loid stood up abruptly. “I’ll make Anya some chocolate milk.”

 

“Okay,” Yor said.

 

“Yay!” Anya cheered.

 

As Loid walked into the kitchen, Yor’s voice punctured the quiet with a question. “Hey, Loid… did you hurt your leg?”

 

He stopped. “What?”

 

“I-I mean, it just looks like you’re favoring one leg over the other…” Yor trailed off. “If you hurt yourself, I can walk Anya to the bus stop alone today.”

 

“I’m not hurt,” Loid said stiffly. He forced his face into a kind smile. “Thank you for the concern though.”

 

“Oh… alright… but I—”

 

“Anya wants her chocolate milk!” his daughter interjected with a small pout.

 

Twilight pounced on the opportunity. “Coming right up, Anya!” 

 

That was close.

 


 

Loid was kind of tense during breakfast, huh? Yor thought, stacking the dishes and depositing them in the sink. Being a psychiatrist must be stressful. Despite what he said, she was positive she had seen him limping slightly. She had sharp eyes. But Loid had waved it off, and Yor hadn’t seen him with any sort of limp afterward. Maybe she was just imagining it. Funny, though. Didn't Twilight hurt that leg too? Or was it the other?

 

“Hm?” The telephone started ringing.

 

“I’ll get it,” Loid volunteered. “Forger residence. Hello?” A pause. “Oh, hello Yuri!” Loid glanced at Yor. “Alright, I’ll pass it on. Have a good day.”

 

He set the phone down and breathed out slowly. “Yuri’s coming over in the afternoon.”

 

Yor started panicking, the possibilities for why he would come to visit so soon after last night racing through her mind. Had he seen her face after all? Was he going to confront her about it? “Afternoon? Why so soon?”

 

Loid shrugged. “He said he wants to spend time with all of us, Anya included. She’ll still be awake at that time.” He smiled. “Actually, he seemed very keen on getting some quality time with his niece. I guess he’s warming up to her.”

 

“U-Unkie Yuri wants to spend time with Anya?” Anya squeaked. 

 

Yor smiled in relief. So he wasn’t visiting for her. “Isn’t that wonderful, Anya? Yuri wants to get to know you better!”

 

Anya’s eyes were wide. “Anya doesn’t wanna talk to Unkie Yuri!”

 

Yor gasped in horror. Did her daughter not like her brother after all? What went wrong? She knew some families had a hard time getting along. She didn’t want her family to be like that! “Why not? Don’t you like him, Anya?”

 

“Umm—he uh…” She looked up at Loid as if he could save her from this situation.

 

“What are you looking at me for?” Loid asked suspiciously.

 

Anya’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Because Unkie Yuri doesn’t like Papa,” she declared. “So Anya doesn't like him.”

 

Loid sighed. “Anya…”

 

“W-what?” Yor cried. “Yuri doesn’t like you, Loid? Is this true?” How had she not noticed?

 

“Well…” His hesitation said it all.

 

“Oh no, we’re one of those families!” Yor wailed.

 

“Yor, please calm down.” Loid raised his hands placatingly. “I’m sure Yuri is just put off by our sudden marriage. It’s fine, really.”

 

Yor was already in her own world. “We’re one of those families where the in-laws hate each other and try to steal each other’s inheritance! We’ll never get along!” This family is doomed!

 

Loid pinched his nose. “Oh boy…”

 

Anya shook her head in amusement. “Come on Papa, let’s just go to school.”

 

“Y-yeah.”

Chapter Text

“Anya? What are you doing?” Yor asked as she helped Loid prepare their lovey-dovey accessories for Yuri's visit. Her face heated up at the sight of the “Yes!” pillows on the s-single bed.

 

Anya was sneaking off to her room hoping Yor and Loid wouldn’t notice. She pouted. “Anya already told Mama! Anya doesn’t wanna talk to Unkie Yuri!”

 

Loid sighed. “Whatever you feel about him, you need to mind your manners when he comes over, okay Anya?”

 

Anya mumbled something imperceptible and toed at the ground, fiddling with her thumbs.

 

“What was that?”

 

“Anya said okay!”

 

Loid shook his head in amusement.

 

“How about you play in your room for now, Anya?” Yor suggested. She wanted Anya to be in a good mood when Yuri came over. They needed to get along!

 

“Okie!” Anya skipped off.

 

Once she was in her room, Loid turned to Yor. “Listen… before Yuri comes over, I think we should be prepared”—his ears were rapidly turning red—“for the worst case scenario.” 

 

Yor instantly knew what he was talking about. She felt a blush rise to her cheeks. “If he asks us to… prove our love again?”

 

Loid nodded. “Last time we, uh, tried to kiss, it didn’t go so well,” he put it lightly.

 

“Sorry,” Yor mumbled. “That was all my fault. I shouldn’t have let myself drink so much. I know I don’t handle alcohol well.”

 

Loid put a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. It surprised Yor, but the contact was not unwelcome. Actually, she rather liked it. His hand is warm…

 

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be more prepared this time. Anyway, there probably won’t be any alcohol tonight since Anya will be with us this time.” He coughed, avoiding eye contact. “But… if Yuri were to ask us to kiss again, are you prepared to do it?”

 

Yor’s face was steaming by now. K-Kiss Loid… She’d barely been able to do it while she was drunk! How was she supposed to do it sober?

 

She supposed it wasn’t such a bad thought, though. In the safety of her own mind, Yor wasn’t ashamed to admit that Loid was a very handsome man. And kind. And smart. And considerate, and did she say attractive…

 

“Yor? I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. We can always find an alternative if you’d like.”

 

Yor closed her mouth. She hadn’t been drooling, had she? “Oh no, that’s fine! I wouldn’t mind kissing you.” 

 

Loid’s eyes widened, his breath catching in his throat. 

 

“I-I mean, I wouldn’t mind kissing you if it turned out to be necessary. For the act!” Yor scrambled to correct herself. 

 

He swallowed. The way her eyes fixated on the bob of his Adam’s apple was definitely for the act.

 

“Okay.” Loid scratched his cheek self consciously. “That’s good.”

 

They both stared at each other for a second, then looked away shyly.

 

“I think we’re done setting up for Yuri,” Yor finally said.

 

The doorbell rang.

 

Loid gave her a nervous smile. “Right on time. Shall we?”

 

Yor nodded in determination. I need to step up my act if I want to keep Yuri fooled. And if that meant kissing Loid… so be it!

 


 

Loid opened the door wearing his winning smile. “Good afternoon, Yuri!” 

 

Yuri glared at him as usual. “Lottie.”

 

Yor stepped up to Loid’s side. “Yuri! It’s so good to see you.”

 

Yuri’s surreptitious dirty looks faded away as soon as he saw Yor. Loid couldn’t help but admire the reflexes required for such a quick transition. 

 

“Sis!” Yuri shoved past Loid. “I’m so glad to see you again.”

 

Loid’s eye twitched.

 

Yuri looked around eagerly. “Where’s that Chi—I mean, Lottie’s sp—Anya?”

 

Yor was unperturbed. “She’s in her room playing right now. She doesn’t seem to be in a mood to talk. Don’t worry, we’ll give you some time to play with her later once she cheers up. But for now, how about we catch up together, Yuri?”

 

Shamelessly ignoring Loid’s existence, Yuri beamed at his sister like she had just weaved a constellation out of stars. But when didn’t he? “That sounds wonderful, Sis!”

 

They took a seat on the couch. Yuri sat adjacent to Loid and Yor just like the first time he came over.

 

“How have you been, Yuri?” Yor asked. “Anything interesting happen lately?”

 

Twilight glanced at Yor. Was she probing for information? They didn’t know how much the Secret Police knew about last night. 

 

Yuri’s smile tightened. “Nope. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

 

Hmm… he seems agitated about something, Twilight observed. Maybe he’s dissatisfied that we got away last night. Something is definitely on his mind.

 

Yor loosened her posture ever so slightly. They would have to work on her acting skills. “I see. Well, the quiet life is a peaceful one, right?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t mind. It’s nice,” Yuri responded. “What about you? Has Lottie been treating you right?”

 

Yor laughed. It was a nice sound. “Of course he has, Yuri.” She paused. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this little rivalry you have with Loid.”

 

“Rivalry?” Yuri repeated, the epitome of innocence. “What do you mean?”

 

“You know what I’m talking about, Yuri.” Yor frowned—was she actually this upset on Loid’s behalf? Fondness bubbled in Loid’s chest. “Loid is my husband now, like it or not. You need to treat him with more respect.”

 

Loid opened his mouth to intercede. Yor stepping in on his behalf was a sweet gesture, but it could end up aggravating his relationship with Yuri, who might resent that she was supporting Loid and not him. 

 

Yor laid a hand on his arm and smiled with an almost imperceptible shake of her head. Let me do this, her eyes seemed to say.

 

He leaned back. Okay. I’ll let you handle this.

 

Yuri crossed his arms. “Look, I’m sorry, Sis… but Lottie needs to prove himself before I can accept him so easily. And no offense, but the way you two act around each other is more like your first date than a one-year marriage.”

 

“N-no! We were just embarrassed because… because you asked me to kiss my husband in front of you, my brother! I just thought it was weird last time,” Yor protested.

 

Loid blinked. That’s actually a pretty good excuse.

 

“Oh,” Yuri said thoughtfully. “I never thought about it that way. In that case—”

 

Yor plowed on as if he hadn’t spoken at all. "—But today, I’m ready! I’ll prove to you that we’re in love!” Her eyes were shining with determination.

 

Loid panicked. Oi, oi… Isn’t this unnecessary? Yuri accepted your explanation! But she was already leaning in, and suddenly all he could smell was her rose perfume, all he could feel were her arms around his neck and her warm breath on his face, all he could see was her flushed cheeks and pretty crimson eyes and soft pink lips getting alarmingly close to his—

 

Yuri paled. “Wait, stop! That isn’t needed, Sis! It’s okay, I believe you!”

 

She stopped, her mouth barely millimeters away from his. A pink tongue darted out to lick her lips. Loid swallowed hard. 

 

“Oh. Okay.” Yor leaned back. Her face was tomato red.

 

Loid decided to unpack the disappointment he felt at a later time, clearing his throat. “Why don’t Yor and I make some snacks? And Yuri, how about you check on Anya?”

 

“Right,” Yuri squeaked, quick to scramble off.

 

They sat in silence for a few moments after Yuri left. 

 

“I’m sorry!” Yor burst out. Her cheeks were still blazing. Judging by the heat in his face, Loid doubted he was any better.

 

He smiled. “It’s okay.” And it was.

 

“But I basically forced myself on you… I just really wanted Yuri to think we were normal. I didn’t even think about whether he accepted my explanation. I’m so sorry, Loid!” She bowed her head.

 

“Really, Yor. There’s nothing to apologize for. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if we did end up kissing,” Loid admitted.

 

Her head snapped up. “Really?”

 

Twilight wondered if he was saying more than necessary. But something compelled him to say it despite the way his ears were burning. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was for the mission.

 

“You… you’re my wife, Yor,” he said simply.

 

She stared at him, eyes wide and cheeks still rosy, before her gaze softened into a tender look. “And you’re my husband.”

 

“Come on,” Loid said with a smile. “Let’s make some snacks together.” He stood up and held out a hand.

 

Yor smiled back and took it.

 


 

Yuri’s face was burning. His sister had been so close to kissing Lottie—in front of him! How… scandalous! And the looks of anticipation on both their faces… That Lottie was stealing his beloved sister away from him and—and tainting her!

 

It was in that state of mind that Yuri burst into Chihuahua Girl’s room. She gawked at him as his thoughts whirled with the image of Lottie and his dear sister almost kissing. Inexplicably, she broke out into a smug grin that rubbed Yuri the wrong way.

 

“What are you smiling at?” Yuri grumbled.

 

“Hi, Unkie Yuri,” she said instead of answering his question. Maybe that was for the best.

 

Yuri eyed the girl in contemplation. He had many, many questions for her—that was one of the two main purposes of this visit. The other being seeing his sister, of course. 

 

Yuri was a master at interrogation. Obviously, he couldn’t use any… advanced tactics on Chihuahua Girl, but he was sure he could get her to talk. He would just butter her up first by playing with her. Brats like her—er, children—liked that, right?

 

Their dog—Barry?—inspected Yuri with dark, unblinking eyes before turning away in disinterest. Even the dog??

 

Chihuahua Girl giggled. “Unkie Yuri, you’re so funny!”

 

Yuri frowned. “I didn’t do anything?”

 

She rummaged through an assortment of stuffed animals in her room. “Here, play with Anya!” Lottie’s spawn handed him one.

 

“What do I do with this?” he asked, feeling out of his depth.

 

“Like this!” Chihuahua Girl held up one of her stuffed toys. “This is Mr. Chimera, and he’s a super secret spy! Who are you going to be?”

 

A spy? Yuri needed to eliminate this threat at once! “This is… Mr. Y. And he’s Secret Police. He is going to capture Mr. Chimera.”

 

She stared at him. “Nevermind. Unkie Yuri isn’t very fun.”

 

“Huh?” Yuri was confident he was playing along the way she wanted. How could his interrogation tactics fail him? His good cop act had a one hundred percent success rate!

 

Chihuahua Girl pouted. “Anya doesn’t wanna play anymore.”

 

Fine! If the good cop didn’t work, then he would bring out the bad cop!

 

“Listen, Chi-Anya,” Yuri said. 

 

She blinked up at him innocently.

 

“I think we both know why I’m here.”

 

Her face became blank. Barry nuzzled up to her, and she hugged his head gently.

 

“You lied to me about how you knew what was going on at the Royal Hotel,” Yuri continued. “You thought you could get away with it, didn’t you? But your story doesn’t line up. Aside from how generally absurd it is, you told me that you heard guns firing outside the Royal Hotel, yes? But the only gun there was a silenced one. Do you know what that means?”

 

Her green eyes lit up. “Yup! It means you can’t hear it go pew-pew!”

 

Yuri nodded seriously. “So how did you hear it outside the Royal Hotel?”

 

“Anya didn’t say that she heard it outside the Royal Hotel.” Was the brat outright lying to him?

 

“You’re not going to fool me,” Yuri scoffed. “I know what you said.”

 

“Anya didn’t say that,” she insisted.

 

“Yes, you did!”

 

“Uh-uh!”

 

Yuri stood up in frustration. Children were so difficult. “Then what did you say?” he asked, towering over her and putting his hands on his hips. 

 

It was just an instinctual reaction, but given that he was an adult man and she was a little girl, Yuri cut quite the intimidating figure. And it was at precisely that moment that Lottie walked in with a plate of apple slices and crackers.

 

“...” Yuri realized how this must look—he, who never bothered hiding his disdain for Lottie, towering menacingly over his daughter, seemingly bullying her to get his revenge for what happened earlier.

 

Lottie raised a brow at the pair.

 

“Lottie, it’s not what it looks like—”

 

“Papa! Unkie Yuri is bullying Anya!” The brat ran over to Lottie and hugged his leg with teary eyes.

 

“Yuri,” Lottie said evenly, “what’s going on here?”

 

“I swear, that’s not what I was doing!” Yuri rushed to explain. “I was just roleplaying with her, you see!” He grabbed the stuffed animal Chihuahua Girl had given him earlier. “We’re playing a game of secret agents, and since she’s pretending to be a spy and I’m being a Secret Police agent, I was just playing the role!”

 

Barry, the damned dog, nipped Yuri’s pant leg. 

 

After a moment of consideration, Lottie gave him a friendly smile. “I believe you, Yuri.”

 

“Y-you do?” Why did this feel like a trap?

 

“Sure. Just don’t do it again, alright?” Lottie said sweetly. “I wouldn’t want Yor to think something is wrong. She’s very anxious about us all getting along, you see.”

 

Was Lottie threatening him? Yuri held back a glare. This was definitely some sort of power play! Lottie knew he had a leg up over Yuri now, and he was making sure Yuri recognized that.

 

The blond snake patted his daughter’s head. “Alright, Anya. Have fun with Uncle Yuri.” He put the plate on a nearby table and left.

 

Chihuahua Girl shut the door and turned to Yuri with that smug grin plastered on her face once more. Yuri watched her warily.

 

She took a deep breath. “You’re right, Unkie Yuri. Anya didn’t hear gunshots outside the hotel.”

 

Yuri smirked triumphantly.

 

“But Anya isn’t going to tell Unkie Yuri how she knew.”

 

“I can always tell your parents about this. You’ll be in loads of trouble,” Yuri said, his grin only widening. How would she get out of this one?

 

“How did Unkie Yuri know the guns were silenced?”

 

His smirk dropped. 

 

“If Unkie Yuri keeps quiet, so will Anya.”

 

“Hold on,” he started. “How do you know I didn’t just—hear it from someone?”

