Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

I'm running despite the dull ache in my thigh. My every step is propelled by my weightlessness, and I make the distance with ease. I don't know where I'm going, only that I have to escape.

But I pause by Piazza Italia, rain shooting into my face, for the huffing Davide to catch up.

"Are you mad?" Davide wheezes. "What's gotten into you?"

"She called me... she called me..."

"She's demented."

"But —"

Davide waves up his arms and hands me my jacket. I left without it. "You're such a girl."

"You shouldn't run until your leg is fully healed," says Ludovica, making me drop my jacket into a puddle.

"Argh." I lift it up trying to shake out as much dirty water as I could. Luckily, it's just one corner of the collar that got really wet and I fold it away from my face.

"What happened?" she asks. Rain is pattering on her umbrella and there are some droplets on the lenses of her dark-framed glasses making it hard to see her eyes.

"Nothing," Davide says before I have time to answer. By her expression, it's obvious that she doesn't believe him.

"Let's go," she says after a slight pause.

"You still need to explain to me who you are," I say, limping after her.

"I'm Ludovica Galeazzo," she says. "And I'll explain everything, I promise." She seems sincere, at least. "It's just... some of it... It's better that I show you."

"Show me?" I don't intend to sound so eager, but then, who doesn't love magic?

"There's a lot to take in, Filippo," she says as we walk back down Corso Strada Nouva towards the main entrance of the university. "And if I just tell it all as if it's a story, you'll think I'm crazy." We cross the street, rainwater running between the cracks of the big grey flagstones that pave it. "So I'll start at the source," she says, pausing to look at me, "and work my way up from there."

"Is the three towers the source?" We pass through the wide arching entrance of the university and out of the rain.

She stops to remove her glasses and wipe the water off them. When she looks up again, her eyes seem small, but that's only because she squints them, as if she's staring up into the sun and not my face. "No, it's a link."

She continues walking, past the wide staircase that leads to the library and on, through the parallel gate. She's exactly my height and I thinks again of that girl I ran to save—the memory's as wispy as mist.

The three lone-standing medieval towers made of Roman brick reach out from the flat expanse of Piazza Leonardo da Vinci towards the grey sky, each at least forty meters in height. Iron bolts fixed along the length are meant to reinforce these unstable, ancient structures, but I still never like standing too close to them. My mother always talks about how she witnessed, years ago, the mysterious collapse of these towers' cousin—the Civic tower by the cathedral—and the story stuck with me.

As Ludovica takes us closer, I sneak a glance at the metal grid barring the entrance to the Crypt of St. Eusebius. "We're not going in there," she says quickly, as if the thought alarms her.

The rain lessens while we stand in the space between the three towers. "We're going to the thirteenth courtyard." Her voice is hushed when she speaks.

"Thirteenth courtyard?" Filippo asks.

Davide asks, "What about the other twelve?"

"Long ago, it used to be just The Courtyard," Ludovica says. "And it may not have been in this area, but it's always been the same place."

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