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oOo

“It’s creepy, y’know? They’re just so alike that sometimes I walk round the corner and see Lantis in the dark and for a moment I think his brother’s come back to life! Sends shivers down my spine, it does!”

Hikaru bit her lip, and hid around the corner until the speaker and whoever she was addressing were safely out of the corridor before she started walking again. It was – something she’d heard people saying before. Even some of their friends had said the same, though not as aggressively. Not since Cephiro had been reborn; it didn’t sound so much like an accusation from them, anymore.

Not like it did from these strangers. But Hikaru couldn’t blame them for their fears. Fear, she knew, was not always logical, or reasonable, and the people of Cephiro had been badly bruised by everything which happened. Enough to make her heart ache, but still…

It… hurt, to hear Lantis talked of as though he was nothing but the living ghost of his brother. Even if she knew it wasn’t true.

She’d even thought something similar herself, before now, and the more she heard others repeat it the more it felt wrong.

oOo

She was headed to the practise room that the Guards favoured, looking for Lantis – he had promised to show her some of the new parts of the still-expanding land. She loved seeing Cephiro, and Lantis lost even the shadows of that sad look when he was showing people about. Maybe because he had spent so much time in the dying and barren place Cephiro had become, he was more grateful than anyone for the land reborn without a new sacrifice.

There was a flash of light from the doors as she approached, chased in the same instant with a crack of thunder which rattled the corridor – and a laugh, close on the heels of it, which stopped the momentary worry. “Well done!” Said Clef, from inside, and she hesitated – she didn’t want to interrupt if there was a training session going on. Though LaFarga had said that Lantis would be here… “I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re still improving. Then, that spell always did come easily to you.”

“Just like it did for Zagato.” Lantis replied, voice almost expressionless in a way which meant he was flattening any emotion behind the words. Hikaru blinked, instincts at war over whether it would be best to walk away, or walk in.

She chose to walk in; she wasn’t going to hide that she’d overheard something, that was too close to lying. But before she’d made it around the door, Clef laughed again – not meanly, but fondly, and she was close enough now to see him rest his hand on Lantis’s arm and wait until Lantis looked up to smile.

“You may be similar, but you’re really not that alike! It took your brother more than a month to cast this spell. You picked it up in a day, even without a true need there to focus your learning.” Lantis blinked at him. “You always have been more hasty than he ever was! I used to think that was why you liked to drowse off in the afternoons – you used up so much energy, trying to keep up with anyone. Even sword practise couldn’t wear you out. Zagato was better at focusing on one thing – but without the sheer energy you have. Besides which, your skill with earth-based magics has never been truly strong, and he always loathed anything which involved running about too much. Or heights.”

“…True.” Lantis nodded, and there was a smile on his face now. “He used to summon a creature to play tag with me, so he could read. And he used to worry every time I climbed a tree. Though I suppose he became accustomed to that, eventually.”

Clef patted him on the arm, still smiling. “Speaking of trees – I believe you were planning to take Hikaru to see the new edge of the forest of Eleru today?” He nodded at the door, and Hikaru came forward gladly as Lantis put his sword away. “Thank you for convincing me to take a break, but my office will overflow with work if I do not get something done today! I’ll see both of you at dinner tonight.”

Hikaru watched Lantis a moment, but the small smile stayed on his face even when Clef had left the room. “Do you still like climbing trees?” She asked, too curious not to.

There were faint lines about Lantis’s eyes as his smile got high enough to crinkle them. “The forest of Eleru has some particularly fine trees for climbing. Perhaps this afternoon I could show you the view from one or two?”

“I’d like that.” Hikaru took his hand in her own, and they walked out together.

oOo