Laurel marched with authority beside Diri, her eyes bright and alert from beneath the brim of her cover as they made their way through the halls, doing their best to avoid as much of the security personnel as possible. Her doppelganger, however, played the part beautifully; she strode through the hallways with an innate grace that would have defied any suspicions of her true identity, causing Laurel to giggle softly to herself, proud of her grandeur.
Knots of roaming guards stopped to observe the two carefully, Diri off-handedly mentioning that she would shoot someone in order to keep their cover. Laurel was not sure if she had been serious or not about this remark, but was determined to avoid any other drastic measures to escape. Security had indeed made a panoply of the search, and were luckily most only nodded with satisfaction at what looked like the Lady Winte’Shrine being properly escorted to safety by a senior guard.
..Albeit a noticeably small
guard, but was being closely watched, nonetheless.
The Ensign exhaled a steady breath as they stepped into the elevator and avoided a confrontation with another servant, though she was not foolish enough to let her guard down, not yet. “We are making our way toward the front gate,”
Laurel began in response to Diri’s question. “Its still too early yet for them to be going in formation for the summer guard to depart.. But the confusion with this assassin business will do nicely if we play our cards right.”
Laurel felt the weight of restlessness droop her eyes downward, politely covering her mouth to yawn as the elevator doors open, readying herself for another onslaught of confused guards and attendants.
She was not ready, however, to see Wolfgang Dieter himself standing not five feet away from the open doors, back turned as he waited for the lift to descend. A cold slice of panic seized her chest as she practically yanked Diri from the lift, making a sharp turn and throwing the poor thing into an adjacent bedroom, barely getting the door shut as she turned to see the High Colonel looking down watchfully at her.
Laurel kept her head low as if in reverence to the High Colonel, exhaling a soft breath and kept her voice low and was purposefully succinct in her regard to him. “Sir.”
There was no doubt in her mind that he could have known it was her; even if by some miracle he did not recognize her scent, small nuances like the perfume that she always wore, her mannerisms, could easily give her away. He seemed to be unsure of how to proceed as well.
Wolfgang cleared his throat, and pulled something away from his hip and genteelly held it out for her: A firearm. "Guard; hold to this for now, and give it unto your charge when you are clear of this place,” he offered. “It has served me well in countless a battle in this war; may it aid her just as faithfully."
Laurel was confused as she gingerly received the gun from him, braving a look up into his eyes, her gaze warm, if not wary. What could she possibly say that she had not already? And, if he had been so opposed to her departure alone, why was he helping her now? There were no other words that passed between them as she arose on her feet to kiss his forehead; for gratitude as well as in apology.
The sound of something small shattering upon the floor registered as the smell of something absolutely delicious
wafted up between them. The telltale blue bottle of the pheremone lay at their feet, fallen from her pocket, Laurel’s eyes apologetic. His eyes widened in realization, as she backed away with tears threatening to brim over her eyes at her treachery. He would never forgive her.
“I am so sorry.”
She did not deserve it.
It had been a last resort, an impulsive decision, but she had to be sure that he would not follow her, that he would ultimately be safe. Quickly turning to retrieve Diri, she avoided his gaze as the two young women took off down the hall; away from the seductive fragrance, and away from Laurel’s shame, if only for the time being.
They made their way down the empty hallways, slowing into a fast, determined walk until at last they made it to the front door. Walking towards the guards standing sentry, she purposefully cleared her throat and made she sure spoke without being seen, so as to give the impression that Diri was speaking as they approached, her face bowed downwards and behind the long locks of the wig as well. “Call a hover cab. I wish to be escorted off the grounds,”
Laurel was never so blunt with the personnel of the household, but hoped that urgency rang of some fear of this ‘assassin’ lurking about. “I am returning to my quarters and do not require assistance past the gate. Is that understood?”
Her heart hurt to give orders in this way, but she had to be sure that her double would be safe even without her present.
