The Lupine Saga 66

“I suppose it’s time I tell you who my adoptive parents are,” Teena said with a smile and a giggle. The rest of the group felt a wave of excitement as the elusive parents were about to be revealed. Teena, though she had joined Va’il’s circle of friends, had been guarding her adopters’ identities. Even though her outward personality was bright and straightforward, she hadn’t yet spoken of her adoptive parents, let alone mention more about her true parents than her father’s name.

“So they are nobles!” Zeick said.

“Yes! A noble lupus couple,” Teena said. “Very, very, very nice people. Incredibly sweet and loving with each other and me. Almost too much so, I’d be embarrassed to talk about it all with you. But anyways. The wife is Jean and the husband is Eason Ar Raign. They aren’t too prestigious, but are still nobles. Wait, why are you three laughing?”

Va’il, Pete, and Kelin couldn’t help but double over in painful, tearful laughter. It went on for a while, confusing Teena, Zeick, and Harnes completely. Zeick had only seen Eason once before in his life, and he had never heard the name before. So of course, even though Eason had really been the single greatest positive influence on Zeick’s life, he had no knowledge of his savior. The original trio weren’t going to explain it at that moment, to avoid possibly depressing Zeick and embarrassing him in front of the two girls.

“We… we…” Va’il said in between laughs, “know Eason! He’s a wonderful person! Competent, diligent, gives gold to the poor, and a loyal husband. You could say we’ve known him far longer than Teena! That’s all.”

The three laughing ones eventually regained their composure, and the three confused ones let the matter pass.

“So, I can come?” Va’il asked. Kelin muttered something under his breath, as he had been hoping that the sudden revelation from Teena had distracted Va’il from the matter at hand. “How about we compete, and if I win, I get to come?”

“Okay!” Kelin replied without thinking. Kelin didn’t like losing; therefore, he never lost if possible. Va’il, being his friend, would of course decide on a certain method to compete in, one Kelin had full confidence in winning at.

“A race it is!” Va’il said. He stood and walked to the edge of the school’s grounds, the front gate.

“You know you won’t win. Same as usual?” Kelin asked.

“Nah, let’s make it third house down from Missus Hanover’s place. You know, the three-pronged fence line?” Va’il asked.

“Right, that’s the right length for a matter this important,” Kelin replied.

Accustomed to seeing this situation several times repeated, Pete walked up to the two boys and stood to the side.

“You two ready?” Pete asked while holding his arm out. The other two nodded in unison, and then dropped into takeoff position. “N! One! Go!”

The silver and red tails were all that could be seen of the two blurs. Zeick, Teena, and Harnes packed whatever books and stuff they had away, including the runners’ items, and followed Pete in a slow walk to wherever the race would be ending.

“Va’il’s just going to lose again,” Zeick said with a sigh.

“I don’t know. He seems pretty determined about that party,” Harnes said.

“He’s always like that,” Teena said. “He’s always so resolute.”

“No… he’s not. Or he wasn’t,” Harnes said. “But he has been that way since you’ve known him, so I guess I can understand why you’d think that. He’s a lot different from the Va’il of six months ago.”

“You really know him well, Harnes,” Teena said. “For me, he’s always been that undeterred person. He always seems to study so seriously. His marks are always high. Maybe not as high as yours, but he is studious. Yet melancholy.”

“You,” Harnes said while glaring, “you… also seem to know him pretty well.”

“Hmm, I guess. I wish I had known you all earlier. Then I’d know what changed,” Teena said.

“No, you met us at the perfect time,” Zeick said. “Any earlier might have been troublesome. He… he never hid that he was a half. I was scared. But what I was scared of experiencing, he lived through daily. I can only say I’ve known him for a few months longer than you, Teena. There were a few years where he didn’t have friends in the same class as him, and I had only come to start accepting myself, I still hadn’t really joined them till later. Pete and Kelin said they associated with him after school, but not as much as the times when they were in the same class. Those years were tough, apparently. He probably wasn’t nearly the same resolute person then. But I don’t think us being in a group together really had much to do with the resoluteness you see in him now. That didn’t begin until a few weeks after the catastrophe. He just changed.”

“You can be a serious fellow!” Harnes said in mock indignation.

