Kelin’s suggestion had surprised everyone, but no one was as surprised as King Fidel for the next two hours. It was a musical, of all things. The story was about a woodcutter who one day found a jeweled necklace inside a tree he had cut down. The woodsman couldn’t figure out how a necklace could be inside a tree, so he took it to the city. Everyone knew he was a poor man. Instead of listening to his story, they turned him in to the authorities. He sat in jail for three nights as he waited for the royal guards to arrive. He overheard on the third night that the necklace seemed to belong to one of the princesses in a foreign land. The relationship with that land was unstable, and so any little break in trust might mean the end of the kingdom. A lowly woodcutter stealing royal jewelry was unforgivable, and it was expected that he would be tortured then killed as a sign of peace.
The woodcutter feared for his life, so he managed to break out of the jail, take the necklace, and run away into the darkness of night while his guards slept. He didn’t know where to turn, as no one that he knew would hide him. Remembering the guard’s story, he decided to clear his name by returning the necklace to the princess. He hid in a wagon heading to that land; however, on the way the driver was attacked by wolves and killed. Jo’ei hid until daybreak, at which point he left the wagon with what food he could carry and continued walking down the road. Along the way, he met an old shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd helped Jo’ei past the wolves’ territory, after which they parted ways. After walking for two days with no food and no water, Jo’ei passed out while entering a city. He awoke hours later in a cool house with a tiny girl looking after him. The girl got her father, who said he was a doctor. Jo’ei thanked him, but didn’t mention anything about the necklace or his journey. Before he could leave, the doctor asked him for compensation for the treatment and food that had been provided.
The doctor smiled once he learned that Jo’ei had no money, and so for the next two weeks he forced every sort of labor on Jo’ei in order to compensate him for the use of medicine and food. It was a slow process because Jo’ei still had to eat each day. He gladly did all the woodcutting, the babysitting the little girl needed while the doctor went gambling, and the treatment of patients who couldn’t actually afford the personal service of the doctor. Jo’ei was a cheap substitute who still managed to get a profit for the doctor from these lowly patients.
Two weeks of work went by, and the doctor acknowledged the help that Jo’ei provided. In an uncharacteristic way, he gave Jo’ei enough food and water to last for two weeks, and wished him luck on his journey. Jo’ei left the city and continued on the road to the foreign land. He traveled for a week without seeing another living creature. He heard the far-off growls of meaner creatures at night. He still didn’t know exactly how far he had to travel in order to reach the foreign land. However, he was already in it at that point. After another two days, he saw a city. It was a city of splendor and people. There were people everywhere. The guards at the gate didn’t pay him any heed. He made his way to the center of the city, where there was a large palace. He entered through the front doors, which strangely enough had no guards protecting them. There was a large empty hall with another door at the end of it.
When he opened the next door, what awaited him was a large company of guards, all with lances and swords. They stood at the sides of the carpet. In the distance, the king’s throne and a few people could be seen. Jo’ei was wary; nevertheless, he took a step into the hall. The guards were eyeing him, but no one stopped him. He took another few steps, just to make sure. With that, he walked all the way up the hall until he was almost at the steps leading up to the king. Finally, the last row of guards stopped him with crossed swords. The king told him to speak from there, and Jo’ei explained that he had come to return what he found, the necklace. He held out the necklace for all to see. In the next instant, one of the women at the king’s side ran down the steps and came face to face with Jo’ei. She was crying as she took the necklace from his hands. She turned it over in her hands a few times, and then commanded the guards to stand down. She then put the necklace around Jo’ei’s neck and kissed his cheek. The surprise was astounding, as Jo’ei learned that the necklace was in fact his. His parents were actually cousins of the current king, and had left their life of nobility in order to pursue a simpler life. They had died in a terrible accident many years ago, and so Jo’ei had never known. The story about the lost necklace wasn’t true; it was bait to find these long lost relatives.
Jo’ei obtained status and nobility, but the story didn’t end just yet. He traveled back to the city where the doctor lived, and rewarded him for his help. When the doctor asked why, since he had been so rude, Jo’ei told him that he knew what he did was out of both grief for a dead wife, and care for a motherless girl. He spent the next few months searching fields, roads, and towns until he finally found the old shepherd who had helped him for a few days. The shepherd would not take any reward, and instead Jo’ei gave the shepherd a promise of help whenever needed. A promise, the old shepherd agreed, would be a great reward. Finally, he returned to his original home and added proper titles to his parents’ graves.
The last song ended with every child on stage. Finally, they all bowed, and the curtains fell. A roar of applause ensued from the crowd. Aoi was clapping, and the king was crying, of all things. She turned and laughed a bit at him, which made him chuckle as well.
“Didn’t I say that we had great students?” he asked.
“I certainly didn’t expect that out of such young kids. I could be a little more judgmental of the production and the story if it was something a much older class, or even a theater group produced. But for young kids, it was wonderful,” Aoi said like a pleased critic.
“Aoi, can you help me up? Just so I can lean against the railing by myself. I want to address everyone. Make sure you aren’t seen assisting me.”
“As you wish.” Aoi helped Fidel up. Fidel waited for the curtains to rise. All the kids were still on stage. Mustering his strength, he yelled over the roaring crowd.
“I request silence!” The crowd died out quickly. “Thank you. Students, children, teachers, thank you for your production.”
In unison, the children replied, “You’re welcome, King Fidel!” They all took another bow.
“I have seen many things as a king. Noble parties, world-renowned plays, performers that do things that would astound the mind. I have seen trained animals work as teams in perfect unison, people that could twist their bodies in unbelievable ways, and competitions that make men’s blood boil. Of course, I have also seen many school productions and many plays. But never have I seen a group of young kids produce a musical! The caliber was also quite good! I have to know more about you all. Please come to the front when I ask for you. First, who offered the idea for a musical?”
