Shane must have left a crack in the curtains, because the sun was streaming through emerald velvet when he blinked his tired eyes open. His room was far too green. Of course, the House of Courage stuck to a symbolic color scheme in its design, but they didn’t feel the need to drench every surface in it, unlike here. His sheets were in sage, the pillowcases were mint, the walls were the solid color of dusky pine. The hotel had no doubt been trying to make it look like his home, but it wasn’t working.
Maybe it should have worked on him. He’d lived in this city for four years, and his uncle had once stayed in this very room— and before that, his mother had too, and on and on. It wasn’t like he didn’t have a family presence here as well as one of his own. But it felt wrong, just as the overwhelming amount of green felt wrong. He wasn't settled.
His mother could have braided her dark hair in the mirror by the armoire, that soft smile floating on her face. Flint could have paced over the hardwood floor with a meeting on his mind. Shane wondered if the other Heirs felt haunted by the lingering memory of their predecessors here too.
Shane could have sworn he was too tired to be seeing properly when he rolled over in bed and saw a pair of yellow slippers on the floor instead of the off-shamrock ones provided for him. The color stood out fiercely, and there was no way those were meant to be here. Leilan. His friend had probably swapped them out as a joke. With a sleepy but amused roll of his eyes and an incredibly long yawn, Shane reluctantly pushed himself up and out of bed.
It was then that he remembered that he shouldn’t be putting on any slippers this morning, green or no. Mireya and Cyrin were going to come over soon, and for that, he’d have to look at least slightly professional. Shane sighed.
Hopefully he hadn’t woken up too late to have breakfast first.
With his hair brushed and some semi-formal wear on, Shane left his room and closed his door behind him, walking softly through the hall in case anyone wasn’t up yet. He needn’t have bothered; all the other doors, except the ones to the teal and bronze rooms, were already open. He wondered if they’d already started without him, and he hurried out.
Fortunately, he wasn’t greeted by six people sitting in their living room at a conference, but by Kasumi in the kitchen. She was rinsing out a bowl that looked like it had held pancake batter, getting it clean before she set it in the dishwasher. Sure enough, there was a stack of pancakes sitting on a plate beside her, which were nicely golden-brown. The stove griddle had clearly been used.
“Morning,” she greeted him as she pulled down more plates.
“Morning,” Shane replied. He paused, then added, “I thought we get complimentary breakfast here?”
“We do, but Kaja finds continental breakfasts not filling enough, and no one felt like going to the buffet, so I made this. Leilan and Dawn went downstairs just a moment ago, they’ve eaten already. Kaja has too, so take all you want.” Kasumi piled a couple pancakes on a plate. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Shane hesitated, before he took a plate and a few pancakes for himself. “Nothing. Thanks, that’s very nice of you.”
She smiled slightly as she pulled out silverware for both of them. “Don’t be too impressed. It’s only pancake mix Daphne got for us, I didn’t make it from scratch. I can’t do much more than whisking three ingredients together.”
“I have about a 50% success rate with making toast, so I’m definitely impressed by this,” Shane said.
Kasumi shook her head with mock disdain. “Daphne also bought us berries to stock the place yesterday. They’re in the fridge. I assume you didn’t know already, otherwise they’d be gone by now.”
“Oh, yes,” Shane exclaimed, darting for the fridge, and he heard Kasumi chuckle behind him.
As he pulled out a carton of blackberries and piled them high onto his pancakes, he had to wonder about Kasumi’s attitude this morning. It’d been a while since he’d seen her in a good mood, much less one where she was considerate enough to make breakfast for anyone. Yet here she was, making pancakes and telling him where to find the berries, knowing that he probably wouldn’t leave any for anyone else.
“Is today a good day?” Shane asked as he sat down at the counter table.
Kasumi shrugged, cutting herself a bite. “We’re going to be restoring order to Aphirah, so I see that as pretty good.”
“Right,” Shane said, uncertain how much he agreed with her.
Kasumi must have heard it, because she glanced up. “What is it?”
“No, it’s nothing.” Attempting to dodge the question, Shane quickly took his first bite of the pancakes. They were light and fluffy, perfect with the sweetness of the berries. “Wow, these are really good.”
Although he’d been honest about the pancakes, Shane clearly hadn’t gotten good enough at lying to be a politician, because Kasumi’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at that non-response.
“Okay, fine,” he huffed. “I’ve got my doubts and confusions to work through, but I don’t really want to talk about it just yet. I do have a question for you, though, if you’re willing.”
“What was it with the movie theater last night?”
Kasumi paused, her fork hovering above her plate. “I don’t know,” she admitted, and Shane was pretty sure she was at least mostly telling the truth. “I just… kind of knew it was there. Like I remembered it somehow. I’m not sure how I did, though.”
