499 Won’t Be Sleeping
Coraline turned her attention to Mister Lone.
The cheek-scarred youth had rushed to her aid... and took an injury that was meant for her.
He'd come straight from bed and hadn't put his armor back on, so he was just dressed in the thin undershirt he wore underneath it. But... when he rubbed the back of his head, the bottom of that shirt lifted up...
The subtle action earned her a peek at Lone's surprising sculpted abs... and a flush in her cheeks.
"M-mister Lone..." She gulped.
"Huh? What's up?"
"I'd like you to... you're the... Eh..." She took a deep breath, trying to get her mind off of the boy's stupid sexy stomach and the... and the happy trail that reached his navel, "S-stay with me for awhile, will you?"
"Huh? Me?" He pointed at himself.
Coraline frowned. Did she misspeak?
WAIT! YES! She did! With her phrasing, it sounded like she was inviting him to--
"Y-you're the only one I can trust!" She exclaimed. "I need you-- for... for investigating."
Bleigh. That didn't sound much better.
"What?" Lone contorted his face in confusion, "Wh-why?"
...That was absolutely not the response she was expecting.
She briefly explained the integrity of his alibi. His... snoring was audible in every part of the ship. Due to the ship's formations, that sort of thing couldn't be replicated by magic.
Also... a simple Echo-type spell wouldn't be able to emulate that kind of sound-- like an ugly treant begging for death.
"Oh..." Lone smiled politely... "I am so... sorry."
Coraline pursed her lips, her frustration growing along with her confusion, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Was he apologizing for his snoring? ...Or was he impotent?
"No, nevermind," Lone held out his palm. "Just give me a sec to get permission from--"
"Enjoy your investigations," Tychon waved with his back turned. "I'm returning to my room."
Coraline furrowed her brows, glaring at the noble's back as he departed. She didn't like that person's general nonchalance concerning Arod's death. Earlier in the evening, he was conversing amicably with the Ancient... but after he died, how could his only concern be sleep?
Sleep was stupid.
The other passengers returned to their rooms, with Nikandros and Olesya escorting the still-frantic Maisie back to hers.
Coraline took a blanket from the bed and laid it over Arod's body.
'Your murderer will be found, Master Highblade,' She promised in her heart.
"Lone, come with me to interrogate the passengers and crew..."
The boy furrowed his brows, "I'm pretty sure B-- I mean, Tycon's probably sleeping..."
"I doubt anyone else will be able to," Coraline shrugged.
⟬ First interview: Lucrezia Castigliano. ⟭
"Oh... The fireworks... They're lovely... Just like you... my love."
Giorgio Castiglioni was cutely muttering nonsense in his sleep.
Lucrezia tucked her husband's blanket snugly around his shoulders before planting a kiss on his forehead. The old man's lips curled up into a smile that melted the ice around Coraline's cold heart.
"Can you believe it?" The gentle Popoto turned back to Coraline, shrugging her small shoulders, "Giorgio swears on his life to protect me, but he can't keep awake past eight o'clock."
She held her tiny hand up expectantly.
Lady Lucrezia had changed out of her evening dress, but her pink and purple sleepwear was no less fashionable. Also, the woman really liked to match her clothing with gloves...
Coraline had heard that sleep gloves were a thing for older women? They retained moisture which... according to science, prevented wrinkles.
Science was weird. She much preferred to rely on magic, as her ancestors did.
She wouldn't question it aloud, of course. That would be rude.
Obediently, Coraline placed her hand in the older woman's and allowed herself to be led outside of the room and into the hallway.
"I came to see how you were doing, Lady Lucrezia," Coraline whispered.
"In all honesty, dear..." The older woman huffed, "between taking care of a drunken fool and worrying over whether or not I'll ever make it back home... I don't think I'll be getting my beauty sleep, tonight..."
She took on a sullen frown, "Miss Coraline, I must insist you stay with us. A young lady shouldn't be by herself-- not with a murderer on the loose."
"I can't, Lady Lucrezia..." Coraline inclined her head, "Mister Lone and I will be speaking to the crew and the other passengers. We'll get to the bottom of this mystery."
"Oh~" Lucrezia gasped, holding her hand in front of her collar, "Mister Lone?"
Lone waved shyly, standing on his side of the hallway, "H-hello."
Lucrezia leaned forward, lowering her voice, "You won't get any sleep tonight either, dear... not with the way that young man snores."
"I won't be sleeping with him, Lady Lucrezia," Coraline pouted.
Was everyone going to think she was planning to sleep with him? She hated being the topic of gossip... especially as her standards hadn't yet fallen so low.
Mister Lone was cute... but she didn't know anything about him. Did he even have a job? He looked like he wouldn't last a single sun in an adventuring guild.
The older woman placed a gloved finger over her lips, "Maybe you should reconsider?
"A young gentleman like him would have *boundless* energy to keep you awake," she beamed. "And besides... I'd feel so much better if I knew Mister Lone was by your side, protecting you."
"I can take care of myself, Mother," Coraline groaned.
'Empty night...' Coraline cursed in her mind. She hadn't meant to let her sarcasm slip.
"You remind me of my oldest..." Lucrezia stifled a giggle, relaxing her tense shoulders... "Always headstrong... always stubborn, even as a babe... I would be *honored* if you would call me your Aunt. I have no siblings, you see... and you are the most *adorable* child, Miss Coraline."
"Aww..." Coraline was touched, placing a hand over her heart... "Thank you, Auntie Lucrezia."
The gentle Popoto woman squeezed Coraline's hand, "Now, tell me what's on your mind, dear."
"Right..." Coraline took a deep breath and tried her best to put on a confident face, "Auntie... could you please tell me about the events before I saw you in the hallway?"