The Lupine Saga 141

“Hey Va’il. That’s nice and all, but you’re going to have to fill me in,” Kelin said.

Va’il looked at Ruby’s back for a moment, then turned to face his friend. He talked for a while and Kelin just listened, taking in every word. After Va’il finished, Kelin closed his eyes for a minute while thinking.

“Okay,” Kelin said, “I think I understand a bit. We’ll talk more in-depth another time, maybe with pen and paper. But for now, it looks like things aren’t over.”

“That’s it? No wondering about me being the son of the king?” Va’il asked.

“You’re Va’il. Son of King Fidel. And my friend. I’m both surprised and not. But the important thing is that I believe you. And that I’ve missed you. We all have. But at least, I’m not as worried as I was earlier. And there’s still much to do and say, and of course worry about. And there’s one other thing that I have to think of now, isn’t there?”

“What do you mean?” Va’il asked.

“Me,” Doufer said, appearing suddenly near Kelin.

“Father,” Kelin said.

“Sir, thank you for earlier,” Va’il said. He still felt twinges of fear in Doufer’s presence, but it was a different feeling than before.

“It was my duty,” Doufer said.

“Duty? But you didn’t have to do anything for me,” Va’il said.

“So you’ve never told him, Kelin?” Doufer asked.

“I couldn’t have guessed this. I just thought he was a commoner. I didn’t think anything of telling him more than that we were powerful nobles. I was wrong. But I did know he was special. And he is my friend,” Kelin said.

“All right. And now, son, I’ve got to laugh at it all. Just by being friends with him, you won. Do you think that’s fair to your brothers?” Doufer asked.

“I admit that my feelings were mixed. But my feelings are finally pure. I’ve always thought of him as a sort-of rival, as well as friend, and fellow lupus. But now, I’m happy for him, who he is, what he’s better than me at, what he’s worse than me at, and that he is who he is. And that my friend has paid me back. Maybe I’ve spent so much time working at beating my brothers that it does seem like a waste when I see I’ve always been at the goal. But you know what? I’m a lupus, and I’ve reached the goal, I’ve left those who lost behind me.

“I won. And that’s what matters. I’m no human who’ll worry about the fairness of the competition with my brothers. And knowing it was my best friend who helped me win, regardless of whether I knew it or not, makes me proud. Is that what you were asking father, the real question of whether I was thinking like a human since I’m around them so often, or that of my blood, the lupus?” Kelin asked. Va’il had never heard Kelin talk with such conviction of emotion before, but the content of the message was something he didn’t understand yet.

“Good answer. Congratulations son, you won. You won against those with so many years on you. You didn’t have to waste nearly as many years in ambition. And so I relinquish my duty. You inherit it from now on. Fulfill it. You are a lupus, and never forget that,” Doufer said.

“You’re relinquishing it now? But I’m still not old enough. There’s still the matter of official recognition. And besides, he needs more than me, doesn’t he?” Kelin asked.

“Yes, now. Immediately. And Rising’s recognition doesn’t matter to me anymore. This is the right child, I already have a personal reason to know that. Besides there are other things I want to do anyways. I’ll prepare to go home. And I have a feeling that based on how today went, your friend will eventually make his way there. Age doesn’t matter. You’re my son. You’ll do fine,” Doufer said.

“Thanks, but home? Do you mean home, or my home?” Kelin asked.

“Mine. So many years away. It’s time. Duty and family and all that. And the things I’ve heard of. Something important may have happened. This works out well for me. Take care of them. You have a true duty now,” Doufer said. He patted his son on the shoulders, then leaned down and told him a few matters in a whisper not even Va’il could hear. After that, Doufer walked out, leaving Va’il, Kelin, and Ruby behind.

“What just happened? You know who I am Kelin. But now I have to ask, just who exactly are you?” Va’il asked.

“Well, we’ve known each other for years, but I’ve kept some things private. You know lupus live for a long time. My father isn’t young either, of course. And he’s not just any lupus. He’s important. And now I am, now that I’ve taken over his job in Rising. I view Rising as my home, but that’s because I came here shortly after my birth. I was born in Aris, the lupus nation far to the northeast, as were all my other family members. I’m not a true citizen of Rising. We’re here on behalf of Aris,” Kelin said.

“What? Not Rising, but Aris? The nation of lupus? Wow,” Va’il said. At hearing all this even Ruby had to approach the boys.

“Aris, the lupine nation. The nation that Nightmare came from. The nation where a single female lupus stopped the Grip army from invading at Gren. You’re a real, not just by birth, but true lupus, aren’t you Kelin?” Ruby asked.

“Oh, you’ve heard of that? I wouldn’t think anyone outside of Aris would know of that kind of stuff. It’s interesting you mention that. They call her Nightmare? I suppose she would be. It’s not exactly a happy story for Grip I’d suppose. But enough of war stories in the far past regarding aunt Renshia. Aris and her lupus citizens don’t care for humans talking about them and their people, regardless of how old the stories are. But I suppose that’ll make some things easier for Ruby to understand, at least,” Kelin said.

“A family member,” Ruby whispered to herself, and for the first time she felt a little frightened of Kelin. Va’il also reacted slightly, but he couldn’t recall what in Kelin’s words made him react. Kelin picked up on Ruby’s reaction and chuckled slightly, and then continued.

