Chapter 70

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Leithan idled by the temple's side wall, watching the tram cruise across King's Bridge, observing people as they strolled along the river below. He sauntered to the back of the temple, edging Silent Park, studying the pale marble statue of Veya that marked its entrance as if he hadn't already seen it a million times.

Gazing through the tall windows of the eastern wall, he could see the lecture hall, vast and bright, but also empty and boring. Ikar's lecture was long finished, and Quin's lecture wasn't for another three hours.

So, Teshin was late.

Leithan glanced at his watch every five seconds, increasingly berating himself for not insisting that Tesh spend the night here with him.

Veya's sake, Tesh, why'd you have to act so cool and tough?

Anything could've happened last night. Something could be happening to him right now. What if Nix had tried something stupid?

Unease squeezed Leithan's chest and cramped his stomach. His hands squeezed his backpack's straps as he glanced – for possibly the thousandth time – to the south, down Quarry Street.

Still no Teshin.

In fact, that stretch of street was depressingly empty. Except for a seagull pecking at the ground.

Leithan sighed. The thing was, he'd been naive enough to think he knew Nix well. Now, that felt like the dumbest lie he'd ever told himself.

Nix Kalira was little more than a stranger, hoarding around some dangerous anger and frustration. Maybe some sort of a grudge. Maybe even jealousy.

Fuck.

As the minutes stretched on – way slower than minutes were ever supposed to feel – Leithan came to realize he was, himself, late. Normally he was flawlessly punctual, showing up at the Black Fortress at noon every Saturday.

He hadn't missed a visit in ten years; Valira would be worried.

Leithan traveled back the length of the temple's wall, to its colonnaded frontage.

And he got lucky.

"Saul!" Leithan called.

His sparring mentor was in a casual off-duty outfit, topped with a short-brimmed hat. Striding along King's Road, Saul was on his way to the pedestrian lane of the bridge.

He stopped and watched Leithan hurrying over.

"You're on your way to visit your mother? We could walk together," Saul offered.

Leithan frowned. "Where are you headed?"

The urgency in his tone made Saul frown under his hat.

"Fashion District," he said. "I'm having lunch with Ella. Why?"

"Could you do me a favor?" Leithan asked, hands clutching his backpack's straps.

Saul arched a wary eyebrow. "Depends on the favor?"

Leithan unslung his bag. "Could you take this to the Black Fortress for me? It's only a five minutes detour from Ella's shop. Just give it to Jasper – he's a guard there, he'll take it to my mother. It's the stuff she asked for last week," he explained as Saul took the bag, weighing it.

"Damn. What'd she ask for?" he asked jokingly. "Bricks?"

Leithan gave a weak smile. "Books. Among other things."

"Ah." Saul hoisted the bag over a shoulder. "Sure, I can do that. Why aren't you going?"

"I, um . . ." Leithan swallowed uneasily, fresh concern tearing him apart – saying it aloud made it worse, for some reason. "I need to go check on a friend. It's really important."

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