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The little joys of living, lying, and falling in love (Ed/Mel, LoT)

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notice: the forum move broke my table of contents and my on-site list of fics. my fics have been backed up to AO3. link in signature.

 

Dunno what to say about this. Once upon a time Amanda Fae put a six-month time skip in one of her games and then kept dropping tantalizing little hints about what happened during those six months, and eventually Blurble couldn't help herself from trying to fill in some blanks.

Will extend a bit past that six-month bit, probably- I have a dream of writing the scene that occurred previous to the drawing I submitted to the Collegium, so...

---

Part One

The Life and Times of Hercules Also known as: In which we establish why Edward was in Ulaf's study that afternoon.
Another one? Also known as: In which Ulaf is visited by someone who is not the mother of Septuplets.
The Boar's Head Tavern Also known as: In which we discover how it was that Edward managed to be in the right place at the right time
See You Tomorrow? Also known as: The Fascinating Saga of the Crystal Statuette


Part Two
This Might be the Beginning of a Horrible Headache
Look of Pure Disgust Copyright 2003 by Mel
Chicken Farming Disasters are a Hazard of the Job
Never Grow Too Attached to Your Snails
Why if it isn't a Damsel in Distress
Everyone likes Zombie Vegetation except for Zombie Vegetarians

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edited 6/21/10

 

To Edward’s great distress, boarding was not usually done at the School of War and Magic. There were boarders, yes, rich students from far away. But locals or less well-off students lived in the city itself.

 

He’d toyed with the idea of buying his own apartment. But it was impossible, really. He had no money of his own, only his parents’ money, and they would never agree. Even if he did have his own money they probably wouldn’t give their consent, although at that point it was possible he wouldn’t care.

 

So he went home every afternoon, when classes were over.

 

---

 

At home it was always the same.

 

Mother had wanted a girl, to fuss over and primp and pamper, and instead she had gotten this… lanky, awkward male thing with uncombed hair. She had decided to make the best of it, but for the most part this meant Edward had to actively avoid her, because Mother had a tendency to, um, get carried away. This was made significantly worse by the fact that she suffered from selective hearing disability and never seemed to hear his protests about why he was not, in fact, interested in the latest suit from Ankari.

 

As for Father… To be fair, Father tried hard to be nice. Sometimes he succeeded. But there was a certain limit to how much time a man of father’s temperament and a teenage boy of Edward’s disposition could spend together without one or the other snapping. Father would attempt “man-to-man” bonding, to relate to his son, because his advisors were constantly telling him it was important, after all, that otherwise boys grew rebellious. But their conversations tended to end with him getting angry and blowing up over something or other Edward had said or done incorrectly.

 

Once upon a time, they’d still been able to relate to each other when they crossed swords. Father understood swords, was more relaxed and pleasant around them. Once upon a time Father had been a fighting man, before he’d been cooped up in this stone deathtrap and grown irritable and restless. Some of his old self still shone through, when he was sparring.

 

Lately that had stopped being the outlet it once was. When they sparred now Father tended to look disappointed- That Edward was already a young man and nowhere near as skilled as Father himself had been at that age, that he was near the bottom of his class, that his technique was weak, that he refused to practice like he was supposed to.

 

As for everyone else… they groveled in his presence and sneered behind his back. And lately they’d grown less and less careful about how far behind his back it was.

 

“Good evening, Prince Edward!” They would say, bowing low- and as soon as he was around the corner, even if he wasn’t yet out of earshot, they would laugh and murmur to each other.

 

“What a failure of a prince,” they said.

 

---

 

His latest escape route had been discovered the previous night.

 

It had been so close it hurt. He’d been a mere three feet from the ledge, already bracing himself for the jump down into the garden, when that cursed maid had seen him dangling by a rope from the roof and raised the alarm.

 

“You are lucky I am not telling your father,” his tutor hissed. “This is the third time, Edward!”

 

Edward suspected it would not help his case to point out that technically it was just the third time he’d been caught.

