Halloween I.F. – “Body of Work” – Day 14
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One way or another, he was going to be pushing his professional boundaries with his research assistant, but it was so hard to decide which act of boundary-pushing to do. Augustus supposed that he should pick the more lucrative option—so it came down to whether following Yujin or slipping into their empty office would net him more information.
Well—ultimately, whatever Yujin and Feather talked about, he was supposed to get all the details anyway. He could always quiz Feather later and see if Yujin had left anything out. However, he couldn’t easily guarantee finding another good time to check out Yujin’s room without arousing any suspicion. So better to do this one now; if he were fast enough about it, he still might be able to eavesdrop on the tail end of the conversation.
Not if he wasted any more time though; he produced his keys quickly, unlocking Yujin’s door and slipping inside.
Augustus’s first impression of Yujin’s study room, now that he looked around it, was messy. It wasn’t terrible—he hadn’t been much better at that age, and for all he had a several-year-long gap in his memory, he remembered both before and after it fairly well. But Yujin was clearly too busy to bother to keep everything nicely organized in this room, and it showed. It didn’t read to Augustus as if they’d been throwing things around or any similar frenetic activity; there were just too many mugs and plates, too many stacks of paper, crumpled pages that had missed the garbage can.
These he checked first, in case Yujin were disposing of some kind of evidence, but they seemed to be notes on Yujin’s own research, which was primarily about the summoning of human spirits who had moved onto the realm of the dead. It was a very popular field of Conjuration research as it both allowed for the possibility of the permanent movement between planar realms based on certain statuses of being, and also the possibility that the things which returned were not human spirits at all and merely were very good at pretending to be them. But the crumpled garbage papers were half-finished pages on what was clearly their current paper that they were hoping to have published, so Augustus carefully re-crumpled them and deposited them, wincing, outside the garbage bin where he’d found them.
Next, he checked their desk drawers. The first few turned up nothing notable—snack stashes, papers, writing supplies, and so on—but the main center drawer gave him pause. There were magical materials here; spools of copper wire, chunks of quartz, sticks of charcoal and chalk, bundles of herbs. That wasn’t theoretically unusual for a research assistant to have access to. However, since the research assistants didn’t have individual workrooms, they had a public workroom that they shared, with materials stocked in it by the university itself. They shouldn’t be taking it out of the workroom, as their study rooms were nowhere near as well warded. Augustus wouldn’t attempt most practical spells in his office, and that was still better set up than an assistant’s study room.
Augustus made note of the materials he found there in case he could cross-reference them for some intended purpose, and shut the drawer carefully again. It jammed a little, so he reached further back and found that, in the gap between the drawer to its right and the back of the desk, a book had been placed. It was invisible when he’d opened those drawers, but it was accessible from this one, and must have shifted as he’d examined the materials.
Very carefully, he extracted the book … only to find that it was one of his: the book about ghosts and possessions from the perspective of material-vs-spiritual analysis. He frowned, putting it down, and began a more thorough investigation of the room.
It made sense for Yujin to have a copy of this, but he was very sure it was his copy; he knew that scratch along the back cover where he’d carelessly left a knife on it a year or two back. It made sense for Yujin to have wanted to borrow it, though why they wouldn’t just ask, he had no idea. If the rest of the books were here, too—
They weren’t, though. Augustus checked under rugs, under chair cushions, behind the rest of the drawers, checked for loose floorboards, and of course searched the shelves. There was only this single book here out of all his missing research.
Why had so many books been stolen, yet Yujin only had one? Had Yujin taken all of them and somehow since got rid of them, but had decided to keep this one? Had someone planted this here to frame Yujin? Or had Yujin borrowed (or stolen) just this one coincidentally and were worried they were going to be blamed for all the others going missing as well?
Whatever the reason, nothing else seemed out of place or unusual here, minus all the snacks and dishes implying that Yujin’s been surprisingly hungry lately. They were a young adult, though, and he remembered how he‘d eaten in his early twenties.
Augustus knew he should head out now if he wanted any chance of overhearing the end of Yujin’s conversation. But the real question was: Should he take his stolen book back with him to quietly return it to his shelf, or to confront Yujin with it? Alternatively, should he leave it here? And if he left it here, should he slip it back into its hiding place make it look like nobody had been here, or should he leave it out on the desk to really fuck with Yujin? Or—
Well. The opportunities were endless.
[What should Augustus do? Comment with details.]
Might be best to place it back where it was, for now. At the very least, you know who has it if you ever need it later. Leaving it out would only arouse suspicion, and it would be hard for you to deny that you have the keys to Yujin’s office and could have snuck in there at any point in time (which you are, in fact, doing). Best not to leave a trail while you’re sneaking about.
No no no take it with you and put it in your office in an obvious place it’s extremely funny just gaslight them into a confession, the book is hidden and they probably won’t notice it missing from their desk right away anyway. Plus what are they going to do, confront you about it??? They can’t implicate you without implicating themself.
And then go try to eavesdrop.
Put the book back as it was. You have the knowledge of it to confront Yujin with at any time, and what you overhear might clear up what angle you want to take with them going forward.