“Are you sure?” the self-proclaimed emperor said. “The killing-me train is leaving the station, last chance!”

Luma laughed despite herself, though she quickly regained her composure after a scowl from Kotoi.

“In that case, may I suggest that since you have caught me at my desk, I might make a decree for you in exchange for my freedom?” Altzairu said. He patted the paper, blotter, and inkwell in front of him in turn. “No one is going to go against my say-so. Would you all like pardons, maybe? Some riches? Just say the word.”

“We could have him release all the political prisoners,” Harria said to Kotoi. “Your brother. Sassha.”

“No,” Kotoi said. “Any piece of paper he signs will be ripped up the instant we’re out of his sight. There’s no trusting anything he does.”

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