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Trítos (Lake Baikal)
He constantly checked the app during the trip. Every 10 or 15 minutes, it was open to see if the energy signature remained in place. No new alerts signaled activity, but in this case, no news was good news.

There were no direct flights. Elias was motion-sick on the train, part of why he was able to check the app all night. He wasn’t sleeping, but he wasn’t throwing up either.

Come morning, he rejected breakfast from a tray and sipped carefully on some kind of soda.

The train station was a welcome sight. The second he stepped onto the platform, the cool air rushed his face and he shook his hair loose from the ponytail, already feeling better. A few people looked at him strangely, which he found amusing, and carried on through the station.

It was hotter than he expected. A nice spring bristled Moscow, but this felt more like Kenab, Utah than anywhere he’d been since leaving. Sweat almost immediately prickled his skin, but he left his coat on, though let the buttons fall open as he walked, duster sweeping behind his feet.

He had only one small bag, which was slung over his shoulder. His uncle’s wallet was fully charged and he was ready to rent a boat until his stomach grumbled loud enough to disturb an elderly lady humped over beside him.

She said something under her breath about skinny kids before he rolled his eyes and searched for Asha. She had a point. There probably wasn’t a Taco Bell around here.
Asha loved the traveling despite El’s troubles, though his motion sickness was a unique experience for her. Since there was little she could really do to help, and he was glued to the app on his wallet, she let her senses drift out to others most of the journey. It was warm when they finally disembarked, though not unbearable. Her belongings were scant, having never really replaced the things she’d lost, and everything fit into a small bag that hung at her side. Her senses readjusted, though compared to the frenetic stimulus of a city like Moscow it was a surprisingly calm shift. That was good. You never really knew with new places.

Of course El stuck out somewhere like this, and even when she ignored the glances in their direction she felt the little bubbles of emotion ripple in his wake. He shrugged it off though, and Asha stuck close alongside. She stifled a laugh at the low growl of his stomach, knowing he’d be reluctant to waste time on necessities like food. Her smile was warm instead. “I’m hungry too. Let’s find somewhere, then we can figure out what to do next.” Her tastes were not fussy, but he needed plain fare. Or at least predictable.
Elias let Asha pick the place. She was far more comfortable here than him. His nose was buried in the app, holding it up now and then as they walked. The beacon never sent an alert, but understandably, his attention constantly rotated to the lake.

He had to use a translation app to figure out what the food even was. Eventually, he was sitting over a plate of omul – a dish unique to Baikal. The fish was skinned and served on skewers roasted over an open fire. It came with a side of roasted onions and carrots in some sort of slimey sauce. A glass of vodka arrived that he didn’t know he ordered, but he ignored it for now. The fish was satisfying enough, but he only picked at the carrots.

Asha brought up what they were going to do next. It wasn’t like Elias wasn’t thinking about it the entire way here. “We’ll see if we can find a boat for hire. Maybe someone to show us the waters. Ask around for anything unusual.” He frowned as the food settled in his stomach. Fish wasn’t a common menu item for him.

“Need a place to stay too. I didn’t see a Hotel 6 around.” He smirked with the rare joke.

The server came over, presumably to refill the vodka, but switched to water upon realising the spirit was untouched. “You and your girlfriend need anything else?” She asked.

Elias felt his jaw fall slack.
The food was good. The comparative cheer of El’s mood made her feel light in turn, as did the fresh scenery and the change of pace. She asked about the local dish when the waitress took their order, as well as other bits of pleasant small talk whilst Elias’s head was bowed over the app. The lake was immense, and even with the signature she was unsure how they would even start, with or without a boat. She wasn’t worried about it as such, but she did wonder how long El’s patience would last.

She laughed at the brief glimpse of his humour. “I’m sure there are plenty of hostels. Or an Air BnB?”

Then the waitress returned, and awkwardness froze the mood. Asha’s cheeks heated, mostly due to Elias’s immediate expression. She reared back from settling too deep into his emotions, not sure she wanted to feel that particular sting too closely. She’d never told him what Rowan’s cards had said, and he’d never asked. At least he didn’t leap to deny it. Though maybe it was better not to give him the chance.

“We’re good, thanks. The omul is delicious. Actually, we’re looking to stay somewhere local, do you have any suggestions?” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and offered a smile, even though she could feel the waves of the woman’s amusement for her glowing cheeks.
The Air Bnb was fine. One bedroom. El camped out on the couch. It was fine. Whatever. It made Asha happy, and Elias spent most of the night on the deck overlooking the lake. His time zones were all screwed around anyway. Come morning, a stabbing pain knotted his shoulders. The flimsy porch swing swayed as he stalked away from the impromptu bed.

Elias wrung out his hair after a shower, letting it drip down the back of his shirt. A hair dryer was likely to wake Asha, and he couldn’t find one anyway. A coffee pot bubbled. He dumped in a packet of sugar and returned to the deck nestling a cup.

The sun was up enough by then that the lake was clear. The water lapped a rocky shore. It was pretty. Not as picturesque as the Pacific, but not bad. What caught his gaze was nearer though. A figure wandered nearby. Elias watched the man a few moments before opting to go down himself.

He carried the coffee with him, steam curling up from the surface. It already burned his lip when he sampled it, but it didn’t stop him from doing it again. It was a short walk to the water. The air was chill, but not uncomfortable. He wore the long duster coat, buttoned to the throat. Fingerless gloves kept his hands warm around the mug.

The guy was older. Scraggly gray hair was stuffed under a hat, and a beard lined his jaw. The reason Elias came down to talk to him was in his grasp. He carried a fishing pole, bucket and a thermos.

