i am not cinna the conspirator (mithrigil) wrote in suikostrategist,
i am not cinna the conspirator
mithrigil
suikostrategist

New Strategist Fic!

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I hope it is appropriate to post fiction directly to here. If not, I will replace this with a link to my own journal.

Disclaimer: Contains male nudity.

Hopefully, this will make you laugh and make you think. There's some stuff in here that I am very proud of.



Dropping the Soap
by Mithrigil Galtirglin
a foray into Genso Suikoden III



---

Outside, the crickets would not shut up. True, Albert reminded himself, they had not been asked to shut up, but such an address would surely prove futile. It was in the nature of crickets to play the drunken buskers at night, vacillating their thighs in the hope that some female would find the sound appealing. To ask as base a creature as that to go against its nature was a waste of time.

And besides, Albert recalled, as long as the beasts are acting within their natures, their actions can be predicted. Now, though the stipulation was relevant, the situation itself was not. Grandfather's words were meant to apply to soldiers, not crickets. Albert gave the soldiers a shred more credit than that; however insect-like a company of kerns was, crickets they were not. Beetles, perhaps, or ants.

Before his ink could smear from the frustration, Albert lifted his pen from the vellum. He did not want to attribute, even to himself, a black mark to the noise of mere crickets. Instinctively, he used the pause in writing as an excuse to look his work over, lest the time go to waste.

The allocations-exercise he was being made to complete was child's-play. Diagram and demonstrate, counter an already fabricated attack. He'd been given more appropriate assignments in Harmonia, things that approached challenging him. Three weeks ago, Albert would have accepted this assignment as an attempt to gauge his improvement since leaving Soldat; at this point, it reeked of an inability to school him any further. Albert knew full well he had outgrown Soldat, and only his Grandfather's recommendation to assist Harlow for a few months had brought him back at all. That his younger brother was also at Soldat now was either an opportunity or a curse.

In Albert's opinion, the prepubescent Caesar was not lacking in spark, and even without applying himself to his studies would prove a capable strategist. Not a renown-worthy one, like Albert knew he himself was to become, but Caesar would at least suffice to not mar the Silverberg name. That Apple woman would at least teach him some subtlety.

The crickets were being especially obstinate. Albert took a deep breath and brushed his bangs off his face. Somehow his hair had accumulated a touch of sweat. Perhaps he was operating too close to the candles. It was not terribly late, but the weather had been consistently unpleasant since Albert's return, and the nights especially dark. Or perhaps he had been spoiled by the lights of Crystal Valley.

The thought of Crystal Valley actually muted the cricket-calls in Albert's mind. Grandfather had been right, in his letters about the Empire; the clear class-divisions were stimulating, the art inspiring, the abundance of knowledge available to someone of Albert's (and, at the time of the letters, Grandfather's) station clearly sufficient and the amount available to someone of even higher station quite possibly overwhelming. In two years, Albert's awe had only just begun to die down. Between the libraries, the visits from Grandfather, and Albert's first thorough exposure to runecraft, the young man had learned more in Crystal Valley than he expected he would be able to glean from Harlow and Soldat.

His bangs now covered up a Pale Gate rune. No one had commented so far. He brushed his hair--still slightly damp--out of his eyes again, and appraised his mediocrely-brassed expression in the nearest candlestick. He had not made as much progress with the rune since finally acquiring the will to use it, but he had time. It had taken a few passive-aggressive urgings from the Silverbergs of old to get Albert to open his mind to the possibility of summoning. And by 'open his mind' Albert only meant literally; to call it an 'open mind' in the figurative sense would be a banal irony. A consistently renewed contract with a demon does not equate to an open mind.

The devil take those crickets, Albert cursed in thought as the thigh-scraping surfaced from beyond the windowsill again.

Just as he felt ready to resume the exercise, there was a frenetic knock at his door. "What is it?" Albert droned, almost as a statement.

