“Unacceptable. You aren’t free, that cannot be that difficult for you to understand.” Standing beside a bed was a domineering human woman who was scolding with only half the might her delicate frame could handle. The bed was a mess, and all the covers were over a single lumpy spot.
“But mother…” whispered a girl’s voice from beneath the covers.
“No buts. This time you get off with only a scolding and two hits. Next time we may have to be more drastic. If you’re ever caught being friendly with that, that… thing again, you will be locked in.” The woman, satisfied with her scolding, stormed off. Her normally beautiful face was twisted with disgust. She couldn’t fathom why her daughter would do something that would insult her class. The girl had dared to speak casually with a servant, an avian servant. She shivered at the thought of each black feather protruding from the avian’s arm.
“Filthy things. Just filthy. Birds, just why birds. I swear.” At that moment a servant was approaching her in the corridor, holding a silver platter with a tea set on it.
“Madam, your morning–” the servant girl started to say, however the woman cut the avian off.
“Quiet! How many times have I said that you must wait for me to speak first? You’re a statue, stand by the wall. I have no appetite.” The woman sneered as she passed the servant, who had stopped and put her back to the wall. Truthfully, it was the first time the Madam had ever indicated anything of the like. Nevertheless, arguing was a taboo that no servant dared to tread, much less an avian servant. The threat of being plucked, tarred, and then feathered was an old one that hadn’t been done in the last thirty years, yet still burned into the mind of every young avian by their parents and grandparents.
Shiroi, the white-feathered avian girl, knew that the Madam’s unreasonableness would pass with time, and for now she stood silently at the side of the corridor while the Madam stormed off. Shiroi thought of the servant boy who was both employed and fired yesterday. Her feathers ruffled at the thought of him talking with the young mistress, and thereby ruining the coming weeks for the rest of the servants. After a few minutes had passed, and it seemed safe to move again, she returned to the kitchen quarters to inform the other servants of the Madam’s blazing anger.
For the next week the servants would be statues in the face of the Madam, and upon seeing their good behavior, she would calm down and actually be overjoyed with her loyal servants. In two weeks, she would speak to a servant without using a stringent series of commands, and that would be her signal that it was safe for the servants to return to their normal behavior. So went the frivolous nature of the master, Madam Jane Lucrene Melonscone, a high-noble from the house of Scones.
“Is there anybody in there?” The human teacher tapped the head of the sleeping girl to wake her. Yawning and stretching her black feathers, she looked up at Sensei.
“Sir, it’s more comfortable when I’m asleep. The answer is twelve,” the avian girl replied. She then rested her head on her hand and blinked lazily. Sensei wasn’t impressed, but moved on nevertheless.
“That’s correct. It would be helpful if you’d make better use of your eyes, Miss Harnes. But back to the problem. Who can answer question thirteen next?” At that moment, the bell rang in the distance, signaling the end of the class. “Next week we will be handling the arrangements for the next term, so come Monday with your completed work. It’s your last assignment, and nothing will be accepted late due to how busy we will be. Dismissed!”
The kids that had already packed their books got up and shuffled out of the room. Pete, Kelin, and Va’il occupied the three seats that made up the corner near the back window, and started talking with each other instead of leaving.
“You finish yours Va’il?” Pete asked.
“Somewhat. But I was planning on having you fix it anyways,” Va’il said with a grin. Kelin remained silent and brought out a book. It was brand new. He broke the spine and flipped through the pages. He muttered something unintelligible, and then went to the front of the book.
“You three again! Swine, how many times have we told you to stay away from him if you want to keep the bacon on your back?” A group of six had approached the trio. The one who spoke was a human with tanned skin and brown hair. At his sides were a swine and a bovine, Clarence and Lauren, both very large for their young age. Tightly holding Lauren’s horns was a skinny and brown-feathered avian boy. There was a grey hare making his way to the side of the first human. Once the hare squeezed past Clarence, the sixth boy became visible. Black hair, round blue eyes, white skin, human; it was Zeick.
“Riley… I uh, he’s my friend… can’t,” Pete said, slightly frightened.
“Well I say he’s not. You’re disgracing yourself around that fatherless half!” Riley, the tan boy, said.
The hair on Va’il’s tail stood on end, but he kept quiet and continued looking out the window next to him. Outside he could see various children leaving. A few of the older children had run a bit quicker than the others and set up a small picnic underneath a big tree. A few of the younger and more daring avians had been even quicker, and were in the tree’s branches, chirping happily at the others passing by. One of the older kids underneath the tree took a few pieces of the bread he was eating and threw it up into the tree. The younger kids happily ate the sweet bread.