 

“This is completely unacceptable! Do you understand what your problem is, your highness? Your problem is that you will not, I repeat you will not stop goofing off. What you should be doing is applying yourself to your studies. What you should be doing is focusing seriously on your future. But nooo, all you do is sneak around and cause trouble. And it’s such a pity. It really is. Because you have- you have so much potential-“

 

The tutor paused, and Edward realize with a sinking stomach that the man had seen the expression he had not quite managed to hide.

 

Don’t you roll your eyes at me, young man!” The tutor shrieked, outraged. For a moment he was so apoplectic with rage he seemed to be having difficulty getting words out. “This- I- You- That is it! You are to hand in a fifteen page report on the life of the great hero Hercules, tomorrow! Maybe studying the lives of those who accomplished truly great things in their lives will make you realize how you are wasting yours. And if I do not have it in my hand by sundown, tomorrow, you may be sure your father will hear all about that little- incident- today. And whatever he decided to do to you as a result, you will have no pity from me. I would not be surprised if it might do you good!”

 

---

 

It wasn’t that it scared him. It really wasn’t.

 

Or it wouldn’t have scared him, anyway.

 

Had it not been that the last time he’d brought to Father for discipline, Father had… not been happy, to say the least. It was Father’s idea to have the tutors, after all. Father firmly believed in the value of a supplementary education for the improvement of boys’ characters. Edward, in turn, firmly believed that royal tutors were primped up pompous puffbags. He’d disposed of a steady stream of hassled, harassed, overwhelmed tutors who had discovered that a royal salary did not adequately compensate for a royal brat. Not even when said royal salary was doubled.

 

The last tutor had lasted seven months, and when he’d finally handed in his resignation, Father had announced that should he catch a whiff of such a thing happening again, Edward would stay home from school for a month.

 

He couldn’t stay home.

 

School had increasingly become his only escape, his bastion of sanity. If he was suspended for a month he would start frothing at the mouth.

 

And his tutor might very well make good on his promise. Mr. Obeleni had arrived in the castle determined to whip Edward into shape. He had endeavored to keep his patience, and had been rewarded with two pay raises. But like every tutor Edward had ever had, his temper had grown increasingly short over the past year and a half of skipped lessons, slacking off, and “attitude”.

 

“Attitude” was supposedly one of Edward’s problems, along with “Not applying himself” and being “Full of potential”. Apparently he was a know-it-all. Apparently it made his tutors insecure when he constantly corrected them. Apparently it was frustrating teaching a student stubbornly convinced he was right, even those times he was wrong.

 

In any case he desperately needed that report done.

 

---

 

He managed to finish the first nine pages by writing straight through the night.

 

Then he ran out of what to write about.

 

He looked desperately through the paper, trying to find sentences that could be lengthened, extra little clauses that could be added. But he’d already filled the paper with about as much fluff as it could possibly hold.

 

When he woke the next morning, after all of an hour’s sleep, he knew what he was going to have to do.

 

Research

 

And fortunately, he knew just where to look- because it was a universally known secret that Headmaster Ulaf collected every Hercules book ever written in his office.

 

 

------------------------------------------------

 

I'm not particularly happy with this prologue- it suffers greatly from a lack of Mel. Well, hopefully chapter one might be up later tonight.

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(APPLAUSE!)

 

OH! Oh, that's WONDERFUL! Oh, it's like... it's like ice cream... but not plain vanilla ice cream that's just sweet! No, it's deep chocolate ice cream with little peanut butter cups in it: Rich and satisfying, perfectly textured with the occasional burst of absolute joy. (Can you tell I like my ice cream?)

 

First off, writing quality... beeeeaaautiful. Structure, awesome, vocabulary, excellent without being pretentious, syntax, suiting the setting!

 

Second of all, characterization, and what's more important than that? Edward is wooonderful. I'm gonna have to keep up with your Edward so I can write him half decently. I could just hug the guy, and stuck in the castle, with his parents, also well developed... Well... I'm a very happy reader!

 

Third of all, plot. I just love my holes filled in, don't you?

 

Keep writing!

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*heavy duty blushing*

 

Now I have to go off in a cloud of happiness to write Mel being cynical and sarcastic.

 

 

SMALL RANT WHILE WORKING ON NEXT BIT:

 

Having Ed not curse is a PAIN! A LRFBFHBLKN PAIN!

