Chapter 56

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Leithan woke up feeling warm. He couldn't remember his dreams.

The hint of sunrise caressed the back of his eyelids. He heard the telltale crackling of waxed paper being unwrapped. Leithan opened his eyes; sure enough, Teshin sat beside him with the mango cake in his hands and a guilty look on his face.

"I was hungry," Teshin said.

Leithan smiled as he sat up, running a hand through his hair. Both the woolen blanket and the black coat had been draped over him, which explained why he felt so warm. It almost made up for the soreness that clawed in protest down his back and legs, from sleeping directly on the rock, and from yesterday's hike.

Behind Teshin and all around, the world was waking up.

A slight fog had risen at some point in the morning, and thick, roiling clouds spread out from the mountain and beyond. Like a ceiling over Asheth, made of clouds, and Leithan and Teshin stood above it. The sky was a deep purplish blue, but it was quickly becoming brighter.

Leithan gave a delighted laugh. "That's amazing."

The clouds looked like churning waves. It felt so surreal, watching them from above.

"We're on top of the world," Leithan said softly.

Teshin smiled. "We are."

His eyes were a bit red, but even so, they were bright and warm. Welcoming.

Memories of yesterday and last night rushed back in, dominating Leithan's thoughts. The sunset, the talking, the drinking – all of it. Falling asleep with his arm around Teshin. How right it had felt.

Leithan's stomach did a long, loud rumble, making Teshin laugh. He had a crumb of cake on his lower lip. Then he licked his lips, and it was gone. Teshin glanced down at the piece of Mori's mango cake in his hand, sitting amidst its waxed paper wrappings. He offered it to Leithan. It seemed Teshin had eaten half.

"You have the rest."

"How generous of you. Considering it was supposed to be mine," Leithan said, teasing.

He tore a piece of the pale yellow dough and brought it to his lips. It was scrumptious – then again, food always tasted better when you were starved. The cake only made Leithan crave more.

"Next time you come to New Ri," he told Teshin between two bites, "I need to take you to the Pasta Shop in West Harbor." Leithan's mouth watered at the thought. "You'll see, it's—"

"Turn around," Teshin said, a small smile on his face. He looked past Leithan, to the east.

Teshin's eyes reflected the emerging sunlight, Leithan realized. He always found them interesting to look at – a bright, greenish yellow on the outward edge and a richer, warmer golden color around the pupil. But Leithan obediently turned away from him, so he could sit facing the east.

Reddish orange striped the sky just above the line of roiling clouds, brightening the blue of the sky above. But Leithan realized the true reason, maybe, why Teshin had told him to look the other way.

They weren't alone.

Atop the caldera's lip, a long distance away, a couple sat watching the sunrise. The man's arm was around her, occasionally they exchanged a kiss. Her long hair danced in the wind.

Leithan smiled. Their silhouettes made the sunrise even more beautiful, in a way.

More crackling of wrapping paper startled Leithan, snapping him out of the peaceful moment. Beside him, Teshin had opened the package of chocolate-coated coffee beans.

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