March 21, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie leaned forward and put her elbows on her knees. “So if we have a tear – people getting the teachers to help them cheat – then we have a reason for the tear, right? I mean, clothes don’t just rip.”
“We were learning about enhanced mending in Textiles class today,” Taikie put in.
“Aah.” Aronnie nodded. “Got it. So if we’re looking at a tear, and a cause for the rip, you’re looking for a way to mend the problem without, uh, hiding it? Lots of people in the family wouldn’t like that.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you,” Enrie admitted. “I think you’ll probably have a good idea how I can go about this without offending people, or at least while offending as few of people as possible.”
“You’re the one in Diplomacy House, though. You’d think you’d know what you were doing in these things more than a mechanic.”
“I’m a first-year student in Diplomacy House. I’m not sure where all the holes are yet, much less how to not put my feet in them.”
“And you think I know where they are?” Aronnie smirked. “I’m more likely to put my foot in my mouth than properly negotiate any sort of social situation. “
“I think you’re brilliant, because you’re an upperclass student in Engineering House, where there are no people who are not brilliant.”
“You’ve already learned the flattery part of Diplomacy, I see.” Aronnie looked amused. “So, hrrm. Well, let’s go into my room to talk, because we are starting to delve into the hidden parts of the family clothing. All those crooked seams we usually hide under all our pretty vests…”
“Should we go somewhere else?” Taikie shifted uncomfortably.
“No, no, come on in,” Aronnie insisted, gesturing at a dorm-room door. “If there are any hidden parts of the royal undergarments you don’t know by now, I’d be surprised. Besides, I’m certain Enerenarie is going to consult you about any plan she ends up making, won’t you, cousin?”
Enrie shifted from foot to foot. “Probably? They are my team.” She stepped where Aronnie was gesturing, into a dorm room nearly twice the size of her own. Her teammates and Aronnie followed.
“And you should talk to them. There are important secrets that you keep from everyone except your partner – but nobody expects you to keep things from the people you’re closest to. So, what exactly do you want to do, Enerenarie?”
That was a very good question. She cleared her throat a couple times. “I want to talk to other cousins that might be involved in the cheating. I want to… I want to come up with a solution that doesn’t just pretend there was never a problem.”
“Interesting. So you’re looking to not have the cheating vanish like the Traitor Emperor and other such problems. Why?”
“Because.” Enrie folded her hands tightly against her stomach and took a couple deep breaths. “I think that the more problems we ignore, the shakier foundation we’re on. Those problems are still there, no matter how hard we try to ignore them.” The Coffee Treaty. She bit her lip to keep from saying it.
“Besides,” Taikie offered, “to run with the metaphor – if you keep replacing panels instead of fixing the hole, eventually you don’t have the same tunic anymore. Is it the same country if we’re paneling over all the problems?”