 

She shrugged. “It would still be suspishus. Everyone knows that the Secret Police rayded the Royal Hotel last night. Anya saw it in Papa's newspaper. People would want to know who in the Secret Police told Unkie Yuri super secret information.”

 

“It’s your word against mine,” he tried as a last ditch attempt. “Who would they believe, an adult or a child?”

 

“Hmm. Papa saw you bullying Anya earlier, and Mama knows you don’t like Papa and Anya. They’ll think Unkie Yuri is just being mean.”

 

“No way. My sister would choose me!” Yuri protested. Then he remembered what happened just earlier this evening—his dear sister had taken Lottie’s side and told him to be nicer. Would she really choose Yuri if it came down to it, especially with the odds stacked against him? 

 

Yuri’s jaw dropped. Had he, a rising star in the SSS, just been outwitted by a little girl? Lottie’s little girl, no less?

 

Chihuahua Girl flashed him that damned grin. “This is a moochally be-ni-fishal agreement. Don’t you think, Unkie Yuri?”

Chapter Text

Chihuahua Girl had that smug grin on her face during the entirety of dinner, leering at him and basking in triumph. Yuri could only grit his teeth and pretend to be unaffected. She wouldn’t be smiling for long. Sure, she had ensured his silence for now, but it was only a short term solution to a long term problem. Lottie’s spawn had made herself even more suspicious in his eyes with that little trick. 

 

Yuri was still boggled over how a small girl knew he was part of the SSS. Well, she hadn’t admitted to knowing outright, but she implied it. And if she was smart enough to try to gaslight and then blackmail him with the advantage she had, she was probably smart enough to realize he was Secret Police. Oh, how it pained him to admit that any child of Lottie’s could have more than a single brain cell! It left a bitter taste in his mouth that not even Lottie’s heavenly horrible cooking could wash away. 

 

But how did Chihuahua Girl know? Where had Yuri slipped up? To start, there was no way she figured it out on her own. They barely knew each other, so there simply weren’t enough encounters for him to leave any clues. He could count the number of times they talked on one hand, and as he parsed through each memory in his mind, Yuri could not for the life of him figure out what might have revealed him.

 

So if Chihuahua Girl didn’t figure him out alone, who told her? Well, the only people linked to both Yuri and Chihuahua Girl were her parents. Lottie was certainly devious enough to spill Yuri’s secret to his daughter for the sole purpose of making Yuri’s life miserable, but that was assuming Lottie figured him out in the first place. There was no way Yuri had been figured out by someone like Lottie. Besides, just like Chihuahua Girl, they hadn’t interacted enough for Yuri to slip up in front of him. 

 

That left his beloved sister. It was plausible for her to know his secret, since they spent so much time together. But… well. Yuri’s sister was as close to perfection as any human could get, but one of her few shortcomings was that she could be quite… naive at times. Yuri just didn’t believe she could have figured out his secret, and if she did, she was such a terrible liar (not that it was a bad thing! It was a sign of how honest and virtuous his darling sister was!) that she couldn’t have hidden her knowledge from him all this time. Unless, maybe that vile Lottie had taught his innocent sister how to lie with his slimy influence? Either way, Yuri knew his beloved sister would never tell anyone his secret, even if she did know—let alone a young girl who shouldn’t be exposed to the dark world of the SSS at that age.

 

But none of this made sense in the first place—the entire basis of the deal he had with Chihuahua Girl was on the premise that her parents knew nothing. She had felt threatened to blackmail him because her parents didn’t know she knew anything, and likewise, if they already knew Yuri was SSS, she wouldn’t have threatened to tell them his secret, unless it was a risky bluff.

 

For now, Yuri didn’t have any answers to his questions. He supposed he would have to put them aside for now and use his position as Secret Police to dig for more information if he wanted to find out more. It was clear that Chihuahua Girl wasn’t going to tell him anything on her own.

 

Dinner passed quickly. Yuri was too occupied by his thoughts to make any jabs at Lottie or Chihuahua Girl. He simply made small talk with the family while he ate the delicious revolting food. Soon after, Yuri was left alone with Lottie when his sister went with Chihuahua Girl to put her to bed. Yuri had a feeling she did that on purpose to make him get along with Lottie.

 

They washed dishes together in awkward silence for a few minutes before Yuri broke the quiet.

 

“Listen, Lottie.” He needed to clarify something with Lottie just in case he thought of painting Yuri as the villain.

 

“Yes?” Lottie asked, handing Yuri a plate to wipe down.

 

Yuri wiped down the plate thoroughly, leaving it with a pristine shine. He wanted Lottie to see it and be impressed. “About earlier, just so you know, I wasn’t bullying your daughter or anything. So uh…” He paused, swallowing down his pride. “Could you do me a favor and… not tell my sister?”

 

Lottie looked amused. “I wasn’t planning to. But to be honest, you making such a big deal out of this makes me wonder if there was something to it after all.”

 

That damn brat blackmailed me, so I can’t let Lottie know anything! Yuri thought. Had he put his foot in his mouth by bringing this up in the first place? Well, it was too late to take it back now. “Oh no, it’s not that! It’s just like you said earlier—I don’t want my sister to worry that we’re not getting along.”

 

Lottie paused scrubbing a glass and gave Yuri a meaningful look. “Are we getting along, Yuri?”

 

Yuri gave Lottie his good cop smile, good natured and well wishing. “Of course we are. I took my sister’s words to heart. I do want to get along with you and Ch-Anya.” Yuri needed to wash his mouth out with soap after this.

 

“As long as we’re getting along, Yuri, then Yor doesn’t need to know anything.”

 

Don’t cause trouble for Lottie and he won’t rat me out, Yuri understood. “That sounds perfectly reasonable.” He thought for a moment. “In fact, why don’t we go out for drinks sometime? Just you and me, brothers-in-law bonding,” he suggested. I’ll get Lottie plastered and make him spill his secrets. Then my sister will divorce him once he’s exposed as the snake he is!

 

Lottie dipped his head. “It would be my pleasure, Yuri.”

 


 

Yor called Shopkeeper the next day. She already had a short call with him the night of the trap to debrief him about what happened, but today they would discuss what to actually do about Twilight in more detail. Yor couldn’t help checking the phone for bugs before dialing Shopkeeper. She was relieved to find nothing.

 

“Good afternoon, Shopkeeper,” she greeted after he picked up.

 

“Hello, Thorn Princess. How can I help you?”

 

“I finally have the time to discuss Twilight in more detail with you,” Yor said.

 

“Excellent. Now, last time we spoke, you told me that Twilight never revealed his motives to you. Does this still stand true?” Shopkeeper asked.

 

“Yes. I haven’t spoken to Twilight since that night.”

 

Shopkeeper paused. “If you removed the bug, do you have another way to get in contact with him?”

 

Well, I was never really in contact with him. He just stalked me and showed up when he wanted to. “No. I’m hoping that he’ll approach me soon.”

 

“Except we have no idea when that could be?” Shopkeeper said.

 

Yor shook her head before remembering that he couldn’t see her. “No.”

 

“Well, I suppose we can only theorize about what Twilight wants with you, then. He and WISE, the organization he works for, may desire an alliance with Garden if he was trying so hard not to aggravate you.”

 

“If all he wanted was an alliance, he could have been much more forthcoming about who he was and what he wanted,” Yor pointed out.

 

“True. Perhaps he was trying to gather information on Garden and its assassins, not expecting to be caught.”

 

“That seems more plausible to me, Shopkeeper,” Yor agreed. 

 

“He does have a sort of truce with you right now, yes?” 

 

“Yes.”

 

“For now, play along and become his ally. This could give us valuable insight into WISE and their goals. Try to figure out his motives,” Shopkeeper said. “Another question—why did Twilight choose you, and not any other assassin?”

 

“I don’t know,” Yor said honestly. “Probably because my identity was exposed to him somehow.”

 

“Then, the concern arises that other people could know too.”

 

“I don’t know where I could have slipped up.” Yor started to pace around the room, worried about the possibility of other people knowing her secret too.

 

“Relax, Thorn Princess.” Shopkeeper sounded amused—he knew her well enough to guess how she was feeling. “Many of these are questions that Twilight can likely answer himself. Be sure to get an explanation from him the next time you see him.”

 

Yor hummed in assent. “I will.”

 

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

 

“No.”

 

“Good night, Thorn Princess."

 

“Good night, Shopkeeper.”

 

Yor sighed. She had a feeling that her next encounter with Twilight would give her more questions than answers. That seemed to be the trend with the elusive spy. 

 


 

The next day at work, Yuri was called to his boss’s office. It wasn’t a mystery what it was about; he’d been expecting this the whole day. Their raid on the Royal Hotel was still unresolved—who were those people? Why were they there? It wasn’t an absolutely pressing case, but the SSS was always thorough, meaning they would get to the bottom of this eventually.

 

“You called, sir?” Yuri asked, stepping inside and saluting respectfully.

 

“Hello, Yuri,” he greeted. “Take a seat.”

 

“I have some questions for you regarding our raid on the Royal Hotel,” he said once Yuri sat down.

 

“Yes, sir,” Yuri said dutifully.

 

“First of all, who tipped you off? We did a thorough search, and nobody else knew about anything happening at the Royal Hotel.”

 

Yuri smiled. There was nothing in his deal with Chihuahua Girl about telling the Secret Police. A major oversight on her part, not that he would have heeded it even if she added that constraint. “My niece did. She told me that she heard gunshots outside the Royal Hotel while sneaking out in the middle of the night.”

 

His boss frowned, obviously not believing it. “Yet no one else heard gunshots.”

 

Yuri folded his hands. “It was an obvious lie, so I confronted her about it. She wouldn’t tell me the real way she knew.” His brows furrowed in thought. “She also knew about my job in the SSS somehow, which she used to keep me from telling her parents. However, I can count the number of times I spoke with her on one hand. I didn’t slip up in front of her, so I can’t figure out how she knew. Someone must have told her if she didn’t piece it together herself, but who?”

 

“That is... most concerning, Yuri. How old is she, again?”

 

Yuri huffed. “Six.”

 

“You let a six-year-old get the best of you?” He was incredulous.

 

“Of course not.” Yuri narrowed his eyes. Like he’d let Chihuahua Girl defeat him in this battle of wits! “I think it’s possible she might have a connection to whoever those two were. That could be how she knew. By looking into her, we might find some clues.” Yuri stroked his chin thoughtfully. “My sister is the father’s second marriage. Looking into their past might be helpful, too.” Okay, maybe Yuri was being spiteful and directing the investigation toward Lottie. But he did think it was a good place to look.

 

His boss nodded. “The best course of action is to investigate your niece. She might lead us to those two we saw at the Royal Hotel.”

 

“Oh, what about the man we saw? The one who was running around with his face exposed? Why hasn’t he been arrested and questioned yet?” Yuri asked, remembering the most obvious lead they had. He’d been so preoccupied with Chihuahua Girl that he forgot all about it.

 

His boss shook his head. “Our first course of action was naturally to find someone with his face. But that man was a Westalian spy that we discovered and eliminated a few years ago.”

 

“What? So he survived?”

 

“No, we had proof of his death when we neutralized him. Unless he faked his death extremely convincingly, it seems another spy has taken up his face as a disguise.”

 

Yuri tensed. If that man really was a spy, then this case had just bumped up a few spots on their priority list.

 

His mind couldn’t help but race with theories about what was going on here. Yuri felt drawn to one particular theory: that Lottie had been the spy, so he saw Yuri at the raid and told his daughter because he was such a sly, devious rat!

 

“Sir,” Yuri said excitedly. “May I please take the lead in this case?”

 

His boss peered at him skeptically. “Are you sure? I think it would be wise to remove you from this case, actually, seeing as it concerns your family. You may not be pleased by where the investigation leads.”

 

Yuri shook his head. He did feel a bit worried that this case was so close to his family—not that he would ever care about Lottie and Chihuahua Girl—but he was sure his dear sister was innocent, so no harm would be brought to her. “To be honest, I’ve always had a bad feeling about my brother-in-law. I would greatly value the chance to look further into him. I don’t want him hurting my sister.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “Fine. But if I find your judgment to be impaired at any point in this case, I will remove you immediately.”

 

Yuri grinned. He was going to uncover Lottie and Chihuahua Girl’s secrets! “I wouldn’t ask for anything else.”

 

You better watch out, Lottie. I’m coming for you.

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since Yuri’s visit, and Twilight decided that it was time for Yor to join him on a mission. Tomorrow would be a stressful night, and he wouldn’t mind Yor’s backup on it. It involved the same crime organization as before when he dealt with the informant and attempted blackmail of a politician. They were trying to transport weapons across the border to Westalis, and the transport group would pass through the Berlint area tomorrow. Twilight’s job was to intercept them and confiscate the weapons. He could do it alone, but he might as well ask Yor to come along, if she was willing. With her incredible combat skills, he wouldn’t have to worry about a sneak attack or any other unpleasant surprises.

 

Twilight strolled along the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets, posing as any normal citizen. He wore another generic mask different from the night of the SSS raid. The agents had probably seen his face during the chase, so he couldn’t risk using that disguise anymore.

 

Yor was walking a few feet in front of him. She had gone grocery shopping on her day off while Anya was at school and Loid was at work. Twilight sped up his gait until he was beside her.

 

“Hello, Thorn Princess,” he said quietly.

 

Yor’s head jerked up. “Excuse me?”

 

He smiled placatingly. “Don’t worry, no one else discovered your identity. It’s me, Twilight.”

 

She kept walking normally and ducked into an alley when no one was watching. Twilight followed.

 

“Tell me something only Twilight would know,” Yor demanded. Good. She doesn’t believe me immediately, Twilight thought in approval.

 

“You discovered that your brother, Yuri Briar, is a member of the Secret Police around a week ago when you set a trap for me and almost unmasked me. The only thing that stopped you from doing so was an untimely—or, from my perspective, a timely—raid from the Secret Police.” Admittedly, Twilight was still on high alert around Yor. Aside from it being basic protocol as a spy, she could easily choose to rip off his mask at any time, and he wouldn’t be able to stop her. He wondered why she didn’t. A sense of honor? Respect for their uneasy truce? 

 

She nodded. “Okay. What do you want?”

 

“I want you to join me on a mission,” Twilight said. 

 

She arched an eyebrow. “And why would I do that?”

 

“You get to help society,” Twilight responded. “My mission deals with illegal arms transport and organized crime. If I fail, it could hurt both Ostania and Westalis. Does that interest you?”

 

Yor narrowed her eyes. “And what makes you think I care about the wellbeing of people I don’t know?”

 

Because I live with you, and I know what kind of person you are. “Just a hunch. Besides, if that doesn’t appeal to you, think of the chance you’ll have to learn more about my motives. A few hours of one-on-one time with me, chalk full of opportunities to converse with me.”

 

Yor stepped closer. A dark glint entered her eyes. “Twilight, I’m sure you know that if I so desired, I could beat you senseless right now, drag you to Garden headquarters, and torture you for information—and if you didn’t talk, I would kill you. You wouldn’t be able to stop me. We both know how a fight between us would end.”

 

Twilight forced himself not to step back reflexively. “Then why don’t you?” he challenged, looking her straight in the eye.

 

She sighed, and that violent look left her gaze. She closed her eyes and stepped back, giving him space to breathe again. “For the same reason you thought I’d join the mission for the sake of helping others, I suppose. It just wouldn’t feel right.”

 

Twilight didn’t know what he should say in the face of such honesty from someone who should be on guard around him. Loid would compliment his wife for her strong morals, but he wasn’t Loid right now. It wasn’t Twilight’s place to say something like that. So instead, he settled with straightforward professionalism. “Does that mean you’ll join me on the mission?”

 

Yor sighed. “I suppose so.”

 

He nodded coolly. “Good to hear. Meet me tomorrow night at 10 PM. What location would be suitable for you?”

 

“How about in this alley?” 

 

“Alright. I’ll see you then, Thorn Princess.”

 

“Likewise, Twilight.”

 

He brushed past her and left the alley. Twilight felt her gaze on him, but he didn’t look back.

 


 

Yuri was excited. Tonight he was going to meet with someone. And for once, it wasn’t his dear sister. It was Lottie!

 

Ew, that came out wrong. He wasn’t excited because he wanted to see that dastardly Lottie. He was excited because of what he would do to Lottie.

 

No, that sounded even worse! Yuri was going to get Lottie drunk. No—not for… that! Yuri felt his face heat up—with righteous fury, not embarrassment! He was going to get Lottie plastered in order to pry his secrets out, not anything else. After some investigation into what Lottie was doing the night of the raid, Yuri was horrified to learn that Lottie had a solid alibi—he was seen dealing with a work emergency at the same time the raid happened. Lottie and his stupid respectable profession as a psychiatrist! Hmph. You won’t fool me.

