"Springblossom? Springblossom Sunrise?"
Ruin froze, then turned slowly and tried to make himself smile. Milathyra Antithian was one of his mother's Old School Friends, which apparently meant that they cordially despised each other but kept in touch out of a sense of social obligation. At least, if it meant something else Ruin had never been able to decipher it. "It is you!" She beamed. "How have you been?"
Ruin, who had never in his life met a social obligation that he couldn't ignore, answered: "Dead."
"Oh, yes!" Milathyra said cheerily. "I'd heard about that. Very heroic, all that escaping from the forces of evil and bringing yourselves back to life and such. Did you actually receive a summons from the King over that?"
Ruin nodded, not bothering to hide his disinterest. Some people might not have known about that summons, but Milathyra Antithian was not one of them. She knew this already; the woman was an incorrigible gossip. She'd only asked so that the people around them would know that she was on familiar terms with someone privy to the new king. "Briefly, yes," he said.
Her eyelids flickered: disappointment, he thought, but it was there and gone too fast for him to be sure. "Oh!" she said. "And you remember Milasaya, surely? From those expeditions you used to go on with the druids when you were children? Only she's taken the name Amaranth, now that she's all grown up. Amranth?" She looked around. "Amaranth, where--?"
A young woman turned around from where she'd been studiously engrossed in the front window of a potter's store. "Here, mother," she said, and smiled sweetly. "I assume you'd like to introduce me to the marriageable son of your old school friend?" She turned to Ruin, and offered a more wry version of the same smile. "Except we already know each other, don't we?"
Ruin made a quick mental calculation, then said: "We do indeed." Amaranth was a full inch taller than her mother, with broader shoulders and stronger arms; her voice was deeper too, huskier. More importantly, it was pitched more softly, meant for their ears alone rather than everyone nearby... and there was a faint hint of a blush at the edges of her cheeks.
Milathyra Antithian hesitated, one eyebrow raised at her daughter, one eye on Ruin's expression. Then she said, "Well, I'll just let the two of you get caught up while I finish the errands, then." And she was off abruptly, sailing regally down the street.
Ruin watched her go, then turned to find that Amaranth was watching her mother's departure with an almost identical expression. Then she realized he was looking at her and turned to face him, bringing her hands together in front of her face to cover her mouth and nose. "I can't believe she called you Springblossom," Amaranth said. "I'm so sorry."
"It may have been the first time in my life," said Ruin, "that I've deeply regretted not keeping a flask of whiskey on my person."
Amaranth laughed and let her hands fall. "So what are you calling yourself these days?"
Ruin chuckled back at her. "Ruin, more often than not. I haven't really settled on an adult name."
Amaranth shook her head. "But not Springblossom, of course."
"No." Ruin rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "In your mother's defense, my own father had some issues with it as well. It's not done, to drop one's childhood name without picking an adult one."
Amaranth gave a slight shrug. "Except it clearly is; you've done it." She stepped over to him and tucked her arm into his. "Come on," she said. "I feel like after that, my family owes you some whiskey... and honestly, I could use some myself."
Ruin considered that, then nodded. They started off along the street. Somewhere behind them, he was certain, Milathyra Antithian was watching them go and feeling smug; he wasn't sure that he cared, though.