Va’il recognized one of the boys as Yan, the school’s idol. He was one of the few lionels in the area, and was well respected due to his benevolent nature. He was aiming to be the priest. He wanted to be the first lionel to hold the office. It wasn’t common knowledge due to their rarity and territorial nature, but the highest position a lionel had ever held in the nation was that of a minor governor for a far away province, and none had ever had the aspiration to leave their normal territories and become a member of the ruling caste. Va’il suddenly snapped to attention when he realized Pete had jumped in protest.
“So what?” Pete yelled.
“Oh, the pig can protest,” Lauren said, followed by a snort.
“No matter,” Riley said with a smirk. “Pete, you should come with us. Leave that thing. You don’t need to take care of it, that’s what a mother who obviously can love anything is for.” Va’il could put up with the usual insults, but he felt his mouth baring his fangs as the remark fell off Riley’s lips. But it wasn’t Va’il who spoke next.
“You just insulted Mai’ou.” Kelin snapped his book shut with a loud clap, and then slammed it on his desk. His thin lips were pulled back and showed every glaring fang. The claws on his left hand were stuck in the book’s cover. “And that is something I will not accept. You’ve been saying Pete this and Pete that, this entire time. Huh? What about me? You going to bring your threats to me? Well, are you? I’m not a half; I’m a full blood just like the rest of you. Should I stop talking with Va’il as well?”
Riley’s face turned a little paler, and he obviously had trouble trying to swallow anything at that moment. Lauren and Clarence both took a half step back, and the feathers of the avian stood up. The hare though, walked right up to Kelin.
“We aren’t afraid of a lupus! Right Zeick?” The hare twitched his nose as he brought his face within a meter of Kelin while grinning widely. He was short, had long floppy ears, was covered in grey fur, and had a rabbit’s nose.
“So, you think you’re safe since we are all at peace?” Kelin asked. “Don’t you ever forget, hare, meat made up the most of my ancestors’ diet. Unlike the rest of you, even in times of utter peace a lupus keeps every natural instinct sharper than peace dictates. It’s in our nature. Now get your face out of mine before I…” Kelin breathed heavily with each word. The hare didn’t budge, but only smiled more.
“What, what? Don’t feel so smug in school, we will find you afterward and…” The hare moved even closer. Kelin, in turn, moved closer to the hare. He then whispered something into the large ears. The hare jumped back a bit as the last word was made with a snap of Kelin’s jaws. The smile was gone, and the hare jumped again and hid behind Zeick.
“Ha, thought so. Just took a reminder, right? The rest of you will do best to remember your instincts as well. I’m the safe one, by the way. Being a half, you probably cannot feel anything when it comes to Va’il here. But I can tell you, and as a lupus, I can smell it. He’s more dangerous than I am.” Kelin finished his threats with a smile, and fixed his eyes on the vital areas of each of the kids in front of him. “And Zeick, what are you doing? You convinced by this scum, they threaten you? We can fix that right up.”
“No, it was… parents. Well, I mean yes I’m with them. We shouldn’t… halfs are unnatural. You, don’t you think? It’s an abomination.” Zeick spoke quietly at first, and then ended more resolutely. Riley eyed him with every word, and nodded approvingly.
“That’s right,” Riley said, “unnatural. Let’s go, these sympathizers deserve each other. Have fun being outcast from society.” Riley had regained his composure.
“Oh, so you’re brave enough to be sticking your neck out again?” Va’il asked, and then dropped onto all fours as he eyed Riley.
“You half! You dirty…” Riley stopped, frozen in the moment. Va’il had opened his mouth, baring his fangs. Staring at Riley’s neck, his saliva had overflowed and started to fall out of his mouth. When Riley regained consciousness seconds later, he brought his hands to his neck, turned around completely, and walked out of the room briskly. He only realized after he had left the room with his full entourage behind him that he had shown his back to two hungry lupus. The raw fear that he held back every day by tormenting them surfaced. Never before had they stood up to him with such vehemence, and the natural fright of the lupus had brought itself to the fore of the minds of everyone in the area.
The natural threat had permeated the area. The avians in the tree outside jumped down and ran out of school grounds. Yan looked after them, puzzled for a moment, but his attention was forced to a nearby window. However, all he saw were three boys laughing amongst themselves, so he paid no heed to the sudden threat within his territory. It didn’t cross his mind at the time that one of the boys was a half, for all he could see from that distance was a human face, a red lupus, and a swine. He did notice that on the second floor, a few puzzled kids had stuck their heads out of the windows, in search of where a sudden chill came from. Unable to find it, all they could hear was the roaring laughter of some kids on the floor below them. It turns out that the only people who took any actions at all were the three avian boys that had left the tree. Their instincts told them to run, and their minds hadn’t developed enough to question why at the time.