The worn road made a straight path through the tall trees. They were straight, thin, and placed randomly in scarcity. The sun shone at a morning’s angle, and the trees had little to block with. The patches of grass and bushes could be seen from the road, also sparsely placed. The wind was dead, so no sound could be heard except for the intermittent calls of a bird.
A rabbit scampered away when it heard the sound of several hooves. The clap of the horses’ feet on the ground had shattered the silence with force. The horses’ riders also contributed to the noise in the area.
“Only another few days of riding, then we will be there,” Ruby said cheerfully. She was sitting on a tall brown horse. She was dressed in dark loose pants and a heavy tunic that hid her figure. She wore a flat hat as well. She was dressed as a boy, and even had a smudge of dirt on her face.
“You sure seem happy about this,” Va’il replied. He was dressed similarly, though lacking any smudges. He had a hat that covered his ears, and his tail was hidden in his clothes. He rode a white horse, and behind him was Shiroi on a smaller white horse.
“Of course! Darius! We will find him and have him explain himself!” Ruby said. Va’il hid his grimace. Of course, several thoughts were running through his mind, but he couldn’t tell them to his associates.
“Shall we stop at this village, Ruby?” Shiroi asked. She was also dressed as a boy, and also wore a large darkly colored hooded robe with long sleeves to cover her feathered arms. She wore the great hood of the robe instead of a hat, as her feathers were more difficult to hide than Va’il’s ears. They had come upon a small town in the southern areas of Rising. There was a small brook and a few houses, but father south was a larger town a half day away.
“Not long. And stop calling me Ruby. When travelling incognito, call me Zak, even if it’s just us. After all, we are just simple city boys travelling on father’s orders, okay Reft?”
“Fine, Master Zak. Reft is only his brothers’ servant, he will obey big brother Master Zak because of father’s orders,” Shiroi said somewhat sarcastically. Va’il stifled a laugh, and then made his horse go a little faster. From then on Ruby watched her own behavior, as it was her idea for them to be three brothers. She couldn’t very well go back on her own design and treat her brother as a servant.
They stopped briefly in the village to eat, and then went quickly on their way. The sun soon rose overhead, and then began lowering again.
“Well, not a terrible start, right Va’il?” Ruby asked as they neared the town of Dent.
“Quicker than expected, I guess. Uneventful, so far, so that’s good too,” Va’il replied.
“Don’t you want something exciting to happen though?” Ruby asked with a smile. Va’il looked back at her and gave a half grin.
“Not this time,” he replied. “Maybe next time.”
“Well it’s not much either way Zak. Just see them, have your chats, then we go back. If madam finds out about this, it won’t go over well. You tricked her,” Shiroi said.
“I did nothing of the sort! She didn’t ask, so why should I tell?” Ruby said. “It’s her own fault for that. You heard it, be discreet. You two are discreet and good enough, why should we need anyone more?”
“Because we are three children,” Shiroi replied. “And travelling alone isn’t safe. Across the nation even! Shouldn’t you be more concerned for your wellbeing?”
“You’ve asked every day now! There isn’t anything we cannot handle. Besides, we look like regular commoners, no one will bother us. As long as you keep our names right and Va’il hides that he’s a lupus,” Ruby said.
“And I’ll keep asking it, day after day and week after week. Aren’t you concerned for Va’il’s safety?” Shiroi asked. Ruby opened her mouth to reply, but didn’t say a word. “And Va’il, how could you just come along at Zak’s request? Don’t you also have a family who worries about you?”
Va’il’s horse slowed down, until it was beside Shiroi’s. He smiled at her, and then looked ahead.
“A new question! It’s all right. Zak and I have a small agreement, and so I have to help him this time. Besides, we have the time to do this now. I remember seeing Darius before, so if Ruby wishes, how can I refuse?” Va’il asked, but his words didn’t reflect his real thoughts.
Va’il was worried about seeing Darius again, and whether Darius would reveal his identity to Ruby or not. When Ruby asked, no, demanded that Va’il accompany her to find Darius, Va’il wanted to object. But, other than that, he had no reason to. He knew Ruby’s character, and that she would demand and insist. If he still refused, she would go alone if she had to, which worried Va’il as well.
“And my family is fine. Mum was told where I am going. Even if I went to the ends of Fervi, she only needs to know where I am, and that’s enough to satisfy her,” Va’il said.
“But you’re younger than us! How can she just accept it like that?” Shiroi asked. She was feeling more anxious than before, and felt her feathers quivering. She couldn’t understand what Va’il meant.
“Hmm, it’s because we’re lupus, there’s some special stuff that means. She’s concerned for where I am, but lets me encounter my own troubles and tribulations to overcome, to journey into the world and then return. That’s the lupus way. Besides, we’re in Rising on a short trip, what harm could befall us?” Va’il asked.
“Not all people are good,” Shiroi muttered. “These two. One goes with trust. The other without. One uses others’ greed. The other uses faith. Where do I fall?”
Shiroi’s musings were cut off by their arrival in the town of Dent. It was a lively place, filled with red buildings and green ivy. The colorful town was different from Rising in its scenery and color, but it shared the spirit of the nation in its streets. People of all kinds, whether large, small, rhinos, or tanrac, littered the area.
Ruby’s entourage entered the town, passing by a group of hares working in a master’s fields. They were hardly noticed as they traversed the roads in search of an inn. They arrived at a two-story wooden building, aptly named Spiral Ivy. They tied the horses outside the inn and walked in, Ruby leading Va’il, Shiroi following behind. It was filled with an average number of customers, but the waiter still noticed them right away.