“Zeick just proved he knows even more!” Teena said.

Zeick just smiled at the two girls, and then took a few large steps to catch up with Pete, who hadn’t heard the conversation a ways behind him.

“Who are they talking with?” Zeick asked. Further down the road he saw a strange sight. Va’il and Kelin were at the goal, but conversing with a carriage driver. Kelin jumped next to the driver and looked like he was threatening the man. They started to quicken their steps when a golden-haired girl wearing a black dress with white stripes slapped the man. They saw Va’il shout something, and then the girl disappeared. The carriage had taken off just as the four arrived.

“What was that?” Zeick asked. Kelin and Va’il looked at each other with slight grins.

“I won!” Va’il said. Kelin knit his brow into a scowl.

“That doesn’t count! That driver had no sense whatsoever; he shouldn’t have been in the way. I would have won if he hadn’t have blocked me,” Kelin said.

“Doesn’t matter! When we normally race in the street, does it matter that people are walking on it? Pete, what do you say?” Va’il asked.

“Remember Kelin, you were the one who said that as part of the rules any obstructions had to be avoided. Agility to get around the obstacles, as well as straight-line speed, are both requirements. Sound familiar?” Pete asked.

“Fine fine, I lost. But in exchange… Teena, you’re definitely coming, right?” Kelin asked.

“Yes, now that you two are. I wasn’t sure before. Eason had invited me, but I had said no. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy now!” Teena said. Kelin scowled when he thought that Teena’s reason for going was Va’il, but he quickly smiled when he thought of whom they just encountered.

“That’s good. After all, I’ll need someone to go around with me, now that Va’il’s escort has been decided,” Kelin said.

“What?” Va’il asked.

“We just met her a minute ago. I know she will attend, definitely,” Kelin said.

“Oh, Shiroi!” Va’il said.

“You thick-headed… no, not the servant! That old acquaintance of yours. She will definitely be there, I know it. But she will feel just as out of place as you. One is too high above society, one is too low, yet the feelings are same,” Kelin said.

“Ruby,” Va’il said with sudden realization. He slowly nodded and seemed to completely agree with Kelin. Truly, Va’il wasn’t a noble. For if he were, then he would have realized the importance of who Ruby was, and wouldn’t have had any aspirations for even glancing at her unless he was someone extremely important. And, as far as Va’il was concerned, he really wasn’t anyone extraordinary.

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The Lupine Saga 65

“Good afternoon, Va’il,” Shiroi said.

“Hey, it’s you again!” Va’il said. His tone was pleasant, even if his words would normally be interpreted as rude. Va’il knew Ruby’s name, but he still wasn’t entirely sure of Shiroi’s.

“So it’s you two. That explains it. Never a servant or driver that lasts a long time in the house of Madam Melonscone, right?” Kelin asked with a smile. He backed away from the driver, who just had the sudden realization that the people he had insulted and nearly run over were friends of his master.

“Yes, always a new one lately, ever since our longtime, well, never mind. I’m starting to understand why, now,” Shiroi said. The driver knew he had lost his job at that point. But he hadn’t been told to leave yet, so he sat stiffly in the seat. “So, how can we make it up to you?”

“Tell Ruby to attend on the seventeenth,” Kelin said.

“I’ll pass it along. Anything else? Master Va’il?” Shiroi asked. Va’il’s heart thumped once at Shiroi’s address of him, and the tiny thought of how interesting it would be to have a servant couldn’t help but creep inside his mind.

“Just one thing,” Va’il said. “I want to confirm her graceful servant’s name.”

“Shiroi,” the avian girl said with a smile. Va’il laughed loudly at hearing the name, and then nodded at Shiroi, the avian understanding exactly why he was amused. “Then, that’ll be all, I assume. Goodnight, Masters.”

Kelin and Va’il looked at each other and grinned widely. Of course, both were only thinking of Shiroi as a servant, and a perfect one at that, in their minds. They walked off laughing together after giving knowing smiles to Shiroi.

“What was that?” Ruby said with a huff when Shiroi entered the carriage. It started moving again as Shiroi had told the driver to keep going.

“You are asked to attend on the seventeenth,” Shiroi said.

“Of course, I heard that. You, I mean what were you doing?” Ruby asked.

