4.9

“You have a map?” Nilien stopped dead and turned to look at Chason. “You have a map, really?”

“Well, I had something like a map,” he demurred. “It wasn’t to scale and it was missing some things, but it had all the landmarks I used to find my way around. Like these little gremlins here in the carvings. All the archways between areas are a little different. See?” He pointed at the carvings in the archways.

“Do you think I could have a copy? I don’t want to keep asking for help all year…” Of course, this time, she hadn’t actually been lost, but the sentiment was the same — she didn’t want to end up getting in trouble because all of Benoir’s routes involved places she wasn’t supposed to be, for example.

“I don’t have it anymore.” Chason looked genuinely sad about that. “But you know what,” he perked up just as quickly, “I bet I could draw you a new one and have it be even better. I mean, I know more than I did when I drew it, so that’s a good start, right? And then I just have to figure out the landmarks closest to your dorms, so you can always find your way back here.”

Nilien smiled widely. “You’d really do that for me?”

“Well, yes, of course. I mean, it’ll be fun, for one,” he admitted, “and for another, somebody ought to help you out.”

“Lorque’s been a lot of help. My roommate.” She glared at Chason. “And her friend Augustin.” She wasn’t about to say Istore or Riva had been helpful.

He put his hands up. “I didn’t mean nobody had! I just meant that, since I know you’re having trouble, it falls on me to help. So I’ll get that map together for you. Just give me a day or two, all right?”

Mollified, Nilien managed to smile at him. “I can do that. I’ll just try not to wander off too far in the meantime.”

“Good idea. And keep ahold of your familiar. Well, if you’re set, then, I’ll take my leave. Good luck!”

“Thank you — thank you very much.” She carried Ember off into her room, glad to finally be back home.

Ran off? Ember glared at her.

“I’m sorry, okay?” Lorque was nowhere to be seen, and neither was River. Nilien made sure the door was firmly shut. “I had to come up with something, and ‘I just wandered aimlessly’ was less believable.”

It’s how you got lost last time.

“Only because you were distracting me, which is a little harder to explain. Look, I’m sorry. I just wanted to know who it was.”

And now you know. How do you feel about that?

“She’s — she’s just a student. And Chason seemed nice.”

Lorque is nice. Istore is not.

“I know. I know. I guess I don’t know how I feel about this whole situation yet. Maybe it was just a prank.”

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