1.7

“Make sure you tell us all about the grounds at Reinmonte. And the instructors!” Corinne, Larisse, and Danette were helping Nilien move her luggage to her parents’ carriage, a process which mostly consisted of Nilien and Larisse carrying things while Corinne and Danette piled on instructions to write, to tell them about everything, to remember to visit. The fox, meanwhile, was riding atop the trunk and seeming very satisfied to do so. “Is that what you’re wearing for the trip?”

“This? Yes?” Nilien was particularly proud of this outfit, which paired a brilliant pink jacket and draped over-skirt with a sky-blue bodice and royal blue under-skirt.

“It’s pretty,” Danette opined, plucking at the sleeve of Nilien’s travelling jacket. “I think you look quite fetching. Oh! By the way, tell the teachers here that you might come back, please? I want to keep the room as a single.”

“I doubt they’ll believe that.” Nilien gave the fox a pointed look, which Danette chose to ignore.

“Oh, they’ll believe anything you tell them. Now, have a safe trip, and don’t forget to write! Every week!”

“I’ll write as much as I can,” Nilien countered, a little less certain that she’d have the free time for so many letters. “Do remember not to annoy M. Gerbernne so much; it makes her assign more homework. And watch out for Hector; he likes to cheat off your papers, if you’re not careful.”

With a few more shared admonitions, Nilien managed to get into her parents’ carriage, luggage and fox safely stowed.

The fox, although it had an occasional comment about the scenery or the accommodations, seemed content to avoid conversation in the carriage to the train, and continued in that manner on the train, where Nilien rode with Devier, a loyal family servant, to the mountains surrounding Reinmonte.

Nilien didn’t mind the fox’s silence. It was hard to stay quiet when the familiar was keeping up a running commentary in her ear, and it garnered her strange looks to speak to someone nobody else could hear talking. She petted the fox between the ears and talked with Devier about the latest fashions, the cut of her travelling skirt, and news about the family that Nilien had missed, being away at school.

She was so involved in a story Devier was telling about her eldest brother that she nearly missed the view of the mountains from the train window. Her old school was set on a plain by the lake; they were moving higher and higher up the closer they got to Reinmonte.

The mountains, the fox reminded her, as it stood up on her lap to look out the window. We’re nearly there.

Nilien picked her response carefully, so she sounded reasonable both to the fox and to Devier. “Almost there,” she agreed.

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