Well, as "over" as it could be, he supposed. Over for now. If there was one thing he had learned, it was that nothing was ever truly over; things just... rested.
But this part of time had just turned into history, which was a kind of 'over', only not as... definite. History, after all, tended to repeat...
In either case, Highland, age-old enemy of the Jowston city-state, was no more.
Luc had long since prepared to leave Phoenix Castle and return to Leknaat and continue his training. She would disapprove if he returned before the celebrations were over, though, and he had decided that a few days of putting up with all too happy people would be better than a few days of putting up with Leknaat 'looking' at him in that particular fashion. He was, he knew, a master of the art of Giving People Meaningful Looks, but Leknaat had more practice. Not being able to actually 'look' didn't seem to have diminished her ability in the slightest.
Now, the celebrations were all but done, however. It had taken a week before things calmed down. He scoffed silently at the thought. You'd think there hadn't been a war, the way they went on.
It hadn't actually been all that bad, he grudgingly confessed to himself. The food had been good. And for most of the time, people had left him alone. All but one, and for some strange reason, he didn't mind her. Which was odd.
Oh, yes: there was one more reason for his remaining here. He supposed it could be called politeness, although the concept was, admittedly, not very familiar.
The entire thing rather annoyed him, actually. It had been only days - well, only days before the celebration, at any rate - and now their paths were already diverging.
He wasn't used to having... friends. It was his own fault, of course; and not as much fault as choice, either. Simply put, he detested people. They always talked about insignificant things, they had their petty quarrels - Luc had viewed the entire war as a petty quarrel, or at least thought it had started as one. Then again, petty quarrels didn't usually end up with a lot of people dying, and as much as the human race disgusted him, he didn't think things needed to go that far.
Strange, then, that he could enjoy talking about insignificant things so much. Maybe it was because she didn't expect him to do it. Leknaat also behaved like that, and he never had any problems talking with her... although... come to think of it, idle conversation hadn't been very common between the two of them. But perhaps, he thought, that was only because they always had important matters to discuss.
Ordinary people weren't like that. He knew it wasn't fair to dislike them because of that, but he couldn't very well help it, could he? Besides, he didn't get paid to be fair. But now he was behaving just like one of them. Such a disturbing thought. He had, however, realised that even if he wanted to, there wasn't much he could talk about that didn't hold some kind of relevance. He knew... magic. That was all. Magic, and warfare. He scoffed again. Yes, that does describe me. Good day, I am Luc, seventeen years old, wizard and tactical genius.
The thoughts left a bad not quite aftertaste in his not quite mouth.
He was thinking too much again. A minor character flaw. (Very minor!) He couldn't just accept things - always had to analyse, think, turn it over in his mind. But he hated it when he didn't understand something, so this was really the only way.
He understood a lot more now, though. At least, there was one thing war was good for. It made people understand. If nothing else, understand how fragile life was.
And understand that it was worth living. Hopefully.
Luc leaned back against the wall. He stood just outside the great hall, where Shu was holding a meeting with the remaining generals - well, apart from Luc, of course. He didn't think Shu had expected him to attend, in all honesty. Actually, the man had probably been surprised to see him stick around for so long.
Such a pity that I have to disappoint him.
No, not really.
Never mind that...
He was leaving today. He had decided days ago... that it would be today. After today, there would be nothing left to keep him here, so it was a good day to depart.
The meeting would soon be over. A few more minutes...
...he found his mind wandering again.
He had been thinking about... what?
Oh, yes. That. Never mind. It would be over and done with in a couple of hours... he'd be far away from this place.
They both would.
How long was that meeting going to take, anyway? He leaned on the old suggestion box. Nowadays, people put notes in it wishing Riou good luck in his travels. Then, at night, Shu would carry the large heap of letters to the courtyard and, with a lot more ceremony than Luc deemed necessary, throw them in the fire that nowadays seemed to be permanently burning there. Some old city-state custom, Luc had found out - not because he tried to, for certain. If you wanted to reach someone you couldn't find, you wrote a letter and burned it, and somehow the message would reach its destination.
How utterly retarded.
He crossed his arms on top of the box and leaned his chin on them. Great.
What did I tell you about thinking too much? he asked himself. See where it got you.
The kid - Luc still couldn't think of him as anything else - had vanished as soon as his wounds from the final battles had healed. Considering the presence of Huan and who-knows-how-many people offering healing magic and medicine, it hadn't taken too long.
Luc... couldn't say he'd been surprised. At least Riou hadn't sneaked off in the middle of the night, like Tir... the young wind mage hadn't been anywhere near Gregminster at that point, but word of it had reached him eventually. It had apparently caused a bit of a stir.
It wasn't like anyone could blame him - either of them, really - though. To expect more from someone who had done so much already would be selfish beyond belief, and selfishness was another thing Luc disliked about humanity.
Well, of course, he supposed he tended to be selfish at times, too, but that was another kind of selfishness.
