“Wake up!” Va’il coughed violently as water came spewing out of his mouth. His chest was in pain.
“Wake up!” screamed a girl’s voice as he felt her fist hit him again. He groaned to signify he was awake. He felt a hand on his face, hitting him softly.
“Wake up,” she said again, while still hitting the side of his face.
Va’il slowly opened his eyes. He felt like the world was spinning, and he hurt everywhere. As he opened his eyes, a person came into view. A human girl with green eyes and golden hair was looking down at him. She was on her knees at his side. He didn’t recognize her.
“Are you awake?” she asked in what sounded like a sweet voice.
“Mhm, yeah,” Va’il said as he slowly sat up. He put his left hand down to try and push himself up, but an intense pain ran through his arm when he tried. He screamed in pain and fell backwards. The girl jumped when he screamed, but she was soon at his side again.
“It’s broken. It broke when I landed on it. You took most of the fall. You saved me.” Va’il heard her words, but the pain hadn’t subsided. He couldn’t speak yet. “Does it still hurt? I’ll find something to help. Wait here.” The girl ran off into the darkness.
Va’il took a moment to look around and find out where they were. On the ground were a few luminous stones giving off light. It seemed like he was at the small end of a tunnel, as the area was only big enough to stand in and there was only one way to go. Above him appeared to be where they fell from, but it was blocked off with a giant rock. There was a round opening under the rock, where they must have fallen through. A bit of water was dripping through the seal, but not enough to fill the area. Va’il was soaked, and the hard ground beneath him had a thin layer of water. The tunnel went lower from where Va’il was, so he assumed that the rest of the water that pulled him down had already drained away.
“Don’t move your arm.” The girl was back, and she was holding long strips of wet cloth. Va’il held still as she wrapped them around his arm tightly. “I don’t have anything to make a splint. I think it’s only a fracture, so just keeping the bones together should be fine. I don’t think it’s a full break, otherwise you’d still be screaming,” she said. Is that supposed to be comforting, Va’il asked himself. He noticed that the girl was wearing a long white dress, which was now a bit shorter. It was missing the strips that were now around his arm.
“Thank you,” Va’il said. The girl didn’t respond, and finished tightening the cloth. “Who are you?”
She didn’t respond. She sat down against the wall and looked at Va’il.
“Nobody,” she eventually answered curtly.
“That isn’t right. You have to be someone. What class are you from?”
“That’s not something you need to know.” She looked in the other direction. She wouldn’t address Va’il directly.
“Yes it is! I need to thank you properly!” Va’il said while trying to stand again. As if he didn’t learn the first time, he put his weight on his left arm again. He screamed again, and then started crying from the pain.
“You stupid boy! Don’t move!” The girl jumped in a panic and took hold of Va’il’s left arm again. “Don’t move this! Okay, your arm is mine now. Don’t you dare do anything with it!” She held his arm with both hands while keeping it straight. She then made sure the cloth hadn’t come undone.
Va’il stopped crying after a while. The pain was quick to both come and leave.
“Who are you?” Va’il asked again. The girl wouldn’t look at him, but she did answer.
“You can call me, um, uh, oh right, Shiroi.” She said it with uncertainty, but Va’il believed her.
“Then, Shiroi, thank you.”
“Why are you so insistent? I didn’t do much.”
“Because Mum said I should always thank others for their good towards me.”
“Your mother? You’re nice to strangers simply because your mother said so?”
“Isn’t that the right thing to do? Yeah I do what Mum says, she’s mum,” Va’il said very matter-of-factly.
“That doesn’t mean anything important, but okay. Thank you,” she said sweetly.
“This arm. You covered me; you’re in pain because of me. And you’re here because of me. I think. Why are you here?” she asked, redirecting the conversation.
“Because I heard your yells. But why were you so far out in the middle of the lake? Away from class as well? I still don’t know you. Have you been in a tent the entire time?”
“Class? Oh, you’re from that school trip. No, I’m not… I, uh, I just don’t associate with others. I was floating in the water to wash off… and I floated out too far without noticing. I noticed and it was too late. Shiroi was still asleep also,” she said.
“Shiroi? You were drifting while asleep? And in a dress?” Va’il asked, confused by the girl’s answer.
“Um, I mean sleepy. I was still sleepy,” she said quickly to cover for her mistake. She changed the subject. “Oh, you haven’t told me your name.”
“I’m Va’il.” Va’il grinned and bowed his head once in an awkward way. She laughed as Va’il tried bowing while lying down.
“Just Va’il? That all?”
“What do you mean?” Va’il asked in return, further confused by the girl.
“The rest of your name? Or your father’s name? Just Va’il isn’t enough,” she said innocently enough.
“Oh, well I don’t have a father. And I’m from a common mother; we don’t have more to our names. I’m not a noble, obviously,” Va’il said with a small laugh.
“That’s right, nobles, I forgot only we, no, they, usually have last names. Sorry, Va’il. About your father too, sorry.” She put her hand on Va’il’s head and twirled some of his hair. “It’s white?”
“Silver. But my silver and white kind of look the same anyways. Like an old person’s grey hair, it’s not really grey,” Va’il said. He was surprised that she could tell his hair was almost white in the dim yellow light.
“No, your hair isn’t white from lack of color, like theirs. It’s shiny. Does your mother have hair like this? It’s really amazing.”
“Amazing? I didn’t know. No, Mum has brown hair with black spots. She’s really pretty, Kelin’s always saying,” Va’il said while pouting.
“Then your father?” she asked, still twirling his hair.
“That’s… why do you care? I don’t know who he is. He’s a human, that’s all I know.” She pulled her hand back at Va’il’s answer.
“A human? But, you’re a lupus!”
“I’m half-human, half-lupus,” Va’il said sadly. He didn’t want to say it, because he thought she had already figured it out. He closed his eyes and expected her to walk away, disgusted.
“So it’s true, there are halfs,” she said without moving. “I’ve never seen one before.”
She took his hand and looked at the claws on his fingers. She then used her index finger to pull at the side of his mouth.
“What are you doing?” Va’il asked while the girl moved on to inspecting his ears.
“Checking. What makes you different? You do look kind of human. But I can’t tell the difference really. Is your tail any different?” she asked while grabbing his tail. He whimpered a bit when she yanked.
“Ow, ow. You’re really strange. I’ve got fewer pointy teeth, and I just don’t seem like a real lupus. I’m really very different. It’s odd that you can’t tell. Most people know with one look. Eyes, face, and nose even, all look too human. But ears, hair, and teeth make it obvious I’m not. Most of the other differences can’t be seen. Like my hearing, sight, that kind of stuff.” Va’il spoke sensibly without feeling remorse at being a half, partially due to surprise. He had never encountered someone who didn’t recognize him as a half, and so he felt like he could explain things to the girl without fear of discrimination.
“I guess bones too, lupus are supposed to have harder bones; your bone broke,” she said in a straightforward way. Va’il thought that it was natural that a bone should break if someone lands on it, but he didn’t say it.