"Juliet?" Alea whispered through the window screen.
The figure froze. The figure wondered if they should scramble down to the foot of the tree and continue carrying out their plan and be questioned the next day, possibly in front of others, or if they should convince Alea to come with them but keep quiet. They weighed their options for a moment and decided to motion to Alea to come down, yet kept a finger at their lips to keep quiet.
Alea had snuck out only once before, when she had lived with her parents, to watch a meteor shower with one of her best friends. She managed to stay out for a couple hours and come back without being caught. She considered herself an expert at sneaking out.
She carefully removed the window screen and set it against the wall, turned around for a moment to stuff her feet into some sturdy boots, then started her climb down. Once completely outside, she slid the curtains over the open space then slid the window almost shut. She hoped Noori wasn't a light sleeper. She stood completely on the tree branch and went down and crawled over to the trunk. Juliet had already climbed a few feet down and Alea followed suit.
They dropped to the ground and the figure pulled a handkerchief out from their knapsack.
"Hide your pink hair," they said. The voice was definitely Juliet's. "Follow me. Be quiet."
Juliet took off at an awkward lumbering run, characteristic of a novice hoping to follow in the Warrior's path. Alea's pace was a bit smoother, but not by much because she almost tripped twice. Juliet was about to head into the woods when Alea, panting, asked what on this planet was going on.
Juliet's eyes widened and she put a finger to her lips. "Whisper. And, I can't tell you, but you'll have to keep this a secret, okay?"
Alea responded, "I guess I can't tell what I don't even know."
Juliet bore her eyes into Alea's. "You can assume or make inferences or whatever, but I can't actually tell you myself. I swore it. You're just going to have to come to your own conclusions and hope they're correct. But please don't ask me because I can't tell you."
"Why did you tell me to come down then?"
"I didn't want you to go tell or wake someone up and I wanted to make sure you would keep this—" Juliet paused "—outing a secret in the future. I mean I can't like force you to not tell, but if you do tell you're going to be in trouble for sneaking out too."
"Okay so just follow me and don't talk. I'm just meeting someone to give them something and then we'll go back."
What Juliet was giving to this "other person" was a blueprint of the Academy. It labeled all the rooms and its uses, professor's offices and students' sleeping quarters. It listed all the names of the current enrolled students—both first years and upper years. It listed some other things but even I cannot tell you because it was written in short hand hieroglyphics.
Maybe a half hour passed in silence until Juliet raised her hand to motion for Alea to stop.
"Wait here," said Juliet.
Alea stiffened. "By myself?"
Juliet frowned. "I'm just gonna go a bit further. It won't take long. You'll be fine." Juliet turned and disappeared behind a clump of trees.
Wind whistled through the trees and Alea shivered. She wondered again what on this planet Juliet was doing. She looked up at the crescent moon in the sky and mentally sang a lullaby to herself. Shuffling her feet, she started to imagine what types of creatures might be loose in the woods. Maybe there were giant lizards or unicorns or maybe even trolls. Alea hadn't ever seen any of those except for the skeletons of giant lizards in museums but she was certain the woods could be hiding—
A shriek pierced the air. Alea froze. She wasn't sure how to find her way back to her room, nor was she prepared to meet any enemy head-on without any weapon—or without anything at all. She dove behind the nearest tree. A yell sounded, then a large thump. Beads of sweat formed on Alea's forehead as she tried to climb the tree. Her efforts were futile, but were unnecessary because a panting Juliet showed back up.
"Quick," she motioned. Let's go back.
They tore through the woods and clambered back into their respective rooms. Alea climbed back into her bed as quietly as she could. She heard Noori softly snoring and breathed a sigh of relief as she laid down. Their surreptitious affair would be safe. A small voice in the back of her head asked about the shrieking in the woods but Alea quickly fell asleep despite her misgivings.