The hinges didn't squeak, which meant the door was being opened at full-force. "Hey," Caesar prodded, "um--"

"You actually don't care, do you?" Albert asked, setting down the pen again and turning on the seat of his chair to face the boy in the door.

"I--what?"

"Never mind. I've given up on your ever learning the concept of announcing your intentions before entering my space. Then again, someday, it may actually benefit you to have no regard for sanctity." As these remarks came rather easily to Albert, he could appraise the boy's state without sacrificing acridity.

Caesar was shoeless but socked, in his night-clothes underneath a short-jacket like that Zexen man Harras had been wearing during the Harmonian council Albert had been present at five months ago. The boy's berry-red hair was no more unruly than usual, which meant that he had not pretended to sleep and then snuck out to see Albert; he was here on someone's permission at least. He smelled a touch athletic for Caesar and his eyes were uncharacteristically low, almost demure. "...Right," he muttered. "Question." Because of how he slouched, he was on head-level with Albert's pike-straight sitting-posture.

Albert knew that whatever advice he would be asked for would not be heeded. Crickets. "Ask it."

The boy's eyes brightened a bit as he looked up--he made eye-contact with Albert, which at least proved his business was serious. "What's the standard punishment here for publicly humiliating another student or group of students in such a way that it incites them to suicide?" The squeak in his voice betrayed that he'd been waiting to ask that specific question for a while, and he smirked a little and scuffed his sock against the door-rug. "I lost my manual."

Albert raised an eyebrow. "You're still alive."

That smile was fast approaching 'simpering'. "I meant I would be the one inciting," Caesar clarified, the attempt at machismo inadequately veiling whatever insecurity had brought him here in the first place.

"I applaud your initiative," Albert said without actually applauding.

"Al, seriously," Caesar whined, remembering to reach back and shut the door.

Knowing that he'd not have to pick up the pen and vellum again for at least a short while, Albert folded his hands in his lap and prodded, "Who did what to you that shocked you out of your perpetual stupor?"

Caesar pouted, trying to be serious. It actually worked. "Al, be a big brother for once. I'm coming to you with a normal-kid problem for what I think is the eighth time in my life."

Albert credited that, in part, to his not being around when Caesar reached the age of supposed reason. "Right, then. So, who are they?"

There was no other place to sit in this room but on the bed or atop Albert's travel-trunk, still beside the door as a constant reminder of his ability and desire to leave. When Albert didn't offer Caesar a seat the boy perched himself on the edge of the trunk and kicked his wool-clad heels against it. "It's the guys that came here from Highland." Reginald Bors and Jeison Cobb, Albert inferred, the squires. Caesar continued, "They're saying that dropping the soap when you're at the baths means you want the other boys to look at your butt."

"Do you?"

"What?!"

"Do you want the other boys to look at your behind? It's a simple question," Albert asserted, turning around his chair to face the desk again with a shrug. At least Caesar had correctly assessed that this was an insignificant, 'normal-kid problem'. As such, it was truly ill-equipped to usurp even the boring allocations-exercise.

"No!" Caesar's vehemence was clearly emphasized by the thud of both heels against the trunk simultaneously. It was, upon Albert's brief analysis, the kind of denial that was tragically true, but easily misinterpreted by the malintentioned mind.

"Then they're obviously working from false information," Albert said, by way of I believe you.

Caesar had honed this means of elongating the first syllable of Albert's name that grated on the elder brother's nerves. "Al, they're ruining my rep!"

Albert looked over his shoulder at the needlessly loud preteen leaning forward off his trunk. "Where on earth are you picking up these words? One minute you're talking about inciting the Highlanders to suicide like a normal Silverberg and the next you're worrying about saving your 'butt' and your 'rep'."