“Did you remember the casino, too?” Shane asked.
Her brow furrowed as she frowned. “I… it’s hard to tell. It felt vaguely familiar, but I can’t think of a reason why I’d remember it or the movie theater across from it, because I have no idea why I’d have been to either place.”
“But you have been, you mean?”
Kasumi shrugged, slumping a little bit. “Look, I have no clue. I didn’t recall anything at all before I saw the location, and it’s all too fuzzy to tell. It might have something to do with my dad, it might not. I don’t know.”
Shane frowned in confusion. “Your dad?”
“Wake up already, Shane, or else I’m going in there and dropping your history books out the window,” a heavy voice bellowed from the hallway, causing both of them to jump before Kasumi could answer.
“I closed my door,” Shane muttered, before he raised his voice. “I’m out here, Kaja! Leave my history books alone.”
Kaja came out, huffing something about how he should have let her act on her ‘fun’ threats for once. She’d no doubt been awake for a couple hours already, and she might have even hit the hotel gym for a morning exercise, from the looks of her sporty high ponytail of blonde hair and the water bottle in her hand. Shane had told Cyrin and Mireya that the Heirs weren’t morning people. That was a lie, except for him. He’d completely made that up to get some extra sleep.
"It's drafty in here," Kaja declared, setting her water bottle down on the counter with a loud clang. Shane winced and went back to eating. "Did someone open a window earlier?"
Kasumi frowned. "...No? Why would we do that?"
Kaja grunted. “Anyway. We’ll have to be ready to leave this place behind. It sounds like we’re traveling, although we don’t know where yet. I’m packed and prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.”
“Are we going to ditch Acelin and Daphne here and run off?” Kasumi asked. “I was lucky to get away unnoticed the first time.”
“We can worry about that later,” Kaja said, though that worried Shane very much at this very moment. “Hopefully those thieves won’t take us to Amber City. I think I’ll lose my mind if I end up in that airport again.”
“I have larger concerns,” Shane said flatly.
“Of course you do,” Kaja muttered with a roll of her eyes.
“We met a crime boss yesterday. We’re about to abandon our duties as Heirs to follow two thieves wherever they want to take us. We’re going to participate in organized crime. I’d say my concerns are valid.”
“We won’t get into trouble for extending our travel, because we were only really here for meeting with the mayor and discussing it, and it sounds like those two swore to protect us,” Kaja said, reaching over to snatch a handful of blackberries from the carton. Shane watched on distressedly. “The crime boss was strange, though.”
“His name was… Sparrow?” Kasumi asked. “That’s what I find strange.”
“He was Kejvan, probably local or from somewhere in the coastal East, like Starlight City,” Kaja explained. “A lot of Kejvan family names take after an aspect of nature, sometimes an animal.”
“It’s a decreasing trend,” Shane added. “Kaja doesn’t have it, and once industrialization kicked in, nature’s relevance in Kejvan culture—”
“Your last name is literally Hawking.”
“He knew that,” Kasumi said pityingly. “He just wanted to talk about history.”
“When doesn’t he?” Kaja pointed out.
“Thanks, Kaja Lindberg, for your helpful evidence,” Shane grumbled, finishing the last of his pancakes.
The elevator dinged, and he suddenly realized that throwing around full names today was dangerous. Through the shot of quick panic, he felt incredibly grateful that no one had arrived a few seconds earlier when Leilan and Dawn stepped out through the opening metal doors, with Mireya and Cyrin just behind.
Shane watched the mages glance around the suite, and he wondered what they were thinking. Cyrin didn’t taken aback by any of the wealth on display, and mostly seemed to care about the windows and doors, from where his gaze was going. Maybe he’s stolen more impressive things, Shane reasoned. Mireya seemed to stare for a rather long time at the crystal and gold chandelier overhead, and he wasn’t sure whether she was being judgmental, intrigued, or admirative.
“Can I have some blackberries?” Mireya asked finally. “It’s hard to plan things when you haven’t eaten yet.”
“I literally offered to buy you a muffin with the coffee this morning,” Cyrin said. “You turned it down.”
“Yes, well, they didn’t have blackberry muffins.”
Shane held out the blackberries, trying not to look too upset about it. “Have all you like.” Please don’t do that.
“Thank you!” Mireya said cheerfully, taking a large handful that made him wish he hadn’t been so generous. Did pledging financial support extend to providing them with berries? It probably applied to being a good host.
“Is there somewhere we can sit down to discuss this?” Cyrin asked. “It might take some time.”
“Of course,” Leilan agreed, heading towards the sitting room the Heirs had met in the night before. “Right this way. Let’s get started.”