“Va’il, it’s action time,” Zeick said with glee. For such a frightening situation, he seemed enthralled. The four of them ran until they were only a street away from the rampaging maroon. Several families were fleeing as the fourth district succumbed to the assault. The maroon marched undeterred by soldiers or houses, demolishing or flattening anything in their path.
The maroon stood still for a moment. Not even one of them stirred as the strange tones of Geon’s xylophone echoed through the air. The other boys quickly ran in the direction of the sound. There, standing on top of a single story house, was Geon. As the other boys arrived on the roof, the maroon started moving again. Geon stopped, looked up, and then quickly returned to what he was doing. He made more notes one after another, but not a single maroon flinched at any of the sounds.
“It’s now useless,” Geon said in desperation, “they have stopped listening to me. They know that their objective is close.”
Va’il was about to speak up, but Zeick talked first.
“Then, it’s over? Will Rising be flattened?” Zeick asked with all seriousness. The initial excitement he had felt had passed, and now the full impact of the situation was upon him. The maroon that were swiftly approaching in the background also contributed to everyone’s unease.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?” Kelin asked while holding out his hand. Every sharp claw was extended in a threatening manner.
“You already know that’s useless. Only that thing will stop them,” Pete said.
“Unless you want to die trying,” Geon said, disheartened.
“Why not?” Kelin asked, then ran and jumped to the next roof before anyone could stop him.
“Did he just? What did he just do?” Zeick asked quietly.
“He’s a bit crazy,” Pete said with a laugh, “but I wouldn’t worry. I would sooner cry before looking at what he actually does, but he won’t die.”
Pete was the only one who was calm while the other three boys contemplated what horrors awaited. They had just begun fearing their ally’s death when Kelin returned. He was covered in sand from head to foot, and his left cheek was bruised.
“Even the small ones are tough,” Kelin said as he picked sand out of his claws and teeth.
“Ha! That was useless,” Zeick said, his mood greatly improved. Va’il couldn’t help but be amazed at how quickly Zeick changed moods. He truly is a felis, Va’il thought.
“Aside from your antics, shouldn’t we be running away?” Geon asked. The maroon were only a short distance away. Though they moved slowly, the building the boys were on was just to the side of the maroon’s path.
“Yeah, it’s not like we can do anything. But I don’t want to leave Rising! What’s going to happen?” Pete asked.
“Hey guys, listen to this–” Va’il said, but Kelin cut him off.
“No time Va’il, let’s go,” Kelin said. He put his arm on Va’il’s shoulder and tried leading him away. Va’il didn’t budge.
“No, listen, I found that girl. The one from Lake Tershi,” Va’il said loudly. The other boys looked at him in wonder.
“Why didn’t you say that already?” Kelin asked as he rapped Va’il once on the head.
“I tried, but you kept interrupting,” Va’il said timidly.
“This isn’t like you at all,” Pete said with a disappointed tone.
“Where is the orb?” Geon asked.
“You’re right. It isn’t. What have I been thinking? I didn’t ask the girl!” Va’il yelled in frustration. He took off running right away, the other four trailing behind him. Kelin shook his head and laughed, then caught up to Va’il.
Va’il and Kelin arrived at school far ahead of the other boys. Looking around the empty campus, Va’il remembered where all the students should have been.
“Now, roll call. Who isn’t here? Too many, I think. Mourning students are going to make this job harder than usual,” Sensei said sadly. Ten students were missing from his class that morning. He didn’t blame them, as many people were taking time off work and school to mourn Fidel’s death. Some, like Sensei, kept working to keep their minds busy and the sadness away. After he finished marking his charts, he looked over at another class. A young avian woman was having trouble with her class. She taught students a year older than Sensei’s, and was currently trying to introduce a new student. It was a hectic affair, considering the commotion. Sensei laughed as the woman was obviously unsure of what to do. A new teacher, he realized. Who else would be so inexperienced to try introducing a new student when the city was in danger? The girl being introduced, obviously a noble of high status, stood with a stoic expression.
The sudden sound of a door slamming against the wall grabbed Sensei’s attention. There, running through the kicked-opened door, was a silver-haired half-lupus. He checked another two boxes on his chart when he saw Kelin as well. The two boys ran full sprint towards the noble girl in the other class.
“You,” Va’il said while panting, “you have something. It’s from that time. You have it, don’t you?”
Ruby said, while keeping her stoic expression, “You? Is that how you refer to me? I have a name, you know.”
“You refused to tell it to me!” Va’il said angrily.
“That’s correct. I have. And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“This isn’t the time to act like a stuck-up noble, Ruby!” Kelin said with a growl.
“You are?” Ruby asked. Her voice was trembling.
“Just quickly, tell me. Did you take the glass orb three years ago, the one in the middle of that room filled with statues and luminous stones?” Va’il asked directly. His expression was serious, and he stared at Ruby, awaiting a reply. Ruby’s expression softened as she looked at him.
“I, I don’t recall that,” Ruby said with a quivering voice. Her noble façade fell.
“Please, it’s important. It’s alright, please. Just answer truthfully,” Va’il pleaded. His human-looking but silver-colored eyes stared intently at Ruby. She looked away.
“Ruby Louise,” she said quietly as she undid the top button of her dress. She placed her hand inside and pulled upwards. It was a necklace. In a gold setting was a clear orb. She pulled it over her head and off her hair. She handed it to Va’il. “Sorry.”
“I know. Thank you, Ruby Louise. Your real name is pretty. It matches you well.” Va’il smiled once then dashed off.
“Later, Miss Melonscone,” Kelin said. He then followed Va’il. Ruby smiled happily as she watched them run off, not realizing that everyone in the auditorium had been silent since Va’il’s intrusion. Ruby put her hands to her face and turned back to the class, all of whom were staring at her. Her eyes opened wide in surprise. She quickly dropped her arms and returned to her serious look.
“Button, Ruby, button,” Sensei said. Ruby blushed as she reached up and buttoned her dress.