The truth of the matter turned out unsurprisingly to be, "I don't want the girls to think I want boys to--"

"So what I've pieced together," Albert interrupted with another quarter-turn of his chair, "about this little border skirmish is that you dropped the soap while you were at the baths and they told you what the gesture meant to them? No, wait," he amended, thumbing his chin like Grandfather did sometimes, "they wouldn't have noticed you drop it at all if you hadn't already been told..."

As often, Caesar stopped pouting and started betraying truths in the face of a correct speculation. "How'd you--"

"You go red in the face when you're embarrassed," Albert reminded the boy. "It makes how white your behind is stand out."

The whine and the pout returned, and Caesar slammed his palms into the trunk this time instead of his heels. "Al, do something!" Albert realized that said heels were tapping impatiently on the floor, muffled to a tolerable volume by the socks.

Albert leaned forward slightly, and continued to speak softly, hoping that the disparity in sobriety and dynamic would make Caesar pay attention. "Caesar, the damage has already been done. You've quite literally shown your back to the enemy," he added, unable to help smirking a little. "Now, you have a choice. Please tell me that you've learned enough from that Apple woman to relay to me what that choice is." He wondered how condescending he actually sounded.

"Jerk." Appropriately condescending. Caesar crossed his arms, though, and lowered his voice. "Enlighten me."

"There we are again with the melangic vocabulary," Albert sighed. "So, you have this choice; the next time this happens--and there will be a next time, given the nature of soap to be evasive--the next time this happens, you can let them control you and leave the bath still dirty, or you can show them your behind and give them something to laugh at." He presented neither option as favorable, figuring the choice would speak for itself, and all the boy had to do was understand the language.

By his posture and expression, Caesar did not comprehend. "You're--you're an insensitive--"

Albert sighed again, straightened his back, and turned to face the desk. "Do you still want me to answer your original question, about what your punishment will be if you humiliate them into taking their own lives?"

Apparently, his witticisms served to modulate Caesar's voice in a favorable manner. "Sure."

Albert decided to make it thoroughly clear to Caesar that his advice should be taken seriously and that Caesar, in general, should keep himself in check. He stared at his reflection in the candlestick again and thought about Crystal Valley and the inevitability of obsidian plate-mail. "In addition to your being expelled, possibly arrested, and probably hindering my chances of going back to Harmonia after this, in five or so years I'll have figured out how to summon the great Julian from beyond the grave so he can make your behind match your hair, since Father never had the spleen to do that."

"Al!"

Albert had conveyed all the information he needed to convey. All that remained was for Caesar to actually grasp it. In order for that to happen, he had to get out of Albert's room without Albert strangling him in frustration. "And the honorable Julian'll not have to shed a drop of blood to do it." Albert thumbed his chin again and glanced out the window. "Hm, maybe that's how he really liberated Rugner..."

Caesar stammered, "I--I--" but his feet and hands were still and quiet at last.

"Any further questions?" Albert asked, turning to Caesar for what he resolved would be the last time this evening.

He did not expect to feel any remorse at Caesar's indignant and hurt expression. "...Why did I ever think I could depend on you for anything?" The boy eventually asked, at a reasonable volume.

"What, you didn't come here for straight answers?" Albert replied in a similar tone, almost respectfully.

"I...I came here because I thought you'd know what to do."

"I do, Caesar," he said, his voice nearly a whisper by now, brought there naturally by their proximity. "I just told you. Next time, make a choice. I've offered you the only two options you actually have." He found he was actually leaning forward, instinctually trying to make this lesson clear. "When you've lost control you can either give it up or take it back."

"But what about now?" Caesar whined, too loud again.

Albert kept up the calm tone despite this affront. "Now, you're dry and clothed."

Watching his younger brother deliberate the idea was somewhat fascinating to Albert, even approaching a novelty. "...I..." the boy started to say, darting his eyes uneasily between the cracks in the shadowed floor between them, "...I..." he tried to begin again, failing to recapture eye-contact with Albert. He eventually decided to remain indignant. "I hope you die in the first war you get hired for!" Albert accepted this; it was a predictable outcome and he himself had predicted it, if not spurred it. "You're a jerk and all I wanted was for you to help me because you're so smart and you're making fun of me just like them!"