“What do you mean?” Shiroi asked. Her tone sounded honest, but Ruby couldn’t be sure as to whether Shiroi was innocent or playing with her.

“That… that… you… flirting!” Ruby said. She flushed red again.

“Oh? Really, was I?” Shiroi asked. Ruby saw a slight smile appear on Shiroi’s lips, and then disappear. “Or is that just what you think, precious, delicate Ruby? I’m an avian, not a lupus or human. But I’m a servant, and I try to act like one. Ah, I suppose it was just something I felt they’d appreciate. Don’t worry. In fact, you could even think of that as a gift from you to that boy. Think of it, a high-noble allowing their personal servant to call a commoner master! Definitely not flirting, my ever-concerned Ruby!”

Shiroi rarely jested with her mistress, but the opportunity to embarrass Ruby was fully embraced by the avian girl who had realized several important things. One of those being that Ruby was trying to overcome her upbringing of preconceptions, discrimination, and social formalities. Though Jane Melonscone was as prejudiced as anyone, her daughter attempted to be the opposite. Shiroi, seeing how Ruby could act like a real girl sometimes, was extremely happy. She really did have Ruby’s thoughts in mind when she called them masters. Shiroi was all too wonderful a servant to Ruby.

Ruby looked at Shiroi, realized what she meant, and couldn’t help but laugh at and mourn her speech and thoughts. More and more, she was wishing that she had more control. Control over her life, the places she was allowed to go to, the people she could meet with, and the feelings she had. On second thought, she quickly struck the last item from her list.

#

School ended, leaving Va’il and his group to their own devices. They gathered their things and walked outside.

“Cold,” Harnes said as she held her black-feathered arm up to block the wind. It was only a passing wind and soon stopped. She sat down with the rest.

“I’ve got some confidence in this one, what do you think?” Pete asked. The swine placed a large basket by the large old tree and removed various dishes from inside. A vanilla aroma filled the air when several white buns appeared.

“Good, good!” Va’il said. He took a drink of reddish tea and then licked his powdered fingers. He extended a claw and picked at a fang as well.

“Getting better, Pete,” Zeick said. The half-felis slapped the swine on the back and then jumped onto the tree and started climbing. Sitting in the branches were three avian boys who took the treats Zeick handed to them. Wide-eyed and pleased, they each nodded once and chirped something.

“You three! Speak Fervish!” Harnes said. The avian boys looked down at her from their high spot and stuck out their tongues, and then chirped a few more times. “Fine, be like that. But if you keep talking like that all the time, you’ll lose track of how you’re supposed to order Fervish words! Of course I have pride in it!”

“Harnes…” Va’il said quietly.

“Sorry boys. Look, just say it in Fervish. Nothing to be embarrassed about when simply saying thank you!” Harnes said, much more peaceably than before.

“Thanks Zeick!” three avian boys sang with smiles. Zeick had been laughing the whole time, and suddenly felt a bond with the three boys. He whispered something into one avian boy’s ear. The avian then replied in like manner. Finished, Zeick jumped to the ground. He approached Harnes, leaned down, and whispered something into her ear.

“What… was that… wait, did you just?” Harnes asked, her tone one of annoyance. Above them the avian boys laughed and chirped something else. A few seconds later, a resounding slap was heard.

“Ha, okay, I deserve that,” Zeick said while sitting down. The right side of his face was red, but for some reason Harnes’ entire face was red as well. Three avian boys, knowing that they just incurred more wrath from Harnes, jumped out of the tree and sped home.

“So what did he say?” Teena asked. Harnes quickly scowled at her.

“It’s not something to be repeated!” Harnes said angrily. Zeick just smiled without saying another word. After a while, Harnes said, “Zeick, act like a noble sometimes!”

“Speaking of which,” Kelin said while breaking the argument, “are you coming on the seventeenth, Zeick?”

“What for? Oh! That, probably not. Tralfor will though. Nobles’ social parties were never really that comfortable for me. He will probably drag mom along too,” Zeick replied.

“Bah, you’re still a noble. Species or fathers shouldn’t matter to you anymore,” Kelin said.

“Kelin, you don’t have to say it like that,” Teena said.

