Chapter 107

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They traveled down Midtown Street, past the apothecary and the theater, where the actors' rehearsing could be heard from outside. Then they passed the Observatory Tower, until their stroll took them to Silent Park.

They eventually sat on an ironwork bench to the eastern edge of the park, overlooking the Initri River, blue and calm under a sky as cloudy as it had been that morning. Perhaps even grayer now, but as of yet, no rain.

During their walk, Leithan had told him about the letter. Had explained as best he could. The opportunity to finally meet Kaiden, the princess, and his niece was exciting on its own. But visiting Rimar? The library, the museums, the parks, the rich history of it all. Where Veya used to live! Where she'd fought the Cieltz army to take back her city. And there was so much more Leithan could have said about it, but at some point he stopped.

And waited, anxiously for Teshin to say something.

His expression, his stance betrayed his hesitation, and as Teshin gazed at the river, he wore a slight frown. It made Leithan even more nervous. 

"I'm not sure I should," Teshin said without looking at him.

Leithan's heart sank deep. He couldn't help but keep trying, "You know, they have locomotives on the mainland. If you think our little tram is cool, you ain't seen nothing yet. Oh, and I forgot to tell you this," Leithan said, wishing Teshin would look at him. "I was thinking we could travel to the Yelen Peaks. We could climb the Eye of the World together. Remember that?"

Teshin did look at him then, with a fond smile. And it gave Leithan hope.

"Twice as high as Ashira?" Teshin asked.

"Yes," Leithan confirmed.

Teshin scratched his hair, the silver band at his finger gleaming. But he glanced back to the river, still hesitant.

"Plus," Leithan added, "it's going to be winter on the mainland soon. That's their coldest season – they have four, not just two like here. We could see snow, Tesh. And ice. Maybe not in the capital," Leithan conceded, "but if we travel north—"

"I think I should stay here," Teshin said. He sounded troubled, almost . . . in pain.

Though Leithan could've bet anything that Tesh wasn't nearly as upset as he felt right now.

Or, not so much upset, but . . . disappointed. Really fucking disappointed. Like a blow to the heart.

Teshin explained, "It's Xefen. I have to stay with him for a little longer. He's still too fragile. He could relapse."

"But he has Koral," Leithan tried, though he suspected he'd lost the argument already. "She's been helping him, you know that. He's not alone."

Teshin shook his head. "I can't go with you. I'm sorry."

Disappointment hung, heavy and dark, inside Leithan. Spread to his limbs, made his entire body ache with the strength of it. He didn't know what to say.

Maybe I'm being selfish.

He held on to the thought, clung to it. Tried to be reasonable, mature. To let the moment pass.

But it didn't.

He couldn't even look at Teshin right now. Why did it have to hurt so much?

I guess . . . I really wanted to share that experience with him.

Or, was there something else, too? What Valira had said played over his thoughts.

I've already lost one son to that city. Now I worry I'll lose another.

Leithan frowned, gazing down at the river, and up at the low stone buildings of the East Side, his thoughts racing.

What if I love the capital so much that I want to stay?

Sure, New Rimar was great, and he loved his friends and everything, except . . . Leithan couldn't help but feel that the possibilities here were limited. He longed to see more of the world. Always had. Always would. But especially now, for some reason.

It felt like a chapter of his life was over, and a powerful restlessness now dwelled within.

A much more reasonable thought came, sparring with the rest.

Come on, it's just ten days away by steamship, according to Miss Princess. Even if you decide to stay there, you can still come back and visit.

But it wouldn't ever be the same. This, he knew, deep down.

And maybe Teshin felt it, sensed it somehow, because at that very moment, he asked, "How long will you be gone?"

The emotion in Teshin's voice tore into him.

"I don't know," Leithan said, shrugging. He was trying to keep his tone light, but it wasn't really happening.

Teshin nodded, glancing away. Like he understood.

And he still doesn't change his mind.

Leithan realized uneasily that the moment was starting to feel dangerously like a breakup, and he hated it. But what could he do, or say, that might make it better? He just didn't know. He only knew that it hurt.

"When are you leaving?" Teshin asked then, turning to look at him again. A weak breeze rustled his hair. He seemed close to tears.

Veya's sake and all the spirits in the sky, this fucking sucks.

And what Leithan said next didn't help anything, "I think tomorrow, honestly. If the ship's ready."

He could feel Teshin flinch with the pain of it, as if Leithan had literally just hit him.

But he meant every word. He wanted to leave tomorrow, especially if Teshin wasn't coming. Because he didn't want to miss his chance, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. And Leithan was afraid that, if he stayed here longer, with Tesh, he might change his mind.

There was another reason, of course.

He didn't want to leave in something like three days, or even two days, because then that would mean more awful, gut-wrenching moments like this one. And he couldn't bear it.

It had to be tomorrow, he decided. Tomorrow morning, preferably.

As soon as they were done talking, Leithan would head to West Harbor and find Captain Bluesmoke.

"You'll write to me?" Teshin asked, hopeful, snapping Leith back to the moment.

Looking into Teshin's eyes had never been so difficult. It took him all the courage he had.

"Of course I'll write to you," Leithan said, and a depressed sigh escaped him. "Come here."

Teshin flung himself in his arms and held him like he never wanted to let go.

Leithan squeezed his eyes shut as he held back with just as much strength, then he sighed again, close to Teshin's ear.

"Atsia," Leithan whispered, and he felt Teshin shiver – or maybe it was a sob.

"I love you," Teshin said back.

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