Nathan halted in his tracks, holding out an arm for his friend to stop too. Jenario could barely make out shadowed movements. He turned his head toward the sound of light patters over the grass. Something was running from them.

“Deer. Herd of ’em,” he huffed out a reply before following the same route as the animals. “Shafari’s had more than enough time to get himself together. If he ain’t got it by now, he never well. And that was well before the Council made their decision.”

“He still tries.” Jenario attempted to listen to what Nathan was able to hear, but the sound of their own feet crunching over the ground foiled the effort.

Nathan balked. “Then he should’ve known better than let Tia’s brother handle magic.”

“You can’t blame him for what happened. If I wanted to do magic—”

“You’d be a lot better at it.”

The first line of trees enveloped them into the night, with Jenario stumbling into bushes with no guiding light to see.

“First off, I’d cast a night-vision on my eyes.” He flicked a branch away from his face and rubbed his nose where it had been scratched. “How do you do this? It’s pitch-black!”

“How do you come up with your stuff with what you do?” Nathan returned. “It’s all in the training. Do something long enough and you just know what to look for. Isn’t that how your alchemy goes?”

“I still need light to see what I’m doing. Pour too little or too much and the whole thing is ruined!”

“I ain’t ever seen you measure nothing,” Nathan said, barging ahead without so much as a branch grazing against his clothing. Meanwhile, Jenario broke several following behind.

“I can eyeball it,” was the return. There came a pause before he added, “My Study was on the highest floor. How would you even know that?”

“I told you already.” Nathan caught a branch before it could swipe against his friend’s face. “I don’t miss a thing.”

“You’d make one hell of a spy, then.”

“Don’t think the Council didn’t try it. They wanted tabs on everyone, especially you and Shafari.”

Jenario frowned. “So you just told them our business?”

Nathan slammed his dagger against a tree next to Jenario’s shoulder, skewering a giant spider through the abdomen. “Not…everything, Jen. And it weren’t because of me that they acted, either.” He jerked the blade away, leaving remnants of spider guts clinging to the metal. A large leaf provided the perfect makeshift rag to wipe the weapon clean before sheathing it.

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