He was suddenly aware of people passing by. He looked up, and saw the doors to the great hall open; people were leaving, none of them looking to be in a hurry. Some of them gave him rather puzzled looks - he ignored them - and some of them nodded at him; he raised an eyebrow in return, because that was about as much energy as he was willing to spend on a greeting. Or a farewell, for that matter. He was seeing many those people for the last time now - for quite some time, at least.
He lowered his head again and stared over the wooden box he was leaning against, seeing nothing. Images, mostly empty ones, swirled in his head. His ponderings had been interrupted by all the people walking past. It didn't matter much, though; in all honesty, he was rather grateful. Normally, he could do something to clear his head, but standing here waiting... did not work.
"Oh, Luc. Have you been waiting?"
He blinked. I didn't hear her steps...? He turned to face her. "...not really. Just thinking."
"Liar," she told him with a small grin, but left it at that; instead, she gestured slightly to the side, and he nodded; followed her as she started to walk towards the stairs.
"You finished packing?"
"...yes." He didn't have much to pack. All he'd brought was a change of clothes and his staff.
"We're both set to leave, then." She stopped by the window halfway down the stairs and looked out. "I can't say I won't miss this place, but as they say... home sweet home. And my home is elsewhere."
"Yes," he agreed. And so is mine.
He, for one, wouldn't miss this place.
At least, not very much.
They continued down the stairs, side by side.
"Where are you going, Luc?"
"What?" He blinked.
"Right now. Where do you intend to go, now that everything's over?"
Right. 'Over'. Sometimes, even she could be... stupid. It wasn't all that often, though, and he didn't find himself bothered by it, either.
That was what 'friendship' meant, he supposed.
"Now...? I'm going... home." They passed the dragon statue, the bar, and finally, the gates, and stopped a few steps past them.
"The 'Magicians' Isle'?"
"No." Hadn't he told her? No... on second thought, he hadn't. Perhaps, he thought wryly, he had dismissed such information as 'insignificant', too. "No, I... that is, Leknaat left after she passed on her position as Toran's seer to Hellion." He looked up into the azure, nearly cloudless sky, thinking back to his 'home'. "There is another island..."
A soft touch on his shoulder interrupted him. Before he could ask, she motioned to the benches standing beside the footpath, underneath the old lindens growing about the main entrance to the castle. "Let us sit down."
"Very well," he agreed. It didn't really matter to him, so if she wanted to sit... well, it didn't matter, did it? He purposefully strode over to the second of the three benches; the one in the middle. It was partially shadowed by one of the large trees, and he took a seat in the shade; she sat in the light.
"Ah. How thoughtful," she said, almost as though she was talking to herself. Then, she tilted her head back to face the sun and took a deep breath. Another result of talking about 'insignificant' matters; he knew that she enjoyed the touch of the sun upon her skin, and she knew he disliked it.
"There is another island..." she spoke into the sky, mimicking his tone of voice almost exactly. "Tell me more... about your home, Luc."
He nodded, and closed his eyes. He pictured the stone building in the centre of the island, where he - and Leknaat - lived. He pictured the small forest surrounding it, and the animals living there, mostly birds and small mammals; the forest was nowhere near large enough for elk or other large animals. He remembered, and he spoke - finding himself using words he never thought he'd even think.
Did he truly miss... 'home'... that much?
Perhaps he did, perhaps not. But he recalled it well; everything, it seemed, down to the smallest of details. He could count the leaves on the short but wide oak tree he saw outside his window. He could count the steps he needed to take if he went from looking out that window, to standing just below the tree. He could feel the taste of the wild strawberries he found a little bit deeper within the woods, and the taste of the water from the small, clear spring bubbling up not too far away, and the scent of the flowers growing around the house. All of it, to his astonishment, he found words for, and without thinking, he relayed them to her. Before long, he mimicked her; leaned back, staring up into the gently waving branches, swathed in green, that filtered the sunshine into a sparkling lightshow.
They sat in silence after he finished talking, for several minutes; she, thinking, and he, somewhat embarrassed at the thought of the words he had just uttered.
"You have a beautiful home," she said finally, squinting at him through the light. "I'm almost envious. All I have to return to is a small shop in a small town... nothing grand."
He breathed in, but the words stuck in his throat. One more try, and now it worked: "Will you visit me there sometime?" Perhaps one of the most difficult things he had ever said. He couldn't look at her; felt a strange warmth spread over his face. Blushing? But I never blush!
That familiar - Familiar? But... - soft touch on his shoulder made him freeze. He could feel that she was looking at him, but he didn't look back.
"I would love to. Thank you, Luc."
He tried, in vain, not to blush again. It was, without doubt, a bit hasty; it was a long step from coming to accept someone on neutral ground, to inviting them to one's home. But if he could think of her as a 'friend'...
And he knew that he didn't want to lose that 'friendship'. "You... are welcome." It wasn't that hard to speak, after all. She squeezed his shoulder tight for a moment in silent acknowledgement.
"We're the last..."
That made him turn his head. "...what?"