“I don’t mean it offensively, really. I just think he’ll have to get used to it sooner or later. He’s been accepted by the human now, and hasn’t backed down from it even when everyone else now knows. So it looks he’ll still land his hands on Tralfor’s estate. At least he doesn’t have to worry about siblings,” Kelin said with a certain amount of personal spite. Realizing that Kelin actually was thinking of his friend in a positive way, Teena stayed quiet. Though his actions and words seemed strange or offensive at times, there was almost always a second meaning to Kelin’s words, which he almost never explained to others. Though, for the past few months he had been explaining the meanings behind his words quite often.

“Eh, I’m not too worried about the being a half part of it. Things are better now, and father finally accepts all of it. But I just don’t know. I just don’t feel motivated to go, you know? Like reading a book sounds more interesting than another gathering,” Zeick said.

“So let me take your place!” Va’il said, suddenly jumping into the conversation.

“No offense Va’il, but commoners don’t really have a place. It’s more of a place to connect with other nobles and make deals. It’s not often that this many gather in the city outside of national events. All you’d be in for as a commoner would be food and dance… oh wait,” Kelin said. He stopped only after he realized his mistake.

“Food’s more than a good enough reason,” Va’il said. “Right, Pete?”

“Not interested, not getting involved,” Pete said. He was enjoying the conversation, as usual, as a bystander. He didn’t want to get involved in the affairs of nobles. He was the happy son of a spice merchant. He didn’t care to have more power or prestige.

“Why not let him come?” Teena asked.

“You too? I’m just being realistic. Why did we even get onto this subject?” Kelin asked. Of course, he realized he was the original instigator.

“I think it would be fine. Look, it’s not like Va’il will be alone. You will be there,” Teena said.

“Unfortunately, I’ll have a lot of work to do. Dad’s got a few people I need to… well, things. I can’t watch him constantly,” Kelin said.

“I’ll be there too,” Teena said.

“But even still, I… what? Teena, you’re… what?” Kelin asked. The expression he had was the most surprised one he had yet given.

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The Lupine Saga 64

Ruby stared out the window blankly. She shivered as she saw the barren trees shaken by the wind outside. The lecture in the classroom about marketplace practices didn’t interest her in the least. Nevertheless, she paid slight attention and took notes. The lecture ended, and one on political dealings started. It was more interesting to her, but it lacked the thoroughness that her personal tutors had provided in the past. Therefore, the thirteen year old already knew everything the teacher was saying before she said it.

The class ended, and Ruby stood. She left the room and roamed the hallways. Those who knew Ruby respectfully moved out of her way. No one who knew her approached her or made eye contact. She would walk on the right, everyone else slowed down on the left. She walked in the middle, rows of still children on the left and right would form. Some would grab a hold of a neighbor who wasn’t copying the rest, whisper something in their ear, and watch as their friend would perspire slightly, and then bow.

Ruby couldn’t help but feel depressed at the commotion that was made over her walking through the hallway. It wasn’t an issue to her, but to see everyone treat her so specially did not make her happy. That was what servants were for, why would she want those she considered peers to do the same?

She exited the main building and came upon a large schoolyard. Various children of most ages ran or sat about. Ruby looked around the area closely. She pulled a notebook out and looked at a grid that she had drawn on a page previously. There were several rectangular sections each with various markings here and there. Certain ones were crossed off or scratched out.

“Section five today, I’ll check that one. Looks like the full group is there today,” Ruby said to herself. She looked at the paper, saw a grid marked section five, and looked at the description inside. It had several single letters written out in three lines of various lengths. She looked up and towards a portion of the schoolyard. Where she looked was a specific area where three separate groups of children had gathered in close proximity to one another.

On one side of the tree that marked the section five area was a group of deeri boys sitting, eating, and talking calmly. In the large branches of the tree was a group of three avian boys who were chirping in the avian language. And sitting below them was a group of four more boys and two girls. Three lupus, one felis, one swine, and one avian made up that group.

Seeing that no humans were in section five, Ruby crossed the section off her chart. She put the notebook back into her bag, and proceeded to walk off school grounds. A moment after she took the final step off the school’s property, someone approached her from her right.

