She raised her hand, Rhys braced himself, resisting the urge to close his eyes.
‘Taxia!’ A voice boomed. Rhys couldn’t tell where it came from, but it was male and spoke with tremendous authority. To his surprise, the woman froze in place. She seemed to hesitate on the brink of deciding whether to obey the command or not. The voice seemed to reverberate in the street. The few bystanders had already backed well away, too afraid to escape or call for help.
‘We’ll finish this soon,’ she growled before retreating into the alley. Rhys got to his feet, released his energy after a moment of sensing his surroundings. That voice, it must have been Descartes. He was close but was already fading.
Rhys was so close to his goal but was in no condition to begin a pursuit. He wrapped his coat around him and returned by an elaborate route to the café, batting away assistance offered by the bystanders.
Samantha was saying goodbye to Yun. She seemed a little distressed but was doing her best to keep a straight face. After she left, Yun began walking back towards their apartment. It made little difference if he was followed, he presently had to keep up the appearance of being the tenant of the abode.
Rhys was grilling him for questions before he’d even close the door.
‘Geesh, how’d you get ahead of me? I thought you were following them.’
‘I had a little problem,’ Rhys took off his coat and sat by the small two-person table adjacent to the kitchen. He explained meeting this woman, Taxia, and their altercation.
‘So she kicked your arse?’
‘Mostly. I was ready for her to attack, it’s like I was prepared to block her fist with mine. I wonder what would have happened. I’m getting better at focusing my energy into my fists.’
‘Yeah, but she’s better; she probably would have crushed you.’
‘Probably. I’m just a child stumbling in the dark.’
‘With a sore shoulder,’ Yun conceded. ‘So, the short version about Samantha and her partner is, their company has found links to all our rentals, we’re not quite as careful as we thought. But I know how to fix it for the future. So they warned us, even if they didn’t realise it. I was able to brush it off and send them away, they’re not worried I’m the centre of some crime syndicate or anything. However, there’s something else. Her partner, John, is also investigating Descartes and his operations, although he doesn’t realise who it is, of course.’ Yun waved his hand as if presenting a stunning and elaborate dish.
‘He just told you that?’
‘I can read between the lines. John mentioned some of what he was doing, it matched what we were doing, blah blah blah.’
‘Hmm,’ Rhys said, allowing a moment to think.
‘So what now?’
‘Now, I think it’s time for dinner,’ Rhys said, turning on one of the lights as the apartment had become almost entirely enveloped in darkness.
‘You just ate lunch,’ Yun protested.
‘Yeah, and then got my arse kicked, as you pointed out.’
‘Right, right. You could learn to cook you know.’
‘I fight, you cook, that’s the deal.’ Yun made his way into the kitchen, but Rhys’s smile dropped as he frowned over the revelations of the past hour. They were troubling, to say the least, but perhaps they offered an opportunity.