Chapter 20

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LILY sucked in a breath, shaking her head. "A spy for Arrian? How?"

Arlo held his hands up in an almost placating gesture, "It's perfect. Lily, Tsuchengko has kept what happened to you a secret. I don't think the other kingdoms know about it. Only the Council and the people of this settlement, at the most of Copsan. But other cities don't know about you."

"The Gongjensu recruit people who don't like how the kingdoms are run. Mostly the poorer ones. We can't find out much about them, but I know how many people are joining their cause. The Gongjensu promise to change things, and people like that."

"You'd be perfect. The exiled wife, looking for revenge against Tsuchengko. Especially given who you are, the general's wife, you'd be a great asset."

A chill went down Lily's back, the gooseflesh running all the way up to her cheeks. Revenge against Tsuchengko. It was such a foreign concept. All her life it had been allegiance towards Tsuchengko, a desire to protect it. It was her duty.

To so much as pretend to be a traitor made her heart pound, the sound echoing in her ears.

But as much as she tried to deny it, Arlo's theory made sense. It would be perfect. And this was a way—perhaps the only way—to help defeat the Gongjensu for ever.

"But—a spy. How could I possibly act like one?"

"You wouldn't act like one," Arlo corrected, "You'd be one. We'll give you all the proper training, all you'll have to do is get information about the Gongjensu. Lily, I know it will be hard, but will you? Will you help us vanquish them? Because, trust me, you will be an extraordinary asset."

Lily let out a breath, looking down. A spy for a kingdom not her own, but for the same cause that Hosun was fighting for. This could protect him. As far as they were from each other, if she could do even a little to defeat the Gongjensu, it would help him.

She looked at Arlo, setting her shoulders straight, "I'll do it."

***

Her spy training would start soon. Arlo had explained that no one else could know, only Arianna, so while she would go through her regular training, she would be required to wake up even earlier in order to be trained as a spy.

She didn't know what kind of training it would be- would Colonel Ulima be there? Would she insult Lily as always? Or someone else? And would the training be difficult? More difficult than her everyday work?

Waking up had been difficult- the sun hadn't even come out, so the pre-dawn mist hung over the woods, distorting the air, and the morning dew clung to the dark leaves on the ground. It was dark, but there was enough light to see her path.

Arianna had been sleeping peacefully, so she had to get ready extremely quietly in order not to wake her up. It was a relief when she left the house, into the biting air where forest silence brushed softly over her.

She reached the raining fields, which were empty as the lake behind her parents' house on a cold winter day. She looked around, pressing her lips together.

No one was there. Was she early? No, she was right on time. Arlo wouldn't lie to her, but why wasn't anyone else there?

She gnawed on her bottom lip, twisting her fingers together. Should she go to Arlo's house and find him—

There was a rustle in the bushes.

Her head whipped to the side as another thud came from the same area. An animal? Tilting her head to the side, she walked up to the tall green plants slowly, her hands reaching out in front of her as protection.

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