“Kelin Knight, son of Doufer Knight. One of the families that guard and work for the ruler of Aris. We are those who protect the nation from any threat, internal or external. And several years ago, around the time of my birth, there was a diplomatic mission from Rising. And Fidel was sent as part of that mission, to secure some things with Aris. This was before he became the king, very shortly before. And Aris decided to send a family with Fidel as ambassadors of a sort. That was my family.

“As you know, Fidel’s father and brother were killed, you know that battle from history, prompting Fidel to return as king, and us with him, as members of Aris. The job my father had was to assist in guarding the royal family, Fidel, and handling any specific matters Fidel entrusted to him. We didn’t even know we failed Rising until today. Even though we were unable to prevent the atrocity against King Fidel, there is still the royalty for us to think of.

“Va’il, my friend, a prince and king, Kelin Knight offers his claws and fangs to you. A lupus of Aris to work for you. A lupus of Aris to guard you. A lupus of Aris to take care of your foes. A lupus of Aris to guard those you hold dearest. A lupus of Aris commits to his word. A lupus of Aris, Kelin Knight, by order of the matriarch of Aris, is here for you. This is our duty. Accept it,” Kelin said.

“You’re my friend, Kelin. I don’t want you to be anything else,” Va’il said.

“Don’t say such things. We are friends. And always will be. So here and now, as a friend, as a lupus yourself, honor not just the things that tie us, but the commitment from our nation to you, the symbol of Rising,” Kelin said.

“I don’t plan on being king,” Va’il said.

“That doesn’t matter to us. Our nation only promised to look after the royal family. You are it. And I’m saying this as a friend, that regardless of this commitment, I always intended to protect my friends as well. Don’t you dare think this means I’m going to bow to you and say subservient things, I’m a pretty proud lupus you know. Aris is a proud nation. And I’m proud that my friend ends up being the person. For me it’s a two for one deal. I don’t have to work for some stranger now, do I?” Kelin asked.

“Then, thank you. I accept. I didn’t think you’d call me something fancy anyways. We’ll have to work on that,” Va’il said. He and Kelin both laughed and then shook hands.

“Well, that settled, I think we’ve been in this place long enough. We’ll have to talk more, but not here. I know Mai’ou’s gone, and before you ask, I don’t know where she went. We’ll talk more about that later, but she’s lupus, she must be fine. And well, now that I know who you truly are, there’s some guesses we can make about your mother, aren’t there? For now though, you don’t have anywhere to go tonight, do you?” Kelin asked.

“Thank you, I don’t. I understand, and I’m starting to feel a bit better about Mum. I’ll find her,” Va’il said. Kelin nodded. They took a couple steps, and then Va’il was stopped. There was a hand grabbing his arm.

“Don’t forget me here,” Ruby said. She looked at Va’il seriously, and held his arm tightly.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to. Are you safe going home, shall we all go?” Va’il asked. He felt bad and thought of what Ruby had said to him, and pangs of guilt affected him when he looked at her.

“Not today. Not tonight. Mother’s gone. I know Shiroi is there, waiting, wondering what’s happening. But it’s probably just her now. And then there’s tomorrow, and it’ll just be me and her. And I know this is hard and it’s embarrassing, but do you think you could all come back with me? The house is huge, with so many rooms, you can take any of them, just knowing that you’re all in the same place when it feels like I’ve been abandoned, just please. That huge, empty place, I don’t want it to feel that empty, not today. After the past year, after all this, to lose and gain so much, do you think, please? A lot of rooms, everywhere, you can pick any. Do you think?” Ruby asked, and almost pleaded.

“That place looks empty enough from the outside. Even being full inside, I wouldn’t want to stay there virtually alone either,” Kelin said. “Of course Ruby. In that case, I’ll catch up with you two in a little bit. First, so many things, so much to do.”

Kelin then took off without waiting for Va’il’s response, leaving Ruby and Va’il behind.

“I guess that settles it. Though a small room in a dingy inn on the side of a dusty road has its own appeal, sure, I’d appreciate a room and a bed fit for a king,” Va’il said while laughing lightly, taking a small moment of joy where he could, knowing the pains of the day, week, year, lifetime, were still there, waiting, wanting, trying to rise and overwhelm him and her.

“Thank you,” Ruby said while smiling and tipping her head very slightly.

And then, side by side, they left that great hall. They walked out into the light, and laughed for no reason while walking down the steps in front of the entrance.

They knew that things weren’t over. That their lives had some turns in store for them they couldn’t expect. And that the day was emotional and tumultuous and demanding. But the teens from one year ago weren’t here, and the ones in their place could momentarily set aside all the sadness, sorrow, and surprise, and together they laughed.

Ruby looked at Va’il, the boy who may have been a little younger than her, but had protected her. The boy that had been both a source of and a solution to problems of hers. But for now she set that aside and laughed joyously, knowing he was still there, that her wish could be fulfilled. She looked forward towards the future, knowing that it was a good thing, a wondrous thing, that Va’il was now something more, and could be even more. He was so much more now, so Ruby was proud to say that this was Va’il’s final day as her knight, her lupine chevalier.

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The Lupine Saga 140

“Poor Madam Melonscone,” Jin said. He closed his eyes for a moment and slowly shook his head.

“Yes,” Va’il said. He couldn’t think of more. But he couldn’t worry about Jane at that second.

“A year,” Jin said.

“What?” Va’il asked.

“Find the killer and the Right within a year, and you shall prove who you are,” Jin said.

