June 5, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
shh, this posted on Tuesday, really.
The three of them were herded into a small waiting room with a number of other students — the ones who had been in the changing room with Saydrie and a slightly larger number of female students, all of them seeming to be in their first or second year of Academy. Saydrie was the only Bitrani, a fact that did not surprise him at all.
Taikie was fiddling with her machine as they found each other. “There’s something a little strange about it,” she muttered. “It’s been going through these cycles where it whines and hums before starting over again, and I’m not sure why. There’s nothing in there that should be causing a whine.” She glared at the machine before producing a couple of tools from her outfit — to a slightly-despairing look from Enrie — and fiddling with a couple of connections.
“Was that — was that a Princess?” One of the boys from the changing room had apparently decided curiosity was more important than any potential shame.
“Princess Oltyellalobtello,” Saydrie agreed. “She is our sponsor to this event.”
“Your — the Princess?” A girl pushed up next to them. She was taller than Enrie or Taiki by almost a head, her clothing elaborate in a way that he expected only out of people with vowels at the beginning of her name, and she was glaring at all of them. “How did you get a Princess to sponsor you?”
It was definitely an accusation, which confused Saydrie. How could they be guilty of something when all they had done was be invited here? He blinked at the girl.
Enrie cleared her throat. “Ah. This is Kalliekaltekkie; she’s been working on an alchemical formulation to cure all of the wasting diseases. She managed a spectacular success with mice this semester.”
“That’s very impressive for someone of our age.” Saydrie bowed to her, slightly more deeply than he ought but, he was sure, less deeply than she wanted. “I’m Saydrie, and I think you’ve met my teammates.”
“What did you do to get a Princess to pay attention to you?” she demanded again.
Saydrie looked at Taikie; Taikie looked at Enrie; Enrie was looking innocent.
“Well. I believe we got her attention with a proposal we did in Philosophy class, but I think it happened to be at least partly coincidence,” he offered slowly. “She was visiting the LIbrary at our school and she needed a student guide of some sort, and I happened to be there, so I could, well, I could guide her. And I did.”
Was he learning to lie? Technically everything he’d said was true.
“So what’s your achievement?” Kalliekaltekkie sneered.
“This,” Taikie informed her, in the tone of voice she reserved for starting a really in-depth explanation, “is an aether reader. It is designed to—”
Saydire stopped listening. He wasn’t’ even sure if she was lying or telling the truth, although, knowing Taikie, she was probably being honest.
Kalliekaltekkie managed to sort of look like she was paying attention through most of it, but at the end, she simply sneered again. “I suppose it’s clever and all…”
“You know—” Enrie managed to cut in so smoothly that Kalliekaltekkie barely noticed she was being interrupted “—I didn’t think it was that, Taikie, although it’s a very ingenious machine. I thought it had something to do with finding a murderer and solving the murder.”
“Oh?” Taikie blinked, caught something on Enrie’s face, and smiled. “No, I think it had more to do with what you did, what with tracking down an entire piece of history and bringing it to the Voice’s attention. That was pretty amazing.”
Kalliekaltekkie looked between them. “You’re lying.”
“No.” Saydrie bowed very shallowly in Kalliekaltekkie’s direction. “On the Three, they are telling the truth.”
He’d learned there was this very nice myth that Bitrani would not lie when invoking the Three. Of course, they were telling the truth, but it helped to be believed if people thought he actually couldn’t lie.
“You solved a murder?”
“Well, I was trying to solve what was going on with a particularly odd Device, but in the process, I solved a murder,” Taikie admitted. “Although the weasel helped quite a bit.”
Kalliekaltekkie shook her head. “They must raise them very crazy in The Empress Edaledalende Academy. I am glad that I don’t go there.”
“I think curing wasting diseases is amazing,” Taikie told her, with apparent sincerity. “How are you going about it?”
“I’m an Alchemist... student.” She added the last in a very quiet mutter. “You’re an Engineering Student. How are you going to understand?”
“Well, it’s not like I don’t know basic alchemy,” Taikie retorted, obviously stung. “And it’s not like you’re that much older than me. I’m sure I can follow along if you use short words.”
Saydrie swallowed a laugh and instead looked over his friend’s head at Enrie. Enrie looked very peaceful, but he could tell from the slight twitch of her lips that she, too, was trying not to laugh.
“Oh, you just want to steal my ideas!”
“Even though I can’t understand them?” Taikie asked innocently. “Besides, aren’t you presenting them to the group as a whole in a few minutes? We’ll be there and able to listen in, you know. We might pick up some small bit of your alchemical studies.”
“You’re making fun of me!” Finally, Kalliekaltekkie seemed to realize it.
But Taikie shook her head. “I’m honestly interested in what other people here are doing. And curing wasting diseases—”
“It’s not really a cure,” Kalliekaltekkie muttered. “It’s more like the first steps in the diagnosis and discovery. Everyone just keeps calling it a cure because they think it can lead to one.”
“I know the feeling,” Taikie told her, with apparent complete sincerity. “People like things to sound bigger than they are. It makes everything seem exciting, even if you haven’t put in all the hard work. First steps are important, too! Maybe after your presentation you’ll tell me more about it?”
“Maybe,” Kalliekaltekkie mumbled. “Thank you.”
“Science is difficult. I’m sure you’ll get further on quickly.” Taikie turned back to Enrie and Saydrie, her smile still intact.
Saydrie blinked, wondering if he really knew his friends at all.
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