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Poor Edward...sucks to be him. I (really) wish Rhen would just time-travels and say "Hey, I was a slave and I has no education whatsoever but I made a great queen so don't push my great great great great grandson like this!". Okay, not gonna happen. Good thing Ed will meet Mel soon =)

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Thanks, Jayshe. ^_^

 

TrueShadow, at first in the game I thought Ed was just... overreacting a bit over his "miserable fate". But then you put together that ballroom scene where all the guests say nasty things about him, AND the fact that his parents are the sort of people who would force him to marry a , and you start to realize that no, it probably is exactly as bad as he makes it sound. Possibly worse.

 

ETA: As to your time machine idea... Te'ijal could do it. But I don't think she would- Because they would almost definitely not listen to her anyway, so she's not the kind to bother. But I can imagine her telling that to Ed, someday.

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Thanks, Jayshe. ^_^

 

TrueShadow, at first in the game I thought Ed was just... overreacting a bit over his "miserable fate". But then you put together that ballroom scene where all the guests say nasty things about him, AND the fact that his parents are the sort of people who would force him to marry a , and you start to realize that no, it probably is exactly as bad as he makes it sound. Possibly worse.

 

ETA: As to your time machine idea... Te'ijal could do it. But I don't think she would- Because they would almost definitely not listen to her anyway, so she's not the kind to bother. But I can imagine her telling that to Ed, someday.

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

It didn’t take much effort to get permission to check the books in Master Ulaf’s office.

 

“Master Ulaf, I-” Edward said, stepping into the headmaster’s office.

 

“Yes, boy?” Ulaf said, without looking up from his desk.

 

“I’m- I’m having a little problem.”

 

“Speak, boy, don’t dally about the point.”

 

Edward took a deep breath, to hide the beginnings of a smile more than anything.

 

“I’m experiencing a sudden deep desire to know more about the great hero Hercules. Whatever can I do?!” He let his voice rise despairingly at the end of the sentence for greater dramatic impact.

 

Master Ulaf leapt up from his desk with considerable speed for a man of his age and dignity. Edward willed his facial muscles to relax into a completely blank expression.

 

“Why didn’t you say so sooner? It is never a problem to be interested in Hercules, my boy. You needn’t be ashamed. Hercules is an incredible hero who once beat off seven dragons with only his pinky! His hair is so shiny it can be used as a mirror!” He paused to gaze at Ed with a mixture of pride and joy.

 

“Why, boy- what is your name, by the way? You look rather familiar.”

 

“Edward,” Edward said.

 

Ulaf’s brow wrinkled for a moment in thought. “Edward… Edward… It sounds quite familiar. Have you been giving your teachers problems, boy?”

 

“Um, no sir.”

 

“Well, have you been doing exceptionally well in class?”

 

“Not really, sir.”

 

“Hmmmm… No, you’re much too young to be the one who gave birth to septuplets. Edward… Edward… I’m sure it will come to me, in a minute.”

 

“I’m sure it will, sir.” Edward said, smiling blandly.

 

It was generally agreed that the main reason rank and prestige were forbidden topics in the School of War and Magic was that if they were not, the headmaster would have been quite like a sail-less, oar-less ship left adrift in the middle of the ocean. Ulaf had difficulty remembering his wife’s name- he stood not a fairy’s chance in Dragkthor of remembering the rank and title of his students.

 

“In any case, boy,” Ulaf said, clapping him on the shoulders. “You have come to the right place. I have the entire set of every single book about Hercules ever published, right here in my office. Fancy that, eh?”

 

“It’s my incredibly good luck to have come to just the right person,” Edward said, face carefully straight.

 

“And you are more than welcome to read them here, although of course you may absolutely not take them out of this office.” Ulaf said, face suddenly stern. “And don’t mess up the order, or bend the pages, or remove the jackets.”

 

“I-”

 

“Excellent. I’m glad we’re agreed, then. Anything else?”

 

“…No. Sir.”

 

“Well then,” Ulaf said.