“If I could, I’d try and find out within a day, an hour, a minute, a second. Don’t think I’d delay on purpose,” Va’il said. He meant it, all other things he had been concerned about had been swept into the background. This day had brought him closer to his true father, brought him closer to understanding him, and all the years of loneliness, scorn, ridicule, desire, had been focused into anger at the one who proved that man right to leave his wife. For a while Va’il would let that anger burn. And then he’d lower the flames, as he had done so many times prior in life. Even though part of him wanted to stay enraged, years of being a half and enduring what that entailed from his peers made him automatically control and reduce that rage.

“Of course, and the nation will assist you as needed for the next year in your search. But if it does take longer, the nation will move on. Rising is strong, we’ll find a way of governing or finding a new kingship somehow, even if it does mean we lose the true line of kings. The nobility has hoped for a true heir, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed of what should happen should Rising be unable to find one. You have a year,” Jin said.

“I’ll find the killer somehow. I do love Rising. Regardless of the time taken, I know the nation will survive and thrive. Regardless of what happens. But, I have my own reservations about you, Regent Jin. But until this matter is taken care of, I suppose my hands are full. For now, I thank you,” Va’il said.

Jin simply smiled. He turned to the audience and gave a very short speech apologizing for all that’d happened, and then he left the room. The audience also started to leave, all ready to tell those who didn’t know what truths and rumors had surfaced at what was supposed to be a grand wedding.

Jin left the main hall and walked through a few corridors. While he was alone in one, a man’s voice appeared behind him.

“I saw,” Gardos said, appearing in a dark garb.

“Gardos. No one is near us, right?” Jin asked.

“It’s fine. You’re still so jumpy after that lupus, aren’t you?” Gardos asked.

“Better to stay away from the trouble he brings. But anyways, quite a performance, wouldn’t you say?” Jin asked.

“A fascinating one. That bearan was unexpected. We rewarded him before when he told us of the girl’s livelihood. Who knew he’d do something like that? That said, Listus is still crying,” Gardos said with a small smirk. “Aside from that, what are you thinking? A half boy? We hope you have good reason, or I’ll resume the original plan.”

“We’ll resume with some adjustments now, he is just a bonus. I was hasty in there, but it is better this way. For it’s him. He’s the true son. Even with his surprising heritage, it’s him,” Jin said.

“Even so, why go along with it?” Gardos asked.

“Because he’ll find us the Right! I’ve searched everything, everywhere, and nothing has been found. Every secret library, every personal possession of all the past kings, and not a single book explaining how to use it. Fidel must have already passed it on to his child somehow. Maybe he doesn’t even know he has it, but if there’s any chance of finding it and using it, the boy may be able to. And if not, we adjust and continue. It’s not as though the boy will ever become king. But if we have the Right, with that kind of authority, I can just feel it Gardos!” Jin said.

“I still don’t believe in it. But if there is a chance, I suppose we can let it go. It’s not like anything will help the boy. But then again, are you sure about revealing the truth of Fidel’s death, as well as modifying our plans?” Gardos asked.

“Of course. It’s not like he’ll ever discover the truth. And the truth wouldn’t come out. I doubt even with a Right now that preparations have been made, but without it, there is none. That’s why. If he has it, he’ll have to use it in finding the so-called truth. And that’s when we’ll take it from him, and finally have it for ourselves. That’s the only reason it was revealed,” Jin said.

“Ourselves? Are you,” Gardos started to say.

“I mean, of course, for Grip. You know what I mean, Gardos,” Jin said with a bit of fluster in his voice.

“Of course. For Grip and the Head Lord. Of course. I won’t ask you how you intend to take something that you’re not sure even exists, or even works like how you suppose, but I do have to admit this amuses me. And so does that boy. That child is rather incredible, don’t you think?” Gardos asked while smiling.

“The boy? So he barges in and ends up being the son of the king, I admit it’s fascinating, but I don’t know what else to make of him. Gardos? That look, what are you thinking?” Jin asked.

“I’ve met him before. In fact, he and the girl together, how interesting. And after recalling some other things I’ve heard from my people, I think I know something more. I probably know him far better than you. Hah, now I’m beginning to wonder if he’s actually able to find the true killer. How interesting,” Gardos said.

“Nonsense. Just a silly child. He’ll never find out. But for the Right and any chance at it, he could be useful,” Jin said.

“Think what you want Jin. I’ll continue my preparations. I’ll just say I think I gave you fair warning. Maybe nothing will come of it. If something does, we’ll be ready. This may be fun,” Gardos said.

Jin shook his head and then continued on, and Gardos slipped back into the shadows. Considering how things were going off-track, Gardos was in a far better mood than he should have been.


Va’il opened his eyes, and realized he was looking at the ceiling of the hall. But he knew he had just been standing.

“Oh, he’s conscious again.”

Va’il recognized the voice. But he couldn’t understand why he was on the ground. He tried to think, to remember what had just happened. Jin had left the hall, the audience left, and there was something else. Va’il tried to recall. After a bit he had turned and thought he may have said something, but what, and why he was now on the ground, he couldn’t recall. And that voice, that boy’s voice, why was it there now?

“Slowly, Va’il. You’ve only been down for less than a minute. I guess I got here right on time. I saw it, but from that kind of force I’m surprised you’re waking so fast,” Kelin said.

Va’il blinked a couple times and saw his friend’s face looking at him. There was a stupid grin on his face, but it was Kelin.

“Add another item to confusing things happening. Kelin, why are you here? What happened? And, it’s good to see you again,” Va’il said.

