“What do you mean Reft?” Ruby asked.
“Just that, they simply won’t let us have an audience with De’un,” Shiroi said. “But that was to be expected, right?”
“Well why not?” Ruby asked.
“Have you forgotten? We are incognito, and our present status won’t allow us to see a noble, let alone the effective ruler,” Shiroi answered.
“Well then I’ll just have to see about it myself,” Ruby said.
“You mean, drop the disguise? Is that a wise idea?” Shiroi asked. Meanwhile, Va’il sat on his horse, wondering what exactly was happening.
“It should be fine now. Why wouldn’t it be?” Ruby asked.
“Humans aren’t exactly welcome here, much less nobles. Even the guards at the residence would be wary. This territory isn’t like the rest of Rising. And there may be those that would take advantage of that fact. Only meeting De’un directly would be acceptable, really,” Shiroi said. Ruby looked somewhat puzzled, but the meaning behind Shiroi’s words was understandable enough. Ruby knew the territory they were in wasn’t like the rest of Rising, that much she had gathered from Jane.
“So, why is it so important we see this De’un person anyways?” Va’il asked. The two girls turned to see his questioning look, and then they realized what they hadn’t told him.
“He’s another person we are to see on the way. We need to see him to discuss business, in addition to finding Darius. Besides, he would know better than anyone else about the southern border, since it’s only a short distance from here,” Ruby said in brief explanation.
Va’il pondered for a moment while the two girls continued disagreeing with each other. They were all sitting on horses on the path next to a small pavilion. It was situated a short distance from De’un’s residence, and no one else was around currently. As the girls continued without letup or answer, Va’il turned his horse and rode into the main part of town.
Every resident of the town was avian, and it was quite obvious to them that Va’il was not. The looks he received made him wonder if they would be more or less receptive to a lupus or a half instead of the human he was pretending to be. “They might already know I’m not human,” Va’il thought to himself.
With such a thought in mind, he stopped and tied his horse at a stable, and then continued walking about on foot. He walked into the marketplace, stopping in front of a vegetable shop.
“Welcome, buying?” the avian shopkeeper asked briskly.
“Maybe,” Va’il said. The man squinted as Va’il moved close to the goods and took a deep smell. He then gave a brief but wide smile and said, “Good! Good.” Va’il then walked off. The shopkeeper had a look of shock that lasted for a minute before he ran off, leaving other customers to wonder what was going on.
Va’il walked over to a shop where an avian woman was selling grooming accessories and jewelry. She looked at him intently while he browsed the items. There were necklaces and fake-jade bracelets, but nothing of real value. The combs were all of few prongs, designed for use on avian feathers. Va’il noticed a single tortoise-shell comb that had several teeth, just like one a human would use.
“Why is there only one of this kind?” Va’il asked the woman.
“Because I got it by mistake,” the avian woman replied.
“That’s too bad. It looks nice,” Va’il said. He then picked up the comb and turned it in his hands a few times. The teeth were close together, thin, and long. Va’il took the comb in his right hand, moved part of his hat back, and ran the comb through his silver hair once. He jerked in a bit of pain as it broke through several knots in his unkempt hair. He pulled his hat forward, covering the ear he had exposed for a moment. “It’s very nice. Will a couple coppers be enough?”
“T… t… take it!” the avian woman stuttered, and then quickly nodded. Va’il dropped a couple copper pieces in front of the woman, placed the comb in the folds of his clothes, and walked off. Behind him, the avian woman ran away, leaving her shop unattended.
Va’il walked quickly, stopping at a few more shops along the way. He didn’t see anything interesting, so he didn’t spend much time at any one place. Contrary to the fascinating items he couldn’t even begin to describe in the markets of Rising, most of the stuff he saw was normal. In comparison, it was bland. He wondered what other cities and towns held, considering that Rising, as the capitol, was special.
Something caught Va’il’s attention, a yellow bird perched on top of a small merchant stand. The avian merchant at the stand appeared to be half asleep, as both eyes were closed and he was swaying slightly. Va’il walked over to investigate the stand. The man must have been a farmer, as all the goods were various grains. Of course, that wasn’t very interesting to anyone of lupus blood. Va’il looked up to stare at the yellow bird.
“Watch out, he’s a thief!” the merchant suddenly yelled. Va’il looked at the merchant, only to see him pointing to Va’il’s right. Va’il began to turn, but it was too late. A small avian boy was already at Va’il’s waist. He was running full sprint, but in the brief moment that he should have passed Va’il, he had stuck his hand in Va’il’s clothes. The boy firmly gripped the small sack of money Va’il had been given by Ruby, and tried to make off with it.
“Ow!” Va’il yelled as both he and the boy tumbled to the ground. The boy was extremely quick to get to his feet, but as he tried running away he fell again. Va’il repeated, “Ow!” The boy’s hand was still holding onto Va’il’s sack of money, which had a long cord tying it to Va’il’s tail. Shocked at being in a raccoon’s dilemma, the boy couldn’t move or let go of the purse.
A crowd had gathered, a few of which had put their hands on the boy in order to take him to the authorities. They were about to pry the boy’s hand away from Va’il, but then they noticed Va’il’s tail, which was no longer hidden under his clothes. The boy’s hand did release, and he was pulled off of Va’il, who was beginning to stand up. His tail waved freely for a moment.
“Looks like I was found out,” Va’il thought to himself. He smiled and then rearranged his clothes, hiding his tail yet again. Without saying a word to the crowd that had started murmuring in avian chirps, he walked off. He turned one corner and started dashing back to the stable where his horse was. When he arrived, he started unleashing the horse from the stable. Before he could finish, he heard someone approach him from behind.
“Hello there, come with me,” said a voice from behind Va’il.