 

He stood there, apparently waiting. Edward walked to the bookshelf, and stared at the rows of titles before selecting the fattest one- “The Life and Times of Hercules”.

 

It was a pain that he couldn’t take the book out, but oh well. He’d skim it now and write down what he remembered later.

 

At some point- around when he had finished reading how Hercules as an infant had miraculously cured the plague and fought off an invasion of mini-dwarfs and was moving on to a chapter recording the many praises Hercules had received for his outstanding schoolwork- he became aware that someone else had entered the office.

 

Probably a student had come to ask permission to miss class for some reason or other. They were always doing that. He tried to ignore the conversation and focus on the book.

 

“Another one?” Ulaf asked, sharply. Ed startled. What was the headmaster sounding so annoyed about? Had he finally gotten fed up of slacker students?

 

He looked up from the book to find that the person standing in the office was most definitely not a student. She was dirty and bedraggled and looked exhausted.

 

“Dejal is insufferable!” Master Ulaf was continuing. “She has demanded for me to enroll you in this school.”

 

Dejal? Edward struggled to match a face to the name. He’d spent hours memorizing the lists of noble families from all the important countries in the world, but he just couldn’t… Then again, he might have forgotten. He could check again tonight, check more minor families also- no, that wouldn’t do. Whoever this Dejal was, she clearly was important enough to annoy Master Ulaf, who was arguably the third most powerful person in Thais, after Edward’s parents.

 

Meanwhile Ulaf was still confronting the girl.

 

“You are a mage?”

 

Edward looked at the girl, rather interested as to how she would respond.

 

“Um, no.” She said, looking a bit irritated.

 

“Not a mage? You’re a fighter then?” Ulaf pressed.

 

The girl seemed about to say something and then apparently changed her mind, because she remained silent, defiant.

 

Ulaf waited for a moment. And then he pulled his sword of the table and swatted the flat of it against the girl’s side.

 

She jumped backwards with a cry and crouched defensively, glaring.

 

“That hurt!” She said.

 

Ulaf brushed the sword off and place it back on the desk as if nothing had happened.

 

“Hmm, not a fighter either. I’m sorry, I don’t think we have any place for you.”

 

“She might fit into professor grey’s group.” Edward blurted out. He stopped, shocked. What? What had come over him?

 

“Shush! Speak not a word more!” Ulaf said, turning to glare at him.

 

But the more he thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. If Ulaf didn’t accept the girl she would walk out that door and he might never see her again, and he was simply dying to know who this “Dejal” was.

 

“Who is Professor Grey?” The girl asked, looking confused.

 

“Boy, I should throw you out this instant!” Ulaf said, looking dangerous.

 

Edward though fast.

 

“Come on, Master Ulaf. You have to place her somewere.” He said, bidding for time. He glanced at the girl, trying to find some excuse to use, but his eyes had bypassed his brain and connected straight to his mouth, so that he found himself realizing things were true only as he said them.

 

“She fits the criteria. Just look at her. She’s skinny enough to hide anywhere and with those clothes of hers she can practically blend into the walls. I bet she’s clever too.”

 

“You may be right,” Ulaf said, mollified, and Edward breathed a small sigh of relief. “Girl, are you clever?”

 

“I’m not sure how to answer that without sounding offended.” She said. She drew herself stiffly upright. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t I just leave? I’m sure there are other, more lucrative ways to amuse myself while I’m stuck in this stuffy city.”

 

Edward found the corners of his mouth quirking up at that. This girl was really interesting.

 

“Oh no you don’t.” Ulaf said, his mind apparently made up.

 

“Dejal-” and there was something a little off about the way he said the name, it made Edward suspect he had overlooked a vowel somewhere- “would be… unpleasant… if I let you leave. You have been ordered to attend school.”

 

Oho, now wasn’t that interesting? But he didn’t get a chance to mull it over, because Ulaf turned to him and ordered-

 

“Take the girl to see Professor Grey. I am holding you responsible for any trouble she causes,” He added.

 

“Yes, headmaster.” Edward said, a little too eagerly, because Ulaf seemed to frown. But what did Edward care for being responsible for trouble the girl caused? He had just been placed in charge of the first interesting thing to have happened in months.

