This is a bit of a short one, but I hope you like it!

Chapter 28: Thawing Resolve

Ripping out the page in her notebook and rolling it into a ball, Bianca tossed it aside with a frustrated sigh. She couldn't get her head into her latest drawing, which was part of the final batch to be handed in within three weeks. Strange dreams again meant she'd slept poorly, dreaming of the Cup of Ankh and of seven hooded figures.

"You look happy," she glanced up as Alfie's voice reached her over her music, and she pulled out her earphones.

"I rarely look happy Alfie, you know that," Bianca replied, moving so he could take a seat. "What's up?" she asked him.

"Oh B, you should have come with us to the cellar last night, it was intense!" he whispered to her. Bianca immediately sighed and closed her eyes. "We almost got caught," Alfie's hiss made Bianca look at him sharply.

"Are you insane? Victor would have a meltdown if he found you spying on whatever was going on-"

"That's the thing!" Alfie interrupted Bianca before she could lecture him. "It was totally weird. Victor and six others, Mr. Sweet, Ms. Andrews, and Mr. Winkler, they were there too, they were all chanting and Victor drank snake poison and-"

"Alfie," Bianca groaned. Her head fell back as she closed her eyes again. "Stop, please," she begged him. Alfie frowned at her. "I told you, I don't want to know. It's not my place," she told him.

"Hey Alfie, you coming?" Fabian called as he entered the Common Room.

"Yeah man," Alfie stood up, before glancing at Bianca again. "Hey B?" he spoke softly, and she let out a soft mumble to let him know she was listening. "You never said you didn't want to know. Just that it wasn't your place. Like it or not, you do want to know what's going on here," Bianca's eyes opened and she looked at Alfie as he walked away to join Fabian. She then sighed heavily, and gave a soft chuckle.

"Dammit Alfie," she murmured, unaware that Jerome was listening in from the doorway.

"What's up with you?" Jerome glanced at Bianca as she spoke up, an eyebrow arched as they ate their lunch. "You've been more spacey than me, and that's saying something," she grinned, nudging him. "Everything okay?" her question was light, but the concern was there. When her grey eyes met his blue ones, he glanced away, feeling a mix of emotions. He felt guilty for taking her notebook, but she was keeping secrets still too, and part of him wanted to confront her for it.

"Where do you suppose the geek squad ran off to now?" he finally asked, unable to do so.

"Probably some super secret meeting spot in the forest that's far from a secret," Bianca rolled her eyes. "I don't know how they've gotten away with so much when they're awful liars," she commented. Again, Jerome bit his tongue. "Is that really what's on your mind?" she asked, watching him.

"Not really. Was just a thought," Jerome shrugged, glancing back to her. Bianca smiled softly at him, bumping him lightly with her shoulder again.

"You know, since we're not grounded for once, we should go into town this weekend, get away from the madness of this place," she suggested.

"Sounds good," Jerome nodded. It would be nice to get away and forget about all the secrets and mysteries that both his best friend and girlfriend were keeping from him. The thought made him frown, but before Bianca could say anything, the bell rang and they stood. Reaching out unconsciously, he took her hand, linking his fingers with hers, and Bianca glanced to him as they started walking, wondering just what was going on in his head.

"So I'd like this essay by next week please," Ms. Andrews requested as she stood in front of the board. "'The Tempest is a play about reconciliation and forgiveness', discuss," she repeated the essay title on the board. The bell rang, making everyone look up. "Right, thank you," everyone immediately got up, packing away their things.

"Uh...Mara? Can we talk?" Mick approached Mara as she stood up.

"Nothing to talk about Mick," she told him quietly, and he turned away, shooting Bianca another dark glare before storming off. He'd made it abundantly clear he blamed her for Mara breaking up with him. Bianca just rolled her eyes and slid her books into her bag.

"He's as cheerful as ever," Jerome muttered to her. Bianca hummed in agreement.

"I better get to art class, I'm falling behind in my coursework," she smiled at him, before lifting her bag and walking off, oblivious to him cornering Alfie to try and coerce the truth out of him.

"So, Winters," Bianca blinked, glancing to Garnet as she fell into pace beside her. "How is it that we both do art and neither of us realised we're in the same class?" she asked with an amused smile. Bianca couldn't help but laugh.

"Finch, I never notice anything around me, people least of all," she told the redhead, who grinned. "Shall we?" she gestured.

"We shall," the two headed for the art rooms. "How's your coursework going?" Garnet asked, and Bianca let out a groan. The taller girl laughed. "As well as mine then," she began to chatter away about her coursework, and Bianca smiled, unable to deny that she'd ended up befriending the girl.

Emerging from her room after finally getting her latest piece at least halfway done, Bianca went downstairs to grab a snack before bed, and stepped into the living room to find Nina and Fabian in front of a telescope.

"What am I looking for? I can't see anything!" Nina complained as she squinted through the telescope.

"Beyond the world? The moon?" Fabian suggested. "I don't know," he admitted. "Try focusing it on the moon," he told the frustrated American, who huffed but did so. After a moment, she gasped.

"There it is! There's something written! I can't make it out though," Nina moved to let Fabian have a go, and he frowned.

"It's too hard to focus," he muttered.

