Amily walks into the make-shift tent, where she sees a young woman with short, black hair sitting behind a wooden desk, a file in hand. Presumably the officer is scanning through Amily’s application: she has applied for the security position for this group, because mingling with a crowd of traveling merchants is the most ideal way to evade the search of the Hand of Shadow (especially when the group is traveling from the Federation of the Free to the Kingdom of Norman, out of the former’s territory).
“I never feel obliged to tell my name, but since this is required by the protocol,” the officer says, “The name is Violet, former commander of the Demon Hunters. Please, take a seat.”
Amily grabs the chair in front of the desk and sits down, back straightened, hands on her lap.
“So your application says that you used to serve in the army of the Federation, can you tell me more about it?” Violet flips through the papers with her index and middle finger, her movements and tone tell Amily that Violet must have been a veteran at this. She had to be cautious.
“I only served for a short while, about five months, to be precise,” Amily answers fluently, for she has prepared the lie well enough. “And then I had to go home to take care of my mother; she got sick and passed away a few weeks ago.”
Amily made up all of that information in order to pass the application to get into this group. While the so-called “military training at the Federation” helps justify Amily’s combat skills that were acquired through the Hand of Shadow, the short period of five months is also supposed to reduce people’s suspicion to the lowest point; this group is, after all, semi-governmental, and she wouldn’t want anyone to say, “Hey I was in the Fed too why haven’t I seen you before”.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
Luckily, it seems that this officer Violet is buying it. That is what the tragedy in the story is for: to provoke sympathy as distraction so that the interviewer will not focus on the details.
“It’s ok.” Amily fakes an appreciating smile as the interview goes on.
“Ok, last question. Are you confident that five months at the Fed is enough to prepare you to be a security guard here?”
“If you were a former commander of the Demon Hunters, you’d know how difficult the training is,” Amily says confidently while cracking the knuckles of her left hand; it is a habit she had since she was a child. Violet seems to like this answer, because she checks something on Amily’s papers and tells her to take the physical fitness test later that afternoon. If she passes, she will be qualified to join the group.
As Amily walks out of the tent, she still does not yet know the true reason that prompts Violet to hire her. The true reason is that Violet has seen Amily’s habit of cracking the knuckles of the left-hand somewhere else. She has seen it on Quillen. When she was interrogating him for the corruption case years ago, Violet specifically remembers that Quillen would act the same when a question was thrown at him. Yet, no matter how loud the noise was or how many times he did it, he did not seem to be self-conscious about it, and neither did Amily.
Rare as this habit may be, perhaps it is all just a coincidence. But what if it is not?
Betting that Amily has something to do with Quillen, and in consequence, betting on Amily to be a thread in the potential breakthrough in the previous corruption case, Violet decides to let her jump into the net.
Eight days into the journey, when the traveling merchants encounter a gang of robbers who are foolish enough to fix their eyes on the company safeguarded by Violet, Violet merely yawns and adjusts herself into a more comfortable position on the horse, not even giving an order of defense. For one thing, it is just her style to save every bit of her energy from microscopic, trivial matters. For the other, she seizes this as a great opportunity to test out the security guards she has personally elected, especially Amily.
However, as she peeks around the huddled merchants and the fighting crowds, Amily’s shadow is nowhere to be seen.