Chapter 35

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Teshin's hand disappeared into the satchel, came out again a few seconds later with a small pouch. Leithan allowed himself a small smile, amusement taking over for a short moment.

"Do you always carry all the klar on yourself?"

Teshin smirked, and his eyes caught the sunset's last rays.

"Take one," Teshin instructed, proffering the contents of the pouch.

Leithan plucked out a berry-sized dried fruit of a dark yellow color.

"This is it?" he asked.

"Yes, why?" Teshin replied, pouch already hidden again. "What'd you expect? Some magical fizzing elixir?"

Feeling silly, Leithan just ate the damn thing.

It had a typical dried fruit texture and tasted vaguely familiar, maybe similar to a fruit he'd had once before but couldn't remember which.

"How long before it kicks in?" Leithan asked, glancing nervously at the door.

They were letting more people in.

In a synchronized movement, Leithan and Teshin climbed one more step. Only three or four groups of people, and it would be their turn.

"You haven't eaten in a while," Teshin said. "So I'd say maybe a thousand beats."

About fifteen minutes, Leithan converted.

In the sky, a faint thunder rumbled. The static, tense, pending-storm air seemed a precise match to Leithan's frantic nerves.

Beside him, Ella groaned, "Let us in already. Where's my damn brother when we need him?"

At that moment, Saul Silverleaf, perhaps detecting his sister's voice from the entrance hall – or uncannily showing up at just the right time – stepped outside and scanned the queue.

Ten years Ella's elder, making him fifty, Saul was in decent physical shape from a life of rigorous training. Although, he'd retired from competing at the arena a few years prior, and he wasn't as fit as he used to be. These days, his only training sessions were the sparring lessons he gave to Leithan, twice a week.

Saul had close-cropped salt and pepper hair as well as a neat goatee, and stood tall and imposing in his temple security's simple black and white uniform, complete with sheathed sword at his hip.

When he spotted Leithan and Ella, he waved them forward.

Ella touched Leithan's arm. "Come on, let's go. Hi Saul!" she exclaimed, waving back with her purse-holding hand.

With Teshin on their heel, they climbed the stairs separating them from Saul, passing the other people waiting in line. Saul gave Ella a brief hug and kiss on the cheek, then slapped Leith's shoulder in that friendly-but-manly manner.

"Hey, old man," Leithan greeted him with a smile.

"Are you stupid?" Saul asked, startling him.

"I don't know, am I?" Leithan replied, arching an eyebrow.

"You're the one giving the damn lecture, son. You don't have to wait in that line!" Saul said, gesturing at the queue with a hand.

Which, now that Leithan thought about it, made sense.

"I have a friend with me," Leithan told him. "A . . . Cieltz traveler. He wants to see the temple. Is that okay?"

Upon catching the word Cieltz, Teshin affected a solemn expression under the brim of his hat, and Leithan had to stop himself from grinning.

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