Chapter 38

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The storm had subsided, so their stroll across Midtown's residential streets was a pleasant one. Leithan even felt a bit cold whenever the night wind gusted, blowing hair and clothes, swaying front yard trees, and making Rengleam flags flap wildly.

Guiding their path with her red glow, the moon shone bright and delicate, at the very start of her waning crescent.

Soldier's Pub was a two-story sandstone building that used to be the military school's headmaster's house. Many years ago, the headmaster had married one of the Rosethorn sisters and moved to the Manses with the rest of the fancy people – incidentally, Headmaster Olishen was now on the City Council. Also, Olishen was Peyton Rosethorn's dad.

Which meant that Rami was crushing on his headmaster's daughter. Leithan smiled to himself at the thought. Little bit cliché.

Yeah, you fell for the clan leader's son two years ago, Leith – you're one to talk.

The worn stone stairs and large oak door that led inside Soldier's Pub were flanked by a pair of acacia trees that provided shade from the sun in daytime. Teshin remained under one of the trees as the others filed inside. He told Leithan he wanted to smoke.

"I'll meet up with you guys in a bit," Leithan told his friends.

He joined Teshin under the acacia. Some of the leaves were still dripping, Leithan could feel occasional cold drops on his hair.

Teshin had already lit his voss twig and took a long inhale now. He offered it to Leithan, but he shook his head. Didn't feel like it.

By now, Teshin had taken off his glasses and shoved them in his satchel. He held the bowler hat by the brim, in his right hand. His copper hair, seeming brown in the dark, was a bit flat from wearing it, but the wind was now ruffling it again.

Leithan had this hunch, and it made him rather . . . depressed. He said it out loud, breaking the silence, "You're not coming inside, are you?"

Teshin blew out the smoke, and gave this small smile that Leithan couldn't really read. He got the sudden wish to be high on lux so he could decipher Teshin's expression.

Tough luck.

"I should go back," Teshin said simply.

Leithan nodded, not knowing what to say. At the same time feeling like there was too much to say. He wrapped his arms around himself, and rubbed them for warmth.

"Thank you for coming, today," Leithan said at last. "And for everything . . . you've done for me."

Teshin held the voss smoke in. After breathing out again, he smiled. This one seemed to hold a secret, or a private joke. But then, Leithan realized, Teshin's smiles were often like that.

"I had a nice day with you," Teshin said after dragging on the suspense.

Leithan's chest decided to get all warm and tingly.

This guy is going to end me.

But then, Teshin added, "You remind me of Xefen."

"Huh?" Leithan said. Was not expecting that.

Apparently, his reaction was funny, because Teshin burst out laughing. Leithan didn't laugh, though.

When the laughter calmed, Teshin said, "You know, aki, there's this thing about legends. Before they become legends, they're just normal people. My brother included."

"Yeah, of course," Leithan said, trying to gather his thoughts.

Mainly, he really wasn't sure how he felt about reminding Tesh of his brother.

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