 

“C’mon, I’ll take you to see Professor Grey,” He said, turning to the girl.

 

“Fine,” she said, coolly.

 

Oh. So she was going to be reticent, was she? Well. He supposed that maybe he’d offended her. But… nothing a little persistence couldn’t fix, eh?

 

He was starting to sound like Ulaf. Definitely time to leave.

 

He hurried out the door, the girl following.

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

CANON NOTE: In the game, you can let poor Mel sleep before coming to the school. I don't.

 

As such, Mel has been up all night running for her life by the time she reaches Ulaf. "Exhausted" is probably an understatement. "Nearly dead" might be closer to the truth.

 

But that's if you asked Mel, of course. Eddykins wouldn't know. =)

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CANON NOTE: In the game, you can let poor Mel sleep before coming to the school. I don't.

 

As such, Mel has been up all night running for her life by the time she reaches Ulaf. "Exhausted" is probably an understatement. "Nearly dead" might be closer to the truth.

 

But that's if you asked Mel, of course. Eddykins wouldn't know. =)

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Ooooh, this is great! Love Ulaf's personality there(a Hercules fan! Ha! Figures), and Edward's bit of manipulative skill.

 

“I’m experiencing a sudden deep desire to know more about the great hero Hercules. Whatever can I do?!” He let his voice rise despairingly at the end of the sentence for greater dramatic impact.

 

Whatever can any of us do, Edward?

 

I love his curiosity, his instant interest in the mysterious "Dejal" (love the name mangling, very very true to life) and naturally, his interesting in scruffy little Mel. His thought processes are intriguing and as usual, your writing style is loooovely.

 

Thank you!

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Thank you <3

I don't deserve the praise but I appreciate it anyway =D

 

 

---

 

For any who hadn't realized/ everyone who forgot, The Life and Times of Hercules is an actual book in Ulaf's study. =) And, uh, the sole basis for the past two chapters *hangs head in shame*

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Thank you <3

I don't deserve the praise but I appreciate it anyway =D

 

 

---

 

For any who hadn't realized/ everyone who forgot, The Life and Times of Hercules is an actual book in Ulaf's study. =) And, uh, the sole basis for the past two chapters *hangs head in shame*

 

------------------------------------------------

 

She had to walk at a trot just to keep up with him, as he strode with brisk familiarity through the halls. But she’d be damned if she’d ask him to slow down.

 

Around her the surrounding were so colorful and unfamiliar, some part of her mind protested each time they rounded a corner and she lost sight of- flashes of magic and clashes of steel, strange new things amidst brightly colored tapestries.

 

A much louder part of her mind squelched the thought. There was nothing special to see here, just some fancy tricks and a bunch of stuck-up, pretentious nobles.

 

She was still a little stung from that conversation with Ulaf, as well. Sheesh. So she couldn’t make things go sparkly-boom or wave around a sword. That didn’t give him the right to treat her like a giant headache dropped from heaven. Why had Te’ijal sent her to this awful place anyway?

 

As they started heading up the hallway the boy suddenly slowed his pace so that they were walking next to each other.

 

“I’m Edward, by the way,” he said.

 

“I’m Mel,” she said. She was ever-so-slightly out of breath, so she found herself reluctantly grateful when he came to a stop by a doorway.

 

He looked at her earnestly.

 

“Don’t let the headmaster scare you. His bark is worse than his bite.”

 

Yeah yeah yeah sheesh, she thought, mentally rolling her eyes, but she didn’t say anything. Like she was going to be scared.

 

What she would have thought was- what right does he have to tell me not to be scared?- but somehow this… this whole thing with all the new people and the sizing-up and the secrets was reminding her of that time she tried to join Tif’s gang. And so she was mostly grateful that he at least seemed to be friendly. Instead of, you know, trying to chop her nose off.

 

---

 

“We’re here.” He said.

 

The thought occurred to him that he should probably impress upon her the, you know, discreet nature and secrecy of where they were (it had, after all, taken him all of three hours to find this place his first day here, and then another five months of using all his influence as prince plus a bit of luck to wheedle its true nature out of a knowledgeable senior).

