The Lupine Saga 31

Admiring the scenery took but a moment as the boys rushed towards the direction of the room Eason was in. Beneath them was room number six. Leaning over the edge of the wall, they could see a balcony below them, and could hear voices from inside the room.

“Mr. Inktop, please hold still,” Eason said.

“I can’t help it! That’s cold!” Mr. Inktop said.

“If you keep jumping around, I won’t be able to hear your heartbeat. Now, sit!” Eason, truly a lupus at heart, growled with his last words. A small huff was heard from Mr. Inktop as he sat down.

“How has your wife been doing?” Eason asked casually. The sounds of Eason moving around Mr. Inktop made their way up to the boys.

“She’s been sick with the boy again. Another flu struck him. My poor boy just hasn’t got much defense. And here I am, stuck working all the time.”

“He’s still young though, right? What did the doctor say?”

“That it’s going to make him stronger later on. She said that he hasn’t been getting sick too often to be a real problem. He’s just catching things constantly. She said that later on in life he’d probably get sick much less, but I don’t know. Eason, is it normal?”

“Probably. I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I do always hear from my older patients the complaint that they never got sick when they were younger, and once they hit mid-life things just start hitting them one after another.”

“Oh, so it’s the opposite of my, ah! Cold! Didn’t that warm up already?”

“New one, for your lungs. Breath in deeply.”

The examination went on for a while. The three boys on the rooftop paid attention to every mundane detail of the conversation between the men, to see what they might glean. Unfortunately, the conversation was rather bland and uninteresting. The only exciting parts were when Mr. Inktop made a new sound of surprise each time Eason did a different test.

“Well, I’ll give you a passing grade today,” Eason said. “I want you to keep paying attention to your knees; keep applying this balm daily. And no jumping. But I’m sure you wouldn’t do that anyways.” A deep laugh was heard from Mr. Inktop. Hearing the depth of the laugh impressed upon the boys that Mr. Inktop was probably a large man. He didn’t have an accent of any kind, so it was also difficult to tell what race he was. Of course, that meant that he probably didn’t have fangs like a lupus; the sound of a fanged speaker is just slightly different than the clarity that a human spoke with. Kelin guessed that Mr. Inktop was probably either a human or a swine. It was more likely that he was a swine, because humans rarely had non-human doctors.

“Great. Well, thank you, as always, Eason. It has been a real pleasure, as always,” Mr. Inktop said with a hint of sarcasm.

“Yes. I do look forward to our next prodding,” Eason replied.

“Thank you so much. I’ll try to lose those few pounds.”

“Yes, you do that. It’ll make my job easier.”

“Well, goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

There was a silence. Neither person seemed to be moving inside the room. No door opened. Nothing shut behind Eason as he left. He had not left.

“Are we forgetting anything?” Mr. Inktop asked cautiously.

“My payment.”

“Oh dear, yes, I seemed to have overlooked that, right,” Mr. Inktop said sadly. His attempt to get a free appointment with Eason had failed. It seemed to the boys that this was a common occurrence between these two; that was part of their chemistry. “Here it is. I hope you enjoy them. I added a few oddities from my private collection. The worth should be correct. But really, do you need such a high payment? I’m sure you make good money from your usual business?”

“You underestimate me,” Eason said with a pleasant tone. He didn’t explain any further.

“You’re a greedy doctor. Trustworthy, but I’ll sooner lose an arm before you save one!” Mr. Inktop spoke firmly, but he didn’t sound angry in the least.

“I’m sure your confidence in me will be repaid in full, one day. After all, I doubt you could trust anyone else. As such, a payment of my choosing is all too reasonable. Now if you’ll just excuse me for a moment. I’ll just place this here while I clean up in the washroom.”

A hand stretched out into the balcony. It was holding a wicker basket filled with items. Golden necklaces, polished stones, blocks of fine cheese, small toys, and many other items filled the basket. Some appeared very valuable, and others looked ridiculously worthless. They were all neatly arranged in the basket. Eason could be heard packing up his supplies and walking out of the room. The door shut behind him. Mr. Inktop walked into another room, and slammed the door shut behind him.

“Va’il, your bag,” Kelin said. As instructed, Va’il handed the bag he was carrying over to Kelin. Kelin pulled out three items that soon became one.

The hook of the fishing rod soon caught something in the basket below. A wide grin appeared on Kelin’s face. Pete and Va’il stood back quietly; though they objected to what Kelin was doing, they didn’t have the courage to stop him. Nor did they have the ability.