“Afternoon, miss,” said an incredibly serene avian girl. White feathers covered her head and continued down her arms. Dabs of golden glitter adorned her cheeks and thin nose, accentuating her bright blue eyes. The simple white dress she wore was sleeveless, as most avian clothing was, and impeccably clean.

“Shiroi, let’s head home. Orders from mother?” Ruby asked.

“As you wish. The carriage is here, as usual. Driver has changed, again. No orders from the madam. She is gone, again, and did not specify where she went,” Shiroi said in a respectful yet surprisingly casual manner. Though she was a servant, her words sounded friendly and filled with honest reverence for the young mistress. Truthfully, she was Ruby’s friend as well as loyal servant, though their relationship was always something difficult to define.

Ruby nodded at the explanation, and then gave a smile to Shiroi. She took her hand as they walked to the carriage, and then let go before the driver could see. She entered the covered carriage as Shiroi helped her in. Shiroi then gave an order to the driver, entered the cab, and off they went. The sound of horse hooves continued for a while.

“That is?” Shiroi asked. Ruby had reached into her bag and pulled out a notebook. Hidden from public view or ears, Shiroi had become the personal friend of Ruby again.

“Mother’s work, again. Map and separate the school into sections, determine how many groups and people are in each section consistently, check each for human children. Section five, no humans, so that is all I checked today,” Ruby said in brief explanation.

“I think I understand. This is to find a particular child, right?” Shiroi asked. She was somewhat aware of Ruby’s ongoing search for someone, but hadn’t been given the details. Nor was Ruby about to reveal them.

“Yes, a human boy, probably under fourteen. Not easy when the school is full of children mostly seven to sixteen. I just need to find if he has something mother told me about,” Ruby said, keeping the exact details from Shiroi, who wouldn’t pry further. She sighed as she thought of her impossible task. Though she had been enjoying school life, to her surprise, she quickly discovered that her mother wouldn’t let her slack from the duty imposed upon her. Therefore, with her wit and ingenuity, Ruby systematically looked for King Fidel’s son, the heir to the throne, a mysterious boy hidden from public view by being part of the public itself. Jane had told Ruby this much, which Ruby knew not to repeat to anyone, even Shiroi. Of course the search was limited to humans, how could Jane Lucrene Melonscone have guessed the truth? But she wasn’t to be deterred, and therefore her tenacious nature had given her daughter an impossible task.

“Whoa!” the driver shouted as the carriage came to a startling halt. The girls nearly fell over, and then heard the driver shout again. “You stupid lupus, out of the way!”

“What did you say?” a voice asked. But the voice had been moving as it spoke, and the girls soon realized that the person speaking had jumped up to the driver’s seat and must have been inches from the driver. Obviously, they must have been threatening him as well. Gruffly, the voice said, “Dare insult a noble lupus again?”

“Let it go! You’re just upset that I won because of him. He got in your way, I won the race! I’ll be getting my reward, right?” Another voice was heard, this one lighter and somewhat cheerful.

“Noble lupus, what wind! Listen to the freak and leave. This carriage holds far more prestigious people inside,” the driver said. Ruby heard each word clearly and was thoroughly upset. The driver must have been speaking with children that had been in the road. Granted, one was rude, but the driver’s insults were the first to fly.

Ruby jumped to the carriage door and was outside in a moment before the discussion between the parties could continue. In a fluid motion she had opened the door, jumped, touched the ground lightly, jumped again to the side of the driver, and slapped him hard. In her indignation, she was upset at not just the driver’s tone and words, but also his abuse of Ruby’s prestige. “How dare he think that just because he drives me, he has any power whatsoever!” Ruby thought.

“Ruby!” said the person who had asked the one arguing with the driver to stop.

“Ah!” Ruby said in surprise. Her hand was still stretched out. The look on her face was fierce, and the entire spectacle was something that a noble would never have done. Upon seeing the person, she gasped, pulled her hand back, and jumped down to the ground. She entered the carriage again.

Shiroi was still reeling from Ruby’s sudden movement when the rash girl returned moments later. But the leaving and returning girls were entirely different. One had been fierce and annoyed. The new Ruby was red-faced and wide-eyed. A few seconds passed as Shiroi caught up with the events and realized what was going on. She smiled at Ruby and then left the carriage herself.