 

So he added, as an afterthought- “Don’t talk about anything you see or hear here, okay?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” she said.

 

He hesitated, reluctant to leave.

 

“Good luck,” he said.

 

“Thanks.” She said. She hadn’t smiled once this entire time, he realized suddenly, and had barely spoken beyond the occasional monosyllable. It created an atmosphere not exactly conducive to friendly banter. Or prying questions.

 

His curiosity was killing him, but no matter how much he racked his brain he couldn’t come up with a proper excuse to says what he really wanted, which was- Who are you, really? Who is Dejal? And why are you here if you obviously don’t want to be?

 

So instead he said, “Hey, a bunch of students are meeting at the Boar’s Head Tavern after class. You should come over and have dinner with us”

 

“I’ll think about it.” She said, and he could tell that she already had, and that the answer was “No”.

 

“Okay. Well, bye,” He said, and turned to leave. He saw her rounding the bend to enter Professor Grey’s office, and he walked a little faster, trying to quell the swell of disappointment…

 

And without ever consciously making the decision, he found that when he reached the door he opened it, stepped outside, and then stepped carefully back in, closing it behind him.

 

Down the hall was the murmur of voices, and if he crept a few feet forward and listened closely…

 

---

 

His instinctive reaction, after he heard them finishing up and slipped away before he got caught red-handed eavesdropping, was to head straight to Ely Harpsbren’s and wait for her to come. He had grown increasingly fascinated by her over the past hour, and he desperately wanted to see what she was like in action.

 

So he stood there waiting for ten, twenty minutes until he realized that this just wasn’t going to work. She obviously wasn’t coming straight away, and he couldn’t stand here waiting all day. His Defensive Swordsmanship had started five minutes ago, and after that he had classes straight until the end of the day.

 

And then he could go and-

 

But no.

 

His heart sank as he remembered that he still had another six pages of that report to go. He'd been intending to do it during his break, but that had been entirely swallowed up by the new arrival. He would have to race home and finish them as quickly as possible, then.

 

But after all that, what were the chances she wouldn’t already have fulfilled the mission?

 

He thought back to the times he had been invited to the Harpsbren’s.

 

They had an alarm system, didn’t they? At the very least, he would know whether or not she had already been there already.

 

Alright. Fine.

 

He ran pell-mell down the street, racing for class. Somewhere, someone loudly snickered something about the idiot prince but for once he didn’t care. Tonight was going to be awesome, he could feel it.

 

---

 

Edward ran into Mr. Obeleni’s office just as the edge of the big red circle of the sun began to brush lightly against the horizon.

 

“Here’sthepaperhavefunreadingitsorrygottago,” he said, and ran back out the door.

 

“Wait! What about classes! We have an entire unit of classical Galderian history to cover before the summer festival!” Mr Obeleni shouted, but Edward was already out of earshot.

 

And now his tutor had fifteen pages of report to look over.

 

He’d do it some other time, he promised himself, and turned back to the book he’d been reading before the prince had barged in. There was no need to make a special effort, anyway- the boy was clearly hopeless. Lately, Mr. Obeleni’s job seemed to consist merely of preventing as many people as possible from noticing.

 

---

 

When he reached the royal district he was breathing hard, and had to take a moment in front of the Harpsbren manor to catch his breath. Then he straightened and looked around- no bars over the windows, which meant he was still in time.

 

Presumably the alarm system was intended as a means of trapping thieves within the house. But there were so many loopholes and bypasses that it had mostly become a means of locking the frustrated owners out. Edward knew this, of course, from sweet, sweet experience- separating Tria Harpsbren from her gown had been a last, desperate resort to avoid having to dance with the girl, who was one of Lydia’s cronies, enough said right there.

 

He was beginning to feel self-conscious, strolling back and forth in front of the house. A man in a blue hat walked by and he nearly jumped into the bushes to hide.

 

This wasn’t going to work. It was way too suspicious for him to be standing out here in front of a house that was going to be robbed later that night.

 

Plus, chances were high that when she came it would be via High Street, unless she was going to do a circuit of the city and arrive through the Western Noble District, past the castle. Which… wouldn’t make sense for her to do.