Laurel surmised the hanbok Diri was wearing would serve as payment enough for this extra service: the fabric alone would fetch a hefty sum, not including the embellishments and embroidery upon it; Diri was free to do with it as she so wished. The Zeltron turned once to brave a look at Laurel as she was being escorted away by a single guard, the young Ensign’s eyes grateful as she mouthed something, once, to her:
Quickly running out toward the eastern exit to the estate, toward the back gateway and past the gardens, Laurel caught a handful of guard out on the stoop, smoking cigarras. At her approach, they quickly stiffened, stubbing out the burning wink of the red tips, their faces guilty: Indeed, if it had been her mother who had caught them, she would have thrown an absolute fit.
Their eyes suddenly widened with recognition, bewildered to see Laurel clad in a guard uniform, flushed and breathless. “I am taking precautions,”
she quickly offered, gesturing beyond the gate toward the hangar. “Let us say that you won’t tell anyone I was wearing this to avoid the assassin,”
here, she feigned a sheepish smile. “…And I won’t tell anyone that you were smoking on the grounds. Agreed?”
They looked unsure but hesitantly began to nod, allowing Laurel to make her way to the hangar of the estate unchallenged.
“It has all been arranged, Milady,” the pilot began, the gentle thrum of the engines sounding as they began to lift off. “The group from Jephrie has contacted us, and will be awaiting us once we land for the ‘shipment’.” His eyes saddened, as if he looked unsure of their purpose in doing this. “Milady.. What is it that you have planned? This group seemed to be of a sinister sort, highly untrustworthy. What business could you possibly have with them? Milady? Are you listening?”
Laurel had already turned away, too frustrated and exhausted with her motives being questioned, as unsound as they now seemed even for her reasoning. She heard the pilot sigh in defeat behind her, the door sliding shut with a finalized hiss as she made her way to the cargo hold. In the corner awaiting her was a large, dark object. It seemed misplaced here in the sparse room; a casket.
She carefully walked over to it, taking a deep breath as she opened the heavy lid, and placing Wolfgang’s gift beneath the cushion where she knew that the jian she had previously ordered lay.. along with the mysterious sword Thess had given her, forged by the Emperor himself. She had been long in deliberating about bringing it, but it seemed almost… tempting fate if she did not. It had been bad enough that she had refused the help of the others; if there were a means for her to better come back to them without placing them in harms way, she would take it.
Laurel knew that she was not very strong by herself.. but with these, maybe, just maybe
The Ensign quickly undressed, taking off the guard uniform and unpinning her hair with one had as she uncovered a secondary package, untying it. A neatly folded, back stealth suit lay within. She quickly put it on and zipped it up, also pulling out one of her typical house robes to conceal it under, should one be so bold to open the casket and see her at some point whilst she lay unconscious. She fished out the three vials from before along with a small pill from the back of the suit, taking out the blue one and did her best to ignore the two with milky-white toxin as she put them away. Heaven forbid if she had to use either of them. Quickly swallowing the pill-- the contraindication to the sedatives --she quickly began to dress in the robes over suit.
She had been careful not to choose a gown that was too elaborate, as if she had been struck by whatever malady that befell her whilst meandering about the house on a typical day, unawares. For all she knew, this facility could have believed that the sender itself could have killed her, and they would not have cared. The thought made her shudder with revulsion, the knowledge that such people could exist.
The young woman herself had contacted the facility using untraceable means: The body of Laureleiden Ophelia Winte’Shrine, aged 23.
The details she had given had been scant, but she had made doubly sure that above all it seemed the body had not been compromised in any way.
Either by sheer desperation or negligence to delve deeper into her fake message, they had sent her a reply within a mere two minutes after it had been sent.
A perfect, intact, test subject.
One that she knew made for a coveted asset to this organization, for whatever reason. The shady group on Jephrie itself did not know the details, only that the pay for the delivery of casket was considerable enough if taken to the laboratory facility on Dosuun without tampering and no questions asked.
Laurel finished dressing the robe over the stealth suit, tying the lacy ribbon about her throat so as to conceal the black fabric beneath, and pulling down the long sleeves of the robe to do the same. Her thoughts began to darken, her nerve arising as she quickly put on and laced up her boots.
What if… she woke up already on a dissection table?