“Are you sure we should be doing this?” Va’il asked.

“It’ll be fine,” Kelin replied.

“But, you’re stealing from him,” Pete said.

“He stole from us first,” Kelin said with anger in his voice.

Va’il decided not to object to Kelin’s reasoning. Mai’ou was still Va’il’s; nothing had changed. But the risk of her being taken by this strange and despicable man wasn’t one he wanted to take. Therefore, he could at least go along with Kelin’s fervent desires. Kelin had finished pulling up the line.

“What’s that?” Va’il asked.

“A flute of some kind.” Pete said while crossing his eyes at the strange object.

“Why isn’t it straight?” Va’il asked.

“It’s because nobles are like that. They make strange objects and call them art,” Kelin said. Pete and Va’il, who were now over their moral objections due to the strange nature of the bent flute in front of them, awed in unison at the object. No matter how they looked at it, the idea that something so bent and twisted was really a flute was fantastic. Kelin tossed the object into his own bag. He handed back Va’il’s bag, into which Va’il placed the disassembled fishing rod. Va’il sighed lightly as the only bounty the rod had ever caught was a strange flute.

The opening and closing of a door was heard. The boys went back to looking down at the balcony. Eason arrived again, picked up the basket, and then walked out of the room again. Judging by the sounds below, it did not appear that Eason was bothered by the missing contents, nor even noticed. Mr. Inktop was still in the other room; no one would tell Eason what valuable treasure had just been plundered from him.

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The Lupine Saga 30

Eason walked past a shop filled with inventions and toys that Va’il had never seen before. Eason had business in the shopping center that occupied the second district. Va’il had to keep his mind on track while all the distractions in the shops beside him made their silent appeals. There was one thing in particular that made Va’il stop and stare. It was a spinning weather vane. The amazing part about the weather vane was that it was inside a glass ball; no wind was making it turn. By all counts, it looked like something that could only be spun by hand or wind, which made it even more confusing to the uneducated child.

“The metal is coated with slipstone. You’re probably too young to realize what this is. Did you want to get one as a present for your mother, boy? It will never stop spinning, for eternity.” The shop owner, a very old bearan, smiled happily at the young patron.

“Slipstone? Oh, um, no, I have to go right now. Bye.” Va’il stopped starting at the perpetually spinning device and ran off.

Eason had gotten a ways away from the boys, but he was still quite slow compared to an energetic child. Eason walked leisurely with a cane; time didn’t seem to matter to him. That was something the trio learned very quickly, as the travel time between each place Eason went to was extremely long. The second district was smaller than the third and fourth districts, but it was still too large to casually stroll through. Rising was a very large city where one could spend many hours or even days running or walking across.

Eason turned off the street into the estate of a majestic building. The boys had to look up to see the top; The October Hotel was one of the rare multiple-story buildings. It was five stories high and almost as wide as any top noble’s mansion. Marble pillars supported the roof of the entryway.

The boys followed after Eason as the heavy doors closed behind them. The lobby of the hotel was filled with art and couches. A few patrons were admiring a painting on the left. An old swine in an expensive suit was laid out on a couch to the right. Ahead was the reception desk. Two avian women with large smiles were behind the desk. At their left and right were two guards, human men with gruff expressions that matched their black suits. To the left and right of them were the stairs leading to the second level. Eason had ascended the stairs on the right and out of the vision of the boys.

“Hello, how can I help you?” The receptionist on the left smiled as the one on the right spoke.

“Which room did that man head to?” Va’il asked.

“Oh dear, who might you be, to be asking that?” the right receptionist said.

“Well, no one. But it’s important,” Va’il replied.

“Where are your parents?” the receptionist on the right asked, ignoring Va’il’s question. Kelin replied to the woman.

“I’m quite sure my father is deciding whether he should visit this cheap establishment tonight or not.” Kelin held his head high and refused to look either woman in the eye. The two guards, upon hearing his comment, walked up to the desk.

“What seems to be the problem, Gladis?” the guard on the right said.

Without letting the receptionist respond, Kelin quickly said, “No problem. Nothing at all, apparently. I’ll let my father know how rude the staff is here if they won’t even answer simple questions.”

“And just how could a bunch of kids covered in dirt,” the man on the left said, “and so obviously from the third or fourth district, know anyone of importance here in the largest, most expensive, and most luxurious of hotels in all the second district? In fact, why am I even bothering? Leave now. I’ll even help you out.” The man on the left grabbed Kelin’s left arm.