 

Even worse, it turned out that Yuri’s beloved sister was the one without a strong alibi. There was no evidence of where she was that night. Chihuahua Girl said that his sister was also out of the house, but she hadn't been seen anywhere. But Yuri wouldn’t get discouraged. Even if his sister was the more suspicious looking of the two at the moment, he knew that it was Lottie in the wrong here, and he would prove it tonight!

 

Yuri entered the bar, gritting his teeth when he saw that Lottie was already there, sitting at a table with his back to Yuri. He had wanted to arrive first and make Lottie feel bad for making him wait. Well, maybe he could still embarrass Lottie by sneaking up on him. Tapping into his prowess as a Secret Police agent, Yuri glided across the floor with feather-light steps. 

 

Just when he was about to speak up and scare the living daylights out of Lottie, the blond snake spoke without even turning around: “Good evening, Yuri.”

 

Yuri did not jump in surprise. “Hello Lottie,” he did not squeak, taking a seat across from Lottie. He was the definition of smooth and suave.

 

“How was your day?” Lottie asked, pretending to be a gentleman. Yuri hated the genuine compassion on his face. It was so fake!

 

“Good,” Yuri replied as they ordered drinks. “Uneventful. What about you? Are your patients well?”

 

“They’re doing fine, and so am I.”

 

Yuri leaned forward intently. “I heard you had to deal with an incident a week ago or so.”

 

Lottie tilted his head, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

 

“You know, in the middle of the night. Chi-your daughter told me when I visited. It was the same night as that SSS raid on that hotel or something, coincidentally.” Yuri wasn’t going to hold back—he would go straight for the kill. He didn’t care much for maintaining good relations with Lottie. If he was right, Lottie wouldn’t be in his life for much longer anyway. 

 

Lottie blinked, but his cadence didn’t seem to be thrown off at all. It was as if he was innocent. “Ah, yes. It was urgent, so I had to leave to help out one of my patients with a more serious condition. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more. I don’t want to breach patient confidentiality.” 

 

Yuri grunted. That hadn’t led anywhere.

 

“Why do you ask?” Lottie questioned. 

 

Yuri smiled, rubbing the back of his head as if he felt shy. “Well, to be honest, I don’t know much about what a psychiatrist actually does. I was just curious about what it’s like.”

 

Lottie gave him a friendly smile. “It’s mostly individual appointments. I meet with patients, assess them, and develop treatment plans for them.” 

 

“I see.” Their drinks arrived. Yuri grinned. It was time to set the second part of his plan into motion.

 

“Say, Lottie, how about we see who can handle their alcohol better?” Yuri suggested playfully.

 

Lottie hummed thoughtfully. “A friendly competition?”

 

“Yes. Unless, of course, you’re too scared,” Yuri goaded. Lottie couldn’t refuse without losing face.

 

“I don’t see why not,” Lottie said.

 

Yuri smirked. It was all coming together. A weakling like Lottie was surely a lightweight. Just a few drinks and he would be wasted, and Yuri could wheedle his secrets out. That vile fool wouldn’t know what hit him!

 


 

It was the first time in Twilight’s career that he was genuinely, utterly, wholly stumped. He couldn’t figure out, no matter how much he racked his brain, what made Yuri think his plan would work. Loid deadpanned at the sight of his brother-in-law slumped over in his seat, a dark red blush on his face as he mumbled nonsense. 

 

To be fair, Yuri couldn’t have known about his extremely high alcohol tolerance, but even so, the Briars were more sensitive to alcohol than most. Of all the routes he could have taken, why did Yuri choose this one? Had he vastly overestimated his own ability to handle alcohol while also underestimating Loid’s?

 

Since the moment Yuri asked him to go for drinks, Twilight had suspected Yuri intended to loosen his mouth with alcohol. But he hadn’t quite believed it until now because there was no way that was actually his plan, right? Twilight wanted to cry. Wasn’t Yuri the rising star of the Secret Police or something? The boss’s pride and joy?

 

“Lottie…” Yuri mumbled sluggishly.

 

“Hm?” Loid said indulgently, completely unaffected by the drinks he had. 

 

“How’re you so… good… cheating or som’th’?”

 

Loid laughed—not mockingly, but simply in amusement. “No. It seems I’m the victor of our competition, though.”

 

Yuri frowned.

 

“Er, it was very close, though.” No it wasn’t. “Another sip and I would be the one in your position right now.” Sure.

 

That seemed to placate Yuri, who grinned smugly. Wow, he must be really drunk if he doesn’t notice what a blatant lie that is, Loid marveled.

 

Loid stood up. “Well, it’s time to get you home,” he said, helping Yuri stand and supporting his weight. “Let’s go, Yuri.”

 

After paying and leaving, Loid began the long walk to Yuri’s home. The cold air seemed to wake Yuri up a bit, who started using his feet to help Loid support him instead of hanging off his shoulder like a sloth. 

 

Suddenly, Yuri slammed Loid against the wall of a building. Well, that was what Yuri probably thought he did. In actuality, it was more like he nudged Loid weakly, who took a few steps back cooperatively until he was “cornered,” except there was still plenty of space for him to slip away. 

 

“Whatcha hiding, Lottie?” Yuri growled. The anger on his face reminded Loid of Yor back at the castle.

 

Loid frowned in confusion. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, Yuri.”

 

“You’re evil. Can’t fool me… hav’ you ex-excused.”

 

“Excused?”

 

“Exxxxxecuted…”

 

He knew Yuri was threatening to have him killed, but Loid still had to hold in laughter. “You’re drunk, Yuri. You don’t know what you’re saying,” he said gently, ever the caring brother-in-law.

 

“Noooo,” Yuri grumbled. “Hate you, Lottie. Vile… dastardly… devious...”

 

Loid coughed to disguise a stray snicker. “Okay, Yuri. Let’s go. Come on…”

 

Yuri tripped over nothing and face planted on the cement. Loid sighed, helping him stand up and supporting his weight again.

 

How does this ensure world peace again?

 


 

Yor approached the chosen alleyway. It was 10 PM sharp. She knew that Twilight probably didn’t have any malicious intentions since he could have killed her in her sleep days ago, but she was still on edge. Perhaps it was just the dark atmosphere—late night, meeting a man she didn’t know in a random alley, like some low life criminal.

 

A bizarre thought occurred to Yor. Am I technically cheating on Loid?

 

Her face erupted in a blush. No way, she wasn’t in a relationship with Loid in the first place! Their relationship was purely for show. Her feelings for him were completely pla… plat… why couldn’t she say it? 

 

That got her wondering—what would a real relationship with Loid be like? Probably a dream come true. Yor sighed. His first wife had been the luckiest woman on the planet.

 

Anyway. It was all an act. And Yor did not have feelings for Loid. She couldn’t, or it would ruin the precious dynamic their family had, and she didn’t want that to happen. The Forger family was the best thing to ever happen to Yor—it wasn’t even close. And she would not risk it for anything.

 

Shaking her thoughts of Loid out of her head, Yor donned the persona of Thorn Princess and stepped into the alley. Twilight was leaning against the wall, wearing the same mask as before to make it easier to recognize him. 

 

He lifted his head. “Thorn Princess. Glad to see you. Are you ready?”

 

Yor nodded firmly. “Of course.”

 

Twilight pushed off the wall and stood in front of her. “Let’s go steal some weapons.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, before I forget. Here, wear this,” Twilight said, handing Yor a mask he made for her. 

 

“Huh?” she asked. “Why do I need one?”

 

“So that no one sees your face?” he replied, confused.

 

Yor tilted her head cutely. “But I usually just kill everyone who sees my face.”

 

Twilight sighed. Right, she was an assassin first and foremost. She never had to disguise herself because she killed any and all witnesses. “Because my job is to prevent deaths, not cause them. I always minimize casualties, and if you’re on a mission with me, you should too.”

 

She frowned. “Even if they’re the worst kind of people out there?”

 

Twilight was taken aback. “These guys are criminals, but I don’t think they should die for their crimes. But if you mean in general… yes, usually. Killing is not my job. I’m doing this because I’m trying to save people, not kill them. That’s reserved for—well, for assassins like you.” Usually and not always, because there are a few cases I can think of where I’d be willing to make exceptions… like if someone hurt my family.

 

Yor went quiet. After a few moments, she took the mask from him. “Okay.”

 

“Thank you.” She looked… sad? Regretful? Guilty, even? Twilight wondered what he said that upset her, wishing he could take it back. Maybe he sounded too harsh when he spoke? He didn’t want Yor to think he saw her as a bad person for being an assassin. Actually, he respected assassins for doing the dirty work that spies like him didn’t. Sometimes, killing really was the only option.

 

“Um… how do I put this on?” she asked, staring at the false face.

 

“Ah. Here, let me help you.” He took the mask from her hands and stepped closer to her, reaching for her face slowly so he wouldn’t startle her. “It can be a bit difficult the first few times.”

 

Twilight fitted the mask on her, acutely aware of his fingers brushing her cheeks as he did so. She sucked in a breath and stepped back as soon as he was finished.

 

“Sorry,” he said awkwardly. 

 

“It’s okay.” He couldn’t see her true face, but he imagined her cheeks were probably tinted red. “I’m just… not used to physical contact.”

 

“I see.” There was a pause. “We should probably get going now,” Twilight said, trying not to think about how soft her skin was. “According to my intel, a group from farther up north is passing on the weapons to members of the local branch of crime at a bar in the shadiest part of Berlint. I know the address.”

 

“Let’s go,” Yor said. Twilight took a moment to admire the calm determination in her eyes. She’s so elegant and poised when she’s Thorn Princess. A different person, but still Yor, because those are all qualities that also exist in her civilian self. He couldn’t help the fascination he felt. He wanted to know this side of her better.

 

They arrived at the bar and sat at the counter. Twilight ordered drinks for the both of them, not that he was planning to let Yor drink. It was just for show so that they wouldn’t raise suspicion.

 

He scanned the bar discreetly, looking for the ones who might be receiving the weapons today. But no one stood out, and none of the conversations he eavesdropped on revealed anything either.

 

Twilight took a few sips of his drink. Yor fidgeted on the stool next to his, her drink untouched. She’s standing out too much, he thought, seeing the bartender shoot her some strange looks. He needed to act, or their cover would be blown before the mission really began. He closed his eyes and opened them again. I can’t believe I’m about to do this.

 

“Come on, baby,” Twilight spoke up, grinning crookedly at Yor. He was just loud enough that the bartender could hear them, but quiet enough that it seemed like he was trying to be intimate. “Don’t be shy to drink around me. Let’s have some fun tonight.”

 

Yor went rigid. “Wh-what?” she squeaked. Her hands twitched as if she was resisting a reflex. Knowing Yor, her first instinct was probably to punch me for talking to her like that, Twilight thought, cringing.

 

“Don’t you want this, babe?” Sure, I’ve had to play a role like this before for the job, but doing this with Yor just feels plain wrong. Twilight shot her a meaningful look and glanced at the bartender surreptitiously, hoping she would realize.

 

A flurry of emotions flickered over her features before settling on understanding. “Sorry… this is all so new to me…” Yor murmured, fiddling with her thumbs and acting every part the naive young woman, in over her head in a situation she didn't fully understand.

 

The bartender turned away dismissively. Twilight breathed out in relief.

 

The door opened. A man entered the bar, having left a larger group of people waiting outside the bar. They carried three briefcases. Immediately, another group that was already inside stood up and met with the others outside. 

 

Twilight waited a minute. “I’ve had enough here. Let’s go, baby,” he said, maintaining the persona he crafted.

 

“Okay.” Yor stood up and smoothed out her dress as if she felt self conscious. She followed him out the door.

 

The two groups had merged into one and were walking away from the building. One of them glanced back, hearing Twilight and Yor leave the bar.

 

“Come with me to my place,” he said, letting them hear him.

 

“Think we’ll make it there in time?” Yor asked coyly. 

 

Twilight almost choked on his saliva. What was this sudden personality change? Why did it send a thrill racing through his body? Too flustered for an actual response, he settled for a chuckle. By now, the targets were out of earshot anyway.

 

He waited until they rounded a corner to finally speak. “Those are our people, as I’m sure you already noticed. Let’s tail them.”

 

“On it.”

 


 

Yor was glad for the mask covering her face. She was sure she was a deep shade of red right now. Had that little bit at the end been too much? Twilight had seemed surprised. But at the same time, she felt satisfaction that she threw him off like that. He probably wasn’t expecting that from her. And something about making him nervous like that was… exciting. Similar to the electric thrill she felt when she was going in for the kill on a client.

 

Yor crept along the shadows with Twilight beside her. They followed the group for a few blocks until they stopped and looked around. Twilight and Yor stilled. 

 

“No one’s here,” one of them said. “Hand them over.”

 

“What have you got?” another asked.

 

“A shit ton of weapons, that’s what. The kinda stuff that only those Secret Police fuckers get to use. They’re real toys.”

 

A snort. “No shit.”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

“Make sure you get them to the next group safely,” the man they saw earlier reminded sternly. He seemed to be the leader among the group.

 

One of them laughed. Yor decided she didn’t like how it sounded—Loid and Anya’s laughs were much more pleasant. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Say, would the next group over notice if one or two goodies went missing?”

 

“We’ve heard enough,” Twilight murmured in her ear. Yor was surprised by his closeness, but not displeased.

 

“Cleanup?” she suggested.

 

“After you.”

 

She smirked, and he returned the look.

 

Darting out of their hiding place, Yor was on top of them before they even saw her. She was about to pull out a golden needle and stab one of them in the back, but Twilight’s words flashed through her mind. I’m doing this because I’m trying to save people, not kill them. An honorable mindset, and one that Yor would respect while she was on a mission with him. She knocked her victim out instead.

 

Twilight was quick to follow, striking another on the back of the head as they charged at Yor.

 

“Shit!” she heard them shout.

 

“It’s that couple that we saw earlier!”

 

“What’s with this chick?” One of them gasped as Yor weaved between them like a snake, taking out four of them in the blink of an eye. 

 

Yor locked eyes with the leader and closed the ground before he could try to dodge, delivering a kick that sent him flying a few feet instead of a dozen as usual. 

 

“B-boss!”

 

“What the hell?”

 

On her right, Twilight took down another two, covering an opening she inadvertently made. The ones remaining finally reacted, pulling out knives of varying lengths, chains, and even their own fists. No guns. That makes this easier, Yor thought. 

 

Yor sidestepped the glint of a knife in the moonlight, grabbing her attacker’s arm and twisting it until he dropped it with a cry of pain. Then, she shoved him in the way of a chain whistling toward her face, forcing him to take the hit instead. Twilight knocked out the one with the chain from behind.

 

Yor made eye contact with him and nodded.

 

“Ah, one moment—” he said mildly, grabbing the chain from the unconscious person in his arms and dropping them to the ground. He whipped it gracefully around the arm of someone sneaking up behind him, yanking them forward and punching them cleanly. They fell to the ground.

 

Yor’s lips curved into a small smile. “Nice one.” 

 

He let out an amused huff. “I try.”

 

They made quick work of the remaining few. Neither Yor nor Twilight had even a scratch on them. Yor couldn’t help marveling at how perfectly in sync they were. They were both aware of each other’s moves during the entire fight, working around each other accordingly and covering each other’s weaknesses. It was almost like a dance that only they knew the choreography of, hypnotic and mesmerizing.

 

“Now for the weapons.” Twilight walked over to the fallen briefcases and opened them, inspecting the contents to make sure they had what they came for. “Mind helping me carry them?” he asked after closing the cases and picking up two of them.

 

“Sure. I’ll cover us, too, in case someone attacks us,” Yor replied. She picked up the last briefcase.

 

“Excellent, thank you.”

 

“No problem.”

 

They walked in silence for a few minutes until they reached a van parked along a small street.

 

“We’re here,” Twilight said.

 

Yor watched two people get out of the car. “Are they picking up the weapons?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“What are you going to do with them?” she asked suspiciously.

 

“We’re going to make sure they stay out of the wrong hands,” Twilight said simply.

 

Yor narrowed her eyes. Despite their astounding teamwork, she wasn’t going to trust him that easily. “Your organization is going to keep them,” she accused.

 

Twilight stopped and looked at her. “They’ll serve far better purposes with us than with them.” He loaded the first two briefcases into the trunk and reached for the last one. Yor made no move to hand it over.


He sighed. “Come on. I give you my word we’re not going to do anything sinister with them.”

 

Yor raised a brow skeptically. “You give me your word? That doesn’t mean much when lying is part of your job description.”

 

The two spectators stepped forward. “Twilight—” one of them began.

 

“No, it’s fine,” he sighed, waving them off. “Look, if you give me the briefcase, I’ll answer some questions for you. Deal?”

