Charles gave the marquis an innocent look. “Your words, milord.” He took his pocket watch out. “You should get going, milord.”
And so he did, Ilie chafing at the need to use a carriage when he could so easily turn into his wolf form and get to ANEX within minutes. But since he was in Asphodel, he was forced to play it safe and take into account human limitations.
It was over an hour later when he made it to ANEX, which stood for Academie Nu Exista. Its name literally meant ‘the school that does not exist,’ and for all intents and purposes, ANEX was indeed an invisible entity. Its existence was one of the kingdom’s best-kept secrets, and it was only because he was part of the Duke of Brimstone’s Galeré that a half-demon like him knew of its existence. All other forms of demons were held in dislike, even those who had managed to stay in the light.
Considering his heartkeeper was trained in ANEX, was it the reason why she had never made herself to known him? Would she rather die a mortal than chain herself to a demon like him?
Three days later, Ilie Marcovici was almost completely convinced that the woman destined to be his heartkeeper was leading him on a merry chase. It was like she had sixth sense where he was concerned, and she was able to stay two steps ahead of him.
When Ilie had visited ANEX, it was to learn that she had already left for a mission with her recruits. He had followed her to the field, only to find out that the mission’s location had been changed, and of course their whereabouts was classified information. And because he had been speaking with an ANEX official, Ilie hadn’t bothered using compulsion to get the boy to talk. Even if he did succeed, and he would have, the political consequences would have been disastrous.
The next day, he had attended every ball possible, having learned that she was the Toast of the Season. Surely she had to be in one of those parties?
But no, she had not attended any of them, and he found out later on that she had sent her excuses to every hostess, pleading an oh-so-painful headache.
And now, here he was, in Asphodel’s tourism office, a place the marquis normally avoided at all costs since this was often where the world’s most spoiled brats congregated.
The footmen stationed outside the building, having recognized the crest on the carriage, hurriedly threw the doors open and stood at attention.
Soon enough, the marquis was on his way, and the footmen almost gaped when the powerful-looking nobleman nodded at them before striding inside.
A Chalysian noble, acknowledging their presence! It was unheard of! It was fantastic, and the footmen felt fit to burst with excitement.
Wait until they finish with their shifts, the two thought excitedly, and they’d be telling everyone who cared to hear.
The Marquis di Lunare had nodded at them. It was a story they would tell their children and grandchildren, and oh, how popular they’d be.
Inside the tourism office, pandemonium among locals erupted, having realized who was in their midst. Their excitement was contagious, and the tourists in the lobby asked excitedly about Ilie.
It was all bothersome and even deafening, since otherworlders like Ilie Marcovici possessed senses a thousand times more sensitive than those of humans.
He walked straight to reception, saying, “I have a meeting with Lady Fleur Orpheline. Where may I find her?” He was lying, of course, but he knew the reception wouldn’t even consider verifying his claim. In their kingdom, noblemen were always right.
The bespectacled secretary stammered her reply. She was unable to think straight, having never imagined she’d come face to face with the Marquis di Lunare. And oh, he was so much more seductive than how the papers described him.
As Ilie turned towards the stairs, all the women in the lobby followed him with their starry-eyed gazes.
The second floor of the tourism’s office consisted of several classrooms, partitioned with glass walls to allow for spectators. He located Lady Fleur in one of them, and with his heightened hearing, Ilie had no problems listening in as his heartkeeper’s youngest sister oriented the tourists about Asphodel.
“Hello, everyone, I’m Lady Fleur Orpheline, a volunteer here at the tourism office. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to our city.” She gestured to her dress, saying, “The first thing we’ll discuss is our mode of attire, which as you can see is probably not what most of you are used to. This is a non-negotiable aspect of your visit to the kingdom, but I hope that instead of seeing it as a prohibition, you’ll think of it as an opportunity to experience our culture.”
Well put, he thought. No wonder she was considered to be the communications expert.