“Doufer, son of. Kelin. Did you not recognize the son of one of your officials?” Kelin spoke with an indifferent tone, and continued looking forward as he spoke. The man let go.

“Re… red? Sir! Sorry sir!” The two men bowed in unison. Their faces turned redder than Kelin’s hair once they realized who Kelin was.

“Oh dear! So you’re that child! I should have known,” the receptionist on the right said nervously; the one on the left continued smiling. “How can we make it up to you?”

“My friend asked a question earlier. It needs to be answered. Now,” Kelin said.

“Room six on the top level. The man is visiting a patron. Shall we announce your arrival?” the receptionist on the right asked.

“No. Roof access instead, and no escort. My father has business you do not need to know of, and must especially not speak of,” Kelin said.

The staff obliged very willingly. Each of the three boys was given pin with a golden ribbon to attach to their clothes. The avian woman told the boys how to reach the room, and watched cautiously as they boys ascended the stairs.

“Just how powerful is your father, Kelin?” Va’il asked.

“He is special. We are. Anyways, the October Hotel is closer to work than home. He is here often,” Kelin replied indifferently. Va’il and Pete decided to not ask further.

The roof of the hotel was flat. The boys walked to the edge and looked over the walls that kept them from falling. From there they could see most of Rising. The king’s castle, the huge estates that littered the first district, the markets of the third district, and the small houses that made up the majority of the fourth district were all visible. The sun was directly overhead and the sky was clear. Outside the city walls, farms and roads were visible for miles around.

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The Lupine Saga 29

“He’s moving!”

Exiting the estate was Eason Ar Raign. He wore a fancy top hat that had been pulled down tightly on his head. The edges of the hat just barely brushed the tops of his long ears. Today he was also wearing spectacles and a long jacket. In his left hand was a cane, and in his right was a small bag with a handle.

It was early morning. Three boys silently followed Eason every which way he went. His first stop was to get breakfast, which perplexed the boys.

“Isn’t he a noble, shouldn’t he have cooks at home?” Pete asked.

“Pork and eggs? Didn’t he buy so much from your mom the other day? Why isn’t he eating that?” Kelin asked.

The boys argued with a foe that couldn’t hear them as they mumbled their complaints. As they did, Eason finished his meal, and got up to leave.

Eason walked by three short people sitting on a bench. He didn’t pay much attention to them, as it was a common sight to see people reading newspapers. But he still couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something odd about it.

Dropping the newspapers, the boys heaved a sigh of relief.

“That scared me to death.” Pete was pinker than usual.

“We should have noticed that he was walking our way sooner.” Va’il had sweat on his forehead, even though it was chilly.

“That’s what the newspaper is for. Look, it worked at least. He didn’t suspect a thing. We will have to thank Pete’s dad for being such an avid reader,” Kelin said.

They folded the papers up and put them in bags that each of them carried. The boys continued stalking Eason.

After greeting just about every noble who passed his way, Eason headed towards his actual objective. The boys’ patience was wearing thin from the constant stopping that Eason had done, though it was not even an hour since they started following him. He had finally stopped strolling casually, and had started to walk briskly in a single direction. He walked along main streets only, until he arrived at a building in the second district.

The building was a daycare for children, as illustrated by the many kids running around and playing in the sizable yard. None of them paid any attention to Eason entering the building. They did notice when three boys also entered the yard and stood by one of the windows, however not one of them cared to investigate why the boys were there.

“There’s desks inside. Is this also a school?” Pete asked with a whisper.

“Yeah. Mum put me in one for a while, when I was young,” Va’il replied. Pete nodded in acknowledgment. Pete’s mother didn’t have to work, unlike Mai’ou. Neither Pete nor Kelin had needed to be taken care of by strangers during the day.

“What’s Eason doing?” Kelin’s question focused the attention of his accomplices.

Eason entered the building and was greeted by a small avian girl with black feathers. She smiled at him, and then ran out to play with the other children. Eason walked around the classroom slowly, tapping his cane with every step.

There were several small desks and chairs, and at the head of the classroom was a large desk; a teacher’s desk. There were a couple doors leading to other places in the building. A lupus woman entered the room from one of the side doors.

