Disclaimer: Jian's mine, but unless I've suddenly become Tamora Pierce, the rest isn't.

Chapter 7 - Getting Down To Business: The next afternoon, Jian flew to Oakbranch's shop. He smiled brightly at her. "So, how was the market?"

"You know what happened, don't you?"

"Yes, I'd heard."

"Why didn't you tell me I had magic?" Oakbranch smiled sadly.

"I wasn't sure how you'd react, to be honest. You were still afraid to study the basic craft, thanks to your country's addled rules, and I didn't know if you'd shy away from craft magic."

"Oh." He had a point, she realized.

"So. You know now." He was watching her closely. "Does it change anything?"

Jian considered, chewing her lip thoughtfully. "Only one thing. I want to learn more now than ever."

Oakbranch laughed. "I thought as much. So, come over here then. See if you can tell me what these blocks are made of and what they're good for." He gestured to a table laden with blocks carved of various woods. She picked one up.

"Maple. Used in house building..."

The next months were filled with study. Jian had never had to learn so much, she felt, and yet she'd never been happier. One day all five children were lazing on the roof, talking about their lessons. After Tris described making star charts, Jian laughed. "Well, I don't have to worry about that," she said. "We're past tools now, and we're on to resins and oils, magic and non-magic. It's all right, I guess, but a little dull."

Briar snorted. "Well, at least you don't wake up at night muttering about fennel." He saw that Sandry wasn't watching him, and he tickled the back of her neck with a straw. Sandry whirled, but he'd already managed to stick the straw in his mouth.

She glared at him, but couldn't do anything. She didn't have any proof. "So, trangshi, what's that Frostpine teaching you?" he asked Daja. Sandry told him off for using the term. Daja said she didn't care.

"What's that mean, that tr- trangshi?" Tris asked. Jian looked worriedly at Daja. She'd learned some Tradertalk from a friend of her uncle's, a man whose mother was also trangshi. Daja scowled at the redhead.

"The others speak Tradertalk, why can't you?" she demanded. "It's trangshi, all right? It means -"

"Forbidden," said Briar.

"Bad luck," offered Sandry at the same time.

"Outcast," Jian put in a beat behind them. Tris looked shocked.

"What could you have done at your age to be called that?" she demanded. Daja explained in a few clipped sentences.

"So, what is Frostpine teaching you?" Briar persisted. Daja rolled her eyes and told them about making and magicking tools, and worse, learning all the details of coal. When she'd finished, Briar tickled Sandry again. Her fingers made a pinching motion and the straw suddenly turned on Briar and attacked him mercilessly. He nearly fell off the roof; Daja and Sandry pulled him back up.

"Did you know you could do that?" Briar said, awed. "You're magic's with thread, you told us."

"Well, you can weave straw, sort of," the young noble replied. "I'll see if I can't unravel the string on your breeches if you don't behave!"

Later, Jian was leaving Oakbranch's and thinking about the roof incident. Fights kept springing up between Daja, Briar, and Tris, with Sandry playing peacemaker. And where was she? Standing in the shadows, watching but not participating. Did she want to keep on like that? Or maybe, did she want to get involved? Not to fight, necessarily, just to really be a part of things, not just joining in with the conversation occasionally. It was something to think about.

A/N: Well, here's another chapter for you all, though most of it is basically a book excerpt. R&R!