“Zeick told me. I rushed here as fast as I could. And you, little fool, have some explaining to do yourself. What’s this I hear about Fidel’s son?” Kelin asked. Va’il laughed slightly and sat up. His head felt a bit woozy and there was a bit of pain near his chin.

“Why don’t you answer me first?” Va’il asked. He tried standing, but felt dizzy and almost lost his balance. He looked around for a moment and noticed that almost everyone was gone. He noticed Doufer standing silently in a dark corner watching him, and he saw one more person of note. In the front row sat Ruby, her arms crossed and eyes red.

“Ask her. She’s the one who knocked you out,” Kelin said, and then he pointed at the girl who turned away with a slight hum and reddish face.

“Ruby did what?” Va’il asked.

“All I saw was her hit you just right, and down you went. Quite a proficient and technical hit, really. I don’t suppose that’s one of the things you learned while away, Ruby?” Kelin asked. He was still wearing a smirk.

“I didn’t mean to knock him out!” Ruby yelled back. “I just, just, well he deserved it one time, and a slap wouldn’t have been enough!”

“What?” Va’il asked. He walked over to Ruby, who wouldn’t look up at him.

“You liar,” Ruby said lightly. Va’il dropped his look of surprise. He then remembered. He had apologized to Ruby after all that had happened, and she responded with a hook to the chin.

“Yeah, I’m a liar,” Va’il said.

“Well don’t lie again. Or I’ll hit you again,” Ruby said. She then looked up at Va’il, looking both angry and sad.

“Okay, Ruby. I won’t lie. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for things to go like this,” Va’il said.

“Just when I thought it was all going well. You told me you were so sure he was at the school. You helped. You thought of things. You helped me travel. And it was you, wasn’t it? It’s true, isn’t it? You were always right there. You deceived me,” Ruby said, a mix of various emotions appearing in her voice.

“I did. I’m sorry, I hurt you. But nobody could know. I couldn’t tell. But I’m sorry,” Va’il said.

“I know. But you could’ve! I wouldn’t have! I wouldn’t have, Va’il! But I can understand. I know. I understand. Even today, now I’ve lied. But it’s because you, you weren’t the person I thought you were! And the person I thought was, wasn’t. And now I’ve lost someone. Callous, but still, lost, and it should be your fault, but it isn’t. I know. Nobody could know,” Ruby said, her voice strained, torn between whether she should yell or cry or accept.

“I’m sorry,” Va’il said again.

“You have to do some things now,” Ruby said. She looked at Va’il and wiped her eyes. She then smiled. She had already forgiven him internally, knowing the truth about him, the one that depressed her because he had hidden it, yet made her happy for other reasons. And that scared her, because as much as it fitted in with her own dreams, to see them suddenly take hold of reality was a shock she wasn’t ready for. But Ruby, being Ruby, would get over it soon enough and embrace things positively, an outlook not many people in her position would have taken.

“Of course,” Va’il said.

“If you lie to me again, well, no. No, don’t lie to me again. About anything, ever. No matter what, you aren’t allowed to,” Ruby said.

“That’s okay,” Va’il said.

“No, you don’t understand really. Nothing, ever, not a single thing, not to me. To everyone else, but not me,” Ruby said. Va’il had to stop and think for a moment. He was already full of thoughts from all that had happened, but he still had to take a while to fully consider and appreciate Ruby’s request.

“Okay. I won’t. I won’t lie to you. It’s the least I can do,” Va’il said.

“Good,” Ruby said. She then stood and smiled. “Okay, so I’ll forgive you. Prince Va’il, Ruby Louise Melonscone forgives you for lying to her, and for being a half that has separated me from my mother indefinitely.”

“What? She’s what?” Va’il asked.

“She’s left. Thank you for freeing me from everything. Even her. It does hurt, a bit, some, a lot. But it’s the price of freedom. And I don’t mind the good that goes with a new burden,” Ruby said. She then turned away.

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The Lupine Saga 139

“How, and who?” Va’il eventually asked with a little composure. Ruby also left him at that point, to stand behind and watch, to let her own complex thoughts run, her own feelings that were in conflict.

“That, dear boy, sadly isn’t understood. How, oh, if only how could have been answered,” Jin replied while hanging his head.

“The king, the king doesn’t just get poisoned,” Va’il said as his thoughts started turning again.

“A person tests a king’s food, true. And Fidel often ate with others. But only he fell ill. Whatever it was, it was not something that worked instantly. Thus why we thought it was an illness at first. Afterwards the people of Ens did explain that’s part of why the king could last so long, but still they had no remedy. It acted slow enough to throw off when it happened, which day, who could’ve done it, and how, but was still vicious enough to carry through on its mission. And that’s all they were able to do, extend the time. I’m sorry it has to be revealed like this, in front of all, after the fact. I feel responsible to the nation, but it had been hoped we’d have more answers than we do,” Jin said.

“And you, you now expect me to do something about it?” Va’il asked, though his mind was already thinking of how to proceed, what he was going to do regardless of the answer.

“Ah, true. But if you are the true son of King Fidel, it’s not just your duty, but maybe even something only you can do. The king wasn’t able to pursue the matter too far due to how weakened he was in his final years, and how secret and sensitive a matter it was, but his son wouldn’t be restricted now, would you?” Jin asked.

“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” Va’il said.

“There is a second matter. Even if you could find the king’s murderer, there is a second thing that must be done to prove your heritage,” Jin said.