Eason greeted her with a warm hug. The two of them embraced tightly for a moment. The lupus woman had very light hair, and was a little younger than Eason. She looked very dignified and mature, and she also emanated a sense of warmth. Kelin and Va’il felt this, though Pete, a swine, could not. To Pete, the woman seemed like any other motherly figure, though he very much doubted she could cook as well as his own mother.

The boys couldn’t hear what the woman was talking about with Eason. All the windows were closed, and the glass didn’t let any sound through. Eason was sitting casually in a chair at the side of the desk that the woman was sitting at. She handed him a few papers, which he looked over and then returned. The conversation continued for a while without many actions taken by either person. The conversation ended when the two of them stood.

“Hey, they are embracing again,” Pete said.

The couple hugged again, and immediately followed with a kiss. Though the couple could not hear it, outside one of the windows three boys had just fallen backwards.

“A kiss,” Va’il said, dazed.

“Quick, Va’il, get out the cup!” Kelin was shaking Va’il’s shoulder. Va’il reached into a bag he was carrying, and brought out a glass cup. Kelin snatched it from him and placed it against the window. Kelin then pressed his ear to the back of the cup.

“Is that really going to work?” Pete asked doubtfully.

“Just be quiet, I think I can make something out,” Kelin said. Eason and the woman had stopped embracing, and Eason was holding the woman’s hands. He was talking to her.

“I think I hear it,” Kelin said. “Ok, he is saying, ‘… love you… only woman… married… get rid of… husband.'” Kelin said the last word quietly. A silence surrounded the trio, even though they were surrounded by loud children.

In a separate world, Eason bid farewell to the woman, and left the daycare. He headed south. Following behind him were a trio of very furious children.

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The Lupine Saga 28

The market district was filled with people of all kinds. It was the loudest place in the city. Merchants could be heard yelling the prices of their wares, and those that weren’t yelling were haggling with customers. A trio of boys lay on top of a house that overlooked the market.

“There’s Mum’s shop,” Va’il said while pointing down towards the shop on the other side of the street. Mai’ou was standing in front of a small door, and was behind a large table. She was taking orders from the people that had lined up. After each order, she’d go through the door behind her for a minute, and come out holding whatever product the person had asked for. She did nothing else but that for the rest of the day, much to the trio’s disappointment. They spent three hours on the roof, and not a single male lupus had visited.

“Hey, I have to go soon,” Pete said.

“Not yet, there is still a chance he shows up,” Kelin said.

“Kelin, Mai’ou is going to be done soon. I should get home before her,” Va’il said.

“You two. Fine. You can go. We’re not done investigating though, not at all,” Kelin said.

Kelin, true to his word, did not let the investigation falter. For two weeks, the trio spent a few hours per day watching over Mai’ou’s shop. The number of male lupus who visited her was low. There were a couple that the trio thought might be the culprit, however each time it was only a Snag, Jeed, or Ari; never an Eason.

The constant vigil was putting a strain on the willpower of all three boys. Anything more than a day without a real lead was forever in their eyes. All of them eventually realized just how surprising it was that they continued to stick with the surveillance.

“Wasn’t this supposed to be done and over with?” Pete was sitting up while eating an apple. A collection of large seeds was at his side; he had been eating nectarines earlier. A few feet behind him was a sizable collection of seeds that had gathered over the past days.

“You don’t have to wait any longer. There,” Kelin said while pointing. At Mai’ou’s shop was a lupus man. He had dark hair, dressed very nicely in a black suit, and held a brown cane. He wore spectacles and a black hat. He looked middle-aged, and was probably between one-hundred and one-hundred and eighty years old.

The boys quickly jumped up and ran across the rooftops until they came to a bridge. They crossed over and ran towards the roof of Mai’ou’s shop. They got as close to the edge as they could, without being seen, and listened to the conversation below them.

“Mai’ou, my dear! What specials do you have today?” The man was enigmatic with his gestures and manner of speaking. The boys could see his cane whipping around as he gestured wildly.

“Mr. Eason! It’s been too long! Without your weekly order, my pockets feel a little lighter. You cannot be leaving me for that long again!” Mai’ou was just as energetic with her words as Mr. Eason. The boys, upon hearing the name, knew their target had arrived. However, Mai’ou’s attitude instilled an understandable fear in each of them.

“Dear, you know how work goes. I just have to take it as it comes. I too, have been sorely missing the choice trimmings that you provide.”

“Yes, I know too well. But, you couldn’t have missed me too much. Your orders are always so large. The last time you were here, I ran out of black ink! Even a voracious eater couldn’t possibly finish that much so quickly. I’m surprised at how you do it.”

