2.13

“I think I heard something coming from over here,” the flower murmured. Benoir gave Nilien a light push, sending her through the door first, and followed soon after, Ember scooting in just as he closed the door.

Benoir started up the ladder so quickly that he was already halfway up by the time Nilien managed to get Ember onto her shoulders and get started. When she reached the top, though, he was still waiting for her.

He closed the door with a click. “Phew! That was close.” He ducked his head and smiled apologetically at her. “It’s a fun place — but we’re not really supposed to be in there. I’m sorry about that. I just couldn’t resist showing you the magic moths. And the flowers.” He touched the flower behind her ear.

“So — we would’ve gotten in trouble?” Nilien frowned. “I don’t want to get in trouble on my first day here!”

“I know, and I’m sorry. But can you honestly tell me that the moths weren’t worth it?”

“The moths were… they were pretty amazing,” she allowed. “But I still don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Well, we didn’t, so all’s well that ends well?” he offered. “Are you up to seeing anything else?”

“I think…” She looked ruefully down at Ember. “I think I ought to go back to my room. My roommate will be waiting for me.”

“Another day, then. I have plenty of other places to show you, and some of them aren’t even against the rules. Let’s get your books, then, and I’ll walk you back there.”

“Thank you.” Nilien didn’t know how to feel about Benoir. He was being so nice — but he’d nearly gotten her in trouble! And he didn’t seem to think anything of their close call. And he wanted to show her around more — but maybe she’d get in more trouble if he did.

Hopefully, there weren’t any forbidden routes on the way back to her room.

“So, your roommate has a familiar similar to yours, right?” Benoir picked up half of Nilien’s books before she could stop him.

That thing is nothing like me, Ember protested.

“Lorque has a — it’s a coyote, I think?” She patted Ember apologetically. “Who is, I’m told, nothing at all like a fox.”

“Oh, Lorque! All right, you’re in the right dormitory area. Not the best area, of course, that’s here, with the birds, but it’s the right area for you. I wasn’t sure,” he explained, “coming in so late, if they’d have a place for you. They might’ve stuck you with the small herbivores or something.”

Ember licked its lips in clear demonstration of what it thought about that.

“All right.” Benoir shifted the books in his arms and grinned. On his shoulder, Caprice fluttered and settled. “So. Your dorm. Do you want the route that’s probably the way you came, or do you want the shortcut, or the entertaining and scenic route?”

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