Chapter 13

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Leithan finished his shower just as the tank water ran out. He stepped out with a towel around himself and stared into the mirror, running a palm across it to remove the fog.

He wasn't too surprised to see that the dark gray-blue rings around his pupils were about as slim as they could ever get. His muscles were also ominously devoid of aches right now. It wouldn't last. With what he knew of the klar, he had about two, maybe three more hours before it all came crashing down.

But for now, with the stimulants still thrumming in his veins, he couldn't stay still.

So, after attacking his hair with a comb and getting dressed – slim black pants with suitably stylish wrinkles and slashes across, favorite green sweater because comfort, black long coat because fashion – he headed outside.

Next to his room, in the lamp-lit hallway, Shay's door was closed. He pressed his ear to the smooth pale wood. No clicking on the typewriter or scribbling across paper, or anything else. She was probably, understandably, still asleep.

Leithan decided to go to Roasted alone and wait for his friends.

Roasted was a café on the south side of the Central Plaza, ten minutes' walk from the temple. Good for people watching.

He sat in their usual booth in the corner, by the largest rectangular window, surrounded by pots of ferns, aloe, spider lilies, and a pink-blossomed one he didn't know the name of.

As he shrugged off his jacket, Jia offered him her signature smile and her signature espresso – which he probably shouldn't accept right now, but he did anyway because it was delicious. Not that Leithan had ever tasted any other coffee, but apparently, the other islands and the mainland, as well as the rest of the world, agreed to say that Asheth's coffee beans were the best. And in New Rimar, they enjoyed the stuff as fresh as could be.

The powerful people of New Rimar already profited like crazy, and they would even more with the expansion of the plantation, if it happened. Which reminded Leithan of the whole issue with the Yoxai. He sighed.

Too much stuff to think about.

Outside, shopkeepers opened their doors, set up their exterior stalls, canvas roofing drawn out to keep eventual rain off their merchandise. The sky was cloudy.

First of October. Today marked the beginning of the rainy season. Six more months of this.

Yay.

Said no one ever.

The New Ri Press was out, too. The newspaper's headquarters and printers were in the building just to the left of Roasted, so the café always got it first. The kid who distributed it gave a copy to Leithan, secured a pile in Jia's hands for her to place on the tables, and wandered off onto the cobbled plaza. The tram came chuffing along, doing its first morning run, and the familiar scent of coal smoke came drifting through the air.

More customers bustled in. Jia put on some soft piano on the gramophone in the far corner. Though it didn't do much to cover the sound of her steam-powered espresso machines lined up on the counter.

The comforting smell of bread baking in ovens wafted from the kitchen, where Mori was hard at work. Jia and Mori were the thirty-something owners of this gem of a place, and they were angels. Also, they were actually a couple, but among their customers, only Leithan and his friends knew that.

It started raining, which didn't stop early shoppers, who simply propped open their umbrellas and carried about.

Soon, Leithan finally got to eat something more nutritious than those flimsy lux fruits. He got some of Mori's freshly baked bread with coconut jam, and it was awesome.

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