He looked at the kid approaching, gave a nod and glanced up at the house like he was putting together the clues of a tourist in their midst.

“Fishing must be good here,” he half-turned toward the water. Giving them plenty of gentlemanly space.  

The guy sighed, but he wasn’t rude either. “It’s been better.”

“Going through a rough patch?” Elias asked.

“Been going on about a month. Can’t catch a damn thing,” he started baiting the line even as he grumbled. Clearly the failure hadn't dissuaded the efforts.

The guardian’s signal disappeared about a month beforehand.

The guy looked up at Elias’ profile. “You don’t look like the outdoorsy type. Visiting?”

The fisherman’s accent was heavy Russian but the familiar tone of judgement wasn’t buried in the words. Elias was used to comments and looks. Especially in the sticks. And they were about as far from civilization as possible.

“I’m fishing too,” he smirked over the coffee. After he killed the water guardian, the fishing would return. It only made sense.
Asha slept well. Most of her life had been spent on the road, and she’d long since learned to both sleep anywhere and to take the opportunity while she could. She adored the travelling and exploring what little they had of the area while they secured lodgings yesterday, but by the time they found somewhere to stay she’d been utterly exhausted too. She wouldn’t have minded if El had wanted to share the bed, but it hadn’t been a discussion. Not that he ever seemed to sleep much. In the end she curled up and drifted off almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

She wasn’t alarmed to find him gone when she woke up. Sunlight streamed, though she didn’t check the time, just her senses. She couldn’t feel him precisely, not this far away, but his entire absence would have been notable. Still in pyjamas, she padded barefoot and yawning into the kitchen. There was fresh coffee on the counter, which smelled far better than it ever tasted. Asha stood on tiptoe instead to rummage through the cupboards. Likely Elias wouldn’t be able to stomach breakfast, but she’d make it plain anyway, just in case.

She’d enjoyed it here so far. There weren’t too many people to fry her senses, and Elias seemed to like it by the water, even if most of his attention was glued to the app and his anticipation of what they would find here. She flicked on the radio, left it on whatever channel had been chosen by the last person to use it, and hummed along to music she did not really recognise but nonetheless enjoyed.
The screen door swung on rusty hinges when he pulled it open. The aroma of breakfast tugged his attention to the stove first then to the girl standing at it second.

“Sleep alright?” he asked, eyeing the stovetop. He wasn’t quite sure if he was hungry or not, so he rounded on the coffee and topped off his cup. He frowned at the teabag dangling from Asha’s. He’d forgotten she didn’t drink coffee. It was all the better for her, though. The coffee was sludge.

He chose to sit at the table, checked the app one more time to see if anything new was there. All kinds of alerts were set to ping if something changed, but he liked to see for himself.

Dropping the wallet on the table, he watched the scene through the windows. “Locals say the fish are gone. Can’t catch anything. Something’s chased them off.” His expression flickered recognition. Determination. ”But I know what it is,” he said. When he got his hands on her.
“Sure,” Asha laughed. “I can sleep pretty much anywhere. It’s a skill.” She leaned to flick the radio a little quieter now he was back, and watched him from the corner of her eye as he refilled his mug with coffee and retreated to the table, nose buried in his app. “Did you sleep at all?”

The kitchenette wasn’t exactly well stocked with what she’d consider staples, so she’d made do. If there was time today she wanted to seek out the closest market; find them proper supplies. “It’s just porridge,” she said of the pan on the stove as she lifted it from the heat to cool. “But there’s bread too. I could toast some for you, if you like.” She expected he would decline, but it never stopped her offering. Afterwards she wrapped her hands around her tea and leaned against the counter. A waterfall of inky hair hid Elias’s expression from view. Not that she needed to see it to feel the intensity of his emotions.

“Are we still going to take a boat out on the water? If something’s scaring the fish?”
Elias specifically did not look up to answer her question. “In this dump? What do you think?” he snapped. Sleep was overrated, he thought to himself, but the defiance didn’t ease the headache behind his eyes. Asha was well-rested in contrast. She was bright as a sunflower, the kind that made him sneeze.

As for the second question, the window reeled his gaze upward. Beyond, the lake was so large, he could see the surface even from present angle. He’d never admitted to Asha that he in fact did not know how to swim. Should something happen to topple them as that gust of wind on Salt Lake, it would be a reliance on his power to steer them safely back to shore. In New Zealand, he did not so much as wander farther than ankle-deep in the frigid sea water.

He possessed other skills now; ones far superior to propelling through water then reliance on arms and buoyancy.

“Of course we’ll hire a boat. Why wouldn’t we?” he stood then, finishing his coffee with a swig, trio of massive swallows, and a grimace for the bitter aftertaste.

“Hurry up. I want to get out there,” he left the screen door bouncing in his wake.
His mood was all itchy and abrasive under her skin. The snap made her sigh into her tea, though she didn’t say anything back. The surge of irritation was his not hers, and she was long used to navigating his volatility. Elias didn’t even look up. The door bounced behind him.

Asha spent a moment centering herself, eyes closed. Then she retrieved and washed up his mug in the sink. His emotions still lapped against her senses, but in isolation there were less distractions, and it was easier to separate his feelings from her own.

When she followed he was out on the deck, black and brooding as the promise of a storm. Beyond the lake was as still as glass. The sun bounced bright and gleaming, but the air nipped cold against her bare arms and legs. Her hands curled around her tea as she joined him.

“It's just that I’m afraid, El. There’s a reason my uncle always left me behind when he was working.” Her fears she admitted to easily. Since the day Elias had gripped her hand in the crowds surrounding the Ascendancy's new monument, Asha had never held back her trust in him. She shivered a little in the early morning chill, and leaned on the railing, peering up at his expression.

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