David stared at the paper in front of him, the thin writing seeming to shimmer in front of his eyes. Surely a sign that he needed some sleep, but if he didn’t get this assignment done by sundown, his grades were going to suffer.

Besides, as tired as he was, maybe he could actually sleep through the entire night. Two months here and he still wasn’t used to the thirty-six hour days.

“You look like you could use something to eat,” Shelarya said.

“I could use a few extra hours on this project,” he said with a wry smile, “but failing that, food sounds good.

“I’ll get you something,” she said. At least, David thought Shelarya was a ‘she.’ It wasn’t always easy to tell with the elves, and it seemed far too rude to actually ask.

She returned with a wooden plate piled high with licretia – violet honey crystals that tasted vaguely like raspberries. His teeth ached just looking at them. Honey was a staple for the elves, and David privately thought he’d be lucky if he had any teeth left by the time he returned to Earth.

It must have shown on his face, because Shelarya frowned.

“I’m sorry. Do you not like licretia? It’s all I have, I’m afraid. I’m still not used to preparing food on my own.”

“It’s fine,” David said, chuckling. “Some things transcend worlds and species, it seems.”

“Do most students live off of licretia on Earth?” she asked.

“Top Ramen,” he replied. The words sounded odd after months of speaking Perresi. “But the same basic principle. Cheap and easy to prepare.”

“Is it difficult, being so far from your home?”

He bit into a piece of licretia as he thought about that. “It’s not so bad here, at the university. I stopped going down to the village.”

“Why is the village so different?”

“Because everyone here is here to learn. Most elves I run into up here are excited to meet a human. I’m likely to get inundated with questions the first time I meet someone, but that’s only mildly annoying.” Shelarya flushed at that (a slightly more violet shade than a human girl would). When they had been first assigned to work together, she had a seemingly endless list of questions for him.

“How do people respond to you in the village?”

“It… varies. I get a lot of stares. Some people intentionally avoid me. Others talk down to me like I’m some short, ugly…” he trailed off, trying to think of the Perresi word closest to ‘retard.’

“I’m sure they don’t mean to,” she said, albeit without much conviction. “Most of them probably aren’t expecting to see a human.”

David’s reply came out more bitterly than he intended it to. “Whether it’s malice or ignorance, it doesn’t make me feel any less like a freak. I’m much happier here, where I’m a novelty.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I knew things would be weird when I came here. I’m the only human in this entire world, after all. Maybe once I’ve been here longer, or when more humans have made the Crossing, I’ll be able to go down without being ostracized. And if not, I can set a record for the longest time spent in a tree.”

Sheralya chirped in confusion.

“Earth doesn’t have trees big enough to build cities on,” he explained.

“How odd.”

David popped another licretia crystal into his mouth. “We’d better get back to this assignment if we’re going to have it done by sundown. What’s this rune? It looks familiar, but I can’t seem to place it.

She laughed, a squirrel-like chittering noise. “You’re holding it upside-down.”

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