"Here, let me try," the two jumped as Bianca approached. Nina stared at her suspiciously. "Relax, you know I'm not going to tell anyone," Bianca held up her hands. Nina's frown grew, before she glanced to Fabian. He shrugged, and the two stepped aside. "Anyone with glasses knows the struggle of focus," Bianca told them with a smile, leaning down to peer through the telescope. She hummed to herself as she focused on the moon, adjusting the scope. "Unleash the power and light the way, find the demisphere hidden below," she recited.

"Yes! We're back in business!" Fabian cheered as Bianca straightened up.

"Thanks Bianca," Nina smiled at her, and Bianca paused before smiling back.

"No problem. Enjoy the next puzzle," she turned and walked to the kitchen as the clock chimed.

"It's 10 o'clock!" Victor called, and glanced in, spotting Nina and Fabian standing in the living room. "You both know what that means," his frown grew and he walked into the living room as he saw the telescope. "Doing a little star gazing, were we?" he asked as he approached.

"Us? No! We were just um...looking for the nearest bowling alley!" Bianca slapped a hand to her face. "Fabian loves to bowl," Nina smiled.

"Don't lie to me, Miss. Martin, you have no talent for it," Victor told her, and Bianca resisted her snort. That was putting it mildly. "Let's see what has caught your eye, shall we?" he went to look through the scope, and Bianca dropped the tin in her hands, making them all jump and look around sharply.

"Whoops, clumsy me," she smiled innocently.

"Yes, clumsy you, Miss. Winters, now off to bed," Victor shooed, before turning back to the telescope. Bianca groaned, hoping for a miracle. After a moment, Victor straightened up. "Only you Rutter!" he exclaimed. "Only you would choose such a cloudy night to stargaze!" the caretaker chided. "Get to your rooms, both of you! You have five minutes precisely! And Miss. Winters, I thought I told you the same!" he snapped, and she gave a weak smile before rushing off with the other two.

"The riddle definitely said 'light the way, find the demisphere hidden below'," Nina recited to the rest of Sibuna.

"What's a demisphere?" Alfie asked.

"I dunno...half a hemisphere?" Nina shrugged. Alfie nodded as if this made sense, and Fabian frowned as it most certainly did not.

"A demisphere," they looked around as Bianca walked in and set her plate down, joining them. "Is pretty much a machine with circles on it, that when it's spun, the circles look like they change in size. Kinda like a hypnotism thing," she told them. Alfie smiled brightly at her, but after that, Bianca lowered her head and began eating.

"Hidden below..." Patricia repeated. "Does that mean hidden in the cellar?" she asked the others.

"We still need to collect a sample of the elixir as well," Fabian reminded them. "And we know where he keeps it now," he said. Nina nodded, swallowing her toast.

"We need to go back down there," she decided.

"Why does she keep saying that?" Amber muttered to Patricia. "Please don't make me go!" she pleaded, louder this time. Nina rolled her eyes as Bianca smirked.

"To keep risks at a minimum, maybe we should just let one person go down there this time," Fabian suggested, making Amber brighten immediately.

"Great plan Fabes!" she exclaimed. "I'll stay here and hold the fort," Amber decided.

"We'll draw straws for it," Amber's face immediately fell and this time Bianca couldn't contain her laugh.

"Or we could just do it that way..." the blonde muttered.

As she left class, Bianca couldn't help but wonder what was going on with Jerome, who had been acting strangely the last few days. He kept disappearing at random times of the evening, making up strange excuses, and was now spending more money than he should have had.

"What's with your face?" Garnet asked as she caught up with her.

"Why does everyone ask that? I always look this way," Bianca rolled her eyes.

"Hey, so," Garnet laughed as they walked through the corridor. "You up for hanging out later?" she asked, and Bianca nodded.

"Sounds good, what do you have in mind?" she asked.

"No clue. Just something that's not school-" Garnet was interrupted as Mara almost steam-rolled the pair to get past them.

"Mara?" Bianca called, but the dark haired girl was gone already.

"Rude," Garnet sniffed. "I thought she was supposed to be the school rep?" she muttered, making Bianca smile in amusement.

"Try not to sound too much like a sore loser," she teased. Garnet rolled her eyes and flicked her hair over her shoulder.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she denied, walking on. Laughing, Bianca sped up to catch up to her.

"Alfie! You almost hit me on the head!" Amber complained loudly as Alfie attempted to juggle and narrowly missed the blonde. "Do you always have to be so...Alfie all the time?" she muttered.

"Yes," Alfie declared proudly.

"That's the spirit," Bianca raised her fist to bump against his without looking up from her tablet. He grinned, and Amber rolled her eyes.

"Hey guys, so Victor's out till late tonight," Patricia announced as she and Nina walked in. "So tonight is definitely the night," she told them.

"The night for what?" Jerome asked, making his presence known. Patricia and Nina looked at him sharply.

"Uh...the girls and I are planning on watching a DVD after lights out," Fabian lied smoothly. Bianca rolled her eyes. "It's no big thing," he shrugged.

"Okay," Jerome arched an eyebrow. "Hey Alfie, how about you and I have our own movie night? Zombiefest," he suggested.

"Uh, yeah, sure thing buddy," Alfie agreed weakly. "B? You joining us?" he glanced to Bianca hopefully, thinking she might be able to provide some kind of cover for him to slip away.

"No can do I'm afraid," Bianca stood up. "I'm hanging with Garnet then I'm spending the rest of the night getting this damned piece done," she told him.

"Standing us up for Garnet Finch. What nerve," Jerome complained.

"Yeah well, suck it up," Bianca smiled at him as she walked out of the room.

Hope you liked it!

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