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Corvo didn't hide anything from her. Emily repeated it as a mantra, and believed in it, until Korvo pulled the black ribbons crossing his palm without noticing it, and until he swung away with a dry smile, "Not healing, bastard..."

Emily was sure he wasn't lying to her.

And she didn't lie to him either; he asked, you had nightmares again? She shrugged her shoulders, and Corvo didn't specify anything else. It was like threads, black and shiny; Emily was very afraid to touch them.

But Corvo's palm, she wasn't. He didn't resist but looked at her fingers touching his hand sharply as if he was looking at strangers. Emily noticed that he did not sizzle in pain, but he did not sizzle even when she - awkward - hit him during training with a sword harder than it was worth; however, he did not throw such a look then.

Several times she caught him in the corridors, and Corvo was smiling just like her. Emily was pleased to see him smile, it was rare for him to smile after mother died.

But a rat in his hands squeaked when it saw her, and when Corvo put it on the ground, ran away; he answered the mute question without turning his head, "Surprisingly clever creatures they are. You should be friends with them."

They never talked about it again. Well, allright, Emily couldn't help herself - she was thirteen then, and the history of the Empire got under her skin - and Corvo told her about the plague, and about the spat rats, and also that if they were combed well...

Corvo, of course, wasn't lying.

And Emily has stopped being afraid of rats since then. Even when they were climbing under their feet during training, Emily fought very angrily, and Corvo smiled at her; she thought he was keeping score how many curses she had learned not from him. It wasn't that she was trying, it was just that...

And the clatter of swords was very funny, and they were having fun.

Emily smiled until Corvo, tired, went to rinse his dirty hands. And then she could feel her back muscles tense, her hands getting cold; he was very careful, her Lord Protector, and she was a very good student, sneaking around like a mouse.

Like a rat that looked like a white caressing lump of fur in Corvo's hands.

She looked out from behind the barrel trying not to breathe, and Corvo unwrapped the black ribbons - there were others with red edges on his hand; Emily knew, he didn't take them off even in his sleep.

There were only scars and calluses on the palm of his hand, and on the back...

Emily kept telling herself, Corvo wasn't lying. To her, never, ever; and she - she - after all, she should not force him to lie to her.

But the black pattern from his hand dwells in her dreams, multiplying, pulsating in the uneven light of contaminated water; some mornings, she woke up sharply, then walked for a long time by herself - a piece still there, looking at sharp lines.

Corvo, of course, saw; asked; his eyes were filled with dark thoughts, and Emily spoke of her mother and blood. He didn't like that answer, but the darkness left his gaze; sadness remained.

Through it, through the slimy black threads Emily would get out, and they painfully sank into her hands, but the scars were narrow and invisible. She didn't know if she was luckier.

Corvo must have realized afterward that Emily had seen. He stopped fixing the ribbons so often, and one day, on the roof, during the new moon of Month of Nets, he said as if into the air, "Hopefully, if I'm back in Caldridge, that's not why."

Emily wouldn't specify.

But now her dreams looked at her with black eyes which she didn't like to see in the interweaving of patterns; she thought, of course, that all these were nightmares of general paranoia, and what Corvo had done for her sake was all the past.

It's all gone.

...then there will be a celebration and clouds will crawl on the island from the north; Corvo will first dissolve in the air and then in the stone, and Emily, when she can think of something other than survival, will think, a new plot for nightmares it is.

But the nightmare isn't going to be a new one, it's probably just going to come to the end of the story at last. She'll wake up feeling her forehead burning, jump up, walk in the cramped cabin like a wounded beast, and fall back into bed hoping to forget.

In the morning she will wipe her eyes with her palm tied with black ribbons and will not remember how she has wrapped her hand in it. She'll pull it, trying to loosen.

She'll think, if -- when it's over, she and her father will have nothing else not to lie about.