The Ruby Insignia
Ocia tapped her fingers against the cedar-wood table.
The three Shujaa females surrounded her, their beady eyes glaring at her as they waited for her to respond to Kerria. Ocia shifted her gaze to the ceiling and then ushered a silent prayer. Taking in a deep breath, she looked back at Kerria. The female’s face twisted into a frown, heat beaming from underneath her skin.
“Are you sure He said He saw Luce?” Ocia pressed again.
“Yes. He did.” Kerria slid further into her chair. “He did nothing. He only told me because He suspected that Luce was somewhere in Kekere-Daun.”
Ocia arched her eyebrow. “Did He tell you exactly where in Kekere-Daun?” A Divine One coming to visit Kerria in broad daylight? Ocia couldn’t bring herself to believe it. The last time any of the Shujaas saw a Divine One was thirty-something years ago during Luce’s supposed expulsion. Since then, Kotak was placed under heavy armor, and none of the Divine Ones ever bothered visiting Ịtoba again.
“No, he didn’t. He left before He could tell me.”
“You don’t have to believe me,” Kerria said, with the slightest hint of frustration in her voice. “But I know who I saw.”
“We all know them,” Ya’Dasah grumbled. “I was married to one of them.”
“So was I,” Miriam said, tucking her thick curls behind her ear. “You’re no more special than I am.”
“Which one told you this?” If Ocia was going to go forward with any investigation, she should at least know who contacted Kerria.
Kerria scoffed at the question. “The Creator.”
“Ya’Dasah rolled her eyes then got up from the table. “The Creator,” she mocked before heading outside to sit on the veranda.
The other Shujaas stared at Kerria.
“Are you sure that’s who you saw?” Ocia asked, because while the other Divine Ones were more likely to visit Ịtoba—as rare as that was—the Divine Creator Himself never showed His face. Literally.
He was the least likely candidate to visit Kerria; though, if Ocia was honest with herself, Kerria was a Worshipper.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she insisted.
“Alright. If you claim that He was the one who told you, then the least we could do is investigate. Did He give you any leads?”
“Other than Luce might be in Kekere-Daun?”
“He said something about Luce getting in via a portal and that someone in Kekere-Daun might have helped him in.”
“Did He tell you who?”
“You’re asking so many questions right now.” Kerria’s face reddened. “He left before He told me anything of value.”
“Why would He just suddenly leave?”
Kerria shrugged. “I don’t know why. When my assistant came downstairs, He got all angsty then left. He never contacted me since.”
“But Ocia, He said nothing to you,” Ya’Dasah argued from the veranda. “You lead the military. If something was up, He would tell you. If He doesn’t, anything else is invalid.”
“I get my commands these days from Michael. I haven’t seen any of the Divine Ones in decades, thanks to Luce.”
“Well, I’ve seen Them,” Miriam chirped.
Ya’Dasah marched back inside, pointedly to Miriam. “The Divine Judge is your ex-husband with whom you have bloody grandchildren. Of course, you see them.” Then, she turned to Kerria. “But has any of Them said anything to anyone else about Luce?”
Miriam shook her head.
“Case closed.” Ya’Dasah plopped herself down into one of the empty chairs that were clustered against the table.
“I still say we investigate.” Maybe Ocia found this to be a bit off the rails, but she never saw Kerria as a dishonest person. There would be no reason for Kerria to lie about something like this. Plus, it never did any harm to check. “We investigate. No questions asked.”
“How does the Divine Creator look?” Miriam piped with excitement. Sometimes the female got annoying.
“Weren’t you married to the Judge?” Ocia pointed out. “You should know how all of them look.”
“Have you seen the way He dresses?” Miriam arched her eyebrow. And she made a good point. Not even Kerria was too sure if the Divine Creator was actually the one to tell her anything. But what harm could any of this do now?
“Shall we continue with how we’ll go about finding Luce?”
“I suggest we start by asking Michael for help. See what he knows.” Ya’Dasah’s suggestion wasn’t far from a workable plan, but if Michael knew anything, he would have told Ocia. At least, that’s what she wanted to believe.
