The sky was slowly turning darker.
The pouch inside Calian’s inner pocket made a clunking noise as Calian peeked inside his jacket.
‘I feel sort of guilty using a child’s money,’ he thought for a moment; he figured that Old Calian wouldn’t be too mad at him since he was just using the money to ensure his survival.
In any case, Calian had to cross the river again now that he had bought a sword, which was his top priority. Calian went back the way he came and headed towards the bridge.
It didn’t take him long to get to the bridge that crossed the Senyu River. However, a group of people in black who were gathered around the entrance of the bridge noticed Calian approaching and blocked the path. Raven slowed down into a halt.
“What’s wrong, Raven?”
Since Raven was so good at finding his way around, Calian was lost in thought about his next destination. He only looked up when Raven had stopped.
Only then did Calian notice the people in black. Alertness flashed across Calian’s face.
Thankfully, they weren’t some bandits with the nerve to take over the Royal Road of a prospering capital city. Calian, who had been thinking for a moment how he should draw the weapon that he had just bought, sighed in relief and faced the front.
The man who was standing at the front of the crowd approached Calian.
“I’m terribly sorry to block the way.”
The black clothes that he wore were funeral attire. His voice was hoarse from crying to the point where Calian could barely make out what he was saying. Even so, the man explained the situation with a very polite attitude.
“The deceased is passing the bridge right now. If you aren’t in a hurry, we would be most grateful if you could wait for a little while.”
Calian looked over at the Senyu River. Small candles were placed on top of red annerucia flowers that were floating down the river. A small group of people were gathered around from where the flowers were lowered onto the river.
Calian finally understood what was happening.
“A farewell ceremony?”
“Yes. I apologise for the inconvenience.”
Calian climbed down from Raven’s back right away.
“I have no reason to block the journey of the deceased. You have nothing to apologise for.”
As Calian had guessed, he was at the site of a funeral ceremony traditional to Kyris.
The mourners gathered next to the closest river to the deceased person’s home and floated candles down the river that will shine on the final path of their life.
There was a belief, however, that if a living man crossed the river while the petals were still floating down the river, the deceased would try to follow the living and lose their way.
Hence, during the ceremony, it was customary for the family of the deceased to ask those on the road not to cross the river.
Calian gazed at this solemn sight that he had come across by chance.
The flow of the Senyu River was always calm; the annerucias also quietly floated down the river without rocking. The wind was silent tonight, so there was none to flicker the candlelights.
“They must be passing peacefully. My deepest condolences,” murmured Calian, almost subconsciously.
“Thank you,” the man answered sincerely. As a sign of thanks for stopping, getting off the horse, and even paying his respect for the deceased, the man bowed his head once again.
Calian recalled Secretia’s tradition where they place cinnastars, a flower that bloomed a second flower under the moonlight, on the grave.
‘I wonder if Chase had placed cinnastars on my grave, or if he had turned the axis of time before having the chance to do so.’
Calian’s thoughts were interrupted once again by the man.
“You can go ahead now.”
The annerucias seemed to have completely passed under the bridge. Calian nodded and climbed onto Raven’s back.
In his gratefulness, the man wanted to see whose family the boy belonged to. The man looked up at Calian as he sat down on his horse and flinched. He hurriedly stepped out of the way.
The magic light posts that lined the Royal Road were bright. It was more than enough to clearly show the face hidden underneath the robe.
Calian noticed that the man had realised who he was. He said in a subdued voice,
“Do not keep this in your memory.”
The man bowed, and Calian slowly crossed the bridge.
When the man straightened his head once again, he stared at Calian’s back for a long time. A group of other people in black clothes approached the man.
“What’s wrong, Arsen? Was it someone you knew?”
The man – Arsen Hertz – shook his head.
“No. He just seemed like a good person, that’s all.”
The candlelights, which were now quite far away, flickered ever so slightly.
The sun completely sank below the horizon and darkness settled. Since Calian’s next destination could be visited regardless of how late it was, Calian looked around at a leisurely pace.
“This city really is big on Sispanian,” muttered Calian. He recalled a comment from a spy who went by the code name Blue Warbler.
The capital city, Kyrisis, almost seems like a place solely for admirers of Sispanian. Her presence is evident all over the city.
The host of yesterday’s horseback riding show had also mentioned Hatsuara and Sispanian.
Now, in front of him, were rows of stores that borrowed Sispanian’s name: a hotel called ‘Sispanian’s Slumber’, a cafe called ‘Sispanian’s Break’, and even a restaurant called ‘Sispanian’s Meal’.
Calian sighed in defeat.
“It really feels like they’re overdoing it. I can’t imagine the meal of a dragon being appetising.”
A hollow laugh spilled out when he saw a pub named ‘Sispanian’s Strong Scent of Alcohol’ in the corner of the street. Most other shops seemed very normal in comparison.
After travelling for a little while, a sign reading ‘Nieransha Street’ appeared. Calian’s second destination was on this street. He immediately hardened his face and entered the street, fiddling with his knife.
Kyrisis’ Western Market was on this street.
