“I suppose it’s time I tell you who my adoptive parents are,” Teena said with a smile and a giggle. The rest of the group felt a wave of excitement as the elusive parents were about to be revealed. Teena, though she had joined Va’il’s circle of friends, had been guarding her adopters’ identities. Even though her outward personality was bright and straightforward, she hadn’t yet spoken of her adoptive parents, let alone mention more about her true parents than her father’s name.
“So they are nobles!” Zeick said.
“Yes! A noble lupus couple,” Teena said. “Very, very, very nice people. Incredibly sweet and loving with each other and me. Almost too much so, I’d be embarrassed to talk about it all with you. But anyways. The wife is Jean and the husband is Eason Ar Raign. They aren’t too prestigious, but are still nobles. Wait, why are you three laughing?”
Va’il, Pete, and Kelin couldn’t help but double over in painful, tearful laughter. It went on for a while, confusing Teena, Zeick, and Harnes completely. Zeick had only seen Eason once before in his life, and he had never heard the name before. So of course, even though Eason had really been the single greatest positive influence on Zeick’s life, he had no knowledge of his savior. The original trio weren’t going to explain it at that moment, to avoid possibly depressing Zeick and embarrassing him in front of the two girls.
“We… we…” Va’il said in between laughs, “know Eason! He’s a wonderful person! Competent, diligent, gives gold to the poor, and a loyal husband. You could say we’ve known him far longer than Teena! That’s all.”
The three laughing ones eventually regained their composure, and the three confused ones let the matter pass.
“So, I can come?” Va’il asked. Kelin muttered something under his breath, as he had been hoping that the sudden revelation from Teena had distracted Va’il from the matter at hand. “How about we compete, and if I win, I get to come?”
“Okay!” Kelin replied without thinking. Kelin didn’t like losing; therefore, he never lost if possible. Va’il, being his friend, would of course decide on a certain method to compete in, one Kelin had full confidence in winning at.
“A race it is!” Va’il said. He stood and walked to the edge of the school’s grounds, the front gate.
“You know you won’t win. Same as usual?” Kelin asked.
“Nah, let’s make it third house down from Missus Hanover’s place. You know, the three-pronged fence line?” Va’il asked.
“Right, that’s the right length for a matter this important,” Kelin replied.
Accustomed to seeing this situation several times repeated, Pete walked up to the two boys and stood to the side.
“You two ready?” Pete asked while holding his arm out. The other two nodded in unison, and then dropped into takeoff position. “N! One! Go!”
The silver and red tails were all that could be seen of the two blurs. Zeick, Teena, and Harnes packed whatever books and stuff they had away, including the runners’ items, and followed Pete in a slow walk to wherever the race would be ending.
“Va’il’s just going to lose again,” Zeick said with a sigh.
“I don’t know. He seems pretty determined about that party,” Harnes said.
“He’s always like that,” Teena said. “He’s always so resolute.”
“No… he’s not. Or he wasn’t,” Harnes said. “But he has been that way since you’ve known him, so I guess I can understand why you’d think that. He’s a lot different from the Va’il of six months ago.”
“You really know him well, Harnes,” Teena said. “For me, he’s always been that undeterred person. He always seems to study so seriously. His marks are always high. Maybe not as high as yours, but he is studious. Yet melancholy.”
“You,” Harnes said while glaring, “you… also seem to know him pretty well.”
“Hmm, I guess. I wish I had known you all earlier. Then I’d know what changed,” Teena said.
“No, you met us at the perfect time,” Zeick said. “Any earlier might have been troublesome. He… he never hid that he was a half. I was scared. But what I was scared of experiencing, he lived through daily. I can only say I’ve known him for a few months longer than you, Teena. There were a few years where he didn’t have friends in the same class as him, and I had only come to start accepting myself, I still hadn’t really joined them till later. Pete and Kelin said they associated with him after school, but not as much as the times when they were in the same class. Those years were tough, apparently. He probably wasn’t nearly the same resolute person then. But I don’t think us being in a group together really had much to do with the resoluteness you see in him now. That didn’t begin until a few weeks after the catastrophe. He just changed.”
“You can be a serious fellow!” Harnes said in mock indignation.
“Zeick just proved he knows even more!” Teena said.
Zeick just smiled at the two girls, and then took a few large steps to catch up with Pete, who hadn’t heard the conversation a ways behind him.
“Who are they talking with?” Zeick asked. Further down the road he saw a strange sight. Va’il and Kelin were at the goal, but conversing with a carriage driver. Kelin jumped next to the driver and looked like he was threatening the man. They started to quicken their steps when a golden-haired girl wearing a black dress with white stripes slapped the man. They saw Va’il shout something, and then the girl disappeared. The carriage had taken off just as the four arrived.
“What was that?” Zeick asked. Kelin and Va’il looked at each other with slight grins.
“I won!” Va’il said. Kelin knit his brow into a scowl.
“That doesn’t count! That driver had no sense whatsoever; he shouldn’t have been in the way. I would have won if he hadn’t have blocked me,” Kelin said.
“Doesn’t matter! When we normally race in the street, does it matter that people are walking on it? Pete, what do you say?” Va’il asked.
“Remember Kelin, you were the one who said that as part of the rules any obstructions had to be avoided. Agility to get around the obstacles, as well as straight-line speed, are both requirements. Sound familiar?” Pete asked.
“Fine fine, I lost. But in exchange… Teena, you’re definitely coming, right?” Kelin asked.
“Yes, now that you two are. I wasn’t sure before. Eason had invited me, but I had said no. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy now!” Teena said. Kelin scowled when he thought that Teena’s reason for going was Va’il, but he quickly smiled when he thought of whom they just encountered.
“That’s good. After all, I’ll need someone to go around with me, now that Va’il’s escort has been decided,” Kelin said.
“What?” Va’il asked.
“We just met her a minute ago. I know she will attend, definitely,” Kelin said.
“Oh, Shiroi!” Va’il said.
“You thick-headed… no, not the servant! That old acquaintance of yours. She will definitely be there, I know it. But she will feel just as out of place as you. One is too high above society, one is too low, yet the feelings are same,” Kelin said.
“Ruby,” Va’il said with sudden realization. He slowly nodded and seemed to completely agree with Kelin. Truly, Va’il wasn’t a noble. For if he were, then he would have realized the importance of who Ruby was, and wouldn’t have had any aspirations for even glancing at her unless he was someone extremely important. And, as far as Va’il was concerned, he really wasn’t anyone extraordinary.