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    There would be no backing down here. No conceding, no making allowances, no losing.

    Ripple might be the director, but she was Ambris Knot. He had a big office, sure, decorated with all sorts of antique relics and rare books, but the library itself was her office. She was the heart and soul of that entire place, and—! And—!

    “Yes, I know you have tenure, Ambris,” Director Ripple said with a big, boisterous laugh, adjusting the sleeves of his suit before folding his hands on his desk. “Nearly thirty-four years! Almost as long as I’ve been here. You are invaluable, but…” He leaned in. “Your tenure isn’t what you came to discuss, is it?”

    She shook her head.

    “No. I came to discuss the holiday party from three years ago.”

    His brow furrowed. “The holiday party from three years ago? Is that the one where Frost Flower accidentally toppled the punch bowl onto her husband?”

    “No, that was two years ago,” Ambris said. “Remember we had the award ceremony with the mayor the next day and we were all drunk?”

    “Yes, yes!” Ripple exclaimed, delighted. “Daring Sun and Tumbleweed had to accept the award on our behalf!” He leaned back and sighed, relishing the fond memory. “Mayor Scroll Weather would have been livid if she wasn’t drunk, too… Anyhoo!” He cleared his throat and sat up straight. “You were saying about the holiday party?”

    “Yes, yes.” She took a moment, and continued, “I’ve come to collect, Ripple.”

    He blinked at her. “Collect?”

    “Yes, collect. You brought up that night the fact that I hadn’t taken vacations in nearly two years, and—”

    “You still haven’t taken them!” Ripple exclaimed. “In… one, two… nearly five years now!”

    She smiled. “That’s correct. You even said that night that you’d finance a trip for me somewhere if it meant I’d take a break.”

    He laughed. “I did, didn’t I? But what does—” His smile faded. “Oh.”

    She smiled politely. “Oh, indeed.” She retrieved a folder from her bag and extracted several stapled papers which she then handed to him. “I’d like to go to Brayzil.”

    “Ah! To see the ruins for that novel you were telling me about? Interesting,” he said, taking his glasses from the desk and putting them on. He squinted at the papers. “What am I looking at?”

    “The first page is our finances, and where the money can come from. Digitizing our books and providing online versions has increased our paid memberships, and our weekly ‘Save Energy for the Planet’ events have cut down our electricity bill quite a lot. There’s also a few other things I’ve done to save money, which are detailed on page two. Page three is the budget of the trip, from hotel and plane costs, to additional spending and leisure money.

    “Additionally, pages five and six are some letters from the Sao Maneigh Public Library. They’ve kindly agreed to donate left-over books that can be found exclusively in Brayzil, and the trip would allow me to sign the contract in person—it’s the last page on there, no, the very last, yes, that one—Anyway, this would also make the trip beneficial to the library.”

    “Hrm…” Ripple squinted at the papers, going back and forth between them. “Are you sure these are right? These prices are high for one perso—Wait a minute, of course they’re high! You made a mistake!” He showed her the budget. “This is a budget for a four person trip!”

    “Ah, yes,” Ambris said, smiling innocently. “This is where my thirty-four years of indispensable service come into play. I’d like to take a research assistant with me, as well as her parents in an official researching capacity, as well.”

    “Hrrrrm… This will take some convincing with the board, I’m afraid.”

    “That’s quite alright,” Ambris said, leaning in and putting a hand over his. “I’m sure you can do it.”


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