[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Shuni is putting the plan on him? It does feel a little to Lucien as if he’s being put on the spot, but he supposes that given the amount of information he just dumped on Shuni, maybe Shuni hardly knows where to begin. Lucien sure felt that way earlier with Katarin.
So Lucien tries to project confidence. “I think we should search the theatre,” he says. “We can see if anyone is acting strange, and perhaps we can get this over with by listening for the heart.”
Shuni doesn’t quite give him a scornful look. “I mean, I’ve been looking,” he says. “You’re right that we can cover more ground together, I suppose, but when? We’re going to get there right before the performance. There’s not enough time to search early.”
Pushing on gamely, Lucien says, “We usually have some time after the show, when most people have headed home. We could linger behind and take a look through places you haven’t had a chance to check yet. I mean, we might want to use that time to try to talk to a Lord, but maybe we can do both. They’ve approached us when we were alone before; they might wait until we leave separately, whenever that is. I mean, given the last couple nights, I feel like they want to talk to us too.”
“Or at least to you,” Shuni says softly.
“Speaking of which,” Lucien says gamely, “like you said, you might have an in with Lord the Endless. You already made a sacrifice to her, so you have an established relationship. Can I ask what it is that you sacrificed?”
Shuni looks at Lucien for a long moment, visibly weighing how much to say, and it occurs to Lucien how little he really knows about Shuni Blanc. His name, his home, his appearance. But the rest is truly a blank. Then again, he imagines he’s much the same, to Shuni. Shuni knows Lucien’s name, his home, his appearance, but nothing else, none of the scars on his own heart, not the key in his pocket, nothing. Lucien misses the days of his schooling, when it was easier to find these things out about each other, and asking questions bluntly was simply the way of things.
Finally, Shuni sighs. “I can’t talk about it,” he says softly. “I gave her a cherished memory, one that was going to last forever in my heart. Now it can last forever in hers instead. All right?”
Here it was, a moment in which Lucien could pry, or could not pry. He makes note of the word can’t, and decides to let it lie, at least for now. If it turns out to be important later, he can ask about what details Shuni does still remember, but he’s touching enough wounds already.
“All right,” Lucien says softly. He squeezes Shuni’s arm. “I think it’s time to get the Lords actively involved. If the Moonlit Lord is there, we should at least dedicate a smaller scene to her. If Crow is there, I’ll dedicate to him. If Endless is, you should dedicate to her. I’ll put in a cry for help, introduce a line about dreams and needing guidance. And we should try to go for a double Arcane-Logos kill again, because that’ll clear up time we’d normally just be hanging around the green room, and we can explore while the play goes on, in rooms that are usually occupied. We meet for our bows, change out of costume, linger, and search the rest. Then, we’ll leave separately, to give room for a Lord to approach us.”
Shuni considers Lucien, then leans in, giving him a lingering, light kiss on the corner of his mouth. “It’s a good plan,” he allows. “Let’s hope it all comes together like that.”
And, as the play starts that day, Lucien really believes it will. He manages to avoid Katarin before the show entirely begins, though he can’t quite miss the scathing look she gives him when he and Shuni show up together. From her perspective, he can understand it; assuming she hasn’t been lying to him, she told him all about how Shuni might be a genuine threat and then Lucien went and got him alone. But still, he’s just as glad to save any explanations to her for later.
The play itself goes well. There are three Lords again in attendance—it’s getting a little strange that it’s three, no more, no fewer—and it’s Endless, Crow, and, to Lucien’s huge relief, the Moonlit Lord. She doesn’t look well, exactly, not compared to what Lucien thinks would be normal for her—rather than the brilliantly blinding light, she is dim enough that he can make out her elongated and lithe form. But she is there, and she is glowing. Assuming that what he saw in his dream is real and not just a premonition, it has to be a good sign.
The double-kill also goes off flawlessly, along with the multiple dedications. Everything feels like it’s falling into place, and he feels energized by his run of good fortune as he and Shuni head back to the green room, the starting place for their planned search while the rest of the cast and crew are busy.
But that’s when the plan falls apart. They’ve barely gotten there and turned to each other to talk when the door opens again and Ran, one of the ushers, comes in. Lucien’s familiar with them—a young human with shoulder-length black hair usually held back in a high ponytail, and someone who Lucien considers a friend, since they’ve had a drink or two together after rehearsal before—and they look dazed, bewildered, like they’re drunk or drugged or simply stunned.
“Lucien,” they say, in that sort of starstruck voice, “the Moonlit Lord has asked that you attend on her in her booth.”
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]