9.5

Nilien glared at Ember, but the fox was looking at her calmly, with no concern.

You have many things to focus on, the fox continued. You have someone trying to kill you – at least one someone, although we do not know the number for certain. You have magic to learn – and the more magic you learn, the harder it will be to kill you. You have a club, which is not a bad idea, because it entertains your friends and engages them in the mysteries that are currently your life. I do not see that you have time for much more of a social life. Homework. Ember nosed at the book. Homework is what will move you ahead. And the more you understand about everything, the more your magic will flow.

“Really? Learning about the history of Lugrazia or about geometry is going to help me remove tracking spells?”

I know you somewhat already. When you are confident in your studies, you will be more confident in everything. Already when you can answer more of the questions, your magic classes go more smoothly. When you know the answers to your homework, you are more relaxed. Focus on your studies so that the next time someone tries to kill you, you can send them away before they have a chance to hurt you.

Nilien stared at Ember. “That’s… really? How can you tell?”

Ember aimed a particularly disdainful look at Nilien. I am a familiar, and I am very intelligent. I can tell things like ‘If A, then B.’ And if Nilien is relaxed in her studies, Nilien is happier about herself, and Nilien does better at her magic when she is relaxed.

“That’s a pretty strange way to phrase it.” Nilien wrinkled her nose at the fox.

It is an accurate way. Now, are you going to stop complaining and work on your homework? Or are you going to keep fussing and get nothing done?

“You have such an encouraging way of getting me to work.”

Thank you. Ember settled down on the side again. Read more on the history of Lugrazia. You were struggling most in that class. Maybe if you read it to me and then explain it to me as you understand it, it will help you.

“That’s a good idea!” Cheered, Nilien settled in to do just that.

Ember had skill in asking just the right questions, drawing out things that Nilien thought she understood but didn’t, quite. After an hour of explaining history to her familiar, Nilien found herself both quite a bit more educated and ready to shout at the fox and anyone else who happened to ask her about history.

“It’s because of what the Emperor wrote in the letter! It’s all about the hidden letters and that journal! That’s all! I don’t care if it involved the language of flowers, the language of ivy, or the language of specific inks and codes! I don’t! I just… the Emperor wrote something in a journal, and it came back and bit him when he least expected it! Which says… never write anything down that you’re trying to keep secret, especially if you’re ruling a country in turmoil. Or at least use a better code!”

She flopped back in her chair and glared at Ember.

Ember looked back at her with a drop-jaw laugh. You’ve got it. Good. I think we can move on to geometry.

Nilien banged her head against her desk.

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