“I’d only want to find the person anyways. What else can there be?” Va’il asked.

“As the son of the king, there is something that’d fall to you. In order to rule, you must have The Right of the Ruler,” Jin said. The audience murmured, but the tone was much more hushed than usual. Va’il could tell that even amongst all that had happened, the air in the room changed in a different way, a way he couldn’t exactly pin. It was mysterious, but he wasn’t going to pay more attention to that than he had to.

“What’s that?” Va’il asked.

“A son of the true king should know. And only those of the kings truly know. But all of Rising’s kings had it. Whether it was really just an effect on the people in obedience to the king of Rising and their subservience to that ideal, or truly something more that gave an almost legendary quality to each king that no lay person could truly understand, is really unknown. Only the king knows. Which means, only the son knows. Find out what it is, find it, use it to find the murderer, and prove who you are,” Jin said.

“Wait, how can something that nobody but the king knows serve as proof without the king to prove it? That doesn’t make sense. And I only think the killer matters,” Va’il said, getting somewhat annoyed at Jin’s vagueness.

“The only people that can really answer that are those with the Right. All the rest of us can do is know without knowing. The Right is what a king’s unbreakable edicts are usually called. It was such an edict that was shown to I, to Jane Melonscone, and to Doufer, as well as to other important people, that proclaimed that Miss Melonscone and King Fidel’s son are to be wed. We are bound to fulfill that edict. We will obey the king’s final wishes as citizens of Rising, that’s the least we can do for him. Even with all that, all we can tell you is that it’s your job to figure out what that is, why it is, and then somehow use that knowledge to prove you have The Right of the Ruler,” Jin said.

Va’il didn’t understand fully. Jin seemed so convinced that there was something that kings had, but it seemed impossible to Va’il that no one else could really know what it was but the king. One thing from what Jin said did stay in his mind though, something that wouldn’t leave, but wouldn’t yet finish the puzzle. Va’il couldn’t ignore that Jin seemed to think a written edict was a Right, and yet, wasn’t. In truth Jin knew slightly more, and had only spoken what every other noble knew, but even Jin didn’t know the truth of the Right.

Va’il wasn’t yet sure, but he knew that there was something about this matter that he had to confirm somehow, even though he had fewer ideas about it than how he’d find his father’s killer, and that in itself seemed impossible. But he knew he had to do something, had to figure something out, and convinced himself he would do something. If not for himself, for King Fidel and for Mai’ou, wherever she may be. Va’il knew he had to find out what happened to her as well.

“There’s no way he can be Fidel’s son,” Jane Melonscone said in a flat voice. Va’il turned to look at her. She had lost her look of usual defiance. She then mouthed the words again. She shook her head slightly.

“Mother,” Ruby said. She then walked towards Jane and reached her arm out towards Jane’s.

“Get away from me!” Jane said, and then she slapped away Ruby’s outstretched hand.

“Mother,” Ruby said, repeating herself.

“I said get away, you unwanted girl! A half! He tricked me! He tricked me! Fidel, you betrayed me! Kaz betrayed me! I put up with him, and all he gave me was a useless girl. A half! I can’t do it! That’s not my child! That’s not Fidel’s child! I don’t care what my mind is telling me, I know it’s not true! Fidel, your Right won’t work! I didn’t want that child! Fidel, you betrayed me, betrayed all I believed in. Everything I’ve done and put up with, and you cut me off, cut me short!”

“No, mother, please calm down,” Ruby said while taking another step.

“Don’t come closer! I don’t know you. I don’t know anyone. I’m going home. I’m leaving this wretched city of lies and betrayal! Never appear in front of me. You have no relation to me! You are his daughter, a cursed girl who is surrounded by disabled, broken animals! Curse your father, I should have rejected him!” Jane then ran out of the room.

As the events continued to press on Jane left the city of Rising. She didn’t even return to her mansion, leaving the duty of firing all its staff to a messenger. Only one remained, having nowhere else to go, weeping while waiting for someone to come and tell her what was truly going on.

Jane left what she had in the city behind and returned to a province in the nation that she controlled. And there she stayed for the time being, unable to let herself return to the city that had been her second home for the longest time.

Rising, the place where she had lived with all her strength and wiles. The city that symbolized Fidel, the man who had ultimately betrayed her in a way she couldn’t understand and couldn’t forgive. The city of Kaz, the old man she had married and had a single child with for only one reason. The city that was home to the girl that she hadn’t wanted, but had because of what that child’s father could do for her own ambitions. The child that was supposed to be a symbol of Jane’s achievements, her name cemented for future legacies to adore, to give meaning to her life. Jane knew that she could still be a mother to a queen of Rising, but she thought it was all for naught. She couldn’t think of Ruby as her own any longer. She couldn’t bear the thought of the ridicule, being thought of as the mother of someone joined to a half, regardless of the position. It was all for naught, her ambitions were over. All she could do was separate herself, force herself to forget Ruby, the Right, and the final laugh that Fidel had at her expense.

“Fidel, why? Is that why you were looking so content when you finally left us?” Jane wondered, and then stopped. Madam Jane Lucrene Melonscone, the pitiful woman who tried her best to accomplish her goals, but couldn’t accept the truth of what would happen should she finally realize them.

Ruby’s hand hurt, but the sight of her mother running hurt worse. She knew where Jane was going. She knew the meaning of the words. And she knew her mother far too well to think she misunderstood or that she should just wait for Jane to calm down.