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The Lupine Saga 63

Book two, The Lupine Chevalier. It picks up immediately where The Lupine Prince left off.Serre-Chevalier Lake Mountain

“You’re going to be the king of Rising.”

The announcement shook Mai’ou to her core. Something in her mind finally clicked as her thoughts were sent reeling into motion. Her previously muddled self had been cleared away, and so she jumped out of her chair.

“No!” Va’il said. Mai’ou stopped, as her son had already taken the words from her mouth.

“Now, Va’il,” Darius said in a calm fashion, “I know this is far too sudden. I know I’m imposing on you.”

“Sudden?” Va’il asked. He stared up at Darius with knit brows and clenched fists. He violently shook his shoulder, throwing Darius’ hand off it. “No, outrageous!”

Darius took a step back. Contrary to being disheartened, he felt happy. He thought that Va’il was too young to understand what was going on right now, and believed that in time Va’il would change. He was very pleased with Va’il’s decisive strength, as he knew that quality was important in a ruler. Even if they weren’t currently willing to rule. “In time, we will see his value,” Darius thought to himself. He was also reminded of his younger days with Fidel.

Smiling, Darius said, “Of course. This was abrupt. I knew it, but my own curiosity and Diren’s insistence that we do this now… for that, I apologize. Of course, time is needed to make such a decision. It is fine, you will grow. And change your mind. For now, I’ll go. I’ll come back soon. Again, I apologize. But now, there are several things I want to tell you, especially about him.”

“Never. I didn’t, I don’t, and I won’t be the king. You don’t need to come back,” Va’il said, eyes filled with defiance. Darius couldn’t help but take another step back. He realized that it was truly time to leave. He still felt that Va’il had strength of character and would eventually become the ruler, but he knew better than to tell an insistent child of a fact when they were set upon believing fantasy.

“Until we meet again,” Darius said while respectfully bowing. Before Va’il could voice any disapproval, Darius continued speaking. “Var! Have you, by chance, seen Var recently?”

The question was off-topic, and Va’il wasn’t one that naturally knew how to fester his own anger, so the question changed his scowl into a puzzled look.

“Var?” Va’il asked. He thought for a moment before saying, “No idea. I’m sure that the last time I saw him was a couple weeks ago, on that particular day, that terrible day. Not since then. Why?”

Va’il had seen several guards around while trying to avoid trouble for the past weeks since the maroon attack, but Var hadn’t been one of them. Truthfully, he was depressed every time he walked outside and saw the remnants of destruction left by the mysterious foe that he had secretly saved everyone from, thus he didn’t leave the house much until school resumed its normal activities. And he had been sulking over the death of King Fidel, who just now he had found out was his father. The ruler he had truly loved and the father he had desperately hated were supposed to be the same person, how could he react positively when someone tarnished the dead king’s good name? A few minutes would not be enough to convince him that his scoundrel of a father was really the same person he had already ingrained in his mind as a model father figure. These thoughts were pushed aside for the brief moment that he thought about Var, someone he did have a reasonable amount of compassion for.

“Oh, nothing about it,” Darius said. He sighed to himself. “Maybe I’m just missing him around, but it really isn’t like him to skip a day of work, let alone a week. Odd, very odd. Where is he? Not even Jane knew, or her daughter.”

Darius kept mumbling to himself for a few moments. Va’il and Mai’ou knew he wasn’t speaking to them, so Mai’ou finally strode up to Va’il and took his hand in hers. She squeezed it, but Va’il dropped his hand out of her grip. His thoughts were in turmoil and his trust in Mai’ou dented, so he had unconsciously done something that hurt Mai’ou’s heart. Certainly, they had much to discuss.

Darius snapped to attention, realizing that he should have left a minute ago. He apologized again, bowed, and walked out of Va’il’s life. Va’il hoped it was for good, but only for that moment. Without the object of his small hatred present, the feelings he had were questioned twice over by his mind. Unable to find more reasons to object to everything that had been presented for him, he forcefully pushed extraneous thoughts out of his mind, looked up at Mai’ou, grabbed her hand firmly, smiled, and then closed the door behind Darius.