 

Yor considered. She had no guarantee that he would answer her questions honestly, but she would take it. Something was better than nothing. Shopkeeper had ordered her to ask him for answers the next time she saw him, after all. And, truthfully, Twilight didn’t seem like he was going to misuse the weapons.

 

She handed the briefcase over. “Deal.”

 


 

Twilight stared straight ahead, seated on a bench next to Yor. A sliver of a pearly moon shone above them, washing them in pale light as the sole witness to their deeds. “I’ll only answer a few questions, and then I need to leave,” he said.

 

“That’s fine with me. I need to get home too.” 

 

Yes, and I need to get home before you, Twilight thought. Fortunately for him, he had the layout of Berlint memorized, so he knew the quickest route and could probably return home earlier than Yor.

 

“Okay, my first question.” Yor hummed thoughtfully. “What are your motives? Why are you trying to ally yourself with me?”

 

“Because Garden could be a valuable ally for WISE,” Twilight said easily. It wasn’t really a lie, either. It was just a partial truth. “We’re always looking for ways to make our jobs easier. Garden wants the same thing we do: to maintain order and peace by whatever means necessary. We just take different approaches. Imagine combining our respective skills—we got a taste of what that’s like today. The information of a spy with the sheer talent of an assassin. We could protect the peace on an unprecedented level.”

 

Yor frowned. “You could have approached me at the start if that was all you wanted, and I think you know that.”

 

He smiled apologetically. “That’s all I can really say, unfortunately. Consider me looking out for you as an extension of goodwill.”

 

“There are other reasons you won’t give me,” Yor stated.

 

Twilight nodded. “There are. Just know that I’d like to ensure your wellbeing.”

 

She sighed. “Okay, next question then. Why did you approach me and not any of Garden’s other assassins?”

 

“Because I found out your identity and not theirs.”

 

“How? And does anyone else know?”

 

“No one else knows,” he assured her. Well, technically all of WISE knew, but Twilight wasn’t going to say that. Yor was smart enough to know that was a given, anyway.

 

“And how did you find out?” she pressed. “I need to know where I slipped up.”

 

“It was just happenstance,” Twilight lied. “You don’t know this, but our missions intersected one time. You were assassinating a corrupt politician and I was there to steal some documents. I saw you and immediately recognized your signature weapons.”

 

Yor sagged in relief. “So it wasn’t because I left any clues? It was just a coincidence?”

 

“Yes.” No. You left clues, and that was how I figured you out in the first place. But I can’t tell you that, because then you would know that I’m close to you in your civilian life. “You need to work on your acting skills, though,” Twilight added. “Based on what I’ve observed of you, if you encountered a spy or someone like that in your civilian life, they might realize you’re hiding something. You’ve gotten this far because you’re lucky, but you can’t always rely on that.” He didn’t like pointing it out, but it was fact. Better she learn it now from an ally than have it shoved in her face by an enemy when it was too late to change anything.

 

Yor blanched. “Okay.”

 

“Are we done now?” Twilight asked.

 

She pondered for a moment and then nodded. “My most pressing questions have been addressed. I guess I’m done for now, but I’ll probably have more questions later.”

 

Twilight stood up. “We’ll see.”

 

“Actually, one more thing—how do I contact you if I need to?”

 

“Contact me?” he repeated, bemused. 

 

“Yeah. Just in case.” Yor looked embarrassed.

 

Twilight considered for a moment. “You don’t. It’s too dangerous. I don’t want anyone tracing it to me.”

 

“Then how will we communicate?” she protested.

 

“I’ll come visit you.”

 

“How do you plan to do that?”

 

“How about this? Every Saturday at midnight, we meet up right here on this bench. It’s not that far from your home, am I correct? And if it’s something urgent, I’ll just approach you while in disguise or knock on your window. I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.”

 

“What?”

 

Twilight blinked. “Sorry. Is that too forward?”

 

Yor spluttered. “Aside from that, how would you know if it’s urgent?”

 

He smiled. “I’ll know.”

 

She gazed at him warily. “Right. Spy things. Because you’re still spying on me somehow, aren’t you?”

 

“I am sorry, for what it’s worth,” Twilight said. Was it technically spying if it was his home too? 

 

Yor sniffed. “Well… you don’t seem like a creep… so I guess I’ll let it slide for now.” Her face darkened. “But if you invade my family’s privacy…”

 

Twilight waved his hands. “I’m not going to do anything weird!”

 

She crossed her arms. “Okay.”

 

They stood in silence for a few seconds. Twilight coughed. “Anyway, I’ll be going now…?”

 

“Huh? Oh, yes.” Yor smiled. “All things aside, it was a pleasure to work with you, Twilight. It’s nice to have a partner who knows their way around a fight once in a while.”

 

Twilight returned the smile and ignored how it made his heart race. “Likewise.” He walked off, raising his hand as a last goodbye. “Until next time, Thorn Princess.”

 

“See you.”

 

Mission success.

Chapter Text

Yor expected sleep to claim her quickly after the excitement of the mission, but she lay in bed for half an hour staring at the ceiling and listening to the clock tick away. She turned to face the opposite wall in her bed, adjusting the sheets in frustration. Why couldn’t she sleep? 

 

She couldn’t stop replaying the mission in her head. One part in particular lingered in her mind now that she was no longer caught up in the action. I’m doing this because I’m trying to save people, not kill them. They may be criminals, but they don’t deserve to die for their crimes. Twilight’s words kept echoing in her mind.

 

Yor sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Was that what this was about? She turned so she was sitting on the edge of her bed, her feet resting on the floor. This wasn’t the first time she had late night thoughts about her killing. It always came back to her once in a while as she was hit with the heavy weight of her job—to take lives. But Yor hadn’t thought about that in years. She thought she finally came to terms with it.

 

Yor never regretted becoming an assassin, and she still didn’t. She did it to ensure a brighter future for Yuri, a carefree existence where no troubles could touch him. More recently, that scope expanded to Loid and Anya. Yor wanted them to live in a safe and happy world. No matter what happened to her, making the world a better place for her family to live in would always come first.

 

But… didn’t those people she killed deserve a chance at a happy life too? Some of them were absolute scum of the earth, and Yor never thought twice about killing them—she still didn’t. But some… some were simply people trying to get by, just like her. People who, just like her, had people to come home to, and maybe even people they were fighting for. People who would miss them. Families just like her own that were torn apart because of her.

 

Yor would have killed those thugs if it weren’t for Twilight. They didn’t deserve death for their crimes, and they never signed up for a life of kill or be killed like Yor did. Was Yor a bad person for being so ready to kill them? When had she become so desensitized to life that she would kill anyone without a second thought?

 

She wiped her palms on the hem of her nightgown, feeling her hands become clammy. How many times had she thought about killing civilians for no purpose other than making her life easier? When she imagined killing some poor child’s father to secure Anya a place in Eden, when she considered killing Loid’s wife back at their first meeting… 

 

What would Loid think if he knew this side of me?

 

Yor let out a hefty sigh. On the thought of Loid, she decided she would try her luck and see if he was still awake. She wasn’t going to fall asleep any time soon, and she didn’t want to be alone with her thoughts any longer. Loid had a comforting aura that always put her at ease when he was around, and he had such a way with words that he could be an unmatched politician or diplomat if he wished. Yes, Yor wanted to see Loid right now. He was exactly what she needed.

 

Stepping into the hall, Yor could see under the crack of his door that Loid’s lights were indeed on. She shook her head fondly. He’s always working so hard—too hard—doing so much for this family on top of his demanding job. Loid was incredible.

 

Yor knocked on his door. She heard some shuffling inside as he approached the door and opened it with a click.

 

He blinked owlishly at her, taking a moment to register her presence. “Yor,” Loid said warmly. His normally sharp sky blue eyes were just a bit softer with sleep. His blond hair, usually styled immaculately, had taken on a fluffy and unruly look that had Yor torn between the choice of smoothing it into place or messing it up even more. With his simple white shirt that tightened in just the right places and a pair of casual black pants that hung low on his hips, Loid looked so soft and unassuming, so domestic and homely—and so unfairly handsome.

 

Yor’s throat felt dry.

 

Loid stepped aside. “Come in.” There was a small blush on his face. Yor dared to hope that the sight of her dressed in her nightgown could be the reason. 

 

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Yor said shyly. “I just couldn’t sleep, and I thought you might still be awake. I don’t know, I just wanted to see you. You don’t really need to entertain me or anything… I just thought I’d feel better if you were”—Yor blushed—“near me.”

 

“O-oh. Well, you’re welcome to keep me company, then.” Loid settled on his chair and picked up a book, gesturing to Yor to take a seat on his bed.

 

Yor tilted her head curiously. “A cookbook? But you’re already so good at cooking.”

 

He smiled. “Remember when we went to that Hugarian restaurant with Anya? Since she enjoyed the food so much, I thought I might learn how to cook some Hugarian dishes for her.”

 

That warm feeling was back, the one Yor always felt in her chest whenever Loid was around. “You’re such a good father to Anya.” 

 

Loid looked away bashfully. “Well, I’m doing the best I can for her. And I couldn’t do all this without you, Yor.”

 

“You flatter me too much. You did it for a long time without me,” she said.

 

Loid shook his head modestly. “I just barely managed during that time. But since we met you, Anya has been so happy. And so have I.”

 

“Loid…” Yor whispered, feeling warmth rise to her cheeks. “It’s the Forger family that made me happy.”

 

“And you’re a part of the Forger family too.”

 

She sucked in a breath. How did he always know what to say? With a simple sentence, stated so matter-of-factly that it felt indisputable, he laid her insecurities about not belonging with the Forgers to rest. Yor was sure it would gnaw at her mind again later, but if he kept telling her these beautiful lies, one day she might just believe him.

 

Loid is too kind. Yor thought back to his innocent, unassuming appearance. His gentle cornflower eyes, so happy to see her. She imagined how that soft look on his face would twist into fear and horror if he knew what she’d done. What she would continue to do. I don’t want to lose this.

 

“Yor,” Loid said softly, seeming to pick up on her distress. “You don’t ever have to put up a front around me. You know that, right?”

 

Oh, Loid… Yor smiled at him shakily. “Yes.”

 

He moved so that he was sitting next to her on his bed. Their legs were close, almost touching, but not quite. Loid didn’t speak, sensing something was wrong but letting Yor gather her thoughts. He’s so patient with me, even when I’m nothing but a hindrance…

 

She took a deep breath. “Have you ever done something all your life without thinking twice about it, only to step back and just… wonder if you were wrong all this time?”

 

“...Yes.”

 

“How—how do you cope with that?” Yor’s voice wobbled against her volition. “I don’t regret it. I don’t think I ever will. But I still feel bad. Does that make sense? How can you feel no regret and still be guilty?”

 

“In this world,” Loid said slowly, “we can only do what we think is best. Whether we’re right or wrong… I don’t know. We’re all just doing what we can. Sometimes, you do find out you were wrong all along. And it shakes your world.”

 

“What… what happened?” Yor was overstepping. She shouldn’t ask this, not when she wasn’t willing to share her own troubles beyond vague terms. But she craved to know more about her husband, and she couldn’t help but pounce at this scrap of him that he was offering—a small window into the fascinating mystery that was Loid Forger.

 

Loid was quiet. 

 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked—”

 

“I served as a soldier during the war.” His gaze was transfixed on the wall, eyes hazy with distant memories. “For the longest time, I fought mindlessly, just following orders. I didn’t consider the enemies people. I believed what everyone around me said and assumed they were all monsters. Maybe, deep down, I knew that was wrong, but it made things so much simpler to… well… to not think at all.” Loid looked down at his lap. “Then I met a soldier from the opposite side. He was a deserter caught in a pathetic state of existence. He was trying to get away from the horrors of war, and I don’t blame him for it. He cracked a joke just as I was about to finish him.” Loid smiled wistfully at the memory. “Well, I don’t think he intended it to be a joke. But anyway—he was human. So painfully human that I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. And then, I don’t know—suddenly all of the enemies were human. I didn’t want to kill without meaning anymore. I hated that I killed so many people without thinking twice, never once asking why. For a while, I couldn’t get over it. The guilt ate me up every second of the day.”

 

“How did you move on?” Yor asked, hanging on to every word.

 

“I didn’t magically forgive myself. I’ll always feel some regret for those lives I took. It eventually faded to the back of my mind, but it occasionally gets dredged up.” Loid closed his eyes. “But what can you do? All any of us can really do is vow to be better in the future. We have no choice but to just live with ourselves, through the good and the bad. We’re doing the best we can with what life has given us, and that’s all anyone can really ask for, isn’t it?” He opened his eyes and looked at her. “Improve yourself and the world around you, and that is one thing you will never regret.”

 

He’s right, Yor realized. Though she could not—and should not—forget her past actions, there was nothing she could do about them either. But to look to the future and do better—that was something she could do. 

 

Yor dared to scoot closer to Loid so that their knees were touching. Eyes wide and cheeks pink, he looked at her in wonder.

 

“Loid.” Yor gave him a radiant smile that she hoped expressed her gratitude more than her words ever could. “Thank you. For everything.”

 

“Yor…” The surprise on his face eased into a soft smile, and he reached out to lace their fingers together delicately. “For you, always.”

 


 

Anya Forger. Birth certificate, enrollment into Eden Academy, etc., etc.—the basic documents. Lottie’s first wife, Emilia Forger. Looking at the pictures of her, it was clear that Chihuahua Girl took after her mother. Yuri had always puzzled over how little resemblance she bore to her father. 

 

Yuri sighed. There was nothing off about this. Lottie really was telling the truth. It was petty, but Yuri was hoping to find something to give his sister a reason to divorce Lottie. Maybe I just didn’t look close enough, Yuri thought. These documents look so genuine, but somehow they feel off…

 

The door opened and in walked his colleague, Julian. “Yuri, I found something about the kid.”

 

Yuri felt a jolt of excitement shoot through him. Would he find something after all? “What is it?” 

 

“Anya Forger is her name, right? Well, while I was looking through a list of Anyas in Berlint, I found an Anya Levski.” Julian placed a file on Yuri’s desk. 

 

“But that’s Anya Forger,” Yuri said. His eyes widened in realization. “Oh. That’s Anya Forger.”

 

Julian nodded solemnly. “I think we should pay a visit to the orphanage that Anya Levski is listed under and get some answers.”

 

“Wait, so did Lottie—er, Loid Forger—forge birth documents for his daughter?” Yuri wondered aloud. “But they look so realistic! How did he manage that?” 

 

Julian shrugged. “We’ll find out soon, I suppose.”

 

Yuri grabbed his coat and stuffed the file into his bag. “Let’s be off then.”

 

At the worst, this was a case of forgery—how ironic, his name is Forger—and Yuri could twist that to paint—no, expose—Lottie as the shady guy he was to his dear sister. And at the best—well. Yuri couldn’t help the enormous grin that spread on his face. 

 

At the best, Yuri might just catch himself a little spy.

Chapter Text

The orphanage turned out to be a subpar one. Not the worst orphanage in town, but no place for children. The child care seemed mediocre at best, and Yuri tried hard not to think about how he just as easily could have ended up in a place like this when he was younger. But he hadn’t and it was all thanks to his sister.

 

“What a horrible place,” Julian muttered.

 

Yuri nodded grimly. “Let’s get in and get out. I don’t want to be here any longer than necessary.” 

 

“E-excuse me, may I help you?” an employee asked. She looked nervous at the sight of two Secret Police officers in an orphanage.

 

Yuri gave her a friendly smile. “Yes. Where is the director of this orphanage? We have questions for them pertaining to an investigation.”

 

“I’ll take you to him right away,” she offered, leading them up to the director’s office. She knocked on the door. “Director? You have two visitors,” she spoke through the door.

 

Yuri heard a gruff voice reply. “You can’t handle it yourself?”

 

“Th-they’re Secret Police, Director. They said they have questions for you.”

 

The door swung open, revealing an old, balding man with glasses. His face looked pale. Does he know what this is about? But from his point of view, it’s just an adoption, right? No, Yuri was probably overthinking it. He was just nervous, just like this woman, because the Secret Police wanted to talk to him. It was a normal reaction.

 

Yuri and Julian let themselves in and shut the door. The director took a seat in his chair, and Yuri sat across from him. 

 

“Ya need a chair?” the director offered Julian.

 

“No, it’s quite alright,” Julian assured, leaning against the door. He met Yuri’s eye with a small nod. It was an intimidation tactic common among the SSS—the sight of someone pacing around and watching you like a hawk was a nerve wracking one.

 

“Thank you for making space for us in your busy schedule, Director,” Yuri said amiably, though he was clearly not busy. The office was a mess, papers scattered everywhere and even a few beer bottles littered here and there. It stank of cigarettes. What a pig.

 

He let out a noncommittal grunt. “S’no problem. What do you need?”