Ruby thought for a moment about what Jane had said, but the wounding words had to be pushed aside. She was still in front of an audience. She wouldn’t let herself break. Not like her mother.

Instead, she found herself thinking of Shiroi, who was still at home, sad and waiting for Ruby to appear again, hoping that Ruby would return even though her thoughts were telling her that Ruby wasn’t returning to the mansion either.

And then Ruby thought of the boy standing a short distance from her. And as much as she cared for him and knew he was standing there in his own pain, she couldn’t help but feel conflicted, angry at him for so many reasons, but so desperate for him to turn and look at her at that moment. But there were still the issues in front of her, in front of him, in front of them all, that Va’il had to speak on yet again.

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The Lupine Saga 138

“That boy?” Va’il asked while looking at Jin cautiously.

“A long story. So many years of searching, just to be fooled,” Jin said, though his words lacked emotion.

“That so? And what about Grip?” Va’il question, incomplete as it was, brought more murmurs, and Va’il could see that Jin was momentarily troubled. However, the old-looking man thought of something new, and for the briefest instant he had acquired a smile that quickly transitioned into a frown.

“Ah yes. I do wonder if that horrific nation had something to do with it. Maybe, though I could imagine even a peasant would be tempted to run a deception, should they think they could get away with it. No matter, it will be resolved. You have your own claims, though there is still no absolute proof Listus was an impostor, though we will punish him if it turns out to be a falsity. He’ll be kept safe in the meantime, Doufer needn’t worry. If he isn’t false, then that’ll be a problem we’ll deal with when the time comes. But mention of all this does bring up something new, supposed son of Fidel,” Jin said.

“True son. But where are you going with this?” Va’il asked, deciding against accusing Jin further without knowing all Jin was planning to say. He still had nothing more than vague suspicions, what more could he have asked Jin regarding Grip? It may have been true, but there was no way for Va’il to know it at that time. And even if he had, he still lacked a way to reveal the truth. Also, Jin was about to provide a new train of thought for Va’il which would push all his suspicions regarding Jin to a much lower priority.

“Boy, if you are Fidel’s son, there should be two major things of concern to you, though you’re likely unaware of them. Even a true son wouldn’t necessarily know the first. As horrific as it appears to us to think of a half as a potential king, there are things to be done and clarified, proved even. The nation that is being asked to put its faith in a half when it has possibly already been deceived once. And if you want to claim a royal name, to prove that you and not Listus should be the one to take Miss Melonscone’s hand in marriage, and take the kingship of this great nation, there are things that must concern you first, and must be offered as both goodwill and as proof of sorts,” Jin said. He waited a moment for Va’il to acknowledge him.

“Listus was false. I don’t have a problem taking steps to prove that. But I didn’t come here to force Ruby to marry me instead of him, I didn’t come here to save a nation from an impostor, and I didn’t come to claim the throne of Rising. I had to save her, and her alone. I’m no king, I’m a half. I didn’t know of an impostor, but this was something I had to do. To free her. I’m not here to be Rising’s king. I’m sorry if it appears otherwise,” Va’il said.

Jin took a moment to size Va’il up and evaluate how he should continue. However, there was still a plan in Jin’s mind, one that said the benefits may outweigh the risks. There was something he still needed, and knew Va’il, should he be the real son of Fidel, may have or be able to obtain for him.

“Even if that’s true, it’s still in her interests for you to prove yourself in these matters. Otherwise, how will we ever know who the true heir is?” Jin asked.

Va’il felt a twinge of anger. He also cast a slight glance, almost unconsciously, at Doufer, who had retreated into the background earlier, releasing the unspoken dread that he had inspired in the room. To him, Jin’s suggestion was almost a threat, but he couldn’t deny it. He also knew that he somehow could be dragged further down into the world he wanted to avoid, to stay out of, but it was a risk he had weighed earlier, a risk he had taken so he could do what he could for Ruby. Other thoughts tried pushing their way in, asking about his motivations and why he’d go so far, but they weren’t thoughts he had time to carefully contemplate at the moment. There were Jin’s words. And though he wasn’t sure of whether he should continue, he knew he had to listen.

“Tell me. I’ll make my own decisions. Just know I didn’t come here to be a ruler. I wouldn’t be accepted anyways, I know that. And though I’m an heir to kings, I think Rising could figure a way to continue without me in the future. But speak, please, and let me know what other issues could concern me,” Va’il said. Jin smiled slightly, Va’il’s answer delighting him, being better than he could have ever hoped for. The gears in his head once again turned, and from then on his demeanor and attitude towards Va’il were much more accepting of Va’il.

“Then thank you for listening, Prince. The first issue, none other than a couple other than King Fidel knew. And I doubt you know, though it is important. It seems the time is right to reveal it as well, now that we have a possible heir. Think on these things, as even someone who grew up as the lowliest of commoners would know the basics of them and thus be astounded. So, do you know how the king died? Do you know what killed him? Do you know why the water kingdom sent one of their best medical practitioners to be with the king in this final years of life?” Jin asked. The audience was still murmuring every so often, but these questions were ones most of them had wondered about, and among the nobles there were rumors about various aspects of them, none taken as truth.

“Everyone knows father died far too young,” Va’il said. “But it was too sudden. I think I know, and most people think this now that he’s been gone for a while. I met father once, a long time ago, before either of us knew of each other. Something happened that my young self caught momentarily, but didn’t really think of till recently. He was sick, ill, wasn’t he? For at least three years that I can think of, or even more, before he did. So, that illness killed him, right?”

