9.4

Nilien glared at her textbook. “This doesn’t make any sense,” she complained. She slammed the book shut and shoved it aside.

Ember, who had been perched on Nilien’s desk in the place the book now occupied, danced aside and settled a bit further away. It is not the book’s fault if you do not understand, the fox pointed out primly. It may simply be your fault.

“Thanks. You’re so much help.” Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
The fox didn’t appear to notice. It is my pleasure and my duty to help you. What is the problem?

“I’m going to flunk out of magic school,” she wailed. Lorque was out with Riva, doing something entertaining, so Nilien could indulge in more whining than she usually let herself give in to. “I am in a school of magic, and I can’t do magic and I can’t do the basic school work!”

I have not seen you failing at basic school work. Ember walked delicately over the discarded text book, turned to face it, tail brushing across Nilien’s nose, and pushed the book open with its nose. Here. You were doing fine with this in class. What is the problem, now that you are not in class?

“I just…” Nilien flipped to the page she’d been at. “I don’t understand how they got from the point we were discussing in class to this point. It’s like I missed a class and nobody told me.”

Ember nosed at the pages for a moment before reaching out and catching the left-hand page with its paw and pulling at it. It stuck to the page below it, and Ember’s claws caught the edge, tearing it lightly.

“Hey! Hey, that’s my textbook! I don’t think they allow for familiar wear-and-tear!” She lifted at the page – and found that it had, indeed, been stuck to the page before it, with the notes she had been missing.

If they do not, the more fools them. Ember circled twice, looking, as almost always, smug. You are catching up admirably. You are doing magic, you know. Not as quickly as you would like, but a month ago, you had no magic at all.”

“I’m still behind in all my classes.”

No. You are catching up quickly in all of your classes. I was there when that professor said so yesterday. You. Ember tapped Nilien with a paw. You were top of your class. You will be top of your class again. It will help, of course, if boys will stop wandering off to get you lost in secret passages-

“That was just Benoir!”

Well, then, if a boy will stop taking you off to get you lost. Perhaps you should tell him that he should help you with your history homework if he is going to get you lost.

“I – I don’t think that would go over well. Benoir – well, maybe he could. Chason could probably help more.”

That is because you wish to learn more about Heldira?

“No! No… No. It’s just because, well, Chason is older. But if you’d like, I can go see if Benoir can get me lost with homework. As opposed to getting me lost without homework.”

Perhaps it would be better if you merely did your homework. Without boys of the lost or not variety.

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