"Do you hear me laughing?" Albert asked calmly, and stated truthfully, "I don't think I'm having any fun."

Caesar sprung off the trunk and to his feet, sliding a bit in the dirty woolen socks. "I hope some faceless grunt stabs you to death and you bleed all over your goddamned journal so no one remembers you!" He flailed his arms about a lot when he was angry, and his face was beginning to flush red, much as it probably had when the Highland boys began to tease him.

"Creative," Albert appraised, ignoring and regretting the profanity. "It'll never happen."

"I hate you!" Caesar shouted again.

"I'm actually surprised you came up with that kind of retribution," Albert continued in the calm tones he'd been trying to maintain throughout this ordeal. His composure was beginning to fray. "There is a reason you're here other than that you're a Silverberg," he told them both.

"Albert, are you even listening?!" Caesar threw down his skinny little arms for emphasis. At least they didn't hit anything on their way down.

"Not to your whining, no," Albert replied.

Such a controlled response thankfully gave Caesar some pause, and the boy collected himself passably before whirling around, yanking the door open, storming out, and slamming it shut, in another easily misinterpretable gesture that would doubtless land the boy in hot water.

Albert let his brother leave--it was in the boy's nature to make a spectacle of himself--and glanced over to make sure there were no new dents in the trunk's face, and that his calendar hadn't fallen off the hook on the back of the door. Affirming that it had not, he brushed his hair out of his eyes--still slightly damp, perhaps even moreso now--and went back to the mental exercise with his zeal somewhat renewed. He would rather have been reading that journal, but tonight was not the night. He didn't hear another undulating chirrup out of the crickets until the assignment was finished, when Albert was actually trying to sleep.

:_-_:

Caesar was beginning to smell vaguely like a supply closet; of dust, matches, and pointed disregard. Whether the boys from Highland noticed, Caesar did not know--he suspected they didn't, since they were probably scared of being interpreted as "looking at guys" anyway--but the fact remained that they'd made their impression on Caesar and his baths for the last five days had been lamentably soapless.

There the boys were, Reggie and Jeison, coming into the bathhouse now, the last of their class to do so. The Highlanders had come to Soldat on the recommendation of whatever General, which meant they'd been squires, which meant they could fight, even if they didn't look it when they were naked. Then again, not many people looked like they could fight when they were naked. Then again, the only people Caesar had actually looked at naked were the kind of girls who didn't know a catapult from a halberd, and the other boys his age at the bathhouse.

But yes, Caesar had guessed that Reggie and Jeison could fight, and the boys looked like fighters, at least when they had clothes on. They were as gangly as Caesar otherwise, if not as scrawny.

Caesar stepped into his tub before the Highland boys could wave him over and make some crack at his expense regardless of whether Caesar accepted or refused.

"Hey, 'Berg!" Jeison yelled, right on schedule. "Waiting on someone?"

I'm waiting for Viktor and Flik and whatever their corps was called to show up out of nowhere and kick your butt, Caesar thought, but all he said was "no".

"Really?" Reggie called snakily, "not even Davis?" He and Jeison snickered as they folded up their shirts.

"What about Davis?" Caesar asked with a wrinkled nose, wondering if he owed Davis potch or something.

Jeison stopped, standing with one leg on either side of the bath's ledge. "I don't know, man--I thought I saw him looking at your butt!" He was already laughing by the end of his own joke, and Reggie chuckled too and elbowed the slightly-taller boy in his skinny ribs.

Caesar groaned and let his face flop forward into the bathwater. He wondered if it actually was impossible to drown oneself of if he should go get some weights for that. This is getting old, he thought, getting sick of staring at his wispy red hair and coming up for air in the end.