“You flatter me too much, though all in good jest. But I do love it, even though I don’t eat it all. A scrap to the left, to the right, I have to just throw away so much stuff that I don’t want,” Eason said while laughing heartily. He laughed like a large man should.

“Yes, I suppose that you must waste so much,” Mai’ou replied while also laughing, “but as long as you buy from me, it’s just fine.”

“Dear, you’re almost as greedy as a noble.”

“I’m not greedy! I just know how to make a profit. Besides, you know what I think of you.”

“Yes dear. But anyways, your admiration will have to wait for today. I’ll come back to discuss that one matter we spoke of before in a little while, once work calms down. Right now there are so many issues with noble children, and you just would never believe the situations. I suppose I cannot talk of it, otherwise even my neck wouldn’t be safe.”

“Well then, let me get your order. What will it be for the noble Eason Ar Raign?”

The boys above were struggling. Pete and Va’il were holding Kelin’s arms and pulling with all their might. Kelin had earlier tried jumping down while mumbling something about wasteful eating. Va’il noticed that Kelin’s expression had drastically changed when Eason said: “I have to just throw so much stuff that I don’t want away.”

The three boys tumbled and fell as Kelin relaxed. Staring into the sky, Kelin spoke.

“I’ll get him.”

“What has you riled up?” Pete asked.

“He’s bragging about wasting food. Mai’ou too, I can’t believe your mom,” Kelin said.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen her like that. She’s always so tight with spending,” Va’il said.

“She’s a smart businesswoman,” Pete said dryly. “I’ve seen dad act like that before. He always complained about this one seller whenever he came home. For weeks, he’d just complain every night about how horrible the seller was. One day dad had me help him at work. That seller came. Dad was so friendly that I couldn’t move. He acted like he loved the man. It was strange. He said it’s part of business to know how to please even people you hate.”

“You’re ridiculous, comparing Mai’ou to that. This is the man that she’s going to marry. Marry!” Kelin said. “You can’t just say she’s putting on an act. Maybe she is though. No, no, I can’t be that optimistic.”

Kelin buried his head in his hands. Va’il stood back and looked over the edge of the roof again. Eason was walking off and Mai’ou was nowhere to be seen. Probably counting money in the shop, Va’il thought.

“He’s going!” Va’il said to the two other boys.

“Huh?” Pete and Kelin looked dumbfounded. Then it clicked. Kelin regained his composure and ran to the roof’s edge to check where Eason was.

“Well come on, he’s getting away,” Kelin said while dashing off towards the next rooftop.

The boys followed Eason while running from rooftop to rooftop. Eason walked at a very slow and casual pace. He didn’t speak to anyone he saw in the streets, nor did he stop at any shops to buy anything. He left the market district and headed towards the first district, where most nobles lived.

The boys had to stop traveling by rooftop once Eason entered the first district. The first district was filled with larger houses and estates, so it was no longer possible to jump a few feet to get to the next house. There were many alleyways in the area that Eason walked through, so the boys had no trouble hiding. Only the top nobles had giant estates, the rest settled on large houses that were next to each other. There was also a variety of politicians in the area, though none of that mattered to the children at the moment.

Eason entered a large blue and white house; the family sign at the entrance was engraved with: “Ar Raign.” They had located the house of the target; things would become clearer, Va’il decided.

“Kelin, have you got a plan now?” Va’il asked with enthusiasm. Va’il had finally gotten into the spirit that Kelin had been exhuming all along.

“Nope. But, it’s on its way. We have a vital piece of intelligence. You two know how to get back to this house again?” Va’il and Pete nodded.

“Oh no, not another stakeout!” Pete said, and then moaned.

“Please, don’t take me for a fool. We’ve got the target. This target will move around, I’m sure of it. We only have to find out when he leaves, and the rest will fall into place. I just need you two to bring along a few things next time.”

“What kind of things?” Va’il asked. Kelin smiled.

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The Lupine Saga 27

Va’il’s arm healed after a few weeks. The break wasn’t as bad as expected. The worst part, according to the doctor, was the amount of time it took Va’il to come to him. The doctor treated the area, as the swelling was still an issue, and then put a cast on the arm. A few weeks later, the bones were healed enough to remove the cast.

“It’s white,” said Mai’ou.

“Mhm,” Va’il responded while bringing a spoonful of soup to his mouth.