 

Perfect. The Boar’s Head Tavern was further North than both the lamplight district and the school. Which meant he could hang around discreetly right outside- and there were always groups of students doing that, it was a perfect alibi- and when he saw her passing by he could wait a bit and then head straight for the Harpsbren house.

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Quote

 

 

Edward ran into Mr. Obeleni’s office just as the edge of the big red circle of the sun began to brush lightly against the horizon.

 

“Here’sthepaperhavefunreadingitsorrygottago,” he said, and ran back out the door.

 

“Wait! What about classes! We have an entire unit of classical Galderian history to cover before the summer festival!” Mr Obeleni shouted, but Edward was already out of earshot.

 

And now his tutor had fifteen pages of report to look over.

Great story Reallyfunny

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Thank you ^^

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

“You’re not going to get in through the door,” someone said, and she practically leaped out of her skin.

 

She turned to see that boy from earlier-Edward, was it?- watching her with a small half-smile on his face.

 

“What are you doing here?” She said, suspiciously.

 

“I thought I might be of assistance. Are you looking for a way in? That window is open. Why not climb through it?”

 

“I knew that!” She protested. What a know-it-all, she thought.

 

“Want some help? The puzzle on the second floor is a real pain to do by yourself. I could help.”

 

Seriously. He was like a big overgrown puppy. And definitely a know-it-all.

 

Which… actually raised a pretty valid question.

 

“How do you know so much about this house?” She said, raising her eyebrows.

 

“Mm, I’ve lived around Thais for a very long time,” he laughed.

 

Yeah right. Long time, her foot. Oh, not that she was doubting that he was a native, that made sense, but that answer was a neat little way of completely avoiding the question.

 

“Thanks for the tip, but I can do this myself.” And I don’t know what the cost of your help would be, she thought.

 

“Suit yourself,” he said. He was smirking. He was definitely smirking. She could feel it burning into her back as she crawled in through the window.

 

Inside the house was dim, but not dark- and apparently deserted. Sweet. She moved quietly and easily through the house, trying to find the statuette.

 

He’d said something about the second floor, hadn’t he? Then again it wasn’t like she trusted him… but…

 

But even so, when she saw the stairs she found herself creeping carefully up them, staying close to the side, where the floorboards were less likely to creak.

 

The upstairs was rather small. It didn’t take long to find the statuette, in a small room behind a barred gate.

 

She tested the bars. Yup, solid steel. Not even a big enough gap to fit her hand through.

 

So how did you get in? There didn’t seem to be a door… or keyhole…

 

She examined it carefully, running her hands along the sides. There was definitely some sort of seam…

 

There. Up on top there was a definite gap running along the edge. If she was not mistaken it meant that the door went up.

 

She tried to lift it, but it didn’t budge.

 

Okaaay…

 

And then a burst of inspiration hit her and she went silently sprinting down the hall. There. Behind that hanging was a lever.

 

Pfft. Easiest thing ever, she thought, as she pulled it down. From down the hall she could hear the sound of sweet success as some hidden pulley lifted the door.

 

She walked quickly down the hall, back to the room with the statuette-

 

And almost got a heart attack as the door slammed suddenly closed.

 

What was wrong? Had she not pulled the lever all the way down?

 

She returned to the lever and found in fact it had, oddly enough, gone back to its former position. Okay. That was weird.

 

She pulled it down again, more decisively this time, and headed back towards the room.

 

SLAM!

 

Dammit. Two times in a row couldn’t be a coincidence. She was heading back to the lever- what else was there to do-

 

When she nearly really did have a heart attack.

 

There was someone in the hall, leaning against the wall, arms crossed.

 

Oh damn. Oh damn oh damn oh damn. A thousand levels of camel dung. She was dead. She was…

 

Why wasn’t she dead yet? Where were the coppers?

 

She squinted, trying to see better in the dim light. There was something very familiar about that-

 

“You!”

 

Edward uncrossed his arms and smirked. “I told you the puzzle is tough.”

 

She wasn’t going to deem that worthy of a response.

 

“I’ll pull the switch when you’ve go over the trick tile,” he said, in a suspiciously reasonable tone.

