Ruby stared out the window blankly. She shivered as she saw the barren trees shaken by the wind outside. The lecture in the classroom about marketplace practices didn’t interest her in the least. Nevertheless, she paid slight attention and took notes. The lecture ended, and one on political dealings started. It was more interesting to her, but it lacked the thoroughness that her personal tutors had provided in the past. Therefore, the thirteen year old already knew everything the teacher was saying before she said it.
The class ended, and Ruby stood. She left the room and roamed the hallways. Those who knew Ruby respectfully moved out of her way. No one who knew her approached her or made eye contact. She would walk on the right, everyone else slowed down on the left. She walked in the middle, rows of still children on the left and right would form. Some would grab a hold of a neighbor who wasn’t copying the rest, whisper something in their ear, and watch as their friend would perspire slightly, and then bow.
Ruby couldn’t help but feel depressed at the commotion that was made over her walking through the hallway. It wasn’t an issue to her, but to see everyone treat her so specially did not make her happy. That was what servants were for, why would she want those she considered peers to do the same?
She exited the main building and came upon a large schoolyard. Various children of most ages ran or sat about. Ruby looked around the area closely. She pulled a notebook out and looked at a grid that she had drawn on a page previously. There were several rectangular sections each with various markings here and there. Certain ones were crossed off or scratched out.
“Section five today, I’ll check that one. Looks like the full group is there today,” Ruby said to herself. She looked at the paper, saw a grid marked section five, and looked at the description inside. It had several single letters written out in three lines of various lengths. She looked up and towards a portion of the schoolyard. Where she looked was a specific area where three separate groups of children had gathered in close proximity to one another.
On one side of the tree that marked the section five area was a group of deeri boys sitting, eating, and talking calmly. In the large branches of the tree was a group of three avian boys who were chirping in the avian language. And sitting below them was a group of four more boys and two girls. Three lupus, one felis, one swine, and one avian made up that group.
Seeing that no humans were in section five, Ruby crossed the section off her chart. She put the notebook back into her bag, and proceeded to walk off school grounds. A moment after she took the final step off the school’s property, someone approached her from her right.
“Afternoon, miss,” said an incredibly serene avian girl. White feathers covered her head and continued down her arms. Dabs of golden glitter adorned her cheeks and thin nose, accentuating her bright blue eyes. The simple white dress she wore was sleeveless, as most avian clothing was, and impeccably clean.
“Shiroi, let’s head home. Orders from mother?” Ruby asked.
“As you wish. The carriage is here, as usual. Driver has changed, again. No orders from the madam. She is gone, again, and did not specify where she went,” Shiroi said in a respectful yet surprisingly casual manner. Though she was a servant, her words sounded friendly and filled with honest reverence for the young mistress. Truthfully, she was Ruby’s friend as well as loyal servant, though their relationship was always something difficult to define.
Ruby nodded at the explanation, and then gave a smile to Shiroi. She took her hand as they walked to the carriage, and then let go before the driver could see. She entered the covered carriage as Shiroi helped her in. Shiroi then gave an order to the driver, entered the cab, and off they went. The sound of horse hooves continued for a while.
“That is?” Shiroi asked. Ruby had reached into her bag and pulled out a notebook. Hidden from public view or ears, Shiroi had become the personal friend of Ruby again.
“Mother’s work, again. Map and separate the school into sections, determine how many groups and people are in each section consistently, check each for human children. Section five, no humans, so that is all I checked today,” Ruby said in brief explanation.
“I think I understand. This is to find a particular child, right?” Shiroi asked. She was somewhat aware of Ruby’s ongoing search for someone, but hadn’t been given the details. Nor was Ruby about to reveal them.
“Yes, a human boy, probably under fourteen. Not easy when the school is full of children mostly seven to sixteen. I just need to find if he has something mother told me about,” Ruby said, keeping the exact details from Shiroi, who wouldn’t pry further. She sighed as she thought of her impossible task. Though she had been enjoying school life, to her surprise, she quickly discovered that her mother wouldn’t let her slack from the duty imposed upon her. Therefore, with her wit and ingenuity, Ruby systematically looked for King Fidel’s son, the heir to the throne, a mysterious boy hidden from public view by being part of the public itself. Jane had told Ruby this much, which Ruby knew not to repeat to anyone, even Shiroi. Of course the search was limited to humans, how could Jane Lucrene Melonscone have guessed the truth? But she wasn’t to be deterred, and therefore her tenacious nature had given her daughter an impossible task.
“Whoa!” the driver shouted as the carriage came to a startling halt. The girls nearly fell over, and then heard the driver shout again. “You stupid lupus, out of the way!”
“What did you say?” a voice asked. But the voice had been moving as it spoke, and the girls soon realized that the person speaking had jumped up to the driver’s seat and must have been inches from the driver. Obviously, they must have been threatening him as well. Gruffly, the voice said, “Dare insult a noble lupus again?”
“Let it go! You’re just upset that I won because of him. He got in your way, I won the race! I’ll be getting my reward, right?” Another voice was heard, this one lighter and somewhat cheerful.
“Noble lupus, what wind! Listen to the freak and leave. This carriage holds far more prestigious people inside,” the driver said. Ruby heard each word clearly and was thoroughly upset. The driver must have been speaking with children that had been in the road. Granted, one was rude, but the driver’s insults were the first to fly.
Ruby jumped to the carriage door and was outside in a moment before the discussion between the parties could continue. In a fluid motion she had opened the door, jumped, touched the ground lightly, jumped again to the side of the driver, and slapped him hard. In her indignation, she was upset at not just the driver’s tone and words, but also his abuse of Ruby’s prestige. “How dare he think that just because he drives me, he has any power whatsoever!” Ruby thought.
“Ruby!” said the person who had asked the one arguing with the driver to stop.
“Ah!” Ruby said in surprise. Her hand was still stretched out. The look on her face was fierce, and the entire spectacle was something that a noble would never have done. Upon seeing the person, she gasped, pulled her hand back, and jumped down to the ground. She entered the carriage again.
Shiroi was still reeling from Ruby’s sudden movement when the rash girl returned moments later. But the leaving and returning girls were entirely different. One had been fierce and annoyed. The new Ruby was red-faced and wide-eyed. A few seconds passed as Shiroi caught up with the events and realized what was going on. She smiled at Ruby and then left the carriage herself.