Later, same day
Sai Aleynten went so completely expressionless when I told him what I’d learned that I thought he’d had some kind of seizure. Eventually, he said, “How sure are you of this?”
“I can’t be sure until I’ve studied it more,” I said. “But every book I’ve ever read that taught about pouvrin had the same basic structure, and this book is the same. Or at least I think it’s the same.”
He looked at the book, raised its cover and flipped over a few pages as if the language would suddenly become comprehensible to him, and said, “We do not know its age. Surely knowledge of pouvrin could not have persisted many centuries only to be written down much later than the disaster.”
“I agree,” I said. “I think I should focus my efforts on this.”
“Yes,” he said. “Master Peressten has succeeded in learning this language and can now take over your responsibilities.”
“Good,” I said, though I felt a little bereft. “I’ll let you know what I find.”
“I would appreciate frequent updates, even if you learn nothing immediately,” he said. “Unless that would be inconvenient.”
That’s exactly what he said. I was so stunned, it was so unexpectedly humble, that the words stayed with me all the way back to this room. I know I mumbled something incoherent in agreement—those words escape me utterly—but I didn’t know what to say, because I felt so incredibly guilty about ever hating him. I don’t know if it’s his fault or not that he’s the way he is, but aside from the sarcasm and the occasional rudeness, he’s not a bad person. And I know he works himself harder than anyone else, because I was late to dinner two nights ago, and I had to cross the cavern to get to the refectory, and he was still there by the gold circle, standing over the table and writing something as he read from one of the books. He didn’t even notice me, that’s how focused he was (well, that and I’m in the habit of moving silently). And I understand what it’s like to be driven to learn something, though none of the pouvrin I’ve studied were potentially world-saving.
I think I do like him, after all.