Her fingers hesitated.
..What if she did not wake up at all?
Laurel had gone too far at this point to lose her nerve, and if she already taken the awakening drug at the exact time if she had wanted to wake up when she had planned.
She was wasting her time, her chance
, that she had fought so hard and long for. Quickly, she finished with her boots, picking up the blue sedative and eyed the vial as if testing her mettle for a final time.
You’re being weak again.
She steeled herself, snapping the head of the ampoule off and sipping the liquid down through hesitant lips, pursing them so as to deter any bits of glass that may have fallen through. Moments passed as she set the empty vial on the floor, her hands wringing themselves in worry in her robe. Nothing happened as she lay herself down in the casket as if to test it, not daring to shut the lid; her claustrophobia still existed with a livid vehemence within her, the consequence of having spent a childhood shut away after Euphemede had gone.
She stood in the casket, crossing her arms, waiting. Footsteps sounded nearby, and she began to suspect that someone had discovered the drugs, or the the pharmacist had-
A moment later, she gripped herself, her eyes wide as a strangled cry suddenly arose to her lips, her hands flying to her throat.
A sharp cold laced an intricate pattern of frost through her veins; the void first blooming in her fingers, her toes, and reaching fingers of ice upward to claim the feeling in her limbs. It ran insatiably through her body, consuming her senses, stealing them away. Laurel stumbled backwards on phantom legs, only falling once more and striking her heard against the edge of the inner casket, further heightening the numbing buzz that blossomed in the back of her skull. She realized that she was going into some kind of drug-induced shock.
Truly, she did not doubt that it would feel the same.
She did not see as her skin whitened into an alabaster from the sudden disruption to her system, her flushed lips and cheeks quickly draining into a white pallor as her vision began to blur, both from her frightened tears and the influence of the drugs now quickly taking hold within her. The world spun, her breath becoming shorter, ebbing away.
Laurel took this as penance: An arrest of her sins for leaving her dear friends Mydnyte and Aquila behind, for drugging Wolfgang, and Force knows what else she would have to do to find her sister before she was through. Atonement for her sins, her selfishness. Quickly, her thoughts began to abandon her, leaving her in a hell worse than she could have fathomed, worse than being shut away from the world; she felt nothing
Her eyes drifted shut of their own accord, mind quickly following suit as it desperately conceded to the hazy memory of a moonlit hallway, to arms that held her safe in the darkness and she thought no more.
Fallinor swore aloud to himself when he saw the state Laurel was in several minutes later, as still and white as death. The guard had seen many bodies when he had served in the war to be sure, but seeing the body of a woman, especially one so beloved as this, still made him blanch with a deep-seated horror.
A fallen mess of robe and ribbon, limbs and hair; a broken doll halfway out of her case with her hand pressed lain her chest. He feared greatly for the mistress-- they all had been, to be honest --but she had begged them for months to trust her, to have faith in this mysterious plan of hers.
Still, looking at her again, he was briefly gripped of the fear that she had perhaps taken her own life, as she so looked convincingly deceased. There were dark shadows still beneath her eyes, grim testament of this nameless tension she had been under, though for the moment she had no breath in which to voice them.
Disturbed, the guard crouched low to lay his ear against her chest, beside her lips, just to be sure; her heartbeat and breath still registered, though were barely audible and slowed into an eerily faint metronome. She lived, though if only by a mere thread. Fallinor carefully and neatly tucked her into the casket as he had been instructed by her to do beforehand, locking it with a tone of finality afterward.
He stood and looked at it for a long moment afterwards, unsure if he were making the right decision. He had faith that she had a method to her madness.. Surely she would only do something so horrific to herself if there were not a good reason. Perhaps they had all been wrong- if the means of what she had been doing were so dire, what kind of trouble was she truly
getting herself into?
She had been so secretive, who would know?
He thought back to the past few days, to the slew of visitors that she had in that short span of time. Notably, there was that tall fellow that he had seen at the estate from the ball, and those two young women who had come back not once, but twice. Perhaps he ought to go ask them what was wrong with the young mistress.