Qui’in walked at a leisurely pace, arms swinging relaxed at her sides. “The idea is that Nidi and Velodian comes from the same roots. While you won’t master it in a week and a half, you can have a pretty good grasp on the basic vernacular.” She glanced at Lekan, and he smiled back smoothly, chuckling at her raised eyebrow.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a contact with someone who could teach… me Velodian, would you?” “You” morphed into a groan as she grabbed his wrist, shaking her head.
“That pause was such a tell. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Sliding his hands into his pockets, he looked up at the dark sky. “It’s harder than it looks.”
“It could be handy over there. Sometimes spies double as thieves.”
They walked in silence, along a sidewalk in a fairly good part of town where the doctors and merchants lived. There was plenty of activity, but they were left alone. Qui’in had been running him through various skills that could come in handy. He was mostly mediocre in all of them. He didn’t show any dazzling capability, but he also wasn’t dismal.
Qui knew that the only thing that would really make him proficient was time. He didn’t have that, so she didn’t mention that fact. She just goaded him into practicing, while trying to train him in etiquette and conversation skills at the same time.
She watched him as he studied the sky, not bothering to look where he was going. She sighed inwardly. She didn’t know how she hadn’t been more hopeless before now. Really, it would be best if…
If she hired someone to do the dirty work... Obviously, Lekan needed to be the face of whatever silly quest the monarchy was going to send him on, but surely if there was someone subtle, someone already skilled at the scuzzier part of life.
Her mind whizzed, clicking ideas into place as a smile twitched at her lips before becoming a full out grin.
She should keep Lekan occupied as he was. It would be best if he didn’t have to lie more than he was already expected to, and a secret weapon could come in handy even if it was secret from the person who could benefit. That being said, Lekan would still probably have to carry out some espionage, so she should make sure he was as talented as he could be.
She would have to stretch her feelers into the underworld to see if she could find someone low profile enough and stupid or greedy enough to embark on this damned quest with Lekan.
Jerking her conscious out of plotting, she tried to focus on Lekan who had obviously been talking for a while now.
“I’m just concerned that I won’t pull off whatever I’m going to have to pull off if I don’t know Velodian. I mean, an ambassador would know Velodian…”
She let air hiss through her teeth. Was he still caught up on that? “I told you that you’d know and then when you’re actually there,” she snapped harshly. “I’m telling you to focus on other very important skills you need to build up, and here you are still blabbering about speaking the language. Speaking the language won’t count for anything if you fail at any real spying.” She glared at him when he looked down at her.
His face was sullen when he looked away to kick at a clump of brush. “Espionage won’t matter if I can’t make the Velodians believe I’m really what I say I am.”
As she always seemed to do with this boy, she softened. She now looked up at the stars, the pinpricks of white light hazy through her veil. “You’ll fool them, Lekan. It’ll be okay. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” Her voice was very soft, almost apologetic.
He didn’t immediately lighten up like she had hoped he would. She thought that was why she had liked him so quickly and so powerfully: his attitude. As silly and ridiculous as the boy was, she thought, maybe knew, he was good. Irresponsible and enough Velodian to get on by the time you had to leave. Do you not believe me? Do you think I’d lie? I’ll find someone to help you. You’ll learn what you learn, then you’ll keep learning on your journey there naïve, but good all the same.
She recognized true goodness – which differed from it’s cousins righteousness and nobility – as what it was: a rarity that should be protected. Lekan for all his mistakes, should be protected to live until his innocent, untrained goodness matured into something useful.
She shook her head. Perhaps she was romanticizing him too much.
“I think that’s enough for today, Lekan,” she murmured and let him walk her back to her hotel. When he leaned forward a little at the road in front of the hotel, obviously hoping for a kiss, she turned away completely, knowing he would be hurt by the too obvious rebuff. She wanted to stop him (maybe herself?) from getting anymore attached. She also didn’t know how to tell him that she could never see anything between him and herself that didn’t mimic a familial bond. “Be safe heading home,” she called smoothly over her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”