 

Yuri folded his hands in front of him and smiled pleasantly. It made him feel like a mastermind when he did that. “We’d like access to your records of a child named Anya Levski for an ongoing investigation.”

 

The director turned pale. Hm?

 

“Oh? Do you recognize the name?” Julian asked, intrigued.

 

He laughed nervously. “Rings a bell. That one was a real troublemaker.”

 

“Hmm. Well, the records?” Yuri prompted.

 

“I…” the director stammered.

 

“What’s wrong?” Something’s definitely up, Yuri thought.

 

“I lost those records,” he said, eyes roving anywhere but Yuri.

 

Fine. Yuri let the friendly cop persona bleed away, replaced by the stone cold SSS officer that lay beneath. “Do you take us for fools?” he asked calmly. “I know a liar when I see one. Now, I will say it one more time. Hand over your records on Anya Levski.”

 

“Okay, okay!” He slumped in his chair. “I… please don’t tell anyone I told you this.”

 

“What do you mean?” Julian inquired. 

 

“I was paid to get rid of my records on Anya Levski,” the director said in defeat. “And I did all I could, but I must have missed something somewhere if you’re here…”

 

“Who paid you to do it?” Yuri asked sharply. Lottie, probably.

 

“I dunno. A mysterious guy who wouldn’t show his face. He dumped a wad of money on my desk, more than I make in a year of work, and told me to erase Anya Levski’s existence.”

 

“So do you still have anything on her or not?” Julian asked.

 

“No. Burned everything I had.”

 

Julian hummed in displeasure, clearly mentally noting down the offense.

 

“We’ll have to conduct our own investigation to confirm that,” Yuri said. “But for now, can you recollect her appearance for us?”

 

“She had pink hair, I remember. And big green eyes.”

 

“Like this?” Yuri took out a photo of Chihuahua Girl.

 

The director nodded. “That’s her.”

 

Yuri and Julian exchanged a glance. Not to jump to conclusions until we perform a complete investigation here… but it seems quite likely that Chihuahua Girl is indeed adopted. And Lottie is trying to cover it up for some reason. Looks like I caught you in the act, Lottie. It’ll be over for you soon.

 

Yuri smirked. He was excited for where this was going.

 

“Thank you for your time, Director,” Yuri said, standing up. “We’ll send some officers over later to confirm everything you told us today.”

 

“Wait! You won’t tell anyone?” he asked desperately.

 

Yuri narrowed his eyes. “We will make no such promises.” He looked at Julian, who nodded. “But if you cooperate, we will do everything we can to keep your involvement anonymous.”

 

“You agree it was the father who paid the guy off, right?” Julian asked as they left the orphanage.

 

“Yeah. Lottie—er, Loid—tells everyone that his daughter is his blood. Since that’s an obvious lie and he knows it, it’s probable that it was him.” Yuri couldn’t help a subconscious grin.

 

Julian peered at him with a frown. “Why are you so thrilled to find dirt on your brother-in-law?”

 

“Make no mistake, I have no love for that snake,” Yuri hissed. Lottie was no brother-in-law of his! “He stole my sister from me and destroyed our family, and for that, I will never forgive him. This is only justice.” 

 

Julian looked worried. “But… this could tear your family apart, couldn’t it?”

 

“My only family is my sister, no one else.” Yuri glared at the ground, kicking a stray pebble. “Frankly, there’s nothing more exciting to me than the thought of getting her away from those criminals.” He grinned. And why wait when he could do it now? Tonight, he thought. Tonight, I put an end to this charade.

 


 

Anya woke up to the sound of shouting and yelling. Were Mama and Papa fighting or something? Oh no, did Mama find out Papa is a spy? she thought frantically.

 

She walked into the living room. “Mama? Papa? What’re you fighting about?” Anya stopped. “Unkie Yuri?” Why’s he here so soon after last time? What happened? 

 

Oh, good, the star of the show is here, Anya heard from her uncle.

 

“Well, Lottie?” Unkie Yuri turned to Papa, who was standing still, eyes wide and hands limp at his sides. Next to him, Mama’s brows were pinched and she looked a mix of confused, shocked, and worried.

 

Mama stepped forward. “Yuri—”

 

“No,” Unkie said. He grabbed Papa by the shirt collar and yanked him forward. Papa made no move to stop him. “Explain to me, Lottie,” he snarled. “Explain why you’ve told everyone, including my sister, the mother of your daughter, that Chihuahua Girl here is your daughter by blood, when my friends in city hall tell me she’s adopted.

 

“Wh-what?” Anya stepped back. How does he know, he must have investigated Anya, how could Anya be so stupid and think he would leave it alone—

 

Papa looked down. Anya couldn’t read his thoughts. They were moving faster than she ever heard before, so fast she couldn’t single out a word. Anya felt her head start to pound at the chaotic thoughts of everyone in the room.

 

“She’s…” Papa started.

 

“Yuri, that’s enough!” Has Loid been lying to me all this time? But why? No, either way, this is no way for the truth to come out! Mama thought.

 

Unkie Yuri released Papa’s collar and looked at Anya. “Okay, Chihuahua Girl. If your papa won’t talk, how about you tell me why he’s such a liar?”

 

Anya couldn’t think of a reply. There were too many thoughts in the room. Unkie Yuri’s sounded so mean and spiteful. It was hard to focus on what he was thinking—what anyone was thinking. But she was pretty sure if Unkie knew she was adopted, this was the beginning of everything crashing down. The house of cards will collapse on itself if even one card is slightly out of place. That was a phrase she heard from Papa’s mind before. Anya realized that was probably what was happening right now.

 

Anya squeezed her eyes shut. Mission compromised mission mission how to salvage got you now Lottie Sis Sis Loid what is happening Sis will divorce Anya Chihuahua Girl Anya Anya adopted spy mission Strix it’s over Lottie world peace how did he know Loid and Anya Anya crying secrets Anya Anya Anya Anya Anya Anya

 

Th-this was all her fault. She shouldn’t have tried to jump in on that mission. Shouldn’t have called Unkie Yuri. Even if Mama and Papa found out each other’s identities that night, it couldn’t be worse than this. Now, her uncle, a Secret Police officer, Papa’s worst enemy, was digging up their secrets. It wouldn’t be long until they knew Papa was a spy, if they didn’t already. And they were doing it in front of Mama, too. Mama might leave if she didn’t like the truth. Or even worse, Mama might be in danger too.

 

Strix need to come up with a lie Secret Police onto me could still run come up with a cover story how dare Yuri come in and do this to my family no I don’t feel bad for Lottie or Chihuahua Girl Anya is crying Anya is crying I hate seeing children cry how dare he make my daughter cry need to protect may be my brother but this is too far Yuri

 

All Anya’s fault… Her head throbbed. Will Anya be abandoned again because of this? Her heart lurched at the thought. No no anything but that please please anything but that don't leave me don't wanna go back to those scientists please please please let me stay

 

She's crying she's crying is Anya okay Yuri how could you my own brother maybe I was too cruel no I can't feel bad now

 

Forget that Twilight Anya is the priority

 

Warm arms wrapped around Anya. She buried her face in the soft fabric of Papa’s sweater. “Anya,” he said softly. “Breathe for me, starlight?”

 

“Papa…” Anya felt a damp spot on his sweater where her face was. “M’sorry. Anya’s crying all over your clothes.”

 

“That’s the least of my concerns, starlight,” Papa said gently, stroking her hair. He carried her over to the sofa and sat down with her in his lap. “Do you feel my heartbeat?”

 

Anya pressed her cheek to Papa’s chest. His heartbeat was a little fast because he was stressed, but it was stable and strong, just like him. She nodded.

 

“Take some deep breaths with me,” Papa said, rubbing her back. He took a deep breath in, and Anya did her best to follow along. Then he held it for a few seconds and breathed out, repeating it as Anya did it with him. She felt her heart slow down. Unkie Yuri and Mama’s thoughts and talking faded away as she focused on Papa.

 

My little starlight you’ll be okay I won’t let anyone hurt you

 

Papa’s thoughts were clearer now. More focused. He was only thinking about her, and she felt warm in her chest as she heard what he was thinking. Smiling, Anya closed her eyes and leaned into Papa’s embrace, still listening to his heart. His arms wrapped her in a comfy hug. He was always so warm and safe.

 

Papa pressed a kiss into her hair. 

 

love you

 

“Do you feel a little better?” Yuri is still here and I need to come up with an explanation for him and Yor.

 

“Yeah,” Anya mumbled, nuzzling into his hug. “But Anya doesn’t want Papa to let go.”

 

His arms tightened around her. “Of course, starlight.” Papa stood up with her cradled against his chest, holding her comfortingly as he walked over to where Unkie Yuri and Mama still stood. Mama looked at them longingly. They look so happy together… Not the time, Yor! she thought.

 

“You’re right, I owe you an explanation.” Papa looked so tired. Anya knew from reading his mind that part of it was an act, but that was also how she knew some of it was real.

 

“My old wife… Emilia… and I. We wanted to have children, just as any loving couple would.” He kept stroking Anya’s hair idly. “But we tried and tried and nothing happened. We paid a visit to the doctor and found out Emilia couldn’t have children.” Papa looked so sad, Anya would have believed him if she couldn’t read his mind. Papa is a huge liar… but he lies to protect Anya.  

 

“But we were determined to have children. We went to the orphanage to adopt a child. We saw Anya, and we knew from one look at her that she would complete us.” Papa smiled lovingly at her. It wasn’t fake. "Unfortunately, before we could go through with the adoption, Emilia fell sick suddenly and passed away. I didn't think I was emotionally well enough to adopt a child anymore, so I decided to hold off on it until I recovered enough from the grief, although I still visited Anya frequently at the orphanage. In that time, Anya was adopted by another family and returned to another orphanage. When I finally found her again a year ago, I wasn't going to let anything stop me from adopting her this time-Emilia and I made a promise before she died to give Anya the best life we could, which included enrolling her in Eden."

 

Oh, Loid… Mama thought.

 

“And you paid off the orphanage to erase her records? Why?” Unkie asked suspishushly. Anya could feel waves of guilt rolling off him. He felt bad for making her cry, and all that anger before was gone, but he still needed answers for the sake of his investigation.

 

One of the orphanages slipped up on the job, then. Should have been more thorough and made sure they followed through. You’ve gone sloppy, Twilight. Papa sighed and looked at the ground guiltily. “Well… you know how gender norms are. Emilia and I knew that people would certainly look down on her for being unable to bear children. Not to mention how they might look at Anya if they knew she was adopted. Since Anya looked the part anyway, I decided to make it ‘official.’ I know, that’s technically a crime, but I didn’t want Anya to be treated any differently than everyone else, or for people to spit on Emilia's memory when she was gone.” Then, Papa’s face grew serious. He looked the most threatening Anya had ever seen him. “But, Yuri. If you think any less of Anya for being adopted, then you couldn’t be more wrong.” He hugged her protectively and glared at Unkie Yuri. “Anya is my daughter through and through. She’s as much my child as any biological one, and she belongs in the Forger family as much as me, Yor, or—or Emilia.”

 

“Papa…” Anya smiled. He really means it, too.

 

“Lottie.” Unkie Yuri sighed. “I guess I can’t fight that.” He crossed his arms, avoiding eye contact. “Ugh… damn it. I guess… I’m sorry, Lottie. That—that was terrible of me to storm in and just… start pointing fingers. And Chihuahua Girl…” 

 

Anya lifted her face from Papa’s shoulder and blinked at him. “I’m sorry for making you cry. That was utterly despicable of me.”

 

“What does dispikable mean?” Anya asked.

 

“Huh?” 

 

Anya grinned, relaxing now that Unkie and Mama believed Papa’s lie. The mission was saved for now. “You’re not off the hook yet, Unkie Yuri. But… it’s okay for now. As long as you promise to buy Anya lots of peanuts.”

 

He snorted. “Okay. I promise.” Then he looked at Mama, who was kind of standing there awkwardly the whole time, thinking to herself. “I… sorry to bail after ruining your evening, but… you probably have a lot to discuss with each other.” 

 

Mama nodded. “Bye, Yuri.” She walked him to the door. Before he left, she gave him a scary look. Anya didn’t want Mama to give her that look ever. “I’ll be expecting those peanuts for Anya.” 

 

“Sis!” he squeaked. “Of course! All the bags she could ever want!”

 

Mama shut the door and looked at Papa and Anya with a sigh. 

 

“Yor, I’m sorry,” Papa apologized immediately.

 

Mama waved him off with a tired smile. “We can discuss this in a bit. For now, I’ll make some hot chocolate for us and we can watch some TV, okay?”

 

“Mama! You’re so nice!” Anya exclaimed.

 

Yor is so understanding, Papa thought happily. Then he frowned. “Hey, what’s with that smug face, Anya?”

 

Anya giggled. He shook his head fondly and kissed her hair. 

 

Little starlight, you’re safe now.

 

And she was.

Chapter Text

Yor busied herself pouring hot chocolate into three mugs, wondering where to even begin dissecting the evening. So… Anya is adopted… and Loid didn’t tell me. At first, she felt plain shock when Yuri revealed the information. Surprise gave way to hurt as she wondered why Loid didn’t tell her. Yes, she could understand him initially keeping it hidden, but after all this time he still never said a word? Then came the next feeling, anger. Not at Loid or Anya, but at Yuri. She and Yuri could have easily found themselves in Anya’s situation, so he could have shown more sympathy. The way he went about confronting Loid and then Anya was unacceptable. The only reason she didn’t do more was because she didn’t want to make a scene when there were much more important concerns—like Anya’s tears. But just as she was about to comfort Anya, Loid got to her first, ever the attentive father. And then, even though she wanted to join them more than anything, that feeling of not belonging held her back, so she hovered helplessly. The news that Anya wasn’t Loid’s biological daughter should mean they weren’t as close as Yor thought, but it just made their connection even stronger in her eyes. They chose each other, and they were privy to this secret together. Yor was not. Yor didn’t belong.

 

Then, her final emotion, acceptance. Anya was adopted, and Loid did not tell her. But Yor wanted to believe he had a good reason for it. She felt they’d become closer recently, especially since that night he told her about his past as a soldier. Maybe it wasn’t that Loid simply didn’t trust her enough to tell her. Maybe there was another reason. Yor could only hope, because the alternative was unbearable. 

 

Yor carried the mugs over to the living room, where Anya was seated on Loid’s lap. She’d stopped crying a while ago, but her eyes were still red and puffy. 

 

“Thanks, Mama!” Anya chirped. Loid gave Yor a grateful smile.

 

“Of course,” Yor said, settling down on a separate sofa. After all, she didn’t belong.

 

Anya frowned slightly. Loid’s brows pinched together briefly before smoothing out again.

 

“So…” Loid started.

 

Yor looked down at the warm liquid in her mug. The drink gave off a tantalizing scent, but she had no appetite for it right now. “We said we’d watch TV first, didn’t we?”

 

“It’s not Spy Wars, so Anya doesn’t care,” the little girl said. “Anya would rather talk with Mama.”

 

So there was no postponing this conversation. Yor sighed. 

 

“Yor, please look at me,” Loid pleaded. And how was she supposed to refuse any request of his when he spoke to her so sweetly?

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he said, meeting her gaze and imploring her to understand with his gentle eyes.

 

“I’m the one who should be sorry, Loid.” Yor fidgeted with the hem of her sweater. “I’m sorry I wasn’t dependable or trustworthy enough to know.” There—she’d said it. Because it was the truth, no matter how much it broke her heart.

 

“What? No!” Yor had never seen Loid so distraught before. “No, that’s not it at all!” 

 

Yor felt a flicker of hope. 

 

“At first, I didn’t tell you because I was still gauging your character, yes. But within days of knowing you, you proved yourself to be one of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve ever met. It was never you, Yor.”

 

He looked so heartfelt and sincere. But she couldn’t let that distract her. “Then… why did you keep it hidden for so long?” 

 

“It was because… I…”

 

“Because Anya didn’t want Mama to know!” Anya had been silent the whole time, but now she finally spoke up.

 

Loid looked at his daughter in surprise. “Anya?”

 

She plowed on, looking Yor in the eyes. “Anya thought it was fun. She liked that Mama thought she was Papa’s real daughter. And then when Anya realized we should probably tell you, so much time had passed that Anya was scared Mama would be upset that we waited so long. So Anya asked Papa not to say anything.”

 

“Oh, Anya…” Yor could never be mad at her daughter. “Anya, I would never be upset with you for something like this. And you being adopted changes nothing for me.” 

 

Anya smiled sheepishly. “That’s what Papa kept saying.”

 

Yor glanced at Loid. “That’s because your Papa knows me so well.”

 

Anya giggled. “That’s why you two are perfect for each other!” 

