“Pete’s already at the north gate, and some of the other kids already left for Tershi,” Kelin said. Both Va’il and Kelin had large backpacks on. They were going to leave for Tershi soon, once the rest of their group arrived. A few of the parents were willing to watch the kids, as was Sensei, who felt it was his duty to help whether they were at school or not.
“Alone?” Va’il asked.
“No, they were guided by one of their parents. I think it was an older group of kids, so they should be fine with just one. It is only a half-day’s walk after all,” Kelin said.
Va’il nodded and kept walking down the road with Kelin. Once the north gate was in view, they spotted Pete, Jo’se, Harnes, Rowlf, and Hein. Hein was another swine and the cousin of Pete. He was also in their class, but he and Pete never spoke with each other at school. They did like each other, but they didn’t want to be friends. Va’il had thought it odd that you could like someone and not want to be their friend, but Pete explained that it was common among swine. He said that, for the most part, they could feel whom they should have as a friend. Once they had that feeling, it was hard to break it. It was part of the reason why Pete stuck with Va’il, even through constant taunts and ridicule. It was simply in his nature to be like that. Va’il had a difficult time understanding, and would ask Mai’ou about it once he settled on what, exactly, he would be asking.
“Va’il, Kelin!” Jo’se started running over to meet them as quickly as his avian body could handle.
“Jo?” Kelin was a bit taken back at having another child other than Pete approach the duo.
“Jo’se, please. I like my full name. Do you know its meaning?” Jo’se was overflowing with excitement. “Oh, but first, our group is being led by Sensei! We get him! Isn’t that great?” Va’il smiled and grabbed Jo’se’s hand. He shook it a couple times as the boy smiled with glee.
“I know its meaning now. ‘Se’ is shine. ‘Jo’ is distance. It probably means: Shining in the distance,” Va’il explained intelligently. Even Kelin was impressed.
“Yes! I knew you were a right person! I’m sorry for before, avoiding you and all. But now we have the expressed approval of the king himself! No one, bully, parent, teacher, or otherwise can stop us from being friends!” Va’il suddenly felt the overflowing excitement spill out from Jo’se and into him, but Harnes was about to interrupt that.
“Bird brain.” A loud thwack was heard as Harnes dropped the side of a book onto Jo’se’s head. The smile on his face was replaced with tears, but he didn’t protest. He simply looked down and walked sideways a couple steps. Va’il was stunned at the event, but Harnes walked right past Jo’se and bowed before Va’il.
“Harnes, the only daughter of Nemui, father, and Yowake, mother. My name as given doesn’t mean anything, but it is close to ‘harn,’ meaning number. I happen to like shiny things. I get bored easily and I sleep when I am.” She was explaining herself frankly in both Kelin and Va’il’s opinions.
“And I don’t sleep whenever I see you. Your hair is so shiny and wonderful. You are so much better than my raven feathers. We are going to be together from now on,” Harnes said in a different tone than before.
“Uh, Va’il, I think she likes you,” Kelin said. Harnes stopped paying attention to anyone else and grabbed hold of Va’il’s arm. She was quite a bit shorter; her head reached only the top of Va’il’s shoulder.
“Does she?” Va’il wasn’t sure what to make of this new attachment to his arm. Harnes had closed her eyes and was apparently sleeping. Was she kidding about not sleeping when looking at him, he wondered. He walked a couple steps forward, and Harnes kept in step with him. If she was asleep, then she could still walk just fine. Jo’se, who was still rubbing his head, looked on sadly.
“Aw no. She’s attached to you Va’il. I really like her too. But she’s gone for now. You’ll have to learn to live with it for a while, until she’s moved on. Well, it’s probably been a long time coming,” Jo’se said.
“A long time coming?” Va’il asked with a quiver in his voice.
“Yeah, she really has a love of shiny things,” Jo’se said. “Your eyes, hair, and tail are silver, which to her probably conveys more emotion than what you might consider love. She’s a descendant of collectors. I’ve seen her grab a new spoon that had been freshly shined and not let go of it until her parents entered her room while asleep and rub dirt on it while it remain clenched in her sleeping hands. The next morning she simply washed the dirt off, and used the spoon to eat her breakfast that morning. After which, she left it at home to be cleaned. So… do you want to roll around in the dirt for a while?”
At this point Kelin was laughing so hard he seemed to be in agony. He regained composure only long enough to say one thing: “But I bet she loves his eyes, and no amount of rolling in dirt is going to change them from such a gorgeous color.” He spoke cynically, but Va’il just laughed, as he knew how much Kelin enjoyed this small revenge. Va’il considered whether he should bring up the kiss again. He decided he better not. So instead, he caught Pete’s eye, motioned towards Kelin, pointed at his own cheek, and made a kissing motion.
Pete looked down at the howling lupus who seemed just a little wilder than usual. He took the hint and walked up to Kelin, and whispered something to him. The laughing stopped. Kelin stood up straight and looked around.
“Oh, Sensei is right over there. It’s about time to get moving. Don’t fall behind, gorgeous.” Kelin snickered once more in an effort to conceal his own blushing, and then walked over to Hein and Rowlf, both of which were staring at the Va’il-Harnes combo with wide grins. They all shook hands in turn, and then took a couple of laughs at the combo. Soon enough, Sensei had arrived.
“I see Miss Harnes won’t be lost that easily. That’s good, I was worried she may fall asleep while walking and get in trouble somewhere,” Sensei said with a straight face that didn’t match his teasing words. That was, of course, even more humorous. Va’il decided at that moment that he should quickly learn how to deal with this. He still wasn’t sure if he was being treated as an object or not. He did see the humor in the situation, as well as the side of a classmate he had never been able to associate with before. For better or worse, he thought, I’ve made more friends.