“Did you see him?” a male hare’s voice asked.
“No,” a male human’s voice replied.
“Drat. I was hoping he’d show up. Do you think he abandoned us?” the hare asked.
“Diren, I don’t know what to think at this point. I really can’t figure out what has gotten into him. Unless it’s that. And if it is… let’s assume it’s not,” the human said.
“He’s not that kind of person. He has always been loyal. Rillin, you know that too well. I’d be more inclined to believe a drunk stabbed him and hid him from us,” Diren said.
“Don’t speak of such things! That man wouldn’t die so easily. But that’s the problem. If it isn’t that other possibility, then I fear someone has trapped him in a plot or scheme,” Rillin said.
“Sorry, impulse. But who would have a grudge against him? No, he couldn’t have made any enemies. If we’d stop being so pessimistic, then maybe we could assume he was sent on a secret mission of importance. I heard that they have been on the move,” Diren said.
“Trouble just never ends. I wish I could help more. But without my power, I’m just a wretched old man. I don’t have a fortune I could use to assist with. My apologies,” Rillin said.
“It’s all right. I’ve still got my contacts. I did do a second search, this time with a bit less discretion. Still nothing. And chances are that Jin found out. I’d be happy if he didn’t though. That stickler is never happy when things aren’t approved. Much less from an ex-advisor who doesn’t have any real power left,” Diren said, and then sighed.
“That doesn’t exclude everything though, does it, Diren? You know something we don’t, right?” Rillin asked.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Diren said. But his voice betrayed his real thoughts. He wasn’t a good liar.
“The heir. You can fool the rest, but not these old eyes. Aoi left the same as she came, she had no child. I’m not an old man for nothing!” Rillin said with a grim chuckle.
“No, Rillin. That’s all. Besides, if there were such an option available to me, do you think I’d do something more? Really, we need to focus on the main issue. Where is Darius? Where did he and his missing subordinate disappear to? And what do they know of the heir? These are the important questions. Though, I doubt Darius would know something more than the two of us. Fidel trusted us all. Even Jin, who admittedly does have regent experience. It’s not like the two of us will be advising him. I suppose it’s fine to be among the people again. What do you think?” Diren asked.
“I think you speak too quickly. I’m beginning to think the reason Fidel liked you so much was because you speak the way he thought. Come, my friend, let’s go drink,” Rillin said. The sound of the two ex-advisors walking away was heard, and then their sounds disappeared.
Va’il and Teena were breathless and silent. Though it was an accident, they had overheard every word clearly. They would have run off upon hearing the two men start speaking, but the mention of Diren’s name had frozen Va’il. He didn’t want to make any sound whatsoever, in fear that Diren might spot him. Before the night began, he had feared meeting anyone who had seen him in front of Fidel before, especially Darius and Diren, since they knew of his existence.
But to hear that Darius, and by deductive reasoning, Var, were missing, was a depressing thing for Va’il. Although he feared Darius’ plans for him, and didn’t wish to see him again, he nevertheless held respect for Darius.
He knew Diren even less, but from what he knew and heard, he now had a measure of respect for him. He knew Diren had to know his identity, yet Diren let things continue on without involving Va’il, even appearing to mislead others for his sake. Just who was Diren, exactly, Va’il had to wonder, and why didn’t he try to meet with Va’il? Though Va’il wouldn’t soon get an answer to those questions, just the fact Diren did leave him be was enough to let Va’il forget about him.
“Va’il?” Teena asked quietly. He didn’t respond, so she called again. “Va’il?”
“It’s cold out here. Let’s go inside,” Va’il said.
Va’il and Teena made their way back to the main room. Not too much time had passed, so they kept looking at things to waste time until it would be time to meet up with Kelin.
“You! With the silver tail, stop right there!” a voice close to Va’il said. He broke out in a cold sweat, fearing for the worst. Slowly, he turned around.
“Those idiots,” Ruby thought to herself. She had just finished ignoring the Darney boys, who didn’t give up at trying to speak with her for quite a while. She had already spoken with a few other nobles about certain propositions, one of the many minor tasks she had been assigned by Jane. She had finished the last one on her list when appearing at that exact moment were the two boys. She ignored them as they commented on how lustrous her hair was. She scoffed internally, because it was in a bun and hidden under her hat.
They went on to talk about her eyes and nose using common idioms, trying to gain her favor by simple flattery, which would never work on her. They were about to use another expression to say her lips looked like a small red plum, but to say something so forward to a high-noble was likely to get them in trouble. Even idiots could understand not to keep trifling with power.
Seeing their advances weren’t working, they left. Normally, it would be appropriate to approach a child’s parent and set up a future engagement. With such a difference in status though, the boys wouldn’t even be allowed to look at Jane Melonscone, and their father would probably never say a word in Jane’s presence. So they had no choice but to try to woo a higher-class girl who would provide the needed influence on the parent. Though Ruby was young, it was common for parents to engage their children to other families even before the children could walk. As it was known that such was not the case with her, as far as most people knew, none were surprised that someone was trying to obtain Ruby’s hand in marriage. Many were, actually, but few were as foolhardy as the Darney boys. The power and prestige of Ruby’s mother, deceased father, and their families was incredible. Anyone would kill to have their child be Ruby’s spouse.
She wandered around, passing the lesser nobles by without a word. She ate a few items as she passed the banquet tables, and continued her wandering. After a while, she heard a small shout come from somewhere near her. All she heard was, “Stop right there!” She turned to see who was speaking. Imagine her delight when she saw the speaker. He was an avian with brown and white feathers on his arms and head. At the edge of his face the feathers were a mix of black and red. He had a plump chest and a short, sharp nose. It was Marquis De’un, and to Ruby’s surprise, he was talking with a silver-tailed lupus. From her vantage point, and the hat on the lupus, she didn’t realize it was Va’il. Nor would she have imagined it could be him, since he was a commoner. Not wanting to annoy the marquis, she stood a few feet away and listened in on the amazing conversation that was to follow.