It was true that due to Fidel’s sudden death it was assumed that the cause of his death wasn’t completely normal. The official record did say sudden illness, but rumors of a chronic illness had been spoken of in hushed whispers, as Fidel had done a relatively good job of appearing healthy in public. However, it was noticeable that his public appearances had declined as he came closer to the day he died, and there was the matter of Aoi. Most people did want to believe she was something of a mistress to Fidel. But the reputation of Ens and its medicines and medical practices weren’t to be ignored. Since the audience wasn’t sure, and the subject had been the cause of some discomfort, the nobles paid even more attention to the unfolding drama, almost giddy at the thought of the answers to come, their questions finally revealed and their own personal hypothesis to be proven or discredited.

“It’s good you understood that much with what you knew, however you are wrong,” Jin said. The audience started talking amongst themselves, loud enough that Jin couldn’t continue speaking. They calmed after a bit and then Jin continued. “It’s unfortunate this matter has to be brought up in public, but considering the events of the day, another surprise that should be revealed eventually might as well make its way out now. Sadly it was not an illness that claimed our gracious king. A person did. King Fidel didn’t suffer from disease. He suffered from poison. And so I say, if you really are the son of King Fidel, the nation of Rising implores you, requires you to first prove it by avenging the nation and settling an enormous mystery: who murdered King Fidel?”

The noise was deafening. The noise of Va’il’s thoughts were louder than all the various sounds coming from anyone in the room. The yelling of various nobles, the shocked faces, and the unrest of the room were indescribable. And they continued for a long time. Even Doufer was visibly shaken. Va’il himself was shocked. One moment he thought he was okay with the fact his father was dead, even considering who he was, and the next something came over him, changing his thoughts and view of the world. There was another thing, something he had always had control over. Va’il wasn’t an angry person. But he couldn’t deny that he was now furious, and that he couldn’t help himself but be lost in that, unable to calmly think for once.

It was more than just knowing it was his father that had been murdered. It was the timetable, knowing his father suffered. It was that King Fidel was someone he had admired as the king, not the father he was. And to find out that someone could take the life of someone so wonderful was distressing, and the fact that person was his own father was more than Va’il could take. Mai’ou’s prior words echoed as well, how Fidel had to leave her for her own safety, and the current situation reinforced that. He felt his body reacting in its own way, urging him to take action, but his mind wasn’t ready to move and act yet.

It settled when he felt a hand arrive on his shoulder, and he knew who it was before they appeared in his sight. He closed his eyes and didn’t think while the girl embraced him, whispering in his ear over and over again those small words that she knew couldn’t comfort him, but would at least let him know she could try and empathize with him.

And as much as it hurt to find out the truth, as much as the surprise had shocked him, as angry as it made him, the third death of the day didn’t bring Va’il to tears. It wasn’t that it couldn’t, but not at this time, not this moment, not this particular situation. And he could at the least tell that at that moment, Ruby was the one who was shedding his tears, crying in place of him. It wasn’t something he thought of, it just was. And he had already shed these tears in the past. The pain and sorrow had already taken place, just in the past. Now, there was another feeling. He was annoyed and angry.

Jin had succeeded. Va’il knew he had to do something. There was no way he couldn’t. He knew he had to find the person who had murdered his father. Not just as a son, but as a lupus who acted on his feelings. Not just as a prince, but as a human who believed in justice and right. Not as a half, but as a citizen who loved the man who was a father figure to all beneath him. To deprive the world of that man wasn’t forgivable, and Va’il knew he had to find him.

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The Lupine Saga 137

“King Fidel and his wife had a child. They really did,” Va’il said. Everyone quieted and looked at him. “And yes, that child still lives. In fact, he is here. But he is not standing at the side of the regent. He is an object of ridicule. Of hatred. Of prejudice. Something some of you hate so much, for reasons I don’t understand. And, he’s a product of a taboo, of trust, of youth, and most importantly, love. And for the first time in my life, I can be truly, utterly proud of my father. I am Fidel’s one and only son! A half! But it’s true, this hair is from my father, a silvery white. And I, as his son, finally acknowledge it. I am Va’il, son of Fidel Ou Shin.”

Va’il then turned to Ruby, whose face had turned from fear to shock, and said, “There. Now no one will make you try to marry that boy. You can be free again. Don’t worry about me. Your knight will fulfill his duty.”

Ruby couldn’t say a word, her mind was far too messed up at that moment, and there was still an audience and other issues Va’il had to address. He turned again, waiting.

The room stayed silent for a moment. But all it took were a couple snickers from a few random people to get most of the audience laughing. However, the only person on the stage laughing was the wedding speaker. The laughing only stopped when a gruesome sight moved again. Derlik stood tall and turned around to face Va’il. It was a sight that again made Va’il want to sob, to apologize for carrying on, but he settled for tears.

“My Lord, my king. I apologize for my prior mistakes. Giving up my life for you is not enough to rectify what I did to you,” Derlik said.

“Please Derlik, it’s enough,” Va’il said. “You’ve saved me twice, it’s enough.”

“No, my Lord, please, forgive me with my dying words. I can only take solace that I somehow stopped my hand then, and that I moved now when I did. But my body knew before my mind, forgive me for not acting in your interests always. I know, I realize it now, my Lord, that you must be the true king. How else could I obey you? Thank you, my king, for using me. For giving this foreign-born boy such an important role. Truly, they’ll be proud this time,” Derlik said. He bowed, and then finally fell to the ground, never to rise again.