 

She glared at him, trying to stare him down. He just smiled inanely back at her.

 

She glanced back at the statuette, so smugly secure behind its irritating little cage.

 

“Fine!” She said, and stalked to the other end of the hall. She paid attention this time- and yup, the door came crashing down just as she crossed the tile. She should have noticed earlier.

 

“You can pull the lever now.” She called back. Apparently he did, because the gate rose smoothly in front of her.

 

She crossed the threshold tentatively- if there was another trick tile, the falling gate would smush her flat- and almost breathed a sigh of relief as she grabbed hold of the statuette.

 

Almost.

 

Out of long-engrained habit, she did a quick sweep-check of the table and surroundings and realized she wasn’t going to be able to relax just yet.

 

She hurried out of the room and back to Edward.

 

“Come on, we’d better get out of here. There was a ticker under the statuette. The whole place is going to lock down when the ticker runs out!”

 

“You know what a ticker is!?” He asked.

 

Why the hell was he so shocked? She thought, offended.

 

“Of course I do! Do you think I’m a fool? C’mon!”

 

“I’ll meet you outside. Good luck getting out in time.” He said, and dashed out like a duck on fire.

 

“Hey wait!” She cried, but he was gone. Huh. So much for sticking together.

 

Oddly enough, it warmed her to him just a bit. Leaving her there was exactly the kind of thing she would’ve done, in his shoes.

 

Enough of that. She needed to get out of here, quick.

 

She dashed down the stairs, around the corner- where was the way out, where had she come from? Panic was making her mind shut down, she couldn’t remember how many seconds had passed and that ticker was bound to activate any second now.

 

She felt an enormous swell of relief as she saw the window. Oh, thank god, she thought, and was halfway out when the tickers beeping rose slightly in pitch and-

 

Suddenly Edward was there, grabbing her by the shoulders and heaving.

 

They landed in a heap together on the ground just as every window and door of the house was slammed shut by a steel grate.

 

For a second she lay there, still panting for breath, her heart racing so fast she thought it would burst.

 

“That was close!” Edward said.

 

He was grinning, and she found herself smiling back as she replied, “We’d better get out of here before the owner returns.”

 

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” he said, still mysteriously all-knowing. Ah, he was so annoying. But the adrenaline rush from her near escape had left her light-headed and so instead of snapping back sarcastic comment she simply picked herself up off him and brushed herself off. He followed suit.

 

The statuette lay unharmed on the grass nearby. She bent to pick it up and turned to him.

 

“Look, I’ve got to get this back to Professor Grey.” She hesitated. “Thanks for the help, I guess.”

 

He looked a bit startled, and then… happy?

 

“See you tomorrow?” He asked

 

“Sure.” She said, and then, because it was worth another try- “Hey, how did you know about the house? Are you one of Grey’s students?”

 

“No, I’m training to become a sword master, but my family knows Grey. I’d better get home… it was fun.” He said, and she found herself watching him leave- his light, carefree step and self-assured posture- before she turned to head back to the academy.

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

BUAHAHA the next few parts will obviously be quite the change in pace since instead of writing the story around sections of dialogue I'm going to have to fabricate an entire six months out of... well, not entirely from scratch, but based around very little.

 

Hm. We'll see how I handle it.

 

 

(Goodness, Mel curses quite a bit. I guess I let her get away with it because I have all this pent-up frustration from keeping Ed's mouth so scrupulously clean. He's a teenage boy, darn it! But noooo...)

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BUAHAHA the next few parts will obviously be quite the change in pace since instead of writing the story around sections of dialogue I'm going to have to fabricate an entire six months out of... well, not entirely from scratch, but based around very little.

 

Hm. We'll see how I handle it.

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(Goodness, Mel curses quite a bit. I guess I let her get away with it because I have all this pent-up frustration from keeping Ed's mouth so scrupulously clean. He's a teenage boy, darn it! But noooo...)

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Yeah I keep forgetting to consolidate my posts and I'm use to forums where I can delete them...

 

*hangs head*

 

---

 

Edward is absolutely a know-it-all. Especially with the whole Naylith thing.

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