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Trítos (Lake Baikal)
#1
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.
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#2
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.
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#3
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.
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#4
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.
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