"What happened to that stagnant Undine?" asked Bastulia as she and Jermander walked towards their next class. Jermander looked sideways at her, his eyeballs sliding far enough round in his head that he could see the details of the edge of his eye socket quite clearly. Bastulia didn't look back at him, focused on gliding softly above the ground, seemingly just throwing the question out there as casual conversation. Jermander didn't believe it for an instant.
Bastulia was a baseline-adjusted Ancient of Mu-mu and claimed that this explained why she floated permanently two inches above any solid surface, and that she was compelled to ignore all base things and spend her time involved only in higher thoughts. Jermander hoped that this was true, as most of his thoughts when he saw her were really quite base. She was stunningly attractive, literally so, and when she turned a corner without sufficient advance warning people would faint and collapse as they saw her. Jermander rather liked watching people collapse as he approached, even if it was because of who he was with.
"Nicky?" he said, trying to sound equally casual. "I don't know, I think maybe she spent too long out in the sun and just evaporated. Don't you see her in your swimming lessons?"
Bastulia pouted at him. "They're not going well, you know! Water's just a little bit too solid, I can't seem to sink into it properly and splash about like everyone else. And... well, it's wet, isn't it?"
"Isn't that why you go swimming with the undines though?" Jermander had, like just about every other male and lesbian female at Gorillamumps, tried to find a way to spy on these swimming lessons, and had been easily defeated by the geases laid around the swimming complex. "Can't they shape the water around you so you can practice?"
"Meh." Bastulia made a gesture with a hand indicating her dislike for the idea. "It's not like it's a skill I'll ever need. How come you don't go swimming?"
"Mostly the running water thing," said Jermander. "I can't cross running water, it's a family thing. I'm fine with holy symbols, use holy water as aftershave, and love garlic, but running water just does something to my feet and I can't get over it. So swimming's only really useful for the ocean or swimming pools, and my country's landlocked."
"You should come to my lessons."
"I tried!" The words were half out of his mouth as he realised what he was saying and he desperately cast around for an explanation. "I... I..., look, this is kind of embarrassing...."
"You can tell me," Bastulia said, stopping and looking into his eyes. Jermander hoped this counted as a connection and not just mesmerism, which he also had trouble controlling around her.
"I said that maybe I should go to your lessons as well... because undines aren't running water!" He smiled at her, aiming for self-deprecating while cheering himself on inside his head. "I said that we had similar aversions so it might make sense to help each other overcome them."
"Well, that should be alright, shouldn't it?"
"They said that the undines didn't like the idea," he said, truthfully. "They're a bit edgy around vampires apparently."
"Oh. Well, that's a shame," said Bastulia turning and starting to glide forward again. "That might have been a bit more fun."
They walked and glided on in silence for a few seconds, with Jermander wondering how to restart the conversation again, and then Bastulia spoke.
"But no, your Undine friend isn't at my lessons. I thought maybe she had a problem with me because I've been talking to you."
"No! No, no problem," said Jermander quickly. "I honestly haven't seen her lately, I thought she was hanging out with the other undines more."
"That's curious," said Bastulia. "Do you think we should tell anyone?"
"No," said Jermander flatly. "This is Gorillamumps. Students disappear from time to time, and that's just part of the learning process. I mean, last month, Mouldyvort got staked by that Pirate Captain and the school barely acknowledged it."
"Yes," said Bastulia slowly, "but the Pirate Captain did say it was an accident. He didn't know that Mouldyvort was hiding in his room, and he did have a wooden leg."
"It's still a death," said Jermander. "And that young mummy, two months ago, who got all unravelled playing netball."
"Yes, that was gruesome in a dusty, smelly kind of way," said Bastulia. "There's not really anyone to apologise to in that case though, is there?"
"They did put up a nice little memorial stone in the Garden of a Thousand Deaths."
"All student deaths?"
They had arrived now at the Old Stone Lecture halls and workshops complex. Bastulia looked up at the ancient stone building and shivered, possibly a little dramatically. Jermander liked the way she moved when she shivered though.
"What class is this?" she asked.
"Kneecappings," said Jermander, holding up two lump hammers. "Want to borrow a hammer?"