“You should leave your arm in the sun for a while.”

“Mum, that’s silly.”

“But it’s white!”

“I’m always this pale,” Va’il said while holding up both arms together. Though the left one was whiter, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two arms. Mai’ou didn’t respond. She just stared disapprovingly while eating the soup.

“Did you have fun today?” she asked casually.

“Yeah! We found a beetle the size of a finger, with a scary looking head! Pete nearly had a conniption when I dropped it on his head!” Mai’ou stared at Va’il disapprovingly. He didn’t seem to notice. “But we had to leave it where we found it. Nobody was willing to take it home. It was pretty scary. How about you, Mum?”

“Oh, nothing much. It was a normal day at the store. Oh, there was one thing. One of my regular customers proposed to me. Mr. Eason, a lupus. I handed him two pounds of lamb, he asked me for my hand in marriage.”

Mai’ou twirled her spoon in the air casually while looking away from Va’il. She heard Va’il’s spoon finally fall into the bowl. She looked at him while smiling to see his expression. His mouth was closed tightly, and he was looking down. His eyes were wide, and his nose was flared. Mai’ou noticed that the claws on Va’il’s right hand were protruding. She smiled and remained silent. After a few moments, Va’il picked up the spoon and continued eating. He didn’t say anything for the rest of the night. Mai’ou smiled, and remained silent through dinner as well. She talked while putting Va’il to bed later that night, but Va’il remained mysteriously silent. It was a little worrisome to Mai’ou, but she didn’t pry into Va’il’s silence.

#

“We have a problem.” Va’il, Kelin, and Pete were standing in the middle of a small shack in Pete’s yard. They had outfitted the shack with a few chairs, hidden toys, and books. Papers detailing the various imaginative ideas and plans the children had come up with over the years littered the floor. They had just entered the shack when Va’il made his announcement.

“Gentlemen, let us sit,” Va’il said.

“Boys, did you want some juice or water?” A woman’s voice was heard at the door to the shack.

“Just some almonds, orange juice, cinnamon bread, and three apples,” Pete replied to Calatan, his mother. Va’il and Kelin each asked for milk. They made sure she had walked off before continuing the conversation.

“As you were saying, Va’il,” Pete said.

“Yes, a problem. A big one. Too big. I’m not sure I should even say it,” Va’il said.

“Just out with it,” Kelin said with a growl.

“You’re not going to like it. It’s Mai’ou,” Va’il said.

“What, what happened to Mai’ou?” Kelin asked. He became very interested, and Pete leaned closer while resting his arms on the table.

“It’s, she just told me the other day that she’s getting married,” Va’il said.

“What?” the other two boys shouted in unison. The shock was apparent in both of their faces; never had a lupus and a swine ever looked so similar. Va’il expected one of them to fall out of their chair, but both were leaning even closer now.

“Explain, now!” Kelin’s fangs were looking more prominent than usual.

“She said a customer, a lupus man named Eason; he’s the one who asked her,” Va’il said.

“And who is he?” Kelin asked.

“A customer,” Va’il said plainly. Kelin and Pete looked at each other incredulously.

“And, still, who is he?” Pete picked up where Kelin left off.

“Uh, I don’t know any more,” Va’il said while shrugging his shoulders.

“That’s not nearly enough! Didn’t you ask more?” Kelin asked.

“No, I didn’t know what to say,” Va’il said with another shrug.

“So you didn’t even object?” Kelin asked.

“No. So, you understand the problem now?” Va’il said.

“All too well,” Kelin said while shaking his head. “Va’il, you really need to learn to look into things with more depth. Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

The three boys stood up and walked out of the shed. They headed into the back of Pete’s house. His mother was waiting in the kitchen with a plate full of snacks and drinks. Pete had a good-sized house in the city’s second district. His father was a spice merchant and made enough to afford more than what they had. The house itself was simple, elegant, and spacious. There were five rooms, which allowed Pete separation from the rest of his siblings. His mother, a tall swine who was heavier than she looked, was a homemaker. She served the boys happily with peanut butter and apples. Glasses of milk were set on a fancy oak table. The boys quickly ate, said their goodbyes to Calatan, and ran out the front door.

“So what’s the plan?” Pete asked.

“We find the guy,” Kelin replied.

“And then?” Va’il asked.

“We… we do things. I haven’t got that far yet. We will think of a plan once we have investigated the enemy.” With that, the boys took off.

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