Yes, Liga, I did go to the docks, and I employed an awkward strategy to ensure that I could. I compared the layout you sent me with maps. Then, I messaged Gyetsuk and told Kati that we would meet lim at a restaurant on the second floor of a building that almost directly overlooks the place of interest. The restaurant serves Mãkyei food, and none of us has had it before.
Tsum, Gyetsuk! This is Salus, your younger cousin. You may still be asleep, and I am not scheduled for breakfast this morning — but I would like to show my appreciation for you. My roommate and I have plans to visit Ten Thousand Flavors tonight, a Mãkyei restaurant. Do you want to come? Feel free to bring anyone you want, but please respond by the noon hour.
At 3h82, Gyetsuk responded:
Little cousin! I can meet you. I will bring Deisurås and my fiancé. We can also bring Kitesrati. 😜 What time?
11h.40. Meet Kati and me at the restaurant. We look forward to seeing you!
Of course, Kati didn’t verify that le could come until 5h33. It involved me promising to purchase groceries for the next two weeks (which I think I can afford), and I reminded lim that everyone there could speak Tveshi. It will not be like the family breakfasts, in other words, and it did live up to that promise. Le wanted the guest list, which I provided — and le interrogated me in messages throughout the morning about Kitesrati.
My cousins have paired us with each other at breakfast for the past week, and Kati doesn’t understand how I haven’t spent that entire week investigating ler friends and family on the digital fora. The real answer is that I have been working to uncover an assassination plot, but the fake answer was that I have a lot of work and come home tired.
Kitesrati monitors satellite systems with Geocentric International, controlled by the International Congress, but has decided to run for office in one of the Canyon towns — a Senatorial seat, I mean, so actually a bit larger than just a town — a small city — and so le is receiving mentorship from my family. Le plans to go back to ler district and campaign soon. The Salus I was before my introduction to this murder plot would have listened attentively as le spoke. I couldn’t bring myself to give lim the attention le deserved. At least Kitesrati is cute, with small breasts and tight curves — very curvy. I could see myself married to lim, and that is the part that terrifies and excites me. It’s the exact kind of match my family would want for me. This infatuation with Aneti could never result in a marriage even if Aneti were a moral, pious person.
Kati and I convened on one of the Skyrail trains passing through the Juakatua District, which has connecting lines between my stop for work and the stop from the Metasai Residential Zone where we live. The trains heading North are crowded until Juakatua because Juakatua is where people can connect to the satellite transit leading into the suburbs. Nobody goes to the Necropolis after dark.
The East Docks sit on the river, and the Necropolis looms at their back. We accidentally took a train that put us at the Necropolis entrance instead of the one that branches into the East Docks directly, which meant more walking.
I brought a camera, and I took photos of Kati and me sitting in the balcony area at the restaurant. As we sat down, Kati said, “I invited a tonal percussionist I know. We’re trying to have lim do work for us.”
I nodded. The more we looked like a natural group, the less Daybreak would notice us — and the less Liga’s associates might pay attention to the group of Narahji-Atarahi-Īpahi women.
Gyetsuk, Kitesrati, and Deisurås arrived about ten minutes after us, accompanied by Kazajap. I positioned myself in the center, with my back to the edge of the balcony (as Aneti probably couldn’t recognize me from the back, but I could turn around as necessary). Kati sat down beside me. We spent the first ten minutes on introductions and small talk.
Kati showed off photographs of ler two children, who look mostly Shiji. Kitesrati is the first person to see those photos without asking the obvious early weaning question, but it helps that Kati’s husband is forwarding photographs as the younger one approaches three. Kitesrati is so polite that my bluntness feels like coarse sand in my mouth. I could learn to love this woman. I certainly admire lim.
I kept glancing at my comm band for the time. Deisurås met my eyes the third time I did it. I knew without a doubt that le understood I should not be here. My hands shook, but I took photographs of all of us at intervals. I paid attention to Gyetsuk and Kazajap because anyone would have focused on a couple about to be married. This is how I have so many photographs with Kelis.
At the appointed time, I glanced over the rail. Someone who could have been Aneti walked across the dock space below us. From the tension in my stomach, I knew that it must be lim. I excused myself from the table and said that I would take photographs of the construction site beyond the water. Its lights glittered so brilliantly that the lie sounded plausible.
Deisurås followed me to my lookout position and stood behind me while I took photographs. We were protected by the columns holding up the ceiling, but had a full view of the woman as le approached the group. I saw another woman — that one was Aneti. They looked like they could be siblings.
For five minutes, the three of them stood in a circle. My shaky hands made the photographs a bit blurry, but still good. They looked this way and that as if waiting for someone, and that person never came. Aneti turned ler attention towards the second-floor restaurant. For a moment, I thought that our gazes met, but le could not have seen me in the darkness.
When le looked away, Deisurås grabbed my wrist and leaned in close. Le whispered in Narahji, “I wish you could comprehend just how angry this has made Liga.”
I turned my head towards lim and lowered the camera. Le wore no gyena, and ler hair fell in single-bound locked hair. I glanced down at ler grip on my wrist and said, “How could you comprehend that any more than I can?”
The Daybreak group dispersed. I had no chance of another photograph. Deisurås said, “We have a protocol for this. We already hired someone. You are duplicating work and putting yourself and the people around you in danger.”
“How do you know about this?”
Deisurås sighed and lifted ler chin. Ler gaze shot towards the exit, and le raised ler right arm to fiddle with one of ler locks’ intricately-etched metal beads. “One cannot separate root from bedrock,” le said. Ler eyes met mine. “You don’t trust Liga.”
“Do you know Liga well?” I asked.
“Then you know that le hides things,” I said. “How can I respect someone like that? How could I trust lim?”
Le brushed ler dreadlocks away from ler face. “I cannot interfere with this. Let’s go back to the table.”
“How well do you know Liga?”
Deisurås’ lips parted. Le lowered ler hand from the bead and said, “Liga has a lot of anxiety. Le’s smart and useful, but ler mind takes lim to hyperbolic places. It is hard to fight a poison like that.”
We walked back to the table together. I bumped one of my hips against the table and nearly toppled a few of the water glasses. Kitesrati smiled at me and called me clumsy. I held back the worst of the rumination and tried to smile back. Le is marriage material.
Liga, how could I know you if everything you say points to something that you have hidden out in the open? I cannot continue without this information. I mean, at this point, we both know what it actually is. I deserve to be treated with respect. You couch things in half-truths and evasion, and you have frightened or pleaded with those around you like Deisurås to say nothing. The more I play what happened over in my mind, the more immature it seems. If you are this afraid that I will judge you, why bother to work with me at all?