Bastial Energy
conversations were more likely to occur—when someone had finished putting something away and wanted to chat as a reward.
    It was during one of these silences when Steffen popped out to tell Cleve that he and Reela would tour the campus sometime after Effie and her sister showed up, and that Cleve should come with them. But he declined. It wasn’t like him to start something without finishing it. He’d almost lost the bow once when the guards had come to investigate. He wasn’t about to let that happen again.
    When Gabby first arrived with Effie, she followed her older sister past Cleve’s room and into the last empty bedroom, dropped Effie’s bags, and looked for Steffen. She gasped when she found him sitting on his bed reading.
    “Your room is incredible!” Gabby exclaimed in what sounded to be genuine excitement to Cleve, who couldn’t help but listen and watch from his room across the hall.
    “It’s the same as my room,” Effie called to her, “which you said you would help me set up.”
    Gabby ignored her. She gasped again and took a vial from a nearby shelf. “Another new potion! It’s so pretty.”
    Cleve thought Gabby looked older than she sounded. In fact, if Effie hadn’t said something about her room, Cleve might have figured Gabby was the one moving in.
    “Careful with that one.” Steffen spoke with grave concern as he reached for it.
    Gabby faced him and hid the vial behind her back. “Did you finally create something useful?” she teased. “Wait, is this the fire potion we’ve been talking about?”
    “Yes, and the ingredients are difficult to come by.” Steffen reached for it again, and she backed away, giggling.
    “You did it? Impressive. You’ve always had such a thirst for destruction.” Her voice had a playful cadence. “Can I try it?”
    “There’s wood all around us,” Steffen said.
    “That didn’t stop you,” Reela exclaimed from her room.
    Gabby squeaked, letting her mouth drop. “You tried it here?”
    “Outside I did, but I shouldn’t have,” Steffen muttered.
    “Let’s go.” She took his hand and dragged him toward the door.
    Effie yelled from her room, “Gabby, stop flirting with Steffen and help me unpack.”
    “I’m not!” Gabby yelled back. “I’m just excited about a new potion. You wouldn’t understand because you’re not a chemist.” Gabby released her grip on Steffen’s hand and gave him back the vial. “We’ll do it later,” she said with gloom, stiffly walking into Effie’s room and shutting the door hard behind her. Cleve could hear them arguing as he continued prying at the floorboards.
    Reela checked on Cleve a few times throughout the day. She asked questions about his progress but tended to hover in silence after her queries were answered. It made him feel as if she was waiting for him to speak or possibly ask her something in return, but he was more comfortable with silence than with trying to keep the conversation going. Though even with his project keeping his eyes busy, Cleve had trouble stopping himself from glancing at Reela. His gaze seemed to stick to her each time he looked, needing to be ripped away with great effort.
    Reela eventually brought in Effie and Gabby to introduce them. After brief handshakes, they were out of his room as quickly as they’d entered, but not before Gabby could say, “He’s huge” with a tone like he was some animal. Cleve felt better when he heard Effie smack her sister after they left his room.
    Steffen had stepped in on his own accord earlier in the day. “I’m sorry about what happened in the woods,” he led with, reaching out his hand. “Very glad you’re here.”
    Cleve gave the chemist’s hand a firm shake, possibly a bit harder than he’d meant. I may be a little angry still, he realized. “How is Fred?” Cleve asked with as much feigned interest as he could muster.
    “He’s dead. Reela put him out of his misery.”
    “Dead?” Cleve felt his grip tightening. “After what

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