 

Yor and Loid blushed. 

 

“Anyway, Yor… why are you sitting over there?” Loid asked.

 

“Huh?”

 

He gave her a bright smile. “You belong here, with us.”

 

A wave of fondness overtook Yor. “Okay.” Beaming, she moved to the sofa, next to Loid. 

 

“Anya wants to sit on both of your laps!” 

 

“O-oh.” Yor moved a few inches closer to Loid.

 

“You need to get closer than that,” Anya complained.

 

Yor’s face was flaming. Loid’s cheeks were just as red as she imagined hers were. They scooted closer until they were pressed to each other’s sides. Anya was grinning deviously the entire time.

 

“That’s better,” she said smugly, moving so she was balanced on both Yor and Loid’s legs. “Now, Papa, put an arm around Mama!”

 

Loid promptly choked on air. “Wh-what?” he rasped out after recovering from a coughing fit.

 

“Arm around Mama,” Anya repeated innocently. “So you’re like real parents. And Mama could use a hug right now.”

 

“...” Loid wrapped an arm around Yor, cradling her to his chest. His cologne smells so good… No, not right now, Yor!

 

“That’s better.” Anya, that little princess, she knew she could get anything she wanted! Well, anything to make her happy, Yor supposed. To avoid burning to death in embarrassment and… something else, Yor decided to focus her attention on Anya and not the warmth of Loid’s body.

 

“So, about Yuri…” Loid started. “He won’t tell anyone about this, right?”

 

“I’ll make sure he keeps it quiet,” Yor assured. “And… I’m sorry for how he acted. Yuri thinks he’s doing what’s best, but he can get swept up in his emotions and hurt others in the process. But I think he really does feel bad for what he did.”

 

“As long as Unkie Yuri buys Anya peanuts,” Anya chipped in. 

 

Yor gave her a soft pat on the head. “I’ll make sure Yuri gets you all the peanuts you want.”

 

Loid hummed in satisfaction. “Thank you, Yor.”

 

She smiled. “Of course.”

 

“Now can we watch TV?” Anya asked.

 

“I thought you didn’t care if it’s not Spy Wars,” Loid huffed.

 

“Well, Mama and Papa are getting along again, so we can watch TV now!” 

 

Yor giggled. “I’ll turn the TV on.”

 

“And then afterward, Anya has an idea for a game!”

 

“We’ll see if it’s not too late,” Loid said.

 

“At least she doesn’t have school tomorrow,” Yor reasoned. Right, today is Saturday! she remembered. Twilight won’t be happy if I miss our meeting, but Anya is more important.

 

Anya looked between Yor and Loid.

 

Loid deliberated for a moment before giving in. “Okay, I’ll let you stay up late just this once. But this is a one-time exception, alright Anya?”

 

“Yay! Thanks, Papa!” she cheered.

 

“Voice down, Anya,” Yor reminded her gently. “The neighbors might be sleeping.”

 

“Right,” Anya whispered. “A spy must know when to be quiet for the mishun.”

 

Loid twitched. “Come on, let’s see what’s playing on TV.”

 

The show they watched on TV wasn’t of much interest, but Anya’s game piqued Yor’s attention. As usual, she wanted to play spies with them, but this time, she wanted to go a step further—spies, Anya insisted, needed to communicate in secret code. 

 

“What,” Loid said flatly.

 

Anya nodded, eyes sparkling. “Let’s make a secret Forger family code!” 

 

“And what makes you think I can help with that?” Loid protested.

 

“Papa can do anything.”

 

Loid looked a mix of surprised, touched, and embarrassed. Yor giggled. Anya’s unshakable faith in her father just went to show how close they were.

 

“Okay. This secret language is called Pig Latin—” he started.

 

“Noooo!” Anya cut in. “Anya wants it to be an actual secret code!”

 

“An actual secret code…”

 

“With all your skills, Papa! Uncrackable by anyone other than us!”

 

Loid frowned. “Are you sure you’d be able to learn something so complicated?”

 

“Yes!”

 

Well, if he’s going to be serious about this, I guess I should learn it too… Yor thought. She would be the best mother she could for Anya, and if this was what her daughter needed to have the most fun in her game, then Yor would oblige.

 

“Okay,” Loid caved. “Luckily, I read a book about this a while back because I was curious. Here’s the first thing we’ll do…”

 

Loid did a good job of explaining it, but he ended up making a dictionary to make it easier for them. 

 

“Anya won’t share this with anyone!” Anya exclaimed. “And Mama, Papa, neither should you. This is the Forger family code, just like spies!”

 

Yor smiled indulgently. “Of course.”

 

“Do you want a copy of the dictionary too?” Loid offered her in amusement.

 

“Ah… yes, if that’s alright, Loid. I guess I should learn it too, since Anya seems to be taking this very seriously.”

 

“I’ll write you a copy,” Loid promised. “Now, Anya, it’s time for you to go to bed.”

 

“Anya wants a bedtime story!” 

 

“Why don’t you read to her while I prepare that dictionary for you?” Loid suggested.

 

“Huh? Don’t you want to be there too?” Yor didn’t want to overstep.

 

“I think you two should have some alone time,” he said.

 

“Ah… I see.”

 

“Yay!” Anya grabbed Yor’s hand. “Let’s go, Mama!”

 

Once they were in Anya’s room, she stopped and gazed up at Yor with those big, beautiful eyes.

 

“Anya?” Yor prompted.

 

Anya gave her a warm smile. “You know you’re a part of our family too, right Mama?”

 

How did she know? “Anya…”

 

The little girl hugged Yor’s leg. Bond, who was curled up in the corner but had woken up when they entered, lumbered over and rubbed Yor’s other leg with his head.

 

“Oh…” Yor crouched and hugged both of them close.

 

“Love you, Mama,” Anya murmured. “Papa loves you too. We want you here… we’d be sad if you left.”

 

“How do you always know what to say?” Yor marveled, pulling her daughter close (but being careful not to crush her).

 

Anya giggled. “Agent Anya always knows!”

 

Yor smiled. “That you do, my little spy.” She stroked Anya’s hair. “Mama loves you too, Agent Anya.”

 

She closed her eyes in contentment. I know my part in the Forger family started as a mutually beneficial arrangement, but it’s far from that now.

 

Yor brushed back Anya’s bangs and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead.

 

I want to stay with them forever.

 


 

Loid walked into Anya’s room with the dictionary he’d written for Yor. It was quiet now, and he hadn’t heard Yor leave the room. He wondered what they were up to.

 

He stopped at the sight before him.

 

Yor, Anya, and Bond, all curled up together on Anya’s bed. It was a bit tight since it was a child’s bed, but they looked so, so cozy. He couldn’t help the tug of longing he felt when he saw them together.

 

Loid walked over quietly, taking a moment to simply enjoy the sight. His wife, daughter, and dog, sleeping peacefully together. Anya was tucked into Yor’s arms, her mother holding her almost protectively. Bond was nuzzling into Yor and Anya, tail curled over Yor’s leg almost like he was giving her a comforting pat. The only sound in the quiet of the room was the sound of their soft breaths, untouched by the many plagues of the world. Here, in this tiny room, they were safe from all harm. 

 

There was an empty space across from Yor. If he were to fill that space, Loid and Yor could cradle Anya between them, protecting their daughter on all sides from any threats.

 

Twilight turned away. They were a fake family. It wasn’t his place.

 

And yet—the way he’d felt earlier, when he saw Anya crying, devastated by Yuri’s words…

 

It hadn’t slipped his mind. He knew what he thought, consciously.

 

He loved Anya. Somewhere along the line, all his boundaries had broken down. Twilight saw her as his daughter, his real daughter. Even ▇▇ couldn’t deny it.

 

Compromised, Twilight, Handler’s voice echoed sternly in his mind. 

 

You’ve grown attached. Nightfall, in a disapproving tone.

 

“Loid.”

 

He turned. Yor was looking at him with a drowsy smile on her face. She was beautiful.

 

“Join us.”

 

This will be your downfall, Twilight.  

 

He filled that empty space on the bed. They melted into his embrace like he had always been there.

 

I don’t care.

Chapter Text

“So where have your investigations on Anya Forger gone?” Anna, Yuri’s colleague, asked. 

 

“A dead end,” Yuri admitted. “Julian and I confirmed that Anya Levski is indeed Anya Forger, and with a visit to the Forger home where I… cross referenced my sources with the director of the orphanage, the story that Loid Forger paid off the director to erase her records and forged her new ones checks out.”

 

“We could use that as a reason to arrest him,” Anna suggested. “Then we could question him properly and find out if he has anything to do with what happened at the Royal Hotel.”

 

“I don’t think he’s involved,” Yuri said, surprised that he was coming to Lottie’s defense. Well, he was trying to be objective here, and it really did seem like Lottie was innocent. Or maybe he just felt bad about what he did earlier. “It was definitely an interesting piece of information, but it doesn’t actually lead anywhere. I can’t see how it relates to Royal Hotel.” 

 

“Forger's story explains another oddity I noticed, too,” Julian added, jumping into the conversation. “What little records we do have on Anya Levski only existed for about a year. Which means that her entire life before that was just a blank void. But now, it seems like she was simply in another orphanage and those records got erased.”

 

Yuri didn't like discussing this part of the case anymore-Lottie and Chihuahua Girl seemed like they went through so much to be together, and it only made him feel worse for making Chihuahua Girl cry. He didn’t like prying into the Forgers’ secrets anymore. He just wanted to get to the bottom of this and put it behind him.

 

"So, are we done with this part of the case for now?" Yuri asked. He winced immediately at how hopeful he sounded.

 

Julian narrowed his eyes, having noticed it too. “Careful,” he said in a warning tone. “We wouldn’t want to think you’ve grown attached to them, would we? Because then we’d have to remove you from the case.” 

 

Yuri gritted his teeth. Another painful truth spoken by Julian. He never sugarcoated things, and usually Yuri admired that trait in him. But when he was on the receiving end, it was a different story.

 

“I completely understand that.” Yuri kept his voice cool. “Surely you can see where I’m coming from here, though? There's no reason to linger on this for now.”

 

“Fine. But I have my eye on you, Yuri.” Julian's demeanor turned sympathetic. “You know, it’s not wrong to care for them—they are your family, after all. But when you’re on the case, you must be objective.”

 

“I know.” And I couldn’t care less about Lottie or Chihuahua Girl!

 

“Well,” Anna interjected cheerfully, choosing to ignore the tension in the air. “I think you’ll like what my team and I have to report, since I guess you two have hit a dead end for now.”

 

That piqued Yuri’s interest. “You have a new lead?” 

 

Anna smiled. “Tell me, have you ever heard the name Garden?”

 


 

Anya had quite the kunundrum on her hands. After Unkie Yuri’s visit, it was easy to guess that he was investigating her because he thought she was suspishus. She wasn’t able to confirm that with mind reading, though, because she was too distracted at the time to search his mind for clues. 

 

The deal with Unkie Yuri was that she wouldn’t say anything about him being Secret Police if he left her alone. He clearly didn’t keep up his end of the deal (so rude!), so he should face the conseekwences, right? But what Unkie Yuri didn’t know was that Anya didn’t actually have any leverage. She was only bluffing, because Mama and Papa already knew he was Secret Police. She couldn’t reveal something they already knew!

 

So Anya couldn’t retaliate. And she hoped Unkie was too stupid to realize it, because if he figured out she was bluffing, that could lead to very bad things. 

 

At this point, maybe the best thing she could do was come clean. Papa had his fair share of worries about Unkie Yuri finding out she was adopted. Something about being suspishus and Operayshun Sticks being threatened by Unkie Yuri. But since Papa didn’t have the full story, he didn’t actually know why Unkie Yuri visited them. From his point of view, there was no reason for Unkie to be suspishus because he never messed up, and if he had made a mistake somewhere, Operayshun Sticks would already be over. 

 

That was the problem. Papa never messed up. But Anya did, and he didn’t know that. And if he didn’t know that, he couldn’t come up with one of his super smart plans to save them, because he didn’t even know what was wrong. 

 

Anya should tell Papa. It’s the safest thing to do, before Operayshun Sticks really is doomed.  

 

But she couldn’t bring herself to. Because then Papa would know how much she messed up and ruined everything, and he would never forgive her. Last Saturday was awesome. Papa loved her, and so did Mama! It was the closest they ever felt like a real family. Anya didn’t want to ruin that so soon.

 

She didn't want them to leave her so soon.

 

“Bond?” Anya felt some stirring from his mind. He shifted closer to her from where he sat next to her bed. She reached out to his mind to catch a glimpse of the vision she knew he was having.

 

Mama. Her clothes were wrinkled and a little torn at the edges. There were even a few splatters of blood on her shirt. She looked like she was just in a fight. 

 

Mama pounded on a door, in a rush for some reason. “Twilight?”

 

Nobody responded.

 

“Twilight, are you alright? Answer me!”

 

An unfamiliar voice hissed out a no-no word. It was probably Papa, since Mama was calling him Twilight. “I’m okay! Don’t come in—”

 

It was too late. Mama already bashed down the door with her super strength, but she froze at the sight before her.

 

It was Papa—Papa without a disguise—looking back at her, clearly caught off guard.

 

“Twilight? But you’re… Loid? D-don’t tell me…”

 

“What?” Anya protested. “Bond, it can’t end there! Show more!”

 

Bond barked as if to say, I can’t control it!

 

Was this another situation where Mama was gonna find out Papa was a spy? She couldn’t let that happen! It would be a disaster. Anya could already imagine Mama beating Papa up for causing her so much worry as two different people. He wouldn’t survive a beating like that!

 

Next mishun… stop Mama from finding out Papa is a spy!

 

Er… whenever that was supposed to happen.

 


 

Berlint Aqualand. The last time they were here, Twilight had to sneak off to retrieve critical information about a chemical weapon that was swallowed by a penguin. Now, he managed to make it to the aquarium without being saddled with a side mission out of the blue. Loid Forger, family man, was ready to enjoy the grand opening of Berlint Aqualand’s deep sea exhibit with his wife and daughter. The new exhibit was the talk of the town for the days leading up to it, so it wouldn’t do for them not to visit as a family on the big day. 

 

Twilight couldn’t help the discomfort he felt at the huge crowd. So many families, some of them elites he recognized. All these people in one place. A perfect opportunity for something to go wrong. He’d seen far too many terrorist plots unravel in settings just like this one.

 

He shouldn’t be so worried. The Secret Police were sure to recognize the risks involved in a gathering like this. They were probably lurking somewhere around here, ready to parry any danger.

 

That’s right. I’ll just enjoy the day with my family, Loid thought, letting himself relax a little.

 

“Oiii! Loid!”

 

“Hm?” Loid turned around. “Franky?”

 

His informant approached them with that self-satisfied grin. “Who would’ve thought you’d be here too?”

 

“Hi Scruffy! Anya wants to see the fishies!” Anya explained. 

 

“Would you like to join us?” Yor offered kindly.

 

Franky fell into step beside them. “My pleasure.” 

 

“So how are you doing, Loiiiddd? How’s the family?” Franky asked.

 

“Fine,” Loid said. He was a master conversationalist when he wanted to be, but never around Franky.

 

“No trouble in paradise?” Franky waggled his eyebrows.

 

“What even—no.” Did Franky only exist to tease him?

 

No, his mind supplied helpfully. He provides you with invaluable intel to aid in your missions. And he’s basically your only friend.

 

“Oooh, look! Everyone’s over there!” Anya pointed at the crowd waiting for the deep sea exhibit to open. 

 

As they walked over to join everyone else in waiting, Loid spotted a group of people huddling in a corner, talking amongst themselves. He narrowed his eyes, reading their lips as they spoke out of habit…

 

“...hid a bomb in the back…”

 

“Took care of the Secret Police officers…”

 

“They didn’t see us coming at all!”

 

So his misgivings turned out to be right? This is bad. If they really took care of the Secret Police, nobody can stop the bomb!

 

Twilight needed to slip away somehow and take care of this. And if he needed backup… He glanced at Yor.

 

“I need to go to the bathroom, sorry,” he excused himself before hurrying off.

 

“We’ll wait for you here!” Yor called after him.

 

Circling around the room and tailing the group, he waited for them to move to an isolated hallway. Twilight didn’t have any disguise on, so he needed to make sure they didn’t see his face when he went to work. He flicked off the lights.

 

“What?” one of them exclaimed in alarm.

 

“Relax. It’s probably just a mistake,” another said.

 

“You—agh!”

 

“Klaus!”

 

“What the—”

 

“Shit, we—ugh!”

 

“Elias? Elias!”

 

The last one who hadn’t been knocked out yet tried to yell for help, but their scream was muffled by Twilight clamping a hand over their mouth. 

 

“If you shout for help, I’ll kill you,” he hissed, flicking out one of his hidden knives and pressing it against their neck. “Tell me who you work for.”

