Someone behind her was crying, but Alysse didn’t make a sound as she stared at Leonie’s coffin. Not until the Hierophant had said the closing prayer and the gravediggers were carefully lowering the coffin into the ground did her resolution not to cry splinter. Once the first tear fell, her carefully constructed façade shattered, and she could no longer hide her grief from the world. Her throat constricted, and when she swallowed she felt like shards of glass were ripping her apart from the inside. She held onto Celeste’s hand desperately now, willing herself to remain upright.
Books claimed that people in the grasp of sorrow could shed a single tear. She’d never been able to accomplish that romantic feat. Alysse cried rarely, but when tears filled her eyes they fell in an uncontrollable flood. So as the gravediggers shoveled dirt into the grave, she stood, her face streaked with burning tears and her throat aching from the silence she had wrapped herself in.
At last the grave was completely filled in. One by one, the mourners passed by the mound of dirt and bent to lay posies and wreaths of flowers atop the grave. Dozens of long-stemmed roses lay scattered across the grave like a child’s discarded toys. All the flowers were white, the traditional color of mourning according to the Temple.
And beneath all that—oh goddess!—my sister is lying alone in the cold and the dark.
Alysse gagged suddenly, bile slicing into her raw throat like shards of glass. She swallowed hard and began to tremble. Celeste pressed her hand tightly. The pain in her fingers brought her back to reality.
A young man stood at the foot of Leonie’s grave, his handsome face pale and drawn. His tall, fashionable hat was in his hands, and a bitter, cold wind stirred his dark hair until it fell untidily onto his brow. His jaw tightened until a muscle pulsed in his cheek, and he walked around to the head of the grave. Without even looking, he held out his hand behind him. A quietly dressed older man handed him a small box. The young aristo opened the box and removed a small nosegay of white violets in white and purple ribbons. For a moment, his long, elegant fingers cupped the violets tenderly, as if he were remembering the feel of Leonie’s face in his, her satiny skin beneath his fingertips as he skimmed them along the curve of her cheek. Then he knelt and laid the violets reverently on the ground just above the untidy pile of flowers.
Lord Edward Kim.
The young aristo sucked in a quick breath, stood, and strode away quickly as if he didn’t want anyone to see the emotions raging through him.
He didn’t kill her then. I wonder if he suspects someone?
The pair of Angels stepped up to the opposite side of Leonie’s grave. The two women stood in silence for a moment, looking down at the heap of flowers and soil with their heads bowed. Then, as one, they both looked up—and straight at Alysse. Although they were dressed in the usual uniform of the flight wings, tight-fitting flight uniforms and boots in black, their flying helmets were under their arms. The Angel on the right was older, with the lined face and gaunt look of a woman at the beginning of middle age. Her face was framed by short cut sandy hair, still disordered from the helmet, and her eyes were an intense and angry blue that softened just a little when her gaze fell upon the flower-strewn grave. Her companion was younger, slightly shorter, with severely plaited black hair that fell over one shoulder. Her face, which was probably rather merry and cute on a normal day, was set in bleak lines and wet from tears.
It’s almost like they see through this veil and know I’m Leonie’s sister. But that’s impossible, isn’t it?
The Angels observed Alysse and Celeste for a moment longer, then in unison they replaced their helmets and inclined their heads. The small aether engines nestled between their shoulder blades began to whir, sending a cloud of mist billowing around them. Their wings unfurled and they took to the air, circling the mourners once before turning back for the city.
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