Rosmarina’s father had gone very still. “Yes,” he said slowly. It sounded like the words were being dragged from him. “Pontius. Of course I remember you. You… yes.”
The man held up both hands. “Peace. We grew up. I grew up. You want to fight about it, we can do that later, one we’ve got Rosmarina settled and have you and Muirenn and your family all set.”
“Dad?” Rosmarina tugged on her father’s sleeve. “What’s he mean?”
“It’s a school, starfish. You’ll stay at the school, remember?”
“I thought that was – I thought that was because we couldn’t tell people we were leaving.” She swallowed hard around a sudden feeling of panic. “I thought it was just another story, like why we brought Minji along and why we packed so much.”
“Oh, one of those places, hunh?” He might make her father angry, but Pontius sounded very sympathetic. “Yeah, those can be hard. Look, I don’t run this place. That’s a few people mostly older than me. But they needed muscle, you know. Every place like this needs muscle. And I…”
“You were always good at that.” Rosmarina’s father cleared his throat. “All right. I’m not going to make a stink. But you’re going to take care of my daughter, you hear?”
“I will keep her as safe as possible, you have my word.” The tall man nodded solemnly, as if he’d just signed a contract in the sight of the judge, the mayor, and the priest. “Let’s show you where she’ll be staying, and then we can get her stuff all in later. You know how it is, she’ll want to get settled and get to know the other people in the area.”
“And they’ll want to scope her out.”
Rosmarina turned to look at her father. He sounded dryly amused, but he was talking about – about her. Right? And… boys? Romantic things, maybe? He’d never said anything like that ever before.
Pontius held up both his hands. “They want to get get to know every new student. But-
“But she’s Muirenn’s daughter, and I raised her. She’s going to be fine.” Rosmarina’s father smiled proudly. “I’m sure she’ll be fine.
Rosmarina looked back and forth between them. “You’re aware,” she said, far more calmly than she felt, “that you’re both talking about me like I’m not here.
Her father coughed. “I’m sorry about that, sweet pea. Let’s see that room of yours and… well, let’s let you get settled in a little. Pontius can show me around, and then your brothers and I can show you around before dinner. All right?”
“So people can… scope me out?” She tried it on for size. It sounded a little bit like what you did when you had a new hunting territory. You got a feel for the land, for where the best stands would be…
“No, sweetie.” She hadn’t remembered her father’s smile having nearly that many teeth. “So you can scope them out. You want to get to know everyone, don’t you?”
“Well, of course. I haven’t gotten to know new people in forever. And it’s a whole new place. Don’t worry, Dad.” She thought he might look a little worried. “I‘ll be fine. Go find mom. And makes sure someone feeds Quirin and Vahan.”
“We’re not pets,” Quirin complained disdainfully.
“Well, then you feed yourself, and make sure someone feeds the animals,” Rosmarina answered smoothly. She hugged both of her brothers, even if Quirin clearly thought this was a disgusting idea, and hugged her father again. “I’m going to go scope out my new dorm. Pontius’s going to show me. Right, sir?”
“She’s definitely Muirenn’s daughter,” Pontius laughed. “Right this way, miss. Yima, if you want to wait, I’ll be down in five minutes.”
“I’m going to go find Muirenn. And then we can find our living arrangements.” Rosmarina’s father’s voice was still tight and unhappy, but he wasn’t snarling anymore. “Take care, Rosmarina. Pontius, take care of my daughter.”
“Like she was mine.” Pontius offered Rosmarina his hand. “Let’s go up, shall we? Your dorm is in the best wing this year.”