When Darius left Va’il and Mai’ou, they took few quiet moments to contemplate what had happened. To jump into conversation right away would have been too awkward. Of course, Va’il was never one to let an awkward situation resolve itself quietly.

“Mum, I… I want to ask something, but I don’t know what to ask,” Va’il said. For him, there was a nagging feeling in his chest telling him to talk, ask, and do something. But even a boy of eleven could partially read moods. Not well though.

“It’s… it’s… a lot,” Mai’ou stuttered. Several things had surfaced in her mind, but the right words wouldn’t form.

“So, it’s true then. Father… was him?” Va’il asked.

“Yes,” Mai’ou said. She looked down at the serious Va’il.

“So, why weren’t you his queen?”

“He… let me, wait.” Mai’ou stopped. She breathed deeply a few times, and then sat down in the living room. She finally felt like she could talk. No one else was around, only the person she loved was.

“I know, I’m sorry,” Va’il said before she could continue. “It’s because he’s a human, right?”

“More than just human, he was Rising’s human king. As for us, he was a man of passion, someone I loved and respected. He, in turn, had to protect what he loved. If I had become Rising’s queen, I would not have survived long. He wasn’t going to be king, not at first, so we didn’t think there would be any danger in being married for his lifetime. When his father and older brother died, it all changed. He had to leave me to take Rising’s throne. I… no one in Rising could have accepted us together. He wouldn’t be able to protect anything if I was at his side,” Mai’ou said quickly and mournfully. The words had long ago been premeditated, but were supposed to have been untold eternally. It still wasn’t what Mai’ou had thought to say, exactly, many times before, but it was close. Facing the truth with her son so soon after the death of his father, she couldn’t help but jumble her words and meanings, and hide what she still could.

“In other words, he loved you more than himself,” Va’il said.

Mai’ou’s heart felt conflicted. She remembered that she had once told Va’il that she had been afraid that her husband might not have completely cared for her. Though she loved him, she couldn’t help but feel his love wasn’t as strong if he wasn’t willing to face fire and scorn and any trial for her. She would have. She thought, at times, that she should walk into the castle one day and then they could face the opposition together. However, what she told Va’il just a minute ago was the reality that she knew they would have faced, but still had doubts about. Rather than overcome the risks, Fidel had opted for Mai’ou’s complete safety.

She doubted that for a moment when she realized that by making Va’il king, Fidel would have invalidated his own love of her. It passed when she remembered the secret truth of Rising’s kings that Fidel had revealed to her. The truth that would save her son, the only heir of Rising.

And though that raised and reminded her of other doubts, all she could do was tell Va’il yes and then hug him again. Even though the seasons would change one after another, Mai’ou’s and Va’il’s relationship would stay strong as they grew to a better understanding of each other and the man who had the greatest influence on their lives.

“You’re forgiven.”

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Book one has ended, on to book two

Tomorrow is the first post of The Lupine Chevalier. And last week The Lupine Prince ended. So before it begins, thoughts and things about book one.

First is that it technically ends before the final scene. The final scene is the lead-up to the next book. Or even the first scene of book two.

Second is that it was rather obvious the whole way through who Va’il was. That wasn’t ever a mystery, of course, but who he was had some huge influences on how things panned out overall. Meaning, King Fidel figured out who he was upon their first meeting. That is also somewhat obvious, but I’d like to point out something even more important: who is Mai’ou? Alas, that won’t be covered until book three.

Third is now going over the main cast: Va’il, the silver-haired half-lupus. His mother, Mai’ou. His three friends: Kelin the lupus, Pete the swine, and Zeick the half-felis. Harnes, his avian classmate who has black feathers and finds herself drawn to him.

Jane Melonscone, the high-noble whose actions towards her daughter began everything, and whose other actions set even more things up. Ruby, the daughter who set events in motion with the maroon. Shiroi, an avian girl with white feathers who attends to Ruby and is her friend.

King Fidel, a strange king who doesn’t bemoan his inevitable death. Yet for how enigmatic he appears, his actions, abilities, and fatherhood show he has many secrets. Darius and Var, a commander and his subordinate who interact with the main characters.

There are also several others who have major and minor parts, but for now these are the core cast for book one and part of book two.

Finally, book two will be a new kind of adventure.

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