“I rather we just go straight into the investigation,” Ocia stated. “Although I will speak with Michael.” She wasn’t sure if she actually wanted to.
“You don’t believe that Michael knows anything.” Ya’Dasah probably sensed Ocia’s doubt. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe Michael knew anything. It was more of why he wouldn’t say anything to her if he knew.
“I think maybe Kerria is the only person who knows.” Ocia walked around the table, her thoughts preoccupied with what she needed to do. The things that bombarded her mind was heavier than just a mere suspicion of Luce being in Ịtoba. It was the fact that a Divine One had shown up at Kerria’s house and asked her to undergo an investigation.
And it was funny how decades after Luce’s expulsion, he suddenly showed up in the realm with no given explanation. And no consequence.
“I still think we ought to inform Michael, just to be on the safe side,” Ya’Dasah insisted.
Ocia exhaled. “What about a meeting with the Divine Ones?” That could be an option if the Awọn Mimọ were open to scheduling one for the Shujaa.
“I don’t think that would be necessary,” Ya’Dasah said. “I’m sure They’re busy with other things these days. Besides, we don’t know if Kerria is telling the truth.”
“Fine. We arrange with Michael,” Ocia commanded. “Immediately.”
Bryël flipped back and forth between the pages of the book that Yugi handed him.
Right in front of him, scattered on his glass table, were some records that Yugi brought for him to read over. It was late in the night and not the time Bry wanted to spend reading over books and reports. He was infuriated, but he tried to hide it behind unfazed eyes and a tired smile.
He shut the book, tossing it on the glass table, and looked at Yugi. “So, you made your way into my home to hand me this?”
Yugi was red in the face, his cheeks flushed with a smile as though he’d see all of this as some sort of joke. “It’s a portion of reports that Luce has been keeping. Kai was clearing out Luce’s study, and he gave these to me.”
The three books scattered across his table was nothing more than several sheets of paper bound together by dark green string and gold clips; handwritten notes that Luce jotted down while he was the Ọba of Lower Kalér. Frustrated and tired, Bry barely skimmed through the material, but nothing in it was noteworthy. At least, not noteworthy enough to permit Yugi to come to his manor in the middle of the night.
“Did you show these to anyone else?” Bry asked.
That never sounded promising at all. Bry straightened up. If Yugi only showed these to Kireh, then Kireh was all Bry had to worry about, but knowing Yugi, that would never be the case. The ehol wasn’t the most trustworthy person.
“I need a meeting with every single ehol present currently. About this.” Bry pointed at the book on the table. “And the Awakeners, should any of them know about this.”
“Now?” Yugi questioned.
“Kai is the only Awakener that knows about the reports.” Yugi bowed and left the manor.
For a few minutes, Bry was alone with his thoughts. It was rare that Yugi suddenly came to him with three books in hand. Reports, he claimed, Luce wrote about committing treason. He never thought the ehol would’ve been documenting his crimes, but alas, Luce was never the wisest ehol to grace Ịtoba.
In fact, he was notoriously stupid.
However, despite his unsavvy ways of doing things, Luce was brilliant in intellect. It wasn’t far from impossible to see how the ehol got away with such a ludicrous crime.
Bry took a deep breath in, leaning back into the sofa. A few months ago, Bry completed his retirement letter, ready to throw in the towel on being an Ambassador to the Divine Throne. He wasn’t quite sure who would’ve replaced him, although, in his letter, he recommended Michael take up the post. Bry was tired. He knew his Age, and he knew if he pressed on any longer, his health would only worsen. Many days he felt strong enough to carry on the burdens of a Kingdom, but there were days he couldn’t tolerate the pain of his Sẹda—even with three seals.
And Bry missed the company of Zephne. Sometimes, he entertained the thought of packing up everything and moving to Daun to live with her. Staying at Mount Meje only made things in their relationship more complex. And that was beside the fact that people around here were growing restless day by day.