Since it was getting late, most shops were closed for the day; only late-night restaurants, pubs, and cafes were lit up. However, Calian passed by all of them without hesitation as they weren’t where Calian was headed towards.
“Two, three, four… I guess this is it.”
When Calian had passed by three alleys of the Western Market and led himself into the fourth, there was only one shop that was lit in the darkness.
Birdcages of various sizes and colours in front of the entryway caught his eye. Calian looked up at the nameboard of the store and nodded in satisfaction. He seemed to be at the right place.
Nieransha Bird Shop (Rental Carrier Pigeons)
If the store was simply selling pet birds, it would have been strange for them to be open at this hour. However, it was understandable for carrier pigeon services to operate during late hours as people would come looking for a way to deliver their messages both day and night.
Whether it was because the building was small or because the hour was late, they didn’t seem to have an attendant who could take his horse. There weren’t any posts that he could use to tie his horse to, either.
“What should I do?”
Raven climbed down from Raven’s back and stood still, stumped by the lack of posts that he could use to tie his horse to.
Calian knew best that Raven would never wander off without his rich owner who could and was very willing to pamper him. He was worried that someone might try to steal him; to be precise, worried about that unlucky someone who would be kicked by the horse’s tantrum.
In the end, Calian resigned and gathered Raven’s reigns on top of his saddle.
“Wait for me here, and don’t make any trouble.”
Raven whinnied as if to answer Calian and positioned himself by the wall of the building. His black body was hidden under the dark shade of the building, and only the white patch of hair on his front right fetlock stood out.
Calian turned away from Raven. He pulled his hood further down his face and entered the shop.
A chime sounded a little louder than the bell that Yan rang every morning, indicating that a customer was here.
The birds inside the shop seemed to have been woken up by the chime and started chirping all at once. It was almost as if he were walking in a forest rather than in a shop located at one corner of a market.
‘It’s larger than it seemed from the outside.’
A large selection of birdcages and birds were scattered throughout the shop. There were pet birds smaller than Calian’s fists all the way to hawks that could be used for hunting. In fact, it was harder to think of birds that weren’t in the shop.
The owner, who was wearing a monocle and feeding the birds, turned his head towards Calian and stood up.
“Are you looking for a carrier pigeon?”
Instead of raising his guard, that’s what he had asked a stranger who had stepped into the shop with a black robe covering their face after the night had settled in.
Calian silently turned towards a birdcage that seemed oddly silent. Two white domestic birds were asleep in it, leaning their bodies on each other. It looked like a pair of real birds without doubt, but Calian knew that they were just a pair of very well-crafted decorations.
“These birds don’t seem to wake,” murmured Calian quietly.
It didn’t matter that his voice sounded young, but he had been worried that his nervousness might show. Thankfully, a calm voice echoed in the shop.
“They sleep a lot,” answered the owner.
It was the same reply as the one Bern remembered.
That marked the beginning of a scripted conversation.
“They must have come from afar. They seem very tired.”
“…that must be why they’re sleeping so much.”
Calian felt the owner scanning Calian during his short pause. Nothing from his appearance should give away his identity. Calian lowered his gaze concentrated on not letting the owner see the colour of his eyes.
“That makes sense. This sure seems like a perfect place for an exhausted bird to take a rest.”
“That’s good to hear,” replied the owner nonchalantly, taking off his monocle and wiping it with his sleeve. He put it back on and asked,
“What are you looking for?”
Calian’s next answer was crucial. If he accidentally failed to answer correctly or showed any suspicious actions, his head would fall right off his shoulders.
“I need some bird feed.”
“Yes, we do sell bird feed here.”
While the two continued on with their placid exchange, the birds had stopped chirping and fallen back to sleep. In no time, the shop was silent. One could even hear the sound of their own clothes brushing against their body.
“But…” The owner walked over to Calian and stood behind him.
Calian didn’t hear the man’s footsteps. He didn’t need to see the sharp knife under the owner’s clothes to know that it was there.
The owner silently gazed at Calian’s back for what seemed like an eternity. Calian’s breath softly rang his own ears as the viscous air pressed against his lungs. A chill ran across his whole body.
The owner’s voice continued amidst the suffocating tension.
“I don’t remember selling birds to anyone recently. I can’t say that I recall seeing you before.”
This was not a scripted question. Calian had to think of an answer himself.
Right away, a small chuckle leaked out of Calian’s mouth.
“My bird has only just left its nest to find food. It’s only obvious for you not to have sold it to me.”
The owner halted his footsteps that were slowly approaching Calian.
“Do you know where the bird came from?”
The script resumed. Calian replied without hesitation.
“I heard that it drifted along with the southeastern wind.”
“Whose bird is it, then?”
Calian slowly turned around and faced the owner.
Under his hood, his lips drew a long smile. The final answer to this exchange spilled out.
“The bird belongs to Nevlad.”
Devlan, the King of Secretia. Nevlad was an anagram of Devlan.
In other words, Calian –
He had become the first prince of Kyris who came to get information on Kyris from the base of Secretia spies hiding within Kyrisis.
Original Translation: Wordexcerpt
Edited By: Tani Andris
My guy just met his murder and then infiltrated a spy organisation as you do