5.1

“All right. You’re ready to do this?” Lorque looked Nilien over, as if somehow the state of her school uniform could indicate her emotional state.

“I do think I have to do it,” Nilien answered. She wasn’t sure she was ready, but she was sure she was doing it.

The rest of her first week week of classes had gone by without any incident of note. The tracking spell had stayed firmly attached to her back and she’d done her best to ignore it, although she did try not to wander off anywhere alone.

Classes remained difficult but, for the most part, enjoyable. She was getting better every day with her tiny magical tasks, and she was getting closer and closer to caught up in her non-magical classes, but it had been steady and exhausting work and she had spent hours each night reading up on homework and practicing her magic.

Setting herself out as bait was looking to be almost a reprieve from all of the school-work, something Nilien was not used to looking forward to. They’d decided that it was best to set up their prank on the weekend: both because Nilien’s workload made doing it on a weekday almost impossible, and because on the weekends, it would be more believable that Nilien was wandering around and less likely that there’d be people around Heldira’s room.

“All right, so you have an idea where you’re going to get ‘lost?’” Riva was nearly bouncing. “And you know how to get back from there if you have to?”

“I’ve got a pretty good idea,” Nilien allowed. “And if I do actually get lost, well, I have all day to find my way back.”

Let’s remember that this is not my fault this time, Ember added snidely. Or any other time that you get lost, real or make-believe, in this place.

“Yes, yes. It’s not your fault.” She patted Ember’s head. “It’s not going to be your fault, of course, and I’m not going to blame it on you. You have my word.”

Lorque and Riva, who had been hearing her side of this conversation all week, snickered in amusement. Ember glared between the two of them before butting its head into Nilien’s hand for petting.

I will go with you, to make certain that you are safe. As long as there will be none of that ridiculous blame.

“Thank you.” She didn’t think it was necessary to say, yet again, that she wasn’t going to blame the fox, but the look she got suggested otherwise. “As I said, you definitely have my word. If I am found, ‘lost’ or actually lost, I’ll say that I wasn’t paying attention, despite your advice, and got turned around, all right? Now can we go get faux-lost?”

Now we can go get faux-lost, yes. Thank you. Ember hopped down from the bed and scampered to the door. Well? Come on. We haven’t got all day.

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