Upon visiting the library this morning, Legna had told Paruteen he would only need explanation on the first ten cards of the Major Arcana this time, hoping to cut the number of books that were inevitable to be dropped on his desk by half as well, which had brought him an incredulous and judging stare.
"I'm not sure how you want to make sense of something in its entirety if you only look at half of it."
Maybe that was the deal in the first place with people, too - he knew less than half of them, their public faces only, so how did he ever expect to figure out their positions in this system so easily?
Human beings should not be complicated to understand if you yourself were human, as well, that was what he had always thought. All of them shared the same basic needs and ambitions, fears and worries, so categorising someone according to these values should not be that difficult. However, all that which lay beyond the basic similarities was where all you could do was guess, observe, and draw conclusions, and Legna had come to realise that he was no good at that, at all. People being so annoyingly multifaceted in real life was turning into quite the problem.
It had all seemed so easy in the beginning, because the social roles they held were unchanging and evident, and those positions had to be what really counted in an inquiry that was concerned with official matters, after all, so it should be them that he applied to the tarot card riddle the Sage hat tasked him with. His Majesty would obviously be The Emperor, Deberto would be The Hierophant, and the man feared as Nero Torarudo would be The Chariot. But the more he learned about these people, the more complicated and ambiguous choosing the cards became. Not only did their behaviour and character change when you met them outside of the advisor‘s meetings more often than not, there was also this troubling bit about their past selves, which could be entirely different from how they were now, and how they were to develop, still, who could tell? He was obviously ignorant to that, so how was he even supposed to find the card that fit them the best? Their past and private face were both integral to their personality, yet he had no possibility of truly knowing them in his position. He had not been aware of Moeran‘s suffering, only of his snappy comments directed at him during the meetings. He had not been aware of his own father‘s involvement in the last war, and the discord it had bred amongst some members of the court, only of he way Kian treated him as his child. And he had definitely not known anything about the Filik twins and their circumstances.
That indeed seemed to be the biggest of all problems. The more time he spent with Lante, the less he was able to figure out what the other man was really thinking. It had been so easy to pick to pick him as The Fool, this cheerful, constantly work-avoiding and generally pretty useless knight that wore roses in his hair and had no concept of personal space and boundaries whatsoever. And yet with almost every day, he now seemed to reveal a new side to Legna, darker and scheming, generous and kind, cruel and nonchalant, and while he may very well be useless with swords in comparison to his brother, he certainly was not with words. He was able to deliver fatal blows to Legna‘s confidence and beliefs fostered in isolation with ease, smiling throughout and assuring he was only joking, or that there was hidden meaning to his utterances that Legna had yet to understand.
The Filik twins were two people, yet Lante himself seemed like one walking duality contained in one person already, double layer to all of his words, second thoughts to all of his actions, and trying to make sense of him felt to Legna as if he was trying to scoop water with his bare hands - every time he thought he had succeeded, it seeped through the lines of his fingers again.
Legna sighed and absentmindedly shuffled through the card deck Paruteen had given him, saying that maybe since Legna was already too busy to read all of his book recommendations on the topic, just concerning himself with the cards as such might be a good starting point. They felt both familiar and entirely different from those in his dreams, real weight and sharp edges in the real world, yet at the same time lacking the deadly weight that one wrong decision in his dream would entail. When he looked down at his hands again, he noticed it was the special card on top now, the one which was unnumbered, the one he had thought was obviously going to be a certain person. Maybe the fact that it was special had more reason than one.
"Oh, good morning, Angel!"
Speaking of the devil - the fifteenth card of the Major Arcana, as he had recently learned, and therefore thankfully not included in his current dilemma. Legna wearily lifted his head to see Lante stroll into the library, waving enthusiastically and somehow managing not to knock over any books despite his flowing cape trailing after him as he made his way over to Legna‘s desk and leaned in over his shoulder.
"What are you doing here this early in the morning?"
"That is what I should be asking you, it's unusual for you to be up and about this early doing... what are you even here for, exactly?"
"Running from Rita Rena," Lante replied earnestly without missing a beat, and shot Legna his usual dazzling smile. "She said something about me having to set a good example for the White Knights and participate in the early morning training for once."
"Well, maybe you should consider doing that at some point, with you being the Leader of the White Knights and all," Legna said slowly, trying to look at Lante as reprimanding as possible, but as usual, the other man was seemingly immune to any sort of reproach.
"That's what we have Rita in the squad for, she makes a way better leader and instructor than me, after all, so I don‘t see the point in attending when I could spend my time more worthwhile elsewhere."
"Which is definitely not what you are doing right now."
"How cruel of you, Angel! I'm honestly prepared and happy to help you with your research, as always!" Lante exclaimed with fake hurt, one hand going up to his face to wipe away non-existent tears, the other slightly slapping Lenga on the back between his shoulderblades and the wings on his coat.
"I'm not sure how you can be of any help here, since in all honesty I myself am not quite sure what I‘m trying to achieve with this," he sighed, leaning away from the cards on the table, frustrated with their refusal of speaking to him, and into the solid pressure on his back, surprised as Lante did not withdraw his hand, but leaned down further instead, staring at the cards with all the intent and focus as he only ever showed in his serious moments.
"The one on top, is it giving you the most trouble?"
The index finger of Lante's other hand was slightly tapping on the card in question, and Legna only nodded.
"To be honest, I first thought it was you, but with all the trouble I‘m having with solving this riddle, I am starting to believe the only fool in this equation is me."
Lante laughed his usual soft, melodious laugh and shook his head.
"You're being too hard on yourself, Angel, I'm sure everyone would have as much trouble as you when faced with the challenge of making fixed assumptions of persons' true selves."
Legna turned his head a little, and saw Lante smile at him, genuine and compassionate, as far as he could tell, atleast. With all that had happened, he had come to realise that the faintest pang of doubt remained within him even now, and it was unsettling and frustrating to say the least.
"This card, however," Lante continued, picking up The Fool from the deck and twirling it between his fingers with ease, as if entirely untouched by the weight of the decisions and meanings this deck had to Legna, "did you know that in other versions of Tarot decks, this card is not the first, but in fact the last?"
There was a moment of silence in which Legna just stared at Lante, who was displaying his usual unreadable smile, and wondered just where that person even got the knowledge about such things from, and how and why he continued to randomly show up to feed it to him, and to what end.
"It is?" he asked instead, knowing that Lante would not answer any of the questions weighing on his mind most prominently, and was rewarded with another dazzling smile.
"It is, I assure you! So maybe instead of wrecking your head over this card now just because you think it is the first in order, how about saving it for last? There are surely some that are easier to solve, and maybe in the end, the solution will present itself to you naturally."
"That would mean," Legna thought out loud, "saving this card for the only person remaining until the end."
"I certainly hope that situation won't translate into a real scenario, the way you put it just now," Lante replied with a smile that seemed just a notch dimmer than the ones before. "That sounds terribly lonely, don‘t you think?"
Legna kept thinking about the card again all day, hardly noticing any of the events around him, nearly walking into a closed door twice. A card that could both be the beginning and end, depending on which deck you looked at - granted, the Sage had given him one specific deck, yet if he had learned one thing about this mysterious ruler of his dreams, it was that he was not to be trusted in his instructions and guarantees. No matter if he started with this card or finished with it, it felt like going around in circles, the special status of the card and its ambiguous numeration setting it apart from the rest of the others despite the fact that it belonged to one whole set that would only make sense if completed.
And as Legna stared at the sky, counting the hours remaining until nightfall, he wondered if such a card could maybe be called, in its own right, terribly lonely.