Then, there were the ehols. Even though they took the vow, most of them were still a bit resentful—Kireh especially. It had been three decades since they reluctantly had their powers sealed, and because of that, there were three decades of tension that only worsened as time went by. The only ehol he was sure about—even as unfortunate as it was—was Yugi. And it was only because Yugi was of the Ruby Lineage and already had two seals prior to the one Bry had forced him to take. For him, the seal was a relief, not necessarily a punishment.
Speaking of which, Yugi soon returned with all the ehols and Awakeners flooding into Bry’s living-room. None of them were all too happy with the spontaneous meeting that dragged them out of bed, but it was Yugi they should’ve been angry at.
Bry picked up one of the reports and tossed it at Kireh, who caught it. Kireh’s face was sour, and Bry knew the ehol dreaded coming here. He practically hid himself from society, only coming out on extremely formal occasions.
“It’s this book,” Bry said. “Luce had reports of plans to commit treason and breach Kotak’s borders long before Levi even fell.”
“That was more than thirty years ago, and we’re still dealing with it?” Kireh’s obviously pissed tone was resting on Bry’s temper, but he ignored it.
“It matters now because I was informed that Kai unearthed these reports some weeks ago.”
“Six of them, actually,” Kai corrected.
“In addition to these three?”
Kai nodded. “That’s actually one whole report. Just three different sections. And that was the only one written by Luce.”
“There were six people planning to break into Kotak?” Bry sat up. “Among the ehols?”
The ehols quickly denied, and based on the way their timbres rang, Bry believed them.
“What about the Awakeners?” He scanned through the room filled with celestials, but no one budged. “Who else could’ve been studying this?”
They snickered among themselves, but no one answered him.
Bry turned his attention back to Kai. “Can I see the other reports that were kept?”
“Yes, oloye.” Kai bowed, leaving the manor.
The only Awakener that stood out among all of them was Jonai. For a while, Bry had his suspicions seeing that in the earlier part of the Odun, Jonai worked for several Titans, most of whom turned out to be traitors in the long run. And while Jonai was far from being the oldest Awakener that stood in his presence, Bry knew that Jonai was one of the only ones who had direct access to information that could’ve been used to create Kotak.
“You know anything? About the reports? About Luce?” Bry asked the Awakener.
Jonai quickly shook his head, but Bry sensed the deceit. He held the Awakener’s gaze, his bright blue eyes darting across the room.
“Are you sure?”
“I know Luce did some research on the Titans, and he asked me a few questions.” Now he was being helpful.
“Like what questions? Did you write any detailed reports?”
The Awakener was trembling with fear. “I wrote one of the reports, but only under Luce’s command. I did nothing with the information I gathered. All I know is that there are some Titans still living in Spring Court. In hiding.”
The entire room fell silent.
“Like?” While not all of the Titans were present when Bry attempted to wipe them out, he thought most of them had slipped into the Abyss in hiding. He was completely unaware that they returned back to Ịtoba, and if they did, it only meant there were traitors here.
“I know of Ver and Stane, but Stane serves on the Divine Throne’s personal military sect, so I don’t think he would betray the Divine Throne like that.”
“I know of Stane,” Bry reassured. “Is that all you know?”
Then, Kai came in with a stack of books in his hands. He rested them on the glass table. “These are the other reports I found,” he said.
“Do you know Ver?” If anything, Kai would’ve known him since Ver would have frequented the library at Spring Court.
“Yes,” Kai answered. “But he doesn’t cause me any trouble.”
“He doesn’t have to cause you any trouble, but I do want you to keep an eye on him.” Bry turned his attention to Jonai. “You, on the other hand, will have to report to me personally. So that I can evaluate if all that you’re saying is true.”
“You doubt me?” Jonai asked.
Bry formed a half-smile, certain that Jonai would pick up on his casual hint. “You did write one of the reports,” he reminded.
Jonai’s eyebrows lowered. The deep breath that the aingeal took, Bry could sense it, even from where he sat. “When will this meeting take place?” he asked.
“Tomorrow. Meet me at the Temple at midday.”