"--'tually went outside in the daytime?" someone older was asking, at the entrance to the room. Caesar recognized the voice a moment later as the janitor's.

"I need to clear my head," Albert replied from the door--

--Al?

Caesar gulped and got a mouthful of bathwater for it, which he spat out quickly. That was in fact his elder brother unstrapping his boots on the bench by the bathhouse door.

"Yeah, but I know you, kid," the janitor was saying, "there's hardly a thing out there can make you take a walk while there's sun to speak of. You've been working hard?"

Albert shrugged and took off his coat in the same motion, then started to unbutton his shirt. He hadn't seemed to notice Caesar at all.

"Heh, pity you ended up sharing your break with these jokers," the janitor went on, indicating the seven preteens currently using the facilities. "Their terrain-thing class just let out."

"Terrain appraisal?" Albert offered, still unbuttoning. "That's what they're calling 'hiking' now?"

"I getcha," the janitor said. "Also gets them to let off some steam from sitting in a library all day."

Albert had finished with his shirt and started folding it, painstakingly neatly. Caesar (who was still gaping, but above the surface now) had forgotten how pale Albert was. While Albert's cheeks had a kind of candlelight flush about them, all his skin below the neck was downright stark. The palor made the dark red hairs on and under his arms stand out like the enemy markers on a field-chart.

With another dispassionate shrug, Albert set the folded shirt on top of his short-jacket and scarf, then stooped over to pry off his socks. "I don't hear any jokers," he muttered, belatedly.

"You shut them up," the Janitor mused, grinning.

"It won't last." Albert stood up, folding and setting down the thick grey socks.

"You're probably right."

Albert stepped out of his pants and folded them up as well. The little red hairs stood out even more on his pale, skinny legs, probably because the hairs themselves were a little darker and longer. Also, his skin got even paler higher on his legs.

Caesar actually had to wonder when he had ever seen Albert naked. There was a real foreignness to his elder brother without his scarves and jackets. Caesar was sure, after thinking for a moment, that he hadn't seen his brother naked since Albert had been the age Caesar was now. Caesar wondered when he was going to get enough hair to cover that much of his penis, and whether his own hair would be red too.

He heard Jeison and Reggie splashing and snickering, and then Caesar rolled his eyes and started devising an elaborate dual-homicide setup.

Albert crossed to the nearest empty tub (as opposed to the nearest one with a vacancy), two away from Caesar's on the same side as Reggie and Jeison. While Albert didn't look as if he could fight naked, he looked...well, like he could do something. Like go to the library and pick up some book he'd forgotten, or walk over to Miss Apple and return her inkwell.

Caesar watched Albert step over the edge of the tub and lower himself into the water. His elder brother's pale skin was already slightly flushed and it was harder to see the hairs.

Everyone by now had resumed whatever they had been doing before Albert came in, whether that was chatting or scrubbing or plotting the gruesome deaths of his classmates. After a moment of said plotting, though, and after another look over at Albert, Caesar wondered if maybe this was Albert's way of stopping the Highland boys from teasing Caesar. He was really a showoff, then, if he thought just being here was enough to keep them quiet, but it didn't really seem like something Albert would care about. He'd said as much, told Caesar there was no hope and implied that the boys had no reason to stop making fun of him at all.

With a sour kind of expression, Caesar looked up at the soap ledge. In case the Highland boys were watching him, he turned away quickly. He figured Albert was safe to watch--Caesar was allowed to be confused as to why Albert was even here. And Caesar was still confused; Albert was about as philanthropic as a plague and ulterior as the blackbirds in a pie.

(Caesar was proud to know that word, 'philanthropic'. He'd impressed Miss Apple with it last month. The second half, though, 'ulterior', he'd borrowed from Father. Caesar wasn't entirely sure what it meant, but figured he'd agree with Father's assessment of Albert.)

