KRYSTOFF: I know I’ve got an english collection around here somewhere. It’s probably in the back—oh, so that’s where I put this book… Have anything specific you want to read about?
JUN: Just anything about Duen. The people, the land, the magic. There’s so much I don’t understand, I don’t even know if I’d know what questions to ask about it.
I follow him deeper into the study and find it oddly comforting to be enclosed in such a densely packed space. Maybe it’s just my small animal brain, but it feels safe. It has all the stillness and calm of a normal library, and all the warmth of being well-used and lived-in. And yet, when I think about Krystoff and Regenald alone in here, maybe for hundreds of years, an unexpected pang of sympathy hits me.
KRYSTOFF: Here, take this.
He drops a huge, dusty book in my hands.
KRYSTOFF: A Cyrabuian-to-english dictionary and grammar book. If you want to read anything actually substantial about duenkhy history, you’re going to need to be able to read the older, untranslated books. Of course, I can read things to you, but it’d probably be faster for you to just… learn yourself.
KRYSTOFF: Other humans I’ve known haven’t found it terribly hard to pick up the basics. It’s a language structured to be easy for different types of creatures to learn.
KRYSTOFF: Here, this too. A primer on the laws of magic in Duen. Written in Cyrabuian, of course, so pair it with the other book for studying.
JUN: Whoa, okay. I’ll certainly give it a shot. Thanks.
KRYSTOFF: Also most of my english books are in this bookcase here.
Not for long, it seems. He keeps pulling books out and putting them somewhere new, or worse, just resting them on a surface without actually putting them away. No wonder Regenald has an ongoing quarrel with him about this system.
KRYSTOFF: Oh! This book is in english, and it’s really good. Here.
I’ve never bitten my tongue harder than I am right now. I don’t know if the… cultural implications? Of this cover art are the same, but Krystoff has just recommended what looks exactly like a trashy dollar store erotica aimed at middle aged women trapped in unsatisfying marriages. But I know anything I could say on the matter might hurt his feelings, so I bite back the laughter as hard as I can.
KRYSTOFF: That author has a way with words. If you’re studying writing right now, I can’t recommend that one enough.
Ah, so he has noticed me writing. Not that I’ve kept it secret in the slightest, but he’s often so consumed by his own business that I can’t tell how much attention he pays to external stimuli. Which is just as well for me. I don’t plan on sharing my writing with anyone.
JUN: C-cool, thanks.
My hands are shaking. I want to laugh so badly.
KRYSTOFF: And this one… Ah, but you already have a lot to carry, so I’ll just let you pick whatever you want now.
We spend the rest of the evening digging through book piles and reading together in a peaceful silence, with Krystoff only chiming in now and then to recommend another book to me. It reminds me of what my idealized concept of studying with friends had always been. Just some good company, enjoying each other’s presence, sucked into their respective reading. Alone together.