“Hey! I’m nice” The voice came from behind Lorque and Nilien and, as one, they tensed and turned around. Not Istore, not Istore… Chason was looking indignantly at them.


“We were saying Istore wasn’t – coming up right behind you,” Lorque ended unhappily. “Hi, Istore, did you get that math problem figured out?”

“I did. What’s wrong with you? You look like you just ate a lemon.”

“He’s friendly, isn’t he?” Chason commented dryly. “No fox today?”

“No? Oh! No, Ember said something about exploring. It doesn’t have to go to classes.” Nilien smiled nervously. “Come on, we don’t want to keep Istore from lunch; the three-”


“Four? Five of us can go talk in the hallway.” At least then she could put her back to the wall and not have someone sneak up on her.

“What are you up to?” Istore glared at her.

“Oh, Chason’s been really helpful lately and I want to ask him some questions about the map he drew me. It’s helping me a lot, with being new, being a Wild Rune and all.” Nilien felt like she was laying it on a little thick, but all it did was make Istore turn a strange color.

Maybe he really had been listening to Lorque.

“We’ll be right back,” she assured Istore. “I just don’t want to block the walkway here.”

Out they went, Chason giving her a strange but amused look the whole time. “I know I heard you say my name,” he insisted, once they were in a relatively quiet spot.

“We did,” Nilien agreed, “but we weren’t talking about you not being nice. We were talking about Istore. He’s definitely not nice – well,” she added, in fairness and to make Istore’s friends happy, “he actually seems to be getting better. But that’s, well, nobody said you weren’t nice! You made me a map.”

“I did. I’m glad you don’t think I need to learn to be nice; I work very hard at it.” He grinned at her widely. “These are your friends?”

“This is Lorque, she’s my roommate and my friend, and these are Riva and Augustin. We were just talking about… about people that we like in the school?” she offered, knowing it sounded a little weak.

“Oh yeah? Sounds like a fun list.”

Maybe she should just go ahead and tell Chason now? She looked at Lorque, who shrugged a little, and at Riva, who looked doubtful. Augustin just looked confused by the whole matter.

None of them were going to be any help at all. And where was Ember?

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