Chapter 18

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The heavy scent of jasmine hung in the air, torn from a thousand tiny white flowers by a light, but steady rain. Wet sandstones, dividing the gardens of the monastery into tidy combs, gleamed weakly in the gray light of early morning.

„I cannot thank you enough for your help." Galen ducked his head to avoid the dripping vine of a pole bean that had rebelliously let go of its trellis. „I hope you won't get in trouble upon your return. If Urko suspects that your nightly excursion had anything to do with us... I mean, it does coincide with the brouhaha at the hospital..."

„Oh, I'm not returning to the City right now." Melvin plucked a tomato and popped it into his mouth. „I'm visiting my father's estate," he said, chewing, „and since he had ordered me to come back and settle an inheritance dispute for his accountant, I have a perfectly valid reason to leave."

Galen smiled and shook his head. Melvin was as unruffled as ever; he wondered if his old student buddy had ever really grasped the danger he had put himself in when he agreed to aid them in their „little adventure."

Well, maybe he had. Maybe there was a sharper mind and kinder heart under all the pomp and flair than Galen had given him credit for.

„I wish I could stay a little longer and finally learn what that book is about," Melvin said. „Something that has old Zaius in such a pickle must be a fascinating read." He flicked Galen a sideways glance.

„It is fascinating," Galen confirmed. „But it could also cost you your head. You have a good life, Melvin - you should hang on to that. Forget about that book."

„Wish you could put it back and forget about it?" Melvin's eyes were sharp, although wry amusement was still twinkling in their corners.

Galen sighed and gazed over the rows of pole beans and summer squash. „If I started that, there'd be no end to wishing. If Zana hadn't defied Zaius... but how could I wish for her to become a murderer? If she hadn't met the humans... if the humans hadn't fallen down on our world..." He shrugged and resumed his walk. „The only way that leaving that book alone would have saved me from this... this life as an outcast, would've been if I had never met Zana, and how could I wish for that? So if it doesn't make a difference... then I prefer to know the truth."

„And what if others would also prefer to know the truth?" Melvin was busy harvesting tomatoes and collecting them in his robe. „Maybe they'd like to decide for themselves, instead of having you making that decision for them. Or Zaius."

Galen froze. „I'm not like Zaius!"

„No?" Melvin half turned to face him. „Then don't presume to tell me to forget about that book. I can imagine that it feels good to know something that nobody else knows - I wouldn't tell you my recipe for Orva's Special Dip, either - but if you really think that this book holds a truth that apekind needs to know about, you should stop hugging it to your chest and telling the rest of us that it's too dangerous for us to know. Next thing you know, you'll lock it up in a secret room behind your office."

„Feel free to spend the next ten days sharing Ango's cell then," Galen said, miffed, „or how ever many days Peet needs to recover, and read away. You just need to come up with a really good reason why you're holing up here, instead of settling that inheritance thing of yours."

„I'm trying to win poor little Ango back for Aunt Gila's stud farm," Melvin said, unperturbed. „She needs a successor, and Ango failed to produce an heir before he found his god. She'll be eternally grateful for me to have at least tried, and my whole family can attest to Ango's pigheadedness, so naturally, it would take some days to talk sense into him." He winked at Galen. „I never run out of excuses - that's why I'm such an excellent defense lawyer."

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