 

“Th-The Jaeger Crime Family!” they stammered.

 

The Jaeger Crime Family. Twilight huffed in distaste. They were the same crime organization he’d been taking missions to thwart over the weeks—the incident with the informant, the illegal arms transport he took care of with Yor, and now this. They were high on WISE’s radar, and it wouldn’t be long until he received the order to raze them to the ground.

 

“We’re trying to make a name for ourselves! We thought if we bombed a big event like this, with important families in attendance, it would force everyone to acknowledge the Jaeger Crime Family!” his victim continued, mouth loosened by fear for their life.

 

“How many of you are there?”

 

“I-I don’t know. I’m just a lackey!”

 

Twilight cut to the point. “Where is the bomb?”

 

“In the back room, with all the food for the penguins. We put one there!” 

 

“You put one there?” Twilight repeated. “Are there more?”

 

The silence confirmed everything.

 

Twilight shook them, urgency creeping up on him. “Where are they.” He dug the knife in deep enough to draw blood from a shallow cut.

 

“Okay, okay! In the west wing—I don’t know the details of where—and in a storage closet right next to the new exhibit!”

 

“How long until they go off?”

 

“They told me to get out of here in thirty minutes...”

 

Shit. A swift strike to the head to knock them unconscious, and he was off. 

 

He had three bombs to defuse in a short amount of time, and the location of one of the bombs wasn’t even certain. He didn’t know how many enemies there would be, and he needed someone to cover him while he took care of the bombs in case he was attacked while he was neutralizing them. It would be highly difficult to pull this off alone with so little information. The good news? The solution to his problem was clear.

 

It was time for Twilight and Thorn Princess to meet again.

Chapter Text

After he wore a false face—the same one as always, because he couldn’t waste time on reintroductions——and stole an employee uniform, Twilight slipped back to the waiting area. Sticking to the shadows, he stared at Yor and waited for her to notice him. He knew she would be able to sense his gaze. She’d done it once already back at the tailor shop where they first met. 

 

Just as he expected, Yor turned and looked directly at him in a matter of seconds. Her eyes glinted with recognition. Turning back to Franky and Anya, she murmured some excuse and weaved through the crowd, joining him at the edge of the room.

 

“What is it?” Yor asked.

 

“Follow me. I’ll explain while we move. It’s urgent,” Twilight explained.

 

The first priority was the bomb hidden near the new exhibit. The majority of people were concentrated around there, and Twilight and Thorn Princess were already in the area. 

 

Storage closet right next to the new exhibit, Twilight recalled. He scanned the space, looking for the room in question. There.

 

“There are three bombs planted in the building,” he told Yor. She let out a small gasp. “Keep your gait confident, and don’t rush no matter how much you want to. We don’t want to set anyone off—we don’t know whose eyes could be watching us right now.”

 

“Got it.” She’d completely switched to her Thorn Princess persona, ready for action and completely calm in the face of danger. Some of Twilight’s internal panic subsided knowing he had a very capable partner at his side for this.

 

“I don’t know what types of bombs they are—shit, I should have asked—but I can probably defuse them. I know my way around most bombs. What I need you for is backup. I don’t know how many enemies there will be, and we need to clean them up quickly, because we have less than thirty minutes. Probably twenty now. I also need you to cover me while I’m defusing them. Make sure no one gets in my way, essentially.”

 

“You can count on me,” Yor said.

 

Twilight glanced at her and allowed himself a small, stressed smile. “I’m glad you were here today. I don’t know if I could do this without you.”

 

She blinked. 

 

Sparing her from replying, he pointed out two “employees” lingering outside the storage closet. “Two enemies over there.” Their shifting eyes and fidgety stances gave them away. 

 

Yor followed Twilight’s lead as he led them straight toward the two, not needing any explanation—simply coordinating with him in silent understanding. “Don’t look at them,” he said quietly. “We’ll pretend we’re walking past them. You take care of them while I obscure the view of anyone watching.”

 

Their two opponents watched Twilight and Thorn Princess warily as they approached the two. “Laugh at a joke I just told you,” Twilight said, looking at Yor as if he was engaged in conversation with her.

 

Yor chuckled. It was obviously fake to him, but not to them. They relaxed as Twilight and Yor entered their range.

 

He didn’t even need to give a signal. They moved wordlessly, Twilight positioning himself just right so that Yor could knock the two out while he blocked the viewing angle. It wasn’t perfect, but he was counting on nobody bothering to look over in the first place.

 

Twilight opened the door to the storage closet and Yor carried the two bodies inside as if they were light as feathers. Just how strong was she?

 

He inspected the bomb. It was nothing he hadn’t seen before, but he noted that it was crafted in a Westalian style. Trying to frame Westalis for this? All the more reason for me to step in, then.

 

Twilight nodded decisively. “Make sure no one interferes while I take care of this.”

 

Yor dumped the unconscious duo on the floor and left the room to stand guard. Twilight doubted they would wake up for a while. 

 

It wasn’t long until he defused the bomb and opened the door. “Let’s go,” he said to Yor. “The next one we’ll go for is the one in the back, where they store the penguins’ food.”

 

There were more “employees” lurking around as they approached the back room.

 

“Do you need something?” one of them asked, eyes narrow with suspicion.

 

They didn’t bother with negotiation. Yor kicked the person back, sending them crashing back into their allies behind them. Twilight was about to join her in the fray, but she already took care of them, moving faster than his eye could track—weaving, sliding, and ducking in a deadly dance, one only she could keep up with. She had a serious look on her face, and her eyes were cool and calm, honing in on her targets like a lioness. She was the predator and they were the prey, and she was keenly aware of it. She was regal and majestic and lethal and beautiful

 

Twilight shivered. “You’re not pulling your punches.” This side of his wife would never fail to fascinate him.

 

“My husband and daughter are in this building,” she growled. “I’m not gambling with their safety.”

 

He was glad for the mask that covered his small blush when he heard that. He really was losing his edge, especially around Yor.

 

Shaking it off, Twilight quickly defused the bomb, and they were on their way to the west wing.

 

“I don’t know where this one is,” he explained. “So we should get some answers out of them before we knock them out.”

 

“Okay. I’ll leave the last one for you, then,” Yor replied. 

 

The concentration of more enemies clued them in to the general location of the last bomb. Just like before, Yor held nothing back and left only the last one for him, decimating all opposition before Twilight even had a chance to jump in. He guessed she was so angry that she probably wouldn’t appreciate it if he tried to interfere, anyway.

 

Twilight approached the last opponent left, who took a few steps back apprehensively. This one was obviously frightened, but he also seemed determined to hold his ground in defiance. I wish she could’ve left me a less resistant one, he thought. Would waste less time. Oh well. I can’t say I won’t enjoy this. He was quite incensed himself at the thought of these lowlifes planting a bomb in a building where Anya and Yor were present.

 

His enemy blinked, and that was all Twilight needed to close the gap, winding him with a left hook and slamming his face against a wall, twisting his arms behind his back. “Where is the bomb?” Twilight asked coldly.

 

His prisoner struggled in his grip, to no avail. “I won’t tell you shit! Go fuck yourself,” he snarled.

 

Twilight clicked his tongue in annoyance. Precious seconds were ticking away. He had what—five minutes left? He couldn’t waste time like this. Slipping out a hidden knife, he stabbed the man in the shoulder, ignoring the pained scream that followed.

 

“Shall we test your pain endurance some more, or will you tell me where the bomb is?”

 

“F-fuck you. I’m loyal to the Jaeger Crime Family. I don’t care if we both get blown sky high!” he spat.

 

Twilight twisted the knife. Another scream. “Want me to take off your fingers next?” he threatened evenly. It would be far from the first time he had tortured someone for information. 

 

The man caved. “F-fine,” he gasped out, face pale from pain and blood loss. “Storage room. Food for the animals.”

 

They really loved their storage rooms, Twilight observed in the back of his mind. He knocked the man out, turning back to Yor.

 

He wasn’t prepared for the look on her face. Horror would have been unpleasant, but not unexpected. Or fear, or disgust, or anger. Any of those, really. Instead, her eyes were focused on him. Her gaze had the same intensity as when she’d been dispensing their opposition, but it didn’t have the same killing intent. There was something else there—not judgment, but...

 

Something you don’t have time to think about, Twilight reminded himself.

 

“Sorry you had to see that,” he apologized while they approached the storage room. “Anyway, stand guard outside, will you?”

 

“Y-yeah,” she said, jerking out of her strange trance.

 

He heard shouts as a fresh batch of enemies rounded the corner. They’d heard the commotion, it seemed. Trusting Yor to handle them, he slipped inside the room, mind still dwelling on the way she’d been looking at him. Flicking on the lights, he stepped forward to deal with the bomb, glimpsing something in his peripheral—

 

A body slammed into him. Twilight barely turned his face in time so that his nose wouldn’t be crushed against the walls of the tiny room. Hands clawed at his face—did they know about his mask, or was it just an attempt to go for the eyes?—and he felt a rip in his mask.

 

Ducking his face, Twilight pushed back, overpowering his opponent with brute strength so that he was no longer pinned to the wall. He heard the sound of them whipping out a knife, but he grabbed their arm and twisted it, forcing them to drop the blade before they could attack him with it. Then he flipped his opponent over his shoulder, throwing them to the ground face down. A fierce kick to the head knocked them out before they could try anything else.

 

He lifted a hand to his face frantically, trying to assess the damage. Shit. The rip was too large; there was no point wearing the mask anymore. He tore it off—it was only a liability now, the pieces hanging off his face obscuring his vision. Serves you right for getting distracted in the middle of an operation! Twilight scolded himself. Not to worry; he had another spare mask, but he needed to defuse the bomb first. He had less than a minute left.

 

Quickly snipping the appropriate wire, Twilight noticed that the thuds and yells outside had died down—Yor must have taken out all of the backup. He breathed out in relief once the bomb was disarmed and smiled. They’d pulled it off. I really couldn’t have done it without Yor, he thought, wiping away a bead of sweat that was trickling down his cheek. God, my hands are shaking… I’m really glad Anya and Yor are safe.

 

He heard Yor pound on the door. “Twilight?” she asked. She must have heard the sounds of his fighting.

 

Fuck. He shoved the used mask into his pocket. 

 

“Twilight, are you alright? Answer me!”

 

“Shit,” he hissed to himself. His fingers were still trembling as he rummaged through his pocket for the fresh mask—goddammit why was it so hard to grab a mask now of all times—

 

Fuckfuckfuck—

 

He heard her bash down the door. He froze, turning around on instinct—but he really shouldn’t have.

 

Should have just said you were okay, that you just needed one second, now look what you’ve gone and done—

 

She was staring at him in shock. “Twilight? But you’re… Loid? D-don’t tell me…”

 

Fuck.  

 


 

Not long after Mama left, Anya managed to slip away from Scruffy. She waited for him to get distracted looking at some pretty ladies (not as pretty as her Mama though!) and snuck away. She was small, so it was easy to hide in the crowd. A spy must play to their strengths. That was something she heard in Papa’s mind before.

 

Anya knew today was the day it was supposed to happen. Mama was wearing the same clothes as in the vision. And now she recognized the clothes Papa had on, the same clothes the workers wore.

 

Listening to Papa’s mind, Anya found out that there were three bombs hidden in the akwarium. She stayed as far away as she could while still hearing Mama and Papa’s thoughts, following them around the place. Luckily, they were distracted by all the fighting and each other, plus Anya was pretty far back, so they didn’t notice her.

 

Anya shuddered when she saw all the baddies lying on the ground. Mama sure was strong! But that was why she knew Papa and Mama were gonna save the day—together! She just needed to make sure Mama didn’t find out Papa’s secret while they were being heroes.

 

Nothing really happened while they took care of the first two bombs. But the third bomb. Anya recognized the hallway. It was the same one in Bond’s vision. As she got closer—and honestly, she wasn’t even sure what she was gonna do about this, maybe distract Mama with a sound—she heard from Mama and Papa’s minds that they already took care of everything. Papa already stopped the bomb, and Mama finished fighting everyone.

 

In the distance, Anya heard pounding on a door. Just like the vision.

 

“Twilight?” Mama asked.

 

Anya ran faster, trying to get closer to the end of the hall. She needed to make it in time!

 

“Twilight, are you alright? Answer me!”

 

No, no! Can’t let Mama find out! Come on, make it in time! Why couldn’t she run fast enough?

 

The loud crunch of Mama bashing down the door. And then—"Twilight? But you’re… Loid? D-don’t tell me…”

 

Anya skidded to a stop right before she rounded the corner, defeat weighing down on her legs. There was no point anymore, she realized, fear turning her blood to ice.

 

She was too late.

Chapter Text

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!” 

 

Everyone turned.

 

“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. 

Chapter Text

“Hello, Mr. Walter.” Yuri smiled at the man sitting across from him. His face was bruised and beaten, and he sagged in his seat as if he had no strength to hold himself up anymore. Despite his defeated and wary posture, Yuri was not deceived. He could see a glint of resistance in the hotel owner’s eyes. 

 

I would expect no less, Yuri thought. If he really has the stomach to work with the likes of Garden, he is not a man who can be intimidated so easily. Otherwise, we would have gotten everything out of him already.

 

“Let’s not bother with formalities, shall we?” Yuri said, keeping that placid smile on his face. “I’m going to be honest about what I think. You’ve already told us about your working relationship with Garden. I see no reason for you to put up resistance on the further details. Why not spare yourself the pain and tell me what I want to know?” 

 

Walter gave him a tired glare. “And I shouldn’t have told you that in the first place. Their boss will make sure I pay for this. But if I stop it here, there’s a slim chance I’ll get out of this alive.”

 

Yuri leaned forward. “If it’s only your safety that you’re concerned about, we can make arrangements to keep Garden away from you—that is, if you cooperate.”

 

Walter hesitated. “Garden’s assassins are the deadliest people in the world. Can you really ensure my safety?”

 

“I have no doubt that Garden is powerful,” Yuri agreed. “But you can’t begin to fathom the resources we have at our fingertips. Garden is formidable, but so are we.”

 

He sighed. “Fine. What do you want to know?”

 

Yuri’s smile widened. “Let’s start with that boss you mentioned. Tell me everything you know about them.”

 

“I don’t know what he looks like, if that’s what you’re asking. He always made sure to communicate through telephone or send messengers who hid their appearances. And on the few occasions he did show up in person, he also made sure his face was obscured. But I do know he calls himself Shopkeeper.”

 

Not much, but fine. Yuri decided to cut to the point. His colleagues could do a last sweep for additional information later. “Okay. Tell me what you know about that night.” He didn’t need to clarify; they both knew exactly what Yuri was talking about.

 

The hotel owner faltered, looking down at his hands, which were cuffed to the table. He was silent for a moment while Yuri arched a brow, adjusting his gloves in case he had to resort to… harsher methods.

 

“I hope you won’t force me into doing some dirty work,” Yuri threatened when the silence stretched too long. “I see my colleagues haven’t touched your hands yet. I wonder, which finger should I break first?”

 

Walter bristled in anger. “You expect me to believe you’ll protect me when you’re the primary threat to my life right now? What’s the point of cooperating, anyway? Either you’ll kill me or Garden will!” he spat in explosive fury.

 

Yuri was quick to grab him by the hair and slam his face against the table. “Who is in charge here, Mr. Walter?” Yuri asked mildly. 

 

He grunted something resembling a curse. 

 

Yuri yanked him back up roughly, ripping some strands from his balding head in the process. Walter’s nose was bleeding from being smashed against the table so harshly. Yuri decided to finish the deed by breaking his nose with a quick, deft strike. 

 

“I’ll ask you one more time before I start pulling off fingernails. Who is in control over your life right now, Mr. Walter?” Yuri repeated over Walter’s pained cries.

 

“...You are…” he said after a moment.

 

Yuri gave him another smile, but this one had none of the friendliness from before. It was predatory and threatening—sadistic, even—taking pleasure in his position of power. “Good. Now, will you cooperate or shall I break more bones?”

 

“I’ll cooperate,” he hissed out through gritted teeth.

 

Yuri chose not to sit again. Instead, he paced around Walter, watching him shift uneasily whenever Yuri disappeared behind him. “What exactly was happening that night? Who were those people? What was Garden’s business?”

 

“I don’t know much because Shopkeeper keeps as much as he possibly can from me exactly for situations like this one. He did tell me that their client was extremely high profile this time around, and the objective wasn’t actually to kill them. I think he sent his top assassin after them.” Walter frowned in thought. “Shopkeeper seemed to be expecting the client to put up a good fight. But I don’t know who could possibly go up against Garden’s top assassin. And the fact that they warranted Thorn Princess to come after them in the first place… it must mean that whoever the client is, they are an extremely important person.”

