Va’il’s face was as white as his hair, sweat was starting to form in his palms, and his heart was attacking his chest. As much as Va’il wanted to hide his surprise and worry, it was obvious to any onlooker. But Ruby misunderstood. She suddenly realized that anyone hearing her story would be astounded. She realized that it didn’t matter whether Va’il was common or not either as he could easily end up telling people of importance without too much trouble. And it also dawned on her that she didn’t know what she was expecting by telling Va’il. Therefore, she recanted.
“I’m not serious,” Ruby said, and gave one of her smiles. “But it sure makes a good story, right? You didn’t really believe that, right?”
“Isn’t she overlooking the obvious?” Va’il thought to himself. He could have sworn at that moment that he could see the fringes of his hair out of the corner of his eye. Everyone called his hair silver, but it was extremely close to the white color that Fidel once had in his healthier youth. Then Va’il calmed down enough to realize a key item. He was a half, and that wasn’t something anyone could possibly expect of Fidel’s son. It had been an assumed fact that Fidel’s son would be human, to carry on the line of kings in the future. Realizing this, an odd thought came to Va’il, a mischievous one.
“You’re not joking,” Va’il said. He started with a pale grimace that gradually lightened into his toothy grin. “There really is a kid here who’s the secret son of the late king, that nobody knows is here but a few important people! Amazing! Let me help you find him.”
“What?” Ruby asked with a touch of shock. “Are you the one who’s joking with me now?”
“No Ruby, I honestly believe you. I’m a lupus, after all, I can sometimes smell it when people are telling the honest truth or a complete lie,” Va’il said. It happened to be a convenient truth for Va’il in this matter, though he left out it was usually only applicable to bad liars.
“Well… why not?” Ruby said, mostly to herself.
Afterwards they returned to class as normal, and continued schooling as normal. Every so often Ruby and Va’il would leave the other members of their group to search through more and more human children. Va’il would always offer another idea for how people could be hiding their identity, and even suggested checking the girls to see if the boy was hiding in a different way. Though Ruby noticed they never found anyone of interest, it didn’t matter to her. The task was one her mother required. Her obedience earned her greater amounts of freedom. It was much easier to be obedient in such an easy manner than to object, so Ruby’s secret qualms receded from the surface of her mind for a while.
Va’il’s initial fears about being discovered by Ruby subsided. He consistently helped her in the task, appearing as sincere as he could. He did feel he was deceiving Ruby, which didn’t make him feel much better. But he knew that joining her removed him from suspicion, and he enjoyed the time they spent together.
The two become close friends as a result. It was a strange sight, to see a young low-class half boy and an exquisitely dressed slightly older high-class human female together all the time. But in some ways, both were outcasts of society, so none of the children or teachers said anything. Va’il was a half, and that alone was enough to keep people away from him. Ruby was outcast for a different reason. Her class was too high. The number of people in all of Rising equal to her were only a few dozen, and most weren’t ever seen in public or even in the city of Rising. But her power and influence were unparalleled, if she chose to exert it. Rather than take a risk, everyone would avoid her. If they had to speak to her, it would be in as few words as possible while gazing at the floor.
During her times at school, she finally felt that a group of people treated her like a real person. Va’il was blunt at times, smart at others, and usually looked Ruby in the eyes when talking to her. The other five also always looked Ruby in the eye. Pete always treated her with kindness, and his laugh made her laugh. Teena would talk with her casually, like any other girl, even ignoring the difference in their species. Harnes took some getting used to, as she seemed happy at times, but cold at others. Harnes did have some reservations about associating with a high-noble, but warmed to Ruby in her own due time. Of course, Ruby’s often-jeweled clothing and golden hair were shiny enough to endear her to Harnes earlier.
Zeick stayed his troublesome self, to the point where Ruby once threatened him that she’d move his family far away, should he ever repeat certain actions again. She was only joking, but Zeick never again repeated those actions in Ruby’s presence. Then there was Kelin, whose status was above Zeick’s, but lower than Ruby’s. That didn’t deter him from treating her as if she were no different from the rest. Eventually, she did discover more of his and Va’il’s history. She couldn’t help but feel a bit of admiration when she learned that Kelin had become friends with Pete through their parents, which were a story in themselves, and then they became friends with Va’il. However, she never did check what Kelin’s family did, and she didn’t feel it would be appropriate to treat him as anything other than a friend, just as he treated her, even knowing her status.
A noble lupus and a merchant swine were as different as oil and vinegar, yet they added milk to the mix with Va’il. Just why they all became friends, stayed friends, and even added in more strange people to the mixture, was a wonder in itself. Ruby thought of this, but it seemed like none of it mattered to the others. It was as if that was just how things were naturally, contrary to the reality of world around them.