"The last. To leave, I mean." Not quite, but he knew what she meant. Everybody who was more than... well, more than an acquaintance, had already left. He nodded, thoughtfully. Of course, to him, there had never been anyone else. He hadn't expected there to be anyone. This... was still a surprise.
"Yes," he said, because he had to say something. When that still didn't seem enough, he continued: "That scrollmaker friend of yours left two days ago..."
"Raura? Hmm... yes. She said she was headed to Toran... maybe you will see her there."
Luc, who had seen which direction Raura was travelling in, rather doubted it.
"She... headed north," he said, slowly and somewhat doubtfully. She shook her head and sighed, a sound that soon turned into a chuckle.
"Oh, well. That's Raura for you, I'm afraid. She's an excellent scrollmaker, but she... really couldn't find her arse with an atlas."
Luc might have sneezed, but then again, he may just have been trying to conceal his laughter. She wasn't so modest, however, and he heard her laugh softly.
"A certain bear-like mercenary used that idiom once," she told him, voice still sparkling with residual mirth. "I found it worth remembering."
Luc shook his head, more amused than he wanted to admit. "It does sound like something Viktor would say," he noted, carefully and deliberately emphasising said mercenary's name.
"But not something I would say," she uttered his unspoken words. "I suppose that is what one gets for spending so much time with... how was it... uncouth barbarians."
This time, he really did laugh out loud - causing a couple of passers-by to cast curious glances in his direction.
He couldn't really blame them, he supposed. After all, Luc never laughed. He glared venomously at them nevertheless, and was satisfied to see them quickly avert their eyes.
"I suppose we should be on our way..." she sighed after a while. It sounded somewhat regretful, Luc thought. "You have someone waiting for you."
"Yes," he agreed reluctantly. He wanted to ask, And you?, but it seemed...
I don't know. It just seems, he decided after a second of thought.
And then, she surprised him. He'd lost count of how many times she'd done that, but usually, it hadn't been quite this... surprising.
She slipped one arm around his shoulders in a one-armed embrace and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Before he could become un-paralysed and give word to the unusually intelligent comment of "Whahuh?" that popped up in his head, she spoke. "Luc, know this: I truly hate sentimental and drawn-out goodbyes, and I'm not about to turn this into one of those." She stood up, but let her hand rest on his shoulder. "So I'm just going to say farewell. But not goodbye, Luc. Don't worry. As soon as I kick the rats out of my shop, I'll find your island." She winked at the still paralysed wizardling, and added, "You take care until then, understand?"
He couldn't nod, but he would have. She probably understood that, because she smiled and bent low and kissed him again, on the forehead. Before Luc, who had - wisely - closed his eyes when he perceived her intention, could open them again, she had straightened her back and placed her hands palm-to-palm. As Luc finally opened his eyes, he caught one last glimpse of her silver-framed face as she vanished in a flash of lightning, leaving only a slight giggle and a mild scent of perfume lingering behind.
Luc closed his eyes again, and took a deep breath to calm down. He knew, of course, that she was teasing him. He also knew that she knew that he knew, and that he - again, for some reason he couldn't discern - didn't mind, even though he'd be thoroughly annoyed with - and probably unaffected by - anyone else who tried to pull the same stunt.
...slightly embarrassing, however.
No, it was more than that, particularly since he realised that the giggling sound had not faded since then.
Luc forcefully beat down a good portion of the things that floated around in his head, opened his eyes, and glared at the word in general. There, far to his left, almost out of sight, stood three shapes, at least two of which were familiar. One of them was that little ditz Nina, and the second was Tengaar; meaning the third member of the trio was without doubt Hix, although he stood behind the girls and Luc couldn't see him all that well.
"Oooh, I think Luc is in loooove," Tengaar chirped, before returning to giggling in tandem with Nina.
Luc thought about getting up and chasing them off, but...
...it didn't seem like a good idea at the time.
Instead, he raised his right hand. A blue, cyan and green snake-shape of a Wind Rune shone in his palm. "Wind Rune," Luc began - a bit louder than necessary - as he let a trickle of energy flow into the Rune, which pulsed and shone in response, "show... your..."
There was a receding of giggling as the girls fled, dragging the ever-reluctant Hix behind. Luc let out a sigh, and also let the Rune flare off the power he had lent it; a soft glow of green surrounded his hand, and was gone within seconds.
All he had needed was a flashy lightshow. People were so predictable.
He sighed, and breathed deeply until he calmed down. Then he remembered something, and lightly touched his cheek.
His finger came away rose-tinted.
Of course, if Nina and Tengaar had seen that...
Luc knew that before long, anyone who was even remotely interested would know about the... recent events. It wouldn't exactly help his reputation, and that should annoy him. But, again for that strange reason he couldn't really put his finger on, he didn't care.
Luc shook his head in amazement. I...
With another shake of his head, he abruptly stood up. A gesture of his hand called into being a gate, and without regrets - or so he wanted to believe - Luc let it carry him to his destination.
At least, he thought as Phoenix Castle faded away around him, Leknaat was probably the one person in the world who would not ask why there was lipstick on his face.