4. Where paths split.

Lady Electron answered the door upon the third knock. Holding the fox mask lopsidedly against her face, only one of her tired eyes visible.

“Good morning my dear Hunter.” She greeted stepping aside to let me in.

“I’ve brought you some breakfast.” I said offering her one of the bowls I carried.

She dropped the fox mask on the bedside table and took the warm bowl of porridge.

“Smells…nice.” She said taking a seat on her bed and brushing her long hair over her shoulders.

“Did you sleep well last night?” I asked taking up a seat on the floor.

“Fair enough, I dreamt I’d fallen asleep in some ghastly cave on the most uncomfortable patch of pointy rocks. When I woke I found it was no dream.” She laughed taking a spoonful of the porridge.

“I’m not going to ask you how you’re enjoying your meal than.” I said pulling my map from my inside pocket.

“That would be best.” Lady Electron concluded wearing a disgusted face.

“How did you fare last night?” She asked putting down her bowl.

“I didn’t sleep.” I said simply.

“Why ever not?” She asked curiously.

 “It makes you weak.” I pointed out.

She frowned at me.

“I’ve heard differently.” She offered. “I heard it strengthens you.”

“Do you know how many die in their sleep? Are murdered in their sleep? Or how many girls cannot wake up from their sleep?”

“Well do you know how many people die from hunting? Or eating godforsaken porridge?” She countered, completely ignoring my reference to her supposed ‘condition’.

Lady Electron returned to her task of eating her porridge in the most ladylike of fashions but while still attempt not to taste the mush. From her crinkling nose and woeful eyebrows this task was not very easy or very successful.

“Dress warmly.” I instructed looking over our course.

Electron nodded acknowledging my command in a silent way that was not very far from ignoring me. She looked down at her bowl mentally calculating how long it would take her to finish the mush and how much more she could endure. Deciding the calculations didn’t match she set down her bowl and slide down on the floor across from me.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“No idea.” I lied.

She raised a disbelieving eyebrow.          

“I follow the signs of the earth not what man has drawn up on parchment.” This was true, I was having a terrible time reading the map.

“Well that’s a recipe that will end if you helpless lost.” Electron pointed out.

“Or I’ll always know how to escape.”

“So if you follow tracks why are you looking at that map?” She asked.

Crap! Did I just set myself up?

“How do you mean?” I asked simply.

“Well if Dmitry left little dimples in the snow for you to follow what’s with the map?”

I sighed, Lady Electron wasn’t stupid, I remember when I’d first meet her I’d noted her intelligent eyes. Very watchful, I’d complemented her on that; I just never thought I’d have a problem with them. I think it was time to come clean…well just a little.

“Electron do tell, what happens when the wind blows snow over the dimples in the snow? They disappear and after three months, which is about the time Dmitry has been gone, they become impossible to find.”

“I thought nothing was impossible for the Great Hunter.” Electron pointed out.

“People think a lot of things about me, I let them, it’s cute! but I’ll tell you when one actually comes close to the truth.”

“So you have flaws?” She gasped with mock surprise.

“You should know you’ve managed to exploit them.”

Lady Electron gave a sly little shrug.

“You do realize I cannot find Dmitry.” I said.

“But I’m paying you.” She pointed out.

“You’ve given nothing, I’ve accepted nothing so I owe you nothing. Your fiancé will be found when he wishes it and not any sooner. I can only track through snow not time and the snow has washed this earth of his trail.”

“So we’ve come all this way for nothing?” She asked.

“No, you’ve learned that everyone has limitations and I’m half way out of Russia.”

She looked at me confused for a moment. Then the confusion turned in to comprehension into anger.

“You used me!” She gasped.

I shook my head.

“No?” She demanded.

“Had you stayed in Russia you would’ve been used and quite what you deserve, all you royals just use and use people to your hearts content. It was high time you had someone use you. But Electron know this you’ve been absolutely no use to me on this trip, you’ve slowed me down in fact!” I pointed out.   

She glared at me defiantly.

“Didn’t you notice we were leaving Russia? We’re in Tambov for crying out loud you can’t be that clueless!” I demanded.

Lady Electron rolled her eyes.

“Yes, I know what Tambov looks like, I’m been here before! I just thought you’d--” she stopped herself.

I frowned curiously. Why would she knowingly follow me out of Russia?

“You’re right.” She said at last. “None of the rumors about you even come close to the truth about you. You’re something else entirely. They call you Saber’s loyal dog! But you’re not loyal to anyone but yourself!” She spat. Anger was only what could be expected from her at this point.

“I’ll find you an escort back to the palace.” I said simply.

“I’m not going back!” She said stubbornly.

“You are.” I warned.

“Try me!” she challenged before adding as an afterthought. “Basterd!”

I flinched.

Thousands of miles I’d fled from that word yet it was more vigilant at hunting than I was at hiding for it had found me once more. And it had brought the shame along with it and those same feelings I’d thought were abandoned when I left my village.

Before I could stop myself I raised by hand to strike her, defend myself against her word; she did not know the power it held over my.

She caught my wrist sending a stock of electricity through my arm.

I gasped springing back from her, my whole arm tingling painfully.

Electron glared at me from across the room her hands balled in to crackling fists. I stared back, unable to move; even if I could I wouldn’t know what to do.

I don’t know what look stole over my face, as we stood apart in this tense silence, but it must’ve slipped through my mask and made itself visible to her in my eyes. For Electron’s anger melted into curiosity upon glimpsing the frightened face behind the fierce hunter.

“As you wish it.” I said at last, I stepped forward and scooped up my map before departing quickly from the room. I didn’t stop my racing feet until I was out in the stables.

The End

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