“That would be me, Kelin, son of Doufer.” Kelin walked to the front of the stage. In the musical, he was the doctor.
“Doufer? I know that name. Ah, you’re a red lupus. You certainly must be rare in many ways. The power of Doufer, the rare color, the suggestion for such a production. Very commendable. Next, who did the choreography?” There was no answer to the king’s question. The students all looked around at each other. A couple of students ran off stage, and then dragged a sleeping avian to the front. One of them spoke up.
“Sir, it’s this one. Her name is Harnes. She has a bit of a sleeping problem though, as you can see.” The entire audience roared with laughter. The commotion woke Harnes up, who looked at the people holding her by the arms. Without noticing her surroundings, she threw them off with a jerk of her arms. She folded her arms and pinched her brow into a vile frown.
“Clarence, Jo’se, are you touching me while I sleep? What’s the meaning of this?” The audience’s laughter became louder. Harnes realized where she was, what she was doing, and who was standing on the balcony laughing at her. Her feathers ruffled as she was struck with fright, and her face paled. Before she could run in terror, King Fidel started speaking.
“Dear girl, the moves you taught such a young bunch were quite good. Everyone moved well, and quite naturally. It must have been a very weary task, you deserve praise and rest,” Fidel said. Harnes blushed and bowed. She then turned around and walked off stage briskly.
“Let’s see, I’ve about forgot who to ask for. Ah, that’s right. I suppose there had to be a director. I don’t suppose that was the teacher, was it?” Fidel asked. Sensei heard this, and decided to come to the fore anyways.
“I am the teacher, but I am proud to say that I played absolutely no part in the production, direction, creation, or otherwise in this. I simply supervised. The director is a brilliant boy, although quite reserved.” With that, Sensei walked off stage, and soon came back holding the hand of Pete. He was obviously very nervous.
“Er, um… Oh, right. I’m the director, Pete. I mean, sir. Yes, hello sir. Thank you sir.”
“Wonderful job. The interactions and scenes both flowed well. Keep up the good work for your teacher,” Fidel said.
“Yes sir,” Pete said with more confidence.
“All of you who had acting parts, I’d like to thank as well, you all did well. Especially your lead, he was the perfect person for the role. Everyone please give another round of applause for the children.” The crowd again clapped and cheered, before being silenced yet again by King Fidel.
“Finally, I want to meet the student that actually wrote the story and script. You’ve all surprised me with your individual achievements; I don’t suppose just a single person wrote these themselves as well?” The students fell silent. Moving to the front was Kelin again.
“Sir, it was all written by one boy,” Kelin said.
“Then where is he?” Fidel asked.
“He’s here, but he wasn’t expecting to be called to the stage, especially not like this. I know he would be happy to answer you, however not everyone may appreciate it,” Kelin explained without a flinch.
“Preposterous. That isn’t an explanation. Nobody need fear, I just want to thank. Everyone will be happy to see the creator, be he nervous, unconscious, or otherwise,” Fidel said. He was surprised at this resistance, but didn’t take offense.
“As you wish, even otherwise. Then please, welcome the boy who created the story and wrote the script. We were only notified of this a week ago, and the production we made was almost a finished product. The choreography and direction took the full week to get down perfectly, but nothing would have started without the story. He offered to complete it, alone, in a single night, which he did. We owe him our thanks.” Kelin walked offstage for a few moments, and came back with another young boy beside him. Va’il took a few steps to reach front and center stage, then greeted the king.
“Sire, my name is Va’il.” The crowd started murmuring. Va’il’s ears twitched as he heard the word “half” thrown around the room. It appeared that even King Fidel was taken aback. His hold on the railing faltered, and his balance was suddenly thrown off. Aoi crept up from behind and grabbed hold of Fidel to keep him upright.
“Are you okay?” she whispered.
“Yes. This is just a horrible time for my strength to give out. I don’t think anyone can see you from this angle. Please keep me up; it would be a disgrace to this boy if it seemed like I was surprised at him being a half,” Fidel whispered. Aoi braced herself at the back of Fidel, and made an effort to disappear behind him. It was too late though. From that angle, there was no one who would normally be able to see what just happened. Nor was anyone looking. No angle, but from the one Va’il was looking from. Moreover, no one was looking at the king but Va’il, whose sharp eyes caught the entire thing. However, Va’il didn’t think that Fidel lost his strength because of the surprise that Va’il was a half. Even if it were, the thought wouldn’t have been Va’il’s first.
“Are you–” Va’il started, but King Fidel had already begun to speak.
“Your creation will make your parents proud. Both of them, certainly.” Fidel had hinted at his personal recognition of halfs in the statement, which quieted the murmurs in the crowd.
“Sire, I have no father. None that I would want to make proud,” Va’il replied without thinking, and with an air that no one could mistake for anything but hatred.
“I see. You certainly make quite a statement of both ideal and character. Can you tell what your inspiration for your story was?” Fidel asked.
“I had some help to see what the words translated mean, but I wanted to make something where the title was a play on my mum’s name, in old Fervish. Oh, and mine too. Silver found at daybreak is a good title, I think. But I still couldn’t think of a way of putting Mai’ou’s full name in the title,” Va’il said casually.
“Very astute young boy! Very well done. Thank you for your presentation everyone. Have a safe journey home.” The king talked and smiled quickly, and then left before anyone else in a hurried fashion. Aoi followed him closely, but he seemed to have regained his strength. For the rest of the night, he spoke to no one.