May 13, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Taikie frowned for a moment. Enrie thought she was taking in her rather pessimistic assessment. Then she burst out laughing, a wry chuckle that quickly turned into a proper chortle. “Then we paddle on stone here, and next week I’ll come up with a mechanism for that, too. I can’t believe nobody’s done that before.”
“Not everybody takes aphorisms as to-do lists.” Enrie found herself smiling. “I’ll paddle on stone, then.”
“If anyone can make the mechanism, it’s Taikie,” Saydrie pointed out fondly. “And likewise, I think you can be the one to do it figuratively. “
“This faith in me is a bit daunting,” Enrie quipped. That only made Saydrie and Taikie smile the more widely.
“Get used to it,” Taikie suggested. “I hear it comes with being a Lady…. hsst. There she is. And with friends.”
Enrie lifted her chin and steeled herself. She should have done her hair for battle, but she would have to do with having done it for class. This was an educational matter, after all.
They had discussed various subterfuges and subtleties, but in the end, the three of them walked up to Ulunumani and her small cadre of Martial- and Art-house companions. “Cousin,” Enrie began formally, “I would talk to you.”
“After the trouble you caused Kaasmik and Olima? No way.” Ulunumani was a tall girl for a Calenyena, with the Bitrani nose and brown hair that marked so many of the royal family. She looked down that nose at Enrie now, not deigning to notice Saydrie or Taikie.
“I didn’t cause them trouble,” Enrie countered. “I just pointed out the trouble they were causing themselves. That’s why I came to talk to you.”
“What? To apologize? Nobody’s pinned anything on me yet. And I’d like to see them try.”
“The only people who could effectively do so would be one of the implicated instructors—” Enrie didn’t know for sure there was more than one instructor in on the cheating, but it was nice to see Ulunumani’s eyebrows go up and to hear the boy behind her gasp “— or you yourself. That’s why we’re here.”
Ulunumani stared at her. “Did you fall on your head? You want me to…”
“Look at it this way,” Enrie offered. “You can turn yourself in, prove yourself the better person, and accept the slap on the wrist this school seems to give cheaters. You could hold your head high and talk about the corruption implicit in the system before the rot pulls out the floor under all of us. You could help save the country. But in order to do that, you have to stop papering over problems like the rest of this country.”
“…So you want me to save the world by getting myself expelled.” Ulunumani shook her head slowly. “You must have hit your head.”
Enrie let herself smile. It wasn’t a nice expression, but she’d caught it on her mother’s face a handful of times. “No. I’m giving you the chance to save yourself. That’s all. If you want to earn your vowel, that’s your business.”
She turned to walk away, wondering if Ulunumani would attack her. She wondered what House Monitor Libkazaari was say about her getting attacked one more time.
“You can’t do this.” She could hear a rustle of fabric as Ulunumani stepped closer.