Albert sat rather low in the tub, which made sense to Caesar for some reason. The elder brother had his eyes closed and conveyed every impression of actually being here just to relax and clean off after an especially long morning.

Reggie and Jeison laughed loudly at something, so Caesar looked warily at them instead. The Highland boys didn't seem to be paying him any mind, nor Albert, nor any of the other boys in the bathhouse. Maybe the joke was at someone's expense, or maybe it wasn't, and maybe it was safe for Caesar to reach up for the soap and finally get clean after five days of just soaking.

And then, after a slight 'plop' and 'skid', Reggie and Jeison burst out laughing again.

Caesar looked up and got an eye-full. Albert was standing up--his skin was, at this point, consistently flushed to about the slightly-tinged color of a medic's washwater after a minor surgery--as his bar of soap slid across the bathhouse floor. Caesar gaped (again) and had to spit out bathwater (again), and blinked a few times in disbelief, staring at the soap as it decelerated and ultimately stopped almost in the center of the two aisles of baths.

He looked over to Albert in a flurry because he knew, somehow, that he was supposed to. To Caesar's surprise, Albert didn't seem embarrassed at all, stepping out of the tub as if he was...well, done with the bath and just getting a towel. Caesar almost forgot for a second that there was any reason to watch Albert in the first place. Amid--not despite, amid--the cackling of the Highland boys, Albert bent over and picked up the soap, then turned around and got back in the bath with it.

The boys from Highland were still laughing, but Caesar didn't rightly hear them. He realized that he hadn't once looked at Albert's face during that entire ordeal, and guessed it was because Albert hadn't gone red or anything. Caesar tried to get a glimpse of Albert's face now, but the young man's wet bangs was covering all Caesar might have been able to see at this point. Caesar suspected a self-satisfied smirk, or some other typical-villain kind of expression. His heart sank when Albert scraped the wet hair off his face to reveal no real expression at all; just his normal, still-lipped better-than-you-ness that Caesar refused to get used to.

Caesar pouted and elbowed the wall. His bar of soap fell off its ledge and smack onto his head. The Highland boys kept snickering.

:_-_:

That said, I am glad to have passed on the burden. While I do feel a justifiable degree of remorse at the connection I have imposed on my successors, I feel that in staggering the resultant chaos I have taken the correct course of action and benefited the world at large. Hubris, I know, to think that my actions have affected the world on so grand a scale, but I can no longer act by halves with so many resting on my laurels. The trouble of staging a bloodless revolution is dealing with the surplus population. There are too many lives at risk now if I fail.

What have I done but ensure that the battles to come are not futile? What have I done but provide a surmountable and satiable


This was not a pointless exercise. It was not an exercise at all in anything but self-restraint.

antagonist to the heroes of the future?

Verily, here I sit and write, still attempting to justify my own depravity. To the world I will remain this legend, for my family and legacy will save face. This was your guide, my children and grandchildren, and those beyond. These confessions are repercussions to the altruistic, desperate shout that spelt an avalanche, and yours are the backs the cold rocks are spread upon.


Albert had read these words, in seclusion, over and over until he did not need the words themselves anymore. He was, by now, scraping his way through the spaces between them, the held-down penstrokes, the sections of harried quickness, the neglected t-crossings and apostrophes in a journal of a man who was perpetually meticulous. Albert could not sate himself on this man's words, and yet he found that the tasks of which Julian wrote still started Albert's stomach turning in his weaker moments.

This was not one of those weak moments; Albert was proud and objective and confident since the debacle at the baths earlier. He had no doubts that windmills were turning behind Caesar's eyes now, that the boy was unsettled enough to, perhaps, formulate a hardy connection in his somnambulous, preteen mind. Times such as these, when Albert had confirmed that his pride was founded on truth and not delusion, were fortuitous times to delve into the secrets of his predecessors. The young man was a good deal less likely to lose faith in his own mental constitution after he'd orchestrated a victory.