 

“Thorn Princess is the name of their top assassin?” Yuri inferred. 

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you know why Thorn Princess was sent after this client?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“About the client…” Yuri continued the interrogation, but his mind was already racing with the information he gained.

 

The mystery of the woman’s identity was solved. Thorn Princess, the best of the best. Probably the most dangerous person in Ostania. 

 

But Yuri was far more excited about the man. They knew he was probably a spy, but Yuri was beginning to suspect that he wasn’t just any spy.

 

The client was high profile, enough to warrant sending Thorn Princess after him. He was capable of putting up a good fight against her, and Garden wanted him alive despite being an assassin organization. Whoever he is, he must be an extremely important person.

 

Yuri happened to know of a spy who could fit that description. A spy who was a master of disguise, revealing nothing about his true identity or appearance. A spy who was completely and utterly elusive, always leagues ahead of his opposition, infiltrating their ranks and vanishing without a trace long before they realized it was him—if at all. A spy who Yuri considered his greatest enemy, who had Yuri staying up late into the night, obsessing over him and formulating countless futile plans to lure him out before discarding them in a fit of rage because there was no way he would fall for them.

 

If it really was who Yuri thought, then this could be huge. This was his chance. His chance to catch him. To finally triumph over him.

 

Twilight.

 


 

They got home late in the evening after spending the day at the aquarium. Yor had been worried at first because Anya seemed to be in a despondent mood after she returned from helping Twilight. But after some time, her daughter perked up, to Loid and Yor’s relief. In no time, Anya was racing between water tanks, pressing herself against the glass and staring at the fish with starstruck eyes. Yor smiled fondly at the simple thought of Anya’s happiness.

 

Fortunately, their schedule wasn’t pushed back because Loid didn’t have to cook dinner—they had leftovers from lunch. For once, Anya was too tired to watch Spy Wars, so Loid sent her to bed early with a promise to record it for her. 

 

Now, it was just the two of them, sitting together in the living room. Neither of them spoke, but they didn’t need to. It was a comfortable silence. Yor sat across from Loid on the couch and watched him sort through a stack of work-related paperwork. Light blue eyes flitted to and fro as he skimmed the papers and hummed idly.

 

Yor smiled. It was a simple moment in time, but treasured nonetheless. The excitement at the aquarium today was great, but she appreciated these quiet nooks in their day just as much. She loved sitting like this with Loid, neither of them feeling the need to say anything. They simply enjoyed the companionship of the other as the day winded down to an end.

 

Times like these were precious to her. And Yor’s mind couldn’t help but wander to all the ways this peace could be torn away from her. 

 

She thought back to her time with Twilight earlier. Twilight, looking back at her with Loid’s gentle eyes, but the icy look in them was all Twilight. He promised her he wasn’t planning to impersonate Loid, but that moment demonstrated how easy it would be for Yor to lose Loid or Anya nonetheless. Not to Twilight in particular, but rather, to the cruel world they lived in. 

 

A cruel world, but also a beautiful one. Yor found Loid and Anya, after all.

 

Yor closed her eyes. This world is beautiful. And that’s why I would do anything to protect the beauty in it. 

 

She stole a glance at Loid, who was still leafing through his papers. Would he understand her?

 

Twilight does, Yor thought. Watching him torture that man earlier, she’d been struck by an overwhelming sense of kinship. Twilight’s eyes, so cold and detached as he inflicted pain on another human being. But those were the same eyes that burned with a desire to save people. To better the world they lived in.

 

He was like her. They immersed themselves in the darker side of humanity so that no one else had to. Loid and Anya walked in the light, pure and happy. And Yor—she walked beside them, too, in the shadows. She lurked in the dark, purging the world of those who would harm the innocent. If Loid and Anya were her twin suns shining bright and true, Yor would be their tranquil night, protecting them in her veil. 

 

When light meets darkness, the shadows must inevitably disperse. And in the same way, Loid and Anya couldn’t know Yor’s true nature. If they did, she would have to leave. 

 

But Twilight could. He already did. He was a kindred soul, and for the first time, Yor could be completely open with another person. With Twilight, there was no need for secrets, no fear of judgment. No weight of lies. No longer did Yor walk alone in the dark, desperately trying to keep up with the light as everyone left her behind. Now, Twilight walked with her, alongside her. 

 

A warm voice pulled from her thoughts. “What’s on your mind?” 

 

Yor blinked. Loid was watching her with a small, gentle smile. His paperwork was set down on the table, and he gave her his full attention, fixing her with a gaze full of clear crystal skies. 

 

He was looking at her so patiently and intently, Yor couldn’t help the spontaneous, overwhelming rush of fondness that crashed over her.

 

“Your nose is scrunched up that way it always is whenever you’re deep in thought,” Loid continued. 

 

Yor let out a small, surprised laugh. “My nose?”

 

He smiled light-heartedly. “Yes. It’s endearing, actually.”

 

Yor’s heartbeat fluttered in her chest at the admission. She returned the smile, drinking in the sight of him. Faced with Loid looking at her like this, so gentle and content, how could she not think he was beautiful? 

 

It was true that light and dark could never meet. But the world was not just light or dark, black or white. There were shades of gray, too.

 

Would he be willing to meet her in between? Could they live in their own little patch of gray?

 

Yor thought back to Camilla’s party. The way Loid had defended her without knowing a thing about her. He understood what it meant to do a dirty job for the sake of others. Then there was that night he shared his past as a soldier with her. He trusted Yor enough to share that with her, and he promised her in turn he would always be ready to listen to her. Loid would understand the weight of lives, the blood on her hands.

 

If there was anyone who could meet her in between, it was Loid. Maybe one day, they could paint their world in spectacular blooms of gray. Their own little haven among splotches of black and white.

 

Yor smiled at Loid. “I was just thinking about how grateful I am that you’re here. And with every passing day, I feel so happy that I married you,” she said truthfully.

 

And looking at him in that moment, she couldn’t help but love the sight of him, the soft light framing his face and dappling his hair just so, and her gaze was drawn to his blushing cheeks, his pink lips, as she wondered how they would feel against hers, and she really wanted to—to kiss him.


Oh… Yor realized joyfully. I think… I might be in love with my husband.

Chapter Text

“Look me in the eyes and tell me that isn’t a dead body behind you.”

 

“It’s—it’s not a dead body. Let me explain.”

 

“Okay. What happened, then?”

 

“This person just fainted! And I was standing over them because I was about to help them when you walked in.”

 

“I see.”

 

Yor visibly relaxed as the tension left her muscles.

 

Twilight frowned. “And that right there is why I know you’re lying.”

 

“Huh? But I thought I did well!”

 

Twilight had taken it upon himself to teach Yor how to properly lie and deceive. It was common knowledge among the people acquainted with her that she wasn’t very good at it. If she was ever in a situation where her ability to lie truly mattered—amazingly, it seemed like Yor had never found herself in such circumstances before—she would have a difficult time fooling people who knew not to fall for lies so easily. People like the Secret Police, who were a constant threat in professions like theirs. 

 

He’d been toying with the idea of a lesson like this for a while, no matter how boring, because her safety was paramount to Operation Strix. And it wasn’t as if the thought of anything happening to Yor brought him any happiness. Quite the opposite, actually, especially if it was something so avoidable.

 

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. “The issue isn’t so much your ability to come up with lies”—Twilight remembered the excuse she gave Yuri for not telling him about the marriage—“actually, sometimes it is, but most of the time the lie itself is acceptable. But coming up with a lie is only half the battle. If you don’t deliver it properly, there’s no use.”

 

Yor nodded slowly. “So I have tells that make you suspicious that I’m lying?”

 

“Yes,” Twilight said. He took a deep breath, not looking forward to delivering his criticism, but knowing it was for her own good. “First of all, you look incredibly nervous whenever you’re lying, and if you don’t look like you believe what you’re saying, why should I? No matter what you’re saying, if you make yourself look confident while saying it, people are already much more likely to believe you.”

 

“That makes sense.” Yor took the criticism gracefully, her nose scrunched in a way that Twilight most definitely did not find cute as she thought about how to improve herself. “What else?”

 

“Well, once people say they believe you, you unconsciously deflate in relief. Another tell you need to work on removing,” Twilight replied.

 

She tilted her head. “How do I get better at that?”

 

He smiled apologetically. “You just have to stay aware of yourself and weed out the habit through practice.”

 

“This is annoying,” she muttered. “I hate that you’re right.”

 

Twilight blinked. The code Anya insisted he create? “I hope you’re not planning to use that secret language of yours to insult my teaching behind my back.”

 

Yor started. “What, you know it?” she asked with an embarrassed blush. 

 

He couldn’t help a smug grin. “Of course I do.” 

 

Wait, what? He just smiled around her as… Twilight?

 

“I was just kidding,” Yor assured him. “I know that you mean well. And I do appreciate you doing this for me.” She gave him a grateful smile.

 

He looked away, suddenly feeling self conscious. “I’m just surprised you remembered that code.” It was only a fun little thing that one night, and they hadn’t done much with it since then.

 

“Of course I do. My family made it,” Yor said instantly. Fervently. 

 

It made him pause. She blinked, also realizing how passionate she sounded. 

 

“You care for them a lot,” Twilight observed, not really sure what to say.

 

Yor looked down at her lap. Her brows furrowed for a moment and then smoothed out again. She glanced back up at him, seemingly reaching an internal decision. “Can I ask you something?”

 

“Sure,” Twilight responded, unsure where this was going.

 

“Have you ever grown attached during a mission? Even when you shouldn’t have?”

 

He opened his mouth to reply, an instant denial ready to roll off his tongue. In truth, Twilight had never grown attached to anyone during a mission. Yes, sometimes he felt some goodwill to friendly innocents, but he had never grown attached. The thought of leaving was never something he had to think twice about.

 

But that was in the past. And, well, he’d concluded that he very much saw Anya as a real daughter recently. And then there was Yor herself. How did he feel about her? Twilight didn’t know, but he definitely cared for her safety. His concern for her wellbeing was what led him into Garden’s trap in the first place.

 

In short: “Yes.”

 

“O-oh,” Yor said in surprise. “Then how did you, uh, deal with it? Since you had to leave?”

 

Twilight couldn’t exactly answer that question since the mission was still in progress. But he also couldn’t tell her that, could he?

 

His hesitance must have showed, because Yor rushed to reassure him that he didn’t have to answer. “I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have asked, it’s my fault for overstepping! You don’t have to tell me anything.”

 

Twilight blew out a breath. “It’s fine. But why do you ask, if you don’t mind?”

 

“Well… I only became part of my family because I needed cover for my job as an assassin. But as time went on, I realized that I’ve come to care for them a lot.”

 

“Forgive me if I’m missing something,” Twilight said slowly, “but what’s stopping you from caring about them?”

 

Yor blinked at him owlishly.

 

“I don’t see anything that could go wrong if you care about your family. It’s not like… well, it’s not like my job, where I really can’t afford to get attached when it’s only temporary.” It was the biggest inhibition Twilight had when it came to his fake family that had, against his better judgment, found a warm place in his heart. He couldn’t help but feel guilty at the way he led them on when he never intended to stay. For someone like Twilight, loneliness was the only future that lay ahead. He would only ever bring grief to the people he cared about. And that was why he never allowed himself to care—only this time, it didn’t work. 

 

“It’s just that…” she trailed off. Yor flushed and glanced down at her hands resting on her lap. She looked unsure of herself, as if she was fighting some inner turmoil. “Well… I guess you’re the only one I can confide in about this,” Yor said finally. She squeezed her eyes shut. “I, uh—I think I’m… in love with my husband.”

 

He froze. The air left his body.

 

“I mean, I don’t know for sure if I am, because I’ve actually never been in love before?” she continued, wringing her hands anxiously. Yor peeked an eye open cautiously and took in his state of shock. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to overshare. I’ll be quiet now if you want me to…”

 

Twilight recovered his wits enough to muster in a strangled voice, “No, it’s fine. I was just surprised.”

 

Yor fidgeted with her fingers. “I just… feel so warm when he’s around. Loid is so good to me. He’s so kind and understanding, and even though I’m not very capable as a wife, he has never criticized me or expected anything from me. He appreciates me for my strengths… and of course, he’s—he’s very handsome…”

 

The heat in his face, Twilight observed, was directly proportional to the volume of words spilling from her soft, pink, definitely-not-kissable lips. He had never felt so grateful for his mask.

 

Unfortunately, Yor did not have that privilege. The light of a street lamp was enough to expose the deep red blush on her face. “...And in the books I’ve read, and on TV, that happiness you feel when they’re around is a sign that you have feelings for someone, right? So at the very least, I have some sort of affection for him…”

 

She was waiting for a response. Say something, Twilight.

 

What should he say?

 

What could he say?

 

On the rare occasions that words escaped him, Twilight defaulted to his spy training. He did that now.

 

The logical decision was to encourage Yor’s feelings. Reassure her that it was fine to feel this way about her husband. Then go home as Loid and reciprocate her feelings so that they became a real couple. After all, the most effective lie was one laced with truth.

 

And yet, the warmth he felt right now was never part of his spy training. Procedure dictated that when faced with an unknown variable like this, it was best to withdraw from the situation as soon as possible. 

 

Not to mention this set of protocol fell in line quite nicely with the internal part of him that shuddered at the thought of manipulating Yor. 

 

“I think,” he began. His voice cracked. Twilight cleared his throat, face burning. “I think that sounds like an accurate analysis. But I wouldn’t know.”

 

A vague but satisfactional answer, to keep her at bay. And now that he had completed all the objectives for this mission, he was free to extract himself from the situation for post mission analysis of just what was happening and why the thought of Yor having feelings for him—no, Loid, not him—made him feel so warm.

 

“I have to go. I’ve been here long enough. I have. Things to do. So.” Twilight stood up robotically. “Until next Saturday.”

 

Yor stared at him in concern. He turned and rushed off. 

 

“Wait! I’m sorry if I offended you!” Yor called after him.

 

No, you didn’t. The opposite, actually.

 

That was the problem.

 


 

Last night’s talk with Twilight weighed on Yor the next morning. She let out a small sigh. She appreciated that Twilight listened to her when she confided in him about her feelings, but Yor was worried that she offended him somehow. He seemed so stiff toward the end of their talk, and it looked like he was in a rush to leave. 

 

To make matters worse, even Loid seemed to be in a strange mood today. He wasn’t avoiding her or acting out, but he just seemed… on edge. He stole glances at her when he thought she wouldn’t notice. A few times, she caught him staring off into space with a small dusting of pink across his face. Then he would notice her watching and snap out of it before averting his gaze.

 

Yes, she found it undeniably cute, but Yor was also concerned about the cause of his behavior. Was it her fault?

 

Well, the idea that she was the reason for his shy behavior was an appealing one. But only if his sudden shift in attitude was a positive one. 

 

Loid didn’t find out my secret, did he?

 

No, Yor needed to relax. It probably wasn’t that. If he discovered she was an assassin, his reaction would be more extreme. 

 

She sighed. Whatever it was, she hoped it wasn’t a bad thing.

 

The telephone rang. Loid and Anya were out of the house to restock Anya’s peanut stash (Yuri had delivered on his promise to buy Anya all the peanuts she could ask for, but the little girl went through the bags alarmingly quickly). 

 

Yor picked up the phone. “Hello?”

 

“Thorn Princess. Are you alone?” Shopkeeper’s usual jovial tone was absent, instead replaced by an air of urgency.

 

“Yes. What happened?”

 

“Our business arrangement with Royal Hotel has come tumbling down,” Shopkeeper informed her.

 

She gasped.

 

“The owner of the hotel has been arrested by the Secret Police. They are hot on Garden’s tail. It isn’t clear if they are after you specifically, but I have reason to think they are. They must be investigating in the aftermath of their raid.”

 

Yor started pacing in the living room, mind racing with the implications. 

 

“It is highly possible that they will track down other staff at the hotel and question them. Tell me, has your identity ever been exposed during your work there?” Shopkeeper asked.

 

She stopped walking. “Yes,” Yor whispered shakily. 

 

“When? Who?” he demanded.

 

“It was a few years ago. A janitor. I—he looked like Yuri, and he was his age, too, so I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. He was innocent. I don’t know if he even knew who I was…”

 

“...Do you remember what he looked like?”

 

She tried desperately to recall a face, to no avail. “I don’t.” 

 

Shopkeeper sighed heavily. “We’ll try to get to that janitor before the Secret Police do. He may not work there anymore, and he’s even less likely to remember that encounter. And like you said, he probably didn’t even know you were an assassin. The staff were kept out of the loop as much as possible.”

 

Yor didn’t reply, too consumed in fear about the grim possibilities ahead. 

 

“I hope, for your sake, that we find him. Stay safe, Thorn Princess.”

 

He hung up.