No one spoke for a minute after that, in a silence for the deceased. After which, several of the guardsmen wordlessly carried Derlik’s body out of the hall.

Va’il’s mind was again shaken and spinning, and he still couldn’t comprehend why Derlik would be the first person to accept him as Fidel’s son, but he had something else of importance to finish, even though he was in the midst of great turmoil. Pushing Derlik’s death to the side of his mind, Va’il faced the boy, Listus, the impostor.

“Though they laughed, you know, don’t you, brother?” Va’il asked while walking towards Listus, who shrunk back while looking for guards. But there were none willing to stop Va’il at the moment.

“You’re not my brother, half,” the boy said quickly, and then hid behind Jin.

“That much seems to be true,” Va’il said. He smiled, but the meaning behind it was clear. Even Ruby would have been afraid if she had seen Va’il’s look at that moment.

“You still haven’t proven you’re Fidel’s real son!” Jin said. “Just because you have some convenient stories and odd hair means nothing! A half, you’re saying that our noble king has produced a half?”

“I am, Jin. And I have the strangest feeling that you believe it. I just don’t know what I should ask you in order to get you to admit it,” Va’il said. And Va’il was right. Although Va’il wasn’t aware of it, Jin had felt confirmation a while ago. As had Jane Melonscone and another member of the audience. For when they thought of Va’il, they had the strange desire to marry Ruby to him. From that only two of them knew that Fidel’s edict, the Right, was taking effect, confirming Va’il’s truth, throwing whatever arguments could be levied at Va’il aside. And both of them were troubled, being ones who knew the truth of the matter. However, the Right still had a way of being broken, and Jin questioned whether he should take the chance and rash choice to continue with his own plans, or to think of something new.

“If no one else will, I shall end this traitor’s speech,” Jin said, and then rushed to a guard and pulled out his sword, the guard offering no resistance to the regent. And just as he took his first step towards Va’il, he was stopped, a single hand on the arm holding the sword, keeping him firmly in place, unable to move. “You move now?”

“I move now,” Doufer responded. The lupus had moved swiftly the moment Jin looked at a guard, and had reached him long before he had any chance of lunging at Va’il.

“Doufer, why are you stopping me? Why are you moving now, not earlier?” Jin asked, his voice beginning to panic. Va’il reacted at the name, recalling that the name belonged to Kelin’s father. He looked at the tall lupus with the black hair and fur. And then he shuddered, uncontrollably, as he was overwhelmed with fear. He couldn’t explain it, but something frightened him, frightened every instinct and sense he had, and he didn’t understand why. He looked at the audience, and realized that all the other non-humans in the audience were also seized with fear, regardless of whether they were avian, felis, bovine, swine, or even other lupus. Even the bearans and rhinos shuddered. The black-furred lupus that was lightly smiling while holding onto Jin had turned them all into frightened infants, unable to run.

“Regent, you know why. That other boy was the prince, but aside from some questions about that, now this boy says he’s the prince. Until the facts are clear to me, I can’t have him endangered, now can I?” Doufer asked. He then let go of Jin and walked up to Va’il. Va’il felt himself stiffen, and his mind told him to run. But he had no control of his body at the moment. And it was confusing him, this feeling that had never appeared in him before, something he had no control over at that moment. “Relax. Tell me, are you really Fidel’s son?”

Va’il looked up at the lupus, and watched the gleaming fangs. Before he could even think about the question, his mouth had already moved, “I am, yes.”

“Oh? Good boy. You’re pretty tough,” Doufer said, and then chuckled a bit.

“Thanks,” Va’il managed to say. He felt like he could somehow push through the fear and say what he needed to now, even though it was still difficult. “You’re Kelin’s dad?”

“Oh? That’s right, it was you with him that day. Ah, yes, I do recognize your scent. And now I fully recognize you. So then, this feeling and those words Fidel spoke to you, they are starting to make sense now,” Doufer said.

“Words?” Va’il asked. He had an idea of what Doufer meant, but didn’t think he could be right.

“How good is a lupus’ hearing, half-lupus boy?” Doufer asked.

“Ah,” Va’il said, and then smiled as best he could under the circumstances. “You heard, then?”

“I’m the only lupus who heard, and only a small unimportant portion, some of the latter half, at that. Kelin didn’t, don’t worry about him. A fortunate matter for you, his prior youth. But if you’re Fidel’s real son, it makes sense,” Doufer said. He then smiled and patted Va’il’s head.

“Doufer, do you recognize him as legitimate?” Jin asked.

“Not officially, but I’m leaning towards it. Do you think this half-lupus lied to me? And if he is the prince, you know what that means. And it’ll be the same until it’s confirmed or denied, Regent Jin,” Doufer said.

“Then, then,” Jin stammered, and then he looked at Listus and started yelling, “who are you? Where are the men who claimed to have found you?”

Jin yelled at the boy behind him. However, each time the boy tried to say something, Jin would yell, cutting him off. He then grabbed the boy by the shoulders, and leaned down slightly while shaking his head, then stood and started yelling again. The boy’s expression kept its look of horror, but he kept his mouth closed and didn’t try to speak while Jin continued.

“Just who are you?” Jin yelled, at which point the boy turned and ran off into the hallway. Jin then turned around and faced Va’il’s direction while holding a hand to his forehead. “I can’t believe it.”

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