(That loss of resolve had happened twice, first when he'd read the description of the summoning ritual on an empty stomach and second when he'd re-read it in the carriage on the way back to Soldat. At times like these, though, Albert found himself almost excited by the inevitability of this contract, and the means by which he might elevate himself through the terms.)

Caesar--it had to be Caesar, no one else would dare--tapped him on the shoulder. "Why'd you do that?" he whispered, in respect of the Library.

It took effort for Albert not to display any surprise. "Why on earth are you interrupting me?" he hissed, closing the book over his right index finger and glaring darkly out the corner of his eyes. His peripheral vision revealed the beginnings of a thankfully humbled Caesar, his hair still a mess but clean-smelling and aware.

"How'd you do that?" he asked, louder, stepping a bit closer to the table and into view. He scuffed his feet against the carpet and his knee bumped the table-leg once.

Keeping his hand in the book, Albert turned to regard Caesar with a touch more respect; despite interrupting him at what could have been an incriminating time, the boy was at least here to learn something. "That's a slightly more justifiable digression."

Unlike when he was harried or angry, Caesar tended not to initiate eye-contact when he was confused. He stared down at his boots, worn out and beyond a shine. "Why'd you let them laugh at you?"

"Exactly."

"What?"

"I let them laugh at me." Only his desire to end this conversation quickly kept Albert from smiling.

To his credit, the boy thought it over, and his face gave every indication of attempting to analyze the words for multiple meanings. Regrettably but predictably, the only conclusion Caesar came to was, "I don't get it."

"That's plain," Albert sighed. He turned to reopen the book, only to recall just in time what he was reading and that he should not.

"But--"

"They would have laughed a good deal harder if I had gotten red in the face about it like you did," he said, knowing that the conversation was over.

"But--"

"No, my face, not my behind." The volume that his own voice was escalating to distressed Albert, and he closed his eyes in an effort to will more restraint. "No one was looking at my face."

It worked, and Caesar was silent, hopefully mulling that particular truth over.

Albert decided that the best means by which to send Caesar off was to kindle some juvenile retribution; that was, after all, what Caesar showed most promise in. "Perhaps, Caesar, I wanted them to be looking at my behind," Albert offered, looking over his shoulder at the boy, brooding on the edge of the Library table. "And when they figure that out, I'm sure their faces will be conducive to mockery."

That at least got Caesar to look at him. "But they're making fun of you now--"

"Now, I'm dry and clothed, not to mention clean." And so are you, he didn't say. He flicked the book back open with his thumb, almost like the latch on a cheap door, and resumed his foray into the text, hoping that Caesar would take that as his cue to leave and ruminate.

Shortly afterward, the shadow over his shoulder edged away, and the old text became easier to see. The raised, deliberate ink cast its own shadow on the vellum, stretching just a hair closer to Albert as if the words strove, craved to be read. He brushed his hair out of his eyes and leaned forward, not yet reading; he stared between the lines, where most of the answers tended to be, and listened to Caesar leave the library with atypical stealth.

The blank vellum projected that perhaps, someday, the boy would learn. Albert dismissed the notion as absurd, and resumed his own self-imposed lesson. Caesar will never 'learn', Albert corrected, he will only rise to the needs of the moment. Whereupon he'll sink back to his usual level of irredeemable sloth until the next opportunity to surpass everyone's underestimation of his latencies.

He read--the words, and the spaces around them--and sighed, and resumed his ascension beyond the insecurities of children.

This was your guide, my children and grandchildren, and those beyond, Julian had written. These confessions are repercussions to the altruistic, desperate shout that spelt an avalanche, and yours are the backs the cold rocks are spread upon.

Supine as he was, Albert cast his own shadow on these words, thanks to the candlelight. He smiled; it would surely be easier to foot this burden if he kept climbing. He read, and looked forward to his own posterity.


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I hope that was enjoyable! Comments and criticism craved.

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