Book two, The Lupine Chevalier. It picks up immediately where The Lupine Prince left off.
“You’re going to be the king of Rising.”
The announcement shook Mai’ou to her core. Something in her mind finally clicked as her thoughts were sent reeling into motion. Her previously muddled self had been cleared away, and so she jumped out of her chair.
“No!” Va’il said. Mai’ou stopped, as her son had already taken the words from her mouth.
“Now, Va’il,” Darius said in a calm fashion, “I know this is far too sudden. I know I’m imposing on you.”
“Sudden?” Va’il asked. He stared up at Darius with knit brows and clenched fists. He violently shook his shoulder, throwing Darius’ hand off it. “No, outrageous!”
Darius took a step back. Contrary to being disheartened, he felt happy. He thought that Va’il was too young to understand what was going on right now, and believed that in time Va’il would change. He was very pleased with Va’il’s decisive strength, as he knew that quality was important in a ruler. Even if they weren’t currently willing to rule. “In time, we will see his value,” Darius thought to himself. He was also reminded of his younger days with Fidel.
Smiling, Darius said, “Of course. This was abrupt. I knew it, but my own curiosity and Diren’s insistence that we do this now… for that, I apologize. Of course, time is needed to make such a decision. It is fine, you will grow. And change your mind. For now, I’ll go. I’ll come back soon. Again, I apologize. But now, there are several things I want to tell you, especially about him.”
“Never. I didn’t, I don’t, and I won’t be the king. You don’t need to come back,” Va’il said, eyes filled with defiance. Darius couldn’t help but take another step back. He realized that it was truly time to leave. He still felt that Va’il had strength of character and would eventually become the ruler, but he knew better than to tell an insistent child of a fact when they were set upon believing fantasy.
“Until we meet again,” Darius said while respectfully bowing. Before Va’il could voice any disapproval, Darius continued speaking. “Var! Have you, by chance, seen Var recently?”
The question was off-topic, and Va’il wasn’t one that naturally knew how to fester his own anger, so the question changed his scowl into a puzzled look.
“Var?” Va’il asked. He thought for a moment before saying, “No idea. I’m sure that the last time I saw him was a couple weeks ago, on that particular day, that terrible day. Not since then. Why?”
Va’il had seen several guards around while trying to avoid trouble for the past weeks since the maroon attack, but Var hadn’t been one of them. Truthfully, he was depressed every time he walked outside and saw the remnants of destruction left by the mysterious foe that he had secretly saved everyone from, thus he didn’t leave the house much until school resumed its normal activities. And he had been sulking over the death of King Fidel, who just now he had found out was his father. The ruler he had truly loved and the father he had desperately hated were supposed to be the same person, how could he react positively when someone tarnished the dead king’s good name? A few minutes would not be enough to convince him that his scoundrel of a father was really the same person he had already ingrained in his mind as a model father figure. These thoughts were pushed aside for the brief moment that he thought about Var, someone he did have a reasonable amount of compassion for.
“Oh, nothing about it,” Darius said. He sighed to himself. “Maybe I’m just missing him around, but it really isn’t like him to skip a day of work, let alone a week. Odd, very odd. Where is he? Not even Jane knew, or her daughter.”
Darius kept mumbling to himself for a few moments. Va’il and Mai’ou knew he wasn’t speaking to them, so Mai’ou finally strode up to Va’il and took his hand in hers. She squeezed it, but Va’il dropped his hand out of her grip. His thoughts were in turmoil and his trust in Mai’ou dented, so he had unconsciously done something that hurt Mai’ou’s heart. Certainly, they had much to discuss.
Darius snapped to attention, realizing that he should have left a minute ago. He apologized again, bowed, and walked out of Va’il’s life. Va’il hoped it was for good, but only for that moment. Without the object of his small hatred present, the feelings he had were questioned twice over by his mind. Unable to find more reasons to object to everything that had been presented for him, he forcefully pushed extraneous thoughts out of his mind, looked up at Mai’ou, grabbed her hand firmly, smiled, and then closed the door behind Darius.
When Darius left Va’il and Mai’ou, they took few quiet moments to contemplate what had happened. To jump into conversation right away would have been too awkward. Of course, Va’il was never one to let an awkward situation resolve itself quietly.
“Mum, I… I want to ask something, but I don’t know what to ask,” Va’il said. For him, there was a nagging feeling in his chest telling him to talk, ask, and do something. But even a boy of eleven could partially read moods. Not well though.
“It’s… it’s… a lot,” Mai’ou stuttered. Several things had surfaced in her mind, but the right words wouldn’t form.
“So, it’s true then. Father… was him?” Va’il asked.
“Yes,” Mai’ou said. She looked down at the serious Va’il.
“So, why weren’t you his queen?”
“He… let me, wait.” Mai’ou stopped. She breathed deeply a few times, and then sat down in the living room. She finally felt like she could talk. No one else was around, only the person she loved was.
“I know, I’m sorry,” Va’il said before she could continue. “It’s because he’s a human, right?”
“More than just human, he was Rising’s human king. As for us, he was a man of passion, someone I loved and respected. He, in turn, had to protect what he loved. If I had become Rising’s queen, I would not have survived long. He wasn’t going to be king, not at first, so we didn’t think there would be any danger in being married for his lifetime. When his father and older brother died, it all changed. He had to leave me to take Rising’s throne. I… no one in Rising could have accepted us together. He wouldn’t be able to protect anything if I was at his side,” Mai’ou said quickly and mournfully. The words had long ago been premeditated, but were supposed to have been untold eternally. It still wasn’t what Mai’ou had thought to say, exactly, many times before, but it was close. Facing the truth with her son so soon after the death of his father, she couldn’t help but jumble her words and meanings, and hide what she still could.
“In other words, he loved you more than himself,” Va’il said.
Mai’ou’s heart felt conflicted. She remembered that she had once told Va’il that she had been afraid that her husband might not have completely cared for her. Though she loved him, she couldn’t help but feel his love wasn’t as strong if he wasn’t willing to face fire and scorn and any trial for her. She would have. She thought, at times, that she should walk into the castle one day and then they could face the opposition together. However, what she told Va’il just a minute ago was the reality that she knew they would have faced, but still had doubts about. Rather than overcome the risks, Fidel had opted for Mai’ou’s complete safety.
She doubted that for a moment when she realized that by making Va’il king, Fidel would have invalidated his own love of her. It passed when she remembered the secret truth of Rising’s kings that Fidel had revealed to her. The truth that would save her son, the only heir of Rising.
And though that raised and reminded her of other doubts, all she could do was tell Va’il yes and then hug him again. Even though the seasons would change one after another, Mai’ou’s and Va’il’s relationship would stay strong as they grew to a better understanding of each other and the man who had the greatest influence on their lives.